September 30, 2010


"No pressure, no diamonds."
- Thomas Carlyle

After watching Nazem Kadri score two goals, one using the fabled toe drag, and pick up an assist Wednesday night -- how the hell did we get by before Leafs TV's Game In An Hour? -- I couldn't help but think to myself: Mash'Allah!

Kadri's Muslim. Have you heard?

That's a Getty Image, friends.

The Best Of Times

We've all been guilty of some healthy Rogers-bashing, ever since the Mother Corp. took control of our beloved Toronto Blue Jays. But credit where credit is due, and damned if the organization didn't get it right Wednesday night, as they -- we -- sent Cito Gaston off in style.

I wasn't able to make it down to the Cable Box for the festivities, but that might have worked out for the best. Because the video tribute in Cito's honour left me speechless, and, no lie, teary-eyed. If you were at the ballpark, let me know what the atmosphere was like. It looked electric on the tube. And tell me I wasn't the only grown man all emotional.

Watching the Cito testimonials from the likes of Hank Aaron, Dusty Baker, Gord Ash, Bobby Cox, and the Toronto Blue Jays heroes of years gone by -- Tony "Thanks Clarence" Fernandez, Robbie Alomar, Jesse Barfield, Duane Ward, Pat Hentgen, and Jack Morris, to name a few -- I was struck by how much everyone had aged. They were young men when they patrolled the field, and when they stepped into the batter's box, at the SkyDome. Not anymore. The game goes on, leaving players in its wake. And there stood Cito, having managed, and more importantly mentored and befriended, so many of them. Watching footage of Cito and Paul Molitor hug, both in tears, after Toronto had won the 1993 World Series ... I was at a loss for words.

Much like Cito's tenure as The Manager -- and you really ought to read read Dustin Parkes' "Thank You Cito," and Stoeten's "Why Tonight I'll Cheer For Cito" -- his tribute was a roller coaster of emotions, as well. When Joe Carter had the floor, and finally looked towards Cito and said, "Thank you, brother. I love you," that was it for me. I was reaching for the goddamn Kleenex. Because Carter nailed it. We're all thankful to Cito. We all love Cito, in some way, because he is synonymous with the best of Toronto's baseball times. Synonymous with success. With pennants. With back-to-back World Series championships.

Vernon Wells was next, as he should have been. Next season, Wells will pass Tony Fernandez's mark of 1,450 games as a Blue Jay. For better or worse, Wells will have worn Toronto's jersey longer than anyone. And he nailed it, too, about Cito's mustache. Whoever came up with the idea for all the guys to wear fake mustaches to start the game, I salute you. Bloody brilliant.

What I'll always remember about Cito is, of course, the salad days. I'll also never forget how I felt the day it was announced he was on his way back to the Toronto dugout. It made sense, in a way, that he never managed elsewhere. He was Toronto's manager, and only Toronto's manager. Cito Gaston, from 1982 onwards, the year I came into this crazy world, was a goddamn Blue Jay. And what Cito taught me, and his players, was to always play with pride. Hustle and heart, yo. Right up until the very end.

When I think of Cito, I think of respect. Is there any more humble gesture than the fact he always refers to Jackie Robinson as "Mr. Jackie Robinson"? And when I think of Cito, I think of pride. Cito always carried himself with immense pride, and that's got a lot to do with the incredible racism he endured while he worked his way up to the Major Leagues. Most importantly, Cito leaves baseball, and leaves the Blue Jays, with pride. In retrospect, looking back to last season, when mutiny broke out in the Blue Jays clubhouse, and I and others were calling for Gaston's head, I'm now glad the Jays kept Cito in charge. He deserved a send-off; a party. He deserved to go out on his own terms. He deserved to go out a winner. And over the Yankees, in his final home game, no less.

Look, Travis Snider will be fine. I disagree with Alan Ashby when he says the Jays still don't know what they've got in the young phenom. They've got a guy who's raked at every level, and will do it in the Majors, too. J.P. Arencibia will be fine, too. Maybe. Hopefully. A September sitting on the bench, while not practical, and certainly not ideal, will not ruin his career. Cito did what he had to do, and leaves with his head held high, and with pride. It would have been a lot tougher to watch The Manager leave the dugout with a Baltimore OrioLOLes-esque 63-95 record.

Fitting, no, that John Buck hit his 20th home run on Thank You, Cito night. Fitting that in Cito's final home game did the Blue Jays break their club record for home runs in a season. One last time, thanks to Jose Bautista, and all the home runs, did Cito leave his mark on the Toronto Blue Jays. A hitting coach, until the very end.

And in that very end, during his post-game interview with Sam Cosentino, as he looked back on his career, his more than 20 years as a member of the Blue Jays, as a citizen of the fine city of Toronto, I thought Cito said it best ...

"It was all good. Everything was good."


Forever The Manager in my eyes, and in my heart. Thanks, Cito.

Getty image, yo. Via daylife.

September 29, 2010

Guest Post: The Jose Bautista Bomb Festival

On September 17th, Jose Bautista made Toronto Blue Jays history. His 48th home run of the season cleared Fenway Park's Green Monster, and along with it went George Bell's 23-year-old team record. I was live blogging that night's Jays and Red Sox affair for The Score and, in the aftermath of Bautista's heroics, a comment by avid basketball and Toronto Raptors fan Scott Carefoot stuck with me: "How sweet was the J-Bomb? I missed it. Can't wait to watch the highlight. He might be my favourite Jay of All-Time."

It got me thinking: How many others are there? How many others have been drawn to baseball, and the Toronto Blue Jays, because of Jose Bautista's magical season? I'd found one, and I wanted to hear his story.

You know Mr. Carefoot from The Basketball Jones, and the Raptors blog that started them all, RaptorBlog. Without further adieu, here he is, a basketball head blogging about the Blue Jays, the legend that is Jose Bautista, and why he just might give a damn about this team again ...

If you know me, if you’ve read me at since 2002 or on since 2008, you know me as a diehard NBA fan, and that assessment is absolutely true. I won’t say that I live or die for the Raptors or NBA basketball, but it’s the sport I find most compelling and most entertaining. Even during the off-season, I pay more attention to what’s going on with NBA trades, free agents and mock drafts than I do to sports that are actually being played – including entire Major League Baseball seasons.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to be a baseball fan a long time ago but the passion faded. You might think the steroid era had something to do with that, but you would be mistaken. My focus shifted away from sports in general when I went to university in 1994 (the year after the Jays won their second World Series) and I actually started having real girlfriends and an active social life. Toronto got the Raptors in 1995 and I was intrigued, but that intrigue didn’t blossom into an obsession until after I graduated in 1999 and moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife). Vinsanity was in full effect and I was hooked – I never missed a Raptors game and I still don’t. Well, I won’t if I can get Sportsnet One in Oakville before November.

Over the past 15 years, the Jays didn’t give me many reasons to reignite the flame of fandom. There were some interesting players that came and went – Clemens, Delgado, Halladay – but none of them excited me like Vince Carter and the fact that the Jays appeared doomed to never again overcome the mighty Yankees and Red Sox made rooting for them seem pointless. I understand that makes me sound like a fair-weather fan, but I’m only being honest here. I really haven’t cared about the Jays that much for most of the second half of my life.

It was different when I was a kid. I was born in 1975 in Brantford, Ontario so it’s only natural that my first sports love was Brantford’s own Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. I watched the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals with my dad and he told me that he had an obnoxious co-worker who rooted for the Islanders so we both had extra motivation to root for The Great One. Edmonton was swept that year but exacted sweet revenge over the Islanders the following year.

I guess you could say I was like any good Canadian boy in that hockey was my primary sports passion, but in the summer and fall months my attention turned to the Blue Jays. My first favorite Jay was none other than Damaso Garcia, and I’ll be damned if I can remember why I picked him. Ivan Lendl used to be my favorite tennis player and Amir Johnson is my current favorite Raptor, so I guess you could say I’ve had eclectic taste in sports idols over the years.

Those Jays in the early to mid-80s were chock-full of interesting characters – Ernie Whitt’s swing that dropped his knee to the dirt, Tony Fernandez’s poetry in motion at shortstop, the incomparable outfield of Bell, Moseby and Barfield, Damaso burning his uniform… yeah, I wasn’t so much of a Damaso fan after that. But those Jays were fun to root for and they were pretty damn good, too.

I was in SkyDome in 1991 on the day when the Jays broke the 4 million attendance mark – they handed out these shitty t-shirts to commemorate the event and I think mine disintegrated after a few washes – and they clinched the AL East division title. It remains the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever attended. The following year, the Jays won their first of back-to-back World Series and by that point every Canadian was a Jays fan. I had reached my apex as a baseball fan, and then I went off to school.

But I’m repeating myself. These days, my life is devoted to family, work and the NBA. The Jays were expected by most objective baseball fans (you know, the ones who don’t use multiple exclamation points when describing a particular team) to be a shitshow this year in their first post-Halladay season. I fully expected all of my sports attention to be directed towards LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the three-ring circus of this summer’s NBA free agency period. That certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of drama, although the climax left a bitter taste in my mouth, to say the least.

I’m not sure exactly when I started to pay attention to The Jose Bautista Bomb Festival this season, but I have no doubt that Mr. Vaswani – as the Jays’ best hype-man – played a role in bringing it to my attention. Who the hell was this guy? Where did he come from? What kind of steroids was he on? I didn’t know the answers to these questions and I didn’t much care. It was kind of fun to see a Blue Jay on top of the American League home run standings again. Jealous fans and certain idiot columnists protested that Bautista was surely hopped up on goofballs of some sort, but fuck ‘em. Haters gonna hate, right?

As the baseball season drew on, “Bautista-watch 2010” turned from fun to surreal. Was this guy really going to hit 40 home runs? Was he actually going to break George Bell’s team record? Holy shit – is he going to hit 50 dingers? Yep, yep, and you’re damn right.

And so here I am, by request, writing about how the Jays seem relevant to me again because of the magical season of Jose Bautista. Thanks to him, I’m now aware of the Jays’ promising young pitching staff and of the distinctive sound the ball makes coming off Travis Snider’s bat. I’m still not convinced they’ll ever be able to make the playoffs while they’re stuck in the same division as the Yankees, Red Sox and now the freakin’ Rays! But as I’m sure Navin will agree, the fact that the odds are so stacked against them will make it that much sweeter on that fateful day when I’ll sign into my Twitter account specifically to type “RT @eyebleaf PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!11111”

Image courtesy of Getty Images via daylife.

September 28, 2010

I want to go to the playoffs with Roy Halladay

Bittersweet. How else to describe watching Roy Halladay punch his ticket to the post-season? Of course Doc was on the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies Monday night. Of course Doc threw another complete game shutout to make it official. The Baseball Gods, they work in brilliant ways.

On the same night Halladay's Phillies clinched the National League East, the Toronto Blue Jays clinched a .500 season. Symmetry, yo. Doc's got what he wanted: a chance to win the World Series. And the Blue Jays, well, they're doing alright. They're on the righteous path. Remember, 2010 was supposed to be a disaster of biblical proportions. I'm talking below the OrioLOLes in the standings, apocalyptic-type shit. Nine months after trading the face of their franchise, and the best pitcher they've ever employed, there exists a quiet confidence that Alex Anthopoulos will lead the Blue Jays out of the abyss.

Thanks to that confidence, I was able to enjoy Halladay's moment in the sun. I know, it was actually raining in Washington, D.C., but, whatever. The point is: it's all worked out rather nicely. Considering what we've heard from the youthful Blue Jays pitching staff, they're glad they're not sharing a locker room with Halladay anymore. And I get that. Think about it: nobody wants to work with the most intense cat in the office. Especially when they're that much better than you. Toronto was no longer the time and place for Harry Leroy Halladay III. Philadelphia is.

I've gone through a bloody gamut of emotions when it comes to Doc. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Elation, confusion, and bitterness, all in the aftermath of his perfect game. When the Jays and Phillies faced off in June, I wanted nothing more than for Toronto to pummel Doc. (Like how they slap around A.J. Burnett. It's fun!) But this -- Halladay Season in October -- is what I've always wanted. Since that fateful day in September, way back in 1998. While I never had any desire to go to the zoo with Roy Halladay, I sure as hell wanted to go to the playoffs with Roy Halladay.

The debate in Toronto has begun: Cincinnati or Philadelphia? Reds or Phillies? Canadian superstar Joey Votto, with a side of Scott Rolen, or Doc? Just last week, I'd have told you I wasn't sure which way I was leaning. But I know now, after watching Halladay celebrate with his Phillies teammates the way I always wanted him to celebrate in Toronto with the Blue Jays.

There's no doubt: Votto is special. But he's not Roy Halladay. He's not the pitcher whose starts I lived and died by, every five days, for more than a decade. I've waited far too long for Doc to pitch in the playoffs. To dominate on baseball's brightest stage. Your good friend and mine Sarah said it best: "Playoffs for Halladay are playoffs for me."

Get your ring, Doc. Go Phillies.

It's pointless that I have to tell you time and time again, but image courtesy of Reuters via daylife.

September 27, 2010


I spent Sunday afternoon at the SkyDome with some of my favourite people from the Internet. No, not porn stars. My Twitter family. We watched, and some of us drank Bud Light Lime, as the Toronto Blue Jays laid another beating on the Baltimore Orioles. Thanks, Baltimore. This summer was truly a pleasure.

I can't remember how the discussion began. That's not to say I'm surprised it came up; we're from the Internet, after all. (Be sure to let us know how cool we are in the comments.) Anyway, here it is: what is the proper pronunciation of "GIF"?

I've been calling it "jif" since I learned to speak the majestic English language. "Gif," pronounced "jif," was actually my first word. Crazy, I know. And I'm right. I'm also, it seems, in the minority. To the Internet, nerds.

From the creators of the GIF graphics file format, CompuServe, back in 1987:

"The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), pronounced 'JIF', was designed by CompuServe and the official specification released in June of 1987."

From Bob Berry, the author of CompuServe's CompuShow, in an email:

"GIF has always been pronounced "jif", since it was first released in 1987."

Oh, hell, it's even on Wikipedia. And when has Wikipedia ever been wrong? Never, that's when.

"According to Steve Wilhite, the creator of the GIF format, the original pronunciation deliberately echoes the American peanut butter brand, Jif ..."

"Jif." Like the damn peanut butter. Deliberately. And, look, I get that language evolves, that the Oxford Dictionary deems both pronunciations correct, and that perhaps more people pronounce it "gif," like "gift." But that only means more people are wrong. The Internet has spoken, nerds.

Much love to the Twitter fam. Sunday's festivities -- baseball, beer, and the finer workings of the Internet -- were a blast, and make the soon-to-be-over Blue Jays season that much more depressing. Thanks, guys and gals. Was a riot. 

On your way out, please do show some love to Baltimore. Even though they're a classless bunch who throw at Jose Bautista. Twice! Nothing like a 61-94 team sending a message on a Sunday afternoon in late September, eh? Pathetic. Anyway: Toronto's 15-3 record versus the OrioLOLes is a big reason why the Jays will finish above .500 -- they're on pace to better my 82-80 prediction!!!1 -- in Cito's swan song. And that's exactly how The Manager should go out: a winner.

September 26, 2010

27 Outs

The sports world never sleeps. Me, I don't sleep enough.

1. I was on the stationary bike when Lyle Overbay took useless loogie Mark Hendrickson deep to right field for walk-off magic. I fist pumped. And you couldn't have slapped the stupid smile off of my face as I watched Overbay round the bases.

2. How enjoyable was it to see LyleO laughingly point to his helmet before he made it home, and then watch John Buck take a swing at his very head? On the Enjoyability Index, which I believe I just created, I'm going to have to go with a nine. Enjoy some fine photographs of the walk-off celebration, courtesy the hard working folks at Reuters (via daylife).

3. I'm working on a post I've so originally titled "Evaluating Overbay," in which I compare Lyle to every other American League first baseman every season since he arrived in Toronto, in terms of weighted on-base average, and weighted runs created plus. Sabermetrics, yo. It'll be up sometime next week, Inshallah.

4. Now that Overbay's finally hit 20 home runs, Adam Lind's going to play first base the rest of the way, right?

5. John Buck will hit his 20th home run next Sunday, October 3rd. Then it's all J.P. Arencibia behind the plate, all the time.

6. Ricky Romero reached and surpassed the 200-innings pitched mark Saturday afternoon. Milestone! Romero's improved his numbers across the board over 2009, except when it comes to wins. Which means Romero hasn't improved at all, actually. While Ricky's had his fair share of struggles, in July and September in particular, and continues to walk batters at a concerning rate, he's a better pitcher today than he was on this date last year. And, most importantly, he's healthy. Thank you, baseball Gods.

7. Edwin Encarnacion is a strong man. His home run to centre field on Saturday -- which sailed comfortably over the wall -- off a sub-90 MPH slider low in the strike zone proved it. It remains one of baseball's biggest shames that this isn't played every time he goes yard at the Dome.

8. You think you've seen it all, until Aaron Hill sends a home run to the second deck that lands in a concession worker's tray. I love baseball.

9. Two hundred and forty-one home runs. The Blue Jays' team record is 244, and it will fall.

10. I love defence, and it was on display Saturday afternoon at the SkyDome. Yunel Escobar's unorthodox throw to complete a double play. Jose Bautista's diving catch in right field, and subsequent doubling off of Ty Wigginton. Vernon Wells' highlight reel catch in centre field. There's nothing like good gloving, which is hopefully not what she said.

11. Speaking of Vernon Wells, The Ack wrote the post I was planning to write at The Tao Of Stieb. And it's always fun when someone does your homework for you. Lost in the shadow of Bautista's 52 home runs this summer has been the resurgence of Vernon Wells. And I'll be the first and last person to tell you that the resurgence of Vernon Wells has been a bloody fantastic development. The Vernon Wells Hatred Advisory System has at no point this season been higher than GUARDED. Wells has quietly reached the 30 home run mark, and in terms of wOBA (.359) and wRC+ (126), has had the third-best season of his career. His career, haters! No, Vernon's not worth the $23 million he's owed next season. Or the $21 million the year after that. And the year after that. And, Jesus, the year after that. But that's not the point.

12. You know what else has been great about 2010? David Purcey coming into his own as a middle reliever. He's got big shoes to fill. Get that paper, Scott Downs. You deserve it.

13. I miss Brandon Morrow.

14. Jesse Carlson's exploits in September: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 3.18 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, .150 BAA, .143 BABIP, 2.20 GB/FB. All's well that ends well, right?

15. Drew from Ghostrunner on First wrote Big League Stew's 2010 Toronto Blue Jays Dear John letter. It's a beauty. A couple of excerpts: "A complete game, 132-pitch, 17-strikeout opus came one batter shy of a no-hitter against the Rays. Not only one of the best games thrown by Blue Jays pitching in franchise history, one of the very best games ever pitched. Though no-hitting the Ray is about as rare as a failed urine test at the Lohan home, Morrow completely dominated the hapless Rays hitters with his otherworldly collection of high 90s heat and darting curveballs. ... A winning record heading into the final weeks is a heady accomplishment for a team expected to slip behind the Orioles in the standings. The Baltimore Orioles! Can you imagine anything more insulting?" Make sure you check it out. And about the Orioles, Drew, no, I can't.

16. Regardless of what you think of Cito Gaston, on your feet on Wednesday. No excuses.

17. The Texas Rangers celebrated winning the American League West division title Saturday evening. They're headed back to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. And, yes, there is a Ron Washington cocaine joke somewhere in there. In all seriousness, I love the Rangers' post-season slogan: It's Time. I'm wondering if they'll lend it to us in Toronto.

18. I'm glad Felix Hernandez has a win-loss record of 12-12. We're about to find out just how far sabermetrics have come, folks.

19. Sunday: Buffalo and New England. Bills and Patriots. Probably just the Patriots. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife. Hide errbody. "Maybe next week, maybe next century ..."

20. After Saturday's loss to San Jose, Toronto FC have all but been mathematically eliminated from MLS's post-season. So: Playoffs!!!1

21. After scoring, again, for TFC Saturday night, Dwayne De Rosario "pulled out his imaginary chequebook and pen and mimicked writing a cheque. It was much more of a message than a goal celebration." I'm with DeRo: it's a crime he's so grossly underpaid compared to the mistakes that are Julian De Guzman and Mista. But there's a time and place for such statements, and it's not during a must-win game when the team you captain is battling life and death for a playoff spot. Hell, there's even a person for such a statement: DeRo's agent.

22. Finally, the Toronto Maple Leafs. And wasn't it great to hear Ron Wilson throw Nazem Kadri under the bus after the Leafs' Saturday night loss to Buffalo? According to master of motivation Wilson, Kadri likes to give the puck away, and needs his skates sharpened. You've just got to love constructive criticism. Especially in public. Perhaps it's all the years of being a Leafs fan finally taking their toll, but I can't help but shake the feeling that this -- Kadri and Wilson -- will not end well. It's a sobering thought. So sobering that I need a drink.

23. Oh, I almost forgot: Nick Foligno, and the beautiful goal he scored Saturday night. You know what made it even better? The fact it came against Montreal, and was scored on Carey Price.

24. Last and certainly least: Daniel Briere, fist pumping like a champ. In the pre-bloody-season! Disgusting.

I know, only 24 outs. This post was called due to rain.

Image of Jose Bautista's weapon of choice courtesy of -- this is a recording -- Reuters, via daylife.

September 25, 2010


More proof that Toronto is indeed home to the finest women on the planet. And, yes, those ladies are card-carrying members of the Bautista Appreciation Society.

Fifty-one, and 52. What is there left to say? Hlja vzmnv qieourois lkfdjakf nghfyidt Jose Bautista lklkjadoue vcndml lkncxoue lkadnfnq iern Bautista. The man has officially left me speechless. Without speech, yo.

Sit back, and enjoy the show. With nine games left, that's all there is to do. And, like the ladies above, Bow to Bau.

Wait, there is someone who isn't mailing in posts, and who hasn't been left speechless by Jose Bautista. Read this, from The Southpaw. It's a brilliant example of how ridiculous it is that Bautista is not a part of the American League MVP discussion. I'll tell you this much: if Robinson Cano garners more AL MVP votes than Bautista ... shit, I don't know what I'll do. I need to think about it. I'll get back to you.

Image courtesy of -- who else, man? -- Reuters via daylife

September 24, 2010

Chasing 50

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the SkyDome, riding shotgun as Jose Bautista chased home run number 50. As he chased baseball immortality. I desperately wanted to be there, two or three Bud Light Lime's deep, when he made history.

So it was of absolutely no surprise that Bautista reached baseball's home run hitting peak on Thursday afternoon, in his first at-bat no less, while I was pinch hitting for my brother at Family Business (that's what we named the company; smart, eh?), big bro off manning the company's booth at a trade show downtown. Deep down, I knew that was exactly how it was going to go down. Hey, I tried.

My brother's got a tiny little television at his desk, at Family Business. It's set to MSNBC, all day, everyday. The stock market. Bulls and bears, yo. Thanks to Thursday's game being televised on Sportsnet Fucking One, the TV was of little use to me. I was riding with Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby and, I've got to be honest, that was fine by me. And as 12:37 pm rolled around, and Shawn Hill threw his first pitch of the afternoon, I couldn't help but think of another historic home run I'd heard on the radio. You might remember it, too. October 11, 1992, at the then Network Associates Coliseum, in Oakland, California. Roberto Alomar, off Dennis Eckersley, a two-run shot that evened the score in game four of the ALCS, a game the Blue Jays had at one point trailed 6-1.

No, I wasn't in the mood yesterday afternoon to complain about the debacle that is Sportsnet One. Instead, I was ready for what I knew would be Jerry Howarth's epic call. And when it came, I was alone, sitting at my brother's desk, listening attentively when Bautista found himself ahead in the count, two-and-one.

"A ball hit deep to left-centre! Back to the wall! ... THERE SHE GOES!!!1 Number 50!"

I knew Howarth wouldn't let me down. I heard the "!!!1" in his voice. And I sat there, smiling like a jackass. Bautista had done it. Fifty home runs. A number baseball legends Harmon Killebrew, Albert Pujols, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, and Reggie Jackson, to name a few, were never able to reach. And, more than being happy for Bautista, I was proud of him. He never let anything slow him down, especially not the steroid allegations. He was -- is -- a model of immaculate baseball consistency. And number 50 came off of King Felix Hernandez, no less, the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, whether he wins the bloody award or not. That's how Bautista rolls. In style.

I would have loved to be there. Like I said, I tried. But there was something special about hearing it happen on the radio. I went all Carlton Fisk, and willed that ball past the left field wall through the radio's speakers. I hoped and prayed that it would indeed clear the fence. I pictured Bautista running the bases, head down, like he'd done it 49 times before. And I listened as the sparse crowd roared, and gave him the curtain call he of course deserved.

On a brief aside: I called out Toronto's hockey fans for booing the home team in preseason game number one Tuesday night because, you know, that was fucking pathetic. Hopefully those same folks were taking notes Thursday afternoon, when the Blue Jays faithful rose to their feet to salute Seattle's Ichiro mid-game, as he became only the second player in baseball history to record 10 seasons with 200 or more hits. Ichiro's insane. And Toronto's baseball fans are smarter, and classier.

Back to business. In the end, not even I could have scripted it any better. Number 50 was the game's only and winning run, at the expense of the American League's best pitcher, with Bautista's parents in attendance, to boot.

In the aftermath of the momentous occasion, as Bautista became only the 26th man in baseball history to hit 50 home runs, and the first since 2007, I read piece after piece about his accomplishment. One of them stood out, from FanGraphs:

"... But in 2010, it's harder to enjoy an out-of-nowhere home run performance in the same way [as others who, like Bautista, recorded massive home run spikes]. ... Once miracles are cheaply bought, they are no longer easily enjoyed. I hope Bautista can keep it up, so that we can finally feel at liberty to enjoy his miraculous season."

I couldn't, and still can't, relate. I've enjoyed Bautista's season immensely. More so than any other individual Toronto Blue Jays' season in recent memory. Yep, even Roy Halladay's years. It's different; Bautista made history. And I wanted to be in attendance when he hit the milestone moon shot partly because I wanted to say thanks. Not once have I felt not at liberty to enjoy Bautista's miraculous season all summer. One through 50, it's been a blast. I wasn't there, but thanks, Jose.

Image courtesy the fine folks at daylife

September 23, 2010


I'll keep this short, and simple: the process is bullshit. As The Tao of Stieb pointed out, even if Tom Cheek wins the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's poll to appear on the final ballot for the 2011 Ford C. Frick Award, there's no guarantee Cheek wins the honour, and takes his rightful place among baseball's legends in Cooperstown.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do our part. And while I'd love to tell you where the poll stands today, I just voted, and apparently only 80 votes have been cast. (Cheek's got 50 of them.) Like I said: bullshit. There's got to be a better venue for the poll than bloody Facebook. But that's not the point.

The point is: please vote for Tom at Today, and everyday until September is done.

"Please pass this along to all the fans who are doing their best to get Tom this award that he so richly deserves. Please convey that to all the fans that the entire Cheek family says a HUGE THANKS!!"
- Shirley Cheek, Tom's wife (via Mike Wilner)

UPDATE: I got an email from reader Stephen, who had this to say: "Every year I have voted in every way possible for Tom Cheek for the Frick award. I am not on Facebook and never will be so I'm pissed that I can't be involved anymore."

You are so dumb, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museam. You are really, really dumb, for real.

September 22, 2010

Following the script ...

It's all good. Ottawa usually wins -- in convincing fashion, no less -- the meaningless games between the Senators and Maple Leafs.

In the hopes of catching Jose Bautista's 50th bomb of the season, I chose the Toronto Blue Jays over the Leafs. A wise decision, if I do say so myself. I PVRed Leafs TV's Game In An Hour, though. I know, they've got Game In Six Minutes now, too, but that clearly isn't enough torture for me. I prefer a full 60. Anyway, I was fully aware Toronto had been spanked 5-0. Yet I still wasted an hour of my life watching the preseason highlights, if I can even bloody call them that. It's a disease, being a fan of this team. It truly is.

Two things are certain:

1. I never, ever again want to see Nick Foligno blow by Dion Phaneuf the way he did Tuesday night.

2. I'm going to have to buy one of those goddamned new Leafs jerseys. I hate you so much sometimes, MLSE.

And about the Maple Leafs being booed off the ice: those fans paid good money to be there, and had every right to do so. Oh, wait, that's right, they didn't spend a dime. Well done, Toronto. Well done.

September 20, 2010

Meaningful At-Bats

We continue, in Toronto, to wait for meaningful baseball. Patiently, I might add. And as the Blue Jays were officially -- mathematically -- eliminated from post-season play Sunday afternoon in Boston, I reverted to the old adage, tried, tested, and true: maybe next year.

But 2010 has far from been a lost cause. (Unless you're Travis Snider, or J.P. Arencibia, but that's a whole other story.) Toronto hasn't lost 100 games. They won't end up anywhere near the dreaded century mark. And they certainly won't finish below the Baltimore Orioles in the standings. Shame on those of you who even thought of such a fortune. No, we weren't treated to meaningful baseball this season, even though it's clear the franchise is headed towards the light. But, thanks to Jose Bautista, we were treated to that which we haven't seen around these parts since Carlos Delgado's heyday: meaningful at-bats.

Forty-nine home runs. One every 10.65 at-bats. And counting. A violent assault not only on fastballs, but on Toronto's, and baseball's, record books. History. Bautista will become the first Blue Jay to hit 50 home runs in a season. It's going to happen, and, no, I don't believe in jinxes. And when it does, when number 50 does clear the left field wall (hopefully at the SkyDome), the feat will have been accomplished for only the 42nd time in baseball history.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been around since 1977. The Steroid Era has come and gone. Bautista will be the first to hit 50 for the good guys, and he could very well be the last. That's the beauty of baseball. You just never know. I'm convinced the franchise will one day return the post-season. Will add a pennant, or two, to their collection. But I'm not so sure I'll ever see another no-hitter. Perhaps Dave Stieb's effort was Toronto's pitching performance of my lifetime. And, in that same light, perhaps Bautista's exploits in the batter's box have been Toronto's home run hitting performance of my lifetime.

Post-All Star break, there's been a buzz everytime Bautista has stepped up to the plate. It's palpable. At home, on the road, and even on television. Bautista excites; Bautista has people talking baseball. (And beards.) There's an expectation that regardless of who's throwing the ball, and how fast it's traveling, and how much it's moving, Bautista can murder it. The situation hardly matters, either. Nobody could be on base. Actually, nobody usually is. The Blue Jays could be down by five. Yet each Bautista at-bat matters. Each Bautista at-bat means more than any other.

The only comparable seasons to Bautista's are John Olerud's 1993 campaign, and Carlos Delgado's 2000 and 2003 seasons. Olerud flirted with .400 that magical summer, and finished with a Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) of .453, and a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 181. In 2000, Delgado hit 41 home runs, and put up an incredible wOBA of .471. King Carlos bested Olerud's wRC+ by one, finishing with a rating of 182. Delgado finished fourth in MVP voting that season, which still completely blows my mind. In 2003, Delgado hit 42 home runs, and tallied a wOBA of .423, and a wRC+ of 160.

Bautista, with 49 home runs to his name, and 12 games left on the schedule, today sports a wOBA of .423, and a wRC+ of 170. Like I said: historic. One of the finer offensive seasons Toronto has ever seen. Delgado-esque. And who could ever have imagined saying that about the journeyman outfielder-slash-third baseman?

I get it, now. I get why Damien Cox, and others in his wake, had to ask the question. We're talking history, and in Bautista, a player who has come out of nowhere. Literally. Pittsburgh: baseball's nowhere. What I wish I'd see less of, though, in the Toronto media landscape, is "But you've got to at least ask the question ..." masquerading as reporting. Because I'd put money on the fact that Bautista is indeed clean. He's been tested. And he does not physically look the part of a juicer. If the Steroid Era taught us anything, it's that the human eye does not deceive. There's more: Bautista hasn't hit a cheap home run to opposite field all season. He's pulled one through 49 to the left side. The proof in Bautista's changed mechanics alibi -- he's closer to the plate with his back foot, his hands are higher, and he starts his leg kick, and swing, earlier -- can be found in the fact he's hitting fastballs 32.8 runs above average this season, compared to only 4.2 runs above average in 2009. Bautista essentially owns the inner-half of the plate. He's made a conscious decision to pull the ball. If he doesn't get a pitch to pull, he'll gladly take a walk, his on-base percentage a career-high .382, far above his .342 career average. Instead of wondering whether Bautista is on steroids, where are the columns applauding Bautista's patience at the plate? Where are the columns asking an even more important question: why the hell is he still being pitched to inside?

It's pointless, defending Jose Bautista's honour. I know that. And, at the end of the day, he doesn't need my help. His urine has done, and will continue to do, the talking.

Instead, I'm going to enjoy Bautista's final meaningful, and hopefully violent, at-bats this season. I'm going to be at the SkyDome on Tuesday night, and Wednesday night, and maybe even Thursday afternoon. Perhaps I'll be there on the weekend, too. And maybe next week, when the Yankees are in town. Bautista's got nine games to hit number 50 at home, in Toronto. And I'm not going to miss it.

Beautiful image via daylife.

September 17, 2010

Roy For Cy

The fine Phillies fans of Philadelphia have taken to Twitter with a new campaign, one we're certainly familiar with in Toronto: #RoyForCy. And rightfully so. Doc's ERA, today a pristine 2.49, is the lowest of his career when he's thrown more than 200 innings. He's carrying an xFIP of 2.89, also the lowest of his career. His 8.05 strikeouts per nine innings pitched is the highest his ratio has ever been. Only 65 earned runs to his name. In 234.2 innings, no less. He's walked only 28 batters. His legendary cutter comes in 16.8 runs above average. His changeup, 5.5 runs above average, is the most successful it's ever been. Eight complete games. Three shutouts. One win shy of 20; a mere formality. Vintage Doc.

Harry Leroy Halladay III has dominated the National League. Like we knew he would. And therein lies the problem. It must be said: Doc's too good for the National League. He belongs in the American League.

Even though Toronto's starting pitching has been sublime this season, and even after watching Kyle Drabek throw utter filth at the Baltimore Orioles in his Major League debut, I'm clearly not over Halladay's departure. Perhaps I'll never be. I can't bloody buy in to the #RoyForCy campaign. Not as much as I should be able to. And for that I blame the Senior Sissy Circuit, and MLB's beyond-ridiculous divisional schedule.

Thanks to that schedule, Halladay's made 11 of his 31 starts -- 35% -- against the Florida Marlins, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals. Thirty-five-bloody-percent. Now, I know the Marlins and Mets are both, today, .500 ball clubs. They're playing .503 baseball, to be precise. But they're still the Marlins and Mets. And neither club has ever had a goddamn prayer against Roy Halladay.

Doc vs. the Florida Marlins:

5 GS, 4-1 W/L, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 38 IP, 2 BB, 41 K, 1.66 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, .210 BAA

Doc vs. the New York Mets:

4 GS, 4-0 W/L, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 31.2 IP, 2 BB, 28 K, 2.56 ERa, 0.82 WHIP, .207 BAA

Doc vs. the Washington Nationals:

2 GS, 2-0 W/L, 14 IP, 5 BB, 14 K, 0.64 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .264 BAA

Doc's an artist. And by pitching in the National League against the chumps above, his talents cannot be fully appreciated. It's been far too easy. Throw in another two starts against the sad-sack Houston Astros; 16 innings, and only three earned runs.

I'll give Doc credit. I in no way, shape, or form mean to belittle what he's accomplished this season. Case in point, his exploits against the 83-wins Atlanta Braves:

2 GS, 2-0 W/L, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 18 IP, 2 BB, 14 K, 0.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, .164 BAA

In two complete game gems against Atlanta, Doc allowed one measly run. So cuttered, Atlanta. So goddamn cuttered.

That's what I want to see. Doc taking down the contenders. Not the pretenders. Unfortunately, that simply hasn't been the case. And I know it's not Doc's fault. He takes the ball every five days, no matter who he's up against. But only one start versus Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals? One start versus Adrian Gonzalez and the San Diego Padres? One start versus Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants? For shame, baseball.

Ironically enough, Halladay got his ass handed to him in interleague play. (Except for owning the Toronto Blue Jays.) A start each against the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, and New York Yankees; all losses. Nineteen-and-two-thirds innings pitched, and 15 earned runs. Twenty-three percent of his season's total. I'd say he got used to pitching in the National League, wouldn't you?

What made Roy Halladay such a treat to watch in a Blue Jays uniform was the way he dominated the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins, and the Chicago White Sox. He became the best, by pitching against the best, by never, ever backing down, year in and year out. Only four teams averaged more than four runs a game against Halladay over his career in the American League: Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Texas. The Athletics and Rangers clearly got lucky.

I miss him. I miss watching Doc every fifth day. I can't wait to watch him take the mound in his first playoff game. I'm rooting for the Philadelphia Phillies to win the World Series. And while, based on his numbers, he does deserve the Cy Young, the award will never stand up to the Cy Young he won in 2003, when he faced the Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Twins, and Seattle Mariners -- who all won more than 90 games, and a combined 475 between them that season -- 15 times.

Not all Cy Young awards are created equal.

Image courtesy of daylife.

September 16, 2010

I Don't Get It

Wednesday was Bruce Dowbiggin's turn to spank bloggers. Not only that, he essentially put a bounty on their -- our? -- heads. What's ironic to me, and I think most people that read and/or write blogs, is that everyone, I believe, wants the same thing: accountability.

Even more ironic: while the lines between traditional and new media continue to blur, they've already intersected. For good. Take a look at the sports sections of your favourite newspapers; everyone is blogging. The debate has been pitched as mainstream media (MSM) versus bloggers, but so many in the MSM are blogging, that the entire conversation doesn't make a lot of bloody sense anymore. To me, at least. The Toronto Star's Damien Cox "asked the question" in his blog The Spin, for Christ's sake. And I'm not going to bother with Dowbiggin writing that bloggers need to "face their subjects from time to time." That's laughable, after the Cox fiasco. We bloggers wanted Cox to head to the SkyDome and face Bautista. We specifically asked that he go and do just that. Instead, it was Bruce Arthur who went and talked to Toronto's Home Run King about the allegations being bandied about. Thanks, Bruce.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought. Jose Bautista has a tendency to make that happen. His swing, so violent and dreamy at the same time. Anyway: the MSM, they're blogging. Cox's colleague Richard Griffin's got his own blog, with its own weekly mail bag feature. And where he sometimes rips Cox. (That was fun!) The Globe And Mail's Michael Grange has got his own blog, From Deep. Jeff Blair goes on blogging runs every now and then at Unwritten Rules. Doug Smith at The Star's been blogging for years about the Toronto Raptors. Go to; Jayson Stark, Buster Olney, and Keith Law all have their own MLB Blogs. Pierre LeBrun blogs about hockey for the Worldwide Leader. The esteemed Elliotte Freedman blogs, and I can't wait for hockey season to get underway so his 30 Thoughts feature will once again be a part of my life. I can give you a ton of other examples, but you get the idea. And I'm a lazy blogger.

I've worked in broadcast journalism, with TVO's The Agenda With Steve Paikin. As an associate producer at the program, it was mandated that we write a blog post for each segment we put to air. It was mandated that we get on Twitter with work-related accounts, and tweet about story ideas, and future programs. Steve Paikin's got his own blog. Mike Miner, a producer at the program, has his own technology/media blog, The Fifth Column. Those are mainstream journalists, blogging.

When it comes to sports blogs, which I know are the main tenet of this discussion, if the press box is such an issue, the MSM can keep the press box. Look, I've been up there. Once. For a Toronto Maple Leafs game. And I'll be honest: it wasn't all that. Look, much love and respect to Jonathan Sinden and the Leafs for inviting me up there. Of course they were going to invite the guy who travels the Toronto sports blogosphere leaving "Playoffs!!!" in his wake. As they should. But on my one night up there, planning to live blog the affair, the wireless internet didn't work. It was, as the kids say, a live blog fail.

Now, this may surprise you, but, believe it or not, I went up to the press box that night in November not wearing my Tomas Kaberle jersey, or my customary Toronto Blue Jays hat. And I didn't cheer like a fanboy. I didn't cheer at all. I didn't have a sign stuck to my back that said "Blogger!!!1" Everyone up there went about their business, as did Jonathan and I. We chatted Toronto hockey. (I wept, but only briefly.) We talked about the Maple Leafs being more proactive on the social media front. I took notes about how the Leafs disappointed me that night. And, once the game ended, I went home.

I didn't even ask Jonathan if my invite upstairs included an invite downstairs, into the locker room, or to Ron Wilson's press conference. I'll be honest: the thought never even crossed my mind. Had I been invited to Wilson's presser, was that fateful Monday night the night he would finally be honest, and say that even though Jonas Gustavsson was the losing goalie, if it was up to him, he'd never play Vesa Toskala again? That Toskala had a lot of nerve to question the advice of goalie guru Francois Allaire? That against a team like the Buffalo Sabres, a Maple Leafs team with Matt Stajan as its number one centre really didn't stand a chance? No, it wouldn't.

Was that the night Francois Beauchemin would, in the locker room, tell me how much of a nightmare the first two months of his life as a Leafs defenceman had been? That Mike Komisarek was trying way too hard out there? No, it wouldn't.

We've all watched the excruciating answers players, and coaches, give journalists in press conferences and in the dressing room. And we've all played sports. We know what a guy can and can't say. More than half the time, we could do without the charade, without the references to 110%, which isn't even bloody possible.

I'll be the first to agree with Dowbiggin and tell you that a hockey blog "that resembles Hockey Night in Canada meets TMZ" shouldn't be allowed in the press box, or in the dressing room. Who the hell is arguing that it should? But the press box isn't hallowed ground. Certainly not worth a $10,000 bond. Let's stop treating it, and the experience that comes with it, like it is.

Image courtesy of this isn't happiness.

September 13, 2010

Welcome Home

There's nothing like it in sports. The visitors sullenly leave the field, while the hosts -- suddenly victorious -- congregate around the irregular pentagon that is home plate.

Men become boys. All that matters is first base, second base, third base, and, to a hero's welcome, home.

Long live the walk-off home run. Especially to avoid a sweep, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in September.

Image, as always, courtesy of daylife.

September 08, 2010

Run and tell that!1

The Toronto Blue Jays hit so many home runs, so often, that visiting bullpens are cowering in fear at the SkyDome.


After four Tuesday night, and 13 in their last five, give Toronto 215 jacks on the season. (Jacks, long balls, taters ... what am I missing?) And of those most recent 13, none, believe it or not, have come as a result of Jose Bautista's -- I love the following description -- violent swing.

Your 2010 Blue Jays are averaging 1.58 dingers -- How could I forget dingers? -- a game. To eclipse the team record of 244, set 10 years ago when Tony Bautista and Carlos Delgado hit 41 apiece, and Brad Fullmer hit 32, and Jose Cruz hit 31, and Raul Mondesi hit 24, and Shannon Stewart hit 21, and Darrin Fletcher hit 20, and Alex Gonzalez hit 15, they need 30 bombs -- how could I forget bombs? -- in 24 games; 1.25 a contest.

Records are falling. Records will fall. Not bad for a rebuilding season. Entertaining, at the very least. And, hey, just imagine Toronto's on-base percentage wasn't a laughable .314, good for 27th in the league, in the company of the Houstons, Baltimores, Pittsburghs and Seattles of the baseball world. (FYI: In the World Series years -- the salad days -- Toronto's OBPs were .333 and .350, respectively.)

I can. If more Blue Jays got on base, fewer would go yard. And then, who knows, maybe that photo, that priceless moment in the Texas Rangers bullpen, doesn't happen. Doesn't get captured. That would have been a shame.

Year of the pitcher? The Toronto Blue Jays would disagree.

Epic image courtesy daylife.

September 05, 2010

Haters Gonna Hate

After Jose Bautista fell victim to the Yankee Stadium strike zone during Saturday afternoon's 7th inning, he lost it. And rightfully so. There's only so much balls-and-strikes bullshit a man can take. Me, I loved his passion. Jose Bautista believes in Jose Bautista, and that's a big part of what has made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball.

Success breeds resentment. Resentment breeds hate. Especially in New York, where Bautista has put on a show this season. In 30 at-bats in the Bronx, Bautista's line reads: .333/.474/.567. Two home runs, six RsBI, and a 1.041 OPS. Against the Yankees in 2010, Bautista has owned: .340/.516/.766. An OPS of 1.282. Six home runs, along with 12 RsBI, and 17 free passes.

Jose Bautista: Yankees killer. It's no wonder they're hating.

Jose Bautista got roid rage?
- @mnmnstrd

A standing ovation for originality.

Nevermind arguing balls and strikes, Jose Bautista should be kicked out of every game until he does something about that awful beard of his.
- @Skorka29

The words of a man who clearly cannot grow his own Bautista Beard. Haters gonna hate.

Jose Bautista was just ejected. I hope he does some of his meaningless fist pumps on the way back to the dugout.
- @ChrisSerico

Clearly, Mr. Serico isn't well versed when it comes to the timeless art of the fist pump. We've seen Bautista hit a lot of home runs this season, and not show a lot of emotion in the process. Two weeks ago, after he was sent to the dirt by Yankees rookie Ivan Nova, Bautista took the time to enjoy one of his jacks. It was only his 40th home run of the season; only his second of the game. The solo shot only broke a 2-2 tie in the home half of the 8th inning, at the SkyDome. The benches had cleared only two innings before. And Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli had fist-pumped his little heart out in the 1st inning, after Fred Lewis was thrown out at home plate. No, Chris Serico, there was nothing meaningless about Bautista's fist pumps. And you know that.

[Ejection] Doesn't surprise me, seems like a punk. Success gone to his head.
- @JonathonLittle

I have no doubt Jonathon Little would love Damien Cox's writing. Haters gonna hate.

Glad Jose Bautista was tossed.....can't stand that guy
- @TheKevinStewart

Mr. Stewart has seen Bautista's numbers versus New York. Haters gonna hate.

Jose Bautista should've been thrown out. He feels so entitled. He's no veteran.
- @DaveKast

A Yankees fan commenting on somebody else's sense of entitlement. The irony, as always, is delicious.

Thankfully, there are some people out there who get it:

Even when he gets tossed, jose bautista's a stud
- @faizalkhamisa

My thoughts exactly.

Image courtesy of daylife. Love their work.

September 03, 2010

A case of mistaken identity ...

I walked into a local Subway for lunch on Wednesday. Tuna, yo. On whole wheat. I sauntered over to the ordering area and, before I could tell the young gentleman on the other side of the glass what I wanted, he said:

"Oh, I thought you were the baseball player ... Jose Bautista."

I was, of course, wearing my Blue Jays cap. And my Bautista beard.

I laughed. Awkwardly. I might have blushed, which is utterly ridiculous. Finally, not knowing how to respond, I said: "No, but Bautista's pretty awesome."

"Yeah ... You're right ... He is," came the Subway employee's laboured response. And since the exchange wasn't apparently awkward enough, we then shared a couple of seconds of torturous silence, before he finally got around to putting together my sandwich.

The bottom line: People are seeing Jose Bautista in the streets. And can you blame them?

What a season. One for the record books. For the first time in Toronto baseball history, a Blue Jay will hit 50 home runs.

"[Jose Bautista is] one of my favourite players."

Mine, too.

Image courtesy of daylife. Thanks, yo.

September 02, 2010

Turning Two

"There's absolutely no way you can go barreling into second and dump a guy on a double play, like you should do, when you've been fraternizing with him before a game."
- Frank Robinson

Preach on, Mr. Robinson.

I've only recently become more enamored with the double play. More aware, in a sense, of the speed and skill with which it occurs. Five seconds, and two outs. Five seconds, two outs, and out of a jam. Five seconds, two outs, a scoop of a throw in the dirt at first base, and the inning is over.

Because it happens so often, and so flawlessly, day in and day out in baseball, I think I've come to take the double play for granted. And that ain't right. Because there isn't much in this world quite like a six-four-three.

Image courtesy of daylife. Thanks, yo.