Blue Jays Now a Fantasy

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Aug. 18) – Though disheartening for baseball fans across Canada, the plight of the Toronto Blue Jays is not a mystery. When you get hammered by teams ahead of you and cannot beat clubs beneath you, options become limited.

For example: During their most recent visit to American League contenders out west, the Jays were a horrendous 1-9 – getting swept four games in Oakland and three in Seattle while winning one of three in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. Alternately, the Jays proved unable to compensate by dropping three of four games against lowly Houston at Minute Maid Park and two of three to the equally inept White Sox over the past weekend in Chicago. That’s a lousy combination.

My pal and former Sportsnet-590 radio colleague – the eternally-optimistic Mike Wilner* – will tell you there is plenty of time for the Jays to make “another run.” That’s true: There is time. But, what about evidence? Since June 6, the Blue Jays are 11 games under .500 (26-37). To claw back and claim a playoff spot for the first time since 1993 – and only the No. 2 Wild Card berth is a realistic objective – Jays would have to be roughly 16 games over .500 in their remaining 37 matches.

When Mike points out the Jays have twice emerged from hibernation this year (with streaks of 20-4 and 11-4), he is correct. When Mike says “it should be no different now than at any other time of the season,” he is in–correct. There is nothing that compares to the stretch-drive in pro sport. “Must” wins are exponentially difficult to attain and when rival teams stack up ahead of you in the standings, it becomes nearly impossible to reclaim territory. Even if the Jays did somehow erupt and win 11 of their next 15 (20-4 ain’t happening again), the unmistakable pattern of falling back would doom them in their last 22 games.

So, to me, the ball club is in an irrevocable situation.

To their credit, the Jays don’t often go down without a fight; it seems two and three base-runners are left behind in the ninth inning of every defeat. But, they simply aren’t winning enough. Period. 

*This, by the way, is not an indictment of Wilner. Though he’s beholden to a level of “company speak,” (Rogers Communications owns Sportsnet-590 AND the Blue Jays), Mike knows the game backward and forward. He does an exceptional job. 

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CONNOR GILLASPIE OF THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX HITS A FIRST-INNING GRAND SLAM OFF BLUE JAYS STARTER DREW HUTCHISON ON SUNDAY. GILLASPIE IS THEN GREETED (BELOW) BY TEAMMATE AVISAIL GARCIA. CHICAGO TOOK A QUICK 6-0 LEAD AND HUNG ON FOR A 7-5 VICTORY AT U.S. CELLULAR FIELD. DAVID BANKS USA TODAY

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Depending on wind direction, fans of the Blue Jays are either grounded in reality or have replaced Toronto Maple Leafs zealots atop the delusion scale. Those in the former category understand the Blue Jays’ problems are just marginally the result of time missed by Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie. They have looked at the schedule and discovered that Encarnacion (healthy) and Lind (hobbling) were in the line-up for a full month after June 6; that the Jays were 9-19 during that time; a sickly 4-11 in 15 games with Lawrie starting before he broke his finger in Cincinnati (yes, the Blue Jays have missed Lawrie’s defense). These observers can tell you the overwhelming issue this season has been pitching – both starters and relievers; that with very few exceptions, neither John Gibbons nor anyone else has a clue what his arms will provide from one game to the next.

The technicolor dreamers, on the other hand, are convinced that Alex Anthopoulos ruined the season with inactivity at the non-waiver trade deadline; that his refusal to unload Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and probably Lawrie in a deal for David Price or Jon Lester stands between another playoff miss and the 2014 World Series. These people can be found in the nutty Internet chat-rooms; staring at the sky for UFO’s, or out in the wild looking for Bigfoot. Perhaps in all three places.

When a team simply isn’t good enough, an impact move at the trade deadline becomes cosmetic. These aren’t the champion Blue Jays of 1992 and 1993, when the GM (Pat Gillick) could make an “over-the-top” deal for David Cone or Rickey Henderson. Throwing away the organization’s top two pitching prospects for a blind stab at nothing but air would have ranked among the most irresponsible moves in franchise history. Anthopoulos should be commended for showing restraint. 

BUTTERFINGERS JOE…

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Apparently, denizens of the press box in Chicago on Sunday were scrambling through baseball records to confirm that Joe Siddall was once a big-league catcher. This, after Joe botched a line-drive foul directly into the Sportsnet-590 radio booth at U.S. Cellular Field. Jerry Howarth wouldn’t allow Joe off the hook with a lame excuse (top-left) and the Blue Jay broadcasters had a good laugh. SPORTSNET MAGES

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (LOL)…

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From the thousands of Internet images of outgoing commissioner Bud Selig, could the Toronto Star not have found something a bit more flattering than this? How would you like to be Baseball Bud, were he to log on to the newspaper’s website Monday?

TRAGEDY IN SANTA CLARA…

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While playing the first game in their new digs southwest of San Francisco, the NFL 49ers were shocked by a 34-0 pre-season loss to Denver Broncos on Sunday and saddened by the death of a man that suffered a heart attack in 80-degree heat at Levi’s Stadium.

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