I was twelve-years-old, it was 1992 (I hate to date myself here), and the Jays were in Oakland playing game 4 of the ALCS. The good Birds of Summer were down 6 – 1 in that game, and I remember being so upset that I turned off the TV, ran into my bedroom, and started playing Mortal Kombat on my Sega Genesis. But, I couldn’t quit on the Jays, so I turned on the radio and listened to the game instead.
I pretty much used Sub-Zero – or Raiden (I can’t really remember who) to let out my baseball frustration because the A’s always beat the Jays and the Jays would never get over the damn ‘Eck’ hump. But, I didn’t go outside and play when the Jays were down because I couldn’t quit on them. I mean, c’mon, what kid does that?
Roberto Alomar then hit a two-run homer off Dennis Eckersley in the ninth, the biggest moment in a major-league game since Kirk Gibson's dinger in the 1988 World Series, which was also off Eckersley.
But, more importantly, Alomar’s homer - and that epic Blue Jays comeback - put Toronto one game away from the big dance and their first World Series banner. And I know it's early, but so far this 2018 Blue Jays team has had a bit of this kind of come from behind magic in them, where they never really seem out of it.
They came back to beat a really good club in Cleveland, they came back to beat a really bad team in the Royals, and they earned themselves a series split on Opening Weekend against shitty New York after losing the first two games. This team has character, depth, and might actually be good.
Now, you can’t really make any fair assessment until about the 40-game mark, but the Jays are currently 11 – 5, are 3-games ahead of the dumb Yankees, and are playing some damn good baseball.
Mashin’ Maile has been hitting baseballs like he was last year’s batting champion. Should you expect a backup catcher to continue to slash .421/.500/.579 and have an are-you-kidding-me 1.079 OPS? Probably not, as last year, he put up a piss poor wRC+ of… ZERO. But this year, he has somehow managed to mash his way to a wRC+ of… 204 – ah, sure. Anywho, I am all in on early season underdog heroes. And so far this Jays team has had its fair share of underdog heroes lead the way.
Yangervis ‘slappin’ Solarte has danced into all of our hearts on a human level and, of course, on the field. According to Statcast, he has hit the fifth longest dinger of the season, soaring 459 feet with an exit velocity of 113.2 mph – not bad at all.
At this point in the season the core of players who have been rolling and helping the good Birds of Summer get off to a good April start wouldn’t even find themselves in the lineup card for the Houston Astros. Previously unsung players like Aledmys Diaz, Steve Pearce, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Pillar, Yangervis Solarte, and Luke Maile have all contributed big hits, great plays, and did-he-just-steal-home moments.
And the reason that I’m focusing on this core of players is because they are a major factor for why the Jays are 11 – 5 through the first 16-games of the season. And it’s kind of funny because guys like Devon Travis, Russell Martin, and even Justin Smoak haven’t heated up yet, but they are still managing to win. They haven’t lost a series yet.
And once Josh Donaldson is back and does what he does. And once Travis gets things going. And once Martin starts hitting. And once Smoak cranks up the heat a bit more. And once Morales… ah, never mind. Once all the wheels start rolling, the Jays should continue to roll along, amirite?
And let’s not forget about the awesomeness that is their starting pitching. They might not have an ace stopper in the traditional sense, like Clayton Kershaw, or someone whose stuff is as nasty as Chris Sale, but, they do have 5-solid pitchers, each capable of halting a losing streak.
Maybe 2018 is the comeback year from the horror that was 2017. And maybe these Jays will continue to play good baseball. Once they finish up playing the garbage Royals, they head into New York for a 4-game series and then come back to the Dome to play a 3-game series against the shitty Red Sox. Those 7-games will be a good test for these Birds.
By May 13th, the Blue Jays will have played 41-games after finishing up another series with the shitty Red Sox. And by my calculations when reviewing the schedule and by using my best Pro Line ‘thinking cap’, the good Birds of Summer will be roughly 25 – 16 when the sun sets on that day. Now, that's the taste we can all catch.