The Night When The Upper Deck Went Insane…Literally

It’s just before noon on Tuesday, about 17 hours after the first pitch from last night’s disaster of a ballgame. 

17 long hours have passed, and I still can’t believe what happened. 

I’m not talking about the game itself.  That much is obvious.  The Jays stunk.  They were basically run off the field by a Tigers team that I don’t even really consider to be all that great.  Every aspect of their game was awful last night – offense, defense, pitching, baserunning, everything.

No, what I can’t believe was what happened to the upper deck, section 519 specifically, beginning in the 5th.

A group of five people went insane.  Literally insane.  Lost their minds, off their rockers, googly-eyed insane. 

It was all at once crazy, terrifying, and hilarious.

Two of the fans have been profiled here before – the inmitable Bobby and Pingu.  They were joined by two women and one other man.  After a very quiet and docile first few innings, something happened.  My guess is that their medication wore off.  Because in the 5th, all hell broke loose.

It began with Pingu, standing up and addressing a quiet Rogers Centre:

“ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING! IS THERE ANYBODY HERE STILL AWAKE?”

Then the quotes flew in quick succession:

“Hey crowd, pay some more on your Rogers bill so we can get some better players!”

“We’re #5 after tonight.  We can’t go any lower because there aren’t any more teams!”

“If we had more money we could bring back Vernon Wells, Shaun Markonn, and Ray Holiday!” (I’m trying to spell the names like he pronounced them.)

“That’s what you get when you put Tigers against Blue Jays . The Tigers have eaten so many birds they must have fur balls!”

Then Bobby piped up:

“Come on you Puke-a-maniacs!”

“See all these blue seats? Those are the smart people who aren’t here.  We all have a mental defect cause we’re here!  We’re humanoids brother!”

“Yum yum yum.  Grrrrr.  Grrrr.  Arrrrrr.” (At this point he was on his feet acting like a man-eating giant by pretending to eat the players on the field.  Not joking.)

“Oh, it’s Bautista!  SSSTTTEEERRROOOIIIDDDSSS!!!! SSSTTTEEERRROOOIIIDDDSSS!!!!.  What?  I have the right to question him because he went from 13 HR to 54 HR in one year.  And I bought a ticket!  Grrr.. Yumm yumyum.  Arrrr.rrrr.r.r.rrrr”

Then the ultimate.  The women’s meds wore off and the floodgates opened:

“My Jays are sore losers!”

“Come on you donkey, get a hit!”

“Come on you donkey, get off your wagon!”

“When donkeys fly you might get a hit, when donkeys fly!”

“Come on you sore losers!  Come on you chicken fingers!  Come on chicken liver!  Come on chicken lovers!  Do it horse feathers!  Do it Mickey Mouse!  Swing the bat Duck Feet!  Come on you rat tails!”

“I hate Deee-troy-it!  I hate, hate, hate, hate them!  It’s not fair!”

“This game is boring!”

“Ahhh sh*t!  He swung and missed!”

“Get your act together duck feet!”

“Bautista can’t hit tonight.  Maybe he’ll get one more ball and have a walk.  DON’T HIT HIM!” (J-Bau was already 2 for 2 with a single, double, walk, and RBI.)

“Why is everybody leaving?  That’s not nice!  This is my home!  Be nice to the Jays!  Screw you Edwin you stupid donkey!”

After that comment, an usher told them that maybe the team is doing so poorly because they are being so mean, to which one of the women responded with:

“I love the Jays.  I love Toronto.  I LOVE IT HERE!  And I hate Dee-Troy-It.  And I LOVE Bosssston!”

Things got so out of control that the same Rogers Centre usher actually came up to us to apologize, saying that they are here all the time.  We didn’t care – it was bonus entertainment! 

The last word of the night went to Pingu:

“Raise your hand if you want a winning team in the next 25 years.  Now somebody please tell me the score of the Vancouver hoooooooockey game!”

For your entertainment, please enjoy the following audio recording.  It will feel like you are right in the action!

Isanity at the Rogers Centre

500 Level Fan of the Game – No-Hitter Version

It was a terrible decision, but one that I had to make: I was unable to go to the game on Saturday. Thus, I missed seeing in person one of the most rare events that baseball has to offer – a no-hitter.

Thankfully I had some 500 Level Fan scouts at the game, and one was able to come away with a great piece about a drunk and obnoxious Tigers fan. Thanks @TOSocialEvents!

“The 5 inning SuperFan”

The roof was open. The sun was shining. The crowd was big. The fans were in good spirits. And Justin Verlander threw a no hitter, facing the minimum 27 batters and coming literally within one pitch of a perfect game. Forget that the Jays played terribly and got blown out – the respectful crowd at The Rogers Center still gave Verlander a standing ovation. By that point in the game however this guy didn’t even seem to care. Ladies and gentleman I give you… The 5 inning SuperFan.

Initially I had actually thought about calling this post “The Tigers fan who thought he was a Yankees fan.” He was obnoxious. He was vocal. He was rude. But most importantly he thought his team was God’s gift to baseball and he wanted everyone to know it. I mentioned above that he didn’t seem to care about the no hitter but that was a far cry from the opinions he voiced through the first 5 innings. Seemingly with every pitch he had a comment.

“Settle under that Inge, you got it buddy, no problem, nice grab Inge.” (routine inflied fly)

“Here comes an easy out.” (every jays batter – too bad this one proved true)

“Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsss” (consistently with his group of friends)

“Oh that’s in there for a strike.” (seemingly every pitch, ball or strike)

And the list goes on and on and on. I think we have all seen these people before and you get the

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point. Literally this guy was cheering and jeering with every pitch. That was of course until the Bud Light Limes got the better of him. After the 5th inning he barely spoke, even to his friends seated with him in section 517. He made one slurred comment in the bottom of the 8th but that was all.

The guy didn’t even say a word… NOT ONE WORD… when Verlander completed the no hitter. He didn’t say ANYTHING when JP walked to spoil the perfect game. With two outs in the 9th I looked back and he was playing with his phone. Are you kidding me!!! The 25,000 plus that remained to watch the conclusion of the game even rooted for the opposing pitcher in a 9-0 romp. The 5 inning SuperFan however did not utter a single word and by that point I was proud that he wasn’t a Jays fan.

Three Things From Week Six

Verlander was filthy on Saturday (from daylife.com)

 

Beginning with three games in a place where they can’t win and ending with a series against a long-time rival, week six of the season wasn’t kind to the Jays.

Put Toronto in Tampa’s Tropicana field and bad things will likely occur.  Put Toronto in Tampa against David Price and you have a recipe for disaster.  After losing two of three to the Rays, the Jays have now lost 12 consecutive series in Tampa Bay dating back to 2007.  The finale of the series saw Toronto completely bewildered by Price, who is now 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA against the club.  Wow.

Throw in a little history on Saturday and week 6 is clearly one this team would like to forget.

Here are three things from week 6.

Week 6: May 2 – 8

Record: 2 – 4

1. Oh No-No

It had happened three times before in franchise history.

May 5, 1981 by Len Barker of the Indians.

June 29, 1990 by Dave Stewart of the A’s.

May 1, 1991 by Nolan Ryan of the Rangers.

And now, we can add a fourth.

May 7, 2011 by Justin Verlander of the Tigers.

For the fourth time the Toronto Blue Jays were the victim of a no-hitter.

Verlander was unreal on Saturday, masterfully shutting Toronto down one batter at a time.  He threw 108 pitches (74 for strikes) and struck out four.  If not for an incredible at-bat by J.P. Arencibia in the 8th (an eventual 12 pitch walk), Verlander would have been perfect.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of his performance was the fact that he was still exceeding 100 MPH in the 9th inning.  The Jays truly had no chance.

2. Where’s the Offense?

Talk about offensive doldrums. 

Last week was brutal in terms of run scoring for the Jays.  Six games played and only 15 runs scored – 7 of which came in one game.  Toronto also only managed 42 hits, an average of 7 per game, and only once were they able to reach double digits. 

With Bautista out of the lineup for most of the week with neck spasms, the onus fell on the rest of the team to pick up the slack.  Aside from Lind and Rivera, everybody failed.  Miserably.

Take a look at how some of the Jays hitters fared:

Rajai Davis – 3 for 23, .130 AVG, .261 OPS, 4 K

Edwin Encarnacion – 5 for 20, .250 AVG, .686 OPS, 3 K, 1 RBI

David Cooper – 1 for 14, .071 AVG, .214 OPS, 3 K, 1 RBI

Yunel Escobar – 4 for 21, .190 AVG, .482 OPS, 2 K

J.P. Arencibia – 3 for 16, .188 AVG, .485 OPS, 2 RBI

John Farrell tried several different lineups, even moving Davis down to the bottom of the order, but nothing seemed to work.  Sure they faced some tough pitchers, but obviously the Jays hitters are going to have to provide more production than that.

3. Adam Lind 09

In 2009 Adam Lind won a Silver Slugger award by hitting .305 with 35 HR, 114 RBI, and a .932 OPS.

In 2010 Adam Lind fell apart, batting only .237, slugging 12 fewer home runs, and driving in 42 fewer runs.

Well it looks like Lind v.09 is back.  Though tightness in his back caused him to miss Sunday’s game and forced the end of his 11-game hitting streak, he remains one of the hottest players in the AL.  He was the only Jay who did any damage in Tampa (.636 AVG, 1.576 OPS, 1 HR, 3 RBI), and went 2 for 5 with another home run on Friday night. 

Since bottoming out at a .232 clip on Easter Sunday, Lind has exploded.  In 12 games he has 21 hits, a .457 AVG and 1.318 OPS, along with 6 HR and 15 RBI. 

If he can find it in his heart to give Aaron Hill a sip of the 2009 juice, the Jays might really be ready to do some damage.

Interview With Anthony Gose

When the trade went down last July, it shocked a lot of people. 

Power hitting, triple-A first baseman Brett Wallace for speedy single-A OF Anthony Gose?  Huh?

But if there is anything we have learned as Blue Jay fans over the past year it is this: always trust Alex Anthopoulos. 

Gose started out this season in double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  Brian Moynahan from busleaguesbaseball.com recently sat down with Gose, and was kind enough to send me a link to the interview.

Thanks Brian.

Enjoy!

Man, It Sucks To Be An Umpire

A very quick post about umpires:

It must suck to be one.

There are many reasons why, including the awful uniforms, but here are the biggest:

– If you do a great job, nobody every knows who you are.

– You only gain notoriety by screwing up: see Joyce, Jim (for the perfect game screw up), Cuzzi, Phil (for poor calls in the playoffs a few years ago), or West, Joe (for ejecting players and managers from games seemingly at random).

– Making a call that you believe is right might put you in danger (see Upton, B.J. from yesterday’s game).

– There is no year-end public recognition. A quick Google search for “Umpire of the Year” return only references to cricket.

But the biggest reason of all has to do with this screen capture:

I have never had the chance to call balls and strikes, so I can’t say with 100% accuracy, but I would bet that it is hard. Trying to determine if an 89 mile-per-hour curve ball or a 98 MPH fast ball crossed the plate between the knees and chest in less than half a second sounds tough.

But now viewers can tell for certain when an ump

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made a mistake. In that screen capture, the first pitch was clearly off the plate but called a strike. Pitch two was over the plate, closer than the first pitch, yet called a ball. Upsetting for Jays fans to be sure, but downright infuriating for pitcher Kyle Drabek who got the bad call and later gave up a sac fly.

So next time an ump makes a bad call remember one thing before you boo him:

He has a tough job.

Then boo him.

Validated! (Me and Jo-Jo)

Yesterday I wrote this:

“So yes, the only reason Jo-Jo Reyes is still in the starting rotation is because he can’t be sent down without possibly losing him.

But guess what?

None of that matters.  None of the bad stats, none of the poor performances, none of the awful control.  None of that stuff means anything if Reyes goes out tonight and dominates. “

Well, Reyes did it.  He proved that he belongs in the rotation, and he proved me right. 

After 6 innings of 4 hit, 1 walk, 1 run, 4 strikeout pitching, adulation and compliments filled Twitter last night.  Jo-Jo Reyes belongs!

Sure there was a blown save, but there will be blown saves.  There were baserunning mistakes, but there will be baserunning mistakes.  There were missed opportunities, but again, there will be missed opportunities.

What there wasn’t was a disaster of a start.

Which is key, because there would have been no more starts.

Good work Jo-Jo.  We’ll see you next week.

Put Up Or Shut Up Time for Jo-Jo

When Jo-Jo Reyes made the starting rotation out of spring training it seemed more like a reward for his excellent spring than it did a necessity because he was out of options.

But tonight, with Jo-Jo Reyes set to make his sixth start against the Rays in Tampa, it seems that the only reason he’s still here is BECAUSE he is out of options. 

It certainly has nothing to do with his performance.

Through five starts, Reyes hasn’t only been bad, he’s been awful.  Terrible.  Horrendous.

His ERA is bad (5.48).  His WHIP is bad (1.83).  His control is bad (4 hit batters).  His stamina is bad (just over 4.5 innings per start).  His ERA should actually be worse, but a questionable error call against Encarnacion allowed six (6!!!) runs to score unearned.  Include those and his ERA jumps to 7.82.

He’s been bad at home (7.84 ERA).  He’s been bad on the road (0-2, 1.97 WHIP).

He is bad against right handed batters (.338 average and .895 OPS against).  He is bad against left handed batters (.333 average and .958 OPS against).

He’s been roughed up in the early parts of games (6.14 ERA, .957 OPS against in the first three innings), and he’s been roughed up in the middle of games (5.68 ERA, .991 OPS against in innings 4-6).

He’s been bad in day games (0-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.90 WHIP).  He’s been bad in night games (6.23 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, .939 OPS against).

He seems to lack a killer instinct, as he’s been horrible with 2 outs in an inning (.424 average and 1.109 OPS against) and even worse with 2 outs and runners in scoring position (.526 average and 1.414 OPS against).

So yes, the only reason Jo-Jo Reyes is still in the starting rotation is because he can’t be sent down without possibly losing him.

But guess what?

None of that matters.  None of the bad stats, none of the poor performances, none of the awful control.  None of that stuff means anything if Reyes goes out tonight and dominates. 

The Blue Jays need it, especially after back-to-back rough outings from Drabek and Litsch. 

The fans need it, especially after two straight losses to the Yankees.

Jo-Jo Reyes needs it.

And for all the stats presented above that are negative, here is something positive to consider before first pitch tonight: even starts.

In odd numbered starts this season (i.e. Start 1, 3, and 5) Reyes has combined to pitch 9 innings (average of 3 per start), and given up 9 ER, 7 BB, 1 HR, and 21 H.  In his two even numbered starts (2 and 4) he has pitched 14 innings (7 per start) and allowed 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 HR, and 12 H.

In other words, there may be hope.

And there better be, or else this could be the end of Mr. Reyes.

Three Things From Week Five

Juan Rivera - back from the dead (from zimbio.com)

 

The fifth week of the schedule saw Toronto embark on a 10-game road trip…a very difficult 10-game road trip.

Four games in Texas against the defending American League champions.  Three games in the Bronx against the defending AL Wild Card winning Yankees.  The trip concludes this week with three games in Tampa against the defending AL East champion Rays.  Ouch.

But so far so good.  Despite dropping the final two games in  Yankee Stadium, the Jays began the trip with a winning record.  The offense came alive in Texas, and Ricky Romero befuddled the Yankees all night long on Friday.  

Here are three things from week 5.

Week 5: April 25 – May 1

Record: 4 – 3

1. That’s not a corpse, that’s Juan Rivera!

He lives!  All rejoice! 

After an absolutely horrendous start to the season, Juan Rivera shook off the cobwebs and awoke last week.  Entering the week on a mini three-game hitting streak, Rivera promptly extended it to nine games before being held to an 0-fer against the Yankees on Sunday.

Overall he put up very solid numbers: 10 for 25, .400 AVG, 6 walks to 3 strikeouts, .516 OBP, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.196 OPS.  He was no longer the “easy out” that he was throughout the first four weeks of 2011.

But what’s most important about Rivera’s resurgence is not his personal stats.  It’s not him increasing his trade value (although that can’t hurt).  It’s not even so much about getting wins (though again, that’s nice too).  No, the most important part is the lineup protection that a hot Rivera (and a hot Lind) provides for Jose Bautista.  Pitchers may be less inclined to walk J-Bau knowing that Rivera is no longer a member of the walking dead.

2. Run Rajai Run

When Alex Anthopoulos acquired Rajai Davis from the A’s in the offseason, visions of base thievery ran through Jays fans heads.  Davis was coming off two seasons where he swiped a combined 91 bases.  The Blue Jays as a team stole only 131 in those years.

But Rajai went down with an ankle injury early in the season.  At the time he wasn’t hitting and he wasn’t running.  But it’s funny what a trip to the 15-day DL will do to a guy.  Now fully healthy, Davis made his return to the lineup on Friday in New York, and promptly caused havoc on the basepaths.

He reached base in 50% of his plate appearances (4 hits, 3 walks), scored three runs, and stole five bases – two on Friday night, and three more yesterday.  There is little doubt that he has the speed to steal, and even less doubt that he has the green light at all times from John Farrell.  If he can continue to get on-base at an above-average pace, there’s no telling how many extra bags he’ll take this year.

3. Bullpen Bonanza

A strong bullpen is one of the keys of success for any major league club.  Think back to the World Series winning teams for Toronto in ’92 and ’93 with Henke, Ward, Leiter, Timlin, and Wells.  Think of the Yankees with Mariano Rivera.  And think of the 2011 version of the Toronto Blue Jays with Casey Janssen, Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor, Carlos Villanueva, Shawn Camp, and Marc Rzepczynski. 

That’s right: this year’s edition of the Blue Jays ‘pen is right up there near the top of the league.  In the American League they rank second in ERA (2.71, behind the Angels), third in hits allowed (58), tied for first in strikeouts (76), and first by a mile in both WHIP (1.03) and opponent’s batting average (.177).  And that is including 5.1 woeful innings from Luis Perez and David Purcey.

While everybody in the bullpen has been great, three men stick out above the rest.  Janssen has allowed just one run in 11.1 IP for an ERA of 0.79.  Rzep has become the new Scott Downs, holding left-handed hitters to a paltry .048 AVG and .278 OPS.  And long reliever Villanueva leads the team with 15.2 IP in relief, allowing only 4 hits and 3 runs for a 1.72 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.

The past week saw the bullpen blow away the Rangers and Yankees, giving the Jays a chance to win every game despite some rocky starts from Jo-Jo Reyes, Jessie Litsch, and Kyle Drabek.  Toronto’s relievers tossed 25 innings over the seven games, allowing only three runs and 10 hits for a 1.08 ERA and 0.76 WHIP.  They actually grew stronger as the week went on, shutting down the Yankees to the tune of one run and two hits allowed in 10.2 IP.  Very impressive.