Monday, April 25, 2011

Awkward Analogies and Nonsense

I'm going to try to write a coherent post, even though I slammed the back of my head against a stainless steel wall on Thursday night and so conjuring words and similes may be a little more difficult than usual. The one thing I've noticed about this haze is that it's made me feel like me, only moreso; the streamlined absentmindedness and chaotic randomness that is my brain has only been accentuated by the direct hit. Maybe that means I was dropped on the head as a kid or something.

----On a side note, try deciphering Nausea with limited brain functionality. I mean, I'm an existential misanthrope myself, but seems good old JP was very much more interested in the permutations of his own mind than in disseminating his ideas to the masses----

One thing that slamming my head into a wall (The Wall?..I don't know) has done has made me appreciative of all the concussive discourse surrounding Major League Baseball this past offseason. If I'm having trouble keeping up with my 16-year-old coworkers at my menial-labour minimum-wage job, I suppose I can understand how a concussion could make execution of the game of baseball at its highest level a more difficult task. Take today's game: had Felipe Lopez's instincts been delayed by a fraction of a second, this ball could well have killed him rather than merely ending Bautista's consecutive-plate-appearances-reached streak (fast forward to the 15 second mark of the vid).

That shot snapped eleven straight times-on-base for Jose, but it also seemed to sap the life out of the Jays on the afternoon as they went quickly and quietly to James Shields and his revamped delivery for the rest of the day. This weekend series with the Rays should have been a sobering one for Blue Jays fans, as likewise the previous week should have been. Against three superior AL East teams, the Jays went 3-6. If a good team should expect to win 2/3 in every series, then the Jays managed to lose 2/3. It's not a great thing, but it's not really a terrible thing, either - it's just a thing, and probably a fair indication of talent level. Anyone who expected a team that in a single day could field a lineup featuring (Donald?) Corey Patterson batting leadoff, Juan Rivera in the five-hole and John McDonald anywhere but the nine-spot could compete with the Beasts of the Easts was sorely mistaken. This is a punch-and-Judy offense, folks, with one lonely monster.
After the Jays' game concluded I clicked through my seedy pirated internet connection to another seedy pirated internet feed, to the Padres channel to watch the Doc slice and dice his way through that cream-cheese lineup, and it gave me pause. Sans Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres lineup makes the Jays' look like Murderer's Row. Before Will Venable's bounding single past Halladay's ankle with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Padres were in line to receive their seventh shutout of 2011. Their seventh. For comparison's sake, this afternoon's blanking was the first shutout the Jays have been involved with, period.

(There have been several losses where the team has only scored one run, but until tonight, no shutouts. For all their offensive woes, the Jays have been an average scoring team this year, with 78 runs in 21 games; the Pads have been the worst in baseball at just 62 runs in 21 games. Part of that is Petco, but most of it is Jose Bautista.)

Man, where am I going with this post? I'm veering around like a stupefied infielder tracking a popup only to dive valiantly at the last minute and have it snowcone out of his glove. Oh yes: mediocrity. The Blue Jays, this year, have it in spades.

Apparently, there were a couple of fairly exciting walkoff victories this weekend. I say apparently because last Tuesday night I was busy making my own 2011 baseball debut (as a weak-hitting corner infielder on the local junior team, if you must know) and on Good Friday I was busy working and/or regaining my bearings after my encounter with said wall. Whichever you prefer. And maybe not seeing these examples of the most exciting event that can happen on a baseball field has coloured my perceptions, but it occurs to me that usually a dramatic walkoff victory indicates, if nothing else, that the home team shouldn't have won the game in question. I'm not going to do serious research into it, because it's after midnight and I'm somewhat lazy and somewhat mentally incapacitated, but I do hark back to a game which happened almost two years ago, during the Last Days of (Saving Private?) Ryan. It was another Halladay start (there's unity in this post somewhere, I swear) - this one in May, 2009, in a game that the Jays somehow managed to drop to the Baltimore Orioles:

In that game, Halladay carried an 8-3 lead through seven and handed it over to Jesse Carlson, who promptly blew it or, you know, shat the bed, or whatever other expletives befit a pitcher who manages a 12.00 WHIP over the course of an appearance. The Jays then took an 11th-inning lead, only to blow it again in the bottom half, thanks to Ryan and the immortal Brian Wolfe. Must have been an interesting WPA graph, eh?
To summarize: the Orioles won a game that was in upper-quadrant Jays territory for all or parts of six innings, and was only in upper-quadrant Orioles territory for one pitch. That is your definition of a pilfered game. Let's take a look at Monday's game:
Not so drastic, but similar. It was solidly the Yankees' game pretty much from the top of the sixth to the bottom of the ninth, when the Rivera meltdown led to a relatively quick gimme win.

Selective sampling doesn't prove shit, I know, but I find it curious that in an extremely weak stretch the Jays have managed to muster much of their offense in ninth-inning surges, and I think it has to do, bluntly, with being consistently outclassed by superior opponents. Jacob Ruppert once famously said that his ideal game was "When the Yankees score eight runs in the first and slowly pull away." In short, the Yankees don't need your damn walkoff homers - they'd rather just consistently grind you into the dirt, and live with the occasional eleventh-inning jack by a Nolan Reimold or John McDonald.

Long story short, it's going to be a long season.

---Oh, and on a completely unrelated note: this running business has got to get under control. I will defend running to the death - it's a valuable weapon (probably even more valuable than some metrics give it credit for, in my uneducated opinion), but when you are trailing in the late innings by more than a single run, SHUT IT DOWN. Jose Bautista had no business getting picked off today, just like Corey had no business stealing third last weekend. Time and place, time and place---

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