Saturday, November 29, 2008

Taking issue with the Globe

You know how sometimes, when a team is looking to rebuild, or retool, or just needs to shake things up, you'll hear a General Manager announce that "nobody is untouchable"? I usually tend to agree, but there are always exceptions. For example, let's say you have a player at the peak of his career, at arguably the most important position on the roster, who is one of, if not the very best in the league at his job, who has pledged allegiance to the team, and who just might be the most popular player in franchise history. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, such a player exists. Well, that player would be the exception to the "nobody is untouchable" rule. You just don't trade Roy Halladay.

Now that I've stated my position, you can imagine the taste left in my mouth by browsing the sports section of the Globe this morning. Not one, but two articles (not so) subtly advocating just the opposite. First up, an article by my guy Jeff Blair.

Full disclosure - Blair is probably my favorite writer covering the Jays (even if, as it appears, baseball coverage is no longer Blairsy's full-time gig). You broke my heart with this quote this morning, Jeff:

".....general manager J.P. Ricciardi disagrees with those of us who don't think like television executives and who believe that the economy going down the sewer, coupled with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays and the economic and personnel clout of the usual suspects in the American League East, makes it a good time to gut the franchise and trade Roy Halladay for some package offering immediate and long-term help."

Blair's cohort Bobby MacLeod follows this up with an article of his own, with a few throwaway quotes from Doc's agent, and essentially re-re-re-rehashing the same tired quotes from the all-star break last season.

If I haven't made myself clear enough, here's my take: unless Roy approaches JP and says he wants out - or indicates he won't re-sign with the team when his contract expires after the 2010 season - there's no way trading Halladay should be part of the organizational blueprint. Roy Halladay is a once in a generation type of pitcher (excuse the hyperbole), by all indications loves playing for the team, and is, maybe above all else, exactly the type of person you want representing your franchise.

Roy Halladay is 31 years old. Roy Halladay is in the prime of his career. Even if 2009 turns out to be the shit year that everyone seems to be so sure the team will're expecting the team to stink for the next five or six seasons? Marcum, McGowan, Cecil, Litsch, Snider, Lind, Rios, and Hill have no chance at growing into the core of a contending ballclub? Trading Doc is the only way to get better? Disagree, friends. Dis - a - gree. So shut the fuck up about trading Doc, already.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Saluting Greatness and Giving Thanks

Seeing as how we've been a bit of a negative nellie lately, we figured we should take a moment and look on the bright side of life.

Remembering Carlson's Houdini Act
In the whole run of a season, it is sometimes easy to forget some of the truly great performances that we had the opportunity to witness. Fangraphs reminds us of Jesse Calrson's heroic effort versus the Texas Rangers way back on April 16, which they rank as the third best pitching peformance of the year. While the Jays went on to lose the game, Carlson certainly held up his end of the bargain by entering with the bases loaded and striking out the side.

Fangraphs notes that "Carlson recorded a 0.721 WPA for his stellar work"...and while we don't really know what that means, it sounds awesome and reminds us of a truly transcendant moment in the 2008 season.

(An appreciative glove tap to Neate at Out of Left Field for this.)

The Greatest Roy Halladay Post Ever Told
We bow and genuflect before Lloyd the Barber at Ghostrunner on First for this outstanding post detailing the daily routine of one Harry LeRoy Halladay. Amongst Doc's activities:

"7:00 AM: Begin daily staredown in the mirror. Turn grimace to stun.

9:00 AM: Realize that the only man strong enough to survive the glare of Roy Halladay is Roy Halladay."

There are some really great Jays blogs out there, and there have been many salient and humourous takes on the team over the past few years. But when we read this post, we were immediately struck with an overwhelming jealousy at its excellence. We wish that we were clever enough write something this good.

Thanks Be Given
Our sincere appreciation to the 'Duk at Big League Stew for listing us amongst his 101 reasons to give thanks this year. Seeing our name dropped alongside Vin Scully, Dan Schulman, Joe Posnanski, and a veritable cornucopia of the greatest things in a baseball fan's life is a truly humbling experience. We can only hope to live up to such a tribute.

Thanks again, 'Duk. You made our day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Want My M(LB)TV

(And as we use that title, we realize that there is a whole generation who wouldn't necessarily get the reference. Yikes.)

These are dark days for baseball fans in Canada. While any given sportscast in this country can find a way to cram in an extra 2000 hours per week of discussion Brian Burke - and seriously, Christ's return wouldn't get this much coverage - there's precious little out there for us fans of the finer things in life.

One of the more depressing moments we've had recently happened when we searched for "baseball" through our TV's program guide, and the answer came back starkly: "None". Groan.

Which is why we find some hope in the last paragraph of this article from the Sporting News on the launch of the MLB Network. The article suggests that maybe, possibly, if we all are good boys and girls and do our homework and floss and stop picking on our siblings and lay of the MILF porn, then maybe Rogers will bring the MLB Network to Canada. Says the article:

"There are no concrete plans yet to take MLB Network international, but (Tony Petitti, MLB Network's president and CEO) says Canada would be the first country into which the channel would expand. Rogers Communication (sic), Canada's largest cable distributor, happens to own the Toronto Blue Jays, and Petitti noted there have been discussions with Rogers about bringing MLB Network to Canada."

The launch of the MLB Network in Canada could go a long way towards offsetting our Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter. Just listening to folks talk about baseball (even those that talk absolute shite) is like a nice warm sweater and a cup of cocoa with extra marshmallows for our soul.

Of course, Rogers already holds a license in Canada for an all-baseball-all-the-time diginet, but they haven't moved on it, likely because they were waiting to follow MLB's lead on this. We're just hoping that they'll see fit to shelve their verions in favour of what will undoubtedly be a superior and readily available product from the U.S. (with bonus Canadian Content in the delightful form of Hazel Mae!)

Surely, if Rogers can include CBS College Sports TV in their channel lineup, they can find some room for the MLB Network.

So we implore the execs: Tony Viner, Rael Merson, or whoever has the capacity to make this happen, please please please please pretty please add the MLB Network this winter. We'll be forever grateful.

(Wow...that was kinda pathetic, wasn't it? But seriously, we could lower ourselves further to make this happen.)

Halladay is a video game animal

We're not precisely sure what to make of this screenshot from MLB Superstars.

At a glance, it appears as though Roy Halladay has morphed into a werewolf or is wearing a bear's head, is holding a giant chili pepper, and is observing a field in desperate need of landscaping and better zoning requirements so as to keep travelling carnivals from pitching their tents in the infield.

Oh, and somehow, Daniel Cabrera is the normal one in this photo. Go figure.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Florida sounds real good right about now

We're freezing our nuts off, and it isn't even December yet. Can anybody explain to us what the hell our forefathers were thinking when they settled on this land of slush and sleet and snow? This is no sort of climate for a self-respecting baseball fan.

It's this time of year that reminds us of what a sound decision Papa Tao made when he purchased his fifth-wheel trailer and started heading down to Florida for the winters. It doesn't matter that it costs him a small fortune to haul that beast down there, or that he's chosen to live in what Vic Chesnutt called "the redneck Riviera". At least he's not spending his stretch run shivering and shoveling.

And speaking of the good life in FLA, the Jays released their 2009 Spring Training schedule, which kicks off three months from tomorrow versus the Yankees.

Three months. It sounds so close, yet it seems so far.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

So long, Moose

Right off the top, let me get something out of the way: I am petty, vindictive, and a bit (?) of an ass myself. Now that I've cleared that up, let me get one more "fuck you, Mike Mussina" post out of my system. Don't act surprised - you knew this was coming....

First, let me congratulate Archie's big dumb friend on a great career - possibly a Hall of Fame career - and for going out on top (his first 20 win season). It's not often you see players potentially walk away from another ten or twenty million dollar contract. Another point in Mussina's favor is that he was a pretty loyal guy, having spent his 17 year career split between just two teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. Yet another check in the "good" box is that all of his accomplishments came pitching out of the notorious AL East.

To further honor Mussina, I'm thinking about planning a little road trip to New York next summer. I'd like to be there when they celebrate his career and retirement with a pre-game ceremony. I just hope the proceedings don't delay the start of the game at all, because, in fact:

"I congratulate the man who got 4,300 games, but sitting for 15 extra minutes before the game was supposed to start - that was worse. When they say 2:15 and it’s 2:25 and they’re still on the field ... I don’t want to take anything away from him. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. But tell us 2:30 instead of 2:15. That’s all."

For this Mike Mussina, you're an asshole. Oh, I could go on and rehash the whole Cito-Mussina feud also, but I think Cito put that one to bed during the season with this quote:

"Mike Mussina can kiss my ass — and you can print that"

I could also express the popular sentiment about how Mussina didn't pitch for fame or fortune, but a quick bit of research tells me that he made just under $145 million in salary during his career. Kind of takes the shine off that star, no?

So congratulations on your career, Mike. I hope you enjoy your retirement. Asshole.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Five years is a long time

Don't get us wrong...We love A.J. as much as the next guy. But five years? How many DL trips is that? What's the over/under on the number of "sharks" biting in his elbow between now and 2013?

As a point of reference, think about what the Red Sox did with hometown heroes Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon: They walked away from bad contracts that were too long, spared themselves the sight of those two players going to hell in a Red Sox uniform, and won a World Series along the way. The Yankees and Mets? Not so much.

Maybe J.P. should take heed.

A masher in the middle

Now that J.P. has apparently tossed a bucket of cold water on all of those Manny Ramirez fantasies that fanboys (like us!) have been concocting since midway through last season, the question remains: who's going to be the big bat in the middle of the lineup next year.

As always, the Tao is here to serve you with insider analysis and the latest poop and scoop. (Okay... so we're not an insider. But we did once share a Go Train platform with Sportsnet's Peter Loubardias, back when he had just lost all his baby fat. That's gotta count for something.)

Here's a brief run down of the candidates to drive in some RsBI next season:

1) Milton Bradley - There's lots of apprehension around the mercurial Bradley, who at times shows roughly the same level of emotional stability as the love child of Crispin Glover and Sean Young. But considering what a horrendously milquetoast crew the Jays will have next year (especially with A.J. dishing out shaving cream pies elsewhere), you have to wonder if they couldn't use a guy who doesn't mind running his mouth and going apeshit once in a while.

In terms of his numbers, they were sterling in 126 games last season (22 HRs, 77 RsBI, .999 OPS). Looking at his year over year trends, Bradley only seems to be getting better, posting an OPS+ of 153 in 2007 and 163 in 2008.

As much as we like the idea of Bradley in Toronto, there are three caveats that we see. First, his durability is a concern. He's never managed to play more than 141 games in any season, and he missed substantial time from 2005 through 2007.

Second, his career stats versus the Yankees and Red Sox are less than stellar (.565 career OPS versus the Yanks, and .716 versus the Sox.)

Finally, the switch-hitting Bradley's career stats versus lefties (.504 slugging) are a lot stronger than his numbers versus righthanders (.438 slugging, .801 OPS).

All things considered, it seems as though Bradley could be had with a reasonable contract for a shorter term, and he could represent an upgrade over Adam Lind in the short term.

2) Raul Ibanez - Dismiss him if you must, but Ibanez has driven in more than 100 runs in each of the last three years, and moreover, he has driven in more runs than any Blue Jay over that period.

3) Jason Giambi - Left for dead as recently as 2007, Giambi can still hit 30 bombs and drive in 100 if he stays healthy. He has also put up robust numbers at Rogers Centre over his career (.554 OPS SLG, 22 homers and 58 RsBI in 87 games).

4) The rest of the lot - It gets pretty sketchy at this point, with players who are on the downside of their career (Griffey, Garciaparra, Abreu, Kent, Jim Edmonds), players who aren't going to sign with J.P. in asny case (Adam Dunn), and players who have more question marks than the Riddler's unitard (Burrell, Rocco Baldelli, Garrett Anderson). Of those, Baldelli is the one that intrigues us most, if only because it would bring so much joy to the fellas at Ghostrunner on First. Our profound sense of nostalgia kicks in on Griffey, who has slugged .577 in Toronto over the years, but we've already been down the "future Hall of Famer's last hurrah" road before, and it didn't play out very well as we recall.

That's our list. As always, we welcome your scorn in the comments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We NEED a pitcher, not a belly-itcher

As per a request in the comments of our shortstop rundown in the last post, we figured we'd share our views on the Jays' forays into the starting pitching market this off season. (We're nothing if not responsive to our readers.)

Obviously, this whole thing is going to be complicated by the fact that we don't really know what the Jays will have in terms of a pitching staff or a starting rotation in the coming two years. What sort of pitcher will Casey Janssen be next year? When does Dustin McGowan return to the lineup? Will Jesse Litsch come to camp in shape and ready to be a number two pitcher? Can David Purcey throw strikes?

Regardless, there's going to be a significant gap in the rotation left by A.J. Burnett (and let's just stop kidding ourselves that he's going to leave money on the table to come back). The Jays are also likely to be squeezed on how much they can offer to free agent pitchers, so they'll be looking for bargains on name-brand pitchers. (Not quite the same as the Ohka-Zambrano-Thomson spree from a couple of years back.)

So who can help fill the void? See our humble suggestions below.

1) Ben Sheets - Yes, we know that he is made of sugar, and that his strike out rate has declined while his walks have gone up. We know that he hasn't pitched more than 200 innings since 2005, and that he has excelled pitching in the NL Central. We know that there is a reason why teams will be scared away from him...but that's exactly why we think he might be a fit for Toronto.

He might be the sort of pitcher that could be had on a shorter deal, which would allow some payroll flexibility and which wouldn't create impediments for the Cecils or the Mills coming up through the system. And if his health returns (he did manage 198.1 innings last season), he might be the best number two pitcher in the division.

2) Derek Lowe - Our guess is that he'll have plenty of suitors, including the Yankees and Red Sox. But given Toronto's outstanding infield defense, we think that the sinkerballing Lowe would be an ideal fit with the Jays, serving up ground balls on Rogers Centre turf. He's been a durable and reliable starter since coming back out of the BoSox bullpen in 2002, and had one of his best seasons last year (3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP).

3) Jon Garland - Speaking of ground balls, Jonny Sinkers lives and dies by his infield defense, which went into the toilet for him in Anaheim last season. (The Almighty Halladay would have had a rough ride last season if he was being backed up by Chone Figgins at third, Erick Aybar at short and Howie Kendrick second.) His numbers in his first year in the greater Los Angeles area were far less than stellar (4.90 ERA, 1.51 WHIP), but he was a Cy Young candidate as recently as 2005, and is not yet 30 years old. Once the top names are gone, Garland could be a good fit at the right price for Toronto.

4) Brad Penny - He's big. He's fat. He has good first halves. He gets into bar fights. He's one of the Brad Arnsberg Marlins diaspora. He'll likely command less than the $9 million that the Dodgers would have had to pay him. And if you're looking for next year's Cliff Lee (the mediocre pitcher who suddenly becomes a world-beater), we think that Penny is as likely a candidate as any.

5) Oliver Perez -And if Penny isn't going to be next year's Cliff Lee, how about Perez? Our sense of Perez has changed a bit over the past few years, where we we no longer expect him to be an elite pitcher, but that he can have flashes of brilliance. Think of him as a left-handed A.J., only with junk instead of stuff. (Does praise get any fainter than that?) Perez walked entirely too many batters last season, and it is probably not reasonable to expect him to post less than a 1.30 WHIP.

6) The Old Skool MTL Crew - Petey Martinez and Randy Johnson. They're old, and they certainly ain't what they once were. But, you know, in a pinch, we wouldn't mind plugging them in as a fifth stater...provided they aren't the only answer. Besides, think of how many Dick Griffin columns would write themselves if these former Expos came on board!

We realize that we're probably completely wrong about all of this, but when you don't really have much of a budget to work with, how do you do things right?

In any case, feel free to chastise us for our simple-mindedness in the comments. We live for your criticism.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shortstops à gogo

Stop us if you've heard this one before: The Blue Jays are on the look out for a shortstop this off season.

And how sad is this: The last Blue Jays shortstop to have two consecutive seasons of playing more than 1000 innings (roughly 115 games) at the position was Alex Gonzalez in 2000 and 2001. Since then, a veritable rogues gallery of marginal players have suited up at the position. You've got your Chris Woodwards, and you've got Chris Gomezes, along with a little Mike Bordick here and your occasional Russ Adams there.

There are a handful of names that are being tossed around as possible replacements for the departed and not-so-lamented Scrappy Doo, and we'd be derelict in our duties if we didn't share our thoughts on them. (Right?)

Below are our views on six possible options for the Jays up the middle next year.

1) J.J. Hardy - Our personal pick of the litter, Hardy seems like he's been around forever, even though he's still just 26. He's hit 26 and 24 homers in the past two seasons, with an OPS .821 last season. In spite of numbers like those (which look positively Ruthian when compared against the output of Jays shortstops) , Hardy never seems to get much respect in Milwaukee. Now that the Brewers are set to go with top prospect Alcides Escobar as early as next April, rumours (or is that wishful thinking?) are popping up around the interwebs that he is headed to any number of teams. (Seattle, Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox...everybody's got their eye on Hardy it seems.)

Brewers GM Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal that the best offer he's received so far for Hardy is "a No. 5 starter." Might the Jays be able to shake him loose with a set up man or a closer?

2) Rafael Furcal - He was great offensively when he played this year (1.012 OPS in 36 games) after a subpar 2007 season (.687 OPS). He was also brutal in the field in this year's playoffs, and while he gets to a lot of balls, and has a cannon of an arm, his 27 errors in 2006 are a little scary. But Furcal is (and we hate ourselves for saying this) the prototypical lead off man that the Jays could use at the top of their lineup.

He'll command more than $10 million per year on a short contract, and might be worth it if he's willing to take a one or two year deal to burnish his credentials.

3) Orlando Cabrera - Allegedly loves Canada, and is loved by Richard Griffin. Still a good fielder, but his offense last year was awful, and he actually wouldn't really represent any sort of upgrade over Marco Scutaro. (Cabrera: 8 HRs, 57 RsBI and a .705 OPS; Scoots: 7 HRs, 60 RsBI, .697 OPS.)

Cabrera is getting by on reputation at this point, and hasn't had an OPS over .800 since 2003 with the Expos.

4) Khalil Greene - A favorite target of Blair, Greene actually posted a sub-.600 OPS in 105 games last season. Granted, he played in San Diego in the most cavernous of all ballparks, but his home-road splits were actually worse on the road. In 50 games away from PetCo, Greene put up an awful .542 OPS, including a putrid .225 OBP.

Greene is an excellent fielder, but he'd have to revert back to his 2007 production (27 HRs, 97 RsBI) before we'd consider him any sort of an upgrade over what we've got. Which brings us to...

5) What We've Got - The question is: how much do you start to give up from your roster or from your payroll flexibility in order to grab one of these marginal improvements? If Scutaro were to perform up to last year's levels, would the Jays suffer that much? Could Scutaro get the job, with McDonald subbing in as a defensive replacement? Can't we just call these guys our number nine hitters and move on? Isn't there a way that we could make the most of the players on the roster? All questions which bring us to...

6) Aaron Hill - The little birdies with Eckstein faces have apparently stopped circling his head long enough for the Jays to pull him off the 60 day DL this week. And while the conventional wisdom is that the Jays won't want to rush him into a new role while he slowly makes his way back, it's hard to overlook the emergence of Joe Inglett last year.

There weren't many good stories to find with the Jays' offense last year, but Inglett acquited himself well in 344 ABS (.762 OPS, nine steals, 45 runs scored and 39 RsBI). Inglett is a decent second baseman, but lacks the arm to short and has only done so for only 11 innings in the Majors.

Hill played 63 games at short in 2006, making an unseemly 12 errors in that limited time. But his defense has improved significantly at second over the past two seasons, which at least hints at the fact that he could master the other side of the diamond.

And the moral of the story is...
None of this is particularly a ringing endorsement for any of these guys. Then again, maybe we have to adjust our offensive expectations for shortstops. After a decade or so of hard hitting middle infielders, there was only one shortstop in the majors to hit more than 30 homers (Hanley Ramirez, 33), and none who drove in more than 90 RsBI (Jhonny Peralta drove in 89).

(UPDATE: A belated glove tap to the Ghostrunners for inspiring this post.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Free agency Friday

I suppose that today marks the real start of the hotstove season - being the first day offers can be tendered to free agents, and all - but it's been a sleepy few weeks and we shouldn't expect things to heat up for a few more. Really, what agent worth his salt will jump on the first offer to come across his dish? Certainly not Darek Braunecker, and even more certainly (is that even possible?), not Scotty B.

Jumping on the CC Train
Just because agents won't be accepting offers on behalf of their clients on the first day of free agency, doesn't mean they won't listen. As expected, it didn't take the fucking Yankees long to set the bar by extending a record-setting offer of employment (for a pitcher) to the cream of the free agent crop, Carsten Charles Sabathia. And can I say something here? CC doesn't frighten me. Oh, I know what a ludicrous statement that is. But he just doesn't. I don't know why, but it might have something to do with the fact that I can't see a 6'7, 300+ lb man hold up for the length of the 6 years on the table. Or I could be just talking myself off the ledge, I don't know.

More noteworthy (to me, anyway), is the fact that ol' Hank Steinbrenner has openly declared the Yankees are in on both AJ and Derek Lowe, both of whom are looking for 4+ year contracts. If you think locking in on $250 million and half a decade of commitment to 3/5 of your rotation (the youngest of whom would be 34 years old by term's end) is a good idea, then have at it fellas.

Nick Swisher, New York Yankee
Really? This is a good idea? The guy who seems to be constantly fucking around in-game, dyes his goatee yellow, and couldn't get on with a disciplinarian manager? He's a good fit for the New York Yankees? Uh, OK then. Again - have at it, fellas.

Aaron Hill is symptom free
I know I keep harping on it, but I'm telling you, this will make a big difference next season, friends. Gold glove defence, a .290 average, and 65 extra-base hits... assuming the birds have stopped chirping inside his head, of course.

Whatever happened to extending Doc?
I don't want to read anything into this, and for the record, am not going there yet......but what happened to the in-season proclamations that the Jays would be looking to extend Doc? For now, I'm just going to pretend that I haven't been reading the whispers that the Jays have yet to decide whether to make a push and reload....or scale back payroll and rebuild. For now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Silver Sluggers to be awarded - Blue Jays need not apply

So once we get through today's pantomime of an AL Cy Young Award announcement, we can look forward to the fair and equitable distribution of Silver Slugger Awards.

We think it is pretty safe to assume that no Blue Jay is going to be so honoured this year. In fact, we'd be surprised if a Blue Jay got so much as a single vote amongst the managers and coaches who pick the winners.

The last time a Blue Jay won a Silver Slugger was in 2003, when Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado ('member him?) both received one, in the same year that Roy Halladay won the Cy Young.

Wow. We had no idea at the time that 2003 was going to be viewed in retrospect as "the salad years".

Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to go slam our door on our hand to see if we can remember what it's like to feel something.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scott Campbell blogs, plays third, appreciates Roddy McDowell

As part of his Arizona Fall League apprenticeship, Jays prospect Scott Campbell has been assigned a monumental task: He's been asked to blog.

(Oh, and he's also been asked to play third as well, but we leave it up to you to decide which is more difficult.)

In addition to documenting his travails at the hot corner (six errors and a ground ball in the face), Campbell has also discussed his appreciation for the Planet of the Apes franchise, and his father's curious advice on hydration:

"I'm not used to this heat, so I'm learning to hydrate myself. My dad always taught me that one beer after a game will hydrate you better than water. We'll see..."

A few other Jays prospects have hopped on as well, with J.P. Arencibia posting this week about hanging with Travis Snider in Arizona. Apparently, The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM is spending his time this offseason eating barbecue (No!) and playing Rock Band (Double No!!).

If Snider comes to camp 20 pounds heavier with acute wrist tendinitis, there's going to be hell to pay.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Five Reasons Why We Don't Want Ryan Dempster

Reason #1 - Because he can't hang in the AL
With all of the requisite caveats about small sample sizes, let us just note that Dempster's career ERAs versus the Yankees (6.88) and the Red Sox (7.13) don't exactly inspire us. Dempster also got smoked for eight runs in 2.1 innings against the White Sox on June 27 last year. All that glove twitching and junkballing might work against the Houstons and Cincys of the world, but we're guessing that once the boy is put into a man's league, his results may vary.

Reason #2 - Because his arm is due to fall off sometime in early 2009
After four years in the bullpen and three years as a closer, Dempster pitched 206.2 innings last year. That's a year-over-year increase of 140 innings from 2007 to 2008. Knowing that, is there anyone who would really want to hitch their wagon to him for four years at $50 million?

Reason #3 - Because he's gonna be too damn expensive
As mentioned just above, the Cubs' "hometown discount" offer was apparently $50 million over four years (according to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune.) That's a lot of money for a guy who will likely never put up a season as good as last year. A contract like that is fine for the Cubs, but if it were to go wrong for the Jays, it could hinder the team's ability to maneuver and adjust for the next few years.

Reason #4 - Because we remember Corey Koskie

Sometimes, those stories of bringing home good Canadian boys to play for their "home team" just don't pan out. We've got a feeling that Dempster, the hometown boy who grew up 4,422 kilometres away from the SkyDome, might get a king's welcome to Toronto from the rather parochial sports press in the Great White North. But we doubt that warm and fuzzies will do much for the Jays in the win column.

Reason #5 - Because that Harry Caray impression won't play here
Sure, we get that Dempster's a hoot. A real cut up. But we've heard his impression of Harry Caray one time too many, and we've always felt like his impression is really an impression of Will Ferrell's impression. He might leave Jamie Campbell in stitches, but we'll take a pass on his comedy stylings.

Playing Catch Up with a Mess o' Items

Zaunie's got a red ass
Gregg Zaun dialed up his favorite sounding board, CanWest's John Lott, and let loose on the Jays organization and J.P. Ricciardi for a series of slights (both real and imagined). While we're not inclined to pine for the return of a 38 year-old catcher with diminishing skills and a possibly overinflated sense of his worth, we'll confess that J.P.'s statement near the trade deadline that nobody wanted Zaun was a bit offside.

(Even if it was true, Ricciardi should probably have shrugged it off and eaten shit when the press was grilling him on Zaun trades.)

We'll miss Zaun this year, and we hope he lands the backup spot on a contender as he states is his wish. We also hope that he makes his way back north of the border for the occasional broadcasting gig, because his fake slow-mo clinics in the commercial breaks in the playoffs were as insightful as a whole year with certain analysts.

If Marty York says it, you know it must be true
In his latest commuter rag scribblings, Marty York buys in fully to the "Bob McCown's Stan Kasten for Jays President" story, noting that Gord Kirke met with him in New Orleans. And this is absolutely newsworthy, as Gordon Kirke is not at all known for hanging out with sports figures and front office types. So something must be up, right?

Cito to be honoured
We'd never heard of the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award before today, but if it exists (and apparently it does), then we can think of no one better to receive it than Cito.

This offseason is having an affect on us
It's making us very sleepy. Someone jostle us awake when something happens.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We're so over Overbay

The mutterings around the GM meetings in Dana Point, CA, have it that the Jays are ready to move Lyle Overbay, possibly to the Mariners.

To which we say: Fine by us.

Don't get us wrong. We're not going to toss around that tired line about first base being a "power position", as we heard any number of JaysTalk callers spit out all season. But there's plenty of reasonable questions to be asked about Lyle. And at 32, we're guessing that his best years are already behind him.

We respect that Overbay was a high OBP guy who could hit a ton of doubles when he was right and his hand wasn't hampering him. But the two-year promise that Overbay would overcome his hand injury and return to form has not yet borne fruit.

What has returned is a player with a long swing that has too many moving parts. Weight shift, twist back, pull back hands, drop hands, step forward, through the zone with the bat. Too often, all of this sound and fury results in weak ground balls, or balls fouled directly down at his feet.

(His swing is not exactly Molitoresque in its efficiency.)

Once a doubles machine, Overbay's numbers have fallen off the table in the past two years. In 2008, he was tied for 9th amongst MLB first basemen in doubles with 32, along with Carlos Delgado, Adrian Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, and Joey Votto. Which might seem like good company, until you glance down the stat column and compare Overbay's homer total (15) against theirs: 38, 36, 25 and 24 respectively. Clearly, Overbay is just not hitting the ball hard as often as he used to, and as often as his peers currently do.

(And as a side note: Is there any one of those four first basemen that you wouldn't take over Overbay?)

More comparisons with his peers: Overbay drove in just 69 runs last year, which ranks him 22nd amongst first sackers, while his OPS was 19th.

His purported stregnth is getting on base, and yet Overbay ranked just 13th amongst first basemen in OBP.

We know that there are plenty of passionate defenders of Overbay (see, Wilner, Michael), but when you line him up against the quality of first basemen around the league today and those emerging in the next year or so, you can see how he's about to slip from a mid-range to a low-end option in very short order. We're talking Mientkiewicz territory.

It's probably time to send him and his reasonable two-year $14 million contract down the road.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The end of the never-ending AJ Burnett opt-out discussion

Anyone surprised?

The agent for AJ Burnett, Darek Braunecker, has informed the club that his meal ticket will indeed exercise the opt-out clause in his contract. So the new question becomes.... what now?

The whole thing has become a mess of contradictory statements, which is to be expected, I guess. Money isn't everything, but there will be no hometown discount. AJ likes it in Toronto, but AJ wants to be closer to home. Team AJ wants to give the Jays every shot to work out a deal, but Team AJ wants to gauge market interest.

To tell the truth, other than the "no hometown discount" comment (fuck you, Braunecker), none of it really bothers me, since I contradict myself daily on this one. I really don't know which way to go here. Part of me says the Jays are better off taking the draft picks, spending the cash elsewhere, and letting Burnett hit the DL while tying up a big chunk of someone else's payroll.

Then I realize, yeah.....but they'll have to spend (basically) the same cash on either (a) an older pitcher with lesser stuff, but maybe more reliable (Lowe), (b) a pitcher with the same issues (Sheets), or (c) a mid to back of the rotation filler arm (Paul Byrd?). Regardless of the choice, there are question marks galore.

So the new question becomes, go with the devil you know, or the shitballer you don't? The sad reality is, the decision is really out of the Jays hands now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hotstove, Volume 1

This just in from Major League Baseball's annual GM meetings: the Toronto Blue Jays addressed two glaring needs on Monday by acquiring a shortstop and some pitching help. Welcome to the organization, Angel Sanchez and Kelvin Jimenez!

For those keeping score at home, you can add Messrs. Sanchez and Jimenez to the growing list of offseason acquisitions for the Jays, along with RHP Dick Hayhurst and IF/OF/definitely not a LHP Adam Ankieloewen (see what I did there?). Now, I'm only busting balls a little bit here, because I know these are just basic organizational moves that every team makes at this time of year....but if you think these claims and signings will make me forget about the loss of Mencherson, well, you're crazy.

Zaun files for free agency
So long, Zaunie old boy. Oh sure, there's an outside chance that the veteran catcher could come back at a discounted price to be the Jays backup behind the plate, but not much of one, I'd say. Odds are the team will go with former prospect, current AAAA player Curtis Thigpen as the primary reserve.

For my money, though, I'm hoping Brian Jeroloman shows enough in camp to earn the backup spot, as his skills behind the plate and propensity for taking a walk make him seem like an ideal backup. Why not break the kid into his future role playing caddy for JP Arencibia?

In case you haven't noticed.... the complete lack of professionalism in this post, the Tao is away for the first part of the week, so it's extendo Ack-talk for a few days. Now, I'm not at liberty to divulge what's keeping the Tao from this space, but let's just say that it may or may not involve a resume and a meeting with Paul Beeston. Hmmm?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween quick hitters

OK, so I'm a day late.....but I meant to post this yesterday, and was too lazy to change the title.

It's November 1st, the World Series is over, and the GM meetings are just around the corner. You know what that means, don't you? Hotstove season, babies. Every year, once the Jays are mathematically eliminated, the Hotstove pretty much becomes the next "big thing" I look forward to. And here we are.

On to the aforementioned quick-hitters:


Ooooh.....the drama! The intrigue! Will he or won't he? What do you think he'll do, Blue Jay fans? Any guesses? (end sarcasm)


The Jays first major offseason move has come to pass, as the club has exercised the 2009 option on Rod Barajas. Oh, right - sorry - sarcasm mode ended. In all seriousness, it`s a pretty good situation for the Blue Jays, as the presence of Barajas behind the dish, on a one-year deal, will help the club bridge the gap until top catching prospect JP Arencibia is ready to handle the starting job. At least, I would hope that`s the plan....


Just what in the fuck is it in the water these days that has Blue Jays fans jumping from the CN Tower over the club's fate next season? So, the Rays make the World Series, and automatically the Jays are reduced to a guaranteed fate of a 4th place finish in '09? Nope, I'm not buying it. I'm just not. You want predictions? Well, I've got some predictions for you: Scott Kazmir will be good for maybe 15 starts next season, Evan Longoria will go through a sophomore slump, BJ Upton still won't "get it", and David Price will show why very few players make the jump to the big leagues one year after being drafted. Yes, the Red Sox will find a way to finish with 90+ wins, but the Yankees, despite spending an obscene amount of money this offseason, will disappoint.


Oh, and the Blue Jays? Yeah, OK - the rotation, as currently constructed, scares the piss out of me. There's Doc, who's an animal, obviously....and Jesse Litsch, who makes a fine #4 or #5.....and a whole lotta ?? (question marks). But the offense? Why can't the offense improve? Full seasons from Young Adam Lind and Sniderman (if he breaks camp, that is) won't help? A healthy Vernon Wells won't make the team better? And how about the guy everyone seems to have forgotten about - Aaron Hill. His presence won't improve the lineup? Don't get me wrong - Joe Inglett did a great job filling in, but he 's not going to get you 15 HR and 40 doubles like Aaron Hill can. And what about the massive boners everyone was sprouting about the work Team Cito did with the hitters? We're forgetting about that now?

And finally, let's not forget that JP Ricciardi (the other JP) knows the club needs a push, there's a little payroll room to kick around (maybe more than we think? Hmm?)....and, oh yeah, the little matter about a new incoming President and his job being on the line....


Here's to hoping Ted Rogers bounces back from his latest medical scare. Details are sketchy at the moment, which is usually ominous, but let's hope for the best.


Why is everyone kicking my ass over the idea of inquiring about Billy Butler? Once a top hitting prospect, he seems to have fallen out of favor with Royals management, and word on the street (OK, from Keith Law) is that he could probably be had for relatively cheap. A 22 year old, still getting his feet wet player who was once hailed as a having .300-25 HR potential isn't attractive? In short, fuck you guys!


Owning up, I can see how my longings for an incentive-laden contract to lure Pedro back to the AL East seems, well, insane. But something tells me he'd love to shove it up the Red Sox (and his daddies, the Yankees) ass one more time, and maybe, just maybe, he can coax another year out of that shoulder. I'd never sign the guy to a massive base contract.....but a one year incentive-based deal? Why not? Who'd he be blocking? A probably not ready Brett Cecil? My guy Rick Romero? If nothing else, it'd be an exciting gamble...