The Toronto Blue Jays poor start to the 2017 season creates difficulties for themselves, fans and writers alike.
It is Friday, April 14, 2017 and the Toronto Blue Jays possess a MLB worst record of 1-8 and find themselves 5.5 games back of the division lead. To fall so far back in just 9 games is almost unimaginable. And yet, here we are. The negative narratives are flying, fans are hurling themselves from the bandwagon and the club is facing an early uphill battle. Life is difficult for everyone involved.
Every year, we watch players file into their respective Spring Training complexes and begin to shake off the rumour-induced stupor that a MLB winter brings. Rather than debating trade rumors, we shift our focus to baseball being played again. Of course, this also marks the beginning of the constant reminders that spring numbers don’t mean anything; that it is about getting in shape and being healthy. It doesn’t matter if a guy struggles to make consistent contact, or that a pitcher gets rocked since he is just trying to build up arm strength. So, when the Blue Jays finished at 12-18 (.400), it was easy to respond with “Talk to me in April when the season starts. That’s when games matter”.
The calendar turns to April, and games have started to mean something; fire is breathed into the narrative of games being so important. It is easy to dismiss spring struggles, and most fans are able to hold off their frustration until the season starts. But, here we are in April and the Blue Jays are quickly falling behind in those games that matter.
In September, it is difficult to make up games lost in April. That is the line used by folks raising alarms about a 1-8 start. There is truth to that. Heck, we don’t even have to look to September. Think about how hard it is to climb out of a seven game hole. Just to get back to .500, Toronto will have to pull off some magic. Their recent skid has made things very difficult for themselves to find that rabbit in the hat.
Obviously, the counter to that argument is that there are still 153 games and 5.5 months to go in the season. There is plenty of time left for this club to return to the expected level of play. This breeds the “It’s early” mantra that so many are tired of hearing. For the above reasons, people aren’t satisfied with that. They’ve waited for months to see baseball again. They’ve waited months to build on the exciting memories they have of last October. When the experience is so vastly different than that, it amplifies the frustration of losing.
So, people write the team off. They pronounce the season is already over. They put up a wall to protect their tenuous emotional attachment to a professional sport. All of this highlights the difficulty of being a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays in April 2017. The club has been playing uninspiring baseball for almost two weeks now. It is all we know of this year’s iteration and it makes everything else look bleak.
The injuries to Josh Donaldson, whose calf is not cooperating with the aspirations of fans, makes things look even worse. In times of struggle, you look to your big guns to lead you out of the dark. When the only signs of hope are fading from sight, what else can a fan do? Panic seems to be the answer.
Seeing attendance increases in each of the last three seasons, the Blue Jays are riding a boon in interest and engagement across Canada. We hear about major increases in minor baseball leagues from coast to coast in the wake of postseason excitement. Simply, more and more fans have been captivated by this team. With increased excitement stemming from success, it is understandable that there would be an opposite reaction to starting a season 1-8. If such an emotional attachment is forged from winning, the opposite is true of losing. The start makes it difficult for a good number of people to be “fans”.
Most Blue Jays coverage comes to you from people who either grew up or are still fans of the team. For example, Jays From the Couch has a dedicated staff who are all fans of the Blue Jays and have been for a long time. It is that fandom that drew us to write and to cover this team for our readers and listeners. Yet, all writers have to balance that passion for the team with providing appropriate coverage. That means that alarmist narratives can’t be the order of the day. Instead, logic and reason must prevail; professionalism dictates it.
Yet, watching games where bats completely miss meatballs, or pitchers seem to have never heard of a strike zone causes a lot of TV shouting and hair pulling. As fans, we get incredibly frustrated. It is something that is inevitable, but tweets and posts have to temper that frustration. The cursing and yelling that happens on the couch has to be set aside for more professional conduct. This is the difficult balance that many that cover the Toronto Blue Jays face. Some handle it better than others. But, the struggle is real.
Providing that logical assessment of the state of things can be difficult when you have a team that is struggling like this. This franchise-worst start makes it difficult to remain calm and logical, let alone find positives. Telling people that there is a lot of season left and that they shouldn’t panic is not received well. Even when players say that there is nothing to worry about, people don’t buy it. Instead, the calls for panic ring more true. Pointing out that this team has a large number of players who should be trusted to perform at a much better level holds little water when what is right in front of our eyes tells us something different. In short, faith is a rare commodity these days.
The fact of the matter is that this is a very good team in the midst of a very bad slump. There are positives to be taken from the pitching staff, which has been quite effective. But none of that matters to folks who look at the standings and see numbers that don’t match up with their hopes and dreams.
The Toronto Blue Jays have started the 2017 season in a rather large hole. This could make their whole season more difficult. They’ve done it to themselves. It is how baseball works sometimes. But, that is a pill that many fans will find difficult to swallow. The blind faith of ‘support your team, no matter what’ is becoming rare in the early games of this season. The anger and frustration is real and it is making things difficult for players, executives, fans and writers alike.
If there is a silver lining out of all of this, it is that the same passion that is behind the early frustrations will result in very loud stadium rocking cheers and euphoria if, and when, this team performs like they are capable of. It’s a promise that the Blue Jays are trying desperately to fulfill. Turning around their season will make things easier on everyone involved, fan and employee alike.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.