Monday, October 29, 2007

A League of His Own - A-Rod Opts Out

A-Rod is bigger than Major League Baseball and certainly bigger than the World Series. That had to be his secondary message yesterday as he announced that he was opting out of his contract despite the MLB protocol that teams not make major announcements during the World series. But I guess he is not a team (yet).

Given his decision to leave a team that could absorb his contract and build a winning team, he will soon be back in the Texas scenario -- toiling at the bottom of the standings somewhere but collecting big cheques. At least Barry Bonds got into that scenario in part because he wanted to play in his hometown. For A-Rod, there seems to be nothing driving his career decisions apart from being the highest paid person in the world. To do the math, A-Rod has less character than Barry Bonds.

Put a bow on this season

The Red Sox are champs. Again.

And with a team built around Ellsbury, Papelbon and Gregg Zaun's favorite, Dustin Pedroia, the Blue Jays may well find themselves looking up at the Boston nine in the standings for quite some time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The DH Dilemma - Tito, meet Cito

The dilemma faced by the Red Sox in trying to make room for all of their bats in the NL ballpark is hardly unique. Most years, the AL champ is forced to sit someone they'd rather not for at least a game or two. But the Gordian knot that Tito Francona had to solve this year was particularly complex. (Baseball Prospectus reports that he'll ultimately sit Youkilis in favour of Papi in the field.)

Which brings us back to the Jays. (Remember way back when this was still a Jays blog?)

Back in 1993, Cito Gaston was faced with the same sort of decision when he had to choose between Paul Molitor and AL Batting Champ John Olerud for Game 3 of the Series in the Vet. Cito ultimately settled on Molitor, who rewarded his decision by going 3 for 4 with a homer and three RsBI.

Cito's plan before that game (as noted to the New York Times' Murray Chass) was to sit the eventual World Series MVP in Games 4 and 5. But Molitor's performance forced his hand into moving him to third for those games, a position he hadn't patrolled on a regular basis in four years. Then again, Cito's choice was either taking a chance with Molly, or sitting him and playing Ed Babb-Sprague. In retrospect, the decision seems so clear.

In looking back at the 1993 Series, we're impressed with how aggressive a manager Cito was. There is this erroneous notion that is floated out there that he merely filled in a lineup card full of all-stars, and let them have at it.

Armchair Managing the Sox: If we were Tito, we would have moved Youk to second, Pedroia to short, and played Papi at first. Sure, three-quarters of your infield would have been out of their regular positions, but what's it gonna matter if you're up ten runs?

(Then again maybe we've played too much MLB 2K6 lately...where we play Travis Hafner in right field and let Ryan Howard catch.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jeff Blair rocks the aux box

Based on his monumental and outstanding blogging throughout last night's Game 1 laugher, we have decided that Jeff Blair is our Best Friend Forever. (He has no say in the matter.)

We've noted before that Blairsy (that's what we'll call him when we go on picnics together) can read our mind. It's uncanny.

So imagine our surprise when he breaks out the analogy that St. Patrick's Day is "amateur night for drinkers." That's our line! We swear that we've been using that line for years. Mrs. Tao even rolls her eyes at it, she's heard it so many times.

Also, we really enjoyed Blairsy's use of the epithet "dill-weed". We just called our boss "dill-weed", just because Blairsy would have wanted us to.

Finally, Blairsy's assertion that Revolver and Rubber Soul were way better albums than Sgt. Pepper's was dead-on.

Given the noxious ink-stained turds that populate the Jays' mediasphere, it's refreshing to see the work of a writer with whom you would actually want to sit down, pour a couple of fingers of Bushmills, and talk baseball.

Blairsy, you're doin' a heckuva a job.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jody Vance has had enough of your monkeyshines

Did you know that Jody Vance was still alive?

We didn't until today, when we saw that the one-time anchorthingy (and Hazel Mae archenemy) wrote a column for the commuter rag 24 Hours on how much she wants the Red Sox to "eat humble pie."

She then goes on to describe Manny as "egomaniacal". That's rich.

It's not as though we're Red Sox fans, but we just hate when the frickin' killjoys come down from on high to criticize players whenever they show an ounce of personality. We spent a good part of the Sox-Indians series laughing both at and with Manny, and we're not going to go all whitebread nostalgic for the time when the players didn't celebrate a home run until six years after they retired.

Come on Jody. We know you work for the Leafs now, but that doesn't mean that life can't have a little colour to it.

UPDATE: We seem to remember that Jody is the wife of Blue Jays Manager of Team Travel Mike Shaw Assistant GM Bart Given (d'oh!), who's supposed to be a heckuva a guy, and probably knows people who could have us banned from any MLB ballpark. So if we've offended, we're really sorry.

The Tao's World Series Predictions

Here are five solid lock predictions for the 2007 RoxSox World Series:
  1. Our pal the Red Sox fan will inadvertently (or so he'll claim) verbally or physically abuse us at least once in the middle of a wild celebration dance.
  2. We will be treated to three hours worth of footage of pitchers blowing into their hands.
  3. Dick Griffin will make an allusion to the fact that the Jays passed on Troy Tulowhatever in the draft. (Bob Elliot's already beaten him to the punch.)
  4. We'll have to miss at least one game in the Series, having already used up all of our "Get Out of Social Events with Mrs. Tao in Favour of Baseball Playoff Nights with our Scumbag Friends" cards for one October.
  5. The Red Sox will win, and the Massholes will love it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sour Grapes: Demuth put the Squeeze on Carmona

This might sound like sour grapes, but we spent a good part of Saturday cursing Dana Demuth's microscopic strike zone, and how he was squeezing the Indians Fausto Carmona. Cheers to the Mockingbird's Jon Hale for dialing up MLB's pitch FX system to confirm as much.

Not that it matters now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Minor League Musical Chairs

There’s some chatter coming from Syracuse (specifically, the Post-Standard’s Matt Michael) that they’ve had enough of their affiliation with the Blue Jays, and their tradition of losing AAA teams. Moreover, they are salivating at the possibility of hooking up with the Mets for the 2009 season.

The Jays’ two-year deal with Syracuse expires after next season, and there will be a brief window in September when MLB teams and minor league cities can renegotiate their affiliation agreements. While many clubs have maintained their affiliations for decades, there has been a significantly higher degree of turnover in these agreements as of late. In 2007 alone, the Phillies, Yankees, and Mets all severed ties with their longtime AAA cities (Scranton, Columbus and Norfolk, respectively).

According the Post-Standard’s report, cities in play for 2009 may include Columbus (Washington), Buffalo (Cleveland), New Orleans (Mets), Rochester (Minnesota), Indianapolis (Pittsburgh), and Syracuse.

Obviously, the best fit out of those cities for the Jays would be Buffalo, but given the long-term success that the Bisons have had in that market, they might not want to hitch their wagons to a franchise which has produced 22 losing AAA seasons over their 30 year history.

If the music stops and the Jays are stuck with New Orleans in 2009, it would be nothing short of disastrous. A move to the Pacific Coast League would leave Jays prospects without exposure to their chief rivals’ prospects, and the expense and inconvenience of shipping players back and forth between New Hampshire, New Orleans and Toronto would be significant.

Then again, there is a AAA-level ballpark in a city with dozens of flights between it and Toronto that may well be vacant in 2009. Right Carl?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Check Out My Draft Fan Letter to Dick Griffin's Mailbag For Next Week

The Tribe - Awesomely Evil!

Remember the whole "Good vs. Evil" meme that we tried to start for the Division Series? Well, the Indians are proving to be amazingly evil, in the best possible way.

The G and M's Jeff Blair blogs this morning that the Tribe has invited country music strumpet Danielle Peck (seen above...mrrroawr!) to sing the National Anthem before tonight's game...a game to be started by Josh Beckett, who just happened to have had something of a dalliance at some point with Ms. Peck.

That, friends, is what we call gamesmanship.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Griffin makes an oopsie

As noted by Neate at Out of Left Field, Dick Griffin made an easily avoidable error in yesterday's column when he wrongly asserted that Kenny Lofton made a World Series appearance with the Tribe in 1997. Lofton did play for the Tribe's 1995 AL Champs, but was in the ATL by 1997.

We're sure he does not regret the error.

Also, Dick has continued with the mailbag through the fall, but to be perfectly honest, we couldn't be arsed to rehash it.

Bobby Kielty - Masshole saviour

Our good pal the Sox fan has taken to the exclamation "The Massholes are lovin' it!" In fact, he drops it pretty much a dozen times per game.

A squib single? "The Massholes are lovin' it!"

Routine ground ball, 4-3? "The Massholes are lovin' it!"

Manny, against all odds, making a behind-the-neck-cap-flying-off catch? "The Massholes are lovin' it!"

Well, the Massholes can't be loving the fact that the lynch pin of their comeback is former Jays trading chip and flaming ginger Bobby Kielty, who the Projo Sox Blog says will get the start over all $15 million worth of J.D. Drew.

The decision to start Kielty is a numbers play, as he is 9 of 29 with two homers, four doubles and 7 RsBI against Game 5 starter C.C. Sabathia. Still, there's something amiss when your big off-season free agent pick up has to sit because he can't hit lefties.

(Or so says us, the fans of the team that couldn't hit nothin' all year, no way no how.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Online Baseball Fun

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Check out this very addictive game called Pinch Hitter 2. Best online baseball game ever!

The subtleties are not Joe Buck's strong suit

While we're fully focussed on the booth rather than the field today, a quick note on Joe Buck, and his comments about Hideki Okajima on Saturday. Although we were almost completely asleep/drunk at that point, we recall Buck discussing Okajima's career with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

This is all good, we suppose, but Buck kept referring to the team as the "Ham Fighters", as though they are mighty warriors, who bravely defend the people of Nippon from the evil canned hams that attack the young and the aged.

In fact, the team is the "Fighters", not the "Ham Fighters". They are owned by Nippon Ham...hence, the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Still, we'd love to see Wayne Coyne working on a concept album all about the Ham Fighters, and their many historic battles.

Speaking of Ham Fighting
Former Blue Jay Ryan Glynn won Game 2 for the Nippon Ham nine in the Japanese League's Pacific League Championship Series against the evil Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines.

For the life of us, we can't remember who the hell Ryan Glynn is.

The Tracks of Suzyn Waldman's Tears

We grew up listening to WFAN in New York, and spent many nights listening to Suzyn Waldman's work reporting on the Knicks and Yankees. We always thought that she was an excellent reporter; knowledgeable and above all, professional. She didn't traffic in clichés, and she didn't tip-toe around players or management to appease them. She was good, regardless of gender, and we always appreciated hearing her rasp pop up over the airwaves.

Which is why we took little joy in viewing her getting her ass handed to her last week after she got choked up in the post game show after Joe Torre and the Yanks were shown the door by Cleveland last week.

In truth, a lot of the criticism of Waldman's performance last week stems from her absurd, overwrought boosterism when Roger Clemens announced in May that he was creeping back to the Bronx to steal their money limp away in shame lead the Yankees back to the promised land.

Waldman's since come back swinging, accusing her critics of being "anti-female". While we think that those who held her up for ridicule protested a bit too much, we'd suggest that it wasn't sexism that drove this campaign against Waldman so much as it was the schadenfreude at seeing the Yankees fail again so gracelessly.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Decline and Fall

This brief, miserable chapter of Eric Gagné's career may soon be over. We can't imagine the team going back to him after yet another late inning blow up.

Mind you, Gagné wasn't a complete washout in the Sox 13-6 loss to the Tribe on Saturday night. A walk and a hit for some relievers wouldn't warrant wearing the goats horns, but we still have the image of Gagné as the "Game Over", lights out shut down man strutting in from the bullpen in Chavez Ravine. With limited success over the past three seasons, he's just not that guy anymore.

Stat of the Weekend
Five hours, fourteen minutes. For a game that needlessly started at 8:37 on a Saturday night. Ridiculous.

Can't Stop the Rox
You remember how the Jays kept saying that they needed to get on a roll? Well 20 wins in 21 games is a roll. It's almost hard to imagine that this is the team that the Jays piled up on 9-8, 11-6, and 5-0 (Dusty Lambchops' complete game gem) for a three-game sweep back in June. Maybe we're being sore losers, but if the Jays were in the NL West, they'd be perennial contenders. Oh, if only plate tectonics could accommodate our playoff aspirations.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Taoist activity: flatlining

We really didn't intend to go silent this week, but unfortunately, numerous and sundry real life issues have monopolized our time.

We should probably take one of those effective time management courses to help us sort these issues out, but they'd just tell us to stop screwing around with all the blogging. Screw that.

A quick thought on Denbo
We heard Bob McCown railing on and on last night about Fennis Gary Denbo's piss-poor minor league career. This seems like a preview of what we'll get from the Bobcat on a constant loop next season whenever the Jays struggle at the plate: ".208 minor league average! No home runs! He was a bum!" We know Bob does it to be entertaining, so we won't put that much stock in his rantings. We're willing to give Denbo a pass on this matter as we've come to learn that there is no greater path to wisdom than futility and failure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Odds and sods from sweeperific weekend

Exeunt Torre
It's been a long time (well, seven years) since Joe Torre's had a season end on a positive note, and with last night's 6-4 loss to the Clevelanders eliminating the Bombing Bronx Crew, it's going to be another long winter for the ever-grimacing skipper. Each year, it seems as though his head is on the block, but this may finally be it for Torre. The guess here is that by next April, the Yanks collection of aging veterans and "starters of the future" will be heaped into the lap of Don Mattingly, who will spend the next six months trying to figure out how to make anything out of this team. Hilarity ensues.

Big Hurt Gets Off to a Slow Start - Again
Neate notes (with a report from Broadcasting and Cable) that Frank Thomas' poor performance in the TBS booth early in the first round has sent the net scrambling for Ron Darling to pick up the slack. Of course, we couldn't imagine how Thomas' on-camera work could be any worse than watching Sportsnet's Sultan of Smoove Jason Portuondo aimlessly punning his way through another highlight package. (Jason: we're sure you're cool. Stop trying so hard.)

Meet Gary Denbo - Your New Hitting Coach/Whipping Boy
Jeff Blair reports that the Jays are likely to announce former Yanks hitting coach Gary Denbo as their replacement for Mickey Brantley as soon as today. Denbo is apparently familiar with these video cassette machines that capture moving images, and uses them extensively.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Sweeping the Division Series Away

Wow...where did the Division Series go? The first round seems to be over before it even got started, with the distinct possibility that the two AL series will be toast by the time the tryptophan kicks in tonight.

Hey, not that we're complaining...We're happy to see the Cubs and Phils cooling their heels until next year. Tant mieux, and all that.

But the first round of the playoffs is usually the most fun, and to see it gone so quickly make us wonder if the first round should be extended to a seven game series. (We know, we know...the baseball season is long enough.)

Anyways, enjoy your turkey weekend...we'll be giving thanks for another evening spent with our pal the BoSox fan.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Tao's Luxury Real Estate Listings

Ten-room luxury condo for sale: $3.18 million (Cheap!)

Property may be haunted by ghosts who cause former occupants to spend multiple periods on disability leave.

Hey, wait a second...if A.J. lives in a condo, then from who's house is he emerging early in the morning to huck the garbage bag in the Jays commercials?

Next, you're gonna tell us that those aren't Frank Thomas' kids, and that Lyle Overbay wasn't invited to that wedding!

A night with a Red Sox fan

We spent last night watching the first game of the ALDS with our good pal, the Red Sox fan. We love the guy, but we were glad that there was alcohol involved.

It went a little something like this:

"The Sox...they look good!"
"Mmm hmm."

(Two minutes later.)
"They're lookin' good, those Sox. They're looking good!"
"Yeah, they are."

(Five minutes later.)
"Man, Beckett's mowing 'em down! He looks good!"
"Yeah yeah, he does."

(Just after Big Papi hit his two-run homer.)
"Big Papi's dialed in! He's going to be great this postseason!"
"Mmm hmmm."

(Several innings and several drinks later.)
"They're unstoppable! They're gonna run over these guys! The Massholes are lovin' it."
"They sure do."

(Beckett cruises through another inning.)
"Look at this Beckett! He looks amazing!"
"Yeah, he sure does."

(Lackey gets pulled for Big Erv Santana.)
"They raked him over the coals!"
"Well, aside from the one inning, he pitched pretty well and kept them in it."

At least there were no drinks or foodstuffs thrown.

Still, we can't wait to hit our tavern of choice on Friday to catch game 2, and bask in the unabashed enthusiasm of our pal. It reminds us of why we love the game, and it makes us dream of the day that the Jays will be in the playoffs, so that we can return the favour. (It might be a while.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Good or Evil - NL Edition

Continuing on from yesterday's Good or Evil AL playoff preview, we break down the relative angelic and demonic factors going into the NL playoff picture.

Colorado Rockies (90-73) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)

Rockies, the Good: Feel good story of the week; Todd Helton’s goatee; monster offense; Good Canadian Boy™ Jeff Franchise.
Rockies, the Evil: Phantom runs; purple uniforms; humidors; We still hate Dan O’Dowd for not letting Francis pitch for Canada in the Olympics; the memory of Dante Bichette.

Phillies, the Good: Philly fans; monster offense; Feel good story of last week; Jamie Moyer’s stirrups; Antonio Alfonseca’s extra fingers; Rooting for Pat Gillick; wicked AL-style lineup; cheesesteaks.
Phillies, the Evil: Philly fans; Closers who smack their wives around; memories of the ’93 Phillies; Pat Burrell.

Verdict: Those lineups in those two bandboxes? We don’t even care who wins, we just want to see both teams mash each other into oblivion.

Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72) vs. Chicago Cubs (85-77)
D-Backs, the Good: O-Dog; Brandon Webb; Chris B. Young, when he hits the ball; memories of the 2001 World Series; Having Glenn Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” stuck in our heads.
D-Backs, the Evil: “It’s a dry heat”; Retirees in shorts pulled up to their armpits; Chris B. Young, when he’s striking out; Taking forever to recognize Martin Luther King Day; Randy Johnson’s old man back; Gratuitous snake iconography.

Cubs, the Good: Wrigley Field day games; Pitchers laying the smack down on their catchers; Referring to Ryan Theriot as “The Riot”; Derek Lee; the Memory of Harry Carey; possible Bill Murray sightings.
Cubs, the Bad: Wrigley Field night games; NL Central “Champions”; Spending sprees; Endless blathering about the Curse of the Goat; Blaming Bartman; Idiotic celebrity versions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”; possible Jim Belushi sightings.

Verdict: We know that there’s a sentimental reason to cheer for the Cubs. But we’re not that sentimental, and we like the D-Backs young lineup.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ex-Jays in the Playoffs – All pitch, no hit

In Hum and Chuck’s handy Glossary of Terms, there’s a mention of an entertaining way to pass the time once the playoffs start and the Jays aren’t there (i.e. pretty much annually.)
Ex-Jays in the Playoffs - A fun game to play at home to drown out Tim McCarver's ramblings. Try to pick out all the Ex-Jays who are playing in the playoffs, make a team out of them and decide whether the Ex-Jay team could beat the Current Jays team. Note that the number of Ex-Jays in the playoffs always outnumbers the current Jays in the playoffs.
Hey, we're game.

A quick look through the rosters, and we can find barely enough players to field a team. There's almost a full pitching staff there, but the hitting would make even the 2007 Mickey Brantley offense look like the Big Red Machine.

First, the Rotation:

Kelvim Escobar, LAA
Ted Lilly, CHC
Roger Clemens, NYY
Doug Davis, ARI
Steve Trachsel, CHC

That's a pretty good collection of arms, but we'd still give the edge to the Jays based on this season's performance. Edge: 2007 Jays

The Bullpen:

Justin Speier, LAA
Mike Timlin, BOS
Brandon Lyon, ARI
Francisco Rosario, PHI
Scott Eyre, CHC

These guys are all pretty useful seventh-inning pitchers, but ultimately, there's no real closer there and with Speier's bad health (the Jays dodged a bullet there)and declining returns for Timlin and Eyre, it's really not much of a contest. Edge: 2007 Jays.

The Lineup

Orlando Hudson 2B, ARI
Jayson Werth LF, PHI
Eric Hinske, RF, BOS
Casey Blake, 3B, CLE
Bobby Kielty, CF, BOS
Chris Gomez, 1B, CLE
Royce Clayton, SS, BOS
Kevin Cash, C, BOS

Sure, you can dispute our lineup construction, but this is pretty weak. We definitely like Hudson and Blake, and Werth was good for the Phils this season, but this offense is made up mostly of guys who are eating up their last chance before they become AAA veterans. Edge: 2007 Jays.

So the moral of the story is: the 2007 Jays would totally have won the World Series this year. Are we right?

Or maybe the real moral of the story is: That there is no glaring example of a player that the Jays gave up on towards whom the T.O. media douches can point as an example of J.P.'s ineptitude. Then again, we're sure that your Dicks and Simmons can always find a third of an inning performance from Lyon, and drop in a "Brandon Lyon, who J.P. shamefully tossed on the scrap heap..."

Good or Evil? We Decide (AL Edition)

With Matt Holliday’s face plant phantom winning run last night, the tables are set for serious October baseball.

To prepare for the veritable orgy of meaningful games to come, we’ve gone through the matchups to determine who’s good, who’s evil, who we’ll be rooting for and why.

First up, the American League.

Boston Red Sox (96-66) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (94-68)
Red Sox, the Good: Fenway Pahk; the best unis in MLB; Big Papi; Manny being Manny; Tim Wakefield’ knuckler; Good Canadian Boy™ Eric Gagné.
Red Sox, the Evil: They’re AL East rivals; Curt Schilling’s ego; the stupendous payroll; Massholes; the endless self-satisfaction with the whole “Sweet Caroline” thing; our good friend constantly telling us “they look really good”; Fat Wisconsin Boy™ Eric Hinske.

Angels, the Good: Vlady; Howie Kendrick; Mike Scioscia looking tubby and intense; John Lackey bringing heat; that amazing bullpen.
Angels, the Evil: That whole “Los Angeles of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the U.S. of Planet Earth” tomfoolery; excessive shots of the Rally Monkey; the fact that Dick Griffin loves their “small ball” approach.

Verdict: It pains us to say it, but we can’t really root for the Angels if it means making a smug Dick exponentially more smug (smugger?). Therefore, we’re supporting the Red Sox, but with great fundamental reservations.

Cleveland Indians (96-66) vs. New York Yankees (94-68)
Indians, the Good:
That lineup; Pronk!; V-Mart’s offense; the one-two punch of C.C. and Fausto; a really good bullpen (with one notable exception).
Indians, the Evil: The insensitive name; the offensive logo; V-Mart’s defense; their dubious closer.

Yankees, the Good: It’s good to have a villain in the postseason; Yankees Stadium in October is intense; possible matchup with Red Sox in second round would be fun.
Yankees, the Evil: A-Rod, Absurd payroll; AL East Rivals; Herpes; hearing about the “Joba Rules” on an endless loop; pretty much everything else, really.

Verdict: The Tribe's our team this postseason, and we want them to crush the Yankees' heads. Crush crush crush.