Inching towards mediocrity.


Over the Hill

Well.

Great game last night between the respective fourth and fifth place teams in the American League East – our Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles.

It was a good game to be sure – multiple home runs from third basemen Edwin Encarnacion, leading a rally in the eighth to take the game into extra innings.

But the real story here was second basemen Aaron Hill’s 99th, and then 100th, RBI of the season – a career high for the first time All-Star.

Hill’s 99th RBI came courtesy of a solo home run in the third inning – which was quickly followed by a second solo shot from Encarnacian, tying the game at 2.

The Orioles reclaimed the lead, 5-2, and it didn’t look like the Jays were going to mount much of a comeback. However, a two-run homer from Encarnacion in the eighth, followed by a bases-loaded-hit-by-a-pitch-walk-off-Jose-Bautista (there has GOT to be a better way to say that), tied the game and extended it into the tenth inning, after the Jays failed to bring anymore men home.

The game remained deadlocked until the bottom of the 11th – when Aaron Hill’s walk off double scored Bautista, notched Hill’s 100th RBI, and won the game in suitably dramatic fashion.

The Jays have not been great this season when it comes to extra inning games, walk off wins, or comebacks. But thanks to the ever reliable Mr. Hill, they were able to pull it off, certifying a sweep against Baltimore this series, and certifying Aaron’s reputation as a prominent, and hopefully long-lasting, cornerstone of this team.



Rumble in the Bronx.

Well.

Slugfest. It was indeed last night at Yankee Stadium in New York City, and in more ways than one.

(Specifically, two ways.)

First of all, the Jays offense was on fire – launching five home runs to win the game 10-4. Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacian and Jose Bautista each hit one out of the park, with rookie Travis Snider adding two of his own.

The pitcher was the ever reliable Roy Halladay (15-8), who pitched respectively, if not spectacularly, allowing only two runs in seven innings.

Then came the eighth inning…where things REALLY got out of hand.

A huge rumble erupted in the bottom of the eighth, with reliever Jess Carlson pitching. Carlson, in apparent retaliation for an earlier attack on Aaron Hill, threw a pitch behind the back of Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Posada, none to pleased with this turn of events, had some words with Carlson that briefly cleared both teams benches. Umpire Jim Joyce seemed to settle the matter, and Carlson promptly walked Posada. A few batters later, all hell broke loose.

Carlson allowed a single that scored Posada; on his way back to his dugout, he elbowed Carlson. Carlson fired some remarks back at Posada, and then it was ON.

Joyce immediately ejected Posada, but that didn’t stop him from charging Carlson with Barajas caught in the middle of the fray, attempting to protect his pitcher. Then both teams were on the field, brawling in a huge dog pile of testosterone-y madness, resulting in both Posada and the Jay’s pitcher being sent packing.

Pretty intense.

Now, the Jays have had some trouble lately with getting beaned by other teams pitchers, especially the Yankees and the Red Sox. Whether by accident or not, it all seems a bit convenient. While I do not condone fighting in professional sports (it’s weird to see a group of grown MILLIONAIRES scuffling like drunken frat boys), I think it was about time one of the Jays stepped up to deliver a message. Carlson swears that it wasn’t intentional; just a bad pitch. But it TOTALLY WAS.

Whether or not suspensions are handed out remains to be seen; it was a foolish move on Posada’s part at any rate. While the Jays have pretty much nothing to lose, the Yankees will be heading into the playoffs soon. A suspended player, or worse, an injured player is not something they want or need.

All in all, it was kind of fun to see at least some passion from our boys on the field, even if it may have been directed poorly. But, hey, apparently John MacDonald punched Yankees manager Joe Girardi in the head, so I guess that’s something.



Is there a doctor in the house?

(Editor’s Note: I had meant to publish this blog much earlier, but in my haste, hit “save draft” instead of “publish”. On the one hand, I was lucky; it saved my draft. On the other hand, it didn’t publish. Fate is indeed a fickle thing.)

Well.

Next season marks the end of Roy Halladay’s contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. At the end of the 2010 season, he will be a free agent; this means, if another team wants him (and they will), and if he wants to go (and he will), he can. And will. And, let’s face it – probably should. He is one of the best pitchers the MLB has ever produced: controlled, fiercely competitive, and deadly serious about the game of baseball and his role within it. He has spent his entire career with the Blue Jays. He has never won a World Series, and with this team on it’s current course (they swear they have a plan, but they don’t) he probably never will. He is 32 years old, and he deserves to play in October more than anybody.

Now. With that out of the way, let me tell you why I believe Roy should stay.

The main reason is fairly simple. In Toronto, Roy is a pitcher. A baseball player. If he were to go to an American team, and especially a big team like the Yankees or the Red Sox, he would be a celebrity. Doesn’t sound too bad – except he would come under a lot more scrutiny, both personally and professionally. Everything he did, good or bad, would be under the microscope. In Toronto, A.J. Burnett was a solid number two starting pitcher, and a successor to Halladay. In New York, he’s still a solid number three man, and having a decent enough year – but his high pay check and somewhat inconsistent season is getting a lot of attention. And not good attention, either.

Secondly, Halladay is currently the face of the franchise. With Vernon Wells not playing up to par, and Alex Rios traded to the White Sox, Roy is our guy. He’s the veteran, and the unofficial team leader. A celebrity, sure, but not in a bad way. Just sort of the go-to-guy if we ever need anything good to say about the team.

And lastly, he’s playing for more than just himself, and even more than just the Blue Jays. As I said, he is the face of the franchise – the only one currently in Canada. If, by some miracle, we do make the playoffs anytime soon, Roy won’t be playing just for the Blue Jays, or even Toronto. He’ll be playing (and hopefully winning) for a damn country.

Something to think about, anyways.

Oh, and his wife loves Toronto. And I’ve seen Brandy Halladay – you really want to lock that down. At age 32, Roy might be looking at the most comfortable way to continue his career. And this might just be it.

That competitive edge, though…he wants to win, needs to win, and should win.

But he’s loyal, and promised to see how the team was doing in 2010 before making any major decisions. Whether the earlier trade debacle this year will have any effect on that outlook remains to be seen. The important thing is, Roy Halladay is a Blue Jay for at least one more season.

And, if the rest of the team manages to step up to his level, hopefully many more after that.



Halladazed

Well.

Last night’s game certainly didn’t go as planned. Especially for Roy “Doc” Halladay, our starting ace. He picked up his first ever loss agains the Minnesota Twins, in a generally decent outing – he went the whole nine frames and only allowed four runs. Vintage Doc? Not even close. But for most teams, it would have been good enough.

The Blue Jays offense, however, deemed the Doc’s performance to be less than stellar (which to be fair, for him it was), and scored only one run in the entire game. Perhaps they were expecting another one-hitter from Halladay, as in Friday’s game against the superior (to the Jays as well as the Twins) New York Yankees. Perhaps not. Either way, Halladay earned his ninth loss of the season, and not much else – except his seventh complete game, the current high in the American League.

So. Is Doc slipping? Is he still the dominating force in baseball he’s always been? Is he still the best pitcher in baseball?

It’s hard to say, really. I think the trade talks earlier may have gotten to him; also, as much as I respect him for it, I think his tendancy to play so many complete games is also taking it’s toll. (That, and the fact that it’s now September.)

If he were on a contending team, like say the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies or the Dodgers, I’m sure he’d have twenty-plus wins by now easily. A nine inning game with only four runs given up is still pretty good; the Yankees or the BoSox would have easily given him the run support he needed. Not only that, but they would have (I’m assuming) properly pulled him from the game earlier. Doc’s insistence on throwing complete games is, I’m sure, as much his choice as it is necessity. When you’re bullpen is struggling, and somewhat depleted, you keep your Ace in for as long as you possibly can.

I’m sure Doc will return to his former glory by next season. The man is a competitor, straight up. He takes the game more seriously than perhaps, well, anyone. When he’s not pitching, he’s training. When he’s not training, he’s thinking about pitching. And so on.

Regardless of how he’s pitching next season, it may be his last with the Toronto Blue Jays. By the end of 2010, the face of the franchise will become a free-agent, and a fairly sought after one I’m sure. He’s not in it for the money, though; he’s in it for the win. Which, of course, does not bode well for our struggling team.

But more on that later. Tomorrow, in fact.

Until then, keep hitting those dingers!*

(* it’s like Don Cherry’s “keep your stick on the ice” saying, only more terrible!)



Weekend Wrap-Up

Well.

Hell of a series in Toronto this weekend! The Blue Jays and the visiting New York Yankees battled back and forth, each winning two games in this four game series. It was an impressive showing from both teams, but especially from the beleaguered Blue Jays – at this point ANY win is a good win for the club, and two wins against the best team in the Majors? Not bad at all.

Too bad it’s September.

At times, even I get a little bit confused as to why I still care so much. Loyalty to a team is one thing, but at this point, in this season, there’s very little to hang on to – except maybe finishing strong, preferably over .500. I just happen to like these guys, and love to see them do well, even this late in a go-nowhere season. Roy Halladay pitched a one-hitter agains the Bronx Bombers on Friday, allowing the Jays a 6-0 win, his 14th of the season. Does it matter? Not really – but it matters to Halladay’s stats, and it’s a helluva lot of fun to watch.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: while the Jays are clearly out of contention for this year, and maybe even for next year, I still remain eternally hopeful. The pieces are certainly there. Halladay remains one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball. Aaron Hill had a break-out year at 2nd base, making the All-Star roster and hitting over 30 home-runs. Adam Lind has turned into a fantastic batter, posting an average above .300 and hitting almost 30 homers himself. Marco Scutaro had a break-year as well, becoming one of the most delightful short-stops in baseball, with a respectable batting average. Rod Barajas is a nice clutch hitter. Ricky Romero looks to be on his way to becoming an amazing starting pitcher himself, Jason Frasor a respectable closer. Randy Ruiz, a career minor leaguer, has brought a huge bat to the lineup. Even the perpetually slumping Vernon Wells has shown us that he still has the stuff in the outfield, making some truly spectacular catches. And John McDonald continues to be just all around amazing.

Will we see October baseball next year? Doubtful. But if the pieces in our lineup manage to come together into a cohesive whole, we may at least see some Wild Card spot action. Not the actual spot, mind you – just the fun of vying for it. We’re in a tough division; the Yankees and the Red Sox are consistently dominant, and the Rays seem to want it a lot more than we do.

Regardless, I’m going to keep watching this lost season. And I’ll be back NEXT season, and the season after that.

Not matter where we are in the standings.