In case you haven’t noticed since the Blue Jays are so far away that they need passports to play games in the United States that the season thus far peaked for Toronto the day before opening day.
At that point everyone (me included) thought we were looking at the American League East Division champs revving up for their best performance in years. Less than two weeks later we’re all wondering if the team needs to be pondering some kind of curse explanation like the Boston Red Sox lived with for years and the Chicago Cubs still live with.
The huge boost that the Blue Jays received from the influx of talent that came as courtesy of the Miami Marlins has worn off and now everyday problems in the long, 162-game season seem to be taking over. The good players are off to slow starts and some starters are off to injured starts.
Just the other night Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes, a four-time All-Star who came over from the Marlins in that team’s dump-salary deal, and who is batting .395, slid into second base and didn’t get up. Instead he rolled on the ground screaming in pain with an injury to his left ankle that at first glance mimics Derek Jeter‘s injury suffered in the playoffs last October. Six months have passed and the New York Yankees’ shortstop has not played an inning since.
There was a lot of excitment in Toronto leading up to the season and the Blue Jays have been packing the fans into the Rogers Centre. But the players that were expected to lead the charge to infinity and beyond didn’t get the memo.
The last couple of years when the Blue Jays were floundering their brightest spot in the lineup was slugger Jose Bautista. He ended the 2012 season injured, but is back. After a win Saturday, Toronto was sitting at 5-6, he was batting .194. Going into Saturday Edwin Encarnacion was hitting .132 and Adam Lind was batting .136.
After being patted on the back for making such smart front office moves in the off-season the Blue Jays have been grimacing because the three most important pitchers they acquired have done bupkis so far. R.A. Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young award winner, was 0-2 with an 8.44 earned run average going into Saturday, but picked up his first win of the year. Josh Johnson‘s ERA is 11.05 and Mark Buehrle‘s ERA is 10.24.
All of these problems could be transitory. The hitters could get hot, the pitchers could find the plate, and five games from now we could be pretending we never had this conversation. It’s not impossible. A little streak like that can do wonders for morale–of players and fans.
But the one problem that’s not going to go away very quickly is the newest problem–Reyes’ ankle. Reyes got hurt sliding into second in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals during an 8-4 victory in Kansas City. He hesitated making up his mind whether to go into the bag standing up or sliding. He chose the slide approach late and got his leg caught underneath his body.
Reyes left the stadium in a wheelchair, and apparently taking a page from Louisville basketball guard Kevin Ware’s cheery outlook on life tweeted, “Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain. I put everything in God’s hands.”
And the Blue Jays thought they were protected from the elements because they play in a domed stadium. Given his superb skills at short, the Blue Jays have put a lot into Reyes’ hands, too.
The early medical reading was that at the least Reyes will be out for a month. If the injury is worse than a sprain, with broken bones or ligaments involved, Reyes could be sidelined for months. Jeter is still proving it’s not that easy to bounce back from that type of injury.
The Blue Jays did everything right in the off-season to make this a special team, so it doesn’t seem quite fair now that so much is going wrong to wreck it.