Pretty Good Moments of 2009: Opening Day

After taking a few days to decompress, I figured it would be a pretty good idea to go back and pick out the few moments of brightness from an otherwise dark season to help remind us why we put ourselves through it day after day.

First up, opening day.

Highlighted by Adam Lind's home run and 6 RBIs, a homer by Travis Snider, hanging 8 earned runs on Justin Verlander, and the biggest crowd of the season, the Jays coasted to a 12-5 win with Roy Halladay pitching. Even Alex Rios and Vernon Wells had great games (2-3 with 2 walks and 2-4 with a walk, respectively)!

Of course, there were also the idiots who thought it would be good idea to throw paper airplanes onto the field and maybe could have caused the Jays to forfeit the game, but we can ignore that.


Roy Halladay Is Pretty Awesome

So, maybe it deserves an * because it was against a Red Sox line-up that had maybe 3 good hitters in it.

And, yes, it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things as Boston had already clinched their trip to Anaheim.

But if that was the last start Roy Halladay makes in a Toronto Blue Jay uniform (and I hope to hell that it isn't), what a way to go out.

Maybe the highlight of the year was seeing him bean Ortiz. How could you not love that? He's one of the best pitchers in baseball and maybe the best player in team history, he doesn't have to do that. None of his teammates and none of the fans would have lost any respect for him if he had just went about his business. But there he was, sticking up for Adam Lind after that bullshit with Papelbon the night before.

He's not going to win the Cy Young this year (again), although I think you could make a decent case for him, but if that was his Blue Jay swansong, well, it was pretty fucking awesome.

4 Million Memories

I'm not exactly sure where this video came from and how it came into my possession, but it's always fun to take a walk down memory lane.

The video is narrated by Tom Cheek, so that's always good to hear. The tape starts with Joe Carter's injury in the 1991 ALCS and how that ended the team's chances of beating the Twins and going to the World Series.

Back to before the start of the season, Cheek talks about Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar trade and how that came about (Padres GM Joe McIlvaine is wearing a Toronto All-Star Game cap) and the media's reaction to it at the time (they liked the big trade and having something interesting to write about at the Winter Meetings).

Following this is Spring training footage, and Cheek mentions the acquisition of Devon White while some other players and Cito Gaston talk about how excited they are about the upcoming season. Standard stuff that you'd hear at any team's Spring Training here.

We get some sweet cheesy early 90s music accompanies opening series footage (including Pat Tabler's 1st SkyDome homer!). Also shown is Mark Whiten's walk-off home run on April 12 against the Brewers (boxscore), the reaction is much different than today, it's rather subdued at home plate. I don't know when the throw-your-helmet-off dogpiles that we see today started, but it's interesting to see how ho-hum they were about something like that back then.

They cover Nolan Ryan's 7th no-hitter in Texas, but follow it up by showing the Jays beat him in Toronto a week later.

A segment talking about how Duane Ward did a good job as closer while Henke was out is next. Ward felt that being a middle reliever or set-up guy was just as important as being a closer. This leads into Henke coming back from injury as he went 16 for 16 in save chances after returning ('Terminator 2 was even better than the original' says Cheek. I disagree.).

On May 29th, attendance reached 1,000,000 and Carter, White, and Alomar all had good games and they beat the A's (the tape says it was a sweep, but looking at the game log, it was the middle game of a 3 game set and it was the only game the Jays won in the series).

Next up, we see David Wells doing well as a starter as the Jays move into first place in June, including his first career complete game against the Angels.

Dave Stieb's injury is covered, and Cheek talks about how the Jays had to rely on Jimmy Key as the ace now, Key describes what that was like and how he performed, including a June 13 2-hit complete game in Cleveland.

This leads into Juan Guzman's call-up as a 24 year old, Pat Gillick describes the situation around his call-up (Stieb's injury mostly), while we see clips of him pitching well.

Staying with the youngsters, a segment on 23 year-old John Olerud and how he helped the team in June and July that season, again with clips of both his offense and defense.

Next up, they talk about Joe Carter's season and how he just had fun out there (smiled a lot), followed by clips of his offense (and a few nice catches in the outfield), Carter describes his hitting style and how he had a great June that year to help the team.

This segues into how the Jays trade for Tom Candiotti, he talks about how he was nervous at first, moving to a first place team and how he got over that by embracing the big crowds and the modern stadium that he didn't have in Cleveland, this being in the days before the Jake.

On July 3, everything is right with the world. The Jays pass 2,000,000 in attendance (fastest in history), Candiotti wins, Jays have 4.5 game lead in the division. This leads into a good run into the All-Star Game (clips of that, more cheesy music) and the team takes 5.5 lead into the break.

We get some All-Star Game footage including Fan Fest, Joe Carter having fun being an All-Star for the first time, Home Run Derby clips of Ripken winning and a few long 450+ foot bombs by Cecil Fielder and then some game clips highlighting the Jays contributions (Key the winner) and the nice reaction Alomar got as the only Blue Jay in the starting line-up.

This leads into an Alomar segment as Carter talks about his feelings on Alomar (felt he was the biggest part of the trade) and how he's the best 2B in baseball and he has good MVP chances. Tom Cheek then talks about how Alomar made the shift from natural grass to Astroturf without a problem and Alomar even mentions how the turf probably helped him, which is weird to hear today after all the bitching there seems to be about the stuff these days (even the updated FieldTurf).

Next up, we move into the season's second half, we see Rance Mulliniks inside the park home run against the Rangers on July 11.

After taking 3 of 4 from the Rangers, the Jays would make a trip down to Kansas City. On July 15 against the Royals, the had a bases loaded, no-one out situation in the bottom of the 11th. Mike Timlin got out of the jam with 2 force outs at the plate and then a runner was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch, and the Jays win in the 12th with Henke nailing it down, and the Jays have an 8 game lead.

This leads us into some clips of great Jays defensive plays through the year, which segues into Devon White segment, highlighting his defense as well as his hitting. Joe Carter talks about how he loves watching him play CF, Key gives him credit for helping the pitching staff, and Pat Gillick talks about how he'd have been happy if White hit .240 and did what he did in centre field, but he exceeded that by hitting .280 with 17 homers out of the lead-off spot.

We move on to August 1, and the Jays are 6 games up on the Tigers for the AL East lead, around which time, Tom Henke saves 25 games in a row for the team. Henke talks about how he'll be proud of it once he's retired, but during the streak, he was just concerned with playing.

The shrinking division lead is covered now, as the Jays get swept by Red Sox at home and their lead starts to shrink as the pitching faltered. A 7 game losing streak ensues and the division lead is only 2 games. Todd Stottlemyre beat the Brewers and things started to turn around. In a short Stottlemyre segment, Cheek talks about how he was starting to deliver on the promise he showed coming up, and Stottlemyre talks about how he liked being seen as a stopper, even though it's not really great being on a team that's going through a prolonged losing streak.

The Candy Maldonodo trade is mentioned next, and he talks about how he felt getting traded to a first place team and how it was a big change.

On August 20, the Jays become the fastest team to reach 3,000,000 in attend, Henke closes out a win, the team's third in a row, and the division lead is 2.5 games. This goes into Cito Gaston's back injury and how Gene Tenace took over as manager when Cito was in the hospital.

We get a segment on how the Tigers were closing in on the Jays (to within 1 game), while the Jays have a series against the Yankees. Alomar wins a game on August 23 in the bottom of the 9th, but the Tigers tie it up the next day. Jays win the last game against New York, and they're still tied for first with Detroit.

The Jays start to turn it around with a series in Baltimore, as Jimmy Key wins his 100th career game, and go to Yankee Stadium and beat the Yankees as part of a 5 game win streak. They go back to Toronto and beat the O's with some late clutch hits and regain a 3 game lead in the division on September 4th.

Next up, we see them go to Cleveland, beat up on the Indians in a 4 game sweep and shake off the Tigers. On a side note, there are lots of Jays fans at the games in Cleveland.

The Tigers falling off the pace let the Red Sox come back against the Jays and the Jays lead over Boston shrunk to 0.5 games while Jays were having trouble on west coast, losing games against the Mariners and A's. Boston was about to tie the Jays, but Jeff Reardon blew a save for the Sox against the Yankees in Fenway while the Jays turned it around in Anaheim and went back home with a 2.5 lead.

On October 2, the Jays become the first team to reach 4,000,000 mark in attendance and Jays win in an exciting bottom of the 9th after the bullpen blows Candiotti's lead and clinch the division with a win over the Angels.

We see the players talk about how great the fan support is (knowing 50,000 are going to be at every game), but this is the end of the video, as the playoffs aren't brought up again (for good reason, I guess).

A nice enough retrospective on a great year, it probably glosses over some of the negative moments of the season (I was 8 at the time, so I can't say I remember much), but it's always nice to take a look back. And, hey, hearing Tom Cheek's voice again is always great.


Sign Jason Marquis

Now, hear me out.

Yes, he's likely to get slaughtered in the AL East (or, the American League, in general).

And, yes, the Jays probably (hopefully) won't need to fill a rotation slot next season if every thing goes right and everyone who's supposed to be healthy is actually healthy.

Why then, should the Blue Jays sign a pitcher who's put up mediocre numbers while pitching in the National League his entire career?

Well, because the teams that Jason Marquis has played for have never missed the playoffs.

Starting with the Braves from 2000 through to 2003, the Cardinals in '04, '05, and '06, and the Cubs in '07 and '08, if/when the Rockies clinch the NL Wild Card spot (magic number is 6), Marquis will have proved himself a lucky charm that occasionally contributes to his team's success. The Kenny Lofton of pitchers, if you will.

So, J.P. or whoever else is lucky enough to be in charge over the off-season, plop down a generous offer to Marquis and his agent, make room for him as the last man out of the bullpen, and ride the wave all the way to October glory.

It's a foolproof plan.


Shitty Loss: Complete the Sweep Edition

Didn't watch this one (couldn't, anyway), but it seems like it was more of the same old same old we've been seeing against the Rays all season. 4-14 vs. the defending AL champs this season.

The Rays also became the first team to beat Roy Halladay four times in a season.

And Marco Scutaro got hurt, which means that we'll get to see some wacky line-up combinations for as long as he's out (say hello to Jose Baustista, lead-off hitter).

And Travis Snider sat again, wouldn't want him to get any at-bats against Major League left-handers.

At least the Jays are done with the Rays for the season. That's something to be happy about.


Shitty Loss: Blame It On The Rain Edition

I don't know if it was because I was only paying half-attention to the game, but it seemed to me like it was only raining in the bottom of the 9th during the game.

Maybe that fucked with Frasor, I don't know. Maybe it caused Scutaro to misplay that ball.

It was another one of those losses that would have been a kick in the nuts in May (maybe even June), but it's hard to get too upset about now. And, hey, keep adding to that one-run loss stat.

Congrats to Adam Lind, though, for his 100 RBI season. One of the few bright spots in this awful year.


Something To Pull Your Hair Out Over

Despite it being said that, upon being recalled from AAA a few weeks ago, that he would play every day down the stretch for the Blue Jays, Travis Snider found himself sitting AGAIN as a left-handed pitcher toed the rubber for the opposing team. Since being brought back up from Las Vegas on August 18, the Jays have played 25 games and there have been 4 games that Snider hasn't been penciled into the starting line-up. All 4 games have been against a left-handed starter, however, 2 of the starters (Nate Robertson and Derek Holland) have ERAs over 5.00, another (Brian Duensing) was making only his 5th career start, and the final one (Andy Pettitte) has an OBA of .273 vs. lefties this season as opposed to .249 vs. righties. In other words, perfect pitchers to get some experience against.

Now, Snider's numbers in the majors against lefties have been nothing to write home about (in only 39 MLB ABs, a small sample size if there ever was one, his line is .231/.318/.282) and if the Jays were contending for anything, then I could maybe see the logic in having him ride the pine when there's a southpaw out there. But this is a team that MAYBE could win 70 games and hasn't had a realistic shot at making a playoff run since June.

There is no excuse (except for maybe a flare-up of his back injury) for Snider not to be out there each and every game. If he would be facing Sandy Koufax circa 1964, I could maybe see the logic in giving him a day off, but when the opponent that night is Nate Robertson, a pitcher with a sterling .316 OBA against left-handed hitters this season and hasn't even been good enough to be in the rotation most of the year when he's been healthy, Snider has to be out there taking his hacks. He's going to need to face big league left-handed pitching at some point in his career, isn't the whole point of him being in the majors to do it now?

When I wrote the other day that there were more important things to worry about than Kevin Millar getting playing time, this is what I meant. I'm not sure if Cito is still upset over Snider telling him that he doesn't want his help during the game or if he really thinks that this is the best way to develop him as a hitter, but someone needs to get in his ear and tell him that this is not acceptable.