I think most Blue Jay fans have come to accept the fact that with a young starting staff and a bullpen lacking consistency or a go-to guy, there are going to be some long nights for Toronto. Gone are the days of Doc going nine, or a 1-2-3 eighth courtesy of Duane Ward. Heck, even images of Billy Koch make one nostalgic at this point.
And if that were not enough, this season has an added wrinkle for Jay’s fans’ angst-filled viewing pleasure.
At least in years past, while Scott Richmond or Brett Cecil or Jesse Litsch were getting beat all over the field we could look forward to some fireworks from the bats. This year, in a cruel twist it seems not so much.
Where to begin? I’m sure this is a question being asked by everyone in the organization who has ever held a bat. They are hitting .238 as a team – twenty points lower than the Kauffman Stadium Bombers in Kansas City. They are dead last in doubles, near the bottom in extra bases, and striking fear into no one. When career .260 hitter Kelly Johnson, and Edwin ‘Eratic’ Encarnacion are be relied upon to carry the mail on a roster with two recent Silver Sluggers, something is wrong with the universe.
Coming into this year, hopes were high that promotional nights involving protective head gear would be necessary to protect fans from the cascade of long balls landing in the cheap seats at the Rogers Centre. A club that has generated a who’s who of no-name 20 home run hitters over the last few years seems pressed to generate a five-hit game at this point.
It is certainly not for lack of talent or potential. On paper – or perhaps in a video game - a lineup featuring the likes of Bautista, Rasmus, Arencibia, Lind, Lawrie, and Escobar appears quite threatening. In reality, they have been a golden opportunity to shave a few points off opposing pitchers’ ERA.
The poster-boy for this year’s power outage? None other than Mr. Bats himself. Now, I would count myself among those who feel he will come around eventually – though I would argue not to the tune of .300, 40, and 100. It certainly looks as though the secret is out – since the All-Star break last year, Jose Bautista has managed an Ed Sprague-like .233 batting average, and has seen his RBI and power production plummet 31 percent and 46 percent, respectively, from the peak of his powers during the 2010, 2011 seasons.
In Jose’s defense however, he is certainly not alone. Adam Lind seems barely worth mentioning, his breakout 2009 season a distant memory at this point. Yunel Escobar has yet to find his groove, J.P. Arencibia remains a Mendoza threat, and despite showing signs of a pulse recently, the residue of Colby Rasmus’ offensive potential must still be stuck to the clubhouse floor in St. Louis.
When the signing of Vladimir Guerrero – and do not get me wrong, who does not love Vladdy – but when the signing of someone who is old enough to have been a teammate of Lee Smith is enough to fire up fans, the odour of desperation seems undeniable.
When early games against the likes of the Twins, A’s and Mariners are slipping through your fingers in May, it will scarce be easier to hold on to the likes of the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox in September. Can the Jays’ bats turn it around? Certainly they can, but for any chance at the postseason, it needs to be soon. And when they eventually begin to heat up, Jays nation will take a collective sigh of relief, and the promise of a wild-card berth will not seem such fantasy. But until then, does anyone know if Carlos Delgado is busy?