For two consecutive weekends, the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves slaves to a superior line-up. Last weekend it was the Texas Rangers and the super-human Josh Hamilton. This past Friday and Saturday, the resurgent Boston Red Sox have rolled into town and are showing why they rank second in the AL in batting average and RBIs.
All five losses, up to Saturdays 7-4 defeat, can come as a direct relation to their whole pitching staff. But the Jays are still in the hunt after their most recent loss landed them in the AL East basement. They sit three games behind after a going 3-7 during their last ten games and sit one game above .500.
Jose Bautista isn’t playing up to expectations, their bullpen, which was supposed to be a strong point, is underperforming, and some underlying actions on the field seem to be rearing their ugly head.
Brett Lawrie, the ultra-competitive Canadian-born third baseman is the team’s sparkplug, but continues to make plays that make you do a double take. From the suspension, to getting thrown out a home with two out and Bautista at the plate. And then during Saturday's game when he got thrown out attempting to steal third with two out. Lawrie has been caught stealing four times now, ranking him second in the AL. The green light should be re-thought for the time being.
The reaction to officiating is another issue. It is no secret that the Jays are having some issues with balls and strikes, and it’s quite evident when they are displeased. Jose Bautista caused a stir Friday evening when after striking out, slammed his bat down and spewed some venom at the home plate umpire. This is not the first time, but it’s also not the last time this is going to happen.
Everyone knows Bautista is struggling. Pitchers are pitching him low and away more often than not. He is seeing an unusual amount of change-ups compared to last year (10.8% to 9.4%) and is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone, 4.1% more than last year (courtesy of FanGraphs). The game plan is different and Bautista’s frustrations are evident. His timing is off and as the season wears on his batting average (28 points below his career norm) becomes more of an eyesore. This is leading to outbursts on the field and the umpires and fans are taking notice.
Umpires are human and can only take being shown up so many times. And any borderline strike is/will be called against the Jays. Bautista is the leader on this team, and people look up to him. We know he is a fiery competitor and emotions run high, but what kind of example is being made when outbursts occur after multiple called third strikes?
Every player is trying to be the guy to lead them to the promise land, but this all starts with Bautista.
Have you ever seen Derek Jeter or Chipper Jones or any other high profile superstar throw their bat up in the air in disgust like many of the Jays have this year?
Bautista and his teammates are the best in the world at what they do, that’s why they are who they are and why the play at this level. But to get those breaks you have to “play the game” sometimes. I know the Jays are playing with a chip on their shoulder but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and approach things in a different way, because the up in arms approach can’t and shouldn’t last forever.
People have long memories. So do umpires.
Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here.
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