Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Around the Majors in 60 Days: Stealing Home with Navin Vaswani


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Almost all of us have dreamed of doing it, but only a select few have had the determination to pull it off.

Visiting each of Major League Baseball's 30 ballparks are one of the things that rank at the top of baseball fans Bucket Lists and certainly constitutes as being the "baseball road trip of a lifetime".

Not only did this man scratch that off his Bucket List, but he did it in less than 60 days. I am of course talking about Navin Vaswani of Sports and the City, but you probably know him as one of the friendliest people in the blogosphere as "eyebleaf".

A few months ago, Navin was doing some soul-searching in his homeland and quickly realized he wanted to fulfill the dream that most baseball fans have envisioned, but never have been able to accomplish.

Navin teamed up with the Globe and Mail and set out on the Baseball Road Trip of the Lifetime known as "Stealing Home".

I'm sure you've been following along as he experienced the highs of the pinnacle of baseball's finest ballparks, to the lowest lows when it comes to stadiums that are better suited being demolished.

I was very fortunate to get to talk to Navin about his journey through all 30 MLB ballparks, and what it meant to him. Take a listen to the interview below:



Let me reiterate as I said in the podcast, this baseball adventure couldn't have happened to a better person.

Navin exemplifies what blogging for your home team is all about, and you won't find anybody who's a better beacon for the Toronto Blue Jays (or sports in Toronto in general for that matter) than him.

Continue to follow his review of all of Major League's ballparks with Stealing Home at The Globe and Mail, and check out Sports and the City. As always, follow him on Twitter too: @eyebleaf

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The BJH Banner Curse


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Move over Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. Hey Madden Football Cover Curse ... get ready to take a backseat, because there's a new misfortune in town that's screwing with Toronto Blue Jays players.

It's the Blue Jay Hunter Banner Curse!

Going through some of my old pictures, I couldn't help but notice that the last 6 players to be featured on the banner for this website have either been traded, injured this year, or have just plain sucked.

After Alex Rios was traded last year, I quickly replaced him with Aaron Hill. Then after I finally got over the mourning period of losing Roy Halladay, he was substituted for by Adam Lind.

Then of course you have Travis Snider who has been marred by injuries this season and won't be ready until after the All-Star Break. And everyone knows all too well about the struggles of Adam Lind and Aaron Hill.

I thought about working Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista into the banner this year, but if there is any truth to the BJH Banner Curse, maybe I should play it safe and keep them off it in fears of putting their seasons years in jeopardy.

My apologies for causing all this, folks.

Lind and Hill: Conjoined Slumping Twins


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Image courtesy of Toronto Star
True story: prior to the beginning of the season, I mailed a letter to both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill congratulating them on their phenomenal 2009 seasons, and asked that they sign the photo I had also sent along in the package.

To this day I still haven't received a response, but at this point in the season ... I'm not sure if I still want one.

It's a similar sentiment that's been flowing through the Blue Jays blogosphere as of late, and it begs the question: what on earth do you do with Adam Lind and Aaron Hill?

The Blue Jays find themselves in a similar position as last season with Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. Both players were expected to carry most of the offensive load in the lineup, but instead fizzled for the first 62 games of the season until Cito Gaston finally decided to shake things up.

After struggling through the first 72 games of the season, Cito finally pulled the ripcord on Aaron Hill and Adam Lind's free fall and sent them down in the lineup last Thursday. Since then though, not much has changed.

While having both Silver Sluggers in such dire straits is concerning, what really has me worried is what's wrong with Adam Lind. If it seems like he's striking out every other at bat, it's because Lind ranks second in the American League with 77 strikeouts.

You can almost picture the exact pitch sequence in your head: Lind swings at a pitch down and away from a left-handed pitcher to strikeout. Well, the scenario isn't all that far-fetched either because Lind is hitting an abysmal .108 against lefties this year.

With Aaron Hill, it's a little more forgivable because of his absurdly low BABIP at .183, you can tell he's hitting into a lot of bad luck plays. By no means does being "unlucky" excuse Hill completely from this slump, but it's a little easier to take knowing it's not entirely his fault.

Cito's already tried to light a fire under Adam Lind and Aaron Hill by shuffling them down in the lineup, and we're still waiting to see some positive side effects from that managerial decision.

In the meantime, here's the solution: dress Adam Lind and Aaron Hill in some hippie tie-die clothes and let them get their frustrations out by smashing some windows on Yonge Street.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Student, Meet Teacher


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On Friday evening at Citizens Bank Park, a 33 year old Roy Halladay schooled the Toronto Blue Jays. Two days later, a man 14 years his senior accomplished the very same thing.

Albeit, Jamie Moyer didn't quite stifle the Blue Jays bats as well as Halladay did, but he kept them quiet enough to pull out the win and well-needed series victory for the struggling of late Philadelphia Phillies.

I'm not quite sure what exactly has contributed to the downfall of Brett Cecil: that makes three starts in a row in which he's surrendered five or more earned runs.

It's a little disheartening, yet I don't think it's something to be extremely concerned about. Cecil was absolutely on fire during his personal five-game win streak, and now he has cooled off considerably.

Although he didn't give up any home runs against the Phillies on Sunday, Brett Cecil had been touched up in both previous starts. It sounds like he's been having some trouble keeping pitches down in the zone, and opposing hitters are making him pay for it.

Cito does the Lineup Shuffle

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that Cito Gaston penciled in John McDonald as the leadoff hitter for Sunday's game. One can understand the manager's rationale for using McDonald against Jamie Moyer as he was a .375 lifetime hitter, but there are other times where I think Cito is just drafting up lineup cards at random.

It's funny because he's so adamant on keeping things consistent for his players, and yet just a few days after moving Aaron Hill and Adam Lind out of the two and three spots in the lineup, he's changing things up more than he has all season.

Don't you think it seems like a bit of an odd move when you take one of the traditionally worst hitters on your team who predominantly hits in the nine slot, and make him your lead off hitter? Not only that, but you put him in LEFT FIELD?

If Cito Gaston is hoping to shake things up by making these off the wall decisions, it's not working. To me, it just reeks of desperation and it feels like he's grasping at straws and coming up with nothing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More On Halladay vs. the Blue Jays


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We're just a few hours away from game time in Philadelphia, and the Roy Halladay vs. the Blue Jays start is all the blogosphere is buzzing about.

In what is undeniably the most anticipated game of the season, Blue Jays fans are running through the gambit of emotions in anticipation for tonight.

Although technically he is the enemy, I for one will have a tough time rooting against Halladay.

I posted in the comments on Tao of Stieb earlier today that it's hard to hate on Doc, even if tonight were Game 7 of the World Series.

Earlier today I had the pleasure of talking to Zoo With Roy about the Phillies, and Bill from Crashburn Alley also just posted my Blue Jays preview as well, so be sure to check it out.

I also received a very neat email from Delta_Vee about some guidelines for those in attendance at Citizens Bank Park and even those watching at home. I think you'll get a kick out of this:

MEMO to all #bluejays personnel

Please observe the following regulations during the Roy Halladay portion of the Inaugural Visiting Homestand:
  • Do not feed the curveballs.
  • Dispose of all incoming cutters over nearest available outfield fence.
  • Avoid direct contact between incoming cutters and Cutter Retrieval Units marked in red.
  • Infield groundballs are hazardous to the safety of yourself and your colleagues.
  • Do not pet @ZoowithRoy (includes affectionate hair-tousling).
  • In the event of a JoBau Jomerun, please avoid mention of the hitter when updating @BlueJayHunter to prevent madness.
  • Incoming cutters have been linked to broken faces by recent research. Please wear protective clothing at all times.
  • Harry Leroy Halladay III is considered armed and extremely dangerous. Engage with caution.

Phillies/Blue Jays Preview featuring Zoo with Roy


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Of all the places I envisioned going with Roy Halladay, I'll admit ... the zoo was never one of them.

I pictured maybe going for a 5am jog with him down Lakeshore Boulevard, partaking in some medicine ball drills, or maybe even to the Loose Moose for a post-game brew Roy Halladay. A visit to the Toronto Zoo with Doc never crossed my mind.

Yet since his trade to Philadelphia, one person has made it their sole mission to take the Phillies ace to the Philadelphia Zoo. He goes by ZWR but you probably know him better as the man behind the wonderfully addictive Phillies blog I Want To Go To The Zoo With Roy Halladay (or Zoo With Roy for short).

He was gracious enough to provide us with a Phillies scouting report, so without further adieu ... I give you ZWR.

Introductions

There are a host of well-written, intelligent, "basebally" (stats, analysis, prospects, the whole deal yo) Phillies sites out there... and then there's my stupid bolg.

Unfortunately (or otherwise) enough for you folks, Ian decided to tap ZWR with the responsibility of providing a preview of the road squad for this weekend's Blue Jays homestand in Philadelphia (thanks Communist convention or NAFTA summit or whatever nerd boondoggle is going on up there).

In summary, beyond the lines, without pretense, off the cuff, from the heart, to the point, et cetera et cetera, for you now...

ROY HALLADAY IS A PHILLIES!

I know right? Please don't hate us for this. We will treat Doc well, and love him already. Oh, and did you see he threw a perfect game on May 29th?! (Sorry- that one may or may not have been too much) Oh, and I'm going to go to the zoo with him.


Offense

It's been stupid for a few months now. In fact, a guy who runs a pretty popular Phillies blog actually made it into Sports Illustrated recently for going on a hunger strike during a May scoreless streak. Perhaps an apt indicator for you: Halladay has six losses this season... and a 2.43 ERA. He pitches on Friday night, so expect us to score two runs then at most. Postscript: Ross Gload is raking.

Defense

I mean, yeah, whatever we're pretty good I guess (-- this may be wholly supported or disproved with some rating I neither know nor cared to look up). Jimmy Rollins is back and Ryan Howard can't throw to second base. Oh, and Raul Ibanez is 48 years old but your new left field is tiny so it doesn't matter.

Pitching

Beyond HLHIII breaking faces and cuttering donkeys, Jamie Moyer has been surprisingly good, while Cole Hamels hasn't been nearly as unlucky as he was last season. JA Happ is hurt, Joe Blanton has kind of stunk (though EATS innings), and Kyle Kendrick is hit hit hit hit hit or miss.

Home Field

Any poor fan behavior (behaviour?) is on you donkeys; these are Jays home games. In fact, I hope someone jumps on the field naked with a sand wedge and starts hitting Granny Smith apples towards second base. It'll be all over TSN and the CBC... "Toronto Fans Acting Like Drunken Manitobans!"

But What Do You Think Will Happen, ZWR?!?!?!

Well, I'm going Saturday, so that's a loss. Halladay gets the win in the opener, just because he can't possibly lose four in a row, can he? Phils take the rubber match on Sunday- I'm certainly not going to come over here and be all, "for real we gon lose". Not after Game Four of the 93 World Series. Yeah, that's right: GAME FOUR! Joe Carter was awful, but that six run eighth inning was the killer (stupid Devon White), and everyone knows it but doesn't say so because we're a ... continent (?)... that takes the easy way out.

What would Percey Shelley say about this shared, time-delayed commiseration, ZWR? Easy:

"We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."

Well that's about all I got. Best of luck the rest of the way to you guys- I'm fairly confident that I speak for most Phillies fans in saying we wouldn't have much issue with the Jays winning that division of evil eleventy five (or metric equivalent) percent of the time.

Thanks to ZWR for providing this most excellent Phillies/Blue Jays series preview. Check out Zoo With Roy and rack up your credit card inside the Zoo With Roy T-Shirt Emporium. Also, follow Zoo With Roy on Twitter at @ZoowithRoy

And don't forget to read up on my Blue Jays preview over at Zoo With Roy.

Acid Flashback Friday: Roy Halladay's Second Career Start


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On the eve of Roy Halladay's start against his former club, I can't help but think back to the start that made Doc a household name.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at how close Roy Halladay come to throwing a perfect game no-hitter in just his second career start.

It was the final day of the 1998 season. The Toronto Blue Jays were wrapping up their series with the Detroit Tigers, and the Jays were putting the final touches on yet another third place finish while Roger Clemens was poised to win his second straight Cy Young Award.

On September 28th 2008 though, all eyes were focused on the young 21 year old starter just called up from the minor leagues. Halladay tamed the Detroit Tigers throughout eight innings, and returned in the bottom of the ninth in the hopes of putting the final touches on a gem of a game.

He began the ninth by getting Gape Kapler to Line out, followed by a ground out from Paul Bako. All that stood in the way of Roy Halladay and perfection was pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson.

Halladay worked Higginson to a 0-2 count and was just one strike away from a perfect game no-hitter before Higginson sent the pitch deep to left field and into the Blue Jays bullpen for a solo home run.



The no-hitter had been compromised, but the start had not. Roy Halladay stayed in the game and finished it off and picked up the complete game victory.

The irony in it all was the pitcher who caught the ball in the Blue Jays bullpen was none other than Dave Stieb, the man who had himself come within one out of a no-hitter on three separate occasions before finally nailing the no-no.

We may not have known the significance of it at the time, but Roy Halladay's second career start was just a sample of the kind of greatness that was to be displayed in the following 12 years with the Blue Jays organization.

That no-hitter may have eluded Roy Halladay in Toronto, but it was nice to see him exorcise those demons and toss a perfect game with the Phillies.

The only way to have a more perfect ending would've been if Bobby Higginson came out of retirement, and Roy Halladay struck him out to get the perfect game.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One Run and Done


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Not really much to say about that loss except it stings to lose a pitcher's duel in the top of the ninth.

As shaky as Kevin Gregg has been this season, you have to give credit to Matt Holliday for hitting a great pitch. Gregg was just an inch or two away from striking Holliday out, but he went down and got it for the game-winning hit.

One trend I've started to notice and something that's especially noteworthy during this series: notice the differing managerial styles of Cito Gaston and Tony La Russa?

Daniel mentioned this on the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour last night, but perhaps La Russa was a little too anxious to bring in Albert Pujols when he led of the eight inning with a double, then instructs Nick Stavinoha to bunt him over. Pujols gets caught in the rundown and Stavinoha moves into second, but the Cardinals give up an out.

Why not just let nature take its course and see if the Cardinals designated hitter can bring in Pujols with nobody out?

Then on the flip side, you have Cito Gaston. Top of the seventh, Jose Bautista leads off with a walk. Most managers would then call for the sacrifice bunt to move the runner over. Instead, Lyle Overbay gets the green light to swing away.

I don't know who the next manager of the Toronto Blue Jays is going to be, but I hope he's somewhere in between Tony La Russa and Cito Gaston. Not too hard, not too soft ... just right.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where does Scott Richmond fit in?


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In 2008, a relatively unknown 27 year old journeyman by the name of Scott Richmond clawed his way through the Toronto Blue Jays farm system to make his major league debut on July 30th, 2008.

Nearly two years later, Richmond is making that trek through the ranks of the minor leagues once again.

The gents over at Mop Up Duty posted a great article last week on Scott Richmond's return back to the majors. Richmond has been successful through three rehab starts in Dunedin, tossing 15.2 innings and giving up only three earned runs total.

Following last night's start in Dunedin, Richmond will pack his bags and will be on his way to New Hampshire to join the Fisher Cats for a few more rehab starts in Double A.

Barring any setbacks in New Hampshire, Scotty will then make his way back to Triple A Las Vegas and will enter the Blue Jays Battle Royale for any roster spot that opens up in Toronto.

Scott Richmond will be competing with the likes of Brad Mills, Bobby Ray, Marc Rzepcyznski, Zack Jackson for one of those coveted spots in the Blue Jays starting rotation.

Perhaps he might be better suited for a return to the bullpen though. Ever since his first stint on the disabled list last summer, many have suggested that Richmond could be a vital asset as a relief pitcher.

With so many starting pitchers lined up ready and waiting, moving Richmond to the bullpen might not actually be a bad idea. Heck, if it's working for David Purcey, why not Scott Richmond?

If we're trying to define a new role for Richmond on the roster, I guess he could be the right-handed equivalent of a LOOGY, but more like Shawn Camp circa 2009 and less like Jesse Carlson circa 2009. He could probably also work very well against sections of right-handed heavy lineups.

If a starter goes down early in the game, Scotty could come and toss two or three innings in relief and keep the hitters off balance with his wicked curveball.

So what do you think: once Scott Richmond finishes his rehab assignment, where does he fit in on the Blue Jays roster?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aces in the Cards


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Much has been made about how the Toronto Blue Jays really don't have a "true" ace in their starting rotation, but more like a 1a in Shaun Marcum and a 1b in Ricky Romero.

Well, if that's the case ... then the St. Louis Cardinals have a 1a in Adam Wainright, 1b in Chris Carpenter and a 1c in Jaime Garcia.

Of course, the rotations line up that the Blue Jays must face the heart of the Cardinals starting rotation, which will definitely be the toughest pitching staff the Blue Jays have faced all season.

If the Jays are hoping to employ the long ball strategy against the St. Louis Cardinals pitching, forget it. Jaime Garcia's HR/9 is second lowest in the National League at 0.23, and Adam Wainright is not too far behind at 0.50 HR/9.

Just like Ubaldo Jimenez though, Jaime Garcia is due for a blowup sooner or later. Garcia has not only posted a quality start in each of his 13 starts this season, he has held opponents to 3 runs or less on each and every occasion.

Garcia's counterparts have very similar numbers: Wainright has only given up 4 earned runs on 2 occasions, and Carpenter has only been lit up once (if you really want to call it that) for 5 earned runs.

Unfortunately, things don't get any easier once the Cardinals hand things over to the bullpen. The Cards relievers collectively have the second lowest ERA in the National League at 3.18. Ryan Franklin's beard alone converted 13 of 15 save opportunities.

So the Blue Jays have quite the tall order ahead of them in the next three games against three of the best starters in the National League. Jaime Garcia and Brett Cecil kick off the series tonight, and be sure to check out tonight's live blog of the Cardinals vs. the Blue Jays over at The Score starting at 7pm.

Also, tune into the United Cardinals Bloggers Radio Hour coming up Wednesday at 10:30pm EST as I'll be chatting Jays/Cardinals with Daniel Shotpaw of C70 At The Bat.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The BJH All-Star Ballot


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Filling out an All-Star Game ballot is usually either the easiest thing in the world to do, or the hardest thing to do.

On one hand, you want to show your allegiance to your favourite team regardless of how poorly or how well those players have fared, but on the other hand you want to ensure the players that truly have been All-Stars during the first half of the season get a chance to represent their league.

I fell somewhere in between the middle, trying to appeal to my heart and my head when it came to picking my 2010 American League All-Stars.

First Base: Justin Morneau

All do respect to Mark Teixeira, but the Canadian Crusher has been the dominant first baseman in the American League. Tex may be a traditionally slow starter, yet in my mind it's a case of "what have you done for me lately" when it comes to the All-Star ballot.

There's no way you can argue with Justin Morneau's .448 on base percentage either (which leads everyone in the Major Leagues by the way).

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Instead of asking "how could you vote for Robinson Cano?", perhaps the better question to ask is how could you not vote for him?

Cano seemingly came out of nowhere to prove that he's the elite second baseman in the league thus far, and is leading the charge for a very strong Yankees team.

Third Base: Evan Longoria

I'll be honest, I had a writeup ready giving Alex Rodriguez the nod at third base. Now that he's out with an injury, it doesn't seem fair to keep him on the ballot. So I will move on to what seems to be the people's choice, Evan Longoria.

The Rays third baseman is already buzzing with early MVP talk, and his stats certainly back the argument. It helps that he has one of the best gloves at the hot corner, too.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus

When it comes to voting for shortstop, it seems as though there are two schools of thought: those who revere Derek Jeter, and those who would rather see anybody but Derek Jeter start the All-Star game at shortstop.

I happen to belong to the latter group not only because of my dislike for Jeter, but also because I think he's one of the most overrated players in baseball. Give the starting job to Elvis Andrus who actually has a future in this league three years from now.

Catcher: Joe Mauer

This is one of the easiest votes on the ballot, and it's not because he's the defending American League MVP. Mauer is head and shoulders above any competition at the catcher position, even if his numbers have regressed a little bit compared to last season.

He may not have 10+ home runs, but out of all the qualified catchers, Joe Mauer is the only one with a batting average above .300. 

Designated Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero

Here's the funny thing about Vladimir Guerrero ... I drafted both he and David Ortiz in the BJH Fantasy Baseball League to start the season, and at the time I wasn't crazy about either pick. Vladdy was the little puppy dog nobody wanted to take home, so I decided to use my pity pick on him.

Although both Ortiz and Guerrero have made strong cases to start at the DH position at the All-Star Game, I'm giving the edge to Vladdy because he isn't just a one trick pony at the dish - he can get to you with a loop single, an extra base hit or a home run.

Left Field: Josh Hamilton

The 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton's coming out party. Since then though, his career has been marred with injury after injury. For one reason or another, everything has clicked for Josh Hamilton this year.

He may not be the best defensive left fielder in the American League, but his offensive contributions are just too substantial to leave of the All-Star ballot.

Centre Field: Vernon Wells

This is perhaps the most perplexing vote of all on the ballot. It's interesting that less than one year ago, both Vernon Wells and Alex Rios were teammates and now they're competing for the same spot on the All-Star roster.

With my allegiance to the Blue Jays, I have to give my vote to Vernon Wells. People love a great comeback story, and Wells certainly fits the bill. Rios has the better batting average, but Wells has more doubles, home runs, and walks.

Right Field: Jose Bautista

No doubt about it, this is definitely my homer pick for the All-Star ballot. However, the stats warrant a trip to Los Angeles in my mind. Ichiro is the sexy pick with his .300+ batting average, yet I think this is Bautista's time to shine.

Let's be honest - this is probably Bautista's only chance to play in an All-Star game, and I don't think we should keep him from fulfilling his dream.

This vote may not be entirely due to his offensive prowess (which has admittedly been lacking these past few weeks) but Bautista continues to put up highlight reel after highlight reel play catches in the outfield.

Do It For Dad


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Often times in baseball, we get so caught up in the hooplah of the game that we forget those players on the field are real people.

Although we might not often hear about them, those players have parents, wives, kids, and other family members.

All we see is the baseball player on the field, and we expect them to be focused on the game 100 percent of the time, and expect nothing less.

Well, you know what ... those players are real people too.

They have bad days at work just like we do, except their bad days are on display for everyone to see. They have good days at the office as well, which are played over and over again on the highlight reel.

But what you don't see, is the other half of baseball players lives where they do things just like you and me.

That's why it was so amazing to see John McDonald hit a two run home run yesterday. Whether the Blue Jays were winning or not, the box score was irrelevant. It was the symbolism of that home run that made John McDonald a winner on Father's Day.

Having lost his father Jack just a few days ago and having attended his funeral this past Friday, John McDonald returned to the lineup and went back to work even though the emotional effects were still weighing heavy on his heart and mind.

I'm not trying to get all religious here, but what are the odds those circumstances came to be where John McDonald gets a chance to hit in the 9th inning? Maybe it was divine intervention, or maybe it was just coincidence.

The Blue Jays would have to be losing by a significant margin for Cito to make a late-game substitution, yet it happened and John McDonald accomplished what his late father wanted him to do: hit a home run.

Honestly, it was one of the most touching moments I've ever seen, and it really makes you realize that the game of baseball itself is irrelevant if your family can't be right there with you.

John McDonald may not be the most prolific home run hitter or all time, but that home run will live on as one of the greatest in Toronto Blue Jays history. Congratulations Johnny Mac - I'm sure your father would be extremely proud.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Wrap-Up


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Image courtesy of LFPress.com
It's not very often you get the chance to see one Blue Jays legend in the flesh, let alone two.

Such was the case earlier today as the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys honoured one of the greatest second baseman of our time in Roberto Alomar, and one of the most unheralded relief pitchers of his era, Paul Quantrill.

Today we celebrated the accomplishments of Roberto Alomar and Paul Quantrill as professional ball players. Yet to them, all those accomplishments and statistics seemed secondary to the friendships they had paved along the way to success.

Paul Quantrill's Acceptance Speech



In his acceptance speech, Quantrill was extremely grateful to his high school baseball coach Larry Cockcroft, as well as his wife Alyson Quantrill.

No other Canadian in the major leagues past or present has ever pitched more innings than Paul Quantrill, which is an incredible feat in itself - let alone all the other accolades to his name.

Oddly enough, when asked about his career highlights, Quantrill reflected on the people who helped him get to where he was rather than what he accomplished on the field.
"Very few of my memories are actually from the diamond. My memories are of the relationships I've formed and the wonderful people I've met.

All I did was play the sport that I loved since I was this big ... and the day I signed professionally, it was quite clear that this was my profession and I would treat it as such. 

But once I crossed those lines, I was playing a kids game again. And there's nobody who ever played the game and enjoyed it more than I."
Interview with Paul Quantrill



I was also very fortune to get to ask Paul Quantrill a few questions before he left for the induction ceremony. Take a listen to hear him speak about some of the Canadians currently playing in the majors, as well as what it felt like to represent his country in the big leagues.

In many ways, Paul Quantrill reminded me of another Canadian to play for the Blue Jays: Scott Richmond. Quantrill was extremely humble and spoke very highly of the strides that baseball has made within our country.

Roberto Alomar's Acceptance Speech



To begin his acceptance speech, Roberto Alomar thought back to the morning of December 5th, 1990 when he received the call that he'd been traded from the San Diego Padres to the Toronto Blue Jays.

He asked his father for advice and Alomar's father said he was going to play for one of the best managers in the game, Cito Gaston.

Along with his former coach, Roberto Alomar spoke very highly of his teammates from the Toronto Blue Jays and relayed an important message which rings true today:
"When I came to Toronto, I played with a great bunch of guys. And to win championships, you have to win together and you have to lose together."
Since Alomar's retirement, there was been talk of him returning to the Toronto Blue Jays in some sort of coaching capacity. As he looked to his right over to Paul Beeston sitting on a picnic table, Alomar said:
"Hopefully one day, the Blue Jays can give me a job!"
Then the crowd erupted into a roar of applause, which signalled their approval that hopefully one day Roberto Alomar will wear a manager's cap or be part of the coaching staff of the Toronto Blue Jays.

I for one would love to see him back in the dugout as a coach and lhelping the Toronto Blue Jays get back to another World Series Championship.

And I can't think of anyone better to lead them there than the best second baseman in franchise history, Roberto Alomar.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Still Miss You, Doc


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It's hard to believe it's already been six months since Roy Halladay left Toronto, and there's not a day that goes by where I don't imagine him back in a Blue Jays uniform.

We all have our own ways of dealing with the loss of Doc. Many have turned to alcohol to fill the emptiness that was left behind, and others have chose to put their feelings into song.

The young lady above (Kathy Anderson) has chose to do the later as part of some musical therapy entitled "The Doc Halladay Song". You might also recognize her from last year's smash hit, the "Blue Jays Rap".

Have a listen to this a couple of times, and remember ... those G20 chain-link fences may have kept us from seeing Doc at the Rogers Centre once again, but nothing ... nothing ... NOTHING can ever contain our love for Harry Leroy Halladay.

Flashback Friday: Roberto Alomar's Home Run Off Dennis Eckersley


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When it comes to being one of the top second baseman of his era, Roberto Alomar comes second to none. But when it comes to dramatic home runs in the playoffs, unfortunately Alomar does come a close second compared to the greatest home run in Blue Jays history.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Roberto Alomar's infamous home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game Four of the 1992 ALCS.

Let's set up the situation: it's the top of the ninth inning and the Blue Jays are trailing the Oakland A's by two runs. Oakland A's manager Tony Larussa opts to leave the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Dennis Eckersley.

In the regular season, Dennis Eckersley was practically untouchable, converting 51 of 54 save attempts. However, Eckersley's biggest test stood before him in Game Four of the 1992 ALCS.

Eckersley retired the three outs in the eighth inning, but not before giving up back to back first pitch singles to John Olerud and Candy Maldonado which scored two runs.

The following inning, only one thing stood between Dennis Eckersley and a win in Game Four for the Oakland Athletics - and that was the top of the Blue Jays lineup. 

Devon White got things started in the top of the ninth with a leadoff single. Devo quickly advanced to third base thanks to a throwing error from Rickey Henderson. Representing the tying run, Roberto Alomar approached the plate.

With nobody out and a 2-2 count, Roberto Alomar made history. He took the 2-2 pitch from Eckersley and clobbered it into stands at in the Coliseum, tying the game at 6-6.

Before Alomar stepped out of the batter's box, he celebrated by pointing his fingers in the air in the iconic pose that still stands in Blue Jays history to this date.

The Blue Jays would of course go on to win Game Four in 11 innings by a score of 7-6 thanks in part to Roberto Alomar's late inning heroics, and would win the 1992 American League Championship Series in six games.

The timing for this could not be more perfect as Alomar will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow in St. Marys.

The above image of Alomar is so iconic that he wisely decided to use it as his official logo for his Second 2 None clothing line. If that's not a swift kick in the nuts to Dennis Eckersley, I don't know what is.

Roberto Alomar's home run off Dennis Eckersley is easily among one of the top moments in franchise history, and help solidified himself as one of the heroes of the storied 1992-1993 World Series Championship teams.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You Stay Classy, San Diego


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Well, it turned out that road trip through San Diego wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

For a series that had the potential to be detrimental for the Blue Jays, they fared pretty well taking two out of three from the San Diego Padres.

A 3-6 end to the road trip wasn't what the Blue Jays had anticipated to come out from that road swing, but it had the potential to be much worse.

Tropicana Field and Petco Park were two ballparks that I'm sure the Blue Jays weren't particularly keen on visiting (for separate reasons: one for the opponent and one for the ballpark itself), yet when all was said and done ... they are returning home just a game and a half further out from the division lead than before they left.

This time, Ricky Romero's family and friends saw him in fine form as opposed to that shelling they took in a few weeks ago in Anaheim. The only real mistake he made was trying to throw Lance Zawadzki out at first base on a high chopper, which lead to Scott Hairston scoring from third base.

Fred Lewis was spectacular once again with four hits, just a home run shy of the cycle. With his incredible game at the plate, Lewis bumped his batting average back up to .291 and is once again within range of that coveted .300 mark.

And with the end of that road trip means the end of Interleague Games in National League parks for the Blue Jays this year. That means no more pitchers hitting in the number nine slot and back to the real American League way of playing the game.

All I can say is it's not a moment too soon. Bring on those Little Giants!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Welcomes Alomar and Quantrill


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The Baseball Writers Association of America may have got it wrong, but the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is making it right.

This Saturday, Roberto Alomar will finally take his rightful place in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's.

He will be in good company as former Blue Jays relief pitcher Paul Quantrill will also be inducted, as well as the father of Sabremetrics Allan Roth, and former owner of the Minnesota Twins Calvin Griffith.

For those wishing to attend, the induction ceremony itself at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is free, but since it starts at 11:00am it's best to arrive early to ensure you get a good seat.

Rod Black will be the master of ceremonies for the event which will take place from 11:00am to 1:00pm. A celebrity autograph session will follow featuring Alomar, Quantrll, and many others including former Blue Jay Rob Butler.

Rumour has it Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston will also be in attendance at the Induction Ceremony as well.

I'll be there on Saturday and will hopefully get a chance to talk to Roberto Alomar and Paul Quantrill. Stay tuned for an Induction Ceremony wrap-up report on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Petco Park Has It All


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Giant sandboxes? Check.
5.7 Magnitude Earthquakes? Check.
Turns out, Petco Park has it all!

I guess I'll have to ask my compadre Stephen from Searching for '93 how the game was last night, because he was there in person rocking the Powder Blue jersey in San Diego.

Then Twitter exploded and subsequently the aftershock might have been felt all the way at Petco Park. I'm not necessarily saying that both incidents were related, but it's awfully suspicious that one happened after the other.

On to the game itself: Shaun Marcum was back to his old self once again, and maybe even more impressive than his pitching prowess was his ability to hang in there as a hitter.

I know Marcum used to be a shortstop back in college, and out of all the Blue Jays starting pitchers he has looked the most comfortable swinging a bat in Interleague play. A hit would have been great, but Shaun drawing a walk was just as good.

John Buck contributed with two home runs, and from what I can recall the first cleared the fence close to the left field line. It seems like if you want to hit home runs in Petco Park, you have to to pull it to either side of the field. Jose Bautista can attest to hitting long fly balls out to centre field.

And one final comment that's a cause for celebration. Aaron Hill raised his batting average 10 points last night, and currently sits at .196 - ever closer to breaking the Mendoza Line that has haunted him for the better part of the season.

I'm not going to cue the Al Gore Celebration song just yet, but we're getting pretty damn close.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Litsch Gets Lit Up


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Jesse Litsch may have been hoping for a curtain call after his return to the majors, but it was more like being yanked off stage by the giant hook.

Litsch didn't even make it out of the third inning against the Colorado Rockies, giving up seven earned runs and tossing 80 pitches.

There were rumblings that Jesse was on some sort of a pitch count, but I don't think the coaching staff could have ever foreseen him reaching the max in the third inning.

After Litsch's horrible performance, there was a bit of a debate as to whether it was too early to call him up from Las Vegas in the first place.

It's not like the Blue Jays were exactly hurting for starting pitching. Brian Tallet wasn't exactly blowing away the competition, he was merely keeping the spot warm for Jesse Litsch or Marc Rzepczynski.

I think we should probably give Jesse Litsch a bit of a break. I mean, he's over a year removed from his last major league start, so obviously he's going to be a little bit rusty.

This was just another step on the road to recovery for the young righty, and another start that will hopefully serve as a lesson for the future.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This Is Why Interleague Games Drive Me Crazy


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Image courtesy of The Sports Hernia
They call it the Senior Circuit. Yes, the National League may be the world's oldest professional sports league, but that doesn't necessarily mean those National League rules are the be all and end all of baseball.

A lot of folks shared the same sentiment on Twitter last night: that these Interleague Games and specifically the ones in National League ballparks are overrated.

First of all, I don't like them because they automatically put the American League teams at a disadvantage. For most American League pitchers, it's a fish out of water situation that almost always leads to an easy out.

In American League games, all the National League teams have to do is sub in a player from their bench as the DH. No extra skills required ... in fact the designated hitter doesn't even need to take the field, it's not like they have to go out there and take the mound.

My second pet peeve about these National League rules games is twofold regarding the strategy around using the pitcher in the lineup.

We've already seen this happen a few  times in the Jays/Rockies series, but the situation arises when a rally begins near the bottom of the lineup with two out and the opposing team intentionally walks the number eight hitter to get to the pitcher.

I understand the logic of why National League managers make that move, but at the same time it seems like a cheap way to get the third out of the inning

The second part of that pet peeve once again surrounds the pitcher. We saw this particular situation happen with Ricky Romero in the six inning of Friday's game against the Rockies. The Blue Jays are behind by a run and the Blue Jays have runners on second and third with two out.

Aside from the torrential downpour, Romero has the game relatively under control but Cito Gaston opts to pinch hit for him in hopes of keeping the two-out rally going. Yet I wondered, how does Romero feel about being taken out of a game when he was still pitching pretty well?

The point I'm trying to make here is: in close or tied games that are at about the midway point, National League starters really don't have as long a leash as their American League counterparts. That probably not only reduces their innings pitched, but evidently their chance at more wins and losses as well.

The baseball purists may say that the true game of baseball involves the pitcher stepping up to the plate, but personally I just think it's part of the game that could be done away with.

Taking the path of least resistance doesn't capture the essence of baseball to me, and that's why I prefer my American League game.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How To Beat Ubaldo Jimenez


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Is Ubaldo Jimenez invincible? With a nearly perfect record at 11-1, the young Colorado Rockies certainly looks to be that way.

He has won 11 of 12 starts this season, and the only blemish on his record was a hard-luck loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jimenez only gave up one run through seven innings while his fellow Rockies couldn't even put up one run in support.

The Toronto Blue Jays dealt the seemingly unstoppable Zack Grienke his first loss of the 2009 season, so hopefully they will be able to do the same against the new pitching titan of the National League - Ubaldo Jimenez.

So how will the Blue Jays solve the soft-spoken one they call "The Chief"? After combing through his stats attempting to find some chink in his armour, I came up with ... nothing.

Begging on my knees pleading for mercy against the Blue Jays lineup, I reached out to Russ from the excellent Colorado Rockies blog Purple Row. I asked him what ... if anything, the Blue Jays could to do beat Ubaldo Jimenez:
"Any team would need to be filled with Gods in order to beat Ubaldo Jimenez, because U-Ball is a God himself. We've already built a religious following around Jimenez because of this one pitch he threw a couple of weeks ago

OK, OK, on to the serious stuff. If the Jays somehow run into the Ubaldo Jimenez who walks too many batters, they have a chance at winning it. Jimenez's only loss came against the Dodgers, who scored two runs to the Rockies none. 

With the way the Rockies' offense has seemingly disappeared at the most frustrating times, a run or two off Jimenez can put the Jays over the top."
Now we have one clue to what could be the Achilles Heel of mighty Ubaldo - the walk. If the Blue Jays can curb their swing-happy ways tonight and become extremely patient without watching too many pitches go by, they just might have a chance.

Another piece of useful information about Ubaldo Jimenez is he leaves a lot of men on base, 92.4 percent to be exact. So up to this point, Jimenez has only allowed 7.6 percent of base runners to score. That's cold man ... straight up cold.

Jimenez has also been very fortunate with a great defensive infield. He's been saved 10 times by double plays this season alone. Combine that with the slick fielding duo of Troy Tulowitzski and Ian Stewart on the left side of the infield, and Ubaldo becomes extremely stingy with his runs, let alone base hits.

Ubaldo is predominantly a ground ball pitcher, and with fly balls traveling an average of 9% further in Coors Field than any other ballpark in the majors, if the Blue Jays are going to take the bat off their shoulders, they should be swinging for the fences.

So it's almost a Catch 22 with Ubaldo Jimenez: the Blue Jays are damned if they do swing because it's likely to induce a ground ball out, and they're damned if they don't because Jimenez strands over 92 percent of base runners anyway.

All I can say is good luck to the Blue Jays hitters tonight because they have quite the uphill battle going up against the best pitcher in the Major Leagues right now.

Join me tonight over at The Score later tonight, as I'll be live blogging this one starting at 9pm.

Acid Flashback Friday: Pat Borders Gets Caught Looking


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For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, for the most part I will let this photo speak for itself.

Pat Borders is obviously distracted by former big-bust adult film star Lulu Divine as she storms the field during the Detroit Tigers 1993 Home Opener. Nobody knows where she came from, but by her outfit it looks like she just escaped from prison.

Borders must have seen nothing but beach balls at the plate  ... because immediately following that on-field distraction, he hit a two run knock after he saw two of the biggest knockers of his life.

Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is This the Tipping Point?


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Either the Tampa Bay Rays are that good, or the Toronto Blue Jays are playing that badly. Right now, I'm willing to bet on the latter.

For the third straight game, the Blue Jays helped the opposing starting pitcher resemble a Cy Young candidate.

In the past three games, the Blue Jays have totaled a mere 11 hits.
Yes ... just 11 hits in three games. Add up all the earned runs in the past three games, and you will come up with five. In comparison, the Rays scored seven runs during Tuesday's fifth inning alone.

At the risk of being labeled as a bandwagon jumper, my baseball sixth sense tells me that this could be the tipping point for the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays.

Last season, it was the road trip from hell that began the infamous fall from grace from the top of the standings. The year prior, it was the road trip to Progressive Field in Cleveland which eventually cost John Gibbons his job.

I'm begging to get that same eerie sense about this particular road trip, too.

The way the Blue Jays have played against the Rays this week and the Yankees on Sunday reminded me of this very same Blue Jays team from years past that for one reason or another could not figure out their opponent's starting pitcher.

Plus, it didn't help that Shaun Marcum blew up bigger than Violete Beauregarde. Luckily, most of the Blue Jays starting pitchers have each cashed in a "get out the doghouse free" card anyway, and this was only the first blowup of the season for Marcum.

The rest of the team though? For the third straight game, they have been stunned at the plate  I can't even put it into words how lost they look right now. And it's not like there is one shining ray of hope in the lineup, they have all look bad this week.

At least there was one positive to take away from last night's debacle: David Purcey's impromptu mop up performance. I don't know what it is about relievers in situations when the game isn't on the line, but it seems like someone from the bullpen always comes through with a couple of solid innings of relief after the starter has hit the showers.

Now it's all up to Brett Cecil to change the course of this series with his ocular lenses. Go get 'em, Brett Skywalker!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Musical Tributes to Former Blue Jays Scutaro and Rolen


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It's never easy letting go of your favourite Blue Jay player, but for some reason, watching fans from their new team put together musical tributes somehow makes the pill a little easier to swallow.

These videos have been floating around the internets for a few days now, but I thought I'd share them with you guys anyway.

Bask in the glory that is "Scu Scu Scutaro" for former Blue Jay turned Red Sox Marco Scutaro, and "Proud Dusty (Rolen on the River" in tribute of Scott Rolen.





Hat tip to Walkoff Walk for "Rolen On The River" and Big League Stew for "Scu Scu Scutaro"

Tallet gets sucked into the Sarlacc Pit of Pitching Death


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Countless men go in, but none emerge alive.

It is known as the Sarlacc Pit of Pitching Death, and last night at Tropicana Field it claimed its latest victim: Brian Tallet.

All you need to do is look at his pitching line to find out what happened: 80 pitches to get through 4 innings while giving up five earned runs.

Add that to Tallet's pitching line in Tampa Bay last year, and you have one fugly looking record in St. Petersburg the past few seasons:

3 starts: 12.2 innings, 18 earned runs, and a 12.79 ERA.

Need I say more?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trouble With the Trop


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Maybe it's the catwalks. Maybe it's the cowbells. Or maybe it's the approximation to the fictional Del Boca Vista Phase III condominiums.

Whatever reason it is, the Toronto Blue Jays have one hell of a time trying to beat the Tampa Bay Rays on the road. Since 2006 2008, the Blue Jays have compiled a 4-17 record at Tropicana Field.

It's funny because both the Blue Jays and Rays have performed much better on the road than they have at home. The Jays are 16-11 on the road and the Rays are a dominant 22-8 away from home.

Oddly enough, it appears there's no such thing as home field advantage for both teams. While both teams have a winning record on home turf, they are both just 3 games above .500 at home.

So the Summer of Tallet (™ Tao of Stieb) continues tonight as Brian Tallet looks for his first win of the season. It was initially thought that Tallet would just make one spot start last week against Tampa Bay, which would make way for Jesse Litsch's long-awaited return.

Just like the boys from The Hangover, Litsch will remain in Vegas trying to regain his composure and figure out why there's a tiger in his bathroom. Until then, Brian Tallet has bought himself some more time in the fifth starter's spot.

Bautista Appreciation Society Fashion


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Being a member of the Bautista Appreciation Society has never looked so good.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the prototype BAS T-Shirt: the most fashionable T-Shirt soon to be available on the market for fans who appreciate the often unappreciated Blue Jay player Jose Bautista.

There are five different colours on display at BallotsForBautista.com, so I urge you to take a visit there and vote for your favourites.

Hopefully we'll be going to the presses with a couple different colours in the near future, so check out the designs posted at BallotsForBautista.com and let me know what you think.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Getaway Day Gets Away


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Another day, another late-inning lead that slips away.

It was a rather deflating way to lose the final game in what was a relatively successful home stand. Before we delve into the intricacies of the game though, let's look at the positives.

A combined 6 and 3 record against two of the best teams in baseball (oh, and who could forget the and lowly Orioles). Not too shabby at all and definitely nothing to be disappointed about.

As I was live blogging the game yesterday on The Score, at the time I really didn't see any kind of mismanaging on Cito's part during the 8th inning. With first base open and two men on, the Blue Jays opt to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez.

I can see Cito's logic there: not only does it put the force out at any bag, but now it sets up a double play possibility and the Blue Jays could emerge from the inning with a tied game. Instead, Gardner scores on the wild pitch but A-Rod strikes out anyway.

Now here's where things get tricky. After the wild pitch, all the runners move up a base which means first base is open and Cito has the option of giving Robinson Cano the free pass to first base if he so chooses.

Apparently the manager gave Jason Frasor the option of intentionally walking Cano or going after him. Frasor chose the latter. Robinson Cano made them pay with a two run-double.

There is no question that was the turning point of this game - but did Cito Gaston make the right call by letting Frasor pitch to Cano? My answer might surprise you, but I say yes.

There has been a lot of talk lately about how Cito has a lot of faith in his players ... sometimes too much faith, as we have seen very recently. But sometimes you have to forgo the numbers, forget the statistics and just go with your instincts.

Cito probably felt with his gut that Jason Frasor could get Robinson Cano out. After all, Frasor is one of the best strikeout pitchers in the bullpen and just struck out Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded, so why couldn't he get Robinson Cano out too?

Sometimes you just have to give credit for the other guy for a great piece of hitting too. Derek Jeter got a hold of a slider that was low and outside the zone and ripped it down the right field line. Scott Downs made a great pitch but Jeter got just enough of it to keep the rally alive.

I don't think we can hang out hat on the manager or the bullpen for this loss either, for that matter. The lineup had their fair share of struggles as well. Simply put, you are going to have a very tough time beating the New York Yankees when you only manage to get three hits off them.

I probably feel worst of all for Brandon Morrow because he had one hell of a game and was just making those Yankee hitters look foolish out there. That now makes back to back starts where he has tosses seven innings.

The Blue Jays have the day off today to rest up before kicking off a nine game road trip starting with the Tampa Bay Rays. Considering the Blue Jays have a better record on the road then they do at home, that's probably not a bad place for them to be right now.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Walk It Off


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I couldn't think of a more perfect way for the Toronto Blue Jays to score their first walk-off victory of the year - against the defending champion New York Yankees.

Like most fans, I was thrilled to see the Blue Jays finally put the Yankees away in the bottom of the 14th inning, but was afraid things might actually go on forever.

After about four hours sitting in sun at the Rogers Centre and my skin turning a nice hue of red, I had to retreat to the concourse to get some cover in fear that I might turn into a walking talking lobster.

Aside from the ending, it wasn't exactly the most thrilling baseball game to watch. There were three home runs hit in total, but there were about maybe seven or eight balls hit to the warning track that seemed like they were going out of the ballpark.

Ricky Romero took care of the Yankees best hitters: Mark Teixeira struck out five times, Alex Rodriguez ground into two double plays, and after compiling a 17-game hit streak, Robinson Cano was held hitless for the second straight game.

Things weren't looking very good on the Blue Jays end of the lineup either. Adam Lind was 0 for 6 with four strikeouts, and prior to his game-winning hit, Aaron Hill was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.

For the most part, I think Cito Gaston did a pretty good job of managing the team in extras, especially with the bullpen. The only criticism I had of him was a situation in the bottom of the 11th where Jose Bautisa led of the inning with a walk.

Instead of getting Alex Gonzalez to bunt Bautista up to second base, Gonzalez grounded into a double play which took away almost any chance for the Jays to score in the 11th.

The funny thing is the exact same scenario happened in the bottom of the 14th when Edwin Encarnacion led off with a walk, and then only did Cito instruct Fred Lewis to sacrifice bunt EE over to second base. That would eventually lead to the game winning hit from Aaron Hill.

So now the Blue Jays go for the sweep against the Yankees, but they definitely have an uphill battle ahead of them. After the bullpen picked up five innings of relief yesterday, the Blue Jays will be hoping that Brandon Morrow can make it through a solid 6-7 innings.

Join me for the series conclusion starting at 1pm today over at The Score Live Blog.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Burnett Chokes, Bautisa Smokes, Cecil Coasts


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It seems like history has a way of repeating itself - not only within the context of a single game, but the same stadium.

May 12th against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, A.J. Burnett goes 7.2 innings and gives up five earned runs en route to a loss. Tonight, he only makes it through six innings and gives up six earned runs and is once again charged with the loss.

I think it's now safe to say that A.J. Burnett doesn't enjoy the homecoming party.

Then we have Jose Bautista: two home runs (both off Burnett) were absolutely spectacular to watch. Both of them were hit to the third deck, but the second one in particular was a frigging moon shot that sounded like it was destroyed the second it left the bat.

I mean I haven't seen players hit that far in batting practice, let alone off a Major League pitcher like A.J. Burnett. Seriously, if you weren't voting for Jose Bautista already, you definitely should be now.

Let's not forget about Brett Cecil's incredible outing as well. He now joins the five-win club along with Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum as the five-game winners on the starting staff.

Earlier night I was fortunate enough to chat about the Blue Jays with Norman James from The Hook, and he made a great point that the tandem of Romero, Marcum, Cecil and Morrow have been absolute studs this year.

I mean, the Yankees claim to have a "core four" of starting pitchers, but this is what a core four is supposed to look like. If Brandon Morrow can just get things under control, the Blue Jays will have the best pitching staff in baseball very soon.

I dare anybody to stack those four starting pitchers up against any other staff in the major leagues, and with the exception of maybe the Tampa Bay Rays, I highly doubt you will find anybody that's better.

All in all, it's always great to beat the New York Yankees, but it's especially great when it's off of A.J. Burnett.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mound Wars Part Two: Cecil vs. Burnett


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Last year, it was a battle of epic proportions: - teacher vs. student in Mound Wars.

43,737 came out to see the embodiment of good in Obi-Roy Kenobi face the epitome of evil, Darth Burnett.

It was a thrilling climax to a long-brewing battle which saw the teacher school his former student, after Burnett turned to the dark side.

Now after Obi-Roy Kenobi sacrificed himself for the better of the Rebel Alliance, a new hero has emerged to fight off the Evil Empire once again.

His name is Brett Skywalker.

He might not realize it yet, but Brett will eventually lead the Rebels to defeat The Evil Empire. His first test comes this evening against Darth Burnett.

May the force be with Brett Cecil and the Blue Jays.

Acid Flashback Friday: John Olerud's Helmet


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As a kid, there was nothing I hated more than wearing a helmet. Although it was for my safety, at the time ... wearing a helmet simply wasn't "cool".

John Olerud however, made it cool to wear a helmet.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at former Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud and more specifically his helmet.

Personally, I can't think of any other piece of equipment in Blue Jays history that has more lustre than Johnny O's helmet.

For years, I wondered why John Olerud wore a batting helmet at first base. The story is that Olerud suffered a brain aneurysm back in 1989 during a morning workout at Washington State University. In order to avoid further injuries to the head, his doctors advised him to wear a helmet while playing the field.

Olerud recovered from the injury, but he chose to keep wearing the helmet at first base as a matter of precaution and maybe also because it was force of habit. John wore his batting helmet in the field for the duration of his major league career.

My parents in part can thank John Olerud for keeping me safe, because he encouraged me and other kids to protect their noggins - whether it was on the field, riding a bike, or participating in a backyard wrestling battle royal featuring a Dionk The Clown look alike.

Coincidentally, there is a blog out there called John Olerud's Helmet - awesome!

Remember, if you have any suggestions you'd like to see on "Acid Flashback Friday", feel free to send them to bluejayhunter@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cito's Mismatched Mismanaged Misery Continues


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Cito Gaston may be committed to the individual players, but in doing so he's alienating his team as a whole.

It appears as though his philosophy is to instill confidence by giving his players respect, and with that respect comes a very long rope. Unfortunately, sometimes that rope can very quickly turn into a noose.

It was an all too familiar scene once again last night where in my opinion, Cito Gaston mismanaged the game once again. Clinging to close 2-1 lead, Cito opts to send Shaun Marcum back out to finish the game.

Given Marcum had a fairly low pitch count to that point, but it's not like he was dominant start to finish.  Shaun Marcum has also never pitched a complete game in his career and the deepest he went into a game this year was eight and two-thirds innings, so he also had that working against him.

I wasn't exactly crazy about the decision to bring Marcum back out, but I could live with it at the time. Then he gives up two singles to lead off the ninth and Cito Gaston is still sitting on his hands hoping Shaun Marcum can work his way out of it

Now I'm not a ballplayer or anything nor do I claim to be, but if I'm Shaun Marcum and I let the first two batters get on base in a 2-1 game, I would fully expect to be pulled from the game.

Is my ego a little bruised because of it? Maybe ... but I would understand why that decision has been made - it was my own undoing. Unless you're someone like John Lackey, you're not resenting your manager for giving you the hook.

If Cito pulls Marcum from the game at that point, it's not that he doesn't have confidence in him anymore, it's that Cito wants to give his team the best chance to win the game.

The same thing goes for Kevin Gregg the night before. After the fourth walk issued to the Rays in the ninth, Cito Gaston should have taken the ball from Kevin Gregg and gone to the bullpen.

The problem was Cito used up all his bullets by using Shawn Camp and Scott Downs for less than ten pitches a piece in the prior inning, and really had no other choice but to stick with Kevin Gregg.

That's when the Blue Jays needed one last bullet in the chamber to finish off the Rays, but all they had were BB's.

You don't get any bonus points in baseball for "making your players feel good" or "sticking with your guys" because it's all measured in wins or losses. The more and more Cito Gaston is trying to show his commitment to the individuals, it's costing the Blue Jays wins.

If you listen to Bob McCown's interview with Buck Martinez from yesterday on The Fan 590, you can tell Buck is definitely on Team Cito and is a fan of keeping players in their set roles.

In fact, there are a few points where McCown and Martinez actually get pretty heated on the issue, but it sounded like the classic armchair manager vs. manager arguement.

The armchair manager says if you can tell your struggling is closing, then you pull the rug out from under them and hope the next guy can close it out. The manager essentially says you have to stick with your closer or starter because he's "your guy".

In my mind it's the equivalent of the explanation "because I said so". That's what drives me nuts about Cito's style of managing - if things are going bad, he sits back and is reactive to situations when he should be proactive.

So when a player is in a slump and they're hurting, how do you help them heal? Do you keep running them out there time after time hope they magically get better, or do you give them some time to lick their wounds?

If you're Cito Gaston, it seems like the solution is the former of the two.

I understand that the guys on the field are the ones who win and lose the ballgame, but ultimately somebody has to be held accountable for when things go wrong.

And the person who should bear the brunt is the manager: Cito Gaston.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Did Kevin Gregg get squeezed against the Rays?


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Image courtesy of Daylife
Watching Kevin Gregg collapse against the Tampa Bay Rays was one of the most painful things I've ever seen. And I've seen some painful baseball games in my short time on this earth.

I was fortunate enough to be there live last season to see the Blue Jays blow the biggest lead in club history, only to lose to ... you guessed it, the Tampa Bay Rays!

However, watching it all go down live on last night's Score live blog, I couldn't help but notice that Kevin Gregg wasn't that far off on a lot of pitches, and many if not most of them were borderline.

It begs the question: did Kevin Gregg get squeezed against the Rays? Let's take a look at the Pitch F/X and find out.

B.J. Upton - Strikeout


Kevin Gregg got the job done against B.J. Upton striking him out, but there was very close call on the second pitch of the at bat: the fastball at the knees called ball two. It's all a moot point though because Upton struck out anyway.

Evan Longoria - Walk


From what I remember, Gregg caught the edge or came very close on those fourth and sixth pitches to Evan Longoria which were both called balls. The first close one was an inside fastball, and the second close pitch was an inside cutter.

John Jaso: Walk


Here's where things start to get interesting. In this at bat to John Jaso, Kevin Gregg starts him off with a first pitch slider, followed by a couple of changeups on the lower outside corner.

As you can see, both pitches were extremely close and home plate umpire Angel Hernandez didn't waiver from his strike zone one bit.

Ben Zobrist: Walk


At this point, I'm sure Kevin Gregg's blood is just boiling. Still grasping to a two-run lead with Carl Crawford at third and Evan Longoria at second base, Gregg attempts to take care of Ben Zobrist.

He misses his locations early in the count, then delivers two borderline pitches on the opposite side of the plate about belt-high on Zobrist. As you can see from the Pitch F/X, those pitches should have been called strike two and three.

Dionner Navarro: Walk


Then just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, it did. Kevin Gregg gives up a three-run double to Sean Rodriguez. Seemingly those nerves had settled down, and all he needed to do was get the final out of the inning and hope his teammates could tie it or win it in the bottom of the ninth.

Instead, check out the placement of the first pitch offering to Dionner Navarro. A slider right there at the knees, yet it's called a ball. Then Gregg makes a couple other great pitches away from Navarro, also called balls.

Conclusion

After looking at all the aforementioned evidence, it's tough to say for certain whether or not Kevin Gregg got squeezed by home plate umpire Angel Sanchez. There were definitely a couple of borderline calls, but that's just part of the game of baseball.

Unfortunately, situations like this get magnified especially when the game is on the line. The worst thing Kevin Gregg did in that inning was walking Carl Crawford on four straight pitches to lead off the inning after striking out B.J. Upton.

Although he wasn't even the tying run, Crawford started the entire chain reaction and kept it going by stealing second base and then advancing to third on the wild throw from Gregg.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bautista's Hot Streak Continues - named Honda Player of the Month


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If Jose Bautista keeps this up, he's going to need to start wearing a flame retardant uniform.

Bautista was awarded the Blue Jays Honda Player of the Month thanks to his incredible month of May. He not only tied the franchise record for home runs in a month with 12, but he also drove in 25 runs while posting a .287 batting average and .422 on base percentage.

This award was voted on by the Toronto chapter of the BBWAA, however Bautista is still a favourite to win the American League Player of the Month award for May which hasn't been announced as of yet.

On behalf of the Bautista Appreciation Society, congratulations Jose on a job well done. Hopefully this will help him gain even more exposure and garner some more votes into the All-Star Game.

Shameless promotion alert! Don't forget to check out BallotsForBautista.com and get clicking for Jose.

Vote for Jose: Introducing BallotsForBautista.com


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Friends, readers, fellow bloggers, passers by, and anyone else who happens to land on this website ... I have a favour to ask.

The American League All-Star ballot has become overrun with Boston Red Sox and New Yankees players who are merely coasting there on reputation alone.

We need to put an end to this and vote one of our own into the 2010 All-Star Game as a starter.

Who better than MLB's home run leader, Jose Bautista?

I've created a website called BallotsForBautista.com devoted to helping the Blue Jays right fielder/backup third baseman win the starting right field position for this year's All-Star Game.

Some might say it's impossible to vote Jose Bautista into the All-Star Game. Were those the same people that said Bautista would never hit more than 15 home runs in a season again? Because they were definitely wrong about that, and they could certainly be wrong about this.

Please spread the word about BallotsForBautista.com and be sure to follow  Ballots For Bautista on Twitter for future updates.

Together we can ensure Jose Bautista makes it to the 2010 MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Thank you!

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