To say that the Toronto Blue Jays 2012 season was disappointing is an understatement.
To say that it was disastrous, awful, horrible, and unbelievably bad is better.
To say that it was one of the worst seasons in the history of the franchise might be the most accurate.
Before we go any further, there are two things I want to say, two things that should tell everybody just how bad this season was.
1 – I just returned from Italy, spending the past two weeks doing nothing but sitting in the sun, eating amazing food, drinking wine, and floating in the ocean. It was a great two weeks.
2 – I love baseball. Absolutely love it. I spent a few nights of my honeymoon last year following the Boston and Atlanta collapses, and thought nothing of it.
But over the past two weeks, the Blue Jays were essentially dead to me. Sure I checked the scores each morning (after all, the heavy bet I’m involved in about Toronto and Boston), but I didn’t follow the team. I didn’t check avidly to see how the players were faring, how the bats were coming around, or how the bullpen was performing. I didn’t care. And that is maybe the most damning thing I can say about the Jays 2012 campaign. They made me – an avid, crazy involved Blue Jays fanatic – not care.
And why was that? Why was this such a bad year? The Jays lost 94 games and finished dead last in 2004. They lost over 100 games in each of the first three years the franchise existed. In 1995, they were still technically the defending World Series champions, and finished 56 – 88 and in last place. Surely those years were worse than this one!
In terms of wins and losses they were, but in terms of overall anguish, they were not.
You see, this was the year that Toronto was supposed to contend. Several US media outlets even picked them to win one of the Wild Cards. The thought was that Toronto had put together a very good young team. If a decent amount of the Blue Jays players exceeded expectations, this was a team that could win the AL East. If the team simply met expectations, they would be in the mix for a Wild Card. Hell, if a few players had down years they would still be playing meaningful games in September with a chance at the postseason.
Fans expectations were high. I tried my best to temper my excitement, but my expectations were still pretty high. I thought at the very least the team would be in the running until mid-to-late September.
And that is what made 2012 so damn painful. Aside from Edwin Encarnacion and Casey Janssen, name me one player – any player – who played as well as we all thought they would.
Kelly Johnson, Adam Lind, and Yunel Escobar were pretty awful all year. Left field was a sinkhole. Brett Lawrie was mediocre at best. Colby Rasmus looked like the best player in the American League for one long stretch, and then like the worst player in the American League for the rest of the season. Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia, Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison, Sergio Santos, Luis Perez, and Kyle Drabek all got hurt. Henderson Alvarez regressed a lot. Ricky Romero regressed way more than a lot.
things worse, the talk and speculation that John Farrell will jump to the rival Red Sox at the end of the year won’t go away, a move that would leave a young, fragile, and broken team without a manager. Not ideal.
But to make things even worse, take a look around baseball. The Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics will both be in the playoffs. So will the Washington “Montreal Expos” Nationals. Three moribund franchises that most thought would be years if not decades away from the postseason all beat the Jays to the dance.
In addition, let me present to you this comparison:
Player A: .225 AVG / .313 OBP / .365 SLG / .678 OPS, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 14 SB, 62 BB: 159 K
Player B: .305 AVG / .363 OBP / .526 SLG / .889 OPS, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 14 SB, 52 BB: 85 K
Player A is Kelly Johnson. Player B, of course, is the man who the Jays traded away to get Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill.
Or how about this line: .304 AVG / .334 OBP / .516 SLG / .850 OPS, 25 HR, 91 RBI, 23 SB, 26 BB: 92 K
Those gaudy numbers belong to none other than ex-Jay Alex Rios.
Of course I know that much more went in to the decision making to get rid of those guys, and that ultimately the Jays are likely better off without Hill and Rios. The contract sizes were enormous, and neither was fitting in here. But still – doesn’t it just make you angry to see that kind of production and compare it back to what the Jays had this year? Just a little upset? I know it disappoints me a little, and just adds more fuel to the “2012 is the worst year ever” fire.
Don’t get me wrong, a few good things came out of this season. Casey Janssen looks like he might be a reliable closer moving forward. Edwin had a breakout year. Some of the kids got a chance to play and have looked pretty good. The triple-A team will be in Buffalo. Chad Jenkins might look good as a #5 starter in 2013. Maybe Adam Lind’s nice September will translate into something good next year.
But for me, the best thing that came out of 2012, by far, is this:
Expectations are once again low. Going into 2013 this is a team that is now set up to pleasantly surprise, not disappoint.
And I like surprises much more than disappointment.