At the start of this year’s baseball season I was really pessimistic about the chances of the Toronto Blue Jays. I told anyone who would listen that without Roy Halladay, Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas, the Jays were going to finish in the American League East’s basement.
I mean, how could they succeed with Alex Gonzalez 2.0 at shortstop and without the best pitcher in the game? How could Toronto win crucial games against division rivals with John Buck – a guy that the Kansas City Royals had put on waivers– behind the plate? I was a perpetual salt-throwing machine.
Well, mea culpa, I was wrong. We’re now in mid-August and the Jays are well above .500.
I know that it’d take an incredible round of good luck for Toronto to see any kind of post-season action, but it’d take an equally massive twist of fate for them to fall below the sad-sack Baltimore Orioles. Toronto is a legitimate team deep into the summer, and I couldn’t be happier.
There are two things that have really impressed me this season.
First is the superior job that general manager Alex Anthopoulos has done re-shaping this team. He hasn’t had any glaring missteps, something that cannot be said of his predecessor J.P. Ricciardi.
MLB.com blogger Jordan Bastian recently pointed to this article on Anthopoulos' personnel moves that shows just how successful the rookie GM has been. As the piece says, only Anthopoulos’ decision to trade prospect Brett Wallace to the Houston Astros for centrefielder Anthony Gose could raise any eyebrows, and even then it’s a pretty reasonable risk.
Most impressive was Anthopoulos’ work at shortstop. He signed Gonzalez to cover the gap, and then moved the journeyman to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline for Yunel Escobar. Although they have similar talents, Escobar is five years younger and has some upside. It was a savvy move, and already Escobar has made some dazzling plays in the field.
Toronto’s also impressed me by holding their own against division rivals. Although they’ve dropped two in a row to the Boston Red Sox this week, they also swept the Tampa Bay Rays last week and won a series against the Yankees in New York.
Struggles against the AL East was supposed to be the Blue Jays’ Achilles’ heel and here we are in mid-August and they’re 25-19 against their division. Granted, Toronto’s been able to pad their stats against the woeful Orioles, but that doesn’t mean the Jays have performed poorly against their rivals.
All in all, it’s been a surprisingly pleasant season at the Rogers Centre, with Jose Bautista’s power-hitting, the emergence of Brendan Morrow as a strikeout artist and the resiliency of the clubhouse making the Toronto Blue Jays into an exciting team to watch.
No one can say that I'm too proud to admit my own mistakes: I was wrong, my bad.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve got a season’s pass for the 500 section of the Rogers Centre for all of the Toronto Blue Jays home games.
This is the fifth season that I’ve had the pass and it’s always a good purchase. The last two years have been particularly enjoyable since the Jays have been very good, particularly in the spring.
However, there’s a problem that creeps up every few games which bugs me. It happened at the last two games I attended and, frankly, I am fed up. So this morning I sent the following email to the Blue Jays:
Dear Blue Jays/Rogers Centre Staff,
I've been a Toronto Star Seasons Pass holder for the past five seasons. I enjoy going to the games and cheering on the Blue Jays.
However, I'm frustrated with my experience at the Rogers Centre and the lack of instant replay on close calls.
This was underscored by the games on Sunday, May 16 and Monday, May 17.
On Sunday John Buck hit a long ball that, from my vantage point in the 500s, looked like a grand slam. However, it was called a ground rule double.
To the umpires’ credit, they went into the dugout to review the play.
Unfortunately, due to the Rogers Centre policy of never showing a close call on the JumboTron, I couldn't see whether or not the officials were making the right call. I was robbed of the chance to judge for myself. I only learned that the umpires had made the correct call when I got home and saw the highlights on TV.
Similarly, at Monday's game, a close call was not shown on the JumboTron.
Lyle Overbay bobbled a throw from Jose Bautista, earning an error. He then threw the ball to third, which sailed past Bautista, earning another error.
Again, thanks to the Blue Jays' short-sighted policy of not showing close calls, I never saw that Overbay had mishandled Bautista's throw.
Instead, I had to rely on this morning's SportsCentre to learn that the umpires had, in fact, made the right call.
These are not the only examples of this frustrating policy, they're just the most recent.
It would do a lot to improve your organization's in-stadium product if you would stop protecting your players and the umpires from the occasional round of heckles.
Please start showing replays of all plays - even if they're close or controversial - because it greatly increases the enjoyment of the game for your audience.
I’ve discussed it with some of my friends and co-workers and have learned that the policy is a passive directive from Major League Baseball’s head office.
The Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin summed it up last Wednesday:
“It is in fact a recommendation from Major League Baseball that teams not show a) close ball-strike replays; b) close plays that may incite the crowd against umpires; and c) plays that are under review i.e. home run calls. Now not every team abides by that rule, although all do on balls and strikes, but the Jays are good, responsible corporate citizens and do not show close calls on the replay board. I disagree because why should fans sitting at home know more about the game than those in the ballpark?”
Obviously, I agree with Griffin’s sentiments.
I would add an important note: In both cases this weekend the umpires had made the correct call. It was close, but they were spot on. Therefore, an instant replay wouldn’t incite the crowd against umpires.
Yes, as a Toronto fan I would have booed because I was frustrated with Overbay’s errors, but I would not have felt any anger toward the umpire for making the right call.
Further, Buck’s ground rule double wouldn’t have caused me to boo at all. He still batted in some runs and gave the Jays the lead. Not as good as a grand slam, but ultimately, there’s nothing to boo there.
If the officials are making objective and correct calls, then the commissioner’s office should have enough confidence to include their fans in what’s happening on the field.
No good can come from leaving your fan base ignorant of what’s going on in the course of a game and MLB as well as its franchises should adjust this rule.
In particular, the Rogers Centre has a beautiful JumboTron that should be put to good use. The Blue Jays should be able to trust their sedate Toronto supporters to not freak out over a controversial call.