Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So Long, Travis Snider


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Image courtesy of PostCity.com
I remember the day as if it was almost yesterday. The Blue Jays were just coming off a loss at home to the Boston Red Sox, but looking for the silver lining in the loss, I chose to focus on Travis Snider's tremendous 3-run home run.



In searching for an image to put at the top of the post, I stumbled across this article from 2009 in which Travis Snider reviewed some of the best nachos in the city of Toronto. The Ack tweeted me the choice line from the article "Meats Don't Clash", and the rest is history.

At that very moment, Travis Snider immortalized himself into Blue Jays folklore by declaring his love for meat. And subsequently, the fans (yours truly included) declared their love for Travis Snider.

For a brief moment there a few weeks ago when he was pulled from a game in Las Vegas, there were rumblings that he may have been dealt. And then when it was announced that he was merely being called up, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I think we can all agree Snider’s call-up this season had been a long time coming. And then it turns out the move to call up Travis Snider was just one to get him some big league at bats before sending him to Pittsburgh.

Ever since his big league debut at Yankee Stadium in August of 2008, Blue Jays fans have been emotionally invested in Travis Snider's journey with the Blue Jays. I think this is why this trade hurts as much as it does; because Snider’s development has been four years in the making.

Since 2008, the Blue Jays have seen their fair share of left fielders; Adam Lind, Fred Lewis, DeWayne Wise, Corey Patterson, Juan Rivera, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis, and Travis Snider just to name a few.

Out of all those names, Snider seemed like the long-term solution in left field. And yet the position has remained a revolving door for the club for the past four seasons when the solution may have been right under their nose the entire time.

There’s no question that the Blue Jays mismanaged Travis Snider. Even Alex Anthopoulos has admitted that they rushed him to the majors. In retrospect, it really didn’t make much sense to bring up a 20-year old Snider who ripped through Single A, Double A and Triple A in the matter of five months.

While J.P. Ricciardi was at the helm when those decisions were made, Alex made some mistakes with Travis Snider as well. These past few seasons were especially frustrating to watch as the team tried to retool Snider’s swing and shipped him back and forth from Las Vegas and Toronto.

If Travis Snider were on any other team, he is the exact type of player that Alex Anthopoulos would be gunning for; lots of upside, cost-controlled, and out of favour with his current club. Which is kind of surprising as to why AA would choose now of all times to deal Travis away, while his value is not remarkably high.

The truth is the Blue Jays had five outfielders and only three spots to fill. And after Anthony Gose, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista, Travis Snider simply didn't make the cut. Toronto just didn't have room for him if they wanted Anthony Gose in the starting lineup every day.

I think the biggest thing this move says about the Blue Jays is they are committed to give Anthony Gose the everyday job in left field. And in a way, it feels like the Blue Jays are doing the same thing here with Gose as they did with Snider in 2008.

Toronto is essentially giving Anthony Gose the reins in left field, while he has very little big league experience under his belt. The problem is if Gose falls flat on his face, then what happens? Is it Travis Snider 2.0 all over again?

Alex Anthopoulos and the organization must have a great deal of confidence in Anthony Gose, otherwise history could very well repeat itself.

This trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates is the final chapter in Travis Snider's story with the Toronto Blue Jays. And while I'm sad to see him go, I'm glad to see Travis will at least get a shot at a full-time gig with another organization.

Travis now gets to start with a clean slate in Pittsburgh, and doesn’t have to play with the pressure of being a highly-touted Blue Jays first round pick over his head. If anything, it least it gives me a good excuse to visit PNC Park in the near future.

So long, Travis … may your meats never clash.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Flirting With .500


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Image courtesy of Daylife/Getty Images
For all the ups and down the Blue Jays have endured during the 2012 season, you'd probably think the team would be much worse off than they actually are.

At times they have looked like one of the biggest offensive powerhouses in the league. And other times, the Blue Jays have been clearly overmatched. All that, and they're still only one game above .500 and sit just three games out of a playoff spot.

For a team that has had three of their five starters go down to significant injury, their closer shelved for the season, their star slugger on the DL, and losing their everyday catcher with a broken hand, the Blue Jays have remained surprisingly resilient.

Yes, John Farrell may look like he has aged about 20 years this season, but the fact remains that his squad has managed to keep their heads above .500 for most of the season. Here's how closely the Blue Jays have flirted with .500 through 101 games.

Although Toronto has never been more than 5 games above .500 at any point this season, at the same time they've never been more than 2 games below .500.

Now, treading water simply isn't going to cut it if the Blue Jays are going to be contenders any time soon. But I think their ability to hold it together despite all the injuries is a very promising sign for the next few seasons.

That's not to say any team isn't immune to the hardships that have plagued the Toronto Blue Jays this season. There's simply no way everyone on the 25-man roster can stay healthy the entire 162 game schedule.

What's important is that there are other players around to pick up the slack. In order to make a run at the playoffs, not every player on the roster necessarily needs to have a career year. But they do need to pull their weight. And for the most part, I think Toronto's starting nine has done exactly that.

My fear is that the offense might regress next season while the pitching plays catchup and continues to go through growing pains in 2013. But Ricky Romero can't get much worse, Brandon Morrow will hopefully be healthy, and all should be contributing factors towards an improved starting rotation.

If you're wondering how long it's been since Toronto has been even 14 games or more above .500, you have to travel back to August of 1999. That of course was the last time the Blue Jays were even close to making the playoffs, as they had a one game lead for the Wild Card on August 11th 1999.

Then on August 13th, the Blue Jays relinquished the Wild Card to the Red Sox, and Boston never looked back down the stretch. Somehow, Toronto would finish the season a full 10 games back of the Red Sox for the Wild Card.

As great as it's been that they've hovered around the .500 mark, you can see that an even record simply isn't going to cut it to make the playoffs. Competition is as fierce as ever, as it seems like the playing field has been evened this season with the addition of another Wild Card spot.

Just like with anything, I think luck plays a huge part in baseball. The 2012 Toronto Blue Jays have not been lucky this year by any means, and yet have still somehow managed to tread very close to .500 all season long.

If lady luck can pay them a visit more often next year, (as opposed to Dr. James Andrews) then who knows ... maybe playoffs might not seem like such a far fetched idea after all.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Flashback Friday: Dr. Jay on YTV's "The Zone"


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One of my favourite things about Youtube is the ability to search out videos and travel back into your childhood. You can spend hours looking for old commercials from your youth, popular music, or those odd TV shows from back in the day that you almost completely forgot about.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we do exactly that by taking a look back at segment on YTV's the Zone featuring none other than Dr. Jay from Jr. Jays.

In case you were wondering, yes this is the very same Dr. Jay from the short-lived Jr. Jays TV Magazine on YTV from 1994 as well. Remember, since Dr. Jay is from the planet Galaxia, he ages very well.

Of course, you'll notice a cameo by Daryn Jones (formerly of MTV Live and the cult classic show "Buzz") who was a former host of YTV's "The Zone".

From my days as a teenager without cable whose wardrobe almost exclusively came from Randy River, I vaguely remember that characters like Dr. Jay used to drop in on "The Zone" for interviews like this with Daryn Jones or the particular YTV VJ.

I think my favourite part of the video is when Dr. Jay messes up when trying to recite the Jr. Jays website. Oh, the magic of live television!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is Ricky Romero's Season a Write-Off?


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Image courtesy of Daylife/Getty Images
Ricky Romero has spent most of the 2012 season bearing the entire weight of the Blue Jays starting rotation on his shoulders. And now it looks like that pressure has caused him to crack.

We’re already well past the halfway mark of the 2012 season, and I hate to say that Ricky Romero’s year might already be a write-off. Even as a self-appointed eternal optimist, it's going to be tough for Ricky to salvage his campaign.

Statistically speaking, it’s really no secret as to why Ricky Romero is having a bad year; his walks are up, his strikeouts are down, he’s not pitching deep into games, and despite having the best run support of his career, Romero’s peripheral stats are among some of the worst of his career.

Pat Hentgen spoke about Romero’s struggles earlier this morning on the FAN, and he indicated that the mental aspect of the game may be playing havoc with Ricky right now. I’m not saying intangibles are entirely responsible for Ricky Romero’s demise, but I certainly believe they have a lot to do with it.

If Romero was in fact playing through an injury, would that make things any better? I certainly wouldn’t blame him for doing so, since another injury is the last thing the Blue Jays need right now. He was supposed to anchor the pitching squad this season, so there must be enormous pressure on Ricky to right the ship.

The most frustrating part about everything is how Romero has fallen so quickly so fast. After posting back-to-back solid seasons, Romero was inevitably a case for regression, but I don’t think anybody could have foreseen the complete and utter unraveling of Ricky Romero.

This was a pitcher who was the de facto “ace” of the Blue Jays staff the past two seasons, and now he’s looking more and more like a mid to back-end starter.

Things have undoubtedly been rough on the Blue Jays pitching staff this season, but I wonder if Romero’s struggles have been amplified simply because he was the one guy fans were expecting to have a solid season?

By all indications, Ricky’s 2012 hasn’t been the absolute worst by a starting pitcher this season, but it is in fact pretty close. Compound that with the fact that three starters in the rotation went down to injury, and Romero’s struggles have been amplified that much more.

I guess the one bright spot here is that this isn’t an isolated issue pertaining exclusively to Ricky Romero and the Blue Jays. Jon Lester, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren and many other starting pitchers are mired in some of the worst seasons of their respective careers.

Before things get any worse for Ricky Romero, they have to get better. Taking a step back and having Ricky skip his next start might not be that bad of an idea. J.A. Happ could certainly slot in and make a spot start in Romero’s absence, even though Happ should really be in the rotation anyway.

Assuming the Blue Jays are going to contend in the next few years, Ricky needs to get right. And if he can take a break and string some good starts through the last few months of the season, I think that will do more good for his psyche than just parading him out to the mound every fifth game and bracing for impact.

If 2012 is going to be a write-off for Ricky Romero, at least it’s this season and not 2013 or 2014 when the Blue Jays might be poised to do some real damage in the AL East.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Improve the Rogers Centre Fan Experience


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Image courtesy of BlueJays.com
If you've ever been to Walt Disney World, you can fully appreciate why it's been dubbed the "happiest place on earth". Once inside, you truly feel like you're inside the Disney bubble and it's easy to forget it's part of the real world.

From start to finish, the entire Disney experience is pain-free. And since it's such a pain-free environment, people subsequently have no trouble at all opening their wallets since everything is so incredibly convenient.

As I was enjoying the grandiouseness of Walt Disney World, I couldn't help but think that the Rogers Centre could take some notes on how to improve the fan experience at Toronto Blue Jays games.

Personally, I lead a pretty sheltered big league ballpark experience, as Comerica Park is the only other stadium I've been to outside of the confines of the concrete convertible. But even with only 2 of 30 ballparks under my belt, I'd venture to say Toronto isn't one of the most sought after stadiums in baseball.

As great as it would be to just start from scratch and build a new stadium from the ground up, I think we can all agree that won't be happening any time soon. So in the meantime, here are a few ways the Blue Jays can improve upon their fan experience at the Rogers Centre.

Better Food, Better Prices

At Magic Kingdom, there was a baseball themed restaurant that served gourmet hot dogs called "Casey's Corner". There was one hot dog in particular which caught my eye on the menu board which was the Barbeque Slaw Dog.

Casey's features several hot dog concoctions, but none perhaps more enticing than the aforementioned two-meat treat. It's a hot dog topped with pulled pork, coleslaw, and covered in barbeque sauce. It's even more delicious than it looks below.
Image courtesy of ChipandCo
As I'm sure most of you know, pulled pork is my weakness so I could never not eat anything pulled pork on a menu, but it was fantastic. And I just kept thinking, the Blue Jays desperately need a signature food item like this.

I think the BBQ Chicken Nachos at Muddy York have unofficially become the signature item at the Rogers Centre, but if you've ever ordered them you'll agree the portions are quite underwhelming for $10 dollars.

And that's one of the major problems I have with the food at the Rogers Centre; the value simply is not there. A boiled (not even grilled) hot dog with no specialty toppings on its own is a whopping $5 dollars. No sides, no nothing - just hot dog and bun for $5 dollars.

At $8.59 US, the Barbecue Slaw Dog at Disney World is by no means a bargain, but at least you're getting good value for your money. The hot dog is huge, and you also have your choice of a side of french fries or apple slices.

The hot dog was so big, I actually had to eat some of the coleslaw and pulled pork off the top of the hot dog with a fork first before I could really dig in to the hot dog itself. And they provide you with a myriad of toppings, from onions to shredded cheddar.

Personally, I don't have an issue with paying $5 dollars for a hot dog or $10 dollars for nachos so long as I feel like I'm getting my money's worth. And that's not the case at the Rogers Centre; most grown adults would need to order two or three of those items to have a sufficient meal.

The only really reasonably priced fare at the Rogers Centre is the Tim Hortons coffee, which is surprisingly only $1.50 for a small coffee. Compare  that to $5 dollars for a bottle of water, and one can understand why fans constantly bellyache about food price.

I wish there was something like AT & T Park's Garlic Fries or Turner Field's "The Hammer" that would entice people to seek out this signature food item, and then crave it every other subsequent visit to the ballpark.

There needs to be something unique you can eat at the Rogers Centre that you can't eat anywhere else, and that's one area where I think the Blue Jays are severely lacking right now. Maybe now would be a good time to roll out those "Meats Don't Clash Nachos"?

Aramark is the main food distributor at the Rogers Centre, and sometimes I feel like priority number one for them is to pump out as much food as possible,not the quality of food and drink or providing value for your money.

It seems as though it's about the bottom dollar, and merely giving fans just enough to keep them quiet, but not truly satisfied.

Better Beer Selection

Image courtesy of SteamWhistle.ca
I touched on this in a post from a few years ago, but with the bevy of microbreweries near the Rogers Centre, it only makes sense to serve it at the Rogers Centre.

My suspicion is that the Blue Jays still have some agreement with Inbev (formerly Interbrew), who were former owners of the Toronto Blue Jays, to serve exclusive Interbrew products (Labatt, Budweiser, Keith's, etc).

Recently, I've noticed that the beer selection has branched out in the form of Guinness as well as Vex coolers (ugh), but I can't see why they can't just wheel some kegs of Steam Whistle or Mill Street down to 1 Blue Jays Way.

At other ballparks around the Major Leagues, they showcase these microbrews and craft beers proudly. Because if I'm visiting the Rogers Centre for the very first time, don't I want to sample some local fare rather than the mass-produced beer that's available nearly everywhere?

What exactly is so unique about Budweiser or Bud Light the Rogers Centre when local brews like Steam Whistle or Mill Street do a fantastic job of showcasing local craft beer?

I realize the prices of beer at the Rogers Centre are quite deep, but there's not much that can be done about that. If they're going to charge us nearly $10 dollars for a tall can, the least they can do is give us a choice of great beers.

Crowd Control

Image courtesy of Canada.com
The other thing I noticed at Disney is their staff is extremely visible. It seemed like no matter where you looked, you would find a cast member who was always more than willing to answer questions or point you in the right direction.

As silly as it sounds, they even had people whose sole purpose it was to direct foot traffic. And often times during a Blue Jays game I've needed to pass through the sea of people and wondered how I'd make it through.

The Rogers Centre could really benefit by simply having ushers on the concourse ensuring the flow of foot traffic is moving along. There are times I've encountered lines that wrap around every which way through the middle and obviously bog down the traffic through the middle.

And not to be a party pooper, but I think that over-serving customers is an issue at the Rogers Centre (much like it is at any establishment that serves alcohol). On numerous occasions, I've been sitting next to people who obviously were inebriated beyond the point of no return, and yet went completely unnoticed.

Yet there are other fans who have supposedly been tossed from games for simply heckling the opposing team. I think so long as they aren't using foul language and not disturbing the folks around them, then they should be allowed to yell all they want.

I realize the security staff only have so many bodies to cover so many sections and their doing the best job they can, but the fan to security ratio is simply way to high. They need more people on the floor to ensure the people who want to enjoy the game are there, and the ones who are simply there to cause trouble are weeded out.

Where is the History?

Image courtesy of TorontoTourismsvt.com
If you were to walk around the perimeter of the Rogers Centre for the very first time and not look at what the fans outside the dome were wearing, you might not even know you were at a Blue Jays game.

Sure, there's signage and lots of logos strewn around the Rogers Centre, but there's very little if any historical pieces surrounding the ballpark. The same goes for the concourse. Aside from some player photos on the 300 Level, there's not very many historical pieces on the walls of the Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays may be a young franchise compared to others around the league, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be some pieces of historical significance at the Rogers Centre.

I often joke with folks on Twitter that there should be a bronze statue of Roberto Alomar's iconic pose with his fingers in the air from Game 4 of the 1992 outside the dome. But in retrospect, that actually might not be a bad idea. The same goes for some sort of Joe Carter monument.

For a team that has won two World Series and five AL East division titles, it's a shame that the Blue Jays don't display their history more prominently around the Rogers Centre.

There's plenty of real estate behind the 100 level outfield seats, so why not install some sort of "Blue Jays wall of fame" back there?

Free Wi-Fi

Considering that Rogers is one of the largest communications providers on the country, it's quite surprising that the Rogers Centre doesn't provide free Wi-Fi for its customers (or at least the option to use Wi-Fi).

As I'm sure you've experienced, the reception inside the dome can be quite spotty sometimes, especially when the roof is closed. Which again is surprising considering Rogers Communications owns the building.

Not that cell reception or Wi-Fi is paramount to watching a baseball game, but with the addition of the Tweeting Tuesdays, the Blue Jays Blackberry Insider and other various social media at your fingertips, it's tough to go the entire game without checking your phone.

Personally, I'm not really one to add something that draws fans eyes away from the the field. And not that cell reception is paramount to watching a baseball game, but folks are going to check their phones regardless during a Blue Jays game.

If that's the case, why not allow the fans free Wi-Fi which in turn will help publicize the Blue Jays across several social media sites?

Only a select few teams in the Major Leagues currently offer free Wi-Fi to their fans, but since Rogers is plastered across the outside of the building, you would think Wi-Fi would be readily available.

Other Things 

Many of you tweeted some great suggestions on how to improve the fan experience at the Rogers Centre, and I have to say there were lots of things I hadn't even considered. Some were as simple as bringing back a baseball organ to putting in more water fountains.

It seems like a no-brainer to turn the former Windows restaurant into some sort of "party patio" since for the most part, that part of the park goes unused anyway. If anything, it would at least provide a different vantage point for fans wanting a unique seat.

These are just a few of the many areas in which the Rogers Centre could improve upon. And even if they worked to change just one of these things, it would at least be a step in the right direction.

I'm going the ballpark regardless whether anything changes or not, but some of these issues might be a dealbreaker for some other fans. And if it gets them back to the Rogers Centre, then it will have all been worth it.

Like I said off the top, building a brand new stadium for the Blue Jays simply isn't in the cards right now. The Rogers Centre is the only house the Blue Jays have, so we may as well work with what they've got.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What Just Happ-ened?


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Getty Images
It seems like this is becoming an annual occurrence, isn't it? Alex Anthopoulos miraculously pulls off a blindsided trade that absolutely nobody saw coming. It's like AA has said in the past ... "if something gets leaked, then it's probably inaccurate".

The red flags starting going off late last night after it was announced that Travis Snider was on his way to Boston, but the club could not confirm which move was being made to put him on the roster. It turns out Snider was just a small piece in the grand scheme of things.

My initial reaction to the 10 player trade with the Houston Astros was one of confusion. It didn't really make much sense because there wasn't that one coveted centrepiece player or prospect involved in the deal.

My gut tells me though that Blue Jays management really sees something in J.A. Happ, as it was rumoured back during the Roy Halladay trade that Happ was going to be one of the centrepieces involved.

That certainly makes sense, because if Alex Anthopoulos was simply looking for starting pitching depth, there's certainly a myriad of arms out there. Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Guthrie and Brad Bergesen were all readily available on the market.

More so than the talent, I think it's the control aspect that is the most important part of the pitchers that the Blue Jays acquired from the Astros. Brandon Lyon will probably walk at the end of the season as a free agent, but J.A. Happ is under team control through 2014, and David Carpenter is under control through 2015.

Mid to back end starters might be a dime a dozen, but that is not one of the luxuries the Blue Jays have right now. And with Kyle Drabek out for potentially all of 2013 and no timeline on Drew Hutchison's return, the Blue Jays need arms to bridge the gap.

Thanks to @KevinBassStache for informing me that J.A. Happ actually had the most quality starts among the Houston Astros pitching staff with 12. In fact, Happ has more quality starts on the season than anybody on the Blue Jays pitching staff as well.

So if the Blue Jays were looking for somebody to eat up innings and to minimize the damage, J.A. Happ certainly fits the bill. David Carpenter projects to be a middle relief arm, which is another thing Toronto is in desperate need of.

As far as the players that were dealt from Toronto to Houston, I think it's more about quantity than quality. Sure, the Blue Jays sent a good chunk of prospects to the Astros, but with the incredible depth in the minor league system, Toronto can obviously afford to ship off some players in return for Major League talent.

Swapping Ben Francisco and Francisco Cordero ($6.0375 million total) for Brandon Lyon ($5.5 million) essentially just cancels each other out as the "bad contract swap meet" portion of the deal.

At first glance, this trade doesn't appear to have the potential to be a game changer for either side. There was a lot of talent that changed hands today, but out of all 10 players involved it would be surprising if even three or four guys emerge as above replacement level.

This isn't the type of trade that's going to help the Blue Jays win a championship, but at least it will aid in keeping the pitching staff afloat until Alex Anthopoulos can figure out what the next move is.

Flashback Friday: The John Gibbons/Ted Lilly Fight


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For all intents and purposes, baseball is an extremely passionate sport. The guys on the field love the game, the coaches love the game, and even the fans in the stands are die hard about baseball.

With that much passion and drive fueling the sport, it really comes as no surprise when emotions occasionally boil over on the field. Sometimes players will lash out against their competitors, the umpires, heck ... sometimes even the fans themselves.

But it's not very often when you'll see members of the same team go at it. For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the infamous spat between John Gibbons and Ted Lilly.

The day was August 21st 2006; the first place Oakland A's rolled into town to face the Blue Jays during the dog days of summer. Ted Lilly was making his 25th start of the season, and things did not get off to a good start.

Lilly started off the game by giving up back-to-back singles, but luckily was the benefactor of a double play and strikeout to get out of the first inning unscathed. Lilly sent the Athletics down in order in the second inning, but after that is where the wheels came off.

Ted Lilly walked the first batter in Eric Chavez and proceeded to give up five consecutive hits for five runs. After watching his starter struggle against A's, John Gibbons had apparently had enough and decided to give Lilly the hook after just 2.1 innings of work.

Needless to say Ted Lilly wasn't too happy about being yanked midway through the third inning, and he exchanged some words with his manager out on the mound. After giving up five runs in one inning, I suppose Lilly thought that didn't warrant getting the hook so soon.

After some tense dialogue between Gibbons and Lilly, he reluctantly relinquished the ball and Jason Frasor was called upon to clean up the mess. Ultimately Ted Lilly was charged with 7 earned runs on 8 hits through 2.1 innings.

But it didn't stop there; as Lilly headed towards the tunnel under the Blue Jays dugout towards the clubhouse, Gibbons followed and there were even more words exchanged between the two in the tunnel.



Mere moments later, trainer George Poulis bolted to the tunnel and the rest of the team rushed down to break up the fight. What actually happened between Gibbons and Lilly is all hearsay, but it's rumoured that the two threw punches and Gibbons ended up with a bloody nose.

Perhaps the most telling quote from the entire encounter came from Ted Lilly during his postgame interview, in which a Freudian Slip may have said it all :
"There were no punches thrown, so I don't think John had a bloody nose. I don't know how that would have happened."
While both Ted Lilly and John Gibbons were adamant that merely words and not fists were exchanged, I got the sense from the video above that Lilly wouldn't have mentioned the bloody nose unless there was in fact a physical altercation.

The incident was a black eye on the organization, as the very next day I remember media outlets everywhere covering the story. Not exactly the way you'd expect the Blue Jays to be making headlines south of the border.

And of course the John Gibbons/Ted Lilly incident came shortly after a much publicized spat between John Gibbons and Shea Hillenbrand in which Gibbons allegedly challenged Hillenbrand to a fight. So this altercation didn't do any favours for manager John Gibbons.

Following the altercation, needless to say Ted Lilly saw the writing on the wall and knew his time with the Blue Jays would be coming to a close. At the end of the season he walked as a free agent and signed with the Chicago Cubs.

John Gibbons and Ted Lilly may not have always seen eye to eye, but they taught us one very important lesson from their altercation; at least wait until you get to the clubhouse to air your dirty laundry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vacation Catch Up


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Well everyone, I'm back! After a brief hiatus, it's good to be back blogging about my beloved Blue Jays once again. Last week I was on my honeymoon in Disney World, and needless to say my baseball intake was minimal during the week.

I found out very late last Monday evening that Jose Bautista was in the finals of the Home Run Derby and sprinted my way from the front desk of the resort to my hotel room to catch Bautista's final round in the derby.

Also, I spotted a few Blue Jays caps around Disney World. There is in fact some Blue Jays content at Epcot at the Canada Pavilion. During the "O Canada" film, there was a very brief clip of Joe Carter's home run from the 1993 World Series.

Anyway, enough about me ... I guess a lot happened in Blue Jays land during the last week, so here are some thoughts on the myriad of Jays news.

Sergio Santos: Damaged Goods?

When the Blue Jays announced that Sergio Santos was to undergo surgery and would not return for the remainder of the 2012 season, it wasn't really all that much surprising. Here's a bit of an eerie excerpt from a post I wrote back at the end of April:
This is just me thinking worst case scenario here, but what if something is really wrong with Sergio Santos? This now marks the first time he's even been on the disabled list in his Major League career. Could it be that all those innings have finally caught up with him?

If Santos' injury extends behind the projected four weeks that the Blue Jays think it might take for him to get back, then I might start to get a little worried.

Again, this is just yours truly being extremely paranoid, but I would hate to see Santos go down in year one of his tenure as the Blue Jays closer.  
Conspiracy theorists would believe the Blue Jays knew Sergio Santos was damaged goods all along. This would certainly explain why the White Sox sold so low on their closer after signing him to a three year contract extension plus three club options.

I'm sure the Blue Jays did their homework and likely knew there was some inherent risk to bringing in Sergio Santos. But by no means do I think their scouts knew for certain that Santos was destined for an injury.

Sergio racked up 115 innings in his first two seasons as a Major League pitcher, so perhaps he was more prone to injury than say your ordinary pitcher who has thrown a baseball all of life, as opposed to a position player converted to a hurler.

If Sergio Santos was going to go down to injury, I'd rather it be the first year of the deal at $1 million salary than a $8 million dollar club option later on.

Ex-ex-tension Ex-ex-ex-tension

This is a bit of old news, but congratulations to Edwin Encarnacion on his contract extension. Quite frankly, I'm a little surprised the deal was done mid-season, but Alex Anthopoulos has proven in the past that contracts don't necessarily need to be inked exclusively in the off-season.

I think the Blue Jays either needed to sell high at the trade deadline with Edwin or lock him up for the next few seasons. Having a little more stability in the lineup  certainly makes the picture a little clearer for the next few seasons.

The Encarnacion extension really does reflect the exact same situation the club was in a few years ago with Jose Bautista. Were they prepared to let him walk, or sign him long term? The Blue Jays either needed to be all-in or all-out.

My fear now is that Encarnacion may turn into a pumpkin once again and return to his pre-2012 streaky form. However, if the Blue Jays weren't confident that Edwin hadn't turned the corner, then I don't think they would have signed him in the first place.

The Rogers Centre Fan Experience

This really has nothing to do with what happened on the field the last week or so, but more so about what happens in the stands and on the concourse with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The one thing I really noticed during my stay at Disney World is that they really have their stuff together. No expense is spared and there is an incredible attention to detail at the park. From the moment you step through the turnstiles, it's all about making it a pain-free experience.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the Rogers Centre.

It really pointed out some deficiencies at the Rogers Centre; from the food to just the overall fan experience. I'll be delving into this issue much further in an upcoming blog post, but needless to say the Blue Jays could really take some notes from Disney World on maximizing the fan experience.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Vacation


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Well friends, it's time for the annual Griswold family vacation! Yours truly is packing up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and hitting the road.

Truth be told, I'm actually getting married to the love of my life later today, and will be away on my honeymoon for the next week. Her tolerance of my Blue Jays nerddom over the years is just one of the many reasons why I'm honoured to say "I do".

And the honeymoon just so happens to coincide with the All-Star break, so luckily there won't be too many Blue Jays games missed. Until then, enjoy the All-Star break and I'll talk to you soon!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Flashback Friday: The Canadian Living Blue Jays Issue


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Whether you're a professional athlete making tens of millions of dollars a year, or whether you're just an average joe, there is a common thread among all of us; we all need food to survive. Yes, food is the great equalizer among us all. 

Perhaps that was the reason behind a special Blue Jays centric edition of one of Canada's most beloved publications for almost 37 years. For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look at the 1994 edition of Canadian Living & the Blue Jays.

To those who have one of these Canadian Living magazines stuffed away in your parent's attic or in a cardboard box somewhere in the catacombs of your basement, you know how impressive this issue was.

The main hallmark was that this Canadian Living issue not only featured 49 recipes (16 in total by Blue Jays players), but there are also lots of great articles and interviews featured in this exclusive issue.

Below are just a few of the select recipes from the Blue Jays players families. It ranges from the Carter Family Corn Pudding, to Juan Guzman's mother's recipe for braised goat (seriously), and the Olerud family omelette.

To those who feeling like cooking up some of the Blue Jays favourites, here are individual links to each and every recipe. Collect and trade them with all your friends! I'm sure these would come in handy for your next block party.

The Spragues' Toasted Mushroom Bread
The Craigs' Maryland Crab Cakes
The Spragues' Hot Cheesy Mexican Dip
The Carters' Corn Pudding
The Timlins' Jerked Chicken
The Oleruds' Omelette
Francia Correa de Guzman's Braised Goat
The Knorrs Hot & Spicy Chili
The Borders' Sweet Potato Casserole
The Stottlemyres' Lasagna
Maria Velazquez de Alomar's Chicken
The Leiters' Chicken Primavera
The Olerud's Beef and Bean Burritos
The Coleses' Lemonade Ice Cream Cake
Angel Food Cake for Coleses' Ice Cream Cake
The Craigs' Creme de Menthe Brownies

In addition to all the recipes from the Blue Jays players families, the magazine has quite a few great articles as well. There's some great candid shots as evidenced below, when Ed Sprague measured up Jerry Howarth against John Olerud.

And then there's a visual tutorial on grips for pitches courtesy of former Blue Jays pitching coach Galen Cisco.

Heck, there was even an insert where fans could win Joe Carter's 1994 Honda Ex. It had a suggested retail value of $27,000 dollars, and was previously driven by Joe Carter. So maybe they should have renamed the contest "Win Joe Carter's Used Car!"

I always love when baseball players are photographed outside of their natural environment. Here's Pat Borders and Todd Stottlemyre having a "fish out of water" moment during a fishing trip.

Through Canadian Living, we also learned that in addition to fishing, Stottlemyre enjoys grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

If you ever happen to stumble across the Canadian Living & the Blue Jays issue, I highly recommend picking one up. You can usually find them on eBay for less than $20 dollars, and it's a great conversation starter for any dinner party.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

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


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Aside from winning a World Series ring, an All-Star selection is one of the greatest honours that can be bestowed upon a Major League Baseball player. While the game itself might be somewhat of a farce, it's the All-Star selection which most players are proud of.

Now while some players are disappointed about being snubbed for the All-Star Game, they can seek solace in being selected as the next best thing; a Moustache All-Star. Here is a collection of the best 'staches of the first half of the 2012 season.

Tim Byrdak (New York Mets) 

Tim Byrdak has spent the bulk of his career flying under the radar as a journeyman reliever, but he made headlines during Mets Spring Training after showing up dressed as Hulk Hogan.

The above image is obviously pre dye-job, but give Byrdak credit for crashing camp as one of the most iconic personalities in wrestling history. Not pictured; David Wright with his homage to Sgt. Slaughter.

Kevin Mattison (Miami Marlins)

When the Marlins announced they would be changing their uniforms for the 2012 season, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody more excited than Kevin Mattison. That's because his ginger moustache finally matches with the Marlins orange alternate uniforms.

Daniel Murphy (New York Mets) 

A funny thing happened to Daniel Murphy after he recently decided to shave off his moustache; he got better. Following the eviction of the hairs from underneath his nose, Murphy has hit .438 highlighted by a four-hit game on Tuesday against the Phillies.

So if shaving his moustache off was his slump-buster, I suppose Daniel Murphy will inevitably have to grow it back to get on a hot streak once again.

Pete Walker (Toronto Blue Jays)

It wouldn't be a best staches of the first half list without a token appearance by somebody on the Toronto Blue Jays roster. It just so happens that this year it's none other than bullpen coach Pete Walker.

Walker is no secret to the moustachioed arts, as he sported quite the 'stache during his stint as a pitcher with the Blue Jays from 2002-2006. As far as moustached coaches go, Walker's isn't quite as epic as Sal Fasano's for example, but it's a valiant effort.

Jeff Samardzija (Chicago Cubs) 

If you hadn't heard the off Jeff Samardzija prior to this season, you're not alone. Samardzija moved into the Cubs starting rotation this season, and that promotion was undoubtedly precipitated by none other than his moustache.

Looking at his biography, it's apparent that Jeff Samardzija had the potential for a great moustache all along, as his father Sam played semi-pro hockey. And we all know hockey players have the second best moustaches in sports, next to baseball players of course.

Derek Holland (Texas Rangers) 

I hesitated to give Derek Holland Moustache All-Star status because the truth of the matter is his 'stache rivals that of Sidney Crosby as one of the worst in professional sports. But seeing as I need as many moustaches as possible, Holland made the cut ... so to speak.

Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles)

For many years, I had mistakenly referred to the above moustache by Chris Davis as a fu manchu, but according to the American Mustache Institute's Style Guide, it's actually a "horseshoe".

Which incidentally is what the Baltimore Orioles have had up their posteriors the first half of the season.

Dale Thayer (San Diego Padres)

Earlier this season, Dale Thayer enjoyed a brief stint as the closer for the San Diego Padres as Huston Street went on the disabled list. Thayer converted 5 straight save opportunities in May and made the most of his appearances as the interim closer.

Thayer has since slid down the depth chart a few rungs in the Padres bullpen, but I guess that just gives him more time to devote to manicuring and coiffing that lovely 'stache of his.

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