North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Six thoughts on Jays home opener

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Tuesday was opening night for the Blue Jays and arguably the most anticipated home opener since, well, since last year. All the November trades aside, every spring in the past couple seasons has come with expectations and words about how this year’s team is going to make the team a winner. And that’s cool: they gotta get butts in seats somehow, so it’s okay.

But the Jays lost. It’s a very Toronto way to begin the season (they lost their home opener last year, too) and gives more fuel to the self-loathing Toronto fire. So rather than write a full recap of the game and it’s hype and hoopla, I’m going to focus on a few things that stood out to me on Tuesday night.

1. Don’t just blame JP Arencibia.

The Jays catcher set a team record for passed balls on Tuesday night and he did it pretty early, too. All throughout the self-loathing Toronto blogosphere, people are trading around a gif set of Arencibia dropping and mishandling some RA Dickey knuckleballs. It’s damning and it kind of misses the forest for the trees.

Consider this: it’s hard to catch knuckleballs and Arencibia doesn’t have a ton of history catching Dickey (who didn’t pitch all that great either). These things happen. And those dropped pitches aren’t what walked four batters in six innings.  It was not a stellar outing for either player; going by Bill James Game Score, it would’ve been one of his worst games in last year’s Cy Young-winning season for Dickey; he only had seven games with a lower score.

2. The Jays high-octane offence was hit with a delay at the border, I suppose.

And then there’s this: on paper, the Jays are supposed to be a very good pitching team and a powerhouse on offense. After all, they’ve got two dinger-mashing sluggers in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who combined for one hit, one hit-by-pitch and two walks on Tuesday night. And where was the rest of the offense? Jose Reyes walked once and Melky Cabera managed one hit (although a pretty sharp one at that).

Instead the Jays power came from the more unlikely places: Emilo Bonifacio hit a double in the second and Arencibia hit another off Chris Perez in the ninth. Indeed, the Jays left sis runners on base. They couldn’t solve Justin Masterson, especially once he found a groove after getting Adam Lind to ground into a double play in the third. After that, Toronto didn’t get anyone on base until Arencibia’s double.

3. Could there be any more sponsored content?

I watched most of the game on Sportsnet. I’ve worked in TV before, back when I was still considered employable and still wanted a career in sports media, so I know how the sausage is made: everything is broken down into segments to reduce the chances of fucking things up and to make it easier for viewers.

It also gives them a chance to have multiple things sponsored, which Sportsnet went all out with. Everything was sponsored it seemed: each inning, each segment, each between inning thing. Hardly a moment went by without a logo flashing on screen and a name-dropped. If she was watching, I’m sure Naomi Klein was amused.

After a while it was annoying. And after a while fatigue set in: did Honda sponsor the seventh inning cleanup? Or was that Home Hardware? Maybe it was TD. I can’t keep the segments straight, they’re all a mish-mash of branded content. I hope they clean it up as the season goes on: if all 162 broadcasts are going to be this packed with sponsors, it’s going to be a confusing season.

4. DID YOU KNOW THE ROGERS CENTRE HAS A PATIO NOW?

It’s funny how this changed in something like a week. First it was all hush-hush: something was happening to Windows Restaurant, which last time I checked, was used to feeding people in the all-you-can-eat section. Then it was cool: it’s an open air patio anyone can go to!

Then they showed shots of it: lots of middle aged white dudes in suits wearing lanyards. They showed it again and again and again, basically hammering home thos new branding opportunity for the Rogers Centre, a new destination for whomever goes to Jays games. Okay, I get it: there’s a new patio. I’m sure there are other things there too: probably some new food at concession stands, an actual craft beer on tap and those TD seats got moved up into the 200s. Maybe you can show those a little more? Or maybe actually show more of the game? Just a thought.

5. Jack Morris: not my forte, why didn’t they use Hayhurst?

The other addition to the Jays this season comes in the radio end: Alan Ashby left after last season to work on the Astros broadcast team and was replaced by onetime Jay and perennial HOF wannabe Jack Morris, an old school guy who things rings are rad, doesn’t care for stats and likes to talk about himself on air.

I liked the broadcast duo of Ashby and Jerry Howarth, but I don’t blame Ashby for striking out on his own. And I liked it last season (and even this spring) when one of the other Sportsnet Radio 590 The Fan voices filled in: Dirk Hayhurst.

Hayhurst is a knowledgeable, intelligent and well spoken commentator. He was in the game long enough to know the mechanics of the game and is good enough in front of a mic to be able to express them in a way anyone can understand. He’s smart, knowing that baseball is supposed to be fun and doesn’t take himself all that seriously. And he’s got that Played The Game card that a vocal subset of people demand from broadcasters. He would’ve been a perfect replacement and he’s someone the Fan already has on their payroll: he does the Baseball Central broadcasts. I suppose he isn’t a big name like Morris and maybe won’t draw people. But anyone who’s drawn to Morris’ name will probably get tired of him after a couple of weeks. I know I already am, although I swear I heard Morris and Mike Wilner call a spring game and spend most of it arguing over how valid advanced stats are. But then again, this might’ve been a fever dream or some weird 3am emission from another dimension.

6. Decent crowd, I thought: no streakers, no brawls. Lotta suits, though.

Home Openers always bring a strange crowd to Jays games. Last year had shoving matches and a YOLO streaker. A few years back, I went to one where a wild brawl broke out in the 500s. This year? It seemed more reserved. Not as loud as I would’ve liked, but the Jays were struggling early and that kinda put a damper on things.

But there wasn’t any embarrassing stuff, mostly. There was those two jagoffs who ended up on Deadspin, but that was about it really. I was impressed, even if it seemed like the more normal crowd came from all the corporate types at the game. But hey: if the jays are a place to take a client, they’re moving up in the world. I just wonder what attendance will look like when the NHL playoffs start.

7. Colby Rasmus status: still rad, still has a wild jag of hair.

I promised six, but I felt this deserves it’s own section: yep, Rasmus still has either the best hair on the team or the worst. Still struggles at the plate too. I like the Shaggy Mop look he’s rocking right now. Is it too much to hope that he tries to top the cornrows this year?

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