There have been many great collapses in history: the Mayans, King Cesar and the Roman Empire, nine out of ten celebrity marriages and many Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs teams. It is quickly becoming clear that the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays can be added to such a list. Am I being overly dramatic? Sure, I’m a Toronto sports fan. But considering (at the time of writing) the Blue Jays are 65-63, miles behind the 1st place Baltimore Orioles and four games back of the last remaining wild card position to reach the playoffs when less than a month ago they comfortably controlled a wild card spot and four or so weeks before that were the hottest team in baseball well ahead in 1st place, things are looking bleak.
It was the first week of June and the Jays had just come off one of their best months of baseball in a very long time, going 21-9 in May, highlighted by a nine-game win streak. Between May 15 and June 6, the boys of summer won 18 of 21 games giving them their largest first place lead in the American League East since 1993 when the team won their last World Series championship and last made the playoffs.
The bats were on fire, there were great plays made on defence and what struggles the pitching staff had made in April were a thing of the past. Another mediocre start to the baseball season and fans dreading another long season were instantly erased. Toronto sports fans weren’t even talking playoffs yet, but had dreams of finally playing meaningful baseball in September, the home stretch before the playoffs begin.
All that has come crashing to a halt and the only meaningful baseball now for the Blue Jays will be to stay above the .500 mark, something they haven’t managed since 2010. The Jays limped into the All-Star break after a west coast road trip that saw the team lose six of their seven games in California and relinquish their first place lead to the Orioles.
Like with so many Toronto teams in the past, there was a sliver of hope that the sun was going to shine again and playoff baseball would grace everyone at last when the Jays went 11-3 after the All-Star break to finish the month of July. They climbed within one and a half games of the Orioles for first place and then proceeded to spiral seemingly completely out of control. It is becoming a horrid wreck that you simply cannot turn away from. As the losses pile up, team after team is passing them in the standings.
Unfortunately, I cannot help but think that the Blue Jays are playing to their potential. They were never meant to take the league by storm and lead their division. On paper, the pitching wasn’t there and whatever guise the offense has been able to provide when the going’s been good, it was only a matter of time before they simply couldn’t do it anymore. Whether it was going to be the injuries to key stars or simply the stars aligning and all the key bats slumping at the same time, it was bound to happen. The Jays are who everyone thought they were; a mediocre team that once again doesn’t have the right tools to make the playoffs. They’ve collapsed mightily this year, but it really is 20-plus years in the making. And you know what that means, Blue Jays fans? Any day now you can start uttering the dreaded phrase, “there’s always next year.”