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Friday, July 29, 2011

You're My Boy Brett


Last summer, I watched a lot of baseball. Shocking, I'm sure.
Working for a baseball team affords you the privilege of having access to games after your shifts, on your days off and the best part is that it costs less.

Without proper records (or ticket stubs to check), lets say I went to watch 15 games on days I had off. That is, 15 complete, 9 inning games of Blue Jays baseball. Brett Cecil had 11 home starts, and I think I saw them all.

This wasn't on purpose. It was entirely coincidental. But the joke (started by my wife) was that I had a man crush on Brett Cecil. While I went with the joke, it wasn't hard to get excited about watching a pitcher be as good as he was in 2010.

But in 2011...Brett wasn't as good. As jokes go...well, I ended my man crush. I moved on...hell, there were so many exciting players. Kyle Drabek had my attention, as did Brandon Morrow and Jose Bautista. All the while, Brett was down in AAA figuring out where his velocity and swagger went.

Now Brett is back! I watched his start in Texas when he shut them out and got pretty excited. Tonight I was in the building and watched him be equally as dominant in defeating the very same Texas club.

So I whole-heartedly welcome you back. It's damn good to see you again...and while it's a little awkward right now...it won't be for long if you keep pitching like this.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Today Really Means To Me


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.

On Barrie Minor Baseball sign up day, my coach asked me what number I wanted to wear and I said 3...because the best baseball player I'd ever heard of was Babe Ruth (tip of the cap to the movie The Sandlot, because otherwise I wouldn't have known that.

That same year, the Blue Jays pulled off a deal with the San Diego Padres that sent Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the coast for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. A pretty gutsy trade by a General Manager that would go on to become the architect of 2 championship teams in Toronto and one other in Philadelphia, and now Hall of Famer, Pat Gillick.

After watching Alomar on television all year in 1991, in 1992 at baseball sign ups, when #3 wasn't available, the choice was obvious, I was going to be #12 because Roberto Alomar was the greatest player I'd ever seen play the game.

I won't go on about how good he was for 5 years in Toronto. There'll be enough of that on the internet today. But I wanted to be there in Cooperstown today, and damn near got in the car and drove down last night (but was talked out of it by my loving and wonderful wife for fear of me not sleeping enough).

As a Jays fan, it'll be a long time before this happens again. Read every article, watch every video and if you have it, pop in the '92 and '93 World Series videos and watch them.

Robbie, you were the best player I'd ever seen. I grew up during a special time in baseball with players across baseball like Alomar, Gwynn, Molitor, Ripken, Yount and George Brett serving as my role models. I'll never forget pulling up on the couch and watching as much as I could, no matter what game, or what teams.

Every time I put on a jersey, I'll always wear #12 proudly. Not because I'm particularly good, but because I'm proud to have seen Roberto Alomar at his best, and those old videos never get old.

You're the best, and congratulations!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Most Interesting Thing of the Night

Unlike some other bloggers, I loved tonight's Home Run Derby.

How appropriate was it to see no one player go on a tear that would make anyone utter the word "steroids" or even "steroid era". Instead we heard "sweet swing" and "so smooth". It speaks volumes to the amazing amounts of change in the game that the true big-power in the Derby really never showed up.

Sure, Prince and Papi put on a bit of a show. Jose Bautista saves his homeruns for real games (or he was distracted and wanted to go and earn the fandom of every wife made to watch the Derby tonight).
Tonight belonged to the doubles hitter. Cano and Gonzalez were able to turn up the power and avoid those pesky gap shots to make 450 feet seem like you and I could go out and do that tomorrow night at my softball game.

But, as the title of this post suggests...there was something more important than baseball going on tonight. With no Ryan Braun, Travis Snider or Alex Rodriguez, baseball was left with no pretty boy in the event tonight.
That is...until Matt Kemp stepped into the batters box...and into the hearts of ladies across the world.


Co-worker, marketing wiz and closet baseball fanatic Jess Parkes sent me the following text message:
"Mmmm, he is delicious"
Quickly followed by:
"It's a bat off! I don't even know what that means" (neither did the players)
and
"awwww Baby Bautista"

Tip of the cap to Jess, CaptainLatte (for the screen grab) and Robinson Cano...tomorrow's game won't have nearly this much excitement in it.

Nothing Like a Good Derby

With the relative amount of non-fanboy posts I've put up on here it may surprise you that I love the Home Run Derby. It's the one event that has no advanced metrics, no subtlety...it's just pure instant gratification.

This all may stem from my adoration of players like Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez and Albert Belle when I was a kid. Talking about this with a colleague today, it seems that Junior Griffey was a pretty damn good ball player (file this under #newstome). It also might have something to do with the fact that I was an absolutely dreadful hitter. Decent pitcher, good with the glove...but nothing but a scrapbook full of slap singles. Not surprisingly, as a softball player now, I always try to hit the long ball...much to the dismay of my teammates.

The one thing I would love to see MLB do with this event is include not only the All-Stars, but the best HR hitters in the game. Who wouldn't want to watch Jay Bruce and Mike Stanton go head to head? Or have this event for the Futures Day as well...watch Bryce Harper put on a hitting display.

As an aside, I'd also love to see a 90 foot sprint-off. (Cue agents yelling simultaneously at their computer screens, NO!). Wouldn't it be awesome to see Michael Bourne vs. Rajai Davis? Mike Trout vs. Peter Bourjos? These type of sprints happen in the spring, so why not bring them to prime-time?

Anyways...tonight I'll be playing the Jose Bautista Drinking Game. Rules as such...
- for every mention of "54 Home Runs out of nowhere" take a drink
- each mention of Jose's improved batting eye (over .100 points better in '11), take a drink
- for every homerun between 360-450 feet take a drink
- for every homerun over 450 take two drinks
- for every homerun over 500 feet take three drinks
**if Chris Berman uses the heralded Cadbury Egg Homerun Call (you'll know it when you hear it)

And if for no other reason then my google search for HomeRun Derby videos led me to this...I ask for your indulgence





Enjoy the Derby!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Hatred is Fleeting...

Sometimes it’s tough to be a Jays fan…this I’ve made perfectly clear on this forum.
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

Reality Check

You know...sometimes it's hard to be a Jays fan...but then I remember that Yankees fans are...well, this guy:

Father's Day Baseball


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.

Pulling from Yahoo's Big League Stew Blog (and writer Kevin Kaduk):

"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."
Asked what he was thinking as he rounded the bases, McDonald was painfully honest. From MLB.com:
"Probably the fact that I couldn't call my dad after the game to tell him."

Watching baseball on Father's Day is an exercise that strikes a particularly emotional chord with me. Coming from a family background where I was raised by my mother and her side of the family, Father's Day hasn't been a focal point for me. But as I prepare to celebrate my first wedding anniversary, it's a day that starts to mean a little more to me. Today my wife and I will enjoy the Jays/Reds game and on our anniversary we have tickets for the Jays and Phillies. We also spent the day after our wedding last year at Target Field watching the Twins and Rays.
It's not a stretch to say that the game of baseball has taken a large role in my marriage. My wife is incredibly tolerant, but has also started to pick up some of the baseball nerditry that I have been writing about. We're in no rush to create the scenario where Father's Day is a day that we celebrate with our own kids, but when that day arrives, you can bet that we'll be at a ball park somewhere, no matter what corner of the globe we're in.

Happy Father's Day to any of the father's reading this. I hope that if this blog is getting to your twitter feed, facebook newsfeed or Google Reader that you're having a wonderful day.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anatomy of a Failed Promotion

Tonight was 70's night at the Rogers Centre. The match-up for this theme night...Jays vs. Orioles.
For anyone not living in Canada or Boston, it's also game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Decade Days at the ballpark are always a great time for a team to look back at it's history and give the fans a look back at old faces, memories and uniforms. I've written before about how I think the third jersey is a joke, but on a night like this it would have been great to see some more of the old uniforms.

Instead of presenting the 9000+ fans in attendance with a little of the team's history...original uniforms, players, broadcast teams, highlights on the big screen...all they did was put some old font and change the video boards with an effect that I can do on my iPhone with SnapBucket. No video of Doug Ault hitting the first home run in team history, or even an interview with team broadcaster Alan Ashby who wasone of the first catchers in team history. Heck, we didn't even see this iconic photo ANYWHERE!

Back to the uniforms...because this really bothered me. The fans did an amazing job of coming out in the spirit of the night withwigs, costumes and old jerseys. The two teams...did not. Both teams have awesome old logos, iconic old uniforms and a night when no one would blame them for opening the vault.


So...moving away from the promo (which I hope to god they'll fix before 80's night), the small but dedicated group of fans saw Ricky Romero and Jake Arrieta pitch the lights out. Romero went 8 innings gathering 12K's and making several of the Orioles look borderline foolish. Arrieta however was in many ways more impressive to me. It's no secret that Baltimore has a young pitching staff that is very highly touted. Unfortunately it's also not a secret that the management in Baltimore has surrounded these pitchers with aging, in-decline former stars and strikeout machines. I digress...

Anyways, Arrieta kept the Jays off balance all night with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches that have heavy downwards break and were generally very hard to drive. This fact will seem odd considering the 3 HR that Toronto had. I've had the pleasure of seeing Arrieta, Matusz and Zach Britton pitch live now and I don't think it's a stretch to be most excited about Jake Arrieta. He reminds me of another young pitcher that I enjoy, Jeremy Hellickson. Guys that aren't going to strike out a ton of batters, but will keep their team in the game and keep the batters off balance.

So to sum it up...hockey season is now over. Vancouverites are crying in their pre-corked champagne bottles. Toronto can now go back to doing what it does best...speculating on the Maple Leafs free agency/coaching staff and bandwagon jumping on a team showing success. I'd like to invite you all to jump on the Blue Jays bandwagon.

Look past the Jayson Nix's and Edwin Encarnacion's in the lineup and get pumped about Ricky Romero's emergence as a top flight starter, Jose Bautista's All-Star campaign and the moment when Brandon Morrow remembers that he's got really, really, REALLY good stuff and begins to dominate the AL again.

There's plenty of room on the wagon...and next month, we can all get on in our 80's clothes and hope to see a little more Lloyd Moseby, Fred McGriff and George Bell. Or at the very least we can hope that the brilliant minds in the Jays Marketing office at least do something like this:


Friday, June 10, 2011

Shameless

Ewwww MLB! Why are you sending me this? As if I want to hear Nick Swisher debate about shaving!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Royals


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:

AL East
Yankees
Red Sox
Orioles

AL Central
Tigers
Twins
Royals

AL West
Angels

NL East
Phillies
Braves
Mets

NL Central
Cardinals
Reds
Cubs

NL West
Giants
Dodgers

All of this is a long precursor to my thoughts on the Kansas City Royals. This morning I read Joe Posnanski’s blog about his last Royals game for awhile, and he successfully tugged on my heart strings enough to inspire some thought.

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

Stars and Scrubs













Over the last week I've started to pay attention to a few of the "bottom-feeder" teams in the MLB for no other reason than fantasy baseball. I've been streaming starters, and wanted to see how guys like Dillon Gee and Josh Collmenter actually pitch.

On Sunday night, I watched most of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast which featured the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. The Mets have been in the news a lot lately because of an inflated payroll with minimal results...and an owner that doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. As a daily listener of Baseball Today, I get quite a bit of Mets news from Mark Simon and the crew, but this was the first time I'd ever sat down to watch them play.

You know, as a Jays fan, I feel for Mets fans. These two teams are remarkably similar (on the field). Both teams are plagued with injuries with some positions being filled by guys that have no place on a roster that is expected to compete. I'm looking at you Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Willie Harris. Yep, I'm also looking at you Edwin Encarnacion, Jayson Nix and John McDonald.

Both teams each have star players that are greatly under-performing. Jason Bay and Aaron Hill were both given big money (Bay more than Hill) to continue to produce at an elite level. Both have failed to produce and stay healthy.

Both teams have significant health questions with the Jays having a revolving door to the DL while the Mets have seen significant playing time lost for David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Johan Santana and now Ike Davis.

The Jays and Mets both have some serious star power though with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran comparing to Adam Lind and Jose Bautista.

Sandy Alderson and Alex Anthopoulous both have their work cut out for them. Anthopoulous is stuck in a division with three powerhouses ahead of them. Boston and New York are both ahead in payroll, and Tampa is ahead of the rest of baseball in scouting. Alderson, similarly has the Phillies, Marlins and Braves to compete with. Both franchises have new baseball minds running the show, that is, they're not afraid of sabremetrics or looking beyond a player's batting average to assess his value to the team.

Coming into the 2010 season, Blue Jays fans received daily doses of the same message "our pitching is young and WILL BE awesome...eventually". 1 year later, Shaun Marcum is in Milwaukee, Brett Cecil is in AAA and Jesse Litsch is on the DL. The Mets rotation is similarly young and loaded with potential with nothing but upside for guys like Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee.

Ultimately, I hope that the future is bright for both franchises. It's my belief that the game of baseball is at its best when franchises in big markets are successful. I think Jays fans can look at the Mets and see why the timing around a new stadium is very important to the future success of the franchise. Citi Field is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to visiting in August, but it's also nearly empty every night. The same can be said about the Rogers Centre except that it's paid for. The Rogers corporation also puts the Jays in a good spot to succeed by not getting involved in the kind of financial mess that has the Mets selling off large portions of the team.

My final thought on this comparison is that both teams look to be compiled the way that many pundits suggest you draft a fantasy baseball team in a really deep league. Stars and Scrubs...a couple of marquee players and lots of "role" players around them.

Toronto ---------- Mets
Bautista, Jose --- Reyes, Jose
Lind, Adam --- Beltran, Carlos
Romero, Ricky --- Wright, David

With both teams being 4th in their respective Eastern divisions, and both with a great deal invested in young talent, it's only a matter of time until these franchises get everything rolling again. If the Mets indeed do trade away any of their marquee guys, it can only serve a larger purpose of sustained success...if the right moves are made. As far as Toronto, we can only continue to watch and hope. We're waiting for the real Travis Snider to come back, Brett Cecil to come back hitting 90 mph with his fastball and for the *Legend of Brett Lawrie* to begin.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Week's Rant-y Post

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

Jersey Fouls

Tonight's Sunday Night ESPN game between the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds pretty much sums up one of the things that drives me nuts about the game.

The third jersey. Yep, I know, weird that this would bug me so much...

When I was a kid watching the Blue Jays the uniforms were classic. At home the uniforms were solid white with a coloured stripe, on the road they were grey.

When it boils right down to it, I think that the third uniform by and large looks like a softball uniform.

Back to my point - the Cincinnati Reds were wearing their classic road grey tonight:

While the Atlanta Braves were sporting uniforms that made them look like contenders in the Georgia Co-Ed Champions League:


Baseball is a business, and I'm aware that third jerseys create new revenue. But I don't know any rational fan who doesn't still live in his mom's basement that strives to own all the uniforms of his favourite team. If you're reading this and that strikes a little close to home, I'd like to introduce you to craigslist. This is both the place you'll find a woman that finds your extreme obsessive love of baseball paraphernalia sexy and a place where you can sell your uniforms for more than you paid for them by calling them "game worn". Just don't mention that "game worn" means you wear them to play MLB 11 The Show because you think it's good luck.


*As an interesting side note to this post, trying to grab screen shots off MLB.tv has never proven so difficult. I've never actually noticed how cluttered the screen gets when ESPN puts new stats up with every new camera angle. Perhaps the ticker at the bottom of the screen could be better utilized with stats?


Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Thoughts on Buster Posey's Injury


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.

See it happen here

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

Clutchy-ness

“In sports terminology, "clutch" means performing well under extreme pressure. It often refers to high levels of production in a critical game, such as Game 7 of a best-of-seven series, the last hole of a Major Championship golf tournament, or the final minute(s) in a close match. Being "clutch" is often seen by sportswriters and fans as an innate skill which some players have while others do not”

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.

Does this discount the belief in clutch ability...probably not. But odds based solutions in key situations are easier to quantify than saying that John Farrell continues to let John McDonald hit in key situations because of his ability to hit in the 9th inning. There's either a good reason to let him hit or there's no other options on the bench. And that's a topic for another day completely.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Evan Longoria is Awesome

Recently Evan Longoria has catapulted to new levels of popularity with his advertising campaigns. I've linked to a few of my favourites below:







Managing for the Save

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

A Look Back - Morrow for League

Right before Christmas 2009 the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays made a straight up one-for-one deal. The Jays sent relief pitcher Brandon League to the coast and got back the middling pitcher Brandon Morrow.

Morrow had started 2009 as the Mariners closer with a solid degree of success. He'd converted his first 6 save opportunities, but then two straight blown saves in May lead to his demotion. The Mariners sent him down to the minors to stretch him out. He would return to the Majors on June 13th and be forced to learn on the job while the Mariners tried to figure out what his role would be.

League made 67 appearances for the Jays in 2009, and would finish the year with a 1.24 WHIP an a K/9 of 9.2. While his role wasn't in question as a bullpen pitcher, his consistency was constantly in question. His much talked about velocity was inconsistent and his control seemed to be in a constant state of flux. He was, however, a good relief option with the kind of raw "stuff" that could lead to him being an impact closer.

Looking back, it seems that the general consensus was that the Mariners won this trade by getting the proven commodity. All the signs were there too, a move to a grass field which would be easier on his body, pitching in one of the largest fields in the league, and on an up and coming team in a weak division.

But, what the Jays got was a potential ace who would begin to work with the same coaching staff that made Roy Halladay, Pat Hentgen and Roger Clemens into Cy Young Award winners and made careers out of the arms of countless others.

Upon Morrow's arrival in Toronto he was said to be a starting pitcher and nothing else. In 2010 he would finish with 178 strikeouts in 146.1 innings and come within one out of a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays. So far this season he's posting similar numbers with 29 strikeouts in 21 innings.

League began this season as Seattle's closer. He would convert his first 9 save opportunities before running into some of the worst luck I've ever seen a closer have. Over the last week he's appeared in 4 games...and lost them all. Last Sunday he entered in an extra innings game and got the loss. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday he would blow three consecutive saves. His four losses in five days appears to be an unmatched level of bad luck. That said, he's shown the ability to get guys out and lock down games in the 9th. Seattle will have a tough decision to make when David Aardsma comes off the DL. Fortunately for League, that's not for awhile.

So is there a clear winner in this trade? To use a fantasy baseball way of logic...the Jays traded away the best PLAYER in the original deal, but got back a prospect with upside. Toronto has made themselves the winner here, with how they've handed Morrow the job and let him find his way. Good closers are tough to find though, and if League can find his winning ways again he'll provide stability to the back of the bullpen.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rant of the Week - Gear for Big People

Welcome to the first rant on Relay to Home.

For those of you that don't know me...I'm 6'5 and I have size 15 feet. I rarely buy new shoes because they are really hard to find. This becomes even harder when looking for baseball cleats.

This morning I went to Toronto's biggest and best baseball gear store hoping to get myself a pair of cleats as my 10 year old Reebok's are worn out. I was told at this store that manufacturer's don't make cleats any larger than size 13, even though there were several pairs of larger ones on clearance that didn't fit. I asked him how players in the Majors with large feet got cleats...I already knew the answer and just wanted him to admit that it's too expensive to keep shoes in stock that might not get sold.

10 years ago, when I bought my Reebok's it took my mother and I four days of shopping to find a pair that fit. We found them at National Sports...in the clearance bin.

In the last decade I've noticed a lot of things...but in this case, I've noticed that there are quite a few athletes that are my size. I have friends that are my height, with my shoe size. I also know from going to school in the US that there are a lot of people that play baseball...and they are all over 6'3.

My point being - Is it so friggin' hard to keep a pair of size 15's in the stock room. They could be 7 years old, bright pink and $200...if they fit, I'll probably buy them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quick Hits

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 Adam Kennedy was arrested on a DUI charge in Newport Beach, Calif. Cleveland outfielder Austin Kearns and Oakland outfielder Coco Crisp 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 HERE

For 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.

All-Time Seen Team

A couple years ago I started a thread on Facebook about the all-time all-star team composed of players that I'd seen play.

With a few adjustments - here's my current list.

C - Mickey Tettleton
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

Fellow Relay to Home writer John Marchiando posted his rebuttal team as:

C - Ivan Rodgriguez
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

So faithful readers of this blog...who's on your All-Time All Seen Team?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Many Near No-No's


"The baseball gods are a fickle pain in my ass" - Jay Austin, May 7, 2011

The only thing I love more then the actual game of baseball is the history behind the game. I was captivated when Sosa and McGwire were chasing the home run record. I watched with intrigue as my childhood hero, Cal Ripken Jr., broke the consecutive games streak. When John Olerud was hitting better then .400 in '93, Blue Jays games were appointment viewing for me.

But the one thing I've never seen is a no-hitter. I've been so close...so many times.

  • 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.
I've been a part of a no hitter though. When I was 17 years old, I was on the team that got no hit. I contributed 3 K's and several profanities to that one.

I don't know what I've done to disrupt the baseball gods, or why they choose to smite me so. To my wonderful wife's dismay, I decree that I'll watch as much baseball as I can until I finally see the coveted no-no.