Blue Jays Fans Green With Envy Of Red Sox?

Tonight Toronto starts their last series against Boston this year, and one can expect many in the (likely small) Rogers Centre crowd will be a little envious of the Red Sox. Not so much because of the season they’re having. Although certainly far and away better than Toronto’s, at 76-68 the Beantowners are a long-shot to make the playoffs, being 8 games out of the wild card race with only 18 games left. At best, mathematically, Boston can win 94… or 14 less than they did in last season in their World Series winning campaign. No, in that Boston has a lot in common with Toronto – a lot of disgruntled fans wondering what happened to their beloved team this year. Why Toronto might be envious is that the ownership of the Red Sox said “enough is enough” and did something about it. They fired their GM (although his title strangely enough was President of Baseball operations, the club lacking anyone with the title “General Manager”) Dave Drombowski.

Drombrowski is a great baseball man with lots of years experience, and the team’s own press release laud him for three-straight division titles and the World Series. But to them, it’s “what have you done for me lately?” They decided this year has been a bust in Beantown and someone had to pay for it and who better than the man who created the roster. Dombrowski was shown the door with 3 weeks left on the sched and another year on his contract. People were surprised.

Team manager Alex Cora said “surprised, shocked honestly” when asked for his reaction. Pity poor Alex, who’ll no doubt be looking over his shoulder a bit more for the rest of September. Star JD Martinez said about the same, that he felt “probably the same reaction you guys had – just a shock.” He added, “it’s a business and that’s their call” which hardly seemed like a strong endorsement.

MLB discussing the firing on their website noted that for all the success he’d had in the past, in the off-season he chose to let Craig Kimbrel leave and not replace him with a proven closer, that he re-signed Steve Pearce who’s been injured much of the time and that he gave a massive $145M contract extension to formerly-stellar Chris Sale, who in turn has struggled with velocity and elbow issues and tossed the worst year of his career, going 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA and few runs of consecutive good games. To counter-balance, they note he also extended Xander Bogaert’s contract and the shortstop is having his best year yet.

More damning, Dombrowski did nothing much at the trade deadline, not adding any significant impact players to a team with a decidedly weak bullpen and on-again, off-again rotation. The team rewarded that by going on an 8-game losing streak.

So the Red Sox have one “off” season and decide they need a change in direction to make sure they don’t have two disappointers in a row. If only Toronto fans were so lucky.

To point out the obvious, expectations for the Blue Jays this season were lower than they were for the defending world champions. Many picked them for 4th place in the division (which is where they should finish only due to Baltimore having one of the worst teams in recent MLB history), but some chose to believe they could pass Tampa Bay and at least give a little hope of competing for a Wild Card spot. Sports Illustrated, for example back in spring picked their over/under number as 86.5, meaning they expected them to have a winning year. Instead, they’re having a horrible season, sitting at 55-89, and still waiting for their first win of September.

Attendance is down, fans are still furious over a number of trades which seem to have done nothing at all but cut payroll at the expense of wins, and the Jays are now looking probable to lose 100 games for the first time since Donna Summer ruled the airwaves – 1979. Even the highlight of the season has been… less than the bonanza promised. While there is hope for the future in young players making their debuts – Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, not to mention Lourdes Gurriel, Danny Jansen , Ryan Borucki who made short appearances in 2018 – even that looks a little dull compared to some of the competition. Vlad has hit very well, and in some years would look like a potential Rookie of the Year. He’s clipping along with a .276 avg, 15 homers, 61 RBI, 45 walks and an .809 OPS, establishing himself as probably the team’s most reliable hitter only a 109 games in. Bo Bichette set records with his hitting streak to begin his career and is still hitting over .300 after six weeks. Tampa pitcher Charlie Morton says of him “he’s giving you tough at bats. It’s pretty impressive.”

Impressive indeed. But not quite as mind-blowing as the rookie campaigns of Pete Alonso of the Mets (47 HR, 109 RBI, .968 OPS),or Yordan Alvarez of the Astros (.316, 24 HR, 72 RBI in only 71 games)…and both of them were far below Guerrero and Bichette on MLB’s “prospects” list at the start of the year. And with good hitting prospects Biggio and Jansen both struggling at the plate, one has to wonder if the “kids” are getting any kind of quality coaching that their counterparts elsewhere are.

Yet the official policy from the Jays seems to be “don’t worry, be happy.” Manager Charlie Montoyo has frequently said the kids are “having fun” and seems nonplussed by the mounting L-column. “I’m enjoying this. I love these kids. They play hard. How they play, the culture that’s going on in the clubhouse, it’s great!” he exclaimed after Sunday’s loss completing the Rays sweep of his club. Indeed, for the most part, one nice thing about the year is that Vlad, Cavan and the other young ones all seem happy and smiling almost all the time.

Now, I believe in moderation. The great thing about baseball and it’s long, long season, is that every team wins some, loses some. It teaches you to roll with the flow and not get too bent out of shape with one bad game let alone one bad at bat. It happens. I for one don’t need to see another hitter throwing a tantrum over an iffy strike call in a meaningless June game or hear about another pitcher breaking his hand punching a wall because he just gave up a home run. And yes, baseball is supposed to be fun.

But for all that, one also needs to think the players on the teams are actually trying or give a damn. One recalls the scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane storms into a cheerful, partying clubhouse after another loss and tells them “this is what losing sounds like.” A little of that might go a long way in Toronto, where it’s difficult to tell whether the Jays won 16-3 or lost by that score from the players’ reactions afterwards.

But GM Ross Atkins continues to talk glibly about “controlability” and the wonders of Derek Fisher, the OF he got from Houston for two major league pitchers. Fisher, for the record, since coming over six weeks ago has hit .169 with 5 homers – and 7 hits that weren’t homers – 1 stolen base and strikeouts in 45% of at bats. His OPS is 22% below league average and his defensive range is listed as below average, with him already costing the team 4 runs defensively according to Baseball-Reference. Yet Atkins continues to say “it’s hard to find someone like Derek… potentially plus (defense) in corners, above average running, raw power.” I don’t know Fisher. He may very well be a wonderful guy. He might be a nice father and good husband, might have a decent sense of humor. I hope he is all those things. What I do know, and Jays fans are finding quickly, is that he is not a baseball player skilled enough for the Majors. Only Ross Atkins is blind to that.

Club president Mark Shapiro has been a bit more visible this summer and spoke recently about the team’s potential. “We really need to be exceptional. We can’t just be good. We can’t just be average…(the players) need to perform at an extremely high level. We hope that can happen faster than anyone thinks is possible.”

I hope he’s right. And think he just might be. But the first way to start walking that path is clearly to bring in someone who knows how to bring in talent when and where needed. It’s time for a new general manager.

10 comments

  1. badfinger20

    This is the subject I was going to touch on…in my first baseball blog. I was shocked that they fired Dave…this usually doesn’t happen after winning a World Series…it goes deeper. The end has come for GMs like him. Going for it all I think has passed for baseball teams…trading away much of your future to win it all. Look at the Cubs…they have never been the same since they traded for Chapman and the Whitesox pitcher. I’m not saying I agree or not… A World Series is a World Series… and if the Dodgers lose because of the bullpen in the playoffs or if they are lucky enough to make it…the fans will rain down on the front office for not getting the Pirate’s closer.

    Just read some forums about Ross Atkins…and some articles. A lot of articles say the same thing… “Ross Atkins defends…” Yea fans are not happy. I hope that guy works out but he is 26 years old…hopefully things will click in.

    • Dave

      Interesting point you make there…maybe just like the game itself seems to be changing, perhaps the idea of what a GM should be is as well. It surprised me the Sox fired him, I mean, World Series last year, they’re not AWFUL this year and had to put up with some significant injuries. A woman is one of 4 office types brought in to replace him on interim- that’s sort of neat. Wouldn’t that be something, to see a woman GM? I think I expected San Diego to be first to start chopping execs and coaches.

      • badfinger20

        Yes I thought Kim Ng would be the first woman GM… she has worked for everyone…it would be nice to have one as a GM.
        I thought the Sale extension was bad…the reason being is last year he had problems with his arm…a power pitcher…you don’t want to hear about injuries to his pitching arm or elbow…but Dave has won where ever he went.

        From what I read he wasn’t close to anyone in the owners circle.

      • Dave

        Congrats to your Dodgers… wasn’t much in doubt they’d take the division but still an accomplishment. Hadn’t realized this was 7 in a row now!

      • badfinger20

        Yea and now we will see what they will do and what rookies they place in the bullpen to tighten it up. Right after the Jays they fell into a funk…hopefully they will come out of it soon.

      • Dave

        I hope so for you. They’re the best team in NL but need to keep focus. It’s counter-intuitive, but if I was a manager I’d prefer to win division by about 4 games over 18. You want to win as many as you can, obviously but seems like teams that have huge leads and clinch early in September often just let themselves coast a bit. Then I think it gets tough for them to get back to full tilt right away in post-season. But every team is different

    • Dave

      Bet you’re happy now you didn’ t het that Vasquez from Pit.!! Man…the way baseball is I doubt we’ll ever see him on a mound again even if he somehow gets acquitted in court

      • Dave

        certainly is. I wonder if anyone like LA had an idea of it at trade deadline and backed off because of rumors? It shows though that what Bud Selig keeps saying in his book is true – baseball gets held to a higher standard than other sports. Can’t help but notice the discrepancy between the two with that Antonio Brown (?) accused now of rape by 2 girls plus other things and still playing in the NFL — baseball, as soon as a woman puts in a complaint, that player’s off the active roster before it ever goes to court. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing, but it is a difference between it and football or basketball

      • badfinger20

        You have a point there. Julio Urias of the Dodgers tried to get his wife away from him and she fell to the ground… the police said it wasn’t worth looking in and the wife said it was nothing… he was suspended for weeks anyway. They are held at a higher level.

        I can’t believe that Brown is still playing… but that doesn’t surprise with me with the nfl.

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