By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (July 22) – For those in command of the Blue Jays, this baseball season plummeted into futility a long, long time ago.
Like after the first two weeks in April, when a winter of reckless hyperbole began to crumble. As July now morphs into August, you’ve got to think that utter humiliation is the over-riding sentiment among the ball heads at Jarvis and Bloor. How couldn’t it be?
I’ve been watching the Blue Jays since Day 1 at snowy Exhibition Stadium: Apr. 7, 1977. I saw the club advance – almost too quickly – from bumbling expansionist to World Series champion. This particular version of the team, however, is the worst in franchise history. Not in the realm of talent; that distinction is shared equally among the first and third-year outfits. By any other measure, though, the 2013 edition belongs in the front entrance to baseball’s Hall of Shame. It is an unmitigated, irrevocable disaster.
Someone has to take responsibility. And, I’m not certain it should be Alex Anthopoulos, even though he is the undisputed architect. Anothopoulos built what many – including odds-makers in Nevada – felt would be a championship-caliber team. At no time, though, do I remember double-A even implying his new roster was a lock to accomplish anything. But, there is a baseball adage that pre-dates modern-day sport. It says, simply, “the games are played on the field.” And, it was completely lost on the hype machine at Rogers Communications, which took no precaution while manipulating the club’s hopeful fan base. Hindsight proves the winter of 2012-13 a study in maniacal marketing and total baseball ignorance.
LET THE HYPE BEGIN, THEN GO ON… AND ON… AND ON.
Backlash, therefore, should be centered on ownership, which was stubbornly cheap for nearly two decades and then showed it had not a clue once cobwebs were dusted off the bank book. All of a sudden, it was cool to pump the ball club and Rogers really went to town… as if it had been serious about the Jays all along. The snow-job perpetuated on baseball fans here ranks among the all-time disgraces in local professional sport (and that’s a mouth-full).
This was not a desperate circumstance.
Given Rogers’ frugality and unwillingness to compete – and the spin-off absence of playoff excitement since 1993 – Blue Jays drew more than reasonably at the box office. The winter-time assault could have been conducted with a trace of dignity and respect. Instead, the hype-mongers threw caution to the wind and became a laughingstock of their own design.
Don’t think such absurdity is lost on players. For years, a bold-faced lack of commitment dissuaded free agents from choosing Toronto as a big league destination. Long after being shamed into action, Rogers finally opened the vault and mis-remembered (another baseball adage) its team would be on the field with an opponent each night. R.A. Dickey – having done repair to his past and honor to his name – was acquired from the New York Mets. Either “Jesus Christ” or “Harry Houdini” should have been stitched to the back of his Toronto uniform given the melodramatic build-up that followed him to the mound. For Dickey and every player on the club, it was impossible to match the inane off-season hoopla. Those appointed the task of “marketing” operated with a singular lack of finesse. And, again, it started at the top.
Blue Jay fans can be thankful for one voice affiliated with the organization: that of Sportsnet baseball analyst (and former Jays catcher) Gregg Zaun. From the earliest sign of this calamity, Zaun warned it may not be an illusion. Even during the club’s deceptive, 11-game win streak – when the Rogers hype machine again went hog-wild – Zaun maintained composure and balance. He understands that over a 162-game schedule, all bad teams will stumble upon achievement for a period of time, and that all great teams other than the 1998 New York Yankees will lapse into fleeting disrepair. During the All-Star break last week, Zaun told TV viewers and radio listeners he would commit to roughly a half-dozen players on the current Toronto roster. The group, he adroitly pronounced, would not – and could not – play winning baseball.
Zaun will never be invited into the Rogers promotional posse.
And, we thank heaven for that.
I do not intend to become a nature photographer, but neither have I been able to keep my lens away from the changing weather conditions here in Toronto. A remarkable thunderstorm on Friday evening finally washed away the slog of humidity that nudged temperatures into the low 100’s Fahrenheit during the week. As the storm cleared, an array of colors and cloud formations decorated the sky. From my trusty Nikon:
MAMMATUS CLOUDS (ABOVE AND BELOW) – EXTEND FROM THE BASE OF LARGE, CUMULONIMBUS FORMATION, SUCH AS THAT WHICH OCCURRED IN FRIDAY’S STORM.
AFTER BRIEF THUNDERSTORM DELAY, FLIGHTS WERE AGAIN ALLOWED TO APPROACH PEARSON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.
DARKENED SKY MOVED OFF TO THE EAST.
AFTER STORM, A GORGEOUS SUNSET.
CLEAR SKY ABOVE THE BUILDINGS OF YONGE ST. AND SHEPPARD AVE.
AFTER A COOL DAY, ANOTHER BREATHTAKING SUNSET.
FACEBOOK: HOWARD BERGER [TORONTO]