Category Archives: Sports

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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….

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Angels aren’t lookin’ so heavenly – are they a bust?

Are the Angels already a bust? The 6-10 record isn't a sign of any sort of success considering they spent $300 million in the off-season to bring in a premium bat in Pujols, who hasn't hit a home run for his new club yet and has a mere four runs batted in.

LIVINGSTONE: If the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim don’t start getting it together, that $300-million off-season spending spree is going to look like one of the biggest busts in the history of the game.

I know – we all know – Albert Pujols won’t under perform all season. In a couple of months we will be looking back at the start of the season, the first 16 games that have netted the Angels a 6-10 record good for last place in the division and seven games back of the juggernaut that is the Texas Rangers, and all will be forgotten.

Question is, will it be forgotten?

The Angels went out and landed the biggest free agent slugger in Pujols and the best pitching free agent in former Rangers starter C.J. Wilson with the hopes of putting the team, finally, into a good position to challenge for a World Series title after years of missing the mark. If you look at what the Angels have been doing in the first 16 games of the season, you have to wonder if the team is just too bloated with talent and can’t find a way for all that all-star power to gel together.

Outside of Wilson and Jered Weaver, who both post sub-2.50 ERAs in just a handful of starts into the season (they’re a combined 5-1), the starting rotation has looked anything but lights out.

Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been appallingly bad. Haren (0-1) has an ERA above 4.00 in his first four starts, and is averaging 65 pitches a game. Santana (0-3) in three awful starts, giving up seven home runs  while putting up a 6.75 ERA. Anything but dominate. Fifth starter Jerome Williams has an ERA of 7.71 and a WHIP around 1.70 and Haren and Santana are both over 1.40

Then there is the bullpen. They’ve been pegged with four losses and have only one save to show for the dismal start. Closer Jordan Walden, who was expected to be a dominate guy in the ninth, has an ERA of 4.15 and a WHIP of 1.62 – on the flip, he’s got a K-per-9 innings of 12.36, which is what should be expected of him. But one save, yeesh. He isn’t getting the opportunity to close games because the bullpen is blowing them before he even gets the chance to warm-up in the bullpen.

Collectively, the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.47, a WHIP of 1.26 and has given up 18 home runs while putting together only eight quality starts. Things need to improve on this front or the bats waking up won’t matter.

Yes, Pujols is putting up underwhelming numbers so far this year. No home runs, four RBI, an OPS of .654 and a batting average of .283. He’s a career .328 hitter. He’ll come around, he started slow last season and came on late to post a solid year for the eventual World Series champs St. Louis. However, when you’re RBI leader after 16 games is your catcher (Chris Iannetta has 8 ribbies) and your home run leader is Vernon ‘I am very much overpaid for what I do’ Wells, things aren’t looking good.

Guys like Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo are hitting in the .200 zone after 16 games, something that needs to improve vastly to bring some stability and fear back into the line-up. These guys were pegged to be integral parts of the batting order and are so far not proving that. I don’t think it will be too long before we see Mike Trout in the line-up (he’s hitting a near-.400 in Triple-A).

No matter what – something needs to be done to get the team ignited.

Are they a bust? For all the hype surrounding this team coming into the season – in some ways, yes they certainly are a bust. Besides Mark Trumbo, who is batting .350-ish, this club isn’t putting together any solid performances a the plate – on the mound, Weaver and Wilson look good, but it’s downhill after those two.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the teams pulls itself together and gets onto a winning road, because the fans won’t patiently wait while this supposed-elite team continues to flounder.

Timelessness and Jamie Moyer

Creeping closer to seniors discounts at local restaurants, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs, a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres. Cheers Jamie!

LIVINGSTONE: I’m beginning to look into my future a little bit more these days, especially when it comes to baseball. It coincides with life, maturity, professional desires, life, family, etc. It’s normal, I suppose, so it’s carried over into the ‘what-ifs’ of my sports passions. Will Ben Roethlisberger make it to another Super Bowl? Will The Flyers win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? Will the Leafs ever win one in my lifetime (or my hypothetical child…and their kids.)?

The question that popped into my head last night came on the heals of a new baseball record, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Will Jamie Moyer ever retire?

Moyer, at the young age of forty-nine, became the oldest pitcher in history to win a baseball game. Pitching now for the Colorado Rockies, after pitching for almost every team in baseball (that’s not true, but it seems like it, he’s only pitched for eight) he kept the San Diego Padres’ hitters at bay with his lightning-fast 79 mph fastball and his nasty cutter. The Rockies won 5-3.

Moyer, 49 years, 150 days old to be exact, takes the record held by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was 49 years, 70 days old when he set the record.

Wait, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Yep, the record was set on Sept. 13, 1932 when a bottle of Coke was five cents and the Second World War was yet to happen.

It’s an incredible feat. To be able to pitch for 25 years, for eight clubs, play with Ryne Sandberg, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez (in three different decades mind you) amass 268 wins and over 2,400 Ks – it’s unreal. Moyer is the third oldest pitcher ever to play in a regular season game (behind Quinn and Satchel Paige who was, get this, 59(!!) when he played in 1965) and is tied for sixth on the oldest player, pitcher or position, to play (he’s tied with the likes of Julio Franco (2007) and Hughie Jennings (1918), among others).

It speaks a lot to not only the longevity of his ability to play – but to the fact he has been able to continue pitching, after 25 years and more than 4,000 innings, without his body, or love for the game, saying that’s enough.

Sure, he gets a paycheck, and a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of life, but at this point in his career, he just seems to want to keep playing the game he loves so dearly.

It’s beautiful.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dyin’ to see what Eric Thames can do – so let him do it.

Name: Eric Thames. Team: Toronto Blue Jays. Position: Starting(?) LF.

Strader: You know what the great thing is about Alex Anthopolous?

He sticks to his plan.

Did he dump a ton of money into Fielder or Pujols’ driveway?

Nope.

Did he go after CJ, ‘cause hey, he was the best of what was available?

Nope.

He’s patient. He’s calculated. He’s determined.

He’s deliberate.

I don’t get to know s—! And man, as a fan that can be really frustrating. But when Escobar for Gonzalez comes out of the blue, it can be really exciting.  So I deal.

I wanted Prince Fielder. I don’t care about the talk of albatross contracts in this town. I don’t care that Vernon Wells was overpaid. When his free agency was an issue, did I want him in Yankee pinstripes? Nope. Did I care what Rogers had to pay to keep him? Definitely not. Just keep him.

He regressed, he didn’t maintain his allstar status and that got frustrating, so Vernon had to go. Anthopolous has maintained he wants a superstar at every position, and I’m fully supportive of that. I get upset at players being vilified for performance, that I’m outspoken about. But I will cut a guy who’s not good enough, for the one who is. It’s all about winning.

And the guy who makes the show isn’t gonna hurt. He’s gonna be fine.

If they go bankrupt ala Warren Sapp, that’s their own problem.

So, I find myself really frustrated at watching Eric Thames.

Why? Because I’m patient. I don’t expect the Jays to contend this year. I’m happy to watch young players struggle, work, and hopefully grow.

So why does it seem that the organization already has their mind made up about Eric Thames?

Can he hit a lefty in the bottom of the seventh with two out and the Jays down by two?

I don’t know. ‘Cause he’ll get that shot once every two months.

Can he provide capable enough defence in the late evenings to be a consistent every day player?

I don’t know. ‘Cause the guy in left has Davis on his back.

If we’re building for the future, and we’re growing a superstar at every position, then I don’t want a guy out there, who at 24, is already being platooned, defensively replaced, pinch run for in every big situation…

That isn’t an everyday superstar. And if that determination is made, why am I not watching Travis Snider?

Dan Johnson’s name will live forever in Tampa Bay. You know why? Because he came through in a big moment. Johnson won’t ever be thought of as a superstar, but if you want to know if a guy is a superstar, doesn’t he have to be given the opportunity to show it?

There is the argument that Thames is being showcased, because trade value will grow more for a guy playing in the show, then a kid in the minors, no matter the numbers, but then what are the other GM’s watching?

Well, good fundamentals, but his team already believes he can’t play defence or hit lefties…so what are the Jays going to get for that???

I agree with the plan. And I will wait.

But I want to grow and nurture young players into everyday beasts, so that we can contend in the east.

Five tools is five tools. If you’ve already decided that a guy is three tools, then move on to the next tool. Play him in the big situations, and let’s see what this kid can do. Ok?

Or just dump the money. Albatross is a nice buzz word to criticize a GM, but if you’re sticking to your plan, and your team is winning, no fan is going to care how much money Rogers is spending.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t call it a comeback…He’s been here for years…but he won’t ’cause we will chase his lazy ass out of town.

The most-mannered guy - sadly, for two of us, is a Boston Red Sox - David Ortiz is loved by one Write Fielder. And he's not a Sox fan by any means.

STRADER: My colleague, McGilligan brought up Aaron Hill this week, and it brought a question to my mind.

I love April. It is arguably the best time of year for a sports fan. The Masters, baseball’s beginnings, hockey’s end, college basketball’s national championship, it all happens in April.

And this April had one of those moments that reminds us why we engage in this ultimate soap opera. Bubba Watson won the Masters. The everyman victory. Isn’t it one of the greatest moments in sports? The guy hasn’t looked at his swing on video. He hasn’t taken umpteen thousand hours of lessons. He doesn’t employ a swing coach. He goes up to the tee, he swings, and we as fans all get to think he prays a little bit too ­– even if we’re not spiritual, we all say a little, “please God…” after we hit that stupid ball.

And now, with McGilligan speaking about Aaron Hill, I’m reminded of one thing I’ve noticed we’re losing, something that used to be one of my favourite things in sports, and with my track record of homerism, may be a difficult thing to defend.

But I will try…

Why don’t we support hometown athletes anymore?

(And here’s where the homer cries start….back…back…back…Strader’s hugging the players again…) But really, I’m not. I’m talking about a moment that I miss. And I kind of want those moments back…

You know when you have a bad team. Numbers aren’t always needed to prove it. Last in the standings is definitely a precedent, but how many Minnesota Wild fans do you think looooooovvvvvvveeeedd that team in the Lemaire years.

Winning is awesome. Couple playoff victories are wicked. But man, those were boring games with really, only one electrifying player to watch.

So, your team sucks, but you love your guy (let’s go Gaborik here) and even though he has never lead the league, you talk about how he’s as good as anyone, he’s just inhibited by your system, the coaching, the style, choose your buzzword.

A player gets injured, falls apart, and we are quick to jump all over him.

I watched Joffrey Lupul get booed at the Jays game, and I, like many in the media have confessed, did have a moment of pause.

Why is this guy getting booed?

Lupul was injured when his team was still in the playoff race, and he was in the top five in scoring. He basically didn’t participate in the debacle, and he gets the same share of the blame.

Fair enough, whatever. But what happened to watching a guy come back?

Hill is my baseball example, because his freefall coincided with one of the greatest moments of fan support I’ve ever seen, and something I wish would have happened with my team, and him.

Hill didn’t get support. He got killed in the media, by the fans, by us all, wondering what had happened to the little guy with the big stick. It didn’t take 36 and 108 for us to fall in love with Hill. We all saw flashes of what he could do early in his career, and we always believed that with the stellar defense would come an offensive force. He delivered, on a few occasions, and we loved him. It took one year for that to fall apart.

No support for the guy who suffered a concussion and came back. Just, “What is up with this .205 average?”

Again, that’s fine. I do believe that if you get paid the dough, you get to live the dream of playing in the show, you get to deal with it. Let’s face it, even if you’re just some plug who fills a bench role for a year and never plays again, when you’re a 50-year old at men’s night with the boys, you’re still the subject of whispers, pointed fingers, and guys bragging that they know you. You’re the guy who made the show. You’re a hero.

So if you get trashed while you play, enjoy it, you’re still coming out a member of a certain elite.

But what I miss is giving our guys a chance to comeback. What I miss is loving the hometown hero, and watching the comeback.

That greatest moment I’ve ever seen? Well, here’s where I have to give it to my mortal enemies.

I hate the Red Sox. And it’s ‘cause they’re good, and I’m jealous. I’m a Jays fan, so they’re the enemy, but I’m also a baseball fan, so I love Pedroia, I wince when Youklis comes up in a big situation, Gonzalez is unreal, just unreal…

But I hate the team. That’s the joy of sports.

In 2010, they had one of theirs fall off.

Big Papi, the playoff hero, Mr. Clutch, the most dangerous man in the game, looked like a junior player….

He couldn’t hit the ball out. It came with talk of steroids, and the admission that he and Manny might have dipped the pen in the “I’m gonna break some records” ink that ruined an entire generation for us who are fans of the game, not just the highlights – people do love dingers….

But when you watched a Red Sox game, Papi didn’t get booed. There weren’t groans when he came to bat.

There were chants. Insane, loud, stadium rocking chants.

“Papi…Papi…Papi….”

I can’t remember the exact dates, but I turned on a Red Sox game in middle or late May. It was going on two months without a dinger for Big Papi. The steroid talk was out there. Were we watching one of the greats fall the media kept asking?

And the cathedral kept shaking.

“Papi…Papi…Papi….”

I was lucky enough to watch the first one go out. It was unreal. The joy on his face, on the fans faces, the energy was palpable even if you were sitting in your living room hundreds of miles from Fenway.

There it was. They had believed, and their hero had returned.

Papi went on to 28 and 99 that season. It wasn’t one of his best. But he hasn’t seriously declined. He remains a Boston god.

Their Papi.

If we lose those moments, do we lose having something tangible that’s ours?

If Jose Bautista continues to struggle and is hitting .209 by the all star break this season, is it time to boo him?

I don’t think it’s wrong. You pay the freight, they reap the benefits, booing is your right.

All I’m saying, is I like cheering more. And if one of my hometown heroes starts to struggle, I’m going to cheer his name and give him a chance at redemption, no matter how many times I get called a homer. I’m going to wish for the comeback.

Especially if he’s been here for years…

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Searching for Johnny Utah (aka Aaron Hill)

Aaron Hill might never be an MVP and his numbers have been in decline for a few years - he's still a damn likeable guy.

McGILLIGAN: When the 1991 action classic Point Break is on TV, which it seems to be every other weekend, I can’t help but watch. I’m compelled to do it. I know director Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, but it doesn’t have the unbridled enthusiasm of Point Break.

Are there plot holes? For God’s sake its Keanu Reeves playing an ex-college football star turned FBI agent named Johnny Utah hunting down a pack of bank robbing surfers who dress in masks of ex-President’s to commit their crimes. Is the acting good? Who cares, it stars Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey – not to mention a weird cameo by Red Hot Chili peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis.

Despite some hilariously bad scenes (firing the gun in the air by Reeves is priceless), the thing Point Break has that most other movies don’t is likeability. You can so easily overlook all of its flaws because it’s desperately trying to entertain you.

The entire film feels like it would have been fun to make. I picture everyone on the set having a good time and laughing.

With these factors in mind, I would suggest Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill is the baseball equivalent of Point Break. If Hill is at bat in a game on TV, granted this doesn’t happen often living on the East Coast, I will stop and watch. I know the D-backs have Justin Upton, but I will stop for Hill. This is the equivalent of Point Break vs. The Hurt Locker.

Are there problems in Hill’s game similar to plot holes in Point Break? Absolutely. Hill has never been able to put together a season like he did in 2009 hitting .286 with 36 homeruns and 108 RBI. After missing time with a concussion, Hill has seen his average and power decline dramatically. He’s always been a pretty solid defender. However, he puts together flashes of brilliance every once in a while that makes you forget about some issues. His most recent was a two homerun, three RBI game April 7 in a 5-4 win over the rival San Francisco Giants. Unlike The Hurt Locker, Hill isn’t going to win the MVP/Oscar, but he’s still capable of carrying you threw a tough Saturday just like Point Break on a rainy weekend.

Finally, Hill has the same likeability as Point Break. In the same way I picture everyone laughing it up on set, I picture Hill going to the ballpark with enthusiasm each day. He just seems like the type of guy who gets it. He knows how privileged he is to play the game for a living, works hard at it and appreciates it. I always get the impression that some players view it as a right and think they actually deserve the gobs of money thrown their way to play a game. Hill always appears to be a professional, out there playing hard and giving a solid effort. Just like Point Break never disappoints. You know what you’re getting from both and as long as you’re aware of it, you should get plenty of entertainment from watching.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jays need to attack starters early and often, Santos will come around

Jays closer Sergio Santos got roughed up again last night, blowing the lead and taking the loss in a 4-2 comeback by the Sox. His command was off and two passed balls cost the Jays. But fret not - it's the fourth game of the season and Santos will find his swagger.

LIVINGSTONE: It wasn’t the prettiest of endings for the Jays last night against the Sox, falling 4-2 to the divisional rivals – but not all is lost like some of the people in attendance last night might seem to think so (Many weren’t necessarily ‘fans’ but people just there because it was opening night and the 500 level is a glorified frat house).

Already people are ripping on closer Sergio Santos for blowing two saves in the first four games of the season. Maybe he didn’t get enough work during the spring – he only threw about five innings or so all spring – and in comparison to the rest of the bullpen staff, many who tossed ten or more innings (Villenueva, Perez, Cordero, Frasor and Oliver all threw ten or more). It’s no excuse for giving up the lead, but Santos, pitching for the first time in the Skydome in front of an energized crowd, it couldn’t been too much for him. Let’s keep in mind the kid was drafted as a shortstop and only converted to the closer position about three years ago. He’s young and still trying to get comfortable in the role. He’s going to be the closer for the Jays and it’s going to take a lot for manager John Farrell and management to remove him from there. He’s in for the long-term, there is no doubt. There needs to be some patience.

Keep in mind: it was the fourth game of the year. Fans jeered and boo’ed Santos off the field after Farrell pulled him with two outs in the ninth. It was shocking, to be honest. I chalk it up to being a sold-out crowd of beer-chugging non-fans (half the row behind us in the 500-level where my season tickets are were passed out by the 7th), but hey, even they have expectations and that includes a pitcher not blowing the lead.

Things will get better for Santos and the two blown saves will be a thing of the past when he is closing out games later in the season.

However, it could be difficult for him to do that if hitters don’t start attacking starting pitchers through the first round of the order. It’s been the theme through the first four games – let the first pitch go, maybe even the second. I can’t think of one hitter outside of Colby Rasmus who hasn’t let the first pitch go in the majority of their at-bats. Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and even Jose Bautista are settling into pitchers counts early in their at-bats and end up having to fight to stay alive at the plate. Lawrie has done it for more than 50 per cent of his at-bats.

The potent offense that we saw during the spring and last season exists, but if the team wants to capitalize on it, they have to stop letting starters get their confidence levels in the clouds. Sox starter Felix Doubront should’ve been an easy target for the Jays to open up the floodgates and mash the ball around. But they didn’t. They sat back on a lot of first pitch strikes – even second pitch strikes – and ended up having to settle on breaking balls and junk pitches to try and put the ball in play.I said to my wife during Colby Rasmus’ third at-bat of the game and said ‘I bet you ten bucks he swings at the first pitch’. He’s the only guy who has been doing it more than the rest of the team. While it hasn’t turned into a lot of hits – outside of a 1-for-15 series against the Indians and his crowd-pleasing triple last night – he’s attacking the ball.

Santos shouldn’t have been in such a tight game last night. The Jays had an opportunity to hit Doubront – who was pitching in his fourth-ever game as a starter – and they didn’t take that chance. If the run support is there, Santos won’t be in those tight games against such a potent, dangerous line-up like the Sox. And outside of Santos and the bats, the bullpen has been lights out sand the defense was incredibly solid last night. Rasmus and Lind made two great defensive stops to save runs. If they hadn’t, the game might never have gotten to Santos’ hands because they would’ve been down going into the ninth.

That all said, I can tell you I’m excited to get back to the stadium tonight. It’s been a twenty-year dream of mine to be a Jays season ticket holder and to attend opening night. It was exactly what I expected and more.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,