September 13, 2012
In a city where terrible sports franchises reign, the Toronto Blue Jays for some reason, get quite a bit of leeway. Fans in Canada’s largest city are all over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto FC franchises, but oddly enough the Blue Jays have escaped their scorn for several years now even though they haven’t made Major League Baseball’s postseason for about 20 years now. That benefit of the doubt could soon disappear for the ball club though as fans are starting to realize the team is just as unsuccessful as the rest of the city’s sports offerings.
Alex Anthopoulos, the general manager of the team, is starting to feel the pressure of the fans as they’re beginning to scrutinize and criticize his moves. This will be the 19th consecutive season that the club has disappointed its fans and it’s finally starting to bother them. You could imagine the uproar in other American League cities such as Boston and New York if their teams were inactive in October for 19 straight years. It just wouldn’t be acceptable.
In Toronto though, it seems like anything goes. The NHL’s Maple Leafs hasn’t made the playoffs for eight straight years and it’s been 45 years since they’ve hoisted the Stanley Cup. The Raptors NBA basketball team has made the playoffs just five times in their history and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC are once again dead last in the league and haven’t come anywhere near a playoff spot since joining the league back in 2007.
Nobody’s quite sure why the Blue Jays get off easy while the rest of the franchises take it on the chin from the fans. It’s not because they’re the new kid in town as the Raptors (1995) and Toronto FC (2007) were born quite some time after the baseball club debuted back in 1977. It probably has something to do with the fact the Blue Jays won back to back World Series in 1992 and 1993 after being in the league for just 15 seasons. But they’ve only made the postseason five times in club history.
The Jays are once again having a typical season. They start well enough and then the wheels start to fall off sometime in mid-summer. If the baseball season was only 80 games long, the club might actually have a chance to make the postseason. But as mid-September rolls around they’re out of the wild card playoff race and the pennant race and hover about 10 games below .500. The franchise is in a constant state of rebuild, but there’s no sign of progression on the diamond.
A growing number of Blue Jays supporters are starting to call for the heads of Anthopoulos, field manager John Farrell and even Paul Beeston, who is the club president. Fans are also unhappy with Rogers, the media giant that owns the team as they idly sit by while another losing season has come and almost gone. Many fans laid off of Anthopoulos as they felt he was making the right moves to turn the team into a contender.
However, the current season was supposed to be one in which all of the moves started paying off. Instead, the team has taken a step in the wrong direction. Some fans will give the GM the benefit of the doubt again and point to the team’s numerous inquiries as the reason for their failure. With home run king Jose Bautista out of the lineup for much of the season as well as several pitchers, the Blue Jays have an ideal excuse for missing the playoffs yet again. But Tampa Bay and the Yankees have also had their share of injuries and are both in the race for postseason play.
Baseball’s a team game, but fingers are being pointed at individuals such as starting pitcher Ricky Romero, who was supposed to be the Jays pitching ace. But in reality, he’s been a huge disappointment and one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball since June, going 0-11 since then. If your ace is struggling it’s hard to build a good starting rotation around him. Without a couple of elite starting pitchers, the team will once again struggle next season.
But for some reason Rogers, who recently joined forces with Bell, another media monopoly and bought Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, they don’t want to part with any money to help improve the baseball club. Big free agent signings are few and far between in Toronto and there’s no sign that’s going to change in the near future. Beeston said the Jays should be able to make the postseason at least twice in the next five seasons, but there’s simply no evidence that they’ll make it even once.
If the ball club can add some quality pitching next season, they could have a decent rotation as long as Romero can turn things around. The other starters, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and Carlos Villanueva aren’t bad, but the rotation still needs some upgrading. There are also some question marks in the field with center fielder Colby Rasmus batting below .230 even though he’s launched 22 home runs. Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion are having good years, but baseball’s cyclical in nature. This means a player may have a great season followed by a mediocre one. The Jays need everybody to be at their peak at the same time.
Perhaps if Blues Jays fans start speaking out their mind like Maple Leafs followers do, Rogers will finally take some notice of the empty seats at their stadium and will do something about it. But as Toronto sports fans know by now, their long-time suffering is usually just ignored.