Category Archives: TSN

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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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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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.

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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)

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From the desk of a Sox fan: Blue Jays opening series

Jays rookie phenom third baseman Brett Lawrie is looking good in the eyes of a Red Sox fan. The best thing for the Jays this week? The Winless Red Sox coming to town for the opening series at the Skydome.

With the first weekend in the books, I’m of two minds on the Jays opening weekend.

So in interest of being fair to both sides of my thoughts, I will present the positive and negative sides of the Jays first three games.

RECORD

Positive: The Jays won two of three against the Cleveland Indians and had a chance to sweep the road series, but came up a run short. Anytime you win a road series, you’ve got to be happy.

Negative: While the Jays did win a pair, they could have just as easily lost all three games. Two extra inning games on the road can go either way.

PITCHING

Positive: Even without a good start from ace Ricky Romero, the Jays won two of three and the bullpen, a weakness last year, did a nice job holding off the Indians bats in the extra inning contests. Brandon Morrow looked good in his first outing, a good sign for all Jays fans.

Negative: Romero didn’t pitch well, Joel Carreno didn’t look good in his start and Sergio Santos blew a save in his first opportunity. The Jays starters were heavily out pitched by the Indian starters.

HITTING

Positive: What more can you say, these guys are never out of a ball game and proved it with late inning and extra inning heroics. Brett Lawrie looks like he’s going to pick up where he left off last season and Jose Bautista has bashed his first homerun. Kelly Johnson had some nice at bats in the series and J.P. Arencibia was the hero in Game 1 with a three-run blast. The Jays took advantage of the Indians bullpen and were one-hit away from possibly sweeping the Indians.

Negative: The trio of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe dominated the Jays in the series. The trio threw 26 innings, allowed eight hits and three earned runs while striking out 14. That’s a 1.04 ERA for Cleveland starting pitchers. A team with a better bullpen could have made the Jays 0-3. Arencibia had an important hit, but the guy has to get more than one in a series to be an everyday starting catcher.

Colby Rasmus needs to be better at the plate. Unlike my colleague Strader, I don’t believe good defence from Rasmus is enough. He has to hit like an everyday centerfielder, but it’s early and I still believe that he can be a good offensive player.

OVERALL

You have to like the Jays opening weekend. The team played with a swagger and never gave up on any play. Outside of Morrow, the starting pitching wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible – basically it was average.

Lawrie is a lot of fun to watch, he gives maximum effort on every play and, as I said earlier, the bullpen looks much improved and Santos should be fine.

My verdict is while there are more positives than negatives, the Jays need to be able to hit starting pitching and not depend on late inning comeback every time, although it is exciting.

The pitching was average and still the team won two games, but now we’re into the part of the staff that is a real unknown.

The good news is the reeling Boston Red Sox are in town. This team is finding a way to lose in spectacular fashion

While Sunday’s offensive explosion was nice to see, Boston has struggled on the mound. Besides Lester’s performance on opening day, the Sox have not had good pitching and the bullpen is a huge weakness as Aceves has blown two saves.

Honestly, it will be a long year in Beantown if Bobby Valentine can’t right the ship.

I expect a high scoring game between the two as the biggest question marks for both are the back end of the rotation.

It should be a great night at Skydome (I’m following fellow Write Fielder Livingstone’s lead in refusing to call it Rogers Centre). Livingston and Strader will be blogging from the stands, so check the site for some instant insight and photos from the home opener.

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Gino Reda and an odd autograph

A Gino Reda signature on this Boston Red Sox program is a piece of one Write Fielders youth.

McGILLIGAN: For the longest time I had pictured a photo of Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell on the cover of my most prized and oddest piece of sports memorabilia.

In fact, when we created this blog, I referenced the magazine in question and wrote Greenwell as being on the cover.

I was wrong; the man on the cover is Tom Brunansky.

Funny how time changes things, but none the less here’s how I ended up with oddest autograph of my sports-loving life.

It was Friday, Sept. 28, 1990 and I definitely should have been in school. However, my Dad thought a different sort of education was needed, so off to Boston we had gone to watch the Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays.

Boston was up one game in the AL East in the waning days of a pennant race and Fenway was packed with more than 35,000 fans. We got to the park early to watch batting practice. My sister was in love with Toronto’s mullet-headed third baseman Kelly Gruber and we desperately wanted autographs from the players.

We were on the third base side of the field along with some other Canadian fans and a TSN camera crew.

A few of the guys were yelling out to the TSN reporter calling him Chris Sedens, but it was Gino Reda.

After finishing an on-field interview, he came over to talk with the Canadian fans. I remember knowing who he was, even at 10 I was sports crazy and watched a lot of TSN. As a 10-year-old, he had the coolest job I could think of. As a 31-year-old, he has the coolest job I can think of.

Anyway, he talked with the fans and asked where everyone was from. My dad mentioned we had driven nine hours to come see the game and Gino saw that as some serious dedication.

My sister and I asked him if he could get some players to come sign our programs. To this day the next few moments are confusing.

I don’t remember asking him to sign my program, neither does my sister. Dad believes that he misheard our request for player autographs and thought we asked for his.

Next thing I know, my program was in Gino’s hands and he signed it ‘To Andrew, Thanks for making the long trip. Gino Reda.’

The program cost my dad $1.75 and it’s the best sports investment I’ve ever been a part of.

As a 10-year-old, I wanted to be Wade Boggs when I got to Fenway that day, but after two games, part of me left wanting to do what Gino did.

Years later, I became a sports reporter for a few years and it was the best part of my time as a working journalist.

So I can credit a good portion of my love for sports journalism and part of my professional career to Gino Reda and skipping school to watch baseball.