10/12/09

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.

9/30/09

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.

9/25/09

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.

9/20/09

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.

9/15/09

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.

9/12/09

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.

9/10/09

~10,000 Maniacs

There's been a bit of talk about how Wednesday night's crowd of 11,159 is the lowest for the Jays in SkyDome/Rogers Centre history. While it's always embarrassing when you set a mark like that, I was more surprised when I saw that the lowest attendance number in Blue Jays history was 10,074, set in April 1979 at the Ex against the White Sox.

While attendance numbers in any sport are always a bit sketchy, the fact that the Blue Jays have never had an official attendance dip lower than 10,000 is kind of impressive. This is a team that played it's first few years in a crappy stadium right on the lakefront, were basically out of it by the 2nd week of the season, and still managed to draw somewhat respectable crowds (at least officially) into September when the weather turned cold and awful. And, over the past 16 years, they've rarely even had a sniff of a playoff spot past Labour Day, and yet have still been able to bring decent crowds out to the games late in the year.

Just for comparison's sake, the expansion cousin of the Jays, the Mariners, drew their first sub-10,000 crowd during their very first homestand in 1977, bringing only 8,979 to the Kingdome in their 6th ever game and had 13 games with less than 10 grand in the stands in that first season (the smallest crowd being 5,718 for a game in September against the Brewers).

Doing the least bit of research possible, as far as I can tell, the only other cities that haven't had games with official attendance figures under 10k are Phoenix and Denver. So, before we start the hand wringing about hitting rock bottom and comparisons to the Expos and all that, just keep in mind that every team goes through ebbs and flows with regards to how many fans they draw to the ballpark and that at least the shitty crowds are because of the shitty team.

9/9/09

Shitty Loss: 09/09/09 Edition

9 strikeouts (and 9 hits allowed). 9 innings. A chance to go to 9-0 against the Twins.

It would have been nice if the offense could have helped him out. Aside from a pretty good night from Travis Snider (and, I guess, Encarnacion's triple), the Jays made Carl Pavano look like, well, Roy Halladay, and probably put the final nail in the coffin of Doc's Cy Young chances this year.

At least this one was over quickly.

9/8/09

I've Heard This Kevin Millar Guy Isn't Very Good

Kevin Millar has been pretty awful in 2009, I think we can all agree on that. Signing him in the first place might not have been the worst decision in the world (and he's hardly making any money, baseball-wise), but having him on the 25 man roster for the whole season while putting up a line of .215/.297/.354 may be. That would be bad enough, but the fact that the majority of his at-bats have come in the clean-up spot since Scott Rolen was traded to the Reds, it's inexcusable.

However, it really doesn't make a difference in the long run and it's really nothing worth getting upset about. At this point in the season, the Jays are an awful team. Putting a superior hitter in place of Millar (which really isn't that hard) only makes them a little less awful and does it really matter if the Jays finish the season with 70 or 72 wins?

More important things to worry about are Travis Snider sitting (especially against righties, but he should also be getting some hacks in against lefties whenever he has the chance), whatever bullshit is going on with Jeremy Accardo and Cito Gaston, if Vernon Wells is going to continue to be terrible going forward, what a post-Doc rotation might look like in 2010 or beyond, and whether or not guys like Carlson, Janssen, and League can rebound in the bullpen going into next season (and I'm sure there are a million other things that I'm forgetting).

Kevin Millar is awful and a guy like Randy Ruiz should be getting his ABs, instead, but he's not the (main) reason that the Jays suck and he's not going to be a member of this team going forward. Pull your hair out over something else.

9/4/09

That's Why!

It's not going to make a difference in the standings or keep the Yankees out of the playoffs or even go down in any history books as it was 'just' a one-hitter, but wow, that's why I keep watching, I guess.

Just an amazing job shutting down the best team in baseball. Awesome.

Why?

I mentioned the other day that watching the Jays play out the stretch this season must be something like what a junkie goes through. Now, not ever having a substance abuse problem, I can't say for sure, but I'd imagine it's a more extreme form of something I've been going through on a day-to-day basis over the past few months.

I wake up, convinced that today is going to be different. I'm going to find something better to do with my time. I'm not going to fall back into the same old habits. I'm going to make something of my life.

It never works, obviously, and it's getting to the point where I dread the time first pitch rolls around. I know the outcome's not going to make me happy. Maybe it'll start out nice and I'll convince myself that it's going to end well, too, but it never does, and every game just gives me something else to get upset about.

Is there a baseball version of methadone?

9/2/09

Shitty Losses: Three For The Price Of One

Adam Lind can only do so much, I guess.

I suppose I shouldn't say I'm too upset, since I'm at least glad that they helped out the Rangers chances of catching the Red Sox for the Wild Card.

I did spend too much time yesterday watching the doubleheader, like I figured I would. I was really hoping that Thursday was an off-day, since I'm basically a junkie at this point, but I guess I'm going to keep chasing that dragon once 7:07 PM rolls around.

And to show how much things can change in a year, the Jays were in the midst of their 10 game winning streak at this time last season. Remember how nice that felt?

9/1/09

Kübler-Loss

I think we're all familiar with the stages of grief, even if only from that old episode of the Simpsons where Homer eats bad sushi. Since this season has been as about as enjoyable as one long post-season 9 or so Simpsons episode, let's try and pinpoint where we entered each stage. Fun!

Stage 1: Denial

I'm saying at the end of the 0-9 Boston, Atlanta, Baltimore road trip. There were a lot of warning signs during those 9 games. The hitting disappeared until the final game, the bullpen had a couple of collapses, and the team lost 2 Roy Halladay starts. Still, they came back and won the first 2 games of a series at home against Boston and I was convinced everything was fine. They were only a few games back in the division and I just figured the offense went to sleep because their timing was messed up by having to face Tim Wakefield's knuckleball in the first game of the trip. Everything was going to be fine.

Stage 2: Anger

This one is a little tougher. I'd say it was sometime in June, maybe around the time of Doc's groin injury. They were losing a lot of games that it seemed like they would have been winning earlier in the year and were about the only American League team to be having trouble in Interleague play, including losing 2 of 3 to the lowly Washington Nationals. I think my anger was placed towards weaker teams in weaker divisions who hadn't started to fall out of the race so soon.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Let's see. There was a long stretch where it seemed like they could have won almost every game that they ended up losing and by mid-July or so, it was getting to be too much. I know I was blaming most of the losses on bad luck and was telling myself that the team was better than this. That if they held on to Halladay and Rolen and Rios and made a few tweaks, things would even themselves out next season. They had to (I'm 99% sure I was saying the same thing last year, just with A.J. Burnett).

Stage 4: Depression

Easily around the trade deadline. I was coming around to the idea of trading Doc, but it wasn't easy. I had visions of him putting on a 'Philadelphia Phillies 2009 World Series Champions' hat and I didn't like it. The team was going through this stage, too, and you can really see it in how they've played defensively since Rolen was traded. Also, more blowout losses, including Halladay getting rocked a few times, which is really a kick in the nuts, especially since it's probably cost him any kind of shot at the Cy Young award (or, at least, a 20 win season).

Stage 5: Acceptance

I probably reached this one pretty recently. Where I used to getting frustrated when I'd see Kevin Millar's name penciled in as the club's clean-up hitter, now I'm just resigned to the fact that it doesn't really matter. The team has played like shit with better hitters in that slot, I'm not sure having one of the worst hitters on the team in there is going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things. Same deal with Jeremy Accardo not getting a September call-up. I know it's an incredibly stupid and petty thing to do, but I can't bring myself to get too upset. Maybe they can get something decent for him in an off-season trade. This also applies to Cito's obsession with using guys like Carlson and League, even though they clearly didn't deserve to be used in high leverage situations.

So, there we go. I think it's pretty accurate in how I was feeling towards the team at the time. I don't know if it took my longer to come around than most fans, it probably did, but I think any early season glimpse of the playoffs is going to send me over the edge until this team finally makes it. And, you know what, I'll probably go through this all over again next season. I never learn.

Doubleheaders

I'm really dreading today's doubleheader.

Not because I think the Jays will lose (or, maybe they'll piss me off and win again), but because I know I'll end up watching almost all of both games. Not that I've got much better to do today. And now that CBC doesn't show the Simpsons at 5 for the first time since the mid '90s, my whole afternoon television viewing schedule is way out of whack. But I'll sit down (and lie down, too, at some point) and spend 6+ hours watching a baseball team going nowhere try and destroy another team's already weak post-season chances.

I contemplated getting a Shitty Loss post ready during the late innings of last night's game. When Barajas went deep to make it 11-0, Jamie Campbell commented that it might be the nail in the coffin (or something other cliche to signify that he thought the Rangers were toast). I thought to myself, 'It'd better be', but I'm not going to lie, as soon as the Rangers put their first few runs on the board, I had visions of the Jays blowing it. With Texas slowly chipping away at the lead, I pretty much expected this one to go down in team history, with TV announcers bringing it up as a "don't forget..." in the future every time the team put itself way out in front of their opponent. Scott Downs, thankfully, shut things down in the 8th and then Adam Lind did his thing, so Lind's 8 RBIs will be the anecdote that future TV and radio announcers use from this game as opposed to an epic chokejob.

8/29/09

Shitty Loss: Not-Quite-A-Comeback Edition

Just fucking lose, please.

I knew they weren't going to come back all the way. Even when they scored those 2 runs in the 9th, I knew they were still going to lose. I guess it's not bad enough just to lose a game, they need to make sure that Papelbon gets a save to piss me off even more. Padding the 1-run loss stat is nice, too.

These are the kind of losses that would have been killing me in June. Right now, they're just a mild annoyance.

Can Hill Hit 43?

As I mentioned in the last Shitty Loss post, Aaron Hill's 31 home runs have him within grasp of at least the American League record for home runs by a second baseman, which is the 39 that Alfonso Soriano hit for the Yankees in 2002. The Major League record may be a bit more difficult, as National League second basemen Rogers Hornsby and Davey Johnson each hit 42, in 1922 and 1973, respectively.

In the last 5 weeks, or so, of the season, the Blue Jays have 35 games left. 15 of those games are at home, where Hill has hit 19 of his homers. A reasonable expectation of 2 or 3 more hit at the Rogers Centre is not out of the question, I don't think. The home games come against the Yankees, Twins, Orioles, and Mariners, who have given Hill 7 of his home runs this season.

Putting him in the 33-34 home run range with 21 games left on the road, a good chunk of those games come in home run friendly ballparks. 5 games at Fenway Park, 4 games in Arlington, and 2 games at Yankee Stadium. They also have 3 games left at Tropicana Field, 3 at Camden Yards, and 4 at Comerica Park. He has 6 home runs in those ballparks on the year, so I don't think assuming that he'll average about one home run per road series here on out is too crazy, either. Six home runs in those 6 series put him up in the Soriano range at 39 or 40. This season, against the teams the Jays still face on the road, Hill has gone deep a total of 15 times.

So, I don't think that matching (or passing) Soriano's mark is out of the realm of possibility. Coincidentally, on this date in '02, Soriano also had 31 home runs (Johnson had 36, while Hornsby had 32 in his 154 game season), so if Hill just does what he's been doing all year, I think he has a real shot at putting his name in the record book and having at least one positive thing come out of this awful season the Blue Jays have been having.

Also worth noting, Ranger's second baseman Ian Kinsler is not far behind Hill's home run total with 28 of his own (he may even be ahead of Hill had he not spent a few weeks on the disabled list earlier in the season), so if he gets hot, Hill may find himself needing to stay ahead of Kinsler in order to just lead the league in home runs for second basemen.

Shitty Loss: Rain Delay Edition

The game had it's entertaining moments, at least. I wanted nothing more than for Travis Snider to be the hero against Papelbon, but I guess it wasn't to be. Of course, they couldn't go down quietly in the 9th, that's not the Jays way, even though they were pretty lucky to get the bases loaded there.

But man, I keep waiting for Aaron Hill to stop hitting home runs and it still hasn't happened. I don't know if 40+ is possible, but, even with his early season power surge, I didn't think 30 was possible and he has proved me wrong and then some. With Roy Halladay's Cy Young chances and Ricky Romero's Rookie of the Year hopes seemingly fading by the start, seeing if Hill can catch Alfonso Soriano's American League record of 39 long balls or Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby's MLB record of 42 is about all Jays fans have left to cheer about in this lost season. With games left in homer friendly parks like Fenway, Yankee Stadium, and the Ballpark in Arlington, you'd have to think he has at least a decent shot.

8/27/09

Non-Shitty Win: Wild Pitch Edition

Well, I had a whole 'Shitty Loss' post written. I talked about how I resigned myself to a loss after Kapler's home run and how the Jays did their usual thing of getting the tying run on in the 8th before ultimately falling short. I wrote how it was nice to see another good start from Rzepczynski, how it didn't matter that Millar was the clean-up hitter because Kazmir was dealing, and how I was just glad that Snider isn't sitting against tough lefties right now.

Then, the 9th happened. I wondered what the point of pinch hitting with Barajas was and then he went deep. I then figured that I could just add a paragraph to the post I had already written about how that just delayed the inevitable and the Jays lost it in the 14th inning, or something.

And then JP Howell forgot how to throw strikes and did his best BJ Ryan impression. I guess it's fitting that the Jays didn't have to rely on a clutch hit from someone in order to win this one.

On a slightly pathetic note, however, I was a little upset that the Jays rallying for the win cost my fantasy team a win from Scott Kazmir. Yeah, I'll take the 10 strikeouts, but I could make the playoffs in this league and need anything I can get. The Jays aren't playing for anything, they could have helped me out this one time.

8/24/09

Shitty Loss: WTF Edition

I didn't think it was possible for Roy Halladay to have a bad a start as that one (even though he was mostly nickled and dimed to death in the first inning). The whole team has really gone into the tank after losing a bunch of close games to fall out of the race, the Doc trade rumours, the Rolen trade, and the Rios stuff.

That second inning sure was nice, though!

8/20/09

Do You Remember, Winning In September?

As this season continues its downward spiral, I thought I'd try and make myself feel even worse! September is usually considered the month when baseball's pennant chases heat up and fans with the Extra Innings package adding years of wear and tear onto their remote's 'Go Back' button switching between games. You can excuse Blue Jays fans, though, if they're not so sure what all of this is about. The Jays 16 year playoff drought is well known among baseball fans north of the border, and, although it is not the longest post-season drought in the Majors, I do believe that the Blue Jays have gone the longest without playing one meaningful game of baseball once the calender moves past August.

Since they clinched their 3rd consecutive AL East division title on September 27, 1993, the Jays have not played an important (for them) game deep into the season.

Here's how many games behind the division leader they've been on September 1 every season since:

1994 - N/A (they were 16.0 games behind the Yankees when the season ended)
1995 - 22.5
1996 - 13.5
1997 - 21.0
1998 - 28.0
1999 - 11.5
2000 - 5.5
2001 - 14.0
2002 - 24.5
2003 - 15.5
2004 - 27.5
2005 - 12.5
2006 - 12.0
2007 - 11.5
2008 - 14.5

So, in 15 years, they've gone into (approximately) the last month of the season single digits behind the division leader only once. A lot of this is a product of the division, of course. The '98 Yankees already had 99 wins on September 1 and were 19 games better than anyone else in the American League.

Obviously, we also have the wild card to look at. In 1999, the Jays went into September 1.5 games behind the eventual winner, Boston. They won their first 4 games in September, to bring them within 3 (although they trailed Oakland by a game, as well) before losing 10 of their next 14 games and eventually finished 10 games back (and 3 behind the A's). September 1, 2000 saw Toronto 1.5 games behind Cleveland for the AL Wild Card, but the rest of the way they went 12-16 and finished well back of Seattle (8 games), who overtook the Indians down the stretch. The Jays did hang around 3 games back, or so, around the middle of the month, but the Mariners finished 19-9 down the stretch to distance themselves from the field. So, on September 2, 2000, when they were 1.5 games out of the wild card position, that's the closest they've been to a post-season position late in the season. At this time, the Jays were promptly swept at home by Oakland (who passed them in the standings and who eventually won the AL West) and lost 2 of 3 to Seattle (also at home) and never really recovered.

I mentioned earlier the longer play-off droughts in baseball. Those belong to Montreal/Washington (1981), Kansas City (1985), and Pittsburgh (1992).

Obviously, the Expos are remembered for having the best record in baseball when the '94 strike hit. After a mediocre '95 season following their post-strike fire sale, the Expos rebounded with a very good season. On September 1, 1996, the Expos were 0.5 games behind the Dodgers in the wild card chase. As late as September 19, the Expos shared the wild card lead with the Padres (who would trade the NL West lead with the Dodgers back-and-forth down the stretch before San Diego took the title) but went into a bit of a funk and finished the season 3-6, eventually finishing 2 games back of the Dodgers. The 2003 NL Wild Card was a fun race to watch. In late August, as many as 5 teams were tied for the lead and 3 teams were less than 2 games back. On September 1, however, the Expos entered the month 4 back and never mounted much of a charge, finishing the season 12-11, 8 games behind the eventual World Series champion Marlins. In the franchise's first season in Washington, 2005, the team somehow entered September 3 games behind the Phillies, who had the lead at that point in time. They got as close as 1.5 games behind Houston (the eventual winner) on September 5, but faded a bit down the stretch and finished 8 games off the wild card pace.

Another one of baseball's long droughts belongs to the Kansas City Royals, owner of one winning season since the '94 strike. That season was 2003, where they got off to a very hot start, faded a bit, but rebounded at entered the last month of the regular season 2 games behind the AL Central division leading White Sox. On the 3rd of September, the Royals closed the gap between them and co-division leaders Chicago and Minnesota to 1 game, but lost 3 of their next 4 (including being swept in a double header by the Angels) and a 13-14 record down the stretch wasn't enough to keep pace with the red hot Twins and KC finished 7 games back, ultimately. But hey, they still finished 40 games ahead of the Tigers.

The next long playoff drought belongs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have not had a winning season since they went 7 games with the Braves in the '92 NLCS, finishing up their 3rd straight NL East division title. As awful as the Pirates have been since Sid Bream slid in safe, the Pirates entered September 1997 2.5 games behind NL Central leader (and eventual champ) Houston. They closed within 1.5 games on the 2nd, but the Astros finished 7.0 games ahead of the Buccos.

So, the Blue Jays and the Pirates are the only teams since 1993 who have not had a day in September where they had a chance to move into at least a tie for a playoff position. Though, I guess since the Pirates' chance was in '97, they beat the Jays out by a season. Congrats. Just for fun, the latest into a season the Jays have held on to a post-season position was July 14, 2000 when they were tied for the division lead with the Yankees (they last had the outright lead on the 6th of that month).

Other teams who've had a tough go of it are the Orioles (AL East champions in '97, no winning seasons since) and the Reds (NL Central champs in '95 and no post-season appearances since, but they did have a 1 game playoff for the wild card to the Mets in '99, which they lost).

So, while the playoff drought reaches 16 years and counting, I think perhaps the more embarrassing fact is that almost every team in baseball has had a better shot at playing into October than the Jays have in that time frame, including perhaps 2 of the 3 franchises that are seen as among the worst in recent MLB history.

8/19/09

Shitty Loss: Roy Halladay Edition

I don't think I ever defined what I consider a shitty loss. Basically, since the Jays have seemed to lose an inordinate amount of games by 3 runs or less over the past 2 months, or so, I figured that was a good criteria. I will make an exception, though, for any game in which Roy Halladay loses.

Despite his 7 strikeouts, Doc clearly didn't have it in this one. Going less than 7 innings for the first (non-injured) time in about 20 years is pretty noteworthy for him. I don't know, maybe the start looks a little better if the ump doesn't blow that call on Youkilis at first, but the Sox seemed to have his number most of the night.

Not that the hitters bailed him out at all, squandering the few chances they had to try and make a game out of it,
Encarnacion being the biggest culprit.

Hard to take anything positive out of this one, unlike the last few games where there was something you could point to that looked good. Maybe Wells getting a hit with RISP, as pathetic as that is, was the highlight for the Jays.

8/18/09

Shitty Loss: Masshole Edition

I was all set to chalk this up as a non-shitty loss. Falling behind early, Beckett is a pretty good pitcher, Romero has trouble with the Red Sox, and, with the Jays having to go to the bullpen early and those guys being hit or miss, I figured that Boston would pile on a few more runs and make this a laugher.

Well, I have half-right, as the bullpen didn't do a very good job bailing out Romero, who's RoY chances look to be dwindling by the start.

Obviously, it was great to see homers from both Ruiz and Snider. If they can keep their Vegas mojo going maybe I won't have to make so many of these posts.

Do they have to make things so excruciatingly close, though? Seriously, 23 one-run losses on the season is insane and both Ruiz and Lind came within feet of hitting one out against Papelbon (God, do I hate that guy) and winning the game for the Jays and almost had me believing they would actually pull a win out of their collective asses.

I should probably know better by now.

8/17/09

Who To Cheer For

As we head into yet another September pennant chase without a Blue Jay team to cheer for, I don't know if you're like me, but I usually try and find another team to sort of root for down the stretch. Last year, I picked the Rays, mostly because that meant it would have knocked at least one of the Yankees or Red Sox out of October. That's not to say that I would cheer for the Rays to win over the Jays (in fact, when Tampa Bay was one of the victims of last season's late 10 game winning streak, I was pretty happy), but when the Jays weren't involved, I was usually pulling for the Rays.

As it turned out, they weren't a bad choice. They won the division (making sure the Yankees would miss the playoffs for the first time since the strike), had a pretty easy go of it in the Division Series, almost choked away the ALCS before holding off Boston in 7 games, but went down pretty easily in the World Series to the Phillies.

I know this isn't for everyone. A lot of fans might just tune out once their favourite team gets knocked out of contention, but not having a horse in the race for going on 16 years now has left me without many choices if I want to make post-season baseball a little more exciting.

Anyway, though, I'll take a look at some choices for who I might be pulling for as the pennant races heat up heading into late August.

New York Yankees

What's to like: Um, the history?

What's not to like: Let's see. They're the fucking Yankees. I know that they've been usurped a bit in terms of hatred by the Red Sox in recent years, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. There's not really any player on the team that I particularly like. I really don't want to see A.J. Burnett win a World Series and I REALLY don't want to see Eric Hinske make a third straight World Series. Besides, them making the playoffs is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, so where's the fun in cheering for them? I also don't like hearing about how great the new ballpark is.

Boston Red Sox

What's to like: Fenway's pretty cool, I guess, if you ignore the people at the game.

What's not to like: Massholes. Lot's of douchebag players. The media referring to Jason Bay as 'Canadian Jason Bay' during every BoSox highlight package is really annoying, too. Also, they've really been treating this team as a fantasy team this season. Not so much in how much money they spend, but just the picking up and releasing of players. Like the Adam LaRoche situation. They need a corner infielder, so they pick one up. Oh, a better one is available in Victor Martinez, so they get him and dump off LaRoche on someone else. And Martinez has catcher eligibility as well, sweet! And how many guys have they tried at SS this year?

Tampa Bay Rays

What's to like: Fans aren't known douchebags, yet. Carl Crawford is fun to watch. Joe Maddon seems like a cool guy.

What's not to like: Starting to lose their 'underdog' label. The fact that they've made the Jays the fourth best team in the division is starting to set in and it depresses me. Jeff Niemann might beat out Ricky Romero in the Rookie of the Year voting if the Rays have a strong finish.

Detroit Tigers

What's to like: Not seeing much here. In '06, it was a good story, not so much this year.

What's not to like: The Tigers have scored less runs than the Jays, given up more, and are in first place. As winners of a weak division, they might not have a very good chance to make if out of the ALDS.

Chicago White Sox

What's to like: Maybe you like beating up 1st base coaches.

What's not to like: They're only in the race because of their weak division. They have Alex Rios now, so a lot of Jays fans might not want to see him succeed in Chicago. They don't even have a long championship drought anymore, which might have swayed some people a few years ago.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

What's to like: It would be nice to see Vlad Guerrero win something in his career.

What's not to like: Kinda boring team, not in the style that they play, just that they're always just kinda there, but never seem to do anything since '02.

Texas Rangers

What's to like: I think this is the closest parallel to the Jays this year. Bit of a long playoff drought (since 1999), they haven't really been awful in the past few years, but haven't been great, either. If they win the Wild Card, then they knock out 2 of the other AL East teams out of the playoffs.

What's not to like: Probably not that much better than the Jays, but are having better results. Elvis Andrus might take away some Romero RotY votes if the team finishes strong.

Philadelphia Phillies

What's to like: Maybe Matt Stairs can be a playoff hero again this year.

What's not to like: They're from Philly. They won last year, so what's the fun in picking them again? Tried to steel Doc from us, too.

Florida Marlins

What's to like: It's kinda cool when they fill up Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/LandShark Stadium up with 65,000+ people for a baseball game. They've also never lost a playoff series, so cheering for them in October has been a pretty safe bet.

What's not to like: Jeffrey Loria is their owner. That's all you need to know. No self-respecting Canadian baseball fan should cheer for anything related to that piece of shit.

Atlanta Braves

What's to like: Bobby Cox is alright, I guess.

What's not to like: A bunch of empty seats during playoff games, the Tomahawk chop, the way they handled the Tom Glavine situation, the fact that they made the playoffs 100 years up until a few years ago.

St. Louis Cardinals

What's to like: Albert Pujols.

What's not to like: THE BEST FANS IN BASEBALL. They won the Series a few years ago with a shitty team.

Chicago Cubs

What's to like: It would be pretty cool if they finally won it this year.

What's not to like: We'd be beaten over the head with Steve Bartman bullshit if they even came close.

Los Angeles Dodgers

What's to like: I guess Orlando Hudson winning would be cool.

What's not to like: The Joe Torre love fest that would ensue if the Dodgers won it all. Not to mention, Ned Colletti's many faults as GM would be glossed over as he's celebrated for putting together a championship team. Oh, and all the media outrage we'd be subjected to if 'Manny Ramirez: ROIDER' won another title.

Colorado Rockies

What's to like: I really got nothing here.

What's not to like: Already had their Cinderella run in '07, let someone else have a chance. We might have to hear more about how the Jays should have drafted Tulowitzki instead of Romero some more.

San Francisco Giants

What's to like: Tim Lincecum is fun to watch.

What's not to like: Eerily similar to the all-pitch, no-hit '08 Jays team. The Jays didn't sniff the playoffs while the Giants are in a pretty good position to win the Wild Card. Not to mention that with every Lincecum start, we'd be wishing that in some alternate reality, the Giants had accepted the Jays trade offer of Alex Rios and Lincecum would be plying his trade in Toronto.

Those are all the teams that have a legitimate shot at making the post-season this year, I think. The Yankees are looking like the only sure thing right now, but the Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinal, and Angels all seem to be becoming safer bets by the day.

To me, I think the team I'll pick this season is the Rangers. They currently have the Wild Card lead (0.5 games ahead of Boston) and are enough of an underdog that I don't really feel like a front runner by mildly cheering for them. And I'm sure they'll give the Jays a shitty loss or two when the teams hook up in Arlington in a few weeks. Or, maybe the Jays will win a few games, just to spite me.

8/16/09

Shitty Loss: Grand Slam Edition

Can't say I paid too much attention to this one, though I did see Zaun's slam (unfortunately).

Remember when Brandon League had that amazing outing at Yankee Stadium last week? Seems a lot longer than 3 or 4 games ago. League is a weird one, as he's been amazing this season against the Yankees. 8 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts against only 2 walks and 5 hits. That makes his 5.20 ERA for the season seem that much worse.

On the plus side, at least Rzepczynski had another decent start, Carlson didn't shit the bed in his inning, and Hill didn't get hurt in his collision at home with Navarro. You take what you can get at this point, I guess.

Hill & Lind

Because this season is circling the drain, let's take a look at some of the good that's come from it. For now, let's start with the team's top 2 sluggers, Aaron Hill and Adam Lind.

Hill's 28 home runs are good enough for a tie for 3rd in the AL, while Lind's 24 puts him in a tie for 8th. While some of their other stats might not stack up with other players in the top 10 (Hill's OBP is especially low), the fact that the team has two players who are on pace to hit over 30 home runs is so nice after last season's offensive nightmare, where the Jays needed 2 homers from Vernon Wells on the last day of the season just to have one player knock out 20.

As bad as things have looked in the past few months, imagine how much worse things would be without these 2 having break-out seasons. With the disappointing seasons that we've seen from Wells and the departed Alex Rios, the streakiness of Lyle Overbay, and that Kevin Millar has even seen 1 at-bat (let alone however many it's been now) out of the clean-up spot, the fact that we can consistently rely on those 2 guys to drive in runs has made this season seem at least little bit less shitty.

Not that I'll remember any of this when they're going to have their bad seasons that every Jay seems to have every few years, but, for now anyway, cheers to them.

8/12/09

Shitty Loss: Daytime, Extra Inning Edition

Another shitty loss! Is there anything worse than losing a day game like that? I mean, at least if I'm at home watching a game at night, those are likely my plans for the evening. I've got nothing better to do and I've set aside 3 hours or so to sit on my ass and watch baseball. But sitting inside on a beautiful day feels bad enough as it is, seeing another stupid Yankee walk-off win just makes it worse. Especially when the game is about 4 hours long.

At least we got another homer out of Randy Ruiz, and not a cheapo off the foul pole, this time. And Jeter got hurt. And maybe A-Rod. And Romero had another pretty good start. And Burnett didn't get the win. So it wasn't all bad.

I'll just blame this loss on Hill bobbling a likely double play ball in the 1st that let a run score and move on. Sounds good to me.

8/11/09

Shitty Loss: Yankee Stadium Edition

I guess it was too good to be true. After the bullpen shut down the Yankees in the first game of the series, it would have been too much to hope for that Jesse Carlson didn't shit the bed 2 nights in a row. The Matsui homer was a no-doubter, but in Carlson's defence, the Posada shot is probably an out in 29 other ballparks (I guess I shouldn't complain too much, though, since Randy Ruiz's (!) home run was a 314-foot Yankee Stadium special). And, all things considered, I guess, I'd rather the Jays blow it in the 8th than have to put up with another annoying Yankee walk-off win.

Encarnacion's first Blue Jay home run was a bomb, so that was nice, and the Jays did their routine of making things look interesting in the 9th. But again, you can't really expect to come back off of Rivera (no matter how many times the announcers bring up Scutaro's home run off of him in Oakland 23 years ago).

I wonder what it's going to take to end Cito's love affair with Carlson, though. As awesome as he was last season- and he was- he just doesn't have it this year. I'm not going to pretend to understand why, but it's tough watching him get trotted out there almost every time there's a big at-bat against a lefty late in the game. Maybe because there were other, sometimes better, options against lefties out there last year (Downs, Ryan, even Tallet), but it seemed like Carlson was put in similar situations as tonight late in games a year ago and didn't piss himself in the process.

I realize that none of this really matters, as the Jays are already playing for next season, but you'd at least like to see some glimmers of hope that some of the problem areas that the team has had this year are at least looking to be turning the corner heading into the off-season.

He Gone

Well, it actually happened.

After a weekend of wondering, the Jays let Alex Rios (and all the money he's owed) walk and he's now a member of the Chicago White Sox.

Not getting anything in return (aside from salary relief), the Jays are taking a big risk here in the public eye, as, for all his faults, Rios is still a young, 2-time All Star who has shown a ton of potential. Sending him to the White Sox with nothing coming the other way is basically admitting they made a mistake with his contract extension.

I think the only way to really judge this is to wait until the off-season. If the team uses the 'financial flexibility' that dumping all the money they'd have to pay Rios gives them and puts all or most of it back into other areas of the team, then I think this could be a positive for the team. Now, I'm not terribly confident that ownership will do this, but I'm going to have to give them the benefit of the doubt, for now.

What I dread the most, however, is Rios reaching the 30-35 home run potential that most fans thought he was capable of a few years ago. The "wouldn't he look good in a Blue Jays uniform right about now" that we'd hear from whoever's giving us the highlights whenever he has a good game that coincides with a rough patch in the Jays season would get old fast. It's happened before with lesser players (Dave Bush).

Anyway, the eternal optimist in me thinks that this could end up being good for the team in the long run. Rios has shown that he can be a very good player, but if Rogers allows Ricciardi (or whoever the GM may be) re-spend his salary on free agents (or take on someone's salary in a trade), then the Jays could come out ahead.

8/9/09

'93-peat

After dusting off the ol' VCR and popping in the '92 World Series video, I figured I'd do the same for the '93 video, as well (which contains Jim Hughson's great call that inspired the post title after the Jays clinched their third straight AL East title).

Like I said the other day, I remember more about that series than I do the 1992 one, but even then, the memories aren't exactly fresh in my mind.

Obviously, the Joe Carter home run is something I'll never forget. Sitting in my living room while my dad yelled louder than maybe any time I've ever heard him yell as the ball went over the wall has stuck with me for 16 years now and will hopefully stick with me for many more.

I think game 4 is where I really started paying attention (though I do remember the discussion about where Molitor would play and whether or not they'd sit Olerud). I remember Todd Stottlemyre's ill advised slide into 3rd base and my 10-year old self being pretty forgiving (of course he couldn't run the bases well, he wasn't used to it) before being told that if he couldn't run the bases well, he shouldn't try going from 1st to 3rd on a single. I don't remember what time I went to bed that night, but it being a school night, it was long before it was over. I just know that the next morning my dad woke me up and rushed me into the other room where there was a TV in time to see the end of the highlights and the score.

Game 5 also being on a school night, I wasn't able to stay up and watch the potential clincher, but that didn't matter in the end.

Game 6 was obviously the big one, and thanks to whoever it was that put almost the entire 9th inning online.

While watching the '92 video, it seemed to me that Tim McCarver seemed a little better as a colour analyst, at least compared to how he is now, and thought maybe, at one point, he had been half decent. Watching that 9th inning again, I guess I was wrong. That 9th inning also has that awesomely cheesy early-90s Coke video.

The video also highlights what a tremendous douchebag Curt Schilling is. I can understand being nervous, considering the situation, but for him to sit in the dugout, covering his ears and putting a towel over his head while Mitch Williams was pitching was such a prick move.

I also need to mention how awful the turf in Philly looked. It being football season, you can see the outline of the gridiron stretch across the whole playing field. While I may be a bit upset that the place of the Jays' first championship victory no longer exists, I don't think too many people feel the same way about the Vet.

The credits of the video roll over the TV call of the Carter home run, as well as both the home and away radio calls. While the Tom Cheek call is probably the most beloved call about Blue Jays fans (and deservedly so), Sean McDonough's call on CBS is what I always associate with it, probably because that's the call I heard as it was happening. Also interesting is Harry Kalas's call for Phillies radio. I would love to hear Vin Scully's call on the national radio feed, as well, but sadly it's not included here.

I think this video is done better than the '92 one. The segment on game 4 is great, as there is very little narration and instead lets the play-by-play from the TV broadcast tell most of the story. Also, it seems there is less Tim McCarver, which is always a bonus.

Again, it's always great to go back and take a look at why I fell in love with this team and allow myself to be put through the wringer by them every year since then.

8/7/09

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

With the A's releasing Jason Giambi today, it got me thinking back to this past off-season. As was well documented, the Blue Jays didn't sign any major league free agents and made only minor league deals with the likes of Kevin Millar and Matt Clement (with Clement quitting before the season started and many fans wishing Millar had done the same). With the recession in full swing, there were a lot of bargains to be had, but the Jays stood pat, in spite of many thinking that signing one of the available players would have helped address what were seen as the team's weaknesses before the season began. Obviously, free agency can be a crapshoot, especially when you go bargain hunting, but let's take a look at some of the guys that Jays fans coveted before the season began.

Manny Ramirez
This was mostly a pie in the sky idea, as there was little chance that ownership was going to pony up the cash it would have taken to ink Manny. After boosting the Dodgers into the playoffs in 2008, he eventually re-signed in LA to the tune of $45 million over 2 years. Despite testing positive for PEDs and missing the requisite 50 games, he's still having a typical Manny-like season. Though his stats are down a bit from the lofty ones he produced in his half-season in Hollywood in 2008, he's again helping a very good Dodgers team run away with the NL West.

Raul Ibanez
Signed in December, before most teams decided to take it a bit slower because of economic concerns, the Phillies inked Ibanez to a 3-year/$31.5 million deal, replacing Pat Burrell as their left fielder. And, although he has slowed down a bit recently, Ibanez is currently at career high numbers in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and, as a result, OPS. A lot of this is due to leaving spacious Safeco Field and moving to homer friendly Citizens Bank Park, yes, but even his Seattle numbers look pretty good, too, when compared to some players on the Jays.

Pat Burrell
The man who's spot in Philadelphia Ibanez took, however, is not having such a good go of it. Leaving the Phillies and going to the team he had just help beat in the World Series, signing a 2-year/$16 million contract to play in Tampa. Burrell is on pace to post career low marks in most major offensive categories, meaning he would probably would fit right in in Toronto, I guess.

Bobby Abreu
In spite of his track record, Abreu waited much of the off-season before being forced to settle on a 1-year/$5 million dollar offer from the Angels. Although his power numbers may be down a bit, he's still posting numbers mostly in line with is career norms.

Jason Giambi
Giambi returned to the A's, the site of his steroid-fueled glory days after the Yankees declined his option and bought him out, instead. The A's signed him to a 1-year deal worth $5.25 million (with an option for 2010) and hoped that him and Matt Holiday would spark their offense. It didn't work, as Giambi's OPS dropped nearly 200 points from his '08 pace before he was let go.

Adam Dunn
Not that this was ever going to happen after the remarks Ricciardi made about him, but that obviously didn't stop fans from wanting him, despite his hatred for the game of baseball. Dunn's doing what he always does after Washington picked him up on a 2-year deal worth $20 million. He's currently at a career high OPS pace and even his batting average is 30 points above his career number.

Orlando Cabrera
Another perceived area of weakness on the Toronto club was shortstop. Fans were leery of handing the full-time job to Marco Scutaro and wanted the Jays to go sign a proven performer to man the position. While Scutaro proved all the naysayers wrong, Cabrera struggled quite a bit early in the season in Oakland, who signed him to a 1-year deal late in the off-season that would pay him $4 million. He was traded to the Twins at the trade deadline and his offensive numbers across the board are less than what the Jays are getting from Scutaro.

Orlando Hudson
Another idea fans had was to sign former Jay Hudson to play 2B and shift Aaron Hill over to shortstop, the position he played in college. Eventually, Hudson signed a 1-year/$3.38 million dollar contract with the Dodgers. Hudson's having a solid season in LA, but would not provide an offensive upgrade over Scutaro, either.

That takes care of the offensive side of things. There were a number of starting pitchers that a lot of fans wanted them to pursue, as well, after A.J. Burnett opted out of his deal and skipped town. Pedro Martinez has yet to pitch in the majors this season, but is getting ready in the Phillies minor league system. Derek Lowe signed a 4-year/$60-million contract with the Braves, but has been nothing special. While, at times, the rotation has looked a bit shaky behind Halladay, most of the rookies that the Jays have plugged in there have performed very well at times.

Looking over it, it seems like the Jays probably weren't hurt too much by not making a relatively big splash in the free agent pool. Ibanez signed for more money than they were likely to shell out at that time and probably wasn't seen as having a place to play, with Snider, Wells, Rios, and Lind tying up the outfield and DH positions going into the season. And while Abreu would definitely be an upgrade over the offensive contributions they've gotten from most players this season, they could have just as easily gone after Burrell or Giambi and be in about the same place they are now and wasting $5 to $20 million in the process.

8/6/09

Memories of '92

In honour of the Back2Back weekend, I popped in the 1992 World Series video, mostly just to remind me why I like this game and why I'm putting myself through the torture that this season has been since late May.

While I wasn't old enough to appreciate that something special was happening, watching the video still brought back a ton of memories. As I mentioned in the comments of eyebleaf's post, about the only thing I remembered from the video itself was the narrator saying that guys like Ed Sprague and Derek Bell didn't "ride the benches, they worked the trenches", I hadn't realized that had played such a big role in the success of the team. Bell's reaction after Sprague's 9th inning home run is great, I think he's more proud of his trenchmate than he is happy that the team's probably going to win the game.

It's also a little depressing to me that the ballpark where the Jays won their first World Series is now a parking lot. I'm sure Turner Field is a much nicer place than old Fulton County Stadium, but I love watching Dave Winfield's double go down into the corner and bounce off of the bullpen mound and Ron Gant slip on the weird, chalky warning track they had there.

I'll probably pop in the '93 video sometime soon, too. I remember more of that series, even though I still wasn't old enough to appreciate how truly special winning 2 straight championships was. I just hope I don't have to wait another 16 years for the team to get close again.

8/4/09

Another Shitty Loss

Well, I can't say that this one was any more of a nut punch than any of the other shitty losses this team has had in the past month or so. I guess they always sting a little more when Doc is on the mound, though. The first inning sucked, with A-Rod maybe being out when trying to get back into 2nd but being called safe and then a few bobbled balls that let him score (maybe Millar should have let Hill play that one). And then bringing the tying run to the plate in the 8th, but not having Overbay hit for Millar (although Millar had a decent at-bat, at least, before striking out [side note: was it just me, or did they Jays get caught looking a ton in this game?]). Wells's double was nice, but you can never really expect to come back against Rivera. Same thing with the 9th inning and getting the 2 guys on for Hill (I know we all had visions of a walk-off shot, but the guy's going to the Hall of Fame for a reason).

Again, the margin of defeat was razor thin (you have to go back to June 27 to find a game they've lost by more than 3 runs), enough to make me think the team just needs some minor tweaking on the offensive side to contend next year. I'm probably delusional, but what other choice has this team given me over the past 15 years?

8/3/09

The Roy Halladay Situation

The media has been piling on J.P. Ricciardi over his handling of the Roy Halladay trade deadline situation. And while I agree that it was unfair that Doc had to go through what seemed like months of 'will he or won't he be traded', I have to wonder how much of that was the fault of the media. They're the ones who took what J.P. had been saying before the season started ("We probably won't trade him unless we're blown away by an offer") and ran it into the ground. Obviously, looking for a story, they started frothing at the mouth and took an opportunity to dream up trade scenarios with half the teams in baseball and when none of those teams were willing to cough up fair value (or, at least, what J.P. decided was fair value) they decided to blame the whole mess on the GM, because God forbid he make them look stupid after basically every one of them said that Doc was as good as gone.

On top of that, all of this has overshadowed the seemingly great Scott Rolen trade that was made with the Reds (Baseball Prospectus called it 'The Worst Deadline Deal'). Getting 2 potential closers for an injury prone, soon-to-be 35-year old 3B could be a steal but no one is paying any attention to that when listing the Jays among their 'Losers' at the trade deadline.

Anyway, back on topic, I just don't get the thought process that somehow makes not trading your best player just for the sake of trading him bad for your team and you have to love the media ignoring their role in how public it all was.

8/1/09

Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? CONCLUSION

Parts 1-7 can be found in the July archive.

Just to try and sum things up here.

TRADING

Nothing spectacular here. A few decent trades, most of the time it seems like he got the better end of the deal, but no trade that jumps out at you as a total fleecing.

FREE AGENCY

His biggest signings haven't really paid off. Having to release Thomas and Ryan and eat their money stings, and the Burnett opt-out clause really hurt the team this season (although I realize it's very possible they never sign Burnett in the first place without it). A few good scrap heap pick-ups like Catalanotto, Downs, and Zaun look pretty good though. A mixed bag, definitely.

KEEPING HIS PLAYERS

The Wells contract is awful, however, it appears that might not have been all Ricciardi. The first Wells extension was good, however, and the Hill one is looking very good right now. Both Halladay deals were excellent, too. The Hinske contract, while not terrible, didn't work out and my opinion on the Rios contract changes almost daily (but, generally, I think it's not too bad).

DRAFTING

Another mixed bag here. While the farm system is basically seen as in the middle of the pack when compared to the rest of MLB, his only real flop so far has been Russ Adams. He's drafted a bunch of good-to-very good pitchers and some impact bats like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, and (hopefully) Travis Snider.

WHO HE'S TRADED AWAY

No Michael Youngs here, at least. Jayson Werth is probably the best player on that list and while he maybe didn't get full value for guys like Paul Quantrill or Felipe Lopez, neither of those guys could be considered franchise cornerstones at any point in their career.

WHO HE'S LET WALK

While Chris Carpenter and Carlos Delgado would both have looked real nice in a Jays uniform in the past few years, budget concerns were mostly the reasons that those 2 were let go. While some of the other guys who've left this way have shown occasional flashes, none of them have really had any prolonged success.

COMPARED TO OTHER GENERAL MANAGERS

While this is a little difficult, I'm not sure that Ricciardi is necessarily any worse than a lot of the other GMs who have taken their teams to the playoffs. He's in a situation where he needs basically a perfect storm of everything going right for his team while having at least one or two other teams falter enough to give him a chance. Put him in a different division or give him some more money to work with and I think a lot of people would see him in a different light.

So, to wrap things up, I figure Ricciardi is, at worst, an average Major League Baseball general manager. He might try and play it safe too often (especially with regards to trades and the draft) and his biggest splashes in the free agent market haven't really panned out, but he's put together some solid baseball teams that just haven't been able to push themselves over the top for one reason or another.

7/31/09

Bad GM or Worst GM Ever? Part 7

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Comparing general managers in any sport is difficult. Comparing them in baseball is probably most difficult, however, as the playing field is not as level as it is in other leagues. With hockey, football, and basketball all having some form of a salary cap, in theory, all general managers in those sports are working under the same parameters. Now, obviously, there are other factors at work (as any Edmonton Oiler front office employee can tell you, geography plays a part), but money-wise, no one can spend well beyond what every other team can.

This is not the case in Major League Baseball, and it is especially not the case in the American League East. In this division, you have the extremes of the Yankees and Red Sox, who have 2 of the highest payrolls in the Majors, and the Rays, who spend less than most teams, with the Blue Jays usually falling somewhere in between.

The biggest knock against J.P. Ricciardi as general manager of the Jays is that he hasn't sent a team to the postseason. Now, this is a big knock and I get as frustrated as any Blue Jays fan when October comes and we're stuck watching other teams go and have all the fun.

Ricciardi, hired before the 2002 season, has the longest active tenure of any GM who's team hasn't made the playoffs. On the surface, that looks ugly, and it's hard to blame fans who look at that and think a change should be made. Digging a little deeper, though, I'm not sure Ricciardi's done much worse than a lot of his contemporaries.

This is a list of general managers who have been to the playoffs starting in 2002:
Brian Cashman
Terry Ryan
Billy Beane
Bill Stoneman
John Schuerholz
Walt Jocketty
Joe Garagiola, Jr.
Brian Sabean
Larry Beinfest
Jim Hendry
Theo Epstein
Gerry Hunsicker
Paul DePodesta
Tim Purpura
Kevin Towers
Kenny Williams
Dave Dombrowski
Omar Minaya
Ned Colletti
Pat Gillick
Josh Byrnes
Mark Shaprio
Andrew Friedman
Tony Reagins
Doug Melvin

Now, that's a long list, to be sure, but I'm not convinced that every one of them is necessarily better at their job than Ricciardi is just because they got to spray champagne around their clubhouse.

First, I think you need to compare him to his AL East counterparts. Cashman, Epstein, and now, Friedman, are seen as some of better front office minds working in baseball today. Cashman, Yankee GM since 1998, has won 3 World Series rings at the helm of the Evil Empire, although none since 2000. Epstein has 2 championships to his name, the first for the Red Sox since 1918, and Friedman took over the Rays and through some shrewd drafting and trading, transformed them from bottom feeders to contenders. While Friedman has done an excellent job, I'm not sure it's fair to compare his situation to Ricciardi's. While Friedman took over a team that had never won more than 70 games, his squad had amassed a large amount of high draft picks that allowed him to have a large group of high ceiling players either develop for Tampa or be traded elsewhere for useful parts. Ricciardi, on the other hand, took over a Toronto team that had been mediocre at worst for the better part of the previous 5 years, winning somewhere in between 76-88 games from 1997 until 2001. He was also given the task of rebuilding the major league team relatively quickly in the image of the low budget Oakland Athletics, the team where he had been the Director of Player Personnel since 1997. And while Toronto fans may look at what the Rays have done in the past season and a half, winning in the tough AL East on a low budget, I'm not sure many of them have the appetite to go through the full scale rebuilding that something like that would take. Do you want to put up with 10 years of awful baseball for the chance of a good 2 or 3 year run?

It may also not be completely fair to judge him next to Cashman and Epstein, but those 2 have been in charge of their respective franchises for basically Ricciardi's entire run in Toronto. Ricciardi obviously doesn't have the financial resources to compete with the big spenders in the division, and that has hampered his team-building somewhat. While Boston and New York are able to hide bad free agent signings and not let it affect them (Julio Lugo and Carl Pavano come to mind), Ricciardi isn't afforded that luxury, making situations like B.J. Ryan's (and Frank Thomas's, to an extent) look much worse. While Cashman and Epstein are probably decent GMs, I'm not sure they would have fared much better in Toronto than Ricciardi has.

It becomes even more difficult to compare him to GMs in other divisions (and in the National League), I think, because the level of competition is completely different. Is Ned Colletti, the same guy who signed guys like Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Jason Schmidt to awful contracts a better GM because he lucked into Manny Ramirez wanting out of Boston and won a weak division? Probably not.

During Ricciardi's time in Toronto, his team has averaged 81 wins a year (2002-2008). Not a great number, obviously, in fact, it's perfectly mediocre. That's dragged down a bit by the awful 2004 season, which can probably be seen as an aberration, as they've won 80+ games a season since then. However, during this time they have almost always underperformed their Pythagorean record, sometimes by as many as 8 wins. I think this shows that he has put together better teams than the Win/Loss record would dictate, which I think most people miss when discussing his relative success and/or failure.

All in all, when looking at him compared to his fellow GMs, I think Ricciardi stacks up pretty nicely. It's obviously difficult to ignore the lack of postseasons on his resumé, but if you look past that, he's probably in the middle of the pack.

Well, I don't think I can look at it any other ways. Next time out I'll try and sum it up as nicely as I can in some sort of conclusion.