I’m enrolled in a class this semester in which we’re reading modernist novels, and for somebody who doesn’t identify as much of a literature nerd, I’ve felt extremely in over my head for the better part of the past two months. I only decided to start studying English on top of my science courses last spring, so this is my first class doing this type of work and I’ve had a hard time adjusting to it. I’m just not very good at reading a text and analyzing it – I think my brain works better that way with numbers.
We started reading a text in this class a few weeks ago that I absolutely detested for its complete lack of a scintillating plot and sentences that run on for entire paragraphs: In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Although my professor insisted that this is a popular book and people enjoy it, I refused to believe her on the grounds that it took all of my might to read more than a few pages at a time without falling asleep or becoming angry at how different it is from anything I have ever read before in my life. Every class I’d come in and throughout the discussions the professor would promise me that I’d eventually fall in love with Proust’s seemingly endless sentences and his plotless book.
She was right. Somehow, despite being devoid of all plot, Proust’s writing is intoxicating because it takes random details and reflects on them. He takes objects from his (fictional) everyday life and uses them as triggers to remember incidents and times in his life as a child. The book is a masterpiece of memory, easily the most relatable piece of writing I have ever read, as it seems like every topic he delves into can somehow be tied into every person’s life in one way or another.
How does this have anything to do with baseball, and specifically about the Blue Jays? We all watch this sport with only one purpose in mind: to make memories. We watch it so twenty years down the line we can say that we remember that time when Jose Bautista did this or Marcus Stroman did that. This makes the coming off-season an especially interesting one for the Blue Jays because they are at a crossroads of sorts.
If the Blue Jays were anything in 2017, it was old. They got injured so much, because they were old. Being baseball’s oldest team meant that injuries would be more common. That fact leads many people to hope for the club to sell their assets this winter and try again to compete in a few years. If you read social media sites, you’ll see plenty of people clamouring for an Astros or Cubs-style rebuild.
While the front office may have to take a different outlook, as a viewer, that notion is ridiculous. Any talk of that sort should not even be considered a plausible option. The path forward for the Blue Jays should be to just go for it again in 2018, not to give up before the season even starts. Nobody remembers a bad team and nobody watches baseball to cheer for a bad team. We cheer because we want to be excited by the product on the field. We cheer because we want memories that we can enjoy for a lifetime. Baseball is about memories.
With that said, there is only one way the Blue Jays should operate this winter. Full speed ahead. Josh Donaldson shouldn’t be traded, because there is no realistic scenario in which trading arguably the best third baseman in baseball makes the club better in 2018. You may not have noticed because he missed almost two months due to injury, but Donaldson had another excellent season in 2017. It was the first time since he became a star that Donaldson missed significant time due to injury and just because something happens once doesn’t mean it will happen again. I think it’s safer to say Donaldson will be as healthy as he was from 2013-2016 in 2018, than to say he will repeat his injury woes from 2017. And because of that, there is really no case where Donaldson provides more value to the Blue Jays as a member of another club than he does as a regular playing everyday next year for Toronto.
However, Donaldson can’t push this team to the playoffs alone, so keeping him only makes sense if management is committed to building a not-terrible team around him. As I wrote about last month, that doesn’t require much, rather it may just be about creating a playable floor, allowing the team to not give hundreds of at-bats to players that are costing them wins every time they take the field.
When it comes down to it, even if the Blue Jays go for it and fail miserably, everybody will remember that they tried. The 2013 season might have been one of the most disappointing seasons as a Blue Jays fan, but it was still so memorable because they tried to win, and that’s all that really matters. Like a Proustian sentence, the baseball season is seemingly endless, but what gets you through it is that you’re reading about memories – and making memories of your own. Getting through the exhausting baseball season requires the same thing, and if the Blue Jays want to make 2018 tolerable, it’s going to need to start next month, with a plan of building, not a plan of waiving the white flag.
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