May 20, 2013 by stevietz93
To say the Toronto Blue Jays have been a disappointment this season would be an understatement. Remember when they were the Vegas favourites to win the World Series? That seems like light years ago (Hey
Darth Vader RA Dickey, you know all about light years).
And here they are now – with the 10th highest payroll in all of baseball – sitting last in their division and 13th in AL. A far cry from the powerhouse that MLB “experts” and Vegas oddsmakers predicted them to be at the beginning of this season.
Before I get into the fundamental issues with the club and talk about all the “talent” they have, let’s simply take a look at the payroll and what that means (or doesn’t mean) in the game of baseball.
The Yankees and Red Sox respectively sit at first and fourth on the payroll list in baseball this season and every year, are at, or near, the top of the list. They also hold the first and second place spots in the AL East (oh, hey Toronto). But what a lot of people don’t understand is money does not buy success. The Yankees and Red Sox are outliers to the rule, not the norm. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels have the second and seventh highest payrolls in the MLB and both sit second last in their conferences.
And the argument doesn’t end with baseball. Before there was a salary cap in the NHL, the Leafs constantly had one of the highest payrolls in the league, never even advancing to a Stanley Cup. The New York Knicks of the NBA have sucked forever. And the teams that do have these high payrolls (Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Red Wings) won with players that came up in their own system, not through mass amounts of high-priced free agents. It’s hard to make these arguments today, because of the hard-caps in hockey and football and the soft-cap in basketball, but it does not discount the argument that money does not buy success (Ask the Miami Marlins who decided to just give their team the Blue Jays in the off-season).
For arguments sake (not saying the lower the payroll, the better), the Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays sit 26th, 27th and 28th on the MLB’s payroll list and have a combined winning percentage of .541 as of May 20th. Compare that to the Jays, Angels and Dodgers winning combined winning percentage of .400 and you start to wonder why these money-laden juggernauts can’t succeed. It’s because YOU ARE NOT THE YANKEES! AND STOP TRYING TO BE! And to those people who say the Yankees are old and injured, well, they still have one of the best records in baseball so just pipe down.
I could go on and on about how teams build success. The Rangers and Cardinals have high payrolls but teams that were built from within. The Orioles and Rays have farm systems to die for and a front office that knows how to replenish talent. And they Jays? They have entitlement issues and a flawed philosophy on how to play baseball. It was like that before the spike in payroll, and it’s more clear this season than it’s ever been in recent memory.
Let’s start with their approach at the plate:
**What a fairweather baseball fan thinks**
They Have Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus and JP Arencibia!!!!! THEY ALL HIT SO MANY HOME RUNS WHY AREN’T WE WINNING?!?!??!
The Blue Jays have always been among the league leaders in home runs hit. In 2010, they led the league with 257 home runs, finishing 46 home runs ahead of the second place Red Sox. In 2011 and 2012, they finished in the top 10. And this year, they sit 4th in the league. If you look back in history, the team has consistently put up big home run numbers. That could be attributed to the fact that they play in a hitters park, or the fact that they swing for the fences nearly every opportunity they get.
Don’t get me wrong, I love home runs as much as the next person. I grew up admiring Albert Pujols for his ability to hit one out of the park seemingly every other day. But the idea that home runs win you games couldn’t be further from the truth. Do they help? Of course they do. But they do exactly that. Help. When you have a team that is trying to hit home runs rather than simply trying to hit the ball hard, you have a problem. Case in point: JP Arencibia.
Everyone loves JP. He’s good looking (right Sam and Hannah?), he has a bumping Twitter page, and he can hit the ball a mile. He’s also a bad hitter, like most Blue Jays. People will try to make the argument that he’s a catcher and doesn’t need to be a great hitter, but that’s a cop-out to try and make his home runs seem worthy. He’s hitting .230 on the year. He’s also struck out 52 times in 41 games. To make matters worse? He’s walked twice. Yup, you read that right. Twice. When you have a strikeout/walk ratio of 52/2, you’re doing something wrong.
And he’s not the only one on the Blue Jays that who seems to enjoy swinging and missing. Colby Rasmus is second in the league with 59 Ks. He’s walked 12 times. Emilio Bonifacio has a K/walk ratio of 29/3. Rajai Davis’ is 17/3. Brett Lawrie’s is 28/8. And two of those players – Lawrie and Bonifacio – are batting below the Mendoza line.
Beyond those strikeout marks, the rest of the Blue Jays are still porous hitters as a whole. That’s not to say that every single player sucks, because Encarnacion is having a good year. Bautista, albeit prone to strikeouts and known for his pretty obvious admiration for nothing but home runs, is hitting the ball much better as of late.
But, in order to win more ball games, the recipe for success is simple. They need to get on base. Melky Cabrera is the team leader with a batting average of .288, which would put him 57th in the league. They’re next top eligible hitter is Encarnacion, who’s batting .255 and ranks 102nd. When you have one player in the top 100 in the league when it comes to batting average, it’s hard to score runs at a consistent pace. And with the strikeout/walk ratio of some of the Blue Jays I talked about above, it’s already proven that for the most part, this team doesn’t know how to walk either.
People can rag on the pitching all they want. Dickey hasn’t lived up to expectations. Buehrle is a shell of what he was in Chicago, not being able to stretch out quality starts. Morrow’s stuff has seemed to disappear. Johnson hasn’t regained the dominance he showed at times in Miami. The bullpen hasn’t shown signs of improvement. And Ricky Romero, well, everything there is to say about him has been said.
Obviously, any team would be a better team with improved performances on the mound. But to place the blame of a failed season (yes, I’m already claiming this a failed season) on the rotation would be ludicrous because every single position player on this team, save for Jose Reyes who’s injured, has either been horrible all year or had stretches where they’ve looked downright pathetic. And it’s a combination of both player performances and philosophy. The talent on this team is astonishing. At points, most players have shown signs of stardom at the plate. But if you want to win, it seems like Toronto is the wrong place for you. Individual accolades mean nothing if they don’t help your team win, and the home run-crazy Blue Jays sure as hell don’t know how to win.
Hopefully, the Jays turn things around. They’ve won five of their last seven games, manufacturing the majority of their runs through playing good, fundamental baseball instead of relying on the long ball. But even if they do somehow find their way back to some sort of respectability, it’s going to be really tough to make the Vegas oddsmakers proud. At 18-26, they’re already 9.5 games out of first in their division. To make any sort of run at the post-season, they’ll probably have to win 90 games to guarantee themselves a wildcard. So, that means they would have to finish the season 72-46 and hope teams like the Tigers, Red Sox, Orioles, Rays and Indians somehow forget how to win games.
Reading that makes it seem laughable. So yes, this is a failed season, whether you want to believe it or not. And this team better start learning how to play baseball instead of thinking this is a home-run derby in the hitters’ haven formerly known as the SkyDome or next season will be as pathetic as this one has been.
So good luck
Blow Blue Jays, make us proud in 2014.