They say that baseball is a game of failure. The best players head back to the bench empty-handed six times out of ten. Good baserunners get thrown out. Good defensive players make errors, and good pitchers give up hits to bad players or walk players they shouldn't. Umpires miss calls. Managers get caught up in personal attachments or get lost in the action and make bad decisions. Front offices take chances by trading one asset for another, and sometimes, they get the wrong end of the deal.
This should not come as news, given that we've all watched the best teams in baseball stumble and fail and flail away over the past three weeks. Stuff happens, but teams move on to win another day. Ideally, we as fans should be able to slough it off, move on and accept that the other guys got over on us today.
And yet, to our eyes and ears, it seems as though the anger and disdainful, snarky exasperation has been cranked up to eleven over the past few months. Fans seem to want to hang someone by their thumbs with every outcome than falls for the other team. Take, for instance, Mike Napoli's big blast in Game Four of the World Series: While we heard a lot of praise, there was also a fair bit of blame being cast towards Tony La Russa for overmanaging - essentially, doing the same thing for which he was praised earlier in the week - and Mitchell Boggs was run through the wringer for throwing a pitch way up in the strike zone. Fire La Russa! Boggs is a bum!
For Jays fans, one big swing of Napoli's bat was enough to bring the self-appointed arbiters of the trade market out of the woodwork to emphasize how fallible Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos is, given that he traded away Napoli for...what? Magic beans? 10 bonus airline miles? A $25 dollar credit coupon towards an oil change and wheel alignment, provided two other GM's also made the same trade?
In hindsight, it seems so blatantly obvious that the Jays should have kept Napoli, ate into J.P. Arencibia's playing time, made Adam Lind DH more often, released Edwin Encarnacion and looked elsewhere for a closer. (Well, to some it does.)
(The same hindsight also makes it completely obvious what a trainwreck the Boston Red Sox season was, and how lacking they were in moral fibre given their affinity for biscuits and beer...but that's probably a whole other series of posts.)
So what's happening here? Are we really all this angry? Is it the water supply? An airborne event? Is there no room for nuance? Can't we all just chill a bit?
Our best guess is that none of this is new, really. Rather, the Twitter feeds and comments and multitude of pundits - both new and old school - means that we're instantaneously plugged into the heated reactions of people which, in another age, would have been taken out on the couch cushions. Also, a lot of the comments are obviously designed to get a reaction, and nothing gets a laugh like put-down. (We don't really evolve much past our days on the playground. We just take on debt and put on weight and get hairier.)
Another thing that we see is how the vastly improved and accessible metrics have created a greater sense of understanding about game strategy. The downside to this is that there's a streak of absolutism that runs through baseball's chattering class, as fans feel as though they can speak with something close to certainty as to what was the right call in any given game situation. We're sure that we've indulged in such a thing here and there, but we're trying hard as of late to be a bit more accepting of managerial decisions with which we are not in agreement, because we sense that the game moves pretty fast when you have some actual responsibility for its outcome.
But don't mistake that last notion for some luddite pining for a simpler time, when men were men and geeks occupied themselves with rocket surgery or other boring stuff. It's stupid not to use the information at our disposal, or to misuse some dumber numbers. But there is a dimension of the game that we don't necessarily see - players' health, their confidence levels, a hitch in their mechanics, the cut of their jib - which we are a bit more willing to acknowledge as a factor in decisions.
It's a long season. Sometimes you're up. Sometimes, you're down. A little indignant rant here and there can be fun, but a high-pitched fit of pique for seven straight months is exhausting. To us, it is. But don't let us stop you from raging on.
Coming Up...Looking Back, Looking Forward
As delinquent as we've been in our blogging duties in recent weeks, we aim to make it up to you following the championship season with a series a pieces that look back on the 2011 campaigns of some of the most intriguing Jays, and look ahead at what we expect from them in 2012. (Not that we have any powers of clairvoyance. We're just making most of this junk up as we go along. But hopefully you find it entertaining.)
Feel free to drop us a line and let us know if there are players in particular that you'd like to see at the top of the pile.