In the offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays – 20 years removed from their last playoff appearance, with just one finish higher than third since – made perhaps the loudest pronouncements in baseball. They all but imported a new team, adding all-stars to the rotation (Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey) and the lineup (shortstop Jose Reyes). They quickly became a trendy pick not only to return to the postseason, but to appear in the World Series (including here).
But more than a quarter of the way through the season, the Blue Jays are among the most significant disappointments in baseball. They do, though, have company. A look at what’s gone wrong:
Los Angeles Dodgers (19-26 through Thursday)
Right-hander Josh Beckett was a key to last summer’s blockbuster trade with Boston. The best news for L.A. on Beckett: He’s on the disabled list, because he went 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA. They signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $159-million deal in the offseason – and he began the year on the disabled list. Only three N.L. teams have a lower OPS (.692), and Manager Don Mattingly appeared to question his troops last week when he said, “It’s not all grit and no talent that gets there, and it’s not all talent and no grit. It’s a mixture of both.”
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (20-27)
Josh Hamilton’s career slash line entering this season: .304/.363/.549. His line so far with the Angels: .220/.279/.374, with 53 strikeouts in 201 plate appearances. How’s that five-year, $133-million deal working out? Albert Pujols has a similar phenomenon: .325/.414/.608 before this year, .253/.320/.434 in 2013. Ace Jered Weaver is due back next week from a broken elbow. Joe Blanton has tried to hold the rotation together – and gone 1-7 with a 6.19 ERA.
Toronto Blue Jays (20-27)
Johnson is on the disabled list with inflammation in his triceps. Buehrle has one win and a 5.90 ERA in 10 starts. Dickey, who led the majors in innings pitched last year, has completed seven innings just twice. What amounts to good news in Toronto: Reyes, who suffered an ankle injury April 12, might be back by the end of June, rather than after the all-star break, as originally forecast. Still, only god-awful Houston has a worse team ERA than the Blue Jays (4.75), whose rotation has dialed in a 5.38 ERA.
So which of these three teams has the best opportunity to turn it around? The Dodgers are only six games back in the soft N.L. West, have Greinke back, have a budding star in rookie Hyun-jin Ryu (5-2, 3.30 ERA) still have Clayton Kershaw (5-2, 1.35 ERA) and could bring up stud-in-waiting Yasiel Puig (.312/.381/.568 in Class AA). But they better start soon.