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Chicago Cubs at Florida Marlins, 8 PM ET (Game 3)

If there's a game in the playoffs where its okay to get blown out - it's a Game 2 facing Mark Prior. The Fish were a long shot going into the game and after Brad Penny got torched, there wasn't much anyone in the Florida clubhouse could have done.

Mark Redman will need the support of the crowd and the park behind him to succeed tonight - the Cubs hit lefties well (see Division Series entries with Mike Hampton starting for Atlanta for details). The Marlins offence isn't built upon the walk - a good weapon to have against the occasionally wild Wood. They'll have to make the most of their baserunners tonight.

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This just in -- Mike Wilner's guest tonight on the pre-pre-game show (7:00, FAN 590) will be Josh Phelps. The phone lines will be open. A family emergency prevents me from listening, so I hope someone can fill me in on what one of my favourite Jays has to say.

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, 8 PM ET (Game 2)

The Yankees have scored only 18 runs in 5 post-season games, which is almost 2 runs less per game than their regular season rate. Of course you don't face the likes of Tampa Bay and Texas in the post-season so a drop off should be expected. The Red Sox have experienced a similar drop off, but have faced a more impressive assortment of pitchers in their 6 post-season games.

I'm not worried about the linedrive hitters - Jeter, Bernie and Nick Johnson. Posada and Giambi are more of a concern - hitters who depend on the walk and the deep fly. Collectively, they have 8 hits in 40 AB, with 4 doubles, 3 walks and 13 strikeouts. Derek Lowe is fairly good at preventing walks and homerunss, and it's especially difficult to hit homeruns off Pedro. With mediocre offensive players Juan Rivera (I'd love to see them start Sierra) and Aaron Boone at the bottom of the lineup, the offence doesn't look all that great when Jorge and Jason are making outs.

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Here's my end-of-season report for the 2003 Jays. Enjoy.
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Rumours are remarkable things. No one’s entirely sure where they came from (or at least, no one wants to take responsibility for starting them), and once they’ve been around long enough, they become entrenched as urban myths and eventually as generally accepted facts. If you forward that e-mail from Bill Gates, you’re sure to get a free copy of Windows XP.

It’s no different in the sports world, of course. A rumour floated around this past summer that JP Ricciardi had told a scout that if the scout chose to go to a high school game, JP wouldn’t pay his way. It was a graphic illustration of the lengths to which Ricciardi was prepared to go to enforce his strict all-college, no-high-school players rule. Very illuminating -- and completely false. It didn't happen.

Like all successful rumours, this one played off people’s expectations (and more than a few people’s political agendas) to the effect that the Blue Jays had shut down their scouting operations everywhere but collegiate America. But as Jon Lalonde, the Blue Jays’ Director of Scouting, told Batter’s Box in a recent interview, the organization still ranges widely to find the best prospects; they just do it more intelligently, is all.
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On the Blue Jays’ official MLB Website, there’s a complete list of the club’s entire front-office personnel, with Paul Godfrey and JP Ricciardi at the top and scores of names below, more than 200 in all. The list covers such diverse areas as corporate marketing, IT, player development and merchandising. A major-league ballclub’s corporate roster is surprisingly deep and multi-faceted.

Few of these divisions, however, are more important than the Scouting Department, whose 29 listed and many more uncredited members are spread throughout the world, from Canada down throughout the U.S. and into the Caribbean, down as far as Venezuela and across an ocean to Australia. The scouting team includes names like former big-leaguer Sal Butera and Canadian Amateur Baseball Ambassador Jim Fanning.

And standing on top of this list of names is the Blue Jays’ Director of Scouting: 27-year-old Jon Lalonde of Wyevale, Ontario. The story of how he got there, and how he’s contributing to the Blue Jays’ renaissance, is the raw material from which young Canadian baseball fans’ wildest dreams are woven.
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Part 1 of the Mike Wilner Interview
Part 2 of the Mike Wilner Interview

Mike Wilner, one of the voices of the Blue Jays on the cross-Canada Fan Radio Network, was kind enough to sit down with Batter's Box a few short weeks ago to share his insights into the broadcasts and the ballclub.
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Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees, 8 PM ET (Game 1)

I see these two clubs as evenly matched. I don't think level of playoff experience will mean much in this series - many of the Red Sox have plenty of post-season experience. In my mind, the series hinges on the starts made by Pedro Martinez. He's matched up against Roger Clemens, who is vulnerable to teams who walk and have power. On the other hand, Pedro hasn't been all that great against the Yankees in recent years. If Boston can't win both of the Pedro starts, they will probably lose the series.

Game 1's largest variable is Tim Wakefield. He can be great and awful in the same game and often is; Jeter and Soriano will surely attempt some steals if they reach base.

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Florida Marlins at Chicago Cubs, 8 PM ET (Game 2)

No statistics to look at in this preview - I'll be back with a look at the offenses of these clubs in the preview for Game 3

Brad Penny is a finesse pitcher in comparison to most of the other starters we'll see in this series. He is a righthander, which gives him a chance to shut down the Cubs. He'll need to do that to keep his team in the game because opposing him will be the best young pitcher in baseball.

Perhaps it is the memories of his club being blown away by the Yankees oh so many years ago that has propelled one of the great players of our time to another level. There is fire in Ivan Rodriguez' eyes: he's had a huge impact on 3 consecutive playoff games, all of which his team won by 1 run. Can it continue tonight?

Sportsnet have confirmed that they will have Game 2 of the NLCS tonight. For those of you in the Toronto area, FOX 29 Buffalo have told me that they will carry Game 1 of the ALCS. Both games are 8:00 starts. Enjoy!
What the hey? Idly wondering why the afternoon playoff game hadn't started yet, I flipped over to the MLB site to realize that the two LCS games are on tonight, at the same time, on the same network. They couldn't give one game to Fox and the other to ESPN, oh no -- that way, fans could have watched the game they preferred and flipped to the other match now and again. And heaven forfend we have a day game so that each contest could be played by itself -- the almighty advertisers wouldn't like that.

Major-league baseball is too important to be left in the hands of Major League Baseball.
Without further ado, the Batter's Box Salute to the Postseason gets underway with the ten most exciting games in Division Series History.

Other than the extra round of playoffs designed to address the effects of the 1981 labour dispute, the Division Series has only been around since 1995. As such, most Box readers, young and old, can recall most of these games. What follows is one fan's rankings; I open the floor for debate.
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Stephen Tomlinson (can I say the great Stephen Tomlinson?) has released the 2003 edition of his long-running series of "Stat Reports" on his website. Stephen's essays, which cover all of the AL and NL in addition to in-depth analysis of the Jays, are available for all years going back to 1977 and are a great capsule summary of each season.
Part 1 of the Mike Wilner Interview

Most Batter's Box denizens will be familiar with the work of Mike Wilner. Studio host of the Blue Jays radio broadcasts on the FAN radio network, Mike's work goes out across the country before and after every Jays game. He was kind enough to sit down a few weeks ago to answer some questions from Batter's Box. In Part One, we learned about the path to becoming a broadcaster, and a bit about the job. Today, Mike gives us a closer look at this current Blue Jays organization, from the GM to the bullpen coach.
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