Toronto Blue Jays
When the Blue Jays acquired Jose Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, I knew nothing about him. I remember thinking his last name reminded me of former Blue Jay shortstop Tony Batista who had a silly batting stance but plenty of power. In 2008, Bautista got into 21 games for the Jays, hitting three home runs.
Six Blue Jays hit more home runs than 28-year old Bautista in 2009: Hill, Lind, Barajas, Overbay, Wells and Rios. That's right, catcher Rod Barajas out slugged Joey Bats back in 2009. None of us saw 2010 coming.
To be honest, I initially resented Bautista. I grew up loving George Bell and took some comfort that he still held the franchise record for home runs in a season. Not even Carlos Delgado ever hit 47 homers in a season for the Jays, but here was Bautista, seemingly coming out of nowhere to set the new standard. Bautista's 2010 season was exceptional, but his 2011 season was even better.
Take a look at Bautista's numbers in 2010 and 2011. No Blue Jays batter has put together back-to-back seasons as stellar as these. He was the best player in baseball.
Bautista would put up four more fantastic seasons, culminating in 2015's bat flip in that seventh inning of the ALDS against the Rangers. I can't tell you how many times I've re-watched this 7th inning and every time my heart flips with Joey's bat. It's the greatest Blue Jays moment since Joe touched 'em all in '93 and we'll have it forever.
I'm going to miss watching Joey Bats suit up for my Jays. He's the best Blue Jay of the past decade and, in my humble opinion, one of the five greatest Blue Jays of all-time.
Thank you, Jose.
Despite my best efforts, my oldest never took to baseball. I knew I was in trouble during the pennant race of 2015 when he chose to watch a preseason Leafs game over a Jays game against the Yankees. He just doesn't love baseball the way I do.
In his 15 summers of life, he's probably seen about 15 games at the dome. He was there with me in 2008 when Gregg Zaun hit a walk-off grand slam, he was there last Thursday when Steve Pearce hit a walk-off grand slam and he was there today when Steve Pearce did it yet again.
In case you think walk-off grand slams are common in Blue Jays history, let me tell you there have been exactly three since my son was born. There have only ever been four, the first being a 1988 walk-off by George Bell. Somehow, against all odds, my son has seen all three Blue Jays walk-off grand slams in his lifetime.
And he's done so by only attending about 15 games. Whip out your calculators and figure out the odds on that one. It hurts my brain to think about it.
At the end of April, I wrote that the Blue Jays were in trouble but not done yet. It was easy to say we were toast after that horrific start, but there was plenty of time to right the ship that had made two consecutive playoff appearances. To quote a man who recently dropped by to kick out the jams, it was early.
It's now late July and we're almost at the point two years ago when AA made a series of moves to propel the hype train out of the station. Today, our Jays are 44-52, better than only the White Sox and Athletics in the American League. Too many games resemble the 19-1 debacle I attended, or last night's 13-3 loss in Cleveland. This team is not very good.
I've got some great memories from the past two years, which reminded me of the early 90s when everyone in this city was on the Blue Jays bandwagon. We had the bat flip, Edwin's wildcard walk-off and this. After a couple of decades in the wilderness, Jays fever returned and it was glorious.
But now, it's time to blow it up. I'm in favour of completely rebuilding this team Maple Leafs style, and building a contender from the farm up.
It's time to scorch the earth.
I remember catching the Jays vs. Cleveland many years ago and watching our boys in blue get trounced. I think it was 14-0, but I can't remember exactly. All I know is that up until yesterday it was the worst Jays defeat I had ever witnessed live.
My oldest daughter and I had great seats for yesterday's game. The day started wonderfully, with a great ride along the waterfront trail and the dome opening before first pitch. The Jays were trying to take 3 of 4 from the powerhouse Astros as they head into the all-star break. By the end of the second inning, it was clear that was not to be.
In fact, it was 19-0 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Had Ezequiel Carrera not homered, it would have been the worst shutout loss in franchise history. But Zeke went deep and it ended up just being the worst loss I'd ever witnessed live.
Truth be told, because I was there with my daughter in fantastic seats, it was great fun. We even got serious air time coming out of a break on Sportsnet. Someone on Twitter was kind enough to share the footage with me. Clearly I was enjoying the tunes!
We were one of the few to stick around for the final out and now we have a great story to share. During our ride home, we wondered if that all really happened. Did the Jays really just lose by 18 runs? Did we really see it all unfold before our eyes?
I'm still not certain it actually happened...
I loved going to Blue Jays games at Exhibition Stadium. Some called it the mistake by the lake, but to me it was where my Jays played and that was everything. George, Damaso, Ernie, Jesse, Lloyd, Dave, Alfredo, Tony, Willie, Rance... so many memories.
At the precise spots where the bases used to be, they've put cement markers. I think this is very cool. Even though it's a parking lot now, it's neat being able to see where our Blue Jays played before the dome.
I biked over today to snap some pictures and step on home plate.
The Jays just took two out of three against the Rays and are now 8-17. That's a .320 winning percentage. That's not good.
I wouldn't bet my own money on the Jays making the playoffs this year, but there's hope. In 1989, back when I wouldn't miss a single inning, my beloved Blue Jays were 12-24 when they fired manager Jimy Williams and gave the job to Cito Gaston. 12-24 is a .333 winning percentage. We ended up winning the AL East that year.
It won't be easy, but there is precedent in Blue Jays history, and that was before there were wild cards. We no longer have to win the AL East to make the playoffs.
The '89 Blue Jays were a good team that needed a spark. The 2017 Blue Jays aren't that different from the 2015 and 2016 teams that made the ALCS, and as bodies return from the DL and bats warm up, you just never know.
Stranger things have happened.
Despite frustrating me for three quarters, the Raptors actually won in Milwaukee yesterday to tie their first round series with the Bucks at 2 games apiece. They should advance to the second round, although nothing is a surety when this team is in the playoffs. They're rather unpredictable, hence the frustration.
Tonight I'll be glued to the Leafs game as we try to win at home to force a game seven with the President's Trophy winning Capitals. What a series this has been... four games have been decided in OT and the other was decided by a single goal. The Leafs are hanging with the big boys and it's been thrilling.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are in Anaheim so I've been waking up to find out how we've done. We lost last night, lowering our record to 4-13. That's a .235 winning percentage. That's bad... very, very bad.
The past two years the Jays and Leafs were flipped. The Jays were thrilling, advancing to two ALCS. The Leafs were junk. They've essentially switched spots on the Toronto pro sports spectrum.
One day, all three teams will be competitive. It's never happened before, but hope springs eternal. In the meantime, I'm just glad we've had two out of three in the playoffs the past few years. It sure beats how things looked a mere five years ago.
And two out of three ain't bad.
In this 223rd episode, Mike chats with Barry Davis about his years at The Fan, his time at Sportsnet covering the Blue Jays, why he's no longer there and his Tom Petty tribute band, We Ain't Petty. This episode is exactly 56:28.
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I'm not certain when the Joey Bats Rogers vans started popping up around this city, but I think it was the summer if 2015. Seeing Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson on the side always made me smile. If a Rogers service van is making you smile, you know it was a wise marketing move.
When the Jays were humming and hawing about bringing Bautista back, I tweeted it was a no-brainer because of these vans.
The Jays should sign Joey Bats yesterday. If for no other reason than to save themselves from having to re-paint the Rogers service vans.— Toronto Mike (@torontomike) January 13, 2017
According to my estimates, it would cost Rogers $18,500,000 to remove the Joey Bats graphic from their massive fleet of service vans. Signing him to an $18,500,000 guaranteed one-year contract was a slam-dunk.
I've been blogging here for 14 years, and during that time there were some pretty low times in Toronto sports. Just four years ago I wrote this about the new bottom for Toronto sports teams. Things were very, very bad for the big five.In 2016, things got a whole lot better. In fact, there's something great to report about every team in the big five not nicknamed the Argos. Although we didn't win a championship, we were close!
Ten years after their birth, TFC hosted the MLS Cup final, losing a heartbreaker to Seattle. That second leg against Montreal in the semi-final was absolutely thrilling.
Toronto Blue Jays
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays played in the ALCS. Unlike the hype train of 2015, this didn't seem likely in September as we sputtered into the playoffs, but an Edwin walk-off against Baltimore in the wildcard game and a sweep of the Rangers in the ALDS helped recapture the joy of the previous year.
For the first time in franchise history, the Raptors won a best-of-seven playoff series. And we did it twice! We even took two games against Cleveland in the conference finals, making this far and away the best Raptors season, ever.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last season, the Leafs were bad. Very, very bad. This is a good thing, as it helped us land Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the draft. Now, with Matthews, Marner and Nylander, the future actually looks bright and the present is a lot of fun, too.
Let's not ruin this entry with an Argos update.
In addition to successful developments for the big four teams in this city, Toronto hosted the Grey Cup, World Cup of Hockey and World Juniors. 2016 was a very good year for Toronto sports. Let's hope for a championship in 2017.
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