Tuesday, July 29, 2014

3 Up 3 Down: Melky, the Valencia Trade and Dickey


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A little over one week ago, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays were two teams seemingly at a crossroads; the Red Sox were on the cusp of raising the white flag on the 2014 season, while the Blue Jays were very much still in the hunt.

That four game series at the Rogers Centre last week felt like it was going to determine the fate of both clubs at the non-waiver trade deadline, and so far ... it has.

The Blue Jays took three of four and currently occupy the second Wild Car spot in the American League. They just completed a trade to upgrade their team, while the Red Sox have slowly begun selling off pieces.

And after losing 14-1 on home turf last Monday, it was only poetic justice that the Blue Jays paid the Red Sox back by thumping them 14-1 at Fenway Park.


Melky Goes Manic at Fenway



What an eventful past couple of days for Melky Cabrera. On Sunday, he comes within inches of robbing a home run, then he makes an incredible game-ending catch. On Monday, he swats two home runs and drives in 5 of the Blue Jays' 14 runs.

The second half is typically when players tend to fade off, but Melky has done quite the opposite. In the month of July he's hitting .359/.419/.500, and he's proving to be one of baseball's most consistent hitters in 2014.

Not to mention, he broke somebody's windshield after rocketing his second home run right out of Fenway Park and into the parking lot behind the Green Monster.

The funny thing is, that's not the first time a Blue Jays hitter has damaged a vehicle outside of Fenway Park. Jose Bautista dented an SUV a few years ago with this shot.



Danny Valencia, Come on Down


Finally, a trade! Ultimately, this might not be an acquisition that moves the needle all that much, but it at least temporarily shores the third base position.

Trading for Danny Valencia was a true "under the radar" move by Anthopoulos, and considering he only gave up Erik Kratz and Liam Hendricks to get him, I'd say that's a good trade for the Blue Jays.

Valencia has spent the bulk of his career at third base (294 of his 297 starts have been at third), and he provides some much needed help against left-handed pitching. His career slash line of .333/.369/.510 is enough to make one salivate.

Danny Valencia isn't going to set the world on fire by an means, but coming onto a team that's hit .243 versus lefties all season, he'll provide that added boost against southpaws. 

For the time being, Valencia looks to be an ideal platoon partner for Juan Francisco at third base, and down the road, possibly a bench bat. This trade may also signal that the Blue Jays are planning on moving Brett Lawrie back to second base upon his return.

So to summarize, Danny Valencia is controllable, he comes cheap, and he's a right-handed bat that can hit lefties. What's not to like?


Dickey Turning It Around



Last night may have been mostly about the offense, but R.A. Dickey quietly put together another yet solid start, despite having to sit for a long period of time while his teammates put up nine runs in the sixth inning.

While the knuckleball by nature is a very inconsistent and unpredictable beast, Dickey has fairly been consistent going back to the beginning of June; in 11 starts since June 4th he owns a 3.52 ERA and is averaging about 6 strikeouts per game.

However, R.A. still owns that disastrous 10.95 ERA in the seventh inning and beyond this season. It may just be a fluke, but if Dickey is pitching in a close game and it's heading to the seventh, I wouldn't be afraid to get relievers warmed up and ready.

This may be thinking way too far into the future, but if the Blue Jays were in a potential Wild Card playoff winner-take-all game, I don't know if I'd be confident handing the ball to R.A. Dickey in a high-pressure situation.

Images courtesy of Jared Wickerham / Getty Images Sport and @cjzero

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flashback Friday: David Wells Posts the Worst Start in Blue Jays History


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If you think back, it's fairly easy to pinpoint the best starting pitching performances in Blue Jays history. A number of them occupied by Dave Stieb and Roy Halladay, and a few from Jimmy Key, Jim Clancy and even Brandon Morrow.

But can you remember the absolute worst start in Blue Jays history? David Wells definitely does.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back David Wells dubious honour of having the worst start in Toronto Blue Jays history.It was August 20th 1992 as the Blue Jays faced the Milwaukee Brewers at Country Stadium.

Of course, these were the days when the Brewers were still a division rival of the Blue Jays, and with it being late August and both teams were in the middle of a pennant race, this series had some postseason implications.

However, this game was anything but a race as the Brewers took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning and never looked back. As Bill Wegman coasted through seven innings and surrendered only five hits, David Wells was a different story.

His line for the day was one for the ages; 13 runs on 11 hits through 4.1 innings, 1 strikeout and 4 walks. Ultimately, Wells ended the day with a GameScore of -14.


Pitching IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA BF Pit Str GSc
David Wells, L (7-7) 4.1 11 13 13 4 1 1 5.37 29 97 55 -14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com:


While David Wells didn't get "lit up" per sae, his outing was more like death by a thousand paper cuts. Of the 11 hits, two were singles, seven were doubles, and there was a triple and home run a piece.

So rather than beating himself by surrendering an obscene amount of walks, the Brewers just got the better of Wells that day ... by a lot. He wasn't even close to the Blue Jays club record for walks surrendered in a single game, which is nine.

Although Cito Gaston may have hung David Wells out to dry, this was not the start that spurred the famous incident when Wells refused to hand the ball to Gaston and threw it into left field. That came one year prior on August 9th, 1991.

He may have got knocked around by the Brewers that day, but at least David Wells managed to retire 13 batters and didn't need to be rescued until the fifth inning.

Image courtesy of B Bennett/Getty Images Sport

Monday, July 21, 2014

3 Up 3 Down: AA on Trades, Colby's Bunt and Artificial Turf


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There's nothing like facing off against the team with the worst record in baseball to cure what ails a struggling club. Turns out a series against the Texas Rangers is precisely what the Blue Jays needed to get back on track and pick up a series win.

Frankly, a sweep or taking two of three from the Rangers was expected, as Texas is one team that has suffered mightily with season-ending injuries. However, a strong outing by Marcus Stroman and some timely hitting on Sunday helped the Blue Jays get back on track.


AA Holds Court, Remains Vague




On Sunday, Alex Anthopoulos held court with the press and also spoke with Sportsnet's Barry Davis and answered questions mostly pertaining to the upcoming July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

As per usual, AA remained his elusive self and failed to give any real concrete answers as to what the Blue Jays' plans are in the coming weeks. While it's clear they need to make moves now, I think they're really taking the "wait and see" approach.

With the surging Red Sox and Rays, the dynamic is really shifting within the American League East and in just a few weeks, it really could be anyone's game. So it's my estimation that they're sitting back and letting things unfold leading up to July 31st.

A curious tweet sent out by Bob Elliott hinted that the Blue Jays have told teams aren't able to take on additional payroll, and judging by the Ervin Santana saga from earlier this season, that wouldn't at all surprise me.


In the video, Anthopoulos emphasized moves could be after the non-waiver deadline, which indicates the Blue Jays would more likely be looking at taking on players with big-money contracts that will pass through waivers.

Cliff Lee seems like the prime example for this scenario; he's owed $25 million next season and has a $27.5 million club option for 2016. However, for the Blue Jays to take on that kind of cash, they'd likely have to jettison a big-money contract of their own.

I guess what I'm saying is I'm not counting on Alex Anthopoulos getting anything done prior to July 31st, but there is potential for the Blue Jays to swing a deal for somebody that clears waivers.


Colby Lewis Hates Bunts



Did you know that according to the unwritten rules of baseball, you're not allowed to bunt with a two-run lead? And if you see a huge hole on the left side of the infield, that you're not allowed to take advantage of said situation?

At least that's the world according to Texas Rangers starter, Colby Lewis who got in a heated exchange with Colby Rasmus. Here's what Lewis had to say about the situation via Chris Toman's piece on MLB.com.

"I told [Rasmus] I didn't appreciate it. You're up by two runs with two outs and you lay down a bunt. I don't think that's the way the game should be played ... we are playing the shift, and he laid down a bunt basically simply for average."

Wait a second, is Lewis complaining about Rasmus laying down a bunt when the Blue Jays only had a two-run lead? The very same team that's struggled to score runs for the better part of a month?

Since when did a two run lead become insurmountable? If the game had been 10-0, then I would have understood, but it's two damn runs. Get a grip, Colby.

Also, Colby Rasmus is hardly the first person who has ever tried to beat the shift by bunting the other way. David Ortiz has attempted this, Jose Bautista has done this, and it hasn't been so they could pad their statistics. It's so they could get on base and ultimately help their team win.

If Lewis was going to be upset, he should be upset at Anthony Gose who laid down a bunt base hit and then attempted another in his following at bat. If anybody's trying to bunt for average, it's Anthony Gose.


Let's Talk About Turf, Man



This is likely a topic that deserves its own post entirely, but talk of the quality of the turf at the Rogers Centre has really become a concern in recent weeks.

Jose Bautista voiced his displeasure with the artificial playing surface during the All-Star break, and over the weekend the quality of the turf compared to real grass was very apparent.

In was the turf from Sunday's game, the seams of the Astroturf were very evident by first base. This is hardly a new problem for the Blue Jays, and also one that likely won't have a resolution for many years to come.

But when the field looks that shotty on television, one can only imagine what it must be like for the players who have to play on it.

Images courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport and MLB.com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Flashback Friday: J.P. Arencibia's Big League Debut


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If there's one thing I've learned in the last five years, it's that banking on highly-touted prospects is a dangerous game. They'll lift you up with astronomical expectations, and many times they'll also break your heart.

J.P. Arencibia was no different; he was lauded as the Toronto Blue Jays "catcher of the future", but after three full seasons with the club, the Blue Jays found themselves casting him away and non-tendering him this past winter.

So in honour of his return to Toronto this evening since being non-tendered last winter, this week's Flashback Friday takes a look back at J.P. Arencibia's historic big league debut from August 7th, 2010.

Leading up to Arencibia's eventual call-up, many had been pining for months to bring him up from Las Vegas. Arencibia annihilated the Pacific Coast League in 2010, as was eventually voted as the league's MVP (Randy Ruiz won the 2009 PCL MVP as well).

However, it would soon be discovered that success in the PCL wouldn't necessarily translate into Major League success.

After starting catcher John Buck suffered a laceration to his right thumb, that presented the opening for J.P. Arencibia to fill in as the everyday backstop. Blue Jays fans got their wish in early August of 2010, and off the bat J.P. did not disappoint.

J.P. Arencibia promptly deposited the very first pitch he saw from James Shields into the left field bullpen. His first swing in the majors translated into his first home run.



But he didn't stop there. J.P. followed that up with an opposite field double in his second at bat, a single to left in his third at bat, and then another home run in his fourth at bat. It's interesting to note that J.P. used Jose Bautista's bat in his fourth trip to the plate.

Ultimately, Arencibia finished the day 4 for 5 with a pair of home runs and 11 total bases. Not a bad way to start off your MLB career. And of course after a show like that, J.P. had the blogosphere salivating at the prospect of a young power-hitting catcher.

From Tao of Stieb:
I kid you not when I tell you that watching the highlights, again, more than 12 hours after Arencibia's debut still leaves me with chills.

It was an unforgettable performance for both The Player and the fans, and it's these moments exactly that allow the loyal to dream of better days in the near future.

From Hum and Chuck:
Arencibia had the most magical Jays debut since a certain pitcher was pink, round and efficient. So magical it was historically magically. 4 for 5, 2 homers (I think he'll fit in here) and a triple short of the cycle. "I could never have imagined this, ever." Aw.

And from yours truly:
Aside from maybe Travis Snider, can you recall a player in recent memory that has conjured up this much excitement in a Blue Jays uniform? All it took was one pitch to make his presence felt in the city of Toronto. And you know what? I think it was love at first sight.

Former Blue Jays beat writer extraordinaire Jordan Bastian discovered J.P. Arencibia was actually the first MLB player since 1900 to hit two home runs and collect four hits in his debut.

J.P. was also the first Blue Jays player to hit a home run in his very first Major League at bat since Junior Felix did the same on May 4th, 1989.

It's a cynical way of looking at it, but his first game was essentially the peak of J.P. Arencibia's career. Honestly, I don't think I've ever witnessed a Blue Jays prospect have a rapid and meteoric rise like his, only to be cut from the team just a few years later.

On its own, J.P. Arencibia's big league debut was the stuff that baseball fairytales are made of. Unfortunately, his debut just wasn't a precursor for a legend that would last much longer beyond that.

Image courtesy of Toronto Star

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moustache All-Stars: The Best Staches of the First Half of 2014


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Later tonight in Minnesota, MLB's greatest stars will assemble at Target Field for the Mid-Summer Classic. A collection of baseball's elite players will unite in one location; the brightest starts under the bright lights at Target Field.

The question that facial hair aficionados will be asking is; "what about the moustache All-Stars? What about a game featuring the very best 'staches of the first half?" Worry no longer, friends. Here they all are for you in one convenient and handsome collection.



Tim Lincecum - San Francisco Giants



Of all the moustaches on this list, Tim Lincecum's is by far the best performing of the bunch. Lincecum locked down his second career no-hitter earlier this season, and did it sporting a moustache, nonetheless. Coincidence? I think not.

Considering that one third of all the no-hitters thrown in 2014 have been by men who have adorned moustaches, I'm surprised we haven't seen an onslaught of 'staches in recent weeks attempting to duplicate the same success as The Freak.

Was his mustache subtle? Yes. Was it kind of creepy? Yes? Was it effective? Hell yes.

Dale Thayer - San Diego Padres



This is actually the second appearance for Mr. Thayer on the "Best Staches of the First Half" list, the first time being back in 2012. Back then, his moustache was actually quite modest. But as you can clearly see, Thayer's moustache has grown by leaps and bounds.

It's almost gotten into Al Hrabosky territory. Throw in the bushy moustache with the Padres signature camo uniform, and it looks like Dale Thayer is ready to backwoods huntin' after the game.


Carlos Villanueva - Chicago Cubs



"Would you like a sarsaparilla with that curveball?" Carlos Villanueva's moustache is very turn of the century, and hands-down the most refined  and stylized of all the moustaches in this list.

Any man who not only has the finesse to apply moustache wax to keep this thing in tip-top shape has my utmost respect. Well done, Carlos V.


John Axford - Cleveland Indians




Over the years, John Axford has really carved out his own niche and made himself into a modern-day Rollie Fingers. Which means if he ever decides to shave his moustache for good, it's almost as if he loses part of his identity as well.

If this whole baseball thing doesn't pan out and if his Oscar predictions fail to bring in the money, John Axford could probably just throw on a candy-stripe suit and join a barbershop quartet. "Goodbye my Coney Island baby ..."


Donald Lutz - Cincinnati Reds



A relative unknown commodity and a newcomer to the list, Donald Lutz is the rookie to the group. Lutz also has the distinction of being the first MLB baseball player to be raised in Germany.

And considering his former homeland country just took home the World Cup trophy and that baseball players are notoriously creatures of habit, I highly doubt he'll be shaving this thing off any time soon.


Brett Lawrie - Toronto Blue Jays



While Brett Lawrie's moustache was fairly short-lived and short-haired, the impact of it was felt for days and weeks to come. In fact, he seemed to be fairly proud of his impromptu upper lip hair growth as clearly demonstrated by this GIF.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flashback Friday: The John Gibbons/Shea Hillenbrand Altercation


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John Gibbons has had a tough week. Judging by the sound of his voice and the look on his face at some of the post-game pressers, it seems like John Gibbons has aged 20 years in the past month or so.

The usual jovial Blue Jays manager has sounded increasingly dejected, and dealing with an injury-riddled roster like that of the Toronto Blue Jays would certainly take a lot out of a person.

As bad as it's been the past month or so, John Gibbons has dealt with adversity in the past when it comes to his players. Most notably his dustup with Ted Lilly and the focus of this week's Flashback Friday; his altercation with Shea Hillenbrand.

It was the midst of the 2006 season and as the Blue Jays approached the All-Star break, they owned a 49-39 record and found themselves in a good position entering the second half of the season. Everything appeared to be fine ... but it wasn't.

Underneath the surface, there was conflict brewing between the Blue Jays designated hitter Shea Hillenbrand and manager John Gibbons.

The rumour was that Hillenbrand was upset with his playing time, however he started 70 of the Blue Jays 88 games in the first half and played in 80 of 88 games total. So it's not like John Gibbons was benching Shea Hillenbrand often.

There were also reports that Hillenbrand was upset that the team did not give him ample days off to complete the adoption of his child. He took the weekend off to fly to California, and upon his return to the team, he was not penciled into the starting lineup.

So on July 20th 2006, after not being in the lineup for the second straight game, Shea Hillenbrand decided he had enough. He famously wrote two key phrases on the clubhouse bulletin board; "play for yourself" and "the ship is sinking."

Word traveled quickly of the remarks in the clubhouse and John Gibbons promptly called a closed-door meeting with the team. It got to the point where Gibbons was so irate that he stood up and challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight.

Here's Hillenbrand's story of said altercation:
"(Gibbons) held a team meeting and singled me out, and was cursing at me in front of the team, and challenged me to a fight and wanted me to punch him in the face."



It was quite evident that the front office sided with John Gibbons through the entire altercation as it was announced shortly thereafter that Shea Hillenbrand had been designated for assignment.

At the time, Hillenbrand was actually having a successful season as the Blue Jays full-time DH, with a slash line of .301/.342/.480. But considering that Shea Hillenbrand was cast aside by the Blue Jays, it's miraculous they were able to parlay him into anything.

Within a few days, the Blue Jays completed a trade to send Shea Hillenbrand along with Vinnie Chulk to the San Francisco Giants for reliever Jeremy Accardo.

At the time, Accardo was a relatively unknown commodity, but the following season he filled in for an injured B.J. Ryan as the Blue Jays closer and had a very successful season in 2007; posting 30 saves with a sparkling 2.14 ERA in 64 appearances.

Hillenbrand was not as lucky, as he finished out the season with the Giants and then finished off his Major League career by playing a combined 73 games in 2007 split between the Dodgers and Angels.

By all indications, the John Gibbons/Shea Hillenbrand altercation seems like water under the bridge between the two. Hillenbrand surprisingly endorsed the re-hiring of Gibbons in 2012 and admitted he didn't handle the situation very well.

I suppose the adage coined by J.P. Ricciardi in the above video rings true here; if you can't play for John Gibbons, you can't play for anybody.

Images courtesy of USA Today and info courtesy of ESPN

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Blue Jays Need to Make Trades to Survive


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This time of year, teams make trades for a few reasons; one is to improve their team and position themselves as a contender. The flip side of that is a trade to acquire top prospects and re-stock the farm system.

The Toronto Blue Jays however, are in a precarious position; while they are very much still in contention for a playoff spot, pretty soon some trades will need to be made for them to merely survive.

The loss of Adam Lind was just the latest in the revolving door of injuries the Blue Jays have sustained in recent weeks. First it was Brett Lawrie, then Edwin Encarnacion and now Adam Lind. One third of the starting lineup is on the shelf for 4-8 weeks.

And it's not like the rest of the lineup is completely healthy either. Jose Reyes is dealing with a shoulder injury. Jose Bautista is not quite back to 100%. Colby Rasmus and Dioner Navarro are still somewhat hampering.

There is really really one everyday position player on the team who isn't feeling the ill effects of an injury, and I won't mention his name in fear of jinxing it ... but you know who I'm talking about.

So if you take all those extenuating factors into consideration, it should really come as no surprise why the Blue Jays have struggled to score runs as of late. And consequently, the team has been on a slide ever since.

While the starting rotation has stabilized for the most part, the starting lineup needs to be addressed. Where before they really only needed a second baseman, now they also have a need for a first and third baseman as well.

It's gotten to the point where calling up players from Buffalo simply isn't going to cut it anymore. There are minor league players and bench guys who are occupying everyday spots, and at times their inexperience has made it very evident they are minor league or bench players.

Wading through the waiver wire hasn't produced that much more success either. Juan Francisco and Noland Reimold may be on the roster now, but there's a good chance they wouldn't still be on this team had it not been for the onset of injuries.

This is where the focus shifts for Alex Anthopoulos as the trade deadline approaches. A few weeks ago, he may have had some feelers out on a second baseman or starting pitcher, and now the priorities have suddenly changed.

So does AA go out and acquire some players to plug some holes for the short term, or does he go out and attempt to look two or three years down the road?

Chase Headley might provide a slight improvement over what the Blue Jays currently have, but at his salary and what it would take to acquire him, is it really worth it for a rental?

If Alex Anthopoulos is going to part with top prospects like Aaron Sanchez and Derek Norris, it better be for a player who's under control beyond 2014. And preferably, somebody who has the pedigree to improve the Blue Jays starting lineup.

This wouldn't be the first time the Blue Jays went out and made some deals to merely keep their heads above water. Remember the Jose Bautista trade? J.P. Ricciardi brought him in because the Blue Jays needed somebody to play third while Scott Rolen was on the DL.

And look back to the 2012 deadline when AA made that massive trade with the Astros to bring in J.A. Happ amongst others. At that point, the Blue Jays were well out of contention, but were in desperate need of starting pitching depth.

J.A. Happ may not be a high calibre pitcher, but at least a move like that shored up a spot in the rotation for at least a few seasons. And I think that's what Anthopoulos needs to do ahead of July 31st; go out and get some infielders that can help the team now, but also next year as well.

The price will inherently be higher to acquire those kinds of players. However, these are the kind of deals the Blue Jays are going to need to make if they not only want a shot at winning this year, but also so that they can merely survive until the end of the season.

Image courtesy of Toronto Star

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Highs and Lows That Come with Jose Reyes


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Being a Blue Jays fan is a rollercoaster ride unto itself. The team has already experienced the highest of the highs that come with sitting atop the AL East, and the lowest of the lows that are accompanied with losing several key players from the lineup.

It's already been a season's worth of emotions ... and the team hasn't even hit the All-Star break. But if there's one player on the Blue Jays roster that encapsulates those peaks and valleys experienced by the Toronto Blue Jays, it's Jose Reyes.

Not surprisingly, Reyes was instrumental in the Blue Jays' success when they were flying high in May and early June. But over the past few weeks, he's seemingly faded into the background.

In fact, most might be surprised to learn Jose Reyes isn't actually on the disabled list. Not just because it seems like every other player has landed on the DL, but because he's remained relatively quiet as of late.

This may be a bit of foreshadowing as what to expect the next few years with Jose Reyes. Yesterday, we learned via Shi Davidi that Reyes is in fact dealing with a right shoulder injury which may be hampering some of his throws to first base.

Although Reyes stated the injury isn't affecting his play at the plate, he just hasn't been the characteristic Jose Reyes that was brought in via the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins in late 2012.

Sure, there are times where Reyes has come exactly as advertised; an incredibly dynamic player at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. But very rarely this season have we witnessed all three of those aspects working in unison on a consistent basis.

Reyes' reputation as a notorious speedster has had many ebbs and flows during his tenure as a Blue Jay. Not that stolen bases are the only measure of speed, but in his past 30 games, Jose has only collected five stolen bases.

As a comparison, there was a stretch of four games in late May where Jose Reyes matched those five stolen bases. So clearly the ability to swipe bags is still there, however Reyes seems very selective when he chooses to employ that speed.

Jose Reyes is only 31 years old, but going through his laundry list of injuries over the years, it seems like he might be closer to 35. Compound that with playing on an artificial surface half the season and fielding a premium position like shortstop, things may be taking their toll on Reyes.

The time is quickly coming when the Blue Jays also have to ask themselves if they want to continue to keep Jose Reyes as a franchise shortstop, or if he'd be better served at another position that is less physically-taxing like second base.

The thing is, because Jose Reyes' contract is so massive, this is a situation that likely won't be resolved anytime soon. Barring an impromptu trade, the highs and lows that come with a dynamic player like Jose Reyes will be experienced for many years to come.

In many ways, the success of this Toronto Blue Jays team is inherently tied to Jose Reyes. Not just this season, but the remaining years of his contract, which is through until 2017 and potentially even 2018 if that $22 million dollar club option is exercised.

If Jose Reyes is a true game-changer and table-setter, it gives the Blue Jays a decent shot at winning every game. But if things continue on the same path, the Blue Jays might find very soon that they'll have another albatross contract on their hands.

Image courtesy of AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Friday, July 4, 2014

Flashback Friday: Travis Snider Snaps His Bat Like a Twig


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Has it really been almost two years since Travis Snider was traded away late in the night during the middle of a game in Seattle? It seems like it was just yesterday when young Travis was touted as the next big thing, only to be cast away to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Earlier this week, Junior Lake of the Chicago Cubs broke a bat over his knee in disgust over striking out, and it reminded me of an incident involving a former Blue Jay destroying some lumber in a very similar manner.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Travis Snider snapping a bat like a twig. The game itself was from April 19th, 2011. It was a game against the New York Yankees, and Snider found himself on the wrong end of a David Robertson curveball.

Everyone knows that Travis is quite fond of meat which makes him a very strong specimen, so it was no surprise that it looks like he snapped his baseball bat with ease.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Travis Snider used the bat as a toothpick after. Watch the GIF and video of the incident in question after the jump.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jose Bautista and the Question of Leadership


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Jose Bautista has had quite the journey over the past 11 years. He was once a man who was shoveled off to five different organizations in one year; a fledgling journeyman, and here he is now as one of the biggest names in all of baseball.

But the narrative this year has not been about whether or not Jose Bautista is an elite player; it's whether he's evolved into a true leader on a team that has arguably had a lack of leadership these past few years.

For whatever reason, some say they've seen a noticeable difference in Jose Bautista this year. Others say he's the same Joey Bats he's always been. Whether it's a small change or a big change, there seems to be something different about Jose Bautista this year.

For one, his ongoing war with the umpires has seemingly ended. To the best of my knowledge, Bautista hasn't argued very many calls this season, if any. If he's been called out on a borderline pitch this season, Jose just bites his lip and heads back to the dugout.

Let's not forget, Jose Bautista quite famously said last year that he has trouble "being affected by other people's mediocrity" in relation to the umpires. Although he may have been warranted, raging a war on the umpires is admittedly a battle that cannot be won.

This was also a man who's been accused of "playing for himself" in the past, guilty of slamming his bat in anger after popping out during a game which the Blue Jays had a sizable lead. Once again, none of that has been on display in 2014.

But it's not just the things Jose Bautista hasn't said that have made an impact, but it's the things he has said; most notably to younger players in need of guidance like Drew Hutchison and Kevin Pillar.


The Sportsnet cameras have caught Jose Bautista on multiple occasions bestowing some words of wisdom upon the Blue Jays young starter, Drew Hutchison. It's not exactly known what was said, but Bautista has gone out of his way to mentor some of his teammates.


The Kevin Seitzer Effect



Another noticeable difference in Jose Bautista's game this year has been his tendency to go opposite field. That may just be the Kevin Seitzer effect, but it also hints to Jose Bautista doing something for the greater good of the team.

It may not be that he's swinging for the fences this season, it may just be that with the assistance of Kevin Seitzer, Jose Bautista has become a more complete hitter at the plate.

By all indications, it seems to be working as Bautista is enjoying one of the best first halves of his career. It may not be in prototypical Joey Bats style, but Bautista has become a feared hitter because he's showing the ability to beat the shift and hit to all fields.

One other indicator was Bautista laying down a bunt during the game on June 22nd against the Reds with two runners on base. This is one of the most prolific modern day home run hitters, and here's Jose Bautista playing small ball.

Prior to that game, Bautista hadn't even attempted to bunt in the past five years, and further to that he hadn't bunt for a base hit in the past seven years. So if there's a definition of an unselfish hitter in 2014, Jose Bautista has become the poster boy for it.


Making a Case for MVP



When healthy, Jose Bautista has always been a perennial MVP candidate. The only flaw in his game? The fact that he hasn't played on a contending team. However, this year is quite a different story.

Joey Bats is perhaps the best player on the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays, and if the Blue Jays do end up making their way into the playoffs, Jose Bautista suddenly enters the discussion of American League MVP.

Aside from the injuries and the overall play of the Blue Jays themselves, if there's another knock against Bautista's MVP case, it's been his so-called "attitude".

I personally don't see it as an issue, but as we well know, select members of the BBWAA can be quite fickle and will use any reason not to vote for a particular player when it comes to MVP and Hall of Fame voting.

In speaking to a friend about this very topic last week, she discerned that maybe Jose Bautista looks up to his friend David Ortiz and how Big Papi is lauded around the league and can seemingly do no wrong.

While Bautista may have reached that stratosphere within the confines of Toronto, I wouldn't say he's garnered that status around Major League Baseball. So in order to remedy that reputation, I wonder if that's where this "attitude adjustment" has stemmed from.


Not the Leader They Deserved, But the One They Needed



Judging by the way the past two seasons concluded for the Toronto Blue Jays both on and off the field, one doesn't expect there to be too much leadership on an injury-riddled and underperforming roster.

It just doesn't seem like the type of environment that would breed initiative and ambition. The goal of a team like that suddenly shifts from contending to merely surviving the season.

So in watching the rudderless ship at the end of 2012 and 2013, perhaps Jose Bautista finally took it upon himself to be the leader this team so desperately needed.

It may have been born out of necessity, but judging by his actions this year, I'd say that Jose has stepped up and is becoming more of a positive role model for his teammates.

That's the thing about leaders; there's no clear-cut definition of what makes somebody a true leader. They can earn that distinction with leading by example, or leading by providing advice and encouragement to fellow teammates.

This year, it appears as though Jose Bautista is doing both.

Images courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images/Toronto Star/CTV News

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