Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hitting the Reset Button, Not the Panic Button


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Growing up, I can't say that I ever hit the reset button on the family Nintendo Entertainment System very often. More often than not, the only instance would occur when somebody bumped the button by "accident" if they happened to be losing.

While hitting the reset button while fully entrenched in the underwater level on TMNT would be met with disastrous results back then, hitting the reset button now might not be a bad idea for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Let me clarify what I mean by reset button; by no means am I insinuating "blowing the team up", firing the manager or resorting to any other extreme measures to shake up the team dynamic. What I mean is to simply forget April ever happened, and move on.

Four weeks ago, excitement about the Toronto Blue Jays was higher than its been in the past 20 years. But it really feels like it's been much longer than four weeks since the Blue Jays took the field on Opening Night, doesn't it?

That's because fans have already been put through the emotional ringer already; and that's only after the first 26 games of the schedule.

All across the blogosphere and Twitterverse, Blue Jays fans are wondering whether now is the time to hit the panic button on the 2013 season. Perhaps the better choice would be to punch the button next to it instead.

Yesterday's off day and the weekend allowed some ample time to think about things, and some time away actually brings some sense of clarity. And hopefully with the off day for the players yesterday, it provided some clarity for the players as well.

I believe it was R.A. Dickey who said something to the effect of "the Blue Jays are a bunch of great players, but they aren't a great team right now". And he's absolutely right about that statement; it's as if there are 25 guys out on 25 different islands right now.

Simply put, the Blue Jays are not playing good, solid fundamental baseball. Rather than finding ways to win, they are finding ways to lose or hand wins over to the other team.

As much as outside expectations aren't supposed to affect players, perhaps there are a lot of guys on the Blue Jays roster who are in fact feeling the weight of the fan base resting on their shoulders. Perhaps they're trying to prove their worth rather than just do what's made them successful in the past.

It's not exactly a quantifiable statistic, but yes this team is definitely "pressing". They are almost trying too hard, and that is clearly evident in their strikeout totals, lack of on base percentage, and their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

It would be one thing if the Blue Jays were playing sound defensive baseball and pitching extremely well and just not hitting, but that's not the case. On any given night, the Blue Jays struggle to get all three of those things clicking at once.

The pitching is starting to come around, the defense is something that will likely trouble them all year, but the hitting is the one area which is very concerning. The Blue Jays possess some of the best hitters in the league, and yet they continue to struggle at the plate when games late and close.

Given that the Jose Reyes injury was a huge blow to the Blue Jays lineup, but he's still only one guy out of nine in that starting lineup. There are eight others who are expected to step up and contribute in Reyes' absence.

Jose Reyes could still be in the Blue Jays lineup and get on base at a torrent pace, but if the Blue Jays continue to hit .195 with runners in scoring position, it wouldn't matter much anyway if Reyes was healthy anyway.

Also, having a star player injured is hardly a situation that is unique to exclusively just the Blue Jays. Look around the league and you'll see many teams who were picked to be contenders with key players on the disabled list.

Here's where it's difficult as a Blue Jays fan; on one hand, there are the pundits who are telling folks that it's too early to panic. But if the team did get out to a torrent start, then it would come with the same disclaimer; it's still early.

With all this said, I don't believe it's time to hit the panic button on this season. No team's fate is ever completely decided by the end of April. In fact, no team's fate is ever sealed by the end of May, June, July, and sometimes August.

That's the beauty of baseball; in any other sport, a team mired in a month-long slump would be well out of contention. But in baseball, there's still five months of regular season left for the Blue Jays to figure things out.

2 comments:

  1. Good take. I'm worried but not panicking yet. The Jays are 9-17 right now. I could imagine them going 17-9 next and be back at .500 with 4 months still to play. Here's hoping, anyway.

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  2. This

    As much as outside expectations aren't supposed to affect players, perhaps there are a lot of guys on the Blue Jays roster who are in fact feeling the weight of the fan base resting on their shoulders. Perhaps they're trying to prove their worth rather than just do what's made them successful in the past.

    Hammer on nail, Ian. I was having similar thoughts as I watched Sunday's game which, even though they lost, looked to me that things were slowly coming together.

    There was a lot of hype about The Trade and when Dickey came along a lot of folks had visions of WS trophies dancing in their heads. There's still a lot of baseball left to play and this team is too good to continue on the current path.

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