Another year, another season without a playoff appearance. Welcome to the sports city known as Toronto.
We all know the situation with the Maple Leafs. So let’s focus on the other team going through playoff futility, the Blue Jays. After going 12-14, 3 games back of the New York Yankees to begin the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Blue Jays went 21- 10 in May and had a 3 1/2 game lead on the Yanks. On July 7th, the Blue Jays were on top of the baseball world sitting in first place in the American League East with a 38-24 record and a 6 1/2 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles. Then the wheels started coming off.
How do you account for such a collapse? I can sum it up with one word: injuries. It was the same situation in 2013 when the Blue Jays had all 9 regulars in a game only 5 times the entire season. Sure, there are other reasons: bad managerial decisions, lack of depth, playing against big market teams, etc.. But I have said it time and time again that the Blue Jays can only get in the post-season if they all stay healthy!
I can give you the exact date of the start of the downward spiral: June 22nd. That was the day Brett Lawrie broke his left hand on a pitch by the Reds’ Johnny Cueto. Jose Bautista was also hurt in the game. That was also the final game of a 10-game road trip that saw the team go 3-7 against the Orioles, Yankees, and Reds. But when Lawrie went down with that broken hand I knew that spelled the end of any playoff hopes for the Blue Jays, even though they were still in first place with a game-and-a-half lead.
The dominos began to fall soon after that: Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Melky Cabrera. The big bats in the line up were on the DL. Couple that with the struggles in the starting rotation and what you get in the end is a record of 83-79, 13 games back of Baltimore. A good number of them did manage to get back into the line up for the final stretch but they did not play at the same level like they did in the first half of the season. Sure, other teams have gone through injuries, namely the Orioles. But I will argue that the loss of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado proves their contribution to the team is more of a complimentary nature, not one who is relied upon to get on base and drive in runs like say Adam Jones or Nick Markakis.
I suspect there will be some changes in the off-season, not just those on the field but off the field as well. But if we continue to have guys who can get hurt easily we will never see the Blue Jays in the post-season. A new GM or a new manager won’t matter if most of our guys spend a good part of next season on the disabled list.