Will torturous Blue Jays latest visit to Seattle be another party pooper?

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The Blue Jays annual trip to Seattle to face the Mariners is usually a cause for celebration, a mid-season pick-me-up for a group of players about to hit the dog days of the most grinding season in professional sports.

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Awaiting the Jays at T-Mobile Park in the heart of the Pacific Northwest city is one of the more unique crowds you’ll find.

Making the destination vacation trek from Vancouver, to Calgary, to Regina and so many Western Canadian outposts in between, Blue Jays fans fill the stadium for a weekend baseball bash that still pleasantly captures the players by surprise.

This July? Not so much.

There is far less for the Canadian invaders to celebrate this weekend as the Jays visit the American League West leading Mariners for a three-game series beginning Friday night.

Losers of four of their past five, the Jays are a morose nine games below .500 for the first time since 2019 and are a season-worst 16 games behind the AL East division leaders, currently the Baltimore Orioles.

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It is grim, baseball fans, with the potential of getting worse before this seemingly lost season is complete.

And as bad as it seems, the current visit is eerily reminiscent of the Jays trip to Seattle almost two years ago to the day. The 2022 version was a team in turmoil as well, albeit one that visited the M’s with a 45-38 record and one that would recover from a rough patch of the season to make the playoffs.

As we sit today, it’s virtually impossible to envision such a turnaround from this version of the team, which has to be disheartening for all in the current clubhouse.

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Back in 2022 when the team charter touched down in Seattle, it wasn’t exactly a happy bunch, either. They had just lost two of three from the lowly Oakland Athletics while then manager Charlie Montoyo was a dead man walking – and he knew it.

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After getting swept by the M’s in a four-game series – one in which there was considerable grumbling in the clubhouse over the manager’s public criticism of the pitching staff – Montoyo was fired.

That prompted GM Ross Atkins to utter a quote that feels like it’s been playing on loop for the past two years.

“I’m extremely disappointed in where we are,” Atkins said after axing Montoyo, the second manager to suffer such a fate under his watch.

“I think we’re better than how we’ve played.”

Perhaps not so much, the record will show. Sure, the Jays would make the post season in each of 2022 and 2023 but that was hollow success given their meek sweeping exits each year.

In that 2022 trip to Seattle, I distinctly recall the morose feeling in the Jays clubhouse. Players weren’t happy. The manager had virtually no meaningful contact with the general manager in weeks and the disconnect was palpable.

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Even with the current Jays skid and the bleak prospect of turning things around prior to the trade deadline, there isn’t a sense that manager John Schneider is about to walk the blank as Montoyo did. Nor should he suffer that fate. While you can quibble with some of his in-game decisions – with limits given the push and pull of the baseball operations department – he hasn’t exactly been festooned with a roster of plentiful options for winning baseball.

That said, the 2024 Jays arrive in Seattle in far worse shape than the 2022 edition. That season was still salvageable, there was still some trust in the front office and there was still considerable promise for the future.

The current Jays may be 0-3 in those areas, an indictment on the “progress” of the intervening years.

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Worse, it feels like there is no way out for team president Mark Shapiro, Atkins and a woefully inadequately structured roster that has been further hampered by a rash of injuries.

The assets to sell may not bring much in return, a complete blowup risks alienating an already antsy fan base burdened with rising ticket costs to pay for a $400 million Rogers Centre renovation that’s not yet complete.

The Western Canadian fans will no doubt be on board this weekend – the party is too good to miss – and that turnout is reflective of the coast-to-coast appeal this franchise is currently torturing.

But it will be supporting a team that is in its worst position in the standings since those pre-pandemic nightmares of 2019 and a Jays group that, by the way, is 1-6 in its two previous visits to lovely Seattle.

Alas, at least the West Coast IPAs are tasty and plentiful.

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