I thought that once the baseball season had started, there would be so much to write about, but here I am - a few games into the season - and I’m scratching my effing head.
So, my name is Ryan Di Francesco and I have writer’s block, which is something that doesn’t happen very often because my mind is always way too active for that kind of a thing, but, ah, yeah, ah, um, ah, yeah – here I am. And it’s terrible.
The truth is I could try and write up some hype content about Justin Smoak and get crazy enthusiastic about what he did against the dumb Yankees, but there’s really not much to say there. Yeah, it’s grand-slam-awesome, but I never really doubted Smoak all offseason and I figured that he deserved, at least, 100 at-bats before anyone could question him about being a one-year-wonder. So that’s 100 times at the plate to try and muster up 27 – 30 hits, with hopefully 5 – 7 of them leaving the park.
I like Smoak, but I hate the puns that everyone tries to make, especially my colleagues at work… ‘Hey man, up in Smoak!’ ‘Hey dude, Smoak on the water!’ ‘Smoak ‘em if you got ‘em’… ‘the Smoak show’ … ‘Smoakin’…ugh. I love baseball… serenity now.
So, I started thinking that I could write about Kevin Pillar and how he could be this year’s Justin Smoak. In the winter of 2017, all of Blue Jays nation – including me – hoot and hollered for Steve Pearce to become the everyday first baseman because #SmoakStrikesOut. This offseason many of us – including me – have said some things about Pillar too.
Maybe Pillar has figured something out at the plate and soon he will have all of his naysayers apologizing. If he continues to do cool shit like steal home and actually hit, he’s going to make it difficult for any of us not to kind of like him as a baseball player. The truth is, it’s way too early in the season to write up any such nonsense, but I’d love for Mr. Kevin Pillar to prove me wrong. Hopefully he will prove all of us wrong - I’d be very fine with that.
So, as I have been fighting with my writer’s block, I figured I could do a fun piece on how awesome Yangervis Solarte is because he’s kind of becoming everyone’s new favourite player, but it’s hard to write up an entire post about that…so choo choo goes the thought train to nowhereland. It’s more of a fun tweet than it is a damn post.
And then I figured why not write about how the Blue Jays are 1-game over .500 because that’s kind of awesome and they haven’t been over .500 since blah blah blah 2016 blah blah... hooray. The good Birds of Summer haven’t started the year 0 – 5 and we all know how important the month of April is. And the Blue Jays worked hard for a split with the Yankees and they have shown some character so far, with their come from behind wins. And their bullpen has been pretty effing awesome and they are getting clutch hits at clutch times. And Devon Travis is healthy (knock on all the wood) and once he gets going, that will be cool. And things are kind of just fun to watch. And the Dome isn’t falling on our heads. And it’s not all Cathal Kelly doom-and-effing-gloom. And I like our Toronto Blue Jays - it’s great when they win and after last season’s woeful below .500 times, this is something pretty rock-the-casbah cool. I like our team.
I love our rotation and I think that J.A. Happ is cool AF and will punch a solid 200 innings this year. I think that Aaron Sanchez is going to return to being the pitcher that he always has been and will become the ace of this staff. I think that Marco Estrada will continue to be Pablo effing Picasso all season long. I think that Marcus Stroman will continue to quick pitch and shimmy shake his way to wins this season. And I like Jaime Garcia - he’s a damn good fifth man. And I also hope that our 6th man, Joe Biagini, figures out this whole starter thing, so that one day he can be up with the good Birds of Summer and earn some cash-rules-everything-around-me CREAM. I like our team.
I like the bullpen that a couple local writers shit on this offseason. I like what John Axford brings to it, and I like the Stone Buddha Seung Hwan Oh – although I don’t like the ‘Oh’ puns… ugh. I like Tyler Clippard, Danny Barnes, Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup – he’s not that bad at all, and, of course, Roberto Osuna. I think that this is an underrated bullpen and I like the Tim Mayza option down in Buffalo too. I like our team.
I think Russell Martin is one of the best at calling games and I love the intensity that he brings. And Luke Maile isn’t bad – he’s a backup catcher - what do you really expect? Not every team is as lucky as Cleveland, which has Perez and Gomes, but the Jays have that Jansen kid in Buffalo, so there is that.
I can’t wait for Josh Donaldson to get into his JD groove and mash the shit out of all the AL pitchers. I can’t wait for Justin Smoak to continue to be Canada’s new favourite southern son. I can’t wait to see Devon Travis play a full season and put up all-star numbers. And I can’t wait to see what kind of exit velocity and launch angle Kendrys Morales’ dingers are going to register this year. And I’m excited for Solarte to dance all year long, for Ngoepe to get at it when called upon by ol’ Gibbers, and Diaz to be just fine off the bench. I like our team.
I like Curtis Granderson and Steve Pearce platooning out in left field. I hope for Kevin Pillar to prove us all wrong, and I want to see what Randal Grichuck might be able to do with some everyday playing time. There are things to like about this year’s outfield. It’s definitely not the strongest in the league, but it’s not that bad at all and there is some depth down in Buffalo that should hopefully be ready for the call.
After watching this team through the first 5-games, I realize that they are actually enjoyable when they win. And, of course, they are because when your team wins, it is enjoyable, it is fun, and you do like them. It’s when they lose, that all the howling begins. But, I like the guys that they have here in Toronto, who will grind it out all spring and summer. I like our team.
This is baseball - it just is. It’s a long marathon, it’s a long game, and the season has barely begun. There will be losing streaks, hopefully more winning streaks, there will be 1-run games that the good Birds will lose – hopefully more that they win. There will be shitty umpiring, there will be tempers, there will be Gibby ejections, there will be errors, there will be injuries, there will be shitty articles by local Toronto media, there will be so much click-bait and so much baseball and that is something that we all like (baseball – not click-bait). There will be trade deadline talk, there will be fans that piss and moan and say dumb shit, there will be fans that are spot on, there will be so much baseball and that’s awesome because baseball is fun.
It’s a long season folks and everything is under a microscope right now, so simmer down on any kind of end-of-the-world/beginning-of-something-special talk. It’s only just the beginning, but April is an important month and each win and loss does matter, but don’t get nervous about individual statistics just yet. It’s way too early for any of those numbers to matter. The only thing that matters is that the Blue Jays find ways to win ball games. That’s all that really matters, so here’s to the upcoming season. Here’s to some damn hope that this team will continue to be enjoyable to watch. Here’s to the good Birds of Summer being over .500. Here’s to baseball, it’s back, and it’s just getting started.