The Catch

You can certainly feel free to say “Bullsh**!” to this, but I knew Kevin had that ball all the way.

And holy fricking heck, I was even in the park to see it. Second deck, just between home and third, with a perfect view of the whole thing. And what a thing it was.

The instant the ball was struck, I turned to Pillar and he was already on the move. Even before I’d shifted my eyes from the plate to the outfield, he was already running in a dead-straight even line to where the ball was going to come down, and as the ball dipped and the crowd sighed I was already standing and getting ready to cheer because Pillar had his eye on it, and was raising his glove and I knew he was going to get that sucker because the great outfielders, the truly extraordinary ones, just have a particular way of moving–of gliding–for those last few steps before they make the eye-popping catch and Pillar was gliding across the green like he was barely touching it.

And then he flew up, and tossed out the glove and…oh my goodness, but that is why I watch baseball and shell out the outrageous amounts of money it costs to take your kids to a ballgame. Because as Pillar came down with that ball in his glove and everyone else stood up to join me and the noise rose up all around, I got to look down at my boys and to see them looking down at the field in the same way that I was, and the way everyone else there was: eyes wide and white, smiles of awe and amazement from ear to ear, and a kind of bewildered air of the surreal surrounding everything.

“Did you see that?” my younger boy asked me. “Did you see?”

“That…was incredible,” offered the elder.

My wife tore her eyes from the field to look at me. “I can’t believe what I just saw. Did he really catch that?”

Yes. Yes, he did catch that.

And I was there to see it.

God, I love baseball.

 

The View From Thirty (One)

In which I gain the wisdom of a child and prove with numbers that Kendrys Morales is THE MAN!

In addition to winning their second series of the season over the weekend (and in Tampa Bay no less!) the Jays passed an important, if somewhat arbitrary, milestone: game thirty. It’s an old saw that you can only really begin to start taking stock of where your team is at after thirty games have been played, and at the moment, well, the Blue Jays are kind of where they’ve been all year: between a rock and something just a little less rock-like. Eleven and twenty is…not good. It’s not as bad as it could be, but still…not good. Are the Jays doomed? Are they still in this thing? Are these questions we should even be asking?

I dunno. But here’s the transcript of a conversation I had this morning with my eleven year old son that I believe pretty much sums up the interior life of every Blue Jays fan these days:

Son: Daddy, can the Blue Jays make the playoffs this year?

Me: Well, I’m not sure. They could but it’s going to be really hard for them to–

Son: Don’t say that! They can do it.

Me: Well, I didn’t say they couldn’t, it’s too early in the season to be sure. I’m just saying that they started really badly–

Son: But they’re playing really well right now.

Me: I don’t know if they’re playing really well. Bautista’s looking very old all over again and Travis isn’t really hitting yet; the pitching is a mess–

Son: They’re all injured, though. It doesn’t count. Who’s even in the lineup right now, anyway? They’re not even really the Jays. Tulowitzki and Donaldson are going to come back and they’ll be good again.

Me: Martin’s injured too now, you know.

Son: He’s no loss, he wasn’t hitting well anyway.

Me: Actually, he was coming round and he’s always good behind the plate. They were really depending on him.

Son: Doesn’t matter. They’re winning. They can still make the playoffs and you shouldn’t say they can’t.

Me: I didn’t say they couldn’t, I just said it would be har–

Son: They can make it.

Me: Maybe, but–

Son: They can.

Me: But–

Son: They can, Daddy!

And then it kind of went on like this for a while.

And: who the man? Kendrys, Kendrys is the man.

Here’s a statistically insignificant point which I am going to claim is significant:

In games where Kendrys Morales homers the Blue Jays are three and two. In games in which he does not hit a dinger they are eight and eighteen. Put another way, when Kendrys homers the Jays have a .600 win ratio, and when he doesn’t they’re playing .444.

By way of comparison, when we look at the team’s next-best tater-hitter, Justin Smoak (with five so far this year, compared to Kendrys’ six, which added together is still less than Aaron Judge but we’re not going to talk about that right now) the Jays are two and three (.400) in games in which Smoak finds the seats.

Things get even more interesting when you look at the RBI for each, with Smoak at seventeen and Morales at twenty. So while Morales does have a slight edge in RBI, meaning we could perhaps chalk up his greater win ratio to there simply being more men on base for Morales than for Smoak, I’m not sure that’s going to fly given that the difference is just three runs.

The fact is, when Morales hits home runs, the Jays tend to win games. So this really isn’t rocket science, is it? What should Morales be trying to do in almost every single one of his at bats, particularly with men on base?

That’s right: swing, baby, swing!

 

 

 

Another Off-Day, Another Pirated Mail Bag

In which I highjack Andrew Stoeton, call someone dumb, and play “Hooked on a Feeling” twice

Off days just seem to bring out the pirate in me. So here we go again:

I would love to see the Jays put together a great May and June, setting themselves up for a potential playoff run… If they don’t put themselves in a place where the postseason seems likely, don’t they NEED to either re-sign Donaldson or see what they could obtain in a trade for him by the July trade deadline? I would have to think his value would be higher to the team trying to obtain him if they would have him for two postseason runs. Don’t get me wrong, I would way rather they re-sign him and try to reload this offseason and try to win with him, but they can’t afford to lose him for nothing after next season…

I’ve never really bought into the idea of “losing a player for nothing”: if the Jays and Donaldson do part ways at the end of the 2018 season (and Sweet Lord In Heaven Above I hope they do not) then it won’t be for “nothing” as the Jays will have had four glorious years of Donaldson baseball. If they trade him away sometime this season (and, yeah, they could garner a bucketload of talent) then they are trading away a season and a half of Donaldson’s offence, defence and general all round badassery for prospects that, unless they’re really really good, will never come close to matching what he brings.

Yes, Josh Donaldson is that good.

The choice isn’t between something (they trade him for assets) and nothing (he plays out his contract then goes free agent)—it’s a choice between two different somethings: on the one hand, more young prospects with less Donaldson, and on the other, all the Donaldson available. If it’s me, I take all the Donaldson I can get, every time.

And remember, it’s not up to the Jays whether or not Donaldson signs an extended contract or not: yes, it’s up to them whether or not they offer one, but it’s going to be Josh who decides what he wants to do come 2018, and come on, if you were one of the three best players in the game, wouldn’t you want to go free agent and see what you could get on the open market? Can you imagine the absolutely bonkers-ridiculous contract he could sign with the Dodgers or the Giants or the Rangers or (*gulp*) the Red Sox or the Yankees? Thanks to the way things are done in the MLB he can’t even hear what other teams might be offering until after his contract with the Jays has run out, so what possible incentive could he have to pass up seeing what those offers might be?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love for the Blue Jays to blow him away with an offer so good that he signs on for the rest of his natural life, but it would take a heck of a great deal to get that done so signing him long term is probably really unlikely to happen, which brings us back to the two different somethings…and I’ll ask you: would you call as much Josh Donaldson as you can get nothing?

I sure as heck hope not!

are you happy that hooked on a feeling is no longer played?

Absolutely not. Love that song! In fact, let’s give it a listen…

 

What do you make of the Travis struggles at the plate, pitchers adjusting, the knee still an issue?

I doubt it’s the knee or any other injury, since if it were I’m sure they would have sat him down already to let it heal; I mean, it’s not like he’s been a really integral part of the lineup lately and while he’s OK on defence I’d rather have Barney’s or Goins’ glove out there. Pitchers may be coming at him differently but I’ve not seen that myself, but then again they’re really good pitchers and so they could be doing all kinds of things I just miss. I will say this: Travis has been around for two years now and everyone uses so much video and scouting I doubt they’re only just learning about him now.

From what I’ve seen, Travis seems to just, well, miss the ball. He is swinging at some off the plate pitches that he shouldn’t be swinging at, and it’s looked at times (especially early on) that he was getting a bit pull happy, but not so much lately and he’s been doing better.

What’s really telling, for me at least (and now I’m really reading the tea leaves) is that Gibby has been sitting him down from time to time. Now, if I’m right that there isn’t an injury (and honestly, there doesn’t seem to be) then the only reason for doing this is to give Travis a bit of a mental break. Gibby’s also been keeping Travis well down in the order and if you listen to his remarks to reporters he never seems to make a big deal about Travis’ night good or bad… Based on this, and predicated on Gibby’s general awesomeness as a people-manager, I suspect that whatever’s going on with Travis is going on somewhere between the ears.

But maybe it’s zee rays from Venus or something.

Will any minor league prospects get calls up to see what they have? Lourdes Gourriel have an ETA?

Like Salty, do you think anyone else might be DFA’d / replaced? Pearce?

Two questions with one theme: will the Jays suddenly be able to pull a great player out of their butts to replace some of the less than inspiring names on the roster?

Um, no? If they could, don’t you think they would have done this already?

I already dealt with all this calling up prospects silliness when I raided Stoeten’s last mail bag so I’ll skip that and go straight to the question of firing Pearce.

Huh? What in the name of little green apples is that supposed to accomplish? Zeke in left field every day? That is a really and truly terrible idea. They let Salty go because they had a better option in Maile: no, he’s not a great option, but he’s better with the glove and behind the plate than Salty and no worse with the bat. Who and where is the better option for Pearce? I mean, sure, yeah, if someone crops up on the waiver wire who is better than Pearce then I say go for it…but that is not going to happen.

Do you think Stroman will pitch well enough this year to be in the conversation for AL Cy Young? (Top 5 finish maybe?)

Yep.

Unless his “minor tightness in the armpit, nothing to worry about, it’s nothing I’m good to go” thing really is a thing, in which case…

…no, I just don’t want to think about that. So instead, cue the sitar, and:

(Bet you didn’t even know that the Blue Suede version was a cover, did you?)

When everyone comes back from the DL, do you expect the batting order to change significantly? I can’t see why Bautista has been batting third for so long without any results this season to deserve that spot unless Tulowitzki wanted to stay fifth. Even if Tulowitzki had reservations from moving around in the batting order, the hitting has been so bad this season that player objections would be down on the list of things I would consider when filling in the lineup card. This would be my everyday lineup against RHP if things project out the same from now until everyone gets healthy.

1. Pillar
2. Carrera
3. Donaldson
4. Morales
5. Tulowitzki
6. Bautista
7. Smoak
8. Martin
9. Travis

If Travis continues to be a non-factor, Goins at 2B and batting ninth could be a possibility.

I agree whole-heartedly with Pillar as leadoff and Donaldson batting third, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Zeke in the two spot? Bautista at the bottom half of the order?I’m trying to find a nice way of saying just how dumb this is, but…nope…can’t come up with anything.

OK, I get it, Joey Bats hasn’t been getting all the homeruns that gets the kiddies going, but his on base is .328 and rising while Zeke’s is .329 and going down. More significantly, Bautista’s OBP is thirty points higher than his batting average while Carrera’s is just twenty, and…José Bautista is good and Ezekiel Carrera is really not.

And where’s Pearce? I know, I know, “He’s terrible, the Jays should fire him,” except he’s not.

Here’s how it should look:

  1. Pillar
  2. Bautista
  3. Donaldson
  4. Morales
  5. Tulowitzki
  6. Smoak
  7. Martin
  8. Pearce
  9. Travis

As someone that has seen many crappy Blue Jays seasons, what advice would you give to new fans of the team that are now experiencing one for the first time?

One: it’s early.

Two: this isn’t hockey.

Three: calm the heck down.

Four: Josh Donaldson is really really good at baseball—even if the season does go in the tank (see point one, above) then you still get to watch him for the rest of the season.

Five: read this article.

Beyond that I can only say this: baseball, for me, is never really about whether or not you win the pennant or the championship or whatever (and maybe I can get away with that having been alive for 1992 and 1993, but oh well…). It’s about watching baseball, which is easily the greatest and most beautiful game ever invented in the history of anything anywhere. So long as my team is playing well (and they are, most nights) and the players I get to watch are doing incredible things (and with guys like Tulo, Donaldson, Sanchez, Stroman, Estrada and, yes, Travis and Bautista and Goins and Barney and Morales and Smoak and…Pillar?? Is he really this good now? You betcha…they absolutely are) then I am a happy man.

Not that I’d mind if they won the pennant of course.

This Team Can’t Win. But in Two Weeks This Won’t Be the Same Team.

There’s good news and bad news for the Jays…and weirdly enough it’s the same news

@ New York Yankees, May 1-3

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 1

Blue Jays 5, Yankees 11

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 8

After finally winning a series last week and taking the first game against New York, the Blue Jays and their fans were understandably optimistic about taking two of three against the Yankees as well.

Sadly, the Blue Jays’ pitchers had other plans.

But back to that first game: Marco Estrada was incredible (again) and Matt Barnes didn’t look too terrible either: didn’t look fabulous, but he got the job done, which for this series was something of a rarity for the bullpen.

Which brings me to game two:

After a horrific start by Latos, Leone was not good, Grilli was just godawful, while Loup continued his surprisingly consistent run of OK-ness for the year. I guess that two good starts from Latos is probably about as much as anyone could have hoped for, but lordy oh lordy that was not pretty. The really worrying sight was, of course, Grilli, and not just because he coughed it up all over Grandma’s new rug, but because he’s been coughing it up all over the rug, the couch, the chaise and the freshly laundered doilies all season. It’s hard to know what’s going on with him: slow start? Forty years old? Who the heck knows, but I sure as heck hope it’s something he can get over quickly (which is why if it isthe age thing, then the back end of the bullpen is in real trouble).

Aaaaaand, game three:

Whether it was just One Of Those Starts or some kind of mystery-one-game-only injury, Marcus Stroman joined Grilli in messing up Grandma’s stuff because that was not a good start. Assuming it wasn’t an injury then there’s probably not a lot to be concerned about, since Stroman’s always been prone for the Big Fall Apart every once in a while, but he usually bounces back and pitches really well the next time out.

But…if it is an injury thing (and there’s no real reason to believe that it is right now, but if it is)…

Eep.

He did at least leave the game with a lead, but the bullpen…man oh man, that bullpen. Amid all the panic over the (complete lack of) offence to begin the season everyone (including yours truly) seems to have lost sight of the fact that going into the season the one area of real concern for the Jays was that bullpen. And now, perhaps, we’re seeing why. Tepera was good until he wasn’t and then Biagini made a bit of a mess of Grandma’s increasingly filthy furniture.

Do you realise that even with the Blue Jays’ (complete lack of) offence, if the bullpen had been performing even at the league average the Jays would have twelve or thirteen wins by now instead of nine? And thirteen and fifteen is a LOOOOT different than nine and nineteen.

Now, on the (rather significant) upside the Jays have now scored four or more runs in thirteen of their last seventeen games. A couple of weeks ago I argued that so long as the Jays could be league average on offence (which means scoring four or five runs a night) then they would be just fine…but that was predicated on three points that have (temporarily, I hope) been somewhat altered: 1) the incredible strength of the starting rotation, 2) the brilliance of Osuna and, 3) the ho-hum-adequate nature of the rest of the bullpen.

And, wouldn’t you know it, just about as soon as I wrote that piece, Happ and Sanchez went on the disabled list, Osuna started to struggle and the bullpen began to implode on a more or less regular basis.

Which brings me, at last, to the good news. Which is also the bad news.

First, the bad: right now, the Blue Jays’ pitching is a mess: two starters (three? Stroman?) are down; the bullpen is absolutely not very reliable. Osuna, thank the gods, has begun to look more like his old self but until he’s thrown a few more one-two-three innings when it really matters I’m not quite ready to climb off the ledge on that one. If this keeps up then…well…I hope you like the CFL because that’s the only playoff action you can look forward to in October.

But now, the good news: the Blue Jays’ pitching is a mess, which is just another way of saying that the problem is no longer the offence. They’re getting four or five runs a game almost every night: that’s really good.

At the beginning of the season, they had the greatest starting pitching in the league but zero runs were being scored. Now, they’re scoring enough to win, but the pitching is a shambles. If they can just put it together, they could be a really good team.

And, you know what? There’s every reason to expect that they can put it all together.

They’re already scoring as many runs as they really should need to, and that’s without Josh Donaldson and Tulo. When they come back, it should only improve.

The starting rotation is a shambles because Happ and Sanchez are out with genuine but relatively un-terrifying injuries. It’s going to be a painful two weeks before they return, but they will return. Assuming Stroman is also OK, this is a problem that will fix itself, probably right around the time that Donaldson and Tulo return to the lineup.

Which leaves only the bullpen. As I said, Osuna appears to be more like his old self, but I’m going to want to wait a bit and see, but assuming he does turn things around then there’s really nothing too much to worry about in the pen either. Very soon, teams are going to start letting pitchers go or shopping them out. Creating an overpowering bullpen is hard, but putting together an average one is one of the easiest things to do on a major league roster: the Jays did it last year when they brought in Grilli in May and Joaquin Benoit in July; they can easily do so again this summer.

The team on the field right now is playing relatively good baseball. But in two weeks that team is going to be replaced with one that features Josh Donaldson (batting, I pray, in the three hole behind Bautista), Tulo at short, and the starting rotation they began the year with. Sometime very soon after that they will probably also be boasting an improved bullpen. And that, my friends, is a team that can win some ballgames.

The only question, which is the same question I’ve been asking since the Blue Jays opened the season one and nine, is will it happen soon enough to save the season? I honestly can’t think of any reason why it can’t.

But that doesn’t mean that it will.

Stay tuned.

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.