Is This Rock Bottom for the Blue Jays?
When your hobby starts to give you more grief than your real life, that’s when you know things have gone bad.
Yes, it might be time to put things on pause when the Toronto Blue Jays – a mechanism which most use to escape their real lives – cause even more stress than one can handle.
For someone who considers themselves an eternal optimist, I’m running out of ways to find any positives with the Blue Jays right now. Just when you think the team have hit rock bottom, they find something even lower than the floor of despair.
The sports world loves to deal in absolutes, but we won’t really know if this is rock bottom for the Blue Jays unless they slip further and establish a new low, or they miraculously break out of this.
Not only are the Blue Jays 2-10 to begin the 2017 season, they’ve lost their best player in Josh Donaldson to the disabled list, their ace in Aaron Sanchez to the disabled list and J.A. Happ felt soreness in his elbow, which can be the precursor to the thing we shall not mention.
No, it wasn’t bad enough that the Blue Jays offense was anemic to begin with; now they don’t have their best player in the field and the Jays lost 40% of their rotation in a single day.
Pour me another drink, please.
In some ways, this slide reminds me of the dreadful start the Blue Jays got off to in 2013. They sat 11 games below .500 at 13-24 through their first 37 games. Thanks to an 11-game win streak, they clawed their way back to a 38-26 record, but eventually finished with a 74-88 record and dead last in the division.
There are also some parallels with the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays, as well; the team which lost three starting pitchers to significant injuries in the span of four days. Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek all went down in less than one week. 60% of the starting rotation wiped out just like that.
I’m not saying the Blue Jays are in that bad of shape, but it really depends on the severity of J.A. Happ’s injury. To me, that was the most significant development over the weekend. Not Donaldson’s injury, not Sanchez’ injury, not even the 2-10 record; it’s the status of Happ.
The timetable on Donaldson and Sanchez’ return is at the very least less than ten days. But if it’s an elbow injury for Happ? He could be gone for a significant chunk of the season.
Considering how poorly everything else has gone for the Blue Jays the past two weeks, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised the team added two of their star players to the disabled list (perhaps one more on the way). I probably also shouldn’t be surprised the team still can’t hit as a collective.
Divisions are not won in April. I don’t believe they can be lost this early, either. But what the Blue Jays have done here is they’ve dug themselves into a hole with their key contributors healthy, and now they’re hoping to dig out of that hole without their key contributors.
It was one thing in mid-May of 2015 when the Blue Jays were performing poorly, coming off a fourth consecutive loss and sat a 17-21 record when Josh Donaldson said “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league”.
It’s another thing when Donaldson himself isn’t even healthy enough to save the Blue Jays with one of those “tough love” speeches. And what would he do anyway – call out the entire starting lineup for their poor approaches at the plate and an anemic offense?
The 2017 Blue Jays so far in one GIF. pic.twitter.com/q6zuFN90cu
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) April 16, 2017
As the Blue Jays enter their third week of play (yes, the third week of play – even though in many ways, it feels like the end of August), there is one very important question to be asked here; is there light at the end of the tunnel for the Blue Jays?
A week ago, this was a much easier question to answer. Donaldson and Sanchez weren’t on the shelf and Happ’s future wasn’t questionable. But even one week ago, the Blue Jays were exhibiting some disturbing trends; predominantly, their struggles against right-handed pitching.
Now those trends have continued into another week and the team has one more measly win to show for it. I’m not seeing any signs of the Blue Jays breaking out of this funk. Sunday’s 11-4 loss may as well have been an 11-0 loss, because that’s what it felt like.
For the most part, the Blue Jays’ starting pitching this season has been serviceable. Even on nights when the offense didn’t show up, at least the starting pitcher gave the Jays a chance to win.
Now we’re beginning to see in instances where the starting pitcher gets injured or the wheels simply fall off for them, the Blue Jays almost have no chance of winning. Often times, starting pitching has kept the Jays in games which they had no business of winning anyway.
Normally, I don’t like to draw conclusions in 12-game stretches. The Major League Baseball season is a series of several stretches and even the best teams in baseball go cold at some point. But the Blue Jays have been ice cold to start 2017.
Every team faces adversity at some point through the 162-game schedule. Evidently, this is the first big test for the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays. If they can face these hardships and come out the other side as a contending team, then they were good enough all along.
But if the Blue Jays fall by the wayside, continue on this bad stretch and slip further into oblivion, maybe the window of contention started closing faster than we could’ve anticipated.