Yunel Escobar at Batting Practice, April 3, 2011
In case you hadn’t already heard, the Jays have a new running game. Stealing, going for two bases at a time, it’s all part of John Farrell’s intent to create a more well-rounded offense. It’s great to see this kind of ground-level change having an impact on scores already. Without Rajai Davis outrunning that pickoff attempt at the first at-bat of the season, would we have gone on to drive home 4 runs that inning? We’ve also had three stolen bases in 5 games. At this rate, we’ll be nearly doubling our last season total of 58.
But despite last night’s win over Oakland, securing us a place tied for first in the AL East (albeit temporary), I’m beginning to wonder how much is too much? We learned how to run. Now we need to learn WHEN to run.
Several plays last night could be looked at as evidence that we need to reel it in just a touch.
Rajai Davis Caught Stealing, 1st Inning – 1 run lost?
Hoping for a repeat on his Friday night dance routine, Rajai made an ill timed play for 2nd base and was easily run down. Had he waited, Escobar’s single past third would have probably brought Davis into second, anyway. Adam Lind’s long double brought Escobar all the way around from first base, so Davis would have scored as well.
JP tries for extra base, is thrown out in the 2nd Inning
After a long drive to left field, JP rounded first and thought he could get to second in time. It sure looked doubtful to me, and he was thrown out with plenty of time, ending the inning.
Escobar triples in the 5th, but at what cost?
But the most shocking example happened when Escobar came up to bat in the 5th inning. With one out and no one on, he hit a long line drive to center field, rounded first and second easily, and then fired up the after burners to get to third before the toss. He made it in time, but slid – hard – into the third baseman’s leg, thrusting his neck into an awful position.
If you want to see the play up close, the Blue Jays site has a video clip.
11,000 fans cheered like mad, but quickly fell silent when we realized Escobar wasn’t jumping to his feet and shaking it off. The minutes passed as the medic and coaches checked him out. Eventually, he was helped up, but shakiness in the next inning led the team to pull him for the rest of the game.
Escobar later went to the hospital – “as a precaution” – to check for any additional concussion evidence. I’ve heard he’s at the clubhouse this morning, which is a great sign, but won’t be playing during this afternoon’s game, and I haven’t heard when he’ll be returning to play.
It’s incredibly lucky that Escobar wasn’t hurt worse. The angle of his neck, and the speed at which he hit the baseman, could have resulted in something career changing. Granted, we don’t yet know whether he’ll be on the DL, but seeing as he was able to keep playing, and the hospital released him, it seems a lot less severe than I’d feared last night.
We can look at this play – and the resulting injury – as one of the consequences of increased aggression. But should Escobar have stayed a little more conservative, and stuck to second base? Is it worth a possible injury to go for that extra base?
Looking for balance
What the Jays have struggled with for the past several seasons is balance. And I think this is still their biggest challenge as they work through the early days of this season. They’ve added a lot of new skills to their portfolio. They’ve shown a larger range, not relying on home runs, on big hits, alone to score runs. But with the wrong judgement calls, the result may be increased outs, missed opportunities, and even injuries.