There's something very scary about Frank Thomas staring down at you, Disney autograph book in hand. He's glaring as if the kid asked him to sign on the Donald Duck page when Frank was dead set on signing across Minnie's ample bosoms. But maybe that just goes to show that Frank still has that chip on his shoulder, and he's looking forward to crushing all his doubters (again)--along with his 500th+ home run--this season. And I'm not so sure he won't succeed. After seeing Gil Meche get his $55 million over 5 years, $18 million over two doesn't look so bad for a 38 year old Thomas coming off a 39 HR, 114 RBI season and moving to a stronger lineup with more opportunities to drive in and score runs.
Truth be told, I really like this team. They've got a more than decent lineup, headlined by Troy Glaus, Big Frank, and Vernon Wells. If those guys can stay healthy--and I guess that's a big if when you're talking about guys like Glaus and Thomas--that's a pretty intimidating 3-4-5 combination for any pitching staff to face. And when you consider they've got Alex Rios (who would've had really great numbers last year if not for a weird leg infection) and Lyle Overbay on top of that, they should generate more than enough runs for their pitching staff. Of course, you can't ever be thrilled when Royce Clayton is projected to be your starting shortstop. Both Gage and I have first-hand knowledge that Clayton is merely mediocre on a good day, and unquestionably better at cultivating ridiculous thug-tacular hairstyles than fielding ground balls or coming up with clutch hits.
On the iffy side of things, the Jays really need Big Frank to stay healthy, and I wonder if the artificial turf up there in Toronto is going to be kind on all his foot issues. Similarly, they need AJ Burnett to earn his paycheck and start more than 21 games pitching behind Roy Halladay. The rest of the starting pitching staff is solid, and if the middle relief can get it to BJ Ryan, he'll shut opponents down and the Jays may be looking at 90 wins or so this year.
I'm gonna reverse course from an earlier post, put on my rose-colored Canadian-lovin' glasses and say that I think the Blue Jays should be able to compete with both Boston and New York in the AL East this year. I know their 2nd place finish last year was meaningless after the Red Sox folded with injuries last year, but I think the Jays have improved enough to continue to hang with all the two AL East powerhouses.
Big Frank will hit his 500th homer in a Jays uniform (he's only 13 away) and Roy Halladay will be a monster as usual (he and Santana are tied in my mind for the best AL pitcher--my money's on 22 wins for Halladay this year, barring injury). If things break their way, they may sneak into the playoffs with a wild card. It's a longshot, for sure, but I'd still love to see Frank make the playoffs, succeed, and get a ring that he contributed to in a meaningful way. Call me sentimental.