Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Plea for Pity

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a fan of the Leafs. Those of you who know me might wonder why. I'm university educated, well-read, I rarely have something alcoholic for what's my problem? Why do I count myself among the mouth-breathers who call in to radio shows screaming for the Leafs to trade Andrew Raycroft for Alex Ovechkin? The truth is, I don't count myself among them. To be clear, I called myself a "fan of the Leafs". I'm not a "Leafs fan." Leafs fans are nuts.

"Leafs fans" are the ones who call in to sports shows to make fun claims like "the Leafs are best team in the league, they just
need to win more games," or "I really think that Crosby would take a pay-cut to play here, let's offer the Pens Steen and Stajan, and re-negotiate his contract to save cap space." They also seem to get outraged when a Canadian player, or god forbid, one from the GTA, dares signing with another team and passes up the privilege of playing in the centre of the hockey universe. "Shanahan, that jerk! Why didn't he sign here! He has millions, why not come here to help his boyhood team out? What's his problem, doesn't he like Toronto?" Chances are, he liked Toronto just fine, which is why he played a large portion of his career just down the 401. What he, and the plenty of other players who avoid Toronto, probably doesn't like is the mass of nut-jobs he'd have to have dealt with had he played here.

That said, I have to admit that I don't understand the vitriol directed at the Leafs and their fans from the fans of other teams, especially Canadian ones. With every move they make, even one as positive as signing a great coach in Ron Wilson, and message boards are filled with fans of other teams slagging the "Laffs" and the fans who follow them. I don't get it. Here's a team that hasn't won in 41 years. They had a huge payroll with (very) modest success in the late 90s and early 00s, and are now seeing themselves screwed in the salary-cap era with big contracts and no-movement clauses. Despite their mediocrity, they have no big prospects coming through the pipe, and with big cap space going to mediocre aging players, they don't have much room to make big changes anytime soon. Even buying out those no-trade guys still puts them on the hook for big money against the cap. This is a fanbase that is to be pitied, if anything. Red Sox fans were pitied, Knicks fans are in the process of being pitied, and Leafs fans are in a very similar position as the Knicks at the moment. They're both one of the biggest, if not the biggest, market in their respective sport, they've suffered through apathetic, if not dismissive ownership groups, and the people in charge of the sports decisions have put both teams in dire, restricted straits.

Leafs fans suffered, (and sold out the Gardens) through the Harold Ballard years. Shouldn't we get credit for that? Isn't that a badge of honour? No wonder they take to the streets when the Leafs win a playoff series(seriously, they've won playoff series, I looked it up). What have Senators fans suffered through? Calgary fans? Edmonton fans? Montreal fans? Not much, all have had some measure of success in the last 40 years. Montreal has a billion cups and a young exciting team. Calgary went to the finals a few years ago, and has Dion Phaneuf. Edmonton is still paying off it's deal with the devil for the 80s, and they still made the finals a couple years ago. The Sens are still a newish team, and their fans are annoying like a yipping puppy-dog who sees the mailman for the first time. "We're gonna get you Toronto," they say, "We hate you, we're your big rivals, grrrr," while Leafs fans(and fans of the Leafs) over the age of twelve yawn, toss a dog treat, pat the thing on the head, (maybe fake fear or something to encourage the little guy) while casting their eyes to the next house, an old-money mansion in Montreal, with a big old snarling pit bull out front.

As much as I like to malign those crazies who used to honk their horns outside our apartment window after a win over Florida in January, I do feel sorry for them. They might be delusional, they might be obnoxious, and they might all be incredibly dumb, but that's probably not all their fault. 40 years of emotional abuse can cause such things.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Home plate fan

Hi…you don’t know me, but I’m waving to you. Actually I’m not waving to you at all, but to my two giggling buddies watching at home. I’m also talking to them on my cellphone, if you’ll notice. Now, because of me, you not only have to hear Jesse Barfield saying insightful things like “He’s a real professional hitter,” but you also have to watch me desperately seek attention. Now I’m waving and talking to my ex-girlfriend. I’ll bet when she dumped me six months ago she had no idea that one day I’d be getting seats like this from my uncle who works at Rogers. Hey…who’s the dude talking to her in the background?

Now I’m high-fiving my giggling friend sitting next to me. You wanna know why? I’m not sure either, since I have no idea what just happened on the last pitch. I’m probably never going to have my 15 minutes of fame, so I’m settling for 9 innings of really annoying people who don’t give a crap about who I am. Make that 5 ½ or 6 innings, since I didn’t get here ‘til the 3rd and will probably leave by the eighth…I had to have a few Bud Lights at Casey’s and I wanted to meet up with the two guys I was waving to before so we could discuss my seats and how they’d be able to see me the whole game. Then I gotta get home in time to watch Keys to the VIP and see what Steve Kouleas has to say about the Leafs. Anyway, back to the game...who’s this guy pitching? Roy who? Do they still name people that nowadays? Holiday? Haha, I’m gonna chant “Doc,” all game long, I’ll bet nobody’s thought of that one before. Man, this waitress is pretty hot, and she’s gotta be impressed with these seats. Good thing I wore enough aftershave to drown out the smell of the sausage the old dude next to me is eating. Oh man, I just noticed that there are a bunch of mics around here, so you just might be able to hear me all game. “Doc!....Doc!...way to uhh….throw….Doc!” This is awesome!

Playin' hookey

I've always said that working's for losers, and on days like today(meaning, a day on which I would not have been expecting a paycheque in the past) that mantra actually makes sense. It all starts today, whatever "it" might be.

You hear a lot of talk at this time of year about "every team having the same record" and "hope springing eternal" and some other crap like that. I admit that there usually is a sense of optimism surrounding the fans of all teams, but do Pirates fans really think they're coming within Sid Bream's left foot of a playoff spot? Doubtful. In Jays land, as well, there doesn't seem to be much optimism. I think most assume the Jays will finish 3rd yet again. It's almost like it's been beaten into us that something dramatic would have to happen along the lines of an earthquake or a plane crash for the Jays to beat out the Yanks and Sox. Sure, there are some "ifs" and "maybes" being floated around, but really, deep down, most of us Jays fans assume the worst. And that's okay. That way, if the Jays do make a legitimate run(and not their usual teasing late season run that saves management jobs every season) then we can be surprised. Anyway, it all starts today, and the Jays have some ground to make up, since the Sox are already 500 percentage points ahead of them in the standings.

I just wanted to say...and sadly it's probably not a good thing that I have to say this...but thank god for Shannon Stewart. Todays Globe says this about Matt Stairs. If his injury is worse than expected, then Shannon might be playing every day. Having Reed Johnson and his whiffle bat against righties every day would have been as painful to watch as Troy Glaus walking to first base.(Oh wait...Troy Glaus never walked...good thing sine it would have been painful to see).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Issue resolved... least part of one of my issues has been resolved. Casey Janssen ain't proving anything this season, since he won't be pitching during it.

While he was probably their most valuable reliever last season, this is a loss the Jays can absorb, provided Brandon League and B.J. Ryan can get back to their own healthy selves. The Jays have also stocked up on unspectacular albeit semi-serviceable bullpen arms, like yesterday's acquisition, Armondo Benitez, so if an injury had to happen somewhere, the bullpen was the best place.

And somewhere in private, Jesse Litsch is jumping up and down and trying not to choke on his lollipop. Barring a trade or something else weird happening, he'll be breaking camp with the big club as the fifth starter. He'd also like it known that he's looking to trade his Bulbasaur card for a Charmeleon.

I should note, however, that since the injury announcement came from J.P, and he said it was "pretty straightforward", we might want to wait to hear it from someone else before we believe it.

Edit: Just to show how much the Jays think of Gustavo Chacin, despite this injury, they still optioned him to AAA today. Syracuse just got a whole lot sweeter smelling.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

I got issues

So as you can probably guess from my last post...whoever "you" are since no one has looked at this blog from what my sitemeter says, I'm already tired of spring training. I'm looking out my window at a half-blizzard, and baseball is being played on some faraway planet that I can't even watch because I hate paying for stuff on the internet. I thought watching the Hoyas today would ease some of my anxiety, but I kept wanting to flip the channel over the ball game. Of course, if there was a game to switch to, I would have gotten annoyed watching Joey A-Ball getting bombed by Bobby Bush-League and flipped the channel back to being annoyed by Georgetown lazing away another turnover. Best to be annoyed by just one game at a time. I don't always sound like such an asshole, I promise.

Have i become jaded? Maybe. I was pumped about spring training when it started, but now I want it to be over. It's like the first act of a movie or the first chapter of a book that you know and you've seen already, and you want to skip ahead to the good stuff. Obviously, I don't know how the season is going to shake down, but I know that what's going on right now is hardly "the good stuff." There are just two many intriguing stories and questions with the Jays this year that won't be told and won't be answered in spring training. Sure, someone might say, "spring training's where it all begins, it sets the stage, blah blah blah.". To which I say, "Bullshit." Who were the Jays 3rd, 4th, and 5th starters coming out of the spring a year ago? Sure not the same guys who finished the season there. Don't get me wrong, spring training is a necessary evil for teams to get in shape and try out players. I get this. I guess I'm just tired of all the noise and excitement that surrounds these most meaningless of games, when there are so many stories for the coming season. Here are the ones I'm thinking of, in no particular order.

1. Young guys looking to improve on last season's success: McGowan, Marcum, Janssen and Litsch all have something to prove this season. Litsch might be proving it in Syracuse, depending on how the Beej situation shakes down, but he should get a few starts in the show even if he doesn't break camp with the team. Is McGowan going to start his ascension as the heir apparent, or is he going to burn out from overuse? Will Marcum keep defying logic and keep getting hitters out? Janssen doesn't even know where he's going to be when the season starts, but it's probably safe to say that if he starts in the bullpen, he'll be in the rotation at some point this season when the Beej is eventually back(more proof that spring training is about a lot of hyped up bullshit competitions).

2. Injured guys coming back: Wells, Overbay, the Beej, Johnson, Rolen-who knows how all these guys will respond. Johnson might not even end the spring with the team. Rolen hasn't been healthy since Gregg Zaun last wrote a blank cheque, Wells' shoulder wasn't an excuse for swinging at pitches over his head, and Overbay wasn't lighting it up before he got hurt last season. For this story, and for the young guys story, chances are not all will fail, but they won't all succeed completely either.

3. Rios-is he gonna break out this season, or is he going to be just another 25-90 guy who gets a lot of chicks? It's weird to think he's only 2 years younger than Wells. By the time Vernon was his age, he'd already put up an MVP calibre season. Rios hasn't done so yet, although he does have the infection excuse. This is a put-up or shut-up year, I think(and hope)

4. Old dudes-Matt Stairs squeezed an improbable season out his ancient Jasper-like bones last season. What's he gonna do this year? I have a bad feeling he's going to regress big-time, and the Adam Lind era might begin sooner than planned, which would be fine with me. I like Matt Stairs, but last season seems to defy all logic to me. He'd be a great pinch-hitter though. Frank Thomas creaked through as well last season with a semi-successful one, but again, one year older often means one year crappier at his age. He's a better player than Matt Stairs ever was though, and doesn't have to play the field, so I'm thinking with the extra preparation he's apparently doing this spring, he'll have a similar season to last, although maybe with higher numbers after getting better prepared for early-season play.

5. Managerial hotseats-If the team falters early, is Gibby gone? Or as my daughter says, is he Gonzo? Is Japes gonzo too? Who knows. Would they really hire Ernie Whitt as a replacement during the season? Would he get his own pre-game buffet table?

6. Jamie Campbell-with his hair, when is someone going to nickname him "Pubes?"

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Back to this one...

So… there were a few formatting problems with the other blog I I'm back to this one. I copied and pasted it from Word and it didn’t put in the proper punctuation or the paragraph breaks. I edited it to fix those, but that didn’t work for some reason. Oh well. A good version of the article I posted on the other site is available at: Since nobody's reading this anyway...I'm not sure it matters.

I haven’t seen a single pitch of spring training, and it’s not bothering me at all. I like any kind of baseball, don’t get my wrong, but my initial excitement for the first signs of summer usually wains when I see the likes of some guy named Carlson pitching in the 9th. Reading and following spring training is like shaving with no hot water as well. Buck Coats, by all accounts, has had a fine spring…but he’s not making the team. Anyone remember Eddie Schunk? No? My point exactly. Just once I’d love to read an article about a player who says he “isn’t in shape yet, even for this point in the spring” and “really, I feel worse this year at this point than I’ve ever felt in the past,” or how about, “the team’s not looking good, I can’t picture us beating the Yanks and Sox this year unless both teams catch the Dengue Fever from Daisuke and Wang”

Thought of the day: There’s a lot of talk about the Rays being a much improved/dark horse/sleeper/potential surprise/etc…team this season. I have nothing concrete for comparison, and it could just be that I’m unwilling to accept a change in the universe so large that it would result in Tampa Bay being competitive, but I just have a feeling that the Rays are on the verge of becoming the Pheonix Cardinals of baseball. They’ll get this stuff said about them every year, and every year they’ll fall flat on their faces. I would enjoy this. If not, I’ll pull out my old Devil Rays t-shirt that I got when they entered the league because I wanted to be the only one I knew who had one, and pretend like I knew their juvenation was only a matter of time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Okay, it's a provocative title...actually on second thought it's really quite bland, but I'm sticking with it.
Earlier this week, A-Rod made the claim that he was drug-tested "9 or 10" times last season, and came out clean every time. He made this statement in response to former teammate John Rocker's claim that while with the Rangers, they were singled out with a couple other teammates for a weird-sounding steroid information workshop session.

Well...good for A-Rod I guess on the drug testing...except it wasn't true. Apparently, they don't test that often. When called on it, A-Rod said he was exaggerating to prove a point. Ummmm...okay. So what point were you making? That you're full of crap? And how does it prove a point anyway? If I say A-Rod's a bush-league pansy 15 times, does that make my point more salient than if I said it 10 times?

This whole "I've been getting tested" thing always really pisses me off, and for the most part, the media seems to go along with it. The only tests they're allowed to do are urine tests. HGH can't even be detected by a freakin' urine test, and the players union is doing it's best to make sure that blood tests aren't permitted. What does this tell you?

Despite my hatred of all things Yankee, especially Derek Jeter,at least he's saying something about this whole thing that makes sense

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back to the Future

It's getting more than a little bizarre. Actually it passed bizarre a couple years ago. Once again J.P. Ricciardi has gone and tried to piggy-back on a Billy Beane good idea. The Jays are on the verge of signing former Jay and 75 year-old grandfather of six Shannon Stewart to a minor-league deal to ostensibly compete with Reed Johnson for the right-side of the left-field platoon.

Stewart had a bit of a return to form last season with the A's after being injured for significant portions of just about every season prior to it since 2001. He was a successful reclamation project just a year after Frank Thomas was a successful reclamation project with the A's before cashing in with the Jays last year. While Stewart is hardly cashing in, in fact it sounds like he had little interest elshewhere, it should at the very least be a good spot for him to showcase himself if he doesn't beat out Johnson.

What's this say about Reed though? Is his back really that screwed up? Is he on the block? If there's a problem with Johnson, and Matt Stairs comes back to earth after his solid year last year, then left-field could be a weak spot this season. We'll see. Sometimes it seems like Japes signs guys who are coming off injuries or who have question marks just to see if they pan out so he'll be called a genius. He was 0-3 with a walk last season(the three-headed pitching signings were bombs, while Thomas was good, but probably not worth the pay raise he got) so let's see how this one goes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Running down a dream

Unless there’s a website that someone can point me to, or a “baserunning” bible that has all sorts of crazy new statistics that can evaluate a team or player on the art form, there’s really no way to tell if a team is good baserunning team compared to all the others. Most fans watch their own team 90% of the time, with little room for analyzing the habits and strategies of any others. Since I am like most fans, I watched most of the Jays games last year, and whatever other games between other teams that I could catch along the way. Despite my previous statements, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that the Jays definitely had some issues rounding those bases effectively last season. I’m not talking about the whole “station to station” vs “small-ball” debate. That’s been discussed and dissected more times that is worth bringing up at this point. Besides, it might even change come this season (doubtful). I’m talking about actually running the bases smartly and efficiently while the ball is in play.

Baserunning can be intuitive and an art, but it can also be taught properly, and good habits can be formed. For instance, from the time we first started playing all the way up until we were 19 year-olds working on beer bellies, we heard the old tenet “never make the first or third out at third base.” Seems reasonable. Why take a chance on killing a rally if there are so many outs to work with, and why kill a rally when there are so few outs left? This is just one example.

The Jays last season seemed to run themselves out of innings on a semi-regular basis. How often did we scream at the television because a Jay batter smoked one right at the first basemen, who promptly doubled up the man on second? Seems like bad luck, right? Maybe in some cases it was, but in many the runner on second hadn’t followed one of those old Peewee chestnuts: “Freeze on a line drive.” All too often, the runner had made a start towards the next base and wasn’t able to recover in time. Would it have mattered each and every time? No, sometimes runners get doubled off and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Bad baserunning can kill rallies and spoil games, but it’s barely discussed in game summaries unless a runner is thrown out or does something monumentally dumb like missing a base or passing the runner ahead of him. But not tagging up on second on a deep ball to right, and then standing there helplessly when the next batter hits a deep fly to centre that would have been a sac fly is just as damaging.

Since these things aren’t in game summaries, and I wasn’t taking notes last season, baserunning is something I’m definitely going to be focusing on during this coming spring training and season. It’s a part of the game that’s often overlooked, and for me, a part that is one of the most fun. Anyone witnessing Paul Molitor taking every advantage he could on the basepaths, or Aaron Hill’s swipe of home last season will probably agree.

Friday, January 25, 2008

First post....pretty exciting stuff

I'm not too technically savvy, so this blog might very well suck. We'll see. I think I have a lot to say, and hopefully people reading this will enjoy...if anyone does read it.  I'm old school baseball, I like dirty uniforms and spitting, but I do my best to figure out what the hell sabermetric geeks and fielding bibles and stuff are talking about.  Speaking of sucking, introductions suck, so I'll get right into other things....

As most Jays fans know, they finally picked up Rod Barajas after a whole year of trying.  In this situation, Barajas is a lot like what some friends and I would call a "discount girl."  She thought she was hotter than she was, but ended up with a guy she ditched way later after getting dumped by the dude she really wanted. As much as I disliked what he did to the Jays last offseason, the whole thing amuses me, especially since he's taking a pay cut and he's coming in as the supposed backup. Could this be a case of J.P. getting some payback? I sure hope so. The insurance Barajas provides(assuming he's healthier than last season) is important, since Gregg Zaun is hitting about 90 years old and may be coming off of the sauce after the Mitchell report outed him. 
The only problem with this deal is that we'll be seeing a lot less of Sal Fasano's flavour saver because of this.  Actually, that's more of a problem for the ladies heading out to the Dome this summer.