Jays camp report: Likes, dislikes

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- What I like, and dislike, about the Blue Jays:


  The presence of the Giants and Tigers in the 2012 World Series proves again the value of organizations and general managers who aggressively take advantage of an opportunity to win, and now the Blue Jays have joined that crowd. For years, people have wondered if this team and this GM would and could really go for it. Now they have.

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  The 2012 Blue Jays had plenty of issues, but the biggest was a starting rotation that was hit hard by injuries and simply wasn't good enough. The only path to contention was by seriously improving the rotation, and the Blue Jays did it. They added a Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey, a potential Cy Young winner in Josh Johnson, and a steady veteran in Mark Buehrle. As one Jays person said, they've turned their first starter (Ricky Romero) into their fifth starter -- and they even have big hopes for him.

  Chipper Jones once called Jose Reyes the "most dynamic" leadoff hitter in the game. It didn't always show last year with the Marlins, but Reyes brings an excitement and energy that can change any team.

  For anyone who can remember the early 1990s, when sellouts were common and the Blue Jays attracted a major-league best four million fans a year, it's great to see baseball excitement return north of the border.


  Are they setting themselves up for too big a fall? The expectations are huge, and while general manager Alex Anthopoulos likes to point out they have their most important players under contract for several years at reasonable money, if the Jays don't show major improvement this year plenty of people will be calling this plan a big failure.

  Reyes played 160 games for the Marlins last year, but he still hasn't completely shaken the reputation as a player who is easy to injure. Asked about what could derail the Blue Jays, one rival AL coach pointed first to Reyes playing all his home games (and 19 road games) on artificial turf.

  I love that Anthopoulos followed his instincts, but there's no question that he took a big risk in bringing back John Gibbons as manager. Gibbons' first go-round with the Jays ended after very public confrontations with some of his players, and now he's taking over a team with a good clubhouse but many strong personalities. It could work, but it's still a big risk.

  For all the talk about how issues with the Yankees and Red Sox have provided the Blue Jays with an opening, the American League East still sets up as the most balanced division in the game (and possibly still the strongest division). As Jose Bautista said, "Nobody's perfect, and nobody's terrible." Being good in this division still isn't good enough. You still need to be great.

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