The good news for Toronto sports fans, according to MLB insider Jon Morosi, is the Maple Leafs are going to upset the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The bad news is he also feels the level of concern around the Toronto Blue Jays should be high.
Only three teams in the past 39 seasons have made the playoffs after starting the season 1-6, which is what the Blue Jays fell to after a 4-3 loss to the Brewers in their home opener Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
“The fact is when you start this poorly it’s really hard to catch up, especially in a division like this,” Morosi told Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup Wednesday.
Outside of this past Friday’s game when Francisco Liriano was lit up and failed to get out of the first inning against the Rays, the team’s starters have been solid. Four of Toronto’s six losses have come while holding the opposition to four runs or fewer.
“These were games the Jays had been winning for a year-and-a-half, almost two full years going back to ’15 and ’16 but this lineup has not been itself for months now,” Morosi said.
Between several players competing at the World Baseball Classic while others dealt with injuries, spring training didn’t go as smoothly for the Blue Jays as it could have, which might be a contributing factor to the poor start.
“I think we’re seeing a residue of what was an uneven spring,” Morosi said. “That is not the fault of anyone in particular—it’s certainly not John Gibbons’ fault—it just is the reality of where this team is.”
Morosi likened the 2017 Blue Jays to the 2016 Astros—a quality team in a competitive division that couldn’t dig themselves out of an early hole and ended up missing the post-season.
Age is another concern for a Blue Jays group that fields the oldest roster in the majors. Jose Bautista, 36, has just one RBI and hasn’t gone yard yet and Russell Martin, 34, is 0-for-18 so far this season.
“It’s a lineup that’s really searching for its identity right now and the results are very discouraging,” Morosi said. “When you look at the big picture here, when you have players in their 30s eventually there comes the year when it doesn’t all come back and I think the Jays have reason to be concerned that maybe in a case or two that that’s what’s happening now. …
“The Brewers brought in three power-arm relievers [Tuesday] and the Jays did not have a hit over the final three innings. This is a team that, in the past, has been able to handle velocity.”
Marcus Stroman will be on the mound Wednesday as the Blue Jays look to turn things around against the Brewers.
“It is going to take some substantial help from other teams in the division to really not play up to par for the balance of the season for the Jays to be able to make the playoffs,” Morosi added. “I know it sounds absurd but that’s it what the history says.”