Do you remember when you were excited for the baseball season to start? And, more importantly, do you remember the moment when you stopped being excited?
For some of you, I’m sure, it was almost immediately – the first game of the season, when the Jays left 13 men on base, Jason Grilli gave up a walk-off homer, and all of a sudden you remembered how bad September and the ALCS had been. Maybe it was during Francisco Liriano’s botched first outing of the season when he recorded one out and gave up five runs. Or maybe it was some unmemorable game in the middle of the seven-game losing streak. You looked at the Jays’ record, and it said 1-6, 1-7, 1-8.
You said to yourself, I waited all winter for this?
It’s early, people kept saying. And it was indeed early. You had no reason to believe that this team could possibly be as bad as they appeared to be. They had injuries, and they had bad luck, and they had absurdly poor performances that couldn’t possibly be sustainable. Even when they sank to a miserable 11 games under .500, you had to believe that they would get better.
Because, as Buck and Pat so often intoned, it’s a long season. I’m sure they meant it as a comfort, but it was also a threat, an invocation of months of unpleasantness still to come. So although you acknowledged how deep the grave was that had been dug, even though you accepted the mathematical improbability of a return from such a bad beginning, there was some part of you that believed this season could be at least a little bit of a success. They would get back to .500, at least. They would finish above the Orioles – they had to be able to do that.
It’s a long season. You had to get through it somehow.
By the end of May, the Jays had somehow clawed themselves back to one game below .500 – which, in this year’s astonishingly mediocre American League was well within the realm of contention. June, then, was all set up to be the month of the miraculous comeback, the vindication of all your internet outrage, the completion of a movie script-like run from worst to first.
Here’s how the story ended up unfolding:
- June 1st: The Jays entered play at 26-27, fresh off a five-game winning streak. The Yankees, sensing the growing joy from hundreds of miles away, rolled into town and crushed that joy, Marco Estrada, and your very soul itself. The Jays lost 12-2.
- June 3rd: After bouncing back for a win, the Jays entered play at 27-28, and were ready to do it right this time. They did not do it right. The Yankees were all over Joe Biagini, while the Jays couldn’t do anything against rookie Jordan Montgomery. They lost 7-0.
- June 5th: The Jays, again, bounced back from the dispiriting loss, managing a series split against the Yankees. They headed out west with a record of 28-29 to play the Oakland A’s, a team that is not good at all. The Jays failed to generate any offense against this not-good team, who scored all their runs on via homers from a guy named Ryon. Ryon with an O. The Jays lost 5-3.
- June 13th: At 31-32, and coming home from a winning quasi-home series in Seattle, the Jays probably hoped that 13 would prove to be their lucky number as they sent Marco Estrada to the mound. This time, the killers of joy were the Tampa Bay Rays, who hit, just, like, so many home runs off Marco. It was terrible. The Jays lost 8-1.
- June 16th: They entered this game at 32-33, and really? They lost to 11-4 to the goddamn White Sox? I don’t even remember this game, but I’m outraged on principle.
- June 20th: It would have been perfect if the Jays could have reached .500 on the home turf of the Texas Rangers. They just needed Good Liriano to show up instead of Bad Liriano. But the coin flip landed tails, and they got Bad Liriano. The Jays lost 6-1, falling to 34-36.
- June 22nd: All of the struggle, all of the one-step-forward-one-step-back – it had all lined up perfectly for this game, the final game of the series against the Rangers, a game started by the Jays de facto ace Marcus Stroman. This was the game where they were going to do it. And Stroman was out of the game by the fifth inning, having given up seven earned runs. The Jays lost 11-4.
So, in a way, it was like a movie script. A really, really bad movie script where none of the plot points are resolved, the characterization is inconsistent, nothing makes sense, and you don’t stop fuming for a week after you watch it.
They never got back to a game under .500.
Okay, so, maybe this isn’t their year. But at least Stroman is having a great season. Why don’t we trade Stroman? We could trade Donaldson, too. Imagine the return. Estrada’s not having a good year, but you could get a return for him. If anyone wants Liriano – I mean, I don’t know who would want him, but it’s possible! I mean, hey, at least we’re saving money on playoff tickets. At least we’re spending time with our families. At least we’re numb by now.
At least there’s only two months left of this.
It was August 20th, and it was a beautiful day for baseball at Wrigley Field. Perhaps it would have seemed even more beautiful had the Jays not lost their previous two games – but, even so, it’s hard to imagine a lovelier scene: the sun shining on the bricks and the ivy, the stands full of fans, and, best of all, the Jays carrying a two-run lead into the bottom of the 10th. It would be a sweet, well-played comeback victory, with the Cubs’ early lead finally erased in the 8th inning. The team was fired up. The fans who had made the trip to Wrigley were fired up. In a season that, day by day, inched closer to being undeniably lost, it was nice to be reminded that the baseball gods were capable of smiling on any team on a given day – even the Blue Jays.
Yes, it was only a two-run lead, and Roberto Osuna had been having a rough second half, but surely today –
– today –
– please, just let them win this time, just –
Oh, f*&! it.
On Friday, it’ll be the first day of autumn. It’s starting to feel like it, too. After a summer of unreasonable heat and apocalyptically smoky air, Vancouver is back to being its temperate, rainy self. The conifers are looking greener, and the oaks and the maples have begun to grow crisp and orange.
Autumn comes for me as both a relief and a burden. It is a relief to be free of the sun, whose light and heat are inescapable; it is a relief to be able to hide, wrapped in winter clothes, covered by an umbrella. In the summer, the days, with their long hours of sunlight, stretch out dauntingly ahead of me; autumn and winter days are a far more manageable length.
But as comfortable and familiar as the dark, rainy days of autumn are, they are also heralds of the passage of time. My birthday is on October 31st, and from there, it’s only two months until a new calendar year begins. Markers of time are abstract and arbitrary, but they are how we make sense of the world, the lines by which we have all agreed that we can measure our lives. Every year, I am afraid that I will measure my life and discover that it has come up a bit short. I will look back over the previous twelve months trying desperately to find some reason for having lived them, and I am afraid that I will find nothing.
I am turning 20 this year. That’s three years older than I ever thought I’d be. And I’m afraid that the extra time has been for nothing.
So I don’t look forward to the months ahead. But right now, all that doesn’t matter. Right now, I am watching the irredeemably bad, endlessly frustrating, 100-percent non-contending 2017 Toronto Blue Jays play baseball. After this game ends, there are only ten games left for this team before they face their own autumn reckoning. They are losing 15-5 to the Royals, and Raffy Lopez just hit a home run off Kelvin Herrera in the bottom of the ninth.
I’m enjoying it.
Lead Photo © Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports