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Warning: if you dislike Richard Griffin-bashing, you'd best move on to another thread.

In today's Star, happy-go-lucky Griff examines the plethora of ex-Jays who are setting the major leagues on fire, contrasting them with the sorry lot of current Blue Jays who have been so putrid thus far. The implication, as always, is that it's only ever been about dumping salary, cutting loose valued veterans for little in return. If he has a point beyond that, it's difficult to tell, since the column simply tapers off at the end.

Fine as far as it goes, in theory: JP isn't immune from criticism for his player moves, in these or other parts. But Griff, as usual, doesn't seem interested in telling the whole story: he fails to characterize unusually hot starts as exactly what they are, and doesn't provide enough context to the impugned transactions. These are the former Blue Jays identified by Griffin as thriving cast-offs: Jose Cruz Jr., Raul Mondesi, Tony Batista, Brad Fullmer, Alex Gonzalez, Esteban Loiaza, Brandon Lyon, Dan Plesac, Billy Koch, Paul Quantrill and David Wells. Let's take a closer look at each of these ex-Jays.
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Peter Gammons's latest column has a few Blue Jays references:

- Buck Showalter has nothing but good things to say about Toronto's young position players, particularly Josh Phelps and Vernon Wells. Wells is compared to a right-handed Jim Edmonds, which is interesting. Edmonds didn't walk more than 60 times a season for his first six years in Anaheim; he hasn't walked fewer than 85 times a season in his three years in St. Louis. Patience is learnable.

- The trade value of Shannon Stewart, Cory Lidle and Kelvim Escobar is discussed -- nothing new there, except that Escobar is touted as a setup guy, circa Octavio Dotel or the old Felix Rodriguez. That's actually quite intriguing to think about, but there's a problem: Kelvim lifetime with the bases empty: 1.80 ERA. Kelvim with runners aboard: 8.16 ERA.

- Jason Arnold's pitching lights-out. But we already knew that.
Uh-oh. Catalanotto's sitting this one out with a sore back. Hinske bats second. Hudson's seventh, RF Jayson Werth eighth. Doc will surrender a few hits and runs, but he should get plenty of support.
Sammy Sosa. Barry Bonds. Soon, Raffy Palmeiro and maybe Fred McGriff.

And now, Da Box.

I don't have anything to say here, I just wanted to be the one to post the 500th entry.

Here's the next 500 ...
Jordan's article on closers got me thinking about one of my favorite topics, a proper World Cup of Baseball where MLB players would compete. In particular, his "2006 dream staff" caught my eye.
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A hearty thanks is in order for John Gizzi, who came through with an Advance Scout pinch-hitting appearance that would have made even Rance Mulliniks proud. Since Gitz ratted me out, I might as well admit to being in Las Vegas for the entire Jays winning streak. For many, many reasons, as much as I support "taking one for the team," I should let you know now that I would not be amenable to suggestions that I head back to Sin City until the Jays lose. On the bright side, our entire party did manage to avoid ill-advised marriages.

So the Jays have turned things around with pitching and defence. It should be all too fresh in the Jay hurlers' minds, though, that the Rangers lineup can put up a lot of crooked numbers (sometimes, sadly, even with a straight number preceding it). The formula for beating Texas has been simple: Keep the ball in the park, and be patient with their pitching. It's just a matter of executing the formula against A-Rod, Palmeiro, Blalock, and the rejuvenated Gonzalez and Everett.

At least the Jays snapped their multi-year, 10-game losing streak against Texas last Thursday. The most notable memory from the Metroplex for Jays fans, I think, is Nolan Ryan's last no-hitter on a muggy night at Arlington Stadium. I think Joe Carter's "TOROTNO" jersey might also have been infamously donned in Texas.

Doc has his work cut out for him as he tries to cut back his gopher balls. Blow in, sweet winds of Texas. Blow in.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Every morning I wake up, read my e-mail ("Should I pick up Mark Ellis?"; "What is wrong with Tejada?"; "Dude, u r an idiut"), then check if Mark Texeira has been sent down to AAA, where at least he won't have to beat out Ruben Sierra. Someone please explain to me why Sierra is playing over Texeira? Or Mench? Or Gizzi? Or Scott Lucas, who asks the same questions in his ESPN column?
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So who's the best closer in the majors? According to the good readers of SLAM! Sports, it's John Smoltz, whom they chose in an online survey. What amuses me most about this poll is that 14% of the respondents took the time to click on "I don't care." Now, really. If you don't care, why are you reading the poll, let alone taking it?

Anyway, "best closer" is a nebulous term at best -- this year's top closer is often next year's setup guy, waiver claim or elbow surgery. "Best reliever" would be a more interesting choice, which for my money is a tossup between Octavio Dotel and Johan Santana. Anyway, Smoltz is a fine choice so far this year: 16 IP, 15 H, 4 BB, 20 K, 12 saves, just one BS. But a better choice would be this guy:

16 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 28 K, 10 Saves, 0 Blown Saves

Any guesses?
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Moments after venting about too many lefty relievers and not enough Aquilino, I learned the Jays made a roster move. Jason Kershner has been sent to Syracuse, and according to the AP, Brian Bowles will be recalled tomorrow. The 6' 5" RH had one terrible AAA outing April 20, walking 4 in less than an inning, but his ERA is a stingy 1.06 and he's been much better since, notching his eighth save yesterday. I wonder if they will use Bowles in late-inning "hold" situations right away. Whatever Brian's role, this is not exactly a ringing endorsement for Jeff Tam, who's reduced to mopping up.
Four teams within 1.5 games of the lead, ten teams bunched within seven games. Percentage points (or a Yahoo tiebreaker; I didn't do the math) separate the Walrus from the Gorillas for the league lead, after my Sunday comeback from a 7-4 deficit to a 6-5 win over Snellville. Thanks to Carlos Delgado, Matt Morris and my bullpen; Wagner and Baez pulled out the SV category. I've already traded a couple, but I still find myself with three closers, so I'd listen to offers for Baez or Cliff Politte.

A few teams made big gains -- Mike H.'s Springfield Isotopes closed three games on the leaders with an 8-3 win, Jonny's K-Town Mashers moved up three positions in the standings with a 9-3 romp, and Jason's Garces_not_on_roids squad went from 18th place (15 games out) to 14th (11 games out) with a 9-2 win. A couple of teams went the other way, most notably Red Mosquitos -- I think Spicol was distracted by managing the all-time Jays -- who lost three games to the leaders and fell from 7th to 12th overall.
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Alright, if you'd said to me, following the debacles against Texas and the generally painful season up till now, that the Blue Jays would sweep the defending World Series champion Anaheim Angels this past weekend -- and not really have to sweat very much doing it -- I would have had you straitjacketed and sent to the Island of Misfit Bloggers. But there it is, in the books: One Sweep. Great pitching, fine defence, timely and sometimes devastating hitting.

It's an off-day today, then they're flying to Arlington to begin a tough stretch of 16 road games out of 19, against the good (Angels, Yanks), the bad (Rays at home) and the middlin' (Rangers, ChiSox, Royals). So which Jays team will show up, the Keystone Kops of April or the juggernaut of early May? Has the pitching turned the corner with the new closer and the revamped rotation? Are the young guys emerging from their slump? Will Carlos Tosca take a page from the John Gibbons Interim Managerial Handbook and leave his Pitcher Hook in the batrack? The floor is yours.
The entire Jays lineup has apparently been replaced by replicants who make accurate pitches, get first strikes, and make accurate throws on defense. One would hope that this resurgence will continue with Lurch on the mound in the closer to the Angels series.

This Angels team we have seen so far is the Mr. Hyde to the World Series Champs' Dr. Jekyll.
Ultimate Series: The Concept
Recaps: Game 1 *Game 2 * Game 3 Below
Box Scores: Game 1 * Game 2 * Game 3

The scene shifted south of the border to The House That Ruth Built, but the storyline stayed the same in Game 3 of the Ultimate Series between the1977-2002 All-Star New York Yankees and the all-time All-Star Toronto Blue Jays as the Bronx Bombers survived a bizarre ninth-inning Toronto rally for a 4-3 win and a 2-1 series lead.

Those unchanging storylines? Despite the presence of some of the finest relief pitchers in the modern era, both teams stayed with their starting pitching deep into the contest. Both first baseman continued to pound the ball all over the diamond. And the Yankees benched a Hall of Famer.
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Since nobody put up an entry for Game 31, I wanted to mention something I saw in the seventh inning of yesterday's game.
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A couple of brief articles on the Blue Jays' most promising farm club, the AA New Haven Ravens. This profile of the multi-talented outfield of Gabe Gross, Alexis Rios and John-Ford Griffin is both enjoyable and insightful, while this item from The Sporting News touches briefly on Ravens starter Jason Arnold. The odds are good that both Gross and Arnold will be in Toronto by next summer, and Griffin and Rios may well be on a flight north within the following year. Cause for optimism.