Toronto Blue Jays: A Guide for the Part Time Fan Week 3

By Matt Antaya

The Blue Jays are headed out on the road after winning their home series against the Houston Astros. We know it’s way too early for such statements, but the fact is, the Jays are tied for first place in their division, the American League East. Yes, the season is only 10 games in (with 152 left to play), but still. First place. We could get used to this.

The Jays road trip will take them to Baltimore, Minnesota, and Cleveland. And though each and every game is important, there is extra significance when facing a division rival. That is, one of the other teams also belonging to the AL East division. Those teams are the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays, and, yes, the Baltimore Orioles. The outcome of these games are more significant overall because it’s against these other AL East teams that the Jays directly compete in the standings.

And in case you haven’t already noticed, the list of teams we just gave you is pretty impressive. Yankees? Red Sox? What? We got screwed, that’s what. Whereas most other divisions have their strong teams and their weaker teams, the AL East is all big boy teams, meaning the Jays are already competing against the best just for a chance to get into the postseason. Our playoffs start on day one. 

If you understood the last two paragraphs then you’ll see that the series in Baltimore is the most important in this road trip if the Jays hope to maintain a competitive edge. The Orioles have a great team, and the Jays definitely need to bring their A-game if they want to keep up this first place run.

Hall of fame manager Tommy Lasorda once described the long 162-game season with the following: “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are, you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

Games against a division rival, whether the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, or Orioles, tend to fall into that last third. They will make the difference, for better or worse.

Insider Stuff
Have you heard about the weighted ball program? Yes, weighted balls. We know what you’re thinking: seven guys in the bullpen playing with their weighted balls. Jimmy Fallon could manage an entire monologue. But we digress. 

Let’s start with some backstory. Relief pitcher Steve Delabar (dubbed ‘Dela-beard’ due to his impressive whiskers) first discovered the program four years ago. After an unsuccessful career in the minor leagues, Delabar worked as a substitute teacher at John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and there, while coaching the school’s baseball team, he came across a strengthening program designed by sports trainer Jamie Evans. Steve decided to first test the program himself before exposing his young players to it. He quickly developed strength and throwing velocity beyond what he had ever had in his short career. Flash forward four years and Steve Delabar’s story is the real-life stuff of a feel-good Disney movie. He returned to professional baseball, made his MLB debut in 2011, and was selected to the All-Star team last season. Steve has helped introduce the program to other Jays’ pitchers and the results are so promising that this off-season the Blue Jays Organization hired the program’s designer, Jamie Evans, on an exclusive deal to work with their players and prospects. So yeah, these be some fancy balls.

Buzzword of the Week: “25-Man Roster”?
No, we’re not referring to the latest season of the Bachelorette. This is the list of the 25 players currently on the team, also known as the ‘Active Players List’. Only the players currently on this list are allowed to participate in that day’s game. And though 25 players might seem like a lot at first glance, when you break it down it isn’t as many as you think. A team will require eight positions on the field, five starting pitchers, and typically seven relief pitchers in the bullpen, which already accounts for 20 roster spots. Each team may use the five remaining ‘bench’ spots however they choose, but typically they’ll need a backup catcher, at least one extra infielder and outfielder, and perhaps an extra arm for the bullpen. You can see how a list of 25 spots is filled quickly. And unlike other sports (think hockey or basketball), once a player has left the game, he’s not allowed to return. It’s up to the manager to substitute players accordingly, which means that if he’s really bad at strategizing he could literally run out of players. And even though the team’s 25-man roster may be updated day to day, there’s a whole set of rules that govern how players can be added or removed. We’ll fill you in on some of those scenarios in the weeks to come.

So what have you learned?
The Jays are, for the moment, tied for first place, despite the fact that the AL East is the most competitive division in all of baseball. The Jays pitchers use a weighted ball program (a secret weapon, if you will) to strengthen their arms. And the team’s 25 players begin a road-trip over the next 12 days that includes games in Baltimore, a division rival. Be sure to catch some of the road games on TV, and we’ll check in next week with another enthusiastic look at the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.

Need more explaining? Browse our Blue Jays Guide for the Part Time Fan week 1 and week 2

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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