1159 for publication April 29, 2016
The Jays standard two-word motto, “It’s Early,” is beginning to flake and peel.
Sales of Blue Jays hats fell below those generated by Tilley toppers as they sent the White Sox away with a 21-6 victory, a three-game run-total that saw the Jays chalk up embarrassing strike-out stats. 13 K’s coming in that Wednesday night 4-0 shutout.
That’s double-digit whiffs for the 11th time this season. Sounds OK, but a couple of concrete head-butts and you’ll realize it’s the first month of the regular season, with two more games to complete before May begins. This stinks. On ice.
The Jays came out of spring training with a great record, abounding in qualified pitchers, and an experienced opening-day batting lineup making other teams envious.
That was then, this is now, and they managed only 4 hits, no runs, and by the end of the game Wednesday were also missing their manager. Yes, I know, there are some saying he’s been missing since October, but let’s remember he doesn’t hit, field, or pitch.
Speaking of pitchers, the Jays relievers lead all baseball in losses, Brett Cecil their left-handed reliever has already four attached to his stat line. Worse, the bullpen has allowed 17 of 28 inherited runners to score.
The Jays sit, actually they squat, in fourth place in the East, ahead of only the Yankees, but behind Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa Bay. In baseball lingo that’s 3.5 games behind the O’s, and even at this early stage, miles behind where they should be.
Their problems are the same as it was early last season, which had a successful conclusion by any standard. A year ago they were also slow out of the gate, without an identity except for being unpredictable, a frightening penchant for being unable to “manufacture” runs, or steal bases, and no-one capable of bunting with any expectation of success.
They had reasons for expecting better with the addition of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin over the off-season. They had pop with Bautista and Encarnacion. Then, in one incredible end-of-July weekend, GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired Troy Tulowitzski and David Price. They took them to the American League Championship series.
Therein lay the legitimate high expectations for this 2016 season. But right now it’s “who were those guys?” In my opinion they haven’t sorted themselves out as yet, and within the Chicago series came a troubling sign of selfish conduct they need to jettison.
Specifically, in the first game Marcus Stroman and the Jays were sailing, a 5-1 lead with the Sox coming to bat in the seventh. Suddenly Stroman was struggling, with two runners on, one out, and Gibbons came out of the dugout, to bring in reliever Brett Cecil. Stroman was angry, did little to alleviate that fact, storming away to the bench. Although Cecil has been shaky this move was no surprise, simply the Jays regular relief format going back to last season.
Cecil gave-up two hits and a walk, the Sox put three runs on the scoreboard, all belonging to Stroman, and added another two off reliever Gavin Floyd.
Meanwhile, the wild-eyed Stroman fumed, and as the runs were scoring, he lost it, looking up and down the dugout, getting more agitated with each run, while flailing and pounding the padded bench on either side. Finally he stood, fired a glare down to where Gibbons usually resides then stormed off, down the hallway steps to the dressing room. The only thing missing was a slammed door behind him like a recalcitrant kid sent to his room.
Sure, we realize he was angry. So were the others in the dugout along with the players on the field. Nobody intended for it to go this way, not Cecil, not Floyd, certainly not John Gibbons.
Stroman’s conduct was unprofessional, and saying after the fact that he was angry at himself doesn’t cut it. The optics were bad and there’s no excuse. Stroman can’t assume the crowd read his anger and conduct as directed at himself.
Learn the lesson Marcus. Because, regardless of your hurt, it came across as something a professional can’t do. Show up his team.