By: Matt Antaya
We’re not going to lie, it’s been a rough week. The Jays have been like that friend who constantly does unreasonably dumb stuff (we’re looking at you, Jeff). All you can do is watch, offer advice, and hope that next week they get their act together. In fairness, it’s not as bad as we’ve seen in years past. Let’s put it this way: in the past seven days we may have sobbed (just once) and experienced several bouts of irrational anger, but we have managed to avoid any public displays of outrage. See – always a silver lining.
The trend this week has been spoiled opportunities. As an example, Tuesday’s game featured a great outing by underdog hero Dustin McGowan. Dustin left in the 7th inning with the Jays leading the Kansas City Royals 5-2. The next two and half innings were a blur. We remember throwing couch pillows across the room and someone continually yelling, “Oh god, why?” in the general direction of the television. Other than that, it was bat country and there was no stopping. When the dust finally settled, four additional Jays pitchers had combined to lose the game 10-7. Needless to say, the Twitter community articulated their displeasure towards the bullpen with as many four-letter words as 144 characters will allow. Modern poetry at its best.
Earlier in the week, outfielder Melky Cabrera provided a positive headline when he set a Blue Jays club record for player with the most hits by the end of April. Melky’s 41 hits beat the previous record of 39 held by both Shannon Stewart (2001) and Shea Hillenbrand (2005). It was a reason to celebrate… until Wednesday night when Melky was hit by a pitch in the left kneecap and was carried off the field. That’s what you call a reverse silver lining – kind of like being friends with Jeff. Though, thankfully, scans show it’s only bruised, not broken.
The Jays will face the Pirates this weekend in Pittsburgh, and then travel to Philadelphia Tuesday. Let’s hope they remember to pack a little triumph – and we’re definitely not talking about Canada’s answer to spandex rock Triumph…
To set baseball aside for a moment, it’s worth taking a moment to congratulate NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on ‘seizing the moment’ this week.
The owner of the L.A. Clippers, 81-year-old billionaire Donald Sterling, was caught on tape making racist remarks. He apparently has a reputation for racism. According to TMZ, who originally broke the story, Sterling is heard telling his 31-year-old girlfriend that she shouldn’t bring black people to his games or post pictures of herself with black people on social media. The story erupted and it was immediately obvious that no one was going to accept this type of behaviour. About the only thing that wasn’t clear was how a first-year Commish would handle the public relations nightmare. A stern slap on the wrist? A cash fine? Donations to charitable groups? The sports world discussed possible outcomes, then held its breath and waited for an answer that would completely affect the league and its players whichever way it went.
On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stood at a press conference and banned Donald Sterling from any association with the NBA and/or the Clippers basketball team… for life. An unprecedented move. He added that he would immediately begin work with the other team owners and the NBA Board of Directors to force the sale of the Clippers. The entire NBA community, indeed the entire professional sports community, sat somewhat in awe and said with one united and supportive voice: “Well played, sir.”
Buzzword of the Week: “Interleague Play”
With the Jays headed into a week of interleague games in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, we thought it appropriate to review what we know about ‘Interleague Play’.
Prior to its introduction in 1997, teams from the American League (AL) would not play teams from the National League (NL) – with the obvious exception of the World Series, where the AL Champion would face the NL Champion in a ‘best of seven’ series. There were unofficial meetings during spring training or pre-season exhibition games and, technically, the All-Star Game sees the best players face off in an AL versus NL game. But prior to interleague play, fans had little opportunity to see teams and players from the opposite league.
Discussions of interleague games date back as early as 1930, and serious proposals for an interleague schedule were nearly adopted during the 1950s and 1970s. But it took the 1994 players’ strike for MLB, in an effort to renew fan interest, to finally adopt interleague play.
Much like the World Series, today’s interleague games are played according to the rules of the home team’s ballpark. In practical terms, this means the use of the Designated Hitter. If a game is played in an AL ballpark, both teams may use a DH who bats in place of the pitcher. In an NL ballpark, the pitcher must bat. Basically, if you’re playing in our house, you’re playing by our rules.
Initially divisions were paired geographically, so that teams from the AL West played teams from the NL West. Similarly, the AL Central played the NL Central and the AL East played the NL East. This meant fans got to see more teams, but definitely not all the teams. Then in 2002, this arrangement was enhanced so that division pairings would alternate each year. (For instance, this season the Blue Jays’ division, the AL East, is paired to face teams from the NL Central).
Division pairings account for 16 of the 20 interleague games a team will play each season. The remaining four games are played against what MLB has dubbed a ‘natural rival’. Obvious examples of ‘natural rivals’ are the New York Yankees vs. the New York Mets, and the Chicago Cubs vs. the Chicago White Sox.
If, much like the Blue Jays, a team has no obvious natural rival, MLB has defined sets of “split rivals” based on historical context. The Jays alternate years between having the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies as split rivals – given their championship rivalries of 1992 and 1993, respectively.
Sadly, if the Montreal Expos still existed, the Jays would have an obvious natural rival. But, alas, Canada’s only other team was moved to Washington D.C. and renamed the Nationals. And we obviously hate them.
So what have you learned?
It’s been a rough week, but the Jays continue the long grind. Melky Cabrera managed to set a club record prior to being injured by a rogue pitch to the kneecap. We’ll give a shout out to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, even though it has nothing to do with baseball – but everything to do with proper leadership. And the Jays enter a week of interleague play, including games against their split rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies. We suggest you put some ice on that knee, break up with Jeff, and we’ll check in again next week with another treatment of the best damn (and only) ball club north of the border.
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)