By: Dan Grant
I’m done making predictions in baseball.
I find them stressful, even if they’re just for fun. The idea that I can be held accountable to a complete shot in the dark is not a concept that appeals to me. Because that’s what they are. The baseball playoffs feel like a crap shoot at best, and a blender full of fireworks at worst; nobody knows what’s coming next, only that there’s going to be bright lights and possibly poop everywhere.
I called the Blue Jays in four games, and while the final outcome wasn’t all that far off I mean, holy hell, what a backwards way to get there. From David Price struggling in Game 1, to the 14 inning back-breaker in Game 2, to Shin-soo Choo stretching his arm at just the wrong time in Game 5, it was anarchy. Conservatively estimated, this was a series that shortened the life expectancy of Toronto fans by 5-7 years. I mean, remember this?
After that kind of series–I plead no mas. Predictions are out.
Revelry though? Revelry is in. While the fan base held our breath, ground our teeth, and yes, hurled beer cans, we were treated to some wonderful moments in the ALDS. Josh Donaldson coming through again and again. Ryan Goins flashing his leather. Roberto Osuna, just in general. The entire starting rotation giving the best offense in baseball a chance to do their job. And of course, the big swing. More on that later.
The entire thing keyed another moment, for me personally. It was something that I’m sure happened for myriad tortured Toronto sports fans.
It was the death of pessimism. At least for now.
The Death of Pessimistic Dan
Thank you all for coming.
We’re here today to celebrate the death of one Pessimistic Dan.
Spawned in 1994, when the World Series was cancelled, Pessimistic Dan was an entity that existed inside the mind of one Daniel J.B. Grant, of Toronto. But he was not a singular creature. Like Stephen King’s ‘It’, he was a monster that filled the spaces in the mind. He perpetuated everything rotten, distrustful and maudlin about sports and brought it to the fore of young Daniel’s mind. He delighted in planting seeds of doubt when hope should have reigned and he was made fat by crushing loss after crushing loss. Front office mediocrity and ineptitude for much of the past two decades allowed him to become insidious, not only in Dan, but in the community at large. Raptors, Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, TFC. The sport didn’t matter. Toronto was infected with a terrible disease, and that disease was pessimism.
His devious exploits are too numerous to list here, but late last week, his malfeasance came to a head.
With the beloved Blue Jays battling the red hot Texas Rangers, Pessimistic Dan bathed in the horrible glory of a Game 1 loss. When Game 2 was frittered away, in extra innings no less, he grew more powerful than even we ever could have imagined. You may have seen the signs. Fans claiming that the game had been fixed, that Americans wanted no part of Canadians playing their national pastime. People screaming that the umpires were on the take. Rumbling that the games were being mismanaged or that this team wasn’t built to win in the playoffs.
Tripe. Nonsense, with no basis in reality. All injected into a willing host by this horrible mental parasite.
If you’re having trouble picturing it, well, remember in Aladdin, when Jafar turned into a genie?
It was basically like that.
And then, just like Jafar, came the fall.
The champion. The hero.
The destroyer of worlds.
The man they called ‘Joey’.
The flipper of bats.
And so we bid Pessimistic Dan adieu. Even if the Jays lose in horrendous fashion to Kansas City, we are now a city that has met success. We have been up against the wall and we have triumphed. We will be a little more patient. We will have a little more faith.
We are better than the pessimism, now and forever.
In true Canadian fashion, we lay thee to rest by saying:
Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya, bud!
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals
The slate between these teams isn’t clean. The benches cleared earlier this season and the instigator on Kansas City, Edinson Volquez, is set to start Game 1 tonight. Things might get ugly. At the very least, they’ll be as intense a playoff series as we’ve seen in this city since the Maple Leafs reached the Conference Finals in 2001.
Like I said at the beginning, I make no predictions, but as baseball so often does, it’ll come down to pitching.
Both teams have excellent offenses: Toronto’s is built on power and patience, KC’s is built on contact and speed. Both teams play superior defense, making few mistakes in the field. Kansas City led the American league with 56 Defensive Runs Saved. Toronto finished 6th, with 15 DRS, but nearly all of those were earned after the deadline acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere.
So if you call those areas a wash, and I do, it comes down to the guys on the mound. Toronto probably has an edge in starting pitching, able to throw out an excellent quartet of Price-Stroman-Estrada-Dickey, whereas Kansas City has had inconsistent results from their Cueto-Ventura-Volquez-Medlen combination.
Kansas really shines in the bullpen, where they sport a four-headed monster in Wade Davis, Kelvim Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Danny Duffy; even without closer Greg Holland, they’re as nasty as it gets. Toronto is still missing Brett Cecil and leaned heavily on the Osuna-Sanchez duo in round one. They’ll need contributions from guys like Mark Lowe, Aaron Loup and LaTroy Hawkins if they’re going to advance past the ALCS.
But even if they don’t.
Even if they struggle and look over-matched against a team with more playoff experience.
Even if they blow a giant lead or make a bone-headed play, or they lose in some horrendous unimaginable fashion, the fact remains:
Pessimism is dead. We beat it. We’re better.