Not long after the Maple Leafs’ dim playoff hopes finally flickered out and the Raptors were shamefully smacked around by yet another opponent, the SkyDome* cheered. You didn’t hear it. Only 11,077 went through the turnstiles on Tuesday night. There were so many empty seats even the Butler Bulldogs couldn’t miss hitting blue with their shots (maybe).
Worse, the few seats that were occupied had thinned out by the time Yunel Escobar homered to rightfield in the 10th inning, giving the spunky Blue Jays a 7-6 win over Oakland. That’s 3 out of 4, and Sunday’s loss to Minnesota was exciting too. The Jays tease us every year, of course, and the 2011 edition may soon fade to the AL East’s basement, where many predict they’ll finish. But 11,077 for the fourth game of the season? Come on.
If you’re one of the many who haven’t watched, you should. Something good is happening in Toronto sports (really, no joke), and it has nothing to do with James Reimer’s Vezina potential or the Raptors’ hopes of landing Kemba Walker in the NBA Draft (don’t worry, they’ll pick a European who’s allergic to the rim). The Jays are young and look like they’re willing to play hard for each other. From the first inning of game one, when he called for a double steal, first-year manager John Farrell showed his team is going to be aggressive and fun to watch.
Which brings us to J.P. Arencibia.
The kid’s been a spectator half the time so far. He rode the pine again on Tuesday and a fantasy geek you know is not going to sleep well because of it. Arencibia had on the shin guards as he joined the mob at the plate to congratulate Escobar, whose two-run shot scored Rajai Davis and made a winner of Jason Frasor (1-0). Jose Molina started at catcher and went 0-for-4. If it’s a strict platoon, the way Farrell has played it so far, then the Rookie of the Year candidate will be back in the lineup on Wednesday, when Jesse Litsch is scheduled to take the hill against the A’s Dallas “I Threw a Perfect Game Once” Braden (7 p.m., Sportsnet). Plenty of seats available, we hear.
*No one who isn’t paid to ever calls it Rogers Centre. Bring back “the ’Dome.”
J.P. Arencibia 2011 Season Stats:
**The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch predicts the Miami-born Blue Jay will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2033, after a 17-plus-year career spent entirely in Toronto, except for a brief stint with his hometown Florida Marlins that goes awry when he realizes the benefit of the American League’s DH rule for guys like him and the value of the Canadian dollar that will be worth twice as much as the greenback by the quarter-century mark. He belts 440 home runs, evoking Toronto’s latitude (44 degrees north) and tops the homer record for a catcher by roughly 50. He also becomes the first Toronto celebrity to have an entire sorority house at U of T named after him for reasons we will leave to your imagination and captures three MVP awards, two World Series rings and the hearts of more than a few aging Justin Bieber fans, and inspires a good number of fantasy baseball geeks that it’s okay to have a crush on a guy.