Photo By: Donna Lay from Unsplash

Annddd we’re back with yet another year of SIDELINES, my third year at the helm. Welcome. Before I get into the actual meat of this column, I figured I should do a little background about what to expect throughout the year here. 

Historically, this column was found off to the side of the last page of the sports section — hence the name, I assume; the name was here before me — but since we have now gone exclusively digital, well, the name is kind of moot, but I guess we’ve gone with the Lakers’ approach of keeping a nickname that doesn’t really make sense for… posterity? If anyone has a suggestion for a new name, send it our way.

We try to keep the sports section of The Brock Press primarily Brock Badgers/OUA/U Sports related, so rather than have a page — again, SIDELINES was created when we still printed papers — that was a mishmash of Brock sports and pro sports articles, some editor of old decided to dedicate a specific part of the sports section to pro sports. Again, all of this is kind of irrelevant now that we’re a digital paper, but, in keeping with the tradition, this will primarily be a pro sports column. And since we’re all-online, I now have a smattering of pictures and gifs and video clips at my disposal that obviously weren’t available to me in past years when we were printing physical newspapers and using horse-and-buggies to deliver them.

So that’s the origin story. As for what to expect, well, as Sidelines Czar, I can pick and choose the content and format of this column every week, and while the former will pretty much be exclusively baseball until the season ends in late October, and exclusively basketball once baseball season is over (unless I feel like writing about everyone’s favourite topic, MLB labour negotiations! I’ll make it fun I promise.) I’m still undecided about the latter, so bear with me as I tinker on the fly here. Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, this is also a far more casual read than the rest of the paper. If you’re looking for hard-hitting, nitty-gritty journalism, go read Holly’s article about how cereal is not soup. Okay, and now, the Toronto Blue Jays:

It’s been quite the confounding year for the Blue Jays in 2021. The offence — August notwithstanding — is among the best in the league, the starting pitching is amongst the best in the league, and yet they sit four games back of the second wild card spot. After a pretty lacklustre month for the offence, it was a huge relief to see the bats come back to life in a big way during a much needed weekend sweep against fellow wild card hopeful Oakland, a series that had a whole lot of crazy happen to kick off the home stretch. 

As of writing, the Jays are headed to the Bronx for a massive four game set against the Yankees starting tomorrow. At minimum, they need to split in order to stay alive in the wild card hunt; anything less than that and it very well could be the final blow to a team that already had an uphill climb heading into September. The Jays don’t have any more games left against Boston — who holds the second wild card spot for now but are currently dealing with a big COVID-19 outbreak — so it stands to reason that the Jays have a better chance of catching the Yankees, seeing as they still have seven games remaining. It’s a lot easier to make up ground when you (in theory) beat the team you’re chasing! 

It also sounds like the Jays might get some added bullpen help in New York, as Julian Merryweather could be back with the big club later this week, according to Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair. Last time Merryweather pitched in the Bronx, he was alternating between 99mph heat and filthy 79mph changeups that froze Yankee hitters. I mean this is literally a perfect pitch:

Alas, the clip from above was from the very first day of the season, and since then it’s pretty much been the usual M.I.A. status for Merryweather, who has pitched just 17.1 innings since being acquired as the player-to-be-named-later in the Josh Donaldson almost three years ago to the date. All this to say, a healthy Merryweather-Romano duo in the back end of the Jays bullpen would be fun. That’d be a lotta firepower! 

Speaking of flamethrowing relievers, Nate Pearson bounced back from a rocky first relief outing on Friday to strike out the side on Sunday against the meat of Oakland’s lineup. Despite it being an extremely low-leverage scenario, it was very encouraging to see him commanding his two plus-pitches and putting hitters away quickly (striking out the side on 14 pitches, 10 of those strikes). After a very fastball-heavy outing on Friday night, Pearson went primarily slider on Sunday and got all three batters he faced to chase sliders in the dirt for strike three. His fastball sat 97-100 as well which should be the norm for him, especially out of the ‘pen. Pearson’s future should and will still be as a starter, where he’ll need to use his curveball and changeup to be effective (although look what Robbie Ray has done with two pitches this year), but for now the fastball/slider combo can be lethal out of the ‘pen when he can command the zone. He should, and again, probably will, continue to be used in lower leverage situations for now, but who knows just how many of those there’ll be against the Yankees this week. 

We should have a much clearer idea as to where the Blue Jays stand after this series with New York — and after this upcoming weekend’s series against the dreadful Orioles, which is an absolutely must-sweep — so it should be a pretty juicy SIDELINES next week.