Just after the City of Toronto was calming down from a whirlwind day celebrating the Raptors’ NBA championship run, the Blue Jays played a game against Mike Trout and the L.A. Angels.
Aside from the absolute joy any baseball fan can find in watching Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani demolish the baseball, the game was unspectacular for Blue Jays fans to watch. Edwin Jackson, in his own words, was “horse sh*t”, giving up seven runs and only retiring two batters. This was par for the course for Jackson, who has now given up 35 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings pitched this season. The Angels running around the bases in circles must have prompted Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun to reach out to the Blue Jays for comment on one of baseball’s worst rotations, because he then tweeted out these two quotes from Mike Murov, the Blue Jays’ Director of Baseball Operations.
— Rob Longley (@longleysunsport) June 18, 2019
Like Edwin Jackson’s pitching, that is horse sh*t.
Let’s start with the first quote, that the Blue Jays didn’t anticipate as many injuries from this rotation compared to what they have had to deal with thus far in 2019. Really, Mike? You didn’t? If that’s the case, there is some serious problems in this front office.
The Blue Jays came into the season with six starting pitchers at the top of their depth chart, all with significant injury histories. Marcus Stroman dealt with shoulder issues last year and was limited to only 19 games started in 2018, while Aaron Sanchez has had lacklustre fingernails and blister issues for two seasons now, injuries that are known to be recurring and don’t just go away at the start of every new season. Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, and Clay Buchholz have had basically every injury known to mankind, and Ryan Borucki had Tommy John surgery and missed the entirety of the 2013 season because of it.
A previous injury makes the human body more susceptible to future injury, and the Blue Jays went into this year with a laundry list of previous injuries on their staff. That five of those six pitchers have been injured in one way or another this season should not come as a surprise to anybody. It’s possible that it’s a bit jarring that everybody got hurt in such a short span of time, but statistically speaking, with how long injuries tend to take to heal from, it isn’t all that improbable that it was going to happen like this.
If the Blue Jays went into 2019 thinking they could keep this group of pitchers healthy for a significant amount of time, either they have way overestimated the abilities of their high-performance department, or they accepted doing it because they aren’t serious about winning anyway.
That takes us to quote number two from Murov, who said that the team wasn’t interested in sinking “$36 million on a No. 4 starter” this past off-season.
It feels like this has been said a million times already, but there is no reason why a team owned by Rogers Media cannot flex their financial muscle in times when they don’t expect to be uber-competitive. The Blue Jays cratering their payroll this season compared to years past isn’t going to increase their payroll in future seasons, it’ll just make the pockets of Rogers shareholders a little bit heavier. Money not spent now is lost. It won’t show up again in 2021. And the difference between drafting third and tenth truly isn’t such a big deal given baseball’s high volatility and uncertainty in drafting.
The pitcher Murov likely was referring to is JA Happ, who got $34 million guaranteed over the next two years from the Yankees, and has so far thrown like a fourth starter, with an ERA north of 4.50. However, the idea that Happ and his poor performance was the only option available to the Blue Jays aside from Buccholz, Richard, and Shoemaker, is ludicrous.
Patrick Corbin got a lot of money from Washington and is pitching just fine this year, and will likely to be doing so when the Blue Jays hope to be competing in the Vlad years. Charlie Morton and Lance Lynn both only got $30 million from Tampa Bay and Texas respectively, and they are pitching as well as anybody in baseball right now. Dallas Keuchel was available until only a few days ago and he is only getting $13 million for the rest of 2019. It’s possible that those pitchers might not have wanted to come to Toronto, whereas Happ and his previous experience here would have, but Murov’s assertion that the Blue Jays were limited to fourth starters with hefty contracts is one that just doesn’t hold up. With enough money, anybody would come to Toronto to pitch.
If the Blue Jays wanted to, they could have put a quality on the product on the mound this year. They actively chose not to do it. Now, instead of just saying that they didn’t try, they’re pleading ignorance to the faults that were in their plan, and trying to rewrite the narrative of the 2018-2019 free agency to make it seem as if they had no other choice but the route they took. None of it is true.
This isn’t the first time that this front office has come out and said they didn’t expect things to go this way. A few weeks ago, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said that they “didn’t expect this” and that they “thought [they’d] be in a better spot.” The problem with pretending they didn’t know any better is that it is literally their job to know better! They have projections for a reason, and virtually everything that has happened so far should have been seen as in the possible realm of outcomes for the team assembled over the winter.
Mike Murov and the Blue Jays front office are either dumb, or they think the fans are dumb. I’m not sure which one is better, but if the Blue Jays are going to have any hope of contending in the near future and not squandering away the Vlad years, they’re going to need to smarten up. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins probably watched Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster address the fans at Nathan Phillips Square yesterday and that’s going to be the closest they come to that experience if something doesn’t change.