Archive for June, 2008

11:50 PM Eastern – SOFTBALL UPDATE!

We won again, 17-11, and your intrepid reporter extended the streak to eight consecutive at-bats with a hit, thanks to a pair of  singles and a double.  The streak ended with a double-play grounder with runners at first and second, but the  shortstop went to third, for some reason, sparing me the embarrassment.  I walked in my final PA to end the days 3-for-4 with the base on balls.

Speaking of embarrassment, I can’t not bring this up.  You know when you get to be a grownup and you play sports in your spare time, hanging on to the innocent pleasures of your youth, spending time with your buddies, there’s always that one guy who thinks he’d be in the pros if his high school coach didn’t hate him or if he didn’t hurt his elbow in some freak animal husbandry accident, so he plays with a huge chip on his shoulder, as though there are scouts in the stands?  We played against one of those tonight.  I’m not going to mention his name (Jason Manso), but he was on first with one out and their guy hit a slowish roller to second.  The throw came to me, no chance for the double play, so I came off the bag on the second-base side, towards right field.  He veers off and spikes me in the ankle – the LEFT ankle, which is even farther from the bag.  I mean honestly, a bunch of guys in their 30s and 40s and the dude does the old-guy equivalent of trying to Ray Fosse me.  What kind of piece of Samsonite does it take to actually try to hurt someone in an old-guy softball game?  The good news for him, though, was that his hard-nosed style of play really impressed the scouts in the stands, and he was immediately signed to a pro contract.  So all’s well that ends well, I guess.

8:20 PM Eastern

At 4:00 this afternoon, I was fully prepared pull out some Huey Lewis & The News and title this post “If This Is It.” Because after the seventh inning, heck, even after the eighth of this series finale in Milwaukee, I was convinced that today’s game would be John Gibbons’ last as Blue Jays manager.

After a no-show in the series opener on Tuesday, and a not-good-enough performance in losing the second game, the Jays were about to be no-hit by David Freaking Bush. That would be the very same ex-Jay David Bush who, going into this game, had allowed 97 baserunners in 70 2/3 innings, including 15 home runs, while striking out only 40, posting an ERA over 5.00 and going 2-7 (see that? Appropriate context for use of W-L!).

Bush was brilliant, though who knows if it was more him or more the Jays? He retired the first 18 hitters he faced before walking Gregg Zaun, and carried the no-no into the 8th, when Lyle Overbay led off with what should have been a line single to left. Given the circumstance (and the 8-0 lead), the Hebrew Hammer laid out for the liner, and it got past him for a leadoff triple, sparing the Blue Jays the enormous humiliation that goes with being no-hit by a pitcher who can best be described as pedestrian.

Not that Bush hadn’t been in that situation before. In his third career start, he carried a no-hitter into the 8th for the Jays against Oakland, and Damian Miller broke it up with one out. Miller would single again, in the 14th, to drive in the winning run in a 1-0 A’s victory.

So we’d seen Bush do this before, but it very obviously felt different this time. One, because he was doing it TO the Jays, rather than FOR them; and B, because The Sword of Damocles is hanging by a thread over the head of the Jays’ manager as they fall deeper and deeper into the chasm that had heretofore been almost exclusively the domain of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Overbay’s triple, and the subsequent RBI single by Alex Rios, got the Jays on the board, but did nothing for Gibby. The 9th inning might have.

I figured going into this game that, as incredibly unfair as it would be, Gibby was all but done. The first seven innings, if anything, made that assessment even firmer in my mind. Not because of A.J. Burnett getting lit up again, though he was just awful. Frankly, I was surprised he didn’t get thrown out in the 3rd after showing up home plate ump Rob Drake while they debated the off-the-plateness of a 2-0 pitch he threw to Corey Hart that was called a ball. And not because of Rios not knowing the ground rules and standing in the right-field corner with his hands up, looking at the baseball that was stuck between the padding of the wall and the ground as Prince Fielder circled the bases.

It was, of course, the offense. How many ways are there to say it? For the FIFTH straight game, the Jays didn’t get a hit in the first three innings. It should be noted that the first trip through is the only time you get the hitters lined up the way you want them, start to finishish. This time they got nothing until the 8th. And as so many people have said over the last little while, there was no indication that they’d be able to do anything at all.

Then a miracle happened. Almost.

It was as though, down 8-1 with a runner on first and two out in the top of the 9th, the hitters suddenly awoke to the idea that their collective incompetence was about to cost a man they admire and respect his livelihood. And with two out and a runner on, down by seven, they flipped the switch to the extent that we have rarely, if ever, seen them flip it this season.

Overbay homered to dead centre, and Rios followed with a ground single to right. After a pair of walks, Mighty Joe Inglett (who has never met a 95 mph fastball he couldn’t crush) confused the smell of bratwurst for salami, and ripped one into the seats with the bases juiced. Rod Barajas followed with an infield single. Rod Barajas followed with an infield single. I’m sorry, I had to type that in twice because I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance again. It seemed as though the fates were conspiring, and that the Jays were on the way to one of the most improbable comebacks in history. But Matt Stairs, who started the inning with a single, struck out to end it.

Did a six-run 9th inning save John Gibbons’ job? I don’t know. J.P. Ricciardi had always planned to meet the team in Pittsburgh on Friday. Maybe he’ll deliver the news in the morning and Brian Butterfield or Marty Pevey will have the reins for the weekend series and the immediate future. But I hope not. I hope the Jays woke up to what they’re actually able to do, and that the new rock bottom, reached after Vernon Wells popped up to end the 7th, will lead to a new revival that reflects what happened in May, post-Cleveland, and that this time they’ll be able to sustain it.

I know they’ve got it in them.

No The JaysTalk today – we weren’t going to be able to have phones once 5:00 pm Eastern hit, and who’s kidding who, you’d rather listen to McCown than to me going through the scoreboard for half an hour. I understand, I can deal with it.

I’m sorry as well that I wasn’t able to get to the comments today. The internet was down at the Rogers Campus for a large part of the afternoon, and at the home office as well after I got back. As I write this, there are 163 comments waiting to be moderated, and I’ll get to most of them tonight when I get home from softball – earlier if we get rained out. There will be a softball update as well, for you die-hards.

Comments, as always, are encouraged.

Never Mind The Ballgame, Here’s The G.M.

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

12:37 AM Eastern

Another disappointing loss for the Blue Jays in Milwaukee.  For the fourth straight game they failed to get a hit before the 4th inning, though they did manage to pound out 10 safeties.  The double play ball came back to bite them, twice in the 9th inning.   Gregg Zaun made me look bad for hailing his defense by not closing up quickly enough on Corey Hart coming home in the 4th (though it would have been a REALLY tough play and he did hold onto the ball, at least), and then not looking Mike Cameron back to third later in the inning on Ben Sheets’ bunt, choosing instead to employ the cursory glance back, which didn’t work at all.

Zaun did show up offensively – he’s now homered in his last three starts, and he drove in three runs all told on a 2-for-3 day.

Poor Shaun Marcum, he’s now given up a total of eight runs over his last 27 innings (a nifty ERA of 2.67) and is 0-1 over the four starts.

And with the loss, the Jays have now dropped six series in a row.

But onto the good stuff.  J.P. Ricciardi once again showed up for his weekly gabfest with the fans, which he always does, win or lose, and the frustration in his voice was palpable.  He held nothing back, taking full responsibility for the failures of the team that he built and expressing his surprise and great disappointment about the way things have gone over the first 73 games of the season.

He talked about how the lack of offense was completely unexpected, calling out Lyle Overbay (22 homers, 46 doubles, 92 RBI in 2006), Vernon Wells and Alex Rios specifically.  He mentioned that some analysts had picked the Jays to be a playoff team and that no one he talked to in baseball in Spring Training told him they thought the bats would be a problem.

He said that everything has fallen apart offensively for the Jays.  He can’t believe (nor can I) that his team is hitting 35 points below the league average with runners in scoring position.  When asked about the status of his “plan”, he said that we’re supposed to be in the payoff portion right now – that they’d been hopeful of being a playoff team the last few years and that this year was supposed to be the best team they’d had.  He did add that he feels the season is salvageable, but that there’s no big move in the offing.

A couple of quotes that piqued my interest, in case you can’t listen to the whole thing below:

-”No one is more disappointed than I am.  I take full responsibility.  We’re underperforming, no excuses, we should be playing better, and if this keeps up we have to have an open mind to doing some things differently.”

I’m not sure what that last part means.  Is it replacing the manager with an experienced, more independant type?  Moving away from trying to find guys who hit home runs and focusing on a more Angelsy type of offense? Trading an established player for a shot at a lightning-in-a-bottle kid?

And, of course, his throwing Adam Dunn right under the bus, then backing it over him a couple of times.  After mentioning Dunn’s poor career batting average and propensity to strike out, he went on to say that Dunn actually doesn’t like playing baseball, and doesn’t have a passion to play.  For you hockey-reference folks, think Alexandre Daigle.  I still love Dunn’s bat myself, make no mistake, but I’ve never met the guy and am willing to defer to someone who knows guys who know him well.   That may also be why the Jays may not be players for Erik Bedard.  Still, despite the fact that Dunn doesn’t like playing baseball, he’s awfully good at the hitting home runs part, which would make him a fine addition, I think.

J.P. also mentioned that Jeremy Accardo is at least three weeks away, and that he didn’t think that the injury was what prevented him from throwing the splitter, and that we might see Travis Snider at the major-league level by late 2009.  Ricciardi again answered the question about Adam Lind’s absence from the major league line-up, though he didn’t give a specific reason, other than he likes Wilkerson (who led the club in RBIs in May) and that the fans want Lind because they haven’t seen him and therefore he’s the next big thing, and the fans always want the next big thing.

It’s worth a listen, and it’s in the hot audio section of the site, but you can also hear it here:

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Comments are encouraged, as always.  The 24/7 JaysTalk is slowly killing me, but I’ll try to get to them between dropping The Billie off at school and hitting the chiro to prep for post-Jays softball before the game tomorrow afternoon.

12:00 AM Eastern

This baseball thing is so much easier when you actually have people who can hit the ball out of the park on a regular basis.  The Milwaukee Brewers showed the Blue Jays how it’s done, getting only seven hits, but having five of them clear the Miller Park fences, and most of them by whole lot.  Heck, even Craig Counsell got in on the act!

For the third straight game, the Blue Jays’ flaccid, embarrassing offense could muster only one hit or fewer through the first four innings.  This time, though, they got their second in the fifth – they didn’t get their second hit Sunday until the 7th, Saturday until the 8th.  It’s incredibly frustrating when the opposition scores three and you feel as though the game is over.  But it’s even more frustrating because it’s true.  In games in which the Blue Jays have trailed by three runs at any point this season, they’re 1-21.  These aren’t exactly the comeback kids.

And yes, there’s a difference between having the opposition score three and having the Blue Jays fall behind by three.  There’s just not nearly as much of a difference with this club as there should be.

As I mentioned on The JaysTalk tonight, the feeling is almost the same as it was in mid-May, when I believed that the Jays were a well-placed loss away from having John Gibbons walk the plank.  I thought that if they had been shut out in that final game in Cleveland on May 12th, after they’d scored a grand total of one run in the first three games of the series, that Gibby wouldn’t be on the plane to Minnesota.  Through no fault of his own – I don’t think he should be the scapegoat for this.  I don’t think there should be a scapegoat at all.  This is an offense-wide failure.

The Jays won that game, despite not scoring in the first nine innings, then went to Minnesota and swept the Twins and it was the beginning of a 14-4 run.  Since then, they’re 4-11. 

Is Gibby in real danger at this moment?  As completely unfair as it is, the answer is yes.

I don’t believe that someone should lose his job if it’s not warranted, just to “shake things up” or “because it can’t hurt” or “to let the players know we’re serious”.  I don’t believe that firing John Gibbons will make these hitters all of a sudden be able to take advantage of their opportunities offensively, nor do I believe it’ll make the pitchers better (like that’s possible).  I haven’t agreed with every move that Gibby has made, obviously (just read the archives), but I certainly don’t believe there’s something he’s lacking that’s even partially responsible for the fact that his hitters turn from big-leaguers into the Lansing Lugnuts with runners in scoring position.  And that’s probably an insult to the Lansing Lugnuts.

So what to do now, other than wait?  My initial response is move Alex Rios out of the leadoff spot, because it feels as though he’s been awful for months.  For the month of June, after the 0-for-4 tonight, he’s hitting .288/.345/.365, so he certainly hasn’t been awful.  But not leadoff-worthy.  You know who has been?  Eckstein.  If you want to ride the hot bat, why not move the .333/.391/.385 in June back up top for now?

Look at this – the Jays have actually driven me to consider small sample sizes and act as though they mean something!!!!!!

But the top of the line-up isn’t the issue.  Until these last three games, they haven’t had any problems with getting people on base.  They came into tonight in a virtual tie for 4th in the league in OBP with Detroit.  They can’t cash them.  And it continues to be mind-bottling.  You can say “they are what they are” all you want, but it’s just not true.  72 games of “Krap with a capital K” doesn’t erase years and years (in a lot of cases) of average to better than average offense.  This is why I don’t believe that things can possibly continue like this.  I didn’t believe it six weeks ago, and the fact that six weeks have passed (three of them pretty good) doesn’t change that.

So please don’t write into the comments section and ask me if NOW I think the season is over.  It’s just as ridiculous now as it was in April.

Here’s tonight edition of The JaysTalk:

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Comments are encouraged, as always – The 24/7 JaysTalk is afoot!

Happy Father’s Day

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

6:05 PM Eastern

To commemorate the day, I’m going to spend as much time as I can with my kids. So no bloggage today, except to remind you to listen to The Blue Jays This Week at 7:05 PM Eastern, featuring Fathers Past, Present and Future with Brian Butterfield, David Eckstein and John McDonald.

I may weigh in tomorrow with something about the A.J. Burnett crapstorm that will hit thanks to his comments, which I will tell you now I think will be way overblown.

Here’s The JaysTalk:

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Comments are encouraged, as always, but I won’t be touching them until Monday.

Reed It And Weep

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

10:30 PM Eastern – UPDATE – The JaysTalk is posted.

6:10 PM Eastern

So Reed Johnson was the hero, David Eckstein was the goat, the game was over in the second inning and Vernon Wells may have hurt his wrist again.

It’s a shame, because everybody went into this one thinking that with Roy Halladay on the mound, the Jays would only have to scratch out a run or two, and we’d be in for another great, close game like we saw on Friday night. Obviously it didn’t work out that way.

The inclination is to throw David Eckstein under the bus for being unable to come up with the ground ball by Ronny Cedeno in the second inning. It wasn’t a routine play, but it was a very makeable one, and it should have led to the third out and everybody going happily into the dugout in a 0-0 game. Instead, Eck booted it, couldn’t recover even though he had a second chance to barehand and still make a play, a run scored and the inning continued.

Reed followed with a three-run shot into the Jays’ pen, and that was that. It was Eckstein’s fault that Johnson had the opportunity to bat in that inning, but it wasn’t Eckstein’s fault that the down and in sinker by Halladay only went down. We have seen Halladay pick up his defenders time and again, and he couldn’t this time. It happens, but it’s not all on Eckstein. A lot of it is on Eckstein, sure, and on John Gibbons for deciding to start him. I’ve always been a proponent of Halladay having John McDonald as his personal shortstop. The need for offense is usually lessened when Halladay pitches, and since he’s such a severe ground ball guy, the need for that up-the-middle defense increases – especially if you don’t have Aaron Hill playing second.

Surrounded by Hill and Scott Rolen, Eckstein goes from being OK at shortstop to being fine. Without one or the other, his OK-ness is more apparent.

We had a good, long JaysTalk after the game, and some callers left me shaking my head, but hey, I even got to do a research project during the game, showing that Shannon Stewart, over the course of his career, is a better hitter with runners in scoring position than Reed Johnson. In addition to being a better overall hitter, of course. I knew the Reed/Stewart saga would find new life this weekend, and as I said before the series started, I expected Reed to get at least one big hit or make one huge defensive play (although I think I said one per game). It still doesn’t make the decision to keep Stewart the incorrect one.

I’d love to say that this is the last time I’ll write or say this, but there was every reason to believe that Reed would have exactly the kind of season he’s having with the Cubs right now (with the exception of the RBIs, for only three of which he’s solely responsible). He’s killing lefties (.313/.415/.448) and he’s been terrible against righties (.232/.291/.303). There was NO reason to believe that Shannon Stewart would be having as bad a year as he’s having. None whatsoever, no matter what some of you may say about him being on the decline (not true – hit .290 last year, .293 the year before) or over the hill (equally untrue – he’s 34). All you can do is act on the information that you have, and unfortunately that doesn’t include what players will do over the next three months.

Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:

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The Jays have a chance to take the series against the team with baseball’s best record, but they’re going to have to beat Theodore Roosevelt Lilly in order to do it.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, so the blog will be very, very short, but make sure to tune in to the Fan590 at noon – we’ll do a pre-pre-game Father’s DaysTalk, and then hook up with the rest of the country at 12:30. And if you feel like dropping by the hotbox outside Gate 6A, you’re more than welcome to come say hi.

Comments are encouraged, and chances are I’ll be able to get to a bunch of them tonight.

12:20 AM Eastern

Who knew?

It’s amazing that tonight, in the 69th game of the season for your Toronto Blue Jays, they got back-to-back homers for the first time all season.  Matt Stairs smoked one deep into the 200 level in right field, a no-doubter if there ever was one, and Scott Rolen followed with a lots-of-doubter down the left field line that hit the concrete abutment beside the Jays’ pen.  340 feet of huge.
The last time two Blue Jays hit home runs in consecutive at-bats was last September, when Gregg Zaun and Russ Adams did it against the Orioles.  Let that thought settle for a second, because it’s astonishing.

Anyway, it was enough for A.J. Burnett and the bullpen as the Jays scratched out a one-run win (they can, in fact, do that) with some help from second base umpire Jeff Nelson.

Brian Wolfe came in with two on and nobody out in the 6th and gave up a shot off the middle to Jim Edmonds.  Nelson couldn’t get out of the way fast enough, and it hit him, which means dead ball, everybody gets one base.  Had Nelson been able to avoid the hurtling sphere, one run would almost definitely have scored, and who knows if the Cubbies would have been able to cash a second.  Instead, it was bases loaded, nobody out, and the best-hitting team in all of baseball could only score one run.  Granted, that’s one more than it feels as though the Jays have been able to score most of the time, but it was only one nonetheless.

Jesse Carlson did a great job, striking out the only hitter he faced (Kosuke Fukudome) to end the 7th.  Snakeface stranded a leadoff single in his only inning, and B.J. Ryan worked a hitless ninth, though he did make things interesting with a two-out walk to Derrek Lee before getting Aramis Ramirez, who has never hacked at a ball with less than 150% man-strength, to pop up foul to The Captain for the win.

Ryan has had a rough time lately, and has been raked over the coals by plenty of fans and analysts, but the TRUTH is the over his last four outings, he’s given up exactly one run.  He had a really rough week, blowing those games to the Yankees and Angels, and as a result his June numbers are awful.  For those two outings alone, his ERA was 27.00, which kind of colours everything else.  But over his last four outings, totalling 3 2/3 innings, he’s allowed a grand total of one run.  So everybody off the ledge, please.

I didn’t think A.J. Burnett pitched all that well, but for the 10th time in 14 starts he allowed three runs or fewer.  He struggled with his control, walking four, but used that great curveball to massive effect in recording seven strikeouts even though he only got 15 people out.  Not his most shining moment, to be sure, but good enough.  I was stunned when the first two callers to The JaysTalk said that they thought he’d been great.  Usually after an outing like this, the “.500 pitcher” people come out to say that he can’t go deep into games or some such.  Here’s tonight’s show for you:

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Lastly, to the return of Reed Johnson.  I expected nothing less than the massive outpouring of love and admiration that he received when he stepped up to pinch-hit in the 9th.  The crowd was on its feet even before he was announced, and the ovation was so huge that he had to step out of the batters’ box.  He even gave the tiniest little wave before he stepped back in.  I’m sure he was overwhelmed.  What I loved was that the crowd applauded loudly after he grounded out to second on the first pitch.  That’s the way you do it – show your ex-fave some appreciation, but also appreciate it when he gets out, because it’s helping your team win a game.

I wonder how B.J. Ryan felt about that ovation, though, as he got set to try to get Reed out.  He didn’t talk to the media tonight, so we’ll have to wait to get an answer.  I’m not going to hold my breath.

Comments are encouraged, but with the extra pre-game show on the weekend now it’s going to be very tough to answer them before the game.  And in advance, there will be no Father’s Day bloggage other than a line or two and a posting of that day’s edition of The JaysTalk.

Humbled And Appreciative

Friday, June 13th, 2008

1:45 AM Eastern

I just finished going through the last of the 289 comments (so far) to yesterday’s post, and there are three reasons I’m posting this now.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1 – To break it up a bit, that’s a lot of comments for anyone who is interested to read;

2 – To give you a softball update, since I played tonight and I know how much some of you hang on these things; and

3 – To thank you.

I never expected the kind of outpouring of support that I got, I’d say the comments were about 85-90% favourable and hey, even those of you who can’t stand me still took the time to comment, and take the time to listen.  Most of the critics even had the courage of their convictions to actually sign their names.

I didn’t write that last post to fish for compliments, nor did I write it to attack Mike Toth, but this blog isn’t just about the Blue Jays and baseball, it’s also to give you a greater glimpse of who I am off-mic, and it’s heartening to see how many of you actually get me.  That’s what we’re going for here.

So thank you again, very sincerely, I appreciate the time you take to read this and to comment, and that’s why I make sure to read every comment and reply to as many as I can.  I’m probably going to pull back on weekends so that I can spend some more time with my kids, but I won’t pull back that much.  I’m still going to get riled up about grammar and spelling, and for those of you who don’t think that that stuff is important, I’m sorry.  I’m not going to help contribute to the downfall of the English language, though.  I’m a teacher’s kid, I can’t help it.

As for the softball update, we won 21-7, and thanks to the magic of Rub A535,  I only hurt my back a little bit.  Same as two weeks ago, going up the middle to grab a bouncer.  This time, though, there was a runner on first and the grounder kicked just to the first-base side of second, so I had to go down and get it, then twist back to step on second.  It wasn’t hit hard enough to turn two, unfortunately.  At the plate, I went 5-for-5.  All singles, though one could have been a double if I wasn’t babying the back.

Friday evening I begin to stalk Reed Johnson for an appearance on TBJTW.

Comments, as always, are encouraged and definitely much appreciated!

Take On Me

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

6:30 PM Eastern

I was going to write a post on another very disappointing loss for Jays’ fans, watching Felix Hernandez pick apart a team that’s been back in its offensive struggles for most of this homestand and watching the hitters waste another fantastic outing by Shaun Marcum, but then I turned on the radio on my way home.

I heard callers ripping me, which is cowardly but fine, I guess, but I heard Mike Toth encouraging them, which, well…………. At least Toth let me come on to defend myself at the end of the show, and I think I answered all his concerns.

I’m a big boy, and I can handle slings and arrows just fine. In fact, I get to go on the radio with open phones for about an hour every day from the beginning of April to the end of October. If anyone has a complaint, a criticism, a suggestion, heck, an insult, any and all are welcome. But seriously, complaining to Toth about me? If you want John Gibbons fired, then call in to Toth and tell him you want Gibbons fired, he’ll agree with you. If you think the Jays should trade Marco Scutaro and Jesse Litsch for Jason Bay, or Vernon Wells for Tike Redman, go ahead and call Toth, and I’m sure he’ll be all for it. But to rip me when I’m not around to answer? Come on, people, you can do better than that.

The one thing that irks me the most though (other than one broadcaster encouraging criticism of another) is the whole “condescending” thing. People seem to think that I’m condescending, one going so far as to even comment that the way I say “hello” to callers is condescending. I don’t think I am, and I definitely don’t mean to be. But if a caller says something stupid, I’m going to tell that caller that he said something stupid. If a caller says something that’s factually incorrect, I’ll supply the correct information. I’d rather that from a radio host than to have a caller say “Alex Rios hits into a double play every time he comes to the plate” and have the host say “you’re right, he does”. So that’s not going to change.

I know this thing is supposed to be about baseball, but after two segments of getting attacked on the radio, sometimes a little defense is needed.

Toth mentioned a few times that I always say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Aside from the fact that I rarely say that, the meaning holds. I said a few times on The JaysTalk today that it’s not summer yet, and that’s a pretty significant thing. The Jays are 34-34 right now. Disappointing, to be sure. Unquestionably so.

At the close of business one year ago today, the Yankees were 30-31, the Phillies were 33-31, the Cubs were 28-34 and the Rockies were 31-32. They all made the playoffs, and all but the Yankees had combined for a grand total of one playoff appearance over the last 9 seasons.

The Tigers were 36-26. the Mariners were 34-26, the A’s were 34-28, the Braves and Brewers were both 34-29 and the Dodgers were 36-28. None of them made the playoffs.

It’s a long season. It’s exceedingly early. That’s not going to change just because the Jays keep finding horribly frustrating ways to lose but somehow still remain at .500

Toth also asked me when the time is to press the panic button, which he has asked before, and I’ve always answered “never”. As I said to him today on the air, panicking is the stupidest thing that you can do, it leads to rash, irrational and regrettable decision-making, and is the sort of thing that does cost people their jobs.

A lot of people also seem to want the Jays to sell low on all the hitters, which is also self-defeating.

So, all in all, today was a pretty frustrating one, both on the field and off. And sometimes you guys aren’t the only ones who need to vent.

Here’s today’s The JaysTalk:

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Comments are encouraged, as always, and feel free to a-ha it up!

Dustin McWow, man

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

12:22 AM Eastern

Simply a tremendous  performance by the Jays’ starter tonight, he had the Mariners eating out of his hand in a complete-game five-hitter.  McGowan walked two and struck out seven, and was really only in trouble twice.  Wonder if it’s the new specs kicking in?

In the 5th, after Jeremy Reed  led off with a homer to tie the game at one, a single and double play followed, but then Yuniesky Betancourt singled and McGowan issued his first walk of the game, to Ichiro Suzuki.  Jose Vidro hit a ball to deep right-centre, but Alex Rios ran it down at the warning track.

In the 6th, Raul Ibanez led off with a double that bounced into the seats in left, and moved to third on a comebacker.  McGowan steeled himself, struck out Jose Lopez for a third time, then after walking Reed, got Richie Sexson to hit a routine fly to right.  That Reed walk would be the last time the Mariners had a baserunner.  McGowan had thrown 116 pitches through eight innings, and I was stunned to see no action in the Jays’ pen in the bottom of the 8th.  Scott Downs got up in the 9th in case McGowan got into trouble, but his final inning was his most efficient – needing only nine pitches.  In a season of great pitching performances, this one was near the top.  The game had great pace, taking just 2:02 to play.  Nice, tight, crisp, well-pitched.  What a ballgame should be.

The Jays hit two homers, which is cool and different for them.  It was the first time in 10 games that that had happened, and the first time since May 26th that two different Jays went deep in the same game.  Vernon Wells continues to astonish.  He’s now 7-for-16 since coming back from a broken wrist 2-4 weeks early, and is hitting .438/.412/.875 over that teeny tiny sample size.

Brad Wilkerson hit the other homer, against the team that released him just over a month ago, and his 2-for-3 makes him a .350/.438/.500 hitter over his last 13 games.

Carlos Silva did the Jays a huge favour, aside from allowing the two homers among his nine hits over seven innings.  In 6th, Scott Rolen hit a ground single to right with Matt Stairs on second and one out.  Marty Pevey waved in Stairs, and  Jeremy Reed made a good throw that appeared to have a very good chance of nailing Stairs, but Silva cut it off just in front of the plate.  What he was doing there we may never know – he may not have had the energy to run all the way behind home plate, where he was supposed to back up the throw – but he cut the ball off less than 10 feet before it was set to arrive, making the potential play at the plate moot and helping the Jays to an insurance run. M’s Catcher Jamie Burke doffed his mask and just stood there staring at Silva for a good 30 seconds after the play concluded.

With the series finale a day game, J.P. Ricciardi came on the post-game to celebrate his 24th Anniversary (our best to him and his lovely wife Diane).  Among the topics he touched on:

-The Jays will be “in the race” if they’re within five games of a playoff spot on Sept. 1st

-He’s more than willing to do something at the trade deadline, but the team has to put itself in a position (in the standings) for him to do it

-He wondered if the book on the Jays is that they’re less aggressive in RBI situations and that’s why those first-pitch cookies seem to be coming, and that the hitters are going to have to change their ways

-He thinks maybe climate change has to do with the drop-off in offense.  Well, he thinks that fewer players are juicing, but he didn’t come out and say it, you have to read between the lines, and

-He defended the decision to keep Adam Lind in Syracuse.

It’s all here for your listening pleasure:

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Before I go, some injury updates:

-Shannon Stewart has a Grade II sprain of his right ankle.  We’re told he’ll be out at least three weeks, but I’m guessing his time on the shelf will be double that.

-Aaron Hill has been symptom-free (concussion) for two days.  If that continues over the next five days, he can go out on a rehab assignment.

-Gregg Zaun will join the Syracuse Chiefs to DH Wednesday and catch Thursday, and if all goes well, he’ll be activated for the Cubs series that starts Friday.

-Jeremy Accardo pitched a shutout inning for Dunedin, allowing a hit – no walks, no Ks.

Now you’re all caught up.  Remember, it’s a 12:30 start Wednesday!  Comments are encouraged, as always, and since I don’t have the extra pre-gameness in the hotbox, I’ll probably be able to answer most before the game.

How Often Can They Do This?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

12:40 AM Eastern

Amazing.  Simply amazing.  The worst team in the majors comes in, with a starting pitcher who has allowed a .322 opponents’ batting average and 93 baserunners in 59 innings, and the Jays are stifled.  And on Shavuot, no less.

The Mariners don’t get a hit off the Jays’ bullpen, with Jesse Litsch having checked out after six, and they still win in extras.

Wladimir Balentien drops a Vernon Wells line drive leading off the 10th, J.J. Putz throws a wild pitch then gives up a hit and two walks, and the Jays can’t push a run across.

That was brutal, and Lyle Overbay (who grounded into a 3-2-3 double play with the sacks juiced and none out in the 10th) confirmed as much after the game when he said that the Jays simply cannot lose these types of games.  It’s quite true, but they’ve been doing it all year.

They’re 33 up and 33 down with 96 left, and most of the losses have been of the heartbreaking variety.  Over half their games have been decided by two runs or less, and they’re now 14-21 in them; 4-13 in games decided in the last at-bat.

It’s ridiculous.

I could have understood a loss tonight if, say, Litsch had blown up, gotten raked all over the yard by the Mariners.  After all, Seattle fired its hitting coach before the game, and they even had a team meeting!  But that’s not what happened.  Two batters in, thanks to an Ichiro Suzuki single and a Jose Vidro bomb, the M’s had a 2-0 lead, but they got out 28 times after that without scoring again.

Seattle committed three errors in the game, walked seven Jays, had a wild pitch and a passed ball, and still only two runs scored.  They even brought in Miguel Batista in relief in the 7th, that’s how badly they wanted to give this game away!  They did get away with a balk in the 9th inning, though.

The only thing I would have done differently were I John Gibbons was that I would have squeezed with Brad Wilkerson in the 10th.  First and third, none out, unless Wilkerson pops it up the worst you do is lose an out and 90 feet so long as he gets the bunt down.  You’re playing for one run, but you at least ensure that you get to continue playing beyond the 10th inning.  Instead, Wilkerson walked and Overbay hit into the DP.  But I don’t blame Gibby for this, as I haven’t blamed him for any of the 33 losses.  The hitters didn’t execute.  Jason Frasor didn’t, either, but  how long can you reasonably expect your pitching staff to shut another team out?  As I said, they spotted Seattle two runs then shut them out for 9 1/3 innings.  That ought to be enough.

Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk for your listening pleasure:

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A programming note!  Because of the day game on Wednesday, J.P. Ricciardi will be appearing on the show tomorrow night.  That’s right, it’ll be the critically-acclaimed “Wednesdays with J.P.; The Tuesday Edition.”  Be sure not to miss it.

Comments are encouraged, especially the irrational, knee-jerk variety!  Let’s keep The JaysTalk going 24/7.

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