So the Jays are no longer in first place. They’re tied, technically, but by percentage points the Orioles are ahead after Baltimore won and the Jays lost tonight.
It was bound to happen.
Look at last year, for example. Thinking back, it sure feels like the Red Sox ran away and hid from the rest of the division early, but the reality is that the Yankees led for all but three days until May 29th, the Rays led variously for six days between July 22nd and the 31st, and for a few more days after that, as late as August 21st — even though on July 4th a year ago they were 6.5 games back.
Things change. Shit, the Tigers led the AL Central wire to wire last season, but only barely, as Cleveland charged at the end, coming from 8.5 games back on August 31st to finish just a game behind Detroit.
That doesn’t mean that we can just slough off every loss like they don’t also add up like the wins in May that built the cushion that has now eroded away did, or that we can’t be upset about and point out genuine problems with the roster or bad patterns that appear they may be emerging, but is anybody actually doing that? Sure maybe it happens in the minds of those myopic shitheads rushing to be the first to forecast doom for this team that, because they’re too lazy to bother trying to grasp any of the big picture stuff about how this sport works, they constantly indulge in taking some laughable victim posture over, but in reality? Nah.
It was always going to be a fight. And yeah, things have gone a little bit sideways of late. The Jays are 9-16 in their last 25 games. Brett Lawrie is out, Juan Francisco is slashing .182/.250/.382 since the start of the St. Louis series, and Steve Tolleson has been even worse. But… whatever. No, really. They need an infielder, yes. They need to get Edwin Encarnacion out of the damn outfield. They could use throwing away a few less winnable games. But it’s a long grind still left — yes, it’s early. The front office is going to be active on the trade front, and they’re certainly not a team that’s going to be six games below .500 for every 25 they play — and the Orioles, who are 20-12 since May 21st, aren’t a 101-win pace team either.
The pitching has been surprisingly good, and that was the case again on Thursday. And they’re still in first place. They’ve been baseball’d out of a few runs of late, with some good pitching performances against, some ill-timed double plays and balls finding gloves — their BABIP over the last 30 days is a fourth-worst-in-MLB .281 — but the Jays are certainly far more capable of producing offence than they’ve shown over this unfortunate stretch. Some might not believe it until they see it, but you’d have to try pretty hard to be pretty blind to the talent on the roster to get there.
It’s not good that they’ve let the lead that they built slip away, even if there never should have been the expectation that it wouldn’t, but they still control their own destiny, and that’s beyond fine. They’re a good team, and there’s absolutely no reason to believe they won’t continue to be right in the thick of it. They might not end up making the playoffs, but that was always the case — and if it turns out that way, it won’t for a reason that any asshole should take as an affront to their hopes and desires, it will be because it was a thing that didn’t happen. That’s sort of how it works. The margins are thin in the day-to-day, and it can be frustrating, but it’s all about the big picture, and for the Jays that one still looks bright. Shit, if what looked like a surefire Reyes double in the eighth off Otero gets down — or maybe even if Josh Thole doesn’t butcher his way into making it a double play — it’s very possibly that none of this discussion would even be necessary. Think about that.