The Toronto Blue Jays are on an 8 game win streak that has fans (casual and ardent alike) buzzing. There is a level of excitement surrounding this team that is a bit of a surprise. After last season’s bust and the disappointment that followed an inactive off season (not to mention several seasons finishing at or near the bottom of the division), fans were full of ire and many jumped off the bandwagon. Well, that bandwagon is starting to fill up again. Throughout this current winning streak, the Blue Jays appear to have started to develop a team identity. A while ago, I questioned if the Blue Jays have an identity; a way of doing things. I am still wondering about who this team is.
They have stormed into first place in the American League East on the power of their bats. They have collected a league leading 76 homeruns to date. 44 of those have come in May, with Edwin Encarnacion swatting an eye popping 14! Their starters have been brilliant. This win streak is also happening because, in each game, their starter has recorded a win. Not many would have expected that before the season started.
The Blue Jays are playing superb defense. Their gloves have them in 2nd in the AL with just 26 errors. They are getting amazing, highlight reel base running from the likes of Jose Reyes. Who else can score from second on a ground out to the shortstop? Casey Janssen has returned to solidify the bullpen. All in all, for the first time in a long time, this team looks like the complete package. They can beat you using several different tools and the lineup is one of the toughest to pitch against. It looks like this might finally be the “uncomfortable offense” that John Farrell
failed tried to create when he was here. Indeed, fans and players alike are having a great time! The dugout appears to be jovial, happy and confident. But, are these the real Toronto Blue Jays?
What happens when this streak ends? Let’s be honest, it will end. Even if they surpass last season’s 11 game win streak, they are not going to win every game from here on out. What happens when they lose? What happens if they lose several games in a row? Will things change? Is this apparent identity for real? Can we trust it?
Over the past few seasons, we’ve become accustomed to a much different identity; one of frustration on the field. To me, this frustration resulted in players pushing their efforts past their capabilities. Simply, they were trying too hard. It was as if they could make up several games in the standings with one swing of the bat. And when the success didn’t come from those efforts, a sort of depression set in. Players were not playing with confidence. Fans cried and screamed that ever familiar “Here we go again” mantra. A cycle of helpless frustration seemed to be the identity that was created.
The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays seem to have found a new identity. There is a new found confidence. Pitchers can rest easy and simply “do their thing”. They don’t have the pressure of trying to carry the team. The offense can relax at the plate because they know their pitcher will keep them in the game. They also know that the other 8 hitters in the lineup will contribute; it’s not all on the shoulders of one guy. They are never out of a game and are able to strike at any given moment. But, we shouldn’t be fooled by this. It’s easy to be confident when times are good.
The REAL test will be what happens when the streak ends. The true measure of a team is how they respond to adversity; how they deal with struggles. If the Blue Jays hit a rough patch and start to falter a bit in the standings, will they revert to the old identity of frustration? How will the Blue Jays respond when the current euphoria is interrupted? Will the confidence last? Will they be able to rebound? Will they stick to the great hitting approach that Kevin Seitzer seems to have instilled in them? Or, will they abandon it at the first sign of a slump?
To me, how the Blue Jays react when times get tough will go much further in figuring out the true identity of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays.