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Opening Day 2019 and My Constant Desire to Understand Life

Or How I Stopped Worrying and Embraced the Rebuild

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
Baseball season is long!
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

March 28, 2019, did not start off like any other ordinary day for me. I wake up at 7:20 AM in a very groggy and irritable mood, which is far from my normally neutral to good awakenings.

I thought, “Maybe I didn’t sleep well?”

The night before, I fell asleep later than my usual time, an act I have done plenty of times beforehand without any issues the following morning. However, it didn’t take me long to realize the source of my low energy and poor mood this morning – I look over towards the other side of my bed, where I would normally see my boyfriend continue to slumber. It is empty. I know he’s up north due to work-related purposes, which would only last for one night. Even knowing all this, I miss him dearly. Also, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-4 in a penalty shot contest last night to the Philadelphia Flyers, after starting the game with a 2-0 lead. This loss did not sit well with me.

To shake myself out of this pseudo-awoken state, I start off my day with a couple of YouTube videos – A Steve Dangle video about last night’s Leafs game against the Flyers, and a video by ‘UrinatingTree’ called “The Hater’s Guide to the 2019 MLB Season (NL Edition)”. After I finish watching those videos, I take my medication, shower, and dress up for work – a 9-5 job at a bank.

Later in the day, everyone at work is preparing for month-end processes, which occurs on the last business day of every month. During a lull period, I look up the start time of Opening Day for the Jays’ 2019 season. To my surprise, I realize that the first pitch is right after 3:30 in the afternoon. I look at the time – 1:00. I know there are a couple of televisions in the lunch room, but they are either off or turned to CP24. There is little to no chance they would show Opening Day, especially in a season where the team is not expected to be good. I am sure I will miss the first 3-5 innings of the game.

At first, I thought, “I don’t really care about this season, anyway.”

However, as I search up stats on Fangraphs, a familiar name pops up on my screen – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Also, Kendrys Morales, but I already discuss my thoughts on that trade in a previous post. Vlad Jr.’s name, amazing statistics, and glowing scouting reports could make even the most casual of Jays fans excited. He’s injured, however, and Ross Atkins has made it clear that Vlad Jr. was “not ready” for the big leagues.

Arizona Fall League All Star Game
He’s a good one!
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

From Ross Atkins: “I just don’t see him as a major league player. He’s 19.”

This quote was a (poor) way for the team to give a rational excuse for keeping this hot prospect in the minors that doesn’t include any of the following words – Service, Time, and Manipulation. Besides, the Jays seemed pretty optimistic with picking Elvis Luciano, a 19-year old rookie pitcher who had not pitched past Rookie League at that point, in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.

This scenario is not too dissimilar to the manner in which the Chicago Cubs handled Kris Bryant a couple of years earlier. Of course, it makes sense to keep Vlad Jr. an extra year from the organization’s perspective. 2019 is a rebuild year, where his bat would probably not improve the team’s playoff chances given they will have to compete with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Furthermore, the Jays will gain an extra year from Vlad, just around the time that the team hopes to contend. These reasons would obviously not sit well with the Players Association, but I’m just a fan. I want to see my team succeed, no matter how the team does it.

Anyway, back on topic – After finishing up work, I pack up and head home. As I arrive, my mom welcomes me with questions about my day at work. At this point, I’m already missing an extra inning, but it would be rude for me to just walk past her and turn on the TV. Besides, neither team had gone on base with a base hit (at least, from the last time I checked the score).

After our chat, I run to my bedroom and turn on the TV, only to witness Jordan Zimmermann still pitching a perfect game against the Jays batters. Luckily, Marcus Stroman was no-hitting the Tigers, as well. In other words, with the exception of an excellent pitcher’s duel, I missed very little in terms of offense.

The 6th inning comes around, and fans at the Rogers Centre finally witness the first hit of the game – a two-out single from Nicholas Castellanos. That half of the inning ended with the runner stranded at first base, and very little happens until the bottom of the 7th inning.

At this point, Zimmermann is still pitching a perfect game. Twenty straight Jays batters fail to reach base, at least until Teoscar Hernandez gets on with an infield single up the middle. The throw is off target, but it doesn’t go very far. Hernandez stays at first base, despite the errant throw, and the inning ends with him stranded there.

We’re off to the 8th and 9th innings, where the fans witness back-to-back awesome innings from Joe Biagini and Ken Giles – striking out 6 straight Tigers batters!

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays
Both Ken Giles and Joe Biagini struck-out the side!
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

In the bottom of the 9th, the game is still tied 0-0. Not the most exciting of games if you’re a fan of offense, but the pitchers from both teams had been fantastic up until that point. Then, Brandon Drury lines a single to make the game interesting. Unfortunately, Vlad Jr. is not in the lineup, so he is left stranded.

We head to extra innings, where Jays fans are introduced to the team’s new relief pitcher Daniel Hudson. He starts off his Jays career well – a lead-off double and a two-run shot from Christin Stewart off an 0-2 hanging curveball. Ouch!

At this point, it is hard for me to believe a comeback would be possible with this current lineup. This isn’t the monster offense from 2015 or 2016, where even a 4-run deficit felt within reach. This roster has some power bats, but not many who can get on base at an above-average rate. Anyway, the Tigers closer Shane Greene comes in and earns the save in the bottom of the 10th, and the Jays lose 2-0.

Right after this game, my boyfriend arrives home from work, which turns my mood up to 11. I wish I could have witnessed a better game from the team’s batters, but at least Stroman and the relief pitchers (except Hudson) looked really good. I liked what I saw from Danny Jansen, especially his work behind the plate, and the team’s fielding overall doesn’t look too bad (for now).

Putting things into perspective, this is game 1 of 162. That’s nearly double the amount of games in an NBA and NHL season, both of which are themselves long seasons. It’s easy for a fan to lose oneself with the tiny details in what is essentially a bloody long road ahead.

In fact, it’s not difficult to see why some compare baseball to life itself, with all its ups and downs. When the team goes on a long win streak, we get excited about where the team is going. When the team goes on an inevitable losing streak, we grow frustrated and lose track of the bigger picture, sometimes assuming the worst possible scenarios will happen. As both a Jays and Leafs fan for many years, I know these feelings very well.

It’s the reason why coaches and players always say, “We just need to focus on the next game.” It is a philosophy that has kept me sane throughout multiple long and absurd seasons (unless, of course, Bob Davidson or Joe West is involved).

Whether the team wins or loses, these young players will have the opportunity to develop their game at the big league level. Like all big leaguers, they will experience both the joys of success as well as the hardships of failure. The same goes for the fans witnessing their performances, both good and bad. All fans deal with these complex emotions as the season progresses (and beyond), whether it’s from supporters of perennial bottom-dwellers or perennial contenders. In the end, as a fan, all I can do is sit back and enjoy the show.

After my boyfriend’s arrival, we head out to Smoke’s Poutinerie and stuff ourselves silly with the unhealthiest mix of starch, cheese, and meat. We spend the rest of the evening watching more fun and silly YouTube videos, including the entertaining and satisfying destruction of various things from the Waterjet Channel. As we grow tired, we brush our teeth and head to bed. I drift off into dreamland confident that I will wake up the next morning in a better mood. After all, I think I should take the advice of coaches and players, and focus on my life one day at a time.