Friday, 29 February 2008

Props for "Chops"!


Dustin "Chops" McGowan (as in mutton- chops, get it? eh?) is well know among informed baseball fans as a rising star in the AL but surprisingly, one finds an inordinate number of Red Sox and Yankees fans who don't want to acknowledge that reality.

Imagine my delight, then, when ESPN'S Buster Olney recognizes the future in this clip.

Take that link as evidence that I don't yet know how to embed the video directly the way they did over at The Mockingbird, where Buster had other nice things to say about the Jays.

Kinda nice to finally see some positive buzz somewhere besides among Jays fandom. I don't want it to get TOO hot though, the schadenfreude to be enjoyed at the expense of arrogant fans in NY and Boston is so much the sweeter when they don't see it coming.

~WillRain

Morning Roundup

Let me just first make note of my complete agreement with Twitchy in "Something smells fishy." From the beginning, something about Shannon Stewart's return to the Jays' fold just didn't seem right--call it a gut feeling if you will--and my discomfort has increased in recent days as more and more people seem to hop on the 'foregone conclusion' bandwagon.

There's nearly unbridled enthusiasm (rightly so) for Travis Snider, but little love left for Adam Lind, who's only two years removed from winning the Eastern League MVP. He scuffled with the bat last year--who didn't?--in his first regular stint on the team when we had a bad hitting coach, Mickey Brantley, who got fired at the end of the year. Many are wishing him traded away... I think those people are foolish.

Early spring training results--hell, perhaps even late spring training results if we go by last year's solid Towers/Ohka outings--mean jack diddly squat, so it is with great reluctance that I even bother to note that the Jays lost 4-1 to the Tigers in their first Grapefruit League tilt yesterday. Looky here if you want a game recap.

Apparently Dave Perkins still writes for the Jays beat at the Star. Anyhoo, he checks in today with a piece on how Barry Bonds isn't a good fit for the Jays. Unlike members the Rays (NOT D-Rays!) front office, which reacted like reporters were trying to throw molten hot lava at them when asked the rather innocuous question of whether there'd been internal disscussions on Bonds, the Jays can admit that JP, Godfrey et. al. did have a conversation on the HR king. It lasted all of five minutes, though, and JP came to accept that even a mouthwatering 1.000 OPS from a potential part-time LF simply wasn't worth bringing a cancerous personality into the club house.

Note to self: have a delicious club sandwich for lunch today...

Chris Zelkovich at the Star looks at Citytv's Sunday afternoon Spring Training broadcast, which is pretty much just a long infomercial for selling tickets to regular season games. I'm still gonna watch, though now I feel like a corporate sellout for doing so...

We didn't weigh in here on Godfrey's "Ticket Bullshit" (selling advance tickets for Bosox and Tigers games at the Rogers Centre to fans in Boston and Detroit before they went on sale in Canada) that has riled up pretty much every other Jays blog out there not because we don't agree with them. I just felt that ground had been covered adequately elsewhere.

My personal bugaboo with the Godfrey regime's pursuit of the almight yankee dollar begins in the gift shop. Over the years, I've been to an untold number games at Tiger Stadium, then Comerica, a pair at Fenway, others at Jacob's Field and PNC. And never once have I seen a stadium outside of Toronto that sells swag for opposing teams.

Why? Because it's downright treasonous! The rows and rows of Yankees and Bosox hats sicken and shame me every time I set foot in the Rogers Centre fan shop, as I'm sure they do you. It's bad enough we have to sit next to thousands of those a-holes in our home park, but now we're tailoring our merch booths to suit their needs? What can we do, though? This was never an issue back in the days of consecutive sellouts...

Usually the main Toronto papers run broadly similar stories on a daily basis, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see Cathal Kelly's piece on Travis Snider's recent losses in the Star today--a week after similar accounts appeared in other papers. It's one thing if his editor held it back, but quite another if Kelly felt he missed a story and went back to the youngster and had him hash out the details of his mother's death once again for the benefit of another reporter. Really, that would be of epic bad taste...

Lexi is happy to still be in the Jays fold after another winter of being bandied about it trade rumours.

Things are still lookin' good for the Beej. Blair writes:

"If he [Ryan] is healthy, we'll take him north with us," Ricciardi said. "We can't do something that's not going to help the club. Games in April mean as much as games in September."

Arnsberg is a little less cavalier, but he agreed that weather alone should not prohibit Ryan from being with the team in New York. "All it means is you'd probably give him a longer time to warm up before you put him in the game," Arnsberg said. Then he winced. "But, really, that's cart-before-the-horse stuff."

That's the third "cart-before-the-horse" reference from a member of the Jays front office I've noted so far this spring training.

Wilner is extremely sensitive to mention of his dietary habits.

-- Johnny Was

Something smells a little fishy to me...


Originally I agreed with Wilner's assessment that Stew would make the team over Johnson in case of an injury. But after some thinking, that really doesn't seem right to me, especially if Johnson ends up getting non-tendered.

Let's pretend that there is a significant/long term injury to one of: Thomas, Overbay, Wells, Rios, or Stairs. Logically, people could be shifted over so that Stewart could get full time playing. Last year Stewart had a 756 OPS against RHP - not great, but better than Johnson. So from that point of view, I'd rather see Stewart in. Obviously someone would have to be called up to fill the 25th spot - in pretty much all cases, an OF would have to be called up. If Overbay or Thomas are injured, Stairs moves to 1B/DH. If Wells is injured, Rios to CF, Stairs to RF. If Rios is injured, Stairs to RF etc. So yeah, for pretty much any injury we're going to need to call up an OF.

Here's where it gets interesting - the person we're most likely to call up in the event of an injury is Adam Lind. We're not going to call him up to play sporadically - if there's a long term injury, I'd rather see Lind playing LF than Stewart. Hell, even in Lind's horrible 2007 season, he still managed a 720 OPS (251/289/430). If he brings that average up to 270 (I'm not being unreasonable, he could probably get 300 but let's keep our expectations low..), his OPS would be around 750 - pretty much what Stewart's capable of. It's possible Lind could do significantly better, maybe even an 800 OPS or higher.

While I agree that Lind shouldn't be arbitrarily called up if he's doing a bad job, and that he should earn a spot, let's be real here. Raise your hands if you'd rather see Stewart playing LF long term because of an injury instead of Adam Lind. Don't raise them all at once now...

Anyways, if we assume that I'm right (and remember, when we assume, we make an ass out of you and me), than Stewart isn't here to provide insurance in case of an injury. So from that point of view, the most significant factor to making the roster goes back to who can hit LHP the best - Johnson or Stewart. Last year Stew had a 699 OPS against lefties, and the highest he's had over the past 3 years was 700 in 06. On the other hand, Johnson, even after coming back from back surgery, posted a 913 OPS against lefties.

So if we're carrying a 6 man pen (and considering how little Gibby goes to the 7th guy, it wouldn't be as bad as most people think...), it's possible to bring both Stew & Johnson up. But if they go with the 7 man pen, I'm going to go against the common wisdom of bringing Stew, and sticking with Johnson. I'm just not buying the long-term injury excuse when we have a young, left handed, top prospect LF just waiting for his time to come up.

Twitchy.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

In Brief

Trolling through the comments at Wilner's blog I came a cross this link for a very detailed article on Frank Thomas and, you guessed it, clogging the bases, over at Dugout Central. It's a long piece that covers what happened every time Frank Thomas reached first base in 2007 and well worth a read in full, but I'll skip aheads to the conclusion:

Even if all of the questions above were answered “yes” we can still only conclude that Thomas’ lack of speed cost his team a run 11 times out of the 181 that he reached first base. Given all of the positive things that Frank Thomas brings to the line-up, I find it hard to believe that “clogging the bases” a maximum of eleven times in a season diminishes his value in the least.

Really, this is nothing less than a savage slam dunk on the heads of the Griffinites who rail against that familiar topic week in, week out.

This was my first visit to Dugout Central and I liked what I saw. I'll add a link in the blogroll.

ELSEWHERE

Everyone needs a nemesis. Hitler had Stalin, Maggie Simpson has that unibrow baby, and so on. Do we at The Southpaw now have one?

I noted the arrival of new Jays blog, Litsch's Bitches, to our crowded blogosphere with a raised eyebrow. My surprise came at the recollection that it was I in fact who had coined the phrase "Litsch's Bitches" over in the Jays forum at ProSportsDaily last May. I'm ok with them using the name, but I do think some credit should be thrown my way. I mean, we went with the Southpaw, not "The Beej", which everyone knows to have been a DJF creation.

I'm just saying is all...

-- Johnny Was

Morning Roundup


In a somewhat surprising move (to me, at least), former Jay RF Shawn Green has decided to hang 'em up after a pretty solid 15-year ML career. He'd been declining gently over the last five seasons, but hadn't fallen off a cliff by any means. He had a pretty decent .291/.352/.430 line with the Metropolitans in 2007.

Green says he had been planning to retire at the end of his last contract all along unless something "close to home" presented itself from a California team. I assumed the lack of Green talk over the winter was due to team's being scared off by the $9.5 million he made last year, but I guess it looks like he'd been gearing down for retirement all along.

Green
finishes a .283/.355/.494 hitter with 328 HR. Some career highlights included a 30-30 season with the Jays in 1998, two all-star selections, one gold glove, a four home run game, and most importantly, $100,000,000 in salary.

Hardly anything of note on the 2008 Jays in today's papers. Rolen drinks coffee (and is planning to take on a leadership role this year), no one has got hurt yet, and League and the Beej are looking good.

Rock Solid Wilner post today. He's almost always good, but he was really, really in the zone here. And no way! Did he read my post on clogging the bases yesterday? I'm sure he has much better things to do with his time, but here are his thoughts on the very same issue:

I firmly disagree with the notion that Frank Thomas being on base is a bad thing. Anyone who moves an inning forward by not getting out is doing his job, whether or not he can be timed running the bases with a sundial. I have seen Thomas score from second on a single, and I have seen him score from first on a double. He may not be able to beat Bengie Molina or John Olerud in a footrace, but he’s by no means 90-feet-and-that’s-it when he’s on base. I would argue, too, that the percentage of the time that he scores relative to how often he’s on base has MUCH more to do with the people hitting behind him in the line-up than his lack of footspeed.

Continuing with these truth nuggets...

Just because [Reed]'s scrappy and he hustles doesn’t mean that he doesn’t get out about 68% of the time, which is not good.

More, I want more!

Name a winning team that had a mediocre catcher? Hmmm, how about the Toronto Blue Jays? Pat Borders may have been a World Series MVP, but he wasn’t very good at either hitting or throwing out baserunners. Blocking balls in the dirt, though, at that he was awesome. Honourable mentions since - A.J. Pierzynski, Damian Miller, Joe Girardi.

You just nailed it Mike. Boss!

ELSEWHERE

Are the Bosox trying to imitate our ZTO Pitchwagon (Zambrano, Thomson, Ohka--props Jay K.!) experiment of 2007? After signing Bartolo Colon to a minor league deal, it looks like the boys in red have now set their sites on Freddie Garcia, who probably won't be ready to pitch until July at the earliest. Garcia had been packing on the pounds with reckless abandon prior to missing most of 2007 with rotator cuff and labrum injuries that required surgery, leading some to question his work ethic/focus...

I've made a concerted effort NOT to talk about Roger Clemens' legal woes because a) it's boring, b) I'd like all of this steriod bullocks to just go away quickly and quietly, and c) his legal woes have no real effect on on-field baseball matters. Maybe I spoke too soon on the later, though.

Andy Pettitte is a different sort of bloke and had to deal with some pretty heavy moral issues over the offseason as he had to come to terms with not only his own PED use, but that of his close friend. And the Clemens saga isn't going away any time soon. It appears that the Justice Department will likely launch an investigation into whether The Roids Rocket (TM) perjured himself during his recent testimony in front of Congress. If this proves to be the case, Pettitte would almost definitely have to testify in Washington at some point this season, which one can assume will weight heavily on him. Let's see if he can hold up under the pressure...

Note to Lastings Milledge: do shut up, please. All the talent in the world and a brain the size of a peanut. Still, I reckon he's going to become a fine ballplayer when given a chance in relative anonymity of Washington.

No comment on Scott Spiezio.

-- Johnny Was

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Signs of the Apocolypse


The inebriated, and the philosophical have noted with more than a little surprise that TBS is shockingly going to open their Sunday afternoon baseball coverage this season with a game involving the Blue Jays!!!!
Forgive me for upstaging those talented writers but this is MY bailiwick!

Why?

Because I live hundreds of miles south of the Canadian border and I catch a Jays game on television about as often as I catch a lunar eclipse. True, when they have a series with the Braves every three years, I can often see all three of those. Once a season or so WGN might accidentally carry a Jays game against the White Sox but ESPN?

ESPN apparently is unaware that they play baseball in Canada. I don't think that the Jays have been on the Sunday night game in this decade. I can't think of more than a half dozen times they have been on the network in any time slot. Now, admittedly, I live far from any place where there would be a "natural interest" in terms of a regional game. But I don't live close to New York or Boston either.

Anyway, with the availability of MLB.TV, the problem isn't more than a pet peeve anymore, but it still pisses me off.

Kudos to TBS for the choice.

~WillRain

Clogging the Bases

There just aren't any positive connotations to the verb "to clog" outside the baseball world. Its association with clogged arteries and your clogged up commode makes people naturally recoil when they hear the word. Fair enough.

If you find yourself nodding in agreement to Uncle Griff's mailbag every Wednesday, odds are you've got a bee in your bonnet about "clogging the bases" (amongst other things). Here's a recent example from today's Star:

Q: I love the column Richard. I cannot understand why the Jays always talk about batting Lyle Overbay second. He hits a lot of doubles and gets on base, but with his power and lack of speed, I feel he is much better in an RBI spot than clogging the bases up top. Furthermore, not that the Jays usually play small ball, but I think it is a waste to take a potential double or homer away from Overbay in order to move the runner over...

Jason MacDonald, Amherst

A: The days of Overbay batting second are over. Last year, it was an early season plan because they wanted a lefthanded bat near the top of the order and believed that when the other team’s first baseman was holding a runner on, Lyle could shoot groundballs through the hole on the right...

Frank Thomas... has clogged more arteries on the basepaths than a diet of buttered bacon and poutine...

And so on. There's something like this every week. Like clockwork.

I really don't have the energy to take Griffin's mailbag apart piece by piece, but I would like to address the "clogging the bases" issue with some numbers. I'd also like to bring it to your attention that USA Today has a really excellent stat site that I had a bit of fun mucking about with this afternoon.

You're probably asking, "So, get down to it! Which teams were the worst offenders in 2007 when it came to "clogging the bases" as measured by Left on Base totals?

In the AL:

TEAM LOB RS
RS Rank





BOS 1291 867
3rd
OAK 1258 741
11th
NYY 1249 968
1st
CLE 1215 811
6th
TB 1166 782
8th
BAL 1152 756
9th
DET 1148 887
2nd
SEA 1128 794
7th
MIN 1121 718
12th
TOR 1112 753
10th
LAA 1100 822
4th
TEX 1092 816
5th
KCR 1089 706
13th
CHI 1074 693
14th





Ave. 1157 794


There really aren't any black and white answers that immediately jump out. Aside from the the worst base-clogging team in the league going on to win the World Series that is. And the worst offense by leaps and bounds also happening to have left the fewest number of men on base...

Dividing the AL into halves, the top seven base cloggers accounted for the first, second, third, sixth, eighth, nineth and eleventh best offenses in the league. The bottom seven base cleaners accounted for the fourth, fifth, seventh, tenth, twelvth, thirteenth, and fourteenth best offenses in the league.

There are abberations in each group, Oakland and Baltimore in the former, Los Angeles and Texas in the latter, but as a whole, the base cloggers stack up better than the base cleaners.

In the NL:

TEAM LOB RS
RS Rank





PHI 1295 892
1st
COL 1251 860
2nd
ATL 1205 810
3rd
LAD 1200 735
10th
NYM 1196 804
4th
FLA 1192 790
6th
CHI 1190 752
8th
HOU 1181 723
13th
CIN 1170 783
7th
STL 1167 725
11th
WSH 1163 673
16th
SD 1152 741
9th
SF 1141 683
15th
PIT 1119 724
12th
MIL 1117 801
5th
ARI 1090 712
14th





Ave 1177 763


The numbers over in the Senior Circuit are considerably more clear cut. Again, the division between good and bad offenses isn't perfectly defined, but base clogging teams as a whole again tend to be better than base clearers.

The base clogger group has the first, second, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and thirteenth ranked offenses. The base clearer group has the fifth, seventh, nineth, eleventh, twelvth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth ranked offenses.

You get the picture...

Maybe Uncle Griff will considering enjoying a nice plate of buttered bacon and poutine with the crow he's eating for supper tonight.

-- Johnny Was


Morning Roundup

ML BLOGGER OF THE WEEK:

In the wake of reports that Yankees "phenom" Phil Hughes has taken his battle for hearts and minds to the blogosphere, we're delighted to note that yet another ML pitcher is having some wacky, entertaining interweb adventures. Texas closer C.J. Wilson is in more than a little bit of shit for bringing his own unique brand of Truth and Justice to a world audience in the form of a couple of posts on a Rangers-related blog. The Rangers fun police (Michael Young, Frank Catalanotto and Kevin Millwood) had a little talk with him for the following comments:

"Come on man you have to admit the median or average guy in a baseball clubhouse does drive an SUV, drinks beer, golfs, likes college sports, chews or dips tobacco and is relatively a [expletive]."

Now, if the expletive deleted was "dick", then this is still a pretty PG quote. If it was "cunt", well, that's a totally different story...

On the ever controversial topic of politics, CJ goes on:

"I'm paying taxes no matter who the president is, just please god not hillary."

And again I really fail to see what the fuss is about for a pretty tame political comment. It was noted in passing last year that skip John Gibbons is a diehard supporter of George W. Bush's various wars of annihilation against the browner skinned peoples of the world. We Canucks just shook our heads and said, "let's keep the conversation with this guy baseball-related and that'll be that."

I blame the Rangers organization for giving CJ a contract
"to help brand the team to the 'hip' audience" and then scolding him for talking to interwebbers on their own terms. Send him a note of encouragement at his blog, if you feel so inclined.

JAYS-RELATED

I promised never to speak of a certain unnamed NHL franchise from the city of Toronto in this blog, but I need to bring a ridiculous Ken Fidlin story to your attention. Since it was NHL trade deadline day, Fidlin felt the need to do a piece comparing our very own Doc Halladay to Mats Sundin. Yep, they're both great guys, loyal to TO... and they have never met. Doc has probably never watched a hockey game, just as Mats forgoes summer matinees at the Rogers Centre for pickled herring and a hot tub full of blondes in his native Sweden. They play sports that are as diametrically opposed as is humanly possible. There is no real connection here, whatsoever. I guess people with a grade six reading level need some pictures to look at, so thanks for filling the void, Toronto Sun!

On a more sober note, though it's not news to anyone who has folllowed this club closely for the past few years, Doc really is on a different, superior even, level than most of the rest of us. On a personal note, back in the early 1960s the Detroit Tigers were gracious enough to give my uncle a tour of the club house in Tiger Stadium and had all of the players sign a program for him before he went in for a pioneering heart surgery he had no realistic hope of surviving. Despite the odds, he did pull through. And that program, treasured as it was back then, has since been lost, though never forgotten.

I guess they're not all bad, CJ.

Frank Thomas is asserting himself as a club house presence this year, and that's probably a good thing.

ELSEWHERE

* Two Republican senators are blocking a bill that would make HGH a controlled substance available by perscrption only. I'm sure they have their reasons.

* Are the Bosox in cahoots with Weight Watchers? First it was writing a weight loss clause into Schilling's contract and now they're about to go to work on Bartolo Colon's 150 lb blubber vest. Bengie Molina must be next on their list...

* Alfsonso Soriano is scared of the monster that lives in the ivy of the outfield walls at Wrigley. I know it ate Moises Alou's hat during a July 2003 game, but come on, be a man!

-- Johnny Was

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Striking the Deceased Equine yet again.


Well hell, what else is as interesting about Jays camp so far? I mean sure, I could gush about Rolen some more, or Twitchy and I could singe the praises of Brandon League, or we could surely find some stupid comment by Uncle dick to riff on but...nah, let's go with the obvious.

Jordan Bastain has given us cause to believe that Reed Johnson will be fine if he's truly healthy and he does what he always does, which to those of us who still can decipher the argument for why Stewart would be a better choice, is a relief.

No Jeff Blair comes along and says that it's probably 60/40 in Stewart's favor and Johnson may well be on his way out.

Damn guys, way to clear that up for me!

I don't want to come off as a Johnson cheerleader here, if Reed had been non-tendered and the Jays had scooped up Kevin Mench in his place on the cheap, I'd be all into that move. but the only argument I'm seeing for Stewart being the obvious guy is the argument that when healthy he's gonna hit like it's 2004 again. I'd sure like to believe that, but upon what evidence am i supposed to base it? That's the sort of thinking I regularly scold others for! If in fact JP & Co. are convinced Stewart is the guy and shuffle Johnson off to the temporarily unemployed line, I'll root as hard as anyone for Stewart and be happy to admit my error if he recaptures his lost youth.

But I ain't bettin' on it.

SI Strikes out again on the NL MVP


This isn't about the Jays, but I figure it needs to be said...

Rollins shouldn't have won the MVP last year. He had a great year, but he was extremely overrated. Jon Heyman apparently thinks I'm a "VORPie" because I disagree with the fact that Rollins was in fact, not the best player in the NL league last year.

If Wright's offensive stats were slightly better than Rollins', and I will accept that they were, especially considering the respective ballparks they play in (VORP accounts for ballparks), shouldn't Rollins get points for playing a superb shortstop compared to Wright's slightly-above average third base? And shouldn't Rollins get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership? For helping his team barrel into the playoffs from seven games back with 17 to go, as opposed to Wright's team, which perpetrated a historic choke?

So he accepts that Wright's stats were better than Rollins' in a tougher park to hit in. As if that isn't proof enough, he calls Wright "slightly-above average third base". If by slightly above average third basemen, he means the best third basemen in the NL in 2007, I agree with him. Nobody except maybe Chipper Jones came close to Wright's accomplishments. A .416 OBP, 30 HR, 34 steals (5 CS), a .546 slugging...you get the point. Wright had a hell of a season.

To call Wright a "slightly above average third basemen" is pretty damn insulting, and shows an incredible amount of ignorance. And if we're going to be fair, Rollins was at best the second best SS in his own division, despite claims to the contrary by Mr. Heyman.

Not only that, he blames Wright for his team's collapse. Wright, was obviously the leading reason why the Mets choked as he hit .352/.432/.602 for a 1.034 OPS in September. God damnit Wright, you should have had a 1.3 OPS and carried the Mets on your back like everyone expected you too! Rollins, of course, capitalized on Wright's inability to hit with this awesome September line of 298/333/542 (875 OPS).

So now that we've established David Wright is responsible for the Mets collapse, what else does Heyman say?

Though the Mets' collapse was no fault of Wright's, for the MVP to come off the all-time choke team, he'd better have a greater advantage in stats than this: Wright outhit Rollins .325 to .296, but both hit 30 home runs and Rollins beat Wright in Runs Created by 13. Wright's big advantage apparently comes down to the fact he got on base more often (his on-base percentage was significantly higher, .416 to .344), usually via a walk (he had 94 walks to Rollins' 49). To the stat guys, walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant.

Oh ok, he's smart enough to realize Wright wasn't responsible. My bad on that, it just seemed like it... anyways...

Wright only outhit Rollins by like .029 points of BA. That's not a significant advantage at all. Or how Rollins had a higher Runs Created - could that be, because Rollins had 716 at bats in the season, compared to Wright's 604? Nah, that'd make too much sense.

Seeing as how, you know, they didn't have the same # of AB, RC/27 would be a better stat to use...so I looked it up on ESPN. Wright, was fourth in the NL with 8.61. Where was Rollins? He was 19th with an epic RC/27 total of 6.83. A lineup full of David Wrights would only end up scoring 1394.82 runs in a season, whereas a lineup of Rollins would score 1106.46. That's not a huge deal or anything - it's only a 300 or so run difference, that's nothing. Rollins has intangibles. So give Rollins +500 runs on his intangibles alone.

So I don't know how many plays above average Rollins will make (Answer: not as many as you think, cause he's 11th for qualifying SS for ZR last year), but he clearly isn't going to save enough runs on defense to make up for the epic gap on offense between Wright and Rollins.

It's interesting to point out that with Wright's OBP being 72 points higher than Rollins', had he been put at the top of the lineup his counting stats (such as runs, HR, etc) would be significantly higher than Rollins'.

So yeah. There's no way in hell Rollins should have won. Or the GG for that matter, poor Troy Tulo got robbed.

Twitchy.

Morning Roundup


The Shannon Stewart flurry of speculation is starting to die down as we hit the 'wait and see' period. But, some points of interest:

It's kind of touching like the first time you held a girl's hand when Stew says this to the Star's Cathal Kelly:

"My best memories playing in the big leagues have been with Toronto," Stewart said. "In some kind of way, maybe it's meant for me to be here."

I'm sure it is, big guy. I'm sure it is. Hubris department:

Was Toronto's December offer better than the one you just signed?

"Yeah, it was," Stewart said with a rueful smile, declining to be specific. "The situation was just messed up."

Wrapping up here, he's got the right 'tude at least and says he'd be content as a bench player. Well played, my son. Here's a longer version of the same story at the Globe.

Blair
shatters the popular misconception that Halladay asked Gibby to install J-Mac as his personal shortstop. This little quote kind of sounds a bit hurtful:

"I didn't ask [Gibbons]," Halladay said. "We have better options now, which is the difference. David's a great player — he plays the game hard, and I'll take anybody who plays hard any time. … He's definitely a great addition. I have no problem with either of them out there."

First it was the dig on Glaus, now Rolls Royce Clayton, next thing he'll be telling momma jokes. Did Doc show up to spring training in a black leather motorcycle jacket and slicked back hair this spring? This directness to the point of being insulting to admittedly douchebag ex-teammates doesn't seem like him...

After taking a few days to mull it all over, Wilner writes, "I don’t think Shannon is here not to make the team, and he certainly isn’t going to Syracuse", which is a circuitious way of saying "I expect Stew to beat Sparky this spring." Isn't it? His thoughts on Sparky vs. Stew are worth a read, not just because Wilner is one of the sharper pencils in the drawer.

Breaking news from the Effing Sweet Dept.:

Bastian confirms in his new mailbag that the Jays will indeed be wearing retro power blues for the Home Opener against the Bosox on Apr. 4!!! (Sorry, Will, I know you're amongst the minority who dislike them...)

ELSEWHERE:

* I should probably do another Forgotten Heroes of Yester-year on Larry Walker. He recently commented on the Steriod Era with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, joking, "If I stuck a needle in me, then there was pancake batter in it, not steroids." Walker is a fringy HoF candidate who might get added consideration for doing some pretty special things cleanly when he hits the ballot in 2010. Note to self: consider naming first born Larry Walker Was.

* Yankees "phenom" Phil Hughes has joined the blogosphere! Like, OMG! There's really nothing to it; most posts are about one or two lines maximum and at least half of them seem to be reports on contests for Yankees stuff. Hrm, maybe we should start giving shit away here to boost our readership...? A free slow dance with yours truly?

Anyhoo, this one ranks a very, very distant third for player blogs behind Curt Schilling's 38 Pitches (quick summary: he lets his inner asshole shine through clear as day) and On the Road with Pat Neshek. Seriously, it's hard not to love a player who swaps baseball cards with fans over the interweb.

* The Bosox are finding that there's no trade market for Coco "Captain Correlli" Crisp. Kenny Lofton and Corey Patterson are still unsigned and they both have skill sets that you'd figure would be appealing to certain suitors. With all this musing about carrying a 6th OF (Scooter being the 5th), I think I'd definitely rather Patterson and his slick glove/blinding speed on by bench. I don't like Patterson that much, but as a specialist I think he'd really come in handly.

* Some of you might recall the name Maxim St. Pierre, a Quebecois catching prospect in the Tigers system. I thought he just sucked, but it turns out he was really a drunk. Anyway, he's trying to get back on track and since I've already wished the best to Elijah Dukes, I guess I have to do the same here.

-- Johnny Was

Monday, 25 February 2008

Forward Thinking


I know it's been forever since I did the last Forward Thinking segment, but in my defense...I've been real busy catching up on The Wire. And in the words of Clay Davis....Oh shieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

With that out of the way....I'm going to move on to the key pitchers after the franchise changing year of 2010.

Roy Halladay - Halladay's the best pitcher on the team right now, and looks to be that way heading into 2010. McGowan looks like he could be a strong #2, and even one of the best pitchers in the game if he continues to improve. But that aside, this franchise revolves around the Doc. He's taken paycuts, he's put this team on his back time and time again, and rumour has it he even saves kittens caught in trees. But you don't hear about that because the media is too busy talking about how Global Warming is somehow responsible for the polar ice caps melting. Look, it's gotta be -20 on any given day here, and I gotta say, I'm not buying it. I mean come on, they talk about it in the summer too - hey wait a second, it's hot in the summer - someone should tell them ice melts when it's hot!

....Wait where was I? Right. Doc. Yeah, if this team is winning (and they damn well better be), Doc's gonna be here.


AJ Burnett - AJ's contract runs through 2010, but JP decided that since all the cool kids were getting opt-outs, that Burnett should get one too. So here's how I see it - if AJ does well this year, he opts out. If AJ needs TJ or various other injuries derail his season, he'll be here till 2010. But odds are, he won't be here past 2010.

Dustin McGowan - After years of having the potential or even 'bust' label, McGowan had his long awaited breakout in 07. He's going to be here for a long time, and you bet he'll be here past 2010. Probably the only guy in the organization who could best Doc in any given year going forward, and that's saying something about how talented he is.

Shaun Marcum - Solid pitcher, although others believe he still has to prove himself to prove 07 wasn't a fluke. That's fair, although I think he's more a 4.00 ERA type guy goin forward. For a #4/5 starter, I'll take it. Unless Purcey/Cecil/Romero or others develop within the next 2 years and overtake him, Marcum looks to be here for a couple of years at the least.

Casey Janssen - I'm hoping Casey is a starter going forward. He'll be on the team after 2010, although if Purcey et all develop he might be pushed to the pen. I think he's got significantly more value going forward, and should do a better job than Marcum.

BJ Ryan - Before we get to 2010, let's focus on 2008 for him. I hope he's ready, and I hope they don't rush him. That being said, he's another guy who's contract runs through 2010. While I'd like to see them re-sign him, if JP decides he needs to go cheap in the pen (due to hopefully long-term deals to Dusty, Hill & Rios to name a few) Ryan may not be here past 2010. But since I can't stand on the fence, I'll say he's got a good chance of being here a bit longer, if productive.

Jeremy Accardo - After a lousy start in 06, Accardo had a phenomenal 2007. Taking over as the closer and absolutely dominating everyone in sight. One of the team MVP's in 07, Accardo's going to build off a strong season and be a key man in the pen for the forseeable future. He'll be here in 2010, and hopefully beyond.

Brandon League - My favourite reliever on the team. Throws 100, strikes out a fair amount, excellent control, and amazing GB rates. I'd be willing to bet he's our best reliever over the next few years, and that's high praise from this anonymous blogger. Plus, he's got wicked goggles. I'll bet Gary Sheffield is more afraid of the goggles than the 100 MPH fastball dancing all over the place.

Scott Downs - He's been extended till 2010, and I don't think the Jays will extend him beyond that point. By then either Cecil will be in the pen, or Downs simply won't be as effective. It's a damn shame cause I like Downs, but I just don't see it happening.

Jason Frasor - Throws poorly for 2 weeks and Gibbons refuses to use him the rest of the season. I can't see him staying considering how many talented arms are in front of him....

Brian Tallet - He's a lot better than people give him credit for. He's got terrific strand rates on inherited runners (going off memory here...), and as long as he isn't used on consecutive days or multiple innings he'll get you through the night. If he's here, it'll be because he hasn't reached 6 years of service time. I can't see the Jays extending him.

Brian Wolfe - He's a great pitcher against RH hitters, but lefties have this habit of hitting the ball where the fielders ain't. I'm not a big fan of Wolfe, so I hope he isn't on the team unless it's as a 7th reliever type guy, or if they don't expose him to lefties...

Twitchy.

Morning Roundup


The major papers are pretty much all in lockstep this morning on Shannon Stewart as serious competiton for Reed Johnson. The more learned sources have a predictably nuanced view. Let's bang into it, shall we?

"Team's former top pick adds drama to camp" screams the Sun, adding one interesting nugget: JP doesn't automatically discount the notion of going North with both Sparky and Stew. Say what now?

"Outfielder's days in a Jays uniform could be numbered with signing of Shannon Stewart" says Zwolinski at the Star. The outfielder in question being Sparky... He adds a short blurb later speculating on how we get rid of him:

If Johnson becomes expendable – something that will be decided during the Grapefruit League schedule – Toronto would likely seek to trade him to another club.

Johnson's salary – one year at $3.275 million (all figures U.S.) – makes a trade prohibitive.

A final option is not exactly appealing: termination of his contract, which comes with a pro-rated payout of 45 days salary.

Yowza! Everyone is getting wwwwwwaaaaaayyyyyyy ahead of themselves. Though I do like speculation, it's not a foregone conclusion that Stew displaces Sparky this spring.

What does the venerable Globe have to say? MacLeod does a Sparky-centred piece that emphasizes his competitive nature and ability to come back from adversity. To date, every question about Sparky's health has met with a somewhat terse "better" response, but Mac goes into greater detail:

Johnson now says that he never got back into a comfort zone last year after his surgery.

When he went home to Las Vegas in the off-season, Johnson was evaluated by his physical therapist and discovered he still had some weakness in his left leg, a residual effect from his back surgery.

Johnson said he tailored his workouts to address that weakness and it has been years since he has felt so good.

“I feel I'm back stronger now than I was even before the surgery, even two years before the surgery,” Johnson said.

This is what the ever-solid Bastian says:

Basically, I view this Stewart signing as an insurance policy. Next year, Toronto will be going with Adam Lind in left field. Johnson's a free agent after this year and he's coming off a major back injury. He's says he's healthy, but if there's any issues or the Jays aren't convinced he's back to being the old Reed, they have Stewart in place as a fallback option.

Or, let's say someone gets injured this spring (honestly, with all these healthy guys running around, there's nowhere to go but down), the Jays have some more options in place that can help the club avoid dipping back into the Minor Leagues, unless absolutely necessary.

Pretty much what we've been saying... high five!

Wilner compensates for taking a week between posts by writing a rambling 60,000-word piece on... well, I really don't know what it was about, but I think there was some mention of The Copacabana Club. He's unimpressed with the signing, for very good reasons I might add.

ELSEWHERE

* Bob Elliot says the Jays will be looking to draft more high-upside high schoolers and sign more international players this year. The high school vs. college player issue has been a serious bugaboo for JP bashers over the years...

* Blair has a budding bromantic relationship with Dodgers all-star Canuck backstop, Russ Martin. In addition to being one of the great young players of the game at a physically demanding position, he's bi-racial and speaks both official languages. It's only a matter of time before he becomes Governor General. We love you here, too, Russ!

* Bartolo Colon signed a minor league deal with the Bosox. Who cares? He's done.

-- Johnny Was

Preach On Brother.


During a discussion over at the PSD boards I casually mentioned in a thread how the Jays had acquired a "potential Hall of Fame" 3B and one of my friends there took considerable issue with me. I won't bore you with the whole conversation but I was left with the impression that my fellow boardie didn't fully appreciate how much stock HoF voters put in being considered among the very best defenders at your position.

I had heard before that Mike Schmidt - widely considered among the very best ever - had said, "He's better than I was", so it was not a surprise to me, though it was very exciting, to read this comment from Hal McRae in Saturday's Sun:

"I saw Brooks Robinson, I saw Mike Schmidt and I played with George Brett. Rolen is the best third baseman I've ever seen. With us he'd make one play a year where you'd say: 'That's the best play at third I've ever seen.' The next year he'd give you one better."

Pay close attention Blue Jays fans, you're gonna get a chance to see the guy who may be the best fielder who's ever played the position at the third sack this year, and yes, most definitely a potential Hall of Famer. If you want something to whet your appetite you can watch a great video which includes some of his defensive gems in a Cards uniform here (props to The Mockingbird for the hard to find link). Ignore the first 1:30 - it's mostly just hitting (why anyone makes a Rolen video and includes so many shots of him hitting the ball is a mystery to me, a lot of guys can hit a baseball, but very few ever got close to what he can do with the leather), but starting at 1:30 you start seeing some real defensive gems including one at about 1:45 that will make you jump out of your seat. If I knew how to add that one small portion of that video permanently to our sidebar (or at least, until he makes one like that in a Jays uni) I would do it.

Yes, in case you are wondering, I'm gonna gush like a schoolgirl over Rolen all season so deal with it.

In an unrelated note, I notice in Wilner's latest blog that's he's unable to resist the oft-repeated (in the last couple of days) nonsense that Shannon Stewart can "flat out hit" - unless that remark is taken out of context and the rest of the sentence is "my grandmother" then it's foolishness. all the more frustrating for how often it's said by people who should know better. Stewart's bat would only be mediocre if he were a short stop or a catcher (he had the same OPS as Eckstien in 2007), for a LF, it's among the very worst in baseball. People who know my writings know I'm no JP basher, and more bodies for depth is always fine during spring training - and I have no problem with Stewart being in camp any more than I have with, well, Camp being in camp. Just as long as we are being bullshitted with the nonsensical song and dance about him being some kind of great hitter. He's not even a mediocre hitter.


~WillRain

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Your very own fantasy team!



As Johnny mentioned earlier in the month, we've been challenged by several other bloggers to see who's truly the greatest at...fantasy baseball!

So with that in mind, yours truly has just finished 86 grueling, drunken hours of drafting. So as team captain of The Southpaw's official team, Toucans Of Whoopass, I've decided that I'll be giving weekly updates on the team once the season starts! Keep in mind that this league does have OBP, and not BA as a stat.

I won't start giving weekly updates till the season starts. For now, just savour in knowing that these are the heroes representing the Toucans Of Whoopass.

Hitting

C - Jorge Posada
1B - Nick Swisher
2B - Chase Utley
SS - Stephen Drew
3B - Evan Longoria (I did take Troy Glaus in case Longoria doesn't start in the majors)
LF - Adam Dunn (we're using LF, CF, RF, not the traditional OF OF OF, so this is a big advantage, and it being an OBP and not a BA league Dunn has significantly more value)
CF - Beltran
RF - Corey Hart
Utility - Joey Votto
Bench - Glaus...but as I said he'll start if Longoria is in AAA to start the season.

Pitching

SP Justin Verlander
SP Matt Cain
SP Homer Bailey
RP Rafael Soriano
RP Joakim Soria
P Jason Isringhausen
P Scott Shields
P Ervin Santana
Bench - Jason Schmidt

I figure that we have huge advantages at 2B, C, LF & RF. Utley's in a league of his own, Dunn is an elite LF (especially in an OBP/HR/R/RBI/Slugging...he'll gimme 5/6, with the sixth being SB), Posada even if he reverts to his career norms is still an above average slugging and OBP catcher, and Corey Hart is a steal - his line of 295/353/539 was nearly identical to Soriano's 299/337/560 line last year. Swisher has a great shot at 30-40 HR playing in US Cellular. Votto, Drew & Longoria are all pretty young kids who could be bargains as the season goes on. Glaus is my insurance policy - I figure he'll be on fire till June and get injured just in time for Longoria to be called up.

As for pitching, we got a bunch of high K guys. That's all you can really ask for in fantasy baseball...

The only thing that disappoints me is I didn't pick a Blue Jay, in a Blue Jay blog fantasy league. Hopefully the Jays kickass this year and make me regret not picking up Rolen instead of Glaus.

Twitchy.

Shannon Stewart : Some Unexplained Weirdness

Should there end up being a real competition for a roster spot between Reed Johnson and Shannon Stewart this spring, I'm 100% neutral on the matter. Take the better, healthier man North and cut bait with the other. That said, make no mistake that this is Sparky's job to lose and my nickel is definitely on him being our Opening Day starter with Andy Pettitte on the mound in the Bronx.

Some thoughts and questions for you related to Shannon Stewart's pending arrival in Dunedin...

Bastian is reporting that there will be a LF platoon regardless of who ends up being Matt Stairs' right-handed hitting partner. Back to this in a moment.

"He's just a good player," Ricciardi said about Stewart. "We struggled last year against right-handed pitching and he hits right-handers good. He hits left-handers good and he's a proven .300 hitter. We're just all about making us the best team we can be, so we'll see how he plays in camp."

Our fearless leader goes on:

"[Stewart] could do a lot of things," Ricciardi said. "He's hit in different spots in the lineup, so he could bat first and he could bat second. But I think that's putting the cart in front of the horse, so we'll just have to see how camp goes. Then we can work from there."

Hold the phone! He's got to make the team first before we start speculating as to where he would hit in the lineup. But does he really hit LHP as "good" as we might remember?

Bastian notes that Stew has a nearly identical career line against righties and lefties. Seriously, it's pretty eery: .298/.357/.438/.795 against RHP vs. .299/.375/.421/.796 against LHP. But these numbers haven't been consistent over the years and he's trending downwards at greater rate against lefties than righties.

At the start of his career Stew consistently mashed lefties better than Sparky ever has, but over the past four years he's been weak as a kitten against southpaws:

OPS vs. RHP LHP Overall

1998: .787 .811 .794
1999: .757 .901 .782
2000: .905 .808 .881
2001 : .824 .876 .834
2002: .807 .834 .813
2003: .802 .893 .823
2004: .866 .737 .827 (I)
2005: .729 .654 .711
2006: .721 .700 .715 (I)
2007 : .756 .699 .739

* (I) denotes significant time lost due to injury

The numbers in this nifty little chart are somewhat odd. One would expect a natural age-related decline for a player after he hits 30, but such a dramatic reversal of splits over the past four years? Mike Sweeney is someone who comes to mind for some pretty unpredictable splits over the course of his career, but it's unusual for a player to simply "lose" his ability to hit LHP so rapidly.

The Stew of 2005 and 2007 is quite obviously inappropriate to the extreme as the right-handed component of our LF platoon and we'd be wasting the man's time by auditioning him for the role. As such, any prospect of Stewart honestly competing for Sparky's job here and now is based on the assumption that he can reverse a precipitious 4-year decline against LHP. I just don't know about that.

Just when you thought we'd wrapped this up in a neat little package, here are Sparky's LHP splits:

2003: .328/.533/.899
2004: .301/.351/.790
2005: .279/.335/.753
2006: .323/.422/.867
2007: .325/.381/.913 (in only 85 PA)

There's a .150 discrepency between Sparky's best and worst, which means that it's not as much of a slam dunk for him as some might think.

We've got a 32-year-old Sparky and a 34-year-old Stew, both of whom are in decline, both of whom have had injury woes in the recent past. I hate to mention it, but there's a possibility that neither of them is capable of scorching LHP in 2008, which would mean JP really missed the boat by passing on Kevin Mench. If we knew it was going to be a platoon all along, why didn't we go with the most predictable (and cheaper, which I note in passing only...) option?

There really aren't any clear answers here, so your feedback is appreciated.

And I will be jiggered if I can't get a Shannon Stewart photo on google images without running into pornopalooza...

-- Johnny Was




Morning Roundup


Ok, I slept in and this got posted in the afternoon. So sue me.

* Uncle Griff does a very sober Sunday piece that claims ex-Jay hero Carlos Delgado will not begin a political career in his native Puerto Rico after his retirement from baseball. It's worth a look; Delgado may well have been the finest human being to have ever donned a jersey of any sort in the city of Toronto. Griff writes:

Delgado, who left Toronto as a free agent after the 2004 season, is viewed at home as very political. He admits he has been recruited by local parties and officials looking to capitalize on his wealth, fame and social conscience. There are many who believe the sky would be the limit if politics were his desire.

And, in case you'd forgotten:

When the U.S. sent troops to Iraq, he silently protested the decision by refusing to be on the field for the playing of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. When quizzed by the
Star's Geoff Baker, he called the decision to invade Iraq "the stupidest war ever." When The New York Times and others picked up on the story, he was roundly booed in appearances at Yankee Stadium. He stayed the course.

Nevertheless, Delgado says he'd much rather continue his charity/humanitarian work than run for office.

It's nice when Griff does this sort of piece where his talents as a writer shine through, reminding us that there was a reason he got hired by the Star so many eons ago. Take this grudging admiration for what it's worth, because I gaurantee you it will be back to business as usual (pandering to the lowest common denominator of the Jays fan base, propagating old baseball cliches that are clearly wrong, bashing JP, etc.) in tomorrow's paper.

* Bastian suggests that Shannon Stewart (the dude, not the scorching hot porno babe) may have been brought in as insurance for the Matt Stairs half of the Johnstairs platoon. Hrm, we just automatically assumed he was to put pressure on Sparky...

* Jesse Litsch has dropped 10-12 lbs over the winter. He's still ginger, though.

* The Ricciardi kids are a chip off the old block. Seriously, I think Marcum comes out of this looking the worst for not paying out on a $100 bet.

* Overbay's hand is apparently feelin' just fine. "Touch wood."

* The Japanese lead the world in robotic animal companion technology and pitches with silly names. Bosox lefty setup man Hideki Okajima, rock solid as he was in 2007, is working on a new pitch called the "doki doki", which apparently translates as "makes me nervous." Is this pitch a middle-aged man reading a pornographic manga comic on a crowded train? Only time will tell...

* Sandy Koufax is still alive!

ELSEWHERE:

Our second Southpaw poll has closed and you, the fans, have decided by a narrow margin that "Consequences be damned. Let the m'f'er run out" on the AJ Burnett Opt-Out Doomsday Clock. As usual, results will be forwarded to JP's blackberry.

Thanks for participating!

-- Johnny Was

Shannon Stewart?


No, not THAT Shannon Stewart (but hey, which pic had you rather look at, this one or the one over at the Mockingbird?)

Aaaanywho....what was I talking about?

OH YEAH! The OTHER Shannon Stewart! Well, it seems the Jays have handed out a minor league contract and camp invitation to our favorite noodle-armed left fielder from days of yore. I find it a puzzling move.

I know that some of my fellow baseball thinkers are relatively pleased, and not to say I am all busted up about it myself, but neither do I share any enthusiasm.

Why? Because I don't see the logic. Do we want Stew in case Reed is injured again? then why did we not sign Kevin Mench while he was available, given that he does what Reed does (back all three position and pound the stuffing out of LHP)?

Do we want Stew as a general safeguard in case some other OF can't go? What does he bring that Adam Lind doesn't? And who does Lind have to fellate to get a fair shot anyway?

Do we want Stew because we already know Reed isn't feeling right? How does that comport with the published report that he is at full speed? And if we want marginal defense from a guy who can hit lefties (and with Stairs there that's all that's necessary) then why not This Guy with his gaudy 1.023 OPS vs lefties last year instead of Stewart and his .682 over the last three seasons?
Do we want Stew to actually play in AAA? Ya know, the team who already has a guy in LF named . . . Adam Lind? Who sits? the veteran who resents being in the minors to begin with? Or the kid who is only in the minors so he can play every day?

And before you say "DH!" remember, we already have two young catchers down there who both need to hit every day. Four guys can't play three positions every day.

As that dog said in that classic Warner Brothers cartoon (and if you don't know what I mean go get yerself some culture) "It just don't add up!"


The only logic I see here is if the Jays are simply carrying Stewart through camp for the sake of a safeguard and Stewart accepted in order to be in someone's camp just to get in shape for whoever he actually ends up with. No one is any more found of former Jays, in general, than I am, but Stewart doesn't fit this team in any way and I'd be stunned if, barring injury or trade, he's still in the Jays organization on April 1.

~WillRain

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Bay Watch


No, this isn't about the pervy 1990s beach show, we're talkin' JASON BAY, Canadian star of the woebegotten Pittsburgh Pirates. This week we're inaugurating a new feature here at the Southpaw: the Jason Bay Tradometer. We'll be monitoring the liklihood of Bay being moved sometime this season.

Why do that? Because he's one the greatest Canadian players in the history of the sport, a 4-tool talent and someone I'd very much like to see in a Jays uni.

Pittsburgh's losing ways have started to weigh heavily on Bay. He won the rookie of the year there in 2005 when the club finished 74-87. Next season he has a monster OPS+ of 150, but more of the same at 67-95. Two more seasons of 67 and 68 wins. There's little hope, other than the fact that they play in by far the worst division in baseball, on the horizon. Rotoworld sums 'er up pretty good: "Odds are that he'll never be a part of a Pirates club with a winning record."

It didn't help matters that the Pirates were one of the worst GM-ed clubs in the sport under the wacky Dave Littlefield regime to go along with being one of the smallest markets in the MLB. Replacement Neal Huntington is a more competent guy, but his hands will definitely be tied by a limited payroll and Littlefield's ludicris deadline addition of former Giants shitballer Matt Morris, who'll cost $9.5 million in '08 out of a total payroll of roughly $42 million. That was an act of mind-boggling stupidity which might put Bay, star that he is, beyond their means at the very reasonable price of $5.75 million this year.

Uncle Griff decided to weigh in on Bay in today's Star and I'm really going to go out on a limb here by guessing that he's got it all ass-backwards. Griff opens up with this odd analogy:

BRADENTON, Fla.-The Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates are similar in a couple of ways. Each believes that the limited size of its home market hinders its ability to compete and each has a Canadian baseball legend playing left field.

Okie... the Jays are actually a mid-market club no longer hindered by a weak Canadian currency and can pump about $100 million into payroll, probably a bit more. We're more on par with the St. Louis Cardinals than the Pirates. Nevertheless, we must press on...

The objectionable part of the piece is that Griff seems to believe that Bay's recent retreat from some of his more critical public comments regarding Pirates managment indicate that he's content playing in Pittsburgh.

"The club has gone forwards in leaps and bounds with the (coaching) staff and a lot of stuff like the new (spring training) facilities, just little changes that make a big difference," he said. "It's the little things, the attitude that as a player you notice. Compared to the last four or five years, there's a difference. Different for us is good."

And he continues:

"Whether you're playing chess, checkers or major league baseball, no one likes to lose," Bay said. "When you lose over and over, it's very frustrating. You want to win, but there's a lot of ways that people can help you do that. We've got some new things in place. We've got some optimism, for different reasons."


Bay's earlier comments lamented the fact that management didn't bring in any new players for a club that had more holes than a wedge of Swiss cheese. The above remarks don't say, "you know what? I've had a change of heart. I like this group and I think we can win in 2008." He's very politely saying that "now that I'm rubbing shoulder's with these people again on a daily basis I'd prefer not to rock the boat." He may be holding his tongue, but I really don't think the Pirates are capable of addressing the reasons why he's unhappy playing in Pittsburgh.

Griff does correctly note that the Pirates can't afford to retain Bay after 2009 when he becomes a free agent and must choose between trading him now for pieces to help down the road or to let him sign elsewhere and take the draft pick. I would add that it almost has to be the trade option by default since Huntington really needs to blow this team up and start from scratch. When you look at the return, say, Nick Swisher brought in (CF Ryan Sweeney, LHP Gio Gonzalez and RHP Fautino De Los Santos), Huntington would be a fool to settle for a single pick.

Now, it's the timing of the trade that's a matter of debate. Bay's value is at an all-time low due to an injury-riddled 2007 campaign where he finished with his first sub-100 OPS+ season as a full-timer. If he rebounds early in 2008, he could be moved as early as the deadline; if not, next offseason.

And now I finally get 'round to the Jays connection. Back in early December Blair noted that Jays President Paul Godfrey wants the club to acquire a "big name Canadian player." You can debate whether this makes sense or not until you're blue in the face, but the fact remains that the bean counters are asserting themselves here (like they did when it came to resigning V-Dub in 2006) because they perceive a financial logic to obtaining a Canuck star.

Godfrey was speaking more in general terms than specific when he said: "A front-of-the-rotation guy or a potential all-star like Bay ... you could sell a lot of tickets with that, as far as I'm concerned."

Continuing:

Godfrey says he has championed the cause of Canadian-born players in internal, pre-draft meetings, sometimes candidly, but he's wise enough to let his baseball people make the final call. And that will be the case this week, too - although it's clear that there's some brownie points to be scored here. "Young Canadians are playing a lot of baseball and playing it well," said Godfrey. "Having a Canadian player would allow us to keep the game front and centre. It would give young players someone to emulate."

Erik Bedard was apparently a target for Jays' brass at the winter meetings, but the O's refused to deal with us out of hand and he's since been moved to Seattle. Guys like Russ Martin and Justin Morneau are unobtainable. Jason Bay?

Bay is intriguing on several levels. Ricciardi's assistant G.M., Tony LaCava, lives in Pittsburgh and knows Bay from their days in the Montreal Expos' minor league system. Bay is coming off a down year, although he did not require knee surgery as was originally expected.

He is cheap, photogenic and would be as comfortable being the face of the Blue Jays across Canada as he has been being the face of the Pirates franchise. But he's also a right-hand-hitting outfielder, and the Blue Jays already have that commodity.

The last comment needs a caveat. Like Scott Rolen, Bay has always hit RHP and LHP almost equally well (career OPS of .874 and .940 respectively), making the side of the plate he hits from irrelevant.

At the very least, expect the Jays to be monitoring the Bay situation closely this summer. If they're a playoff contender come July, which they most likely will be, and if the Johnstairs platoon isn't yielding the desired results, dont' be too surprised if it gets hot and heavy between JP and Huntington. National pride aside, Bay is just a fantastic player and I'd be extremely chuffed to have him in a Jays uni. It's not as pie-in-the-sky as one might think.

ELSEWHERE:

* Two very different takes on what Fidel Casto's retirement means for the Jays and scouting Cuban ballplayers. Zwolinski at the Star interprets JP's recent comments as an indication that the club has no interest in taking advantage of Canada's warmer ties (well, warmer than non-existant; the island is a no-go area for Americans) with the Communist Island Paradise to do some advanced research on Cuban talent. Jeremy Sandler at the National Post reads it totally differently, seeing a typical JP "we'll have a look, let's not expect the world" approach.

Guys, JP speaks with a forked tongue, so you have to listen to him carefully.

Sandler notes:

As a Canadian team with Canadian assistant general managers in Bart Given and Alex Anthopolous — who are free to travel to Cuba — Toronto could in theory scout directly in Cuba right now even with the strict U.S. economic sanctions that are in place. But Ricciardi said the team is governed by Major League Baseball rules that prohibit such activity.

Apparently JP did sign a Cuban defector last summer by the name of Kenny Rodriguez, a right-handed pitcher who should be at spring training sometime this week.

Note to self: it's probably worth checking the Post's sports page more regularly...

* MacLeod's "Six Concerns for the Jays" are 1. the 5th starter, 2. the Beej, 3. the youngsters, 4. the offence (especially V-Dub), 5. injuries, and 6. road suckage.

* A nice long talk with Gibby in the Globe.

* Sparky tells Ken Fidlin at the Sun that he's healthy for 2008.

* The Star, Sun and Globe all come out with pretty much the same story (tailored to the respective literacy rates of their readership), with optimistic news about the Beej being ready for Opening Day.

-- Johnny Was

Friday, 22 February 2008

Morning Update



Slow news day, really. Let's launch into some bits of interest:

* The Star chimes in on ex-D-Rays reliever Lance Carter, a non-roster invitee to spring training who was banished to the Land of Wind and Ghosts last year. Zwolinski really reaches by calling him "a dark horse candidate to crack the Jays bullpen this spring." Carter might be a wonderful human being, but he hasn't got a chance in hell of cracking our bullpen. Minor League filler at best, which is fine. You need guys like this in the system.

* Uncle Griff sees something he likes, and that thing/person is none other than Dustin McGowan (aka Mr. Burns)! Griff says the Jays need to look to their post-Doc/AJ rotation (!!! the latter, yes, but the former?) and "should start promoting a top of the rotation with more upside." Oh my fucking God, what a revolutionary strategy that will turn the baseball world on its head! Blah blah blah, Burnett's worth determined by his Win total, some bollocks about about a pitcher supposed "rank" in the rotation being important, etc., skimming along until BLAM:

Meanwhile, McGowan, who will pitch at 26, matched Burnett's top win total in his first full season. He had Tommy John surgery in '04, but the big Georgia native has not been on the disabled list since returning from his rehab. McGowan must be the Jays' second-best pitcher, and the transition is happening before our eyes.

Well, fucko, you just jinxed him. Mr. Burns is now bound to the first of our pitchers to hit the DL this year.

* The Globe reports that AJ really took it easy in the offseason to save his bullets for the regular season. He's not ready to throw live BP, etc. Seems like a non-story...

* Troy Glaus takes the high road on comments from Doc that might have be interpreted as a diss. To refresh your memory, Doc said he was enthused about Rolen's arrival because it brought "a sense of urgency to the team which was lacking in 2007." Instead of ripping a respected former teammate a new one:

Glaus listened and paused before he answered.

"I don't think anyone with (the Jays) wanted to win more than I did," Glaus said. "Would I have rather stayed healthy? No doubt. No one wants to get hurt."

No slight was intended and none perceived. Good luck in STL, Big Troy.

*
Gary Sheffield is feuding with ex-agent/Satanic Affairs liason Scott Boras. These two assholes deserve each other.

* Manny's saying he wants to retire with the Bosox. Give it a few days...

* Will the Mets and Phillies throw down this year? Players from both sides seem to think they will. I guess this goes to show that most players are hardly more mature than your average bulletin board poster.

-- Johnny Was