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Ferguson: Blue Jays have a tough hill to climb

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Scott Ferguson
3/15/2013 12:13:48 PM
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It seems these days for every prognosticator who thinks the Blue Jays will win the American League East, you find two who think they won't. At first I found this surprising, since I believe the club brought in one of the greatest arrays of talent from outside the organization that we're ever seen from any team.

Check off the names R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Yet, there are plenty of doubters. Most people wonder if this club will jell in time to be a factor, especially now with four key players still away at the World Baseball Classic.

Then, it's whether this will be the year that the likes of Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, J.P Arencibia and Brandon Morrow will reach their full potential.

Then they ask; will Jose Bautista bounce back from his wrist injury and will Ricky Romero again become the pitcher he was two years ago?

There is another issue: where this club is coming from and where it has to go. The Blue Jays only won 73 games a year ago and finished fourth in the AL East. In all likelihood, they will have to win 92 or 93 games just to make it as a wild card team. That would be an improvement of 19 or 20 games over last season.

Guess what? In 36 seasons, the Blue Jays' largest single-season leap occurred between 1979 and 1980. They went from 53 victories to 67, or a plus-14.

Between 1984 and 1985, they were plus-10, going from 89 to a franchise record 99 victories. They did it again between 1986 and 1987, going from 86 to 96 wins for another plus-10.

On the flip side, their most precipitous crash came from 1993 to 1995. They went from 95 victories in 1993, to 55 in the abbreviated 1994 campaign where the season was shut down early due to labour troubles, to 56 wins in 1995 when again the season was shortened by 14 games due to late settlement to the labour strife.

One of the most incredible seasons was 1991. Minnesota and Atlanta both went from last place finishes in their respective divisions to meet in a classic World Series won by the Twins in 7.

In 1990, Atlanta went 65 and 97. They rose by 29 games to finish the 1991 season at 94-68. The Twins were 74-88 in 1990 and jumped to 95 and 67 in 91 for a net gain of 21.

Last season, three teams made titanic leaps up the standings, though none of the three made it to the World Series. In the National League, Washington went from 80 victories in 2011 to an incredible 98 in 2012 for a plus-18.

In the American League, Oakland went from a third place finish in the West in 2011 with 74 wins up to  94 victories last season for a gain of 20. Baltimore was even more spectacular, going from last place in 2011 and 69 wins to 93 for a plus-24.

I'm not saying the Blue Jays aren't capable of something similar but huge leaps like this don't come along every year and even when they do, as we saw last year, it doesn't necessarily guarantee you a spot in the World Series.

Having said all of that, I believe the Blue Jays will get into the playoffs for the first time since 1993 as a wild card with 92 or 93 wins.

R.A. Dickey (Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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