Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zen Dayley: You have no right to use that word!

It just seems wrong somehow to see a sports columnist refer to Roy Halladay as the "ace of a nails starting staff."

The sentiment is appreciated. The misappropriation of the immortal adverb popularized by Drunk Jays Fans to describe a a lights-out individual and group effort is not. The usage that has to be known and loved is to say a player or an element of the ballclub is nails, as in, "the Jays' pitching has been nails lately." Some will garnish that with a couple of F-bombs. No one is judging.

This is not some mundane detail. It has everything to do with how baseball fans and creative types get a raw deal every day (two words, people) of their lives in this country, especially the Xers.

It is one word out of several hundred, and it's only in the wrong place. Still, it's the tip of the iceberg that a Canadian baseball nut has to constantly navigate around. Someone thirty-one years old is in no position to make the call on whether it was always this bad, but it's too bad that the media in this country, with a few shining exceptions, is falling so far behind at keeping up with the evolution in baseball analysis.

This is a great time to be a connoisseur of baseball writing and analysis. There's so much -- the hard analysis of Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times. The obsessive chronicling of MLB Trade Rumors. The joy of seeing the guys and gals on the beat -- Jeff Blair, Joe Posnanski and Mike Wilner, to name but three -- who are coming to understand the whole notion of a give-and-take with their audience.

There's some of the think-pieces pouring forth from major-outlet writers such as Tom Verducci (his Tim Lincecum cover story back in July was an essential read, and his piece on the groupthink mentality that influences managers' use of their bullpen is a good one too). It's probably easier than it's ever been to be up to speed and whom other franchises have coming up through their farm systems. Last, but not least, there are all the humour-in-a-jockular-vein sites that can take the sting out from loving something as silly as a baseball team and the starch out of the media that purports to take the games seriously, when it fact they've been rendered unserious through uninterested ownership.

All of this reinforces that even though baseball is a game that you can zone on out on more than any other game, like Rob Gordon in High Fidelity categorizing his record collection for the 1,001st time. You can get lost in something, knowing full well it's only a game. That is beautiful and haunting when it's not reflected in how the media outlets in the country, for the most part, cover the sport. It never goes much beyond whether the Jays won or lost, does it?

What's not to understand? The Jays had won 10 games in a row before Roy Halladay -- or Roy (N-Word) Halladay, although that sobriquet probably should not get used more than once, lost last night. That left them seven games behind the Red Sox for the wild-card spot if anyone actually cares to know, but the enjoyment of it was tempered. You knew each win would only entitle more and more of the know-it-alls to slither back out from under their rocks and get it all wrong, or repeat the same bullflop about why the team couldn't play like that in August. (Apparently, those were "triple word score" games or something. It's a 162-game season. Each game is weighted equally, Jesse Litsch and Shaun Marcum were struggling to find their form in August, end of story.)

The Jays are not making the playoffs. The it-getters made their peace with that even before Opening Day. The deck is stacked against the Jays as an AL East team and no, the Tampa Bay Rays being playoff-bound is not proof to the contrary. Their payroll is $44 million and will probably only be in the mid-50s next season, but when you consider Tampa Bay's brainpower and the benefits of having a high spot in the amateur draft, it's clear they are a wealthy team in their own right.

The Rays are kind of the personification of inconspicuous consumption. That probably gets lost on people in a country whose only MLB franchise's corporate parent makes tens of millions of dollars selling cellphones that people feel they cannot live without.

What's not to understand. The days are growing shorter. The season is drawing down. A 10-game win streak, for lack of any other way to put it, is nice. Del Jordan in The Lives of Girls and Women figured out that there could be happiness without scholarships to university, so a Jays fans can certainly have happiness with no playoffs. There's a lot for the mind as a baseball fan..

There should be a moratorium on people who might watch baseball -- but not with the right kind of eyes -- to actually see the game to bat out a column which lends itself to copy editors using the headline, "Meaningful Games Return To Blue Jays."

Every game is meaningful. That should be as easy to nail down as, well, why the older generation doesn't have licence to say "nails."


  • There's a little irony in saying the Tampa Bay Rays (now 2 1/2 games clear of the Red Sox) should have gone after Barry Bonds. The improvement they made in their fielding was the equivalent of adding Bonds at his peak. (Yet the same columnist who set me off referred to them as the "Cinderella Rays." Again, what's not to get?)
  • Good things do happen to bad people: The Florida Marlins are going to get their new stadium.
Damn, the Jays
  • Casey Janssen will be ready to go for Opening Day 2009, according to everyone's favourite GM with a predilection with for obfuscation. In all seriousness, that is good news. J.P. Ricciardi also said on the FAN 590 last night that Dustin McGowan "might not" to pitch by the end of spring training.
  • Someone, soon, will wonder if the Jays should make a pitch for Todd Helton as their DH next season.
  • Over dinner and drinks last night, a friend wondered why Rod Barajas was batting fifth; Mike Wilner wondered as well.
  • The Jays' 10-game roll is done, and wasn't it fun. Not everything has to be overanalyzed. A.J. Burnett should invoke his out clause so well..

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