Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Trade Market

Albert Pujols certainly doesn’t look like the Albert of the past – but maybe it’s turning around for him. Fantasy buyers and sellers beware of the risk of picking up or trading the greatest hitter of the last decade.

McGILLIGAN:What exactly is Albert Pujols worth today?

It’s not a question many fantasy owners have asked over the years. Having been a perennial top three fantasy producer, Pujols was seen as off limits in trade talks and if he was in the discussion, the price was sky high.

That was until he struggled to find his American League stroke early this season.

What used to be a no-brainer – you can’t trade Pujols – is legitimately up for debate. The question becomes what is he worth and of course that depends on the team you’re dealing with. Does his terribly slow start mean you can offer less than premium players and expect the deal to happen? Or maybe he still commands a ridiculous, and therefore, prohibitive price.

Trading in fantasy baseball is always a fun, but risky proposition.

Trading one of the most consistent players in the history of fantasy baseball is even riskier. So which is the real Pujols? The guy who consistently puts up career averages of .326 with 42 homeruns and 125 RBI or the one hitting .213 with two homers and 17 RBI through 37 games in a new league.

If I had to bet, I would bet on the 32-year-old slugger figuring it out sooner rather than later.  Heading into play Thursday, he has a .310 average (9 for 29) and eight RBI over his past seven games.

If anyone can turn it around, it’s Pujols.

So now might be the time to roll the dice try and buy him at a discounted price. If it works out, you can call yourself a shrewd fantasy manager. If not, you can always blame Pujols for your miserable place in the standings.

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Josh Hamilton’s hot start: will Texas re-sign him?

Josh Hamilton, if he stays healthy, will put up a mammoth year going into a contract off-season. Question is: will the Rangers spend money to keep him?

LIVINGSTONE: We’re just about an eighth of the way through the season and the American League doesn’t look like the league preseason analysis expected it to be. Add Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, New York picked up Michael Pineda to solidify their pitching staff, Pujols and co. looked like the perennial favourite to win the AL and the World Series, and the AL East had the look of a four-team race.

Well, that, to this point, is all out the window. But what I really want to get at is Josh Hamilton. His story is well-known to everyone, how he rose from the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction to come back to professional baseball and become the elite hitter he was expected to be when drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He never played a game for them and it wasn’t until 2007 that he made his debut for the Reds. It’s been all history from there. When healthy, Hamilton has been a force at the plate in four seasons with the Rangers (Cincy traded him for Edison Voloquez after the 2007 season – wonder who won that deal). He’s helped lead the team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and if all continues the way the season has started for the Rangers, it could be a third appearance.

Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and it’s unclear whether or not the Rangers will even attempt to sign him in the off-season. With big contracts just doled out to second baseman Ian Kinsler (five years, $75-million), catcher Mike Napoli (one year, $9.5 million, likely to turn into a multi-year if he continues to mash the ball like he has this season), Yu Darvish (six years, $60 milion, on top of the $50 million-plus they paid to negotiate with him), Nelson Cruz (2-years, $16 million) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4 million) and third baseman Adrian Beltre (six years, $96 million) – you can obviously see it, is there even any money left to sign Hamilton?

The team seemingly has spent a lot of cash to lock up everyone but Hamilton. Sure, his health is always a question and has only played 133 games maximum in the last three seasons (121 in 2011 and a mere 89 in 2009). The off-field problem involving drinking this past off-season seems to have scared the Rangers a bit in their willingness to sign up to a long-term deal. To be able to become the player he has become, Hamilton has to work three, maybe even four times as hard as everyone else. Staying sober is no easy task, especially coming off the life he lived for four or five years.

So let’s look at why the Rangers would be insane to not re-sign this guy to a long-term deal.

2012 stats: 82 AB, 31 Hits, 3 doubles, 9 HRs, 22 RBI, .378 AVG, .418 OBP, .744 SLG and a sickly OPS of 1.161.

This is only 20 games into the season. While he’s on-pace to hit 75 HR and 180 RBI, it’s not likely he will keep it up to that impossible expectation – but if he stays healthy he could put up 45/140/.350 – a definite AL MVP season. The Rangers would be crazy not to re-sign him if he puts up a big year like he is on pace to do. However, they might not be able to afford what he’ll be asking for. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing story lines as the season progresses. If Hamilton continues to lead the red hot Rangers atop the American League, and he stays healthy, will he stay in Arlington, or will he move on to another team?

Nolan Ryan, don’t be crazy. Get that man a contract.

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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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Jose Canseco: Baseball’s newest sage – and worst speller

Jose Canseco's Twitter account is equally as embarrassing as his book - and his spelling could use some serious fine tuning.

McGILLIGAN: Stand and fight for the truth.

Don’t let any person or group of people take advantage of you.

Fight the liars and hypocrites. Good and honest people suffer too much.

This sounds like the musings of a slightly unpopular high school student who just started a blog. They are not.

Those earnest ramblings come from the mind and thus twitter account of my childhood baseball hero: Jose Canseco.

Time, no baseball and no inner filter from thought to keyboard has produced one of the oddest and most strangely fascinating twitter accounts in recent memory.

He’s part terrible sage, educator, quiz master and well, who knows what else. What I do know is this isn’t the man I idolized growing up, but then again I was basing most of that on the cover of a Topps baseball sticker album and his 40-40 season of 1988.

In order to try and understand the hero of my youth, I decided to decipher some of his tweets from the past 24 hours. The spelling and punctuation are all Jose. (This experiment began at 7:50 ET, April 19, 2012)

19 hours ago – Class in session ,I complete you ,slap a hoe wait I mean hater

Analysis: It obviously isn’t an English class as his commas are in the wrong place. I like that he quickly corrected himself and asked his followers (almost 450,000, how scary is that) to hit a hater rather than a gardening tool.

19 hours ago – Three rusty rabbits ran rather fast

Analysis: Perhaps this is the poetry section of that class he was referring to.

19 hours ago – So if people who tell the truth go to jail that only means one thing. If you havnt been to jail or prison you’re a liar ,right.

Analysis: Grammar is still atrocious. This tweet was in response to a person (@eduardo1garcia) who referred to him as a snitch. The person called him this because Jose asked why our prisons and jails are overpopulated. Got to side with Jose on this one, his being a snitch on baseball’s steroid era has nothing to do with prison overcrowding. Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro are still free men. Well done @eduardo1garcia, you’ve made Jose look logical, not an easy task.

19 hours ago

@JoseCanseco: Come on somebody say something really mean and original

@thematthinrichs: Your balls are literally the size of the marbles they use in Hungry Hungry Hippos

@JoseCanseco: lol,that’s funny but they are not that big guess again

Analysis: Jose shows he doesn’t mind being the brunt of a good joke and has a sense of humour. Not bad for someone who seems totally unhinged. @thematthinrichs does not respond to Jose’s obvious attempt to steer the conversation towards his genitals

19 hours ago – If you shot a bullet and dropt a nickel which one would hit the ground first

Analysis: This is what I like to call Professor Jose, he’s dropping knowledge in the form of questions. My favourite response is the guy who asks if the gun is parallel to the ground and Jose says it is. He then goes on to say he’s shocked that no one got the answer. I have to agree with Jose, its an easy answer because if the gun is parallel to the ground then the nickel would hit the ground first as the bullet would travel quite a ways before losing momentum and falling to the ground. Wait, someone got it….

18 hours ago – Gary root got it ,the answer is at the same time big hug for Gary.

Analysis: Sorry, there will be no hug for Gary. His answer was completely incorrect and the fact Jose thinks its right and couldn’t believe no one got the answer before Gary is awesome.

(Note: Jose’s twitter photo is of him in a Red Sox uniform. Out of all the things on his twitter account, this is the oddest to me.)

On a side note, there’s a lot of racist remarks thrown out by Jose’s twitter followers.

6 hours ago – Yes I know brain of a soft shell turtle

Analysis: I have no idea, this isn’t in response to anything or anyone as far as I can tell.

4 hours ago – Alcoholics,murderes,rapist,drug addicts,child molesters.that makes up 33% of our population

Analysis: This fact is not attributed to anything and anyone. According to Jose’s logic that means every third person you see is capable of doing something unbelievably evil or has a severe drug and/or alcohol dependency. It must be terrifying to live in Jose’s neighbourhood. Apparently it’s filled with alcoholics, murderers (I’m assuming this is what he meant to write), rapists, drug addicts and child molesters. You know who doesn’t live in Jose’s neighbourhood? An elementary school grammar teacher.

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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.

 

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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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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…

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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.

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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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