Of course I selected R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle on my (pretend) Hall-of-Fame ballot

As per custom, the Baseball Hall of Fame has released its list of candidates eligible for induction. There are first-timers, multi-appearance candidates, those who have no chance and the ones who get enough to stay on the ballot, but not enough to receive a plaque. Once again, Mr. Thibodaux and his colleagues have compiled everything related to the selection process.

As per custom, campaigns are presented, virtues are signaled and delegating to other voting committees commences. Opinions are always accessible for this kind of topic.

And as per custom, I melt into a fantasy world where I am a high-standing member of the Baseball Writers Association of America with a marked ballot ready for public consumption. And yes, a grown-ass man fantasizing about BBWAA membership is weird, but that’s my problem.

As usual, my picks are based on memories, feelings, emotions, bias and a little bit of Baseball-Reference.com.

Have at it:

  • R.A Dickey
  • Mark Buehrle
  • Gary Sheffield
  • Scott Rolen
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Manny Ramierez
  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Billy Wagner
  • Todd Helton
  • Andruw Jones
  • Andy Pettitte

Yup, that’s 11 names; one more than what’s allowed. My ridiculous fantasy world, my rules.

ER

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George and Bo crashed into each other and I haven’t been the same since

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I am praying for a different outcome
knowing it will not occur

It is like Groundhog Day
and the day is only a minute:

Springer and Bichette collide

Chaos followed by silence

The match is tied

A medical cart removes concussed Springer from the arena

Thousands of paid spectators,
millions staring at screens,
watch the vehicle disappear behind the outfield wall

This is how it feels when the soul separates from human flesh

Why am I watching this?

Because I cannot move forward

The moment has initiated a great freeze,
slowing my passion and anticipation

This purgatory is painful

Stuck in a holding pattern,
hoping that I will thaw out before Spring Training

ER

The summit was within reach, but the 2022 Blue Jays fell off the mountain in garish fashion

I have never been a fan of U2. However, I am currently “stuck in a moment” and I “can’t get out of it.”

Welcome to the end-of-season dispatch. It’s a hard one to write.

2022 was an unhinged season for the Blue Jays. It began with an incredible home opener and ended with a violent defeat. In between were multiple ebbs and flows.

It’s hard for me to focus on the entire season because of how it concluded. The catastrophic loss to Seattle has affected me more than I care to admit. To watch everything crumble was traumatizing. I know that’s stupid and meaningless given the world at large, but I can’t help it.

The embarrassing defeat has overshadowed the entire season, at least in my head. The implosion is now the Jays’ reputation. No matter what they do next year, no matter the number of achievements, they will be the club with superstars that choked when the lights were the brightest. It will hang over their heads until they win the World Series. That’s the only way this demon will be exorcised.

After the match, I avoided social media for the better part of 48 hours; Twitter mostly. Didn’t want to deal with the anti-Shapiro crowd, who I’m sure had their knives out as they banged their drums and proudly wore their “Make the Blue Jays great again” hats. Also didn’t want to deal with those who feel athletes should be subdued and likely dunked on Vladdy and Alek for making bold statements.

There was anger and outrage and it was justified. Heck, I was upset too. But screaming for scapegoats and yelling on Twitter is useless. If anything, I’m mourning. Worried too.

I’m very concerned about George Springer and the concussion he sustained. I can handle a bone spur and sprained shoulder, but a concussion is different. The lingering effects of such an injury can result in a long absence; not to mention George’s mental and physical health.

The collision with Bo Bichette reminded me of a similar incident from May 2008. During a match in Oakland, David Eckstein and Aaron Hill crashed into each other. Hill took the worst of it; suffering a concussion and missing the rest of the season. Granted, Hill would recover and had a great campaign in 2009. However, there is no guarantee that George will experience similar results.

The Jays need George Springer. He appears to be the metaphoric glue that holds everything together. They are a different team when he’s on the injured list. It’s like driving a car with only a quarter tank of gas.

Geroge’s health isn’t the only item that has me bothered.

I am worried about the pitching. Then again, I am always worried about the pitching. Even if they won the World Series, pitching would still be a top concern.

Ideally, I want Ross Atkins to re-sign Ross Stripling. However, everyone on the planet is convinced Strip’s not coming back. That leaves Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White at the back end of the rotation. Based on past results, I’m not comfortable with this.

One of them can be there, but not both. Whoever it is must be able to keep games within reach. Don’t need a Cy Young; just someone who eats innings and gives their team a chance to win.

Pitching is so crucial. I just want Atkins to fill his bucket with suitable options. Rotation and bullpen. Better to have too much than not enough.

Truthfully, I have been worried about this team since the start of the season. There was hype matching 2013-levels. While 2022 was nothing like 2013, the Jays ultimately did not meet expectations.

And now, the future seems unclear.

I am always eager for the next season, but there’s this present feeling of suspended animation.

I am in shock over how everything ended. The story took a sharp, unexpected turn. I always embrace the pain, but getting swept by the Mariners knocked the shit out of me.

Over time, I’ll eventually thaw out and focus on 2023. My hope is that it will be a season of redemption; a chance to tell the fiend hanging over them to fuck off. Perhaps the humble pie Seattle fed them will be a tool of motivation. If the humiliation doesn’t drive them to be more than what they are, I don’t know what will.

And I’ll be there to witness it all. Win or lose; rain or shine. Because that’s what we do.

We love our team, even when they stumble and fall.

ER

PS: Time to hand out the end-of-season “awards.”

– Best hitter: Vladdy Guerrero Jr.
– Best starter: Alek Manoah
– Best reliever: Jordan Romano

I love the Blue Jays and always will, but they FUCKED UP

I am raw. I am stunned. I am flabbergasted.

We have witnessed the worst defeat in Toronto Blue Jays history. A loss like the one that took place on Saturday cannot compare to anything this team has achieved before – or at least I have experienced as a fan.

I love the Jays and will continue to do so until my final breath. However, they disappointed me. This embarrassing collapse will live rent-free for the next few months.

Kudos to Seattle. They came into the series with nothing to lose. They shut down the Jays and an excited SkyDome crowd in game one; took advantage of late-game opportunities the following day.

Not interested in pointing fingers or assigning blame because I’m currently blaming the entire team. And I’m sure every beat reporter, blogger and Twitter account has already condemned those involved.

Honestly, I don’t want to participate in the discourse right now. I’m attempting to avoid #JaysTwitter for the next few days. Someone or something is going to trigger me and I don’t want to deal with that.

When things are calmer, I will write a proper end-of-season article. Until then, I need to step back and process.

Anyway…Happy Thanksgiving.

ER

Sleepless about Seattle! Expansion Cousins Showdown! Tim’s vs. Starbucks! It’s PLAYOFF BASEBALL, baby!

They made it! You made it! We all made it!

Was there ever any doubt?

Okay, there was doubt. It crept into my mind and I’m sure it crept into yours as well. That’s what a season of ups and downs will do.

Funny enough, this Blue Jays team was just like last year’s club. They practically finished with near-identical records; with the 2022 version scraping out – ironically – one more victory. However, there was a big difference between this season and 2021: Higher expectations.

Vladdy said this year would be the movie and we bought all the tickets and popcorn. Naturally, we expected a big budget, non-stop action, Jerry Bruckheimer thrill ride. Instead, we got something different.

The movie was an intense tug-of-war between adversity and triumph. It was frustrating and excruciating, but also inspiring and fulfilling. In the end, we rejoiced as triumph came out on top.

But all of that now is a concluded chapter.

Postseason baseball offers a reset and a fresh start. The long-term goal for the Jays is 13 wins, but their focus this weekend is two victories against the Seattle Mariners.

All they need to do is be patient at the plate and precise on the mound. Easier said than done, of course. But they have the tools and a rabid fanbase with energy to channel.

I’m thinking about SkyDome and how crazy it will be. Was able to attend three playoff matches in 2015-16, including game three of the 2016 ALDS (aka the Donaldson Dash). It was the closest thing to a religious experience.

I’m also thinking about younger generations of Blue Jay fans, who are about to experience the fourth playoff run of the last eight years. And yes, I’m counting the appearance in the 2020 unicorn season.

And I’m also thinking about Jerry Howarth. Hope he’s doing well and has a great seat to watch the matches. Also thinking about the late Tom Cheek and how I/we miss him at a time like this. Certainly can’t forget about John Cerruti and Don Chevrier either.

4:07 pm is nearing and we are ready. PLEASE remember to SAVOUR this playoff run, regardless of the outcome. Never take it for granted. We all want a World Series title, but have no way of knowing if that will happen. So, we need to let the story play out and enjoy it all.

Blue Jays ’till I die.

ER

Changes are coming to SkyDome. I’m excited, but emotional too…

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” as the late David Bowie would say.

Since the Blue Jays returned to Toronto last summer, I’ve been to two games. Both matches occurred this season. The most recent one was September 13; the first game of the day-night doubleheader against Tampa Bay.

As the date approached, I began to feel sentimental.

This month marks 30 years since I attended my first-ever match at SkyDome. September 19, 1992, to be specific. That afternoon, the Jays defeated Texas, 1-0. The newly acquired David Cone was on the mound, while the Rangers had a lineup that included their newly acquired Jose Canseco. For the record, I booed the shit out of Canseco from my seat in the 500s.

I remember the day vividly because the feelings I experienced are the same feelings I experience three decades later.

It’s the anticipation and excitement. Taking the TTC to Union Station; marching to the stadium with your fellow fans. Maybe you’ll grab something to eat on the way or choose an overpriced item inside (YOLO!).

Then you enter through the gate and make your way through the concourse. As you walk, you pass by several section entrances and get peaks of the blue seats and field. You’re almost there!

Finally, reaching your seat, taking everything in; getting acclimated. With luck, the roof is open and the temperature is perfect.

Following the match, everything is done in reverse. There’s a touch of sadness because the high has come down and you’re forced to wait for your next hit.

Countless times I’ve followed this path. Jubilation after victories, sorrow after defeats and always thankful for the experience.

As I sat down and prepared to watch what would be a 4-2 loss to the Rays, I wanted to look and experience Level 500 before it undergoes renovations.

SkyDome will look different next year. The bullpens are going to be elevated, the gap between the outfield wall and the seats will be eliminated and the outfield side of the fifth deck will be turned into a lounge/social area. All the remaining seats in the 500s – there since the stadium opened in 1989 – are also being replaced.

The plans are ambitious and hopefully, create a better fan experience. This is just the first stage of what will be a multi-year overhaul of the facility. It’s exciting to witness the transformation. These changes are certainly greater than a fresh coat of paint or new signage. I’m thrilled about the stadium’s future, but also a tad emotional about it.

I go to a baseball game to watch a baseball game. Usually, I’m not there to hang out with a group of friends. Just want to watch and cheer on the Jays. The bells and whistles aren’t that important.

Never bothered me that SkyDome was not a traditional ballpark or that “all the seats faced the 55-yard-line.” As long as I had a seat, I was happy.

Of course, every fan is different. Some care about the bells and whistles. They don’t like certain sightlines or the lack of gathering areas. For them, just watching the game isn’t enough.

And that’s perfectly fine. The Jays SHOULD cater to those types of fans. It would be foolish if they didn’t. To me, SkyDome is fine the way it is. However, I’m an outlier and there’s no need for Mr. Shapiro to worry about me or those with similar feelings.

As Mitch White ate innings and conserved bullpen arms, it was important to take several glimpses of those nosebleed seats in the outfield. I don’t know if I will watch another game in person this season. So, I had to have a final look.

They won’t be there next year. It’s sad, but it’s for the best.

ER

This is a Bradley Zimmer APPRECIATION blog entry

That’s right.

I am showing appreciation for Bradley Zimmer. He’ll likely not see this appreciation. But if he does, I hope he appreciates the appreciation.

I am showing appreciation for Bradley Zimmer because he deserves it.

I am showing appreciation for Bradley Zimmer because I saw a “meh” reaction after the Blue Jays reacquired him.

I am showing appreciation for Bradley Zimmer because some treat him like Josh Thole and that irks me.

I am showing appreciation for Bradley Zimmer because those below the Mendoza Line at the major league level are still some of the best baseball players on the planet.

I am showing appreciation for Bradley Zimmer because for every Bradley Zimmer, there are thousands who never made it and would do anything to take his place.

It’s fair to say that Zimmer hits poorly. Statistically, his production is below average. It would be great if he could contribute to the offence. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

So, why is he still on a big league roster?

Because he serves a purpose.

Zimmer is the 26th/28th player on the active roster. It’s not a glamourous spot, nor is it something athletes aspire for. It is a placement that defines idioms such as “hanging by a thread” and “holding on for dear life.” This was evident in August when he was designated for assignment twice; Toronto to Philadelphia to Toronto.

Currently, Zimmer fulfills a specific role with the Jays: He’s a late-inning substitute on the basepaths and in the outfield. When the club needs a run late and extra speed, he’s the guy. When a victory is within reach and they need stronger defense, he’s the guy.

It’s a tough responsibility and unpredictable. He’s not in the starting lineup regularly and there is no guarantee he will be called upon. Therefore, Zimmer shows up every day, prepares and sits in the dugout; ready at any moment. It’s an uncertain state, but between this insecurity and getting DFA’d, the choice will always be the former.

Some curse Zimmer for his lack of production. I can understand that, but ask yourself: Why are you expecting Zimmer to perform at the same level as Vladdy or Bo?

There are lead actors and there are supporting cast members. Zimmer is a supporting cast member. He’s there for little, unattractive things; an unsung hero. It would be fantastic if he hit .300 and picked up lots of extra-base hits, but that’s not the type of player he is. No bench player usually is and it’s not fair to expect that.

That’s why I was bothered by how some fans treated Josh Thole.

An outsider would see all those less-than-constructive comments made about Thole and think he was supposed to mash 50 homers and collect 100 RBIs. Thole was on the team for one reason only: To catch R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball. That’s it! Anything else was gravy.

Same story with Zimmer. He’s on the team for his defence and speed. Any offensive contribution is a bonus.

When Zimmer comes in late as a defensive replacement or a pinch runner, I am appreciating him. It’s not an easy role, but it is his role and he performs it well. You might not admire him and you’re certainly allowed to feel that way.

Like it or not, he’s doing his part and I applaud him for that.

ER

Make no mistake about the Blue Jays’ greatest sin: They are consistently inconsistent

Much like the previous season, this current Blue Jays team has been plagued by the evil I-word: Inconsistency.

The word is the root of frustration for anyone who has invested in this team. So far, the Jays have looked great at times and lifeless during certain stretches.

This inconsistency has caused the players to over-compensate, fans to rip their hair out, columnists to sharpen their knives and bloggers to attack other bloggers.

It has been a mess thus far.

As the final weeks of the regular season commence, there is a question to ponder:

Will this inconsistency be the Jays’ downfall or will they overcome it?

While some might conduct a postmortem of the season after every loss, I prefer to let everything play out. However, I am always hoping, praying and believing.

Pretend there’s a gun pointed at your head, Eric.

Fine…

They will overcome their flaws. Everything else be damned!

The Jays are too good to be bad. Despite their inconsistency, they have still managed to stay above the .500 mark and have held a playoff spot for most of the season.

By my count, there were three bad stretches – May, July and this current month. All happening – as pointed out by others – in the early parts of the months. At each occurrence, you couldn’t help but wonder if this would kill their playoff chances.

And yet, they survived each time.

All it takes is a solid winning streak or some big performances to calm our nerves. Remember that miraculous comeback against Oakland last season? That was almost a year ago and it inspired one hell of a September – and a few days in October – run. They can make that happen again and then some. They have the tools and the talent. See what they did to the Yankees and Red Sox this past week?

All the Jays need to do is focus on clinching a playoff spot. Sure, it would be nice if a division title and home-field advantage were obtainable, but the most important part is getting that ticket. Once the playoffs start, everything is reset to zero and anything can happen.

It has been a frustrating season. We expected superior dominance and instead, got a team that has managed to keep their head above water.

Perhaps the ideal way of handling our frustration is to let go of what has already happened. It’s done! Finished! Put it in a drawer and leave it there until the season concludes.

In turn, focus on each match individually. Similar to players who follow the idea of “next pitch/next AB/next game.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

But it might help.

ER

Really??? You’re still making fun of Reese McGuire? You’re better than that

A few days before the Trade Deadline, the Chicago White Sox sent Reese McGuire to the Boston Red Sox for Jake Diekman.

When I learned of the transaction, I cringed because the reaction was going to be a shit show. Sure enough, #JaysTwitter and #MLBTwitter delivered. To paraphrase:

“First he wears white socks. Now, he’s wearing red socks. Sometimes, he doesn’t use a sock.”

“Watch out Dollar Tree store parking lots in Boston.”

“The carjacker?!”

Every time the former Jays catcher comes up in conversation, there are multiple references to his February 2020 arrest in Florida. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs hearing the metronome. Mention his name, expect a bunch of masturbation jokes.

Many have participated in the barrage. Even one stadium organist got in on the fun. It has been a running joke that’s had a long shelf-life.

And I fucking hate it.

McGuire made a terrible error in judgement. He was held accountable and accepted the consequences. Understandably, he was going to get roasted online and in the media. He brought it on himself and deserved it.

A couple of weeks of jokes at his expense is one thing. However, when it has continued for nearly 2.5 years at the same ferocity, it’s bullying.

If you’re still making fun of McGuire after all this time, it says a lot more about you than it does about him.

Like you, when news broke of the arrest, I was tempted to join the chorus of quips. However, I stopped myself because there could be an addiction or mental health issue at play.

We don’t know what was going through McGuire’s mind at the time of the incident. Based on the police report, it appears he was very apologetic and cooperative. I am certainly not a social worker, but it felt like there was more to the story. I do know that if McGuire disclosed a disorder, I would feel shitty for making fun of him.

I can’t change how people behave on social media. It’s pointless. Still, I don’t like how McGuire is treated and wish some would recognize how hypocritical they look.

We support athletes who talk openly about their mental health struggles. Perhaps we should also support those who aren’t ready or willing to speak. If McGuire – and this is only hypothetically – spoke openly about addiction, those who tweeted jokes about him would be defending him and attacking anyone who was.

It is also worth noting that some have no problem bringing up McGuire’s misdeed, but don’t give the same treatment to Pete Walker, whose transgression this past March was worse.

Perhaps I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Perhaps McGuire would tell me the same thing. Given that he’s removed his Twitter account, it’s likely he’s moved on and blocking out the noise.

Nevertheless, it’s irritating how some continue to highlight this indiscretion. I’m not saying we should pretend it didn’t happen – it’s part of his story. However, it shouldn’t be the story. Ask yourself what benefit is served by making McGuire a punchline. At some point – and it should’ve happened already – it becomes stale and immature.

Seriously, you’re better than that.

ER

Remember that time All-Star Reliever Jordan Romano was picked up by the Texas Rangers?

Years ago, a co-worker – knowing I was a Blue Jays fan – told me she went to high school with a guy who was in the team’s farm system. Naturally, I asked for the player’s name. Her response: Jordan Romano.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I’ve heard that name before.”

The Markham, Ontario native has walked a path covered with challenging terrain. Despite multiple obstacles, he has emerged relatively unscathed and blossomed into one of the best closers in the game.

Jordan Romano currently leads the American League in saves with 22. He continues to be the Jays’ best reliever; a designation he’s held – one could argue – since 2020. Romano’s success was celebrated recently when he was named to the AL All-Star team.

It’s a pity he didn’t pitch in the actual All-Star game. However, he still got to experience everything the Mid-Summer Classic encapsulates. Moreover, receiving such an honour – even if it was to replace Gerrit Cole – is an incredible achievement. Romano certainly deserved to be there and had the statistics to support it.

And to think, the Blue Jays almost lost him to the Texas Rangers.

In December 2018, Romano was claimed by the Chicago White Sox in the Rule 5 Draft. The ChiSox then handed him off to the Rangers. In a short period, Romano was the property of three separate clubs.

Let’s digest that for a moment:

Nearly four years ago, the Blue Jays’ All-Star closer was left UNPROTECTED. He was then plucked by another team and given away to a third organization! It was like the White Sox bought a donut from Tim Horton’s, decided they didn’t need said donut and bestowed it to Texas.

Just imagine the conversation:

Rangers: “Whatcha got there?”

White Sox: “It’s a Rule 5 pitcher we picked up from Toronto: Jordan Romano.

Rangers: “Nice! We thought about taking him. Kid’s got potential.”

White Sox: “Oh… In that case, you can have him.”

Rangers: “What? Really?”

White Sox: “Sure! We took him, but we’re having second thoughts. Doubt we have a spot for him.”

Rangers: “Okay! Thanks!!!”

Obviously, that’s not what happened. Nevertheless, in the spring of 2019, Romano traveled to Arizona instead of Florida.

Sportsnet’s Arden Zwellng recapped Romano’s time in Rangers camp. Texas ultimately decided that they didn’t have a spot for Romano on the active roster; nor would they be able to keep him with the big league club for an entire year. As per the rules of the Rule 5, they sent him back to Toronto.

As Paul Harvey would say, “And now, you know the rest of the story.”

The Rule 5 Draft has played an important part in the Jays’ history. Willie Upshaw, George Bell, Kelly Gruber and Joe Biagini are some of the players the club has scooped up over the years. As it turned out, the protocol of the draft also allowed an integral member of the bullpen to remain with the team.

We just didn’t know it at the time.

Thank you, Texas.

ER