Friday, August 31, 2012

Flashback Friday: Bell, Moseby and Barfield

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Image courtesy of BlueJays.com
Bell, Moseby and Barfield; these are three names that resonate with all Blue Jays fans. Three names that are synonymous with the "Drive of '85". Three names that pioneered a new era in Toronto Blue Jays baseball.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, and Jesse Barfield; otherwise known as the greatest outfield in Blue Jays history.

Incredibly, Bell, Moseby and Barfield patrolled the outfield for nearly four full seasons with the Blue Jays from 1984 to 1988. That kind of consistency is something that's virtually unheard of today, and yet day in and day out, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield held it down in the outfield. 

All three players had their own strengths; Bell had the power, Moseby had the wheels, and Barfield had the arm. Yet, each of them possessed the skills to be an All-Star, and in the case of George Bell, he was awarded the American League MVP in 1987.

Aside from the incredible power and speed possessed by these players, was their collective defensive prowess in the outfield. Bell, Moseby and Barfield set the gold standard when it comes to the best defensive outfield alignment in franchise history.

George Bell lead baseball in assists for a left fielder for three straight seasons from 1985-1987. Moseby lead baseball in assists for a centre fielder in 1985. And perhaps most impressive, Jesse Barfield lead all outfielders in assists in five of six seasons from 1985-1990.

In 12 seasons in the big leagues, Jesse Barfield racked up 162 total outfield assists predominately playing in right field. Next to Joe Montana and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Barfield had one of the most feared arms of the 80's.

For further evidence of how deadly a trio they were in the 80's for the Blue Jays, this FanGraphs WAR graph tells the entire story of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfied's tenure with the Blue Jays and beyond.

It's incredible how many wins that outfield was worth during the Blue Jays heyday.


Source: FanGraphs -- Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby

Although it may have been a little before my time, I can still appreciate what these three men did for the Blue Jays franchise. Much like Jeremy over at 500 Level Fan, there is nothing but fond memories for the trio of Bell, Moseby and Barfield.

The thing I'll always think of when I look back at George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield is how they helped usher in a new era for the Blue Jays and helped change the culture of the team.

The image that will forever remain etched into my brain is George Bell falling to his knees and celebrating with Tony Fernandez during the infamous Drive of '85. That was the moment when the Blue Jays officially arrived, and it was due in large part to the trio of Bell, Moseby and Barfield.

Don't forget - George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield will reunite later today at the Jays Shop inside Sears at the Eaton Centre from 1-2pm for an autograph signing. Be sure to get down there this afternoon for a chance to see them in person.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Difference Between the Dodgers and Blue Jays

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When it comes to baseball teams, there could not not be two organizations that are further apart on the spectrum right now than the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Dodgers. But it wasn't all that long ago where both the Dodgers and Blue Jays were on an even keel.

So what changed so suddenly? In a matter of mere months, the Dodgers front office has changed the entire culture of the team. As opposite as the Blue Jays and Dodgers appear to be on the surface, it actually turns out they have one big thing in common; money.

Both organizations have a big financial backing, whether it's in the form of Guggenheim Baseball Management or a multi-billion dollar communications conglomerate like Rogers. But when it comes to front office strategies, the two teams could not be more different.

I heard Los Angeles Dodgers president Stan Kasten on Primetime Sports on Tuesday night, and at first I actually thought it was Paul Beeston. And for a team that had just taken on over a quarter of a billion dollars worth of contracts, Kasten was certainly saying all the right things:
“We didn’t see a robust free agent market, and we didn’t see other trades … people weren’t giving us star players. We have to be aggressive for now in the short term, in the long term we remain dedicated to the goal of becoming a first class scouting and player development system.

But I can’t come in to Los Angeles and ask these fans, with their historic connection to this franchise, to wait around five years for us to develop a farm system.

We’re trying to add pieces because it’s a franchise whose fans have come to expect it and frankly deserve it.

The last few years have been rough for them; we’re trying to change that and turn it around, and I think we’re making progress on turning around the perception, turning it back to where the perception of the Dodgers once was.”
Even though Stan Kasten may be the president of an opposing ball club, his remarks really resonated with me. When he said that the Dodgers essentially "owe it to the fans", I wondered to myself why the Blue Jays wouldn't do the very same thing.

If I were a Dodgers fan, I would be pretty pleased with ownership right now, because Stan Kasten was doing a great job of assuring fans that the Dodgers were doing everything in their power to win.

Compare and contrast that with these comments made by Blue Jays president Paul Beeston last December, and these two presidents are clearly on completely different pages.
"We’re still capable of going to the US$120 million payroll once we start drawing the people. Once we start drawing the people means that we’re winning, right? The formula hasn’t changed."
In my eyes, actions speak louder than words. On numerous occasions, Paul Beeston has indicated the Blue Jays have the financial backing to increase payroll above $100 million ... but it's beginning to feel like he's just paying us lip service.

On the other hand, the Dodgers put their money where their mouth is. It's only been three years since the Los Angeles Dodgers have been to the playoffs, and yet the front office feels like they they need to immediately restore the winning culture for the fans.

It's been nearly 20 years since the Blue Jays have made the playoffs, and yet there isn't nearly the same sense of urgency. Yes, strides have been made in this new regime of the Blue Jays to improve the ball club from the ground up, but ultimately the results at the big league level have remained the same.

This is where I'm torn as a fan; in one sense, I understand that building a perennial winner takes time and there's no such thing as fast tracking to success. But on the other hand, I see what's happening in LA and kind of wish it would happen in Toronto, too.

I'm not an advocate of blowing money for the sake of blowing it, because I'm sure that's one lesson that resonated after the J.P. Ricciardi era. But if the money is there to improve your team while still building the farm system, then why not do it?

If the Blue Jays are just saving their cash for when they're on the doorstep of contention, what if that time never comes? The club's core players certainly aren't getting younger, and contending for a playoff spot in the AL East isn't getting any easier.

It's somewhat worrisome that the Blue Jays only have three years left on Jose Bautista's contract with an option for a fourth year. That might seem like a long time, but there's no guarantees that Bautista will stick around after 2016. So really, the window for contention is actually much shorter than we realize.

Again, I'm not insinuating that the Blue Jays go out there and spend frivolously or take on the kind of contracts that the Los Angeles Dodgers did. However, there's nothing wrong with opening the pocketbook and spending a little cash to bolster the big league roster.

If Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos can continue to build up the farm system, field a contending big league team, and do it all while penny-pinching, then all the power to them. Unless the end game is an eventual return to the playoffs for the Blue Jays, fans could be left wondering if it was all for naught.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What the Red Sox/Dodgers Trade Means for the Blue Jays

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters
It was the trade that shocked the baseball world; the nine player deal between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers not only had huge implications on their respective rosters, but the teams around them as well.

As rivals in the American League East, the Toronto Blue Jays are all too familiar with their foes in Beantown. And as happy as they may be so see some of those faces leave the division, the ripple effects will be felt long after those players have left town.

Basically, I think this blockbuster trade signals either one of two things; either the Red Sox are looking to clean house and rebuild the team from the ground up, or they're merely just freeing up payroll so they can spend like crazy in the offseason.

For argument's sake, let's say the Red Sox were motivated to trade Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Punto for the former reason; because they want to start fresh. This is obviously good news for the Blue Jays in the short term since is makes the Red Sox a much weaker team in the short term.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean the Red Sox would be a weaker sister of the American League East for very long. As we've seen, a team like Boston has flourished in the past with a much smaller payroll and a bevvy of younger players.

A few consecutive years of smart drafting and some lucky breaks and Boston could be back in the game sooner than any of us could probably imagine. With the right scouting and front office in place, they could right the ship very quickly.

But what if the Red Sox shipped off all those guys just so they could go out and go blow their budget again on a different set of players? After freeing up over a quarter of a billion dollars from their payroll, that would certainly open up for the Red Sox management.

With that kind of bankroll, Boston could sign easily Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, Zack Greinke and other highly-coveted free agent players this offseason. And if that happens, it would be very very bad news for the Blue Jays and the rest of the American League East.

After all the shenanigans in Beantown these past few years, I don't think that even makes Boston a very attractive destination for free agents like Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher anyway. It sounds like there is a clear divide in the clubhouse; that players are either against Bobby Valentine or with him.

Not that either of those guys would be free agent targets for the Blue Jays, but if marquee players can stay away from signing with the competition, that would be all the better for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Speaking of free agents, I think this trade only increases the possibility that the Blue Jays go after somebody like David Ortiz. He's been there from the start of the entire mess in Boston, and somewhere like Toronto might be looking better and better come this offseason.

This kind of situation is difficult because from a front office perspective, you can't get too wrapped up in what everybody else is doing around you. If that were the case, Toronto might have thought 2012 was the year to strike because it looked like the Yankees were getting old and falling out of contention. And now New York is poised to win another division title.

I think the perfect balance is keeping a keen eye on the competition but not letting them dictate what your team does. So while the Red Sox/Dodgers blockbuster trade does affect the Blue Jays to some extent, it ultimately shouldn't change their master plan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jose Bautista is Back (in Song Form)

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After what has seemed like months, Jose Bautista will finally make his long-awaited return this evening ... and not a moment too soon. Having Joey Bats back into the Blue Jays lineup feels a lot like Christmas morning.

So to celebrate this momentous occasion, I present to you "Long Drive, Left Field (The Jose Bautista Home Run Song)". In the same vein as the "We No Speak Encarnacion", this track features clips from Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler.

Hopefully Jose Bautista makes a splash and goes yard in his first game back with the Blue Jays, which will give us ample opportunities to play this song over and over. Enjoy!

Flashback Friday: Cliff Johnson

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Image courtesy of Mop Up Duty
In today's roster construction, I think the art of putting together a great bench is a long-forgotten art. A short bench has come back to bite the Blue Jays several times this season, but back in the 80's and 90's, the men in the trenches went to war at the plate.

Cliff Johnson was one of those soldiers who dredged through the trenches with the Blue Jays, and he is the focus for this week's Flashback Friday.

I'll be honest, at first I didn't know all that much about Cliff Johnson aside from his spectacular moustache. In fact, I started using a photo of him as my Twitter avatar last year and enjoyed it so much that I've kept it ever since.

It turns out that Cliff Johnson brought a lot to the Blue Jays squad in the 80's. He made two tours with the Blue Jays, from 1983-1984 and 1985-1986. Heathcliff was used primarily as designated hitter and pinch hitter during his tenure with the Blue Jays.

During his very first season in Toronto in 1983, Bobby Cox used Cliff Johnson primarily as a platoon DH with Jorge Ota. Together they combined to slug 34 home runs and drive in 113 runs. Not too shabby for a two-headed DH, right?

In 1984, Johnson's home run total dropped off a bit, but he managed to raise his batting average 39 points year over year to .304. Cliff Johnson saw very limited time on the field, as he started only 9 games over two years with the Blue Jays.

On August 5th 1984, Cliff Johnson set a new Major League record for pinch hit home runs as he picked up his 19th career pinch hit home run. He would later add to that record by hitting his 20th pinch hit home run in 1986, but Matt Stairs would break that record in 2010.

Cliff Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers in 1985 before being traded back to the Blue Jays on August 29th. Johnson would wrap up his career in a Blue Jays uniform, but as I alluded to, not before hitting his 20th career pinch hit home run.

An interesting set of circumstances lead to Cliff Johnson ending up with the number "00" when he returned to the Blue Jays in 1985. Johnson's go-to number was 44, but it was occupied by Jeff Burroughs.

I guess Johnson's second choice was 0, but that was used by Al Oliver. So instead, Cliff Johnson opted to go with 00, which meant the Toronto Blue Jays had players with both the number "0" and "00" on the roster at the same time.

And I can't remember who exactly it was who brought this video to my attention on Twitter, but it also turns out one of Cliff Johnson's hallmark is that he refuses to smile for his baseball card photos:


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Micromanaging the Manager

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters
A season like this one for the Toronto Blue Jays will make a man do some crazy things.

Since John Farrell's squad has scored a Major League worst 64 runs since July 29th, it forces him to come up with some creative ways of scoring runs. The Blue Jays have averaged under three runs per game dating back to the end of July.

It's enough to drive a man insane, let alone the man at the helm of the ship of this Toronto Blue Jays baseball club. But as desperate as the Blue Jays have been to score runs lately, John Farrell pulled a couple of head-scratcher moves last night.

Let me preface this by saying that I don't believe in micromanaging the manager. As a fan, it's not fair to hover over his head and second guess every single pitching change, pinch hitter, or a hit and run play. But as a fan, I believe I'm within my right to question a couple of crucial plays from the last night.

The first was the decision to pinch run Anthony Gose for Moises Sierra in the top of the 8th. Had there not been a runner on third base ahead of Gose, it would've made sense. But with Encarnacion standing at third, Gose can only run as fast as Edwin ahead of him.

The second was of course choosing to green light Omar Vizquel to steal second base with two men out and he as the tying run on base. As one of the worst baserunners on the team, do you really want to peg your hopes on Omar Vizquel to swipe a base in a crucial situation?

After the game, John Farrell admitted to the media that he sent Vizquel because he was desperate to score runs and wanted to force Alex Avila to make a perfect throw. In retrospect, that spot would've been the perfect situation to use Anthony Gose as a pinch runner.

When your team is 10 games under .500 and 10.5 games out of a playoff spot, picking up a win might seem pretty inconsequential, but a loss is still a loss. And it's especially heartbreaking when the Blue Jays run into the final out in the top of the 9th.

That's also one of the ill effects of running with an 8-man bullpen. After David Cooper left the game, John Farrell essentially painted himself into a corner by using Gose in the eighth, which left him no options other than Vizquel as a pinch hitter in the ninth.

If the Blue Jays were in a fight for a playoff spot, I'd be more apt to second guess moves like this from John Farrell. But at the end of the season, what's the difference between 70 wins and 71 wins?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bad Breaks and Lucky Hops

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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Baseball truly is all about bad breaks and lucky hops. Most of the time, the teams with the best players will rise to the top, but occasionally even teams comprised predominantly of replacement level players will catch lightning in a bottle.

If there was one team out there that epitomizes the bad break this season, it would have to be the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays. And if there's a team that personifies the lucky hop, it's the 2012 Chicago White Sox.

As it currently stands, the gap between a bad break team and a lucky hop team is around 9 wins. That might not seem like much, but when the gap between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs is razor thin, those wins really do add up.

And here we are with just over 40 games to play, and yet it looks like the Blue Jays will be on the outside looking in while the White Sox are leading the AL Central and barring a complete meltdown, they'll punch their ticket for the playoffs.

To me, the White Sox are a myriad of lucky breaks: Chris Sale comes out of nowhere, Adam Dunn returns to his old self, Jake Peavy has been a revelation, A.J. Pierzynski puts up a career year, and Alex Rios gives a "you know what'" again.

When you add all those things together, you have a Chicago White Sox squad that will at the very least contend down the stretch. And if you stacked up a healthy Blue Jays roster against the White Sox, I'd honestly say the Blue Jays are the much better squad.

The White Sox have the benefit of playing in the traditionally weaker AL Central, but that's no excuse for Toronto. They're not moving any time soon, and the the addition of another Wild Card spot now plays in favour of those strong AL East teams.

There are actually some positive side affects of having 12 players on the disabled list and several members of the starting rotation go down to serious injuries. It means that the Blue Jays had no choice but to dip into their minor league system and fast track some of their prospects.

I don't imagine the front office could have foreseen calling up as many players as they have from Las Vegas and New Hampshire, but frankly it was necessary for the Blue Jays to keep their heads above the water.

The benefit of having so many young players on the big league roster is the Blue Jays get an advanced look at players they might not have otherwise seen this season. Did anyone expect Moises Sierra or even Chad Jenkins to suit up in a Blue Jays uniform this year?

Obviously some young players are faring better than others, but a lukewarm season at the plate for Anthony Gose doesn't necessarily mean he won't evolve into great big league hitter down the road. Just look at Mike Trout.

Just as a comparison, Trout had 40 games under his belt last season with the Angels and picked up 27 hits in 123 at bats. This season, he's running away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award and quiet possibly the MVP Award, too.

In fact, had it not been for the Angels releasing Bobby Abreu and the injury to Vernon Wells, who knows if Mike Trout would have even gotten the chance to pick up everyday at bats with the Angels this season. It just so happened that everything has fallen into place this season for Mike Trout.

With the injury to Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays get an extended look at Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra where they may not have otherwise. Again, another positive in what has otherwise been a injury-riddled season for this squad.

So with the play of these two players, it allows the AA to decide whether they need reinforcements in the outfield next season, or whether they want to roll the dice with Gose or Sierra as a left fielder next season.

Back in February, Alex Anthopoulos gave this very telling quote about the starting lineup. An even though the Blue Jays are still the walking wounded, I think his theory still applies:
"We don’t need everybody to have a career year. We just need everybody to be solid and to play to the ability that they have, and I think we’re going to be a great team."
It's simply unrealistic to expect your one through nine to put up career seasons. As we've seen, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have taken a step backwards, while Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion have taken huge steps forward and have compensated for their deficit.

The Blue Jays don't need their starting lineup to have career years in order for the team to contend, they just need to stay healthy. And if there's one thing that we've learned from the 2012 season, it's that avoiding the DL may be the toughest battle of all.

May all those bad breaks finally be behind the Blue Jays, and let there be nothing but lucky hops on the horizon.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flashback Friday: Scott Rolen's Drive-Thru Commercial

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Scott Rolen’s tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays may have been short, but it sure was sweet. Not unlike this memorable spot from the 2009 season.

For this week’s Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the infamous Scott Rolen Drive-Thru Blue Jays commercial.

The star of this commercial really is the drive-thru attendant, but the awkward interaction between him and Scott Rolen make this commercial a memorable one even three years after it aired.

I wonder if fans in Cincinnati are still asking Scott Rolen if they can text him and hang out. In fact, I still haven't found a place that serves a mammoth burger and fossil fries.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Blue Jays Catching Conundrum

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"I'd rather have too many guys than not enough" - I can't remember quite exactly what Alex Anthopoulos said, but that's just a very rough paraphrasing of his remarks on the club's current catching situation.

Since catching is such a physically taxing position, it's actually a pretty smart strategy. AA would prefer to have a bevy of backstops than a lack thereof. And frankly, I can't blame him since two of the most prominent catchers in the system are suffering from injuries.

On any other day, the extension of Jeff Mathis and signing of Yorvit Torrealba might correspond with a team that's raising the white flag on offensive contributions from behind the plate. But with all the injuries, we simply know that's not the case.

The Jeff Mathis contract extension mirrors the Jose Molina contract from a few years ago in many ways. They are both great catchers in small doses, but simply can't handle the load as a full-time catcher.

Mathis' biggest contributions towards the Blue Jays roster will not be with his bat, but with his glove and his handling of the starting staff. I'm not saying Jeff Mathis earned a contract extension simply with intangibles, but he's worth more to the team than what his numbers indicate.

So if Jeff Mathis is going to stick around the next few seasons as the Blue Jays backup catcher, who inevitably will grab the reins as the starting catcher? Is it J.P. Arencibia, is it Travis d'Arnaud, or is it someone else?

Right off the bat, I'm going to rule out Yan Gomes from the running even as the backup catcher. His number of at bats this season is admittedly a small sample size, but he's not somebody I would want to see get at bats over Arencibia and d'Arnaud.

Gomes has the position flexibility going for him, which makes him a perfect candidate for a bench position ... but that's about it. A late game defensive replacement or a pinch hitter (but only in a pinch).

J.P. Arencibia is currently on the shelf, but it looks like the starting catching job is his to lose next season. The only scenario I can foresee him not making the Opening Day roster as the starting catcher is if he traded in the offseason.

That's certainly a possibility, as catching is a position of strength for the Blue Jays. That can be a double-edged sword, as you can never have too many catchers, but that also may drive down the price of Arencibia on the trade market as other teams know that d'Arnaud is waiting in the wings.

If the Blue Jays can either package J.P. Arencibia in a deal or fetch something decent in return, then I'm all for moving him in the offseason. I'm sure there's some team out there that's looking for a young power-hitting backstop, and we know the Blue Jays have plenty of them.

And now that Jeff Mathis is signed through 2014, that now makes him the mentor figure to whichever player gets the bulk of the reps behind the plate the next few years. If anything, I think that indicates Travis d'Arnaud will get a shot sooner rather than later.

Alex Anthopoulos also hinted the Blue Jays could actually carry three catchers next season, with Travis d'Arnaud potentially getting some at bats at DH, with some sort of revolving door involving Arencibia, Mathis and d'Arnaud behind the plate.

That may not be the wisest strategy to help develop d'Arnaud's defensive skills, but it plays well into his strengths as a great hitter. And of course there's always the possibility that Arencibia and d'Arnaud could get some playing time at first base as well.

I suppose there's no hurry in rushing Travis d'Arnaud to the Major Leagues, as he could very well just spend 2013 in Triple A and continue to get the bulk of playing time behind the plate and receive everyday at bats.

If Alex Anthopoulos thinks 2013 might be the "the year" for contention, then I can see the sense of urgency to get d'Arnaud up to the majors as quick as possible. But if it's going to be another year of development, then why start the service clock early on d'Arnaud when they don't have to?

Again, having too many catchers is a good problem for the Blue Jays to have. Where most teams might have trouble fielding even one offensive-minded backstop, the Blue Jays have two. And I'm sure all those teams are well  aware of Toronto's surplus of catchers.

Throw in Jeff Mathis for good measure, and the Blue Jays have all the tools covered with their three-headed catching monster. But somewhere down the road, that three-headed monster will have to be cut down to two.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rajai Davis' Redemption: The Catch 2.0

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With nearly two seasons under his belt with the Blue Jays, I'll admit that I've been a little hard on Rajai Davis. At times, he's been frustrating to watch both on the field and at the plate.

Maybe it was because I was expecting him to be the second coming of Ricky Henderson, maybe it was because I was subconsciously holding him responsible for Travis Snider being blocked to play left field.

Despite those lofty expectations, Rajai Davis has ultimately done what he was brought in to do; steal bases, hit well against left-handed pitching, and hold down the fort in the outfield. But every once in a while, Rajai Davis has put up a web jem.

This time, it was his once in a lifetime catch from yesterday's game. Now, I wasn't privy to watch the game live, but the multiple angle replays of the catch (over here on the BJH Tumblr) probably do the play justice.

At first glance, the difficulty level might not seem that high on Rajai's catch. But if you take those 10-foot walls into consideration, that amps ump the difficulty level considerably.

Because not only did Rajai Davis have to time his jump, he had to time his jump and his plant off the outfield wall in order to get the height to reach the ball.

And to the best of anyone's knowledge, no Blue Jays player has ever pulled a home run ball back at the Rogers Centre/Skydome. And of all people to do it, I honestly never expected it to be Rajai Davis.

Nevertheless, he pulled off one of the catches of the year ... and quite possibly the best catch in Blue Jays franchise history. The obvious conundrum this raises is where does Rajai's catch rank compared to "the catch" by Devon White.

I'll admit that's a very tough question to answer because the stakes were much higher in the 1992 World Series compared to a mid-August game against the Yankees.



The most impressive thing about Devon White's catch is not only did he make the play while crashing into the wall, but Devon had the presence of mind to make a perfect throw back to the infield and hit the cutoff man to start the would-be triple play.

Devon White made that catch look effortless; which was was one of the hallmarks of his career as a centre fielder. As Grumpy Owl points out, Devo was known for making those difficult plays made easy, which is a true sign of a superb outfielder.

Not unlike Devo, Rajai Davis also had many working pieces to his amazing catch. Obviously the timing was the most crucial part to Rajai's play, as he had to time his initial jump, plus the plant on the left field wall.

It really is comparing apples and oranges with these two spectacular catches, so I'm going to have to plead the fifth on this one (even though I'm Canadian). Both plays by Rajai Davis and Devon White were phenomenal.

I guess what I'm trying to say in all this is that for all of Rajai Davis' shortcomings, he certainly has the power to blow us away with this highlight reel catch that will live on for years to come.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flashback Friday: Glenallen Hill's Freak Injury

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Image courtesy of CNBC.com
The 2012 Toronto Blue Jays are one of the most banged up, if not the most banged up roster in franchise history. It's a familiar scenario; just when it looks like another player couldn't possibly go on the DL, they do.

At a certain point, this Blue Jays season has transformed from a tragedy into a comedy. And as unfortunate as these myriad of injuries have been, next season we'll probably look back and laugh at how comical all these injuries were.

Despite the irregular number of injuries to the Blue Jays this season, most of them have been relatively routine in nature. But there's one freak accident in Blue Jays franchise history that tops them all.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Glenallen Hill's very odd DL stint in 1990. Hill may not have contributed very much on the field during his short tenure with the Blue Jays, but perhaps his biggest contribution was to the folklore of the oddest injuries in baseball history.

Glenallen Hill landed himself on the disabled list because he woke from a nightmare about spiders chasing him, and in a frightened semiconscious state, he fell through a glass table and suffered scrapes and bruises on his feet, knees and elbows.

It sounds like an excuse story worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, but Glenallen Hill assured everyone it did in fact happen. In fact, he even offered to bring reporters to his home to see the blood stains to assure them he wasn't making it up.

Apparently Hill had a fear of spiders, which precipitated the injury even more. But when asked about the incident, Glenallen didn't attribute it to his fear of eight-legged insects, though:
"I'm uneasy with spiders, but I don't think it's spiders that caused that nightmare. It might've been diet, might've been stress ... more of a sleeping disorder.

Spiders just happened to be what I dreamt about that night. It could've been about a car that kept running over me. It could've been about ... you know, caterpillars."
The timing of the injury coincided with the year which the film "Arachnophobia" was released in theatres during the summer of 1990. Glenallen was actually asked not long thereafter about his review of Arachnophobia.

He ultimately gave the film two out of four stars, but called it "another insect movie ... a creature feature Saturday special."

Even long after the cuts and scrapes healed, Glenallen Hill still couldn't shake his infamous injury. Hill became affectionately known as "Spiderman" for years after his stay with the Blue Jays.

Everybody's afraid of something; whether it's flying, public speaking, heights, or in the case of Glenallen Hill, spiders. And frankly, if I woke up from a nightmare where I was trapped at the top of a Ferris wheel, I'd probably freak out too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Five Years in the Blogosphere

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Normally I'm not one to celebrate anniversaries of  the digital kind, but I think this one is somewhat warranted. Incredibly, this week marks the fifth anniversary of The Blue Jay Hunter.

In a roundabout way, I have Alex Rodriguez to thank for somewhat inspiring me to start this blog. He may be one of the most despised baseball players in the league, but if it weren't for him, the Blue Jay Hunter may never have gotten off the ground.

If you look back at the very first post on August 9th 2007, you'll notice it was following a game in which Josh Towers plunked Alex Rodriguez in retaliation for the "ha incident" earlier in the season. And the rest as they say, is history.

As you can tell, the early posts might not have been the most reasonable and rationale pieces of writing. But after five years and over 1,200 posts, I really feel like I've grown with this blog and discovered my own voice ... and actually learned how to use Photoshop.

There are a few folks I'd like to thank for helping contribute and inspire this blog in one form or another. Stoeten from DJF, Parkes, Drew from the late Ghostrunner on First and currently Getting Blanked, the ever wise Tao of Stieb, Navin, and of course ... Dave.

I remember when Dave first emailed me in 2008 and told me he linked BJH to his Go Jays Go Tumble Blog, I was flabbergasted. It just blew my mind that somebody else out there deemed by piddly little blog worthy of being linked on their page.

For the longest time, I treated the Blue Jay Hunter as if it were my own little corner of the internet to vent about the Blue Jays. Five years later, I'm still shocked that people take the time to visit my little corner of the blogosphere.

And thank you all for reading and joining me on this crazy journey through Blue Jays Land these past five years. And of course, thanks A-Rod. But trust me when I say you'll never hear me say that ever again.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Flashback Friday: Todd Stottlemyre's World Series Speech

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Have you ever wondered what certain professional baseball players would do for a living if they didn't play baseball? I have. And if one thing's for certain, it's that Todd Stottlemyre could've moonlighted as a professional wrestler. 

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back to Todd Stottlemyre's speech from the 1993 World Series Victory Celebration.

I say "speech," but it sounds much more like he cut WWE promo. Stottlemyre definitely plays the part of the heel very well, and I'd even go as far as to say that Todd kind of reminds me of Chris Jericho in this shoot.

If you're wondering what spurred Todd Stottlemyre to go after the mayor of Philadelphia Ed Rendell, it was an off-cuff remark Rendell made about Stottlemyre to reporters following Game 4 of the World Series:
"I could envision them (the Phillies) getting swept by a combination of the White Sox's pitching and the Blue Jays' hitting. But not this pitching staff. If Frank Thomas could hit a ball 430 feet off Stottlemyre, I could hit one 270. I'd like to bat against him."
Not wanting to back down from a fight, Todd Stottlemyre then issued his own challenge to the mayor:
"I'll tell you what. When this thing is over, I'll fly to Philly. Tell the mayor to put a uniform on, and we'll see what happens. I'll probably put the first three behind his head, then paint the outside corner."
As I was watching the video, I was just waiting for that moment where the mayor of Philadelphia's entrance music would start playing midway through Todd Stottlemyre's speech and would challenge him to a match right then and there.

It actually turns out Todd Stottlemyre was no stranger to controversial speeches, as he uttered these words just one year prior at the 1992 World Series Victory Celebration.



So I tip my cap to Todd Stottlemyre, because if he ever wants to show up on RAW and cut a promo denouncing the Philadelphia Phillies or challenging Ed Rendell to a rematch, that's cool with me.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Do the Blue Jays Have to Spend to Contend?

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Image courtesy of Sportsnet.ca
"You have to spend to contend" - if you asked some baseball minds out there, I'm sure they might echo these sentiments. But if you asked Alex Anthopoulos, he'd likely say quite the opposite.

Lately, I've been reminded of a few remarks by Paul Beeston from the past few State of the Franchise meetings. On numerous occasions, Beeston has hinted the money is there if the club wants to boost payroll.

At the time, I bought Beeston's promises hook, line and sinker. When he said the Blue Jays are trying to build a sustainable winning team, I believed him. And when he said the Blue Jays could possibly spend upwards of $120 million in payroll, I bought it. 

However, the million dollar question is "when will that time ever come?"

The truth of the matter is the Toronto Blue Jays currently have the fourth longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball. And if the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates hold onto their respective positions, that will leave the Blue Jays with the second longest playoff drought.

And it's not as though the front office hasn't opened up the purse strings at all since 1993. According to Business Insider, the Toronto Blue Jays have spent a total of $1.067 billion dollars in payroll since their last playoff appearance.

Image courtesy of BusinessInsider.com
When all this information is taken into account, one can easily see why Blue Jays fans (or any Toronto sports fan for that matter) have an insatiable thirst for the playoffs; because it's been 19 years since the Blue Jays played October baseball.

The thing about the Alex Anthopoulos regime is I've always felt like he's always had a plan and this team was at least building towards something. But what's the point of constantly building towards a goal if there is no end game?

Not that I have put my blind faith in AA, but for the most part the vision has been fairly clear. Even though it wasn't revealed to the fanbase, at least Alex had an idea about what he was doing in where he wanted to take the club.

If there ever was a trade or signing that didn't quite jive, I just kept telling myself "it's all part of the plan". But now after the Travis Snider trade, I feel like the vision to turn this club into a contender is murkier than ever.

Was it really the wisest idea to trade away an asset that the team spent the past four seasons building up, only to receive a bullpen arm in return? Brad Lincoln could very well turn out to be a great reliever, but at best he's still a reliever.

It's shrewd moves like that and the 10-player trade with the Astros which really don't make much sense from the outside looking in. How exactly do those moves help improve the Blue Jays roster in the short and long term?

Another issue that could be inciting the villagers to revolt is of course, the ownership. As one of the wealthiest companies to own an MLB franchise, Rogers definitely has the cash to spend. So if the money is in the bank, why are the Blue Jays seemingly hoarding payroll?

I'm not one to advocate spending money just for the sake of spending it. We all know what happened during the 2005 offseason; the front office ramped up the payroll from $45.3 million to $71.9 million. And while expectations skyrocketed, the results remained relatively the same.

With this regime of the Blue Jays, we've become accustomed to this Tampa Bay Rays style "lean and mean" payroll. Prospects are more highly coveted than ever, and it seems like the words "free agent" have become the equivalent of dirty words.

I get that the Blue Jays aren't one, two, three or maybe even four pieces away from contention. They could have blown their pocketbook and signed Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Carlos Beltran ... and that still might not be enough to get them into the playoffs.

As ridiculous as it sounds, when a team signs a player to a multi-year contract, to me that signals that the organization wants to win. When they trade a player like Travis Snider, it feels more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Much like Blue Jays blogging cohort The Ack, I'm beginning to question where exactly the Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays are going.

If all of this truly is part of the plan, then I sincerely apologize. It's just that Alex Anthopoulos is so incredibly secretive that fans often have to write their own narrative for the future of the team because AA plays things so close to his chest.

When your favourite team hasn't played in the postseason for 18 years, thinks can look pretty bleak at times. I mean, I was nine years old the last time the Blue Jays made the playoffs ... those days almost seem like a distant memory by now.

So do the Blue Jays have to spend to contend in the American League East? I don't think they need to go broke and sign all the best free agents out there by any means, but throw the fans a bone every once in a while.

Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays front office don't have to justify their existence by spending money frivolously. After all, $10 million or $20 million is a drop in the bucket for a billion dollar corporation. 

Paul Beeston can only dangle the $120 million dollar payroll carrot out in front of fans for so long before they start to lose interest. I understand that he was trying to instill a sense of hope, but it was counterproductive by throwing out that arbitrary number and then not spending it.

Ultimately, I don't really care which method the Blue Jays use to get themselves to the playoffs. Whether Alex Anthopoulos wants to build from the ground up and create a sustainable winner, or whether he wants to go broke and get the best players on the market, I have no preference.

So long as it gets the Toronto Blue Jays back to the playoffs and hopefully another World Series victory, that's all that matters to me. It doesn't matter how the Blue Jays get there, it just matters that they get there.
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