Friday, January 30, 2015

The Summer Game

It's late January. There are many reasons why this is my least favourite time of year. It's cold. Snow is everywhere and that snow is wet. Being cold and wet at the same time is not so fun, in my opinion. You know what you can'd do while it's cold and wet and snowy outside? Skateboard. I go crazy when I can't skateboard. I would like to hang out outside in the sun with my girlfriend, but that is impossible. Why are you ruining my dates winter?! It also happens to be dead in the middle of a busy semester. While I don't want to complain about going to university, because I'm extremely privileged to be able to do so, it is stressful.

But there's one thing that sucks the most. One thing I hate about winter that towers above all other hates, and that is that winter is the baseball off-season. I fucking love baseball. I love the way that the game moves. I love the way it sounds. It makes me feel comfortable and excited. I love going to games. If ownership would hurry the fuck up, I would say that I love the grass smells.

I am denied all of this during the winter months and it drives me wild.

But Spring Training is just around the corner, so there's hope in the form of anxiously waiting for pitchers to be warming up in shorts on a sunny, small baseball diamond. That's not for another 24 days, so I thought I would create a list of my favourite moments from the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, which was the most exciting in years.

Blue Jays Come Back from a 8-0 deficit to win in Cincinnati

This was easily one of my favourite Blue Jays games and is already one of my favourite memories as a fan. Buffalo Bisons call up Liam Hendricks gave up 8 runs in the 2nd inning and things looked especially dire early. I try to never write games off and stop cheering for the team, because you never know what will happen, but let's face it, giving up 8 runs in an inning, let alone the second is embarrassing. However, Edwin hit a three run shot to answer in the top of the third, giving me hope. The teams both traded runs, before shit got real in the 7th. I was sitting on the edge of my couch in anticipation for most of the game and when Juan Fransisco went deep, to the opposite field no less (!), I knew it was ours. Dioner tied the game with a double and shouted a loud "Fuck yeah!" back the dugout from second base, at which point I was running around the upper floor of my house jumping up and down. With the game now being 9-9, the largest remaining obstacle was Aroldis Chapman looming in the bullpen. Of all people, Steve Tolleson got to him for the go-ahead double, swinging the game in the Jays' favour for good. To rub salt into the deflated Reds sizable wounds, Edwin Encarnacion hit ANOTHER home run (that will be a trend here) in the top of the ninth and then watched it and gave a wonderful batflip to cap off the game. The Jays were red-hot at this time, which tends to attract a lot of bandwagoners during the summer in Toronto. Many of those bandwagoners counted the Jays out early in this game, citing it as a sign that club would soon collapse (hey, that collapse took another two months!), so this game came to stand as a reason for always standing by your team, whether the standings or score tell you to or not.

Edwin Encarnacion's Walk-Off Dinger on Canada Day

In baseball, there is no play that is more exciting than the walk-off home run. From a fan perspective, you go directly from "We are not currently winning this game." to "We just won the game!" and that's pretty much the best thing that can happen, right? The Milwaukee Brewers represented an interested point in the 2014 Blue Jays season. Through the beginning of July, the Jays were one of the best teams in the American League and had been leading the East since May 22nd. For the Blue Jays, that is a huge, huge deal. Milwaukee was one of the better teams in the National League at the time and were leading the National League Central by 6.5 games, which meant they represented a test in terms of the Jays' "legitness" as a contender. Though the Jays started strong with a home run from a returning Jose Bautista, they found themselves down 4-1 after some fielding gaffs. Juan Fransisco, before all of his stats fell off a cliff part way through the season, hit a bomb to it a 4-4 near the end of the game. John Gibbons got ejected arguing a call, which led to this ending (keep an eye on the Blue Jays' mascot Ace):

Colby Game-Tying Home Run in Baltimore

I would like to state now that Colby Rasmus was my favourite Jay during his tenure here, so this list will be biased towards him. Don't like it? 2 bad. Games against Baltimore were important this season, because at the start of the season they were the second-biggest threat in the division behind Boston (hahahahahahahahahaha). The Jays looked like shit this whole game and were down to their last strike on this play. The Baltimore fans were riding Colby hard this game and he answered by putting one into the seats to tie the game with the team's last shot. Not visible is Colby's excellent point to the Baltimore stands as he rounds first base. This is why I like baseball. There is no running down the clock. There is no ragging the puck. There isn't hack-a-Shaq defense. You have to throw the guys a pitch until there are no more outs left and sometimes that leads to moments like this. Also, I called this shot the second before it happened.

Jose Bautista Takes Batflips to an even more badass level

The thing about that last clip is that the Jays eventually lost that game in extras. For every unbelievable high, like the comeback or Edwin's walkoff, there was a low, like losing three of four to the Astros in the midst of an epic collapse in August. By September the Jays were still mathematically in the playoff hunt and things seemed hopeful after a dismantling of the Cubs at home, but deep down most kind of knew it was over. You could see that a lot of the team was feeling deflated. Lind was hurt. Edwin was hurt. Colby was benched. You know who wasn't deflated? Jose Fuckin' Bautista. Right before this home run, Bautista got a pitch that he liked, but fouled it back. He stepped out of the batter's box and cursed himself out for missing because he is a beast and is tenacious and is a serious fuckin' ballplayer. They decided to give him the same pitch and he clobbered it to tie the game. SO DEEP. Right the fuck out to left-center. He watched the hell out of it and then slammed his bat to the ground right before getting to first base. At a time when most fans were down and out and were accepting another third place finish, Jose, taking a page from Timothy Findley, said "Not yet."

Marcus Stroman Complete Game Shutout

I'll admit that coming into the 2014 season, my expectations for the Blue Jays were set pretty low. They were coming off a completely disastrous season in which more or less everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. Because of "the season of which we will not speak" (2013), there were really few things I was actively looking forward to: Edwin, because he is the best, hopefully a full season of Bautista, a new catcher and a kid the Jays had drafted in 2012, Marcus Stroman. He was rated highly right out of the draft and noted scout Keith Law called him the most MLB-ready player drafted. After a rough start out of the bullpen, he took off and became one of the brightest spots in an already pretty bright season. I mean, yeah. He pitched like a veteran, had a totally magnetic personality and is only 5'9"! The last decade of Blue Jays baseball had conditioned me to expect a drop-off in performance (Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, Gustavo Chacin, etc., etc.), but his just never came! This amazing rookie season culminated in a complete game shutout of the Chicago Cubs on September 8th. 9 innings pitched! 8 Ks! 3 hits! Only 93 pitches! Plus Ryan Goins made one of the plays of the year to end the game!

Colby Rasmus Game-Winning Home Run at Tampa

Like I said, there's gonna be some Colby on this list. After an amazing 2013 season in which he put together one of the best ever seasons from a Blue Jays outfielder, Colby really struggled this year. Before the season started fans wondered about even being able to afford a contract for him once he hit free agency this off-season, but now they were wondering if it was worth it to bring him back at all. He was hurt during the team's amazing May and performed pretty awfully afterwards. It was tough seeing my favourite player struggle that much and what made it worse was that the fans seemed to like him and genuinely wanted him to succeed. It was such an odd combination of psychological issues and performance issues that seem to return and hurt him as soon as he begins to succeed. Once September arrived, he lost his starting job and was benched, which was a pretty huge slap in the face for someone with as much league experience as Colby. The first game he was benched, he was brought in as a pinch-hitter with the game tied 0-0 in Tampa Bay. You know what Colby thinks of your benching Gibby? This. Note how the manager does not get up to congratulate him while the rest of the team does:

Colby forever.

Edwin Encarnacion's May For The Ages

After two astonishing seasons for the Jays, Edwin Encarnacion got off to a pretty slow start this year. A lot of people wondered what was wrong, but it important to remember that the baseball season is long and good stats are a result of ups and downs. Following a slumping April, did Edwin ever have some ups. He powered the Jays to one of their best months ever. Oh, and dingers are fun to watch. Note how many of these are in the same game.

Walk-Off 19 Inning Win

As I previously mentioned, the Jays struggled mightily in August. First they lost hold of their lead in the AL East and then the gradually fell down the Wild Card standings. A pivotal point in the month was a three game set against the Detroit Tigers at the Dome. The Tigers have traditionally been one of the best teams in the AL, so just like the Brewers coming to town, this would be a big one. The Jays lost the first one in a heart-breaker (a game I was at) and the Jays took the next game. Beating teams like the Tigers is what good teams do and they had to prove they belonged. Neither felt like losing, so the fans that stayed got two for the price of one! Fittingly, Bautista won it all with a walk-off single, because that's what "leaders" do. Best way to celebrate a 19 inning win? A big ol' smooch on the cheek.

Buehrle Gets to 200 with a Gem

Mark Buehrle is a wonder. He's old, he doesn't throw hard and he puts a lot of balls in play. But every year he puts together a great season that helps whatever team he is on. In an age of high strikeout numbers and big fastballs, Buehrle, to me, is a call-back to a time in baseball when hitting your spots and pitching smart got you through a career. The biggest story Buehrle-wise for the season was his quest to become just the 7th pitcher since 1901 to throw 200 innings 14 seasons in a row. Dude is a workhorse. He started the season amazingly well, but ran into a bit of trouble in the middle. Buehrle went into his last start of the season with 194 innings pitched, so there was a very real chance he wouldn't get there, but instead went out and pitched 8 and gave up no runs. The guy has done nothing but impress me since he came to Toronto and has had a very real and noticeable impact on the team's morale and pitching staff. A great accomplishment for one of the game's true good guys.

Perfect Rasmus

This year MLB ran a show called Home Field Advantage in which players would speak about playing in whatever city they play in. Out of all the Jays, they chose Colby! The results were obviously hilarious, with Colby small town Alabamaness coming out strongly. Khakis! Shirt tucked in! Two-strapped backpack! Chicken dogs! Oh, the glorious chicken dog line. He's obviously completely out of his element living in a city the size of Toronto, but it comes off in the most adorable way. Just out little country mouse Colby trying to make his way in the hustle and bustle of the big city. The video was immediately a huge hit among Jays fans, so much so that it inspired a totally hilarious fan-made video in which they combined the opening credits from the 80's sitcom Perfect Strangers with the video to create Perfect Rasmus, which is already one of my favourite Jays things EVER.

And hey, there was also that time my friends got a dick and balls sign on national TV! During a Brett Lawrie home run no less! It was by far the most "viral" (as much as I hate that term) thing that I've ever been a part of and really does make me laugh every time I think about it.

Please hurry up spring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I, Musical Genius

Recently I was browsing the selection at one of my favourite comic book stores, The Dragon in Guelph. They've always a pretty decent selection of stuff made by local artists and authors and this time was no exception. Though I was there to pick up some Card Wars boosters, I ended up grabbing a zine while I was there as well.

This zine ended up being awful. It was clearly thrown together with only a vague idea of what a punk zine is and it didn't feature any writing or any real central idea at all. But the quality of the zine made me think about making one myself. If somebody could throw together one that bad and circulate it and have it at a local comic shop, then I definitely can. Can't I? What's stopping me?

I've wanted to do something like this for a while, but didn't realize that this would be the medium to do until recently.

The idea I've settled upon is making a physical version of ol' IMU here. I'm going to pick some of the stuff I'm proud of, plan it out, chop it up and then assemble a (hopefully) neat, little version of this.

I've put a lot of myself into this blog over the years and while I like that this webpage stands as a testament to it, I think a tactile version will be much cooler.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wasted Breath, Wasted Time

The Decay played their last show last night, despite being "broken up" for over a year or so. A whole bunch of people combined eulogizing blurbs and statements to commemorate the occasion and though I meant to contribute one myself, I missed the occasion and didn't have to opportunity to contribute anything the "RIP Decay" zine that was given out at the show. Given the huge role that the band played in my life, I would feel awful if I didn't do something along the same lines.

Since I'm not from Kitchener-Waterloo and only moved here recently, I can't pretend that The Decay were a huge institution and one of the first bands I saw live. My first experience with them was downloading This Month's Rent when it was put up by Juicebox. I took to it instantly and couldn't believe that a band this good came from my area. I saw them a little while after that and while I thought they were great, it was nowhere near the appreciation that I eventually held for them after seeing them dozens of times and understanding what these people put into these songs. I'm truly privileged to call the band my friends. This isn't about waxing nostalgic about a band I used to see or thinking about my own development in life. This is about one of my favourite fucking bands in the world stopping.