Aaron Sanchez had a rough Wednesday evening at Fenway Park. The 25-year-old pitched well below the standard we’ve come to expect, leaving the game after surrendering five runs in four innings while allowing six hits and five walks in the process. Despite the mediocre performance, it seemed curious that John Gibbons pulled his starter after only 79 pitches. No matter the extent of the drubbing, you’d think that Sanchez would stick around to help out the beleaguered bullpen, fresh off a 15-inning game.
But no. Sanchez was pulled with another blister – the fourth time he’s been afflicted this season. The previous three landed him on the disabled list. A blister on the middle finger wouldn’t register as more than a minor inconvenience for most of the population, but for Sanchez there’s a direct line drawn to his livelihood.
For him, the blister is untamable; an unfortunate circumstance that could’ve happened to anybody. You’d more or less expect someone in his line of work to deal with the problem eventually, but to have so many in short succession brings about a feeling of helplessness. There’s no quick fixes or rehab to be done. There’s really nothing to do but wait and hope that the problem clears up.
Sanchez had some choice quotes following the game.
“I mean, it’s one of those things, man. I can’t control it… So I’ll just continue to do what I’ve done up until this point: manage it, try to make sure this thing is under control. Just kind of go day-by-day with it.”
For the Jays as a whole, there can be no more waiting. Wednesday’s loss should put any ideas of legitimate contention to bed, especially with Sanchez staring down the barrel of a fourth trip to the DL. The trade deadline looms, and they’ll carry a 44-51 record into Cleveland. Their problems are numerous, though none have the capacity to make waste of an entire season on their own. The flukiness of their dreadful start was blister number one and the team has been waiting since, only to be struck time and time again with another metaphorical ailment.
In a way, Sanchez’s unceremonious departure from the game was a microcosm of the team’s season. Nothing singularly disastrous happened, but the small concerns have sequenced properly and snowballed into a season that never got off the ground.
“It’s definitely frustrating. It’s one of those things where you take a step forward, and you think you’re past it, and you’re right back to square one.”
Perhaps nothing is more indicative of Toronto’s affinity for “square one” than the team’s 0-9 record in games where they could’ve reached the .500 mark, though the issues are far more rampant than that.
The rotation still boasts quality pitchers, but the staff’s ace has completely imploded as of late. The once-potent lineup has fallen victim to injuries and the consequences of age, with those two likely working in concert. Management didn’t really address the left field issue in the offseason, even if the injury to Dalton Pompey (speaking of random, crap luck) threw a wrench into their plans.
Even if left field was an offensive black hole, surely the rest of the lineup could produce enough to offset the replacement level output from a single spot.
The italicized text above was mantra heading in to the season and boy was it wrong. Justin Smoak, the one guy everyone expected to fail, has been one of the select few to emerge from this season unscathed. The injury to Devon Travis meant average-or-worse output at two spots, and the sharp decline of Troy Tulowitzki has more or less made it three. If you subtract the early-season Kevin Pillar who’s looking more and more like an aberration, suddenly we’re up to four.
Mental biases aside (recency, anchoring, availability, you name it), the Jays seem unable to get out of their own way. Once the offense gears up, the pitching falters. Once the pitching settles down, the lineup goes into hiding. Defense seems to vanish late in close games, resulting in nailbiters when they can manage to avoid full on choke jobs.
Even that 15-inning game had its moments that will go down as quintessentially 2017 Blue Jays. Troy Tulowitzki, accountable veteran and Team Dad, had a pair of ugly baserunning errors that might’ve cost Toronto the game. Roberto Osuna, one of the few players worth celebrating this season, had his untouchable run snapped when the eventual tying run reached scoring position by way of a popped-up bunt. Josh Donaldson, in a play that forced the game into extra innings, hurt his hand. Poor Mike Bolsinger was handed a loss after a terrific effort in which he etched his name into the Major League record books. When it rains, it pours.
“We’ve tried a lot of things that have and haven’t worked up until this point, so it’s just one of those things that’s up in the air. You’ve just got to manage what you’ve got and see how far it takes you.”
Unfortunately, this looks like the end of the line for the 2017 Blue Jays.
The last two years of baseball in Toronto have been absolutely thrilling and the team has provided a bevy of memories that will persist even though they never achieved their final goal. The skeleton of this team is more or less the same as those, though it’s possible that things will be completely different come August 1st.
Waving the white flag is never fun but eventually it’s a necessary evil. You’d rather trade assets too early than hold on until it’s too late, and the Jays may already be holding some odious, unmovable deals. The cold, sad truth is that despite the moments they’ve authored, this iteration of the Jays won’t win the World Series. There’s no shame in that, and there’s no need to hamstring the next group by chasing the shadow of the second Wild Card.
On this side of things, the deadline anxiety will soon give way to the doldrums of inconsequential baseball. But the blisters, however you choose to define them, will heal eventually. Probably not this year or next, and maybe not the one or two after that. But eventually, they will. The process can and should certainly be accelerated, but more than anything it’ll take some patience and good fortune. In the meantime, there’s not much to do but sit back and wait.
Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro – USA TODAY Sports