By: Dan Grant
In his Blue Jays season preview, intrepid and embattled Toronto Blue Jays fan Dan Grant battled his desire to be excited for the season vs. his long standing pessimism towards the chances of Toronto sports teams, ingrained in the very fibre of his being by over two decades of across the board futility. In that article, he slayed the demons in his brain, the entity known as ‘Pessimistic Dan’… or so he thought.
Regular Dan (looking exhausted, bags under his eyes, a haunted countenance about him): I mean, I guess there are some positives, if you really look closely, you can take away moving into next year, if you think that, you’re not looking hard enough, teams regress, it happens—-
Pessimistic Dan (strolls in, sees RD raving to himself in the corner of the room): Uh dude? Are you OK?
RD: CANDY MALDONADO!!!
PD: Yeeeeeah. Right. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess now that the Jays season is over, you weren’t too happy with the final result?
RD: (laughs maniacally): Not too happy?! Not too happy?!
PD: It’s not polite to answer a question with a question you know
RD: It’s not polite to be the most monumental disappointment in recent Toronto sports memory either!
PD: Well look, I know I’ve been pretty rough on you this year, but what if I could do something to cheer you up. Or at least, let you vent a little.
RD: Like what? The new season is six months away.
PD: Well I know a guy who knows a guy, who knows a guy’s cat’s former owners bowling coach, and he knows AA.
RD: Wait. AA? The architect of this disaster?
PD: And your former favourite person in the world, yes. Anyway, I told him how despondent you’ve been about the whole thing and he agreed to get a few of the players to try and give us their best assessment about what happened.
RD: I don’t know man. This stuff has been hashed and re-hashed. Plus I can’t promise I wouldn’t stab them with this (brandishes a plastic fork).
PD: Where did you even get that? It doesn’t matter. How about this – I’ll ask them some questions and you can jump in wherever you feel is pertinent.
RD: Won’t that freak them out? I mean we are two different personalities inside the same person – this isn’t going to turn into a Criminal Minds murder scene, is it?
PD: Well no, but only because it’s entirely fictional. In real life, yeah, we’d be terrifying.
RD: Alright then!
PD: OK, I’d like to welcome our first guest. I thought we’d start with on a relatively positive note with First Baseman Edwin Encarnacion!
Edwin: Hey Dan. How’s it going?
PD: Well Edwin, I have to say, not great. How does it feel to be one of the lone bright spots on a totally lost season?
Edwin: I mean, I think we tried hard every day you know, it’s just the AL East is a tough division.
PD: I guess that’s true. The Red Sox surprising year didn’t help, along with Orioles continuing to be a decent team, and your record against the Yankees was abysmal.
Edwin: Hey man, much as I love my teammates, I did whatever I could on that front. I hit five bombs against them!
PD: Yeah you got off to a good start. But you do realize you wound up hitting .200 against them, right?
Edwin: (hangs head) Jeez man, I had a good year!
PD: Worse than last year though.
Edwin: You really know how to bring a guy down.
PD: That’s what I’m here for. Anything to add RD?
RD: Just… just keep on plugging there Edwin. We all love you.
PD: These individual interviews are going to take too long, so let’s start talking to some groups! How about the outfield?
RD: I guess that shouldn’t be too bad.
PD: Alright! I’d like to welcome Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Rajai Davis and Kevin Pillar!
RD: All 7 of them? I think that speaks volumes.
Jose: Don’t worry, Moises won’t talk. He’s too busy swinging at anything that comes near him. Isn’t that right Moises?
Moises: (wildly hacking at a fly buzzing around his head with a newspaper and missing by several feet.)
PD: Jose, I have to say, hilarious as that is to watch, I’m not sure you should be giving anyone crap for striking out.
Jose: What’s that?
PD: Well you struck out at close to a career high rate yourself this year. 84 times in just 118 games.
Jose: Those umps are out to get me, man.
PD: I mean, the year you had a worse rate was actually your best season in 2011, but your other numbers have plummeted across the board—
Jose: It’s all the umps, dude.
PD: I mean, I know you had some arguments, but don’t you think you’re sort of digging your own grave when you keep showing the umpires up—
Jose: I SAID THEY’RE OUT TO GET ME BRO! YOU GOT SOME KIND OF AN ISSUE WITH ME TRYING TO DO MY JOB?!
RD: I don’t think that’s what he meant Jose. I think what he meant was, since your two elite seasons in 2010-11, you’ve had some issues making contact and you’ve finished both seasons on the DL. How do you think you can manage that better next season?
Jose: Well taking off the rest of this season is supposed to help me get ready for training camp, so I can start early and come into camp in the best shape possible. I really think that will help me stay healthy next year.
PD: You should also move to to DH, because your outfield skills are falling off a cliff. (Jose’s eyes bulge and he storms out) Right, Colby?
PD: Well, that was interesting.
RD: Rajai, think you’ll be back with the team next year?
Rajai: Nah man!
PD: Thanks for the honesty. OK, young guns: Anthony, Kevin—Moises? (Moises is still hacking unsuccessfully at the fly). Alright, just Anthony and Kevin. What have you two learned by being up with the big club so far this year?
Anthony and Kevin (exchange glances): Can we be honest?
RD: Sure guys. We’re all friends here.
Anthony and Kevin (in unison): We can’t hit.
Anthony: Yeah, I mean, I know I’ve got tons of talent – scouts love me. And I always kind of played on that, because in the minors you can just close your eyes and rip it a lot of the time and you can sort of get lucky enough—
Kevin: Yeah! I mean I don’t even have that much talent – I can actually see the ball, I’m just not physically able to make contact with it.
RD: Dear god.
Anthony: Yeah Kev and I have both talked about it, we’re basically just trying to hang around for a few years as fourth outfielders, bank a few million and then we’re going to move back to Mississippi with Colby and open a Waffle House. Right Colby?
PD: Can you guys understand him?
Kevin: No, not at all.
RD: Get the hell out of here.
PD: We didn’t even talk to Melky!
Melky: Hey guys! Did you know I had a benign tumour removed from my spine? I am OK though, and am ready to perform much more strongly next season!
PD: Do you really think it was just that? Have you got any plans to change your off-season training?
Melky: I’m just going to get back to basics! Do what got me here, you know?
RD: Melky, why are you holding that needle?
Melky: Oh this? It’s a Vitamin B12 shot! I need it to recover from my surgery.
RD: Oh OK. Well best of luck with that!
PD: Wait, aren’t you going to ask him—
RD: What? He was nice!
PD: Never mind. OK outfield, thanks a lot! Let’s move on to a whole different kettle of fish, the pitching staff!
Mark Buehrle: Actually, I’m the only one here.
PD: What? I thought everyone was coming!
Buehrle: Well R.A. is saving orphans in Myanmar.
RD: Oh. I guess we can’t fault him for that. What about Morrow and Romero?
Buerhle: Morrow can’t really move. He’s living in a hyperbaric chamber right now.
RD: For the entire off-season?!
Buerhle: Yeah, he feels it’s best. He’s worried about his arm actually falling off his body.
PD: Would a hyperbaric chamber even help with that?
Buerhle: Well, I mean, I don’t know. But with the rate our team’s training staff let arms blow out, it can’t hurt right?
RD (excited): Are you saying something the Jays training staff does actually hurts our pitchers long term? The rumours are true?!
Buerhle: Settle down twitchy. I was just kidding. Anyway, that’s where he is and Romero is in a cornfield, throwing balls at a barn.
PD: Hah. Has he—
Buerhle: It’s an off-season training programme. It’s called ‘Hitthebroadsideofa’. I think it’s Japanese.
PD: How’s it going so far?
Buerhle: Terrible, from what I hear.
RD: Well that’s encouraging. What about—
(Josh Johnson runs up, out of breath, elbow in a sling)
Johnson: Hey guys! Sorry I’m late! I’m still on the team right? I can still get my qualifying offer?
PD: I don’t think they’re going to give that to you, man. I mean, we don’t work for them, but I don’t think there’s a person in baseball who would offer you 13 million or whatever it is.
Johnson (looks dejected): Really?
PD: Sorry man. You blew it.
RD: OK, what about the other guys? Happ, Redmond? Even Drabek and Hutchison?
PD: Dude, I think what we’re seeing here is a metaphor of sorts.
RD: What do you mean?
PD: Well… Buerhle is the only one who showed up. Just like this season.
RD: This is awful. This isn’t making me feel better at all.
PD: Do you want to keep going?
RD: I only have one guy left I want to talk to! I want to see the Wizard!
PD (opens the door): Hey guys-
Jose Reyes and Ryan Goins are talking to one another excitedly, while Brett Lawrie does one arm pushups, sipping a can of Red Bull each time he lowers himself. Mark DeRosa sits on his back throughout.
PD: You guys can hit the road. We’re just going to talk to Alex.
Alex Anthopolous, Blue Jays General Manager: Thanks for having me guys.
PD: Hey Alex, I’d just like to thank you for a great season. You really made my job a lot easier.
AA: And what’s your job?
PD: To systematically bring down passionate fans of Toronto Sports teams.
AA: Bring them down?
PD: You know, kill their buzz. Make them unhappy. Feel hopeless. That sort of thing.
AA: Oh. Well that’s—nice? Wait, no it isn’t. Do you have questions for me or something?
RD: (eyes wide): EXPLAIN.
AA: Excuse me?
RD: I said EXPLAIN!!!!!
AA: Well look guys. Has anyone ever told you that you look very similar? No? OK, well anyway, this was the worst this year could possibly have gone. You know that, I know that. If you think I’m not as hurting and disappointed as this city’s great baseball fans right now, you’re dead wrong. I’m gutted. This was a shot at glory and it failed like Melky trying to pass a drug test, am I right? (looks around for high fives. Receives one from PD).
But anyway, the lineup, injury prone as it was, was actually decent this year, in terms of production. If Jose can be healthier next year, having him and Edwin in the middle of the order is something that not many teams can best. Having Jose Reyes leading off for a full season will set the table for those guys and since the beginning of August, Brett Lawrie has looked like the player we always hoped he’d be. These are the positives. Ryan Goins looks like he has a glove that will play at second at least part of the time – he’ll have a shot to make the club. Colby Rasmus finally put everything together at the plate, despite a couple injuries. He’s a top 5 big league centre fielder and he’s still only 26. Adam Lind had a decent bounce back season and absolutely raked right handers – that said we need to find him a partner that can hit lefties or try something different at DH. Again, positives first.
RD: I think you’re just about out of them. Continue.
AA: Well no I’m not because I’m going to talk about the bullpen. Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup – all signed for next season for a song. That is a strength that emerged that we weren’t necessarily expecting and that we’re glad to have.
RD: Fine. But you’re avoiding the two big, stinky problems.
AA: Actually Dan, I’d say there are three. First, Melky. What do you do with him? He’ll be in a contract year this year, but the dude had a spinal tumour; we can’t evaluate this year properly other than throwing it out, because he had such an egregious and unreported injury. We have no idea how it affected him and with 8 million committed to the guy, we basically have to give him a chance to start in left field next year. Our hands are tied.
RD: This sucks but could be worse. What’s next?
AA: The biggest issue is obviously the starting rotation. Buerhle and Happ will be back but they’ve shown that while they’re consistent veterans, they’re not top end guys. If we’re going to contend they need to be at best the 2-3 starters and you’d hope they’d be your 3-4 guys. We’re going to address this in the off-season, via trade if possible. The free agent crop isn’t exactly gangbusters.
RD: Right. You’ve been saying that for a couple months now. What about the other pieces?
AA: Well I think we’ve learned we can’t count on Morrow for anything more than 20 starts and even that might be generous. We love his talent but he’s a bonus at this point. Happ is a solid fifth starter or long man out of the pen; I expect him to be with the big team next year. Redmond will compete with him for that fifth spot and is nice depth to have. I’m really excited for Kyle Drabek to come into training camp healthy – I think he could surprise a lot of people. The kid has pedigree.
(A shadowy figure intones from the corner): I’d like to speak for myself.
PD: Who the hell is that?
RD (body tensing): It could only be one man.
Shadowy Figure: Hello Dan.
RD: It’s really you isn’t it?
RD: A man with a .194 batting average, lowest in baseball among those qualifying for the batting title.
RD: A man who led the league with 13 passed balls and allowed 41 stolen bases this year.
RD: (springs from his chair and tackles the shadowy figure, wrestling him to the ground: ARENNNNCIIIIIIIIBIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!
PD: (sidesteps the tussle) Well that’s it for this season folks. I know things got a little grim there at the end, but I’m sure Regular Dan would want me to tell you that things will be better next season!
(looks down and sees RD laughing homicidally with JP in a camel clutch)
PD: Then again, maybe not! Thanks for reading!
And so the cosmic dance ends for this season. Join us here at the Same Page next year, as RD and PD hash out the ups and downs of the next tumultuous Blue Jays season. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.