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Ferguson: Blue Jays need to avoid another sloppy June

Scott Ferguson, TSN 1050
6/2/2014 11:42:15 AM
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Almost immediately after the Toronto Blue Jays finished May with an outstanding 21-9 record, skipper John Gibbons basically said that was all well and good, but the Jays couldn't let up and had to avoid the "June Swoon".

That prompted me to go back through the years that Rogers has owned the club to see how many times the Jays have actually stumbled in June and seriously damaged their seasons.

This is Rogers' 15th season of club ownership. They have had three general managers,  Gord Ash (inherited), J.P Ricciardi and Alex Anthopoulos. They've also had six managers, Buck Martinez (inherited), Carlos Tosca, John Gibbons (twice), Cito Gaston and John Farrell.

Over the 14 complete seasons, they have had five winning Junes and nine losing ones. Of those nine losing months of June, I can only classify a couple of them as season-wreckers.

In 2008, after a great May, the Jays stumbled in June to a 10-16 mark. John Gibbons remembers it well because he was fired on 20th of that month and replaced by Cito Gaston. Cito went on to have one of those Junes of his own two years later in 2010. The Jays went 9-17 that month, though they recovered to finish at 85-77, albeit still winding up in fourth place in the tough American League East. Cito retired from his second stint as Blue Jays manager at the end of that season.

In 2002, the Jays got off to a horrible 8-20 start under second-year skipper and now Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez. The team seemed to be coming around a bit and actually swept the Detroit Tigers in a three-game series that carried over in the start of June. But on June 3, Ricciardi fired Buck and promoted one of his own hires in bench coach Carlos Tosca to be manager. The Jays finished with a 15-12 record for that month.

The Jays' most common June record is 12-15. Four times they have hit those figures and once they just missed it, going 12-14 in 2009.

The Jays' best Junes in the Rogers era have been 15-11 in 2003, 16-11 in 2006 and 17-9 last season under Gibbons fuelled by that 11-game win streak. Even with that stellar month, the Jays still finished at 74-88, just one game better than the year before under John Farrell. In his four full season managing the Jays so far, Gibbons actually has a winning June record at 59-48, but I guess that  une 2008 firing would make a man just a little wary.

The season that sticks out in comparison to this year is 2010. The Jays, under Cito, were 31-22 at the end of May. That's nine games over .500, exactly the same as this year's edition were at 33-24. The 2010 team, as we mentioned,  finished at 85-77, but didn't come close to making the post-season. So Gibbons's point is well taken. Even though, the Jays have equalled their best record through the end of May since Rogers took over they still have a long way to go - a four-month grind in fact - to try and earn their first playoff spot since 1993.

- When the Tampa Bay Rays opted to keep lefty David Price in the off-season, it looked as though they were committed to winning this season. Many pundits, yours truly included, thought they actually had the talent to win the AL East. Now, thanks to injuries to pitchers Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb and a distinct lack of hitting, they have tumbled into the basement in the East at 23-34 after getting swept at Fenway over the weekend.  Ben Zobrist, perhaps their most valuable player, is back off of the DL, as is Cobb, but now Wil  Myers is on the disabled list with a sprained right wrist. It will be interesting to see between now and the deadline if the Rays put the blame for this season on the injuries or if they go into full rebuild mode and make Price the centrepiece of their wheeling and dealing.

- The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, have staged a dramatic recovery. After dropping 10 in a row and losing starters Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz to the disabled list, as well as third baseman Will Middlebrooks, they've turned around and won seven straight and have closed to within six games of the Blue Jays and two-and-a-half of the second Wild Card slot.

- The Baltimore Orioles are breathing a huge sigh of relief. Nelson Cruz got nailed on the left hand by a Scott Feldman pitch on Sunday versus the Houston Astros and had to leave the game after just one at-bat. Fortunately, the x-rays were negative. Cruz is turning out to be the biggest bargain basement pick-up of the off-season.  The 33-year-old slugger, in the wake of his PED suspension, left the Texas Rangers as a free agent and signed late with Baltimore on a one-year deal worth $8 million. Cruz leads the Bigs with 20 homers and 52 runs batted in, just ahead of the Jays' Edwin Encarnacion who has 19 roundtrippers and 50 runs batted in. Cruz is putting up career numbers in a contract year.  He has never hit more than 33 home runs in a season and has never driven in more than 90 in a campaign. Barring an injury, he should easily surpass both totals and help keep the O's in the East race all season long.

-  If the season ended today and, of course, it doesn't, the Blue Jays would play the Detroit Tigers in the American League Divisional Series and would have home field advantage in the series. That would be a dream match-up in these parts and adds a little bit of drama for their upcoming three-game set starting Tuesday night at Comerica Park. The Jays will be sending  Drew Hutchison,  R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ up against Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander.



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