Category Archives: Toronto

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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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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