“Fun time’s over”

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Mets camp has been something of a riot for the first couple of weeks of spring training. Everyone’s loose, Cespedes is driving crazy cars, riding horses and buying hogs. It’s been silly, frankly.

Games started today, though. The Mets played an intrasquad game and now they go on to battle the enemy. To that end, manager Terry Collins had this to say to his troops:

I totally get that for Collins and his players. There is a seriousness of purpose required on the part of professional athletes. If you’re managing a team you want people to be loose, but you also want to keep a lid on zaniness which can quickly lead to a lack of focus. It’s probably the central dilemma of most managers, actually. I can’t imagine it’s easy.

At the start of a new baseball season, however, I want to remind people that fans don’t have to think that way. We’re so conditioned to speak about sports as if we’re of sports rather than merely observers. We get too mad when our teams lose and, frankly, a bit too pleased when they win. We mistake the entertainment we get from sports for some actual task we, ourselves, are undertaking. We get too serious about team loyalty and, some of us anyway, are loathe to look at the sillier and inconsequential side of sports and simply enjoy them for their own sake. Curiously, we also tend to ignore the actually serious, real-life implications of sports, but that’s another topic I suppose.

The point is that the fun may be over for Yoenis Cespedes and his convoy of ridiculousness, but it doesn’t have to be over for us. Over the course of the next eight months there will be a lot of ups and downs for everyone. A lot of bad news and good news. Many controversies and, unfortunately, tragedies in the world of baseball. But there will also be a good deal of funny nonsense. Above all else, there will be a couple thousand baseball games, the purpose of which are to entertain us.

Let’s remember not too take it all too seriously. Be nice to people in comment sections, in the bleacher seat in front of you and the barstool next to yours. When your wife or husband or significant other wants you to turn off the game to talk to them, do it. We’ll have the recap for you here in the morning. When a player on the team you root for messes up, take a moment to breathe and remember that he’s trying his best before tweeting about how much you hate him and how you wish he was never born. When a player on the team you root for hits a home run take a moment to remember his triumph is not your triumph and you didn’t just earn the right to taunt people for more than a moment. Try to be positive. Try to be zen.

It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Terry Collins may not want it do be for his guys, but Terry Collins isn’t our boss. We don’t need to listen to him.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.