The Blue Jays, Super Heroes and Infallibility

In sports, there is a tendency to label athletes as infallible heroes. Recent suspension of Blue Jays’ Chris Colabello highlights this.


Last season for the Toronto Blue Jays was quite the ride. Fans across the nation were energized and excited. Players were given super hero names and videos and memes have been shared over and over detailing every move of that spectacular catch, that unbelievable hit, that incredible game winning out, that totally awesome bat flip. The Blue Jays made this adoration easy. The pictures floating around with a superman cape on Kevin Pillar and a batman suit on Jose Bautista cementing fan feelings towards players. Now, with all the swirling news of Chris Colabello‘s suspension, does putting our team and favourite players on this kind of pedestal do more harm than good for both player and fan alike or does super hero status give players a pass?

Every season starts with projections. Gloriously mathematical numbers comparing and categorizing outcomes of a player from the previous season and the seasons before, using those numbers to figure out what may or may not happen in the coming season. The proverbial crystal ball is brought out to see if we should continue to put our belief in a player or if it’s time to discard and set up our hand in another way.

What often gets in the way of this statistical view of player performance are things like what happens when these players play, what feats they accomplish, what cape they have been given.

With that proverbial cape comes pressure and the striving for the best catch, the best hit, the best pitch. To maintain or improve numbers is the only option. Infallibility is basically the goal. Reality check: life doesn’t work like that.

These players are fallible.

Take the recent suspension of Chris Colabello for failing a PEDs test. After having a great season in 2015, the need to repeat or surpass was obviously the plan. Is that justification for breaking the rules? No, but he’s not even the only one this month that has been suspended. That honour – doubious or not – goes to Daniel Stumpf of the Philadelphia Phillies just a week before the news of Blue Jays’ Chris Colabello broke.

With the suspension of Colabello, there has been talk of this being a career ending suspension, that he’ll never make it back into the major leagues. Could this talk be in part because he hasn’t been given a cape?

The fact is there are many names on the list of suspended players past and present where this suspension has not been career ending.

One of the notables on the list is Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. He was suspended in 2013 for 211 games before he appealed. The suspension was reduced to 162 games which had him missing the entire 2014 season. Despite this, Rodriguez has managed to elevate himself back to super hero status without much trouble.

Melky Cabrera, who was suspended for PED use in 2012 has re-entered the game, his contract not suffering, his popularity surging. The same could be said for the others who have overcome this suspension only to continue their careers. This would include the likes of Edinson Volquez (2013), Bartolo Colon (2012), Ryan Braun (2013), Miguel Tejada (2013), and Antonio Bastardo (2013). There is, however, no comeback for Jenry Mejia of the New York Mets who was given a lifetime ban from the game in February 2016 after his third positive test for performance enhancing drugs.

The facts are, the pressure is real for these players and sometimes that pressure is not dealt with in the best way. They are fallible and dare it be said, human. They make mistakes and like anyone, either learn from them or fall farther. All players however, should be given the same opportunity to rise again, the same forgiveness afforded to all, not just those that have been given a super hero moniker or super human status. It is almost more difficult for those players without this super star status, as they’re less likely to get fan support to build back their hard earned careers.

It really should be up to the MLB to find a way to stop this PED use among players. The players have to find another way to deal with the pressures of staying on top in another way. As the buck stops with the MLB, having a list of approved supplements and protein powders is a good move to keep these kinds of issues out of the game. Bottom line, the pedestal should be lowered, the playing field leveled and chances given. We all need is a hero, just not one on PEDs please.




*Featured Image Credit: kdemerly UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0







Catherine Stem

Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.