Monday, June 30, 2008

Scheduling Conflicts

So apparently it's too much to ask for the Jays to play at home during Canada Day. I realize the major league schedule is done by computer now, but I don't think it's too much to ask for the Jays to play a home game on July 1st. It's a little ridiculous that the last major league Canadian team can't even play a home game on Canada day.

There's 81 home games, and they couldn't have started or ended one series on Canada Day?

Twitchy.

Regime Change + 9

As any Joe Fafafel in downtown Baghdad will tell you, there are winners and losers when one hated regime crumbles in favour of a soon-to-be equally loathed successor. Nine games under Cito really isn't a large enough sample size to come to any major conclusions, but admit that there is a very subjective air of improvement surrounding the club since the beloved, Morgan Freeman classy ex-skipper retook the helm. We can revisit this in October, but so far who's winning and who's losing under the new regime?

WINNERS:

The Offence as a whole: averaging 5.2 runs per game since Cito took over, which is more than the pitching staff should need to win a good chunk of games in the second half. Now, there were two shutouts in there and yesterday's one-run victory, but it's heartening to see extra base hits after a general three month hiatus for slugging. I share Twitchy's view that there wasn't anything philosophically wrong with the Denbo Approach, it just did not resonate with the personnel JP has assembled here. It's not you, it's us, Gary.

Adam Lind: he's up, he's playing and he's here for good. The young favourite of gay photogs everywhere has rewarded Cito for his vote of confidence by socking a pair of dingers and driving in 5 since his recall. Put a fork in Shannon Stewart cos he's done!

Starters with macho attitudes: back in the pre-stike era, it was pretty much a daily occurance to see the manager do his cowboy saunter up to the mound to ask his pitcher if he felt man enough to finish the inning. That's how it worked in the olden days when nobody cared about pitch counts. Expect to see starters go deeper into games when they're going well compared to the John Gibbons era. AJ Burnett will like this, McGowan too might do with a bit of mental toughening that accompanies this ritual even if it runs the risk of blowing out his arm. Will Doc throw 10 complete games in the second half?

As an aside, I've long wondered how many 200-pitch starts Nolan Ryan had. That's right, I'm absolutely convinced he touched 200 on more than one occasion.

Tony LaCava: see JP Ricciardi below. LaCava is the Jays director of player personnel and is a rumoured GM candidate in pretty much every town where there's an opening. He may well end up wearing the captain's hat in TO a few months down the road.

LOSERS:

JP Ricciardi: It appears to all that the Jays' ass clown GM is just running down the clock before an inevitable firing at the end of the season. I outlined the case against JP earlier this month and RicciarDunngate has only made him look worse since. He's embarassed himself in public (not good), and more importantly, failed to win with cash to play with for three years in a row.

Brandon League: I don't make accusations of racism lightly, but it's tough not to come to the conclusion that Cito is indeed racist against fire-balling Hawaiian relievers. Why hasn't he pitched since his recall? Are we afraid of Ks and ludicris ground ball percentages? Eh?

Brad Wilkerson: he was JP's guy, not Cito's, and is now relegated to back up OF and pinch hitting duties from here on out. Rejoice!

Brian Butterfield: he didn't get canned, which must've made Mrs. Butterfield quite happy, but now has a more established, politically-secure boss than John Gibbons. If he aspires to manage (as I'm sure he does) that opportunity is probably farther off in the distance than it was a month ago. I certainly don't think Cito is here to finish the season then ride off into the sunset: expect him to stick at the helm in 2009.

I've been promised a gameday report from Seattle from Jay K. and my brother, Mattius, who join us here at The Southpaw as live West Coast correspondents for the Jays-Mariners series. Like peyote-scarfing Mexican lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Jay is also "too weird to live, too unique to die", so prepare yourself for some hilarity.

-- Johnny Was

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wolfe a starter?

Well, I guess I was half right in my last post. Wolfe got demoted - but because they want to make him a starter. Wolfe's looked a lot better against lefties this year, but it's only been around 6 1/3 innings against them. Last year he was downright awful against lefty batters, so I'm worried that making him a starter might expose that weakness.

Parrish had a terrific start, but keep in mind the Braves are a team that's extremely weak against Southpaws - as a team they have a 714 OPS, good enough for 23rd overall in the majors. So while Parrish looked sharp, a good part of that is due to the Braves lack of offense against lefties. Sell high, and sell fast...

League continues to sit around in the bullpen, waiting for the call. I heard JC talking (I muted most of the game but I needed a good laugh for a few minutes) and he said Gaston wasn't going to put in League unless the game was guaranteed for the Jays or they're down by about 10 runs. So with a 6-1 lead, wouldn't it have made sense to go to League instead of Tallet? Obviously it sounds like I'm bitter Tallet gave up 4 runs, which isn't the case. But League needs to start pitching, or he'll get rusty, and it'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy in which League won't have any control cause he isn't playing - which leads to less playing time, and more rust, and more control problems...

Twitchy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

They picked the wrong Southpaw...

With Shaun Marcum on the d/l, the Jays have decided to recall John Parrish to pitch in Marcum's absence. I speak for all of us here at The Southpaw when I say that we would have rather seen Purcey get another shot, but such is life.

The article mentions a reliever will get sent down - in my opinion, it'll be one of Frasor or League. Wolfe would be a surprising choice, although he'd be the guy I recommend. I've never been a big fan of his, and I'll join the "what have you done for me lately" train and bash Wolfe all the way down to AAA.

Odds are Brandon League (who has yet to throw a pitch since being recalled) will be sent down. Why he hasn't pitched even an inning of mop up (when Frasor has even warmed up in the bullpen!) is shocking to me. What's the point of wasting his service time if you refuse to use him?

Parrish is an odd choice - he has no options left, so he can't be sent down without being picked off waivers. So here are the possibilities of what could happen with Parrish:

A) Sticks in the bullpen
B) Sticks in the rotation due to an AJ trade or another injury (Marcum doesn't recover as quickly as was thought)
C) Is traded after a good AAA year and a couple of good spot starts
D) Is sent back to AAA and either claimed or unclaimed (my bet on claimed)

Again, the issue with bringing up Parrish for a short-term injury is you can't send him back down to AAA without risking losing him. For short-term stuff, Purcey is the right guy to bring up. If there is a long-term injury, than yeah, Parrish makes more sense. But for a short-term injury? Doesn't seem like the right move to me.

Twitchy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Late BWNR


It occurs to me I missed the every-other-Sunday schedule for the rankings Sunday, so I'll make up for lost ground. I present, btw, in anticipation of the U.S. Independence Day Holiday the lovely and talented Amanda Tapping (as you'll never see her on Stargate SG-1!) for your viewing pleaser.

New #1 team this time around, and some not insignificant changes in the rankings (including the again plunging Blue Jays - these rankings reflect results through Sunday so take that into consideration (as if you care).

1. Chicago Cubs
2. Boston
3. LA Angels
4. St Louis
5. Tampa Bay
6. Oakland
7. NY Yankees
8. Philadelphia
9. Chicago White Sox
10. Milwaukee
11. Florida
12. Arizona
13. Minnesota
14. NY Mets
15. Atlanta
16. Baltimore
17. Texas
18. LA Dodgers
19 Toronto
20 Detroit
21. Pittsburgh
22. Houston
23. Cleveland
24. Kansas City
25. Cincinnati
26. Colorado
27. San Francisco
28. Washington
29. San Diego
30. Seattle

~WillRain

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The more things change....

I was expecting to lose 2-1 after the offensive onslaught, so I have to consider some elements of tonights game a success. Adam Lind continues to prove he's a competent major leaguer, hitting a 2 run bomb to put the Jays back in the game. He added a bunt - and while it looked awful, it was perfectly placed. I'd look for him to start moving up the order within the next week or two.

Joe Inglett has been under the radar this season, but he's given the Jays a huge boost. Hitting 313/383/458 coming into the game, Inglett has made us all forget that Hill has been out for a couple of weeks now. Does anybody know if he can play SS? Cause if he can, I'd love to see the Jays give him a shot there - any chance to keep his hot bat in the lineup would be clutch.

The offense looked pretty solid out there - no, they didn't win the game, but scoring 5 runs (in the same game!) and coming from behind is a great sign. I know some people will argue the philosophy stayed the same, but something must have happened. Maybe it's the shitty Reds pitching...ok, a lot of it is the shitty Red's pitching. But some of it, in my opinion, has to be attributed to what looks like a more aggressive Jays team. This series is the first one in a long time that I'd consider 'exciting'.

Rolen & Overbay should take the blame for this one. Bases loaded & nobody out, and they channeled the Gibbons-esque Blue Jays - shallow pop up, and a 1-2-3 DP.

Let me just say that I love Halladay...in a platonic way. But I don't understand how Tabler (or others) can claim he had a "good outing". He got pwned left right and center, and there was nothing good about his start other than he didn't give up a run every inning. If this was AJ, we'd be hearing about how his problems are in his head and other nonsense about why he's got a million dollar arm but a 10 cent head.

I definetly wasn't a big fan of Cito's bullpen management tonight. It worked out, but I wasn't too pleased with letting Doc, who clearly looked like a fork had been stuck in him, pitch to the last couple of left handed batters (Griffey, Votto), and nearly giving the game away right then and there. I understand Doc's the ace of the staff, and you'd give him a chance when you wouldn't anybody else. But he'd given up 5 runs, thrown 115 pitches by this point, and couldn't hit the strike zone.

If Doc was blindfolded, he could hit his spots perfectly. So if he's missing, it's cause he's tired, and at that point in the game needs to be pulled. Not only did Cito give up the platoon advantage for Downs, but he nearly gave up the game by allowing Doc to face those hitters. I know it worked out, and it could have been a one game thing. But I felt it was worth bringing up because there was too much risk involved just to get Halladay a "W".

Twitchy.

Wake me up, I must be dreaming

It's only one game, but I think Cito & Tenace have already made a big impact on the team. It's been mentioned before that their goal was to get this team to be more aggressive earlier in the count, and get back to doing whatever it was that got them to the majors - pulling the ball, hitting to all fields - and sticking to that game plan.

The scouting report on the Jays as a team was obviously to get ahead in the count, knowing the Jays would take some pitches, and once ahead expand the zone and take advantage of a pitchers count. But tonight, when Arroyo through fastball after fastball down the middle, the Jays jumped on it and crushed everything Arroyo threw at them.

Alex Rios hit a HR for what seemed like the first time since 2006. I'm really hoping that he's starting to find his groove, rather than him just taking advantage of a ridiculously bad Arroyo. Rolen and Zaun also joined in on the HR fun, and it was nice to see Rolen show some power. As I mentioned earlier, he had a 100 AB streak where he was basically a good singles hitter with discipline.

Adam Lind only went 2-5 last night, driving in a run and boosting his average to 185. He's hitting 500/556/875 since his return to the majors, in a grand total of 8 AB's. If we can call him a bust after 19 at bats, then we should give him an MVP award based on 8 AB's too.

Edit: I forgot to add that I'm really hoping that this offensive outburst has more to do with the Jays being aggressive, and not because Bronson Arroyo sucks.

Lost in the offensive outburst was the return to form of AJ Burnett. He pitched 8 dominant innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 ER, 3BB and 7K's. Tallet was pretty good in the 9th as well, allowing no hits, no walks & striking out one. I still feel a little nervous when he's pitching, but you have to admire the depth of the Jays bullpen that with a 13 run lead, the Jays can trot out a pitcher with a 2.17 ERA heading into the game (now 2.10).

Considering the struggles of virtually every bullpen in the game, it would be wise for the Jays to trade a couple of relievers for prospects or even in a package to help them acquire an upgrade in the lineup. Tallet, Frasor and Wolfe could all be moved, and considering the market for relievers the Jays could expect a decent piece in return. Well, not for Frasor, but for a lefty with a 2.10 ERA who can get RH batters out, and a young, cheap RH reliever in Wolfe, they should be able to get a return.

If any of the names I mentioned are traded, the Jays will not have to go out and find a new reliever. They have several options in AAA, most notably Davis Romero.

The big question on my mind is where do the Jays go from here? The best case scenario is that the offense starts performing to pre-season expectations, and is a middle of the pack AL lineup. Not a great one, but with this pitching staff, enough to have a very competitive season. The other scenario, one we've seen too many times over the past 4-5 years, is that after a big win like this the Jays lose the next two games 2-1 and 6-3. I think tonights game of Halladay vs Harang (who up to this year had been one of the most underrated starters in the NL) will go a long way too showing us if the Jays are for real or not.

Twitchy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Roundup JR


Alright, so it's a little late but it can't hurt to do it now...

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Shaun Marcum is going to be ok. Well, according to Doc Andrews, the report says that he "confirmed the Blue Jays’ diagnosis that the pitcher has strained ligaments around the elbow and forearm but nothing more worrisome. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday."

So he doesn't need TJ surgery or anything crazy, and he should be back to help anchor the rotation while only missing a couple of starts. The most popular names to get spot-start opportunities include John Parrish & David Purcey. There are some open spots on the 40 man roster, which means that Parrish could be added and brought up. I'm hoping it's Purcey, who hopefully does so well that it encourages the Jays to trade AJ ASAP. I have my doubts that AJ will be a type A free agent, and I'm not alone in this belief.

If AJ isn't a type A free agent, the Jays absolutely need to grab at least two prospects in a trade. Otherwise I believe the only compensation they'll get from him is a supplemental round pick.

Speaking of the devil, AJ faces off against Bronson Arroyo. An interesting matchup against the Jays - Bronson is worse away from his home park, which is surprising considering that a routine fly ball anywhere else is a HR there. Arroyo has had a ton of HR problems this season - luckily for him the Jays refuse to hit any. Expect another 0-0 game, unless....Adam Dunn decides to pretend JP's face is on every baseball thrown to him. Despite a 219 BA, Dunn has still managed a ridiculous 384 OBP, and an even more impressive 491 slugging. If his BA is 250, we're talking about a 530-540 slugging!

I have nothing against Gary Denbo, but his philosophy didn't seem well suited to the Jays. I love having patient hitters, but the collection of hitters JP assembled are built to hit the first good pitch they see and, in most cases, pull it as hard as they could. Denbo essentially wanted them to draw out an at bat and use the whole field, which I believe may have played a part in the offensive struggles so far. Which is why at some level, it's very refreshing to hear this:

"We have to get back to the basics," Tenace said. "We've got to get more aggressive in the strike zone. The on-base percentage will take care of itself. I think they're a little tentative at the plate. They're feeling for the ball.

"We've got to get more aggressive and let it go. Then, let's see how we do with that. Once we get a couple of these guys going, it's kind of contagious."

I think I mentioned something to this effect in one of my earlier posts. Once they stop taking pitches and hit the first good pitch that they like, they should start getting back to hitting to their career #'s. And like Tenace says, one these guys start feeling comfortable, the walks will start coming naturally. I didn't have a lot of faith in the bats returning to their previous levels of established production, but maybe there's a chance that things can turn around. I'm not talking about reaching the playoffs - just hitting the damn ball. I'm tired of 1-0 games.

Look, I think bringing back Gaston isn't a horrible move. I mean, he seems to be making the decisions here. All indications are that he wanted Lind in LF, which makes Gaston a hero in my books. He brought up League too, and again, these were moves that should have been made sooner rather than later. So I'd definetly like him to have some input on the 25 man roster. But this article by Griffin about how Gaston should be GM is downright retarded.

There's a big difference between being a GM & being a manager. Gaston is clearly a smart baseball man, and can make a difference as a manager. He's obviously good at getting players to be calm, relaxed, and produce well. Look at the difference between Lind now and earlier in the season - one Lind looked like he knew he'd be sent down if he didn't hit like Lance Berkman, and the other looked like he knew that he'd get a shot at playing whether or not he hit like Neifi Perez. So from an outside point of view, Gaston seems to be extremely good at communicating, and I'll buy into the fact that maybe, he can get underpeforming players to perform better.

But being a GM is more complicated than that. He's got to focus on every single player in the organization - he needs to know when to promote who, who to demote, who to release, and most importantly, what to trade for. Knowing who to acquire is one thing, knowing what to give up to acquire who you need. And I don't know if Gaston is the best candidate for the job. Everytime a GM spot opens up La Cava's name pops up, so when JP is kicked to the curb, I'd love to see La Cava get a shot.

Another thing is that it's very rare to have a manager be a GM. It's just too much work, and I'd rather have Gaston focused on getting the most out of the 25 men playing for the Jays, than worrying about balancing the present & future of the organization.

Shame on Griffin for even suggesting it. I'll throw out one thing he said that really bothered me (and only one, because otherwise i'd be quoting the entire damn thing):
That leaves the GM's role. Baseball's best GMs are not necessarily the smartest. They are the best because they surround themselves with complementary talents. If Gaston became GM (and he likes living in Toronto, as opposed to some) he already has a talented young assistant in Canadian Alex Anthopoulos to handle the minutiae and contracts. As for the senior guys on the baseball side, Gaston has a lot of friends from his many years in baseball to tap into.

Really? Baseball's best Gm's aren't the smartest? You're gonna tell me Beane & John Schuerholz aren't (or weren't in Schuerholz case) the smartest in the game, or even the most successful GM's considering their respective situations? Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck is this bullshit? The GM better be the fucking smartest person on the team. He's gotta make the most important decisions on the team. And if Gaston has this talented assistant (who hypothetically stays assistant GM despite being brushed aside for a guy who's essentially never worked in a front office position like a GM), why wouldn't the fucking talented assistant be GM over Gaston?

So yeah. Gaston is a big help as a manager, but this is just ridiculous. La Cava for GM, starting 09! Git'er'done!

Elsewhere:

Barry Zito is apparently "making mechanical adjustments" which would help him increase his velocity and give him more movement. My inside sources tell me that his increased velocity was due to a light breeze that carried the ball almost all the way to home plate before bouncing in the dirt. Brian Sabean continues to compete with Richard Griffin for "The how the fuck does this guy still have a job?" award.

Once again, I'm sorry this was done so late. I'll do my best to do it in the morning tomorrow...

Twitchy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Waiting for the Miracle

Sure, the Jays could do something crazy like running the table against the Reds and Braves this week to square it away at .500 by the halfway point, but don't bank on it. We've reached the point, so far as I see it, that there's really no longer any point in stressing. Heads have rolled (likely to be followed by that of the GM in a few months) and you're better off just enjoying the sport for what it is, a lightly sozzled afternoon at the ballpark, the play of recently recalled youngsters (Adam Lind/Brandon League = Generation Deuce?), etc. than bashing your head against the wall.

Go wit' it now (in a Zach de la Rocha voice).

There was that win there yesterday in Pittsburgh and one has to figure that a zesty mordant performance from young Adam Lind (homer, single, walk) this year is another nail in JP's coffin. I'm not even saying it in that snide told-you-so voice, I'm just making note of it. On the highlight shows, Lindy admitted to be nervous his first go up this year and Cito was responsible for keeping him level-headed by naming him the everyday left fielder without crossing his fingers. Gay photographers everywhere rejoice.

Blair notes that the Gary Denbo approach is no more in favour of a grip it and rip it philosophy. Expect fewer walks and more power. There is no no. 1 catcher and BA/Zaunner will split time. Good, both will stay fresh through the dog days. Alex Rios will hit third, Overbay second (or fifth), and there'll be less lineup tinkering. John McDonald will be dusted off more frequently then he was under the previous regime. Marco Scutaro remains in Cito's good graces. And so on and so forth.

Given the spectacular disappointment of the first three months of the season, I'm not opposed to change for change's sake. This is all about as exciting as an Evangeline Lilly nipple slip.

There is no Jays baseball tonight, which prolly isn't such a bad thing. I'm away until the weekend and once again leave you in the competent, capable hands of my co-writers. I reckon they nailed it more often than Ron Jeremy while I was in Vancouver, so consider yourselves lucky.

Peace out,

Johnny Was

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Can I get an Amen?


I just got home from work, otherwise I would have posted this earlier:

"The Blue Jays were in need of a pitcher after placing starter Shaun Marcum on the disabled list before Saturday’s game. Outfielder Adam Lind was recalled to take his roster spot, and new manager Cito Gaston said the team wanted Lind to play everyday".

It's about damn time. I don't need to go over the reasons why it's a good move, because I've mentioned it in almost every post. But I'm looking forward to seeing Lind playing LF for the future. Let's hope he gets off to a better start this time around!

In other news...

"The Toronto Blue Jays optioned outfielder Kevin Mench to Triple-A Syracuse after losing their seventh game in a row Saturday night and recalled right-handed pitcher Brandon League."

League is back! About damn time too. I don't know why they're bringing him up to essentially replace Marcum's spot - I figure Purcey would make more sense, or even John Parrish. The article points out League never started in the majors, so it's possible (read: damn near impossible) that League will start in Marcum's place.

Damn, League AND Lind called up in the same day. I'm pretty damn happy right now. There might actually be a reason to watch a game or two...

Twitchy.

Quick Hits

There's too much news around Jays land for it to go unremarked upon here, at least in brief. What follows is more an attempt to give you an omnibus of the developments, rumors, and speculations out there than to expound on them (albeit you know I can't entirely refrain from comment).

Item - Shaun Marcum has been placed in the 15-day DL, will miss at least two starts and visit Dr. Andrews. Anyone NOT in a state of terror about this is not a Jays fan. In the short term, the impact is minimal. There are so many off days between now and the break that we will only need a fifth starter once before the Yankees series that closes out the first half. That's probably going to be John Parrish this time. Long term, say all the prayers you know that this is mild and not the harbinger of Tommy John surgery.

Item - AJ Burnett's name keeps coming up in connection with the Phillies. The decision here, from their perspective, likely turns on whether it is best to act swiftly and get more starts, or wait and get in on the presumed Sabathia sweepstakes. The Phillies don't have stellar prospects but Greg Golson and Kyle Drabek have some appeal.

Item - JP apologized to the Reds and Adam Dunn for his brainless moment Wednesday night. Dunn was not forgiving but Jocketty noted that JP had mentioned to him that he had just found out he had to fire the manager and half the coaching staff. While the flub is indefensible, I for one am inclined to sympathize with a man who - while under astounding stress - said something stupid. Perhaps it is easy to dismiss JP as a cold calculating bastard but maybe, just MAYBE, the guy really did feel crushed by the idea that he had to put four men he had hired, at least one of whom was a long time close friend, on the unemployment line. Maybe he's human.

Item - Adam Lind was called up when Marcum hit the DL. This is great news provided he gets to play. Cito was, back in the day, notorious for favoring veterans but I do not think for a minute that Lind, given how he has been handled before, was called up to sit. In fact, I would say he'll play every single day and this will be because either (a) we all know that the odds of contending are getting so long there's no point in the pretense; or (b) he's going to be featured in hopes he rips up major league pitching and makes himself a valuable chip for - presumably - Jason Bay. In any case, we can all agree that the greatest crime of all would be to sit him in the majors while Wilkerson got to play.

Item - Uncle Dick speculates that JP is on very very thin ice and cites the fact that Cito is exactly the sort of move JP would not have made (which may well be true but not for the reasons Griff cites) and smells of Godfrey (which is hardly news) - but also because, so he claims, Godfrey was incensed by the Dunn Incident.

Item - Doc was said to be "day to day" after the liner off his head, but the initial report is that he is good to go for his next start. If he had had an Aaron Hill-like reaction then there could be no doubt that the team is in free-fall for the foreseeable future. It is, IMO, beyond bizzare that this runaway train of losses is compounded by so much other bad news.

Item - last report says Hill, btw, is still out indefinitely. Safe to say until at least the break. Blair reports the concussion specialist told the team he should do nothing baseball related for at least two weeks.

Item - Mench is out and Brandon League is recalled. Obvious moves, not worth in depth comments.

~WillRain

Friday, June 20, 2008

Desperate times call for....

Well, the most vocal of the fans have insisted for two months now that times were desperate. It is a measure of just how good this team seemed on paper that so many were so very dissatisfied with the results. It is odd then, that so many are so quick to want JP's head for putting together a team which, in March, filled them with such hope.

That aside, if the general consensus is that it's time for a desperation move (and even a realist about the numbers like myself would agree that a normal sideways type move is not enough to shake the bad juju around this team - if you are going to make a move, it does have to be a bold one) and if you listened to JP with Wilner Wednesday night, it was clear he was driven to the very edge (so much for the guy who "doesn't seem to care") and so the stage was clearly set for a bold move.

Now, whatever you might think of Cito in this situation, there was a limited number of things that the Jays could do that would really be a "game changer" and this was probably the only one in which the logistics come together in their favor. So, there were only three real choices here:

1. Stick with Gibby and watch the maddness slowly consume us all;
2. Bring in some interim flunky who would not be able to reverse the bad juju and write off the season as lost; or
3. Make a bold, desperate, stab at a magical turnaround with what I'm sure even JP and Cito would admit is a bit of a Hail Mary Pass.

In that context, I don't have an issue with this move. I'm not sure at all what I think of it beyond this season, I'd have to give it more thought. In the meantime, here are some quick hits I want to get on the table:

A. Cito is not the manager that his legend among many Jays' fans suggest, but he is, I think, a good fit for the team JP has assembled because he is notorious for preferring veterans and this is not a team which relies on youth (outside Jessie Litsch);

B. Bringing back the old coaches is more questionable but if Cito really is here for the short haul he might as well not have to break in new people he hasn't worked with;

C. John Gibbons is a guy who can win in the right situation and I look forward to seeing him do well in his next major league managing position. This was a situation that got beyond what he could have reasonably been expected to turn around;

D. Gary Denbo is a victim of circumstance. No one comes that highly recommended and single handedly destroys a team's hitting ability;

E. It is excellence that the Jays didn't fire Butterfield, in fact, that leads me to some raw supposition which I can't prove but which I think might be an ideal way for this to play out:

I suspect that we may well see Cito insist that he is here only out of respect for the franchise and he has no ambition to manage the team beyond this year (albeit it also raises his profile for another long term job with another team). I think that he will be understood by all as a guy who is here to stop the bleeding and provide a radical change of direction for THIS season because small measures would not do.

I imagine that in the offseason he will step aside, and that the Jays will give the job to Butterfield. If you are wondering why not do that now, my answer is that hiring Butters now is not enough of a "bold stroke" to alter the landscape of this season, and if this season continued down the tubes under Butterfield it would undermine his effectiveness in the future.

I think, if that plays out as I envision, it is a VERY smart way to play it.

As for my buddies at DJF and the theory that JP is covering his ass on the Dunn fiasco, I am not so conspiratorial because of two things: first, it is obvious that the on-field results demanded action now if action was ever going to happen; and second, JP telegraphed the move by bragging about Cito in the same conversation that he ripped Dunn. I think one can infer from that comment that JP knew then what he was going to do with the manager's job so the timing is coincidental.

Misty Water Colour Memories

Did I wake up this morning, put on my tightest pair of acid washed jeans then tune into my transistor radio to hear a rock block of Madonna's "Like a Prayer", Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" followed by news that the Berlin Wall had come down?

No? It's not 1989?

As you've likely already heard, Cito Gaston is back in the managerial saddle and has brought Gene Tenace (but not Galen Cisco) along for the ride. Is Galen Cisco still alive? This is most likely a desperate attempt by JP and/or Godfrey to give the ticket-buying masses enough hope to still keep on coming down to the Rogers Centre this summer.

Or maybe it's all a smoke screen to divert attention from JP's highly inappropriate comments about Adam Dunn on Jaystalk last Wednesday. In any event, this is all about PR, people, and JP wasn't about to fire himself. At least he was big enough to admit that "I share the blame along with Gibby and we all know we have a better team than this." The hangman hasn't put his noose away quite yet and JP may still share the same fate as his former roommate.

Along with John Gibbons, Gary Denbo gets to wear the goat horns for the team's underwhelming 35-39 start, as does third base coach Marty Pevey to a lesser extent. JP had been looking for an excuse to fire Ernie Whitt for some time, so he gets shuffled out the door as well. In as base coaches are Cito's buddies Dwayne Murphy and Nick Leyva.

Don't get me wrong, I'm cynical about this move but that doesn't mean I'm against it. I've been indifferent towards John Gibbons for some time now; he, like JP, is thoroughly average at what he does, making few outrageous mistakes to accompany the rare master stroke. Although this deck chair shuffle was probably unnecessary, Cito's classy Morgan Freeman-esque bearing during the press conference in Pittsburgh this afternoon is somewhat reassuring to me in this time of crisis.

Lest we forget that sandwiched between the 1989 miracle comeback and the 1992 and 1993 powerhouses Cito managed a fourth overlooked playoff squadron. The '91 Jays parlayed the 11th worst offense in the AL and the best team ERA into a 91-win season and AL East title. They ultimately got steamrolled in the ALCS by the Twins, who went on to win the World Series, but still. They got in, and that's all that matters these days.

The similarities between that club and this one are much greater than their differences. Those Jays had very little power from their starting nine (only Joe Carter and the Ghost of Kelly Gruber hit 20 dingers or better), but compensated with blinding speed and a stellar rotation of Jimmy Key, David Wells, Todd Stottlemyre, Juan Guzman, trade deadline pickup Tom Candiotti and the Ghost of Dave Stieb. Well, we can't equal the speed of Devo and Robbie this year, but you know what I'm driving at: great pitching CAN mask a weak offense.

When things were rolling before the team imploded in the mid-90s, Cito had the managerial intangibles that made the Jays win more games than their pythagorean said they should've. Yes, that's right, intangibles, and I'd say the same thing now about Ozzie Guillen or Ron Gardenhire. Cito was famous for reading pitchers who tipped their pitches (think Robbie Alomar homering off Dennis Eckersley in the '92 ALCS) or fell into patterns. His skill set doesn't count for nothing and is almost certainly greater than that of the departed John Gibbons.

His handling of a spastic young David Wells was legendary. If you don't remember, Boomer once objected to getting the hook early and chose to throw the ball down the third base line in disgust rather than hand it over to his manager. When he got shelled again in his next start, Cito left him in to take his lumps and refused to pull the portly southpaw. Point made. AJ Burnett, take note.

Cito says "We're gonna try to start the season over tonight." I know better than to expect a miracle, but am wishing him well all the same.

-- Johnny Was

The Roundup

After calling yesterday's game a Jimmy the Greek "Lock of the Week" victory for the Jays, I am clearly no match for the ESPN Supercomputer and you should disregard every prediction I make from here on out. A final note in that vein: in betting circles the logic is that you always bet with the streak rather than against it, so expect the Jays (losers of 5 straight and 13 of 17) to tank once again at PNC against the Pirates tonight. But hey, at least we get to see Jason Bay play, right?

When he's not calling out players on opposing teams and then apologizing for it, JP Ricciardi likes to do a bit of wheeler-dealer-ing. Well, The Big Man was at it again, netting us righty reliever Jonah Bayliss, 27, in a blockbuster deal with the the Buccos that is sending shockwaves throughout the league. Lah-dee-dah. Bayliss has shown little of note through his pro career and won't make it up to the big club unless JP trades his entire bullpen at the deadline.

The gruff Bob Elliot over at the Sun has seen enough of this horseshit. I admit to kind of liking Elliot's gravelly demeanour and Hemmingway-esque unwillingness to stretch a sentence beyond 10 words. He's direct, consistent, and to the point unlike those pinko college boys over at the Star. The Man, in his own words:

This season, which began with much promise, is over.

Fuck yeah, they just can't teach that shit at j-school.

After following up a 20-10 May with a 4-12 June, Elliot reckons that Godfrey and JP will be in Pittsburgh this weekend with the guillotine set to wide-necked Texan. Ok, maybe so, but firing the manager without shitcanning the GM who locked up average-ish players at pretty much every position is cosmetic and pointless. A clean sweep in November is what we need and Godfrey too should be committing seppuku for his role in this debacle.

The Oracle is the foremost authority on the Jays in the paid media, fullstop, period, no debate. He implies that the odds of Gibbons getting fired this weekend are about even, but hopes that the team has hit "rock bottom" once again (last time was in Cleveland) and will get back up on its feet and stay there. I appreciate his enthusiasm, but I do not share it.

MLBastian, the self-censoring official MLB version of Wilner, takes his criticism of JP's recent conduct about as far as his corporate overlords will permit. You really have to fuck up badly to get one of these guys on your back.

The peerless Jon Hale at the Mockingbird rightfully frets over whether AJ Burnett will be classed as a type A free agent at the end of the year because if he's not the Jays end up losing a draft pick when he opts out. Early indications are that the 2009 draft class is a weak one and if that's the case I'm going to tentatively suggest that we'd be better off trading AJ soon for a known-ish commodity rather than accepting just one late first round pick as FA compensation. None of us was overly chuffed with David Cooper at 17 this year and I'd be disappointed with another selection in the same vein next year.

Also don't forget that relations between Hangin' Tough and club brass could very well turn nasty if the downward spiral continues. AJ was sent home for the final week of the 2005 season after calling out Marlins management and with the door about to hit him on the ass on the way out of Toronto, don't be too shocked if there's a repeat here.

And then Sal Fasano re-emerges, this time with the Indians.

The subliminal messages in these Canadian Forces commercials are really doing the trick. Anyone feel like doing a tour in Afghanistan with me?

ELSEWHERE:

* Most overrated player in baseball as voted by the players? Derek Jeter. And did you know that he says "ain't" deliberately? Learn more about "ain't" at your local library.

* Curt Schilling is done for the year and probably for his career. So long, fucker.

-- Johnny Was

Thursday, June 19, 2008

For whom the bell tolls

Over at Batter's Box, the learned elders of the Jays blogosphere have been debating whether JP Gibbons and his cohort John Gibbons should be escorted down to Pearson International and invited to never return to the Great White North. It's been an interesting debate and if you've got time to spare I'd highly recommend giving it a look in full.

If you don't, here are some of the highlights:

* most of the educated set (e.g. not your typical JaysTalk caller) are ready to see them both fired
* does the rot start with Paul Godfrey? Should he be shown the door as well? I've shared the suspicions of those who felt he forced the V-Dub extension on JP and catagorically refused to countenance bringing in Bonds after the Frank Thomas Fiasco, so maybe there's something to this
* 7 years in the same position with the same club is a very long tenure for a ML GM, to maintain one's job that long when one's club hasn't played a single meaningful game after Civic Holliday Monday in early August is pushing the odds. The early years were lean times, yes, but over the past 3 years he's had more money to play with than, say, Mark Shapiro or Kevin Towers, guys who've done more with less
* bringing in gap-fillers, cheap veterans, quality discarded bullpen arms is a very fine skill... for an assistant GM. Someone in JP's position can't always be nibbling around the edges without making the big moves that really make the club better
* if JP is better than average, he's still no better than average + and that's just not good enough in this AL East context
* and so on...

Is it a contradiction to preach patience with the club and simultaneously call for the GM's head? I don't think so, and yeah, that's what I'm doing and have been doing for the past few weeks.

Even The Oracle's legendary even keel-ism is showing signs of crumbling. He began last night's JaysTalk (linked to in his Fan590 blog) by telling JP as such as politely as possible before giving way to the callers who weren't going to be so diplomatic after the Jays dropped their 6th straight series.

Why summarize when you can plagarize? Here's The Oracle recounting their conversation last night in his own words:

He talked about how the lack of offense was completely unexpected, calling out Lyle Overbay (22 homers, 46 doubles, 92 RBI in 2006), Vernon Wells and Alex Rios specifically. He mentioned that some analysts had picked the Jays to be a playoff team and that no one he talked to in baseball in Spring Training told him they thought the bats would be a problem.

He said that everything has fallen apart offensively for the Jays. He can’t believe (nor can I) that his team is hitting 35 points below the league average with runners in scoring position. When asked about the status of his “plan”, he said that we’re supposed to be in the payoff portion right now - that they’d been hopeful of being a playoff team the last few years and that this year was supposed to be the best team they’d had. He did add that he feels the season is salvageable, but that there’s no big move in the offing.

Fair enough. But the fact remains that Wells and Rios are guys JP chose to extend rather than trade or that Overbay was his main trade target in the 2005 offseason. These are your guys, JP, and you're right to shoulder the blame when they don't perform to expectations.

And here's the doozy of the night as JP responds to a caller who asked if he'd bring Adam Dunn in:

Let me ask you something: what do you know about Adam Dunn? ... He's a great hitter? He's a lifetime .230-.240 hitter, who strikes out a ton and hits home runs.... You know the guy doesn't really like baseball that much? ... Do you know the guy doesn't have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There's a reason you're attracted to some players and there's a reason why you're not attracted to some players. I don't think you'd be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here. I think you'd be one of the guys calling me on Wednesday night complaining about all the deficiencies the guy has. .. We've done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there's a reason why we don't want Adam Dunn. And I don't want to get into specifics but we've done our homework on a lot of the guys that you guys keep mentioning to us. We're way ahead of you guys in looking at the things and there's a lot of things and a lot of reasons why we wouldn't go get those guys. I appreciate, you know, the advice to go get these guys but we know more about them than maybe the average fan does.

Now, maybe JP doesn't like the cost of renting Adam Dunn for 2 months. I'm down with that line of thinking (mostly because I'd take Jason Bay over Adam Dunn 9 times out of 10). But do I care if Dunn sucks Satan's greasy cock when he's off the diamond or lack's passion for the game? Fuck no, it's the fact that he's pretty much a lock for 40 HR and a .900+ OPS year in year out that gets us salivating. Is he supposed to skip off the field after playing the first eight years of his career on crappy to mediocre Reds teams? Doesn't losing losing losing weigh on a man? This Brewers series has reminded us that team's are indeed permitted to hit the ball beyond the outfield fence unlike some recreational softball leagues and that power is a game changer. Fucking hell, this little word nugget from JP is more incredulous than the one he dropped a few weeks back about Jason Bay (144 OPS+) "not exactly tearing the cover off the ball."

I loved what JP did heading into the 2006 season (BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett, Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus) because he'd given the club it's first chance of really contending since 1993. That was the high water mark of the JP era. His pre-2007 moves I wasn't so hot on. Frank Thomas was brought in as middle of the order insurance in case V-Dub didn't resign, but it defied common sense to go overkill and offer him a third (or even second) year. The V-Dub contract is a disaster in the making and I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it. Royce Clayton as your no.1 shortstop? Victor Zambrano/Tomo Ohka/John Thomson? These were all harbingers of the coming apocolypse.

Avoiding issues of character and PR optics, here's what's got JP on my Permanent Shit List this year:

* when JP cooked up the Rios-Lincecum deal last year, Giants GM Brian Sabean took a full week to mull it over before finally shooting it down. Could JP have tipped the scales by adding a player? I most certainly believe so. The name the Giants were rumoured to be interested in (according to MLBTR) at the time was Curtis Thigpen and would any of you shed any tears if he had been shipped off? Rock solid starting pitching is the one commodity we simply cannot afford on the free agent market--whereas corner outfields are easily attainable--and the opportunity to reel in a young, cheap stud passed us by. AJ Burnett was and is leaving after this year and we just can't buy an equivilant arm to replace him. Lincecum probably would've been both an improvement on AJ and his acquisition would've freed up more than enough cash to replace Rios. I cannot believe this one was botched and said as much at the time, even expecting Rios to be as good as he was in '06 and '07.

* recognizing that LF was a weak spot offensively, he abandoned creativity (spazz outcast Milton Bradley is hitting a not unpredictable .330/.452/.628 for $4 million for the Rangers) in favour of a low risk/low reward/low cost signing of Shannon Stewart, whose recent injury has given him a minor reprieve from an inevitable DFA. Will was Bradley's earliest champion and I can only assume he's been shaking his angry fist since January every time his name has come up

* after DFA-ing Frank Thomas for reasons that were largely beyong his control, JP didn't go out and replace him with the 800 lb gorilla who swings a much meaner stick: Barry Bonds. Any GM whose greatest priority is something other than winning, be it assembling good "character" guys or avoiding controversy, just isn't in the right line of work.

* sticking with Shannon Stewart through 200 ABs. Forget the gaudy AAA line; all of the projection models at fangraphs predicted that Adam Lind would hit far better than the sickly .622 line we've got collectively from our LFs this year. (Consensus there was he'd hit for a .770-ish OPS, Bill James figured he'd hit much better than that, about .850).

* a minor argument, but bringing David Purcey up for a second start against the Phillies (nervous young starter with flyball issues to face power-hitting club in sandbox park?) in which he got shelled worse than Warsaw in September of 1939 didn't do much to help his trade value. His sexy minor league line alone might've impressed enough to include him in a deadline package for a bat had that particularly ugly loss been hung on a veteran like John Parrish or Kane Davis instead.

And that's about it. I'm sure I'll think of other complaints to add to the list, but you get what I'm driving at. There's enough here to justify a personnel change, and yes, I can accept waiting until the offseason for that to happen.

It's getaway day in Milly-wah-kay. AJ Burnett takes on former Jay shitballer Dave Bush at 2:05 and let us pray once again that the flaky right-hander manges to stay healthy until the end of July. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there's no way they can lose this game, Dave Bush sucks the black rod that badly. The ESPN supercomputer is telling me to go fuck myself, that we've only got a 47% chance of victory.

Man v. Machine, the ultimate showdown.

-- Johnny Was

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flawed Tactics

You know that running game that people are giving Gibbons credit for? The same group of people who mention that with a decrease in HR, SB and hit & runs are the way to go to make up for the lack of power?

Well, the Jays have stolen a bunch of bases, but they're not being very efficient. With a 67% SB success rate, good enough for 28th in the majors...I think it's time to put an end to the running game. With an offense that would embarrass little leaguers, the Jays can't afford to be giving up outs like this. I realize some of the CS are including failed hit & runs, but when a team is this bad at stealing bases you have to put an end too it ASAP.

Look on the bright side though - I'm sure some of those runners that won't get caught stealing will be thrown out on a DP.

Twitchy.

The Roundup

As someone who started following the Jays as a gawky 11-year-old back in the miracle summer of 1989, I can't ever give in to the thinking that these Jays can't storm back despite improbable odds. Figuring that you wouldn't believe me if I told you the '89 Jays didn't break .500 for good until August 15 (!?!), here's the sched, disbelieving disbelievers!

Nevertheless, that such an odds-defying run has happened only once in franchise history does give me great pause. What's the answer now? Another Mookie Wilson at the trade deadline? At 35-37 (and trailing both the Rays and Orioles) for 7 games back in the Wild Card race, we near the half-way point of the season in a highly unenviable position. It's a struggle to stay upbeat is what I'm driving at.

There's been plenty of analysis on what's gone wrong and subjectively we've all got a good idea on that note. So, rather than rehash that line let's spread the misery around a bit.

Sharing our pain:

Cleveland Indians (33-38). They were a game away from a World Series berth last year and now sit at a disappointing 6.5 back in the AL Central and 8.5 back in the WC race. They're not hitting like they usedta could, Fausto Carmona is hurt and Cliff Lee has been their best starter to date? Yeah? Not a team to discount though, not by a long shot.

Detroit Tigers (33-38). I admire GM Dave Dombrowski for going all in and trading prospects for Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera (but not Dontrelle Willis) because he saw an opening and wanted to exploit it. When I started following baseball back in the late '80s prospects were an unproven commodity you'd gladly ship off for proven veteran talent. Now that player salaries have skyrocketed, it seems like GMs have gotten way too overprotective of their younger talent if for understandable reasons. It hasn't really worked out according to plan in Motown, though, as the Bengals find themselves tied with the Tribe in the nether regions of the AL Central. They haven't exactly torn the cover off the ball as we expected them to, but that doesn't mean they won't in the second half. Trader Dave is so committed to winning this year so don't be surprised if he makes another big buy move before the deadline.

Atlanta Braves (35-37). This is a team that only a fool would abandon hope for even though their record is no better than the Jays. Their record in 1-run games has been laughably bad and they sit at third in the weak-ish NL East despite the league's second best ERA and 6th best offense. Go figure. Losing John Smoltz for the season hurts bad, real bad, and injury to the Ghost of Tom Glavine isn't helping matters, either. But as Ken Rosenthal says, this is a team "that's programmed to win." There's alot of room for improvement from Jeff Francoeur and Mark Teixeira, not forgetting that this is a team with the minor league depth to make a big deadline deal. I'd expect them to win the NL Wild Card.

New York Mets (34-36). Willie Randolph has paid with his job because Omar Minaya put together a very expensive club with an average offense and average pitching. I kind of like the idea of seeing them fall flat this year if it means they'll be bidding hard against the Yankees on Teixeira in the offseason.

Los Angeles Dodgers (32-38). You're probably sensing by now that I don't really like talking about NL teams that aren't the Braves or Diamondbacks, so I won't linger here. Bushels of young talent (Russ Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, Chad Billingsley, etc.), and an equal dose of crappy, underperforming, overpaid veterans. You'd rightly demand that JP be strung up had he authored either of the Andruw Jones or Juan Pierre contracts. Nedco did both and still remains employed. The Joe Torre Touch isn't helping much, but Raffy Furcal will save the team when he comes off the DL, right? They'll probably linger in the NL Wild Card race, but really need to swing a deal to really be competitive.

Taking S&M to a whole new level:

Seattle Mariners (25-45). They finally fired Jim Bavasi, the Peewee Herman of GMs, this week, but there's just no righting this ship in the short term. Everything about this team sucks ass, everything. That they'd fall off from last year's 88-win season was no surprise, but this far this fast, well, also not much of a surprise. I did think the Orioles and Giants would suck more, admittedly.

San Diego Padres (31-41).
They've been much improved of late but still can't score for shit, a problem that's compounded by the fact that they play in the most extreme pitchers' park in the history of the game. These dudes were in the mix for a playoff spot until the final game of the season last year and look at them now. Just look at them. Pfffffffft!

So, what do you do with the drunken sailor early in the morning? You've got to let him sleep it off and sober up a bit. Give the Jays another month or so before you officially proclaim that they've been on the mat for a 10-count. And then at that point feel free to launch into all the "Fire JP/Gibbons/Jamie Campbell" torrents you like or wear a paper bag over your head when you go down to the Rogers Centre. In fact, I'll lead the letter-writing campaign if the movement needs a leader.

Tonight in Milly-wah-kay, the Jays send Shaun Marcum to the hill against the Brew Crew's fragile flower of an ace, Ben Sheets. The ESPN Supercomputer says the Jays only have a 42% chance of victory, so maybe they just might win one. Or maybe they won't. Trying to predict this game is like ordering a dog's breakfast.

-- Johnny Was

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And we're back...

Forgive me for comparing apples and oranges, but while the Jays were sucking the black rod on the diamond over the past week my brother, frequent commenter Jay K., and myself all proved our athletic prowess by fishing the shit out of the Pacific Ocean out in B.C. Do we have any advice for the Jays? Hell yeah! It's not that hard really, you just have to want it more than the other guy (or marine creature).

We set off from my bro's downtown appartment Friday morning just before noon to get our fishing licenses from the Army Navy store on Hastings St., right in the heart of Vancouver's Junkietown. I have mixed feelings about the homeless, who are ubiquitous throughout the city centre. Functional bums who try to provide some sort of service in exchange for your pocket change (e.g. explaining how the steam clock in Gastown works, making you laugh by telling self-deprecating jokes about their alcoholism, etc.) are a-ok in my books. The other ones, the smelly, listless, mostly passed out bums who sometimes forget to wear pants or be sane, those I'm not so high on. I'd probably add a third category, the scavenger bum; while this type of hobo is usually as weird as the forlorn bums if not quite as smelly, I do accept that they are probably the most useful of their breed for their recycling efforts.

In any event, no one got stabbed and we made it back to the rental van with our paperwork and mass quantities of beef jerky, an essential staple for any man who will be temporarily free of female oversight and boozing heavily for a few days. We hit the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay around one, which would've been plenty of time to get the 3 p.m. ferry to Nanaimo on most days. Friday just wasn't one of them. We ended up stuck waiting for a boat for 4 hours, staring at concrete and trying not to get too bored. Good thing I'd stocked up on Dill Pickle Spitz, the Rolls Royce of sunflower seeds.

Because of the delay on the ferry we didn't end up getting to Ucluelet Bay, on the Pacific side of Vancouver Island just south of Tofino, until about 10:30 p.m., by which point we were all starving and gagging for beers. There wasn't much doing in Ucluelet at night being that it's a "town" of little more than a thousand people, but we did have the good fortune of finding a pizza place just before it closed.

Our waitress at Roman's Pizza and Subs was cute enough, probably in her early 20s, from Owen Sound, and had some sort of intriguing tattoo protruding upwards from her boob crack. No clue as to what it might have been. An octopus? Elvis? We'll never know. Each slug of Kokanee brought me one step closer to asking if she wouldn't mind popping the old top so we could get a better look at her skin art--for aesthetic reasons, we've all got tats as well--but alas, I'm just not the kind of guy who can do that sort of thing. I was hoping that Jay might help pick up the slack and risk taking that slap I'd have preferred to avoid, but he let the team team down worse than Alex Rios with the game on the line.

We got our food and headed down to the main boat launch to try and find the boat we'd be on the next morning. Well, more accurately, my old man walked around hopelessly in the dark looking for the boat we'd be on the next morning while we sat in the van and "crushed" a few beers as per local custom. We didn't make it back to our room until after midnight, did a few more beers before calling it a night. It was a short sleep before we headed out tired and hungover Saturdaymorning at 5:30.

The salmon were not biting just off Ucluelet Bay and our spirits were a bit down after a couple of fruitless hours, so we gave up and headed out to deeper waters in search of cod and halibut. Our guide, Steve, was swell enough and didn't seem to mind when we cracked into the beers early. He seemed about 30 and was an emigre from Ontario like so many British Columbians. He liked to talk, mostly about dames. He told us he'd broken up with his last lady friend because she complained that he used too much toilet paper. He explained to her that his hairy ass necessitated more tp than the average man required and made the gentlemanly offer of covering that particular household expense himself, but she just wouldn't let up. Women...

And then Jay laid what was quite possibly the most savage fart I've ever smelt in my entire life. He probably should've been kicked off the boat--he would've been had I been captaining--but Steve took it all in stride, outwardly at least.

We caught a great drift out in deeper waters and started to pull in about a fish every 10 minutes or so, mostly halibut, rock fish and red vermillion. It was at that point that my old man, who liked to boast that he "NEVER got motion sickness" proceeded to throw up like one of those SNL sketches where someone appears to projectile vomit through a tube hidden in the sleeve of their coat. Ironically he was the only member of our party not on the beers or pounding Sailor Jerry spiced rum like a champ, which is presumably nature's best defense against choppy waters. It was kind of disappointing seeing the guy who'd come up with the idea for this trip (and bankrolled it), slumped over in his chair passed out while we fished away, but it would've been a bigger disappointment for him had we come back empty-handed. So we pressed on.

The whole experience was kind of weird for me. The drinking and being on a boat bit sat just fine, but I was a vegetarian for 7 years and still have some residual guilt about the whole "murdering innocent creatures when we could all be eating brocolli" thing. After hooking a fish and reeling it up to the surface, Steve-o came over to the side of the boat to stick it with his gaff and help us haul it into the boat. We'd let the fish thrash a bit, then once it got tired out he'd bash it good and give it a long gash to let the blood out so the meat wouldn't spoil before we got back. He seemed to take some sick pleasure in wacking our fish right in the eye, causing a horror show explosion of eyeball juice. Ex-vegetarian or no, that just didn't seem right. Usually the last thing a fish did before it died was give the deck of the boat a nice Cleveland Steamer, thrashing vainly in a massive puddle of blood, shit, eyeball and assorted slime. I'll still eat my share of the catch, but I don't particularly feel like a hero for what we'd done.

It's not the size of your fish that counts, so I won't go into the details of who got the 60 lb and 50 lb halibuts and who got the other one that was about 1/3 that size, but suffice it to say that we had a very good haul. We came back into harbour with roughly 200 lbs of fish between us, prompting many a nod and "hrmmph" of approval from inquisitive locals and creepy German tourists. In successive retellings of our exploits, Jay's fish gains 5 lbs... by Christmas I'm sure I'll hear that he'd caught a Dodge Caravan with gills.

That's a wrap, folks. Jays just lost 7-0 to the Brewers in the first game I've watched in a week.

-- Johnny Was

Those who fail to learn from history . . .

By now the refrain is familiar to all. Long and loud is the chorus of Chicken Little's insisting that this Jays offense is all that there is going to be, and there shall be no more. "DOOMED!" they cry fully convinced that no team with an offense this weak can possibly hope to contend for a playoff spot. It's a forgone conclusion, a fait accompli, it's set in stone, all the king's horses, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Ah, the voice of ignorance. Whatever it lacks in wisdom, it attempts to compensate for in volume.


I, however, recall a team, not so very long ago, who put the lie to such fatalism in a way which is strikingly relevant to our current situation. The similarities are well worth noting.

This offense of ours, bemoaned in story and song as being beyond hope, posted, collectively, for the moths of April and May, a disappointing line of:

261 - .323 - .378 - .701


But this other team, of which I am thinking, actually preformed worse than that, over the first two months of the season:

.239 - .299 - .377 - .676

On June 19, as you might imagine, that team was sitting a miserable fifth place at 28-39 - only four teams in the majors had a worse record.

On that team, as on ours, a player who was arguably their best hitter missed all of the month of April, but unlike Scott Rolen, when this man came back he struggled through the month of May too, posting an OPS of .662 in that month.

On that team, as on ours, another player counted on to be a star bat missed a big chunk of May, but he would go on to miss most of the season.

Their catcher was an offensive zero the whole season, as was their shortstop. One of their three starting outfielders never got his OPS over .700 and the hitters who substituted for the injured star make Brad Wilkerson look like a Hall of Famer. They did have two players in their twenties step up and have career years, one hitting .924 and the other .815 - but both those young men had one very bad month in the first two months of the season.

That team, gentle reader, is the 2005 Houston Astros. You remember those, the 89 game winners who won the NL wild card that year? and went to the World Series? The team that played .642 ball from June 19 until the end of the season with that pathetic offense?

Yes, they had three remarkable starters, but the other two were either mediocre or outright awful. And there bullpen was not as deep as ours.
That injured star? Jeff Bagwell - he finished the year with 100 unremarkable AB;
The guy who missed April and sucked in May? That was Lance Berkman - he finished the season with an OPS of .934;
But more to the point -the third highest OPS on the team was Jason Lane's .815! The sixth highest among players who played at least half the Astro's games was Eric Brumlett's .705!!!

EVERY TIME that team took the field, there were - at best! - two very good hitters, two reasonably good hitters, and five virtually empty bats.

So, all you negative-ass fuckers chew on that shit for a while. this is baseball, damnit - weird fucking shit happens every day. Deal with it.

Oh, and by the way, the Baltimore Orioles were sitting in first place on that same day, with the third best record in baseball at 41-27. From that point until the end of the season they went 33-61 and finished in the basement. It ain't over 'til it's over. Quitcher cryin' little girls.

~WillRain

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Roundup JR


Well, that series couldn't have ended any worse. I didn't get a chance to see the game, but after reading the boxscore I'm thinking that was a blessing in disguise. The Jays tried my DH/C platoon idea with Barajas catching and Zaun dhing, and it kinda worked. Zaun at least had a nice game at the plate hitting a 2 run bomb.

Outside of that HR though, I'm wondering where all the power has gone. You know somethings not right when Rod Barajas, good as he's been, is third on the team with 5 HR, and the guy who missed a month, Vernon Wells, is second with 7. Rios obviously needs to pick it up, but the other player who's shown a somewhat surprising lack of power is Rolen.

Now I know, Rolen is the Greatest Jay ever and to speak ill of him is blasphemy. But over his last 17 at bats he's been really struggling, hitting 118/250/294. Even worse - over his past 93 at bats he's been primarily a singles hitter, posting a line of 269/376/387. I think Rolen has escaped most of the blame because we were all in awe about how amazing he was during his first couple of weeks. But lately, Rolen has been just as guilty of bringing down the offense, if not moreso, than Rios. At least Rios is showing some signs of life lately.

By now everyone knows that Thigpen was sent down to AAA to activate Zaun from the d/l. But that doesn't change the fact that the way they used him was downright shameful. He was terrific behind the plate for Marcum's start, and as a potentially useful prospect down the road to give him 6 at bats during a 15 day period is just unacceptable. I don't know if this was due to Barajas' hot streak (of which playing virtually every day but one in Zaun's 15+ day absence is batshit crazy). Maybe it was because Gibbons didn't trust Thigpen, although after his start with Marcum I don't see how this would be the case. Hell, maybe it was because of some unknown factor (orders from JP?). Regardless, the fact he got 6 AB over a 15 day period, is terrible development by the Jays, and once again shows a lack of foresight when dealing with prospects. I realize the Jays are trying to compete, and using Thigpen too often may not be the best way to do so. But you're telling me over 15 days they couldn't have found a way to get him some at bats every day or every other day?

AJ Burnett continues to show us why he's such a tool. He made some statements about how if he wasn't a Jay he'd love to be a Cub. AJ, here's a little tip for you - your first and only response to any question about "Would you like to play for team X" should be "I'm happy as a Toronto Blue Jay and I can't imagine playing anywhere else". No more, no less. We know you're lying, and you know you're lying if you say that, but at least it looks good to the media. Nobody gives a shit what team you actually want to play for (except for the one you're playing on now). If you just play dumb, and keep those those thoughts to yourself, than everybody's happy. It makes a world of difference saying "I like the team I'm on" vs "I like the team I'm on, but..."

What I found interesting from that link wasn't about AJ and the Cubs, but about his opt out:

"I have an opt out in my contract," Burnett said. "So people are going to have their own opinion on that. Everybody's talking about me opting out, but nobody's talking about me staying. There's a 100-percent chance of that as well."

If there's a 100% chance of you not opting out, than why was an opt out put into your contract? I don't even care if JP offered you an opt out - if you planned on staying, wouldn't it have made more sense to say "no thanks, I don't want an opt out because I plan on playing all 5 years with this team"?

And if there is a 100% chance of you staying, why don't you prove it by getting your lawyers with the Jays lawyers and removing the opt-out from your contract?

The Jays have an off day today, and they play the Brew Crew in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Oh boy, with the pitcher hitting, this team will have even less offense!

Elsewhere:

Eric Gagne is starting to throw off the mound in his attempt to rehab from injury. Despite his 1-2 record, a 6.98 ERA, and his 2.02 WHIP, I strongly believe some team will buy into the fact that Gagne was awesome 5 years ago and give him a ridiculous contract in 2009. He'll be 33 by then, and should classify as an aging veteran, so Gagne should be at the top of Brian Sabean's 2009 FA wish list.

Chris Carpenter had a set back in his return from TJ. He's gone to see Doc Andrews to find out if "he has a nerve condition common to recipients of the surgery". He'd be out till 2009 if he did have that nerve issue. It's really a shame how Carpenter has been injured for nearly his entire career, cause the past few years when he was healthy he was a monster.

Twitchy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Let Me Make One Thing Perfectly Clear...

While I have, obviously, worked hard to maintain a positive attitude about the Jays' record, given that coming into June they had really only been a bad team for two weeks, I do need to make a point more clear and qualify my position.
My confidence was based on the assumption that June provided a golden opportunity for the team to redress a lot of the lost ground and begin to put some real distance between themselves and other wild card contenders. Looking ahead to June there were, on the horizon, only seven really tough games and three middling ones. My prediction of 16 wins or so this much was based on the reasonable conclusion that having recovered their offensive abilities to a degree (albeit with still a freakish lack of power) that the Jays would take advantage of the softest month on their schedule to build some momentum.

To this point they haven't done so. With those seven hard games now in the rear view, it is not disappointing that they won only two of them (though I did entertain some fantasies of sneaking out of NY with two wins) - it's not unreasonable at all that those seven games would have produced only two wins. What Is maddening, however, is having lost four games out of the six easy ones they have had in June. Five, or at least four, wins would have been a reasonable expectation for those two series. So the team is now down 2 or 3 wins from what might have been expected in June. Was that a fluke? One would like to think so but let me be clear, optimism or no, regression to the mean or not, the Jays CANNOT any more lose series that they should win. As it is they are going to have to win some that they shouldn't to make up for their failings earlier this month.

I, for one, am not going to begrudge this team the two massively awful weeks in April - every team will have a stretch like that in every season, no matter how good they are. I'm not going to sweat the freakish offensive ineptitude of earlier in the year or be stupid enough to cite overall statistics now as if what happened in late April and early May is relevant to June BUT the Jays have used up that grace. The CANNOT hit in June like they hit back then and stay in the race. Being in front of Cleveland and within a game or two of New York is not enough right now. The whole difference in being in the race on Labor Day or not may well come down to the 2 or 3 or 5 games they didn't win in June against teams like Seattle, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

If they continue to stumble in these games that are ripe for the taking, then the whole season grows dark because, even if the Yankees and Indians continue to lag, the Jays will have missed an opportunity to make up some distance on those teams. Starting with Pittsburgh there are 12 consecutive games in which the Jays need to do more than take advantage, they need to once and for all get on a significant roll. Eight wins in that stretch is a MINIMUM. If that doesn't happen, then the real possibility exists that the Jays will once again be caught in that no-man's-land that seem to snare them every July....buyers or sellers?
As much as I think the criticism of JP is highly over-stated - perhaps his greatest failing is July indecision. The team is, year after year, just barely good enough to give you faint hope, yet just bad enough to give you a bad feeling. Frankly, I'd rather the suck out loud as to wander in that particular fog yet again.

Further, JP has already said this year that the team has to give him reason to believe they are going to contend if he's going to give up prospects to bolster the lineup.

So, here we sit, 24 games away from the All-Star break, 15 of them against teams the Jays should handle easily, and one game under .500 wondering what to do. It would be easy for me to say that if they don't win 15 of those games and go into the break five games over that we MUST sell (I think it goes without saying if we win a ridiculous number like 19 or 20 of them we are in good shape) but what happens if we are two games over at the break and the Indians and Yankees are still no better than us? Especially if the Devil Rays (ya I said Devil) come back to the pack?

Once again, I fear, we'll face a July of maddening indecision. THAT, my friends, is the worst possible outcome. We need to either be in a position to add a guy like Jason Bay and take a real run, or we need to be damn-well out of it and begin to sell off the surplus (Burnett, Frasor, Tallett, Eckstien, Barjas or Zaun, Stewart - if anyone is that desperate - maybe even listen on Overbay) - sure only Burnett is going to produce an impressive return but doing that opens the way for seeing how next years team is going to shake out. It's lets us get Lind and League and Diaz and Purcey and maybe Davis Romero up here for an extended look.

Look, I'd much rather be in contention. And frankly, I can demonstrate AGAIN that the divergence between the offensive production of this team and what might be expected in a non-bizzaro world is extraordinary in a way that the language doesn't provide adequate adjectives to describe. It's insane to even consider this team will be this bad offensively at the end of the year. But they don't have to be to miss the playoff run they should be making - all they have to do is continue to fuck around and lose games they should win while the days on the calendar pass them by.


~WillRain

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Roundup - Minor League Edition

Well, since there is little around the league I really want to go into, and since the subject of the random underachivingness of the Jays has been done to death, I figure why not take another Barnstorm through the minors and see what's shakin'?

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Adam Lind, besides being boyishly charming as evidence by the photo at right, absolutely owns AAA pitching. In his last 10 games he's not only hitting over .400 but over half his hits are doubles contributing greatly to his spiffy 1.058 OPS in that span. And it's no fluke, as Jays and Chiefs fans know - his OPS on the whole year is .935 and he was over 1.000 for the whole month of April. The boy can rake.
JP implied on TWWJP on Tuesday that Wilkerson's superior defense was now a factor in Lind's exile (oddly defense was not cited when Stewart was patrolling LF) and he also mentioned that with the Jays current offensive issues it wasn't the best time to break in a young player.
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Now, I'm a long way from the JP hater crowd but I have to wonder if JP honestly thinks there is a real possibility Lind will fail as an offensive force in the AL? He keeps saying Lind will be the guy NEXT year and as much as I'd like to believe him, I just can't see how the Kid could not outperform our current and future LF situation. More and more I'm beginning to think JP is planning on building his trade offers (for Bay?) around Lind and for some reason thinks it's better to let him build up insane numbers in AAA than to come to the majors and maybe start slow like he did before. Nothing else I can think of makes sense.

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David Purcey continues to be a monster in AAA and again the question arises: what are the odds such success doesn't translate to the major league level? I'd say pretty slim. Yes, some of you worry about his control but still, worst case scenario, he's Al Lieter 2.0 and that has value. Opposing batters are hitting .220 of Purcey, he has a 1.11 WHIP and a 2.41 ERA in almost 75 IP. Also of note - he controls left handers better than right handers. In my opinion, a package of Lind and Purcey is fair compensation for Jason Bay right now....though if it takes a throw in I'm down with that too. Why would I trade Purcey? Because we have the depth. I don't WANT to see him go but we're not going to make an acquisition without it. Ideally I'd sell high on Listch but I just don't think there is a team out there who's going to see him as a premium acquisition.

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I've pointed this out before but let me say it again - Davis Romero (who is coming back from the same procedure Casey Janssen had) has thrown one truely awful outing this year and it has perhaps hidden him from some fans' notice and praise. On May 8 he got seven outs and gave up seven earned runs. Take away that one outing and D-Ro is sporting a 2.56 ERA - expect to see him in the Jays pen or even as a candidate for the #5 next spring.

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As quickly as the stretching of Brandon League appeared on the horizon, so it faded away. It was gone even before League got rocked for 5 runs on June 4 and all his appearances in the last 10 have been 2 innings or less. JP continues to insist League is a big part of the future and i hope so because few have as much talent but, like Adam Lind, somehow I get a vibe that if trade partners ask about League he may be in the deal. Oh, without that June 4 appearance, his AAA ERA is 2.87 (4.05 overall....be careful about looking at ERA alone especially for a reliever).

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A recuperating Greg Zaun went 2/4 with a HR while DHing in his first rehab game but was rained out in what should have been his second game yesterday. I've no idea ifthat delays his return to Toronto by a day.

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New Hampshire 2B Scott Campbell nudged his BA to .358 with another 2/4 last night but the really impressive thing is that in his last 10 games he's walked nine times! His OBP in June is an astonishing .565 and for the whole season it's .445 as part of a .945 OPS. On WWJP this wekk JP answered a caller asking about Campbell's potential promotion (the caller wondered if Campbell might have been called on to replace Hill which is a big "no" for a lot of technical reasons about option years and the like bur JP didn't go there) by mentioning off hand that Campbell's defense still needed work, particularly in turning the double play. But honestly, if the kid doesn't end up with solid 2B defense he's looking like a good Frank Catalanotto type hitter as a LF or utility bat. Not to say I'm giving up on his defense but we do have a solid second baseman.

One other point on Campbell, he's apparently being sheilded against lefties which, in a very small sample, seem to give him trouble.

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Travis Snider has now improved his AA average to .272 and is excelling now, there, in all aspects of hitting (unless you are worried about high strike out totals) Since May 1 Snider's line looks like this:

148 AB, 45 H, 8 doubles, 9 homers, 37 RBI, 19 BB, 47 K . . . that's .304 - .383 - .541 - .924

I remember when he was 3 for his first 29 and quick-to-judge critics among the fans were openly complaining he had promoted too quickly. Oh, and he played in the OF last night too. Not sure when that started but it's good to see.

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Brett Cecil went 6 innings for the first time this season this week and lowered his ERA to 3.41 and AA hitters are hitting .218 of Cecil in nine starts. My guess is that shortly after the break this man ends up in Syracuse - he's "the man" for next year if Purcey gets included in a trade.

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JP Arencibia, who JP says is on the cust of going to AA (probably after the High A All Star game that he will certainly play in) had a terribly bad night at the plate - for him - going only 1/4 droppin his OPS for june to a paltry 1.034, let the wailing ensue.

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Can someone please figure out what's wrong with Justin Jackson before he wrecks all his confidence? Since coming back from his injury (and I still can't find a report on what the injury was) Jackson is hitting .181 in 138 at bats. in May he kept his OBP ub respectably but now that too is failing him. I was very excited over his April and hoped to see him spend the second half in Dunedin, but, alas, someone is gonna have to give this kid some help. or at least tell us it's a lingering effect of the injury.

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There are some other names that need mentioning but this damn thing is too long already, so another day for those.

~WillRain