There hasn’t been much to congratulate the Toronto Blue Jays on over the past few years. We don’t know for certain if they’ll be any better this year. But after five weeks at spring training, they at least deserve marks for artistic innovation. The Jays have temporarily become the first Dada sports club.
The Dada club rejects capitalist conventions, preferring instead to engage in a non-sensical approximation of what sports should look like.
So, this spring, instead of televised games produced by broadcasting professionals, the Jays have occasionally preferred a stationary camera mounted behind home plate. Sometimes there’s no camera at all. Sometimes the games are on radio, but not that often. Sometimes the Jays’ networks carry the competing team’s feed.
Maybe they should try playing a real game, broadcasting an imaginary one and doing the play-by-play for a classic contest. Get some poststructuralists and Italian futurists on the weekly Rogers Media conference call and we could really start having some fun with numbers here.
This sudden turn against broadcasting by the broadcast network that owns the Jays was a budgetary decision. It’s brought to you by the same brainiacs who scrapped radio play-by-play this year. Instead, the Jays’ radio feed will carry the TV commentary.
Who among us is not looking forward to the first time Buck or Dan or Tabby forget themselves and say, “Well, will you look at that?” and a thousand irritated commuters say forlornly to their dashboards, “Look at what?”
Apparently, people are angry about all this change. Rogers is hacking up the old-timey roots of the game, just like the killjoys who banned chewing tobacco.
Everyone knows that the optimal time to fall asleep on the couch, despite promising to get whatever it was from Home Depot, is five minutes after you’ve turned the radio to a Jays game. Rogers isn’t just defiling the broadcast sacraments of the national pastime. It is assaulting the very nature of naps.
There is an upside to this. Without a constant video bombardment from Dunedin, it’s become more difficult to get a sense of what the Jays are up to. Occasionally, you may have to – and I know this pains all of us – consult the written word.
In absolute terms, spring training is meaningless. The only reason it exists is to gin up a little business with the retired professionals who carpet Florida and Arizona like a penguin colony.
The best way to define a “successful” spring training is one in which no one you really need gets catastrophically injured accidentally slamming a car door on his pitching hand (which has happened).
In narrative terms, spring is when we decide who is a winner and who is a loser. Showed up 10 days before pitchers and catchers? Winner. Then used his first interview to complain about his contract? Loser.
That third function has been curtailed. Without viewers or many media members on hand, the only sources of info are Zoom interviews (which have become so indistinguishable to me that the only way I can tell which sport is which is via logos on apparel) and box scores. Just like in the 1920s.
When was the last time you didn’t know everything about a team you followed? Not that you need to know everything, or even want to know everything. But everything is what you get. All the info, all of the time, regardless of whether it’s pertinent. An endless firehose of content, attached at one end to the team and at the other to your phone.
All we know right now is that the Jays appear to be doing fine. No one has fallen under the treads of a wheat thresher. The hitters are hitting. The pitchers are ahead of them, which is as it should be. But not so far ahead that you’d be worried.
Vladimir Guerrero is on pace to put Ted Williams in the shade. Every new Jays pitcher you’ve never heard of looks like a young Sandy Koufax. This is the promise of spring training. Everybody looks their best.
Then they hit the road for six solid months, sleeping on airplanes and eating in hotels, and then you see who was serious about keeping it together. But that’s in the future.
It’s kind of nice not knowing exactly what’s what, especially since none of it currently matters.
Right now – right at this moment in time – the Jays could be anything.
Ball teams once existed in this space all the time, even the ones you obsessed about. The off-season really was that, not an endless rumour mill/hot stove.
When the team showed up in the spring, you didn’t see those games because you were in school when they were played. After six months without daily baseball, you’d forgotten what some of these guys looked like. That let you fall in love (or hate) with them all over again.
By August, you had the hang of the group. By September, it was either working out or it wasn’t. Then they ghosted over winter and then reappeared again in spring – a natural cycle.
The Jays, like all pro teams, are overexposed. That may be part of the reason people tire of them so quickly each (losing) year.
Rogers doesn’t exactly have a light touch when it comes to community relations, but this new approach has had the temporary benefit of creating a little mystery around the team. Let’s see if the result is a new romance between city and what has become its third-favourite team.