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 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 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


“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, 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 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 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 I had to turn it off.
  • Roy Halladay's Perfect Game in Florida was on my 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.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Major League 3 Link Party

I'm not sure if this is even real news...but on a slow Friday in baseball news THIS LINK came across my Google feed.

On Monday night, the Getting Blanked baseball blog over at The Score hosted its second of three movie nights at Toronto's historic cinema - The Revue. A small, but interesting crowd of baseball enthusiasts enjoyed the 1989 classic, Major League. Afterwards, Dustin Parkes and his entourage of followers made our way over to a local beer dispensing venue and watched for election results and various other sports news.

Parkes, and his co-hort, Andrew Stoeten, have co-authored the popular Blue Jays blog Drunk Jays Fans for the better part of the last 4 years. In the early part of 2011 they became the founding members (along with Drew Fairservice) of Getting Blanked. What they have created is an underground community of intelligent (most of the time), informed baseball conversation in the city of Toronto. The writing is very non-partisan, and walks a fine line between stat-head and fan commentary, and it's well worth checking out.

But I a young boy, I was introduced to the Major League franchise with it's sequel, Major League 2. I thought it was great, and was quick to seek out the original at the movie store in Barrie, ON. Now, the relative shitty-ness of the sequel to the original is to be expected, but with the new levels of insanity shown by Charlie Sheen and the always entertaining levels of borderline psychosis by Brian Wilson, one can only hope that the third installment of this franchise will be as entertaining as it seems it can be.

Something tells me this won't be dull!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Atlanta's New Trio

Through my formative years I watched as much baseball as I could. Since this was before that consisted of Jays games and anything that FOX or NBC would broadcast on the weekend. But the one constant was my mornings with sports highlights and my weekends watching This Week in Baseball.

One mainstay through the 90's was the absolute dominance of the Atlanta Braves starting rotation. It's no secret, but in case you weren't aware, the Braves had the Miami Heat style rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery for the better part of 6 years. Compiling Hall of Fame type pitchers like that and some great offense was a key part of their run of 14 consecutive post-season appearances.

Going into this season, the Braves, looking for their 2nd straight post-season appearance seem to have the pieces in place for another knockout young rotation. Third year stud Tommy Hanson is the ring leader with rookie chucker Brandon Beachy and fireballer Mike Minor are the corner stones of the future of this organization.

Hanson compiled 21 wins in his first 2 years and was 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2009. Brandon Beachy has compiled an 8.9 K/9 and a 3.60 K/BB rate through his first 36.1 IP. More impressively, he's striking out almost 25% of the batters he's faced and has a BABIP against of .237. Minor, who has just made his first MLB start of 2011, sported a AAA K/9 of 10.17 and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 2.65.

This is a rotation to watch. Hopefully they can get the offense going and we can sit back and watch them carve up the NL East for the next half decade or so.

Closer Talk

Last night the Blue Jays lost to the Rays on a B.J. Upton walk off home run. This was a game that saw the Jays strand 7 runners on base and only get 7 hits themselves. You can look at both of the starting pitchers, Wade Davis and Jo-Jo Reyes, as to why this was the case. Both pitchers kept their teams in the game and when Reyes left the game after 6 innings of 4 hit, 1 run baseball the Blue Jays had a 2-1 lead.

Shawn Camp and Marc Rzepcynski pitched two innings of flawless relief and as the practice goes, the doors to the bullpen opened and the “current” closer, Jon Rauch came in for the save. The generally accepted “baseball-ism” is that you use your closer in save situations only (up to a 3 run lead in the 9th inning). Interestingly enough, on most teams the closer is also the team’s best relief pitcher. Right now the Jays sport a trio of closers comprising of Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco and Octavio Dotel. Rauch is the only one of these three that is in the top four of some pretty important categories for relief pitchers.



Batting AVG. against




Inherited Runners Scoring %


So before Blue Jays fans throw Jon Rauch under the bus the way they did last night on Jays Talk with Mike Wilner, don’t forget that right now, our best relief pitchers don’t have jobs that give them the chance to lock down the 9th inning for us. That should be the issue, not a guy who is 5 for 6 in save opportunities this year.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

RtH Ass-Clown Rankings, DLaaDS Edition

Sorry for the delay, all. Having to update my vitae for a new job search kept me away from the AC Rankings yesterday. So let’s get right to it, the Day Late and a Dollar Short edition!

5. Frank McCourt, Owner, LAD. Last week: 4. Creating more drama by calling the commish an ass (the fact that he is, well, that’s beside the point), does not bode well for getting off the AC Rankings. Frankie, he ain’t duckin’ ya. He’s writing you off. Hello? The message is pretty clear. Yer out!

4. Yovanni Gallardo, SP, MIL. Last week: NR. Ok, lemme get this straight. You consider yourself an ace, but you haven’t had a Quality start since April 5. Then there is that pesky 6.10 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 17 walks, all in only 41.1 IP. Um, dude, you’ve been outpitched by Chris Narveson. CHRIS NARVESON!!!! Articles on Yo’s performance point to an issue with patience. Huh?! Don’t think meat, just throw.

3. Dustin Pedroia, IF, BOS. Last week: NR. Good Christ, could this guy whine any more? I watch the Sox on Extra Innings a lot due to my girlfriend being a fan. And pretty much every game he’s bawling about something. Today I watched little Mr. Baldspot bitch at the ump after a strike out, claiming he’d foul tipped the third strike. Replays showed he’d missed the ball by a wide margin. Yet, there he is, crying and moping to the ump. Yo, D! Shut it! And get some spray-on hair for the bald spot while you’re at it!

2. Roger McDowell, Coach, ATL. Last week: NR. You can’t fix stupid.

1.Derek Lowe, SP, ATL. Last week: NR. Come on, guys. Really? You’re making this too easy. 1-800-CALL-A-CAB-ASSHOLE.

I’m gonna go have a few beers and NOT drive. See ya next week!