August 28, 2009
I'm off to see Lady Liberty. And definitely not the New York Yankees. I will take no part in adding to those coffers, thank you very much. If I want to go to an amusement park, I'll hit up the CNE.
Your parting gift: John McDonald's entrance tune ...
Gangsta Nation by Westside Connection - Ice Cube, Mack10, WC (with Nate Dogg on the chorus, of course) - is without a doubt the last song I'd ever imagine the Prime Minister of Defence would walk up to the plate to. Johnny Mac is clearly, as the kids say, "street."
Enjoy your weekend. Remember to support your local baseball team. (And its much-maligned centre fielder.) Winless, and hit hard, in three starts against the Boston Red Sox, I believe it's Ricky Romero's time to shine in his Fenway Park debut.
August 26, 2009
"It's been another learning experience. They love you when you're doing well and hate you when you're doing bad. Come next year, if I'm hitting .320, people will love me but I'll never forget these last few months, that's for sure."
V-Dub's darkest hour: 2007. A .245 batting average, .304 OBP, and wretched 85 OPS+. He's done his best to replicate those numbers in 2009; the similarities are eerie. Yet in an injury-shortened 2008, Wells responded with a 129 OPS+; the third-highest of his career. He's been down this road before. Some faith.
I trust that Wells will heed his own advice, and not forget these last few difficult, pain-staking, awful months. (Fuck off, Carlos Pena.) I trust he'll use them as motivation. Mark my words: Wells isn't finished.
It ain't V-Dub against the world. It's V-Dub and me against the world.
Some business: Thanks to our good friend The Ack, Aaron Hill's got a new nickname: Lighthouse Hill. For Aaron is undeniably the light amid the darkness.
August 25, 2009
If you don't know, now you know...
Vernon Wells, my hero, batted four times last night. Each time he walked up to the plate, I was on my feet, showering him with love and adulation, and urging those around me to do the same. For one night, Vernon Wells was loved. For one night, the Vernon Wells Hatred Advisory System was put away.
Two young Blue Jays fans, about three rows down from me, are today converts to the Church of Vernon Wells. Thanks to my exploits, they believe.
Vernon Wells heard me last night. There's no doubt about it.
And, on an aside, what the hell has happened to our Roy Halladay? My heart weeps.
August 24, 2009
The following is an email from my boy Lee(tch) in response to Friday's post, The Almighty Dollar:
"The problem with baseball (and I mean problem because clearly everyone notices it yet no one who actually has a say wants to do anything about it) is that year in and year out it is run mainly by two baseball clubs who battle it out to see who can outdo each other in payroll spending. MLB's refusal to even entertain an idea of a salary cap goes way beyond logic in terms of keeping the sport competitive to all teams, and will only mean our Toronto Blue Jays will probably be battling for the Wild Card position for years to come."The fix to all of this? Simple, (one would think!) expand the freaking playoffs system to be on par with all the other major professional sports in North America and take out Interleague play. Yes, it's that simple. I know baseball purists will argue against this and say it goes against tradition but while you sit your fat lazy ass on the couch and drink your beer all in the name of tradition, consider this: baseball is a declining sport in terms of reaching out to new viewers and I can't blame them if you pretty much know your team is out of any playoff contention by mid-June."Make the sport more appealing to the casual fan so they can't complain about our team only spent X gazillions of dollars this year but it still wasn't enough to match the Yankees who spent 10X gazillions trillions of dollars. Time for a change eyebleaf. Yes we can."
My man makes some good points. MLB "attendance is down about five percent this year." Back in May, The Wall Street Journal reported that baseball is "Mired in a Mysterious Ratings Slump." (To be fair, MLB reported in June that "Baseball's TV ratings holding steady.") The bottom line: fewer gate receipts, and zero growth on television (regardless of who you believe).
Yet I don't see a change to the playoff format on the horizon. I don't believe a mainstream discussion on the topic is even taking place. Lee(tch) is right: the playoffs (!!1) are a sport's showcase. In a season so long, more teams invited to the dance would undoubtedly increase attention.
Playoff revenue is where it's at. It's the old adage: "It takes money to make money." Right now, in a market with little regulation, the path to said playoff revenue is clear: spend. A team in the top 10 in payroll greatly increases its chances to qualify for the postseason. And because baseball doesn't allow for the trading of draft picks, the rich clubs are assured, too, of developing their own homegrown talent. The team on the field isn't the only product of greater resources; the scouting department is as well.
While it may not be on the horizon at the moment, economic reform - a ceiling and floor on team payroll - will come to baseball. It's a matter of when, not if.
A couple of folks had issues with the comments section last week, and that ain't right. I appreciate any and all discussion so, with that in mind, we've switched back to the tried, tested, and true pop-up window format. Let the commentary flow freely.
And remember, you can holla on Twitter at: twitter.com/eyebleaf
August 21, 2009
You have lost your God damn mind if you think I want to talk about the spanking the Blue Jays received at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Toronto's one naughty baseball team, and Boston let them have it. It might have been the most difficult series to watch all season. When Roy Halladay looks as mortal as the rest of his teammates, you know it's bad. The Tao of Stieb is right; something's changed with Doc. It doesn't feel the same.
Suddenly the locals are nine games below .500. What hurts more is their 31-29 record in the friendly confines of dome. My heart weeps.
There's nothing left to do but look forward and, after the draft snafu, the thought of another season with an $80 million payroll in the AL East makes me sick to my stomach. The uncertainty surrounding the 2010 budget eats at my soul.
Here's a list of the 10 clubs who spend the most ducats in Major League Baseball, along with their record and where they stand on this glorious Friday morning, the 21st day of August:
- New York Yankees $201,449,189 76-45 (.628) 1st place AL East
- New York Mets $147,417,987 56-65 (.463) 4th place NL East
- Chicago Cubs $134,809,000 61-58 (.513) 2nd place NL Central
- Boston Red Sox* $121,745,999 69-51 (.575) 2nd place AL East
- Detroit Tigers $115,085,145 64-56 (.533) 1st place AL Central
- LA Angels $113,709,000 73-46 (.613) 1st place AL West
- Philadelphia Phillies $113,309,000 69-49 (.585) 1st place NL East
- Houston Astros $102,996,414 59-62 (.488) 3rd place NL Central
- LA Dodgers $100,008,592 72-50 (.590) 1st place NL West
- Seattle Mariners $98,904,166 62-59 (.512) 3rd place AL West
The Red Sox receive an asterisk because they employ a bunch of steroid using douchebags. And because if the playoffs (!!1) began today, they'd go to the dance as the Wild Card.
What does that list tell you? The New York Yankees are the best team in baseball. When you spend everyone into the mother fucking ground, and play home games in an amusement park, you should be. Their counterparts, the Metropolitans? Pray for them. They've been ravaged by injury. The Cubs are a mess. The BoSox should be able to hold off the $68,178,798 Texas Rangers for the Wild Card. (Although I certainly wouldn't mind if they don't.) The Tigers look like a playoff team; $115 million should be able to get it done in the AL Central. If you're a baseball fan in the greater Los Angeles area, life is grand. The Phillies are set to defend their title, while Houston and Seattle are spending too much money to be playing near .500 baseball.
The bottom line: five of baseball's six division leaders reside in the top 10 in payroll. The St. Louis Cardinals are the only exception, leading the NL Central by a whopping seven games with a payroll of $88,528,409. (The Cubs really are cursed.) Give the Red Sox the Wild Card, and six out of eight playoff teams are MLB's biggest spenders. The Colorado Rockies, playing .562 baseball, are your other exception, leading the NL Wild Card standings by two games while spending $74,800,000.
$80 million won't cut it. No way; not in the AL East. Until the Tampa Bay Rays can do it consistently, they're nothing but a one-hit wonder. While I'd love for the Jays to spend $120 million, as much as the Red Sox, I know it won't happen. So I'm willing to settle, and slot eighth on that list; $110 million. For the love of God, Rogers, make it happen.
(Payroll numbers courtesy of Report on Business Magazine)
August 18, 2009
If someone tells you J.P. Ricciardi "completely fucked up the 2009 draft," as happened to me yesterday, please smack your friend upside his or her head, regardless of his or her - clearly - limited mental capacity.
Sea change. That's probably the best way to describe the 2009 draft for the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, they failed to land the autographs of three of their first five picks on to contracts, but it's not all doom and gloom. (Is it ever, over here? Playoffs!1)
Some have called the happenings "another black hole" for the organization. You know I disagree. As The Southpaw points out, Toronto "went FAR over slot on three players." That's huge; "a substantial shift in philosophy."
Look, I get that the fan base, collectively, is rather pissed off. It's got a right to be. Sixteen years sans playoffs will do that. But, for the first time, the Jays drafted the best players available, regardless of their signability. And that's what they should be doing - taking the best guy. Period. Even if he is, as was the case with James Paxton, a Scott Boras client.
The Toronto Blue Jays have simply not done it this way before. Instead of drafting and signing their first five picks, all decent prospects but not the best ones available, as they have in the past, Toronto finally rolled the dice. The old strategy hasn't exactly worked. (This is where that whole "no playoffs in 16 years" thing comes into play.) I'm all for, as Will Hill wrote on what is essentially his blog over at TSN, "swinging for the fences." Go big or go home. Draft the high risk, high reward guys; the ones with higher ceilings. Even if you may not eventually get your hands on them. The old method, while it has brought results (see Hill, Aaron, and Lind, Adam), hasn't led the team to where it needs to be. (Playoffs!1)
I don't wish ill upon the three guys that got away - James Paxton, Jake Eliopoulos, and Jake Barrett. (I'll leave that to The Tao.) Supplemental draft picks are on their way. We're all good. I only hope the three are drafted again, that the baseball market continues to collapse, and that they're forced to sign for less money than they turned down (Costanza Negotiation 101). Especially the "good Canadian boys."
And welcome back, Travis Snider.
Really, I can't say enough about Sniderman. An opposite field home run, and a tribute to the departed Alex Rios in the form of a dropped fly ball in right field. That's respect. Snider gets it. He is the truth.
UPDATE: The fine folks at Batter's Box have graded the 2009 draft an immense failure. While I certainly don't subscribe to that type of negativity, they make some good points. But, in the end, drafts can't be graded until at least five years down the road. Remember when Ricky Romero was a bust?
UPDATE #2: Read this: "'I think [Paxton] wanted to sign and it was just a number that we could not bring ourselves to pay,' Beeston said earlier today. Beeston said the Jays offered money above the slot that is recommended by Major League Baseball. Beeston personally handled the negotiations with Paxton, the top Canadian selected in the draft and his agent is Scott Boras."
August 15, 2009
It's time for some shameless self-promotion.
After, once again, coming to the defence of J.P. Ricciardi when Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski took him to town, the strangest thing happened: Posnanski responded to my blog post. (Huge props out to Pos. He understands that bloggers, and those who read blogs, make up a huge portion of his readership.)
It's not everyday a Senior Writer at SI acknowledges the points I've been trying to make, from my basement, for months now, about Ricciardi. Pos, once again, comes out swinging in response to my criticism of his "Ricciardis" article. The man is nothing if not thorough. And it's hard to argue with him. It's why he's one of the best. While we still may not agree, I can take solace in that he at least understands where I'm coming from.
It's been a long road. Many a debate over Ricciardi's legacy have been waged. If 2009 is the end of the road for J.P., I think I've done my part to dispel the notion that he's been the Antichrist since he took over back in 2002.
The defence rests.
August 14, 2009
Another day, another debate about J.P. Ricciardi. The beleaguered J.P. Ricciardi.
On Wednesday, it was Joe Posnanski's turn to rip the Toronto GM. (The Tao of Stieb called it a "hatchet job.") In short: Ricciardi signs guys to brutal - and only brutal - contracts, and "we should just start referring to bad baseball contracts as 'Ricciardis.'"
On Thursday, Posnanski did it again, posting the same article from his blog to Sports Illustrated. Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays made the front page, pictured above, for all the wrong reasons.
Yet in an article about Vernon Wells and his rightfully unjustifiable contract, nary a mention of ownership; of Rogers; of Paul Godfrey. Convenient, if you ask me. Also: irresponsible. A simple Google search of "wells godfrey contract" leads one to an article, the third search result, by The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin, entitled Godfrey behind Wells pitch. Written in the days before Wells signed on the dotted line in December 2006, Griffin pulled no punches:
"Ricciardi's emotions with regard to Wells have always been on the side of letting him walk at the end of his current contract. Either that or deal him for value. But [Paul] Godfrey is the one who responds to his emotions like a fan. Such seems the case again. ... If this Wells seven-year extension is done, it will be in spite of Ricciardi."
Joe Posnanski, one of the most revered baseball writers in the business, cannot write an article about J.P. Ricciardi and bad contracts, focusing on Vernon Wells, without mentioning that tiny nugget of information about Godfrey. It ain't right. No, it doesn't absolve Ricciardi of all responsibility, but it cannot simply be left out.
As with most articles belittling Ricciardi, hindsight comes in most handy. While he mentions the other two mammoth contracts of 2006, Carlos Lee (6 years, $100 million) and Alfonso Soriano (8 years, $136 million), alongside Wells's, Pos fails to point out that all three were signed before the baseball market tanked, and before the economy went into a spiral the likes of which it hasn't in generations. Pos also fails to mention that, in 2007, Wells would have been in a free agent class with rival centre fielders Ichiro, and Torri Hunter, who both took home deals averaging $18 million a season.
Looking back, I understand where Godfrey was coming from when he, based on what's been written by Toronto's paid sportswriters, overruled Ricciardi. If the Blue Jays had allowed Wells to walk, which of those free agents mentioned above, in either 2006 or 2007, would have, even for a minute, considered Toronto? You're right; none.
Signing Wells was Godfrey being a fan, and being in love with, to quote my man J.P., "the player." I definitely know what that's all about. It was also optics. Vernon was the face of the franchise, and coming off one of his best seasons. It's why I maintain that, at the time, the crazy, bat-shit insane time, Wells' contract was market value, with the Jays having to pay a premium to keep/sign a free agent in Toronto, and keep Wells from hitting the open market.
Career OPSs as of August 13, 2009:
Carlos Lee .850
Alfonso Soriano .838
Vernon Wells .802
Torri Hunter .802
(I am in no way, shape, or form comparing Vernon Wells to Ichiro. I have some semblance of a brain.)
The information is out there, available to everyone. Instead of finding it on my blog, it should be available on the front page of SI.com.
Also on Pos's list of the worst contracts in baseball, he singles out the departed Alex Rios. I vehemently disagree; "departed" being the key word. If Rios's contract was that bad, Chicago wouldn't have taken it. Period.
ESPN's Rob Neyer picked up on the Pos blog post on Wednesday, and rightfully wondered whether Pos was being a little too harsh on Ricciardi. He singled out a couple of comments from Posnanski's site, one of them mine, about meddling ownership. (No acknowledgement, of course, from the Worldwide Leader.) I was simply trying to set the record straight.
While I disagree with some of what Neyer wrote as well, I think he gets it. He goes on to call Ricciardi "the right guy in the wrong place." And, for some reason, that makes sense.
I'd love for the rumours of a $100-$120 million dollar 2010 Blue Jays payroll to be true, and for Ricciardi to stick around (contract extension, anyone?). But I also understand that it might just be time for a change.
Some More Griffin Goodness
The Star's Griffin is always all over Ricciardi. He even still brings up the infamous "five-year plan." It's one of the many tools in his arsenal.
Yet, in that same T.O. Star article linked to above, Griffin acknowledges that the Jays should have offered Wells a contract. He even puts term and numbers on the table: 8 years, $138.6 million.
Yeah, that would have been a lot better. You've got to love the lasting power of the internet.
UPDATE: Joe Posnanki, being the good man that he is, took the time to read the post above, and has responded on his own blog. Dissent breeds discussion and, for those of you who know me and my writing, discussion is what I'm all about.
Pos gets it. He doesn't ignore us bloggers in our mother's basements, and for that I salute him. Cheers, Pos; you're good people.
August 12, 2009
I love that picture. It represents what the Toronto Blue Jays were meant to be. It's hard to believe so much has changed in only one calendar year.
I'm exhausted from talking about Alex Rios. And J.P. Ricciardi.
I'm depressed after reading this:
"Roy Halladay, while making clear that he has enough to worry about without deciphering messages from ownership or management, said he was not at all surprised once word got out that Rios was on waivers. (There is a sense of detachment to Halladay that was not previously noticeable.)"- Jeff Blair, Tale of Two Teams
This team will, as The Ack pointed out, crush your soul.
Yet here I am, wanting nothing more than for Ricky Romero to beat A.J. Burnett this afternoon.
August 11, 2009
So, that "non-story" about Alex Rios being claimed on waivers turned out to be quite the story in the end, didn't it?
Rios is off to the Chicago White Sox. I found out about his travels while on the treadmill. I nearly fell the fuck off.
Now that I've had some time to
have a few drinks collect my thoughts, first and foremost, it's still hard to believe the Toronto Blue Jays allowed their starting right fielder - a two-time all-star, a Blue Jay lifer since being drafted 19th overall in 1999 - to walk away for nothing in return. I wrote only two days ago that it would be unbelievably foolish to allow Rios to leave; that there was absolutely no way it was going down like this.
But I've changed my tune. And not only because I'm a J.P. Ricciardi apologist. While it hurts to see Rios go, it was the right move for him to be "awarded" to the White Sox. Toronto was presented with an opportunity by Chicago's Ken Williams, and it was one they had to take. I love Alex Rios. I believe in Alex Rios. But love is blind. He's not worth $12 million a season.
On the surface, sure, it looks brutal. I read The Mockingbird's take where "Jonny Hale ain't a damn thing changed" (as coined by Drew - LtB) points out that, according to The Hardball Times, the Blue Jays released an underrated fielder who, at an average of $11.7 million dollars a season, "is a bargain." So, I quite understand the angst towards Ricciardi.
(That being said, this notion that Ricciardi works alone in a small corner of the Rogers Centre, making these decisions all by his lonesome, is absurd, infuriating, and driving me batty. Much like the potential tradeage of Roy Halladay, I've no doubt the decision on Rios was an organizational move. It was too big not to be. If you're going to bash Ricciardi, bash his assistants, Tony LaCava and Alex Onthopoulos; bash Paul Beeston; bash Rogers. Bash them all. Not Ricciardi exclusively. Please, and thanks.)
However, I believe the market, down $47 million overall in club payrolls in 2009 versus 2008, will continue in that direction. No longer will the Alex Rios's of the world be worth $58.7 million over five years. That's Jason Bay type money.
We were all emotionally invested in Alex Rios, yet it's safe to say we all expected more. A player making that type of money has to have a career OPS+ higher than 104; has to have hit more than 24 home runs, and driven in more than 85 runs, in one season.
Bay's career OPS+ is 129; he's hit the 30 home run and 100 RsBI mark three times. His career OBP is .041 points higher than Rios's (.376 to .335). Rios is a better defender, with a better arm, and more speed, but I believe Bay is the better overall player. Bay's taking home $7.8 million in 2009, and will likely hit the free agent market this winter. Flip their contracts, and I think you've got a market that makes a whole lot more sense.
There will be no more waiting for Alex Rios. He and Vernon Wells were to be the offensive core of this team; it didn't work out. And there was only one moveable contract between the two of them. Bottom line: I believe the Jays figured they'd eventually, via a trade, have to pay for Rios to play on another team; that's why he's no longer a Blue Jay today. Like it or not, the offensive torch has been passed on to Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, with Travis Snider, the right fielder of the future, waiting in the wings. And I've got no problem with that.
The Blue Jays did receive something for their prized right fielder, who's never posted an OPS above .865 in his six seasons with the team, and I'm sure your already very familiar with the term: financial flexibility.
More financial flexibility. Gone is the remainder of Rios's near-$60 million contract, to add to the $11 million shed in trading Scott Rolen. In 2010 alone, Ricciardi, and his fine support staff, have shed more than $20 million, while adding only Edwin Encarnacion's ($4.75 million) and Josh Roenicke's ($1 million and change) salaries to their MLB payroll. (I'm a dreamer, but here's hoping the $15 million allocated to B.J. Ryan in the 2010 budget is available to fill other holes in the roster. That's more than $30 million to spend next year - Doc's last hurrah.)
Do the Jays have a chance to compete in 2010? As an eternal optimist, you know I think they do. (I think they're still in it this year. After last night's win, if the boy can win their next eight versus New York, Tampa Bay and Boston, they're right back in this thing. Playoffs!1) The pitching is there, and I'm assuming Roy Halladay is Blue Jay come opening day. The same goes for Marco Scutaro. I can support an outfield of Lind, Wells, and Snider. And while it's probably the complete opposite direction the team should be moving in, I'd be all over an incentive-based contract to bring Carlos Delgado back home as the designated hitter. (I'm a sucker for nostalgia.)
If the payroll stays in the $80 million to $100 million range, and I believe it will, Rios had to go. I think it's worth the gamble to have money to play with in a downward trending market, so Toronto can find it's own Bobby Abreu. (Five million!!1 Unbelievable.).
Think of it this way: not including arbitration eligible players, post 2010, the only Blue Jays owed loot are Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells. Financial flexibility for Alex Rios? Sold.
As Stoeten points out over at Drunk Jays Fans, this could be Paul Beeston, and J.P. Ricciardi, setting the table for the next Blue Jays president and, subsequently, next Blue Jays general manager. Ricciardi's come out and said that if they're tearing it down again, he won't be the man to try and rebuild it. So, in essence, Ricciardi might very well be going down as a martyr. What a man. What a hero.
UPDATE: According to Jeff Blair, everything is fucked, and we're all fucked along with it.
August 10, 2009
Justin Pogge is the goaltender of the future. In Anaheim.
Actually, the Ducks have got Jonas Hiller. So I've no idea what the hell they're going to do with Pogge.
That's the point: Toronto Maple Leafs fans no longer have to worry about when Pogge is going to "get it." When Pogge is going to arrive. He's Anaheim's problem, now.
There's no point in taking petty parting shots (my favourite!) at Pogge as he leaves; he's no Andrew Raycroft. He's simply a young goalie who couldn't get it done in this town. One thing's for certain: Toronto's a tough city in which to man the crease. We want results. And we want them fast. We aren't reasonable, and it's the last thing we Leafs fans claim to be.
At the end of the day, Pogge's played in three professional hockey leagues: the WHL, AHL, and NHL. While his NHL sample size is small, he's managed to crack the holy .900 save percentage threshold only in junior hockey, and that isn't good enough. I can't recall another young goaltender so big - six-foot-three, over 200 pounds - who couldn't cover more of the net.
And no, time with new Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire wasn't an option. Allaire's already got his hands full with Vesa Toskala's five-hole, and Jonas Gustavsson's transition to the North American game. (Monster = playoffs!1)
Good luck, and Godspeed, Pogge. May your posts be kind.
August 09, 2009
I didn't get any autographs. The lines were slightly longer than I had anticipated. I drank beer at St. Louis instead; that's where I learned that Alex Rios had been put on waivers. Shocked and chagrined, I tried to confirm the validity of the text message I'd received (thanks, Kiener). I learned a valuable lesson Friday evening: I need a BlackBerry data plan. Because I don't pay Rogers enough already.
My favourite part of Friday night's mostly underwhelming pre-game ceremony was when all the guys gathered in front of the mound, around The Cito, pictured above, for an orgy of back-to-back World Series championships love. A special manager, and his two special teams. Definitely worthy of some group hug action.
Seventeen years later, Dave Winfield still wants noise. Once again, we were more than happy to oblige.
No matter how many times the Toronto Blue Jays finish in fourth place, nobody can ever take 1992 and 1993 away from us ...
As for our beloved Rios, it's a non-story, really. Alex said it best: "Who gives a fuck?!?!1" Sure, I kind of lost my shit when I heard the breaking news, but apparently everyone and their mother goes on waivers. The 90 percent of baseball execs who think the Jays should dump Rios? Forget about 'em.
You don't dump an asset when it's trading at its lowest. (What is this, the Toronto Maple Leafs?) Fuck cutting your losses; I'm going down with the ship.
We'd all love for Rios to perform at a higher level, to justify the $60 million that remains on his contract. Out of all American League right fielders who've played more than 100 games, Rios's .742 OPS ranks second-last. Believe me, nobody wants that number to be higher than I do. But it isn't all bad: among AL RFs Rios ranks fifth in hits, with 113, fourth in doubles, with 25, second in the base thievery category, with 19, and fifth in RsBI, with 62. Make no mistake about it: Alex Rios is the most clutch hitter the Toronto Blue Jays employ. His .283 AVG with runners in scoring position, and .346 AVG with runners in scoring position with two outs, might have something to do with that.
It's one thing to dump an underperforming asset to get out from underneath a brutal contract (see Wells, Vernon). It's another to trade an asset and get something of value in return. Don't listen to the fearmongers; Rios' contract isn't that bad.
I don't think there's ever been a better time to say it: I believe in Alex Rios.
August 07, 2009
Joe Carter rightfully deserves the title of "World Series Hero." But there is no bigger home run in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays than Roberto Alomar's two-run shot off of Dennis Eckersley on Sunday, October 11, 1992, in the 9th inning of game four of the ALCS.
It was at that moment when the Blue Jays shed the label of chokers and, finally, became the best team in baseball.
Robbie took home the ALCS MVP trophy, and rightfully so. His numbers from the six-game series were outstanding:
26 at-bats, 4 runs, 11 hits, 1 double, 2 home runs, 4 RsBI, 5 stolen bases, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, a .423 batting average, .464 on-base percentage, .692 slugging percentage, and a 1.157 OPS.
Speaking of heroes, the one, the only, Paul Molitor. Check out his numbers from the six-game 1993 World Series:
24 at-bats, an astounding 10 runs scored, 12 hits, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 10 RsBI, 1 stolen base, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts, a .500 batting average, .571 on-base percentage, 1.000 slugging percentage, and a mind-blowing 1.571 OPS.
There were others. In his career in the ALCS, spanning three years (1991, 1992, and 1993), Juan Guzman started five games for the Toronto Blue Jays. He won them all, with an ERA of 2.27; 31.2 innings pitched, only 8 earned runs allowed. He walked a ton of guys, 18, but struck out 22.
Who can forget Jimmy Key's performance in 1992? Pitching from the bullpen during the ALCS, he made his final start as a Blue Jay in game four of the World Series, going 7.2 innings, allowing only one run on five hits, while striking out six. Key threw 91 pitches that night, 57 for strikes. Roy Halladay would have been proud.
It wasn't the last we'd see of Key. He came out of pen in game six to throw an inning and a third of one-hit relief; the winning pitcher of the game in which Toronto was crowned World Series champions for the first time ever in life.
There are so many more performances I could single out. Too many.
Tremendous memories. I'll relive them all tonight, in what will be one massive love fest at the SkyDome. I anticipate never hearing the building louder than it will be tonight. Until the Toronto Blue Jays win another World Series ...
August 06, 2009
Growing up, Jeremy Roenick was the object of my affections. The man could do it all. Today, he retired. He'll never win a Stanley Cup. He'll never play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He wanted badly to do both. Life is cruel.
But Roenick had a marvelous career, and his greatness was best personified in NHL 94.
If you've seen this already, my apologies. If not, sit back, and enjoy.
We all pulled those moves. The ridiculous bodychecks, the backhands, the one-timers while not even facing the net, and, of course, the slap shot after cutting across the blue; that one was my favourite. Much like at the 1:55 mark, I too tried to knock the net off from behind after I'd scored. Good times.
Above all else, Roenick loved to play hockey. Here's hoping he remains in the game, in some capacity. The NHL could use a new commissioner.
One day, I'll stop bitching about the AL East, and how it is the toughest division in baseball. Not today. But one day.
As my man Dean pointed out in the comments of my last post, with the Tampa Bay DEVIL Rays having won last night, to sweep a mini two-game set with the Boston Red Sox, the AL East is now home to three teams with 60 or more wins. The Yankees check in with 65, the Red Sox 62, and Tampa Bay 60.
Only one other American League team has hit the mark; the Los Angeles Angels (63). In the National League, three teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers (66), Philadelphia Phillies (60), and San Francisco Giants (60).
Three teams in the AL East. Four throughout the rest of Major League Baseball. Life is cruel. And home, the AL East, has been most unkind to Toronto this season, with the Jays having gone 12-24 against divisional opponents. All in all, it's amazing the Jays have won 51 games so far in 2009. (That's my way of saying J.P. Ricciardi has done a stand-up job with a payroll of only $80 million dollars.)
The Ultimate Flashback Friday
For one night, let's forget about this, another, clusterfuck of a season for our Toronto Blue Jays. Tomorrow night at the SkyDome, for no reason at all, because we don't need a reason, let's celebrate the 1992 and 1993 teams that ran the AL East; that did something truly special for the city of Toronto.
I'll be there. In my powder blue. Cheering wildly like I'm 10 and 11 years old again; like I was when Dave Winfield sent the ball down the left field line in 1992; like I was when Joe Carter's ball cleared the fence in 1993. Hell, I think I'm even going to hit up the autograph sessions.
Speaking of memories, I was actually talking to the boys about the '92 World Series, and Ed Sprague's 9th inning pinch-hit home run in game two vs. Atlanta. Looking back, what an absolutely monumental round tripper. The Jays had lost game one of the series, and were down 4-3 in game two, with only three outs to go. Cue the heroics. A walk to Derek Bell, and a bomb to left field by Sprague to silence the deep south. It came off of Braves closer Jeff Reardon who, according to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, was then baseball's all-time saves leader; 5-4 Toronto, the World Series tied at one, and heading to Canada for the first time ever in life. Huge.
Unfortunately, I can't embed Sprague's home run here on the blog, but you can watch it here. Take a minute to do so. Trust me, it'll give you goose bumps.
The salad days. Be there tomorrow night to relive them.
UPDATE: My man Johnny G mentioned the "Trenches" in the comments. I loved that shit. Sprague, Bell, and Turner Ward. Rudeys, all three of them. I did a quick search, and found this gem from the SI vault:
Sprague didn't play much after being called up—he had only 47 at bats—but he and two other Blue Jay reserves, outfielders Turner Ward and Derek Bell, started something called the Trenches, a silly little rally routine that has enlivened the Toronto bench. They lay a towel labeled TRENCHES on the top step of the dugout, near the bat rack. Bell, the loader, pulls out a bat belonging to a Blue Jay teammate who's about to hit. He passes the bat to Sprague, the exchanger. As the batter comes to the plate, the bat is handed to Ward, the shooter, who fires off an imaginary volley at the opposing pitcher. "If we need a big homer, like tonight," Ward said Sunday night, "I turn the bat around and make it a bazooka." The imaginary warfare may seem juvenile, but when one of the soldiers has to come into a game, his place is often taken by Toronto's 41-year-old star, Dave Winfield. "He's our commander in chief," says Sprague. As so often happens in battle, it was the guys in the trenches who won Game 2.
Makes you love Winfield even more, doesn't it?
August 05, 2009
Since returning from the disabled list on June 29th, Roy Halladay's won a single game. Why? No, certainly not because of the trade rumours. That's ridiculous. Doc's an incredibly well-paid athlete; that shit comes with the territory. Harry Leroy can't get into the victory column because the Kevin Millar batting cleanup led Toronto Blue Jays can't be bothered to give him any God damn run support.
June 29th vs. Tampa Bay: zero runs. Doc departed after six innings; the Jays struck for their only run of the game in the 8th inning.
July 4th at New York: five runs. Clearly, that's about as good as it gets for Halladay.
July 9th at Tampa Bay: two runs.
July 19th vs. Boston: three runs. A masterful Halladay performance in a 3-1 win.
July 24th vs. Tampa Bay: two runs. Garzafied.
July 29th at Seattle: two runs. Toronto was two-hit over seven by Ryan fucking Rowland-Smith.
Yesterday, August 4th, vs. New York: three runs. The Jays left eight runners on base last night. Individually, 16. While Doc threw another complete game. For shame.
That's seven games, and 17 runs; an average of 2.43 runs when Doc's been on the mound. In other words: absolutely pathetic. What breaks my heart: six of those seven starts have come against Tampa Bay, New York, and Boston. Halladay deserves more. Halladay deserves better.
It's during moments of weakness such as this one that I begin to wonder about 2010. Sure, Toronto can boast a rotation of Halladay, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, and any combination of Brett Cecil, Scott Richmond, Mark Rzepczynski, and Jesse Litsch. Who knows, maybe even Dustin McGowan. But no rotation will make up for the fact that this team just can't get it done offensively in the AL East. I'm looking right at you, Vernon Wells. And, please, J.P. Ricciardi, get Millar the fuck off my favourite team.
The Best in the Business
If you had to ask me to choose between The Globe and Mail's Jeff Blair and SI's Tom Verducci, I couldn't do it. Both of them know their baseball. And both of them just "get it."
Saith Verducci, from a must-read piece about the lunatics who think the Jays were "losers" at the trade deadline because Ricciardi didn't pull the trigger on a Halladay trade:
"So what did people expect? That the Blue Jays should lower their asking price on the best pitcher in baseball when they didn't have to move him in the first place? Would compromising when they didn't have to do so put them in the 'winners' category? Ownership really didn't want to dump such a popular franchise player, anyway."
There's more. Please use it freely as ammunition against the Ricciardi bashers (especially: Joanna):
"Toronto is not Cleveland, with its budget problems, Pittsburgh, with an organizational model that has been a complete failure, Kansas City, which is awful but still wastes money on second-tier journeymen who don't know how to win, or San Diego, which will check out of the contending business for the next couple of years until its farm system improves. Toronto's problem is that it is a good team in the wrong division. 'Good isn't enough,' Ricciardi said. 'You have to be great.' The Blue Jays have won between 83 and 88 games seven times in the previous 11 years, have a winning record in that span with more wins than the Cubs, Diamondbacks and a dozen other teams -- and still didn't sniff the postseason. Eight National League teams made the playoffs in that time with 88 or fewer wins."
Nope, playing in the AL East has nothing - nothing at all - to do with the fact the Jays haven't played October baseball since 1993. And keep calling it an "excuse." It's not. It can't be. It's reality.
Here's some Blair. Just the goods, and no bullshit, as per the usual:
"Call up Travis Snider. Ship out Kevin Millar. Do something. Never mind cowboy up. I’d rather see cowboy out. I mean, manager Cito Gaston announced an open audition for the cleanup spot before Tuesday night’s game, and it’s not even mid-August. How does that happen in the American League East, anyhow?"
Cito. He's a stubborn, stupid, silly man.
One more link. I'm not happy about it, but thanks to Drew - LtB's most recent post over at the always resourceful Ghostrunner on First, I will cease mercilessly hating on Rod The Bod Barajas. But that .288 on-base percentage is still disgusting.
August 02, 2009
I'm a few days late to the party, but I hope you don't mind me weighing in on Thursday's most "juicy" revelation:
David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez being outed for steroid use, in the same year, is sweet, poetic justice after years of rampant Masshole douchebaggery.
Asterisk that shit.
August 01, 2009
I've just begun to read Rob Bradford's 2004 book, Chasing Steinbrenner: Pursuing the Pennant in Boston and Toronto. Literally. I'm on page ix of the acknowledgements; the first page of the book. (You knew it was only a matter of time before I read a book with "pennant" and "Toronto" in its title.)
Found in the third paragraph of said first page is the following nugget, which put a smile on my face, and which I must share with you:
"Topping that list [of people to thank] is John Paul Ricciardi, the former scout who used to go out of his way in the Fenway Park dining room to talk basketball with a fellow high school basketball coach who carried no weight among a room usually full of baseball power. In the cutthroat world of media, scouts, and other executives, there is no more genuine person in any business than J.P."
Rob Bradford is clearly my new favourite author.
As for Ricciardi, it's amazing that even after he trades a Scott Rolen who asked to be dealt out of town, he can do nothing right in the eyes of so many.
Look, the trade wasn't about Edwin Encarnacion and his underperforming bat (he'll fit right in), and horrendous defence. It was about money, first and foremost, and the arms of Josh Roenicke and, especially, Zach Stewart.
I love Scott Rolen. We all do. The impact he had on Toronto's baseball fans, in only a year and a half wearing the best baseball jersey of them all, was nothing short of profound. #LONGLIVETHEGBOAT.
But Ricciardi did the right thing. He traded, for youth, a Scott Rolen who will be banking $11.625 million as a 35 year old in 2010; who has played more than 115 games in an MLB season once since 2005; and who seriously contemplated retirement late last season. J.P. sold high. And isn't that what a general manager is supposed to do?
For more on Rolen, Ricciardi, and the "utter disgrace" that is Kevin Millar, hit up my man Drew - LTB at Ghostrunner on First. And for more on the new guys, allow yourself to be filled in by the great Jon Hale at The Mockingbird.
Enjoy and appreciate Scott Rolen, Cincinnati. You'll never see it done better at third base.