Seriously, I really want Aaron Sanchez to get his groove back

Posted February 25, 2019 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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Honestly, I’m not dreading the upcoming regular season. Yes, the Jays are likely going to be akin to the 2011/2012/2013 Houston Astros. It’s going to be ugly, save for Vladdy’s debut. But I’m okay with that. With a pair of rose-coloured glasses, I intend to treat 2019 as a season of development and teachable moments.

In fact, the only amount of worry I have is for Aaron Sanchez. Seriously, I really want Aaron Sanchez to get his groove back.

Do you recall Spring Training 2016? Sanchez showed up with 25 pounds of added muscle and a very confident disposition. The kid wanted to be a starter and was determined to make it happen. Don’t know what it was about his work effect, but my gut was telling me we were in store for something special.

Not only did Sanchez deliver, but he captained a starting rotation that carried the entire team to another exciting playoff run.

Sanchez was an artist out on the mound. You’d fall to your knees and weep at how he dominated the competition. No inning limit – though a compelling storyline – was going to stop him. He got the Jays into the postseason and picked up an ERA title along the way. Aaron Sanchez was an elite starter.

And then….he was robbed at gunpoint by a blister and a suitcase. We were robbed too.

2017 and 2018 were rough years for Sanchez. Having him on the sidelines was my biggest frustration two seasons ago and the one of the biggest reasons why they finished with 76 wins.

Imagine if Sanchez was fully healthy in 2017. Maybe they would’ve had at least 10 more wins. Maybe they would’ve competed for a wild card spot. Maybe things would be different.

Alas, dust in the wind.

So here is Aaron Sanchez caught in a baseball version of purgatory. It seems like there’s a chasm between what he was in 2016 and where he is now. I’m just hoping he can close that gap.

A recent Shi Davidi article on Sportsnet.ca highlighted his strategy. He’s studying film and correcting bad habits caused by last year’s finger injury. It reminds me of that same determination from 2016.

If he can regain his form, his path will be clearer. Of course, that path can lead one of two ways: Either he’ll be an integral part of the rebuild or he’ll be traded for younger talent. I’m actually conflicted with what I’d prefer. But I know this: A healthy and optimum performing Aaron Sanchez will make things less murky. The less murkier, the more he can move forward.

I don’t want him to be a one hit wonder. I don’t want him to be lost in obscurity. The Jays can lose games and be the joke of the league. That won’t bother me. What will be upsetting is if Sanchez’s once-promising career fades away.

It can’t happen. Just like Ricky Romero, it would be tragically unfair.

ER

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Spring Training Haikus: The “Tradition” Continues

Posted February 11, 2019 by The Hek
Categories: Baseball Poetry Project, Blue Jays

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construction begins
at the spring training complex
where the earth is scorched

the new manager
leads a rebuilding roster
with future promise

fans want young Vladdy
to address his potential
and answer the hype

where does Travis fit
in a packed middle infield
with many options

pitching has questions
mixed with low expectations
and hopes for good health

ER

PS: Here’s another round of Dimsum Stories.

Silent Siblings: A Baseball Microstory

Posted January 28, 2019 by The Hek
Categories: Baseball, Baseball Microstories

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Dinner was painfully awkward.

Such was the case with the Johnson brothers. They had nothing in common except for baseball.

Roger was the league’s best manager. Steve was a long-time umpire.

They reluctantly met, ordered and sat silently.

A young sports reporter out with his colleagues noticed the Johnsons and asked why they weren’t speaking.

“Wait for it,” answered one of the veteran scribes.

Eventually, Roger broke the silence.

“Can’t believe you threw me out,” said Roger. “That third strike was way outside!”

“It caught the corner and you deserved what you got,” replied Steve.

The young reporter instantly understood.

ER

Damn! I was selfishly hoping the Blue Jays wouldn’t trade Russell Martin

Posted January 14, 2019 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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I know that’s ridiculous; possibly idiotic. But part of me was hoping Russell would be kept for the sole purpose of mentoring Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire; similar to the role Curtis Granderson played in 2018.

Of course, that would be a very expensive mentor. Given that Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins are scorching the Earth as part of the rebuilding process, it makes sense to get something in return for Martin. After all, the Jays are paying his salary, despite the trade. I’m sure the front office also doesn’t want a repeat of the Josh Donaldson saga. Martin probably wants to actually play as well.

I have no interest in the numbers. That’s for the insiders, pundits and professional bloggers to crunch. When I think of Russell Martin, the first words that come to mind are confidence and professionalism.

Sitting in the left field seats gave me the opportunity to watch him prepare for a match. I was transfixed by him running from the dugout to the outfield in full catching gear. He’d go through his drills before working with that day’s starter. It’s hard to articulate, but I never had to worry about what was happening behind the plate.

I spent the last few days thinking of my favourite Russell Martin memories. That homerun against the Yankees in late 2015 will probably be his defining moment with the team.

It was Yom Kippur that day. My family and I were breaking our fast at a relative’s house. Normally, we’d sit around the living room chatting. Not this time.

The majority of us gathered in front of the TV. The atmosphere was incredibly tense; but when Russell connected, we all exploded in jubilation! Of course, we weren’t the only ones: “RUSSELL! RUSSELL! RUSSELL! RUSSELL!”

Other moments come to mind:

– The errant throw in game five of the 2015 ALDS that almost flushed a magical season down the toilet; followed by his thanking the heavens for Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip homerun.

– The hot streak he went on in August 2016 when the rest of the team was struggling.

– Game three of the 2016 ALDS; a first inning dinger, followed by the fielder’s choice that ultimately led to the Donaldson Dash.

Now his career has come full circle as he heads back to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He deserves a chance to play for a contender. Hopefully, he’ll help L.A. finally get over that hump. Having a chance to catch Clayton Kershaw is also a nice bonus.

Maybe it was his connection to Ontario and Quebec. Maybe it was because he’s just a few weeks older than me. Maybe it was using “Courage” as one of his walk-up songs. I’m just thrilled Russell Martin spent four seasons with the Jays. Worth every penny; even the ones that will cover his 2019 season.

ER

If I was an upstanding member of the BBWAA and allowed to submit a hall of fame ballot…

Posted December 26, 2018 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Baseball

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Pretty sure I got the original “ballot” photo from MLB’s Twitter account. The e-highlighter…..that’s all me.

Look, I don’t have time to pour over pages of data. I also have no interest in explaining myself. The names I selected are based on memories, feelings, emotions, bias and a little bit of Baseball-Reference.com. There’s also this picture I took inside the Baseball Hall of Fame when my friend and I visited Cooperstown in 2012. It justifies certain players being elected.

Anyway, this will likely be my last post for 2018. If you have a chance, check out this collection of microstories I wrote for Ari Shapiro’s website. I hope you had a great holiday season and wish you the very best in 2019! Thanks for putting up with me. 😉

ER

Rejoice!!! $1 hot dogs are coming to Skydome in 2019 and we shouldn’t be wieners about it

Posted December 17, 2018 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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Recently, the Blue Jays announced their promotions schedule for the upcoming season. There are shirts, hats, collectibles and theme nights. But there was one promotion that had me relishing in excitement: Loonie Dogs Night

At the first Tuesday home game of every month, fans can purchase hot dogs for the low price of $1. There is one stipulation: You can only buy a maximum of four hot dogs. Not sure how they’ll enforce that, unless there’s a bratwurst version of the AGCO.

Not surprisingly, nobody is doing cartwheels. I’m sure some automatically hate the promotion because it comes from an office led by Mark Shaprio. If AA and Paul Beeston were still here and came up with the idea, there’d probably be a parade in their honour.

But I’m getting off topic.

Honestly, I LOVE the idea for the sheer nostalgia. When I was a kid, the hot dogs at Skydome were 99¢ and footlongs were $1.99. How could anyone not take advantage of that?! To help advertise the prices, the jumbotron would play a video of two hot dogs dancing to a mashup of bagpipes and techno music. It left quite the impression on me. If the marketing team was hoping Loonie Dogs Night would reach certain Xennials on an emotional level, then I guess I’m a real sucker.

Besides, I don’t need to remind you about the exorbitant fees for certain food items at the ball park. To their credit though, the Jays don’t have the most expensive hot dogs in MLB. Still, it does seem ridiculous paying $4-$5 for something that won’t rock your world. We’re talking about hot dogs after all.

Funny enough, I actually won’t be able to take advantage of this promotion. None of the games I plan on attending in 2019 occur on Tuesdays. But I wouldn’t label this as sad irony. I’ll still have my favourite vendor at the corner of Front and John. For $2.50, you get a hot dog that’s bigger than anything sold inside the stadium, grilled with a phenomenal amount of attention and detail. Worth every penny.

Nevertheless, if you find yourself at the first Tuesday home game of the month, have one dog (or four) for me.

ER

Troy Tulowitzki was the turning point and worth every penny, gosh darn it!

Posted December 11, 2018 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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So I wasn’t surprised Tulo was released. Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins are forging their own path, even if it means scorched earth and paying a 34-year-old $38 million over the next few seasons to not show up to Dunedin.

Whatever. I’d still pull the trigger on that trade.

Tulo’s arrival midway through 2015 – along with David Price’s arrival a few days later – was the turning point. His mere presence gave the Jays an incredible boost. Before the trade, the team was hanging by a thread. Tulo put on the uniform and that Jays team took off like a rocket!

Not going to get into his numbers or the injuries. I’m perfectly content with the 2015-16 playoff banners and the memories.

If you’re into the whole “what has he done latley” argument, that’s cool. You’re entitled to feel that way. I just prefer to put more heart and emotion into my fandom.

Thank you, Tulo.

ER


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