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So the Blue Jays would like to have a reliable closer in 2004. This doesn't mean they're going to sign Roberto Hernandez to a multi-year deal, but it does mean that they'd like to have someone who can be counted on to shut down the opposition late in the game. The ideal candidate would be affordable (probably no more than $3 million for a one-year deal, preferably less) and resilient (the Jays are not devotees of the exclusively ninth-inning reliever, so someone willing and able to enter with two on and one out in the 8th and finish the game would be welcome). Here's an article detailing the best closing candidates on the market; lower-priced names like Tom Gordon, Latroy Hawkins, Rod Beck, Tim Worrell and even Armando Benitez have been tossed around by Jays fans. With such a bumper crop available, the odds of bringing in a solid pitcher for a budget price seem promising. Even if not, there are reasonable in-house candidates like Aquilino Lopez, Jason Kershner and, in a pinch, Cliff Politte. Longer-term solutions at Triple-A include flamethrower Adam Peterson and perhaps even dark horse Jason Arnold. So here's our question: who do you think will lead the Jays in saves in 2004, and how much will he cost?
Thanks to Steve Z for this entertaining interview of Roy Halladay by Denver Post sportswriter Adam Schefter. Among the highlights:

AS: Single most memorable moment from this past baseball season?

RH: It wasn't one moment. It was three from the last week of the season. We had Vernon Wells set a hits record for the franchise, Carlos Delgado had a four-home run game and I was able to get my 22nd win the day after that. Those three days were unbelievable.

AS: Why do you suppose the murder rate in Canada is so low?

RH: Probably because they're all drunk and in fistfights. They go for hockey fights instead of for the violence that we see. That'd be my guess.


The first quote reinforces what an amazing team player this guy is; the second demonstrates that there's a pretty funny young man lurking behind that polite, polished exterior we see in post-game interviews. Halladay would probably be a great guy to go drinking with.
Due to popular demand, we're starting up a new feature here at Batter's Box. This thread, Hijack Central, will be the place to post word of breaking news stories in baseball, particularly those that concern the Blue Jays: trades, signings, hot rumours and other off-season developments. If the news is significant enough, one of the administrators will create a new thread specifically to discuss the transaction, and post a note to that effect in Hijack Central. So in future, if you've just heard of a report of great interest to Bauxites, post it here with a link, rather than in the nearest thread. And keep watching the "20 Hot Topics" down the left-hand side of the page to see if Hijack Central has recently been updated -- that's where you'll find the latest news!
The good folks at Baseball America have begun their annual off-season review of the best prospects in each of the 30 major-league organizations. They began with the National League East, which means that the Montreal Expos were among the first clubs profiled. Here's the list of the 'Spos Top Ten prospects (non-BA subscribers can only access the first one on the list, Clint Everts), and here's a Q-and-A session with the writer, Michael Levesque. Aside from the fact that most of the questions seem to have been posed by Dave from Maryland, it's quite a good read.
I keep hearing rumours about Pat Hentgen going hither and going thither. Some of those rumours appear to have him heading back to Toronto. So: do you think the Jays should sign him?
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Hey, it's something. Also, the Giants traded pitcher Joe Nathan to the Twins for A.J. Pierzynski, possibly opening the Joe Mauer era in Minnesota. The Twins also picked up Boof Bonser, who had been passed by Jesse Foppert, Jerome Williams, and Kurt Ainsworth on the Giants depth chart, and Francisco Liriano, a pitcher who I know nothing about. Maybe I missed some stuff, but that about sums up the GM meetings. Is it me or did these kinds of meetings used to be fun? Now it's Questec, steroid/drug use, and far too much Bud Selig and Don Fehr, whereby "far too much" means "any."
A while ago, Twins blogger Seth Stohs wanted to identify which players had the best stats at the lowest cost, so he divided OPS by salary. That article got so much response, it spawned today's Bang For The Buck - The Remix, featuring tables like Win Shares per Million and RARP/Million. Seth, who admits he's no sabremetrician but welcomes feedback, then combines four different metrics for his final tally. The biggest bargain? Marcus Giles, by any yardstick. Vernon Wells earned his salary, too. Fun stuff; I'd like to see the team numbers.
And so does the Score Bard, the funniest and most creative blogger on the Net. If you haven't read his Random Diamond Notes Generator or his playoff haiku, then you've been missing out on some amazing baseball-related wordplay that does more than just border on genius. His latest creation, the Periodic Table of Blogs, includes our very own Batter's Box! We're indexed under beryllium, which I'm told is a metallic lead-grey element whose metal can be obtained by electrolysis of molten beryllium dichloride containing some sodium chloride. Remarkably, that was also how I was described in my high school yearbook. Visit the Score Bard today and forward his URL to friends who'll appreciate his work.
Richard Griffin checks in with a timely report from the GM meetings in Phoenix, where there was rain, but at least no sleet or wind. Here's his assessment of the new, post-ARod marketplace:

For the first time since the inglorious era of collusion, ownership appears to be firmly in control of the free-agent market. Supply exceeds demand. In a 15-day period following the conclusion of the World Series, more than 200 players filed for free agency. That's the equivalent of eight full major-league rosters. Astonishing! They will be joined in the next 37 days by over 100 additional artificially created free agents — arbitration-eligible players not tendered contracts by the Dec. 20 deadline.

Bingo. Owners may be slow, and they may be stupid too, but even they've finally gotten the message that Sandy Alderson and company have been banging into their heads for years: the only people you're bidding against are yourselves, and you're strangling your own marketplace by refusing to non-tender your marginal players. The Blue Jays got a one-year headstart on the competition with their foresight, but that's all. Though it may be wise to wait out the market and see who's still available come January, my sense is that JP normally targets the guys he wants and gets them early. How slow or fast he moves this off-season on names like Tom Gordon and Pat Hentgen will reveal whether his approach this year leans one way or another.
With the Blue Jays gearing up for a new logo and uniform next season, we should remember that love or hate the new look, nothing will compare to the '70s powder-blue soccer-style outfits that Dave Stieb and Jesse Barfield were forced to wear. And that brings us to the subject of the worst uniforms in all sports, the subject of a very fun elimination bracket over at ESPN2. The contestant uniforms were all worn during the 2003 season, which explains why there's no classic Astros or Canucks outfits in the bracket (though they cheated, I think, by using a throwback Pirates uniform from a Retro Day this season). For my money, the final should be the Seattle Seahawks versus the San Diego Padres, but that's because I don't think anyone looks good in green unless their first name is Jolly. Cast your votes today!
I've been hoping all year I could use that headline, and now I can: Eric Gagné of Montreal has easily captured the National League Cy Young Award, doubling the point total of second-place finisher Jason Schmidt. Normally I abhor giving relievers the award for best pitcher when they usually throw less than half the innings starters do, but I can't complain about this choice. Gagné's mind-boggling line looks like this: 2-3, 1.20 ERA, 55 saves in 55 chances, 82 IP, 37 H, 20 BB, 137 K. My question: is this not the best season ever posted by a reliever? And where does it stack up among the best pitching seasons of all time? Félicitations, Eric!
There's nothing here about free agents, prospects, stats or awards. It is about baseball, if only as a lifeline for damaged children. It's also personal.

Kudos to Joe Torre, whose new Safe At Home Foundation is promoting education to help break the cycle of domestic violence. There is a fundraising dinner in New York this evening, hosted by Billy Crystal, with Norah Jones performing and Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Bernie Williams and Yogi Berra among the guests. Even if you can't afford the silent auction for items like a Bruce Springsteen guitar and a date for lunch and golf with Torre and Rudy Giuliani, you might want to make a donation at www.joetorre.net via PayPal.
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No real surprises in the Manager of the Year races, and no tight finishes either: Tony Pena's run with the Royals netted him the AL award, easily outdistancing second-place Ron Gardenhire, while Florida' s Jack McKeon made a lot of voters look smart with his World Series win, since they'd already voted him the NL award by a large margin over Dusty Baker. Carlos Tosca garnered a single second-place award, perhaps from a close family member, while someone devoted a third-place ballot to Alan Trammel, presumably on the belief that the Tigers would have lost 130 games with a different guy in charge. So far as I know, managers don't receive bonuses for winning this award as players do for the MVP or Cy. The only time you'll hear of this award after today is as the inevitable ironic observation after the manager is fired about 18 months from now.
This is a test feature, gentlemen, so use it or lose it. "Two Minutes In The Box" is for hockey talk on any subject, no set topics, no restrictions except decorum and good taste - if such a thing applies in the hockey world.

If there is demand, it will continue to make an occasional appearance when one of us feels like posting it. When pitchers and catchers report, don't expect to see it... our minds will be elsewhere. :)

Many, many thanks to sabermetric guru Tangotiger for the genesis of this idea.
A researcher on the Retrosheet mailing list had asked for the PBP and boxscore of Roger Maris's 61st home run. The PBP files for the 1961 season aren't ready yet, but Retrosheet guru David Smith pulled it out in a flash. It's posted here as a historical curiosity - in the knowledge that the best Batter's Box discussions often come from unlikely sources.
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