Inching towards mediocrity.


A doozy of a weekend wrap-up. (Now with 100% less J.P. Ricciardi!)

Well.

Quite a packed little weekend for our Jays. Last series of the season (they were swepted), mutiny in the dugout,¬† and of course…the official end to the J.P. Ricciardi era. And it’s been a long time coming.

Baltimore’s like the new Boston, or something.

So let me get this straight…we sweep the Red Sox in a three game series at Fenway…and then lose our final series of the year to the Baltimore Orioles? Seriously?!?

I missed Friday and Saturday’s games because I was busy touring wine country this weekend (dead serious), but managed to catch Sunday’s game to watch Vernon Wells give up at the plate one final time (seriously, dead.)

Incidentally, when I typed “Vernon Wells” into Google image search, this came up:

vernon wells

"John...I'll be ready for you, John."

Apparently the villain in the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Commando” was played by some dude¬† also named Vernon Wells. Interesting. Unlike the REAL Vernon Wells, this guy didn’t mess around. Sure, by movie’s end he was killed by John Matrix in hilariously dramatic fashion, but at least you can’t say he didn’t give it his all!

And that’s all I have to say on the subject.

Cito-Gate

cito gaston

"Old school? Who's old school?!? Now finish that delicious cigarette and hand me that medicine ball!"

Next up comes news that the players are none to happy with their current manager. This came as a surprise to many; most notably, their manager, Cito Gaston.

The player’s complaints are common, and to some extent, understandable: they don’t like his old-school approach, he’s to negative, he’s not hands on enough, etc, etc.

They claim that half the team or more are upset with Gaston and his managerial style, and they want to speak with president Paul Beeston about it. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen – is there some semblance of truth to these claims, or is it just media speculation that’s been allowed to run rampant? Most of the players are tight-lipped about it. Vernon is deliberately vague, Hill remains diplomatic, and Roy Halladay straight up refuses to talk about it outside of the clubhouse. Hill himself has said that he believes the relationship between team and manager is salvageable. Wells and Lyle Overbay, however, without going into any real specifics, seem less positive.

Could the accusations be true? It’s hard to say. To me, it certainly sounds like Gaston’s style – and that’s not saying anything bad about the man. I have the utmost respect for Cito Gaston, but times have changed. He’s never been a real player manager, and his past with the Blue Jays more or less proves that. People continuously throw the “back to back World Series” trump card in your face whenever discussing Gaston’s worth as a baseball manager, but that’s meaningless. No disprespect to Cito, but as my dad always says: anyone could have managed that team they had in ’92 and ’93. All Cito had to do was show up, make a line-up, and let ’em go. It wasn’t rocket science, and as they were a team of mostly veterans (and well payed ones at that), they didn’t need a lot of hands on work from their manager. They just did what they did.

Regardless, the situation looks grim. Despite what you think of Gaston’s managing either way, there can not be division in the clubhouse. If the players don’t like Cito, whatever the reason, he may have to go. Hill may feel that they have room to work with. But if they don’t, there’s no point in holding on to him for much longer. He came in and it was a huge boost for morale. But he hasn’t lived up to expectations, and we can’t continue to cling to the past like this. It sends a clear message to the fans that Roger’s has no intention of creating a winning ball club. And the more they keep trotting out those Back2Back alumni just reinforces this. There is a future for this team; let’s try looking there for once.

Meet the new boss/same as the old boss…

j.p. ricciardi

Off to Boston with you, then.

Finally, some good news. J.P. Ricciardi has been fired. Some might say a few years too late. But whatever. He’s GONE.

So now we have a NEW general manager to look forward to! A bright young man by the name of Alex Anthopoulos, who used to be…

J.P. Riccardi’s assistant?

DAMMIT!

To be fair, though, I’m assuming this is an interim position until they can find someone to replace them. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

Also to be fair, I don’t know a damn THING about this kid, so maybe he truly is the Jay’s savior. Or, maybe he’s just J.P.’s RIGHT HAND MAN, which almost seems like a step backwards somehow.

Perhaps not quite backwards…I suppose, technically, it’s more like a step to the side.

In any event, he appears to have his work cut out for him, and I’m curious to see what happens in the coming post season. There are a lot of free agents on the team right now, and I’d like to see a number of them back. (Especially Barajas and Johnny Mac.)

Again, I’m not to familiar with the management side of baseball, so I’m not 100% sure what’s in store for Anthopoulos, or the team at this point. All I know is that they have a lot of mending ahead of them for the time being. Whatever the case with Gaston, whatever the case with the free agents, whatever the case with Roy Halladay, I just hope they handle them right, and with a lot more class than Ricciardi was known for.

The team seems to be starting over, or trying to. We’ve got some of the right pieces in there, and with the right moves, I think we could really have something here.

Just as long as we learn from our mistakes, which is something J.P. had trouble doing, so hopefully this kid didn’t inherit that.

And don’t get me wrong; it’s perfectly okay to f*@% up –

Just so long as you don’t f*@% up the same way twice.



The Red Sox are very sore losers. (Now with 62% more bitchin’ about Boston!)

(Edit – Sweet gravy Jesus! Halladay nailed David Ortiz in the second inning! I did NOT think the Doc had it in him! Way to go, Roy!)

Well.

Excellent game last night. The Jays offense was on fire (as it has been for most of September – I like to pretend it’s June!) and they continued to take their newfound role of Wild Card spoiler very seriously. Unfortunately, thanks to the Texas Rangers losing to the Angels last night, it was all for not.

Still, it was nice to see the Jays finally beat the Sox at Fenway this year (twice in a row, no less!), and they did it in impeccable style. (Stylish up until the bullpen almost blew the game in the eighth, allowing the Sox to rally to a 8-7 deficit.) Toronto now leads the American League in home runs this month, and they made sure to add to that tally tonight. The Jays knocked it out of the park six times – Jose Bautista, Kevin Millar and Aaron Hill all went yard, with the ever reliable Adam Lind adding three (count them! Three!) of his own, a career best for him.

Lind’s incredible achievement was short lived though, when in the ninth inning the Red Sox once again proved to be one of the dirtiest and cheapest teams in the MLB – sore losers who act out and throw temper tantrums when things don’t go their way, and when they find out that they ain’t all that. After retiring Bautista and Hill, Boston’s closer Jon Papelbon apparently decided that Adam Lind didn’t deserve his shot at a fourth home run, and proceeded to – on the FIRST PITCH, mind you – launch an inside fastball at Lind, painfully drilling him on his right elbow. Lind dropped to all fours, grimacing in pain, but managed to stay in the game, trotting over to first. Better luck next time, Papelbon!

Vernon Wells hit next, and I wanted nothing more than to see V-Dub drop one over the Green Monster, or better yet, knock a line drive into the front of Papelbon’s skull. Alas, it was not to be, and Vernon predictably popped out. Jason Frasor was closing for the Jays, and managed to not only clean up reliever Shawn Camp’s mess from the eighth inning, but shut down the Sox for good in the bottom of the ninth – ending the game with a strike-out on Red Sox meathead Kevin Youkilis. This allowed rookie Ricky Romero, our starter this evening, to finally pick up his first career win against Boston.

I gotta say though, it’s frustrating to see our guys get hit so much this season. The Red Sox and the Yankees have been particularly nasty with this. It’s dirty, pathetic, and just not good baseball.

Now to be a hippocrite for a second, if I may.

The worst part is, we don’t retaliate! They keep doing it because they keep getting away with it! Papelbon attacks Lind tonight, and we barely even get a hissy fit from our manager, Cito Gaston! Show some passion, Cito! Don’t have a kindly discussion with the umpire…get all up in his face, yo! Sure, maybe you’ll get kicked out, but you’ll rally your team and at least look like you give a damn!

Unfortunately though, like all bullies, the Sox and the Yankees can dish it out but they can’t take it. When we finally did retaliate, as we did in New York a few weeks ago, they throw temper tantrums. And Jesse Carlson didn’t even bean Jorge Posada; he just threw AROUND him, as a warning. And still, the Yankees act as though they’re the ones being mistreated.

Again, I do not condone hitting batters in baseball. Nor do I condone fighting in baseball. But I don’t condone bullying, either, and sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself to get that message through that THIS HAS TO STOP. And this is the perfect time, too. The season is over for us…we have like, what? Four games left? Let the benches clearing brawls begin! Suspensions? Injuries? We’ve got nothing to lose!

But the Red Sox sure do.

Now, while I think it’s totally beneath him and not even remotely in his character, nor his game plan, I gotta say this. You wanna send a message? Tonight, have Roy Halladay knock out one of the Sox (preferably Dustin Pedroia or Youkilis), and then have him just stare them down with that scary laser beam he’s-not-thinking-about-anything-other-than-baseball-at-this-moment-and-that-includes-his-family-or-even-his-own-survival-at-this-or-any-point-within-the-next-nine-innings stare to REALLY drive home the message. Why would a hit from Halladay especially be effective? Because Halladay DOESN’T MISS. If you get beaned by him, you damn well know he meant to do it. And it’s completely unexpected, too, as Halladay has too much respect for the game and the other players to ever lower himself to that level. Which, sadly, is exactly why I DON’T want him to go that route.

But man, would it ever be sweet if he did.

(Or hell…let Roy have his seven innings or whatever, and then get League to drill Veritek or 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.



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.



We coulda been a contender…!

Well.

For a team that’s officially out of contention for any spot in this years playoffs, the Toronto Blue Jays (59-70) certainly looked like contenders last night. The perpetually slumping offense, which has more or less crippled the Jays in the past few months, came alive last night in Arlington – and in a big way. Unfortunately, there always seems to be something amiss with the team, and last night was no exception.

For much of the season, the Jays would enter games with only one thing working for them. On some nights, the pitching would be on fire, the bats quiet. On others, the opposite would take effect, and the offense would be ripping it up, while the pitching staff would be struggling. The outcome, however, remained the same: a big ol’ loss.

Recently, this formula has changed, but not for the better. In the past month or so, both sides of the equation have faltered; the bats have been seemingly silenced for good, and even the ever reliable Roy Halladay (13-8) has struggled on the mound.

Now, the pitching thing I can understand. A series of injuries, ranging from the mundane to the truly bizarre (big toe, Scott Downs? Really?) has crippled the Jays usual starting lineup. If I didn’t know any better, I would assume some form of Gypsy curse was responsible. Whatever the case, the bullpen has had to rely on a lineup of mostly rookie pitchers, who have never thrown in a Major League game. Surprisingly, most have fared pretty well. Not so surprisingly, as we leave August and now enter September, most of them are beginning to falter. And, to add insult to injury, these Young Guns (obligatory Emilio Estevez reference) have forced the more experienced members of the bullpen (and especially Roy Halladay) to shoulder more of the weight. Halladay has thrown a number of complete games this season, and that, combined with the July trade talk head games, have taken it’s toll on the Doc.

I have just noticed, by the way, that I have some how gotten way off track from where I began this post. REEL IT IN, GALASSO.

Who knew you could babble in text?

Anywho, as I was saying:

Last nights game started off swimmingly for Toronto, with the offense leading them to a splendid 11-0 lead against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers, unlike the Jays, ARE a contending team this year for the hallowed halls of October baseball. For whatever reason, though, the Jays have been playing really well against the Rangers all season. And last night was no exception.

Adam Lind, the hero of the game, managed his first ever career grand slam – and managed to bat in four more RBIs in the ninth inning – leading off the inning with a solo shot, and then returning to close the inning with a bases-loaded clearing double. Those eight RBIs were just one short of the team record of nine, a record that’s stood since 1977. Not to shabby, that.

And, not to be outdone, catcher Rod Barajas added two homers of his own – a three run shot in the first inning, and another solo jack in the fifth.

Rookie Brett Cecil (6-3) kept the Rangers at bay for four solid innings of pitching, before seemingly collapsing in the bottom of the 5th, allowing seven runs to cut the Jays lead down to 11-7.

What followed was an epic slugfest between two teams – one who was desperately vying for the AL wild card spot, and another who was desperately trying to finish the season (hopefully) above .500.

The Jays stormed back in the ninth inning, with Lind’s aforementioned homerun and bases clearing double, as well as RBIs from John McDonald and Vernon Wells (who’s triple early in the game, and possible game-saving catch in the seventh inning brought back glorious memories of just what he’s capable of.)

All in all, an 18-10 win was a big boost for the Blue Jays morale, as well as the morale of their disillusioned fanbase. It was also a helluva way to start a four game series agains the Rangers in Arlington. If the Jays can keep their bats hot for the rest of the series, and (fingers crossed!) again against the Yankees later this week in Toronto, they may be able to at least finish an otherwise disappointing season reasonably strong.

The ship may be sinking, but with players like Lind, Barajas, Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill, at least we’re slowly getting a little bit closer to shore. We’re gonna get wet, but at least we won’t drown.

GalassOUT.