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.