I quit hockey at a very early age, mostly because games conflicted with Saturday morning cartoons, but also because I never really learned how to stop without the aid of the boards. In any event, my memories of playing the sport were uniformly negative. The only game I remember vividly was one in which the opposition ran roughshod over my team of 5-year-olds. It seemed like all of the opposing players were twice as big and twice as fast as the best of our side; I don't recall getting my stick on the puck once and I'm pretty sure we lost several touchdowns to nothing.
That pretty much did in the sport for me and so bitter were my memories that I couldn't even stand to watch hockey on TV for another 15 years or so. Years later, I asked my old man (who was coaching us at the time) what the deal was there in that fateful final game and he told me a rival coach from a small town in the Sarnia area had called him to set up an exhibition game. The only problem was was that he neglected to inform us that he was coaching a team of 7-8 year-olds and was just looking for some soft opposition to build up their confidence. We got to be their punching bag. Good times! And that, in a nutshell, is the best analogy I can come up with for the Royals playing any other team in baseball. I'm somewhat sympathetic to their plight, but maybe they might get more fun out of beach volleyball or stamp collecting rather than the whole baseball thing...
Now that the Jays have swept the Royals out of town and head off on the road on a five-game winning streak, we now know that everything is awesome and only the passage of time separates them an inevitable playoff spot. But what's this? The Rays are the best team in baseball? Seriously, they're on pace for a 98-64 season if all holds up. Time to pack up the tents and go home, lads.
The Jays embark on a challenging 9-game roadtrip that takes them through Oakland (hide your valuables), Los Angeles (Anaheim, presumably one of the whiter boroughs), and the gritty Bronx before the schedule gets really soft--and stays that way--through June. All tough teams in the short term, yes, and I am shuddering at the thought of facing a very angry and still black Frank Thomas wearing Kelly Green and Gold. It's never fun going to the Bronx, but better now than after Jorge Posada comes off the DL or following some major mid-season acquisition (Adam Dunn? Ben Sheets?). Going 5-4 would be pretty swell so far as I'm concerned and I wouldn't jump off the bridge if they went 4-5. I have been on the cusp of naming the Jesus Lizard's "Elegy" the Jays' theme song for 2008 so many times, don't make me do it now...
First things first. Probables for the Oakland series are:
Tonight - Burnett-Greg Smith (LHP)
Tomorrow - Halladay- Harden
Thursday - Lost finale! (For real this time), then Litsch-Dana Eveland (LHP)
Smith and Eveland, usually the types you'd expect the home nine to slap around, both handcuffed the Jays as early season callups back in April and have kept on rolling since proving that Billy Beane's still got it. Expect to see a hearty dose of Kevin Mench, who would do well to live up to his (earned) reputation as a lefty masher. Incidentally, one of the Royals commentators asked his broadcast partner this weekend if he'd rather have one million dollars or Kevin Mench's head full of nickels. True story! Rich Harden might have one of the most "electric" arms in the game, but have the A's ever actually felt confident that he could make it through his start without some sort of major phantom injury?
Wonder Boy returns tonight. Hoo-ray?
Let's rock shit, fellas! I'm semi-enthusiastic for the first time in weeks!
-- Johnny Was