Monday, May 16, 2011

Highs and Lows

On Monday, May 9 the Blue Jays played the Detroit Tigers. On Monday, May 16, the Blue Jays will play the Detroit Tigers once again. What a difference a week makes.

Last week, Jays fans were still reeling the emotional beatdown of a no-hitter, from an injury-riddled offense and from the learning curve of a babyfaced rotation. Watching a mediocre team drop to a whole five games under .500, hands wrung everywhere as jaded fans called for the heads of the stopgaps and begged for the summoning of the vaunted prospects. Batters Box especially was a hotbed of the kind of disgust that would have put SOSH to shame.

Since the shitshow that was the final game against the Tigers, we've seen two straight series sweeps, we've seen Jose Bautista catapult his way to the forefront of the baseball consciousness (as Keith Law said today, "he could fall off considerably and still run away with the AL MVP award"), and we've seen up close and personal what a franchise in disrepair looks like. It's not a team that trades away its two best pitchers in consecutive offseasons only to sit at .500 at the quarter-pole; it's a team that was supposed to win its division playing with the injured corpses of two superstars, without the injured corpse of another, and relegating one of their only decent starters to a long relief role. If I had to use one word to describe the Twins' season, it might be: fucked.

Does a five-game win streak mean anything in the larger scheme? Does a no-hitter, really? At the end of the day, they're just individual games, marks on the tree-bark to pass the days. Tonight the Jays send Kyle Drabek and his stratospheric walk rate to the hill and anything could happen. No-no redux? Maybe. Can't make it through the second? Possibly. (Maybe slightly more likely.)
It's not playoffs (or: PLAYOFFS!), but in its own way the unpredictability of a bad team is more interesting than the slow, professional grind of a Red Sox-Yankee game, isn't it? Just as Jays fans were losing patience with the overblown running game, it was pair of tenth-inning stolen bases that sparked victory over the Red Sox and reminded us what the utility of a stolen base is. Dave Roberts in the 2004 ALCS was a gamechanger, and that's what the Rajai-created run on Tuesday reminded me of. That's not to say Juan Rivera should try stealing third (maybe ever again). But it certainly was refreshing.

Likewise, when you're throwing Brandon Morrow, Jojo Reyes and Kyle Drabek in a do-nothing season, one would do well to live vicariously through their highs and lows rather than the team's. If, in a couple of years, a more-confident Drabek can bring his control back to its minor league level (which was significantly less alarming than what he's done this year), then we can one day look fondly back on his tentative rookie stylings. If Jose Bautista continues to put up the best offensive season in baseball history, we can sit back and admire it for what it is, and not get caught up in the fact that his tablesetter is Corey (30-30) Patterson, bane of the stathead's existence.

This team is bound to struggle along the way, but if people weren't drawn to the struggle, then Johnny Mac wouldn't have his fan base. When Morrow and Drabek grow grizzled, weathered and impersonal like a certain machine, we can remember how we saw them when they were still...just kids.

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