What went wrong? What happens now? Looking for answers in the wake of the Blue Jays’ playoff letdown
Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis11 months ago
Baseball — it’s designed to break your heart.
That’s exactly what happened last weekend as the Blue Jays’ playoff run came to an abrupt end following an epic seven-run comeback by the Seattle Mariners in Game 2 of the wild-card series.
After an up-and-down first half of the season, the Blue Jays really seemed to hit their stride when John Schneider took over as manager for Charlie Montoyo, who was fired following a four-game sweep in Seattle in July. The Blue Jays locked up home-field advantage as the top wild-card team in the American League after putting together their sixth-best regular season in franchise history, going 92-70.
Hitters up and down the lineup were getting hot at the right time, the bullpen was healthy and rested, and three different starting pitchers who had been excellent pretty much all year were lined up to take the ball in a three-game series. The Blue Jays appeared locked and loaded and ready for an October run.
But, again, this is baseball. Things rarely, if ever, work out as planned.
Alek Manoah allowed three runs in the first inning in Game 1 and the bats were completely overmatched in a dominant performance by Luis Castillo. The bats came through against Robbie Ray in Game 2 but a series of poor decisions and bad luck led to the Blue Jays pissing away an 8-1 lead. And then it was all over, Seattle took the series 2-0 and the Blue Jays packed their bags.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The reality with North American sports, right or wrong, is that the playoffs are what matters.
What you do over the course of the regular-season marathon ultimately only matters when it comes to getting your team into the dance. People will forget all of the good things that the Blue Jays did in their 91 wins because the two games that they lost in October were the ones that mattered the most.
That’s what makes it so difficult to draw conclusions from this sort of result. These two games mattered a lot, of course, but do they really feature the answers to the questions that need to be asked?
If we use the sweep by Seattle as the basis to draw conclusions about what the 2022 Blue Jays were and what they need to become in order to be successful, we could say that Alek Manoah isn’t a big-game pitcher, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. can’t handle adversity, John Schneider isn’t a strong tactical manager, and the front office let the team down by not trading for Luis Castillo.
If those are the conclusions, what are the solutions? Move on from Manoah, Bo, or Vlad? Bring in a veteran manager to replace Schneider? Go all-in at every trade deadline?
Again, that’s why it’s difficult to draw conclusions in this situation. Manoah, Bo, and Vlad were playing in the first actual playoff series of their respective careers. Schneider made the same moves he had been making when the team went 46-28 under his watch. There’s no guarantee Toronto had the prospects the Reds wanted in a deal for Castillo and there’s no guarantee that he would have had the same start if he was on the Blue Jays.
The worthwhile conclusions to draw from 2022 come when looking at the big picture, what happened in April right out of the gate, into the dog days of summer, down the stretch, and into the playoffs. The right-handed-slugger-heavy lineup needs to be diversified. The bullpen now features very good depth but it could use a battle-tested veteran shutdown arm. The young core needs to mature and, unfortunately, the best way to do that is by going through these failures.
It’s okay to be upset, even angry, at this year’s result. But it’s also important to remember that there’s a good foundation here and two games won’t define this era. The Blue Jays need to take a good, hard look at all 164 games they played and figure out how to take the next step.
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