By Matt Antaya
After a clumsy loss on opening day, the Jays managed to split the four-game series in Tampa Bay and travel back to Toronto to face the New York Yankees at their home opener tonight.
Those watching the game will definitely be in for a show, as the Yankees’ big off-season purchase ($175M Japanese import) Masahiro Tanaka will be throwing his MLB debut against Toronto’s improbable hero Dustin McGowan. Who is this McGowan guy and why should you care, you ask? Well, put simply, life has continually kicked this guy in the head and he just refuses to sit down. Dustin was a 1st round draft pick for the Jays in 2000 and, in 2005, Baseball America named him Toronto’s #1 prospect. He was an All-Star in the making. Since then, however, injury after season-ending injury has reduced what should have been an exceptional career into a forgotten hope; and to some, a simple punch line.
When the team began this year’s spring training, Dustin was nothing more than an after-thought. The fact that he’s now starting the Jays’ home opener is a testament to his positive attitude and determination. But before we break into song and dance over here, let’s just say he deserves to hear some love on Friday. He’s earned it. And, if he can stay healthy, this guy is actually really good.
If you’re headed to the game tonight, gates will open at 5pm and it’ll definitely be a mess getting inside the Rogers Centre. Double-check your ticket’s gate number and plan some extra time so you’re not that guy – you know, the ‘tourist’. Also bring cash (ATMs = lineups) and get your beer in time for the scheduled 7:07pm start.
Speaking of beer, one of the changes that’s (rightfully) getting lots of talk is the Rogers Centre’s decision not to renew their contract with Steam Whistle Brewery. If you caught a game last year, you likely remember the wide-ranging selection of craft beers available at the concessions. Sadly, it seems we’ve been forced back to the brewing dark ages. Your choices will now be ‘that big corporate beer’ or… well, no, that’s your only choice. Predictably, the response from fans has been more shock and less awe and a petition has been created, spearheaded by the owners of Tallboys Craft Beer House. If you prefer choices beyond Labatt or Budweiser, we suggest you consider adding your name here.
Rather see our boys in the afternoon? Tickets are still available for Saturday and Sunday against the Yankees (both 1pm starts), which will feature Jays’ starting pitchers R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison, respectively. And everyone knows afternoon beer is the best kind of beer.
All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with ‘left hamstring soreness’. Now, we admit that this, what’s the word we’re looking for, ah yes, sucks. But it’ll be okay. Allow us to explain. The fact is, Reyes was already feeling a tight hamstring and sat out the last four games of spring training. He decided to play when the team travelled to Montreal for two exhibition games against the New York Mets and this, in hindsight, was a mistake. He wasn’t ready. Manager John Gibbons has stated that sitting Reyes down for 15 days is a calculated move. Rather than sending mixed messages, the 15 days removes the question of ‘when?’ and forces Reyes to relax and rehab, ensuring this much-needed player comes back strong. See? That wasn’t so painful. Well, not yet anyway…
Buzzword of the Week: “Small Ball”?
Taken out of context, this definitely seems like a term aimed at insult. But, in fact, it refers to an offensive strategy that uses small, calculated moves to score a run. These are often referred to as ‘manufactured runs’. It’s an aggressive style of play where a runner is moved into scoring position by way of a stolen base, hit-and-run, or sacrifice bunt. It’s a team effort, and often a batter will sacrifice himself in order to advance the runner. Thankfully a ‘sac bunt’ doesn’t count towards the hitter’s Batting Average – so “taking one for the team” doesn’t reflect badly on him as an individual (which is more than we can say for your buddy who’s always claiming he’s a great wing man). When well executed, these plays are difficult for the opposing team to defend. This style is in stark contrast to the ‘big inning’ approach where a team of power hitters will swing freely hoping for homeruns or extra base hits, but often resulting in strike-outs. In recent years the Blue Jays have been known as a power hitting team, but we suggest you look for them to employ ‘small ball’ strategies more often this season.
Okay, so what have you learned? Dustin McGowan deserves some love, the Rogers Centre hates good beer, the Jays are 2-2 heading out of Tampa Bay, and unless you want a stadium full of dirty looks, you should probably arrive on time (turns out die hard fans really appreciate punctuality). So enjoy the next week of games and we’ll see you back here next Friday, primed and ready for another concentrated look at the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)