By Matt Antaya
The bats are starting to wake up, and the pitching is a concern. It would appear a return to ‘what we expected’ is upon us. But that said, the Jays continue to hang-on in the race for the AL East, and there are still encouraging signs. The workhorse Mark Buerhle, who currently leads all of baseball in ERA, is having a career highlight kind of year and nobody saw that coming. No need for panic – we’re still months away from the melancholy talk of ‘next year’.
However, as former catcher turned broadcaster Gregg Zaun is quick to point out, the time is now. The other teams in the AL East have also had their struggles, and the Jays should be taking advantage of their rivals’ slow starts – not just keeping pace. The difference between losing and beating yourself is one the Jays know well. And at some point, one of these teams will find their groove – let’s hope it’s the Jays, and not those damn Yankees…
The Boston Red Sox roll into town this weekend. As defending World Series Champions, the Sox have not played well and, for the moment, sit in last place in the standings. This presents the Jays with a chance to put some extra ground between themselves and an AL East rival.
And if that excitement wasn’t enough, this Sunday, April 27th is R.A. Dickey Bobblehead Day. The first 20,000 fans through the gates receive a free miniature likeness of the Jays starter. Tickets are still available, but we’d suggest you arrive early. Gates open at 11am and the free giveaways will be gone well before the 1:07pm game time.
It’s likely the pitchers in the Jays’ bullpen would prefer to forget these past two weeks. Each of them has suffered an embarrassing outing recently. Even All-Star lefty Brett Cecil, who’s normally a rock, had a rough night on Thursday. We still think he’s got the goods (maybe it’s just though Ricky Vaughn-inspired glasses though). But witnessing these recent meltdowns, it dawns on us that what’s missing is the veteran Casey Janssen, who’s still in Florida rehabbing a strained oblique muscle. Now, we might simply be saying that it’d be nice to have Janssen back because he’s a great pitcher, but we’ll attempt something more metaphysical and suggest the bullpen is without their mentor. Imagine Garth without Wayne and you’ll get what we’re saying. They’re tumbling down the rabbit hole all alone. Janssen’s return will not only mean another great arm in the bullpen, but the stabilizing voice of experience. Let’s give some props to the old guys, and hope a healthy Janssen is back soon.
Buzzword of the Week: “Transfer Rule”
The brain trust at MLB introduced several rule changes this year, the use of video replay being the most prominent. But alongside the new rules, several existing rules were also tweaked, partly to ensure they could co-exist with video replay. The so-called “Transfer Rule” is one such case. As the name implies, a transfer occurs when a player catches the ball in his glove and then transfers it to his other hand – presumably to make a throw. Let’s imagine a double-play situation where a shortstop catches a quick toss from the second baseman, and then quickly launches the ball towards first base. Get the idea? So, what happens if that shortstop successfully catches the ball in his glove, but then drops the ball when trying to throw it? Answer: the “Transfer Rule.” In the past, it was left to the umpire’s discretion whether the player had control of the ball during the catch, and then simply lost control during the throw. The catch was ruled successful, and any outs recorded by the catch counted. Though this arrangement is partly subjective, it generally resulted in the correct call. However, with the introduction of video replay, MLB has re-written the rule to state that a player must ‘maintain control of the ball through out the entire play’. Now, only a couple weeks into the season, we have already witnessed numerous plays where obvious outs have been overturned due to an overly aggressive interpretation of the rule. Losing control of the ball at any point means the play is entirely botched. There have even been extreme cases where an outfielder catches a fly ball, but then fumbles it while returning the ball to the infield; the batters were ruled safe. The players have not hidden their frustration towards the change, which seems more of a step backwards than forwards. MLB executives have quietly suggested the rule may require further review. Can you imagine what your co-ed rec softball game would look like if we needed to ‘maintain control of the ball through out the entire play’? The game might never end.
So what have you learned?
The Jays need to strike now while the other AL East teams are idle. Starting Pitcher Mark Buerhle is showing everyone else how to get ‘er done. The last place Boston Red Sox visit Toronto this weekend – come early on Sunday if you want a miniature version of R.A. Dickey constantly nodding in your direction. The Jays need Casey Janssen healthy and back in his role as bullpen guru. And we expect the revised Transfer Rule to continue to wreak havoc and frustration around the league. Change is good? We’re undecided. But knowledge is decidedly good, and we’ll be back next Friday with both fact and fiction on the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)