Green with Playoff Envy
|Courtesy of National Post|
It seems to happen every year right about this time; as other teams around baseball are playing meaningful games in September, the Blue Jays are left on the outside looking in.
While these other teams are fighting for their lives to reach the postseason, I’m left wondering why it can’t be the Toronto Blue Jays. For the 20th consecutive season, the Blue Jays will not be there to play baseball in October.
This year, it’s especially apparent because there are so many teams in the American League in the hunt for the playoffs. Many teams that people did think would be there, and many teams people didn’t think would even be close.
There’s the Tampa Bay Rays; who for years were the forgotten weaker brother of the AL East, and have now grown to be a perennial contender thanks in large part to their stellar farm system.
Enter the Baltimore Orioles, who have supplanted the Rays as the new proverbial thorn in the side of the Toronto Blue Jays. Once the punching bag of the Blue Jays have now become the punchee.
Or how about the Boston Red Sox? It’s not enough that John Farrell is likely going to coast into the postseason, but it’s that he’s doing it performing his “dream job” in Boston. And he’s likely going to receive a great deal of credit in turning the Red Sox around.
And then there’s the New York Yankees. The very same Yankees that were essentially billed as walking corpses, have now risen from the dead and are still very much in the playoff conversation.
All on the back of baseball’s greatest villain, Alex Rodriguez. Yes, there’s a conceivable scenario where a player in the midst of appealing an 211 game suspension could carry his team into the playoffs. Incredible.
Plus, take the two representatives from the AL Central: the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals. Two teams who retooled in the offseason by making key signings and trades and have seemingly been successful where the Blue Jays have failed this year.
Much like the Blue Jays, the Kansas City Royals drastically shifted to a “win now” mode by getting James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie to stabilize their perennially bad starting rotation.
The Cleveland Indians signed Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher and they’re one game out of the second Wild Card spot. Their total payroll is just under $74 million while Toronto’s is just over $117 million.
Not to mention, the team with the second longest postseason drought in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, have surely punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 1991.
That would leave the Blue Jays with the second longest postseason drought at 20 years and counting. And if for some reason the Kansas City Royals do the unthinkable and capture the second Wild Card spot, that would leave Toronto as the sole team in baseball to not make the playoffs in the past two decades.
So with all this in mind, once can see why it’s especially difficult this year to see nearly every other team in the American League have some glimmer of hope for the playoffs, while the Toronto Blue Jays have none.
The crazy thing is every team in the American League with a record over .500 still has a shot at making the playoffs right now. And normally that wouldn’t seem like a completely untenable goal, but for a myriad of reasons … it was for the Blue Jays.
Was it really all that unreasonable to expect this cast of characters to win somewhere in the neighbourhood of 85 games this year? Most penciled them in for even more wins than that, but 85 wins would be the most under the Alex Anthopoulos era.
The fact remains the Toronto Blue Jays have not played a meaningful game in September in 15 years. Not since September of 1998 were the Blue Jays even within a distance of sniffing a playoff spot.
This cruel reminder of failed seasons past may be painting a bleak picture for the Blue Jays, but moving forward I believe things still look positive for 2014.
First of all, things can’t quite possibly go as horribly wrong next year as they did next year. So if the Blue Jays can simply keep their heads above .500 going into the second half, it gives them a decent chance at staying in the pennant race come August and September.
The pitching staff aside, the bulk of the starting lineup will likely remain the same in 2014. While there are still a few key positions that need to be addressed in the offseason, offensive contribution shouldn’t be an issue for the starting nine next season.
I think all Blue Jays fans can agree they want the same thing; for the team to simply have a shot at making the playoffs. A chance … that’s all.
And with a team that’s built to win right now, that’s not too much to ask, right?