Friday, April 30, 2010

The Manager will use his magic powers to help you hit dingers

This is how The Manager has built his reputation.

A barely-above-replacement level scrub goes out for extra batting practice in the midst of a slump which has only served to drag down an already lousy year. And then The Manager steps forth, with his knowledge of the grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy, and touches the player with his wisdom and insight.

And then, after but one session with The Manager, the player goes out and hammers the ball around the yard like he was Hank. Unbelievable.

We could go into a whole repudiation of the myth and the legend, and suggest that maybe anyone could have provided a healthy refresher for John Buck to help him pull his head out of his ass. And we could also point out how a couple of the swings that resulted in those dingers weren't exactly what you would call "pretty" or "textbook".

But really, who's to argue with those results? When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

A tribute to Windows Restaurant
We're not even sure that anyone would or could call it Windows anymore, given that it has sat as empty as Steve Simmons' head for much of the past three years. But seeing John Buck's third homer of the night rattle off the panes - now covered in advertising - reminded us of what a thrill it used to be when a Fred McGriff or Carlos Delgado moonshot would touch the glass, deep in centre field.

While we've advocated pulling the glass and creating some sort of douchebag party patio out there, seeing that homer bounce of it last night might have just convinced us that they ought to keep the structure out there. For oldtimey's sake.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A quick and quiet five game losing streak

It's not as though we weren't somewhat present and watching and/or listening to the games over the past week.

But somehow, it barely even registered with us until this morning that the Jays are currently plunged in a five game slide, having dropped five of six games to the big kids in the AL East. It could be that we trying so hard to identify the encouraging parts of these games and the signs of good times ahead that we've glossed over the fact that the team is just not putting enough together to win games, especially against their tough divisional rivals.

We're probably too busy consoling ourselves by looking at the strong starts from Brett Cecil and Shaun Marcum, and the strongish start from Brandon Morrow, and saying "If only they had some offense tonight." And when the Jays relentlessly beat Josh Beckett around the park, we start having happy thoughts of "What if they actually got some good pitching tonight?"

And the next thing you know, you're sliding backwards to the wrong side of .500, and finding yourself cautiously grateful for an appearance by the Oakland A's. (Who actually look kinda good this year, in the way that mid-pack AL West teams can start to look like contenders to win 86 games and the division title after one good week.)

Fear of a left-handed planet
Not that we're wishing ill health upon young pitchers, but we breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that A's lefty Brett Anderson wouldn't be available for the forthcoming series. The Jays are 1-4 thus far against lefties, posting a godawful .468 OPS in games started by LHPs.

It looks as though the Jays might get Gio Gonzalez in one of the four games this series, but the other three pitchers should be right-handers. (Justin Duchscherer tonight, possibly Trevor Cahill or Vin Mazzaro tomorrow, and Ben Sheets tossed into the mix at some point.) None of which guarantees victories, mind you. It just makes the overriding feeling of dread subside by a few percentage points.

And speaking of "few percentage points", that whole "play Lyle Overbay against lefties because he wants to play against them" plan? Not working so well so far: Lylo is rocking a .333 OPS, including a .095 OBP and a .238 SLG. (And those numbers include a homer against a lefty, so imagine how miniscule they'd be otherwise.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Five things, while we have a quick moment

We're dreadfully late for a tea party, but since you're here, we'll offer you five quick things which may be nothing at all.

The Roof: For the love of baseball, and for the love of fresh air, someone crack the lid on the Rogers Centre, for goodness sakes. Yeah, some people might complain about the cold, and maybe the players prefer the controlled environment under the roof. But people can bring a jacket, and the players should maybe consider getting a job at an Orange Julius stand in the mall if the brisk air is an impediment. We've attended ball games where we had to stop keep score because our pen froze. And we lived to tell the tale. A 10 degree night in April is something to be savoured and enjoyed.

The Catchers: One day after throwing out four baserunners, some folks started questioning Jose Molina's defensive abilities because he backhanded a ball in the dirt. Have we all lost our minds? Molina's been great behind the plate. John Buck's been okay, too, though not great. But don't let all the fetishizing of Rod Barajas' giant belly and thighs and their ball blocking abilities get you all sentimental.

The Next Catcher: J.P. Arencibia is on a roll in Vegas, posting an OPS of .914 and looking (in the boxscores, at least) like he's back in the form that he demonstrated in 2008. He's caught only 14% of baserunners so far and he's allowed four passed balls - Ohhh! Rod! Come back! - so those numbers may be worth tracking. Maybe most important is how the Jays' pitching prospects like throwing to him, because if they dislike him now, they're going to hate him like every Yankee pitcher hated Jorge Posada and loved Jose Molina last year.

The Bullpen: Sorry, we take it back. We have nothing to say about the bullpen.

Shaun Marcum: North of Steeles is the unluckiest bastard of them all, having pitched five games pretty well so far this year, with nothing in the win column to show for it. Which just goes to show you that wins and losses are the most important pitching stat, and a sub -.500 pitcher like Marcum has no business being the ace of this rotation. ( doesn't show that at all! What? Are you telling us...Nah. Couldn't be.)

Oh dear! I'm late!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunshine, happiness and Josh Roenicke

So all the angry stuff that we wrote this morning? Well, that still stands. But what sort of blog would we be if we only focused on the bullshit and negative? (Well, that's probably most blogs, but never mind that.) You don't come here to have us bring you down, right?

So join us, won't you, as we celebrate the triumphant return of Josh Roenicke.

Roenicke is on his way back to Toronto (and bringing with him lefty Las Vegas closer Rommie Lewis) after The Manager had finally had enough of looking at Jeremy Accardo's stupid face after another hit surrendered (2.25 WHIP!) and Merkin Valdez's erratic Merkin Balls. But you already knew that.

Roenicke got off to a stellar start in Vegas, giving up ZERO runs in 8.2 innings, striking out 8 and walking one. And that, friends, is what we like to see in a reliever's stat line.

As for Lewis, his numbers are okay and if you care about saves, he's got five of them. He's also rocking a 1.70 WHIP and has given up 10 hits in his 7.2 innings of work, which makes us wonder what his stuff will look like being pounded into the alleys by the Yankees.

We came into the season figuring that one of the Jays' strengths would be the bullpen. But as the Sausage King and Scott Downs get off to disturbing starts, and as we begin to find ourselves endorsing a call to the pen to get Shawn Camp, we don't mind seeing the team use some of its pitching depth to shore up the middle innings. The bullpen might be mighty yet.

While we don't want to heap too many expectations on young Mr. Roenicke, we're optimistic that he can work his way through an inning without looking like a poor excuse for a tee. Or causing us losing our will to live. Which would be an improvement.

Josh Roenicke has a website, but apparently, no webmaster
Turn down your speakers if you're at work or just don't like crappy filler synthy Action News theme songs. Then head on over to for all of your Roenicke-related info needs. Just be prepared to enjoy lots of Cincinnati Reds content, as someone hasn't quite kept up with the updating of said website.

(Apparently, it is DMS Elite Sport Management who are supposed to be looking after this stuff, but considering that their site has a "Under Construction" page and nothing else, we wouldn't recommend holding out for much Jays related news.)

Grumpy old men will grumpy. We can be grumpy, too.

Don't get us wrong on this. We're not trying to be ageist.

And truth be told, we're one of the grumpiest guys we know, and old (but certainly not wise) beyond our years. The other night, we nearly pulled all of our vertebrae out of whack just getting off the couch.

But seriously: Can we have a moratorium on "features" writers and goofballs from the "news" and "City" and "Life" sections of the newspapers stepping into the Rogers Centre like the hobbyists they are on a quote hunt to prove their thesis that the Jays are fucked and on their way out of town?

And this, folks, is where we really get grumpy. Those of us who went to journalism school know that from the moment you walk through the hallowed halls, the instructors blow all sorts of smoke up your ass about what a noble pursuit you are about to undertake, speaking truths to power and acting as an advocate and a voice for the People and to the People. Democracy and all that is good with the world depends on the eyes and words and honesty and truth of character that is found at the core of the journalist, and we must endeavour to use this power for the sake of humanity...

...And then, we'll just come up with horseshit theses off the top of our head, and go get three quotes that confirm them and call it a "feature". A story that really emphasized the "Dickensian Aspect".

Sorry...we're getting a little side-tracked here. This post was supposed to be about catchers and a bullpen that seems unable of getting men out, and somewhere along the line, it's turned into a screed over the ridiculous story written by the Star's Sandro Contenta. The article, wherein Mr. Contentedtofocusonthesurface found a bunch of curmudgeonly old dudes to complain about how expensive the tickets are, and how expensive the beer is, and how in Boston, you can get a hat and tickets on the Monster and a neckrub from Adrian Beltre for $29. ($28 with the new favourable exchange!)

(Stop me before I subreference again here...but are we the only ones who finds that Boston story a little weird? Especially considering that everyone we know who has gone to Fenway has paid a small fortune for just their seat, and generally not a great seat. It just doesn't smell right. If we were a reporter, we might even double-check a quote like that.)

And let's not forget the token former Expos fan, who always makes an appearance, as some sort of Ghost of Things Yet to Come...nevermind the fact that the situations are completely different, and that the Jays still get good TV and radio numbers and are relevant beyond a handful of diehards who had the endurance to put up with the chicanery of Claude Brochu and Jeffrey Loria. (Those boys were pretty hard core.)

And then there's Hayley Mick's piece in the Globe today, where she finds a bunch of other dudes who speak wistfully about paying $2 for tickets at the Ex. You know what else was $2 in the 70's? A house in Riverdale. (Actually, we didn't double-check that figure. Call it a guesstimate.)

The Globe article goes on to feature the traditional whining about the cost of stuff at the ballpark, as though the people there are all impoverished virgins who have never paid $10 for movie popcorn or $6 for a hotdog at Canada's Wonderland or $9 for a pint of beer at the James Joyce Pub in Calgary. Apparently, the Blue Jays are the only organization in the world that deems it necessary to charge $10 for a 24 oz. tasty beverage, and the outrage from that fact shall never dampen, never dim.

In fairness to Ms. Mick, she did manage to find a couple of younger dudes who don't have the locked-in nostalgia for the prices of times past, and are used to spending $50 on a t-shirt and $100 on a pair of jeans and who get the notion that $57 for a ticket to the ballgame isn't the most crushing disappointment that life has to offer.

Which isn't to say that we don't think that tickets are a little too expensive, and that there aren't things that the organization is going to have to do to stop the bleeding and make the experience a better one for everyone.

But let's just put a moratorium on the worst-case-scenario stories. There's a better story to be told here, about how the Jays papered over problems for much of the last decade with free tickets and deep discounts and giveaways, and that we've only started to see the crisis of consumer confidence in this product.

Crowds will be up come summer, and then these stories will fade a bit. But the underlying problems will exist, and it would be nice to see the real story written, rather than the blather that is being floated around now.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday afternoon quick-hitters quick that no pic is required. Thoughts kicking around my head after a lacklustre weekend of Blue Jays baseball....
Maybe this should be filed under the "it's early!" tag....or maybe the "sample size!" tag....or maybe the "overreaction to one brutal outing" tag....but, yeah, Jason Frasor looks about done. We all noticed the decline in velocity early on, but I had hoped it was one of those "build up arm strength in the early going" deals. But that 90-92 mph fastball (last year's 93-94) isn't picking up any velocity, has no life, and can't find the strike zone (nearly one walk per inning). There has to be something wrong with the Sausage King's arm. Gotta be.
Lest you think I'm picking on only Frasor, neither Scott Downs nor Jeremy Accardo are faring much better. Both are getting hit around and missing minimal bats. "Trade Value" for the loss. Meanwhile, Josh Roenicke has been nearly unhittable in the early going for Vegas. You'd suspect Downs is safe barring injury, but given his history, Accardo shouldn't get too comfortable in his Toronto'd think. How long before Camp sees the 8th inning? (that retching sound you hear is the Tao as he reads this)
Speaking of unhittable, Timmy Tim Collins' YTD line for AA New Hampshire: 16K's through 9 IP and nothing across. Wow. I think the kid has gone from feel-good curiosity to legitimate prospect to get moderately excited about at this point, no?
Remember when we used to shit on Greggg Zaun for not throwing anyone out? Well, Jose Molina nailed four runners trying to steal this afternoon. And the Jays lost 6-0.
Looks like maybe new whipping boy Lyle Overbay (formerly Vernon Wells) is coming on strong. Well, maybe "strong" isn't the word, but you get the point. Unfortunately, there's little he can do to slow the Brett Wallace train. Now if only the Snider train would start to roll.....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brett Cecil came and made everything better

(whaddya think about that?)

So, I've been away from things for a while. And by "away from things", I mean merely scanning boxscores and grabbing the headlines for the past week as opposed to dryhumping every last minutiae of information I can find surrounding the Blue Jays (awwwkward).

You know how it is - work stuff, family stuff, maybe some more work stuff. Unbelievable that goddamned life dares get in the way of baseball, right? I was this close to dialing into JaysTalk with Wilner and bitching about Lyle Overpaid and that goon JP Ricciardi and his 5 year plan.

But I'm back and plugged in (as much as I ever was, I guess), and I'm here to talk about that magnificent bastard Brett Cecil. The final line might not immediately blow you way (4 ER in 6.2 IP), but like everything else this season, I choose to conveniently blame the manager for not yanking the kid after 6 strong innings. Seriously though, Cecil was everything the Jays hope he will be - a strong mid-rotation presence with power stuff, able to compete against AL East rivals. I'd say his 2010 debut fit the bill.

Oh, and you look good up top, Freddy Lewis.

Oh, and welcome back, Aaron Hill. And make sure you give that sore arm plenty of rest, Edwin.

One more thing - where would the Jays be without Kevin Gregg right now? I know - who woulda thunk it, right?

AJ Burnett's tattooed arm - what the fuck?

Speaking of douchebags, nice to see ARod get called out by Oakland's Dallas Braden for breaking code. Truthfully, I don't even much care who's right in this one. Douchey is as douchey does, Alex.

Brett Wallace is up to 7 HR and a 1.036 OPS. JP Arencibia is starting to come around, too.

Fire up the Adeiny Hechavarria hype machine. Let's go!

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's the AL East, son

And now, this season gets serious. Over the next six days, the Jays get their first real taste of the AL East (because we're already saying that Baltimore doesn't count.)

If you want games that "matter", then take heed: These are the games that matter.

Last year, the Jays' schedule against the Only Division That Matters was almost entirely backloaded, with their first meeting against the Unholy Trinity coming on May 19 in Boston. And it was pretty much on that evening in Boston that the then unstoppable Blue Jay machine was pretty much stopped in their tracks.

(And to be honest with you, we're not sure that we've recovered yet from that Tim Wakefield junk-ball-palooza, after which the Jays hitters went into such a prolonged slumber that some of them may have had their organs harvested without waking up. Which would go a long way towards explaining Lyle Overbay.)

Make no mistake: These are the games that matter, and this is where the fortunes of this team are determined. The Jays were 20 games under .500 against those three teams (and an even .500 with the Orioles, if that matters), so effectively it was that significant chunk of the schedule that sunk any hopes of respectability. Conversely, the Jays were 49-41 outside of their division. Which is kinda respectable, even for a team that people wrote off as a disaster.

(Go ahead. Sing it with us, because you know the words: "My Kingdom for a Balanced Schedule!")

Let's get this party started right
So if this wholly inequitable portion of the schedule has to get started somehow, we can't think of a much better pitching matchup than tonight's. The Dreamboat himself, Brett Cecil, will take the mound in the air-conditioned tomb of Tampa versus the dastardly Matt Garza, who owns the Jays (6-3, 1.70 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 10 career starts against the Jays.) And still, we'd rather face him than Wakefield.

(If only we weren't going to be blind drunk by the time the first pitch is tossed.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brett Cecil is coming to make everything better

So that guy (what's-his-name, the number two starter, hipster oaf-looking fella) is off to the DL with a case of the Too-Many-Cutters. So for those of you who were waiting patiently throughout both weeks of the season for Brett Cecil to return, now is your moment.

We're so excited to have Cecil back with the big club that we have to admit to losing our composure upon hearing the news. It was almost as though we heard that David Cone, Jimmy Key and Mark Eichhorn jumped into a hot tub time machine, dialed it back to 1992 and were on their way to Toronto to reclaim glory.

(And, if you'll permit a bit of a meander here: Would '92 vintage Cone/Key/Eichhorn put the Jays back into contention? Would they have to Roberto Alomar along for the hot tubbing? And would they want to? Sorry...I got lost there for a moment.)

Why do we love Cecil so much? How is it that this young lefty with an ERA on the wrong side of 5.00 and a WHIP of 1.65 has captured our imagination? The best explanation that we have is that Cecil is the Bizarro World Shawn Camp for us. It doesn't matter how bad the result is, we can't help coming away from every outing feeling that much better about him.

We don't even mind that he gave up 13 hits in 11 innings at Las Vegas so far, or that his Triple-A WHIP is 1.36. We figure that has to be the fault of bad fielding. Or poor field conditions. Or official scorers with a vendetta.

When it comes right down to it, we're probably a bit fixated on Cecil's legs. They are as thick and strong as sequoias, and when he's on a roll, he uses them effectively to drop and drive towards the plate. The strength in his legs help him maintain a powerful and consistent delivery, and he never looks like he's overtaxing his arm, which makes us think that the chances of a DL stint based on throwing too many of a certain pitch is unlikely.

We realize that reading along as a grown man swoons for reasons that are wholly irrational might make some of you uncomfortable. Sorry about that. As a make good to all the fellas who might have found this a bit disconcerting. So as a make good, we offer the Christina Hendricks Esquire cover. Which you've already seen, we're sure...but too much of Christina Hendricks is never enough.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Once step closer to the season sweep

It was looking dicey there for a moment, but our dreams of a season sweep against the Royals remain intact after some late inning heroics.

No, really. We're kinda selling ourselves on the whole notion that running the table on KC is something to which we can aspire, and which will help to keep us engaged and interested in these early season matchups.

(And speaking of "engaged and interested", let's hear it for the 10, 565 who showed up last night. By showing up the crowds from the past few nights, you helped us to avoid the "another record low attendance figure" trope that is keeping the beat writers in business this past week. You, the few and the proud, are the real heroes.)

Our hopes and dreams for an undefeated season run into a fairly significant roadblock this afternoon in the person of Zach Greinke. But on the other hand, that bum is 0-2, so clearly the Jays should be able to tee off on this sub-.500 chuck-and-ducker.

Also, the Jays will be sporting their awesome Powder Blue unis this afternoon (according to Jays intern Megan Robinson's @thestoryofagirl Twitter you can take that to the bank.) The Jays in their powder blues taking on the Royals? What could go wrong?

(And now, we pause so that we can go into convulsions in memory of the 1985 ALCS, and all of the times that the Jays were taken to the woodshed by George Brett, Willie Wilson, Frank White and Bret Saberhagen. Groan.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Before you undervalue a Royal thumping...

...Keep in mind that the Jays were 3-4 against the Royals last season. So the opportunity to beat down on one of the few teams that you can look down upon in the standings should be greeted with as much joy as pulling out a squeaker against the Sox, Rays or Yanks.

(At least that's what we're saying now. Come back and ask us again when the Jays get into the AL East portion of their schedule.)

No, really though. Who can't get behind a Run the Table on the Royals rallying cry?

Who doesn't love Jo-Bau?
A couple of days ago, we were whingeing about José Bautista' struggles at the plate as much as any Jays Talk caller from Woodbridge or Barrie. But two swings of the bat later, JoBau's OPSing over .840 and is second on the team in RsBI and everything is all good.

Or maybe, just maybe, this is a reminder that it is still early in the season, with more than 90% of the games yet to be played. We might not want to shove some guys who've had a bad two week stretch off the plank just yet.

Afternoon blogging? We really hope not.
So this thing about a "semi-big" player getting dinged for PEDs is sitting out there, and our mind races as we start to think of the Jays who might fit that description. We're so sick of talking about PEDs that we really hope that the news comes out and it's some guy that we don't care about on a team we never think of.

Because we're not sure that we've got the stomach to go over it if it turns out to be one of our own.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Some weekends suck more than others

If there's a small blessing to this past weekend, it's that we spent more time listening to the games and less time actually watching them. We consider the lack of visuals a small mercy that we granted upon ourselves. It left us able to complete the picture of the weekend sweep in a way that was far more satisfying and relaxing and pleasant.

In our mind's eye, a packed house watched as the Jays, a team comprised entirely of unicorns and My Little Ponies, fought valiantly against the Dark Angels and their evil machinations. And because of their equine nature and the lack of opposable thumbs, it was no wonder that the Blue Jays were left to flail away at the plate, striking out 19 times over the three games.

Now that our ether rag is dry, and we're left to piece the weekend back together in the cold grey light of a Monday afternoon, we're not certain what to read into the weekend. The Jays didn't really get blown out in any of the games, but they certainly never seemed to be poised to win any of them either. They continued to get contributions from Vernon Wells, Adam Lind and Alex Gonzalez, but much of the lineup is still scuffling along. Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero respectively put up decent and excellent pitching performances, but putative number two starter Brian Tallet served up another subpar performance.

And so maybe this is the way that this season is going to play out: The good parts will be there, but will be outweighed by the bad, and eventually, you slip backwards into the mediocre showing that everyone expected.

(Go with us on this one, because we are trying to be the optimists who find arguments for how this team could go over .500 this year. If what we've just said seems completely obvious to you, it's because you were ready to believe it before we were. We're still sounding out the thoughts phonetically to ourselves and pretending that we don't understand the meaning.)

On Tallet and Tightness
Apparently, Brian Tallet's arm has tightness in it. Which is appropriate, we think, because our sphincter has had some significant tightness in it every time he takes the mound, if you know what we mean.

(Actually, it might not be "tightness". We're seeing "soreness" and "stiffness" in the reports. Which is appropriate, we think, considering the soreness of our sphincters after taking a beating from the opponent's stiffness each time Tallet takes the mound.)

My kingdom for a balance schedule
We've been dragging our feet on writing a piece on the bogus realignment horse-hockey that was tossed around in the winter, but we promise that we'll get right to that. Honest. In our mind, it's already the best thing that we're ever written, should we ever get around to writing it.

In the interim, we recommend a read through Neate Sager's typically well-informed and well-reasoned jaunt through the issues with the schedule, and why some of us should ignore the buffoonery of certain sportswriters.

A thought on buffoonery
After having had some fun with The Hack at Sun-Times, here's what we've come to believe about this whole situation: There are certain American sportswriters who go out of their way to make the situation in Toronto analogous to Montreal, or who like to hold Canada up for ridicule as a place where top level baseball should not and cannot succeed. But their existence is payback for the innumerable cases where Canadian hockey writers dump on the attendance and profitability of teams in American cities.

So maybe the point is that we should all stop being so fucking smug, and stop making arguments to pull teams out of other fans' markets. Mmmkay?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The struggles begin

Even though we're (yeah - we) in the midst of a (re)building year, losing plain sucks. Especially against shitballers like Joe Saunders, who prior to today's contest couldn't get anyone out. Cue the manager's patented "mail it in Saturday" lineup (much like this post - heyo!), featuring both Jose Molina and Johnny Mac. Both good dudes and defensive wizards to be sure, but those two bats should never, ever, appear on the same starting lineup card. In defence of Clarence, he's not exactly dealing with a full stack of reserves. Get healthy, Aaron Hill and hurry on back, E5.

The shittacular starting 9 aside, what I continue to find disconcerting and amazing all at once is the ongoing praise for Brian Tallet and his work in the rotation. Let me make one thing clear - I'm a big Tallet fan. In the right role. And to me, that role is long man capable of chewing up multiple innings out of the bullpen. The praise he receives for essentially being a bad starting pitcher is beyond me. It's like the Jays broadcast crew (and management) go out of their way to praise Tallet for taking his lumps and going five or six innings.

I'd rather all involved were just honest and admit that Tallet's job as a starter is a function of protecting the confidence of young arms who would otherwise be taking the ball. Better to beat on the veteran than the youngsters, I guess.

No matter, Brett Cecil will be forcing his way into the big league rotation soon enough. Speaking of which.....

Irresponsible hype based on insignificant sample sizes - Las Vegas edition
Brett Cecil - 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 11 IP, 11K (plus some new eyewear)
Brad Mills - 1-0, 0.79 ERA, 11.1 IP, 18K (um....what?)
Brett Wallace - 9 GP, 1.092 OPS, 4 HR (arb date?)

Joe Cowley update
After finally freeing himself from the tyranny that we call Canada, Joe Cowley and his journalistic stylings accompanied the Chicago White Sox to Cleveland. Friday night's attendance? 10,421 (Toronto att: 14,779). Saturday's attendance? 12,885 (Toronto: 17,187).

Looking forward to the article discussing the benefits of moving the Indians to Tijuana or wherever the fuck.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Welcome FredDotLew to the T-Dot-O

It's probably a pretty clear indicator of the extent to which we are so far gone in terms of our baseball obsession that we are completely geeked out over the Jays' acquisition of Fred Lewis.

Lewis is a guy who struggled to find a full time spot in a big league lineup, and when things went well for him, he managed a little bit of power, a bit more speed and a pretty-good-but-not-otherworldly OPS. And on defense, don't even ask us because we have no idea how to parse through the factors that allow a man to have both a +29.3 and a -59.9 UZR/150, as though some days he's Willie Mays and some days he's Pete Incaviglia.

Maybe this is overly glib, but given the description above, there's a part of us that keeps thinking of Fred Lewis as the Black Reed Johnson. (Although without Johnson's JV girls field hockey running style, which is a big plus.)

Still, this is a pretty snazzy deal for the Jays, who give up pretty much nothing and get a decent player who profiles well as a leadoff guy (.355 career OBP) and who can step into any of the outfield positions in a pinch. His presence immediately send Jeremy Reed back to Vegas, and gives the Jays some additional strength off the bench.

Of course, that's as things stand today. Where this acquisition gets really interesting is in a week or so, when Aaron Hill comes back from the DL. When the music stops at that point, who is left scrambling to find themselves one of the 25 seats? Is it Randy Ruiz, who is getting no love from The Manager anyhow? Does Travis Snider return to Sin City? Does Jo-Bau slide to third, leaving EE without a spot? Does Lyle Overbay get paid to sit at home and explore further adventures in facial hair?

And maybe the most important question that this trade raises: Is Ghostrunner on First's Lloyd the Barber a Savant, a Soothsayer, a Witch or a Double-Agent, sent by Alex Anthopoulos to infiltrate the Jays blogosphere.

FredDotLew is a social media monster
Love the story, as recounted by Big League Stew, of how Lewis broke the news of his trade via his Facebook page. That's so 2007! Lewis is all over the interwebs, so he may end up wresting the mantle of Most Beloved Jay on the Internet from the rehabbing Dirk Hayhurst. The Pinch Runner's Gospels, anyone?

Travis Snider is a lovable dude
Speaking of the Rosy-Cheeked Phenom, his bat flip on his first homer of the year gave us a little jolt of happiness in the depth of our cockles. Pair that up with a beauty of a diving catch, and our belief in Snider grew exponentially last night.

(Although someone might want to teach that kid how to lay out for a ball. We want to pat Snider on the back and tell him: It's cool and all that you're hard as fuck and you're gonna catch that ball no matter what, but landing shoulder first to catch a ball in an April game scares the shit out of us. Land on your chest and belly if you want to hit the turf, mmkay?)

Friday Rock Out - Because you miss them, don't you?
Since we've stopped tossing up random music clips, we get tweets and emails all the time suggesting this band or those guys who should make the cut. But today's selection is just for us: Cracker's "Low". We've been getting nostalgic lately, and this is a hat tip to our angry white boy days, when we'd pull on our torn denim and plaid and our Doc Martens, groom our goatee and get ready to take on the world with an arsenal of sullen looks and post-adolescent sarcasm. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In lieu of thoughts, 10 random tweetable whims

We'd prefer not to put too much more thought into last night's game. We're not even going to repeat the score or the details, because such a thing will only help the thought to take purchase in the soil of our mind. And so, we forget.

In lieu of any day after gnashing of teeth, we offer up 10 brief and random notions on the season thus far. We do this also because since we been on the Twitter, we can no longer shape or develop any cogent argument in a paragraph. We can only hint at the possibility of one in 140 characters.

(All hail Twitter: The End of Thought, The Triumph of Whims!)

1. We'd given up on Casey Janssen, but he now looks like he could throw a pitch past someone if he needed to.

2. Randy Ruiz is a big dude, but he can run the bases with fury if he needs to.

3. We like seeing Adam Lind in the field. It reminds us that he's going to play there when the Jays make it to the World Series.

4. Overbay complained in '09 about not getting regular playing time. We hope he's enjoying his 2010 so far. We're not. So far.

5. Kevin Gregg just looks like a closer. Like a big, jarheaded nasty shut-the-door closer. And that appeals to some part of us.

6. Frasor is about eight inches shorter than Gregg, but still throws harder. It just doesn't seem that way.

7. Ruiz has now scored more runs than Aaron Hill. And not in the good way we might have imagined before the season.

8. Hamstring injuries scare the shit out of us. We remember the first time Vernon pulled up lame with one.

9. A sign that this might be more than a hot start: In addition to his improved swing, Vernon is letting pitches off the plate go for balls.

10. The 51s are 6-1 so far. And Brad Mills' line looks like this: 2-0, 0.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 18 Ks, 1 BB.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

RickRo'ed by the possibilities

What a treat to watch Ricky Romero dole out nastiness in various and sundry forms last night. Heaters up to 94 miles per hour that landed in John Buck's glove with a SNAP. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes that made our knees buckle. Curveballs that fell vertically more than foot. Two-seamers with more than five and a half inches if horizontal movement. So much movement that we were as nauseous as the White Sox hitters in the end.

(Can you tell that we've just started mucking about on Brooks Baseball? If only we knew what we were talking about!)

As we watched last night's performance, we thought back to the years-upon-years of piled up snark that was directed towards Romero and his selection with the sixth pick in 2005. We thought of all the time that his selection ahead of Troy Tulowitzki (and other notable starters like Mike Pelfrey, Wade Townsend and Lance Broadway) was held up as the shining example of how this franchise was adrift and would spend decades in the wilderness trying to make up for the lost opportunity of a high draft pick.

And then we looked and saw RickRo in all his glory, looking like a pitcher who is finally starting to piece together his repertoire and his mental approach and put them into action with a sound game plan. Some pitching prospects might dazzle and blow away the scouts and pundits at first blush, but Romero never seemed like that sort of pitcher to us. He strikes us as more as a Tom Glavine-type: A pitcher whose progress is not based on harnessing otherworldly physical gifts, but rather, in maximizing the return on the skills that he has, and in being the man in control of game as often as possible.

As a 24 year-old in Atlanta, Glavine posted a 4.28 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, while Romero's 24th year season saw him post numbers in a similar range: 4.30 and 1.55. Glavine went on to win the Cy Young the next season and finish in the top three of the voting five other times. Which isn't to say that we should be clearing space on RickRo's mantle just yet.

But after last night's performance, it's hard not to get excited by the possibilities.

Newest entry on The Enemies List - A.J. Pierzynski
If any of you have your "A.J. is a Douche" signs left over from Mr. Burnett's return last year, tonight might be a good time to bring them down to the RC. We're not blaming him for RickRo losing the no-hitter as some have, but we're more than a little stunned to see umpires give him the benefit of the doubt on his phantom hit-by-pitch last night given his shenanigans in the past.

We're not sure what is the most appropriate punishment at this point: A Brandon Morrow heater in the ribs? A strike zone several inches tighter for his pitchers in tonight's game? Where's Michael Barrett when we need him?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coffee is for closers

You can insert your own standard caveat about how early it is in the season to even consider having these sorts of conversations. But what is the point of having the role of a closer and the save stat if you can't piss and moan about it every time the man in the role hacks it up.

Thus, piss and moan we shall.

It could be that the members of Tank Nation could give a fuck about how the Jays seal the deal to win games because, somehow, being the worst team in the league is going to guarantee that we draft first and get our shot at the next Dale Hawerchuk. But we're convinced that winning breeds winning, and young players who play on teams who find ways to win develop a culture and a mindset that promotes winning in the future. And if learning how to win a seemingly meaningless game in April 2010 means that The Rosy-Cheeked Phenom is in the proper headspace to hit a walkoff dinger in October of 2013, then let's learn to win now. Shall we? Mmmmkay?

So far this season, every Jays game has had a save situation, and given the razor-thin margin for error that the team will have, they will be in plenty of close games. And if we're going to try to win games every night, let's at least have a look at what is going on with the closer now so that we're not handing back wins in April that might make this team look respectable in September.

So let's get down to brass tacks: The Jason Frasor that has taken the mound five times this year is not The Sausage King. Frasor's velocity is down (91.2 MPH vs 93.8 on average last year), and our guess is that he knows it. He's trying to finesse his way around at bats.

Where The Sausage King of 2009 went after hitters, stepping on their throats with fastballs for strikes to get ahead in the count, then kicked them in the teeth with his reprehensibly nasty off-speed foshiness. But Jason Frasor 2010 is attempting to tickle-fight hitters into submission, tossing pitches on the margins of the zone, falling behind and having get-me-over pitches sent back the other way at alarming rates. In his first 4.1 innings pitched, he's given up eight hits, including three doubles and a homer to go along with three walks. And were it not for his ability to squirm his way out of some of these predicaments with his six strikeouts, we're sure that he would have given up more than just three runs and two wins.

Okay, let's snap back to reality: Just one week of the season is down, and there are 25 more to get through, so it is probably too early to start making rash decisions on bullpen roles. It's been a crappy week for Frasor, and a good week for big giant manly-man closer-type dude Kevin Gregg. (Although surprisingly, Gregg's fastball velocity is clocking in at just 91.9 MPH, which is shocking to us considering the way we've swooned every time he shot puts a heater past someone.)

Frasor's progress over the next few weeks bears monitoring. If the velocity comes back or balls start finding gloves or Frasor starts getting calls, then we can all chill. But a few more walks and a few more extra base hits, and just maybe The Manager should put loyalties aside and look to find the most effective arm in the bullpen to shut things down.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Springtime Revelations: Alex Gonzalez is more than just a defender

It's still really early out there, but from the first week's worth of games, we've been pleasantly surprised with the play of Alex Gonzalez.

He's certainly come as advertised in the field, looking sharp at short and making all of the plays that you'd expect and then some. He might not have the solidly spectacular skills of John McDonald in the field, but he's certainly at least 95% there. But beyond that, what has been a pleasant revelation is the way Gonzalez handles the bat.

When he came to Toronto, some figured him to be at best a modest upgrade over Johnny Mac at the plate, and further evidence that the franchise was merely treading water. But watching Gonzalez's at bats, you really get the impression that he knows what he's doing with the lumber in his hands. He looks comfortable, and we feel comfortable knowing that the best possible outcome is something more than an excuse me single or a squibber down the line that might net you an extra base if you have enough heart and grit to get it.

We're probably overestimating Gonzalez's worth based on the four early season homers, but even just to look at him, and to see the fact that he's no shrinking violet in the batters box makes us envision a season which is just that much less miserable.


Hope Opener Sadness
We hope all you kids withing easy driving/commuting distance enjoy yourselves at tonight's home opener. As for us, we'll be at home, blowing bubbles out of our nose like a sad monkey. But wave and think of us when the camera's on you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's only 4 games, but I'll take it

Of course, I'm not so ridiculous to believe it'll last for any length of time,'s the weather down there, Boston? Any better from where you sit, New York?

OK, grade 7 catcalls a mere four games into the schedule aside, fans of the Jays have to appreciate the good times as they come. And good times they have been. Vernon Wells playing superman. Adam Lind validating his extension. Solid starting pitching from Marcum, Tallet, and Romero. Promising outings in relief (Kevin Gregg!). Three wins in four games, two coming in the nailbiting fashion the team was frequently on the wrong side of last year.

Things will go sour. On a young, rebuilding ballclub - they almost always do. But right now, even the signs of trouble hint at optimism:

Travis Snider - penciled in as a future leader of this ballclub - looked completely lost and without a plan at the plate in Thursday's 3-1 victory over Texas (0-4, 3 bad K's)....then rebounds as the hitting hero in Friday's 7-6 comeback win over the Orioles (doubling off of lefty closer Mike Gonzalez to drive in the tieing run, eventually scoring the winner).

Brandon Morrow seemingly confirmed our worst fears in his first start as a Jay, walking four and hitting a batter - in the first inning! - before settling in to dominate with his fastball before tiring in the fifth.

This is how the season is bound to go. One step (hopefully two) forward, one step (hopefully not two) back. 2010 is all about progress. Wins are gravy. But hey - who doesn't like gravy?

Vernon Wells is good people
Nevermind the hot start (but hey, how about that hot start!), opening week has been a welcome reminder that Vernon Wells is a good dude. Fans booed him lustily last season (pricks!) as he failed to live up to his outrageous contract, in part - in my opinion - because Vern carries himself with a seeming emotional detachment to his struggles on the field.

But maybe that's just who Vernon is. Maybe he's a guy who realizes that no amount of gatorade cooler bashing or temper tantrum throwing can alter the course of an infield popup (goddamnit!) or swinging strikeout (on a slider down and away). And maybe he's also a guy who realizes that struggles on the field don't compare to everyday struggles off the field.

I know, I know....some of you don't give a shit, and all that matters to you is what he does for the Jays on the diamond. But maybe think about who The Player is "in real life" next time you decide to ride his ass for his latest 0-12 slump.

(aaaand, I just sprained an ankle jumping off my soapbox)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vernon Wells found something in the off-season

Maybe it's his swing. Maybe it's his strut. Or maybe it is good health.

Whatever it is that he found or reclaimed, Wells seems to have improved remarkably in the batters box through his first nine plate appearances. His bat is quick through the hitting zone, the plane of his swing is level, and that path that his bat takes to the ball straight and direct.

Maybe it's our irrational happiness for the return of real baseball, but we started to have visions of the rest of Vernon's season, where he was a centrepiece of a surprising resurgence.

And then we had another thought, which was oddly unsettling. We thought about Vernon playing at a 30-homer 100-RBI pace when the centrefielder of a big money contender goes down, and they are in desperate need of a solid offensive and defensive replacement. Wouldn't we feel amazing if the Jays were able to unload the back end of that contract? And aren't we kinda rooting for VW to play himself out of Toronto.

Loving Vernon is never a simple thing.

And as for that whole Eric Smith thing
Sorry. We should know better that to rise to the mainstream media vs. bloggers bait. But Smith's high-and-mighty lecture on the relative value of journalism and ACCESS! just seemed so ludicrously smug and self-satisfied, and yet so poorly conceived, wretchedly executed and so rife with cliches that it would have been a shame to not tee off on it.

Smith has backpedaled on the piece a bit, letting us know that some of his best friends are bloggers, and that he didn't say "ALL" bloggers are bad, so no one should take offense.

So we won't.

A One-Sentence Post on...The Number Two Starter

We asked the Magic 8 Ball if 2010 would offer us yet another Summer of Tallet, and responded with "Ask Me Later", which seems just about right.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Opening Day Dopeness and Wackness: It could be one of those years

We'll be straight with you: We were so excited to watch baseball and so geeked by the first eight-and-a-half innings yesterday that it took awhile for the fact of yesterday's loss to actually sink in.

And as we got to thinking about it, it struck us that this what this whole season could end up being for us Blue Jays fans: An exercise in finding the positives wherever they might be hiding.

Opening Day Dopeness
When it comes to the good, Shaun Marcum and (gasp!) Vernon Wells obviously stand out. Marcum looked great through six innings and lost the handle a bit in the seventh. It's pretty hard to fault him on that pitch that Nelson Cruz swatted out for a three-run equalizing shot, because that was a pretty great location, and we're still dumbfounded as to how Cruz half-swung and drove that ball 400 feet.

As for Vernon, we've been really impressed with the fluidity of his swing so far this season. He's not dropping his hands and he's coming through the hitting zone quickly and on a nice level plane. And if he keeps doing that, there may be room for in our cold cold hearts to welcome him back.

Adam Lind's swing is worth every penny he's got coming to him. And Aaron Hill continues to be awesome.

Opening Day Wackness
So, uh, Jason Frasor...How's that closer role feel? Not to get all irrational over one game, but we actually started to wonder yesterday what Kevin Gregg might have done in that situation.

(And yeah, we know that's the stupidest thing ever. We're just sharing our stupidity with you so that you know that fending off our inner Jays Talk caller is a constant struggle.)

Also: Lyle Overbay left five guys on base.

Opening Day Dopeness, Disguised as Wackness
Sure, Travis Snider struck out three times yesterday. But he also worked his way into deep counts, and worked his way back to full counts in two of those at bats, and a lot of his strikes yesterday were on foul balls that he got to quickly and fought off. With that patient approach, Snider's going to get pitches to hit eventually.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Right on cue

(photo credit to.....Mike Wilner? Who knew?)

As if to support my last post extolling the virtues of Jays ownership committing to spending the dollars necessary to build a winner, today comes news the Jays have locked up lineup cornerstone Adam Lind to a multi-year deal. Boom. Just like that.

(And no, I'm not so delusional as to really believe that. So back off, man.)

I'll spare you the details reported everywhere, but suffice to say the Jays have Lind locked up for a long, long time at a very, very team friendly contract. And this is the point where I'll jump in and throw out a big "c'mon, man....fuck off" at those who wish to poo-poo the value of the deal by arguing that Lind is a one-dimensional player, easily replaceable because of his subpar defence. Oh, really? 30+ HR and a .900+ OPS is easily replaceable? C'mon, man.

The fact of the matter is, Lind really is a one dimensional player. Defensively, his best position is DH. And yeah, he really only has put up one year worthy of the contract he just received. But that's the rub: if Lind was an outstanding defensive player, or if he did have a multi-year history of offensive production replicating '09, there's no way Alex Anthopoulos would have been able to sign Lind to the deal as reported.

Bottom line - the team has a legitimate middle of the order hitter locked up for at least the next four - and as many as the next seven at their choosing - seasons, at a contract that won't prevent them from doing anything. How's that bad? It isn't. It's great.

Other considerations:

(1) Adam Lind, by all accounts, is good people. Yeah yeah yeah. Character counts for nothing, I know. But I'd argue that it does count for at least something when you're talking about a lockerroom leader.

(2) The deal is a strong first step in backing up Nadir Mohamed's proclamation that Rogers is indeed throwing it's hat in the ring to build a long-term winner.

(3) Alex Anthopoulos is really getting quite the rep for orchestrating these long term/club option deals, isn't he? Quick: name two of the best long-term contracts signed (from a team perspective) in recent memory. Whassat? Aaron Hill and Adam Lind? Yeah, that was AA.

(4) Maybe this is fanboy fantasy on my part, but I'd like to think this shows that players want to be Blue Jays and are clearly buying what Mohamed et al are selling. I sure don't think Anthopoulos is lying when he says "There’s a great energy right now about this organization and what we’re doing, the belief that our owners have in us and certainly that the players have”.

....and maybe the best part of this news is that it was completely unexpected. Keep surprising us, Alex.

Now about that shortstop....

Sometimes, talk isn't cheap

There's something to be said for cheering for a rebuilding ballclub. In a way, it's much easier than pulling for teams like today's Yankees or Red Sox - or even the '92-'93 Blue Jays. Teams like that are built to win - expected to win - the World Series, and anything less is complete and abject failure. Each loss is magnified, and maniacal paranoia sets in (see Sam Horn, Sons of). The disgusting sense of entitlement is another unfortunate sidebar (think pinstripes).

Then there's the flip side of the coin - teams like the Royals and Pirates - who attempt to fool their fanbase (more and more unsuccessfully as the seasons pass) under the guise of rebuilding....when really all that's happening is a revolving-door roster of shitty, low cost - but young! - players who never seem to live up to the marginal expectations the organization really has for them.

Perhaps the worst of all is the team stuck in the middle: 75 to 85 win clubs stocked with relatively unexciting players; good enough to compete but not enough to win. These teams typically have no real vision and can't decide whether to tear the fucker down or sell out for a shot. Sound familiar?

No, if you're going to rebuild, you have to go all in. You have to trade away your franchise player who you won't be able to re-sign (check). You have to commit to youth and development, even if it means sacrificing current results for future gains (check). You have to have leadership with vision (check). And you have to have ownership committed to that vision (um....).

Until today, Blue Jay fans (post -'93) could never say for certain we've had that. Until today, we've only had Paul Beeston (bless 'em) paying lip service with quotes like "the money from ownership is there when we need it". You can forgive us, Paul (can I call him Paul? Because I just did...), if we're just a little jaded about the whole "the money is there" thing when we've seen players out there begging to be signed (below market) who would have filled holes quite nicely....only to have the team pass. And let's not regurgitate the whole 2009 draft discussion. Nobody wins in that argument (right, James Paxton?). Point being, since Ted Rogers' passing, we haven't heard much from ownership, and we certainly haven't seen much to get excited about.

But today, things might have just changed. For me, anyway. The Star's Dave Perkins caught my attention with the headline blasting "Ownership will spare no expense to win the World Series". My immediate reaction? "Yeah, right". Then I read the article. I read how Nadir Mohamed flew down to address the team - face to face - and proclaim that "the ultimate goal is the World Series and that the organization will do – and spend – what is necessary to get there again." More lip service? Maybe. But Mohamed is quite clearly a successful CEO, and to boldly address the team in such a manner with no intentions on following through wouldn't exactly set much of a precedent, with his employees or the fans.

In a follow up article focusing on Mohamed, we find more golden nuggets like "It's a commitment, we've made the commitment and we're going to make it happen"....and "We know what the team means (to Toronto)," Mohamed said. "We're here to make it work. We feel we have the best men for the job in Paul and Alex. I'm excited."....and possibly my personal favorite quote (hey, I'm a finance nerd), "One of the top execs in the organization has off-handedly remarked that Blue Jay losses, within the Rogers empire, amount to "a rounding error.""

Now, maybe I can be accused of being a sucker, easily fooled. That argument is probably not without merit. But holy shit, I think I'm excited about the future of this team.

Maybe someday, sooner than later, we'll be saying "Playoffs!" and actually meaning it. And that aint nothin', my friends.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Left-handed compliments on the rotation

So the final cut-down came down, and the Jays are ready to head to Texas with a rotation that, according to Bastian, looks a little like this: Marcum, Tallet, Romero, Morrow and the Wild Card, Dana Eveland.

You have to admit that no matter what Eveland's performance in the spring might have been, he had a couple of pretty strong things in his favour: He's a lefty, and he's a gingerish, and the Jays can't ever seem to get enough of either.

(And somewhere, David Purcey sits sullen, applying SPF 160 sunblock, feeling less like the beautifully unique southpaw-gigner-snowflake that his momma always told him he was.)

We're actually kinda glad to see Eveland make the team out of camp, even if it means sending two other non-ginger lefties (Cecil and Rzep) to Vegas. We're big on both of those guys, and we're pretty certain that they'll be back and be better at some point this season.

But we're all for the Jays at least have a look in real game action at Eveland to see if they might have something of value in him. It worked okay in the case of two other scrap heap lefties (Scott Downs and Brian Tallet), and Eveland's run through the Fake Game schedule was pretty stellar, after all (1.23 ERA, 16 Ks vs 6 BBs in 22.1 IPs).

Speaking of Tallet, there has already been some discussion as to the order of the rotation, and where the lovable lug belongs in it. Bastian noted that, according those people he could catch up with (a very select group for the slow-of-foot beat writer), Tallet is, in fact, the number two pitcher in the rotation coming out of the Spring.

Our guess on this is that this reading of the situation is a bit too literal. We doubt the brain trust actually considers Tallet as the second best starter, but rather, the Jays would prefer to line up Ricky Romero a little further down the rotation. Dropping RickRo down a slot ensures that the Jays won't have many series in the early going where they go without a start from their two best pitchers.

Because as much as we might root for Tallet, Morrow, and Eveland, the notion of heading into Fenway or New Yankee Stadium with those three as your scheduled starters is more than a little scary.