Thursday, October 20, 2016

Stirred but not Shaken: Toronto Blue Jays October Baseball

As many of you fellow avid Jays fan, I am feeling a little confused on now to sum-up emotions from this years not so gracious end. While it is no easy task to make it to the ALCS two years in a row, what are the underlining issues that are peaking through for the Toronto Blue Jays? What is holding them back from getting into a World Series?

Here is my top 10 BEST:

  1. Edwin Encarnacion. Seriously the man is gold, and he is now coming off his personal best season. 127 RBIs, 42 HRs and while this in itself is impressive, the man cannot be taken for granted on how clutch he is in big situations. His bat discipline is amazing, and even though he is bombarded with basically outside and unhitable pitches, he still manages to push through. His offence was not a surprise, we all know he is more than capable. But what was a surprise, was how decent he is playing a defensive position at 1st base, and opening up the DH spot for another hitter. I think this involvement with his team on both ends has helped make it the best season for him and his fans. He better comeback to the6ix, because he is an elite player, reminiscent of Jose Bautista in his hay days.
  2. Aaron Sanchez. This kid hurling fastballs with movement is like very few I have seen. At just 23, his potential to be great is enormous. I was a little unsure when I saw him show up this season, defiantly looking much heartier and stronger. The question for me was how would he adjust in a starting role, and did he have the stuff and stamina to keep it going as a starter? The answers to all the above is YES!
    He pitched close to 200 innings this year, more than double from the previous, carrying an overall 15-2 record. He has proven himself as an ace in the making and his willingness to move past all the chatter of whether he could has impressed me even more. Next year I don't wanna hear any doubts about his abilities or physical capabilities. He looked strong out there 95% of the time - he deserves to be respected for winning the AL ERA title at an even 3.00. He is the future of pitching!
  3. J.A. Happ. I had the pleasure of seeing Happ start quite a few times this year. As the only lefty starter for a majority of the season (previous to the acquiring of Fransisco Liriano), he plays far more an important role in the starting rotation than even his amazing numbers reflect. A top Cy Young candidate in my opinion, alongside Porcello of Boston, his ability to make pitches in a calm, collected way is amazing. He only have up 72 runs in 195 innings. That is impressive. He brings the professionalism and maturity that is a stabilizing force in the starting rotation and at 33, is peaking at his best. 
  4. Ezequiel Carrera. Quite simply, this man is a go-to weapon. For a bench player, I think he is the one guy who earned his keep to play more regularly. He does it all, a master bunter, speed, excellent fielder and boy when he gets streaky, is he ever streaky! Perhaps the thing that was most surprising for me was the demonstration of some of his power. While he did not have a ton of home runs, it was clear the way he drives the ball that he has some pop. I wouldn't mind seeing him become an everyday player. Perhaps stepping into right field if Joey Bats is let go.
  5. Josh Donaldson. Not much selling needed of the reigning MVP from the AL in 2015. He plays the game the right way, he approached every at-bat with such discipline. It was clear that at times this season JD was playing through some injuries, but he never whined about them and pushed through.
    This playoff season he was batting over .400, yes .400! He is a big part of the heart of this team, he pumps up his follow players and keeps it real. I love his new over the pants socks and hightop shoes look - keep it fresh Bringer of Rain. He ain't so shabby in the field either. Perhaps one of the underrated fielders spoken about in the regular season. 37 HR, 99 RBIs - he makes a team winning.
  6. Roberto Osuna. Osuna Matata! Can you even imagine being 21 and having 36 saves? He is the youngest in MLB history to recored this many saves. This young man is another weapon of mass destruction, much like Sanchez, who represents the future of baseball pitching. It is so impressive how calm and collected he remains in any situation. He has the aura and presence of someone who has been doing it for years.
  7. Troy Tulowitzki. TULO! Quite honestly, I have never seen such an impressive shortstop in MLB. The man throws unimaginable strikes to first from already impossible stops. He is the heart and soul of the in-field defence and pushes his teamates to step-up to his level. The influence he has had on his fellow infielders in undeniable, and who better to show Devon Travis the ways. This man is invaluable. While his batting to some time to come around, it seems like he has finally got past the injuries that have plagued him over the past 2 seasons. I think we just started to see a glimpse of how great a bater he is later in the season. He is defiantly become one of my personal favourites, TULO!
  8. Jason Grilli. It's Grilli time! It was clear that the Jays bullpen of last year was not going to be enough in a league that is producing lightsout power from their bullpens. Jays needed to step up that game, and Jason Grilli, the veteran, is exactly the prescription needed. It was clear of the affect Mark Buehrle provided in terms of leadership on the pitching staff and I think Grilled Cheese has stepped into this role quite nicely. Seeing sweat flying from his locks and his unusual staredown to set for a pitch has become something Toronto fans have come to appreciate. While Brett Cecil has struggling with injuries and command for most of the season (but got back into the solid pitcher we know the past 2 months), Grilli took on the role of set-up man. I think that Cecil and Grilli, alongside Benoit is a winning combo for the future. 
  9. Joe Biagini. The Rookie with a sense of humour! What is there not to love about this kind? It is clear that he works hard, and it shows with his precision on the mound. I think his potential is just starting to unfold, and his pitch arsenal will continue to get deeper and stronger. I could see him being a starter in the future. Jays should keep that in mind, like another Sanchez-like transition. 
  10. Devon Travis. Booty baseball is back in town! Devon Travis is an amazing ballplayer. He is just in his first full-isa season, due to nagging injuries, but does he ever add so much as a leadoff hitter and has a high IQ at the plate. He is just beginning to show his potential and will be an all star one day! I hope his injuries don't become him, as he is a star in the making out at second. We haven't seen one since Robbie Alomar, but personal childhood hero! I heart baby (the nickname his teammates have to him). The only .300 bater on the squad this year. He will improve as a fielder too, I believe, as he gets more confidence and experience. 

Top 7 WORST:
  1. John Gibbons. Aside from the fact that he looks like an earthworm, the man is a moron. He did show some level of improvement when it came to rotating his bullpen, but he just does not possess the smarts to take this club to the next level. Sadly, it is already announced that he will be back next season. He needs to become more aware when to pull people out. Also on how to get bench players more regular at bats. I could go on and on. He looks like an earthworm. 
  2. Russell Martin. Calm your tits! I love Russell Martin behind the plate and calling games, but my gods, is his offensive approach is frustrating at time. Dude, if you are 0-21, cut down your swing and just make contact already! He has his hot hot hot month, but other than that, just was not able to produce offensively in the way he can. His throwing runners out percentage was also significantly lower than in his past years. Again, love Martin, but for a veteran he should have a better approach at the plate. I think Navarro should get more consideration for starts, he was on during the playoffs and also deserve some respect.
  3. Micheal Saunders. Again, love me Captain Canada when he is on. But boy when he is off at bats, is he ever off! Some time I roll my eyes at the pitches me swings at - so many bloody strikeouts like his buddy Martin. While he was hot as hell in the first half and named an all-star, again I think this is more about him becoming a more disciplined player next season. I like Saunders, I just think he needs to improve his ability to diversify what he can hit and where he is hitting. We all know he can connect with low and inside. I wonder he will be back next year, the outfield looks uncertain to me with Bautista and Upton being unknowns. 
  4. R.A. Dickey. So likeable as a human being, and a class act. But dude, knuckleballs have got to go! They have no place in a starting rotation in MLB today, it is a different kind of game. He is not dynamic enough anymore. Love you R.A. but you gotta go!
  5. Josh Thole. I feel a little mean about this one, I mean the poor man is R.A.'s personal catcher for years. Unfortunately for him, his role is so attached to that purpose and he doesn't exactly hone the skills of a Jedi master behind the plate. Next!
  6. Ryan Goins. I don't know what happened to Goins this year, but he never got it Goins! While he is an exceptional fielder at second and short, his ability to connect with a bat became bleak. I don't know what to think, but the reality is that Devon Travis is an all-star in the making and hot as hell, as the Jays only .300 batter in the regular season. 
  7. Jose Bautista. Hold me, this is hard for me to say. He has been my man for years now, but the fact is Joey Bats is not who he use to be at almost 40. I think it is more difficult to be a mature bater than a pitcher, and with two injuries that kept him out of around 50 games this year, the question is, where does he fit or does he into the future of the Jays?
    He is not as quick as he once was, and clearly not as powerful as when he was the two-time homerun champ. The main issue in the Jays lineup is that they need more contact hitters, guys that can just get on and don't always have to swing to the fences. He is still good, don't get me wrong, but I think that EE is the staple power hitter now in the starting line-up and JD a close second. I love you Jose! Thank you for bringing the thunder to Toronto baseball. I wouldn't be shattered if you stayed either. Sigh. 

Well now that is off my chest, I thank the Jays for another great season. Being in the top 4 is not shabby at all! But the question is how do we win a World Series, or even get to win? I think the starting rotation is now on-point, the bullpen is looking tight too. What needs to be adjusted is the batting line-up - we need guys who can just get on, hit it the other way, so that when the home run is not flying, there are other ways. Josh Donaldson has this down to an art, his teammates should follow. I think there needs to be some changes made. Here's to looking forward to April baseball in 2017!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Russian Roulette for One

It's funny how the weight of the chest can be so variable.
Free and in love, heavy and broken.
Pieces of scattered moments that have passed and things that you didn't know how to be better at.
Even when you are the best it's natural to temporarily lose confidence in your step.
But don't forget to get back to flex.
Did you have a choice when came apart, did it break your heart?
Have you seen the world that stares at me from inside the window, in reflection on the water.
Clearly anyone can see that struggle is a way of life in a world so sick with hatred and greed.
How can anyone feel elated, when you are not taught to lift yourself and those around you.
Self-administered assassinations.
At the end of the day.
It's a game I never wanted to play.

La Furia/Fury
by  Michelangelo Buonarroti

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mental Health: Jump for your Own Love!

There is simply nothing perfect about me. In fact, to many I must be a strange little emotional queer thing. Placing that aside, I want to connect my open struggle and relationship with my mental health matters. I feel it is important to keep the conversation going with everyone. Mental wellness is not a thing you deal with, it is a necessity of being healthy. Just like water down your throat, or sweat dripping down your skin after an endorphin hit.

A couple months ago I started to toy with the idea of coming off the SSRI (Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors)  I have been on for about 10 months. While the meds gave me the opportunity to ground myself, get my ish together (cause life can be a "_____"), and certainly helped to reduce anxiety and thus get better sleep (important!)- they did come with an array of unappealing side effects. These included horrible horrible night sweats and bad dreams, a constant feeling and state of fatigue, brain zaps and the inability to ironically, feel any of that recklessness that makes me "special"! Who'd of dun gone think the emo Cancer girl could NOT feel! Not not feel at all, but in a Virgo kind of way, not feel!

While I appreciate the medication, which alongside therapy, concious breathing and cognitive shifting into healthier thinking habits have allowed me to regain my strength and adapt an "ain't nobody got time for that" attitude of realness, beyaaach. But here I am now. I had to know if I can stand alone again, though of course I fear not being able to have enough serotonin all by myself! For someone who was very reluctant about pharmaceuticals, I admit they can help. But it's much bigger than just that.

Whether you are someone who deals with mental health or not, you really should. The greatest thing about this journey is that I have learned to love and respect myself more than ever. I am my own ride or die. I realize my own strength, and I want you to be kind to yourself and realize yours. It ain't easy to be real in this world, who could be sane, there lives so much pain. A consider myself a real muthafucka, but hell, it takes a toll. It all takes a toll. It is not wrong to feel head hearted, it is human. Regardless of that, you deserve joy and love always. It makes you feel alive, even when you feel anxious or sad.

So where does that leave me? Somewhere between a pill bottle and a deep breath, between endings and more Deep Doses. The potential and reality of anxiety. It is ok to have emotions, that is what makes us all human.

Don't be afraid to ask for help, it is the thing I suck at most in the world, well besides being straight! I truly believe that if less people buried their trauma and pain and dealt with it, this would be a more mentally stable world. Once you realize the capacity of self; mental health gives you a way to survive. Realize it is not about control at all. It is about taking a look of what is in front of you, grappling with feelings of loneliness and uncertainty, loss and more gains. War and death, making-love and falling. Creating/creativity, ability.

Wellness of the mind is not a one-size-fits-all kind of package you buy online. You have to take chances. It can be scary to admit you have something bigger than what you can deal with alone, or to even see that.

Don't look down of yourself, as long as you are trying, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you find value in yourself. Your uniqueness and beauty. Don't feel any guilt when it comes to doing what you need to be all-good at the tip of your hood (your head). There are so many wonderful options: massages, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine, pharmaceuticals, excercise, yoga, meditation, therapy. The list of what makes you feel good and grounded. Do it for yourself. That is what mental health is.

Now I sit and wait and see what comes next. Aware that I am a 100% survivor.