Posted tagged ‘2016’

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

February 25, 2019

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

January 14, 2019

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

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

December 11, 2018

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

Josh Donaldson: He brought the rain and it was magical AF

September 3, 2018

Josh Donaldson’s tenure with the Blue Jays was a blessing. The events surrounding his departure really, really, REALLY suck. However, this is not as tragic as some have made it out to be.

Josh Donaldson was not going to finish 2018 in a Jays uniform. I made peace with this notion well before the season started. Unless the team was a legit contender for the second wild card spot, this was it for the Bringer of Rain.

I prayed he would be traded during the off-season. Prayed the Jays would get a king’s ransom in exchange. I get why they waited for the middle of the regular season – contending teams would be increasingly desperate to land Donaldson’s services and therefore, empty their shelevs of young, developing talent.

Of course, that didn’t happen. Josh gingerly walked off the field in May, never to return wearing a Jays uniform; his value drastically fell.

Who’s to blame? Nobody.

Donaldson didn’t intend to miss a significant chunk of the season. Mark Shapiro, Russ Atkins and the rest of front office didn’t anticipate something like this to happen, nor would they want it to happen.

Of course, social media is more than happy to point fingers.

On social media, Shapiro and Atkins have screwed up everything!!!! Some have claimed they have set the team back by decades. Others have filed a non-confidence motion. Heck, if Shapiro and Atkins saved 1000 orphans from a towering inferno, they’d still be villanized.

So let’s take a breath.

The Blue Jays are rebuilding. It has been evident for a while. Whether you like it or not, they are a team in transition. Keeping Josh Donaldson would be counter-productive. A player of his caliber and age – if healthy, obviously – would naturally yield younger, developing talent. It’s not a perfect formula, but it only makes sense to collect several “prospects” in exchange for Donaldson and hope some – if not all – live up to their full potential.

The only mistake Shapiro and Atkins made was not trading Donaldson before the season. An error that defines the concept of hindsight.

Here’s something else to consider: Do you really believe Donaldson wanted to be a Blue Jay after 2018?

Think about it. He’s in his early 30s and about to become a free agent. He wants to win now. He expects to win now. Why would he stay in Toronto and endure a rebuild that doesn’t have a definitive timeline? Donaldson has earned the right to play for whoever he wants; so the Jays might as well get something for him, even if it’s unfortunately not a king’s ransom.

While Donaldson and Atkins have both paid the appropriate amount of lip service post-trade, we may never know what actually happened behind the proverbial closed doors. Maybe there were diagreements. Maybe feelings were hurt.

There will be some who desperately need to know what occurred for their own agendas. But for me….I just don’t give a damn.

When I think about Josh Donaldson, I won’t think about his departure. I’ll think of the man who told the world that this was the “get it done league.”

I’ll think of the man who dove into the first few rows at Tropicana Field to catch a foul ball.

I’ll think of the man who crushed a walk-off home run at the final home game of the 2015 season, sending the crowd into a frenzy; including yours truly from my right field seat in the 200s.

I’ll think of the man who knocked in the tying run in game five of the 2015 ALDS, setting the stage for Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip.

I’ll think of the man – who I witnessed from my perch in section 525 – dive gracefully across home plate, clinching game three and an ALDS series sweep in 2016.

Damn right his name should be added to the level of excellence. He was the American League’s most valuable player in 2015. The only other Blue Jay who won AL MVP is already on the LOE.

Josh Donaldson was the glue, the missing piece, the magic tonic. He brought the rain and it was MAGICAL! His unfortunate departure will never overshadow his impact.

I really hope things work out for him in Cleveland and of course, with the Blue Jays’ long-term plan. Seeing a popular player get traded is never pleasant.

Just remember: It’s going to be okay.

ER

So I intended to write a well thought-out piece about Edwin Encarnacion signing with Cleveland…

December 31, 2016

…but then life got in the way. So I’ll just say this:

Truth is we’ll never know what happened during negotiations. All we have is speculation. I also can’t take anything the Jays and Paul Kinzer have said at face value. 

Looking back, I wish Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins were a little more patient and showed leanency. This wasn’t a subpar player; this was an integral part of the Jays’ lineup. They owed it to Edwin to not rush him and just caught things off. Yes, this is the business part of baseball, but the situation warranted a little flexibility.

In turn, I wish Kinzer focused more on his client’s needs than manipulating the process through the media. Did he honestly think stiring the emotions of the fan base would influence Shapiro and Atkins? He portrayed Edwin as a figure devastated by the fact he wasn’t coming back to Toronto. If the Jays weren’t part of the equation, then the Earth would be scorched. 

But again, it’s all based on speculation.

Now we have to move on and get use to Edwin playing for the Tribe. It is my hope that when we look back at Edwin’s illustrious time in Toronto, we fondly remember the great moments on the field and view his departure as a minor footnote.

May the parrot walk on forever. 

ER

Short, scribbled thoughts about Brett Cecil

November 21, 2016

I guess my earliest memory of Brett Cecil would have been around 2007-2008. All the bloggers were writing about two specific “prospects” in the Jays’ system: Cecil and Travis Snider.

He debuted in 2009 with a shaved head and wearing fancy sports goggles. There were some teachable moments.

There was a match against the Yankees where he threw a ball out of play, but forgot to call ‘time out.’ New York, being such savy veterans, took advantage.

Another time, he entered the dugout after a bad performance. It prompted Cito Gaston to walk over to the young hurler and have a heart-to-heart. Cito was calm and father-like with his message. It was critical, but also encouraging. It was something Cecil needed to hear.

Surley lost amongst the discussion of Cecil’s departure would be his strong 2010 performance. He started 28 games, posting a 15-7 record, with a 4.22 ERA and 1.326 WHIP. Had it not been for Jose Bautista’s incredible offensive outburst that season, Cecil would’ve been the best part of 2010.

However, things fell apart in 2011-2012. Cecil pitched poorly and it clearly affected him. Countless times he left a poor performance and threw a tantrum. Things were smashed and tossed, with plenty of profanity. I attended one of his starts in 2011 that didn’t go well. I followed him back to the dugout on the jumbotron. As soon as he started venting his frustrations, the screen quickly cut away to a video. It was as if the Skydome control room wasn’t familiar with Cecil’s tantrums, which had unfortunately became his calling card.

Ultimately, he was sent down to AA New Hampshire. It wasn’t as bad of a demotion as one would think. At the time, the Jays’ AAA affiliate was in the offence-friendly Pacific Coast League. It only made sense for Cecil to pitch with the Fishercats, where the results wouldn’t be skewed.

But things turned around in 2013 when Cecil successfully reinvented himself as a reliever. He had a sparkling 2.83 ERA and 1.104 WHIP. It was a performance that earned an appearance at the All-Star game. In a season that was ripe with unfulfilled promise and disappointment, Cecil and fellow reliever Steve Delabar were the lone bright stars.

While Delabar was unable to match his 2013 performance, Cecil has maintained his course. Yes, he had moments of imperfection. However, when things mattered the most, Cecil got the job done. Never forget the strong finishes he posted in 2015 and this past season.

Now he’s off to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m sad and disappointed to see him leave, but I certainly wish him the very best. I’m grateful not only  for what he did wearing a Blue Jay uniform, but to also witness him go from a young man full of emotion and blossom into a mature and professional veteran. His development happened right in front of us.

My lasting memory of Brett Cecil was after game three of the 2016 ALDS. Amongst the incredible euphoria, Cecil was on the field with his three little children and wife, Jennifer. As the celebration went on, Cecil lined up his children for a family photo. It was a wonderful moment and he couldn’t have picked a better setting.

ER


The Chicago Cubs picked one hell of a way to end their 108-year-old World Series drought. 

October 30, 2016

Two years ago, the Cubs visited Toronto for a three-game series and were soundly swept by the Blue Jays. I was at one of those matches and watched Chicago get completely out-played. Drew Hutchison led the way, while the offence came from several sources. As I left the stadium that night, it never occurred to me that the Cubs would be at the top of the mountain in a mere 24 months. 

Since the final out was recorded, I’ve been thinking about Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Harry Caray. I’ve been thinking about all the Cub fans who lived thier entire lives without ever seeing them win the World Series. I’ve been thinking about all the former Cub players who are still with us; players like Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa and Kerry Wood. I’ve been thinking about Steve Bartman and wondering if this championship brought him some closure and inner peace.

I’m fortunate to have watched some of my favourite teams – including the Jays – win championships. It’s impossible to fathom what cheering for a team that has been known as “the loveable losers” feels like. For generations of Cub fans, baseball is clearly more than just stats and standings. 

There are a few things I will recall when looking back at the 2016 World Series. There’s David Ross who couldn’t have picked a better way to retire. In addition, I will never forget the images of people honouring their deceased relatives who were Cub fans. Whether it was writing messages on the walls of Wrigley Field or visiting cemeteries, these acts re-defined passion and what baseball means to people. Never forget the man who sat next to his father’s tombstone and listened to game 7, fulfilling a promise made years ago. 

That’s powerful. 

So congrats to the Cubs and thier fans! I sincerely hope you all continue to savour this great victory. And an extra congrats to these former Blue Jay players on Chicago’s roster and coaching staff: Muninori Kawasaki, Henry Blanco, Eric Hinske and Dave Martinez. 

It has to be nice knowing there’s no longer a need to wait until next year. 

ER



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