Friday, 5 February 2016

Softball Questions about Baseball: Jays Hold Fan Forum



I randomly got a ticket to the The Leadoff: Fan Forum event for season ticket holders at the Rogers Centre on Thursday night (thanks Gary!) I went with my new buddy, Ruth. I had never attended the previous version before (known as State of the Franchise) though I had watched the online broadcast in the past.

The attendance was just over 2000 people, apparently twice as many people showed up this year over previous years, and the crowd felt excited and a bit wary. There was a lot of emphasis on the great year of 2015 and the highlight videos featuring David Price were booed. On offer with the food and booze was Rogers Centre popcorn, and I thought immediately of him:


The event itself was sort of strange. It wasn't poorly run or anything, but the vibe was both excited and wary.  There was lighting that made everything kind of glow cool blue.

Dan Shulman came out to talk to Buck Martinez about working together again. Shulman made a comment about old pictures of the journey of his hair loss. Honestly, Buck has enough hair for both of them. I would've loved to have asked about his hair routine, because he is follicly gifted.

I gained a lot of respect for Mark Shapiro last night and I feel a little bad that people have been so harsh on him when he clearly has a lot of good ideas and wants to help the Blue Jays succeed. His sweater, his New England twang and his declaration that he walks everywhere and just loves the city just made me like him. Maybe I'm soft, but he didn't give off the cool corporate vibe he is often accused of.

He and Atkins both seem to really want us to like them. I read on Twitter, in a tweet I can no longer find, someone describing Atkins as the teacher that wants to make learning fun. This was a bit of a record scratch:



There was a guy behind us screaming aggressively  "Spend the money!" any time Shapiro mentioned Donaldson, Encarnacion or Bautista. Like, that's the information Shapiro was missing. He knows now what he needs to do. The guy was doing it so seriously and aggressively, I was a little afraid.

I'm actually really interested in their idea of a holistic approach to player development. Had I had an actual chance to talk to them, I would've brought up the education program the Arizona Diamondbacks have to educate all the Latin American kids in their camps. Atkins was the Director of Latin American Development for the Indians. Combine this with Bautista's charitable work, the Jays could really become a force for good in Latin America.




John Gibbons remains a treasure to the Toronto Blue Jays, baseball and every good thing there is. He wore a brown leather (possibly suede) suit jacket, jeans, possibly a denim shirt and cowboy boots. I got a good view of the boots because he was actively lounging for much of it. As per Twitter, it's his "Rancho Relaxo" look. He grinned, he lounged and he quipped about the standing O he got, "What a difference a year makes!"  He had an easy rapport with Buck Martinez and Dan Shulman. So easy that here is my pitch for a new show:

They do a variation of those ride along videos that Kevin Hart and Ice Cube do, but it's just Gibby and Buck Martinez bantering and talking baseball. Low overhead, just a car and a camera, but sponsor the crap out of it. Buck could talk about his book  and Gibby could pretend to have read his book. It's GOLD.



Kevin Pillar, the first active player to ever appear on one of these things, wore a beige suit jacket, with a blue pocket square, a flowered shirt, pin roll cuffed jogger pants, black smoking slippers and a giant watch. And because someone has to with Paul Beeston gone, he didn't wear socks. The pieces are a bit silly, but the sum of it seemed to work for him. It's a little European. He's a 27 year old with a bit of cash, with a fade haircut and a trimmed beard. He wants to look fly.

Pillar was the perfect combination of passionate and affable when talking about 2015, the team, the playoffs and his amazing catches. It might've been my imagination, but he seemed quite emotional when talking about the fans, the city, about how close the team was last year and his breakout performance. Pillar described the team as being full of "hard workers and believers." He really seemed to care. And given that I also care, it's nice to have that reflected back.

I gained a lot of respect for this guy over the last year. Pillar was not the starting CF out of spring training. He took this opportunity and worked his ass off to make the most of it. Pillar shut down his critics and has become a vital part of the team. I wish he'd work his at bats a little bit more and consider swinging at more strikes, but I guess it's good to have tasks to work on in a new season.

The issue I had with an event like this is that it's far too controlled and the pre-chosen audience questions were just not worth any attention. Someone asked Kevin Pillar whether he thought the Jays could win the World Series. What did they imagine he'd say? "No. We got really close last year, but this year we are going to take it easy. We aren't good enough. We are just going to burn your money and laugh." The boy is going to say yes. He might elaborate and offer some different details, but it's going to point to yes.

Someone asked Gibbons if the Jays were going to try to win more games in April this year. What do you think he's going to say? First of all, even if it were true, which it isn't, he would never admit to not trying to win games in April. Second of all, of course he's going to say winning in April is important. He's not going to say, "Games in April are worthless. I prefer having to mount a massive comeback. Of course, we may come up just short, but I like it that way. It makes me feel alive."

I shouldn't be able to answer the question before the talent does. This amount of control just makes it all a little remote.

While I was waiting to talk to Shapiro, I heard a guy bring up the roof being closed in April with him. This issue comes up every year and it drives me up the wall. Here is the deal: the awe inspiring technology is now 27 years old and it gets a little temperamental. Weather in Toronto in April is also temperamental. If it happens to snow or rain and the roof gets stuck open, they are screwed. The drainage is an issue. Also, the MLB has a pretty active say in it, too. Now, this is not new information. It has been covered extensively for years in the media and by the Jays as an organization. Stop asking Shapiro about it. He doesn't control the technology and he doesn't control the elements.

Also, if the roof stays open, there is no need for  "The Josh Donaldson Roof Report" , which is by far the greatest in-game video they have. I honestly think he should've gotten the MVP just for that.

Shapiro mingled with a smallish crowd after the event. Ruth and I got a pic.  Ruth has a Blackberry and Shapiro gently mocked it. I said, "Easy there, it's a Canadian company." And he said, "Oh, I know, I know. It does a lot of good stuff. It just isn't good for pictures." He so wants to be pals.


It's kind of a ridiculous picture. We look radioactive. I should not have stood closest to the camera, as I look about seven feet tall (and at least half that wide). Shapiro is actually taller than me (and isn't a stranger to the gym.) I joked with Ruth that this was basically us:


Big Dog and Little Dog meet Mark Shapiro. 

I also explained to Barry Davis was hum and chuck meant. His mind was blown.

All of these pictures are by John Lott, who is back to covering the Jays for Vice Sports. He also had much better seats than I did. 

This week in "Ballplayers in the Wild."

I maybe saw Joey Votto on the subway. I got on at Union, going north towards Downsview. I always look at people on the platform. I look at fashion and faces. And make sure to stay away from possible pushers. And I see a good looking guy, and think, "He looks like someone I know.... do I know him maybe?" (Yes, I know every handsome man in Toronto.)  I get off the train at Osgoode and walk past cars and see the guy again. We make eye contact and he looks at me like he might know me and watches me as I walk past. (Now, I don't think I'm so important that Joey Votto would know me but I did just meet him three weeks ago at an event that had maybe five women in attendance and I did talk to him. So recognition might be at "that girl...." or he's scrubbed the entire encounter from his mind.) I head up the stairs and think, "Was that Votto?" He was wearing a toque, so I couldn't see his hair. Someone told me on Twitter that he works out in the offseason at U of T, so the route makes sense. Let's just pretend it was. "Joey Votto rides the TTC" should maybe also be a show.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

It's Just a Hat, not a Conspiracy.

People are freaking out a little bit that the new Jays Spring Training hat. I don't quite know what that means, other than it's yet another example of how some Jays fans just want to lose their shit about something.

This is the latest thing . Are you bored today or something?


When the hat first came out a few days ago, I wondered why it was navy blue. I wondered why not just do the "Blue Jays" blue version of the same idea. Dark blue isn't a Toronto Blue Jays colour.

I decided to play with Photoshop and change the colour just to see what it looked like. Behold:

It looks fine. I took the colour from the official logo to make sure it matched and when I was doing that, I realized something.

Look at the logo:


Did you notice something? Yeah, it's a hell of a lot of dark blue in that logo. I made the dark blue parts hot pink to show how much.


There is more dark blue on the actual bird face than the lighter blue that most associate with the Jays. Dark blue is a Jays colour. The designer just highlighted a different part of the logo.

So settle down.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Best of Both Worlds: Donaldson Becomes a Viking



A photo posted by Josh Donaldson (@tos_bor20) on


I was feeling a little low last week and some news came down that cheered me. Josh Donaldson, fire of our baseball loins, had an explanation for his hair adventures of the last few months.

I sort of called it, or rather I got the reference.


A photo posted by JoannaC (@humandchuck) on


I didn't know Donaldson was actually going to be in the show. Here he is talking about it to the San Francisco Chronicle.

So what's the deal with Vikings?



Ragnar Lothbrook is a farmer/warrior with ambition. He wants to sail west to England, raid and also establish Viking farms on the much more fertile English countryside. He raids, comes into conflict various leaders, which, so far, he has conquered. He was a farmer, then an earl and now a king. He has a beautiful wife named Lagertha, and has a son Bjorn and a daughter Gyda.

At the end of the first season, convinced Lagertha can’t have more children (the blind seer with black tar on his lips told him), he sleeps with Aslaug, a princess in another village supposedly descended from the gods. She shows up pregnant in the beginning of the second season, and despite his hilarious attempts to convince Lagertha that a sister-wife situation is totally something that would work, Lagertha leaves him. Little Bjorn decides to follow her. Ragnar has a bunch of little boys with Aslaug, but they have recently grown apart after their son, Ivar the Boneless, was born crippled. Lagertha is probably the love of his life, but Aslaug will do. Travis Fimmel plays him as someone who is endlessly curious and a bit eccentric. A savage fighter, Ragnar does not like it when people cross him (look up the term “blood eagle”, and understand it's what happened to one of Ragnar's enemies.) But, he is also a man who finds joy in his life. He loves his children. He has been known to carry around a baby goat for no particular reason and gets a twinkle in his eye when he's thinking of something.

Ragnar, with his blue eyed charm, is the one Josh Donaldson looks most like. Scenes like this are why I suspect our boy likes him.





Josh should consider this attitude whenever he rolls into Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. Relish in the fear you inspire in your opponents.





Lagertha is the first wife of Ragnar and is perhaps the most badass woman on television. She’s played by Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick, who has black belts in various martial arts and has her own fight training schools. She puts those skills to good use as Lagertha is a warrior who goes raiding, as well as a wife and mother, and is later a well respected earl in her own right. She is ferocious.

In the first episode of the series, she is weaving with her daughter when some dudes show up wanting to rape her. She sends little Gyda out to feed the goats and proceeds to kick their asses.

Her costumes and hair are something I keep trying to figure out how to incorporate into my look. This is how she broke up with her abusive second husband. 

She took over his earldom and all his men. This is the speech she gives Ecbert, a king in England and one of Ragnar's rivals, when she decides their relationship isn’t going to work out:

I have enjoyed your company and the sex...Even so, although you have made me happy and fulfilled, I have come to understand that the only person you truly care for is yourself.

She's the best.

Witty, kick ass and doesn't take shit from anyone. Josh Donaldson should be more like Lagertha. We should all be more like Lagertha.





Floki is a sort of spiritual visionary dude who is friends with Ragnar, who is played by Gustaf Skarsgård (son of Stellan Skarsgård- who currently stars in River on Netflix, which is also completely worth your time- and younger brother to Alexander, the totally hot viking vampire from True Blood.) Floki is the designer of the boats they sail west in. He hates Christians and he and Ragnar get into arguments about Ragnar’s interest in Christianity. Floki’s signature fight move was when he kissed a guy on the forehead and then head butted him. The amazing thing about Skarsgård's performance is that his physicality is spindly and small, but he is 6’4”. Skarsgårds come giant.






Athelstan is a monk Ragnar stole in an early episode. Ragnar goes on an unauthorized raid and brings home gold and jewels from the monastery, as well as a few monks. Athelstan is the only monk who survived the trip. The earl (played by Gabriel Byrne) punishes Ragnar for raiding without permission by taking all the treasure, but allows him to keep one thing of his choice. Ragnar keeps Athelstan. 

Athelstan is sort of treated like a pet by Ragnar’s children at first. Ragnar and Lagertha also invite him to join them in a threeway to welcome him, which is tempting because they are both blisteringly hot. Athelstan, thinking that the devil is tempting him and God is testing him, decides to pray and read his bible. He eventually becomes a well respected confidant to both Ragnar and Lagertha respectively, but is pretty consistently hated by Floki, who sees him as an enemy of Odin. Athelstan becomes a Viking over time, but at one point goes back to England as a priest and a liaison between Ragnar and Ecbert, a king in England (played by Linus Roache.)




Rollo is Ragnar’s brother. He’s jealous of Ragnar, tries and often fails to beat him at various things. He’s betrayed Ragnar, becomes town recluse but is forgiven. He's kind of an asshole. He was also in love with Lagertha for years. Ragnar had him baptized at one point to gain the trust of the English but I don’t think it took. 

He also once got high on mushrooms and killed some English guys they had hostage, which was pretty insane. Historical Rollo went to Paris and did alright. His descendant is William the Conqueror. So things may be looking up for Rollo.

He also gives really good fighting advice.

 



"Always remember to finish off your opponent if you can... No man ever ran away with his entrails hanging down to his knees or his head cut off. That's just a fact of life."
The Jays' rivals got better in the off season. The Yankees improved their already tight bullpen and the Red Sox got Price. The Jays would do well to use their potent offense to bludgeon their opponents. Beat these teams down until they can't get up again. That's just a fact of life.

"Don't die stupidly" is just good advice in general.




Bjorn is the oldest son of Ragnar and Lagertha. He had a sister named Gyda, but she dies of plague in the first season. This is Ragnar mourning his daughter in probably my favourite scene of the entire series.  

He was a little boy when the show started (in my head, the first version of Bjorn is known as Baby Bjorn) and was often far more serious than his father. Bjorn also defends his mother and lectures his dad when Ragnar does things that disrespect her. Bjorn chooses to leave with his mother after his parents break up, even though it would be a much better idea to stick with his dad and protect his birthright from the thousands of half-brothers Aslaug keeps giving birth to.

After a few years away, they reunite when Lagertha brings her new husband's men to help in a fight.




That's Big Bjorn with Josh. 


"Fellow Canadian."

This show is violent. It's mysterious and earthy. It's got breathtaking battle scenes.The acting isn’t flowery or classical, but rather blunt. They aren't nice people, really, but Ragnar is someone I root for. It's a harsh and brutal world. The production values, including the sets and costumes, are first rate, as is the creative use of music. 

It’s a beautiful example of what can happen in the television medium and I’m very proud it’s a product of Canadian TV.





It starts with this and it keeps going.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Stress Relieving Reader Questions Answered



This week has a been a little stressful for me. I have a half completed post about the Josh Donaldson arbitration brouhaha (is it a thing? Is it not a thing?) and then the news that the gold standard in Jays coverage is no longer covering the Jays day to day (something I will address soon. My response to this news is really well represented in the above picture. My mood is mirrored in Josh's face. Cutting the best guy in day to day coverage now that Jays are a story again as well as cutting the basketball guy right before the NBA All Star Game is being hosted in Toronto, not to mention basketball blossoming in Toronto right now, seems....short sighted. But what do I know?)

I solicited reader questions as a stress reliever. Here we go.

Should we be worried that Stroman appears to be more concerned about his brand than his craft? ie. Rick Vaughan going into Major League 2..... Steve H. via Facebook

I don't get the sense that Stroman is going to call his offspeed pitches "eliminator" and "humiliator."

You, my friend, seem to have a short memory. This is the same Marcus Stroman who experienced a devastating injury, went through intense and likely extremely painful rehab to come back and pitch in the playoffs. All while completing his university degree from one of America's most highly respected universities.

He is nothing if not focused and driven. And his brand is to be a bad ass on and off the mound.


If the team stays exactly as is, how many wins do you think they'll get? Ruth Kapelus via Facebook

89. I have no idea why I picked that number, but I did.


What happens next, contract-wise, for Bautista, Encarnación, and Donaldson? Jonathan Y via Facebook


The focus on contracts is something I'm a little worried about. If this is it with JBEE, I want to enjoy them while I can without thinking "is this the last bat flip? Good bye, parrot!" etc. 

Donaldson was supposed to be insurance against the loss of JBEE, should that loss occur, so not negotiating something with the first MVP in 28 years would be counter-intuitive.   

In general, I will say this. Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay were all beloved and vital parts of the Toronto Blue Jays. They all moved on and played for other teams. It hurt but the team survived.

I want all three for as long as possible, though.

Maybe this is beating a dead horse. How different would the roster be if AA had continued as GM? Jonathan Y.

Not that different. Perhaps an offer might have been made to Price. Not a 217 million dollar offer, but an offer. But the more I read about that, the more it seems like it was a higher up decision. And the higher up is still the same.

But quite honestly, the moves made (Happ and Chavez, Revere for Storen) are all very AA type moves.

Which Jay will be next year's AL mvp? Eric S.

Josh Donaldson is a stud. Will still be my MVP in 2016.

Any notable difference you can perceive from the way AA built a front office and Atkins? Roles/structure stuff? Andre P.

I find it interesting that you phrased as AA vs Atkins. No one does that. Atkins has barely spoken, so this feels a lot like a Shapiro vs AA.

One of the silly things about the whole "Shapiro is the devil" narrative in the Jays fandom is that it is way, way too premature to know how exactly the whole thing is going to look. Some changes already made?


Gil Kim will be highly involved in player development with an emphasis on "the commitment of player development leaders and staff to include each player in the process of creating and realizing their physical, mental and fundamental goals."


Angus Mugford was hired as the Blue Jays first ever director of "high performance", a team which will focus on the player's whole person- nutrition, mental health, strength and conditioning.

The other big change has been developing the analytics department. Per Shapiro, "We need to hire more analysts, we need to get more programmers and data architects, things we don’t have now."

Things are going to change. But that might not be a bad thing.



Will Hutch win the cy young by playing only home games? Andrew S. 

No, it'll be the opposite this year. He'll dominate on the road.

What's the over/under on bat flips for next year? Eric S.

Bautista has set a precedent. So he might try to outdo himself or he might understand that that his flip in October 2015 is the greatest flip in history and he needs never flip again.

I don't play the odds.


Who would be the best counterpart to muni in a revamp of the rush hour series, now that price is gone? SH on Facebook

I'm answering this with Photoshop. New ace for old ace.



ETA- now Mune is gone, too. Aaron Sanchez is the Jackie Chan part. Book it. 


I would love very much for Josh Donaldson to fulfill his promise of getting his when he faces Price for the first time in April, but the honest truth is that David Price owns the Blue Jays. It was one of the perks of him pitching for them down the stretch because they didn't have to face him. He owned them as a Ray and he owned them as a Tiger.

Honestly, the whole situation pisses me off. Still. Did it really have to be Boston? Why couldn't it have been the Dodgers?

Which Blue Jay will make a much bigger impact than expected? Jonathan Y. via Facebook

My long held dream of Aaron Sanchez living up to his potential as a starter and the Jays being able fill the Price sized hole in the rotation. So I'm going with Sanchez.


When will John Gibbons be replaced as Manager by Ruth Kapelus? Ruth Kapelus, via Facebook


Tomorrow.

Best guess on where the boys here for the Winter Tour are partying tonight? Ruth Kapelus

The Dufferin Mall. Really.

After Bull Durham, what's the best baseball movie? Max V. via Facebook

A League of Their Own, obviously. For many reasons: women playing baseball, the 40s costumes, the humour, Dottie and Kit meeting at the HOF. But especially this:

Jimmy Dugan: Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?
Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.
Jimmy Dugan: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?
Evelyn Gardner: No...
Jimmy Dugan: Because there's no crying in baseball. THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!

My favourite bit is actually "And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game."

This is Rogers Hornsby:



That man would totally call one of his players a "talking pile of pig shit."

Tom Hanks is hilarious and rather debauched. And had insane chemistry with Geena Davis. When her husband shows up, I was disappointed. 


SOME OF THE PEOPLE ON PRODUCTION WANTED JIMMY AND DOTTIE TO END UP TOGETHER, AND WHEN THAT IDEA WAS SCRAPPED, SO WERE THE KEY SCENES OF ROMANTIC TENSION.

Their conversation on the bus that stayed in the film may have seemed to hint at something more than friendship, but it's nothing compared to a cut scene in which Dottie watches Jimmy hit batting practice late at night. Jimmy tells Dottie how much he loves watching her play, claiming that she rivals Ty Cobb and Ted Williams. After Dottie admits how much she loves baseball, he kisses her. She runs into the clubhouse and, originally, this is where she starts packing her things and tells Ira Lowenstein, the AAGPBL general manager, that she has to go home.

Bull Durham is also great. My baseball persona is a mix of Dottie Hinson and Annie Savoy. I'm both Thelma and Louise.

Not baseball related but how old is too old for one of those plastic fitted sheets on somebodies bed? Asking for a friend. Simon H. via Facebook

It seems to me that plastic fitted sheets are something you grow out of and then grow back into. So you can never be too old.



No, a hotdog is not a sandwich. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council declared that the term "sandwich"  is too limiting to describe the awesomeness of the hot dog. So, it's not a sandwich, but an entity that stands alone.

So, if the hot dog people can't have the final say, who can?

Related question:

Which current jay could eat the most hot dogs in one sitting? Simon H via Facebook

Justin Smoak. He's a big dude. And likely feels like he has something to prove.


What's the over/under on post game interviews with Gibby in "the chair" with that mischievous grin on his face? Eric S via Facebook 


Again, no odds. But I hope it happens often. Even his disappointments are entertaining. 

Which other-sport athlete would be the best Baseball player? And which baseball player would be the best at another sport? André D. via Facebook

Carmelo Anthony's first sport love was baseball. So let's go with that.  Mike Trout, giving the proper equipment, training and time, could probably play hockey. Mike Trout could probably do a lot of things well. We're just lucky he chose baseball. 

What kind of drink/cocktail would you attribute to each of the 25 man roster? André D. via Facebook

I don't have this kind of time. 

But Jose Bautista is Bermudez 1852 Aniversario. Neat.


How will Estrada perform now that he doesn't have Navarro catching him? Laura H via Facebook

I know Estrada developed some sort of rapport with Navarro. I'm a firm believer in chemistry between pitcher and catcher, but I also know that baseball players are creatures of habit. Martin knows what he's doing and has worked with a lot of different pitchers. I'm not worried.

How will Navarro perform now that he doesn't have the hot dog guy feeding him? Jonathan Y. via Facebook

Navarro moved to Chicago. They have hot dogs there. They also have deep dish pizza. I'm not worried.

 How soon do we expect Alford to force Pillar off this team? Nicholas C. via Facebook

I'm going to guess pretty darn soon. If Pillar is anywhere as interesting as he was in 2015 and Alford progresses in the minors, I could see Pillar being flipped for pitching or something and Alford being the guy. This kid could be a big star. Plus he chose baseball over football, which earns him big points in my book.

Which jay would make the best big spoon? Simon H. via Facebook

Brett Cecil.   Edwin Encarnacion. 




Friday, 15 January 2016

Blue Jays Do Awesome Things, Are Awesome


In case you were at home, forgetting just how awesome Josh Donaldson is, Josh Donaldson made an appearance on MLB Network Radio today to remind you.

“I’ll tell you the first thing I said to David Price — this was before the season ended. I said, David, I know you’re a big deal. I want you on my team. But if you’re not going to be on my team, I’m not mad… You’re left-handed — Im’ma get mine.”

I said, David.....

Seriously, it's just the greatest. He's smart, complimentary to both Estrada and Stroman and he's funny as heck.

And I love the way he says, "Mexico."
   



Another interview, this one with Marcus Stroman. He talks about his rehab, the completion of his degree, pitching in the playoffs and rapping.

And he says Aaron Sanchez is a starter. Smart boy.




John Lott has a comprehensive and very interesting piece on Gil Kim, who was just hired this week as Blue Jays' first director of player development.  As Lott explains, he will oversee the club’s minor-league operation, which includes eight teams in three countries, as well as the staff in various disciplines that shape individual programs for each player in the system.

(Stoeten suggests his name lends to shouting "GIL KIM!")

Kim's road to this place has been an interesting one. He is 5'6" and was a utility guy who played in Netherlands, Beijing, Australia, Spain and finally Venezuela, where he slept in the clubhouse bathroom.


Shapiro has talked extensively about how he wants to build the team in a new way, and Kim is likely going to factor into that. But given his connection to a Jays certain relief pitcher, I suspect Kim's hiring wasn't so much a Shapiro initiative but, rather, was brought to him.





Anthony Alford seems kinda good.


Jose Bautista was named as a coach to Team Canada for the Celebrity NBA All Star Game, joining Drake, Steve Nash and Tracy McGrady. 

Per Sportsnet:

Though more names could be added, Canada’s roster of celebrities will include 6’5” tennis star Milos Raonic, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, Drew and Jonathan Scott (of the W Network’s Property Brothers), actor/singer Kris Wu, and actor Stephan James.

Celebrities on the American side include Creed star Michael B. Jordan, SNLalumn Jason Sudekis, actor Anthony Anderson, Empire‘s Bryshere “Yazz” Gray, America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, and, um, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry.

Every time I hear the name "Nick Cannon", I think of this:


"He's hilarious."

This might be my favourite thing in a while. What a delightfully strange individual. "Managing my inbox."

YES Network has a show where they follow Joe Girardi around. It's a show that has never really appealed to me, but I would watch the heck out of "A Day at ARod Corp."

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

AA Moves on (And So Should We)



So the not-so-secret rumour of Alex Anthopolous joining the Dodgers became official today. His new title is "Vice-President of Baseball Operations." It doesn't have the prestige of GM, but it is better than "Assistant to the Travelling Secretary." 

He is moving the Mrs. and the kids to L.A. I am neutral on all of this. I honestly wish AA the best and I'll miss the nerdy Anglo Montreal thing he's got going on.

Maybe Alex Anthopoulos just wants a role that still involves watching and evaluating baseball players but allows him to see his children and plan the next move. He could do this for five years and still be younger than a lot of GMs in baseball.


That's really all anyone can hope for. 


Drew Storen did the media rounds yesterday, revealed he was watching Making of a Murderer  on Netflix with his wife when he got the call. (Relief pitchers! They are just like us!)

Ok. "Netflix and chill" is one of those terms that people use often on social media and I suspect people no longer know what the actual meaning is. I've seen people use "Netflix and chill" with their babies or their dogs. No, please don't.  
"Netflix and chill" is an invite to come over and have sexy fun times. It's the 21st century texting version of going out for dinner and inviting the date up for "coffee."

Storen isn't the first nor will he be the last to make this mistake. I would, however, find it hilarious if he actually meant "Netflix and chill" in the traditional way.

I have no idea what he thinks this means:



I love this child. 

"Made it rain in Vegas with the MVP JD, no whiskey."




He's pretty smooth. The track itself is mesmerizing and a bit intimate. With the emergence of Drake and all the other confessional and slightly sing song rappers that have come after (I'd say Mike Stud qualifies as such), it really demonstrates that while Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak might not be his most beloved album, it might be the most influential.




Also important, he is wearing an All-Star Game shirt. He wore a t-shirt he got from some work related event to the Dufferin Mall. Shortstops! They are just like us!

The Dufferin Mall has these ads. They are on buses and stuff:


So I made a Tulo themed one. 




really 



Brandon McCarthy illustrates his humour while answering The Player's Tribune Mailbag.





John Lott had a pretty comprehensive recap of the Baseball Canada event I attended on the weekend. The thing I liked about the event is that the major league guys (Votto and Martin being the biggest stars) mingled and mixed in with national team guys and former players really well. It really demonstrated how tight knit the community is. Mike Saunders talked about the advice Joey Votto gave him when he was really struggling at the big league level:

Friend, Roman and countryman The Tao of Stieb writes that Jays fans need to flip the page on 2015 and look forward into the future.

I thought of something I read in the wake of David Bowie's passing. Brian Eno shared what Bowie wrote in his last email to him. 'Thank you for our good times, brian. they will never rot'.

 Thank you for our good times, Blue Jays. they will never rot.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Storen Trade, JBEE and Joey Votto's Beard


The late Friday night trade of Ben Revere for Drew Storen was an interesting one. First, I'd like to point out what a vintage Alex Anthopoulos move it was, starting with the fact that it happened late on a Friday. It also was a smart way to address a need and was a little saucy.

I loved watching Ben Revere play. He has great energy and played a key role in that run with his speed at the top of the order. I'm not sure his defensive skills are actually that fantastic, or whether they seemed so fantastic because it wasn't Chris Colabello playing out of position. It was an actual left fielder. The trade for Revere was great because it addressed a team need.

Similarly, the trade of Revere was to address another need: a somewhat thin bullpen. The presence of Drew Storen back there definitely gives the Jays the option for Aaron Sanchez in the rotation. I have this idea, a fantasy really, that the loss of Price can be mitigated by the blossoming of Aaron Sanchez as a starting pitcher. With Sanchez pitching the way he should be able to and fitting in behind Stroman and among Dickey, Estrada and Chavez/Happ, all of a sudden they have a rotation that doesn't make me want to weep.

Drew Storen is a big time arm and is what can be described as a legit closer. He had a bit of a down second half, but the Nationals were a shit show that traded for Jonathan Papelbon, who then demanded to be closer. And then choked Bryce Harper.

As Stoeten puts it:

What immediately jumps out when looking at his FanGraphs page is the fact that he’s a bit of an elusive pitcher. He’s had a ground ball rate of 52.5% or above in two of his last four seasons, and a rate of 40.9% or below in his other two. His strikeout rate slipped from 24.4% in 2011 to about 21% for the next three seasons, before spiking to a 29.4% rate in 2015, despite consistent velocity through that period (though he actually ticked up slightly, to 94.0 this year).
The other thing about Storen is that he is very entertaining on social media, which is really the only thing any of us should be concerned about. It's all that matters.
I tweeted this in response:





So I take full credit for this bio change:


Yes, I have that kind of influence.

Drew Storen basically panders to us by posting pictures of himself with a dog



And he also talks to John Lott about the time he was a bat boy for the Expos. Dogs, Montreal and baseball are a few of my favourite things.

Plus, as evidenced in the picture above, he serves drinks.


Ross Atkins, the new GM whose name is a lot less complicated to spell correctly, was on MLB Network Radio. Stoeten live tweeted the interview.


Atkins offered some insight on the plan with Sanchez:



And my two favourite bits of news:
What about making me happy? Has that been considered? I would also like it if they referred to every discussion about this as the "JBEE" discussion. It's pronounced "Juh Bee", in case you were wondering.

This is a much better feeling. A lot less like despair.


I attended the Baseball Canada fundraiser banquet last night at the Renaissance Hotel in Toronto. I hung out with media pals- John Lott told me my previous post was plenty interesting (I had decided it was boring, it still kind of is.) I spoke French to Russell Martin, I discussed outfield options with Devon White, I told John Axford his mustache was not nearly entertaining enough for me and noticed that Mike Saunders wasn't at all limping on that knee. He also has a manly handshake.

And I might have alarmed Joey Votto.



Me to Joey Votto: How many days growth is that? (re. his man-sized beard.)        

Joey Votto to me: About one day. (facetiously.... I think.)

Me to Joey Votto: I always ask cause I can never get mine to grow that big....

Joey Votto to me: .... (slow smile)

Having seen both in the flesh, I can attest that Stoeten's is, in fact, bigger. So, Stoeten, you have Joey Votto beat in beards, if nothing else.

The food was delicious, the baseball boys were relaxed and it was a great event. The only issue I had is that there was a lot of attention paid to the Blue Jays and other Canadian MLB players, which is fine, and they also spoke extensively about the Canadian Senior Men's team that won gold at the Pan Am Games. Their female counterparts participated in the Pan Am Games for the first time and won a silver medal, but I didn't hear any mention of that. I checked Baseball Canada's website to see if the women's team was represented by them and it appears they are. A slip up in an otherwise stellar event.


Finally, I have this for some reason.

A photo posted by JoannaC (@humandchuck) on

Just a reminder of how much can change in five years. Wearing that old Jays logo is Ricky Romero. The text reads: " Left-hander Ricky Romero will make his first opening day start, the club welcomes rookie manager John Farrell, slugger Jose Bautista has a fresh five-year contract and promising young starter Kyle Drabek joins the rotation."

Hot damn.

Griffin remains, though. Griffin is eternal.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Some This and Some That: 2016 is going to be Something



Some baseball related things happened.


Is this real? I don't know, but it could be interesting.  Reading Molly Knight's book (which is well worth your time) made me think that I find the team interesting but maybe not a place I would like to work. Anthopoulos might've found a situation where he won't (allegedly) be criticised for spending money because there is a lot of that. Maybe he'll get to watch players and then organise his findings in neat charts and then talk about his findings on the phone with interested parties, three things I suspect are some of Alex Anthopoulos' favourite things.




What is Marcus Stroman doing?
A video posted by Mike Stud (@mike_stud) on

He's featuring in rap videos.



And not for the first time:

 

 "Below average height, but didn't give a fuck." Yeah, that sounds about right. (Scott Storch is a major producer. He's gotten into some trouble, but was a big, big deal.)




Dan Haren is a pitcher I have never enjoyed watching. He's basically the anti-Mark Buehrle. He's slow to the plate and he's deliberate. "THROW THE DAMN BALL!" is what runs through my mind. But it turns out, he's pretty awesome on Twitter. Haren spent time the other day just tweeting random thoughts.


And:



That's pretty funny, Dan. I don't want to watch you pitch, but we can be friends.





As Ian at The Blue Jay Hunter pointed out, that's the Ted Lilly/John Gibbons fight night.



Look how young Gibbers looks. And how ugly the grey uniforms are. And George Poulis running down the stairs to break up something that was totally not physical. I remembered that it was versus the A's but I had forgotten it was Dan Haren on the mound.

Unrelated video, Gibbs needed a beer.






Power Forward's Jessica W. Luther compiled a list of great sports journalism written by women in 2015. 

I like the variety in the list, both topics (domestic violence, social media, women in sports) and also the diversity of sports covered - pro sports as well as college. There is hockey, football, soccer, baseball, tennis and track.

Some highlights:

Sarah Spain on ESPNW with a piece about Baseball for All, an all girl baseball tournament founded by Justine Spiegal. Spiegal was hired by the A's in 2015, because the first female coach in the MLB. 

Claudia Rankine in the New York Times about Serena Williams.  I love Serena Williams and everything she represents.

Stacey May Fowles let's us know it's ok to have the hots for baseball players. (Phew.)

Julie DiCaro on the threats she received on social media when she was covering the Patrick Kane case.  She and I are Twitter buddies. It got really stupid.

Leesa Cross-Smith on emotions and sports. I can count four times baseball made me cry in the 2015 season. One was Russell Martin's homer against the Yankees. Two was when they made the playoffs. Three was when Bautista bat flipped (that whole insane inning I was pretty fraught). And four when they were eliminated. I was just not ready.

Kate Morrison on Daniel Murphy's baseball failure in the playoffs. 

Meg Rowley on diversity (well, the lack of it) in baseball front offices.



This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t women and people of color who are statheads, anymore than it would be reasonable to suggest that all former players are white. But after a decade of painful progress to advance women and minorities to positions of authority, a generation of Ivy Leaguers are falling into the exact same traps: showing a predilection for “Clubability,” as Michael Lewis called it, over something new, something innovative, or even something marginally uncomfortable. They hire people like them.


HOF elected Ken Grifey Jr.








Jose Bautista did an in-depth interview with The Globe and Mail a few days ago. Ever since I first heard him talk about hitting in 2010, I knew Bautista was a very intelligent guy with a very interesting point of view. 

This interview doesn't disappoint. Bautista basically gives his views on his career, on baseball and on where he is at. 


I don’t like following guidelines, or footsteps, or the crowd. I don’t do what everybody else does. I find ways that work for me to get it done. I definitely don’t follow the normal route most people take when I want to accomplish something. If we’re all chasing the same goal, and we all use the same guidelines, then that means a lot of us end up at the same level. And I’m not trying to be one of the bunch, I’m trying to stand out from the bunch. And for that reason you have to think different and be different.

One thing I learned from my parents was to not attempt to box anybody into any role, no matter what you want. Everyone needs the freedom of choice. What you can do is set the right example and create the proper environment surrounding them.
I think instinctively we are animals, and we have more direct contact with that than we might want to admit. Whenever you box an animal in, he’s going to try to find a way out. So the last thing I’m going to try to do with my kids is tell them exactly what they need to be and how to do it.


You adjust, and you learn and you adapt. And if you don’t you get left behind.







Roy Halladay had some thoughts about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in the HOF. He tweeted those thoughts. 






And Roger Clemens responded by saying a "strength coach" told him that Doc had used amphetamines. Was that Brian McNamee, Roger, the strength coach that injected your ass so many times you allegedly developed an abscess? 

And because everything is tawdry and gross, Roy Halladay has been featured on TMZ. (Well, TMZ Sports.) 



“I grew up a huge Clemens fan. Getting to play with him, he became a role model. When I heard that he had cheated, it was like finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real all over again to me.”

As for Clemens attacking him, Halladay says, "I let my reputation and the truth speak for itself. It’s the greatest feeling to say you did it the right way.”


That Santa thing is pretty awful.