Some consider me the eternal optimist when it comes to baseball. I’m always hoping for the good outcome and even if the team loses; I still look forward to the next game. Why though? The answer is pretty simple. Compared to every other sport; baseball is a 6-month marathon and that’s if you don’t factor in spring training or the postseason. It’s a game almost every single day for 180 straight days with some double headers mixed in (thanks rainouts!) and some extra innings action (no, it’s not free baseball…don’t @me about it). More than anything it’s a grind. For the players and for the fans. You can sit in the stands for most of the game and not see anything spectacular happen. It’s boring. It really is. However, the moment a double play ball is hit; a homerun, or if you’re lucky a ball in the gap that goes for a triple…the crowd absolutely erupts. That is the moment I live for as a fan. When 25,000 fans all stop what they are doing to look up from the conversation or even their phone (please put it away) to see that one play and start cheering; that is what keeps me coming back to the park.
Why Would I Waste My Time?:
In the American League right now; 10 out of the 15 teams are out of the playoff picture with Tampa Bay being the closest to a wild card berth at 6.5 games back of the Yankees and Athletics. Basically; they are all but eliminated as well. In the National League the same can be said. Colorado is 1.5 games back of the wild card with the rest being at least 6 games behind the leaders for the wild card berth. If you’re a fan of any of the teams not in contention it’s very easy to write off the rest of the season and stop caring. But why????? The best part about being a fan of one of the teams is cheering against the hated Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers. It’s hoping that when they come to play games in your stadium in the final week or two your team can play spoiler and ruin their home field advantage chances. That’s the main one but here are some other reasons to cheer.
The September Call Ups:
Every year in September the rosters expand…like to a crazy level. Teams in contention generally bring up far more pitchers and then give their starters a bit of a break before the playoffs start and make games last a lot longer because of all the pitching changes. This part about September sucks. It really does in the worst way and it’s not what I get excited about. What I enjoy is when a team is so far out of it; they start bringing up lots of rookies; unless that prospect is one of the best prospects to ever play for them and then the team leaves them in the minors for the rest of the year and then the start of the following year…something something about service time but that’s a topic for another article at another time….Take a look at the Jays roster right now. Look at how young most of the team has become. Every position now has some of their better prospects on the major league depth chart. From Reese McGuire and Danny Jansen at the catching position, Rowdy Tellez at 1st, an outfield with Billy McKinney and Anthony Alford in it and then 3/5 of the starting pitching staff with rookies; this is a chance to give these young guys a look at the big-league level. They get to watch how veterans go about their job every single day and what they need to work on to be more consistent when they finally get called up to stay. Pitchers and hitters are way better at the major league level; and for a young player to come up and get their feet wet; that provides valuable experience that they can’t just learn in the minors. Advanced scouting is far better. Teams can watch film on every player as it’s readily available. There are more adjustments to be made day in and day out. That means that a young guy can look brilliant his first two weeks and then look like he’s completely lost the next two.
This happens. A lot.
The good thing is that all of the guys are hungry. They know there is no guarantee that they have a job this year or the next. They hustle and they work hard because they know if they dog it on a play; they could be back riding a bus the following summer going from game to game in front of small crowds. They don’t want that. They want to be playing in front of packed crowds at Fenway and Yankee stadium and throughout the league because it is the culmination of a life long dream and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. Most of these young men have sacrificed a lot to get to this point; so have their families. They don’t want to miss out on the chance to play at this level when it was the end goal all along. Once they get that taste of the big leagues; they don’t want to ever give it up.
The Grizzled Vets:
As we’ve all learned in the past, very few players are lucky enough to play for one team their entire careers. Management has to make tough calls every year about who gets to stay and who gets to go. Sometimes its salary related, other times its age related and if a player is unlucky enough; it’s injury related. Every year fans see guys who have made a significant contribution to the team move on. This year will be no different. I think we can all agree that this year will be the last for Marco Estrada and it could be the last year for Kevin Pillar. These are two guys who were big contributors to the team during the back to back ALCS runs who haven’t really produced this year and are at the end of their contracts this year. Estrada hasn’t looked good all year and Pillar has taken a step back both offensively and defensively. These last two weeks are a good chance to go to the ball pack and cheer them on not for what they are doing right now but for the memories they gave us a couple of seasons ago. Players like Josh Donaldson and JA Happ didn’t really get that send off. Donaldson because he wasn’t healthy enough to play most of the year so he never was in Toronto and Happ because his trade midseason came rather quickly and with trades you never know when that last home start is going to be.
It’s easy to pile on this team when they are losing. It really is. Hope is better. It always is. When was the last time you can say that this team went through a full rebuild? I don’t remember and I’ve been following the Jays since somewhere around 1988 give or take a couple of years. There at no point has been an honest, full blown rebuild. That’s why we got stuck with the teams from basically 1994-2014 that always looked good on paper but always came up short. The Jays had some of their all-time greats come up through the system only to leave for better teams when the team couldn’t afford to pay them more or put a better a team around them. I’m looking at you Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells and others. Think about just those 5 players alone with no real back up trying to push this team over the top without much of a supporting cast, and if they did have one they were generally players on the decline.
This team has hope. We have a farm system that is starting to produce players for the major league team with more around the corner. This management team is trying to keep that farm system stocked so it’s not a one and done type of playoff run, but hopefully a period of extended trips to the playoffs. The ultimate goal being able to bring home a World Series title for the first time in almost 30 years. That alone gets me excited; even if it’s 2-3 years down the line.
I could choose to be negative. I really could. For many reasons: for all the half-hearted efforts to building a contender to these past two years, sucking the life out of the fan base even though it was inevitable, for the superstars being traded for next to nothing, for the superstars leaving in free agency…there are a million reasons to be negative for me.
But me? I choose hope.