What went wrong: The 2014 Blue Jays

* Injuries to key players, like Edwin Encarnacion, certainly didn't help the Blue Jays in 2014, but there were plenty of deficiencies elsewhere, says Bob Elliott, which have the team headed for their 21st consecutive season without a postseason appearance. ....  2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

On June 7, Your Toronto Blue Jays awoke in Toronto.

In first place ...

The forecast in the Toronto Sun that day was: Sunny, with a forecasted high of 26.

There was not any mention of a Weather Network report of flood waters rising causing the Blue Jays dam to burst.

Or the dark thunder clouds flashing lightning and moving in an easterly direction from Milton towards the Rogers Centre.

And why would there be?

The night before, Marcus Stroman had pitched six innings with Casey Janssen coming on to get the final three outs in a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals as Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie each homered.

The Jays were 14 games over .500 (38-24).

Life was good at 1 Blue Jays Way ... where the street address stood for the Jays position in the American League East standings.

President Paul Beeston had not phoned the Toronto Maple Leafs or called his former executive assistant, Sue Canel, to check on the 1967 or 1993 parade route info, but things were looking good.

Baseball Prospectus had the post-season chances for AL East teams like this on that day:

Blue Jays - 86%. New York Yankees - 34% Baltimore Orioles - 19%. The defending champion Boston Red Sox - 17% And the pre-season pick of many to win the division, the Tampa Bay Rays - 4%.

That 86% chance of making post-season play the first week of June proved to be as much of a lock as the lock the Maple Leafs had in the spring of 2013 leading the Boston Bruins by three goals with 11 minutes remaining in Game 7.

Do you know how badly you have to perform to fail a course after getting an 86% on your mid-term?

Well, a month later in the first week of July, the Jays were only four games over .500 (47-43), their post-season chance down to 42% in early July when they were in Oakland.

The first week of August they were seven games to the good (61-54) after a 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles, still with a 37% October chance.

One month later, they were three games above sea level (72-69) after beating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with a 1% chance.

And they flew out of LaGuardia Airport Sunday night one game to the good (78-77) with zero chance of making it.

Welcome to another off-season of waiting until next year -- 21 consecutive if you are groaning and moaning along at home.

Sure, they were without the meat and potatoes of the batting order.

Brett Lawrie has missed 85 games due a pair of injuries.

Edwin Encarnacion missed 33 games after injuring his quad in Oakland and is still not running at 100%.

Adam Lind missed 31 games after playing half of that with a broken bone in his foot.

Melky Cabrera is out for the final 22 games.

Injuries? What about the Birds of Baltimore?

All-star catcher Matt Wieters played only 26 games, all-star third baseman Manny Machado has played in 82 and now Chris Davis is wearing the suspenders for the remainder of the season.

Since June 7 ... the Orioles have gone 63-33 (.656), streaking like feature performers at Pimlico Race Course.

The Jays have gone 40-53 (.430), like a $15,000 claimer at Mohawk Raceway.

The Jays, as they opened against the Seattle Mariners Monday night, went from a contender in June to a team management wondered if it would have a winning record during a nine-win August, to a long shot contender for a wild-card spot, to now once again wondering if they will have a .500 record again.

It’s Ground Hog year.


Why the collapse from grace and fall from first place?

Early on, it was a lack of starting pitching, but of late the starters have done the job (a 26-game consecutive streak of working six or more innings until Sunday), but the offence was not there.

The Jays led the majors in homers at the break and were tied for seventh in team batting average. Since the all-star game, they are eighth in both categories.

It’s not surprising when you take a look at manager John Gibbons’ starting nine, for it is more like Eddie Feigner’s King and his court, the four-man softball team which used to tour North American sandlots.

The Nos. 5-thru-9 spots in the batting order is easy pickings for opposing pitchers, hitting .129 (22-for-170) since Sept. 10 with four RBIs (three in one game).

Danny Valencia and Anthony Gose have each made seven starts in those spots. Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins have made six each, Munenori Kawasaki five, Dioner Navarro four, Josh Thole, John Mayberry and Dalton Pompey three apiece, Steve Tolleson two, Colby Rasmus and Dan Johnson one each.

Good for Pompey starting the year off at class-A Dunedin excelling all the way up the ladder to be in the outfield at Yankee Stadium for Derek Jeter’s final game against the Blue Jays.

Yet, when management drew up off season plans to play meaningful games in September, the plans did not call for Johnson, Kawasaki, Pompey, Goins and Gose to all be starting at Yankee Stadium as they were Sunday.

And we don’t think the Jays figured Juan Francisco, released by the Milwaukee Brewers March 24, would play the most games at third.

Or that Kawasaki, signed a year ago to be a back-up at triple-A Buffalo, would make the most starts at second.

But fear not ... we saw a Sportsnet graphic entitled the Fab Five on the weekend.

Pictures, along with their names and ages of Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Pompey, all 21, along with Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison, both 23, were shown.

And then another graphic of the Yankees Core Four.

Head shots of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada appeared on the screen.

We know it’s late in the season, but it might be a tad early to make that comparison.

The Way It Was Supposed to Be:

Rotation: R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan. Bullpen: Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, Jeremy Jeffress, Aaron Loup, Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond. Closer: Sergio Santos. C: Dioner Navarro. Infielders: 1B Edwin Encarnacion, 2B Ryan Goins, 3B Brett Lawrie, SS Jose Reyes. Outfielders: LF Melky Cabrera, CF Colby Rasmus, RF Jose Bautista. DH: Adam Lind. Bench: Josh Thole, Eric Kratz, Maicer Izturis, Moises Sierra. DL: J.A. Happ, RP Casey Janssen.

The Way It Was:

Rotation: Dickey (32 starts), Buehrle (31), Hutchison (31), Happ (26), Marcus Stroman (20), McGowan (8), Morrow (8), Liam Hendriks (3). Bullpen: Loup (70 games), Cecil (64), McGowan (44), Redmond (41), Delabar (30), Santos (26), Aaron Sanchez (22), Chad Jenkins (21), Rogers (16), Rob Rasmussen (10), Neil Wagner (10), Morrow (6), Stroman (5), Daniel Norris (4), Jeffress (3), Brad Mills (2), Bobby Korecky (2), Kyle Drabek (2), Steve Tolleson (2), Kendall Graveman (2). Closer: Janssen (47 games, 24-for-29, 83%). C: Navarro (98), Thole (39), Kratz (18). 1B: Encarnacion (78), Lind (38), Juan Francisco (15), Bautista (11), Danny Valencia (6), Dan Johnson (6), John Mayberry (2). 2B: Munenori Kawasaki (48), Goins (42), Lawrie (26), Tolleson (24) Izturis (9), Chris Getz (6), Jonathan Diaz (1). 3B: Francisco (57), Lawrie (44), Valencia (30), Kawasaki (14), Tolleson (11). SS: Reyes (137), Diaz (10), Goins (8), Kawasaki (2). OFs: Melky Cabrera (135), Bautista (125), Rasmus (80), Anthony Gose (69), Kevin Pillar (28), Darin Mastroianni (6), Sierra (6), Nolan Reimold (5), Brad Glenn (4), Pompey (4), Encarnacion (2), Mayberry (2), Tolleson (1), Cole Gillespie (1). DH: Encarnacion (39), Lind (36), Navarro (20), Bautista (13), Francisco (10), Rasmus (8), Reimold (7), Johnson (5), Cabrera (3), Kratz (2), Pillar (2), Sierra (2), Glenn (1), Gose (1).