Blue Jays: From TD to first, Times have changed around Rogers Centre
By Bob Elliott
Eight months ago today it was a team known by it’s initials: TD.
And we don’t mean the Toronto-Dominion Comfort Clubhouse at the crowded Rogers Centre.
No, back in January the TD stood for Team Dysfunctional.
The Rogers Communications power brokers were running around trying to hire a president while they already had one. The main concern was whether either the Baltimore Orioles or the Chicago White Sox -- or both -- would file tampering charges against TD.
All the Orioles wanted for Dan Duquette’s services was former No. 1 picks Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost plus prospect Mitch Nay.
Let’s think about that for a second, Hoffman for a guy wearing a suit ...
Or Hoffman, plus Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco for a guy in a uniform.
Hey there he is now ... standing at shortstop for Your Toronto Blue Jays ... Troy Tulowitzki.
The Jays were 50-50 when the trade was made within days David Price, Ben Revere, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe and Chad Pennington came before the non-waiver, trade deadline too.
The Jays are 21-6 since then heading into the opener of their weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.
They obviously did the right thing with the trades and they did the right thing Friday opening the gates early so fans could see the Jays take batting practice.
“I feel like I am experiencing this (pennant race) for the first time in my career,” said DH Edwin Encarnacion, the second senior Jay position player behind Jose Bautista in terms of continuous service time.
“There is so much energy around the stadium, inside the stadium. There are Blue Jays jerseys everywhere when you walk downtown. People are excited.”
Encarnacion, in his 11th year in the majors, says the excitement makes players forget the pain from bumps and bruises they usually carry through the woof-woof days of August. As he says this he is removing the tape from his mangled middle finger of his left hand, applied before batting practice.
Chris Mears is an area scout for the Boston Red Sox and he scouts high schoolers and college talent in Oklahoma. Yet, when the draft is over and everyone is signed he has pro coverage. So, in the scout’s section Friday sat Mears who was born in Ottawa, played in Leaside and was growing up in the Beaches when the SkyDome opened.
“First time I was ever in here was the opening series against Milwaukee when they closed the roof during the game because the rains were coming,” Mears said. “Everyone watched in awe at the roof.”
Everyone except the hitter, Lloyd Moseby, Brewers catcher Charlie O’Brien and plate ump Richie Garcia, who were drenched. Game 3 in the history of the roof closed/roof open era contained a six-minute rain delay. O’Brien raced for the Brewers dugout when all he had to do was take five or steps backwards under the roof’s cover.
“This city definitely has Blue Jays fever,” said Mears, who moved to Vancouver, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1996, pitched 10 seasons in the minors and in 29 games for the 2003 Tigers.
Chris Tunno was at the game, his first time in the city since 1995 when he was with the Youngstown Astro Falcons Connie Mack team. Now, Tunno works for the St. Louis Cardinals. He knows downtowns. He knows colorful downtowns.
“Whether it was a coffee shop, a restaurant or a mall or people walking the street today most were dressed in blue,” said Tunno, who has experienced the sea of Cardinal red outside and inside Busch Stadium. “I haven’t seen this much blue since last year in Kansas City. They could be playing each other.”
Royal blue vs. Blue Jay blue for the right to mesh with Cardinal sweaters, caps, hoodies, etc?
When Encarnacion was growing up in La Romana in the Dominican Republic, a long home run from George Bell’s summer casa at Case de Campo, he pitched until he was 12.
“My father (Elpidio Encarnacion) worried about an arm injury, so he didn’t want me to pitch, maybe he knew what he had, maybe,” Encarnacion said.
The first five Mount Crushmore of the Jays lineup consists of:
Tulowitzki, who has 23 hits since joining the Jays, including four doubles and three homers.
MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, who has homered in seven of his previous 19 games, has 34 on the season and 101 RBIs.
Two-time major-league home run champ Jose Bautista, who has 30 homers and 87 RBIs.
Encarnacion, who had 26 homers and 80 RBIs.
Chris Colabello, who owns a .393 average with runners in scoring position, as well as 13 homers and 49 RBIs.
Encarnacion the hitter was asked if he was still pitching, who would be the weakest link of the Jays first five hitters?
This was also before Tulowitzki and Donaldson went back-to-back in the third inning off former Jays lefty Matt Boyd.
And before Bautista went deep and was serenaded with the “Jose, Jose” chant.
The weakest link?
“Me,” said Encarnacion, before a first-inning double over the head of Anthony Gose extended the DH’s consecutive-game hitting streak to 23 games.
Boyd was part of the package along with Daniel Norris for Price who visited the Tigers clubhouse before the game.
Who would you rather have? Price or a guy wearing a suit?
Times have changed since 1989, since January, since a month ago.