By: Dan Grant
In his Blue Jays season preview, intrepid and embattled Toronto Blue Jays fan Dan Grant battled his desire to be excited for the season vs. his long standing pessimism towards the chances of Toronto sports teams, ingrained in the very fibre of his being by over two decades of across the board futility. In that article, he slayed the demons in his brain, the entity known as ‘Pessimistic Dan’… or so he thought.
When we last left the two sides of my sports soaked brain (PD – Pessimistic Dan and RD – Regular Dan) PD seemed like he was moving in for the kill. Reeling from the crushing Maple Leafs defeat and a string of truly uninspired Blue Jays baseball, RD was beginning to lose faith entirely. The Jays starting pitching was falling apart and constantly playing comeback looked like it was going to break this team. People were starting to discuss a fire-sale and blame was being allocated across the board. But then, a light in the darkness:
After a reasonably decent 4-3 start to the month of June, the Jays improbably won a game in Chicago where they were down to their last strike. Jose Bautista, on a ball he definitely didn’t get all of, tied the game with a homerun to left field and the Jays went on to win it in extra innings, 7-5. This began a magical run of 11 straight wins, amounting to three straight series sweeps, of the Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles and tying a franchise record set in 1987 and previously equaled in 1998. By the end of the streak, the Jays had climbed back over the .500 mark and were within 4 games of a playoff spot. During the streak, PD was hard to find. It was a tremendous time to be a baseball fan in Toronto. But then…
Regular Dan: Sunshine, lollipops and raaaaainbows…
Pessimistic Dan: Hey man! How about those Blue Jays!
RD: No way you’re bringing me down today man! These Jays proved themselves to be a scrappy, resilient bunch this month! They finally got some starting pitching and—
PD: No man. I actually meant that. HOW ABOUT THOSE BLUE JAYS!!! GENE TENACE THE PLATE! WHAMMY!!!
RD: What do you mean? Is this some kind of a trick? Also, Gene Tenace played for the A’s in the 70’s. Yes I know that was from Anchorman, but I also hate you.
PD: No man. Totally legit! I’m excited! It’s new for me. I don’t know if you noticed, but I haven’t really been around much this month.
RD: I did notice! It was fantastic!
PD: Well hey, no need to be so excited about it. I have feelings.
RD: Hey man can you blame me? You’re the negative embodiment of years of personal torment. If you’re not around, things are good!
PD: A fair point.
RD: Look, I already know why you’re here.
PD: You do?
RD: Well yes of course. Things haven’t been perfect since the streak. So of course you were going to come back and rear your little pee-brain—
PD: Hey now! I’m still you, remember? So any insult—
RD: No! You’re not me! That’s why we even exist! If you were me, this whole arrangement would be much less insane!
PD: As insane as the most popular player on the team being a Japanese role player who has no range and is hitting .220?
RD: I KNEW IT! You’re here to try and bring me down!
PD: Well, naturally.
RD: It’s not going to work man. Even outside of the streak, the Jays total record was 17-9 in June which was the best mark in the Major Leagues—
PD: So other than the streak, they were 6-9.
RD: OK yeah, but you can’t just ignore the streak. The streak was gold!
PD: Fine, I’ll give you that. They pulled out some smoke and mirrors and managed to beat a struggling and injured Texas team, an overachieving Rockies team and uh—
RD: Baltimore! Baltimore is a legit team! They made the playoffs last year!
PD: Well, I suppose—
RD: And the one thing you’ve been harping on most, the starting pitching, has been excellent! Even with all the injuries!
PD: Now hold on—
RD: No! You’re usually the one who’s fired up but this month I get to be fired up!
PD: Listen, you can be fired up, but in the 9 games since the streak ended, the Jays are 3-6 and that same starting pitching hasn’t been so great.
RD: Dickey is throwing the hard knuckler again! He looks great!
PD: Well yeah, but he’s just one guy. Josh Johnson is struggling to get deep into games. The Chien-Ming Wang experiment, while effective at first, is blowing up and Brandon Morrow is still nowhere to be seen.
RD: Esmil Rogers has been a revelation!
PD: Maybe, but can he keep it up? The guy is a stretched out reliever, he’s not going give you 200 innings, even pro-rated over two thirds of a season. And Mark Buehrle—
RD: Buehrle has been Buehrle! He’s giving us chances to win games!
PD: Yeah but he’s old. Some games his breaking stuff has no snap, and when that happens, he’s just a guy up there throwing junk in the mid 80’s. I will admit, however, that’s what he’s made a career out of.
RD: To be honest man, you’re still not bringing me down. Yeah the rotation has been patchwork, but despite your reservations, Morrow will back sometime this month, J.A. Happ is on the mend and heck, even Kyle Drabek made his first rehab start down in the minors. Drew Hutchison will be soon to follow!
RD: I’m just saying, there’s reinforcements on the way, should they be needed. Not to mention Marcus Stroman.
PD: Well fine, but the lineup—
RD: The lineup looks great! Reyes is starting to get going and it’s excellent to have him back. Rajai Davis has been an absolute terror the past couple weeks, to the point that we haven’t missed Melky at all. Bautista is heating up—
PD: Maybe he’s had a couple homers but he’s still been pretty bad this month—
RD: –and the team was still winning! Imagine how good they’ll be when he picks it up!
PD: What about injuries? Lind’s back is acting up, Melky is on the DL with a ‘knee’ injury, but it’s really a variety of leg injuries, JP Arencibia sat out of last night’s game against Detroit and Edwin Encarnacion has missed the past two. With the way this lineup was rolling this month, these aren’t going to be helping. You’ll see a little too much Mark DeRosa and Josh Thole for my liking.
RD: Look man, you’re always going to have bumps and bruises throughout the year. Of all the guys you just mentioned, only Melky has hit the DL so far and he really needed to. Like I said, Rajai Davis has filled in for him excellently, providing great defense in left field and absolute mayhem on the basepaths. I’m not worried.
PD: But 3-6 since the streak!
RD: You know what? They lost a couple tough road games in Tampa, they lost some more road games in Boston to the division leader and they’ve split with the Tigers so far, with two more to go. Sure they’re 3-6 but they were 11-0 in the games before that. If you arbitrarily pick blocks of games, you can make anyone’s record sound like anything. The ’93 Jays famously had a stretch where they were 2-10. It was just a stretch in their 96 win season. These stretches happen. I guess what I’m saying is I hate you and you should go away now.
PD: So you’re saying that if they went 10-1 or 9-2 during the streak but picked up the difference elsewhere, you’d be just as excited?
RD: Yeah man! They’re winning games in lots of different ways, getting big hits across the board, even from that little Japanese infielder that you love to hate, the pitching has been more consistent and the bullpen has been absolutely lights out, shut down excellent.
PD: Too bad they’re getting so overworked now, before the games really matter.
RD: All the games matter! A win in June is worth the same as a win in September. And yeah they’re getting a healthy amount of work in but it’s because they’ve been so good!
PD: I just think all of this early-mid season work is going to catch up with them as the season goes on. Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup? These guys have never had a 70 game seasons out of the ‘pen before. I don’t think they can hold up.
RD: And that’s where those reinforcements that we mentioned before come in! They don’t just have to start you know. Stroman has been both a starter and a reliever and other guys are more than capable of working in relief, if only to get the regular guys some more regular rest. Hell, Casey Janssen had to pitch in a game last week just to get some work in because he hadn’t been needed in 6 nights! They’re going to be fine.
PD: I don’t know man. There’s a reason I’m still here.
RD: Yeah, it’s called the last 20 years of ineptitude.
PD: Maybe it’s that. But maybe it’s because something doesn’t totally feel right about this team yet. Yeah they’re back in the picture, but there are a lot of questions left.
RD: Like what?
PD: Dickey, for example. He had a couple great starts in April too. Is he going to keep this up and be consistent? Or is he just going to get shelled two out of every five games and that’s something we need to get used to?
RD: Only time will tell with that, but he’s been pitching fantastic as of late and there seems to be a tangible reason for it, e.g. he’s been able to throw the knuckler harder, which makes it break more sharply.
PD: I know, I know, but he’s still 38. He didn’t even really have an injury that was causing him to throw more softly, he was just ‘sore’. You know what? That’s just being 38! I’m skeptical.
RD: Of course you are. What else?
PD: The continued K rates of Arencibia and Rasmus (look at those K percentages!) are a terrifying problem. If the Jays can’t even get sac flies or RBI ground-outs from their 6 and 7 hitters, they’re putting way too much of a burden on the middle of the lineup, especially seeing as Edwin and Lind are struggling with injuries right now.
RD: I will admit, that is frustrating. Not to mention JP’s defense.
PD: Hah! I’ve got you on the pessimistic path now!
RD: Not really, but his defense is really godawful. I know he made a couple good plays in Boston the other night but he can’t block pitches, he can’t throw anyone out… what the hell is he doing back there?
PD: What do you do with him otherwise? He’s got some power but it’s only really impressive if he’s catching. If he was playing first or DH the fans would be calling for his head.
RD: That handsome bastard. Hopefully this slump has been a product of whatever little nagging injury he’s got going on and he can come back healthy after the All-Star Break. Rasmus I’m less worried about. He’s on pace for a 30 homer season and he’s still playing all-world defense in centre field. He can strike out a bit.
PD: So, just to check. You’re not worried about A) the smoke and mirrors of the rotation, B) the bullpen being overworked, C) all the injuries starting to pile up or D) the fact that the bottom half of the order can’t complete basic baseball plays?
RD: That about sums it up! It’s all part of baseball man!
PD: This fucking streak really gave you some balls.
RD: Yeah man. Groove me.
PD: I’ll just say one last thing.
RD: FINE. What’s that?
PD: You can’t have an 11 game winning streak every month.
RD: As always, I hate you.
PD: You do it to yourself. See you next month?
RD: Yeah fine. Unless I go into therapy.
And so the cosmic dance continues. Join us here at the Same Page at the beginning of each month, as RD and PD hash out the ups and downs of this tumultuous Blue Jays season. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.