There was a point in the fifth inning of Game 5, with the Rangers and Blue Jays fighting to stay alive, that I was so very content. It was about 85 degrees, with the door open, a breeze blowing through. I had my laptop open, and the distractions of work and Twitter were in the background, as if they were chirping birds in the trees above, but not the kind of birds that were going to poop on me without warning. I was playing a banjo, sipping an adult beverage and watching a nice, calm baseball game.
Then demons crawled through the TV and threw a house party. They literally installed a chandelier just so they can hang from it. My booze is gone. One of them stuck a straw in the bitters and sucked it up like a Capri Sun. Can't find the cat. Found my passport in the freezer. It was covered in syrup. I hope it was syrup.
The baseball games became angry and weird. Which is what we think we want before the games start. Until it happens, when we want it to stop. And then when it's over, we want more. What a stunning day of baseball. There was no sense focusing on one portion of the Rangers and Blue Jays and Royals and Astros and gaaaaaah. Imagine reading an article like this right now.
What the Blue Jays did right
My word, we're all completely high off baseball. Don't analysisize this. If there was ever a time to tilt your head back and spray the baseball into your mouth like a can of whipped cream, this is it.
So, here are assorted thoughts about just the Rangers and Blue Jays. There's so much. Pretend I'm Larry King if you need to, turning from camera to camera in a swivel chair.
Elbowgate. Deflectiongate. Returnthrowgate. It was a gate, right? Feels like a gate.
You can find the full video here if you need to catch up. Basically, Shin-Soo Choo was mindin' his own business, tuggin' on his shirt and he got hit in the elbow by someone who wasn't paying attention. It's a baseball play that happens tens of thousands of times without incident. You can check your phone while walking every day for the next 10 years and never fall into an open manhole. It just takes the right day and the right manhole.
There was anger and disbelief, with crap thrown onto the field. Making it a referendum on Blue Jays fans is a mistake. It's a fraction of the crowd, the drunkards. People made fun of Braves fans for not caring enough to sell out postseason games, then they made fun of them for caring so much that they would throw crap onto the field in 2012. Well, which is it? Fans are fans, give or take. Presented with an implausible, science-fiction scenario of an inning, one where the season is at stake, it's likely that all 30 teams would find people incoherent enough to throw crap on the field.
The Internet right now is basically 10 percent people throwing crap on the field. Metaphorically speaking.
The weird thing, though, is that the call was right. Rougned Odor should have scored. The anger had to do with the home plate umpire calling time immediately, which theoretically froze the fielders. The umpire's reaction was an instinctual "Whoa, what the shit? Start over" because he doesn't see that play often. Or ever. It was the wrong call.
Odor broke immediately. He was going to score, regardless of the call.
Blue Jays fans were upset that they didn't get a gift. That was the whole point of trashgate. They were upset that the umpires didn't acknowledge that they screwed up in the first place, which they were hoping would render the spirit and letter of the law null and void. Which would have been the grossest way to decide the game out of all the possible options.
My word, I'm glad that didn't decide the game.
Elvis Andrus, let me hug you
He was the hope, the chosen one. He's just 27, but he's been with the Rangers for 34 years. He never turned into Ozzie Smith with the glove, and he never turned into late-era Ozzie with the bat. He was a good defensive shortstop with offensive shortcomings, and he never escaped.
Let me show you a picture.
That's from Baseball-Reference's Rangers team page, and it's the 20 best Rangers according to WAR -- pitchers or position players -- of all-time. There, below Juan Gonzalez, just to the left of Julio Franco, we have Andrus. He's been a good Ranger. He's still just 27. And he's signed for, well, that's a sore subject right now, but he's not going anywhere.
He could get better, you know.
He also might have had one of the toughest games in the history of postseason baseball. He muffed a ball when emotions were high, he couldn't corral a poor throw from his first baseman, and he straight dropped a ball that could have calmed the inning down. Two errors and one wish-he-caught-it. It might not be the only reason the Rangers are done for 2015, but it's the easiest to point out. What if he caught those baseballs, the masses cry.
He also got caught stealing third with two outs. The runner also moved from first, indicating it was a call from the dugout. A dumb, dumb call from the dugout. Still, Andrus got a horrible jump.
He also came up, representing the tying run and struck out. He carried a bat he named Narrative, it was heavy and awkward, and the bat laughed at him as he trudged back to the dugout.
It was a horrible game. One of the worst ever. And people are going to remember it for decades. Here's hoping that in the next few years, Andrus has a moment that will define him more than this. He's not a failure. He's not a bust. He's just paid a little more than he probably should be, and he stepped into the traffic at exactly the wrong time. Give him one two-out double with the bases loaded in a wild card game, or something.
Jose Bautista GRRRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHH
Back to Choogate. I knew that -gate suffixes are tired, which is why I'm so fond of them. They convey so much information and annoy readers. Pretty sure that's all right there on my CV.
Jose Bautista felt the frustration. The Rangers had a gift lead, exploiting a loophole. We were all tweeting the specific rule back and forth, but all the Blue Jays knew was, hey, screw that, that chump didn't score on a single. The other guy didn't drive him in. The pitcher wasn't so wild that he allowed the run to score. This was a fluke, this was the World Series winner being decided because Randy Johnson vaporized a dove. What happened? Where's the justice?
They were mad. And I can't possibly understand how anyone couldn't understand that. Even if Odor scoring was the correct call. The Blue Jays felt cheated. After 22 years, that's not something to shrug off.
Then Jose Bautista used his bat to pull the soul from the baseball and eat it. He watched the empty shell sail over the wall. And he discarded the bat, disgusted that it didn't send the ball even farther. People got mad that he was so demonstrative.
That's absurd. Look at this:
You see Bautista looking at the pitcher for a split second. That's him saying, "Am I pissed at this pitcher? No, man. I'm pissed at THE FUCKING UNIVERSE" and flipping the bat accordingly. Hopefully he hit the universe in the eye. Good for him.
Think of where Bautista came from. He came up with the '04 Orioles, who were garbage. They said, nah, don't need you. So they sent him to the '04 Rays, who were unimpeachable garbage. They passed. No thanks. He traveled to the '04 Royals, one of the bigger shitstorms in the last 20 years, and they traded him after a month. He was on the Mets for a day -- literally a day --- before he moved to the Pirates, who were a dirigible accident of a franchise back then.
The worst teams in baseball didn't want him. Then he became a six-time All-Star. And you're telling him that his first chance in the postseason, his first chance to play deep into October, is going to be ruined because of a technicality? He wasn't flipping the bat at the Rangers. He was flipping the bat at the technicality.
I know it didn't feel good to the Rangers and Sam Dyson. It can't. It's you biffing a job interview or a first date and someone getting right in your face and yelling "YOU SURE SCREWED THAT UP." It's not nice. It's hurtful. Don't get sensitive to the overly sensitive reactions. They're justified.
Just look at the bat flip. It was weighed down with pain and struggle, and Bautista still flipped it to the moon.
What a shot. What a player. What timing.
Marcus Stroman, you magnificent creature
David Price would have been the starter if I were managing. And maybe if he were the starter, the Blue Jays would have won 6-0, and his reputation would have been restored. No quirks, no fusses, no problems.
Or maybe he would have given up six runs in the first. We'll never know.
Instead, the diminutive, mid-first-round ace came back from the infirmary to pitch a mini-masterpiece. Back in March, I used Stroman as a way to explain why baseball was awful. It was paint-by-numbers mawkish, so don't read it, but there were some visions of the future.
The feeling will pass. There will be wins, losses, thrills, chills, fun for the whole family. Then 29 teams will end their seasons in disappointing fashion, feeling jealous of an unexpected team that thrives because of unexpected circumstances. That team might still be the Blue Jays. It really might.
Stroman's torn ACL wasn't going to allow him to be a part of that. Until it did. He's a young guy, a superior athlete, with a dad who APPARENTLY TAKES CARE OF HIMSELF, TOO, and he had access to the best medical care in the world. He came back sooner than expected, but not unusually so, considering the circumstances.
He was a ball of energy. Wildly twitching and gesticulating when things went his way. Normally that's a bad thing for someone with a couple dozen games of major league experience. Stroman fed on it. He knew the trust placed in him, given to him like a nuclear football and he didn't screw it up. He thrived.
Stroman's one of the most enjoyable pitchers to watch right now. You'll get another series with him. He'll probably do just fine.
Roberto Osuna is literally 20 and just dunked the postseason's head into the toilet
He's 20 years old. The age of a young college draftee. A year or two older than the typical high school draftee. He wasn't even born the last time the Jays were in the postseason. He has a career 4.38 ERA in the minors over 30 appearances (27 starts). Before this season, he had never pitched above Class-A. He was in Dunedin last year, and probably happy to be there, considering his age.
After that mess of a game, with someone busting open the emotion hydrant so kids could frolic underneath, he was supposed to pick up the save without incident.
Again, he's 20. He pitched against the Manatees and Flying Tigers last year. He was thrust into a situation of pure adrenaline and emotion, and he was expected to be cool.
Which he was. Jim Johnson probably could have saved a three-run lead -- probably -- but it's still worth noting that a kid closer didn't set the place on fire. It was his right to, you know.
The Blue Jays are facing the Royals in the ALCS
They hate each other, remember. There was an unwritten incident. It was right after the trade deadline, when the Blue Jays were preening in front of the rest of the league, even though they were still way back in the AL East. The Royals didn't like the cut of their jib. There were words.
After praising the umpire, whom everyone seemed to hate/disagree with, the conclusion was this:
Our only consolation is that we'll have the thoughts of a beautiful Jays-Royals ALCS to keep us warm when the Yankees and Angels are playing and annoying us all.
The gag was that the Yankees and Angels would be in the ALCS because they're teams without a rich history of postseason absence and/or failure. The Royals and Blue Jays couldn't crack that kind of baseball-god decree, right? The Yankees and Angels were legacy cases, and the admissions board didn't want to think too hard.
Instead, we have it. Destiny is chewing off the nose of the other destiny, who is scratching the dickens out of the first destiny's face with sharp talons. It's the Blue Jays and the Royals for the pennant.
As soon as I figure what in the hell happened, I might pause long enough to be stunned. Until then, congratulations, Blue Jays. Congratulations, Royals. One of you is going to the World Series. Well, I'll be.
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SB Nation video archives: Baseball's unwritten rules (2013)