Midway through the season, the Blue Jays’ morale began to sink. Despite an 11-game win streak in the middle of June, they had finished the month with five losses in seven games. Then, coming out of the all-star break, they lost four in a row. In this excerpt from Great Expectations: The Lost Toronto Blue Jays Season by Shi Davidi and John Lott, players reflect on their frustration at the time as well as the group’s efforts to bring things back on track.
Four games and four losses into a crucial stretch of their second half, the Blue Jays players decided that they needed to talk. Coming out of the all-star break with renewed optimism, they continued to find the ground covered with upturned rakes to step on. They were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays right out of the gate before a five-error mess led to a 14–5 clubbing by the Los Angeles Dodgers. With hopes for a turnaround slipping away by the day, a 70-minute, players-only meeting was held the next afternoon, with the focus on playing a better quality of baseball to the very end.
“There are guys in this room that genuinely care about the season, care about each other,” said Casey Janssen. “We’re kind of tired of seeing the product that we’re seeing on the field.”
Adam Lind summed up the major talking points succinctly: “Stick together. Let’s grow up a little bit. Let’s play baseball like grown men.”
One player who preferred anonymity said the meeting was professionally handled and positive. “There was no finger pointing,” he said. He added that the clubhouse atmosphere was healthy at the beginning of the month, but deteriorated quickly after that. He thought the meeting might help. Another player said, “Guys were honest with each other. I felt like everybody could speak their piece without worry of a fight breaking out or anything like that. [It wasn’t] where guys really didn’t enjoy being around each other and they were looking for reasons. It was open floor and guys were able to say what they want.”
Anthopoulos also felt the meeting was a good idea but admitted to pulling the plug on trade talks for players to help out in 2013. He had been keeping close tabs on Jake Peavy, but pulled back. The White Sox later traded him to Boston. Anthopoulos was still aggressively looking to make moves for ’14 and beyond, but his efforts to land Hisashi Iwakuma and Kyle Seager from Seattle went nowhere. The July non-waiver trade deadline was looming, and the GM said, “I really don’t see us doing anything.” They didn’t.
Right after the meeting, the Blue Jays led the Dodgers 8–3 through six innings, then collapsed and lost 10–9. The next night they blew a one-run lead in the ninth when Colby Rasmus misplayed a bloop single, then surrendered a five-spot in the 10th in an 8–3 loss that gave the Dodgers a sweep. Thankfully for the Blue Jays, the Houston Astros were next up. Toronto took three of four from baseball’s worst team before embarking on a 10-game road trip to the west coast. They took two of three from the AL West–leading Oakland Athletics, finishing July at 10-16. The Blue Jays opened August by losing three of four in Anaheim to the Los Angeles Angels, rallying late in the series finale to avoid a sweep, but any thoughts of a miracle turnaround were extinguished for good.
The usually positive Reyes finally showed his exasperation after the Jays blew a late lead in a 7–5 loss to the Angels on Aug. 2. “It’s tough to play the way we’ve been playing,” he said. “It’s not acceptable with the kind of team that we have. We’re better than this.” Expanding on his comments the next day, Reyes added, “No disrespect to some other teams, but we have more talent than some other teams who are playing for first place, playing better than us. We feel like we have more talent, but we haven’t been able to put it together on the field.”
And having lived through a season of disappointment in 2012 with the Marlins, he was loath to be doing it again in 2013 with the Blue Jays. “There’s no doubt in my mind [that the 2013 Jays] are much better, way better [than the 2012 Marlins]. We came with high expectations here. We haven’t been able to do anything. It’s disappointing because it’s unbelievable talent that we have here. But here we are into August, we’re in last place, and we expected to be on top of our division coming into spring training.
“We had a lot of opportunities to win a lot of ballgames and we just let it get away. That’s not going to get it done.”
Indeed not. Not only had the Blue Jays started 2013 at the bottom, it was clear they were destined to stay there. And Reyes was correct: too many players with impressive histories had failed to measure up. The team so craftily assembled in November and December was far less than the sum of its parts.