Call it a deficit of trust. As the Boston Red Sox ripped open the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon to end a thoroughly unsatisfying 2-4 homestand, a dispute played out across Twitter and in the stands at the Rogers Centre.
It was the Lifers against the Johnny Come Latelys: those fans were here for the Jason Frasor Era, and those fans caught up in the sexiness of this new thing and the 20th anniversary of the last World Series title. The former looked around as R.A. Dickey imploded and saw Cole Hamels, David Price and Justin Verlander getting knocked around on the out-of-town scoreboard. They'll buy into Dickey's suggestion that sometimes you need to determine "did you just get base-balled or did you just not execute," and that he had already determined that it was a bit of both. The others will think Dickey sucks and that all manner of disaster awaits.
Dickey said there are some mechanical adjustments he needs to make. "I need to change speeds and stay back over the rubber just a hair longer," said Dickey. Considering that so few people around the Blue Jays have experience with the knuckleball or with Dickey, he'll have to take the lead. The Blue Jays have no choice but to trust him, just as Blue Jays fans must – for now – trust that this new manager and new group of players really is as good as everybody says, or at least that they'll figure it out. Concerns? We share a few:
If you wondered whether Dickey might lose it overnight or whether Mark Buehrle is ready to compete after signing a retirement contract with the Miami Marlins or whether Josh Johnson might ever regain the three miles per hour that was left on the operating table, this homestand was made for you.
The biggest concern ought to be Johnson's velocity and faith in his fastball, since his percentage of fastballs thrown has fallen 16 per cent to 54 per cent over four seasons.
Edwin Encarnacion (2-for-23) admitted after Sunday's 0-for-4 performance that "I'm not seeing the ball well and not swinging the bat well." The prescription, he said, is simple: "I need to look for my pitch early in the count." He also needs Jose Bautista back in the lineup.
If playing without Brett Lawrie is something the Blue Jays will need to get used to, this week was frightening. Mark DeRosa's a great clubhouse guy, but he can't play third on turf. Maicer Izturis is best served as a second baseman, and while Emilio Bonifacio had one terrific game defensively at second base, he cost the Blue Jays Friday with three errors. Manager John Gibbons knows his best defensive lineup is Lawrie at third and Izturis at second, and if patience is short with Adam Lind, Bonifacio might see some time at designated hitter as well as in centre field against tough lefties. Lawrie is scheduled to take batting practice Monday in Dunedin, which leads us to – the good news:
Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos answered some questions, didn't they? Santos could have thrown a slider to Mark Reynolds instead of a fastball but it was still a pitch almost shoulder high that Reynolds hit out in a 3-2 Indians win on Wednesday. Santos's slider was filthy this week, and Janssen worked back-to-back games, picking up a save, striking out three and giving up a single and using just 27 pitches in those consecutive outings. Opposing hitters are 2-for-11 against Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil has seven strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. Considering the health concerns around Janssen and Santos, it couldn't have gone much better.
The ball is flying into the seats at the Rogers Centre, and with Bautista and Encarnacion in the middle of the lineup it's all to the good, provided the Blue Jays pitchers get used to it. Five of the eight 400-foot plus home runs in the majors through Saturday were hit at the Rogers Centre. Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia had the two longest. Arencibia's been locked in since the World Baseball Classic and didn't miss a beat after being scorched for all those passed balls in the opener.
REYES OF HOPE
My goodness but Jose Reyes has come as advertised, reaching base safely in all six games. If only everybody else on this team was as relaxed as him.
"Not the way you want to establish the season," Reyes said Sunday. "But we'll be fine. We'll stay together as a group." Right now, trust is all they have. It's all the fans have, too.