Toronto’s Magic Number, that is. OK, it’s not one of those Magic Number’s that has a playoff berth at the end of the rainbow, but it comes with a nice consolation prize instead.
Here are the American League East standings as of Thursday:
NEW YORK 96-63 —
TORONTO 85-74 11
BOSTON 84-75 12
BALTIMORE 69-90 27
TAMPA BAY 61-98 35
It’s been quite a while since Jays fans have seeen Toronto that high in the standings this late in the year. With three games to go, the Blue Jays control their own second-place destiny. Don’t think the Jays aren’t taking the matter lightly, either. The club’s 16-9 mark this month should say enough.
"I would just like to look up at the end of the season, and when I’m checking out the standings, see Toronto underneath New York," Jays catcher Gregg Zaun said on Thursday. "For quite a while now it’s been New York and Boston."
Normally, you’d think Toronto might have an advantage, heading into the Bronx to face a team that already wrapped up the division title. But the Yankees still are playing for home-field advantage, so they aren’t going to go down easy. Toronto also will be sending Gustavo Chacin, Shaun Marcum, and Dustin McGowan to the mound — not its best trio.
NOTES and THOUGHTS:
–Toronto moved 11 games over .500 for the first time since July 28. That was one day before the club’s seven-game losing streak started. So it took this long for Toronto cancel out the effect of that skid.
–The Jays will undoubtedly offer Ted Lilly salary arbitration, but the pitcher will also undoubtedly decline. If I had to put a number on it, his 15-win season could get him a contract offer to the tune of three-years for $18-25 million, or somewhere around there. Lilly was making $4 million this year. If that price doubles, the Jays might be more on the fringe than in the running to re-sign him.
–I’m sure you all are curious about which of the players with uncertain contract situations for next season are more or less likely to be back with the Blue Jays. I’ll give my opinion here. I’ll go from a scale of 1-10 (1 being "not likely to be back in ’06" and 10 being "very likely to be back in ’06"). Keep in mind, this is solely based on my opinion, given the payroll, roster alternatives, available free agents, etc;
Vernon Wells — signing an extention with Toronto: 8
Ted Lilly — re-signing with Toronto: 5
Gregg Zaun — re-signing with Toronto: 6
Bengie Molina — re-signing with Toronto: 2
Justin Speier — re-signing with Toronto: 6
Frank Catalanotto — re-signing with Toronto: 5
That’s all I’ve got for now. It’s 1:45 p.m. right now and in about 45 minutes I’ll be heading to the 4 train to catch a ride to Yankee Stadium. Stay tuned for more…