Monday was a good day. The Blue Jays had an off day, and I listened to parts of the Buffalo Bisons regular season finale on the radio. It was stress free. I'm not saying every single Blue Jays game has a direct correlation to my mood, but there's some connection between their game results and how I go about my day.
It's September again, and the Jays have a 1.4 percent chance of making the post-season. Local radio personalities might sell you on the possibility of a miracle happening, and yes, I'm hanging onto that thought too, because that's what you do when you're a fan. But per my not very complicated calculations, even if every other team ahead of us starts having fried chicken and drinking beer like the 2011 Boston Red Sox, we'll probably still finish a few games out.
Because of the timing of when I immigrated to Canada and started watching baseball, the Blue Jays have been my personal Groundhog Day for the past 20 years. I didn't start following them until the strike-shortened season of 1994, right after the glory days.
Fandom, in general, is an exercise in being melodramatic, so excuse me when I say that I can't imagine sticking with anything else in life that repeatedly frustrates me for two decades like a baseball team. It's not a destructive relationship, because it's not one at all. You kind of just hope for things, and talk yourself into something better than what the reality is. You get frustrated, have a private meltdown in August (or since the rise of Twitter, a very public one), and then turn it all over when spring training starts again.
I've never seen this team in the playoffs, which I'm sure puts me in the same position as fans younger than me. So when I think about the Jays, I remember some great individual moments, but I also remember very specific ones like sitting in the passenger seat of my mom's car in Stouffville when FAN590 announced that Roger Clemens had agreed to sign with Toronto. I remember being excited about Erik Hansen and Joey Hamilton, and thinking the Jose Cruze Jr. trade was a game changer. I remember starting a blog when I was at the University of Toronto computer lab, and writing a thousand words on why Ty Taubenheim can stabilize our rotation. Hope is a strange thing.
The last two years have been particularly tough. Aside from an 11-game winning streak, last year somehow went from this is the return to the glory years to how did this end up being the worst season I've ever watched? This season, the path to irrelevance in September was a different one. We were in first place for awhile, and was still in the lead for the second wild card at the start of August. But here we are again, all set to find reason to watch this team as they play out the string.
The second wild card, in many ways, have allowed teams like the Jays -- who are a mediocre baseball team, and have been worst than that since May -- to masquerade themselves as a contender even if they're hovering around .500 heading into the final month of the season. This kind of summed it up for me:
The Jays are 5 games out of a playoff spot. They've been 14, 13, 14, 13, and 18 games back on Sept. 1 over the past 5 years. Progress. Yay.— Navin Vaswani (@vaswani_) September 1, 2014
I discussed this with Melissa Couto, a sports reporter-editor at The Canadian Press who grew up as a Jays fan and started covering them in 2012.
"I see it as a good thing in the sense that it has certainly made things more interesting for a lot more teams in the last few weeks of the season especially. I don't know if it's a false sense of hope since once you're in the post-season, you're in," Melissa said. "Anything can happen in a one-and-done game so both wild card teams have a pretty much equal chance of advancing, even if one has a far better record than the other heading in. Would the better team lose three of five, or five of seven, or even two of three? Probably not. But when you have one shot it certainly makes things more interesting, whether it's fair or not."
Even if this season is lost, there's hope because there's always is. A rotation anchored by Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Daniel Norris seems promising. We might lose two of our outfielders this off-season, but Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are still pretty awesome.
But still, 20-plus years of following a team with no return is frustrating, especially given the question marks now surrounding ownership and what the plan is going forward.
"When you see a team do so well for a good chunk of the season and then come crumbling down, it's almost worse than if they had just played to a mediocre level all along. You and I remember when the Blue Jays won the World Series. I see kids growing up now, I've interviewed a lot of the players on the junior national team who were born after 1993 and that's just so strange for me," Melissa said. "Being a fan of this team is tough and it seems to be getting tougher. You want to think that the ownership wants to bring you a competitive team. But you hear things like players willing to give up part of their salary to pay Ervin Santana, or that the team can't take on any additional payroll at the trade deadline, and what are fans supposed to think? Maybe in a couple years they won't need to attract that top free agent pitcher or whoever because they've finally got enough homegrown talent to round out a decent rotation. This turned into a long-winded answer but the short version is I really don't know what to tell fans."
For me, it's about wanting to have actual memories of my own to talk about, and to pass own to my future kids and the next generation of baseball fans. I realized this week that I started following the Jays in fourth grade, now I'm turning married and turning 30 years old in a month. That's a long time.
But when the season ends, I'll turn the page and look forward to spring training again, and soon enough I'll be talking myself into next year's team. It happens every year. And to be honest, I'm pretty sure I've written a variation of this article every September.
I think that's the part I'd like to move on from one of these years.
Alex Wong writes as steven lebron and as you can tell, is a very frustrated Blue Jays fan. His work has been published at Grantland, VICE, Rolling Stone, Complex and more.