Antihero

What Brandon Morrow did with the goat, I don’t want to know. But whatever it was, it worked: Jo-Jo Reyes got a win. His winless streak ended at 28 starts — tied for longest all-time with Oakland’s Matt Keough, who did it in 1978-79.

As meaningless as a winless streak is, I’m sure Jo-Jo feels good to get it out of the way. Good on him.

I was only able to watch random bits and pieces of the game — and they were all when the Jays were on offence — so I’ve got nothing to say whatsoever about how Reyes pitched, but I did manage to catch the bottom half of the 4th, when Toronto’s offence exploded for 7 runs. Two things stood out to me. They were both base running decisions.

1) Bases loaded, Rajai Davis on second, Corey Patterson at bat. Patterson hits what looks like a double play to Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera, but Cabrera misplays the ball and ends up facing the outfield. Davis gets to third, glances at Cabrera fumbling with the ball and breaks for home. He scores without so much as a throw coming his way.

2) Jose Bautista on second, Juan Rivera at the plate. Rivera grounds the ball to the left side, Bautista gets looked back to second, but breaks for third as soon as the ball is thrown to first. The first baseman sees this and launches the ball back to third after disposing of Rivera. I don’t know if the throw was slightly off or the third baseman made a bad tag attempt, but Bautista makes it in safely.

Davis’s break for home was very smart baserunning. When I see the Hustle & Heart ads, that’s the kind of thing I like to picture as the hustle. (What I picture as the heart? Nothing that happens on the diamond.)

Bautista’s decision was dubious. It was a risky play that barely worked out. On top of that, Toronto was already winning by 7. It’s the type of thing that could be perceived by the opposition as disrespectful — and it comes the day after John Danks got all huffy.

But you know what? If Bautista’s competitive fire drive him to be somewhat unlikeable for people who aren’t Toronto fans, I’m OK with that. Guy’s doing what he has to do to produce at an extremely high level. Keep producing and you can do whatever you want out there, Jose.

Besides, I enjoy rooting for the antihero.

Links!

• Time writes about Jose Bautista. This is interesting because the headline is false by the time you’re done reading it.
• Ghostrunner on First pulls thoughts about John McDonald out my brain and does much better with them than I ever could.
• A smart man calls the Rogers Centre “dreary and passé.”
• A different smart man takes the common “E5 should never play the field; he is a DH” argument and convincingly turns it into “E5 is not a Major Leaguer.”
• Toronto Life dirties itself up with some sport talk. Corey Patterson even! One problem though: They seem to think he plays centre field.
• Joe Carter did some great things in Toronto, but was he overrated in general? Yes.
• Bautista wears Chucks!

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Forgetting Vernon Wells

Speed. Grit. Rally starter. Dirty uniforms. High socks. That’s what the Toronto Blue Jays have in centre field this year, and it’s great fun to watch.

But however far in love Toronto fans may have already fallen with Rajai Davis, it does seem odd to hear so late little talk about the previous guy to patrol centre.

Tonight, the Blue Jays are in Anaheim as the Angels play their home opener. The game will be the first meeting between Vernon Wells and the team he had played every game with up until this season. And it makes me feel old to think about it this way, but Wells played his first big league games in 1999.

So how could a guy like Wells be put out of mind so quickly after being here so long? I mean, just look at Toronto’s all-time offensive leaders and Wells is all over the place:

  • 1st in at bats
  • 2nd in runs scored
  • 2nd in hits
  • 2nd in total bases
  • 2nd in doubles
  • 10th in triples
  • 2nd in home runs
  • 2nd in RBI
  • 10th in stolen bases
  • 6th in walks
  • 2nd in extra-base hits
  • 6th in slugging percentage
  • 10th in OPS

Impressive tallies, and those are just the categories listed in this year’s edition of SABR’s Emerald Guide to Baseball. So why were people (including myself) so down on Wells and so happy to see him go? Continue reading

Speed’s a hell of a drug

When Rajai Davis was a baby, he was pigeon-toed. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind. The guy had to wear boots connected by a metal bar to straighten his legs out. And now he’s fast as hell.

What he did on Friday night, leading off the bottom half of the first… that was something else. The at bat, and what ensued, led Cole to write that “Rajai Davis is awesome.” And maybe I’m going to have to agree.

WTF! He's safe!

From my perch way up in the 500s, here’s what went through my mind:

  1. Wow. Davis is FAST. How’d anybody beat that out?
  2. (Watching him take a huge lead) He’s going to steal. He’s going to steal. He’s going to steal. Don’t get picked off!
  3. Shit. He got picked off. At least he’s going through the motions of the rundown instead of just running into a tag.
  4. WTF! He’s safe! How’s that even possible? Well, he just made a bunch of fans.

Now, I understand that, objectively, base thieves do very little to disrupt pitchers. And I know that Davis’s stats (other than steals) haven’t been the most encouraging throughout his career. I took part in a pre-season roundtable a few weeks back and I pointed to Davis’s everyday role as a big weakness of the team:

Rajai Davis, I’d like him as a 4th outfielder or maybe even in a platoon situation. His speed is nice, but he just doesn’t get on base enough to justify being an everyday player.

What I said, I still believe. But…

I was in the stadium when Davis beat out the rundown. I saw the effect it had on the crowd and what happened throughout the rest of that inning. I know it’d be very hard, possibly even impossible, to mathematically attribute what happened in that inning to Davis, but humans are hardwired to see causality where it doesn’t necessarily exist.

And it was damn exciting.

So yeah, Davis has won over a lot of fans — if my hunch at the time and the chatter on the subway post-game and the rest of the weekend are any decent indication.

I think I may be one of those converts.

I still believe he’d be better suited to a fourth-outfielder/pinch-runner role, but that’s not what his role is right now. Davis is the team’s everyday centrefielder — warts and pigeon toes and all. I plan on enjoying his run.