Ferguson: Blue Jays are close to the edge after tough start

Scott Ferguson
5/3/2013 12:04:16 PM
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I can't quite bring myself to say the Blue Jays season is over, but it's darn close. They're nine games under .500, have a losing record at home and trail first place Boston by 10 and-a-half games in a season that's not quite five weeks old.
The Blue Jays also went 3-10 over this crucial 13 game stretch against their own division and are 4-12 overall against the East. Outside of the bullpen and especially Casey Janssen, there just isn't too much to get excited about. OK, maybe Edwin Encarnacion and his power binge.

 Yes last season was a disaster, but the injuries and the inexperience of the starting rotation, all combined to make 2012 a little easier to comprehend.

 The last time I remember feeling this kind of disappointment over a Blue Jays season was 2002. It was Buck Martinez second season as skipper and J.P Ricciardi's first as the General Manager.

 There were warning signs about what was to come that season. Ricciardi got the job in part because he told ownership he would reduce the payroll. To that end, the Blue Jays did very little in the off -season to strengthen what appeared to be a promising young team.

 The Blue Jays started out 8-16 in April and followed that up with a 10-17 May. You just knew the way the Yankees and Red Sox were playing that it was over.

 In early June, the Jays appeared lifeless, and I really felt for Martinez. One night , for maybe the only time in my career I lost it on the air, and called out the players and said Martinez had been set up to fail by Ricciardi.

At about the one-third mark of the season with the Jays sitting at 20-33, Buck Martinez was fired and replaced by his third base coach Carlos Tosca.

 The Blue Jays played better the rest of the way, going 58-51 under Tosca, and even finished September with a flourish going 19-8. But to me, it held very little meaning. The Blue Jays finished 3rd in East, 25 and a-half-games behind the Yankees who finished with 103 victories.
The 2002 team wasn't devoid of talent. Roy Halladay had a break-out season going 19-7. 3rd baseman Eric Hinske was named Rookie of the year. Carlos Delgado slugged 33 homers, drove in 108 runs and batted .277.

Young Vernon Wells claimed the centre field job after Raul Mondesi was traded to the Yankees July 1st for a prospect. Wells drove in 100 runs for the 1st time in his career. The Jays also had young talents like Shannon Stewart and Jose Cruz Jr., yet it all went for not.

One of the key blows was losing Chris Carpenter to the DL three separate times due to shoulder injuries. Ultimately he would need surgery after the season, and because of questions about whether he would ever completely bounce back was allowed to leave as a free agent in the off-season. He ultimately signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and after a lengthy recovery period, finally became the pitcher the Blue Jays always thought he could be winning two World Series with the Red Birds.

Oddly enough, one of the pitchers on that 2002 squad was Blue Jays current pitching coach Pete Walker.
 Frankly, if this season doesn't turn around, it will be more disappointing than last year and 2002, because of all the off-season moves, all the excitement and all the hype. If you love baseball, it's as much about the journey as it is about the destination. But this is going to be one long arduous journey, if the Blue Jays don't catch fire by the end of this month.
I was a shocked as anybody, when Ricky Romero got called up after just one outing at Dunedin in "A" Ball. He's reworked his mechanics and was effective in that one outing.  Still unless he's razor sharp, it's hard to see him going much beyond five or so innings against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.

 Going on the 15 day DL couldn't have happened at a worse time for Josh Johnson. He is in a contract year and has a history of arm issues. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons added a cautionary note, when he said though Johnson is being treated in Florida for triceps inflammation; he will be fully checked to make sure nothing more serious was missed in the initial diagnosis.

Johnson and Brandon Morrow went winless in April, which is part of the reason the Jays find themselves in their current predicament.
 The Blue Jays are still in a very difficult portion of their schedule. After this three game Seattle series at Rogers Centre, 17 of their next 19 are against the AL East, the other two are at home against the San Francisco Giants and then they follow up that 19 game stretch with back-to-back two-game series, home and away against Atlanta.

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