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.
Reynolds: Hey, Dan…
Reynolds: You know it’s already the 5th right?
Grant: Far out man.
Reynolds: Uh, yeah, well if you could just slip your Jays column under the door?
Grant: Oh. Yeah ok.
Reynolds: Also, this weekend is my dance quintet at the playhouse. I’d love it if you’d come and, you know, give me notes.
Grant: I’ll be there, man.
The Blue Jays in August solidified their status as a bad baseball team. Or at least, if not a bad team, then an unsuccessful one. There are several key factors as to why this is the case, and rather than a blow by blow reliving of a month in which the team stunk like a four day old fart trapped in a jar (I assume that would smell terrible), I’m just going to lay out the bare bones here, before the boys go to war over the salient aspects of the squad.
The team went 12-17 for the month, which was actually an improvement over their 10-16 July, in terms of winning percentage. That said, playing those two months 11 games under .500 effectively ended the team’s season, so it certainly can’t be viewed as a positive.
During August the team lost Josh Johnson and Jose Bautista to season-ending injuries and also declared Brandon Morrow’s season to be finished, though he got hurt back in June. Colby Rasmus’ return this season is also in doubt.
The Jays have played the Yankees to a 3-13 record this season, including 2-5 in August. The Yankees are not a good baseball team. In fact, if you remove those games altogether, the Jays would sit at 61-63 and the Yankees would be 62-62. The Jays still have a three game series to right this weird stat, but it seems that for some reason, they’ve just got our number this year. This, despite both teams records against the rest of the Majors being virtually identical. If you needed another reason to hate the Yankees, there you have it.
Pessimistic Dan: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only
Regular Dan: Dickens? You’re throwing full on Dickens at me right now?
PD: Yeah man! Doesn’t it fit?
RD: It actually kind of does. Grim, bleak, contrarian–
PD: Yeah, especially that bit ‘it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair’. I know he’s just being ‘contrarian’ as you said, but seeing how the Jays season has played out, it’s like a glove, isn’t it?
RD: Yeah. Fine. Whatever. The season is literally so disappointing that it’s being compared to a Charles Dickens novel. It’s come to this. I give up.
PD: Hey little buddy! Don’t give up! You’re suppose to be the good half! You know, the age of wisdom!
RD: What? I thought this is what you wanted!
PD: No way man. I’m pessimistic about the Jays, but we’re still the same guy.
RD: So all the arguing, the naysaying, the put downs—
PD: All in good fun, hombre!
RD: Weren’t you created by years of gut-punch losses and inept sports management? How do you know what good fun is?
PD: Listen sport, lately, you’ve been the one bringing down the room. There’s so much pessimism around this team that I’ve been rolling around like a pig in, well, you know.
RD: I don’t even know what to say–
PD: Pal, without you, I don’t exist. I’d just be Dan. And Dan would be a sad, negative thinking guy. The duality of man is necessary!
RD: I guess that make sense.
PD: You’re gosh darn right it does, tiger.
PD: Yeah, OK, no more nicknames. Can we just talk some Jays please?
RD: I don’t wanna!
PD: OK, OK. I can see you’re a little grumpy. You probably need a nap before we do this. Let me just tell you a nice story. I think you might recognize some of the characters. Maybe you can chime in when you feel like you see something good. No pressure though.
RD: Uh. Well OK. I am a bit sleepy.
PD: There once was a grizzled knight named Sir R.A. of Dickey. Unlike normal knights, he didn’t brandish a sword and shield; rather, he used a mace. He had a nickname for it too. He called it his, uh… muckleball! Yeah, that’s it. Because it’s a ball on a…muckle. Anyway, the mace, though unwieldy, was incredibly effective when it was mastered—
RD: Come on man. You’re clearly talking about Dickey’s knuckleball—
PD: Just listen! Sir R.A. was one of the finest knights in all the land. However, he had a problem. He could only duel indoors, and he could never fight to defend his— oh screw it. This is too hard. Dickey sucks at home! And he sucks even worse with the roof open!
RD: Yeah I know.
PD: I mean LOOK at this:
Dickey Home – 96.2 IP, 20 HR allowed, 5.21 ERA
Dickey Road – 94.1 IP, 9 HR allowed, 3.35 ERA
Dome Open – 6.36 ERA, 2.6 HR allowed per game
Dome Closed – 4.76 ERA, 1.6 HR allowed per game
RD: That is pretty mind boggling. I mean, I knew the Dome was a hitter’s park, but that’s crazy.
PD: It’s nuts! The roof should be closed every time he pitches. I mean 4.76 is a bad ERA anyway, but if it makes a run and a half difference? Screw the stupid families who want to enjoy the nice weather! Sit in the mausoleum of a stadium and watch the knuckler dance!
RD: I did read that he thinks he’s figured it out. That he just needs to work on keeping his knuckleball down more, that he can’t elevate it like he used to at CitiField in New York, which is a pitchers park.
PD: Well he’s gotta do something! He’s literally the epitome of the best of times and the worst of times.
RD: Yeah, if he’s going to be a top 3 starter for this team, he’ll need to find some consistency.
PD: And how! You want to see another fun exercise in duality?
RD: Probably not. But since we live in the same brain and I have no choice, sure, go ahead.
Player A – 190 GP, 178 hits, 52 HR, 131 RBI.
Player B – 20 GP, 19 hits, 3 HR, 7 RBI.
RD: That doesn’t seem like a very fair comparison. The one guy played 170 more game than the other guy.
PD: A great point! The problem is, they’re the same guy. Player A is Jose Bautista from April-July in 2012 and 2013 combined. Player B is Jose Bautista in August-September of the same two seasons.
RD: He was injured!
PD: Exactly. Two seasons in a row, he’s had season ending injuries, and not ones you can laugh off either. He tore his wrist sheath tendon last year and this year he’s out with a ‘bruised femur’ that’s really a hip problem. He’s about to turn 33 years old. He looks crotchety in the outfield, constantly reaching and bending for balls that he used to get to. It’s a bad scene man.
RD: I still think the stat comparison is a low blow. He can’t hit if he doesn’t play.
PD: You just made my point for me! I don’t doubt his talent. I doubt his ability to stay on the field.
RD: Well fine. Anything else you want to bring me down with?
PD: Naturally there is. What do you think the biggest issue the Jays need to address in the off-season is?
RD: Well the starting pitching, of course. It’s been the fatal flaw all year.
PD: Nailed it in one! Give the man a stuffed bear! The problem is, I don’t really see how they’re going to do that. Remember all the hope we had this year?
RD: Of course I do, you bastard.
PD: It was the ‘epoch of belief’, as Dickens said. Well now it’s the ‘epoch of incredulity’, at just how bad these guys have played and how much they’re being paid. We’ve already talked about Dickey (under contract at 12 million per season for 2014/15, with a team option at the same price for 2016) but let’s break down the rest of the rotation.
Brandon Morrow was going to emerge as an ace. He’s out for the season (again), this time with a nerve injury. He’s under contract for next season at 8 million, with a 10 million dollar team option for 2015.
Ricky Romero was going to be the best fifth starter in baseball and bounce back from a rough 2012. He spent most of the year in Triple A and achieved inconsistent results, even at that level. He’s owed two more years of a five year extension, paying him 7.5 million per season. The team holds a 13.1 million option for 2016, which can be bought out for 600K.
J.A. Happ was going to provide depth in the rotation. Once he replaced Romero, he was struck by a freak line drive in Tampa Bay that fractured his skull. While falling, he injured his knee, which actually kept him out longer than the fracture. He’s been solid, if unspectacular, when he’s been able to pitch. He’s under contract for next season at 5.2 million, with a team option for 2015.
Josh Johnson. Ugh. We don’t need to rehash Johnson. He’s out for the season with a forearm strain and was unquestionably the season’s biggest disappointment. The Jays would need to tender a 14.5 million dollar qualifying offer to retain him, something he would undoubtedly accept given his 2013 performance. This better not happen.
Mark Buehrle has been himself. He’s pitching to a slighty above .500 record, his ERA is down to 3.88, his WHIP of 1.29 is right around his career number and he’s not striking a ton of guys out. He’s set to eclipse 200 innings pitched again (for the 13th straight season) and he’s actually been giving the Jays chances to win of late. It’s too bad he got off to such a rough start. It’s something you see more with older hitters generally; they struggle to find consistency in April and May and then pick it up as the season goes along. Hopefully this was just a transitional off-season for Buerhle, as he’s owed 18 million next season and 19 million in 2015.
RD: That’s a pricy steak dinner of a rotation.
PD: Not including young pups like Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and possibly Aaron Sanchez, who could all compete for spots in the rotation in 2014, this group is owed 50.7 million for next year. That’s with Johnson coming off the books entirely. That’s about 10 million per starter, which is the going rate in today’s MLB. But if that’s what you’re paying, you actually want the guys to a) pitch in the majors and b) stay relatively healthy, or you have no chance. None.
RD: I still think Romero could work out. He was so good for two years before 2012. He could find himself again. He’s only 27. And Morrow, well, maybe you know what he is now. He’s not a guy that can be counted on for 200 innings, and you structure your rotation accordingly. Buerhle is Buehrle, Dickey is Dickey. They’re your 2/3 starters for better or for worse. Happ is serviceable and you hope one of those four young guys you mentioned can step in and contribute.
PD: And that’s just it. This team lacks an ace. With 50 million bucks already committed, where are they going to find one? I’m not convinced that 14.5 million that could have been offered to Johnson will be earmarked for a free agent, especially when the team definitely needs to add a bat at 1B/DH to accompany Edwin Encarnacion. Adam Lind just isn’t getting it done. He’s a bench bat. Not to mention the 8 million you’re paying non-PED Melky Cabrera to hobble around in left field next season. It’s going to be tough sledding. Not to mention the free agent market isn’t exactly going to be flush. It’ll likely have to come via a trade again and that vaunted Jays farm system is now severely depleted.
RD: I can’t talk about this anymore. Positives! We need positives! The positives are there but most are a broken record. The bullpen had several young and affordable faces emerge, EE has been spectacular, Colby Rasmus re-established himself as a top flight centre fielder, Jose Reyes is exactly what we wanted and expected. New developments? Ryan Goins has showed a little something while getting some playing time at 2B, Todd Redmond has shown the ability to pitch in the Major Leagues and adds some nice depth to the rotation, Anthony Gose has mouth-watering talent and has shown a huge ‘wow’ factor, and biggest of all, Brett Lawrie looks like someone finally told him, ‘hey man, take a hit, relax! (I’m looking at you Mark DeRosa) And he has. He’s playing gold glove defense at third and his bat was lethal all throughout August. These are the thing I cling to.
PD: Goins is a utility infielder at best, Redmond is a 28 year old journeyman, Gose can’t hit a breaking ball and Lawrie is bound to grab a Red Bull and headbutt a mascot at some point or something. The bottom line is that this team was supposed to be something other than it was. We had everything before us and now you’re grasping at straws, man.
RD: Don’t you think I know that?! You said you wanted me to stick around! You’re killing me! I have nothing before me! This is the season of Darkness!
PD: It’s certainly the worst of times. See you next month?
RD: (frothing at the mouth)
PD: I’ll take that as a yes!
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.