Niemann or He-Man?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009  |  by 

At 6’9” and 280 pounds, Jeff Niemann could almost be mistaken as an offensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As he took up almost one third of my television screen, imagine what it was like for the Blue Jays to have to face a pitcher who towered close to seven feet. It was probably the equivalent of having He-Man standing at the top of Castle Greyskull and hurling fastballs.

The Blue Jays had no answer for Niemann who pitched seven strong innings and only gave up four hits in total. He didn’t even run into trouble until the seventh inning when Rod Barajas hit an RBI single to deep right field.

Although Roy Halladay was pegged with the loss, I would say that his return from the disabled list was a very valiant effort. You can’t be disappointed that Doc gave up two runs to a very aggressive Tampa Bay Rays team. There was just one mistake by Halladay; a costly two-run home run to Carl Crawford.

I think Tao put it best when he said that "lifeless" was the best way to summarize the performance by the Blue Jays. You could also really see the differing managerial styles between Joe Maddon and Cito Gaston; while Gaston plays a very laid back, "hope for something happen" kind of game, Maddon goes out there and encourages his players to be very aggressive and take bases at all costs. Aside from Gabe Gross being thrown out twice, for the most part that strategy worked for Joe Maddon and the Rays last night.

Halladay ready to rock

Monday, June 29, 2009  |  by 

Fifteen days ago, Roy Halladay left the mount at the Rogers Centre and Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath in anticipation of some good news. We can now finally breathe a sigh of relief as Doc is ready to go once again.

Having Roy Halladay back in the Blue Jays rotation is like getting a shot of adrenaline. The team has definitely missed the dependability of having him pitch every fifth game and they’ll look forward to his return. Amazingly, Doc has missed two weeks but is still holding on to the best record in baseball at 10-1. His time on the DL probably hurt his chances of starting the All-Star game for the American League and caused him to lose some momentum, but ultimately Halladay only has two words on his mind right now … Cy Young.

It’s only fitting that Halladay is the one to kick off the series against the Tampa Bay Rays which actually marks the beginning of thirteen straight games against teams in the American League East. With a series sweep, the Blue Jays can leapfrog ahead of the Rays by two games. Or with a series win, the Jays can pull even with the Rays in the Wild Card race. There is no such thing as losing two or all three games in this series because playing catch-up to the third place team in the division is not something you want to do before the All-Star break.

In honour of Roy Halladay’s return, I’ll be liveblogging this momentous occasion over at The Score. Glad to have you back, Doc.

Caught in the middle

Sunday, June 28, 2009  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife

It was a game that could have easily gone either way, but it was a game that should have gone the Blue Jays' way. Brian Tallet had the game in the palm of his hands, but he let it slip away as the Jays lost the rubber match of their series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

It looked like Brian Tallet had trouble with his location most of the game, as was evident by the six walks he gave up. Even though Tallet had great success with his changeup in his last start against the Reds, he struggled to locate it and laid off his changeup as the game progressed.

While Tallet had problems with the Phillies, Brandon League had no trouble shutting them down in order in the seventh inning. League was spot-on with his location and fanned two hitters in a successful inning of relief. For the time being, Brandon League is back to his dominant self once again.

One member of the Jays that has quietly put together a great season is Raul Chavez. I didn't notice this until today, but he has thrown out 40 percent of base stealers this season. Chavez has actually always been a great defensive catcher; last year alone he gunned down twelve runners. Often underrated, Chavez has been a very important piece to the puzzle this season for the Blue Jays and should be commended for that.

All of the runs that were put on the board by the Blue Jays came by way of the longball. Aaron Hill knocked in his 18th and 19th home runs of the year and Jose Bautista added a two run shot for good measure in the second inning. Unfortunately, those runs would not be enough to hold off the Philadelphia Phillies.

The sequence of events in the bottom of the ninth really had Blue Jays fans on the edge of their seats. Raul Chavez amazed everyone with a bunt to start things off and Scutaro walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. After Aaron Hill flied out, John McDonald was caught in a very strange rundown between second and third.

Even before Brad Lidge had a chance to wind up, Johnny Mac jumped the gun and sped off for third base, but Lidge must have been tipped off as he turned around at the precise time McDonald got a jump. You can't really blame J-Mac for trying to be aggressive and tie up the game, but the lead runner needs to be aware of what's going on at all times. Maybe Johnny Mac was taking some baserunning tips from Alex Rios or something.

Sunday morning hangover

Image courtesy of Daylife

Wow, that game took a turn for the worse very quickly. The Jays chances of winning bascially flew out the window once Jason Werth slammed one into the nosebleeds at the Rogers Centre ... and it all went downhill from there.

While a ten run defecit is a tough one to overcome, it doesn't help when the Blue Jays can only string together five hits in total. Surprisingly, two of those hits came from John McDonald - that's when you know it's going to be a tough day at the office.

So like a true trooper, the Blue Jays will put the worst behind them and attempt to salvage the series with a win in the rubber match today. Watch it all go down at The Score and join me while I liveblog this afternoon's matinee against the Phillies.

The All Lefty Weekend

Friday, June 26, 2009  |  by 

It’ll be a surplus but southpaws this weekend at the Rogers Centre; three games and all the starting pitchers will be lefties. Left hands haven’t seen this much work since the inception of porn on the internet.

The Blue Jays will send Romero, Mills and Tallest to the hill, while the Phillies will counter with Hamels, Happ and Moyer.

Since there will be all left-handed starting pitchers this weekend, that means Kevin Millar will likely start most if not all three games at first base. Cito has maintained his strategy to play Millar against lefties, but is that really the best option any more? This season Millar’s splits are better than Overlay’s, but if you look at Millar’s numbers in the month of June they are atrocious:

Millar .205 AVG, 5 RBI, 1 HR, .618 OPS

Compare those with Lyle Overlay’s stats this month, and it should be a no-brainer for Cito to play Overbuy at first base:

Overbay .288 AVG, 18 RBI, 4 HR, 1.008 OPS

Cito prefers to think with his heart instead of his brain sometimes and this is a perfect example. For some reason he has it ingrained in his managerial mind that Millar hits left-handed pitching better than Overbuy. It’s time for Cito Gaston to throw those preconceived notions out the window.

Now while that may statistically be true this season, shouldn’t you continue to ride a player who’s on a hot streak? Lyle’s numbers in June are far too impressive to warrant him being benched in this series.

I'll be liveblogging Sunday's finale over at The Score which features Brian Tallet against Jamie Moyer, so stop by on Sunday afternoon for what looks to be a great game.

Defensive gems

Is it any surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays are the best defensive teams in the majors this season? Thanks to those defensive gems that were put on last night, hitters are lucky if they can even sneak a hit by the Blue Jays infielders.

Last week, Marco Scutaro stunned the Philadelphia Phillies with an intuitive play by stealing second base on a walk. This time, he left the Reds dumbfounded by throwing out Johnny Gomes from his back. As you can see from the photo above, Scoots was flat out on his back and yet somehow managed to lean over and make the throw one-hop throw to Lyle Overbay in time to get Gomes. That play alone should get Scutaro into the All Star Game.

Earlier in the game, Aaron Hill flashed some leather and made an incredible leaping play to throw out another Red at first base. Although I didn’t see it, I heard that Scott Rolen robbed Hairston once again with a diving grab along the third base line and followed it up with the throw from his knees.

For an opposing hitter, the only way to be guaranteed that the Blue Jays infielders won’t somehow make the out is to hit it at least ten feet above their heads. And even then, there’s nothing saying that Scott Rolen won’t pick up Marco Scutaro, put him on his shoulders and launch him in the air to track down the ball.

Maybe he should focus more on his music

Thursday, June 25, 2009  |  by 

Image courtesy of SawxBlog

Bronson Arroyo is known for his soulful music, crazy boat parties, and now apparently not being able to pitch in Toronto.

I'm not sure what it is about the date June 24th, but for some reason it causes Bronson Arroyo to fall apart. June 24th 2008 - he lasts only one inning as the Blue Jays light him up for ten runs. Last night was a similar result. Is it possible that we could be entering The Twilight Zone?

Speaking of The Twilight Zone, Vernon Wells hit another home run - his second on a span of just four games. Vernon is also riding an eight game hitting streak in which he’s hitting .342. After being on high alert for weeks, the VWHAS has been lowered to “Elevated” and all is right in the universe once again.

Aside from some trouble early on in the game, Scott Richmond was fantastic once again. He went seven strong innings and capped his evening by finishing off 14 Reds in a row. One home run, one single, two walks - that’s all the Cincinnati Reds could muster against Scott Richmond. As much as the Blue Jays have missed Roy Halladay these past few weeks, it’s guys like Richmond who have stepped up in Doc’s absence and kept this team grounded.

I know we’re not even at the All Star break yet, but can someone call the MLB and tell them to start printing Scott Rolen’s name on the Gold Glove Award for American League third baseman? Rolen made another incredible play last night to not only steal extra bases away from the Reds, but in effect he also stole our hearts. I said it last week but let me just reiterate that I’m sorry for ever doubting how awesome Scott Rolen is.

Blogging from behind the scenes at the Jays game

Wednesday, June 24, 2009  |  by 

It's not very often that a giant baseball nerd such as myself gets to live their childhood dream of getting up close and personal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of covering the Blue Jays/Reds game thanks to T.O. Sports Magazine, and they decided to let me loose on the field and I did my very best to act like a civilized sports writer instead of a nerdy blogger.

Immediately, I was overwhelmed with what was going on. As soon as the elevator opened to take me down to field level, there was Jerry Howarth. “Where are you going” he asks. “Down to the field!” I respond, trying not to act like a giddy school girl.

From there, I emerge in the underbelly of the Rogers Centre. For those who have not been down to the field level, it’s actually quite confusing. I had to ask two people how to get to the field. Eventually, I walked up the stairs and emerged from the visitor’s dugout and stepped out onto the field. There were reporters and cameras everywhere, and then there was little old me with a recorder and a microphone. Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed.

After standing around for about 15 minutes, Joey Votto sat down in the Reds dugout and immediately the press swarmed around him. I followed suit and from the back, tried to get some sound bites with him talking about his early season struggles. As I’m holding my mic in the air, none other than Richard Griffin strolls in to my left, and in my peripheral I can see Jamie Campbell sipping on Starbucks beside me.
Once Joey Votto was done answering questions, we headed over to the Jays dugout to talk to Cito Gaston. Being that close to Cito, I could sum up his personality in one word: chill. If you thought he seemed relaxed on television, wait until you meet him. He is a very calm, cool manager who doesn’t seem to get very riled up about anything.
From there, I wasn’t quite sure what to do as some of the reporters disappeared down into the dugouts while others strolled around the infield. I decided to just chill out in the Jays dugout and wait for something to happen. So after about 20 minutes, I took it upon myself to venture down to the clubhouse. As I walked in, it was like walking into a palace. There were flat screen TV’s everywhere, a giant cooler stocked with every beverage imaginable, and large executive chairs at every player’s locker. Apparently the Jays were to come in after batting practice, but only a few players strolled in like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. Just glancing around the lockers, I noticed that Alex Rios had his famous model airplanes and helicopters around, and there was a remote control monster truck as well.

Apparently the Jays have their own timetables to return to the clubhouse, so I chose to head up to the media area and prepare for the game. Again, it was another adventure just to figure out where to go to get up to the 300 level. After opening a few doors and venturing through a few hallways, I finally found myself in the press box.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect up there, but it definitely exceeded any expectations I ever had. There was catered food up there, coolers with drinks, and a cafeteria-style area for folks to gather. Once it got close to the game, everyone gathered in the box at their respective stations and started typing away at their laptops. It was probably very obvious that I was new to this because I was the only one without a lap top. The media guides that are handed out have tonnes of information for writers; everything from streaks to stats and everything in between. It was also the first time I attempted to score the game. As you can see below, I did a pretty half-ass job.

I found it very difficult to sit there throughout the game and not show any emotion towards the Blue Jays. When Scott Rolen hit that home run in the second inning, my first instinct was to stand up and clap. But then I realized that I was representing the media and was not supposed to show any favoritism to one particular team. I have to be honest, I don’t know if I could be a full time sports writer because you always have to weigh both sides, whereas I tend to be a homer all the way. No matter what the standings are, the Blue Jays would always be number one in my books.

Following the game, we proceeded to head down to the clubhouse once again to get some post game interviews. Before talking to the players, the media huddled around Cito’s desk to get his response to how the team played. Once again, Cito was extremely laid back and I don’t think his voice ever reached anything above 60 decibels.Once we got our sound bites from Cito, it was back to the clubhouse to talk to Brian Tallet and Rod Barajas. Just in case you were wondering, yes, Brian Tallet is gigantic. I’m of course talking about his height, and not other things.

Overall, it was a great experience to step into a beat reporter’s shoes for a day and cover a Blue Jays game. Before this, I had no idea how much time and effort these writers and reporters put into their articles. As a blogger who has now traveled behind the scenes of what happens with the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, I have a new appreciation for what goes on up in the pressbox and down in the clubhouse. Once again, a gigantic thanks to T.O. Sports for letting me have this opportunity, and you can also check out the article I put together for them.

Big Red meet Big Blue

Monday, June 22, 2009  |  by 

For some reason, I have an affinity with the Cincinnati Reds logo. Whenever I look at Mr. Red, he looks as if he's sitting in the starting blocks waiting for the 100 metre dash to begin. But I also noticed a deep dark secret that Mr. Red has tried to hide for years - he is actually half brothers with Mr. Met. You can't deny that the resemblance is uncanny!

The Cincinnati Reds are likely a little weary about returning to play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The last time the Reds were in town, they were outscored 26-8 over the course of just three games. Some good news for the Big Red Machine is that Joey Votto could be back in the lineup on Tuesday.
At his last appearance at the Rogers Centre earlier this year for the World Baseball Classic, Votto did not disappoint in front of the hometown crowd.

Due to some strategic bullpen moves over the weekend, the initial rotation has been shuffled around a bit. Scott Richmond was originally slated to start Tuesday's opener, but instead will be pushed back a day. Brian Tallet will get the call tomorrow working on three days rest.

I'm very excited to announce that I'll be covering tomorrow's game thanks to the good folks at T.O. Sports. Hopefully, I will get a chance to interview some of the players prior to and following the game. Barring a complete technical meltdown, there should be some pictures and audio posted on the site in the next few days. You can also follow my ramblings throughout the game via Twitter.

A philosophical baseball question

Sunday, June 21, 2009  |  by 

Image courtesy of Flickr user Carson Campbell
Let me pose to you a philosophical baseball question - if a baseball fan hides in the woods for a series and no one is around to watch it, does the series still count?

After camping for a few days, I finally checked the box scores today and saw that the Blue Jays dropped two out of three to the last place Washington Nationals. I wasn't expecting a series sweep but I certainly could not have anticipated back to back losses in extra innings. The bullpen will certainly enjoy tomorrow's off day because in the series against the Nationals, Blue Jays relievers pitched 13 total innings.

I was also surprised to see that the Blue Jays called up Russ Adams to replace Joe Inglett, who had been sent back down to Las Vegas. Not that Russ Adams has performed poorly in Triple A, but I think we all expected David Dellucci to join the Blue Jays this weekend in Washington, not Russ Adams.

Thankfully the Blue Jays did all their fathers proud today by reeling in at least one win in Washington and going 4-2 this week on the road which was a hell of a lot better than their last road trip. Only one more week of interleague play left this season ... aside from the playoffs, of course.

An Apology to Scott Rolen

Friday, June 19, 2009  |  by 

Dear Scott,

I feel like there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how sorry I am, but I assure you that I am extremely remorseful about ever doubting you. To say it simply … I’m sorry.

First off, I’m sorry for ever suggesting earlier this year that the Blue Jays should trade you away simply to dump salary. Who am I kidding? Albeit he’s a great player, Jose Bautista is a mere one third the third baseman you are. Scott, you deserve every single penny of that $11 million dollars you are owed this season and next.

I’m also sorry if I ever insinuated that the Blue Jays were on the losing end of the trade to bring you to Toronto and send Troy Glaus to St. Louis. Purely based on last year’s statistics, Glaus appears to be the better player - but what those stats don’t show is that you played the most part of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury that dated back to 2007. A lesser man would have cowered in pain and begged for mercy, but you stood in the face of adversity and through the pain you still managed to play. After whining about playing on turf, Troy Glaus finally received his wish to play on the grass in St. Louis and he still hasn’t suited up for a game this year.

Scott, I’m sorry for expecting you to hit like you did back when you were in your twenties with the Philadelphia Phillies. With the departure of Troy Glaus, I was hoping that you would provide those 30+ home runs and 100 + RBI’s that we had come to expect from Glaus. Now I know those power numbers are not important, and your .327 batting average and your 29.6 percent line drive rate more than makes up for it. Not many players can retool their swing like you have, Scott.

Lastly, I apologize that I forgot you are a seven time Gold Glove award winner. Maybe it’s because over the past few years, John McDonald has turned some dazzling defense over at shortstop and has taken the focus off of the third base side. This season, your defense has been flawless and it’s reminded us all why the trophy case in the Rolen household is home to seven Gold Glove awards. I’ll even go as far to say that you might be the best defensive third basemen that the Blue Jays have ever had. Frankly, if you don’t win another Gold Glove this year if will be shocked and saddened. I will go as far to say that I will write an angry letter to each coach and manager that doesn’t vote for you.

In closing, I hope you accept my apology for underestimating your wealth of talent. Don't feel like you're underappreciated or taken for granted because after seeing your magic glove, your unmistakeable batting stance and your uncanny choice for entrance music, I truly do believe in Scott Rolen.

Rod saves the day

Thursday, June 18, 2009  |  by 

In Rod We Trust, indeed.

Cito Gaston trusted Rod Barajas to come off the bench to spark some offense, and that he did. The pinch-hit solo home run by Barajas was the game winner earlier this afternoon in the Blue Jays narrow 8-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Barajas' home run could not have come at a better time because if the game went further than nine innings, there might not have been any relievers left to pitch in the game. The Blue Jays literally paraded the entire bullpen out to the mound for this game; all seven relievers were used after Brad Mills got off to a bad start and had to be yanked after close to four innings of work.

As I was following the game on MLB Gameday, all I could think was "Accardo's going to have to pitch today". Turns out my instincts were correct as Cito Gaston called on Jeremy Accardo to finish the game and earn the save. It was a little scary there in the bottom of the ninth, but an incredible catch by Vernon Wells kept Blue Jay killer Jason Werth off the basepaths.

To come away with the series sweep against the defending World Champions was a huge boost for the Blue Jays. Today's and Tuesday's game were both matches that could have gone either way and luckily the Jays were on the winning end of both games. Now just a single game behind the New York Yankees in the division, hopefully the Jays can build on this momentum going into Washington to face the Nationals.

Despite being the laughing stock of the MLB, the Nationals are coming off winning two straight against the Yankees. Some might say that the Blue Jays are basically guaranteed to win two or even all three games in Washington, but it's been my experience that you don't underestimate teams that are at the bottom of the division. The Nationals are just as hungry for a win as anyone else and won't concede victory no matter how bad their record is.

Now only if they could just spell their team name correctly on their jerseys.

A little more housekeeping

Just a couple of quick things before Brad Mills makes his major league debut this afternoon against the Phillies.

- Some of you folks might be recieving error messages when visiting the old blogspot BJH address, so please update your bookmarks with the new Blue Jay Hunter URL.

- Same thing goes with the old Blue Jay Hunter Feedburner feed, so feel free to subscribe to the new Feedburner RSS feed here.

- For those who live in and around the London area, make sure you check out the 2009 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony this Saturday at 11am in St. Mary's. Former players Larry Walker, Ernie Whitt, Bernie Soullierre and Doc Miller will all be honoured with their inductions into the CBHoF. Admission is free for the induction ceremony, and there's even a Celebrity Softball game tonight pitting Team Walker against Team Whitt.

Good luck to Brad Mills this afternoon!

Kool-Aid with 11 K's

Wednesday, June 17, 2009  |  by 

After a day filled with so much bad news in Blue Jay land, it was nice to finally receive some good news. The Jays really needed a strong outing from Scott Richmond and they received all that and more. Richmond had the best start of his career going 8 strong innings, striking out 11 Phillies along the way and giving up just one single earned run.

Despite Scott Richmond's less than impressive career splits versus lefties, he succeeded in shutting down the lefty-heavy heart of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup. Not only that, but Scotty managed to do that in less than ideal conditions with the rain pouring down at Citizens Park. I find that pretty impressive considering that earlier today, I did everything in my power to avoid having to run a mere 20 feet in the rain from the back door to my car.

After winning his first four decisions of the season, Richmond has been held out of the win column since his last victory on May 3rd. Although he was being labelled as a fifth starter, he has the potential to be a solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher for the Blue Jays. Now with the injuries to Halladay and Janssen, it will nice to see Richmond back on a more regular basis.

Let me tell ya, six weeks is a long time to go without a glass of Scott Richmond Kool-Aid but it was certainly worth the wait.

Triple dose of DL

What’s behind door number one, door number two and door three? They’re all injured pitchers on the Blue Jays staff - take your pick!


Those three letters can basically sum up my thoughts after it was announced today that three Blue Jays will be put on the disabled list. The day got off on the wrong foot (pardon the pun) as we awaited the results from Scott Downs’ MRI. But before that even happened, the first Blue Jay of the day to be placed on the disabled list was Casey Janssen. But wait, there’s more!

After some long toss exercises earlier today, Roy Halladay’s condition didn’t improve so he will also go in the DL and will return June 28th at the earliest. I’m sure Doc was probably begging Cito and the trainers to let him pitch this Saturday, but after seeing what happened to Downs last night they’re probably going to keep Halladay out of the batters box just in case.

And since bad news always happens in threes, Scott Downs was also placed on the disabled list today with a sprained left big toe (you know, the one that went to market). The results from his MRI must not have been good, so now the Blue Jays will be without their closer until at least July 1st. No word yet on who will take Downs place but you can bet it will either be “The Sausage King” Jason Frasor or B.J. Ryan. For my fantasy baseball team’s sake, I hope it’s Ryan so I can justify keeping him on my team for this long.

When three players go down, three more must come up; Brad Mills will make his long-awaited major league debut on Thursday in place of the injured Casey Janssen. My guess is that the other two tickets out of Las Vegas will likely belong to Fabio Castro and Jeremy Accardo, but who’s to say that the Blue Jays won’t give Brett Cecil a chance at redemption?

Frankly, at this point what do the Blue Jays have to lose? Another pitcher … right.

A wild one in Philly

Image courtesy of Daylife
The baseball gods shall giveth, and the baseball gods shall taketh away. Even though they gave the Blue Jays plenty of chances to win last night's game over Philadelphia, the baseball gods decided to give the Blue Jays one more chance; and finally the Bluebirds took advantage of it.

Incredibly, the Blue Jays were 0 for 9 with the bases loaded and somehow only managed to win by 5 runs. The Phillies basically gift-wrapped the game for the Jays in the 7th, 8th, 9th, but they couldn't finally take advantage until the 10th inning. A base-running blunder by Alex Rios almost cost the Jays a chance to win the ball game. Although Nick Leyva was waving Rios home, he should have had the common sense to tag up on a ball hit into left field. In retrospect, it was a big mistake but it's forgivable because Rios is 10 for 20 since being moved down in the lineup. He'll likely just have a stern talking to and respond by getting 3 or 4 hits in the next game.

Vernon Wells is officially out of the dog house (for a few days at least). His infield single in the 9th inning helped spark the rally to help tie the game. V-Dub followed that up with another single in the 10th, most likely lowering his status on the Vernon Wells Hatred Advisory System to "High". Congratulations Vernon, for the first time in a long time your name is not the one that callers will be immediately denouncing on Jays Talk.

Briefly on the Scott Downs situation; Bastian tweets that Downs' X-Rays were negative but it's likely he'll go on the disabled list for the time being. It's another bad luck situation for the Blue Jays that their new closer will probably go in the DL and now this could open the door for B.J. Ryan to return to the role that he occupied at the start of the season. Downs has a history of ankle and foot injuries over these past few seasons, so I'm sure everything is just a precautionary measure to make sure he doesn't re-aggravate it.

Finally, let's give credit to Ricky Romero for pitching another great game. Romero racked up nine strikeouts - six of which were against Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. Not exactly an easy feat to shut down two of the most feared hitters in the National League, so a tip of the cap to RR Cool Jay.

It took seven tries, but the Blue Jays finally have a win against a National League team. 1-6 in interleague play, baby!

Brotherly love: Phillies series preview

Tuesday, June 16, 2009  |  by 

To those who haven’t lived close to the capital of Pennsylvania, we might just think that Philadelphia is famous for being mentioned in the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But it turns out they are home to a pretty good baseball team too; in fact the best team in baseball last season.

For Phillies fans that are at least 20 years old, mentioning the Toronto Blue Jays just brings flashbacks of that chilly October evening when Joe Carter made Mitch Williams famous for all the wrong reasons. Going into this series against the defending World Champions, it’s always great to keep that “Mitch Williams” card in the deck just in case things get ugly.

I’m almost afraid to mention the name Raul Ibanez in fear of being chastised about the importance of the “written word” from Ken Rosenthal. Remember when Ibanez was actually mentioned in trade talks with the Jays last July? The supposed deal on the table involved Lyle Overbay and either Jason Frasor or Brandon League for Raul Ibanez. In retrospect, I am still happy with the way things transpired - Overbay and Frasor have improved this season, and signing Ibanez to a multi-year contract probably would have been out of the price range for the Blue Jays anyway.

The heart of the Phillies lineup is one of the deadliest in baseball with Utley, Howard, and Ibanez all close to the top in offensive categories amongst National League hitters. The pitching staff is a little worn down after losing Brett Myers for the season and most recently Brad Lidge has been sidelined to the disabled list with a sprained knee. The Phillies ace, Cole Hamels has a 4-2 record but typically doesn’t pitch more than 6 innings per start. After a rough start to the 2009 campaign, Joe Blanton has settled down a bit, but his ERA is still a robust 5.17. Then there’s Jamie Moyer, who hasn’t been able to keep the ball in the park - he’s given up 14 home runs in 12 starts.

One thing that the Blue Jays have going for them is that the Phillies have a 13-16 record at home this season, which is good news for the team that still hasn’t won a single interleague game this season. Bring on the cheesesteaks!

New Kids on the Blog

Monday, June 15, 2009  |  by 

If you're the type of person who enjoys searching the internet(s) for any article that's in any way associated with the Toronto Blue Jays, you already know that the Blue Jays blogosphere is full of great writers. We are very fortunate to have a wide array of bloggers, writers and quasi-journalists who have many different and widely varied types of perspectives on the team and its inner workings.

Of course the more voices out there, the better. Recently I just noticed that there has been a huge influx of new Blue Jays blogs in the fast few months, so feel free to peruse these new sites that have just moved into the neighbourhood. Let's all welcome them wholeheartedly to the Blue Jays blogosphere!

Fish slapped

The Toronto Blue Jays will be happy if they never have the see the Florida Marlins ever again.

After a three game sweep at the hands of the Fish, the Jays are still winless in interleague play this season with an 0-6 record against National League teams. Now the Blue Jays have an uphill battle as they head to Philadelphia to face the defending World Champions. Just in case you thought things couldn’t get any worse, there are still twelve more interleague games to play this month.

I think I can conclusively say that series against the Marlins was the worst of the year. The Blue Jays were outscored 24-11, giving up the most runs in a three game series all year. You can also take into account that Toronto’s starting pitchers didn’t even make it past the fourth inning in all three games. Add in Halladay’s injury and it was just an all around bad weekend for the Blue Jays and fans alike.

I know I mentioned this a few days ago, but Vernon Wells needs to really get his act together. It’s been 137 at bats since his last home run and 17 at bats since his last hit. Vernon made great contact on a couple of pitches yesterday but had nothing to show for it and was left off the hit chart once again. It’s almost one month away from the All-Star break and while most of the Blue Jays have settled in, Vernon Wells continues to struggle. The great news is that he has 5 years remaining in his contract to figure it all out so we’ll all be anxiously anticipating Wells to snap out if it just in time for another contract year.

Maybe Vernon should take up golfing

Saturday, June 13, 2009  |  by 

Another game, another day where Vernon Wells goes hit less. It's a pattern that we've seen all too often lately and despite being moved up in the batting order, Wells is still a huge hole in the Blue Jays lineup.

Each time Vernon Wells strikes out, the Toronto Blue Jays have paid him approximately $2500 dollars to be made a fool of at the plate. But that's only at his 2009 salary of $1.5 million - wait until 2010 when his salary is $23 million dollars and the Jays are paying him around $38,333 per at bat. If you think people are pissed off at Vernon Wells lack of production this season, they will be completely livid when they realize he's being paid what most people make in one year to just stand there at the plate and watch strike three zoom by.

It took Cito Gaston over two months to finally change the lineup card and surprisingly the player who was "punished" by being moved down has actually performed the best. Alex Rios was one of the lone bright spots in today's game, going 4 for 4 with a home run and two RBI's. Want to know the last time Vernon Wells has done that? You have to look all the way back to May 6th. Jordan Bastian tweeted even more bad news about Vernon's slump; since May 6th has been an abysmal .201 with 7 RBI's in 35 games. Not exactly the kind of numbers you would expect from your "franchise player" and cleanup hitter.

Hell, even David Ortiz has snapped out of his slump, so what the hell is wrong with Vernon Wells? If he doesn't start putting up better numbers soon, Wells could be forever destined for the golf course. At least he has lots of practice swinging.

Diagnosis on Doc

Image courtesy of Daylife

I woke up this morning with a bad feeling in the pit of the stomach. It felt like I woke up from a nightmare, but instead of the relief that comes with realizing it was all just a dream, it in fact did happen. Our beloved Roy Halladay left the ball game with an injury.

Halladay was cruising against the Florida Marlins when there was a sudden meeting at the mound with Cito, the team trainer and most of the infield. It's almost never good news when that happens, and then Roy left the game after just the fourth inning. He was later diagnosed with a strained right groin and could miss his next scheduled start June 18th against the Phillies. We all anxiously anticipate the results of his MRI later today.

An argument can be made that the bullpen collapse probably wouldn't have happened had Halladay still been in the game, but sometimes those are the cards that are dealt. Richmond pitched well despite an unexpected call from the bullpen in the fourth inning. Then it all went down the drain once Jesse Carlson and Brandon League came into the ball game.

My faith in both of these pitchers is dwindling by the game. I don't blame League for giving up the tieing run in a very close 2-1 game, but the circumstances that led to Cody Ross' grand slam was ridiculous. A walk followed by a hit batter then an 0-2 meatball down the pipe blew the game wide open for the Marlins. Brandon League just plain sucked ... there is no way to put that lightly.

Let's all hope that the worst case scenario for Halladay is that he misses one or maybe two starts. Because I don't know if I can deal with another pitcher on the Blue Jays staff going on the DL.

Fishing for a revelation

Friday, June 12, 2009  |  by 

Aside from Carlos Delgado being signed by the Marlins after 12 seasons with the Jays, and A.J. Burnett coming to the Blue Jays after 7 seasons with the Marlins, the Jays don’t really have much of a history with the Florida Marlins.

This is why I think interleague play should be limited to match ups that involve teams with some sort of history. The Braves and the Phillies playing the Blue Jays is nostalgic because of the 1992 and 1993 World Series. But the Florida Marlins?

In fact there’s so little animosity between these two teams that I had to use something similar to “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to connect the Blue Jays with the Marlins;

  • Roger Clemens who played for the Blue Jays, played himself in an episode of The Simpsons titled “Homer at the Bat”.
  • Dustin Hoffman also appeared on The Simpsons as “Mr. Bergstrom” in the episode “Lisa’s Substitute”.
  • Dustin Hoffman starred with Madonna in “Dick Tracy”.
  • Madonna has been romantically linked with Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.
  • A-Rod played with Scott Proctor on the New York Yankees from 2004-2007.
  • Proctor (although on the disabled list) currently plays for the Florida Marlins.

Blue Jays sign David Dellucci

Thursday, June 11, 2009  |  by 

Image courtesy of Indians Insider

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Brad Wilkerson version 2.0.

Yesterday, the Blue Jays signed veteran outfielder David Dellucci to a minor league deal after the Cleveland Indians released him back on May 29th. Although he’ll start off with the Las Vegas 51’s, it appears that Dellucci will make his way up to Toronto very quickly pending a complete offensive around from Joe Inglett.

Dellucci’s signing happened for a few reasons; one, Joe Inglett hasn’t been the offensive pop at the bottom of the lineup that the Blue Jays were hoping for, as Inglett is 2 for 16 since being called up on May 22nd. The second reason the Jays signed David Dellucci is that Travis Snider has been suffering from a sore back down in Las Vegas (it’s those damn futons I bet). He’s been on the disabled list for the past few weeks, and apparently his back pain is so bad that Snider still can’t even swing a bat.

This move by the Blue Jays is reminiscent of last year’s signing of another slugger far removed from their best years in the majors, Brad Wilkerson. Dellucci’s career year (if you even want to call it that) was back in 2005 with the Rangers when he hit 29 HR’s and drove in 65 RBI’s.

The Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers to the punch on Dellucci as they were also apparently interested in signing him to a minor league deal. Among his career highlights, David won a World Series with the Diamondbacks in 2001, was voted “Man of the Year” in high school, and even dated Baywatch babe Geena Lee Nolin. Some of us might remember her as that bitch Neely on Baywatch who tried to frame Matt for sexual harassment.

Obviously, I have some issues and still haven’t forgiven her character for that.

How to stay occupied during a rain delay

Wednesday, June 10, 2009  |  by 

Back in May, UConn and USF were in the midst of a five hour rain delay during their 2009 Big League East Baseball tournament. Sometimes a rain delay can be a blessing in disguise, as the members of both teams display below.

As much as this rain delay wasn't planned, I have a feeling that some of these dance routines were. Kudos to these guys for finding a way to stay occupies and entertain the few fans that actually stuck around during the delay.

Just in case you were wondering, Conneticut would eventually go on to win 4-2 over USF, but more importantly they won the dance battle. As a token of their mad dance skills, the members of the UConn dance baseball team will receive a autographed copy of "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo".

Shave and a haircut, two hits

Image courtesy of Daylife

The power of the stache compels you.

Brian Tallet had the Texas Rangers under some sort of a spell and I have a feeling it had something to do with that cookie duster above his upper lip.

It was nice to see Brian Tallet escape the first inning without giving up any runs because in his last three starts, Tallet gave up one run or more in the first frame. This time he did Magnum P.I. proud and pitched seven scoreless innings and two-hit the Texas Rangers, which is something that’s not incredibly easy to do (although Jon Lester did the same this past Saturday). Dirk Hayhurst and B.J. Ryan combined for two innings of perfect relief, needing only 6 pitches each to retire the side.

Great run support from the cavalries in the form of Hill’s 14th home run and Adam Lind’s 12th. I finally figured out why it seems like every time the Jays are at bat, they hit a double; it’s because they lead the majors with 142 doubles. When Adam Lind isn’t taking pitchers yard, he’s going for an extra base hit; now with 21 doubles to lead the Blue Jays. Lind’s affinity for doubles is catching on with the man who bats below him, Scott Rolen. I was thinking last night that I miss the power that Troy Glaus used to bring to the team, but Rolen’s magic glove and bat more than make up for it. In honour of Scott’s questionable entrance music, each time he gets a double a propose that we all scream “VIVA LA ROLEN!”

News that we kinda knew already, but didn't really want to hear

Jesse Litsch will be out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery later this week. Thanks to the Blue Jays, Dr. Andrews can afford to put his kids, grandkids, and great grandkids through college. Not really surprised about this since Jesse’s original timetable to return was mid-May, then early June, then late June, and now it’s sometime 12 to 18 months from now. I wish Jesse a speedy recovery and hopefully like B.J. Ryan and Shaun Marcum, he will rehab quicker than expected.

Lind destined for greatness

Tuesday, June 9, 2009  |  by 

I have this strange feeling that the Toronto Blue Jays marketing department had a feeling that 2009 was going to be a great year for Adam Lind.

Staring at my bulletin board of random Jays paraphernalia, I noticed that Adam Lind was one of the four players featured in the brochure of information that the Jays head office mails out to get fans to buy flex packs and season tickets.

Do you want to know who the other three players were? Roy Halladay, for obvious reasons. Also included was Scott Downs - did they have the clairvoyance to know he was going to usurp B.J. Ryan as the closer too? And finally there’s Vernon Wells - they probably figured he’s getting paid $126 million, so might as well give him lots of face time before Toronto gets sick of him. That’s probably another reason why the Vernon Wells Hatred Advisory System (VWHAS for short) over at Sports and the City is still at SEVERE. Come on Vernon, at least put on a show for your hometown crowd in Texas if not for the fans in Toronto.

Fans, sports writers and bloggers have been talking about moving Lind into the cleanup spot for weeks now and I noticed that Mike Wilner is on board with moving Wells down in the lineup. What does a guy have to do to take over the cleanup spot from Vernon Wells - win American League player of the week? Oh wait, Lyle Overbay just did that and he’s still batting 7th in the lineup. Congratulations on a job well done Lyle, but Cito needs to realize that his best hitters should be placed in the heart of the lineup, not sprinkled gingerly throughout the card.

Other news in the blogosphere that isn't related to hating on Rios or Wells (which is surprisingly difficult to find these days):

Dan from Johnny Mac’s Cabinet talks to Katy from the Blue Jays Dance team to discuss what it’s like to dance on top of a dugout for a living. She shares an interesting story about how an there was once an impromptu visitor in the Blue Jays dugout. Check it out!

Everything's bigger in Texas

Monday, June 8, 2009  |  by 

Belt buckles, egos, home runs - they’re all things that are bigger in Texas.

Typically the Texas Rangers have been known for their ability to hit the long ball and this season is no different. Their club leads the majors with 89 total homeruns thus far compared to 62 by the Blue Jays. Aside from the wind tunnel otherwise known as Yankee Stadium, Rangers Stadium in Texas is the next most often place to see a ball leave the park. Apparently if you head below the bleachers between the 3rd and 5th inning at Rangers Stadium and ask for “Big Mike” you can also see a special trick involving balls leaving the park, no questions asked.

The Blue Jays and Rangers have almost identical runs scored/runs against stats (Jays: 297/268, Rangers: 296,268), yet the Rangers have five more wins to show for it. Texas has managed to lower their team ERA a little from last year, but they gave their starter Vicente Padilla the heave-ho last week, only to bring him back and have him pitch seven strong innings against the Yankees on Sunday. That’s really strange, I’ve never seen a team release somebody due to lack of performance and regrets of signing them to a big contract.

Over the past five seasons the Blue Jays have compiled a lackluster 7-18 record on the road in Texas, so you can see why expectations aren’t too extremely high to win this series against the Rangers. After pitching yesterday, Halladay will miss a chance to shut down one of the deadliest offensive teams in the American League. Instead it will be Tallet, Jannsen, Romero and Richmond that will be handed the reins against the Rangers in what’s sure to be an offensively charged four game series.

Doc puts on another clinic

Sunday, June 7, 2009  |  by 

I'll go out on a limb here and guess that Roy Halladay will win the American League player of the week award. Two starts, two complete game victories, twenty strikeouts, and only one walk allowed by the Doc this week should warrant at least some kind of award.

Although both games this week for Halladay were convincing victories, they were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to style of victory. Tuesday's win was more of a "power-pitching" outing when Doc racked up 14 strikeouts throwing 133 total pitches. Today's win was more of the prototypical Roy Halladay start; 16 ground ball outs and only 97 total pitches for the complete game.

The scary thing as an opposing player going into a game against Roy Halladay is that you could see either of these sides from Halladay. If they don't go down swinging, hitters will probably just induce a ground ball out anyway.

Now with an incredible ten wins under his belt this season, I want Roy Halladay to know that he's not unappreciated. Although technically all thirty MLB teams have a number one starter, not all of them have an ace and very few of them have an future first ballot hall of famer like Doc. Jays fans should feel privileged and honoured to have Roy Halladay work his magic every five days.

There might be wars, hurt and sadness in the world, but so long as Roy Halladay is on this earth, all of that stuff doesn't seem so bad.

Bad night for Greinke = great night for the Jays

Saturday, June 6, 2009  |  by 

No pitcher in MLB is completely invincible. Hell, even Roy Halladay has a bad night at the office every once in a while. Although it took 111 innings, someone finally hit a home run off Zack Greinke. Lyle Overbay snapped the streak in the 2nd inning of the Blue Jays 9-3 routing of the Kansas City Royals, which broke a streak of 17 straight games where Greinke had not surrendered more than 3 earned runs.

The long ball came in multiple doses courtesy of Lyle Overbay, Adam Lind, and Rod Barajas. Until last night, the Blue Jays had not hit multiple home runs in a single game since May 17th against the Chicago White Sox. Although the home runs numbers have tapered off in the past few weeks, extra base hits in the form of double after double are still bringing in the runs.

Although we're very quick to criticize Vernon Wells or Alex Rios during a slump, Aaron Hill is very quietly riding an 0 for 25 streak. You would never know it because Rios was the one taking all the heat after his 0 for 5 afternoon on Thursday and his media gaffe on Thursday night.

Luckily, Rios apologized for his actions on field before Friday's game because that was inexcusable. Sometimes, being the bigger person means walking away from the situation. Alex chose his words poorly, and paid for it. But if Alex Rios didn't play baseball for a living, that would have been a perfectly normal reaction. And who heckles someone outside of a charity event anyway? What kind of lowlife waits around for a baseball player just so they can say "the way you played today, you're lucky someone wants your autograph". That kind of stuff should be left at the ballpark.

This afternoon, our boy Scott Richmond returns after a two week vacation from the starting rotation. The Blue Jays hope to hand the Kansas City Royals their 9th straight loss against Royals prospect Luke Hochevar. He was dynamite in the Royals Triple A system going 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA for the Omaha Royals. Since being called up to the majors, Hochevar has been 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA. Hmm ... sounds like the Royals' version of David Purcey.

Royales with cheese

Friday, June 5, 2009  |  by 

I can't believe it took me 15 years to finally sit down and Quentin Tarantino's classic "Pulp Fiction". Great film, but Tarantino is one of these guys that wonder what exactly is going through his mind sometimes ... kind of like Cito Gaston. The famous "royale with cheese" scene in Pulp Fiction reminded me of the Kansas City Royals ... with cheese (something that Dennis Eckersley would probably say).

Tonight, Ricky Romero has the daunting task of trying to outpitch Zack Greinke. My guess is that RR Cool Jay is one bad start away from a plane ticket to Las Vegas, where David Purcey or Brad Mills would love to take his spot. Don't call it a comeback, but Romero needs to pitch well and go deep in the game in order to keep his spot in the starting rotation. In their last start against Zack Greinke, the Blue Jays managed to snap Zack's scoreless streak but it was just a mere two runs. The key to defeating the Royals tonight will be to get to Greinke early, because the further he goes in the game the worse off the Blue Jays will be.

As if it wasn't enough with Zack Greinke parading into Toronto with an 8-1 record competing with Doc for the Cy Young, he'll also be using his super hot fiancee Emily Kuchar as leverage against the Blue Jays. If Alex Rios gets one sight of her, he'll be distracted the entire series - so let's hope that she's not at the game tonight. It's almost like a sixth sense that Rios has for spotting out opposing players wives and girlfriends. Not something that's usually included in the scouting report, but maybe it should be in Alex's case.

Scott Richmond will finally be handed the ball once again after a 12 day rest when he starts on Saturday. Halladay will close out the homestand on Sunday, looking for his 10th win of the year. I hope that the Blue Jays will be able to win at least win 2 out of 3 in this series, but this week has been so up and down for them that anything can happen.

Vote Lind for Cleanup

Thursday, June 4, 2009  |  by 

See what can happen with a little bit of variation in the lineup? Cito Gaston gives Vernon Wells the day off, and Adam Lind steps in and does what Wells hasn't been able to do all season; hit consistently. Today's 5 for 5 game was an outstanding case, but maybe Cito should reconsider leaving Lind in the number four spot permanently.

Besides, moving Lind up also breaks up the steady stream of right handed batters at the top of the lineup. Basically, moving Adam Lind up turns him into a feared lefty circa David Ortiz early 2000's. With Lind's split statistics basically split down the middle against left and right handed pitching, he has the potential to do much more damage by batting higher in the lineup. Now as we saw today, if Alex Rios could get a few hits or at least get on base, then today's box score probably would have been much different.

I don't necessarily understand the entire dichotomy of constructing a lineup, but much like eyebleaf at Sports and the City I am at least baseball saavy enough to understand what works and what doesn't work. So maybe Vernon's ego takes a bit of a hit by being moved down a spot, but frankly Adam Lind has earned his place to hit cleanup on the Blue Jays lineup. Until Vernon Wells can prove otherwise, I'd say either leave him down in the lineup or don't play him at all.

Vote Lind for Cleanup.

Dream Weaver Part 2

Image courtesty of The Karmic Boomerang
Different game, same results; it was almost a complete carbon copy of Weaver's last start against the Blue Jays. Once again the bluebirds didn't have an answer for Weaver's breaking ball and all they could muster up were 5 hits all evening.

I'll give credit to Jered Weaver, very quietly he's putting together an amazing season with the Angels thanks to a 5-2 record and an impressive 2.26 ERA. Weaver also leads all American League pitchers with 6.661 hits per 9 IP.

The Blue Jays will be pleased that they don't have to face Weaver again this year, because the young righty has only surrendered 6 total hits to the Jays in two starts this season. Just like Sunday's game against Jon Lester, this was the case of the Blue Jays running into a really great pitcher who has performed particularly well against them.

Brian Tallet will do his best Ron Burgundy impression later today and hopefully bring us some afternoon delight with a win over the Angels. Skyrockets in flight …

Halladay eats Angels for breakfast

Wednesday, June 3, 2009  |  by 

Ever wondered what the secret is to Roy Halladay's pitching super powers? He chews up Angels, and spits them out because they are not even worthy of passing through his digestive system.

Just in case you ever wanted even more reasons to love Roy Halladay, here are some true facts about him that will help us appreciate him even more:
  • Halladay works so quickly that by the time his pitch gets to the batter, he's already winding up for the second pitch.
  • Roy Halladay taught Michael Phelps how to swim.
  • Halladay went into the clubhouse and did some laundry in the bottcom of the 6th. He's such a nice guy that he cleaned the Blue Jays AND the Angels jerseys.
  • Halladay wanted to give up a few runs on purpose just to make the Angels feel like it wasn't completely hopeless for them to win.
  • The Blue Jays should erect a bronze statue of Roy Halladay and put it in the TD Canada Trust Comfort Zone. It deserves to be comfortable.
Doc was completely dialed in against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that reside in California on the continent of North America which is in the northern hemisphere. Aside from a shaky seventh inning, Halladay chewed up the Angels with 14 total strikeouts (a career high) on route to his ninth win of the season. Bravo, Leroy - you earned it.

Melongate comes to fruition

Tuesday, June 2, 2009  |  by 

Often times in series, there is an unwritten rule for sports writers to manufacture some sort of storyline to hype up a series. In the case of the Los Angeles Angels, it's the possible return of the four gentlemen pictured above; more commonly known as Melongate.

The Angels are a very quiet team as Drew from Ghostrunner on First points out; pitch well enough to give the team a chance to win, score a few runs, have some aging stars steal some bases, and blow late-inning leads.

Typically, the Angels are a team built to grind out wins through the regular season. After 100 wins last year, the Halos are hovering around the .500 mark waiting in the wings for the Texas Rangers to fall from the top of the American League West.

Bobby Abreu, the man who the Angels signed to be their “feared bat” has hit a grand total of one home run in 46 games. At least Abreu and David Ortiz have something in common. For some reason, Abreu has channeled his inner Willy Mays Hayes and swiped 15 bases this season.

The guy in Los Angeles who’s receiving Vernon Wells-type money is Torii Hunter, and right now Hunter is playing like he’s Vernon Wells in a contract year. 13 home runs with 42 RBI’s and a .313 average from Hunter is a slap in the face to the Blue Jays, who are wondering why they inked Wells to 7 years instead of Hunter at 5 years. If only we could turn back time.

While I'm not too busy commentating on the Melonheads, come on over to The Score because I'll be liveblogging tonight's Jays/Angels matchup. Roy Halladay goes for win number nine, after two straight no decisions in which he either left with the lead or a tied game. If the bullpen blows it again for Halladay, there just might be a couple of "missing" relievers after tonight's game.

Halladay Cy-zing up the competition

Monday, June 1, 2009  |  by 

Every day this past off season, I’m sure that Harry Leroy Halladay began each morning by looking into the mirror and envisioning himself holding the 2009 American League Cy Young award. He vowed that he would not let the Cy Young award slip away to another “flash in the pan” pitcher like Cliff Lee. This is the year that you can really and truly sense that Roy Halladay wants to be the best pitcher in the American League.

As we learned from last year’s race between Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, the Cy Young voters place a lot of weight on a pitcher’s win-loss record. That’s why it’s crucial for Halladay to keep racking up the wins in the first half against non-division rivals and interleague teams. After the Blue Jays bullpen has blown the last two games for Hallday, I’m sure he had a stern chat with the fellas to indicate he did not want them to not ruin his chances to tally up W’s.

Barring a complete rotation shuffle, Roy Halladay potentially has 8 more starts before the All-Star break. Let’s say that a worst case scenario in those eight decisions is that the Doc only wins 3 of those games; that would still put Halladay on pace for 11 wins going into the second half of the season.

Last year, Roy’s record at the break was 11-6. In his 2003 Cy Young award-winning year, Halladay was 10-3 by the All-Star break. At this pace, it looks like Halladay is on track to keep those similar numbers for the first half of 2009.

While Roy Halladay would probably say his biggest competition is himself, this year’s version of Cliff Lee comes in the form of the Kansas City Royals’ ace Zack Greinke. While Halladay and Greinke hold fairly similar win-loss records, Halladay has the advantage in one category which may or may not come into effect.

In 2008, Greinke threw 202 innings which was 80 innings more than his 122 innings pitched in 2007. Although young Zack is off to a torrent pace this year, all signs to point to an eventual injury at some point this season. I'm not saying that Zack Greinke needs to go down to injury for Roy Halladay to win the Cy Young award, but Halladay is built to pitch 200+ innings year after year.

Regardless of what happens up until the All-Star break and beyond, Roy Halladay doesn't need a Cy Young award to remind him that he's one of the best pitchers in baseball. But that trophy case in the Halladay household is looking really empty with just a single Cy Young award. Come to think of it, he could probably use a couple of World Series rings in there too.

Two out of three is not that bad

Normally, I’d be very upset after an 8-2 loss by the Blue Jays. But now there’s a certain air of calmness that is telling me “just let this one go”. I’ve never been the type of person who’s been happy to see the Toronto Blue Jays lose, but I didn’t really mind that they lost yesterday’s series finale. Of course it would have been nice to do the Red Sox justice by sweeping them out of Toronto, but I’m content with them taking two out of three. It was enough to silence Red Sox fans long enough before the next Jays/Red Sox series coming up in July.

After struggling on the road, most of the members of the bullpen have regained their footing - most notably Brandon League. Although it may be a small sample size, League looked very impressive during his two scoreless innings of relief over the weekend. To me it seems like Brandon League is a very Jekyl/Hyde player; he is always either really good or really bad, never in between. Luckily he’s been pitching much more like the Rick Vaughn at the end of Major League as opposed to the “Wild Thing” at the beginning of that movie.

A great way to stay occupied during today’s off day is by stuffing the ballot box for the 2009 MLB All-Star Game. Some early results were released last Thursday which have Marco Scutaro, Aaron Hill and Scott Rolen all within the top four vote-getters in their respective positions. For the most part, the fan voting is dominated with players from New York and Boston, but at least we have a chance to write in at least a few Blue Jays into the midsummer classic. So if Derek Jeter has an accident and “falls” onto a lead pipe which shatters his femur, Marco Scutaro could be the starting shortstop for the American League All-Star team. Where’s Tony Soprano when you need him?

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