Tag Archives: Sports

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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Is it time to worry about Tim Lincecum?

Giants starter Tim Lincecum has been anything but the freak he has known to be. In his first two starts of the season he got pelted and currently has an ERA above 10.00.

LIVINGSTONE: The expectations surrounding San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum have been high since he came into the league.

He’s 69-42 with a 3.04 career-ERA, has won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 and played a pivotal role in the Giants World Series title in 2010. In 1,035.2 innings pitches, The Freak has 1,137 strikeouts.

Dominant? You bet.

And while the season is young and Lincecum has only pitched two games he looks nothing like the dominant slingshot pitcher hitters have feared for the last five seasons. In two starts for the Giants, Lincecum has posted an ERA of 12.91, has given up 11 runs in 7.2 innings, 14 hits and has posted a WHIP of 2.22 (his career WHIP is 1.20). It’s anything but spectacular and one has to wonder if Lincecum is beginning to show signs of fatigue.

It’s known that Lincecum has dropped – or at least diminished greatly – the use of his slider. That slider was one of the filthiest in the league and a big part of his ability to dominate. It’s very early, but there has always been concern that Lincecum’s career would tail off as he aged, much of it to do with his slingshot delivery and his relatively small frame.

As a fantasy baseball nut who has drafted Lincecum each of the last four years, it’s tough to watch him struggle like this. It’s early so patience is key, but one has to wonder if it’s a glimpse into the slow decline of one of the most dominant pitchers in the game over the last half-decade.

Have to hope it’s not likely the case. He gets his third start of the season tonight so much of fantasy baseball players will be watching closely to see just how Freakish Lincecum will be – either good or bad.

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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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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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Weekend notes: Collmenter’s delivery and Johnson’s plate discipline

Diamondbacks' pitcher Josh Collmenter delivery is odd in comparison to the rest of the league - it certainly got one Write Fielders' attention.

LIVINGSTONE: After watching the Jays drop the series finale of the opening weekend series to the Cleveland Indians 4-3, The San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks game came on and after watching Josh Collmenter throw his first inning, I had to sit down and write about him.

In the many years I’ve watched baseball, there are a number of unorthodox pitchers that come to mind – Hideo Nomo with his near corkscrew pitch delivery, Giants Tim Lincecum with his rocket launchpad approach, Brad Ziegler and Peter Moylan’s submarine-style delivery, the list could go on.

But looking back over the years, I can’t think of anyone with a delivery like Collmenter. While his delivery isn’t as, well, below the belt as the submarine, it is less than normal. When he throws a pitch – either the fastball or change-up, both pitches he relies on heavily – his arm looks like that of a cricket bowler (ie: the guy who launches the cricket ball), a near-mechanical looking delivery. Coming out of his wind-up, his arm doesn’t sit outside his shoulder, but seemingly right in line with it. The over-the-top delivery is uncommon in baseball and certainly can be deceptive to hitters.

There is a certain amount of expectation surrounding Collmenter. Since his days pitching for the Homer High School Trojans, where The Homer, Michigan native put up eye-opening numbers. Collmenter won 18 games in the 2004 season, the third highest total in state history. He recorded a state-record 13 shutouts that season while striking out 223 batters and notching a 0.13 ERA. Collmenter finished his High School career with 49 wins, 23 shutouts, 546 strikeouts and a 0.99 ERA, all of which rank in the top six in state history.

His minor league stats weren’t nearly as lights out – he went 45-27 between 2007 and 2010 with one Trilple-A appearance in 2011 before being called up to the Diamondbacks – but they were enough to get him a spot in the starting rotation where he went 10-10 last season, striking out 100 in 154-plus innings, helping the D’Backs win the National League West division.

He’s a fun kid to watch pitch and with some work on refining his curveball into a quality breaking pitch to compliment his fastball, change-up and cutter, Collmenter will be a top-three starter during his career.

That all said, I want to fast-forward back to the Jays opening series, briefly, to spare our readers the saturation of Jays talk.

Despite being three games into the season, Jays second baseman – and number two hitter – Kelly Johnson is showing some incredible plate discipline. While he’s 5-for-14 with a home run, he’s got four walks, most of them long plate appearances, drawing it out to eight or nine pitch at-bats before taking his base. The biggest one was in the ninth today against the Indians, taking a walk on a 12 (I think) pitch at-bat with two out to load the bases for Jose Bautista. While Bautista flied out (to the moon) to end the game, it wasn’t a total loss.

Hitting in front of one of the most dangerous bats in the game requires you to get on base as much as possible. If the opening series is any indication (Johnson’s OBP is over .500) Bautista is going to have ample opportunity to put runs on the board – or get walked (he’s got four walks in three games), paving the way for Lind, Encarnacion and Lawrie to empty the bases.

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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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The excitement – and emotion – of Opening Day

Opening Day. Opening Day. The two greatest words ever.

McGILLIGAN: Opening Day.

It’s unbelievable how two words can bring so many emotions.

For Cubs fans, hey, you’re still in the race and the drought might end this year (it won’t).

For Yankees fans, it’s time to be over confident, smug and arrogant – just kidding; you’re like that year round.

Yes, opening day can mean many things, but one thing it’s not is a day.

Didn’t the season start last week in Japan? Opening day is quite drawn out nowadays, but I digress. For me, opening day washes away all the beer and friend chicken smell and replaces it with the strong smell of hope (which smells like Fenway Franks and stale beer).

However, there is another side to opening day (week). It’s the time of year when my reverse sports Darwinism sets in. For the next 162 games I will be watching, monitoring and dissecting all things Red Sox making me into a less evolved person than my current form.

In fact it’s already started.

Who will replace Andrew Bailey as closer?

Why is Bard starting and Aceves in the bullpen?

How is Beckett’s thumb?

Why is Curt Schilling making it harder and harder for me to like him?

Do you think Theo misses us?

Is David Ortiz’s steady diet of rice and beans the secret to a fountain of youth?

Does Dustin Pedroia have a new nickname or are we still using ‘The Muddy Chicken?’

These are just the opening volleys of my baseball neuroses. As maddening as this can be for those around me, I actually enjoy it. Baseball is great because it’s the sport that can be analyzed the most through its ridiculous amount of statistics. Pouring over who should be in the lineup against right-handers and left-handers, who the outfield should shade to pull the ball and a whole host of things to ponder for no other reason than to distract myself from more pressing matters.

And this is why I love opening day, it’s time for me to focus on stuff that really doesn’t matter.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s finally here. After an off-season that saw the American League become the powerhouse of baseball with the additions of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, columnists, baseball nuts and die hard fans talking about who will win it all, who will have the big season, who will throw the first no-hitter, who will fall from high expectations – it’s here.

For any baseball fan, opening day is about equality. Every team starts today tied for first in their respective divisions (not the Cardinals and Marlins, of course, after the 4-1 win last night for the reigning World Series champs).  Every team, after a long and intense spring training season, walk into their clubhouses to play the first of 162 games with the hopes – and dreams – of making the playoffs. Every fan is excited, even Astros fans, at the chance, albeit slim, that their team will play meaningful games in September and hopefully, in October.

For baseball fans, it’s about living out a childhood dream, day in and day out, watching your favourite team, favourite player, whatever it may be, playing the great game of baseball. It’s about the dream of being on the field, playing a game you once played in the schoolyard, or play with your friends on a Sunday afternoon in July. For the fan, it’s about being able to live that dream of playing in the major leagues, even if there was never a chance of being the starting first baseman for the Royals, or the starting center fielder for the Cubs.

We all dream it. Even today, nearly thirty, out of shape and likely to have my arm fall off if I tried to throw a pitch, I think about those days on the field when I was 13, pretending to be Juan Guzman, or Dave Stewart, or Rick ‘The Wild Thing’ Vaughan on the mound in small-town nowhere, pitching in the biggest game of my life. It brings me chills of excitement.

My wife teases me about my profound love for the game. I eat, sleep and breathe the sport and sometimes it drives her nuts and she’ll tune me out when I start talking about how I’m nervous about Adam Lind’s performance this year, or my never-ending rants about how frustrating it is the Jays didn’t sign Yu Darvish or whatever. But she understands. We all have a profound attachment to something in our lives – that isn’t necessarily a person.

I love my wife more than baseball (I think it’s a given, but I’m sure some fans love baseball more), but baseball takes me back to those timeless moments on the field, a wad of sunflower seeds in my cheek, my fist slapping the palm of my glove as I wait for a groundball, the dust coming up after a short-hop snag at first base. Whatever it is, I couldn’t care less. I was playing baseball.

Years later and more a slo-pitch player than anything, when opening day comes along in early April, I can’t help but revert back to my childhood, when nothing but baseball mattered.

It’s a beautiful day during the season of hope and revival. It’s the beginning of the baseball season and I, like millions, welcome it with open arms.

So today, leaving work early enough to get home in time for the first pitch of the Jays and the Indians, I’ll embrace another opening day and the childhood memories that come with it.

Lorraine McGillis loved the Blue Jays - especially Kelly Gruber. Her first baseball game is one Matthew Strader will always remember.

STRADER: When I think about opening day I think about my buddy Germain’s grandmother, Lorraine McGillis.

I moved to Toronto for the second time, about five years ago. My wife grew up here, here family unit is here, and so for our early-thirties lets start a family phase of life, she wanted to come home.

Chris Germain is one of my closest friends from the west, Kamloops to be exact.

He came to visit, and we arranged a Blue Jay game.

I was pumped. Canada doesn’t have a lot of us, true baseball fans I mean, so when one does come along, it’s a kindred spirit, and anything baseball you do get to do with each other you make a massive deal about it.

Believe me, I’ve had stickball games in my backyard that have lasted six hours.

But as our day approached, and Chris’ visit was imminent, it kept becoming clearer that this day, for him, wasn’t about us.

At first I was disappointed, and a little frustrated. But then I met grandma.

She was a heavy set women bound to a wheelchair. Serious health issues had stolen a good portion of her life. She clung to an oxygen tank, and would not leave her two-wheel ride that day no matter how much she had wanted to stand and cheer.

She wore grey on grey sweat pants and shirt. Clothes no longer were about fashion for her, simply practicality.

She was a picture of the phases of life we all in our heart fear, and yet, on that day, she was also one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.

You see, Chris’ grandmother had an unfortunate health story. Her body had begun to betray her years before that day. She had no choice but to cling to her chair, and because of that, her physical life stagnated.

And what did she do to pass the time?

She watched her Blue Jays.

Every day, every game she could. If no TV, she turned on the radio. She didn’t miss her Blue Jays. She hadn’t missed a game since the first opening day, health concerns or not. This was her team. Those were her boys.

She knew everything about everybody on the team, she knew everything about Blue Jay team’s I couldn’t even remember. She knew the look of the inside of the stadium like the back of her hand, and because of the way life was choosing to leave her, she’d never even seen the outside of it.

Her health problems, along with meager financial means, meant she was a TV only fan.

This was to be the first Blue Jay game of her life. Within minutes we were all children at our first game.

Chris and I joked weeks before hand that if Brian Tallet came into the game (a sign of certain death) we were throwing our peanuts and leaving.

Brian Tallet did come into that game. The Blue Jays lost 10-0.

None of us cared. We enjoyed every minute of it.

There is something pure about the game. Something magical about having your home team that you hold dear. We all get to feel involved, entitled, expectations and disappointments. We all get to feel…and that’s all she wanted.

She wanted to smell the smells, hear the sounds, and cheer with the crowd.

She wanted to enjoy a baseball game. I’ll never forget the day we got to give that to her.

Chris’ grandmother died in February of the next year. The Blue Jay game was still fresh on her lips.

“That game was all she talked about every weekly phone call from that day to her passing,” he told me.

When I think about opening day, and why I love this game, I will always think about that day, my buddy’s grandmother and the words of the great Ernie Banks.

“It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…let’s play two.”

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