108: Just like 2015, Blue Jays about to face pivotal June
Canadian Baseball Network
Two words: Crisis. Averted.
I don’t know what else to tell you folks, it’s some bad baseball being played out there by the Blue Jays. So if you’re a fan of the team, you have take wins any way you can get ‘em.
Yes, I almost feel ashamed to admit it, but you even have to be content with a win against the lowly (and I mean LOWLY) Minnesota Twins. And yes, even if that same win comes by way of scoring just three runs in an 11-inning nail biter.
On the heels of the Jays’ recent five-game losing streak, such a loss to the now 10-30 Twins would have felt like an absolute nuclear meltdown (in the case of the Twins, you can go ahead and start evacuating the women and children).
The fact that the Jays were just swept and passed in the standings by the Tampa Bay Rays, who scored a truly depressing 31 runs over three games, certainly doesn’t do much to bolster any confidence.
Therefore, the importance of this current series against the reeling Twins cannot be overstated. Of course I know it’s still early(ish), that there’s no need to panic, that there are 119 games left and all that.
But trust me, this whole thing gets a little more complicated when you look at who the Blue Jays face next ...
Quick disclaimer - how you ingest the following paragraph is going to depend heavily on your life’s philosophy, you know, whether you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of fan.
After their current four-game series in Minnesota, the Toronto Blue Jays will play their next 12 games against AL East opponents. In fact, 19 of their next 26 games will be divisional match-ups. In that span they will play the 24-15 Baltimore Orioles seven times, the 25-16 Boston Red Sox six times, and the 18-22 New York Yankees six times. All before June is out.
Need I remind you, the Blue Jays are just 20-23 and currently sit six games behind the division leading Orioles and Red Sox.
So, yikes ... or, hooray?
Obviously there are two ways to approach the upcoming schedule. The more optimistic fan is to going make the argument that this an opportune and legitimate chance to make up some ground on those division leaders. If the Jays have a (really) good stretch, it could begin to even things out and change the complexion of this young season.
Of course, if the team’s offence had shown any sustained signs of waking up that would seem like a much more plausible argument. But they simply haven’t, scoring a somnolent 10 runs over their last four games.
Which leads directly to the other possibility that looms over the next few weeks:
The Jays could end up digging their deficit even deeper.
Before you start screaming from the mountain-tops, it might help to reflect on where the Blue Jays were at this point last season.
There were some very trying times during the eventually euphoric banner raising 2015 campaign, when the Jays ended up winning 93 games and claiming the division title.
On May 19 last year, the Blue Jays’ 18-23 record was actually worse than the one they hold today (20-23). They were also in last place and won just 23 games through the first two months, posting a .442 winning percentage.
Oddly enough, it was almost a year ago to the day that the Jays endured their last five game losing streak, from May 13 - May 17, 2015. And, upon reflection, the previous Tampa Bay series feels a lot like the Houston Astros series that occurred at the same time last season, when the Jays were swept with ease in four games at Minute Maid Park.
They gave up 24 runs while only scoring 15 in those four games in Houston, sparking Josh Donaldson’s now famous “This isn’t the try league” comment. They began their first of two 11-game win streaks a few days later.
But as prophetic and hopeful as the early similarities may seem, I would caution you to not simply accept them as some divine sign that the Jays are destined for another miracle second-half.
Let’s be honest, so far this division hasn’t looked anything like the same parity-laden AL East from 2015, and it appears very unlikely that the 93 wins the Jays managed last season will be enough for another title.
The Orioles are currently playing unconscious and, after winning just 78 games a year ago, the Red Sox were quick to empty their pockets during the off-season, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
Prior to the Jays winning in 2015, the last time the AL East champion had 93 wins or less was 15 years ago, in 2000. Right now the somewhat surprising Orioles are on pace for 100 wins (which seems unlikely yet still noteworthy).
No matter how many wins will be required to win the division, it’s clear that the Jays will have to start playing better against their AL East rivals. Last year they went 42-34 against divisional opponents. This year ... not so much.
Although 23 of their 43 games of been played against the AL East, the Jays have won only 10 of said games.
When you consider the schedule the Jays are about to face, it’s clear that trend has to change. Like, right now.
The crazy thing is, with the way the season’s gone nothing would be surprising. After-all, a guy named Biagini has just become the Jays de facto set-up man out of the bullpen. And who would have predicted that?
At this point, you may be better off taking your half-full or half-empty glass and throwing it against the wall.
Because honestly, who really knows anymore?