March Madness, Toronto Blue Jays Style

By Mike Holian
Toronto Blue Jays March Madness
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The Toronto Blue Jays have many issues at their doorstep as Opening Day creeps closer (otherwise known as the only sellout crowd of the season), it’s only a matter of time before storylines get put to the test.

As I was flipping back and forth from the Big 10 network and Sunday’s episode of True Detective (for the fifth time), it dawned on me: I just can’t sit idly by and let the college basketball world have all the fun. The Jays’ need a tournament bracket of its very own. Besides, this franchise has been in madness mode for the last 20 years.

Let’s emulate the process by setting up shop with an elite eight, ranked on a scale of current and future value. The winner determined by which player or authority figure has the most implications attached to them for 2014 and beyond. Let the battle begin.

The Elite Eight:

(1) Jose Bautista vs. (8) Ricky Romero (Hey, every tourney needs a cinderella story, right?)

In this case, Bautista is the Kansas JayHawks and Romero is my high school varsity squad. The team’s MVP vs. a comeback relying on stem cells and positive thinking, this is a no-brainer — Bautista advances.

(4) Alex Anthopoulos vs. (5) John Gibbons

Anthopoulos finds himself at somewhat of a crossroads as his suddenly gun-shy mentality has caused his approval rating to plummet. The GM breezes through this matchup though, as in-game decisions are proving not to be Gibbons’ forte. Have you ever had to talk your way out of a question you didn’t have an answer for? Take a listen to him during a postgame press conference for tips.

(3) R.A. Dickey vs. (6) Edwin Encarnacion

Dickey is stuck in no man’s land, at this point he basically has to reincarnate his 2012 arm for the organization to save face. As the season rolls along, every poor outing will be magnified by highlights of Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud becoming a part of the Big Apple’s core.

With back to back years of at least 35 HRs, 100 RBIs and a .900-plus OPS, Encarnacion is MLB‘s most unheralded star, even though every fan cringes when the ball is hit to him. As for Dickey, well, want to do a best of seven coin flip? Dickey makes it to the next round by a lack of pitching depth.

(2) Jose Reyes vs. (7) Brett Lawrie

Reyes, who has the potential to hit .300, score 100-plus runs, record an OBP north of .350 and steal 50 bags, was a colossal loss for the bluebirds in 2013. Jays’ fans will be praying to the hamstring and ankle gods on a nightly basis.

Lawrie has looked impressive so far this spring; however, Toronto knows all too well to pump the breaks on this kid and take a wait-and-see approach. The city needs Reyes to stay atop the lineup card, but the big picture resides in a Lawrie breakout. The three-bagger nails a buzzer-beater in this one.

The Final Four:

(1) Bautista vs. (4) Anthopoulos

One thing is clear, whether or not the Jays climb back in the pennant race, one of these two is guaranteed not to be sending out resumes in 2015. Anthopoulos has proven his worth in the past, but falls short when placed on the irreplaceable scale. The right fielder enters the finals.

(3) Dickey vs. (7) Lawrie

With arms emerging on the farm, it will help ease the pain and speed up the transition period if the knuckleball fails yet again. Meanwhile, there is just too much riding on the potential of Lawrie coming to fruition. A photo-finish victory for the young gun.

The Championship:

(1) Joey Bats vs. (2) Brett the Hitman

There is that elephant in the room of Bautista’s contract status as it enters its final stages, you can never count out the club deciding to enter the trade market and reloading if the season goes south. As for now and the foreseeable future, the smart money has to go to the proven, more consistent player. Not to mention that at this stage of Lawrie’s career, a Chris Webber-timeout can rear its ugly head.

Bautista claims the crown as Lawrie still owes Toronto something more. As Rust Cohle would say, “You Have a Debt”.

Mike Holian is a Writer for Follow him on Twitter @MikeLevelSwing, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ network.

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