Another year, another disappointing ending to the baseball season for the Toronto Blue Jays. A 3-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series sent the Blue Jays packing and the Indians to the World Series.
People will point out Jose Bautista’s statement after the Blue Jays’ Game 4 win suggesting Indians Game 5 starter, rookie Ryan Merritt, is probably shaking in his boots as the reason Cleveland were able to shut down the Blue Jays. They say that provided motivation for the Indians players but that’s a cop out. It’s another gutless, empty reaction by some petty people who call themselves fans. It also doesn’t help that critics of the Blue Jays continue to look the other way and be an enabler for the bad officiating in the series.
But the real reason the Blue Jays lost the series was the lack of patience hitters showed at the plate. In fact, Blue Jays hitters showed very little of it since the start of September. That led to them going from being a division leader to having to battle for a wild card spot. They would go on to win the wild card game against the Baltimore Orioles and sweep the Texas Rangers in the division series but we didn’t see much of a change in their approach. It was tough watching guys like Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion going after bad pitches especially the first and second pitches of their at-bat. I know they are better than that. Blue Jay hitters made things easy for Cleveland pitchers and I don’t think their staff should get the credit that the media are giving them.
Let’s get serious for a moment. ALCS MVP Andrew Miller did not throw a strike in any of his four relief appearances in the series. A number of the called strikes were actually out of the zone. The umpires simply had no clue what the strike zone was. But we also saw Blue Jay hitters getting riled up as a result. They continued to swing at everything that was being thrown to them, regardless of who was pitching and where the pitch was located. Sometimes keeping the bat on the shoulders when the pitch crosses the plate, even if it is a legitimate strike, pays off.
Some would say a team stacked with home run hitters like the Blue Jays don’t show a lot of patience at the plate. While that maybe true, I would argue that some of baseball’s best bashers zero-in on one area when they look to take a big cut. If the ball doesn’t come into their sights, they let it go. That to me is patience and, again, the Blue Jays hitters showed very little of it during the last 4 weeks of the regular season and in the postseason.
A lot of changes are expected in the off-season. Bautista and Encarnacion are free agents once the final out of the World Series is recorded. Perhaps Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro will get players who aren’t trigger happy at the plate. That and adding a left-handed bat or two could turn the Blue Jays’ fortunes around in 2017.
Patience is a virtue and we will have all winter to practice that.