TORONTO – Before Wednesday's series finale with the Red Sox, TSN.ca sat down with two Blue Jays' veterans to get their thoughts on the August collapse.
One is Adam Lind, one of the longest tenured Blue Jays, who's seen this before.
The other is R.A. Dickey, in his second year in Toronto, who's been a part of two Blue Jays teams that haven't lived up to expectations.
But first, here's Episode 19 of The Baseball Podcast. The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com and I discuss the Jays' August swoon, Jose Bautista's future in Toronto and more.
Now, today's conversations:
TSN.ca: I want to ask you the shortest and simplest question but it might be the most complicated answer: what's happened here?
DICKEY: Well, I don't know if it's a past tense question.
TSN.ca: What's happening?
DICKEY: Yeah. I think it's hard to identify. I think some of it's probably the nature of the game. You know, it's such a streaky game. I've said that for a long time and we haven't been able to arrest, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to arrest the downward spiral that we've been in presently. That's some of it. Some of it's that we haven't been pitching as well - I'm talking about myself - as well as I'm capable of pitching. We haven't been playing very fundamental baseball recently. A lot of those things add up to you being in a place where you don't enjoy the result. We've still got a little over a month left and anything's possible.
TSN.ca: I look at your first inning (Tuesday) night and I think to myself, May, every hit-and-run ground ball found a hole for you guys when it was going well. You strike out the lead-off hitter. Josh (Thole), who's been brilliant handling you this year, with the unfortunate passed ball and then Pedroia turns it into the two-run home run and you're just thinking to yourself, why not at this point? How do you internalize that on the mound? You've obviously got to push ahead and focus on the next hitter but you must, in that moment, be thinking, what next?
DICKEY: There's a trap there. I mean there's a trap for every professional baseball player there that says, ‘Here we go again.' You've really got to take a moment, collect yourself and say I'm not going to give into that mentality and I tried to do that the best I could and, thankfully I was able to put up five zeroes after that against a pretty good line-up. That line-up is a pretty good line-up on paper, more so than it was a month ago. You've really got to be locked in. I felt I was able to get to that place where I was able to repeat my delivery and throw good knuckleballs and maybe I should just pretend, as I start the game, that I've already given up three runs. I think I might have some better results. It seems like that's been a pattern, at least over the last couple of months, is I'll give up early runs and then have some shutdown innings instead of having shutdown innings the whole time. It's heartbreaking on one hand that you fought so hard and you're fighting so hard to stay in it and yet you don't see the results that you hope for, because you know you're so close and how hard it is to be one of those eight teams to make the postseason, you know how hard that is and to be so close is tough.
TSN.ca: Stay with me on this: nothing really happens at the deadline and there were some players, some veterans, in advance of that who were clamouring for a move or moves to be made. My interpretation of that is, ‘We need a little more to make us better.' You could interpret that as thinking, we're not quite good enough at this moment, but if we get something or some pieces, we'll get there. Do you run the risk at this point of that becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? Guys who wanted the moves, they don't happen, then you look at the August results and it reinforces what you believed about who you guys were in late July?
DICKEY: Yeah, you know, I think you certainly could deduce that. That's a good hypothesis, I think. I mean, because, and look I'll be the first one to say that I'm sure the front office wanted to make moves, but for whatever reason it just didn't, it couldn't make it happen. Whether it was financial reasons, whether it was not the right prospects or you're not willing to give up Stroman, you're not willing to give up Sanchez, whatever the reasons were, I'm sure they wanted to make a move to make us better. They just couldn't find a good match. Sure, everybody in here wanted help. I think that's natural, just like everybody on every team that's competing is looking over their shoulder thinking, are we going to get another bullet in the gun? That's a natural thing. It'd be foolish to say that nobody cared about it. Of course, they cared about it. I feel like we have a professionalism - and still do - the professionalism in here to forget that didn't happen and forge ahead. I'm going to choose to believe that that didn't have an adverse effect on the culture of this clubhouse and what we produced on the field. I'm going to choose that. Other people may say differently and you can certainly, as someone on the outside looking in, deduce that it does seem that, if you look at it, around that time we started to tank. I choose not to believe that. It's a combination of a lot of different things. Whether it's not playing as fundamentally sound as we did early on; not getting that break that you need in baseball; not pitching as well as we're capable, both in the rotation and out of the ‘pen; there's so many different things, not hitting home runs in August. It's those things and not the other for me because those are tangible things.
TSN.ca: Part of it, I guess, from your perspective, you could look and say, we fell way behind in Chicago on that Sunday and almost came back and won; (Tuesday) night you were down early, you held them and the offence chipped away and you went to extra innings. Even though it would appear it because you're 6-16 in August, you're not giving up in individual games.
DICKEY: No, no. Anybody that thinks that is not a true competitor and hasn't experienced that part of it. You would never give up. To your earlier point about the trade deadline and nothing happening there, allow me to give you a brief insight, I'm not ever out there thinking on the mound, ‘Crap, we didn't get something done, I'm just going to throw in the towel here' while I'm pitching. That is asinine. That's why I'm saying I refuse to believe it was that. Once you get on the field, all that crap goes away, I mean it does, it melts away. It's you and the game, whoever you've got out there and it's about execution, it's about pitching well, it's about getting big hits, about playing good defence and fundamental baseball regardless of who you have out there or what's been done or hasn't been done or what this person's saying or that person's saying. All of that melts away for me as a professional when I get out there in the dugout.
TSN.ca: So we'd agree the results in August have not been good enough. You're not winning. How do you, when you come here every single day, tell yourself as a group or as an individual that we're good enough to turn this thing around?
DICKEY: Well, you look backwards and you see what we were capable of and you know that if you look around it's pretty much the same team outside of Brett Lawrie. It's like anything, when you want the confidence that you can do something a lot of times, you have to look backwards in the rearview mirror and look at what you've already accomplished. I think that's what we know we're capable of. Every time I go out to the mound and I don't have a great outing, I look back at all the good outings I've had and say that's what I'm capable of and that helps me push ahead to the next outing and try to get better from that. I think that's how we do it. I think we remember how good we really are and try to get some of that swagger back and some of that confidence back and start attacking guys. Like I said, we still have a good number of games left to at least make it interesting.
TSN.ca: I think a while back, Adam, you saw a light at the end of the tunnel and now it's almost September and you could just tack another year on to the calendar and it would be like other years.
LIND: The difference between other years and this year is we believed. I think everyone believed, whereas in other years, we just kind of hovered around .500 for the most part. It was just so late in the season. I mean, at the deadline, we were still probably a favourite to make the playoffs and now to see where we ended up is just disheartening.
TSN.ca: Does it hurt more because of the hope?
LIND: Yeah. Another year older; another year of the same result. I mean, it's not over, but we haven't played very well in any phase of the game. We need to flip the switch dramatically, starting today, if we want to make the playoffs.
TSN.ca: You're at a point in your career, age-wise, where you probably see as much in the rearview mirror as you do ahead. Does your perspective change? I guess you're really realizing now you can't take these years for granted because each one that doesn't involve a playoff opportunity is another one missed.
LIND: Well, there's definitely no more covers of Baseball America in my future or the notes at the bottom of the page. Yeah, it sucks with how the division has turned out being so weak in theory. It's tough.
TSN.ca: You were hurt. Edwin was hurt. There was a lot of talk about Adam's going to get back, Edwin's going to get back, Brett's going to get back and he did, but then he went down again. Was it a little too hopeful to believe that just because you guys would be returning those would be, effectively, acquisitions that would turn things around?
LIND: When you're struggling, you're looking for something. The fans, it gives them hope. It gives the team hope. We're kind of the heart of the order, so I guess you can hang your hat on it, but it happens to every team and it's a team, so one player's not going to change things. I think, what else was there to talk about? It was a way to give the fans hope that the season's not over and when we get back, start rolling again. I didn't come back in the best situation. I came back for Seattle, which was Iwakuma and some good pitching, and with a few days off and National League series I didn't play for another week, so I played like four games and had a week off again and here I am.
TSN.ca: Do you think this team, despite how it's gone in the last month, month and a half, is this team still really close?
LIND: To making the playoffs?
TSN.ca: Not this year but are you a player or two away?
LIND: If you look at our, I don't know where I saw it, we're last in hitting and 27th in pitching, so I'd say we're more than a couple of pieces away.
TSN.ca: But you weren't earlier in the year. After May, I mean May was crazy but even into the All-Star Break you guys were top five, top seven in most of the important offensive categories and there was a suggestion at that point that what you'd produced was pretty sustainable because three months is not really a mistake. But now it's totally fallen off the horse so how do you assess it?
LIND: Well, I mean me and Eddie were gone, Brett's gone, Nolan Reimold's gone. The things that we were hoping would do well and he missed three weeks or whatever it was. You know, things just haven't worked out.