Skip to main content


Olney on struggling Blue Jays: 'It's ugly right now'


The Toronto Blue Jays dropped two of three against the Washington Nationals over the weekend, making it four consecutive series losses as they fell to 16-19 on the season.

Sitting at the bottom of the American League East standings and seven and a half games out of first, ESPN's Buster Olney summed up the team's performance concisely: "It's ugly right now."

Olney joined First Up on TSN 1050 Tuesday, expressing concern surrounding some members of the team.

"You can understand when [manager] John Schneider started to ratchet up [the urgency] last week that that reflected probably a larger anxiety that exists within the organization," said Olney.

"Because everybody knows what's at stake."

Schneider spoke to the media on Friday ahead of the team's stop in Washington, and gave a different message than usual.

"I think we fell into that [mindset] a little bit last year ... Just 'Hey, it's going to happen, it's going to happen.' It needs to happen."

Some of the changes Schneider made to address the struggles included moving shortstop Bo Bichette down in the order.

The 26-year-old, who is off to the worst start to a season in his career with a .195 batting average and one home run in 123 at bats, batted in the fifth spot in the lineup on Saturday, and fourth on Sunday. Bichette has been the three-hole hitter in 28 of his 32 games. 

"All of a sudden the quotes coming from Schneider were 'enough of that, we have to get it done now,' and he changes the lineup, moves Bichette down, puts Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in a different spot. You could feel that all of them have a lot at stake right now," said Olney.

Despite an elite average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, as well as a walk rate that ranks in the top 20 per cent of hitters, Guerrero Jr. is struggling to produce for the third consecutive season.

"I was going to give you guys some insight and Guerrero Jr., I work with a terrific researcher that talked about Vladdy's struggles at the bottom half of the zone," Olney explained.

"Think about these numbers on pitches in the lower half of the strike zone against Vladdy: he's batting .196, with a .315 slugging percentage and a .282 on-base percentage. Those are scary numbers." 

"If you're an opposing team coming in and game planning against Guerrero Jr. and he's doing that poorly, you can just keep going to the well over and over again," said Olney.

There are no easy answers to relieve problems that have been dogging a team for more than a year, but Olney is certain changes will need to be made, for better or worse, in the near future.

"I do think you need to do something, which is why it really jumped out to me, how aggressive Schneider's words were. They all sort of understand now: They are moving toward the end of the plank," he said.

One possible direction the team could go, Olney said, is selling off valuable pieces at this year's trade deadline if they are not able to kickstart an offence that enters play on Tuesday ranked seventh from the bottom in the league in runs scored.

Players on expiring deals that could be valuable trade pieces include pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and Yimi Garcia, as well as catcher Danny Jansen.

But Olney thinks that the team could set their sights higher, given the current climate around the roster, and consider moving Bichette and Guerrero Jr.

"If they're not going to sign [long-term deals], at some point, that becomes a reality. I didn't think so during Spring Training, but the way it's going, Bichette could be on the market by the middle of the summer," Olney said.

"The Blue Jays are seven and a half games out of first place already, it's clear the Baltimore Orioles are the best team in the AL, the New York Yankees are really good. The Blue Jays have to turn it around now. 

"Like Schneider said, it has to be now."