Fans are attending MLB matches at MLB stadiums and I’m jealous AF

I saw fans at Yankee Stadium…and Globe Life Park…and Kaufman Stadium…and Fenway Park…and Tropicana Field…and TD Park in Dunedin.

Actual human beings, mixed with a few cardboard cutouts.

They ate, drank, chatted and cheered. Some wore masks. Some didn’t. Some might have already been vaccinated. Some might have chosen not to.

Nevertheless, spectators are watching baseball games at their local friendly confines.

I am unable to do that. I am envious.

When the Blue Jays flew to Arlington, I was very nervous. Scared even. There were people crammed into Globe Life Park during a pandemic. Even President Biden wasn’t thrilled about it. And the Jays were right there in the middle of it. Prone to a high chance of exposure.

But seeing all those fans in Texas felt…normal.

It was beautiful.

And I shouldn’t have liked it. I should have been angry at Texas. I should have expressed outrage. I should be uncomfortable with fans attending matches, regardless of capacities.

But it was beautiful.

And I shouldn’t like it because liking it would make me look anti-Liberal, anti-science, anti-woke; Jays Twitter will affix me with a scarlet letter.

But it was still beautiful.

Damn. I miss watching games at SkyDome. What’s a guy gotta do to speed up the vaccination process?

I fully supported the Federal Government’s decision not to grant the Jays and MLB an exemption last year. Hell, I even encouraged it. Things were really bad in the States at that time, while case numbers were low in Ontario. 

The situation is a lot worse now in locked down Ontario. It’s still not safe for the Jays and their opponents to fly in-and-out, as part of the extensive travelling that comes with regular season play. Obviously, I agreed – albeit begrudgingly – with the decision to use Dunedin for April and May home games. 

Still hoping that things will be safe by the all-star break, allowing the Jays to return to SkyDome for the remainder of the season. Additionally still hoping that things will be safer for a few of us to watch live games in September and beyond. They can easily host 4000-5000 fans, distanced throughout the 100s and 200s. They can even have 10,000 if Level 500 is opened up. 

Of course, that’s just wishful thinking. I could just give in to my pessimistic side and accept a second straight summer without the Jays on home soil. However, that would be accepting defeat and I choose to be stubborn.

For now, I am watching, listening, following, cheering and stewing. Fortunately, the actual matches distract me from the bleak realities. It’s not perfect though and it’s definitely not normal. 

But even if it’s limited capacity and the spectators are wearing masks, while sitting amongst cardboard cutouts, it’s a tiny bit closer to normal. 

ER 

George, take the wheel!

Finally, the regular-ish season commences.

Unfortunately, COVID is still present, the Blue Jays will stay south of the border for now and the traditional radio broadcast will be replaced this year with a simulcast.

At least we’ll (hopefully) get a full 162-game season. Obviously, it’s not 100% back to normal. But it’s close.

Meanwhile, our Jays have a bit of hype to live up to. I’m excited – then again, I’m always excited for the start of the season – but there is some hesitation as well.

The offence is sexy. Really sexy.

Vladdy, Bo, Lourdes, Teoscar, Semien, Rowdy, Kirk and George Springer (when he comes of the IL)….DAMN!

If you’re not salivating, check your pulse.

But while the bats are capable of doing significant damage and the bullpen looks good, I’m concerned about the starting rotation.

It’s composed of an ace – Hyun Jin Ryu – and several back-end rotation arms. Was hoping the front office would pick up a couple of quality starters via free agency. Didn’t happen. Instead, it’s likely they will run with – in no particular order – Robbie Ray (when he comes off the IL), Steven Matz, Ross Stripling and Tanner Roark.

I’m not convinced the starting five will compliment the bats. I know Ray and Matz had great Grapefruit League performances. But the regular season is a different beast and Spring Training can be skewed at times.

Obviously, I want Ray and Matz to perform well. I’m just worried that the rotation could be the team’s downfall.

Pitching is crucial. The quality of the batting lineup is irrelevant if the hurlers underperform. If the Jays’ starters can’t provide adequate outings, the offence will lose its sex appeal.

Fortunately, if the rotation runs into trouble, there are other options: Anthony Kay, Trent Thornton and T.J. Zeuch.

Of course, there are the young studs as well: Nate Pearson (when he comes off the IL), Alek Manoah and Simeon Woods Richardson; though I’d prefer if we could all have some patience and let the kids get some seasoning in the minors. I’m already uncomfortable with the Vladdy-style hype and expectations put on them lately.

Anyway, time to predict/guess:

Subjectively, I hope they win everything in sight. Objectively, this team will finish above the .500 mark. Thinking 85-90 wins. Good enough to feasibly challenge and clinch a wildcard spot.

Just remember: It’s a long season. Things aren’t determined in April most of the time.

So, at the very least, just enjoy the game.

ER

Retro Blue Jays – Never cry sh*twolf at the Home Opener

Posted by C0NTR4l34ND and Chris Monico.

It was a star-studded affair when the Blue Jays kicked off the home portion of their 2005 season.

A number of firsts occurred that evening on April 8, which saw the Jays fall 6-5 to the Boston Red Sox.

This was the first home opener played at “Rogers Centre” and fans got to check out a new video board. Meanwhile, the Jays and Red Sox tried out the new FieldTurf surface, which replaced the standard AstroTurf.

Of exceptional note, the pre-game festivities featured major league caliber celebrities.

Performing the anthems: The legendary Slash from Guns N’ Roses!

Throwing out the first pitch: The Trailer Park Boys! Ricky, Julian and Bubbles – always in character – were in fine form.

And the Jays that year? Nearly broke-even with a record of 80-82.

ER

Preaching on Front Street: A Baseball Microstory

“I have all the answers!” said a man on a soapbox.

“You know why people don’t watch baseball? Because it’s boring?

“You know why people are on their phones at a game? Because they are BORED!

“You know why old people love baseball? Because they have dementia!”

People walk by and laugh. Others ignore him.

“Stop wasting your time!” he continues. “Baseball is a terrible sport!”

Suddenly, a figure appears next to him and beckons for his ear. He listens attentively.

Instantly, his bravado disappears.

Grabbing his soapbox, he scurries out of the area.

The fear of God was present.

ER

Spring Training Haikus – 2021 Edition

a new season where
dunedin or buffalo
pretends to be home

starting rotation
could use additional arm
like taijuan walker

george springer starts fresh
after glory and scandal
in astro colours

vladdy still so young
molding his body to reach
his true potential

repeat performance
from teoscar hernandez
hopefully occurrs

ER

Six years and 150 million reasons to smile

What’s that expression about patience? Something about good things coming to those who wait?

George Springer is a good thing.

The evening of January 19 was epic. One tweet from an online writer getting a haircut kick-started an incredible level of excitement and enthusiasm. Happy “Jays Twitter” is the best kind of “Jays Twitter.”

Up until Mr. Kuhn’s tweet, the Blue Jay fanbase was engrossed in pessimism. It was understandable.

Francisco Lindor, D.J. LeMahieu, Liam Hendriks; names linked to the Jays, but nothing to show for.

Naturally, some – myself included – expected Springer to sign with the close-to-Connecticut New York Mets. Others – the anti-Shapiro subgroup – salivated at the chance to bang their drums again.

But good fortune smiled on the Blue Jays.

What do I love about the Springer deal?

  1. It’s a major upgrade to the outfield. An additional offensive threat.
  2. He brings experience into the clubhouse and the chance to take on a leadership role.
  3. It forced Sportsnet to take a break from ramming NHL content down our throats.

Leadership? But Springer was a member of the 2017 Astros; the cheaters who cheated their way to a World Series title. What’s wrong with you, Eric?

I never said he was perfect. You can’t deny he’s a talented player. You also can’t deny his involvement and association with the scandal, whatever that was. It’s all part of the story.

During the introductory press conference, Steve Simmons was the only reporter who brought up the scandal. Whether you despise Simmons or not, one must acknowledge the Toronto Sun Columnist’s gumption for “going there” when the rest of the press chose not to. It was a fair question to ask.

Springer’s response was not that impressive.

When Spring Training (hopefully) begins, I would like it if Springer sits down with his new teammates and addresses any questions and concerns. More importantly, he should take ownership of his role in the scandal, apologize and reinforce his commitment to the Jays and playing the game with integrity. It’s fine if Springer doesn’t want to publicly talk about it. Just take care of it in the clubhouse. Once the air is cleared, the focus should be on the upcoming season.

Without playing a single match, Springer is one of the biggest acquisitions in team history. While I’m very excited about his potential production – not to mention what Kirby Yates and Marcus Semien will offer – there’s something you need to know: Signing Springer wasn’t a top priority for me.

My area of concern is the starting rotation.

Currently, the Jays have their ace – Hyun Jin Ryu – and a few options for the fourth and fifth spots: Tanner Roark, Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling and the recently acquired Steven Matz.

That’s it.

There’s nobody in the middle. Who are the second and third starters?

As a new season approaches, the front office must have some sort of blueprint for the rotation.

There are some internal candidates. The main one being Nate Pearson; though I’d like him to get a little more seasoning in the minors (if there is a MiLB season). Wouldn’t mind seeing Ryan Borucki and Julian Merryweather as options. However, there’s also a strong list of external candidates that can improve the starting five:

  • Taijuan Walker
  • Masahiro Tanka
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Minor
  • Jake Odorizzi
  • Chris Archer
  • The pitcher from Cincinnati with the problematic demeanour and opinions.

Ideally, it would be nice if the Jays could sign at least two of the names on the above list. Definitely Walker and either Archer, Tanaka or Paxton would satisfy.

That’s not considered “heavy lifting,” right?

I know what your thinking: Age and injuries.

I’m not looking for a bunch of Cy Youngs. Just some hurlers who can produce quality starts; worth taking a chance with a one-to-two-year contract.

While the arrivals of George Springer and Marcus Semien provide a warming glow, the need for pitching cannot be ignored. Otherwise, all that offensive potential will be wasted because of poor outings on the mound.

The final piece cannot be Steven Matz; please and thanks.

ER

PS: Aaron Sanchez could be a strong bullpen arm. Just a thought…

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

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