Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cito made right decision to not pinch run for Molina

Despite the Jays phenomenal come from behind victory and series sweep yesterday in Cleveland, there still has been much consternation on the air waves and newspapers about Cito Gaston's decision to not use a pinch runner for the slow as molasses Jose Molina with Toronto down a run in the 7th inning. In hindsight, that move came back to bite Gaston in the posterior when Fred Lewis ripped a double to the gap but Molina could not come around to plate, instead only making it to third base. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind followed by recording outs, which kept the Jays down a run. Had Mike McCoy, for example, pinch run for Molina, the game would've been tied on the Lewis double easily. Despite my views before the season that the Jays bench boss shouldn't be the manager this year, I'm going to come to his defense on this one.

I'll admit I was scratching my head when I saw Molina was left out at first base until I thought about the strategy on a deeper level. First of all, it was still only the 7th frame. Had it been in the 8th or not, surely Cito would've brought in a pinch runner. Furthermore, if Molina been able to come around to score the game would have been tied. Without question, Cito would prefer to have the better defensive catcher playing in that situation. With the presumed pinch runner, McCoy, taking over for Molina, they both would've been out of the game in the bottom of the 7th, and John Buck would then replace the departed Molina behind the plate. That would have left only John McDonald on the bench for the remaining 2 and a half innings, because Randy Ruiz was not with the team due to personal reasons.

It's easy to second guess a managers decisions when they don't work, but it certainly won't be the last last time Cito is criticized, along with every other head man in baseball for that matter. It also seems, in an unrelated note, several fans are upset with Gaston for leaving in his pitchers too long when they are in deep trouble, but I believe the exact opposite. Going out to the mound to talk to a youngster and leaving him in the contest such as in the case of Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow this year, can only lift a young pitchers confidence that the team believes in them. Cito is doing things his way, which, in the long run, is the right way. If only he'd commit to staying on in the same capacity for longer than just the current campaign, it would be much more worthwhile.

Slump busted; Lind cranks game winning homer!

What a thrilling comeback victory for the Jays yesterday against Cleveland! Once again this young team proved that you can never totally give up on them like in years past. Down 4-2 in the final frame, without nobody on base and two outs, I was very tempting to turn off the TV. However, I stuck around in hopes of a ridiculous comeback. And oh baby for sure I was rewarded! With 2 strikes against him, Fred Lewis doubled to right to give Toronto a glimmer of hope. That appeared dashed when Aaron Hill's weak grounder headed to shortstop Luis Valbuena. Remarkably it went under his glove into left field, allowing Lewis to count. Then that's when Adam Lind played hero, picking a phenomenal time to break out of his nasty funk.

Down to their final strike again, Lind broke out the crank stick, smashing one over the wall in left to give the Jays the runs they'd need for a stirring victory! Lind has such exceptional power to the opposite field, and it was on full display right there, what a clutch homer by the Silver Slugger! Lind came into the ball game riding a miserable career worst 0-for-19 streak at the plate, and he had broken out earlier in the contest with a single, but he saved the theatrics for just the right time. As Tiger Woods would say, huge.

UPDATE: Watch this classic rant from Cleveland Indians broadcaster Bruce Drennan following the meltdown in the 9th inning.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The best Alex Gonzalez in Blue Jays history?

Alex Gonzalez's storybook season can't keep going on like this, can it? I swear I keep thinking that the shoe is about to drop on his remarkable start to the campaign, and as I'm pondering that, he cranks another ball out of the ball park. We brought the guy in to aid the young pitching staff with his outstanding defense, but no one in their right mind could have envisioned A-Gonz being this good with the lumber.

He smashed another ball over the wall in left today against Oakland, giving him 8 on the season, which leads all shortstops in baseball. Additionally, his 21 RBI are also tops in the majors for his position. He did hit 18 dingers in '03 and 23 in '04 with the Marlins, and 16 in '07 with Cincinnati, but those days appeared behind him. Seemingly, just as the case with Vernon Wells this year, injuries limited Gonzalez greatly the past couple of season. Now that he's completely healthy, he's putting up the kind of numbers he has in the past. How many teams regret not signing him in the off-season now?

The debate will rage on. Who is the best shortstop named Alex Gonzalez in Blue Jays franchise history? The current one, or the one that played on the team from 1994-2001?

Johnny with a Big Mac Attack!

I don't care what anybody says, John McDonald is awesome. Usually confined to only being able to flash his brilliance with the glove, Sir John A. McDonald decided to put on a show today in the batters box as well. Johnny smacked an RBI triple, adding a double while matching his season total of two runs. That's my boy!

Really, there's not much more to say on the topic, but because of Johnny's Big Mac Attack today, I had to talk about it because I'm pumped! Just imagine if this guy was on a team with an insane offense and you could slot him into the #9 hole in the order every day, using him exclusively for his wizard like defense. Then you add on top of that the occasional outing like today with the big stick, Mac would be an incredible every day player.

Now that I'm all excited about his great afternoon at the dish, he'll probably struggle with 1 hit in his next 20 at bats. While still playing ridiculous defense. Because that's what Johnny Mac does. Because he's awesome.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wells smacks milestone home run

It's hard to believe with all the trials and tribulations that Vernon Wells has had in his 12 year major league career, spent entirely with the Jays, that he's closing in on significant club records for home runs and runs batted in. Friday night, V-Dub reached a milestone mark, smacking his 200th home run in a Blue Jay uniform, leaving him four long balls away from leap frogging George Bell (202) and Joe Carter (203) into second spot in franchise history.

The two run dinger Wells hit off Trevor Cahill in the fifth inning also marked RBI's 740 & 741 in his career, moving him past Bell into second place on the Jays all-time list. He's still got a long way to go to be #1 in homers and RBI, however, with Carlos Delgado firmly holding on to top spot with 336 home runs and 1,058 runs batted in. Strangely Vernon has never really been shown the love in Toronto (though the $126 million dollar contract and two poor seasons can account for most of the blame)

It really doesn't seem plausible that Wellsy will be second on both lists in the near future because it doesn't feel like he's been that great for that length of time. Vernon, fully healthy for the first time in years, has put together a solid year in 2010 and has finally stepped out from the shadow of the departed Roy Halladay to be the leader of "his team." He deserves a lot of credit for his longevity, even if he hasn't exactly lived up to that massive contract or led us to a championship. Yet.

Snider slowly finding his way with Blue Jays

Make no mistake about it, Travis Snider is having a very rough year for the Blue Jays. That much is obvious. The '06 first rounder is hitting a paltry .155 with just 3 home runs and 5 RBI's in 21 games. However, there have been positive signs that the youngster is slowly, but surely, coming around in his development for Toronto.

The more telling sign is from a stark reduction in his strike out rate this year compared to the two previous campaigns. In 2008, Snider whiffed 23 times in 73 at bats (for a 31% punch out rate) Then in '09 that number inched up to 32 percent when he racked up 78 K's in 241 times to the dish. This year, however, Snider has only been ringed up 17 times in 71 at bats, for a much improved 23% clip. Snider has been much more patient and selective at the plate this year, and has begun to hit balls very hard, the most recent example being the no doubt about it solo bomb against the A's Thursday.

The other factor to consider is that Snider is only 22 years old. Most players his age are in their senior years in college or in high level A ball. His situation is comparable to blossoming star Adam Lind, who realized his potential in his fourth year after falling on tough times at the major league level. Give Snider time, because the signs are there that he'll become a budding star just like Lind. Even if it doesn't quite look that way just yet.

Friday, April 30, 2010

John Bucking the trend

Holy Buck John had one helluva game against the Athletics last night, absolutely mashing three homers in his first three at bats. His 2nd homer was a total moonshot. Buck also received the proverbial shaving cream face wash from Shaun Marcum afterwards. Where has this been all season? With those three dingers, Buck ties Ernie Whitt and Darrin Fletcher's franchise record for homers in one game for a catcher. If someone would've asked me pre-game which Jay would hit 3 bombs in the game, suffice to say Buck would likely be last on that list.

Just how unexpected was Uncle Buck's massive outburst? He's owned by only 2% of owners in Yahoo fantasy baseball. I wonder how high that number will spike after this contest, and then how quickly it'll drop by next week when Johnny comes back down to earth. Buck had been hitting a measly .155 coming in to the game, with just 1 long fly and 6 RBI. Following his epic night, he now has 4 HR's and 11 RBI!

Bucko was given a hitting lesson prior to the game from batting instructor Dwayne Murphy, but more importantly, Cito Gaston. That's why he was awesome. Cito knows offense. The look that Cito had after the third homer was one of a proud Papa. He should be ecstatic, because a night like this doesn't come around often. Holy Buck.