It's time to make hay, JaysIf Toronto wants to make the playoffs, it'll need to step up during this tough run of games
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY
|Blue Jays' J.P. Arencibia slides around Yankees catcher Russell Martin to score a run during Wednesday night's game at the Rogers Centre. The Jays beat their AL East rivals 8-1. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - It was the medieval playwright John Heywood who coined the phrase, "Whan the sunne shinth make hay."
Clearly they didn't have Spell Check back in 1546.
But what Heywood yattered on about 466 years ago still holds true today, and it's something that may come back and haunt the Blue Jays, their 8-1 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday night notwithstanding.
The Jays had a huge opportunity early this season to put some space between themselves on the rest of the AL East -- or at least a few teams in the AL East -- and they blew it.
The Yankees are dealing with some serious injury issues (closer Mariano Rivera, set up man/turned closer David Robertson and starting pitcher Michael Pineda), and the Boston Red Sox staggered out of the gate. Yet the Jays, who have experienced only one injury of note (closer Sergio Santos) find themselves stuck in the middle of the pack. And when the regular season ends, even with the extra wild card in place, they may look back and realize that this was the point of the season where they blew their chance for a playoff spot.
Playing in the AL East is never easy, but the Jays had a pretty favorable start of the schedule, with series against the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's. If they were going to make a move, the first 38 games or so of the season was the time to do it.
But now -- at least over the next three weeks -- the tough slogging really begins, with games against the Yankees, the resurgent New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles, the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who have owned the Jays in recent times. The only games they play against sub .500 teams between now and June 5 -- when they fly into Chicago for three games against the White Sox -- are three games against the Red Sox, and the Bostonians are starting to find their game.
The Jays had a chance to make hay when the sun was shining and they dropped the ball. Their big stars have struggled at the plate -- Jose Bautista (.199 AVG), Adam Lind (.186, 3HR), Colby Rasmus (.208, 3HR) -- and, as a team, they've started to boot the ball.
The Jays are a good team that -- Wednesday's victory aside -- really haven't found their stride. So maybe it's natural that some frustration is setting in -- i.e. Brett Lawrie's meltdown on umpire Bill Miller on Tuesday night (which cost him four games pending an appeal) and Bautista's frequent glares back at the home plate umpire.
It was put before both manager John Farrell and GM Alex Anthopoulos prior to Wednesday's game that there's some talk that the Jays are acquiring a reputation as a team that whines more than they should -- a suggestion both men shot down. Anthopoulos said he has faith in his manager's ability to keep the Jays on an even keel and at an optimal level to succeed -- even though things haven't gone their way recently. Prior to Wednesday's game, the Jays had dropped seven out of their last 10 games.
"He's very tolerant, very patient overall, and sometimes I find that he's great balance for me because I can get little more reactionary, a little more emotional overall," said Anthopoulos. "Guys don't get in his doghouse. And that's why any player would enjoy playing for him."
For his part, Farrell said the key going forward is not to panic.
"Physical errors are going to take place," he said. "I think it's important to remind ourselves of who we are as a team, who we are collectively as individuals and to trust in our abilities and the process in which they prepare everyday."
Perhaps the Jays are a team on the verge of breaking out. They certainly have the starting pitching. Bautista, who hit his ninth home run of the season Wednesday night, seems to be coming out of his slump. If Lind and Rasmus follow suit, anything can happen.
"This team's resilient," said catcher J.P. Arencibia, who went 3-for-4 with a homer on Wednesday. "You guys see how happy-go-lucky this team is and how much energy there is. So no one gets down around here."
They just have to start to make some serious hay, whether the sun is shining or not.