“Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner of Baseball
As I write this, the Jays are down 2-0 after the first inning of Game 2 of their ALDS against the Rangers. Yesterday’s game was the first postseason Jays game in 22 years. The same amount of time that Norman Bates spent locked up between Psycho and Psycho II, the same amount of time between now and when I spent 4 months on a psych ward getting treated for Depression. You connect the dots if you like.
October baseball has, in recent memory, been something that Jays fans enjoy from the sidelines. At most, we can cheer for the Yankees or the Red Sox (or the Orioles or the Rays for that matter) to LOSE. Or, we can play the “he was a former Jay” game which is kind of fun but also kind of sad. Or, you get to cheer along your secondary teams, your Minnesota Twins, your Oakland A’s, for example. I enjoy the post-season, but I never had much personally at stake in them.
It’s different this year, of course, because we are actually in them, and it’s a tough adjustment for fans and I can only imagine for players too. Yesterday’s game showed that. David Price looked shakey, and we lost the Bringer of Rain and JoeyBats by the end of the game. Luckily, I understand both those dudes are back in the lineup today, so we’ll see.
GAME UPDATE: We got one back in the bottom of the 1st. 2-1 Rangers in the second.
I’m at work today, so the best I can do is check in on this sketchy “Game Day” interface on my computer.
All this post season talk really makes one reflect on the last time the Jays were in it, in the early 90s. I’ll be honest with you and say that it was a bit of a weird time for me. I really got into baseball in a big way in the 1985 season, when the Jays went famously “From Worst to First” and won the pennant that year, losing out to the Royals in the ALCS. Up to that point, I liked the idea of baseball, and knew my parents watched it, but that year, the year I was in grade 5, was the first time I could actually talk about the game with my Mom and Dad (especially my Dad) and follow the standings in the paper and learn about such things as pitching rotation, and how the playoffs works and stuff like that. I know it is a cliché to say that fathers and sons can bond over baseball, but I’ll tell you this, I can’t watch the end of “Field of Dreams” without actually tearing up, and I’m okay with that.
My Dad never saw the Jays win the World Series. He left us in 1991, and that autumn his (our) secondary team, the Twins, won the World Series. The next two years, of course, were the years the Jays won it back to back. I don’t actually remember watching those games, if you can believe it. I loved baseball, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to watch those games without my Dad. I’ve since absorbed the feelings and moments of those games through secondary osmosis. “Touch ’em all, Joe!”, but if I told you where I was when I watched them, I’d be lying. The second postseason, especially, was when I was losing my real grasp on reality as I slipped into a Depression so I can’t with any authority tell you what I was doing inside my head that autumn. Through sleepless nights and suicidal thoughts, whether Joe touched them all, touched some of them, or decided to just walk in front of a subway train really didn’t matter to me.
GAME UPDATE: All tied up at 3 in the third!
And then of course in 1994, the following year, there WAS no World Series, despite the fact that the Jays and the Expos were leading their respective divisions and could have conceivable resulted in an ALL CANADIAN WORLD SERIES. It would have been too much for the Baseball Gods to allow.
I slowly came back to baseball in the mid-90s, listening to Jerry and Tom call the games when my boss at work would leave the radio on. He liked listening to the “oldies station” during the day, and sometimes he would leave at 5 pm and forget to turn the radio off. At 6 pm the station switched over to carrying the Jays games and I would let the game play. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to work AND listen to baseball. And the way those two guys could banter and create a word picture and bring you into the experience was remarkable. There are a few great baseball announcers out there, and when you are blessed with a pair that call your own games, you say thanks to the BGs for it. Also, at that time, it felt like enough years had passed from when my Dad died that listening to and following the games no longer felt like a betrayal, it felt like a reconnection, an honouring of sorts.
Now: this season. It’s been brewing ever since the Jays made that trade a couple of years back that brought Dickey and Buerhle over, and continued with the getting of Donaldson and Martin. I love Donaldson, you guys. The bringer of rain! But you know what, I love even more that Oakland took Lawrie off our hands. It still seems like the trade of the century and I still think at some point Billy Beane is going to call up AA and said “You know, I put some fine print in that trade, and so it’s null and void. We want our rain bringer back, you can take your D-Bag.” That can’t happen, can it? And Russell Martin! I love him too. He’s Canadian, to start with, he seems grounded, he can hit, he can throw out guys at second, he seems fun, he seems nice. He has “the good face”. I’m gushing a little here. Don’t get me started on Price and Stroman. SPOILER (I like them too. I actually pretty much like everyone on this team this year. Okay, maybe not Drew Hutchinson, but there’s always THAT ONE GUY anywhere you go, right?)
And that unreal August, where it looked like we might actually get a wild card spot, BUT WAIT, we might actually clinch the division! And we did, and so it was. And that old Rogers Centre had sell out games for the first time in forever, and it was cool to follow the Jays again. I don’t mind all these band wagon jumpers. It’s great to see such full crowds, not just in Toronto but on the road across America. That goofy #cometogether hashtag, the one which I made many vulgar jokes about at the beginning of the season, actually turned into something great, something that I tweet not ironically now.
And you know what? I don’t really care if they are fair weather fans, because baseball isn’t about fair weather. It’s about routs, and losing close games in extra innings, and heartbreaking injuries, and devastating disappointments. It’s an October game, after all, disguised as a summer past-time. It’s bloody hard being a baseball fan, but it’s the only game I care to follow year in and year out. What does that say about me?
But now here we are, and yesterday wasn’t great, but at least it felt normal. It was the only thing we know. Remember, the game is designed to break your heart. I just really want the Jays to win this ALDS and get to the ALCS. At that point, I’m sure we can find out legs and groove and make it to the World Series. I KNOW we can.
GAME UPDATE: Still tied, going into the 4th inning. How am I expected to get any work done today?