Last summer, I watched a lot of baseball. Shocking, I'm sure.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Last summer, I watched a lot of baseball. Shocking, I'm sure.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
I started playing organized baseball in 1991. I remember that year watching the Jays be pretty good, and watching Jack Morris pitch a 10 inning shutout in Game 7 of the World Series for the Minnesota Twins.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
However, other things that come with the territory of being a baseball fan in the AL East is a degree of hatred stemming from the rivalry with the Red Sox and Yankees.
For years, I’ve embraced it. There were players on both teams that were easy to target as the objects of my created hatred. When Alex Rodriguez acted like, well…himself, or when the Red Sox made winning look so damn easy while the Blue Jays appeared to pour every ounce into each win. I also developed a pure loathe for Derek Jeter (The Captain). This is hard for me to admit, but my Jeter-hate might have more to do with his label as The Captain of the Evil Empire and less to do with how he plays on the field.
That hatred though, was almost always the mask for large portions of envy…we all want to cheer for a team that wins like those teams do.
It’s easy to start paying attention to the teams that are doing things the “right way”. A label that’s attached to small market/low-payroll teams who scratch out victories over the powerful, high-payroll teams en route to the playoffs. Teams like the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays and everyone’s favourite Moneyball team, the Oakland Athletics are fun to root for, and even more fun to jump on board with when they win.
But as a fan of the game, and someone who’s been watching his favourite team re-build/re-tool/build from the bottom up, etc. for the better part of the last decade, it’s hard to hate the Yankees and Red Sox anymore.
First let’s look at Boston. They have so many talented players that are “homegrown products”. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury are all really fun to watch. Yes, Kevin Youkilis is possibly the “ugliest man alive” (credit: Mrs. Jay) but he’s still a fantastic baseball player. How could one not enjoy watching Jon Lester pick apart other teams? Then they supplement their team with guys that are REALLY fun to watch…Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.
Then we have New York. While they still have the ever douche-tastic Alex Rodriguez they have their own draft class successes. Brett Gardner stands out as the most recent draft success (at least with Major League success) but Jorge Posada was also a product of the draft, as was Derek Jeter. The Yankees though have had great success in signing international free agents like Robinson Cano and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees also have some very high ceiling prospects that should make appearances this fall, and be part of the fabric of the team very soon. Then of course, supplementing their team through free agency/trades has given them Mark Teixiera, C.C. Sabathia, Curtis Granderson and the always entertaining Nick Swisher.
So a brief look makes it plainly obvious that as a Jays fan, my obligation to heckle, boo and yell obscenities at these teams when they’re in town is now hard, given that they’re both REALLY fun teams to watch.
I will always want the Jays to win. But should we find ourselves in another Red Sox blow-out series like there was on that fateful weekend in June, I encourage everyone to sit back and enjoy watching two of the best lineups in baseball do what they do best.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I'm sitting at home today watching the Blue Jays Pre-Game and there's a touching segment on John MacDonald and his homerun on Father's Day last year.
Unfamiliar with the story, let me bring you up to speed...John MacDonald's father passed away 5 days before Father's Day last year. His first game back off bereavement leave was on Father's Day. Toronto would give MacDonald leave for the final 11 days of his father's life. Jack (father) MacDonald asked his son to hit a homerun for him. John hit a Jeremy Affeldt pitch over the right field wall. The Jays would
It's a story that one year later is just as touching. The fist pump while rounding first base, the obvious emotion of the event and his teammates reaction when he got back to the dugout.
Take a look at the moment here.
"I think (the homer) was for both of us," McDonald said. "The fact I got it out of the way quick was nice. I told him they're not that easy to hit."
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I have a theory when it comes to sports that each league will thrive when its key franchises are rolling along with great success. So then, the question becomes, who are the MLB’s key franchises?
In my humble opinion they’re franchises that have had a degree of success and have been associated with a high level of talent and skill for longer than a couple of years. That’s right, Arizona Diamondbacks…you’re not there…yet.
My humble opinion on this, by division:
I lived with two guys from Kansas City when I was in grad school and their persistence to watch the Royals led me to watching quite a bit more Royals baseball then I ever would before. From an anecdotal perspective, and to quote Posnanski “this town deserves a baseball winner. Well, every town deserves one now and again”.
As a Blue Jays fan I’ve been tormented by the fact that we play in the most ridiculous division in professional sports. The Yankees and Red Sox will out-spend the league, and as I mentioned last night, Tampa is working harder than any team in the league to find undervalued talent or to sign their young stars. But in that same torment is quickly relatable to a Royals fan. Constant talk about the young talent in the minors, several re-building efforts and a long playoff drought led to many nights sitting around a fire pit drinking bad American beer and commiserating about our favourite teams.
Watching the Royals last night, when they beat the Jays in 11 innings, I was very impressed by Eric Hosmer. This should come as no surprise to anyone. He’s the real deal. Hosmer has compiled an .834 OPS with 5 HR and 20 RBI in one month. That’s enough to push Billy Butler (another great player) out of the 1B spot and into daily DH duties. Hosmer going 2-5 with the game winning RBI single seemed only appropriate as Jays fans salivate over *The Legend of Brett Lawrie*.
To close, I’d like to quote Posnanski again. He’s been a favourite of mine ever since I was a young kid with a Sports Illustrated subscription. Tonight the Jays face Vin Mazzaro, who gave up 11 hits, 14 runs and sports an ERA of 22.74 coming into action tonight. This has to bode well for the Jays, no?
“This town has endured all those things. More, though, it has endured a decade and a half of being all but irrelevant across the country. This was once one of baseball's model franchises. This was once one of America's best baseball towns. For many years, though, Kansas City baseball has been choked by money constraints and missed opportunities and awful decisions and bad luck -- not necessarily in that order. And that made the Royals all but invisible across America. Anyway, it usually felt that way”
“And here in the bottom of the 11th inning, the Royals load the bases. There are two outs. Eric Hosmer comes up. He's 21 years old. He's the most exciting young player in Kansas City since Carlos Beltran. I am no scout, but when I saw Hosmer swing the bat during spring training I thought: "This guy is going to be a star." The fans, the ones who remain, are standing and cheering, and it's not an overwhelming sound, but it's a good sound”
“And Eric Hosmer drills a no-doubt, line-drive single to center. The Royals win”
Monday, June 6, 2011
Lind, Adam --- Beltran, Carlos
Romero, Ricky --- Wright, David
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Last night I went to watch the Blue Jays/Indians game at the
Skydom…Rogers Centre. I’d be lying if I said it was because I thought it would be an exciting game, I went because I own Josh Tomlin and Kyle Drabek in several fantasy baseball leagues.
I have a fantasy baseball problem. It’s not that I’m in 5 leagues, quite the contrary, it’s that I have a love-affair with young pitching. You could call my position players awesome, and my pitching…well, some of them might not have driver’s licenses yet.
There hasn’t been a need to defend Kyle Drabek yet this year. Blue Jays fans are willing to sit through the kid cutting his teeth on MLB batters knowing that the piece of cheese at the end of the maze was the key part of the Roy Halladay trade. But the piece of cheese is starting to get a little smelly. Drabek skipped AAA altogether and jumped from New Hampshire straight to the Blue Jays last fall. He’s struggled with control at every level of his career, and management seems to be ok with him continuing to “learn” at this level. He’s not learning though. He’s only had one start this year where he had fewer than 3 walks, and he’s had 4 or more 6 times. When a team is quick to pull the trigger on sending Travis Snider and Brett Cecil to the minors, and has no problem keeping Mike McCoy on red eye flights between Vegas and Toronto, yet won’t demote a struggling powder keg of a starter…it doesn’t indicate a willingness to win. As a fan, this doesn’t make me want to spend time in the stands at the Rogers Centre.
Simply put, when the Arizona Diamondbacks lineup starts to look impressive compared to yours, it’s time for a wakeup call. Yes, Adam Lind will be back soon. Yes, the Great Canadian Hope Brett Lawrie is coming sooner than later. Yes, we’re only 3 games out of first.
This team has looked amazing at times this year. I think we can chalk up a win on grabbing Corey Patterson. He’s been exciting to watch, and frankly, has been killing it lately. Yunel Escobar is almost silently having one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen from a Jays shortstop. Ricky Romero is introducing himself to the league again by saying “remember this? No? Let me remind you” and killing it.
On the flip side, Josh Tomlin was pretty impressive last night even though he gave up some runs late. He was hitting his spots and put some strikeouts on the board. His “stuff” reminds me of Brett Cecil’s last year. No one is too sure how it’s working as well as it is…but it is. Run with it, while that’s the case.Are the Indians for real? Probably not. But they were much more exciting to watch last night (and on Tuesday night) than the Jays were.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Last year, one of my favourite players to watch was Buster Posey. All I can say is I’ve taken full advantage of my MLB.tv subscription and enjoyed watching his dominance in the woeful National League West.
Last night, Buster Posey was absolutely drilled at home by Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins.
Now, I don’t want to get up on a soapbox and preach too much. Admittedly, I’m a fan of violence in sports. I love hitting in hockey, quarterback sacks and catcher collisions. But just like the new War on Head Hitting in the NHL and NFL, last night’s events now gives the MLB and MLBPA a chance to step up and set an example.
With both the NHL and NFL’s new policies, they put an emphasis on making a play for the puck or ball FIRST. Scott Cousins makes no initial effort at the plate last night, and in fact could have scored on the play without the impact. There wasn’t a Marlin player behind the plate signaling this to Cousins, so it’s hard to claim that he was trying to injure Posey, nor do I intend to take that stance. But I see this as a great chance for the MLB to make a statement that base-runners must make an effort at the base they wish to occupy (in this case, home), before initiating intended contact.
This is the second instance this season where a player has gone out of his way to try to initiate contact to break up a play and resulted in major injury. Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka had his leg broken by Nick Swisher while turning a double play last month. While Swisher wasn’t called out by Twins management or the league, it was noted in just about each report of the play that Swisher went well out of the baseline to make contact.
This is a dangerous precedent for the MLB to be setting. I don’t think we’re even close to the recklessness that lead to the new rules in hockey and football, but I ask, how many more plays like this will it take for baseball to make some changes? Posey had NO CHANCE to defend himself, and the contact happened when he wasn’t even looking at the runner. Shouldn’t the runner assume some responsibility here?
Preaching over! I wish Buster Posey a speedy recovery and I hope that the San Francisco Giants can tread water in the NL West while he is on the mend.
Tip of the Cap to Dustin Parkes for the photo.
Friday, May 20, 2011
There’s a lot made out of a player’s ability to hit, pitch or field their position in “clutch” situations. It’s pretty easy to track too. Did x player drop/hit the ball or run the bases effectively? Did he/she do this more than once over the course of the season? He/She is either “Clutch” or not.
I’m amazed that in the game of baseball, where statistical analysis can tell us everything from the pitch a player hits the hardest, to what his favourite ice cream flavor is that this touchy-feely, anecdotal type of thought process still exists.
The idea of “Clutch” as I see it with the game of baseball is that it’s perceived that certain players try harder when there’s more at stake. This implies that the other players try less hard and are more susceptible to failure. That is a complete crock of shit if you ask me. That would be like saying drivers try harder to not get in accidents when they’re closer to their destination, plumbers try harder to do a good job when they’re quickly approaching a deadline or classical musicians try harder to play the right notes when the critics are in the audience.
Perhaps the idea of “odds” is what’s perceived as “clutch”? If a manager plays the “odds” with a bunt, steal or sacrifice fly to move a runner into scoring position then he is lauded by the fans/press/pundits as doing the right thing. I call this results based criticism. This is where the concept of “clutch” comes from IMHO. By reflection, the player who executed this play is considered “clutchy” because he/she “got the job done”.
Baseball is a game that remains important in our society because every generation has stories and anecdotes that are passed down through generations. Whether you played, your father played, you have seasons tickets or bought MLB.tv, we all invest a little bit of ourselves into different teams and players. The idea of “clutch” gives us an emotional reaction to what we perceive as a big play at a big time. But really…when John McDonald hits a walk-off home-run was he trying to do anything different then he does during any other at bat? Or was the result just inherently more positive?
Was Michael Jordan trying any harder to make the baskets for all those NBA moment clips? No the goal is to do your job….his job was to hit the shot, just like McDonald’s was to get on base.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
So there’s been a little bit of a lull here at Relay to Home. There’s been a vacation, an audition and a generally insane week of activity in real life.
But yesterday I finally had a chance to sit and watch a little baseball without having a million other things to do. I watched the last half of the Rockies/Giants game and I was particularly struck once again by the failure to use your best relief pitcher in a high leverage situation.
In the 8th inning, with runners on 1st and 3rd with none out the Giants went to Javier Lopez. Lopez has been fantastic against Left-Handed Batters all year. Prior to yesterday’s game they were 3-30 against him. But in a situation that needed strikeouts, arguably their best strikeout pitcher, Brian Wilson was sitting on the bullpen bench.
Wilson, who hasn’t pitched for a week (much to the demise of my fantasy baseball team), should have had loads of “gas in the tank” to give them the pitching they needed. Of course where this argument fails is that it’s completely speculative. Bruce Bochy played the odds and got burned by them. But on a macro level he (theoretically) got burned by MLB managers tendency to pitch to the save statistic. I’ve written about this before (insert link), but it seems that the mystique of the “Closer” and the “Save” have clouded the league’s need for high-leverage relief pitching.
Yesterday’s win for the Rockies came on a big hit by Carlos Gonzalez. One that could be called clutch. More on the idea of the “clutch hitter” or “clutch pitcher” tomorrow.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
MLB’s DUI Problem
It’s been well documented that three MLB stars have been charged with Driving Under the Influence since the beginning of spring training. In the case of Miguel Cabrera, the police reported that the five-time All-Star forced other vehicles off the road while driving an SUV that was smoking beneath the hood. Cabrera took a drink from a bottle of Scotch whiskey in front of a sheriff's deputy. He was charged with DUI and two misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer without violence.
According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, on April 28, a Georgia state trooper stopped Braves pitcher Derek Lowe on an Atlanta street and charged the pitcher with DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change.
Four days later, Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was pulled over by a Cleveland police officer when his vehicle crossed the double yellow lines and drifted into a bike path. After failing a field sobriety test, Choo took a Breathalyzer test and registered a blood
alcohol content of 0.201, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Starting at the turn of the calendar year the DUI’s starting rolling in faster than no-hitters against NL teams (heyo!). Seattle infielder was arrested on a DUI charge in Newport Beach, Calif. Cleveland outfielder and Oakland outfielder were also arrested on charges of driving under the influence.
Clearly the MLB has to step up and do something here. Aside from the marketing and promotions
nightmare this creates, these players are putting lives in danger. These players make not just a little money – but A LOT. There is literally no reason that a guy making $4 million a year can’t afford to take a taxi. Hopefully they realize this before someone actually gets hurt.
Captain Bud’s Wheel of Justice
On Wednesday, May 4th Tampa outfielder B.J. (Bossman Junior) Upton lost his shit after a questionable third strike call. He proceeded to throw his equipment all over the field after being thrown out of the game by umpire Chad Fairchild.
See the display of sportsmanship HEREFor this kind of behavior, Bossman Junior received a 2 game suspension and a fine of $1500. The suspension is about par for the course…but if you want to make an example of a guy shouldn’t you fine him a little more? A $1500 fine represents less than 1% of his income this season. Bravo Bud…slow clap for you.
1B - Don Mattingly
2B - Roberto Alomar
3B - Paul Molitor
SS - Cal Ripken Jr.
OF - Tony Gwynn
OF - Barry Bonds
OF - Ken Griffey Jr.
P - Greg Maddux
P - Jack Morris
P - Roy Halladay
P - Nolan Ryan
P - Pedro Martinez
CL - Mariano Rivera
Honorable Mention - Brooks Robinson, Dave Winfield, George Brett, Jeff Bagwell, Keith Hernandez, Albert Pujols, Larry Walker, Kirk Gibson
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Ryne Sandberg
3B - Mike Schmidt
SS - Robin Yount
OF - Barry Bonds
OF - Ken Griffey, Jr.
OF - Reggie Jackson
P - Greg Maddux
P - Nolan Ryan
P - Roger Clemens
P - John Smoltz
P - Randy Johnson
CL - Mariano Rivera
Sunday, May 8, 2011
"The baseball gods are a fickle pain in my ass" - Jay Austin, May 7, 2011
- Last year when Ubaldo Jiminez was throwing his, I had to go to work. My boss didn't like me watching the game on my computer...so I had to turn it off.
- Roy Halladay's Perfect Game in Florida was on my MLB.tv when I got a phone call for a gig and missed the last two innings while making the arrangements.
- When my wife had just moved to Toronto, I took her to see Brandon Morrow pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays. We saw 8.2 no-hit innings of 17 strikeout baseball before Evan Longoria broke his bat...and the no hitter.
- I had watched the first 8 innings of Matt Garza's no hitter last summer...when our internet cut out and I missed the last 3 outs.
- Roy Halladay's playoff no hitter hurt. I was watching until I had to go to work. When I got off the subway I had 7 text messages saying "did you just see that?"...sigh
- Yesterday, I also had to go to work after watching the first 7 innings of Justin Verlander's no hitter.