Another day, another win

Dear Uncle Bud,

Since you’ve spent the winter tweaking the game, can I suggest one more new rule? How about we make Spring Training games count?….No? Well, it was worth a try.

At the very least, could we make the season start tomorrow? Given the way the Jays are playing, they certainly look ready to go. 

Their latest triumph was a 9-0 beat down of the Atlanta Braves. Henderson Anderson pitched five innings of one hit ball while Adam Lind provided a three-run shot. 

They’re now 18-4 in the pre-season, tops in either the Cactus, Grapefruit and any other plant-themed league. Of course if they go 0-5 to open the season none of this will mean anything. Still, let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the A’s and M’s are getting ready to open the season on Wednesday….at 6 a.m. Eastern time. Which means it’ll be 3 a.m. for M’s and A’s fans on a weeknight. In other words, a great number of them will be watching the game on Tevo, which is a shame. Nothing beats watching a live game.

And with all due respect to Oakland and Seattle, they’re not exactly the most exciting teams in the league. Obviously they were chosen based on their Japanese appeal. I don’t think I’ll be setting the alarm early on Wednesday morning to catch the first pitch.

And finally…..Bobby Jenks, what happened man?

You won me over in the 2005 World Series. Now you’re busted for drinking and driving and leaving the scene of an accident. I doubt we’ll ever see you back in the bigs again. Talk about disappointment.  

The kings of Spring

Well I’ve been away from the blog for the past few weeks but I can’t keep my silence any longer. The Jays are killing it in Grapefruit League action and it’s time for everyone to notice. 

I know as much as the next guy that this means nothing. Going 13-4 in Spring Training is nothing to get excited about….unless it’s your team doing it. In that case it’s awesome.

The win’s are nice of course but the stats surrounding it are more than just a mirage. Travis Snider has 4 homers and 13 RBI. Jose Bautista is hitting .348 with three homers and eight RBI. Brett Lawrie, though injured at the moment, is hitting over .600 with five stolen bases. 

Brett Cecil has a 0.90 ERA over 10 innings. Ricky Romero is yet to yield a run in nine innings. Brandon Morrow has given up just one run over eight innings. 

All this winning is great of course, but here’s hoping they leave something in the tank for when the games start to count. 

Spring has sprung (kinda)

The calendar may still say it’s winter, but I don’t care. Spring Training kicked off for the Jays today and as far as I’m concerned, despite gusting winds and snow still on the ground here, Spring is in the air.

And what an opening it was to Grapefruit League for the Jays, beating up on the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1. I know, even it was the regular season beating the Pirates is nothing to brag about. But still it looks a lot better than LOSING 7-1 to the Bucs, am I right? Sure both teams used mostly guys who will never see the light of the big leagues, who cares! It’s a win and baseball’s back!

More exciting is the news that MLB has officially confirmed a fifth team in each league will make the playoffs. I was actually under the assumption that this was finalized about a month ago but then last week I heard they were close to finalizing it. Either way, I’m happy it’s official. The cynic in me wants to say all this means is that now Boston, New York and Tampa Bay will make the playoffs, but the optimist in me (and it’s impossible to be a Jays fan and NOT an optimist) says that the Jays now have a real shot at breaking the 18 year slump. Here’s hoping.

And finally, barring injuries, the Indians have announced that Justin Masterson will start their Opening Day. That means it’s Ricky Romero vs. Masterson to kick off the 2012 season. As a Jays fan, I like that match up. 

Braun beats the charges

Brewer fans can rejoice, their golden boy Ryan Braun is still golden. (And no, I’m not trying to work in a golden boy/urine sample pun.)

I’m not even going to pretend to understand the circumstances around it, but outside arbitrators have ruled that Braun’s positive test will be overturned and he won’t open the season with a 50 game ban. Their reasoning being there was something wrong with the sample, it wasn’t tested fast enough….or something like that. 

Apparently Braun has passed several other tests, so I’m in inclined to believe he’s clean. I said all along I hope he wins his case and it turns out this was all a misunderstanding. I didn’t think he was going to win his appeal, but I was hoping he would for the sake of the game. 

Just like that, the Brewers are officially contenders again. 

Unfortunately for MLB, just as they are hoping to turn the page on another ugly failed drug test, the Oakland A’s went out and signed Manny Ramirez. All I have to say is I’m so glad he’s not Toronto’s problem. Good luck, Billy. Maybe one day they’ll make a movie about how you took a chance on a woman-beating, two-time druggie with a penchant for quitting on his teammates…but I doubt it.

Meanwhile, as all of this was going on, word out of Blue Jays’ camp is Jose Bautista has taken and passed 16 drug tests in the past two years. Yankee fans (who won a World Series because with A-Roid) will continue to point fingers at Jose, but fact is they don’t have a leg to stand on. 

 

Seriously Pittsburgh?

Forget the 19 straight losing seasons. Forget the fact that their management uses coupons when shopping for their players. Don’t even mention the fact that they have maybe one or two MLB calibre players on their roster.

I was willing to look past all of that. But today was the day that I lost all respect for the Pittsburgh Pirates and stopped viewing them as a Major League team.

And yes you guessed why. They actually WILLING took A.J. Burnett in a trade from the Yankees. Maybe Brian Cashman has compromising photos of Pirates GM Neal Huntington. Maybe he had a couple of wise guys show up to his door and make him ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse.’

I can’t see any other reasonable explanation as to why Huntington would pursue Burnett in a deal and give up 13 million to get him. The Pirates NEVER spend money, yet they open the vault for this guy? The same guy who posted back-to-back plus 5.00 ERA seasons?

Obviously the thinking is A.J. will give Pirates innings while turning his career around in the weak NL Central. But let’s not kid ourselves. A.J. would struggle at the AA level right now and he’s now moving to a team that isn’t going to score him nearly as many runs as the Yankees and Jays did. If he reaches 10 wins, it’ll be a miracle.

This move frustrates me in that A. it gets A.J. out of the division (the Jays loved teeing off on him) and B. it gives the Yankees the money to sign Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez. Not like those guys are going to intimidate anyone, but I just hate it when the Yankees get what they want. 

At the very least I take some joy knowing that A.J. is now stuck on a horrible team for the next two years or so. He quit on the Jays and his career has never been the same since. His first start as a Bomber against the Jays will forever be a great Blue Jays memory. Watching Doc outpitch and outclass him and then having the fans voice their opinion of him as he walked off the field in defeat was priceless. 

Karma can be a cruel mistress. 

Fourth place again

Just picked up this year’s Lindy Sports MLB preview magazine and surprise, surprise, they predict the Jays will finish fourth this year.

Given that the Jays made no major upgrades this year and the Yanks, Red Sox and Rays didn’t lose any key pieces, I don’t really blame them. As much as I love the Jays, I don’t blame anyone who expect them to finish outside the playoff picture.

With a little luck Brett Lawrie will put it together quickly and have an Evan Longoria type season. Maybe Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow will form an unhittable ace duo. 

Maybe.

I should note though that the news wasn’t all bad. The magazine also picks the Red Sox to finish third. As much as I’d like to see that happen, I can’t see a team that talented finish outside the playoffs again. Let’s face it. As great as last year’s collapse was, the Rays didn’t deserve to win the wild card. Boston was the better team and had they picked up just two more wins, this wouldn’t even be an issue. 

Fortunately anything can happen between now and October. The Jays may not be the favourites but then again neither were the Cardinals in 2011. 

Hamilton is human

Anyone who had read this blog before knows how much I like to toot Josh Hamilton’s horn. I highly recommend fans read his book ‘Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back.’ 

It goes without saying I was saddened to read that Hamilton was spotted consuming alcohol earlier this week. Personally I don’t believe it’s anyone’s business what he does in his spare time, but since he is a celebrity, some people love to read about this stuff. 

So far most of the comments I’ve read on this story have been encouraging ones directed at Hamilton. I was actually expecting a lot of people to attack him because, well, I wasn’t born yesterday. Ignorance and hatred run rampant on the internet and nothing people do surprises me anymore. 

Hopefully this incident is a minor setback. Even if you’re not a Rangers fan or even a baseball fan, I think most will agree Hamilton’s story is a great inspiration to many people going through their own addictions. For him to relapse would be a tragedy on so many levels. 

Hang in there Josh. Here’s hoping the next time you make headlines is because of you’re igniting the Rangers’ offense. 

Now entering the last baseball-less month

February 1st….we’re getting their baseball fans. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there.

Spring Training camps open in a few weeks and pretty soon the practice games will begin. In a little more than two months, the games will count for real.

As excited as I am about this, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. This was supposed to be the off-season the Jays made a big splash. Instead the Jays are yet to upgrade any position outside of the bullpen. Serious questions still abound in the starting rotation and there’s little reason to believe the Jays are going to make a huge jump and go from 81 wins to 95.

Missing out on Yu Darvish hurt. Now the Jays aren’t even going to make a play for Cuba’s Yoenis Cespedes. You have to wonder, if the Jays have the money to spend, what are they waiting for?

Still, as a fan we have to believe. A full year of Brett Lawrie. Another year of seasoning for Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. A totally revamped bullpen. And of course who could forget Jose Bautista. Maybe Kelly Johnson will recapture his 30 home run potential as well. 

Is it going to be enough? 

As a fan, I have no choice but to say yes. 

We didn’t want you anyway Uehara

A few hours after reportedly being rejected by Koji Uehara, the Jays went out and landed Francisco Cordero with a one year 4.5 million deal.

The Jays supposedly had a deal in place with Texas for Uehara but he used his limited trade clause to veto that deal. What’s he got against Toronto anyway? Nuts to you I say.

In any event Cordero is basically the same pitcher on paper, but Cordero has 13 MLB years under his belt while Uehara just came over from Japan in 2009. 

He’ll open the season as Sergio Santos’ set up man but he also has 327 career saves so he’s certainly a viable closer option as well. With Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor, Casey Janssen, Carlos Villanueva and Jesse Litsch, the Jays have the makings for a very deep and reliable bullpen. Dare I say, they almost have too many arms and could explore trades to fill some other holes. They also have the option of using Litsch or Janssen as starters if they get desperate.

With the bullpen now successfully overhauled, I’d like to see the Jays focus on bringing in a veteran fourth or fifth starter to slot into the rotation. A veteran bat to protect Jose Bautista wouldn’t hurt either, but the market is bone dry at this point and I don’t imagine Alex Anthopolous wants to pull off a block buster deal at this stage of the off-season.  

Jays find their new Johnny Mac in Omar Vizquel

Finally some Jays news to report!

Though don’t get too excited. The only news I bring is that the Jays have agreed to a deal with soon to be 45-year-old veteran Omar Vizquel. Yes, that Omar Vizquel.

He’s not going to bring a whole lot of tangibles to the field as his glove work has declined over the years and he was never known as a power threat. Still I think the Jays see him as a great mentor for Brett Lawrie, even if they play different positions. Plus it never hurts to have a veteran around on such a young team. Also he is yet to win a World Series, so maybe that’ll help keep him motivated.

There’s also rumours swirling that the Jays are trying to improve their bullpen with either Koji Uehara or Francisco Cordero, or maybe both. Given that the ‘pen was a real weak spot for Toronto last year, the more arms available the better. 

And finally, it looks as though the Jays are close to inking Brandon Morrow to a three year, 2o million dollar deal with a fourth year option. It’s not a ton of money given his potential, but Morrow is still yet to take that final step towards consistency. Hopefully 2012 is the break out year he’s teased us with for so long. If so, this contract will prove to be a bargain. 

Hopefully I’ll have some more exciting news to relay in the next few days….

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