It was a few short months ago that Toronto was buzzing with excitement over rumoured talk that the city finally had a winning team in the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, as the world focuses on the playoffs, the only thing Blue Jay fans have experienced this season is the blues. On Tuesday, April 2nd, 48,847 fans poured into the Rogers Centre decked out in blue and white only to experience the beginning of the season's losing trend. Now, the Jays -- last place in the American League East (the league they were supposedly going to win) and Toronto is left asking one question: What happened?
Let's break it down. There were five main contributing factors that led to the let down of the Jays this season.
1. The Hype
2. Poor defense
3. Poor offense
5. Hindsight is 20/20
The Hype -- let's face it, Toronto has been so desperate for a winning sports team that we all may have jumped the gun when predicting the Jays winning season. Yes, some huge player trades were made that put the team in a favorable position but in sports, nothing is guaranteed. The media, the fans, and the franchise put far too much pressure on the players by predicting the outcome of a season with 162 games yet to be played.
Poor Defense -- the Jays did anything but take flight in the fields this season, experiencing some of the worst fielding the team has seen in years. Overthrowing the ball, dropping the ball, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time highlighted the fact that the players had not gelled yet as a team. And due to injuries in their starting roster, the Jays were forced to use utility players. Utility players can be moved around and are good at a number of positions, but they don't specialize and excel in just one. It's like going to your favorite hairdresser. All hairdressers are good, but your favourite is the best because they've had the necessary practice and won't drop scissors on your head (or in the Jays' case drop balls in the outfield).
Poor Offense - Now, it's one thing to have poor defense and let the opposing team score runs on you, if you can score more back! Unfortunately, the Jays did not do this and struggled when stepping up to the plate. It came down to one thing -- they lacked consistency. Players like Adam Lind were expected to have breakout seasons and the Jays lineup relied on him to have batting consistency. In baseball, managers base their lineups on the expected performances of their players. When they do not perform to expectations, the strategy of the lineup is ruined, resulting in a jolt of the team's chemistry. In the end, the Jays just couldn't pair a good offensive day with a good defensive day.
Injuries -- Big names, big expectations, and big injuries. The Jays' injury-plagued roster went from bad to worse throughout the season and they took the hit for this. Lawrie, Bautista, Morrow, Cabrera, Johnson (the list goes on), were all starting lineup players who fell to injury, thereby leaving major gaps in the field. Blue Jays' pitchers were the biggest let down. In baseball, good pitching can determine the flow of a game and the Jays had huge expectations for their pitchers this year, however most of them were injured or underperformed.
Josh Johnson is the best example of this. Johnson was expected to be the Jays starting pitcher and fans were thrilled to have Johnson added to the roster. Once the season came around, however, he missed the first month due to an oblique tear then returned to the mound only to put up a 2 and 8 record (winning 2 and losing 8!!!). Relief pitching was surprisingly decent, but not a lot could be done when most of the Jays' season was played by 2nd string or utility players.
Hindsight is Always 20/20. There is so much up for debate, discussion and criticism when looking back on this season. Players, coaches, and fans all wonder why the hype was wrong and what happened to the Jays. But looking at the predictions for the season and stats on the Jays' lineup, there was no way of knowing the season would end the way that it did. With coach John Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulous remaining with the franchise for next year, fans can only hope that they use their 20/20 hindsight to make changes and improve for the 2014 season. Toronto is ready for a winning team, the only question left is, are the Jays?
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