By: Dan Grant
EXT. SAME PAGE COMPOUND – Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest (or possibly a Motel 6 in French Lick, Indiana).
INT. SAME PAGE COMPOUND – Shadows dance across the walls of Dan Grant’s bedroom. A fire burns low in the hearth (swanky!) as Dan tosses and turns. Suddenly, he sits bolt upright.
‘PESSIMISTIC DAN!’, he screams.
‘Oh no. He can’t have his own body. That doesn’t make sense. The explanation he gave…’ Dan trailed off. ‘Wait. I was sleeping! It was all a dream!’
He laughed wildly and jumped out of bed. ‘It was all a dream! Things are back to normal! The Raptors lost, the Leafs didn’t make the playoffs, it all adds up!’
‘But wait…if it was all a dream, that means… oh no. OH NO!’
INT. DEEP INSIDE THE HEAD OF DAN GRANT
Pessimistic Dan: Helloooooo Daniel!
Regular Dan: He’s back!
In 2013, intrepid and embattled Toronto Blue Jays fan Dan Grant fought 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. The battle was a gory one, but despite a painful season, full of regret, Dan vowed to enter 2014 more hopeful and relaxed. Pessimistic Dan would never rear his ugly head again. Or so he thought…
PD: I have to say Daniel, that dream you had was pretty crazy. I mean, I live inside your head; I am YOU, in fact. I always will be.
RD: I refuse to believe that. One day, you’ll be gone.
PD: Really? Are these 2014 Toronto Blue Jays going to destroy me? Have they instilled you with such hope for the future that you think that maybe, one day, you’ll be free of all your cynicism towards Toronto sports?
RD: Well no. Not yet. But when there’s nothing left to believe in, believe in hope!
PD: Where’d you get that?
RD: From the producers of Waiting to Exhale!
PD: OK, anyway, you have to admit, this season is a shambles so far. The rotation has been terrible, the bullpen looks worse and the lineup has been inconsistent. As a final insult, this team has no bench. It’s a goddamned mess, I tell ya!
RD: Well on the surface maybe. But there is reason for hope!
PD: Oh really? I have an idea. Let’s play some word association and see how much of your precious hope remains.
RD: (rolls eyes) Fine. Fire away.
PD: Brandon Morrow.
RD: Now, you think you’re opening with a big one there because Morrow has once again landed on the 60 day DL and might even be done for the year [Ed. Note: Maybe not!]. And yes that sucks. But it’s not totally unexpected. I, for one, was hopeful Morrow could regain his form but I don’t think anyone was really counting on him. We’ve seen this from him before. Next.
PD: Well jeez. OK. Jose Reyes!
RD: Now that one’s a little harder. Reyes gets hurt on opening day and he’s struggled since he came back. But the season is still young!
PD: The guy has a .600 OPS, one steal and two homers since he came back. He’s popping up and striking out a ton. He looks lost.
RD: Like I said, a little harder! He’s still only played 16 games. If he’s still at .600 in a month I’ll be worried. Next!
PD: Alright, the godforsaken bullpen! What the hell happened there?
RD: To be completely honest, this one is the one that surprised me most, until I re-examined things. When we talked last month–
PD: Amidst your crazy fever dream.
RD: –Yes, in my crazy fever dream. Anyway, when we spoke, a big part of my argument for hope this season was the positive predictions made for the 2013 roster, since this roster is nearly the same.
PD: Okay, I follow. What’s your point?
RD: Well the biggest pre-season knock on the 2013 roster was the bullpen! Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar, All-Stars last season, were relative unknowns. Casey Janssen was seen as a stop-gap closer and Sergio Santos couldn’t stay healthy. Aaron Loup was nobody’s idea of a dominant lefty and Darren Oliver looked every one of his many years in 2012. So what happened?
PD: Well the ‘pen emerged as a strength, in the first half at least-
RD: That’s right! Janssen, Cecil and Delabar all had dominant seasons and Loup was very strong. Dustin McGowan reinvigorated his career with a solid, if limited year, providing a calming hand. Oliver, since retired, was also sturdy. When they fell off in the second half of the season, many thought it was because of overwork. And I think that’s still affecting them now. The rotation has been weak, they’re being over-used–
PD: OR MAYBE they were never that good to begin with?
RD: Say what?
PD: If they were supposed to be a weakness and had a flash in the pan first half, wouldn’t it make sense that things would level off in the second half and continue to be bad this year?
RD: Ugh. I hate you.
PD: Because I make sense! Plus it isn’t even the same bullpen! Janssen has been out all year, Esmil Rogers has been atrocious, Todd Redmond isn’t cut out for the bullpen, and neither is J.A. Happ it seems. McGowan is in the rotation for now, Oliver is retired. Santos has been a rollercoaster even though he’s finally healthy. It’s just not the same group! Even if they were ‘good’ at some point.
RD: But all that is fixable! Janssen is on the way back, McGowan could slide back to the bullpen if Marcus Stroman works out–
PD: I’ll believe it when I see it. It’s a weakness for now.
How about another two more ‘words’? Try Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus, the Kings of the K!
RD: Now this is where I’m going to get you.
PD: Is it now?
RD: Since April 13th, Brett Lawrie is slashing .319/.359/.569. That’s pretty damn good. And even though he’s been battling some dings, that’s par for the course with a guy who plays as hard as he does. You’re stuck looking at his overall numbers. Well look at these ones: if he continues to hit at that pace, or close to it, his power numbers have him on pace for 31 homers.
RD: Listen, if anyone is Boomhauer, it’s John Gibbons. As for Rasmus, he’s a slow starter. Some baseball guys are. The reason everyone fell in love with him last year was his massive second half; he struggled in April last year too. The bottom line is that he could easily pull that again and has shown signs of life the past few games. His defense is still solid; I won’t be worried about Colby unless he’s still below the Mendoza line come the All-Star break.
PD: Look at that, you’re just a ray of friggin’ sunshine aren’t you?
RD: Yeah man! Listen, the Jays are 15-17, which isn’t good. But they’re only 1.5 games out of first place in the AL East and they’re only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot too. Their slow start hasn’t hurt them, at all.
PD: It’s getting harder and harder to get you down! I hate this!
RD: I don’t think you do. You’re me! You actually want to be happy. You just don’t know it because you’re too busy walking around under a rain cloud. You’re like Winnie the Pooh, only an asshole.
PD: Winnie the Pooh WAS the raincloud you jag. You can’t get anything right!
RD: Oh really fool?
RD: R.A Dickey (after a dubious first three starts) and Mark Buehrle look like themselves, which means 200 plus innings and consistency from both. Jose Bautista looks like the best outfielder in baseball right now. Melky Cabrera, it turns out, hits a little better without a spinal tumor! Dioner Navarro eats JP Arencibia’s lunch [Ed. note: And a bunch of other lunches, too]. Drew Hutchison looks like the real deal. I’m right about all those things. Stop looking at me swan!
PD: But Gibbons, Encarnacion, the second base situation…
RD: Like him, he’ll be fine and don’t care.
RD: Listen, man. Billy Beane has a great quote that makes me believe hope is the best course. He said:
“The first two months of the season are for evaluating what you have. The second two are for fixing your problems. And the third two are for winning ball games.”
That’s money. Take it to the bank. It makes sense and it comes from the guy who changed the way every single baseball team develops and scouts their talent. If that’s how he feels, that’s how I feel.
PD: And Marcus Stroman in the bullpen? How does that chestnut make you feel?
RD: Pat Hentgen. Jimmy Key. Roy Halladay.
PD: What about them?
RD: Besides being some of the best pitchers in Blue Jays history, they have the common ground of having begun their careers by making relief appearances to get their feet wet. Sometimes a full season’s worth! So settle the hell down! I’m looking at you, Sid Seixeiro. Stroman will be in the rotation before long. I’d rather he got some work in, rather than starting off his career by facing Jacoby Ellsbury in Yankee Stadium or someone of that ilk.
PD: Alright, I can see I’m not going to stifle you this early on. I mean, I do what I can to plant the seeds–
RD: Yes, yes. Go to hell and all that.
PD: See you in a month?
RD: I see you every day. But sure, why not?
And so the cosmic dance continues. Join us here at the Same Page at the beginning of each month, as RD and PD hash out the ups and downs of this tumultuous Blue Jays season. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.