Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Godfrey's legacy: it's not all bad!

We were never Paul Godfrey fans. We always found him to be unctuous and self-aggrandizing, and we felt as though he milked his role as the Jays' President and CEO for as much public profile as possible.

(Pop Quiz: name five other MLB team presidents. No Googling.)

There were plenty of dubious decisions that we could put in a paper bag, set ablaze and rest at his feet. Singing "God Bless America" at the SkyDome. Those awful focus-grouped black uniforms. Inviting the hordes of Red Sox and Tigers fans to buy tickets before they went on sale to the general public. Getting distracted by the possibility of an NFL team in Toronto. Becoming a supplicant to the MLB head office for a measly $5 million per year. Refusing to pay over slot for draft picks when every other team in the division does.

Yeah, it wasn't all good.

And yet, there are at least a few things that Godfrey oversaw that were undeniably good for the Toronto Blue Jays, and that helped move the franchise in the general direction of respectability. To wit:

The Stadium, Part I: Godfrey helped engineer the purchase of the SkyDome by Rogers, a move which has had a significant impact on the team's bottom line. They are no longer forced to pay rent, and have complete control over the stadium, which leads us to...

The Stadium, Part II: Take a second, close your eyes, and envision the state of the SkyDome in 2000. It was drab, with literally tons of exposed grey concrete fascades, pool table felt on the field, and little of the wow factor that the stadium had when it opened. Seriously, the place was turning into a dump. Since then, they've pumped a bit of life into the place, adding auxilliary scoreboards, a new JaysVision board, painted over the grey concrete, added the level of excellence, put FieldTurf down on the playing surface, improved concessions, created a massive JaysShop...the Dome was well on it's way to becoming the next Olympic Stadium, but Godfrey helped salvage it and gave it a new lease on life. It made the Dome/Centre the sort of place where someone would want to spend a summer afternoon which leads us to...

Attendance: After years of slippage, the Jays' attendance has increased every year since 2002. They're not attracting the four million patrons per year that they did in the salad days, but the team's relevance in the marketplace has grown over the past seven seasons, even as the number of professional and semi-pro sports options in the GTA have increased (Raptors, FC, Bills, Rock, Marlies, the multitude of junior hockey teams). The Jays still put more bums into seats than any other franchise in the city, and interest in the team is growing, even as their on-field performance stagnates, which brings us to...

Media Presence and Ratings: It wasn't so long ago that TSN and CBC had essentially abandoned the Jays, leaving Rogers Sportsnet holding the bag with more games than they could reasonably handle. But television ratings have improved to the point where both have come back on board, and all three channels have put more resources into their broadcasts. They are not always artistic successes, but more people are watching the Jays on TV these days, and in an era of disintermediation when the ratings for virtually all sports have taken a hit, that's no small feat.

We've made some assumptions in the previous paragraphs on Paul Godfrey's involvement in the team's day-to-day business. It could be that he locked himself in his office to watch his beard grow all day, and let his minions (such as the now-departed brother of Kevin Elster) take the lead and get all of these positive things done.

Still, when we look at the state of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008 and compare it with where they were in 2000 (or more to the point, where they might have gone), we think it's indisputable that they are better off now. And we're at least willing to give Paul Godfrey a bit of credit for that.

Monday, September 29, 2008

End the chapter, turn the page

Well, that's that. Another season, come and gone.

It's hard for us to know what to make of the 2008 season at this point. We spent so long holding out hope this year that we've barely had time to really figure out whether if we think this is a good season or a disappointment. At this point, it kinda feels like a bit of both.

In the end, the Jays win 86 games (yay!) and are 10 games over .500 for the season (hooray!), and they play 14 games over .500 under Cito Gaston (woohoo!).

But then again, they end up fourth in the AL East, which will certainly provide almsot endless fodder for the superficial and superior media gasbags in Toronto over the winter. If someone deserves to be pilloried in the media about this year's performance, then fine...but it sticks in our craw that media types who could give a shit about baseball and are too lazy to examine the context are going to toss off pejoratives like "failure" or "mediocre" in passing, as they hurry through their non-analysis to talk at legnth about some fourth-line Maple Leaf.

Nevermind that the AL East is in the toughest division in baseball, and one which will only become tougher next year. The Jays ended the season 37-35 against their own division, while the potential AL Central champs made hay by beating up on the Royals, Tigers and to a lesser extent, the Indians. The White Sox sit at 42-29 within their division before today's final game against Detroit, while the Twins racked up a 43-29 mark.

We'll probably hear lots about the incomparable job done by those two franchises to remain competitive and make the playoffs, even if all that collected acumen led them to two more wins than the Jays.

Moreover, against the AL East, those two models of excellence in franchise building got their asses handed to them. The Twins ended up 13-22, while the White Sox were 15-26.

Our kingdom for a balanced schedule.

Turning the page, Part II
Breaking news: Paul Godfrey is leaving the Jays. It's probably the worst kept secret of the year that he was on his way out after the season...Hell, we figured it out, and we don't have any of this new-fangled "access" that we keep hearing about.

We still think that Godfrey is a wannabe Republican kitten-eater, but give the man his due: he saw attendance increase by about three-quarters of a million patrons per season over his tenure. There's something to be said about that.

Meanwhile, the nostalgic hacks in Toronto already have Paul Beeston stepping in to take over.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The offseason starts early

Seriously, does this three game set in Baltimore even count? Like, in the standings? What? It does? For real?

It feels an awful lot like the umpiring crew went to Cito and Deer in the Headlights Trembley on Friday night and said "OK fellas...pretty wet out here - call it a day? Don't worry Dave, we'll give you tomorrow's game. Deal? Deal."

On to pressing business....

As expected, JP Ricciardi is working on an extension for AJ to keep him from hitting the open market. And also as expected, the reported offer is in the ballpark of market, but definitely not market. So the question becomes, is the rumored 2 yr/$15M-per offered extension (on top of the 2 yr/$12M-per remaining) merely JP's opening salvo, or is it a carefully considered figure sure to be seen as fair-ish, but equally sure to be declined? I'll save the debate on the appropriateness of a 4 year deal for a power-pitcher-with-a-history-of-arm-troubles-who's-been-worked-like-a-dog-this-season for another time.

There's no question in my mind that the Jays braintrust desperately wants Huggy back in the rotation in 2009, but I actually believe JP when he says he won't get inot a bidding war for the sure-to-be coveted free agent. On the other hand, I reeeaaalllly want to believe AJ when he says it's not all about the money - that it's about feeling comfortable, it's about familiarity (oh yeah - Arnsberg re-upped for two years...), it's about being part of the family, etc.....but, I'm....not....sure....that...I....do.

Prove me wrong, AJ. Prove me wrong.

And then there was one
The last game of the regular season (in a non-playoff year, but that goes without saying) always gets me down, even if it was a wildly frustrating year that, at times, felt like it would never end. But hey - at least the offseason's already underway.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Somebody reel me in

A week ago, I was chewing on Prozacs like they were wintergreen Tic Tacs. Hey, beats heroin - am I right? And fuck you for judging, by the way.

Shaun Marcum was making an appointment to get carved up by Dr. Andrews. The pLAYOFFS! run had come to an end. The team was sliding into that shittacular "let's play out the string, boys" mode. A.J.'s opt-out was (is?) looming. Just an all around black hole of major league fail. Not good times.

But goddamn if there weren't some things to feel good about this week. No - really. I'm starting to talk myself into thinking this team can be in the thick of things next season. Stay with me here for a few paragraphs.....

(1) We still have Doc. Put it this way - if you're a fan of the Kansas City Royals, you're probably depressed 100% of the time during baseball season. You put Roy Halladay on the Kansas City Royals, and suddenly your happiness just improved by 20%. Maybe I'm over-simplifying, but that's how I feel about Roy Halladay. He guarantees you one good day a week.

(2) Two more years of the New Gastonian Era (TM) confirmed. Ignorant asshole fans from around the AL East can laugh and make "look, they recycled the wax statue of Cito Gaston to manage the Blue Jays again!" jokes, but seeing Cito in the dugout just feels right. He's that calming presence, that air of authority that it turns out this team really needed. He's also not afraid to mix it up a little, as evidenced by his "Mike Mussina can kiss my ass - and you can print that" knockout blow. The ball's in your court, Moose. POW.

(3) AJ Burnett's big week. His last start of the season was about as storybook as a no-decision/eventual team loss can get. From dominating the Yankees for eight innings, to his emotional send-off to the dugout after coming out to warm up (completely underplayed angle of all this, by the way - what a classy move by the aforementioned Cito), AJ left us wanting more. Specifically, two years more. And here's where I'm going to get a little crazy. Stay with me just a little while longer. You know why I feel at least marginally better that we might actually get a few more years of Huggy Bear?.....

(4) .....JP Ricciardi will be back in 2009. Say what you want about JP (that's never actually been a problem for Blue Jays fans), but if there's one aspect of his job in which he's proven to be quite adept, it's keeping guys in town that he knows he can't afford to lose. Now that it's been announced he'll be back next season, Ricciardi has to know this is the definitive "job on the line" season.

You don't think, despite his public bravado, he's secretly terrified at opening up the spring with three potential question marks in the rotation? You don't think he wants to keep "Bromancing the Stone" alive? You don't think he knows that said Stone will be paying careful attention to the direction the front office takes this offseason before deciding on any potential extension? Your goddamn right he does, on all counts.

So, yeah. Nice little week we had there. Anyone with me?

Friday, September 26, 2008

A one-sentence post on...bromance

After the seasons they've had, capped off by Roy Halladay's 20th win last night, who could begrudge Doc and A.J. if they wanted to indulge in a little public display of affection?

Bonus housekeeping sentence
It's Friday, so the Ack is back for the final weekend the regular season.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cito's gettin' paid

Guess who's comin' back, bitches? It's Cito, who's getting two years and two sacks full of Blue Jays memorabilia for his troubles.

(Financial considerations not disclosed at press time. All figures in U.S. dollars, except where noted.)

The long goodbye

It happens every few years that a pitcher walks off the field, and there is that overriding sense that they have thrown their last pitch in a Jays uniform. There was Jimmy Key in 1992, or Pat Hentgen in 1999. Each time, we find ourselves holding out some sort of hope that maybe they'll be back, someway or somehow. Experience tells us that it rarely happens.

And so, we watched last night as A.J. Burnett pitched a dilly of a game against the Yankees' B squad, then strode off the mound for what in all likelihood was his last appearance as a Jay at the Rogers Centre.

Over his three years with the franchise, A.J. was a big huggy bear who was often the first Jay off the bench to offer a loving clinch to whatever pitcher was walking off the field. So it made sense that the entire expanded roster lined up last night to welcome A.J. after his 11 strikeout performance with a last meaningful hug for the enigmatic hurler.

(And was it just us, or did Roy Halladay's hug linger a little longer than most? Doc can pull that off, because he's twice the man that we'll ever be. But we digress.)

Last night's swan song might have been a little easier were it not Shaun Marcum's injury. We were pretty comfortable in the notion that A.J. was going to bugger off and get ridiculous money from someone, and that the Jays would be better off plowing those sorts of dollars into a hitter. But with Marcum out until 2010, the remote notions that maybe (just maybe) the team could make a play to keep him here for a few more years started to get floated out there.

And damn it if we didn't start to internalize them ourselves. We're a sucker that way.

We don't exactly know what to make of A.J. Burnett's stay in Toronto. His arm troubles through his first two seasons were agonizing and suspect (remember the "sharks in my elbow" comments?), but at the same time, Burnett was the sort of pitcher who could bring you out of your seat with his stuff.

Moreover, he was a character and brought some semblance of personality to a team of taciturn strong silent types. Sure, we pissed on Burnett's shaving cream pies and his races against various Mexican food products, but we quietly laughed along with his antics. It was (dare we say it?) just A.J. being A.J..

If he's truly gone (and it is ludicrous that we are even holding out hope that he'll stay), then we're going to miss him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This is why we should take the term "MVP" behind the barn and shoot it dead

In just about every North American team sport, the top individual award is annually given to the player judged most valuable to his team.

Which begs the question: what the fuck do you mean by "valuable"?

Of course, everybody has their own particular view on what valuable means to them, so the voting for these top awards ends up being imbued with all sorts of nonsense and bunk that ha come to be a regular part of the process: You need to play for a contender, but you can't have too many other good players on your team (otherwise, how valuabe are you really?); you can't be a DH; you shouldn't be a pitcher; you'd be a better bet if you play a "premium" position...

It's all bollocks. The only thing that maintaining this whole "MVP" meme does is keep corpulent intellectually lazy hacks in sports columnists jobs. And really, how much value do they add to your everyday life?

Nothing, though, quite takes the cake as much Robert McLeod's blog post espousing Marco Scutaro as the Jays' MVP. This is taking the whole concept of "valuable" to its most absurd extreme.

Was Scoots "valuable", in as much as he was able to step in and provide above-replacement-level offense and good-sometimes-great defense at multiple positions? No doubt. And way back in November of last year, when the Jays went out and snagged him from Oakland, we figured that his position flexibility would be his greatest asset.

But seriously. Come on. Be real. If you want to say that Scutaro was the team's Unsung Hero, who might not get the headlines but who was important to keeping the season afloat, then fine. But don't go telling me that he and his .695 OPS were the key to keeping the Jays in the race.

Don't even try to compare his offensive totals to Alex Rios. Or if you insist, allow us:

Rios: 46 2Bs, 15 HRs, 78 RsBI, 31 SBs and an .801 OPS in 150 games played.
Scutaro: 22 2Bs, 7 HRs, 58 RsBI, 7 SBs and the aforementioned .695 OPS in 140 games.

Moreover, if you want to look at defensive flexibility, don't overlook the "value" of Rios' moving to centrefield for 59 games this year, which was as important to the Jays' fortunes as Scutaro's forays at short, second and third.

It's not that we don't appreciate Scutaro. We just wish that people would stop trying to be so cute about this and float out these stupid theories.

Fuck the MVP. Let's just call it "Player of the Year", and be done with it.

(Mind you, if you want to discuss Rios vs. Halladay vs. Scott Downs for Player of the Year, we're listening.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

What the hell are the Jays doing to their pitchers' arms?

In spite of the title of this post, we don't want to unnecessarily feed into any b.s. about how J.P. is singlehandedly wrecking the arms of the entire pitching staff. Because seriously, you know that whole argument is coming, don't you? How else are the dyspeptic Jim Kelley's of the world going to deal with Shaun Marcum's name being added to the list of fallen pitchers, alongside Dustin McGowan, Casey Janssen, and Jeremy Accardo.

When as many pitchers start to hit the 60 day DL with elbow and shoulder issues, you have to take a look at how they are utilized and whether if there is some level of unnecessary abuse that is coming into play. There's nothing that immediately comes to mind for us, and a mere recounting to the pitchcounts and innings totals for the fallen will probably not tell the whole story. Those numbers don't tell how many pitches the pitchers were throwing in the bullpen before the game, nor do they tell how many pitches they threw in their side sessions in between starts/appearances.

We'd guess that what is happening with the Jays is just part of the peril of relying on young homegrown pitching talent. Yankees fans can probably spill volumes on this after the year that their future pitching stars have had. (Or not had, as it were.)

Incidentally, there's a great interview with Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg that was posted at Baseball Prospectus last week. In it, he mentions that Roy Halladay has significantly cut down his side sessions to ensure that he has more left in the tank (or the arm) for his starts.

Viva Las Vegas!
The word isn't yet official, but it appears as though the Jays' Triple A activities will be run out of Las Vegas next year. Given how few options the team had, the City of Broken Dreams is probably as good a spot as any for them to stash their top minor league prospects.

Although if Travis Snider gets sent down to start 2009, we sincerely hope that he's kept away from the cheap and plentiful buffets.

The Dodgers got the hell out of Las Vegas after this past season, noting that the facilities at the cavernous and rapidly aging Cashman field were inadequate for their prospects.

As a side note, Las Vegas is changing their franchise's nickname. The new ownership group which purchased the franchise last year didn't care for the name "51s" and the associated alien/UFO/conspiracies that are tied to it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On AJ: What now?

I know it's way too early - I mean, the 2008 regular season isn't even over yet - but the state of the rotation is a hot topic, so we might as well address it. What the hell, right?

What to do with AJ Burnett.

Obviously, one of two things will happen - Burnett will exercise the opt-out, or he won't - but I don't think any reasonable follower of the game would even consider presuming that AJ would turn down an extra $30 million or so by exercising the clause. Oh sure, the possibility exists that JP renegotiates the contract and AJ stays, but in essence, that's the same as opting out. So what to do? What's the preferable option for the Jays?

If you would have asked me three months ago, I would have been waving goodbye to Burnett and researching draft prospects. With Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, and a handful of promising arms on the farm, the rotation seemed to be in good hands without doling out another massive contract.

Unfortunately, a lot has happened in three months. Dusty McGowan underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum - which might be the only thing more frightening to a pitcher's future than Tommy John surgery.....which his rotation mate Shaun Marcum is about to undergo. Marcum will miss all of next season, and McGowan's return, while slated for the early part of the season, is still a question mark.

And the promising arms? Well, David Purcey has a spot now, by default if nothing else, and has been equal parts brilliant and brutal. Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero only have a handful of starts each above AA, and the John Parrish/Scott Richmond combo probably isn't going to be the answer (in the rotation, at least).

Can the Jays contend in '09 with a rotation potentially featuring Halladay, Litsch, and Purcey at the top? Can McGowan bounce back early in the season? Will one (or two) of the young arms step up and claim a spot? Yeah, maybe they can. Maybe the Jays catch a few bottles of lightning there.....but isn't that the strategy the Yankees employed heading into the season? Yes, yes it is....and you can bet your ass that won't be happening again.

So, what's the alternative? An expensive re-work of the deal? A bidding war with the Yankees, Red Sox, and other big spenders sure to line up for the AL strike-out leader? If Ricciardi can entice AJ to stick around and see this thing through by tacking on an extra year at market rate, or by renegotiating the remaining two years of the contract, then great. Get it done JP. Don't make me beg (I'm not above it).

Realistically? This thing goes to auction on a four year contract worth upwards of $65 million. That's probably going to be too rich for the Jays blood (or should I say, for ownership's tastes), and quite frankly, a four year contract for a 32 year-old pitcher (by spring training) with a history of arm troubles, who just happens to be coming off the highest innings-pitched total of his career, is probably a recipe for disaster.

Of course, there's always Plan C, which is take a run at another free agent arm like Derek Lowe. But then, it's the devil you know.....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Marcum joins the Breakfast Club

Casey Janssen.

Jeremy Accardo.

Dustin McGowan.

And now, Shaun Marcum joins the list of talented young Blue Jay pitchers to have a season wiped out by major arm problems. Nice little run of luck there, huh? You know, we're not talking about a group of roster filler, AAAA-type pitchers here, either. These were (are) all players who showed they were (again, are) capable of being big pieces of this "new Jays" team that was poised to take a run at the top of the division.

All Casey Janssen did in 2007 was post a tidy 2.35 ERA in 70 relief appearances, serving as arguably the team's most reliable set-up man. Jeremy Accardo? Stepped in and saved 30 games for the injured BJ Ryan (another TJ survivor). Dustin McGowan? Started fulfilling his promise as a top-of-the-rotation future staff ace - a guy touted as a Cy Young dark horse by the likes of ESPN's Buster Olney, who just might know a thing or two about baseball. Shaun Marcum? Well, I'd argue this is the biggest blow of the bunch.

This one hurts.

See, starting pitching is a hot commodity in MLB, in case you haven't noticed. Young, cheap, talented starting pitching? Forget it. Losing McGowan mid-season was tough, but we knew he'd be back in the spring (or close to it), and the Jays would just have to rely on one of the other arms in the system (as it turned out, Dr. Purcey and Mr. Hyde) to close out the year, and with AJ Burnett surely leaving (or is he?.....), maybe serve as the fifth man heading into next. Now, the Blue Jays have to add two unproven arms to the equation (failing any significant free agency moves, as JP is hinting will be the case), as Marcum won't even be back throwing until 2010 - and probably not back to being fully effective until 2011.

You may have seen me say this in the comments section, but......fuck.

Oh, and can we put to bed the notion that Marcum had become a bit of a prima donna around the clubhouse? Watch the end of the clip attached here, and tell me if it doesn't get a little dusty for you. Christ, I bet Doc even welled up before telling his tear ducts to fuck off.

Let's hope AJ gave Marcum one of his patented hugs. Huggy Bear Burnett, I've been calling him. Has anyone else been noticing this all season?

Don't worry Shaun....we won't forget about you.

(see how I tied it all together there?)

Friday, September 19, 2008

I want my Marcum back, part 2

I'm not normally a religious man, but now seems like as good a time as any to take up a little recreational prayer.

Shaun Marcum, meet Dr. Andrews. Oh, you've already met?

I'm scared. Somebody hold me.

As you might have guessed....
The Tao is unavailable for comment today. No word if he fell victim to the Wrath of Blair.

I'll be back later this evening/early tomorrow morning to discuss bloggers vs paid journalists, Sarah Palin, and the U.S. economy crisis. Or, maybe a little Blue Jays baseball instead.

Only 9 games left, friends.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jeff Blair would like to reignite the rage of Reed Johnson fans

If there is one thing that was missing in our obsessive following of the Blue Jays this year, it was our best pal Jeff Blair's insight on the comin's and goin's on. Being otherwise engaged in serious business in Beijing and the hinterlands of Hamilton, Blair's input on the Jays in the Globe this year has been somewhat minimal. And it has been missed.

In Blair's absence, we've just been re-reading our own hackish blog posts about how the Jays' performance makes us feel. It's like taping a therapy session, then watching it obsessively. Blair's return has come in a nick of time.

Which is why it is a little disappointing to see one of his first columns back on the baseball beat is a big wet sloppy somethin'-somethin' for Reed Johnson. It's an outright paean to Reed's gritty gutsy gamitude, and frankly is going to reignite the flames of misguided passion that was only recently extinguished in every Dougie and Gordie in the GTA. Thanks for that Jeff.

Maybe the excessive rage over Reed Johnson's release has faded in Blair's memory because he was on the other side of the world when it finally petered out.

We, on the other hand, had just finally reached a point where anonymous commenters had given up on bitching and moaning about what a horrendous error in judgment this was, and how J.P. should be fired for this roster move alone. We'd even gotten used to listening to JaysTalk and not hearing Reed Johnson's name mentioned obsessively but the goofballs and drunken security guards venting at Wilner.

Blairsy, we beg of you: Stop feeding the animals and stop rattling their cages.

It's oh so quiet on JaysTalk
Speaking of peace in the valley, we had figured that every J.P. hater was going to read Dick Griffin's speculative article yesterday on the Jays' GM return for 2009 and totally lose their shit on the Wilner-Ricciardi Fan 590 Hoe-Down last night. Instead, we had an episode so genteel and polite that it has already been optioned to be a Merchant-Ivory film. (Colin Firth plays Wilner, Alan Cummings plays J.P., and Emma Thompson plays Lady Steeles from the North of Marcum).

We though for a minute that we were hearing crickets chirping on the air until we figured out that it was J.P.'s Blackberry going off.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why are these men smiling?

Because Richard Griffin has employed his unparalleled skills in deductive reasoning to figure out that both of them will be back next year.

We assume this means that Wednesdays with J.P. is going to be fierce tonight. With the paroxysms of rage blasting from the lunatic fringe of JaysTalk callers, tonight's show is going to be like Black Hawk Down, only a little more intense.

Tune in.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So much for our road trip to Buffalo

It seemed like such a great idea: the Jays move their Triple A farm team to Buffalo, and baseball fans from all around the Golden Horseshoe could take the short treacherous car ride to see the team's future prospects just across the Peace Bridge. Win-win.

There's just one small problem: The Mets, who are apparently ready to move their shit out of New Orleans and settle in the Paris of Western New York.

Syracuse was in an all-fired rush to sever ties after a 31-year relationship with the Blue Jays because of their extended run of futility. (We're sure that this is somehow J.P. Ricciardi's fault.) Now, the denizens of Onondoga County may now have the pleasure of dealing with the Washington Nationals or the Florida Marlins. Have fun with that.

In spite of Chuck Schumer's song and dance to get the Mets' top affiliate in Syracuse, it looks as though the Mets have decided that the culture shock of moving their prospects from a two-bit one-horse town to the Big Apple could have lasting and palpable affects on the team's prospects.

If not Buffalo, where?
The unfortunate thing about this turn of events for the Jays is that the other cities left open in this game of Minor League Musical Chairs are primarily Pacific Coast League teams. They are:

New Orleans Zephyrs: Had their final series wiped out by Hurricane Ike. And thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, their home town will likely end up submerged again soon.

Albuquerque Isotopes: That Simpsons joke will be funny for about two more minutes.

Las Vegas 51's: Well, at least we'd know that Bob McCown will be up to speed on the progress of the Jays prospects. The only option with direct flights to Toronto.

We're not crazy about any of those options, and god help us, we'd probably rather go back to Syracuse. Of course, the PCL is an offensive league, so maybe we can get extra excited about some of the future Jays when they start cranking out dingers in the high and dry air of Colorado Springs or Salt Lake.

Waiting for baseball...meaningful or otherwise

You know what really sucks way more than losing three of the four games in this weekend's series against the Red Sox? Having to sit and stew in it for an extra 24 hours while the Jays have an off day.

You might think that it's a good thing to have a day or so to sit back and reassess what's happening with the franchise, what with the crazy few weeks we've had: No meaningful games in September! Win streaks! Sweeps! Double headers! Wait a second...Meaningful games in September! And now, the crazy ride is coming to an abrupt end. We're dizzy.

The worst thing, though, about an off day in September is that it reminds us of how much we're going to miss baseball in the offseason. We're thinking of six months without a pitch thrown in anger, and frankly, it depresses the hell out of us.

All we can say is: You'd better appreciate these last few weeks, because you're about to spend a piss-freezing cold winter missing Kevin Mench.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, that's a pisser

While we're not prepared to raise the white flag, we have to admit that it is hard to bask in our own idiotic sense of superior unbreakable noble loyalty to the team when hanging onto the rail of this ship means that we've been breathing water since Friday night. If we were a little smarter about this, we'd recognize the difference between "holding on for dear life" and "going down with the ship".

But as we've said before, we're willing to hold on until we hit bottom.

So what's left to root for? How about 90 wins? The Jays would need to go 10-2 in their remaining games to hit that mark, which would be the most wins since 1998...the salad days of Tim Johnson and José Canseco.

Angry idiot fans are all over the place
The comments section in yesterday's post by the Ack features one of the most ludicrous statements that we've ever read in our comments section...and of course, it was left by an anonymous commenter:

Bottonline: Doc has been a rose upon a dungheap BUT he needed to get it done and didn't.Guess what the two last games he pitched were arguably the most meaningful of his career , what happened? Lester, former cancer victim, AND winner of a world Series game outpitched him. Right now, Lester is the better pitcher and beat Halladay. To win big games, either you tie OR put zeroes on the board. In this case two runs was too much.

So...what's your point? You're gonna look at one game where Halladay pitched well enough to win but lost, and somehow question his manhood because it was a "big game" and therefore he should have pitched a complete game shutout one THREE DAYS REST to prove his bona fides? Really?

Lester is an excellent pitcher, but the fact that he gave up one fewer earned run (and two more walks, for whatever that's worth) than Halladay and the fact that he recovered from cancer two years ago somehow proves that he's better than Doc? Really? You're gonna say that about the same Roy Halladay who had his appendix yanked out with rusty instruments and was back on the mound two and a half weeks later?

The other awesome example of idiocy is the second caller from yesterday's JaysTalk, who pretty much spouts off all of the stupid arguments that angry JaysTalk callers have made over the past year in one fell swoop. He also earns double bonus points for dropping the fact that he played Division 1 baseball, as if to prove that his ramblings meant any more because at some point he warmed the pines at Upper Appalachian Tech. Wicked.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm almost ready

I'm not giving you my full "OK, now it's over" speech (I'll let Tao deliver that one) because, hey, miracles can happen, right? I mean, there's still a mathematical possibility, right? Right??

Game 2 of the day/night doubleheader certainly sucked for Blue Jay fans, didn't it? I'll save you the trouble and answer - yes, yes it did. I think everyone acknowledged that a sweep of the Sox, or at the very least, taking three of four, was a requirement to keep the dream alive come Monday morning. Well, that's not going to fucking happen now, is it.

It would be easy to quibble with Cito's use of the bullpen in the loss, but I can see where he was coming from, really. He brought in his best (even if Scott Downs hasn't been "the best" for a week or so now) in high leverage situations, actual inning be damned. Maybe I would have used Jesse Carlson in Downs' spot tonight, maybe I would have let League toss another inning, maybe I would have had BJ cold-cock Shawn Camp (with his non-pitching hand) to ensure he was unavailable. At the end of the day, none of those were season-ending decisions.

No, the reason the Jays will (likely) finish yet another season out of the playoffs is because, quite simply, the team just couldn't get it's shit together in the first half. Discussing whether JP Ricciardi, John Gibbons, the offence underperforming, or just plain bad luck is to blame is for another time.

While I'll probably be running through the gamut of "what could have been" thoughts for the remaining thirteen games on the schedule, the truth of the matter is there's a lot to be optimistic about with this baseball team. I'm sure I'll get there in few days. Just let me be depressed for a while.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Checking in after Game 1

Sniderman, Sniderman, does whatever a Snider can....

Umm, yeah. Holy fucking shit. Travis Snider. 20 years old. Gimme a B!......

Oh, and AJ Burnett?

Bring on Big Fat Bartolo Colon in Game 2....

Desperate, or delusional?

Has it really been fifteen years? Really? Fifteen years since the Blue Jays have sniffed the playoffs? Let's see....2008-1993=15. Well I'll be damned. It really has been fifteen years.

Maybe that's why I'm more than willing to scream (type) "PLAYOFFS!" with every September win. Maybe that's why I'm willing to overlook the fact that making up seven games in less than a month is pretty fucking unlikely to happen. Maybe that's why I'm telling myself that a 2.8% shot at the playoffs is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe that's why it's a good thing I was holding a pair of socks in my hand and not the remote during the eighth inning of the weekend series opener in Fenway.

You see, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (let's call that a pre-emptive strike), I'm trying really hard not to be a douchebag. No, really. You know the type. The type who downplays, or even better, shits on any success the team has - because, you know, it's over and the games don't really matter at this point anyway (see Friscolanti, Michael). I don't want to be a cynical prick, at least no more than I already am. I don't want to cheer for the Kansas City Royals. I want to cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays, 2008 playoff contenders.

Having said all that, if the Jays happen to drop one more game this weekend, fuck it - I'll be cheering for the Toronto Blue Jays, 2009 playoff contenders. I don't give a shit, I've already talked myself into it.

And that's all I have to say about that.....

Mencherson vs Linder
I should know better than to question any managerial decisions during the Gastonian (terminology hat tip) era. I think Cito's earned that free pass given the run he has this team on. And I really kinda sorta maybe agree with holding back young phenoms Lind and Snider from facing the knuckle/shitballer in the opener. But under no circumstances do I want to see the names of Mencherson in place of either (or both) of them for the remainder of the series. That's fair, right?

Curt Schilling continues his quest for supreme douchebaggery
It's been well documented that Curt Schilling is a man among boys in terms of being a d-bag. I mean, I don't think I'm breaking any new ground here. But Schilling's latest rant concerning New York sports fans literally had me laughing out loud.

"They want us to be as bitter and mad and miserable and they are," he said. "And, unfortunately, it's not going to happen."

Are you fucking kidding me, Curt? Seriously? Red Sox Nation doesn't fit the profile of bitter, mad, and miserable? Sons of Sam Horn - ever heard of the site? Actually, I know you have, because I hear you used to post there. In that case - get Van Vonderen on the phone. Someone needs an intervention.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jays wear funny hats, score late, win

You know, we were so pleased to see the Blue Jays wearing caps again a few months back that it didn't even really matter to us what they looked like. They were blue. It was good.

Then we actually saw one on the shelf at Ye Olde Jays Tuck Shoppe, and damn it if the cap didn't look purple. It was totally the wrong blue for the Jays, and it certainly has no business being combined with the black and grey unis as they did last night.

(Oh yeah...last night...Jays win 6-4. New win streak. Ooh-rah.)

So yeah, we're going all Jeanne Beker about this, but would it kill the Jays to get some frickin' blue back in their colour scheme? Has anyone in the front office noticed how many fans instantaneously gravitated to the new/retro powder blues and all of the offshoot merchandise?

Maybe if Godfrey really is gone for good after this year, the Jays' next president will look to expunge his sartorial legacy. We're sure that John Tory wouldn't have any aversion to blue if he does take over, as has been discussed in certain circles.

Speaking of fashion
The exceedingly well-attired Cathal Kelly has the story on the "fashion show" put on by the Jays' rookies last night for the benefit of the vets on the team.

And when we say Kelly is a well-dressed man, we mean it. Dude rocks a pocket square in the press scrums. The last time Bob Elliot had a pocket square, it was when he discovered an uneaten Rice Krispie treat from a media buffet table left behind in an old pair of chinos.

Ya hear, Damien Cox and Michael Friscowhatever? The Jays take on the BoSox, in the first of seven meetings with the Wild Card leaders between now and the end of the season. Sweep those games, and who knows... That little tramp Destiny may have big sloppy hummer in store for the Jays yet.

It's on! And the Ack will be here to tell you all about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Michael Friscolanti has shitty-looking facial hair

Also, he writes unfunny blog posts (for Rogers Media, no less) using rote arguments about the Jays winning "when the pressure if off".

Ooooh, Mikey: You're so much smarter than the rest of us cattle who are too stupid to get the fact that this season is over and who blindly root against all hope for our team to succeed. Thank you so much for tipping us off to your hip cynicism, and for letting us know how the Jays aren't the Rockies, and that they clearly suck. Our worldview is so much clearer now that you've opened our eyes.

All good things must end

Go figure. Ten straight wins, and the Jays lose with Roy Halladay on the mound. It just goes to show that nothin' in baseball makes no sense anyhow.

And to think that we had sweet photos of Racquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett and Heather Thomas lined up to post to celebrate the extension of the streak.

Nothing making sense: Gibby Defense League Edition
With the loss, the Jays slip to a mediocre 15 games over .500 under Cito Gaston. We've been led to believe by some dudes and their acolytes that the change in the team's fortunes can be attributed to progressing to the mean, which they would have done under John Gibbons anyhow. The same John Gibbons who was let go with the team four games under .500.

Maybe this win streak has skewed our view, but the gap between Gibbons' 35-39 record and Cito's 43-28 record is distinct enough for us to make some basic assumptions about the relative merits of their managerial skills.

Around the Horn

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Ten games, and no losses in September. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. Isn't is strange to think that at some point years from now, we'll look at great winning streaks in the history if the franchise and see the past few weeks as one of the most wickedly awesome stretches ever.

No, really. And we don't even care at this point how much of a long shot the postseason is. We're going down with the ship.

We know that the chances are remote, but the irrational fan in us is doing somersaults when we see the Jays' chances at the Wild Card increase over the past week from 1% to 2.8% according to Coolstandings. (UPDATE: Actually, it went from 1% to 2.8% in one day.)

You see? They're saying that we still have a chance!

Monday, September 8, 2008

We get stacks and stacks of letters

On a morning where there is no last-night's-game to speak of, we decided to open the old mailbag and parse through the piles of questioneers seeking our wisdom.

(Hey man, if Griff, Bastian and Stoeten can have their mailbags, then we want ours too.)

Let's get it on...

Neil S. from metro New York writes: How about a little push for some Cy Young talk for Scott Downs. I know that's not logical but I feel so comfortable with him on the hill even when he gets in trouble.
I really enjoy your site.

Neil: We're glad you really enjoy our site. In fact, we barely even care about the Blue Jays success anymore. We just go through our daily visits and stats and sit back and ponder whether if we could make a living off of this. And while we're sure that acolytes like you would be more than willing to contribute vast sums of money through exorbitant subscription fees to keep us in the style of living to which we have become accustomed (those Burberry toilet paper cozies aren't free, yo), we know that the love from the people is enough to keep us going.

All this to say: Can we crash at your place when we visit metro New York?

Oh, and as far as Scott Downs is concerned: He was one of our main concerns coming into the season. We looked at his 2.17 ERA and 1.22 WHIP and figured that there was no way that he could match those numbers. Little did we know that he was about to shave almost a full run off of the ERA (1.19 to this point) and .15 off the WHIP.

We noted before that the one thing that will hold Scott Downs back from consideration as an elite pitcher is the lowish K rate (57 in 68 innings) and the highish walk rate (25 so far). Neither of those numbers are bad...but they are just not exceptional enough for Cy Young voters to take notice, especially since Downs is a middle reliever.

The argument from the idiot Cy voters might be that if Downs was so good, he'd be the closer, but then again, their argument a few years back seemed to be that Big Fat Bartolo Colon deserved the Cy because he got more wins than Johan Santana, even though Santana killed him in every other relevant category.

Hey Kids! Want to see your email cut and pasted into the Tao of Stieb? Want us to completely ignore your question? Would you rather have a real manly man answer your Blue Jays questions rather than the other pantywaisted nancyboys' mailbags? Do you want to flatter us and tell us how awesome we are? Have at it! Write us at taoofstieb at gmail dot com and you can become our best blog friend forever. If your letter is selected, we'll send you a Tao of Stieb t-shirt. Maybe.

Have you noticed that the Jays are unbeatable?

We're still trying to wrap our heads around it. After yesterday's 1-0 win over the Tampa Rays (all hail the mighty Purcey!), the Toronto Blue Jays have won eight straight against teams ahead of them in the standings, and look like world beaters.

If only there were another month to the season.

Unfortunately, the majority of the intellectually slovenly Toronto media has already written this hot streak off as a team winning "when the pressure's off" (fuck you Dave Feschuk), and the Jays will slip into obscurity this month as the sports pages/screens are taken over by discussions of the Leafs' seventh defenseman, the NFL season, the Leafs' fourth line centre, CFL playoffs, the Leafs' pre-season power play performance, jai-alai updates, the Leafs' farm team's assistant deputy to the associate head scout's liaison, poker, and of course, updates on the never-boring story of the Leafs.

It's too bad that no one is going to pay attention to these final weeks of the baseball season. As Whitey Herzog once told an umpire: Yer missin' a great game!

The point is not that the Jays have an outside shot at a playoff (which they really don't, even if we refuse to stop believing.) The point is that much of this roster which is pulling off this streak of wins against legitimate contenders will be back next season. And while the bankrupt cynicism of the Toronto sports media (fuck you Dave Feschuk) will shrug next March and write off whatever chances the Jays have to seriously contend since they will not have blown up the franchise field and front office personnel, the 2009 Jays are proving their mettle now.

Baseball is an ongoing narrative. If you don't recognize that the final pages of this volume lead into the first pages of the next, then your understanding of the progression and the movement of the franchise's fortunes is likely to be incomplete.

Are we a little thin-skinned this Monday morning? Why should we care about what mediocre basketball writers (fuck you Dave Feschuk) snort mindlessly about the Jays on Sunday morning gasbag programs? We really shouldn't care...Maybe we just need more NyQuil.

Do you remember the time?
Speaking of the media, does anyone remember the times from 1986 through 1991 - now regarded as the franchise's salad days - when the Jays were regarded by some writers and pundits as "chokers". That they could never "seal the deal" and "get over the hump"...it's instructive to remember this now, because it is easy to see how the writers were missing the point in retrospect, just as they are now.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This is how I want to remember him

I was pretty hard on Greggg Zaun when he made his "trade me to a contender who wants me" comments as the trade deadline approached. "Fuck you, Zaunie", I said. "Sit down and accept your role as a backup on an also-ran", I thought.

Sometimes you forget these guys are human (except Doc - total cyborg) - with pride, envy, anger, and all the other human emotion bullshit. But the deadline passed with Zaun still a Blue Jay, now relegated to a start or maybe two per week, and I found myself starting to feel a little bad for the guy. Here's an old pro who thought he had earned the right to start for the team he'd spent the past five seasons with, and now he's a dead man walking backup with a suddenly uncertain future.

So for the last month, I've really been pulling for ol' Zaunie to do well and earn himself one more big league contract next season, wherever he may end up. The month of August had a different plan for triple-G Greggg, however, and bitch-slapped him with an 0-fer (19).

Fast forward to late Saturday afternoon, and all is well in the world again.

But enough with the literary prose and melodrama......holy fucking shit! A walk-off granny! Seven in a row! Fuck Joe Maddon!

Did I mention that was Seven in a row?
I think I did, but....seven? When was the last time this club has gone a week+ without losing? And yes, Tampa/Boston/New York fans, I know it's borderline pathetic to be so excited about a fairly modest win streak in the month of September with my team out of it. But you know what? Fuck off. I'm trying to make this a fun little month of baseball here.

Special thanks to BJ for nailing it
What do you mean, BJ Ryan almost blew the game? How boring would a three run victory have been? Way more boring than a grand slam walk-off victory in the 13th inning, that's for damn sure.

But seriously, that's a couple reeeeeaaaaal shaky outings in a row now for BJ. In his defense, Cito has been, let's say, unafraid to go to BJ lately, to the point where he probably could use a breather. I still say Ryan is a monster next season.

Truth be told, I'm a little more worried about Scotty Downs the stretch (lame pun intended). Maybe all this talk of moving him into the rotation is fucking with his head. Thankfully, the Jays are blessed with a bullpen including Nails League and Nails Carlson to hold down the fort while the big two work it out.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

About Tom

If you're a Blue Jay fan, you've probably already read a dozen (or so) Tom Cheek posts over the last few weeks, so I won't be offended if you feel like you've had enough and skip this one. I won't be offended, but you're still an asshole if you do.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Tom Cheek. I never had the chance to speak to him through a radio call-in show, never sent him any emails, never traded any correspondence. But I can say this with absolute certainty - I really feel like I knew Tom Cheek.

You see, I never spoke to Tom, but he spoke to me - about 150 times a year (unlike Tom, I probably took a few sick days here and there) for as far back as I can remember up until the 2005 season, when Tom's health problems kept him out of the booth for good. You might think I'm making this up, but I can actually remember where I was when I read the news that Tom Cheek had passed away. And I'm not going to lie to you here - it got a little dusty in my office when I did. I spent the next few hours sifting through articles and online tributes, thinking back to a time when a perfect summer day was lying around listening to the game, then tossing a ball around for hours with a friend.

The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball". I once had a very brief email exchange with the esteemed Keith Law, who happens to be ex-Jays management and one of my favorite baseball writers (yes, Baseball Writer - ie: fuck you, BBWAA), when I wrote him asking how he felt about Tom's continued exclusion from the Hall of Fame. Law's take was that it's pretty hard for a fan of any single team to judge, due to the unfamiliarity of the work of the other candidates. I can't dispute that point, and won't try - and I'll even go so far as to ignore the consecutive games streak, the now-famous calls, his tenure with the club - everything. But here's the thing:

Tom Cheek was the voice of baseball not only for Toronto....but for an entire country. Generations of baseball fans north of the border owe their knowledge and familiarity of the game to Tom and his inimitable delivery. To once again look past his candidacy for this award is, quite simply, to ignore that fact. I've come to accept, I guess, that the awards committee will continue to play a little Alphonse & Gaston with the voting process for this honor, but that doesn't make it right.

So, tell me again why this team can't contend (next year)?
Another game, another victory against a playoff contender. Jesus - 6 in a row? Are we having fun yet?

It's almost enough to keep a guy optimistic about next season....

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Thoughts to Kick Off Your Weekend

Snider goes KAPOWWEEE! BOOM! The first of many, we're sure.

Workin' For the Weekend
The Ack is here this weekend to put in an effort as heroic as the stitches on Mike Reno's leather pants. We assume that he'll put us to shame with posts that contain actual cogent thoughts woven together into some sort of salient point. Or he may just curse and swear. We'll leave it to him.

Have a great one.

A one-sentence post on...statement games

Pinkly, roundly and efficiently, Jesse made his point last night: the Litsch is back.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Walkoffs, playoffs and brushoffs

What's not to love about an 11-inning walkoff win? Especially one where your most dreamy hitting prospect ever comes up with a big two-out two-strike bottom-of-the-ninth hit against one of the best two or three closers in the game to tie the game up. Rosy-cheeked Travis Snider might not be hammering tape measure shots into the 500 Level (yet), but he's looked like he can fit in this lineup, in spite of being the youngest position player in the big leagues.

Oh, and don't forget Johnny McDonald driving in the winning run. That's always good for the soul.

We were all excited yesterday when we discovered that the Advanced A Dunedin Blue Jays had made the Florida State League playoffs. Playoffs! Then this morning, we come to find out that the D-Jays have already been sent packing by the Fort Myers Miracle...who just happen to be the affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. So what goes around...

But don't be too discouraged, faithful Blue Jays Single-A affiliate fans! The Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League started their playoff drive last night, albeit with a 3-1 loss to the Dayton Dragons, the Reds' affiliate in the circuit.

We were listening to the game on the radio last night with a head full of NyQuil, so we missed the visuals of Travis Snider's first at bat in Toronto. From the sounds of things (via two outstanding posts from Neate at Out of Left Field and the Drunks), it's just as well that we didn't see it.

Forget it, Jake. It's Hockeytown.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Of awe-inspiring comebacks and yawn-inducing callups

Comeback kids
For most of this season, a 5-1 deficit in the early innings of a Jays game meant either walking away and getting on with your day/evening, or sticking it out and watching the Jays roll over and play dead.

But in recent weeks, this team has shown the ability to continue to chip away at the lead and swipe it away in the late innings, as exemplified by last night's 7-5 win over the Twins. Maybe it's the warm dry air that's helping some warning track shots turn into home runs, or maybe Cito really does have some sort of mystical effect on this team.

Whatever the case, and no matter how strange this might seem, the team that we the faithful are watching now looks to us like the sort of team that can actually play in a pennant race. They're nine games over .500 since Cito's arrival, so just extrapolate that over a full season. (We know it doesn't really work that way...get off of our cloud.)

There are plenty of people who have been campaigning to blow this whole team to smithereens, from the front office to the field. Watching them hang tough over the past month against the teams ahead of them in the AL standings , we wonder if a tweak or two to the roster wouldn't be enough to put them over the top.

Callups? You call those callups?
Maybe we're paying a little penance for the Jays' having called up The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM Travis Snider last week, but the callups added to the expanded September rosters yesterday were a little underwhelming and a lot familiar. We were hoping for the future of the franchise to get the call, and instead, we get a bunch of familiar faces. Shaun Marcum, Brian Wolfe, Scott Richmond? Welcome back, fellas. Curtis Thigpen? It's been a while. Brevin Mencherson? Did you guys even leave?

A minor note
Goodbye Syracuse (and good riddance for that matter). Hello Buffalo?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Farewell, Scrappy Doo

For as much shit as we piled on top of David Eckstein this year, we're glad to see him make his way to a contender. And wouldn't you know, the gritty gamer managed to drive in the game-winning RBI last night for the D-Backs. Good on him.

Our antipathy towards Eckstein had little to do with his offensive performance and everything to do with the fact that he was keeping John McDonald on the bench following his breathtaking 2007 season in the field. We wanted to see more of that magic, and Eckstein was an impediment to our happiness. That's all.

Besides which, doesn't it seem right that Little X should be in a pennant race and wearing a red cap?