The Blue Jays Were Bombed Into Submission in The Bronx. But This is NOT the Time to Surrender
Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
When at a loss for words, quote Winston Churchill:
“Danger gathers upon our path. We cannot afford – we have no right – to look back. We must look forward”
Feel better? Probably not. What Toronto experienced over three seemingly endless nights in The Bronx this past week can easily be diagnosed as traumatic for Blue Jays supporters. The hopes and anticipations nurtured during this most extra-out-of-the ordinary 2020 baseball season must seem like orphaned pipe dreams going into this weekend’s series against the Philadelphia Phillies. If a pandemic-shaped season seems more like a world war, the Yankees series was Hiroshima for Toronto. The Blue Jays were bombed into submission, plain and simple.
For three games only.
Allow me to quote another beleaguered leader who stood amongst the ruins surrounding him for inspiration:
“It’s Fine. We’re fine. We won nine straight series or tied. We had a bad series. That happens.”
For one of the few times during his tenure as Blue Jays manager, I whole-heartedly agree with Charlie Montoyo. Even the most passionate Toronto fan, looking through (as JFtC’s Karen Soutar has coined) Blue Jays colored glasses, cannot remain unshaken by the the Yankee beatdown. It was ugly, painful and embarrassing to witness. But even in the Year of the Short Sample Size, a 3-games series is just a speck on the landscape view of the 2020 season.
Montoyo’s “gee=whiz” folksiness may seem trite, but Churchill himself couldn’t have been more eloquent addressing the aftermath of this disaster. EVERY MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM experiences games and stretches like this. Even pennant contenders. Cleveland, with perhaps the best pitching staff in the American League, just ended an 8-game losing streak. The All-Powerful, All-Mighty Yankees are 1 game under .500 over the past month. If you looking for franchise-related comparison, take the 1992 Blue Jays (cue choir of angels). The first World Championship team in Toronto history, who became the first team in history to not be swept in a series over an entire season, still lost the season series to a very mediocre Red Sox team (5-8).
Sh– happens, and Toronto still managed to survive a sh–storm in New York. Starting pitching-I thought starters were supposed to pitch at least 5 innings. Bullpen-no truth to the rumor several Blue Jays relievers are now facing arson charges in New York City, but you could hardly be surprised if they were charged. Lineup-had a few big hits, but far more swings and misses. But the series is OVER-time to look ahead to the final 11 games still on the schedule/ The final four road games of 2020 against the Phillies this weekend.
Then a shuffle off to Buffalo for 4 games with the Yankees and a chance to put the Orioles out of their delusional miseries next weekend. Will the Blue Jays go 11-0 and make us all deliriously optimistic-no, no, no. Will they pull a Gene Mauch and lose all 11 games and fumble and bumble away a sure playoff berth-of course not.
As of this writing, prognosticators who make their living taking away your hard earned monies at sports books have Toronto with a 96.4% chance to make the playoffs. Even if I were Bill Gates or the Rogers CEO, I would not waste a penny betting against the Jays making the playoffs. Having spent considerable time watching Toronto’s 2 closest competitors for the final playoff berth (Seattle and Baltimore) this week, I would put the team’s chances of making the playoffs for first time since 2016 at 964%.
Not that there aren’t considerable tasks ahead of the Blue Jays over the next fortnight. Montoyo and the front office need to come up with a plan for games not started by Ryu and Walker. Roark and Anderson have made things interesting for the braintrust, but not in a positive way. While the bullpen has performed above any realistic expectations for the majority of 2020, the loss of Giles for the year and the uncertainty surrounding the availability of Romano and Pearson poses a plethora of questions.
Roles need to be earned and solidified for the post-season and Montoyo needs to resist the temptation to get an arm warmed-up in the bullpen every time an umpire calls a ball. Recent results notwithstanding, the Blue Jays lineup has taken shape now that the majority of productive hitters are healthy. The lineups run out by Montoyo during the Yankees series are reasonable facsimiles of what will be utilized during the Wild Card Series.
While the Twitter and social media masses are growing restless about Shaw in the 3 spot, I personally believe his insertion there improves the on-base successes of the top third of the order (Biggio Bichette, Shaw) while lengthening the lineup 4 through 7 (Grichuk, Hernandez, Guerrero and Gurriel). Even the Jansen/Kirk and Panik/Villar duos at the end have proven adequately productive over the past weeks. Repetitions and game situations will improve this lineup’s chances for post-season successes. There is enough positional flexibility amongst this core to allow for rest before the high-stakes games begin.
Blue Jays fans take note-the .531 winning percentage and playoff eligibility with a week to go is truly more than you should have realistically expected in March, at the start-up point in July, and at the end of the season. No one has been a harsher critic of managerial and front office decisions than I have been. I mean how many people compared a playoff berth a year ahead of schedule to an impending Armageddon? This is not a perfect nor complete Toronto roster, and the odds of advancement past the opening 3 game series are long.
Any negative aspects of the 2020 season should be overshadowed by the progression and successes of a youthful team that should only get better with each passing season. While I live in Pittsburgh and basically must report from afar, I understand the reflex reactions of a Toronto fan base that has suffered Maple Leaf and Argonaut failures when the stakes are the highest. The past week’s results not withstanding, do not project the failures of the other franchises you barrack for, or even the heartaches immediately before and after the 2015-16 payoff thrills, on to the 2020 Blue Jays. Yes it hurts losing to the Yankees in the manner that the team did. But as the Spirit of Winston Churchill urged us at the beginning of this article-LOOK FORWARD! Losses happen. Sh– happens. But faith fulfilled also happens, even if it doesn’t happen right away.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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