May 18, 2007


Apologies are in store.

In the midst of the Jays' nine game losing streak, I lost sight of the bigger picture. And in baseball that bigger picture is, well, pretty damn big. 162 games big.

The baseball season is long and arduous. It's important to keep the highs and lows of the six month season in perspective. As fans, we have to maintain an even keel, and I didn't do that. I panicked. Big time.

There I was, calling for heads to roll and for people to get fired. A nine game losing streak in May isn't the end of the world. It certainly may do irrefutable damage to the 2007 Jays season, but by no means is the season over, as was written by me, and by several members of the Toronto media.

After taking some time to reflect on the state of Toronto's beloved Blue Jays, I realized that clearly it's not fair to fire anyone when approximately $29 million in Jays salaries are currently on the disabled list. Injuries are a part of baseball, what the hell can you do? Call it bad luck, or karma, or anything for that matter, it doesn't matter, because the Jays still have 120 odd games left to play. The games must go on. The team doesn't have the option of Jerry Seinfeld - "I choose not to run!"

The losing streak is now in the past. It's forgotten. The Jays have won six of eight and sit seven games out of the Wild Card. Daunting? Yes. Impossible? Certainly not. Crazier stuff has happened before. Two years ago, when the Astros made the final, they were 10 games out of it in July. So to say it can't be done, and that the Jays are done, is wrong, straight up. Sure, the Astros had Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt. That certainly helped their cause, but I'll be damned if I declare the Jays dead before June has even begun.

Before I get into my repentance, I learned, as George Costanza would say, an interesting nugget of information last week, after Doc Halladay went on the disabled list with acute appendicitis. His real name is Leroy Harry Halladay. When word broke that Doc was going under the knife, A.J. Burnett, who was pitching that night, sent his buddy a text message - "This one's for you, Harry."

They actually call him Harry! That's just strange to me, for some reason. He looks like a Roy!

First of all, I'm sorry A.J. Burnett. Burnett has really stepped up in the absence of Halladay. He's taken the job of staff ace to heart and has pitched two magnificent ballgames since Doc, err Harry, went down. In his last two starts Burnett has pitched 15 and 2/3's innings, given up only two earned runs while striking out 20. His last game, Wednesday versus the Orioles, was probably as dominant a performance he's had since donning the Jays uniform. His ERA is now a tidy 3.99 and he's stepped up when this team and organization has needed him the most. He's vocal in the club house, is the team's pie-in-the-face guy along with Vernon Wells, and is fast becoming one of the leader's of this team. A healthy and on-point Burnett is so important to salvaging this season.

I'm sorry Shaun Marcum. I said he didn't deserve to be put into the starting rotation. I even said he was a bit like Josh Towers. Ouch. When you get compared to Josh Towers, you know you've got problems. Marcum, in his two games since joining the rotation, has been lights out. Twelve inning's pitched and only two earned runs. Marcum's going to stay in the rotation, and he deserves to right now.

I'm sorry John Gibbons. You're the Manager, and just because the team is struggling and missing so many regulars doesn't mean you should lose your job. Like I said, I panicked. I like Gibbons, and although he does make questionable decisions at times, he seems to have the respect of his troops. A lot has been made about his public scuffles with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly, but I read an interesting column in the Star which said that if Gibbon's wasn't respected by the players, would Wells have signed his huge contract to stay in Toronto? It made me think. The Jays have for too long used a carousel of coaches. This is Gibbons' team and he's got to be given a chance to run with it.

I'm sorry JP Ricciardi. For the first time in seven years, since JP came aboard, did I ever question him. I hadn't seen the Jays go through such a tailspin in so long, I forgot how to handle it. If I'm frustrated by all the injuries, imagine what JP is going through? The life of a General Manager is a stressful one. Just when I was calling out JP on the lack of depth in the Jays system, up comes youngster Jesse Litsch, 22 years old and tearing up AA ball. He throws eight and two-thirds against the Orioles and gives up only one run, which came in the first inning when the kid was clearly nervous to be on the mound in the big's.

Litsch got his first big league win, and it came on his dad's birthday, who happened to be in the crowd all the way from Florida. Talk about a perfect debut. It was exactly what the Jays needed too. Injuries equals opportunities for other players, and Litsch seized his, that's for sure. What was supposed to be just a one-game call up has turned into a few more starts for the youngster. He's freaking almost three years younger than me. Ridiculous.

I also have to give JP his props on the Shea Hillendbrand for Jeremy Accardo deal last season. It's certainly looking like a steal. Shea was up for unrestricted free agency and was going to leave anyways, before Hillend-gate went down. JP swung him to San Francisco for Accardo, the young, hard-throwing right-hander. Accardo's been money this season. Eighteen innings pitched and nary a run has been scored on him. He's only given up nine hits, while striking out 19. Accardo has picked up three saves in the absence of BJ Ryan, and is the closer for the rest of this season. At this rate, Accardo's a shoe-in for the All-Star game. He's having a phenomenal season and has really stepped up in the absences of Brandon League and BJ Ryan. Another guy seizing an opportunity. Coming into training camp there were a lot of questions surrounding Accardo and his role on this team. Now he's one of the more valuable players on this year's team.

In light of all the struggles with the Jays, it's interesting to note that the Jays have three of the American League's top relievers in their bullpen. Really. I'm not lying. Casey Janssen, Scott Downs, and Jeremy Accardo. The three have pitched a combined 53 innings so far, and have only let up five runs, while striking out 46 batters. Lights out, baby. Justin Speier who?

Marcum, Litsch and Janssen are Ricciardi draft picks. Accardo is the product of a Ricciardi trade. Clearly, the farm is producing Major League talent, and Ricciardi is making good deals. I'm sorry to have doubted you JP. I was way out of line.

I've also got to apologize to Troy Glaus. I'm always complaining about how he's often injured, but the guy has been so clutch when he's been in the lineup that I'm not sure where the Jays would be without him. In the three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, Glaus drove in the winning run every night. Game one - a moon shot of a home run in the 8th inning. Game two - a single to left field that drove in the winning run. Game three - another single that drove in Rios with the winning run.

Glaus is playing with a golf-ball sized bone spur in his right foot. That can't be comfortable. Especially for the hulking Glaus, who is 6-5" and weighs 240 pounds. That's a lot of weight coming down on that bone spur. Glaus has been a warrior and is playing through the pain, and will continue to do so for the rest of the season. You've got to admire his competitiveness. Atta boy, Troy.

I'm sorry Vernon Wells. I'd like to say I was drinking when I questioned whether the Jays should have signed Wells to the long-term deal. I was drunk, but it wasn't the alcohol. I was drunk off all the losing. It took its toll. Vernon Wells represents Toronto Blue Jays baseball. He made a commitment to this team and to this city, and although that commitment came with a few Brinx trucks full of money, I shouldn't be questioning that contract only 40 games into it. Once again, I was out of line. Wells is a fierce competitor and there's no way he's not giving his all out there in centre field, I just refuse to believe it.

V-Dubbs has been a notoriously slow starter in April, and that has been the case again this year. But, like I said earlier, it's a long season and I'm confident Wells will rebound and have a solid season. He's paid like a superstar because he is a superstar.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm sorry Blue Jays marketing department. I bought into what you've been selling the last couple of years, and no nine game losing streak is going to spoil years of hard work.

Seven games, that's it. The Red Sox are bound to go into a slump. I refuse to believe they can play .700 baseball all season long. They will have their injuries as well. Case in point, Josh Beckett has landed on the DL. Josh Beckett, he of the 7-0 record. Baseball season is not 40 games long.

I refuse to believe that the Jays will go quietly into the night. This team has heart. This team will not quit. The 2007 season still can be a special one. I can't throw in the towel. I don't have it in me.

Blue Jays Baseball, I still believe. I urge you to do the same.