This past weekend was one filled with the sweet sounds of birds and the feeling of the sun warmly touching our winter cold AF Canadian faces. Spring has come to say howdy ho and it is still here with us as we all push on through our make-some-damn-money work week.
Let's be honest here though folks, it probably is just a quick hello, one that could be followed by some kind of Arctic cold front, which will force us all to put on our damn toques again, but it’s a warm break from the cold air nonetheless. And the good Birds of Summer are in Dunedin, baseball sounds are back, and the days are getting longer, and thank cuss for that.
This weekend, I ordered my MLB.TV package because cable is trash (and I’m not about to give any more of my money to Rogers) and when the game started, it was the last piece in this it's-almost-spring puzzle.
Good ol’ Buck and Pat’s voices came on as they tried to say baseball things while calling the game and, of course, Twitter exploded with Buck Martinez’s struggles with pronunciation. Leb.Le.Bij.I.An ... It felt like all things that are good were back.
Now, the reason that I’m going on about this is that spring represents new beginnings, hopes, and life, as we near the end of the dumb dark winter road and are excited for what lies ahead of us in 2018.
One ballplayer who I’m sure is ready for a new beginning is Rowdy Tellez. Last year was a year of curve balls for the kid, as he was trying to live up to the hype that was being typed up by Blue Jays writers, Blue Jays Twitter, and fans on Blue Jays Internet threads.
Last spring training, fans were wailing for the big 6’ 4”, 220-pound prospect Tellez to start at first base over Justin Smoak and then Smoak took the bat to all of us and we changed our tune.
A year later, you hear many of those same fans thoughtlessly say things like ‘Tellez sucks’, or ask ‘What the hell happened to him?’ And, I think, that many Blue Jays fans forget the kid is only 22-years-old. Actually, he will turn 23 on March 16, a few days before the first day of spring, but he’s really still just a kid.
And what the hell were you doing at 22? I know I was driving around aimlessly trying to figure out what I was going to do with my degree and how I was going to get out of St. Catharines. Anyway …
I digress. In 2015, Tellez put up some dirty/good/numbers in the hitter-friendly Midwest League with the Lansing Lugnuts. And he followed that up in ’16 by making a lot of noise in AA with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, slashing .297/.387/.530 with an awesome 152 wRC+. The future was looking pretty damn bright for this young man and he was starting to look like he would find his way to the Dome faster than the average prospect.
With those kinds of promising numbers, Ross Atkins, John Gibbons and manager of the Buffalo Bisons, Bobby Meacham, couldn’t have foreseen the struggles that Tellez would endure at the plate in AAA, as he ended the year putting together an uninspiring line of .222/.295/.333 with a woeful 73 wRC+ and 47/94 BB/K in 501 plate appearances.
On a positive note, he was much better in August and put together a 12-game hitting streak, which is something he can build off of entering this season – that’s for sure.
But, I think that it’s important for fickle Blue Jays fans to remember that Tellez was only 22 last year and he was playing baseball with a lot on his mind and with a heavy heart, as his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma before the start of last season.
In a great piece by Rob Longley, who interviewed Tellez last August for the National Post, Tellez opened-up about his struggles in Buffalo and trying to cope with his mother’s illness. In the interview, Tellez explained that it was tough to have to carry a family and a job.
And to be as young as Tellez and have to try and go out and perform at the highest levels while worrying about the health of his mother is an arduous task for any person, especially a 22-year-old. So, it’s no wonder that he struggled at the plate last season with all that was on his mind.
Based on Longley’s interview in August and a recent interview by a local Toronto writer, it seems like Tellez’s mother’s health has improved and that is surely more important than any baseball statistic. But, with this new spring comes a new hope for Tellez, as I’m sure he is ready to step up to the plate and crush balls with authority.
So, for any Blue Jays fans out there, who like to run their mouths without thinking, use Google and do some research first – it really isn’t that hard. Rowdy Tellez is only 22-years-old, he has climbed through the Blue Jays’ system at a fast pace, and he seems in the right frame of mind heading into this season.
So, we should all have an eye on Tellez down in Buffalo because this kid isn’t about to quit on his dream, and I’m sure that he will reignite the hype that has accompanied him on his journey to the majors.