Category Archives: Blue Jays

The stupidest rules in sports

Rays BJ Upton hit a 200 foot homerun off Kyle Drabek this week, prompting Write Fielders to look at some stupid sports rules.

STRADER: After watching Kyle Drabek suffer the fate of a legendary BJ Upton homerun in his last start, I started to wonder, what are the stupidest rules in sports?

For those who didn’t see it, Drabek got Upton to fly out. Yep. Fly out. It was high, lame, and ready to be caught by Colby Rasmus. Camped under it, Rasmus all of a sudden looked shocked, and struggled to react as the ball plopped to the ground 10 to 15 feet beside him. It was in a dome, and it wasn’t the old Metrodome. For a few moments, even the TV commentators couldn’t figure out what was going on.

And then, it came to light (nice pun, huh?). There are catwalks, gangplanks whatever you want to call them, dangling from the rook of Tropicana Coliseum. They aren’t high enough to be completely out of the way of fly balls, and in a moment of genius, someone in the MLB offices simply decided to steal a page from SkeeBall. Hit a particular ring, and it’s a double. Hit another, a triple, and strike the one Upton struck, and you get to do a homerun trot for what was a 300 foot flyout to centre.

Disgusting? For a stats geek, yes. Upton should be minus one, and so should Drabek’s ERA. They both know it.

Stupid. Definitely.

So I’m going to list my top five stupidest rules in sports (okay, two to six, cause Tropicana’s roof wins top spot), and hope that some of our readers and tweeters will add in their own.

Deciding an elimination game on penalty kicks

I will admit, watching Liverpool beat Milan in 2005 was one of the most exciting sporting matches I’ve ever watched. But are you kidding me? Deciding the Champions League, the World Cup on penalty kicks? Footballers across the world need to rise up against this one (Don’t riot! I’m not inciting riot!  How about just a nice letter writing campaign?). It’s idiotic. Can you imagine the Stanley Cup awarded after a shootout? The World Series after a homerun derby?

The intentional walk

I’ve always hated it. I understand it, and you should be able to decide you’re going to walk a guy, but I paid to watch you pitch. So pitch. If the dips—t wants to swing at stuff off the plate, let him swing. But to have the catcher stand up, and just dance to the side while you lob balls. Come on. Who was it a few years back who took the swing at one that was just too close and got a hit? I believe it was Miguel Cabrera? Genius, pure genius.

Disqualifying a golfer for an unsigned scorecard

It’s a game of honour. We punish ourselves, and we don’t cheat – at least stand up guys don’t cheat. This is the dumbest thing in the sport outside of most of Phil Mickelson’s decisions. Some player completes a gruelling 18-hole round, in 30-35 degree heat, while spending the entire day focused on the leaderboard, their shot making, the 50,000 people standing right beside their ball, they forget to sign their card, and you’re going to take a major from them? Honour should only go so far. This is stupid.

Boxing scoring

Anybody who has been on a playground knows how to score a fight. Who has ever watched their buddy duke it out with a bully, helped him up after getting his ass kicked and said, “Don’t worry about it man, it was close, I had you at 108-105.”

The double fault

In that it shouldn’t exist. “Oops, sorry. Haha. I know, I’ve been practicing that for about 15 years, but let me try again, ok?”

Give me a break.

Field goal kickers everywhere unite.

So, these are mine.

What are yours?

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So you’re saying there’s a chance…

Ricky Romero’s start against the New York Mets could be a big opportunity for the Jays to get back into the winning ways many fans expect from the squad.

STRADER: I would hate to say that Stephen Brunt stole my thunder, ‘cause really, he’s a messiah of sports writing, and I’m, well, a pretender. But he stole my thunder.

I was going to write about how it’s time to see what John Farrell is made of. After Lawrie’s blow up (I don’t think doing it is right, and I certainly think it’s a suspension, but I’m willing to admit I would have thrown the helmet right at Miller…) it became clear to me that it is time for the Jays to calm down.

Umps are petty.

They have too much power.

And for all we know, they don’t face much retribution either, outside of a well-thrown beer.

With the team facing five series in a row against winning clubs, I thought, oh man, this isn’t good. The first one is the Yankees, and it’s Drabek and Hutchison pitching. This could get ugly.

They could pitch well for their respective ages and experience levels, and the squad could still be looking at five losses in a row going into the Mets series – interleague always seems to be a tornado for the Jays – and oh man, the stories would begin about Lawrie disappointing the team, the young staff showing it’s true colours, yadda yadda yadda…

So it was time for Bautista to take a bad call, for Escobar to stop waving at where he believes the running lane is, for Encarnacion to just get punched out.

Shut up and play ball boys. You’re better than that.

And then Drabek goes out and shows why he was such a highly touted prospect.

Hello Yankees. Here’s my nasty sinker. Deal with it.

8-1, you have to be kidding me.

Now, there’s a chance.

A chance that this run against winning squads and first place squads could result in a turnaround for the record, and the standings. Bautista could keep hitting bombs. Tweaks to the lineup could continue to work out.

Can someone please write about how good D’Arnaud is again? ‘Cause everytime it happens, Arencibia goes medieval on the baseball…

And there’s a chance.

This time, I think it falls on Romero.

Hutchison is still so young, so inexperienced, that to expect a Yankee sweep tonight, a win from him – even though he gets lucky and draws Phil Hughes instead of the tilted hat killer – would be asinine. The Yanks are the Yanks. They’re resilient.

A win by the Jays tonight, like so many things with this team this season, has to be considered gravy.

But tomorrow Romero will go against the Mets. Romero has a chance to get this team back on a good train. Dominate, and open up the weekend for Morrow, Alvarez and Drabek again, who will more than likely give us a chance to win when they toe the rubber.

There’s a chance tonight could be 9-1, but don’t listen to the happy voices today, who will immediately be angry voices again tomorrow if it is, set the brim of your cap low, remember that you’re Ricky Damn Romero, and attack.

We need you.

And then there’s a chance.

I’m also emboldened by one other thing. Lawrie is appealing, and it will be heard by the league.

So there’s another chance.

I believe the league made a statement when they handed him four games.

Ok kid, like the genius words of Chris Rock describing OJ Simpson, I wouldn’t have done it, but I understand.

Now, with the appeal, they can make another statement.

What Lawrie did was wrong. But take a game off of his appeal, and you’re also acknowledging that what Miller did was equally as wrong. Major League Baseball can’t punish umpires for bad calls. We can’t have replay for balls and strikes. Managers would begin arguing everything they disagreed with. It’s the nature of competition, and the human umpire is part of the beauty of baseball.

But just like everyone who will scream for a guy to lose his job when he’s hitting .160, Miller didn’t do his job. I don’t care about code, or circumstance.

His job is simple. He is to be an impartial judge to an entire game. No matter his personal feelings.

Getting plunked is part of the code. But it has consequences.

Not stealing a bag in a blowout is part of the code. Do it, and it has consequences.

What Miller did was deliberate. It was intentional.

I acknowledge as a fan of the game that umpires cannot be punished.

But give Lawrie back one game, and there’s a chance Major League Baseball acknowledges, that they understand.

 

 

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Hey Lawrie, let’s refocus that intensity. You also deserve a suspension.

Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie is looking at some form of suspension after a temper tantrum over two poorly called strikes against him in the bottom of the ninth resulting in his ejection.
photo from Toronto Star

LIVINGSTONE: The Jays have looked like a team who left its defense at home the last three games. Seven errors in three losses resulting in nine unearned runs – six coming in the 7-1 loss to the Rays Monday night and three again Tuesday night, on four errors, against the divisional rivals.

The frustration seemed to boil over Tuesday night for a team determined to compete, but coming up short defensively. Bright side? The Jays have turned 50 double plays in 37 games according to mlb.com, six more than the Baltimore Orioles. Sadly, however, they’ve committed 41 errors in 38 games (37 in 37, but tack on the four from Tuesday night and there you have it). That’s anything short of good. They lead the league in errors and the fielding – both infield and outfield – has been a big part of the Jays struggles. Let’s not forget the seven blown saves so far this season – but defense wins championships, or at least plays a huge part of it, and the Jays certainly aren’t playing in the field like contenders.

But that’s neither here nor there. What really needs to be said in this post is with respect to Brett Lawrie. Jays fans young and old alike love this kid for his high energy approach and league-leading level of intensity. He plays every game like it’s a game seven in the World Series. Fans love it – even fans from other teams can appreciate his youthful energy. He brings something to the game that isn’t seen in many organizations and it’s a breath of fresh air (cliched?) for a club – and a fan base – dying to be relevant again.

But he went too far Tuesday night when he threw one of the biggest temper tantrum’s seen in recent memory. Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Lawrie came up to bat with one out. With a 3-1 count, closer Fernando Rodney threw what looked like – and even someone sitting in the 500-level at the Skydome could see it was – ball four and made his move for first. Home plate umpire Bill Miller wasn’t having it and called it a strike. Visibly frustrated by the call, Lawrie stepped back in and took what looked to be ball five high and outside.

Lawrie made two steps toward first before Miller called strike three throwing Lawrie into a fit of rage. He went straight at Miller and in the process, slammed his helmet at the feet of the umpire, bouncing it off the side of his leg. Miller looked stunned by the move and Lawrie continued to scream every obscenity in the book at the veteran umpire. It took coach Brian Butterfield to keep Lawrie from getting back into Miller’s face. Mere minutes after and about fifty f-bombs later, Manager John Farrell was ejected.

Don’t get me wrong: Lawrie had every right to be upset about the two terrible calls made by Miller. They dictated how the end of the game would go, and in a 4-3 game, it was far from over. It seems Miller took Lawrie’s initial move to first personal, like he was showing up the seasoned ump.

Sportsnet baseball guru Mike Wilner said something to this effect in the post-game show on FAN590 and I would agree. Miller made it about him.

Even if that fifth ball, high and outside, had ended up in the dirt three feet in front of the plate, Miller would’ve called it a strike. Lawrie’s reaction, however, was completely uncalled for. The frustration didn’t have to be such a spectacle. Argue the strikes, get tossed, curse at the umpire, but the reaction was that of a guy who needs to figure out how to get his emotions in check. At 21, Lawrie has a long way to go before he matures and it certainly showed Tuesday night.

Last year, Yadier Molina, catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, got five games for bumping an umpire over a bad call. If Lawrie gets less than 10 games, I’d be surprised. It could end up being more, as Wilner pointed out, if the league disciplinarian determines Lawrie was intentional in hitting Miller with his helmet.

Lawrie deserves to be suspended and I hope that kind of embarrassing display doesn’t happen again. That’s not what the Jays are about. Sure, the passion and intensity is there, but it needs to be channeled into making quality plays on the field, picking good pitches to hit and then hitting the cover off the ball.

The opportunity for the Jays to be contenders is in their grasp. Discipline and focus is going to get them into the playoffs. They need to find it quick.

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Jays line-up needs a shake-up

Like last season, Adam Lind looks lost at the plate. Time to mix it up in the Jays line-up?

STRADER: I love the guy. I do.

He seems like he’d be your best friend. His wife is Canadian. He loves the city. And I do love his swing.

But it’s enough already.

It’s time to move Adam Lind down in the lineup.

The vultures are circling Jose Bautista, and I understand why. The lack of 3-4 power is getting sooooooo frustrating.

But Joey Bats can’t move. He can go from the third hole to the fourth, I don’t mind that, but in my opinion he’s still one of the most intimidating bats in the league, we’re still seeing him intentionally walked, and he’s clearly pressing. He’ll break out.

But Adam Lind, yick. Besides 26 HR’s in a shortened season last year, he isn’t performing like a clean up hitter. His OPS against righties has hovered around .750 for three seasons now, and he struggles against lefties. That simply isn’t good enough for a clean up hitter in the AL East. I don’t want to see the kid given up on. I think he’s going to win a gold glove at first in the future, but I wouldn’t push for Lyle Overbay to be the clean up hitter in the AL East, would you?

Somebody on the team is seeing the ball well.

Somebody had an unbelievable 2.300 OPS against the Seattle Mariners.

Somebody is looking like the natural hitting machine you want in the RBI position.

That guy, is Edwin Encarnacion.

Sing it Nacho…

When the fantasy has ended
And all the children are gone
Something good inside me,
Helps me to carry on!

I ate some bugs,
I ate some grass,
I used my hand,
To wipe my tears

To kiss your mouth
I break my vow
No no no, no no, no WAY JOSE
Unless you want to
Then we break our vows together

Encarnacio-hooooon
Encarnacio-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hon
Encarnacion
*Diduliduliluli!*

Encarnacio-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hon
They are ready for you now.

Farrell has reportedly said it’s going to take 100 at bats for him to make any drastic lineup changes. So we have approximately two more weeks to wait and see if he’s fed up. I am.

So, here is what I would propose.

 

1.     Rasmus (yes, Johnson walks more, but I think Rasmus has the ability to if given the responsibility, and I want speed at the top. Real speed. Triples, steals, etc.)

2.     Escobar (He’s struggling, no doubt, and I think the ability that Hecchevarria showed in the spring might be in this guy’s head, but being in the two-hole, being asked to hit and run, bunt, move guys over, might get his bat going)

3.     Bautista (I still have to believe he’s the best bat on the team)

4.     Encarnacion (.323, .381, .667, 1.048, 8 2B, 8 HR, 21 RBI – we don’t even really need to discuss this, do we?)

5.     Johnson (He’s got pop, I want to see it utilized.)

6.     Lind (Maybe 7, ‘cause Lawrie looks amazing, but let’s still give him a prominent role before we bury him)

7.     Lawrie (I expect a response from Livingstone about seeing him third. But in my opinion, he’s 21, I want to see him brought up slowly)

8.     Thames (He’s hitting, but he still doesn’t look like a scary superstar to me)

9.     Arencibia (And I’m sorry JP, but Mathis looks like he’s finally figured out his major league bat, and was a very highly touted prospect himself, so my one note here is I’d like to see Jeff a little more often right now. Maybe twice a week)

That’s what I think Jays fans. Let me know what you think.

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The Sensational Six

Brett Lawrie capped off an epic, rollercoaster game on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers with a ninth inning walk-off home run. The Sensational Six loved it.
John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

LIVINGSTONE: They heckled the drunk frat boys in our section. They gambled on who would get the first hit. They mused about whether or not the bunt Colby Rasmus laid down was a call from the dugout or his own decision.

They are the Sensational Six.

Sitting in two groups of three, one row in front of the other, the six elderly women – and if I’m guessing all in their early sixties – make it out to a dozen games a year as a group. During the early innings of Tuesday’s game  against the Texas Rangers – somewhere in the inning when pitcher Drew Hutchison gave up five runs, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me keeping an official score sheet, marking down every hit, out, walk, run and strikeout. The fact she was keeping the card made me smile. It’s always nice to see people coming out to enjoy the game rather than drink beer and take their shirts off in the seventh inning during the stretch (more on that later).

When Kelly Johnson hit the three-run shot in the bottom of three, followed by a towering shot from a struggling Jose Bautista, I noticed another sheet two rows down with the other trio of women, who I later found out are all from the area and have been coming to games since the early days of professional baseball in Toronto. The sheet, with The Sensational Six neatly scrawled along the top of the page – had a series of columns with players names penciled in for first hit of the game, first homerun, first double, etc. The sensational six was betting on game stats to make it a game within a game. The betting wasn’t for money, but for large gummies they had in a container with them. Sure, minor in nature, but the fact it brought a feeling of competitiveness and excitement to their experience – one of what is about a dozen a year.

While the game was surely one of the most exciting of the season – Lawrie’s laser beam walk-off in the bottom of nine was incredible to watch – it was watching these women analyze the game, talk about the sloppy play of Yunel Escobar as of late, Kelly Johnson’s love-hate relationship at the plate and in the field – at times – and the inability of the Jays bullpen to close out games (blown save number 56 last night). They truly loved the game and were there to take in the beauty of the sport.

Oh, the frat party. Speckled in the crowd – I swear we somehow got every drunk 19-year-old in the stadium in our section – groups of guys, and one lone idiot with his embarrassed girlfriend, were loud, obnoxious and obscene. It takes a lot to offend me, but these guys and the language used toward the Rangers players could have easily spoiled the night. I understand people come to the games to have fun, drink beers, experience the game the way they want to, but sometimes it goes too far.

Last night reminded me of opening night and the debauchery that went on, especially when a group of five guys sitting three rows in front of us to the right took off their shirts and began waving them like towels. I could smell them from my seat, no joke. It wasn’t pleasant. When the game was getting on into the ninth, one of the ladies started telling a couple extremely loud fans to shut up. I admired the women for their love of the game. Young and old alike, the game makes us all feel like a kid in the school yard, playing for the World Series championship. They wanted to enjoy the game and not put up with the sauced fans. Fair enough.

When Francisco Cordero blew the game with two outs in the ninth by giving up three straight singles to centerfield, I asked the women who bet on the Jays blowing the save opportunity. One of the sensational six chimed in and said, ‘hell we all would’ve picked it’. When Lind hit into a double play with none out early in the game, a sense of frustration bellowed from the women, one yelling ‘why didn’t you bunt? You can’t hit the ball!’ She wasn’t saying anything we already didn’t know, but it sure made me laugh.

So, Brett Lawrie. Kid has energy. You could sense it all over the stadium after he made the last out in the ninth to take it to the bottom, you could feel it. He wanted to end the game. And he did it in the classic, soon-to-be legendary Brett Lawrie way. When the ball hit the top of the outfield wall to end the game, the ladies were jumping for joy. It was like the World Series trophy was coming back to Canada for the first time in two decades. While the drunken buffoons jumped for joy – more likely because they were hammered – the ladies reveled in an exciting, likely to be one of the best games of the young Jays season.

I hope I’m lucky enough to have the sensational six sitting in front of me at a future game. Maybe I’ll get in on the betting with them. I do love gummies.

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D’Arnaud and Marisnick – two faces of the Jays future

Blue Jays prospect Jake Marisnick is one of the young faces expected to be an integral part of the future of the Toronto team.

STRADER: Didn’t exactly keep up the every two day commitment, but I’m sure all the other young fathers out there will join me in saying…leave it alone…

The MINOR LEAGUE REPORT will look at intriguing bats this week, and to me, there are four young Jay bats everyone wants to know about.

With apologies to Mike McDade and Moises Sierra, sorry guys, but one more consistent season please, then we’ll talk.

And for all those Adeiny Hecchevaria fans (I’m one too!) we’re gonna give him his own page later this week.

Anthony Gose – Born: August 10, 1990. 6’1” 190 pounds. Bats left.

Drafted: Second round (51st overall) of the 2008 first year player draft.

Is there a more intriguing talent in the outfield? I’m going to argue yes later in this piece, but boy, you’ve got to be something to outduel this guy for the front page of “I can’t wait to see him in Toronto” magazine.

Gose runs. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually his nickname has something to do with Forest Gump, ‘cause man, the stories of the speed. In the 2012 spring session, Gose was said to have scored from second on a 55-foot groundball to the opposing third baseman.

WHAT??

But what has always marred the speedster are questions about his bat. Defense is not a struggle for this kid. Scouting reports call him one of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues.

Ok, so can he hit?

He answered that last year in AA with a resounding, yes I can, but his strikeout to walk ratio is still going to need some work, and appears to, at least so far, still a-hunt him this season.

In 2011, Gose hit .253, .349, .415 in New Hampshire with 20 doubles, 7 triples, 16 home runs and 59 RBI’s in 509 plate appearances. Couple that with 70 stolen bases in 85 attempts, and scouts and fans begin to drool.

However, mark him down for 154 strike outs compared to 62 walks, and the scouts begin to flinch.

This season, Gose is batting .224, .313, .306 in AAA Las Vegas with 3 doubles, 2 triples and nine RBI’s in 85 plate appearances. The averages can’t be critiqued until we see at least 200 AB’s, but the power is still there, and six stolen bags in nine attempts isn’t terrible.

It’s the 26 strikeouts to 10 walks that need to be monitored.

Travis Snider – Born: February 2, 1988. 5’11” 230 pounds. Bats left.

Drafted: First round (14 overall) of the 2006 amateur entry draft.

He’s out of options, so the Jays have to be careful, and a lot of voices like to call him AAAA, but I really want to see this kid for a full season.

We’ve seen what confidence can do. Jose, you’re going to start, everyday, go to it….

Adam, you’re my guy, no more up and down, go to it….

Man I want to hear those words spoken to this kid.

Rushed to the Majors and dubbed “The Franchise” by some of his teammates, things looked great one April when Travis began slugging the ball (anybody see those two jacks into the upper deck of the Metrodome?) like he was supposed to. But the curveball began to baffle him, and down he went.

Scouting reports detail power to all fields. A quality base runner that could get better, and a better defender then most would expect from a power hitter.

But Sniders’ professional life has been filled with ups, and downs, and now, we as fans have to wait again while Thames toils in the field, and Snider toils in AAA Las Vegas.

His numbers, again, are awesome.

Will they finally translate to the Majors? I have a feeling we’re going to find out soon.

In 74 plate appearances in 2012, Snider is hitting .405, .476 and .703 with 10 doubles, four homeruns and 23 RBI’s.

Tack on two stolen bases, and it looks again as if AAA is simply going to do nothing for this guy.

Earlier this season I wrote that left field may be the only place for Anthopolous to add the impact bat he’s hinting at. I hope Snider is it.

While I prophesized that Alfonso Soriano would be the best of the vets, the patient fan in me would like to see Travis get a full season.

Take another look at that birth date. It feels like we’ve been waiting for him forever, but this young talent is only 24.

Travis D’Arnaud – Born: Febraury 10, 1989. Bats right.

Drafted: First round (37 overall) of the 2007 first year player draft.

Earlier this season, critics were calling for Arencibia’s head and D’Arnaud to be called up. Arencibia’s average was low, and D’Arnaud was coming off an MVP season in AA, and looked like the second coming of Pudge with a .311 avg, 21 HR’s and 78 RBI’s.

But Arencibia, it would seem, isn’t the only young catcher to suffer from a slow start.

D’Arnaud is batting .239, .333, .373 with one homerun, six doubles and seven RBI’s in 67 plate appearances.

It’s not too bad, but considering he is in offense friendly Las Vegas, it’d be nice see Snider-like numbers from the A plus prospect.

He’s described very simply in all scouting reports.

More than enough defense to play everyday, and a bat that will one day feature in the middle of a lineup.

Considering the pitcher he was traded for, let’s hope so…

Jake Marisnick – Born: March 30, 1991. 6’4” 200 pounds. Bats right.

Drafted: Third round of the 2009 draft.

This is the guy I can’t wait to see. His line is constantly that of a basketball player. There are simply numbers everywhere, and that has been the book on him since Toronto scouts began drooling about his ceiling.

Jake does it all.

He’s minding centre field in single A Dunedin, but I would look for a promotion to double A (where we know all the quality arms are) this season to see what he can really do.

Marisnick is the definition of five tool, and comparisons to Brett Lawrie will begin once he gets closer to the show and more people see the athletic ability that he brings.

His defense is sound, and his all around athletic ability, well that’s going to translate into a guy who can do it all. Maybe one day he becomes a corner outfielder and focuses on power, but with a bat like his, who cares?

Let’s look at the line so far in 2012.

Marisnick is batting .266, .372, .481 with seven doubles, two triples, two homeruns and 10 RBI’s in 79 plate appearances. Add in four stolen bases, as the giant of a kid also has supreme wheels.

Marisnick is the once in a lifetime prospect every organization hopes for, now it’s time to cross fingers, toes and whatever else that this isn’t Billy Beane, and he will translate that talent to the pros.


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On the plus side, some young closers are strutting their stuff

Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson has been perfect in the save situation, going seven-for-seven to start the season, closing out games with a high nineties fastball in his pitching arsenal.

McGILLIGAN: One of the early story lines this season was the poor performance of closers.

Teams were struggling to shut the door in the ninth inning and seal the win. Veteran guys – solid performers in seasons past – just weren’t getting the job done. Things have settled somewhat since then – injuries are still wreaking havoc in some cities – and part of the reason is new faces seizing their opportunities.

The two best examples of this are Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles and Henry Rodriguez of the Washington Nationals.

Johnson has been perfect in his save opportunities this season (7-7), has yet to allow a run and has hitters off balance as evidenced by opponents mustering a measly.214 batting average.

The Orioles have struggled to find consistency the closer role, only once in the past five seasons has a player recorded two-straight seasons of 20 or more saves (George Sherrill in 2008 and 2009).

Heading into the year, Johnson had racked up 21 saves over the course of three seasons. Baltimore is a bit of a revolving door for closers, but early signs are positive for Johnson and the O’s.

The most intriguing closer-related story is in the National League. After the Nationals watched Brad Lidge blow a few saves, the job was given to Henry Rodriguez who had a grand total of two saves before this year. This season he’s recorded five saves in five chances, has not allowed an earned run and has opponents hitting a paltry .038.

What makes the Nationals situation so intriguing is the eventual return of Drew Storen. In 2011, Storen racked up 43 saves, tied for sixth best in all of baseball. He had minor elbow surgery earlier this month and could return sometime around the all-star break. If he can return to form, and Rodriguez continues his early dominance, the Nationals could have the makings of a great one-two punch for the eighth and ninth innings – in what order might be anyone’s guess.

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Arencibia shouldn’t apologise for Twitter-spat – and here is why

Blue Jays catcher JP Arencibia called out a sports journalist on Twitter last week. Matthew Strader has his take on the situation.


STRADER:
With the mini-twitter gate that surrounded JP Arencibia last week, and the articles I’m still reading about it, I suddenly began to wonder, why is my industry filled with a bunch of wimps?

A radio reporter from New York called Arencibia out for his low batting average.

Arencibia tweeted back, have another donut, and sports reporters of the world unite! I’ve read column after column about how Arencibia shouldn’t have done it. He went too far.

My colleague Livingstone and I discussed that day whether Arencibia, and his fellow twitter-addicted Blue Jays (Romero, Lawrie…etc.) would be asked by the organization to shut down their accounts.

It seemed plausible at the time. Organizations don’t like negative press. And athletes’ seem to get into trouble on social media all the time, so were we going to lose the insight into these players’ lives?

We haven’t, and I don’t know if anything was said to Arencibia behind closed doors, but I listen to what I’ve listened to on the radio in the past week, and read what I’ve read in the papers, and I wonder who is in the wrong here? Because every sports writer and broadcaster I’ve heard think Arencibia is, and I can’t help but think…are you kidding me? What did he do wrong?

How is it any different then what sports reporters do, and why should he be held to a different standard? Because he makes millions? Oh, yeah, right. If my paper decided to suddenly pay me $4-million a season, and Major League baseball suddenly changed the structure so that catchers made $60,000 a year, things would be completely different…..pfffft….

I don’t need to mention any names here, but here are the quotes I’ve read this week.

“They’re chokers….”

“He should be fired…”

“He’s lazy…”

“He sucks…”

“He’s fat, and out of shape, and it’s embarrassing….”

Okay, so let’s turn to the radio for some insightful and classy analysis.

“They don’t know how to play the game…”

“He sucks, and he knows it, his family knows it, I bet when he was born his parents looked at him and thought he’s gonna suck…”

“The guy should lose his job…”

“It was the worst performance I’ve ever seen and it’s what you get from this guy all the time…the worst…”

“Off with his head…Off with all their heads…”

“They are the biggest chokers in sport…”

I don’t need to continue. Everyone knows what I’m talking about.

Now, let me qualify this by saying I’m happy with all of these comments. I love the soap opera. We don’t ever find out anything great. The dressing room doors are like iron curtains, and we dig and dig and dig for insight. Players are trained to give media savvy answers, clichés really, about 110 per cent and it’s all about the team…blah blah blah. We die for an honest comment.

So if some dude decides to call Arencibia out, and Arencibia decides to call him out, then good, set up the ring, and let them go.

But Arencibia should apologize? He went too far? It was personal?

Give me a break.

It’s personal to say a guy sucks at his job. It’s personal to say a guy should lose his job.

If I write that somebody sucks, which I might, ‘cause really, the Red Sox suck, then they have every right to call me a skinny wuss who couldn’t make it past tee ball. ‘Cause I couldn’t. And I don’t need a bunch of dudes behind their keyboards to get their backs up and come to my defence. It’s okay guys. I can handle it.

I’m not a p—y.

If I were Arencibia, the next time I hit a jack, I’d make sure to have a box of donuts in the dugout, I’d grab one, look right into the camera, and chow down while holding up my Major League jersey.

That would be TV I would love to watch.

Can Ben Affleck predict the World Series?

Ben Affleck + movie release dates + Red Sox = A World Series title.

Who knew rock bottom would look this way.

I didn’t think David Ortiz wouldn’t be among the AL batting leaders at rock bottom.

I wouldn’t have imagined a pitching staff with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz would be part of rock bottom.

As for the bullpen, that’s what a rock bottom pen looks like.

Bobby Valentine as the manager of a team hitting rock bottom? That seems to be more and more likely each time he talks or has Ortiz and Kelly Shoppach try and steal bases.

Despite the doom and gloom of the early 2012 Red Sox season, there is a slight sliver of hope.

I present the ‘Ben Affleck movie release date theory (BAMRDT).

When Affleck has a movie scheduled for release in Oct., rest assured the Red Sox are going to the World Series.

Surviving Christmas – Starring Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 22, 2004.

Gone Baby Gone – Directed by Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 10, 2007.

I will admit Gone Baby Gone is a far superior movie to Surviving Christmas and gets points for double Affleck action as Ben’s brother Casey stars in the film. However, quality of films has no bearing on the BAMRDT.

As you may have noticed, in one film Ben is an actor and the other a director. A singular focus in each.

This brings me to 2012 and…..

Argo – Starring and Directed by Ben Affleck. Tentative release date Oct. 12, 2012.

This fits the BAMRDT criteria, but that release date is not set in stone. Warner Bros. could wreak havoc on the theory, but for now everything seems to be in place. Here’s what imdb.com says about the plot: “As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.”

I have no idea if that sounds good or not, but the BAMRDT does not require the movie be good, just released in October. However, with this year off to such a poor start surely not even the BAMRDT could possibly save it. This may very well prove to be true, but Affleck sensed this and thus ratcheted things up on his end. He’s an actor/director in Argo – a double focus. Ben knew the lack of off-season signings and hiring of Valentine would require some extra magic on his part to reverse the trend and selflessly decided to pull double duty.

If this theory pans out, I’m nominating Affleck for all-time president of Red Sox Nation.  If the BAMRDT doesn’t pan out, I know what movie I’ll be going to see rather than watching the World Series in October.

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A power bat? Where? I’m guessin’ left…

Subs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a good power bat addition to the Jays roster - however, the salary he is owed could be an issue.

STRADER: Does anybody get the feeling the Blue Jays aren’t happy with either left fielder?

I am.

One, because AA doesn’t make anything public, and his desire for an impact bat just became public. Two, because it’s not JP Arencibia that’s going to lose his job, I don’t care how many people want to focus on the low batting average.

How would the Baltimore Orioles feel if they’d given up on Matt Wieters?

Pretty dumb, I would imagine.

There’s way more to being a catcher than hitting and I don’t think the organization is as frustrated with Arencibia as some of the fans are.

(That damn debut is going to haunt this kid until he hits….)

No, there is a position on the field that doesn’t seem to be filled by that reliable, crushing, middle of the order bat, just yet.

So, with Anthopolous reportedly telling MLB network radio’s Jim Bowden that a middle of the order bat is his true desire, to “wear down” other teams, it appears that a trial run with a kid for a couple seasons is not what Anthopolous wants. And look around the diamond.

Do you move Rasmus? Nope. He’s looking confident and skilled again, and there’s a speedster in the wings.

Is it Escobar? Nope. Once again, not the power development that has been hyped, but there’s talent waiting on the depth chart there too in a young Cuban who’s looking all world.

No, left field, which I believe in two to three years will be occupied by Jake Marisnick could use a dominant, power-hitting, veteran.

So for fun, ‘cause speculation with the Blue Jays brass is always wrong, let’s take a look at Major League outfields and see if we can find a power-hitting veteran, that would come cheap, is on a team that wants to move him, and also a squad looking to add to their young talent.

Melky….I don’t know….Delmon….would Detroit trade anything right now?….Logan Morrison….is he proven enough?….Brennan Boesch…certainly a lot of talk about his ceiling….Jason Bay…I could only dream he becomes reliable again and lands in Canada….

Nope, I think I found the perfect hole filler. His team will absorb a lot of his contract. He would hit the snot out of the ball in Rogers Centre. And in a couple years, he would happily be replaced by a young outfielder, because he’s in his mid-30s.

Yep, I never thought I would say it, but I want to see Alfonso Soriano in a Blue Jay uniform.

Because of his critics, price tag, and lack of a market, I believe he would only require a couple mid-level prospects to get him.

His OPS is always above .700, this guy can simply hit the ball.

And without having to be the go-to guy in a lineup, he would be an unreal complement bat.

As I’ve said before, I’m patient. I’d rather see Travis Snider for a full season, leave him alone, let him play.

But if we’re going to see 24 and 25 year olds platooned with Rajai, replaced for defensive reasons, not playing against left-handed pitchers, then bring the vet, and wait for Marisnick and Gose.

Maybe Thames and a mid-level pitching prospect would get us Soriano?

And how wicked would he look sandwiched in there with Edwin, Brett, Adam and that dude in right field?

I’m thinking pretty good.

Of course, it looks like my Jenkins prediction was a little out of left field too….

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