Tuesday, June 2, 2009 | 8 p.m.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the local ties to the Toronto Blue Jays organization -- with whom the 51s are now affiliated -- are not as strong as they were in previous seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That said, I took some time to touch base with the creator of a pretty stellar Blue Jays blog I'd happened to stumble upon a couple of weeks back, titled 'The Tao of Stieb.'
The fella behind the blog prefers anonymity, citing that he is 'above all, a man of mystery.'
Fair enough. I fired a few in his direction, and here were his responses, which can hopefully make 51s loyalists more familiar with the parent club's fan pulse.
RG: Obvious opener: The story behind the name 'Tao of Stieb'?
TOS: The name is actually a play off of the title of one of my favorite movies, The Tao of Steve. It came to me out of nowhere one day while I was out having a smoke break, and when I thought of the name, I immediately signed up and started blogging that day. I was in such a rush to get started that I misspelled "Stieb" on my first stab at it ... It took a couple of hours before I remembered the old "I before E" rule.
RG: I'm a Cubs fan and I can easily tell you my greatest moment of heartache -- Alex Gonzalez dropping the sure-fire double-play ball in the 2003 NLCS, only to have Steve Bartman take the heat for 'blowing the game.' What is yours as a Blue Jays fan?
TOS: The most miserable moment I can think of as a Jays fan has to be the last week of the 1987 season. The Jays needed to win just one of their last seven games to wrap up the AL East, but they were swept in their final two series by the Brewers and the eventual pennant-winners, the Detroit Tigers.
The last game of that season, a 1-0 loss at the hands of junkballer Frank Tanana, still sticks in our craw. Jimmy Key pitched an outstanding game for the Jays, giving up just three hits. But Larry Herndon hit a ball that just scraped over the fence in left field, and the Jays were unable to muster much of anything against Tanana.
Even with the two World Series titles and the other successes that the team has had, the image of mediocre Jays infielder Garth Iorg weakly tapping a pitch back to Tanana for the final out might be our most vivid Blue Jay memory.
RG: Your favorite Blue Jay of all-time? Besides Stieb. And who's your favorite obscure Blue Jay of all-time?
TOS: Well, the dirty little secret is that in spite of the name of the blog, my all-time favorite Blue Jay is Jimmy Key. Key was like a left-handed Greg Maddux: He didn't have overpowering stuff, but he had great control, a wicked curveball and a great sense of how to set the batter up. His fastball topped out in the high 80s, but he'd set it up so well that batters froze on it.
Moreover, Key had probably the best pick off move that we've ever seen. Picking off a runner at first is actually a pretty exciting play, and Key would catch more than his share every year.
As for an obscure Blue Jay that I liked, I'd say that Mark Eichorn rates up there, as well as Willie Upshaw. They're probably not obscure to Jays fans, but they might not have the national profile of some of the team's past stars.
RG: Which division rival do you hate more ... Boston or New York? And do Blue Jays fans ever watch ESPN, knowing they can expect nothing short of a Yankees-Red Sox lovefest when it comes to AL East coverage?
TOS: A few years ago, I might have said the Yankees, but Boston fans have become so insufferable since 2004 that I'd have to say that the Red Sox top the list at this point. There's plenty of unlikable characters on the Yanks, but I don't know if there are two players that I've ever hated more than Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.
As for ESPN's coverage of the Yanks and Sox, I've just come to accept it. I get that the Yanks-Sox rivalry is a money maker for them, although it has gotten to a point where I think that a lot of baseball fans are bored of it at this point. Moreover, I don't expect any American media outlet to pay that much attention to the Jays, because they really don't have any stake in raising the team's profile. Toronto is a huge media market, but because there are no ad dollars to be had for American networks or channels by broadcasting Jays games, they'll never really pay them that much mind.
RG: Las Vegas is new to this affiliation with the Blue Jays. Tell us one thing about Blue Jays fans that no one here could ever know without experiencing being there firsthand.
TOS: Not that I want to perpetuate the mythology of the polite Canadian, but Jays fans are generally pretty sedate. Having said that, I really see a that there's a renewed engagement with the team amongst your average Torontonian or Canadian. Some of that might have to do with the team's success early in the season, but I think that it's also been a slow process of bringing people back into the fold over the past five years or so.
It's weird, but Canadian baseball fans took greater offense to the 1994 baseball strike (likely because of what it did to the Montreal Expos' fortunes), and I still hear people talking about it today. But more and more, I have friends who tell me that they're going to games for the first time in a long time, and they're coming to appreciate the game all over again.
One last thing that I'd say is that the SkyDome/Rogers Centre is actually a much better place to watch a game than people think. It's a clean, comfortable place with great sightlines, and they've done some really great work in recent years to brighten the place up and improve on the amenities. Plus, it is in a great location in the center of the city, making it easy to get to and providing a lot of post game options for drinks or dinner.
It's 20 years ago this week that the stadium opened, and while it doesn't have all of the faux-nostalgic touches of a lot of the newer parks, it's still a fun place to go and is well-suited to the city of Toronto.