The Blue Jays faithful are restless. But why is there so much angst among the fan base?
After another loss on another tough start by Yusei Kikuchi, the Jays are now tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card, half a game behind the Seattle Mariners. At 61-53, they’re tied for the 4th best record in the American League.
However, the team is currently on pace for 86-87 wins, which would be a regression from 91 wins last season. And for a team featuring an All-Star lineup with deep postseason aspirations, surely it’s discouraging to see the sports pages filled with headlines like “Free-falling Blue Jays add to misery by getting pasted by visiting Orioles”.
A quick glimpse of the comments section following any Jays-related article would suggest that for too many fans, this doesn’t feel like a Wild Card team when they can’t consistently win against playoff contenders in Tampa, Minnesota, and Baltimore as well at home against Cleveland and the Orioles. The Jays are only 4-8 in August, and they’ve lost 8 of their last 11 games.
They’ve also missed a golden opportunity to gain ground on the Yankees, who are 2-8 in their last ten and 3-10 in August.
If the Jays had gone 8-4 so far this month, they would have gained another 5.5 games on the Yankees, which would have put them 4.5 games back with a big upcoming four-game series in the Bronx this weekend. Instead, they remain 10 back in the AL East.
Why so much angst Blue Jays fans?
And, as we remember from 2021 when the Jays missed a “Game 163” tiebreaker by one lousy game, these head-to-head games versus AL East opponents are crucial. 34 of their remaining 48 games are against teams in the AL East; if they can’t beat these teams, they’re simply not going to the playoffs. There isn’t enough runway left in the season to make it up.
Which might explain the angst for a fanbase that has seen their team finish in 4th place four times in the past six seasons, and who hasn’t won a single playoff game since 2016? Are we becoming the Angels of the East? The Padres of the American League? Wasting the years of team control of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette amongst other young stars?
Starter Hyun Jin Ryu is out for the season after UCL surgery, and free agent signing Kikuchi has been an unmitigated disaster – the Jays are 6-14 in his starts, and 55-39 when anyone else starts.
Did they do enough at the Trade Deadline?
Furthermore, the team has sputtered since the trade deadline this year, unlike in 2015, when they went on a tear down the stretch after acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, and won the AL East pennant before advancing deep in the postseason to the ALCS.
Price went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts that year after he came over from the Tigers on July 30th for pitching prospects Matthew Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Daniel Norris. Fans remember this stuff and are rightly asking if current Jays General Manager Ross Atkins did enough to improve this team for the postseason.
The best cure for this angst would be a solid winning streak, with series wins piling up. As Manager John Schneider added last night in his postgame press conference, “it’s more about urgency than patience right now. Season’s getting short.”
Indeed it is, with only 48 games remaining, and seven teams all within 2.5 games of one another bunched up around the Wild Card standings. That urgency to win will have to take the form of better pitching and defense, and more of doing the little things necessary to win baseball games at this level.