The unhittable Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo are unhittable no more.
Oops, my bad.
I jinxed Janssen and Accardo. The two Blue Jays relievers who have been lights out this year were torched by the Twinkies on Saturday night, a mere 24 hours after I said I was simply waiting for their bubble to burst.
Tomo Ohka pitched a hell of a ball game for the Jays on Saturday night, and it came at an opportune time because his job is on the line. Roy Halladay's going to take the mound on Thursday night, so it's either Ohka or young'un Jesse Litsch who's going to be voted off the island.
Ohka handed the ball off to the dynamic duo of Janssen and Accardo with a 7-2 lead in the 8th inning. Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth and it was a tie game, seven a piece. Janssen gave up two runs, while Accardo gave up three in blowing the save. Accardo's shutout streak lasted a remarkable 21 innings.
The Jays picked up their bullpen though, for once, and managed to win the game in extra innings. God knows it would have been an excruciatingly tough loss to rebound from.
I've got to give props to Janssen, Accardo, and Scott Downs for their work this season. Pitching was obviously a concern coming into this season for Toronto, but these guys have carried the bullpen on their back, especially in the absence of BJ Ryan. It was only a matter of time until they got hit, but they've been a pleasure to watch. They are one of the few bright spots on this team.
The Twins took two out of three from the Jays on the weekend, and now the Yankees are in Toronto for a big three game set. A.J. Burnett put together another quality start Sunday afternoon, going eight innings and only giving up three hits. He took the loss, however, and saw his record go to 5-4. It was the 22nd time this season that the Jays scored three runs or less. That's simply not going to get the job done, fellas.
Two months of the 2007 season are pretty much in the books now, and they've been a rough two months to say the least. Baseball is a shadow of life, as in things don't always go the way they're planned. The Boston Red Sox are running away with the AL East division, and any talk of the playoffs could be over pretty soon. Reality is starting to set in, and it's bleak right now. The Jays need to put together a winning streak, and fast.
The Jays were supposed to have one of the more potent lineups in the American League this season. Yet here we are, 49 games in, and Alex Rios is leading the team in home runs, runs batted in and runs scored. Rios is great and only getting better, but he's not supposed to be the main man offensively on this team just yet. Wells, Glaus, Thomas and Overbay, I'm looking at you guys.
The Jays have a team batting average of .256, good for only 10th in the American League. Toronto was supposed to out slug most of their opponents, to make up for their lack of quality pitching. The Jays offense is comparable with the Kansas City Royals offense right now. That should be a crime.
Pitching wins championships. It's getting more and more evident every season. The Blue Jays own a team ERA of 4.44. The Red Sox, who have an 11.5 game cushion in the AL East, boast a team ERA of 3.64.
Pitching, my friends. The Red Sox have it. The Blue Jays don't.
May 28, 2007
The unhittable Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo are unhittable no more.
May 26, 2007
Now that the Ottawa Senators are on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals - wow, that actually hurts just writing it - an interesting question comes to mind.
Mats Sundin or Daniel Alfredsson. Who would you rather have as your captain?
The Senators, led by Alfredsson, are off to the place no Maple Leafs team has travelled in the modern era of the NHL. Sundin and the Leafs have never made it out of the third round of the grind known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Alfredsson has been a man possessed the last few weeks. He's playing, undoubtedly, the best hockey of his career and has been the driving the bus for his team. He's finally playing like a captain, something he'd never really done in the playoffs before. I thought it was fitting that Alffy was the man to score the game winner in overtime of game five to knock out the Sabres. It was Alffy who was burned by Jason Pominville, one year ago, in overtime of game five when Buffalo sent the Senators home. Justin Timberlake was right, the clever entertainer that he is. What goes around, goes around, goes around comes all the way back around.
Alfredsson is the first European captain of a team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Funny, I always believed Mats Sundin would hold that distinction. Alas, it has yet to be for Sundin and Toronto's beloved, but clearly cursed, hockey team. Will Alfredsson become the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup?
Alfredsson has turned it up a notch in the playoffs this time around. He's played solid two-way hockey, while racking up 10 goals and seven assists. Four of those goals have been game winners. The Sens have won 12 games in the second season, so Alffy's won a third of them for his team. That's clutch. He's even added a physical element to his game, something he certainly hasn't been known for before.
Statistically during the regular season over their respective careers, Sundin holds a slight edge over Alfredsson when it comes to points-per-game. Sundin has averaged 1.01 points a game over his career, while Alffy comes in at 0.97. Advantage Sundin.
Sundin is also the better playoff performer, averaging 0.89 points a game in 83 career playoff games. Alfredsson has played 94 career playoff games and averages 0.80 points-per-game. Advantage Sundin, again.
I'm not sure one solid playoff run, on a very talented and deep Ottawa Senators team, vaults Alfredsson past Sundin. Alfredsson is playing on a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza right now, two all-world superstars. Mats Sundin goes to bed at night dreaming of playing with guys of that calibre. Other than the Alexander Mogilny days in Toronto, I'd say Alfredsson has always played with more talented players beside him.
All I know is that this city is full of Mats Sundin haters. The haters are saying Sundin shouldn't be resigned. That he's overpaid, and not worthy of the "C". I'll vouch with the overpaid part, but don't believe for a second that he isn't a superb captain and player. The Leafs need him, straight up.
The fact that Alfredsson is now playing for the most beautiful piece of hardware I have ever seen in my life, the Stanley Cup, is not going to help Sundin's cause, especially when he's on the verge of signing a new two-year contract with the Leafs.
Clearly, I'm no Sundin hater. I love the man. I'm going to give Alfredsson his props on his playoff performance right now, but I'll take Mats Sundin as my captain any day of the week over Alffy.
I'd love to know what you think.
Jesse Litsch, welcome back down to earth.
The Jays lost another close one tonight as youngster Litsch made his third start in the big leagues, against a tough Minnesota Twins lineup.
After his phenomenal start about ten days ago, Litsch has struggled in his last two outings. He's allowed to struggle, though. The kid is up from AA ball, after all, and he's only 22. It's not an easy transition, Casey Janssen can attest to that. Litsch gave up three runs and eight hits in only four and a third innings tonight. He's done a good job filling in, but it's time to get back on the bus and head down to Syracuse. Harry Halladay - I think I'm going to refer to him as Harry for the rest of the season - could return as early as May 31st, and Litsch will benefit from some time in Triple-A. It looks like he's got a bright future.
My main man Scott Downs took the loss tonight. He made a costly error in the bottom of the seventh when he couldn't handle Justin Morneau's nibbler. It was only the sixth run he's given up all year.
I've got to admit that I'm just waiting for the Jays' lights-out bullpen trio's bubble to burst. The trio of Accardo, Janssen and Downs. Downs looks like he's ready to pop, as he's given up three runs in his last two outings. Accardo is still going strong on his scoreless innings streak, and I'm still not sure how Casey Janssen is doing what he's doing.
Janssen hasn't been overpowering. He's given up 21 hits in 24 plus innings, while striking out ten. Yet he's only given up two runs. Those stats show that he's not getting fazed when runners get aboard. That's a great quality for a pitcher to have. Duh. Hard to believe Janssen was also pitching for New Hampshire in Double-A just a year ago.
This way of thinking - waiting for the bubble to burst - is the way I function. All negativity, all the time! Instead of enjoying the success of the Jays bullpen, I'm waiting for it all to come crashing down.
Peculiar decision by John Gibbons to let Scott Downs pitch to Torii Hunter tonight, with two outs and runners on the corners in a tie ball game. Hunter has been eating up left-handed pitching all year, and Jason Frasor was ready in the bullpen. This is what I mean when I say that John Gibbons makes some stupid decisions. Play the numbers. Bring in Frasor. Downs has been great, but you've got to respect Hunter's bat. Downs' first pitch was poked into right field, 4-3 Twins, and it turned out to be the winning run. Good call.
Random thought - it's hard to believe JP Ricciardi has been around for seven seasons, and John Gibbons for four, already. Wow. Time flies when you're finishing in third!
Tomo Ohka takes the mound for the Jays tomorrow. It's almost official, he sucks. If he loses tomorrow, it will be official. I'm off Ohka, huge.
I just saw Maggie the Monkey pick the Senators to win it all on Sportscentre. I'm not sure how Maggie's done with her picks this year, but I hope she's wrong. As much as I want a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, I would much rather it have been Calgary or Edmonton in the last few years. Not Ottawa. I can take them making it to the finals, but winning it is going to be a bit much for me to swallow. The fact that Alfredsson is the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe isn't sitting too well either.
It's true, I wanted the Sens to beat the Sabres. Ottawa's never beaten the Leafs in the playoffs, while Buffalo has. There's my justification. And a part of me likes to laugh at the inability of Buffalo's pro sports teams to get the job done. Buffalo is a city of losers, and I wanted that losing to continue. They did and I'm happy, but that's all now. Come on Ducks. Do the Flying V. Do whatever it takes, but don't let the Senators win it all.
Karma should be on the side of the Ducks. Scott Niedermayer didn't even come within a foot of the Western Conference Championship trophy. Half of the Ducks were already gone to the dressing room during the presentation. That's the way it should be done. Nobody cares about that trophy, nobody wants to touch it, and nobody wants to take a picture with it. That is not the trophy one plays for. Niedermayer did the right thing. If you want to win the Stanley Cup, it's known that you don't touch the Conference Championship trophy. As absurd as this tradition has become, I absolutely love it. There's no other trophy like the Stanley Cup and it's aura results in ridiculous superstitions like this.
Alfredsson, Wade Redden and the Senators, however, were all over the Eastern Conference Championship trophy. Redden even skated around with it! That's a no-no. It will cost the Senators, dearly.
Ducks in seven. Book it.
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.
May 10, 2007
May 05, 2007
I also got to shout out AP. Anthony Parker was such a huge part of this team this year, and no one really expected that. This guy's got a sweet stroke and his jumpers when he comes off screens are beautiful to watch. I think the Raptors have got to make it a point to get Parker more touches next year. This guy can play.
May 03, 2007
I've got a confession to make.
I'm actually enjoying the Ottawa Senators' playoff run. They're an entertaining squad, and man oh man, these aren't the Senators of days gone bye.
The Senators have changed. The Senators are ready. They're on the cusp. As a man who bleeds blue and white, this is about as blasphemous as it gets, but I can't keep this inside any longer. A part of me likes Ottawa Senators hockey these days. A part of me is rooting for the Ottawa Senators. It's sick, I know.
This isn't easy, my friends, believe me.
Never would I have thought it would come to this. The Senators were always the lame chokers that I loved to laugh at. The team that just couldn't get the job done. The team that would dominate the Maple Leafs in the regular season but somehow manage to lose to Toronto in the playoffs. Four straight years. Ah, those were good times.
But times have changed. My worst nightmare has always been the prospect of Ottawa winning the Stanley Cup before the Leafs. If that happens, and it's looking more and more likely now, I've got nothing left. All us Leafs fans have left on Ottawa is those playoff beatings. The ones I'm still clinging on to til this day.
Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I'm jealous of the Ottawa Senators. It's true.
The Sens were always the laughing stock. I laughed at the inability of guys like Marian Hossa, Radek Bonk, Alexei Yashin, Andreas Dackell and Zdeno Chara to get it done in the playoffs. But not anymore. Those useless guys have all been shipped out of town.
Today, I'd kill for guys like Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher and Ray Emery to be in the blue and white. I've always had a soft spot for Fisher, and Emery is quickly becoming one of my favourite goalies in the league. It pains me to say that, because he wears the dreaded Senators uniform, but it's the truth, God dammit.
I figured the Senators totally screwed Spezza's development up, what with the constant trips back and forth to the minors, and the benching's and the 4th line duty. But under Bryan Murray he's blossomed into a bonafide star in this league. He's got tremendous vision and is one of the more underrated passers in the league. And the kid can dangle. Ask Sheldon Souray. He's been posterized by Spezza, twice.
When guys like Mike Comrie and Dean McCammond are dropping the gloves, you know the culture has changed over in the nation's capital. These simply aren't the Senators of old, the Senators I constantly ridiculed.
Ottawa's got it right, and they're one win away from another trip to the final four. I think they're the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa has a good chance to win the Stanley Cup.
What the hell has the world come to?
I hope John Ferguson Jr. is taking notes, because Ottawa has put together one helluva team. I'm impressed. I'm a Leafs fan, how can I not be? It doesn't take much, after all.
I still can't believe I'm writing this. At least one thing hasn't changed, and that's my hate for Chris Neil. I want to kick him in his nuts.
I feel sick. I'm jealous of the Ottawa Senators! It's tough to swallow. I want Heatley. And Fisher. And Spezza. And Meszaros. And Volchenkov (this kid was BORN to block shots, he reminds me of Danny Markov, but better). Did anyone else see Alfredsson absolutely flatten a Devils player? Alfredsson! Unbelievable. How come Mats Sundin never lays anybody out like that? Sigh...
You know I've reached a new low when I'm comparing my Mats to Daniel freakin' Alfredsson.
I feel like Ace Ventura after he found out Finkle was Einhorn.
I'm gonna go put on "The Crying Game", burn my clothes, and stand in the shower crying uncontrollably.
I'm sorry Leafs Nation...