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I'm a baseball traditionalist. I'd prefer to see the next Toronto playoff team look like the one that won two World Series. I'm against cash grabs, and fixing stuff that ain't broke, so don't expect a rave review. I wasn't consulted, anyway. When the Jays, the team formerly known as Blue, were doing their marketing surveys, they took one look at this grey-haired middle-aged dude with a large belly and a large beer and said, "not our demographic."

According to the press release it's a "dynamic" look. I'm sure it is, but I hate the lettering; middle-aged eyes take at least three blinks to figure out what the hell it says.

The bird is a big improvement, an authentic Fighting Jay. I like him.

Is there another city where the media eat their sports teams alive like Boston? The latest imbroglio involves Manny Ramirez, who missed a critical game against the Yankees with a sore throat, then was reportedly spotted at a hotel bar later that night -- with a member of the opposing Yanks, no less. You have to get down to the bottom of this article, based almost entirely on a Boston Globe piece, before you discover that no one has actually confirmed Ramirez, who lives in the hotel, was anywhere near the bar. Shades of a water-skiing Kelly Gruber. Just another reason why pro athletes with an ounce of sense should stay far away from Boston and its gnawing, insecure, self-loathing fans and media.
Instead of rolling to a Cy Young award, the wheels started wobbling for Roy Halladay in August, when he was 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA. He's still having a great year, and going 15-0 for three months is no small accomplishment. Doc will have five more starts this month, and with a good finish can reach 200 strikeouts while winning 20 games. He faces a depleted Yankee lineup this afternoon, with Jeter out, Soriano battling a sore thumb and Giambi in a mini-slump.

David Wells is 4-6, 5.42 in 13 career starts against his former team, and 0-1, 9.00 in two previous outings this year. Poor, misunderstood Boomer is waging a war in the tabloids with his employers again, after his work habits were questioned recently. He whined about being singled out for "one bad start," but he's winless in his last six, allowing 48 hits and an uncharacteristic 12 walks in those 35 innings. Vernon Wells (7-for-12) owns his namesake, and Tom Wilson (6-for-8 with three doubles) should also be in the lineup, but Kevin Cash is being thrown back on the horse, and the red hot Josh Phelps is the DH. O-Dawg and Bordick seem to be platooning; Mike hits second.

Mike Wilner is about to chat with some of the local writers, including Richard Griffin, on The FAN 590.
It's the end of summer. The Jays are out of contention. We all grow relentlessly older. Blah. Here's my August report card for the Jays.
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Since I'm in town for the weekend, and spending time with friends and family, I can only come up with a Mini-Advance Scout for this series. I'll be back at my Manhattan perch in time for the next series, where hopefully the tabloids will be screaming disappointment after the Bombers' series north of the border.

It's an interesting series for the Jays, as they've inserted a rare mid-series off-day in order to capture some Tonawanda revenue with a Labour Day tilt. Today's opponent on the mound, of course, needs no introduction; it's a particularly sweet opportunity for Doc to pad his win totals.

By the end of this series, the Jays will have exhausted their responsibility to play their best every night; no more meaningful baseball in 2003, as the last 22 games are against the league's also-rans. They will even be through with their logo and possibly their uniforms; the Jays' new look gets premiered at Roots during tomorrow's off-day, and local advertisements have hinted at the possibility of a "Turn Ahead The Clock Day" on Wednesday; might the Jays be sporting new threads?

Apologies for the brevity this week. Enjoy the series!

On to the Mini-Advance Scout!

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And then there were six. OK, twelve. Actually, because of first-round byes, only eight of 20 teams will be in action this week, as the inaugural regular season of the Batter's Box Fantasy League is complete. Snellville Jones' Gashouse Gorillas took command in early May and never looked back -- congratulations!

With a poor prediction after leaping to a premature conclusion, I "awarded" second to Baird Brain last week, only to have Jurgen admonish me for jinxing him. Oops. I figured he couldn't get blanked (he did lose 8-4 to Jicks Rays) and someone would need to be perfect to catch him. Someone was; Billies Bashers rode a 12-0 week against Geoff's Grumpy Group into the runner-up spot and a bye.

The league's best team down the stretch, the Thunderbirds, also enjoyed a 12-0 week, whipping the Fish Candy, but Justin will have to settle for a bye in the consolation round. My staggering Toronto Walrus did not completely collapse, beating Garces_not_on roids 9-3 to hang on to the final spot in the championship bracket. Scott Lucas and his Nation Builders finished fourth, with Gwyn Price's Mebion Glyndwr fifth; both teams enter the playoffs on a roll, winning 10-1 and 11-0, respectively. The winner of their first-round battle could go all the way, with the coveted Ricciardi/Tosca autographed T-shirt up for grabs this month.
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Coming off a difficult defensive inning in the bottom of the 9th in Cleveland, the Jays provided the faithful with a wonderful effort on Labour Day versus the Yankees. A stellar defensive play by Reed Johnson, throwing out Nick Johnson at 2nd base for a double-oops-single, snuffed out a potentially big top of the first for the Yankees. Roy Halladay was nearly flawless the rest of the way, and the Jays got offense from up and down the lineup to win going away.

That kind of baseball is why many of us thought of them as candidates to win 90 games this year earlier in the season. One problem has been the occasional stretches of poor, sometimes abysmal, defensive play. Contenders don't often beat themselves and the Jays' defense and bullpen has done too much of it.

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Leigh Sprague comes up with a nice pinch-hit, examing Eric Hinske's lack of homeruns this year in the context of hitters with similar groundball/flyball ratios.

There's no doubt in my mind that Eric's hand injury has led to a loss of power and I don't expect much to change in the last month of the season, but I'm optimistic that Eric will hit more homeruns next year.

Take it away, Leigh ...
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It's been a long time since Toronto has swept a 3-game series: June 10-12 versus Pittsburgh to be exact.

Last night, the Jays made some mistakes, but the Indians made many more. Toronto accumulated 23 baserunners to Cleveland's 8 (H+W+HBP), and you're going to win most nights when you do that.

Mark Hendrickson goes against Billy Traber this afternoon. I'm anxious to see what Traber, who was part of a talented package the Indians obtained for Roberto Alomar and a couple of fringe players, can do.
There have been times this year when a Toronto pitcher, like Mark Hendrickson, has been faced with pitching a good game, or losing his rotation spot. Tonight in Cleveland, Cory Lidle is in the opposite position. If he wants to finish the year with the Jays, he needs to pitch poorly; a good outing will increase his chances of being traded at the deadline. Earlier today on the radio, Mike Wilner suggested that Lidle hasn't had the best time in Toronto and would be happy to leave, so perhaps he's motivated tonight. Given the incredibly close playoff races in both leagues, there would be plenty of interest if Cory appears to be 100% recovered from his left groin strain.

Righty Jake Westbrook is a complete unknown to most of the Jays, having faced them in two relief appearances back in 2001. He's 2-3, 5.54 in seven starts since the break, and is usually gone by the sixth inning. I am disappointed with one aspect of the lineup; Josh Phelps, with 12 RBI in his last 14 games, is on the bench. Kevin Cash is the catcher again, so Greg Myers is the DH.

No play-by-play from me tonight; we're having dinner with friends. We might see a few innings in the background, but I won't be on line. I'm sure everyone is looking forward to more live reports from Eddie and Pete at the Jake.
Consider this a catch-all thread to discuss whatever's on people's minds this long weekend. Andy Pettitte vs. Pedro Martinez at Fenway should be interesting. The Expos. Those crazy Central Division races. The BBFL. Eric Gagne's Cy Young chances.
Congratulations to the New Haven Ravens, who clinched their division, for the first -- and last -- time in their ten-year history. The players, coaches, manager and the entire organization should be proud. I envy Pistol and others who got to see this team, and hope we get more eyewitness reports in the Eastern League playoffs. A best-of five against the New Britain Rock Cats, the Twins farm club, seems likely. The Southern Division champion Akron Aeros (Cleveland) will play Pittsburgh's Altoona Curve; the winners will meet in a five game series. Go Ravens!

(from the site) Rios Breaks Record in Style

In front of a sellout crowd of 6,246 fans at historic Yale Field on Saturday August 23, outfielder Alexis Rios set the team record for hits in a season in dramatic fashion. He started with an RBI single in the first inning to tie the record, set by first baseman John Gall last season. He then broke the record with a solo homerun in the fifth inning, his tenth of the season and second in as many nights. The Ravens went on to win the game 8-3. Rios is currently leading the Eastern League in batting average and was recently named to the post-season All-Star team.


I miss Gideon's (and Neary's) farm reports -- we're spoiled -- and don't have time to do the research today, so discuss amongst yourselves. Hope the move is going well, Jordan. Much happiness in your new home.
Thanks to the tireless work of Coach Kent, Batter's Box has secured an upcoming interview with the Toronto Star's principal baseball writers, Geoff Baker and Richard Griffin. The best part? They have kindly agreed to let our readers ask the questions.

Now the Star gets a lot of criticism around here for its often-controversial baseball coverage, but I think we can all agree that these two gentlemen have showed a lot of class in agreeing to take questions from what may be a hostile audience. I'd like to venture over a slightly broader range than just the Star coverage; I'm sure some of you would as well... the beat writer's and columnist's jobs are pretty interesting, and these guys watch a lot of baseball, so they have interesting things to say. But feel free to ask them anything that's on your mind.

We ask that you keep it clean, and please get your questions in by Monday afternoon. Some of our Batter's Box writers will pick the questions that get asked; we'll get to as many as we can.

E-mail your questions to Coach Kent.
Yes, there is no finer city in the full splendour of autumn anywhere in the world than Montreal. But add playoff baseball to the mix? Heavenly.
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Finally, a look at the Indians, who the Advance Scout says are "in expanded-roster mode already" with a lot of inexperienced players vying for future jobs. Apart from DH Matt Lawton, nobody in tonight's Cleveland lineup has 600 big-league at-bats. They will face talented enigma Kelvim Escobar, who got rocked in his latest, further exaggerating his odd splits at home (3-7, 6.39) and on the road (6-1, 2.04) this season.

Against giant lefty C.C. Sabathia, conservatively listed at 6'7" and 290, the Jays will send up eight righty bats and Carlos Delgado. O-Dawg, F-Cat, Myers, and Hinske are on the bench with Tom Wilson. Bordick is at 2B, Berg at 3B, Phelps the DH and Cash behind the plate. Bobby Kielty, hitting .389 off Sabathia (8-for-17) with two homers and a 1.310 OPS, returns to right field. Sabathia is 2-0 with a ridiculous 0.75 ERA in two previous starts against the Jays, and he's won four of his last five starts, allowing more than two runs just once. Escobar's done well vs, the Tribe in his career (2-1, 3.77, 3 SV) so this shapes up, on paper at least, as a pitchers' duel.