'Great Expectations': New book examines lost Toronto Blue Jays season
In this Aug. 5, 2013, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays' Mark DeRosa watches his two-run single during a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners in Seattle. DeRosa is retiring after a 16-year major league career. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
TORONTO -- Perhaps it's rather fitting that on a team loaded with stars, a journeyman infielder is featured prominently on the cover of a new book detailing the Toronto Blue Jays' 2013 season.
Canada's lone Major League Baseball club added several big names in the last off-season and success-starved fans were optimistic that this would be the year Toronto's long playoff drought would come to an end.
However, the Blue Jays struggled out of the gate and post-season hopes were dashed much sooner than expected.
Therefore it wouldn't be one of the club's big guns celebrating a playoff moment on the cover of "Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season." Instead, a jubilation shot of backup infielder Munenori Kawasaki was chosen for the front, framed above a pained picture of star shortstop Jose Reyes after he suffered an ankle injury early in the season.
The images reflect the dichotomy of a disappointing campaign, chronicled over 220 pages by baseball writers Shi Davidi and John Lott.
"I think they're both really eye-catching photos and really illustrate the wild swings of emotion that Blue Jays fans felt over the course of the year," Davidi said in a recent interview.
The Blue Jays underwent a roster overhaul after the 2012 season, adding stars like Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera.
Fans were drooling at the prospect of Toronto playing meaningful late-summer games for the first time in ages. But Reyes missed most of the first half and the Blue Jays never really got on track, eventually finishing last in the American League East.
The roster changes sold tickets and created a buzz in the city. But instead of playoff buildup and October baseball, the season was marked by injuries and underperformance.
The book begins with an examination of the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins that reshaped the team before outlining the events that led to the return of manager John Gibbons. There are also chapters devoted to slugger Jose Bautista, Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie and general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Davidi and Lott avoid the so-called "inside baseball" approach and instead provide the reader with an interesting behind-the-scenes take from both on and off the field.
Anecdotes from the locker-room are mixed in with rich background on some of the key players. With an eclectic cast of characters to choose from, the authors had plenty of material to draw from.
"The tough part is that you really couldn't do everything," Davidi said. "There were so many really compelling and unbelievable stories that you could have written a chapter on almost every guy in that clubhouse."
The well-connected authors also touch on the past, including a fascinating account of the infamous clubhouse confrontation between Gibbons and former Blue Jay Shea Hillenbrand in 2006.
There are plenty of nuggets of information peppered throughout the book that will likely be news to even the most hardcore Toronto fans. Details on how the team pursued free agents are included with tidbits from the field and the front office.
For example, who knew that Anthopoulos carried small laminated cheat sheets at the 2012 GM meetings with lists of targeted players and prospects so that he could get a reminder if he needed information quickly?
Or that Bautista nearly gave up the sport at age 18 and resorted to distributing VHS tapes of himself to baseball coaches at American universities, hoping they'd give him a look? Or that Reyes rode a donkey to and from a stone-littered baseball field in the Dominican Republic when he was first learning the sport?
The team's won-loss total aside, there were several interesting stories within the 2013 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays. Davidi and Lott have put the spotlight on them in an enlightening and entertaining way.
"Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season" is published by ECW Press and has a retail price of $19.95. Davidi, a former reporter-editor at The Canadian Press, is a baseball columnist and television analyst with Sportsnet. Lott is a baseball reporter for the National Post.