It is not yet August so it is not yet a pennant race, but the Toronto Blue Jays are in a situation they haven't been for a long time - they matter. Their games matter, dripping with primordial playoff implications as they do. Given the AL East warzone, these future implications are more than just tiny glimmers of hope reflecting off the brass ring that is the second Wild Card game.
For the first time in a long time, people are very excited about homegrown talent that contributes to Toronto Blue Jays playoff positioning. People are excitedly watching on TV in record numbers. People are excitedly watching the scoreboards, cursing opponents of the Yankees and Orioles for seeming incapable of scoring runs or protecting leads. People are excited.
They're excited by attrition, as the sliding scale of satisfactory outcomes now includes "lurch into one-game coinflip against Mike Trout's team" or "win ugliest division in baseball with worst record in 15 years."
Not that it matters. There are no style points in the standings and you can't half-hang tricolor bunting. More to the point: flags fly forever so nobody asks if you backed in or won 100 games. Flags get the last word on matters big and small.
With that excitement comes unease. With unease come questions, both specific and existential. The questions are new and the answers are not well-rehearsed. They're questions rarely breathed around this team for 20 years, and yet here, in Alex Anthopoulos' ascii shrug of a season, they're getting new life.
When playoff questions are asked, their din drowns out whispers about style and weirdness and what it does to us to watch proudly mediocre baseball for a generation. "How can they win tonight's game?" becomes the only question worth asking.
Quite rightly, if we're all being honest. The game is the game but tuning in with a vested interest tends to trump ironic detachment, so long the bedrock of this small corner of baseball internet. It was the lack of these questions that brought sites like this one to life, a search for meaningful baseball conversations in a time and place where they were lacking.
This week, the Jays picked wins off the rotting carcass of the defending World Series champions and re-inserted themselves into the playoff conversation just as I learned that me and my friends needed to find a new place to work. Suddenly my life was full of questions, many of which I dared not ask before. Maybe not serendipity but not something I'll let pass without notice.
It won't provide any real answers but opening this space again just seems like something worth doing, given the events of the week. Here's hoping one half of this continuum lasts a long time and the other doesn't last at all. In the mean time, let's try this old suit on for size.