As someone who started following the Jays as a gawky 11-year-old back in the miracle summer of 1989, I can't ever give in to the thinking that these Jays can't storm back despite improbable odds. Figuring that you wouldn't believe me if I told you the '89 Jays didn't break .500 for good until August 15 (!?!), here's the sched, disbelieving disbelievers!
Nevertheless, that such an odds-defying run has happened only once in franchise history does give me great pause. What's the answer now? Another Mookie Wilson at the trade deadline? At 35-37 (and trailing both the Rays and Orioles) for 7 games back in the Wild Card race, we near the half-way point of the season in a highly unenviable position. It's a struggle to stay upbeat is what I'm driving at.
There's been plenty of analysis on what's gone wrong and subjectively we've all got a good idea on that note. So, rather than rehash that line let's spread the misery around a bit.
Sharing our pain:
Cleveland Indians (33-38). They were a game away from a World Series berth last year and now sit at a disappointing 6.5 back in the AL Central and 8.5 back in the WC race. They're not hitting like they usedta could, Fausto Carmona is hurt and Cliff Lee has been their best starter to date? Yeah? Not a team to discount though, not by a long shot.
Detroit Tigers (33-38). I admire GM Dave Dombrowski for going all in and trading prospects for Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera (but not Dontrelle Willis) because he saw an opening and wanted to exploit it. When I started following baseball back in the late '80s prospects were an unproven commodity you'd gladly ship off for proven veteran talent. Now that player salaries have skyrocketed, it seems like GMs have gotten way too overprotective of their younger talent if for understandable reasons. It hasn't really worked out according to plan in Motown, though, as the Bengals find themselves tied with the Tribe in the nether regions of the AL Central. They haven't exactly torn the cover off the ball as we expected them to, but that doesn't mean they won't in the second half. Trader Dave is so committed to winning this year so don't be surprised if he makes another big buy move before the deadline.
Atlanta Braves (35-37). This is a team that only a fool would abandon hope for even though their record is no better than the Jays. Their record in 1-run games has been laughably bad and they sit at third in the weak-ish NL East despite the league's second best ERA and 6th best offense. Go figure. Losing John Smoltz for the season hurts bad, real bad, and injury to the Ghost of Tom Glavine isn't helping matters, either. But as Ken Rosenthal says, this is a team "that's programmed to win." There's alot of room for improvement from Jeff Francoeur and Mark Teixeira, not forgetting that this is a team with the minor league depth to make a big deadline deal. I'd expect them to win the NL Wild Card.
New York Mets (34-36). Willie Randolph has paid with his job because Omar Minaya put together a very expensive club with an average offense and average pitching. I kind of like the idea of seeing them fall flat this year if it means they'll be bidding hard against the Yankees on Teixeira in the offseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers (32-38). You're probably sensing by now that I don't really like talking about NL teams that aren't the Braves or Diamondbacks, so I won't linger here. Bushels of young talent (Russ Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, Chad Billingsley, etc.), and an equal dose of crappy, underperforming, overpaid veterans. You'd rightly demand that JP be strung up had he authored either of the Andruw Jones or Juan Pierre contracts. Nedco did both and still remains employed. The Joe Torre Touch isn't helping much, but Raffy Furcal will save the team when he comes off the DL, right? They'll probably linger in the NL Wild Card race, but really need to swing a deal to really be competitive.
Taking S&M to a whole new level:
Seattle Mariners (25-45). They finally fired Jim Bavasi, the Peewee Herman of GMs, this week, but there's just no righting this ship in the short term. Everything about this team sucks ass, everything. That they'd fall off from last year's 88-win season was no surprise, but this far this fast, well, also not much of a surprise. I did think the Orioles and Giants would suck more, admittedly.
San Diego Padres (31-41). They've been much improved of late but still can't score for shit, a problem that's compounded by the fact that they play in the most extreme pitchers' park in the history of the game. These dudes were in the mix for a playoff spot until the final game of the season last year and look at them now. Just look at them. Pfffffffft!
So, what do you do with the drunken sailor early in the morning? You've got to let him sleep it off and sober up a bit. Give the Jays another month or so before you officially proclaim that they've been on the mat for a 10-count. And then at that point feel free to launch into all the "Fire JP/Gibbons/Jamie Campbell" torrents you like or wear a paper bag over your head when you go down to the Rogers Centre. In fact, I'll lead the letter-writing campaign if the movement needs a leader.
Tonight in Milly-wah-kay, the Jays send Shaun Marcum to the hill against the Brew Crew's fragile flower of an ace, Ben Sheets. The ESPN Supercomputer says the Jays only have a 42% chance of victory, so maybe they just might win one. Or maybe they won't. Trying to predict this game is like ordering a dog's breakfast.
-- Johnny Was