Flashback Friday: Ken Huckaby Takes Out Derek Jeter

Friday, August 29, 2014  |  by 

As Derek Jeter's career comes to a close, he'll be remembered for many things. As a journeyman catcher, Ken Huckaby will likely only be remembered for one thing in his career; injuring the man affectionately known as "The Captain".

As Derek Jeter gets set to play his final series at the Rogers Centre, this week's Flashback Friday looks back at his run-in with Ken Huckaby and subsequent injury on the field.

It was the 2003 Home Opener on March 31st as the Yankees and Blue Jays squared off at the Skydome. At the time, Derek Jeter was the darling of Major League Baseball and one of baseball's brightest young stars.

So as Jeter writhed in pain on the field, the man who came into contact with him was automatically vilified. Watch the play for yourself and judge whether the Blue Jays' backstop was in the wrong on the play.

Here's Ken Huckaby's side of the story, courtesy of Mark Feinsand of MLB.com:
"I was just trying to catch the ball on the run. I'm not small and I'm not fast. I'm trying to keep these legs moving and catch a baseball on the run. It was just one of those things, my momentum carried me through the base. He just happened to be there at the same time.
I was hoping they didn't think it was a cheap shot. I felt horrible for what happened, but it wasn't a cheap shot at all. It was just one of those fluke plays. How many times do you see a catcher covering third base? It never happens."
And that's exactly it; it was totally a fluke play. Ordinarily, the pitcher would be the one back up the throw, but Halladay fielded the comebacker himself. And the left side of the infield had shifted to the right to compensate for Jason Giambi's pull tenancies.

So with no one on the left side of the infield and Jeter taking an extra base, Ken Huckaby did what any astute baseball player would do, and that's cover the base. It just so happens he was wearing his full catcher's gear, and Jeter slid directly into it with full force.

Jeter missed a total of 36 games due to a dislocated left shoulder, and it seems as though he didn't take too kindly to losing six weeks on the DL. Reportedly, Huckaby reached out to Jeter to apologize a few days later, but he was fairly nonchalant about the entire encounter.

Both players recall the apology being very brief and very awkward; Huckaby went into the visitor's clubhouse and extended the olive branch (at the suggestion of Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth), while Jeter basically just sat there stone faced.
He came over and apologized,'' Jeter said. ''He said, 'You all right?' I said, 'O.K.,' and that was it.''
Maybe the reason why Derek Jeter wasn't quick to forgive Ken Huckaby was he was fearful that injury could have hampered his play down the road, and maybe even ended his career.

Jeter was entering the third year of his massive (at the time) 10 year/$189 million dollar contract extension with the Yankees, so clearly there was a great deal of expectations on him to fulfill that deal. At the time, a shoulder injury of that magnitude didn't bode well.

While it's only natural to harbour a little anger towards someone involved with causing an injury, for all intents and purposes, it was all purely accidental. Perhaps Jeter didn't see it that way ... and maybe he never will.

Also, make sure to check out Shi Davidi's piece on the Huckaby/Jeter incident; lots of great quotes and reflections from the play 11 years after the fact.

Images courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images Sport

Marcus Stroman is Tight

Thursday, August 28, 2014  |  by 

After suffering three straight losses in extra innings, the Toronto Blue Jays were in desperate need of a win. Turns out a start by Marcus Stroman was exactly what the team needed to bounce back.

Stroman struggled in his two previous starts, one in which he didn't escape the first inning; but he put forth another strong performance and provided the Blue Jays with enough of a cushion to muscle out a 5-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Overall, the game had a mid-May vibe to it as the Blue Jays seemingly did everything right; they had great starting pitching, the bullpen held down the fort, and the Blue Jays received contributions from not only the starting lineup, but the bench as well.

More after the jump with a Vine and a couple of GIF's from Stroman's start.

Goodnight Jays

Wednesday, August 27, 2014  |  by 

Under the big concrete dome,
There was a telephone,
And a 21 year old picture of Joe Carter jumping over the moon.

And there were four coaches sitting in the dugout,
And many frustrated players,
And a team in need of a prayer.

And many tired relievers,
And some absent believers.

And a Mune a Colby a Dickey and Buehrle,
And a fan base that was beginning to worry.

Goodnight June,
Goodnight moon,
Goodnight Joe Carter jumping over the moon.
Goodnight May,
And the pre All-Star break swoon.

Goodnight runs,
Goodnight fun,
Goodnight hits,
Goodnight wits.

Goodnight Jays,
Goodnight plays,
Goodnight reason,
And goodnight season.

Goodnight Melky,
And goodnight brush,
Goodnight nobody,
Goodnight postseason push,
And goodnight to the season that's gone to mush.

Goodnight stars,
Goodnight air,
And goodbye playoff chances, everywhere.

Adapted from Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight Moon". 
Incredibly sad screencaps courtesy of Sportsnet.

Jose Bautista and the Blame Game

Monday, August 25, 2014  |  by 

When the Blue Jays suffer an incredibly disheartening loss like they did yesterday, naturally fans want answers as to what went wrong. They want a scapegoat; they want someone to blame for the mess that was a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

And most of those pitchforks were pointed squarely at one man: Jose Bautista. His ejection in the sixth inning set off a very strange chain of events which may or may not have had an impact on the game.

Nolan Reimold came in as his replacement and then proceeded to misplay a routine fly ball in right field. Not only did that play allow the winning run, but Nolan Reimold was the last Blue Jay to hit in the game, a spot originally occupied by Jose Bautista.

Looking at it just on the surface, one might say that Jose Bautista cost the Blue Jays that game. But did he really? No.

If Bautista wasn't tossed from the game, does he make the catch that Nolan Reimold didn't? Probably, but Reimold should have made that catch, plain and simple.

If Bautista wasn't tossed from the game, does he tie the game in the bottom of the 10th inning with a runner on third base and two out? Perhaps.

I just look at that game and there were so many other mitigating factors which contributed towards the Blue Jays loss, that Jose Bautista's ejection was just one small part of it.

How about the fact that Toronto left eight men on base and were 1 for 10 on the afternoon? How about the fact that they had runners on first and third with nobody out in the 10th, and they failed to capitalize?

The Tampa Bay Rays practically handed them the game in that inning; the Blue Jays were gifted two outs after James Loney made an error at first base. Then Munenori Kawasaki's bunt attempt was nearly popped up, which could have been disastrous.

Instead, the Blue Jays had the tying run at third base and nobody out with the top of their lineup coming to the plate. Reyes and Melky then proceeded to get two soft outs on two soft swings. Reimold struck out, but at least he had a five pitch at bat.

So with all those things taken into consideration, is it really fair to place all the blame solely on Jose Bautista's shoulders? I don't think so.

It's odd that the bottom of the Blue Jays order, which has been a black hole of production as of late, produced five of the Blue Jays' eight hits in total. So the top of the lineup should share some of the blame from that game.

The thing with Jose Bautista is he is an incredibly polarizing figure. No doubt, the narrative on the sports talk shows and in the papers will be "did Jose Bautista cost the Blue Jays the game?"

I would respond by saying his ejection set off an unfortunate chain of events, and the Blue Jays lost the game, but not because of that.

Bautista is not completely innocent here, by any means. While his temper with the umpires has remained relatively under wraps this season, we saw some his old bad habits surface yesterday.

Even in his postgame interview, Jose displayed shades of his "problems with someone else's mediocrity" rant from last year after he refused to admit what he said to home plate umpire Bill Welke.

The inherent issue is the Blue Jays are already under the gun; they have virtually no room for error if they want to make the postseason, and then they lost their best player for the final three innings of a close game.

It's easy to live and die by each game this late in the season when each win and loss are determining the fate of the Blue Jays.

The optics of Jose Bautista's ejection indeed looked bad, but it's just a small fraction of some poor overall baseball as of late by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport

Flashback Friday: Roy Halladay's Hostage Negotiator Commercial

Friday, August 22, 2014  |  by 

He's a man with a stellar resume: a two-time Cy Young award winner, an eight-time All-Star, a man who threw a perfect game and a no-hitter in the playoffs, plus in his spare time, he's a hostage negotiator. Is there anything Roy Halladay can't do?

The latter of which is on display on this week's Flashback Friday, it's Roy Halladay's "Hostage Negotiator" commercial from the 2009 season.

Admittedly, it's not my favourite Roy Halladay Blue Jays commercial of all time (that title belongs to the beehive commercial or even the brussels sprouts one), but the apprehensive performance by Doc is what makes this spot so great.

Toronto Blue Jays 2009_"Negotiator" :30TV from Gary Holme on Vimeo.

Baseball players don't get very many off days, but I like to imagine that Roy Halladay used to spend his by strolling the streets of Toronto while sipping on a vanilla latte and then stumbling into a bank robbery and being called upon as an impromptu hostage negotiator.

And also making faces like these ...

What Does the Future Hold For Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014  |  by 

On the field, the Toronto Blue Jays are still very much in the thick of things this season. But in recent days, the focus has shifted towards what may lie ahead for the club from a front office perspective; most notably for the two biggest figureheads, Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston.

Steve Simmons reported (and not surprisingly so) that Alex Anthopoulos will return as the Blue Jays General Manager for the 2015 season. Although this has not been confirmed by the front office as of yet, one has to think AA is safe regardless of how the season ends.

Paul Beeston however, is a different story. One wouldn't assume his job was on the line, but Shi Davidi's latest indicates his position could potentially be in jeopardy next season.

With a dwindling inner circle and many of his cohorts retiring, perhaps Beeston's time with the Blue Jays is soon coming to an end.

Although Anthopoulos is relatively young when it comes to executives in baseball, 2014 is his fifth full season at the helm of the Toronto Blue Jays. That would seem like sufficient time to put together a contending team, especially now with the advent of the second Wild Card team in the playoffs.

AA has undeniably been very active in attempting to do what his predecessor couldn't do, but as the years pass, I'm beginning to notice that the J.P. Ricciardi era is beginning to look eerily similar to the Alex Anthopoulos era.

Both GM's have employed some Moneyball tactics, and both had that one big push from ownership and saw a significant increase in payroll during their tenures.

While it appears the two are invariably tied together, I could picture this team without Paul Beeston as the President of the club next year. Conversely, I'm not sure I could picture this team without Alex Anthopoulos as the General Manager.

That's not to say Anthopoulos is devoid of any blame or responsibility here, but if there had to be one "fall guy" at the end of this season between the president, the general manager and the manager, my vote would be for the president.

I'm not certain whether there's some sort of list somewhere about who takes care of what, but it seems like Alex would be the one to take care of the baseball operations and the day-to-day transactions of the club. Paul on the other hand, seems more like the conduit to ownership.

Any time a General Manager is shown the door, it often times signals a rebuild. Although the position of President is technically higher, a new President wouldn't necessarily set off a complete dismantling and restructuring of the Blue Jays.

Frankly, it wouldn't make sense to pull the plug on AA while most of the key players are still under contract for the next two seasons. Unless an impromptu fire sale is ordered, Alex Anthopoulos should stick around until the end of next season at the very least. 

Although Anthopoulos was fairly inactive during the offseason and at the trade deadline, I don't believe it was entirely his fault. I've long suspected that AA's hands have been tied with budgetary constraints, whether it came from Beeston or ownership.

So in that respect, regarding the elements Alex has been able to control the past five seasons, I'd say he's done a pretty amicable job. Drafting, development, trades and free agent signings have overall been fairly successful.

It has been Alex's job to assemble a winning team, and for the most part he has done that the past two years. It just so happens that due to a number of mitigating factors, the Blue Jays haven't lived up to the lofty expectations.

If we're looking at the Toronto Blue Jays strictly from a business standpoint, the current regime under Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos has been quite successful.

Attendance is up, TV numbers are up, merchandise sales must certainly be on the rise, and it's safe to say the appetite for Blue Jays baseball is higher than it's been since the early 1990's.

But the Blue Jays as a business is only one aspect of how the team can be successful. The public perception of a successful team is one that's a perennial contender, something the Blue Jays have not been for a very long time.

Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston's time with the organization will both eventually come to an end, but the million dollar question is whether they will stay on beyond the 2014 season and possibly even 2015.

I think it's only fair to give these guys one more crack at ending the Blue Jays' 20 year (going on 21) playoff drought. Pulling the parachute now after all this work would be counterproductive, and just put the team back at the precipice of another rebuild.

If this team really was built to contend for the next "three to five years" as Paul Beeston has stated in the past, it only makes sense to see it through until year five. But with that, again ... this is sounding eerily similar to J.P. Ricciardi's "five year plan".

And we all know how that ended.

Flashback Friday: The Edwin Encarnacion/Scott Rolen Trade

Friday, August 15, 2014  |  by 

Looking back, it's incredible to think about the circumstances in which two of the most prolific hitters in Blue Jays history came to Toronto. Jose Bautista's story is a tale in itself, but this time it's Edwin Encarnacion's turn.

This week's Flashback Friday focuses on the trade from 2009 that send Scott Rolen to the Cincinnati Reds for none other than Edwin Encarnacion among others.

Heading into the 2009 trade deadline, the Blue Jays were 49-54 and a full 13 games back of the division-leading New York Yankees. Although Toronto started off the season strong, close to the end of July, the essentially waved the white flag.

In 2009, the Blue Jays traded several of their cornerstone franchise players; Alex Rios, Roy Halladay, and on July 31st, their third baseman, Scott Rolen. During the 2007 offseason, he requested a trade out of St. Louis and Toronto provided him a safe haven.

His 2008 season with the Blue Jays was met with mixed results, but Rolen proceeded to put up incredible numbers the following year; Scott Rolen owned a slash line of .320/.370/.476. And with another year on his contract, Rolen suddenly looked very good to prospective teams in the playoff race.

So as the Blue Jays began to come with grips that 2009 would not be their year to contend, they started to listen on offers on their best players; one of the main ones being Scott Rolen. It was also revealed that he approached management and requested a trade to be closer to home in Indiana.

Considering how well Rolen was playing and that he essentially forced J.P. Ricciardi's hand, I'd say the Blue Jays got a pretty decent haul in return.

And while some were left sobbing playing "Viva La Vida" on repeat for hours on end, Scott Rolen's departure would open up an opportunity for one of the players on their way coming back to Toronto.

The full trade was Scott Rolen for third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. The Blue Jays also kicked in another $4 million dollars for the Reds, which was essentially the remainder of Rolen's 2009 salary.

The trade was somewhat curious by the Reds because they were in a similar position in the standings as the Blue Jays; fourth place in the NL Central and 10 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.

At the time, Edwin Encarnacion was a maligned third baseman, but pitching prospects Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke were viewed as the real steals of the trade from the Reds.

Stewart projected to be a starter while Josh Roenicke was looked upon as a potential late relief arm or closer of the future. Edwin Encarnacion was the forgotten man in the deal.

For the Reds, the acquisition of Scott Rolen was a clear upgrade at third base for them both offensively and defensively. Encarnacion struggled mightily at the hot corner that season with 73 errors in his first full four seasons in Cincinnati.

The Reds had signed Edwin to a two-year/$7.6 million dollar contract to buy out his first two years of arbitration, and after the results of his 2008 and 2009 campaign, they were more than happy to dump the remainder of the contract on the Blue Jays.

Because Edwin Encarnacion hit 26 home runs during his 2008 campaign, I think the Reds (and to some extent the Blue Jays as well) overlooked his defensive shortcomings for his potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark.

Encarnacion projected to be a power bat by posting 15 or more home runs from 2006-2008, but he was clearly a liability at third base; perhaps that's the main reason the Reds opted to go with the slick-fielding Rolen at third base instead.

In retrospect, the trade was a clear win for the Blue Jays as Edwin Encarnacion eventually developed into one of the best power hitters in all of baseball, but that was before he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays following the 2010 season.

The Oakland A's acquired Encarnacion shortly thereafter, but they also jettisoned him and the Blue Jays wisely brought him back on a one-year deal with an option.

The Reds also made out fairly well in the trade, considering the following year, Cincinnati captured the NL Central title. But even then, the trade was viewed as a win for the Reds because they still had the best player in the deal: Scott Rolen.

Josh Roenicke was immediately put into middle relief with the Blue Jays and it was met with mixed results the following season as well. He was eventually let go by Toronto, but enjoyed some brief success with the Colorado Rockies.

Zach Stewart was touted as a blue chip prospect, and in 2009 he rocketed through the ranks by starting the season in Single A and eventually finishing his campaign in Triple A with the Las Vegas 51's.

Stewart was called up to the Blue Jays in 2010 but struggled at the Major League level. At the 2010 deadline, he was involved in the three team trade which saw him shipped to the Chicago White Sox and Colby Rasmus came to the Blue Jays.

Judging by how dominant Edwin Encarnacion has been these past few years, you'd think he was the type of player that was drafted and developed to be born into a star like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. But Edwin's path to stardom was not a linear path.

Encarnacion was essentially a throw-in player of the Scott Rolen trade and a salary dump by the Cincinnati Reds. And after a couple of chances with the Blue Jays, he's become one of their most feared hitters in recent memory.

Not too bad for a guy who was cast aside by not one, not two, but three organizations.

A Starting Rotation of Question Marks

Wednesday, August 13, 2014  |  by 

With many of their key hitters on the disabled list, it's no surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays have struggled to score runs since the All-Star break. But one aspect of the team that has been surprisingly consistent is the starting rotation.

Going into Opening Day, the starting five was not without its warts. Back in January, I even went as far as to say the rotation was in pretty rough shape. And after failing to improve the rotation at all in the offseason, things looked pretty grim for 2014.

However, due to a number of factors, the rotation remained relatively consistent during the first few months of the season. Currently the Blue Jays starting staff owns the ninth best ERA in the American League at a respectable 3.99.

Many teams have the luxury of an ace to anchor their starting rotation, but the Blue Jays don't really have a "stopper" in their arsenal the likes of Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw or even Adam Wainwright.

Again, I say an "ace" is a luxury because while it's great to have somebody like that in your starting rotation, they only pitch once every five days. The other four guys still have to take the ball those games in between.

And in order for any team to have a shot at the postseason, the entire starting rotation needs to be well-rounded. One thing I will say the Blue Jays rotation has is they have a good mixture of different types of starting pitchers.

Now it may be the long and grueling 162 game schedule and now the dog days of summer have finally arrived, but the Blue Jays' starting rotation has been scuffling. Save for Marcus Stroman and possibly even J.A. Happ and R.A. Dickey, Toronto's overall starting pitching has been on a steady decline.

A quick look at the comparables from the first two months of the season up against the June/July/August numbers paint a picture of an overall starting rotation that is trending downwards.

PitcherApr-May ERAJune-Aug ERAApr-May AVGJune-Aug AVG
R.A. Dickey4.33.720.2390.242
Mark Buehrle2.334.260.2590.315
Drew Hutchison3.885.250.2450.261
J.A. Happ4.14.250.2650.264
Marcus StromanN/A2.68N/A0.214

R.A. Dickey continues to be the enigma that he's been the past season and a half in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. The knuckleball itself tends to be an inconsistent pitch, which in turn has made Dickey an inconsistent pitcher.

He may have been acquired at an ace-like price tag, but R.A. Dickey is settling more into the third or fourth starter's role on this ball club.

For whatever reason, the seventh inning has been a huge hurdle for Dickey this season. His ERA skyrockets to 10.80 in the seventh inning and beyond, which has likely created an itchy trigger finger for John Gibbons once R.A. gets late into a game.

Mark Buehrle was the quoted "ace" of the Blue Jays staff the first half of the season, and to his credit he was one of the best starting pitchers in the league heading into the All-Star break. Most thought Buehrle was on the decline, and since then ... he has been.

Despite a less than stellar second half, Buehrle's ERA is still remarkably 3.31, and perhaps that's because his worst outings of the season really haven't been that incredibly bad.

Mark Buehrle is notoriously a pitch-to-contact pitcher, and I wonder if the deterioration of the Blue Jays defense has had some part in that. Come season's end, Buehrle will likely still cross that 200 inning threshold and accomplish what he's always done; eat up innings.

Again, Mark Buehrle is really more of a third or fourth starter, but because he was pitching so far above his career norms in the first half, perhaps expectations were set to high for the veteran lefty.

Drew Hutchison supplanted Brandon Morrow as the hard-throwing right-hander in the Blue Jays rotation, and it seems like he's suffering from a similar ailment that plagued Morrow the past few seasons; the Jekyll/Hyde syndrome.

Brandon Morrow was guilty of having incredibly stark home and away splits, and Drew Hutchison has followed that trend this season. At times, Hutchison has matched the league's best hurlers pitch-for-pitch; at others, Drew's inexperience has been clearly evident.

Which means that every fifth day, the Blue Jays aren't really quite sure which iteration of Drew they're going to get that particular game; the good Drew or the bad Drew.

With all his upside, the potential is certainly there for Drew Hutchison to become a front of the line starter. But without any sort of consistency, one wonders whether he can be relied upon down the stretch if the Blue Jays are playing meaningful games in September.

J.A. Happ is perhaps the most curious arm here out of the entire bunch. For whatever reason, Happ has experienced a recent surge of success which could be related to the sudden increase in velocity on his fastball.

Prior to last night's start in Seattle, Happ was on a four game run in which he didn't surrender more than two earned runs in each outing. Not to mention, he struck out a career high 12 batters in his second last start.

Happ has performed a tightrope act for most of his tenure as a Blue Jay, and while the results of his starts may be unpredictable, he's a fairly suitable back-end starter that would be a welcome fit on virtually any team. You could certainly do worse than J.A. Happ.

Marcus Stroman has quickly risen through the ranks to become arguably the Blue Jays best and most consistent starting pitcher. Of the 13 starts he's made this season, Stroman has been great in all but three of them.

Moving Stroman into the starting rotation at the end of May was the best thing the Blue Jays could've done to shore up the starting five. Stroman has performed better than any trade deadline acquisition likely would have for the Blue Jays.

Although he's pitching well beyond his years, Stroman is still a rookie; which means he is also a bit of a question mark. The main concern right now is his innings cap, and despite what Alex Anthopoulos has said, the Blue Jays are likely monitoring them closely.

If the Blue Jays had to choose one starting pitcher to head to the mound for a potential tiebreaker or Wild Card playoff game, one has to think the first choice would be Marcus Stroman. But again, can you trust a rookie when your season is on the line? I would.

Pitching in a high pressure situation like that would be a baptism by fire for Marcus Stroman, but he's answered the call multiple times this season ... so what's one more?

3 Up 3 Down: 19 Innings, Jenkins and Dickey's Kiss

Monday, August 11, 2014  |  by 

One of the best things about baseball is there is no time limit; on any given day, a game could be finished in less than two hours (if Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle are on the mound), or it could seemingly go on forever.

When a game takes six hours and thirty-seven minutes to play, it suddenly becomes less of a game of baseball and more of a game of who can simply survive the longest. And after 19 innings of utter craziness, the Blue Jays walked away with the victory.

19 Innings of Craziness

Source: FanGraphs

Although the game didn't feature any position players taking the mound, that game had just about everything else; two completely depleted bullpens, three starting pitchers entered the game, Marcus Stroman came in as a pinch runner, and both benches were used up.

The first nine innings of the game featured some sloppy plays from both the Blue Jays and the Tigers, but innings 10 through 19 was some of the most exhilarating baseball that's been played all season long. 

There were several stellar game-saving catches and defensive gems in the latter ten innings of the game. It actually defies logic because you'd think the sloppy plays would take much later in the game ... not early on.

Not to mention, kudos to not only anyone who stuck through the entire 19 innings and 6 hours of baseball, but also to the folks who stuck around at the ballpark for the equivalent of two consecutive games in one day.

And considering that beer sales were cut off by the seventh inning, that meant the last 11 innings of the game were alcohol-free in the stands. So whichever fans were left after six hours and thirty-seven minutes of baseball probably left very, very thirsty.

Chad Jenkins Pitches Like a Boss

Of all the players to suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays this season, Chad Jenkins has unfortunately been the one who has racked up the most miles traveling to and from Triple A Buffalo.

I think it's fair to say the front office has kind of jerked Jenkins around a bit this season, and at times the rationale for his demotions to the minor leagues have been worthy of a few head-scratches.

However, yesterday's six innings of shutout relief may have finally solidified his position in the Blue Jays bullpen. First of all, the optics of sending down a guy who just pitched his tail off and saved the game would qualify as a cruel, cruel punishment.

Just consider this for a moment; hat tip to @James_In_TO and Brendan Kennedy for pointing out that if we're going by WPA (win probability added) in a single game, Jenkins pitched the equivalent of a complete game shutout.

Also, considering that many of the Blue Jays young arms approaching innings caps, Chad Jenkins could always fill in as a member of the starting rotation and even pick up the odd spot start or two in the coming weeks.

I'm So Happy, Jose ... I Could Kiss You Right Now

Not much to say here, but this might be the very best screencap of the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays season thus far. Here's the GIF of said embrace for your viewing pleasure, as well.

I'm not sure if R.A. Dickey was grateful to Jose Bautista because he secured the game-winning hit, or because that meant Dickey didn't have to pitch the 20th.

And again, after 19 innings of baseball ... I'm sure most fans would duplicate R.A. Dickey's gesture of appreciation if given the chance.

Image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport

Flashback Friday: George Bell's Bizarre Pop Up

Friday, August 8, 2014  |  by 

In baseball, there are several different ways for a batter to be retired; many of them are the conventional way to be declared an "out", but this is perhaps the most unconventional and unique out I've ever seen.

This week's Flashback Friday takes a look back at George Bell's bizarre pop up from August 13th, 1986. Bell faced Mike Boddicker of the Baltimore Orioles, and even though he ducked out of the way from an errant pitch, Bell could not avoid getting out.

Officially scored as a "foul fly ball to C",  it really was a freak play; had it not been for the ball hitting George Bell's bat, that ball would've gone to the backstop and allowed the runners to move up a base.

I've never seen a play like that in my lifetime, and we might not ever see one like it ever again.

Afterwards, George Bell understandably just stood in the box in disbelief while Lloyd Moseby was flabbergasted at how his teammate was declared out by not even swinging at a pitch that was a foot outside the strike zone.

Image courtesy of Mitchell Layton Getty Images Sport

3 Up 3 Down: Buehrle, the Bullpen and Colby's New Batting Stance

Wednesday, August 6, 2014  |  by 

Some dubbed it as a "season-defining series" for the Blue Jays. One went as far as declaring it the most important series the Blue Jays have played in 15 years. There was an incredible amount of hype entering the series opener with the Orioles, but unfortunately the first game just didn't live up to it.

I think many (including myself) underestimated the sheer power of the Orioles lineup, and it was on display in full effect during last night's 9-3 loss. Baltimore took the lead early and didn't look back the rest of the game.

A poor showing by Mark Buehrle combined with some shotty defense and a few bad innings from the Blue Jays bullpen amounted to a series opener-loss, and today Toronto wakes up a full five games behind the Orioles.

My, how things can change quickly in the AL East.

A Tale of Two Buehrles

In his first 13 starts of the season Mark Buehrle was otherworldly with a 10-2 record and a sparking 2.04 ERA. For a while there, Buehrle was in the running to start the All-Star Game for the American League, but June 12 seemed to be the beginning of a downward slide.

Since June 12th, Buehrle owns a 1-6  record while his ERA has ballooned to 5.15 in his past ten starts. Opponents are batting .328 and own a .516 slugging percentage versus the veteran lefty.

Many people assumed it was just a matter of time before Mark Buehrle would come back down to earth, and he has done precisely that. However, the Mark Buehrle now is more or less in line with what his career numbers have shown.

Mark Buehrle is a fly ball pitcher in a home run ballpark, and the fact that his home ERA is 3.60 compared to 2.96 is a reflection of that.

Much like R.A. Dickey, Buehrle is basically a mid to back-end starter, but because the Blue Jays lack that one true "ace", both Buehrle and Dickey have somewhat interchanged that title these past two years.

The Bullpen

Another area of concern recently has unfortunately been the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. In retrospect, it was impossible to expect the same relief corp to duplicate last year's results, but I don't think anyone could have anticipated this turn of events.

What was undoubtedly the strongest part of the team last season has suddenly become a weakness in 2014. In 2013, they owned the fourth best ERA in the American League and now they have the fifth worst ERA.

While there have been bright spots in the bullpen like Todd Redmond and Aaron Loup, there have invariably been many more disappointments this season; Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos, Esmil Rogers, and Dustin McGowan is trending in the wrong direction.

If the Blue Jays want to contend down the stretch, the obvious need is an offensive upgrade wherever they can find one, but addressing the bullpen is becoming a very close second.

And I don't think calling up the next in line from Buffalo is enough to remedy the situation, either. This is a scenario where Alex Anthopoulos will likely need to acquire a veteran arm to help stabilize the middle the back end of the bullpen.

Colby's New Stance

This news is already a few days old, but it looks like Colby Rasmus is sporting yet another new batting stance as of late. Or maybe not new so much as adopted a previous stance from earlier this season (hat tip to Shane for pointing that out).

This is the latest in a collection of his stances in the batter's box from over the past five seasons. I went into the myriad of Colby's stances over the years in this post back in May.

John Lott's most recent piece at the National Post also unearthed that Colby has had some difficulty making adjustments under new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.

I don't claim to be an expert on hitting (in fact I'm probably the furthest thing from it), but it begins to worry me when coaches and managers are continually tinkering with a player's swing this late in development.

This may or may not have any credence, but it seems like any time Colby Rasmus begins to struggle, that's when his stance or swing is altered with.

Clearly, he has the bat speed; whenever Colby connects on a pitch with full power, it's usually into the second deck or above. The challenge is just somehow sustaining that over the course of a full season.

There are other mitigating factors at play such as injuries, but if Colby in fact walks at the end of the year as a free agent, I think many will be left wondering what kind of damage he could've done in a full season.

On Connect with the Jays Night 2.0

A big thanks to the Blue Jays to having us down to the ballpark once again for the second Connect with the Jays Event. Aside from the results of the game, it was a really fun experience.

We were very fortunate enough to sit in the "Action Seats" behind home plate directly beside the Blue Jays dugout, and if you ever get a chance to sit in those chairs, I highly recommend it.

It's very interesting to peer into the dugout and just watch the dynamic between the players. In between at bats, Munenori Kawasaki was yelling words of encouragement from the dugout, and John Gibbons also yelled his displeasure with the umpires.

It's also quite interesting to see batter's routines in the on deck circle. Often times, I found myself distracted by everything around me and had to remember to watch the baseball game taking place in front of me.

Images courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport

Toronto vs. Baltimore: The Battle for First Place

Tuesday, August 5, 2014  |  by 

No one really expected them to be in a pennant race this late into the season. After an offseason that was relatively dormant and a first half that was riddled with injuries, not many anticipated the Blue Jays to be where they are right now.

In fact, it still sounds odd; it's the beginning of August and the Toronto Blue Jays are battling for first place.

A strong showing against the Orioles could not only close the gap atop the standings in the AL East, but it could also give the Blue Jays some breathing room against other teams in the American League vying for a Wild Card spot.

One might tend to get a bit hyperbolic in this situation, but I don't think the importance of this series can't be understated. It may only be three games of the 162, but this series could have postseason implications.

This could be the most important series the Blue Jays have played in 15 years.

The last time the Blue Jays occupied a playoff spot was early August of 1999, when they held the Wild Card spot. They of course would eventually lose the spot down the stretch to the Boston Red Sox, however they did play meaningful games in August and September.

Fast forward to today and the Toronto Blue Jays are in a similar position; they are currently holding down a Wild Card spot, but have the Yankees, Royals and Mariners nipping at their heels.

The Baltimore Orioles may be the AL East division leader, but much like the Blue Jays themselves, they are not a team without their flaws.

Much like Toronto, Baltimore is a home run hitting team, which means they often live and die by the long ball. Their starting rotation also lacks one true "ace", however their starting five have performed adequately enough, just like the Blue Jays.

So it's not like the Orioles are like the Tigers or Athletics or even the Angels; this big monolith of a  team that can't be taken down. Mind you, that may be an issue for either the Blue Jays or the Orioles when it comes time to face them in the playoffs, but I digress.

The Blue Jays had arguably the easiest schedule out of the All-Star break, but this series begins what will truly be a daunting rest of the schedule for the Blue Jays down the stretch.

There are nine more games versus the Orioles, seven against the Yankees, six against the pesky Rays, four against the Mariners, and three against the Tigers. So the next eight weeks will be a true litmus test for this Blue Jays squad.

Right now, the Orioles are on a Blue Jays-esque run from earlier this season; the Blue Jays went 26-9 from May 1st to June 6th, and have been 22-29 since. The Orioles however were 18-17 from May 1st to June 6th, and have gone 33-19 since June 6th.

Many seriously questioned whether the Blue Jays' pace in May and early June was sustainable, and it very well proved not to be. Subsequently, many are also wondering whether the Orioles' current pace is sustainable as well.

Both teams have their flaws, but ultimately they appear to be two very evenly matched squads this season. And it just so happens they both begin the month of August hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive into September and October.

And I guess that's all you can really ask of this Blue Jays team; that they play meaningful games down the stretch. Because it's not just that the Blue Jays have a 20 year playoff drought, it's also that they haven't been anywhere even close to the playoffs since 1993.

Not even within sniffing distance of a playoff spot late in the season for the better part of two decades. However, a strong showing here against the Orioles may go a long way to quelling that concern.

Image courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Flashback Friday: Roy Halladay Almost Traded to the Angels

Friday, August 1, 2014  |  by 

For the better part of the 2009 season, that was the inevitability floating above the Blue Jays like a dark cloud; it wasn't a question of if they were going to trade their franchise player, it was a question of when they were going to trade him.

Ultimately, Roy Halladay was not moved by J.P. Ricciardi at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, but that didn't mean there weren't any blockbuster deals in the works for the then Blue Jays' ace.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we look back at the reported trade that nearly sent Roy Halladay to the Los Angeles Angels at the 2009 trade deadline.

While the Blue Jays stormed out to a 27-14 record in early 2009 and held first place until mid-May, by end of July they had dipped well below .500 while the Yankees took a commanding lead of the division.

With that, J.P. Ricciardi and the Blue Jays front office decided it was time to shift into sell mode. On deadline day, they moved their starting third baseman Scott Rolen and were apparently looking to do the same with their ace, Roy Halladay.

In June and July, every time Doc took the mound, it was famously dubbed "what could very well be Roy Halladay's last start in a Blue Jays uniform." The reality of that situation was there, but eventually fans became immune to it.

On July 31st, rumours were swirling all day long, but word came down very close to the 4:00pm deadline that a deal may have been done with the Los Angeles Angels.

It seemed as though there was a last minute push by the Angels, but as 4:00pm came and went, Doc remained a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. The burning question of course was "what was the deal?" According to the LA Times, it involved the following players:
"Talks broke down when the Angels refused to include shortstop Erick Aybar in their offer. Then-Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was believed to have asked for a pitcher, either Jered Weaver or Joe Saunders, Aybar and outfield prospect Peter Bourjos."
So it sounds like the stumbling point on the Roy Halladay trade was Erick Aybar. If that deal happened, it would've been a great haul by the Blue Jays; one of Weaver or Saunders, Aybar and Bourjos for Halladay.

Jered Weaver would go on to have three consecutive All-Star seasons and finished in the Top 5 in AL Cy Young voting in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Erick Aybar also went out to become an All-Star second baseman and Gold Glove winner.

On the flip side, the Angels would've gotten Doc for the pennant race in 2009 and the full season of 2010. But it turns out they didn't really need him, as Los Angeles went on to win the AL West and finished with a 97-65 record.

I recall sitting at my computer close to 4:00pm that day and hearing the Roy Halladay to the Angels rumblings, but was soon therafter relieved to learn he was staying in Toronto. But if that was in fact the offer tabled for him, in retrospect I would've been perfectly okay with it.

But just in case you ever wanted to know what Roy Halladay would've looked like in a Los Angeles Angels uniform, here's a hastily made Photoshop I made back in the day. For many reasons, it just doesn't look right.

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