Cathal Kelly Strikes Again

I usually ignore the foolish mutterings of Mr Kelly, but his last piece on the Blue Jays is just too foolish to ignore

I don’t mind that Cathal Kelly doesn’t know the first thing about baseball, but it really gets my goat that the clowns over at the National Pest are actually willing to pay him to write utter nonsense about it.

Usually, I’m able to treat his ravings the way I do the drunken mumblings of a homeless person: when I see him coming I simply try to smile, keep my head down and keep going, not putting a lot of stock in the bizarre string of words I catch as we pass. But thanks to Twitter (oh, my nemesis) and to the fact that a lot of people I follow on there felt it necessary to point out that he was up to it again, I fell for it…and I looked.

Oh my sweet maiden aunt.

I tried–I really did–to let it go. Honestly. But if there’s one thing that bugs me more than people who know nothing about baseball pretending to be experts, it’s people who know nothing about baseball who pretend to be experts in a vain attempt to hide their own foolishness.

So, without any further ado, I give you Mr Cathal Kelly holding forth on and holding court on Mark Shapiro’s comments last Friday:

This club does analytics on the quality of its analytics. It is hard to believe the Blue Jays failed to notice that they were constructing a roster designed to dominate baseball’s Senior Tour, if such a thing existed.

The only plausible rationale is that the team was, on some level, designed to fail. Success was always a possibility, but a long way from likely, unless everything broke perfectly. Currently, it’s just breaking, period. The fans wanted more of the same. And you know what they say about getting what you want.

One hardly knows where to begin.

Yes, of course, the Blue Jays front office knew they were signing some aging players and that this was not going to make their team any younger. Of course, this was after they tried to sign Edwin Encarnacion and Dexter Fowler both of whom, while in their 30s, are younger than Bautista, Morales and Pearce, whom Kelly holds up as “evidence” (and one must use that term loosely in relation to Mr Kelly) that the Jays were in some manner trying to make the team older. And, no, they were not trying to join the Senior Tour, because it doesn’t exist and so bringing up that mirage accomplishes what? Oh, right, I get it, Bautista and Morales and Pearce are all old! Ah, good one Cathal…

But now comes the humdinger. Having demonstrated only what everyone already knows (that the Blue Jays signed some older players) and conveniently ignored that they only did this after trying to sign some younger players, he moves immediately to the declaration that:

The only plausible rationale is that the team was, on some level, designed to fail.

“Plausible” is a great word, really. It implies that what follows is somehow the most likely or reasonable explanation without exactly stating that: it gives someone who uses it a certain amount of wiggle room. He’s not saying that he’s necessarily right, only that he could be right; that it’s possible he’s right. Of course, that’s not how Kelly is really presenting his “argument” (and one must use that term loosely in relation to Mr Kelly), he’s instead presenting the bizarre claim that the team was designed to fail as the necessary logical inference–nay! the only possible explanation!–for why the Blue Jays signed Bautista, Morales and Pearce. That’s a conclusion about the entire front office’s off-season strategizing, all the organisation’s long term planning, and this season in its entirety, drawn from one, limited, highly decontenxtualised and widely-known fact.

I gotta hand it to him: the chutzpa of the move is breath-taking. It doesn’t make his claim any less foolish, but you can only marvel at the audacity of the rhetorical gesture.

But even that’s not enough for Mr Kelly. Having produced a conclusion from a single “plausible” like an unconvincing magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, he immediately doubles down on the foolishness:

The planned self-destruction template exists locally. The Toronto Maple Leafs used the disastrous first few months of the 2014-15 season to make the case for a total restart. That’s worked out pretty well.

The “self destruction” that was “plausible” the paragraph before becomes–hey presto!–the premise of the rest of the article, as though the only question left is “How are they going to do it?” instead of “Cathal, how in the name of logic and reason do you get, Hiring Bautista, Morales and Pearce is proof positive and sufficient that there is a secret agenda, undetected by anyone but myself, to purposely tank the entire season?”

But we’re not even at my favourite part yet. It comes immediately after the above when Kelly states:

Baseball is not hockey, but the same principles apply.

“Apples are not oranges, but they still taste like oranges.” No they freaking don’t, Cathal, and saying that they do doesn’t make it any more true. It’s not even plausible that apples taste like oranges, any more than stating that baseball is not hockey but they are so alike in their “principles” that we can ignore the difference and talk about them as though they’re the same is plausible.

The middle section of this offensively foolish article comes to its painful close with a moment of apparent truth as Kelly admits:

Shapiro did not say that’s the plan on Friday…

OK, wahoo, so now we’re actually going to look at what Shapiro said? That’s good, because for going on two years now he’s been talking about building a contender, creating a sustainable model for competing, about the challenge of keeping this older team good while waiting for the young talent to mature… So, yes, by all means, let’s pay attention to what the man actually said…

…Instead, he left it to be read between the lines.

Oh…..Cathal. Cathal, Cathal, Cathal.

Do you know what’s between the lines? Blank, white paper, which is perfect, I guess, if you’re trying to tell the story you want rather than deal with the world as it may actually be.

It’s Not The Losing That Hurts, It’s The Hope

The Jays win a couple and everybody gets frantic

Blue Jays 4, (Devil) Rays 1

Blue Jays 3, (Devil) Rays 1

First series win, first two-game win-‘streak’ and…well… Eight and seventeen may not be a great record but it sounds better than six and seventeen…

Right?

You’d think that all this good news would make people happy, but you’d be wrong. The callers to Wilner’s show (on Saturday at least) were as angry and fretful as ever, while out there in the Twitterverse #BlueJays fans went into a veritable frenzy, vying with one another to see who could be the most outraged, pessimistic and/or wittily dismissive of the team’s hopes for this season.

You would think that a couple of wins might calm things down a bit, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case. On the contrary, it all seems to be so much more strident than even after the double-header sweep by the Cardinals.

In one sense, what I was seeing all weekend from the fans and press was pretty much of a piece with what I’ve seen all season long: Rogers-mandated optimism, loudmouthed fans’ hypothalamic ravings, and Twitter’s one-forty character sneers. But at the same time there was a particular edge to it all, particularly after the Jays’ second win, which is perhaps odd if you consider that the win improved their situation: why is it, you may ask, that things grew just that much more tense after the Jays accomplished back-to-back wins for the first time this season, bringing them–for the first time since the first week of April–to within a (long) spitting distance of playing .500 baseball?

It could be, perhaps, that Aaron Sanchez returned to the rotation only to have his finger explode in a bloody spray before departing for another stint on the disabled list.

Or the news that while Tulo and Donaldson continue to improve, neither one of them is particularly close to returning.

Maybe it was Pillar’s zero for eight this weekend, or Travis’s zero for four on Sunday after not playing at all on Saturday; or maybe it was the fact that the bulk of the scoring in the two games was accomplished by Smoak, Carrera and Martin, none of whom can with any realistic appraisal of the team be accounted amongst the reliable options for long-term run support? Or was it that Bautista, for all that he had a good weekend, still hasn’t shown any of the power that he used to possess and which seems (perhaps) to have deserted him this year?

It could and probably is some combination of all these things: the wins are nice but they seemed so darned precarious; there are signs that things could be getting better but there are signs that they could actually get worse.

But, really, it’s been like that since the beginning of the season, there’s nothing new in all that. So what’s changed? What’s happening to the fanbase?

It’s called hope. And hope can be a terrible thing.

Hoping for a good thing to happen is pretty benign, but when you find that you actually have hope that the thing will happen, that’s when it gets a lot more tricky. Wishing for the Jays to be better is a pretty comfortable state to be in, but with two wins in a row…hope, unbidden, unlooked for and weirdly unwelcome rears its head. “Maybe, just maybe” hope whispers, “They can actually pull this off. Maybe, just maybe, they can start to turn things around and get back to .500 by the All Star Break and then, who knows…?”

Articles appear, outlining how teams in worse shape than the Jays, have made the playoffs; Mike Wilner feels buoyant enough to call one of his callers “dumb” for even suggesting that the Blue Jays have dug too deep a hole to climb out of. In contrast, of course, are the callers themselves who insist on railing against Gibby, the players, the front office and the whole of the Blue Jays enterprise for being terrible. And then there’s Twitter:

So what’s going on here? Why such a divided and even dysfunctional response to what should have been a good weekend for Jays’ fans?

It’s the dangerous allure of hope. Because with hope comes the increased fear of disappointment. With the hope that the Jays might actually be good, there arises the possibility that they might fall flat. Some people respond to the renewal of hope by throwing themselves into it, by embracing the titillating airs of possible redemption, change and renewal to the fullest; others resist the happy pull of hope, fearful of letting themselves be drawn in, lest their disappointment be made all the more bitter if the hope should prove empty.

As is so often the case, I find that Shakespeare sums it up best. Near the end of Richard III as the enemies of the evil humpbacked Richard are closing in to finish him off, the nobles are jubilant at the thought of their inevitable success, telling Henry of Richmond (soon to be King Henry VII) that everything is going their way, never worry, Richard is sure to fall. To which Henry, ever the cautious pragmatist, replies:

True hope is swift and flies with swallow’s wings,
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.

In other words: “Hope can really get your hopes up, so don’t let’s get too far ahead of ourselves quite yet.”

Of course, the irony here is that Henry does become king; the hopes of his followers are realised when, against the odds and in defiance of all probability, he actually wins the battle and is made king. So are we to take his warning against hope at face value? Are we to be cautious in the face of hope? Or are we to take faith that hope is self-renewing and validating? That hope can itself move history the way we want it to go, to be an actual force in determining the eventual outcome?

It’s a darn good question. Shakespeare posed it four hundred years ago, and Jays’ fans are going to be wrestling with it, I suspect, for some time to come. But just remember what Pistol, another of Shakespeare’s characters, said in the much funnier play The Merry Wives of Windsor:

Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs.

“Curtal” is a fun word, incidentally; it means ‘having a cropped tail’ usually, but here I think we can take it more to mean that the dog in question (hope) is something smaller or lesser than even the most common dog: a yapping, dirty annoying cur more than anything else.

Which is the real concern for Jays’ fans these days. What kind of hope is it that we see now? The hope that can lift the lowest and least regarded of the realm to the crown? Or the incessant yapping of a dirty dog dreaming of the meaty bone it’s never going to get?

Hold on, because the only way to find out is to see this thing through.

And keep hoping.

Almost at Thirty And Things Are Looking Grim

The Jays have eight games to become relevant…and now Osuna is looking human…ick

Blue Jays 4, Cardinals 8

Blue Jays 4, Cardinals 6

I will admit to being a bit nervous about the Jays’ season. It’s still early, there’s still plenty of time, nobody is really out of it until at least thirty games…

…but oh my sweet maiden aunt, now Roberto Osuna is…not good.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that if the Jays could begin to routinely score four runs a game then they’d probably be entirely fine for the season, and guess what? They scored four runs in each of their games yesterday and guess what? They lost both.

In the evening game they lost because Casey Lawrence was Casey Lawrence: it was pretty easy to predict that something very much like that was going to happen. But in the afternoon game Matt Latos (again!) looked just great, and the four runs the Jays gave him should have been enough. But…ugh…Osuna blew his third save of the season making him just three for six in attempts to close out games.

That is really really not good. In a bullpen where the only other “power arm” is forty year old Jason Grilli, having Roberto Osuna become human all of a sudden is just…ugh. I, of course, have no idea what is going on with Roberto, but neither does anyone else apparently, which is truly terrifying. There’s no shortage of theories, of course: lingering/undisclosed injury, not enough work in spring training, too much work in spring training, too much work in the World Baseball Classic, or (my personal favourite) Gregg Zaun’s neverending diatribe against the very idea of Osuna throwing his two-seamer. All I know is: Osuna’s velocity is down (which is bad), he’s missing his spots (which is worse), and when things are starting to wrong for him on the mound he is obviously being effected by it (which is the worst).

It really is hard to overstate just how horrific, terrifying and just plain old bad it would be should Osuna not be able to return to something like his old form and really soon. If the Jays can’t close out close games (which is all they are capable of playing right now and possibly for the rest of the season) then there is literally no hope whatsoever of them turning things around. If Osuna simply falls apart then they will be lucky to reach .500 at any point this season.

Just…ugh.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom in the double-header, of course: Kevin Pillar continues his quest for actual greatness, José Bautista and Russell Martin both kept putting up hits to nudge their numbers a bit closer to something that might almost be OK, and there was the aforementioned very good outing by Matt Latos who is really looking like a great off season pick-up. But…

Donaldson and Tulo are still hurt, the offensive gains by Martin, Bautista and Travis are there but not dramatic…and now Osuna is looking terribly, horribly human.

I still stand by the idea that you can’t make any firm predictions about a season until at least thirty games have been played. But the Jays only have eight more games until they hit that landmark, and even if they win every single one of those they’ll still be just fourteen and sixteen for the season, which wouldn’t be terrible, but it’s still really bad. And to even get to that, they’ll have to do it without Donaldson, without Tulo, without Happ, and now without the dominant Roberto Osuna the team’s come to depend on.

Eesh.

Back when I was a reporter for a very small paper, one of the first things I learned is that when you’re filing a story you indicate that you’ve reached the end of your piece by typing “–30–” at the bottom of the last page, or just saying, “That’s a thirty” if you were dictating it over the phone (which I never did, but they told us that anyway, I think because it was just a cool thing to think about, being like those reporters from the old movies shouting their stories down the horns of those old telephones. I sometimes wonder if reporters still do that, but I doubt it, and suspect that they are now required to type, edit, upload and format their stories themselves with but passing aid of an editor. But I digress.)

At any event, I’m put in mind of this for one simple reason: that for a long time now I have associated the number thirty with endings. It may just be that for the Blue Jays this season, thirty games is just about all they’re going to have in which to even dream of making the playoffs.

The countdown, she is on…

 

The Moments That Make a Game

The Dive and the Double were amazing, but did you see Bautista’s move??

Blue Jays 6, Cardinals 5

Every baseball game is made up of a series of great moments separated by anticipation.

Some games more than others.

Here’s the most significant moments from last night’s game:

The dive

I, along with everyone else, was left speechless by what Chris Coghlan did. It was breath-taking in audacity, tenaciousness and outright desperation. It’s the kind of move that had absolutely no right succeeding. By rights, Coghlan should have collided with Molina and broken his or Yadier’s neck…or overshot the plate and been tagged out as he lay winded and broken in the dirt…or been flipped onto his head just short of the plate…or been tagged as he went overhead… Even as I was watching the replay for the three hundredth time I still thought to myself, “This can’t possibly work” and yet—somehow, gloriously—it did.

I love baseball.

The double

Just two nights after being roasted by self-righteous fossils and other Gregg Zauns for actually having fun and showing emotion when he won a game, Marcus Stroman went out and won another one, this time with his bat and thousand watt smile (which he tried to hide for all of about twenty seconds after hitting second, at which point I think he realised it was pointless).

Good for you Marcus.

The beard at third

Just seeing Russell Martin jog out to third would have made my night, in all honesty. The rest of it was just really good gravy.

Schadenfreude

Is a fancy German word that (like a lot of fancy German words) sounds like a sneeze but which means “the joy one feels at the misfortunes of another” or, as I like to translate it, “the really ugly joy felt by a Blue Jays fan when Brett Cecil blows up in April when he’s pitching for somebody else”. (I mean, he actually committed a throwing error and balked with the same motion. It’s hard to screw up twice with one gesture.)

Don’t get me wrong…love the Brett…I think he’s great (in every month other than April). If he hadn’t been hurt for the 2015 ALCS I have no doubt the Jays would have gone to the Series. I also, however, have no doubt that if I were a manager with Cecil on the roster I would sit him until at least May, and never let him into high pressure innings until June.

Osuna teeters

I also love Roberto Osuna, but I’m starting to get a bit of a chilled feeling down my spine about him. The Jays haven’t really had much opportunity to play him this season, and so maybe that’s why he’s been less than sharp so far…and I get it, the Cardinals are a good team and all…but he blew the save, again, and didn’t even look very strong while doing so. Velocity still isn’t quite what it used to be, he was out of the zone and visibly shaken and distracted when he had a man on base.

Joey Bats comes through

Little noticed amid the furor over The Dive and The Double was something of much more long-term importance to the Blue Jays’ chances of success this season: José Bautista’s RBI single in the fourth inning to tie the game. He then went to third on a throwing error, which allowed him to score the go-ahead run on Morales’ groundout to third.

This was a big moment, not just in the game but perhaps in the season. Bautista’s struggles this year are no big secret, but there have been genuine signs of late that he may be coming out of it, and these moments from the fourth are perhaps the best indicator yet that he’s going to start looking more like the RBI man the Blue Jays need. He didn’t overswing or sell out for power, he didn’t miss his pitch, he kept his head on the basepaths, and he gave the Blue Jays the lead against a very effective Michael Wacha.

In comparison to Coghlan’s impossible move and Stroman’s improbable hit what Bautista accomplished may not seem like much…but a few more moments like that in each game could make all the difference in the long run.

Two Games, One Stupid Talking Point

It’s not a rule if it isn’t written down

Blue Jays 6, Angels 2

Blue Jays 1, Angels 2

Two games for the price of one this time. That’s what I get for missing a day.

But, to sum up: Stroman is incredible and anyone who says different is just dead wrong. Jesse Chavez, on the other hand, is terrible and anyone who says different is…well…blind. And yet the Blue Jays’ bats, so very productive on Sunday, went back to their April quiescence on Monday.

The Monday game—at which the Blue Jays were defeated by the might and power of Jesse Chavez—was so very much of a type for this season that, to be honest, I hardly know what I can possibly say about it except…well…

Nope. I got nothing. Crummy pitcher throwing garbage and the Jays make him look like a Cy Young candidate… Yep, just about sums it up.

Now, the Sunday game on the other hand, that was interesting. And not just because the Jays won (although that helps) but because of the way that they won.

First and foremost, of course, there was Devon Travis’ performance at the plate: at last…at last…he started to look like the hitter that we all know he can be, and which he is going to have to be if the Jays are going to do anything this season other than pad out other teams’ win column. Second, there was the continuing…greatness? Can we call it greatness, yet?…of Kevin Pillar. And finally, of course, there was Stroman’s pitching which was yes-we-can-absolutely-call-it-greatness. If these sorts of things can happen just a bit more often then at some point in the next little while the Jays may even hit double-digits in their own win column.

And, no, I’m not ignoring Carrera’s two for three at the plate or Goins’ home run. Neither one of those things is very likely to happen again any time soon, and the likelihood of their coming in the same game again this year (or any other) is so close to zero that it may as well be actually nil. Fluky things happen in baseball, and if you were watching that game you certainly saw the truth of that; and if you were in any doubt, then their return to their staggering normalcy yesterday should help you overcome any dreams that Ryan Goins is a perfectly fine long-term option in the painful absence of Josh Donaldson and Tulo, or that Zeke as the everyday starting left fielder is ever going to be a good idea.

(Oh, and Gibby, you know I love you, but what in the name of blazes makes you think that there is any universe in which it makes sense to have Zeke batting second?)

But back to the Sunday game, and to what made it truly interesting, and no I’m not talking about home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus’ bizarre decision to keep calling Stroman for a quick pitch when he was already halfway through (or even finished) his windup (which was kind of amusing in a painful-grimacey kind of way). No, I’m talking about the furor that erupted afterward concerning what Gregg “I’m As Old School As My Suits Are Loud” Zaun called Stroman’s “antics” and all the attendant, and sadly predictable, discussion about “the right way to play the game” according to its “unwritten rules”.

Oh, for the love of sweet little apples.

On a day when Manny Machado nearly had his head taken off by a pitch, there was actually serious, drawn-out and heated discussion about whether or not it’s acceptable that a pitcher who had won a complete game after having the umpire make two ridiculous calls on imaginary quick pitches while playing for a team that is last in the standings has a right to celebrate his accomplishment.

Now, I’ve been a baseball fan for a long, long time. I am the original definition of old school. I remember the ’75 World Series, the Big Red Machine and watching the Expos when they were great the first time. I remember Exhibition Stadium and games in the snow, and the baggies around the outfield in Minneapolis. I cheered for Reggie Jackson, and Gary Carter, and Joe Carter. I’ve been watching baseball for longer than a lot of its current superstars and superfans have been alive. And as an old time fan I just want to say this to all those who fault Stroman:

Up your nose with a rubber hose.

Of course it’s OK for the kid to celebrate. Of course it’s OK to have fun on the mound and to show your emotions on the field. The people who complain about that are usually the ones who lost and they’re using the “unwritten rules” as an excuse to carp on about how the other team was better than them that day. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with “showing proper respect” or “not showing up the other guy”. If it were even remotely about that then why wasn’t everyone…anyone…going on and on about how Pujols made a very clear, “WTF?” gesture to Mike Trout when Trout made a relatively minor baserunning error in that very same game?

Albert Pujols, by the way, was one of the carpiest of carping-on-ers about Stroman after the game. I guess he must have been upset about something…

Like losing the game?

Let’s not dignify pouty displays of frustration and hurt feelings as though they’re some kind of grand adherence to a Spirit Of The Game held together by the Unwritten Rules that only True Ballplayers can understand.

The rules are written in the rule book. The rest is just hurt egos and petulant millionaire boy-men taking themselves far too seriously.

 

 

Looking For (And Finding) The Good News

There really are things to be happy about right now…for example, Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak

Blue Jays 4, Angels 5

It’s becoming almost as frustrating as it is familiar: the Jays losing by a run after a late inning rally. Amongst the positives that I perpetually seek amongst the tea leaves:

  • Casey Lawrence looked very OK, that grand slam not-withstanding. Statscast apparently supports the eye test on that one—it had no business getting out of the park. Chalk that one up to bad luck and a tailwind. Still hurts, though.
  • José Bautista hit that ball hard in the eighth which is so very nice to see the day after his late inning heroics. Again, some bad luck from the unlikely glove of Kole Calhoun made the difference there. Still hurts, though.
  • They scored four runs again which is, as I have pointed out before, the magic number for success this season. Maybe not last night, though. Which is why it still hurts.

Oh well.

On the up side, of course, the game gives me an excuse to highlight a couple of players I’ve wanted to write about a bit more fully for a few days: Kevin “Superman” Pillar and Justin “Not So Terrible” Smoak, who together combined (again) to provide the bulk of the Blue Jays offence.

Superman, for real?

There was a lot of buzz in the Blue Jays/Rogers friendly-press during spring training about Pillar’s “new approach” at the plate and for those weeks in March it sure looked like he was keeping away from the crap off the plate and swinging harder at good pitches. I remained unconvinced, though, since it is very rare for a crappy hitter to suddenly become good. I even (and to my eternal shame) scoffed at the venerable Tao of Steib for suggesting that Pillar would “flirt with .300 for most of the season”.

Tao…mea culpe, mea maxima culpe.

I have to admit, I’m becoming a true believer, and it wasn’t just the home run last night (although that certainly didn’t hurt). He has looked different at the plate this season and it shows no sign of going away. He’s more patient with borderline pitches, more aggressive with the good ones and only rarley makes one of his patented dives across the plate trying to smack at garbage low and away. I’m not quite yet at Gideon Turk level of adulation for Pillar, but, well, I can admit that there may be grounds for at least some of his boundless faith.

But one word on Pillar before I move on, and it may prove to be the word too far, but I’m sorry, as great a centre fielder as he may be, the greatest centre fielder in the American League is Kevin Kiermaier. I’m ready for you, so bring it if you wish…

He’s actually OK, like I’ve been telling you

Waaaaaay back in February I had the following exchange on Twitter with Jonah Jeri

Now, putting aside for the moment that I apparently forgot how to do a slash line and accidentally put in a projected OPS where SLG should go (perhaps occasioning Mr Keri’s brief reply: “LOL”), I’m feeling pretty smug about that tweet, because beside my projected (and corrected) slash of .270/.320/.430, Smoak’s current .269/.309/.558 looks positively conservative.

Now, I can practically hear Keri’s voice in my mind reminding me that it is very early for individual stats and that we really do have to wait until at least the All Star break before any conclusions can be drawn and that for some stats you can’t really be sure of a statistically useful number of at bats until virtually the end of the season. And he’s right, of course he’s right, I know that.

But, oh what the heck, nyah nyah nyahnyah nyaaaaah! Justin Smoak isn’t terrible, he isn’t! He and Pillar are doing really well, and it’s for real!

So there.

Something to Get Excited About?

One win is probably not something to get too excited about, but it’s a reason for hope?…maybe…?

Blue Jays 8, Angels 7

I’m not a night person so I knew all along I wasn’t going to be able to see much of the game: when they’re out west, I rarely do. And given how the Blue Jays have been playing of late, the moment Mike Trout made it four-two in the fifth I stopped trying and let myself go to sleep for good.

Looks like I missed a good one.

So much goodness to revel in really, and that’s what I think the team and their fans can be excused for doing today: revelling. Because while a single win only makes a terrible record a little less terrible, some real signs—maybe ‘hints’ would be the better word—of hope were everywhere last night:

Offence

They actually had some. I said a while back that to win this season the Jays just needed to be average at the plate because of their strength defensively and in the starting rotation. I argued that all they really needed to do was to score four or five runs a game and they would be fine, and lo and behold, over nine innings they scored five runs.

What I find truly hopeful isn’t so much that they got those five runs, but who provided them. Too often this season it’s been the bench players fluking their way into runs while the big bats remained silent. But last night Smoak, Martin and Tulo all got in on the act (with, I would point out, Smoak providing the bulk of the run production). Martin went three for five with a walk and just one strike out (!?), raising his average above the Mendoza line for what seems like the first time this season. Is the box score right? Did that really happen?

Joey Bats

Oh, and José Bautista hit a three run homer in the thirteenth. Wish I’d been awake for that, but the video highlight is still pretty cool.

It’s just one home run, I get it, and on the whole Bautista’s season has been horrific, and, yes, I agree that just one at bat doesn’t change that or necessarily signal any kind of turn around, and I can see that he’s still batting just .131…

But…

In addition to the dinger, Bautista had a hit, took a walk and struck out just twice. Not spectacular, nothing to write home to mom about, but still…

José Bautista had a good night at the plate. If he can start having just a few more of those, then perhaps, just maybe, this season needn’t go completely down the toilet.

Matt Latos wasn’t terrible

He wasn’t spectacular, either, but he was solid…or at least solid enough. Six hits and four runs through five innings against a team with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the lineup is perfectly OK for a sixth starter and there isn’t a team in the majors who wouldn’t be happy with that.

When Fangraphs came out with their rankings of team pitching and had the Jays in the middle of the pack, a lot of people went a bit nuts (yours truly included), but as Andrew Stoeten quite usefully explained, this ranking made sense when one takes into account, as Fangraphs goes, the pitching depth on a team beyond their starting rotation. Yes, the Jays have one of the best starting five in baseball, but after that things get a lot softer; and with Sanchez out for one start, and now Happ looking to miss two, the Jays are going to need to rely on that depth. Latos’ performance last night should provide them with some small sigh of relief, however tentative. If he’d come out and blown spectacularly up…? Eesh.

So all in all, I’d say a win is a win and they’re going to need a lot more of those before the season can start to turn around. But it was a very hopeful win.

But José really should have flipped the bat.