TORONTO - It isn’t exactly crisis time for the Blue Jays and manager John Farrell — but if you do an analysis and otherwise, it’s awfully close.
The Blue Jays starting pitching, which had seemingly gone south prior to rookie Drew Hutchison’s outing Monday night, has demonstrated an inability to throw strikes, which means the Jays have given up the most walks in all of baseball. Not being able to work the count has seen the Jays give up the second most home runs in the American League and rank near the bottom in runs allowed.
Their record, tied with the Red Sox for fourth in the American League — after that horrible Boston beginning — shows them with 25 wins, 24 losses, a rather average 13-10 at home and a somewhat disastrous 8-12 in their own division.
And it isn’t just that. This is a Blue Jays team with a bullpen last in the AL in saves, with a left fielder who probably isn’t good enough to start and a first baseman who may be of the same ilk. Run down any Major League roster and play with the numbers: Outside of Edwin Encarnacion in the Jays everyday lineup, and maybe the limping Kelly Johnson, name a Jays’ everyday player having anything close to a great season? The buoyant optimism of spring training, the optimism of even a week ago, is guarded if at all apparent.
And just as troubling, has been the body language of several Jays players. Too many acting entitled, too many showing too little respect for the game, too many talking a better game than they have played.
Sitting at 24-24 prior to Monday’s game against Baltimore, Farrell was asked if this was a .500 team? He said it wasn’t. That’s the right answer. Now it’s a matter of doing it.
Rather than talk like contenders, the Blue Jays have to play like them.
“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” said the calm voice of Farrell when asked about the state of his ball club. This is his second year managing the Jays. He has basically had a free ride up to now. He hasn’t done anything to be roundly criticized for. On the other hand, he hasn’t done anything that would suggest he’s the next Joe Maddon.
He, like his team, remains on trial here. We’re not sure what the Blue Jays are. We’re still not sure what the manager is.
You know it isn’t necessarily a good time for the Blue Jays when Alex Anthopoulos is sitting in the dugout answering questions. Anthopoulos isn’t one of those attention-seeking general managers. The dugout is rarely his place pre-game.
“I’m here to take a little (heat) off the manager,” Anthopoulos said. “I wanted to show my face. If we’d gone 5-1 on the road trip, I wouldn’t be here. I told our media guys, when the team isn’t playing well, that’s when I’m going to be around. You’ve got to be accountable.”
For the record, Anthopoulos, who has made five roster moves in the past four days, is in agreement with his manager. He doesn’t believe the Blue Jays are in free fall. He takes that time-worn view that 30% of the season has gone by and anything can change in the final 70% of the schedule.
“Going out on the road, everyone was pretty excited,” Anthopoulos said. “We’d won four in a row or whatever it was. We weren’t sitting up in our offices planning a parade or anything, but we’re not going to sit here and fold up shop now. If it was six games of just being blasted, I’d understand. But we lost two games in extra innings to two of the better teams in the American League. If those games go our way, we’re 3-3 on the road and everyone’s pretty happy.
“If every part of the team was faltering, then it’s an issue. If you pitch the way we did on the road, you won’t be in the game. I don’t believe that’s who our starters are. They were pretty good for six weeks. Hitters are entitled to a slump. Pitchers too.”
While others around baseball — and some in the Jays’ clubhouse — worry about the Jays’ demeanor, Anthopoulos believes it’s simply growing pains.
“There are good guys, good kids,” he said. “Are they competitive and intense? Yes. Is that by design? Yes. In the past, maybe we haven’t had enough intensity or competitiveness, enough energy.”
They have it now. It’s time to put some wins together.