John Schuerholz, who was the architect behind the Atlanta Braves dynasty of the 1990’s and 2000’s, believed that it took 60 games to fully determine what kind of team you were working with. The Toronto Blue Jays, to date, have played 42 games and are looking like a team with two contrasting identities.
On one hand you have an offensive juggernaut, a team that has already had 8 games in which they have scored 10 or more runs. This same team currently leads MLB in Runs Scored (215), Runs Batted In (204) and doubles (87).
Unfortunately, for this offensive powerhouse, this is the same team whose alter ego takes its form in a woeful pitching staff. If this pitching staff had a superpower it would be the ability to blow a lead faster than a speeding locomotive.
As of last nights 4-3 loss to the Angels, a game which featured another blown lead, the Blue Jays have an abysmal 2-18 record when the offense DOES NOT score 5 or more runs. Furthermore, this is a team whose bullet ridden bullpen has 40.6% of their inherited runners score (worst in MLB).
So… Where do you go from here?
The popular and typical Torontonian opinion is to fire the coach. It’s no surprise that the hashtag #FireGibby is usually one of the trending tags on Twitter following (another) Blue Jays loss.
But how much can we really blame Gibbons for this poor start?
Is it his fault that the pitchers he has been given to work with are a motley group of past their prime veterans, rookies, retreads and cast offs? Is it his fault that he has to work with a bullpen that has trotted out stiffs like Todd Redmond, Liam Hendriks, Colt Hynes, Jeff Francis, Chad Jenkins and Ryan Tepera? Is it his fault that “trusted” bullpen arms like Aaron Loup are under performing?
What I will (eventually) blame him for will be Roberto Osuna’s (eventual) injury, stemming from Gibby doing his best Dusty Baker impression and pitching him until his arm falls off. But until that happens… I am not holding Gibbons responsible for how the pitchers have performed.
If anything, the main area of his control (the offense) has been the lone bright spot this season. We should be applauding Gibby for getting consistent production out of this lineup despite it featuring Ryan Goins, Chris Collabello, Steve Tolleson, Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar on a near-nightly basis. He has also done an admirable job of handling an injury to his leadoff hitter (Jose Reyes) by moving the likes of Devin Travis and Josh Donaldson into the leadoff slot.
Speaking of Donaldson, it’s hard not to feel for him. Dude is absolutely everything you want in a ballplayer and just a straight up winner. Sadly he is starting to realize that he is going to miss out on the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Personally, I am putting the blame more on GM Alex Anthopolous than I am on Gibbons. A few days ago, AA was on a Toronto radio show and said “that the Blue Jays need to find ways to improve.” This was said during a segment in which the Jays GM was discussing, among other things, the future of John Gibbons.
I find it funny that AA would throw Gibby under the bus like that when it is he, as General Manager, who is solely responsible for improving the on the field product and giving the Manager (Gibbons) the pieces he needs in order to win. It is great that AA went out and hit home runs with the Russell Martin signing, Donaldson trade, and what is looking like the Travis/Gose trade, but why did he stop there? Why did he not continue adding pieces and address the biggest and most obvious need, PITCHING!
The season is still (relatively) early and a lot could happen before all is said and done. I try and stay positive/optimistic by remembering that the Orioles were in last place at the end of May last season and went on to win the division. Perhaps AA has something up his sleeve. Maybe he is starting to finally realize that BETTER pitching is needed and will go out and do something about that. Then again, maybe he won’t. We are as likely to see that happen as we are to hear the old, tried, tested and true excuse(s) of “there wasn’t a move that made sense” or “we didn’t have the budget”… Either way, the 2015 season is just another one in a long line of high hopes and disappointments.
Before I sign off, I would like to share a text conversation that I had last night with my longtime friend and part time contributor, GW. This is what he had to say following last nights loss:
“I’m not gonna lie. I’m already starting to think about how close the jays could be to a strong rebuild- Buehrle and Dickey are expiring, you could trade one or both of Bautista or Edwin before next year…and then Reyes is the only leftover from this 3 year abortion. The 2017 jays already look better than the 2015 jays with no further tweaks. Donaldson, Travis, Pompey, Stroman, Norris, Sanchez, hutch, Hoffman, Osuna, Castro….then fliers on guys like Dwight Smith and Anthony Alford….there’s a team in there, and they would combine for a payroll about 60 or 70 million less than their current one. Lots of flexibility.”
What really hits home is that, as a lifelong Jays and Toronto sports fan, I am more expecting this to happen than any attempt to really win this year. #ComeTogether