Blue Jays: The struggle is real
As I tweeted on the weekend, something isn’t quite right with this team, and I can’t pinpoint it. After dropping 2 of 3 to Boston to fall 2 games back of the division lead with three weeks to go, there seems to be a lack of positive energy surrounding this club. Is it because, unlike 2015, the Blue Jays are now having to deal with expectations heaped on top of belief? Is Josh Donaldson, mired in a terrible slump, dealing with an injury? Can Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez recapture the effectiveness that has escaped them the past couple weeks? Are there personality clashes in the clubhouse, and do any of them deal with the significant contract situations that exist? Is it a combination or some or all of these? I don’t know if even the guys in the clubhouse have the answers…but they need to find them and fix this quickly.
One thing I do know is the Blue Jays hitters continue to take poor approaches at the plate. They’re still watching too many fastball strikes early in the count. Pitchers aren’t afraid to throw fastballs to this team to get ahead, which wasn’t the case last year because Jays hitters were aggressive and ambushed those pitches. By showing an occasional willingness to swing at fastballs early in the count, it keeps pitchers more honest, forcing them to throw off-speed or breaking pitches to try to get ahead when facing the top of the order. Right now, opposing pitchers aren’t afraid of this lineup, and that must change.
The Blue Jays next three series are against teams out of contention – the pesky Rays, Angels and Mariners. This is the schedule advantage I wrote about last month. If the Blue Jays are still 2 games out after these next three series, fans better prepare themselves for the real possibility the Jays could be relegated to a wildcard game at best.
Early positive World Cup impressions
Many observers, myself included, have been surprised by the intensity of the pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey games, particularly the Canada-US matchups, as well as by the success of the under-23 North America team. It’s creating some really interesting storylines heading into the real action, which begins at the ACC this coming weekend. Fortunately, no significant injuries have occurred yet…but if this level of emotion and intensity continues, it’s hard to imagine that a player of some significance won’t go down at some point. I’m still not sure the general public is paying full attention yet, but I think we’ll have a better sense of fan engagement after this coming weekend.
Argos somehow hanging in there
Toronto’s forgotten team has muddled along to a 5-6 record, tied with Hamilton for 2nd the CFL East after a 33-21 win at BMo Field Sunday, a bounce back from a demoralizing Labour Day loss to the Tabbies. Shortly after, it was announced the Argos threw up a Hail Willy, acquiring pivot Drew Willy from Winnipeg to help offset the loss of the (again) injured Ricky Ray. I was pretty vocal in my displeasure with the Argos’ bringing Ray back this year, choosing him over Trevor Harris last offseason, and Zach Collaros the offseason before that. I have a revelation for GM Jim Barker and the Argos organization — Ricky Ray isn’t going to sell one single seat for you, nor has he given you the best chance to win the past two seasons – hard to win sitting on the sidelines. I believe Barker has taken the Argos from a first place team to a third place team by sticking with Ray, and should the Argos fail to reach the Grey Cup this season, he needs to be held accountable. It would be very bitter irony for this organization if Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge is presenting the Grey Cup to the Ti-Cats or RedBlacks at BMo at the end of November.