The Royals and Blue Jays face off for a shot at the pennant in a re-match of the 1985 ALCS. Both fanbases have been suffering over the last two decades with the Jays making their first playoff appearance since 1993. We talked to Tom Dakers at Bluebird Banter on what its like to not only be back in the post-season
Royals Review: First of all congratulations! We found out last year how it felt to win our first post-season series in a long time, but how does it feel as a Jays fan to win your first post-season series since 1993?
Tom Dakers: Oh it feels so good, even better than I thought it would. The ALDS was such a roller coaster, losing the first two games, one in 14 innings (after a video challenge that didn’t go our way despite it looking like the Rangers’ baserunner came off the bag). Winning two in Texas. And then the final game with the Rangers getting the lead in the 7th inning off a rather unbelievable play, I have never seen a player score after the umpire had called timeout. It had us all checking the rule book. Course, fans at the stadium didn’t have a rule book on them and you can understand how they would be upset seeing a run score that way.
Then the bottom of the inning, watching the Rangers make errors on three consecutive plays - I’m sure I’ve never seen that before. The next play really was an error too, with Rougned Odor forgetting how to catch a soft popup, but still getting a force out at second. It could have easily been errors on four consecutive plays. And of, course, Jose Bautista’s massive home run (with equally massive bat flip). Add in a couple of bench clearings, since both team’s had to deal with the same emotional roller coaster as us fans. I don’t think I’ve ever been that exhausted after just watching a baseball game in my life. Exhausted and thrilled.
Royals Review: These two teams had a bench-clearing incident back in August in a chippy series. How much bad blood do you think there is between the teams and do you expect any fireworks in the ALCS?
Tom Dakers: I don’t really think there should be any troubles, both teams have to keep in mind that the games mean more than their egos, if they want to win. The only way I see a problem happening is if there is a blowout somewhere along the line, then, maybe they might remember they don’t like each over. As long as no one decides to be the fun police, I think all will be ok.
Royals Review: We all know how great the Jays offense has been this year, particularly at home. Do you have any concerns about how they will hit at spacious Kauffman Stadium?
Tom Dakers: Not really, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion can hit the ball out of any park. The other guys are more line drive hitters. The team hit .271/.350/.411 and scored 16 runs in three games at Kauffman Stadium this year (small sample size alert). When the Jays are going well what seems to happen is that many of the players have a good eye for what the strike zone is and, when they are going well, they refuse to chase. They make the pitchers come to them. When they are going bad, they are chasing pitches off the plate.
Royals Review: The Blue Jays bullpen seemed to be a weakness early in the year, but mid-season transactions and the emergence of rookie Roberto Osuna has changed that. How confident are you in the bullpen going into this series?
Tom Dakers: I’d be much more confident if Brett Cecil hadn’t been injured in the last round. He was our best lefty reliever (maybe our best reliever period). He hasn’t given up an earned run since the middle of June. He’ll be missed. The only other lefty in the pen is Aaron Loup and he’s had a pretty lousy season (though he was good in the ALDS). From the right side, Aaron Sanchez, Mark Lowe and Liam Hendriks have all been great, but they have pretty large lefty/righty splits. Osuna has been pretty unbelievable. A 20-year old who seems to have all the confidence and ability to cancel out everything going on around him, and just focus on pitching that doesn’t usually come to players until they have been in the league for a few years. The odd time that he has had a bad appearance, he seems to be able to forget about it right away.
Royals Review: Does this team have any weaknesses?
Tom Dakers: Oh yeah, without Brett Cecil we are missing a good lefty reliever in the pen and with a mainly right-handed rotation, losing him is a bad thing. Other than that…. there is some question about management’s faith in David Price. It seems unfair, a guy that will be in the top two for AL Cy Young has a, not bad, but not great start, in game one of the ALDS (with a fair bit of bad luck thrown his way) and, it, at least appears that his manager has lost a bit of faith in him. He’s still in line for two starts in the ALCS and, I’m hoping that the he proves the small sample size lovers that, yes, he really can pitch in the playoffs. I hate that people want to string together six starts over several years, point to and claim he isn’t an ace.
On top of that…..sometimes we go two, occasionally three innings without a home run.
Royals Review: What do the Blue Jays need to do to win the pennant? Who do you see as the key player?
Tom Dakers: They need to play their game. They are team with a very powerful offense and they have to play that way. The pitching has been better, especially since picking up David Price at the trade deadline, but the offense carries the team. I always think the key player is Jose Bautista. When he’s on, he’s very tough to get out. The nice part about this season is that he’s not the only threat, if he doesn’t beat you, there is still Donaldson, Encarnacion and all the others, but I think when Bautista is locked in there are few better.
Many thanks to Tom Dakers for his time. You can read all the latest Blue Jays news and opinions at Bluebird Banter.