Blue Jays

Blue Jays Gave You What You Wanted

OK, its tomorrow now. 

We’ve all had time to soak in the amazement of the Blue Jays beating the Rangers AGAIN to advance to the ALCS. It was a confusing, exciting and befuddling moment when the double play attempt by Roughned Odor was botched on an errant throw to first. It wasn’t a home run, it wasn’t a routine, clutch single…it wasn’t even a hit by pitch. Josh Donaldson slid into home in glorious fashion to slide off the Rangers in a three game sweep.

It was a very different atmosphere last season when the Jays came back to beat the Rangers after being down in the series 0-2. The Jays were the heavy favourite and needed to get their game in check before they would “flip off” the Rangers on a Jose Bautista blast. Last year, the rivalry started and there were plenty of moments that built up the foundation of what this year’s story line became.

From the flip, to the punch to the brooms; this year’s ALDS delivered everything Jays fans…and to a certain degree, Rangers ones as well,  craved since last fall. Sure, Texas is crushed because they’re out now but I guarantee you we’re going to get a Sunday Night Baseball showdown next year because the ratings will be delivered. The Jays/Rangers saga took MLB baseball on a ride this year and when you’re done here, you’ll want it all over again next year.

The regular season series this year had the Jays edging Texas by one game but they outscored them 36-21 with 12-2 and 5-0 routs going Toronto’s way. In there was this:

Bautista trying to slide into Odor's DMs...he wasn't having any of that photo-nytimes.com

Bautista trying to slide into Odor’s at 2nd and he wasn’t having any of that
photo-nytimes.com

That pretty much set the hype train in motion for a potential (remember it was May) post season collision (no pun intended, OK now maybe). Why they’d decide to stick it to the Jays in May is anyone’s guess. Maybe because at that time, it really didn’t matter either way and there were 120+ games left? I dunno.

Toronto carried their momentum from last season right through to 2016 and all most of us could talk about was “What if?”. What if the Jays DID face the Rangers in the post season? It would take the perfect set up for everything to fall into place. The Jays didn’t do themselves any favours when they botched the AL East division lead to the Red Sox and almost forfeited their season efforts had they lost to the Red Sox in more than one game in the final series of the year.

Texas continued its torrid pace as they made no mistake in taking top spot in the American League going into the playoffs. As we’ve seen though, it didn’t mean a whole lot once Toronto walked off the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Wild Card to set up the matchup e’eryone wanted including yours truly.

What started as THE headline series to watch in the MLB Postseason quickly turned into an after thought once the Blue Jay bats took to the field.

Want a breakdown? Here’s a breakdown:

Game 1 in Texas – 2 innings of what looked to be a pitchers duel between Marco Estrada and Cole Hamels turned into a Donaldson double and later a Troy Tulowitzki triple to put the Jays up 5-buzz. Uh oh. Melvin Upton Jr homers in the 4th (seriously, MELVIN UPTON???) followed by a Donaldson RBI single. 7-0 kiddies. Top of 9, Jose Bautista destroys a baseball with his wooden stick and homers. Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion feeling cold, get to run home to get their coats.

10-1 FINAL. It was over before it started.

This was the Blue Jays team we remembered before September took away most of the magic we felt when the team gave up their lead in the division. The series felt already out of hand after one game but baseball is funny sometimes and you just never know…this time….the Jays knew.

Game 2 in Texas – Homers, homers and more homers. Tulo, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin all go yard. J.A. Happ does his pitching thing and the Jays although roughed up slightly, made sure this one wasn’t in doubt. 5-3 Blue Jays.

The series felt like it had lost a lot of the hype as Toronto just owned it but when the Rangers had the lead last year it was Toronto that had to fight back. It didn’t feel over, but it kinda was. Regardless, we all were pretty pumped for the Thanksgiving Sunday showdown that hopefully would decide it all.

Texas didn’t even look like they belonged in this series even though they had a convincing 53-28 home record in the regular season. It almost felt like it was the Jays series to lose at that point. I mean after two games, Toronto already had six home runs and it felt like that was the only way they were going to score. What a way to make an impact.

Game 3 in Toronto – We all know how this ends.

You could just taste it, maybe it was the turkey I’m not quite sure. Rogers Centre was booming and if just seemed like every pitch would be monumental. The Rangers took the early lead 1-0 off a walk and a single but it would be the bottom of the first that turned that game into a barn burner.

A blast by Edwin Encarnacion to drive home two followed by a Russ Martin, previously o-11, home run made it 3-1 and this game just got crazy. Elvis Andrus of Texas then homered in the 2nd, Donaldson ground rule doubled to score a run, Edwin singles in a run and the Jays have to have it in the bag.

This Texas crew looked done but they didn’t let anyone tell them. The villain Rougned Odor, he of boxing fame, put the Rangers right back into it with his own statement maker over the wall. 5-4 after after 4 innings and if you caught your breath, you lost it just over an inning later. A Mitch Moreland double was the result of a rare and I’m talking RARE Kevin Pillar diving Superman miss; Rangers go up 6-5.

I’ve seen Pillar make this catch COUNTLESS times this season, last season and basically every time he seems to put on a Blue Jays uniform. That miss kept that game alive because if Pillar makes it, you had to believe that would have pretty much been the end of it. The nerves were at unhealthy levels after that because the Jays for the first time in the series, looked human.

In the bottom of six, sacks drunk and A PASSED BALL!?!???!! Ezequiel Carrera guns it home and ties it! This series had now seen everything and the game just took another turn. You pretty much can only write stories like this because seeing them pan out in real life is too crazy to imagine.

The bullpens on both sides held their own until the 10th inning when this happened:

I lied, that was the moment we saw it all. You can’t capture that feeling every Jays fan and obviously the Jays themselves were feeling because there was just too much emotion! Even though it was a sweep of the Texas Rangers, they were the best opponent they could have faced.

We all wanted a Texas/Toronto ALDS or early on even a ALCS, and we were rewarded with just that. As the Rangers lick their wounds going into the off season, they will have May 25/2017 circled when they go back to Rogers Centre for some payback.

That series couldn’t have been any better and we should all be so fortunate that we witnessed the most electric matchup thus far. It’s on to the ALCS versus either the Red Sox or Indians and we couldn’t be more excited.

There were countless pictures, tweets, videos and memes after the epic finale but really the one that sticks will keep the rivalry alive for next year.

Rest up Jays fans, it’s not over yet.

 

cover photo: foxsports.com

Blue Jays Travis, Colabello May Deal With Odd Man Out

The Toronto Blue Jays are trying to get to the post season for the second straight year and with a slightly different makeup, they have had to rely on multiple players to keep them competitive. The pitching rotation has a different look losing stud ace David Price to free agency and Marcus Stroman to athletic limbo. There have been key injuries to Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki and the strange PED suspension of Chris Colabello.

That being said, the depth of the Jays roster has produced some interesting, surprising and somewhat relieving results. The loss of Colabello was a shock and angered many fans and at the same time confused them. Regardless, they had a hole they needed to fill. In 2015, the man with the soft drink likeness batted .321, had an OBP of .367, 54 RBI and 15 dingers. He was a regular fixture and important cog in the Jays machine.

Colabello then was suspended 10 games into this season and thus created a void.

Toronto has used Edwin Encarnacion mainly as a DH and that seems to suit everyone just fine (see David Ortiz). Justin Smoak has proven to be a suitable replacement and moving to base number 2 the emergence of Devon Travis has made the Colabello’s insertion back into the lineup slightly murky and not just because of the suspension.

Travis, thru 151 AB has a .272 AVG, a .315 OBP and 6 HR. He is 2 HR back of his season high last year, slightly off his pace of getting on base and realistically if the Jays continue to trend upwards, so will his average. DT is a young, valuable part of this offense and isn’t a liability at 2B. Adding to all this is the fact Travis has only been a starting fielder for 35 games this year.

Depth late in the season will doubt be key for the Jays and realistically the pitching will be their major concern. Looking at the infield though gives Toronto options at the trade deadline. Do they move Colabello/Travis for a depth starter on the mound? What will Jose Bautista look like by season’s end? What kind of bird food does EE’s parrot eat?

All important questions that need to be answered.

Recently signed Justin Smoak gives the infield a very secure look and triggers the trade rumours that much further when it comes to Cola. The Jays can only use one of these guys at a time and if they aren’t screwing up, its pretty tough to pull a guy like Travis or Smoak out of the lineup.

Looking at Bautista, he’s still an elite talent but the Jays have been relatively fine without him. Sure, they could use his bat and he still has a laser from right field but the maturity up and down the lineup gives the Jays options to move a roster player for a starter they know they need to advance past the regular season and deep into October.

Not having a veteran hurler like David Price may cost Toronto and Marcus Stroman is not even close to his electrifying self from a season ago so using the assets they have will again be important.

The Jays spent big last year to get as far as they did and the clutch Troy Tulowitzki gave them stability around the horn with Josh Donaldson at 3B. Darwin Barney has spent a lot of time in the lineup which just further cements that infield as stocked.

Moving guys to the outfield is basically a conversation ender as Captain Canada, Michael Saunders, isn’t going anywhere, Kevin Pillar is a bear trap and again Jose Bautista is still quite reliable. Not to mention Ezequiel Carrera has faired nicely in Joey Bats absence.

What direction do the Jays go as the season carries on? It seems that Chris Colabello being suspended not only cost him 80 games but it may have cost him his job in Toronto. The moral of the story is don’t do drugs and if you’re gonna do them, make sure no one can take your place.

Did I just say that, I meant don’t do drugs ever they are bad.

Your Toronto Blue Jays are 3.0 games back of the division lead and currently hold a wild card spot. I like the chemistry they have right now and I wouldn’t want to rock the boat too much.

This team can still get it done and they have gotten it done without a guy many would have thought they would struggle without.

Funny sport that baseball.

photo: thestar.com

The 6 Faces Of Josh Donaldson

Its been a pretty exciting year for the Toronto Blue Jays. The fan base is revived, Rogers Centre is selling out and of course the team is winning and winning big. Thanks in large part to a strong core and what many believe to be this year’s AL MVP: Josh Donaldson.

A perennial all star, Donaldson came over in November of last year for the banged up young stud Brett Lawrie. At the time, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who the dude was. Since leaving sports retail 3 years ago, my viewership of the Jays has declined heavily.

However, with the entertainment levels reaching epic proportions, Josh has made it pretty easy to find out how good he is. What has been really entertaining though is his compete level. This guy gives it and if he could bleed Blue Jays, I bet he would.

Every time JD swings the bat, its usually a hit for extra bases or a casual stroll back to home plate; he doesn’t just show up every game….he LIVES every game. His energy sliding into bases on close calls, his hustle to gain an extra bag or his Jeter-esque diving into the stands to turn a foul ball into a hilite reel catch just screams workhorse.

So here are the 6 faces of Josh Donaldson you most likely will see on any given night:

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The Triple – this is the face you most likely will see when Josh hits a triple. Seems pretty self explanatory but this is one of the most extreme faces he makes and after the guy has run 90 feet I’d say he’s earned it. Most third basemen are too scared to even talk to him as theres a good chance he goes Street Fighter 2 all over him and I don’t think I’d want to get in his way. The triple face usually just settles to a simple smile once he’s batted home. Note: both faces are a combined unit as he comes home quite often.

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The Home Run / Walk Off – Josh’s tongue is hanging out like a happy dog who just got a milk bone. It isn’t as ecstatic as his triple face because he used all his energy hitting the ball over the fence. He’s usually in a good mood and if it happens to be a walk off, it can transition into Triple face. This face is usually early on in the game, sometimes in the first inning. Most Jays fans in Western Canada do not get to see this face as they are working still.

We ask that Josh saves this face for about 5:30 pacific time.

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The Media Guide – Easily the most boring of the Josh Donaldson faces. This face is almost a staged face becacuse everyone knows there is a lot more to offer than a simple smile for the camera. I have a feeling that if the Blue Jays manage to add a ring to their impressive two championships, the media guide face is a bit more gong showish.

Side note: the media guide face is usually only shown in opposing ball parks starting lineup video boards or possibly a cable access sports package in Moose Jaw or something. This face is for profiling purposes only. Kinda like having Chumbawumba in the jukebox at your local pool hall.

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The “I Can’t Feel My Face” – Similar to the triple but unique to big events. Beating the Yankees, hitting a go ahead run in a tight extra innings matchup or chugging his sixth red bull in 2 innings. When you go as hard as Josh Donaldson, sometimes you can’t feel your face. There is a lot of yelling and man hugging with this face but its for a good cause.

Edwin Encarnacion has a similar face but its basically just a thugged out version and has an additional two home runs tacked on. Neither of these faces will make you feel comfortable if you are an opposing team, parking ticket officer or if JD finds out you stole his hair tie. So far blacking out is not associated with the “I can’t feel my face” face.

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The nWo – Let’s just clarify something: Josh Donaldson aka @BringerOfRain20 on twitter is not and has never been a member of the original nWo or updated nWo Wolfpack. Did he have a tee growing up? Entirely possible but the face abd hand gesture after many home runs is of his own doing.

A calmer demeanor but he works hard and even the stars need to cool down. When you hit 37 dingers like JD has this year, Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hogan would have been impressed. The nWo face actually represents success and is not exactly the best name for it but hey, it looks cool and I ran with it.

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The Day Off/ Strike Out – This is the only living proof I have of this happening. I would imagine this face was captured on a random moment but or an internet photoshop but I wouldn’t cross this guy. Its possible the team ran out of Double Bubble or Spitz so the name itself isn’t exact  either.

Josh really isnt happy here, just forget this face exists.

So there you have it! The next time you see ol’ Bringer of Rain go uber face, hit up this article and find out what just happened on the field.

Please be aware not all faces are exact and do carry a degree of error of about +/- 0.5

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Title photo: cbssports.com

Will Blue Jays Feel The Love In October?

Is it World Series or bust for Jays fans this year? Will they still feel the love in October? April 2016?

As Canadians, we tend to like a winner and if you look through all the Canadian sports franchises, there isn’t much to celebrate once the post season begins. The Stanley Cup hasn’t been awarded north of the U.S since 1993; despite the game being created by a Canadian, the NBA championship has never come to Canada, not even close, the NFL and the CFL well….. and of course the Jays won back to back titles in 92/93.

When the Blue Jays last won it all, I was 10 years old and Joe Carter hit a home run that still is vivid in my mind to this day; I don’t need hilites to remind me. Since then, September has basically meant NFL is here and NHL training camps are gearing up. Baseball fans tune out their emotions and watch Boston and New York duke it out.

Toronto has made strides to get back to glory but never all at once. Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, Roger Clemens, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus, Scott Rolen B.J Ryan and AJ Burnett; all names that bring both good and bad memories but they played for Canada’s team.

Always typical with any sports franchise on the cusp of doing something great: have a plethora of talent in one area but not the other. Pitching goes south and the bats catch fire, bats go dead and the pitching is lights out. You’d think because there isn’t a salary cap that the Jays could buy there way out of trouble.

They did. But never more than one star at a time.

Their other problem was that as soon as they developed a star, they traded him away because they weren’t in a position to win and felt they could just keep flipping and building, flipping and building. Why not struggle like the Rays did and eventually have a plethora of talent at your disposal?

Well, it looks like Rogers Media has pulled out all the stops and wunder GM Alex Anthopoulos has put together a dream team of sorts.  Anchored by some original talent like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays have definitely put their money where their mouth is this year.

Trades bringing in Josh Donaldson for oft-injured Brett Lawrie, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki; big name signings like R.A Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Russell Martin have all put the Jays in contention to not only win the AL East for the first time since Full House was a staple of my Tuesday night viewing, but a chance to win the World Series and maybe keep some of the big stars around for a few more years.

But what if the Jays lose out to the Yankees by game 162 and slide to the one game playoff spot? Where will the Blue Jays fan base be? Can the bottom fall out that quickly? These are some pretty big questions that will be asked if it all falls apart.

The MLB post season is an enigma. Teams that run the table all year can be upset in one game or run into a hot team at the wrong time. With Toronto’s recent success, there have been struggles as well. Mark Buehrle has been less than perfect lately and Marcus Stroman is ready for return. R.A Dickey can knuckleball his way to a Cy Young but can he do it to the World Series?

Are the Blue Jays faithful going to be just that as this gets closer and closer? Hockey season is getting close and the immediate market Maple Leafs will be vying for the whole pie as will the Raptors. Winning fixes everything so maybe now IS the time for this to happen.

Sellouts and Blue Jays haven’t been said in the same sentence for many many years and now you take a look in the stands and seats are hard to come by. The nice thing about the real baseball fan and I believe there are tons in Toronto, is that they don’t appear corporate.

When Air Canada Centre opens for business in October, the suits will take over and the real fans will be stuck up top. Here’s where the Jays can really put a stranglehold on that cold month. If they are winning or assured a playoff spot the fans will be there.

Over the final month of play, the Jays have just over 24 games left. Seven of those are against the Yankees, a quick set against the Braves and the rest against the Red Sox, Orioles and Rays. I venture to say it will basically be playoff baseball here on out.

Even though the Jays have made their amazing push, the only let down for the Yankees was their series awhile back vs. Toronto. They haven’t let up. Its going to be a “who flinches first” race to the finish and if the Jays can hang on, they have the fire power both in their starting rotation, bullpen and their batting order.

Winning will make this all very sweet but even in defeat, Toronto has managed to keep even the most casual fan interested. Josh Donaldson’s season long heroics have been things of legend even on the wrong side of the score as have Edwin Encarnacion’s hit streaks and yard balls.

The addition of Tulowitzki and Jay killer David Price have put the Blue Jays over the top and only a monumental collapse could derail this train. The Jays are for real this time and every dollar has been spent to ensure they get a proper chance to succeed.

Fans are coming out in droves, new fans are being created, bandwagoners are buying merch and the thought of watching post season baseball on Sportsnet with Buck and Pat gets me excited.

Hoisting the World Series trophy is rarely done with a home grown team, ok aside from the St. Louis Cardinals. The Blue Jays won with some pretty big splashes back in the 90’s adding Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter and a few other notable players, so this isn’t the first time they’ve struck it rich.

Cash is king in baseball and winning it all by drafting, developing and making a run is practically impossible. However, just because you spend the big bucks, doesn’t mean you’ll win it all. It can be done on a shoe string budget, just ask the famous “Moneyball” GM Billy Beane.

So even though the Blue Jays spent their money a few times in the last year or two, the clubhouse they have right now is producing wins, fans and if they have it their way: a third World Series Championship. But if for some reason it all falls apart and they come up short, don’t expect this revitalized fan base to simmer down.

The fans are pulling for this team and the belief is real. No more let downs come mid September. The Blue Jays have what it takes to endure the marathon that is the MLB. AA has put together a winner and confidence has never been higher.

I wouldn’t mind seeing 1993 replay itself with a walkoff Bautista dinger.

This may be the start of something truly special. #thehuntforblueoctober

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Blue Jays Love Them Some Home Runs

Despite the way things have gone since the last time the Blue Jays won the World Series, they’re still my fav MLB team. I may not be the most vocal guy for them and I have given my fair share of criticsm. However, this current roll the Jays have been on has been fueled by the long ball and man do I love the long ball…and so do they! 

Now, the Jays aren’t new to hitting long bombs away or letting go of that real rocket, far from. In the last 10 years, Toronto has hit plenty of homeruns, the only problem was that usually the guy hitting it was the only one that crossed home plate.

So what’s different this go around? Well for starters, everyone on the team likes getting on base. Up and down the lineup there really isn’t a hitter that doesn’t contribute nightly with his share of base running.

Here’s a breakdown of the current batting order:

Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Smoak, Martin, Revere, Pillar and Goins

You can’t pitch around any part of that lineup because they…will…burn…you. Six of those nine players are very dangerous and are all reasons the Blue Jays have decimated pitchers all year long. Its such a long season and the post season takes everything up a notch but the lineup they currently hold gives them a chance to once again do something special for the entire country to cherish.

Let’s look at the hits: Toronto is tied for 6th in the MLB with 1159 hits. They make the most of every plate appearance. Of thoses hits, 244 or roughly 20% of their hits go for two bases. You know they all about that base, bout that base no troubles. Toronto also leads the league in extra base hits with 435. 

If you think about that for just a second, approximately 35% of all their hits are hard enough and far enough to reach at least 2nd base if not further. But what about the back back backs?

When it comes to the lasers over the fences, Bautista and friends lead the Majors with 180 dingers. Just over that 15% mark. That doesn’t sound like a huge number but considering over 1 in 10 hits goes over the fence, thats pretty good turnover.

Everyone loves the long ball, its the reason they have a Home Run Derby at the All Star Game every year. No other sport has an event that equals it, no not the dunk contest either. The sound a homerun makes, the arc from the millisecond it leaves the bat, the sweet feel when you are the one at the plate; homeruns are just the best. But don’t take it from me:

Just close your eyes when Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista are at bat; I’d almost guarantee you’ll know a homerun when you hear it. There’s nothing like it.

A lot of this came to a head today when Edwin Encarnacion did the most Canadian thing ever when he hit not one, not two but THREE yes THREE homeruns in a 15-1 route of the Tigers. What made it even more special was the fact he hit a 2 run, a 3 run and a Grand Slam for a combined 9 RBI!!!

A homerun hat trick? In Toronto?

Eddie has a murderous swing this year, as he has in previous seasons and he is making pitchers pay. 

Oh, and after the third dinger? The fans…you know what, here:

Does it get any better than this? A berth in the MLB post season or better yet, the Fall Classic would be the cream on this amazing season.

In case you didn’t get enough homerun love by now, here’s a great video that hilites this seasons Blue Jays bombs to Johnny Cash. FOR….THE…..WIN

The sweet smell of the grass, the crowd on their feet and that crack of the bat; the homerun is every bit entertaining as anything in sports…and more.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four