Even at this level, every once in a while you have to grab someone by the lapels and start shaking. For their own good. It's a sort of intervention.
They're still pretty cheery in the Jays clubhouse. No one's given up. I'm not sure exactly which stage of grief this is, but it's one of them.
Before they all trudged out on the field to begin the nine-game homestand/wake for the 2014 season, we gathered briefly to hold hands and cry.
"Have you done the math?" someone asked Jays manager John Gibbons.
"No," Gibbons said, and then brightly. "I was pretty good at math in school."
Returning compulsively to a happier time in your life – classic coping strategy.
This is the math. The Jays have 65 wins with 34 games remaining. They need to win 25 of them. That's too many games to win. After Friday night's bumbling 8-0 surrender to the Tampa Bay Rays, that is way too many games to win. Soon, we'll have to start saying way as if it started with an 'h'.
"Do you worry that they do the math?"
"The players? Nah. I'm not sure those guys are real good at math."
Lashing out – more Psych 101 stuff.
The other night, starter J.A. Happ addressed this very topic: "I think we all know the math part of it."
Then he said no more about the math – obvious transference.
Let's try with someone else.
"I remember you used to need 95 wins. Now it's ninety. Which seems kind of low," Adam Lind said. "So it's possible."
Hallucinations – this is getting serious.
"We don't sit around doing the arithmetic. We do know there are teams ahead of us."
Good. An acknowledgment of reality. Also, a fancy word for 'math'. We're getting close to letting the healing begin.
It's a start. And, if we're in a safe and honest place with each other here, an end.
Miracles happen, but let's save our divine mulligans for Syria and sick children. This season is over for the Blue Jays. The best they can do now is make it respectable. At some point here, we're going to think they can pull it out. That will be one of the lies you tell yourself in September, along with, 'I'm going back to the gym' and 'This Christmas dinner, no one's going to call 911.' From the perspective of the side of the ditch, down which we are all skidding, you can look back up and spot precisely when the team lost hold of the steering wheel.
Non-waiver trade deadline day. July 31st. Everybody who matters in the American League did something. The Jays did nothing. By his own downbeat standards, Jose Bautista blew his stack. He was the only one in the clubhouse really speaking truth to power that day.
We all shrugged and tried to persuade ourselves it didn't mean anything. After all, who exactly were they supposed to trade? Everything was going to be fine. Then the Jays lay down and died.
On the last day of July, Toronto was comfortably in the second Wild Card spot, leading Seattle by three games. They were only 1.5 games behind the Orioles in the East. Over the next three weeks, they posted the second-worst record in baseball.
Believing the Jays still have a chance is to believe that Detroit and Seattle, with all that pitching, are going to get lapped by Drew Hutchison and friends. That would be a powerful act of faith. If you can manage it, I'd like to ask you to say a few words at my funeral. I could use the endorsement.
You don't want to call this a failure. The team will think of it that way – every team that doesn't win should – but it wasn't for all the rest of us. By recent standards, it's been an awful lot of fun to watch.
Some time in June, you started thinking what they had going for them was sustainable. The Jays have been intermittently in and out of it over the years, but it's been a long, long while since it felt that way.
All the usual culprits were to blame here – too little experience, too many miles, injuries, depth and the lack thereof.
We'll spend the last six weeks coming to grips with it. Somewhere in there, you're going to feel angry. Don't bother. A just-above .500 team is what we thought we'd get, and it's about where we're ending up. Nobody got cheated this year.
We can save the critiques for November, and then we can try to keep them down to a minimum of purple-faced shrieking.
There's no point in firing people willy-nilly. Gibbons and Alex Anthopoulos hit their minimum targets. The window is still open, such as it is. If they are going to fundamentally improve this team, that's a function of cash rather than cunning. You can't blame Anthopoulos because the owner is cheap.
The smartest thing would be to do what they did last off-season – try not to think so hard. The fixes here are obvious – a front-line starter, a more robust bullpen, someone who can hypnotize Juan Francisco into believing he can hit breaking balls.
But that's for later. Right now, let's try to say goodbye with some dignity. It wasn't the baseball season you'd hoped. But it gave you a reason to feel some.