Live Chat tonight

Tuesday, March 31, 2009  |  by 

Finally, with the exit of March comes the beginning of baseball in April! Tonight from 9-10pm EST is the final Blue Jays Live Chat of the preseason. Join in tonight as we discuss some of the final roster choices, and who should be a lock for the #5 starting rotation position. Hope to see you back here tonight starting at 9pm!

Hey Ricky!

Monday, March 30, 2009  |  by 

J.P. Ricciardi said that 2009 would be a season for the Jays young players to shine, and today the team took another step in that direction. Congratulations to Ricky Romero for officially being named the Blue Jays #4 starting pitcher. Romero pitched well enough in his last two starts to convince the coaching staff and management that he's worth a spot in the rotation to start the season.

Mike Wilner mirrors my thoughts that Richmond is probably a lock for the final spot. I know a lot a people are really excited to see Brad Mills pitch at the Major League level, but Richmond does edge Mills in the experience category. Mills doesn't really have anything to lose by staying in Triple A to start the season, whereas Richmond is probably ready to start the year at the #5 spot. Brad Mills could probably use an extra few months in Las Vegas anyway, and has much more to gain by sticking around with the Las Vegas 51's for the time being.

The fellas at Mop Up Duty spearheaded a Blue Jays Roundtable which included yours truly, along with some respected minds in the Blue Jays blogosphere. It was reassuring to see that some other folks have the same thoughts as me on some issues - which either means that I have something in common with those guys, or I'm a huge hack. I'm betting it's the latter. Make sure to check Mop Up Duty tomorrow for Part 2 of the roundtable discussion.

And just in case you're wondering from the picture above, Toni Basil was 39 when the song "Mickey" was released. Obviously, botox was not available in the 80's, and it shows.

The Most Overused Spring Training Cliches & Phrases

Sunday, March 29, 2009  |  by 

As a quasi-writer, I am all too familiar with the "Ford Taurus" or literary devices - the cliche. Just like the car itself, it's very easy to fall into the trap of using of cliches, but often times it takes the Jaws Of Life just to pry yourself away from using them ever again.

With that being said, here is a list spring training phrases and clichés that I am guilty of beating to death over the course of the past few months. I acknowledge my intermittent lack of original thoughts, and apologize for subjecting you to such repetitive phrases and clichés, and will be more than glad to shelf them until Spring Training 2010.
  • “Making the trip north”
  • “25 man roster”
  • “Staying behind in Las Vegas”
  • “A good/bad outing”
  • "Question mark(s)"
  • “Tear/rip the cover off the ball”
  • “In fine form”
  • And my personal favourite … “Ready for Opening Day”
Most recently, Will from The Southpaw also noticed another baseball cliche (not necessarily limited to Spring Training) that needs to be put to rest. Of course, feel free to add your own favourite Spring Training cliches and phrases in the comment section. Consider this as somewhat of an “Exorcising of the Cliche Demons”. Be gone vile cliches, be gone!

10 Questions with Tim from MLB Trade Rumors

Saturday, March 28, 2009  |  by 

This particular year at Blue Jays spring training camp has yielded more questions than ever. In an attempt to answer some of the uncertainties about the starting rotation, young players, and offensive issues, I had the pleasure of asking Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors 10 questions about the Toronto Blue Jays, and their outlook for the 2009 season.

1.) Travis Snider is among some of the preseason favourites who could contend for Rookie of the Year. If he stays with the Blue Jays all season, what are his chances against someone like Matt Wieters?
(Tim) I'd still consider Wieters the favorite, but perhaps Snider's extra playing time could outweigh Wieters' superior rate stats. Plus with Snider being just 21 and drawing rave reviews from scouts, there is no reason he can't destroy projections and hit 25 HR or something.
2.) There was lots of off season rumours about how Roy Halladay could be shopped sometime this season. If the Jays tank the first half of the season, could the Blue Jays deal Halladay at the trade deadline?
(Tim) You mean rumors? Just kidding. J.P. Ricciardi allowed for it in his initial comments, but then seemed to get annoyed with the speculation. But if the Jays tank the first two months it makes plenty of sense to explore. The Blue Jays could get a bevy of top prospects in a blockbuster like that.
3.) Kevin Millar, Jason Lane, and Adam Lind are all possibilities for the designated hitter position. What do you think are the Blue Jays best options at DH this year?
(Tim) You have to go Lind there...he is the only one of the three with upside. And even without that upside his projections are better.
4.) The Blue Jays starting rotation took a big hit with the loss of A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum, and Dustin McGowan. Which of their replacements (David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Brad Mills, Ricky Romero) will surprise people the most this year?
(Tim) My money is on Purcey. If the 8.0 K/9 he flashed last year is for real, he'd just need find his minor league control.
5.) Things look to be extremely competitive in the American League East this year. How many wins would you expect from the Jays, and where do you think they will finish in the standings?
(Tim) 85 wins, fourth place.
6.) With many players coming back from injury, there are a lot of question marks on the team. Which Blue Jay is your sleeper pick for a breakout/comeback season in 2009?
(Tim) Aside from Snider, I like Scott Rolen to have a decent year. I also have always been a Michael Barrett fan so I'll include him.
7.) There is a lot of money on the books tied up with players like Scott Rolen, B.J. Ryan and Vernon Wells. Do you think that J.P. Ricciardi could make a trade to open up some money to sign a free agent for next season?
(Tim) Now, I don't think he could or even wants to. But if one of those players is having an excellent year I could see a midseason move. In the cases of Rolen and Wells that'd open up new holes though.
8.) Which player will fans be most surprised to see on the Blue Jays final 25-man roster?
(Tim) Ricky Romero? I am not really the right guy for that question.
9.) There is a very talented pool of young players in the Blue Jays farm system. What names should fans be most excited to see at the major league level within the next few years?
(Tim) J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil, and David Cooper look promising based on what I've read.
10.) Tim, it was a little disheartening that the Blue Jays didn't make a big splash like the Yankees and sign and big name free agents in the off season. Tell us a few reasons why Jays fans should be optimistic for 2009.
(Tim) It's still an excellent defensive team, and you have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Roy Halladay. And the offense has the potential for big years from Rios, Wells, Hill, and Snider.
Hat tip to Tim for taking the time to answer my questions about the Blue Jays. Remember that is the go-to site for all trade talks, free agent signings, roster updates, and everything baseball. It's a daily read for me, and I recommend you do the same and be sure to subscribe to the MLB Trade Rumors feed.

Fist Pump of Disappointment

Friday, March 27, 2009  |  by 

It’s just like 2008 all over again.

News of possible problems with B.J. Ryan has most if not all of us worried about our $10 million dollar closer. The team is very concerned about recent developments with Ryan’s loss of velocity. Throughout spring training, he’s clocked in around 83-86 MPH, which is off from his usual 87-90 MPH according to the Toronto Star.

If B.J. Ryan stays down in Las Vegas to start the season, one would think this opens the door for Brandon League to start closing games. If that’s the case, I would be very thrilled to see League test-drive the closer position since many people are saying that he is the future closer of the team anyway.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be too concerned with our closer spending Opening Day down in Las Vegas, but this is a $10 million dollar year arm we’re talking about here. If the Jays are going to spend that much on a closer, they better get their money’s worth. That’s like if you’ve got a Pontiac Grand Am and Cadillac in the garage - you don’t take the Grand Am out for a spin to impress the neighbours. But it’s good to know that if the Cadillac breaks down, the Grand Am is ready and waiting just in case.

Are we there yet?

Back when I was a kid, for some reason every year, I couldn't fall asleep the night before the first day of school. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't drift off to dreamland. Maybe it's because I knew those were my last moments of freedom before being locked down in a desk for the next 10 months. Well, I'm beginning to get that very same antsiness for Opening Day 2009 - except this time it's a kind of anticipation that cant' be killed with heavy narcotics.

Can you believe that the Blue Jays opened up spring training over a month ago? I'm starting to see more and more why people call them " fake games", though this year's spring training schedule has carried a little more weight than usual due to all the question marks about the starting rotation. But other than that, let's write those 25 names on the sheet and let's get this show on the road. My tickets are in hand, I have the Blue Jays paraphernalia picked out, and I have even decided on pre and post game adult beverages.

Are you as excited as I am to see which section of the Rogers Centre will have the most drunken brawls per capita, or which muffin-topped oversized-purse-toting fan will stumble their way onto the field mid-game, or here's a shocker ... maybe the game itself? But it's just 9 more days, folks! Opening Day better come before people forget what they bought their tickets for ... that's what she said.

Jays Deploy General Mills

Thursday, March 26, 2009  |  by 

After Brad Mills' outing today, the three horse race for the final two rotation spots is neck and neck. Neither Scott Richmond, Ricky Romero, or Brad Mills have pulled ahead as favourites. Maybe the Blue Jays should just take all 3?

Mills was alright today; 4 earned runs in 6 innings of work. He gave up 10 hits, including a RBI single to Derek Lowe. Yeah, Derek Lowe had 2 RBI's today? I have no idea how the hell that happened either.

Richmond, Mills and Romero will probably get one final shot to state their case. Think of it like the pitching version of American Idol's bottom 3. But instead of V-Neck wearing british douchebag judging them, it will be J.P. Ricciardi and Cito Gaston deciding their fate.

Roy Halladay is set to start tomorrow's game against Jose Bautista's old team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Still no word yet on when Scott Richmond will get another chance to start a game. My guess is that he pitches on Saturday vs. the Tigers. Richmond has been idle since Sunday, but all he needs is one quality start to solidify his position on the Blue Jays. But in the meantime, Ricky Romero and Brad Mills are keeping pace as we all wait to see who will finally win those coveted #4 and #5 posititions on the team.

Put down the John McDonald Hatorade

Wednesday, March 25, 2009  |  by 

When I first started writing this blog post, it was with the intentions to talk about my reasons for leaving John McDonald off the Blue Jays Opening Day roster. I was ready to cast him aside, and let Joe Inglett or Jose Bautista take his place. But after doing a little bit of detective work, I have changed my tune. I have effectively put down the John McDonald Hatorade, and here is why I think you should do the same.

On the surface, John McDonald might seem like a liability in the Blue Jays lineup. After all, his batting average last season barely floated above the Mendoza Line. But the Blue Jays need John McDonald on the 25-man roster because nobody else other than Marco Scutaro can field shortstop.

There is no question that Johnny Mac is the best fielding shortstop on the team, but he also has the most experience with 413 career games starting at SS. Do you want to know how many games Jose Bautista has played at short? Zero. How about Joe Inglett? Three.

So you can start to see why Cito and J.P. really want John McDonald on the team. Although he doesn’t have much to offer offensively, unfortunately there aren’t any better options defensively when it comes to shortstop. I guess sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.

John McDonald Hatorade: from the makers of Scott Richmond Kool-Aid and
Travis Snider's Mash Liquor.

Live Chat tonight

Tuesday, March 24, 2009  |  by 

Less than 2 weeks remain until Opening Day 2009, which means there's only 2 more preseason live chats until April 6th. Join me later tonight from 9-10pm EST for the second last live chat of Spring Training. Hope to see you back here starting at 9pm!

Romero stays status quo

Monday, March 23, 2009  |  by 

Is it just me or does the name Ricky Romero sound like it belongs to one of the long-forgotten members of Menudo? Regardless, we could be hearing a lot more of that name after Romero's decent outing against the Cincinnati Reds earlier today. It wasn't exactly Halladay-esque, but Ricky didn't exactly ruin his chances at a rotation spot either.

With just 2 weeks to go before Opening Day, it's good to see that things are finally starting to take shape. Bastian says that apparently the team is having a meeting tonight to discuss solidifying the final starting rotation. At this point, it's pretty much a given that one of the young rookies will take one of the spots on the starting rotation. With Cito Gaston's affliction for the Jays young arms, I wouldn't be surprised to see both Brad Mills and Ricky Romero make it.

If that were to happen, that would make a 5-man starting rotation of 3 southpaws and 2 righties. So when was the last time the Blue Jays had 3 left-handed starting pitchers on Opening Day? You have to travel back to 1990 when it was Jimmy Key, John Cerutti, and David Wells. Those guys are all a tough act to follow, but it all has to start somewhere right?

The Rich is Back

Sunday, March 22, 2009  |  by 

Two men came in, but only one left with their dignity and their chance at a spot on the rotation. Luckily, it was Scott Richmond who emerged as the winner in the battle of the arms - but the Blue Jays lost 11-6 to the Minnesota Twins.

Matt Clement, the man who arguably had the best chance at a starting rotation job, will probably be an afterthought after giving up 9 runs, 6 hits, and 7 walks over the course of 4.3 innings. Richmond came up and cleaned the mess, but was touched for 2 runs in close to 4 innings of work. His pitch location sounds like it's incredible, because he's only surrendered one walk in 9 total innings. Compare that to Clement's 12, and you can see why Richmond has the lead in the starting rotation race. Not to mention, Scotty did all this on only 2 days rest. Bonus points!

And just when we think that the Blue Jays starting rotation picture might finally become clear, we hear that Ricky Romero will start tomorrow's game against the Cincinnati Reds. If Romero impresses tomorrow, he could leapfrog Brad Mills for the 5th starting rotation job. But hell, we've seen that a lot can happen in one week of spring training. I wouldn't be surprised if they have Josh Towers in speed dial just in case.

Jason Lane: The Odd Man Out

Saturday, March 21, 2009  |  by 

Reason would dictate that your strongest hitter in spring training would naturally be a shoe-in to make the final 25-man opening day roster. But unfortunately for Jason Lane, he looks to be the odd man out.

Although Lane leads the club in HR’s (5) and RBI’s (12), the Blue Jays will have a tough time trying to find a spot for him on the team. Looking back at last year’s spring training numbers, the Jays’ top hitter was Vernon Wells who had 1 HR and 6 RBI’s.

Right now the big question is which of Joe Inglett, Jose Bautista, and Kevin Millar will make the squad. Most experts figure Jason Lane to be a long shot, but I think he should be right there with Millista and Inglett, and be up for equal consideration just like everyone else.

It really is a shame if Jason Lane doesn’t make the team. Just because he doesn’t provide any “clubhouse antics” or “often quoted catchphrases”, doesn’t mean he should be overlooked. Lane has power, and he certainly has talent. But here Mike Wilner's counterpoint about Jason Lane from Thursday night's Jays Talk:
"1000 plate appearances over the last 3 years is going to carry a lot more weight than 50 in March".
Touche. But I'm just saying that Jason Lane has hit 5 times as many home runs and almost just as many RBI's in spring training as John McDonald hit all season in 2008. It could just be the balmy Florida weather, but Jason Lane has played phenomenally for the Blue Jays so far. But would his success continue with Toronto during the regular season? That I’m not so sure of - but if he never gets a chance, then we’ll never know.

TGIF Tidbits

Friday, March 20, 2009  |  by 

As seen above, nobody puts the “game” in “game-face” like Roy Halladay. But it sounds like he got caught up in competition with Blue Jays former #2, A.J. Burnett. Behind the scenes, it wasn’t all hugs and shaving cream pies to the face - for a while there, Halladay said that he and Burnett had quite the rivalry going.

Do you still think Casey Janssen should be slotted into the starting rotation? 14 pitches wasn’t exactly the “quality start” he was hoping for, as Casey left last night’s game with tightness in his arm. As much as J.P. Ricciardi wants it, I don’t think Janssen is going to make the Opening Day starting rotation.

Just 2 weeks after his hamstring injury, Vernon Wells will suit up for this afternoon’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. We’ll all be apprehensively sitting on pins and needles in anticipation of his return. I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that Wells hits a homerun today. Just because it’s Friday and just because I feel like getting a little crazy with my spring training predictions.

The guys at Mop Up Duty have offered their reasons for bringing Scott Richmond along with the 25-man roster. It’s a fairly in depth post which shows that Richmond’s minor and major league numbers really don’t reflect accurately on how great of a pitcher he actually is. After all, the Blue Jays had to see something in him if they called him up to the majors last season.

Speaking of Scott Richmond, according to his Wikipedia page, he has already been announced as one of the Blue Jays starting pitchers for 2009. As the conspiracy theories start to swirl, let me just say that I didn’t edit that page … only because somebody already beat me to it.

Griffin notes from Primetime Sports

Thursday, March 19, 2009  |  by 

You know it's officially spring training when The Griff starts to makes his rounds with Toronto media outlets. I just happened to catch the tail end of Richard Griffin's interview on Prime Time Sports, and among the things he and Bob McCown talked about were:
  • Griffin thinks the Blue Jays kind of owe it to Scott Richmond to give him a spot on the starting rotation, but he isn't sure if Richmond will make the cut. He thinks that the final 2 rotations spots will probably end up going to Casey Janssen and Brad Mills.
  • Despite putting up decent numbers in spring training, Matt Clement still faces an uphill battle if he wants to make the rotation. Clement is probably not interested in playing for the Las Vegas 51's if he doesn't make the team, and Griff said he might just retire if the Blue Jays don't send him north with the other 24 players for Opening Day.
  • Reflections on the Vernon Wells contract. Bobcat asked Griffin if he thinks V-Dub will ever be a 35+ HR 120+ RBI player. Griff thinks so, but regardless if Wells puts up a career year or not, the Blue Jays will have to eat that enormous contract. That got me thinking that I really hope Vernon has a solid year, because then another team just might be willing to pick up V-Dub in a trade. It's settled, if Wells hits 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in 2009, then J.P. should shop V-Dub to the highest bidder.

Richmond gets roughed up

Scott Richmond was touched for 3 runs, but his only big mistake was tossing at meatball to Jason Werth in 7th inning which sailed clear over the outfield fence. That 3-run shot could have easily been avoided, but Cody Haerther dropped what would’ve been the third out, which eventually led to Werth’s moon shot. Not surprisingly, Richmond wasn’t too happy about his outing. Here’s an except from Wilner’s latest blog post that pretty much sums up how it went:
“Richmond was furious when he came back into the clubhouse after his 2 1/3 inning stint, firing his glove into his locker from across the room before going back outside to get his running in … He also mentioned that he could have gotten out of the 7th with a well-placed ground ball, as opposed to the one that Werth hit about 420 feet.”
Let’s also keep in mind that Scott Richmond hadn’t pitched in a spring training game for over 2 weeks. After sitting on the bench for that long, he’s bound to be a little rusty. Luckily, Scotty will get a chance at redemption because he’s slotted to follow Matt Clement on Sunday’s game versus the Minnesota Twins. One more bad start for Richmond, and he can probably kiss his chances of making the starting rotation goodbye.

An old friend visits

The last time A.J. Burnett saw the Toronto Blue Jays, he was tipping his cap towards the fans at the Rogers Centre for what would be is final outing as a Blue Jay. Later today, there won't be any jovial bantering or celebratory hugs - it'll be all business.

Burnett heads to the hill to face his former Toronto teammates in what should an interesting Grapefruit League match up. A.J. hasn't really had that much work in spring training, pitching 6 total innings and has yet to surrender a run.

Seeing A.J. in pinstripes has me eagerly anticipating a possible Halladay/Burnett showdown at the Rogers Centre this season. Can you imagine what that would be like? The Jays and Yankees play 18 times this season, with 9 of those games at the Rogers Centre. That means Burnett could potentially pitch against the Blue Jays 3 times this season, depending on how the Jays & Yankees starting rotations sync up. I'm betting that Jays fans are praying for just one Burnett match up to release the boo-birds.

Going Dutch

Wednesday, March 18, 2009  |  by 

I guess since that "Dutch Magic" is contagious. After the Kansas City Royals signed Sidney Ponson to a deal, now the Blue Jays have inked Leon Boyd to a minor league contract. After his incredible work in the WBC, it was only a matter of time before a major league team was bound to pick him up.

Boyd faces an uphill battle in an already crowded Blue Jays bullpen. He will have to put up some impressive results pretty quickly if he wants to a chance at cracking the Blue Jays roster. I think they might just keep him behind as a spare arm waiting in the wings in case either Brian Wolfe doesn't back or Casey Janssen runs into problems.

Just like Scott Richmond, Boyd is a native of Vancouver, but he opted to pitch for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He was born and raised in Canada, but has lived in Europe since 2005.

Two Canadians on the Blue Jays 40 man roster? That's 5 percent of the entire team - we're slowly but surely taking over, my friends.

Separated at Birth?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a clone of Roy Halladay?

Multiply Roy Halladay by five, and you have a starting rotation that could shut down the finest team of players that Major League Baseball could put together. Now while there may not be five Roy Halladays in existence, but I believe that there someone that bears a similarity to the Doc.

For some reason I have only ever pictured one pitcher in existence that could be Halladay's equal - and that man is Roy Oswalt.

You'd be surprised how similar Halladay and Oswalt actually are. First off - the name Roy. Secondly, both Halladay and Oswalt are both 31 years old, born in 1977. Okay, this is starting to get freaky ... but the similarities continue.

Both Roys have a very quiet demeanor, but a very professional attitude. Halladay and Oswalt are their team's ace, and respected as one of the best pitchers in their respective leagues.

Also, looking at both Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt side by side, they actually look pretty similar. Shave the beard off Halladay, and they could almost be brothers. Not to mention, both of them are gingers (as far as I can tell).

Just take a look at some of their statistics, as their career win/loss records are almost identical. Halladay a career 131-66, and Oswalt is a career 129-64. Halladay's career WHIP is 1.21, while Oswalt's is 1.20.

This evidence is suddenly starting to really stack up. Either that, or maybe I'm just grasping for statistics that are similar, who knows. Feel free to vote for yourself on the poll in the top right corner of the blog.

So what conclusion can be made? Although Roy Halladay was born on May 14th 1977, and Roy Oswalt was born August 29th 1977, I think their parents fudged their birth certificates to protect them.

It's all a big conspiracy theory. Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt are in fact twins, and were raised by different families so they would not be discovered by Scott Boras and turned into pitching factories. That's the only logical explanation.

Live Chat tonight

Tuesday, March 17, 2009  |  by 

It might just be the worst-timed live chat ever, but for those who have already gotten kicked out of the bar today or just feel like having some drunken ramblings about the Blue Jays, there will still be another live chat tonight from 9-10pm EST. Grab a green beer and join us!

Whittling 40 down to 25

Monday, March 16, 2009  |  by 

In the next 3 weeks, the Toronto Blue Jays roster will shrink from 40 players to 25. All I can say is that I don’t envy Cito Gaston and the Blue Jays coaching staff. They have to make the tough decision of narrowing down the 40-man spring training roster to 25 players. Take a look below at who is basically a given for making the squad, and which players are still questionable for making the 25-man roster.

Pretty much guaranteed a spot on the roster:

Pitchers Hitters
Roy Halladay (SP)

Jesse Litsch (SP)

David Purcey (SP)

Jeremy Accardo (RP)

Jesse Carlson (RP)

Scott Downs (RP)

Jason Frasor (RP)

Brandon League (RP)

B.J. Ryan (RP)

Brian Tallet (RP)

Rod Barajas (C)

Lyle Overbay (1B)

Aaron Hill (2B)

Marco Scutaro (SS)

Scott Rolen (3B)

John McDonald (SS)

Travis Snider (LF/DH)

Adam Lind (LF/DH)

Vernon Wells (CF)

Alex Rios (RF/CF)

On the outside looking in:

Pitchers Hitters
Matt Clement (SP)

Scott Richmond (SP)

Brad Mills (SP)

Casey Janssen (RP)

Brian Wolfe (RP)

Curtis Thigpen (C)

Raul Chavez (C)

Jose Bautista (UTIL)

Kevin Millar (1B/DH)

Joe Inglett (UTIL)

Jason Lane (OF)

At this point, there are 20 roster positions that are basically locked up. That leaves only 5 places left on the team, and the Blue Jays still need to decide who’s going to take the 4th and 5th spot in the starting rotation, who’s going be backup catcher, and which combination of Millista and Joe Inglett will be the utility and bench players. If Vernon Wells is still injured, that might open the door for Jason Lane, but it all depends on Vernon’s progress.

I can see the Blue Jays bringing 2 of those pitchers (Clement/Richmond), and 3 of the hitters (Thigpen/Millar/Bautista). I asked Mike Wilner on his latest blog post about the backup catcher situation, and he thinks that Raul Chavez is the front-runner over Curtis Thigpen.

If the Jays wanted to make room for another arm in the bullpen, they could probably trade or designate Jason Frasor, as he seems like the most expendable person on that list. That could open up a spot for Casey Janssen on the roster. Cito said that he’ll have a pretty good idea by week’s end about what the starting rotation should look like. With so many rising young stars and talented veterans in the Toronto Blue Jays system, it will be interesting who the final 25 roster spots end up going to.

Thigpen mightier than the sword

Sunday, March 15, 2009  |  by 

39 days ago, Curtis Thigpen took one step backwards in his career when he was designated for assignment to the Las Vegas 51's. Today, after a walkoff homerun against the Cincinnati Reds, Curtis Thigpen could be on his way to becoming the Blue Jays backup catcher this season.

At this point, I would give Curtis Thigpen the slight edge over Michael Barrett for the backup catching job. It looks like J.P. Arencibia will need a little more time in the minors, with a current .083 batting average. Thigpen has already hit 2 jacks, with with 2 RBI's and a .222 batting average, compared to Barrett's 0 HR, 0 RBI and a .063 batting average.

Considering that Curtis started 10 games last year with the Jays, hitting .176 with 1 HR and 1 RBI, it's safe to say that he's on the right path to backup Rod Barajas. Going into spring training, the backup catching job was Barrett's to lose. With Curtis Thigpen suddenly wielding a hot bat, Barrett will have to step up his game if he wants to break camp north of the border.

Cheap Beer at the Ballpark

In the eternal quest to find reasonably priced beer at baseball games, I stumbled upon what could possibly be the best deal on beer in the Blue Jays farm system. The only downside is that you have to travel to Las Vegas to take advantage of it.

If you're planning a trip to Sin City at any point this spring/summer, once you've gotten your fill of casinos and Wayne Newton, why not check out at Las Vegas 51's game? Every Thursday home game is dollar beer night. Yes, dollar beer night at the ballpark. Come to the game with a cool crisp $20 bill, and leave with enough beer in your system to make even that Wayne Newton show enjoyable.

Tuesday home games at Cashman field are also "Blue Jays Tuesdays" where the Las Vegas 51's salute their neighbours to the north by playing the Canadian national anthem among other things. Show up in your Blue Jays gear or even a hockey jersey, and your ticket is just 5 dollars. I would be truly shocked if one single person game to one of those ballgames with a hockey jersey.

It doesn't even look like you have too go far out of your way to see the Blue Jays AAA affiliate, just a mere 10 minutes from downtown Las Vegas. Not only that, but the 51's have some wicked logos. I'm almost considering ordering a hat just because they look pretty wicked.

LJ from The Te of Inglett has already convinced me to head to Dunedin next year for spring training, and now I just might have to hit up Sin City too. Vegas, baby!

Fantasy Baseball Draft Day Strategy

Saturday, March 14, 2009  |  by 

Tomorrow is the big day - draft time for the Tao of Stieb's Roto-Hoedown League. Earlier this week, the almighty Tao offered his advice for draft day which has inspired my to also share a few of my personal strategies when it comes to fake managing a baseball team.

1.) Don't let emotions get in the way

It's easy to develop a soft spot for certain players (Scott Richmond), but don't let your emotions cloud your judgement. Stick to the plan - if the next available player to draft is Matt Holliday, don't be tempted to reach for Frank Thomas just because he helped you win the World Series in MLB2K7.

2.) Don't show up for draft day

This is a very risky move that could prove to be very beneficial, or detrimental to the success of your Fantasy Baseball team. In leagues with 10 teams or less, I often find that letting the pre-rankings work their magic pretty well. Being absent for draft day also ties in with tip #1, not letting emotions get in the way. By letting a cold, calculating computer do the work, the human element is not fooled into making emotionally-based draft decisions.

3.) Saves, Shmaves

Just like the real deal, I find that saves are one of the most overrated statistics in baseball and it's fantasy counterpart. Not only that, but the closer is one of the most revolving-door positions in baseball. One week you're the closer, the next week you're sweeping up sunflower seeds in the dugout. I find it's best to stick with the consistent, dependable closers that you know will have their job at the end of the season (ex. Mariano Rivera, K-Rod, Joe Nathan). If one of your closers goes down during the season, don't panic. Last season I freaked out when Billy Wagner had to undergo Tommy John surgery, which forced me to panic and trade C.C. Sabathia to get George Sherrill and Vladamir Guerrero. We all know who won that trade, and it certainly wasn't me.

4.) Lightning probably won't strike twice

The prime example of this is Cliff Lee. He had an incredible season last year, but what are the odds that he puts up similar results this year? Probably not very good. Luckily, Cliff Lee is ranked pretty low at 91 by Yahoo, so you can probably afford to take a chance on him. Another player to avoid in this situation is A.J. Burnett. After posting many career highs last season, he is almost doomed to land on the DL at some point this year.

5.) Sophomore slump

This tip also ties in with #4, lightning probably not striking twice. Considering that Evan Longoria didn't even start Opening Day on the Rays roster and he missed 25 games due to injury, I think that 14 is a very high position for Yahoo to place him. I'm not saying that Longoria won't have a great year, I just don't think that it will be as incredible as everyone thinks. If you want a recent example of a sophomore slump, just look at Troy Tulowitzki. He went from a .291 average with 24 HR and 99 RBI's in 2007, to a .263 average with 8 HR's and 46 RBI's in 2008. Tulo missed 59 games, but still ... he's one 3rd round pitch I wish I could've gotten back.

6.) By all means, have fun!

After all, remember it's just a game. At the end of the season, you are no better or worse a person if you finish first or last place in the league. If money is involved, then it's okay to become obsessed and over-analyze statistics and trends. Of course, the best part about finishing at the top of your fantasy baseball league is bragging rights. Be prepared to shell out and take jabs from fellow managers throughout the season, but in the end it's all just good natured fun.

TGIF Tidbits

Friday, March 13, 2009  |  by 

We received some good and bad news on the pitching front earlier this week. The good news is that it looks like Shaun Marcum is ahead of schedule, and could possibly return in August. I’m not getting my hopes up because Tommy John surgery usually takes 12-14 months of rehabilitation before big league play. If Shaun does make it back this year, I will be pleasantly surprised.

The bad news is that Dustin McGowan’s injury appears to be worse than anticipated. The Jays were thinking he might return to the rotation somewhere around June-July, but there is a possibility we might not come back until next season. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for good news about McGowan and Marcum.

I haven’t been to Toronto since last season, but apparently Big League Stew noticed that the Rogers Centre still has two giant pictures of A.J. Burnett and Gregg Zaun on the side of the dome. My suggestion - tear down the pictures and sell them at the Jays shop for 10 bucks a pop. I’m sure there’s somebody out there that could find a good use for a giant A.J. Burnett decal.

To add insult to injury, our boy Scott Richmond returned to Blue Jays camp on Wednesday only to find a Team Italy cap in his locker. If it were me, I would’ve gone all Rick Vaughn on their asses a la Major League and torn down the locker room. Hopefully Richmond will channel his frustrations into some solid pitching, as he has a minor league game later today.

Our friends Eyebleaf from Sports and the City and Stephen from Searching for '93 are putting it all on the line this season in a very interesting wager. After looking at all the categories, it's tough to say who has the edge in the over/under, but it should be interesting to see who wins. The stakes are hilarious by the way, check out the podcast to find out more.

You may have noticed that I’ve done a little bit of housekeeping on the blog. You’ll now notice a super handy-dandy menu bar up at the top with links to separate pages. This should make the site navigation a lot easier, because unfortunately blogger gives us very few options in site design. I hope you enjoy it!

Halladay still perfect

Thursday, March 12, 2009  |  by 

9 IP, 10 SO, 0.00 ERA, 4 H.

Sounds like your everyday Roy Halladay start, doesn’t it? With his sparking 0.00 ERA throughout 3 starts and 9 innings of work in Spring Training, Halladay has yet to give up a single run. Between mowing down and embarrassing opposing hitters, Halladay talked to the Toronto Sun and sounded pretty optimistic about this upcoming season:
"I think we aren't expected to do as much as we've done in the past. But I think we have a chance to be a lot more surprising than we have in the past. If some of these young guys we have pan out and become what we think they can be, I think we have a chance of being a lot better than mediocre.”
Hell yes, that’s what you want to hear from your number one player on the team. None of this “fourth place” bullshit. Halladay is going all the way, and so are the Blue Jays. I guess things aren’t looking so grim anymore, and J.P. Ricciardi saved a boatload of cash by not offering A.J. Burnett ridiculous amounts of money to stay in Toronto. So far, I whole-heartedly approve of that decision.

And as if Halladay’s pitch repertoire wasn’t scary enough, it sounds like he’s working on perfecting a changeup too, as he threw 9 in yesterday’s 2-2 draw with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Add a killer changeup to his 2-seam fastball, cutter, and curveball, and he has a deadly pitch repertoire that’s nearly un-hittable.

To the Baseball Writers Association of America, you might as well go ahead write Roy Halladay’s name on your ballot for the AL Cy Young Award, because he’s not leaving town unless he packs up another Cy.

Moneyball Book Review

I don’t read books very often. In fact, I think maybe I’ve read one book in the last 5 years. So it’s saying something when I actually get around to finishing a book. Once every so often, I hear about a book that drives me to seek it out. This time, it was Michael Lewis’ "Moneyball".

For those who aren’t familiar with Moneyball, it’s basically about Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and how he managed to build a team to compete with financial juggernauts like the Yankees with a mere $41 million dollar payroll. The first part of the book follows Billy’s trials as a player himself, but then begins to focus on how he became a very successful GM within a short period of time.

One of the main points of the book is basically that all those miniscule baseball statistics don’t really matter, and that the two big statistics that really count are OBP (on base percentage) and SLG (slugging percentage), or the hybrid of the two OPS (on base plus slugging percentage). Beane denounces the thought of “manufacturing runs” by playing small ball, and places the emphasis on simply getting on base.

Another focus of Moneyball is avoiding overpaying for talent. This was demonstrated by the 2002 Oakland A’s, and how they managed to let go of three of their biggest players (Jason Giambi, Carlos Pena, and Johnny Damon) and yet still win over 100 games and make the playoffs. The Moneyball business model seemed to be “buy low, sell high” - trade young players at their peak value, and attempt to strike gold by signing some old veterans to small money contracts.

The book does have some connections to the Toronto Blue Jays, most notably with J.P. Ricciardi and Keith Law. Ricciardi did spend some time in the Oakland A’s front office as Director of Player Personnel. A few years later when J.P. emerged as the new GM for the Blue Jays, he started to apply the Moneyball business model to the Jays, just as Beane had to the Oakland Athletics.

Overall, I thought that Moneyball was a great read and it helped shed some light on the business aspect of baseball. It helped me understand the struggles that General Managers and club head offices have with issues like payroll, free agents, and winning at all costs. It's a "must-read" for any baseball fan who wants to delve into the business side of the game.

Blue Jays Starting Rotation Candidates

Tuesday, March 10, 2009  |  by 

We’re almost 2 weeks into spring training, and the battle continues for the 4th and 5th spots on the Blue Jays starting rotation. Wondering how all the arms are stacking up? Take a look at the stats below.

Pitcher IP ERA BB SO
Matt Clement * 9.0 3.38 5 4
Brad Mills * 8.2 3.29 2 5
Brett Cecil 8.0 4.50 2 10
Ricky Romero 6.0 7.50 9 9
Scott Richmond * 4.0 4.50 1 5
Casey Janssen * 3.0 0.00 0 3
* Statistics include exhibition games vs. Team Canada and Team USA

Clearly, Matt Clement is one of the early favourites to win a spot. In 2 starts and 1 relief appearance, Clement has put together a respectable 3.38 ERA in 9 innings pitched. Brad Mills is not too far behind, with a 3.29 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched so far this season. The Blue Jays young guns Cecil and Romero have the most SO’s so far with 10 and 9 respectively, but with higher ERA’s.

I’m thinking that the Blue Jays are now leaning towards leaving Casey Janssen in the bullpen this year, as he has yet to start a spring training game. In 2 relief appearances, Janssen has been flawless with a perfect ERA to date.

I still think it’s too early to say whether or not Scott Richmond will make the squad. His 2 appearances and 4 innings pitched are too small a sample size to judge if he has what it takes to hold down a starting rotation spot. Maybe if he had a chance to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, we could’ve seen what Richmond is capable of. But I honestly think if Scott Richmond is given the chance, he can perform well.

So if I had to pick the 4th and 5th starting pitchers at this point in spring training, I would say that Matt Clement and Brett Cecil would make the Opening Day roster. But we still have almost 4 weeks of preseason action, and a lot can happen between now and then. Who knows, maybe Brad Mills could sneak his way onto the bullpen or Brett Cecil could begin his journey become the next David Price. That's why they say anything can happen in baseball!

Live Chat tonight

Are you still fuming about Canada losing to Italy last night? Well, grab a beer and join some fellow disappointed fans and let off some steam tonight with another live chat. It all gets underway tonight at 9pm EST. See you then!

Italian Salami smokes Canadian Bacon

Monday, March 9, 2009  |  by 

The Italians smoked Team Canada - and the worst part? We didn't even see it coming. Canada was fully expected to win tonight, but instead they ended of on the opposite end of their upset vs. Team USA 3 years ago.

As much as I want to blame the pitching, the offense couldn't really get it going either. Perkins was a mess from the start, and I'm not even sure why he was back on the mound in the 2nd inning. I know they were saving Scott Richmond for possible game versus Venezuela, but was it a good move to leave him on the bench? Canada didn't even get a chance to use their "ace", and I guess it was a risk that Ernie Whitt and Team Canada were willing to make.

The same team that scored 5 runs against the Americans could only muster up 2 mere runs. It the bottom of the 4th, Canada had the momentum shift with runners on 3rd and 2nd when Jason Bay knocked Joey Votto and Justin Morneau home to cut the lead to 4-2. Unfortunately, that was as close as Canada would come to tying up the game as the Italians tacked on 4 more runs.

I guess the one bright spot for Canada was Jesse Crain. He struck out all 4 batters that he faced. His pitch placement was completely on the mark, and the Italians were completely hopeless at the plate against Crain.

I feel bad that Scott Richmond didn't even get a chance to save his country from elimination, but I guess that's the way that baseball goes some time. I didn't really expect Canada to advance past the first round of pool play, but it would have been nice to see them win at least one game on home soil.

Weekend Roundup

It was an incredible weekend of baseball, and I somehow managed to miss almost all of it. From what I hear, it was one hell of a game on Saturday between Team Canada and USA at the World Baseball Classic. I managed to peer my way through to televisions at Fallsview Casino to check the scores periodically, but I didn’t realize the score was so damn close. From what I’ve read, the atmosphere at the Rogers Centre must have been amazing … dare I say it was circa ’92-‘93 glory days?

Team Canada plays for their tournament life tonight against Team Italy, as Scott “Kool-Aid” Richmond will start the game and attempt to save Canada from elimination. A win against Italy will extend Canada’s life in the tournament by one more day, as they would play Team Venezuela for a chance to advance to the second round on Tuesday. I’m not expecting a miracle at the Rogers Centre, but at least one win in pool play would be nice.

UPDATE: My apologies, I just learned that it will in fact be Vince Perkins starting tonight's game for Team Canada. Scott Richmond is being saved for tomorrow's (hopefully) game versus Venezuela.

Down in Dunedin, Travis Snider and Jason Lane continue to rip the cover off the ball in spring training. Lane hit another homerun over the weekend, which pushes his spring training total to 3. That’s already one more than any Blue Jay hit in spring training last year. I think It’s probably safe to say that at this pace, Snider and Lane will be on the flight north for Opening Day.

And the live chat returns once again this Tuesday, so be sure to check back for another edition of heated debate surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays. Starting at 9pm EST we’ll be talking up everything to do with the World Baseball Classic, spring training, and who the front runners are to make the starting rotation.

Just in case you weren't already watching the WBC

Friday, March 6, 2009  |  by 

Here are 10 more reasons to watch the World Baseball Classic courtesy of Team USA from last night's Late Show Top 10:

A salute to our fellow countrymen

Thursday, March 5, 2009  |  by 

Is it possible that Canada’s version of “Miracle on Ice” could happen this weekend? We’ll only be hoping that lightning can strike twice and that Team Canada can upset Team USA at the World Baseball Classic again this Saturday.

The pitching matchup will be of David and Goliath proportions as Mike Johnson goes up against Team USA’s ace, Jake Peavy. You may remember Mike Johnson from his outing on Wednesday against the Phillies where he gave up 2 hits and 1 run in 2/3 inning of work. Not that bad considering he had just got off the plane after a 21 hour flight from Japan, in which he watched Full House seasons 1 through 3.

Scott Richmond will likely be saved for Monday’s game versus either Italy or Venezuela if Canada loses to the USA on Saturday. The biggest hurdle for Team Canada will obviously be Saturday’s game, but if they can survive it past the weekend then Canada will have already exceeded most people’s expectations. A win this weekend will buy them some time in the WBC, but two wins will secure a spot in the next round.

I wish the best of luck to our fellow countrymen, and Godspeed against Team USA.

Drunk on Travis Snider

Wednesday, March 4, 2009  |  by 

The first drink of choice during spring training was a refreshing glass of Scott Richmond Kool-Aid. But now, the new beverage that's taking everybody by storm in Dunedin is Travis Snider's Mash Liquor.

Snider went wild today on Team USA in the Jays 6-5 win, and went 3 for 3 with 3 singles. That skyrockets his spring training batting average to an incredible .583. Yes I know, small sample size (only 10 at bats), but in my books Snider has already hit his way onto the team and can pretty much coast for the duration of spring training knowing he'll safely be with the team when they travel north close to April 6th. If Travis can keep this pace up, he might not only find himself in the Blue Jays starting lineup, he might also be hitting higher up in the lineup than the 8th or 9th spot. I don't want to seem too anxious, but Cito could even get crazy and pencil in Snider in the 6th or 7th spot behind Scott Rolen or Lyle Overbay.

So for the time being, don't feel guilty about getting hammered on Travis Snider's Mash Liquor. It's the only 100 percent mash liquor that doesn't cause liver pains!

Beer at Jays games isn’t cheap, but at least the tickets are

Although a tall boy at the Rogers Centre may cost $9.25, tickets to the .500 level at the Rogers Centre are just a mere $9.00. Thanks to Big League Stew for giving the Jays props for having the cheapest season tickets in the league at a mere $95. Of course, they’re talking about the Toronto Star Season Pass where fans have access to all 2009 Blue Jays home games, depending on availability.

Of course, this season pass comes with restrictions - I imagine it’s a bit of a clusterf*ck trying to get tickets for Opening Day and any Red Sox or Yankees series, but overall it seems like a pretty good deal. So long as your seats aren’t 20-30 rows back in the .500 level, the view isn’t really that bad anyway.

The most gratifying part of all is that season tickets for the Toronto Blue Jays cost less than two field level tickets to a single New York Yankees game at the new Yankee Stadium.

Is there some sort of recession going on right now? Because I guess Brian Cashman didn’t get the memo.

Team Canada vs. Blue Jays recap

Tuesday, March 3, 2009  |  by 

Thank you to everyone who had a chance to catch the Jays vs. Team Canada "CanJays" live blog today. It was an interesting experience being able to comment on each aspect of the game, from Rogers hocking of their Hockey Central Deadline 09, to Barry Davis' vertically-challenged interviews, to Jamie Campbell's awkward commentary.

At first, it might have seemed like today's game did not exist at all because there was no access to a boxscore until after the game was over. Scott Richmond had an alright outing, he was roughed up for 2 runs in 2 & 2/3 innings of work, walking one batter and fanning two. Richmond didn't exactly solidify his position on the rotation with this outing, but he didn't blow it either. Mike Maroth on the hand, probably did screw his chances of making it on the squad. Maroth gave up 2 runs, on 3 walks, but struck out three. We heard last week about Maroth's bunk knee, as the Blue Jays were probably just testing Maroth's stability today to see if he could make it without going under the knife.

I'm not usually the type of person to point out the obvious short-comings in someone, but midgame entertainment was provided by Barry Davis and his awkward interviews with Scott Richmond, Casey Janssen, David Purcey and John McDonald. His lack of height was very apparent, and every time I saw him talking to one of the Jays, all I could think was "he could sooo get a wedgie right now".

Oh yeah, by the way - Team Canada won 6-4.

Team Canada vs. Blue Jays Live Blog

Let's play ball! Team Canada takes on the Toronto Blue Jays starting this afternoon at 1pm EST. You can listen live on MLB.TV, check it out on Rogers Sportsnet, or follow along here as I'll live blog the game for those who can't watch it (damn overlords). Go CanJays Go!

Programming note: there will be no live chat tonight, but I'm hoping we'll be back next Tuesday night for another "airing of the grievances" starting at 9pm EST.

More Kool-Aid, please

Monday, March 2, 2009  |  by 

Remember that Kool-Aid flavour that masqueraded as one colour/flavour, but then when mixed with sugar and water turned into a totally different thing? Nothing against colour-changing Kool-Aid, I just thought it was pretty wicked when I was a kid.

Tomorrow, the Scott Richmond Kool-Aid will return, but this time is will be served up via Team Canada instead of the Toronto Blue Jays. The only difference aside from the Team Canada jersey, is that this new batch of Scott Richmond Kool-Aid will in true Canadiana form taste like cherry and Alberta Premium.

Not only will Richmond pitch tomorrow's WBC warmup game vs. the Blue Jays, but he will also likely start Team Canada's elimination game against Venezuela. If Scotty can continue his incredible performance throughout spring training and the World Baseball Classic, he will certainly be a favourite to win one of those final spots in the rotation.

Get those jugs of Scott Richmond Kool-Aid ready, it's going to be a heated matchup tomorrow when Team Canada goes up against the Blue Jays. Go Scotty, go!

Televised Baseball returns!

After almost four months without a frame of live televised baseball, we can finally bask in baseball glory when "Canada's Team" takes on Team Canada tomorrow at the Jays home field in Dunedin Florida.

Scott Richmond Kool-Aid will be served up once again as he pitches against the very team he's hoping to win a starting rotation spot with. No official word on who will start for the Blue Jays, but I imagine it will either Brian Bullington or Matt Clement, since both Romero and Cecil already pitched earlier today against the Phillies.

I'm not quite sure what Team Canada's starting lineup looks like, but it would be cool to see Matt Stairs back again on the same field as the Blue Jays. Oh yeah, and Corie Koskie - remember that guy? I guess he just signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. Maybe with Corie's side-affects from his concussion a few years ago, you'd think he'd want to take it easy if he just inked a deal with the Cubbies. But I guess he had already committed to Team Canada, but it was good to hear that the Beej withdrew his name from the Team USA roster after he got lit up on Saturday for 4 runs.

Be sure to check out The Blue Jay Hunter tomorrow starting at 1:00pm, I'll be doing a live blog of the Team Canada vs. The Blue Jays. Hope to see you all tomorrow afternoon for this year's first televised Blue Jays game. Get you drinks ready!

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

Sunday, March 1, 2009  |  by 

I wasn't quite sure what to think when I saw that Jeff Blair wrote about how the Jays might be looking at Orlando Cabrera. Originally, I thought it just might be a side affect of my meds, but it turns out this might actually be true. While Richard Griffin's boner for Cabrera might have grown to epic proportions due to this news, it's not exactly exciting news to me.

Yes, Orlando Cabrera is an offensive and defensive upgrade to Scoots & J-Mac, but Cabrera is 34 years old. Yikes. Not exactly the kind of player you want to build your team around. If the Blue Jays can bring him in for cheap, be my guest. But if it's at the cost of dealing Scott Rolen, Lyle Overbay, and Brandon League, I'm not down with that. Yes, a Bautista/Cabrera left side of the infield would likely be much cheaper than a Rolen/Scutaro combination, but would it provide the same amount of power? I don't think so. Replace Orlando Cabrera's name with J.J. Hardy's, and I'm all for it.

Speaking of hallucinations, I think Cito might've taken LSD instead of asprin this morning when he talked about how he wants Jeremy Accardo to slot into the starting rotation. Putting Accardo into the rotation raises the same questions as putting Casey Janssen into the rotation - is it really a good idea to do that to a player who is just coming off an injury-plagued season? But luckily, Nick at Breakout on Bremner said that Wilner though Cito got Accardo confused with Janssen. Well, let's hope it's just a simple case of mistaken identity because it makes no sense at all to move Accardo from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

And it looks like Ken Takahashi's dreams of being the Japanese version of Mr. Baseball have come to an end. According to reports, he limped off the field today with a strained right calf. He pitched 1 & 2/3 innings giving up 2 runs on 4 hits.

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