Hey, you know my attitude toward the Jays being in the playoffs: Between the unbalanced schedule, the disparities in payroll, all the interleague games and only one wild-card playoff spot per league, it's pretty much arbitary who makes the playoffs anyways. The whole setup is bogus, so why recognize it? Most of us know enough to realize American Idol has little to do with who can sing and that The Apprentice has nothing to do with who knows the most about business. So how hard is it to realize that there's not much clarity with regard to who's playing in October?
That's why the only expectation for the Jays should be that team be good for 88-90 wins and be just screwed up enough to be colourful, until something is done about the playoffs. Being 8-10 is not the end of the world, although it might be wise to suggest than John Gibbons shouldn't look to buy a condo in Toronto any time soon. (If this sounds too grasping, that means I've defeated the purpose.)
It isn't the first time a decent Jays team has had a terrible start, although you'll never hear that from most of the media. Most of the TV and newspaper people always push the line with the Jays that they don't have a start on the order of the 1984 Tigers, they don't have a chance. This way, it cuts down the time before it's safe to get cynical about the Jays again -- not this is a bad thing. It's good to have one team in Toronto that's held to a high standard.
Funny thing about that need for a great start: Didn't the Twins have only seven wins after 18 games last season and end up making the playoffs with 96 victories? How about the 2001 A's, who lurched out of the gate 6-12 and ended up winning more than 100 games?
That's probably not going to happen here. The Jays are bound to straighten out soon, since it's hard to be this bad for too long. Here's three other Toronto teams that were well under .500 in the early going, and got it turned around enough to post a decent record.
1986: The low point? May 14 in Oakland would stand out, for reasons beyond the fact the Jays' 9-4 loss left them a season-worst six games below. 500 (14-20). That was the infamous night second baseman Damaso Garcia burned his cap and uniform top in the clubhouse bathroom after making an error that precipated a five-run A's seventh, dropping staff ace Dave Stieb's record to 0-5. The funny part about it was people saw the charred remains of a jersey and made out the 7, Garcia's number, the first thought was people could make out the 7 on the charred jersey and assumed that Stieb, who wore No. 37, was the pyro. en
1989: There's something about May 14 and infamous Blue Jays moments. Three years to the day of Damo's Inferno, Jimy Williams became the first Toronto manager to be fired in mid-season after the Jays were thumped 13-1 to the Twins to fall to 12-24, their worst start since 1981.
Jimy One-M was a manager on a short leash, there was a general restless vibe around the team. Tony Fernandez missed most of April after being beaned by the Rangers' Cecilio Guante in the fourth game. Fernandez got hit in the face right after Kelly Gruber had hit a game-winning home run. The Jays lost 15 of their next 22 games and kept scrapping after Tony returned. Fernandez, understandably, had his worst offensive season out of the nine years where he was an everyday shortstop.
So the '89 Jays were a team with high expectations, hardass manager on the hot seat, and a key injury. Any of this sound familiar? They were even coming off an 87-win year, like this 2007 team. Cito Gaston took over as manager, and well, you know the rest: The Jays played .611 ball for the duration and won a weak AL East by two games over Baltimore.
1993: Would you believe these sluggards didn't get over .500 for good until May 16, when Paul Molitor went 3-for-4 with two homers and four runs scored in a 12-6 rout of the Yankees which lifted the Jays to 19-18? Yes, you would.
That team also ended up winning a little something called the World Series. These Jays won't, but let this be a lesson: A decent season is not out of reach, and most of the bad things in the world are often indirectly caused by Kelly Gruber.
Last but not least, another newfound Jays blog: The 500 Level, written by Todd Devlin.
Saturday -- Orioles 5, Jays 2: Vernon Wells (hitting .258/.306/.500) has had slow starts before, but dumb fielding plays from him are rare.
Notice how Wells played the ball on Corey Patterson's RBI single in the sixth? He fielded the ball which was hit to into left-centre field and threw on the run. Paul Bako, not exactly the fastest guy around, went first-to-third without a second thought and was safe since the throw came in on two hops. Patterson also took second base, which took the double play off, although that might have been moot since Jeremy Accardo walked the next two hitters to force in the fifth Orioles run.
That's just sort of indicative of where the Jays are: A lot of half-efforts, which suggests a team which doesn't believe it can win. That state of mind usually leads to someone screwing up royally. Case in point: Right before the weak Wells throw, Josh Towers made a good play to pounce on a sac bunt and tried to get the lead runner at second base. His throw sailed into into centre field.
This is a fragile, fragile team. As much as baseball about batter-pitcher matchups and individual skills, how much can the cynical conjurers (in Rob Davies' immortal phrase) put this on John Gibbons' head? Frank Thomas is also an easy target since he's hitting .197/.329/.328 -- he's looking like he's going to be the Jays what Hakeem Olajuwon was to the Raptors a few years ago.
However, the Jays are not paying Wells just to be function by his standards. When the team is losing, where else do you look but to the guy who's got the most ability?
Canada's own Adam Loewen walked seven batters and still hasn't made it past the sixth inning this season. The Baltimore Sun reported the other day that he has a blister problem which could be affecting his command, spiking his pitch counts.
Again, it's only been 17 games.
Friday, Orioles 5, Jays 4: Kevin Millar got the game-tying hit off Casey Janssen in the eighth, dumping a pretty decent 3-2 pitch into no-man's land in shallow left. In the ninth, a Corey Patterson single and a Melvin Mora base on balls set up to the winning run. It happens when you face professional hitters... my sweet lord, how often has that rubric been dragged out already in just the first 16 games?
Now, to add insult to ignominy, Rogers Sportsnet seems to showing the most fanatic Jays fans of all the back of their corporate hand. Last night, Sportsnet Connected's The Inbox aired the footage of beer-throwing Boston fans at Rogers Centre. No problem with that, but they credited it to Deadspin. Apparently no one read the entire post which had two links attributing the YouTube find to The Tao of Stieb.
Hey, it's not like that blog is dedicating to covering the Blue Jays -- the team whom Rogers owns. So shame on you, Sportsnet, but don't read this as a knock on The Inbox, since it featured us once upon a time -- thankfully when Daru Dhillon hosted the segment, not Kylee Evans.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.