Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our gift to the readers: Cheap shots at The Manager

You know, it kinda bums us out when we post something, and no one cares. Then again, the last post in our endless and ultimately meaningless pimping of someone else's book barely kept us interested while we were writing it. (We even dropped the "we"! That's how much we were checked out on that one! Sorry!)

Yet, at the same time, we noticed yesterday that this month is officially the most successful month (in terms of visits and pageviews) in the history of the blog. And if we made a dime off this thing, we might actually break out the champagne and O.J. this morning to celebrate. Instead, we just took an extra pull off the aftershave this morning to mark the equation. (Ah, the old Kenneth Cole New York...tasty, but not too burny.)

Anyways, we feel like we have to make amends. You, the faithful readers, come here every day and help make my life feel just a little bit less meaningless through your patronage. And if there is one thing that we know that you enjoy, it is the endless cheap shots that we take at grumpy lump in the dugout. And so, as a peace offering for a less than stellar post yesterday, we offer a fine list of slightly borrowed insults directed towards The Manager. Enjoy.

-You know, calling The Manager an idiot is really an insult to all of the stupid people out there.

-I heard The Manager was looking at a change this year. I guess that means his diaper is really full.

-The Manager will have a lot of well wishers this year. As in, we'd all like to throw him down a well for good luck.

-The Manager is a habit that Toronto baseball fans need to kick. With both feet.

-This season would be an excellent time for The Manager to become a missing person.

-I believe The Manager when he says he has an open mind, because good ideas seem to pass right through it.

-Sometimes, when he's slumped in the dugout, it appears as though The Manager has a terribly empty feeling...in his head.

Okay, that's about what we can muster. Feel free to toss in your own in the comments for good measure.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A final thought on The Bullpen Gospels

Editor's Note: This is the third and in all likelihood last in a series of posts, in which we just post random stuff on Jays reliever Dirk Hayhurst's book, The Bullpen Gospels. It's available tomorrow at a fine bookseller near you and all over the internets...and seriously, if you come to this blog on a regular basis, then there's precious little that I could tell you that is going to do anything more to encourage you to go by the book. At this point, buy it or don't. It's your deal. I really don't have any skin in this particular game.

When I got my review copy of The Bullpen Gospels in the mail this winter, I immediately tore into it. Maybe it was because I was excited at the prospect of having been included amongst those who were being given a sneak peek at the book: Costas! Olbermann! Neyer! Tao! (And that slow-footed ambler Bastian!)

Or it could be because I felt vaguely duty-bound to help promote the book. I respect that Dirk Hayhurst has taken the time and energy to share his particular and peculiar story with us, and I want him to succeed as much at this new endeavor as I want him to succeed on the mound. This became all the more urgent when Hayhurst went down with what is ostensibly a season-ending injury.

And maybe it is because I harbour my own literary ambitions, and want to make sure that I have a successful baseball author in my corner to whom I can send my own galleys for his review and maybe even a blurb. (Someday, someway...)

Whatever the case, I'll confess to be a bit of a cheerleader for this book. You can take my review of the tome with as many grains of salt as you wish. The book is, after all, written by a member of my favorite sports team, and I have a limited ability to detach myself critically from anything to do with the Blue Jays. I don't particularly believe in objectivity, so let me say that I've done my best to demonstrate some enlightened subjectivity.

So with all that as prologue, maybe the best compliment that I can give Hayhurst's book is this: With the book still freezing cold from its time in my mailbox, I laughed heartily three times in the first four pages.

(And yeah, one of those laughs was generated by the thought of someone getting hit in the nuts. But don't go pretending that you're not as likely to enjoy such a passage.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Things are coming together (even as they fall apart)

As much as we'd all like to see every spring story be a positive one....that'll never be the case. Seems one player's good fortune is always tied to another's, um... misfortune. Case in point: Brandon Morrow looks ready to resume throwing after taking a break to quiet his barking shoulder. This is huge for the Jays, in that the team (and fans) are counting on the flamethrower to be a big mid-rotation presence for the club during the Building! (TM).

Meanwhile....hard-luck Dustin McGowan has been shut down for another two weeks as his barking shoulder doesn't seem to want to come around (just yet). The club is loathe to call it a "setback", but let's be honest....the news fucking sucks. Dunno about you, but I've latched onto ol' Dusty as a guy who I'd love to see succeed. So much talent, yet so many injuries sapping all momentum from his career. Here's to hoping....

Sticking with pitchers, Brett Cecil (who should be - at the very least - in the running for the 5th spot in the rotation...yet isn't at the behest of Clarence) tossed five scoreless against the Red Sox. Much like Morrow, the Jays need Cecil to emerge as the horse he's projected to be, even if it involves opening the year in Vegas. Tallet may have the job locked down, but there's no way a healthy Cecil doesn't claim that job in a few months time...right?

Meanwhile....opening day ace Shaun Marcum got knocked around in his last start (9 runs in his 5 IP), but both pitcher and manager don't appear concerned. Spring stats are bullshit, right? .....which makes the preceding statement about Cecil meaningless, I suppose. If you want to be a cynical prick, that is.

Blair weighs in on Snider...

...and fucking nails it. Question: why is it that everyone is so ready to "write-off" (wrong choice of words, but you get the drift) Travis Snider as a one-dimensional slugger, slow afoot and a butcher in the field? He's a 22 year old kid still learning the craft, and while he'll never be Ken Griffey Jr. in the outfield, who's to say he can't work towards being average - or a tick above? Jeff Blair illustrates what Snider's doing to make himself a more rounded player, and I for one will give The Future the benefit of the doubt.

Also, let's not overlook the improved footspeed shown by the kid. You paying attention, Bastian? (heyo!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sadness prevails

The official word from on high has come down, and it is now official: Your faithful blogger will be in meetings on April 12th.

So, no home opener for me. FML.

(That is, unless I win the lottery tonight. In which case, I'm goin' and I'm taking all of you with me.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why is this man smiling?

Maybe because a certain slow-of-foot tweeter says that The Manager says that he's going to get full-time duty at first base this year.

If you've followed along for awhile, you likely know that we love us some Randy Ruiz and we loathe The Manager's managerialism. So what we're about to say might surprise you:

We kinda like this move. Sorta. Even if we don't actually believe it will come to pass.

Overbay, much like his fellow Washingtonian/sweet-swinging/first-sacker/doubles-machine John Olerud, will always disappoint those who are expecting a 300 lb gorilla at first base. But if you can get over the notion that a corner infielder's offensive production needs to be measured in home runs and runs batted in, you'll see that Overbay can still provide above average production. In 2009, his 122 OPS+ ranked behind only Adam Lind (144) and Scott Rolen's 1/2 season (124) amongst Jays hitters, and put him ahead of everybody's favorite poster-boy Aaron Hill (117).

The caveat, of course, is that Overbay was held back from facing too many lefties, and kinda sucked against them, posting a 53 OPS+. He only started eight games all year against lefties, and stood in the batters box against them just 86 times. And even in his best season (2006) with the Jays, Overbay didn't get a ton of looks at lefties (167 plate appearances), and he managed just a .305 OBP against them.

Even so, here's where we think it might make sense: There's a line that Overbay threw out at one point last season about how he found it difficult to get into a groove when his playing time was so irregular. Even if that is a load of horseshit, it's the load of horseshit that is in Overbay's head, and if getting him a few extra AB's against lefties to prove himself helps him keep his hitting stroke in order, then so be it.

But ultimately, we doubt that The Manager will be able to resist the urge to platoon Overbay and Ruiz. And frankly, that might be for the best. (Agreeing with The Manager? We must be feverish.)

Ruiz needs some sort of a role on the Jays if he is going to be on the roster, and he certainly wouldn't fit into the Johnny Mac pinch running role. Parking him on the bench to serve as an occasional pinch hitter won't really give the Jays a sense of who he could be as a major leaguer. If he were to get a turn a few times per week in the early going, and show himself to be unable to hang at this level, then that's one thing. But if he's languishing with a .750 OPS in less than 50 ABs somewhere in the middle of June, then the Jays would probably be better off letting Ruiz go elsewhere and bringing in a player with some positional flexibility.

Even if that would be a cryin' shame.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Goin' to Houston...Say wha?

Okay, so we've had just about enough of Spring Training. That's it. We're done.

As such, last night we started to check the schedule to see when we can finally put a cap on the Fake Games and get things revved up for the real deal. Which is when we noticed the Jays playing a two game series at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Friday and Saturday, April 2nd and 3rd.

What the what?

For a half-second, we were trying to figure out if the league was pulling some weird "Kick Off The Season With Interleague Non-Rivalries" promotion. Which, if you think about it, wouldn't be the strangest thing that they've suggested this off-season.

What makes this two-game tune-up series in an actual big league park even stranger is that both games that weekend will get the full TV broadcast treatment from Sportsnet and TSN2. Like as if they matter somehow.

We do remember the Dodgers coming to SkyDome for a pre-season game at one point years ago, so this isn't beyond the realm, and we're told that this is actually a bit of a tradition in Houston, and that they're just fine with it. So that's that, we suppose.

But it make us wonder why, precisely, MLB is waiting until the Sunday night to kick things off for the season. Frankly, why can't they just get stuff started this coming Monday? Most teams have their rosters pretty much set, and Spring Training has already dragged itself downwards into such a state of tedium that the highlight of this week will end up being a couple of MLBAM beat reporters having a footrace.

(Having said that, we'd pay good money to see some of the portly old inked-stained wretches stumble and wheeze their way around a track.)

We suppose that some baseball is better than no baseball, so we're not sure what our complaint is. Aside from wanting to get things started and moving so that we get through 2010 as quickly as possible, and on to 2011 in short order.

Speaking of 2011...
Where the hell is that announcement of the Aldeinis Hechavarria signing?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Call It a Comeback - Your opening day starter

There are lots of ways that we could slice the discussion over the Jays' Opening Day starter in order to make it seem like bad news.

Whoever it was who was going to get named to that still-somewhat-anachronistically-prestigious role, he wasn't going to be Doc. And as it turns out, it's a player who has no major league track record from 2009 to parse through for argument's sake.

But we'll say this about Shaun Marcum: So long as he continues to stand his ground like a manly-man against wearing those insipid BP caps with the NASCAR pit crew piping on, he's all right by us.

(And the fact that he's still got a spotless ERA in five Fake Game innings makes this all the more easy to swallow.)

What about RR Cool Jay?
We like that there is actually a bit of room to argue about who deserves the role this year, if one were given to taking Ricky Romero's side of the argument. Romero had some brilliant stretches last year before he tired and started throwing everything that was supposed to be down in the zone into the dirt. His 1.93 ERA through four Fake starts seemingly augurs well for the forthcoming season, though the six walks in 14 innings (versus nine Ks) is still a bit worrisome.

(And as for the rest of the rotation? It kinda scares the shit out of us.)

It's a bit of a banner day out there for reading material about the Jays:

Firstly: Jeff Blair leaves his boyish crush on Melissa Hollingsworth aside and shows up for duty in Dunedin, leading off with a smart and fresh take on Vernon Wells. God bless Blair...With his Angry Man Tweeting routine and his long absences from the beat, we sometimes forget what a truly excellent baseball writer he is.

Next! Will Leitch, the man who somehow got us hooked on this whole "we/us" blogging voice, talks about The Manager on his blogma matter. (And gets stuff wrong, but who are we to quibble? We didn't even merit a link in his story! Screw him. We're gonna go comb back our emo bangs and start slagging him at every possible turn. Kill your idols!)

And then! Mop Up Duty has a roundtable of Blue Jays bloggers, which does not include us. (Which is mostly because we couldn't be arsed to answer an email in a timely fashion. But still.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stuff we learned in our fantasy drafts

We're not quite the type to keep and care for numerous fantasy baseball teams anymore, what with the added expectations at work (those carts don't make their way to the corral on their own, you know) and home (the Missus didn't realize we were serious when we added the bit about our roto teams into our marriage vows) and with the blog (infotaining you kids can be a full time job.)

And so, working our way through two fantasy drafts this weekend seems to us to be a bit of a monumental achievement. If only the outcome matched what we perceive as the efforts, then we wouldn't feel quite so bummed out looking at our teams in the cold grey dawn of a Monday morning.

Looking back, it all seemed to fly by so fast, with our preferred players flying off the board quicker than we could queue them up. It was like we were unprepared for what was happening, and never seemed to have the grace to fully pull the moment off. We were left in a puddle of flop sweat and diminished expectations...Hey, this is really starting to sound like the entirety of our dating life!

With all this yammering as prologue, indulge us for a moment as we offer up a few lessons learned from this weekend, if only so that you might avoid some of the same missteps.

Preparation is not optional
Somewhere along the line, we had decided that our problem in the past was that we spent too much time reading the fantasy previews and making up lists and setting our pre-rankings. This year, we decided to go into our drafts completely raw, without any preparation.

It didn't go so well. When you have 60 seconds to make a pick, it's disconcertingly panic-inducing when you're suddenly wracking your brain to remember the points of distinction between Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez, or why you feel so wrong about picking Ryan Franklin (even though you end up picking him twice, and have the same rotten feeling about those low strikeout numbers each time).

If you don't know who's hurtin', you don't know nuthin'
When you're going into the draft blind, you quickly realize that what you don't know is going to overtake your thought processes. If a player was sitting out there a round or two later than we thought they should, we started looking to find out why. Is he hurt? Is he out? Does he have competition for the closer role? With a finite amount of time each round, we ended up frantically attempt to check on the health and wellness of any number of picks, and spent a good deal of time afterwards checking to see who might be of concern.

While we haven't found anyone egregiously hurt, we're reasonably sure that our fellow owners wouldn't have taken them off our hands if we had. (Not that we wouldn't try. Everything we learned about managing trades, we learned from Kenny Williams.)

Old mancrushes die hard
We tell ourselves every year that we're not going back to the well to draft big shining star prospects who are well past their best before dates. We tell ourselves that those dudes who had one or maybe two good seasons earlier in the decade aren't worthy of a pick. We tell ourselves not to fall into that trap again.

And then we go ahead and draft Alex Gordon. And Carlos Guillen. And Stephen Drew and Rickie Weeks. Zach Duke and Paul Maholm and Manny Parra.

Somehow, we managed to avoid drafting either of the Chris Youngs, although at one point, we had the D-Backs centerfielder in our sights, only to have him snatched away one pick before ours.

If there's one thing we learned, it's that experience hasn't taught us a thing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bump(s) in the road

Considering the majority of the expert prognosticators have our beloved Blue Jays comfortably entrenched in the basement of the AL East this season (fucking bullshit!), Spring Training has gone about as well as any of us could have expected.

Until today, maybe. There's nothing like a pair of shoulder injuries to stop the warm & fuzzies.....on the surface, anyway. Since pissing and moaning will do nothing but quicken the onset of Jays-related depression (I'm giving myself until mid-June), let's look at this optimistically - or perhaps, realistically.

None of us should have expected Dustin McGowan to return to his first game action throwing 95 and wiping out hitters with sick breaking stuff. The drop in velo to 88 is potentially concerning, but the Internet tells me that a dead-arm period coming out of rehab after such a long time away from the mound is quite normal. And the Internet never, ever lies. All this does is guarantee that McG opens the season on the DL - where he should be. No point in rushing him back when he clearly isn't ready.

Brandon Morrow's shoulder soreness also seems to be "just one of those things" the young righty goes through every spring. By his account, a few days off to ease the barking has been a past cure-all for his arm, and he expects this minor setback to be no different. Let's just go with the notion that he's still set to be our next AJ Burnett (minus the bullshit).

Or he could be on the verge of going under the knife and becoming the next, er, Dustin McGowan.

(Let's pretend that I didn't just say that, OK? OK.)

Whatever happened to....
..Lyle Overbay? Seriously, anyone heard from Lyle? I'm not even kidding. I'd like to think that I follow the spring coverage fairly closely, and the only time I hear his name mentioned is when Brett Wallace is talking about picking his brain for 1B defensive tips. I mean, he is still going to stand in there against RHP, yes?

Or has Clarence identified him as the lone remaining malcontent responsible for last season's locker room revolt, completely thrown him under the bus, backed the fucker up, and rolled over again for good measure?

(Get it? "Bumps in the road"? Ah, nevermind.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Closer Carousel makes us dizzy!

The whole idea of the Capital-C Closer role is something that has left us feeling conflicted in recent years.

Sure, we love the iconography of it: The Gunslinger! The Fireman! The Hammer! Mr. Lock-That-Shit-Down! We love the idea of some big, burly guy swaggering out of the bullpen in the ninth with some AC/DC or nu-metal anthem blasting as he loads it up and gets ready to put a final exclamation mark on a Blue Jays win. It's high drama, and great fun. It's the Ghost of Tom Henke, and it haunts us still.

The other side is that we can't entirely understand the whole idea of holding your single best relief pitcher out of the game so that he can continue to accumulate numbers in a mostly meaningless counting stat. If you're about to lose the lead in the seventh inning, we can't quite understand why you'd want to send out some mid-level reliever to get you out of the inning while your best relief guy tilts back in his folding bullpen chair, wiping sunflower seed detritus from his warmup jacket.

It's with this in mind that we consider the whole discussion of the 2010 closer situation.

We read this piece in The Sun this morning, wherein Kevin Gregg asserts his confidence that we will once again reclaim his rightful post as Major League Closer. Such talk makes us think that he needs to get a few opportunities soon before his membership in the Closer's Club lapses, and he's left emasculated by Alec Baldwin when looking to fulfill his daily caffeine requirements.

"Coffee is for closers."

This is where we start feeling anxious about Kevin Gregg stepping to the mound with a one-run lead, and the idea that the Jays are going to hang their hopes on this National League retread makes us really worry about the state of the bullpen.

But then, we set emotion aside and approach this rationally. And we get thinking about it, and we wonder if the Jays aren't better off giving him the role he wants, thereby leaving them with the luxury and the freedom to run Jason Frasor (for our dough, the guy with the best arm/brain ratio in the Blue Jays bullpen) and Scott Downs (who runs like a girl but gets outs when he doesn't hurt himself running) out to the mound in any situation and in any inning.

In a close game, with men on and the Jays in need of an out, we're fine with the notion of leaving Gregg out in the bullpen to clean his goggles and cool his heels while the big boys take care of business.

Even with the lack of a prototypical closer type guy, we're feeling like the Jays' bullpen could be as strong as anyone's this year. At this point, we're at least brave and/or crazy enough to think that we'll trade a few nervous ninth innings for some stability through the rest of the games.

...and finally, a Friday Rock Out memorial
Our favorite Big Star song. Thank you, Alex Chilton.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What do you call a collection of questions microblogged?

TWEET BAG! Let's get it on.

@DHSpeedwagon (the inimitable Dany Heatley Speedwagon) asks:

Where do babies come from?

That depends. Ten years ago, we might have said that they come from broken rubbers and carelessness around the daily intake of progesterone pills. Now that we're older and fatter and greyer and of that age where many of our friends are indulging in having children on purpose, we can tell you that babies come from all angles. Many times, these babies are in strollers equipped with wheels that wouldn't look out of place on a monster truck, which their oblivious/entitled parents will run right over your feet, without apologies. Other times, babies will come from behind you with hands full of spittle and Arrowroot cookies that they can't wait to wipe on the back of a just-drycleaned pair of wool slacks.

It's just a good thing that babies are so cute and their heads smell like potential awesomeness. Otherwise, we'd have serious issues with them.

Moving on. @WillBeyer asks:

What catcher should I go after in my H2H draft?

Okay, we know that we invited fantasy baseball questions, but here's what you've gotta know about us: We haven't the foggiest clue about head-to-head leagues or auctions. So if you want advice in those areas, you'll have to suffice with one of the thousands of dudes who make a living doling out that sort of knowledge. We give this shit out for free.

And seeing as how we're in a giving mood, we'll offer you this: Victor Martinez is going to get a lot of at bats as a DH and 1B this season. And if we had the choice in a head-to-head league, we'd take the guy who is going to get six or seven starts per week versus the guy who might sit two or three times. And it's not just a volume play: V-Mart is probably going to give you pretty good production anyhow.

Also, keep in mind that catchers, as a general rule, will suck. You'll be all like: "Position scarcity! Must get Mauer/McCann/Martinez early!" But then they take a foul tip off the finger and suck for the rest of the season, and some dude has Miguel Montero hitting like the second coming of Johnny Bench. There's no effing justice to it. It's like that weird-looking nerdy dude from 500 Days of Summer ending up with Christina Hendricks. It'll just drive you crazy the more that you think of it.

Damn it all!

So basically, you can't win. We're drafting John Buck, just because we want to send that spirit of hope out into the Universe.

And the hits just keep on coming...@MassF last week asked:
Bottom of the 9th 2 outs bases loaded who do you want up T Gwynn K Puckett G Brett or W Boggs?

See, initially, we read this and figured that the scenario included us being tied to a post just behind the backstop, with a villainous eye-patched caricature getting ready to plug our brains full of lead from his vintage Ruger. We actually started to sweat it, and Fangraph this thing out, looking at advanced metrics and stuff. We were looking for splits on late inning tied or trailing, and situational hitting. We got frantic when we searched for Tony Gwynn, but kept getting pointed to Junior instead of Senior. "Damn it, man! Can't you see! Lives are at stake here! Get me the right numbers! I need to make the managerial decision that could COST ME MY LIFE!"

But then we re-read the question, and realized that you hadn't specified that this was a life or death consideration. What a letdown. In which case, we'll go with Gwynn. Because that tubby bastard could slap the ball into play, and his career .338 batting average was ten points better than Boggs'. And in this situation, you probably just need a bleeder through the infield to save you from the treachery of undefinably European villains. (Who says batting average is a useless stat?)

(SNIP! If you showed up here a little while ago, there was a whole long-winded thing about a certain Globe and Mail columnist's stupid column. So the first few comments probably look weird. We started to read the post over, and then we realized that it was angry in a really boring way, and a little bit sexist. And that's not in keeping with the True Spirit of Tweetbagging. Let's put this behind us, shall we?)

The man, the myth, the legend, @dpriest asks:

Will Alex Ant be the GM of a Jays playoff team?

While there's no way that we could ever divine such a thing, we have to believe. Or else we'd just put our blogging tools down and go pee our name in the snow instead.

Because if this blog is about anything, it's about hope. The hope that keeps us going, posting stuff in the dead of winter when we're scraping to try to even think of something to keep y'all entertained. The hope that, one night in October (or November), somewhere not too far down the road, the world will turn to our blog to read the reaction of a Jays diehard just moments after they've sealed the deal on their third title. (And they'd probably be greeted by something like: "Wooooo! Fuck yeah! Wooo! We did it!!!1")

We actually have these vivid visions of what that night would be like: There would be tears. And hugs. And champagne. And screaming into the phone. And staying up all night. And, eventually, blogging that moment out.

We're going to stick it out with this blog at least until then. (If we're allowed.)

More to come! Tune in tomorrow for a whole new batch of sage tweetery!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The last time The Manager saw the end of the road

(You see that picture above? That's what you get when you can't bring yourself to type the actual name of The Manager into a Google Image Search.)

Ideally, this year will mark the end of The Manager's second tenure in Toronto. (Or at the very least, the end of his tenure in a uniform and in the dugout. He'll never really leave the Jays.) With that in mind, we started to cast our thoughts back to The Manager's final season of his initial managerial stint.

With so much time having passed since that 1997 season, it's almost hard to recall just what a mess that season was. So we took a stroll through Baseball-Reference's archives for the team, and found some fuel to our irrational distaste for the man we once championed as an under-appreciated genius.

A team that was built to win. Sort of.
For anyone who wants to be the contrarian, and posit that the 1997 squad was a bad team that no manager could fix, think again. That year, the team underwent significant change, bringing in big time free agents Roger Clemens and Benito Santiago (fresh off a 30 homer season).

The team jettisoned John Olerud - never one of The Manager's favorites - in that offseason, sending he and his team-leading .854 OPS to the Mets for starter-closer-starter-closer-starter Robert Person. (And before you make the claim that this was to clear room for Carlos Delgado, you should know that Joe Carter was first baseman to start the season. Because The Manager loved Joe, even after he fell off the cliff. So there.)

Moreover, they also sent a number of prospects (who turned out to be nothing much) to Pittsburgh for Orlando Merced, Carlos Garcia and Dan Pleasac (who, aside from Pleasac, turned out to be nothing much). With the acquisition of the 30 year-old veteran Merced, The Manager could push the young Shawn Green back to the bench, in spite of his two respectable seasons as a 22 and 23 year-old (.835 OPS in '05, .790 OPS in '06).

This was truly a team built for The Manager. He could rely on a group of aging, rickety old sods whose reputations far outshone their performance. He could field a lineup with a 38 year-old Otis Nixon and his rapidly declining defense. He could continue to pencil the 37 year-old-and-declining Carter into the cleanup spot for most of the season (and the three-spot when he really struggled). He could push Delgado and Green into the sixth and eight spots in the lineup, or park them on the bench in favour of Juan Samuel or Rueben Sierra.

(And let's not forget what a massive clusterfuck that whole incident was. The Manager felt that two years worth of decent production wasn't enough proof of Green's worth, and he felt that Green still had to play his way into the lineup, even as veterans scuffled their way into playing time. Somehow, the rotted-out hull of Rivera, who had just been tossed to the scrap heap by the Reds, merited at bats while the future of the franchise languished...Nobody recount this story to Travis Snider, okay?)

As the year went on, and the Sierra experiment blew up, the Jays slipped to the back of the AL East. It took until June 23rd, when the team was already 14 1/2 games out of first, before The Manager would slide Delgado, by far the team's best hitter, into the cleanup role. King Carlos would eventually hit fourth in 40 games, which is exactly one more than the number of games that busted-out mediocrity Mariano Duncan (and his sub-McDonaldian .531 OPS) hit second.

Duncan had taken over the two-hole and second base duties from Carlos Garcia, who spent most of the season revealing himself to be Carlos Garcia: A below-average slap hitter with terrible plate discipline (.253 OBP, .309 SLG).

That 1997 season was a long arduous slog, made all the more so by the high expectations coming into the year. The light at the end of the tunnel came only after it was clear that the season was finished, and the team began moving towards its next generation. Shannon Stewart would step in for Nixon, Green would get a regular turn, and newly-acquired José Cruz Jr. would take Merced's spot in the lineup. The team that would go on to win 88 games the next season under Tim Johnson was beginning to finally take shape, while The Manager was setting the scene for an acrimonious and unapologetic exit.

In the midst of a late season slide that saw them lose 11 of 13 games, the team finally gave The Manager his walking papers on September 23rd. Joe Carter would switch his jersey number to 43 in memoriam. Pitching coach Mel Queen took over for the final five games of the season, and promptly moved Green into the two-hole, while relegating Duncan and Garcia to the bench.

The team went 4-1.

(And in case you are wondering: Yeah, there is totally a way that we could look at this and point the finger of blame at Gord Ash. Except that The Manager had a lot of sway in those days over the young GM through his close relationship with team President Paul Beeston. Umm...oh. Ruh roh.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

We'll hoist a Cuba Libre...as soon as we hear something official

We don't know about you, but in this day and age, we generally like to wait it out until we hear something absolutely, positively, officially officialized from the team before we break out the party hats and start planning the next World Series parade. So now, we wait for something official on Adeinis Hechavarria, the half-Cuban half-Martian supermensch who is supposed to be patrolling the middle infield turf as soon as next year.

Sure, we're going to end up being the last person to comment on this, but we'd rather that than go on at length about what this signing means. We'd rather not indulge in tossing out the names of every failed infield prospect that we could predictably belch out to dull the mood around the signing that isn't even official, and we're certainly not going create false dichotomies in trying to establish what sort of impact he may have. ("A Griffin or a Zosky", my ass.)

And in no way are we going to gloat about how some teams might be stuck with the ghost of Derek Jeter in a couple of years while we've got the rockin'est double-play combo in the AL East.

Nope. We're just gonna bide our time. Wait for something official. (Jay Stenhouse: Drop us a line when you get a chance, a'ight?)

And should it finally become official soon, we'll start daydreaming about the shortstop running to the mound to grab staff ace Henderson Alvarez in an on-field celebration in some late-October / early-November not to long from now.

Sorry. We kinda got ahead of ourselves for a moment.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The return of the Roto-Hoedown

You've demanded it, and we're happy to oblige.

(Okay, so it took us about a month to get off our ass and take the two minutes to set up the league on ESPN. These things happen. I'm only one man, in spite of all this "we" business.)

The 2010 edition of the Roto-Hoedown has been set up, and we eagerly await those of you who wish to take part. This season, we'll only be setting up the one league, because getting our ass kicked twice over was more than a little demoralizing.

Here's the lowdown on the Hoedown: We can take up to 20 teams, although we'll probably cut it off before that number. (UPDATE: Actually, we lied. It's 15 teams. So don't dilly-dally.)

It is, as the name suggests, roto scoring, and it is a 6 X 6 set up with the following categories :

Hitting - Home Runs, Runs Scored, RsBI, SLG, OBP, and Net Stolen Bases. (Yeah, you heard right.)

Pitching - Wins (groan, we know), Saves (double groan, but still), ERA, WHIP, Ks, and On Base Against Home Runs Allowed.

So there you have it. That's the league. The draft takes place online this coming Saturday, March 20 at high noon Eastern Time. If you're interested, and you can absolutely be there at that time to draft, then drop us a line (taoofstieb at gmail dot com, yo, or direct message us on the Twitter). Chances are that if we know you and like you, you jump the queue and get in right away. If we don't know you, then make your case in a compelling fashion, and we'll pull back the velvet rope and let you through.

We'll only be contacting the people that get in, so apologies in advance if you don't hear back. You're all still cool in our book, babies.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's not that bad

(....but seriously - a Tweet Bag? What the fuck? How am I supposed to follow that? Genius. I'm assuming that gratuitous salty language can only help.)

A funny thing happened to me today. Like, literally today (but maybe not literally "funny". Anyway...). A realization washed over me as I snapped from my pre-season doldrums:

I read too much.

No, it's not like that. I wish I could tell you I've been immersed in the KLaw 100. Sadly, that's not the case: I've been reading too many pre-season forecasts spelling out how the Jays org has gone to shit and a 5th place/90 loss season is in the cards.

Well, fuck all that.

What did anyone expect?

Does nobody remember that the Jays lost 87 last year? That the front office has completely turned over (but not the manager) and payroll stripped down? Oh, and the little matter of (possibly) the best player in franchise history being dealt in the offseason? So why act all surprised and put on fake airs about how disgusted you are with the state of the team? (I'm talking to you - no, at you - fickle Jays fan.)

I'm here to tell you, right now, that it's not that bad. The organization is not in a bad spot. Temporarily, yeah, the Jays might be in line to take some lumps at the hands of the A.L. East Superpowers (makes me feel sick).

That front office shakeup? Bodes well for the future. Yes, the proof is in the proverbial pudding, time will tell, all that cliched bullshit. But so far, it's promising.

Existing stars? We've got a few. Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are cornerstones.

Potential future stars? More than we had a year ago, with Travis Snider, Kyle Drabek, and Brett Wallace either arriving or waiting in the wings.

Shaun Marcum has had an amazing spring of fake games. We couldn't have hoped for better progress from Dustin McGowan. Brandon Morrow and Marc Rzepczynski are showing they want to be rotation stalwarts.

Vernon Wells might even bounce back. Maybe Jose Bautista becomes the new Scutaro. What if J.P. Arencibia plays his way onto the big league club and mashes in Toronto by June? What if some of the other prospects like Stewart, Jenkins, and Sierra blow the goddamned doors off and rocket through the system this year?

Lots could go right. Lots could go wrong. Isn't that why we watch (obsessively)?

Playoffs, baby.

Someday, anyhow. I've got time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tweet Bag! Your questions answered!

In a fit of boredom, and unable to think of anything to write about the Jays and their rainout this afternoon, we came up with this idea: You tweet your questions on the Jays, baseball, life, love, snack foods, movies, music, style, relationships or what have you to us, and we'll give it at least a cursory thought before answering flippantly.

A Tweet Bag! Get on in!

From the inimitable @dlbrows:

If only one of Marcum, McGowan, Litsch was able to return to form and you had the choice of which who would you pick?

Maybe this is a sign that we've given up a little bit on Dusty Lampchops, but we'd have to go with Shaun Marcum. Marcum isn't a big body with scary velocity, but he's got (or at least, had) great movement on his pitches and could excel with guile.

Marcum, for his career, has a 3.95 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 396.2 IPs, whereas McGowan has posted a 4.71 ERA and 1.37 ERA in 353.2 IPs. While the former wasn't the top prospect type, he's certainly zoomed past McGowan once the reached the big leagues. (Which probably tells you something about Top Prospects lists, doesn't it?)

And as for Jesse: He's got Litsch tits.

From @Koomdogg :

Garth Iorg: Great name or the greatest name?

Frankly, we don't even think he's got the greatest name in his family. That honour would go to Dane Iorg, which has the benefit of sounding both regal and like an endtable from Ikea.

In terms of great baseball names, we've got to go with Kiko Calero as our current favorite. In any baseball video game we play, we always go get him, because we just love to hear the name over and over again. Kiko Calero. Kiko Calero.

We probably have a bit of a fixation on latin names in general. Like Yovanni Gallardo or Jair Jurrjens. And when it comes to hockey, we can't get enough of Finnish names. Our all time favorite name ever is that of former Ottawa Senators head scout and director of player personnel Jarmo Kekäläinen. How awesome is that name? Two times awesomer than you think! (And no wonder the Sens have drafted like a bunch of drunk monkeys lately...no

And of course, there's the unmatchable majesty of the name Marc Rzepczynski, which we only just then wrote for the first time without having to look it up.

So the answer is, unfortunately, no. Not the greatest name. And we're not just saying that because he's the one who feebly made the last out against the Tigers in 1987.

Which brings us to this, from

In light of the weather in Dunedin, how about the top 5 Jays games you wish had been rained out?

Maybe we would have just been delaying the inevitable, but that last game of the 1987 season for sure, as well as the one a week or so earlier when Bill Madlock broke Tony Fernandez on a take out slide, costing the Jays a key part of their offensive and defensive strength that year.

We'd probably also rain out the game in Texas where Roy Halladay took a Kevin Mench liner off the leg in his start before the All-Star Game, which he was also likely to start.

Nothing aside from that comes to mind. Given the alternative, we'd rather see them play on, regardless of the weather. Anyone else got a thought?

One more for now. @stillJRM asks:

It's summer 2011, who is the more valuable bat? snider, wallace, ruiz.

Ooh! Prognosticating! We like it. First off, we'd like to say that in the Summer of 2011, there will be a song that you hate but that everyone else loves and plays non-stop throughout those months. Take that to the bank.

As for the hitters: We've got too much invested in Snider at this point not to go with him. We actually have a feeling that Wallace could be a 30 homer, .900 OPS guy, but maybe not for a few years. (Supposing the fake Mayans weren't right about 2012, in which case, we'd trade the entire system for Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez, and make one last run for it then.)

As for Ruiz: We love him, and we want to see him blow the roof off the dump. But we'll need to see it before we completely totally believe it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Behold the awesomeness of Jo-Bau

Assume all of the standard caveats about these being fake games, and the Ghosts of Jason Lane and Simon Pond, and what have you. And also assume the caveats about how it doesn't matter if you are crushing fastballs that are slow and straight (like Adam Carolla fans!) in March. Or April. Or September. And possibly May. Maybe August too.

But set all that aside for a brief moment, and let's drink this in. Let's savour the sweet spring of José Bautista. Let's swish it around in our mouths, and let it just sit there for a moment or two.

Here's what the man has done in five Fake Games so far: He's got 22 total bases in 14 at bats. He sports a 2.214 OPS (.643 OBP, 1.571 SLG). He's got nine hits, of which seven are for extra bases (four doubles and three homers). He's scored six and driven in six. And he's played third base while certain other Jays tend to the health of their fat, injured wrists.

Sure, we know it's totally wrong to fall in love with something so young and as-yet-unformed-and-immature. But if the Spring of Jo-Bau is Lolita, then we're the fumbling, bumbling Humbert Humbert, tripping over our own better sense to fall for it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The unstoppable Arencibia

Considering how high and how low people have gone on J.P. Arencibia, it's hard to believe that it will only be three years this June since he was drafted into the Blue Jays organization. Catchers of the Future are always a tricky thing, and a great deal of them only emerge as legitimate Major Leaguers after abandoning the Tools of Ignorance and stepping out from behind the plate. (Like this guy.)

Still, there is some reason for optimism as Arencibia plays well through the Fake Game portion of the season. After hitting his third dinger of the Spring yesterday, we're wondering (almost certainly entirely prematurely) if Arencibia isn't playing his way into the conversation of which catcher joins the team when they head north.

Look, we know this is stupid. But this is the stupid, overly optimistic time of year. You wouldn't crap all over someone for being especially merry or jolly through the last weeks of December, would you? At that time of year, people see holly and winterberries and tinsel and lose their minds. We see Arencibia wearing number 9 (an especially auspicious number, if you ask us), and we start to have visions of his emergence as a stellar backstop. Or at least as an option.

We appreciate that one of the catch-and-throw guys will in all likelihood be the guy who gets the call at the end of this month. And we also realize that a couple of good at bats in March don't offset the step backwards that Arencibia took last year in Las Vegas. But we're hopeful that with a clean bill of health, Arencibia might emerge at some point this season as a viable backstop in the short term, and a middle of the order bat in the longer term.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Don't tell me the Jays are doing well in the Fake Games

La la la la la! We can't hear you!

When you say that José Bautista is hitting home runs, and so is Vernon Wells, and so is Randy Ruiz, we can't hear you. And don't even bother trying to tell us that Shaun Marcum pitched well in his first outing, or that Dustin McGowan looked like he might be showing some progress and may be on his way back. We're not going to hear you.

We're blocking out any such good news in the early going because we wouldn't want such news to find purchase in our mind, and start to grow visions of success. We would prefer to look at this all as a fluke, and to pretend that the Jays are playing bantam-level players in out-sized big league uniforms.

We should know better than to get enthusiastic in March. This is a lesson that should have been driven home by last year's squad, which was still sitting in first in May before completely falling apart and playing like the worst team in the Majors for the final three months of the season.

Still, the hopeless romantic in us wants to believe that there is something to the things that we're hearing out of Dunedin.

Marginalia - Notes on how we make editorial choices
We'd initially written something here about "don't let us look at the Fake Games results". Then we went looking for a photo of someone with a blindfold on. And that's when we realized that there are a lot of effed-up pictures of blindfolded people on the internet, and we didn't want to parse through those pictures anymore.

A weekend in The Show
So we picked up our copy of MLB 10 The Show this weekend, which was a very new and interesting experience after having played the MLB 2K games on the Wii for the past several years. If there is one thing that a uniform nerd like myself could fully appreciate, it was playing my first game and seeing Jo-Bau in his new number 19, and Randy Ruiz wearing his new number 21. The rosters hadn't quite been updated to the point of having Kevin Gregg in the bullpen, although we'll take that as a positive at this point. At least we didn't have to see last year's staff ace still on the roster, taunting us with his digital presence.

Now if we can only get the hang of this whole pitching meter thing. Because that shit is driving us nuts.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In a word, potential

It's no secret that I've paid a lot of lip service to the stockpile of young arms the Jays have in camp this spring and the potential for a frontline rotation (if not "down the road"); lip service paid without any substantial discussion behind it. Guilty as charged. I've also been guilty of piling on weak posts of scattered thoughts thus far this spring. My bad, friends. What can I tell ya?

Well, consider me enthused - here's my attempt at righting the aforementioned wrongs. Inspired by the Tao's look at the starting 9, let's have a gander at the plethora of young arms destined to fill out the Jays' future rotation(s):

The Favourites

Shaun Marcum
Who could forget the on-field interview with Marcum shortly after it was revealed he'd undergo T(B)J surgery and miss the entirety of a season (I'd link the TSN clip, but it appears to be "no longer available"). There stood Marcum, voice trembling, speaking of how what he'd miss the most was just being "on the team and one of the guys".

Marcum is now back, fully healed, and all indications are he is ready to go with no limitations. So what does he bring? A low-90's fastball, tight breaking pitch....and a filthy little change-up - his bread and butter. Marcum might not have the pure "stuff" to project as a true rotation ace, but he doesn't need to be. Assuming he can regain the pre-injury form that had him penciled in as a middle of the rotation starter - with upside as a #2 - he'll go a long way to anchoring a staff in need of a go-to guy.

Ricky Romero
Another player easy to pull for. Due to draft circumstances beyond his control, Romero has been shit on more than....well, I don't have a witty punchline for that. But he's taken a beating, let's all agree. Before fading in his rookie season, Romero was nails enough to start putting the "Tulo" sniping behind him.

In a sense, he's a lefthanded version of Marcum - a bulldog on the mound who relies on his change to make hitters look silly. Romero has more zip on his fastball, but probably less control than Marcum at this stage. Either way, they should complement each other well heading up the staff.

Brandon Morrow
You know what? I miss Brandon League already, that goofy fucker. There is no doubt, however, that AA pulled off a steal in the trade bringing over the fireballing righty. Assuming he can be a starter, and assuming Johermyn Chavez doesn't blow the fuck up into a mashing outfielder, of course.

Morrow brings something to the staff the Jays were sorely lacking - a big armed presence with an intimidating fastball. You might groan at early comparisons to AJ Burnett, but take away Burnett's occasionally shitty attitude and frequent DL trips, and what do you have? Maybe Brandon Morrow.

Marc Rzepczynski
Much like the spelling of his name, RZep is a bit of a mystery. He doesn't have a big fastball. Scouts don't rave about a nasty breaking pitch. His delivery is unconventional. He doesn't yet possess great (or even very good) control.

But somehow, despite all those "flaws"...RZep strikes dudes out and induces ground balls otherwise. I'm willing to let him pitch himself out of the rotation, and apparently, so is The Manager.

Brian Tallet
Every staff needs a long reliever who can pile up 3 inning appearances and act as the swingman to spot start when needed. Brian Tallet is that guy for the Jays. Unfortunately, he's another of Cito's faves, and I'm willing to bet he breaks camp in the starting 5.

I say "unfortunately" because, while I like the dude and see the value he brings.....I don't get why a 32 year old career reliever (for the most part) holds down a rotation spot on a rebuilding ballclub.

But hey, I'm not The Manager.

Dustin McGowan
Clearly, McGowan rates above "6th man" status when projecting a rotation, but the feeling here is the Jays will buy time and start McGowan on the DL. If Dusty's shoulder is indeed healed and he can get back to where he was on his way to becoming - no small accomplishment when considering the dreaded labrum injury - he brings the potential to give the Jays exactly what they don't currently have: a true frontline ace.

Fingers crossed.

The Immediate Future

Brett Cecil
Prior to some struggles last season, Cecil was widely regarded as a future horse in the rotation. The stuff hasn't changed, so I see no reason why Cecil can't still be That Guy. He might have a few months in Vegas in his future, but there's no way he doesn't see big league action this summer. Dude is just too talented.

Zach Stewart
Any time you can bring back a prospect like Stewart in return for an aging third baseman with declining power (bless the GBOAT) who didn't want to be here, well....you do it. Thank you, JP Ricciardi. Even if it's to debut as a reliever, smart money says Stewart breaks his MLB cherry this season.

Kyle Drabek
Assuming he can ignore the burden of living up to being the player traded for a pitching god, Drabek is sure to be a big part of the team's future. A good chunk of the season in New Hampshire, maybe a month or two in Vegas.....and Toronto at some point in 2011?

Somewhere in The Future

Chad Jenkins
The Jays top pick in last year's draft, early projections had Jenkins eventually filling a mid-rotation slot. But ya know, with the glowing early reports - reporting to camp down 20 pounds, bowling ball sinker, great attitude - he just might surprise and be more than that.

Sure to start in Dunedin or Lansing, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him advance quickly and end up in AA New Hampshire. Yeah, I'm excited.

Henderson Alvarez
All right, I know very little about this kid, except that he's young (not yet 20), acquitted himself well in Lansing, has great control, and developing stuff the scouts seem to love. Here's hoping.

Gone (for now) but not forgotten

Jesse Litsch
Don't count on seeing Uncle Jesse at all this summer as he recovers from his own T(B)J Rite of Passage. In fact, with all the arms now in the organization that weren't here prior to his injury, it's tough to say what the future holds for Litsch. He is another guy, though, that you have to pull for. He's certain to get another shot somewhere.

Long(er) shots and Camp Fodder
Brad Mills (still has potential, but unlikely to be a part of the Jays rotation?), David Purcey (one more shot?), Dana Eveland (depth play, I guess?), Scott Richmond (DL bound with "a shoulder" - uh oh) .


Yeah, that's a little more than "a word", I realize, but there's a lot to be excited about pitching-wise in the organization. Who'd I miss? Am I wrong?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More on The Bullpen Gospels - The Book Review Saga Continues

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of posts, in which we stretch out our review of Jays reliever Dirk Hayhurst's narrative non-fiction tome, The Bullpen Gospels until its release date. (Available at a fine bookseller near you on March 30. Pre-order this fine book - kitty not included - at Amazon.ca, or whichever Amazon store you like. Or another online bookseller. Or an independent bookseller, supposing that they may carry it. Which they won't, because they're usually too cool to stock sports books. Pricks.)

We haven't played baseball in a competitive, organized setting in more than 20 years. In fact, aside from a lost summer as an obnoxious softball guy and a few years of chasing tail around ultimate frisbee fields, our sporting life has generally been limited to the role of an observer. And yet, there was a lot in Dirk Hayhurst's The Bullpen Gospels to which we could relate.

Sure, Gospels is a baseball book, and most of us will be drawn to it as such. We'll dig in to uncover what happens behind the scenes, and in the clubhouse. (Which, so far as we can tell, involves a lot of video games and naked tomfoolery.) But what really draws the reader into Hayhurst's account of his whirlwind 2007 season through three levels of minor league ball is the author's honesty about himself. There are many athletes who would gloss over anything resembling weakness, or frame their own emergence as a player in the rote, glorified clichés that are plentiful in the sports world: That they triumphed over adversity by being so goddamned gifted and awesome, and that God shone his special light down upon them so that they might offer their great gift to all. (The sort of story we saw repeated throughout the Olympics.)

But Hayhurst's story is so much more complex - and ultimately, rewarding - than that. While there are aspects of his life that seem anything but ordinary (Grandma and her firearms, for instance), the underlying story of Bullpen Gospels is really about two very universal things: Hayhurst's struggles with self-doubt, and his difficult transition from an extended adolescence into manhood.

The period covered in the book starts as Hayhurst is about to turn 26. It's a point in the life of many young men where, if they're at all sentient (and in spite of his out-there Garfoose tweets, Hayhurst does seem to be that), he starts to get a little more serious about who he is and what his place in the world might be. For Hayhurst, this transition and the uncertainty that goes with it are magnified by his chosen profession: If he's not about to make it, or to take a step forward, then he has to find another path.

The struggle, which is implied but never entirely stated outright, is that given the undeniable draw of a life as a professional athlete, how could anyone ever let that dream go? Especially after they've already made it past the point where so many others drop off? And yet, faced with a fourth consecutive season in High-A ball, Hayhurst spells out vividly the thought processes - both rational and irrationally emotional - that played into his decision to stick with the game. (Given his spot on the Jays' roster, we're probably not giving much away there.)

While it would seem that someone as clever and young and bright as Hayhurst would have no problem integrating himself back into civilian life, the real surprise of the book is how much the game has served as an escape. Without going to far into his motivations and background, suffice to say that Hayhurst did not have the comfortable fall back alternatives that one might expect.

(It's a narrative that, if we're being honest about how we understand race and sports, we might have expected if Hayhurst were African-American. It was an uncomfortable thought for us that we've so internalized the idea of "playing to get out of the poverty/strife" that we had a hard time rationalizing the same narrative about a blue-eyed blondish player. But that's our problem to resolve.)

Following Hayhurst's progress through that crucial 2007 season is a rich experience, and is truly the strongest element of The Bullpen Gospels. Certainly, there is lots of fun to be had as well (what with the "SpiderMan-ings" and the unwanted animal visitors in the bullpen), but the heart of this book is walking alongside Dirk as he conquers his internal demons, and subsequently seeing his life and career take a crucial turn for the better.

We sports fans and amateur analysts often reduce those positive changes in a player's career path rather glibly ("he flipped a switch", "he made an adjustment", "the player's development"). But beneath the player (and the counting stats and the rate metrics) is a human, who has to understand their weaknesses and evolve themselves beyond them. That whole idea of transcendence is, as Steve Earle once said, a painful thing. The reader of The Bullpen Gospels is privileged to share that moment with a player who has the self-awareness to understand the process, and the humility to work through it.

You'll find yourself rooting for him all the more by the book's end. (Speaking of which: Get well soon, Dirk.)

In our next episode: We'll focus on the monkeyshines. There are scooters, dramatic cases of the scoots, pressed hams and pleas for nudity made from moving vehicles. Good times.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let the Fake Games begin

They don't really count, or matter much. They produce goofy boxscores, and feature dudes running around willy-nilly in the outfield. They are overanalyzed, and make heroes out of guys like Simon Pond and Jason Lane.

In just about three hours from when we're typing this, the Spring Training Fake Games begin.
And even as we denigrate these games, and mock their worth, we know that we'll spend at least ten minutes out of our busy day today going over the results and parsing through the most microscopic of sample sizes.

There is something about this moment of the year that is positively sublime. It's like hearing the spine crack as you open a new book for the first time. Or like that moment when you pull the plastic off a new CD. Your mind races at the possibilities, and you can't wait to dig in and absorb every new moment, and every new thought and emotion that lies ahead. There's even something great about the feeling of trepidation that you might have leading into the season, with so many questions left to be answered, and so much uncertainty.

After a long winter and a long offseason, it's a moment like this that reawakens the soul of a baseball fan. Come what may in this truly transitional season for the Blue Jays, we're so happy to get things started. This is going to be fun.

Fake Games on TV! For reals!
Last night, we looked ahead on our interactive programming guide to see if, perchance, there may be a ball game on some time this week. What we weren't prepared for was just how many games will be on over the weekend. Between Sportsnet picking up the games from other team-owned networks (what a concept!), the Mets games on WPIX and the Cubs and White Sox games on WGN, there will be lots of opportunities to catch the start of the preseason.

Now, if only we could fluke our way into seeing a Jays game at some point...that would be cool.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Manager's not messin' around

We've already said that we're going to stop investing what little patience we have left - what with the entirety of the lunacy that the world throws at us on a daily basis - on The Manager's goofy player personnel machinations. It's just not worth it. We can tough it out. We can soar above this. We can be strong and wait until The Manager shuffles off to his post-managerial career as a greeter at Gate 5 and know that someone is going to come in at some point and make some goddamed sense of this team.

But then you see this tweet from Bastian with the Jays' first lineup of the Spring, and you start looking for something against which you can bash the rational thoughts out of your frontal cortex.

We get that these are the Fake Games. That they are meaningless. That they don't count for shit. But when you look at that lineup, and you see Travis Snider hitting ninth behind John Buck, Jeremy (.669 OPS) Reed and Alex Gonzalez, it kinda makes you lose your faith in humanity.

Putting Snider in ninth, especially behind Reed and Gonzalez, is a clear and undeniable message from The Manager to Travis and to all other Jays players: Don't fuck with Clarence. You might complain about how he's doing things, or how negative he gets when he grunts out some incomprehensible rationalization. But don't take The Manager or his boys to task for the way they do business, or you'll find yourself at the ass end of things.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On optimism, new faces, and old familiar faces returning

There are moments in this offseason where we find ourselves slipping further into despair over the outlook for our team. Could we really handle the fifth place finish that most of the pre-season prognosticators have foreseen for the Jays? Could we continue to show up in our blogging pants day after day if this teams slides back? Are we prepared for a long, miserable season?

Then, we snap out of it. What would Mom say if she knew that we were sending such terrible, negative thoughts out into the universe? Are we asking for the failure that we so fear? Why can't we just be happy, and enjoy this moment for what it is?

(Sorry. We're kinda losing our rational stoicism through this winter. Maybe it's a vitamin D thing.)

If there is one thing that has stoked the fires and really got us geeked for the coming season, it's the sheer number of new faces in the Jays camp, as well as the familiar faces that didn't make an appearance in 2009. We're amazed at how excited we get when we see a newish face in the crowd as we take a gander at the photos being posted by Jordan Bastian through his Twitter account, and glancing through the shots on Daylife. We're even getting a bit excited when we see marginal players, who we assume might make their way to Vegas or get their walking papers before the end of March.

Hey look! There's José Molina, blocking what must have been an awesome February slider in the dirt! There's Brett Wallace, with a first baseman's trapper, wearing number 46! (Snider's 45 and Wallace is 46...there's something to that, isn't there?) There's Alex Gonzalez, who is suddenly growing on us as an everyday option at short...unless the better option is Mike McCoy. (Look at that fielding form!)

Even more encouraging for us are the faces of Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum. While we don't necessarily anticipate them stepping in and blowing the roof off the Dome immediately, we've started to look at their return to the pitching staff much in the way that we would think of two prospects about to emerge into their big league roles.

Sure, people can dump on the lack of prospect depth in the Jays' system, and the losses in terms of big league talent. But we think that misses the point. People who have this team pegged as the worst in the league they'll have so many players in uniform in 2010 who were not a part of the late season meltdown last year. Maybe more than any team (or at least as much as any team that we follow obsessively), the Jays will have more turnover in their lineup this season.

We don't want to sink into pat, management seminar clichés of how "change = good". But, given the alternative route of picking apart the weaknesses and building the case for the team's downfall, we prefer to embrace the newness of this team. The number of new names and numbers on the jerseys at the very least gives us something new and compelling to wrap our head around in the coming months.