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 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)
"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'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 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.