Something funny happened last night. On the first night of the NHL playoffs – on the same night as the start of the OHL’s Eastern Conference final featuring my Belleville Bulls – my attention was drawn to a baseball game.
There was a time in my life when I used to hide the pets and tie down the valuables before the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. My intensity was just that, well, insane. Ask my mother about the night the TV was punched in the middle of a fourth overtime period. She’ll tell you unless she’s blocked it out of her memory. Yet last night I was more interested in Adam Lind.
There is an overused cliché right now in Toronto that talks about the need to sell hope in pro sports. Less people are talking about the Leafs because they didn’t sell hope last year. The Raptors are forgotten because there is no hope to point to, the Argos...it goes on and on. So when the local nine goes out and starts the season 7-3, sitting pretty on top of the AL East, well, suddenly the T.O. sports fan feels as if he’s found himself in a time machine set to 1993. Where’s Dougie and Robbie?
For us Gen Xers the Jays are always stuck in that time machine. Unless you are a hardcore seamhead (God love you Neate!) baseball kind of stopped sometime in 1994. You couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but it just wasn’t right anymore. I remember being at the home opener in 1995. I grabbed tickets way up in the 500s. What amazed me that day was that there were only about 47,000 sold. My friend Ian and I bought ours the day before. It was an odd juxtaposition to those that had been in SkyDome a year before for the home opener (surreally the day Kurt Coban killed himself). Sitting in the top deck that day I kind of got the same feeling I did when I stayed at a keg party just a bit too long. The cool kids had all gone to the hot after hours party while I was stuck drinking flat beer with the weird guy that wants to talk about his ceramic dog collection.
Flash forward 15 years (Good God where did my hair go!!) and suddenly drinking that flat beer doesn’t seem so bad anymore. In fact I kind of miss drinking Labatts Blue out of plastic cups. I’m looking for an excuse to go back to a time when such behaviour was important to me.
Since I’d likely be arrested for crashing a U of T kegger I’ll have to settle for caring about the Blue Jays again. So far so good.
Now I can hear the negative types out there telling me that it’s too early to get swept away at the are-they-for-realness of the season. Ten games is a lot less than 162.
But let’s consider some numbers. In the American League there have been 28 playoff teams since 2002. More than one-third – 10 of 28 – were in a playoff position at the approximate 10 game mark of their season. Not a sure thing by any means, but 10 of 28 is significant.
If we move ahead to the approximate 20 game mark, it jumps up to almost 50 per cent of the playoff spots – 13 of 28 were held by the teams that would go on to capture them at the end of the season.
By the end of April 57 per cent – 16 of 28 – of the eventual playoff spots were held by the teams that would capture them.
Just pause and think about those numbers the next time someone dismisses the Jays great start as being “just in April.” The wins count the same now as they do in September.
Of course it is just April. And we are just 10 games into the season. But when you’ve been starved for hope you take it where you can get it.
First pitch goes at 8:05 p.m tonight.
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