Blue Jays closing in on embarrassing MLB record as first-inning woes continue

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

If you went to bed early yesterday and missed the Blue Jays’ late-night affair on the west coast in Oakland, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much … in the first inning at least.

Sure, the game would end dramatically, with A’s center fielder JJ Bleday walking it off on the first pitch in the bottom of the ninth to win 2-1, but long before that, the Jays achieved a level of futility not seen in nearly 90 years when they were quietly set down 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning.

It marked the 29th consecutive time the team had failed to score in the first, leaving the 2024 Blue Jays alone in second place on the all-time list for such first inning futility, behind only the 1937 Boston Bees, whose streak reached 31 straight games.

Yes, you read that right, the Boston Bees, as the Boston Braves were then known, 16 years before they moved to Milwaukee, and 29 years before they finally settled in Atlanta.

Seriously, the last time a Major League team was as consistently pitiful in the first inning as the 2024 Blue Jays, the pitchers who were shutting them down had names like Lefty Gomez, Dizzy Dean, Tex Carleton, Slick Castleman, and Peaches Davis.

The last time a team was as hopeless as the 2024 Jays in the first inning, their fans had to follow the entirety of the streak on the radio, since baseball was still two years away from broadcasting its first ever game on a newfangled device called the television.

In fact, the last time a team was as bad in the first inning as the 2024 Jays, that very same team was still mourning the retirement of Babe Ruth, who had played his final few games with the franchise only a year and a half earlier.

You know how people marvel that Shohei Ohtani is doing things not seen since the days of Ruth? Well, so are the Jays.

One might wonder why the Blue Jays have been so consistently punchless in the first inning this year. It’s not just the 29 straight games. On the season, they’ve scored in the first only eight times in 63 tries.

Could it be that the first inning is the time when Jays’ hitters are most bound to the gameplan laid down by the front office and dutifully passed along by the coaching staff, a time when hitters are furthest away from using what their eyes can see and what their instincts tell them, instead of what some algorithm blindly proclaims is going to happen?

Is it possible that this has become some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, with the first few batters in the order all too aware of the team’s historic first inning struggles and thus pressing to break the curse, the dreaded trying to do too much?

Maybe the Jays’ first inning struggles are simply a naturally resulting statistical anomaly, an effective inevitability, when you’re talking about one of the worst batting lineups in franchise history.

In any case, two more games of such futility and the Jays will have tied the Bees; three more and they will be alone in first place.

Can they make it? You’ll just have to tune in to find out. Although, with the way things have been going, you would be forgiven if you’re not tuning into games until the top of the second.