The best record in the American League? Why, that would be your Toronto Blue Jays.
OK, maybe not yours. Make that Canada's Toronto Blue Jays.
And what are they doing up there atop the standings? Dugout Central's Teddy Mitrosilis thinks he knows ...
- It's not your fault if you haven't noticed the Blue Jays thus far, because chances are manager Cito Gaston doesn't know a whole lot about his current club either. The Blue Jays have been decimated by injuries -- especially in their starting rotation -- but they continue to call up young players who immediately produce.
Toronto's starting rotation was billed as one of the best in baseball coming into the 2009 season, but that was before we knew the Jays would be without Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Casey Janssen.
It's a shame that a guy as good as Halladay has not had the opportunity to throw his devastating sinkers and cutters in the playoffs. But whether Halladay knows it or not, he is helping the Blue Jays get to the playoffs even on the days that he does not pitch. How? By having such a profound impact on the Blue Jays' young pitchers.
Halladay is a lot like Greg Maddux in that way. Maddux is revered as one of the masterminds of pitching -- deservedly so -- and has a reputation for rubbing off on the rest of the staff. Ask Chad Billingsley in Los Angeles or Chris Young in San Diego, and they will tell you the effect Maddux had on their careers.
That type of mentorship and tutelage is now going on in Toronto, and Halladay has undoubtedly shown Scott Richmond, Brian Tallet, David Purcey, and Ricky Romero how to go about being the best in the business. Halladay is at the park hours before everyone else, works harder and prepares smarter than everyone else, and the youngsters are taking notes in the process.
Richmond has been an unbelievable success story, posting a 4-1 record and a 3.29 ERA in 6 starts. Richmond, 30, didn't even make his way into professional baseball until last season when he was offered a minor league contract by the Blue Jays.
There's one obvious problem with the Doc's Magical Powers theory, which is that Halladay's been pitching for the Blue Jays for a long time. I'm not saying that he doesn't have these magical powers, but are they just now showing up, 12 seasons into his career?
My guess is that the only thing magical about Halladay is his ability to retire the best hitters in the world with great frequency, and that the only thing magical about the Blue Jays' pitching this season is ... well, Halladay. He's 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA. Top prospect Brett Cecil is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA (in two games).
Yes, Scott Richmond is a fantastic story, and the Jays deserve big kudos for plucking him from the independent Northern League. Richmond has pitched well, no doubt. Other Toronto starters this season include Brian Tallett (4.66 ERA in five starts), David Purcey (7.01 in five) and, with two starts apiece, Robert Ray (6.00), Jesse Litsch (9.00) and Brian Burres (14.21).
I don't mean to suggest that Halladay's not a fine teammate. But it seems to me that attributing Toronto's 23-13 record to his leadership is a bit dicey, considering the uneven performance of the rest of the pitching staff and one stark fact: the Jays lead the major leagues in scoring, with 213 runs.
You want magical powers? Track down the Blue Jays' batting coach.