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Friday Night on Front Street: A Baseball Microstory

January 16, 2020

He’s made the pilgrimage for nearly 30 years. Probably could walk the path backwards and blindfolded:

Exit Union Station, walk along Front Street, turn left at John Street, up the stairs and over the bridge. Hello Skydome! Enjoy the game.

The weather is a warm tonic. It’s providing something he badly needs: A chance to take a breath.

The city was busy and his life was no exception. Anxiety and painful memories were far too prevalent. He needed a break. Baseball was that break.

So he walks, inhales the metropolitan air and begins to observe the people and their stories.

ER

Happy Holidays! Why do I put up with this “Jays Twitter” crap?

December 22, 2019

2019 was an ugly year for the Blue Jays, but not for what happened on the field.

We knew what to expect from this team. It was a season of development and debuts. There were many losses, with a few good moments sprinkled in.

However, the real ugliness occurred online; specifically, “Jays Twitter.”

Twitter as a whole has become an ugly place. Everyone is viciously fighting for their opinions to dominate the masses. Anyone with a blue checkmark – and it seems like everyone is verified these days – is telling me how to think, how to feel, who I should fight, why I should fight, what happens if I don’t fight and that I’m a horrible person if I think differently or choose to stay silent.

It’s upsetting, stressful and overwhelming. I just can’t give myself to EVERY SINGLE CAUSE. I’m sorry.

I blame America’s toxic political climate for the ugliness I see on social media. Even worse is that this toxicity has seeped into all walks of life, including a sub-group like Jays Twitter.

Truthfully, Jays Twitter really pissed me off this year. It was a land of unnecessary anger, gross impatience and brutal divisiveness. I’ve never expected everyone to get along and sing “Kumbaya,” but it seems there were more temper tantrums than ever before.

My timeline was dominated by the anti-Shapiro crowd and other glass-half-empty types. It was the same non-stop messages:

THE CORPORATE OWNERS ARE CHEAP AND DON’T CARE ABOUT WINNING!

MARK SHAPIRO IS RUINING THE BLUE JAYS!

THE STADIUM IS TRASH!

JAYS NEED TO SPEND BILLIONS ON FREE AGENTS!

RUSS ATKINS IS SHAPIRO’S PUPPET, INCOMPETENT, FULL OF SHIT AND HAS TERRIBLE PUBLIC RELATIONS SKILLS!

FIRE EVERYONE AND BRING BACK THE MAGIC FROM 2015-16!

Nobody wants to embrace the pain. Nobody wants to be patient. Nobody wants to focus on the exciting potential surrounding the young core. Nobody wants to let things to grow organically. Nobody wants to let the story play out. Nobody wants to acknowledge that the window of opportunity closed at the end of 2016. Nobody wants to move on. Nobody constructively criticizes.

Everyone wants immediate satisfaction. Everyone wants the Jays to spend lavishly on free agents. Everyone is looking for the smallest crumb to use against the front office. Everyone wants to run Shapiro out of town. Everyone scoffs at everything Shapiro says. Everyone wants Atkins to serve everything to them on a silver platter, brush their teeth and wipe their asses. Everyone suddenly cares about optics and how a message is delivered. Everyone is mad because they took 2015-16 for granted. Everyone wants to declare failure before failure occurs. Everyone is sarcastic and acts like a total jerk when rendering judgements. Everyone gets upset over things that are out of their control.

I see all the nastiness and it takes so much energy not to lash out. It makes me wonder why I’m still on Twitter and why I keep this blog alive.

Seriously, what’s the fucking point?

I’m just one Jays-themed Twitter account posting in a far over-crowded pool of Jays-themed accounts.

I’ve never earned a single cent from doing DNJT and I’d be shocked if any money came my way. DNJT is a moped driving next to giant SUVs like Jays Journal, Bluebird Banter and Blue Jays Nation; not to mention the mainstream media juggernauts.

I thought about pulling the plug more than ever this year. I don’t need the negativity. I don’t need to waste my time on a glorified hobby.

But I can’t do it.

I can’t pull the trigger.

I can’t kill @thehek or DNJT because I’ve always wanted to be more than just a fan. I can’t pull the trigger because it would sever the last thread to a dream that’s been dead for a long time and I’m too stubborn to acknowledge it.

So, I have to live it.

People will always be upset and vent on Twitter. That’s their prerogative. It was happening well before 2015-16. Besides, I’ve had my moments too.

It reminds me of an episode of Gilmore Girls when Luke Danes (Scott Patterson) – after months of frustration – has this epiphany about his rebellious nephew, Jess (Milo Ventimiglia). He realizes that Jess is not going to change his behaviour and any forced attempts to do so are futile. This allows Luke to achieve a sense of calm and peace.

Perhaps that’s the state of mind I should aim for.

Jays Twitter, you are what you are and despite my frustration, I can’t change that. There’s no point in getting angry about something that’s out of my control. I’ll have my opinions; you’ll have yours.

Look, we all want the same thing. Some of us are a little more patient than others. Some of us are a little more optimistic than others. Some of us are assholes. Some of us aren’t.

We can analyze stats and contracts to death. In the end, everything settles on one idea: Things will work out or they won’t.

You have to accept it. I have to accept it.

I guess that’s my cliched New Year’s resolution. Perhaps a “New Decade” resolution.

Speaking of which, I do wish you and your family the very best this holiday season. As always, thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. I really do appreciate it.

2020 will mark the eighth year (and ninth baseball season) of DNJT. You can expect the usual stuff. I’ve also been toying with the idea of rebooting the podcast. However, that will be a long-term project.

Here’s hoping 2020 will be a little better than 2019, on and off the field. After all, spring training is just a few weeks away.

ER

UPDATE: A few hours after I published this post, Hyun-Jin Ryu signed a four-year deal with the Jays. I’m happy! Annoyed with my personal timing, but happy nonetheless. More importantly, Jays Twitter is happy……for now.

The 2019 Blue Jays: A tale of two chapters

September 29, 2019

See, that wasn’t so bad!

Right???

Okay…when you look at the standings, it was pretty bad. But we knew this season was going to look like Plan 9 From Outer Space.

I embraced the pain; others chose to complain and bang their drums. Either way, I hope we can sit on a porch one day and laugh about the experience as we sip lemonade.

The 2019 season can be split into two chapters: Before Marcus Stroman was traded and after he was dealt.

As the trade deadline approached, there were storm clouds surrounding the team. There had been a couple of bright spots, but there was sense of dread. Stro – the most popular/polarizing player left from 2015-16 – was going to get traded. We knew it, he knew it, the league and his teammates knew it. Stro was dropping passive-aggressive grenades and the anti-Shapiro mob was sharpening their pitchforks.

Then the trade finally happened, followed by the premature trade of Aaron Sanchez. Jays Twitter was a scene of blinding fire, suffocating smoke and vile screaming.

And then…the smoke cleared, the sun came out and Bo Bichette started making history.

Believe me, I am NOT suggesting Stro was poisoning the clubhouse. I love the guy, his character and his brand! However, things felt and looked different once Marcus was sent to the Mets.

The transition was complete. All remaining band-aids had been ripped off. The roster was officially young and developing. Now, we could say it’s “Vladdy’s team” or “Bo’s team.” If one were to consider the rebuild as u-shaped, then on the evening of July 28, 2019 – when Stro was traded and Bichette was called up – the Blue Jays reached the bottom. The steep, uphill climb had begun.

I saw a team full of youthful energy. It was exciting and fun! Bo took off like a bullet train, Vladdy continued his gradual production, Cavan Biggio made history, Danny Jansen was figuring things out and Lourdes Gurriel and Reese McGuire were pleasant surprises. Sure, they went through a tough stretch in late August-early September. However, as Stephen Brunt pointed out a few weeks ago on Prime Time Sports, we were finally seeing some flickers of light.

The final two months of the season provided all kinds of reasons to watch the Jays, despite their record. My favourite moment was Bichette’s walk off home run, capping a dramatic victory over the Yankees.

As we look towards 2020, it’s important to be cautiously optimistic. There might be flickers of light, but they still have a long way to go before a window of opportunity opens. This season, they won 67 games. In 2020, I would be happy if they pick up 10-15 more victories (77-82).

The outfield corner sports are set, as are the infield positions and behind the plate. They need to figure out centrefield and DH over the offseason and during Spring Training. There are options on the current roster, but said options have been inconsistent. Rowdy Tellez’s struggles are also concerning.

However, the main priority needs to be on PITCHING; starting rotation and bullpen. Right now, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thronton will likely be in the rotation, while the other three spots are up for grabs. Jacob Waguespack and Ryan Borucki are “question marks,” while Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch need to perform well in Spring Training. Don’t forget about the eventual arrival of Nate Pearson.

Ideally, Ken Giles will anchor the bullpen and I’d like to see Wilmer Font return, along with Ryan Tepera, Sam Gavigilo and Derek Law. After that, who knows?

What really scares me is how Bichette’s concussion will effect him. An injury like that is unpredictable. I’m praying he listens to his body and doesn’t try to overdo it as he prepares for 2020.

Things won’t be outstanding next season, but they (hopefully) won’t be as bad as this year. We’d all love to see a vast improvement. However, we must be patient and let the story play out. This team is still developing and I hope the youngsters build from their positive experiences and teachable moments.

Fingers crossed.

ER

***

Time for some “awards!”

Best Jays Hitter: Vladdy Guerrero Jr.
Best Jays Starter: Marcus Stroman
Best Jays Reliever: Ken Giles

Top-rated prospect

May 22, 2019

Electricity; produced by thousands

The young messiah has finally arrived;
with heavy expectations, a legendary pedigree and a high pedestal

We stand when he comes out to stretch,
when a ground ball comes his way and for every at-bat

This is history

The moment of moments

Whip out your phone to capture it

It’s a playoff atmosphere for a late-april match

Cheers rain down for balls; anger for called strikes

One pitch flies high and tight

In our minds, we grab our pitchforks and torches

Line drive down the first base line

An eruption that’s prolonged as he’s removed for a pinch runner

And in true baseball fashion, his teammate with a .179 average hits a walkoff homerun

ER

Embrace The Pain

May 15, 2019

I guess it came to me while the Blue Jays were getting their asses handed to them by the Twins last week:

You can scream and complain about things you have no control of……or you can embrace the pain and let the narrative play itself out.

Let things develop organically before forming an opinion. Maybe things work out successfully or fail miserably. We won’t know until it happens and we have to let it happen without rushing it. It’s okay to let time pass. It’s said that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for this rebuild.

Perhaps you’ll be a better fan for it. Heck, our friends in New England and the north side of Chicago endured decades of pain. In a way, it became a badge of honour. So what’s stopping us from following that path?

Of course, I want to see them win. Nobody wants their team to lose. But reality doesn’t lie and it drives me crazy how some desperately hold on to 2015/16, refuse to acknowledge that the window of opportunity closed, jump to conclusion and demand for instant gratification. But that’s their prerogative. I have to accept it the same way I hope they’d accept my train of thought.

So the next time they get their asses handed to them, consider this:

Don’t be afraid of losing.
Don’t be afraid of a rebuild
Don’t be afraid of low attendance
Don’t be afraid if Vladdy doesn’t set the world on fire this season.
Don’t be afraid of the darkness.
It’s only baseball. It’s not life.
It’s going to be alright.

ER

Screw the glass-half-empty crowd! I’m actually looking forward to the 2019 Blue Jays

March 27, 2019

Happy Opening Day!

Despite the current state of affairs, the start of the regular season is exciting. Things are fresh, the canvass is blank and the typical clichés are being prepped.

I’m not afraid of a losing season. I’m not afraid of low attendance numbers. I’m not afraid of the pain. Been there, done all that.

The Jays are what they are. If you rather watch something else, that’s fine. You can view 2019 as a lost season. I’m viewing it as a season of development.

Regardless of the final outcome, my goal is to look at the positive aspects.

Worst case scenario: They lose 90-100 games. That only means they get early dibs on the undrafted pool in 2020. Raw, young talent is never a guarantee, but nothing in life is. Besides, the Houston Astros lost 100+ games three seasons in a row. A few years after that, they won the World Series.

Best case scenario (and my preferred outcome): The 2019 team performs to a level similar to the 2010/2011 clubs.

Remember how fun those teams were?

You had Jose Bautista turning into a superstar slugger and all these young players with potential, who also loved to interact with fans on social media.

The 2010-11 Jays were far from a playoff contender and played sub .500 baseball; but they gave us hope and an incentive to tune in or purchase a ticket. That’s how I hope fans will ultimately view the 2019 team and beyond.

I would also like to see the following:

  1. Vladdy gets called up – when ready – and puts up strong numbers…..obviously.
  2. Youngsters like Jansen, Borucki, Gurriel and Hernandez, continue to show improvements. Not asking for Murderers’ Row; just want to see growth and development.
  3. Veterans like Smoak and Morales have productive outputs, making them valuable as the trade deadline approaches.

Think of it this way:

Imagine going to watch a movie with friends. The film you’re about to see is a generic, mass produced Hollywood story. It’s clearly not going to win an Oscar and won’t make any kind of must-see list. So you go in with very low expectations.

Then you watch the movie and despite its flaws, it was actually entertaining!

It happened to me when I watched Hostage and Sahara.

So as ridiculous as this will sound, the best way to deal with the 2019 Jays is to have low expectations.

Expect to them lose 162 games. Expect them to get blown out every match. Expect them to be worse than the Bad News Bears.

By setting the bar low and taping pillows all over your body, any amount of victories will be happily welcomed. You might even find yourself saying “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Hey…I’m just trying to help. You can complain about the pain or embrace it. The choice is yours.

ER

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

December 17, 2018

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


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