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Alex Gonzalez celebrates RBI with Randy Ruiz and Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers during a MLB game at the Rogers Centre May 15, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Abelimages/Getty Images)
Alex Gonzalez celebrates RBI with Randy Ruiz and Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers during a MLB game at the Rogers Centre May 15, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

Jeff Blair

'Told you so' types await Rays, Yankees for chance to rain on Jays' parade Add to ...

Now, the dicey part.

It was just 12 months ago that the Toronto Blue Jays embarked on a nine-game road trip that would snuff out their 2009 season and ruin an unexpectedly strong start. It was 12 months ago Wednesday that the Boston Red Sox beat Brian Tallet 2-1 in the first game of what would turn into a nine-game losing streak, and all of us 'We told you so' types were, well, telling you so.

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Those who forecast that the Blue Jays would be lucky to finish ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and who had looked away while the Blue Jays built a 3 ½-game lead atop the American League East - who had doubted themselves when the Blue Jays skipped out of town following a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox with a muscular 27-14 record - were able to exhale.

There'd be no miracle here.

Tonight, the 2010 edition of the Blue Jays - who, far from being picked for fourth in preseason polls, were more often than not being tabbed for dead last - will open an eight-game road trip with two games in Seattle against the Mariners, clearing customs Tuesday with a 24-17 record not so far off last season's mark.

They are not leading the division, because the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have come as advertised. Plus, they've only played three games against those teams - going 1-2 in Tampa. That changes after this trip; when the Blue Jays return to the Rogers Centre, they'll play three against the Baltimore Orioles and then three each against the Rays and Yankees, before travelling to Tampa for another three-game set.

Don't worry. We have marked down those dates, those of us in the 'told you so' group, because there is a soft underbelly to this start that perplexes us. It's nice that the Blue Jays hit home runs - four more Tuesday in an 11-2 waxing of the Minnesota Twins - and it's fun to rifle through game notes and see nuggets such as this from Tuesday's notes: Jose Bautista has 21 homers dating back to Sept. 7, 2009, the most of anybody in the majors in that time.

Crikey.

But that team batting average of .240 going into Tuesday, third-worst in the AL and a significant 16 percentage points below the league average, will more than likely be reflective of the Blue Jays than all these homers. Bautista isn't winning any single-season homer title. John Buck won't hit 40. The Blue Jays went into Tuesday's game with six more extra-base hits than they'd had singles, and you can't win that way. Not over 162 games.

(Of course, that's what we all said two weeks ago, too. Perhaps it is better to muse openly, as Blue Jays broadcaster Alan Ashby has done, about "whether it's possible to keep winning with more extra-base hits than singles.")

This was supposed to be a big-picture season, and until that whack of games against the Rays and Yankees, it is best to keep that in mind and delay any flights of fancy. This is a year that is still about development and figuring out what needs to be done to get people back into the ballpark and whether ticket pricing is an issue - all that gruesome business stuff. On the field, the big picture is better than a lot of us thought. When's the last time "Vernon Wells" and "millstone" and "contract" appeared in the same sentence?

Shaun Marcum is healthy, Ricky Romero shows signs of being the kind of strikeout pitcher a team needs as an ace in this division - although that won't really be a topic of discussion until the Blue Jays see him fashion some gems in September - while waiting for Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil to develop is a lot better than waiting for some soft-tosser to put together some wins.

Cuban free agent Adeiny Hechevarria is playing every day. Top catching prospect J.P. Arencibia is fighting it at Triple-A Las Vegas, but nobody seems concerned, and Brett Wallace - the first baseman of the future - had 11 homers and 31 runs batted in and was hitting .311 going into Tuesday.

There were chants for Wallace at the Rogers Centre on Monday after Lyle Overbay's happy-hands act in the field game, but he'll stay in the minors to complete his defensive transformation, despite the fact that June 4 is the date this year after which a player can be called up without falling into the "super two" arbitration category. This is not a service time issue. Seldom will a prospect come up and stay without going back to the minors, as was the case with Adam Lind and Travis Snider, who were at least as ballyhooed as Wallace. He's good. He's not Stephen Strasburg or Evan Longoria.

And the Blue Jays … well, I don't know what they are yet. Kind of refreshing, no?

 

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