Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sunny afternoon baseball (or not)

Oh, what we wouldn't give to unshackle ourselves from our desk and head to a purveyor of tasty beverages to enjoy this afternoon's game between the Jays and Royals. Sadly, we've left our transistor radio at home, and will likely have to settle for sniffer toner cartridges and tracking the game on GameDay.

That is, supposing that the game actually gets played. The Weather Channel says it is raining in KC at the moment, with thunder storms on their way this afternoon. Perhaps Thor the God of Thunder feels much the same way we do about a Brian Burres start, and is conspiring to keep him off the field.

And if that is indeed the case, then we say: Have at it, Thorsy.

If parity is what you want...

A thought occurred to us as we were listening to last night's beatdown at the hands of the Royals. One of the old saws that gets yanked out every season by barstool pontifcators and JaysTalk callers is that there are some mediocre teams that the Jays can't afford to lose to if they are going to remain competitive.

At various times, the Tigers, Rays, Orioles, Mariners and, notably, the Royals fell into this category of weaker sisters that some assumed should be easy pickings, and when the Jays lost to these lesser teams, people totally lost it.

Setting aside whether if this theory was sound (and it probably wasn't), a glance through the American League in 2009 shows us that there really aren't any allegedly easy wins for the Jays or any other team this year.

All of the teams in the Central look to be at least .500 teams, and the West - with the offensive juggernaut Rangers and the surprising Mariners - looks as though it could be a four team race well into the summer. Almost every team has relative stregnths and weaknesses, and no team stands out as exceptionally weak or an outright disaster along the lines of the Nationals.

Speaking of which: Let's not tally those interleague games against Washington in the win column for the Jays just yet.

The upside of this parity is that we'll likely two-thirds of the AL in the mix for playoff spots all season long, and every game is going to be that much more important if the Wild Card will be up for grabs to a team with a win total in the low 90's.

Bring on the nail-biters.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bring on the SI Cover Curse!

Zack Greinke has a great story to tell (and a great writer in SI's Joe Posnanski to tell it) on how he overcame debilitating bouts of anxiety.

And while we wish Greinke a long and prosperous career, we wouldn't mind seeing him get hit with a bit of the classic SI Cover Curse tonight.

Recommended reading: Zack Greinke Is In Total Control, by Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated, May 4 2009

Bump around

One night after a rather dreadful effort by both the pitching and the offense, everything looks to be back in order. A Jays win and a Red Sox loss (finally), and our boy are back on top. Where they belong.

Scott Richmond will make a believer out of you yet
With a standard caveat that it is early in the season, it is David Lynch weird to look at the Jays leaders in ERA and to see Scott Richmond placed ahead of Roy Halladay, more than a full run better (2.70 to 3.75). We're not about to lose our heads with Richmond and suppose that he'll post a sub-3.00 ERA for the full season, but he has looked efficient and capable thus far.

Richmond has gone at least six innings in his last three starts, giving up just four earned runs over that period. By all rights, he should be no better than the team's fifth starter, but if he has to pick up some of the slack while Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero convalesce, at least he seems capable.

Aaron Hill is still awesome
We figured that last year would be Aaron Hill's big breakout season until a certain unnamed gritty gamer showed a little too much heart and determination and wacked him upside his head.

Thankfully, Hill is making up for lost time this year. He has reached base in all but one game this year, and has hits in 20 of the team's 22 games. He leads the Majors in hits with 36, and sits tied for sixth in the bigs for RsBI along with (interestingly enough) Ian Kinsler and Chase Utley.

Marco Scutaro is a leadoff hitter
Some people get too wrapped up in their notions of what a leadoff hitter is supposed to be. If you were to have asked before the season, there were plenty of people who would have preferred a scrappy slap hitter with speed...not unlike the useless starting shortstop and leadoff man with whom the Jays began their season last year.

But full marks go out to Scoots, who has fully embraced his table-setting role so far this season. He is currently in second place in the big leagues with 21 walks, one behind Jason Bay. (And one ahead of Adam Dunn, who dislikes baseball so much that he refuses to take his bat off his shoulder.) Scutaro's walk rate thus far is way out of line with anything he's done before, although we'd like to think that is an indication of his embracing the new role at the top of the lineup.

We're not about to lose our head here and call Scutaro the MVP of the team like some did last year, but he's been exactly the sort of offensive catalyst that you need at the top of your lineup and a key to the Jays' good fortunes thus far.

Silver linings
Travis Snider has been grounding out a lot over the past week or so, and his early season numbers are coming back to Earth. But if we have to find some solace in this recent spate of groundouts, it's probably the fact that we're impressed with how quickly Snider gets down the line for a big strapping lad. There have been a few plays where we actually for a quarter-second thought that Snider had a shot at beating a play out, and we're sure that he will before the season is out.

And dare we say it? Snider looks like he runs as well as the former Gold Glover to his left in the outfield.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The K has lost that special feeling

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium has always been one of our favorite big league ballparks.

With its majestic fountains and the lawn beyond the outfield fence, "The K" always seemed like a great traditional park without the faux-retro veneer that many of the newer stadia attempt to use to sell a nostalgia for a time that never was. So we were a little surprised and sad earlier in the season when we saw a Yankees-Royals game in the "New" Kauffman Stadium.

After getting a better look at it in last night's Jays-Royals game, we reluctantly understood what the team was going for and why they made the adjustments they did. There seems to be more of a party atmosphere beyond the outfield walls, and for a team that draws as poorly as the Royals have in recent years, causing some sort of commotion can't hurt.

(In fact, seeing the "Party Porch" beyond the outfield wall made us wonder for a second whether if this sort of thing would work at the Rogers SkyDome. And then we thought of all of the shenanigans that a bunch of lightweight douchebag frat boys could get into in such a venue, and perished the thought.)

Obviously, a team has got to maximize their income in those 81 home dates every year, and we don't begrudge the Royals for attempting to create a new atmosphere, replete with food and beverage and other revenue opportunities. (And from the sounds of things, the fans like it.)

We're sure that we'll come around and acclimate eventually to the new set up, and we admit that we are probably just being an old fogey. Still, we're going to miss the old K.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A two-word review of tonight's 7-1 loss to the Royals

Shit sandwich.

High fives all around

Last night, as the Red Sox were winning their tenth straight, we caught ourselves thinking about the AL East standings, and felt vaguely relieved about the fact that the Jays remain a full game ahead of Boston in spite of the Beantowners' recent surge.

Scoreboard watching, even this early in the season, is pretty awesome.

Headed into Kansas City for a four-game set with the Royals, the Jays have won all six of their series thus far. We're not sure what the rest of the season has in store, but for now, we recommend taking a moment and relishing the fact that you, my fellow Blue Jays fans, are in the midst of the best start to the season in the history of the franchise.

The baseball world is taking notice
One of the standard complaints amongst Toronto fans is that the American baseball media tends not to take notice of the Blue Jays' achievements, but that's not the case this year. The Sporting News' Richard Justice leads a column today on the next generation of baseball stars by pumping up Aaron Hill's hot start, along with the great first months of Ricky Romero and Jason Frasor.

A moment of recognition for Cito
While some of us negative nellies in the blogosphere seem ready to pounce on Cito Gaston's every misstep, here's something worth considering: USA Today points out that the Blue Jays have the best record in the Major Leagues (65-43) since Cito took over the reins of the club on June 20, 2008.

Speaking of managers...
Brace yourselves. With John Gibbons now serving as bench coach for the KC Royals, we fully expect that the next four days will be pretty much dedicated to an analysis of the whole Gibby versus Cito thing. Heck, we may even indulge.

A thought on the KC series
Not to say that the rest of the clubs that the Jays have played so far are tomato cans, but with the pitching that the Royals will send to the mound over the next four games - including Bryan Bannister, Gil Meche and Zack Greinke - this will be the first big test of the Jays' offensive mettle so far.

And we say: Bring it on.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Summer of Tallet rolls on

It's easy to get distracted by 21 hits and 14 runs, but the story of last night's 14-0 win over the Chicago White Sox may well have been the impressive outing by makeshift starter Brian Tallet.

(And even if that isn't the story, that's the angle that we're going with. Because we want to keep fueling this Summer of Tallet meme.)

Tallet's 5 2/3 innings of scoreless are impressive and most appreciated given the depleted state of the staff. And while the final score makes the game look like a laugher, Tallet did yeoman's work keeping the Pale Hose off the scoreboard early when the game was still close in the first four innings. The only blip in his performance may have been the three walks he issued, but we'll cut him a little slack on his location given the crazy swirling winds last night.

Our favorite play of the night was Tallet's perfectly executed covering of first base on a hot shot to Overbay, after which the long, lean, loping lefty continued sprinting halfway down the right field line. (You just can't stop a beast like Tallet in mid-gallop.)

And as for the offense?
If the ruling philosophy is "Get A Pitch To Drive and Hit It", then the Jays adhered to it admirably last night. It's amazing to think that they were able to score the first 13 runs without a single long ball.

Alexei Ramirez certainly helped the Jays' offense along at several crucial points last night, but maybe the lesson out of that is that a hard hit ball will always have a chance to make things happen.

(Or something like. We're pretty much making this up as we go along. When's the Ack back again?)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Rock Out - The Gandharvas' "Downtime"

You'll have to excuse us for going back to the 90's Can-Rock well once again, but we couldn't resist with this gem. This used to be a standard entry onto mixed tapes that we'd make for friends, and was usually the song that they didn't know but would ask about.

We like it because it sounds like a nice Canadian version of Jane's Addiction without the ostentatious preening. You may choose to dislike for the very same reasons.

We also like it because it's pretty kick ass lyrically. "Some just want to smear themselves across something beautiful..."

Other stuff
We'd do a Friday link dump, but the Blue Jay Hunter already beat us to it. So go read his, because we would have just linked to the same articles anyways.

And don't forget to check in with Joanna at Hum and Chuck. Just because. You should.

Working over time
Having squeezed every last bit of energy out of the Ack, we've given him the weekend off to spend with his family. Which means that we'll have to post something over the weekend just to keep you all entertained and interested. We can't guarantee what sort of quality you'll get out of us, given that we'll be at some level of drunkeness for most of the next few days. Bear with us...we're only one man.

For those of you who prefer the Ack's weekend takes to our own, you'll have to wait another seven days before he drags himself back into work. Sorry.

We're all losers in the long, slow, sad battle of Canada's media companies

It felt for a moment yesterday as though we were being drafted into battle over the announcement that the rights to the Jays' mid-May series against the Red Sox were acquired by CTVglobemedia to be shown on TSN2.

The notion that we - like thousands of other Jays fans - will likely not be able to see those games frustrates us immensely. But at the same time, we wonder how much energy we have to engage in what is surely to be an almost pointless exercise in trying to convince these two media monoliths to give an inch in what seems to be an intractable battle over the sports media landscape.

A few points for the sake of context. TSN gets the highest subscription fees of any Canadian cable channel, meaning that the network has an institutionalized advantage over Sportsnet or the Score when it comes to acquiring content. A few years back, Rogers and Headline Sports both went to the CRTC to ask for significantly larger fees, in part because they saw the way that TSN was bidding up the rights to properties beyond what was rational. They received a very modest increase, but nothing near what they had asked for and certainly not enough to play the money game with TSN.

Before the introduction of the "alternate feed", TSN would timeshift programs that they couldn't fit into their schedule into the wee hours of the morning, usually resulting in a handful of pissed off tennis or Formula 1 fans. It wasn't a great move for the viewers, but in a battle such as this, the execs and programmers generally look at the audience as a secondary concern. (At their peril, but we'll come back to that.)

Now that TSN has evolved from having an occasional alternate feed to a full blown second channel, they are certain to use their institutionalized financial might to bid up the rights to any and all sports properties that they want, regardless of whether or not if they can fit them into their schedule. Think of TSN as the Yankees, having more money to spend and using it to their competitive advantage.

It seems as though Rogers' tactic at this point is to squeeze off access to theis channel from their significant subscriber base, thus minimizing the impact of the second TSN channel on their four allegedly regional sports networks. The thinking seems to be that if they let the second feed wither on the vine, then it will eventually go away. The thing is, TSN2 won't go away. CTVglobemedia is willing to engage in a battle of attrition over this incredibly valuable property, and they have the resources and the will to go to the wall for this.

With this latest salvo between the companies, we can just imagine how pleased the TSN-types are with themselves at having the opportunity to really stick it to Rogers. Acquiring a Rogers property and airing it on a channel that Rogers refuses to make room for has probably resulted in all sorts of giggling and backslaps and attaboys, much in the way that they gloated like shit-eating frat boys at their pointless and petty acquisition of the Hockey Song away from the bumbling navel gazers at CBC.

With apologies to Raptors fans, the acquisition of the Blue Jays games for TSN2 will likely prove to be the true test of this rivalry. Jays games traditionally bring in more than 300,000 viewers on TSN and around 250,000 on Sportsnet, numbers that dwarf the basketball numbers. The question is: How much damage is one part of Rogers (the BDU or cable guys) willing to do to another part of the company (the Blue Jays) in order to maintain their position in an ultimately unwinnable war?

(And following up on that thought: What is going on with the Blue Jays in relation to their corporate parents when they are willing to sell the rights to these games to a competitor who will use the games to rachet up pressure on the Rogers Cable unit to give in on their resistance to carrying this channel? Are the Blue Jays going out on a limb here?)

Our hope is that Rogers and CTV come to their senses and sort these issues out, because the longer that they allow this sort of tomfoolery to go on, the more likely it is that you will Canadian sports fans stepping around the regulated broadcasting system and finding the games that they want to see on internet streams in the unregulated universe. And they might want to ask someone in the music business how easy it is to get those customers back once they leave.

The longer this battle goes on, the more likely that any victory gained between these two companies will ultimately prove to be a pyrrhic one. So really guys: Smarten the fuck up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

PANIC! Romero on the DL!

Via the Globe's Bobby Mac, Ricky Romero is headed to the DL with an oblique strain.

(Don't panic...don't panic...don't panic...don't panic...don't panic...don't panic...)

No word yet on who will get the call to come up, but the Jays don't have an off day until May 11, so they won't have much latitude with their rotation, and will have to get a body to fill in. None of the starters at Las Vegas are setting the world ablaze at this point, though Brad Mills (4.70 ERA, 9 Ks / 8 BBs in 15.1 innings) seems like the most likely candidate.

The Jays could go a little nutty and look to Double-A prospect Reidier Gonzalez (1.37 ERA, 9 Ks / 5 BBs in 19.1 innings at New Hampshire), or Fabio Castro or Luis Perez. Of those four pitchers, Perez is the only one on the 40-man roster, which might also contribute to the decision.

UPDATE!!! MORE PANIC!!! MLBastian tweets that B.J. Ryan is headed to the 15 Day with trap tightness.

(Actually, we're kinda relieved - pardon the pun - about this news. New closer auditions!)

Four seasons in one game

Not to over-egg the pudding here, but last night's walkoff 8-7 win over the Rangers was one of the most exciting, frustrating, demoralizing, reenergizing games we've seen the Blue Jays play in a long time. So much happened in the space of last night's game that you know they couldn't fit that shit all into nine innings.

Here's our quick breakdown, broken into its component parts:

The Dopeness
-The Jays winning their third walkoff of the year before they even open the lid on the Dome.

-Rod Barajas cranking out two homers, and having one of the best freakouts on the umpire after taking a called strike three that was three inches below his knees.

-Alex Rios going four for six with two RsBI and looking infinitely better (and as Alan Ashby pointed out, much more quiet) at the plate.

-José Bautista getting four hits and scoring twice. Jo-Bau!

-Jason Frasor, continuing to be awesome with his new changeup. Chalk up two more scoreless innings for the guy who was once the forgotten man in the pen.

-Cito working his seemingly dubious magic and leaving Kevin Millar in against Kason Gabbard Darren O'Day for the winning hit.

The Wackness
-The Beej. Oh, the Beej. Four appearances, two saves, two blown. Maybe it's not time to relax about him.

-Aaron Hill's error to extend the ninth, allowing the Rangers to come back.

-Seeing Travis Snider bunt. Every time Snider squares around to bunt, a little part of us dies inside.

-The empty park, apparently abandoned by fans who had better things to do on a Wednesday night than stick around for a walkoff win.

Don't look know, but it's time to start scoreboard watching
The Jays are still on top of the AL East, but the Red Sox (seven straight wins) and the Yankees (three straight) now sit a game and a half back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The night of broken bats

The two incidents that clearly stand out from last night's 5-4 loss to the Rangers are two broken bats. Hank Blalock's broken bat, which felled home plate umpire Kerwin Danley, and the bat that Travis Snider snapped over his knee. The incident with Blalock's bat raises some obvious concerns, given that it is part of a continuing rash of snapped lumber that is becoming an epidemic across baseball.

Broken bats are certainly nothing new in the game. What is disconcerting is the way that players are shaving their bat handles down to nothing while increasing the size of the bat head, resulting in a hitting implement that is too heavily balanced towards one end.

We've wondered aloud in the past whether if MLB shouldn't step in and legislate on the size of bats and the ratio between the size and weight of the handle versus the head, but our assumption is that such a rule would only result in players working harder to skirt the rules in order to gain a competitive advantage. One could imagine that, like hockey players with their sticks, hitters would carry legal bats and illegal bats and swap them in and out of games depending on the situation.

Sadly, we're going to continue to see incidents like last night's until either a star player or a spectator gets seriously injured.

You wouldn't like Travis Snider when he's angry
It's always pretty funny to watch a player lose his shit and snap a bat over his knee, but we're a little concerned over The Pasty White Hope's reactions to a couple of at bats last night.

Snider followed up breaking his bat after a strikeout with a total freakout after popping up with the bases loaded in the eighth. And while it's great to know that Snider is passionate about the game and never wants to give an inch, we worry that his ostentatious outward anger is a sign of some inward frustration that could affect his game. Baseball is a game of failure, and we hope that Snider is able to handle the bad at bats as well as the good.

Another thought on Snider
Sniderman's been getting under a lot of balls in the past few games and popping them up. We're not sure if this is a sign that the swing is a little off or that pitchers are keeping things down a little better against him, but here's hoping that he makes the adjustment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A plea for penance

Let us pray.

O Readers! Thou art so patient when we spend the better part of a day helping to promote the nascent media careers of attractive concession workers. And thou art merciful when we suck all of the fun out of things.

We beseech thee to accept our humble offerings of baseball-related links as penance for our trespasses.

O Readers! We are not worthy to receive you, but only say the word (in the comments section) and we shall be healed.

For thine is the computer, the browser, and the high speed connection, for ever and ever. Play ball!

Doc Day Link Dump!
-Lloyd/Drew at the Ghostrunners goes totally serene in an introspective digression. Also, he guests on the Walkoff Walk podcast and promises Jays content.

-Neate at Out of Left Field passes on the news that Demitri Martin ("Ladies...") is going to portray Paul DePodesta in the Moneyball movie. (No word on who will portray Brant Colamarino, and whether if they will have titties.) Lloyd the Barber better hurry the eff up and finish that book before the movie comes out, or else the ending's going to be ruined for him.

-The Blue Jay Hunter gets hisself ready for a slugfest at the old ballyard tonight. Also, he loves George Bush.

-Mop Up Duty's got no love for Alex Rios and his GIDPs.

-Bart Given ditches the Inside the Majors blog to write on the problem with baseball's disciplinary system on (We figured that kid had potential.)

-The Te of Inglett sends out prayer offerings for Michael Barrett and his once-broken junk.

-Rob Neyer, who was hidden from us for the past few years behind the dark menacing wall of the ESPN Insider site, has now got a blog called the SweetSpot on the four-letter net's public site. We'd forgotten how much we enjoyed his take on things since they tucked him away.

What ever happened to K-Zone?

Maybe we missed the memo on this one, but does anyone know what's happened to the pitch tracking technology which goes by K-Zone on ESPN and a jumble of other names on regional broadcasts?

We've watched a fair bit of baseball this season on a number of different broadcasters, and we've noticed that this tool, in its varying forms, isn't being used at all this year. We know that baseball has switched strike zone information providers from QuesTec to Zone Evaluation, which may explain the absence of the graphic.

For those of you who track this sort of thing, is there any difference in the pitch data that is being made available this year?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Apparently, Aaron Hill doesn't like black people

This season was probably going too swimmingly. Perhaps a little viral controversy could shake up our blissful early season lovefest?

We've got no idea who these Action Seat chicks are, or what purpose these videos might serve, or how they managed to get press credentials. But, oh, to be a fly on the Blue Jays' clubhouse wall as they all gather around someone's laptop to watch this car wreck.

(H/T to Hale at the Mockingbird, via Big League Stew)

That's a big 10-4, good buddy

Sure, we could spend our sleepy Monday off-day quibbling about Cito's carved in stone lineups, or Alex Rios' awful start, or David Purcey's inability to find the strike zone. We can pick nits with the best of 'em, but frankly, when the Jays finish up their second week of the season with ten wins and at the top of the AL East, it seems more than a bit ungrateful to start looking for the downside of up.

We've got the Scoots Fever
Though he went hitless in the last two games, Marco Scutaro's start to the season has been nothing short of awesome. His four homers and 10 RsBI are worth celebrating, but more than that, his 12 walks and .418 OBP out of the leadoff spot have been a crucial part of the Jays' offensive success to this point.

Scutaro didn't get a whole lot of respect before the season started, with people questioning his suitability as a leadoff hitter and his defense at short. So far, Scoots has been equal to the tasks, nothwithstanding a bobbled ball here or there. Certainly, Marco's first two weeks has quieted the hue and cry for John McDonald to get starts at short down to the faintest of whispers.

Podcasted Taoisms
We were fortunate enough to be invited to share our views on the Jays' hot start with the fellas over at the Drunk Jays Fans on their weekly podcast, and appropriately enough, we were wickedly hung over when we spoke to them. If you're interested in hearing us make incomprehensible jokes about Gary Carter having an orange shadow (wha?), or if you want to listen to us contradict ourselves on Cito, Gibby, and Brian Tallet (whatchyoutalkinbout?), then tune in later today when the podcast gets posted. A good time was had by all.

(Update: Hey look! It's posted! Enjoy listening to us prattle on. We've already listened to our segment four times.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday quick-hitters (pitchers)

BOOM.....Ricky Romero is pitching like a rookie of the year candidate.

BOOM.....Scott Downs is proving that he just might be the best left-handed set-up man in baseball.

BOOM.....BJ Ryan looked strong in picking up his second save of the season.

BOOM....the Jays are 10-4. Ten wins, four losses.

(somebody else say it for me....)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What's a guy gotta do?

While you're admiring the brilliant prose I managed to cobble together for this blog post title, I have a confession to make.

When it comes to armchair managing, I'm guilty as charged.

Part of being a fan of a team is pretending that you have all the answers where the morons running the show do not. It's what we all do, right? It's fun! And we watch so much baseball that we know that we're least I think that I am (not you, you're way off, pal).

I'll be the first guy to tell you that The Cito is doing Travis Snider no favours by shielding him from anyone born with a propensity to deal from the left side. But I'll also conveniently forget that he did the same to Adam Lind last season, and, well, he's faring pretty well in full time duty against southpaws so far this year. I'll get in line to tell you that Lyle Overbay (or Snider) should be pinch-hitting for Kevin Millar late in ballgames against right-handers, but I won't mention that Millar (sample size alert!) is showing some nice reverse splits this season. I'll prattle on and on about Cito's in-game management.....and gloss over the fact that a team that was predicted to be in a battle for the AL East basement currently sits at 8-4.

Yes, tonight's disappointing loss to the Athletics notwithstanding (fuck off, Oakland), we've been lucky to watch some pretty damn good winning baseball from the home nine thus far, so let's all maybe save the "this is just like post-'93 Cito!" wailing for now, huh? Who are we, the Sons of Sam Horn?

(Until the team drops 5 or 6 straight, of course - then your ass is mine, skip.)

I've run out of superlatives for Roy Halladay, so I'll let actual big leaguers do the talking
Just when I thought my man-crush on the good doctor was reaching epic proportions, he has to go and up the ante. At least I know that I'm not alone on this one:

Scott Rolen: "This is really, really unfair, but we've come to expect things like that from him."

Brandon League: "After the third one, guys in the bullpen were yelling 'THAT'S WHY HE'S THE BEST!' "

Michael Barrett: "Like in Cleveland the other day -- man on third, none out, he strikes out the side."

Barajas: "There's no panic in that situation he has so many weapons -- ground balls, strike outs, no reason to feel pressure."

....and from the opposition:

"He could go out there one day and just throw all cutters and beat you, and then he could go out there one day and just throw all sinkers and beat you, and then he could go out there and throw all curveballs one day and beat you," Cuddyer said. "Today he had all three of 'em. ... It's hard to find a better pitcher over the last seven or eight years than him."

Life with Roy Halladay is good indeed. I never want it to end. I could be wrong, but it feels like I've maybe said that before....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Rock Out - Salmonblaster

Now there's a little blast from an increasingly distant past. Listening to this song makes us want to grow our hair, go out sport drinking, make out on the dance floor with some girl who hasn't yet discovered the benefits of antidepressants, and stumble home at 5 am.

Alas, a night like that may well kill us now. (And if the night didn't kill us, Mrs. Tao might.)

Dear Music Industry
Can we talk for a second? Okay, here goes: We're pretty much the last person we know who is enough of a sucker to go out and pay for music. Generally, we don't admit to as much in public, because the level of ridicule that gets heaped on us for being such a sucker is almost unbearable.

So as one of your last defenders, we have to tell you this: You've go to stop with the remastered anniversary editions of CD's. Seriously. We've already bought Ten and Check Your Head and The Bends and we're no about to shell out any more for a couple of extra songs and the enhanced sonic experience of listening to these. Master these motherfuckers right the first time, and we'll have no qualms about buying them. Once.

Perfunctory Baseball Content
How wicked is it to have the mighty Blue Jays coming home after ripping it up in their first week and a half? And to an open SkyDome! (Allegedly!)

Here are the lefty-heavy pitching matchups for the weekend series versus the A's:

Tonight, 7:07 - David "Ginger Balls" Purcey (0-1, 4.65, 15Ks/9 BBs) versus Josh Outman (0-0, 6.23 ERA, 3 Ks/ 2 BBs)

Saturday, 1:07 - The Summer of the Tallet! (0-0, 6.14 ERA, 9 Ks / 4 BBs) versus Trevor Cahill (0-1, 2.35 ERA, 4 Ks / 8 BBs)

Sunday, 1:07 - LL Cool Rick'Ro (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 7 Ks / 2 BBs), versus Dallas Braden (1-1, 3.75 ERA, 6 Ks / 2 BBs)

It's going to be a beautiful weekend, so either get your keyster down to the park, or fire up your best transistor radio, enjoy the weather and listen in to Jerry and Alan as they describe the goin's on.

Welcoming home our conquering heroes

After a 5-2 road trip and a 8-3 jaunt through the American League Central, the Blue Jays return home with the best record in AL to start a weekend series against the Oakland A's tonight. But will they get the triumphant welcome that they deserve?

For all of the offseason angst, focusing on what a lost season this would be, the Jays are coming home leading the Majors in runs, hits, homers batting average and RsBI.

Given this auspicious start to the year, wouldn't it be nice to see some large and enthusiastic crowds at the Rogers Centre this weekend? It seems likely that the roof will be open, so here's hoping that people can pry themselves away from playoff hockey long enough to relish this moment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is it too early to fret about Alex Rios?

Back in January, we figured that the lynchpin of the Jays offense this year would be a certain corner outfielder who, at one point, was viewed as the future of the franchise. And while we couldn't be happier with the performances of Travis Snider and Adam Lind thus far, we're getting a bit antsy about the at bats of that other corner outfielder.

It's a given that it is way too early to freak out about Alex Rios, especially given that he's still managed to score six times and drive in another six so far. But there's something about the way Rios looks at the plate that has made us sit uncomfortably in the first week or so of the season.

Rios is a lanky and gangly assembly of appendages, and so far this year, it seems like all four of his limbs seem to be operating independently of one another. When compared to the economical swings of the players around him in the lineup (especially Rolen, Hill, Snider and Scutaro), Rios looks like a mess when coming through the hitting zone. His hands go up and down and everywhere, and his balance seems totally off. At times, it looks like he's falling backwards in his swing rather than coming to the ball.

In the field, we've said that Rios can at times look like a blisfully oblivious gazelle. At the plate this season, he looks like a gazelle on ice.

So with the standard caveats (small sample size, it's early, lots of baseball to play), we're hoping that is all stuff that can be worked out. We're certain that the magical mystical troika of hitting sages in the Jays staff are already hard at work showing Rios the way and the light, but it's just a little nerve wracking to see him try to figure things out while hitting in the three-hole.

And we know that Cito would never move him out of his spot in the lineup, because that might hurt his tender feelings.

What's 42 multiplied by inifinity?
We love that MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, and that they go out of their way to single out his contribution to the game. But wasn't it overkill yesterday to see every single uniform festooned with Robinson's now-iconic number 42? We recognize that it might seem like a petty quibble, but in the three games that we watched yesterday, we were totally lost trying to figure out who was who.

We guess that the patchwork of the past few years wasn't exactly working with a few players on every team wearing 42. In addition, there was the uncomfortable issue that the initiative was at times serving to underscore the fact of how few African Americans are actually playing baseball when teams were scraping to find someone to wear the number on that day. On top of that, there's the whole issue of who "deserves" to wear the number, and whether if that runs down racial lines, which is totally counterproductive.

Our suggestion would be that one player on each team get the honour of wearing 42 on that day, and that the honour be bestowed on them by Robinson's family based on some criteria of social responsibility. Wouldn't that make the number special again?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

And the hits just keep on coming

So here's the question of the evening (before we retire in a 'Tussin fueled haze of bliss): At what point do we turn the page on the conventional wisdom that the Jays would have a lousy offense this season?

That question occurred to us as we were watching homer after homer leave the yard in yet another ring-a-ding-dinger fest. We get that these are still early days, and that there's another 25 weeks left in the season. But with the Jays pounding out four homers and twelve runs in a 12-2 rout of the Twins, we're wondering if anyone other than us is noticing.

Because, really, any man, woman or child that fails to recognize the awesome power of this immaculately managed offensive juggernaut runs the risk of running themselves into a big-time Voodoo Whammy(!) that is sure to leave a mark.

Tomorrow morning on the blog
Hopefully we'll be a little less shakey, feverish and medicated (damned Venezuelan Mamba Flu!). Also, a thought on Jackie Robinson Day, and irrational early concerns over a certain offensive linchpin.

Ever forget your Lunch Box?

That sucks, and it is frustrating. Because you know that while you're there starving, there's all sorts of powerful, nourishing, tasty goodness in your Lunch Box, wherever you left it. But you can't enjoy all that your Lunch Box has to offer, because you're an idiot who left it on the bench...or wherever you left it.

Kinda seems like Cito might have had that sort of thing happen to him tonight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

That's what Travis Snider thinks of your small ball

When it comes time to actually take the wrecking ball to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, someone might consider giving Travis Snider a call.

Snider, who a day earlier was asked to square around and bunt over runners in an 8-4 loss to the Clevelanders, crushed two mammoth blasts into the far reaches of the aging stadium, leading the Jays to an 8-6 victory over the Twins. So the moral of the story, once again, is that small ball sucks.

(Take that, Juan Pierre Fan Club!)

When Snider was asked to give himself up to help move Rod Barajas' big slow butt up 90 feet, we turned to the father-in-law and said that we hoped that this is the last time we had to see nonsense like that. And while we mind don't that Magical Baseball Sage Cito Gaston has decided to take a slow route with Snider and make him earn his Major League bona fides, we're pleased as punch that The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM has already begun to make the case for a spot further up the lineup and a green light at the plate.

Where's Tomo Ohka these days?
As if the Jays didn't have enough worry over the state of their rotation, Jesse Litsch walked off the mound with "tightness" in his elbow. Given what happened with Shaun Marcum after his bout with elbow tightness last year, we're more than a little worried about what the Jays will have to do if Litsch is going to miss significant time.

It begs the question: Is there anything left out there on the scrap heap of starting pitchers? Because off the top of our head, we can't think of anyone who would do much better than just setting up a tee at home plate.

Also, doesn't this lend a bit of credence to Keith Law's notion that Brad Arnsberg, while being a wizard of a pitching coach, is also murder on young arms?

Around the Minors
The Las Vegas 51s' affiliation with the Blue Jays is off to an inauspicious start, with the Triple-A club going 0-4 out of the gate. If you've got trouble with your blood pressure, we don't suggest looking at the team's pitching stats to start the season, because there are some gaudy ERAs after the first series in the thin air of Colorado Springs. For the first time in Tao of Stieb history, allow us to use the following caveat: "The PCL is a hitters league."

On the plus side, 1B Randy Ruiz drove in eight in the first series, with 14 total bases and an OPS of 1.268, while Voodoo Joe Inglett is rocking a 1.000 OPS.

In New Hampshire, the Fisher Cats are off to a 3-2 start, with Springtime hero Brad Emaus driving in eight to start the season.

In Dunedin, the Advanced-A Jays are 1-3 to start. Diminutive reliever Tim Collins - a prospect discovered by J.P. Ricciardi's dad on the fields of Worcester, Mass., has stood out so far, striking out seven batters in four and a third innings while walking none and giving up a single hit.

Thanks to the Ack
While some in the comments figured that the Ack spent too much time in the comments of the Drunk Jays Fans, we tip our cap to our colleague for coming in and holding the fort in an extra long relief outing over the holidays. Great job go and put some ice on those blogging fingers, because we'll need you back soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Travis Snider.....incredible.

Adam Lind and Scott Rolen.....scorching.

Scott Downs.....clutch.

BJ Ryan..........................nails?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jason Frasor would like you to meet someone

Jason Frasor has always seemed like a lonely guy. Summoned from the 'pen, he's only ever really had two friends he could count on. His best friend, the fastball, is a loyal fella, but a little too straight and predictable. Then you have his buddy the breaking ball, who's just a little too inconsistent to count on. This offseason, Frasor decided to add to his circle of friends, and today was the official unveiling.

Major League Baseball, meet Jason Frasor's changeup.

Aaaaaand end hyperbole. Ok, so I'm overstating (but that's what I do), and it's not like this pitch is going to turn Frasor into the second coming of Trevor Hoffman. But did you see how convincingly Frasor told the Cleveland Indians comeback to go fuck itself this afternoon? If nothing else, this outing has probably gained Frasor a more prominent role in The Cito's bullpen - but then again, there was nowhere to go but up for our guy Frasor. He only made the team because Jeremy Accardo had options remaining, and before today, Frasor's job was to push the mop in 5+ run games. More troubling for Blue Jay fans is the scenario that unfolded leading up to Frasor's big spot.....

What to do with BJ Ryan? Interesting discussions in the (wildly popular) game thread over at DJF. Several commenters, perhaps rightly so, are calling for an end to BJ's reign of terror as the Jays' closer. I tend to agree with resident drunk Stoeten and think you still hand the ball to Ryan when the next save opportunity arises. I'm not going to lie to you, I hope that save situation is of the 3-run lead variety as opposed to a one run nailbiter, but I think he's still the closer....for now.

His velocity is largely there (87-89 today), but the slider and location don't appear to be. Flawed logic alert - but where else are you going to pitch him? Middle relief? Mop up duty? Do you think BJ has the makeup to excel in those situations? I think you send him back out with the lead in the ninth, and let him pitch his way out of the role.

That may very well happen, but for now, I agree with The Cito's take:

"I would run him out there again," Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "You run him out there as many times as you can until he starts to hurt the team."

Ahh, The Gastonian era. Anyone else enjoying this?

Better get used to it

I was going to title this post "Midnight Confessions" (or something equally (h)acktastic), given the approximate seven hour timeframe start to finish of the opener in Cleveland, but I thought that sounded a little too Penthouse letter-y. Actually, given the way the 8th inning unfolded, maybe that would be an appropriate title. Er... nevermind, let's stick with the rollercoaster theme.

No friends, I'm not suggesting the home nine will be rolling up crooked numbers all season on the way to a 161-1 finish. I'm not suggesting Adam Lind will continue his 97 HR-356 RBI pace. I'm not even suggesting the lineup we see today will be the same as the lineup we see on June 1st.

What I am suggesting, is that with the makeup of the roster, this is bound to be a season of highs and lows. At the moment, we are experiencing the highest of highs - at least as euphoric as one can be 5 games into a season. The starting pitching has been good enough to win. The offence has come through with timely hits in all the right situations. The bullpen has closed the door when the team really needed a shutdown inning.

The young building blocks are "playing to their potential", and with a few exceptions (I'm looking in your general direction, Vern Wells), the veterans are coming through. And can I tell you something? I'm enjoying the shit out of this.

Oh, there will be lows. Adam Lind and Travis Snider will slump, trying to swing their way out of 0'fers by chasing soft stuff down and away. Lyle Overbay will look foolish against tough lefties. Vernon will slam many bats in disgust after infield pop-ups on just-missed fastballs. One or two of the kids in the rotation will blow the fuck up and make the journey to Vegas. The bullpen might even give up a lead or two along the way (seems unlikely, though).

They'll all go through it. Except for Roy Halladay and Scott Rolen, of course, because Doc doesn't bleed, and because I believe in Scott Rolen. But you see, I'm not going to sit around and wait for that other shoe to drop. Fuck that. They say the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to keep the highs and lows in check - but I'm pretty sure "they" were referring to the guys on the field and not their fans.

The Blue Jays have started the season by winning 4 out of 5. That makes me happy. Pennant.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A two-sentence post on.....rain delays

Nothing sucks the life out of a Good Friday matinee like an old fashioned Cleveland rain delay. But how about that Kevin Millar, huh?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

There go our dreams of 162-0

Maybe people should have pulled back on all the talk about the Jays' record for wins to start the season until, you know, maybe at least three? Because when you start to go down that road too far, talking about the 1992 team's six win streak to start the year, you're really setting yourself up for a Voodoo Whammy(!) in the form of Miguel Cabrera's bat.

We could pick apart last night's performance in the 5-1 loss to the Tigers by both the offense and the pink-round-efficient pitching, but frankly, it's a little too early to start taking the micro and blowing it up into the macro. There were a few bad pitches and a few bad at bats, but we're not going to lose our shit about them until they become an actual trend.

Give it at least until the end of the weekend.

Let's hear it for the bullpen boys!
We've kicked Jason Frasor around a bit over the past few years, but he looked pretty great last night. In fact - and we hope we're not getting way too far ahead of ourselves - it crossed our mind that Frasor and his newfound circle-change might actually be a candidate for the closer job if someone else in the bullpen isn't able to fulfill those duties.

Brian Tallet -who has a mustache that would look right at home in the 1984 Blue Jays team picture -looked really good last night in his inning. We know that people keep talking about him as a surplus lefty arm and perfect trade bait, but we're inclined to think that this is The Year of The TalletTM. You don't want to mess with that sort of good ju-ju.

Apologies and Kudos to the Mainstream Media
After excoriating the hockey-centric sports media in Canada yesterday, just watch us now as we backpeddle. Or at least tip our cap to Sportsnet, who appear to be committed to a half-hour JaysConnected pre-game show this season. We're not exactly Brad Fay fans (that guy's like a can of mousse reading the autocue), but Barry Davis and Sam Consentino come off as actual baseball fans with a sincere interest in the game.

We'd suggest putting Davis and Consentino together before the game to have them chat it up amongst themselves on the state of the Blue Jays and what's happening around baseball. For away games, we'd see putting Davis in the studio (give him a phone book to sit on), then do a two-ender with Consentino on site. We'd also suggest forgoing the interviews with the players, because that sort of thing is as dull as shit now that they are media-trained within an inch of their sanity.

We'll still go to bed dreaming of the MLB Network, but this is progress. And as Lloyd the Barber quite rightly pointed out yesterday in response to our temper tantrum, we'll likely watch more games on TV and see more baseball content this year than our parents would have seen in a decade.

Cripes, we flipped back and forth last night between three games AFTER the Jays game was done, so we probably shouldn't put on the poormouth as much as we do.

This afternoon's affair
The getaway day matchup between Ricky Romero and Rick Porcello at 12:35 this afternoon should be interesting. As has been noted, it is the first time in history that two first round picks make their MLB debut against one another.

Also, we should expect to see a few new faces in the lineup, as Mike Barrett and Kevin Millar should be in the lineup.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pass on the Dutchie (and the Hedger too)

It might be a little early in the season for this rant, but we'll launch into it nevertheless.

Last night, as we settled down for our evening slumber, we flipped on the tube and headed up to the 400's on our digital dial to see if we could catch some baseball highlights. What we encountered was the following: Hockeycentral, Hockeycentral, blacked out hockey game, blacked out hockey game, Sportscentre and WWE Raw.

(Oh, and in case you were needing to find out which half of the NHL teams are going to the playoffs, you could always check in the 24-hour hockey channel, the NHL Network. But we'll come back to that point in a moment.)

Left with little other choice, we sat through a good twenty minutes of Sportscentre, or roughly just short of the amount of time that it would take for our head to explode as a result of watching TSN's signature clipdown.

Look, we get it. Canadians love hockey, and they just can't possibly get enough of it. That's fine. We can live with that. But what kills us is the way that the sports channels in Canada deal with baseball. You're lucky if you get more than a handful of games in the run of a show, and most of them are cut into 45 second packs that remove everything except for a scoring play, a strikeout and an error and give you little or no sense of what actually happened in the game.

Frankly, a meaningless scripted punch-up between two palookas who toil on the fourth lines of NHL teams gets more screen time than most ball games. And of course, we always get the full analysis of said fight from the Hedger-o-Matic Fight Highlight Script Generator:

"The two heavyweights square off...Palooka gets in a couple of solid rights before Jabroni gets back into it...We'll give the decision to Palooka, and that scrap inspires his team..."

And of course, you have to throw from this nonsense over to the panel of a half dozen hockey analysts and "insiders", who fill the air with so much blah-blah-blah, ultimately signifying nothing.

So fine. If TSN and Sportsnet and the Score and everyone else feels this is the only way that they can continue to sell putrid beer and pickup trucks to the throngs of latent homosexual hockey fans, then so be it. But how about an option for those of us who want to see some in-depth coverage of baseball? How about something for those of us who want to see what's going on around the Majors, along with some real honest to goodness analysis?

Of course, there is the promise that some time in the future, we might possibly get the MLB Network, or Rogers' Canadian version, the already licensed Baseball Channel. But given the current state of Canada's media industry and the dried up advertising resources, the chances of Rogers moving forward on a launch for their service seems remote, and unfortunately, the MLB Network won't get carried here until Rogers gives up on their license. That could literally take years.

And not that we want to be that guy who rails against the CRTC for denying us the pleasures of ESPN, but seriously, what we wouldn't give to sit down and watch Baseball Tonight. To our American readers, who are probably sick to death of listening to John Kruk's inanities on the World Wide Leader, you have no idea how much we envy you. Yours is truly a land of plenty.

Sadly, we have to come to grips with the fact that we'll have to wait until the Stanley Cup playoffs conclude sometime in mid-June before we get anything resembling actual baseball coverage in Canada. Groan.

A few quick thoughts on last night's game come-from-behind barnburner
-It's interesting to watch Scott Rolen dig in with his subtly tweaked batting stance. He looks a bit more upright in the box, and seems to be getting to the ball as quickly as ever, as evidenced by his eighth inning blast last night. Now if only we could dissuade him from the Coldplay entrance music.

-We keep waiting for Aaron Hill to show signs of...well, something less than good. Thankfully, he has looked great in the field (notwithstanding last night's botched tag play), and he's hitting the ball as hard as he did in his 47-double 2007 campaign.

-When B.J. Ryan struck out Marcus Thames in the ninth last night, Jerry Howarth made the call that he threw a "country fastball" by the Tigers' DH. We're not exactly sure what a country fastball is, but we like the sound of it. And if for the Beej, a country fastball is one that comes close to 90 MPH, then all the better.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Walkoff madness!

Sometimes, a great game kinda sneaks up on you. aybe it was the lack of alcohol, but we barely realized what a great game we were listening to until the eighth inning.

(Then again, we're still sweating out last night's pints. And here we thought we were being pretty moderate for the opener.)

After having the bats taken out of their hands (yet again) by Edwin Jackson, the Jays finally broke out against former Jay Brandon Lyon, and pulled out a 5-4 walkoff victory.

More tomorrow on Scott Rolen's awesomeness, poor musical choices, and country fastballs.

Oh, and before we forget...
Voodoo Whammy!

That's just an unfortunate choice of words...

Caught this on last night's highlights, and we're happy to see that it has been captured for posterity. (h/t to Best Week Ever)

Other quick and dirty stuff
-Apparently, Pete Gammons went off on Jays fans on ESPN. Anyone know what he said?

-Is this guy going to be the next President of the Blue Jays? The NatPost's Jeremy Sandler says the Jays are looking at the Suns' Rick Welts for the post. A very impressive resumé, but really? Another Phoenix guy in Toronto?

-At least the Tigers fan who commented here has a bit of a sense of humour about last night's tomfoolery: "Who ever the heck it was throwing those baseballs at Anderson out in left, the Tigers need to sign him quick!"

-Geddy Lee. At the Jays opener. In a Strong Bad hat. Awesome.

-Finally, this awesome video which confirms two things: Chris Berman is just awful, and George Bell had some wicked quick hands. Skip ahead to 0:48 to see the Jays highlights. (A Big League fist bump to Big League Stew for finding this, because we fondly remember that game like it was...well, something less than 21 years ago.)

There's no need to worry about Doc

It was funny to hear the first two callers on JaysTalk last night complaining and worrying about the team's fortunes after they'd just finished cleaning the turf with the Tigers in a 12-5 win. As Wilner quite rightly pointed out, people should probably tone down the negativity on a night when the Jays opened up the season on exactly the right note.

Some of the concern voiced was over Roy Halladay's seventh inning, where the Tigers put up four runs after Doc had been pretty much masterful all night. From what we saw, Halladay had a bit of trouble with his location while pitching from the stretch, but that's to be expected to a certain degree.

Halladay, because of his unspeakable awesomeness, had pitched almost entirely from the windup all night to that point. Pitching from the stretch late in the first real game of the year, Doc threw two pitches to Guillen and Inge that were up and over the plate, and they got tagged. But seriously, let's not lose our shit about this.

The Amazing Sniderman
Can we all agree that Travis Snider is the best number nine hitter in the game? People like Jeff Blair talk about Snider squaring up on the ball, and last night provided two picture perfect examples of what happens when he does so. Though we got to see him last year, we are impressed all anew with how economical Snider's swing is, how quickly he gets his bat through the hitting zone and how well balanced he looks when he swings.

Snider isn't a swing-from-his-ass power hitter in the Matt Stairs mould, and that augurs well for his ability to remain consistent at the plate. We get the impression that Snider will be the sort of hitter who will hit good pitches, as opposed to gripping and ripping at mistakes.

A Stern Word for Douchebag Fans
As Papa Tao used to say to us when he was starting a talk like this: "We've got a bone to pick with you."

There's nothing wrong with enthusiasm, and there's nothing wrong with having a bit of drunken debaucherous superfan fun at the game. But there is one - AND ONLY ONE - legitimate reason to throw something on the field at a baseball game, and there is only one reason to cheer on someone who throws shit on the field at a baseball game.

If the other team hits a home run and you catch or pick up the ball after it has ricocheted off of someone's melon, then - AND ONLY THEN - can you take the home run ball and toss it back on the field of play.

That's it. End of story.

Last night, the wise and sage old manager Jim Leyland took the actions of a few random d-bags and milked it to the hilt, putting the Jays magnificent opening night offensive explosion at risk. All those home runs and rallies you were cheering on? All would have been wiped from the record and the Jays would have had to forfeit the game.

Adam Lind's six ribbies? Toast. Sniderman's double and homer? Gone. Every Jay getting a hit? Forgotten.

And we hope you all realize that Toronto is getting a reputation as a city full of hooligans who can't help themselves from being idiots when they assemble in a large crowd. Big League Stew's Kevin Kaduk sent us a note on Twitter in the midst of the eighth inning madness asking: "What's with you Torontonians and big crowds? Leave Curtis Granderson alone!"

So for the love of god, show some goddamned self respect, pull yourself together and stop throwing your shit on the field on the field during games.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Unstoppable Adam Lind

Six RsBI on Opening Day is something that George Bell, Joe Carter and Carlos Delgado could never muster. It takes a man like Adam Lind to rip that shit out.

And without getting ahead of ourselves, didn't Lind just look like a man-sized DH on every one of those swings tonight? We'll grant that the Tigers bullpen wasn't the greatest, but Lind squared up on everything tonight.

Tomorrow morning: Waxing poetic on Travis Snider and an explanation for Doc's seventh inning.

Opening Day, Snow Day

Even the cold, damp temperatures and snowflakes the size of big fluffy white kitties won't dampen our enthusiasm for Opening Day in the 2009 Blue Jays season.

Nor will the inundation of naysayers who are lining up to talk in funereal tones about the state of baseball in Toronto now that the team seems - to them, at least - somehow down and out before the opening bell has rung. While some writers, like the Globe's Stephen Brunt, wonder what Jays fans have to root for this year given the strength of the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays in the powerful AL East, we think this is one of the most exciting years in recent memory.

This is a transformative year for the franchise, where many of the faces that will make up the next wave of the team's successes will begin to appear on the scene. This is the year where some of drafting decisions of J.P. Ricciardi and his staff will begin to bear fruit. At the outset, we will see Travis Snider and Adam Lind installed as regulars in the lineup and Ricky Romero in the rotation. By year's end, we will see Brad Mills and Brett Cecil take their turns in the rotation, and J.P. Arencibia should get at bats in the late summer. We may also see Robert Ray, who we still have pegged as the surprise arm who will emerge this year.

Catcher Brian Jeroloman and pitcher Zach Dials will also be worth tracking throughout this season, as will be first baseman David Cooper, making the quick jump to Double-A after being drafted last year. Brad Emaus - who was essentially an anonymous low-level prospect a year ago - is a year or two away, but offers extraordinary promise for the future.

In a way, this year's team reminds us of the 1984 team, where a group of players under the age of 25 began to emerge as the team's core for the better part of the next decade: Barfield, Bell, Moseby, Fernandez, Key, Gruber. The Jays were still Canada's second best team at that point, but the blueprint for the teams that would win pennants and compete every year for the next decade was set that year.

Certainly, if you are focussed on the the short term, and the wins and losses in the next six weeks or six months, you may be disappointed by the latest incarnation of the Blue Jays. But for those of us who have been following this narrative word for word, line by line and chapter after chapter, this is an incredibly exciting time.

Now, we watch the next heroes step out of the shadows and into the limelight. And if that is not the fodder for the fondest of dreams, than what is?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Blogging Letterman style (or, 10 reasons I'm excited for the '09 season) - Pt II

You're still with me?

5. Because Cito Gaston is kicking all kinds of ass and taking names
If we've learned anything about the New Gastonian Era (terminology hat tip), it's that you don't mess with The Cito. Mike Mussina can kiss his ass, and apparently, Roger Clemens is an asshole. Cito - such language! Think about the children!

There's a good chance there's a little bit of senility creeping in, but you know what? I'm really enjoying this new 'shoot from the lip' Cito. You have something else to say, Joe Maddon? Then you'd best be ready to throw down. The Cito isn't messing around in '09, man.

4. Because of The Arnsberg Effect
If you tell me that it's possible to have a man-crush on a pitching coach, then I will tell you that I think I have one on Brad Arnsberg. Seriously, if any one man can cobble together a workable staff out of the fresh faces filling out the Jays rotation this year, it's Arnie. His handling of one Ricardo Romero Jr (I may have made the Junior part up - no idea) this spring has been nothing short of nails.

He may have saved your career, Ricky - now go reward him with 14 wins.

3. Because of the kids
When's the last time we, as fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, had a crop of talent like this coming up through the system? Sniderman and Young Adam Lind are here to rake, and we have 3 young arms in the rotation (Litsch, Purcey, Romero) looking to establish themselves as big leaguers.

The next wave includes impact bats like JP Arencibia and some usable sticks like Scotty Campbell and Brad Emaus. The best may be yet to come on the mound, with future rotation horse Brett Cecil due to arrive mid-season, and spring darling Brad Mills is on standby should someone falter. I'm an ardent follower of boxscores on MiLB, and I plan on continuing that trend this season.

(What? You think that's sad? Fuck you! How else am I supposed to follow the daily trials and tribulations of kids like Balbino Fuenmayor and Timmy Collins? That's right - I didn't think you had another answer.)

2. Because the Blue Jays have nothing to lose
I mean, it's going to be a dogshit season, right? That's what all the experts are saying, yes? The Jays will be in a 4th place battle with Baltimore, correct? Good, glad we have that settled. Now I can carry on and enjoy the season with absolutely no anxiety over each and every one of the 162 games on the schedule.

Every win is a bonus. Contenders should be embarrassed to lose to this team. Close defeats will be moral victories. Et-cet-era.

(Now where's my Prozac?)

1. Because PENNANT!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Blogging Letterman style (or, 10 reasons I'm excited for the '09 season) - Pt I

First things first, I feel like I owe everyone who takes the time to read this an apology. I've had a horseshit offseason and have not been delivering the goods. I'm better than that. Wait a minute - no, I most definitely am not better than that. Even still, reading over some of my posts over the last few months leaves me (and you, I'm sure) underwhelmed.

To right this wrong, I'm going to resort to a highly original concept and list off 10 reasons why I am STOKED about the 2009 Blue Jays baseball season. Hey, if you can't find a beacon of light here at the Tao of Stieb to shine through all the negativity surrounding the team, where are you gonna find it, huh?


On to the business at hand....

10. Because contending team or not, it's baseball, baby
We're all friends here, right? No? Then fuck off! For those of you still here, I have a confession to make....until April 28, 1996, baseball was my summer fling. For the months of October through April, my heart belonged to another, and I thought we'd be together forever. Then a man who makes Bud Selig look competent and handsome swooped in and destroyed our marriage. I've yet to recover.

Desperate for a rebound, I latched onto the only other who had been there for me through it all. Baseball. My summer obsession became a full blown addiction, and here we are.

My name is the Ack, and I'm addicted to baseball.

9. Because we've got the Doc
Know this - the Toronto Blue Jays could finish last in the division and smell worse than my winter's contributions, but for 32 or 33 nights this season, we will have bliss (yeah yeah yeah - barring injury or - barf - trade).

There's really nothing more that I can say about Roy Halladay that hasn't already been said by other bloggers or major media outlets. I will remind you, however, that beneath the stainless steel exterior lies a cyborg heart of gold.

(Did someone open a window? Did it just get a little dusty in here?)

8. Because I believe in Scott Rolen
People just loooove to dump on Ricciardi for bringing in Scott Rolen, don't they? (Exception - here.)

"Everyone knows that he's got a bad shoulder! He's Johnny Mac at 3rd base! He's always hurt! He makes too much money! I'm unhappy with my life and projecting those feelings of disappointment on JP Ricciardi!"

Well, I've got a news flash for you. He's going to smash 60 extra base hits and play the ever living shit out of the hot corner this season. I believe in Scott Rolen.

7. Because Matt Mays predicts post-season success
My favourite lyric of the year:

"The National Post front page said
George W. Bush is dead
And the Jays beat the Reds!
10 million people broken hearted"

(late research edit - so, it seems the Jays do have a regular season interleague series against Cincy this season. Matt Mays most definitely penned those lyrics before the release of the 2009 MLB schedule, therefore, we are forced to believe he was, indeed, referring to a World Series matchup. Sorry, Ohio.)

6. Because I get to do this
I thought that I would wait until my one-year anniversary (or something equally sentimental and girlish) to throw a public shout out to my benefactor, the Tao, for allowing me to pollute his blog on the weekends. But hey, seems we don't need to wait for a nice even anniversary to celebrate these things, so here it is.

Thanks, Tao, for the space, and for trusting the site's good name with my nonsense, and thanks to everyone for reading and commenting - good, bad, or otherwise. I'll tell you what, venting to a public audience sure beats rocking in the fetal position in my (mother's - heyo!) basement with the lights turned off after yet another one run defeat featuring numerous squandered bases-loaded opportunities (hypothetically, of course).

Later in the weekend - Part II....

Friday Rock Out (Not Really a Rock Out) - Ok Blue Jays!

Kudos to the ever-grinding Go Jays Go tumblr for tracking down this nostalgic nugget from the days when the Jays wore blue and were on their climb to the top for the first time.

We get a little misty eyed looking at the cast of characters in this video. Key! Moseby! Willie Freaking Upshaw! Ernie! (All is forgiven!) Buck Martinez with his broken leg and porn stache tagging out Gorman Thomas!

With all of the pissing and moaning that's gone on over the offseason, it's easy to lose sight of the reason why any of us spend 12 months per year agonizing over every minor league free agent deal, and every Spring demotion or Fake Game homer hit by someone who was never going to make the team anyhow.

We do it because, goddamnit, we love this game, and the fact that the real games are finally almost here has put an extra spring in our step.

A few housekeeping items

-Jeff Pearlman clarifies what his book actually said about this whole Clemens-Cito imaginary battle royale (but thanks to the Canadian media for the free pub!) Meanwhile Neate (who has actually read Pearlman's book) digs a little deeper.

-Paul Beeston, who is absolutely 100% full of shit and we love him for it, says that the Jays will boost the payroll to $120 million if the team has a shot of winning. So, if we've got this straight: They'll spend money to win if they are winning, but only if they are winning and not to help them win. Awesome!

-The Drunks have produced another of their absolutely indispensible Guides, The DJF Guide to the 2009 Home Opener. If you are attending Monday's game, please be certain to review this material. There will be a quiz.

-Sportsnet will introduce innovative live entertainment platform interactivity into their Jays broadcasts this year that will make you feel like it is 1993 and you are playing NTL Trivia at a bar over wings and pitchers of Moosehead. Progress! There's no stopping it now!

Closing thoughts for this final weekend of the offseason
You know what folks? This week has been fucking awesome. You guys have rocked it out in the comments section over the past week (Voodoo Whammy!), and we truly appreciate all of your patronage over the offseason. It's been more than 135 posts since we've had actual game action to discuss, but we're happy that you've stuck with us over this long winter. Whatever happens this season, let's all have a bit of fun, okay?

Don't forget that TSN has the broadcast of a fake game on Saturday, and if the crick don't rise again (literally), the Ack should be on the job this weekend.