Thoughts on 2023 (While The Body Is Warm)

Thursday, October 05 2023 @ 07:36 AM EDT

Contributed by: Eephus

How young are you?
How old am I
Let's count the rings
around my eyes

Yes, "Unsatisfied" would also be a good choice.

You all know I didn't want it to end this way, I hope, despite my severe vocal dislike of the play this squad inflicted upon us for the majority of six underwhelming months. Hell, for the good of superstition I even convinced myself watching none of the playoffs, not a second if necessary... might unlock the full firing cylindrical power of this team. 

Sigh. Listening on the radio didn't work for Game One, so Game Two? Nothing fresh. Not radio, or television, or even Googling score updates. A day at the beach. My knowledge was informed by social media posts from friends and just occasionally vaguely asking Mags if things were looking good.

Alas, here we are. The result is settled. The process? Very open to discussion.

But! I'm not currently interested in that major question, either. Another day, surely. There will be plenty chilly ones for that discourse. The wounds are fresh, and saying a "I TOLD YOU THIS TEAM WAS RIDICULOUSLY FRUSTRATING AND UNWATCHABLE!" provides no value to anyone. Confirming a half-season long gripe/argument isn't my intention, nor is a deeper dissection of why this team yet again failed to even win a single postseason game. 

Honestly I'm not even sure exactly what I mean to say here. Last year after the *reference deleted* Game Two, emotionally I couldn't process what had happened. It was new to my palate as a Jays fan. As an amateur ballplayer, sure... these crazy things happen sometimes (a winless team up 14-0 in the playoffs, and blowing that lead for instance). This 2023 season was likewise different to my experience, and many of yours perhaps. My brain short-circuited just how excellently they succeeded at one side of the game... a rare and incredibly admirable feat from nearly every starting pitcher, among the best (if not the) tightest of rotations in the league. This after getting negative zero (and awkward) production from their best pitcher least season.  

And then: watching this team try to score runs. Especially with runners on base. Again and again and againandagainandagainandghshffhgfjhdfjfvbdfjdfd4734463834#$$%#

That's truly why this season was so agonizing, and sadly eventually predictable, right? How we could all set our watches to "We're down 4-1 in the 4th... Game Over". I'm personally most frustrated because... our starters pitched their damn butts off. Was there any moment (aside from Manoah) that we thought any of our starters needed to be moved out of the rotation? Even Ryu coming back! Slid right in seamlessly, debuted a hilariously fun slow curveball, and probably pitched well enough to earn a Game Three nod from multiple current playoff teams. That's just ridiculous. It's insane how much good fortunate shone upon this Jays starting pitching staff... and to me that's the reallllly annoying thing about this (yeah I'll say it again) stupid 2023 team.

Because they were stupid. Fine, I'll be kinder.... careless.... in baseball terms I mean. But constantly careless, and constantly unaware or unable to optimize situations. Even the tightest ballclub will make errors in the field, misread a ball or throw to the wrong base. It's inevitable. Physical miscues happen. It's baseball.

Baserunning mistakes, or bad hitting approaches at the plate in key situations... not taking extra bases or hustling hard out of the box... those are mental mistakes. Again, they can happen even to the sharpest veteran ballplayer.. but to witness such mistakes continually happen, over and over again... by certain usual suspects (and this team had at least four)... it elevates the explanation beyond youthful exuberance into: this is a genuine flaw in their game that has not been seriously addressed by coaches. And the excuse of "this is a young team, they'll learn to be tighter at the MLB level" is now completely underneath the lowest point of the ocean. Despite the age, the depth of experience now exists and these mistakes continually remain (and also not to just pick on the kids since Matt Chapman also deserves some flack here... he made some really bad choices on the bases, when he rarely got aboard after April of course). 

This season alienated me to the point I don't much care what the team does next*. Trade Vlad (meh, you're selling low and yet... and yet), trade Bo (interesting but good luck replacing that), blow it up, sign Bellinger.... young players (semi-interesting, but they never play em anyway)... just whatever. It all became such a joyless slog to an inevitable result, despite the "sleeping talent" of this Jays team "ready to break out at any moment". I didn't even watch a playoff game, not a second. This is nuts for me! 2013ish was when I started (very occasionally) writing here but I've been a lurker on Da Box since 2004. At that point in time... if you had told me that 19 years later this team (after enigmatically overcoming their long playoff drought the previous decade) had just made the playoffs 3 of 4 years, and yet it became the most aggravating experience you've had watching a good Toronto team?  

Well no! The Raptors getting swept by the Wizards in 2015 is probably my personal low point. That legit drove me totally bonkers for a while (and I still will never like Paul Pierce no matter what you say). Perhaps that's a good example of a fellow Toronto team that took a while to get over a hump... perhaps not. Those Raptors the previous year, a young and far more inexperienced squad in their first taste of playoff action, widely expected to be a roll over, pushed a veteran Nets squad to a final possession in a Game Seven. These Blue Jays still haven't won even a game in six tries... despite the weirdness of 2020, offseason bravado after barely missing the dance in 2021 and the new "apparent" accountability after 2022. It's baseball, sure... at the highest absolute level like this, losing six of six doesn't speak to your overall talent or quality. Maybe neither does scoring just 13 runs in those six games (4 runs in 5 games if you eliminate that unspeakable one). Maybe, just maybe though... with all those different big promises over a few years now bouncing hollow in an empty room... it speaks more loudly of your inherent ability to simply win the games. Especially when you keep getting in your own way... pulling your eight-figure pitcher in the 4th when he's throwing a good ballgame for instance. The results may matter more than the process, but the process means an awful damn lot too and I think this season was a failure on that front.

This was the "throw your hands up in the air" season where you just leave the room. Maybe you walk back in after a moment, maybe you just leave the house. No Jays team has ever had a lineup that made me dislike watching them this much, because of that dreaded sense of inevitable defeat they clearly could not counter once they fell behind. The pitchers deserved so, so much better... and there's no guarantee we'll see that type of quality and quantity repeat from our arms any time soon. A wasted year, ending sadly (and fittingly) with a whimper. Goodbye forever, 2023 Blue Jays. I stopped thinking upon this season just about a sentence ago. 

*see you all soon! Baseball is fun, I swear. And I do still greatly enjoy it. Just..... not this Jays team.