Though there are still a few games left to play, the Blue Jays’ dismal season ended Tuesday in Courtroom K at Toronto’s Old City Hall. This was the last bit of business left before the Jays can move from their beloved, contending iteration to their diminished, rebuilding one.
This season has been defined by things gone wrong – the people who got hurt, or underperformed, or never showed up at all. But the most notable happening of the year was the sudden, precipitous fall of 23-year-old closer Roberto Osuna.
In April, he was one of the very few untouchable members of the Jays roster. If you were one of the suckers who thought the Jays had a chance, Osuna was a main reason you thought that.
In May, he came unglued. By June, he was a different sort of untouchable. In July, he became unkeepable. Now, in September, he is an unperson in these parts.
Four months after being charged with assault against Alejandra Roman Cota, with whom he shares a three-year-old son, Osuna put a pin in his legal troubles Tuesday by signing a peace bond.
Crown attorney Catherine Mullaly said Roman Cota returned to her home in Mexico shortly after Osuna was arrested in May. Once there, she told Canadian authorities she had no intention of returning to testify.
There was “no reasonable prospect of conviction absent her testimony,” Mullaly said. As a result, the charge was withdrawn.
In signing the peace bond, Osuna admits no guilt, and, further, maintains his innocence. Through the Crown, Roman Cota expressed a desire “to resume contact and parenting responsibilities” with Osuna.
The details of what happened between the pair on May 8 will now remain a mystery. The only two words Osuna said in court were, “Thank you,” to the judge.
Osuna and his entourage left afterward at the quick step and had no comment.
Given the local furor that greeted initial news of the charge, it seemed a pitiable manner in which to seal the incident off.
Well, at least this team is thematically consistent. Everything they’ve done recently ends in an unsatisfying way.
For some, this will spark a reconsideration of why Osuna was traded to Houston, or how little the Jays got in return for him. Those are issues of sport.
For others, this will be another example of a famous athlete getting away with it. Those would be issues of fairness.
In between, you have the morally ambiguous idea that sometimes you’re never going to know for sure, but you still have to cut ties and move on. That’s where we eventually got to.
Though it was a bad baseball deal, the Jays were right to ship Osuna out for parts. Sports is an entertainment business. It doesn’t work if the people looking to be entertained are instead twisted into ethical knots by their pastime.
You could see that in the way Osuna was booed by the Rogers Centre crowd during Monday’s game. Sometimes, people jeer a returning player in good fun – à la Toronto Raptors fans and Vince Carter in the latter years.
The way they gave it to Osuna wasn’t fun. It was spiteful.
And so jettisoning him was also the kind thing to do for Osuna and – if she does indeed wish to resume a cordial relationship with the father of her child – for Roman Cota. There are times when human considerations should supersede competitive ones.
A few minutes after he had left, Osuna’s lawyer released a boilerplate statement on his behalf. It ended with, “I will make no further comments about this matter, as I plan on moving past this and look only to the future.”
By that time, everyone who follows Blue Jays baseball had already forgotten they ever knew him.
Amidst all the legalese and agreed statements of fact, I thought the most generous way of looking at things was encapsulated by Justice Melvyn Green’s comments at the end of proceedings: “I wish only the best to all parties involved.”
I took that to mean, “in future, be kinder to each other,” and, if so, amen.
For the Jays, in as much as it is ever possible, this closure means their slate is blank.
In short order, they will have let manager John Gibbons go and the last real vestige of the 2015 glory days will be gone. A few names will remain – Marcus Stroman, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, et al – but the team is gutted and unrecognizable.
By next April, there won’t be any lifeboats left. Everyone who has an inclination to abandon ship should do so now at whatever cut-rate price they can negotiate. For the rest, they should buckle in for a long stretch of minor victories, major losses and half-empty stadiums.
In this moment, the Jays have become utterly characterless. Where they were once Jose Bautista’s team, Alex Anthopoulos’s team or Josh Donaldson’s team, they have become no one’s team.
They’re a bunch of guys who play baseball for a living. For the foreseeable future, they won’t play it very well.
In time, this may be Vlad Guerrero, Jr.’s team, Bo Bichette’s team or the team of some young player who has yet to catch widespread attention. But that’s well into the future.
This is how an era ends – in ragged instalments.
This was all done in a particularly disorderly way, and unnecessarily so. But it’s too late to worry about that now.
The feeling at the end is a mitigated relief. It may have taken a while to get there, but there is something to be said for a sports organization that has finally hit rock bottom, and has admitted that to itself. That’s the beginning of hope.