12:15 PM Eastern

Back from Cancun and ready to catch up on my blogging. I hope all you readers are still with me, despite the week-long layoff.

I promised you a mailbag, and I’m going to give you a mailbag, but first some thoughts on what’s gone on the past week.

I posted earlier how I felt about David Eckstein before his signing was made official, so I’ll repeat briefly now that he’s on the roster: He’s not as good as John McDonald, in an overall sense. However, he’s a better offensive player, so it’s not the end of the world. Also, Eckstein has shown that he’s capable of playing a full season as a starter, which Johnny Mac hasn’t. Of course, that’s because Mac has never gotten the chance. I was really hoping he would this season, but that’s not going to happen.

Eckstein is, however, one of the nicest people in the world (so is Johnny Mac, so the Jays have a very pleasant combo at shortstop), so I hope that Jays’ fans will treat him well, even though we all know the better option is sitting on the bench. I have a feeling we’ll see lots of Johnny Mac over the course of the season, but the vast majority will be in a late-inning defensive role. If Eckstein stays healthy, I don’t see Mac starting more than 15 games at shortstop, which blows. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to seeing a guy with a single-season career-high obp of .363 in the leadoff spot.

Sal Fasano is back! Huzzahs all around. I’ll admit to a bias towards great people, because they’re a lot easier to deal with, and Salvatore is phenomenal people. He and Johnny Mac, Towers, Frasor, Overbay, Marcum and Reed Johnson were my favourite human beings on the team last season. Fasano can talk classic rock, and he’s as up on the 70s stuff as Gregg Zaun is on the 80s West Coast power stuff (GNR, Ratt, etc.), another reason he’s a real pleasure to be around. One of my most memorable interviews from last season was with Sal on the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s. Also, he’s an extra coach on the bench and has a tremendous throwing arm. Is he going to make the team? At this point, probably, starting against a bunch of lefties (who he has pounded in the past, when given relatively regular time) and keeping a seat warm for Robinzon Diaz, who may arrive by the all-star break.

I saw that the Diamondbacks were pretty busy while I was gone. I spent last Sunday watching football in the hotel room while my beautiful six-year old (henceforth known as The Billie) slept off a Mexican stomach virus and saw on the Deportes crawl that the Snakes had dealt for Danny Haren and sent Jose Valverde to the Astros. That’s a scary team in a weak NL West now. Amazing that they can integrate a bunch of kids like Chris Young, Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds and Steve Drew into the everyday line-up, have the best record in the league and STILL have six prospects good enough to put together in a package for a top-flight starting pitcher. And then turn around and swap the league leader in saves (I know, I know, but 72 baserunners and 78 Ks in 64 1/3 IP – is that better?) for a very good reliever in Chaddrick Qualls, a good starting prospect and a bat looking for a place to play? Nice work, Josh, they’re saying Boooo-yrnes in the desert.

Speaking of watching football in the hotel room, it was kind of fun to see the mess that the Browns and Bills were playing in in Cleveland, knowing that similar stuff was going on at home in Toronto and I was in Cancun. I’m sorry, but you all would have felt the same way. Nice not to have to dig out. The low point of the trip (aside from the rides on the Cancunian city bus) came watching the Dolphins score in overtime. I was really hoping for the 0-16, now I’ll have to be satisfied with the Fins losing by 170 in Foxboro this weekend. I don’t know if it’s living so close to Buffalo or what, but I can’t stand the Dolphins. I find it in amazingly poor taste that members of the 1972 team still pop champagne every year when the last unbeaten team finally goes down. And to add to the disdain, I saw Mercury Morris on ESPN last week rapping (which was surreal in and of itself) about the ’72 Dolphins and he said “if you wanna be unbeaten you have to win every game.” I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to reach through a television screen and slap someone as badly as I did at that moment.

And now that we’re into slapping people, the Mitchell Report fall-out has been going on for a week or so, and it’s been fun to see the players involved change strategy. Roger Clemens is still in deny-deny-deny mode – he’ll do that forever, just like Barry Bonds, but most of the others (who are actually talking) have switched to “I ordered it but couldn’t bring myself to use it” or “I did it, but I only did it once, and only because I thought I needed help to recover from an injury.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to call B.S. on 99.8% of those people right now. I’d say it a little more strongly, but this is a family blog. Let’s remember this very important fact – these are people who have cheated. That is to say, knowingly broken the rules to effect a personal advantage. Why is it that we are expected to now give them the benefit of the doubt? It’s not that much of a stretch to believe that if someone cheated, that they would then lie about it after getting caught. I don’t even believe that the vast majority of these guys even struggled with the decision to take ‘roids or hGH, and I think it’s extremely naive (wish I had an umlaut on the keyboard) to take these guys’ words for it. But that’s the cool part of being a professional athlete. For some reason, people always ascribe high moral character to people who are really good at sports. It’s insane, but whatever gets you through the day, I guess.

I want to be clear here in saying that I don’t believe that players who were dumb enough to take detectable steroids or have hGH ordered to their houses are necessarily bad people. Nor do I think that the players who continue to take undetectable steroids and hGH – and there are plenty of them -are necessarily bad people. They have made a decision to do what they feel they have to in order to operate at their best. It’s not a simple black and white issue. There are plenty of good people who do bad things because they rationalize their reasons for doing so. I still like Gregg Zaun and Howie Clark as people. I still dislike Roger Clemens and Glenallen Hill as people. It has nothing to do with their steroid use.

And can we get Jesus out of this, please? I mean, I’m as Christian as the next Jew (which is to say, not at all), so maybe I’m not the one to comment on this, but the idea of playing the religion card offends me deeply here. You cheated. You got caught. Jesus had nothing to do with it. Why are some of those named in the Report all of a sudden now God-fearing Christians? And if they were God-fearing Christians before, why knowingly break the law for personal gain?

One very notable exception to the above rant is Dan Naulty, and not just because he’s a former Hardware City Rock Cat. He’s someone who admitted using and abusing performance-enhancing drugs for a period of about eight years. He said in a story in USA Today that when he was a tall, skinny 14th-round pick who couldn’t jack it up into the 90s he was told that steriods were a way for him to get better and his response was “Sign me up.” Seven years ago, he was done with baseball, found Jesus and now runs a ministry in Colorado and has founded a Youth Baseball Academy.

Admit your use, admit that it was a long-term thing to make you better at baseball, apologize to the people from whom you stole jobs and give back to the community – then I’ll believe that you’re repentant.

Also, let’s all make a pact right here to stop calling the evidence in the Mitchell Report “hearsay”. It’s not hearsay. It’s first-person participation. It’s uncorroborated, but it’s evidence given by a person who was actually involved and SAW what was going on. Not someone who heard about it from somebody else. It’s admissible in a court of law. Remember as well that everyone who was named in the Report was given an opportunity to explain themselves and declined.

OK, I guess there isn’t going to be a mailbag today. Sorry about that, but I promise one early next week. Maybe on Xmas day, so there’ll be something to do besides go to a movie and eat Chinese food.

Before I go, if there are any accountants out there reading this – is my trip to Mexico tax-deductible, now that I’ve blogged about it?

Feel free to leave your comments, and reach me e-mailically at wilner590@hotmail.com. I do read ‘em all, and there might be some responses coming over the weekend.

3 Responses to “I’m back – did you miss me?”
  1. 1.

    “Which begs the question, does Ricciardi have a plan for winning or is he just winging it? -from Richard Griffin-Toronto Star.

    A review of JP’s latest transactions.

    **JP left Lee Gronkiwietz off the 40 man roster-signed by Boston as their 7th inning guy-Toronto compensation-Nothing
    **JP moved Ty Taubenheim off the 40 man roster-stating room is needed for upcoming rule 5 draft. At the same time JP stated he wanted to re-sign Josh Towers as the number 5 starter. Ty picked up by Pittsburgh. Toronto compensation-nothing.
    **Nov. 18-acquired Mark Scuturo from Oakland for RHP Graham Godfrey and RHP Kristian Bell.
    **Dec. 5th, acquired Buck Coats in exchange for Justin James. Annouces San Diego expressed interest in Towers, but the offer isn’t good enough-wants to keep Towers as the 5th starter.
    **Dec. 12-did not tender Josh Towers making him a free agent.
    **Signs David Eckstein to a 1 year contract.

    In summary, we gave up 6 pitchers. We got Buck Oates, Mark Scutaro in return and signed Eckstein-a short stop with seriously diminishing defensive skills to a 4.5 million dollar contract.

    Whether you like the pitchers we gave up or not, it seems like a high price to pay for signing a free agent-which is about all it comes down to.

    Maybe Griffin is right.

    - Gerry
  2. 2.

    In summary, those pitchers were all basically useless or had no role with the Jays. I highly doubt the Gronk will be Boston’s 7th inning guy but he wasn’t going to break into the Jays already overcrowded bullpen any time soon and isn’t anything special. Godfrey and Bell are extreme longshots to ever play at the major league level. Houston got shelled all last season. And the only compensation he could have got for Taubenheim or Towers is someone like Buck Coats. Yah don’t have to like the Eck signing, but J.P. gave up pretty much nothing, it was just cutting a bunch of filler.

    - Santa
  3. 3.

    Eckstein may not be the best leadoff guy, but it removes Johnny Mac from the batting order all together, which is the greatest thing to happen to this team in the off-season.

    Johnny Mac is just a terrible hitter anyway you slice it, Eckstein may not be the greatest either, but he’s made a career out of proving people wrong, and obviously his ‘intangibles’ far outweigh Johnny Mac’s. Now, I know the only people that actually believe in ‘intangibles’ are people that have actaully played the game (fancy that) but he’s still a better option than a guy who couldn’t post a .700 OBPS off of a tee.

    And I like Johnny Mac

    - Dunny
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