The Jays will win the AL East because the Baseball Gods owe them one. After being the odds-on favorites last year, the Baseball Gods either injured or removed all baseball ability from almost every player on the Blue Jays' roster. For some unlucky Blue Jays, the Gods did both, removing every ounce of baseball talent and then injuring them.
The list of players who spent time on the disabled list is longer than the list of guys who didn't: Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson, J.A. Happ, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera, Sergio Santos, Colby Rasmus Rajai Davis and more. Then there are the players who were stripped of talent: J.P. Arencibia, Josh Thole, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow. Even Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Brett Lawrie had their baseball talents removed and restored at various parts of the season, what we would normally call "slumps," but in this context we can rightly call "smitings."
This year the Gods have to be more merciful, right?
A lot of things do have to go right for the Jays to contend this year. Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, and Brandon Morrow can't be spending the first couple of months of the season trying to remember how to throw a baseball. They are going to have to catch lightning in a bottle with Drew Hutchison and Dustin McGowan. Someone is going to have to surprise. And, when someone in the rotation has to miss some starts, someone like Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez will have to do a better job than last year's replacements.
On the offensive side, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus, and Adam Lind just have to match last year's numbers. Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista need to stay healthy. Brett Lawrie has to get us talking about his performance, not his potential. Melky Cabrera has to show us that it was the tumor around his spine that caused him to run like he was dragging a piano behind him, not the absence of PEDs. Dioner Navarro, well, all he has to do is not be J.P. Arencibia and Blue Jay fans will be happy. Ryan Goins and Maicier Izturis have to, at least, approximate the production of a major league second baseman.
Maybe we'll be lucky and new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer will be a miracle worker and teach his batters that there is no rule that says you have to swing at every pitch.
The one thing the Jays can count on it a good bullpen. Casey Janssen saved 34 games in 36 opportunities. He heads a reliever corps that features a bunch of hard throwing right-handers (Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, Jeremy Jeffress, Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond) and a couple of good lefty specialists (Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup),
The good news is the same as the bad news: the Blue Jays are going into 2014 with essentially the same team that went into 2013. It didn't work out, but there are a lot of talented players on the team. They don't need a lot of luck to climb out of last place but they will need some players to step up to finish at the top of the division. Fortunately, they are owed some luck