* At the half-way point of the spring it is Adam Lind's turn to give the Blue Jays annual state of the union address. Photo: John Lott. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN _ The Blue Jays State of the Franchise staged each January for season’s ticket holders is rather new, only 13 years old.
The annual Blue Jays State of Union has been coming your way since 1987.
We never had Hall of Famers like Robbie Alomar or Paul Molitor deliver the sermon from Mt. Dunedin, as our guidelines was always to ask the person who had the longest continuous service time with the Jays.
We booked some pretty good prognosticators and speakers over the years: Ernie Whitt, Lloyd Moseby, Dave Stieb, Tom Henke, Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Jason Frasor and last year closer Casey Janssen to name a few.
Janssen (seven years, 63 days service time) did an excellent job last spring addressing the topics of the day, but since he’d had not thrown a pitch in a game ... he yielded the floor to Adam Lind (six years, 58 days).
It should be pointed out Dustin McGowan has been around the longest (seven years, 113 days), but he’s only pitched in 105 games, making 60 starts. And before last year he’d appeared in five games since July 8, 2008.
Lind has played in 125 games four of the last five years. Manager John Gibbons first wrote Lind’s name in the starting lineup Sept. 2, 2006 at Fenway Park when as DH he went 1-for-5 with a double off Lenny DiNardo.
Frank Catalanotto, Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Alex Rios, Gregg Zaun, Lind, John Hattig and John McDonald made up the Jays starting lineup which began the Lind era. Hill is with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Rios the Chicago White Sox, Overbay the Milwaukee and MacDonald the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite his service time we noticed Lind didn’t have a banner hanging outside the Rogers Centre last season the way Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero, J.P. Arencibia, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie did,
Lind has played in 857 games with the Jays 203 more than runner up Jose Bautista.
The floor now belongs to the DH from Indiana:
On leadership and will the team miss Mark DeRosa who retired to join MLB Network?
Lind: “This is Josa Buatista’s team. He has the personality. He has the knowledge. You can ask him anything about a pitcher. You can ask him anything about any subject. He takes pride in knowing what is going on in the league and with his team. Sometimes veteran players can be intimidating ... Troy Glaus was intimidating, so was Roy Halladay a little. Not Jose. Jose will talk to anyone about anything you want. I saw him earlier this spring going out of his way to talk to a class-A catcher.”
On the best leader he ever saw inside the Jays clubhouse over the years?
Lind: “Matt Stairs was good. So was Gregg Zaun. Zaun was always running a Kangaroo Court (where players would fine players for missed signs, bad wardrobe, saying something stupid or committing a real or imagined petty crime) and with the money we’d have a team dinner at the end of the year. We haven’t had a Kangaroo Court since Jose Molina left. I always thought it was a good thing. A fun thing.”
How many people in the Jays clubhouse have won before?
Lind: “We had a hitter’s meeting -- so Mark Buehrle wasn’t in the room -- and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer asked everyone to raise their hands if they’d ever played in the post-season. Jose Reyes put up his hand. So did Macier Izturis. Colby Rasmus and Dioner Navarro put up their hands. Melky Cabrera too.
“Then Seitzer asked who in here ever won a World Series? The only guy who had his hand up was (minor league hitting coach) Richie Hebner.
“Seizter told about playing with the Cleveland Indians in 1997, how they lost the World Series to the Florida Marlins in the 11th inning of Game 7. His point was you have to sacrifice yourself for the good of the team. How it’s all about the team.”
(Lind didn’t see the hand of Cabrera who was with the New York Yankees winners of the 2009 World Series, as well as 2006 Yankees who lost to the Detroit Tigers, the 2007 Yankees, who lost to the Indians and the 2010 Atlanta Braves who lost to the San Francisco Giants.
Hebner was part of the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, while Buehrle was with the 2005 champion White Sox.
Reyes was a member of the 2006 New York Mets who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and then lost the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rasmus with the 2009 Cardinals who lost to the Dodgers.
Izturis was with the 2005 Angels who lost to the White Sox, the 2007 Angels who lost to the Boston Red Sox and the 2009 Angels who lost to the Yankees).
“It’s not like we have teams winning championships in the minors. I know the purpose is developing players. Vancouver has won three years in a row, but those guys are a long way off. They won at double-A New Hampshire after I was left. Aaron Hill was there in 2004. When was Syracuse’s last winning season? Like 30 years ago?”
(No way, that long ago? The Chiefs lost the Govenor’s Cup to Richmond in 1994. Their last title was 1979 when they beat Columbus.)
Why is this team so upbeat, coming off a 74 win season with only one change in the every day lineup (Dioner Navarro replaces J.P. Arencibia) and failing to upgrade its set goal of pitching, including losing out on free agent Ervin Santana?
Lind: “As odd as this may sound we have a pretty good idea who are seventh, eighth and ninth starters are this year. We knew our first five last year. If we have injuries we won’t be turning to guys like David Bush, Ramon Ortiz and Chen-Ming Wang (they pitched in 14 games, working 55 1/3 innings making 10 starts last year). We have a lot more than five qualified to start.”
Best guess for the starting rotation?
Lind: “Well we still have a few games to go and hope everyone is healthy, but I don’t know who will be the first five. We’re in good shape with R.A. Dickey. You have to have faith in a former Cy Young award winner. As long as Brandon Morrow is healthy he’ll be fine. Mark Buehrle will be Buehrle. I’d really love to see Ricky Romero get back to where he was. We know he can give us 200 innings. For the fifth spot, Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman could split it. The team will have an innings limit on both.”
How much better is this team going to be defensively?
Lind: “Way better. Cabrera has looked more athletic. He’s healthy. That first day outfielders threw to the bases his arm was the talk in the clubhouse. The ball came out of arm the way it did with the Yankees. He stole an extra base hit from Matt Joyce the other day.
Lind: “Navarro is solid behind the plate. I told Ryan Goins to get ready. Even though he hits left-handed he should be in there against David Price, Jon Lester, CC Sabathia ... all the good lefties. He fields the ball so well it doesn’t matter what he hits.”
What player(s) have you seen who has impressed you the most?
Lind: "Marcus Stroman. He believes in himself. You need that as a pitcher. It doesn’t matter what the other team thinks, as long as your team is behind you.
“Johnathan Diaz. He can play. John Stilson has looked good too.”
So if this a team with better defence, it’s more upbeat mood, why are experts so down on the Jays?
Lind: “Easy, all the other teams have gotten better. We’re basically the same team.
“The Yankees have to replace Mariano Rivera with David Robertson, who is really good although some say he struggled in a closer’s role. They also have Michael Pineda coming out the woodwork. We had injuries last year, the Yankees had the same injuries. They still won 85 games. We won 74. Sabathia wasn’t as good as he was last year, he’ll be better. They have a big upgrade in Brian McCann.
“Baltimore has improved with Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jiminez, but they lost their closer Jim Johnson.
“Tampa Bay hasn’t added anyone, but they kept David Price so they’ll bet better. They’ll roll out Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. That’s a pretty good four to start with.
“Boston is the champs. They didn’t add anyone, but what if they have Clay Buchholz healthy for the whole year? And they have Jake Peavy for the year. They’re going with young guys in centre (Jackie Bradley) and at short (Xander Bogaerts). They may have some question marks, but weren’t they supposed to be the worst team in the division last year?”
How many wins for the Jays this season?
Lind: “I won’t put a number on it, but I know we’re a better defensive team and we have better solutions of the starting rotation with needs help. I’m tired of playing in September and playing the role of spoiler.
“We’ve been in Boston and it rocks in a pennant race. Same for New York, although maybe the new stadium isn’t as nosiy as the old place. We’ve played Tampa Bay and they’re always in it. I’d like for us to be a part of that experience.”
Jays active leaders
Most games with Jays
1. Adam Lind 857
2. Jose Bautista 654
3. Edwin Encarnacion 565
4. Casey Janssen 339
5. Colby Rasmus 304
1. Lind 838
2. Bautista 591
3. Encarnacion 545
4. Brett Lawrie 281
5. Rasmus 264
1. Bautista 168
2. Lind 140
3. Encarnacion 124
4. Rasmus 48
5. Lawrie 31
1. Lind 479
2. Bautista 415
3. Encarnacion 343
4. Rasmus 154
5. Lawrie 119
1. Ricky Romero 801.1
2. Brett Cecil 511.2
3. Janssen 447.1
4. Dustin McGowan 400.1
5. R.A. Dickey 224.2
1. Romero 51
2. Cecil 33
2. Brendan Morrow 33
4. Janssen 26
5. McGowan 20
1. Janssen 65
2. Sergio Santos 3
3. Aaron Loup 2
4. Cecil 1
5. Steve Delabar 1