Monday, December 12, 2011

Aramis Ramirez to the Milwaukee Brewers

Third Basemen Aramis Ramirez has signed a three year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The deal is said to be worth between $34 and $37 million.

Jays Acquire Ben Francisco From Philadelphia

The Toronto Blue Jays have traded minor league left handed pitcher Frank Gailey to his home town Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Ben Francisco. 

Francisco batted .244 with 6 HR's and 34 RBI's in 100 games for the Phillies in 2011.

To make room on the roster, the Jays have designated relief pitcher Jesse Chavez for assignment.

Gailey spent time in both New Hampshire and Dunedin over the course of the 2011 season.

For the Blue Jays, this gives them another outfielder in an already crowded outfield.  They now have Francisco, Davis, Thames, Snider, Rasmus, Bautista, and technically Mike McCoy available for the outfield in 2012.

I think there is another deal coming, and if I'm a betting man, I think we've seen the last of Travis Snider in a Jays uniform.

If I'm really going to speculate, I think he's headed to Oakland for a certain left handed starter.  But that's just me.

But, I'm wrong more often than I'm right.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson Sign With The Angels

A month ago, I wrote that I thought Pujols would stay with the Cardinals, and Prince would go to the Cubs.  It appears I'm going to be wrong on both counts.

The team I said "might" be a factor, turned out to be more than just a factor.  Today the LA Angels of Anaheim signed Albert Pujols to a ten year, $254 million contract.  A quarter of a billion dollars over the next ten years...  Pujols current career earnings are at $104 million.  So assuming that he retires at the end of this deal at 41, he will finish his career having earned a whopping $358 million.  A ten year deal with a no trade clause...  What is the baseball world coming to?  What makes the whole situation seem  even more insane, is that the Florida Marlins reportedly offered him $275 million for ten years, without a no trade. 

But the Angels weren't done yet.  They also signed free agent pitcher CJ Wilson to a five year, $75 million contract. 

No word on who Prince will sign with yet, but it appears the Cubs won't be his landing spot.  The Cubs have said that they won't be able to afford him.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Day Late, A Buck Short

Well, one day later here are my thoughts on the Nestor Molina for Sergio Santos trade.

To keep it short, I like it.  Anyone who is upset about losing Molina to bring in Santos should consider this:  Nestor Molina is probably less than you would have had to give up to bring in Huston Street or Andrew Bailey (and frankly, I'd rather have him than either of those two), and the Jays would have had to pay out way too much cash to lure the likes of Madson, Cordero, or K-Rod into coming here.

At the start of this off-season I was a little frightened when Alex announced it as his mission to bring in a closer.  I was afraid that we might overpay for a Pappelbon, Madson, or Bell.  But then again, I was also under the impression that the Blue Jays had money to spend.  Which, according to Alex Anthopoulos yesterday, they do not.  *cough* bullcrap *cough*. 

Then when the rumours started to come out that Toronto was interested in trading for Andrew Bailey or Huston Street, I got really worried.  After Bailey's injury last year, and Street, even though he wasn't terrible, putting up a season where he posted career highs in both ERA and WHIP.  I'm not convinced that either one of those guys would be a better option than trying Casey Janssen or Jesse Litsch in the ninth, and I shudder to think what we would have had to give up to bring them here.

I am not in favour of paying top dollar for a closer.  I'd much rather a bat to hit behind Bautista.  Yes I am aware of how many blown saves Toronto had last year.  However I'm also aware of how many of those games they still won, and that some of those blown saves came in pairs. (two in the same game).  Was it frustrating that they did blow so many saves?  Of course it was.  But I still think that signing a closer to a multi-year deal is risky business.  There are not that many that you can point a finger at and declare them effective for four seasons or more in a row.  There are some, sure.  But do you think Pappelbon, Madson, Bailey, or Street is going to be as dominant for four more seasons moving forward?  I'm not so sure.

Santos' return to Toronto gives the Jays a reliever with quality stuff to fill the ninth inning role.  This season he saved 30 games in 36 tries, and struck out 92 batters in 62.1 innings, while pitching to a WHIP of 1.105 in his first season as a closer. 

What makes him even more appealing is his contract.  At age 28, Santos will make $1 million in 2012, $2.75 million in 2013, and $3.75 million in 2014.  Then he has options for 2015, 2016, and 2017 at $6 million, $8 million, and 8.75 million.  Each option carries only a $750k buyout.  So, Santo's is only guaranteed $7.5 million paid out over the next 3 seasons.  Heath Bell and Jonathan Pappelbon have already signed deals paying them more than this for just next year.  No, I'm not saying that Santos is in the same class as Bell and Pappelbon.  Just saying he's a lot cheaper, and very well could be in the same class.

Santos' came to the Blue Jays once before as a short stop prospect with Troy Glaus in the deal that sent Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista to Arizona.

Nestor Molina spent most of this season in Dunedin (A), and then made four starts in New Hampshire (AA) where he was absolutely lights out, to finish out the year.  At the two levels combined, he posted a record of 12 wins and 3 losses, with a 2.21 ERA, a 0.997 WHIP, and struck out 148 over 130.1 innings.  He looks like he could be great.  He could very well come back to bite Toronto in the butt.

Before you get too upset though, try googling former Jays first round draft pick Steve Karsay, or 1991 first overall pick Brien Taylor, and check out the numbers they posted in high A ball in 1992.  Very similar to Molina, and neither went on to any notable achievements at the Major League level.  In fact, Taylor never even made it.  Karsay's career spanned 11 seasons, where he posted a losing record, with a career ERA of 4.01, and a WHIP of 1.38.  It just goes to show that you never really know what you have when it comes to prospects. 

As for the money comments from Alex Anthopoulos yesterday.  Are they true?  Your guess is as good as mine.  What he said about the payroll rising as revenues rise makes sense, however I tend to lean towards the belief that he just said this to deter the media from continuing to report that the Jays are interested in Fielder.  

Given what Anthopoulos has done so far since he's been sitting in the big boy chair though, it does appear that he is working within a budget.  They sure haven't spent much.  Considering that their payroll keeps decreasing, while television ratings and to a lesser extent, attendance are on the rise.

Time will tell.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again!

Once again, the most wonderful time of the year is upon us.  No, not the holidays.  It's Winter Meetings time again!  The winter meetings generally are when the off-season moves really start to happen in the baseball world, and I think that Jays fans should expect to hear at least some news coming out of these meetings. 

Anthopoulos has a wish list.  His wish list doesn't match mine necessarily, but he does have one.  As far as we know he will be heading to Dallas shopping for a second basemen, some bull pen help, and if all goes well a starting pitcher as well.  Alex got one item checked off of his list yesterday when the Blue Jays found their replacement for Jose Molina and acquired their new back up catcher in Jeff Mathis. 

Mathis comes to the Jays from the Angels by way of a trade sending pitcher Brad Mills the other way.  I'm not really sure how I feel about this deal.  On one hand, Mathis is a good defensive catcher, and has a reputation of being an asset in helping develop young pitchers.  On the other hand, Mills is a left handed starter who has had a fair amount of success at the triple A level, and I'm not sure he won't develop into a fair, or even a good starter at the major league level.  Time will tell.  On the surface, I would have preferred to have picked up a back up catcher from the free agent market rather than trade to bring one in.  I'm not really thrilled about sending Mills packing just a few months after shipping out Zach Stewart and Marc Rzepcynski.  I just don't think that giving up an arm for a back up catcher (for one year none the less) is a great idea. 

Anthopoulos has stated numerous times this off season that the Blue Jays intend to try to add through trades, and not by signing free agents.  He has also said that the Jays will not pursuing any big name free agents.  So I wouldn't expect to hear of any big free agent acquisitions coming our way.  Once again Jays fans will have to wait, and find out what we have to give up to fill the holes we need filled.

My prediciton:  Travis Snider is not a Blue Jay this time next week.

A lot of GM's view Snider the way that Anthopoulos viewed Colby Rasmus.  High ceiling of talent that hasn't been realized yet.  So there is interest there, and I can't help but get the feeling that the Blue Jays would rather move forward with Thames in LF over Snider.  But hey, that's just me.

Personally, I would like to see Adam Lind in LF, making room for our new first basemen:  Prince Fielder.  However, we all know that isn't going to happen.

Happy Winter Meetings everyone!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some Quick Notes From The Last Week

Giants Trade Jonathan Sanchez to Royals for Melky Cabrera

After having a career year in 2011, the KC Royals have traded Melky Cabrera to the SF Giants for lefty Jonathan Sanchez and minor league pitcher Ryan Verdugo.  In my opinion, despite what their 2011 stats say, the Royals won this deal.  I can't believe that the Giants had to throw in another pitcher to get it done.  Cabrera posted a break out season in 2011, batting .305 with 18HR, and 87 RBI.   Sanchez, who turns 29 next week, had a down year in 2011, but in 2010 was one of the Giants better pitchers down the stretch, posting a 3.07 ERA and striking out 205 over 193.1 innings pitched.  I have more faith in Sanchez's upside than I do Cabrera's.  This deal also benefits the Royals by clearing a spot in centre field for young phenom Lorenzo Cain.

Hentgen Out as Bullpen Coach

Former AL Cy Young award winner Pat Hentgen has stepped down as the Blue Jays bullpen coach.  Hentgen quietly left the position on Monday citing personal reasons.  The Blue Jays have announced that former Blue Jay Pete Walker will be his replacement.  Hentgen will remain with the organization as a special assistant.

Jays Hire Chuck LaMar

In an effort to further bolster their scouting staff, the Blue Jays announced Friday that they had hired former Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar as a special assistant with an emphasis on amateur scouting.  LaMar most recently served as an assistant GM for player development and scouting for the Phillies organization.  LaMar was the first GM of the Tampa Bay Rays, and although he didn't have much success in terms of a win loss record in Tampa, his draft picks include: Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, James Shields, Jeff Niemann and Andy Sonnanstine.

Jays Pick Up Edwin's Option, Decline Rauch's

Well, what else can I say other than I agree with them here.  $3 million is a cheap price to pay for a bat that has hit 38 HR in the last two seasons, is solid defender at first base, and who can fill in at third in a pinch.  WHOA PEOPLE!  PUT AWAY THAT LYNCH!  I said in a pinch.  In a pinch he can fill in.  Cut him a little slack, you have to admit he played third base very well in September, and was making the throws consistently.  I'm not saying I want him out there at third, I don't.  Just saying that if the need arose, he can fill in.  I would much rather have him in the lineup as a designated hitter or first basemen.  I think that Edwin himself would tell you the same, and is clearly bothered by his play at third base.  His offensive numbers reflect this.  In 2011, Edwin batted just .213 with 3 HR when he played third base.  However, he batted .305 when playing first, and .296 when he was in at DH with a total of 14 HR at the two positions.  Edwin also brought his batting average up from from .225 in 2009, and .240 in 2010 up to .272 in 2011.  I would like to see what he can do with a full season of just being the designated hitter or first baseman.  With Brett Lawrie emerging this year in the second half, I doubt we will have to see him over at third very much in 2012.  At $3 million for the season, I'm glad they have him back. 

Rauch didn't have a terrible year, but he didn't have a good year either.  His option was for $3.75 million in 2012, and for a guy who had an ERA close to 5 (4.85) and a whip of 1.35 in 2011, I think you can spend that money more effectively elsewhere.  There are a lot of relievers on the free agent market this year. 

Blue Jays Outright Jesse Carlson and Adam Loewen Off of Their 40 Man Roster

Last week the Jays designated both players for assignment, and have since they have been outrighted from the 40 man roster.  This makes both players free agents.  It's too bad for Loewen, he was a great story.  A Canadian player who after making it as a pitcher, had to start over again and work his way up as an outfielder.  I expect that Loewen will catch on somewhere this year with a team that can start him every day in the outfield for the 2012 season.  Probably not a contending team, but I think someone will give him a shot.

Former Blue Jay Rod Barajas Signs with Pirates

About an hour ago, it was reported that former Jays catcher Rod Barajas has signed a 1 year $4 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The deal includes a club option for 2013 at $3.5 million.  Barajas spent the 2011 season with the LA Dodgers where he hit .230 with 16 HR and an .287 OBP.  It is likely that he will be the Pirate's starting catcher in 2012 with the departures of Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder.

Speaking of Doumit and Snyder... Don't be surprised if one of these two guys is backing up JP in Toronto next season.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Here We Go....

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the offseason.  On Monday some announcements already started to come in, with a trade happening, a contract extension, and player options being picked up and declined. 

The New York Yankees opted to extend CC Sabathia before he opted out of his contract.  Sabathia agreed to a one-year extension worth $25 million for the 2016 season, and a vesting option for 2017 worth another $25 million.  If the option for 2017 doesn't become vested, he'll get a $5 million buy out.  The extension guarantees CC 122 million over the next 5 years.  However we all assumed that even if CC did opt out of his current contract, that he was likely going to wind up still a Yankee with a new contract next year.  

The real questions of the offseason:  Where are Prince and Albert going to wind up?

My theory:  Albert is not going anywhere.

Hear me out on this.  I have listened to countless reports saying that there will be a bidding war, and that nobody knows where Albert is going to end up.  My question to you is:  Who is going to be doing the bidding?  Because right now I can only see two teams with the resources and open roster space to accommodate the star.  Maybe three teams..... maybe.

My apologies Jays fans, but Toronto isn't one of them.  Despite possibly having the money to pay Pujols $30 million a year, Beeston has made it known that he would never sign off on a contract for that more than 5 years guaranteed.

It has been reported that Pujols is looking for a deal in the ball park of $300 million over 10 years, making him the first $300 million dollar player.  There is some reason to believe this story.  Last February the Cardinals were trying to lock up the three time MVP to a long term deal before spring training.  The deal that they were willing to offer at that time, according to sources familiar with the process, described the package’s total value at more than $200 million paid out over a nine or 10 year term.  Pujols rejected, and the deal was re-worked several times that involved shifting years and salary and apparently even an equity stake in the team.  Pujols still declined, and entered the 2011 season as the last year in his current contract. 

So let's assume that Albert is indeed looking for 8 to 10 years, and $25 to $30 million per season.  What teams could afford the financial burden?

There are 12 teams in Major League Baseball with payrolls which exceeded $100 million over the 2011 Season.  Let's take a look at each one, and see if either Albert or Prince fits.  I am also going to assume that neither Pujols or Fielder will except a DH role.

1.  The New York Yankees.  2011 payroll:  $201,689,030
The Yankees do have $17 million coming off the books from Jorge Posada, however they are going to need most of that money to put towards a long term deal for Robinson Cano.   The Yankees also have Mark Texiera locked up at first base through the 2016 season at $22.5 million per year.  Texeira is not going to settle for a DH role.  The Yankees also have Jesus Montero ready to step into the DH role for them in the 2012 season, and although they've solved the Sabathia problem, they still need to put any available resources into fixing their starting rotation.  They need two more arms, and are expected to make an effort to sign a couple through free agency.

2.  The Philadelphia Phillies.  2011 payroll:  $172,976,381
Two words: Ryan Howard.  Howard is locked up at first base through 2016 and is going to make $20 million each of the next two seasons, and $25 million the three following seasons.  There is also a team option for 2017 at $23 million, with a $10 million buyout.  So unless they are planning on trading him (good luck with that), Philadelphia is not in the running here.

3.  The Boston Red Sox.  2011 payroll:  $161,407,476
The Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez signed through the 2018 season.  He will make $21 million per year for the first five years, and $21.5 million for the next two.  They could take a run at one of the two big ticket free agents to be their DH.  However as I said before I don't think either would settle for a DH role.  I suspect that if Boston is going to hand out a large contract to a position player, it would be Aramis Ramirez that they pursue.  Moving Kevin Youkilis to the DH role for 2012.  Assuming that they don't re-sign David Ortiz.

4.  The LA Angels of Anaheim.  2011 payroll:  $138,998,524
Ok, so the Angles could, potentially be a player here.  I am unsure of the contract status of Kendrys Morales.  He is not listed on the MLB free agents list, but his contract did run out at the end of 2011. So I am assuming that because he missed the 2011 season, he is still controlled by arbitration, and will be back with the Angels this year.  If this is the case, then the Angels have Morales at first base, and Mark Trumbo to DH, or vice versa, and don't really have a place for either stud.  However, Morales was making less than $3 million this year, and Trumbo is entering only his second year of service, so either player could easily be moved to another team to make room, but that doesn't seem to make much sense financially for the Angels.  Morales is a Boras client though, so when it comes time to re-sign him, he will probably command a large salary.  Perhaps the Angels would rather lock up Fielder or Pujols than give the money to Kendrys.  As I said, they could potentially be a player.

5.  The Chicago White Sox.  2011 payroll:  $129,285,539
Adam Dunn is signed through 2014 and will make $14 million in 2012, and $15 million the two years following.  Paul Konerko is signed through 2013 and will receive $12 million this year, and $13.5 million the year after.  Neither of these guys is being moved.  The White Sox don't have room for Prince or Albert.

6.  The Chicago Cubs.  2011 payroll:  $125,480,664
Bingo!  One of these two big ticket free agents is going to land here next year.  If the Cubs don't sign either of these guys, you can bet that they did everything in their power to try and make it happen.  Chicago is under new management, and brought in Theo Epstein from Boston to try and take them to the promised land that they have not been to in over 100 years.  The Cubs have been waiting for Pujols and Fielder.  Last year when Derrek Lee left town, they signed Carlos Pena to a one year deal at $10 million to be a stop gap for them at first.  Now, they have an open base, and money to burn.  I think if you ask them, Pujols is the guy they want.  I think Fielder is who they get though.  Mainly because I am still of the opinion that Pujols is going to remain in St. Louis.  So look for Prince Fielder at Wrigley next year, and probably for the 8 to 10 years following.

7.  The New York Mets.  2011 payroll:  $120,147,310
Normally, I would have thought that the Mets would be trying to get one of these guys.  They are a big market team and could support the salary.  There is potential that they could be in the running as well.  However, given the ownership issues they are having in NY, I expect that Ike Davis will be manning first for them again this year.

8.  The San Francisco Giants.  2011 payroll:  $118,216,333
Technically the Giants could sign one of Albert or Prince, but they won't.  Their payroll in 2010 was $96,277,833 and in 2009 it was $82,616,450.  They are already outside of their comfort zone, and they have six free agents, and 13 salary arbitration eligible players, including Jonathan Sanchez and Tim Lincecum that they need to do something about.  It is also rumored that they are hoping to resign Carlos Beltran.   Aubrey Huff is currently signed to play first base for the Giants through the 2012 season. 

9.  The Minnesota Twins.  2011 payroll:  $112,737,000
I'm not going to spend much time on this one.  Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are both locked up long term, and one of them is going to play first.  Their 2011 payroll is also way over their 2010 and 2009 numbers (97 million, and 65 million respectively) and they have Jason Kubel, Micheal Cuddyer, Matt Capps and Joe Nathan to either re-sign or replace.  They are not in the running for Pujols or Fielder.

10.  The Detroit Tigers.  2011 payroll:  $105,705,232
Miguel Cabrera at first base, Victor Martinez at DH.  Enough said.

11.  The St. Louis Cardinals.  2011 payroll:  $105,433,572
They want Pujols back, and I'm hoping he stays here.  Whether he'll be willing to take a hometown discount, your guess is as good as mine.  It is very possible that he flees to Chicago for more money.  However if I am a betting man, I think he's back in St. Louis next year, because I think the Cubs are the only real competition for him.  If he does leave, it's not the end of the world for the Cardinals.  They could have Berkman play first, and Allan Craig be the every day right fielder.  However, if you've got Pujols and Wainwright coming back next year, it wouldn't be hard to start thinking repeat.  All they need is a manager and a centre fielder. 

12.  The Los Angeles Dodgers.   2011 payroll:  $103,788,990
The Dodgers would have been another team that I would have thought would be interested in the running this offseason.  However, with their recent ownership issues, I don't think they are in any position to make a run at one of these guys.  I'm counting the Dodgers out if they don't have a new owner with deep pockets by the end of November.

So to summarize, I don't see where the big bidding war is going to come from.  They way I see it, The Cardinals, Cubs, and Angels are the only real players here, and who knows if the Angels really will be or not.  It is possible that Pujols would leave St. Louis for Chicago.  Chances are the Cubs can offer him more money than St. Louis.  But if he really wants a 10 year deal, his best chance of getting this is probably to stay in St. Louis. 

I reviewed the top twelve payrolls, but didn't mention any dark horses.  If there is a dark horse in this race at all.  I believe it's Baltimore.  Baltimore had money to burn last year, and no one would take it.  They are focused on becoming better and competing in the AL east, and if their young pitching materializes in 2012, they may only be one big piece away from competing.  However, I would see Baltimore being used more as a bargaining chip than anything else.  Fielder and Pujols' agents would probably take offers from Baltimore, only to play them against the teams they will actually end up signing with.   Baltimore is not yet an attractive landing place for free agents.

If Albert stays in St. Louis, then I will bet my car that Fielder goes to the Cubs.  If Pujols goes to the Cubs, Then I suspect that Fielder will go to the Angels, Dodgers or Mets for not near the money that everyone seems to think.  It would be much closer to the $20 million mark than $30 million.  I suspect that Scott Boras will want Prince to wait until after Pujols has a deal, to sign his.  My advice to Prince would be to sign first.  Because if he waits, and Albert goes to the Cubs, there just may not be much money left for Prince.  Certainly not paid out over 7 to 10 years.

But, we will all have to anxiously wait and see.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Excuse Me While I Pout

Alright, I get it.  It's a story book season.  In March, they lost their ace pitcher and 2010 Cy Young runner up for the season.  On August 25 they were 10.5 games out of the wild card spot, and they fought all the way back to clinch the playoff birth on the last day of the regular season.  Thursday night they were one strike away from losing the World Series, two innings in a row.  All the odds were against the 'poor Cardinals'.  Now, the St. Louis Cardinals are World Series Champions.  Again.  Whoopie Frickin Doo.

No I don't have a good reason for not liking the Cardinals, I just don't.  I'm tired of Tony LaRussa, I have no respect for Albert Pujols after turning down a lucrative offer from St. Louis because he wants to be the first 300 million dollar player, and I'm still ticked at Mark McGwire for trying to run over Pat Borders in the 1992 ALCS. The fact that they won is completely Boo Sucky!

Ok, I'm off my soap box.  I will put my big boy pants on, and be an adult now.

It really was a storybook season for the Cardinals.   In March they received the devastating news that their staff ace Adam Wainwright would require Tommy John surgery, and was out for the season.  On August 25 they were 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League wild card spot, and put up a remarkable 23 and 8 record the rest of the way to pass Atlanta on the last day of the regular season and squeak into the playoffs.  Only to meet their next hurdle in the first round.  The Philadelphia Phillies and their major league best 102-60 win loss record.

The Cards dropped two of the first three to Philly, and found themselves on the brink of elimination when hometown boy David Freese put up a four RBI performance to help lead them to victory in game 4.  Then, I sincerely hope that if you only saw one game these entire playoffs before the world series, that it was game 5 of the NLDS between the Cardinals and Phillies.  Roy Halladay versus Chris Carpenter for the first time in their careers.  Carpenter was nothing short of amazing.  Halladay was good, don't get me wrong.  He allowed six hits, and struck out seven over eight innings of work.  However he had a tough first inning in which he gave up a lead off triple to Rafeal Furcal, and then a double to the next batter, Skip Schumaker. That one run would prove to be the difference in the game.  Carpenter couldn't miss.  He kept pounding the lower half of the strike zone inducing ground ball after ground ball after ground ball.  He went on to throw a complete game shutout, giving up only 3 hits, and striking out 3, and walking no one.  As a fan of good pitching, this game was a real treat to watch. 

The Cardinal's next opponents were the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers.  I didn't watch a lot of this series.  I was rooting for the Brew Crew, and I was disappointed that Shaun Marcum had such a rough post season.  I did watch his starts.  Well, for as long as he was in them.  The Cards finished them off in 6 games, and it wasn't really close.  One of the Cards wins was a one run game.  In the other three Cardinals victories, the combined score was  31 - 10.  This series very likely marked the last time you will see Prince Fielder in a Brewers jersey.  Next year he'll be in Chicago.  But we'll get to that later.

Then came the Rangers.  A team that I had the pleasure of seeing in their home park this year.  I like the rangers.  They have a great line up top to bottom, and they are a fun team to watch.  They had two 11th inning home runs against the Tigers in the ALCS, and I really thought that they were going to bring the World Series home this year.  They left Texas with a 3-2 series lead...... Then came game six.  In a game in which the first six innings it seemed like nobody wanted to win, the last five innings proved that neither team wanted to lose.  With a two run lead in the bottom of the ninth, on came Feliz.  Series over right??  So we all thought.  Two outs, two strikes, two RBI's, game continues.  On to the tenth inning.  Two outs, two strikes, rbi from NL come back player of the year Lance Berkman, game continues.  On to the eleventh inning.  Bottom of the eleventh hometown hero David Freese hits a solo shot and forces game seven.  Texas becomes the first team to be one strike away from a world series championship twice in the same game... and lose.

Up until game seven, I had watched all of the world series thus far.  I watched game seven as well.  Right up until Albert Pujols was hit by a pitch with two strikes against him, and then they loaded the bases and walked in two runs.  That was when for the interest of my health I turned the game off.

I hear St. Louis won, and David Freese won the MVP.  I kind of suspect they may build him a statue in St. Louis.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

That Was Hard to Watch

For the second night in a row our boys in blue gave us little to cheer about.  Last night dropping the series finale to the Royals 9-6, and tonight losing the opener to the Rays 6-1.  James Sheilds held the Jays to 1 run on 7 hits tonight.  Striking out 12 on his way to his tenth complete game of the season.

Despite coming out on the wrong side of the stat sheet, there were some positives that Jays fans can take away from both games.  Toronto's 1 run tonight came off the bat of Brett Lawrie, hitting his fifth home run already this season in just twenty games.

Last night Jose Bautista went 2 for 3 with two walks, a double and a run scored, and Edwin Encarnacion had a double and went deep for his thirteenth of the season.

The most notable positive for the Jays last night however was JP Arencibia going yard for the twentieth time this season to tie John Buck for the franchise record for most home runs by a catcher in a single season.  JP needs one more to capture sole possession of the record, and he's got just over a month to get it done in.  Congratulations JP on tying the record.

Although the Blue Jays had a less than steller night against the Royals last night, there were a handful of Canadian players who did.  Starting with two in this very game.  Jeff Francis started the game for the Royals, and threw 6 innings, allowing just two runs and striking out 5.

On the other side of the diamond, Brett Lawrie collected two hits including a triple for the Blue Jays.  But Francis and Lawrie weren't the only two Canadian big leaguers having a good night last night.

Chris Leroux (born in Montreal, attended high school in Mississauga) who is quietly having a very good season in Pittsburgh, struck out three and walked just one working two scoreless innings for the Priates.  Justin Morneau had a good night as well going 2 for 3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI for the twins.

The story of the evening for Canadian players, unfortunately, goes to a Yankee.  Russel Martin was 5 for 5 with two home runs (one of which a grand slam), a double, three runs scored, and six RBI's to lead the Yankees over the Athletics 22 - 9 in New York last night.  Martin had 12 total bases on the night.  Which is the second only to Larry Walker for the most total bases in a game for a Canadian player.

Joey Votto should also have honourable mention here.  Even though his Reds didn't play Thursday, they were part of a double header on Wednesday, and Votto when deep in both games of the double dip.

So if it's any consolation, even though "Canada's Team" may have had a few rough nights, it appears that Canada has still been very well represented in the world of Major League Baseball.  Having said that, let's hope the Blue Jays can get back on track with a win tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Hill, MacDonald, Johnson Deal

By now you've heard that on Tuesday the Blue Jays traded second baseman Aaron Hill, and fan favorite John McDonald to Arizona in exchange for second basemen Kelly Johnson. 

Despite having their starting short stop and first basemen sidelined due to injury, and being on a six game losing streak before the trade (snapped with a 2-0 victory over Washington Tuesday night) The Diamondbacks have found themselves with a two game lead over divisional rival and the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. 

Even though they lead the division, Arizona felt they needed to do something to try and spark their offense after batting just .167 and scoring only 10 runs in their previous seven games.  They're hoping the change of scenery will help Aaron Hill find his lost bat, and that MacDonald will provide solid defense to help out Willie Bloomquist at shortstop.

Both Hill and McDonald voiced that they were happy to be going to a team with a chance to play ball in October, and that they were open to the prospect of coming back to Toronto at seasons end.  A little odd, but understandable. 

However, I'm not telling you anything you haven't already heard. 

What surprises me about this trade, has been the reaction both from some media members, and fan reaction that I have read on Twitter.  A lot of people are of the opinion that this was a move to have Kelly Johnson come in and play for a month, and then collect a higher draft pick than what you would have gotten from Aaron Hill if he were to have walked at seasons end.  I do not understand why this is the general consensus.

I realize that Alex Anthopoulos has said that the deal was orchestrated from Arizona's end, and not his own.  (and we all know dear Alex would never mislead us when it comes to player acquisitions) But doesn't Johnson fit the type of player that Anthopoulos has been targeting?  No, he's not as young as a typical AA addition seems to be.  However he was a first round draft pick, and is on the right side of 30 with high upside in a down year. 

In 2007, his first full season with Atlanta, Johnson batted .276 with 16 HR and 26 2B.  In 2008 he had a slight power drop off to 12 HR, but increased his average to .287 and smacked 39 doubles.  His best all around season to date was 2010, his first in Arizona, when he hit .284 with 26 dingers and 36 2B. 

As I said, he is in a down year.  But in a down year he still has 18 HR to date, and is moving into a hitters park. 

I don't think that Johnson walking at the end of this season for a higher draft pick is Anthopoulos' primary goal here.  Is it possible?  Sure it is.  But we were going to need a second basemen next year with Aaron Hill's contract being up, and the free agent pool at second base is not deep.  Why not bring in Johnson for a five week audition?  Who knows, maybe we can sell him on playing in a city that free agents don't seem to be banging down the door to come and play in.

When asked by friends this year who was going to be playing second base in 2012, There were three names that I gave them.  I would tell them probably Aaron Hill, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a guy like Gordon Beckham or Kelly Johnson end up here.  They just seem like the types of guys that Alex is trying to build the team around:  Talented players in need of a change of scenery that can be brought in without selling the farm.

On the other side, I'm sad to see Hill and McDonald go.  It is nice to see them going to a contending team, but still tough to see two long serving and well liked Blue Jays leave town. 

I suspect that we haven't seen the last of John McDonald.  He'll be back.  Whether it's as a player or as a coach, I don't know.  But he'll be back.

By the way Jays fans, take a look at that Arizona Diamondbacks starting infield...  Four former Blue Jays.  Just sayin...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That Was Fun Wasn't It?

It's 5-3 for the Yankees heading into the bottom of the ninth in Toronto with the best closer in baseball coming out of the bullpen for the Yanks.  Game over right?  Not this time!

Rivera came out for the save in the ninth and Yunel Escobar welcomed him to the game by smacking a double to centre field.  Then came Snider, who after breaking his bat in frustration over his thigh after striking out earlier in the game, grounded out to second moving Escobar to third.  Jose Bautista then drew a walk and Escobar scored on the wild pitch.  Adam Lind then hit a Rivera offering into shallow centre field for a single, allowing Bautista to move to third.  Then came Johnny Mac, who laid down a bunt which not only scored Bautista to tie the game, but got himself in to first base safely as well.  Tie game 5-5, and a blown save for Mariano Rivera, his first of the year.  That was all the damage Toronto would do in the ninth.  Molina singled before Patterson grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Jon Rauch came on to pitch the top of the tenth for the Jays.  He walked two but got the job done, giving the Jays a chance to win it in their half of the tenth.

Normally a starter, Ivan Nova was out to pitch for the Yankees in the tenth.  With Encarnacion on first and two out, Travis Snider who was 0 for 5 on the day, and has a season avg. of just .153 tattooed a pitch to deep centre field for a double, scoring Encarnacion from first and giving the Jays a walk off win from the Yankees in extra innings. 

I love watching the Yankees lose to any team, at any time.  But a walk off loss against Toronto... easily my favorite way for them to lose.

If I could have hand picked someone to be the hero in last nights game, it would have been Snider.  You could almost see the weight come off of his shoulders as the Jays were celebrating their walk off victory.  Hopefully this was a turning point for him.

Drabek started the game for Toronto, and got through 5.1 innings throwing 93 pitches.  He allowed 4 earned runs on 6 hits, striking out only 2, and walking 4.  The pitching high point of the night for Toronto though came from the bullpen in the form of 3 and 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief by Marc Rzepczynski, Carlos Villanueva, Shawn Camp and Jon Rauch.

After a rough finish in Boston to a rough road trip, this was a great homecoming for the Jays.

Frank Francisco was activated from the DL yesterday, and Jesse Litsch was optioned to AAA Las Vegas.  I don't really agree with this at all.  I understand that Reyes is out of options, but Litsch has arguably been the third best starter for the Blue Jays so far this season.  I would have much rather seen them send down Luis Perez and move Reyes to the bullpen.  However I do see their point that they want to see what Reyes can do in the rotation.  We have played this game before (remember Dana Eveland?).  I suspect Perez will be the one to go when Morrow is activated from the DL, unless of course something happens with Juan Rivera.

Tonight it's Brett Cecil and Bartolo Colon as the Jays try to sweep this mini set with the Evil Empire.  Then Friday, Tampa Bay comes in to town and I will finally be making the trip to the rogers centre for the first time this season.  It will be my second MLB game this year, but first Blue Jays game.  I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jays Trade Purcey

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Sportsnet is reporting that the Toronto Blue Jays have traded David Purcey to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Danny Farquhar.  Danny Farquhar was the closer in New Hampshire last year, and was traded to Oakland in the Rajai Davis deal.

Jays also sent cash to Cleveland today for minor league reliever Yohan Pino.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

These West Coast Trips Are Always Exhausting

I guess they wouldn't be if I went to bed...  But why go to bed when there's baseball to be watched?

I almost made it last night.  I was awake when Bautista threw out Langerhans at the plate to end the eighth inning.  That was it for me though, as I must have nodded off during the commercials before the ninth inning.

The Blue Jays lost another close one last night going down 3-2 to the Mariners in a game where both starting pitchers Rickey Romero and Michael Pineda were a pleasure to watch.  Romero gave the Blue Jays' bullpen a much needed rest, pitching all eight innings for Toronto,  He allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits over his eight innings, while striking out 8 and walking just 2.  On the other side, Pineda threw 7 and a third, allowing just 1 earned run on 5 hits, striking out 7 and also walking only 2 on route to his first big league win.

Romero really only made one glaring mistake.  Unfortunately Langerhans sent that mistake into the seats for a two run shot in the third inning.  Toronto's runs came courtesy of Corey Patterson, who hit a 2 run single in the eighth inning to drive in Encarnacion and Escobar.  Patterson then stole second, and when catcher Miguel Olivio threw the ball away trying to catch him stealing he moved on to third.  However when Patterson tried to come home on a fly ball to shallow right from Bautista, M's first basemen Justin Smoak nailed Patterson easily at the plate.

There are positives we can take away from this.  Ricky Romero's curve ball looked downright nasty last night.  Five of the Blue Jays' six losses this season have been by one run, and the bullpen should be ready to go again after having a much needed  night off.

The bullpen also received some help as some roster moves were made last night.  The Blue Jays placed Rajai Davis on the 15 day DL, and designated David Purcey for assignment after his latest blunder on Monday night.  To replace them they have recalled Casey Janssen and Brad Mills form AAA Las Vegas.  It's really too bad about David Purcey.  After his short stint in the bullpen during the second half of last season I really thought they might have something there.  Possibly a future closer candidate.  Unfortunately this season he has been having a lot of trouble getting the ball over the plate.  The Jays now have ten days to either waive, trade, or give Purcey his outright release.  There are rumors that the Houston Astros are interested. 

So for the first time this season the Blue Jays find themselves both below .500, and at the risk of being swept in a series.  Seattle will have the brooms out this afternoon when they send Jason Vargas (0-1) to the hill against Kyle Drabek (1-0). 

Less than two hours until game time.  The Jays need to leave Seattle on a high note before heading to Boston for four.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Happened??

The Bullpen imploded.  That's what happened.

I was downstairs last night fighting hard with my eyelids as I attempted to watch as much of the ball game as I could.  Finally, when I conceded defeat and reached for the remote, it was the end of the fifth.  The Blue Jays were up 5 to 0 with all five runs coming off of King Felix.  The game seemed to be well at hand.  I headed upstairs to retire for the night feeling good that we had gotten a win from Seattle's best, scratch that, the American League's best starting pitcher.  What a great way to start the series.

Then I woke up.

A few minutes after rising this morning I picked up my blackberry to check the overnight emails.  As my weary eyes adjusted to the screen, I saw a message from Sportsnet Radio.  "Mariners Clip Jays"

What?  How the?  Whaaat?  But as I'm sure you already know, it was true.  The Blue Jays went on to take a 7 to nothing lead on those Mariners, and then literally let the Mariners 'walk' all over them in the eighth and ninth to take home the win.

The Blue Jays were leading 7 to 1 heading into the eighth and the Blue Jays turned to David Purcey to hold the Mariners.  The move made sense as Purcey was the only Jays reliever that wasn't a part of the 14 inning (that should have been 13 inning) marathon with the Angels on Saturday night, and they had a six run lead.  Well, it would have made sense if he had been able to throw strikes.  After falling behind 3 and 1 to Micheal Saunders, Purcey gave up a single to him.  Then promptly walked Brendan Ryan on four straight pitches before getting down 3 and 1 again this time to Jack Wilson.  Purcey got lucky and Wilson flew out.  The next batter was Ichiro, who smacked a single on the first pitch and loaded the bases.  That was it from Purcey.  He threw 16 pitches, 10 of them balls.

Unfortunately, it got much worse.

Octavio Dotel came in next and waked the first two batters he faced, bringing in two runs.  Dotel threw 12 pitches, 8 of them balls.  Exit Dotel, enter Rzepcynski for the lefty lefty match up with Jack Cust.  He walked him on four pitches.  Justin Smoak worked a 3-2 count before smacking a two run double.  Thus ending Rzep's day.  Rzepcynski threw 10 pitches, 7 of them balls.

Shawn Camp was next.  Camp's first offering to Miguel Olivio induced an inning ending double play.  Jays escape the eighth with a 1 run lead.

However the Mariners weren't finished yet.

In the ninth, Camp gave up a lead off double to Micheal Saunders.  Brendan Ryan bunted Saunders to third.  One out.  Jack Wilson grounded out to short.

Jays are up by a run with two out in the ninth.

Ichiro is the next batter.  Camp starts him out with two balls, and Farrell opts to put Ichiro on with the count at 0 and 2.  So with the intentional walk, Ichiro goes to first.

Runners at first and third, bottom of the ninth, Jays still clinging to a one run lead.

Luis Rodriguez is the batter.  Ichiro steals second, to put both runners in scoring postion.  After a long at bat, Rodriguez singles and brings in both runs.  Mariners come all the way back from 7 - 0 and walk off with am 8 - 7 win.

It's a terrible way to lose a ball game.  What makes it worse is Felix probably won't give up 7 earned runs to any team the rest of the season.  Actually, he almost certainly will not.  The Jays got to Felix, and couldn't pull it out.

Frankly, I'm kind of glad I went to bed and didn't see it happen.

Here's hoping they can still leave Seattle with a series win and head into Boston on a high note.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Six Down, Twenty Four To Go!

That was an experience!  Last night I made the trip over to Arlington visit my sixth big league park:  Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. 

If only the Jays could one day again obtain a fan base like these Rangers have.  The atmosphere was incredible.  On a Monday night they drew 37000 screaming Ranger fans who were all there to support their team and their love of the game, not just because it's something to do or they scored free tickets from somewhere.  That place was loud, and you could count the number of people who left before the game was over on one hand.  Everybody stayed until Feliz threw that final pitch to Ichiro to end the game and earn his first save of this young 2011 season.

Not only was it a great game, nice park, and great place to watch a game, but there was plenty to do before the game too with a number of kids games, attractions, and of course lots of shops to pick up the latest Ranger gear.

I wasn't there to experience any of the hoopla however.  I was there to watch Canadian Erik Bedard make his first start since 2009 against these Rangers in their home ranch.

Above:  Canadian Erik Bedard plays long toss before last night's bout with the Rangers at Ranger's Ballpark in Arlington.
Below:   Olivio and Bedard loosening up before last night's game.

The results?  Not great, but not bad for a first time out.  Bedard appeared to have a little bit of trouble locating his pitches early on, but he settled down and went on to throw 96 pitches over 5 innings, 60 of those for strikes.  Bedard gave up 5 runs, 3 of them earned on 4 hits.  He struck out 3 and walked 2 along the way.

Unfortunately 2 of the 4 hits allowed by Bedard were home runs.  One to Elvis Andrus in the first, and one to Nelson Cruz in the fourth inning.  The home run from Cruz is his fourth in as many games.

Bedard pitches to Josh Hamilton in the first inning of last night's 6-4 loss to the Rangers.

Again, not a great start, but not a bad one from Bedard.  3 earned runs on 4 hits over 5 innings against a hot team in their home park.  It could have been much worse.

The Blue Jays are back in action tonight on their first "Tweeting Tuesday" at the Rogers Centre where they welcome the Oakland Athletics for a three game set before heading out west to take on Vernon Wells and the Angels in Anaheim.  The Jays will send Jo Jo Reyes to the hill and the A's will counter with Brandon McCarthy.  I won't get to watch or listen to tonight's game but I will be sure to read the box score and check the highlights later. 

Tonight's my last night in Texas.  Tomorrow I do the trek back to Ontario and reality, so I'm not likely to post tomorrow.  Then again, you never know.  If something exciting happens tonight, then I will tell you all about it tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello From the Lone Star State.

The Jays came close, but they couldn't quite sweep the Twinkies out of town yesterday falling 4 - 3.  I didn't see or hear any of the game yesterday, but from what I understand the bottom of the ninth inning brought an atmosphere to the dome that had many in attendance on their feet.  With two on and two out in the ninth, Jose Bautista was at the plate, and worked his way back from 0 and 2 to earn a walk, and bring up Lind with the bases loaded down by a run.  Unfortunately the first pitch to him was a slider that he grounded to first to end the game.  Tough break, but a great series played by Toronto.

As I said I didn't see or hear the game today.  Normally, at the very least I keep my eye on the score using my trusty "Score" application on my blackberry.  Believe me when I tell you that if I don't know what's happening in the Jays game on any given day, it's because of circumstances beyond my own control.  Thus was the case yesterday.  Yesterday I was driving and flying my way to Texas in a trip that started at 5:45 Eastern time, and ended two hours behind schedule at approximately 6:40 Central time. 

The trip started off well with a drive down the 401 to #6 to the QEW to arrive at the border on route to the Buffalo International Airport.  The border wasn't bad, as there were only two cars ahead of me when I lined up to cross.  What was disconcerting however was that both cars ahead of me were flagged off to the side to be searched.  As I wearily pulled ahead, and handed my passport to a very grumpy border guard I wondered if the extra 90 minutes I had allowed myself would be enough to get to the airport in time to catch my flight.  But after about three minutes of very pointed (and thorough I might add) questions, I was on my way again.

The flight out of Buffalo was uneventful.  It was the stop over at the Charlotte North Carolina air port where things got interesting.  Our flight was to board at 2:15pm EST and take off at 2:45pm.  They started boarding those who needed assistance, and first class customers at 2:15 right on schedule.  I had a seat in the seventh row so I was among the last to board.  Upon boarding, we then sat in the plane and waited.  After about 15 minutes the pilot came on to tell us that the mechanics had just found one last thing before we could take off, and that we would be departing shortly.  Another half hour passed and once again the pilot came on over the intercom.  This time to tell us that the plane had been deemed "Unfit for flight" and we all needed to leave the aircraft.

This is all fine with me and as far as I'm concerned, no big deal right?  Apparently not.  I could not believe the amount of complaining from my fellow passengers when we were instructed to leave the plane.  Wouldn't they rather leave the unfit aircraft?  Is the inconvenience of leaving late, or perhaps not leaving at all not more favorable than the inconvenience of possibly crashing?  I vote yes.  A crash would have greatly inconvenienced my day!

Upon evacuating the aircraft and once again crowding the gate inside the airport, we were told that there was another plane coming to gate B16 to pick us up as soon as possible.  My first thought was "Awesome!  We're still going to get there today, we're just going to be a little late.  We don't have to stay overnight!  Great!"  Unfortunately my fellow travelers did not share my sentiment.  Sometimes I think people need to take a step back from the moment they are in, and take another look at the big picture.

The point of the story is that I did land safely at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport two hours behind schedule where my lovely bride was waiting for me at the gate.  Two hours later we were enjoying a late dinner together outside on a patio, and yes, I was wearing short sleeves.  (I hear there was snow at home?  He he he)

What does this have to do with baseball you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  The Blue Jays have the night off tonight, but I on the other hand do not.  I will be hopping in the rental car for the short drive to Ranger's Ball Park in Arlington to watch Navan Ontario native Erik Bedard make his first start since the 2009 season when his Seattle Mariners play the home town Texas Rangers.  Erik hasn't pitched since 2009 because he had to have a few surgical procedures performed.  I've been a Bedard fan since he first broke into the league, and I sincerely hope that he is able to have a successful comeback and hopefully a healthy career from this point forward.  Bedard has always had the stuff and the talent to be great, but has never really been able to realize his potential due to injuries.

I've never been to Texas before so this will be my first time going to the Ranger's park.  It should be a lot of fun!  I will be writing, and posting pictures, to tell you all about it tomorrow!

K is for Kyle! Or is Kyle for K?

Saturday April 2, 2011

The Toronto fans followed up Friday's opening day sell out with a showing of 27,194 today to watch 23 year old Kyle Drabek make his season debut against the Minnesota Twins and Francisco Liriano.  Drabek delivered, going seven innings giving up only one run on one hit while striking out seven and walking only one to capture his first big league win.  The Jays beat the Twins 6 to 1.

I didn't see all of today's game, but from what I did see Drabek is definitely deserving of the spot he earned in the Jays rotation this spring.  

The Jays offense was provided by some unlikely power sources, and a few timely hits.  Jose Molina homered on a ball that bounced off the top of the wall in left field in the third inning, and newly acquired Jayson Nix homered to deep left field in the fourth inning.  Farrell started Nix at third today because he has good career numbers against Liriano.  In the fifth inning Edwin Encarnacion singled to bring in Bautista, and then Travis Snider came off the bench to hit a two run double scoring Lind and Encarnacion making it 5 to 1.  Toronto's last run came in the eighth when Hill hit a sac fly to left that brought Molina home.

Minnesota's only run came from an RBI ground out from Justin Morneau. 

What amused me about today's performance, is that Drabek thought he should have done better.  "The control of my pitches wasn't the best today" Drabek said. "It was just the situations where I needed a good pitch, it was there. I think that helped me out a bunch this game."

This statement sort of sums up how I feel about this team.  They are a young, motivated, close group who expect the best from themselves every time out.  I love the fact that the starting pitchers all hang out together at and away from the ball park.  I love to hear stories like the one from spring training about Yunel Escobar.  How after trying to make a flashy play, and then botching it, John Farrell had gone into the club house to talk to him about it.  However when Farrell got there, he found Edwin Encarnacion already scolding Yunel so to speak.  Telling him that this is not how we play here.  I love that they appear to no longer be one dimensional offensively.  I love the confidence that some of these young players are emitting.

If we have learned anything over the years from teams like the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, it is that young, motivated teams can be very, very dangerous.

I've said it before and I will say it again.  I am really excited to see what this team can do this year.

Opening Night, and Oh What a Night!!

Friday April 1, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen... BASEBALL IS BACK!!

Even though this will be posted a few days late, what a game for the Blue Jays on opening night!

The Blue Jays opened their season at home tonight against the Minnesota Twins, pounding the Twinkies into submission with a 13 - 3 route. 

Rajai Davis led off the first inning with a hard grounder to Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla.  Casilla fielded the ball cleanly and fired to first base but Davis beat the throw for an infield single.  Man can this guy run.  I've always liked him as a player and was excited when the Blue Jays brought him in, but after seeing him on Wednesday in a televised spring training game against Tampa, then again tonight on opening night, Jays fans have reason to be excited about the new running game that Farrell said he wants to add to the 2011 Jays offensive arsenal.  However Rajai wasn't done showing off his speed yet.  Davis was thinking two bases and wandered just a little far from the bag when Pavano turned and threw to first catching Rajai in a rundown.  Rajai should have been out, but after a little back and forth Davis accelerated and committed back to first base diving in safely under a stretching Pavano who had to reach to catch the high throw back to him. 

The next batter was Yunel Escobar who singled to left field on the first pitch moving Davis over to second.  That brought up Jose Bautista, and on the first pitch to him, Davis and Escobar both took off and executed a double steal.  Something we would not have seen last year.  Pavano walked Bautista, loading the bases with nobody out for Adam Lind.  Pavano hit him, walking in the first run of the game, and the season for the Jays.  Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion each hit a sac fly to bring in the next two runs, followed by a base hit from Travis Snider that got away from Twins new second basemen Tsuyoshi Nishioka to bring in a fourth run.

Four runs in the first inning and not one home run.  Welcome to the new version of Blue Jays baseball.  Don't worry though, the old brand is still alive and kicking.  In the fifth inning, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind treated the sold out crowd at Rogers Centre to back to back homers.  Baustista's bomb going to deep left centre, and Lind's to deep right. 

But as far as the long balls go, the story tonight was JP Arencibia.  After having a terrible spring at the plate while working primarily on his defensive game, Arencibia started his season off with a bang.  Well, two bangs and a triple actually.  The first one to deep centre field coming in the fourth inning with Travis Snider on board.  Then in the fifth inning he almost went deep again.  This time JP hit one off the wall in centre field that went for a triple, scoring both Travis Snider and Juan Rivera.  In the eighth inning, he did go deep again to right field.  JP finished the night going 3 for 4 with 5 RBI and two pies to the face.  If you count a load of shaving cream in a towel as a pie of course. 

Not to be lost in the 13 run assault was the outstanding performance from Ricky Romero in his first career opening day start.  Romero threw 6 and a third innings, giving up one earned run on seven hits, striking out seven, and walking nobody!  A great outing for Romero.

Minnesota's three runs all came in the seventh inning.  Young scored on a throwing error from Edwin Encarnacion.  Kubel scored on a double from Alexi Casilla, who then scored on a Denard Span's groundout.

It was very nice to see Canadian Justin Morneau back in Minnesota's lineup tonight for the first time since suffering a concussion in Toronto back on July 7 of last year.  Morneau ended the night going 0 for 4, but belting one ball back to the warning track in right field.  It may not have been his best game, but it is great to see him playing again regardless.

I think this 2011 Blue Jays club is going to be a very exciting one to watch.  I mentioned earlier the televised spring training game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday.  In the first inning of that game, Davis got on first base, then took off for second on the first pitch to Yunel Escobar.  Escobar hit a double play ball, but by the time it was fielded Davis was a step past second base on his way to third already.  The only play was at first base, which they bobbled.  All of the sudden the Jays had runners on first and third with nobody out, on what should have been a double play.  We haven't seen that brand of baseball here in a long time.  I'm really not worried about where the runs will come from this year.  I think this team can manufacture runs.  If the pitching holds up, I really think they finish ahead of an improved Baltimore team, and a Tampa Bay team that saw some of their stars and almost their entire bullpen leave this offseason.

My official prediction for the Blue Jays this season is 85 to 87 wins.  Having said that, if they win 90 it won't surprise me at all.  Yes, I really did just write that.

Tomorrow young Kyle Drabek takes the ball for his 2011 debut looking for his first big league win.  The twins counter with Francisco Liriano.  First pitch at 1:07 in front of hopefully at least 35000 to follow up tonight's capacity crowd.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Deal is Done

It's official.  The Toronto Blue Jays have inked Jose Bautista to a 5 year, $65 million dollar contract.  The deal will pay Bautista $8 million in the first year, and 14 per year for the last four, and there is a club option for a sixth year at 14 million.  If they choose not to exercise the option, there is a $1 million buy out.

From what I heard and read last night when the rumors of the signing came out, a lot of fans and media members thought it was a lot of years, and a lot of money for an unproven player.  However today it seems that a lot of people have warmed up to the signing.

I still like contract, for the same reasons I gave last night.  I was surprised that there was no "out" clause for the player after two or three years, and there isn't a no trade clause in the contract either.  As I said last before, I think this is a great deal for both the player and the team.

It was encouraging tonight to listen to the comments both Alex Anthopoulos and Jose Bautista made during the press conference, and on Prime Time Sports afterward.  Alex referred to Bautista as a "core building block going forward for this organization."  He had a lot of positive things to say about Jose's work ethic and attitude as well.

Bautista mentioned a few times that winning is important to him, and he believes that the Blue Jays are poised to win in the short term.   He made it very clear that his goal is to win, and this is where he wants to be.

When asked about the contract, Bautista had this to say:  "I'm just really excited and ecstatic to wear the Blue Jays uniform, to play in Canada in front of our fans and represent also the Dominican Republic and try to win more championships and bring them to the city of Toronto just like they were in the early '90s,"   

"I can't stress enough how good I feel about this organiztion.  How good I feel about this city and the country.  Being able to wear proudly the blue jays uniform for the next 5 seasons, hopefully six.  I think we're in a good spot.  I think our organization has taken a bunch of steps forward in the last couple of years and we're going to be ready to contend very soon.  Ultimately that's what sold me.  The opportunity to win in the short term and we've got a great group of guys here and hopefully we can win as many games as we can starting this season."

For now, Bautista and the Jays seem like a happy marriage.  Here's hoping that continues when the honey moon is over.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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Yes Way Jose!

Last year at this time, there were rumblings that Cito Gaston was going to have Jose Bautista be an every day player instead of DH/1B Randy Ruiz.  Cito liked Jose's attitude, and approach at the plate.  Cito wanted to give Bautista a chance to play every day.  Cito saw something he liked in the way that Dwayne Murphy had helped Jose change his swing.  I however, did not.  I was practically jumping up and down screaming for Ruiz to play, and not Jose.  Ruiz played a short stint in Toronto at the end of the 2009 season and in just 33 games he hit for a .313 average, with 10 home runs, and 25 runs scored.  Before being called up to Toronto, Ruiz was down with Toronto's AAA affiliate in Las Vegas Where despite playing a short season there, he was named the Pacific Coast League MVP.  How could he not crack the everyday roster?  We had all seen what Jose Bautista was: a competent utility man who is unimpressive as an every day player.  I insisted Bautista's 10 home runs in the month of September 2009 was a fluke.

Boy was I wrong.

This offseason, we were hoping for a deal to get done with Jose Bautista before the start of the 2011 campaign.  Looks like we got our wish.  ESPN is reporting tonight that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista are very close to signing a five year contract extension believed to be for $65 million pending a physical.  This is almost exactly what I was hoping they would sign him for.  I thought that if they could get him for between 3 to 5 years at around 12 to 15 million per year that they should lock him up, and it appears that they have.

There is a strong opinion among some fans and media members that Bautista hasn't proven himself enough to warrant a multi-year contract.  However if this is indeed the terms and money that the two sides have agreed on, I think it's a great move for both the player and the team.  Do I think Jose is a 50 home run a year hitter?  No, but I do think he's a 30 to 40 home run hitter.  Yes, last year was his one big year, but it started the September before.  He hit 64 home runs in a season plus a month.  It would appear that he has found his swing, and personally I think it is here to stay.  What I found really encouraging about his season last year is that in the second half when he should have been cooling off, and pitchers should have been figuring him out, he actually got better.

Even if he does regress to a 20 home runs this year, he's not a total bust at that salary.   Overpaid sure, but not a bust.  A lot of positive comments have been made from players and coaches in Toronto regarding Bautista's club house presence.  He's well liked, and respected.  The type of guy you want to have around your organization.  Jose is also a defensive asset.  He can also play third base, and right field, with a cannon of an arm that helped him tie for second in the majors in outfield assists last year.  There's a lot more up side to Jose Bautista than just his bat.

But what if he doesn't regress?  What if his best years are still yet to come?  What if he is a 40 home run hitter?  That salary would look pretty good then would it not?

If you're still of the opinion that it's too much money to an unproven player, I ask you to consider this.  Jayson Werth has hit over 30 home runs one time (36), and he's only hit more than 20 home runs in three seasons.  Three seasons of 20 or more home runs and he just landed a 7 year 126 million dollar contract.

If he does hit 35 home runs this year, what would Bautista have gotten as a free agent next off season?

I like this deal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Napoli Traded

It seems I wasn't out of line yesterday when I wrote that Napoli was "a player who the Jays can and will use in 2011 if he is still here on opening day."

Shortly after 3:00 eastern time this afternoon it was reported that the Blue Jays have traded Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers for relief pitcher Frank Francisco and cash considerations.

Napoli becomes the second catcher to join and leave Toronto this offseason without ever setting foot on the turf at Rogers Center.  The first was Miguel Olivo.

More to come later on this deal later.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Welcome to the New Era

Vernon bats at Fenway Park during a game on July 17, 2007
I was digging through my crawlspace on Thursday night shortly after a friend who had been over to visit had left for the evening.  You see, this friend and I will get together a few times over the course of the off season to talk about the latest hot stove activities, the upcoming season, or to watch a baseball movie to give us a fix while we wait impatiently for spring training. (yes we are dorks)  Earlier that night while we were watching a movie, I had pulled out a box of baseball memorabilia and gone through it to find some autographs to put up on my rec-room wall.  The box I had found however contained a lot of signs, novelties, old score books, and only a few autographs.  So after my friend had left I found myself back in the crawlspace looking for a second box.  When I had found the one I was looking for I pulled it out into the light and opened it to go over the contents.  The box was full of autographed photos and baseballs my wife and I had collected over the years.  As I removed the old blankets, towels and rags wrapped around each photo I came across something very interesting.  The glass in a frame that had been wrapped in a towel in the center of the box was completely shattered.  Still together in the frame, but shattered into about a dozen pieces.  I finished unpacking the box and found that no other frame was damaged, just that one.  The photo was an 8x10 of Vernon Wells.  A little foreshadowing for the events that would be revealed only 20 hours later perhaps?

On Friday evening I had just pulled the car into the driveway when my BlackBerry buzzed with an email reporting that Mike Napoli had been acquired by the Blue Jays.  This was good news to me as I am a fan of Napoli's, but it brought on the question:  Who is going the other way?  An hour later the news was all over the internet and sportscasts.  The Blue Jays had traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Nopoli and Juan Rivera. 

At first, it was pretty hard to believe.  Vernon has been a Blue Jay since he was drafted by the club fifth overall in the 1997 amateur draft, and has been an everyday player since opening day in 2002.  Not to mention the "unmovable" contract that Wells signed with Toronto for $126 million over 7 years in December of 2006 after having a strong offensive season and winning another gold glove with the Blue Jays.  GM Alex Anthopoulos not only moved that contract, but he managed to pass all of the financial burden to the Angels, and got back two serviceable players in return.  The Blue Jays will not have to pay out any of the money remaining on Vernon's deal, and the money is significant.  Wells is owed $23 million in 2011, and 21 million in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  After pursuing and missing out on signing Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, it was apparent that the Angels had money to spend, and no one to take it.  Vernon filled their need for an outfield bat that they failed to acquire through free agency this year, and weren't likely to fulfill next year either.  Taking a look at the remaining 2011 free agent outfielders, and the outfielders who will become free agents after this season, I don't think there's anyone that list that you can point a finger at and proclaim "That guy is hands down a better all around player than Vernon Wells."  You could maybe make a case for Grady Sizemore if he were to stay healthy and have a bounce back year in 2011.

It took me most of the weekend to decide if I was happy with this trade.  The conclusion I've come to is that although I'm sad to see Vernon go, this deal is a great deal for the Jays moving forward.  Mike Napoli has two years remaining on his contract, and is a player who the Jays can and will use in 2011 if he is still here on opening day.  Napoli destroys left handed pitching, and he can play behind the plate, DH, or at first base if need be.  Napoli took over at first base for the Angels last year when Kendry Morales was injured during a celebration after a walk off grand slam on May 29.  He could platoon with Adam Lind, or wind up playing first more often if Lind has trouble with the defensive transition to his new position. 

Juan Rivera to me is just a guy.  He had a great season in 2009, but fell right off last year.  Which really is par for the course if you look at his career statistics.  Evidently consistence is not his middle name.  He's hit over .300 on two occasions.  He's also hit less than .255 twice, one of those being last season.  The good news is that he's capable of hitting, and has hit over 20 home runs in a season, and he is in a contract year coming to the best home run park in baseball.  So here is hoping that he comes to Toronto with something to prove, and looking for a contract from somewhere next winter.

The bottom line:  Vernon had four more years and $86 million coming to him.  Rivera has one year at 5.25 million left on his deal.  Napoli has two years, and just filed for arbitration at $6.1 million.  Alex Anthopoulos just saved Toronto a boatload of money, and gained them a lot of freedom.

Vernon batting on Fan Appreciation Day.  Oct 2, 2005
Vernon Wells for a lot of fans was their favorite player to hate after signing a contract that he would never be able to live up to.  I remember telling my wife on the day that Toronto offered him the seven year extension that I felt sorry for him, because he was about to be under a lot of pressure, and I wasn't sure he would be able to repeat his 2006 season seven times over.  Unfortunately I was right, and he didn't evolve into the superstar that he was being paid to be.  In 2007 Wells had a terrible season, and later revealed he had suffered a shoulder injury early in the season but chose to play with the bad shoulder.  His luck wasn't any better in 2008 when he broke his left wrist making a diving catch on May 8 and didn't return to action until June 7.  Then on July 9 Vernon strained his left hamstring and missed almost another month.  Despite playing only 108 games in 2008, he still batted .300 with 20 HR and 78 RBI's.   That off season he hired a personal trainer, and came into spring training slimmed down after following a new workout regiment.  He was determined to stay healthy for the 2009 season but it didn't pay off for him.  He played a full season, but his numbers were not good and both the fans and the press let him know it.  Vernon never used his injuries as an excuse for his lack of production.  2010 was Vernon's best season in Toronto since signing the deal.  Now he'll try his luck in Anaheim.

Vernon was a club house leader and face of the franchise after the departure of Halladay after the 2009 season.  He was quiet, reserved, and appeared to be introverted.  This led some fans to think that he didn't play with a sense of urgency, or that he was apathetic.  Trust me when I tell you that Vernon most definitely cared.   In many an interview Vernon voiced his disappointment with his performance on the field.  He played through injuries, he hired a personal trainer hoping that becoming a better athlete would translate to better performance, and he even apologized to fans for his lack of performance.  Wells was active in the community in Toronto, and has said many times that he loved it here.  He lived in Mississauga during the season, supported various local charities in the area, and earlier this month called Alex Anthopoulos to see if AA wanted him to go on the Blue Jays winter caravan promoting the team with young players like Travis Snider, J.P. Arencibia, and Scott Richmond.  Alex told him he was welcome, but didn't have to come.  Vernon got on a plane.

I wish Vernon all the best in Anaheim, and I hope that playing on natural grass instead of turf will help him stay healthy, and perform the way he wants to.

In the last 13 months we've seen Anthopoulos trade away our Cy Young pitcher, our 2010 opening day starter, and our all star center fielder.  I trust him, but I'm wondering how many years he thinks it will be before this team is ready to compete.  With the addition of Napoli, I don't think that Vernon's bat will create a void in the lineup.  However what affect will Marcum's absence have on the rotation?  We just watched Boston and Baltimore both get better, and just when we thought Tampa might be in big trouble they came out of the bargain store with Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. 

This is definitely the start of a new era in Blue Jays baseball.  There's a lot of exciting new talent in Toronto.   It should be a fun ride!

Vernon Chats with Carlos Delgado before a Jays and Mets game on June 30, 2006.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vernon's gone???

Well, I'm sure you have heard by now that Vernon Wells is headed to the Angels with Mike Napoli and Jaun Rivera headed the other way.

What do you think??