So The Jays have slid to last place… Unfortunate, but not egregious by any stretch.
It’s important to remember that last place for the Jays consists of an over .500 record, which is only 3 games out of first in the AL East (27-26 VS the Rays and Orioles 30-23). Indeed, if the Jays had this record in just about any other division, they’d be in the middle of the pack. As of today, in all other divisions aside from the NL East, the differential between last place and first place is nearly ten games. Then there is the NL West, home of my beloved Padres, who are a whopping 15 games from the lead—practically mathematical elimination and it’s not even the middle of June yet… Suffice to say, the Jays present last place record is hardly something to stomp your hat over.
And yet, here we are: last place.
It is what it is, and ceasing the retrograde should now be the main focus. The Jays are still competitive. But, a fan has to ask, is that competitiveness merely a serendipitous byproduct of a league defying all normal operating procedures this year? Or, is it because this Jays team really does have the talent to compete but hasn’t found a way to pull it all together yet?
Lets pretend that Bautista was hitting like the guy he was the in 2010 and 2011. Lets pretend the Bullpen didn’t Elmer Fudd saves. Lets pretend Romero didn’t walk half his season total in his last 5 outings and that a talented young infielder didn’t go Thor on an umpire with his helmet. And when we’re done pretending, are we in first? Hard to say, because as bad as those things are—a weaponzied hitter under producing, a leaky bullpen, a starter who lost his control for a spell, and a contributing hitter suspended—the Jays are still only 3 games out (!?).
Do you fault the Jays for beating themselves and landing there? Or, do you thank other teams for not taking advantage of their underperformance? Perhaps you thank the other players that have stepped up to keep the Jays in striking distance (welcome back David Cooper)?
This has been a peculiar year all around the league. Who (besides the most faithful Orioles fans) suspected the O’s to be in first place. The Rays being in the hunt is nothing new, but it’s usually the Yanks and the Sox their gunning for. And then there is the Jays, who are… well… what are they doing? Their best? Surviving? Lucky? Unlucky?
Lets just say they’re flat. Luke warm. Neither hot nor cold and, like the good book says (albeit modified), getting spit out of the mouth of the AL East. Sure, they could go and beat up teams in other leagues, but to what end? Their work is in front of them here in the East. Baseball has always been a game of little details—walks, base runners, errors—highlighted by major plays. And yet, I feel we’ve seen a season of little details that haven’t quit had the major plays to highlight them, good or bad.
I don’t think this trend will last.
It’s been a frustrating year for Jays fans. Fun to watch because you see flashes of the talent they could and should have, and yet so aggravating because they are JUST flashes. The dial seems to be stuck in the mediocrity zone. Which way will it ultimately go? Will the Jays tumble into to the depths of the last place, or soar back into contention for the lead?
I’ll tell you this: these next ten games will be incredibly revealing of the true nature of the club.