Retro Blue Jays: “They love you in Windsor, George!”

Posted by Martyn Adler.

I never experienced George Bell’s tenure with the Blue Jays in-person. Just a preschooler when he won the 1987 American League MVP award. But thanks to easily-accessible footage and first-person accounts, I have been able to piece together his story.

And that story?

A great hitter whose temperament caused friction with fans and the media. There was also something about a “purple butt.”

It seems Bell was not the most approachable athlete, but that didn’t stop CBC Sportscaster Marty Adler from getting an exclusive with the Blue Jay outfielder. Working for the Windsor affiliate, Adler made his way to Tiger Stadium one night, armed with a friendly demeanour and a Spanish-English dictionary. Contact was made and the reluctant Bell played along.

The result?

A fun interview with a player who didn’t want to be interviewed.

Notice then-Manager Jimy Williams and Jerry Howarth walking by? You can also see them in the background, possibly doing their pre-game chat.

ER

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More Blue Jays, less COVID in 2021! Who’s with me?

Hope the holiday season treated you well, given the circumstances.

This is my last post for 2020. Before I started writing it, I read my final entry from 2019. Safe to say I had different things to be angry about this year.

As we approach the new year, I’m aiming to focus on the path ahead of me. Obviously, this path involves the Blue Jays.

I hope the Jays will play a full 162-game schedule, with all their home games occurring at SkyDome (figured I should capitalize the ‘D,’ even though I won’t be staying on-brand) and some fans in attendance.

Wishful thinking, eh?

Perhaps I should be a lot more realistic:

I’m expecting the Jays will use Buffalo or Dunedin as their home stadium for – at least – the first half of the season. If things are safer by the All-Star break, I’m hoping the Federal Government will let them play the second half of their schedule at SkyDome with no fans.

Finally – and this is a stretch – if things are much better by September, maybe a few of us will be allowed to purchase tickets and watch from inside the ballpark.

However, even if the vaccine has been widely distributed and cases are very low, it wouldn’t surprise me if government officials take extra precautions and restrict fans from watching live sporting events until 2022.

Also had this wacky alternative idea that’s similar to a plan considered this past spring:

MLB creates three regular-season bubbles in cities where there are two stadiums in close proximity. Additionally, the league fuses the regional divisions to create three ten-team conferences.

For example, the AL/NL East bubble would be in New York and utilize Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. Each ballpark would host 1-3 matches per day at staggered times; 12pm, 4pm and 8pm starts in the Bronx, 1pm and 7pm starts in Queens.

The Central bubble could be in Chicago, while Los Angeles hosts the West bubble.

Of course, this would take an incredible toll on the players and stadium staff. So, pretend I didn’t write it. 😉

All kidding aside, as long as there is baseball next year, I’m happy.

When sports resumed this past summer, I was skeptical and concerned. But once the matches began, the escapism was intoxicating.

60-game schedule? Didn’t matter. Home games in Buffalo? Didn’t matter. Cardboard cutouts of fans and fake crowd noise? Didn’t matter.

It was a much-needed distraction.

I need that. We all need that.

I’m praying for it.

Meanwhile, I want to wish you a very happy, healthy and safe new year. Once again, thank you for your continued support and interest. Looking forward to producing more DNJT content in 2021. I might even bring the podcast back.

Fingers crossed.

ER

PS: Check out my latest collection of microstories, currently being featured on Ari Shapiro’s website.

BEHOLD! My illegitimate hall-of-fame ballot.

I decided to take a break from watching Vladdy work out on Instagram and exercise my right to vote.

Of course, my vote doesn’t count because I am not a card-carrying member of the BBWAA. I have zero say in who will take their rightful place in Cooperstown alongside Larry Walker and Derek Jeter (hopefully) next year.

Nevertheless, I shall pretend.

As with previous years, the names I selected are based on memories, feelings, emotions, bias and a little bit of Baseball-Reference.com.

Feel free to applaud or lambaste my choices.

Ballot/Image: Ryan Thibodaux, Anthony Calamis, Adam Dore & John Devivo

ER

I’d like to thank Rogers, Brookfield and the Globe and Mail for stressing me out on Friday

Andrew Willis dropped one hell of an article this past Friday.

Apparently, Rogers and Brookfield want to tear down Skydome, build a new ballpark as well as a bunch of condos, offices and public spaces and have it all privately funded. If they can’t get government approval – because Rogers owns the ballpark, but not the land it sits on – there’s an alternative waterfront site.

A new stadium is unnecessary and I’d prefer it if Rogers focused on renovating Skydome. However, I wouldn’t say no to a new stadium either.

What’s stressing me out is the thought of the Jays having to relocate while everything is being constructed.

The fucking pandemic has punished us enough. I can handle the Jays playing in Buffalo for a year or two until it’s safe to cross the border. But to play outside Toronto for additional years and for a non-COVID reason would be torturous. If Rogers and Brookfield go through with this, I’m praying they build on the waterfront site. That way, the Jays stay in Toronto and we prepare for the big move.

Speaking of praying: This new ballpark – whatever it looks like – MUST have a retractable roof.

Skydome is not perfect, but I love the fact that I never have to worry about inclement weather. Watching baseball outdoors in the spring and fall can be a miserable experience. Ask anyone who watched games at Exhibition Stadium. I don’t care about cosmetics. Just make sure it has a roof that opens and closes.

Here’s what I’m dreading the most: The new stadium is built to the joy of all the Skydome bashers. They walk through the turnstiles, check out the place, find a million things they hate about it and then we’re back to where we started.

Some fans wanted a dome because they didn’t want to be cold and wet at Exhibition Stadium. Decades later, another generation of fans wants a traditional ballpark because domed facilities stopped being cool after Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built. What’s going to happen when they get that?

Of course, Rogers squashed everything by stating all plans are on hold because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, there are plans and the entire fanbase is now thinking about them.

I’ve never given any serious thought to the Jays playing in a different downtown venue. Now, I have to and it’s jarring.

There’s a lot to process.

ER

Mazel Tov, Dodgers!

Finally…

Clayton Kershaw is a World Series champion. So is Max Muncy. So is Cody Bellinger. So is Kenley Jansen. So is Justin Turner; warts and all.

Mookie Betts switched from red to blue and captured another ring. Dave Roberts can rest easy; at least for a few days.

Granted, there will always be a “yeah, but…” with this title because of the season’s unique structure. However, one could take solace knowing the Dodgers had reached this pinnacle twice before under regular circumstances. And this time, they didn’t lose.

For several seasons, the Dodgers earned an unsavoury reputation: A great team that could never enjoy the spoils of victory. Great regular-season record, but it would all fall apart in October.

Not this year.

The Rays had a tremendous run, but couldn’t build from their incredible victory in game four.

Kevin Cash’s decision to remove Blake Snell in the sixth inning of game six ultimately proved to be a costly tactical error.

I would have kept Snell in the match as long as possible. However, one could certainly appreciate Cash’s reasoning.

That pivotal moment reignited a debate about the merits of analytics in baseball. Many expressed their disdain for the strategy and given that the Dodgers tied and took the lead, it was hard to counter any arguments.

Truthfully, analytics has a place in baseball; as does traditional statistics and what we witness with the naked eye. There must be a balance amongst the three methods and each one should be used in moderation.

One could suggest Cash relied too heavily on analytics that night. Then again, it’s too easy to call upon hindsight after the fact.

And kudos to MLB for getting through this unique season from start to finish. Unfortunately, a few teams experienced outbreaks, while the consequences of Turner’s actions are currently unknown. I had my doubts at the start, but relieved our worst fears didn’t come to fruition.

Nevertheless, the league embarrassed itself in 2020. During a worldwide health crisis and civil unrest, the owners picked a petty fight with the players over – surprise, surprise – money.

I love baseball; so, MLB doesn’t need to worry about me. They need to worry about the fans who choose to consume football and basketball content over baseball. Those fans want and have a reason to focus on the NFL and NBA. It has superstars and a certain sex appeal.

MLB doesn’t have that. MLB needs to have that. After damaging their reputation in the spring, they have a lot of work to do.

ER

2020 World Series Guess

Wow.

At one point last week, it looked like I picked the wrong teams to win. Fortunately, the Dodgers stormed back and the Rays avoided embarrassment.

And now, a team from California meets a team from Florida at a stadium in Texas.

Anyway…

Los Angeles over Tampa Bay

Interesting fact: When the Rays captured their first AL pennant in 2008, the Democratic candidate won the U.S. election.

Just saying…

ER

I hope you’re eating mashed potatoes because the Blue Jays provided lots of gravy

Lots of opinions following the Jays’ playoff exit.

Ms. DiManno had a positive take, despite the ugly conclusion. Meanwhile, Mr. Simmons felt the team’s embarrassing performance proved they are far from being a legit contender. And Mr. Kelly applauded the Jays, but slammed the analytical micromanaging.

As for me, I’m thrilled.

All I wanted/hoped for was 25-35 wins. That’s it. Wasn’t thinking about the playoffs.

They ultimately got 25 wins, added seven more victories and played two postseason matches.

Sweet, savoury gravy!

2020 will be a season that cannot be compared or contrasted to any other year. It was a unicorn, pure and simple.

The Jays continued their development and showed us how great they can be when everything lines up. Far from perfect – and that was reinforced against the Rays – but as I have said multiple times, we should embrace the pain and patiently let the story play out.

More importantly, this team gave me a much-needed distraction.

When Teoscar Hernandez hit a homerun, when they came back from an eight-run deficit and beat Philadelphia, when they had us calculating magic numbers and when Caleb Joseph asked for two claps and a Ric Flair, I wasn’t thinking about the fucking pandemic.

Yes, they were playing in Buffalo; and yes, the cardboard cutouts and fake crowd noise could not be ignored; and yes, they needed to pause to bring attention to a very important social issue (Black Lives Matter/Jacob Blake); and yes, masks and face coverings were in plain sight.

But when the game was being played, things were calm in my mind. I didn’t feel the anxiety – crushing at times – that COVID-19 has caused.

Much like the Jays’ bullpen, there was relief.

Of course, I could write about the hot button topic that surrounded the Jays’ short playoff drive: The decision to start Hyun Jin Ryu in game two. But given that everyone else has shared their opinions, it would be pointless to add to the noise.

Then again…

If things worked out, many would say the Jays won despite management. If things didn’t work out – what ultimately happened – management would be ruthlessly criticized. Essentially, the narrative was all set before game one started.

Besides, it’s too easy to play the hindsight card.

Whatever…

I’m grateful to have the escape and pleased the young players got a small taste of big-league success. Shortened season or not, experience is experience.

Don’t know what 2021 will look like, but hoping things will be safer for matches to be played in Toronto. Maybe with a few fans too. Safety comes first though.

This was the first time in nearly 30 years that I didn’t watch a live baseball match at Skydome. I had seen at least one game every year since 1992. Not the worst thing to deal with. Still, it’s unfortunate and upsetting.

So, thank you to the Federal Government for making the right decision. Thank you to the cities of Buffalo and Rochester for taking care of my favourite baseball team. And thank you to the Jays for the gravy and the distraction.

ER

ALCS/NLCS Guesses

So, I was right about Atlanta. Everything else was a disaster.

Was too captivated with San Diego and Oakland. The Tampa Bay/New York series could have gone either way.

Anyway…

ALCS: Tampa Bay over Houston
NLCS: Los Angeles over Atlanta

ER

Summing up the Blue Jays’ “regular” season with three haiku poems

Many injuries.
Unfortunate losing streak.
Got a playoff spot.

Hard-working bullpen
saved their backsides many times
but it took a toll

And there were moments
where potential was witnessed
with a bright future

***

Time to hand out the “awards.”

Best hitter: Teoscar Hernandez

Best starter: Hyun Jin Ryu

Best reliever: Anthony Bass

***

One other item:

It has been a very unique season. It has featured a new, expanded playoff format, which I personally love and hope will continue.

Yes, they only played a third of what they would usually play. Nevertheless and circumstances aside, it is playoff baseball and the Jays are part of it.

Regardless of how far they go, make sure to savour it and do not take it for granted.

ER