Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gargh! Back below .500

Last night's 5-3 loss to the Mariners was enough to make Alex Rios break his bat over his knee. (We fully expect to hear that he'll be out of the lineup with a crack patella any minute now.)

The game was also a friendly reminder that Dustin McGowan is still an emerging pitcher, and not yet Bob Gibson.

What you miss when you can't see the game: With an afternoon game airing only on the Rogers Preview channel, most of us didn't get the chance to see A.J. Burnett's hissy fit after being pulled from his first game back. Burnett has to realize that was being treated with kid gloves because of all the times that he has had to pull himself from games. You can't be a pepper racing wuss one day, and expect to get treated like the Man of Steel the next.

Friday, June 29, 2007

More fans from hell

We don't know if it is the beer, the sun, the bruised "chimichangas", or what...but there's something clearly not right with these girls.

If you were sitting anywhere near these goofballs, and managed to stifle your murderous impulses, we salute you.



Ohhhhhkaaayyy...



Is it worth noting that these videos were posted by "littlehoho"?



And the pièce de résistence:



(BTW, who the hell posts 10 second videos of themselves acting like idiots?)

The Ones The Got "Away"

Every year there is a lot of handwringing about the impact of losing certain players to free agency or trades. Here's a look at the fate of the Jays' Class of 2006:


  • Scott Schoeneweis - This situational lefty was a mainstay in the Jays pen for two seasons carrying a heavy load in 2005. 2006 was not a good year for him but seemed to be a typical off year (he has one every second year). But one season has become two for Schoeneweis. This year with the Mets, the southpaw has "Tower-esque" numbers. In 21 games at Shea Stadium this season, the 33-year-old has allowed 21 hits and 18 earned runs in just 17 innings. If those numbers weren't bad enough, all five of the homers he has allowed also have come at home, as have 15 of the 20 walks he has issued. Good Riddance.


  • Ted Lilly - Lilly started really strong this season (as he always does) but has tailed off as late with his ERA climbing to the 4.00 range. Would be an upgrade over Towers, but would not take him over Marcum or maybe even McGowan. Especially not at that price. Good Riddance.


  • Justin Speier - Justin Speier was an extremely solid setup man for BJ Ryan last year and was rewarded with a fat contract from the LAAASCUSA (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the State of California of the United States of America). He started this season in grand fashion with a 1.68 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP for the month of April, but caught a nasty intestinal bug and has been out of commission since early May. It is unclear when he will return. For that along with the fact that Casey Janssen stepped up to be just as good as Speier was last year, Good Riddance.


  • Bengie Molina - Like last year, the guy is solid at the plate in '07. Word is however that his foot speed has not increased significantly over last year. The size of his contract and his declining defence offset any positives that would have come from his decent offence. Good Riddance.

  • Frank Catalanotto - We love you Frank but your .196 average this season makes us glad that you are gone. Good Riddance.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

While we're stuck at work...

...the Big Hurt cracked his 500th career HR.

Try not to whoop-whoop too loudly from your desk.

Update: And then you have your fifth inning exit by A.J. Burnett, Jason Frasor perfecting his Kerry "Light It Up" Lightenberg impression, and the Jays limping away with an 8-5 loss.

Special Added Bonus: Thomas and Gibby get ejected from the game in the ninth inning (seriously, who the hell gets ejected in the ninth?) for arguing balls and strikes.

Twins suffer the wrath of Zaun

The Gas Can is pitching and the Jays boot the ball four times. What good could come of all this?

It's pretty amazing that the Jays managed to pull off a 5-4 win. Which we complete attribute the Gregg Zaun's homer and yet another amazing tag play at home.

(We've got a longer piece in the works about how Zaun is the Jays' MVP, but it'll have to wait.)

In other news: Shea Hillenbrand got DFAed. We did a little dance of joy with our Cousin Balky. Neate has the details (on Shea, not on our dance) over at Out of Left Field.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sympathy for the GM

This is the sort of piece that many in the Toronto media (especially those who don’t actually cover baseball) love to hate: it’s one that gives J.P. some credit, where we think it is due.

We don’t doubt that J.P. is a bit of an abrasive arrogant butt munch. We’re sure that the fact that he’s changed his cellphone number without passing it on to the media is an absolute outrage. And we didn’t care for his obfuscating on B.J. Ryan’s injury.

But we’ll say this about the moves that he’s made this year: on a certain level, they worked.

It’s easy now for those like Steve Simmons (an abrasive arrogant butt munch in his own right) to gleefully hold up the off season acquisitions of Tomo Ohka, John Thomson, Victor Zambrano and Royce Clayton as abject failures.

But here’s the thing about those signings: J.P. took a low risk/high reward gamble on those players to fill in the gap for one year, laying down minimal commitments – both in years and in dollars – so as not to hamstring the franchise going forward, and so as not to rush players who weren't ready to play in the heat and light of the AL East.

None of those signings (nor even the Thomas signing, really) have worked out for the best on the surface of things. But how well do you suppose Shaun Marcum or Dustin McGowan would have done if thrust into the rotation on April 1? How would John McDonald played if he weren’t competing for starts with every at bat and every ground ball?

And how was anyone to know the full impact that injuries would have on Jays' roster this year?

On last Friday’s Prime Time Sports roundtable, Bob McCown, Mary Ormsby, Michael Grange and Stephen Brunt (sorry Steve…you’re still our favorite) took turns playing Whack-A-GM, writing off the season as a complete failure (and it's not even the All-Star Break!).

Grange even offered up the profound nugget that the B.J. Ryan signing was a good one last year, but not this year…talk about having your cake and eating it too. (That level of insight and depth of baseball knowledge is perhaps why the Globe has him writing on basketball and golf.)

The absurdity goes on: Marty York (in his “MLB Report” for that paper with which homeless people keep themselves warm) recently floated the idea that J.P. is in trouble, and that Gord Ash (!!) was going to ride back into town to save the day.

The greek chorus in the press box like to wax poetic with penetrating hindsight on past failures such as dumping Chad Gaudin, or the Luke Prokopec deal, or any number of other botched deals. Or how A.J. Burnett is a ".500 pitcher", and wasn't worth the money they gave him, even though lesser pitchers have already surpassed his contract.

(Has anyone noticed how little Ted Lilly's done lately?)

We don’t want to sound like apologists. We don’t think that J.P. is a “genius”, and we’re left wondering about some of his past decisions. But we also think that you can assail just about any exec in MLB if you selectively and superficially pick through the ashes of history.

How about that?

Praise and kudos to Paul Lukas at the indispensable UniWatch for posting this piece from the Museum of the City of New York’s Glory Days exhibit, honouring Gotham’s golden age of baseball.

The letter above was sent in 1959 by Jackie Robinson to former Yankees and This Week in Baseball announcer Mel Allen, and is a stark reminder of how deep and insidious racism was (and is) in the game, long after Jackie and many others broke through the game’s racial barriers.

(Go here for a better look.)

Heartbreak

Such a shame to squander such a fine pitching performance from Shaun Marcum, who dropped his season ERA to 3.18 with his eight innings of six-hit, one-run ball.

And was it just us, or did Wells pull back a bit on that catch in the bottom of the 12th to avoid colliding with Royce Clayton? (We watched the play about ten times on the PVR last night, and it looked that way to us.) Maybe we just need a whipping boy (someone to despise) and Clayton is an easy target.

Of course, Clayton didn't strike out 15 times last night by himself.

Bonus Coverage: Neate at Out of Left Field lays this loss at the feet of the other favorite whipping boy, John Gibbons. It did seem to us that he was shortening up his bullpen a bit much, but we wrote it off as managing for a road win in extras. Whatever...anything to get the Fire Gibbons train back on the rails is fine by us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A list of players who Matt Stairs has outhomered

A brief list of players who, to this point, Matt Stairs has outhomered.
  • Carlos Delgado (11)
  • Manny Ramirez (11)
  • Travis Hafner (11)
  • Andruw Jones (11)
  • Carlos Beltran (10)
  • Lance Berkman (10)
  • Jim Thome (9)
...and in the "Nice Problem to Have" file: What happens to this Jays lineup in the next four weeks when Reed Johnson (god willing) and Lyle Overbay come back? How are there going to be enough at bats to go around for those two along with Stairs and Adam Lind?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Time to make some hay

Here’s a novelty for you: Meaningful games.

After what feels like a month of playing National League teams, the Jays have emerged, suddenly finding themselves in second place in the AL East (11 back of Boston, and a half game up on the Yanks). Moreover, the Jays are back in the Wild Card mix, sitting six games back of Cleveland in fifth place.

(It may be a bit of an overstatement to consider the Jays back in these races, but we’re fans. We’re willing to suspend our disbelief, if only to make our summer that much more satisfying.)

What this past weekend’s upswing means is that the next four series leading into the All-Star Break will be of considerable import for Toronto’s playoff hopes, as they'll play the four teams above them in the Wild Card standings.

The Jays take on Minnesota (38-35, 1.5 games up), Seattle (39-33, and three games up), Oakland (39-35, two games up) and the Tribe in the next two weeks, and with only two series per year against these opponents, the Jays will have to make up ground on these teams now, or rely on others to do their work for them.

It isn't quite "do or die", but it would be a hell of a time to go on a winning streak.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The day by the numbers: 1 hit, 0 runs, 499 HRs, and .500.


After his worst start of the year on Tuesday, Dustin McGowan bounced back with the Jays' gem of the year: a masterful complete game, one hit, 5-0 shutout versus the Rockies.

McGowan changed speeds and kept batters guessing all afternoon, keeping the Rockies hitless until Jeff Baker's single in the ninth.

Moreover, the win puts the Jays back at .500 on the season, tied (for a few hours anyways) with the Yankees for second in the AL East.

And speaking of 500, Frank Thomas sits one homer short of that mark for his career after a majestic shot in the fourth. Meanwhile, Vernon Wells teased us once again with a three-run third inning homer.

(BTW, doesn't A.J.'s shoulder look like it's in great shape in this pic? Hopefully, dude can throw his fastball with the same amount of gusto.)

Jays Manhandle Rockies

Matt Stairs and Frank Thomas led the offensive onslaught against the bewildered Rockies at Rogers Centre yesterday. Not bad for a couple of 39 year olds. How about that?!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

There Is A Growing Consenus

We've been suggesting for a while that Josh Towers' pitching can have an explosive impact on a game. Hence the nickname Gas Can. Apparently our descriptor has caught on. We typed "gas can" into Google today and, after four listings for sites that sell gas cans, is the Yahoo! Sports player profile for Mr. Towers. It will soon be ranked number one if the Jays don't cut him loose.

"Games like that, they're a roller-coaster ride"

A simple description from Aaron Hill summed up last night's game (if not the season). Going into last night's affair, the Jays hadn't had much success against the Rockies. And the Rockies are one of the hottest teams in baseball having won nine series in a row. So the odds were against success --- especially given that Gas Can was on the mound.

Well, Gas Can had a typical performance --- 5 runs in 4 IP -- but the Jays did just enough to stay in it to pull off a win in extra innings. The highlights:


  • Drought ends - Vernon Wells snapped an 0-17 stretch with a 2-4 night (including a laserbeam HR) out of the leadoff spot. He'll stay there until he heats up.

  • The lumber awakens - Everyone including Greg Zaun (3 hits), Troy Glaus (3 RsBI), Adam Lind (HR) made contributions at the plate.

  • Strikeout Kings - The bullpen combined for 13 Ks last night.

  • Smallball wins again - The game was actually won based on smart base running by Aaron Hill and Curtis Thigpen. With the bases loaded in the tenth, John Macdonald singled. Stairs scored easily from third but Hill motored fast enough that it was clear to Rockies' catcher Chris Iannetta that he had no play and the game was tied at 8. Meanwhile Curtis Thigpen was on his way to third so Iannetta threw the ball to third. Or at least tried to. An errant throw let Thigpen continue and come in to score the winning run. Jays win! Jays win!

  • Somebody's Paying Attention - After seeing injured (?) AJ Burnett participate in a second Chili-pepper race at the Rogers Centre, JP Riccardi laid down the law. "Once was funny. Twice...".

Lowlights:



  • Gas Can - This guy has nothing left.

  • Frank Thomas - 1-5 in the box score but this guy is a rally killer. It's June. When is this guy going to become the monster that was promised? Maybe he should stop swinging that iron bar in the on deck circle and start swinging -- we don't know -- maybe a bat.

  • Jeremy Accardo - After being hailed as a saviour for the Month of May, Accardo's come back to Earth.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Well, so much for that

Just moments after Jamie Campbell and Tabby waxed poetic about Casey Janssen's sub-1.00 ERA (complete with graphics demonstrating his clear superiority to all and sundry relievers in baseball), our boy gave up six earned runs to cough up the lead, handing the Dodgers an 8-4 win.

To be fair, the Dodgers put a couple of good pitches in play (especially Captain Canuck Russ Martin's 2 run single, which blew the whole thing open.)

Previously, Janssen had given up four runs all year, and his ERA jumped from 0.90 to 2.37.

We're vaguely philosophical about this blow up. It had to happen at some point, and if you comb through the game logs for the All-Timers like Henke and Ward, you'll find a few of these sorts of outings.

Still, there remains a concern that Janssen, Downs, and Accardo are seeing too much action, and that fatigue is starting to set in.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stew rips J.P.

Dave Stewart, the man who combined his menacing mound presence with a Betty Boop squeak of a voice, has sounded off on J.P. Ricciardi on his cranky-old-man blog.

Stewart praises the resourcefulness of the usual suspects (the A’s Billy Beane, the Twins Terry Ryan and San Diego’s Kevin Towers), then heaps scorn on the Jays’ J.P. and the Pirates Dave Littlefield.

Of Ricciardi, Stew notes:

"J.P. Ricciardi inherited a pretty good ball club when he was hired by the Blue Jays in 2001. When he took over, he cut back in the scouting department and got rid of good players in order to save money. J.P. drafted a couple of college kids and put them in the majors shortly after they were drafted, but he hasn't had nearly enough good draft prospects to make the Blue Jays a better club…Toronto has been breaking even or making money since hiring Ricciardi, but it's definitely been at the expense of being a competitive team."

Of course, it goes without saying that Stewart felt that he deserved the Blue Jays’ GM position years ago, even though his primary contribution as the Assistant GM was to sign Joey Hamilton (yeesh), and his primary contribution in his begrudging stint as pitching coach was to lay the smack down on John Frascatore (pictured above).

The Big Hurt's feelings are hurt

After hitting a grand slam in Wednesday's 12-1 bitchslapping of the Dodgers, Frank Thomas spoke to reporters about how the booing from the home fans the night before - which he so richly deserved - hurt his feelings.
"To get booed by the home crowd like that, I took that personally. That really hurt. It's one of those things where I wanted to bring an attitude into the game today. It worked out well for me." (AP via Yahoo)
But so long as he responds by mashing, we say let him have it.

Useless, unnecessarily negative stat: The Jays are 0-3 in games after they score 10 or more runs this year.

But the good news is: Roy Halladay won his third straight start since his June 5 blow up versus the Devil Rays.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Speculation in lieu of actual trade rumours

We've been dying for some half-decent trade rumours. We're frankly sick of the Glaus to the Los Angeles Whoevers or Whatevers, because that's old news, and it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

So our eyes perked up a bit when we saw Dave over at JaysNest float this one:
"What would you say if Pittsburgh Pirates SS Jack Wilson was a Blue Jay? He is said to be on the trading block and if my memory serves me well, a deal was in the works a few years ago at the trade deadline, but it just didn’t get done."
We'd say: Wilson is so dreadful, he'd barely represent an upgrade over what the Jays have at short now. Compare the OPS for this year and for their careers:
  • Wilson: .670 this year, .674 career
  • McDonald: .712, .601 career
  • Clayton: .618, .671 career
Wilson's recent benching in favour of Jose Castillo is being interpreted in Pittsburgh as evidence that a trade is imminent. However, at $5.4 million, he's the highest paid member of the Pirates. And that is not a reflection of his actual worth so much as it is a reflection on what a messed up franchise the Pirates are.

God willing, J.P. passes on this clunker.

Weak Performance By Jays In Loss

Like the 97 pound weakling in the classic ad for Charles Atlas' exercise programme, the Jays had some sand kicked in their collective faces by the "powerful" offense of the Dodgers in front of their girls. Fans loudly booed both Vernon Wells and Frank Thomas for their 0-4 "performances". The question is, will these guys bulk up and get their revenge tonight?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

League's lines

A week's gone by since we mentioned Brandon League's mediocre rehab outings.

Here, without comment, are his lines for his three AAA outings from the past week, all versus the Toledo Mud Hens:
  • June 14 - 0.2 IP, 1 hit, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks
  • June 16 - 1.0 IP, 2 hits, 0 ER, 0 BBs, 1 Ks
  • June 17 - 0.1 IP, 1 hit, 2 ERs, 1 BB, 1 K

Monday, June 18, 2007

No Jays Game Tonight. Watch This Instead.

Good-bye Mr. Ohka

After designating him for assignment 10 days ago, the Jays released Tomo Ohka outright today. By signing with the Jays to a one year deal in the offseason, Ohka was attempting to set himself for the 2007-08 free agent market by getting a bunch of cheap wins provided by Toronto's powerhouse offense. Whoops.

What will A.J.’s DL stint mean for the Jays?

Well, it apparently won’t mean an end to his hijinx and monkeyshines during the game.

If you look at the video below of the chili peppers race between innings at Saturday’s game, you’ll see someone in a uniform go running past them at top speed. (Whoever posted the clip was more interested in the chilis, so they missed out on the real story of the race.)



Initially, we thought it was one of the ball boys goofing off, until we realized that it was in fact Burnett, who had decided to demonstrate to the 30,000 amassed at the Rogers Centre that in a foot race, he can totally kick the ass of a bunch of dudes in rubber costumes.

We also noted that he looked pain-free when he threw his arms up in victory, but that’s apparently a totally different muscle group.

Now, we’re left to wonder whether if this shoulder injury will prevent A.J. from hoisting a cooler full of ice-water onto unsuspecting teammates and Sam Consentino.



Final sidenote: We have noticed that the shaving cream pies have been in short supply lately. Do you suppose someone in the Jays’ hierarchy put the kibosh on this practice? We always thought it was a bit dangerous to reward a fine on-field performance by ramming an alcohol-based foam into the eyes, nose and mouth of a teammate. But that’s just us.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

We Hate The Smell of Gas On A Sunday Afternoon

OK. So we can't entirely blame the Jays' loss to the Nationals on Josh Towers. The offense wasn't there. But we can blame him for giving up the go ahead run to the first batter in the next inning. And we will.

Injury Update: AJ Burnett's shoulder is still sore so he won't make his next start either. Look for him to end up on the 15 day DL. Gibbons suggests that we will know more on Tuesday.

Jays Spank Nationals

Back for the second game in their three game series against Washington, the Jays did their best to look like a team that could put together a winning streak. Strong pitching (Sean Marcum was tremendous with 11 Ks over 7 innings) and timely hitting (more like 'about time' hitting from Vernon Wells with his first HR in 88 at bats) carried our heroes to a 7-3 victory for their third straight victory bringing the Jays to within a game of .500. Nothing can stop them now! Wait...do you smell gasoline?

We've Seen The Future And It Is Clemens

Check out this hilarious clip.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Jays Dine On Washington


You know, we didn't realize just how much we missed Greg Zaun until tonight's 7-2 win against the Nationals. Dude calls a good game and can hit, which - all due respect, Sal - the temps who started in his place just couldn't. Zaun went 1 for 3 with two RsBI and a walk, and helped solidify the bottom of the lineup.

And, HALLELUJAH! Vernon Wells goes 3 for 5 (but somehow, doesn't score a run or drive one in).

Doc Halladay looked great, striking out six in seven and two-thirds to win his seventh.

(We're off to the Big Smoke to watch the Jays take on the Nationals, so blogging may be sporadic for the next few days. But seriously, it's going to be a beautiful weekend, so enjoy it. We'll be back on Monday to tell you if we could smell the gasoline stench off Josh Towers from the 200's.)

Matt Stairs - Lead Glove Outfielder

Bugs and Cranks (via Deadspin) enjoys the defensive outfield stylings of Matt Stairs almost as much as we do:
Matt Stairs, Blue Jays — The modern-day Pete Incaviglia doesn’t get to grace the field much these days, but when he does, it’s a sight to behold. Never a master of geometry, Stairs takes terrible angles on fly balls and if a ball would happen to ricochet off a wall, he might never find it. Stairs was used almost exclusively as a DH last season, but apparently the Blue Jays have the same sense of humor as we do.
But as we said, plop the Pride of Tay Creek at first, and we've got nothin' but love.

The Alternative Level of Excellence – Garth Iorg


When it comes to funny names, stupid batting stances, and being at the centre of our greatest moment of Blue Jays heartbreak, few can hold a candle to Garth Iorg.

Iorg was a mainstay of the Blue Jays lineup throughout their emergence in the 1980’s, mostly sharing third base duties with the vastly superior Rance Mullinicks (back when Jimy Williams seemed to want a left-right platoon at every position on the diamond.). He was also a place holder at second in 1987, bridging the gap between the illustrious Damaso Garcia era and the incomparable Manny Lee era.

Iorg stuck around so long that in our memory, we figured he must have brought something to table. And then we looked at the numbers.

In nine MLB seasons, all with Toronto, Iorg hit 20 homers, drove in 238 and put up a lilliputian .639 OPS. Iorg had his best season 1985, putting up an .827 OPS, hitting seven homers and driving in 37 in 288 ABs.

For us, the lasting image of Garth Iorg will always be his last major league at bat versus Frank Tanana in the final game of that painfully fateful 1987 season. Trailing 1-0 with two out in the ninth, and having squandered a 3 ½ game lead in the final week of the season by losing six in a row, Iorg was the Jays last hope.

We can’t tell you how many times this scene has played out in our heads. Not even back-to-back World Series championships have managed to ease our pain.

The "ground out 1-3" scoring play can’t begin to describe what a feeble tapper Iorg dribbled a few feet in front of the plate. Coming out of his dubious extreme leanback stance, Iorg waved his bat so weakly at the ball, we could have sworn it was made of fine crystal. And with that, the hopes of a nation and the postseason aspirations of one of the finest Blue Jays teams ever assembled were dashed.

And so, for breaking our hearts, for his ability to stick in the Majors in the face of his almost unrivalled mediocrity, and for his ridiculously unsound hitting technique, The Tao of Stieb hereby enshrines Garth Iorg onto the Alternative Level of Excellence.

(Thanks to all who’ve made suggestions as to who should receive our dubious little honour. We’ve got ideas for future inducements, but feel free to make your case, either in the comments or by hitting us with them here.)

The other Gronk

Gronk!!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lincecum vs McGowan

About a month ago, we compared the first starts of Boy-God-Next-Comings Tim Lincecum and Phil Hughes to Dustin McGowan's, and found with our slightly coloured judgement that our boy Dusty at least held his own.

Now that Tiny Tim and McGowan have faced one another, let's review where they are eight starts into this season.

Lincecum - 48 IP, 48 Ks, 21 BBs, 5.25 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2-1 record

McGowan - 49 IP, 40 Ks, 20 BBs, 4.78 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 3-2 record

(Since Hughes is recuperating at the Children's Miracle Network Hospital of New York*, we'll leave him out of the equation.)

The numbers look almost identical at this point, although we give extra credit to McGowan for his half-run advantage in ERA, especially since he pitches in the AL (and moreover, the AL East, where every team still rakes).

These two pitchers also seem to be headed in opposite directions. Lincecum has struggled in his last three starts, while McGowan has allowed three or fewer earned runs in his last five starts.

Maybe it's the sideburns.

*May not be the actual name of a medical institution.

"He almost has to start. Do You Believe In Miracles?"

These words from manager John Gibbons after announcing that Josh Towers will take over the "mildly" inured AJ Burnett's next start. Priceless.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This isn't a "good-bye", Sal. It's a "see you later".


To make room for the mighty GRONK! (TM), the Jays sadly had to DFA our pal, Sal Fasano.

Don't weep for Sal just yet though: given his pulled groin last week, and his .178 batting average, we're assuming he makes it through waivers to Syracuse. Fingers crossed.

Brandon League is not the answer

Before we start mapping out parade routes to welcome putative bullpen saviour Brandon League back to the Bigs, let's pull back the reins on our expectations.

In five games at AA New Hampshire, League's given up just one run, and has held batters to a .136 batting average.

There's a big "but", though. And as Pee Wee said in his Big Adventure, everyone we know has a big "but". So let's talk about League's big "but".

League's control has seemingly regressed in the early going, as he has put up 6 walks (versus 6 Ks) in 6.2 innings. And remember, that's against AA hitters. And we've seen this song and dance from League before.

In 2005, 20 walks versus 17 strikeouts earned him a trip back to the Chiefs. His 2006 numbers showed enough improvement (29 Ks, 9 walks) that the more deluded of us thought that he had nailed down the set up spot.

Meanwhile, Lee Gronkiewicz (who the Jays demoted from Syracuse at the beginning of the year) has four walks and 37 strikeouts in 30 innings. And yet we don't hear any rumblings about giving him a shot in the Jays pen. (Although we've tried our best.)

Yet again, the Universe bends to our will: Gronkiewicz got called up today. (Tip of the chapeau to JaysGirl5)

If the Jays say Burnett's not hurt...


...would we really have any reason to believe them?
"They don't think it's much," manager John Gibbons said after the game. "We'll know more (Wednesday)." (The Star)
"Never mind the tall blonde man grimacing his way off the field! Nothing to see here!"

Well, at least A.J.'s garbage collectors will feel safe for a while.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why a change would do Vernon, Rios, and the Jays a world of good


Let's pick up on Jeff Blair's recent spate of blog posts and items referring to Vernon Wells' spot in the order.

Back when we were in our "run-the-Texan-out-of-town-phase", we were going nuts over his constant jerking around with the lineup. But the time has definitely come for Gibby to at least tweak the lineup to reflect a few simple trends.

The Jays' leader in RsBI after 63 games is Aaron Hill with 37. That's good enough for a tie for 21st in the AL. Meanwhile, Alex Rios is currently 4th in the AL in homers, but has only 36 runs driven in to show for his power surge. Ten of Rios' homers have come with the bases empty.

(Granted, Rios' rate stats take a dive when there are runners on, so maybe he prefers that spot, or maybe he just doesn't get much to hit.)

Meanwhile, V-Dub's .676 OPS out of the three spot is absolutely killing the Jays' offense. It doesn't get a lot better when he moves up to the two hole (.723), but you simply can't allow that sort of futility in a run producing spot in the order.

When (if?) Reed Johnson makes it back, and when (IF!?) he regains his 2006 form, the lineup might sort itself out naturally, with Johnson first, followed by Wells, Rios, Glaus, Thomas, Hill and Zaun.

Speaking of Thomas, do you suppose he's enjoying his road trip?

Update from Tuesday's game: Rios hits second in the lineup, and hits a homer with a man on. We love when reality bends to our every whim.

San Fran Shock Horror



What a surprise. Gas Can (aka Josh Towers) was given a humanitarian of the month award by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce after last night's game for breaking Barry Bonds out of his slump. Rumor has it that Bonds will offer Towers a job as batting practice pitcher following his inevitable release by the Jays.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Close this!


A tip of the casquette to Todd at The 500 Level for his piece this weekend on Joey McLaughlin, possibly the Jays' most frustrating closer of all time.

To illustrate how much of a spirit killer McLaughlin was, it's worth noting that while he saved 31 games for the Jays from 1980 through 1984 (which still ranks as 8th on the Jays' all-time saves leader list), he also gave up 36 homers over that period.

So, you know, lay off Accardo just a bit, wontcha?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Your weekend in review


Maybe it's the heat, or maybe we're still a little dizzy from the final episode of the Sopranos. (And on that note: WTF?) But we need a moment to regain our composure.

Sunday's 11-5 routing of the Dodgers gave Jays fans the opposite perspective, and let us see what it is like when your team puts a tuning on the other team's underperforming and injured ace. Jason Schmidt - who we thought was the best signing of the offseason (oops) - gave up six runs and nine hits in four innings, and had less than nothing on his pitches.

Troy Glaus continues to swat it with authority, and even looked sharp in the field in spite of the fact that his knees continue to leave him lumbering around the bases like a man twice his age. (But on the plus side for Glaus, Mrs. Tao of Stieb thinks "he's pretty hot".)

Doc looked much better today, but follow us on our theory: Halladay is messed up throwing from the stretch, and as long as he can throw from the windup, he's okay. After the first inning today, Halladay was not asked to pitch from the stretch for any extended period, and his pitches all seemed to have the same zip and late movement that make Doc dominant. And, he really looked like he knew what he was doing at the plate today, hitting two solid singles and driving in a run.

Big ups to Shaun Marcum, who was efficient on Saturday over 6.2 innings in his 1-0 win over the Dodgers. It marks the third start this year for Marcum where he has not allowed an earned run, and he's made us completely forget that drunk driving dude with the glasses and the perfume.

Speaking of injured pitchers, Jeff Blair blogs that Brandon League is on the mend, and could be back in the bullpen by the end of June. Not that we're breaking out the party hats, mind you.

Hope all had a great weekend, and that you've braced yourself for this simple truth: tomorrow's starting pitcher for the Jays is the Gas Can, Josh Towers. Yeesh.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Going to California with an Aching...


As the Jays head out to Cali for 6 days of National League ball, we figured it's as good a time as any to assess what sort of value they've received out of their big off season signing, DH Frank Thomas.

In 58 games, Thomas has eked out 8 homers and 22 RsBI in 59 games thus far, putting up a less than stellar .756 OPS. While he is tied for second on the team in homers, he is tied for sixth in runs driven in with Adam Lind.

With runners in scoring position, Thomas is slugging a paltry .244, with one double and one homer. (For context, Aaron Hill is slugging .593 in the same situations, and Thomas slugged .547 last year with runners on.)

Thomas has also hit five of his eight homers with the bases empty, mirroring last year's performance, when he hit 22 of his 39 homers with no one on base.

Maybe the Big Hurt will get rolling once the warm weather gets here, as he did last year. It's worth noting, though, that Thomas went on his 2006 tear after a DL stint in June. So maybe we should be praying for an injury to help the big guy get rested up?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

J.P. drafts J.P.

After spitting the bit this afternoon against the Devil Rays (Carl Crawford eats the Jays for breakfast, AGAIN!), the Jays have made their first two picks of the draft.

Kevin Ahrens, a switch-hitting high school 3B/SS went first (16th overall), followed by U of Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia. (Not only is he another J.P., but in both cases, it stands for Jon Paul. For real.)

We're no draft expert, so we leave you with those links, and the next three years to decide if these were wise choices.

BTW, MLB.com has been running the ESPN2 coverage of the draft all afternoon, and contrary to what we had expected, it has been interesting and informative. It always helps to have Peter Gammons on the set.

Ohka Out, Towers Back In.



The Toronto Sun reports that the Jays have designated Tomo Ohka for assignment and returned Josh "Gas Can" Towers to the starting rotation. Gas Can will get his next start in San Francisco which has seen its share of disastors over the years. One has to hope that they are doing this to shop him around to NL scouts. As for Ohka, the team has 10 days to trade him, send him down, or release him outright. Hard to believe they couldn't get something for him from an NL team looking for an experienced and cheap arm.

Afternoon Delights

It’s A.J. versus the Rays at 12:37, the Draft at 2:00. How are we supposed to concentrate on work today?

Scratch another pitcher off our list: Jordan De Jong, who was included in our Armchair GM pitching column back in April, looked great in his first inning of work for the Blue Jays, striking out the side in the ?th last night. De Jong’s numbers in the minors have been great so far this year (1.69 ERA, 2 saves, 43 Ks vs. 13 BBs in 37.1 innings between New Hampshire and Syracuse), and seeing him for the first time, we were impressed with the zip and the movement on his pitches.

De Jong’s a bit old (28) to be considered a prospect, but his deliberate progression through the ranks since being drafted as an 18th rounder in 2002 is instructive when considering the goofiness and hyperbole (both positive and negative) that will be attached over the next few years to the Jays early round picks from today.

Jays Fail To Reach .500 Mark

Surprisingly Scott Kazmir gave them lots of chances to win last night, but the bats were taking the night off. And the previously stellar pitching for the Jays took the night off as well. Perhaps an 11 day layoff is too long for a starter (Tomo Ohka).

Interesting Read: Take a look at Jeff Blair's blog this morning for a good roundup on issues ranging from Gary Sheffield's big mouth, late draft picks that made good, and Vernon Wells new spot in the lineup.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Life Imitates Art: Jays Win Via Videogame Ending

It was almost as if we could hear some voice from the past uttering "f-ing Gary Gaetti" after the Jays miraculous ninth inning comeback. After Halladay left the Jays in a deep hole, a lot of us did start channel surfing (that Dutton family was wonderful on America's Got Talent). But some of those recent character wins seem to have convinced this team that they are never out of a game. We're not going to recap the whole game (others have done it for us here and here),
but there are a couple of guys that deserve gold stars:
  • Adam Lind - This guy was scuffling until last week. He may have even been given a reprieve when Matt Stairs had to take first to cover for the ailing Lyle Overbay. But in the past few games he has started to show why he has been such a coveted offensive player in the minors. Last night he drove in 5 runs on a HR, double, and a single. Not bad at all.
  • Jason Frasor - Two innings of no hit ball late in the game. Four strikeouts on top of that. Invaluable contribution.
  • Aaron Hill - The guy started and ended the six run ninth. Proof that a walk can be as exciting as a hit.
In general, we'll just say that it feels mighty good to be at one game under .500 after such a bad month of May.

What's Up Doc?

Mechanics? Fatigue? Inury? We don't know the cause, but Roy Halladay was not himself last night. If he hadn't had those two lousy starts before going on the DL, we would've looked at this as a blip. This is going to take some time one way or the other.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

So, we were watching America's Got Talent...

Did we miss anything?

Catch as catch can

It looks as though the Jays will call up Syracuse catcher Curtis Thigpen to fill in the spot vacated by Lyle Overbay.

Because you never can have enough catchers.

Thigpen has played a handful of games at first for the Chiefs, so he could get the starts at first that we feared could go to Jason Phillips. His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they are as good as it gets for the Jays’ AAA level scrubs (3 HRs, 16 RsBI, .787 OPS).

J.P. Ricciardi’s BFF Keith Law notes in his draft preview that Thigpen’s defense “gets very mixed reviews”, so a move from behind the plate may have been the plan for a while.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Why we (kinda) like Matt Stairs at first base


In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve taken our share of potshots at the Pride of Tay Creek, N.B. this year.

Mostly, we’ve been wary of seeing Stairs patrol the outfield given his limited speed, and the fact that his starts there have been at the expense of Alex Rios on a number of occasions. But given the fact that we’ll be seeing a lot of the big guy at first with Lyle Overbay on the shelf for four to six weeks, we’re trying to talk ourselves into liking the idea.

At the plate, Stairs has been more than respectable, with seven homers and 19 RsBI to go with a solid .936 OPS, although it’s important to remember that a good chunk of those numbers came over the span of nine at bats in Philly (3 HRs, 6 RsBI and 2.394 OPS). Stairs’ numbers versus lefties (3 for 15, one double and 2 driven in) would also lead us to believe that (God help us) Jason Phillips may get some starts at first.

Still, we’re vaguely optimistic that if the Jays are still five games out of the Wild Card with the myriad infirmities that have suffered thus far, then Stairs playing a corner infield spot shouldn’t spell the end of their season.

Another thought: Troy Glaus’ only professional experience at first was an inning in last year’s All Star Game. But given his limited mobility, shouldn’t he be taking ground balls at first, and preparing for the inevitability that his career will likely end up on the other side of the diamond?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hell Yeah! Another Character Win For Toronto

OK. So we are down about losing Lyle Overbay. But hey, there are a lot of things to be grateful for:
  • Stellar pitching - Both the bullpen and the starting rotation has been more than solid in the past three weeks. Highlights include the maturing of AJ Burnett, the emergence of Dustin McGowan as a legit starter and Jeremy Accardo as a closer, and the return of Doc Halladay. Today with Sean Marcum leaving early with a sore back, Tallet and the gang came in and shut the Chisox down for the last six innings. Another day at the office for this squad.

  • Timely Hitting - Until their recent series with the Orioles, the Jays hadn't won a come from behind game all year. Since then they have made it a habit. You never feel that this team is out of a game offensively. They may not mash like they did last year, but they can piece together runs pretty effectively when they need them.

  • Attitude - When things went to hell, these guys could have given up. Instead, they got through it and got better. There are a lot of winners on this team.

  • Wins Are Piling Up - The Jays won two series this week. They are only 5 games out of the Wild Card and are due to get several key players back in the short term. September may be interesting in Toronto this year.

Overbay Out 4-6 Weeks With Broken Hand

We knew things were going too well.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A turning point?

We can only hope so.

After having a nice late spring nap while Jose Contreras rolled through six innings, the Jays were shaken to life by the most exciting play of the week (our apologies to Aaron Hill): Sal Fasano's bunt single.

And just as we were about to tear Mickey Brantley a new one once again, the Jays offense came to life. And not by swinging for the fences, mind you, but by showing patience at the plate and making the White Sox pen come to them.

Our Pal Sal, with a run scored and one driven in on his 2 for 3 day, was the sparkplug today. After his work with Halladay on Thursday - not to mention today's job with McGowan - we're voting for Sal to stay over the wholly mediocre Jason Phillips.

(Although we're not so deluded as to assume that we actually have any say in the decision...we're just offering our insight.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Blair continues to mess with our heads

How else can you explain the title of his latest Globe baseball blog post?

We just hope that it this is more of an affectionate noogie to the Tao. We're not sure we're equipped for the sort of rejection that would come from realizing that our favorite Jays' beat writer is mocking us.

And speaking of Blair, he does yeoman's work sorting through the mailbag this week. We love when Leafs fans crawl out of their crypts to drop a John Brophy reference into a baseball question.

"Hey, if Troy Glaus had all the heart that Darcy Tucker's got, them Jays'd make the playoffs fer sure!"