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A bush-league umpire became a villain last night, but don't take my word for it. Let's see what others are saying...

Jeff Blair (Globe):

Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, who tossed Halladay from the game, has a history with the Blue Jays. Earlier this year, Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado described a pair of called strikes by Cuzzi as “probably the worst call that I've seen in a long, long time.”

Blair was on The FAN 590 this morning, suggesting that Cuzzi is widely perceived as a lousy ump. The reputation is well deserved.
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Cheers to Homer Simpson for all his charity work! Jeers to this rusty door handle. Tonight, the intrepid crew of the Blue Jays Cheer Club, which has the ushers' blessing to be as loud and pleasantly boisterous as they like, will be doing a little of both. The cheers will be for the Jays, of course, as they continue their Drive for Eighty-Five (yes, I've copyrighted that) behind the rejuvenated Josh Towers. The jeers will be for third-base umpire Phil Cuzzi, who ejected Roy Halladay last night for wearing white after Labour Day, or something. Have a listen for Named_for_Hank and the temporarily renamed Jeer Club, and watch for their signs at the game: this thread contains some simply brilliant suggestions. Now why can't someone eject Rob Faulds?

A juicy matchup between Kevin Millwood and rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis. Florida can virtually lock up the wildcard by taking 2 out of 3 after a convincing victory over Mike Hampton and the Atlanta Braves Monday night.

AL West/Wildcard
TeamWinsLossesRemainingYesterdayScheduleElim
Oakland94635Tex 7-3  Tex 2, @Sea 3__
Boston92646Bal 7-5  Bal 3, @TB 3__
Seattle90675Ana 5-1  @Ana 2, Oak 34

Oakland once again dismissed the Texas Rangers with relative ease. Jamie Moyer's great effort fell short of a shutout because a throwing error in the 9th allowed the only Angel run to score. Seattle's TV guys waxed poetic about Moyer's Cy Young candidacy, but even Buhner had to admit that Doc's 250+ innings look awfully good. Boston inched closer to the wildcard by beating the limp Orioles.

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Thanks to Pistol for alerting us to Baseball America's ranking of the NY-Penn League's Top 20 Prospects. Non-subscribers can read this tidbit about the amazing Auburn Doubledays:

The Blue Jays stocked Auburn with a plethora of college talent, and the team went 56-18 to run away with the league's best record despite the promotions of first-round shortstop Aaron Hill and righthander Jamie Vermilyea. Hill ranked second in the top 20 on a list that included four of his teammates: righty Josh Banks, lefty Kurt Isenberg, shortstop Juan Peralta and first baseman Vito Chiaravalloti. Four other Doubledays -- Vermilyea, third baseman Ryan Roberts and righties Shaun Marcum and Bubbie Buzachero -- also received strong consideration.
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The Jays' last homestand begins with their season-long nemeses from St. Petersburg. Toronto's 5-10 record against Tampa Bay probably hasn't cost the Jays a shot at contention in and of itself, but the 1-5 stretch against the D-Rays in late July and early August was what cemented the Jays' spoiler status for the 2003 season.

Tampa staggers into town with lineup full of frosty bats, and face some awfully long odds in thawing the lumber against a always-motivated Doc Halladay tonight. The remaining three matchups are more interesting, particularly Josh Towers gunning for a future with the Jays and a duel between surprising Doug Waechter and sizzling Kelvim Escobar.

Today's Advance Scout features some middle-of-the-order slumps, a talkative speed-burner in the middle minors and a Triple Crown that Victor Zambrano would rather not be wearing.

On to the Advance Scout!
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I sometimes find it difficult to explain to people exactly what this site is. "It's an online community," I say, and invariably the reply comes back, "what do you mean?" I try to explain that it's a website that I write articles for, like a little magazine, only daily... but unlike a magazine, people congregate here and talk. It's not just one-way communication. It's more of a forum for discussion. Some of us who write for the site set the topic, but the conversations veer all sorts of ways, and they're all happening at once.

Little is more incomplete than an institution in search of an identity. Well, let us look no further. Like a bolt from the blue, an e-mail two weeks ago on the SABR-L list made me realize exactly what we are.

Batter's Box is a Peña.
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A place to discuss one of the more maligned but more interesting awards, the Manager of the Year in each league.
A place for discussing the Rookies of the Year for each league.

"A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of a 25-player limt (excluding time in the military service)."
Fight! Fight! Fight!

We can have our MVP arguments in this thread. No spitting, and no pepper games.

Here is the verbatim text of the letter that is sent to MVP voters, for your information (and for starting arguments)...
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An all-purpose thread (tough, hardy, and water-resistant to 30 metres) for doing what a lot of people will be doing this week... talking about the Cy Young Award candidates in both leagues.
Roy Halladay gets his 35th start of the season tonight, looking for his 22nd win. The win would snap the team record he currently shares with Jack Morris and Roger Clemens, but don't look for anything different from the usual from HLH. The line has him at +280 to win, so we can officially say "good odds".
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I am seizing the reins, and beginning on behalf of Batter's Box what I hope will become an annual tradition.

This is our Blue Jays "Players Of The Year" awards, which will be voted by the fans of the team. One award will be given to a major league player who played with the Jays during the year, and one award will be given to a minor league player who played in the Jays' farm system during the year.

In order to vote, send an e-mail to otnorot55@yahoo.ie with the subject "Players Of The Year". Please vote for one major leaguer and one minor leaguer. In order to make it even easier to follow these instructions, you can click here and your browser should set up your e-mail for you.

The Box braintrust are going to get together to think up a suitable award which will be given to the winning players.
In Spencer Fordin's notes on MLB.com, he mentions Bobby Kielty's determination to get stronger for next year, then sheds some light on the Jays' pitching plans for the final week.

Pete Walker is out of the starting rotation -- again -- and Vinny Chulk might be in for the first time in his big-league career. Tosca named his starting staff for the next four days: Mark Hendrickson, Roy Halladay, Josh Towers and Kelvim Escobar.

Thursday's game is officially TBA, but according to Fordin, it will be Chulk, with Lidle bumped a day. It seems that Mark Hendrickson will go to the bullpen after today, and Pete Walker also has the manager's confidence against lefty batters.

"We're going to be a little more cautious with [Miller and Kershner], and he's the one guy that can counter left-handed hitters," Tosca said about Walker. "They're just gassed."
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The game I'll be keeping an eye on (other than Doc's impending 22nd win) is Florida at Atlanta (Mark Redman versus Mike Hampton). This is Florida's last road game of the regular season: a win would leave them a game up with a 3 to play at home against the Phillies beginning Tuesday.

AL West/Wildcard
TeamWinsLossesRemainingYesterdayScheduleElim
Oakland93636Sea 12-0  Tex 3, @Sea 3__
Boston91647Cle 2-0  Bal 4, @TB 3__
Seattle89676Oak 0-12  @Ana 3, Oak 35

Oakland stunned Gil Meche and the Mariners with 5 runs in the 2nd on route to a 12-zip shellacking. The AL West is all but Oakland's - there's every chance they'll wrap it up with Texas in town (they need only to match the Mariners' performance versus the Angels). The Mariners lost ground to the Pedro Sox and only poor play by Boston versus also-rans can save Seattle now.

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Good morning all! From here on in, I'll be providing daily updates on all the pennant races.

AL West/Wildcard
TeamWinsLossesRemainingYesterdayScheduleElim
Oakland92637Sea 3-9  Sea, Tex 3, @Sea 3__
Boston90648Cle 4-13  @Cle 1, Bal 4, @TB 3__
Seattle89667Oak 9-3  @Oak 1, @Ana 3, Oak 37

The Mariners made it two impressive performances in a row in Oakland, and with Boston getting hammered in the late innings, Seattle has renewed hope for a playoff spot. Their patient approach at the plate should help them against Rich Harden, who has great stuff but hasn't quite harnessed it yet. They are slight favourites for the sweep, which would cut the Athletics' division lead to 2 games. The wildcard lead is likely to remain at least 1.5 games, as Pedro takes the mound in Cleveland.

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