By: Bob Elliott
CINCINNATI _ Josh Donaldson came to the defence of his shortstop and his manager Monday afternoon.
After being a dominant team in June, the Blue Jays limped into the all-star break one game below .500.
They hit the break without beads only bobbles: allowing seven unearned runs on seven errors in their seven-game trip to Chicago and Kansas City.
Shortstop Jose Reyes has made four errors, including two in Sunday’s 11-10 loss in Kansas City to the Royals. Reyes made one error in the first leading to two unearned runs and another in the sixth allowing the Royals to tie the score in the sixth.
“Reyes is one of the best shortstops in the game and I’m not making excuses for him,” Donaldson told reporters.
The third baseman defended Reyes and his two-error Sunday saying it “it was like 110 degrees on the field in KC. They didn’t water the field, so it was like concrete. I think he let both balls play him.”
Who is the better defensive shortstop Ryan Goins or Reyes?
“Reyes makes $22 million or whatever, of course Reyes is better,” said Donaldson, “I want the ball hit to Jose Reyes when the game is on the line.”
Jose Bautista, Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak each have made one error each in the past seven games.
“The manager always has his best lineup on the field late in game when we have the lead,” Donaldson said. “Chris Colabello will tell you he’s not the greatest left fielder. If we have the lead Gibby has someone else there.”
What led Donaldson down the path to talking about fielding was a question on how the Jays have not been able to put all three facets -- hitting, pitching, and fielding -- of together at the same time. That’s the sign of a young team, a team that broke camp with six rookies, yet only two remain.
“We haven’t run the bases too well either, we continue to give away free outs to the other teams,” he said. “We make an out on the bases and the pitcher is able to take a deep breath.
“The hitting will show, the pitching has been there of late and our defence has been good. What’s important is picking up a teammate when he make an error.”
The Jays lead the American League in runs scored (486), ahead of the New York Yankees (408) and are third with a team average of (.264).
Donaldson said he was not there to “place blame on some guy in the clubhouse.”
“This,” he said, “is the American League East. We play in small ball parks. You’re not going to win games 2-1.”
Which are real Jays ... the team that had a winning record in June (18-9) or the team fans saw in April (11-12), May (12-17) and this month (4-8)?
“That’s why you play 162 games, every team goes through it’s ups and downs,” said Donaldson, “for the most part we give ourselves a chance to win the majority of the games. It’s just for the past 10 or 12 days we haven’t shown it.”
The Jays have the 12th best ERA (4.18) and are 13th among starting staffs (4.46). Asked if the Jays needed an arm for the second half Donaldson said he didn’t feel comfortable answering the question.
“I haven’t been here that long, I don’t know our prospects, answering a question like that makes me uncomfortable,” Donaldson said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if something happened.”
Jays fans want something to happen and hope the answer lies here on the banks of the Ohio in right-hander Johnny Cueto and reliever Aroldis Chapman.
With Derek Jeter retiring and Donaldson being the leading vote getter for the all-star game, he was asked if he was the ‘new face’ of baseball.
“I can’t say I expected to lead in votes, the Kansas City fans made a real push for their guys to the top. I had a few celebrities get behind me.”
CBC’s Don Cherry of Kingston put the word out.
Canadian fans responded.
“I never expected the way the Canadian fans got behind me, it was very humbling, they showed a lot of support,” said Donaldson. “I feel fortunate to be in this lineup. I looked at it at the time of the trade and thought this is ridiculous.
“If I’m a battleship, I’m surrounded by all these other battleships. Reyes is ahead of me -- pitchers are worried about him stealing so they are throwing fastballs -- and then Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin are all behind me.”
Donaldson makes his second straight all-star start on Tuesday night, one of 62 players who either played high school or college in Alabama.
George Foster started five, Willie McCovey four as Dixie Walker and Leon (Daddy Wags) Wagner started three apiece. Ozzie Smith started 11.
Donaldson has a way to go to catch the two state leaders: Willie Mays with 18 and Hank Aaron with 17.
Wow ... 18 years starting.
Mays’ stretch of excellence is longer the Jays post-season drought with is at 21 years and due to hit 22 if post-season play began this week.