Archive for August, 2008
Sunday, August 31st, 2008
10:10 PM Eastern
In relative terms, that is. With today’s win in the last game the Jays will ever play at The House That Ruth Built (but didn’t renovate), the Jays wind up 100-124 at The Stadium, which is good for a .446 winning percentage. In the overall, that’s not good. Put in 162-game terms, that’s a 72-90 record (or, the high-water mark for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays prior to this season), but no American League team has ever done better – or ever will.
That’s right, kids, your Toronto Blue Jays have the best record ever in the history of anything as A.L. visitors to Yankee Stadium. The Baltimore Orioles can argue, because they’re 190-238 (.444) with three games remaining, and if they sweep those three games, their winning percentage at Yankee Stadium will be .448, but we’re talking FRANCHISE history, and that’s where the O’s lose big. The Orioles spent 53 seasons as the St. Louis Browns, and the Brownies sucked. In the overall, but especially at Yankee Stadium, where they went 92-236 for a phenomenal .280 winning percentage (in 162-game terms, that’s a 45-117 season). That mark drags the O’s down quite a bit.
It’s not much, but it’s something. I’ll say it again – no American League franchise has ever been as successful as a visitor to Yankee Stadium as your Toronto Blue Jays. Ever. Nor will any franchise ever be.
It was the 53rd and final game that Cito Gaston managed at The Stadium, and he came in dead even. The win left him 27-26 lifetime there, which is nice. Yes, Gaston managed the Jays from 1989-1993, when the Blue Jays were very good and the Yankees weren’t, but he also managed the Jays from 1994-1997, when the reverse held.
As far as today’s game went – thank you very much to Xavier Nady, who butchered a Rod Barajas fly ball with two on and one out in the first (don’t get me started on that one out), basically handing the Jays a 3-0 lead, and Roy Halladay didn’t need any more than that. Halladay went seven strong innings, solo homers by Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi the only blemishes, and he moved into sole possession of the team wins lead with his 17th. He’s really, really good.
Brandon League got the side in order in the 9th – it wasn’t a save situation, so no need to go back to B.J. Ryan after yesterday’s white-knuckler – and don’t look now, but League has retired nine straight hitters following last Sunday’s game-winning extra-inning home run by Jed Lowrie.
Scott Rolen went deep, which was terrific, but I’d still like to see him do something productive with a pitch on the outside half of the plate. Which is not to say that he hasn’t shown he can or can’t yet – he’s only had seven plate appearances since being activated off the disabled list on Tuesday.
In his last game as a Blue Jay, David Eckstein went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, an RBI and a blood-curdling first-inning sac bunt. Not in execution, but in the very idea. Eckstein got a really rough ride here once Cito Gaston took over. As I’ve said many times, I don’t understand the infatuation with Marco Scutaro to the extent that Eckstein, as Mike Tyson would say, basically faded into Bolivia. If it were up to me, Eckstein would have played a lot of second and Joe Inglett a lot of third while Rolen was mending, with John McDonald in the middle. But Cito loves Scutaro, and had no use for Eckstein, so Eck was traded to the Diamondbacks for 23 year-old pitcher Chad Beck.
To those who say Eck was a disappointment as a Jay, it’s just not true. I mean, maybe you were disappointed by his performance, but he hit .277/.354/.358. His career numbers going into this season were .286/.351/.362. That’s bang on. Eck did EXACTLY what was expected from him at the plate. Defensively? He’s not a good shortstop, but nobody ever claimed that he was. He performed to expectations in the field as well. Personality-wise? He and John McDonald could both easily lay claim to being the nicest guy in the world (professional athlete division). I’ll miss him, and wish him luck. It was a good move, because obviously the Jays had no use for him and they got an arm back.
What’s the story on Chad Beck? He’s a 23 year-old righty who tops out at about 94 with a good slider. He’s 6’4″, 251 – a big boy -and he was originally drafted by the Jays out of high school in the 43rd round in 2004 but went to college instead. The D-Backs took him the next year in the 14th. At two levels of A-ball this year, Beck has allowed 127 baserunners in 112 2/3 innings (1.13 WHIP) with 108 strikeouts. In the month of August, he’s gone 3-1, 2.39 in six starts, having allowed 30 baserunners in 37 2/3 innings (.080 WHIP) with 38 strikeouts.
The Jays see him as a guy who has a chance to be a pretty good major-league reliever. He’s going to join the Dunedin Blue Jays for their playoff run in the Florida State League.
The Blue Jays finished August 16-12, their second straight winning month and third overall, and after a Labour Day off, open up September on Tuesday home to the Twins, against whom they’re 3-0 this season. They swept them up in Minny back in May right after the ugly Indians series in which they scored a total of one run over the first 36 innings. Tuesday morning, I’ll be taking The Billie to school for her first day of Grade 2 (sniff).
We might find out about the September call-ups before that game, since the minor league regular seasons end on Monday and neither the Fisher Cats nor the Chiefs will be in the playoffs. If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll see Shaun Marcum (after his Monday start), Curtis Thigpen, Brian Wolfe, Kevin Mench and maybe Buck Coats. J.P. Ricciardi said on Wednesday that there wouldn’t be any surprises in the September call-ups (Travis Snider doesn’t count, he was called up August 29th), so I’m thinking there won’t be a Russ Adams sighting, but you never know.
Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Reasonable, rational comments are always welcome!
Saturday, August 30th, 2008
11:35 PM Eastern
I mean, he’s not great or anything, and I’m still not sure how much value he adds to the club in an overall sense, but you didn’t think he was going to go hitless the rest of the season, did you? I think some of you actually did.
Bautista came through with a pair of pretty big hits today, driving in a couple of runs, in helping the Jays get up off the mat and come back to win after trailing 6-2, though the biggest play of the game was Robinson Cano’s horrible backhand flip to Derek Jeter on Lyle Overbay’s grounder in the 7th. What should have been an easy double play instead opened the floodgates to the three-run inning that got the Jays back in the game, and now they’ll have Roy Halladay going in an attempt to take the series Sunday and get back to within two games of the third-place Yankees in the last game the Jays will ever play at The House That Ruth Built.
Brandon League was incredible, and seems again to have turned the corner to the point where he’s going to be a dominant reliever for a long time, Scott Downs was Scott Downs, and B.J. Ryan had some fans gnawing their fingers to the bone, but got the save thanks mostly to a tremendous defensive play by Bautista. With runners at first and second and none out in the 9th, Alex Rodriguez smashed a shot to Bautista’s right, and Jose picked it beautifully right off his right hip. The hard work done, he hustled to third for a force out, then threw to first to just (probably) nip Rodriguez coming down the line.
The question I have is, given all of Cito’s defensive machinations going into the 9th, what was Bautista still doing out there? Gaston replaced Gregg Zaun behind the plate, David Eckstein at short and Adam Lind in left to up the D – why wouldn’t he insert the game’s best defensive third baseman? Just what is the deal with Scott Rolen, anyway? He was activated off the D.L. on Tuesday, but has sat and watched four of the five games since he’s been active. After tomorrow, at least, he won’t be taking up a roster spot if he’s not ready to go – but if he’s not ready to go, why is he taking up a roster spot?
Rough day for Travis Snider. There are going to be a few of those, but they’re part of the process. This, too, shall pass, and Snider is going to be a big part of things down the road.
Here’s today’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Remember, at 7:05 PM Eastern tomorrow, long after The JaysTalk is done, it’ll be the final August edition of The Blue Jays This Week. We’ll have Yankees bench coach Rob Thompson (the other one), who grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, Blue Jays alum Juan Guzman, and we’ll hear from the young phenom Snider, as well.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Saturday, August 30th, 2008
12:45 AM Eastern
To quote the great Roger Daltrey: “There’s nothing more needs to be said.” But in my quest to someday be paid by the word, I will say something anyway.
The Blue Jays’ offense has gone back to its dormant state of a couple of weeks ago, when they managed to crank out four whole runs in a three-game series against Cleveland. The difference is that this time around, they’ve only scored THREE runs in three games, and they’ve wasted far better pitching performances- specifically Wednesday night’s by David Purcey and tonight’s effort by hard-luck loser A.J. Burnett. If only A.J. were more than a .500 pitcher, then he’d have figured out a way to get the Jays to score a couple more runs.
When a team scores one stinking run, it’s tough to pick apart a game and see where things could have gone differently, but one thing does stand out. John McDonald had started each of the last 23 games at shortstop. Tonight, Scott Rolen was back in the line-up at third, but instead of taking a seat on the bench, Marco Scutaro just moved over a few feet and sent Johnny Mac to the pine. I can understand the decision from a line-up point of view – after all, how could you possibly take the second-lowest OPS on the team out of the two-hole and hope to compete? – but it struck me as odd as soon as I saw the line-up.
Lo and behold, Scutaro couldn’t handle a tough throw from Rod Barajas on a Johnny Damon stolen base attempt in the 4th. Damon was safe, scored on a one-out double and a sac fly plated the other Yankee run later in the inning. If McDonald is at short, odds are VERY high that he holds onto that ball and the Yanks don’t score in the inning. If that happens (different space-time continuum, I understand), then we’re probably still going right now, since Scoot did drive in the Jays’ only run. But as I explained on The JaysTalk, you can count on McDonald’s defense, you can’t count on Scutaro’s offense.
Let’s talk Travis Snider. The 20 year-old made his major-league debut a good, but not great one. That said, 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored every night gets Snider into Cooperstown. The double was a thing of beauty. Powdered, it was, over Johnny Damon’s head and off the warning track just to the left of dead-centre, bouncing over the fence. He played a fine left field, not really being tested, but he recovered nicely after almost overrunning Jason Giambi’s foul fly in the 4th, and made a nice throw (especially given his position when he caught the ball). I’m looking forward to seeing more of his defense.
In the 8th inning, though, Snider found out just how tough big-league pitchers can be. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Snider stood in against Edwar Ramirez. He got ahead 2-0 and then took a VERY hittable fastball middle-in for strike one. It was a pitch that, next year, Snider puts in the seats. I really think that he out-thought himself on that pitch, surmising that a big-league pitcher wouldn’t serve up a meatball 2-0 just to get back in a count. The next pitch was a change and Snider, looking for another fastball, missed it. The next one was another fastball right over the outside black for strike three called – a pretty pitch that sent the rookie walking back to the dugout. That was the “Welcome to the Big Leagues” moment for Snider. There’s no reason to believe he won’t learn from the experience.
I want to try to clear up what seems to be some blogospheric confusion about the early call-up of Snider and options and arbitration and the like. Calling up Snider now doesn’t cost the Jays an option year. They’ll use an option next season if he doesn’t make the team or if he’s sent down at any time next year. That’ll be his first option, and he’ll have two option years left. So even with calling him up now, if Snider scuffles in the bigs and rides the Syracuse shuttle for a while, he still won’t be out of options until the end of Spring Training, 2012. I highly doubt his status will be of concern then.
As for arbitration, he’ll spend 30 days on the roster this year. If he makes the team next year and stays in the big leagues for good, he’ll be eligible for arbitration after the 2011 season, and eligible for free agency after 2014. If he spends just over a month in the minors next season, they can push his free agency to 2015, but he’d still be arbitration-eligible after 2011 as a Super 2. In order to push back his first shot at arbitration to 2012, Snider would likely have to stay in the minors until just before the all-star break next season. But given how the Jays seem to like to lock up their young talent (see Rios, Hill), Snider arb-eligibility shouldn’t be that much of a concern.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
It appears as though Matt Stairs is about to be traded to the Phillies for lefty Fabio Castro, and that David Eckstein is about to be traded to the Angels. Don’t expect a massive return for Eckstein, either – or for McDonald or Scutaro if the deal goes that way. You’d hope, though, that they’d get back at least a Robinzon Diaz equivalent if they trade Scoot, since Jose Bautista is here to do basically what he does.
Castro is a young lefty with control issues who has a chance to be good, which is the kind of player you look for in this sort of deal. He has a career minor-league WHIP of 1.29, which is nice, and hey, over his major-league career lefties are hitting .070/.212/.070 against him (small sample size warning – 53 PA!) which is also nice. It appears as though he has an option left for next year, but I’m not sure (depends on whether he was DL’d or optioned out in his Rule 5 year, my money’s on the DL). It’ll be fun to take a look at him in September, if he’s the guy who comes over – see if he can throw strikes and stuff.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Thursday, August 28th, 2008
11:58 PM Eastern - UPDATE – The Snider Era Begins!
After the game, the Jays designated Matt Stairs for assignment and purchased the contract of Travis Snider from Syracuse. Stairs will be traded in the next couple of days, my guess is to the Dodgers, and Snider steps in for his first taste of the big-league life.
It’s interesting that J.P. said just last night that Snider wasn’t going to be a September call-up, and I guess it’s true, he’ll make his debut on August 29th, but it’s still a great piece of the future for the Jays and their fans to get a look at. As I said back in July, if they’re not going anywhere anyway, they might as well see what the kid can do. And as I reiterated tonight on the very The JaysTalk that you can hear below, I’d love to see Snider up. And now I get my chance, and so does everybody else. I don’t know if he’ll DH or play left, but I’m really looking forward to seeing him play for a month. The 20 year-old will make his major-league debut in the last series the Jays will ever play at Yankee Stadium. And he might even get to do it against Carl Pavano!!!!!!
As for Stairs, I wish him luck wherever he winds up. He’s a terrific guy, fantastic in the clubhouse and the Jays will miss him. The future, however, is now.
11:32 PM Eastern
Please, somebody, tell me what happened to Gene Tenace and why he has been replaced by Gary Denbo for the last two games. I mean, since Denbo was everything that was wrong with the Jays’ offense for the first half of the season, he’s got to be back to oversee these last two games in which the Jays have managed a grand total of two runs while going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, right?
Whatever happened that brought him back, here’s hoping that he didn’t get on the plane to New York after the game, so we can see more of the team that’s been 12th in the league in OPS since the all-star break. Wait a minute…….I thought the hitting was fixed under the new regime. The OPS is up – .720 pre-break and .749 post – but it’s still pretty dismal.
We had a caller on The JaysTalk tonight who pointed out that it was sad that four of the Jays’ top six home run hitters have fewer than 350 at-bats, but I didn’t think that was as sad as the fact that not a single Blue Jay has hit as many as 15 home runs this season. Even post all-star break, after Cito and Tenace had had three weeks to try to implement their system, the Jays are 12th out of 14 A.L. teams in both home runs and total bases. The hitting still leaves quite a bit to be desired, as we saw in Tampa Bay.
The Jays had a legitimate chance to go into St. Petersburg and sweep away the first-place Rays – they limited them to just six runs in three games – but the hitting fell astoundingly flat. We can blame last night on The Matt Garza Magic (patent pending) , but what about tonight? The only thing that stands out about tonight was that in the 6th inning, when the Jays had runners on the corners and nobody out and Lyle Overbay at the plate, Overbay simply scorched a line drive up the middle. Right at a perfectly placed Jason Bartlett . Rod Barajas popped up on the next pitch and that was the rally right there.
I guess it should have been apparent that this wasn’t the Jays’ night right away. Eric Hinske may well have made the best catch of his life to rob Joe Inglett of a double down the left-field line leading off the ballgame. Not only did he chase the fly ball down at the line, but he dove, and as he reached the apex of his dive, caught the ball in the very tip of his glove just before he and the ball both hit the ground. It was an incredible catch, and the guy in whom no major-league team was confident enough to offer a guaranteed contract in the off-season continues to impress in a Rays uniform (Rays as adjective there – dig me!).
Jesse Litsch was fine. Unspectacular, but good enough to win. He’s going to give up home runs, and he gave up a pair of them tonight, but so long as he can do his best to make sure there’s no one on base when he does, he should be ok. As long as he’s backed by an offense that’s close to average, that is, and he wasn’t tonight.
We had a David Eckstein sighting! He came in to pinch-run for Barajas after The Captain doubled in the 3-2 run in the 8th. Eck might be on his way out – there are rumours that the Angels are getting more desperate to beef up the middle infield. I hope for his sake that he does get traded. I think it’s been terrible the way that the Jays have treated him since the regime change. There’s absolutely no reason that MVPco Scutaro should be getting so much more playing time than Eck.
I’m wondering where Scott Rolen was tonight. The Jays activated him off the disabled list before Tuesday’s game, even though Cito said Rolen wasn’t going to play that night or the next. Weird. But he wasn’t in the line-up tonight, either, which raises the other eyebrow. Hopefully, he’s ready to go in The Bronx Friday night, otherwise what the heck is he doing here?
And yes, Jose Bautista was allowed to hit for himself with the tying run at second and two out in the 8th, against a righty, with Matt Stairs, Gregg Zaun and Rolen all on the bench. The only thing I can think of, other than something was wrong with Stairs, is that Cito was thinking that if he sent Stairs up to hit for Bautista, he would have been intentionally walked to bring up John McDonald. So I’m guessing that Cito liked the Bautista/Balfour match-up better than Zaun/Balfour.
Here’s tonight’s The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Thursday, August 28th, 2008
12:55 AM Eastern
What a shame that David Purcey’s career night had to be ruined by the fact that his mound opponent was Superman. It’s too bad, because in all honesty, no one has the right to ever expect Purcey to be able to pitch better than that. He may yet someday, chances are he’s got a career shutout or six in him, but he was nearly flawless tonight.
Purcey threw a complete-game five-hitter, though his game was completed in eight innings. Of those five hits, one was a bunt single, one was a grounder to second that Jason Bartlett beat out and another was a grounder off the glove of Lyle Overbay that should have been scored an error. The Rays only hit eight balls out of the infield all night against Purcey, who didn’t walk a batter and struck out 11. Sheer and unadulterated brilliance, and for the second time in his last three starts it was painfully obvious why the Blue Jays have such high hopes for him.
But like I said, Superman was the issue. An alien being, known more commonly as Matthew Scott Garza, that routinely serves up pitches against which players wearing Toronto uniforms have, simply, no chance. Garza has made four starts against the Jays this season, and has been scored upon once. That’s not to say that over four starts he’s only had one in which the Jays have managed to score, though that’s true, too. It’s to say that over four starts the Blue Jays have managed a grand total of one bloody run.
It was a pretty run, coming on a one-out single by MVPco Scutaro in the 7th inning at Rogers Centre on May 7th, breaking up another one of those Shaun Marcum 0-0 games. Garza left after that inning down 1-0 and the Jays scored five off the bullpen in the 8th to wind up 6-2 winners. Since then, three starts and a bunch of zeroes. For the season, Garza is 3-1, 0.29 against the Jays in 31 innings. He’s allowed 19 hits and seven walks (0.84 WHIP) while striking out 18. This has long since gone past the stage of ridiculosity. The Jays have four games left against T-Bay this year, and Garza is scheduled to start the last of the four. Should be fun.
Where did tonight’s game turn? Well, the Jays had runners at first and second three times, though all three times the rally started with two out and nobody on. They never got a runner to third. Among the key plays resulting in the Jays being shut out: Lyle Overbay grounding into a hit-and-run double play in the 2nd, hitting the ball to the one and only spot from which the Rays could possibly turn two; Alex Rios swinging on a 3-0 pitch and grounding out weakly to end the third with two on; John McDonald being allowed to hit for himself and popping up to end the 7th with two on; and Adam Lind going way up and out of the strike zone and being unable to catch up to a Grant Balfour heater to end the 8th with two on.
The game ended with Justin Ruggiano apparently making a phenomenal play, picking a Rod Barajas blast off the top of the left-field wall to end the game. It’s a double if Ruggiano doesn’t make the play (and I’m not sure he didn’t trap it, I couldn’t tell from the replay), and that would likely have left Gregg Zaun (or Scott Rolen?) as the pinch-hitter with the chance to drive in the tying run. It was pretty much the exact same catch that Jason Bay made to rob Rios of extra bases and end the 10th inning on Sunday.
Despite the cynicism of the odd anti-J.P. commenter, Ricciardi showed up, as almost always, for his regular Wednesday night appearance. You can hear the entire show below, but as for some highlights:
-He’d love to have A.J. Burnett stay and will make his best effort to keep him, but was non-committal about making him an offer once he opts out.
-He claims not to be aware of the vultures circling, and said he plans to honour the final two years of his contract, but again stated that if he loses his job, he’s not going to kill himself, and is confident he’ll be able to find work in baseball without a problem should he choose to do so. For some reason, I’m sure this upsets a lot of people.
-He said that there are no plans to go after a free agent catcher in the off-season, and that one of Rod Barajas or Gregg Zaun, but not both, will be back. This means that the Jays will be picking up Barajas’ option, as though there was ever any doubt.
-Jeremy Accardo has been shut down for six weeks, ending his season. Structurally, Accardo’s arm is fine, but he can’t seem to shake the right forearm strain.
There were also back-to-back callers who attacked J.P., one about the Glaus-Rolen trade and the Frank Thomas signing, and another about dealing Robinzon Diaz for Jose Bautista. The second guy, I think, was trying to be sarcastic in referring to Guillermo Quiroz and Kevin Cash as great young catchers who are currently toiling successfully in the big leagues. At least, I hope he was trying to be sarcastic, but it didn’t really come across that way. The first caller was simply trying to shout J.P. down.
Ricciardi actually encouraged those who disagree with him to call and debate him on his moves, so long as they have their facts straight. I echo that, as I always have on the program, and I’ll add that if you’re going to have an argument with someone, you have to let them argue, too. If that first caller had been prepared to actually debate J.P. – which would involve allowing J.P. to talk – instead of simply calling in to yell at him, it could have been a pretty good call. Instead, I had to cut the guy off because he simply wouldn’t let J.P. talk.
Here’s the whole of Wednesday’s with J.P., for your listening pleasure:
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
11:50 PM Eastern
How about those Blue Jays? A couple of huge two-out hits, some bend-but-don’t-break starting pitching, and the tenacity and guttitude to add on runs after the game gets close. Put it all together and you get a road win over a huge nemesis that also happened to have the best home record in baseball going into the game.
Luck was a factor, it always is, and so were injuries. Evan Longoria most assuredly makes the play on the Vernon Wells grounder into the 5-6 hole that somehow clanked off the glove of Willy Aybar for a two-out RBI single to give the Jays an insurance run in the 7th. Dioner Navarro goes down in the 6th with hamstring cramps, leaving Shawn (.226/.309/.404)Riggans to hit with the go-ahead run at second and two out. The Jays, though, took advantage of the breaks handed them, which they haven’t always been able to do this year.
Once again, Roy Halladay had a hard time with the Rays, who worked him for 111 pitches over six innings, his shortest outing since the last time he pitched against T-Bay, when he also only went six. Halladay has only had one start this season against a team other than the Rays in which he’s failed to throw a pitch in the seventh inning, and that was against the Cubs back in June, when he went five in a 6-1 loss. Regardless, he managed to wriggle out of the trouble into which he got himself in the 6th inning. Eric Hinske made him pay for hitting Aybar with a 1-2 pitch with two on and two out by stroking a two-run single, but then the aforementioned Riggans strode to the plate and struck out to end the inning.
Immediately, the Jays got one of the runs back, on that Aybar play mentioned above. That James Shields just can’t hold a team down when his own has just scored. He’s just as bad as A.J. Burnett.
Good for Wells, by the way, for keeping his hot streak going. With the 3-for-5 tonight he’s now 9-for-his-last-14 with three homers and six runs scored, and he’s driven in three runs in each of his last three games to move into a tie for the club RBI lead with Alex Rios. Rod Barajas went deep as well, but more impressive was The Captain’s work on the basepaths. Not only did he beat out an infield single in the 4th (it deflected off Shields towards centrefield, but Akinori Iwamura got to it), but he also went first to second on a relatively routine (but slow) grounder to second later in the inning. Even though Barajas is incredibly lacking in footspeed, he can do the routine things, which puts him one level higher than Frank Thomas as a baserunner – and I wasn’t sure about that earlier in the season.
I’m not quite sure why B.J. Ryan came into the game to work the 9th in a non-save situation against the bottom of the Tampa Bay line-up. I understand that he was warming up since it was a save situation before Wells hit his homer with two out in the 9th, but I would think that this is a road trip on which Ryan might be pressed into pressure-packed duty quite a bit, and using him tonight means that he won’t be available Thursday if he’s needed to close one down tomorrow. With a four-run lead, the best bullpen in baseball, and the bottom of the line-up up, Brian Tallet or even Jason Frasor wouldn’t have been a poor choice. Or heck, Scott Downs had only thrown five pitches in retiring the side in order in the 8th, let him come out and get the save. I hope that decision doesn’t come back to bite Cito.
Scott Rolen was activated off the disabled list before the game, but didn’t play. He may be in the line-up tomorrow and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any more flexibility in that busted shoulder. With Rolen back, the Jays now have three back-up infielders in David Eckstein, Jose Bautista and whoever isn’t starting of Joe Inglett and Marco Scutaro, which brings up the question – why would they give up Robinzon Diaz in order to bring in Bautista?
I guess the question is, are the Jays worried about the health of both Rolen and Aaron Hill so much for next season that they felt the need to buy insurance with Bautista, or had Diaz fallen off so much in their thoughts that they could afford to move him for something that they really don’t seem to need?
I wonder. I know Diaz has had a rough season with the bat, and I know that he’d been passed on the organizational catching depth chart by both J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman, but couldn’t he have been that same third baseman against lefties that Bautista will wind up being if Rolen can’t play? I’m not sure.
Perhaps the thinking was that Diaz, as a hitter, has always been a high average, low OBP, low slugging kind of guy, and for a catcher, that’s not bad. For a guy you have to move out from behind the plate, maybe you look to do better.
The move, now that we know it’s Diaz, still strikes me as odd. It seems to me as though they’re giving up something that could be useful down the road in exchange for something they didn’t really need. It’s not like Bautista makes the team over Scutaro (even though he’s a better bat) because they like the fact that Scoot can play shortstop, and Bautista can’t. If it’s a choice between Bautista and Inglett, I take Inglett. Sure, Bautista will do more for them than Eckstein, but how many back-up infielders can you have?
By the way, the reason Diaz was a “player to be named later” in the trade was because he hadn’t cleared waivers when the trade was made. The Jays claimed Bautista, the teams settled on Diaz as compensation, and then the Jays had to put Diaz on waivers. It may show the overall value of Diaz that not a single team in the American League put in a claim on him, nor did the Nationals or Padres.
Oh, and in case you missed it, Cito Gaston said that Jeremy Accardo still isn’t right, and Jerry Howarth mentioned on the pre-game that privately, Gaston has acknowledged that Accardo is done for the year.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Reasonable, rational comments are always welcome!
Sunday, August 24th, 2008
10:10 PM Eastern
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but Zeppelin was the third musical act that came to mind when I typed that title up. The first, of which I’m not ashamed, was the Pat Benatar classic. You know, dream-maker, love-taker, don’t you mess around with cheese, that one. The second, that’s the issue for me. After thinking of the Benatar song, and deciding that lyrics from there wouldn’t fit into the title of this post, my inner insanity took me to Dionne Warwick. It’s sad, I know. Maybe as sad as most Jays fans feel about this afternoon’s result.
Make no mistake, this was a terrific game. It featured great clutch pitching, some timely hitting, sensational defense and tremendous bullpen work. It’s just that the wrong team came out on top.
This wasn’t a game that the Blue Jays lost, nor was this a game where they threw away a bunch of opportunities and made their fans pull their hair out in frustration. This was a plain old fun game to watch, with a great atmosphere at the ballpark. Actually, the atmosphere was terrific all week, with Jays’ fans and Red Sox’ fans doing their best to shout each other down. Will this be as close as we’ll get to a playoff feel at the Dome this season? Probably, but you never know.
A.J. Burnett had one bad inning, and when the Jays recovered from it to take the lead, he gave it up right away. Coco Crisp’s leadoff homer in the 7th was a dagger, tying the game mere moments after Barajas’ big double put the Jays ahead by one, though it should have been two.
The Captain was in a 3-for-22 drought when he stepped to the plate following a two-out intentional walk to Matt Stairs in the 6th, and he ripped a ground ball just inside the line at third. Vernon Wells was at third, and scored the go-ahead run. Stairs came chugging all the way around the bases, and slid in under Jason Varitek’s tag, but home plate umpire Angel Campos called him out. I’ve railed against this before, but it’s sad that at the height of the profession, where allegedly the best officials in the world are working, an umpire will still call a player out on a tag play at least 90% of the time when the ball beats him to the base, regardless of the tag. It certainly wasn’t painfully apparent that Stairs was safe, but he was, and he was called out because the throw beat him.
So the Jays only had a one-run lead going into the 7th, as opposed to two or more, and Crisp’s homer tied it up instead of drawing Boston back to within a run.
Burnett was done after seven, despite his protests, and Scott Downs came in to provide two shutout innings, followed by a perfect tenth out of B.J. Ryan against the 2-3-4 hitters in the Sox line-up. That guy should really hang ‘em up, he’s done. Brandon League pitched the 11th, and hung one to Jed Lowrie and the rookie crushed it for what stood up as the game-winning home run. Before you bury League, please note that this was the same guy who struck out David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis as part of a 1-2-3 inning yesterday, and even moreso, remember that he hadn’t given up a run in his last 12 outings!
As much as some people seem to think that a pitcher can get every hitter out when he really wants, or every hitter has the capability to get a hit (or at least hit a fly ball) if he deems the situation important enough, that’s just not the case. Remember, the other guys are really, really good at this, too.
Speaking of really good, after several fans were burying him for his 0-fer on Friday night, Vernon Wells came up huge again – a first-inning, two-out, two-run homer for the second straight game, and then an RBI double in the 6th to pull the Jays back to within a run. Wells was 6-for-9 on the weekend, with a double, three homers, six runs scored and six RBIs.
Here’s today’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
So, the Jays are off to Tampa Bay now with a little less of a spring in their step, eight games out of the wild card instead of six, three games back of the third-place Yankees instead of two with only 32 games to go. Roy Halladay starts Tuesday night’s opener, but is followed by David Purcey and John Parrish. It certainly seems less and less likely that the miracle is going to happen, but that’s why they call them miracles. If they happened all the time they’d just be called things.
Here’s the deal. In order to finish with 90 wins, the Jays need to go 23-9 down the stretch, which means they’re going to have to put a mean streak or three together. But they showed us today how entertaining and fun they can be to watch even if they’re not going to be taking part in the post-season yet again.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome. If you’re going to come in here and spew bile, please take your act somewhere else.
Saturday, August 23rd, 2008
5:20 PM Eastern
I’m not really sure anyone could have seen this coming. On the day Shaun Marcum gets sent down to Syracuse – a stunning move, given that Marcum was leading the American League in WHIP and opponents’ batting average when he was injured in June and had seemingly overcome a rough beginning to his return before losing the plate in the 4th inning last night – Jesse Litsch goes out and throws down zeroes for the second straight outing and the Jays’ offense explodes for the third time in a week.
Since Litsch returned from AAA, he has started twice and has yet to be scored upon, throwing 13 shutout innings having allowed seven hits with five walks and seven strikeouts. Maybe the Jays are hoping for similar returns from Marcum, but Litsch had three starts for the Chiefs, and Marcum will only get two at the most, since the Chiefs’ season ends September 1st. Should Marcum come back as a September call-up, which is no guarantee (he was overheard telling people that he’d see them in the spring as he packed his stuff in the clubhouse), he’d still be eligible for the playoffs should the Jays pull off the miracle, since the Jays will have roster flexibility to add to the post-season roster thanks to the injuries to Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan and maybe even Scott Rolen, if he doesn’t come back.
Marcum’s demotion shocked the heck out of me. It’s funny, after his first terrific start since returning from the disabled list after the all-star break following three rough outings (seven innings of three-hitter in a 5-1 win over Oakland), Marcum mused that he was worried that if he didn’t start pitching well, he’d be a candidate to go down to AAA and the gathered assemblage just rolled its collective eyes. Nobody thought that the Jays would ever consider taking that step, but it seems Marcum was pretty prescient.
I think there’s a story behind this story, though. Marcum had pitched well in picking up three straight wins before yesterday – the third win wasn’t his best work, but he still only allowed a run on five hits in five innings – and he was fine through the first three innings last night before falling apart in the 4th. Is he giving them any less than David Purcey is at this point? Weren’t the Jays so shaky about having John Parrish in the rotation that they promoted Scott Richmond just to move the lefty to the bullpen? Now Parrish is back to take Marcum’s place. Something is definitely up – I’m hearing that Marcum may have been in need of an attitude adjustment, which surprises me a bit. He’s always seemed loose and relaxed to me, but there are whispers that his britches have been getting kind of small, as it were.
As for today’s offensive explosion, this is something that Jays’ fans could get used to pretty easily. So they didn’t get up to 20 hits today, but they scored double-digit runs for the third time in six games, and cranked out seven extra-base hits – four doubles and three homers. Vernon Wells went deep twice among his four hits to take sole possession of the team’s home run lead among people who have actually hit a home run with the Blue Jays. Both home runs came on the first pitch, by the way.
Even Kevin Mench got in on the action, with a pair of doubles as part of a three-hit afternoon, jacking up his batting average by 20 points. The only Jay who didn’t reach base as part of the rout was the new guy, Jose Bautista, but he contributed a sacrifice fly in the second inning to up the lead to 3-0, and showed a terrific throwing arm from third base. He also made a nice running catch on a foul pop by Jacoby Ellsbury to end the 4th, going back towards the left-field stands to haul it in over his shoulder.
Speaking of nice running catches, that Wells fellow reminded the almost 45,000 gathered that he’s one of the best in the business on the defensive side with a pair of outstanding grabs, robbing Jason Bay of a pair of doubles. The first catch was simply incredible, Willie Mays-esque, and Wells didn’t even use his glove. He caught the ball somewhere in the crook of his wrist, arm and elbow as he ran with his back to the plate. The second catch looked a lot easier, but Wells had to go a long way in a very short amount of time to run the ball down at the wall in left-centre.
Brandon League and B.J. Ryan finished up with an inning each, despite the 11-run advantage, but that’s fine. Neither pitched yesterday, both will still be available tomorrow, and the Jays are off Monday. Perfect time to give those two some work.
If you read back in the archives, you’ll see that I said (especially to those who claimed at the time that the Jays’ hitters weren’t any good, had never been any good and would never be any good) that things would turn around, the hitters would get back closer to their career numbers and that Cito Gaston would get the lion’s share of the credit for that and, lo and behold, it has happened. As much temptation as there is to get on the Cito bandwagon, these guys were always this good, they just simply had to start hitting. That’s not to say that I don’t think Cito is doing a good job, he is. It’s just that it’s impossible to say that they wouldn’t have done this without the change, or that they would have been playing this well from the get-go had Gaston been in charge all season. As a caller to The JaysTalk mentioned, the Jays went on a 14-4 run under John Gibbons in May just when they looked as dead as they have at any point this season.
Speaking of The JaysTalk, here it is for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow, remember the pre-pre-game show at noon Eastern on the Fan590 and this very website, and at 7:05 PM Eastern, we’ll have The Blue Jays This Week!
Friday, August 22nd, 2008
11:30 PM Eastern
The Jays will finally get a break from Paul Byrd now that the old-timey-looking righty is through with his third straight start against them. The Byrdman of HGHatraz won two of those starts, one each with the Indians and the Red Sox, and now the Jays won’t have to see him again until at least the middle of September, which is fine by me.
It’s weird, though. One expects that the more often a team sees a pitcher who is not a top-tier guy, the easier a time that team would have with him. That wasn’t the case with the Jays and Byrd, though the four runs they scored tonight would normally be enough to get them a win with a typical Jays pitching performance. Alex Rios and Lyle Overbay each went deep with a runner on.
Shaun Marcum, though, wasn’t up to the task, and his mini-meltdown in the 4th was what buried them. I’ve said a few times that in order for the Jays to make the playoff miracle happen, they’re going to have to win a large percentage of the games started by Halladay, Burnett and Marcum, because chances are they’re not going to win a large percentage of the games started by Litsch and Purcey. Tonight, Marcum lost the plate in that fateful fourth. After a Jason Bay lead-off single, Marcum issued a pair of walks, then got ahead of Alex Cora 0-1 but hit him with the next pitch to drive in a run. A single followed, then a run-scoring grounder and a sacrifice fly, and Marcum hit the showers.
The Jays’ best chance to come back was in the 7th, when three of the first four hitters reached base, but the one who didn’t was Joe Inglett, who happened to hit into a double play to throw a big wrench into the potential rally.
We got to see Jose Bautista make his Jays’ debut – he pinch-hit for Matt Stairs against Hideki Okajima in the 8th and grounded out to third. He wore Cecil Fielder’s old powder-blue number 23. Bautista will start tomorrow against lefty Jon Lester, and David Eckstein will likely go to the bench as the love affair with Marco Scutaro continues. I was surprised to see Kevin Mench still here when I got to the ballpark this afternoon, but he was saved from a 10-day trip to Central New York because Brad Wilkerson went on the disabled list with back spasms and a sore throwing arm to make room for Bautista.
It was a short edition of The JaysTalk tonight, but definitely an interesting one. I’ve gotten a lot of callers pretty riled up, and with good reason, over all my years of hosting the show, but for the life of me I don’t know what happened with tonight’s angry guy. I restated his point, and he went off. The line of the night went to the next caller, who wisely warned listeners not to drink and boat. Here’s the show, for your listening pleasure:
Remember, we have the pre-pre-game Saturday at noon Eastern for you on the Fan590 and on this very website. I’m going to try to talk to either Gene Tenace or Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan, of whom I was a big fan when he played for the Mets. The guy simply refused to get out, in a figurative sense, with that career OBP of .390.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Thursday, August 21st, 2008
11:45 PM Eastern
Roy Halladay must not have known what was going on, having to sit in the dugout for so long between opportunities to go out and stick it up the Bronx Bombers’ ummm… bombers. The Jays fell just six runs short of matching their combined total of runs scored in all of Halladay’s nine losses this season.
The offensive blitz was the Jays’ third 20+ hit game of the season, and the second time in four games that they’ve torched the scoreboard for double-digit runs. This time the charge was led by Joe Inglett and Marco Scutaro, each of whom had four hits, and Alex Rios and Adam Lind, who chipped in with three hits each.
The top three hitters in the batting order combined to go 11-for-17 (.647) with three doubles, a homer, eight runs scored and seven RBIs. The clean-up guy was the only one to take the collar, but Vernon Wells absolutely scorched two balls – a line-drive out to left in the 4th, which was the hardest-hit ball of that three-run inning, and a line drive that Johnny Damon ran down in left-centre.
I could go over every offensive player tonight, because everybody hit, but I’ll specifically highlight just a couple more things. John McDonald had another great day at the dish, with a big two-out two-run single to cap the five-run 3rd and a single to lead off the 5th. Both balls were hit to almost dead centre, and in his next at-bat, he flied out to deep left. I’ve said it dozens of times – if McDonald can even be an average big-league hitter, heck, even slightly below-average – he’s a huge asset to any team. He bounced back very nicely from a pair of 0-for-3s, and has hit .289/.319/.400 over the last two weeks. With his glove, that makes him an outstanding player.
Roy Halladay just “shoved”, as Joe Inglett said after the game. I guess you can add “the ball up their ***es” to the end of that. Halladay took a three-hit shutout into the 7th, walking one and striking out eight to that point, and was staked to a 7-0 lead through three and a 13-0 lead after five. It was an embarrassment of riches for the Jays’ ace, who isn’t used to much run support at all – in fact, the Jays have scored a total of 20 runs for Halladay over his nine losses – and he still pitched as though he was in a one-run game. Best pitcher in the league, the Jays have to trade him, right?
Good to see quick healer Scott Downs back on the mound, as well. After collapsing with that right ankle sprain in Detroit last Wednesday, it looked like he’d be out a while, but he didn’t miss a beat in taking down the Yanks 1-2-3 in the 8th on a three-pitch strikeout, high chopper infield single and double-play grounder.
Speaking of trades (I did! A paragraph ago!), the Jays picked up Jose Bautista from the Pirates in a waiver deal before the game. They’ll option Kevin Mench down to Syracuse to make room, and Mench will be back on September 1st. Bautista is a cheap add, he’ll cost the Jays just over $400,000 for the rest of the year, and he’s been a strong bat against lefties this year, hitting .253/.363/.547 with six home runs in just 75 at-bats. Sad as it is, Bautista brings his 43 career homers in just over three seasons and becomes the Jays’ home run leader this season – he’s hit 12 for the Pirates, even though National League numbers don’t carry over.
The Jays will send a player to be named later to the Buccos to consummate the trade, we should find out who that is late this week or early next. In order to trade a player on the 40-man roster, he has to clear waivers, and the Jays would have to put the PTBNL through trade waivers if he’s on the 40-man, but not the 25 (since it’s safe to assume almost all of the 25-man guys would already have been put through). If I had to guess who the player heading to Pittsburgh is, I’d guess John Parrish, Curtis Thigpen or Russ Adams.
Bautista will battle Scutaro for playing time against righties, and should take away David Eckstein’s playing time against lefties, with Scoot moving over to second base. It’s a minor improvement, but it doesn’t cost the Jays much. Just another one of those moves that so many critics love to hate.
It was a fun JaysTalk tonight, though I always wonder why people don’t ever seem to want to talk about the actual game that just finished. The last caller was a beaut. I love people who say stuff like “stats are for fools”. The funny thing is, your eyes and your heart will deceive you – any listener to the fine post-game that is The JaysTalk knows that happens all the time. The stats are the only way you can tell what is actually happening. Statistics can lie, of course, and they can be manipulated in an attempt to prove or disprove a point. That’s why I always say no one statistic can tell a complete story. But all of them together certainly do. And no, Marco Scutaro isn’t even in the conversation as to who should be this team’s MVP. Here’s the whole show – listen up!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!