The baseball season is officially underway. That means that for the next six (and hopefully seven) months, we will have the Blue Jays to keep us company. As ticket prices are rising and TV packages becoming more expensive, we’re all spending more money on baseball than ever before (obligatory “thanks, Rogers!”). With 162 games on the docket, you can’t watch them all. In an effort to optimize your viewing experience, I’ve compiled a list of important games and dates during the 2017 Blue Jays season. Use it to decide when you should head down to the stadium or turn on your TV to see Canada’s team (a sentiment that is especially true now that NHL players aren’t allowed to play in the Olympics).
May 8-10 vs. Cleveland – 2016 ALCS Rematch
There will be no shortage of storylines when the Jays face their 2016 ALCS opponents. Who had a worse experience in free agency – former Blue Jay Edwin Encarnacion, or current Blue Jay Jose Bautista? How does conservative pundit/hip-hop artist/Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer feel about liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? Will Terry Francona’s $44-dollar-a-day ice cream habit ruin Cleveland’s chances of getting back to the World Series?
With Ryan Meritt and Mike Clevinger in the minor leagues, and Dan Otero and Zach McAllister buried in middle relief, the Jays won’t have to contend with the dominant Cleveland pitching that shut them down in the ALCS. Instead facing off against Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar.
May 29-31 vs. Cincinnati Reds – Joey Votto Returns Home
Canada’s favorite (and Marty Brennaman’s least favorite) baseball son returns home when Votto and his Cincinnati Reds take on the Jays at the end of May. Anyone who hasn’t had the chance to watch Votto play should make this series a priority. Depending on how the next few seasons play out, Votto may go down as the greatest Canadian baseball player ever. Now 33, Votto has also begun to think about his legacy within the game and begun to promote his Canadian-inspired brand of democratic socialism around the National League.
While there have been occasional rumors that Votto may be traded to his hometown Blue Jays, Canadian baseball fans will likely have to settle for watching him play first base for the Reds in the Rogers Centre. And maybe pitch in relief – the Reds pitching is not good.
June 1 at New York Yankees – Leafs and Raptors Eliminated
With the Raptors and Leafs set to make the playoffs, the Jays are going to be competing for dollars and eyeballs during the first part of the baseball season. If you’re looking to catch a Jays game in person, this might keep the now dynamic ticket prices reasonable throughout April and May. Just beware that by early June the Jays will be the only game in town and you will once again be forced to share the Rogers Centre grandstands with disappointed Auston Matthews fans (at least until mid September).
June 5 at Oakland A’s –Marco Estrada’s Back Must Survive a Cross-Continent Flight
Marco Estrada has been dominant for the Blue Jays since stepping into the rotation part way through 2015. The only thing holding back the Blue Jays FIP-busting ace is his actual back – Estrada struggled with back injuries throughout the 2016 season.
After finishing a three-game series in New York on Sunday afternoon, the club will then fly to the west coast to play the A’s and Mariners. Be on the lookout for how Estrada and his back respond to sitting through the five-hour airplane ride that comes when the Jays have to play AL West teams on their turf. Hopefully the newly revamped High Performance department has a solution. Or they shell out and get Estrada one of those first-class pods so he can lie down during the flight.
June 9 at Seattle Mariners – John Gibbons’ Birthday
Jays skipper John Gibbons celebrates his 55th birthday on June 8th while the team is in the middle of their west coast road trip. Keep an eye on the Blue Jays manager the next night in Seattle. If Gibby gets tossed early on, it might be to sleep off his “flu-like symptoms” instead of being upset over the ump’s strike zone.
June 27-29 vs. Baltimore Orioles – Offensive Statistics Stabilize
It can be dangerous to read too much into early season results. If Josh Donaldson is hitting .100 or Aaron Sanchez has a 5.50 ERA after three weeks don’t sweat it. Things take time to stabilize. According to Fangraphs, that amount of time is about 320 at-bats for slugging percentage, 120 for walk rate and 60 for strikeout rate. By the time Baltimore comes to town at the end of June, we should know if Kevin Pillar is a more patient hitter or Justin Smoak really is capable of producing more than his career to date indicates. Promote Rowdy Tellez accordingly.
July 1 vs. Boston Red Sox – Canada Day
If you want to get day drunk without the guilt of missing work, the Canada Day classic is for you. If you’re lucky, you might get to see the Jays knock David Price and his semi-attached elbow around the Rogers Centre.
August 1 at Chicago White Sox – Non-Waiver Trade Deadline Passes
Our first chance to see the shiny new players that Ross Atkins and company acquire for the pennant race. Last year, the front office set an unreasonably high bar when they were able to acquire Francisco Liriano and prospects at the same time by trading Drew Hutchison to Pittsburgh. Maybe this season the Jays will get Eric Hosmer and triple-A depth for Dominic Leone or something.
September 9 vs. Detroit Tigers – Peanut Reduced Game Promotional Day
On the surface, nut-reduced days at the ballpark look like an inclusive way to ensure fans of the team who suffer from allergies are able to come down to the stadium. But lurking below the surface is a Mark Shapiro-generated conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. It is one that aims at getting Blue Jay fans to spend their concession dollars on more expensive, elaborate snacks, thus generating more profits than traditional peanut sales for Rogers to pocket. But likely the first one. I see you Mark, I see you.
Lead Photo © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports