- The story entering the game, obviously, was whether Josh Towers would rebound from an horrific start to the season. Well, it was arguably his best performance of the season, but that's not exactly a bold statement. As has seemingly been the case all year, he was the victim of one bad inning that diminished an otherwise adequate performance. In the fourth inning, after surrendering a solo home run to Bobby Crosby, Towers walked Jay Payton on five pitches before Adam Melhuse hit his first home run of the season off him to make the score 3-0. By that point, the crowd's reaction towards Towers bordered on verbally abusive. Everyone (and really, it very well could have been everyone) booed him incessantly throughout the night. Commentary in the form of "You suck, Towers!" was the most prevalent and least blasphemous cry of derision that was spewed in his direction. Moreover, from the outset of the game, three fan-made posters were visible. Whether the creators' intentions were literal or sarcastic is unknown. However, by the end of the fourth inning, it became quite clear that they were interpreted in a manner akin to the latter. Josh Towers wasn't necessarily awful, but considering the fans' pessimistic expectations, his performance couldn't possibly have been judged objectively. In other words, if he gave up the lead, he would hear about it - and he did.
It was painfully obvious that the fans weren't the only ones who had Towers placed on a short leash; manager John Gibbons removed Towers from the game after he'd thrown a mere 61 pitches. After the game, Towers was noticeably ticked off about the entire situation:
"I'm shocked. Print that," Towers said. "I realize what's been going on. The one inning has been getting me a little bit, but today was different."
Three runs ain't going to beat you, not in this league," he said. "If I go to the bullpen, oh well. It's just about figuring how to get the ball back down and into the corners, which I thought I did a good job of today."
Gibbons, like most managers are apt to do, responded in a vague, unconvincing manner:
"He gave up those runs. He fell behind. I decided to make a change," said Gibbons, who couldn't explain Towers' struggles. "I wish I could. There's no place to hide. Baseball can be a cruel game some times, most of the time."
Now, although Towers pitched poorly, Gibbons' decision was certainly influenced by the fact the worst player in baseball (for this season, at least) was on the mound at the time. Had Roy Halladay been on the the mound, for instance, his margin for error would have been much wider than it was for Towers on this particular night. With that said, Halladay is a much more talented, superior pitcher than Towers, and that sort of managerial faith is warranted. Towers' velocity on his fastball was down to 85 mph by the fourth inning and he had trouble locating a good number of his pitches.
His problems are likely both mechanical and psychological at this point. He simply can't feel comfortable on the mound. When everyone else in the stadium, including most likely his own teammates, shares a sense of anticipatory doom, it's liable to afflict Towers as well. Keeping him in the rotation would simply be like exposing him to a pack of vicious wolves. If he's given time to instill proper mechanics and a renewed sense of confidence in low-leverage situations -- situations in which the fate of the game won't directly rest on his shoulders -- both he and the team would benefit. He simply does not warrant a spot in the rotation at this point, though John Gibbons has not yet communicated his intentions as of yet:
Gibbons didn't like being asked if he would stay in the rotation.
"The blood hasn't even dried. Not a good time to ask that 10 minutes after the game," Gibbons said
A couple alarming facts:
Blue Jays' record during games in which Towers starts: 0-7 (.000)
Blue Jays' record during games in which Towers does not start: 17-8 (.680)
AP PHOTO/CP, Aaron Harris
- To be clear, Josh Towers wasn't the sole reason the Blue Jays lost tonight's game. For one, the infamous left side of the infield played an important role, too. With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Antonio Perez was at the plate against Dustin McGowan, and McGowan induced a groundball to third base that should have ended the inning. However, Troy Glaus made a costly throwing error that extended the inning and led to a two-out, two-RBI single by Mark Kotsay. In 2005, Glaus had the most errors among all third basemen (24). Of those, 15 were throwing errors, which suggests that his arm is too erratic for the position. That also seems to be the case in 2006.
In the top of the eight inning, after John Gibbons oddly summoned Pete Walker from the bullpen during a close game, Russ Adams had an opportunity to end the inning with a routine throw to first to complete a double play. Instead, he rushed the throw to first and was charged with a throwing error. As a result, Jay Payton scored what would become the game-winning run. Moreover, on at least one other occasion, Adams' lack of range led to an unnecessary single by the Athletics.
- Rather than focusing exclusively on the negative aspects of tonight's game, I'll look at the bright side, as has been advised to me in the past.
The loudest pops of the night went to Vernon Wells - and it wasn't really close. It seems like the fans have much more faith in Wells than in any other hitter. And his baserunning blunder in the fourth inning aside, he had a terrific game.
AP PHOTO/CP, Aaron Harris
Also, even though Alexis Rios didn't play in tonight's game, it was obvious that his presence was sorely missed by many fans. In the bottom of the ninth, when Eric Hinske pinch hit in place of Aaron Hill, a "We want Rios!" chant erupted in my section. One person even went as far as to claim that Rios was the best player on the team, and no one sprung to defend the other 24 members of the roster. Of course, he's certainly not the best player on the team, but the very notion of it doesn't seem as absurd as it would have only a single month ago.
- I would like to take the opportunity to proclaim how incredibly well-priced tonight's tickets were. For two dollars (no taxes or service charges, either) I was able to enjoy three hours of entertainment. That is so incredibly inexpensive that years from now, Blue Jays fans will recount tales of the time they were privileged enough to attend a baseball game that cost only two dollars, while their grandchildren ponder in bewilderment how anyone could possibly find that worthy of recounting.