“Last year was the trailer, now you guys are going to see the movie.”
Sure, this game wasn’t without legitimately cringeworthy moments that were prominent on most minds during the first few innings of unexpected calamity and fundamentally bad baseball. Hell, you could hear a pin drop in the old barn as the home team found themselves besieged with a surreal seven-run deficit before many of the faithful could get comfortable in their horribly narrow, 1980’s-era hard steel chairs or even begin to enjoy the mediocre taste of their woefully overpriced but strangely endearing “sixth wave” pandemic hot dog or beer.
But even during those early volatile burps in the game and with the realization that Murphy’s Law has been a staple around these parts long since that final bloody week of the rarely mentioned but forever etched-in-memory 1987 season, there was a profound sense that being down early doesn’t seem to bother this roster in the least. In fact, one gets the impression that this ethnically diverse group of players thrives on it, even if it means spotting the opposition gratuitous leads, executing terrible fundamentals, or pulling your incredibly hyped yet beleaguered starter far too soon in the first game of 162.
And although José Berríos faltered, and the media-crafted corporate screenplay went temporarily off the rails with some absolutely shambolic eye-rolling sequences (an entire game for the bullpen to circumnavigate, Cavan Biggio’s failure to turn an elementary double play, Danny Jansen’s first passed ball in two years, Lourdes Gurriel’s massive high school-caliber overthrow to a spectator in the sixth row, and Bo Bichette finding himself inexplicably picked off first base with no earthly reason to steal a base), the fact remains that the band of baseball brothers on this team literally exist to play for one another inside a dynamic culture of nomadic redemption adorned by a millennial haze of generational talents.
Therefore, it wasn’t the least bit surprising when the tide began turning fast and furiously by the same players who dug the holes. Jansen’s home run padded their eventual lead, Gurriel’s emotionally-charged defensive play in left field protected the comeback, and Bichette’s extraordinary clutch hitting theatrics which, by season’s end, could easily land him an MVP award. There was a communal sense of vigilance brewing under the caps of the players from the 4th inning and beyond; a need to enter the record books having cobbled together the third-biggest comeback from an opening day deficit since 1901. Go big and stay home.
As the dust settled, it was abundantly clear that the over 45,000 in attendance fully understood what the US media and members of the baseball punditry society of overvalued social media influencers and elitist subject matter experts have been saying all along: this team is legitimate and has been meticulously crafted to be a World Series contender, and it will show, day in and night out. Their redundancy of developed and developing players along with the palpable chemistry between starters and backups isn’t something that magically happened one day; on the contrary, it’s been forged and executed with patience and pathos in mind – something I never thought I’d admit from a regime that ruthlessly tore the old guard down in 2016 and promised an uncertain rebuild limited by unwarranted budget constraints and corporate interference by non-baseball minds.
Mark Shapiro started as a bona fide villain, but I think by the time this story is told, he will likely emerge as the neo-Gillick diamond hero who saved baseball in Toronto and somehow made it authentic again. Truly. By the time the midnight hour descended over the city last night, the Blue Jays redeemed themselves on all fronts and with glorious individual efforts that lingered on the lips and minds of fans long after the game was over. For fans who went to bed content and full of hope, there’s only 161 more returns to the couch, the bar, the BBQ gatherings, and the SkyDome itself to savour what will undoubtedly be a season to remember. And in a world where pandemic fears, European warfare, and international globalist conspiracies may sully your mood and dampen your spirits, it’s high time we enjoyed a daily dose of baseball tonic to save the day and keep us blissfully and mercifully sane with the crack of a divine bat and the roar of a grateful crowd.