Baseball’s a funny sport

Welcome to the postseason.

For the first time this season the Jays truly are heading into a must-win game. Lose Sunday and it’s season over. And what a disappointing end that would be.

All the excitement of a team poised for a World Series run has been sapped by two heartbreaking losses on home turf against a team the Jays probably should beat relatively handily.

It’s doubly disheartening to think Jays fans may have waited 22 years for a return to the playoffs, and might have to wait at least another year for a playoff win.

The sad truth is that baseball is a funny sport, where far too often what “should” happen doesn’t happen. David Price “should” shut down the Texas offence. Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion “should” have success against Yovani Gallardo and some of the bullpen pieces they’ve thrown out against Toronto in Games 1 and 2.

Russell Martin “should” be able to execute a fairly simple rundown.

And yet, that hasn’t happened.

In the ultimate example of the game-of-inches that baseball is, the Jays are down two games to none because of an inch here, and an inch there.

Take Friday. An inch more air between Rougned Odor and second base, a split second timing on a Josh Donaldson swing, a hair more lift from Edwin Encarnacion’s warning track shot to centre field, an inch here and there on a few pitches/an inch of forgiveness from the home plate umpire, and we could very well be spending the last couple of days talking about a best-of-three series.

For six months of the year you take the last two games and say “that’s baseball.” Over the course of 162 games those things almost always even out. You win a few you shouldn’t, and lose a few you shouldn’t. You lose a few games to an inferior team, and beat the better team on more than one occasion.

That’s not to say the Jays have been the better team. They haven’t.

But they are the better team. Given enough games between the two teams, the Jays would come out on top.

Unfortunately that’s not how things work. After grinding through 162 regular season contests, the best teams almost invariably are the ones that make the postseason. But when October rolls around the race immediately goes from a marathon to a sprint. A sprint where anything can, and quite often happens.

Let’s just hope that the Jays can recover from their stumble out of the blocks, and at least put themselves back into the thick of this dash.


A guide to hating the Texas Rangers

Combining their late season charge with the fact the home ballpark actively discourages the wave makes the Texas Rangers a tough team to hate.

Combining their late season charge with the fact the home ballpark actively discourages the wave makes the Texas Rangers a tough team to hate.

Alrighty, the regular season is officially over and the Blue Jays are still playing.

That must mean they’ve made the playoffs!

While most of us are fairly new, or at the very least extremely rusty, at this whole postseason thing it’s probably best to spend the next few days preparing. It seems to me that we’re all quite comfortable with cheering the home team, and it’s pretty easy considering the roster the organization has constructed. So the next most important thing is to learn to hate the opposing team.

Jays fans have had no problem hating opposing teams in the past, but there’s always been a reason. Whether it’s the shitbirding ways of the Baltimore Shitbirds or the throwing-at-our-stars-and-not-getting-thrown-out-only-to-have-Sanchez-tossed-when-a-ball-gets-away-from-him Kansas City Royals, those teams are easy to hate.

However, the Rangers man. They’re the team that was almost written off early after a 7-14 April. Like the Jays they went on a tear in the second half, securing the AL West. Texas has some fun and likable players, like Adrian “just as good as Derek Jeter but without the ballwashing” Beltre and Cecil (Fielder, not Brett)’s kid.

And of course there’s the fact the team actively discourages the wave at home games.

If the Jays weren’t in the postseason this year I’d be choosing between Texas and the Mets to be my adopted team for the month of October.

However, this time of year is not for the weak at heart. Canadians may not be hateful people, but it’s playoffs time. So without further adieu, here are some tidbits to get your Texas hate flowing.

Michael Young

For years Jays fans had to withstand the constant reminders every year that Michael Young was drafted by the Jays and traded from the Toronto organization to Texas for Esteban Loaiza in an ill-fated playoff push. That team ended up with 83 wins, and Young went on to have a nice little career, while Toronto spent years trying to find a shortstop who wasn’t awful.

But the thing is, Young wasn’t nearly as good as many people seem to think. Sure, he had some nice years by the traditional numbers, having a stretch of five straight years with 200 or more hits. But he was basically a 2-3 fWAR player, with a high-water mark of 4.1 in 2005.

And yet, every time Texas came to town we got to hear about the one that got away.

Well, screw Michael Young. It may have took 15 years but we got our shortstop now. How ya like them apples, Texas?

Cole Hamels

The lanky lefty had long been tied to the Jays as a possible trade target. But according to multiple reports over the years, Hamels had the Jays on his no-trade list, meaning he didn’t want to come here.

Well, suck it Cole. We got a lefty who’s better than you. And he’s more likable than you too.

Oh, and Cole Hamels reminds me of those teams that should have won Doc Halladay a World Series, but choked twice. So Cole, here’s to you getting taken to the proverbial woodshed on Thursday. You’ll wish you waived your no-trade clause when you see the lineup Toronto trots out for Game 1.

Jade Helm

According to this handy and hilarious infographic the most Googled term in Texas is Jade Helm.

For those unaware, Jade Helm refers to a conspiracy revolving around a military exercise in the American South that could involve, according to the Hartford Courant:

That Jade Helm 15 is actually a psychological operation aimed at getting people used to seeing the military on the streets so they will not be tipped off when the invasion actually happens.

That Jade Helm 15 is an international operation (UN vehicles have been spotted) whose goal is to seize everyone’s guns.

That the military plans to round up political dissidents.

That the military intends to remove key political figures who might oppose the institution of martial law. (I’m pretty sure Democrats don’t have anything to worry about here.)

That the military is secretly using recently closed Wal-Marts to stockpile supplies for Chinese troops who will be arriving to disarm Americans. (I have to say this is my personal favorite.)

It’s so Texan to be worried about the government taking their guns, but it’s also quite hilarious that people think recently closed Wal-Marts are being used to stockpile Chinese troops.

We could go down so many unfortunate racial, homophobic or xenophobic paths to point out that there is a lot of batshit crazy in Texas, but it’s more fun to showcase the craziness by conspiracy theories that include Chinese people waiting to file out of Wal-Marts and taking over America. I mean, have you ever navigated a Wal-Mart parking lot? They’re impossible!

Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?

Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?

George Bush

Before he took the Oval office for a political ride only rivaled by Toronto’s crack smoking, alcoholic racist and homophobic ex-mayor, George Bush was the Governor of the great state of Texas.

He also was a part owner of the Rangers for much of the 1990s.

‘Nuff said.

So there you have it. Enough reasons to at least start hating those damned Texas Rangers. My blood’s boiling just thinking about those bastards.

Bring on Thursday!

He’s gonna Burl

Blue Jays at Orioles 4/13/14

This afternoon may be the final time we see Mark Buehrle pitch.

It’s funny how things turn out.

When he was acquired from the Marlins as part of the massive Jeff Mathis trade, Mark Buehrle was something of an afterthought. Josh Johnson was poised to take the American League by storm and Jose Reyes was coming off a healthy and productive season, ready to electrify the fans in Toronto. Buehrle was considered, by many, to be the ugly contract the team had to absorb in order to make the deal work.

Fast forward a few years and the man they call Papa is been the biggest part of that deal, from a Blue Jays perspective.

Buehrle is an absolute treat to watch pitch. With stuff that doesn’t look much better than mine (note: I’m a decent pitcher…in my beer league) he’s managed to get by for so long on guile, changing speeds, and straight out Burl-ing. There’s really no way to describe how he’s found success.

And that’s not to mention the fact he’s routinely among the fastest workers in baseball, is a great fielding pitcher, and one of the better pick off artists in baseball. He’s just fun to watch.

While the Jays struggled to find the right recipe to create a playoff-bound team, Buehrle was the one guy you could always rely on, day in and day out, to take the hill. His reliability perhaps led us, as fans, to take him for granted. And every time he hit a rough patch the knives came out as media, fans and talking heads questioned whether Father Time had finally caught up with the ageless wonder. And each time he’d silence the critics by going back and Burl-ing a seven-inning, one run gem.

But now it appears, that perhaps, it truly is the end of the road. Buehrle, himself, hasn’t said anything definitively, for either his career or his time in Toronto. But it certainly feels like it might be. People around the team are talking like it is.

If so, I sure hope he goes out this afternoon with his 200 innings.

It’s funny, Buehrle’s been considered done, for what it feels like, most of the season. But with a couple innings this afternoon he’ll finish the season with a very Buehrle-esque 200 innings, 3.82-ish ERA, 2.3 fWAR, and a 15-7 record. In what might be his final season in Toronto, perhaps his final season in the big leagues, Mark Buehrle has once again been taken for granted, in a sense. Without his steady play early in the season – when the starting pitching was a disaster – the team might not have been close enough to convince Alex Anthopoulos to pull off the big trades he did. That shouldn’t go unnoticed.

It’s a shame we probably won’t see Buehrle in the playoffs. And it’s too bad that’s totally the right call. In years past Gibby could have run Buehrle out throughout September to get him his 200 without today’s somewhat odd plan. It’s the price you pay for success. There’s no room for sentimentality. No room to honour the veterans.

Perhaps the best way to honour Mark Buehrle in a season like this, is for the young pitchers he’s mentored over the past few years to go out and Burl their ways to a World Series.

So now what?

Jays fans all over have continued basking in the glow of the team’s first division championship in 22 years – they haven’t made the postseason since 1993 donchyaknow! – celebrating today through a strange dayish game after yesterday’s awesomeness.

We’re going to the playoffs people!

It’s been a longtime for Jays fans. Those who were old enough to tie their shoes the last time Toronto had October baseball may be able to remember how to postseason, but there’s also a good chance that two-plus decades in the baseball wilderness has sapped them of that experience and knowledge.

For the rest of us, we’ve never really postseasoned before. Sure, I was alive the last time and from what I remember it was awesome. If I recall correctly I also thought my stuffed rabbit was pretty awesome at that point too.

Of course, I’ve watched postseason baseball for years. But I watched it as a baseball fan, as someone who just wanted to watch fantastic competition. You always adopt a team, but they’re never truly your team.

Now, our horse is in it.

So, what the hell do we do now? To be honest, I kind of feel like that person who’s never had to speak publicly suddenly being thrust in front of a room full of people and asked to give a speech. What the hell should I be doing with my hands?!?!??

How do you act? How do you watch? For the fans who have enough luck and enough money to make it to a game (note: not me by a long shot), how do you cheer, and when do you you?

It’s a brave new world we’re in, as Jays fans. The last time Toronto was in the postseason there were no blogs and no Twitter. So how do we Tweet in the postseason?

It’s all very confusing.

They say athletes are always taught to treat it like another game. I’m sure that’s how the Jays will be approaching next Thursday – just another game. At least, they’ll treat it like any other game as best they can.

I guess that’s what I’ll do to. Come next Thursday I’ll crack a beer, turn on the TV and sit back in my recliner. Then I’ll watch just another baseball game.

I might also squeal like an eight-year-old kid on Christmas day.