“If”, Not “When”, Is the Jays’ Season Over?

To make the playoffs the Blue Jays will have to play as well as the Yankees and the Orioles…as it turns out, they may already be doing that

The math does not look good.

To have a legitimate shot at the playoffs, goes the current thinking, you need to win ninety games. There’s definitely some wiggle in that number: teams have made it to the post-season with fewer wins (the Giants and the Nationals both got in with eighty-seven last year while the Jays had eighty-nine) and there have been teams–even in the post second-wildcard era–who have not (the Rangers, who had ninety-one wins in 2013, and the Rays with ninety in 2012 both had to watch from the sidelines in October). But, still, ninety is a nice round number so let’s go with it.

With their record now sitting at thirteen and twenty-one, to reach ninety wins the Blue Jays would have to go seventy-seven and fifty-one for the remaining 128 games. That’s a .602 record which is…a lot to ask of a team that so far has posted just .382.

But, of course, to say that it’s going to be difficult is not the same as proclaiming it impossible. The Cubs played better than .600 ball last year, the Angels accomplished it in 2014, and in 2015 the Cubs, the Pirates and the Cardinals all bettered the .600 mark. And those were season-long records, there have been a lot of teams in the last few years who finished with an overall record just below .600 because they had a bad stretch here and there.

So, yeah, it’s possible for the Jays to pull this thing out still, but is it likely?

What it comes down to is this: are the Jays at least potentially a .600 ball club, or are they doomed to spend the rest of their season duking it out for last place in the majors with the likes of the Royals (.364), the Giants (.343) and, God help us, the Braves (.355) and the Padres (.371)?

This question will, of course, answer itself as the season unfolds and while it won’t take until September, any definitive conclusion is probably still weeks away. So all we can really do for now is to compare the Jays to the competition–in particular, to the two teams who, so far at least, have been playing better than .600 baseball in the American League East: the Yankees and the Orioles.

The Yankees

Coming into the season very few of the pundits and pressers expected the Yankees to finish above fourth in the division, but their talented core of young players and surprisingly effective starting rotation have made a lot of people around the game rethink this.

For my part, I don’t really see it continuing for the Yankees, as their success to this point has been built upon some trends that are probably not very sustainable over the long haul, first and foremost of these being the pitching of Pine Tar Pineda and Rookie Jordan Montgomery; add to that the congenital unreliability of Elder Statesman Sabathia and the fragile arm of It’s Gonna Blow Tanaka and the thought of them being able to sustain their steady run of quality starts becomes something only slightly less hazy than a pipe dream. Just about the closest thing the Yankees have to a reliable starter is Luis Severino who projects out to 3.82 ERA for the rest of the season.

As for the Yankees’ overwhelming offense through April and May: that, too, is going to have to come back down to Earth at some point since it’s been largely sustained by three guys–Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro and Aaron Judge–who are hitting like Mike Trout, but who patently are not Mike Trout. As soon as they start to cool off and/or the league figures them out, runs are going to be a lot harder to come by in Yankees land (even in that ridiculous ballpark they were allowed to build).

But, really, none of these prognostications for the fate of the Yankees is the point; the reason I wanted to look at them was to see what a .600 team in the American League East looks like, and to ask if the Jays have any chance whatsoever of being that team.

On the pitching front, the Jays continue to have the clear advantage over the Yankees so long as everyone can get and stay healthy. While the Yankees’ starting five have clearly been performing way above expectations to this point, the Blue Jays starting rotation has been horrifically under-performing thanks to some shaky starts by Stroman and Liriano and more significantly the injuries to Happ and Sanchez.

But those are the problems that have led to this mess, and we’re trying to look into the future. Happ and Sanchez will be back in the rotation at some point: if it happens soon enough and if they can stay there, then the Jays will once again have a starting rotation at least as good as and probably much better than the Yankees have enjoyed so far this season. They’ll still be backed by a bullpen that has a lot of question marks, but of late it would seem Gibby has been doing a very good job of identifying the right guy for the right role in the middle innings, and with Osuna returning to form this should become less of a concern in the coming weeks.

On the offensive front, the Jays again compare very favourably to the Yankees if everyone can get healthy and stay healthy. Hicks and Judge and Castro are good, but are they as good as a healthy Josh Donaldson or Troy Tulowitzki? No. Add to that the bats of Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar, and a turnaround for just two of the struggling José Bautista, Russell Martin and Devon Travis and you would have a lineup easily as potent as the Yankees have enjoyed to this point.

I’m not saying that any of this is goingto happen, only that it very well could: and if it does, then the Jays would be as good a team as the Yankees are now…and the Yankees are a .600 team in the AL East.

The Orioles

Again, the point of this exercise is to try and look into the Jays’ future, not dissect other teams’ pasts, but to see if the Jays can be a .600 team I’m trying to figure out what it is that makes a team play .600 ball in the American League East in the first place. In the case of the New York Yankees it’s been a combination two probably-unsustainable things: good starting pitching and an overpowering offense. The Jays have a very realistic shot at having both of these things at some point in the near(ish) future.

In the case of the Baltimore Orioles, their .600 record is largely something of a mirage, built on the vagaries of an uneven schedule.

So far this season they’ve played three games against the White Sox and the Rays, and six games against the Blue Jays: that’s twelve of their thirty-three games against sub .500 teams and they’ve made the most of that, going nine and three in those games. Against the rest of their opponents they’re just thirteen and eight–so, against the really bad teams (and yes, I account the Jays in that because so far they have been terrible–but we’re looking to the future, remember?) they’ve built up a whopping .750 win ratio to offset the far more modest .590 they’ve managed against everyone else.

As they did with the Yankees, the potential Blue Jays team of the future compares reasonably well to the so-far-this-year Orioles when it comes to starting pitching…assuming, of course and as always, that the Jays’ starting rotation can get healthy and stay healthy.

Because of their ridiculous number of off-days, the Orioles have been able to limit the use of a fifth starter, meaning almost half their starts have been by Dylan Bundy (ERA 2.17) and Wade Miley (2.45). Neither of those guys is going to be able to sustain those numbers and as the season goes on they are going to get proportionally less of the total starts, giving their opponents more quality time with the likes of Kevin Gausman (6.63), Ubaldo Jimenez (6.15) and whomever else Buck Schowalter can scrape out of his bullpen. To this point, however, the Orioles have been able to present a starting rotation as good as the Yankees’ has been, and as good as the Jays’ could be.

It’s on the offensive side of things that the Orioles and the Jays present a fascinating study in contrasts. The Orioles have scored just nineteen more runs than the Jays (149 to 130) and they’ve only hit seven more home runs (43 to 36). Most interestingly: so far this year, eight of the Oriole’s twenty-two wins have been by just one run. The Jays, on the other hand, have dropped seven of their twenty-one losses by just one run. So, one third of the Oriole’s wins have been by a single run, and one third of the Jays’ losses have been by a single run.

So, the full-strength, uninjured, well-rested Orioles offense–who, by the by, have been playing more than their fair share of bad teams–have been only slightly better than the Blue Jays’ offense. In terms of runs put on the board, at least, it would seem as though the Jays are already playing as well as .600 team in the American League East.

And the crystal ball says…?

There are no such things as crystal balls, of course, and nobody can ever really know what the future may bring, but from this comparison it would seem that it does remain at least realistically possible that the Jays could, in fact, turn themselves into a .600 team…

IF Happ and Sanchez can get back into the rotation and stay there and IF Liriano can be just a bit more dependable as their fifth man then the Blue Jays will have a starting rotation that is at least as good as, if not significantly better than, the rotations of the .600 winning-ratio Yankees and Orioles, and…

IF Donaldson, Tulowitzki and Morales can get healthy quickly enough, and IF any two of Bautista, Martin and Travis can start hitting as well as they should be, then the Blue Jays will have an offense at least as good as the .600 Yankees and far better than the .600 Orioles.

So…yeah…that’s a lot of ifs, and it might be too many to ask for. But at least we can say this: it’s not a matter of when the Jays are out of the playoffs, but if.

 

How To Stop Worrying And Love the Blue Jays 

Three reasons why the Blue Jays are going to be worth watching this season, no matter what

Blue Jays 4, Orioles 11

I’ve been a little league coach for years, and in that time I’ve had some good teams and some not so good teams; I’ve also been a baseball fan for forty years, which means that I am a true expert on one thing when it comes to baseball:

Enduring the hard times.

And just in case you are in any doubt…for the Blue Jays, this is indeed a very very hard time.

Just about Everything that could wrong for a team did go wrong for the Blue Jays yesterday: their offense continued its season-long absence (sidebar to Buck and Pat: when the Jays manage a couple of runs off of a minor league call-up, please don’t try telling me that “the bats are showing signs of life”); their starting pitcher went down with “elbow soreness” (sidebar to Blue Jays front office: you’re not fooling anyone, we know that’s code for “he’s screwed”); the bullpen imploded (sidebar to Twitter: it’s just one game, it happens, this is not proof of anything about the bullpen arms or Gibby’s management thereof); and even the usually reliable defense looked hopelessly lost at times (sidebar to Tulo: seriously, dude, have you completely forgotten how to execute a rundown?).

So what to do? Well, first, you really do need to remind yourself of a couple pertinent clichés that remain as true today as they were two weeks ago: it’s a long season, and it’s about process not results.

I sometimes think that the Blue Jays’ fan base shows its born-in-Canada-hockey-is-all roots a bit too much. Unlike the NHL, the entire baseball season is not about the playoffs. In baseball, the playoffs are really something of an afterthought, as just eight teams play for just over a month after six months of regular season action. Yes, it sure is fun having your team in those playoffs, but it probably doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think. What matters in baseball—and this has been true since it began, and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much—is how your team is doing right now and how that fits into the narrative of their whole season. When you look at it this way, the Blue Jays are going to have a really, really interesting summer, well worth the watching, whether or not they make the playoffs.

So, right now they’re struggling and trying to find a way out of that. Can they? Will they? What are they doing to address their problems? Who’s working hardest? Who’s given up? Who’s learning new things? These are all pressing and fascinating questions that I look forward to seeing answered throughout the season. Whether they end up in first, second or last place in the American League East will have no impact on the interest I have in seeing those questions resolved, along with the many others that will undoubtedly crop up.

At the moment, though, here’s my top three questions; the three things that I find most fascinating about the Blue Jays and that I am eager to see through, regardless of however they may finish the season:

Is This Really The End of Joey Bats?

Love him or hate him—and I love him—José Bautista is one of the most compelling players in baseball. He’s been one of the greatest hitters in the game for years now, and is one of the greatest Blue Jays of all time. But look how things stand for him right now: he’s coming off an off-season spanking in which he thought, not unreasonably, that teams would be lining up with $100 million deals only to find that nobody was willing to pay him more than the qualifying offer the Jays made. So now, somewhat stunned by this, I’m sure, he’s back where he belongs in Toronto…and demonstrating that everyone may have been right to pass on him.

He’s doing terribly at the plate. Really, really, just terrible. He’s batting .136/.264/.182 and shows no signs whatsoever of “coming around” no matter how many times Buck and Pat insist upon it. He’s behind on the fastball, misjudging the breaking ball, and just flat out missing garbage pitches out over the plate. Will this go on? If so, then it will be one of the most surprising and complete collapses of a once great athlete in all sports history. How will he handle it? How will the Jays handle it? They can’t possibly leave him batting at the top of the order all season if those are his numbers, can they? Or will he turn it around? When and by how much? Will this be a season of redemption for a proud man, or the humbling of a great talent? It’s incredibly compelling stuff, and every at bat is another page in that book.

Super Kevin?

Pillar is slowly…slowly…making a believer of me. Is this the season when he finally puts it all together and starts hitting at the big league level like he did in the minors? He’s already proved his value as an outfielder, confronting and vastly overcoming the many doubts about his abilities that had him undervalued his whole career. But now…at least, for now…he’s the second best hitter the Blue Jays have (.283/.313/.391): only Josh Donaldson is better. Is this sustainable? Can he get even better? If so, then this could be the birth of a superstar, and if that happens I want to be there watching it unfold every step of the way.

Stroman and Sanchez

I have never cared about the off-field lives of players (so long as that didn’t impact their performance on the field, or was so egregious that they are pieces of human garbage who shouldn’t even be in the game) so I don’t give a hoot about the “Strochez bromance” that so many other people seem to give a hoot about.

But the show that they have together put on over the last couple of years, the sheer drama of what they have individually and together accomplished, is some of the best baseball I’ve ever had the privilege to be part off.

2015: Stroman gets hurt in a spring training drill and everyone falls into despair, sure that the playoffs are now out of reach; Stroman vows to return by September, and then holy moly he does, and he’s incredible!

2016: Sanchez spends the winter with Stroman, remaking his body, then comes to spring training destined for the bullpen, but then pitches so well he has to be in the rotation, but he’s destined for the bullpen; but then he pitches so well that he remains in the rotation.

This is all incredible, compelling, entertaining stuff and I am delighted to have seen it all. What is even better is that Stroman and Sanchez have together evolved into one of the greatest young pitching duos in the major leagues, a so-called “one two punch” that any team would die for, and they are both going to be Blue Jays for a long time. How good can they get? What are they going to do this season to stay ahead of the scouting reports by other teams? Just how impressive can they become? I want to know the answers to these questions; I want to be part of it.

One More Cliché

If all that’s not enough to keep you interested, to give you a reason to keep following the games without getting myopic about “Are they in first place?” or “Will they make the playoffs?” then I can only assume that you’re not really suited for baseball fandom and would recommend that you resume your obsession with the NHL playoffs where every year half the teams get to play a second season and go home with their participation trophy.

Because it isn’t like that in baseball. In baseball, every day is new day, and every game is just one more step in a very long, ever evolving and never dull narrative that is the season.

And in baseball—as it is now, as it shall be and as it has even been—any team can beat any other team on any given day, so you better keep watching because you never know what’s going to happen.

But whatever it is, it’s going to be great.

 

Smallness Of Ball Is Not a Good Thing

The Jays finally won because they got a BIG home run…so let’s hear it for the long ball!

Blue Jays 2, Orioles 1

At last! The Blue Jays are on their way to a 153-9 season record.

What a relief.

The story of the game, naturally, is Kendrys Morales and his second home run as a Blue Jay…which is an even bigger deal than his first, which was (if you can remember that far back) a grand slam that came, not coincidentally, in the Blue Jays’ only other win this season. It’s a simple equation, really: Morales homers…Jays win.

Who the man? Kendrys. Kendrys is the man.

Estrada was pretty awesome too, and as usual there was solid work by the bullpen and a nice bit of defence. But, let’s be clear about this, it was the offence that won this game, in the end. In particular it was the long ball.

There’s been a lot of chatter about the need for “small ball” (whatever that is: it’s proponents never seem able to define it very clearly) and for “manufactured runs”. It’s this crowd that would have gleefully pointed to the run driven in by Schoop in the ninth when the Orioles managed to tie it up… “would have” I say, if the Orioles had won. Which they didn’t. Because Kendrys hit a bomb.

And make no mistake, he was trying to hit that out of the park because hitting it out of the park would win the game (which it did). And you know what? He was doing exactly what the Orioles had been doing when they tied it up.

“Hold on just one minute there, Little League Dad!” I hear the acolytes of smallness in the ball cry. “They didn’t hit any home runs! They had to manufacture their one and only run!”

To which I reply, smugly, “Yep. And they lost.”

And to which I further add, “In any event, they weren’t trying to ‘manufacture’ anything. Hyun Soo Kim and Jonathan Schoop weren’t trying to hit sacrifice flies. They were trying to hit the ball as hard and as far as they could. If they gave up an out and advanced the runner, well, good. But when that happened, I can personally assure you they didn’t think ‘Whew, sure am glad that didn’t get outta here!’ They, like Morales just one half inning later, were doing what they should be doing in that circumstance: swinging for the fences. If either of them had put it out, then, guess what? The Orioles may very well have won that game. But they didn’t. All they could manage was a bit of ‘small ball manufacturing’ which, yes, did tie the game. But it was Morales’ home run that won it for the Jays. Again.”

How did the Orioles beat the Jays in the first two games of the series? By hitting home runs. How did the Brewers beat them? The long ball. Tampa? Smacked the ball right out of the Trop.

The Jays have won two games, and how? On the long ball.

So say it with me: the home run is good. It is right. It works.

And Kendrys is the man.

 

There’s Still Plenty Of Time Left…But Maybe Not As Much As You Think

If the Jays aren’t relevant by the end of July, they may be in the mood for some horse trading

Blue Jays 4, Orioles 6

There’s a couple of truisms about the mantra “It’s a long season” that need to be acknowledged by Blue Jays’ fans. First, it really is a long season; and second, it’s getting really boring saying and hearing that.

But here’s another point to consider about the mantra: it may not be entirely correct. In the case of the Blue Jays, at least, the season is still quite long, but perhaps not quite as long as you may think. It may, in fact, be about two months shorter than just about everyone else’s.

Here’s the situation: the Blue Jays are a fundamentally good team with the possibility of greatness, but they’ve been underperforming at an almost farcically-unsustainable level. It simply cannot and will not go on like this…it is impossible that they finish 16-146 this season, which is what they’re on pace to do.

In that sense, it’s a bit like 2015, when they were also a very good team whose position in the standings just didn’t show that, but then Alex Anthopoulos went out, and like a drunk sailor on shore leave, spent almost everything in the bank for Tulowitzki and David Price (and oddments) and…hey presto!…a winning team was born!

That’s not going to happen this year, and no it’s not because Mark Atkins and Mark Shapiro are worse at their jobs than Anthopoulos (it is my considered opinion, in fact, that they are considerably better, but that’s a different column for a different day). No, it’s not going to happen this year because the problem isn’t missing a few key pieces—they have all the pieces they need, they just aren’t hitting.

It’s also not going to happen because this is an aging team that has to be ready to replenish itself over the next couple years or risk becoming complete garbage in a division that looks to be getting stronger and stronger over the next few years (Boston is young and talented, New York is getting ready to sign Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson in the next three years). This means they can’t afford to trade away everything they’ve got in the minors, particularly at a time when there isn’t much there that’s major league or almost-major league ready. There is some great talent in the system, sure, but they’re years away for the most part and the Jays are going to need to figure out how to replace their aging core over the next two to four years while they wait to develop all those great young arms, gloves and bats scattered between low-A and AA ball.

Which brings us back to this season and how and why it is probably a whole heck of a lot shorter than you may think. For the Blue Jays, I suspect, this season could very well find it’s definitive end at 4:00 PM on 31 July.

That’s the non-waiver trade deadline, and if the Jays get to that date and they’re all but out of things…well…they can’t fix the 2017 team by trading away prospects for talent…but they can do a lot to help their future by trading away talent for major-league ready prospects…

And who would they trade? You could get a truckload of whatever you wanted for Donaldson, and while Jon Morosi has suggested the Jays would do well to trade him (and been suitably dismissed by Andrew Stoeten for doing so), I really don’t think they would: the fan backlash would be thunderous, he’s under contract for two more years and thus a key part of this bridging period I’m talking about, and…well…you just don’t trade a player like Donaldson. You just…don’t!

Tulo and Martin are already at that point of their contracts when they’re probably not worth the money they’re making, but the Jays could maybe move one of them by taking on a lot of that money themselves; Bautista would have just a couple months of control left and nobody wanted him in the off-season so it’s doubtful anyone would want him now; the team has made a commitment to Morales, and they’re not going to trade away young talent like Devon Travis…and as for the rest of the position players, you’re probably not going to get enough in return to make it worth your while.

So there’s not a lot of trade capital at the dish or in the field, but on the mound…

That’s where you can expect to see some major moves, should the Jays feel by mid-July that they are done and out of it this season.

Stroman and Sanchez are absolutely untouchable, the team has made that abundantly clear over and over again, even though it’s painfully obvious to anyone with eyes and a brain that they aren’t going anywhere.

But Francisco Liriano, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ…

Liriano is a free agent after this year, but if he pitches like he did in his last game for another three months then a contending team would be willing to pay quite a bit to rent him.

Happ and Estrada are the real gold though: they’re making very reasonable money for what they bring, and Happ even comes with a year of control after this one. I can’t even begin to imagine what they might be able to fetch from a desperate almost-contender at the end of July. It could be the David Price trade all over again, but with the Jays on the other side of it.

Last summer teams were falling over themselves to trade whatever they could for pitchers like ancient Mr Blister Finger Rich Hill; the Red Sox gave up their number one prospect, and one of the greatest prospects in all baseball, Anderson Espinoza, for Drew Ho-Hum Pomeranz. If that’s the going rate for just-a-bit-above average what do you think Marco I Win Every Post-Game I Play Estrada and J.A. I Won Twenty Games Happ could fetch? Shop them both out to whichever two teams are desperate enough or dumb enough to empty the coffers for them (which team does Anthopoulos work for now, anyway?) and all of sudden, the next couple years in Blue Jays land look a whole lot brighter.

Of course, this year would be sunk. But then again, if things don’t turn around fast, they will be anyway…

Postscript

Oh, and yeah, the Jays lost again last night to the Orioles dropping them to one and nine on the season, which really sucks. Good pitching and crappy hitting…yadda yadda yadda…

A Middling Bit Of Iffery-Pokery

The Blue Jays don’t need to be great, they don’t even need to be good, they just need to be average

Blue Jays 1, Orioles 2

I’m going to indulge in a bit of the rankest sort of what-iferry pokery blue-sky postulating.

What if—in addition to their stellar pitching (shout out to Liriano!), sparkling defense and solid bullpen—what if, I ask, the Blue Jays had an entirely average offense?

And what does average look like? Well, this year the average runs per game scored across both leagues is 4.27. In 2016 it was 4.48… 2015, 4.25… 2014, 4.07…

2014, as it turns out, was the lowest runs per game average in the last twenty years. In fact, from 1997 to present the average number of runs scored per game by all teams in the majors is 4.59.

So let’s pretend, for a moment, that the Blue Jays were a slightly-below average team this year, offensively. (At the moment, of course, they are the worst offensive team in the majors, scoring just 2.67 runs per game.) Let’s pretend that they were scoring just 4.0 runs per game. That would put them dead even with the Twins and Rays (4.00), just ahead of Cleveland (3.89) and just behind the Tigers and Cubs (4.11). Now let’s extend this exercise in imaginatively re-engineering this dismal season just a little bit, and assume that they’ve scored their four runs at an even pace. Heck, let’s make it as even as can be: let’s pretend they’ve scored four runs in each and every game.

If this were the case—and I know that it’s not, and yes if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon—but if it were the case then the Jays’ record would be six and three and they’d be leading the American League East with a .667 win-loss ratio (cause that stat is not and never has been a percentage, but I digress).

Now, keep in mind, that’s the result if the Jays were a slightly below average offensive team; this incredible turn-around in their fortunes is accomplished by their managing to score just one or two runs more per game: that’s just one more hit with runners in scoring position; just one more home run with or without anyone on base; just one of the struggling Travis, Bautista or Martin not to have been struggling. Everything else could have stayed or been exactly the same and the results so far this season would be dramatically different.

That’s how close they are to turning things around. Just one or two more hits per game; just one key guy figuring it out at the plate, and they’d be all they need to be to win it all…

Average.

Which is why there was such optimism before the season, and why there’s still abundant reason for hope now.

Stuff Happened

The Jays lost again and that sucks. But it’s just been two games, so let’s ignore that and focus on the good stuff.

Blue Jays 1, Orioles 3

Well…crap. The Jays lost again and that sucks. But it’s just been two games, so let’s ignore that and focus on the good stuff.

Happ, like Estrada on Monday, is a good stuff. He looked great out there: gave up the two dingers to Jones and Davis but that’s going to happen and in the end he only gave up three runs over seven innings. I’ll take that. Tepera was also sort of a good thing: one inning, no hits and no walks: nicely done Ryan.

And here’s another good thing: Pillar’s defense and his first highlight-reel catch of the season. I always hate watching him come down hard after going to the wall, but he always pulls himself up again. I can’t shake the suspicion that he plays it up for the camera a bit (or even a lot) but, heck, he makes a great catch, gives up his body, I can stand a bit of prima donna if that helps him feel good about himself. I’m certainly not like a certain Sportsnet television personality who shall remain name(GreggZaun)less who likes to complain about TV dives cause I don’t see that in Pillar, but when he does get crunched he likes to channel his inner Italian footballer…but again, meh. Let him.

Here’s an even better thing: Tulo. Just: Tulo. Yep, he went zero for four last night with two strike outs, bringing him to a full zero for nine to start the season, but he made at least four plays that are beyond the powers of mere mortals. The fact that he made them look so easy makes it easy to miss just how good they were, but holy freaking mackerel, is he a fine sight of poetry in motion with the glove.

Other good things: Smoak got two hits and was the Jays’ only run; Travis, Donaldson, Bautista and Morales all got hits; Pillar keeps looking like a whole new hitter at the plate and they darn near managed to beat Zach Britton who looked like all relievers (who aren’t named Mariano Rivera) finally look when everyone finally remembers that relievers are just failed starters.

But, you know, crap, they lost. And that stinks. It wouldn’t stink so bad if it wasn’t the way they lost, which was kind of an exact copy of how they kept losing at the beginning of last season. If you thought that you’d fallen into a wormhole to April 2016 I wouldn’t blame you. I don’t care what Pat “He’s a big young man, a real pitcher” Tabler or Buck “man but the Auree-alls kin reelly git the mohst outta thee-ar pichers” Martinez say, but the Orioles starter Dylan Bundy was throwing garbage.

If you read the Baltimore media coverage you’ll see them fainting over Bundy’s slider, but more than half the time he threw it out of the zone from hand to plate, and yet the Jays’ hitters just had to keep swinging at it. And when he left it up in the zone they almost invariably popped it up (yeah, I’m looking at you Tulo). Which is the sort of thing they did last April and then again in September which is why their first two games this year have been kind of scary even though it’s only been two games. It was all just so darned familiar: a garbage pitcher throwing garbage pitches that seem, somehow, to keep fooling the Jays’ big bats. Maybe it was just the recalled trauma of last year being triggered by a statistically-irrelevant two game blip this year that made me feel this way…probably…I hope so. But scoring three runs and hitting zero homers in two games ain’t the kind of thing that instills confidence; nor is going one for eight with runners in scoring position (compared to the Orioles’ one for one), or leaving 14 men on base (compared to the Orioles’ five); or the 11 strike outs (compared to the Orioles’ nine).

But it’s just two games, for criminey’s sake! Two games! It’s beyond meaningless, I know that. It’s gonna happen sometimes that good hitters just miss bad pitches.

Like it did on Monday and Wednesday.

And last September.

And all of last April.

Play Ball!

The Jays played their first game yesterday and lost but who cares? Baseball is back, they played well and it will be months before we have to start really caring too much about the outcome of any single game.

Blue Jays 2, Orioles 3

The Jays played their first game yesterday and lost, but who cares? Baseball is back, they played well and it will be months before we have to start really caring too much about the outcome of any single game.

Estrada was great (going to have to get used to typing that), the bottom of the order was great (with a special shout-out to He’s Making Me A Believer Kevin Pillar) and the bullpen was fine. Yeah yeah, Grilli gave up the walk-off homer…to the reigning AL home run champion, after already pitching a full inning, and he’s forty for criminey’s sake. The Jays only lost because Jose Bautista went 0 for 5 leaving eight…EIGHT!…men on base. And again I say: who cares? This is Jose freaking Bautista we’re talking about and the games in which he is going to go hitless are few and far between. You can also-maybe sort of point a finger of blame at his new-second-banana-not-Edwin-Encarnacion-but-still-a-freakingly-good-hitter Kendrys Morales who also went hitless leaving three men on base but, guess what, who cares?

Tulo and Martin joined the hitless parade but who cares? The odds that Bautista, Morales and Tulo will all be hitless in the same game on a regular basis is somewhere between not-even-remotely and forget-about-it. Martin, I have to admit, looked as lost at the plate as he did for most of last season and throughout spring training. He ain’t the hitter he was, but who cares? He’s a catcher, for criminey’s sake, which means you want him on your team because he’s still one of the greatest behind the plate defensive catchers in the game. Offense in any catcher is a bonus: so long as he isn’t ever Thole-bad (which won’t happen until he’s 56 years old): Who. Cares. ?

The game clearly meant a lot to the Orioles and their fans, so, you know, good for them getting that win. It still doesn’t undo what happened in the Wild Card game last year, and they only just managed to scrape out the win on a day when three of the Jays’ five best hitters didn’t do squat (who cares). It was a blast watching Buck send out Britton in the ninth like it was just a normal move, which it really should be (the “Save” stat is the dumbest thing in baseball, with perhaps the exception of Rougned Odor’s beard, or maybe just Rougned Odor). Maybe he oughta done that, like, six months ago *snort*

So, all in all, it was a great game to watch and…sure, of course, yes!…I would have preferred a win, but come on, it was a great game. Of baseball. A game in which we didn’t see Upton cause he’s gone (yes, I am happy about that), and we didn’t see Smoak start at first because in spite of what Wilner may say over on Rogers Radio he ain’t the everyday first baseman, was never intended to be the everyday first baseman and probably never will be the everyday first baseman…so can everyone, please, stop freaking out that he’s the everyday first baseman? Oh, and he’s also not even remotely as terrible as you all think. No, really, he isn’t, not even a little.

Yes, I know, Smoak had one at-bat and STRUCK OUT! (aaaaaaaaaagggh!) but, well, you know what:

Who cares?