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Photo Credit: MLB.com

Some Less-Than-Coherent Thoughts On a Rough Week

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!

 

  • drunk man walking

    The only comment on this pretty excellent commentary is that it is pretty safe to say that we are not going to get a haul like Sizemore Lee and Phillips for anyone on the Jays. That, as trades go is an outlier. Better comps are the latter trades CC, Lee, and VMart which returned a decent not spectacular player each. But these types of trades are franchise altering moments, and hopefully we do better than say the Halliday trade, which was not exactly horrible, but the centrepiece in the deal, as in the CC and Lee trades turned out to be a bust.

  • Jaysdude

    I agree with you for the most part. The Jays have some good pieces, and I certainly do not advocate completely blowing up the roster and starting from scratch. But I really think the Jays need to do a couple of things: a. get faster and more athletic and use the running game instead of just waiting for someone to launch a bomb (if I hear the guys in the booth yap once more about how they don’t want to run into outs I think I might scream!) b. clear out some of the older, dead weight that’s holding back this roster (there are several, and yes I include Bautista in this, as it’s becoming clear that age is catching up to him) and c. get a freaking hit with runners on base for a change! Only the Jays could have the worst pitching staff in baseball show up at their home digs and make them look like a bunch of Nolan Ryans. It’s bloody pathetic.

  • AD

    Uhhh. I hate to wake you up from your jays coloured dream but this team is old and not good. Tulo, martin, jbats, heck even morales are getting up there in age. This is definitely NOT a playoff team as constructed. You cant exhibit strugging to score runs this way and be a playoff team. Time to sell, sell, sell. 2 out of 3 months have been awful o watch. Its not just a slow start anymore.

  • Teddy Ballgame

    I actually was heartened by the Blair piece. If the window for this team has indeed closed – and no regrets, but it was a fantastic ride – we have a terrific front office that can build a long term contender. Plus they have financial resources they didn’t have in Cleveland. It could be a short “rebuild.” Seeing how the last stretch of mediocre baseball in Toronto lasted 20 years, I think we can handle 2-3 seasons…

  • Teddy Ballgame

    By the way – we’re all disappointed by this season, but why are some of you sounding so angry? Hell, even in this most frustrating of years there’s been lots of interesting goings on. Baseball, man. Just chill and dig the ebbs and flows.

    • lukewarmwater

      Teddy as I said to Andrew’s favourite broadcaster today we have indeed had a wonderful two year run and certainly the new management team can begin wheeling and dealing to add a number of prospects in the outfield, preferably with speed, pitching depth, a young catching prospect etc. It isn’t as if the cup board is totally bare as is illustrated by Osuna, Sanchez, Stroman, Joe Barg, Pillar and his defence. I agree a rebuild could be done in likely three years and let us not forget about 18 year old junior pounding the bleep out of the ball. So yeah on Canada day 150, I’m frustrated but being a fan of all three major league sports teams I’m indeed proud with the Raptor success and the rebuilding of the leafs. So certainly I can handle three years in the deserl, after all I handled 50 years with the leafs in the barren waste land. Happy Canada day to you and all the posters.

  • jerjapan

    The Morales deal surely counts as an ugly FA contract, no? Perhaps not in total cost, but 3 years of roster clogging Morales looked bad at the time, and given his play and the number of similar players on the team, even worse now.

    • Teddy Ballgame

      I’d say the Morales contract isn’t a problem at all. Certainly better than if we signed Edwin for what we first offered him. Put another way, it’s not a contract that makes him immovable or stops the Jays adding elsewhere.

  • Will Murray

    Read the Blair piece, and was hoping you’d speak to it, so thanks for that. Obviously, Toronto has more resources at its disposal than Cleveland, allowing it to, potentially, avoid the ‘blow it up’ version of a rebuild. That said, I thought the most interesting comment from Shapiro was, when speaking to how he approached trading Alomar when he was in Cleveland.

    “We kind of recognized that it was a trade that was in the middle, kind of half-way,” said Shapiro. “We traded for some major league talent – Lawton – and signed Ricky Gutierrez with the money saved, and tried to get some young talent back. The lesson we learned from that was a painful one: When you make trades in the middle, you’re likely going to be unsuccessful on both levels — major league talent and minor league talent.

    “You need to commit to a direction, and so we went into the next year with the commitment that, ‘OK, we’re going to see how it goes and there’s a chance we’re going to push the button and go all the way here.’”

    While that quote doesn’t preclude a “re-tool” over a “rebuild”, I think it does speak to more of a philosophical point from Shapiro than a practical comment on the Cleveland market (although I could be entirely wrong on that). I read that as *if* we do go down the road of selling off parts – in particular, *gulp*, Donaldson – that Shapiro leans towards getting prospects over players more able to step in and fill holes right away (although these two things aren’t mutually exclusive).

  • Teddy Ballgame

    I’m not just looking at RBIs, dude. And I love Edwin. But I don’t think the difference between Edwin and Morales is worth about twice the yearly salary.

    Tulo – now THAT is an albatross contract.

  • Teddy Ballgame

    Maybe because this is pretty much the same team that made it to two straight ALCS, and probably should be playing better than they are. And realistically they have two weeks minimum before you have to decide whether to sell. I think this team, which has given us so many thrills, have earned at least that much before we jump off the bandwagon, y’know?

  • DAKINS

    Might be because, despite how much you seem to want to think otherwise, this roster isn’t full of bad players, rather good players who just happen to be playing badly?

    This is the entire reason why this season is as frustrating as it is.

  • Teddy Ballgame

    Never said that – just giving the reasons why you’d want to wait until closer to the deadline to freak out, like you seem to be doing. You have to give guys who were a strong playoff team two years in a row some rope before pulling the lever.

    So why so mad, bro? Just baseball. Just entertainment. I’d love it if the Jays were doing better, but it doesn’t ruin my day or anything. And it’s not like we’re back to the Gord Ash/JP days. It’s one bad season after three fun ones. So why the anger? Why the shouting?

  • Teddy Ballgame

    Oh Space Ghost and your ad hominem attacks. I haven’t felt the Jays were going to make the playoffs since April, but I *did* think that given the pedigree of this team that you had to give them to the All-Star break to see if they could climb out of it. And here we are, and they came close but didn’t. So now we know. Shapiro and Co have acted rationally, giving the core one last shot, and now they take next steps. No biggie. So again, “dude,” why so angry? Baseball shouldn’t get your knickers all “infuriatingly” twisted, you know?

  • Teddy Ballgame

    Then again, you’re the baseball genius who suggested Trout for Vlad, Rowdy, Foley and pieces would appeal to the Angels, so maybe you’re one of those immediate gratification or he throws a fit kinda dudes. Relax. In 3 years or less, the Jays will be back – unless they aren’t, and life will go on, you know? Deep breaths.

  • Teddy Ballgame

    Oh Ghostie, I’m just making a suggestion, is all. But hey, go on taking your personal path of fandom…however based on how wound up you’re getting, may I say that your way of being a fan doesn’t seem to be making you very happy. Dude.