TORONTO - With the Blue Jays winding down one of the worst April's in club history, the worst if you relate results to expectations, Mark DeRosa called a players-only, closed door meeting before Sunday's game in New York.
"It's a situation where we needed to come together as a group, kind of air our differences if there were any, kind of open up the floor," said DeRosa. "Just a few things I wanted to say to the guys; nothing crazy, nothing I really want to divulge. You probably have a pretty good understanding: giving away too many ABs, defense giving too many outs to the other team, putting our pitchers in some pretty tough situations. Just kind of bringing it together, just everybody relax and kind of get that swagger back that we had in spring training."
The statistics back up DeRosa. The Blue Jays' .294 on-base percentage is second lowest in the American League and fourth worst in the majors. The number correlates to production and while Toronto has hit 35 home runs, all but 12 have been of the solo variety.
Meantime, the Fielding Indpendent Pitching (FIP) equation suggests Toronto's defense is costing starter Josh Johnson more than two runs per nine innings and his counterpart, Mark Buehrle, a little more than a run per nine innings.
"The things that were said needed to be said," said DeRosa. "You're not going to specifically point fingers at anyone, that wasn't the gist of where I was going with the meeting. I didn't want to deal with physical because, hey, I could have stepped up with the bases loaded in New York and struck out and I'm fully aware of that. The mental, the mental approach, you can't keep making the same mistakes. Get the swagger back. The great teams, to be honest with you, I've never been in this situation, I'm not used to putting on my uniform and expecting things to go wrong. I expect them to go right and there's no reason with this team that shouldn't happen."
"I do know that I need to play better baseball individually and if everybody does that as well as individuals our team effort is going to be better and we should win more games," said slugger Jose Bautista.
When general manager Alex Anthopoulos signed DeRosa to be the club's so-called 25th man, he did so because he valued DeRosa's experience and leadership.
DeRosa came to Toronto because he was impressed with the roster overhaul. A veteran of playoff teams in Atlanta, in Chicago with the Cubs, and as an injured member of the world champion San Francisco Giants in 2010, DeRosa wanted one more chance to be an active member of a World Series contender.
The Blue Jays have played like anything but.
"We need to put the expectations aside right now," said DeRosa. "I mean it is what it is, we're (10-17) and in last place and we've got a tough row to hoe digging ourselves out of this. But at the same time the names on the back of our jerseys say we're more than capable of doing it. I've obviously read all of the prognostications that say we have such a small percentage, only three teams have ever come back starting from the deficit of this magnitude but when you really grind it out it's only eight games. It's a tough division, a tough AL East division, but there's no reason we can't get as hot as cold we've been."
While DeRosa has expressed concern and R.A. Dickey suggested "there'd better be" a sense of urgency after Sunday's loss to the Yankees, Bautista believes there's plenty of time for the Blue Jays to get on a roll and close the gap in the American League East.
"We're not playing catch up," said Bautista. "It's April; you play catch up in September and that's not here yet. You guys look at everything differently than we do because we're out on the field everyday. The most important game for us is tonight; we'll worry about everything else when that comes. If we take that kind of approach, we won't even think of that type of pressures that you talk about. That's the outlook I'm having so hopefully everybody does something similar."