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It's a slow news day, so here's some Blue Jays trivia provided by BB reader Gerry McDonald:

The Toronto Blue Jays selected Vernon Wells with the fifth pick in the 1997 entry draft. But the Blue Jays organization in 2003 included three other players also selected in the first round of the '97 draft, each taken after Vernon. Who are they?

The person who submits the first correct answer receives a copy of The Wit and Wisdom of Doyle Alexander, just as soon as it's published. Feel free to chime in with other Jays trivia in this space.
Time for a Caption Contest! In this case, a very silly Caption Contest. Come up with a caption for this 1909 photo of Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie.
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Those fun-loving New Hampshireites are close to choosing a new name for their new Double-A baseball club (the former Ravens of New Haven). The voting has closed (unfortunately, only U.S. residents could cast ballots), and the new name and logo will be announced tomorrow in Manchester. Will the winning entry be the Fisher Cats, the Mountain Men, the Granite, the Millers or rejected first-choice the Primaries? "The voting results were unbelievably close!" says the Website, which doesn't bode well.
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Mr. Steinbrenner, that is. Ticked off that the hated Red Sox acquired Curt Schilling, a player who would have fit right in to Joe Torre's Bronx, George is apparently very close to signing outfielder Gary Sheffield (who one might think would not be a Torre kind of guy), while also closing in on reliever Tom Gordon and, improbably, outfielder Kenny Lofton. Sheffield would undoubtedly make the Yankees even more fearsome offensively, but although he's matured since his bad old days, Sheff is still very much a clubhouse iconoclast. Gordon supposely was looking for a one-year deal as a closer in order to bag 40 saves and generate big bucks after 2004, so it would seem strange for him to come to New York as a setup man for two years. And Lofton? While it may be sensible to realize that Bernie Williams' days as a legit centrefielder are over, I'm not sure KL is the answer. A couple of years ago, the Yankees got the pitcher the Red Sox wanted in Mike Mussina; frustrated and overcompensating, the Sox signed Manny Ramirez to a deal they already regret. Will George make the same mistakes this year? The answer to that may depend on whether Bartolo Colon and/or Javier Vazquez end up in pinstripes when the dust settles.
You know you're getting old when players whose rookie seasons you followed show up on the Hall of Fame ballot. This year, as you may have heard, Toronto World Series heroes Joe Carter and Paul Molitor are eligible for Cooperstown, though Carter's chances are very slight and Molitor, while a favourite for first-ballot admission, will almost certainly enter the Hall as a Twin or a Brewer. Chime in with your thoughts on whether these two should or will become Hall of Famers, and on whether former Jays such as Roberto Alomar, Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez belong in the Hall as well.
It's December. It's time. Time to cast your ballot for the recipient of the first Batter's Box Andujar Award. Remember, it's all about the greatest single word ever uttered to describe The Grand Game: YouNeverKnow!

The What Award?
Original Announcement & Rules
Preseason Nominations
Midseason Update

We've selected the 12 finalists. Now it's up to you to vote. The 2003 Andujar Winner will be announced -- natch -- on Dec. 26 ... Boxing Day.

The 12 finalists are listed below alphabetically ...
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The Brewers have traded 1B Richie Sexson, P Shane Nance and a player to be named later to the Diamondbacks for 1B Lyle Overbay, 2B Junior Spivey, 2B Craig Counsell, C Chad Moeller and Ps Chris Capanuano and Jorge De La Rosa, the latter of whom was recently acquired as part of the Curt Schilling trade.

This seems large enough of a trade to warrant its own thread. I'd like to start by noting that the first names Richie, Shane, Lyle, Junior and Chad are SO post-Watergate chic. Discuss.
The Curt Schilling deal will no doubt be a topic of conversation among George Steinbrenner and his inner circle. The Yankees will hasten to sign Gary Sheffield, Bartolo Colon, LaTroy Hawkins and anyone else they think will restore the AL balance of power to New York.

Today, Boston is the clear favourite in the division. The difference between a healthy Schilling and John Burkett has to be more than six games, and Curt's DL stints last year had nothing to do with age or mechanical unsoundness: he had appendicitis, then some combination of getting hit by a pitch and punching out a Questec camera broke his hand. The Red Sox lineup that smashed even the '27 Yankees hitting records will return more or less intact.

Peter Gammons raves (again) about GM Theo Epstein, and makes several other points about the trade, dropping a line of particular interest to Jays fans.

Toronto's future, meanwhile, is looking better all the time.
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John Sickels certainly ain't no fool, but his latest Down on the Farm mailbag column has a large discussion of the Jays' 2003 first-rounder. Sickels gives Hill an ETA of late 2004 or 2005, and describes him as " the solid, consistent type, someone who could hit .280 with a lot of doubles, on-base ability, and occasional home runs." However, he thinks that Hill will eventually end up at second base.

Sickels also discusses Hanley Ramirez of the Red Sox, Victor Diaz of the Dodgers, and Habelito Hernandez of the Reds; it's always instructive to see how prospects from other systems stack up.
The Canadian Baseball League is returning - sort of. Some of the people behind this years failed experiment are planning a new Western Canadian Baseball League in B.C and Calgary for 2005. This looks like it is being designed on more realistic lines than the CBL was, all teams will be privately owned not centrally controlled and limiting things to two provinces should could cut down on travel costs and maybe foster some local rivalries.

They are aiming at starting with eight teams and will be using mainly Canadian players - a minimum of 15 per team.
Meet the newest Blue Jay. His name is Chi-Hung Cheng, he's an 18-year-old pitcher from Taiwan who signed yesterday for a $400,000 bonus. He's good enough to have pitched against men - not boys - in the recent World Cup tournament for the fourth-place Taiwanese national team.

Cheng has what J.P. describes as a "plus breaking pitch", throws a change with "nice feel", and can bring it at 85-88, not bad velocity for an 18-year-old. J.P. expects him to start at Charleston.
In mid-season, Batter's Box held a poll regarding the top prospects in the organisation. Those with 20 innings or 70 PA in the major leagues are not eligible (no Kevin Cash or Jayson Werth). Points will be awarded based on an MVP-type system. You can use any criteria you like, but an expected major league value approach is suggested.
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Congratulations to Scott Lucas who emerged the victor in the 2003 Batter's Box Predictions Contest.

There were 39 entries in the challenge issued in the March 25 post Throwing Down the Gauntlet.

You can see the full results in this Excel spreadsheet -- there are three pages to it, one called "Results" in which we learn, well, the results of the challenge; one called "Standings" in which we see everyone's predictions for the division winners, playoffs and World Series; and one called "Awards" which, hard as it may be to believe, outlines everyone's predictions for the major post-season award winners. Note: except for the "Results" document, the entries are listed in order of when posted.

Just a few observations ...
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A Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers in the United States.

Manny years ago, Bill James looked at various indicators of speed in a typical stat line and decided to combine them to derive a number which would roughly indicate the speed of the player on a scale of 1 to 10.

I've done something similar with minor league stats, but I've left out the position component that James used (centerfielders and middle infielders were given high ratings in the category). I've tweaked some of the criteria and weighted them a bit differently than James did. Here are the 4 categories I used:

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With the still-active HC2 now at 116 comments, here's another open thread for gossip, discussion and breaking news.

Best wishes to our friends and relatives in the U.S. for a happy and safe holiday weekend.
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