The Jays lost 4-1 to the Clevelands in an Opening Day that may have really been for the best. Fifty-thousand people showed up expecting to see the launching of a juggernaut, ready to cheer on the curbstomping of an indisputably inferior opponent, unaware they were about to take part in a long sequence of falling flat– from the catching to the hitting to the pitching to the crowd’s mood itself. As a veteran of too many Opening Days to count, it was fuckin’ weird in there, man.
The joyous, rambunctious atmosphere that typifies these events was present in during the player introductions, Geddy Lee’s ceremonial first pitch, the hilarious, unnecessary, over-the-top patriotic pomp of the national anthems, and into the first inning, as fans rose from their seats to cheer for R.A. Dickey when he took Nick Swisher to a two strike count. The J.P. Arencibia passed ball that allowed Asdrubal Cabrera to take second base was grumbled about, but hardly took the wind out of anybody’s sails.
What did, however, was in the bottom half of the frame, when Melky Cabrera squared up a Justin Masterson pitch, with Jose Reyes already aboard, only to have stung it right into the glove the Clevelands’ Cabrera. Somehow the rally wasn’t killed yet, after Jose Bautista singled and Edwin Encarnacion was hit by a pitch, but Adam Lind struck out to end the renewed threat– a sign of things to come for a lower half of the lineup that looks, especially with Brett Lawrie out, a hell of lot more like the club’s weak underbelly than whatever bullshit was being fed from some corners about the bullpen.
It’s only one game, of course, and those guys aren’t going to be completely hopeless every time out. Though the same maybe can’t be said for the knuckleball receiving abilities of J.P. Arencibia, who found out quickly that catching R.A. Dickey isn’t the same in regular season MLB action isn’t the same, even, that the passable work he did for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. I don’t think you give up on having him catch Dickey completely after last night’s disaster, but you certainly limit it to side sessions until he’s really comfortable.
In the top of the second inning last night he wasn’t, and that’s really when the atmosphere left the building.
Dickey wasn’t necessarily at his best either– though some of that, it must be said, could be down to poor framing of some borderline pitches as well– but it’s hard to accept it when the game-winning runs come in a frame where you only give up a couple of singles, including one that Brett Lawrie very possibly gets to if he’s there instead of Izturis.
Two passed balls with runners on will do that, though, and I’d be shocked if Henry Blanco didn’t get his first chance to catch Dickey the next time out.
From there things didn’t so much spiral downward for the Jays and their fans, as they fell hopelessly flat. The buzz in the stadium basically ceased, presumably as it began to dawn on the would-be revellers that baseball is hard, that losses for even good teams are plentiful, and that this just didn’t feel like it was going to be our night. I’m sure a couple of damn runs might have changed things, but by the eighth and ninth innings, the anger– like fuckface captain homophobia behind me– and the boredom– as hordes streamed into the aisles after eight innings, looking for an early exit– of people who maybe had forgotten about the marathon that baseball is had taken over.
That kind of stuff is pretty typical, though, and what really struck me was just how subdued the crowd was, and how far the energy level seemed to be from getting back to where it was at the time of the first pitch. Maybe that’s because, rather than so many being there to fight and party as they’d been in years past, a greater percentage of fans were there to actually watch the game and see the club’s new stars.
And maybe, as I said off the top, it’s a good thing. A lesson for the Jays that Arencibia can’t, through sheer force of personality, be something he’s maybe not, and a reminder to fans that baseball is a long fucking slog, and this season isn’t going to be a cakewalk that too many– myself included sometimes– seem to get it in their heads that we’re owed.
Only 80 more home date left– including one tonight against shitty Ubaldo Jimenez. Time to get back on that horse.