Full House Home Opener
I was one of the 48 871 who was at the Rogers Centre for the home opener of 2016. Marcus Stroman pitching. Josh Donaldson playing despite his calf strain. The place – was – packed! Josh gets presented his AL MVP award by George Bell. New logos are unveiled. And the players run onto the field with their names announced, but oops! The announcer skips Michael Saunders who runs out while the announcer’s already moved on to Russell Martin. Ouch! The nice, polite Canadian, who’s dreamed of playing for the Blue Jays, who missed ALL of last season with a busted knee, who no one talked about because we all talked about Stroman’s busted knee, finally gets to start the 2016 Home Opener…and they skip his name…
What else was funny? I don’t know how many times clips from last year’s playoffs will be on the Jumbotron this season, but I loved seeing David Price up there celebrating with the Jays, and he and his team watching it from the Boston dugout.
In 2015, the Blue Jays went 93-69 scoring a total of 891 runs, by far the most runs in the League. Now, how many times did the Jays score 7 or more runs? 57 times.
How many times did the Jays LOSE when they scored 7 or more runs? 4.
So the probability of winning when they scored at least 7? 93%.
Well, unfortunately Friday night’s game went against the odds.
The bottom of the 4th was an awesome half inning. The Jays went into it behind 2-1, but then, Michael Saunders gets on base, Russell Martin gets his first hit of the season, Ryan Goins gets on, then Darwin Barney hits a single and Saunders scores. Kevin Pillar is then hit by pitch right in the helmet, and Martin scores. (You can tell Pillar used to play football, because he never seems too bothered by getting hit in the head!). So with the bases still loaded and no one out, who comes to bat but the AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, who proceeds to hit the 2nd Grand Slam of his career! So perfect, and we ultimately leave the inning with a 7-2 lead.
So what happened? How did we end up losing our much anticipated Home Opener 8-7? At the top of 6th, Marcus Stroman got yanked after he loaded the bases. Then Brock Holt proceeded to hit HIS Grand Slam with Jesse Chavez pitching. How irritating that they rained on our Grand Slam parade! The crowd was shocked. It was silent at Rogers Centre as all 48 871 of us watched the ball sail over the right field wall. Silent as the 4 BoSoxers trotted around the bases. Chavez then got out of the inning, with a flyout and a strikeout, and walked back to the dugout, shaking his head. And then in the 7th, Storen left 2 runners on and these 2 scored with Brett Cecil on the mound, putting the Red Sox ahead 8-7.
The Jays made a comeback attempt in the 8th replacing Barney with Smoak to hit, then replacing Smoak with Carrera to run. Carrera proceeds to successfully steal 2nd base, and the crowd is cheering again. It looks like we’ve got a chance when Donaldson gets into the batter’s box, but no, he grounds out to end the inning. So, guess what, who’s going to play 3rd base now? Russell Martin who proceeds to field a groundball and throws out the runner at 1st.
In total, the Jays went through 6 pitchers, Stroman, Chavez, Storen, Cecil, Floyd, Biagini in that order.
Seem a bit unusual to you? I get that Gibbons is feeling out the bullpen, and they need to work or the Spring Training work is wasted, and yeah, the bullpen failed us. But obviously the decision to bring Chavez in for Stroman wasn’t a good one. Easy to say in retrospect. His win probability in a clutch situation 2015 was 0.01. I’m assuming bases fully loaded is considered high leverage?
Should Floyd have come in next instead of Chavez? Should Stroman have been left in?
Maybe there was no intention to use Floyd but they were forced to later when Cecil didn’t have it? Maybe the 5-run lead at the time seemed a safe enough position to have Chavez pitch? Not sure.
As with the last game, I would argue that a WIN would have been a big deal, it being the home opener and the most anticipated sports event in Canada for the past 6 months, and that they needed to bring out their best and do what they needed to win, then hey go ahead and start experimenting after that. They say 10-15 more games and they’ll have the bullpen settled. Man that sounds like a long time. The sooner the better.
The Jays lost the 4th game of their opening series 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays and ended up with a 2-2 series tie. It would have been nice to start the season with a winning series especially since the Jays have traditionally faired poorly at Tropicana Field.
Past 5 years 17-30
And an even worse Series record…
Past 5 years 2-11-2
The Jays however are getting good at stirring up news and dissent. Never mind the turmoil that Jays’ manager John Gibbons stirred up with his ‘dresses’ joke. But there were a lot of questions around his decision to replace Gavin Floyd, the experienced long reliever, with Arnold Leon in the high leverage 8th inning when the Jays were hanging onto a 3-2 lead with the Rays having a runner on 1st and 3rd. This was Leon’s first major league appearance. I think that if you’re going to pull the pitcher here, you replace him with a shutdown reliever right? Was Gibby thinking that they might get a repeat of 20-year-old Roberto Osuno when his first pitch in the Major Leagues was vs. Alex Rodrigueswith 2 runners on base in 2015 when he struck him out? Check this out. Cool as a cucumber.
Poor Leon is the next player in line to go down to AAA when Estrada joins the lineup. And was that situation the right time for Leon to get some work? I guess however, that 2 runners on base wasn’t quite the situation when Leon started warming up but wouldn’t it have been safer to leave Floyd in? He might have had a better chance of avoiding the 3-run homerun that ensued, but who knows?
I don’t really understand why Osuna or Storen couldn’t come in. Storen played or warmed up the last 3 days, but was he tired? It was only the 4th day of the season! And Osuna I guess is the 9th inning pitcher, but if you don’t get there, then there is no bottom of the 9th!
I think when the Jays make logical decisions, there’s a sense of comfort in their ability, but when they start making strange management decisions, it starts to get very confusing. There are more high tech ways to figure out if a pitcher needs rest than just looking at how many days in a row they threw a ball. The Blue Jays for sure must have access to that.
Other things I didn’t love about Wednesday’s game was the home plate umpire Laz Diaz’ strike zone. It was all over the place! Does umping get better later in the season as well?
And the rationale to take out Saunders and replace him with Carrera? Saunders had been hitting the Rays well, so were they worried he was tired too?
And of course, we all held our collective breath when 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson limped off the field with a strained calf. He tweaked it after his 3-run homer in the 3rd inning.
I expect it will take much more than a strain to keep Donaldson away from the home opener. I hope so since I’ll be there at Rogers Centre and he’ll be sorely missed if he doesn’t play!
Rogers Centre is going to be a packed house. Does anyone else find it strange that Tropicana Field’s seats are so empty during their season and home opener? Is it because they finished 4th in the AL East in 2015 and 17th overall? Or is it because all the snow birds from Toronto have made their way north? There are 42 active players born in Florida so you’d think that Floridians must love baseball. Or was it just because they played during the weekdays. Well, Rogers Centre will absolutely be thumping on Friday. It’s going to be awesome!
First, the good.
I love, love, love seeing Russell Martin throw out a base stealer. It’s such a perfect way to end an inning. He had a 44% Caught Stealing % for 2015!
And how about Justin Smoak stealing second (while getting beaned in the helmet)? I didn’t know he could steal bases! He hasn’t stolen a base since 2012 and this was only his 3rd time in his career.
And Michael Saunders has been really solid so far. I loved seeing him push hard to run to first which they called safe on the field, but the hit was overturned on review.
I didn’t have the impression that Sanchez was at his best. He certainly made some beautiful pitches and he didn’t seem to be physically struggling throwing the ball but didn’t look too comfortable – maybe it was all mental. His mom and step dad were in the audience. Certainly his stepdad looked crazy nervous. If my son were a pro athlete I’d be super nervous too!
Then, the bad.
It was surprising to see Pillar miss one. Could he be a bit stunned from yesterday’s smash in the head? We’ve gotten so used to him catching impossible plays that’s it’s unnerving to see him miss one.
Shocking that Tulo missed one too but when I saw the replay, he actually had it, but the ball had busted through that ratty old glove. The same one where the ball got stuck in the webbing the other night. That glove cost us 2 plays, but how many plays has it saved?
Another surprise was Brett Cecil who hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch, Kiermaier representing the tying run, and who seems to be an aggressive baserunner. Cecil looks like he’s put on a few pounds. He also gave up a HR to Forsythe and broke his 38 game runless streak.
The Jays seemed to have many chances to run away the runs but somehow struggled to cash in with the 9 hits, the team RISP 2-for-12 and LOB of 11, UNTIL the top of the 9th.
OMG I got a headache. I don’t even know what to say, just like Gibby who’s mad as hell. Of course, I am referring to the last play of the game. Goins and Donaldson single and Jose walks. Edwin Encarnacion has bases loaded and the baserunners are ready. Edwin hits a ground ball to Evan Longoria who throws to Forsythe at 2nd getting out Jose Bautista who then made a legal slide BUT caressed Forsythe’s ankle with his hand which may or may not have resulted in the overthrow to first, thus disrupting the double play. The on field call was that Edwin was safe and that the 2 runs that came in gave the Jays a 4-3 lead. On review, they overturned the call…
Under new Rule 6.01(j), which has been added to the existing Rule 6.01 on “Interference, Obstruction, and Catcher Collisions,” slides on potential double plays will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide. A runner will be specifically prohibited from changing his pathway to the base or utilizing a “roll block” for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder. Potential violations of Rule 6.01(j) will be reviewable using instant replay. Also reviewable will be “neighborhood play” calls, which previously were exempted from replay review.
Here is the text of the new rule (the ‘j’ is the new amendment):
RULE 6.01(j) — SLIDING TO BASES ON DOUBLE PLAY ATTEMPTS
If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:
(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
To me, not being a player from the ‘old days’, don’t disagree with the league and the players association trying to prevent the bad injuries that have happened. But I think the call by New York Tuesday night, did not represent the intent of the new rule. And even if we followed the letter of the law, Jose fulfilled ALL 4 criteria and the announcement clearly states that ‘Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide.’ What a bad way to ruin an amazing comeback play, an ugly way to end a game. Now that does not represent the spirit of the game. First of all, Cash (the Tampa Bay manager) shouldn’t have asked for a review in the spirit of the game seeing as his player was not at risk of getting hurt. Second, should the reviewers not be looking for good evidence to overturn? If you watched Sportsnet, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler thought there was no way it would get overturned. However, if you watched the Tampa Bay network, they thought for sure he should get called out. So either, they are more informed than Buck and Taby, or, your team bias determines how you see it. Anyone else feel that there’s a bias against the Canadian team sometimes?
Is it weird that I have so much angst over the Jays? The 16-1 trouncing that they gave to the Tigers was so classic Jays. And so awesome to see Tulo again, showing us what he’s really made of with his 3-run homer, 4th of Spring training, and 5 RBIs.
As a fan, I just want to win now. This does not seem to be management’s mentality. They’re thinking the next 2-3 years? But without Jose and Edwin, that beautiful lineup will fall apart. And if they aren’t willing to pay big bucks to keep 2 of the biggest hitters in the biz, one can’t imagine that they will find replacements to fill the big shoes that will be left behind. I think Jose thinks like a businessman and will go where the $$ are. Edwin though makes me sad. He’s so sweet and quiet and yeah, he wants to get paid. But he’s hurt that he gives himself to the team, but the new bosses feel no bond. I agree it’s a business, but I think there are contracts that would make sense. Make these guys a fair offer! You owe them that even if you don’t owe them more for nostalgia. If you get beat out then fine. I think Cleveland, I mean, Blue Jays management needs to take some communication courses. Changes like the one made to Gibby’s contract, while it makes sense, the way things are done makes fans, and I’m sure Gibby, feel like they want a way out. I think they could be a lot smoother.