Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finding an uneasy peace with Cito

It's hard for us to even conceive of someone in Blue Jays history about whom we feel more conflicted than Cito Gaston. If we ever do write that book, there's a full chapter to be written on him. (And it will be undoubtedly as densely confusing as anything William Faulkner could have ever conceived.)

On the one hand, we concede that he was that even-keeled influence that helped to guide them to their most hallowed heights, and while his value to those teams is an open question, it seems overly curmudgeonly to begrudge him his proper place in the team's pantheon. On the other hand, he's the stubborn man whose management acumen seemed to decline in tandem with the team's efforts to rebuild.

It's half the reason why in our head, we've turned him into a series of different individuals, if only so that we can simplify him and wrap our head around who he is and what he means to the franchise...and more to the point, what he means to us. (Hence, our reliance on the coy term "The Manager" all season long. Because "Cito" and "The Manager" are two very different entities, so far as we are concerned.)

We have lots of fond memories of the 1989-1993 Cito, which may have something to do with the frustration and heartache that came with watching Jimy Williams precede him. Cito, at that point, seemed like a breath of fresh air, and a cool cat who didn't need to constantly muck about with the pitchers and slavishly follow "the book". Jimy loved the platoons, and loved the lefty-lefty matchups, almost to the point of distraction.

(The Russians had an expression, and we're sure to share this again soon: If you think the last Czar was bad, wait until you see the next one.)

Even that era has its warts that now go unnoticed when set against the bright lights of the championship teams. Part of the exuberance around the 1992 win was that it came on the heels of a few major disappointments, including the 1990 team that led the division in the last week, but finished 2-6 and coughed up the AL East to the Red Sox in the last weekend. And at that time, Cito didn't cotton much to some of the criticism that was leveled at him from the fans and the media.

And that defensiveness would return from 1994 through to his exit in 1997, where the Blue Jays ran aground as young players (Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green in particular) were mishandled and benched in favour of marginal veterans (Mike Huff, Ruben Sierra, Darnell Coles, Juan Samuel), and the team underperformed while squandering the talent available to them.

On the whole, we're probably not overly agonized about his latest incarnation as the Vaguely Cynical On-Field Marketing Campaign, given that some of the coaches who came along with him -Dwayne Murphy in particular - have seemingly paid dividends. We're still anxious for him to vacate the seat, and we're happy to think that Travis Snider and J.P. Arencibia might get a fairer share of at bats in 2011. Still, we can't necessarily call his time with the team disastrous.

From what we could tell, folks were pretty happy to say their farewells to the skipper last night, and we're sure it was a nice moment for those who like Cito. On a certain level, we think that he probably personifies a nostalgia that most of us continue to hold for those days when the Jays we a consistent contender, and when the game held the city and the country in rapt attention. Give it a year, and we'll be back with you all, getting weepy at the mention of his name.

(And because those feelings don't die easily, we're pretty sure that Cito will get many more opportunities to stand on the Rogers Centre turf and wave to the fans in the years to come. You'll barely miss him.)

The thing about nostalgia is that its a comforting thing, but not something that you can indulge in for anything more than a passing moment. Yesterday, T'Pau's "Heart and Soul" popped up on our iPod, and we were instantly brought back to those days in the late 1980's. They seemed so fun, so simple, so exciting and so filled with promise and we longed to be there. But you can't let yourself be governed by those thoughts. They'll weigh you down, like the most pleasant one-tonne down comforter you could imagine.

Like we've said here before: Change is persistent, and relentless. And if you to stay ahead of it, you need to take your eyes off the rear view, and start looking forward. And speaking for ourselves, we're plenty excited to see what lies ahead.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Into the Sunset

Look, we don't want to be the turd in the punchbowl, so we're not going to get into a whole big dealy-o here over The Manager's last hurrah at home.

We had figured that we'd be a lot more sanguine at this point about the departure, and ready to turn the page on our own antipathy. But it doesn't feel that way right now, and we're not going to fake it for show or to make nice. (The last time we did that, we recommended a book, and we have yet to hear the end of it.)

Give it a few days, and maybe we'll be able to process it all, and come away with some nice thing to say that feels authentic to us and that you can fill your pillows with. Or not. We suspect that you're not waiting with baited breath.

In the interim, enjoy what you want to.

Monday, September 27, 2010

You meet the nicest people on the internet

We won't bore you too much by talking about yesterday's Jays Nerds FanFest Non-Kegger Nachosplotation Graphics Interchange Format ShenanigansPalooza 2010. (Full rundowns have been posted over at Blue Jay Hunter and Sports and the City, which contains claims that we can neither confirm nor deny.)

But suffice to say that there is a lesson to be learned from such a meeting of the minds (aside from the need for sunscreen in September...Yowza!): The people who are clever, fun and engaging on the internet are doubly so in person.

(Except for Jordan Bastian. Who is a creep. Or so we've heard.)

Things noticed in passing as we yakked our way through the game
As has been noted elsewhere, yesterday's nail biter between the OriLOLes and our heroes kinda faded into the background as we kvetched and horsed around in section 211. But there were a few things that registered. Such as:

Leading off: Travis Snider is taking this leadoff thing way too literally. He's out there running the bases like he's Vince Coleman, getting his feet on the turf, stealing bags and getting tossed out like a goof on a fly ball to centrefield. For shame. We love us the Rosy Cheeked Phenom, but we hope that someone finds a nice place in the middle of the lineup for him so that he can slow it all down and focus on hitting jacks.

Hating your AL East rivals is fun! Buck Showalter would like to send a message to the Jays. And it is this: We're gonna throw shit at your guys, because we are a shitty team with nothing to play for but moral victories. "Guard yo' grill son! Here comes a reliever to plunk your best offensive player for the second time! On our last meeting of the year! Yoinks!"

Maybe hating the O's is like hating a two-legged puppy, but we want to see Baltimore suffer for the foreseeable future. And we hope Matt Wieters turns into the bust of the decade, and that all of their young pitching has unplanned meetings with Drs. Andrews and Jobe.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lost in the shuffle

52 home runs. And counting.

98 walks. And counting.

An OPS of 1.021. Not a typo.

If you're anything like me (and pray to your God that you aren't), you still can't get past the ridiculous numbers Jose Bautista is putting up. He's the clear cut, no doubt, why bother talking about it MVP of the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, and there is no debate.

But take a look just down the Jays' leaderboard (I know, it's a deep dark chasm between JoBau and the next), and well now, what do we have here? That would be Vernon Wells having perhaps the quietest season falling somewhere between solid and spectacular in recent memory.

Before the year began, I mused that Vernon might have a season reminiscent of his 2008 campaign in him (It's true! I did so! Look it up!), and it appears that indeed he did:

2008: .300/.343/.496/.840 - 20 HR, 78 RBI
2010: .271/.330/.516/.846 - 30 HR, 83 RBI

While it's the nice juicy round 30 HR figure that catches the eyes (The Manager inclusive, obviously), it's the return of the OPS to the comfortably above average .840ish range that is perhaps most impressive statistical development.

(side note - I'll let the more advanced of you commenters discuss defensive metrics - it's an offseason project of mine - so I'll just focus on the offense....OK? OK.)

And maybe it should come as no surprise that Vernon is having the season he is while playing second fiddle to the monster that is Bautista. Vern's never seemed like the lead dog to me, and the weight of The Contract has always been heavy on his shoulders. With the team struggling, the $20M+ paycheque placed the target squarely between the numbers for the centrefielder, and it's difficult to argue that the onslaught of boos affected his play.

(....quick break while we reflect in quiet sympathy for ol' Vernie)

So is Wells back? Can we expect similar numbers for the next few seasons as the franchise inches it's way towards contender status? Difficult to say, and I'm scared to admit which side of that argument I'd lean on - but one thing seems certain: the emerging young (and old) stars on this Jays team should continue to keep the focus off of ol' #10 (and his contract) - and for everyone's sake, that's a good thing.

Random weekend quick-hitters
The talk of improved clubhouse harmony in the post-Halladay era refuses to go away, 150 or so games later, and quite frankly, I'm tired of hearing it. Love you, Blue Jays rotation, but.... enough.

Adam Lind has taken 38 walks.... while striking out 139 times. I didn't realize it was that bad, and now I'm depressed.

Brian Tallet leads all Blue Jay relievers with 74 IP. Brian Tallet has also posted the highest ERA (6.32) among active Blue Jay pitchers. This is not all on the goofy hipster longman. It's his use that's, uh, "confusing" be polite.

... John Buck hit his 20th HR yet?

Do you know what I would do if I was somehow able to attend the Cito Gaston Tribute Night? I'd stand and applaud the man(ager) who delivered two World Series titles to the city of Toronto, and who played a part in providing numerous & immeasurable baseball memories for this supernerdfan.

(Because I'm not really an asshole, y'know. I just sometimes pretend to be one on the internet.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Three thoughts on 50

Thought #1

We needed this. For this team's fan base, which before the season seemed to begrudge their own allegiance, this outstanding, season-long ride with an unexpected hero has been enough to shine a little light into the darkness, and create a bit of optimism for the coming year.

And don't discount optimism: Sports franchises are multi-million dollar enterprises that somehow need to create, harness and catalyze those sanguine feelings into something more palpable. And if this team is to be a continued an long-term success in Toronto, they need to get the turnstiles turning again.

Thought #2

We seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time trying to remind ourselves what a big deal José Bautista's season has been. Maybe we've all become willfully more numb to giant power numbers, and maybe we're just inundated with constant questioning around any impressive offensive stat. But it seems as though you really have to try to block out the noise and think about this differently.

It's not easy to block out the noise of the McGwire-Sosa-Bonds years (nor the high moral dudgeon that continues to be aired over those days). This makes it especially difficult to focus back to what we think is probably "normal" power outputs, and where JoBau belongs in that continuum. (And believe us when we tell you that we could argue in our own head for days on end about "normal" and what it means, if anything).

To try to fake our way to some sort of comprehension, we've been using Cecil Fielder's 1990 season as a touchstone as of late. We remember that year clearly, as Big Daddy returned from Japan and put up power numbers sick enough that they would make your stomach churn when he stepped into the batters box against you. And when he did slam homer after homer through the late part of that season, there was a certain level of elation of seeing someone put on such a display.

We'd like to think that we'll look back on JoBau's 2010 campaign in a similar fashion.

Thought #3

We've been thinking a lot about comps, as we consider where the Jays go from here in terms of signing Bautista. (And also because if we here Brady Anderson's name invoked one more time, we're going to drown a bag of koala cubs.)

There are two names that seem to stand out in terms of players who had this sort of season at this age and point in their career: Greg Vaughn and George Foster. (And please understand that we're not calling those performances completely analogous, so please don't pick this comparison apart through the marginalia before we even get started.)

We'll go into more detail on Vaughn and Foster soon, but here's the basic message that we get from looking at the years that succeeded their 50 homer seasons: That they didn't fall off the face of the earth, but that they had about three more productive seasons (even if they were less so) in them.

So if you want to start the discussions with JoBau at three years and figure out the price from there, we'd be happy to buy into that strategy.

Friday (Bleep Bloop) Rock Out: The Postal Service - Such Great Heights

This seems appropriate, even if we have to get over the idea of Ben Gibbard stealing away with our Zooey. Nevertheless...we're all grown ups here, right?

Enjoy your Friday, and the last weekend homestand of the season.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebrate 50!

We're probably your last source for this news by now, but José Bautista hit his 50th dinger of the year in the first inning today.

A round of 50's would be very appropriate, don't you think?

Update! Video evidence of the blessed event right here:

Won't somebody think of the coaches?

As the season has progressed, and we've gotten ever closer to bidding a final, satisfying farewell to The Manager, we'd say it is fair to assess that there is a certain degree of excitement about the possibility of a new skipper for the Jays in 2011.

The quiet process of whittling down the list of possible candidates has chugged along, with young Mr. Anthopoulos narrowing his gaze from from 200 persons to 40 to 9 (allegedly, if an off-handed remark from Beeston on PTS is to be believed). There have been many names tossed around by those of us on the outside, generally with our own particular take on what the team needs (Fredi! Bobby V! LaRussa! A big name! A development guy! Canadian Guy! Joe Maddon!)

And while we're rather enthusiastic about a new face at the helm of the on-field management, we've been really quite happy with the state of the coaching staff, to the point where we've made comments along the lines that the entire group should be retained. Which seemed in our own head to be eminently reasonable.

Of course, we're not one of those coaches.

Full credit to CP's Shi Davidi (who is in a neck-and-neck race with NatPost's John Lott for Beat Writer of the Year, so far as we are concerned) for shaking us out of our comfy doldrums, and pointing out in an excellent piece yesterday the degree to which there is uncertainty amongst that group of esteemed gentlemen.

It might have crossed our mind that Brian Butterfield might walk if he weren't given the opportunity to do more than coach Adam Lind's happy feet and fist bump players as they conclude their home run trots. But what we really hadn't played through in our mind was what might happen with Dwayne Murphy or Bruce Walton, who've both contributed significantly to the team's relative success this year.

(And really: Given the relationship that Pappy Walton seems to have developed with his crew of pitchers, does anyone want to see a brand new face come in next year to try moulding those throwers in his own image? That seems like a disaster waiting to happen.)

What we might want to happen to this team might seem like the most reasonable scenario: Keep all the good guys, get rid of the dead wood and bring in someone to lead the rest of them. But given that pride and personality tend to intercede in these times, we're not sure that such a simple solution is likely.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Let's Talk About JoBau: Where does he play?

Let's face it: We're all probably going to spend much of the next few months talking and kvetching and worrying about José Bautista, and what happens to him in the offseason and through to next year.

Which isn't such a bad thing, if you consider that it will give us the chance to think fondly about the otherworldly 2010 season he has had. (Really: This year has been way too ridiculous to even begin to wrap your head around, and it's going to take a few months to even let it register.)

Since we fully expect to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the Bearded One, we figured that we'd start a new feature that we'll call "Let's Talk About JoBau". There's the temptation to toss out everything about him all at once in one post, but we know that you kids get bored of us after about 300 words, so we'll split this up into bite-sized chunks.

Other than "batters box", what is JoBau's best position?
So where should he play? Since coming to the Jays, Bautista has played games at first, second, third and all three outfield positions, though the majority of his games (102) have been played in right. And the temptation amongst many that we've heard is to keep him into right field, where his strong arm could be maximized to help keep fear in the hearts of baserunners rounding bases.

If only that were the only aspect of playing the field.

It might surprise some that JoBau's fielding numbers in right have been pretty dismal this season: His UZR is -4.0, and the UZR/150 number shows him as -10. And this is even with an Outfield Arm Runs Above Average number of 5.1 (which falls only behind Jeff Francoeur, Shin-Soo Choo, and Brett Gardner in the Bigs.)

Bautista's numbers slip so far in part because of very weak range in right. His Range Runs Above Average sits at -8.8, which puts him towards the bottom of all Major Leaguers. And if we're pulling our head away from the metrics and towards our memory, we can say that we can remember a number of bad paths to the ball that JoBau has taken this season, and a few drops that should not have been. (The sort of stuff that would have been harboured and rehashed about the former right fielder, who never posted numbers anywhere near that low, even in his worst year with the Jays.)

So does that settle it, and do we just ship JoBau to third? Not so fast, Speed Racer: Bautista's -10.2 UZR/150 (fueled by a -4.4 Range number) is hardly enough to get him crowned at the hot corner. For that matter, his fielding metrics at third are nowhere near as positive as Edwin Encarnacion's. (No, really). E5 has earned that title somewhat, but his range number (5.0) shows that he gets to many balls hit near or around him...he just doesn't always do goodly with them once the ball is in his hand (-4.4 Error Runs Above Average).

(Which isn't to say that we even think that Edwin returns next year. But we just use this to provide some perspective.)

Beyond those two likely fielding positions, there is a chance that JoBau could see time back in left, though it is more likely that position will be reserved for the "weak-fielding" Travis Snider (he of the 8.1 UZR/150, second best amongst Jays OFs). First base might well be available after Lyle Overbay's seemingly imminent departure, and we'd be inclined to make an argument for JoBau to take up residence there, though we think it's unlikely enough that we needn't bother.

If there is one thing that we can say positively about Bautista's place in the field next year, it is that the flexibility that the Jays have with him will provide them with greater flexibility in looking to bring someone else in. Bautista's not blocking anyone from any of those positions, and should a third baseman or right fielder of any consequence advance through the system or become available before next season, there's nothing to preclude the Jays from grabbing them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Don't forget about George

The Toronto Blue Jays single season home run record is dead. Long live the new king.

Jose Bautista's blast over the Monster confirmed his place in the history books for the Jays, his 48 (and counting) home runs becoming the new standard for long ball proficiency. We've spoken ad nauseum about the season Bautista is having - here and everywhere in the blogosphere - but not one word is undeserved. With all the positives we can take from theis season - AA carrying out The Plan, the development of the rotation, a strong draft, the Escobar trade, etc - Bautista's season is indeed the highlight of 2010.

So with so many words already devoted to our now and future king, how about a few remembering the outgoing monarch?

In a sense, I'm sad to see George Bell's name erased from the record books. Not because of any negative feelings for Bautista - not at all - but speaking personally, Bell represented that classic throwback slugger. He was the cleanup hitter and Big Scary Bat for the teams that cemented my Blue Jay fandom - that early-to mid 80's Blue Jays club that was deep, talented, and easy to cheer for.

As The Star's Dave Perkins captures, Bell was a magnet for media attention, whether he liked it or not. Charging the mound with a karate kick? "Kiss my purple butt?" Refusing to DH despite his outfield butchery? C'mon. George Bell was Manny before Manny. Want more George? Check out this classic from the SI Vault. Boom. Now there's a good read.

....And in many ways, Bautista is the new Bell. A Latin slugger leading a team on the rise, perhaps misunderstood by those outside the Blue Jay universe, but respected and revered by his teammates as an unofficial clubhouse leader. A middle of the order hitter on a team trying to break through. A player in search of respect from a disbelieving media. A dude who just keeps on slugging despite it all.

So where do we go from here? Long-term contract this offseason, or a few more months of production in 2011 before discussing? Winter trade chip or "core player"? More of the same production-wise, or precipitous drop-off (...let's ignore the fact that after Bell's record-setting season, he never again posted an OPS > .800, OK? OK.)?

Like everything else in the Blue Jays world, it'll make for an interesting storyline as September turns to October turns to the offseason.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tweet Bag! More of your questions, more sage answers

We're a little hung over, and a little tongue-tied today for reasons that we can't really get into. (Once again, we'll reiterate that we are, above all, a man of mystery. In part because the reality is ridiculously boring.)

So what to do when inspiration is lacking? TWEETBAG! And here we go:

@6thSens (awesome podcasters and bloggers, even if you happen not to be down with Daniel Alfredsson) ask: With the potential loss of three bullpen pieces this offseason (Gregg, Frasor, Downs), how would u handle offseason pen plans?

You're saying you don't think that Jeremy Accardo is the answer?

All kidding aside (momentarily), it's worth remembering that Gregg, Downs and Frasor were all marginal, under-the-radar pick ups, and went on to generally have good to great performances for the Jays. They've already made one move that we like in snatching former Rockies reliever Taylor Buchholz off the scrap heap.

Moreover, we're pretty certain that there will be value-priced relievers out there this offseason who could come in and help buttress the existing pieces (Buchholz, Camp, Purcey, Janssen), and that Gregg has pitched well enough for the Jays to consider picking up his option for 2011. Add to that Josh Roenicke, and you've got a pretty full complement in the pen.

It will also be worth keeping an eye on the Minnesota Twins bullpen this offseason, and what happens with the multitude of increasingly expensive bullpen arms that they have collected. Not to get all Bob Elliot on you, but Somewhat-Canadian Jesse Crain is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the year, and may be looking for an opportunity to close, which the Jays could offer if they move on from Gregg.

Next! Let's get all historical up in this bitch!

@PdcD asks: If JBau reaches 50 hrs, where will he rank in Jays history as best single season stats by a Jay?

Wow. It's like you were in our head all Inception-style (is that reference already dated?), and you knew that we've been sitting on this notion that JoBau's season is moving upwards into the all-time pantheon.

We're sure that we need a good hour to pull that whole post together, and we plan to soon. But at first blush, we're looking at Bell's 1987 season, Delgado's 2000 and 2003 seasons, Olerud-Molitor-Alomar in 1993, and McGriff's 1989.

Currently, JoBau's 2010 WAR is sitting at 4.7 for the year, and it will take a 6.1 to crack the all-time top 10 for single season WAR. Tops all-time? It may surprise you, but Johnny O's 8.3 in 1993 sits atop that list. And the distinction is that while JoBau is smacking dingers like there's no tomorrow, his doubles total (32) is somewhat modest compared to some of that all-time seasons.

And if WAR ain't your metric of choice, JoBau's adjusted OPS looks on pace to settle in around third on the all-time list. So there's that.

We'll come back to this one at season's end. In the meantime, Pauly, stay the fuck out of our head. And watch out: Here comes the kick!

Finally, our main man Navin brings us back to the historical well once again: The organization has decided that you will select the next Blue Jay to be added to the Level of Excellence. Who do you choose?

Well of course they have! Have we not told you lately how tight we are with Beeston? And how the letters falling from the Level of Excellence was all a part of my plan (conceived with Handsome Tony Viner, naturally, when we were handsomely pissed as newts on a lovely bottle of Quail's Gate) to have the entire system of honours fixed to please us?

Ok, none of that happened. (And if it did, both of us would deny it anyhow.)

But back to the question: Up until just recently, we would have taken this opportunity to wax on about our all-time favorite Blue Jays pitcher: Jimmy Key. (And somewhere, Dave Stieb is like: "Hey! Wait a second!")

Key's career WAR with the Jays (27.8) ranks third behind Stieb (53.6) and that other guy who we can't remember (47.4), though Key piled his numbers up in just 1695 innings (versus 2873 and 2046, respectively). And we could go one about Key's ERA with the Jays (3.42, same as Stieb's and fractionally ahead of Old Ginger Beard's 3.43), and blah blah blah.

But all of that is pretty much academic if you look at what has happened in recent weeks with Carlos Delgado's hips. With both his hips now ailing, we'd say the chances of a return to the Majors for King Carlos is growing increasingly remote. And should the Jays all-time leader in WAR, OPS, HRs, RsBI, Runs, Total Bases, Runs Created, etc., decide to call it a career, we would assume that the franchise with whom he made the bulk of his hay would go out of their way to toss bouquets upon bouquets upon even more bouquets in his general direction as soon as they can.

But wait: You said this was up to me, and only I could choose?

Well fine then. Let's get Jimmy Key up there with great haste. Because you know what is better than one Level of Excellence Party? Two Level of Excellence Parties!

Thanks again for all your contributions. May the Schwartz be with you.

Friday Rock Out - The Black Keys
In recognition of our Twitter pals who suggested that we pick up the Black Keys' latest this week, and in view of a full week's worth of maddening discussions of sexism in sports, we offer up this tasty treat of a video clip. Avert your eyes if you must.

We're sorry. Sorta.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And on the second day of Drabeknuhkah...

...we light our second candle on the Pitched-Like-A-Man-orah and look back at the first day in awe, wonder, and appreciation.

(And we realize that the Jays lost the game and got swept by the lowly Orioles, but still: Kyle Drabek! Throwing stuff!)

Before we hand over the proceedings to some other folks, let us reiterate our tweet from last night: We really like the looks of Drabek's delivery. Technically sound and strong without a lot of added jerks or twitches or kicks, Young Kyle's delivery looks efficient and easily repeatable. Maybe we're getting caught up in the heat of the hyperbole, but we'd compare his delivery favorably to Roger Clemens' in his heyday. (Hopefully, without all of the needles and shagging of country singers.)

Okay, we obviously have little perspective on this, so let's hand the reins over to commenter Jim Briggs, who was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Camden Yards last night to see the start for himself. Jim reports:

The first thing we noticed was just how young Kyle looks. He's really a kid, and at 22 he's not at all a finished product, so we expected flashes of brilliance as well as some struggles. We received both. Drabek flashed some velocity early, hitting 99 (!) on the radar at one point, but he fought most of the night to keep the fastball down in the zone. When he didn't, he got hit HARD.

Unplayable groundballs and warning-track flyouts were in steady supply, and the nine hits Drabek allowed were mitigated by some particularly awesome defense from all outfield positions. The youngster also showed a devastating slider and an 82-MPH curve that, when mixed effectively with the heat, baffled some pro hitters like Adam Jones. Drabek was particularly strong after a rocky first with a 1-2-3 second inning, where he fanned Jones looking, sat Matt Wieters down promptly, then got Corey Patterson to fly out to left.

The kid was helped out by one John Buck plenty of times, especially when his breaking stuff was in the dirt. Despite the loss, tonight was one of those nights that reminded you why it might be worth keeping John Buck around. He was able to keep Drabek calm and help him through a prolonged bout with the strike zone in the third. It was alarming to see him walk Cesar Izturis on four pitches, then issue another later in the inning, but a nice 6-4-3 double play bailed him out. These things happen.

One thing Drabek is really going to need to learn, though, is to challenge hitters inside with his fastball. With that kind of velocity, a pitcher has an extra tool to keep hitters off-balance, and while a rookie perhaps might not feel that to be his place, Drabek belongs, and he should feel confident in using the entire strike zone. He tried nibbling at the outside corners all night, especially against lefties, and he paid for it. The velocity dropped over the course of the evening, as was to be expected, but his fastball showed some late life in the sixth.

To say that we have a “verdict” on KD would be ludicrous at this stage, but we were encouraged to see Drabek battle through some tough at-bats against a team that is stronger than its record would indicate. What we saw was a kid who needs to do just a few things to succeed in the bigs:

1) keep the fastball down

2) rely on changing speeds

3) use the inside corner of the plate

4) continue to hone a four-pitch selection including the heater, the already-there slider, a nifty curve and a changeup that was little used this evening (Walton time?!)

Thanks Jim. You lucky bastard.

Other perspectives

Fangraphs' Bryan Smith says that while Drabek may have been the beneficiary of some good defense last night, his STUFF!!!1 might just make him the best of the Blue Jays young starters by next year.

Drew at GROF was so exhilarated that he made some graphs. Which in turn exhilarated us to the point where we needed to sit down. Also, Drew notes something that we were thinking last night during the game, which is that the O's looked like they were especially aggressive in getting after the new kid. (The first inning double steal, we'll assume, was intended to rattle him and get him to start playing on tilt.)

Blairsy says he sparkles. Like the flame of a Drabeknuhkah candle. (See! It all comes full circle!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kyle Drabek is here. Now.

We could get into analysis and background and hyperbole about Kyle Drabek, but there's plenty of that out there already. (Who would have figured Parkes to be the early bird!)

So we'll just say this: For someone who spends entirely too much time worrying about the Blue Jays and trying to talk a significant faction of you back off the ledge when you're certain that the team is headed to the league basement or out of town to Portland or whatever, this is the sort of fun night towards which we look forward with ridiculous anticipation.

(And for goodness sake: Would you look at that face? Doesn't that just make you want to buy the kid a beer and give him some sage advice like a wise old uncle? Advice he'll inevitably ignore, because really, what the fuck do you know, you drunken old uncle?)

None of this is to say that we expect to see Kyle Drabek toe the rubber and unleash the entirety of a Hall of Fame career in five innings or so tonight. But getting our first opportunity to see him in a Jays jersey with number 4 on the back is a treat.

(And we're genuinely sorry that for many of you, the whole Sportsnet One thing fucks this up for you. We think it would be a real solid gesture for Rogers to bump this one game to one of the four regionals to give folks a shot at seeing it, but given Bell's acquisition of CTV and the holy heck that's going to be raised with four Broadcaster/Distributor Voltrons battling one another for every fraction of a slice of the market over the next few years, we're not sure how sanguine the kids on Bloor Street are going to be about showing weakness in these ongoing carriage negotiations.)

(LATE AFTERNOON UPDATERY! Shaw is going to pick up the free preview of Sportsnet One, so hopefully, the levels of western alienation will be tamped down just that much. And if you are wondering, yes, we at the blog are taking full credit for making this happen. With my good cop and The Ack's bad cop routine, you had to know this would come together. You're welcome.)

If nothing else, we hope everyone is able to at least catch a glimpse of Drabek with the big club tonight, and that it helps to feed your warm fuzzies for the long winter ahead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This will all be over soon enough

It's hard for us to even remember that moment last year when we were so enamored with Brian Tallet. "The Summer of Tallet!" we exclaimed endlessly, or at least until we tired of the notion ourselves.

But now, when we see The Manager insert him into a tie game in the ninth inning, and continue to run him out to the mound until he coughed up that motherfucker up, we irrationally find ourselves thinking kindly on the sweet solace of the season's end. It's going to be a long winter without baseball, but at the very least, we'll be able to warm ourselves with the thought that The Manager will never again have the opportunity to call on the Hipster Oaf with the 6.28 ERA and the 1.58 WHIP to enter the game in a high leverage (or medium leverage, or low leverage, or no leverage) situation and toss a brand of brutally useless junk up there that would make Frank Tanana blush.

And it's not as though the Jays are completely bereft of arms at this point of the season. It's September, for goodness sake, and they call haul whoever the hell they want from their system tomorrow if they need an extra arm. You're trying to tell me that Zach Jackson can't be at least as effective as Tallet? Or that they couldn't have called up Jeremy Accardo to give them some extra latitude at this point in the year?

(Speaking of which: Whatever sin Accardo committed and is now being punished for must be a doozy for the Jays to pay him a million dollars to go cool his heels in Vegas and not darken this side of the border with his presence. Feel free to fill in the blanks for yourself to decide what it was that Accardo did to deserve this exile.)

There are only 17 games left in the season, and we're probably going to cry like a baby when it's done. But we won't shed a single tear for this version of The Manager, nor for his pet lanky lefty.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jose Bautista is...

... a very bad man?

... having a season worthy of being discussed among those of Delgado, Alomar, and Bell?

... the owner of MLB's best beard?

(no, really, this is fun - play along with me here)

... now established as one of AA's designated "core players", and therefore

... due a contract extension this offseason?

... the Jays best option at 3B in 2011?

... or at RF?

... making the front office count their blessings they didn't deal him off for the best (garbage) offer?

... deserving of MVP consideration?

... now established as one of the game's top power hitters and offensive threats?

... potentially the most underrated/under discussed player in baseball?

... no fluke or one-dimensional threat a la Tony Batista?

... making the founding members of the BAS (Bautista Appreciation Society) look very wise indeed?

OK friends, levity aside, let's all just appreciate the monster season Jose Bautista is having before our very eyes for what it is: one of the best single-season offensive performances in franchise history. I never thought I'd see the day when Jose Bautista's name was mentioned in the same breath as George Bell and Carlos Delgado, but here we are.

I'm ashamed to admit this, but as early as a month or six weeks ago, I wasn't sold on Bautista as much more than a trade chip heading into this offseason, or approaching the 2011 deadline. Now I can't see how Anthopoulos doesn't take a run at locking him up long-term. It's a dangerous game, negotiating with The Player after a career year, but assuming the demand isn't, y'know, Vernon Wells money (heyo!), how do the Jays not entertain the idea? I don't think anyone should expect another 46+ HR season, but pay him based on 30 and let's call it even.

Who's with me?

Make room for the kids?
Everyone's favorite analyst they love to hate (unless he says something positive about your team's prospects), Keith Law, had plenty to say about the two brightest pitching prospects in the Jays system after taking in a pair of Fisher Cat playoff games.

Both blog posts are behind ESPN's insider wall, but I'll only sorta break the rules by telling you the following:

Kyle Drabek flashed "stuff" he'd never seen nor heard from him before, showing a fastball topping out at 97 and his patented power curve, calling it a major-league out pitch. He now views Drabek as having "ace potential", with "a realistic ceiling just below that". Boom. Hear that, Drabek doubters?

Observing Zach Stewart, KLaw reports a 90-96 sinking fastball, "out-pitch" slider, surprising change, and mixing in a (substandard) curveball. Translation? "Potential #2 starter, maybe a #3..."

(of note, reading the comments from whiny Yankee fans accusing Law of - wait for it - Blue Jay bias for daring to grade the pair of Jays starters more highly than their Yankee prospect counterparts is almost worth the cost of Insider alone)

Friday, September 10, 2010

A One-Sentence Post on...Bobbling the future

It struck us as we watched Travis Snider approach a ball timidly only to have it shank off his glove and squib away into centrefield (unearned runs!) that if he didn't always feel a Sword of TheManagercles hanging over him, he could probably breathe, relax and go play baseball rather than sweating how long of a ride on the pine every misstep was going to cost him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The case for keeping John Buck

When the Jays signed John Buck, it elicited barely more than a shrug. (The trade was made in the midst of the Halladay Trade Hoedown that overshadowed much of the offseason, which might explain some of the indifference, but still.)

Oddly enough, we still get the impression that many if not most Jays fans are perfectly comfortable with the notion of him heading into the sunset after this season. Between the fact that many fans hadn't given much consideration to Buck before this season, that he will likely qualify as a Type B free agent (compensatory pick!) and the fact that PCL MVP JPA is waiting in the wings, we're getting the sense that there isn't much of a demand for his return in 2011. This, in spite of the gawdy counting stats he's piled up (leading AL full-time catchers in HRs), and his All-Star selection this season.

(Okay, those are meaningless accolades. But we're building up to something here. Come along for the ride.)

Still, Buck has posted a more than respectable 2.3 WAR this season, which puts him in a class with Matt Wieters (2.4) and not far behind the backstops of our AL East competition in Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez (both at 2.8). That should be impressive, especially considering how his performance has outstripped that of dreamboats like Chris Ianetta (0.5), Ryan Doumit (1.2) or Yadier Molina (2.0).

And speaking of dreamboats, we know that there is ludicrous piles of love for J.P. Arencibia, but setting him up to be a premium offensive catcher while handling a young pitching staff is going to be a tall order. Having one season to serve as an understudy to a veteran or at least sharing the load wouldn't kill the youngster. Also, we love the concept of the Battery Committee Meetings that Buck and José Molina have undertaken this year, and the idea of including Arencibia in those for a year before he needs to run them himself would seem to make sense to us.

Plus, Buck will still only be 30 years old next year, and - this is going to sound like an oxymoron, we know - with a couple of partial seasons missed due to injury, we're guessing that his body still has some miles on it.

We recognize the downside, of course. Buck is going to cost more after this season. He'll be as likely to fall back as he is to maintain his performance. He's going to cost the Jays a pick that could be used as further fodder for the Eternal Building Process.

Still, the Jays are going to need someone to carry a load of at least 60-odd games behind the plate next year, and given the dearth of interesting catchers after Victor Martinez on the free agent market (Josh Bard, Gerald Laird, David Ross, A.J. Pierzynski), it would seem that an additional year or two with Buck for the sake of continuity wouldn't be the worst choice that the team could make.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tweet Bag! Tweeted questions, blogged answered

Occasionally, we lose our train of thought, and we rely on your questions to provide us with the direction and focus necessary to pull together some entertaining blog tomfoolery. Once again, thanks for the help in bailing us out, because our addled brain had no way of conceiving of an entertaining and educational post today.

Now, onto your questions...EN GARDE!

@jonahkeri (yes, the actual guy, author of the forthcoming The Extra 2%, or at least someone with access to his Twitter account) poses the question: "Dave Stieb, best pitcher of the 80s? Discuss."

Timeframes are arbitrary things, even when they span ten full years. Some great pitchers (Tom Seaver, for instance) had their best decade of work in timespans that crossed over decades. Some got started late in the 80's (Orel Hersheiser), and some petered out by the end of the decade (Steve Carlton).

Nevertheless, if you want to be all arbitrary about things (and why wouldn't you, really?), you can start by looking at Stieb's WAR for the seasons 1980 through 1989. And you'll find that is a big, bright shiny 45.2. (45.2!!!1)

You know who put up a better WAR amongst pitchers in that timeframe? As Mel Lastman would say: Noooooooooooobody! Not "the most feared/winningest/opening day startingest pitcher of the 1980's, Jack Morris (27.9). Not Bert Blyleven (34.0, which is still an impressive number for a guy who most of his best seasons in the 70's and ABSOLUTELY belongs in the Hall of Fame). Not late starters Orel Hersheiser (32.8 for 1983-89) or Roger Clemens (32.3 for 84-89).

Hall of Famer Steve Carlton limped into his final years with a 25.6 WAR. Goose Gossage, the last pitcher inducted into the Hall, put up an 18.7 WAR for the decade, while fellow enshrinee Bruce Sutter managed a 10.8 in the 80's (which doesn't include his best season in 1979, if you want to abandon arbitrariness at this point). HoFer Dennis Eckersley, who split that decade between the starting role and the pen coughed up 23.9 WAR.

The last pitcher to be inducted into the Hall of Fame for their work as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues? Nolan Ryan, who expressed a 30.8 WAR over the neon decade.

Our point? Using the best stat that we can think of to compare pitchers' performances for the decade, we find it hard to find anyone who touches our patron saint's incredible output. And if that's not clear enough: Dave Stieb is the Greatest Pitcher of the Eighties. (GPOTE!!!1)

Second point: For all of the High Moral Dudgeon (Bruntism!) that we hear about the steroid era, we also would note that the BBWAA seemingly has some hang up against starting pitchers, given their overwhelming aversion to voting them into the Hall of Fame. Stieb barely got any notice, while Blyleven has twisted in the wind for longer than we can remember, and Jack Morris (a flawed candidate, to be sure) remains unlikely to get to Cooperstown.

We'd suggest that the catchphrase should have been: Hacks Dig The Long Ball.

Next question!

@dpriest asks: Do you think the Jays could land Joe Maddon and Carl Crawford in the off-season?

Yes. But no. But then again, I might start a torrid affair with Zooey Deschanel by next year, even if we could never eat together given her vegan tendencies and aversion to gluten. Which is to say: Let's not put too much energy into such things, mmmkay?

@GValentino enquires (or is that inquires? What does CP Style say?) How would you feel about Bautista being moved to cleanup, Wells moved down? Why do you think this hasn't happened, other than THE MANAGER s.o.p?

We would absolutely advocate moving Bautista to the cleanup spot, but really only if there was an absolutely obvious three-hole hitter. But we're not sure that they have that now. (And our concept of that is a high-contact line-drive hitter with power, like Aaron Hill in 2009.)

If you were being totally orthodox about roles, the Jays have a whole bunch of number hitters on this team that they have to squeeze into other parts of the batting order, so we're not going to give The Manager more guff than he deserves over this particular choice.

More Manager questions have gotta be in this bag somewhere, right?

@timmyd_ asks: Is keeping Butterfield in the org worth giving him a shot as manager?

Interesting question, because we were asking ourselves something similar recently. If Butterfield is only going to stay with the team in a managerial role, do you hold onto him, even if he likely won't spend the same amount of time with the on-field instruction that seems to be his strength? Or do you let him go, losing all of that knowledge and insight, as well as a guy who seemingly gets along with many of the players.

It's a tough call, though we'd still prefer to keep him with the team if at all possible. We're thinking that a demonstrated excellence as an on-field instructor may be the sort of skill set that could be passed along to the next generation of Blue Jays coaches, making him an excellent choice to help build the future of the franchise.

All this talk about Manager sense is tingling...

@FakeCitoGaston pounces! Dear Stieb: Any advice on how I should run the front office without upseting this kid Alex too much? Beest says I have full veto

(First off, for those of you shocked to see that name in the blog, let us make clear that it was cut and pasted into this post. We did not type that name out, nor will we ever. That is our promise, and that is our pledge.)

Our advice to The Fake Manager is this: Be so subtle as to be indiscernible. Maybe even let AA do all of the stuff that he wants, and toss him a few bones so that he gets really comfortable making all the decisions himself. Then go out for some drinks with the Beest, play a few rounds of golf and let the little details take care of themselves. And when someone comes around asking for input on bobbleheads, you can look after that sort of thing without raising much of a fuss.

Take it easy...this front office gig is supposed to be a snap. Just don't put too much energy into. You've earned your golden parachute.

We're running short on time (left in your attention span...heyo!), so let's wrap it up with this:

@the_real_THF asks: I had a dream last night that the Jays finished the season with 88 wins. Feasible?

The Jays would have to rattle off a 17-8 run to the end of the season, which is certainly not impossible. Feasible? Well, considering that Brandon Morrow won't throw another pitch in anger, and that Marcum and Cecil might be watched in the next few weeks to make certain that every body is in good working order for when it really counts (i.e. 2011), we're not sure that the 88 win mark is going to work out.

Our guess? The Jays go 13-12 down the stretch and end the season with 84 wins. Though we're perfectly amenable with anything above that.

Sorry we couldn't get to all of your questions (discussions of Constituency Offices vs. Staffers on the Hill vs. Insane Voters vs. Noble Lobbyists will have to wait for another day, @s_findlay), but many thanks to all of you who stepped up to give us something to write about today. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Diversion vs Obsession

Once per season or so, I get to thinkin' and drop a blog post on the unsuspecting readership that goes beyond my standard & patented hackey bullshit. I'm not so sure it's a good thing, as I know those who choose to stop by on weekends here at the blog come for the entertainment and maybe a little discussion. So rest assured, I'll be back to my normal self in a week or so and off we'll go.....

See, I wasn't supposed to be around this weekend - taking a break to settle into a new routine at home (welcome #2, yo!) before resuming the stretch drive. Let me tell you - life has never been more challenging nor rewarding. I've never been more exhausted and content at the same time. I figured a few forced weeks away would be good for my life as a devoted Jays fan - more casual observer than obsessed follower. And so it went, for the better part of a week.

But during some blessed quiet time this evening, it occurred to me - I missed the daily diversion once I realized that's what baseball should be - a diversion. It's a great game, this baseball. As simple (see ball/hit ball) or complex (OPS, WAR, VORP) as you want it to be. Tao's post on The Shaker opened the floodgate of nostalgia for me: summer nights listening to Dave Stieb chase his no-no on the radio... a weekend at my grandparents, being lucky enough to watch the game when he finally did.... Tony Fernandez tossing rainbows from short.... Dave Winfield, Joe Carter. Holy shit, friends - those are memories.

I'm as guilty as the next of caring waaaay too much about the daily transactions and line-up cards of this team. I'm not so naive to think that's going to change, but a part of me wishes maybe it did. I sometimes wish I could be that guy who blindly defends Cito's moves, because, you know...2 rings. If not for the internet and all we know today, I could look at Vernon's old-school Avg/HR/RBI line and say "hey, not bad for our center fielder". I could have a gander at Kevin Gregg's gaudy saves total and without question appoint him the bullpen ace. But nobody said progress was without cost - in this case, emotional - and we're all smarter fans for it.

What's the point of all this? Fuck, I don't even really know, to be honest with you. Maybe that every once in a while, it does a soul some good to step away from your obsession and dial it down a notch. Maybe it's that being a fan in 2010 is most certainly not the same as it was in 1985. The point is not that one is "better" than the other.... just different. Hell, nothing's the same as it was in 1985, why should the game be?

I do know this - when it comes to a diversion, nothing beats baseball. And isn't that supposed to be the point?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Greatish Jays: The Shaker

As we're about to leave on a much-needed, much-deserved and far-too-short vacation tomorrow, it struck us that we'd better leave things on a much more happy and positive vibe. Somehow, leaving the angry, accusatory post with our absurdly confrontational, Bissinger-esque comments seemed unwise. Uncouth, even.

And so, we've reached backwards into our memory hole and picked up some of our happiest memories about the Toronto Blue Jays. And somehow, so many of them seem to involve the inimitable Lloyd Moseby, better known to you and I as The Shaker.

Moseby's numbers with the Jays don't always astound, in part because of his early years in which he was pressed into the lineup to gain much-needed experience at the Major League level. (Imagine this: Lloyd Moseby had 361 big league games under his belt before he turned 23. What a concept!) In his prime years (1983-1987), Moseby was a 117 OPS+, .811 OPS, 101 homer, 174 stolen base guy who played premium defense, and did it all with a smile and fun swagger.

Three other things we love about The Shaker in retrospect:

1) The hair/cap/helmet confluence: Moseby somehow managed to pull a cap over his sweet afro day in and day out, and would wear his batting helmet over top of his cap. (Not unusual in those days, but Moseby's combo was especially cool to see.)

2) The Power cleats: No one else that we know of wore what was then Bata's athletic shoe brand. But given Power's Canadian connection (Bata's headquarters were still in Canada at that time), we used to see Moseby's Power posters in sporting goods shops all the time.

3) The Shoestring Catch? Somehow, in our mind, we had built this into a seminal moment for the Blue Jays: Moseby comes on and makes an outstanding shoestring catch in the 1985 ALCS, only to get robbed of the call, causing the whole series' complexion to change. Except that the play actually happened in Game 2, in a game the Jays would go on to win in extra innings. The fact that we still hold onto that moment is probably a tribute to two things: The frustrating and spirit-crushing years after the 1985 ALCS but before the World Series wins, and the strict early bedtime to which I was compelled to adhere.

Obviously, there were better players in the Jays' history. But we're not sure that there is a player who we think of more fondly than Lloyd Moseby. There have been several centrefielders who you might prefer to play for your All-Time Jays roster, but if we were to sit in the stands to see such a team play, we'd be happiest to see the Shaker leading off and marshalling the middle of the outfield.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Baseball Hall of Fame's Shameful Frick Sham

At 10 am today, the Baseball Hall of Fame launches the annual fan voting campaign for the Ford Frick Award, their recognition of career excellence in the field of baseball broadcasting. And while there are several broadcasters who we feel worthy of recognition, and whose enshrinement we would wholeheartedly support, we will not participate in the Hall of Fame's fraudulent mockery of the fans by voting on their Facebook page.

Before we go further, let's take a second to lay out precisely what the process for the Frick Award is: The fans click and click and click away over the next month, voting for their preferred candidates from the hundreds of broadcasters with more than 10 consecutive years of broadcasting experience. At the end of that month, someone scrapes off the top three names, and they are added to seven other finalists (whose provenance is unclear). Then, a jury of 20 individuals, including former Frick winners and baseball historians enters a star chamber and they select one of the ten names from that list.

And none of this is to suggest that the name that they will select this year will be someone who is unworthy. We're certain that there will be a segment of the baseball community who will be overjoyed at the selection, and somewhere deep down, we still carry a barely-flickering light of hope that Tom Cheek will be the name that they announce when that group emerges from behind closed doors.

If there were overwhelming support for a particular candidate amongst the fans, we suspect that it would only create more distance between their candidacy and the jury's affirmation. After seeing both Cheek and former Expos announcer Jacques Doucet fall short last season, in spite of outpacing the field with vote totals almost four times larger than the third place Joe Nuxhall, we can't imagine what sort of a groundswell of popular support would be necessary to put them over the top in the eyes of those who hold the only 20 votes that matter. We can't imagine a scenario where our votes are going to positively influence the voters towards our particular choices, and we actually fear that the fan's choices on the final ballot may carry a certain taint to them in the eyes of that august group

Call us cynical, but after years of hoping and wishing and campaigning for Cheek, we find ourselves unable and unwilling to participate in a program which is meant primarily to give the fans an illusion of input. There's nothing about the Hall's campaign that makes us think that our input is necessary or desired by anyone but a junior communications officer with the responsibility for social influence marketing. And we're not going to play along with this charade any longer.

If you feel like you want to contribute to the candidacies of Cheek, Doucet, Don Chevrier or any other baseball voice that you hold dear, and you feel as though the Facebook voting is the best that you can muster, then go ahead and vote. It sucks to feel as though you have no voice in something like this, and if the illusion set forth by the Hall of Fame is enough to assuage you, then have at it.

But if we're being a little more pragmatic about it, there are really only 20 people who are going to make the decision this year and for the years going forward, and the best bet that anyone has to get sneak Tom Cheek through the front door in Cooperstown is to positively influence those individuals.

So if you happen to run into Marty Brennaman, Jerry Coleman, Gene Elston, Joe Garagiola, Milo Hamilton, Jaime Jarrin, Tony Kubek, Denny Matthews, Dave Niehaus, Felo Ramirez, Vin Scully, Lon Simmons, Bob Uecker, Bob Wolff, Bob Costas, Barry Horn, Stan Isaacs, Ted Patterson or Curt Smith in the coming months, then put in a good world for your candidate of choice. It will be a much more effective use of your time than indulging the Hall's PR machine with your interest.

How wrong can one tweet be?
Speaking of the Frick: Yesterday, noted SPORTS JOURNALIST Steve Simmons tweeted the following:

"For the 8th straight year, the late Tom Cheek is nominated for Ford Frick HOF award. Maybe this is the year he finally wins."

Let's take a second here to break down all 140 characters here. First off, Cheek hasn't been nominated for anything yet. He's just eligible to be nominated, as are literally hundreds of other active and retired broadcasters. (Chip "Fisted!" Caray is on the same footing as Cheek at this point, just for the sake of clarity.)

Secondly, it is not the eighth year that Cheek has been nominated. Cheek has been eligible since 1984, and has been a finalist for the past five years.

But then again, we're just a blogger, so what do we know?