From the Indians.com e-mail newsletter, sent to me by pals who are middle-managers there and still praise the day John Hart left town:Despite a very good rookie season, Jody Gerut didn't think he would be earning any postseason awards. He figured those accolades would go to a certain left fielder in the Bronx. But The Sporting News awarded its 2003 American League Rookie of the Year to the Tribe's rookie outfielder. Read the whole dang surprising story.
The Tribe had two back-to-back winners in '70-'71 (somebody named Roy Foster, then Chris Chambliss) then have had approximately one per decade with Joltin' Joe Charboneau (1980), Sandy Alomar Jr. (1990) and Gerut.
Good for TSN
. I personally would have thought long and hard about Berroa and Teixeira (but not Baldelli and certainly not the likely "real" winner, Matsui) ... but Gerut is a good, solid choice.
In a postseason of incredible excitement, this World Series looked like an anti-climax from the beginning. Many avid baseball fans simply don't care who wins. Craig's "a pox on both your houses" sentiment about the ALCS could easily apply to teams owned by the misunderstood Steinbrenner and the detestable Loria.
In Game 1, a lethargic Yankees lineup, no doubt emotionally drained by the awesome Boston series, couldn't solve Brad Penny or Ugueth Urbina, neither of whom had their best stuff, and Juan Pierre's wheels made the difference. Game 2 featured more typical Bronx Bombing and a superb start by Andy Pettitte, so it was too one-sided to be really intense. I'm expecting more passion on both sides this evening, but I won't be able to comment much (if at all) on the game thread. So here are a few thoughts in advance...
By general custom, baseball executives don't make roster moves until after the World Series is over, as they don't want to draw attention away from baseball's "showcase". (Note the quotation marks: for me, and for many people I know, the season is already over.) However, we at Da Box are not bound by such limitations. So here's my idea: let's suppose that you have been put in charge of the Blue Jays. What moves would you make? Assume a budget roughly similar to this year's.
Florida Marlins (Mark Redman) at New York Yankees (Andy Pettitte)
Pettitte is going on 3-days' rest, but Torre doesn't really have any other choice.
Torre's decision to go with 3 lefthanders out of the bullpen is very curious - Juan Pierre is the only lefty in the starting lineup (Castillo is a switch-hitter) and McKeon only pinch-hits for his pitchers. Because Jeff Weaver isn't trusted, the Yankees will be going with a 3-man bullpen (Nelson, Contreras and Rivera) plus some sporadic duty for the lefthanders. I'd rather have Almonte available as a pinch-runner and go with 2 lefties in the pen.
Torre's batting order choices have been commented on. Soriano has always been unsuited to the leadoff role and batting Giambi 7th basically amounts to taking a PA away from him every 3 games.
Florida's bullpen is going to be a bit dicey. Willis and Urbina worked hard in Game 1 and McKeon doesn't have as much confidence in Looper, Tejera and Fox (Helling and Bump are the scrubs). One or more of those three will very likely see action tonight.
Yes, folks, this is the last of the 2003 minor league reports, and we ain't exactly going out on a high note. Out of Syracuse's 141 games, 55 were started by waiver claims, minor league free agents, and the like (Josh Towers, Doug Linton, Evan Thomas, etc.), 41 by disappointing prospects (Jason Arnold and Mike Smith), 21 by prospects who didn't have a great deal of room to disappoint (Vinnie Chulk), and 7 by guys on rehab assignments (mainly Pete Walker). Corey Thurman started 16 games, and Dave Gassner started one. There wasn't a good relief prospect on the entire staff. Like the batsmen, however, most of these guys are about to get washed away by a flood of JP's pitching prospects (and Gord Ash's). David Bush, Dustin McGowan, and Adam Peterson may start next season with the SkyChiefs, and Jamie Vermilyea could be back in New York State sooner than we think. Cam Reimers, Chris Baker, and Dave Gassner aren't top-notch prospects, but one or two of them should be able to chip in some decent innings.
Florida Marlins (Brad Penny) at New York Yankees (David Wells)
Both teams used up their best pitchers in thrilling, high-scoring LCS seventh games. There's no inherent advantage to either staff; it's going to be an interesting weekend.
It's possible that David Wells will be off form because he pitched a relief inning Thursday, but the Babe-worshipping Boomer, on the game's biggest stage in the House That Ruth Built, is more likely to rise to the occasion. The corpulent lefty was 8-2 with a 3.40 ERA in the postseason before this year, and allowed a single run in each of his two playoff starts (the clincher against the Twins and a huge win in Fenway) before that homer to David Ortiz the other night. He's not completely unknown to Marlins hitters; Pudge has a fine 10-for-27 mark and .962 OPS, Conine is 9-for-38, but three homers raise his OPS to .828, and Encarnacion is 6-for-22 with an .895 OPS.
Mike Wilner's guest on The FAN 590
Pre-Pre-Game Show at 7:00 tonight is Keith Law, one of J.P. Ricciardi's special assistants. An expert in statistical analysis, Law is involved in every aspect of talent acquisition via Rule 5, free agency, the amateur draft and trades, and he helps evaluate the performances of every player in the organization. A longtime supporter of Batter's Box, Keith granted us an interview
in June, which I hope everyone has read.
Here's your chance to ask him some followup questions, or anything else about the Jays. Of course, some matters are confidential, so don't expect him to divulge any trade secrets. I doubt Keith will answer things like "will Cat be back?" with certainty, nor is he likely to tell you who the Jays turned down in trade offers for Kelvim Escobar. He'll be as candid as possible, and is always interesting to talk to. If you get through (416-870-0590 or 1-888-666-0590) say hello from Da Box.
Thanks to BB reader Richard
for alerting me to a fine four-parter in the National Post
by Allen Abel. Celebrating the centennial of the World Series, it began last Tuesday with The Age Of Magic
, a look at the early days, including the employment of "good luck" mascots in big-league dugouts. Part Two, entitled A World Apart
, is my favourite -- a beautifully written account of one pitch, and its impact on a man's life. In the third segment, A Classic Youth
, Abel, just old enough to recall Don Larsen's perfect game, explains how important the World Series was to him growing up. The finale, Joy For The Few
, features conversations with Luis Gonzalez, who knows the thrill of delivering a Series-winning hit, and other champions.
I'm about three years younger than Abel, who covered the Jays and other sports for the Globe and Mail
in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My own baseball obsession began at a similar age, with Bill Mazeroski's homer the first indelible moment. Abel thinks his passion is in his DNA, the way hockey is for most Canadians, but I'm living proof that the baseball gene knows no borders. This series is a wonderful diversion for anyone who can't wait for tonight's first pitch. Enjoy.
Geoff Baker, previewing "a so-so way to kill three hours of tube time until Saturday Night Live kicks in," correctly says that MLB, Fox and most fans are disappointed with the Series matchup. I'd link to the piece, but again, I can't find it on waymoresports.com, only in my Saturday Star. Baker also calls the Fish in five, which I think is preposterous. His reasoning is that David Wells will be tired after his inning of relief the other night, Andy Pettitte "got smoked in Game 6," and Mariano Rivera is "fried." He also likes the Marlins' "younger, fresher-looking bats." Sorry, Geoff. The older, gnarled bats in the hands of experienced champions will prevail.
I think Boomer, to borrow an advertising slogan, lives for this. The chances that he'll be outpitched by Brad Penny tonight are extremely remote; I'd say "slim and none," but it doesn't sound right, talking about David. It looks like McKeon is going with Redman (who just got "smoked" himself) tomorrow, and saving Beckett for Tuesday. Maybe that's just a "lefty at the Stadium" decision, but to me, it also hints that young Josh didn't bounce back well from his strenuous "side session" against live, desperate hitters. Even if Beckett is 100%, has as much success against the potent Yanks as he did against the anemic Cubs, and wins Game 3, that leaves the D-Train (at this point, it stands for "derailed") against the Rocket's final farewell performance in Game 4. A Yankees sweep wouldn't surprise me in the least, but I'll say it goes five.
I called them the New Haven Juggernauts earlier this year, when they were tearing up the Eastern League with standout batting performances. They cooled off slightly in the second half (see, Simon Pond really was the glue that held that team together) and exited the playoffs early, but the 2003 Ravens are a team that Jays fans may be talking about years from now because of the talent it contained. No fewer than five first-round draft picks were on the squad at one time or another, as were all five of the Jays’ consensus top prospects (Rios, Quiroz, McGowan, Gross, Bush). The Ravens were so stacked that this review, which runs more than 4,500 words and features 13 players, still doesn’t cover everyone of interest on the roster. I say again, if there are players about whom I haven’t written in these reports, please let me know and I’ll include them in a minor-league wrap-up article next week.
The 2003 Syracuse SkyChiefs will be the last team of their type during JP's tenure in Toronto. Very few of Syracuse's position players this year were young prospects who had been drafted by the Blue Jays and advanced through the system. Most of the promising players that Gord Ash drafted or signed in the latter years of his tenure have either moved up to Toronto (Phelps, Wells, Hudson, Johnson, Woodward) or been traded (F-Lop). Gabe Gross and Kevin Cash were the only Ash draftees, undrafted free agents, or international signings to make a significant impact with the bat in Syracuse this summer; they'll be followed by Alexis Rios, Guillermo Quiroz, and Dominic Rich next year, who pretty much represent the end of that cohort. Russ Adams, Aaron Hill, Jason Waugh, Vito C, and other Ricciardi draftees will reach Syracuse in the next year or two, but the only three of Ricciardi's men to swing the bat in the Almost-Show this year were the immortal Scott Dragicevich, Brian Patrick, and Michael Galloway, who compiled 76 plate appearances in late-season call-ups.
Come on. Admit it. You’ve done it. You’ve watched a player and smiled at his failures, either in the post-season or in the regular season—and not because he’s facing your favorite team. You’ve cheered at this player’s utter ineptitude to hit a breaking ball. At his astonishing lack of ability to field a ground ball. At his preposterous propensity to hang a slider or to deliver a non-sinking sinker during a close game. At his underachieving ways. Maybe you’ve even delighted in a player getting injured (as long as it’s not life-threatening). And if you claim to have never experienced this? Quit lying and fess up.
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:
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."