Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rance doesn't cotton to your shenanigans

If you mess with his team, Rance Mulliniks will mess you up, bro.

Mulliniks' fiery side came out last week in a game between his College of the Sequoias Giants, for whom he is the assistant coach, and Fresno City College.

Damien Marquez of the Visalia Times-Delta reports that after arguing a call at third base, Fresno's Ron Scott turned into a flaming arsewipe douche and started mouthing off at the Giants' bench. That's when Rance stepped in:

"That caught COS assistant coach Rance Mulliniks' attention from the bullpen. He ran towards Scott, the two exchanged some heated words, and both coaches had to be restrained near home plate as players from each team slowly started to walk onto the field.

The umpires did manage to gain control of the situation. Mulliniks was ejected, but Scott was allowed to stay in the game."

Mulliniks was allegedly ejected because he pulled a switchblade and began screaming "IF YOU WANNA DANCE, YOU START WITH RANCE!"

(Actually, that's not true. But we totally wish it was.)

Funny, but Rance always struck us as a mild-mannered pacifist. Or maybe it only seems that way because he is being lulled to sleep by Jamie Campbell all season long.

The Beej is not a hampy camper

So B.J. Ryan is not totally thrilled with all the talk about the possibility of being supplanted in the closer role. "It's an uncomfortable question with a lot of uncomfortable answers" Ryan told the Globe's Rob MacLeod.

After another subpar outing yesterday, Ryan sports a 9.00 ERA in seven Grapefruit innings, walking seven and striking out six. His velocity, if it matters, topped out at 87 MPH yesterday.

Without papering over the concerns over Ryan's performance in the Spring, we don't mind the Jays' high-intensity closer being a bit pissed when talk arises about someone taking his job. That's the gunslinger mindset that many of the great closers have, and without getting too hokey about this, that sort of swagger counts for something.

Perhaps more troubling is the fact that Ryan isn't alone in his struggles. If there was an obvious candidate to step in and assume the closer role, we might understand the public speculation about Ryan's capacity to lock down the ninth. But a glance through at the other closer candidates shows some pretty spotty performances in the fake games:

  • Scott Downs - 6.75 ERA in four innings, two walks and two K's
  • Jeremy Accardo - 8.71 ERA in 10.1 innings, 18 hits, three walks and five K's
  • Brandon League - 9.00 ERA in four innings, six hits, two walks and six K's
  • Jason Frasor - 5.71 ERA in four innings, seven hits, a walk and four K's
Really, the only "standout" so far in the exhibition season has been Jesse Carlson, who hasn't allow a run yet, but three innings of work is a pretty microscopic sample size. We could make an argument for the recently dispatched Dirk Hayhurst, although we're not sure that he has the mythical "closer stuff" that we seem to be buying into lock, stock and barrel.

Look who snuck into the Super Duper Roundtable
Mop Up Duty has posted part two of its blogger roundtable, and we've managed to sneak in our views on the Jays' prospects for the coming year.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday morning, running on fumes

Running a motor vehicle indoors is not such a super idea for those who aren't suicidal
The motorcross jamboree held on Saturday night under the Rogers Centre dome forced an evacuation of the hotel rooms and restaurants overlooking the stadium. Isn't this yet another argument for turning the former SkyDome into a baseball-only venue?

So long to all of our spring mancrushes
Jason Lane and Brad Emaus - the Mantle and Maris of Dunedin in 2009 - both got their walking papers and will make their way to the Jays' minor league camp for reassignment. Also taking the walk of shame is Dirk Hayhurst, whose sterling 13-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight Spring innings was not enough to make up for the massive number of earned runs - one - that he gave up in those appearances.

Let's talk about Alex Rios to the Giants again, shall we?
Bleacher Report ponders who got the better of last spring's non-trade of Alex Rios to the Giants, although they weigh out the relative benefits of the swap with Matt Cain as the pitcher coming back to the Jays instead of Tim Lincecum. And while we have a certain roto-league weakness for Cain, we think we can speak for the majority of the Jays' fanbase when we say "thank god that trade never happened."

And while we smugly dump on starting pitchers we don't have...
Let us ponder the fact that Ricky Romero has become the front-runner for the fourth spot in the rotation, and that Dustin McGowan's return to good health may be delayed long enough that he'll have grey in his lambchops by the time he pitches again. Crap.

It's a blogger roundtable!
Mopup Duty has a Blue Jays Bloggers Roundtable of Death, featuring the best and brightest of the northern baseball blogosphere. There are some interesting thoughts in there, and the quality of the commenting is much improved by the fact that we didn't interject our weak-ass third-person piety into the mix. At least not this time.

The Ack will return once he is done parting the waters
For those of you who missed the inimitable weekend stylings of the Ack, know that he will be back just as soon as he turns back the Red River flood waters. No, seriously: he really spent the weekend helping to sandbag and secure the safety of his neighbours, and for that, he deserves our praise and adulation.

It's funny, though, that when the Ack takes a weekend off, people get up in arms, but we could blow off an entire week and no one would care. Suffice to say, we're not walking down any stairwells in front of the Ack any time soon...we saw Showgirls, and we're not about to make the same mistake as Cristal Connors.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Rock Out - The Pernice Brothers

In honour of a fine musician who has transplanted himself to Toronto, and who occasionally makes trips to the Rogers Centre to watch Roy Halladay, we offer up for your Friday afternoon enjoyment the Pernice Brothers' "Weakest Shade of Blue". Which could be an apt description of the Jays' pitching staff this season.

(Although having said that, aren't people getting a little too wound up over this whole "clocked as low as 84 MPH" thing with B.J. Ryan's fastball? He never threw much higher than high 80's or maybe low 90's, and if he's not running it up there in that range on every pitch he throws in March, should we really be agonizing about this alleged "dead arm" bullshit?)

Incidentally, it was the Pernice Brothers who composed the classic ditty inspired by a certain Mr. Ramirez, "Moonshot Manny" (Pega luna Manny!) And wouldn't it have been awesome for that song to be playing for Manny in a Jays uni this year? And just because we're a fan, we'll forgive Joe for bringing his Red Sox Nation tomfoolery to the Dome nine times a year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reminders of bad contracts from the past

Tim Dierkes, who is awesomely in charge of MLB Trade Rumo(u)rs, has a great recounting of the 1985 contract negotiation for Bill Caudill between the Blue Jays and a young Scott Boras, then in his nascent days as a baseball gadfly. Most definitely worth a read, especially for the younger generation who doesn't remember the times when the sainted Pat Gillick and beknighted Paul Beeston were being run out of town. (It really happened.)

And we'd criticize Boras for the skywriting self-promotion if we weren't about to pimp this post on Twitter.

Also from the "Things Could Be Worse" file
Ten years ago, the Blue Jays started the season with Willie Greene as their DH. And finished above .500. We're just sayin'.

And while we're talking rumours
Here's one we like, also from MLB Trade Rumo(u)rs: The Jays are keeping an eye on Dodgers middle infield prospect Chin-Lung Hu. Hu doesn't really have a starting gig in L.A. anymore, but could supplant Marco Scutaro or John McDonald given the chance. Also, Hu has slugged over .500 over the past few seasons in Las Vegas. Johnny Mac didn't slug .500 in Little League. Although he might now...maybe.

Price gets sent down, so what about Snider?
With the Rays sending David Price to AAA to start the season, does that provide a rationale for the Jays to do the same with Travis Snider? In a word: Nope.

Price is going to AAA to get on a regular rotation for the first few months of the season. In those first six weeks or so, the Rays would only need him to start a few times, so they'd rather get him into a rhythm to start the season.

The Jays already started Snider's clock last August - arguably too early - and though it is not too late to reel back at this point, we're not sure it makes much sense to do so.

Not to mention that Rogers is already using The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM in their Sportsnet promotions. Could they scrub him out digitally and replace him? With Kevin Millar?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A shocking admission: We heckled Roy Halladay

In a guest column written for the Ghosties, J from 3:10 to Joba equates the heresy of booing Derek Jeter to heckling Roy Halladay. Because it would take a real asshole to do something like that.

In fact, it would take an asshole like us.

It happened while Doc was in the midst of his Road to Redemption (or at least Relevance) Tour of the minor leagues when he stopped by the ballpark of a certain defunct Triple A franchise. We were in attendance, along with at least a couple of dozen other folks on this particular cold and damp weeknight. We had made a special trip to the game to catch a glimpse of the former Jays top prospect to see if he was likely to ever regain his form, or be vaguely as awesome as Kelvim Escobar. (Because what more could you have hoped for, really?)

We had a few tasty beverages in us as the game moved into the middle innings, and were generally enjoying the sound of our own voice as we expounded on the game of baseball to any poor sap caught within earshot. (This was before we had the blog as the outlet for this sort of jibber-jabber...you can take us out in public now.)

That's when the rains came. Actually, not so much rains as a small sprinkle. Which eventually turned into a vague mist.

And here's where you're going to have to suspend your disbelief and go with us, because it's where the story get weird: Doc was being really deliberate on the mound. Like sloooow. Long looks in to the catcher, and multiple meetings on the mound to go over the signs. His innings seemed to be taking forever.

And as Doc was chatting with his backstop and the rains shifted from a mist into a slight drizzle, we let our best snark fly:

"Come on Doc! I'm made of sugar here and I'm not going to make it through the rest of this inning at this rate!"

We got a few laughs and chuckles for that line, mostly from our inebriated buddy and a random SkyChiefs fan. But whatever positive reinforcement we received that night, it is not nearly enough to offset the dishonour that we've felt with each passing year.

We were "that guy". We heckled Roy Halladay.

We feel shame.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Best Regards, John Brattain

We're incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of John Brattain.

A passionate and prolific writer, John was never afraid to take an unpopular opinion and defend it with fierce intelligence and wit. Like many others have noted today, we didn't know him personally, but we felt as though we did through his writing. He will be missed.

Ricky Romero backs his way into the big leagues

It says something about the current state of the Jays rotation that Ricky Romero seems to be the only viable option for the fifth spot in the rotation when the team heads north.

Romero hasn't exactly been the picture of perfection over the Spring slate of fake games, posting a 5.73 ERA in four games, striking out 14 and walking 11. And yet, with the tenderness of Casey Janssen's repaired shoulder and Matt Clement's inability to throw strikes, the Jays are left with precious few other options. One other option might have been to bring lefty Brian Burres north, given his K/BB rate (13/2), although Burres didn't take the hill to start in any of those appearances.

With the Jays rotation likely to include three lefties (Romero, Purcey and Mills), it raises the question as to how many southpaws are too many in the pitching staff. In addition to the starters, the Jays will likely also have Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs and B.J. Ryan in the bullpen, meaning more than half of the staff will be of the right-brained variety. If nothing else, it should mean lots of hijinks in the bullpen.

Bart Given Stirs the Pot
After having given the Jays' former AGM guff for his orthography on his newly-launched Inside the Majors blog, let us take a moment to credit him for some thought provoking content posted over the past few days.

In one post, Given raises the prospect (pardon the pun) of keeping Travis Snider in AAA until at least mid-May to keep his service time under 171 days, thus preserving one extra year of arbitration rights on The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM. Given argues, quite reasonably, that Snider will be of more use to the team in 2015 than he would be in 2009.

We'd argue, however, that if Snider proves to be everything that he promises, then the team should sign him to an extended deal like the one that the Rays gave to Evan Longoria that buys out a few of those possible free agent years after 2015. It's a bit of a gamble, especially given that Snider is a few years younger and his body type seems like one that is more likely to break down over time. But it's a gamble we'd be willing to take, if only because we're way too anxious to see him producing in Toronto and staying away from the Vegas buffets.

Given also offers some fascinating insight into a managerial move made by Jim Fregosi, when he sent his preferred dirt dog Dave Hollins to the plate in the place of super-instense DH Brad Fullmer. It turns out that Fullmer pulled some sort of disappearing act in the clubhouse, necessitating the bizarre in-game maneuver.

Fregosi...Fullmer...Dave Hollins! God almighty, that seems like a lifetime ago. We're crossing our fingers and hoping for a Mickey Morandini story on the Given blog before the year is out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First day of spring means baseball, baby

I'm going to go on record right now and say that this has been one of the worst fucking winters of my life. Top five, for sure, and that's really saying something when you live in a city where -30 degrees is commonplace and simply means you need to zip your jacket up. -40 to -50? That shit is cold, man, and only an outrageous (and potentially baldfaced) liar will tell you that you "get used to it". You don't. Things freeze. It's painful. Not cool.

But that's all over for another year, my friends. Spring is in the air. Can you feel it? Can you? I can. Weather aside, the first day of spring means we are on the verge of some real baseball. What? Canada got eliminated good and early? You're dead to me, World Baseball Classic.

Spring training isn't just for the players - it's for the fans too, if my opinion counts for anything (that's rhetorical, smart guy). I keep up a ridiculous intensity for a 162 game season, and I need a good month of idle speculation and foaming at the mouth over stud prospects to ease me into this thing.

Projected 75 to 80 win season be damned (PENNANT!), I'm getting stoked. Come on April 6th - let's go.

Speaking of foaming at the mouth over stud prospects
Brad Mills is making this team, and I think we need to check our expectations. We're talking about a 24 year old arm who has never, in "the scouts'" estimation, projected to be anything more than a back-end starter, who is on the verge of making the bigs after one and a half seasons of pro baseball.

I think, in time, Mills can exceed those expectations - he's got a pretty good arm, Cito loves his makeup, he doesn't get rattled, he's apparently a pretty intelligent dude, etc - but even if he doesn't, that's still OK, right? I mean, come the World Series Season of 2010 (leave me alone), we're looking at a rotation consisting of some combination of Halladay, McGowan, Marcum, Litsch, Cecil, and Mills, right?

And yes, I know Doc is entering that tenuous "extend or trade" portion of his contract, Marcum is coming off TJ, and McGowan's surgically repaired shoulder is already barking. I know these things, but I'm wilfully choosing to ignore them. Besides, that's what big Dave Purcey is for, right? RIGHT??

Roy Halladay throws us a bone
That was cute of Doc to pretend he was human. I'm not fooled. Come on now Roy, you don't expect us to believe that you are anything more than a robotic pitching cyborg sent from the future to destroy opposing bats, do you? Because that shit is just ridiculous.

You know, it's a good thing that Jays management will find a way to extend his contract and ensure he never wears another team's jersey, because any other scenario would just be too much to bear.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Rock Out - Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos

Not to come off as an ingrate, but hasn't this whole spring training been going on a little too long? We get that after a long and cold winter of waiting for baseball's return, we should be happy that we're just two weeks away from the start of real baseball. But at this point, we're getting so tired of talking about disingenuous spring mancrushes, and who's going to make the team and who's not. Just get on with it already.

Random Tidbittery

-Lloyd (as always) pretty much nails it when he looks at the rather provincial response to Chipper Jones' distaste for Toronto. If he doesn't care for Toronto, then fine, but it is probably a little bit much to view Chipper's take as the character flaw of a redneck yahoo.

-Bastian notes that Travis Snider will get down on his hands and knees to receive Doc's benediction. Brett Cecil will wake up early in the morning for the same approval. We can't even tell you what we'd do.

-If you're A.J. Burnett (or a vase, or a thin pane of glass), and you're going to get hit with a line drive off the bat of a Blue Jay, you'd probably want that bat to belong to John McDonald. Because that shit will not break you.

-Former Jays AGM Bart Given's started a blog at insidethemajors.com. And though he has some problems with misplaced apostrophes, it's worth a read here and there. There's some interesting insight into the dates of note for MLB front offices, which is especially relevant at this time of year.

And with that, we leave you with Keef and his band of musical assassins singing one of our favourite Stones songs. The Ack is back for the weekend, and we walk off for the week before they make us run.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Jays' Dutch/Canadian Treat

Mister Baseball reported it yesterday, and Bastian confirms it via Twitter: The Jays are giving a tryout to Canadian-born Leon Boyd, the side-arming slider machine who closed for the Netherlands in the WBC.

(Actually, Blair confirmed it by tweet first, but since he doesn't follow us, we credit Bastian.)

We were pretty impressed with Boyd's stuff in the Classic, and figured he might actually be worth a look for some Major League team, but then again, we're no scout. As we've stated here before, we have an extreme weakness for relievers with funky deliveries. (Also, we find it hard to resist any song that contains handclaps. That's just us.)

Variable linkage
Various and sundry news and notes from around Blue Jaydom:

Hooray for Faint Praise! Baseball Digest Daily's Andy Spear tells us not to be surprised if "the Blue Jays do better than most people think". Rejoice!

Give us one good reason: Actually, Mop Up Duty provides five good reasons to follow the Jays. Plus, one gratuitous reference to The Wire. It's all in the game, yo.

More lists of lists: I Heart Halos, a blog for the fans of the Angels of one city and another, lists off their Fave 4 all time Blue Jays. We think that they might have a little too much love for Jesse Barfield, but there's no accounting for taste.

JoBau! JoBau! JoBau! The NatPost's John Lott figures that José Bautista (JoBau!) has the inside edge over Joe Inglett for the last spot on the Jays roster. (Nobody tell LJ.) If Bautista (JoBau!) does crack the roster before Inglett, we should pretty much assume that Voodoo Joe's spooky hoodoo will ensure that some bizarre injury befalls someone on the 25-man almost immediately.

Videologically idiotic: Toronto Sports Media posts that Nine More Outs video with the overly precious dudes doing mundane streeters outside the Rogers Centre. We've had the link sent to us twice by its creators and a few more times by readers, and frankly, we have yet to crack even the faintest smile at it. Maybe we're just not the laughing type.

Let's not go there: Eyebleaf ponders Jason Bay in a Jays uni. We're not even going there. Men go crazy at the prospect of those sorts of things, and they go even crazier when they see the results. Let's not forget that at one time, people pondered the same thing about Corey Koskie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Springtime mancrushes: Dirk Hayhurst

The standard caveats about the relative value of statistics in springtime fake games apply, but go with us here for a second as we get lost in the dreamy spring training numbers being put up by Dirk Hayhurst.

When the Jays plucked the aging minor leaguer off the scrap heap, the move elicited more than a few snorts and giggles along with the requisite hand-wringing. The Yankees were getting ready to load up on every arm in sight, and the Jays were scoping out guys with ERAs over 9? Fourth place! Fire J.P.! Contract the team! All is lost!

But a funny thing has happened in Florida over the past few weeks: Dirk Hayhurst has pitched his ass off. In seven innings so far, he has struck out 12 batters and has yet to give up a run or a walk. Hayhurst has been so dominant that one imagines that the only offensive force strong enough to face him may be Jason Lane.

Even with this otherworldly performance, Hayhurst will still be in tough to make the big league team come April. It seems unlikely that he could slide into the back end of the rotation after a couple of years coming primarily out of the bullpen, and the Jays have more than enough relief arms who are assured of a trip north.

(Which brings up a whole other question about whether the Jays could consider a start-by-committee scenario for the fifth starter slot, but that's another post altogether.)

Incidentally, if you want to get a better sense of the Jays new bullpen ubermensch, Hayhurst penned the "Non-Prospect Diary" column on Baseball America's over the past few years. These occasional entries offer some interesting insights into the life of a player hanging on to the last vestiges of his baseball dream, and make you root for Hayhurst that much more.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Let's not get ahead of ourselves

In this, the Spring of Diminished Expectations, we Blue Jays fans may have been getting a bit too revved up about the possibilities presented by the dynamic southpaw duo of Brett Cecil and Brad Mills.

Could they step into the decimated rotation and help salvage what seems to be a bit of a lost 2009 season? Would they turn a seeming weakness into a strength? Would they blow away not only the opposition, but also all of the naysayers and prophets of doom?

The news this weekend tossed a needed bucket of icy-cold water onto some of these rather lofty expectations. Cecil was given his ticket to the minor league camp (in the dubious company of a certain Mr. Maroth), while Mills gave up four hits and five walks to the Reds in Sunday's 5-4 extra-inning win. (Curtis Thigpen! Still the catcher of the future?!)

It's not to say that they won't be with the big club sooner rather than later. It's just that we should maybe temper our expectations of what they'll be able to offer at this early point of their development.

Hell, at 23, Jimmy Key spent his first season coming out of the bullpen and posting a 4.65 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. If either of those two young lefties were able to replicate the performances that Key put in over his subsequent eight years with the Blue Jays, we'd be thrilled. But, as Axl Rose said so many years ago, all we need is just a little patience.

Other notable notey notebook notes

Item number 1! Nadir Mohamed will be the next CEO of Rogers. It's hard to guess what this will mean for the RCI side of the equation, including the Blue Jays. Mohamed comes from the wireless side of things, so he may be willing to defer to CEOs of Rogers Media (Tony Viner) and the Blue Jays (Paul Beeston or his *cough snort cough* replacement)...but ultimately, we're left a bit uneasy by this. Wireless has always been a huge money maker for Rogers (system access fee my ass), and the media side of things scraped by, even before the advertising market went into the toilet. What will Mohamed think of the "red ink" in the other divisions when he is ultimately responsible for them?

Item number 2! We've avoided reading too many J.P. quotes this spring, if only because we don't put a ton of stock into them at this point. However, we were a bit disappointed to see the GM mention that Matt Clement is likely on the "outside looking in right now". It's not that Clement has blown anyone away as of yet, but we had started to get a bit optimistic that maybe he could rehabilitate his game and contribute in the short term.

In spite of the fact that we'd previously stated our belief that Clement wouldn't throw a pitch for the Jays, we find ourselves somehow rooting for him. Maybe it's the fact that he shaved that stupid facial hair off, thus making him more human to us.

Final item! We came to a stark realization this Sunday, about halfway through our second fantasy draft of the day: We kinda suck at fantasy baseball. Nobody should think of themselves as a roto authority when they take Kaz Matsui that early in a draft.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A two sentence post on....the spring rotation battle

I know that the prudent decision would be to break camp with Matt Clement in the rotation and the kids gaining some much needed experience down on the farm.

But who among us wouldn't be just a little more excited to see one of the young lefties, Cecil or Mills, head north with the big club?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Rock Out - Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' "Matatdor"

As we close out another week with some rockin' inspiration, we dedicate this week's musical selection to the awesome Venezuelan fans who made their way to the Rogers Centre for last weekend's WBC first round. We were in attendance at the U.S.'s blowout of Venezuela on Sunday, and we can't say enough about how much fun the South American brought to the usually sedate Dome.

Unfortunately, we North Americans are a little too quick to indulge in ironic detachment and empty-headed snark when it comes to sports. It seems at times as though there is an unspoken competition to see who can be the first off the bandwagon in any given game, and we can usually be sure that we'll have the chance to listen to some fatuous jackass in our section piling onto the home team within the first inning, if not during the announcement of the lineups.

These are the same sorts of people who will be calling into Wilner within the season's first week and stating their intention to give up on the season, because it is hopeless.

What we so admired about the Venezuelans in attendance that night (or indeed, any of the Latin American crowds that we've seen throughout the tournament) is that regardless of how far they have fallen behind, or how dire the circumstances look, they're still on their feet, dancing and singing and chanting. They're beating on drums and cowbells and blowing whistles and generally rooting for their team through to the last out.

They don't care if it's not rational, because they aren't there to be rational. They are there to be passionate supporters for their side.

That's not to say that there aren't vociferous fans in Toronto at some games. But unfortunately, the loud and boisterous fans tend to be drunken hecklers who randomly heap barely coherent scorn towards the field. Sadly, people seem to have lost sight of the distinction between sarcasm and wit.

So here's to our Venezuelan amigos, and all the Latin fans who kick our asses when it comes to representing for their teams. More cowbell, indeed.

¡Qué tenga un buen fin de semana!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fantasy Nerdlinger - Our 2009 Draft Strategery

You wouldn't believe the number of people who ask us for fantasy baseball advice. Like, at least three in the past year. We're like a regular Matthew Berry, only with a lot more hair. And no association to Crocodile Dundee 3.

The funny part about this is that we really haven't been a very good roto player in a few years. Maybe it's the fact that this blog has taken up most of our free time, or maybe it's the fact that Travis Hafner has steadfastly refused to do anything of worth for us over that time. Whatever the case, we've taken an unmerciful shit kicking over the past couple of years, and we're halfway bracing ourselves for more of the same this year.

With two league drafts coming up this weekend and another a week later, we're buckling down and doing our homework now. Which is to say, we're reading USA Today Sports Weekly and making handwritten lists of guys we like. It's all very high tech.

We should probably be guarding this information a little more fastidiously, given that most of the people with whom we will be playing in roto leagues this season read this blog. But fuck it, we're all about the transparency. So here, we offer six of the finer points of our strategic planning for the coming year's fantasy baseball season.

1) Coming to the acceptance that we are a pompous fool: Too often, we go into drafts wanting to be the first guy to pick the hotshot emerging star of tomorrow, only to be stuck with them all season long. Jeremy Hermida, Alex Gordon, Homer Bailey...we've wasted a lot of time, energy and mid-to-high draft picks on guys who weren't ready to perform in the majors. This year, we trust no one under the age of 30.

2) A nice healthy breakfast: In past years, our draft days would kick off with a bit of the Eggs Mayflower (scrambled eggs on bagel with cream cheese, covered with hollandaise sauce, and a side order of sausage...heart attack!! Miam yiam!) However, we've been on a health kick since Christmas, if only so that we can strip away some of the irony from our fat jokes made at Rod Barajas' expense. So this year, we're thinking a bit of yogurt, some artisanal granola and maybe some fresh fruit to go with our skim milk latte. Either that, or we'll just make coffee and eat chunks of cheese broken right off the block.

3) Find something entertaining to occupy Mrs. Tao: Not that she'll butt in on our hours and hours of draft day madness, but it's always good to find something to keep the wife happy while we're deciding between Jeff Keppinger and Clint Barmes. So we've ordered up a Lexington Steele Signature Series replica...actually, never mind. We'll just keep her happy.

4) Don't get too wrapped up in other people's rankings: We have a tendency to depend on the wisdom of others, and every year we get burned by putting too much stock in the ranting of some random yahoo who managed to get a job as a fantasy analyst. Actually, Matthew Berry's mancrush on Jeff Francoeur got the better of us in more than one league last year. (Thanks, TMR!) This year, we're taking the Colbertian approach and shooting from our gut. We're not going to care if Fanball or Ron Shandler or BallBustingFantasyWhores.com all dump on Oliver Perez...if he's there in the 20th round and we wanna take him, we're gonna take him! So suck it!

5) Less talk, more action: Sometimes, our draft day chatting gets the best of us. We get so distracted by questioning the manhood of our fellow competitors that we totally lose track of the fact that our team is starting to suck, and we're not even in the 10th round. Then there's the whole question of hurt feelings. Even if we don't mean any harm to some of our fellow competitors with our witty repartee and snide remarks, there is only so much that you can communicate about the tone of your quip through emoticons. This year, we're gonna tone it down. We're just going to put Marvin Gaye's "If I Should Die Tonight" on repeat, and feel the love.

6) Put down the Hater-ade: We used to have a strict "No Yankees, No Red Sox" rule on our fantasy teams. Then we downgraded it to "No Yankees". This year, we're going to hold our nose and take whoever we need to take to get the job done. We're through with spending all season scraping away at the waiver wire to find someone to help us reach the dizzying heights of sixth place when we could have just taken Mariano Rivera to start with.

So...That's pretty much it. The entirety of our fantasy strategy. Clearly, a path to glory.

And for the good fellows in the Tao's Roto Leagues
Our drafts are on Sunday, and you'd better be there at the appointed times, because we're not going to listen to you whine about how you needed to wash your mother's pantyhose and therefore missed the draft. If you've got to scrub momma's unmentionables before she'll feed you Sunday dinner, then get to work on your pre-rankings now. You only get one shot at this.

Small mercies - Doc still rocks

How about Roy Halladay's spring stat line? In nine innings, he has yet to give up a run, has given up just four hits, and has struck out 10 while walking two.

And that's in his spring tune-up starts. He's not even really trying yet.

Meanwhile, C.C. Sabathia gives up five runs in an inning and two-thirds yesterday.

Any chance we could get Halladay to pitch every third day? A 30-win season would look awfully good on Doc's Hall of Fame resumé.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Well, that didn't go quite as planned, did it?

It would be easy to start assessing blame and pointing fingers at this point by questioning why Canada left its best starter on the shelf for the entire tournament, or wondering what was going through Matt Stairs' head as he left six runners on base by flailing at pitches out of the zone. But none of that is going to help put Canada back in this year's event, so why bother?

(But is there a chance that this two-and-out result might help quiet the cult of the Ernie Whitt? Because that shit should pretty much end right about now.)

Maybe at this point, we can just tip our newly purchased Team Canada caps towards Chris Denorfia and Chris Cooper and Jason Grilli and the entire Italian team, who played a hell of a game when it counted. In a knockout tournament like this one, these things are going to happen.

And as we're sitting here feeling like a pile of beaver turd, somewhere in Arizona, Ryan Dempster is regaling someone with his Harry Carey impression. Prick.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The dog days of spring (training)

Does that even make sense? Or are "dog days" strictly limited to the summer? Either way. Let's go with it.

I can't help but sense we've hit a lull in camp; maybe it's because the WBC has taken over, maybe it's because the media has already written off the season for the Jays, maybe it's because I'm suffering a little training camp burnout from following this team so closely.

If you're getting the impression that I'm setting up for a semi-mailed in post of random thoughts and scattered ideas, well, that makes you quite perceptive, my friend. Shall we?

Adam Dunn has a passion for baseball
....and it only took one game in Toronto to figure it out:

“If this is like the playoffs, I have to be in the playoffs,” said the Nationals’ Adam Dunn, who homered in the sixth inning. “Every pitch matters. In that ninth inning, if your blood’s not boiling and your heart’s not pounding, you don’t have a heartbeat. This is the best experience I’ve ever had in baseball, and it’s only one game.”

In other news, scientists everywhere are scrambling to recalibrate their irony detectors.

Johnny Mac has a roster spot locked down
....or so the story goes (for now, anyway), which begs the question - who doesn't? It appears the Jays don't have room for all of Johnny Mac, John Wayne Millar, the Tao's favourite super sleeper Jose Bautista, and versatile everyman Joe Inglett.....so who goes?

Oh, and a quick note on this:

"Personally, I want to be a better offensive player," McDonald said.

I mean, it's a nice sentiment, John, and you know we love you, but just....stop.

I'm still on the Brett Cecil bandwagon, but I've got my eye on you too, Brad Mills
Cito loves him. JP Ricciardi loves him. And now, apparently, the sage old pitching coach Brad Arnsberg loves him too.

Am I wrong to think that Mills could be a sort of Jimmy Key-lite for this organization? You know, a bit of a finesse lefty who isn't going to blow hitters away with a mid-90's heater or lock a lot of knees with a massive breaking ball, but a guy who just gets people out and is a cooool motherfucker along the way? Or is that a little too springtime get-your-head-outta-yer-ass-ish? If so, just leave me alone. My head is just fine where it is, thankyouverymuch.

The Tao has much better taste in music than I do
What can I say - he's a classy dude, and I'm....well, let's just take a look at the kind of youtube clips that I tend to pull up. Yeah, enough said.

(One of those - yes, just one - was a joke. Kind of. It's funny, right? Right??)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Rock Out - The Incredible Bongo Band's "Let There Be Drums"

We're totally losing our mind with excitement over tomorrow's Canada-U.S. WBC tilt, and this little rocking gem is serving as a nice soundtrack for us as we bounce off the walls like a kid with three packs of Lik-m-Aid in him. Woo!

Incidentally, those from the East Coast may remember this song as the theme from late lamented Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. (Leo Burke! The Great Malumba! The Cuban Assassin! Leapin' Lanny! Killer Karl Krupp! "No Class" Bobby Bass! Coming to the Berwick Arena on Thursday! The Montague Coliseum on Friday! And the Colchester Stadium in Truro on Sunday!)

In fact, we think Matt Stairs should totally be playing this as he steps to the plate this weekend, and not just because he looks like he should be a wrestler in minor territory circa 1982.

Whether if you're headed down to the Dome, or if you plan to watch from home, we hope that this weekend's games warm your cockles and get you psyched for the season to come.

Let there be baseball.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is the Prime Minister of Defense ready to take his walk in the snow?

There was some interesting back and forth during yesterday's simultaneous live tweet-fests on the possibility that John McDonald could get squeezed out of the picture before the team goes north.

Both Jeff Blair and Jordan Bastian noted that the team is beginning to look at Joe Inglett as a possibility at short, and that the team doesn't think it can carry a bat as weak as Johnny Mac's much longer. When asked if Inglett has the arm to play short (a position he's played only 45 times as a professional and never in the Majors), Blair noted that he believes he does, but also "Most importantly, he has the bat".

Also in the mix, according to Bastian, will be José Bautista.

It's a bit sad to consider this as a possibility, given how much we (as most other Jays bloggers) love seeing McDonald's otherworldly defensive prowess. At the same time, it seems as though he has actually regressed at the plate, and the notion that soon-to-be 34 year-old McDonald is suddenly going to sort it all out and become an adequate hitter is at best wishful thinking. This isn't to say that it is the end of the line for Johnny Mac, but our guess is that it will take an injury or a trade out of town for him to see big league playing time this year.

It's funny, but considering how much we hate all this shite about gritty gamers, and heart and soul guys, and players who get themselves dirty, we've had much more of a soft spot for McDonald then we could have imagined. Then again, we don't think it's an exaggeration to say that he is the single greatest defensive player we've ever seen on the Blue Jays (and yes, that list includes Alomar, O-Dog, and Tony Fernandez.)

George Bell: Still awesome, still wearing his hat like that
Big League Stew caught up with George Bell around the Dominican Republic's WBC camp, where he had stepped out for a butt (and not a purple butt, we should point out). The impromptu interview is short but sweet, and worth the read for anyone who ever emulated his rocking batting stance.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Springtime mancrushes: Jason Lane

Spring Training, much like Spring Break, is a time to cast aside your inhibitions and allow yourself to develop unhealthy crushes on decidedly underwhelming subjects whilst under the influence of any number of intoxicants. (Our personal drug of choice this offseason: blind hope.)

So in the haze of optimism with which we surround ourselves these days, we're in full-on bromance mode with the Jays indomitable non-roster invitee Jason Lane. We're not actually watching the fake games, but when scoping out the boxscores, we can't help but get the impression that the team's fortunes will rise and fall depending on Lane's bat.

Okay, so maybe that's an overstatement. But at the same time, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could actually contribute this year. We shouldn't forget that in spite of having more outfielders that places to play them last Spring, we still got to enjoy more than half a season of Mencherson. And we use the term "enjoy" loosely.

Also worth noting: Lane's also played a handful of games at first in his career. Just sayin'. In case someone who usually mans that position has got the hernias, or the ricketts, or the boogie-woogie influenza.

We're not kidding ourselves here, and no one needs to be reminded of the heroes of past preseasons, like Simon Pond or Gabe Gross. But when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel to find reasons to believe, you've got to hope that Lane could hit 26 homers again. (Right?)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We've got us a touch of the WBC Fever

How funny is it to see a Tim Horton's cup - presumably a double-double - nestled at the feet of the anonymous Canadian in between Corey Koskie and Justin Morneau in the picture above. We don't even especially like Timmy's, but if blind patriotism is the order of the day, then we fully support our boys getting some Timbits shipped to their camp in Dunedin.

We're probably a sucker or a chump for having bought into this whole World Baseball Classic tomfoolery. But now that we've finally caved and bought our tickets, we're getting seriously geeked to see the Canada-U.S. game on Saturday afternoon.

We don't care if we're going to freeze our ass off on the walk to the ballpark. We don't care if we're going to end up sitting next to Americans. We don't even care if they are exhibition games. We're just glad to know that sometime on Saturday afternoon, we're going to hear the crack of the bat and the snap of a ball hitting leather.

On the other hand, we might just be happy to take a breather from talking ourselves into the idea that the 2009 season won't be a complete loss for the Jays.

We managed to catch a few innings of this afternoon's game, and it has us all the more stoked. Sure, we're a little concerned when we see pitches sailing to the backstop and catchers making ill-advised throws into the ground after fielding said wild pitches. Nevertheless, we like the look of the lineup that Canada is going to be able to roll out for a few games.

It's just too bad that all the good Canadian pitchers are such a bunch of bitches. (Yeah, ya heard right Dempster...bitches.)

Speaking of pitchers, how's this for a warm up to the WBC: the heavily left-handed Canadians will face World Series MVP southpaw Cole Hammels when they play the Phillies tomorrow. Nice.

Monday, March 2, 2009

If Orlando Cabrera is the answer...

...then seriously, what the fuck was the question in the first place?

For the amount of machinations that the Jays are going to have to make use of in order to add this dude (or is that dud?) to the roster, you'd think they might want to go after someone who gives you more than Marco Scutaro can provide.

SUPERAWESOME UPDATE! The A's sign Cabrera! The A's sign Cabrera!