Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thank You, Cito


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We may have had our differences over these past few years ... but thank you, Cito.

It was an honour to be in attendance at the Rogers Centre last night among the other 33,143 who came out to pay tribute one of the most beloved managers in the history of Toronto professional sports.

This was the perfect way to send Cito off as he didn't really get a chance to say a proper goodbye last time with the Blue Jays. His departure back in 1997 may have left a bitter taste in his mouth, so I'm certain Cito was happy to leave on his own terms.

I may not have necessarily agreed with everything that Cito did and the way he did it, however I definitely admire his character. There's no question that Clarence fought for his veteran players day in and day out, and gave his pitchers exorbeted amounts of rope to help them grow.

There is no question that the Blue Jays squads managed by Cito may not have been a great breeding ground for young players looking to get playing time. The loyalty to his veterans was definitely one of Clarence's strong suits, but was also one of his biggest downfalls.

When I think of Cito Gaston, I think old school. I think he's the kind of manager that makes the younger players earn their roster spots, and they aren't entitled to play every day: instead they have to prove they have the hustle and heart to get that roster spot.

I'll be the first to admit that I was elated to find out they were bringing back Cito Gaston to manage the Blue Jays after John Gibbons was ousted mid-season in 2008. Like many fans, I associated Cito with winning and thus the golden era was set to turn to Toronto.

Last night rekindled the feeling from that golden era in which Cito managed this team to two World Series Championships and three division titles. This was Cito's swan song, and this time he left on his own account.

No matter what you think of  his managerial style, you have to respect what Cito Gaston did for this team and the city of Toronto.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three Hit Wonder


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It's been widely documented that the 2010 incarnation of the Toronto Blue Jays have not only lived by the long ball, but they have died by it as well.

While they tied the franchise high for home runs with 244 last night against the New York Yankees, they also only mustered three hits. Yes, the Jays have most dingers in the majors, but they also have the second lowest amount of hits in the American League.

They ran into a former (and possibly future) Cy Young Award winner in C.C. Sabathia and just could not get anything going. These are the kind of box scores have seen many times before this season, yet for some reason there was some solace that this time it was Sabathia and not someone like Derek Holland.

Kyle Drabek was charged with the loss, but once again he pitched well enough to win. That makes three straight quality starts in his first three games. Drabek didn't get any help from John Buck as Mike Wilner points out, and could've easily given up one earned run as opposed to three had it not been for some shotty defense behind the plate.

With that, the Blue Jays have one final chance to win the season series against the New York Yankees: something they haven't accomplished since 2000. Since 2001, the Jays have a 79-103 record versus the Bronx Bombers.

And with it being "Thank You Cito" night at the Rogers Centre, the least they could do is win it for him if not to finally beat the Yankees in a season series.

Image courtesy of Getty Images and Daylife

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome Back, Burnett


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A.J. Burnett used to enjoy the confines of pitching in the Rogers Centre. With a cushy 5 year/$55 million dollar contact under his belt in the city of Toronto, Burnett had it made in the shade.

Then he opted out of the final three years of his contract and signed a contract with the mecca of all baseball teams, the New York Yankees.

And he thought the media in Toronto was tough.

As the Blue Jays chased A.J. Burnett in just the third inning, the Yankees had to put the champagne on ice for the evening. With the loss, that now makes Burnett's record against his former team a lowly 1-4 in six starts with a 6.91 ERA since 2009.

This is arguably the most unstable number two starter on a playoff bound team in recent memory, and yet the Yankees have the task of handing him the ball in game two of the ALDS.

To further prove my point, according to STATS INC, A.J. Burnett is the first pitcher with a 15 loss season playing for a 93+ win team since Carlos Silva went 11-15 with the Twins in 2006.

Despite the general tone of this post, I don't have any bottled up disdain for A.J. Burnett whatsoever, it's just that there's something strangely satisfying about watching him crash and burn playing for the biggest franchise in all of sports.

I honestly thought the novelty of Burnett coming back to pitch at the Rogers Centre would wear off after almost two full seasons of him in pinstripes, but it never seems to get old ... even if every start isn't as epic as Halladay vs. Burnett.

As a side note, how amazing would it be to see a potential Halladay vs. Burnett 2.0 in the World Series? It's a bit of a long shot at this point, but just entertain the idea for a brief moment.

Like I said, if he thought things were tough in Toronto, now he's under the bright lights in New York.

It's only a matter of time before there's a New York Post front page story plastered with A.J. Burnett featuring some witty headline voicing displeasure with their $85 million dollar man.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My View of the 5-2 Win from Section 211


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Rather than give you a game recap of the 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles (since most of you probably saw it anyway), here are some random thoughts that entertained us in the stands and following the game:

A little group of us internet folks congregated in section 211 and I have to say it was one of the most pleasant games I've ever experienced in person. Truth be told, I was too focused on being engaged in conversations with folks in our aisle that I forgot there was a game going on down below.

I'm not sure exactly where it stemmed from, but as Navin pointed out earlier, we actually argued about whether it's pronounced "animated gif" or "animated jif". The group was split down the middle, and it was later evident by some research that it's pronounced "animated jif".

Doesn't that seem odd to you? The peanut butter JIF is pronounced that way, but it's spelt with a J. Following that discussion, we argued whether Kirk or Picard was the superior Star Fleet Commander (not really, but the nerddom was at a high where it felt like we were going in that direction).

Another observation: John McDonald had 3 RBI's? We talked about how his choice to use Ants Marching by Dave Matthews Band as his walkup music is probably the least intimidating choice out there. Giana from I'll See You in 518 explained there's some sort of Johnny Mac/Dave Matthews connection, but I couldn't quite recall what it was.

Later in the evening, BK Blades told me there's a dish in Cleveland named "Johnny Mac and Cheese". The Tao noted it's probably mediocre macaroni, while the cheese sauce is likely superb.

Archi got a Jason Frasor autographed ball, but not before the lovely member of the JayForce looked him in the eye and tossed it right to him. Could the seed have been planted for another Jayte? I think so!

We were pleasantly surprised to see that EffieJP came  through and brought her Bautista Appreciation Society sign to the game, as well as a Snider Appreciation Society Sign "Where Meats Don't Clash". Epic!

Following the game, Navin and I talked about the three big holes that need to be addressed by the Blue Jays in the offseason, which are first base, third base and corner outfield (more specifically right field). Basically, it all hinges on whether Lyle Overbay comes back next year.

If he does, then the framework basically stays the same. But if Overbay walks, then either Lind needs to move to first or the Jays need to sign someone like Carlos Pena to fill the gap. Either way, it's going to be an even crazier offseason this year than it was in 2009.

And if  you ever see Drew from Ghostrunner on First at the Jays game, be sure to inconspicuously order him a Bud Light Lime as Meredith did. He thinks its a very refreshing beverage.

In case you were wondering, eyebleaf totally looks like Jose Bautista. Not only do the folks at Subway think so, but also a couple of drunken shirtless guys walking down Bremner carrying a Bud Light Lime umbrella they just happened to swipe from the bar we were at.

"Is that Jose Bautista?" the one guy screamed. The table erupted in laughter and while eyebleaf insisted it wasn't JoBau, the rest of us were trying to sell it. "Yeah, he just came from the game - and he's still wearing his Jays hat, too!".

All in all it was a great game with some folks from the internets and it just goes to show you that when our parents let us out of the basement for the afternoon, we can all unite together for our love of the Toronto Blue Jays.

And no matter what anybody says, I'm still calling it "gif".

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How the BAS (Bautista Appreciation Society) Was Born


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Prior to 2010, Jose Bautista was arguably an under appreciated and often unheralded member of the Toronto Blue Jays roster. Now with 52 home runs, there's no way anyone isn't appreciating the kind of season he's having right now.

Before Bautista was playing everyday and crushing home runs to left field at a record pace this season, there was a small collective that was indebted for all that Jose did: the Bautista Appreciation Society.

For those who have ever wondered where the Bautista Appreciation Society was born, please allow me to provide you with a little BAS background.

It all stemmed from this post on the Tao of Stieb back on July 22nd of 2009. It was following a disappointing 2-1 loss at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

Seeking a silver lining in the loss, I commented how Jose Bautista had a great arm and could be part of a great defensive outfield core for the Blue Jays.

They may not have realized it at the time, but the very next anonymous commenter chimed in with the phrase that would begin this whole crazy collective:
"Yes. The Bautista Appreciation Society has arrived. He's made some great plays in the outfield this year."
Now, with it being the internet and all, it was tough to tell whether or not that person was being sarcastic or serious. I took it as the latter, and eyebleaf himself quickly jumped on board:
"The Bautista Appreciation Society? Where do I sign up for that shit? More importantly, where does Drew sign up for that shit?"
From that point onward, the BAS spiraled out of control. I can't quite put my finger on what made me enjoy Jose Bautista as a player, but there was something about him that made Bautista very likable.

I guess in a way, he reminded me of a Dominican John McDonald: an Average Joe with above average defense just looking to get some playing time.

He wasn't a huge offensive threat, yet his defensive versatility to play both third base and the outfield was a big selling point. I think the very first thing that drew me in was his cannon for an arm. He played 84 games in the outfield with the Blue Jays in 2009 and had 11 assists.

As you can tell, I tend to latch onto certain players and claim them as unofficial heroes for this blog (see Scott Richmond), and Jose Bautista just so happens to fall into that category as well.

Whether Jose Bautista hit 50 home runs this season or whether he hit 10 makes no difference. Your favourite players are your favourite players no matter what. You stick with them through thick and thin, and ride high with them when things are going well.

It just so happens for the BAS that this season has been a six-month long roller coaster ride with no signs of stopping. Next season, we'll find out who the true Bautista Appreciation Society members are.

In the meantime, I invite anyone to join the BAS and encourage everyone to enjoy this amazing ride of a season together.

BAS 4 Life, indeed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Acid Flashback Friday: George Bell's 47 Home Run Season


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Up until yesterday, it was a record that had stood for nearly 23 years. It was something that was so prolific in Blue Jays history, it felt like nobody would ever even come close to matching it.

Of course, I'm talking about George Bell's 47 home run season in 1987: this week's feature on Acid Flashback Friday.

By no means am I trying to discount what George Bell did back in 1987. It's just that Jose Bautista made 50 home runs look effortless, but Bell had to fight his way tooth and nail to 47 home runs.

One of the obstacles George Bell had to overcome was hitting in Exhibition Stadium. Personally, I'm not familiar whether it was a hitter-friendly park or not, but I imagine those winds off Lake Erie Ontario didn't help the ball carry over the fence. That's evident by his 19 home runs hit at Exhibition Stadium compared to 28 hit on the road.

Also, Bell was single handedly trying to keep the Blue Jays offense afloat the final weeks of the season as the team was decimated with injuries to starters like Tony Fernandez and Ernie Whitt.

He had a phenomenal first half of the season with 29 home runs by the All-Star break, but like most players he lost momentum in the second half and hit 18 home runs the rest of the way. In fact, George Bell was held homer-less in his final 40 at bats of the 1987 season.

George Bell and Jose Bautista may be fellow countrymen from the Dominican Republic, and now they have something else in common: they are the top two single season home run leaders in Blue Jays history.

I'm sure it's tough for George Bell to see that broken record after holding that title for 23 years, but I'm sure there's nobody he'd rather have break it than Jose Bautista.

George Bell's MVP season still lives on as one of the biggest by any player who has ever donned a Blue Jays uniform, and those 47 home runs in 1987 won't soon be forgotten.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

50 Jacks, 50 Facts: Breaking Down Bautista's Home Runs


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Congratulations once again to Jose Bautista for reaching the 50 home run plateau and becoming the first Blue Jay ever to celebrate this incredible milestone.

While our beloved Bautista has already made history, it's hard to believe there are still 10 games left in the schedule and thus ample time for him to continue to add to his tally.

Reaching 50 home runs in a single season is definitely cause for celebration, and in honour of Bautista's 50 home runs, here are 50 facts about 50 of his jacks.

Home Run Splits
  1. 31 Home runs at home
  2. 19 home runs on the road
  3. 43 home runs off righties
  4. 7 home runs off lefties
Home Runs By Opponent
  1. Favourite targets: Josh Beckett (2), Brad Bergesen (2) A.J. Burnett (2), Darren O’Day (2), John Lackey (2), Kevin Millwood (2), James Shields (2), Kevin Slowey (2)
  2. Favourite teams target: Boston (8), Baltimore (7), New York (6)
Home Runs By Count
  1. 0-0 count home runs: 7
  2. 0-1 count home runs: 8
  3. 0-2 count home runs: zero
  4. 1-0 count home runs: 5
  5. 2-0 count home runs: 4
  6. 3-0 count home runs: 2
  7. 1-1 count home runs: 7
  8. 1-2 count home runs: 3
  9. 2-1 count home runs: 5
  10. 2-2 count home runs: 4
  11. 3-2 count home runs: 4
Types of Home Runs
  1. Solo home runs: 23
  2. 2-run home runs: 19
  3. 3-run home runs: 7
  4. Grand Slams: 1
  5. Inside the park home runs: 1
Home Runs By Batting Position
  1. Home runs batting 3rd in lineup: 31
  2. Home runs batting 7th in lineup: 10
  3. Home runs batting 6th in lineup: 4
  4. Home runs batting 5th in lineup: 3
  5. Home runs batting 4th in lineup: 1
  6. Home runs batting 1st in lineup: 1
Home Runs By Pitch Type
  1. Four-seam fastball home runs: 27
  2. Two-seam fastball home runs: 6
  3. Slider home runs: 7
  4. Sinker home runs: 3
  5. Changeup home runs: 2
  6. Curveball home runs: 3
  7. Cutter home runs: 2
Situational Home Runs
  1. Home runs hit with nobody out: 18
  2. Home runs hit with 1 out: 16
  3. Home runs hit with 2 out: 16
  4. Home runs early in game (1st to 6th inning): 33
  5. Home runs late (7th inning or later): 17
  6. Go ahead home runs: 18
  7. Game tying home runs: 2
  8. Game winning home runs: 3
  9. Home runs before the All-Star Break: 24
  10. Home runs after the All-Star Break: 26 *club record*
  11. Home runs during day games: 13
  12. Home runs during night games: 37
  13. Home runs leading off an inning: 10
  14. Home runs starting in right field: 33
  15. Home runs starting at third base: 17

Look Who's 50! (Jose Bautista)


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It's a glorious day for the Bautista Appreciation Society and Blue Jays fans alike as Jose Bautista hit his 50th home run of the season off Felix Hernandez.

It was a solo shot to left field (surprise, surprise), which now makes that Bautista's 23rd solo home run of the season. Put that together with 19 2-run home runs, 7 3-run home runs and a grand slam, that gives us 50 glorious Bautista Bombs on the year.

Congratulations to Jose Bautista for reaching this incredible milestone.

#BAS 4 LIFE!

The Trouble With Tallet


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The image above is something we've become all too familiar with this season: Cito Gaston leans on his lanky left hander Brian Tallet and more often than not, things get ugly.

There's no denying he's had a rough season, but the more I think about it, I'm starting to think Brian Tallet is the victim of bad circumstances. If Tallet is the one to dig his own grave, Cito Gaston is certainly the one who hands him the shovel.

How many times has Tallet unnecessarily come out for a second or third inning when there's a bullpen full of well-rested arms just waiting to get some work?

Just one run away from tying the game, there were a slew of options yet Cito Gaston chose to go with Brian Tallet.

It's especially frustrated when there are guys like Josh Roenicke, Rommie Lewis and even Taylor Buchholz who are just itching to get some innings. These are players who could possibly be key cogs in the future of the Blue Jays bullpen, and yet they're sitting on their hands watching from afar.

If this situation feels familiar it's because we experienced it with Brandon League last season. The manager seemingly became fixated on League and would give him ample rope which he would proceed to hang himself with.

Don't get me wrong, Brian Tallet seems like a great clubhouse guy and he did exactly what was expected of him last season and earlier this year as a member of the starting rotation. I think the coaching staff knew he was predominantly an interim solution as an innings eater.

Brian Tallet is killing left-handed pitching this season holding them to a .181 batting average, but Cito isn't playing off that strength and using him as a LOOGY: he's keeping Tallet in there multiple inninngs.

When the manager inserts Brian Tallet into high leverage situations, he tempts fate just one too many times. You have to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em.

Unfortunately for Cito Gaston, I'm sure his card playing abilities are just about as sharp as his bullpen management skills.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Meatballs Don't Clash


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There's no question that when presented with any cut of meat, Travis Snider will lovingly devour it. So it was appropriate when Snider tore into a couple of meatballs offered up by Luke French in the Blue Jays 5-3 win over the Mariners.

Travis Snider was long overdue for a big game, and it finally arrived ... as did his multi-meat celebratory nacho plate in the Blue Jays clubhouse following the victory.

In his first at bat, Snider stung one right to Chone Figgins at second base. In the second inning, Snider laced another one but it got a little too much hang time and he lined out once again.

Two at bats, two extremely loud outs and nothing to show for it.

Finally in his third attempt Travis Snider was not cheated whatsoever and launched one into the stands in right-centre field. From the instant the ball was launched, there was no doubt it was destined to be a souvenir.

Although it wasn't quite the battle in terms of pitches thrown, the home run itself was reminiscent of Snider's epic at bat verus Rich Harden earlier this season. More than the impressive visual, was the sound of the home run.

To me, there's nothing sweeter than the sound of the ball coming off the bat of Travis Snider. On the scale of audible masterpieces, it ranks somewhere in between Beethoven's 5th Symphony and Journey's Don't Stop Believing.

This season has undoubtedly been a struggle for Travis Snider, but thankfully unlike his counterpart J.P. Arencibia, Travis is actually seeing some late-season playing time to work out the kinks in his game.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where Will Bautista's 50th Home Run Land?


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Incredibly, Jose Bautista is poised to be the first slugger to crack 50 home runs in a single season since Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder both cleared 50 home runs in 2007.

While Bautista aims to hit that milestone within the confines of the Rogers Centre at some point this week, the million dollar question is ...where should folks sit if they want to grab the coveted 50th home run ball?

Right off the bat you can rule out any shots to right field, but I think it would be hilarious if Jose Bautista made his 50th home run an opposite field shot just to make a statement.

There's a line of about seven home runs which stretch from section 136 to section 241, so being on either the first or second deck in that area is a wise choice.

Another place to check out is a cluster of three home runs hit to the second deck in section 242. Folks sitting there this week better be prepared for potential  Bautista Bombs, and although it's a cardinal sin for adults to bring a ball glove to a baseball game, this is certainly an exception.

Finally, two other sections worth sitting in this week are 138 and 139. More than six home runs have cleared the fence in that section, so be prepared for number 50 if you have seats in that area.

To whomever grabs Jose Bautista's 50th home run ball, be forewarned that you have the difficult decision to make whether or not to hand the ball back to the Blue Jays or not.

While it's morally the right thing to do, I can see Bautista hitting more than 50 dingers so that particular ball may not be of great importance to him anyway. Jose said last week that the record-breaking 48th home run ball has been sent home with his father in the Dominican Republic.

Best of luck snagging Jose Bautista's 50th home run ball, folks!

Snap, Crackle, Pop: Jose Bautista's Plate Appearance Outcomes


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When Jose Bautista steps into the batter's box, typically one of three things will happen: Snap (home run), Crackle (walk), or Pop (pop up).

Rather than just assume Jose Bautista only either hits bombs, draws walks, or pops up to the infield, I wanted to see if the aforementioned statement had any validity to it.

Below is a pie chart breaking down all of 629 of Jose Bautista's plate appearances this season thus far.


Strikeouts: 106 (16.9%) The first thing that obviously jumps out is Bautista's strikeout rate, which is expected for your prototypical slugger. However, it is much lower than perennial power hitters such as Carlos Pena (27.2 percent) or Adam Dunn (29.8 percent).

Walks: 95 (15.1%) Next in the chart are Bautista's 95 walks, which already eclipse Marco Scutaro's 90 walk season from 2009. Jose is almost a sure bet to clear 100 walks this season, and has done wonders to help increase his on base percentage by 120 points over his batting average.

Ground Ball Outs: 94 (14.9%) Ground ball outs are next, and honestly I cannot remember a single instance where Jose Bautista grounded out. Maybe it's because they seem insignificant at the time, but I can never picture him running down the first base line and then returning to the Blue Jays dugout.

Fly Ball Outs: 89 (14.1%) There aren't really any surprises here when it comes to the total percentage of fly balls hit by Jose Bautista. All it takes is a fraction of a second to turn that fly ball into a home run and vice versa, so obviously lots of batted balls will land in the glove of the opposing outfielders.

Pop Up Outs: 66 (10.9%) Compared to league average, this number is especially high - even for a slugger. Carlos Pena only has 20 pop ups and Adam Dunn only has 30. I'm not sure if it has to do with the swing trajectory of Jose Bautista that is causing so many pop ups.

Singles: 53 (8.4%) Much like the ground outs, I have a very tough time recalling any singles hit by Jose Bautista in the 2010 season. Luckily, he has more singles than home runs, which was a topic of discussion related to Carlos Pena last year.

Home Runs: 49 (7.6%) It's incredible to think that once every ten at bats or so, Jose Bautista is going to launch a bomb into the stands. His 10.7 at bat per home run ratio is unprecedented and subsequently leads the major leagues. In fact, it's the lowest by any hitter since Ryan Howard's 10 AB/HR in the year 2007.

Even more impressive, let's not forget that Bautista has an inside the park home run to his name, another pseudo inside the parker which was ruled a true home run, and he also scored from third on an error ... so in my mind, that constitutes as three inside the park home runs.

Doubles: 32 (4.9%) Vernon Wells may be the doubles king on the squad with 41, but Bautista places a very respectable third place on the team with 32. Much like his tendency to hit home runs to left field, Bautista mostly hits his doubles down the third base line or to the left-centre gap.

When it all comes down to it, ultimately we can analyze the numbers at naseum but here are the cold hard facts: 59.4 percent of the time Jose Bautista will not reach base, but that means 40.6 percent of the time he will reach base.

In a sport where the league's best hitters are lucky to reach base around 37 percent of the time, Jose Bautista is definitely meeting and exceeding the definition of a consistent hitter.

Bautista's 2010 campaign has been a perfect storm for every aspect of his hitting game play: from his ability to coax walks, to hitting monster home runs. At first glance, his home run total may jump off the page, but Jose Bautista definitely isn't a one trick pony.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Jose Bautista Home Run Song


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First there was the audio and visual tribute to Jose Bautista's 48 record-breaking bombs, and now comes the video portion of the program.
 
Here's "Boom Boom Bautista " AKA The Jose Bautista Home Run Song courtesy of Kathy Anderson - the brainchild behind other Blue Jays centric hits "The Doc Halladay Song" and "The Blue Jays Rap".

The hits just keep on coming from KJ since last season, and this latest video definitely receives high marks from the Bautista Appreciation Society.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Audio and Visual Tribute to Jose Bautista's 48 Home Runs


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Click image to enlarge
Unfortunately this tribute is about a day too late since Jose Bautista already hit his 49th home run of the season, but here it is nonetheless.

It's an audio and visual 48 Bomb Salute to Jose Bautista breaking the single season home run record in Blue Jays franchise history and to honour this incredible feat.

There is a screencap for each and every of the 48 home runs, from his first of the season on April 11th against Kevin Millwood, to the record-breaking bomb off Michael Bowden this past Friday night.

And for the audio portion of this tribute to Jose Bautista, relive the magic from all those Bautista Bombs with the audio from all of Buck Martinez' home run calls set to Jose Bautista's walk-up music.

There isn't a better guy this could have happened to this season, so congratulations to Jose Bautista for breaking George Bell's franchise record for home runs in a single season.



Images courtesy of MLB.com. Audio courtesy of MLB.com.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jose Bautista is the Blue Jays Home Run King


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Who ever thought that we would be crowning Jose Bautista is the all-time Blue Jays home run king? I certainly didn't.

Congratulations to Jose Bautista for breaking the franchise single season record by blasting his 48th home run of the year last night against the Boston Red Sox.

With just over two weeks left in the schedule, Bautista will almost certainly add to that total and will probably even clear the 50 home run plateau.

I'll have a much more in depth blog post coming later this evening which will be accompanied by a very special visual tribute to the 48 Bautista Bombs this season.

In the meantime, let's rejoice that Jose Bautista has rewritten the history books and is now the Blue Jays season leader in home runs.

Yes way, Jose.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Acid Flashback Friday: David Wells Sports Some 1992 Fashions


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Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Other times, all you need is three words: WTF.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at David Wells displaying the epitome of baseball player fashion at 1992 Blue Jays Spring Training.

Let's check out the ensemble from top to bottom: first of all, he's wearing a Philadelphia Eagles cap at Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training camp.

I imagine "street clothes" for Major League baseball players were much more relaxed than it is today. Can you even imagine a Blue Jays player today donning a sports logo other than the Blue Jays?

Next is a Pepsi T-Shirt featuring Ray Charles that says "You got the Right One, Baby ... Uh Huh".

Apparently it was Pepsi's slogan at the time and Ray Charles was the unofficial spokesperson. Just in case you think that may be your eyes deceiving you, that's right - a technicolour T-Shirt with Ray Charles on it. If that's not irony, I don't know what is.

David Wells follows that number with some psychedelic shorts made of what appears to be the remnants of a Magic Eye book.

Lastly, he caps it all off with some sneakers which may or may not be Lynxes. I myself had a pair of Lynx sneakers back in the day, and fortunately only the kids who wore them even know what Lynx shoes are.

I always love looking back on pictures like this of David Wells because it really makes me wonder how he went from the svelte version of his 1992 self, to the photo below.

Damn you, donuts!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

CitoCity Claims Several Casualties


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Image courtesy of @GarrettBauman
Some people might call it complete madness, but Toronto Blue Jays fans are all too familiar with the architect behind "CitoCity".

As a manager with just 16 games left in his tenure, Cito Gaston's decisions continue to boggle the minds of fans and analysts alike. His old school baseball mentality and loyalty to his veteran players is not only his biggest strength, but his biggest weakness as well.

With a team like the Toronto Blue Jays which is very heavy on young talent, the manager has struggled to push the development of his younger players and instead has leaned predominantly on the veterans.

CitoCity has claimed many casualties along the way, but these are perhaps the biggest victims:

J.P. Arencibia

Within the organization, there's nothing more frustrating right now than stalling the development of this franchise's catcher of the future. And that's exactly what Cito Gaston is doing with J.P. Arencibia.

J.P. Arencibia has not started a game behind the plate since August 18th, and has a grand total of four at bats in the month of September.

Just in case you wanted an explanation for the lack of playing time, Cito Gaston announces on Wednesday that John Buck will get the majority of the playing time behind the plate because he wants his number one catcher to reach 20 home runs. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

I understand that the manager really wants to be loyal to John Buck and let him play out the season, but why does it matter when neither Buck nor Cito will be here next season ... yet J.P. Arencibia is wasting away on the bench.

So who is Cito Gaston really trying to help out here: John Buck or the Toronto Blue Jays?

Then just a few weeks prior, Gaston says he doesn't plan on using Arencibia against playoff contenders because he wants to field his best team to play against the likes of the Bostons and New Yorks.

What the hell does that matter? You can't protect JPA from the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays forever ... eventually, he's going to have to hit against them.

Travis Snider

Moving onto our next victim of CitoCity, it's none other than Travis Snider. Recently, Snider has escaped the clutches of CitoCity for one reason or another. Methinks it had to do with Alex Anthopoulos having a stern talk to the manager about playing the team's prized outfielder every day.

If it were entirely up to Cito Gaston, he'd still be platooning Fred Lewis and Travis Snider in left field. It's funny because earlier in the season we were begging the manager to move Snider up in the lineup, and now we're begging him to just pencil Snider in the lineup in the first place.

Much like the situation with J.P. Arencibia, by refusing to make Travis Snider an everyday player, Cito Gaston is inherently delaying Snider's development in the big leagues while he continues to accrue service time. 

Jeremy Accardo

I suspect this one has a little bit to do with the front office politics as well, but both Jeremy Accardo and Cito Gaston have not made their feelings for each other a secret. Accardo feels he was lied to, and for some reason or another the manager just does not like him.

You have to feel for a guy who was signed to a $1 million dollar contract at the beginning of the season and thought all this drama was behind him, only to encounter it all over again like some horrible sequel reminiscent of "The Hills Have Eyes 2".

Since Cito was so enamored with other members of the bullpen these past few seasons, Accardo rarely saw any playing time. When you come to the ballpark and are almost certain you're not going to pitch that day, I can't imagine it makes for a great work environment.

Randy Ruiz

There's no question in my mind that Randy Ruiz was poised for a breakout season in 2010. Unfortunately, he  had to fight tooth and nail just to make it onto the Opening Day roster ... but that was not the highest mountain Ruiz would have to climb.

Cito Gaston's reluctance to platoon Lyle Overbay or even give him or Adam Lind the day off meant Randy Ruiz' at bats were few and far between. In the first month and a half of the season, Ruiz only started seven games and collected a grand total of 62 at bats.

Even as a bench player, how can you be expected to be effective at the plate when you're lucky if you get to swing a bat even once a week?

In Conclusion

If Cito Gaston wasn't under the protected wing of Paul Beeston following last year's clubhouse mutiny, there's no way he comes back to manage for the 2010 season.

I suspect Alex Anthopoulos wanted to fast track the search for a new manager, but decided to pick his battles wisely and instead let this one go the way of the President since Cito was walking at the end of 2010 anyway.

The managing style of Cito Gaston may have worked very well during the veteran-laden lineups from the Blue Jays golden era, but this is an entirely different team that needs to be managed with a much more aggressive approach.

The Cito Gaston Farewell Tour officially comes to an end on Sunday October 3rd in Minnesota, and you can rest assured I will honour him with a slow clap; but not because it will be the end of an era, because it will be the dawn of a new one.

Deliver Us From Drabek


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It didn't quite live up to the hype of Strasmas, but hey ... I'll take Drabekkuh any day.

Kyle Drabek's big league debut was fairly successful and for a guy making his very first start in the Major Leagues, he didn't seem all that nervous. The Baltimore Orioles collected 9 hits off Drabek through 6 innings of work, and he fanned five.

After giving up two leadoff singles to start the game and then the runners advancing on a double steal, Drabek could have easily lost his composure in the first inning. But he kept his cool and remained fairly consistent the rest of the game.

Kyle Drabek's downfall was that he got behind in the count way too often. Out of the 27 batters he faced, Drabek was behind in the count 1-0 a total of 15 times. He also surrendered three first pitch singles, but got ahead of opposing hitters 0-1 a total of 8 times.

It's difficult to nitpick Drabek's debut because it was the very first of what are hopefully many more starts to come in the future. Even though he's pegged as a power pitcher, the most lethal part of his pitch repertoire was what Pat Tabler referred to as a "spike curve".

You could tell from the replays that some of the Orioles had an extremely tough time picking up the curveball (especially the lefties) and were swinging at it just above the dirt. It's a phenomenal strikeout pitch and I can see him having a tremendous amount of success with that pitch in the future.

All in all, it was a pretty great debut for the Blue Jays number one prospect. kyle Drabek didn't really blow anybody away a la Stephen Stasburg, but he was no slouch either. Of course, it would've helped if his teammates picked him up for a few runs, but that's another story altogether.

Welcome to the big leagues Kyle Drabek, glad to have you along for the ride.

Just a piece of advice you might want to pass onto your pops: by the looks of his wardrobe, it looks like he's been hanging out with Buck Martinez.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drunk on Drabek


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Later this evening, most of us will be drooling over Kyle Drabek in his big league debut (those who get Sportsnet One at least), and admittedly one can't help but be drunk on Drabek.

The move to bring up Drabek seemingly came out of nowhere, especially considering Alex Anthopoulos hinted most of the season that the Blue Jays highly touted prospect would remain in the minor leagues this year.

While I'm thrilled to see Kyle Drabek toss for the Blue Jays tonight, forgive me if I'm a little apprehensive from this news. In my mind, there's nothing wrong with coddling your most prized prospect.

Drabek tossed 162 innings in New Hampshire this season, plus another six in the playoffs which makes 168 total innings. He threw 158 innings last year in the Phillies farm system, which makes a 6.3 percent increase in innings from 2009 to 2010.

If we're using the Verducci Effect as a benchmark, then Kyle Drabek should be safe to throw another 20 innings or so over the course of his three scheduled starts with the Blue Jays.

After that evidence was presented, I'm not quite as worried about Drabek blowing out his arm since he really isn't getting stretched out that much more compared to 2009. Personally, I'm about 50 percent nervous and 50 percent excited in anticipation of his very first start.

As the organization's most prized possession in the minors, the Blue Jays are best to treat Kyle Drabek with kid gloves. At the same time though, it's not a bad idea to parade Drabek out there for the fans and the stockholders to get a preview of what's to come from a guy who just so happens to be the son of a former Cy Young Award Winner.

Luckily for the Blue Jays, that kind of trait is passed down through the family bloodline ... right? I guess we'll find out soon enough with Kyle Drabek and in about 20 years when Braden and Ryan Halladay start pitching in the majors.

In the grand scheme of things, this one start that isn't going to make or break Kyle Drabek. Whether he throws a no-hitter or gets yanked in the top of the first inning, it's all pretty inconsequential when it comes to the big picture of his career with this team.

That being said, it's nice to see the one of the prospects from the Roy Halladay deal paying dividends less than a year after the trade went down.

In a way, I guess you can say Doc passed the proverbial torch over to Kyle Drabek ... even if that means he can't pick it up and run with it for a few more years.

Image courtesy of Pat & Christin

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lessons from the 2nd Annual BJH Fantasy Baseball League


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First off, I'd like to thank all the participants in this year's BJH Fantasy Baseball League. This year there was an unprecedented 20 teams, and it definitely made for very interesting season. Also, congratulations to the Top 8 teams who made it through to the playoffs.

Unfortunately, yours truly didn't make it through to the post-season, just narrowly missing a playoff spot by five games. There were many lessons learned throughout the season, and here are a few tidbits of advice I'd like to share for the future.

In a tied match, the tiebreaker is winning percentage

Honestly, I never expected there to be a tied match in the first round of the playoffs, but it turns out we had two. After checking the rules, the tiebreaker in a tied match in the playoffs goes to the team with the better winning percentage during the regular season. Who knew?

The more the merrier, but the more the tougher to get into the playoffs

As I mentioned earlier, I missed the postseason by a mere five games, but incredibly there were three teams ahead of me with better records who also narrowly missed out on going through to the next round.

With 20 teams involved, the margin of error is very slim and that final few weeks of play can prove detrimental to your play down the stretch. Take it from a guy who went 2-10 in his final week.

Don't grab your catcher with your 4th last pick

As much as I preach not to do it, I always leave one starting position until the very end. This year it just so happened to be the catching position, and I reluctantly picked up Kelly Shoppach with my fourth last draft choice.

Needless to say, my catching position was a revolving door for the remainder of the season. After Kelly Shoppach it was Ivan Rodriguez for a few months, followed by Ronny Paulino (who was suspended 50 games for PED use) and I finally settled in A.J. Pierzynski.

Don't undervalue starting pitching

Out of all of my opening day starting pitchers, only two of them survived the purge: Cole Hamels and Johan Santana. Even with those two solid starters, I still struggled the remainder of the season to gain some semblance of a decent pitching staff.

Especially in a league with 10 or more teams, no position is more recycled than starting pitchers. Watch the waiver wire like a hawk and don't be afraid to give up on struggling starters if they fail to produce within the first two months of the season.

Age after beauty

I'm not saying that younger players are necessarily better, but they have a tendency to bounce back from injuries and also kick themselves out of slumps quicker than your grizzled veterans.

Take a look at the age of some of my starters: A.J. Pierzynski (33), David Ortiz (34), Vladimir Guerrero (35), Derrek Lee (35), Raul Ibanez (38). While I didn't realize it on draft day, my roster was the fantasy baseball team equivalent of Wild Hogs.

Buy low, sell high

Again, this is another instance where I didn't follow my own advice, but it's something that probably could have improved my fantasy team vastly throughout the season. If you have a player on your roster that's playing over their head, sell high.

What goes up, must come down. In the case of Ubaldo Jimenez, he was 13-4 with a 1.15 ERA after the first three months of the season and it was arguably his high water mark. Since then, Jimenez has been 5-5 with a 4.45 ERA.

As an owner, it's difficult to judge where exactly that high water mark might be for your players, but don't be afraid to listen to offers.

On that same token, buying low is another great strategy ... especially on the waiver wire. It's a low risk/high reward game plan that could pay dividends in the future. And if it doesn't, just cut the player loose and find another one.

Once again, thanks to all this year's participants in the 2nd Annual BJH Fantasy Baseball League, and I look forward to doing it next year as well and watching my team tank down the stretch.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Nice Little Sunday


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All things considered, Adam Lind had a nice little Sunday planned yesterday.

He went to bat against Rafael Soriano, maybe hit a walk-off home run, stuff like that. Maybe hit up the Loose Moose afterward for a couple of celebratory pitchers ... but I'm not sure if he had time.

There was something about Adam Lind's walk-off home run that reminded me of the second last home game of the season from last year on September 26th against the Seattle Mariners.

Both were walk-off wins courtesy of Lind's bat and both were inconsequential victories pertaining to the standings, but they were moral victories more than anything.

While the Blue Jays have boasted a powerful lineup of hitters that can go yard at any time, it feels like they have lacked that killer instinct. When the game is tied or they're down by a few runs late in the game, you don't get that sense of urgency to score runs that you might experience with teams like the Yankees or the Rays.

However, the past few games this has been a Toronto Blue Jays squad that has not rolled over and played dead. Take Friday for example: they closed a seven run defecit after their starter gave up six runs in the very first inning.

Yesterday was a similar situation late in the game as was Friday's: Kevin Gregg allowed the winning run to cross the plate. Except the second time around, the Blue Jays didn't just flame out by striking out in the bottom of the frame.

It's another one of those intangibles that won't show up in the boxscore, but it's something the Blue Jays have been marketing all season long: hustle and heart. 

It may be 143 games into the schedule, yet it appears as though the Jays are finally showing signs of both.

Image courtesy of Daylife and AP

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My View of the 9-8 Loss from Section 130C


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They came, they saw, they almost overcame a seven run deficit, but they came up just a tad short. It certainly was one hell of a way to lose a ball game.

Thanks to the graciousness of The Man with the Golden Arm from 1 Blue Jays Way, I was able to take in last night's contest at the Rogers Centre. Now while all our stories from our different perspectives may differ slightly, this is my view of the 9-8 loss from Section 130C.

Right out of the gate, we were delayed in traffic for about 45 minutes. Long enough to hear that Brett Cecil gave up a six-spot in the top of the first inning. Luckily, the Blue Jays got one back in the bottom of the frame thanks to an Evan Longoria error.

So I meet Mr. Golden Arm and we proceed to our seats and I discover it's in Section 130C, the very last section on field level on the left field side. I'm convinced the seat choice was for heckling purposes, and it was.

I have to say, I was quite impressed on the amount of dirt he was able to dig up on Carl Crawford. Things pertaining to college scholarships, his middle name, marital status of his parents, stuff that really hits at the core of these major league players.

Considering the score of the ball game when we walked into the Rogers Centre (which was 8-1 by the way), there was an air that something was going to happen tonight. Whether it was someone from our entourage getting tossed or the Blue Jays pulling out a killer victory, I wasn't quite sure at that point.

Brett Cecil did not have his usual Houdini act going and was yanked after he walked Rocco Baldelli to begin the third inning. At that point, if Cito Gaston was going to put in Brian Tallet, the Blue Jays may as well have waved the white flag.

Luckily, it was Josh Roenicke who got the call and he did a phenomenal job as the long man of the night. 3 innings of work and only one real mistake, a solo home run from B.J. Upton. I remember it being a tower shot to the second deck because Travis Snider didn't even budge from his position in left field once the ball was hit.

But that's where things suddenly got very interesting.

Snider leads off the bottom of the frame with a double and then advances to third base on Yunel Escobar's single. Following that, Jose Bautista has an epic at bat against James Shields where he throws 15 pitches and Jose fouls off 11 of them.

We were all anticipating a Bautista Bomb, but he flies out to medium depth right field but Brian Butterfield sends Snider on the sac fly anyway and he's out by a mile at home plate. Apparently Snider misinterpreted the signs as Butterfield only wanted Snider to fake running to home.

The following inning, Jose Bautista gets that much deserved Bautista Bomb on an 84 MPH inside changeup. Off the bat, it sounded like it was going to be a long fly out, but with the roof open it had the carry to make it all the way to the second deck. Suddenly, this game just got even more interesting.

Onto the seventh inning, and John Buck leads off with an opposite field solo shot and gets the Blue Jays within two runs of the Rays. Then the unthinkable happened: Jose Bautista saved us ... again. Yet another two run home run ties it up. It's safe to say we were losing our shit in Section 130C.

Honestly, it took me a good full inning to finally settle down from that. It had the same feeling when he hit that go ahead home run against the Yankees back on August 23rd. Now I'm not saying there's a pattern going on here, but that's now two games in a row that Golden Arm and I have attended where Bautista has hit two bombs a piece.

At this point, the atmosphere is palitable within the Rogers Centre. The crowd was only 14,305 strong, but it's a loud 14,305. Rally towels are waving like crazy and the momentum is on the Blue Jays side.

Shawn Camp is the next reliever to make an appearance and it's safe to say it didn't go well. It was very uncharacteristic of him to give up back to back walks, but there were two out when Jason Barltett stepped into the box.

He lines one through the right field side, and Aaron Hill makes a diving stab and fires to Overbay to rob Bartlett of a hit. I was so anamoured with Hill at that point, that I proclaimed I forgave him for missing that ground ball during Brandon Morrow's near no-hitter.

We progress to the ninth and the beloved Blue Jays closer comes into the game, and suddenly an argument errupts in our section as to the merits of Kevin Gregg. One camp says he sucks, the other praises his ability. One thing was for sure, you always get your money's worth during a Kevin Gregg outing.

First batter: Carl Crawford. our target for verbal fodder all evening. He proceeds to fly out to begin the ninth inning and we feel as though our job is complete. Then another requirement of a Kevin Gregg outing, a walk. No big deal. Then Carlos Pena walks ... okay, starting to get a little nervous here.

This is where things start to go down the tubes: what appeared to be a double play was botched by either Yunel Escobar or Kevin Gregg covering at first base. It looked like Escobar had plenty of time, but he either side-armed it first or the throw was off-line entirely.

Here we are in the bottom of the ninth inning, and frankly I'm shocked that nobody in our section has been tossed yet. Heckles are flowing freely in the direction of Carl Crawford, however nothing but respectable insults (if that's even possible).

I guess that was the straw that broke the camel's back, as Crawford finally had enough and motioned over to us as if he was calling us out. Security comes over to the section and it's like lockdown in Rikers Island.

I myself wasn't really the ring-leader of the heckling, but Golden Arm told me that by Crawford acknowledging our presence, that was the highest form of compliment a heckler could ever receive.

The bottom of the ninth was pretty anti-climactic after we watch the Blue Jays close a seven-run gap, only to throw the game away on the top of the ninth inning.

Somehow though, the loss didn't seem to sting so bad because we got into the head of Carl Crawford. So if you see him boot or bobble a ball in left field at any point in this series, it's probably thanks to the bug The Man In the Golden Arm put in his ear.

Thanks again to the boys at 1 Blue Jays Way, Jeremy from 500 Level Fan and Andy Mc for a great game and a very memorable experience at the Rogers Centre.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Acid Flashback Friday: Billy Koch as Blue Jays Closer


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Before there was Kevin Gregg, and before there was B.J. Ryan, the Toronto Blue Jays had another maligned closer in the 21st century.

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Billy Koch's tenure with the Blue Jays.

Koch was a product of the Gord Ash era and was drafted fourth overall in the 1996 draft. He quickly made his way up the minor league system after speeding through Dunedin in 1998 and being promoted to Triple A Syracuse.

He logged 25 innings with Syracuse in early 1999 before being summoned by the Blue Jays to make his big league debut on May 5th. Koch picked up a save in his second appearance ever in the majors by tossing two scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers.

The closer duties were very quickly passed over to Billy Koch as he took over for the previous ninth inning man, the veteran Graeme Lloyd.

The ball continued to roll from there for Billy Koch as he had a phenomenal rookie season with the Blue Jays, posting 31 saves with a 3.39 ERA. Accolades included finishing 7th in AL Rookie of the Year voting and Koch also set the franchise record for saves by a rookie.

The following two seasons, the save totals steadily increased with 33 in the year 2000 and 36 in 2001 under the watch of the Blue Jays.

However, under the direction of new General Manager J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays sold high on Billy Koch and traded their closer to the Oakland A's for future Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske and Justin Miller.

Koch enjoyed success during his first season with the Oakland A's converting 44 of 50 saves and picked up the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. Billy bounced around from Oakland to Chicago, and then Florida before returning to the Blue Jays organization at the beginning of the 2005 season.

He signed a one-year deal with Toronto to the tune of $950,000 but he didn't even crack the Opening Day roster after just four fairly dismal appearances in Spring Training.

Needless to say, Billy didn't take the news very well and vowed to show up at Tropicana Field wielding 240 schoolchildren to cheer for the Tampa Bay Rays on the second day of the 2005 regular season. It just so happens Koch was living in Clearwater Florida at the time.

Apparently, Koch made good on his word by at least showing up to Tropicana Field on April 5th 2005, donning a Devil Rays Jersey with Aubrey Huff's number and heckling his former teammates.
The guy wearing a Devil Rays cap and a Aubrey Huff jersey wouldn't stop yelling. He was seated near the Blue Jays bullpen down the left-field line.

"Schoeneweis is a bum," he howled. "Go Devil Rays." Scott Schoeneweis, a left- handed reliever for the Blue Jays, was surprised a Tampa Bay fan would pick him out as a target.

"I can't believe that they think I'm a bum here too," Schoeneweis said was his initial reaction. When he saw the loud- mouthed culprit, Schoeneweis couldn't stop laughing. A closer look revealed former Toronto closer Billy Koch was the man doing the yelling.
From what I remember of Billy Koch, he had great velocity and was definitely one of the elite power-pitching closers for a short period of time. J.P. Ricciardi made a smart move by trading Koch away at his highest possible value, and it worked temporarily by snagging Eric Hinske from the A's organization.

And of course the other distinguishable trait of Billy Koch was his rat-tail like soul patch. Along with those god awful barb wire arm-band tattoos, it was the norm for the era.

Billy Koch proved that you don't need to go outside the organization to find a great closer, and if you're willing to go through the growing pains at first, it's possible to mold a rookie into a ninth inning guy.

Hat tip to @brentoliver for the Acid Flashback Friday suggestion. If you have anything you'd like to see, drop me a line at bluejayhunter@gmail.com

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pat Tabler Thinks (Player Name) is So Strong


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You'll have to excuse me, but I feigned interest in last night's game pretty quickly especially after Cito Gaston called upon Brian Tallet.

And has anyone noticed that Tallet has transformed into the yellow canary the Blue Jays send into the mine? Odds are if you see Brian Tallet on the mound, something has or is about to go horribly awry.

Instead, I was entertained by the musings of the Blue Jays colour commentator Pat Tabler. As a former Blue Jay himself, Tabler has a pretty solid understanding of the game and the organization as a whole. But there's one thing he keeps mentioning during the broadcast that drives me nuts. Stop me if you've heard this one before:

"(Player Name) is sooo strong".

We didn't even get out of the bottom of the first inning before Tabby throws out his go-to phrase. Jeff Francouer muscles a single out to left field and Pat Tabler thinks he's "soooo strong".

Then in the top of the third, Nelson Cruz hits a double to the right-centre field gap and once again Cruz was "soooo strong".

Vladimir Guerrero is the very next batter and Pat Tabler proceeds to drool over the sight of Big Bad Vladdy Daddy and gives him every compliment in the book BUT mentioning that he's "soooo strong". Tabler comments how Guerrero's arms are sooo long and his hands are sooo quick.

And just in case you thought the compliment was only bestowed upon position players, Tabler threw one out to the Rangers starter Derek Holland commenting that he was "big and strong". Notice how Tabby didn't use that extra adjective "sooo" in front of it.

I realize as a broadcaster you have to think very quickly and fill lots of airtime, but if you use a compliment like that every other inning, the lustre of it wears off pretty quickly.

It hasn't quite gotten to the point where we need to develop a drinking game in Pat Tabler's honour just like Buck Martinez (courtesy of Drunk Jays Fans), but it's pretty damn close. Very soon, "sooo strong" may lead to fans getting "sooo drunk".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Playoffs? You Wanna Talk About Playoffs?


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You wanna talk about playoffs? Here's some food for thought.

The Texas Rangers went into last night's contest with 75 wins - just four less than the Toronto Blue Jays. By night's end, that gap was narrowed to just three games.

Now if the Toronto Blue Jays were playing in the American League West, we'd have one hell of a pennant race going on right now. Unfortunately, while the Rangers are playing for a playoff spot, the Jays are just ... well, playing.

In an attempt to even things up and have a little more diversity (def: an old, old wooden ship) in the post-season, Tom Verducci from Sports Illustrated suggests that Major League Baseball should develop a two-team Wild Card system for each league.

The jist of it was the two wild card teams face off in a sudden death win-to-get-in game while the division leaders sit back and wait for the winner.

It's an interesting concept because not only does it give another team in each league the opportunity to make it into the playoffs, it also gives an incentive for teams to win the division.

Since Major League Baseball is so inept to change, I think out of all the proposed items such as balanced schedule, expanding the playoffs, and even division realignment, this extra wild card team scenario is the most feasible and would take the least amount of work.

Just as Verducci mentions in his article, look at last year's tiebreaker game between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers. Even as a Blue Jays fan, I was glued to the television during that game and it was so exciting because everything was on the line.

Yeah, it would suck to see our beloved Blue Jays make it to the Wild Card Elimination Game and lose on the 163rd game of the year, but at least they'd have a chance to make the playoffs that way.

Even if the Blue Jays sweep this four game set against the Texas Rangers, until Major League Baseball changes things up in the next few years, the only thing teams like the Blue Jays will be playing for in September ... is their paycheques.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aaron Hill: From Regression to Resurgance


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It was not all that long ago that many (including myself) had already written off the 2010 season for Aaron Hill and his partner in crime Adam Lind.

At first, it didn't seem so bad because others such as Jose Bautista, Alex Gonzalez and John Buck were picking up the slack. Eventually though, the facade was revealed and behind it stood a slumping Aaron Hill.

It got to the point where I could no longer defend the actions of the Silver Sluggers from last season. I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase "if Hill and Lind can turn it around ... yadda yadda yadda ... this team could do some damage".

I think the low water mark for Aaron Hill was back on June 24th when he was dropped down from the coveted two slot in the lineup. Since then, Hill struggled to get his batting average up above the Mendoza Line but finally climbed the mountain on July 20th.

Now here we are though in the final three weeks left in the season and an interesting thing is starting to happen: Aaron Hill is hitting his power stride once again. 

His BABIP continues to be ridiculously low at .204, however Fangraphs had a great article a few weeks back explaining troubles with batting average on balls in play and attributes it to Hill's increased fly ball rate.

Consider it the opposite of the Jose Bautista effect: while Jose has increased the degree of loft on his swing and is hitting more balls out of the park, Aaron Hill is doing the same but more are turning into fly outs.

Aaron Hill really doesn't have the kind of towering swing that Jose Bautista does. Hill is more of a line-drive home run hitter, and any slight adjustment in his swing is probably going to have a more more significant effect on his home run totals compared to a player who is your typical home run hitter.

I'm not exactly sure what got into Aaron Hill after the All-Star break, but it seems to be working. Since the break, Hill is hitting .259/.304/.494 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI's.

Does it have anything to do with him hitting predominantly in the number six spot in the lineup? The answer is arguable, but I believe having a hacker like Hill down there plays better to his strengths.

Maybe Cito was trying to have Aaron Hill do too much by plugging him into the lineup card as the go-to number two hitter. Getting on base isn't really Hill's strong suit and that is a big requirement for your prototypical number two guy.

Over the final three weeks of the season, Aaron Hill will likely see a parade of September call-up spot starters and hopefully he will continue his path to resurgence.

The last few months have been very promising and are very quickly painting a positive picture for the Blue Jays second baseman for 2011 and beyond.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labour Day Catchup


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First off, let me apologize for things being very quiet around here the last week or so at The Blue Jay Hunter. I had a vacation blog post all set to be published but Blogger didn't post for some reason.

Although I was sans baseball for about four days, the great thing about being unplugged from technology is the opportunity to gain perspective and see things a little differently.

I was up in Ottawa for a friend's wedding and there were actually a few Blue Jays connections. First of all, I just finally realized the father of the groom resembled Rance Mulliniks.

Also, I had a great talk with a couple of wedding goers on the subject of Yunel Escobar. We fawned over him and still couldn't fathom why the Atlanta Braves would give up on him and the Blue Jays are truly blessed to have such an entertaining shortstop like Yunel Escobar.

One other thing that crossed my mind was the regression season for Aaron Hill. Initially I thought this year was one of great concern for the Blue Jays second baseman. However, upon further inspection it might not be as bad as we first though.

We all knew Aaron Hill's power numbers were going to regress: I think I predicted somewhere in between 22-25 home runs for him this season. Now he has 22 and will surely hit another few in the final three weeks of the season.

2009 was unquestionably a career year for Aaron Hill and 2010 will likely be the exact opposite. So now that we've seen both ends of the spectrum from him, hopefully we can expect something in the middle for 2011 and beyond.

Anyway, those were just a few things that crossed my mind during the holidays. I'm looking forward to seeing how things shake out in the final four weeks of the season.

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