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Anatomy of a JaysTalk: The Worst Start in Franchise History Edition

On Wednesday the Blue Jays finally managed to play a game that didn’t last four goddamn hours, and of course they fucking lost that one, too.

Yep. These sure are fun times, aren’t they?

But at least there was one thing fun about Wednesday’s affair: it made for an extra-long worst-start-in-team-history version of JaysTalk, and as such, provided a venue for all kinds of fan theories and wayward attempts at insight!

Mind you, there were some entirely reasonable calls, too. It’s just that, as you’d expect, with the Jays doing their best to piss the season away as early as humanly possible, the cranks were out in force. So let’s dig in!

You can check out this, and every other edition of JaysTalk (oddly labelled “Blue Jays Talk” for official purposes), at Sportsnet.

Caller 1. Jordan in Philadelphia

Jordan claims to have a Masters degree in statistics and has a “mathematical argument” to validate his concerns. He’s used his deep insight into the world of numbers to figure out that it’s going to be more difficult for a team to get to 89 wins from 1-7 with 154 games left than from 0-0 with 162 games left.

Why this is awful trash even though he’s obviously right:

Jordan is painfully desperate for validation of his “concerns” — concerns that, for the most part, are based on eight games worth of trends in the middle of long career arcs for what are, for the most part, very good players, which somebody with a statistics degree should know better than to call concerns.

Cue:

Jordan isn’t wrong that we can’t just wave away this awful start, or say that it’s false that the Jays now have to play that much better over the rest of the season to get to where they need to be. On that front, Dave Cameron does some entirely reasonable scare-mongering about the paths ahead for these Jays over at FanGraphs, though it’s Michael Baumann’s take at the Ringer that I prefer: “when those paths [to the playoffs] are as long as a baseball season, and determined by such slim margins, no deviation is fatal this early, but no deviation is trivial.”

It’s just, teams don’t compile wins in a linear way. If they get back to .500 fairly quickly, then they’ll only have to play .500 the rest of the way to finish at .500, y’know? There is lots of time to get back in the right direction, though the counterpoint to Wilner’s quick assertion that “every team goes through” stretches like these is that while there’s plenty of time left to undo this one, there’s that much more time to hit another major ebb — one that, at that point, could end up fatal to the team’s hopes. The margin for error is thinning, without question, and that’s bad.

But what is the answer Jordan is looking for here? Because it feels a lot like he wants Wilner to agree that the season is fucked before it started, and open up some kind of a Pissbaby Pandor’s Box that validates every half-brained fan who mistakes their ability to conceive of the shittiest, most negative outcomes imaginable as blistering insight into how they’ve been wronged by this team, the front office, ownership, the players, and the media.

Because, you see, the thing is: fuck those people.

They aren’t, and won’t ever be right, even if the season ends as awfully as it has started. Because they’re not actually offering genuine or thoughtful insight and analysis — it’s more like their bodies are rejecting the miserable negativity they constantly stew in, and are vomiting it out of them in the form of dipshit beliefs about Atkins or Bautista or GOBBONBS (who must immediately be FYREEEGDGEDGGGD). Which isn’t to say that the team is above criticism. Far from it, even if it’s way too early to say “this bad thing has happened” as though we can extrapolate anything or conclude anything from these eight games. You’ve just got to be serious about it if you want to be taken seriously, which to me means demonstrating an understanding of the fact that we can’t extrapolate anything or conclude anything from these eight games, or that you’re actually versed in the patterns baseball seasons follow.

If they reach a point where only an historic run of great play will allow them get back to the 88-89 win range (or whichever range you like — I think the AL is so good, up ad down, that teams are going to beat up on each other to the point where the upper 80s could very well get you in), then fine, come running to me pointing at their fatal wound. Until then, maybe try to enjoy some baseball you miserable twits.

* * *

Caller 2. “Mutty” in Brooklyn

Apologies for not getting the name straight here. Wilner said something in Hebrew to this caller after hearing his name, which made me figure I have no hope of figuring out how it’s actually spelled on my own, so “Mutty” it is!

“Mutty” just wants to be positive.

Why this is reasonably reasonable, but also not a whole lot of fun:

Sure, there are positives to take from what we’ve seen so far from the Jays this season. As Wilner correctly points out, “They don’t have far to go to get to the point where they’re using this pitching to win ballgames.”

But… uh… yeah… even I have got to try pretty part to stay focused on those at this point. JUST WIN SOME DAMN GAMES ALREADY!

* * *

Callers 3 and 4. David in Oakville and Pramit in Brampton

David wonders how many innings the Jays have played against right-handed pitching, and seems to want to put forth the theory that hitting against right-handers is going to be an “Achilles heel” for the Jays.

Pramit is wondering about the warning signs the offence showed last year and whether they did enough to address those by adding lefties, contact hitters, speed, etc. “Is it good enough?”

Blargh:

Yep, the Jays have struggled with right-handers, because the Jays have struggled with just about all pitching this year. They haven’t faced enough of anybody to draw conclusions about some kind of wild platoon split issue that went unaddressed, but that would seem to be the next logical step in bringing this up.

I know, I know, expecting JaysTalk callers to be capable of logic is a stretch, but I’d imagine that’s where David was going here. And I’ve certainly seen gripes so far about the fact that the club identified a lack of speed and a right-hand-heavy lineup as being problems, and then weren’t able to do much to correct those — precisely as Pramit says. But they did add Kendrys Morales (and I’m sure the same people griping about this completely welcomed that and didn’t lose their shit that he’s not that other guy, right?), and one wonders where else they could have done a thing like that. Which speedy lefty DH was out there for them to get? Which right-handed position player should they have gotten rid of? Donaldson? Tulo? Travis? Bautista? Martin? Pillar?

Like, does Brandon fucking Moss make a difference so far? Come on.

These guys have handled right-handed pitching before. The issue isn’t that they’ve all suddenly become platoon players. And to look back to last year and see the seeds of these issues is to ignore how Russell Martin was banged up, how Josh Donaldson was banged up, how José Bautista was banged up, etc. It was not unreasonable, and is still not unreasonable, to have believed these hitters would perform much more like their normal selves when healthy. It remains to be seen if they will or not, or how much of a step back they’ll take (if any). We certainly haven’t learned one way or another through eight games — and if they’d just managed to push across a couple more runs in this stretch, enough for a couple more wins, I doubt we’d be talking about it in such stark terms.

* * *

Caller 5. Sahil in Toronto

Sahil wonders at what point it gets to the point when they can’t dig themselves out of the hole.

Why that answer is easy:

As I’ve said, when they get to the point where it will require an historic run of good play (yes, I’m using “an,” deal with it) to get back to what we can reasonably expect to be the number of wins it takes to get to the playoffs, then they probably can’t dig themselves out of it. Right now, if they played at a 95 win pace the rest of the year, they’d end up with 91 wins. If they played at a 90 win pace they’d get to 86.

But, of course, rip off a few wins in their next two series and those equations change for the better. And the thing is — the big thing that it seems like so many people are missing — there’s no reason to believe that they can’t do that. There’s no reason to believe these hitters have suddenly become what they’ve looked like in the last eight games.

* * *

Caller 6. Paul in Moncton

Paul would like to see Salty replacing Russell Martin as a regular. He is also a John Gibbons truther and thinks the manager is holding this team back.

Why I get the sense that Paul is the guy at the party who is never actually listening to anybody else’s ideas, just waiting his turn to speak:

“We gotta start playing small ball. We lose every year to small ball teams. They win the championship every year. We’ve just gotta adapt.”

Wow.

I mean, to take cluelessness on JaysTalk to a new level is just… wow.

* * *

Caller 7. Bob in Bowmanville

Bob thinks “the whole ‘it’s early’ is so tiring.” He is desperate for validation of all the negative trash that fills his tiny heart.

Why Bob needs his diaper changed:

Bob spit out what he seemed to think was some kind of ace “gotcha” question for Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins: “they re-signed their right fielder, how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

It’s eight games, you goon!

Edwin Encarnación is hitting .172 for Cleveland so far, with more strikeouts than Bautista — 12 in 34 plate appearances. Is anybody asking, “Hey Chris Antonetti, you signed that new DH, how’s that workin’ out for ya?

They’re not, because that would be stupid.

* * *

Caller 8. Jordan in Toronto

Jordan wonders about moving the lineup around.

Why that’s a fine enough thought, as long as we don’t put too much into the notion:

Look, I don’t know about worrying too much about creating the optimal-optimal lineup, or especially nitpicking the manager when the lineup doesn’t quite perfectly fit your vision of what’s optimal. But if Russell Martin is going as fucking badly as Russell Martin is right now, asking him to bat immediately after the group of guys who actually seem like they have a prayer of regularly getting on base feels a bit too much, for my taste, like a dead rally waiting to happen. Not that putting my eggs in Steve Pearce’s fucking basket feels all that much better, but right now it does at least somewhat.

Beyond that, though, I don’t have a lot of time for this as a path to getting the non-Donaldson offence to stop hitting like bloody dogshit.

* * *

Caller 9. Tim in Mississauga

Tim says something like “it would be ridiculous to think they’re going to win the World Series if they were 7-1; it’s just as ridiculous to think they’ll lose 100 games because they’re 1-7.”

Why I’m going to find something negative even in this healthy dose of positivity:

I’ve got all sorts of time for positives, but I can’t deny that part of what’s animating the squids in the fan base to get so vocal is not just the record, but the fact that it feels like we’ve seen this movie before. All last year it felt like we were just waiting for the bats to break out in a big and sustained way. It never really happened, and the dread that people feel that it might not again this year isn’t invalid. You just get into squid territory once you start acting like you’re sure or you know that they won’t based on your rigorous analysis of these eight games and the terrible lineup holes you’re convinced were already there waiting to sink them.

* * *

Caller 10. John in Toronto

John would like to share with you some of his delusions of grandeur.

Why… why??????:

“Real good teams finish the job,” John says of the Jays’ losing, demonstrating off the hop that he has neither the insight into baseball nor the self-awareness to grasp that he’s not all-knowing to make his insight worth more than dirt.

I hate to be mean (uh… sort of), and I guess I can appreciate trying to read into a club’s “energy” or the “sadness” in their voices, but you really couldn’t do the negative-ass fan drawing conclusions then warping what he’s seeing into validating those conclusions better than this. It was a masterclass.

“Number one, I truly expected this this year. On paper the Jays absolutely should make the playoffs. They should be contending with Boston. On paper. But here’s what I felt: I felt last year — there was a transition going over when the baton was passed to Donaldson, you know? Kind of making him the top dog in the Jays. And I felt that Bautista was kinda passive aggressive — I mean, it was his team the whole way around. And I felt that there was a shift in energy — I felt there was a big shift in energy, going back to last September, and whatever. And particularly with the statements [about “no home team discount”],” he says. “I just felt that, understandably it’s tough for a guy to pass the baton over, and I just felt that there was a dissension — almost a passive-aggressive energy. I mean, the Jays team, you don’t see them jumping up and down, high fiving each other.”

do think teammates aren’t necessarily always thrilled with Bautista. I even do think there was a thing last September (for now I’ll simply point out that the day of the players only meeting to “get on the same page” came after a game where Bautista was hit by a pitch — an act that wasn’t immediately retaliated for). And yet this is wacky. The idea that some unseen “energy” is behind anything right now? No, baseball is behind it.

John, unless he was busy typing out comments on Sportsnet articles while on hold with Wilner, isn’t even the only one thinking like this, it turns out:

Yowza.

“What I’m trying to get at is this: I think it was a good thing for Bautista to have been moved on. OK? And I think everybody’s disappointed in Atkins in Shapiro,” John says. “All I’m trying to get at is, and again, total respect personally to Atkins and Shapiro, but to me they’re a couple of bean counters that came from a small market team, and great baseball knowledge, to find bargains out there. I don’t think these guys can pull triggers on whatever. I think Bautista actually being brought back was more to pacify the Jays fans than anything else.”

So… you think the guys running the front office were here to use their “great baseball knowledge” to make smart acquisitions in putting together a baseball team? And you’re holding that up as a bad thing?

You think they didn’t show fucking nerve to let Bautista twist and be humbled before getting him at the price they wanted, or when they followed their plan and move on from Edwin despite what they knew was going to be outcry? You think getting Morales or Happ last year wasn’t pulling a trigger?

Or, wait! Maybe it’s that you just don’t like those triggers or the results of the first eight games and are you’re willing to invent a narrative to fit where you want to place the blame.

As Wilner said to this caller, “you’ve interpreted things that just aren’t there, but because you want to fit it into your belief system, that’s the conclusions you’re drawing.” It’s almost like Mike deals with this nonsense a lot, because yes. You see it with the Gibbons truthers, too. They’ve decided they hate Gibbons, and so everything bad gets pointed back at him. People have decided they hate Shapiro and Atkins, and so everything bad is Shapiro and Atkins. Or Bautista’s fucking energy is bad, so he’s dragging them down spiritually. Logically, it’s about a half-step away from seething about the “lying media” and chanting “lock her up!” Dipshittery half-baked with small kernels of truth taking root in the minds of people all too ready to believe they’re so special that they see what others can’t or won’t. What a world.

* * *

Caller 11. Peter in Toronto

Peter is sticking with the Blue Jays. He says he’s played a lot of ball in his day, and he genuinely sounds like he grasps what a season is.

Why Peter is kinda the best:

“And what I also hear is a lot of negativity. And that negative energy — we’re all connected as human beings and beings in general — and I believe that negative energy that we’re throwing out there isn’t helping at all. And it would be nice to just give them total support, and total commitment on our parts as fans. These guys are good ballplayers, and they’re up against other teams full of good ballplayers, and you know what? There’s going to be a winner and loser, and if we’re expecting to win every single year, I mean, it’s easy to point fingers from the couch. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say — go Blue Jays go, I’m behind you 100%.”

I suppose I can’t shit on one person’s energy theory and not another’s, but good lord, I can’t imagine going through life as profoundly fucking miserable as some people. I suppose doing so isn’t a choice for some, and that genuinely sucks, but for others it seems like it’s an indulgence — like they get a rush of endorphins every time they try to pass the most pissy, negative thing they can possibly think of off as wit.

More attitudes like Peter’s, please.

* * *

Caller 12. Paul in Barrie

Paul is “what you’d call an optimist” and thinks it’s going to make it so much sweeter when the Jays start hitting like they do.

Why this, oddly, brought me crashing down back to reality:

I mean… yeah… let’s maybe not try to hard to act like things with this team are good either. They’re not. Things are… things.

* * *

Callers 13 and 14. Chris in Toronto and Ian in Midland

Chris notices that the Jays have had a problem offensively since the all-star break last year, and upper management failed to get what they needed to get better. “The lack of ability to get rallies.”

Ian noticed a lot of called strikes on a lot of batters. “It’s almost like they’re uncertain up there.” “There’s no oomph in them.”

Why I don’t feel the need to address either of these:

It’s eight games, guys. Relax a bit.

* * *

Caller 15. Neil in Toronto

Neil thinks Tuesday’s was one of the worst games he’s seen of all time, and yet he says “a lot of fans are really jumping the gun here.” “There’s a lot of casual fans who are just wanting them to win — they don’t understand the game, they don’t understand how long of a marathon that it is.” The one things that concerns him is that they’re facing the AL East so early.

Why Neil’s last point is an important, if uncomfortable, one:

Up next are four with Baltimore, three with Boston, a trip to Anaheim, and then a visit to a good Cardinals team in St. Louis. They’re certainly not buried yet, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be if these trends continue. Nobody’s wrong for thinking that. It’s just there’s not much reason to think that they will. Though we can already feel the margin for error tightening. Dun dun dunnnnnn….

  • Seedy Hand

    It’s been ugly. It was ugly for a big chunk of last season, and let’s not forget that the Jays “bullshitted” their way into the playoffs too. Then they were humbled by Cleveland’s approach to pitching. They stunk. Glaring holes weren’t addressed in the off season (regardless of how hard the FO tried or who was out there, it didn’t materialize.) So these losses do feel like the same thing we’ve seen before. Wilner’s line of “this is a great hitting team/hey the tying run was on deck!/they were a single away from winning!” schtick does get old too. Just like the core of the team. Getting old, fast. Please hit. thank you. I love you.
    AM I A PISSBABY?

  • lukewarmwater

    Why can’t Wilmer get members of Mensa for callers like you get in your articles. The one thing I will say about most of them is that they are indeed ball fans as limited as their knowledge truly is. I mean you are at a party and you hear 4 or 5 people puking up the flavour of the month from the Steve Simmons of the world. You just accept that they are casual fans who probably will never really understand the game that the boys of summer play.
    I thought Teddy Ballgame brought up a good point the other day when he reminded us to freaking just enjoy baseball at the major league level. If the Jays are playing meaningful games in late September, well great. But if not, well obviously the beginnings of a rebuild will be taking place as we add more young talent to our farm system that is being replenished.
    This was my philosophy about the leafs, I think most leaf fans expected a fair amount of pain this year only to be thrilled with the way the 7 to 9 rookies came through in their first year in the bigs. Relax Jay fans and yeah listen to Wilmer develop migraines from his nightly show.