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
"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 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


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
Red Sox

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

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.