Sunday, May 13, 2012

Life on the Road

When you scan through the lineup the Minnesota Twins are rolling out there on a day-to-day basis, you have to feel just a little bit sorry for the faithful in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  (Also, I used to think that if there were really ten thousand lakes in Minnesota, the entire state would have to be like Waterworld.  I thought maybe they were passing off some pretty marginal bodies of water to keep that slogan, but it's more than legit according to Wikipedia.)  That's a lineup with more than its fair share of AAAA-types, and even its stars aren't quite what they've been in the not-too-distant past.  So I get why some fans are laying the criticism on pretty thick after only taking two out of four games against the Twins at Target Field -- especially after the two losses looked pretty winnable right until the end.

There's some justification to looking at a roster full of guys like Darin Mastroianni, Alexi Casilla and Erik Komatsu and wondering why a competitive AL East team like the Blue Jays could only beat them twice out of four chances.  Of course, if the Jays played these Twins fifty times in Minnesota, they'd probably take about 34 games from them, and the same criticism would probably be leveled at them after each of the 16 losses.

The fact is, it's hard to win on the road.  Treading water at a .500 pace on the road, even against so-called bad teams, is actually pretty damned good.  Right now, after 22% of the season, the Jays are 11-9 on the road.  Two games over .500 doesn't sound like much, but consider this:  last year's Wild Card winner in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays, had 91 wins and were only 7 games over .500 for the season.  The Jays still have a better winning percentage on the road this year than they do at home.

How productive are you when you travel?  I know that when my real life job takes me on the road, my productivity, and my give-a-shit factor, tend to dip.  It's only natural.  Yeah, there's work to do, but I'm a human being.  I'm not as comfortable not sleeping in my own bed.  My routine gets all screwed up.  I eat more Tim Horton's breakfast sandwiches than any man really should, instead of having something healthy and light.  And then there's stuff to see and do.  It might not be all that exciting (I'm not sure the Minneapolis-St. Paul area offers much more than a ginormous mall), but it's still a distraction from the business at hand.  I often come home shocked I got anything done at all.

Before it started, I was pretty apprehensive about this road swing.  After it wrapped up this afternoon, I came to terms with the fact that the team actually handled it very well.  It's also fair to say we have yet to see this team at its very best, with all aspects clicking at once.  Somewhat counterintuitively, that's precisely what has me encouraged about the remainder of this season:  the Blue Jays haven't been below .500 once this season, and they aren't even showing everything they have yet, notwithstanding some ominous signs on the horizon.  I don't think a team like the Twins would want to have the Jays roll into town for four games when they do start putting it all together.

Bautista Watch (!)

The Twins did, however, get themselves a big, hot, steaming bowl full of Jose Bautista's power stroke.  Minnesota would have been a popular pick for anyone entering a pool for which stadium would allow Bautista to rediscover his MVP form from the previous two seasons.  Three homers and some loud hits and outs were nice to see.  Call it a mini-break-out, and welcome it just in time for the Rays and Yankees to pop into Skydome for two-game sets this week.  I'll call it:  Jose hits three more jacks this week, and bumps his OPS over .800 for the first time since Game Four of the season.


Anonymous said...

My thoughts exactly, the Jays have a tough next two weeks with the Rays Yankees, Mets and Rangers. Remember, the Interleague Gods can be very fickle with this team.

DWBudd said...

Of course, it's tougher to win on the road than at home, and a 5-5 trip (10 games is a long road trip in the modern era) is not a bad showing.

I think that the reason a lot of people are grumbling (myself included) is not the actual 5-5 outcome, but the sense that they team could (should?) have had a better result. Two one-run losses in Minnesota to a frankly poor team, the ugly, blow-up loss in Oakland earlier (to another somewhat less-than-outstanding group), and a lack-lustre finish in Anaheim after winning the first two. Toss in all of the walks the pitchers handed out and some sloppy defence.

It just leaves the feeling of a "meh..." trip with some missed opportunities.

IF the Jays are going to contend this year (I really still am on the fence as to their chances), they need to do a lot better than this.

Ian Hunter said...

5-5 on a 10 game road swing? Not too shabby.

I think some people are disappointed because they fully expected the Blue Jays to sweep these opponents. But so long as they can tread around a .500 mark on the road, that's cool with me!

TommyJohn_ said...

These are baseball players... not finance consultants or accountants. Going on the road is something they have been doing since rep ball at the ages of 14. Ever since college, they spend half their life (semester)on the road. A hotel becomes home when you travel this much. They travel with nutritionists, they aren't eating beyond their norm. They stay in luxury hotels which, at the very least, sleep as good, if not better, then their home. And I say all of this having experienced this lifestyle, not just as a pissed off d-bag fan (although right now I am that too). There is no other way to look at it, the Jays lost 3 games they shouldn't have on this series, and it will likely hurt them in the long run like it has in the past. You can't give up games to teams that you are expected to beat, every series. Of course they aren't going to sweep every sub.500 team, but you have to win the series to make it in the AL East, or else you are faced with a bastard of an uphill battle.

bakatron said...

you know tao i love and your blogs but at one point in my life i was a career traveller and i can honestly say theres a bit of a difference in being an athlete and being the average joe on a business trip. since im more of a homebased slave in my 30s as opposed to my 20s when i was on the road a lot, i hate travelling even a bit than i did before when i loved it. its simply a matter of mindset.

yes i hate business trips, i hate going on the road, but back in the day when it was an integral 20 days in a month thing... i couldnt wait to get back on the road.

Anonymous said...

Look, I know these guys are professional athletes who travel in luxury. But I imagine they're still busing from airports to hotels to ballparks, still packing suitcases and rushing to catch charters. They're probably used to it, sure. But I can't imagine you'd find a major league ballplayer who actually prefers being on the road to playing at home.

I agree that they lost some games they could have won on that trip. They'll win some games that they should have lost as the season goes on too. They're not going to win every series, at home or on the road, but hopefully they win more series than they lose.