The Garbage Clowns Knew First…
Welp. Here we are. They’re not finished just yet, but they certainly will be if they don’t start winning immediately, and winning a lot. Even if they do, the Jays now find themselves behind Cleveland, in addition to the Tigers, Yankees, and the Mariners, who currently hold the final Wild Card spot in the AL. Stranger things have happened than a team coming from where the Jays are to make the post-season, but the club hasn’t made their task any easier in the last week. As last Tuesday began and the Jays headed into their first game against Milwaukee, in order to just ensure a tie for that second Wild Card spot, over their final 37 games of the year they would have needed to play a half game better than the Yankees, and three-and-a-half better than both the Mariners and Tigers. Tough, but not impossible. As it stands today, to get a share of the Wild Card they’ll need to be a half game better than Cleveland, two games better than the Yankees, four-and-a-half better than Detroit, and five-and-a-half better than Seattle over the course of their 32 remaining games. To give some perspective: the Jays weren’t even 5.5 games better than the Mariners in May, when they went 21-9 and Seattle was 16-14. The BP-powered playoff probabilities listed at MLB.com currently gives the Jays a 4.0% chance of making the playoffs.
It’s not early anymore.
Jose, Can You See?
As the annual grim ritual march to irrelevance — *COUGH* — gathers steam we seem to be shifting nicely into finger-pointing mode, and Jose Bautista sure put a target on his back and a narrative on Sunday, getting himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes. But it wasn’t, of course, just the manner in which he was ejected that irked fans so much — though, rightly, that was part of it — but it was also the fact that, in a crucial affair, his replacement, Nolan Reimold, ended up making a giant shit-turd of an extra-inning error, and striking out to end the game, and a rally-that-could-have-been that saw the Jays place runners on first and third with none out and — ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME???!!? — failing to score.
At one point this afternoon I contemplated doing an Anatomy Of A JaysTalk post to try to rein in some of the madness, but then Joanna of Hum and Chuck reminded me that I basically responded to all this already. More than a year ago.
“Hey,” I sarcastically intoned, “let’s all try to extinguish the fire in Bautista’s belly by taking giant steaming shits down his throat. At least it allows us to pretend there’s some explanation– some manifestation of karma, some vengeful umpire-led conspiracy, some unseeable force of poor leadership and selfishness– for the way the season has gone so far. I mean, it’s far easier to point fingers and think we’ve got it all figured out than to actually grapple with the notion that things may really not be as bad as the results make it seem and that the universe sometimes just isn’t fucking fair, eh?”
After showing a GIF of the argument, I went on:
“Have we really never seen that from a good team before? From a leader before? From a presumed leader, even though we don’t really know anything about what goes on behind closed doors, before? Or are we just twisting the meaning to make it fit with whatever negative bullshit our guts are desperately telling us we must think about this frustrating team? Because I think it’s the latter, and I’m not going to let that happen to me. It was an ejection. It happens. No need to insist it’s so imbued with deep meaning.”
Yeah, it was dumb, and the timing of it was terrible — especially with so much conversation still going on about Bautista’s post trade-deadline comments and his commitment to the club. But let’s not lose sight of reality. It was his first ejection of the season, and the first for a Jays player in 2014, after it happened six times last season. Jose now joins fellow non-leaders Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Albert Pujols, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday, Jason Kipnis, David Wright, and Russell Martin in getting tossed from a game this year.
Speaking of finger pointing: “Once again a Blue Jays game came down to a lack of execution and fundamentals, both offensively and defensively, further dimming their fading playoff hopes.”
That’s from Richard Griffin’s gamer for the Toronto Star, and while he’s not wrong… I dunno… can we maybe not sound the FUDAMETALS idiot alarm? The commenters on that one are already pretty deep up their own assholes.
But at least one man in Griff’s piece is pointing a finger in the right direction: John Gibbons.
“The bottom line is we needed him in the game. Say your piece and get the hell out of there. We’re trying to get in the playoffs, we need you on the field. He’s a marked man in this game. Bill Welke? I thought he had a pretty good zone today. It was steady, he was calling strikes. He was looking to call strikes. But we need you in the game.”
Bautista, as you’ve probably already seen, wasn’t exactly seeing it the same way as his manager:
“If you want to stick to facts, the facts are that because I did say something, anything at all, I did get tossed,” Bautista said, denying umpires may have it in for him. “I guess you would say yes (I blame myself). But again, I feel like what I said was nowhere near warranting getting ejected. But if you want to get the other side of the story, you’re going to have to talk to Welke.”
An umpire being accountable? Pfft. Good luck.
But you know what? Bautista might even have a point. Too bad his reputation will preclude most people from listening.
Rightly or wrongly, the confluence of all these troubles for the Jays has got a lot of people, myself included, starting to think more and more about what this team ought to look like next year. I’m not sure it’s as difficult a question as a lot of people want to make it out to be. Bautista and Encarnacion locked for up two years at way less than their market value? Hutchison, Stroman, Sanchez, and Norris potentially on the cusp of forming the core of a dirt cheap young rotation you can feel awfully good about? The increasingly real possibility of another failed season under Alex Anthopoulos will increase the volume of those wanting to insist the club do something drastic, but maybe you just play for 2015 and — especially — 2016. Maybe you take a step back and use R.A. Dickey as a chip to get a real second baseman. Maybe J.A. Happ gets it done. Maybe you swallow hard and pay a big portion of Mark Buehrle’s contract in order to get out from an even bigger portion of it and restore some financial flexibility. As scary as it is to keep on humping the diminishing returns of Jose Reyes, and to think of banking so hard on what will, by 2016, be a 35-year-old Bautista and a 33-year-old Edwin Encarnacion, maybe we’d do well to remember just how rare their kind of talent is.
Maybe these are questions better left for… y’know… every day of the off-season. Maybe Anthopoulos can beef up the damn analytics department in the meantime.
Tangent here, but it would be a little bit fucking nice if this winter we can avoid missing details like Dioner Navarro’s poor pitch framing, which was discussed by Jeff Sullivan at Just A Bit Outside last week. Sullivan looks at the total strikes gained or lost by framing — both by a team’s own catchers, and against its hitters — and finds that the Brewers are the top team in baseball (+400 strikes), and the Jays are the bottom one (-280). It’s not all on Navarro — Sullivan notes that Jays hitters have lost out on strikes because there are so many good framers in the AL East that they face with regularity — but still! He explains:
“What does a single strike mean? Calculations in the past have put the value of an extra strike somewhere around 0.14 runs. That’s not very much, but then, you can do the multiplication. These things add up fast. If you use that estimate, then the difference between the Brewers and the Blue Jays, here, comes out to about 95 runs, just from pitch-framing alone. That’s thought to be something like ten wins. That’s just the difference between the two extremes, but that’s an enormous difference.”
I’ll still take him over Arencibia, though.