By: Dan Grant
Ahoy, disheartened Blue Jays fan! To steal a phrase from the British, you must be right pissed about now. Our beloved Jays sit at 23-28, hardly the record one would have hoped for almost a third of the way into the season. This team seems to be giving away games at a record rate and can’t seem to stay healthy. It’s a travesty, you say! A fiasco! Why, it’s such a catastrophe that you’ve probably gone through the five stages of Blue Jays grieving by now.
Oh, surely you’ve heard of the five stages of Blue Jays grieving? I thought you were a true fan! Well let’s load up the bandwagon and give name to them for you, and you see if you can’t place yourself somewhere along the list. Disembark when you see your kin!
Stage 1: Denial of There Being a Problem With Your Blue Jays
If you’re still in this stage, I think you’re in the abject minority. You’re probably the person that points to the Jays record in one run games (3-12) and injury woes and throws around words like ‘bad luck’, ‘adjustment period’ and talks about how any roster needs time to gel. I admire you. I wish I WAS you. Idiocy…uh… I mean, ignorance, ignorance! ‘Tis surely bliss.
Stage 2: Anger At Your Blue Jays Management
You are the raging troll of the message boards, the angry Facebook poster, the sarcastic Tweeter, the earnest, head-scratching, foot stomping finger-wagger, the one who tells everyone that will listen that ‘Gibbons hasn’t done one thing to make this team better’ and that ‘Anthopoulos is ignoring basic roster needs’. You loathe R.A. Dickey. You pine for Noah Syndergaard, Melky Cabrera and even Mike Napoli. You ignore the injuries and the one run games and point at results and only results. You are the frothing sports bar resident and post game radio-station caller, the last bastion of ‘accountability’, the sort who thinks we should cut bait and trade Bautista, scrap the whole thing and rebuild, fire Gibbons, fire Anthopoulos, FIRE EVERYONE!
You are entitled to your anger, but know that your anger achieves nothing. And while you aren’t Jon Snow, you too know nothing. Unfortunately, it feels to me like the bandwagon got a lot lighter after this stop. Silly garbage trolls.
Stage 3: Bargaining With Your Blue Jays Ownership
You are likely a fan that skipped over Stage 2 fairly quickly; rather than passing blame, you’re solution oriented! Good for you. However, judging from the low quality and lack of thought you seem to put into most of your solutions, you may want to focus your bargaining elsewhere. If I never hear another fan pine for Cole Hamels again, it’ll be too soon. No we couldn’t have ‘added two or three quality bullpen arms’ and no ‘keeping Melky for depth’ would not have been a good investment. And finally, NO, we are not going to trade Edwin Encarnacion because there is a ‘logjam at first’ and ‘he could net us a really great closer’. If you can’t understand why this is a horrendous idea, well, I assume you can take solace in your garage full of Pet Rocks, your framed Enron stocks and your signed Lance Armstrong autobiographies. Remember, you have these things because you have no patience. Impatience is the opposite of virtue, which is also why it hurts when you pee, bargainers. What’s that? You don’t want to hear it? OK, no problem. Disembark on your right.
Stage 4: Depression At Your Blue Jays Fandom
More commonly recognized as the ‘Why Me?!’ stage. I understand that depression is a serious illness that affects millions worldwide, but I’m not going to lie, strictly in terms of sports fans, you guys are the worst. Your ‘woe is me’ attitude, followed by the inevitable conclusion that free agent X won’t come here because we’re in Canada, or because of our turf, or because we’re a ‘losing organization’ is generally followed by a half-hearted shrug and a ‘remember when we had Alomar?’
At least the angry guys are trying to make things happen. You guys are just bringing everyone down! Please do everyone a favour and attempt to move yourself on to Stage 5. If you must wallow, please do it quietly.
Stage 5: Acceptance of The Lack Of Control You Have Over the Fate of Your Blue Jays
Hot take alert: the reality is, there’s nothing you can do about any of this. AA hasn’t returned your calls, Gibbons never texted you back after you ran into him at the Sizzler and unless you’re some kind of wizard, you’re not rebuilding Marcus Stroman’s knee or Jose Bautista’s shoulder. You don’t possess hiring and firing powers within the Blue Jays organization, unless you’re Paul Beeston. You can’t convince the Reds to trade us Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman for Sean Reid-Foley and cash, you can’t hold the entirety of Rogers Communications upside down and shake change loose from their pockets and you can’t simply renounce your fandom, unless you’re a total wad. So what do you do?
You remember that baseball is different.
Normally cheering for a team with a .442 winning percentage a third of the way through the season, in any kind of sport is a bummer. Your team would probably be way out of it and looking towards either a last ditch turnaround effort or selling players off at the trade deadline.
But baseball is different.
Normally having a baseball team with a floundering bullpen and six of your nine projected (before the season) starting hitters (including DH) having spent significant time on the DL or in the minors would be cause for hair ripping concern.
But baseball is different.
You get the picture? Baseball is a slog, a marathon, a whole bunch of other tropes that suggest a lengthy and difficult task. Don’t argue with me — it just is. It’s what separates it from the other three major North American sports. And they may be tropes but they’ve never been truer than for this version of the Blue Jays. Despite their crappy record, multitude of problems and inconsistent play, the Blue Jays of Toronto sit only 3.5 games out of first place. And that’s all that really matters. A 5-15 road record is bound to normalize and the 3-12 record in one run games definitely needs to be addressed via help in the bullpen. Beyond that? You have to stay the course and pray for health. Because as much as you want it, there isn’t a major team saving move to be made, not one that makes sense in both the short AND long term. Not only that, but they don’t need one! Even with all these injuries, the Jays are leading the major leagues in runs scored. With so much young pitching on the horizon, with Donaldson-Martin-Bautista-Edwin-Reyes locked up for at least this year and next? No! Now is not the time to sell the farm, just as it’s starting to produce crops.
Positives? There are more than a few. Beyond the studs that are Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, Jose Reyes and his bat (a bigger asset than his glove, since always. I’m looking at you, Jerry Howarth) are back in the line-up, Dioner Navarro will be back anytime and Bautista is feeling good enough to get back in the outfield. Chris Colabello needs to play anywhere else in the field, but his bat has been fantastic and Devon Travis should provide a lift upon his return. Michael Saunders could do the same. Aaron Sanchez is starting to flash consistency to match his talent, Drew Hutchison has been better of late, Mark Buehrle is doing his thing after a weak April and Marco Estrada hasn’t been a tire fire as a starter. The bullpen straight up needs some help. Whether it’s moving Estrada back in there when Norris and/or Randy Wolf comes up or via the recent signing of Phil Coke, is a moving target. It’s probably both of those things plus some more future things. And long term? Long term this pitching staff is looking so good that I’ll be dedicating an entire column to it soon.
If the pitching can even be average for the rest of the season, this team will contend for the AL East title come September.
If that statement makes you incredulous, angry, sad or anything else, please load yourself back onto the bandwagon and give yourself time to move through the stages properly. We’ve got plenty of room here in Stage 5 when you’re ready, where things are a whole lot more reasonable.