Sunset Over Condominiums: Game Report, May 27

Tuesday, May 27 2003 @ 01:20 AM EDT

Contributed by: Dave Till

I went to Monday night's game; when I go to a game, I take notes. Here's my writeup; enjoy. (I like semicolons; some people don't.)


Queen's Quay West becomes more depressing every time I go there. Every square foot of unused land appears to be turning into a condominium. The sun is being blotted out by rows and rows of identical green-glass yuppie palaces.
And the view along Bremner Boulevard isn't much better: I don't know whether there was some large group picnic that afternoon, or whether nobody bothers cleaning up, but the parkland south of the SkyDome is absolutely covered in garbage. The number of empty coffee cups scattered about easily reaches three figures. All of this would repulse any visiting tourists if Toronto had any visiting tourists.

As usual, there are lots of unoccupied ticket vendors at Gate 9, and it's just as well: when I buy my $7 upper deck seat, my ticket seller takes about five minutes, and about two hundred keystrokes, to print and sell my ticket. Unless the process speeds up a bit, I don't know how the Jays' ticket force is going to be able to handle a large walkup crowd.

Even though 200-level seats are $7, I prefer the fifth deck. While the Jays continue to be out of fashion, it's a very peaceful place to sit by oneself and contemplate the mysteries of the universe (such as why the world came to be, or how Esteban Loaiza can be leading the American League in earned-run average). The drawback: there isn't enough legroom for a tall person (I'm nearly 6'3") to sit without discomfort. If the place starts to fill up again, I'm going to have to start buying pricier seats.

As I reach my seat, the roof is open, and it's both sunny and raining at the same time. The rain starts coming down a little harder, turning the SkyDome's concrete stairs into an accident waiting to happen. (Weather note: if your forecaster calls for "A mixture of sun and cloud, with a chance of showers", what he's really saying is "I haven't the slightest idea what's going to happen.") Various Jays are going through their pre-game stretches: the O-Dog is doing a convincing impersonation of a pretzel, while Josh Phelps (I think that's him) is trying gamely to put his left foot behind his right ear.

Oh, great: Joe Brinkman's crew are the umpires for tonight. Thankfully, Joe himself is at third.

A new feature of the auxiliary scoreboards: inning-by-inning out-of-town scores. They're entertaining to look at. Check out this linescore:

Pirates 000100090
Cubs 000000000

Can't they just invoke the Mercy Rule? Or, how about this one, where teams seemed to be politely taking turns scoring:

Giants 022110001
Rockies 10006311x

Or this one, otherwise known as "Wake me up when they get to within 4":

Astros 000001103
Cardinals 20143000x

The final one is my favourite, for obvious reasons:

Red Sox 012203000
Yankees 000300100

Steinbrenner must be turning an interesting shade of purple right about now.

As the Jays take the field, the Jumbotron displays a photomontage of the club's leading players, mentioning some of them by name. What will they do if somebody gets traded?

1st inning

While pitching, Mark Hendrickson's face is permanently frozen into a bemused expression, as if he's only distantly aware of all that frenzied activity going on somewhere beneath him. While he's often been compared to Doug Davis lately, the comparison is unfair to Lurch: he's actually able to challenge hitters occasionally, whereas Davis is forced to nibble the corners with a variety of slop curves.

Lurch retires the side in order in the first, including strikeouts to Tony "Graffano" (that's what PA announcer Murray Eldon called him) and Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt's big K is greeted with enthusiasm by a group of extremely rowdy fans on the first base side, who have been taunting the petulant designated hitter with derisive shouts of "Thomas". By the end of the game, the upper deck is joining in. And to think: the Sox are paying him about a million dollars a strikeout.

In the bottom of the first, Reed Johnson, Boy Hero, doubles to lead off the game. Then, the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unspeakable, happens: Frank Catalanotto lays down a sacrifice BUNT. Will he get fined for this? Vernon Wells, whose expressionless face makes him look like a cyborg, hits a sacrifice fly, and dozens of baseball writers sink back into their press-box chairs, satisfied by this display of little-ball fundamentals.

In a portent of things to come: when the home plate umpire hands a ball to the White Sox catcher, he drops it.

2nd inning

Paul Konerko's batting mannerisms would not have been tolerated a generation ago. When he comes up - with Carlos Lee on second and nobody out - he pinwheels his bat repeatedly, and then points it towards the mound until the pitcher goes into his set. Can you imagine what Bob Gibson would have done, had somebody indulged in such histrionics against him?

Nice play by Orlando Hudson: on a sharply hit grounder to second, the O-Dog catches Lee wandering off third, freezes him, and then runs right at him. I like the O-Dog: he hustles, and he thinks out there. Attention, Jays' marketing mavens: publicize this man.

In the bottom of the inning, Josh Phelps hits a perfect double-play ball to short, but second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez throws the relay into the first-base stands. Error #1 for the Pale Hose. I wonder: what do D'Angelo's friends call him? D'Ang? Angel? Angie? D? Skippy?

Between half-innings, I spot somebody with his head buried in a fold-out map of Toronto. Yo, dude: you're not going anywhere for a while. The Jumbotron advertises the Jays' Father's Day promotion as "Sleep on the field with you Dad". Better work on you grammar, there.

In the bottom of the second, SkyDome security catches a fan drinking an illicit can of Barq's Root Beer. The fan's face is completely covered in pimples, so perhaps this is a mercy confiscation.

3rd inning

With one out, Skippy Jimenez lines a shot off Lurch's knee. Ow. Lurch stretches, flexes, throws an experimental pitch, confers with management, looks slightly less bemused, waves everyone off, and receives applause. He then serves up a double on his first pitch to Graffanino. Sox up 2-1.

From the fifth deck, you can see the following: the CN tower; more condominiums; the Bank of America building. Welcome to 21st century Toronto.

As the bottom of the third is about to start, the Jumbotron displays a shot of noted sportsbabe Jody Vance, who is in attendance. Possibly concidentally, the PA music is the Commodores' "Brick House".

Why are the Jays at home on Memorial Day and away from home on Victoria Day? This happened last year too. If the owners are trying to greedily corral every last available dollar, why don't they fix these simple scheduling mistakes?

4th and 5th inning

By now, Chicago pitcher Mark Buehrle has settled into a comfortable routine, serving up ground ball after ground ball. The only high point of the middle innings is the top of the 5th, which is The Woody Show: Woodward catches a liner for the first out, ranges to his left to field a ground ball for the second out, and goes deep into the hole to collect the third out. Yay, Woody.

Portent #2: In the 5th inning warmup, shortstop Graffanino tosses a ball way over his first baseman's head.

In the bottom of the fifth, an expert fan and his friend take seats about three rows behind me. The expert's wealth of detailed knowledge is frightening to me (and I'm an obsessive fan and charter member of the ZLC). He starts off by pointing out that, in yesterday's game, there were 300 pitches and 68 fouls. He then makes a valid point about the Jays' Wall of Excellence: why is Joe Carter listed as having played until 1996, and Cito Gaston listed as having managed until 1997, when Gaston was fired before Carter left the team? And why isn't Stieb's comeback year on his banner?

6th inning

Trivia question, from the fan three rows back: name the seven Johnsons in Jays history. (The answer: Tim, Jerry, Reed, Cliff, Joe, Dane and Anthony. No way I would have remembered Dane and Anthony.)

One helpful feature of the new scoreboard: before every half-inning, it provides a pitch count for the starting pitchers. Unfortunately, it's not always accurate: Chicago's Buehrle is listed as having thrown 55 pitches after four, and 55 pitches after five.

Fascinating Chris Woodward fact: he has five three-hit games this year, and 34 hits in total. Nearly half his hits are in three-hit games. (He winds up getting three hits today too.)

The problem with getting batters to hit the ball to your fielders is that your fielders have to be able to actually field. This unwarranted assumption proves Buehrle's undoing in the sixth. Woodward hits a grounder up the middle for a hit, Johnson's double-play ball to Graffanino is booted, and Catalanotto's soft fly to left is mangled by left fielder Carlos Lee. When Vernon Wells walks, the Jays have the bases loaded, nobody out, and one run in despite not actually hitting the ball hard at all. Buehrle comes unravelled after that, and the Jays wind up with five runs.

It must be depressing to be a White Sox fan: the team consists of petulant right-handed hitters whose sole offensive skill is to crank an occasional home run. They have hands of iron, they complain to the press a lot, and they play in a soulless corporate bowl for owners whose fondest wish is for a long, union-breaking strike. And their best pitcher is Esteban Loaiza. I don't know how those fans keep away from the razor blades.

The between-innings promotion is the Mr. Sub hat shuffle. The obnoxious in-game host jokes that first prize is a date with PR announcer Murray Eldon. Poor Murray: 25 years as a PA announcer, and he's still lonely.

7th inning

It's the seventh inning, which means it's time for Carlos Tosca's Endless Pitching Changes (or CTEPIC for short). First up is Tanyon Sturtze, whose Jumbotron portrait shows him looking a little startled. Perhaps his portrait caught the expression on his face as yet another line drive whistled past him. The plan appears to be to channel Duane Ward's skills into Sturtze's body: the idea is to put Tanyon into the game in the 7th, give him Ward's uniform number, and hope he'll add a foot to his fastball. Not so fast: Sturtze falls behind, and then gives up a long two-run blast to Skippy Jimenez, making the score 6-5.

Next up is Trever Miller, the club's designated LNOOGY (left-handed no out guy). When he comes in, the PA plays "Man Of Constant Sorrow". This may not be a coincidence. Two pitches, and one base hit, later, Miller is back in the dugout, and Tosca, who ought to be paid by the mile, is back out to make another change, this time to Lopez. The expert fan's question: name the three Lopezes who have played for the Jays in the last two years. This one's easy: Aquilino, Felipe, and Luis.

By now, even Murray Eldon has lost track of the proceedings: after the Jays get two out, Eldon jumps the gun and starts introducing the seventh-inning stretch. Comment from behind me: "Murray's excited about his date."

In the bottom of the seventh, it's Jerry Manuel's turn to go nuts with pitching changes, bringing in Kelly Wunsch to face Cat, and bringing in Gary Glover to face Tom Wilson (who transmogrifies into Greg Myers). Zzzzzzz. The fan behind me claims that Myers has hit over .300 only once in his career, with San Diego in 1999. (He's wrong, as it happens: according to Baseball Reference, Myers hit .289 that year.)

8th and 9th inning

How to know you haven't gotten respect yet: when Aquilino Lopez asks the home plate umpire for a new ball, the ump gives it to him, but surreptitiously sneaks the old ball back into his ball bag. Had Roger Clemens asked for a new ball, the old one would have been gone.

The next trivia question: name the last two Jays who wore uniform number 44 before Lopez. The answer is Billy Koch and Jose Canseco. The expert also points out that Canseco wore three uniform numbers in his year here: 44, 33, and 00.

Lopez fans the first two batters he faces. This means, of course, that it's time for a pitching change. Perhaps Tosca is addicted to the adrenaline rush of close games, as he decides to bring in Jeff Tam.

Those people who haven't been lulled to sleep by all this managerial strategy are treated to a solo home run by Josh Phelps, an O-Dog single and stolen base, and RBI's from Woodward, Catalanotto and Wells. The White Sox hold up their end by contributing more atrocious fielding: catcher Olivo throws the ball into centre field, and Lee lets a ball go by him to give Cat a triple. The score is now 11-5, which ought to be enough for Jeff Tam.

When Tam walks two in the 9th, the Jays, incredibly, have Pete Walker warming up in the bullpen.


Yay, the good guys win again, but somebody's got to do something about all those pitching changes. I'm as diehard a fan as I know of, but I was bored beyond belief. Think of it: if a typical reliever swap takes about five minutes, the two teams spent a total of 45 minutes just changing pitchers. The game lasted a little over three hours, so somewhere between a fourth and a third of the game was just spent watching relievers warm up. No wonder nobody's going to the park any more.

I agree that White Sox manager Jerry Manuel is as good as gone. His team doesn't seem to care any more.

Thanks for reading.