Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The Ottawa Rapids' new ownership has only been at the helm a few days, and already they've blundered.
They scrapped what was a very decent name, logo and colour scheme and come up with what looks like something your bus driver's slo-pitch team wears.
Really, guys? RAPIDZ? Do you figure the kidz dig that irreverent spelling? Gives the team a little street cred?
What I dug about the Rapids name was that, though this is a low minor league team, they opted for a classy image and name. They were not MuckDogs, or Rox, or DiamondJaxx. The name had local grounding, and it had dignity. The 'O' logo -- which figured to adorn the cap -- was strong. Now? Well, look at that thing... They've replaced a good logo, one that I'd be proud to wear, with something that looks slapped together and cheap. And as for the 'Z', well, fuck me. That's about the lamest thing a team can do, all in the interest of -- what, exactly? What demographic are we reaching that was alienated by the name Rapid(e)s? Among what group does an extraneous 'z' hold cache? Will this enable the team to sell more merch? I'd wager, judging by the reactions over at Out of Left Field and Carl Kiiffner's Rapids blog, that this might adversely affect sales.
I think there was something to be said for leaving the red behind. I understand that as a city, Ottawa has a widespread identification with the colour red (Senators, 67s, and several incarnations of CFL teams have all used red to greater and lesser extents, as did the second Lynx uniform design, of course). But wasn't there an element of moving away from the old team, the previous inhabitants of our ballpark, in the new colour motif? I thought so.
The new owners have bungled, and have done so, one suspects, for all the wrong reasons. I'm compelled to ask: will the players be wearing Zip.ca logos on their uniforms? Or is it a coincidence that the new colour scheme matches that of the owners' other venture?
FULL DISCLOSURE: In a former life, I used to know Messrs. Anderson and Hall, and when I heard their purchase of this team was about to be announced, I cringed. In my experience, their management style is extremely hands on, bordering on micromanagement, and I worry they won't be able to leave the operation of the baseball team to baseball people. This logo/name misstep is the result of heavy-handed intrusion into something that had already been done, and done well. I am also suspicious of their aims -- fearful that their ultimate tack is to use the team as a canvas for advertising Zip.
They're in the hole now, behind 0-1. Stay tuned to see if they can battle their way out.
And being as opposed to the 'z' as I am, you won't see any mention of 'Rapidz' on this site, only Rapids.
Friday, April 25, 2008
God bless the brave sailors aboard the USS Mariner, whose particular brand of woe-is-us boosterism makes the varied and dissenting voices of the Jays blogging community seem like naive schoolchildren incapable of doubting their heroes ("We'll turn this around yet, fellas!").
Allow me to apply some of that Jays fan positivity (which probably has its roots in Canadian politeness; either that or we're still real chuzzed to have our very own baseball team in the frozen, miserable north, and it's a pleasure just to watch them play): Master Ichiro will soon regain his form. Putz is back, and will soon begin a streak of saves that will not abate until the autumn winds return to buffet Puget Sound. And Bedard will be back, tossing nasty lefty curveballs that befuddle and confound the rest of the AL West. And even if none of that happens, Seattlites, isn't is great just to have your very own baseball team? And if any city knows the pain of not having a baseball team, after having a baseball team, briefly, and then going to court because some asshole used car dealer/future league commissioner stole your baseball team, only to have a team awarded to your city a few years later because you raised such a legal stink, surely it's you, Seattle. But more on that in a sec.
CBS Sportsline is pretty shitty, I know. I probably shouldn't bother reading their baseball stuff, because it's generally more frustrating than informative, but it shows up right there on my iGoogle page, and I don't have to type or do a lot of extra clicking, or anything. Easy!
Suckiness case in point: even in the wake of Hurt's signing with the A's, Sportsline leaves up pieces about the likelihood or advisability of other teams signing him. Stupid, right? But even stupider is this article about Richie Sexson's woes, raking that lanky lad over the coals for his pithy April output, and using Thomas as a weapon to threaten poor Richie with a bludgeoning (or unemployment).
I don't want to steal Fire Joe Morgan's schtick, but look at that title:
Mariners waiting for Sexson's slumbering lumber to wake upReally, CBS Sportsline? Really? Is "slumbering lumber" the new stand-in euphemism for ED?And that picture? If you're trying to be funny, ouch. If you're not, bravo! Unintentional funny beats hard-fought laughs every time. It's like being cool, or using the Force: there is no try, only do.
Who's the Pilot?
Have I discussed my fascination with the Seattle Pilots here yet? No? Well...
I think it started when I was 13 and my parents took me to the Hall of Fame. No, hear me out - I'll be quick. I got a bunch of swag from the Cooperstown gift shop, including a book of baseball trivia. Near the back of that book there was a picture of a skeleton wearing a Pilots cap and the caption read: Seattle Pilots, 1969-1969. It blew me away, because I'd never heard of the Pilots, and I was a kid who read anything having to do with baseball.
Years later, I read Bouton's book, and that stoked my interest more. What a sad story, I thought. Sad and beautiful. And it's the reason I own a Pilots jersey (well, okay, technically a Mariners throwback jersey, from a night a few seasons ago when they paid tribute to the Pilots, because, after all, a real Mitchell & Ness throwback would set me back like $400, right?), and why my (mysteriously underachieving) fantasy team is Dooley Womack's Seattle Pilots.
That's why it was great to come across this post and this post on a great blog called The Fleer Sticker Project (via Uniwatch). A great capsule explanation of the Pilots' rise and demise (damn you, Selig!) as well as some great imagery.
Interesting side note: While the Pilots' home, Sicks Stadium, is now an Ace Hardware parking lot, some of the seats from that yard apparently ended up in Vancouver's Nat Bailey Stadium.
This team is in free fall, and no pressure, Scott Rolen, but tonight, at pastoral Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, we're gonna need you to go ahead and be the parachute.
I'm not wrong in thinking that whole series was a pretty minor league effort by Toronto, am I? Jamie Campbell's enthusiastic labeling of the Rays as "Relentless!" notwithstanding, the Jays should have brought across a few more runs, right? Unless the Rays hitters truly are relentless, and Shields, Sonnanstine and company are that good a staff (to come clean, I did once see Andy Sonnanstine strike out 10 Concorde Quarry Dogs while playing for the Sanford Mainers of the NECBL). I mean, if we're looking at the eventual 2008 World Series Champions in the unlikely form of the Tampa Bay Rays, I guess there's no shame in being swept by them, right? At a minor league/spring training park? At Disneyworld? In April? I mean, those three games can't actually count, can they?
Monday, April 21, 2008
I just about did a spit-take upon hearing the news yesterday ("just about" but for the lack of beverage, see). But after parsing it out, I suppose it makes sense. This, we are to believe, is that much-heralded "sense of urgency" claiming its first victim.
But in order for good things to happen for both parties - the Jays not being on the hook for $10M next year, and Frank to still see some playing time - this was the only solution. The Jays eat the '08 portion of the contract, and Frank is free to pursue other options...
Like maybe Seattle? USS Mariner weighs in there, and Mariners GM Jim Bavasi doesn't rule it out. I think there might be some teams out there who will forgive Thomas' slow start, and see the possibility of Bonds-like numbers at DH, without the Bonds-like baggage. (Speaking of, the Jays will not - NOT - sign Bonds, or I'll eat my shoe [figuratively speaking].)
So, Adam Lind - are you just about ready for your close-up?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
With the Top Down, the Rogers Centre is a Pretty Sweet Ride
I love that the Jays never suffer the inconvenience of a rain out (or snow out) at home. I don't live in Toronto, so on the rare occasion that I do make it to a game, I like knowing that no matter the conditions outside, they're playin' some ball. But a game played beneath the roof is preferable only to no game being played; we'd all rather sit beneath the sky, or watch a game played outdoors instead of in. So, while the season is a couple of weeks old, watching tonight's game - with the lid finally open - makes it feel, for the first time, that summer is actually on its way. A beautiful thing.
I Stayed Up For That?
Is a 14-inning game worth staying up for if it ends like that? Also, can we think of a better way to say "the ball slipped through Zaun's legs" than "between the wickets"? Like, maybe just, "the ball slipped through Zaun's legs"? Sometimes plainspeak is betterspeak. On the plus side, AJ's impromtu appearance means that we all get to see David Purcey (in powder blues, no less!). So that's something.
What Happened to Frank Thomas?
Nothing to add to that. No sooner did I gush over his monstrous bat then he flatlines (or reverts to his typical April performance levels, I guess).
Reed It and Weep
Reed Johnson went 4 for 4 today doing spot duty for the Cubs, who are playing musical outfielders with Alfonso Soriano out. It didn't help, of course; Ted Lilly (what the hell happened to Ted Lilly?) served BP lobs to the Reds for much of the afternoon, specifically Canuck Joey Votto. Alarming figure: Lilly's groundout to flyball ratio was 2:10. In Wrigley Field. I wondered, when Lilly signed with Chicago, if Wrigley was the right fit for him. When he's off - like in 2oo8 - he can get shelled, and the balls positively rain down on Waveland and Sheffield avenues.
Also, Junior "What if he'd stayed healthy?" Griffey hit his 596th off Jon Lieber; this stat blows me away: Lieber is the 380th guy to give up a homer to Griffey. Three hundred and eighty different pitchers. Is is me, or is that crazy? Can you name 380 pitchers? Am I wrong to be blown away by this?
Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, Votto's Cub-bashing didn't completely ruin my day; he's the backup 1B on my fantasy team, and he brought me 5 RBI. Such are the torn loyalties engendered by fantasy baseball.
Hourly Rates Available
After last night's marathon, it's a damn fine thing to have Halladay on the mound, whose workmanlike efficiency (even on a night when he's given up a few hits and - thus far - 3 runs) means a trim, sub-3 hour game (is there a Law & Order on later?).
Happy Birthday To You
Finally, congrats to The Tao on its first birthday. It couldn't happen to a nicer blog, and I'm not just saying that because this blog was once namechecked there (back when I somehow, miraculously, found time to post more than twice a week). Honestly, that header tagline - "One Day, We'll Be Perfect" - is so perfect, it nearly makes me cry. And the content is excellent too, obvs. Keep up the good work.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Hold on real tight, because baseball season has begun. That means that teams and their fans who are high and giddy after winning streaks are bound to be humbled by a few losses. It’s no reason for panic; it’s baseball.
One of the beauteous truths of this game we love is that the ratio of success to failure is lower than that of virtually any other sport; the well worn bromide is that the very best hitters are unsuccessful six or six and a half times out of ten. Batting average being held in the low esteem that it now is, it might be better to point out that even the most successful teams lose 35-40% of their games. That’s just the way it is. Teams like
All three of those
The offense couldn’t squeeze out what they needed when they needed it, but then they went out the next night and rapped out 13 hits and scored 8 runs. Another 4 runs tonight – not a lot, but enough with Halladay on the mound.
So this is how it will go, by and large. A few wins, then a couple of losses. The braintrust will shuttle the bit players back and forth to
It’s April, and April’s a funny month in baseball. You spend all spring gearing up for the real games, and when they do come sometimes it takes a while for things to fall into place. Right now the Baltimore Orioles are leading the toughest division in baseball. Right now a catcher is the hottest hitter in the NL. April’s like that. It doesn’t mean much; the sample size is too small to really say anything at this point. But I think we all know the Jays have got a hell of a pitching staff, and the potential to field a very powerful offense. So far? The signs are encouraging, I’d say. Wells looks healthy. Hill continues to develop. Rios gets on base. And so on. But how will it shake down? As much as we like to extrapolate and prognosticate, we’ll have to watch the remaining 151 games to find out.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Frank Thomas Gives Me That Feeling
There are times in baseball when a certain player gives you a certain feeling – that sense that, for whatever reason - be it an elusive celestial alignment or generous tribute paid to the proper pagan god – that player is in a rarified place that allows him to change a game’s complexion at any given moment. Right now, Frank Thomas is giving off those vibes.
Hurt’s season started a bit slow, but something clicked over the weekend (he credits a new batting helmet, apparently) and now he’s mashing. He’s got that killer eye, and every at-bat inspires hope in Jays fans and fear in pitchers. It hit its zenith on Sunday when Thomas was waiting on a Manny Delcarmen fastball, and grand slammed it.
It happened again tonight (though it went for naught). In the eighth, Hurt watched three Alan Embree duds float by before bothering to swing the bat. He had that cockysmock look in his eyes, though his face was blank. He pushed the fourth pitch over the wall to tie the game.
He can’t single-handedly win every game, but he’s a nice tool to wield right now, no?
They yanked the surgically implanted rod from Scott Rolen’s busted digit today, clearing him to do baseball stuff with both hands. The team says he might be ready to go in a week. Saying that this is good news is in no way meant to slight Marco Scutaro’s contribution in Rolen’s absence. Scutaro’s a nice tool to have coming off the bench, no?
Hill in the 2-Hole
Though I have publicly stated that I believe Aaron Hill belongs higher in the order, specifically in the number two slot, I haven’t yet mentioned here that Hill did hit second on Sunday. The reason? I’m pretty sure that’s an aberration, just the result of Eckstein getting an off day and Gibbons’ desire to have his replacement (Johnny Mac) hit lower. If I thought it was something that was likely to be repeated more than a couple of times a month, I’d have freaked out over it. As it is, whatev. But seriously, Gibby, what an amazing tool Hill would be batting second!
Reed Johnson playing the role of jilted ex-lover? Subtext doesn’t get more shallow than Reed’s comments about the fans at Wrigley. What he said: “The fans [in
The Ballad of Billy Buckner
I have to believe that even the most hardened of Red Sox-hating Jays fans were moved by Bill Buckner’s return to Fenway today. The man choked back tears as he spoke of having to learn to forgive the
Seriously, what the hell’s wrong with
Monday, April 7, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
Much to report, as real life, so-called, pulled me away from last night's game and prevented commentary. I know only about that game as much as the pithy highlights on Canada's two major sports networks would allow. Apparently, there were ice hockey matches with serious consequences related to the major hockey league's upcoming championship tournament; that meant little time for baseball news.
As for today, well, this has been a uniquely satisfying day to be a Blue Jays fan.
Rios locked up longterm. We knew that. But the rare second prize in our Crackerjack was learning that Aaron Hill has signed on for the long haul, too. And both sides were being so cagey, all like, "We're not talking about it anymore until the season is over." Devious cats.
And then there was the home opener. I note the unusual quiet on the other Jays blogs tonight; I assume this is because every Jays blogger but me was at SkyDome (shut up - tonight it was the SkyDome again). Well, the televised images made it look like a hell of a party.
The Roberto Alomar/Paul Beeston ceremony was a righteous thing. All spitting incidents forgotten, Robbie. About time he was elevated to the "Level of Excellence." It was actually a nice moment, later on, when he joined Campbell and Tabler in the broadcast booth, and Tabby had a chance to lavish praise on Alomar. He seemed genuinely moved.
Then the powder blues came out, and you know, I was prepared to write them off. I thought that with the way modern players wear their unis (baggy and low, bunching up over their hightops), they'd look silly. And I was right in the sense that nobody had the stones to wear the new suit a little bit tight, like they used to. After all, this whole thing is just a way to move some merchandise, right? But you know what? They looked pretty damn good. And if you squinted - what with the stands full of seemingly interested fans - you might have actually convinced yourself that it was, like, 1989, or something, and people showed up not just because they loved their Jays, but because the retractable roof was the single most advanced scientific development the world had ever produced. And yes, shut up, I know they stopped wearing the powder blues in '88, but for the stadium timeline thing to work there, I had to fudge it a bit. Besides, memory is a hazy and sentimental thing.
It was a lovefest through and through. It was PR and spin and hokum, but it was nice to succumb to it, truth be told. It was a treat to suspend disbelief and allow the Blue Jays' marketing department to mash all the good feelings we've ever had about Our Team into one gooey powder blue ball of goodwill, and to smear that all over this year's model so as to convince us that these new guys exist on the same continuum as all your heroes. They don't, of course, but who cares? Being a fan means accepting a certain degree of manipulation. And tonight, it felt good to be manipulated, goddamnit.
And the team held up their end. Marcum was gold until, well, you know. The Canadian guy broke the scoreless tie. Hurt finally got a meaningful hit.
I'd like to break it all down a bit more incisively, but I'm a bit buzzed by all that Blue Jay love, frankly. Maybe later I'll regain my critical faculties. Maybe not. Right now it just feels amazing to be a Jays fan.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
As predicted, Vernon Wells went 3-4 (so we were off by 1 RBI).
So what if Eckstein did nothing but ground into DPs? And Aaron Hill's still not hitting high in the order, where he will surely mash all that comes his way and develop into the perennial all-star he is destined to become. But I'm nitpicking; the Jays played well, on the whole, and handed the goddamn Yankees their asses. A win's a win, but it always seems so much more satisfying when it's New York doing the losing (especially when a reliever like Brian Tallet steps in and Ks Alex Rodriguez to stifle a rally - note to self: check to see if Tallet is still available in your fantasy league).
Tonight: One more from THE STADIUM (didja hear this is its last season?), McGowan against Hughes. Our young guy will totally kick their young guy's ass. And - thrill of thrills - the chance to hear Rod Black wax poetic about the city and the team and the general aura of magnificence that permeates all matter when the pinstripes are on hand.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Does anybody really believe that the "Western Metal Supply Co." is still in business, and operates out of a quaint brick building conveniently located in left field?
And how long before they sell that ad space to a real company?
Doc Being Doc - angry and intense man that he is, he pitched a solid game. He just had the misfortune of doing on a night when Wang was also damn good. My dad's kind of intense like Doc, but he can't pitch, so it's just weird. He mutters a lot.
Scooter Scooting - I think the Drunkards are right, Scutaro's stolen bases were just him holding up his end of the hit-n-run bargain, but I like his fire. A Venezuelan's word is bond.
Running Up That Hill - Our second sacker is making good contact and would-shoulda-coulda had a couple of more extra bases, but for Melky Cabrera's meddlesome interference. One question: why in the hell is he hitting seventh? Is JP exerting influence and trying to keep Hill's value down for next winter's extension talks? Wha-? Move him up to no. 2.
Alright, the negative: stranding runners; not recognizing the 4' x 8' Yankee Stadium special strike zone. Will those fuckers get those sorts of sentiment-driven calls all year? Jesus, hand them the trophy now.
For your listening pleasure: The Southpaw has a solid suggestion, if you just can't abide Rod Black's pandering, Pat Tabler's filler, or Jamie Campbell's inanity. Everybody knows that MLB Audio never syncs with the TV images, so that's a non-starter (though I do love me some Jerry Howarth). So turn down the TV and turn up the stereo! You're smarter than those hacks, anyway, so do your own play by play while enjoying the noise of your choosing.
Tonight: AJ vs. Mussina. We find out if AJ's fingernail has healed, and if he's got all his stuff this season. Mussina kind of owns Toronto, but if AJ can keep them close, the new run-n-gun offense (football?) can make a game of it. Maybe? I mean, if that homer strike zone contracts even just a bit.
This guy predicts: Vernon wakes up, goes 3-4 with 3 RBI. Eckstein makes another mistake or two, but covers it up with grit and character. Scooter steals another base. Hill hits a double. Jays win 5-3.
In Wrigleyville, ex-Jay Ted Lilly throws for the Cubs today against Jeff Suppan and the Brewers. Fukudome! looks to extend his legend. My advice would be to call it a season and head back to Japan as the most popular man in the history of Chicago. Only heartache can result in a full season there. History proves it.
On the West Coast: Putz blows a good outing by King Felix, and Mariners fans are forced to drown their sorrows in a grande dark roast. I'm intrigued by tonight's start by new Mariner Carlos Silva. They paid a helluva lot for a no. 3 starter. Worth it? He's an innings pig; maybe he can go the full game and give Putz a night off to nurse his broken heart.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
But! The rain has magically and mysteriously been held at bay, and the Jays and Yanks are tangling on TSN. And oh my! Marco Scutaro! Stealing bases! Fun fact: with 2 swipes, he already leads the 2007 Jays.
I've liked Scutaro the feisty Venezuelan (is there any other kind?) since I snagged a foul ball of his in Ottawa during his (lengthy) AAA days. He was with either Indianapolis (Brewers) or Norfolk (Mets) at the time. He was waaaay out in front of a breaking ball and he fired it down toward the third base dugout. It took one big hop and headed straight for me, sitting in the first row behind said dugout. I deflected it with my one free hand - the other cupping a beer - and it flared harmlessly straight over my head. When it came down again, it landed softly in that same hand, and nary a drop of beer was spilt. The ovation I got from the crowd was nice, but even better was the lingering look I got from Marco, a look of respect. It was brief, in the larger scale of things, but it was there. There was a recognition, an unmistakable vibe, a flash of respect from one man of the world to another. His look said, "Nice snag, mang." I returned him a nod that said: "I feel you, Marco."
As for this game, things have looked pretty good until - as I write this - the Yanks have loaded the bases in the 7th. A solid play by Hill to save a blown play... fuck, I love baseball! And then Doc Ks Melky Cabrera, forcing him to atone for his earlier sins against Jaysdom (Joe G: put Damon back in CF!).
Life is good again. After this one ends, King Felix - another feisty Venezuelan - takes the hill in Seattle. Sleep be damned.
Alright look, I don't pretend to be as entertaining a liveblogger as the Drunkards. I'm drinking chocolate milk tonight, not libations. Head on over there for sloppy hilarity.