Editorials

Realistically Speaking: Examining the Blue Jays’ Early Struggles and Road Ahead

Blue Jays

Digging deeper into the Blue Jays stumbling out of the gate while fearing what’s possibly on deck.

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Note: I realize that there’s numerous Jays fans who don’t call T.O. home. Better yet: I’m well aware that part of this fan base doesn’t give a damn about anything involving the Raptors or Leafs. So, while there is a noteworthy connection, I’ll make the following intro as quick and painless as possible for anyone residing outside the city limits. Although, when you add losing three of the team’s best players (I don’t think I’m going out on a limb thinking J.A. Happ will be gone for a while) on top of the existing frustration, a little distraction doesn’t hurt before we vent.

With that said, let’s give a nod of appreciation to the entertainment value this past weekend provided. It’s not often when all three of Toronto’s major professional sports teams suit up on the same day with a such a high level of intrigue attached to each of their outcomes. (No offence to TFC and Argos fans, someone still has to take a backseat.) Bottom line: The weekend was one to remember. It was just in more ways than one as far as the Jays are concerned (more on that in a bit).

Ok, back to what you’re really here for: 

Their season may have just begun but how the Jays performed over the weekend, at least to the hardcore fans, equaled the playoff hype surrounding the city’s other two clubs. They were either primed to quiet the negative noise around them or make it that much louder.

Where to begin, though… I mean, who knew the Jays would have so many layers to sink our teeth into right out of the gate. Actually, don’t even ponder that thought. While some might accuse me of conveniently playing the role of GM after the fact, the chances of this team getting off to a disappointing start and creating a tangled web in the process were always relatively high.

The Reasons Why:

First, let’s rewind back to shortly after the Jays opening two-game series against Baltimore — when John Gibbons was asked what the difference was in losing both games:

He simplified the defeats by saying: “They hit three home runs and we hit none.”

Now, to some extent, that’s just an irritated manager getting smart with a reporter. But it doesn’t discount the fact that it was also a snapshot of this franchise’s unfortunate predicament/reality.

It also connects with what happened over the weekend. For as much as Saturday’s walk-off homer by Kendrys Morales offered the idea that a turnaround just might be around the corner, Sunday’s letdown quickly reminded us that forcing a positive is a dangerous proposition when the potential for an immediate collapse is always lurking in the background. And one just has to look at how this squad is built to realize how true that statement really is. Cause realistically speaking:

  1. The offence is predicated on the notion that if they don’t come up with timely and clutch hits, they’ll come up empty more often than not. In other words: The Jays continue to be free-swingers even if the moment warrants a more disciplined/situational type of approach. They’re simply too reliant on a philosphy that hasn’t changed much over the years.
  2. I mentioned the quote from Gibbons but by no means can direct blame be placed on his shoulders considering the personnel the Blue Jays employ. And on the rare but currently oh-so-real occasion when a lineup full of slump-prone hitters happen to slump simultaneously, the odds of a 2-10 stumble taking place over any 12-game stretch are worth going all-in on.
  3. Both 1 & 2 lead to questioning how the offseason holes were filled. Instead of taking the opportunity to shift in another direction, one that could add a few dimensions to lessen the emphasis on the aforementioned offensive mentality, the organization decided to restock the shelves with the same kind of product.

To be fair, though:

That product has made back-to-back appearances in the ALCS. The talent brought in may have resulted in a downgrade on paper but why fix what hasn’t been proven to be broken? Not to mention the fact that this team’s starting staff was always going to be its most consistent and stable driving force. An offensive resurgence is likely in the cards; the lineup’s track record (for the most part) is too worthy of our trust to abandon the faith we all should still have.

However:

There comes a time when change is inevitable and a squad can’t keep performing the way it once did with the same system in place. Especially when that track record keeps failing to reappear and lends itself to thinking it might not return to its fullest potential. Just like how the overwhelming majority of this batting order has crash-landed in unison, the way a front office operates can follow suit. Opposing teams adjust too quickly these days and the Jays have now come face-to-face with those crossroads.

It’s no secret that hitters start to press when they’re under the gun, so they’re already adding fuel to what has the potential to be a losing battle. But when you throw in how much Josh Donaldson helped mask this team’s offensive struggles in the past, along with the possibility of Happ and Aaron Sanchez (remember Josh Beckett’s blister problems?) missing a substantial amount of time, all of a sudden this club’s dynamic shifts in a one-sided direction that an already underperforming unit may not be equipped to handle. All parties involved just might be changing how they do business relatively soon. The scary part is this team might not be able to trade from its strength/depth the same way they once could.

Would you look at that, the Red Sox are on deck for a 3-game set. You’re hilarious, Baseball Gods.

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