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The Surprise Visitor: A Baseball Microstory

November 5, 2018

The first stop after a ballgame: The washroom.

It was packed as usual. Young fraternity brothers resting their near-empty cans of beer on top of urinals.

I did what I needed to do, washed and dried my hands and prepared to exit.

Then she walked in.

“Miss,” I said, shocked and concerned. “You’re in the wrong spot.”

She just smirked, pulled her hat down and calmly walked into the only available stall. In unison, all the men stopped talking and watched in disbelief as she locked the door.

She knew exactly what she was doing and didn’t give a damn.

ER

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And now, a smorgasbord of thoughts and feelings as it relates to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club

October 1, 2018

Give yourself a pat on the back. You got through a tough season.

  • Actually, I’m not upset about what happened this season. I went in with low expections and got what I expected: a team in transition; positive evolution and negative evolution, but evolution nonetheless.
  • Those first three weeks in April though; that was exciting and fun.
  • Love Gibby, but it was time to move on. His dismissal was unsurprising. Gibby took the Jays as far as he could. But the team is now moving in a different direction and the front office understandably wants someone new to lead said direction.
  • Couldn’t tell you who the new manager will be. I do know this: Some fans will love the new hire, some fans will hate the new hire and some fans will absolutely despise the new hire because anything orchestrated by Mark Shaprio and Russ Atikins will automatically ruin EVERYTHING! Oh, the spicy hot takes. 😉
  • I’m worried about Aaron Sanchez. Injuries have robbed him and us of two seasons. Right now, there’s a large chasm between 2016 Sanchez and 2018 Sanchez. I’m praying he closes that gap in 2019. He’s too good to be plagued with injuries.
  • Teoscar is a curious case. He was exposed defensively, but the kid has a pretty good bat. Here’s hoping he works on his defence during the off-season.
  • I was wrong about Randall Grichuk.
  • Loved what I saw from Rowdy Tellez. However, a small voice in my head is telling me not to get too excited about production from a September call-up. I hope that voice is wrong.
  • It feels like ions since Gift Ngoepe was part of the opening day roster.
  • My favourite moments from the season: 1) The incredible ninth inning comeback against Tampa Bay in September. 2) James Paxton’s no-hitter, despite that happening against the Jays.
  • One other moment that remains prevleant in my mind: Curtis Granderson’s walk-off homerun against Boston in April. This occurred days after the horrific van attack in North York. While Grandy’s blast certainly didn’t cure everything, it allowed us a short reprieve as we grieved.
  • I’m fascinated with the middle infield situation. Many candidates, but only a few spots. It will be one of the top storylines during spring training.
  • Time for some awards! Best hitter: Justin Smoak; Best starter: J.A. Happ; Best reliever: A tie between Seunghwan Oh and Ken Gilles.

Postseason is upon us. Cleveland gets my endorsement only because of the overabundance of former Blue Jays on their roster. Enjoy October baseball!

ER

Take a moment, say your goodbyes

September 24, 2018

Ever watch The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor In Paradise?

When a contestant is “sent home,” Chris Harrison – the long-time host of the popular reality series – delivers a subtle command:

“Take a moment, say your goodbyes.”

As the Blue Jays prepare for the final week of a tumultuous regular season, perhaps it would be wise for all of us to take a moment and say our goodbyes.

The rebuild is well underway and there’s a strong chance that some familiar faces will not return next year.

By all accounts, John Gibbons will be formally relieved of his duties. Safe to assume the coaching staff will also be dismissed or reassigned.

And it won’t stop there.

Kevin Pillar could be playing for a different team next season. Same could be said about Marcus Stroman, Yangervis Solarte and Justin Smoak. Maybe some team would be willing to take a flyer on Kendrys Morales or Russell Martin and work something out with the Jays’ front office in regards to those contracts. I like Marco Estrada, but I would be surprised if he’s back next season.

That doesn’t mean such departures will actually occur. But with all the minor league talent that debuted this season, along with the talent we’ll see in 2019 (*cough* Vladdy Jr. *cough*), there isn’t enough space for everyone. Otherwise, the team won’t evolve.

It’s impossible to predict exactly who will stay and who will go. But one could certainly expect fewer pieces remaining from the teams of 2015-16 next year.

So if you’re heading to Skydome, Tropicana Field, the Boston Pizza at Front and John (where a lot of fans hang out, apparently) or watching/listening/following the final matches, take a moment and say your goodbyes.

It’s been one hell of a ride, but it’s now time to rebuild for (hopefully) something greater.

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

An ugly reality, but it is what it is

August 20, 2018

Struggling with writer’s block lately. So….some random thoughts:

  • Several times this season, I’ve found myself saying, “Oh, yeah. I forgot about Tulo.”
  • Josh Donaldson and Aaron Sanchez have both missed a signficant amount of time. If this was 2015-16, we’d freak out. Today, such a fact is met with a shrug. It is what it is.
  • Really? Just six games for Jose Urena?
  • I like Ryan Borucki because he models himself after Mark Buehrle. The kid starts his windup as soon as he gets the sign. He’s going to be a treat (hopefully).
  • There (probably) isn’t a single Jays fan who actually thinks Gibby will be back for 2019.
  • Remember, the Blue Jays are a team in transition. That means – if I can borrow the expression – things will get worse before it gets better. Hang in there. It’s going to be okay.

    And now…..back to my battle with writer’s block.

    ER

    Retro Blue Jays – 2002 Time Capsule

    June 29, 2018

    Posted by Balsamwoods.

    Thanks to social media, it’s now hard to recall a time when following the Blue Jays was a lonely experience.

    This random item I recently found on YouTube captures that feeling.

    It’s home video of the poster’s trip to Toronto, which included in-stadium clips of – based on the footage – the May 27, 2002 match between the Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

    The in-game experience has certainly changed at Skydome over the years. This is evident in the video when one sees the original scoreboards, fireworks after homeruns and the bright green AstroTurf. The J-Force dancers have a completely different look, not to mention Ace and Diamond.

    The video is also a time capsule and reminds us how little attention was given to the team at the time.

    During the late 90s and early 2000s, the Jays were very low on the totem pole of Toronto sports. The Leafs, Raptors and Rock were putting together strong playoff runs from the fancy, new Air Canada Centre.

    Showing interest in the Jays was met with disdain. Free tickets or a chance to go to a game were scoffed at.

    The team’s overall performance on the field didn’t help either. This was especially the case in 2002. At the time of this particular match, the Jays were 17-30 and Manager Buck Martinez was days away from being fired.

    Having said that, don’t treat this video as a cruel reminder. It has some lovely aspects to it as well.

    Roy Halladay was the starter that night. Though it wasn’t his best performance, Doc was in the midst of his breakout season. You’ll also see some familiar faces like Carlos Delgado, Raul Mondesi, Nomar Garciapara and Ugueth Urbina. You might even enjoy the two Leaf fans who run on the field and troll the crowd.

    [Was “troll” a term used in 2002? Maybe I should’ve gone with “punk’d.”] 😝

    ER

    I can’t believe they swept the Washington Nationals: An open letter to anyone who gives a damn

    June 18, 2018

    To Whom It May Concern:

    The Blue Jays hosted the Washington Nationals this past weekend. My buddy and I attended Friday’s opening match and I was very excited. Last time I saw the Nats in a live setting, they were known as the Montreal Expos. Additionally, it was my first opportunity to see Bryce Harper and Juan Soto in the flesh.

    However, I was also very pessimistic about the series.

    We know what the Jays are and we know what the Nats are. We also knew the Jays would face two starters with ERAs under 3.00 and one under 4.00.

    It looked to be another dreadful series in a season that has been on a steep decline for several weeks. My hope was that they wouldn’t get swept at the very least. Avoiding Washington’s brooms would be akin to winning.

    But in the end, the Jays turned out to be the sweepers instead of the sweepees. They won all three games against Washington, leaving me flabbergasted.

    Please accept this notice as my apology for allowing my negativity to get the best of me. Once again, baseball has reminded me that what appears on paper doesn’t always translate on the field.

    Of course, sweeping the Nats doesn’t change anything. However, it does give us something to smile about.

    ER


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