TORONTO (Sep. 19) — A year ago at this time, the Toronto Blue Jays were enjoying one of the most prolific runs in franchise history while obliterating a seven–game deficit in the American League East. On Sep. 19, 2015, the Blue Jays had compiled an 11–5 record in the most crucial month of the Major League schedule. Toronto led the A.L. East by a commanding 4½ games over New York. As they head into a series later tonight at Seattle, the 2016 Jays are diametric — with a 5–11 mark that has severely threatened playoff aspiration.
This has occurred, overwhelmingly, for one reason: A Murderer’s Row line–up is shooting blanks at the plate. Last year at this time, virtually the same troupe hammered the cover off the ball. Donaldson… Bautista… Encarnacion… Tulowitzki… Martin. There was no halting the northern upstarts. With little exception, these mashers are now mushers — coming off an impotent weekend in SoCal against the abominable Angels of Anaheim; meekly bowing to a pair of starting pitchers that may not be household names in their own home.
Simply put: The Blue Jays have lost their Mojo.
A year ago, the Jays were swaggering teams off the field — home and away. It begs a cart–before–the–horse–type question: Does hitting the ball create swagger? Or, does innate bluster lead to hitting? Whatever your interpretation, the Blue Jays are scaring no one right now other than their forlorn legion of followers.
EDWIN ENCARNACION AND THE BLUE JAYS NEED TO QUICKLY REDISCOVER THE “LOOK” OF SUCCESS.
A sage baseball person once said that particular teams “live and die with the long ball.” Home runs and timely, extra–base hits enabled the Blue Jays to “live” within two victories of the World Series last Autumn. Alternately, a lack thereof is killing the 2016 team. This is not a club built for “small ball” or “station–to–station” advancement. The current Jays remind me of the first successful clubs in franchise history under manager Bobby Cox in the early–and–mid–1980’s. They, too, played for the long ball, with such heavy–hitters as Jesse Barfield, Cliff Johnson, Willie Upshaw and George Bell. The World Series Blue Jays of 1992 and 1993 were, by comparison, better at manufacturing runs, with such elite base–runners as Roberto Alomar, Devon White, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Kelly Gruber and Tony Fernandez (who returned to the club in ’93).
Ironically, it was a long ball that won the most recent championship for the Blue Jays: Joe Carter’s “touch–’em–all” homer to left–field at SkyDome off Mitch Williams of Philadelphia — Oct. 23, 1993.
If the 2016 Blue Jays continue to crash and burn — by either missing the playoffs or getting eliminated on the road in a Wild Card showdown — John Gibbons will undoubtedly pay the price. Another of the Cleveland offspring, Eric Wedge, may replace Gibbons for next season. Given how the team is built, this won’t be altogether fair. No manager has ever hit a home run. Where Gibbons could be marginally culpable is the shoddy manner in which his club is playing defense and running the base–paths. The Blue Jays were downright amateurish in the field while losing the Saturday and Sunday games at Anaheim. Remarkably, given the increasing stakes, the club looked blase and disinterested. Which is easy to pin on the skipper.
But, try to remember that these are big boys, playing for big money, and hardly unfamiliar with late–season encumbrance after last year’s marvelous push between August and mid–October. Ultimately, the blame (or credit if the club turns it around in the final two weeks) will rest with the core of batters previously mentioned. Pitching, though not quite as dependable as in May through August, has still been reasonable enough to enable victory. The former behemoths–at–the–plate are letting down the team and its fans.
The Blue Jays have less than a fortnight to rediscover their Mojo.
Time for a bat–flip, don’cha say?