Monday, July 29, 2019

Don't Worry, We Will Both Find Out (Just Not Together)

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The Blue Jays traded Marcus Stroman. They received two players in return after sending some money to the New York Mets, of all teams. I'm sure the return is fine. Or bad. Or underwhelming. It's not something I can say I'm especially invested in at the moment.

Trading Stroman sends a series of messages. How most Blue Jays fans receive it is their business. If wins and losses are all you're after, this trade won't shake your world. You've moved on to analyzing the prospects or killing the front office. I'm a little sad I won't be able to cheer for Stroman in Blue Jays colours anymore.

I'm happy to have watched him do what many thought he could not. He makes baseball fun, win or lose, which I think is important. I'm glad he started Opening Day and Game 5 and the wildcard game because I can't imagine anyone else doing so. I'm glad He Pitched That Year. I'm disappointed he's gone. I don't think he'll be back.

It’s amazing the way we, as fans, project our feelings onto the athletes who end up wearing a tri-knit blend with “Blue Jays” on the front. With truly great players, we strain and twist ourselves into knots to paint high performers in a positive light. Then, when they move on from the team, we lament their leaving based on that which projected onto them.

It sure helps when they're good. We marvelled at Roy Halladay's work ethic and determination, creating a two dimensional sketch of a complicated and emotional man who bristled at the very notion. JA Happ's uncommon humanity, stoicism and self-awareness in the weird world of pro sports shone through at this time last year, colouring the profiles of the pro's pro.

Mostly, I think, we're able to see things in professional athletes we either wish we saw in ourselves, or trick ourselves into believing about ourselves. "He might be an asshole but he's our asshole" was a common refrain as we repeatedly insisted how much fun it was to have Josh Donaldson in the mix.

Yet Stroman is different. He always was different and will continue to be different. Not just because of his size or the colour of his skin, though those things make him very different between the lines and those are things, unlike brash talk and opponent-provoking swagger, are things he cannot turn off. So why turn any of it off? If the first part won't allow them to see you for what you are, there isn't much the second part can do to change their minds.

The Mets diminutive right-hander always rubs the right people the wrong way. Redassed baseballmen in opposing dugouts and miserable clockwatchers in the home press box, Stroman's twitchy weirdness made them a little crazy. His great love of celebratory on-field histrionics sets off those who want as little "entertainment" in their entertainment product as possible. His personality a bright spotlight for those determined to tell on themselves.

Somehow, his "antics" overshadowed just how good he was. Those inclined to run him down based on how he acts use coded sports language, begrudgingly granting his performance solid but not team-first or happily pointing out what he isn't rather than acknowledging what he became.

Winning baseball games is easier when Stroman is on your team. Watching baseball is made much easier when he is involved. Few pitchers in the homer-crazy modern game are better at keeping the ball in the park than Stroman, even though his personality invited overzealous uppercut swings, both on the field and off.

What did Marcus Stroman become? A lightning rod, a model ballplayer and hard working. An unrelenting marketer and guy who recognized the value of being a brand. Inauthentic? Maybe. Entertaining? Definitely. Effective? Uncannily.

The Blue Jays are worse today by his absence and the work of finding someone to do what he's done for the past five years begins in earnest. It's going to be a long search. Guys like him don't come around often - or at all. I'm glad this one did, I just wish he could've stayed longer.


  1. Well put. Pure entertainment. But it's best served where there are wins that matter.

  2. It was the right move. Despite what many 2015+ fans think about it.


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