It felt like the good times were never going to end. You discovered Blue Jays baseball sometime in August of 2015 and have been paying $100 for tickets ever since. It seemed a little steep but the team was winning so who were you to judge? But then came 2017. Edwin was gone and J.A. Happ hurt his shoulder. Now things are starting to feel a bit different – the ballpark isn’t quite as packed and the games feel a little less exciting.
While your friends have all traded in their Troy Tulowitzki jerseys for Auston Matthews ones, you’ve decided to stay the course. Congratulations and welcome to the club of devoted Blue Jays fans. We’re happy to have you on board. It’s not all altruistic though; we’re convinced if we get enough of you that the payroll might go up. Things might feel a little bit different now that the Jays are struggling to meet the high expectations they set the past two seasons, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great time rooting for the team nonetheless.
Us longtime Jays’ fans have 22 years of non-playoff experience to fall back on, so here are a few tips on what to expect and how to enjoy watching your favorite team when they aren’t tearing through the rest of the American League.
When the Jays were competing for a playoff spot, brawls were a pointless, obnoxiously macho, injury-inducing bane of a fan’s existence. With the team not currently contending for a playoff spot, brawls are now a pointless, obnoxiously macho, injury-inducing talking point that can break up the monotony of watching a team lose more games than they win.
This season we’ve seen the Angels, Rays, and Braves added to the Jays’ list of enemies. We’ve seen Marcus Stroman take over for Jose Bautista as the demonstrative, emotional athlete that fails to play the game the “right way”. We’ve also seen more players needlessly hit by 90-mile-per-hour pitches. While salacious drama of brawls might seem appealing to some, seeing Freddie Freeman sidelined for 10 weeks after getting hit on the wrist (likely accidentally) is just another reminder that these dust ups are not worth the damage they cause. With fewer things to talk about so far this season, don’t take the Gregg Zaun bait; brawling/retaliatory beanings are still ridiculous and need to stop.
Remember Starting Pitchers Actually Get Hurt
If you’ve only been paying attention since 2015, this season is teaching you a hard truth about baseball fandom: pitchers get hurt…a lot. With R.A. Dickey in Atlanta and Aaron Sanchez’s finger bleeding like he’s been repairing drones on his off-days, the Jays rotation depth has been tested early on.
While it might seem odd that the team has suffered so many injuries, trust us, its not. The Blue Jays once tried to run with a rotation that featured Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow and Rickey Romero. Mike Bolsinger and Mat Latos weren’t around back then, but Ramon Ortiz and Chien-Ming Wang sure were.
The Jays were incredibly lucky when it came to the health of their starting pitchers in 2015/16. Get used to seeing triple-A pitchers making starts for the team this year, and almost every year going forward.
There’s a Good Side to Dynamic Pricing
When the Jays are the hot ticket in town, it can get pricey to spend an afternoon at the ballpark. To make matters worse, in an effort to modernize the team’s business operations Mark Shapiro introduced dynamic ticket pricing last year. While dynamic pricing means paying more for tickets to important games and marquee matchups, it should mean paying less for tickets when the demand is low.
Now that you’re a die-hard Blue Jays fan, you get to reap the benefits of paying a measly $5 dollars to watch the Jays play the last place Reds at 12:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
With so many of the team’s starters on the disabled list, the Jays have been forced to rely on alternative options to hold the line while Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and J.A. Happ get healthy.
Sometimes these players are lauded prospects forced into big league duty long before their general manager and farm director would have liked. Other times they are minor league free agents like Chris Coghlan, signed to fill in when the team doesn’t have anyone internally that can.
It’s important to remember not to get too attached. Whether it’s a top-100 prospect or a journeyman free agent signing, remember that they likely aren’t long for the 25-man roster.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the time you do spend together. Chris Coghlan might not be challenging Josh Donaldson for starts at third base, but we will always have his famous leap over Yadier Molina. J.P. Arencibia might not have been the catcher of the future we hoped he was, but he sure had a great debut performance in Toronto. Cherish your time with these special additions to the roster for what they are, but don’t be heartbroken when they don’t work out the way you hoped.
Fun Positional Changes
The same injuries that have forced players like Chris Coghlan into starting duty have also forced John Gibbons into playing some of the Jays’ most recognizable players out of position. With Josh Donaldson on the DL, Russell Martin and Jose Bautista have made appearances at third base. It might not be as exciting as watching Ryan Goins pitch (although significantly less depressing), but it can be fun to see our star catcher and right fielder taking grounders at third.
This weekend, John Gibbons even suggested that he may be able to catch Marco Estrada. With the team recently designating Mike Ohlman for assignment, he just might have to. Now the question is, does Martin’s bat play at third, and Gibbons’ bat play at catcher…
It’s a Long Season…Like, Really Long.
At 21-26, the Jays sit 7.5 games out of the division lead and four games out of the second American League wild card spot. It feels like the Jays have dug themselves into a hole that they can’t dig out of. The team’s poor start to the season has left their odds at making the playoffs a lot smaller than they were two months ago, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. They certainly aren’t at zero.
The introduction of the second (and first, depending on how long you’ve been gone) Wild Card means teams are able to hang around the fringes of the playoff race even if they’ve started poorly – for context, the team still has 35 games to play BEFORE the All-Star Break alone. There’s still a lot of different ways this season can go.
Things don’t look great right now, but if you’re in it for the long haul, don’t worry too much about what things are going to look like in September. Plus, there’s plenty to enjoy: Josh Donaldson’s upcoming lion tattoo return to the lineup, Marcus Stroman HITTING home runs; Justin Smoak’s breakout (?), and the continued dominance of Marco Estrada or the haul of prospects he fetches at the trade deadline.
Even without the guarantee of “meaningful games in September TM”, the Jays are a team worth watching. And if they do happen to be in the playoff hunt come September, you’ll get to enjoy the self-satisfaction that comes with having watched them all along. Welcome to the club!
Lead Photo © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports