North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Posts Tagged ‘MLB

Jays Trade Makes for A Big Day in the GTA

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Yesterday was a pretty big day for Toronto sports: the Blue Jays pulled off what’s maybe their biggest trade of all time. How big was it? The Jays were splashed over the Toronto Sun’s front page today, even over news of new evidence at Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s libel trial (to be fair, that also made the cover). It didn’t bump hockey off the Star, though.

The trade, briefly: Toronto gets Jose Reyes, Mark Beuhrle, Josh Johnson and John Buck from Miami in return for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez and Jeff Mathis. The Jays gave up a shortstop everyone already figured was on his way out anyway, a nice prospect in Hechavarria and a nice young pitcher in Alvarez. And Miami has shed something close to $90 million from it’s 2012 opening day roster now.

It’s hard not to be of two minds with this deal: it’s great for the Jays, who at the least are showing a willingness to spend. After all, as per a TSN report, their payroll is up to $120 million now. Gone are the low-budget, sabremetric days of JP Ricciardi, where the mandate was to win while spending as little as possible. This is a nice splash in the AL East and at the very least, it shows the Jays are willing to compete for players with the rest of the division. Maybe the surging Baltimore Orioles last year lit a fire under ownership. Maybe a season plagued by injuries gave cause for a deeper rotation.

After all, the Jays pitching was seriously short in depth last year. Four of their five starters, including Alvarez, were hurt in one 12-game span last June. They made moves to bolster their rotation, including a trade for JA Happ, but without a ton of success. They slipped down below .500 and stayed there as the season wound down. Now there’s reason to believe their 2013 rotation will look something like this: Romero, Beuhrle, Johnson, Happ and Morrow. I think it’s great.

But it’s hard not to feel a little bad about this. Yesterday was the third time the Miami Marlins have had a fire sale in their short history. Three times they’ve dumped a large portion of their talent and slashed their payroll. As recently as last season, when they adopted new uniforms, a new stadium and signed big names, it looked like they wanted to make a run at the postseason. Now? This is yet another time Jeffrey Loria’s name is attached to the gutting of a baseball team. In a typically fiery column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan levels blows at Loria, Bud Selig and others. He’s joined by a chorus of voices from disgruntled fans and disgruntled players. It’s a really shitty deal for Marlin fans.

It reminds me a little of a famous Toronto trade people here like to remember.  A little over 20 years ago, Cliff Fletcher fleeced the Calgary Flames in a trade that brought Doug Gilmour to the Leafs. In essence, Calgary traded a Hall of Famer for someone who was flipped again after 60 games, someone who scored five goals in two seasons, two replacement level defenceman and a career backup. Where you live depends on how you view that: was it the best move the Leafs ever made? Or did a big city team with money to burn rip off a small market team? I don’t really know how I should feel, at least not yet.

A final thought: right now, I’m reading Rosie DiManno’s new biography of Pat Burns. I’ll have a review of that shortly at The Good Point, but an excerpt seems appropriate right now.

When Burns came to the Leafs in the summer of 1992, the Jays were the darlings of Toronto, even over the Leafs. Truth be told, the Leafs had been pretty awful for a long stretch – hadn’t posted a .500 season since the 70’s – and the Jays were winning the AL East. But still, it’s weird to imagine something like this happening now:

By October 26, Toronto had surprisingly racked up five wins in their last six starts. And still most sports fans were far more preoccupied with baseball. Burns liked it that way, even when the Gardens crowd broke off to applaud Jays score updates on the scoreboard. “It’s a tough feeling for the players, hard to concentrate with all the baseball cheers.”

Just yesterday, I was lamenting how Toronto’s a Leaf town first and foremost. And while I don’t see that changing anytime soon, it’s pretty easy to overlook how successful the Jays were 20 seasons ago. They were selling the SkyDome out on a regular basis, were being blasted all over Canada via CTV and TSN (back when they weren’t the same company, I believe) and people were cheering for them even at Leaf games.

Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Stephen King called the SkyDome the “Spookydome” because it was cavernously empty during a 2004 Leafs playoff run. If the Leafs are still awful (or even not playing) when opening day comes around, could we see something like this happen again? God knows I’d love to see it.

Written by M.

November 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Just another Sunday at the Rogers Centre

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Sunday afternoon at the Rog, sitting in the 200’s with my dad. We’re in the family section, the one section where you can’t drink beer and parents bring small children. It’s better than it sounds and the seats are nice: second row to a game that more or less sold out and we bought them only a few days before the game.

It’s been a rough few days for the Jays: they’ve dropped the first two games of this series to the New York Yankees, not to mention three straight to Tampa Bay immediately before. It’s been a rough month: just two wins so far in August, both against Oakland.

And it’s been a rough summer: the rotation’s in tatters, nearly all their starters are injured and Ricky Romero, their ace, hasn’t picked up a win since June. It wasn’t long ago that the Jays were looking like a team a few moves away in the AL East and with some of the league’s best hitting: Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus. Now? They’re starting Adeiny Hechavarria at short. Coming into this game, he’s hitting .059.

The clever folks on twitter are joking that New York is playing the Toronto 51s. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

August 18, 2012 at 9:00 am

Maybe now Snider will get his shot

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I went and saw two Jays games last week, sitting both times in the outfield, giving me a primo spot to watch the Jays outfield combo of Travis Snider and Colby Rasmus, plus whoever’s in right: Rajai Davis on Thursday, Anthony Gomes on Friday. By the end of Thurday’s game, I noticed the little gesture Rasmus and Davis were shooting at each other and how, after two runs scored on a Snider bunt, they included Snider.

I was really hoping it meant this was it for Snider, that he was finally going to stick around.

It didn’t. Late Monday evening, Snider was traded to Pittsburgh for pitcher Brad Lincoln. And while I don’t really believe in teams winning or losing trades, I do have some hopes for this one, namely that Snider finally gets a shot. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M.

July 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm

For Jays, trading Doc is the only way forward

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For the last few weeks, nobody in baseball has had as much talk surrounding their future as Roy Halladay. He’s been traded to the Angels, to the Phillies and to Boston without actually having moved.

And now, the latest rumor is that he’s definitely, for sure, without a doubt getting traded to the Phillies (say people who know people in the know)… or the Phillies have balked at whatever the Jays are demanding back for him. It’s either one or the other.

Of course it is.

With the Jays season essentially in free fall, the market for Halladay is about as good as it’s going to get. The Jays are well positioned to sell and begin rebuilding and the contenders are looking for one extra arm that would push them well over the top, likely into the World Series.

But hanging on to the Doc doesn’t make sense for the Jays.

Halladay’s not only the ace of the staff; he’s also its star. None of the four other current starters have anything near the cache or the talent that he does. And with the other big arms of the rotation – McGowan, Marcum, Litsch – on the DL for at least the short term, Doc has to carry the team with his pitching.

Item: In his last two starts, with his name flooding trade rumours, Doc’s pitched 18 innings for one win and a no decision. His WHIP is 0.72 and his ERA is 1.00 in that period.

He’s having a career year. He’s won a league-leading 11 games and has a WHIP of 1.05 plus an ERA of 2.62. ESPN is projecting him to finish the season at 18 and five, with seven complete games and 205 strikeouts. His 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings is the highest he’s had since becoming a full-time starter in 2002.

All in all, his numbers aren’t far off from his 2003 CY Young season. That season, he finished 22-7 with 204 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.071. Or from last season’s 20-win, 206 strikeout, 1.053 WHIP season.

With numbers that good, it’s high time for the Jays to sell. His stock is at a high and there surely isn’t a shortage of teams that are interested in somebody of his caliber – add him to any rotation and he’s immediately their dominant pitcher.

But when I said he carries the team, he literally does: he’s already pitched over 140 innings and four complete games this season. The Jays offense is making him work hard and stay sharp throughout games, thanks to their lackluster run support. Four times this season, Halladay has pitched for seven innings or more and come away without a decision.

Trading for Halladay would likely come with a steep price. But how steep? ESPN is reporting that the Phillies have turned down an offer of him for pitcher JA Happ and two prospects. It’s likely that to obtain him, the Angels or Red Sox would have to offer a similar package of prospects.

Prospects are something the Jays need desperately. This spring, Baseball America ranked their orgazation’s talent 19th in the majors. Three of their top prospects (again, as ranked by Baseball America) have been forced into starting positions this season because of injuries. Their minor league teams are getting depleted.

Granted, trading away the ace in the Jays hole is akin to giving up, something I’m not sure JP Riccardi would like to do. But with the season in freefall for the Jays what else can they do? Hanging onto Doc won’t solve any of their problems – after a 12 inning, 10-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays the Jays are sitting four games under .500 and are 13 games back.

Trading him looks like the only way the Jays can go forward.

Written by M.

July 25, 2009 at 10:50 pm

The new Boston Massacre

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Call it the Boston Massacre, part two.

The first came some 30 years ago, when the Yankees rolled into Boston and demolished the Sox, outscoring them 42 to nine and taking the AL East lead. It directly led to the infamous Buky Dent home run and one of many Red Sox heartbreak.

The past two ALCS games have been the latest Boston Massacre.

Outscored 21 to five, and now down three games to one, the Boston Red Sox are on the verge of elimination after looking like a champion caliber team for most of the season.

After all, how many people were looking for a Boston / Los Angeles World Series? Those are two cities that are natural enemies. Sure, there’s Yankees and Red Sox… but there’s also the Lakers / Celtics rivalry, renewed this past June. And with the trading away and villainization of Manny Ramirez, it would have been a marquee match.

But that’s not going to happen now. The Phillies were too much for the Dodgers to handle and made short work of them. And Tampa Bay… Oh, Tampa, how you’ve changed. You’ve burst into Fenway and embarrassed the Sox, humiliated them. Two games, two blowouts.

Rocco Baldelli, who looked like he might retire at one point this season, has bounced back, hitting a three run homer in game three. In game four, Carl Crawford went five-for-five, and is hitting .500 in this series. The numbers are all in Tampa’s favour.

This isn’t because of a total Boston collapse, though. Indeed, in the biggest series he’s ever played in, Jason Bay is looking great: he’s hitting .400 with 4 RBI. His OPS for these playoffs is 1.268. That’s Jason being Manny: Ramirez hit .409 last year in the ALCS.

Flash forward to game five, the last home game for the Red Sox in this series. It’s a must-win for them (what series isn’t?). But they’ve got their best pitcher starting for them and the only one who has been able to hold the Rays scoreless this postseason: Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Dice-K only has a career record of two and three against the Rays, but in game one he pitched seven solid innings, striking out nine. He confused the Rays batters and held them hitless through the first six innings.

If Boston wants to advance, he’s their best bet right now. They’ve done it before… but this year? They’d be lucky if the series goes to seven games.

Written by M.

October 16, 2008 at 3:30 am

Sweeping up the dust

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that this season is not one that has been kind to Palmeiros.

With Orlando Palmeiro’s groundout (a very close groundout, I should add) up the middle, the Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series. But never mind that they haven’t won since 1917 – a year before the Red Sox’s drought started in 1918. Never mind that each game was pretty close. Never mind the squabbling over the roof being closed. None of that matters. This was a series that the Sox not only dominated, but one that was never in doubt. Tonight the Sox had 8 hits to Houstons 5. They pulled a double play, unlike the Astros. They left seven runners on base, whereas Houston left nine (five of those in scoring position with two out).

Tonight in almost every category, and in each one that counts, the Sox either led, or came very close to leading, the Astros. And it wasn’t just tonight, either. In all four games, the Sox (for example) outhit the Astros 44 to 29 while leaving 36 baserunners on (Houston left 34). It’s key factors like this that show that the Sox were, for the vast majority of the series, in complete control.

Take game three, for example. In the bottom of the 9th inning the Astros loaded the bases (Burke, the hero from the 18 inning marathon was at third) with only one out – but were unable to score. By the 12th inning, the Astros had left 12 runners on since the bottom of the 9th – with the winning run in scoring position in every inning. Numbers like that are unacceptable to any team, let alone one fighting for it’s life in the World Series.

The fans knew this – the Astros barely made it into the playoffs and barely won their first series against the Braves in an 18 inning marathon – as detailed in a previous Blog entry. While they did routinely beat the Cardinals, a Tony LaRussa team, they showed themselves to be the Wild Card team they were.

Yes, the Astros kept it close, barely losing in each game. But, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, you show me someone who almost won and I’ll show you someone who lost.

Written by M.

October 27, 2005 at 4:12 am

The World Series and a Final Farewell

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Well, with the loss last night of the NL-Leading St. Louis Cardinals we saw the end of two major things: The Astro’s luckless Postseason streak, rivalled only by that of Tony La Russa, and the old, if somewhat forgettable, Busch Stadium.

It was a landmark among ballparks, really, with it’s long-outdated look bringing back memories of Barry Goldwater, freezing games in the NFL playoffs and the Johnson administration. Yes, it was truly a sight for the ages. And that is where it’s headed, off to the history books and a page on Wikipedia under the “Default Sports Facilities” heading.

I had never been there, personally. I had rarely seen it on television (We don’t get too many NL games in Jays Country). And it didn’t even mean anything special to me. Why, I’m not even too sure why I’m writing about it, in all honesty. Whatever.

The point that I never even addressed is that finally, after years of being so goddamn close (1986, 2004 come to mind) the Astros have finally done it, finally made it to the Final Series, as it were. Finally getting a chance to not only beat the best team in a league, but to actually become it. And, as usual, they couldn’t have had worse luck.

They are facing the Chicago White Sox, the best team in the AL, a team that has outstanding hitting and pitching, a team that has something to prove, even if it’s only to those damn Cubs fans (George F Will, et al). They don’t just want this win, they need it – to finally put that damn Black Sox scandal (the one that everybody remembers only because of a semi-decent movie) behind them for good. The Cubs have the “Billygoat Curse”, the Red Sox the “Curse of the Bambino” and Billy Buckner. The White Sox have a gambling scandal that would curl Pete Roses hair – and a chance to beat those Texans and put Shoeless Joe to rest, for once and for all.

***

Remember how I said that Joe Sakic was the Last Nordique? Well, he ain’t for much longer: the Aves will let him become a free agent at the end of the season.

Written by M.

October 21, 2005 at 1:14 am