11:33 AM Eastern
Sorry for the lateness of this post, the blogs were down during and after the game yesterday so I couldn’t get in to write.
The Jays’ loss to the Giants prevented them from getting the sweep to cap a really entertaining weekend of baseball, but that wasn’t the story yesterday. Nor were Shaun Marcum’s gritty effort, John Buck’s big hits, Brian Tallet’s sixth-inning blow-up that essentially cost the Jays a chance at a win or Adam Lind’s 9th-inning double off a lefty.
There were only two stories yesterday: John McDonald’s 9th-inning home run and Edwin Encarnacion being sent down to Las Vegas after the game.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that McDonald is one of the all-time fan favourites among Blue Jays players. He’s right up there with Reed Johnson, Ernie Whitt and even some of the guys from the World Series teams. It’s definitely not a stretch to say that he’s the most grounded, sincere, warmest and most human of any professional athlete I have ever dealt with. We all grieved with him when he left the team to be with his ailing father as he lay on his deathbed, and we understood as he spent an extra few days at home with his family after his father passed away this week, delivering the eulogy at Jack McDonald’s funeral.
I talked to him about it before the game – unlike Jordan Bastian, who lost a parent to the same liver cancer that claimed Johnny Mac’s father, I still have both my parents and am very thankful for that, but I have lost all my grandparents, three of whom were around well into my 30s, two of whom passed away within three months of each other, and I was honoured to deliver two eulogies. McDonald told me that it was strange, but writing his father’s eulogy put a smile on his face, and I knew what he meant. When you go back through your encyclopaedia of memories, especially with someone with whom you had a great relationship, as the McDonald men had, you can’t help but smile and laugh even in a time of heavy grief. And the smiles come at the time when you absolutely need them the most.
It was great to have McDonald back – he said his father wanted him to be here on Father’s Day so that he could take part in a contest that awarded box seats to a bunch of people (and their fathers) who wrote 250-word essays about what their father means to them. The winners were on the field before the game watching batting practice and McDonald went up to talk to them before the game. As I was leaving the clubhouse, I saw another Blue Jays player walk up to Johnny Mac to offer support, and to say that if he needed someone to go with him to talk to the fan winners, he’d be happy to do it. McDonald said thanks, but no thanks, but I thought that was really touching. I don’t want to identify the player without his permission, because it wasn’t a conversation that I was “supposed” to hear, but I’ll tell you that it was one of the younger guys, and another of those about whom I think highly as a human being.
McDonald didn’t start the game, but came in along with Nick Green and DeWayne Wise when the bench was emptied in the 8th inning with the Blue Jays down 9-3. Johnny Mac came to the plate in the 9th with Fred Lewis on first and nobody out, and belted the second pitch he saw into the Jays’ bullpen in left for his first home run of the season.
It really was a magical moment. When the ball left the bat, I thought it was going to be caught by Andres Torres in left. Then I thought it might just get over his head, and how cool would a double be? Then I thought it was going to hit high off the wall, but it just carried and carried and made it out. On the wings of an angel, maybe? I don’t believe in that stuff, but man, some things just make you wonder. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy, in tribute to someone who, by all accounts, was a fantastic guy, McDonald pumped his fist as he rounded first, pointed to the heavens after he touched home plate, and disappeared into the tunnel after accepting congratulations from his teammates to share a good cry with Vernon Wells. He said the first thing he thought when the ball went out was that he couldn’t call his father to tell him about it. He also said that his dad always wanted him to hit for more power.
I said before that it was a magical moment, but just writing about it gives me goosebumps. I don’t think the word “magic” really does it justice.
Brian Butterfield was the coach-of-the-day for the post-game chat, and there was no question in talking to him that he was affected in a greater sense by Johnny Mac’s big fly. Here’s our conversation, for your listening pleasure:
The other news of the day was Edwin Encarnacion’s demotion. It was unexpected, but not undeserved. Encarnacion was the hero of Friday night’s win, driving in all three runs with a two-run broken-bat single and a go-ahead solo shot leading off the 8th inning, but even with that, he was just 10-for-69 since the Jays left Arizona back in mid-May, hitting .145/.280/.261 over that span. His defense is lacking – heck, just the other day Lyle Overbay saved him FOUR throwing errors in one game, and he seems not to understand the concept of hustle on the basepaths. Encarnacion was optioned to Las Vegas after the game, and replaced by Jarrett Hoffpauir, who has minimal major-league experience to go with the hot bat that he’s been swinging in AAA.
Hoffpauir will take over at third, and the next big-league game he plays will be his ninth; he hit .250/.438/.417 in a 16 plate-appearance cup of coffee with the Cardinals last year, getting in five games at second base and one at third. Hoffpauir has been absolutely raking with the 51s, though offensive stats from Vegas have to be taken with rather a large grain of salt. Still, those numbers are.328/.378/.532 with more walks (21) than strikeouts (15), as many doubles as strikeouts and nine home runs. He has already hit for the cycle twice this season. Hoffpauir hit .361/.391/.557 with runners in scoring position and .406/.452/.644 with runners on base in general. The caveat? He only hit .275/.323/.400 away from hitter-friendly Cashman Field.
I saw him play a few games in Spring Training and saw him boot a few routine plays, so there may not be a defensive upgrade – but at least once he gets the ball in his glove you won’t have to hold your breath while you wait to see if the throw will make it to first base.
There was no JaysTalk yesterday, because the clock forced us off the air too soon after an especially lengthy game, but we’ll make up for it as the homestand continues, I promise.
Here’s the transcript of yesterday afternoon’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”: