BALTIMORE - It turned into a non-scheduled day off for the Blue Jays on Sunday. Maybe just as well. A few cracks have started to appear in this team’s facade as they face what must seem to them an endless wall of losing.
This Blue Jays team never expected to fail like this. They began this season with perhaps inflated hopes of their own, hopes that brought them to the ballpark every day since February with a sense of purpose and belief.
This last month, however, a stark reality has settled upon the Blue Jay clubhouse like a dark cloud. They have now lost seven games in a row, 15 of their past 18 and 21 of their past 25. When Sunday’s game at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles was finally postponed after a 150-minute rain delay, they couldn’t vacate the premises fast enough, heading for the train station and a two-hour rail trip to Manhattan where the Yankees lie in wait, no doubt licking their chops.
Manager John Farrell has been vigilant for signs that the team’s professional approach has been tainted by the frustration that goes with being every other team’s easy pickings. Saturday night in their latest loss, an 8-2 romp by the Orioles, Farrell began to see signs that the team’s work ethic was becoming a bit frayed.
“In general I think guys have played to their capabilities,” said the manager Sunday morning as he mulled over the latest loss.
“The effort, the attention detail has been there. Last night was one of the first games where things got sloppy defensively. That’s not singling out any one guy. We play as a team. Given the number of guys that are out of our lineup, we have to play even more as a team.
“There’s got to be contributions that combine inside the offence that allow us to manufacture some runs. On defence that is something that should be a constant. Granted, there are going to be mistakes made, but when they come in bunches and in the situation we’re in right now, it comes across as sloppy.”
The Blue Jays have had 896 man-games missed to various injuries that have sent 15 players to the disabled list, some of them just for a few weeks but many of them gone for the entire season.
“It’s been non-stop,” said Brandon Morrow, who returned Saturday night after more than two months recovering from an oblique muscle injury.
“Hard to fathom. Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. It’s been really tough on everybody.”
It can be easy to become discouraged under the circumstances but the Blue Jays are not the only team that has to endure injuries. Every team’s depth is tested annually. Perhaps not to the extent that Toronto’s has been tested, but the teams that succeed are the ones who have players who rise to the challenge. As the Jays face the last five weeks of the season, without a lot to look forward to, Farrell is mindful that it is important to maintain professional pride to meet the challenges they will face when, presumably, they are ready to compete for the championship they thought might be at the end of this season.
“First and foremost is our attitude toward every game,” he said. “We hit home on those things every time we go into a series.
“That’s something we can control every day we come to the ball park, regardless of who is available, who’s banged up, who’s in the lineup, who’s not. That in my mind is paramount because this is a game where you have to have a mindset that carries you not only into the early part of October but, eventually, through October.”
From Farrell’s point of view, September will be an important month as the team looks toward next year.
“It’s about how we prepare and how we maintain a relentless approach. From an individual standpoint, we’re getting more knowledge every time that Steve Delabar and Brad Lincoln go to the mound. J.A. Happ has a longer history and we’re also getting to know him. We have to get back to seeing the guys that have missed significant amount of time.
Saturday’s game produced some mistakes of carelessness, a missed double play ball by Yunel Escobar, a passed ball and an errant throw by catcher Jeff Mathis. An ill-advised leap and miss of a bouncer back up the middle by Morrow.
Farrell wanted to make it clear he wasn’t intending to throw any individuals under the bus.
“Keep in mind, physical errors are going to be made,” he said. “And I’m not excluding myself in that. It’s collective. I’m not pointing a finger at anyone. I want to be emphatically clear on that. You get into a situation where things aren’t going your way, you begin to press a little bit, maybe be over-aggressive and that’s when the game can get kind of cruel, when you’re trying to go above and beyond.”
Right now the game is cruel enough for the Blue Jays who are in no way trying to go above and beyond. They’re just trying to get through the days.