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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

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    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

    31 items I reflected on and scribbled down (metaphorically, of course).

    May 3, 2018

    Yes, this post was inspired by Elliot Friedman’s 31 Thoughts. Mr. Friedman, if you or the legal team at Rogers is reading this, please don’t sue me. 😓

    1. Hell of a start for the Blue Jays. Given my low expectations for the season, it has been a pleasant surprise so far. April 2017 was like a meal at some sketchy diner that results in food poisoning. April 2018 felt like a meal at a sketchy diner that turns out to be the best kept secret in the city.
    2. Of course, things haven’t been great since they swept the Royals. Regardless, finishing April with a winning record is still a decent achievement when compared to 2017.
    3. Yes, it is early. And yes, I vividly remember the great run the 2009 Jays were on before everything nosedived in late May. I suggest we just enjoy what they’re doing now and deal with whatever happens when it happens.
    4. Yangervis Solarte has some power!!! Was not expecting that.
    5. Yangervis Solarte can dance!!! Was not expecting that.
    6. Not surprised with Randal Grichuk’s poor start. Wasn’t blow away with his St. Louis numbers. Maybe the slump is partially due to getting accustomed to a new team, division and stadium. Maybe it’s not. Fingers crossed he turns it around soon.
    7. Teoscar doesn’t want to go back to Buffalo. Fans don’t want to him sent back to Buffalo. In fact, if the Jays do option him back to the Bisons, it wouldn’t shock me if a giant roadblock is suddenly erected somewhere along on the QEW.
    8. Good to see the Humboldt Broncos’ logo displayed on the backstop a few weeks ago.
    9. I enjoyed hearing Josh Thole on the radio broadcasts. He wasn’t polished, but a part of me liked that. I’m still irritated about the way certain fans treated him.
    10. I like the bullpen. I like it a lot.
    11. John Axford was shaky at first, but has straightened out nicely. Very pleased to see this.
    12. Luke Maile came up with some big swings in April. Every time it occurred, I thought of this 2017 tweet from Andy Arias.
    13. If I was in the stands, I would’ve happily joined in on the standing ovation for Ryan Goins. Come @ me. I dare you.
    14. My friend and I had tickets for Monday, April 16. As you know, the match was cancelled due to falling ice. As annoying as it was – I was already en route when the game was formally cancelled – it was the right decision. A huge amount of gratitude to the stadium personnel who worked feverishly to try to get the game in, especially to the staff that went on the roof.
    15. The doubleheader on April 17 was the third such occurence in Skydome history. I was aware of the first one that took place in 1989. However, I have no recollection of the one in 2001 – October 5 against Cleveland, according to Baseball -Reference.com. It’s strange because I was at the final home game of 2001, which took place a couple of days later. Given that all this took place three weeks after 9/11, baseball was the last thing on everyone’s mind at the time.
    16. Overall, the rotation has been so-so. But they have given the team a chance to win, which is what any of us would want. With that in mind….
    17. No, I’m not worried about Stro. He’ll figure it out.
    18. No, I’m not worried about Devon. He’ll also figure it out.
    19. You know things aren’t terrible when you don’t see a lot of “Bring up Vladdy and Bo” tweets. Of course….it is early 😝
    20. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone complain about the wave yet.
    21. The Braves visit Toronto, June 19-20. Wouldn’t shock me if those games are sold out.
    22. Coming up with 31 talking points is hard. How does Friedman do this all the time?
    23. The weather sucked.
    24. Games on Facebook: Meh.
    25. Five-minute condensed games on Facebook: 👍👍👍
    26. I like Skydome’s new “value” menu.
    27. Recently, Mike Wilner posted a photo of a mantra Curtis Granderson wrote inside his hat: “Don’t think. Have fun.” Two simple sentences, four words. One profound point made.
    28. Speaking of Granderson….can I add my name to the list of fans who are grateful he’s on the team?
    29. Shoutout to my favourite hot dog vendor: Ted’s Gourmet, at the corner of Front and John.
    30. Wishing the very best to Danny Farquhar. Speedy and successful recovery.
    31. #TorontoStrong #HumboldtStrong

    ER

    Ironically, I share a similar opinion as Cathall Kelly. But I choose to be more respectful and less fatalistic.

    March 29, 2018

    Rest assured, this is not a critique of Mr. Kelly’s recent torpedo at the Blue Jays. These are just my thoughts for Opening Day. They’re pleasant, but not glowing.

    Anyway……Hello regular season.

    Whenever someone asks me how the Blue Jays will fare, I always like to give two opinions. 2018 is no exception:

    Subjectively, they’ll finish 162-0 and capture the World Series title.

    Objectively, if a number of factors work out on the positive side and they’re not heavily effected by injuries, they could compete for the second wild card spot. Otherwise, don’t make any plans for postseason baseball.

    We can crunch numbers and analyze everything to death. But nothing is 100% certain, especially for on-field performance. So like everyone else – whether they like to admit it or not – I prefer to go with my gut.

    And my gut says….there’s likely going to be a dip.

    I sense a transition process between the current 25-man roster and the sexy, young minor league talent everyone is excited about. It won’t be a linear transition, but one that’s u-shaped instead. Couldn’t tell you how long it will last. Maybe a few seasons, maybe more than that. But it’s going to likely happen.

    Ideally, I’d prefer if the transition began now. However, Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins feel they can put it off for the year.

    It’s not a terrible decision. Teams could pay more at the non-waiver trade deadline. And if the Jays are clearly not a contender by the end of July, my hope is that they would get a nice return for Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and a king’s ransom for Josh Donaldson.

    Therein lies one of the major storylines of 2018: What’s going to happen with the Bringer of Rain?

    I love Donaldson and very grateful for what he’s done on the field. However, I would be SHOCKED if he signs a long-term deal with the Jays.

    If there’s actually a dip or any form of rebuilding, it wouldn’t make sense to keep him. It also wouldn’t make sense for Donaldson wanting to stay if the next few seasons are going to be lean, with a lot of unknowns thrown in as well. Donaldson will be a free agent at the end of 2018 and he’s earned the right to field offers and seek out the best deal. It pains me to type this, but I just don’t see that happening with him and the Jays.

    In fact, the only players on the current roster that should remain with the club through any kind of transition is Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna and Devon Travis. That’s not a gurantee either.

    So let the Yankees and Red Sox have their fun, if it turns out that way. The Blue Jays are cultivating for the future and if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette actually live up to their hype, combined with consistent production from Alford, Urena, Hernandez, Borucki, etc., then we are in for a treat. Heck, look at what rebuilding has done for the Astros.

    Of course, I could be completely off the mark. If the Jays actually make the playoffs in 2018, I will happily admit that I jumped to conclusion.

    It could happen. Part of me hopes it does.

    ER

    The 19-Inning Baseball Game

    December 3, 2017

    Six hours,
    thirteen minutes,
    nineteen innings.
    Congratulations, baseball.
    You broke me.

    Patriotism was shining proudly
    for the nation’s one hundred and forty-ninth birthday.
    Red adorned the playing area, the uniforms and Buck Martinez’s blazer.

    The umpire
    was an enemy of the nation.
    Casting out our very best,
    as if he was the almighty lord
    and the Blue Jays were Adam and Eve.

    The match yielded just three runs,
    including a Justin Smoak homerun,
    which seemed to embrace suspended animation as it hung in the stale, closed-roof air.
    It took will power and encouragement just for the ball to scrape over the leftfield wall.

    Marching on
    hour after hour, inning after inning.
    Some have chosen to leave.

    Evening plans be damned!
    This is an experience you want to experience.
    This might be your only chance to participate in a 14th inning stretch.

    Hunger and exhaustion creep around you loudly;
    and you wonder if Ryan Goins is actually warming up in the bullpen
    or if it is just a hallucination.

    It wasn’t.

    The infielder threw a scoreless inning and landed on the disabled list for his efforts.
    Darwin Barney was not as lucky,
    surrendering the winning homerun.

    19 innings.
    Two runs for the opponents.
    One solitary run for the home side.
    And I was angry.

    Angry at the result.
    Angry at the ego-driven umpire.
    Angry at the team.

    I battled hunger and exhaustion for the shitty prize of a
    disappointing defeat.

    Pardon me
    as I leave engrossed
    in a bitter mood.

    ER

    I took all my thoughts and feelings about Jose Bautista, put them in a slow cooker and this was the result.

    November 3, 2017

    For as much as we criticize JP Ricciardi – and it is warranted – the former Blue Jay General Manager does deserve high praise for acquiring two of the biggest impact players in team history: Edwin Encarnacion and the subject of this article, Jose Bautista.

    I was there on Sunday, September 24 and said goodbye to Joey Bats. No surprise, it was incredibly hard to hold back tears as he walked off the field, hugging his teammates and saluting the crowd. It was a beautiful send-off.

    A lot has been written about his tenure. Lists have been compiled and opinions have been shared. It’s hard to add something to an already large pile. But Bautista had affected many and here’s what his impact meant to me:

    One of my earliest memories of him is from June 2009. The Blue Jays were playing the Phillies and Bautista teamed up with Aaron Hill to hit back-to-back homeruns. As I watched him round the bases from my seat in the 500s, I observed the unique occurrence.

    “Look at that,” I thought to myself. “Bautista, the backup utility player, hit a homerun. That’s something you don’t see everyday.”

    Shortly a year later, Bautista bombs were going off regularly.

    To understand the importance of Bautista’s 54-homer campaign in 2010, one needs to remember the mood around Skydome at the time.

    Things were looking bleak; very bleak. The team had practically hit rock bottom. Actually, if there was a level below “rock bottom,” the Jays were there.

    A frustrating 2009 season ended with three straight losses to Baltimore and reports of a mutiny against Cito Gaston. AA took over general managing duties and in his first offseason, traded franchise icon Roy Halladay to Philadelphia.

    The calendar changed to 2010 and “Hustle+Heart” was used to soften the blow of uncertainty. The playoff drought was going to continue with no end in sight. Making matters worse, the team was averaging around 10,000 fans early in the season. The sight of a stadium only 20% full was hollow and made some wonder if this was the beginning of the end.

    But then Bautista started to hit homeruns and we all took notice. Suddenly, amongst the scorched ruin, a small, glowing spark emerged. Jose was that small, glowing spark.

    Suddenly, the fate of the team wasn’t a concern anymore. There was hope. There was promise; all thanks to that glowing spark. Sure, the Jays were far from a playoff contender; but at least we could turn on the television or go to a game and say, “I can’t wait to see what Jose is going to do tonight.” He brought excitement when things were looking bleak.

    2010 was also weird year for me. I guess one could call it a quarter life crisis. Certain doors closed and others opened. Through out it all was the stinging feeling of life not going the way I expected it go. In my head, I was failing at life.

    So when I saw that former back-up utility player – whose arrival to the team in 2008 brought an unenthusiastic “meh” from the fan base – become a superstar slugger, I invested every ounce of passion and emotion. I was at the ground floor of something special and unlike other important moments and players of Blue Jay lore, I was not going to take it for granted.

    One Friday evening, I was at Skydome for a match between the Jays and Cleveland. The weather was perfect that night. My friend and I sat in the 500s, behind home plate – one of my favourite sports to watch a game.

    Midway through the match, the Jays loaded the bases and Jose – already in the midst of his incredible season – came to the plate. There were about 19,000 fans in attendance and excitement began to grow.

    “I hope he hits a grand slam,” I thought to myself. “Please, I need this.”

    Then he connected for – I believe – his 36th homerun of the season. The crowd erupted! 19,000 fans sounding like 50,000 fans and I was one of them. I wasn’t thinking about my struggles and failures. I was smiling and feeling lucky that I was there and part of the experience. No anger or fear for the rest of the night. Maybe things will be okay.

    I am grateful for Joey Bats because he gave me an escape.

    From there, it all came together: Edwin’s rise to stardom, the big trades, the arrival of Stroman, Sanchez and Osuna, Donaldson’s MVP season. Yes, there were setbacks; but the prize of two exciting playoff runs was worth the pain.

    The batflip will always maintain it’s iconic status in Canadian sports mythology. The image of Bautista sending his bat to another galaxy will sit in the same category as Paul Henderson’s Summit Series goal in 1972, Sydney Crosby’s golden goal and of course, Joe Carter’s World Series winning blast.

    This chapter of Blue Jays history began when AA became the General Manager. However, the epicentre of the story revolves around Jose Bautista.

    Without Joey Bats, every moment and feeling never occurs. Just imagine what things would look like. All it took was a minor league catcher, an adjustment to his swing and some good fortune.

    Evolution caught up to Bautista the past two seasons. So since it’s likely the end, I thank him for everything he did for the team and the city.

    If the Blue Jays ultimately win the World Series in the next ten years, Jose Bautista would obviously not get a ring. However, he will have played an integral role in the journey.

    All the best, Mr. Bats.

    ER


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