Saturday, February 28, 2009

A two sentence post on....being a Jays fan

Being a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays leaves me feeling bipolar - manic highs followed by cavernous lows.

Or maybe JP Ricciardi is the bipolar one - running his gums about being aggressive in the draft, then contemplating throwing away a first round pick for an aging stopgap solution at shortstop.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Finally, some good news from the Beeston Era v2.0

It's fair to say that I had unrealistic expectations upon hearing the news that Paul Beeston was taking over as "interim" (more on that later...) President of the Jays. After all, Beeston was the guy at the top during the glory years of '92 and '93. Surely he'd be the guy to set the Jays back on course to greatness, yes?

Given those unrealistic expectations, it's safe to say that I've been completely underwhelmed to date - more my own fault than the Beest's, to be sure - but a $20M payroll cut (however you'd like to position it) didn't exactly do a whole lot for consumer confidence.

So this morning I'm skimming through the usual plethora of bullshit spring training stories, when I came across this fairly nondescript article. Nondescript, that is, except for this little nugget discussing the draft and player development:

The Blue Jays, under interim CEO Paul Beeston, intend to become even more aggressive in that regard by employing a new willingness to pay signing bonuses above Major League Baseball recommendations. That was a big no-no under old president Paul Godfrey and the shift in philosophy may help Ricciardi secure more high-end talent.

"That's definitely going to be an area we look at differently," said Ricciardi. "The gloves are off."


The Blue Jays going over slot in the draft?


I'd tell you that I'm speechless, but that wouldn't make for much of a post now, would it? Instead, I'll tell you that this is exactly the kind of strategy a team should be employing if they can't (or won't) compete on payroll at the major league level - or maybe more specifically, in the AL East.

I suppose we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, because seeing is believing when your GM has a penchant for, how shall we say, half-truths. The draft goes the first week of June. You're on the clock, JP.

If you're not following Jeff Blair's exhibition game live blogging, you should be
.....and I'm here to tell you why. I've followed along for the last few games via the Globe site, and here are a few pearls of wisdom somewhat innocuously passed along by ol' Blairsy:
  • Reclamation project #2,426 Matt Bush possesses a nails slider, and the team thinks he can be a contributor given enough innings in the minors
  • While Cecil is the guy getting all the pub - everyone in management loves them some Brad Mills
  • Buck Martinez despises Blair - for calling him the worst manager he's ever covered (awesome)
  • Blair hints the Jays will move a relief arm before the season, and later subtly drops that the Jays like Tigers minor league SS Mike Hollimon. Hmm....Jason Frasor and Johnny Mac (I just have a bad vibe about Mac's place on the team) for Mike Hollimon?
  • Re: "more on that later" - per Blair (via Pat Gillick - presumably over cocktails, eh Blairsy?), there's nothing "interim" about Beeston's role as prez.....

On the downside, Blair indicates that he thinks the Jays could be the 2nd worst team in the AL, and in his estimation, Snider is probably only good for 15-18 HR this season.

Oh well, it can't be all shits and giggles. Besides, with the team's newly aggressive draft strategy, JP can put that 2010 top-5 pick to good use instead of focusing on my least favourite prospect characteristic - signability.

See how it all ties together?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's the return of Fake Games!

It's the Jays versus the Yankees at 1:05 today, kicking off this year's slate of totally insignificant Fake Spring Training Games!

Let's all gather to hang off of every pitch! Let's follow along with Blair and Bastian (presumably on their Twitter pages) so that we can imbue every at bat with meaning!

The whingeing and fretting and gnashing of teeth for 2009 begins in just a few hours!

And if Brett Cecil has a good outing, then this first game means everything. He's sure to translate a great spring performance into the type of lasting Major League career not seen since Simon Pond or Gabe Gross.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is it time for Wells and Rios to trade places in the field?

It's almost as though Vernon Wells and his old running partner Shannon Stewart traded hammies at some point in their abbreviated reunion last year. Just a few wind sprints into Spring Training 2009, and already Vernon pulls up lame with a leg injury that is supposed to keep him out for four weeks. This morning, Wells spoke to the Twitter Twins - Blair and Bastian - who report via tweet that four weeks is the "max" and a "worst case scenario".

We think we may have heard that song and hobbling dance from Wells before. (How sad is it that we can vividly picture the facial expressions that Wells made when he pulled up?)

When and if Vernon Wells is healthy, he's still the Jays best offensive player by a fair margin. Last year, he produced at a 30 homer and 100 RsBI pace when he was in the lineup, although he spent the better part of two months on the shelf with a variety of ailments.

In Wells' time in the infirmary, Alex Rios acquitted himself very well as the Jays everyday centerfielder, showing the range, instincts, arm and speed necessary to play the position. We don't know nuthin' 'bout no defensive metrics in baseball - it all just looks like a jumble of numbers and acronyms to us, but from what we hear, Rios' performance in center was quantifiably better than Vernon's, in spite of the latter's Gold Glove bona fides.

So our question (as the title of this post vaguely suggests) is: Isn't it about time that Vernon and Lexi allemand left and allemand right and dos-si-do and trade spots in the outfield?

Obviously, playing center is a point of pride for a player, and Vernon would be unlikely to just cede the position without some amount of consternation. And if you recall, Wells pretty much had to pry the spot out of José Cruz Jr.'s talons when he first got to the major league level.

At the same time, the move to the right corner of the outfield would save Wells' gimpy legs a certain amount of strain and pounding over the run of the year, which may help him stay healthy and fresh, thus improving his offensive output.

We'd be surprised to see Cito upset the applecart to make such a move. Then again, looking into the future of the franchise, we don't see how Vernon can keep his spot up the middle for the duration of his contract unless he demonstrates that he can keep his legs in proper working order.

Monday, February 23, 2009

For the next 30 days, Vernon Wells is gonzo, Alonzo.

Jordan Bastian tweets that Vernon Wells is out for a month with a hamstring thingy.

So we guess it's a good thing that he was doing all that gettin' in shape jive in the offseason.

But on the plus side, our misery began just minutes after it was announced...thanks Web 2.0 revolution!

More to come Update: Blair promises more to come on this...and he delivers. (Ain't it great to have Blairsy back on the Jays beat?)

Snappy notes that the injury has created some usefulness for José Bautista, who will get time in centre while Vernon recovers. Snider will play in both left and right, and Vernon might DH to start the season.

Is it too early on a Monday to go for a drink?

Baseball's other unnatural advantages

We've gone through years of peaks and valleys in this whole festival of affected and overly sanctimonious outrage around performance enhancers, with the awkwardly scripted admissions from A-Rod providing the latest jumping off point for the sports talkerazzi.

The outrage seems to stem from a belief that these enhancers give the current generation of players a leg up on their current competition, and moreover, skew the sacrosanct history of the game as it is written in the numbers they produce. If we were ever to turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour, the argument goes, we'd be left with record books that diminish most of what has come before, and a game that is radically different from what we have come to love. With apologies to Fukuyama, it would be the End of History. And we'd all be poorer for it, or so they say.

But with all this talk of the unnatural advantages that modern anabolics and growth hormones provide to the nefarious and disreputable, we've been left to wonder about the place in baseball's dialectic that is occupied by one of the most ubiquitous and increasingly perfunctory procedures: ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, or Tommy John Surgery.

While we drive ourselves nuts in trying to push back against medical science in some areas of baseball, Tommy John surgery is tacitly accepted as part of the game. Once a career-saving procedure and a last resort for pitchers, going for a "TJ" is so commonplace at this point that players seem to be going for this surgery as a preventative measure. Give up next year, the thinking seems to be, and get back five years on the other side with a brand new arm.

Nobody really thinks much about the competitive advantages that TJ surgery provides, and most view it in the same context as having a knee scoped or a labrum tear repaired. These surgeries and procedures are generally acceptable, it seems, because they are the pound of cure applied after someone has suffered an injury. That's the way we like our medicine.

The question is: Does this surgery, or even the knowledge that it is readily available, affect the competitive balance of the game? Do pitchers throw harder or throw pitches that they may have avoided in the past (e.g. sliders and splitters) because of the safety net that TJ procedures provide?

How conservative will a young pitcher be with his arm when he knows that, at worst, he can have his ligaments yanked out and replaced with stronger ligaments from his leg? And moreover, if there is any truth to the notion that pitchers eventually throw harder after having their UCL replaced, does this not constitute an unfair advantage?

Will Carrol and Thomas Gordon noted in a Baseball Prospectus piece in 2004 that some speculate that the "dead arm" that ended Sandy Koufax's career was in fact a wonky UCL that could have been fixed with this surgery. This raises for us a question: If we are going to insist on giving the utmost respect to the historical performances of hitters throughout the past century, shouldn't we be considering the number of injured arms throughout those eras?

To underscore the ubiquity of the procedure, that same BP article notes that Dr. Tim Kremchek performs 120 TJ's per year, roughly the equivalent of 10 big league pitching staffs. And he's just one surgeon.

If we find it morally problematic to reward Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds because they enjoyed an unfair advantage over the harball heroes that we see in gauzy sepia tones, then shouldn't we take into account the injured arms that threw only a couple of pitches to avoid pain, and that threw them slow and straight over the plate to Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle or Henry Aaron?

If we're going to heckle an easy target like Alex Rodriguez with catcalls of "A-Roid" and "A-Fraud", what sort of treatment should be given to Shaun Marcum when he returns? Because from our point of view, Marcum's Tommy John surgery seems to fall more in the category of being an ounce of prevention.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Two Sentence Post on....Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts is a great player, and I'm sure he's probably a pretty good guy "in real life" also.

But for (presumably) adding Toronto to the very limited no-trade clause included in your recently negotiated contract, you've automatically made my shit list, Brian Roberts.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dreamin' on the Jays - Spring Training '09 edition

The weekend has arrived at the Tao of Stieb, and by now, you should all be well aware of what that entails.

(What, another shitty post by the weekend contributor? Short answer - yes.)

This week, I'm going to exercise the powers and creative control vested in me by our benevolent benefactor, the Tao, and indulge in a little game of "If". So play along, won't you friends? Cue soothing background music....

If....Roy Halladay is physically able to pull his uniform on for 33 starts, and

If....Jesse Litsch proves that he's more Jim Clancy than Jeff Musselman, and

If....Matt Clement pitches like it's 2002, and

If....the rotation catches some lightning in a bottle (uh...let's make that 2 bolts of lightning) with one (or two) of the young arms in camp, and

If....BJ Ryan goes back to being the pre-Tommy John BJ Ryan, and the rest of the bullpen does everything exactly the same as they did in '08, and

If....Vernon Wells' revolutionary idea of working with a personal trainer pays dividends, and

If....Cito can (finally) unleash the inner masher in Clean Hands Rios, and

If....phenoms Sniderman and Young Adam Lind meet our unreasonably high expectations, and

If....Lyle Overbay's hurting hand finally feels better (and maybe more accurately, if his head is screwed on straight), allowing him to put up the .300 batting average, 20+ HR, and 40+ doubles (b-b-b-boner) he flashed in 2006, and

If....Scott Rolen's (fuck off about the contract, already) re-jigged swing lets him make an effective 145 starts at the hot corner, and

If....the supremely underrated Aaron Hill can just get back to being the non-concussed version of Aaron Hill, and

If....Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro can.....nah, the Red Sox won with Varitek and Lugo, so we'll give them a pass, and

If....Kevin Millar's 2009 Cowboy Up routine is more John Wayne than Jake Gyllenhaal,

........we just might be onto something this season.

Not coming next week, the flip side of "If".

(If you want that story, feel free to just click on over to any number of other wwwebsites - or stop by your favourite newsstand, throw a dart at the sports section, and read whatever you happen to hit.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Rock Out - Okkervil River's Pop Lie

Are you like us? Do you enjoy a bit of the rock n' roll?

Here's a Friday treat to help kick this work week in the shins and slap the weekend on the ass.

Enjoy a bit of the Okkervil River as they blow the roof off the dump on Letterman.

"All sweetly sung and succintly stated
Words and music you calculated.
To make you sing along
With your stereo on"

A Dunedin moment with Lyle, Lexi and Millar

Millar: So I guess I take the lefties, and you'll take the righties, right?

Lyle: Well...not all the lefties.

Millar: It's okay dude. You'll still get lots of AB's.

Lyle: But you'll play the outfield sometimes. Right? Right? Cito?

Lexi: If I'm playing center, then you just park that Cowboy Up shit right on the foul line and let me take the rest.

Millar: Don't you play right field?

Lexi: For now.

Lyle: Vernon looks good this year, dontcha think?

Lexi: Oh yeah...he looks all skinny and stuff. I'm sure he's diving for balls like Greg Louganis.

Millar: Nice one. High five.

Lyle: Seriously though, Kevin...if you need any pointers from me on your footwork at first base, I'd to help.

Millar: It ain't that hard to play first dude. Just run to the bag, hold up that giant trapper and catch the ball. Done and done. No worries.

Lyle: Well, sometimes you've got to start the 3-6-3 double play. That's not as easy as it looks.

Millar: Yeah, I guess you know a little somethin' about double plays.

(*Awkward silence*)

Lexi: Yo dudes...anyone wanna play with my helicopter?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A cautionary tale about Great Big Pasty White Hopes

We've probably been as guilty as anyone when it comes to heaping expectations on The Great Big Giant Pasty White HopeTM Travis Snider. Not only do we expect him to be the future of the franchise...we expect him to be one of the few glimmers of hope in the 2009 season.

Which is why we were stuck by a recent discussion that we heard on a Baseball Prospectus podcast discussing the state of the Kansas City Royals' prospects for the coming season.

In the conversation with J.J. Picollo, the Royals' Director of Player Development, it was noted that KC likely made a tactical mistake in their hasty promotion of their own great hope for the future of the franchise, Alex Gordon. After an outstanding season in 2006 at Wichita (29 HRs, 101 RsBI, 1.015 OPS), Gordon was rushed to the majors, and never saw a pitch at the triple-A level. This, in spite of the fact that he was probably striking out too much (113 Ks in 486 ABs), and would have benefited from an extra half season in the minors to adjust to a higher calibre of pitching.

While Gordon has made strides over his first two seasons, his rookie year (at age 23) was scarcely the breakout season that most of the prospect punditocracy expected : 15 HRs, 60 RsBI, .725 OPS and 147 Ks in 543 ABs. Last season, Gordon cut down on his strikeouts and took a few more walks, but even with those improvements, his numbers over 134 games didn't live up to the hype and promise (15 HRs, 59 RsBI and a .783 OPS).

Considering that Snider's minor league totals are in the same general neighbourhood as Gordon's, we are reminded that our "conservative" notions of 20 homers and 70 RsBIs and an OPS over .800 might be a tad optimistic. As much hope as we hold out for Snider and the impact he can have on this year's offense, it's worth remembering that he whiffed 177 times between all four levels he played at last year.

Not to be a killjoy, but we might have to scale back our expectations a bit on our new favourite Jay.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We can't wait to hear how this is J.P.'s fault

Rogers lost $138 million in the last quarter, in spite of increased sales for their mobile handsets. The bulk of the loss is attributed to write downs on their television properties.

This information isn't offered as an excuse for the offseason austerity of their baseball properties. It's just a bit of context.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sometimes, Vernon gets those menstrual cramps real hard

From the Unfortunate Quotes file, we get this gem from Vernon Wells in today's Star:

"My body is like a woman's body, it really is."

Well okay then.

The quote was given in the context of Wells' annual discussion of how he's gotten into shape in a totally different and more efficient way that will without question keep him healthy and at the top of his game for the coming season. In past seasons, there were discussions of blood tests and macrobiotic diets and such, to varying degrees of success.

Wells says he is planning to bring his trainer on the road with him to help keep him in shape throughout the season. And as we all know, when baseball players travel with their own personal trainers at all times, hilarity is sure to ensue.

We're just hoping that Wells is willing to share this weight maintenance expertise with a certain pink and round teammate.

Other traditional Spring Training incantations
Cito tells Griff that speed is vital, and that the team is going to run more. Also, he didn't really mean it when he said that 2009 was a write off.

We guess this means we'll have to move him down in our fantasy rankings
We're not sure if this is funny or sad, but Mike Hampton has health issues already.

Speaking of fantasy baseball...
We've still got a couple of spots open in the Alternate Universe Roto Shenanigans. If you want to play fantasy baseball against a bunch of ne'er-do-wells, hit us with an email to sign up.

(And to those of you who asked to participate but have not signed into to the league yet, your spot is not guaranteed until you actually sign in. You've been warned.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Have I mentioned that I love the start of Spring Training?

Well, have I?

Because I do. If you're a baseball fan, then you do too. And if you don't, then I hate to break it to you, but you're probably not much of a fan. You're probably a bit of a front-running douchebag.

Seriously, the crack of the bat, the popping sound of a ball hittin' the mitt, everyone's a contender..... all that cliche bullshit. I love it. You know what, as of today, we're gonna win the goddamn pennant.

Incidentally, the picture heading this post might be the best thing I've seen in years. If Dave Stieb was flanking Doc's other shoulder - forget about it. Just stop taking pictures.

Anyway....onto a cornucopia of quick springtime hitters:

Underwhelmingly positive news, from the mouth of Roy Halladay
Didn't take long for the jackals in the media to hit Doc up with the question: "So how are you feeling about life as a Blue Jay these days, Roy?"

Answer: "For me, obviously you do want to win, you want to be a part of a championship team," he said. "That doesn't necessarily mean I don't like it here ... I think that, obviously, if I had it my way it would be to win here. And I don't think we've totally given up that hope."

Um, good to hear. I guess. I don't want to talk about this one any further. Let's move on.

AJ Burnett and the New York media - a match made in heaven
...if you're a vindictive bastard who's hoping AJ falls flat on his face after signing with the MF Yankees, that is. Luckily, I'm not one of those guys, because Bobby MacLeod checks in with an early report on that relationship via discussion with a fellow scribe covering the Yankees.

I asked about A.J. Burnett, the former Blue Jays pitcher who bolted Toronto for the dough in the Big Apple.
“He's an idiot,” came the quick response.

Unexpected shout-out - here's to Dick Griffin
If you're anything like me - and for your sake, let's hope not - then you have a whole carcass of bones to pick with Richard Griffin's Blue Jay commentary during the season. Grind axes with JP Ricciardi much, Dick?

Having said that, Griffin is nailing it right now. Spring training is definitely right in his wheelhouse. He's giving me exactly what I want from a guy covering camp - early insights into the team & players, and he's having fun doing it. So here's a tip of the cap to you, Griff. Keep on keepin' on (at least until the regular season rolls around.)

On Robbie Alomar
I don't want to say much about this. It's too depressing. Robbie Alomar was my favourite player on some of the greatest Jays teams of all time. I'll never forget Alomar taking Dennis Eckersley yard in the 9th inning of Game 4 in the '92 ALCS. I went nuts watching the game in my parents' basement (nothing's changed - heyo!).

If I had to say anything, I'd probably say exactly what another personal fave, Patty Hentgen had to say about it:

"I hope that it's not true and if it is true, then God bless and I hope that his health can increase and get better."

Have I mentioned that I love Spring Training?
Because I do.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Speaking of redheads with big knockers

Check out those Litsch tits.

And by the way, if you're interested...
We've slavishly followed the Drunks and Ghosties by signing up for Twitter. They tell us it's there's a social media revolution going on there. Come waste your precious time with us!

The Tao's Wandering Eye: Nick Johnson

With the Nationals' recent signing of some dude who doesn't even like baseball, they are left with a veritable cornucopia of 1B/OF/DH types. And seeing as how they are still stuck in the National League, they're not going to be able to get them all into the lineup on a regular basis.

Chances are that someone out of that mix is going to get moved, and if we had our druthers, the Jays would take a run at oft-injured first baseman Nick Johnson.

Sure, Johnson's missed a ton of games over his career due to a series of injuries. But when he's been healthy and when he's played, he's put up the sort of offensive numbers that would make the Jays' current lineup blush.

Johnson sports a .396 on base percentage and an .852 OPS over his eight-year career with the Yankees, Expos and Nationals. With the exception of Scott Rolen (whose glory days are behind him), nobody on the Jays' current roster even comes close to those numbers. Not Wells (.332, .812), not Rios (.338, .793), and certainly not Overbay (.362, .809).

In his last fully healthy season in 2006, Johnson posted a .948 OPS with 46 doubles, 23 homers and 110 walks in 500 ABs for the Nats.

Of course, 2006 is a long time ago, and Johnson missed most of last season with a wrist tendon injury, so there's an obvious question as to how many left-handed hitting first basemen with gimpy appendages you need on one roster. At the same time, it's at least reasonable to expect that a healthy Johnson would put up better numbers in 2009 than Overbay, Adam Lind, Kevin Millar, José Bautista or even Travis Snider, and that the Nationals may be willing to part with him for less than his value.

With a salary of just over $5 million for next season, Johnson would be affordable to the Jays provided they were able to send some salary back in the other direction. And even if the numbers don't necessarily add up, how can you put a price on adding a guy to your roster who is the spitting image of Pvt. Pyle from Full Metal Jacket?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cowboy up

What's it say about the kind of week we're having when the Jays' signing of Kevin Millar is the best news we've heard?

Whatever. We like Millar almost in spite of ourselves, and we hope that his presence might encourage Lyle Overbay to rethink the 25 steps and moving parts that currently comprise his swing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Open E-Mail to James Deacon on...Mark McGwire's abysmal on base percentage

Hello Mr. Deacon!

Just heard you on the podcast of the PTS Roundtable where you reiterate about a half dozen times that Mark McGwire had a lousy on base percentage.

As a handy reference, we thought we'd provide the names of a handful of Hall of Famers who have a worse career OBP than McGwire's .3942 (which is good enough for 77th on the all time list).

Rod Carew+* .3930
Cap Anson+ .3926
Joe Morgan+* .3921
Honus Wagner+ .3910
Alex Rodriguez (32).3891 (not and HoFer, we realize, but it makes a point, don't it?)
Frank Robinson+ .3890
Tony Gwynn+* .3882
Larry Doby+* .3859
Willie Mays+ .3839
Mike Schmidt+ .3802
Duke Snider+* .3797
Al Kaline+ .3756
Harmon Killebrew+ .3756

So, yeah, we can see how you get this idea that McGwire was a one-dimensional player. Because all he did was get on base and hit home runs and drive in the guys in front of him. But he totally SUCKED at dragging a bunt down the first base line for a single.

Until next time, keep on keepin' on,

Your pal,

The Tao of Stieb

Everybody sucks

When the word came out over the weekend that Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for something or other at some point in the recent past, our first thought was: " we go again."

Maybe we should care more about the sanctity of the game, and fair play, and the inviolability of the game's milestones and records. But at this point, we just don't give a shit.

If there is anything good that has come out of this week's events, it may be that A-Rod provides an exclamation mark onto the end of this era. Maybe now, we can just accept that it is impossible to look at the last 15 years of baseball and pluck out the inconvenient and unpalatable numbers of a few bad eggs, and just accept the fact that everybody was probably doing something.

People have been trying to separate the black-hatted bad guys from the noble and righteous good guys in all of this mess so that they can align themselves with the pure essence of the game. Our souls were all going to be cleansed in seven or eight years' time when Rodriguez (the personally flawed but professionally impeccable slugger) claimed the home run record from the dastardly Barry Bonds. What a relief that would have been.

Except that it was all a load of hooey anyways, and people need to just get over themselves.

We need to stop relying on multiple anonymous sources and ill-gotten grand jury testimony to root out the cheaters, because it will only prove to be an endless and futile proposition to try to separate the good guys from the bad.

(Wasn't there a time when four anonymous sources wasn't enough to forge ahead on a story? If you want to write a piece about how players took the easy way out and circumvented the virtuous path, wouldn't it be best if you yourself didn't circumvent the more difficult path of getting an on-the-record source?)

We need to stop discounting the achievements of hitters from this era, like Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire, because there's really no way of distinguishing their achievements from those who got caught. It's become a fool's errand.

Knowing what we now know, is there anyone who feels as though they could take the information gleaned this week and make the claim that Carlos Delgado rightfully deserves the 2003 AL MVP award since we know that A-Rod took performance enhancers?

Not to imply anything...but we're not about to stake out that supposed moral high ground for ourselves.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Random offseason player update: Jason Frasor

Continuing along with my accidental weekend theme of "the players aren't giving up on the season, so why should we?", I came across this little nugget concerning the much maligned Jason Frasor. And by "came across this little nugget", I mean "lifted from the Jays headlines on the DJF page." Thanks, fellas.

It seems our guy Frasor has decided he's sick of being the 8th man out of a 7 man bullpen, and is working to improve his game this winter. The solution? Adding a change-up to compliment his straight-as-an-arrow fastball and inconsistent curve.

"I'd be cruising, and I'd walk somebody -- I'd walk Joe Schmo -- and then here comes another hitter, and then it's a two-run homer," he said. "It's like, how did that just happen? Two outs, nobody on, and then there's two runs in just like that.

Talk about self-awareness - that about sums it up for the life and times of Frasor these past few seasons. Still, it's good to see another Blue Jay take it upon himself to throw a nice little "fuck you" to the (numerous) critics and pessimists and actually, you know, work towards the season.

Refreshing, actually.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jesse Litsch - never meanin' no harm

When you've had an offseason like the Blue Jays have had this winter, strange things happen and you don't even bat an eye.

A former first round draft pick is introduced to those three dreaded letters - D, F, and A? Seriously, all the best and good luck to you, Rusty. Your team is the only one in the league not to sign a free agent to a major league deal? It's "the economy", I guess. Assistant GM's are cut loose to save a little cash? Let's call it a redistribution of assets instead. A 23 year old pitcher with less than 50 big league games under his belt becomes a staff mentor? No big dea.....what?

Jesse Litsch - veteran influence?

That's right, Uncle Jesse is ready to step up and be a leader. And you know what? That's just fucking nails, man. Oh sure, you can question the wisdom and validity behind the rationale that sees a kid who spent some time in AAA last season saying "follow me"....but just listen to him:

"We just have to think we're better than them," Litsch said of the Jays' positive thinking. "If we come out hitting and pitching like we did last year ... at the end of the season we were just as good as anybody. We have to overlap that into this season and run with it. We're all good enough to be at the major-league level, it's just a matter that they spend more money. Some people may not be worth the money they get, but we still have the same number – nine guys – that they have. It's just you against the Yankee hitters, and you're going out there with same winning mentality as their pitchers."

You know what, I'm sold. Now if he can just master the art of the fist pump after inducing a weak inning-ending grounder, and maybe sprinkle in the odd congratulatory hug for his teammates, we're all set at the #2 spot in the rotation.

(14 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA would be nice too, but let's not get crazy.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Requiem for a Russ

And so it comes to pass.

It's probably been three or four years coming, but Russ Adams and the Blue Jays finally parted ways yesterday to make way for marginal bullpen arm T.J. Beam.

(With the departure of A.J., and J.P. Arencibia still a year away, the Jays needed to shore up their strategic supply of initials.)

Adams was J.P. Ricciardi's first pick as Jays GM, and their fates seem destined to be forever intertwined. The selection is still held up as emblematic of all that is wrong with the embattled GM's tenure with the team, and we're reasonably sure that Adams' name will continue to be dropped into to post game JaysTalk rants up to and immediately following J.P.'s almost inevitable dismissal.

We've heard for years about how the Jays passed on Scott Kazmir and Matt Cain and Cole Hammels in order to pick Adams. Realistically, none of those players (all high school pitchers) were going to sign with the Jays, especially if the team adhered to the recommended slot bonusses.

(We're assuming that there were slot recommendations in 2002, but someone feel free to call BS on us if we're wrong on that.)

In his only full season with the Jays, Adams played a somewhat underwhelming 139 games in 2005, posting eight homers, 63 RsBI, 11 steals and a .707 OPS. In retrospect, it's funny to look at those numbers and comapre them to Marco Scutaro's 2008 (7 HRs, 60 RsBI, 8 SBs and a .697 OPS). Isn't it funny how some of the same pundits in the Toronto sports media who hold up Adams as a sign that everything is amiss in Blue Jayland were hailing Scutaro as the team's MVP last season?

A quick glance at the position players picked behind Adams in that draft shows that there weren't a ton of great bats to be had. Nick Swisher, James Loney, Jeff Francoeur came later in the first round, Joey Votto came a the start of the second, and Brian McCann went deep in the third, but most of those players would have had (say it with us) signability issues.

We'll confess to being a bit sad to hear of Adams' departure. It kinda makes us feel as though time's slipped away on us.

Roto-Hoedown Update
Thanks to everyone who wrote in to beg, plead and grovel their way into the 2009 Roto-Hoedown. We're down to a single spot left, and we unfortunately can't expand on the 15-team format.

If you are still interested in playing in the big boys' roto league, then it's not too late to email us (taoofstieb at gmail dot com) and knock our stirrups off. We're going to hold off on filling that last spot until later in the weekend, when someone who really deserves the spot steps up and claims it.

(We probably have enough people to set up a second league as well, so there's always that.)

For those of you who emailed yesterday and haven't heard back from us, we'd recommend writing back and laying it on a little thicker with the grovelling. A hint: we like when people use full sentences with correct spelling. It appeals to our sensibilities. As do pictures of your sisters or signifcant others in bikinis.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's the Tao of Stieb's Roto-Hoedown!

Hey kids! Do you enjoy the rotisserie as much as we do? Are you getting amped up for the coming season of fantasy baseball? Have you already purchased four roto expert guides that all contradict one another and feature mundane and self-evident strategies for your forthcoming draft?

We love us a little fantasy baseball, and we're completely geeked for this year, mostly because we took such a wretched shit-kicking in all of our leagues last year. (Something about undervaluing pitching...who knew?) We feel as though this year, if we just spend a few more weeks fretting and researching and poring over every pre-season guide, then maybe we'll be ready to go.

So geeked are we, in fact, that we've just set up the first annual Tao of Stieb Roto-Hoedown, a fantasy league for those who are regular readers, commenters, contributors around these parts. Basically, the cool kids.

We've set the league up at ESPN, which is a first for us, so we can't guarantee the performance. (It's not as though we would have anyway).

The Basics
The Roto-Hoedown is a 15 team league, 6x6 rotisserie league. Offensive categories are Runs, HRs, RsBI, SBs, OBP and SLG, while the pitching categories are Wins, Saves, ERA, WHIP, Ks, and complete games.

The rosters are 25-man, with a seven man bench, nine offensive slots and nine pitching slots, with two DL spots.

The plan is to live draft this baby sometime in March. We've left this to be determined, since we'll have to work around schedules and what not.

How to participate
Since we've already already taken one spot in the league, there are 14 up for grabs. Fire off an email to us (taoofstieb at gmail dot com), and if we already know you and like you, then you're in. You'll have to set up an ESPN account to join the league, but the process is pretty quick and painless.

If we don't know you from a hole in the ground, then make the case as to why you should participate, and swear on your momma's health that you're not going to bail as soon as your team goes into the crapper because you picked Pat Burrell in the first round.

This is pretty much first come, first served, so get in quick to avoid disappointment!

What you win
Err...nothing, really. Cameraderie? The sense of a job well done? We don't know...we've actually got a handful of spare baseball books that we might be able to throw in...T-shirts maybe? Really, we just want to play for the fun of it. (If you are looking to gamble, then go check with the dudes from Drive This at the Score.)

How much are we going to discuss this league on the blog?
Not much, really. There's not much that's more painful than reading about how someone's streaming strategies with middle relievers has led them to the exalted glories of fourth place.

Which isn't to say that there won't be plenty of shit-talking and general ironic douchbaggery over on the actual league home.

(Please note: Actual douchebags and their actual douchebaggery are not welcome. Thanks.)

So what are you waiting for?
Get off the couch, get to the computer and dial the number on the screen! Hot women are waiting to take your call!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A One-Sentence Post on...Joe Carter

You know, we've spent so much time over the past decade picking apart the inadequacies in Joe Carter's game and giving him guff over his abysmal colour-commentating gig at Sportsnet that we sometimes overlook the fact that the man drove in 100 runs six times as a Blue Jay...and that ain't nothing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When you keep adding 2 + 2, the possibilities are infinite

Pete Toms' lengthy article posted yesterday on the Biz of Baseball is a thoroughly researched, 3600-word piece that deserves a certain degree of respect. It pulls together a lot of strands and ultimately weaves together the story of how the Blue Jays' tenure in Toronto may be short-lived. The piece is so well written and researched - and we hold Mr. Toms in high enough regard - that we feel like we need to do something more than just call "bullshit".

But that is pretty much what we're about to do.

In a nutshell, you can find our argument in the title of this post. What the article does is stack up like Jenga blocks an oppressive amount of facts on top of some vague speculation and media opinion, and leaves us with the notion that the Blue Jays are about to go tumbling down south of the border, as did the Expos and the affiliated minor league teams in Canada.

To us, it just seems like there's been some essential information overlooked in the article. For a little more detail, we offer the following specific arguments.

A Canadian media company and a Global media company are not the same beast
One of the first arguments made is that Rogers is the last of the media companies to own its own franchise, while the Disneys, NewsCorps, Tribunes and Time Warners of the world have bailed out.

At a glance, we can see the connection, but in truth, Rogers' business model very different. While those media companies are content producers (filmed entertainment, online, TV, newspapers), Rogers' biggest bucks come from content distribution (broadcast distribution, mobile networks) and consumer products (mobile devices and everything else at the Rogers Video stores).

For multinationals like NewsCorp and Disney, the Dodgers and Angels created a lot of extraneous and decidedly local content, which barely registers as a priority for them.

The clear example of this dichotomy would be Ted Turner's Braves, who were a vital piece of his emerging media empire from the 1970's through the 1990's. Braves games were a cornerstone of TBS's evolution into the Superstation, but once Turner was sucked into the Time Warner family, the Braves became an undesirable, Atlanta-centric relic of the pre-merger days.

For the Tribune, keeping the Cubs and Wrigley and WGN all wrapped together in a neat package might have made sense if it weren't swamped in a ridiculous amount of debt and tossing any asset it can overboard in a futile attempt to stay afloat.

The clear distinction with Rogers is that they are a national company with national media holdings, including a national network of Sportsnets that need compelling local (i.e. Canadian) content.

Moreover, Rogers is a company that has a far more direct connection with consumers than most media conglomerates. While the Blue Jays aren't exactly the beating heart at the center of the Center of the Universe, it seems to us that Rogers might not be eager to pull up stakes and offload the team in a rush and risk alienating those same customers to whom they market cell phones or DVRs.

"There is greater consensus amongst the Toronto sports media that the Blue Jays will soon be on the market."
Much of that media speculation came in the days (and hours) after Ted Rogers passed away, and to be frank, nobody knew what they were talking about at that point.

Moreover, you had a lot of people within Rogers who were freaked out by the instability of losing Ted, and some of them anonymously vented those insecurities. We wouldn't exactly take that to the bank.

Media companies don't need content...unless they need content
Amongst the speculation, Toms points to a Jeremy Sandler article that features an anonymous quote stating:

"It is natural for media companies to get out of ownership of sports teams and stick to their core competencies," said the official who asked not to be named. "They're selling them because they can compete for content now."

But this is stated one paragraph after Sandler notes that Sportsnet carried 100 games and the Fan 590 carried all 162, so there is a certain rational dissonance there.

At the risk of repeating ourselves, Rogers is a Canadian media company which is compelled by federal regulations to air a certain amount of Canadian-produced content. Would Rogers really want to cut loose a property that nets them more than 360 hours of Canadian content for their television enterprises and more than 650 hours of CanCon for not only the Fan 590, but for a whole slew of stations along their network of News talk stations?

Sure, they could let the team go and then reacquire the rights from the new owners, but doesn't that seem a bit more troublesome and less secure than the situation that they have now?

The Beest - Interim CEO or Calculating Overlord?
This is where the article starts to go off the rails a bit. Toms ties together the firing of Bart Given with the hirings of scouts (not a stretch), but then ascribes to them some element of Paul Beeston's ambition to be the permanent overseer of the Blue Jays.

What proof does he have? Snappy Jeff Blair's huge big picture view of the shifting sands of Toronto's sports landscape, which features Beeston as the central unifying figure that brings all the pro sports franchises together into one TorontoSportsCollosus. It's like something out of Tolkien.

But here's an obvious question that bears asking: If Paul Beeston wanted to reach out and grab the precious ring that is the Jays' presidency, wouldn't he have grabbed it already? Wouldn't Rogers have given it to him months ago if he really truly wanted it? Couldn't he have had it and named his price?

And if all of those questions are answered in the affirmative, then why the charade of all of these interim shenanigans?

Isn't it at least plausible that Beeston is doing what he says he's doing, and seeking out someone to take the Jays' top job?

The MLSE Merger
We can totally see it happening. Maybe. But it would be a sad day.

The Stadium Issue
Sure, the Rogers Centre isn't one of the new-fangled old-fashioned parks with fewer seats and pseudo-retro styling. But Rogers got it for a song and has plowed a significant amount of money into upgrading it.

The stadium experience has vastly improved over the past few years, and there won't be any significant push from anyone other than cranky baseball purists to replace it with a new publicly funded stadium for at least another 10 years.

Besides - Have you seen the size of the Rogers store that they have there now? You think they're gonna rip that thing out of the building any time soon?

And by the way: no other city in North America is going to build a park for the Blue Jays to move there any time soon.

A Final Thought
Part of what motivates this latest round speculation is the inertia of the Jays offseason. There are thoughts that yanking back on the reins is a sign that all sorts of changes are in the offing.

But when we look at the team's prospects over the next few years, we're left asking ourselves why the Jays would plow a bunch of money and/or years into a free agent this year when it is as plain as the moustache on Dave Stieb's face that their fortunes look good in the years beyond 2009.

Why mortgage your future payroll and lineup flexibility on an overpriced free agent when you have a number of highly-regarded and inexpensive players on target for 2010. And they'll join a team that will feature a (fingers crossed) fully manned and healthy pitching staff.

It sucks as a Blue Jays fan to think in those terms, but that seems to us to be the most sensible explanation and the most prudent path for the team to take.

(Our apologies for the length of this thing...but congratulations for those of you who made it the whole way through!)

Monday, February 2, 2009

We don't get a moment to spare for some bust-out humanitarian down on his luck lately

Pity poor Ryan Dempster. This should have bee a great offseason for him.

First, he takes to the Chicago Cubs to the cleaners on a four-year, $52 million contract that has future regrets written all over it. Then, he's able to opt out of pitching for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, dedicating himself to regaling the Second City's press corps with bon mots and bad impressions in between sessions of sunning himself in Arizona and soft-tossing at minor leaguers for an inning or two.

Unfortunately for Ginger Balls, a few random Canadian yahoos have had the temerity to wonder why he is being such a pantywaisted nancy-boy when it comes to the WBC. Random yahoos like the Greatest Canadian to Swing a Bat in Anger, Larry Walker.

The attacks have gotten so fierce that the red-haired right-hander thrust himself into the understanding arms of Ken Rosenthal, who consoled him in a January 26 post at

"I respect the game. I play hard. Now I'm getting criticized in Canada for the first time in my career just because I choose not to play in an exhibition tournament. How crazy is that?"

It's not actually that crazy, really. Surely, Dempster knew that balking at wearing the maple leaf wouldn't go over well in the nation that mints Paul Henderson's 1972 Summit Series goal on its currency.

Moreover, a pitcher who was allegedly healthy enough to sign a long-term contract just a couple of months ago should probably be healthy enough to come to Toronto for a weekend and throw three innings of baseball. This isn't exactly a Sisyphean task.

Don't get us wrong here. We don't want to castigate Dempster for making his choice. It was his to make, and if it makes sense to him, then so be it. We just wish he would shut up, stop whining and acting like a victim and OWN HIS DECISION.

If there is a positive to take out of this episode, it's that this hopefully means that Dempster won't be able to trade on his Canadian passport to get media work on this side of the 49th after his arm goes flying off into the third base dugout at Wrigley. Because we remember his "analysis" on Sportsnet's playoff coverage a few years back, and his scorn for the entire exercise was palpable.





(More info on our new rotation lynchpin is available at

Breaking News! Baseball players use speed!

Jeff Blair reports that somewhere in the pages of Joe Torre's grumpy, bitter kinda-bio (with extra salacious bits courtesy of Tom Verducci and Brian McNamee!) comes the news that some members of the Blue Jays in the late 1990's used greenies.

In other earth-shattering news, some players wore leather gloves on their catching hands whilst playing the field, and the majority of players wore wool caps all season long. Stunning, we know.

Paragon of newfound virtue McNamee notes that "Guys were 'beaning up' to play golf after workouts." For shame!