This week has not been a great one for the few Blue Jays still out here trying their damnedest to stay positive about the club. The Jays’ play on the field, aside from Marcus Stroman’s brilliant effort Wednesday night, has been abysmal. The club has scored the fewest runs of any team in baseball in the month of June, being leapfrogged this week by the garbage Phillies and the even worse Padres. Only the Giants and Royals scored less than the Jays did in April, and while May was quite good (the Jays ranked seventh), for the season as a whole they’re 26th in baseball. Only the four teams mentioned — the Padres, Philles, Royals, and Giants — have scored fewer runs in 2017 than these Blue Jays.
That’s fucking crazy. And while runs scored isn’t exactly a fancy advanced metric, and there are differences in the number of games certain teams have played to this point, there’s no real way to shine up that grim fact.
With that as the backdrop, and with the Jays’ bats all-but-useless again against Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez, and the fucking Orioles — Gausman’s ERA on the season dropped all the way to 6.07 after 5.1 scoreless innings against the Jays, while Ubaldo’s dropped to fucking 6.48 — things feel like they’ve taken an ugly turn. The return of the blow them up talk. Breathless discussions of what the Jays could get for which asset. What sometimes seems like gleeful acceptance of the idea that the team is in the toilet and desperate wishes for the front office to agree and to flush.
And headlines like Jays Journal’s clickbait-y affront to all reason, Series loss spells serious trouble for 2017 — a piece that, straight-faced, features this passage: “They were just a game back of the Orioles, and with a series win would have been at least tied with Baltimore, pulling themselves out of sole possession of last place. Now it feels like the Blue Jays are becoming entrenched in the position.”
This series was it, huh? I mean… I cannot possibly sigh fucking hard enough at this stuff. And yet, to a point, I can’t exactly blame anybody for this kind of reaction, either.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still think this is a roster capable of looking a whole lot more like they did in May than they have in June or in April, and we’d do well to remember that seasons ebb and flow, and that things are never as good or as bad as they seem, etc. etc. etc. But fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck me, the Jays have been hard to watch lately. And hard to follow on Twitter, with seemingly half my feed reflexively spouting negativity at every fucking half-turn like they’re the only geniuses who notice things that are bad. Thanks, all!
It’s reached the point where I think maybe some folks would do well to just go outside for a bit sometimes. Having the game in the background, or turning it off altogether, isn’t going to kill you or make you a bad fan. Sometimes it’s good to step off the roller coaster, away from its frenzied rush and disorienting twists, and back far enough to admire its construction; how the ride itself unfolds, how it inverts expectations, how it thrills and terrifies us, but how different it looks — how serene it can seem, even — when you get your goddamn head out of the wind.
All this, of course, is just flowery bullshit because I sure as hell don’t have any answers either. And because I’m running out of ways to try to say that it’s maybe not as bad as some people are acting. Like I said on Twitter this week, some Jays fans seem to take a two run deficit in the first inning worse than Jason Grilli took getting shitcanned. That stuff, to me, is far more insufferable than any amount of baseball losses — almost like watching a bunch of internet trolls work their shtick, groping around for whatever they can say to best make everyone around them as fucking miserable as they are. But I can’t say anybody’s wrong for noticing that June hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. Or for poking at our worst fears — like the way that Jeff Blair did this week at Sportsnet, in a piece on Mark Shapiro’s death blow to Cleveland’s long first wave of Jacob’s Field success.
In his piece, Blair reexamined the trade of Bartolo Colon to Montréal, which took place some fifteen years ago this week, and the all-in rebuild it heralded. It was a rebuild that Shapiro says nobody, save for a few members of his front office, understood was coming. Now president of the Blue Jays, Shapiro said all the right things to Blair about how such drastic measures were necessary because of unique quirks of the Cleveland market — and how the trade was only made possible because of the situation the sad old Expos were in. His current Jays, despite a similar predicament, are positioned to avoid what was essentially a preemptive strike to prevent the whole operation being crushed under the weight of its own payroll bloat, we’re told. But the undertones were ominous, and hardly subtle.
“In a purely intellectual vacuum, with nothing else around, I would say it’s the same,” Shapiro said when asked how he compared the aging Jays with the aging [Clevelands] he broke up.
“Shapiro doesn’t seem to feel the need to do anything pre-emptive here,” Blair writes, as Shapiro underlines the strength of the market he’s now working in, essentially telling us that the play of the team will dictate the direction the front office moves as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. But that’s not exactly comforting stuff. And after this week it’s hard not to see Josh Donaldson as this era Colon figure, or to think to oneself HOLY SHIT SCORE SOME FUCKING RUNS ALREADY!!!!
But really — truly! seriously! honestly! — it’s not as bad as it seems. One series loss did not “spell serious trouble” for anything (all the losses in June and the concerning lack of run scoring: yes; one series loss: no).
It’s true that the Jays are maybe not good enough — if Troy Tulowitzki is going to continue to be a replacement level player, and Kevin Pillar’s April successes aren’t coming back, and the solution at second base is going to continue to be Goins and Barney, it feels hard to believe otherwise — but those things may not all remain static. Even if they do, we’d do well to remember that the Astros are the only American League team to have lost fewer games than the Jays over the last two months (the Jays, Red Sox, and Royals all have 24 losses since the end of play on April 29th). And even if that stretch was the mirage and things aren’t about to suddenly get better, we’d do well to remember that the shifting of the Blue Jays into rebuild mode isn’t something that will happen dramatically, overnight: in fact, it’s been going on for nearly two years already.
In their time here, Shapiro and Ross Atkins have avoided ugly free agent contracts, or ones that would required giving up draft picks, and they’ve avoided trading their best prospects. They’ve been looking forward the whole time, while trying their best to put together a winning team in the present within self-imposed constraints. Expect them to keep doing this going forward. Even if Tulo is bad now and even if J.A. Happ or Justin Smoak end up being too good trade chips to sit on, the Jays are going to have Stroman, Sanchez, Osuna, Martin, Travis, Morales, Pearce, Carrera, Pillar, Biagini, a bunch of decent looking relievers, and either Donaldson or the shitload they’d get for him in trade coming back next year — plus a whole lot of money they can use to continue to patch together a solid roster around those pieces and try again. They’re actually in fairly decent shape!
The 2017 season maybe isn’t in the greatest shape at the moment, and will be in terrible shape if the bats don’t get their shit together fairly shortly, but over the years we all ought to have seen enough from the players on this roster to be a little more hopeful, I think, and a little less inclined suffocating negativity that’s surrounded the club of late. Negativity comes with the territory, I know, it’s just feels like people are actively trying to make it worse, and that’s fucked. There’s plenty of season left and plenty more talent on this roster than it’s shown! I know, I know, but for real!
So cheer up a little fucking bit, everyone! Follow your balloon!