Frustration Mounting in Toronto
Darren Oliver was at the centre of the Jays’ latest collapse.
It was shocking how many analysts were ready to pretty much hand the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays this year after their huge splash in the offseason – even if many of the moves they made were very questionable and extremely risky.
Things certainly didn’t start out auspiciously as the Jays were 10-21 in early May and were still nine games under .500 in mid-June. Then, just as suddenly, Toronto rhymed off 11 straight wins to move over .500 and vault themselves back in the picture.
Finally, this team was coming together and reaching its potential, right?
Not so fast.
The Jays went right back into a tailspin after that huge winning streak and had returned to a losing record by the end of June. Things haven’t turned around this month, and after completely blowing a huge lead against the Dodgers Tuesday, the club has now dropped a season worst six straight games and 13 of its last 17.
Toronto now finds itself seriously buried in the AL East cellar, seven and a half games behind the fourth-place Yankees, who are spinning their wheels themselves lately.
With eight teams above them in the Wild Card race, a playoff appearance is looking highly unlikely for the Jays.
What’s gone wrong here?
Well, the offense has shown flashes (seventh in runs, seventh in slugging), but a middling team BA is holding it back somewhat. The pitching has been abysmal by virtually any measurement. Well, that’s not totally fair. The bullpen has been very strong, but the rotation has been so awful, there’s been no way to sugar coat this pitching staff.
One of the theories I’ve heard suggested is that there is a leadership gap in the Jays’ clubhouse. Well, the team had a 70-minute players only meeting before Tuesday’s game and promptly came out swinging, taking an 8-3 lead through six innings over a Dodger squad that is hotter than anyone in the bigs – especially on the road.
However, the Jays somehow managed to fritter that big lead away, losing 10-9.
At 45-54, is this rock bottom?
Well, if it isn’t, Jays fans might want to avert their gaze.
Right now, it seems like this team has quit on each other, and that’s untenable at any time, never mind in late-July, with over two months of the schedule remaining.
It was Darren Oliver who imploded Tuesday, but cut the old guy some slack. Since returning from a shoulder injury last month, he’s looked very steady, even if his hit rates are up this year.
What prompted the lengthy players pow wow was a truly ugly showing Monday in which the Jays committed a ridiculous five errors en route to a 14-5 pasting at the hands of the Dodgers. The Jays don’t seem to want to discuss publicly what was said at that meeting, but you get the sense that there are players on this team that are getting fed up with underachieving.
Speaking of underachieving, there are some issues on this team:
- Catcher J.P. Arencibia continues to see tons of action, yet the strikeouts keep piling up and his overall level of play has again dipped. (Of course, it doesn’t help when you get robbed like Arencibia did on Monday, as you can see below.)
- Brett Lawrie actually came through with a big night Tuesday to get his BA back over the Mendoza Line, but his struggles to find health and maturity have led to another season of regression.
- Jose Bautista has stayed healthy this year, but his overall offensive performance has dipped from last year and certainly from his amazing 2010-11 run.
- A post-‘roid suspended Melky Cabrera hasn’t been the same productive player he was in San Francisco.
- Edwin Encarnacion is making much better contact this year and his power numbers are again off the charts, but his slash line has dipped across the board.
- Emilio Bonifacio has shown flashes of productivity, but his work on the basepaths has really deteriorated since coming to Toronto.
- Speaking of deterioration, Josh Johnson’s career continues to spiral downward as he’s been rocked in his first season for the Jays.
- Health issues have once again gotten in the way of Brandon Morrow becoming a true ace.
- Mark Buehrle is his usual durable, innings-eating self, but it’s been many years since he gave up runs at this kind of pace.
- R.A. Dickey’s strikeout rates have normalized while his ERA has skyrocked.
The Jays may have just shifted into seller mode after this debilitating setback. At the very least, they are unlikely to be buyers now. Perhaps standing pat is the best thing for this organization, some fans of which might now be wishing the Jays had done a bit more standing pat in the offseason.
As Buehrle – one of the big acquisitions in the winter – recently summed up about the Jays fortunes so far: “maybe we were overrated, maybe we’re not as good as we thought we were.”
Well, that pretty much says it all, folks.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think went wrong for the Jays this year? Let us know in the comments below.
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