Well, this unquestionably must be rock bottom. The Jays are 2-11, half of their All-Stars are on the disabled list, and the entire team looks like they spent the offseason working on anything but hitting a baseball. This might not be pretty, but let’s dig in to some observations and thoughts from the first week of the season!
Mood in Song Form
Let’s just cut right to the chase. The Jays aren’t “done’ because they started the season 2-11. The Jays are “done” because there is very little reason to think that there is a catalyst lurking in this roster to turn things around and go on a run. I know baseball is a long season, and that fans love to overreact to poor starts, especially when it feeds into the offseason sentiment that the team regressed. As recently as the home opener last week I was doing public podcasts suggesting that the team would be okay. You know what has happened since that point in time?
Josh Donaldson has gone on the 10-day DL with his nagging calf injury, and is going to miss at least 2 more weeks
Aaron Sanchez gave up 3 homeruns in 5 innings before joining JD on the DL
JA Happ left a game he was dominating with elbow pain and is now on the DL
Devon Travis has struck out on 17 of 25 batting attempts
Russel Martin has fewer hits in the season than Steve Pearce had in the first game of the season
Steve Pearce has had 2 hits since the season opener
Jose Bautista has 1 RBI and has played every game except one as the 3rd hitter in the lineup
I only made up one of those statistics. Travis has only struck out on 26% of his at bats so far this season….(this stat is before the start of the Boston series). We need another song to help identify just how bad this is.
Mood in Song Form #2
I can't help but feel that the Blue Jays crown as the American League attendance leader from last season is in serious jeopardy as the bandwagon empties in a hurry. All we need now is Shea Hillenbrand to write "the ship is sinking" in the clubhouse.
So who has been the best player for the Jays so far this season? This easy answer as usual is Donaldson, but he can’t be the answer right now because he is on the DL. Outside of JD, the Blue Jays with a positive WAR statistic right now are:
Darwin Barney .2
Kevin Pillar .1
Kendrys Morales .1
Justin Smoak .1
Troy Tulowitzki .1
So just to recap, the Jays currently have 5 active players on the roster with a WAR above 0 and two of them are either a backup or a split time player. Plus 3 of their best players are on the DL. And they still play in the AL East.
I wanted to avoid this, but I just don’t think there is any more fitting way to touch on what a desperate time this in than turning to the saddest song of all time to properly capture this moment. I can’t believe we are here already, but….
Mood in Song Form #3
Amidst all of this sadness and self-pity, I would be doing a dis-service to the five hundreds and our loyal readers if we didn’t touch on some of the encouraging things from the start to the season as well. Mainly, the Jays have received good pitching performances across the lineup. Stroman looks ready to capitalize on his strong World Baseball Classic and take his game up a notch, Estrada continues to confuse batters with a fastball and changeup that look identical, Liriano bounced back from a horrible start (and odd pairing with Salty as his catcher) to strike out 10 in his next start, and Happ had looked like the 2016 version of himself before his injury. In the bullpen, Joe Biagini continues to be a bright spot, and Roberto Osuna has come off the DL and looks like he is primed to continue to dominate.
We knew that if this Jays team were going to compete for a post season spot it would be based on the strength of the rotation and bullpen. Through 13 games, the pitching has more than done its part.
I attended 3 games at the dome this weekend, sitting in different spots for each one and have some observations and highlights from the different games that I will share with you in leu of continuing to bemoan the struggles of the roster.
Friday Night – Blue Jays 4, Baltimore 6
Friday, I attended the game in great seats just above Baltimore’s dugout with my fiancé Bryanne, and friends Kevin and Kelsey. While an ardent Jays fans, Kelsey elected to dress in all black for the game, looking like a cross between a Men in Black agent and Johnny Cash. His reasoning was solid, we were going out for dinner before, and drinks afterwards… but that didn’t satisfy Bryanne, who owns more Jays apparel than anyone I know. Fast forward to the game, and we decided to propose a bet. Kelsey must buy the player t-shirt of a Blue Jay that hits a homerun in the first 5 innings. If no one hits a HR, then the first player to get an extra base hit will do just fine.
Tulo had an early double, and was Kelsey’s favorite for taking the award of t-shirt champion. However, we all knew there was the potential for a player to go yard that would make us all laugh with delight at the thought of Kesley having to buy his shirt.
That player? Switch hitting off-speed missing machine Justin Smaok!
In the 4th inning Smoak stepped up to the plate as a right handed batter. The first pitch was that ever so elusive breaking ball that he never manages to hit. Almost as if he could hear me yelling at him to watch for the change up from the crowd, Smoak was locked in and crushed the ball over the wall in left field. A no doubter that had our section howling.
Kelsey left to the proshop and instead of coming back with a Justin Smoak t-shirt he purchased a storm trooper Blue Jays hat. Little does he know that I have a Justin Smoak t-shirt jersey I will be presenting him when I visit New York next month.
Sanchez got lit up, and despite a 9th inning rally, Steve Pearce struck out on one of the ugliest swings I have ever seen to end it. His bat looked like Charles Barkley’s golf swing. We had a considerable number of drinks and finished the night off singing karaoke at 3 in the morning. All in, it was a good season opening game.
Saturday afternoon – Blue Jays 2, Baltimore 1
Saturday afternoon games usually go one way. The dome is usually open, lots of friends are at the game and the day is spent in the flight deck drinking beers and brining all sorts of voodoo tricks onto the opposing teams center fielder. Kelsey and I went to the game with my friend Marty and his brother-in-law Andrew who were in town from Winnipeg and Ottawa. We spent the afternoon casually drinking pints in the flight deck with the roof closed… tempering the atmosphere a fair amount. The other big difference of the afternoon was there was no chirping of Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones. Last season Jones earned immortality status for a showing on a Sunday afternoon….
In a tightly contested game last July, In-between every inning Jones would pretend to throw a ball up to the flight deck, before throwing it to the ball boy. This, and the general nature of the flight deck crowd had Jones getting constantly booed. It escalated later in the game when Jones made a great running catch and proceeded to turn to the crowd and make the hand quacking motion and tell the crowd to shut it. This was all in good fun, and the Jays were going to win the game so it didn’t matter. Then the Jays blew a lead and the game went to extra innings. Jones crushed an extra inning home run and proceeded to spend the bottom half of the inning flexing and kissing his biceps while laughing at the crowd on his way to victory. It was the exact type of villainous away team move that baseball needs more of. While most center fielders choose to ignore the jeers from the crowd, Jones embraced it and won the day. Luckily for Jays fans, we ended Jones’ season with a walk off home run by Edwin in the wild card game, and on Saturday Kendrys Morales ended the game in a similar fashion eviscerating the first pitch he saw in the bottom of 9 to end the Jays losing streak. I kissed my biceps in the flight deck. An exciting end to an otherwise boring game, but the Jays pitching kept them alive and the anemic bats did just enough.
Sunday afternoon – Blue Jays 4 Baltimore 11
Bryanne and I were sitting out in left field for the game on Sunday. We arrived just before first pitch (regrettably missing the Donaldson umbrella giveaway) and saw Happ work out of a jam. A nice start to the game! Then Pillar led the game off with a double, and Carerra bunted him over to third (a move fans love, but statistically isn’t a wise play in that spot even though the Jays seem to like the small ball option with Zeke) and reached. 1st and 3rd with the heart of the order coming up! Bautista quickly struck out, and Morales hit into a double play. Ughh.
Happ left the game while cruising in the 5th inning on what looked like a nothing play. He hopped a little coming off the mound, and we speculated that it was a lower body injury. We now know it was elbow pain… fortunately it seems like a disastrous outcome has been avoided and he will only miss a start or two. Biagini came in and battled but gave up a run. We left early in the 8th when it was apparent the Jays had given up 4 runs, at least 2 more than I thought they could score. By the time we were finished walking around the stadium in ear shot of the radio broadcast the score was 11-1. The only good thing of this day was hanging out with Bryanne, and leaving early when we did.
Beers – nothing has changed as a result of the wildcard game beer throwing fan. The Jays continue to sell jumbo pints in cans the way they should. One moron fan shouldn’t ruin it for everyone, and it appears that the team realized this, and isn’t punishing people. Plus, if your club is going to look as bad as this one does, it helps to have a variety of refreshing pints to enjoy.
"Hooked on a feeling" is gone – you may recall my strong objection to the Blue Jays beginning to sing “hooked on a feeling” in the middle of the 8th inning of every home game. It felt like a cheap rip off of the Red Sox singing Sweet Carolina, which in itself is an abomination. Nothing was worse than having the jays down 4 runs late, only to have the cheer squad come out to lead the crowd in a happy sing along. I am thrilled the song is gone.
"Hooked on a feeling" has been replaced with “Start Me Up” – apparently, the Jays are determined to make the middle of the 8th inning a painful fan experience. Gone is hooked on a feeling, replaced with a song with an inferior melody that isn’t particularly fan friendly to sing at all. At least the lyrics can be stretched to portray trying to score runs in a baseball game, but its not much better. It’s too bad that a talented Canadian band hasn’t written a kick ass song in coordination with one of the Blue Jays largest sponsorship partners to coincide with the start of the season that could be played in the stadium, and shot the video in and around Toronto (including the basketball court i continue to think about taking my talents too at lunch hour every day)....
I will be back in the dome to see the Jays play the Red Sox this week before cooling off for a couple of weeks. Hopefully by the end of April we have more wins than beers I drank by the 4th inning of Friday’s game.