September 07, 2008

Big Ups, Zaun

What a ball game. Exactly how the Jays drew it up. Four hours and 15 minutes long, a blown 3-0 lead in the top of the ninth, a 4-3 deficit in the bottom of the 13th inning, and a walf-off grand slam by "0-for-in-August" Gregg Zaun.

Yep, exactly how they drew it up.

I don't know about you, but as Zaun's ball headed toward, and eventually over, the fence, I was going about as crazy as Kramer at the off-track betting joint. It was epic.

Was there anyone more deserving on the Toronto roster than Zaunie to stroke the game winning hit? And a grand slam, no less. In the moment, I really felt happy for Zaun. True, unadulterated, joy. You couldn't have bitch-slapped the smile off my face. Zaunie's had such a tough season playing second fiddle to Rod Barajas, and you could see the by the look on his face that he was so happy to contribute; to make a difference.

Zaun's seen his playing time diminish greatly under the Gastonian regime and, unlike a guy like David Eckstein, he let it be known that he wasn't happy about it. I was a little peeved at Zaun's public airing of grievances until a week ago, when a friend of mine made a good point about Zaun: he's a fighter. He's always been a fighter. He's been fighting for a spot, for a chance to play, his whole career. It's all he really knows.

I can't blame Zaun. He's an athlete, and a man. He wants to play. Throughout his entire career, he's heard that he'd never make it, or that he'd never be more than a back-up. But he's battled. He's overcome alcoholism. Eventually, he finally made it.

At the end of the day, Zaunie's good people. Above all else, he wants to win. And I respect that. It was a great moment - one of the highlights of the season, actually - to see him get mobbed by his teammates at home plate in celebration of his most clutch grand slammage. It's been a rough, rough season for Zaun and, as his career with the Blue Jays is likely winding down, it was great to see him stretch the Jays win steak to seven games courtesy of some high drama.

A little lost amongst the drama was the fact that B.J. Ryan blew his fourth save on the season, and his ERA has now crept up over three runs, to 3.12. It's never been a walk in the park in the ninth inning when The Beej has been on the mound this season, and I don't think J.P. Ricciardi would be doing his job if he doesn't consider trade offers for B.J. this coming off-season. There's been some interesting talk about the Jays' bullpen around the blogosphere of late - it is, after all, the deepest and best 'pen in the league - and you can check out a sample courtesy of The Tao of Stieb here.

As for the Tampa Bay DEVIL Rays, I don't know about you, but when I saw them in the dugout during the 13th inning sporting the rally caps, all I could think was: these guys are kids. For some reason, the rally caps cried out inexperience and youthful exuberance. The Boston Red Sox wouldn't have been rocking the rally caps. Nor would have the New York Yankees. I think the golden rule is, or at least it should be, that you don't bust out the rally caps until the playoffs.

The DEVIL Rays have lost five of six, and are heading to Boston and then New York after Toronto. I would not be the surprised at all if they suffer a September collapse and end up missing the playoffs. It's time to see what they're made of.

The Jays are eight games behind the Red Sox in race for the wild card. Just saying. And we're undefeated in September. Just saying.


Pseudonym said...

That was a great game but those Jays know how to tease their fans every September. Damn, I always get sucked in.

eyebleaf said...

me too, brother, me too...

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