Around the sixth inning of Friday night’s opener against the Boston Red Sox, an over-refreshed Rogers Centre patron ripped a urinal from a bathroom wall. On the feats-of-strength scale, this is somewhere between Samson and Hercules.
A cracked pipe began gushing. Water half-a-foot deep quickly flooded the 500 Level concourse. Some of it drained into the Jays’ 400 Level offices. It coursed into one of the elevator shafts, disabling a car.
The alleged perpetrator was apprehended in a state of … well, let’s just call it ‘dishevelment.’ According to stadium employees who saw him arrested by a phalanx of cops, he was half dressed. The wrong half.
He faces “numerous criminal charges,” Blue Jays vice-president Stephen Brooks said, as well as what might be the most onerous plumbing bill in human history. Officials are still trying to figure out the cost of the damage, but estimate it will reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Regardless of where we go from here, let’s remember this as the Peak Jays Fever.
By the close of weekend, it had sagged to sub-fixture-mangling levels. Two consecutive losses drained the crowd of its buoyancy. They seemed intermittently on the verge of booing various Jays after various levels of bone-headedness, but managed to restrain themselves.
Mostly, they sat there being quietly disappointed, which may have been worse.
Twice Toronto ran up a score on the worst team in the AL East. Twice they gave it back.
The Red Sox are mediocre, but they have that peculiar roster judo that turns Toronto’s strengths back on them.
Over Saturday and Sunday, the Jays managed to do two things they’d avoided throughout the year – give up a lead after the 8th inning and play a game like the ball had been rolled in peanut butter.
Sunday’s game became of one of those inertial drifts into slapstick that saw fielders chucking the ball around like it was greased. A season-high three errors later, everyone came out of a 4-3 loss looking dumb.
The surprising thing was how surprising this was (since, 90 per cent of the time, when you say, ‘That’s surprising,’ it isn’t. Rather the opposite. The whole concept of ‘surprise’ is its own species of irony.).
For the first time since they last faced the Red Sox, the Jays looked lackadaisical and weary. Starter Mark Buehrle was good-ish, but dispelled few of the worries that surround his tired arm. Afterward, he said that had the Jays not pulled him after six innings, “I was going to tell them I’d had enough.”
It may be sensible, but it’s not exactly the cusp-of-the-post-season war cry you’d hoped for. There’s a lot of that going around. Injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (cracked shoulder blade) was pushed out to give an update on his status.
The update? Wait for further updates.
Like Buehrle, Tulowitzki made it clear there are no plans for heroic measures: “Any time there’s a fracture, you don’t want to rush it.”
Not to sound cruel or anything, but a lot of people would prefer he rushed it.
You get where Buehrle and Tulowitzki are coming from. There is nothing more Zen than your typical baseball veteran with 10 good years in. He’s got so close to the source of enlightenment, he ought to take the field in robes. He neither fears nor desires. He cashes cheques and waits.
Everyone believes the Jays are going to make the playoffs. That’s the starting point.
How they make the playoffs is the topic of the next three days – the most pivotal stretch in this club’s history since the last one.
They’re all pivotal now, until they’re not. Accept your powerlessness in this matter.
On the positive side of the ledger, the Jays have owned the Yankees this year, going 11-5 against them.
That won’t matter much. Through the second half of the season, New York has pulled on a new skin, masquerading as the underdog. They solidified the impression over the weekend during a series against the suddenly ascendant Mets.
It’s an annoying thought – the Yankees as ‘scrappy’ instead of ‘preposterously well-funded’ – but that’s what happens when you screw up right-up-to-but-not-quite-past the threshold for incompetence.
Though New York was the team with a six-game lead as of Aug. 1, all the pressure has climbed up on Toronto’s back and got its hooks in. It’s not fair, but there you go.
The Jays have managed to line up their three best current performers – starters David Price, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman – for the series. The better half of the bullpen is rested. Though they could not find a timely hit over the weekend, they’re still hitting. One should assume a very bad day on the defensive end of things was a one-off. Manager John Gibbons has set this up as well as it can be.
Given every tactical and statistical advantage, the Jays now turn to metaphysics. Do they have the heart?
We don’t like to engage that side of things any more, but as predictable as baseball is over a long period, it is just as random and chaotic in short spurts. That’s what a playoff run is – finding the strength to leap above your natural median.
This Toronto team has dipped at times – notably, the last time they met Boston, which immediately preceded their last series against the Yankees. Those three-wins-from-four in the Bronx weren’t just the highlight of the season. They were the closest this team has come to a meaningful peak in the last 20 years.
What they have to do now is simple – That. Again.
After the game, the simultaneous hero (two-run homer) and goat (dropped ball on a tough play at the plate), Dioner Navarro, was asked where his head’s at.
Navarro is another 10-year guy. His answer to everything short of global thermonuclear war is a withering look and a shrug.
“We’ll be all right, man,” Navarro drawled. “We are right where we want to be.”
That’s true for now. Let’s reconvene in this space Thursday morning to see if it still is.Report Typo/Error
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