On Vacation

Saturday, July 30, 2011  |  by 

Well folks, we're packing up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and heading on vacation! But instead of Walley World, yours truly is off for a week to Canada's beautiful west coast.

Upon returning, I'm hoping to have an extensive recap post of my Vancouver Canadians experience, as well as any other baseball tidbits from BC. Things will be pretty quiet around here for the next week, but feel free to follow any updates via Twitter.

And one final plea; if anyone is heading to the Roberto Alomar Bobblehead game this Sunday and just so happens to come across an extra bobblehead, I'd be willing to do a trade.

Perhaps a shirt from the BJH T-Shirt Shop (and I'll even cover the shipping) for an Alomar Bobblehead will seal the deal? If you're willing to do a trade, just send me an email to bluejayhunter@gmail.com and let's make a deal.

Until then, have a great week and talk to you guys soon!

Photoshop Fun: Eric Thames as Chocolate Thunder

Friday, July 29, 2011  |  by 

First there was Jon Rauch doing his best impression of Hulk Hogan; now it appears Eric Thames wants to get his own wrestling persona as well.

If you saw the Jays Connected pregame show yesterday, you noticed Barry Davis interviewing Eric Thames about random things, among them was wrestling names. 

Thames said his wrestling persona name would be "Chocolate Thunder". If the photoshop above is any indication, looks like the John Cena/Rock match originally scheduled for Wrestlemania 28 has been changed to John Cena facing off against Chocolate Thunder.

Perhaps he could use "Chocolate Rain" as his entrance music?

Flashback Friday: Gregg Zaun's Walk-Off Grand Slam

Image courtesy of Mop Up Duty
It's the moment that every youngster on the baseball diamond dreams about; bases loaded, two men out, your team trailing, and hitting a home run to win the game.

Most folks can only imagine that feels like, but Gregg Zaun lived it. For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Gregg Zaun's walk-off grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The date was September 6th, 2008; the Blue Jays were in the midst of a 6-game winning streak, and the Tampa Bay Rays were in a pennant race holding a 2.5 game lead over the Boston Red Sox.

Even though the Blue Jays were out of the race, pride was still on the line as Toronto was hoping to keep momentum in their favour as they looked to extend their late-season win streak to seven games.

The game appeared to be in the bag as Cito Gaston handed the ball to his closer B.J. Ryan with a relatively comfortable three-run lead going into the top of the ninth. Ryan lead off the inning by walking Carlos Pena, and then giving up a two-run home run to Rocco Baldelli.

Clinging to a one-run lead, the worst was still not over for Ryan. He was a veritable house of cards on it's way crashing to the ground; B.J. then walked the next batter, who stole second, and then a ground ball through the infield scored the tying run.

The game went into extras and remained tied until Dioner Navarro broke through with an RBI single in the top of the 13th. Now with the lead in hand, the Tampa Bay Rays called upon their recently activated closer; Troy Percival.

It would be up to the heart of the Blue Jays order to come back and either tie the game or end it with a walk-off. The Blue Jays put themselves in an excellent position to win with back to back singles from Vernon Wells and Brad Wilkerson.

With two out, Scott Rolen drew a four-pitch walk which loaded the bases for the most unlikeliest of heroes; Gregg Zaun. Over the course of his career, Gregg was never known for hitting home runs, but this one would cement Zaun with the most memorable moment of his Blue Jays career.

Gregg Zaun proceeded to get a hold of an inside fastball from Troy Percival and golfed it out of the box for a grand slam that just barely cleared the right field fence. Here's what Zaun had to say about the pitch:
"It just eked over, it was perfect placement. If I hit it anywhere else, it's a game-ending fly ball, but I got it far enough down the line, and it was a big moment. A lot of fun."
Zaun made Blue Jays history that day as he hit just the second walk-off grand slam in franchise history, and the first to be hit in extra innings by a Blue Jay.

My own personal anecdote of this moment is somewhat embarrassing in the fact that I missed Zaun's walk-off grand slam entirely. I had just arrived to my friend's place and at that point it was the bottom of the 13th. I shelled myself up in my car to get an update on the score, and then proceeded inside.

With two men out and the bases loaded, I thought I had enough time to run from the car to get inside my friend's house to see the conclusion, but I was too late. When my friend told me that Zaun had just hit a walk-off grand slam, I didn't even believe him at first.

So I ran downstairs, turned on the TV, and sure enough there were the replays of the grand slam. In the time it took me to get out the car, say a couple of pleasantries and bolt it to the closest television, Gregg Zaun had already rounded the bases and was celebrating in the Blue Jays clubhouse.

It's a moment that I'll always remember because Gregg Zaun was not your typical home run hitter. His reputation was more so as a great defensive catcher whose trademark was his ability to get on base.

To see the joy and excitement on Gregg Zaun's face was amazing. That home run was the culmination of years in the minors, grinding through the major leagues, and it must have been incredible to have that one moment every kid dreams of; to hit a walk-off home run at home.

In the grand scheme of things, Zaun's grand slam wasn't the most prolific in Blue Jays franchise history. However, what that home run was give hope to baseball players everywhere ... that one day, they too could have a superstar moment just like Gregg Zaun.

What the Blue Jays Gave Up to Get Colby Rasmus

Thursday, July 28, 2011  |  by 

To get talent, you have to give up talent ... it's just the cost of doing business. Try as you may, you can't trade a bag of baseballs for a top tier player.

In order to acquire a superstar in the making like Colby Rasmus, the Toronto Blue Jays were going to have to give up some good players to get him. They did unload a lot of players yesterday, but ultimately I think what they got back in return outweighed what they gave up.

In no particular order are my thoughts on each departing Blue Jay involved in the trades to Chicago and St. Louis:

Jason Frasor: the Sausage King was grossly underrated and was one of my favourite relievers to watch. I don't doubt that his success will continue in the AL Central this year within a White Sox bullpen that was in desperate need of a stable relief arm.

I can see the White Sox picking up Frasor's option or maybe another team locking him up to a multi-year contract in the off-season because that seemed to be the trend this past winter with middle to late relievers. Jason Frasor deserves that stability, and I don't think the Blue Jays could have given that to him.

In listening to an interviews a few weeks back after Frasor set the new record for Blue Jays appearances, I got the sense that he knew the writing was on the wall. He just sounded like a man that knew he was on the move.

Maybe it was pitching for nearly eight seasons in the quiet confines of Toronto that made Jason Frasor so unheralded and underrated around the league. Year in and year out, Frasor was good at what he did, and he made a good living doing it.

Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski: piece them together and they're a two-headed relief duo that mows hitters on both sides of the plate. Separately though, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski were a couple of lefty and righty specialists.

John Farrell will miss Dotel's effectiveness against right-handers, but let's be honest ... Octavio Dotel was just a rental player. At best, the Blue Jays may have turned him into a Type B free agent, but there was no guarantee Dotel would have declined arbitration anyway.

Marc Rzepczynski on the other hand, is a diamond in the rough. Like the gents in Camp Rzepczynski over at GRoF, I believe Zep still has the potential to be a great starting pitcher. I like how the Blue Jays moved him to the bullpen this year, but maybe he's better served going back into the rotation in St. Louis. 

Rzepczynski never really got a fair shake to get a full season of starts under his belt, and his ceiling is the highest of all the players going to the Cardinals in this trade. With just over one year of service time under his belt, he's under team control for another five seasons.

Ultimately, relievers are a dime a dozen and very easy to replace; which is why the Blue Jays could afford to trade Dotel and Rzepczynski. As Alex Anthopoulos proved in the off-season, holes in the bullpen can be easily filled with leftover arms.

Using that strategy may not prove to build the best bullpen in the majors, but one can certainly construct a perfectly competent relief corp with talent from the farm system and a couple of free agent signings.

Corey Patterson: the fact that Alex Anthopoulos managed to package him in a deal blows my mind. Patterson came to Blue Jays camp on a minor league contract, and yet the Blue Jays parlayed him with 3 other players to get Colby Rasmus.

With Scott Podsednik favoured to be the fourth outfielder going into Spring Training, it was a miracle in itself that a career journeyman like Corey Patterson cracked the 25-man roster anyway. Patterson had a great May, but had cooled off considerably and his baserunning and defense left something to be desired.

With Brett Lawrie knocking at the door, I just assumed the Blue Jays were going to designate Corey Patterson for assignment in the next few weeks or so to make room for Lawrie. However, AA built up Patterson's value and turned him into a trade chip.

Zach Stewart: this is the one I fear that might come back to bite the Blue Jays. We saw a glimpse of what Zach Stewart could do at the big league level earlier this year, and he wasn't overwhelming ... but then again it was only three starts.

The Blue Jays may have lost a good arm in Zach Stewart, but with the pitching prospects as deep as they are within the farm system, they could afford to let Stewart go. The great thing is the Blue Jays have so many pitching prospects like Zach Stewart (Kyle Drabek, Henderson Alvarez, Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire) that Zack Stewart was gravy for the Blue Jays.

Even though he did pitch in the majors this year, Zach Stewart is currently just a prospect. It's always a crapshoot with young guys, and even the most highly touted prospects don't always pan out. At best, Stewart was projected to be a #2 or #3 starter anyway.

We won't know for maybe 5-10 years whether Zach Stewart will come as advertised. Who knows, maybe he will become a solid starter for the White Sox, or perhaps he becomes something even better than that. Stewart's ceiling is high, but so are many other pitching prospects the Blue Jays have.

In conclusion: the Blue Jays did pay a hefty price to bring in Colby Rasmus (and others), but one could argue the only two trade chips they'll really miss are Marc Rzepczynski and Zach Stewart. All the others were expendable and can be easily replaced.

Parlaying relief pitching into position players always seems like a very good strategy as General Manager, as everyday players can have a much bigger impact on the team than bullpen arms or even starting pitchers.

I really like this trade for the Blue Jays, and even if Colby Rasmus doesn't blossom into the superstar that everybody hopes he will, having a solid centre fielder helps shore up the position for at least another three more years.

The bullpen can be replenished with a couple of guys that are coming back from the Cardinals, and in the meantime guys like Luis Perez, Wil Ledezma and Danny Farquhar could become bullpen staples for the Blue Jays moving forward.

What this trade really signals is that the Blue Jays want to be contenders sooner rather than later. Perhaps the timetable is being moved up a couple years for Toronto to be a playoff contender.

Where previously 2013 or even 2014 appeared to be the "go for it year" is suddenly looking more and more like 2012.

Christmas Comes Early: Blue Jays Acquire Colby Rasmus

Wednesday, July 27, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Colby Rasmus is the kind of player that virtually all General Managers would love to have; he's young, controllable, and his best years are arguably still to come. He's the kind of player that folks might have on their wish list, but have no hope of ever acquiring.

While Colby Rasmus may have been on Alex Anthopoulos' radar for a long time, it just seemed like a pipe dream that the Blue Jays would ever get him from the Cardinals. It was a proverbial Hail Mary pass with zero time left on the clock ... but this Hail Mary actually connected.

This is the kind of trade that you dream about, but that you don't actually expect in a million years to happen, and yet somehow, Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays managed to pry Colby Rasmus out of St. Louis.

My initial thoughts on this trade was how this situation hearkens back to the Yunel Escobar deal and how similar the situation was. Both the Braves and Cardinals had troubles with their young stars, and the Blue Jays swoop in to pick up the pieces and end up smelling like roses.

I have to tip my cap to AA for finding a very creative way to acquire the player he so keenly desired in Colby Rasmus. As I've stated before, when Alex Anthopoulos has the blinders on, he's willing to do anything to get the player he wants.

In this instance, it took a trade with the Chicago White Sox to get an integral piece in Edwin Jackson to make the trade happen. I admire AA's determination to acquire the asset he so desperately sought, and hopefully it won't be his undoing down the road.

I'll have a more in depth post tomorrow dealing with all the ramifications of the roster moves and some farewells to former Blue Jays, but for the time being let's bask in the moment: Colby Rasmus is coming to the Toronto Blue Jays ... and they didn't have to give up the farm to get him, either.

Avenge Me: Unwritten Rules of the Beanball

Image courtesy of Getty Images
Baseball is all about unwritten rules: you should never swing at the first pitch with a big lead, don't  cross the pitcher's mound, never make the third or first out at third base, and you can bet that if your player gets drilled, somebody is going to repay the favour.

So if we follow baseball code, that means a Baltimore Oriole will likely be receiving a fastball between the numbers at some point tonight. Whether it's from Ricky Romero or somebody from the bullpen, I wouldn't be shocked to see a member of the Blue Jays brethren unleash some chin music tonight.

I've never really understood the "he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue" mentality in baseball. If you think about it, it's the antithesis of how we teach children to deal with conflict today.

I recall my parents telling me when I was younger: "if somebody hits you, you hit them right back". Unfortunately, that strategy was never employed as any tussle that happened in the schoolyard usually involved a kid who was a foot taller and had 50 pounds on me.

Things have now changed drastically as parents urge their children to walk away from confrontation rather than deal with it directly by retaliating. So what message do baseball players send when they do the exact opposite of what parents tell their kids?

Another strange thing about the "eye for an eye" rule is the second stage almost never involves the player who was involved in the first place. For example, Jose Bautista got beaned in the head last night but it will likely be a pitcher that will avenge him.

If it's going to lead to a bench-clearing brawl anyway, why not just take the original parties involved and have them duke it out on the field mano-a-mano and get it over with rather than contract out a beanball like a hitman.

Don't get me wrong, I think a baseball brawl (or a "basebrawl" for short) is entertaining as hell from a fan's perspective. However, if any one of us were to do the same in our occupation, it would likely lead to a swift dismissal.

I can understand how tensions would boil over in hockey or football because they are predominantly contact sports, but baseball is a gentleman's game. Very rarely is contact ever made on the diamond, only occasionally at second base and home plate ... that's it.

In retrospect, it's easy for me to judge from afar and say that baseball players shouldn't let their emotions get the best of them on the field. If somebody tried to take a swing at one of my friends, I'd be pissed too. So I can't blame the Blue Jays for being upset at Jake Arrieta, whether that beanball was intentional or not.

In my opinion, the best way for Jose Bautista to respond is with his bat. He did it to the Yankees when Ivan Nova buzzed him with a fastball, and I don't doubt that he'll retaliate with his bat rather than his fists.

Rajai Davis: Professional Pinch Runner?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Some may say he's the Robin Hood of the basepaths; others would say he's merely a fourth outfielder at best. Needless to say, Rajai Davis is really carving out a niche for himself as a professional pinch runner.

In three of the last six games, John Farrell opted to use Rajai Davis as a late game pinch runner instead of having him start in centre field. In two of those games, Davis helped scored the go-ahead run.

Considering how well this strategy panned out against the Seattle Mariners, it begs the question ... should the Blue Jays used Rajai Davis exclusively as a pinch runner late in games from hereon out?

Davis spent his first 14 games of the season as the leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays, and it was thought that he would provide that top of the lineup spark that this club has been so desperately seeking these past few seasons.

The problem that haunted Rajai Davis in the leadoff spot which still haunts him now is it's not that he has problem on the basepaths, it's getting on base in the first place that's the issue. Batting leadoff this season, Davis had a OBP of .186 and just .267 combined.

Since Rajai Davis can't seem to get on base, the shortcut to success is essentially to take the bat out of his hands and let him go nuts on the basepaths. When the Blue Jays are close or tied late in the game and they have a man on base, get Davis on the bench and let him cause some havoc out there.

When you look around the league and compare Rajai Davis to the perennial speedsters like Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, their numbers are all basically the same aside from one thing; walks. Ellsbury and Gardner have walked 34 and 37 times respectively compared to Davis' 11 free passes.

And now with the Travis Snider centre field experiment underway, Rajai Davis is rapidly becoming obsolete as a need in the outfield. Although Snider is just in his infancy in centre, he appears to be more than adequate at the position.

If it were up to me, I'd much rather see the Blue Jays have an outfield of Patterson/Snider/Thames with Davis on the bench rather than Snider/Davis/Thames with Patterson on the bench.

Even though things appear to be at a low point for Rajai, it could just be the giant first half black cloud splits which has Rajai Davis his entire career. Lifetime in the first half, Davis has a .288 on base percentage compared to a .349 on base percentage.

Until Rajai Davis can prove to John Farrell that he can get on base by his own means in a low leverage batting order position, Davis should stayed glued to the bench until late in the game. As much as it pains me to say this, I'd prefer Corey Patterson in the lineup over Rajai Davis.

Call me crazy, but Patterson's baserunning and questionable routes to fly balls notwithstanding, personally I'd take the slight on base upgrade over Rajai Davis' range and speed in the starting lineup.

Another reason to choose Patterson over Davis to start games in the outfield is Davis would prove to be a much better pinch runner than Corey Patterson. I wouldn't trust Patterson to steal a base late in a game, but I would trust Rajai Davis.

Since Davis seems to have no issue hitting left-handers, I was going to suggest creating a two-headed outfield monster with Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson, but both of their splits this season favour hitting lefties.

To me, the most crucial part of the Blue Jays defensive outfield alignment is having the duo of Travis Snider and Eric Thames out there as often as possible. Neither of them should be deprived of at bats, so it seems like Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson will likely be splitting outfield duties anyway.

In theory, Rajai Davis should have been that sparkplug at the top of the lineup the Blue Jays were looking for. Instead, I got so enamoured with his speed that I failed to notice that at his peak, Davis only got on base 31.6% of the time.

Speed may be sexy, but on base percentage is forever.

Monday Morning Musings

Monday, July 25, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
It was an exciting weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays both on and off the field, so here in no particular order are some musings from the weekend that was in Blue Jays baseball:

Roberto Alomar: Second to None

Watching the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony yesterday, I truly understood how great of a baseball player Roberto Alomar was. I think Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun put it best when they said we may not see another Blue Jay in Cooperstown for a very long time.

It makes one wonder what might have happened had Alomar spent more than five seasons in Toronto. There's no doubt he would have continued to shine, even if the team itself did not.

The more I think about it, the more I realize just how pivotal Roberto Alomar's home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS was. Up until that point, the Blue Jays had gained a reputation as the "Blow Jays"; always managing to find a way to choke down the stretch.

Alomar's home run was the culmination of so many previous disappointments; the collapse in the 1985 ALCS, losing down the stretch to the Tigers in 1987, coming up short in the 1989 and 1991 ALCS; it all lead up to that moment in Oakland.

The difference between going into Game 5 in Oakland up 3-1 as opposed to 2-2 would prove to be huge. As the A's held a 2-run lead with the best closer in the game in Dennis Eckersley ready to shut things down, the momentum was entirely on the Athletics side.

That home run by Roberto Alomar was a game-changer. With history in danger of repeating itself, Roberto Alomar reversed the curse and helped turn the tide and helped the Blue Jays finally shake the monkey off their back. 

In my opinion, it was the biggest home run in the history of the franchise. Joe Carter's in 1993 may have helped sealed a World Series title, but without Roberto Alomar's home run in the 1992, the Blue Jays might not have ever gotten to the Fall Classic in the first place.

Saturday's scapegoat is ....

It was another disheartening loss by the Blue Jays on Saturday night, and something we've become all too accustomed with over the course of the season; the Blue Jays bullpen blowing a lead late in the game.

While the finger-pointing may have been directed towards Marc Rzepczynski, I think that it was pretty unwarranted. He had to deal with the heart of the Rangers order, and he was only charged with two earned runs, it's not like he gave up a grand slam.

Also, the Rangers seemed to get a bit of help from the first base umpire as Brian Gorman determined Adam Lind came off the bag during the Mitch Moreland bunt, even though he was clearly still on the base. Had the call been right, there's one out and a man on second base rather than two on and nobody out.

Corey Patterson's dance routine in right field didn't help the cause either, as he was twisting and turning trying to field that ball hit by Michael Young. He claims the ball wasn't catchable, but perhaps if Patterson was positioned correctly in the first place, it would have never been a problem.

Brett Cecil back to his old self?

The complete game shutout against one of the most deadly offenses in the league was a very encouraging start for Brett Cecil, but I'm going to approach it with tempered enthusiasm.

Let's keep in mind that Jo-Jo Reyes also had a complete game as well, and then he followed that up by giving up a combined 38 earned runs in his next 9 starts.

I don't think we should expect Brett Cecil to shut out teams like he did with the Texas Rangers, but hopefully the results are a sign of things to come. Perhaps the most encouraging part of Cecil's start was that he was still touching 94 MPH in the top of the ninth.

The velocity issue has been a concern for most of the season, and now with his sinker and fastball being thrown at 90+ MPH, that will hopefully increase the effectiveness of his offspeed pitches.

Flashback Friday: Roberto Alomar's Tomahawk Chop

Friday, July 22, 2011  |  by 

This weekend, Roberto Alomar will finally make his long awaited debut in Cooperstown when he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Alomar's career was a veritable highlight reel in its own as he was the quintessential five-tool player. Strangely enough though, aside from his home run off Dennis Eckersley from the 1992 ALCS, I had a tough time trying to find another single standout moment from Alomar's career.

Luckily, after a little bit of research and soul searching, I found one. For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Roberto Alomar's infamous tomahawk chop from Game 3 of the 1992 World Series.

The Tomahawk Chop was (and still is) the rally cry of the Atlanta Braves, and thus is was very prominent during their 1992 run to the World Series. Perhaps it should have been renamed the "Toma-mock Chop" as the Blue Jays used it to taunt the Braves in back to back victories.

After capturing Game 2 in Atlanta, the Blue Jays returned home to the Skydome with the series tied at 1-1. The game remained tied at 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth with Braves starter Steve Avery coming back out to pitch the ninth.

Roberto Alomar lead off the inning and immediately made an impact by singling through the left side of the infield to put the go-ahead run on base. Joe Carter was the next batter, and on a 2-0 count, Alomar bolted to second and picked up the stolen base.

Now with Alomar in scoring position, Bobby Cox opted to give Carter the free pass and called for the intentional walk. The Blue Jays had runners on first and second, nobody out, and their cleanup man Dave Winfield coming to the plate.

Winfield sacrificed and laid down a bunt to advance Alomar and Carter up to second and third base, and put the winning run 90 feet away. The next batter, Ed Sprague walked to load the bases and Candy Maldonado delivered the final blow to the Braves with a single to right-centre field.

Roberto Alomar trotted home from third base to cross the plate and help the Blue Jays walk-off with Game 3 and take a 2-1 lead in the World Series. But Alomar didn't just scamper home, on the way down the third base line he saluted the hometown crowd with a tomahawk chop of his own.

Just to add a little salt into the wounds, after the Blue Jays won the World Series, during the celebrations at the Skydome, Roberto Alomar brought out a wooden tomahawk and said something to the effect of "I stole the chop" (thanks to @Avesprini for that one).

For more Roberto Alomar career highlights, check out Chris Jaffe's piece over at the Hardball Times.

Baseball Bizarro World Starring Edwin Encarnacion

Thursday, July 21, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
3 hits (1 of them being a home run) 4 runs scored, 2 stolen bases .... by Edwin Encarnacion? What kind of Baseball Bizarro World are we living in?

One might have to do a double take after looking over the boxscore from last night, but it's true; Edwin Encarnacion has come to life. Look up and down the lineup and you won't find a hotter hitter right now than EE.

His resurgence can be traced back to about mid-June, but Encarnacion has really turned things around within the last nine games in which he's batted .472 with 17 hits. EE is performing at Bautistian levels, and yet this is the Blue Jays estranged former third baseman turned DH.

Back at the end of May, it seemed like things were at their absolute low point for Edwin Encarnacion; it took him 145 at bats to collect his first home run, and he was making costly throwing errors on the field at both sides of the diamond.

At that point, it seemed like the only viable option was to DFA Encarnacion and let Brett Lawrie claim his rightful place as the everyday third baseman. But then the Baseball Gods decided they had different plans for EE and gave him a second shot.

Had things panned out for the Blue Jays as they should have, Edwin Encarnacion might not even be on the roster right now. At a meager salary of $2 million with a $500K buyout, $2.5 million seemed like a small price to pay to cut ties with Encarnacion.

Heck, the Blue Jays might not have even had to eat that money if they could find a suitor for him. I mean, if the Dodgers were willing to deal for Juan Rivera, I'm sure Alex Anthopoulos could have found a suitor for Edwin Encarnacion. However, that was a scenario that never played out.

Maybe if Marty McFly went back to 1955 and didn't retrieve the Grays Sports Almanac from Biff, things would have skewed into a different timeline where Edwin Encarnacion didn't play for the Blue Jays.

Encarnacion has received a bad rap during his time in Toronto (and sometimes rightfully so), but for the most part he has shown to have some semblance of value to this team. It may not be with his arm or glove, however EE can still contribute with the bat.

The maddening thing about Edwin is his streaks are so few and far between that it's extremely difficult to gauge what we can expect from him over the course of 162 games. At the start of the season, I didn't think it was unreasonable to see him hit 30 home runs, but now he'll be lucky to clear 20.

That's what I've found with Edwin Encarnacion these past few years; just when you're about ready to give up on him, that's when he turns on the afterburners.

I think we can all agree that EE certainly has the tools to be a great player, he just needs to harness those skills on a consistent basis to show just how valuable he can be to the Blue Jays.

In the meantime, if Gregg Zaun believes in Edwin Encarnacion, then so do I.

When Farrell Ball Actually Works: Part Two

Wednesday, July 20, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via  Getty Images
"When Farrell Ball doesn't work, it can be painful to watch.
But when Farrell Ball does work ... it's a thing of beauty."
The aforementioned quote was from a post the day after the Blue Jays used small ball (AKA "Farrell Ball") to defeat the Cincinnati Reds. After watching John Farrell employ his strategy for weeks, it finally paid off.

Last night was a similar instance in which Farrell Ball was very prevalent, and it was apparent very early that it was either going to be the Blue Jays downfall or their saving grace.

When all was said and done, praises were sung in John Farrell's direction, but they just as easily could have been curses instead. In total, the Blue Jays swiped four bases yet they were also caught twice late in the game as well.

While I respect John Farrell's fortitude to push the envelope late in the game, it's equally frustrating to watch Aaron Hill and Corey Patterson run into outs during a tied game.

Here's why I'm torn on Farrell Ball; it's almost the exact opposite of the strategy employed by Cito Gaston ("CitoCity"). Rather than force the action, Gaston would rather his team sit back and score runs the good old-fashioned way.

There is such a thing as being too passive, and on the same token a manager can be way too aggressive as well. While Farrell Ball makes for a more exciting game to watch overall, I think it induces many more "tear your hair out" moments.

On the flip side, I recall several instances from the Cito Gaston regime where he refused to call for one of his players to lay down a bunt or swipe a bag to help put the Blue Jays ahead. That's what makes it so difficult to determine which is the lesser of two evils.

With that being said, Farrell Ball worked once again and it helped the Blue Jays cruise to a victory. As fun as it is second-guessing the manager, there's a reason why John Farrell is behind the bench.

Armchair managers such as myself may not necessarily agree with every single decision John Farrell makes, but I'm willing to bite my tongue so long as Farrell Ball works more often than it doesn't.

Life as a Steadfast Reliever for Jason Frasor

Tuesday, July 19, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
First of all, congratulations are in order for Jason Frasor on surpassing Duane Ward as the new Blue Jays leader for appearances.

It's an accomplishment that's certainly worthy of our attention, yet when we look back on the Jason Frasor era, it doesn't quite seem to have the same allure as the Duane Ward era.

For Jason Frasor to remain as a Blue Jay for eight straight seasons is nothing short of a miracle, as he basically flew by the seat of his pants on eight consecutive one-year contracts. It was only until this season where Frasor has some semblance of stability knowing the Blue Jays have an option on him for 2012.

Even then, there are no guarantees Jason Frasor will remain as a Blue Jay with the trade deadline quickly approaching. And once again, it seems like Alex Anthopoulos will be fielding calls for their longest tenured arm in the bullpen.

Throughout the years, for one reason or another Jason Frasor has turned into one of my favourite Blue Jay players. Maybe it's because he's proven that men who aren't the most physically imposing characters can in fact have a successful major league career.

I just always got this underdog vibe about Frasor, which made him a very likable player in my eyes. Some might go for the guy with the goggles, the neck tattoos, I prefer to root for the little guy ... literally.

Loyalty is something that is very rare in this day in age of baseball, so it's nice to see somebody like Jason Frasor show loyalty to the Toronto Blue Jays. I'm not saying the team owes it to Frasor to pick up his option either, I just think they should bring him back because he's an overall very good reliever.

Maybe it's not so much loyalty from Jason Frasor as it is the Blue Jays were willing to bring him back year after year. It still surprises me that Frasor has managed to fly under the radar for eight seasons, and yet no one else has signed him or acquired him at the trade deadline.

Unless they are signing multi-year contracts, life as a reliever must be very uncertain, but Jason Frasor has managed to have a successful career and thus has enjoyed life as a steadfast relief pitcher.

The Blue Jays bullpen has seen its ups and downs since 2004, but the one constant in the whirlwind of change has been Jason Frasor. Not the biggest guy in stature, not even the biggest guy when it comes to character either, but big enough to make a name for himself.

Gaining Some Perspective on the Closer Situation

Monday, July 18, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
It's interesting how temporarily unplugging from fandom can actually help gain a little perspective on the Toronto Blue Jays.

For one reason or another, I just so happened to miss most of the weekend series against the Yankees, only catching about 3-4 innings in total on TV and the radio. That time away allowed me to gain some clarity on a couple of things to do with the Blue Jays, most notably the closer situation, or the lack thereof.

I thought back to what happened last year with the Blue Jays three-headed closer coming out of Spring Training comprised of Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg. There was never really one defined closer, as Frasor started out of the gate as the ninth inning guy.

After two blown saves within the first two weeks of the season, the Blue Jays didn't even hesitate to take the closer's role away from Jason Frasor and bestow it upon Kevin Gregg. At the time, it seemed like a knee-jerk reaction, but most figured Gregg was signed to be the Blue Jays closer anyway, so there really wasn't much debate on the issue.

Fast forward to this season and the tumultuous ride that has been Frank Francisco's rise and fall and rise and fall as the Blue Jays closer. Francisco has suddenly turned from a high leverage pitcher to carving out a niche as the guy who comes in with a nine-run lead.

Last year, the club was willing to ditch Jason Frasor as the closer at their very first opportunity, and yet here is Frank Francisco being treated with kid gloves and given multiple chances to reclaim his throne as the Blue Jays closer.

I don't know how much of a decision it was the manager's to take Jason Frasor out of the role last year, but I think it had something partly to do with Cito Gaston and partly to do with the front office. So why are so many strings being pulled (whether it be by the Manager of the General Manager) to keep Frank Francisco around?

This leads me to believe either the front office wants Frank Francisco to grab the reins as closer because they want to build his trade value, so he can attain Type B free agent status, or so the Blue Jays can keep him around next year and beyond.

It doesn't make sense for the Blue Jays to give Francisco chance after chance to be the closer unless they wanted him to be the closer for next year, an possibly even beyond that as well.

Something that's become very clear with Alex Anthopoulos (and maybe even his sole weakness to date) is that when he's determined to get a player via trade, he is willing to do almost anything to get them.

We still won't know for another 5-7 years whether Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose was the right decision, but at the time it felt like AA had his blinders on for Gose and was going to acquire him at all costs.

It felt like a very similar scenario when the Blue Jays traded Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco; another player that was on Alex Anthopoulos' wish list, and when he had the opportunity to get Francisco via trade, he did it.

With the way the Blue Jays are continually trying to build Frank Francisco back up, that's why I wouldn't be surprised at all if they re-signed him to a one-year deal with an option from 2012 and 2013.

We've also learned that the Silent Assassin isn't afraid to acquire free agent compensatory picks by what some General Managers might consider as unconventional means. Need I remind anyone what happened with the man with an hour and a half stint with the Blue Jays, Miguel Olivo?

Whichever reason it is that the Blue Jays have for holding onto Frank Francisco, my instincts tell me it's because they want him here for the long haul rather than for just the short term. Either that, or Alex Anthopoulos really doesn't want to see one of his off-season acquisitions go belly-up.

Flashback Friday: The Blue Jays Hit 10 Home Runs in One Game

Friday, July 15, 2011  |  by 

Mulliniks, Bell, Moseby, Ducey, McGriff, Whitt combined to hit 10 home runs in one game

It's kind of funny this post just so happened to fall the day after the Blue Jays scored 16 runs on 20 hits against the New York Yankees, and yet no home runs. Kind of odd to have that many runs and not a single longball, right?

Well, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, 24 years ago the Blue Jays scored 18 runs on 21 hits in a single game, all except for two which were driven in via a home run.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the record-setting game in which the Blue Jays hit 10 home runs in one game.

It was on September 14th, 1987. The Blue Jays were in the midst of a pennant race with the Detroit Tigers and both teams were tied for first place. Toronto had just taken 2 of 3 from the New York Yankees and were looking to move ahead as the Orioles came into town.

Maybe it was something in the air that day at Exhibition Stadium, but fans of the longball were in for quite the show that warm Monday afternoon.

The game began innocently enough as both starters Jim Clancy and Ken Dixon erased baserunners in the first inning as it remained a scoreless tie going into the second. However, the Blue Jays blew the game wide open and put a five-spot on the board in the home half.

Ernie Whitt led of the second with a solo home run, and that would be the first of many home runs to come that afternoon. Two batters later, Rance Mulliniks hit a two-run shot and Lloyd Moseby would follow that up with a two-run shot as the Blue Jays took a 5 run lead.

Orioles starter Ken Dixon didn't even escape the second inning as Cap Ripken yanked him after the home run from Moseby. Well, it turned out the next pitcher, Eric Bell wouldn't fare much better.

George Bell lead off the third with a home run and then Rance Mulliniks would swat his second home run of the game to put the Blue Jays ahead 7-1. 

It was deja vu all over again when Ernie Whitt also collected his second home run of the game to lead off the fifth. After five innings of play, the Blue Jays had pounded the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff for six home runs.

Not wanting to feel left out, George Bell joined Rance Mulliniks and Ernie Whitt in the two home run club as he knocked his second home run of the afternoon off Mike Kinnunen. 

At this point with a comfortable 10-2 lead, Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams felt the game was pretty much in the bag as he let Tony Fernandez, George Bell and Lloyd Moseby take a breather, and substituted them for Manuel Lee, Lou Thornton and Rob Ducey.

Even with one-third of the Blue Jays best players in the bench, the Baltimore Orioles still weren't completely out of the woods yet. One of those late-game substitutions would also get in on the home run parade, as Rob Ducey even hit a 3-run home run.

In the very same inning, the man who started it all off for the Blue Jays would achieve his home run trifecta. Ernie Whitt hit his third home run in the bottom of the seventh capping off a 3 for 5 game with 3 home runs and 5 RBI's.

Fred McGriff who was designated hitter that day, hit in the eighth spot in the lineup. The Crime Dog was the final member of the Blue Jays bomb squad that day and led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run.

In total, the Blue Jays hit a grand total of 10 home runs that day, collected 21 hits and scored 18 runs and won the game handily 18-3. They had three hitters with multiple homers (Mulliniks, Whitt, Bell).

In that game on September 14th 1987, the Blue Jays set a record for most home runs by one team in a single game, a Major League record which still stands to this day.

Thanks to @500LevelFan for this week's Acid Flashback Friday suggestion. If you have anything you'd like to see from Blue Jays yesteryear, please send your suggestion to bluejayhunter@gmail.com

10 Facts About Jose Bautista's Incredible First Half

Thursday, July 14, 2011  |  by 

Living within the vacuum that is known as Toronto Blue Jays fandom, occasionally I forget how certain players are perceived around the league. During the first half, there was no player more polarizing than Jose Bautista.

Make no mistake, I don't for a second take for granted what Jose Bautista has accomplished this year, but sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize the Toronto Blue Jays have the best player in the game right now.

So to help bring us back to reality and show fans exactly what kind of a season Jose Bautista has had thus far, here in Bleacher Report fashion are 10 eye-opening facts about Jose Bautista's incredible first half of 2011.
  1. So much for Jose Bautista only coming up big when the game isn't on the line. Those thinking Bautista only thrives in "garbage time", he's hit 10 of his 31 home runs (approximately 32%) in the 7th inning or later.
  2. To compound on that, Bautista has hit 11 go-ahead home runs and 3 game-tying home runs. Which means 45 percent of Jose Bautista's home runs have either been game-tying or go-ahead shots. Once again, "garbage time" my ass.
  3. Baseball traditionalists who look at Adrian Gonzalez' 77 RBI's compared to Jose Bautista's 67 RBI's alone might conclude that Gonzalez is the superior baseball player.

    Simply put, Adrian Gonzalez had many more opportunities to drive in runs than Jose Bautista. According to Baseball Prospectus, Gonzalez had more plate appearances with runners on base with 217 versus Jose Bautista's 182.

    Subsequently Gonzalez had 295 total runners on base when he came to the plate compared to Bautista's 235.
  4. Bautista was intentionally walked 14 times in the first half. Prior to the 2011 season, Jose has only been intentionally walked a total of 16 times in 7 years.
  5. With 31 home runs in 299 at bats in the first half, Jose Bautista is hitting a home run every 9.6 at bats. If he maintains that pace the rest of the way and ends up with somewhere in the neighbourhood of 550 at bats by season's end, he'll finish 2011 with 57 home runs.
  6. At no point this season has Jose Bautista's batting average dipped below .300. At its lowest point, Bautista's AVG was .304 on April 20th.
  7. Incredibly, Jose Bautista has only had 3 opportunities in the entire first half to hit a Grand Slam. He is 0 for 3 with the bases loaded.
  8. Not only is Jose Bautista a phenomenal hitter, he's also a very astute baserunner. Not know as a speedster, he's still very effective at going first to third, second to home, etc. Fangraphs has him ranked as the 10th best baserunner in the American League.
  9. With a first half WAR of 6.6, Jose Bautista himself has more WAR than the entire Twins (6.2 WAR), Athletics (3.2 WAR) and Mariners (2.1 WAR) rosters.

    This leads me to believe that a team comprised entirely of Jose Bautistas would win the World Series from now until the machines take over. And even then, they would be hard-pressed to beat the Bautistas.
  10. There must be something magical in the air in Minnesota, because of the 4 opposite field shots Jose Bautista has hit since 2010, 3 have been at Target Field. The only other was hit at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals this year.

Bautista Flashes Some Leather at the All-Star Game

Wednesday, July 13, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
He may not have dazzled with his bat, but Jose Bautista certainly wowed the crowd with his glove at the 2011 All-Star Game.

Bautista's incredible sliding catch in foul ground ranks up there as one of the best at the Midsummer Classic, as he nearly slid full tilt right into the wall. You can bet John Farrell was holding his breath as Jose charged for the the corner.

It was a pretty risky move what with the All-Star being a exhibition contest and all, but try telling that to Jose Bautista. The fans voted him into the game, and he was damn well going to put on a show for them.

I admire Bautista's determination to lay it all on the line when the game only really matter to the two teams will who be playing in the World Series. In my eyes, that's the sign of a true star.

However, Alex Anthopoulos must have been very worried for a moment about his $65 million dollar investment.

Essentially, Jose Bautista was the antithesis of Derek Jeter of the All-Star Game. The fans voted both men in as starters for the Midsummer Classic, and yet only one decided to show up.

Some are willing to give Derek Jeter a free pass because he just hit a major milestone and recently came off the DL, but I think it's a disservice to the fans to not at least make an effort to show up to the All-Star Game. He'd only have to stand out there for 1-2 innings anyway.

That's what makes Jose Bautista so refreshing; here's somebody who is participating in his second ever All-Star Game, and he's playing like it's Game Seven of the World Series.

While most of his accolades may be related to his offensive production, Jose Bautista proved with his glove at the All-Star Game why 7,454,753 votes were very well spent.

Thoughts on the Home Run Derby

Tuesday, July 12, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
The 2011 edition of the Home Run Derby wasn't quite Jose Bautista's coming out party, but I think a lot of folks south of the border took notice of the Blue Jays slugger.

As the Major League home run leader, Bautista was the odds-on favourite to capture the Home Run Derby title, instead he failed to escape the first round as he watches his teammates put on a show.

This was Jose's first trip to the Derby, and for his first appearance I'd say he fared okay. Typically, he's not used to having 50,000 fans and hundreds of cameras during an ordinary batting practice, so that can take some getting used to.

Also, for those hitting in later rounds, sometimes you're sitting for an hour or an hour and a half before coming back up to the plate once again. That can't be very conducive for hitting lots of home runs.

I don't doubt this will be the last time we see Jose Bautista in the Home Run Derby, and besides ... that means he won't suffer from the dreaded Home Run Derby curse now anyway!

Derby Overdose

Dustin made a very good point during the Getting Blanked Home Run Derby liveblog, the Derby is something that's better suited to be on in the background and not in the forefront.

I myself found the liveblog to be more entertaining than the Home Run Derby itself, as the prospect of signing Prince Fielder sparked a good debate amongst the commenters.

The Derby just gets really old fast, and Chris Berman doesn't exactly help. I'd be more than happy to see the Home Run Derby cut down to a 2 hour broadcast rather than a 3 hour plus event.

Even if they took out the first round and only had 4 hitters from each league, I don't think people would mind so long as it cut down on time. Unfortunately, it's all about the benjamins and sponsor time, so there's no way that will ever happen.

The Highlight of the Home Run Derby

For me, the highlight of the entire Home Run Derby was this amazing catch by a fan by the pool. Not only does he manage to hang onto the ball while in the pool, he keeps his beer above the water the entire time!

Luckily his beer afloat was rescued by bikini-clad women as he tried to gain his balance and rise back from the water. Somebody sign this guy to a contract in centre field, ASAP.

Moustache All-Stars: The Best Staches of the First Half

Monday, July 11, 2011  |  by 

The MLB All-Star Game is where baseball's best shine on one stage. On the eve of the Midsummer Classic, while all 30 teams will be represented in Phoenix Arizona, there is one group that will be notably absent: the moustaches.

We may see the odd cookie duster at the All-Star Game, but I believe we need to give the men who've donned lip sweaters fair credit for representing the endangered moustachioed baseball population.

This is the 2011 edition of the Moustache All-Stars.

Travis Snider (Toronto Blue Jays)

The Blue Jays young slugger picked up a taste of moustachedom last season on "Thank You Cito" night, and during Spring Training, Snider decided to try on a real moustache for size.

Now Snider's stache is back once again after escaping exile from Las Vegas, and his moustache is simultaneously creeping out and turning off women (and men) everywhere.

John Axford (Milwaukee Brewers)

His birthplace may be the true north strong and free, but the origins of John Axford's moustache lie somewhere between moustawesome and moustastic.

Axford also appeared on last year's Best Staches of the First Half, which ordinarily would make him ineligible, but his chameleon-like to don a different version of the moustache gives him high praise in my book.

And the combination of the moustache, hair and the Brewers jersey here just screams old school.

Brendan Ryan (Seattle Mariners)

Like John Axford before him, Brendan Ryan is making his second consecutive appearance on the Best Staches of the First Half.

Last year it was for his old-timey barbershop quartet moustache, and this time around he's being honoured for his handlebar incarnation. Combined with the old school Mariners jersey, Ryan is a very formidable foe on the field.

Barry Zito (San Francisco Giants)

There are some baseball players on which a moustache obviously does not work. For some reason with Barry Zito, it just happens to fit perfectly.

Zito recently returned from the DL sans moustache, and I think it would be in his best interest to bring the stache back if he wants to enjoy that early-season success.

Collin Balester (Washington Nationals)

According to the ever-accurate Wikipedia, approximate 1-2% of the world's population are redheads. That's what makes Collin Balester's moustache of the rarest kind, as he falls into the very scarce group known as the "ginger staches".

Word on the street is ginger 'staches are worth nearly ten times the amount of your typical black, blonde or brunette moustache.  

Sam LeCure (Cincinnati Reds)

As part of the relief corp in Cincinnati, Sam LeCure has adorned a moustache since the inception of Reds Spring Training. It must be working as he has one of the lowest ERA's in the Reds bullpen.

Combined with the optional soul patch, it's a duo that I'm sure any major league manager would love to have in their bullpen.

Phil Coke (Detroit Tigers)

Having just recently been demoted from the Tigers starting rotation to the bullpen, perhaps Phil Coke can find new life as a reliever. I can only imagine the demotion happened because Jim Leyland was jealous of Coke's ginger 'stache.

Oddly enough, Phil Coke seems to be taking after another former highly regarded moustache clad reliever from the Tigers, Todd Jones.

Eric Wedge (Seattle Mariners)

Typically the Moustache All-Stars are only reserved for players, but this year I'm more than willing to make an exception for Eric Wedge's epic moustache.

What began in the off-season as your typical 'stache has grown into what can only be described as something that would belong to the a head gang member of the Hell's Angels.

And any man who can manage to keep the Seattle Mariners out of the American League West must be doing to via the power of the moustache.

Honourable mention: Eric Thames (Toronto Blue Jays)

While not technically a moustache, the Blue Jays Eric Thames gets high marks for his facial hair creativity. He can currently be seen rocking the Shaft sideburns, but this bearded masterpiece is probably his finest work so far.

Jose Bautista Hits the Charts with Two Songs

Saturday, July 9, 2011  |  by 

You know you've made it in the world of Major League Baseball when there's not just one, but two songs released about you in the same week.

I'm sure by now you've seen the "Jose Bautista Clutch Single" above courtesy of the MLB Fan Cave, and I actually think it's got a pretty catch hook ... it kind of has a Boyz II Me/Jagged Edge vibe to it.

Interestingly enough though, that's not the first time Buck Martinez' voice has been auto-tuned, don't forget that the first video to lay that claim is "We No Speak No Encarnacion (The Edwin Encarnacion Song)".

Then to add to that, an MC out of Toronto who goes by Crossword, comes out with "Bang it Like Bautista". And I'm always a sucker for any similes involving my favourite baseball player.

So check out both tracks from earlier this week, but I'm still waiting for one rapper from Toronto to mention Jose Bautista on his new album. Make it happen, Drake!

If Coffee is for Closers, the Blue Jays are Drinking Decaf

Friday, July 8, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Alec Baldwin arguably had the best scene of his entire career in Glengarry Glen Ross where he chewed out salesman in attempt to motivate them. The infamous line that stemmed from this scene was "coffee is for closers".

It's true the Blue Jays haven't had somebody who could grab the pot of coffee and run with it, but by no means does that warrant them going out to spend money on a closer.

As with most late-inning relievers, it's been a rollercoaster ride with Frank Francisco this season. He's held the closer's reins a few times this year, and perhaps lost them for good after last night's epic collapse in Cleveland.

The frustrating part with Francisco is just when it appears he has things on lock, he completely implodes. To the point where it's not just a regular blown save, it's an obliterated beyond all recognition.

There were droves on folks on Twitter last night who demanded the Blue Jays need to go after a big name closer to bring some stability to the closer's role. While I would be stoked to see somebody like Heath Bell closing out games for the Blue Jays, it's not something they need right now.

The closer's position is arguably the biggest revolving door position on a Major League roster. Look at how many have lost their job due to injury or ineffectiveness this season alone: Jonathan Broxton, Ryan Franklin, Matt Thornton, Brandon Lyon, and even Matt Capps is on the ropes in Minnesota.

Just because the Blue Jays would be willing to pay closer's type money for somebody, doesn't necessarily mean they'll even be a closer for that entire contract. Need I remind anyone about B.J. Ryan?

Not that I'm blaming the Beej for this own demise, but ownership was more to blame for giving B.J. Ryan that contract. Ryan only had one year's experience as closer in Baltimore, there were worries about his delivery, and of course the absurdity of signing a closer to five years.

There are never any guarantees when you sign a big name closer, and there is no such thing as closer immunity. Despite what the Yankees are hoping for, there will indeed be a day when Mariano Rivera will have to be removed from his role either on his own accord or otherwise.

Judging how contract extensions and free agent signings have gone the past few years for the Blue Jays, I'm sure the last thing Alex Anthopoulos wants to spend big money on is somebody who only tosses 70 innings a season.

As we've seen around the league, virtually almost any reliever can be shoehorned into the closer's position. Not all closers are created equally, however it makes the most sense financially to promote from within.

It's a position that comes with a lot of cache, and as Frank Francisco can attest to, it also comes with a great deal of criticism when things go awry. It's not something that every pitcher, but it's not a position that requires tiger blood to be coursing through your veins either.

There's no question it's been a revolving door of closers for the Blue Jays ever since B.J. Ryan was cut loose in early 2009. I totally get that the fans have been long yearning since then for a closer who can shut the door.

Trust me, it's just not worth overpaying for.

As deflating as losses like last night were, remember that they happen to even the best of relievers. And at the end of the day, I'd rather be paying $4 million a year for blown saves than $10 million.

Acid Flashback Friday: Dave Stieb Throws 7 Straight Complete Games

Before the ever was the "Summer of George", there was a time when kids actually played outside during the summer. When the combination of hot pants, Kool and the Gang, and the Empire Strikes Back sent everyone into a tizzy.

All those things aside, there was one man who was weaving an impressive streak together that can only be deemed as the "Summer of Stieb".

For this week's Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back of Dave Stieb's run of seven straight complete games during the summer of 1980.

Much was made last week about Cliff Lee's streak of three consecutive complete game shutouts, and I myself have always been a big fan of complete games, shutouts or otherwise. The fact that Lee strung together 34 consecutive scoreless innings is mind-boggling.

However, a feat of seven straight complete games is also very impressive, and Dave Stieb did just that in the summer of 1980. From June 18th to July 21st, Stieb held a 5-2 record in those seven starts and had a 1.48 ERA. He also held opponents to a .202 batting average.

Dave Stieb did perhaps his best work near to the end of the streak where he pitched back to back complete game shutouts in the road against the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics.

By season's end, Stieb pocketed 14 complete games in the 1980 season, the second highest total in his career. It would only be surpassed by his 1982 season in which he tossed 19 complete games.

With pitchers coddled the way they are now, the complete game has almost become a relic in itself, aside from your perennial workhorses like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia.

I think that makes the "Summer of Stieb" all that more impressive. 1980 was a much different time for baseball and starting pitchers were likely expected to go the distance every time they took the mound, but that doesn't take away from seven straight complete games.

Thanks to @TheGoldenYear for this week's Acid Flashback Friday suggestion. If you have anything you'd like to see from Blue Jays yesteryear, please send your suggestion to bluejayhunter@gmail.com

The Reverse Jose Bautista Staredown

Thursday, July 7, 2011  |  by 

Screencap of Animated Gif courtesy of James_in_TO
Last year he popularized the Jose Bautista Staredown, and apparently the trend must be catching on because people are starting to give it right back in what can only be described as the Reverse Jose Bautista Staredown.

@James_In_TO graciously posted the animated gif from Jose Bautista's called strike three from the top of the seventh, and after briefly arguing the call, Jose heads back to the dugout but not before Tim McLelland burns a couple of holes into Bautista's back with his eyes.

Bautista had every right to dispute the call as we can see from the Pitch F/X; pitch one and four were almost at the same location outside, yet pitch five which was even further off the plate was called strike three.

Pitch F/X courtesy of Brooks Baseball
It's true that Jose Bautista has definitely given the home plate umpires lots of grief over called third strikes this season, and I'm a little shocked somebody hasn't tossed him out for arguing balls and strikes.

Jose Bautista staredowns are typically reserved for instances when your opponent buzzes a fastball by Bautista's head, and then in his next at bat he goes yard. But as Tim McLelland has demonstrated, Reverse Jose Bautista staredowns are used when punching out Bautista on called strike three.

Safe or Out is in the Eyes of the Beholder

Wednesday, July 6, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one above was worth only one: safe.

For the second time this season, some shotty umpiring cost the Blue Jays a key run late in a game on the road. The first time was at the hands of Bob Davidson in Los Angeles, and the second was thanks to Brian Knight.

After the onset of the play, there wasn't much debate whether Edwin Encarnacion was safe or out at home plate. It was apparent he was just gunned down by a good throw by Darnell McDonald. However, the replays tell a much different story.

Initially, I didn't think there was any question about it either, but thanks to the video replays and the stills from the play at the plate we can see that home plate umpire Brian Knight botched that call.

The explanation is pretty simple: it appears as though Knight had his eyes fixated on Edwin Encarnacion's left leg trying to cross the plate, but it was his right leg that snuck through and touched home plate.

The angles suggest that Edwin missed home plate as his left leg ricocheted off Jason Varitek and missed home plate. However, Brian Knight failed to keep an eye on the other leg as well which did get down before the tag was applied.

So is it time to expand instant replay then?

This instance just proves how flawed Major League Baseball's replay system is. I'm not saying we need to question each and every single close play, but game-changers like the one which ended the game should definitely be called into question.

Maybe Bud Selig is afraid that adding more instant replays to baseball will take away from the human element away from the game, and that suddenly baseball won't need umpires at all just line in Base Wars.

I just think if the technology is there and available to question an important play, it should be used to its full advantage. There's no excuse not to use it other than the time issue, but that is a small sacrifice I for one would be willing to make.

Umpires have to make hundreds and hundreds of snap decisions over the course of a ballgame. I don't envy them because it's a thankless position, but no matter how hard they try there will always a margin of error. By incorporating instant replay, that margin of error can be lessened even further.

Every other professional sport uses instant replay to a far greater extent than baseball, so it's time to get out of the 19th century and step into the 21st century.

Edwin Encarnacion's textbook slide

Even though he was called out on the play, full marks should be awarded to Edwin Encarnacion for a beauty of a slide into home plate. This animated gif of the replay shows how EE ducked down and got full extension on this right leg past Jason Varitek.

Edwin obviously must've been studying old Blue Jays tapes prior to the game of how to properly slide into home plate, as demonstrated by the late Roy Hartsfield. (Hat tip to @thegoldenyear for the suggestion.)

Image courtesy of CBC.ca
Stop! Give Patterson the Red Light

As infuriating as it was to have tue home plate umpire take a game-tying run away from the Blue Jays, strangely enough I was more enraged by another incident that happened earlier in the game.

Since the top of the ninth was as dramatic as it was, this topic will likely fall by the wayside, but it simply has to be addressed. Corey Patterson getting caught trying to steal base in the top of the sixth was inexcusable.

I know from hours and hours of playing MLB 11 The Show that you do not make the third out at third base ... that's just baseball fundamentals. If you do, you get penalized 10 points in the game, and hopefully John Farrell makes Corey Patterson do 10 wind sprints as a punishment.

No one can be certain whether it was John Farrell who called for the steal or if Corey Patterson decided to swipe third base on his own, but it was just a very bad baseball decision. You simply do not do that with the tying run at the plate, and it's your second best hitter in the box.

With another failed attempt, that makes Corey Patterson 0 for 3 in steal attempts at third base. As a comparison, Rajai Davis is 13 for 13 when swiping third.

I'm not saying Davis was right to steal in all those situations, but if you're going to steal third, you better be damn sure you can get there safely with 2 out and 2 on. And in most situations I wouldn't even attempt it anyway.

Doubles Don't Clash

Tuesday, July 5, 2011  |  by 

Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Well, it appears the inaugural Meats Don't  Clash Monday was a huge success, because not once, not twice, but thrice did the MDC patron saint Travis Snider hit a double at Fenway Park.

I don't want to get too excited about this, so I'll approach yesterday's game with tempered enthusiasm. We've seen this before where Snider comes back like a bat out of hell, so I think the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

The topic du jour seemed to be whether Travis Snider's swing was different in any way. Gregg Zaun didn't really notice a difference aside from a slight shift in his batting stance, and I would tend to agree.

As you'll notice from the replay of Snider's first double from yesterday, he stays with the ball but only drives it as one hand comes off the bat. It's a pattern that was all too familiar before he was send down to Las Vegas:

Perhaps I was expecting to see a complete overhaul of Travis Snider's swing, and all they really did was tweak it a little bit. In Snider's own words, he's trying to stay square to the ball and not get his entire body with his swing.

In previous match-ups against the Yankees, I recall the broadcasters talking about a similar situation with Curtis Granderson. He tweaked his swing last season and since then it's paid dividends and allowed Granderson to hit left-handers all of a sudden.

I'm sure there's much more to it than this layman's term explanation, but the gist of it was that Curtis Granderson was not keeping both hands on the bat through contact, and was one-handing it much similar to Travis Snider.

ESPN has a great article showing the difference in heat maps comparing Curtis Granderson's plate coverage from last year and this season. The explanation Granderson offered was that he shortened his swing and simplified his approach.

Once Granderson allowed himself to keep his hands on the bat as long as possible, that's when he re-discovered his home run power. This may just be me talking out my posterior, but why not apply the same strategy to Travis Snider?

Whatever the case is, the results are there through at least the first game. Travis Snider wasn't murdering the ball yesterday by any means, but six bases is a great start. Doubles don't clash after all.

Meats Don't Clash Monday!

Monday, July 4, 2011  |  by 

Fire up the BBQ because our favourite carnivorous outfielder is back: Travis Snider has returned to the Toronto Blue Jays!

In honour of this momentous occasion, I think we should declare today as "Meats Don't Clash Monday". So what exactly does this entail? Here's how you can get involved with "Meats Don't Clash Monday":
  • Simply use the hashtag #MeatsDontClash at any point today.
  • Tweet your meat pics to me @BlueJayHunter and use the #MeatsDontClash hashtag. And by meat pics, I mean pictures of beef, pork, chicken, unicorn, marlin, buffalo, rattlesnake, any animal game is fair game. This can be a picture of your breakfast, lunch dinner, or even if you just want to raid the meat section at No Frills ... whatever you like!
  • If you are one of the proud owners of a Meats Don't Clash shirt, be sure to wear it today in support of Travis Snider. And if you want to tweet pictures of your shirt as well, you're more than welcome. Be sure to use the #MeatsDontClash hashtag so I can keep track of them.
I'll update this post as the day progresses with some of the best tweets and meat pics as "Meats Don't Clash Monday" continues.

Once again, we're very excited to have Travis Snider back with the Blue Jays, so let's all raise a honey glazed ham in celebration!

Thanks to @Will_Sportto for sending this Twitpic from Sightlines restaurant at the Rogers Centre.

@RicklePickle19 is celebrating Meats Don't Clash Monday with what appears to be a bevvy of chicken and beef.

None other than @Elise_Myers was brave enough to go behind enemy lines at Fenway Park today and picked up a Fenway Frank with bonus jerky.

@pshag has a couple of birds in the oven ... I wonder if they could possibly be turduckens?

And in what may just be the most impressive meat haul ever to rest on a single plate, @mike_digs has a plate filled with lobster, ostrich, duck, kobe beef, swordfish and bluenose.

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