The Blue Jays have given up on the regular season. They’re not even trying. They’re resting their ace. They’re giving guys days off. Heck, they’re starting Mark Buehrle on Sunday with only one day of rest to give him a shot at reaching 200 innings. Their priorities are all out of whack. Don’t they know they are fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs? They had their fate in their own hands and they decided to take their foot off the gas and coast through the final series of the 2015 season.
Sound familiar? This is the reaction from a lot of Blue Jays fans over the past few hours in the wake of being walked off by the lowly Tampa Bay Rays. Ever since the club clinched their first playoff spot in 22 years, fans wanted more. They wanted the division title. The Blue Jays delivered. That wasn’t enough. We wanted the best record in the American League to guarantee home field advantage all the way to the World Series. We were like winning addicts: ‘more, more, more’.
But, now that the home field advantage might be in jeopardy, there seems to be a level of disappointment. It’s as if the season will have now been a failure. Funny how that is the case when it was not too long ago that most people just wanted to see “meaningful baseball” in September. Now they want it all in October. But, have we made too much of this? Has our new found addiction caused us to blow something out of proportion?
Toronto Blue Jays
A few days ago, I wrote about how home field advantage would provide a leg up for the Blue Jays. I took great pains to find out how each of the contending teams performed on the road and at Rogers Centre. And, it is still true. The Blue Jays would do better if all of their games were at Rogers Centre. But, let’s think about this whole thing. Firstly, you can’t win a series without going on the road. And, you’re likely going to need to win on the road. Home games do give you an advantage, but it is not like you can avoid the road. As obvious as that sounds, some folks are acting like the Blue Jays would play all of their games at home, that’s how much importance they put on this issue.
Secondly, the Blue jays have already secured home field advantage in the ALDS. That is not in question. Whether they play the AL West winner or the Wild Card winner, they’ll be doing so with the home crowd on their side. Combine the advantage in the first round with the advantage already secured for the World Series, thanks to the AL victory in the All Star game. So, all of this hubbub has been about the ALCS. For one series. Yes, its important, but is it as important as we are making it?
The format for the ALCS will be 2-3-2. In that format, assuming the Blue Jays don’t have home field advantage, they are looking at 3 games in a row at home. Even if they lose the first two, they get the next 3 with all of the advantages of playing at home. Ultimately, the home field advantage only comes in to play for one game more than not. One extra game. And, that is only if it is needed.
There are no guarantees in baseball. Ever. The Blue Jays certainly could have been pushing toward the best record in the AL the whole time. Rather than resting after their division title, they could have been pulling out all the stops to best the Royals. But, they chose to deal with the here and now rather than what could be. They chose to rest David Price to ensure he’s well rested for the playoffs. This sounds like looking ahead to an eventual run of depending on him for a lot of work. They decided to show Buehrle mad respect by giving him his chance to continue his streak. They choose to run out a lineup that some consider second rate in favor of resting regulars.
Imagine for a second the backlash if this team had kept grinding its regulars for a shot at a series they may not play in. What if they didn’t rest guys up and fell flat in the first series. Criticism would have come fast and furious for not resting guys when the division was in their hand. Instead, the club went the safe route. They took the opportunity to gather themselves and prepare for the playoffs.
None of this is meant to say they made the right choice. But, in a day and age where baseball teams look for every advantage possible, we have to wonder if the behavior of the Toronto Blue Jays indicates that there may not be much of an advantage here. While we all thought that having the best record in the American League would provide an advantage in the postseason, perhaps the club has decided that that advantage is outweighed by having rested regulars and having Buehrle compete for history.
The Blue Jays have given up complete control of the whole home field advantage. They once were in the driver’s seat. Now, they need to win on Sunday and have the Royals lose. Fate is out of their hands. But, perhaps the goal isn’t as important as we’ve all made it out to be. Perhaps, we should not lose sight of the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays are American League East champions. Perhaps, we should just sit back and enjoy the game(s). The club has made its decisions. And, that’s the beauty of baseball. They make decisions, they play the game and we get to sit back and question their every move. But, if it leads to the ultimate prize, we get to celebrate!