Another regular season has ended. Six months of getaways days, weekend series, and west coast flights. 20 ballparks. For the Blue Jays it ends in the same place it has since 2008. in fourth place in the division. Finishing the season by sweeping the doormat Minnesota Twins, they also continued their wanderings in baseball purgatory, losing only 89 games. For eight years they have neither won or lost as many as 90 games. Two General Managers. Three managers. Same neighbourhood.
If you roll back the clock all the way to the strike shortened season in 1994, there is only one annus horriblus in the Blue Jays record book. In 2004, they lost 94 games. Look back any further, and there they are, ‘between the 90s’. Right after the glory, mediocrity.
This year the Blue Jays player like a contender into June. Then like a triple A team thrust into the spotlight, in August and September. Really, by the late turn of the season, they were a triple A team, and trying to spread their wings in a very hostile environment.
The funny thing is, the possibility of being a different kind of team seems to be possible. The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros had similar records through early June, and then Oakland caught fire, taking the division title on the final day of the regular season. The Baltimore Orioles defied the late game odds, and the extra inning odds, over an over again. Now we have playoff baseball in O-Town, after being locked at the bottom of the division since 2008. The Pirates started strong, and stayed strong, longer than they ever had, but eventually faded into obscurity.
This season many, many things that were obvious about the destiny of each division we wrong. Even in late June, the standings did not hint at the adventures to come. Stuff happened, right up until game 162, that affected the playoff picture.
What’s my point? There is great danger in predicting the future. To assume that the Blue Jays will succeed in 2013 because they spend and trade to get the right guys on the roster at the right time. To assume that they will fail because they don’t sign enough free agents, or the players didn’t want it enough is equally dangerous.
The narrative of ‘experience winning’ is false. Ask the veteran Ranger squad who are all at home watching on television right now. Players don’t need to ‘learn how to win’. The Orioles and Athletics are a pack of cast-offs who didn’t know success from a hole in the ground until about 5 months ago.
There is but one way to know what a team can do over the grind of a 162 game season. You have to play all the games. That’s the wonderful part.