Archive for April, 2008
Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
11:45 PM Eastern
“It can’t get much worse.”
A spectacular game ruined in the bottom of the 9th last night and by what? Vernon Wells’ inability to pick up a single as he charged it in medium-depth centre field. I will never pin the blame for a loss on one particular player (even though it looks like I just did), because there are always scenarios throughout the course of a game in which things could change in thousands of different ways, but when there’s a glaring mistake made on the play that causes the game to end, it really does stand out.
It’s too bad, because Wells could have – and probably should have – been the hero about 10 minutes earlier, but for Dustin Pedroia. The sophomore second baseman came out of nowhere to snare Wells’ rocket up the middle with two out in the top of the 9th, and threw him out as Scott Rolen was nearing the plate, ready to score what would have been the game’s first run had the ball gotten through.
How about Scott Rolen, by the way? I declared him the best Blue Jay ever on The JaysTalk tonight, and it was only a little bit facetious. He has provided an enormous spark since coming back from his grossitatingly nearly-shorn off finger, smacking an extra-base hit in each game and playing superb, flawless defence. His return has given the Jays everything they’ve needed – big hits, big presence, steadying influence on and off the field – except wins. They’re 1-3 with him, 10-13 without him. I guess he’s just not a winner.
Back to Vernon, though. There have been several comments and calls throughout the course of this season asking if I think Vernon has lost a step, or if his defense has dropped off, and I’ve responded by saying that it’s too early to tell and that even if he has lost half a step (which he may well have), he’s still a hell of a lot better than what most teams could put out there. The problem is this – that charge-in-to-pick-the-ball-up-and-fire it play. Same one as happened tonight on the game-winning hit. I can’t go back and look it up, but it feels as though that was about the fifth or sixth time that a VERY playable ball that Vernon has been charging has kicked off his glove this season. Usually it’s a harmless thing, and doesn’t even lead to a runner taking an extra base. Tonight, there’s a good chance it cost the Jays a run, and since that run was the only one that scored all night, the game.
David Ortiz does not run well, and he missed the Sox’ last game with a bruised knee, so tonight he was running even less well. Where was Jed Lowrie to pinch run, by the way? If Wells comes up with that ball cleanly, Ortiz is meatcake on any decent throw, and they’re still playing right now. Wells’ not being able to make that play was (a familiar refrain) inexcusable. And not even for a Gold Glover. A below-average centrefielder has to be able to pick up that ball cleanly.
I sincerely hope that Roy Halladay went up to Wells in the clubhouse after the game and said a simple “Come on!” or “Let’s Go!” or something to that effect. Some might advocate a more direct, physical approach, perhaps a surprise Andy Samberg-style “punch in the face and run away”, but I don’t know how effective that would have been.
Speaking of Halladay, how great was he? That was as dominating a performance as we’ve seen out of him all year – not a ball hit hard off of him until that rocket that Ortiz hit foul before he walked in the 9th. And yes, if that second-pitch change to Papi is called a strike, they’re probably still out there playing right now.
Raise your hand if, like me, you were hoping that Boston would get a second hit at some point, just so we could all be safe in the knowledge that Halladay wouldn’t have thrown a no-hitter if John McDonald had started at shortstop. There’s no way Mac doesn’t make the play on the second-inning grounder by Youkilis that just got past the dive of Eckstein up the middle. He probably doesn’t even leave his feet. Sadly, Boston’s second hit was even less impressive – a 30-foot dribbler by Brandon Moss in the 5th. Halladay deserved way better, but there’s no question in my mind that he should have been out there on the mound for the duration.
A lot of times Halladay gets his complete games just because of who he is, and if he wants to go back out there, he gets to go back out there, but tonight there was no decision to be made. He was dominating, as close to untouchable as a pitcher can get, and had only thrown 97 pitches through eight innings. He retired the first two hitters of the 9th on just six pitches, and after the walk to Ortiz, gave up a flare single to Manny Ramirez. No reason to yank him right there, none whatsoever.
(Remember, it was tied in the 9th, so you have to make sure you have some relievers ready to for the 16th and 17th.)
I was surprised to get calls from people who wanted the bullpen in to start the 9th. That’s just silly. This wasn’t a “leave Halladay in because he’s Roy Halladay” complete game. Not only did he deserve to finish it, he was the right choice. Halladay has now thrown four straight complete games and has gone over 115 pitches in just one of them, and that was only 117.
It was a fantastic game, but a real shame that it ended the way it did. I promise you, this team will hit. It might not ever blow the doors off, though it’s certainly due to, but it will hit.
Comments are encouraged, let’s keep the JaysTalk alive 24/7 even in these darkest days!
Sunday, April 27th, 2008
11:45 PM Eastern
It’s so strange to be posting a blog entry after a win, I had almost forgotten what that felt like. Jesse Litsch was extraordinary, the line-up was all upside down, John McDonald got an extra-base hit, the top three hitters in the order reached base seven times, and both times the Jays got a runner to third with less than two outs, he scored!
A lot of other great things happened, BlueJayically, in the first win of the road trip: Scott Rolen hit his first home run as a Jay, Vernon Wells snapped an 0-for-15 with an 8th inning single, Aaron Hill broke out of a 3-or-26 with two hits, Alex Rios scored from first on a single, and from second on a ground ball that was thrown wild to the plate, but only got away about 15 feet, Jesse Carlson got through the 2-3-4 hitters for his first big-league save, and B.J. Ryan threw another 1-2-3 inning.
Almost enough to make you forget that the Jays didn’t get a real hit with runners in scoring position. To be fair, if you’re scoring guys from first base on singles, the whole RISP thing doesn’t matter that much anyway, but that’s a pretty rare occurrence. Officially, they were 1-for-7 in that category, but the one hit was a Rios pop-up in the 9th inning just behind second base. The KC middle infielders, Tony Pena, Jr. and Alberto Callaspo, played “I got it, you take it” and the ball dropped safely between them. But a hit is a hit, and like I’ve been saying, they were bound to get at least one of those sooner or later. Just plain dumb luck. So that “double” makes the Jays a whopping 12 for their last 104 with RISP. Wow.
The continued inability to get a hit with a man on second or third or one of each is still troubling, but bound to change. Who hits .115 for an extended period? Nobody who actually belongs in the big leagues.
Credit where it’s due, and John Gibbons deserves some for a couple of reasons. First, he turned the line-up upside down. There was reason to think he might have waited it out, having only had Rolen for two games and Adam Lind for one, but he blew the damn thing up for this game, leaving no one in their “regular” position in the batting order. Rios went from third to leadoff, Overbay up to second from 7th, Rolen up from 5th to 3rd, Stairs up a spot into clean-up, Wells down one to 5th, Hill dropped from 2 to sixth. Lind, Rod Barajas and John McDonald don’t have regular spots, though Mac always hits 9th, and he was still there.
The shake-up provided immediate dividends with Rios leading off the game with a triple and Rolen going deep two batters later. It’s enough to make one wonder what Gibby will do when David Eckstein gets back into the line-up, which may not be until Wednesday. No knock on Eck, but McDonald should play shortstop whenever Roy Halladay pitches. The need for offense is lessened, so the difference between Eckstein and McDonald’s bat doesn’t hold as much sway, and with Doc being a SEVERE ground ball pitcher, the glove man is more necessary. Especially since Halladay will take a 2-3 record into the game.
When Eckstein gets back in, be it Tuesday or Wednesday, I have a feeling he’ll be hitting second, though I’d still like to see him ninth.
I’m assuming Rios will stay up top, given that he had four hits, but I don’t like it. Rios is arguably the team’s best hitter, and should be up in a position where he can have the opportunity to drive in runs. By leading him off, it’s assured that at least once a game, he’ll come to the plate with nobody on, and the rest of the time he’ll be depending on the team’s worst hitters to get on base in order to have a chance to drive in someone other than himself.
The other kudo to the manager is for putting the hit-and-run on with Wells at the plate in the 8th inning after Stairs’ lead-off walk. Something that Gibby often does is put the hit-and-run on with a hitter who’s struggling, and it often helps them out of it. He says that it focuses them on doing nothing but getting the bat on the ball (because otherwise the baserunner is meatcake), and gets them to stop out-thinking themselves at the plate. Wells was 0-for-15, got the sign, got a hit. Nicely done.
There was question as to why B.J. Ryan threw the 8th inning of a one-run game instead of the 9th, especially since (as I heard on The JaysTalk and read in the comments section) the TV guys were speculating that Ryan was coming on to get a six-out save. First of all, I doubt we’ll even see B.J. coming out for a four-out save at any point this season, never mind six. It’s just not something that’s going to happen, given that he’s still recovering from his Tommy John, just doing it at the major-league level.
The only reason I can figure for Ryan’s 8th-inning stint was because he hadn’t pitched since Thursday, and had he not pitched today, he would have either had to throw a side tomorrow, making him unavailable for Tuesday’s Fenway opener, or he would have been forced to be used on Tuesday, whether the Jays needed him or not, making him unavailable for Wednesday, when they might, in fact, have needed him. Hope you could follow that, I’m not even sure I can.
Anyway, in order to make sure Ryan pitched in the game today, he had to pitch the 8th. If Carlson/Downs/Tallet/Accardo/whoever had come on to pitch the 8th had give up two runs, there might not have been a bottom of the ninth, and therefore no opportunity to pitch Ryan. So he had to throw the 8th. These are the kinds of things we’re going to have to get used to while Ryan is still in the earlier stages of recovery. He can’t sit around too long. And please don’t come back with the “you have to have confidence in your relievers to get the lead to the 9th.” Sometimes you have to be pragmatic, and the bullpen gave up six runs in the 8th on Friday night.
It can’t be all happy smiles, despite the win. Rios made two very serious baserunning errors in the game, and they were errors of laziness. In the first inning, he hit a line drive to right-centre that David DeJesus made a diving/sprawling attempt for, and actually caught before the ground knocked it loose. Instead of simply running until he heard otherwise, Rios pulled up at second, and a few steps past the base, actually stopped, with the ball still out there, on the ground. He finally either picked up a screaming Marty Pevey or noticed that the ball was, in fact, on the ground, and scooted over to third. Could he have had an inside-the-parker if he hadn’t stopped? Maybe. It probably would have been foolish to try, though, given the game situation, so it didn’t cost the Jays anything, and he scored on a wild pitch very shortly thereafter.
In the 9th inning, Rios popped up, as mentioned above, and he did the typical big-league “damnit, I just popped up” thing, probably slamming down the bat (I didn’t see that part) and jogging down the first-base line. When the ball dropped, Rios was still at first, and he only made it to second because no one was covering the bag. He should already have been at second by the time the ball dropped, or at least within a couple of steps. Again, it didn’t cost the Jays anything, because he wasn’t going to get any farther than second with Mac on base ahead of him.
Still, I thought Rios was getting past this stuff. It has to stop. Trouble is, everyone gets their shorts in a knot if he sits out a game – how else do you change the behaviour, though?
And, to his credit, Rios made up for both of his slack-offs (not mistake – a mistake is unintentional) – he scored from first on the Rolen single in the 5th on which Jose Guillen threw to the wrong base, and he scored from second in the 9th on the bad throw by Pena. But does the first make-up count if you screw up the same way a couple of innings later? I’m not sure.
We close with good news! The Boston Red Sox are not going to make the playoffs. It’s outstanding, and finding out something so early in the season about one of the teams in your division is a wonderful thing. It turns out that even though the Sox are the defending World Series champions and are stacked with arguably the game’s best starter, closer, DH and clean-up hitter along with a bunch of other very, very good players – they suck. How great is that? Good teams don’t get swept by Tampa Bay, playoff teams NEVER get swept by Tampa Bay, and the Red Sox just got swept by Tampa Bay. Awesome. And one less team for the Jays to worry about as they try to overcome the odds.
Tomorrow is an off-day, so there will be no blogaggeness, but I’ll pop on every so often to respond to comments – let’s see if we can do a 48-hour JaysTalk!
Sunday, April 27th, 2008
12:30 AM Eastern
Well, either that or “the light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train.” It’s one or the other, I’m just not sure which.
Another night, another painful-to-watch exhibition by your Toronto Blue Jays. This time they managed to score one whole run, despite having runners on in every inning and having a hitter come to the plate with a runner in scoring position 14 times! They did manage a hit with a runner in scoring position, but just one, a David Eckstein single in the 5th that didn’t produce a run.
I have to correct something. On The JaysTalk tonight, I mentioned a few times how the Jays are now 11-for-their-last-100 with RISP. That’s not true, math error on my part. They’re actually 11 for their last 97. Much better.
But enough about baseball. I was flipping around the dial on the way home from work, looking for one of those Saturday Night Retro programs, but sadly not being able to find one. Two stations played U2′s Pride (In The Name Of Love) within about 40 seconds of each other, though, that was weird. Anyway, I stopped at JACK-FM, one of our sister stations, and they were playing what’s called the Jack Nation Countdown. I’ve since looked it up, to check what song it was, but I heard Amen by Kid Rock for the first time. Not to rag on the Kid, by any means, but I was struck by the musical juxtaposition between his using the riff from Sweet Home Alabama along with the music bed from Werewolves of London. Never realized how similar those two songs sounded before. It was also kind of interesting that he rhymed “bottle” with “tomorrow”. Lyrical genius, he is.
OK, back to the baseball. Shaun Marcum was fantastic, David Eckstein had three hits, Rios, Stairs, Rolen, Overbay and Zaun reached base twice each, and the team scored one run. Does that information stun anyone else? It speaks to what I’ve been going on about for the last week and a half (over which time we’ve seen the Jays play every day and win twice) – this is a staggering amount of bad luck, along with everything else, and it HAS to turn around.
I guess the Jays finally figured it was safe to call up Adam Lind, because he was in the line-up, batting 8th (a spot lower than I thought he would), and almost followed in Rolen’s Friday night footsteps with a big hit late, but Tony Pena, Jr. made a McDonaldesque play on his grounder into the hole with the bases loaded and two out in the 8th, stole a two-run single, and nipped Lind at first by half a step.
John McDonald got a front-row seat to admire it, because he was on his way from second to third, having been put in to pinch-run for Matt Stairs. Pinch-running for the DH, by the way, ensured that had the Jays come back to take the lead, Mac would NOT have been put in the game for defense, because that would have put the pitcher into the batting order. I can’t believe the Jays signed McDonald to a two-year, $3.8 million contract to be an occasional pinch-runner. It’s mind-bottling.
Just one more thing. Three more inches to Pena’s right, and Lind has a two-run single and the Jays have the lead. Eckstein catches the ball Friday night, and the Jays take the lead into the 9th. Aaron Hill doesn’t throw away a double play ball on Thursday, and the Jays don’t lose the lead to T-Bay. Roy Halladay doesn’t blow up in the 6th Wednesday, and the Jays beat T-Bay. Joe Inglett gets the suicide squeeze down in the 10th against the Rangers and the Jays win that game. Jack Hannahan doesn’t make a spectacular play down the third-base line in the 11th and the Jays win that 12-inning game against Oakland. None of that stuff was John Gibbons’ fault – OK, maybe the Eckstein thing was.
I realize the whole thing about ifs and buts and candy and xmas, but I’m just trying to illustrate the difference between 10-15 and 16-9. The Jays have been in virtually every game they’ve played this season, and that’s a very good thing, but it’s also why this 2-9 run has been especially maddening.
Remember, either tune your radio to 590 or hit the “listen live” feature on the website at 12:30 pm eastern Sunday (or 12:40, I’m not sure how long the degenerate gamblers are going to want to talk) for a special pre-pre-game show. I have nothing planned yet, but we’ll figure something out. Probably going to talk about the Blue Jays or some such.
And Sunday night at 7:05, The Blue Jays This Week. Might be discussing a winless week. Yeesh.
Comments are encouraged, and I’ll try to answer, but it’s a day game after a night game, so you never know.
Saturday, April 26th, 2008
2:05 AM Eastern
I’m not just talking about the brutal error by David Eckstein, but that’s a big part of it. The Blue Jays went and ruined the perfect story with that ugliness in the bottom of the 8th. Here’s Scott Rolen, finally making his Jays’ debut, and we’re all being very careful to say that he’s not here to be the saviour of the struggling offense. Give him time, he’s not the cavalry, can’t do it himself. Then he does.
Rolen did everything his new teammates have had so much trouble doing over the last little while: He got a hit with runners in scoring position. A two-out hit with runners in scoring position! An extra-base hit with two out and runners in scoring position!!! And his ringing 8th-inning double into the left-centre gap broke a 2-2 tie, giving the Jays a 4-2 lead. To go with the HUGE hit by Rolen (did I mention it was his Jays’ debut?), Lyle Overbay finally got off the schneid with his first home run of the season, A.J. Burnett was brilliant through seven innings and Rod Barajas picked the go-ahead run off third base in the bottom of the 7th with some sweet sleight-of-hand.
All the ingredients were there, and all the Jays had to do was finish. Burnett went back out to start the 8th, got into trouble, and here came Scott Downs to bail him out. And bail him out he did – Snakeface got a routine double-play grounder from the first hitter he faced. All he had to do was turn it, and the Jays were in the dugout with a 1-run lead heading into the 9th.
And turn it he did. Downs made a perfect throw to second, where David Eckstein came across the bag…………….and dropped the ball. Everyone was safe, the tying run scored, the air was let out of the Jays’ proverbial tires, and the floodgates opened. The Royals, who hadn’t scored more than six runs in a game all season, wound up scoring six runs in the INNING, and that was that. Five straight losses, eight in ten, and hey, since they lost, let’s point out the Jays were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and are now 10 for their last 86 (.116/.136/128).
That was inexcusable #1, Eckstein dropping that ball. That ball has to be caught. I catch that ball. 99,999 times out of 100,000, Eckstein catches that ball. The one time he didn’t was an incredibly crucial moment for his new team. I know the second-base ump cut between him and Snakeface as Downs was getting ready to throw that ball, but it doesn’t matter. Catch the damn ball.
Inexcusable #2 (there are three, by the way) was the fact that Eckstein was even in the game at that point. Up by two, six outs to go, the right choice is to put the best defensive shortstop in the game IN THE GAME. There is no debate on this issue. Sadly, the Blue Jays haven’t caught on to this yet. John Gibbons said in Spring Training that David Eckstein was his shortstop, which meant that David Eckstein was his shortstop from start to finish, that he wouldn’t be using John McDonald (the aforementioned best defensive shortstop in the game, in case you were wondering) for late-inning defense. And so far, he hasn’t. Tonight, it might well have cost him the game.
I don’t know David Eckstein well, but from the couple of months that I’ve been around him, the limited contact I had with him early in his career, and from talking to people who know him better than I do, I have come to the conclusion that David Eckstein is an outstanding human being. He also seems to be pretty bright. This is a good thing, you can’t have too many of those types of people around. He’s also just an OK defensive shortstop, at best. The reason I bring up who he is as a person is because I can’t believe that he would make any kind of stink about being removed for defense late in games in which his team is leading. It’s the right move to make, and it should be made EVERY TIME the Jays have the lead after the 7th – there is, legitimately, no earthly reason not to do it. So far this season, it hasn’t happened once.
The question that bears asking at this point is, why would you have an asset as potentially valuable as McDonald if you’re not going to use him?
Inexcusable #3 – Shannon Stewart was in left field. Stewart is off to a rough start, and the fact that Reed Johnson made what will probably be the best catch of 2008 in the Cubs’ loss to Washington tonight will get more of the haters screaming that the Jays made the wrong choice, but I still believe that they did the right thing at the time. I don’t so much have a problem with Stewart, the problem I have is that Adam Lind spent Friday night sitting on the bench in Pawtucket, watching Syracuse lose 6-1 (Hector Luna hit clean-up! There’s SO much wrong with that). Lind would be the fellow who is hitting .365/.423/.587 for the Chiefs, having recorded an extra-base hit once every seven at-bats on the young season, who the Blue Jays believe is ready for the major leagues. He missed four games a week ago with a stiff neck, but has since returned and gone 5-for-13 (.385/.429/.385) over four games.
I was asked on the pre-pre-game show if Lind was being held down in Syracuse in order to keep him from being a “Super 2″ arbitration player, and I said I didn’t think so, since he had lots of service time already (145 days, I think), and at this point in time, I doubted it would be a factor. But you know what? It might be. With 138 games left in this season, his service time if he was to be called up in the morning would be about a year and 120 days at the end of this season, perhaps avoiding making him a “Super 2″ arbitration-eligible player after the 2009 season. It doesn’t seem like it to me, but Alex Anthopoulos knows the numbers WAY better than I do, and he may well have crunched them to the extent that he’s told J.P. Ricciardi when the right time is for the call-up to keep Lind cheap for an extra year. Please note, this is all conjecture.
The thing is, there doesn’t seem to be any other reason to not have called Lind up on Wednesday, anyway, after he’d come back from the stiff neck and gone 4-for-8 in two games. Maybe the neck has flared up again and that’s why he didn’t start either of the last two games, or maybe the Jays are holding him out because they don’t want him to get hurt in advance of a call-up. I’m usually not a big conspiracy theorist, but if Lind isn’t up here for potential-future-arbitration-eligibility reasons, while he’s swinging a hot bat and this team is MORE than desperate to score runs, that’s the heart of inexcusable #3.
Look, chances are if he winds up being able to hit the way they think he will, they’ll lock him up through arbitration Hill-Rios (Marcum-McGowan?) style before the 2010 season even starts. And Ricciardi’s contract expires after that season anyway, so what does he care how much money Lind makes from 2011 until he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season? If this was a team that wasn’t supposed to do much, like, say, Tampa Bay, and you want to hold a kid back for a couple of weeks to save some money a few years down the road, fine. But I thought it was all about winning now. If this move with Lind was made to save cash, it would seem to put the lie to that notion.
I do believe that he’ll be up to join the club in K.C. for Saturday night’s game, though, unless there’s another show yet to drop. I was told this afternoon that there would be a roster move coming after the game, but so far, not so much.
One thing before I go to bed – with the home run tonight, Overbay now has one homer and two doubles on the season. On April 26, 2006, Overbay woke up having hit two homers and one double on the season. He finished that year with 22 homers and 46 doubles.
I wanted to delve further into the debate I had with a caller about focus/leadership/intensity, but this has gone on too long already. Maybe some other time.
Comments are welcome, as always – let’s keep the JaysTalk going 24/7!
Friday, April 25th, 2008
12:55 AM Eastern
I’m just wondering if, at this point, I have to say anything other than “2-for-21″. I was seriously considering writing just that, and leaving it to be the entire post.
That figure, in case you weren’t already sure, is the Blue Jays’ club output with runners in scoring position for the entirety of their stay at Lake Buena Vista, Florida. A trip on which they got unceremoniously swept by the hated Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, by the way, have never lost a regular-season game at Champion Stadium.
2-for-21. A spectacular .095 batting average. An .095 slugging percentage as well, but a .174 on-base percentage, thanks to the walks that Lyle Overbay and Gregg Zaun picked up after Shannon Stewart’s two-out double in the 4th tonight. Is there a Mendoza line for OPS? If there is, it’d probably be, like, .450 or something. In fact, in Mario Mendoza’s WORST season, his OPS was .426. The Jays’ RISPOPS in Orlando was .269.
It’s become laughable, this constant failure when presented with the opportunity to score, and it’s pathetictude like this that leads to teams losing seven games in nine. The Blue Jays look horrendous right now.
But all is not lost. You knew that’s where I was going, didn’t you? And all is not lost just because Scott Rolen and (probably) Adam Lind will be in the line-up for tomorrow night’s opener in Kansas City. It’ll be nice not to see Marco Scutaro and his .200/.351/.250 in the line-up most days, and Shannon Stewart’s .189/.302/.216 against righties has been particularly ugly, but to expect Rolen and Lind to ride some sort of tandem white horse into beautiful Kauffman Stadium and wake up the Jays’ slumbering power bats is a little much.
All is not lost because the Blue Jays are actually a good team, all evidence to the contrary. They sit 4th in the league in on-base percentage and 5th in the league in ERA. Eventually all those runners, all those chances, will turn into some scoring. They’re hitting .260 as a team, but .234 with runners in scoring position. Worse still, just .216 with RISP and two out. I mean, that’s Yankee bad! But things even out over the course of 162 games, and by the end of it all, the Jays’ hitting in all situations should be about the same. Which means they’re due. Of course, they’ve been due for a six- or seven-game winning streak for a few years now, but that’s another story.
The power outage is what’s so hard to explain. Tied for last in the league in home runs, 11th in the league in doubles. It’s baffling, but I honestly don’t think there’s any reason to believe it won’t come around. Even without Frank Thomas, the Jays should get enough offense from Hill, Rios, Wells, Stairs, Rolen and Overbay to make them a better-than-decent line-up, and Eckstein, Zaun and (hopefully) Lind are all better-than-average bats at their positions. This is a team that should score, and not just against the Red Sox. And I believe it will.
Despite the protestations from some of the commenters here, it’s not “getting late early” for the Blue Jays. There are still 139 games to go, and even at their suckingest, they’re 4 1/2 games out in the division and 4 games out of the wild card. If they’re in the same position on August 15th, they’re in the thick of the race, so let’s not get silly. And please don’t hit me with the “if they keep this up” argument. Obviously, if they lose seven out of every nine, they’re going to be historically bad. They’re not going to keep this up.
It’s hard to watch, though, while we wait for them to snap out of it.
I swear that after the first two innings tonight I thought that Dustin McGowan actually had a good chance of throwing a no-hitter. Five strikeouts through seven hitters, hitting 99 on the gun and just simply blowing people away – and then in the fourth, it all fell apart. He was pretty lucky, actually, with Zaun throwing out Eric Hinske trying to steal second. I mean, how often does a pitcher allow five straight hitters to reach base, giving up a triple and throwing a wild pitch in the bargain, and only give up one run?
The house of cards collapsed in the 5th, though, and McGowan was gone without allowing an out. He wound up walking five of the last seven hitters he faced. Leave it to Jesse Carlson to come on and get a big strikeout to end the 5th with runners on the corners, though.
Alex Rios should be in great shape for K.C. after getting pretty much this whole series off. He sat Tuesday, got the flu Wednesday and in an ironic twist, got the heave tonight. After being rung up on appeal by first-base ump Tim McClelland to end the third inning, Rios was tossed after an emotional display. I saw McClelland say something along the lines of “you threw your bat, that’s one, you threw your helmet, that’s two” before the camera cut away. I’m assuming Rios’ third strike was that he cursed a blue streak as he started to walk slowly out to right field, and that was enough for McClelland. I don’t think an ejection was warranted, but I don’t know what Rios said, either.
Huge props to Gregg Zaun for his day overall. He built on his 10-pitch deep fly out in the 9th on Wednesday night and had a 2-for-3 day with a walk, just missing a go-ahead three-run homer in the 9th. His hit-and-run single in the second was executed to absolute perfection, smacking a line drive to exactly the spot where Jason Bartlett had been before he went to cover second base, but the piece de resistance was the steal of home. Scoring-wise, it’s considered a runner’s fielder’s choice, but it was a beautiful bit of baserunning derring-do.
With Zaun on second and Marco Scutaro at first, David Eckstein dropped down a bunt out in front of the plate (don’t get me started). Tampa catcher Dioner Navarro went out to get it, fired to first to retire Eckstein, then kind of hung out about 30-40 feet in front of the plate, impressed with the job he’d done, while Akinori Iwamura put his head down and started to walk the ball towards the pitchers’ mound. Zaun saw the letdown in focus intensity, and the uncovered home plate, and took off, barely sneaking his hand in past a racing Navarro as he scrambled to get back. It was fantastic. Too bad the Jays couldn’t do anything with it.
As I said way up there (man, this is getting long), Rolen and Lind should be in the line-up for the opener against KC and Zack Grienke, who has allowed just one home run in 29 innings, has a WHIP of 1.17 and an ERA of 1.24. If I had to guess, I’d say Rolen will hit 6th, behind Matt Stairs and Lind 7th, in front of Lyle Overbay.
Lastly, congrats to the Oakland A’s for signing Frank Thomas. They pick up what will be a valuable asset for them and only have to pay him the major-league minimum. Thomas had a great year with the A’s back in 2006, and they like him out there. I think it’s a great move for Billy Beane, assuming Thomas has the second half I expect him to. The A’s, despite the fact that they currently share first place in the West, are going nowhere this year, but bringing in Thomas shows fans that Beane is trying to ride the wave of the team’s hot start. Truth is, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he grabbed Thomas in order to cash in on the bounty he might bring back on July 31st. Who knows, maybe after Thomas heats up and the Athletics cool down, Frank will get traded back to the Blue Jays! Now THAT would be fun.
Comments are encouraged, and remember – in order to make up for tonight’s Raptors-induced loss of JaysTalk, we’ll have a special pre-game JaysTalk Friday for listeners of the Fan590 (if you can’t listen, catch it here on the website) from 7:05 – 7:30 Eastern.
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
11:30 PM Eastern
Obviously, this is the essence of the Jays’ problems this season. Canadian-born players are hitting .333/.362/.500 and accounted for all the scoring in tonight’s loss at Disneyworld. The shame of it all is, they only have one – Matthew K. Stairs, who hit two moon shots and belted two more fly balls that wound up being caught on the warning track in the opposite field. Stairs is on a 12-game hitting streak over which he’s 15-for-37, and still doesn’t appear to have lost any of his terrific bat speed despite hitting the Big 4-0 in Spring Training.
Still, even with Stairs providing all the scoring, the Jays could still have pulled this one out save for one bad inning from Roy Halladay. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Every time Halladay doesn’t dominate, people automatically think there’s something physically wrong with him. There isn’t, the Rays just got to him in the 6th for four runs on five hits and a walk. He almost got out of it, striking out Carlos Pena with the bases loaded and only one run in for the second out, but Evan Longoria ripped a hard line single to right to score two to tie it, and Eric Hinske (they NEVER should have traded him) followed with another hard line single to right to drive in the eventual winner. Outside the 6th inning, Halladay gave up a run on four hits in seven innings, walking none and facing two batters over the minimum. Too bad you can’t drop your best and worst innings. Of course, if you could, it would have been a 1-1 tie.
The Jays were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position tonight, making them an abysmal 8-for-their-last-69. It’s embarrassing already, and something that very obviously has to change in a hurry in order for the team to bust out of its current 2-6 slump.
Alex Rios has picked up the flu that’s been running around the team lately, so he got his second straight day off. Turns out that the illness is what kept Vernon Wells out of the line-up Monday afternoon against the Tigers. Lyle Overbay was scratched with a twisted ankle – he hurt it on the wretched surface at Disneyworld slide-diving home in the second inning last night, though he was available to pinch-hit late in the game.
Scott Rolen will join the team tomorrow and take batting and fielding practice, then likely get on the plane and be activated for Friday night’s opener in Kansas City. That’s kind of cool, because if you go back in the archives of this blog to the day we found out about the extent of Rolen’s injury, I figured that April 25th was going to be his return date. That kind of stuff makes me happy, I don’t know why.
It was nice to finally get a look at Robinzon Diaz, who I assume will be sent down Friday to make room for the roster move or moves - Adam Lind could join the team then as well, though J.P. Ricciardi was hugely non-committal on when he’ll be called up. Diaz put the first pitch into play in each of his first two at-bats, grounding out hard to second and hitting a clothesline to centre that B.J. Upton caught. He grounded out and struck out to wrap up his night, but hit the ball hard three times, and fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches in his third AB.
Also, J.P. Ricciardi made his first appearance of the season on the post-game show, taking your phone calls. Evidently the segment is up on the site, so you can listen to it now if you want to. The frustration in J.P.’s voice was apparent, and he was his usual candid self. Among the things he said was that the lack of offense from the team with runners in scoring position is unacceptable, that despite the high team OBP, the poor slugging is preventing them from scoring all those baserunners, that Lyle Overbay is hitting a soft .270 and has to improve, that John Gibbons is doing a fine job and that if anybody should be taking the blame for the poor start it should be J.P. himself, and that if the offense doesn’t improve, he screwed up in putting this group together because that would mean “they’re not the hitters we thought they were.”
J.P. also called out Frank Thomas for not joining his teammates in the post-game handshake after the win over Detroit Saturday afternoon, implying that that might have been the tipping point that led to The Big Hurt(Feeling)’s release the next day, that it showed that Thomas didn’t think enough of his teammates to go out and congratulate them for a job well done, and that it indicated that the Jays had become a team of 24, not 25.
He also had very good things to say about Gary Denbo and the way he prepares his hitters, but that neither he nor Gibbons can go out and swing the bats for them. Not that anyone would want to see that.
Of course, there was lots of Barry Bonds talk. Maybe it’s me, but as the night wore on, I got the distinct impression that J.P. would like to have Bonds in the line-up, but that his bosses won’t go for it. He said things like:
“We’re still thinking about (signing Bonds) in the sense that we’re talking about a lot of things.”
“We would really have to do a lot of homework to make sure that it’s the right fit in a lot of ways.”
“We have to get a lot of sign-offs on a lot of things on this.”
“There’s a lot of things with this guy that this organization is not ready for in a lot of ways.”
To me, that doesn’t sound like a guy who has closed the door on the idea of signing the all-time home run king. He did say, though, that he doubted he’d be able to knock on Uncle Ted’s door to ask for more money with the team performing as poorly as it is right now, which is a bit of a Catch-22, and he also said “I really don’t see us going down the road there (pursuing Bonds).” Like I said, though, I got the distinct impression that HE wants to, at least, and he didn’t argue with me when I suggested that even if Bonds is here and on his own program, The Barry-style, the guys on the team wouldn’t care so long as he was helping them win.
Remember, the Raptors play Game 3 Thursday, so they take over the FAN590 from us, perhaps for the final time this season. If you’re in the Toronto listening area, you can catch us on AM610 CKTB (not that you care what the call letters are).
Comments are encouraged, as always, just please keep them clean – I’ve had to do a lot of cleaning up of comments the last couple of days.
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
12:05 AM Eastern
Actually, I did. Not always as a ballplayer, but he wasn’t the first to get fat off a rookie-of-the-year award, and he didn’t spend all 3 1/2 of his seasons as a Jay post-big-contract stealing money from them. Nice guy, though, always good to me, even though he did refer to me once in the clubhouse as “Mike F. Wilner”. He didn’t just say F, though.
Hinske was the focal point of this game, first booting then throwing away the Gregg Zaun grounder in the second that led to two unearned Jays runs, then making up for it by doubling, tripling, homering, scoring three runs, driving in two and starting a swell 3-6-3 double play in the 5th. It’s nice to see him doing well, and it’s kind of interesting that he’s going to get pushed for playing time by Gabe Gross. I’m not sure what that means, other than it’s a bit eerie, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy fourth place in the division together.
I’m leading with Hinske because there wasn’t much to this game BlueJayically, there was no JaysTalk to discuss because of the Raptor game and I didn’t want to start off by ranting about idiots who slow down at a green light because they’re watching the seconds tick down at the crosswalk and want to make sure they can stop the second the light turns amber. I had a very-near-miss at Carlton and Jarvis on the way home from the studio. Near miss of rear-ending an idiot, who was in a car at the time. I know with some of the words I just used in the context of “Carlton and Jarvis” there can be a double meaning, I just want to make sure no one goes the wrong way.
Jesse Litsch wasn’t good, unable to deal well with the 7-8-9 hitters in the Tampa line-up in their three-run 4th, and the offense was horrendous again. Usually, when a team hands you two gift runs early, you should take that as an opportunity to score even more, and eventually win the game. The Jays decided against that, putting together only a nice little two-out rally for a run in the 4th and getting Vernon Wells’ 4th homer in the 6th to add on to the two-spot, not nearly enough. Seemed like old times, too, when the Jays ended the game 12-up and 12-down after the Wells homer.
Jesse Carlson was very impressive again, despite the fact that Hinske homered off of him. I know it seems a contradiction, but he did retire the other seven batters he faced, though one was given to him on Akinori Iwamura’s crappy safety-squeeze (or Nathan Haynes’ missed sign) bunt. Interesting, the last two bunts I’ve seen with a runner on third have resulted in that runner winding up out. Still, just an anomaly, because bunts advance baserunners about 95% of the time. Anyway, the Jays seem to have a find in Carlson – at least one they should ride until (unless?) the cracks in the armor start to appear. He makes a very good bullpen even better.
Snakeface was bang-on, too, striking out four hitters (including denying Hinske his single for the cycle) and losing the other two on a cheap flare and a grounder off Overbay’s glove. I have to wonder about the infield at Disneyland, specifically on the first base side. Overbay missed that play in the 8th and had a Jason Bartlett grounder take a Traberesque (Francoesque? I can’t remember which one it was) bad hop in the 4th, and Hinske looked terrible on the Zaun ball in the 2nd. But that’s an A-ball park for you, I guess.
One more thing before I go. There was a commenter on the Drunks site (you should really check them out, they’re terrific) who took issue with my saying that Thomas wasn’t popular among some of his teammates but not providing any further detail. First of all, I’m not sure what to think of the fact that he commented there and not here, but more importantly, I kind of see where he’s coming from. Kind of. The thing is, I can’t provide any detail on how I know, that’s what “off the record” conversations are all about. If I want to find something out and a player doesn’t want it known that he provided the information, that information gets put out there without identifying the source. And I have to do things that way if I ever want to get any future information, just like most other reporters. So, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to trust me when I say that Thomas will not be missed by at least some of his teammates. I make the statement based on good, solid information. And I never used the word “cancer”. That would be a huge exaggeration. You can be disliked without being a cancer in the clubhouse, and Thomas was certainly not a cancer, from all indications.
Wednesdays with J.P. makes its valiant return to the air tomorrow – call in and ask anything and everything, I’m expecting to hear a lot of Thomas and Bonds questions.
Comments are encouraged, as always. It’s how we keep the JaysTalk going 24/7!
Monday, April 21st, 2008
4:59 PM Eastern
Sorry about the lack of bloggage for the last couple of days, but some things can’t be helped. I commented on Thomas on Saturday (though I said he’d be released within a week or two – oops) so I hope you were able to tide yourselves over on that and all the other fine bloggageness that’s out there!
My reaction to the quick trigger on Thomas? He wasn’t happy, so it made sense to get rid of him instead of letting him twist in the wind for a week or so. The fact that he didn’t come out for the post-game self-congratulatory handshakes after Saturday’s win didn’t mean a whole heck of a lot to me. I mean, it’s not like you cut the guy immediately for that move, but it did seem to show that he didn’t feel like he was part of the team anymore. There was no major distraction having him sit for one day, there could very easily have been a major distraction if he was still around for a few days, angry and vocal about not being in the line-up. And no, trading him was NOT an option.
I think Thomas will resurface relatively soon, with one of Seattle, Tampa Bay or Baltimore, and as he always has, have a terrific last 2/3 of the season. I know that no matter what, people will be talking about Thomas around these parts for at least the rest of this season.
I just want to re-iterate that I really like Thomas. He’s a friendly guy, not shy at all, always willing to talk and give honest, thoughtful answers to good questions. He came here with a reputation of being a malcontent and tough to deal with but from a media perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. Among his teammates, though, I don’t think he’ll be missed much.
Now, onto the game. This hitting with runners in scoring position thing is getting ridiculous. They were 0-for-8 today, missing out on some pretty big opportunities early in the game. When the Blue Jays have lost this year, they haven’t gotten the big hit when they needed it. That’s a pretty obvious statement, though, because you’d figure that if they got big hits every time they needed them, they’d rarely, if ever, lose a game. You’d also figure that a team would hit better in games that it wins than in games it loses, but check this out:
In the Blue Jays’ 10 wins, they have hit .301 with runners in scoring position. In the 10 losses, they have hit .180. That’s a pretty massive difference, and one you’d expect will even out over time. If it does, they’ll win by fewer runs than they have been, but they should also be able to win the majority of their one-run games (they’re currently 2-5).
It all comes down to offense with this bunch, which is why I’ve been pounding the Barry Bonds drum since we first found out about Matt Stairs’ bad hip late in Spring Training (nice to see everyone else pick up on that now too, – welcome to the party! We’ve already been here for a month or so). Stairs seems to be fine now, and he’s hitting well, too, but without Frank Thomas that opening for Bonds has been created anew. The Blue Jays aren’t interested in the baggage and the circus that accompanies Bonds wherever he goes, so they won’t sign him even though his presence in the line-up would help the team immensely. What they’ll do instead is hope that Adam Lind is ready for the majors, stick him in left field everyday once he’s recovered from his stiff neck (by the end of the week) and hope that having him and Scott Rolen in the line-up instead of Thomas and Marco Scutaro/Joe Inglett, the offense will get a boost, and it should.
Remember, we’re talking about replacing what Thomas HAS done this year, not what he WILL do. There will no doubt be a time later in the season when Jays’ watchers will wonder just how good the team could be if only Frank Thomas were still on it. That thought, though, should be mitigated by wondering just how big the hole they’d have to dig out of would be if he’d still been here, batting 5th and not hitting for another month.
It should be a fun road trip – 3 in Orlando against the Rays, 3 in KC and then 3 in Boston. At some point on the trip, the Jays should have all hands on deck for the first time this season, and we can start to see what kind of team this really is.
Comments continue to be encouraged, especially given the shortitude of today’s JaysTalk (hey, I understand – McCown and hockey drive the bus that is The FAN590, and I’d have to be an idiot not to recognize those things. I’m happy to make room for The Bobcat whene’er I can.), and I think I’m’ back in the swing of full comment respondage.
Saturday, April 19th, 2008
5:40 PM Eastern
My apologies to all you loyal reader/listeners, but there will be no post-game bloggage this weekend. I’m trying my best to answer all the comments, but I just couldn’t do it these last two days, so all the comments went up unanswered, though I did read them all. I think the deal from now on is going to be that all comments will continue to be answered to the best of my ability, but it’s just not going to happen when there’s a day game after a night game.
Tonight and tomorrow night are the first two nights of Passover, so I’m getting out of the ballpark as fast as I can to get to the seders, which means there will be no bloggage tomorrow, and only this today. By the way, a happy holiday to all of you who celebrate, and those of you who don’t, try to chow down on a piece of matza this week just for me.
I want to address a few things that I saw in the comments section:
-Options are years, not call-ups. A player can be called up and sent down however many times and it only costs one option so long as it’s in the same year. When a player is out of options, he’s really out of option years.
-Adam Lind missed those two games in Syracuse with a stiff neck, it’s not a long-term issue.
-Stoeten, patience is a virtue and one that develops with practice. Remember, this is my seventh season hosting The JaysTalk. I find it more fun than frustrating to deal with the less rational callers, though. Sometimes I want to bang my head against a wall, for sure, but I love doing what I’m doing.
-To the commenter who says I change my tune depending on who I’m talking to, that’s a pretty serious accusation and you should have your facts straight before you do something like that. The TRUTH is this: Alan Ashby thinks that Shaun Marcum is a very, very good pitcher. I, too, think Shaun Marcum is a very, very good pitcher, and you won’t be able to find me having said any different, unless you consider the fact that I don’t think he’s going to be as good as Roy Halladay to mean that I don’t think he’s good. What I have said as well, is that I believe he’ll slip back a bit this year from his tremendous season last season, because that’s what most young pitchers tend to do. I believe that long-term, he’s going to be very, very good, but most young pitchers take a step back after a breakthrough year. So far, Marcum is proving me wrong in a big, big way, and it’s been great to watch.
I can’t go without commenting on the Frank Thomas situation. I believe the move to bench Thomas is the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Blue Jays, and that end could come sooner than later. I still think that if he was kept around he would break out of it in mid-to-late May, like he always does, and hit like an MVP over the last four months of the season. The problem is that you have to let him hit his way out of it, and you have to let him hit his way out of it in the middle of the line-up. The Jays can’t afford to get this sort of production from a bat in the middle of the order for the next 4-6 weeks.
It’s not going to be fun to see Frank Thomas released, and if he didn’t have the vesting option in his contract, I don’t think they’d do that, but that $10 million hanging over their heads for next year is something the Jays can’t ignore. It wouldn’t be a factor – at all – if he was producing, but he’s not.
Adam Lind is going to be up very soon to play left field with Shannon Stewart falling into a platoon with either him or Matt Stairs, and we’ll see in what direction that set-up takes the Jays. If Lind is ready, as everybody seems to think he is and his start in Syracuse seems to indicate, they’ll be better off having him up here in the near-term. If not, well, there’s always The Barry.
Comments are encouraged, but will be posted without answers until after Monday’s game.
Saturday, April 19th, 2008
12:16 AM Eastern
Baby steps, I guess, but when the Blue Jays scored three runs in the bottom of the 5th to take a VERY temporary lead at 4-1, it was only the second time in what’s now a six-game home losing streak that they’ve actually been ahead.
Shannon Stewart came through beautifully, doubling his season RBI total with one swing, a rocket past the glove of Placido Polanco that split the outfielders and got all the way to the wall for a two-run triple. Aaron Hill followed with a sharp single to left to drive Shannon in, and wonder of wonders, the Jays not only had a three-run lead, but they’d picked up two straight two-out RBI hits.
The lead was gone pretty quickly, though, a couple of doubles allowed by Jason Frasor here (after he’d done a great job getting out of David Purcey’s jam with a double play ball in the 5th), a couple of doubles allowed by Jeremy Accardo there, a stunning error by John McDonald, and hello, Scott Downs. The lefty’s first pitch was deposited into the Tigers’ bullpen by Edgar Renteria for a two-run homer that made it 7-4. To their credit, Frasor and Downs had been terrific so far, allowing just one run combined, so there was bound to be a crack in the facade at some point.
What it comes down to, though, is what it has come down to in every other loss this season with one exception – the Jays just didn’t hit. The Stewart 2-run triple-Hill RBI single combo accounted for 2/3 of the club’s safeties on the night. They only had one other hit, a solo shot by Rod Barajas in the 2nd.
Stunningly, this team is now 0-4 against left-handed starting pitchers. I’ve said many times that this is a line-up that will steal southpaws’ lunch money with regularity, but so far this season, the Jays are just taking names, and not kicking butt. To be honest, taking names only has any sort of detrimental effect on your opposition if it’s accompanied by the requisite butt-kicking.
The question is, what can be done? When you look at the line-up, Frank Thomas stands out. Outside the first four games of the homestand, he’s been just terrible, though that’s nothing new for him in April. Last night I suggested that maybe the time has come to get him out of such a high-leverage spot in the line-up, that I wouldn’t mind seeing him batting 8th until he heats up, which he always does around the middle of May. The thing is, you can’t hit Frank Thomas 8th, you might as well just bench him, but if he’s on the bench, he’s not getting the reps he needs to eventually turn things around. And if Thomas is benched, that means Shannon Stewart becomes the everyday left fielder with Matt Stairs taking over at DH. As bad a start as Thomas is off to, Stewart’s is just as poor.
Thomas is hitting .167/.306/.333, while Stewart is at .235/.341/.294. The triple tonight was his first extra-base hit of the season. I’m not sure there’s an upgrade involved in removing Thomas for Stewart.
The question then becomes, is it time to Free Adam Lind, who’s hitting .360/.411/.640 in Syracuse, and shove him into a platoon role in left, pushing Stairs to platoon with Thomas at DH? It’s not a bad idea, but there are a couple of roadblocks. First, Lind hasn’t played the last two games for the Chiefs after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Wednesday, so something might be up. Second, assuming Lind is healthy, the Jays would have to make room on the active roster to add him. They could drop to 11 pitchers, which I have always believed is a good idea, but then one of Downs, Brian Tallet or Jesse Carlson would have to go, since it’s not a good idea to have a bullpen with only two right-handed pitchers in it, especially if one is either Shawn Camp or the struggling Jeremy Accardo. The only other place to cut is at third, with one of Marco Scutaro or Joe Inglett having to go. Thing is, Inglett’s gone anyway when Scott Rolen comes back, so all you’d be doing is delaying the tough decision for a week and a half or so and making Scutaro your everyday third baseman until then.
Doing nothing is an option, but it doesn’t seem to be a good one. The hitters seem to require a swift kick in their collective backside. It’s still unbecrediculous to me just how hot-and-cold these hitters run. Imagine the team that’s leading the league in on-base percentage and eight 0ff the league lead in runs scored being under .500 because they can’t hit! It makes no sense at all, which is why I think it’s going to turn around on its own. But it hasn’t yet, and Tigers are starting to roll, having won four of five.
Last year, it was routine to come to the ballpark feeling as though whoever was starting for the Jays was only going to have a good chance to win if he allowed fewer than two runs, and it’s starting to feel that way again. I understand the frustration, but I do have faith in the track records of these hitters. The reason I’m talking about making a move with Thomas is that while his track record indicates that he will snap out of it and be very, very productive, that same track record indicates that we’re in for another month of what we’re getting right now, and right now he’s sucking up too many useful plate appearances.
Enough about the bats. David Purcey requires a mention, because it’s not every day a first-round pick makes his major-league debut. He looked very nervous, and it’s easy to see that from the boxscore – seven walks in 4 1/3 innings. He only gave up two hits and one run, though, thanks to couple of timely strikeouts of Gary Sheffield, Brandon Inge’s poorly-timed (for the Tigers) sacrifice bunt – that was out of nowhere and completely blew me away, SO stupid – and Jason Frasor’s bail-out double play ball in the 5th. Purcey knew he was going back down, and the Jays shipped him back to the ‘Cuse right after the game, but one hopes the lessons learned will serve him well. I expect him to pick right up where he left off in AAA, continuing to have a great year, and to be the first guy back if and when the Jays need a starter again. I know this is difficult to imagine, watching the Blue Jays as most of you do, but most pitchers do have a hard time in their major-league debuts.
Shawn Camp joins the Jays’ pen to replace Purcey and give the relief corps a third righty, as the Jays continue to call up the hot minor-league hand. Camp had been outstanding at Syracuse, allowing just four hits over 10 innings, striking out 13 without issuing a walk, and he hadn’t been scored on. Great numbers indeed, but over parts of the last four years in the big leagues, he allowed 365 baserunners in 230 2/3 innings, striking out 168, pitching to an ERA of 5.27 and allowing opponents to bat .319, and he’s 32 years old.
Lastly, whither Matt Stairs? I expected to see him pinch-hitting for Stewart in the 7th, with a runner on and the Jays down by three, and when that didn’t happen, I was stunned not to see him hit for Stewart in the ninth, with two on and the Jays down by four. So surprised that I’m not going to rip John Gibbons for not using him because it indicates that Stairs might not have been able to go. I can’t imagine any other reason for not using him in the 9th inning, because even though a Stairs homer wouldn’t have tied the game, the next three hitters were Hill, Rios and Wells, none of whom would have been pinch-hit for, and he couldn’t have been saving Stairs for extras, could he?
Comments are encouraged, as always, and I apologize for not getting to all of yesterday’s. I’m going to try to catch up when I get home.