Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A little perspective, if you please

The nice thing about unplugging yourself and getting away for a breather is that it allows you a certain amount of time to reflect and reassess. With the benefit of some time to quietly reflect, you can strip away some of the axiomatic thinking that creeps in and takes over when you are locked into the day to day grind of it all.

We highly recommend it. In fact, we'd especially recommend it to those in the comments sections of this blog and others who have started to freak out at the seeming disparity between the Jays signings and those of other teams, notably the Yankees. Because it's patently ridiculous the way that some are even trying to make some sort of point by comparing the Sabathia-Burnett-Teixeira signings with the Jays' scouring of the fringes to sign a handful of minor league free agents.

"They get C.C.! We get Mike Maroth! Fire J.P.! Fourth place! Gargggrggrghrghr!"

The Yankees, you have to remember, are in full restocking mode. They've lost a number of aging players with big contracts, so they can make all of these signings and maybe more, and still be under last season's payroll number. That's what they are doing now, and they are setting the market for the rest of the league, because they always have. There shouldn't be any cause for alarm.

The Jays' are on minor-league and marginal signings at this point, likely because are waiting (like everyone else) for some more movement in the free agent market amongst the more austere teams. There are lots of big names still on the board, and our guess is that some of them will be left scrambling for dance partners by the time February rolls around.

Besides, the Mike Barrett signing is a greatish one, both for the Jays and for the player. He gets the chance to get out of PetCo Park, and the Jays get a guy who was a Silver Slugger winner as recently as 2005. The signing also provides insurance in the event that Rod Barajas turns into a tubby pumpkin again.

We could definitely see Barrett taking playing time away from Barajas, especially if the latter backslides as he did in the final six weeks of last year.

That's a wrap on 2008
As 2009 lingers alluringly on the horizon, we look forward to turning over the calendar page and taking on another year. Have a great New Year's celebration, and we'll see you on the other side.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Holiday Recap (Ack edition)

It's been a while between posts on the ol' blog, what with the Tao taking a well deserved holiday break, and yooouuuurrrrr Toronto Blue Jays not giving us much to chew on.

It hasn't been completely uneventful, I suppose, in that the Jays have locked up Michael Barrett to a lucrative (read: minor league) contract, with the requisite "invite to spring training". Not a bad little signing, in that the Jays now have the low-cost veteran backup they were looking for. I'm already looking forward to the team's first trip to Comiskey Park, and a potential run-in with uber-douche A.J. Pierzynski. Should be fun.

The Ack's outlook - 2009
With time to kill over the holidays and some deep thinking moments of clarity, I've come to a revelation.

Yes, I've seen the light.

Life's too short to piss and moan about the Yankees (and Red Sox) free spending ways and bloated payroll. It is what it is. Besides, it'll all be deemed irrelevant when Sniderman belts 30 HR in his true rookie season, and outfield (DH) running mate Adam Lind adds 65 extra base hits of his own. Right? RIGHT??

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Taoist Wish for the Holidays

We're headed to warmer climes for the holiday season, and will be off the grid for the next week or so. In the meantime, we wish all of you a happy holiday surrounded by friends, family and loved ones.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's on the menu?

Blue Jay fans will recall the mid-season meltdown where the ever-so-media-savvy A.J. Burnett announced that he would relish (see what I did there?) the chance to pitch in a town where they serve up some baseball for "breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

Ask, and ye shall receive. Welcome to New York, A.J.! It's an acquired taste, but I'm sure you'll get used to your meals prepared by pressure cooker as opposed to the slow roasting method you've become familiar with over the course of the past three seasons. Shouldn't be a problem, should it?

Like the esteemed Tao, I'm trying my best to be indifferent concerning the "A.J.-as-a-Yankee" era. After all, Team Burnett didn't break any rules, were well within their negotiated right to exercise the opt-out clause....and the situation played out pretty much - no, exactly - as we all thought it would, didn't it? So, what gives?

How about this quote, for starters?

"Whether you love them or hate them, everybody wants to be a Yankee."

Terrific. Thanks for the insight, A.J.

But wait - there's more. Remember the alleged conversation with (future Blue Jay) Carl Pavano regarding life as a Yankee? Yeah....that didn't exactly happen during an offseason career soul-searching session. It happened in September, during the Jays last trip to Yankee Stadium:

Down the stretch, Burnett even received a thumbs-up review of New York from a surprising source -- Carl Pavano, the much-maligned Yankees right-hander and a former Marlins teammate.

Standing down the third-base line during the Blue Jays' September visit, Burnett and Pavano dodged batting-practice drives and spoke honestly about what life is like pitching for the Yankees. Pavano's positive review surprised even Burnett.

"He said it's great," Burnett said. "He recommended that I come here and believed that I need to come here to really blossom and start something special. The first thing he told me is that he didn't do it right from the beginning and got off on the wrong foot in New York. But it's a great place to play and a great place to live."

Well, I'm so glad to hear that your commitment to the Jays was unwavering throughout the season, Allan James. Really good to know that you "honestly had no idea" what you were going to do with the opt-out.

So, about that breakfast, lunch, and dinner.....I hope you enjoy them, A.J. Try not to choke on it.

A one-sentence post on...A.J. in pinstripes

We're usually a little more measured about this sort of thing, but goddamnit, when we look at that grinnin' douchebag traipsing about in a Yankees uniform, it just makes us want to hate him in all sorts of ugly ways.

Give us our toque!

Because our friends and family like to enable our unhealthy obsession with the Blue Jays, we've received a Blue Jays gift card this year. (Discounted Frank Thomas bobblehead, here we come!)

We were also excited about receiving the card, since Vernon Wells has popped up on our screen a few dozen times this week, telling us of how we can receive a FREE supercool retro Jays toque when we register our gift card. (And hearing a Texan say "toque" is really worth the price of admission.)

But for the past four days, as we've gone to register our gift card as directed at bluejays.com/giftcard, the system has crapped out on us, thus denying us our toasty headgear and ensuring a miserable winter of head colds and possible pneumonia.

We're not sure what the issue is, but if the Jays want to make sure that we remain healthy and happy through this long offseason bereft of hope and cheer, they can frickin' well get their act together and sort out their computer glitches. Because receiving our free toque in July isn't going to be that helpful.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Tao's Links in Bulk

(Oh Sour Jubes...you are our kryptonite.)

Tim Johnson Rides Again
The disgraced former Jays manager has caught on with the Tuscon Toros of the Golden League. (Or so he claims.) For some reason, the independent league team decided to literally parade Johnson through town on a horse.

(And BTW...how good does Tim Johnson's 88-win season look now?)

Ernie Whitt for Manager! (Of Clearwater!)
The Phillies named Ernie Whitt manager of their Single-A affiliate in Clearwater. The Drunks mocked. Anonymous commenters went apeshit. Hilarity ensued.

Speaking of Anonymous Whingeing
In an article titled "All I Want for Christmas...for the Sports Fan" and credited to "Sun Media", some anonymous and angry copy desk jockey takes two gratuitous swipes at J.P., but refrains from telling Parkes to fuck off. (Not that there's anything wrong with anonymity, right?)

Cathal Kelly: Friend of P, Not of A.J.
It's a few days old now, but Cathal Kelly's takedown of A.J. in last weekend's Star is a dilly of a mythbuster on the enigmatic hurler. The Ghosties quite rightly noted that this is the sort of piece that we would like to see written when the malingerer is still in town, but never will.

Putting A.J.'s Departure in Perspective
Jon Hale talks Jays fans off the ledge at the Mockingbird.

Reed Johnson: Still Super-Awesome
Or so says MLB.com, as they use the signing of the diminutive outfielder with the effeminate gait by the Cubbies last March as a shining example of the sort of remainder bin shopping that many teams (like the Jays!) will have to do this spring.

Our Saviour: Rick Ankiel
The Southpaw makes the modest (and somewhat reasonable) proposal that the Jays trade closer B.J. Ryan to the Cardinals for Rick Ankiel. If nothing else, the trade would exponentially increase the likelihood of Will Leitch sightings at Blue Jays games.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cabrera panic!!!!!

When we saw a headline this morning that screamed out "Cabrera drawing interest from Jays", we crapped our pants.

Thankfully, we came to the realization that MLB.com's intrepid Bastian was referring to Daniel, not Orlando.

That was close. Now if you'll excuse us, we have some cleaning to do.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A one-sentence post on...the bottom of the barrel

In spite of all of our professed optimism, we know things aren't really going swimmingly in the Jays' offseason when we spend an hour arguing with ourselves over the relative merits and hidden value of Matt Belisle.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Keep hope alive

When it comes to the 2009 season for our beloved Blue Jays, there's a lot of people saying we'd be better off dead.

(Like our weekend contributor, for instance.)

Certainly, looking at the state of the Jays' roster on paper and contrasting it with that of our AL East competitors, there's plenty of reason for pessimism. The Yankees are adding big names, the Red Sox will be moving soon to supplement an already strong roster, the Rays are in play for a big bat (like Jason Giambi) and the Orioles are running down anyone who is willing to take their money.

The games, of course, aren't played on paper, and there are reasons for optimism with the Jays next season.

Think of some of the 2008 contributions made by Jesse Carlson, who nobody knew in December 2007, but who went on to lead the team in appearances, posting a 2.25 ERA. Carlson had pitched well at Double-A New Hampshire in 2007, but he was scarcely mentioned as a prospect anywhere in the lead up to last season.

So, to warm your innards like a piping hot cup of mulled cider, we offer a few reasons for optimism this winter. Keep these in mind as you are opening up your Christmas presents next week only to find a "Burnett 34" jersey lovingly gifted by a family member who knows that you love the Jays, but who isn't necessarily following along as we do.

Hopeful Thought # 1 - Travis Snider
The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM is a star in the making, and a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate for 2009. While we've been salivating over LF/DH types in the free agent market, we're of the mind that the Blue Jays could generate as much offense from Snider at the major league minimum salary as they could have from Raul Ibanez at $10 million per year. We see Snider eventually as a Lance Berkman type, who could hit 30 to 35 homers with an OPS over .900. For next year, 20 homers and 80 RsBI seems like a reasonable expectation. Even with that modest expectation, he would represent an upgrade over the 2008 team's production.

Hopeful Thought # 2 - The rest of the farm
As much as the baseball hobbyists in the Toronto/Canadian sports media will continue to focus on J.P. Riccardi's draft gaffes, the minor league system is in its best shape since the salad years of the team. In addition to Snider, J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil and David Cooper all look to be legitimate high-end prospects.

Dig a little deeper, you may find next year's Jesse Carlson in the person of Robert Ray, a soon-to-be 25 year-old starter who put up some impressive numbers in his first crack at Double-A. A glance at his numbers suggests that he may be a step ahead of Ricky Romero at this point, and he could potentially find himself with the big club by season's end.

Moreover, there's Scott Campbell, who has put up better offensive numbers in his minor league career than Aaron Hill did. There are also (finally) a number of higer-ceiling Latin American players (Balbino Fuenmayor, Yohermyn Chavez, Moises Sierra) who are on the way, and who could make big strides in the coming year.

They might not all contribute to the 2009 team, but the wealth of prospects could provide the Jays with more trading chips if they need to make a short term move to shore up their pitching.

Hopeful Thought # 3 - The ailing return
In the short term, Aaron Hill, Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo should all return for the beginning of the year after missing most or all of last season. Dustin McGowan could be back as early as May. Obviously, it's difficult to bank on players returning to their former glories immediately after an extended period on the DL. But these players seem to have been forgotten in all of the tales of woe that are being spun over next year's team.

Hopeful Thought # 4 - The ailing return to form
Is it too much to hope for better seasons from Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen?

Hopeful Thought # 5 - The other guys have their problems, too
It's not to say that the Rays' season was a fluke, but it seems unlikely that they will walk between the raindrops in the same way they did this year. Carl Crawford seems like an extended DL stint waiting to happen, as does the Red Sox' David Ortiz.

There's no telling what the jumble of new bodies (and their associated personalities) in the Bronx will produce, and Orioles have more holes to fill in their rotation and bullpen then money can paper over.

Moreover, with the exception of Boston and the Yankees, the rest of the AL will also feel the squeeze of the economic slowdown, which means that the Jays won't be the only team counting the coins in their change purse throughout the winter.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My new motto

Fuck 2009.

Add that to the ever-growing list of things I can thank Clarence Gaston for. You see, when Cito not-so-subtly announced that the Jays would have a good team....in 2010, he did us all a favour. He did his players a favour by taking the pressure off before the team had even played one game of the 2009 schedule. He did the front office a favour by simmering down the public demand for a big offseason move at baseball's winter meetings. Maybe most importantly, he did me (and by "me", I mean "us") a favour by lowering expectations to a point where I (we) can enjoy the upcoming season for what it is.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not being a total defeatist. I'll still be following the team religiously and agonizing over every game, every GIDP, every strikeout in a big spot. I still hold out hope the team can be good - and maybe shock the baseball world. But....the pressure's off now, isn't it?

And while we're at it
Fuck A.J. Burnett, too.

I know, I know....he had every right to take the best offer on the table, and it was inevitable that the Yankees would be that team. But still......fuck him, you know? For all the talk about how close he was with Roy Halladay, A.J. really is proving to be the anti-Doc, isn't he?

Speaking of which, outstanding work by Cathal Kelly with this piece on A.J. Our man Cathal does a great job reminding us of what we really lost when he walked away, and de-mystifies the "legend" that was/is A.J. Anyone else looking forward to the first Yankee Stadium showdown with Doc and A.J. on the hill?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reading the tea leaves in the bottom of an empty cup

The big free agent signing is no signing at all
The first thing that went through our head when we heard of the Matt Clement signing yesterday was "Jaime Navarro". The Jays signed him in December of 2000, and after a couple of Spring Training outings, he never threw a pitch in anger for the Jays. We're assuming the same fate for Clement.

The triumphant return of Cody Heather Hatheer Haerther
The Jays are apparently smitten with Cody Haerther, seeing as how they plucked him from the Cardinals for the second straight year in the Rule 5 draft. Which is a little puzzling, seeing as how he posted a .658 OPS in 100 games at Triple-A Memphis last season. If nothing else, this pick up provides the Jays' PR team with a do-over after mangling his name in successive press releases last season.

Harbingers of doom, courtesy of Bob Elliot
Sun Media's veteran baseball scribe raises the spectre of the Jays being put up for sale in the wake of Ted Rogers' passing. Our thoughts: no one at Rogers is going to make a decision this quickly on the team, because they've put to much time and effort into integrating their media properties and marketing initiatives into the Jays.

Some of the signs that Elliot points to have less to do with the team preparing to be sold than they have to do with the team battening down the hatches for the financial decline that is sure to have a significant impact on them for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Sadly, for us Jays fans, there are forces in the world working against the team's ultimate success that are bigger than the Yankees and Red Sox.

Why are we reading the National Post?
It took us a while to come around to it, but we have to admit that the NatPost's Jeremy Sandler did a pretty good job with his reportage from Vegas. We've been dismissive of some of his writing in the past, but we found his work to be frequent, informative, fair-minded and entertaining throughout the Winter confab. We still miss the Globe's Jeff Blair (come back Blairsy!), but in his absence, Sandler probably did the best work on the Jays' beat over the past week. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A one-sentence post on...the glut of LF/DH types in the free agent market

Maybe we weren't reading every sentence and listening to every podcasted and broadcasted word on the Winter Meetings, but we can't remember anyone mentioning Adam Dunn, with his 40 homers and 100 RsBI, as a serious free agent target for any team over the past week.

Of cups and lips and the best laid plans

Sure, the Yankees have gone out and signed CC Sabathia, and seem prepared to vastly overpay for A.J. Burnett.

But somehow, we find our mind wandering back to four years ago.

Does anyone remember how in 2005, the Yankees brought in the top two free agent pitchers (Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano) and traded for Randy Johnson to supplement a rotation which already had Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina.

At the time, it seemed almost unfair.

But even having secured the three top pitching prizes on the market that year, the Yankees still won six fewer games the next season and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The free agents were absolute busts, and the Big Unit was servicable, if unspectacular.

Moreover, the Yanks haven't played an inning of League Championship action since 2003, two seasons before their spree since 2004, the season before the signings. (We overlooked the '04 ALCS, because it was clearly so forgettable and not at all historic...or possibly because we are really dumb.)

We're just saying.

Update 12/12/08, for the benefit of Baseball Musings readers: We're not comparing CC to Jaret Wright at all...but the Yanks did bring in Big Unit (2.60 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, second in NL Cy Young voting in '04) and Pavano (3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, sixth in NL Cy Young voting '04). So we don't feel as out to lunch with this comparison as some might suggest. But feel free to set us straight.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Kubek, Frick and Cheek

When it comes to the Ford Frick Award, we'll take whatever satisfaction we can get.

We've previously stated that we're not going to hop onto this perpetual treadmill of rage about Tom Cheek's exclusion because frankly, this is going to go on for years. There are other ways to honour Tom Cheek, and we doubt that the man himself would look kindly upon another rage-filled blog post about this year's snubbing.

That being said, we have mixed feelings about the 2008 winner, Tony Kubek. As a Jays fan, he was without question a great influence on our early appreciation of the game. The team of Kubek and Don Chevrier is arguably the best TV tandem in the history of the franchise, and their descriptions of the Jays' rise to prominence through the 80's are etched indelibly in our memory.

Kubek was economical but pointed with his critiques of both teams on the field, a fact that got him in hot water when he and Bob Costas made allegedly derogatory remarks about the 1989 Blue Jays' chances of making a comeback against the Bash Brother-era A's. Costas stated that Elvis had a better chance of a comeback, and the fact that our "hometown" colour guy didn't speak up on behalf of the home side sent thin-skinned Canadian fans into paroxysms of indignance. (And, of course, Costas was right in his own irritatatingly smug way.)

Kubek never returned to the Blue Jays' booth, and walked away in digust from the game in 1994. It strikes us that while we have gauzy happy memories of those old Labatt's Blue Jays Baseball on CTV broadcasts, we wonder what people would make of Kubek's analysis now. Would he be pilloried as some old school analysts are? Would there be a Fire Tony Kubek blog?

So what's the downside of Kubek winning? Perhaps the most salient point that we've read on Kubek's induction came from Neate at Out of Left Field:

"This award is for broadcasters, not members of the jockocracy who actually didn't ride the coattails of their athletic career, which can be said of Kubek (it also applies to Alan Ashby on the FAN 590). Hey, let's put Joe Morgan in the broadcasters' wing of the Hall next season, even though he's already in as a player, just to make sure.

This a sports nerd's bias, but fact you were a player should not even be mentioned. It rubs it in the face of every trained broadcaster who came up the hard way, past, present and future, making a profession of their passion.
"

There's a lot to that, and when you start to look forward at some of the ex-player analysts who are on the horizon, you have to wonder if they won't start to squeeze out the men by their sides who called the games.

A last word on this goes to Kubek himself. According to the Globe's William Houston, this year's honoree said that he wished that Tom Cheek, the man who sat one booth over from him for 15 years as a Blue Jays broadcaster, was "standing alongside me."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dumpster diving for Winter Meetings news

(And note the name stenciled on the side of that dumpster: A.J. Pain. Too true.)

With the decline in the Canadian dollar (which currently sits at 0.7919 cents U.S.), this year's winter confab in Vegas looks to be an exceptionally quiet week for the Jays.

The team overspent on a few signings over the past few years of currency-related windfalls (we're looking at you, Mr. Wells). Account for the 2009 raises that are coming for most of the Jays' regulars in the middle of long term deals, and there's precious little room to maneuver for J.P. Ricciardi et al in Vegas, no matter how much A.J. Burnett, David Eckstein, or Frank Thomas money comes off of their payroll.

(Our brilliant idea: Put Lyle Overbay's entire contract on red at the roulette wheel. No, really.)

As J.P. told a group of drunken beat reporters (and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian): "Anybody we add, we're going to have to subtract...I don't think we're able to take on a lot of payroll. So if we want to do some things, we're going to have to eliminate some payroll."

Unfortunately, we don't think that the Jays will be able to eliminate payroll by bringing contracts out to the desert like they did with Joe Pesci in Casino. Although that would be kinda cool.

So given this shite state of affairs, it should surprise none of us that on the second day of the meetings, we're reading about Chris Duncan as the Jays' next designated hitter. (This is the punishment we get for speaking wistfully about John Thomson yesterday.)

Also, if you're interested, the lede in that same Bastian piece is the fourth or fifth cycle of Rafael Furcal to Toronto rumours, which are too fleeting and far-fetched to even ponder at this point.

In other news that's as depressing as a 6 am, hung-over viewing of Mike Leigh's Naked, the Jays are apparently talking to Carl Pavano. We see Pavano as an option for the Jays rotation, in as much as he has two arms (slightly used) and opposable thumbs. Aside from that, we're not sure that Pavano (5.77 ERA, 1.49 WHIP in limited innings in 2008) would be a much better option than just letting the other team hit off a tee.

Mind you, Pavano (and feel free to sing this part along with us, because you certainly know the words) does have "a relationship with Brad Arnsberg". Which, as we all know, is the best way for the front office to sell this shit as Shinola.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Considering the alternatives, a little self-inflicted frontal lobe damage seems fine by us

We're having trouble deciding, so help us out here.

Is this the most depressing, spirit-crushing offseason in recent memory? Or is it the most painfully slow, demoralizing and frustrating offseason in memory?

We're the King of Accentuating the Positive, but seriously, the past eight weeks have pushed us to a point where we spend half of our time sobbing into our pillow and the other half of our time pounding our head into the wall.

What can we talk about? The instability of the franchise? The fact that there is likely to be no major additions and at least one significant subtraction from last year's disappointingly middling team? The fact that the Canadian dollar is down, and that the payroll will likely go down? The fact that the Yankees are going to retool and spend like drunken sailors (again)?

We've been waiting for weeks for the Winter Meetings to get started, and now that they are here, we fear that it is entirely likely that the Jays' front office staff will walk away from Las Vegas with little more than a tour of the new AAA franchise's dilapidated home field and some outrageous hospitality expenses.

At this rate, we'd settle for a John Thomson signing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A two sentence post on....Vegas

Ahhh Las Vegas - the city of sin, where anything goes, and usually does.

A guy can have all kinds of fun in Vegas - unless, of course, your name is JP Ricciardi and you don't have any money to spend.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Final thoughts on A.J., and dubious reporters' anonymous sources

A.J. to the ATL
If there was any justice in the universe, A.J. would sign with Atlanta today so that we can rid our minds of any thoughts of him someway, somehow making his way back to Toronto.

It was fun to have him around while it lasted, but when it comes to A.J., we'd laid the wreath upon that stone some time ago.

The Braves are a great fit for A.J., and we suspect that for the first little while, he'll look like Nolan Ryan and will make some comment about Toronto that will put our knickers in a twist. Then he'll blow out his arm, and someone in Atlanta will wonder if they learned anything from their half-decade with Mike Hampton.

Godspeed, Pete Puma.

There are anonymous sources, and then there is this horseshite
Our antipathy towards Marty York has been expressed on numerous occasions, but we never thought that our views of Canada's Premier Commuter Paper Sports Journalist could fall further.

That was until we say York's piece on the Jays' layoffs in their ticketing department.

While the story was definitely newsworthy, we can't believe that York had the audacity to include the following paragraph:

"Sources in professional sports told Metro that no Canadian sports franchise in history has laid off as many employees in one day as the Jays did Tuesday."

We're sorry, but that is an absolute load of hooey.

There is a time and place to make use of anonymous sources in journalism, but they should be used judiciously, and only when there is no other option. This clearly is not one of those times. This is a simple statement of facts, and if York wanted to run with it, he should have verified those numbers instead of taking the lazy way out.

Unfortunately, someone is going to take this purported statement of facts as the truth, when for all we know, it was the usher at Toronto Rock games who made the claim off the top of his head. If York had any shame at all, he would have either found a legit source that would go on the record with this claim, or he would have done the research himself.

We don't expect much from Marty York, but this is even beneath his low standards.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Edward Samuel "Ted" Rogers, Jr., 1933 - 2008

Ted Rogers was without equal in Canadian business, building a remarkable multimedia empire with an astute and entrepreneurial approach. He built a vast, varied and incomparably successful business by taking risks that others would not, and by working harder than anyone else would.

As the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers rarely implicated himself publicly in the business of the baseball, calling himself a "village idiot" on baseball matters. And yet, under his stweardship, the team now has a vastly improved state of affairs, including ownership over its home park and all of the associated benefits that entails.

Ted Rogers was a leader in the truest sense of the word. He will be missed.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The glacial pace of the offseason

We have another full week before the Baseball Winter Meetings even get underway.

Which means another seven days of random speculation on A.J. Burnett; another seven days of people talking absolute shite about trading Roy Halladay; seven more days of hearing absolutely SFA of substance about the 2009 free agent class; seven more days of rehashed think pieces on Scott Boras and his influence on the game (Suggested title: Scott Boras - Is He the Devil? Or Something Far Far Worse?); seven more days of hearing how fat C.C. Sabathia is; seven more days of hearing experts say the following words: "Once the first major signing is made, that will set the market, and I think you'll see a lot of dominoes start to fall after that."...which is what passes for insight these days.

Now if you'll excuse us, we're pricing out a hyperbaric chamber for our apartment so that we can hibernate for the next few months in an oxygen rich environment while waiting for pitchers and catchers to report. Wish us luck.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Taking issue with the Globe

You know how sometimes, when a team is looking to rebuild, or retool, or just needs to shake things up, you'll hear a General Manager announce that "nobody is untouchable"? I usually tend to agree, but there are always exceptions. For example, let's say you have a player at the peak of his career, at arguably the most important position on the roster, who is one of, if not the very best in the league at his job, who has pledged allegiance to the team, and who just might be the most popular player in franchise history. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, such a player exists. Well, that player would be the exception to the "nobody is untouchable" rule. You just don't trade Roy Halladay.

Now that I've stated my position, you can imagine the taste left in my mouth by browsing the sports section of the Globe this morning. Not one, but two articles (not so) subtly advocating just the opposite. First up, an article by my guy Jeff Blair.

Full disclosure - Blair is probably my favorite writer covering the Jays (even if, as it appears, baseball coverage is no longer Blairsy's full-time gig). You broke my heart with this quote this morning, Jeff:

".....general manager J.P. Ricciardi disagrees with those of us who don't think like television executives and who believe that the economy going down the sewer, coupled with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays and the economic and personnel clout of the usual suspects in the American League East, makes it a good time to gut the franchise and trade Roy Halladay for some package offering immediate and long-term help."

Blair's cohort Bobby MacLeod follows this up with an article of his own, with a few throwaway quotes from Doc's agent, and essentially re-re-re-rehashing the same tired quotes from the all-star break last season.

If I haven't made myself clear enough, here's my take: unless Roy approaches JP and says he wants out - or indicates he won't re-sign with the team when his contract expires after the 2010 season - there's no way trading Halladay should be part of the organizational blueprint. Roy Halladay is a once in a generation type of pitcher (excuse the hyperbole), by all indications loves playing for the team, and is, maybe above all else, exactly the type of person you want representing your franchise.

Roy Halladay is 31 years old. Roy Halladay is in the prime of his career. Even if 2009 turns out to be the shit year that everyone seems to be so sure the team will have.....you're expecting the team to stink for the next five or six seasons? Marcum, McGowan, Cecil, Litsch, Snider, Lind, Rios, and Hill have no chance at growing into the core of a contending ballclub? Trading Doc is the only way to get better? Disagree, friends. Dis - a - gree. So shut the fuck up about trading Doc, already.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Saluting Greatness and Giving Thanks

Seeing as how we've been a bit of a negative nellie lately, we figured we should take a moment and look on the bright side of life.

Remembering Carlson's Houdini Act
In the whole run of a season, it is sometimes easy to forget some of the truly great performances that we had the opportunity to witness. Fangraphs reminds us of Jesse Calrson's heroic effort versus the Texas Rangers way back on April 16, which they rank as the third best pitching peformance of the year. While the Jays went on to lose the game, Carlson certainly held up his end of the bargain by entering with the bases loaded and striking out the side.

Fangraphs notes that "Carlson recorded a 0.721 WPA for his stellar work"...and while we don't really know what that means, it sounds awesome and reminds us of a truly transcendant moment in the 2008 season.

(An appreciative glove tap to Neate at Out of Left Field for this.)

The Greatest Roy Halladay Post Ever Told
We bow and genuflect before Lloyd the Barber at Ghostrunner on First for this outstanding post detailing the daily routine of one Harry LeRoy Halladay. Amongst Doc's activities:

"7:00 AM: Begin daily staredown in the mirror. Turn grimace to stun.

9:00 AM: Realize that the only man strong enough to survive the glare of Roy Halladay is Roy Halladay."

There are some really great Jays blogs out there, and there have been many salient and humourous takes on the team over the past few years. But when we read this post, we were immediately struck with an overwhelming jealousy at its excellence. We wish that we were clever enough write something this good.

Thanks Be Given
Our sincere appreciation to the 'Duk at Big League Stew for listing us amongst his 101 reasons to give thanks this year. Seeing our name dropped alongside Vin Scully, Dan Schulman, Joe Posnanski, and a veritable cornucopia of the greatest things in a baseball fan's life is a truly humbling experience. We can only hope to live up to such a tribute.

Thanks again, 'Duk. You made our day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Want My M(LB)TV

(And as we use that title, we realize that there is a whole generation who wouldn't necessarily get the reference. Yikes.)

These are dark days for baseball fans in Canada. While any given sportscast in this country can find a way to cram in an extra 2000 hours per week of discussion Brian Burke - and seriously, Christ's return wouldn't get this much coverage - there's precious little out there for us fans of the finer things in life.

One of the more depressing moments we've had recently happened when we searched for "baseball" through our TV's program guide, and the answer came back starkly: "None". Groan.

Which is why we find some hope in the last paragraph of this article from the Sporting News on the launch of the MLB Network. The article suggests that maybe, possibly, if we all are good boys and girls and do our homework and floss and stop picking on our siblings and lay of the MILF porn, then maybe Rogers will bring the MLB Network to Canada. Says the article:

"There are no concrete plans yet to take MLB Network international, but (Tony Petitti, MLB Network's president and CEO) says Canada would be the first country into which the channel would expand. Rogers Communication (sic), Canada's largest cable distributor, happens to own the Toronto Blue Jays, and Petitti noted there have been discussions with Rogers about bringing MLB Network to Canada."

The launch of the MLB Network in Canada could go a long way towards offsetting our Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter. Just listening to folks talk about baseball (even those that talk absolute shite) is like a nice warm sweater and a cup of cocoa with extra marshmallows for our soul.

Of course, Rogers already holds a license in Canada for an all-baseball-all-the-time diginet, but they haven't moved on it, likely because they were waiting to follow MLB's lead on this. We're just hoping that they'll see fit to shelve their verions in favour of what will undoubtedly be a superior and readily available product from the U.S. (with bonus Canadian Content in the delightful form of Hazel Mae!)

Surely, if Rogers can include CBS College Sports TV in their channel lineup, they can find some room for the MLB Network.

So we implore the execs: Tony Viner, Rael Merson, or whoever has the capacity to make this happen, please please please please pretty please add the MLB Network this winter. We'll be forever grateful.

(Wow...that was kinda pathetic, wasn't it? But seriously, we could lower ourselves further to make this happen.)

Halladay is a video game animal

We're not precisely sure what to make of this screenshot from MLB Superstars.

At a glance, it appears as though Roy Halladay has morphed into a werewolf or is wearing a bear's head, is holding a giant chili pepper, and is observing a field in desperate need of landscaping and better zoning requirements so as to keep travelling carnivals from pitching their tents in the infield.

Oh, and somehow, Daniel Cabrera is the normal one in this photo. Go figure.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Florida sounds real good right about now

We're freezing our nuts off, and it isn't even December yet. Can anybody explain to us what the hell our forefathers were thinking when they settled on this land of slush and sleet and snow? This is no sort of climate for a self-respecting baseball fan.

It's this time of year that reminds us of what a sound decision Papa Tao made when he purchased his fifth-wheel trailer and started heading down to Florida for the winters. It doesn't matter that it costs him a small fortune to haul that beast down there, or that he's chosen to live in what Vic Chesnutt called "the redneck Riviera". At least he's not spending his stretch run shivering and shoveling.

And speaking of the good life in FLA, the Jays released their 2009 Spring Training schedule, which kicks off three months from tomorrow versus the Yankees.

Three months. It sounds so close, yet it seems so far.

Brrr.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

So long, Moose

Right off the top, let me get something out of the way: I am petty, vindictive, and a bit (?) of an ass myself. Now that I've cleared that up, let me get one more "fuck you, Mike Mussina" post out of my system. Don't act surprised - you knew this was coming....

First, let me congratulate Archie's big dumb friend on a great career - possibly a Hall of Fame career - and for going out on top (his first 20 win season). It's not often you see players potentially walk away from another ten or twenty million dollar contract. Another point in Mussina's favor is that he was a pretty loyal guy, having spent his 17 year career split between just two teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. Yet another check in the "good" box is that all of his accomplishments came pitching out of the notorious AL East.

To further honor Mussina, I'm thinking about planning a little road trip to New York next summer. I'd like to be there when they celebrate his career and retirement with a pre-game ceremony. I just hope the proceedings don't delay the start of the game at all, because, in fact:

"I congratulate the man who got 4,300 games, but sitting for 15 extra minutes before the game was supposed to start - that was worse. When they say 2:15 and it’s 2:25 and they’re still on the field ... I don’t want to take anything away from him. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. But tell us 2:30 instead of 2:15. That’s all."

For this Mike Mussina, you're an asshole. Oh, I could go on and rehash the whole Cito-Mussina feud also, but I think Cito put that one to bed during the season with this quote:

"Mike Mussina can kiss my ass — and you can print that"

I could also express the popular sentiment about how Mussina didn't pitch for fame or fortune, but a quick bit of research tells me that he made just under $145 million in salary during his career. Kind of takes the shine off that star, no?

So congratulations on your career, Mike. I hope you enjoy your retirement. Asshole.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Five years is a long time

Don't get us wrong...We love A.J. as much as the next guy. But five years? How many DL trips is that? What's the over/under on the number of "sharks" biting in his elbow between now and 2013?

As a point of reference, think about what the Red Sox did with hometown heroes Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon: They walked away from bad contracts that were too long, spared themselves the sight of those two players going to hell in a Red Sox uniform, and won a World Series along the way. The Yankees and Mets? Not so much.

Maybe J.P. should take heed.

A masher in the middle

Now that J.P. has apparently tossed a bucket of cold water on all of those Manny Ramirez fantasies that fanboys (like us!) have been concocting since midway through last season, the question remains: who's going to be the big bat in the middle of the lineup next year.

As always, the Tao is here to serve you with insider analysis and the latest poop and scoop. (Okay... so we're not an insider. But we did once share a Go Train platform with Sportsnet's Peter Loubardias, back when he had just lost all his baby fat. That's gotta count for something.)

Here's a brief run down of the candidates to drive in some RsBI next season:

1) Milton Bradley - There's lots of apprehension around the mercurial Bradley, who at times shows roughly the same level of emotional stability as the love child of Crispin Glover and Sean Young. But considering what a horrendously milquetoast crew the Jays will have next year (especially with A.J. dishing out shaving cream pies elsewhere), you have to wonder if they couldn't use a guy who doesn't mind running his mouth and going apeshit once in a while.

In terms of his numbers, they were sterling in 126 games last season (22 HRs, 77 RsBI, .999 OPS). Looking at his year over year trends, Bradley only seems to be getting better, posting an OPS+ of 153 in 2007 and 163 in 2008.

As much as we like the idea of Bradley in Toronto, there are three caveats that we see. First, his durability is a concern. He's never managed to play more than 141 games in any season, and he missed substantial time from 2005 through 2007.

Second, his career stats versus the Yankees and Red Sox are less than stellar (.565 career OPS versus the Yanks, and .716 versus the Sox.)

Finally, the switch-hitting Bradley's career stats versus lefties (.504 slugging) are a lot stronger than his numbers versus righthanders (.438 slugging, .801 OPS).

All things considered, it seems as though Bradley could be had with a reasonable contract for a shorter term, and he could represent an upgrade over Adam Lind in the short term.

2) Raul Ibanez - Dismiss him if you must, but Ibanez has driven in more than 100 runs in each of the last three years, and moreover, he has driven in more runs than any Blue Jay over that period.

3) Jason Giambi - Left for dead as recently as 2007, Giambi can still hit 30 bombs and drive in 100 if he stays healthy. He has also put up robust numbers at Rogers Centre over his career (.554 OPS SLG, 22 homers and 58 RsBI in 87 games).

4) The rest of the lot - It gets pretty sketchy at this point, with players who are on the downside of their career (Griffey, Garciaparra, Abreu, Kent, Jim Edmonds), players who aren't going to sign with J.P. in asny case (Adam Dunn), and players who have more question marks than the Riddler's unitard (Burrell, Rocco Baldelli, Garrett Anderson). Of those, Baldelli is the one that intrigues us most, if only because it would bring so much joy to the fellas at Ghostrunner on First. Our profound sense of nostalgia kicks in on Griffey, who has slugged .577 in Toronto over the years, but we've already been down the "future Hall of Famer's last hurrah" road before, and it didn't play out very well as we recall.

That's our list. As always, we welcome your scorn in the comments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We NEED a pitcher, not a belly-itcher

As per a request in the comments of our shortstop rundown in the last post, we figured we'd share our views on the Jays' forays into the starting pitching market this off season. (We're nothing if not responsive to our readers.)

Obviously, this whole thing is going to be complicated by the fact that we don't really know what the Jays will have in terms of a pitching staff or a starting rotation in the coming two years. What sort of pitcher will Casey Janssen be next year? When does Dustin McGowan return to the lineup? Will Jesse Litsch come to camp in shape and ready to be a number two pitcher? Can David Purcey throw strikes?

Regardless, there's going to be a significant gap in the rotation left by A.J. Burnett (and let's just stop kidding ourselves that he's going to leave money on the table to come back). The Jays are also likely to be squeezed on how much they can offer to free agent pitchers, so they'll be looking for bargains on name-brand pitchers. (Not quite the same as the Ohka-Zambrano-Thomson spree from a couple of years back.)

So who can help fill the void? See our humble suggestions below.

1) Ben Sheets - Yes, we know that he is made of sugar, and that his strike out rate has declined while his walks have gone up. We know that he hasn't pitched more than 200 innings since 2005, and that he has excelled pitching in the NL Central. We know that there is a reason why teams will be scared away from him...but that's exactly why we think he might be a fit for Toronto.

He might be the sort of pitcher that could be had on a shorter deal, which would allow some payroll flexibility and which wouldn't create impediments for the Cecils or the Mills coming up through the system. And if his health returns (he did manage 198.1 innings last season), he might be the best number two pitcher in the division.

2) Derek Lowe - Our guess is that he'll have plenty of suitors, including the Yankees and Red Sox. But given Toronto's outstanding infield defense, we think that the sinkerballing Lowe would be an ideal fit with the Jays, serving up ground balls on Rogers Centre turf. He's been a durable and reliable starter since coming back out of the BoSox bullpen in 2002, and had one of his best seasons last year (3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP).

3) Jon Garland - Speaking of ground balls, Jonny Sinkers lives and dies by his infield defense, which went into the toilet for him in Anaheim last season. (The Almighty Halladay would have had a rough ride last season if he was being backed up by Chone Figgins at third, Erick Aybar at short and Howie Kendrick second.) His numbers in his first year in the greater Los Angeles area were far less than stellar (4.90 ERA, 1.51 WHIP), but he was a Cy Young candidate as recently as 2005, and is not yet 30 years old. Once the top names are gone, Garland could be a good fit at the right price for Toronto.

4) Brad Penny - He's big. He's fat. He has good first halves. He gets into bar fights. He's one of the Brad Arnsberg Marlins diaspora. He'll likely command less than the $9 million that the Dodgers would have had to pay him. And if you're looking for next year's Cliff Lee (the mediocre pitcher who suddenly becomes a world-beater), we think that Penny is as likely a candidate as any.

5) Oliver Perez -And if Penny isn't going to be next year's Cliff Lee, how about Perez? Our sense of Perez has changed a bit over the past few years, where we we no longer expect him to be an elite pitcher, but that he can have flashes of brilliance. Think of him as a left-handed A.J., only with junk instead of stuff. (Does praise get any fainter than that?) Perez walked entirely too many batters last season, and it is probably not reasonable to expect him to post less than a 1.30 WHIP.

6) The Old Skool MTL Crew - Petey Martinez and Randy Johnson. They're old, and they certainly ain't what they once were. But, you know, in a pinch, we wouldn't mind plugging them in as a fifth stater...provided they aren't the only answer. Besides, think of how many Dick Griffin columns would write themselves if these former Expos came on board!

We realize that we're probably completely wrong about all of this, but when you don't really have much of a budget to work with, how do you do things right?

In any case, feel free to chastise us for our simple-mindedness in the comments. We live for your criticism.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shortstops à gogo

Stop us if you've heard this one before: The Blue Jays are on the look out for a shortstop this off season.

And how sad is this: The last Blue Jays shortstop to have two consecutive seasons of playing more than 1000 innings (roughly 115 games) at the position was Alex Gonzalez in 2000 and 2001. Since then, a veritable rogues gallery of marginal players have suited up at the position. You've got your Chris Woodwards, and you've got Chris Gomezes, along with a little Mike Bordick here and your occasional Russ Adams there.

There are a handful of names that are being tossed around as possible replacements for the departed and not-so-lamented Scrappy Doo, and we'd be derelict in our duties if we didn't share our thoughts on them. (Right?)

Below are our views on six possible options for the Jays up the middle next year.

1) J.J. Hardy - Our personal pick of the litter, Hardy seems like he's been around forever, even though he's still just 26. He's hit 26 and 24 homers in the past two seasons, with an OPS .821 last season. In spite of numbers like those (which look positively Ruthian when compared against the output of Jays shortstops) , Hardy never seems to get much respect in Milwaukee. Now that the Brewers are set to go with top prospect Alcides Escobar as early as next April, rumours (or is that wishful thinking?) are popping up around the interwebs that he is headed to any number of teams. (Seattle, Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox...everybody's got their eye on Hardy it seems.)

Brewers GM Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal that the best offer he's received so far for Hardy is "a No. 5 starter." Might the Jays be able to shake him loose with a set up man or a closer?

2) Rafael Furcal - He was great offensively when he played this year (1.012 OPS in 36 games) after a subpar 2007 season (.687 OPS). He was also brutal in the field in this year's playoffs, and while he gets to a lot of balls, and has a cannon of an arm, his 27 errors in 2006 are a little scary. But Furcal is (and we hate ourselves for saying this) the prototypical lead off man that the Jays could use at the top of their lineup.

He'll command more than $10 million per year on a short contract, and might be worth it if he's willing to take a one or two year deal to burnish his credentials.

3) Orlando Cabrera - Allegedly loves Canada, and is loved by Richard Griffin. Still a good fielder, but his offense last year was awful, and he actually wouldn't really represent any sort of upgrade over Marco Scutaro. (Cabrera: 8 HRs, 57 RsBI and a .705 OPS; Scoots: 7 HRs, 60 RsBI, .697 OPS.)

Cabrera is getting by on reputation at this point, and hasn't had an OPS over .800 since 2003 with the Expos.

4) Khalil Greene - A favorite target of Blair, Greene actually posted a sub-.600 OPS in 105 games last season. Granted, he played in San Diego in the most cavernous of all ballparks, but his home-road splits were actually worse on the road. In 50 games away from PetCo, Greene put up an awful .542 OPS, including a putrid .225 OBP.

Greene is an excellent fielder, but he'd have to revert back to his 2007 production (27 HRs, 97 RsBI) before we'd consider him any sort of an upgrade over what we've got. Which brings us to...

5) What We've Got - The question is: how much do you start to give up from your roster or from your payroll flexibility in order to grab one of these marginal improvements? If Scutaro were to perform up to last year's levels, would the Jays suffer that much? Could Scutaro get the job, with McDonald subbing in as a defensive replacement? Can't we just call these guys our number nine hitters and move on? Isn't there a way that we could make the most of the players on the roster? All questions which bring us to...

6) Aaron Hill - The little birdies with Eckstein faces have apparently stopped circling his head long enough for the Jays to pull him off the 60 day DL this week. And while the conventional wisdom is that the Jays won't want to rush him into a new role while he slowly makes his way back, it's hard to overlook the emergence of Joe Inglett last year.

There weren't many good stories to find with the Jays' offense last year, but Inglett acquited himself well in 344 ABS (.762 OPS, nine steals, 45 runs scored and 39 RsBI). Inglett is a decent second baseman, but lacks the arm to short and has only done so for only 11 innings in the Majors.

Hill played 63 games at short in 2006, making an unseemly 12 errors in that limited time. But his defense has improved significantly at second over the past two seasons, which at least hints at the fact that he could master the other side of the diamond.

And the moral of the story is...
None of this is particularly a ringing endorsement for any of these guys. Then again, maybe we have to adjust our offensive expectations for shortstops. After a decade or so of hard hitting middle infielders, there was only one shortstop in the majors to hit more than 30 homers (Hanley Ramirez, 33), and none who drove in more than 90 RsBI (Jhonny Peralta drove in 89).

(UPDATE: A belated glove tap to the Ghostrunners for inspiring this post.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Free agency Friday

I suppose that today marks the real start of the hotstove season - being the first day offers can be tendered to free agents, and all - but it's been a sleepy few weeks and we shouldn't expect things to heat up for a few more. Really, what agent worth his salt will jump on the first offer to come across his dish? Certainly not Darek Braunecker, and even more certainly (is that even possible?), not Scotty B.

Jumping on the CC Train
Just because agents won't be accepting offers on behalf of their clients on the first day of free agency, doesn't mean they won't listen. As expected, it didn't take the fucking Yankees long to set the bar by extending a record-setting offer of employment (for a pitcher) to the cream of the free agent crop, Carsten Charles Sabathia. And can I say something here? CC doesn't frighten me. Oh, I know what a ludicrous statement that is. But he just doesn't. I don't know why, but it might have something to do with the fact that I can't see a 6'7, 300+ lb man hold up for the length of the 6 years on the table. Or I could be just talking myself off the ledge, I don't know.

More noteworthy (to me, anyway), is the fact that ol' Hank Steinbrenner has openly declared the Yankees are in on both AJ and Derek Lowe, both of whom are looking for 4+ year contracts. If you think locking in on $250 million and half a decade of commitment to 3/5 of your rotation (the youngest of whom would be 34 years old by term's end) is a good idea, then have at it fellas.

Nick Swisher, New York Yankee
Really? This is a good idea? The guy who seems to be constantly fucking around in-game, dyes his goatee yellow, and couldn't get on with a disciplinarian manager? He's a good fit for the New York Yankees? Uh, OK then. Again - have at it, fellas.

Aaron Hill is symptom free
I know I keep harping on it, but I'm telling you, this will make a big difference next season, friends. Gold glove defence, a .290 average, and 65 extra-base hits... assuming the birds have stopped chirping inside his head, of course.

Whatever happened to extending Doc?
I don't want to read anything into this, and for the record, am not going there yet......but what happened to the in-season proclamations that the Jays would be looking to extend Doc? For now, I'm just going to pretend that I haven't been reading the whispers that the Jays have yet to decide whether to make a push and reload....or scale back payroll and rebuild. For now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Silver Sluggers to be awarded - Blue Jays need not apply

So once we get through today's pantomime of an AL Cy Young Award announcement, we can look forward to the fair and equitable distribution of Silver Slugger Awards.

We think it is pretty safe to assume that no Blue Jay is going to be so honoured this year. In fact, we'd be surprised if a Blue Jay got so much as a single vote amongst the managers and coaches who pick the winners.

The last time a Blue Jay won a Silver Slugger was in 2003, when Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado ('member him?) both received one, in the same year that Roy Halladay won the Cy Young.

Wow. We had no idea at the time that 2003 was going to be viewed in retrospect as "the salad years".

Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to go slam our door on our hand to see if we can remember what it's like to feel something.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scott Campbell blogs, plays third, appreciates Roddy McDowell

As part of his Arizona Fall League apprenticeship, Jays prospect Scott Campbell has been assigned a monumental task: He's been asked to blog.

(Oh, and he's also been asked to play third as well, but we leave it up to you to decide which is more difficult.)

In addition to documenting his travails at the hot corner (six errors and a ground ball in the face), Campbell has also discussed his appreciation for the Planet of the Apes franchise, and his father's curious advice on hydration:

"I'm not used to this heat, so I'm learning to hydrate myself. My dad always taught me that one beer after a game will hydrate you better than water. We'll see..."

A few other Jays prospects have hopped on as well, with J.P. Arencibia posting this week about hanging with Travis Snider in Arizona. Apparently, The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM is spending his time this offseason eating barbecue (No!) and playing Rock Band (Double No!!).

If Snider comes to camp 20 pounds heavier with acute wrist tendinitis, there's going to be hell to pay.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Five Reasons Why We Don't Want Ryan Dempster

Reason #1 - Because he can't hang in the AL
With all of the requisite caveats about small sample sizes, let us just note that Dempster's career ERAs versus the Yankees (6.88) and the Red Sox (7.13) don't exactly inspire us. Dempster also got smoked for eight runs in 2.1 innings against the White Sox on June 27 last year. All that glove twitching and junkballing might work against the Houstons and Cincys of the world, but we're guessing that once the boy is put into a man's league, his results may vary.

Reason #2 - Because his arm is due to fall off sometime in early 2009
After four years in the bullpen and three years as a closer, Dempster pitched 206.2 innings last year. That's a year-over-year increase of 140 innings from 2007 to 2008. Knowing that, is there anyone who would really want to hitch their wagon to him for four years at $50 million?

Reason #3 - Because he's gonna be too damn expensive
As mentioned just above, the Cubs' "hometown discount" offer was apparently $50 million over four years (according to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune.) That's a lot of money for a guy who will likely never put up a season as good as last year. A contract like that is fine for the Cubs, but if it were to go wrong for the Jays, it could hinder the team's ability to maneuver and adjust for the next few years.

Reason #4 - Because we remember Corey Koskie

Sometimes, those stories of bringing home good Canadian boys to play for their "home team" just don't pan out. We've got a feeling that Dempster, the hometown boy who grew up 4,422 kilometres away from the SkyDome, might get a king's welcome to Toronto from the rather parochial sports press in the Great White North. But we doubt that warm and fuzzies will do much for the Jays in the win column.

Reason #5 - Because that Harry Caray impression won't play here
Sure, we get that Dempster's a hoot. A real cut up. But we've heard his impression of Harry Caray one time too many, and we've always felt like his impression is really an impression of Will Ferrell's impression. He might leave Jamie Campbell in stitches, but we'll take a pass on his comedy stylings.

Playing Catch Up with a Mess o' Items

Zaunie's got a red ass
Gregg Zaun dialed up his favorite sounding board, CanWest's John Lott, and let loose on the Jays organization and J.P. Ricciardi for a series of slights (both real and imagined). While we're not inclined to pine for the return of a 38 year-old catcher with diminishing skills and a possibly overinflated sense of his worth, we'll confess that J.P.'s statement near the trade deadline that nobody wanted Zaun was a bit offside.

(Even if it was true, Ricciardi should probably have shrugged it off and eaten shit when the press was grilling him on Zaun trades.)

We'll miss Zaun this year, and we hope he lands the backup spot on a contender as he states is his wish. We also hope that he makes his way back north of the border for the occasional broadcasting gig, because his fake slow-mo clinics in the commercial breaks in the playoffs were as insightful as a whole year with certain analysts.

If Marty York says it, you know it must be true
In his latest commuter rag scribblings, Marty York buys in fully to the "Bob McCown's Stan Kasten for Jays President" story, noting that Gord Kirke met with him in New Orleans. And this is absolutely newsworthy, as Gordon Kirke is not at all known for hanging out with sports figures and front office types. So something must be up, right?

Cito to be honoured
We'd never heard of the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award before today, but if it exists (and apparently it does), then we can think of no one better to receive it than Cito.

This offseason is having an affect on us
It's making us very sleepy. Someone jostle us awake when something happens.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We're so over Overbay

The mutterings around the GM meetings in Dana Point, CA, have it that the Jays are ready to move Lyle Overbay, possibly to the Mariners.

To which we say: Fine by us.

Don't get us wrong. We're not going to toss around that tired line about first base being a "power position", as we heard any number of JaysTalk callers spit out all season. But there's plenty of reasonable questions to be asked about Lyle. And at 32, we're guessing that his best years are already behind him.

We respect that Overbay was a high OBP guy who could hit a ton of doubles when he was right and his hand wasn't hampering him. But the two-year promise that Overbay would overcome his hand injury and return to form has not yet borne fruit.

What has returned is a player with a long swing that has too many moving parts. Weight shift, twist back, pull back hands, drop hands, step forward, through the zone with the bat. Too often, all of this sound and fury results in weak ground balls, or balls fouled directly down at his feet.

(His swing is not exactly Molitoresque in its efficiency.)

Once a doubles machine, Overbay's numbers have fallen off the table in the past two years. In 2008, he was tied for 9th amongst MLB first basemen in doubles with 32, along with Carlos Delgado, Adrian Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, and Joey Votto. Which might seem like good company, until you glance down the stat column and compare Overbay's homer total (15) against theirs: 38, 36, 25 and 24 respectively. Clearly, Overbay is just not hitting the ball hard as often as he used to, and as often as his peers currently do.

(And as a side note: Is there any one of those four first basemen that you wouldn't take over Overbay?)

More comparisons with his peers: Overbay drove in just 69 runs last year, which ranks him 22nd amongst first sackers, while his OPS was 19th.

His purported stregnth is getting on base, and yet Overbay ranked just 13th amongst first basemen in OBP.

We know that there are plenty of passionate defenders of Overbay (see, Wilner, Michael), but when you line him up against the quality of first basemen around the league today and those emerging in the next year or so, you can see how he's about to slip from a mid-range to a low-end option in very short order. We're talking Mientkiewicz territory.

It's probably time to send him and his reasonable two-year $14 million contract down the road.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The end of the never-ending AJ Burnett opt-out discussion

Anyone surprised?

The agent for AJ Burnett, Darek Braunecker, has informed the club that his meal ticket will indeed exercise the opt-out clause in his contract. So the new question becomes.... what now?

The whole thing has become a mess of contradictory statements, which is to be expected, I guess. Money isn't everything, but there will be no hometown discount. AJ likes it in Toronto, but AJ wants to be closer to home. Team AJ wants to give the Jays every shot to work out a deal, but Team AJ wants to gauge market interest.

To tell the truth, other than the "no hometown discount" comment (fuck you, Braunecker), none of it really bothers me, since I contradict myself daily on this one. I really don't know which way to go here. Part of me says the Jays are better off taking the draft picks, spending the cash elsewhere, and letting Burnett hit the DL while tying up a big chunk of someone else's payroll.

Then I realize, yeah.....but they'll have to spend (basically) the same cash on either (a) an older pitcher with lesser stuff, but maybe more reliable (Lowe), (b) a pitcher with the same issues (Sheets), or (c) a mid to back of the rotation filler arm (Paul Byrd?). Regardless of the choice, there are question marks galore.

So the new question becomes, go with the devil you know, or the shitballer you don't? The sad reality is, the decision is really out of the Jays hands now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hotstove, Volume 1

This just in from Major League Baseball's annual GM meetings: the Toronto Blue Jays addressed two glaring needs on Monday by acquiring a shortstop and some pitching help. Welcome to the organization, Angel Sanchez and Kelvin Jimenez!

For those keeping score at home, you can add Messrs. Sanchez and Jimenez to the growing list of offseason acquisitions for the Jays, along with RHP Dick Hayhurst and IF/OF/definitely not a LHP Adam Ankieloewen (see what I did there?). Now, I'm only busting balls a little bit here, because I know these are just basic organizational moves that every team makes at this time of year....but if you think these claims and signings will make me forget about the loss of Mencherson, well, you're crazy.

Zaun files for free agency
So long, Zaunie old boy. Oh sure, there's an outside chance that the veteran catcher could come back at a discounted price to be the Jays backup behind the plate, but not much of one, I'd say. Odds are the team will go with former prospect, current AAAA player Curtis Thigpen as the primary reserve.

For my money, though, I'm hoping Brian Jeroloman shows enough in camp to earn the backup spot, as his skills behind the plate and propensity for taking a walk make him seem like an ideal backup. Why not break the kid into his future role playing caddy for JP Arencibia?

In case you haven't noticed....
...by the complete lack of professionalism in this post, the Tao is away for the first part of the week, so it's extendo Ack-talk for a few days. Now, I'm not at liberty to divulge what's keeping the Tao from this space, but let's just say that it may or may not involve a resume and a meeting with Paul Beeston. Hmmm?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween quick hitters

OK, so I'm a day late.....but I meant to post this yesterday, and was too lazy to change the title.

It's November 1st, the World Series is over, and the GM meetings are just around the corner. You know what that means, don't you? Hotstove season, babies. Every year, once the Jays are mathematically eliminated, the Hotstove pretty much becomes the next "big thing" I look forward to. And here we are.

On to the aforementioned quick-hitters:

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Ooooh.....the drama! The intrigue! Will he or won't he? What do you think he'll do, Blue Jay fans? Any guesses? (end sarcasm)

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The Jays first major offseason move has come to pass, as the club has exercised the 2009 option on Rod Barajas. Oh, right - sorry - sarcasm mode ended. In all seriousness, it`s a pretty good situation for the Blue Jays, as the presence of Barajas behind the dish, on a one-year deal, will help the club bridge the gap until top catching prospect JP Arencibia is ready to handle the starting job. At least, I would hope that`s the plan....

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Just what in the fuck is it in the water these days that has Blue Jays fans jumping from the CN Tower over the club's fate next season? So, the Rays make the World Series, and automatically the Jays are reduced to a guaranteed fate of a 4th place finish in '09? Nope, I'm not buying it. I'm just not. You want predictions? Well, I've got some predictions for you: Scott Kazmir will be good for maybe 15 starts next season, Evan Longoria will go through a sophomore slump, BJ Upton still won't "get it", and David Price will show why very few players make the jump to the big leagues one year after being drafted. Yes, the Red Sox will find a way to finish with 90+ wins, but the Yankees, despite spending an obscene amount of money this offseason, will disappoint.

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Oh, and the Blue Jays? Yeah, OK - the rotation, as currently constructed, scares the piss out of me. There's Doc, who's an animal, obviously....and Jesse Litsch, who makes a fine #4 or #5.....and a whole lotta ?? (question marks). But the offense? Why can't the offense improve? Full seasons from Young Adam Lind and Sniderman (if he breaks camp, that is) won't help? A healthy Vernon Wells won't make the team better? And how about the guy everyone seems to have forgotten about - Aaron Hill. His presence won't improve the lineup? Don't get me wrong - Joe Inglett did a great job filling in, but he 's not going to get you 15 HR and 40 doubles like Aaron Hill can. And what about the massive boners everyone was sprouting about the work Team Cito did with the hitters? We're forgetting about that now?

And finally, let's not forget that JP Ricciardi (the other JP) knows the club needs a push, there's a little payroll room to kick around (maybe more than we think? Hmm?)....and, oh yeah, the little matter about a new incoming President and his job being on the line....

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Here's to hoping Ted Rogers bounces back from his latest medical scare. Details are sketchy at the moment, which is usually ominous, but let's hope for the best.

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Why is everyone kicking my ass over the idea of inquiring about Billy Butler? Once a top hitting prospect, he seems to have fallen out of favor with Royals management, and word on the street (OK, from Keith Law) is that he could probably be had for relatively cheap. A 22 year old, still getting his feet wet player who was once hailed as a having .300-25 HR potential isn't attractive? In short, fuck you guys!

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Owning up, I can see how my longings for an incentive-laden contract to lure Pedro back to the AL East seems, well, insane. But something tells me he'd love to shove it up the Red Sox (and his daddies, the Yankees) ass one more time, and maybe, just maybe, he can coax another year out of that shoulder. I'd never sign the guy to a massive base contract.....but a one year incentive-based deal? Why not? Who'd he be blocking? A probably not ready Brett Cecil? My guy Rick Romero? If nothing else, it'd be an exciting gamble...