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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jays prospect Wallace tearing up AAA

Maybe there is a reason why Lyle Overbay has suddenly woken up and realized the season has started. If he has continued his dismal play any longer, his starting role could have been in serious jeopardy because Jays prospect Brett Wallace has been scorching hot at the plate with AAA Las Vegas.

Wallace, acquired in the deal that sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia in the off-season, hasn't disappointed in his brief tenure with the organization. In just 19 games, he has already smacked 8 home runs, driven in 13, hit for a solid .286 average to go along with a .375 on base percentage. Suffice to say, our first baseman of the future is clearly showing he wants to be tabbed the 1st baseman of the present.

Overbay, meanwhile, has finally picked up his play considerably, going 6 for his last 12 with 2 HR's and 6 RBI in the last 3 games. However, even with the hot stretch, his average still sits at .183. Prior to the aforementioned three contests, he hit just .119 with only 3 RBI. Overbay, on the final year of his contract that will pay him $7 million this season, can keep his job if he swings the bat like he has recently. Any more massive lulls like he had at the start of the campaign, and he might not have to peer over his shoulder any longer, because Wallace will have taken over. The highly touted prospect has shown he's ready to make his debut in the show.

Tattered Jays bullpen receives shakeup

A taxed Blue Jays bullpen that has been totally annihilated the past four games has been given a face lift, as the organization has demoted two struggling hurlers and purchased the contract of a pair from AAA Las Vegas. Hard throwing Josh Roenicke and lefty Rommie Lewis (who?) are in, with the little used Merkin Valdez joins Jeremy Accardo as the relievers that are out.

Accardo has really fallen on hard times, allowing all six inherited runners to score this year, putting up a ghastly 8.10 ERA, which, though awful, is actually worse than the number suggests. Valdez, was brought to the team in the off-season from San Fran, but mostly only made the cut because he was out of options and the Jays didn't want to expose him to waivers. He wasn't effective in the two contests he entered, so Toronto now has 10 days to release him, trade him or try to pass him through waivers to AAA.

As for the call-ups, the 26 year old Roenicke is back with Toronto after playing down the stretch in '09 following the trade from Cincinnati in the Scott Rolen deal. He hasn't allowed a run with the Las Vegas 51's this year in 8 2/3 innings. The 27 year old Lewis, who impressed Cito Gaston in spring training, receives the promotion and will make his long awaited debut in a major league uniform after being drafted way back in 2001. He's been solid in the minors, posting a 2.35 ERA in 7 outings following a dazzling 1.50 ERA over 6 innings in the spring.

What does this mean for the Jays bullpen? It allows the team to bring in fresh arms after cycling through countless pitchers the past four games, however these two shouldn't be leaned upon too heavily going forward. Roenicke has the most upside, and if he can consistently find the strike zone could find himself a bigger part of the relief corps. Lewis will need to impress early in order to stay with the team for any length of time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Say hello to Blow Jay Frasor

Last year it was Blow Jay Ryan. This year, because Ryan is no longer on the team, a new Toronto pitcher has surfaced to steal his moniker. Say hello to Blow Jay Frasor. After a scintillating season in '09, he was supposed to be phenomenal this year as the teams closer, or set up man, or at least in some useful role. The problem is, Blow Jay Frasor has been completely useless thus far in 2010.

In 10 appearances in April, Frasor is sporting a hideous 9.35 ERA, blown two saves, ruined potential come backs with melt downs (most recently allowing 4 to score in the 8th Sunday with the team down 2 runs) and has only pitched one clean inning. In the remaining 9 outings, he has surrendered at least one base runner, making it impossible to feel confident in his ability with the game on the line. So what happened? Last campaign he had a sparking 2.50 ERA with 11 saves. This year, not so much. He can't seem to deal with expectation very well, so essentially he is as shell shocked as this guy when he comes in to pitch.

Frasor has also lost velocity on his fast ball, which pitching coach Bruce Walton has pointed to as a reason for his poor production. Though he's been pathetic, there is no way Blow Jay Frasor is this bad. My guess? He's nursing some kind of injury that will either put him on a DL stint, or we'll find out after the season that he played through the pain but was hampered all along.

Molina says no way Jose

Blue Jays backup catcher Jose Molina turned in a virtuoso performance Sunday against the Rays, setting a franchise record by throwing out 4 would be base stealer's. Basically he threw out 4 more runners than Gregg Zaun ever did in his entire tenure with the Blue Jays. Molina saved the bacon of starter Brandon Morrow, who issued 6 base on balls by nabbing the speed merchants on the base paths. It's not as if he threw out sieves like Zaun or Bengie Molina trying to steal; Molina got the best of the great Carl Crawford twice, and B.J. Upton and Sean Rodriguez once.

There has been some debate over whether or not Molina should be the every day catcher instead of incumbent John Buck. Buck has more offense, but not as good defense (throwing out just 2 base runners in 12 attempts), and Molina has great defense (7 caught stealing, just 1 base stealer), but horrid offense with a .211 average and just 2 RBI on the season. The problem with Buck, however, is that he hasn't fared much better in the batters box, hitting just .163 with 1 HR and 6 RBI, leading to the debate.

Despite their early tear at the dish, the Jays have too many holes in the batting order to consistently put up a lot of runs so they can use all the the offense they can get. Buck should come around and hit for decent power, while we know Molina likely won't. But if the team knows it won't score many runs anyway, it could be prudent to try to prevent runs with the defensively minded Molina. It's like the chicken or the egg theory. What do you think? Should John Buck or Jose Molina be the Jays starting catcher?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Low attendance at Jays games embarrassing

To those so called Blue Jays "fans", and apparently there aren't all that many of you, not making it out to the park to watch a decent ball club should bring a great deal of shame to you. The fact Toronto has set not one, but two all time low attendance figures in the past week is a complete an utter embarrassment to the city, the organization, and mostly, the supposed supporters of the club.

If the Blue Jays started out the season like the horrifically pathetic Baltimore Orioles (who sport MLB's worst record at 2-13), then I could understand why so many people would shy away from purchasing tickets this early in the year. However, the Jays have gotten off to a solid start, especially in light of expectations at an all time low. Toronto's 9-6 record would put them in at least a tie for first place in every division in baseball but one (except for their ultra competitive American League East) In the first game of the 3 game set against the Royals, Rogers Centre got just 10,314 fans out to the game, setting a new benchmark for attendance futility. I know it's only the Royals, but come on!

I'm sick of so many fair weathered "fans" of sports only liking a team when they are winning. I can't stand it. Whomever you like, you should support them through thick and thin. One of the lame excuses for the low attendance bandied about is the fact that the Jays just "need to produce a winner" and then people will start going to games. Fair point, but how come no one came out when they were 27-14 last year? And as I mentioned earlier, it's not like they are the Orioles. What would constitute "producing a winner" to finally gets fans to show up? A 15-0 record after 15 games? That kind of expectation is totally unrealistic for even the greatest of teams.

For the record, I have gone to the first two games against Kansas City, and will make it out to the matinee tomorrow for the series finale against the lowly Royals. Why? Because I'm a loyal and die hard fan no matter how good or bad the team is. I just wish there were more of you out there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bautista explodes for career night

Jose Bautista this year has been largely a disappointment. He was expected to fill the role as the teams lead off hitter, but could barely make contact and swung at way too many pitches to be effective. With the acquisition of Fred Lewis, Bautista was moved down in the order, to middling results. That is, until he went off last night against Kansas City, matching career highs in home runs and RBI's in one contest.

Bautista mashed 2 home runs, accounting for 5 of the 8 runs for the Jays on the evening. When I say mashed, I mean mashed, because both were total no doubters to left. It makes you wonder why Bautista doesn't swing the bat better on a consistent basis. Will he be able to build off this impressive performance, or was it a one off? He did crush 6 dingers in his final 8 games last year, so it's not as if he doesn't have the ability to do it more often.

It's only a matter of time before Bautista's home runs are on par in terms of significance as this one in Jays history. OK, maybe not.

Morrow provides glimpse of greatness

Brandon Morrow set aside his first two poor outings as a Blue Jay to provide a glimpse as to why the team was so high on him when they traded for his services in the off season, showcasing the reason he was the 5th overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Morrow rendered the Royals bats hitless through the first 5 1/3 innings last night, mixing his pitches well to strike out 8 on the evening. After opening up the 6th inning with a walk and a ground out, Yuniesky Betancourt singled to break up the no hit bid, signalling the end of another Jays pitchers pursuit of history this year. David DeJesus followed with an RBI single which could have started a complete meltdown by Morrow, who has been susceptible to the big inning this year. However, the 25 year showed great resolve, calmly sitting down the next two hitters to end the threat.

Morrow had struggled considerably in his first two starts, giving up 3 runs in the opening frame in Baltimore before surrendering five in the contest, then getting lit up for 7 earned runs in 4 innings against Chicago. There were some people already calling for his head, suggesting he should be lifted from the rotation. That is absolutely the wrong course of action. Part of the reason he didn't work out in Seattle was because he was yo-yoed between being a starter and a reliever, which crushes a young pitchers confidence. The Jays should keep Morrow as a starter and be prepared to take the lumps that go along with it, because while he'll have his rough games, he'll fashion some good outings also which hopefully will become more commonplace as the year progresses.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Overbay is over the hill

I don't know who is worse at producing quality work; Lyle Overbay, or me. At least I have an excuse because I'm still fighting a nasty sickness, but what's Overbay's reason for sucking? This guy simply just doesn't seem to care about being a decent major league baseball player any more. He used to at least have good defense to fall back on, but his gaffe today coupled with his already horrendous batting average is the final straw for me. To be honest, I'm surprised the straw had not already been broken long ago.

Even though Ricky Romero fashioned another amazing performance with only 1 run allowed through 8, the Jays were down 1-0 heading into the 9th. That's when Overbay decided to destroy any hope Toronto had of coming back. With a runner on 2nd, Overbay allowed a Kendry Morales grounder to go right through the wickets, allowing an insurance run to score. That botched play was the difference in the contest because Morales also later came in to count. Had Overbay not had the big time gaffe, Adam Lind's solo shot in the bottom of the 9th would've knotted the game at 1. Thanks Overbay.

The mostly sure handed Overbay is accustomed to being known for his pathetic bat, not his poor defensive exploits. One day after snapping an 0 for 18 slump, he went 0 for 3, dropping his average to .080. He's not even averaging one hit in ten at bats! Are you freaking kidding me? This guy is a joke. Cito Gaston's loyalty knows no bounds, which is commendable to a point, but it's time to give Randy Ruiz more action at the expense of the paltry Overbay.

In fact, it's pretty obvious John Olerud would be a better first baseman than Lyle Overbay right now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dominant Ricky Romero flirts with no hitter

Simply put, Ricky Romero is one bad ass dude. Last night against Chicago he took a no hitter into the 8th inning, until Alex Rios ended it with a 2 run home run. Simply put, Romero fashioned his best performance of his young career. He's such a phenomenal competitor, he was visibly upset when his night was done because he allowed one hit. That's a guy I'd want on my team any day. Take a gander at these stats from Romero against the ChiSox:

-Romero had two K's in each of his first 6 frames
-No Chicago batter hit a ball out of the infield until the 7th inning.
-Final stat line reads 8.0 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 K

He's so damn good he very well might succeed Roy Halladay as the next Blue Jays pitcher to claim the Cy Young award. His curve ball and changeup makes hitters look like it's amateur hour. It's amazing to think that a little over a year ago many short sighted pundits declared Romero to be a complete bust. More fool them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jays sign Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechavarria

It took about a month, but Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has confirmed the Blue Jays have signed Adeiny Hechavarria, finally locking up their shortstop of the future. Reports surfaced midway through spring training that Toronto would sign the highly touted Cuban prospect, but nothing had been finalized until now. In Hechavarria, Toronto hopes to finally resolve a decade long struggle to find a long term solution at the shortstop position.

Hechavarria defected from Cuba, signing a 4 year, $10 million dollar deal, giving the organization another solid piece in their rebuilding plan. The encouraging sign to note here is the fact the Yankees were extremely high on the 6-foot-1, 170-pound phenom, but were unable to convince him to sign on the dotted line because some guy named Derek Jeter likely up for another contract extension.

Just how good might Hechavarria be? He's been compared to the Cubs Alfonso Soriano. Yes, that good.

Let the Rios hate flow through you

Damn you Alex Rios. You weren't supposed to get three hits last night. You were supposed to crumble like you often did in Toronto, then we were supposed to jeer you ever more. Words can not describe how much I detest you Monsieur Alexis Rios. You have been placed on notice, I will boo you every time I catch a glimpse of you at tonight's ball game.

The best part of you leaving Toronto (other than you actually leaving Toronto), was that you are just as pathetic in Chicago. Sub .200 hitter pathetic. But would it kill you to blow chunks for just four more games like you always did in Toronto?

Actually, I'm probably being too harsh on Alex. He was a pretty good player for the franchise. He did hit 24 homers in 2007, and was close to a .300 hitter until last season. Maybe I should take it easy on him. I've had a change of heart. Rios, I still like you, so could I please have your autograph? Oh wait, never mind.

I'm back from the sick bay

My apologies for not writing on this blog the past couple of days. I'm returning from the sick bay. I was such a hurtbag that I couldn't even drag my sorry posterior to the Jays home opener last night. You know it's serious then. I am feeling a little bit better now, enough to head down to the Skydome tonight to watch Toronto get redemption on the Sox after last night's debacle. The Jays sure did get debacled last night.

Ah, an ode to the great Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith. Poking fun at that clown is far too easy. Why not link to a bootprint of the ten dumbest things he ever said on television? What does any of this have to do with the Toronto Blue Jays? Well, uh, nothing apparently. But welcome back to Toronto Blue Jays Way!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Jays are comeback kids? Really?

This Toronto Blue Jays team is already proving to be comeback kids with a lot of fight in them! Two straight wins coming in the ninth inning? Are you kidding me? I haven't seen this kind of stellar production since this guy started ruling Philadelphia. Last year Toronto won just THREE times when trailing after 8 innings, and now they've done it twice in two contests!

The best part is that fact this team has, to this point, been able to come up with a clutch hit here and there, produce a timely bunt, sacrifice fly, advances runners etc. Toronto is doing the little things late in ball games that make all the difference, something that was severely lacking for a long time.

Let's not kid ourselves yet though. The Jays are only 3-1. They started last year 27-14 before fizzling out quicker than the brutally lame show of the worst baseball broadcaster ever. They are also employing a very inexperienced rotation and have some borderline hacks throughout their lineup. Still, it's a pretty cool sign to know that this club doesn't have any quit in them. Maybe when the Jays get really good in a couple of years (please god make it happen!), they can be doing it up big time when games are actually counting toward a pennant race.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vernon Wells crank show continues

What more is there to say about Vernon freaking Wells? V-Diddy is on an absolute tear to start the season after cranking out two more home runs against the Rangers tonight. I almost feel like I shouldn't continue to mention how Wells (pun intended!) he's doing for fear that Vernon, a staunch reader of Toronto Blue Jays Way, will get a swelled head and start resting on his laurels, leading him to stink like he has the past two years.

Wells' two dinger night against the Rangers pushes his total on the campaign to 3 in just the first 2 games, putting him on record pace for an astounding 243 long flies! But wait, there's more. In two games, Wellsy (how come it's way easier to think of catchy nicknames for Vern Diesel than any other Blue Jay) already has matched the home run total he amassed in the first 17 such outings in '09! Not only that, but Verny mashed two tators in one game for the first time since September 28th, 2008! That's a lot of firsts! And a lot of exclamation marks!

Being from Texas, Wells has a lot of family and friends that come watch him at the Ball Park in Arlington. Most notably, his dad was there for both games. So it's pretty obvious someone must capture him and bring him to every single Jays game all season. Who's up for the task?

Note: Though I'm sure it was already incredibly obvious, Vernon Wells does not read this blog. I think. Nor has he ever heard of it. I think. But what do I know? Nothing. I think.

Tallet's effective wildness earns Jays first win

Brian Tallet may appear unorthodox, out of place and a bit of a misfit (but who doesn't love his 'stache?) more often than not, but give him credit; it's never pretty, but he gets the job done. He's effectively wild in the starters role, and more often than not, gives the Jays a good chance at clawing out a victory.

One part of the statistical ledger is pretty impressive, the other, not so much. The good: 6.2 innings, 4 hits, 6 strike outs. The bad: serving up back to back bombs in the 4th inning after being given a 2 run cushion, allowing 3 walks, one of which came around to score, tightening the screws in the 7th frame. In every start, he'll have a stretch where he looks dominant, like when he retired seven in a row from the 1st to 3rd inning, followed by a rough patch, like when he served up the two aforementioned dingers on two pitches.

Tallet, who last year had 22 good starts and 3 miserable ones (where he gave up 8 earned runs twice and 10 in another) to his credit, is able to put together a decent outing even if he doesn't have his best stuff on that particular night. With this young starting rotation sorely needing veteran leadership, all the quality starts that Tallet can put together are a huge boost. Maybe now that he has the next four games off, he can learn some tips on how to look busy from this guy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Purchasing a Jays season pass a major pain

Who knew picking up the Toronto Star Blue Jays season pass could be such a painstakingly slow process? After my adventures at the Rogers Centre box office today, I deserve a prize. Perhaps some Gustavo Chacin cologne?

I purchased (or so I thought) my Toronto Blue Jays Toronto Star season pass online a couple of weeks ago. Instead of going through the hassle of picking it up during a busy home opener I figured I'd do the smart thing and swipe it today when it would be quick and painless. Not so much. I get to what I believe is the gate to pick up my pass, only to find the teller does not know baseball, or who the heck the Blue Jays even are. Seriously. This is truthfully an actual conversation I had today "I'm here to pick up my Toronto Star Blue Jays season pass"..."For what?"..."Um, the Blue Jays"..."who?"..."uhhhh, the pass for the Blue Jays season tickets"..."oh, go to gate 9" That really happened. You can't make this stuff up!

When I got to the correct gate, I was told that I had to pay the $115 for the pass despite paying for it already online. Once it was determined I somehow didn't (even though I had a message saying I did, and that I needed to go the box office and pick up the pass), I showed my confirmation number. The teller then proceeded to say that he couldn't give me a season pass because they were out of them, even though he had a new one all ready RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

After that, the clown said he'd do me a favour and knock off the $15 for buying it at the box office instead of online. Gee, thanks buddy. Now can I just actually get the season pass already? At that point he brought his manager on board to make sure the transaction went through correctly, which didn't go so well. While they were trying to understand what to do, they laughed throughout this whole process. HAHAHA was exactly what was going through my head at this precise instant. Not.

Having finally made sense of this whole monstrosity, the dude gave me a receipt to sign for, except he only had the $30 on it for the two tickets I bought for opening night. So he had to swipe my card again for the $115 paid for the season pass! Really. All this actually happened. I just wish sometimes I wasn't a patient and understanding person. Situations like this would be so much more fun if I flew off the handle a lot more easily.

Oh, and have I already mentioned how stupid it is to have a seasons pass for 80 of the 81 contests but not include the home opener as part of it? That's right, I did! This whole process was a complete and utter disaster. Oh, and by the way, I'm excited for the home opener, and then using the pass the following night. If it even works properly.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meet Mr. Clutch, Vernon Wells

In an occurrence roughly as rare as one of my pickup lines actually working on a woman, Vernon Wells was clutch in the season opener against the Rangers today. Clutch meet Vernon. Vernon meet Clutch. In his very first at bat, the $126 million dollar man blasted a 2 run shot off Scott Feldman, finishing 3 for 4 with 3 runs batted in. Last year it took him a grand total of 7 games to reach that home run and RBI total.

The most important aspect of Vernon's fine performance was his clutch (has that word ever been mentioned in the same sentence with Vernon before?) hit during a tense tie ball game in the 8th inning. After falling behind by two strikes and facing a bases loaded situation with 1 out, it seemed a certainty Wells would strike out, pop out, ground into a double play, or any combination of a play resulting in him strolling back to the dugout. Yet he came through, driving in the go ahead run with a sharply hit base rap. Those are the kinds of hits he'll be judged on all year. Not the 2 run blasts he might rack up in the first inning, but the important run scoring plays late in contests.

I've said a few times to colleagues of mine, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that the biggest reason why Vernon Wells will do so well this year is because the Jays are expected to be out of contention by the end of May. As history has depicted to us several times, he starts to show up just in time for when the club is playing out the string in late summer baseball. However this year I believe it'll be different, as I wrote about last week. The main reason being because Wellsy is healthy heading into a campaign for the first time in years. Today's showing is an early indication of what might be in store for Vernon and the Jays offense this season. If Wells turns out to fall flat on his face, feel free to reference this post of mine. It's entirely possible. After all, Wells and Clutch just met today.

Frasor blows season opener

Shaun Marcum nearly pitched a no hitter on opening day. Then it was broken up. Then the Rangers tied it. Then Vernon Wells picked up Marcum by coming up clutch. So the Jays must have won right? Wrong. Jason Frasor blew the contest in the bottom of the ninth inning in his first game as the anointed closer. Oh boy, it's easy to see how this might end bad.

Let's not get an itchy trigger finger and panic just yet, however. It was, after all, against a great Texas ball club that I predicted would make the American League Championship Series. Plus it was only the first game of the season. Having said that, Frasor's grasp on the closer's job in Toronto is tenuous at best, given the fact the Jays brought in Kevin Gregg in the off season, and also have the reliable Scott Downs who can close out games. I'd be getting a little bit scared if I were him.

Frasor better watch his back because when B.J. Ryan blew a bunch of games the past few years he felt my stinging wrath in the form of the nickname "Blow Jay Ryan." So if Frasor bungles a few more save opportunities, perhaps I'll think of another lame pseudonym to use for him like Frivolous Frasor, or Feeble Frasor or Featherbrained Frasor. Featherbrained Frasor sounds about right. If that isn't enough motivation for Frasor, I don't know what is.

Marcum brushes with history on opening day

Shaun Marcum certainly knows how to make a pretty damn good impression. In his first regular season game in 565 days, he was absolutely lights out. This coming from a guy who was only one of three pitchers (Scott Erickson in 2002, Carl Pavano in '07) to make an opening day start after missing the entire season beforehand.

Marcum painted the canvas with perfect strokes, mixing speeds and using all sides of the plate without allowing a hit in the first 6.1 innings against the Rangers. The guy hadn't pitched a big league game in two seasons yet he was within 8 outs of recording just the second no hitter in franchise history. Marcum ran into a bit of trouble with one out in the 7th, walking Josh Hamilton before surrendering his first hit to Vlad Guerrero. With the Jays hanging on to a 3-0 edge, the lead was wiped out on one swing of the bat by Nelson Cruz. It appeared he barely connected when it left the bat, yet somehow Cruz managed to muscle the tying homer to right centre off of Marcum.

The 28 year old ace of the Jays staff was still in line for victory after Vernon Wells gave Toronto a one run lead in the 8th, but that went by the wayside following a brutal performance by Jason Frasor in the final frame. That's too bad, because it would've only been fitting that in his first start back Marcum would earn the victory.

My 2010 MLB predictions

Three seasons ago, prior to the MLB playoffs beginning, I correctly predicted the outcome of every single series en route to the Red Sox defeating the Rockies. The following year, I was Mr. Cocky heading into the post season and suffered a massive nosedive in my picks as the Phillies took care of the Tampa Bay Rays. So then for the '09 playoffs (playoffs???) I picked myself back up, and, like two years before was spot on for all predictions that culminated in the Yankees defeating the Phils for the World Series. What is my point? Don't trust me this year. If the trend continues, I'll have crashed and burned harder than Lindsay Lohan. But what the hell, here are my predictions for the upcoming 2010 baseball season.

AMERICAN LEAGUE STANDINGS

EAST
1. New York
2. Tampa Bay*
3. Boston
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

CENTRAL
1. Chicago
2. Detroit
3. Minnesota
4. Kansas City
5. Cleveland

WEST
1. Texas
2. Los Angeles
3. Seattle
4. Oakland

*denotes wild card winner

NATIONAL LEAGUE STANDINGS

EAST
1. Philadelphia
2. Atlanta*
3. Florida
4. New York
5. Washington

CENTRAL
1. St. Louis
2. Cincinnati
3. Chicago
4. Milwaukee
5. Pittsburgh
6. Houston

WEST
1. Los Angeles
2. San Francisco
3. Colorado
4. Arizona
5. San Diego

*denotes Wild Card winner

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

1 New York def 3 Chicago
2 Texas def 4 Tampa Bay

1 New York def 2 Texas

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

1 Philadelphia def 3 St. Louis
2 Los Angeles def 4 Atlanta

2 Los Angeles def 1 Philadelphia

WORLD SERIES

2 Los Angeles def 1 New York

What are your thoughts? Am I crazy? (on second thought don't answer that one) Who will win each division and ultimately the World Series? Have your say in the comments section!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blue Jays announce lineup

As the Blue Jays current lineup stands to start the year, there is a distinct difference between really good hitters, and really bad hitters. Some of the players (Alex Gonzalez, John McDonald, Jose Molina) don't offer much with the bat, but are heralded for their defense. That should ease the burden on the young pitching staff.

RF Jose Bautista
2B Aaron Hill
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
C John Buck
3B Edwin Encarnacion
SS Alex Gonzalez
LF Travis Snider

Analysis:
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about wondering if Bautista could be the next Marco Scutaro and surprise everyone in the lead off role. He had an incredible spring, so could lightning strike twice? Wells is healthy going into a season for the first time in three years, so he should have a pretty good year (and because we think he's awful, it will seem like he's an all star), Overbay has a sweeeet fu manchu mustache which certainly is the reason he is the full time first basemen. Snider will hopefully force the clubs hand into slotting him higher in the order later in the season.

Bench:
C Jose Molina
SS/3B/2B John McDonald
1B/DH Randy Ruiz
3B/SS/2B/LF/CF/RF Mike McCoy

Analysis:
McDonald can enter games late if the Jays are winning as a defensive replacement for the defensively challenged Encarnacion. If Overbay shaves off the fu manchu, and continues to whiff against lefties, Ruiz could steal at bats from him at first base. McCoy adds a great element of versatility not only with the glove but with very good speed on the base paths.

Just one day away from the start of the 2010 season!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Adam Lind given contract extension

The Toronto Blue Jays have locked up one of their core young players today in what can best be described as a fantastic contract for the organization. Adam Lind has signed an extension that will pay him $18 million over the course of four years.

For an excellent hitter that is still entering his prime at 26 years of age, G.M. Alex Anthopolous locked up an integral piece for the organization at a very reasonable price tag. Lind had his coming out party last season, hitting .305, blasting 35 home runs, 46 doubles and 114 RBI's which was enough to earn him the American League Silver Slugger Award. He also picked up the Edgar Martinez Award given to the best designated hitter in the league.

Just another savvy move by the Jays rookie General Manager. As I've said before, Anthopoulos has already made more smart moves in six months on the job than J.P. Ricciardi did in eight seasons with the team.

Jays announce pitching staff

There were not a lot of huge surprises when the Blue Jays announced their pitching staff for the upcoming season. When Marc Rzepczynski injured his finger in his last start, putting him on the shelf for potentially six weeks, that induced a trickle down effect for the entire staff.

Rotation:
Shaun Marcum
Brian Tallet
Ricky Romero
Brandon Morrow
Dana Eveland

Analysis:
I'd expect Tallet to eventually be moved down in the starting rotation, but the team, for now, is relying on his veteran savvy with the added benefit of perhaps trying to increase his trade value. Eveland had a fantastic spring and clearly deserved a shot on the team. Presumably Morrow's health is a non issue, at least for now.

Bullpen:
Scott Downs
Kevin Gregg
Jason Frasor
Casey Janssen
Jeremy Accardo
Merkin Valdez
Shawn Camp

Analysis:
Noticeably absent is Jesse Carlson, who had a poor '09 campaign while battling injuries. He didn't pitch in many games in the spring, so he's been optioned to AAA to give himself some more innings. With his absence, there is only one lefty in the bullpen to start the year, that being Downs. Valdez is the unknown quantity that Alex Anthopoulos acquired from the Giants in the offseason, so he's going to see if he can stick in the big leagues. Josh Roenicke, acquired in the Scott Rolen deal, will have to earn his stripes down in the minors hoping to get recalled.

I am deeply saddened, however, that one Blue Jays great has not been a part of the organization for a couple of years.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Halladay knocked around by old mates

It was a sight never seen before in the history of mankind; Roy Halladay pitching against the Toronto Blue Jays. And boy oh boy he looked legitimately awful in the early going. And who could blame him? He spent 12 years in the Jays organization before being shipped out to Philly in the off-season and had never faced his old pals before.

Halladay gave up a lead off double to Jose Bautista, served up a 2 run shot to Aaron Hill on the next pitch, then allowed two more runs on a double by Edwin "E5" Encarnacion and a base rap by Alex Gonzalez. Halladay being Halladay, however, meant he bounced back as he struck out the next four batters, retiring the final seven batters he faced. I don't know who had more ants in their pants for their opening act though, Halladay, or this kid.

Halladay returns to Toronto when the games actually count for a series beginning June 25th, assuming the G-20 summit doesn't screw everything up. Somehow I get a feeling Doc will be just a tad bit better in that contest.

Rzepczynski to miss 6 weeks with broken finger

Just one day after taking a screaming come backer off his finger Jays starting pitcher hopeful Marc Rzepczynski will miss up to six weeks with a broken middle finger. File that one under the "that was obvious" category. Immediately after Zep took the scorching ball off his digit, the 24 year maintained the injury was nothing serious. Ya right. Clearly, he was toast.

The unfortunate injury dramatically changes the face of Toronto's starting rotation to begin the season. Rzepczynski shouldn't have even headed north with the big club even before this occurred after a horrendous 6.10 ERA in the spring. So that essentially leaves Dana Eveland and Brett Cecil to duke it out amongst themselves for a starting rotation berth.

Eveland, acquired in the off-season from Oakland, has been brilliant in the Grapefruit League with a 1.23 ERA over 22 innings (2 starts) to go along with 19 strikeouts. He's also out of options so a spot on the staff appears likely. Cecil, who showed great promise last season, showed his penchant for injuring his finger a couple of weeks ago while in his kitchen, causing him to miss some time. That hasn't deterred him from pitching quite well in his two starts, fashioning a 3.38 ERA. The obvious way to settle the score? Perform this highly scientific task to determine who gets the starting nod.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jays should name Frasor closer

There has been much debate over who should be the Blue Jays closer this year. Cito Gaston has three options in Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor at his disposal, but I believe the clubs stopper should be obvious. In fact, so much so that I happily scooped up Frasor in a fantasy baseball draft last week after two people selected Downs and Gregg in front of me. The past couple of days, Gaston has alluded to the fact Frasor is probably going to be his guy for the forseeable future.

It makes sense to put him in that role. Frasor was fantastic last season, going 7-3 with a sparkling 2.50 ERA to go along with 11 saves. He pretty much pitched just like this all year. The team has everything to gain by installing him as closer, not only because he can get the job done, but because they can try to drive his potential trade value up for interested suitors. The Twins and Cubs reportedly are mulling over whether to acquire him. Toronto could squeeze a lot of saves out of him, then ship him out of town at the deadline, or if they so choose, receive higher draft pick compensation when he leaves at the conclusion of the season.

As for Downs and Gregg, the organization is hoping Downs can reclaim his status as a dominant 8th inning man so his market value is sky high. His contract also runs out after the season, so the same reasoning that is applied to Frasor works for him. Gregg, meanwhile, could slide into either role if Frasor or Downs is dealt, or leave after the campaign and also net the Jays another draft pick.

It's the kind of innovative thinking that former New York Mets General Manager turned ESPN Baseball analyst Steve Phillips couldn't quite grasp.

UPDATE: Frasor has indeed been named Blue Jays closer to begin the season.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vernon Wells is a monster

Vernon Wells is going to have a monster year. So much so that if Pierre McGuire called baseball games, Wellsy would be dubbed a monster every game. Seriously. I'm not being sarcastic. Really, I'm not. I believe that V-Dub will have an un-Vernon type season and actually produce. The longest tenured Blue Bird is going to be as lucky during the year as this bird of a different kind.

Wells has positioned himself to be in the perfect win-win scenario. He's played like crap for three years (relative to his $126 million dollar contract), so our expectations of him are at an all time sky low (or is it ground low?) He's finally healthy going into the campaign, unlike the past couple of years. And Vernon is hitting behind Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. He can't be that awful again.

Vernon always gets ridiculed for his pudgy body, and perhaps unjustifiably so. After all, he does look heavy like this. But why lose the weight? Where's the motivation? It's not going to change the fact he has wads of money filtering through his fat bank account for the next five years. Would you care about your performance and exercise? He would.

What do you think? Will Vernon be as pathetic as always? Or will he have a good season? Let your voice be heard by clicking on the "comments" button below this post.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oh Gathright, we hardly knew ye

Today marks an incredibly sad day for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. The scintillatingly (did I just make up a word?) epic career of Joey Gathright as a Blue Bird is now over. Gathright was given his unconditional release today by the club, so excuse me while as I release a steady stream of tears. It's OK, feel free to break out the kleenex. You'll feel better afterwards.

When all you have is speed, as with the case of Gathright, then you better show it off at all times. Like this guy. Or better yet, this dude. The problem is, if you can't ever get on base because you are an awful hitter, then you're kind of screwed. Sorry bro.

Gathright (or is it Cartwright?) was trying to impress the team's brass enough to earn a spot as a bench player this season. It would've been a match made in heaven by all accounts. You know, because Gathright has had a storied career to date. But he was dreadful in the spring, hitting a pathetic .167 in 43 plate appearances. There goes that idea. Even Gregg Zaun could do better than that. I think.

So that ends the chapter of Joey Gathright's remarkably historic career with the Toronto Blue Jays. It's a devastating time for Jays nation. Now excuse me once again while I yearn for the glory days of Eric Hinske and Russ Adams in Toronto.

A stench emanating from Edwin Encarnacion

Edwin "E5" Encarnacion is allegedly healthy and on track to start at third base for the Jays this season. I'd be OK with that, except E5 racks up errors seemingly for the hell of it. Even this guy is better at fielding a baseball. The creaky and not as old as you think (27) Encarnacion has just got back to playing ball following surgery on his wrist. He's going to be fine this year, right? Wrong.

This injury already has a stench so rancid emanating from it that it's time to break out the axe body spray. I can see it now; a blistering .210 batting average, a razzle dazzle grand total of 8 home runs and a paltry RBI total of 35, all the while inventing new ways to airmail first base by five miles. Then we'll find out sometime in the winter that he was a hurt bag all season. Vernon Wells anyone?

Another plausible scenario is he'll be on and off the DL all year. That will force Jose Bautista to third base, ensuring Adam Lind and Travis Snider ample opportunities to run circles in the outfield and give career minor leaguer Randy Ruiz a chance to show everyone exactly why he hasn't been in the big leagues in 11 years. Maybe I'm too cynical. After all, Edwin does have one hit in nine at bats this spring.

Then again, considering this buffoon traded for him in the Scott Rolen deal last July, would we expect anything different?

(Note: Toronto Blue Jays Way realizes J.P. Ricciardi consummated a good trade by also netting prospects Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke in the Rolenpalooza. However, in the interests of ripping him at all costs, it must be pointed out that he sucks. Big time.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Send Rzepczynski to minors so Eveland can start

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm a big fan of Casey Janssen and feel he deserves to be on the club. He's up against Dana Eveland, amongst others, for a spot in the bullpen. Eveland shouldn't even be considered for the 'pen; Toronto should make him a part of the rotation and send Marc Rzepczynski down to AAA because he has looked brutal during spring training.

Even though Rzepczynski had a very solid rookie campaign, he is still extremely young and unproven despite his 3.67 ERA in 11 starts last season. However, in the spring this year, he has struggled with his command, allowing 9 earned runs in 16 innings, giving up 17 hits for a 5.06 ERA. The 24 year old has pretty good potential, but why not allow him to find his game in the minors and allow the veteran Eveland to start out the campaign as part of the rotation?

The 26 year old Eveland started 29 games in 2008, with a decent ERA of 4.34. He is being considered for the Blue Jays bullpen, where he'd fit in well as a long reliever. However, with the influx of pitchers vying for a job in the pen, including incumbents Jeremy Accardo, Josh Roenicke and Casey Janssen, why not move Eveland to the rotation, freeing up another spot for one of the young relievers? After all, he has a 1.69 ERA over the course of 16 innings, including one start.

I hope Casey Janssen makes the team!

I'm pulling hard for Casey Janssen to make the Blue Jays bullpen this year. Big time. It's been a couple of frustrating seasons for Janssen, but he can be a very important piece in a late inning role. Even though he missed all of the '08 season and had a pedestrian 5.85 ERA in 21 apperances last year, including 5 starts, the guy can flat out pitch.

In '07, he was one of the better up and coming late innings guys in baseball, racking up 24 holds with a dazzling 2.35 ERA. When healthy, that's the type of pitcher he can be. Unfortunately, staying healthy has been the problem. What's working against him is Cito Gaston wasn't the manager when he had his best year but he's doing his best to impress the bench boss this spring. The 28 year old has strung together five innings of shutout ball with five K's while allowing just one hit and one walk.

Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs as locks to make the 'pen, with Jesse Carlson and Shawn Camp presumably also on the squad. That leaves Janssen to duke it out with Dana Eveland, Jeremy Accardo, Josh Roenicke and David Purcey for two spots. Let's hope Janssen is part of that mix. He might prove to be a reliable stalwart in the 8th inning role in 2011 with Frasor and Downs presumably flying the coop after the season.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jays name Shaun Marcum opening day starter

The Blue Jays are set to usher in a new era in 2010, one that does not include former staff ace Roy Halladay. For the first time in eight years, Doc will not start opening day. Instead, that honour will is bestowed upon Shaun Marcum. Halladay established a franchise record with seven consecutive opening day starts, but his time in Toronto is now in the rear view mirror, leaving Marcum as the main man entrusted with the duties of a #1 starter.

The 28 year old has the most big league starting experience of the pitching staff, so the Jays placed the righty on a pitching schedule that would line up with starting opening day against Texas. In 64 career starts, the gritty Marcum has posted a 3.85 ERA. Two years ago he emerged as one of the A.L. East's best young hurlers, posting a dazzling 2.43 ERA over his first 14 starts.

As that season wore on, however, Marcum's unconventional throwing motion caught up him and his throwing arm wore down. He ultimately had to undergo Tommy John Surgery on his elbow, causing him to miss the entire 2009 campaign. His road to recovery is now complete, and he will be leaned upon to be a team leader in an inexperienced clubhouse.

The team has to move forward without relying upon the 2003 A.L. CY Young award winner. This isn't Doc Halladay's pitching staff anymore. It's Shaun Marcum's.

Jays shut down McGowan for the week

It was always a little bit of a stretch to expect Dustin McGowan to fully recover from his shoulder injury in time for the 2010 campaign after missing the entire '09 season. The Jays have decided to shut down the 27 year old righty for at least a week following his latest minor league assignment, making it increasingly likely he won't begin the campaign in Toronto.

McGowan was hopeful he'd make the starting rotation coming out of spring training, but after throwing 36 pitches in a Triple-A game and topping out at just 88 MPH (having consistently hit 95 MPH on the radar gun prior to the injury), the club had seen enough. McGowan is in the midst of a "dead arm" period, making him become more fatigued adjusting to his regular throwing program this spring.

The former 13 game winner, who hasn't played in a major league game since July 8, 2008, will likely start the year on the DL. The organization has to feel it's the most prudent course of action especially given the bevy of young pitchers vying for jobs within the pitching staff. It only makes sense to ensure McGowan is 100% healthy so he doesn't suffer a lengthy setback again.

Let's hope we don't go too long without seeing the man formerly known for his "mutton chops" in a Blue Jays uniform this season.

The future is now for Travis Snider

There has been much speculation and discussion about whether or not Travis Snider should head north with the Blue Jays to start the season. Let me try to put an end to it: The future is now for Snider and the Toronto Blue Jays. The stocky 22 year old has shown glimpses of greatness in parts of two big leagues seasons and spring training this year to show that the Jays simply need to have him start the campaign as a member of the Blue Birds.

A couple of days ago Snider belted three home runs in consecutive at bats in spring training. His raw power is so astounding that it's a matter of when, not if, he'll break out at the big league level. His situation is not unlike what faced Adam Lind a few years ago. Lind, a silver slugger winner in '09, displayed flashes of brilliance mixed in with inconsistency over the course of a couple of seasons. The organization was patient with him and they were rewarded with a monster year. Snider has all the tools to be a very good hitter, he just needs at bats against major league pitching. The team must be prepared to take the good with the bad, because he'll likely rack up strike outs before he gets more consistent.

The '06 first round pick has a vastly underrated aspect of his game, which is his defense. While he'll likely never win a gold glove in the outfield, he moves surprisingly quick for such a compact man, and makes smart decisions in left and right field last year. Just like patience should be preached at the plate with a young ball player, same goes for his defensive capabilities also.

With another year under his belt, Snider has learned to manage the ups and downs that go along with being a major leaguer. He's more comfortable in his surroundings which should lead to greater results. It's all but a certainty that in due time, the team will have one heck of a ball player in Travis Snider.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tallet working his way to starting spot

Brian Tallet looks to have firmly established himself as a member of the Blue Jays rotation to start the season. In yesterday's outing against Baltimore, the lanky lefty made short work of the Orioles hitters, pitching four scoreless innings while striking out three. The question is, can Tallet secure his spot in the starting five for the duration of the campaign with plenty of young arms waiting for their chance?

When spring training started I must admit that I didn't want Tallet to be part of the rotation simply because I preferred the young pitchers learning more on the job. But with Dustin McGowan potentially starting the year on the disabled list and some uncertainty over Brandon Morrow, it only makes sense to have a veteran presence in the rotation, at least for now.

It's sometimes easy to forget that while Tallet struggled down the stretch last year, he had a pretty good first go round as a starter in the big leagues. Aside from four hideous starts, he pitched well enough to give Toronto a chance to win most every start. Putting in perspective what the former 2nd round pick did last year compared to his six other seasons in the bigs, he pitched nearly 100 innings more than any point during his career. No wonder he wasn't as solid down the stretch.

As the elder statesmen of the starting staff, he'll be tasked to not only shoulder a great deal of the load, but perhaps mentor the young hurlers now that Roy Halladay has left town. No pressure.

David Purcey reaches full blown "bust" status

Unlike Ricky Romero, who turned his career around after at one point appearing likely to fall within the "bust" category, fellow first round pick David Purcey seems to be headed down the road to ruin within the Blue Jays organization. The six-foot five inch southpaw almost certainly has no hope of making the 2010 team, so it's fair to make the assumption that the "bust" label will be attached to him, at least as a member of the Blue Birds.

That hasn't stopped other major league teams from sniffing around the '04 first round pick. Though the lefty has been allergic to command of his pitches, he still offers tantalizing potential. Look no further than his two brilliant starts against the eventual American League champion Rays in 2008. In those two outings, he struck out a combined 18 batters, putting together eight solid innings in both contests. That had Jays management enthusiastic heading into '09. However Purcey suffered a setback during five starts in April, walking 18 batters in 25.2 innings, issuing 20 earned runs for a 7.01 ERA before being sent to exile in the minors.

Purcey has the ability to be a power pitcher that strikes out a lot of batters, making it tough to give up on him. The organization now views Purcey more as a reliever than a member of the rotation. There is a distinct possibility he could still be a valuable starting pitcher somewhere in MLB. It just doesn't appear likely to be as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Relaxed Romero pushing for opening day start

At this time last year it would have been crazy to assume that Ricky Romero would be in contention to be the Blue Jays opening day starter of 2010, let alone him even being on the roster at that time. What a difference a year makes. After labouring with his command in the minors for four seasons and still having issues in the spring last year, the team concluded he needed more time to develop. Had it not been for former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg prodding the organization to keep him in camp last spring instead of sending him to the minors, he might still be trying to shed the label of "bust."

Arnsberg saw something in Romero that prompted the Jays to make him the 6th pick in the 2005 draft, and just needed a little more time to squeeze it out of him. Under the former Toronto pitching coaches tutelage, the light bulb went off for the southpaw toward the end of spring last season, securing him a spot in the Jays rotation. In his rookie campaign, Romero was dominant for the first half, fashioning a 7-3 record with an ERA of 3.00 in his first 13 starts. He hit a rookie wall midway through July, but still managed to compile a respectable 13-9 record with a 4.30 ERA in 29 starts.

In his three spring training starts this year, Romero has been victorious twice, allowing just one run in 9 innings, striking out and walking 4 batters. His solid maiden campaign in the big leagues, coupled with Roy Halladay being traded in the off season has Romero in a battle with Shaun Marcum to be the opening day starter. It's doubtful even he could have imagined that last spring.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jays should platoon Overbay & Ruiz at first base

The Blue Jays have several different directions they could go regarding their first base position for upcoming season. One possibility would be hand the reigns over to Brett Wallace (acquired from the A's via the Phillies in the Roy Halladay deal) with an eye to the future, or go with the status quo and have Lyle Overbay man first base like he has the past four years. A 3rd option, however, might be the most fruitful, which would feature a platoon situation between Overbay and late bloomer Randy Ruiz.

After spending 11 years in 11 different organizations, Ruiz received a promotion to the Jays late last season, hitting .313 with 10 homers with 17 RBI's in 33 games. The 2009 Pacific Coast League MVP dropped 22 pounds in the off-season, at the teams request, and has hit .500 this spring with 2 homers and a club leading 7 RBI. The time has come to see if Ruiz could translate his minor league success in a part time role over an extended period of time in the big leagues.

That would allow Overbay to solely face right handed pitching, where he hit at a solid .282 clip last year, as opposed to a dreadful .190 average against southpaws. The 33 year old, who is all but certain to leave the organization after the campaign is solid defensively which would aid the young starting rotation.

Wallace could then start the season in AAA Las Vegas, where he could get regular playing time to ease the transition to the major league level. Having been a third basemen for the majority of his minor league career, the 27th highest rated prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America, could then hone his craft defensively at first base in time to take over for the 2011 campaign.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dana Eveland making impression at Jays camp

Perhaps the most unheralded acquisition in Alex Anthopoulos' first off season as Jays General Manager was prying pitcher Dana Eveland away from the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations. The way the 26 year old lefty has pitched in spring training, it's easy to see why Anthopoulos was so high on the southpaw in the first place.

Eveland, locked in a battle for either a rotation spot or a job in a crowded bullpen, has surrendered no earned runs in eight innings of work over the course of three appearances, striking out six. After posting a respectable 9-9 record in 29 starts two seasons ago, Eveland fell out of favour with the A's in '09 after yielding an ugly 7.40 ERA in his first six appearances of the campaign. He didn't fare a whole lot better in the minors with an ERA just shy of 5.00 in 21 starts.

Though it is unlikely at this point he'd make the Blue Birds starting rotation, he could be a valuable long reliever and spot starter. Toronto must think long and hard about keeping him with the team, however, because Eveland is out of options and he'd need to clear waivers before being sent down to AAA Las Vegas. Given his past success at the major league level and the fact it only took cash to acquire him from the A's, this could wind up being one savvy move by the Blue Jays rookie General Manager.

Joey Gathright seeks roster spot

Joey Gathright is known for his blazing fast speed on the base paths and in the outfield. The Blue Jays are in short supply of both, so the six year veteran of four major league teams is in the running for a roster spot. Gathright is being given every opportunity to make the team as either a fourth outfielder, or, if Travis Snider struggles in the spring, a chance to start every day in left field. He'd bring versatility to the club also, being able to hit lead-off on days that Jose Bautista is off and could spell Vernon Wells in center field.

Why am I posting about Gathright's chances of making the team despite him playing almost all of '09 in the minors? Basically it's just an excuse to show off his mad skills of jumping over cars!



By all accounts having Gathright on the team would be great for no other reason than to use him as a pinch runner because the Jays grossly miscast slick fielding John McDonald in that role last season. However, the 28 year old hasn't taken exactly taken advantage of his opportunity to head north with the big club to start the year, recording just 3 hits in 20 at bats with only one stolen base in the spring. Maybe he doesn't need to have a good camp. After all, he just needs to show G.M. Alex Anthopoulos and manager Cito Gaston that video. Then he'd make the team.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jays closing in on netting shortstop of the future

The Toronto Blue Jays have spent the better part of a decade unsuccessfully trying to find their shortstop of the future. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly taken steps to change that, closing in on netting 21 year old Cuban shortstop Adeinis Hechavarria. According to the New York Post the Jays are believed to be offering around $10 million for the 6-foot-1, 170 pound prospect who is said to resemble a young Alfonso Soriano.

The New York Yankees, among others clubs, were interested in signing Hechavarria, but with Derek Jeter likely to receive an extension, the highly touted prospect didn't want to have a roadblock in getting to the majors, instead choosing Toronto. The Jays have been seeking a player of Hechavarria's calibre at the shortstop position for a long time, having used a different shortstop on opening day for the past five seasons.

When Anthopoulos took over the reigns as Toronto G.M. from J.P. Ricciardi, he noted a need for improving organizational scouting and player development programs with a focus on international talent. Inking the Blue Jays potential cornerstone shortstop would be the strongest indication that he's committed to doing just that.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cito Gaston shouldn't be Jays manager this year

It will seem sacrilegious to suggest that Cito Gaston needs to be relieved of his duties as Jays manager but that's exactly what should happen. If Gaston were to commit to being the bench boss for the long term, then the 2 time World Series champion deserves to remain at his post to try to return the team back to glory; however, he only wants to manage in 2010 and then ride off into the sunset. That's not good enough. The Jays need a strong leader that has a clear vision for the present and future success of the franchise.

The Blue Birds have begun the process of rebuilding by firing the mercurial J.P. Ricciardi as GM and replacing him with fresh faced Alex Anthopoulos, so it makes sense to wipe the slate completely clean and start from scratch. The prospective candidate would have a more thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the roster and impart his philosophy on the Jays organization. It's counter productive for a club to have a lame duck manager counting down the days to retirement. The Jays need a strong communicator and motivator who is directly tied to the current and future success of the team. Cito Gaston is not that man.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cecil faces uphill battle to make rotation

After displaying flashes of brilliance in his first tour of duty with the Blue Jays last season, Brett Cecil should have made the Blue Jays rotation coming out of spring training. However, the 23 year old faces longer than expected odds to start the year north of the border because of a freak accident that occurred in his kitchen.

Cecil suffered a cut to his left thumb while preparing food, and as a result, the club decided to take a precautionary stance and delay his start date nearly a week. In his first action of the spring on Wednesday, the '07 draft pick, limited to just throwing fastballs and changeups, struggled with his consistency in his two innings of work. Cecil, who started 17 contests for the Jays last season, struck out four but surrendered three runs on four hits, with the damage coming off the bat of a Cody Ransom three run home run.

With plenty of arms in the running for a starting job, including Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet and Marc Rzepczynski, Cecil will likely find himself ticketed to AAA Las Vegas to begin the campaign. Where he hopes to avoid any more mishaps in the kitchen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blue Jays season pass: Buyer Beware

I have purchased the Toronto Star Blue Jays season pass the past two years, believing it to easily be the greatest deal in all of sports. It most certainly still is, but the Blue Jays organization has erred in a BIG way for this upcoming season. In fact, their latest stunt will almost certainly turn off prospective buyers who are unsure about whether to plunk down their cash to see a ball club that's expected to struggle mightily.

When I went to order the season pass online, I was shocked to see a big alteration to the deal. It used to be $114 for all 81 home games in the 500 level seats (did I mention it was the greatest deal in sports?) However, this year, the pass is only valid for 80 games, excluding the home opener! The past couple of seasons the box office was generous enough to not only give you a ticket for the home opener, but an additional ticket for the first game of the campaign as a nice gesture for buying a seasons worth of mediocre baseball. Not so anymore.

Buyer Beware: If you, like me, are used to getting the pass expecting to get tickets for the home opener, you'll be greatly disappointed. Instead, you'll have to purchase additional tickets for the Jays season debut April 12th against the Chicago White Sox. In light of the fact that this is expected to be a major down year with the departure of franchise icon Roy Halladay, this is an extremely curious maneuver by the organization; one that's sure to ruffle some feathers.