Off Day Blues Vol. 6
Monday, August 09 2021 @ 10:36 AM EDT
Contributed by: Eephus
We don't really want a monster
tie him down
We don't want the loonies
tie them down
The Blue Jays are gonna want to go to sleep after this current stretch of 25 games in 24 days, especially since it concludes with a west coast road trip. It has been a pivotal point in the season, a stretch that truly would define whether or not this squad is a contender or pretender. There are still seven games to go and they happen to be against key opponents like the Angels and Seattle, but I think we can safely say this run (thanks to the killer homestand) has been a success and adding talent to the team instead of selling it will turn out to be a great choice. Perhaps not from an asset maximization standpoint, more from a serious fan excitement standpoint. Besides who really wants to be a Rays fan anyway.
Hey, speaking of the homestand...
Top of the Sixth
Dome Sweet Dome
I find minor league ballparks endlessly charming. The closest thing here in Toronto we have to that would be Christie Pits where the Intercounty Maple Leafs play home games, a field so perfectly situated in the bottom of a hill that the grassy sides of the hill act perfectly as bleachers (granted bringing a blanket is recommended). Sahlen Field is obviously a significantly more professional and developed park (hell I've pitched on the mound at Christie... pretty confident that ain't ever happening in Buffalo) but likewise it has a bit of that small-time appeal to it. At least what I've seen on television or in photographs. Advancing through the minor leagues as a player can be romanticized akin to a musician starting out in a small town, gradually moving up and booking larger venues, bigger cities... until at last you get the big gig at Massey, Danforth Music Hall or Bud Stage.
The Blue Jays have been, relative to my analogy, one of the biggest bands in the world but forced to play smaller parks because of very unfortunate circumstance. Once you've made it playing a smaller venue a few times may have its charms, but this ain't the difference between the Cameron House and the ACC (Scotiabank Centre whatever) because you're not even playing in front of people who like your music... I mean team... as much.
Anyways my bit here has completely collapsed (probably a good thing) but while I want to thank Buffalo for clearly embracing the Blue Jays for two half-ish seasons (Dunedin... meh), I am so very very glad this good team will now see what it is like to play in Toronto in front of a truly hungry, passionate fanbase. Again no disrespect to the Buffalo faithful who came out and supported the team while they were there, they clearly were several steps above most folks in Tampa who treated the Raptors as a novelty at best... and the Blue Jays should return to Sahlen Field in future years at least for exhibition games, truly. It's just that, really... there's no place like your own place. Yankees fans aren't gonna be drowning out Jays fans here in Toronto (the biggest weakness of Buffalo) and Rays fans clearly had some kind of convention in Dunedin since I didn't know that many of them even existed.
I'm going long on this first bit but I will say, seeing the Dome on television once again after subjective centuries away... yeah it still isn't a great park. Sahlen in my opinion looks significantly nicer. Still, the little charms of it popping back up again tug my memories and my heartstrings. It's a cavernous ballpark but it surely isn't lifeless when even a limited crowd is watching a good ballclub on a cool summer night. The building knows how to hold a buzz, and I look forward to experiencing it myself in the coming months.
The Barehanded Wizard
It's as though Santiago Espinal found a wand, said "Accio Bat!" and now here we are.
With Biggio back on the Injured List (I still almost write "DL" every time), Charlie Montoyo seems to still be giving Espinal not entirely the full-time work at third base, instead switching Biggio's starts over there with Valera. Which I guess is fine? Sorta kinda? Kinda sorta? I haven't seen enough of Valera defensively to have any opinion, beyond a ball he botched in CF during the 8th inning of a spring training game (an observation about as useful as being able to name Sirius Black's great uncle twice removed. Bam! A Sloan and a Potter reference!).
If Espinal can actually maintain being a league average guy though while starting 4-5 times a week... he should be doing that because damn his glove over there is that good. The Blue Jays have been fortunate to employ some mighty fine glovemen at the hot corner over the past decade or so and Espinal might be right there. He's obviously not as huge and technically perfect and gorgeous as Scott Rolen was (I mean who is? The man played that position as well as it can be played)... not as insanely athletic and juiced up on Red Bulls as young Brett Lawrie... strangely enough Espinal reminds me of Donaldson over there. Their styles could not be more different (and Espinal is smoother... Josh probably had a better arm though and could afford to double clutch more) but the comfort with the barehanded play was very much a Josh Donaldson feature. Donaldson likewise could throw the ball away on occasion, usually on rushed throws... what have Espinal's errors been? He's made four this season and I don't recall any of them.
(So I looked it up, and three of the four all came in that late May period which should never be spoken of again. Besides, two of them were in Tyler Chatwood Total Meltdowns it is no wonder I scrubbed them from my memory).
None of this matters if he reverts to being a 70-80 OPS+ guy. There would still be plenty of room on a big league bench for a player like that, with that glove, if teams didn't carry 28 relievers these guys (and get off my lawn!). If he can give you even a .280/.335/.400 line... I dunno maybe I just love really good gloves at third base but on a team stacked with monster hitters I'd be very cool having that guy bat 8th or 9th most of the time.
As much as I despise the Red Sox passionately (only the Rays get under my skin more it seems) I do rather enjoy their ritual after a home run of riding the guy through the dugout in a laundry cart. It's fun. This is supposed to be fun, and I like stuff like that.
The Jacket is very cool since like the laundry cart thing, it's unique and visually delightful to watch. Whether it be Vlad Jr wearing it (who I suspect the jacket was tailored to since it fits the big fella the best) or Gurriel Jr. taking off his hat for the camera to show off his appealing vet bewildering hair, or Espinal looking like a child trying on his dad's clothes (might have borrowed that from Fairservice, sorry Drew) and especially after Semien's walkoff... where Hazel Mae finally could be comfortable conducting an on-field interview knowing a Gatorade shower wasn't coming because they wouldn't do that to the jacket!
I love it. Pure delightfulness. I've tried to interpret the Spanish on the bottom back of the jacket and the best I can paraphrase through Google Translate (should've asked my friend before writing this who actually speaks the language) is "all of us in the neighbourhood".
Hey I was close! Er... Google was close.... "People from the neighbourhood" is the translation. Certainly is an inclusive celebration regardless and good on translator Hector Lebron for proposing the idea. Anyway if you can, go check out Kaitlyn McGrath's piece on The Athletic if you want the entire story behind it. All I can say beyond that is the obvious: this team is clearly a talented roller coaster with extremely good vibes. I'd prefer that over a hopeless squad overachieving far too long or a talented squad underperforming and getting booed in their actual home stadium. You know who you are.
It's been only two starts, I really like Austin Martin (prospects who draw walks are my endless Kryptonite... I always liked Ryan Noda too) plus Simeon Woods-Richardson... Berrios though can deal. Everything he throws moves in different directions, he locates on the corners, doesn't seem to get rattled (he saved his one emotional release for striking out Bogaerts on the pitch he wanted to throw but hung on the Verdugo homer) and as I believe poster Nigel has mentioned he fields his position with exceptional awareness and energy better than anyone since Stieb. For my own record Shaun Marcum is probably the best fielding pitcher I've seen on the Blue Jays in my time, with special shoutouts to Mark Buehrle (duh), R.A. Dickey was pretty darn good also and Marcus Stroman was hilariously good (like throwing on the run on routine comebackers for no damn reason at all... but always making the play). Maybe Bob File? God now we're digging too deep into the lost teams of my early youth.
Berrios though is an impressive defensive pitcher, something hard to notice from a good-not-star pitcher in another division you previously saw pitch maybe once a season. He's quick, smart, knows how to cover instantly and seems to always time a throw to a base precisely. Dude can also pitch too. I'm onboard lets go... I already really like this guy.
Bottom of the Sixth
For the record I don't like Wings very much at all, as much as I marvel at Paul McCartney's versatile brilliance. Some good tunes (Band on the Run, Jet, 1985) but... ahhhhgggg.
This is the only clever title I could devise to describe Vlad Jr's non "Vlad like" stretch for the past couple weeks. He's clearly cooled down significantly, perhaps to at least provide evidence he is mortal and not some baseball smashing deity descended upon the American League to wreck havoc. Without diving into specific numbers (because everyone does that and I can add little to the discussion) all I can say this that his bat looks a little slow right now but he's still trying to smash everything on the outside to compensate. My guess is fatigue: the dude has played every game this season except one and he's so energetic his teammates taped him to the poles of the dugout just to get him to relax for a while. Nevermind the 25 games in 24 days thing. Even truly exceptional athletes can't just go out and live up to their high standard every day when asked to.
I predict the off day Monday will somewhat recharge Guerrero Jr. but he might need a few more days off down the stretch run, obviously difficult when you're in a playoff hunt and every game has serious importance. He has clearly made notable progress to get himself into significantly better shape in the winter for this season, and the results are obvious. Thing is, nothing you do physically can prepare you for playing 162 games in six months. Hurts happen, almost always unexpectedly. Fatigue can leak in, just enough to make that bullet you hit to centerfield go 405 feet instead of 410. It's a hard game, and it doesn't forgive.
New York Serenade
This would be so much easier if the Yankees had just said: "ah... we're giving up more runs than we allow, our bullpen is the only thing keeping us from being the Royals, our fans are booing us anyway... lets punt 2021 and evaluate later".
Ugh. They still aren't that good. I play hardball with a dozen Yankee fans and in our groupchat they all hate this team, even after getting Gallo and Rizzo (damn it I love Rizzo). Now they've won 9 of 12 and are at least in the role of serious playoff disruptor, if not participant. It's never easy out here in the wild AL East eh.
I don't trust em, but you can't ever count out the Yankees. They needed lefty homer power and they got it.
Around The League
The Philadelphia Phillies were 44-44 at the all-star break. They won 3 of their next 4, then lost 8 of their next 12 to sit at 51-53 right as August began, an objective non-contender.
Now they've won 8 in a row, seized first place in the pathetic (I mean competitive) NL East by sweeping the then leading New York Mets. Not really sure I believe in the Phillies since they're exactly middle of the pack in most offensive stats for the National League. Meanwhile every pitcher they employ not named Zack Wheeler is likewise moderate at best. This shouldn't be a playoff team... although what exactly is a playoff team in this sad division. Speaking of better teams...
The Cincinnati Reds are rolling, now 10 games over .500 at 61-51 (despite missing all-star bat Nick Castellanos for significant time) and just five games back of the division leading Milwaukee Brewers. I commented about a month ago, or something, how the Reds best shot at the postseason was to overtake the Brewers... since the NL Wildcard appeared certain to be exclusively western teams. The Reds are only 2.5 games back of the San Diego Padres now for that second wildcard spot. They're in it, baby. Oh and Joey Votto still bangs.
I'd love to say more but I've done plenty of that, so enjoy the off day and have at it.