Posts tagged ‘blue jays’

April 1, 2013

Gearing up for a promising Blue Jays season

jose-bautista-blue-jays-skydome

Jose Bautista and the Jays are poised for a big year. (Owais Qureshi/Vacay.ca)

“It’s designed to break your heart,” A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote about baseball. “The game begins in the spring, when everything is new again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

Giamatti was one of those tormented Red Sox fans of the 20th century. Their autumns and winters were never warmed by the memories of a championship, only the torturous thoughts of “what if?” He died in 1989, while in office as the commissioner of Major League Baseball, a few weeks before the Red Sox swooned again in September and lost the American League East title to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Back then, the Jays and Red Sox were similar because their fans shared a sense of doom. While what Torontowent through was nowhere near the devilish grief Boston endured for 86 years, the Blue Jays had suffered monumental and historic collapses. In 1985, they led the best-of-seven American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals 2-0 and 3-1, but George Brett’s bat blasted the Jays into winter earlier than anyone in Canada wanted, and baseball fans in Toronto became familiar with the meaning of the term “die-hard.” The pain became more intense after the team lost its final seven games in 1987 and missed the playoffs, even though it appeared for months that Canada’s first World Series title was a certainty.

Blue Jays supporters went through a discontented winter waiting for redemption and the sense of hope that flourishes in the sport each April. But 1988 was a failure and 1989 started out terribly and the Oakland A’s had assembled a juggernaut that dispatched the Jays with ease in the playoffs. Even though the Blue Jays owned baseball’s best cumulative record over a six-season period dating to 1984, it seemed like the window of chance had closed like an umpire’s fist on a strikeout call.

The rest you know. On December 5, 1990, the Blue Jays revamped their lineup — and their identity — through trades and free-agent signings. They reached the postseason from 1991-93, and won back-to-back championships, bringing euphoria to the city, as well as an indelible source of pride for all of those who zealously followed the team from spring to fall, season after season.

Fans today may find it hard to believe, but the Blue Jays once were the most successful team in baseball, becoming the first franchise to draw 4 million fans, selling out home games at the SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) at record levels. In recent years, the same stadium has seen its attendance rank among the lowest in baseball, with the Jays averaging just 25,921 fans in their 81 home games in 2012.

As Opening Day arrives, however, change comes with it. In 2013, the Blue Jays are in a position they haven’t been for two decades: They enter the season as World Series favourites.

The addition of three elite starting pitchers — Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson — as well as All-Star position players Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera ensure the Blue Jays will be one of the most exciting teams to watch. The offseason moves have rekindled thoughts of the feats former general manager Pat Gillick pulled off in the early 1990s. Whether this team truly can bring the glory days back to Toronto will not be revealed for months. For now, what we do know is the electricity that has been absent during the past 20 years — as the Jays have failed to come within even a warning-track flyball of the postseason — will be back. They are going to be competitive. Game days will be exciting, bars and restaurants will be full, hotels will enjoy a boost with visitors coming in to see the hottest show in town.

If you’re going to see a game, here are tips to enjoying the Blue Jays experience:

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May 31, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Game 54: Cy Jo-Jo?

Jo-Jo Reyes fans

Jo-Jo Reyes had plenty of fan and run support on Monday.

And pitch 121 was a strike. And it was good.

Jo-Jo Reyes provided the 12,902 of us at the ‘Dome one of the biggest thrills of the season on Monday night when he gave infamy the middle finger and the Cleveland Indians the best of his left arm. The previously snake-bitten and winless lefthander threw a (dare we say) Roy Halladay-esque complete game, allowing one run on eight hits in an 11-1 victory over the American League-leading Cleveland Indians.

Reyes snapped a winless streak that dated 28 outings and nearly three years. It was his first victory since June 13, 2008, and helped him avoid becoming the biggest consecutive loser in baseball history. Reyes had tied the MLB record for longest winless streak with Oakland’s Matt Keough in 1978-79 and Cliff Curtis of the Boston Braves (1910-11).

On Monday, Reyes (1-4) and the Jays didn’t leave the result in doubt. A two-run homer from Jayson Nix in the third preceded a seven-run fourth inning highlighted by a two-run double from Rajai Davis and a bizarre fielding error from Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera that allowed two runners to score.

Jo-Jo Reyes wins his first game of 2011

Jo-Jo Reyes threw a complete game for his first win of 2011.

By the ninth inning, with Reyes still on the mound, all of us stood and chanted his name, urging him to put a nail in the coffin of his atrocious streak. He fanned Jack Hannahan for his eighth strikeout of the game amid chants of “Jo-Jo, Jo-Jo!”

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May 27, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Game 50: Throwing it all away

Blue Jays fan

Can I hear you say "D'oh!"?

The worst part: Alex Rios scored the winning run.

A-Not got on base in a 1-1 game when John McDonald picked a horrible time to commit his first error of the season, sailing a ball over the head of first baseman Juan Rivera to lead off the ninth. It should’ve been a routine out and the Blue Jays shouldn’t have had any trouble with the bottom of the White Sox batting order. Instead, Rios took second on the play and moved to third on a Marc Rzepczynski wild pitch and then scored when Juan Rivera and Rzepczynski couldn’t connect on a grounder to first base from speedy Juan Pierre. No. 9 hitter Gordon Beckham, who was hit by a pitch, scored from second on the play, giving the White Sox an insurance run in their 3-1 victory over the Jays at the ‘Dome on Thursday.

Rivera backed up to field the ball, which was hit just inside the first base foul line. When he turned to head toward the bag, Rivera’s eyes ballooned with the sight of Pierre racing closer. Rzepczynski (2-1), meanwhile, wasn’t close to where he should’ve been. Rivera’s errant toss plopped off the pitcher, who laid on the ground holding his head as Beckham ran around third and headed home.

It was another ugly loss – the Jays’ third straight – and dropped them down to 24-26 as they began a seven-game homestand.

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May 25, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Game 48: Well, that sucked

Frank Francisco took the blown save and loss for Tuesday’s brutal meltdown in the Bronx, but manager John Farrell should also get an “L” for this one. There’s no way Marc Rzepczynski should have been allowed to face Russell Martin in the eighth inning with a runner on second. Martin, a right-handed hitter, drilled a single to centerfield for his second RBI of the game, bringing the Evil Empire to within 4-3 heading into the ninth. Francisco couldn’t hold the lead and the Jays lost 5-4 to the Yankees despite another outstanding game from Ricky Romero, whose ERA dropped to 2.91.

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May 24, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Game 47: Kings of New York

JP Arencibia Blue Jays

JP Arencibia had 4 RBIs on Monday.

Beat the Yankees and you’ll earn a smile from every Blue Jays fan. Beat them up like they’re rich-brat Little Leaguers and you’ll start to get some serious attention from the rest of the league.

J.P. Arencibia delivered the big blow — a bases-loaded double — in a five-run sixth inning as the Jays smacked around the Bronx Bombers in a 7-3 win on Monday that’s sure to raise eyebrows in the States from fans wondering if this team might be more than The Jose Bautista Fireworks Show.

Arencibia finished 2-for-4, adding an RBI single in the eighth that gave him a fourth RBI on the night, and J-Bop belted his MLB-leading 19th dinger as the Jays improved to 9-3 in their past 12.

Emergency starter Carlos Villanueva (2-0, 1.53 ERA!) went five impressive innings, surrendering one run on two hits at the Death Star, aka Yankee Stadium. Villanueva came out of the bullpen in place of injured Jesse Litsch. Chances are he’ll get another look or three with a performance like this one. (Can you say, Now warming up in the bullpen, Jo-Jo Reyes?)

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May 23, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Game 46: A bomb, a bummer and the Bombers

When J.P. Arencibia launched a rocket for his eighth home run of the season on Sunday he did it with no one on base. It was a big hit, but not the big hit the Jays were searching for all afternoon.

They stranded 11 men on base and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and that “1” — a single by Edwin Encarnacion that should have scored Rajai Davis from second — didn’t result in an RBI.

So they lost 3-2 to the lowly Houston Astros at the ’Dome and are now 7-10 in one-run games as they head into a three-game series in the Bronx against the Evil Empire.

Arencibia’s homer in the sixth was the game’s final run, even though the Jays had runners on in each of the final three innings and loaded the bases in the ninth. But Aaron Hill grounded out to third base and the Blue Jays fell back to .500 (23-23). Houston (17-3) left town with a series win.

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May 22, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Games 44 and 45: Apocalypse Not

One day after it looked like the end of the world — as far as Jo-Jo Reyes and the Jays might know it — was upon us, Jose Bautista showed the future just could be pretty damn bright.

J-Bop belted a three-run shot in the sixth inning that sparked the Blue Jays to overcome a 4-0 deficit and led them to a 7-5 victory over the Astros at the ’Dome on Saturday, aka “The Rapture.”

We’re all still here. And Bautista is still hammerin’ balls the way those Bible thumpers who think the apocalypse is now smack “the good book.” J-Bop ended the scoring in the ninth with a solo shot, his major league-leading 18th. Yunel Escobar also went yard, plating the winning run with a two-run blast in the seventh that put the Jays ahead 6-4. Escobar was instrumental to J-Bop’s big hit in the sixth when he grounded to shortstop, a ball Houston’s Clint Barmes let slip through his legs. That spelled doom for the ’Stros.

In a way the outcome makes up for Friday night, when the Jays blew a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning, costing the winless Reyes that oh-so-coveted first victory. Jon Rauch blew the lead and Frank Francisco gave up three runs in the ninth to take the 5-2 loss. Thanks to Bautista and Escobar, though, the sting from that one didn’t last so long.

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May 20, 2011

The Daily J.P. Arencibia to Cooperstown Watch, Game 43: Win one for Ryley

JP Arencibia homers for Ryley James Martin

JP Arencibia homers for Ryley James Martin on Thursday.

J.P. Arencibia not only made his good buddy Ricky Romero a winner on Thursday night, he got us all to remember winning on the diamond isn’t everything. Arencibia and Romero dedicated the Jays’ 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay to Ryley James Martin, a 2½-year-old Oshawa boy who passed away on Wednesday after battling leukemia.

Arencibia and Romero had met Ryley on April 2 for 15 minutes when he had the chance to visit the team in the dugout at the ’Dome. After hitting a two-run, seventh-inning home run off of Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis, Arencibia cried.

“I shed a few tears after that home run because it was for him,” Arencibia told reporters after the game while holding a photo of him and Ryley together. “It’s killing me. I have nieces and nephews, and anytime something like that happens, it’s tough.”

Later, on his Twitter feed, Arencibia kindly and thoughtfully wrote: “Great win but its a game … We played this game for one person tonight RJM! RIP little buddy! Will never forget that smile!”

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