Friday, February 29, 2008
It is Spring Training, of course, and the radio guys have some kinks to work out, too (Ashby sounds like he's half a room away from his mic half the time), but even if they were recreating the action from telegraph reports, using corny sound effects and fake crowd noise, it'd still be music to my ears.
Stairsy! Hurt! Overbay! Ah, such sweet music! Mine heart thrums.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Anyway, though the whole thing is generally disagreeable, there's one tasty bit I take exception with:
Though Toronto has some promising young players like McGowan, Marcum and second baseman Aaron Hill, Boston (Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz) and the Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy) have better young players.
Not only is it a warm, sunny place devoted almost exclusively to baseball, where men live out their boyhood fantasies, ticket prices remain low, the grass is impossibly green and soft, and all-you-can-eat buffets dot every street corner, but it would seem
that every once in a while major sporting goods companies dispatch armies of magical and benevolent little elves bearing sacks of equipment to give away to players. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he's got a bag fulla Wilsons.
So that settles it. When I die (which could be any day now, if this snow doesn't let up), please ship my soul to a perpetual Florida afternoon, late February or early March, and let me play soft toss with the boys, with the glove of my choice, for all eternity.
Monday, February 25, 2008
As insurance, I like Stewart, and maybe for that added bit of pressure on Reed. See? That's him, glancing over his shoulder. I think that once it all shakes down, Stewart ends up in Syracuse to start the year and Johnson gets his chance to recreate 2006. But if he doesn't get off to a quick start, he's cut loose, Shannon's a Blue Jay again, and left field is something of a defensive weak spot for Toronto.
Or maybe somebody's on the move. Apparently the Jays don't like their chances of moving Reed, so maybe Lind's bait, Stewart gets a roster spot as backup OF and sometimes DH when Frank Thomas wants to sit, and they let Johnson walk after this year to make room for Travis Snider in '09?
- - -
Almost lost amid all the talk about the left field mess - and Rolen's health, and Eckstein's scrappiness, and so forth - was the fact that the Jays actually played a little baseball today. Hear that? They dressed up in smart-looking uniforms and played rounders! Today. The Blue Jays. Is that not news worthy of celebratory acts? Like another of these rum & cokes? (rums & coke?)
The best part? Sal Fasano launched one. I'd like to think he dedicated that one to JP, with a kiss.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Translation: Reed Johnson is not a selfish man.
Whether he's being sincere or just swallowing his pride and saying what's expected of him even though he wants that leadoff spot and starting LF job more than life itself, it's gratifying to know that there probably won't be any strife originating from that platoon situation, and that wherever Reed Johnson is put in the order, he'll do what he can to contribute.
I like Reed because, barring the unfortunate chin adornment, Reed's pretty nice to look at on the field, from a uniform perspective anyway. The high socks, the baggy pants, the frequently grass-stained uni. Very nice. The uniwatchers approve. Also, whereas I already dug me some Reed, he endeared himself even more to the Bottom of the Order braintrust last year when, in his first game back from injury, he made a flat-out, game saving catch in the ninth to secure Doc's victory in the only Jays game I was able to attend last year (it was also my infant daughter's first full major league game). It looked pretty damn good from up in the 500s.
But here are the guys over at The Southpaw suggesting that the Jays forsake Reed and the Canadian guy in favour of another Canadian guy (admittedly a guy with a career 130 OPS+, who comes relatively cheap to boot). Their caveat is if the Jays find themselves in contention come the deadline, then they should consider acquiring Bay, bearing in mind Godfrey's past comments about the bankability of a Canadian-born star. Here's my question: without a hefty contribution from that LF platoon - Stairs and Johnson, with a side of Lind and possibly some Scutaro - can the Jays find themselves in contention? And if those guys are contributing, will Bay prove to be worth what the Pirates will be asking in return?
Well, probably, yes. Like I said, I like Reed. But Jason Bay is a better player, without question. But Reed being Reed, he'd probably be alright with Bay's addition, and the decreased playing time that would come with it (assuming he's not a part of any package designed to land the Pirate). After all, Reed Johnson is "going to do my best to fill in wherever they want me."
Atta' boy, Reed Johnson.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
An outpouring of emotion from the Jays blogging community concerning Tom Cheek’s having been passed over for the Ford C. Frick Award in favour of
What comes most immediately to mind is those years when the Blue Jays were
It was still a radio age, in a sense. AM stations from coast to coast picked up Jays broadcasts, and
But back to that period – I’d put it between ’89 and the strike in ’94 – when the Blue Jays were the thing a whole country could get behind. I watched World Series games with friends who never gave a damn about baseball, and I saw the genuine excitement on their faces. I remember walking the streets of my suburban childhood neighbourhood after game 6 in
But that was then. Athletes aren’t heroes anymore, not the way they used to be. They breed suspicion and doubt, not hope and inspiration. Teams are cash cows, owners are corrupt, and we seem to have accepted the role of sport as entertainment, not as grand expression of civic or national aspiration. Canadians are more and more ambivalent toward baseball now, maybe because of labour strife, maybe because of steroids, maybe because we’ve been told ad infinitum that hockey is our game, maybe for some other reason. The Expos are long gone, the last AAA team just left town, and Jays tickets are easy to get. As a baseball fan, it’s all a little hard to take, but just the sound of Tom Cheek’s voice brings me right back to that other time, when it mattered here. It won’t be that way again here, no matter how successful the Blue Jays are; that uniformity of opinion is a thing of that past, of a time embodied for me by the voice of Tom Cheek.
I think Tom Cheek belongs in the Hall of Fame for all the right reasons – longevity, the quality of his work, his connection to the fans – but in the end it won’t matter if he’s enshrined or not, because he’s permanently etched into my mind and the minds of millions of Canadians, and he always will be. Baseball, maybe more than any other game, is a game of memory. Cheek's voice charges right to all those incredible memories, it disarms me and makes me a kid again. That’s a gift that doesn’t require institutional recognition, just a hell of a lot of gratitude.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
V-Dub: Congrats, Rolz. U made a gr8 decision waiving ur no trade. Iz gonna b a fun year.
Rolen33: Word up.
V-Dub: Dont believe wht u hear about r turf. Iz nice n soft.
Rolen33: Glad 2 hear it, lol. Whats Gibbons like?
V-Dub: He's soft 2, ha ha. Dont worry, you could beat his a$$.
Later, Rolen axed if Alex Rios had a gf.
Much noise is being made about the Jays apparent willingness to sign ex-Jay Shannon Stewart as a fourth (fifth?) outfielder. Despite the results of the Southpaw's detailed breakdown of Stewart vs. the Johnson/Stairs LF platoon, my gut (my instant rebuttal to any statistical breakdown that doesn't back up what seems obvious to me) says his good '07 in Oakland was a late career blip, and that we're better off banking on Reed Johnson's back and Matt Stairs' own late career blip. Luckily for me and the other doubters, Jeff Blair is reporting that the deal is pretty much dead in the water. Yesterday's news. Kaput. A non-issue.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
How great would it be to watch these boys lope around those practice fields? To see Rios Grande rip a couple of Denbo's BP pitches over the wall, or to sit in rapt silence and absorb the wisdom of Our Pal Sal...
Mostly, though, wouldn't it be super amazing to be a Jays beat writer, and to hustle your ass, work your contacts, and do that extra bit of homework in order to scoop your fellow scribes with dirt like Alex Rios has a wacky haircut! Or: Baseball players drive expensive cars!
On the real, though, I've been to Spring Training a couple of times - not to the Jays camp, but to those of the Phillies, Reds and Twins - and what nails you right between the eyes when you go to these places is the breeziness of it all. Sure, there are guys fighting for jobs, and others facing an uphill climb back from injury. There are serious matters to be settled, and real work to be done, but underlying it all is the wink and nudge of Can you believe this is our job? Men who've been playing this game since they were boys are given the opportunity to earn ungodly sums of money to continue playing it at the highest level, and every year it begins here, beneath that perfect sun, in late winter. They convene, straggling into camp from scattered points, and then they go about the business of preparing themselves for the long season ahead.
Nice work, if you can get it.
The hope, of course, is that the drills you run here, the extra BP or the longer bullpen sessions, all contribute to keep you playing longer into the fall. And call me a homer, but something feels different this year; the news coming out of Dunedin has a different edge to it. It feels for all the world as though the Jays have a better chance of playing in October than they have for years. It will require a lot of things falling into place, of course, but there's a wild card for the taking, and I think this squad's got an outside chance to nab it.
TBotO's prediction: 92 wins. The question is, will that be enough?
Friday, February 15, 2008
Maybe of greater interest, though, is Parkes of Drunk Jays Fans fame uncoveringg this typographical oddity: Zaun's full name is Gregory, and yet he goes by Gregg - double 'g'. What? Huh?
That one might not have an explanation, but again, I'm willingg to give Zaun the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I like it. A lot.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Ottawa's Can-Am League team announced its name today, and unveiled the above logo. Not bad. As far as the name goes, I'm in favour of it largely due to the fact that I entered it in the name-the-team contest. I got an email today:
I am pleased to inform you that we have selected the name of the newest member of the Can-Am League – THE OTTAWA RAPIDS!
You and numerous other successful entrants submitted the name RAPIDS/RAPIDES. Your names will go into a draw to determine the winner of the two season tickets.
The grand prize winner’s name will be announced at our press conference on Thursday, February 14th. We will notify the lucky winner that afternoon.
All other entrants will receive an Ottawa Rapids souvenir as we get closer to the season. We will contact you once again to let you know when the souvenir will be available.
Again, thank you so much for your interest in Ottawa’s new team and we hope you will visit the ballpark many times this season to share in the excitement and enjoyment of this new entity.
No call yet (3:00), so I'd guess I didn't win those season tickets. Oh well. There's still the free game promised to all contest entrants, as well as that enticingly mysterious "Ottawa Rapids souvenir." A jersey? We live in hope.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I wasn't going to bother with any of this Clemens bullshit, because this blog is about baseball, whereas that's about lying, backstabbing and dry legal proceedings. But despite our best effort to look the other way, the human drama on view on Capitol Hill demands our attention, and besides, Jeff Blair's there (he's got a good rundown on the day's events here).
That's high drama.
The Drunk Jays Fans got all poetic today, and this just days after their stirring stylistic homage to Fellini. Who knew a liberal arts education was a prereq for joining the DJF ranks?
The Last Few Desperate Hours
Heaven almighty, end our suffering. For the love of all that is good and just, play some ball, fellas! Shag flies! Hit fungoes! Play pepper! This boy is exhausted for the waiting, already. If I have to hear any more crap about Ray Emery or the latest Sens acquisitions, I'll lose it. Just my luck, I live on the fringes of a hockey town, a place where Daniel Alfredsson's injuries lead the newscast - not the sports report, mind, but the newscast. I need some meaningless briefs from FLA and AZ by shirtsleeved reporters flanked by palm trees, their 'dos buffeted by the stiff Gulf breeze, just to leaven my February dread. Just a taste, please.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Now's the Time: We've had the trades, the signings, the ill-considered ticket schemes. We've watched hours of video, done prodigious reading (David Maraniss' Clemente is excellent; Jonathan Eig's Jackie Robinson bio is not as good, but still enjoyable), purchased expensive memorabilia, started a blog, and read dozens of others. We have our hopes, our predictions, and we've maintained our heroes. Now all we want is for overgrown men to travel down to Florida and Arizona for the simple purpose of throwing and catching and hitting balls. Please: play some baseball.
A Thought: I sat through some of Hockey Day in Canada this past Saturday. As always, I enjoyed some of it, cringed at other parts, and eventually turned off the TV when I'd had enough hockey. I appreciate the spirit of the thing, it's hokiness in place of bombast (imagine if Fox were to attempt something similar). All in all, it is a thing so infused with a patriotism so awkward and so self-conscious that only the CBC could get away with it. In truth the other point, the creeping subtext, is the desire to prove the Mother Corp's continued relevance ("Maybe you can watch hockey on TSN and Sportsnet, but can they do this?").
But my point (well-concealed, but still present) is this: Why not a Baseball Day in Canada? CBC has a few Saturday afternoon Jays games this season, so why not build around one of those? Have your intrepid reporters fan out across the nation looking for heartwarming little league stories (teams that have survived the death of a player and who fight on in his/her memory are always good), life-affirming tales from the softball beer leagues, maybe a story on the success of the Can-Am League in Quebec City and its arrival in Ottawa, stop in on the Vancouver Canadians at Nat Bailey Stadium. Do some bio pieces on current Canuck major leaguers (but not Eric Gagne). Also look for something wacky, like people in the far north who play baseball in the snow! Throw in some black and white photos, a few history lessons, and you're done. Baseball Day in Canada. A ratings disaster? Maybe, but this is about culture.
I know, I know: a cold day in hell.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
2) I'm an idiot. Remember, way back when, when I called the idea of a Cubs-Jays interleague matchup "highly hypothetical"? Well, it wasn't until this morning that I really bothered to study the Jays' '08 schedule, and guess what I found? Right. June 13-15, the birds will entertain the Cubbies at Rogers Centre. Here's hoping Chicago has a sizeable lead in the NL Central by then, because I'm going to need them to drop all three of those games. Priorities. This idiot does have priorities.
3) Is it wrong of me to feel heartened by the shitstorm kicked up amongst the Blue Jays blogging family by the masterminds' decision to make tickets available to out-of-towners before homers? Because I do feel that way. No question it's a boneheaded move, even if it does make great business sense. In the alchemical equation that yields happy and loyal baseball fans, sometimes the buck counts for less than the heart. Or maybe it's a matter of optics. Whatever; the anger on display by the Drunk Jays Fans, The Tao and over at Hum & Chuck brings home the point that Toronto really does have a core of smart, passionate fans, and that pleases me. It also makes for some damn funny and indignant posts. I don't live in or near the 416, so the move doesn't directly effect me, but it does make the Rogers braintrust seem like a bush league organization.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Long before my distinguished career as stay-at-home dad and would-be romance novelist began, I was but a lowly shopboy, just another moony young man convinced that a gig in a record store was but a short layover before the world offered me its riches. Then, as now, I loved records and baseball. When not working or listening to Guided By Voices, I might be found at Lynx Stadium.
One day, while minding the shop - smiling 'til it hurt, stocking shelves, making ornate displays celebrating the latest Hip release - a dark-haired young man came into the store and began browsing. Eventually he came to the cash with John Mellencamp's greatest hits CD. I rang him up, wished him a good day, and he was gone.
A few minutes later, he was back. "This doesn't work in my car," he said. I took the CD, tried it in the store's CD player, and found it to work fine. Still, being the customer-first sort of guy that I was, I offered him a replacement copy. He left again, only to return a moment later. The scene replayed itself twice more. He was nice about it, so I kept offering him more copies.
Finally, after the fourth or fifth transaction, I asked him if he would mind showing me what his car stereo did when he put the CD in. Obligingly, he led me to the parking lot, where his very shiny and fast looking Ford Mustang, with California plates, sat waiting. He opened the door and climbed inside, then popped the latest CD into the slot. Nothing. Satisfied, I said, "I don't understand it, but if you want your money back, it's yours."
On the way back into the store I asked, in a casual and completely hetero way, what a guy from California was doing buying CDs in Ottawa. I think I kind of expected the answer. "I play baseball for the Lynx."
"No shit?" I said, "I go to Lynx games. What's your name?"
"Ted Lilly," he said, and he kind of swaggered, as if to say, "Remember it, cuz someday I'll be a 15 game winner in the Show." I was a bit taken aback; I'd seen him pitch earlier that very week.
We talked about ball a bit more, I gave him his money back, and he moved to leave, but before he did, he turned to me. A bit uncertain, he asked, "So you go to a lot of games?"
"As many as I can," I said.
"Maybe you can tell me, then," he said, and he paused, as if unsure that he should continue. Finally, through a hangdog expression, he managed: "Why don't more people come?"
And that is the completely true and totally amazing story of how I met Ted Lilly.
I’m a little late on the news that Tony Fernandez has been elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame - The Tao and DJF already have good posts up about it - but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.
When I was a kid, it seemed Fernandez at short was a constant for the Jays, an infield fixture who played defense with a kind of awkward elegance, whose seemingly endless arms gobbled up ground balls and flipped them in a lazy arc that never failed to beat the runner. At the plate he was all knees and elbows, but he rapped out a near .300 lifetime average for
Congratulations, Tony. Well deserved.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
The Jays have reportedly reached a 1 yr/$4.8M pact with Rios, thereby avoiding arbitration.
Quoth Ricciardi, "We've got all of February and all of March to try to work a long-term deal out and, if it doesn't come to fruition, we've got him for the next two years and we can continue to try to work on it. We're putting our best foot forward." That suggests the bluebirds haven't given up on locking up Rios beyond 2010, but that this million-and-change-plus-huge-signing-bonus deal is a sort of placeholder, a good faith gesture.
Still: Get it done, JP. We don't want to be priced out of this guy's services just when he's hitting his stride.
THIS JUST IN: DJF's take on the situation. Are they calling us hysterical? Fair enough, I guess. I just want to see Rios Grande in a Jays uniform for-ever!
Monday, February 4, 2008
What a game.
I've heard chatter from some corners that it was the best football game of all time. I'm not really qualified to make that call, but what's apparent to me is that anybody saying that probably doesn't watch the CFL, because in my estimation, the best game to have been played during my lifetime was the 1989 Grey Cup. But Super Bowl XLII was a close second, and the fourth quarter may have been the single greatest quarter of football I've ever seen.
Eli Manning had no right - no right - to elude that sack. And David Tyree (who the hell is David Tyree?) made a circus catch with his head on a third and 5 play that was so pivotol and so exciting that it deserves one of those nicknames - The Scramble? The Catch II? - and suddenly, the Pats' march toward utter perfection, which seemed to be only a hairsbreadth away from completion after Brady engineered that Q4 scoring drive, was in doubt.
Deadspin impresario Will Leitch, who spends his days lording over an army of too-clever wiseasses, moonlights as a columnist (sorry, blogger) for The Old Gray Lady, and he's got a hell of a piece about the game (read it here, though registration might be required). It's a terrific piece of sportswriting, though it's nearly outdone by one of the commenters (comment #5, by one William Rivers Pitt).
As Leitch says, "It was sports at its absolute best: Random, unimaginable, insane." It was perfect because it defied the script we were all but certain had been written in stone. I don't deny the historic nature of the Patriots' season; it was one for the ages. But the story needed a special ending, and on Sunday night, in Glendale, AZ, in front of the world, it got one.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
With the prevalence of strict off-season regimes (personal trainers, fancy machines, workout tapes, George Foreman grills), and with most all positions already set for the Jays, the only reason for the bluebirds to bother heading to Dunedin is in order to figure out who the fifth starter will be.
If I know one thing from watching American Idol, it's that tough decisions like this shouldn't be left to the judges, but rather decided by The People. So, what toll free number do I dial to ensure that Jesse Litsch is our number five come Opening Day?
You remember Litsch, the feel-good story of last summer, who came storming out of AA New Hampshire when the big club needed him, looking every bit like a young Mickey Rooney (pictured at right in 1948's The Pride of the FisherCats: The Jesse Litsch Story). Litsch ended up making 20 starts for Toronto in '07, and ending up with a nice 3.81 ERA. The way I see it, Lil' Jesse earned the right to hold onto the fifth spot.
Litsch's competition is pretty much Casey Janssen, who was strong out of the bullpen last year, and the very fragrant Gustavo Chacin, who didn't really do anything in his injury-marred campaign. I think there are more questions than answers surrounding the practitioner of perfumery, and Janssen ought to stay in the bullpen, says I, so that Toronto's starters can continue to enjoy the relative certainty of held leads when they have to leave before the late innings. Problem is, word has it that the Rogers suits want Casey in the rotation. Gibbons, meanwhile, has let it be known that he thinks like I do (as do the Ghostrunners, bless their souls). Who will prevail?
The Drama in Dunedin all gets underway in less than two weeks. Hey, at least it'll give us a reason to pay attention. Otherwise we'd be subjected to an endless stream of speculation on Vernon's shoulder ("Sore, or just a bit achy?" "Tight?" "Eighty percent? Ninety? A hundred and ten?"). Besides, maybe the competition will be good for the young'un.
Friday, February 1, 2008
If I'm a Brave or a Phillie, I'm very nervous right now.
But the greatest part of this whole deal is that it's finally done, because I'm sick to death of MLB Trade Rumor's daily "Johan Santana Rumors" post. And now, every deal that has been held up waiting to see where JS would go can finally proceed. The log jam has cleared, and normal life can resume for us all.
You're better than that, Johan.
[Heavy sigh] Twelve days...