I've heard it said, "I thought you said the Blue Jays were going to be good" a couple of hundred times in the last month. Yeah, I did. I still think there is a good team in there somewhere. Unfortunately, it isn't showing on the field.
What's gone wrong? Everything.
For the first month of the season, the Blue Jays couldn't hit or pitch or field. Unfortunately, there isn't much more to the game than that.
There have been injuries. The one guy that was hitting, Jose Reyes, is out until after the all-star break, after badly spraining his ankle making an awkward slide. That's a huge loss. Reyes was great hitting leadoff, providing a bit of a spark. Brett Lawrie missed the first two weeks of the season with an oblique injury. Pitchers Sergio Santos and Josh Johnson are also on the disabled list and neither is expected back until near the end of the month. Another starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey, hasn't been 100 per cent, dealing with back troubles. Jose Bautista has missed a few games with a sore ankle and back spasms.
None of that has helped, but then every team has injuries.
The real problem, for the Jays, is that almost no one is playing at the level I expected. Some of the bigger surprises:
1. The Blue Jays added three new starting pitchers in Dickey, Johnson and Mark Buehrle. The rotation was a problem at the end of last season. But with the addition of those three, it looked like they would have one of the best starting staffs in the league. It hasn't happened. A month into the season and the trio is a 3-8 combined with a terrible 6.31 earned-run average (and Johnson is now on the DL).
2. Melky Cabrera hasn't been the player we expected. On May 1, he was hitting .243 with just three extra-base hits. Beyond that, he has looked much much slower than I thought he'd be. On defence, he has shown little range in the outfield and looked awkward out there. On offence, he's been thrown out stealing twice in four tries. Toronto would be better off if he stopped trying to steal. Recent games have been much better, with a five-game hitting streak and his first home run of the season. Hopefully, he's come out of his slump.
3. Both members of the second-base tandem have been terrible. Maicer Izturis ended April hitting .193 and he's made some poorly timed errors. He, too, has started to hit of late, with six hits in the past three games, including a timely home run. Emilio Bonifacio, meantime, has a .160 batting average. He made a bunch of fielding errors in the first couple of weeks of the season and though his defence has improved, he still isn't hitting.
4. After missing the last half of spring training and the first couple of weeks of the season, Lawrie hasn't quite gotten his timing back at the plate. He's batting just .187. On defence, he has been terrific, making a highlight-reel plays almost every day. But he is going to have to get his bat going.
Gibbons not to blame for bad play
Who gets the blame for the bad start? Should manager John Gibbons be fired?
I'm not a big fan of blaming the manager or coaches for bad play. The players are grown-ups; their bad play is on them. I can't see anything that Gibbons has done that might have caused such an ugly start. I know it is easier to replace the manager than the players. But in this case, I don't see the point. He can't be expected to win games if no one is playing well.
Managers are hired to be fired and Gibbons has been fired before. But I think the Blue Jays have to give him more than a month to show what he can do.
Can they turn this around and get back into contention? Of course they can.
There are 128 games left of the season. It is too early to count them out. They have a long, uphill battle. But there is a lot of time left. I thought they would contend from the start of the season. Now it is going to have to be a slow climb.
Happ in hospital
There was a scary moment in Tuesday's 6-4 triumph at Tampa Bay. A hard line drive hit pitcher J.A. Happ on the side of the head. He went down in pain and was bleeding near his ear. It looked really bad. But the Blue Jays are saying that he just has a head contusion and is soon to leave hospital.
That's the best news we could have hoped to hear.
I find it hard to believe that Happ will be making his next start in five days. I don't know about you, but I would need a little time before facing live batters again.
Follow Tom Dakers on Twitter @bluebirdbanter
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