What if it’s us?
The Blue Jays have come alive again, winning three in a row, but this time it’s not the big names who are playing well, it’s the call-ups: Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins – even Moises Sierra – as well as everybody’s fave, Munenori Kawasaki. Oh sure, Brett Lawrie is good on defence and Edwin Encarnacion always helps, but the difference in the team recently is that some new, young guys are playing with intensity.
I share a pair of season’s tickets behind the Blue Jays dugout with five others so I get to the park a dozen or so times a year. I saw them wallop the Orioles 13-5 during their 11-game winning streak in June and watched them get drubbed 11-1 by the Tigers two weeks later. There’s been more outings like the latter than the former despite the $125-million payroll of brand-new brand names. Too often we look like the Double AA Schenectady Skunks.
The crowd numbers are up, averaging 31,000 a game, but the fans don’t help much. Recently I was listening to a Jerry Howarth radio broadcast because the drivel delivered by Buck Martinez on Sportsnet drives me crazy. Casey Janssen was headed for a successful save and had two outs in the ninth inning. Said Howarth: “In any other park the crowd would be on their feet.” Finally, with two strikes on the third out, people stood in support. Worse, we’re willing to put up with mediocrity. Who else would cheer for catcher J. P. Arencibia and his terrible .248 on base percentage?
Toronto likes to call itself world-class, but when it comes to baseball or basketball, we’re not a major market. Look at Emilio Bonifacio. During more than four months in Toronto, he hit .218 and couldn’t field. Two weeks ago we sent him to the Kansas City Royals where he’s now batting .283 and has committed no errors. Where the American game in concerned, even Kansas City, population less than 500,000, is better than being outside the country. As Vince Carter used to say, “You can’t even watch ESPN here.”
The lesson in all of this? The Blue Jays would be better off developing young players like Pillar and Goins within the organization. They’re thrilled to be in the bigs so Toronto’s just fine by them. They haven’t yet played in the bright lights and big city of New York or Chicago. Let’s bring them here for a while before they get a taste of there.