Yeah… so that wasn’t much fun, was it? And hooooooo fucking boy, did it ever bring out the stupid. All sorts of fun stuff about the Jays’ “dumpster diving” and Brad Mills and their need for a pitcher and Drew Hutchison’s home splits and the struggling hitters and their inability to beat the AL East and and and and and and and…

It sure does get a little bit suffocating to feel that to be a part of the conversation you need to push back against deluge of recency bias, especially when the only arguments you have to push with don’t offer a lot of comfort, doesn’t it?

But that’s really where we’re at right now.

The Jays’ bats should get better as the team returns to health from their recent bad run of key injuries. The starting pitching hasn’t been great, but it’s been decent enough and may yet see a reinforcement. The bullpen they should figure out, and shouldn’t have trouble finding cheap pieces with which to do so.

All of this is absolutely true, yet none of it means the Monsters Of May are going to suddenly return and rocket the club to the top of the AL East standings with no need to look back. Health may not be enough. More key players may get hurt and further test the already thin veneer of depth the club has built (which, to be fair, isn’t any different from the depth other clubs have). Shit, they may stay healthy and still not have the horses. And of course if they keep playing the way they’ve been playing since about the second week of June they aren’t going to have a hope in hell of being within sniffing distance when all is said and done.

But that’s just it — that’s why I say “recency bias”. Why would they? Why would anyone else?

The Rays and the Red Sox and the Orioles and the Yankees have been playing well of late, chipping away at what was once the Blue Jays’ lead, and fans have a tendency to believe that at whichever point they’re looking, that’s where reality is. The true talent, they seem to think, of the Blue Jays is what we’ve recently seen, just as the true talent of those other teams is what we’ve recently seen.

Ignore the fact that the Rays and Red Sox were so bad until just recently that the Jays had jumped massively out in front of them, and pretend they’re not capable of ever going that poorly again. Ignore how well we know this Jays team is capable of playing, and why there’s no honest reason to believe they can’t get close to that level again when healthy, and just start sulking because you think you’ve seen this movie before.

Then vent all these angsty feelings online and piss all over anyone who dares to push back against the reality that’s been constructed on this warped foundation.

It’s easy!

And it’s especially easy because nobody can say that the team hasn’t been playing poorly. Nobody can assure anyone that it’s all going to be OK. As in-fucking-sufferable as it is when folks roll their eyes at the suggestion that it’s early — even when it is unequivocally, inarguably still early (and you’d better believe it fucking well is) — you can almost understand why they do it, because it’s been early so many times before and hasn’t worked worked out in our favour in eons. As dumbfounding as it is to see people nitpicking on the club’s waiver wire acquisitions (seriously, find something significant to piss and moan about maybe), it’s not like we all don’t want to see them get better players than Brad Mills, it’s just these are mole hills being made into mountains (and, frankly, like many of the Jays’ other scrap heap finds the Mills thing made sense enough — Jenkins has options and wasn’t being used for more than four or five outs at most, so wasn’t really a long man replacement for Redmond, who it was reasonably decided should get a chance to work in short relief given how well he’s pitched and how poorly so many others have).

Add in the fact that they’ve been going so badly and yes, it’s frustrating. But it’s frustrating for everyone, and especially, I think, for that great many of us who clearly see a season hanging in the balance — fully capable of going either way as it plays out over an exciting, if often frustrating, next ten weeks — and are constantly being asked to view some tinfoil science project made by a hopelessly negative yahoo who either thinks he’s had some kind of “aha” moment or just wants to be the first jumping off the bandwagon screaming that the team is fucked.

Or maybe everyone like that is cool, and it’s all just me.

Whatever the case, I’m certainly having all kinds difficulty not getting sidetracked, and while I know I should be better at ignoring this stuff, when it’s your business to be immersed in the conversation it’s hard not to feel it all rumbling in your direction like a stupid fucking wave coming at you from three sections over as you’re trying to focus your gaze on a key pitch in a key at-bat in the top of the eighth inning with runners on, two outs, and the Jays clinging to a one-run lead. And like those who just can’t help themselves but join in the wave in a crucial moment, I know that everyone just wants to be part of the experience and have the right to cheer in whatever way they please, it’s just… watch the game! You’re ruining it for everybody else!! Watch what a season actually goes like! Watch how teams have ebbs and flows over the course of a year! Watch how a single game itself is never over in the third inning — watch how it’s never a time to start venting like a spoiled child where it may not end in utter embarrassment.

Just watch the damn game. Maybe even try to enjoy it.

hutchpitch

The Red Sox are charging, and the Jays really ought to do themselves and the rest of baseball a favour over the four game set that begins tonight at Rogers Centre, and put these fucks out of their misery and straight into the “sellers” category. Not that that’s necessarily the best long-term thing for the rest of the AL East, given the excellent collection of prospects that Boston already boasts, but fuck it. Let’s not let these dickholes back into the race — and at just 7.5 games out of it, the folks in Boston could certainly be forgiven for thinking that they just might be able to do it. There’s a fucking world I don’t want to live in, eh? Especially if it comes at the Jays’ expense. And don’t look now, but it’s not exactly like the Sox are playing with a team full of total rotting garbage, either. It’s not going well for them, but there are still a lot of guys playing tonight that won themselves World Series rings last year and that were supposed to be the core of a definite contender this year.

In other words, remember when the Sox got themselves in a deep hole back in the first couple months of the season? Well… it was still early then.

Let’s do this. Go Jays!

Scuttlebutt

When starting on four days rest this season Drew Hutchison’s opponents have OPS’d .798 and he’s posted a 4.81 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP and 1.71 strikeouts for every walk. On five days rest that OPS drops to .720, with a 4.58 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, and 3.33 strikeouts for every walk. In the two starts he’s made on six or more days of rest the OPS is .375, the ERA 0.00, the WHIP 0.73, and the K/BB up to 3.67. He pitches tonight having had eight full days between starts.

Nails much? John Lott tweets that John Gibbons says Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind are in Florida, and both scheduled to take batting practice tomorrow, with Edwin also set to do some fielding as well. Nails mu– oh, right. Already said that bit.

Brendan Kennedy tweets that despite the strong attendance over the weekend, the Jays are still 198,000 behind last season’s pace in terms of attendance. Just guessing, but I think this might have had something to do with how the club did fuck all this winter.

Lastly, I didn’t bother mentioning it in today’s Assorted Weekend Thoughts post, because it simply goes without saying, but just so we’re clear, Colby Lewis is a dumb.

Next game(s): Tomorrow, 7:07 PM ET vs. Boston

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
2B Munenori Kawasaki (L)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
DH Jose Bautista (R)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
1B Dan Johnson (L)
C Erik Kratz (R)
3B Juan Francisco (L)
RF Anthony Gose (L)

RHP Drew Hutchison

Boston Red Sox

RF Brock Holt (L)
2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
DH David Ortiz (L)
1B Mike Napoli (R)
LF Daniel Nava (S)
SS Stephen Drew (L)
3B Xander Bogaerts (R)
CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (L)
C Christian Vazquez (R)

RHP John Lackey

santosvsnyy

Well here’s something of a surprise: according to a team release this afternoon, the Jays have designated struggling reliever Sergio Santos for assignment, bringing up Rob Rasmussen in his place, per a team release. Once thought to be the Jays’ closer of the future, and an exciting piece of the club’s bullpen as recently as the second half of last year, when he came back from injury, allowing four earned runs, eight hits, with just three walks and 22 strikeouts over 21.1 innings in the season’s final two months.

Now he’s in limbo, with the Jays possible looking to get off the hook for what remains of the $3.75-million he earns this year (he’s got a $6-million option for 2015, plus two more options for 2016 and ’17, with a $750K buyout on each option), or at the very least to get him to Buffalo, where he can try to fix the command issues that have been plaguing him, and to clear a spot for the eventual promotion of Aaron Sanchez.

Interesting. I don’t actually believe — as some are assuming — that this is about money mostly. It’s not like he’s pitched well enough to get claimed, and as stretched as we may be inclined to believe in our worst moments of dread that the Jays’ budget is, I have a hard time simply assuming that they’d need so badly to free up such a small amount of money. Hopefully it’s a situation where he’ll accept the assignment, go to Buffalo, give Sanchez the chance to help out, and then get himself back in line to contribute down the stretch.

And according to what Alex Anthopoulos has told reporters this afternoon at Rogers Centre, that is indeed exactly what is going on.

“AA says he didn’t explore a trade for Santos and neither did Santos ask to be traded. Hoping he’ll clear waivers and pitch in Buffalo,” tweets Brendan Kennedy of the Star, letting us know that the club has indeed immediately placed him on waivers.

Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi adds that the club will find out Wednesday whether Santos has been claimed or not, but the guess here — and evidently in the Jays’ front office — is that with something like $2.2-million owed him just for the remainder this year and his buyout, given the way he’s been struggling, he’ll get through and go to Buffalo. Davidi also adds that Anthopoulos insists that when healthy, Santos is a dominant reliever, and that the plan is to get him to Buffalo and get him back on track in terms of fastball command.

This year Santos has walked 17 batters in 19.2 innings (to go along with 26 strikeouts), and he’s been homer prone, line drive prone, not as ground ball heavy as in his excellent 2013, with velocity that’s been down a half a tick — though it’s certainly possible he’s been dialling back in order to help with his command.

He’s certainly not helping anybody here, and not helping himself by waiting for a chance here to get some garbage time innings in, so… yep. It actually all kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

And according to a tweet from Alex Seixeiro of the Fan, Jeff Blair is saying that he thinks Aaron Sanchez will be up with the big club by the weekend, for whatever that’s worth. So that’s a thing.

johnsonhits

The Jays did what was expected of them and what they needed to do over the weekend, losing to Yu Darvish on Friday, but gaining ground on the first place Orioles with a pair of wins against Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch, winning their first series of the “second half,” and coming through a series for the first time in who-knows-how-long without the spectre of yet some other player landing on the DL.

There was another spectre that hung over the club this weekend, though, and it wasn’t an unfamiliar one.

Bob Elliott tweeted on Friday night that he’d heard from a source that the Jays had been telling other teams that they can’t take any money back in trade.

That itself would be bad enough — though we could at least try to convince ourselves it’s possible the report is wrong, or that the club is only just saying that as some sort of bargaining tactic — but then Alex Anthopoulos had to go and be coy with media about it, issuing a textbook non-denial denial when asked about the money.

Prior to yesterday’s win, Anthopoulos told reporters, like Scott MacArthur of TSN.ca, “We can add players. We have the ability to have that dialogue at any time. I don’t see any reason why we won’t be able to add players and obviously players make money. No one plays for free.”

Not exactly a comforting statement, given that they’ve obviously added a bunch of league-minimum guys so far this year, and that the real question is whether they can add a big ticket item.

Jeff Blair writes about this subject as well, in his latest for Sportsnet, suggesting the Jays will have flexibility next winter, but only because of expensive players like Brandon Morrow, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera, Sergio Santos, J.A. Happ, Adam Lind, and Casey Janssen potentially coming off the books.

I don’t think they’re clever enough to have done so by design, but Rogers and the front office have certainly made it difficult to single one or the other out for blame in this mess. The payroll the Jays are running is very healthy — the 10th best in baseball — and the fact that it appears to be maxed out isn’t really Rogers’ problem, when you think about it. It’s the front office’s job to allocate the payroll dollars, and if ownership has given them a healthy budget, the problem — at least in their eyes and the eyes of those bizarrely sympathetic to them — lies with the front office. The reality is, if course, more complicated than that. One hopes that the front office didn’t max out it’s theoretical budget in the winter prior to 2013 with misguided assuredness that they would be so good on the field that future payroll concerns would be rendered moot. The coronation-like atmosphere that surrounded the club last season certainly doesn’t make one think that they mightn’t have been, though. And as I argued around here at the time of the Ervin Santana embarrassment, it’s not like executives who were part of J.P. Ricciardi’a front office should have been surprised when Rogers refused to keep pushing the spending maximum after their massive outlay of cash yielded so little return on investment.

So, it’s not all cheap Rogers, and it’s not all dumb Anthopoulos, it’s just more embarrassment for an organization that often seems to have a little too comfortable a relationship with embarrassment.

I mean, for fuck sakes, the team is so well positioned for the first time in so long, and this is what we seriously fucking get? Fans left to bicker over which tier of this organization is more short-sighted and inept?

It’s maddening as fuck that Rogers doesn’t see the value in pushing payroll just a few percentage points higher — figuring, then, that the abject failure of their handpicked baseball men is a better option than budging an inch on the budget for a branch of the company that provides such tremendous cheap content to their many TV networks and other other platforms, and that could be a strong, positive pillar of their brand — and also that the front office can’t or won’t convince them otherwise. It makes one understand, just a little bit, the chorus of fucks screaming, “DO SOMETHING, ASSHOLES!!”

I don’t think it’s necessarily that simple, though, either. The club was able to get players to sign off on deferrals this spring in order to free enough 2014 payroll to bring in Ervin Santana, and while it’s as least as much of a cruel fucking sad joke as that scheme (not to mention possibly more difficult to pull off in-season), one would think that option might still be out there. Or… like I said, maybe the original report is simply untrue.

The whole, sorry history of this ownership makes it seem entirely plausible, though, but for the moment we just don’t really know what to believe — and we probably won’t know for six more weeks, until after August’s deadline for trades involving players who have passed through waivers.

What almost especially sucks — “almost” because it all does indeed fucking suck — is that this is the conversation we’re having on a weekend where the Jays gave us signs that they may actually be able to snap out the funk they’ve been in. They scored runs, they looked like the break served its purpose, the schedule ahead is favourable, and they got word that some of their injured players are making better progress than expected. The ultra-cynical can be forgiven for thinking it’s just another serving of false hope, but Edwin Encarnacion is swinging off a tee, Adam Lind is out of his walking boot and swinging off a tee, and Brett Lawrie is out of his splint and taking ground balls, with swinging and gripping a bat his next step.

And frankly, as eye-rollingly frustrating as it would be to once again have the club try to use the fucking “hey, getting those guys back is as good as making a trade” line, at this point I can live with that. Just hold on for another couple weeks, for fuck sakes, and I can live with that.

The second half, and a crucial couple of weeks for the Jays begins, with Texas and J.P. Arencibia in town and… really I should have more to say about that than this, but I’m in a car and kinda can’t be arsed at the moment. So this is your Game Threat.

jpajohnson

OK, so this is mostly just an excuse to post Scott Johnson’s outstanding image here, but… no, actually J.P. Arencibia is still, somehow, news in these parts, and it’s certainly not going unnoticed that the Rangers today announced that he’s been recalled (after long spell in Round Rock, during which he moved out from behind the plate to try his hand at first base — gotta make them Yen!) and will be with the Rangers for this weekend’s series. Geovany Soto has been activated from the DL, meaning J.P. won’t be behind the plate. First baseman Carlos Pena has been D’d FA to make way for our returning hero, his replacement.

Yes, the Rangers are this bad.

dailyduce3-595

Well, you see refrigerator boxes. I see an outreach centre that’s changing people’s lives every day and WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SIMONE?

According to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, the Jays have “checked on” Alfonso Soriano, who is now a free agent, following his release from the Yankees. I’ve maybe been a little harsh about Soriano of late. Sure, he’s been hot garbage, even against lefties, this season (wRC+ of 80 in the split), but OK, OK, he was pretty terrific against them last year (147 wRC+, and about league average against RHP, too), so if you were going to try to catch lightning in a bottle, seeing as you’ve got a few weeks before everyone starts getting healthy, you could do worse than seeing if he’s got anything left and then just discarding him if he doesn’t. Rosenthal says Soriano is “mulling over” his options, but if he wants to keep playing, it’s not like he’s going to get a better assurance — or opportunity — than that. Right?

Keith Law’s mid-season top 50 prospects list came out today at ESPN.com (Insider Only), and Aaron Sanchez has fallen entirely off it. Yikes. It’s not all bad news, though, as Dan Norris made the list, ranked 37th. “He’s a long way from having average command,” Law says, “but at this time last year it was unthinkable that he’d improve enough to get a Futures Game appearance and a quick promotion to Double-A.”

It’s the unofficial mid-season, with the second not-quite-half about to get underway tomorrow, so there’s a lot of taking stock going on…

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star looks at what the Jays need to do to make the playoffs, listing several things from the obvious (get healthy, find an infielder, fix the bullpen), to the less obvious (lower the walk rate, get deeper into games), to the fanciful (hit better with RISP).

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet looks at some of the options the Jays can look to on the trade market, and they’re not all infielders. Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and Josh Willingham all present potential corner outfield solutions that would force Jose Bautista to move to third base and Brett Lawrie to second once he returns, which… actually that sounds doable, right?

Speaking of the bullpen stuff, John Lott of the National Post looks at how the once-strong bullpen has gone sideways for this club, and what some potential fixes could be *COUGH* Sanchez *COUGH*.

Gregor Chisholm reviews the first “half” of the season for BlueJays.com, and gives us five things to watch as the season comes to a conclusion, including how the young starters fare as they pitch more innings than they’ve ever been asked to, whether the offensive approach changes back to what made the club so successful in May, and whether the Jays can play well enough to justify the club keeping this team more-or-less together for another shot in 2015.

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