With the present little more than a depressing reality, the Blue Jays brass spent much of the pre-game media scrum with their vision of the future.
It was not an official running up the white flag ceremony on a season in tatters as much as it was a reality check.
Who's fooling whom? When you're in last place in your division and there's seven teams ahead of you in the hunt for the wild card, talk of a second-half surge and post-season possibilities borders on the impossible.
Last night's game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Jays, their 90th of the season, a 7-6 victory, gave them a sense of life in the penthouse with their first walkoff triumph of the season.
Of more importance is the health of right-hander Dustin McGowan, who left the game after the fourth because of shoulder soreness. He is to undergo an MRI today. If McGowan is gone for a significant chunk of time it would be another blow to a team already reeling.
The Jays opened their final homestand before the all-star break off a depressing 2-4 trip, the two wins supplied by Roy Halladay.
When Halladay wasn't starting, they didn't pitch well and didn't hit a lick and it is Gaston's quest to -- hopefully before the season ends -- have them buy in and adopt his theory of entering the batter's box with a game plan. Then and only then, will they be able to hit in the clutch with regularity and rise to their expectations. Or so the theory goes.
The caveat, though, is that the expectations are more for 2009 than 2008.
"If Aaron Hill's back, you have (Alex) Rios and (Vernon) Wells out there and Adam Lind and then if we can get some of our pitchers back that have been on the DL this year (Casey Janssen and Shaun Marcum), I think we've got a good ball club here, I really do," Gaston said when asked if he'd like to come back next year. "With the two guys at the corners in (Scott) Rolen and (Lyle) Overbay and maybe with a couple more players, I think this is going to be a good contending ball club next year, I really do."
Gaston was then asked how long he figured it would take him and hitting coach Gene Tenace to get through to the players.
"It's coming but it's coming slow," Gaston said. "I think before the end of the season you'll see the improvement. Hopefully."
So what about the rest of this season?
"We're still going to play hard and see what happens," Gaston said. "There's a lot of teams to get over here. We're certainly not going to quit."
General manager J.P. Ricciardi had similar thoughts.
"It has been a disappointing season so far," Ricciardi said. "We are what we are and we can't make any excuses about it.
"But I still think there's nothing that says we can't make a big run here and try to get in the wild card in some way, shape or form. But, as we continue to go into the season, we're just going to keep trying to make ourselves better whether it's to finish this season or get ready for next season."
Given what has happened to this point in the season, why should there be any expectations that they'll play better the rest of the way?
"Our expectations are this team is not as bad as it has played and hopefully will play a little better," Ricciardi said. "Does that mean we're going to be a playoff team? "The chances probably aren't good that way, but that doesn't mean we can't hold out hope that we can play better. Maybe that means we have a better second half or a better last two months going into next year."
Manager Cito Gaston is hoping that last night's improbable comeback, walkoff victory will give the Jays some momentum in their final games before the all-star break.
The Jays trailed 6-2 in the top of the seventh but stormed back with four runs in the seventh and then won it in the ninth when with Alex Rios on third and two out, Scott Rolen's routine grounder went through the legs of shortstop Freddie Brynum.
"We needed a game like that," Gaston said. "Hopefully it will give us a boost.
Right-hander Dustin McGowan said that the shoulder soreness that caused him to come out of last night's game after the fourth inning has bothered him for his past two starts. "It's just been tender but tonight it really started barking on me a little bit," McGowan said. In his previous start, McGowan went six innings and 76 pitches in a loss to the Mariners. Did it bother him then? "Not like it did tonight," he replied. "Tonight it just went overboard with it. It was one of those things where I thought once I got warm and loose it would go away. But tonight was a little bit different from the rest."
RHP Jeremy Accardo, who has been on the disabled list since May 10 with a strained right forearm, wrote on his blog yesterday that he believes he will be back with the Jays in about three weeks. According to his blog: "I got some good news from the doctor (in Los Angeles) and worked out some kinks with our pitching coaches. Some of the changes I made with my mechanics should make a world of difference in the soreness of my forearm, and made sense of why my off-speed pitches were not as sharp as they were at the beginning of the year ... I hope to be back with the team in about three weeks."
Tonight: Orioles LHP Garrett Olson (6-3, 5.04) vs. Blue Jays RHP A.J. Burnett (8-8, 4.92) 7:07 p.m., TSN
Tomorrow: Orioles RHP Jeremy Guthrie (5-7, 3.61) vs. RHP Roy Halladay (10-6, 2.88), 7:07 p.m., TSN