I’ve been pondering for a while why this team has been so difficult to write about.
It’s beyond this team being terrible. I’ve written about crappy Toronto baseball teams. Most of my time writing about baseball has been spent writing about teams looking up at .500. It’s not just disappointing baseball.
Something occurred to me when I was looking at the pictures on social media of the BaseBOWL charity event: I don’t know who any of these people are. This event began a few years ago as Josh Donaldson’s charity event. Money went toward the Jays Care Foundation and to the Boys and Girls Club, an organization Donaldson said had a positive impact on his life growing up. This had particular significance because Donaldson had a difficult childhood.
Josh Donaldson even attended the event in 2018, even though he had spent most of the season injured and was traded to Cleveland within a month.
It’s not an issue that the event continued without Josh Donaldson but it did remind me of him as a sports personality. Seeing the sea of young, athletic-looking dudes made me realize something: this team doesn’t really have any kind of personality or identity. And because so much of what I write about baseball is inspired by player interactions and personality, I have issues writing about this team.
The young Latinos have some personality, but there is a language barrier. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the top prospect in baseball in 2018 and while he hasn’t completely lit the league on fire, other than his debut or the Home Run Derby, the Jays haven’t exactly done much to show who this kid is. He’s not even on a banner outside the stadium.
Baseball as a whole has this issue. A sport made up of generic Americans and “othered” Latinos has led to a sameness across the league. Nobody is a real star and I can’t help thinking it’s a way of controlling the players. Throw in a league-wide attempt to drive down FA salaries, as well as a large number of teams in “rebuild” mode and the rise of analytics, where players are valued as interchangeable sets of numbers, helps MLB to make the institution more powerful than the players. Baseball can implement the rules they want and pay (or not pay) what they want with less ballyhoo if fans value the institution of baseball over anyone playing it. But I always go back to this:
Baseball is the players. It will always be the players.
The irony of this generic 2019 team is that the most common story about the Blue Jays this season has been some variation on the theme of trading Marcus Stroman, i.e. the one guy who shown some type of personality. It’s been frustrating to witness.
People might find Stroman a little extra, but there is no denying the dude has swag. Anyone who pisses the Red Sox off as much Stroman does is making an impression. (And has a special place in my heart.)
I went to the game on Wednesday with the intention to see what may be Stroman’s last start as a Jay.
You can see Stroman’s energy throughout the highlights, and it’s fun. I was frustrated with Charlie Montoyo when he pulled Stroman between innings instead of letting him face a batter and then lifting him so he can hear it from the crowd.
Where is your sense of drama, Charlie? It’s a show. Give the kid his moment.
There was some discussion on Twitter that argued if Montoyo have lifted Stroman mid-inning the fans would’ve missed out on the “This is my fuckin’ house!” (that’s what he is saying behind all that blurring in the above clip), but that’s nonsense. Stroman ends most innings hyped up. One does not cancel the other.
As for trading Stroman: