December 06, 2007

Baseball On The Brain

It's December 6th. We're two months into hockey season and a month into the basketball campaign. It's already butt-numbing cold outside, but I've got the boys of summer on my mind.

First of all, great move by the Toronto Blue Jays to bring back the retro uniforms (pictured) for Flashback Friday's this season at the Rogers SkyDome Centre. I've always loved the old-school logo and these days it's all about the "throwback" jerseys with the kids. But, damn, that's a lot of baby blue.

Lets get down to business now, shall we? Baseball's winter meetings are set to wrap today in Nashville and I'm praying that Alex Rios is still Blue Jays property when it's all said and done. I went to bed distraught last night, after reading Jeff Blair's blog post on The Globe's website. He's saying an offer has been made and as of last night at 11:44 pm, it's still on the table: Alex Rios for San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum.

What in the name of Cosmo Kramer is going on here!?!? Why is J.P. Ricciardi even contemplating trading Rios? Richard Griffin, reputed columnist at The Star, said in his column yesterday that the Jays were only "kicking the tires" on Lincecum and were looking to lock-up Rios long term, which makes a hell of a lot more sense than trading the two-time all-star.

JPeezy, what's the deal? Rios was the teams best and most consistent hitter last year. He was the lone all-star and the lone bright spot on a pathetic offensive team, and the Jays were sold to me and everyone else in this town as an offensive juggernaut. And now you're going to trade our most promising player, straight up for a young pitcher? Say it ain't so!

I don't care how good Lincecum is, or is supposed to be down the road. The Jays have already got a bunch of quality young arms that emerged last year - Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo. Even the five-inning wonder Gustavo Chacin is still around. None of this is making any more sense to me right now than it was last night. This is one trade that cannot be done. The offer needs to come off the table. It was the Jays offense that was the problem last year, not the pitching. Had the Jays offense performed, the season wouldn't have been over come July 31st.

Alex Rios is a bona fide star in baseball. He's the type of guy you can build a team around. I believe that he's going to be a better all-around player than even Vernon Wells. He finally put it all together the last two years and started jacking some balls over the fence. He can hit for average, power and, like Frank Costanza said to George Steinbrenner, "he's got a rocket for an arm!" If JP trades Rios for this Lincecum fellow, I think I'm going to have a break down.

Another pitcher from the Giants that has reportedly piqued the interest of the Jays is Matt Cain. The Jays, though, are higher on Lincecum, hence the Rios offer (still can't believe it!!!!). I guess the Giants are really high on this Lincecum kid if they haven't accepted the Rios offer. You'd think they'd jump at the opportunity to grab Rios, especially after cutting ties with that melon-head and soon-to-be convicted felon Barry Bonds. I do, however, find it funny that the Jays inquired about trading for Cain. They could have drafted him back in 2002. Let's take a trip down memory lane...

In '02, the Jays drafted Russ Adams in the first round. He was to be the shortstop of the future. Now, he's not even the utility man of the future. Adams sucks. He was a mistake. He was drafted one year after the Jays drafted shortstop Aaron Hill, who has worked out rather well. Why would the Jays draft shortstop's in successive years, you ask? Ricciardi's mantra has always been to take the "best player available," regardless of his position. After the Jays took Adams, the next three picks in the draft were Scott Kazmir, a southpaw pitcher with amazing stuff, Nick Swisher, a switch-hitting outfielder who can hit for power and plays with a ton of passion, and Cole Hamels, another fireballing southpaw pitcher who strikes out a ton of batters for the Philadelphia Phillies. Later in the the same draft, Joe Blanton, a serviceable pitcher for the Oakland A's, and Matt Cain were taken. The Jays could have had any of those four pitchers, but instead took Russ Adams. And now they're offering Alex Rios for Lincecum. Ricciardi needs a drop-kick to his face.

While we're here on memory lane, let's take a look at the 2004 draft. The Jays drafted David Purcey, a left-handed pitcher, 16th overall in the first round. Purcey has struggled in the minors, and won't be up with the big club any time soon. Phil Hughes, the stud pitching prospect for the New York Yankees, was taken with the 23rd pick in the same draft. In 2006 Hughes was named the best pitching prospect in the minors by Baseball America. Could have been a Blue Jay.

It gets worse, and this one really hurts. In the 2005 entry draft the Jays selected Ricky Romero, another left-handed pitcher, with the 6th overall pick. With the 7th pick in the draft the Colorado Rockies selected Troy Tulowitzki, who has already turned into one of the game's best young shortstops. Tulowitzki led all major league shortstops in fielding percentage last year, while only a rookie. He's got some pop in his bat, too. Everyone in Toronto knows that the Jays have always been on the prowl for a shortstop, and just imagine the double-play combo of Tulowitzki and Hill. Hurts, don't it?

I know the draft is a crap shoot. I know there's a ton of luck involved. But it hurts to look back at these frightening results of drafts gone by, with JPeezy running the ship. Hindsight ain't 20/20. Hindsight's a bitch.

Another development out of the winter meetings has Paul Lo Duca possibly joining the Jays, to split the back-catching duties with Greg Zaun. The Jays don't have a backup right now, and I wouldn't mind Lo Duca. I'm indifferent, to be honest with you. A lot of people in Toronto can't stand Greg Zaun because he, well, can't throw anybody who tries to steal a bag out. He had the worst percentage last season when it came to throwing guys out, and teams abused the Jays when it came to the running game. They ran, freely. Lo Duca would help, and would give Curtis Thigpen more time in the minors.

Toronto has apparently offered Lo Duca a one-year deal, in the $3 to $4 million range, and he's mulling over the offer, along with a bunch of other ones. So, we'll see. A Lo Duca/Zaun (Lo Zauna?)combination would be a welcome one, sort of like the Bengie Molina/Zaun combination we saw in 2006.

Hard to believe that spring training will open in less than three months. I pray to God Alex Rios will be down in Dunedin with the rest of the Jays when it does.

Before I leave you, I've got a personal story about the Blue Jays I'd like to share. About a month ago, a friend of mine gave me a call. He's a few years younger than me, and I've known him for as long as I can remember. I've basically seen him grow up. He's not the biggest baseball fan out there, but knows I'm all about the Jays.

Anyways, he gave me a ring while he was at the mall. He was looking to buy a present for his brother, and had decided on a Jays jersey, but didn't know which one to get - one with Halladay on the back, or one with Wells on the back. He rang and asked for my, and I quote, "professional advice" on which jersey to buy. I guess writing about sports, and the city, makes me a "professional." Good to know.

He did, however, put me on the spot. I had about seven seconds to decide. Before I thought I made up my mind, I blurted out "Halladay. Get the Halladay jersey." My friend took the advice (why wouldn't he? I'm a professional). After I hung up, I thought about why I chose Halladay over Wells. I came to the conclusion that I was deeply upset, on a subconscious level, over Wells' terrible 2006 season. I was expecting so much from him, and he totally let me down. Halladay, meanwhile, was Halladay.

A week later, I saw my friend, and he told me his brother was more than pleased with the Halladay jersey, and preferred it to the Wells jersey. I had made the right call (phew!).

As for Vernon Wells, what's life without second chances? I have every reason to believe Wells will tear it up in 2008, return to his all-star form, and along with, I pray, Alex Rios, do all he can to send the Toronto Blue Jays to the playoffs.