It has been very easy to criticize the Blue Jays this season. The team that we all thought would challenge for the AL East division title and break the long playoff drought in this city is currently languishing in dead last. They are 11 games back of the division leading Red Sox, 7 games back of the second last place Rays, and only a mere 7 games ahead of the Houston Astros, a team that many thought might lose over 110 games.
So yes, it has been easy to criticize this team. Easy to call them overrated. Easy to call them injury prone. Easy to call them terrible, awful, horrendous, or any other adjective in the book.
It has also been very easy to give up on them.
And you can’t really blame those who have. 2013 has been quite possibly the most frustrating season that I can remember.
A good comparison might be the 1986 season. I was only 7 years old in ’86 so far too young to remember, but I can expect fans would have been equally frustrated. In 1985 the Jays made the playoffs for the first time, winning a franchise record 99 games. In ’86 they brought back essentially the same core of players – Whitt, Upshaw, Bell, Barfield, Moseby, Fernandez, Key, Clancy, and Stieb. I’m sure expectations were high. But the team got off to a rough start. They went 9-11 in April, and on the morning of June 12 (the same date as today), they were 28-31, 11.5 games back of first.
But that team didn’t quit. They finished the season by going 58-45, ending with 86 wins. It wasn’t enough to make it back to the postseason, but
the never-say-die attitude endeared them to fans.
So what does that have to do with this year’s team you ask?
Well, to me anyways, last night was a great reminder that this team might also have the same kind of never-say-die attitude that the ’86 club did.
Forced to start 33-year old Chien-Ming Wang – the teams twelfth starting pitcher of the season – Toronto fell behind 5-2 in the fourth inning. Despite an Edwin Encarnacion two-run blast in the fifth, they entered the ninth inning still behind, 5-4. Then, down to their final strike, salvation – a solo home run by Jose Bautista knotted the score at 5. Toronto, of course, ended up winning 7-5 in 10 innings.
Look at what has gone wrong for the Blue Jays in 2013:
– their supposed staff ace R.A. Dickey has been beaten around
– 3/5 of the starting rotation has spent time on the DL (Morrow, Johnson, Happ)
– leadoff hitter and superstar Jose Reyes hasn’t played since early April
– the team defense has been terrible
– role players such as DeRosa and Kawasaki have had to become regulars due to injury
Faced with all of that, it would be easy for players to give up. It would be easy to simply go through the motions. It would have been easy last night, down to their final strike, for players to simply resign themselves to a loss, turn around, and head to the clubhouse with Bautista still at the plate.
But they didn’t. Everybody was standing on the top step watching. When Jose hit the ball, the entire team was willing the ball to be far enough, and to stay fair.
What I saw is a team that is not giving up, despite having so many reasons to.
So I give the Jays credit for hanging in there. They might be too far back to make a run at the playoffs, but like the 1986 team, I think they’ll go all out to make it close.
As fans, we should be happy about that.