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It’s the first stop on the Reality Check Tour for Blue Jays prospects: Dunedin in the Florida State League, the highest A-Ball league in the system and one of the toughest hitters’ circuits around (.250/.327/.350, according to Michel Wolverton’s minor-league equivalencies, second-lowest in organized baseball, by a single percentage point, to the New York-Penn League). This is the first stage at which the wheat and the chaff say their goodbyes and promise to write each other often. Once a prospect graduates from Dunedin with good results, then you can start taking him a little more seriously going forward.

It was a good year for Dunedin: they won the FSL’s second-half pennant and defeated the Fort Myers Miracle in the first round of the league playoffs before falling to the St. Lucie Mets in the finals. It was also a year of remarkably high turnover: in addition to the players listed below, 2003 D-Jays included Dustin McGowan, David Bush, Russ Adams, Tyrell Godwin and Adam Peterson; those players will be profiled in tomorrow’s New Haven edition. Those are the guys who’ve already graduated; among the current class, there are two or three honours students sure to move up quickly, and a larger group of maybes and hopefuls that could yet break through and become serious prospects for the organization. Here we go:
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Boston Red Sox (Pedro Martinez) at New York Yankees (Roger Clemens)

Aaron Gleeman is one of the most talented young baseball writers you'll ever come across. In the tradition of early Rob Neyer, Aaron combines a solid grasp of sabermetric principles with passionate writing. He's been following the playoffs on his BLOG just as we have here, and I'm going to quote him in lieu of a proper preview to this game:

"Tonight's game is what baseball is all about. History and emotion and disappointment and euphoria, all wrapped up into one game, on one night, in Yankee Stadium. The House that Ruth Built, the house that Gehrig and Mantle and DiMaggio starred in. The place that has been home to such an incredible amount of winning, to so much excitement and drama.

And now it is the place where the Boston Red Sox will try to overcome their past, to overcome that ridiculous curse, to beat the team that has knocked them down so many times."

Tonight at 7:00 on The FAN 590, Mike Wilner's guest on the "Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show" will be Mark Hendrickson. They will be taking listener phone calls, so here's your chance to ask Lurch about his first full season, the differences and similarities between the majors and the NBA, the silent treatment he got in the dugout after his home run, or even his affectionate Batter's Box nickname. As always, it's 416-870-0590 or 1-888-666-0590, and after getting the OK from the producer, you can listen on the phone while you're waiting.

I don't think anything is confirmed yet, so I can't provide exact days and times, but you can expect Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells to be among Wilner's guests before World Series games.
Today, as part of the BBLVPAs, Batter's Box salutes its 2003 Mis-Managers of the Year.

This year, there was absolutely no contest as to who the voters would pick. In two near-unanimous landslides, Jerry Manuel and Larry Bowa were selected as Mis-Managers of the year. Manuel received seven of nine first-place votes, Bowa eight of nine.
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In an interesting little article at SABR-L, researcher Michael Mavrogiannis has shared his research into the leaders in wins in each major league ballpark (since 1920). It turns out that the current leader in wins at SkyDome is Pat Hentgen, with 47.
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If we think of the Blue Jays’ farm system in 2003 as a family, then maybe we can assign personalities to each of them. Syracuse is the underachieving eldest child, with some strong individual talents but otherwise saddled with a lot of recycled ideas and habits past their prime. New Haven is the dutiful, keener second child, eager to oust the big brother in the parents’ affections with spectacular results (also, he’s moving out at the end of the year). Dunedin is the quiet, studious one, not producing a lot of fireworks and passing on most of what she develops to New Haven. Auburn, the second-youngest, is the prodigy who burst onto the family scene and got the attention of the entire neighbourhood with her pyrotechnics. And Pulaski, the newest arrival, started quietly but really livened up towards the end of the year, making her parents think there’s another Auburn there just about to develop.

And then there’s Charleston. Poor, black-sheep Charleston, least-favourite third son who got stuck with most of the family’s least attractive talents.
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John Sickels's new column is about Blue Jays farmhand Alexis Rios. Enjoy!

Florida Marlins (Mark Redman) at Chicago Cubs (Kerry Wood)

The Cubs have had an edge in play during most of the series, and the numbers bear that out. Chicago has outscored the Marlins 36 to 31 (a Base Runs edge of 34.4 to 31.1). They have the edge in extra-base hits (23 to 20) and sacrifice hits (7 to 3). In most other areas, the teams are even. But the Marlins have struck out 15 fewer times, and this ought to go in the "surprising" category.

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The reaction of fans at the Stadium should be interesting. I'm expecting a lot of hostility, especially if Burkett throws a few high and inside.

Since I've been so bad at making outcome predictions in the Cubs-Marlins series, I thought I would try my hand at it for this series. Pettitte will have a solid outing, lasting 7 and giving up 2; Burkett will be gone by the 6th. The Yankees will have a 3-run lead after 7 and Torre will bring in Contreras to pitch the 8th. He'll save Mariano for the 9th and the Yankees will progress to the World Series with a 5-2 win.

With any luck, I'll be completely wrong and we will see a great game 7 showdown tomorrow.
The first annual Batter's Box Least Valuable Player Awards (or BBLVPAs, as we like to call them) are now upon us. The voting was conducted among Batter's Box staff over the past two weeks, and the award winners will be announced in a series of articles over the next two weeks.
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Florida Marlins (Carl Pavano) at Chicago Cubs (Mark Prior)

I didn't think the Marlins would get to game 6, but Josh Beckett pitched perhaps the best game of the post-season so far and the offence uncharactically plated their runs via the long ball. Tonight, I'm predicting a Cubs victory, but in a hard-fought contest.

After how terrible Brad Penny looked in his game 2 start, I commend McKeon for starting a well-rested Carl Pavano. He'll pitch well tonight and may even shut down the Cubs completely. Prior is going to be asked to go deep into the game again - a 120+ pitch count seems like a lock. I'll go out on the limb and say that Prior shows signs of tiring in the 6th or 7th. The final score will be "Cubs 4, Marlins 3" with the winning run scoring in the bottom of the 8th or 9th.

Get ready for party-time in Wrigleyville.

The 2003 Auburn Doubledays finished the short-season New York-Penn League schedule with a 56-18 record. To put that in perspective, a similar winning percentage (.756) for the Toronto Blue Jays would give them a 122-40 record. In other words, yeah, Auburn was pretty good this year.

The record-setting performance of the Jays’ NYP club is due largely to the efforts of the 2003 draft class, many of whom were senior collegians whom the club considered its better prospects (lower-regarded youngsters often start in Pulaski). Not all the Doubledays finished the season in the NY-Penn: first-round draft pick Aaron Hill and ninth-round pitcher Jamie Vermilyea got the call to Dunedin when it became clear they were simply too much for the competition. But of those who did finish the season, the most interesting of them (16 in all) are listed here (there are more who deserve some consideration, but time just won’t allow it).
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New York Yankees (David Wells) at Boston Red Sox (Derek Lowe).

Both teams had chances to score a bunch of runs in Game 4: the Red Sox ran themselves out of an inning again and the Yankees left the bases loaded twice (I believe).

I think we'll have a higher scoring affair today. David Wells will keep the ball away from the righthanders - will they try to pull the ball anyway? Derek Lowe will need his defence to be rock solid.

The Bronx Brawlers and the Fenway Maulers play tonight in a game of some significance to the citizens of New York and Boston.

Mr. Torre has asked Mr. Wells to rest his left arm and will begin the game with Mr. Mussina as his pitcher. Mr. Little will start with the venerable slowballer Mr. Wakefield and no doubt ask the dextrous Mr. Mirabelli to handle the offerings.
Frank Catalanotto will be Mike Wilner's guest on the pre-pre-game show tonight (7:00, FAN 590) and will be taking calls from listeners. That's 416-870-0590 in the GTA, 1-888-666-0590 from out of town. If you're finished eating turkey, it will be worth tuning in -- Cat's a thoughtful guy who expresses himself very well.