Friday, October 30, 2009

Cito's staying put


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For those who were hoping there might be some new blood in the Blue Jays manager's office next year, you're going to have to hold your breath for yet another season.

Sportsnet has confirmed that Cito Gaston will serve out his final year as the manager for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. Following the end of the 2010 season, Cito will retire and remain on with the club as a consultant for the next four years.

News of Cito's comes on the heels of the announcement that Brad Arnsberg has accepted a position with the Houston Astros as their pitching coach. I'm still undecided as to what move will affect this team more - Arnsberg's departure or Cito's survival as manager.

So what does this all mean? Basically this move assures that Kevin Millar will be their full-time cleanup hitter next season, Randy Ruiz will be on the 25-man roster but spend all 162 games on the bench, and Jesse Carlson will pitch in almost every single game.

For a baseball franchise that's trying to turn over a new leaf with a new General manger and a new-ish President and CEO, this move feels counter-productive and merely puts the team in limbo until the 2011 season.

Even if the Blue Jays bump the payroll up to $120 million, what's the point if the coach is liable to not use those new players in the right manner?

Rogers can spend all the money they want on this team in 2010, but it seems like the money that will go towards free agents might just end up going to waste anyway.

Happy Halloween!


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In between scarfing down bags of Halloween Kisses and trick-or-treating at a very questionable age, I'd just like to wish you all a Happy Halloween!

This Blue Jays inspired Jack-O-Lantern (or Jay-O-Lantern as I prefer to call it) took me about three hours in total to carve. That included two hours of gutting, tracing, and carving, then one hour of trying to put everything back into place with toothpicks once it all fell out the front.

Fortunately, you don't have to go that extent to celebrate the Bluebirds on All Hallow's Eve. For those looking for creative Blue Jays costume ideas, check out my post from last year on how to dress up as your favourite former Jay or staff member.

This isn't baseball related, but this time of year brings along a slew of craptacular Halloween movies. Many of which have gone by the wayside, forever damned to be sitting at the bottom of the Wal-Mart discount bin. But there are a few worthwhile Halloween flicks to check out.

My personal favourite and ultimate guilty pleasure is Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Don't be surprised if you've never heard of the movie, it's because Halloween 3 is the only film in the series to have no relation whatsoever to Michael Myers. Way to stick to the formula!

Or if you're just looking for the best part of the entire movie, check out the clip below (spoiler alert) from the very final scene of the move. Then, if you're brave enough ... start at the beginning.

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

A.J. Burnett's inner monologue before tonight's start


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The following transcript may or may not have happened in A.J. Burnett's mind already tonight. I guess only he will ever know what truly happened inside his head prior to the first pitch.
Hey - you got this. Listen ... I know last time was a little rough. So what if you gave up twice as many runs in one inning than Cliff Lee has given up the entire playoffs ... you got this.

This is why you get paid the big bucks. This is why you opted out. This is why you're in pinstripes.

Come on man, it's time to dig deep and show this city what you're made of. You're tough! Not just anybody can stand the pain getting those armband tattoos - only you. Now you just have to show that same toughness on the mound tonight.

Remember, if things are going too smoothly, make sure you uncork a wild pitch. You don't want folks to think you have entire control of this game. That doesn't make for an interesting storyline - a pitcher who is battling his inner demons has all the makings of a "Made for TV Movie".

And you know who's going to star in it? You, buddy. You.

But tonight ... you're the star. You're going to go out there in front of all those fans, all those TV cameras, Kate Hudson, Kate Hudson's family, some of Kate Hudson's fans, and put on a show.

No matter what happens, remember that I'll always love you.

And don't forget to pack the shaving cream, because you just might need it ... to throw in Pedro's face after the game.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bring on the Fall Classic


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After what has seemed like an eternity since the end of the ALCS, the World Series is finally ready to get underway later tonight.

On paper, I can't say that a Yankees/Phillies matchup is one that will go down in history as one of the greatest playoff rivalries, but I'm sure some people probably thought the very same thing about the 2001 World Series between the Diamondbacks and the Yankees.

If there's one team in the National League that's built to take down the New York Yankees, it's the Philadelphia Phillies. With their combination of stellar starting pitching and unsurmountable lineup, the Yanks will have their hands full with Ryan Howard and company.

As a side note, other bloggers and media outlets have picked up this story, but did you know that this is the third straight World Series appearance for Eric Hinske? Ever since being dumped by the Blue Jays, whether or not he was actually on the playoff roster, Hinske has made trips to the past three World Series. Just in case you were curious, he's made a grand total of three plate appearances and is 1 for 3 in those appearances with one home run.

Although Eric Hinske might not have any World Series rings, at least he has three different "American League Champions" sweatshirts to keep him warm through the cold, long off-season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When in doubt, hire yourself as President


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It took almost an entire year of recruiting, but finally there is a President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the official announcement that Paul Beeston will in fact be the new President and CEO of the team, the good news is that Rogers won’t have to change the name plate on the President’s desk and send out that pesky “so and so is no longer with the company” email.

The bad news (and forgive me for the blatant disregard for grammar) … Cito ain’t going nowhere. Beeston staying on as President basically just bought Cito another year as manager of this team and possibly even more than that, because there is no way in hell that Beeston lets Cito go under his watch.

So it turns out that the Blue Jays will not be wiping the slate clean, and instead it seems like J.P. Ricciardi was the only bad seed in the whole bunch. At least now it doesn’t seem like the team is in limbo anymore, and the Toronto Blue Jays can finally move forward and start over with the next “five-year plan”.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A year in retrospect with Scott Richmond


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By now, you've probably already heard the story of how Scott Richmond overcame all odds and made his way into the major leagues by winning a spot in the starting rotation spot with the Toronto Blue Jays. While that particular anecdote was penciled back in May, it turns out that the Scott Richmond story wasn't even close to being over; not by a long shot.

Since then, Richmond has remained as one of the core members of the starting rotation and hopes to contend once again for one of the open spots in 2010. I had the pleasure of talking with the Blue Jays starting pitcher about this year's success and the lessons he learned from his rookie year as a Blue Jay.

First of all, congratulations on your first full season in the major leagues. What would you say is the biggest thing you learned this year?
Pitching to contact – plain and simple. As a starting pitcher in the big leagues you have been entrusted with the responsibility to go deep into the game on a regular basis, in order to avoid over taxing the bullpen. The longer you’re in the game and executing well, the better are your team’s chances to secure a win, because the set up men and the closer can just go out there and do their jobs and aren’t expected to pull off miracles night after night.

From a personal level for a starting pitcher, that’s what makes Roy Halladay so good. He goes deep into games and whether it’s a win or a loss, he’s always getting decisions because he’s not leaving the bullpen to get ten outs. You have to try to go seven to eight innings, and the only way to do that is to pitch to contact to keep your pitch count down.
You were one of the anchors in the starting rotation this year, which was very rookie-dominant. Being one of the new guys can be stressful, and there were a lot of you who were in the same boat. Were there any teammates in particular that you bonded with?
Ricky Romero and I were really close all year. We started together in Spring Training and we both knew there was two spots open in the rotation and we had to battle out nine guys to try to win those spots. We ended up living together in Toronto for the whole year and we tried to learn from each other, but we supported and pushed each other at the same time.
This year, it seemed like you started to rely more on your curveball and it worked out fairly well for you. What did you and Brad Arnsberg work on in the off-season?
I’ve always been a strike thrower and I always try to pound the strike zone. With lefties, my changeup was pretty suspect all year so I was really trying to establish that some games. Overall he (Arnsberg) wanted me to be aggressive in the strike zone. That’s the whole thing as a rookie pitcher; you’re a little cautious of pitching to contact. When you’re ahead in the count you try to strike everybody out and guess what? The Red Sox and the Yankees, they spit on those pitches when they’re out of the strike zone. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself with the pitch count at a hundred, and you’re still in the fifth inning. He really taught me to stay competitive in the strike zone and not give in at any point.
With rookies on the mound, the umpires sometimes tend to squeeze the strike zone. When you’re not getting the same calls as the opposing pitcher, how do you deal with it?
For some reason, it’s always been a part of the game for as long as I’ve been aware, sort of like a rookie initiation into the big leagues, but everyone has to endure it. It can be very frustrating and difficult not to let it affect you to some degree, especially when the missed calls end up having an effect on the score line, and possibly the outcome of the game. As the pitcher, you have to learn to deal with it, and do your best not to let it get to you, or show the ump that you’re upset, so in some ways maybe it tends to make you tougher.
Being in the American League East means the Blue Jays face the cream of the crop in the American League quite often. Who would you say was the toughest hitter that you faced this year?
It’s no fun facing Jacoby Ellsbury; he’s a good and patient hitter and he hits for power and he’s got the speed when he’s on base. There are lots of great hitters but he’s been a pain in my side and you have to really buckle down and make sure you work ahead when he’s in the batter’s box. He’s an impact player and that’s why he’s leading off for the Red Sox.
If there was one hitter you could pitch to, either active or inactive in major league baseball, who would it be – and why?
It’s always been my nature that I’ve wanted to face the best every year, and throughout this season I know that I’ve faced some big hitters. Now that I’ve got a year’s experience under my belt, I’d like to get the opportunity to face guys like Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez just to challenge myself. A lot of guys on my team have faced Manny before and they’re really happy that he’s not in the AL East anymore because he’s such a great a hitter and he’s an impact player. I’m kind of the opposite – I want to face him, I want that challenge.
Is there an area of your game that you feel that you would like to see a definite improvement in for next season?
There are a few specific areas that I intend to work on – I’ll continue working on developing confidence in my changeup, I’d plan to develop more movement on both my 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs, and I need to assert my claim to the inside part of the plate and not allow batters to feel comfortable crowding the plate.
I’ve spoken to your father Dr. Bob Richmond, and he seems like a really insightful man who has a true passion for baseball. What kind of pointers has he given you on your game?
Being a chiropractor, he taught me the importance of reducing and neutralizing the huge stresses that a pitcher’s body is subjected to over the course of a long season. When you’re an athlete, your body is your number one tool of the trade, so it’s your first responsibility to treat it with the highest respect. You need to train well, be nutritionally diligent, get the right amount of rest and develop a routine that works well for you. On top of that, he stresses the huge importance of my need to continue developing and strengthening the mental side of my game and has given me some books to work from.

We talk almost every day during the season, and he usually sends me an inspirational email before every start, with a few specific pointers. We also discuss ways of gaining the psychological advantage over the batter, to keep them off balance by being unpredictable, and pitching backwards on occasion, by throwing off speed stuff in fastball counts. Since we are
similar in many ways he understands what makes me tick maybe better than anyone else, so I find his input helpful.

He’s from New Zealand and has been an athlete his whole life, but my dad didn’t really follow baseball much until I started playing in college. He noticed that I had pretty efficient pitching mechanics, and saw that maybe I had a chance to play professionally one day. He has really helped me realize the importance as well as the complexity of the mental side of being an effective pitcher.


I’ve never had any major injuries of any kind and I credit that to the preparation in the off-season, getting
regular chiropractic care and making sure my body is in the best shape possible for the season ahead, to handle the abuse that it takes. Some people take a lot of medication to mask the pain, but if you take care of your body in a natural and preventative way, then I feel that you are more likely to enjoy a longer and more productive career.
Speaking of father figures, Roy Halladay seems like the kind of player who would take younger players under his wing and try to help them improve their game. Has Doc given you any you pitching tips this past season?
He’s a great pitcher and I love watching him go out there and do his business and in turn that’s how I learned to pitch to contact. His work ethic is second to none, he knows his body and he’s very in tune with himself when he’s on the mound. I ask him questions when the time is right, and what he told me is “if you make a bad pitch, forget it. The next pitch, make a good one”. Just simplify things and go one pitch at a time.
You guys get the odd day off during the regular season, which means you get to relax every once in a while. I know Dirk Hayhurst kept himself busy with writing, your former teammate Alex Rios liked to fly model airplanes … what do you do during downtime in between games?
Rest – especially in the rookie year. Other than that, in all of these cities I’ve been to this year, I like to take some time to check out the city and take some photographs. When we were in Washington, I would go out and see some of the sights like The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial and The White House, but I don’t like to overdo it …it can be tiring in its own way. You really need to relax and get your rest when you can get it; you have that responsibility to yourself and to the team.
Your brother Brandon Kaye was drafted by the Blue Jays earlier this year. He was in Toronto back in late August and you guys got a chance to practice together. What was it like to have him there right next to you in a Blue Jays uniform?
It was great – I just put myself in his shoes when I was his age. I wish I could’ve gone to a big league field and watched what it was like to be there with the players. It just motivated him even more to try to make it and really work hard at what he’s doing because he sees how much fun it is and how the big leagues really are. It really invigorated his drive to keep pushing forward, to keep working hard.
And it always helps when you have a family member on the team, too. Have you heard if he’s close to signing yet with the club?
Not yet - he was drafted in the 45th round so he’s going to go to UBC and play there for this year and hopefully he’ll be drafted higher after a year at UBC.
You had many career highlights this past year, including the AL Rookie of the Month award in April. What would you say was the personal highlight of the 2009 season for you?
Aside from the RoM for April, I’d have to say the game in Philadelphia on June 17th which was my best start of the year. It was broadcast as The Game of the Day all across the US, and it was supposed to be Roy Halladay going against Jamie Moyer. I ended up getting the start and went eight innings with eleven strikeouts against the defending World Champions in Philadelphia.
Scott, once again let me congratulate you on a great season. What are your plans for the off-season?
I’ll be going down to Los Angeles with my fiancĂ©e Deanna and we’ll stay at our place there. She and I are actually leaving for Mexico for 10 days, and that will give me a bit of time to reflect on my rookie year and let it all soak in. When we get back from Mexico, we’ll go back down to Los Angeles and I’ll get back into the routine with my personal trainer once again, to work hard to get into the best shape possible and be ready for Spring Training in February.
I wish Scott Richmond all the best of luck next season and beyond! Congratulations on your first full season in the big leagues Scott, and hopefully we'll see you back in a Blue Jays uniform next season in the starting rotation.
Scott and his fiancee Deanna at the World Baseball Classic

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where were you 16 years ago?


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Today is a very special day - it's an occasion so momentous that it should almost be declared a national holiday in Canada.

It was this very day 16 years ago that Joe Carter solidified himself as one of the greatest Blue Jays of all time by taking a Mitch Williams pitch deep to ensure the World Series trophy would remain in Canada.

Fly-by-night and casual fans talk about how they remember the good old days when the Blue Jays used to rule the American League East and how Joe Carter was their favourite baseball player. As a kid, Joe Carter was my favourite Blue Jay years before he ever even stepped in the batter's box on October 23rd 1993 against Mitch Williams.

After that night, nothing was the same ever again. JC was everybody's new favourite Blue Jay player and suddenly I was lost in the sea of thousands and thousands of self-proclaimed Blue Jays fans and Joe Carter adorers.

I know now that it was selfish of me to think that Joe Carter could only be MY favourite player and nobody else's.

Prior to the Philadelphia Phillies World Series win last year, the memories of Mitch Williams nearly tumbling off the mound have been ingrained in their minds for years and years. Now they are hoping to win back to back World Series just as the Blue Jays did 15 years ago.

So what about you - where were you 16 years ago when the Blue Jays won their second straight World Series? I as a snotty-faced nine year old kid was absolutely ecstatic and jumping on my parent's couch when the ball sailed over the left field fence. It happened so quick, I almost couldn't believe it.

Ever since then, I will never forget what happened on October 23rd, 1993 - and neither should you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Men in Black


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One star has taken over the headlines and drawn all the attention on themselves this post-season. It’s not Alex Rodriguez, not Ryan Howard … I’m talking about the umpires.

The officials have taken centre stage during the playoffs this year and have caused more controversy than ever thanks to some botched calls and just plain flat-out mistakes. This was evident as ever as I was liveblogging last night’s Game 4 of the ALCS.

The umpires and crew chief didn’t screw up one call, not two calls, but three. Luckily none of them really translated into a game-changing play because the Yankees won handily by nine runs, but what if it were a tied game? It’s safe to say there would have been riots in Los Angeles to the magnitude of when the Rodney King verdict came down.

I realize that these officials do a thankless job and work their asses off game after game, but calls like these are unforgivable. Especially since some of them could determine whether or not a team is going to the World Series, that means these decisions are as important as ever. I can't understand why the officials seem to be treating them as routine plays.

Crew chief Tim McLellan obviously had his eyes elsewhere and even fully admits that he screwed up. He claims that he was doing his best ... well frankly, McLellan's best is simply not good enough.

This wasn't just one isolated incident with Tim McLellan, either. You might recall that he was the home plate umpire that called Matt Holiday safe during the 2007 NL Wild Card tiebreaker game between the Rockies and the Padres.

It’s examples like those that really show the flaws within the officiating in Major League Baseball. In a game of inches such as this, I think the managers should be given the opportunity to challenge or dispute a call, much like how it’s done in the NFL and NHL.

Some might argue that this would slow down the game considerably, but I would rather the umpires take a couple of minutes to review the call and get it right rather than make a snap decision and have to stick with it. Hell, the game was already over three and a half hours anyway, what's another five minutes?

Bud Selig was on the right track by instating the home run video review system, but I’m afraid that’s just not good enough – especially in the playoffs. Yes, a home run call can make or break a game, however those smaller calls can easily lead to game-changers as we’ve seen already.

Unfortunately, those hoping for some salvation in seeing more instant replay in baseball will have to continue to hold their breath. Selig seems to be firm on his stance that video review will only remain on home run calls:
“…do I think we need more replay? No. Baseball is not the kind of game that can have interminable delays."
If the coaches do in fact have the game on tape just inside the clubhouse as was alluded to on the broadcast last night, why not actually put it to use?

Otherwise it might as well just be hooked up to a Super Nintendo and Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball so at least somebody can get some use out if it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cy Young Ponderings


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On the heels of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance announcement of the AL Cy Young Award and Tao of Stieb's ballot, I though I would chime in with my own two cents on the subject. Of course, any year that Roy Halladay doesn't win is a damn shame and that would make it the fourth in a row where he was at least in the Top Five pitchers in the league.

Now while there is an enormous amount of weight placed in a pitcher's win/loss record, ERA and strikeouts, let's take a moment to delve into the overlooked or neglected categories that Cy Young votes should be taking in to consideration.

First of all, if the win/loss record is such a significant part of the ballot then I urge the Baseball Writers of America to at least glance over at the pitcher's run support category. While C.C. Sabathia's 19 wins are impressive, even more so were the 7.9 average runs that the Yankees managed to give him in support. One can only imagine what Roy Halladay's win total would be if the Blue Jays could score nearly eight runs for him every time.

Naturally, Zack Greinke pitching for a weak Kansas City Royals team is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to run support (4.83 runs), and followed closely behind are Felix Hernandez (5.66 runs), Justin Verlander (6.15 runs) and Roy Halladay (6.18 runs).

The next stat is something that ESPN calls "tough losses" which are defined as a loss in games that are quality starts. Depending on what your school of though is on the quality start, this is another point for debate on who is more deserving for the Cy Young. In this situation, the quality start is a bit irrelevant because there are no brownie points with voters for pitching five innings and giving up three runs or less.

But if you are curious about who the most tortured starting pitchers are in the American League when it comes to "tough losses" of course it's Zack Greinke and Roy Halladay with four a piece.

More intriguing though than the tough loss statistic is the the situation in which the starting pitcher exited the game. Surprisingly, the relievers after Roy Halladay only coughed up one win that should have been his (on May 25th when they blew a five-run lead).

Finally, one final area that should be looked at is the level of opponents that the pitchers faced. Automatically, Roy Halladay is given the advantage because he faced the cream of the crop in the American League more than another other candidate. Doc had a combined 11 starts against the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels compared to Greinke's three and Hernandez' six. So in that respect, Halladay has pitched more often against higher-calibre opponents thanks to the MLB's oh-so balanced schedule.

By looking at all these stats, one could be accused of trying to work the numbers in favour of their candidate and in a way that's true. I've come with grips that Roy Halladay will not be taking home the Cy Young hardware this year, but I just want folks to know that he at least deserved to be in the top three pitchers for consideration.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lazy Sunday Links


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As much as I occasionally complain about how the Rogers Centre is anything but a concrete case of emotion, I have to admit that during it's hayday, it was one bitchin' ballpark. Being twenty years old, it has its downfalls, yet has stood the test of time.

For a full account for all my thoughts on the former Skydome, check out my review of the Rogers Centre over at Stadium Journey and see how the good ol' Cable Box compares to other ballparks around the MLB. I'll give you a hint - it's not the worst!

Fallen Leafs has gotten his hands on an animated gif of Alex Rodriguez' creep-tacular performance in the Yankees clubhouse after they won the ALDS. It was the inspiration behind The A-Rod Shining poster from a few days ago, and I still laugh every time I see that animated gif.

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has been busy these past few weeks casting their ballots for this season's MLB awards. Mike Scoscia has been announced as the AL Manager of the Year and not surprisingly Andrew Bailey picked up the AL Rookie of the Year award. The BBA's Cy Young award will be announced early this coming week, so stay tuned for the results.

I'm about two weeks late acknowledging this, but Hungry Leafs Fan recaps the entire 2009 Toronto Blue Jays season with some hilarious line graphs demonstrating the high and low points from this year.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mr. "any month but" October


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It's safe to say that there is a lot of pressure on Alex Rodriguez going into the ALCS.

As the highest paid player in the league on the team with the highest payroll, there will be very lofty expectations for him and the New York Yankees going into their series against the Los Angeles Angels.

Although he's been painted as a notorious choke artist in October, Rodriguez actually had a decent ALCS against the Minnesota Twins hitting .455 and going 5 for 11. Most importantly, he hit that game tying two-run homer off Joe Nathan in Game 2 of the ALDS. Prior to that, surprisingly his postseason stats aren't as horrendous as others would have you believe.


GPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPS
42182158254690923431840.291.381.519.900
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/16/2009.
In 11 playoff series over the past eight years, A-Rod boasts a .291 batting average with nine total HR's and 23 RBI's. I hate to say it, but he's been getting a bit of a bad rap when it comes to not being able to perform in the playoffs.

When most folks refer to Mr. "any month but October" they probably remember the Alex Rodriguez that couldn't hit for the life of him back in the '05 and '06 playoffs. A-Rod was essentially non-existent in the 2005 and 2006 ALDS with just three combined hits. Yet aside from that, he's basically performed on par or better than what's been expected of him.

Since all eyes in New York are always on Alex Rodriguez, he is held to a much higher standard than most players and anything lower than a .250 batting average in the playoffs is considered "choking".

However, the Los Angeles Angels will be hoping that A-Rod reverts back to his old ways in the playoffs if they want to increase their chances of making it to the World Series. With any luck, if they can get a hold of some Kate Hudson impersonators and sit them on the third base line, Rodriguez will probably be thrown off.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Which World Series match up do you want to see?


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Last year, some of us got all googly-eyed at the potential of seeing Manny Ramirez square off against the very same team that traded him just a few months prior in the World Series. It had all the makings of the perfect media shitstorm ... but then it never even happened. This year's World Series might not live up to those lofty expectations, but here are some possible scenarios that could provide the most drama.

Yankees vs. Dodgers

Naturally, this World Series match up would draw the most media attention. Joe Torre facing off against his former team, hoping to stick it to the empire that built him up and tore him down would be a series that the media would love to get their hands on. It would also feature the two best teams in their respective leagues competing for the Commissioner’s Trophy. Manny Ramirez would also draw lots of attention in New York thanks to his many years in Boston as a Yankee killer.

Angels vs. Dodgers

Most baseball purists are praying for this one to come true. While a “Freeway Series” really only appeals to those living in southern California, I think that an Angels/Dodgers World Series would feature the best starting pitching out of all the possible combinations. Another prevalent storyline would be Mike Scioscia managing against the very team which he spent his entire playing career with. It wouldn’t be a very flashy World Series, but it would still be very entertaining.

Yankees vs. Phillies

This is where as a pseudo baseball writer, you really have to start digging deep to create compelling story lines for a World Series. There isn’t any bad blood between the Yankees and the Phillies, so it’s very difficult to see how these two teams would fare against each other. My best guess is that the New York Yankees themselves would create drama stemming from the A.J. Burnett/Jorge Posada feud. Either that or another spill-happy fan pours beer on Shane Victorino at Yankee Stadium, and he climbs into the stands to take the law into his own hands.

Angels vs. Phillies

Out of all the potential World Series combinations, this one appears to be the least appealing to the masses. There is so little dirt on the Angels and Phillies that I had to use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to connect these two teams. It turns out that both Mike Scioscia and Charlie Manuel were both on the American League coaching staff for the 2002 All-Star Game. Talk about beef!

Conclusion

Ultimately, it really doesn't matter what the back story is on either teams. Good clubs will prevail and sometimes you don't even need a huge buildup to create a great story in postseason baseball. I just hope that the games speak for themselves.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Free Agent Wish List: Carlos Delgado


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It seems like every hero gets a second chance at glory.

Rocky got another kick at the can, John McClain came out of retirement to kick some ass, and even good old Ma$e decided to return to the rap game. So why not have one of the most prolific Blue Jays return to claim his rightful throne? King Carlos - consider this your invitation back to Toronto.

Despite any bad blood there may have been in the past, it's all water under the bridge when it comes to Carlos Delgado. The city of Toronto and Blue Jays fans alike will always have place in their heart for Carlos, and I'm sure he feels the same way.

After spending the last five seasons with the Mets and the last six in the National League, it's time for him to come back to where he belongs - in the American League and most importantly with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The situation almost creates a perfect storm that would allow the Blue Jays to sign Delgado at a reasonable price, yet gain the most value. Carlos is coming off an injury-shortened season, but prior to that he put up MVP-calibre numbers (38 HR, 115 RBI, .271 AVG) so he definitely still has some pop left in his bat.

It's unsure whether the Mets will re-sign Carlos because it looks like they're perfectly content keeping Daniel Murphy at first base. Also, Delgado could benefit playing DH for the Blue Jays and not having to field at first base. At 37 years old, Carlos is approaching the cut-off point for aging sluggers who are more of a liability on the field than they are a benefit.

The current economy works in the Blue Jays favour to sign Delgado at a short-term contract for less than what he was paid with the Mets. It would be a far cry from the $16 million a year he previously made with the Mets. I would venture a guess that Delgado might even sign for as low as $10 million (maybe even $5 million) for the opportunity to play with the club that brought him into the majors.

If I were Alex Anthopolous though, I would be weary of signing Delgado longer than two years. Although it's been a while, the Frank Thomas debacle is still fresh in people's minds and I would hate to see money flushed down the drain once again.

With a DH-heavy free agent market, the time is now for the Blue Jays to lock in a designated hitter for the next couple of seasons. Next year's crop doesn't look too much better, and the team would be better served to moved Adam Lind out of the DH spot and try to develop his skills in the outfield.

Even if Carlos Delgado doesn't reclaim his throne with the Blue Jays, it will always be sitting there waiting for him to come back. And when he does, the kingdom will bow down in his presence.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Even the mightiest of closers eventually fall


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All it took was less than one week and already the first round of the MLB playoffs are in the books. It was not without controversy what with the botched calls, but for me the storyline that prevailed through most of the series was the fall of many of the teams closers.

Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Huston Street and Ryan Franklin were all victims of blown saves in what was otherwise a sparkling year for each of these closers. During the regular season combined they saved 168 out of 187 games, which is 90 percent success rate. Unfortunately, when it comes to the playoffs that ten percent can be the difference between making it to the next round and watching the rest of the playoffs at home with a bag of Scream Cheese Doritos.

The amount of pressure on these pitchers is enormous as their margin of error is very slim, especially in October. That's one of the reasons I enjoy the MLB post-season so much; because no matter how many games you win during the regular season or how many times your closer shuts the door and gets the save, all that matters is winning those eleven games to get you that World Series ring.

For Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Huston Street and Ryan Franklin, they will get their chance once again and most of them will probably won't have to wait long to redeem themselves in the playoffs. Not that they did it on purpose, but they picked the most inopportune times to fail the seal the deal for their team.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rob Ducey: The Cambridge Kid


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A strange thing happened to me a few weeks ago during my stay in Cambridge, Ontario. While enjoying a nice dinner out at Applebee’s, I noticed what appeared to be a Blue Jays shrine at the back of the restaurant.

Not one to pass up a chance to gawk at Blue Jays merchandise, I ventured into the back of the Applebee's to see what it was all about.

Upon closer inspection, it was actually a wall with Blue Jays memorabilia which featured former Blue Jay, Rob Ducey. A native of Cambridge Ontario, Ducey was born and raised in the tri-cities area, and I was very surprised to learn that he was actually from the same city which I was staying in.

Among the memorabilia at the restaurant, it included a letter of congratulations from the Mayor of Cambridge, along with newspaper clippings and an authentic Blue Jays jersey circa early 1990’s.

After digging a little further, I discovered that Rob Ducey is also a member of the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame.

Ducey's stamp on baseball in Canada is unprecedented, as he is only one of two players to suit up for the Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays, and to represent Team Canada at the Summer Olympics. The other player to do the same - Matt Stairs.

The timing of this post could not have been worse, what with Rob Ducey being let go as pro scout for the team just last week. Most recently, he was designated as the Blue Jays scout to discover talent in the Pacific Rim and overseas. As a scout, Ducey is credited as discovering fellow Canadian Scott Richmond in Edmonton while he was playing for the Independent North League.

It's an unfortunate way for Rob Ducey to end his tenure with the Blue Jays, being let go by the hands of the new General Manager Alex Anthopolous. I can't help but notice the similarities between this situation and Ernie Whitt's termination a few seasons ago. Both were former Blue Jays who returned to the club as a member of the staff only to be let go in another "changing of the guard".

Whether it was as a player, coach or scout, when people look back at Rob Ducey they will always think of him as a Blue Jay and a patriarch for baseball in this country. He might not have the glamour that some other Canadian baseball players, however Rob Ducey still remains as one of the most memorable Canadians to ever play to the game at the major league level.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Attention V-Mart shoppers ...


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Talk about the bombshell that never happened ... the Toronto Blue Jays were actually in the market to get Victor Martinez at the trade deadline earlier this year?

This was mentioned in passing in a recent article by Rob Bradford from WEEI. If it weren’t from the heads-up from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors, I probably would never have even noticed it.It said that the Blue Jays were planning on keeping Roy Halladay while trading to get Victor Martinez from the Cleveland Indians in hopes they could put together a contender in 2010.

Obviously any preliminary trade talks between the Blue Jays and the Indians must have fallen through the cracks because we’re just hearing about these developments now, but it makes one wonder … what would the Blue Jays have to give up to land Victor Martinez in the first place?
The Red Sox picked him up by sending Justin Masterson along with a couple of Single A prospects in Bryan Price and Nick Hagadone. Masterson was the key to the deal with over 200 innings experience in the majors. The equivalent of this trade for the Blue Jays would probably include a highly-touted prospect from the minor-league system that has big league experience like Brett Cecil or Marc Rzepczynski.

The addition of Victor Martinez would create a log jam at the catching position, so the Jays would have either had to deal Rod Barajas (whose contract expires at then end of the season) or move Martinez over to first base. If the Blue Jays decided to do the latter, then they would have to find a buyer for Lyle Overbay.

Now you can see why the trade talks were dead in the water before things progressed to the next level. For the Blue Jays to acquire Victor Martinez, it would have required the right pieces to fall in to the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, not even one of those variables worked in the favour of the Blue Jays at the trade deadline.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And the award goes to ...


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Aside from getting to rock a World Series ring, the next best thing to take home at the end of the season is one of Major League Baseball's awards. The Baseball Writers Association of America will soon have their say on who was the best in their respective categories.

Unfortunately, baseball bloggers such as myself do not officially get to cast ballots. Luckily I am a member of the next best thing - the Baseball Bloggers Alliance! Across the blogosphere over the next few weeks, we'll be casting their ballots in their respective leagues for Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and the Most Valuable Player Award. Here are my choices:

American League Manager of the Year

3.) Joe Girardi - New York Yankees
2.) Ron Washington - Texas Rangers
1.) Mike Scioscia - Los Angeles Angels

I imagine that the Writers will favour Girardi and his New York Yankees, however my vote goes for Mike Scioscia. Year in and year out, the Angels are contenders in the American League West, and to manage this team especially after the loss of teammate Nick Adenhart was especially difficult this season. Scioscia is the cream of the crop when it comes to managers in the American League. Now if they could just make it past the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs!

American League Rookie of the Year

3.) Jeff Niemann - Tampa Bay Rays
2.) Noland Reimold - Baltimore Orioles
1.) Andrew Bailey - Oakland A's

This is a very interesting award because almost none of the pre-season favourites to win the ROY like David Price, Matt Weiters or Travis Snider made the cut this year. Although sometimes I think there is too much weight placed on closers, it's very difficult to ignore the stats put up by Andrew Bailey this year. He was thrust into the closer's role very early in Oakland and didn't look back the rest of the way.

American League Cy Young Award

3.) Roy Halladay - Toronto Blue Jays
2.) Felix Hernandez - Seattle Mariners
1.) Zack Grienke - Kansas City Royals

This was another very tough category to choose a winner for. With no clear-cut favourite and no 20-game winner, for me it came down to secondary stats. The writers carry a lot of weight on the win/loss records, but for me that's almost irrelevant when it comes to the best pitchers in the league. Greinke and Halladay both had six plus complete games, and all three had ERA's below 3.00. It might have been because he faced weaker teams in the AL Central, but ultimately my Cy Young award vote goes to Zack Greinke.

American League Most Valuable Player

10.) Zack Greinke - Kansas City Royals
9.) Adam Lind - Toronto Blue Jays
8.) Derek Jeter - New York Yankees
7.) Jason Bay - Boston Red Sox
6.) Evan Longoria - Tampa Bay Rays
5.) Aaron Hill - Toronto Blue Jays
4.) Kendry Morales - Los Angeles Angels
3.) Miguel Cabrera -Detroit Tigers
2.) Mark Teixeira - New York Yankees
1.) Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins

This decision was a no-brainer; Joe Mauer is hands-down MVP of the American League. Not only did he pick up his third batting title this year, but if not for an injury that kept him sidelined until May, Mauer would have easily cleared 30 HR and 100 RBI. Teixeira started off slow through April and mid-May, and helped carried the Yankees to the post-season. Mauer on the other hand performed consistently well, and it obviously helped that his team made the playoffs on game 163 of the regular season. For those reasons, I give MVP to Joe Mauer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Tigers had it coming


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Somewhere, members of the 1987 Toronto Blue Jays roster are rejoicing.

Just as the Detroit Tigers prevented them from going to the post-season, the Minnesota Twins prevented the 2009 Detroit Tigers from making the playoffs in game 163 of the regular season. I'd say we're about even, don't you think?

It's a shame that it was only a one-game playoff because it really was an epic game that could have been made into one hell of a series. That deserves its place as one of the greatest ball games of the past ten years. Not just because the weight that this game carried, but the incredible performances from both teams made it one that will be remembered for a very long time.

Now the Minnesota Twins have the daunting task of taking on the team with the best record during the regular season, the New York Yankees. Despite what some people might think, I believe the Twins do have a legitimate shot to at least win one game in the ALDS. After all, the Twins closed a seven-game gap within the span of a few weeks, all without Justin Morneau at the helm ... so anything is possible.

And for the 1987 Toronto Blue Jays, they can bask in the glory of sweet justice.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reflecting on the 2009 Blue Jays


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There are a lot of things that the Toronto Blue Jays can take away from this season. Whether it was starting the year at the top of the division or ending the year being swept by the Baltimore Orioles, at least the Blue Jays kept us entertained throughout the long and grueling 162 game schedule.

Below is a collection of some of my favourite moments from this past season. Enjoy!

Paper airplanes being thrown onto the field at Opening DayJason Frasor AKA "The Sausage King"
Brian Tallet's moustacheScott Richmond's rookie of the month award
RR Cool JayBeing in first place and 14 games above .500
Walk-off winsHalladay vs. Burnett
Rod Barajas collapsing at home plateThe Melonheads
Viva La Rolen
Unfortunate yet hilarious signs and shirts
Roy Halladay starting the All-Star GameAaron Hill and Adam Lind's awesomeness
The Bautista Appreciation SocietyRandy Ruiz hitting HR's when he actually got a chance to play
Figuring out how to spell Marc Rzepczynski's last nameThe Back2Back Reunion
The Jays/Yankees fightThe almost Jays/Red Sox fight

Monday, October 5, 2009

The 2009 Blue Jays in a Haiku


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Tip of the cap to the ladies at Babes of Baseball for inspiring me to write this Haiku which pretty much summarizes the entire season for the Toronto Blue Jays;
Memories of the spring
Keep us warm in October.
That and the bourbon.
It ended in a way that we've become all too familiar with in 2009; a one-run loss in extra innings (on an error, to boot). That makes a grand total of 28 one-run losses and 13 losses in extra innings for the Jays this year.

So the Blue Jays finish with a 75-87 record, the ninth worst finish in franchise history and the worst since 2004 when they were 67-94. The funny thing is that this is pretty much where everybody pegged the Blue Jays to be at the end of this year - fourth place in the AL East or worse.

Even looking back at the Blue Jays Roundtable that Mop Up Duty spearheaded before the season started, almost everyone said that the Jays would hover around .500 if not finish slightly above. Callum even predicted a 76-86 record, which was nearly identical to the actual, so I am definitely getting him to predict the over/under for the Superbowl.

It's a shame the season had to end on this note for the Blue Jays; being swept at the hands of one of the worst teams in the American League. This was the very same Blue Jays team that swept one of the best teams in the American League at Fenway Park in the prior series. It's been frustrating to watch, to say the least.

This past weekend was undoubtedly filled with distractions, what with Cito-gate and J.P. Ricciardi being let go. After all of that happened in such a short span of time so close to the end of the schedule, it definitely leaves a sour taste in the mouth of Blue Jays fans.

But there is hope! Next season, there will be a new President (hopefully), a new General Manager and hopefully a new coaching staff as well. With all of that, there will be a new vision moving forward for the Toronto Blue Jays and hopefully some better results.

For the time being, let's just pass that bourbon around to keep us warm through the off season. It burns, but it's a good burn. Besides, after three shots you can barely even taste it anyway.

See ya back next year, boys.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The End of the J.P. Era


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After all the turmoil in the Blue Jays clubhouse these past few days, the last person I expected to get fired was J.P. Ricciardi.

Yes, the writing was on the wall for J.P. and he was on his way out the door anyway, yet it was surprising to see him turfed so soon.

Ricciardi received a lot of flack over his eight years as General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Not everything he touched turned to gold, but he did make some good trades and free agent signings throughout the years. I'm not trying to be a J.P. Ricciardi apologist, however each GM makes mistakes.

In a lot of ways, J.P. can't really be blamed for some of the things that happened with this team. Someone has to be held accountable though, and just like John Gibbons was let go when the Jays struggled, Ricciardi was the sacrificial lamb this time around.

For the time being, Alex Anthopolous fill step into the General Manager's shoes and look after the day to the day operations of the Blue Jays? But how long is that going to last? Is this the first phase of the changes that will be coming this off season? I for one certainly hope so.

It was a necessary move, yes, but it seems like things aren't flowing naturally here. If the Blue Jays were planning on cleaning house, Paul Beeston should have announced the new President, who would then hire the new General Manager, who in turn would hire a new coaching stuff. Instead, they are going about this whole thing ass backwards.

Even though Cito Gaston was in the eye of the storm of controversy, I guess it doesn't make much sense to let go of the coach with just three games to play in the season. Paul Beeston probably wants Cito to leave on his own terms and let him ride out the rest of the year.

If firing Ricciardi was in fact a move to appease the fans, it was a move to appease the wrong type of fans. It would be the type of move to appease the fans that called for J.P.'s head every single step of the way, regardless of all the positive things he brought to this club.

If that's the way the Toronto Blue Jays want to run this club, they might never make those people happy. Instead, they could just be be abandoning the intelligent fan base that the Blue Jays so desperately need.

J.P. was the first domino to fall, which means there is most certainly others to fall after him. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Doc dominates on Flashback Fridays


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This post is about a week too late, but better late than not at all ... right? After Roy Halladay's stellar start just one week ago, I couldn't help but notice that there was a distinct pattern every time Doc suited up in the powder blues - he dominates.

If you had the pleasure of catching Halladay starting on a Flashback Friday, you maybe have also noticed that Doc has been nearly unstoppable.

Over the past two seasons, Halladay has compiled a 7-0 record with a sparkling 1.27 during Friday home games. Along with 5 complete games, Doc's K/9 on Flashback Fridays was 7.35, his BB/9 was 1.01 which made his K/BB ration an incredible 7.25.

If by some grace Roy Halladay is still part of the Blue Jays next year, make sure you see him work his magic on a Flashback Friday because it is more than worth the price of admission.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A tit for tat: Halladay won't stand for that


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“It just got away from me ... You don't want to see anybody get hurt, but sometimes those things happen and you move on.”
Roy Halladay is so damn accurate with his pitches, that even the ones he throws to plunk opposing hitters are delivered with pinpoint accuracy. Knowing how precise Halladay is, there is no way in hell that that pitch “got away from him” in the exact same spot that Jonathan Papelbon plunked Adam Lind the game before. But kudos to Halladay for standing up for his team mates, whether or not Jonathan Papelbon hit Adam Lind intentionally in the first place.

I guess Billy Wagner was released from the old folks home for a night because he piped up and said the following about what Halladay did to David Ortiz:
"I don’t know what they’re thinking there. If it had been any other pitcher besides [Halladay], they’d get tossed. I think it’s a little bush league, but it’s the way it is”
Although that storyline was mentioned here first, it was actually secondary to the pitching masterpiece that Doc spun against the Boston Red Sox. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and only allowed three hits after the fact. Aside from pitching a no-hitter in his final start of the season, Doc could not have ended the season on a higher note; two straight shutout complete games and a streak of 24 innings without a run allowed. If the Blue Jays are still planning on trading him in the off season, his strong finish will go a long way increasing his value this winter.

For the time being, let's sit back and bask in the glory of what was arguably the finest pitching performance of the year by Roy Halladay.

Thanks, Doc. We truly appreciated it.

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