Blue Jays Need to be Held Accountable Amidst Early Struggles

The Toronto Blue Jays are struggling out of the gate to begin the 2024 season, with the failures coming from top to bottom in the organization.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 07: Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider #14 reacts during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 07, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

It’s safe to say the 2024 season so far has been a disappointment for the Toronto Blue Jays. They are the only club sitting below .500 within the AL East with their 17-20 record and own a -44 run differential, besting only the Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, and Colorado Rockies.

As a squad, they don’t boast a single qualified batter with an OPS over .800 and they are stringing runs together at a very inconsistent rate, including three weeks in April where the club couldn’t generate more than six runs in a single contest. There are some bright spots on the squad, namely Justin Turner, Davis Schneider, and Danny Jansen (who is now healthy), but the negatives outweigh the positives to start the campaign.

The top of the lineup of George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. struggled mightily out of the gate, to the point where Bichette is seeing his name dropped in the lineup and fans are calling for Springer to be removed from the lead-off spot. To give credit where due, Guerrero is finding a rhythm in the batter’s box as of late (9-for-28 with a home run in his last seven games) and is quickly turning things around even if it isn’t in the form of mammoth home runs on daily basis.

Blue Jays can’t find consistency on both sides of the ball

The Blue Jays pitching staff is also not without fault, as a once bright spot in the organization has been reduced to a solar eclipse that has lasted longer than many may have expected. Injuries have thrown a wrench into the mix and tested the rotation’s depth but overall, there are numerous underperforming arms on the Jays pitching staff that have accounted for multiple losses on the year in their own right.

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Collectively, the Jays pitchers own a 4.64 ERA, ranked 25th in the league, and have allowed the fourth-highest opponent batting average with a .260 mark. These stats get even worse when it’s narrowed down to just the bullpen, who own a league-worst 5.23 ERA and have allowed 74 earned runs through 127 1/3 innings to the tune of a 1.41 WHIP. There are a few outliers across the Jays’ pitching staff, namely José Berríos (even after his latest outing), Yusei Kikuchi, and Yimi García who are pitching above expectations, but the numerous pitchers struggling through April and now into May are bringing the group down as a whole.

With the inconsistencies at the plate and the numerous pitching woes, the Blue Jays fanbase is starting to look for answers – one of which has revolved around the employment of manager John Schneider.

Manager John Schneider is on the hot seat

Schneider, who took over for Charlie Montoyo midway through the 2022 campaign after working his way through the Jays farm system, has been facing the brunt of the criticism this season and even dating back to last year’s playoff run (Berríos getting pulled early anyone?). That frustration has even boiled over into the game situations, with Schneider getting tossed earlier this week after arguing with the third base umpire over a check swing call.

From a manager’s standpoint, Schneider is facing the media and the fanbase day in and day out with a club that hasn’t been able to find consistency since Opening Day. The top players are not producing as expected, injuries have hampered the pitching staff and stretched the depth, and the pitching staff that was so dominant last season is not competing at the same level in 2024, putting the team in a tough spot every game.

That’s not to say Schenider is not without fault, as it’s tough to not criticize the guy who preached about a pre-conceived gameplan to start the season (aka, sitting Davis Schneider, one of the team’s best hitters, against RHP) and then continues to keep putting Springer and his .574 OPS at the top of the lineup.

It’s known that the Jays’ coaching staff seems to favour analytical-driven lineup decisions and puts faith in some of the veteran players even when they are struggling because of the data, but there have been a few questionable pitching choices that Schneider has made that have swayed the game to the opponent over the Jays, resulting in a loss on occasion. Second guesses are always going to be part of the job but if they start to snowball because of the number of occurrences, there are likely some bigger questions that need to be asked.

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To play devil’s advocate, even if Schneider was fired and replaced internally by Don Mattingly or an outside source, accountability also lies with the players and the front office that assembled this team.

Schneider isn’t the one posting an OPS below .600 or leaving sliders hanging over the heart of the plate and he is working with the same underperforming roster that Mattingly or any other manager would inherit should that time come. Names he would normally turn to for high-pressure situations or players who were expected to be impact-level guys on an everyday basis are struggling, and that accountability lies with the players at the end of the day.

That’s easy to say from anyone from the outside looking in but that’s the name of the game in the Major Leagues; your opponent adjusts to you and then you have to adjust with them. Failure to do so leads to losses given the level of talent in the big leagues.

Similarly, the Blue Jays front office is equally responsible for the absolute conundrum unfolding on the field to begin the year.

Blue Jays front office needs to be held equally accountable

They made questionable acquisitions this past winter that didn’t address the team’s biggest needs on the field (hitting, hitting, and more hitting) and instead focused on utility players and defence, with Turner being the lone offensive-related signing. The Jays bats struggled mightily last season, one of the reasons they were ousted in the playoffs, and Ross Atkins and co. added just one established bat to the mix when a plethora of power-based veteran guys were available right from the get-go in free agency including Jorge Soler, J.D. Martinez, Cody Bellinger, and so many more.

To preach trusting internal resources and that the 2023 campaign was “just a blip on the radar” was a risky move for an organization that was hoping for a bounce-back campaign from their position players at the plate while maintaining an excellent pitching standard that many deemed unsustainable. That gamble has not paid off in the slightest so far in 2024, and ultimately, the front office should also have to answer for it.

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There is no doubt that Schneider is likely on the hot seat, whether the belief is that a new manager in charge of this club provides the change necessary to curb the regression or just a change of scenery and those leading the team hopefully produce different results that add wins to the record. A second manager change within the span of three seasons also likely signals a bigger failure across the board but that’s open to interpretation.

While blaming Schneider might soothe the soul, the fact of the matter remains that the players need to figure out how to produce better results, both at the plate and on the mound, and the front office needs to produce either a solution to bring in some talent sooner rather than later to help turn things around or answer to the failures that have dogged this organization since the mid-2010s.

While the “it’s early in the season” narrative is still in play for those who hold out hope for change, which is possible and has been done before if we look at Blue Jays’ history, each day that passes without the franchise finding some sort of rhythm on the field is just another lost opportunity, one that hasn’t seen a postseason win since 2016.

At the end of the day, another season without postseason prosperity following a rebuild like the Blue Jays went through means the failures are deeper than just the newest manager. If John Schneider does get axed soon, those who are also accountable for the lack of postseason success will hopefully be on the hot seat as well.