May 10, 2007

Rock Bottom, Already?

Do you hear that sound? Listen carefully. It's the sound of bodies hitting the ground, jumping off the Blue Jays bandwagon. And fast.

The Toronto Blue Jays limped out of April with a 13-12 record. Not exactly a blazing start out the gate, but considering all the injuries they had to deal with in the first month of the season, it was a good month. The Jays knew what they had to do - simply tread water, and play .500 baseball until the healthy bodies of Reed Johnson, Troy Glaus, BJ Ryan, Gustavo Chacin, Brandon League and Gregg Zaun returned.

Well, we're 10 days into May, only Troy Glaus is back, and the Jays still have 13 wins. It's been a nightmare-ish couple of weeks. The Jays are mired in an eight game losing streak, which included a franchise record-tying six game winless road trip. Even Doc Halladay, the streak-stopper himself, was lit up by the Texas Rangers.

Going into tonight's finale of three game set with Boston at the Rogers Centre, the Jays are an astounding 9.5 games out of first place, behind those damn Red Sox. Nine and a half games, already, and we're not even half way through May. Oh mylanta. Somebody pass me the Tums.

The pitching staff, which somehow managed to keep it's ERA below 4.00 in April, has imploded. The starting pitching is terrible, and the bullpen is even worse. The loss of BJ Ryan has proved to be a huge one, as we all knew it would be. Josh Towers has been moved to the bullpen and Victor Zambrano has been hit and hit hard in his first two starts.

After last night's 9-3 spankage at the hands of Dice-K, I thought the Jays hit rock bottom. Things couldn't possibly get worse, I told myself.

Oh, but they have. I think it might be time to bring out the salami and cheese, Chuck Swirsky style, because this season might be over, mama.

News broke a couple of hours ago that BJ Ryan has had successful Tommy John surgery. See ya next year, BJ. He's done for the season.

No one can blame BJ. This is the first time he's gone on the DL in his nine year career. That's remarkable for a guy who throws as hard as he does.

I'm not exactly sure what the deal is behind Ryan's elbow injury, and whether the Jays knew it was this serious all along. JP Ricciardi came out and said that Ryan's apparent back injury in spring training was a lie, and that it was his elbow all along. The Jays placed Ryan on the disabled list on April 15th and said a couple of days later that there were no tears in his elbow, and that he didn't need Tommy John surgery. So what's the freakin' deal?

If the Jays didn't hit rock bottom last night, they sure as hell did this afternoon.

This team's in big trouble.

I was optimistic that the Jays would be able to compete this year. I'm not sure what I was smoking when I wrote a post about Tomo Ohka being a more than decent replacement for Ted Lilly. I really believed that Ohka, Victor Zambrano and John Thomson could do the job. This blog was also used to display my confidence in Jason Frasor and his ability to close out games for the injured BJ Ryan. Well, Frasor stinks. He's managed to lose the closer's job in only three weeks. The Jays don't have a closer right now. Manager John Gibbons said so himself.

Ohka's been pretty brutal, Zambrano's been even worse, and Thomson is still injured and pitching in AA ball.

Ted Lilly, on the other hand, has a 2.78 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP over in Chicago with the Cubs. Poor Lilly. Poor Blue Jays. Janet Jackson was right, you really don't know what you've got til it's gone. I miss ya, Ted.

The one thing about Lilly that made him so special was his ability to pitch, and pitch well, against the Evil Empires - the Yankees and Red Sox. Lilly had some of his best games against Boston during his tenure with the Jays. His competitive edge is sorely missed.

Even Gil Meche, the other pitcher the Jays offered a boat load of money to, is ripping it in Kansas City. Meche has a 2.15 ERA and two of his three wins came against the Red Sox and Angels, both first place teams.

JP Ricciardi also announced today that Zambrano is headed to the DL and Shaun Marcum is going to start in his place. Clearly the Jays have run out of patience with Josh Towers. He's going to be coming out of the 'pen for the rest of the season and he's looked just as crappy in the bullpen as he did as a starter. He leaves way too many pitches over the plate and has given up a team-high eight home runs in only 31 innings pitched. This will definitely be Towers' last season in a Jays uniform. At least there's something to look forward to.

Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of JP Ricciardi's nonsense. The fact that he lied about Ryan's injury is just ridiculous. It shows a complete lack of respect to all the fans of the Toronto Blue Jays. Ricciardi clearly thinks he's untouchable and doesn't have any sense of accountability. The only good decision he's made recently was calling up Dustin McGowan, and giving him a spot in the rotation for the rest of the year. It's make or break time for McGowan, and the Jays have nothing to lose now anyways.

Personally, I don't think Marcum should be joining the rotation either. Casey Janssen has been lights out from the bullpen and I think he should be given a shot. Marcum, although he throws hard and racks up the K's, also has a tendency to leave balls out over the plate which lead to home runs. I guess the Jays' rationale is that Janssen has been so good out of the bullpen that they don't want to mess up what he has going right now.

I've always been a staunch JP Ricciardi supporter, but the first six weeks of this season are causing me to question everything I've ever known. This is the seventh year of JP's infamous "Seven Year Plan" and the post-season looks as far away as ever. The only good prospect to come out of the system since JP arrived is Aaron Hill. Russ Adams is struggling in Triple-A, and is clearly no longer in the Jays long term plans. That's a big drop for a guy who was pegged to be Toronto's shortstop of the future.

JP, smarten up man. Make a trade. Fire somebody. Gibbons, I'm looking at you. I know the manager can only be held accountable for so much, but this losing streak needs to stop. The attitude just isn't right in the Jays clubhouse right now, but it's still early. A move by JP could stop the bleeding and save the season. This is a good ball club, with a formidable line-up, but they are clearly not playing to their potential.

The injuries aren't helping. Why? Why does this have to happen to every Toronto sports team? Maybe I was crazy to think the Jays could actually make the playoffs, or maybe the Jays marketing strategy really works, because coming into this season, I really did believe.

Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but I'm starting to wonder if signing Vernon Wells long term was the right decision after all. That money, all $127 million of it, could have brought some solid pitching to the Jays, and that is clearly what's lacking from this team. Alex Rios, at this point of the season, has more home runs and rbi's than Wells. If Wells is making $127 million, and we all know he is, he's got to be the best player on this team, hands down. I could have swore I saw him go easy on a fly ball the other night, and let it drop. It was a ball I've become accustomed to seeing Vernon Wells and his Gold Glove always get to, or at least try to catch. If Wells isn't playing as hard as he should be, the Blue Jays' problems go deeper than even I can imagine.

Here's my to-do list for you, JP, and listen up, because you're really starting to get on my nerves:
1) Make Jeremy Accardo the closer. He's been fantastic this year, and considering greatness is always expected of Roy Halladay, he's probably been the biggest surprise on the team.
2) Make a trade. Fire somebody. Do something. Don't just sit back and watch the season slip away.
3) Slap AJ Burnett for me. $55 million for this crap? Come on.
4) Stop the lying.
5) Screw Marcum and put Janssen in the starting rotation.

The Jays play in the toughest division in baseball, and everyone's got to deal with injuries. On that note though, it's amazing how healthy the Red Sox have been this year, while the Jays and Yankees have seen guys go down at an alarming rate. It looks like the Wildcard winner is going to come from the Central division, so that means the Jays have to beat the Yanks and BoSox, who've already got quite the head start. It's an uphill battle, that's for damn sure. I'm talking uphill like Mount Everest. Lord help us.

I get the feeling however, that patience is quickly starting to wear thin in this city. Nobody wants to hear about how the Jays play in the toughest division in baseball anymore. The Jays now have a payroll that almost equals $100 million. We're playing with the big boys now. When JP came to Toronto in 2000 it was all about moneyball and retooling the farm. Now he's got Ted Rogers' deep pockets at his disposal, the team still stinks, and the farm isn't producing. So what gives? Mediocrity has been the norm for the last 14 years, and we won't stand for it much longer!

Although JP is signed through to the 2010 season, it really might be time for him to go. Lying to the press and the fans is clearly a sign of a guy who's getting a little too comfortable. It looks like JP Ricciardi might have overstayed his welcome here in Toronto.

As I finish this up, the Jays are down 8-0 to Red Sox in the 4th inning. Halladay, rocked again. Unbelievable. The losing streak will most certainly hit nine games, their longest since 2002.

Blue Jays Baseball, You Gotta Believe.

Yeah, right...