Fantasy football lands this Blue Jay a job ... as bat boy

February 24th, 2024

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- auditioned for a new job on Saturday afternoon after a disappointing offseason cast serious doubts over his future in an NFL front office.

Mayza finished dead last in the Blue Jays’ fantasy football league this winter, his 4-10 record fading quickly in the rear view mirror of eventual champion Danny Jansen, and Mayza's teammates had a new punishment in mind. For the first three innings of the Blue Jays' 14-13 loss to the Phillies in their Grapefruit League opener at TD Ballpark, Mayza served as the club's bat boy, with “4-10” emblazoned across the back of his jersey for all to see.

Some managers around the league pointed to the injury troubles Mayza’s franchise ran into this season, including Daulton Varsho, who along with Erik Swanson managed the team that finished second-to-last. Others pointed to deeper issues within Mayza’s front office.

“He’s not willing to trade. He’s not willing to trade and not willing to change,” said Jansen, one of Mayza’s closest friends in the clubhouse. “I was trying to get Tyreek Hill from him for weeks, maybe even a month. It’s great. It’s all good fun. Tim’s the commissioner and he lost his own league.”

Finishing last after drafting Hill is an accomplishment in and of itself. Hill caught 119 passes for 1,799 yards and 13 touchdowns, finishing second among wide receivers to only CeeDee Lamb in ESPN scoring (full PPR). Hill was the definition of a week-winner.

Still, as the ship sank, Mayza clung to the face of his franchise.

“Danny likes to do this,” Mayza said. “He finished in last place last year and he’s our champion this year. When he found out I was eliminated from the playoffs, he was trying to get Tyreek at a discount. I was not one to make a mockery of the league and give Tyreek away. He, obviously, didn’t need it because he won the whole thing, but kudos to him and his management. I’ll be coming for him. I’m coming for these guys.”

The injuries did add up quickly for Mayza. He’d bet big on the upside of Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins, who tore his Achilles in Week 1. Combine that with the Lions’ David Montgomery missing some time, and Mayza's running back situation was a mess. Mayza’s quarterback, Kirk Cousins, suffered a season-ending injury of his own in late October and receiver Chris Olave, a popular breakout pick, never quite made good on the hype.

Still, Mayza believes that his team’s expected stats were better than the results. You’ve heard this from front offices before.

“It was a culmination of things,” Mayza said. “Baseball being an analytics game these days, I like to think that my team was better than a last-place team, but the record tells the story. I did finish seventh in points scored, so it’s tough. Some of it is bad luck. In fantasy football, luck has a lot to do with it.”

Well, that luck led Mayza here, scrambling to collect bats and elbow pads on Opening Day of spring after putting up a 1.52 ERA in 69 appearances last season. Mayza only learned two days ago that his leaguemates had landed on this as his punishment, but he attacked the early innings with the same athleticism and enthusiasm they expected from a consummate professional.

Mayza’s management of his team may have drawn criticism, but according to many involved, he’s a model commissioner.

“If there’s one guy that’s going to give it 110% getting these bats, it’s going to be Tim,” Jansen said.

This early in camp, manager John Schneider was more focused on Mayza’s fundamentals.

“We’re looking for proper form to and from, putting bats in the right rack,” Schneider said. “If my 6-year-old could do it last year, Tim should be OK.”

As Mayza chased down some early foul tips to the backstop in the first inning, his teammates hung over the railing, cheering him on. These were some of the most enthusiastic ball retrievals that TD Ballpark will ever see.

At one point, Whit Merrifield, who spent 2022-23 with the Blue Jays and is now with the Phillies, chucked his bat past Mayza, leaving the beloved lefty to fetch it. Mayza was getting it from all sides.

“I’m going to give it my best and probably have a newfound appreciation for what these guys do on a daily basis,” Mayza said prior to his debut.

Mayza will enter the 2024 NFL season motivated. There was no last-place punishment for Jansen last year, so Mayza will surely lobby to be on the competition committee to select the next one.

Mayza did not comment on whether there would be changes in his front office, though some in the industry have speculated about changes to the analytics department and training staff.