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Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins speaks at a media availability during MLB during baseball spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Feb. 16.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

After the trade deadline had passed, Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins was going on about how his team should be amazing. Not is amazing. But should be.

“We have really good projected offence and a really good performing offence. It’s just not closed the gap on what its overall potential is.”

In the baseball-to-English translator, that reads as, ‘I did everything right, but these – ugh – players haven’t got the message.’

If this is where your head’s at, we might as well hire AIs to run the teams. At the first presser before the start of spring training, they can bring out a head in a jar and it can say, ‘We’ve run the numbers and we finish two games out of the playoffs. So have a safe trip home. We’ll try again next year.’

This mathification of baseball is a real breakthrough in management studies. Repeat the math often enough and you needn’t actually do anything on the field. When things go wrong, it was the math’s fault. See? It’s written down right here. We were supposed to be fantastic. Don’t blame us. Blame math.

Out in the real world, the Jays are just barely hanging on. They have a grip on the final wild-card spot, but more of a golf-club grip than a wielding-a-hammer grip.

Has their imaginary offence begun to align with their actual offence? It has not. It’s headed the other way. Whenever the Jays win now, it feels like they did it by calling timeout and citing a loophole in the rule book, rather than by hitting with runners in scoring position.

Has their pitching been as up and down as everyone expected? Yes and no. If this were a full-on disaster campaign, we’d be talking a lot more about The Unexpected Demise of Alek Manoah.

Coming out of spring training, the Jays’ opening-day starter was the future. Now Manoah’s spending enough time in Florida that he should get a nice break on state income tax.

Every time a Blue Jay loses the ability to pitch effectively for no particular reason, a dozen people yell ‘Roy Halladay!’. What people don’t say is that Halladay was an exception that proved the rule. Once you’ve really lost it, it doesn’t usually come back. Getting demoted twice in two months is the definition of really losing it.

The second time, the Jays tucked the news in behind the announcement that José Bautista was coming home. That’s a lot of fireworks to cover up one gaffe.

But everyone’s put a pin in that discussion. If the team can do something in the playoffs, the mishandling of Manoah (because what else would you call it?) may be forgiven. If not, then the keening begins.

Manoah is an example of the real world intruding. Preseason, I wonder what the Jays’ quants had his projected pitching at? I’m sure they were Walter Johnson-type numbers. Now he’s sliding off the depth chart like a body being buried at sea.

As happens every season, the Jays have had a few of these sudden turns – Anthony Bass firing himself on social media; Yusei Kikuchi doing an off-season body swap with another, better pitcher; the brief, delightful emergence of Davis Schneider. Some good and some bad, the two mostly balancing each other out.

Elsewhere, the invisible hand of the baseball market is taking a more direct interest.

The New York Yankees thought they would be a power this year. They are not. The team slipped under .500 on Wednesday. They are pulling up the rear in the American League East.

Some things New York could not see coming (Aaron Judge missing nearly two months) and some they could really not see coming (Domingo German going into rehab a few weeks after pitching a perfect game). It’s not a perfect storm, but it’s a very good storm.

It’s unlikely all the X factors that have conspired to turn the theoretical Yankees into these crap Yankees will line up again next year. Mostly because they’re the Yankees. They’ll spend their way to the promised land.

On the opposite end of that financial spectrum, there’s the Tampa Bay Rays. Not so long ago, the Rays didn’t look like the best team in baseball. They looked like the best team in the history of baseball. But their orbit has been degrading for a while.

This week, two blows, one much weirder than the other. Their best pitcher, Shane McClanahan, being lost to Tommy John surgery is not good, but it happens. Their best hitter, Wander Franco, getting thrown into a pair of investigations about his extracurriculars should not.

Franco just signed a US$180-million deal. If that were my money, and I were putting it in the hands of another human, with all the uncertainty that suggests, I’d want reassurances. I’d want to know what kind of person he is. I’d want to know what he does in his spare time.

Whatever the situation is with Franco, were it easily explained, that would have happened by now. Instead, Franco’s been AWOL for five days.

This stuff, the stuff you can’t predict – this is what determines the outcome of sports seasons. The teams who avoid black swans are the ones that tend to win in the end.

Which makes this last lap of the season so pivotal for the Toronto Blue Jays. Their competition is in varying degrees of disarray. That may not happen again. They certainly shouldn’t behave as if it will. The opportunity is now.

You can see a road up out of the third wild-card spot into heaven. Hit wonky AL Central leaders Minnesota in the play-in. That puts you on a crash course with the surging, but callow, Texas Rangers. And then it’s the Astros, and that’s so close to being the World Series that the real thing should feel like a breeze.

Sitting here, it’s so obvious how you do it. It’s hard to imagine how it could be more so in the future. That said, projected outcomes do have a way of fooling you. Especially in this town.

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