Friday, 27 March 2015

A Post-Stroman World



I never quite expected it to be like this. While I was never one who wailed about the season being over when Stroman tore his ACL, I still didn't think I'd feel this heady with two weeks left in spring training.

For real, he's not coming back this season. There are hospital pictures. Pictures of Stroman in a cast.

Reading Stroman's motivational tweets about killing rehab is great.





I mean, Stroman tweets about how he can shower again, but not about the horror of cleaning by baby wipes. I wonder if Stroman really is this positive, but I also figure he isn't the type to use Twitter to reveal the depths of his despair.




When showering is one of your favourite hobbies...

 This isn't going to simply be a recap of what Marcus Stroman has tweeted since he tore his ACL, as amazingly peppy as it has been. This is about the future. The pitching has been alarmingly on point.

Miguel Castro, a string bean who got braces when got his signing bonus, is shy and soft-spoken, with a vague idea about what he might mean to the Toronto Blue Jays. Castro also has a lot of swagger on the mound. Of course, if I had a high 90s fastball and a changeup to match, I'd have swagger, too. Roberto Osuna is a little shorter, but equally nasty on the mound. Somehow, these two friends who are barely 20 years old have become the story of the Jays spring. This with a guy who lives in a van down by the Walmart.

John Lott wrote a wonderful piece about the two of them. Osuna is from a poor family in Mexico. The Jays signed him as a 16 year old for $1.5 million.

“I gave my mother a house,” he said. “I put my brothers and sister into school. I bought a rental house. And I invested. And I put some money aside for the future.”

Osuna can't say enough nice things about Castro.

“He’s a guy with excellent qualities,” Osuna said. “Quite a lot people don’t know that he’s a great person. They miss that. Everybody just focuses on what’s there, the baseball. But he’s a very happy person. He’s an excellent player. And an excellent person.”

Castro is listed as 190, which is skinny for one so tall. “I eat a lot but I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he said softly.

It's called a fast metabolism. And I'll try not to hate you for it.


Russell Martin is also impressed. 

“I think that they’re just both quality people, to begin with,” Martin said. “They’re pros. They go about their business the right way. They’re not overconfident. As good as they’re doing, they just seem to understand that it’s a process. And whether they have a great day or an OK day, they have the same demeanor. Even if they do well, they’re still hungry. They want to learn. They want to make sure that every time they go out there, they learn something. You just gotta love their attitudes, man.”

Yeah, man.



Speaking of the one who lives in a van down by the Walmart, media from all over North America can't get enough of Daniel Norris. Cathal Kelly's recent piece featured this bit of genius: "The 21-year-old pitcher has the dead-ahead, deep-blue gaze you associate with prophets coming out of deserts in epic films. Which he kind of is."

Norris pitched a minor masterpiece versus the Orioles earlier in the week: three hits, one run, no walks and seven strikeouts, featuring different changeups, one of which he didn't have a week ago.

“My whole career I’ve thrown a cut change and it’s played really well,” Norris said. “But we sat down and talked this week and [the coaches] were like, ‘There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just that you’ve got to have something that kind of goes the other way.’ So we kind of messed around with something. They said, ‘It’s up to you if you want to try it.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, if it’s going to make me better, I’ll do it, sure. And it worked today.”

So wait. What the heck is a cut change? Is he cutting his changeup? The cutter's grip is off centre from a typical straight up four seam fastball grip, and the result is a slightly slower pitch that cuts towards the pitcher's glove side and out of the sweet spot of the hitter's bat.  Mariano Rivera built his entire legend on being able to cut away from the sweet spot.

With the changeup, the pitcher throws the pitch like a fastball but removes the power finger (the middle one), slowing the pitch down. So is Norris changing up his cutter?


Norris: Van. Beard. Filth.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

What Sucks? This: Stroman Tears ACL. Out for Season 2015


News broke this afternoon that something shitty happened that AA was going to announce. And boy, was he not wrong. Marcus Stroman, Sunshine of Our Lives, tore his ACL doing a bunting drill and will be out for all of 2015. All of it.

And now everything is terrible.

Twitter did its thing.



Ugh. Boy was tweeting about going out to dinner with the one he calls "Papa Buehrle" last night. Apparently Buehrle failed to do whatever voodoo on Stroman that keeps Buehrle himself off the DL year after year.




Bunting. It had to be bunting. This, by the way, was going to be the Donaldson reference on the blog today.



Wilner tweeted it earlier. Rolen is up there as one of my favourite Jays ever. I don't even know why Rolen is in camp, I would like to imagine he thought it would make me happy. I appreciate the effort Scott, but I should know better than to expect baseball to make me happy.


 I had hopes that the news of a bad news announcement was going to be something like this:

My initial reaction to the news was this:


Not because I think pitchers shouldn't be practicing bunt fielding, but rather I just want to do away with bunting. Forever. That and the Wave. And the Red Sox.


Right? The news is rough because not only is Stroman a major part of the rotation, but the kid is right on the cusp of being something great.


Cespedes Family BBQ agrees


Stroman himself tweeted about the news.


And several in the media tweeted quotes from Sanchez and Norris, about how sick and sad it made them.


This dude wins idiot tweet of afternoon.
HAVE YOU EVER ACTUALLY WATCHED BASEBALL?


 Sympathy from a White Sox fan (and Buehrle aficionado.


Sympathy from a Yankee fan (who I like even though she's a Yankee fan)



This is the point people started to move out of the anger part of grief, and more into a combo of bargaining and denial.



God bless Drew Fairservice.
Or not.

Gibby the best.


And that's basically what it comes down to. Someone needs to step it up. Norris and Sanchez (who I think know can safely be considered a part of the starting rotation) need to fill in. Luckily, they have the talent to do so. But this sucks. Hard.



So pull yourselves together.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Spring Training 2015: Notes on Knees, Changeups, Hazing and a Dog.



Well, that escalated quickly. And then it sort of deescalated.

Mike Saunders, new left fielder acquired from Seattle, spoke extensively about being thrilled to bits about being a Canadian playing for the only MLB team in Canada. Also, about being wanted after being jerked around by the Mariners. I was feeling a little annoyed about the failure to re-sign Melky Cabrera, but many people tried to convince me that Saunders was a decent replacement (in a numbers balancing sort of way) for less money. I wasn't particularly satisfied, but I got over it and was ready to see what Saunders could do.

Saunders then promptly tripped on a sprinkler head shagging fly balls and bunged his knee up real good. Like, "out till the All Star Break" good. This happened three days into camp. The injury was so fluky that it felt a little like the baseball gods hate Mike Saunders. And because of our association with Mike Saunders, the baseball gods hated all of us. And things were dark.

I had concerns about the depth of the team (which is a legitimate concern) and I was thankful, at least, there were no sprinklers in the Rogers Centre that could be used to punish us. That's right, in a dark moment, I lost my mind and was thankful there was no grass. I wasn't the only one who went insane. People on sports radio were actually questioning why Saunders was already at camp. I don't know what they were expecting, exactly. Should he be cryogenically frozen until an appropriate time and have this totally freak injury happen sometime in March?

Yesterday, there was good/bad news on the Saunders front and I learned something about knee surgery. Saunders tore the cartilage in his left knee. That's bad. It was so damaged, that instead of repairing it (and keeping him out until the All Star Break), they just removed 60% of it. Doing that shortens his recovery time to mid-April. That's good. Unfortunately, removing cartilage could lead to arthritis later on down the road. That's bad.

I know next to nothing about knee injuries, but I'm assuming that the fact that Saunders, because had cartilage damage anyway and will have the regular wear and tear on his knee that comes with being an aging pro-athlete to contribute,  the likelihood of arthritis whether he got cartilage removed or not would be pretty great anyway.



In other news of broken bodies, the Jays signed former Cy Young winner Johan Santana to a minor league deal with some fun incentives if he makes starts with the big league club.

I think there are two things going on here. If the press surrounding the team is accurate, the Jays are trying to work on the clubhouse dynamic. Josh Thole, who caught Santana with the Mets, basically thinks he's the best.

“First off, I think as a person he takes the cake,” said Thole. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with … He also has fun and he keeps the clubhouse loose and keeps the guys having the camaraderie. He really brings it together.”

They also look a little like they might make out in that picture above. It's very snuggly. Thole caught Santana's no-hitter a few years ago, so there might be a lot of love.

The other thing Santana brings is that changeup, which according to Anthopoulos is still there, is pure filth. The changeup is my favourite pitch, because I think it's just mean. Even if Santana sticks around long enough to give changeup tips to the baby Jays, I think it'd be almost worth it.

“The stuff was still good in the winter,” the GM said.”The changeup’s still there. He’s a great competitor, a great athlete. And it’s a minor-league deal, so we really don’t have anything to lose.”

Anthopoulos also called Santana "cerebral", which is nice, too. Although, what is he going to say, "We allocated funds to a guy who has a lot of issues. Not only is he injured a lot, but he's a mouth-breathing idiot who is also kind of an asshole."

As Stoeten highlighted the other day, Keith Law had some things to say about Dalton Pompey on the Baseball Tonight podcast:

I do hope for Toronto that this means Dalton Pompey ends up on the Major League roster from day one, because I think he’s ready, and I think he gives them a couple of things they need: good defence, baserunning value, and he’s one of their better on-base threats — particularly outside of Joey Bautista. They need somebody at the top of the lineup to get on base for them, and I really think his plate discipline, his calmness at the plate, is unusual for his age, and I think he can contribute right away, even if it’s just in those limited way.

Bonus points for calling him "Joey" Bautista. Isn't it nice to talk about baseball again? Pompey could be a big star in this town in an unprecedented local boy way. And I'm really, really looking forward to it.

If I had a dollar for every time Cal worked me over, physically, I'd be a pretty wealthy guy.

Others have talked about Gregg Zaun's hazing comments about Cal Ripken Jr. They were pretty dumb. Front office encouraged hazing is a ridiculous idea.

Ripken's legend in Baltimore and in the wider baseball community is well-known, but are we really surprised Ripken is an asshole? Is this new information? I remember reading David Wells' book from the 90s and he basically said Ripken was a bully that took advantage of dudes where he could.

Speaking of Ripken, lost in the shuffle over the winter was the story on Deadspin wondering just what the hell happened when Cal Ripken's mother was kidnapped in Maryland in 2012. This isn't to say that Ripken had anything to do with the kidnapping of his mother, but it was a weird story that I had completely forgotten about. In my research, I discovered that Buck Showalter's mom was also robbed at gunpoint in her home in Arizona.  Seriously, stop robbing baseball moms. The Showalter story features this choice quote about the dog that lived there, “That dog didn’t stay around much longer,” Showalter said. “Didn’t do a very good job.”

Alright then.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Pitchers. Catchers. Reported.

Even though it’s -100 and we have snow up to our armpits, pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Dunedin, Florida. Halle-effin’-lujah.
Pitchers


Daniel Norris has the potential to be a big star. He has a perfect storm of idiosyncrasies: the full and lush beard, the van living,  the surfing, the shaving with a hatchet and the french press coffee. This all comes together to appeal to the hipster contingent of baseball fans who enjoy beards and french press coffee, who have fantasies about surfing and living in vans. The fact that Norris plays baseball for a living is just icing, really.  He’s also a good looking son of a gun, so pretty he might make a few uncomfortably tingly.

John Lott of the National Post reports that the beard was shaved off in some sort of ritual near his van that Sportsnet filmed on a beach.

Mark Buehrle is enjoyable to watch work. He works so quickly, he almost lulls the hitters into complacency. While he’s practicing this hypnosis, he’s cutting it in, he’s cutting it away and he’s making little adjustments. Buehrle’s discussion of the proposed pitch clock is interesting. Buehrle is even willing to forgo the warm up song pre-game, which is funny because his warm up is the least elaborate of just about anyone I’ve seen live. Dude basically rolls out, long tosses for about 5 minutes and is ready to go. Maybe his warm up is more elaborate behind the scenes, but he definitely appears chill and minimal. Even his warm up song is the quickest. And I love the hell out of the Mike Judge directed video for it.

  

He had a great second half his first season and a great first half of his second season as a Jay, so maybe he can pull it together. Buehrle discussed the changes in the clubhouse and the oft-discussed idea of "chemistry":

“It seems like guys get comfortable in one spot,” Buehrle said. “I won’t say they don’t try, but [it might be helpful] just to change up the attitude and bring in some different guys. So, will it work out? Only time will tell.”


Catchers




Pictures of Josh Thole catching Dickey on the first day of camp made people rumble a little bit. Of course, there is going to be rumbling but let’s remember it was the first day of camp and the catching appeared to be more of a long toss situation. Martin was also seen selecting his knuckleball glove (balle papillion, as he’d say.) Because we have Martin, it means we get lots of baseball articles in French. Martin posted one on his Facebook page that talked about his relationship with Bautista.

Articles in French mean you get Bautista descriptions in French. Here's Martin describing what he saw when they played together in 2001:

«J’ai été impressionné," a indiqué le Québécois. "J’ai vu un jeune homme, il était un peu plus vieux que moi, mais j’ai vu ses habiletés. J’ai constaté son incroyable vitesse au bâton et son bras canon. Puis, il a joué au champ centre, un peu au troisième but et il était aussi notre releveur numéro 1. Il lançait des balles à 96 milles à l’heure et je me disais: ''ce gars est incroyable''.

Translate? "I was so impressed. I saw this young man, a bit older than me, but I saw his abilities. I saw his amazing bat speed and his canon of an arm. Plus, he played centre and third base, he was also our number one reliever. He pitched 96 mph and I said to myself  'This guy is amazing."

You also get translations of Bautista in French:

«Je suis heureux d’avoir mon Batman. Je ne peux pas dire mon Robin, puisqu’il est au même niveau que moi, peut-être même meilleur. Ce n’est rien contre mes coéquipiers, ils sont d’excellents joueurs. Cependant, prendre la parole au sein d’une équipe n’est pas quelque chose qui est fait pour tout le monde.»

Yes, you can see he called Russell Martin his Batman.

The man not described as anyone's Batman is Dioner Navarro. Navarro's been pretty vocal about his desire to be traded.


Which, fair enough. I just don't want him dumped for spare parts.

Neither pitcher nor catcher, Josh Donaldson showed up early to camp and is already trying to make friends.


“What I’m trying to do now is build relationships with these guys, because ultimately I think that’s important, and I think that’s what helps win games,” Donaldson said during his first media scrum Tuesday. “At the end of the day, I want the guy next to me to know that I believe in him just as much as I believe in myself.”

Maybe they can just have a whole Justice League of happy clubhouse guys.

All My Friends are Leaving



The big story over Twitter this morning was Bob Elliot's very candid interview with now ex-Jay Adam Lind. I once asked Bob Elliot who was the best guy to talk to in the clubhouse, and he indicated (though didn't name, in a very Bob Elliot roundabout way) that Adam Lind was the guy. I can see why in this interview. The guy gives good quotes.

Lind played 953 games with the Blue Jays. And now he's a Brewer.

“There might be a few more smiles with Colby gone.” That was a widely tweeted quote. I don't know if this was meant to say that Colby was a malcontent. But rather that the dude is a bit of an Eeyore. The other choice quote was this one: "They haven’t changed the culture of the clubhouse. They’re my friends, but the guys who still run it are still there. Jose Bautista is the voice among position players and Mark Buehrle runs the starting pitchers."

But Batman! Yeah, I dunno. Frankly, I'm ok with Bautista being the "voice" because he's played the best. But I'm not in the clubhouse. I'm not one of these dudes. 

An unnamed pitcher texted Lind about the Lawrie trade, “All my friends are leaving.” I'm going to guess Cecil.

His best Jays buddy was Travis Snider. “He was real, genuine, cared about my family and myself,” said Lind. “We had some talks on a deeper level.”

On Roy Halladay: “He had a tremendous workout ... plus he was good.” That always helps.

And Lind likes Scott Rolen (as he should.)

On Aaron Sanchez: “We didn’t have a lot of home-grown guys come up. He’s our best organizational player I’ve ever seen.”

Notice he still said "our". All my friends are leaving.


Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Rundown: Dean, Dan, Dickey and Duquette

What did you accomplish today?




I had never @ replied him before. So I consider one and done to be pretty good.

Rogers hired Dean Blundell for their morning show slot to team with Andrew Walker, moved Tim & Sid to TV and the Brady part of Brady & Walker to Tim/Sid's old afternoon slot before PrimeTime Sports. 
Jeff, you whore.



Heh.
You know it's bad when Steve Simmons says it's bad.

Some were calling for the hiring of a woman, but I'd settle for hiring a person of colour for a regular weekday show.  Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world with a lot of sports fans. The lack of diversity here is a bit embarrassing.



With RA Dickey in town last weekend, there was a lot of talk about Josh Thole and whether he is needed as backup. A lot of fans want to cut Thole loose because he is relatively useless the other four games between Dickey starts.

“I don’t think there’s any replacement for time spent,” Dickey said. “Josh has caught 75 to 80 percent of my starts since 2010 or 2012 and there’s nobody better … but it would be nice to have someone like Russell who can do it as well.”

Jeff Blair took that quote and ran with it.

‘As well?’ Really? Look: I understand Dickey’s fears. He probably still has nightmares about J.P. Arencibia’s three passed balls in the 2013 Home Opener, which was also Dickey’s Blue Jays debut. I know I do. And I realize that any time Dickey shakes off a catcher it’s a sign he’s going away from his knuckle-ball, so having a catcher who can think along with him is vital. But considering this is a team with serious everyday concerns in centre field and at second base, not to mention a shortstop (who will see time at designated hitter) as well as getting days off to ward off the Artificial Turf Monster, the team can’t afford to waste a spot on a one-trick pony like Thole. Much like a Munenori Kawasaki sighting, if you see Thole around the Blue Jays this season it’s not a good sign.
Mr. Blair, I know I called you a whore earlier in this post, but I do like you. You need to settle down.
Here is what else Dickey had to say, as reported on MLB.com

"It just requires intentional communication and consistent communication," Dickey said. "I'm with Josh now, he doesn't even need to put down a sign. I can go a whole game without him flashing a whole sign -- that's remarkable."

"To get to that place with another person is going to be a real challenge, but it's not that it can't be done, Russell just needs to get repetitions. He's an incredible athlete. Guys who are great athletes, have great hand-eye coordination, which he possesses, usually ... have a better chance at doing it well."

There was also a bit of talk about clubhouse chemistry. John Lott reported on the various interpretations. While Bautista said everything was cool, Dickey elaborated a bit.

“I think having guys in the clubhouse all pulling the same rope is really, really integral,” Dickey said as he tiptoed through the topic. “I think it all starts with communication and being able to deliver that in a way that is encouraging and positive. So we’ll see what happens.”

He paused, then added: “But I think you saw where the front office sat on the issue by the way they made the moves in the offseason.”

When asked about communication or lack of, Dickey said, "“At times I think it was, sure,” he said. “But probably at times it wasn’t either. I’m not necessarily saying that was the reason we didn’t get to the postseason. I’m just saying that’s a good component to have anywhere, is people who are willing to communicate well with one another. That’s not rocket science. That’s something that’s good in any work environment, whether it’s player to player, coach to player, manager to player, GM to manager, whatever it is. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors between the GM and the manager, the GM and players. I’m just simply saying I think it’s a great thing to have open lines of communication so that people know what the expectation is.”

I can see how journalists could have fun with Dickey. Look at all the words- what he's saying, what he isn't saying. And I happen to agree about the communication stuff.

Talkin' 'bout girls....talkin' 'bout trucks....




Misty water colored memories......of the way, we were.

"Chicken hot dog on the way...which is cool...." He's beautifully philosophical in this video. 

Colby is an Astro. I hope he's happy wherever he goes. 


There is still some humming about the Paul Beeston/Dan Duquette thing. I don't have much to say about it at this time, other than I'm paying attention to see if/when it gets bitchy. Orioles owner Peter Angelos is currently in a messy legal battle with MLB and the Washington Nationals over TV rights fees, so he's distracted but it might get ornery at some point.

If you are still looking for a basic breakdown, this is a pretty good explanation of the situation from the Orioles' perspective.

And Drew Fairservice wrote about the situation which you should all read if you haven't already.


And finally, Danielle Norris on his development as a pitcher. I love this kid. And his hair.


It sounds like they recorded this in a restaurant kitchen.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Numbiotic: My Winter Tour Experience



I have some mixed feelings about writing this because I feel a bit like a fool. I have no real reason to feel foolish, other than I put a lot of effort into something that’s a bit square. It’s me feeling disappointed because I couldn’t do something kind of lame, and also caring about not doing it. A lot. 

So my first experience with the Jays Winter Tour was a bit of a disaster. I’d never been to any of the events before, but I hadn’t been to TO in a little while and meeting Dickey had been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. And I was going to blog about the whole thing. So I made the effort to get there. I drove to the GO and got on the train. It was still dark when I left my house. It was cold.

I had been warned that it was going to be busy, so I got there two hours before the dudes (Bautista, Dickey, Pompey, Loup and Redmond) were going to show. The lineup was long and oddly hushed. It stretched from Pink/Victoria Secret entrance to the Queen St. entrance (where you cross the street to go to The Bay.)

I find one of the staff people and ask him where the back of the line was, and he points to it and tells me “You can’t join it. You’re too late. We’ve cut it off.” And I feel sort of numb and idiotic (numbiotic). He tells me people have been lining up since 5 am, like 1- that was an option and 2- that was sane. And he doesn’t allow me to even line up, just in case. I had brought a magazine. I was prepared to wait. And the place was crawling with security, from the Jays and also the Toronto Police, so I didn’t feel comfortable not doing what he told me.

I also didn’t argue, “Don’t you know who I am?” which always works well.

I felt uncomfortable and they were really aggressively going after people they suspected were trying to cut in line. I said hi to my friend Liz, who made it in line, and we both remarked that the whole vibe was weird. People were mad. Kids were upset. There was that kid in his Bautista beard that was denied. And this wasn’t right before the event started. This was hours.

I heard that later people were allowed to join the line, the signing went on a little longer and Bautista gave a trip to a guy who was one behind the cut off at the end of the event, which makes me feel even more strangely bitter about it.  Not because someone got a vacation (although that would’ve been fine, I guess), but because there was no clear boundaries. Rules changed.

And this is a terrible insight into my mind, but I don't like being able to see how bad something is, knowing how to change it and having no power to do anything about it.

Why the Jays insist on planning things so poorly, I’m not sure. They should start by not having the two most famous players on the same ticket plus the new local kid. Especially not in that venue. That’s just a recipe for idiocy and the event being crazy. They really seemed to piss off as many people as they made happy. That's not a good ratio.

Send Dickey with the other two pitchers to one location, and Bautista and Pompey to another. Have people choose. Have one in downtown Toronto and one in, I dunno, Mississauga. It would've been less crazy, fewer disappointed fans and more people seen.

I almost thought that there shouldn’t be a signing in Toronto for the Winter Tour because Toronto gets served in that sense during the summer. Have the players go to Hamilton or other spots in Southern Ontario. I know they went to London (the one time I wasn’t in London last winter), which I think is good. I would also put some sort of parameters on the thing, and not just vaguely say “First come, first serve.” 5 am should not be an option. It was dark and -15.

It should be, “Fans can start lining up at 8 am and we are taking the first 500.” Or whatever number.

So people can have some sort of idea, and aren’t set up for disappointment. They could arrive, see the number of people and have some idea. The Jays could tweet something like "We're at 350 people" so people would know to not even leave their house.  It’s about managing expectations.

The Winter Tour is a great idea. The boys wearing matching toques, drinking Tim Horton’s coffee and eating snacks out of the little brown bags from Tim’s while  sitting next to a Mountie was so Canadian, it was crazy. They just needed someone playing Chilliwack.

It's such a stupid thing to be disappointed about. But I am. And it sucks.

I'm going to write about the Jays maybe being in on Shields and some of the other pitching options tomorrow. And also maybe about Daniel Norris' hair.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

I Got a Rocket in My Pocket


It's been a while. As I'm almost finished gorging myself on a tin of Quality Street, I figured it's time to shake off the holiday stupor and actually address some issues.

Happy New Year. I hope the holiday season was at least tolerable and trending towards awesome.

I hope Mark Buehrle decorated his dogs.


I had a few half thought out posts in the last month or so. One was addressing Melky Cabrera being signed by the White Sox. I've come to terms with it, but I was a little salty about it at the time.



So I’m one of those “Saunders trade is great and all, but sign Melky” people. I discussed this over Twitter and I got lectured by dudes. A lot. You may look down on me as someone who doesn’t believe in numbers or something. You might lump me in with some that are sort of dumb on “Not Drunk Jays Fans” but I don’t really care. 

I wanted Melky Cabrera in the lineup. Hitting second, between the Josés. They had a good thing going there offensively last season before Melky was injured. I don’t believe in just substituting Player X for Player Y- as they actually have to play the games. I like that Melky is a switch hitter. I like that he’s a professional hitter, one that just knows what he’s doing. I like that he said he wanted to play in Toronto, to stay, because they gave him a shot after his drug suspension. Loyalty means something to me, as cheesy as that may sound to some of you.  

Seeing that Cabrera only signed a three year deal with the White Sox after all the Jays writers tapped their keyboards like crazy saying that he’d only go for a five year deal made me roll my eyes. I wanted depth and to spend some cash to keep some depth. I’ve never understood the obsession some have with the payroll, other than maybe thinking about it makes certain fans feel like they are somehow involved. 

Everyone who says “Oh, they have enough” can shut up. Stack the lineup. Make it a lineup that allows for no breaks for pitchers. Depth was a major issue last year and the Jays have not done much (yet) to address it. They need another starter. They need a second baseman. They need bullpen arms. 

Saunders might work out just fine in left field. He’ll probably hit better in the Rogers Centre. He is better defensively than Melky, but left field is never really a defensive superpower position. Saunders is hurt a lot and has had similar issues to Brett Lawrie in staying healthy. I really hope Saunders makes Seattle’s GM eat crow.  It always bothers me when GMs publicly question a player's work ethic in the media. It's déclassé. Tony LaRussa doing that to my favourite Scott Rolen was basically the end of any sort of respect I had for LaRussa. 

WAR is great, but it's not a crystal ball. No one has a crystal ball. So stop lecturing me like you do. 

See? Salty. And I wrote in French. 

Moving on. Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio and Pedro Martinez were all elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

I suspect the hat situation will break down like this:

Smoltz- Braves. Maddux + Glavine + Smoltz = Braves in the 90s. No doubt. 

Biggio- Astros (it would be odd otherwise, as he only played for the Astros. Speaking of the Astros, Lana Berry wrote about an Astros event for women that sounds terribly awesome. It's from 2013, but it's depressingly still relevant. )

Johnson is a little more complicated. He probably had his best years with the Diamondbacks and won the World Series with them, but a lot of people associate him with Seattle. I mostly associate him with being really tall, killing that bird and then hilariously making a dead bird the logo for his photography project. Johnson's work is really beautiful, by the way. 

And Pedro Martinez is going to be wearing a Red Sox hat. Martinez remains one of the most interesting people ever to play the game and I think his speech is going to be epic. When Pedro started broadcasting last year, I wondered why it took so long for it to happen. 




The early aughts were good baseball times. I mean, when was the last time an old guy was tossed in a playoff game?



And because he played in New England, Pedro also did commercials with guys in lobster suits.



John McDonald announced his retirement from baseball today and I got a little emotional. The guy is just the best. I used to love how Roy Halladay used to request JMac for his starts. I think about that whenever that random dude on Twitter tells me that pitchers can't induce double plays.

I once had a disagreement with someone over Twitter about JMac. This person was not a fan. And that is basically all you need to know about that person. It's an asshole litmus test.

   

 Many shared this video about the Father's Day homer, which is magic. Absolute magic.


           

 “We had talked about the type of player I am before I came back, the fact that I don’t hit a lot of home runs,” McDonald recalled, his voice quivering. “He said, ‘Hit your next one for me.’ “ 


My heart. 




The reaction is perfect. It's outrage about playing the game the "right way"- not in the way the media uses it that only seems to apply to white dudes, but outrage at one of the best players ever to play the game resorting to ridiculousness. That face is the face of outrage towards complete bullshit.

John McDonald took the gifts he had and perfected them to a point that, despite the flaws in his game, baseball simply couldn't deny him.


Finally, Dalton Pompey had an earworm that proved he is actually truly Canadian. He had a song in his head- he described "mmmm" sounds and that it sounded like a Puffy/Mase song from the late 90s.

I tried- I recognized the gist of it from his Vine.
Most of us were useless. Someone finally guessed it. I heard this song so often in late high school. It doesn't sound like Puff Daddy at all, Dalton.

It's Saukrates, kid. It's pure Toronto in 2000.


You frontin' like I ain't 'bout to knock it.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Mind. Blown.



So, I feel weird. Shocked.

It appears instead of wrestling people over deals at the mall and finding an excellent price on big screen TVs, Billy Beane was shopping bodies.

The Blue Jays traded Brett Lawrie (and other bodies, including Sean Nolin) to Oakland for Josh Donaldson.

So much for a Canadian/Dominican co-production.

I like Lawrie a lot. He makes insane plays, his energy is something and he was charming when I met him. Thinking about him talking enthusiastically about having Martin and Pompey join him on "Canada's Team" a few weeks ago seems quaint now. I have trouble looking for pictures of the boy to include. I heard hilarious pep talk stories he gave teenagers at Baseball Canada events. Not the type of pep talks you might expect.

Oakland is talented team and Lawrie might thrive there. The stadium is a dump but San Francisco is a nice place to live. He can hang out with people at Google.

There was a little ballyhoo about Lawrie playing some 2nd and how he might not have liked it all that much. My thought was he's a great athlete, he used to play that position and he also doesn't really get to make that call. Lawrie backed away from statements and said he'd play wherever for the team.

There might be more concern about Lawrie's obliques than the Jays said publicly. And sure enough, right after I write that sentence, this appears:

Sometimes you just make assumptions about your team. You get used to the idea of having certain guys in certain spots and you just assume certain Canadian fireballs are going to stay. But it's a business and AA is looking to win. Now. His job depends on it. He has to pay off that Honda. 

As for the new guy, per Stoeten:

7.7 and 6.4. 
Those are Donaldson’s WAR totals in each of the last two years, according to the FanGraphs version of the metric. He was first and second (by 0.2) among MLB third basemen in those years respectively. He hit 24 and 29 home runs — in Oakland. He walks at an above average rate. He plays tremendous defence (UZR of 15.5 in 2014, DRS of +20). He put up a 147 wRC+ in 2013, and a 129 this year.

I guess he'll do. He's a few years older and has "broken out" as opposed to  " maybe about to break out." He's under control for four years, which is exactly the kind contract AA likes. Control gets him going.

Also, Donaldson, like Martin, is a guy who's been on a playoff team. Jose Bautista is a great many things, but he's never been on a playoff team.  It all plays in to the idea that AA is in it to win it.

I don't think Donaldson is in this picture (he's got a generic white boy look, and Oakland has it's fair share. They had great hair last year) but I just enjoy it.


Speaking of hair, Donaldson appears to  favour a faux hawk/rat tail combination.

His dad spent most of Donaldson's childhood in prison and didn't see his kid play baseball until 2013. In that game, his kid had two hits in three at bats, walking twice, with a homer, a double and three runs batted in, in a 9-8 Athletics win.

His dad's name is Levon. I've got Elton John in my head. That song was written about Levon Helm, btw.


Plus,

“I have definitely watched thousands of hours of Bautista hitting,” Donaldson said. “Bob Melvin actually had to stop me from watching him. He said, ‘Hey, I want you to be your own guy.’ ”


And then,

Now they can swap recipes and braid each other's hair.



Read this, cause Ian from Blue Jay Hunter gets cited. Like a boss.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Whispers



Ah yes. Whispers.

Go read this:

Sometime around the Grady Little/Pedro Martinez situation in 2003, I was watching baseball with my dad. He saw the discussion between the two and as Little sauntered back to the dugout (and his eventual unemployment),  my dad said, “Why is he even asking him? Every guy worth his salt is going to say, ‘Yeah, skip. I’m good.’ So asking him is idiotic. The manager should know before he even goes out there.”

Dickey should be having discussions with Gibbons about being pulled. That doesn't mean Gibbons shouldn't be pulling him. But having a high opinion of your own abilities is the mark of a competitive pitcher. It’s up to Gibbons to manage that. Managing big egos is the deal with being a big league manager.

I don’t care that Dickey is a loner. I don’t care that Stroman goes to Buehrle for advice. I’m not Dickey’s friend or his wife or his mom. I’m not working with him. I would like to discuss books with him, but I'd be ok if he didn't want to be buds.

I say this as an introvert. I have sometimes been accused of being aloof or snobby or dumb (because silent equals stupid.) And I’m kind of sick of people assuming that this is some kind of character flaw- that not being chummy with everyone or an open book is a terrible thing. Or that I have low self esteem or think my ideas are terrible because I don`t always voice them (this was especially true as a teenager.)

Dickey’s history might suggest a person who is slow to trust. Or who doesn't trust at all. It’s very common. I loved his book. He doesn't come off like a cuddly person, but I’m ok with that. I just think he’s fascinating.

He's also cheap and pitches 200 innings.

Since we are all so fond of whispering- I’ll relay some whispers that I've heard. That a certain long time broadcaster is not so great to work with and that’s why a smooth voiced former catcher went elsewhere and a more amusing than expected pitcher followed suit soon after- though the official reason was to be “closer to home.” Sources sourcing sources.  So the source of this Dickey opinion amused me greatly.

For the record, Ian is a mensch. The menschiest mensch of all the mensches. So go read his blog.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Notes from an Offseason (So far)

Life sped up on me through the end of the regular season and this space is neglected. The first real snow fall is outside, meaning now is as good a time as any to write about baseball.

The last game of the regular season was bittersweet- Casey Janssen, who has been a Jay longer than I've had this blog, tipped his hat to the Toronto crowd for likely the last time. It's like he's growing up.

I thought it was totally cheap that they didn't put Colby Rasmus in the field or to pinch hit in the final game, also likely his last as a Jay. Rasmus is a special little snowflake, had a down year after a career year in 2013 and might've been on the shit list for one infraction or another.  But every time I went to the Rogers Centre over the past few seasons, I've always seen a tonne of Rasmus jerseys. I just think people liked him- for being a basset hound of a human being with flashes of brilliance.

Look at him take a selfie:


And also this....



He's one of a kind. And I hope he finds happiness. 



I watched the post season intently, though it was completely ignored here. The two Wild Card games were the best advertisement for the second Wild Card imaginable. The Oakland/Kansas City game was a nail biter that began to feel a little like a hostage situation (but with more bunting.) And the Pittsburgh/San Francisco game was so one sided, it was sort of boring, despite (or maybe because) of the extreme dominance of Madison Bumgarner. That performance was just a hint of what was to come, a show of dominance on the competition that was the stuff of legends. I was cheering for Kansas City in the World Series, but no one had an answer for Mad Bum. And the even year magic for the San Francisco Giants continues. I also really enjoyed the fact that the truck awarded to the WS MVP was subject to a recall. It's the little things. 



Adam Lind, the other Blue Jay from the first age of Gibbons, was traded to Milwaukee. I like that dude- I liked that he was so chill, I liked that he married a girl from Scarborough, I liked his beard and I liked how he ran like an energetic 10 year old.  We'll always have 2009, Adam.

Anthony Gose was traded to Detroit. I believe I tweeted "Damn it" often when he was at the plate. He seems like a nice kid though, and should have a good time in Detroit's massive outfield. Jays got 2nd base prospect type Devon Travis. I've read a bit on the kid, and I don't really know what to think about him. As Stoeten puts it,

 "The Jays, apparently, just dealt for a below-average/average/above-average defensive second baseman who will win batting titles/hit like Altuve/be a .280 hitter with 10-12 HR power/be unable to adjust to big league pitching with his unorthodox swing mechanics."



I'd also like to pour one out for Drunk Jays Fans at the Score. I don't know what's going on over there, other than they seem to be dumping some content creators. I first found Drunk Jays Fans through Google. Parkes had written a piece linking to my piece about not booing Josh Towers and saying that I should date Bergkamp, who also had non-hostile feelings towards Josh Towers. And I had the odd sensation that strangers read my writing and I thought "Who are these assholes?" 

They were the other big dog besides the Tao of Stieb in the nascent Blue Jays blogging scene that was developing. If this scene was the Rat Pack, as the Tao of Stieb put it, I'd be the Angie Dickinson. We were blogspots. It was before Twitter. It was crazy. 

Stoeten is now writing at andrewstoeten.com. It isn't, as I first thought, stoeten.com.  I was a little confused and thought for a moment he was writing in Dutch about boats, that he was really branching out. But, no. Still baseball. Still English. 

Now maybe Stoeten will follow me on Twitter again. 

What else is happening? Let me think. Oh, wait. 



I had this feeling earlier in October that I wanted some sort of Canadian/Dominican co-production making up the Blue Jays (American pitchers are fine.) I have this dream that Missisauga native Dalton Pompey is actually ready for the big leagues and blossoms here. And thought, off hand, "Martin would be nice, rounded out with a healthy Lawrie." 

I understand the naysayers about this deal (there are always naysayers about any big deal.) Martin will be 36 when the deal is done. Catchers don't always age well. But he handles pitchers like a dream and frames the hell out of a pitch.  His middle name is Coltrane. I've got stars in my eyes.

I'm excited. So is Brett Lawrie. Listen to him talk a mile a minute about it. 


He's very pro Canada, very pro Pompey and very pro Martin. "Let's rock!" Seriously, Lawrie packs a million words in a sentence. I imagine him speeding down the highway, screaming into an ear piece.

Here's AJ Burnett stealing a throw down to second from Martin. 



Also, 

Miller did say he wanted to stay in the AL East.

And then!

2014 offseason > 2013 offseason.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Had It Going



The Jays are mathematically out of it, rather than just out of it in theory/opinion, but they also made sure that Seattle is pretty much out of it, too. They've beaten the Mariners in the first three games of this series in spectacular fashion.

I know many are saying this is all meaningless, but it has meaning to me. Mostly because it's fun. And after watching the Orioles clinch the East vs the Jays last week, fun is a nice change.

I don't know if being almost there, but not is better than being out of it by July but it certainly was more stressful.

They pounded the Mariners 14-4 in the opening game. Jose Bautista, consistent with his fantastic season, had a fantastic game. He went 3 for 3 with a homer, made a great catch and threw Logan Morrison out trying to stretch a single. Look at all the skills. 

Bautista, without much fanfare, has put up an MVP calibre season and I expect to see a few votes go his way. Mike Trout, on an Angels team that has the league's best record, likely has it in the bag, but Bautista is in the conversation. As FanGraphs put it:

"It’s Michael Brantley without the baserunning, basically. Or, if you prefer, it’s Jose Abreu while also playing a more important defensive position. Bautista has been mostly overlooked because we’ve gotten used to him putting up .400 weighted on base averages on non-contending teams, but he remains one of the game’s very best hitters, and he’s not a big negative on the field or the bases. He might not be the best hitter in baseball anymore, but he’s still one of the best players in the sport."

Felix Hernandez pitched in the second game, and the Jays handed him the worst inning of his entire career. Highlight of the inning was Dalton Pomepy's first big league homer.

“I was kind of in shock for a moment,” Pompey said of the home run off Hernandez. “I’ve played with that guy in video games. So to think that I just hit a home run off of him was pretty crazy.”

He looked for a pitch up in the zone and got one. It's been an amazing season for Dalton Pompey and I really hope that the local boy is for real. He could be a big star here. Arden Zwelling writes about Pompey's rise. 

“Every game that goes by I feel more comfortable. I feel better and better about myself. I feel like I belong,” Pompey says. “I’m still trying to adjust to these pitchers. So it’s nice to be in there every day.”

And yesterday, in one of my favourite games of the season, Mark Buehrle got to 200 innings pitched for the 14th consecutive season.  Buehrle made his 461st consecutive start without a stint on the disabled list which is the longest streak in the Majors.

"I think it's going to mean more at the end of the season, knowing I accomplished it again," Buehrle said. "I think when I had two or three starts in a row I had three innings, four innings, mixed a six-inning game in there, I kind of, I don't want to say gave up, I said, 'Hey it's not going to happen.' I did the math and said I have eight starts, I need so many innings, I didn't like my chances. It means a lot because I put this goal on myself in Spring Training."

I felt bad for Taijuan Walker, rookie Mariners pitcher, who matched Buehrle pitch for pitch until the 8th, when Goins hit a bloop which scored Kawasaki from first. It was a classic pitcher's duel that lasted under two hours.

"He had it going," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Buehrle. "He's a veteran guy that knows what he's doing. He's got great touch and feel. He had the cutter going in, good changeup, breaking ball, mixed it all. That was vintage Buehrle."

Yep. Vintage Buehrle.

I don't know if you've heard, but Derek Jeter is retiring. I won't be surprised if you haven't heard, as it has barely been talked about. He plays his final game in New York tonight, likely with little fanfare. Here are some private photos, but likely not the type of private photos like Justin Verlander's that were circling a few weeks ago. The photos are taken by Canadian photographer Christopher Anderson.

But I want to give a shout out to one of my favourite ball players who is also calling it a career. Paul Konerko is maybe the most underrated in MLB and I've always liked him.

Here is his message to Chicago White Sox fans.


Also, it seems the White Sox think the "Man in White" moved to Detroit. Sale, calm yourself. You'll pull something.

Do you want to see a Lil' Uribe dancing in the Dodger celebration? Yes, of course you do.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Rolling Well


Great game at the Trop or THE GREATEST GAME AT THE TROP?

This place is normally a house of horrors for the Jays, but last night had a little bit of everything good.

Dickey, knuckler dancing, two hitting the Rays over seven innings, followed by Sanchez (a knuckle ball followed by a 98 mph sinking fastball is hilarious) and then Redmond to close it out. A homer with Danny smiles, a homer with Reyes smiles and a pinch hit Navarro homer, cause why the hell not? And millions of hands to high five. And some audible "Let's go, Blue Jays!" among the twelve people who showed up to the game.

I don't know these people that said the homers were a bad thing, but they sound like jerks.

“Timely hitting, couple of home runs,” Dickey said. “We took extra bases, a lot of excitement, we pitched well. Yeah, it reminded me a lot of May when we were rolling well and everybody was contributing, which is a fun environment.”

I got into a Twitter talk re. Dickey last night, and I’ll re-iterate. I pretty much find Dickey fascinating and not much is going to deter me from wanting to have an extended conversation about books with him (you lived the dream, Stacey.) I don't care about his “pitching face” or that he seems crabby on the mound (impatience and eye rolling or whatever) or separate on the bench. People are allowed to be introverts or idiosyncratic or weird. I am those things.

And pitchers are often total jerks on the mound. I’d rather a guy be angry than sulk. But mostly I don't care.  These guys are proud and competitive. I don't think Thole is put upon. Some of my favourite Alan Ashby stories were the ones where Nolan Ryan was hilariously mean to him.

And as Wilner pointed out, Dickey's been pretty great, in his way.

Knuckleballs are capricious animals and I'm going to defend the dude. Especially when he is two hitting the Rays.

Dalton Pompey made his MLB debut last night as a pinch runner.

“When I think back to when I got drafted, I didn’t really know if I was going to make it to the big leagues or not,” said the native of Mississauga, Ont. “Now I’m here and all my friends back home are like, ‘Man, we’re going to see you [at the Rogers Centre] in like a week!’ It’s just unbelievable.”

On Rasmus sitting tonight when he's 4-11 vs Archer. I don’t know what that's about. Is he still sick? Is he on the shit list?  I just don’t know. There are a lot of outfielders running around now, and maybe the Jays are focusing on the future rather than the probable-past.

I love the kid, but I fear his time with us is almost up.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Assorted Thoughts

Remember when this was the most discussed picture of Verlander and Upton? I mean, magenta pants? MAGENTA WITH A SHEEN?



So I looked. They were not hard to find. They are awesome pictures. It looks like a good time and they enjoy each other. They look happy. And very naked. When I first heard the two were together, it felt like the law of nature made manifest. He’s been one of the best pitchers for the Tigers. She’s a supermodel from Michigan. And also a blonde, very American supermodel, in the Christie Brinkley mode. Another type of model would seem all wrong with someone like Verlander. It’s just so sporty.

I didn’t get the big deal about the pics- I mean, the naked aspects of them. I got the big deal about the stealing. I’ve seen many, many European actresses naked in films and also many models naked in magazines (fashion ones, not porn ones) and these weren’t any more extreme. I saw more of Verlander’s former teammate Prince Fielder in the ESPN Body Issue earlier this year (though that had better lighting and makeup. Fluorescent lighting is friend to no one.) We all saw more of Jose Bautista in that magazine the year before. And you know, boobs are boobs.

But then I thought about it. And I realized the big deal with the pictures is not the nakedness but the choice. Upton and Verlander chose to be naked together (awesome) and chose to capture that nakedness with their smartphones (cool.) But they didn’t choose to share those pictures of their naked together times with all of us (unfortunately) but instead had them stolen by jerks (asshole jerks.) And now not only has their personal information been hacked (we don’t know what kind of breach this was- are there phone numbers out there and is credit information involved? Apparently, it's an iCloud breach) but they also have to deal with people making comments and judgments about their naked together times and their bodies, when it looks like it’s two consenting adults having a private good time. I've read some of those comments. Not so many shared my sentiments of "hey look how happy they are!"

So I’m sorry I looked and violated their privacy. And I’m sorry we live in a society where healthy adult sexuality is seen as a commodity that needs to be stolen and displayed for judgement and derision. I hope these people get charged (the Scarlett Johansson phone hacker got ten years) and I hope everyone affected goes back to having healthy, sexy good times (in private, if that’s how they want it.) Because they don’t deserve the shame they are getting.


ETA- to all the people saying that Verlander is a "secondary" victim or a collateral victim- that's his ass, too and some suspect it could his iCloud that was hacked (apparently athletes are terrible at passwords.) So let's not completely dismiss Verlander being wronged here.

So anyway, baseball. Derek Jeter and the Yankees rolled in for a weekend series of struggling to remain relevant and were nice enough to lose two of three to the Jays. Jeter got an all expense paid trip to Banff in a castle (including cooking and mixology lessons) and a nice chunk of cash for his charity. Jeter thinks Halladay was tough. 

 Bautista has hit five homers in the last five games. It's a shame he's so "selfish". What a terrible human who brings no joy to any of us.

Buehrle started out well on Friday until the wheels fell off in the later innings. Buehrle might just be getting old.

September call-ups happened- Morrow! Norris! Hometown boys Pompey and Kottaras ! Brand new and almost new toys!

Brett Lawrie was transferred to the 60-day DL, so that's the end of his season. I think the Jays need to stop leaving this kid to his own devices. His workout routines might be too extreme and it's making his sides go crazy. The key to Lawrie's success is going to be learning to balance that crazy energy he's got (which is a plus) and to focus it so things don't get ripped up. Get him to meditate or something.
Blue Jays Plus wrote more about Lawrie and his obliques. 


Casey Janssen just hasn't been the same since he went to the Dominican at the All Star Break. He tells John Lott that the food poisoning isn't an excuse for his poor performance.

Athletes have this stubbornness when it comes to these things- when is it an excuse and when is it just a fact? Admitting that getting sick and losing eight pounds in a day or two might just be the cause. And that's ok. It's just something you need to work with.

Also, who goes to the Dominican (who isn't Dominican) for two days in the middle of summer? Questionable behaviour.

August is over. It was awful. I want a hot September. I want to make it hell for the rest of the league and insanely fun for us.