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So what do you do when itís May 1 and your favourite major-league team looks like itís lost a fight with a cement mixer? You go look at the minor-leaguers, of course, especially since theyíre the ones upon whom this franchise is really being constructed. The Blue Jays are rebuilding at every level of the system, and despite the sorry recent results in Toronto, thereís reason for solid optimism for the future.

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of monthly updates on the progress (or lack thereof) of key Blue Jays prospects and other denizens of the organizationís minor-league system. Not all prospects are accounted for, just the ones with notable performances thus far. All stats are current through April 29. Here we go.
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He is sorely needed. The ace is on the mound trying to break the Ranger's ten game winning streak against the Jays.

Lovely end to the first for Halladay with the strike-em-out throw-em-out DP.
Here's part two of the Jays' report card for April 2003, in which I cover the pitchers. The young and impressionable among you may want to avert your eyes.
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When I was running my own Blue Jays fan website for two years (2000 and 2001), I used to write up a monthly report card for each Blue Jay, assigning grades from A+ to F, often on a whim. I thought I'd try it again with this year's Jays. Enjoy.
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Doubleheader for me today; before watching part two of the shootout at the SkyDome corral, I'll be at Talbot Park coaching the Ursula Franklin Academy Flames in our season opener. This game is reminiscent of the Jays' first series of 2003 -- might as well start against the best. In our case, it's 3-0 Leaside. Ranked #2 in the Star poll, they've already won the Ontario Showcase tournament (MVP pitcher/SS Mark Sikorski was the paper's Athlete of the Week) and are strong contenders for the provincial finals at the Dome June 10-12.

Our much smaller school competed in Tier II last year, and had a fine season, reaching the city semi-finals. This year, with a number of graduating seniors, a Team Ontario righthander and a talented crop of Grade 9 and 10 players, we decided to move up to Tier I. So it's a David-Goliath scenario this afternoon (Bayview & Eglinton, 4:00, weather permitting) and we're hoping to benefit from the experience. But we're starting our ace, and they might take us lightly. I hope we stay relaxed and have fun; if we win the first inning, youneverknow.
Mike Moffatt said it less than an hour into last night's embarrassment: "The fans are certainly getting their money's worth tonight." This morning, Dave Perkins has the same take in the Star, and in the Globe and Mail, Stephen Brunt ignores the awful ballgame, saying, "This was about the city that the rest of Canada loves to hate, embracing and reassuring itself."

It's not easy to embrace the bullpen or be reassured that the problems there are temporary. I'm less disappointed in Hendrickson's start (though I wish he'd followed my advice to pitch around A-Rod) or Kershner's ineffectiveness (it happens, and Tosca got him out of there promptly) than I am in Tam and Escobar. One's just not good enough -- maybe in 2000 and 2001, but no more -- and the other has exhausted everyone's patience on and off the field. It had been a very long day, so I had the sound turned down and was falling asleep by the time Kelvim the Indifferent came in -- what was the crowd's reaction?

Reliable, consistent Dave Berg, 3-for-5 in his second consecutive start at 2B, seems to have replaced the erratic Hudson. It's time for Cliff Politte, who doesn't always succeed but at least shows up, to be named the closer. The next time I have to watch Escobar, I hope it's in another uniform.
I'll pinch-hit for Coach and set up the log for tonight's tilt; Juan Gonzalez has already gone yard. 2-0 Rangers before you can say "2-0 Rangers."
According to a newsflash e-mail from D/FW stalwart Rangers expert Jamey Newberg's legendary Newberg Report, the Toronto Blue Jays have placed a waiver claim on recently-released LHP Doug Davis.

I now officially have a reason to root for Toronto.

Doug Davis ... Blue Jay. Discuss.
So rumor has it that your Toronto Blue Jays might soon be Blue no more. If anything good comes out of this, at least it's another opportunity for ...

Baseball's Hall of Names: Episode III
The True Colors Edition

Let's see if we can build a team entirely composed of players whose last names are colors. (Are the color wheels whirring in your head already? You got your Whites and your Browns and your Greens ...

Ah, but there is one rule (of course) ...
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For a staff that's been far too hittable this season, the wrong opponent is coming into town. Having said that, they're facing a Texas staff that's been, in some ways, even worse (though against very tough opposing lineups). The next three nights may see a pitcher's duel, but I sure wouldn't bet on it.

Of course, the significance of this series goes beyond a mere matchup between two hard-hitting, soft-tossing clubs. Loonie Day or no Loonie Day, the Jays will have a packed house tonight. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Jays, particularly outside the GTA, is that the Jays have become irrelevant to the city of Toronto.

In 2001, even if there were 18,000 at the games, the FAN switchboard lit up with outrage when Gordo waived Tony Batista. Fans care, but we have learned that fans will respond to winning and winning only. There are still an awful lot of people in Toronto that honestly can't understand why the Yankees always get the Mussinas and the Jays settle for the Sturtzes. To them, baseball is a sport where Toronto can win a title and lead the league in payroll, because it really didn't happen too long ago.

Jays fans want to love the team again. They really do. But whenever the Jays have had an opportunity to recapture the city since 1993, the Jays have turned in poor performances. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, the Jays were at least in an interesting situation in August and early September -- only to get hammered in front of large walk-up crowds by the likes of Boston and Oakland. In 1997, the Dome was rocking on Canada Day against the Expos -- but the Jays allowed Jeff Juden (!) to outduel the Rocket.

This year, Opening Day offered another opportunity to impress a large crowd and sell future tickets, which was again missed. Spotlight's on, Jays. Let's turn this season -- and, at the risk of undue hyperbole, the image of this franchise around tonight.

Oh, and two more things: First, it seems a little silly for a Jays fan living in New York City to be the Advance Scout for the Rangers when Batter's Box's very own Mick Doherty resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Mick, please feel free to be the ombudsperson for today's column: We'd all appreciate your insights and corrections.

Second, thanks to all of you who have offered constructive and helpful suggestions for the Advance Scout column. Please feel free to post with further ideas for improvement. And I'd also like to thank the likes of Mike Moffatt, Rodent, Snellville Jones and several other BB regulars for their kind words of encouragement.

On to the Advance Scout!
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It's official. Dollar Day at the Skydome (tonight's game against Texas) is a sellout, with every available seat going for $1. I'm not a season ticket holder, but if I were, I might be wondering if I'll be getting a refund in the mail sometime soon. But never mind that: it's a great PR move. The Jays look like heroes in the fight against the World Health Organization (that is what we're all fighting here, right?), 40,000 more Torontonians than usual get to see the team, and the club might be ready to go on another hot streak following the big Sunday comeback.

The forecast for Toronto today is 15 and sunny, going down to just 10 overnight. If anyone from Skydome Inc. is reading this, would you please consider leaving the Dome open tonight? This is fine springtime weather, perfect for watching baseball wearing a light jacket, cotton shirt and jeans. If 50,000 citizens are willing to brave the SARS epidemic, they can certainly brave a slight nip in the air. The Dome is a 100% better place to watch the game with the roof open; please show this huge windfall of an audience how true that is.
An avalanche of runs in the lower minors can't obscure some fine pitching performances in Toronto's farm system and a rare 4-0 sweep for the Young Jays.
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The second full house of the season will feature A-Rod, but not O-Dog. Berg is at second, which means either Hudson's hurt, or he's become a utility infielder.

Teixeira's status as a platoon hitter continues to baffle me, and I think if I was ever going to start Blalock vs. a lefty, it would be Lurch. I respect Showalter as a strategist and motivator, but I've been questioning his lineup all year.
The performance of the Jays bullpen has improved a bit in recent games: instead of collectively blowing games every time they had a late lead, they have managed to provide effective innings to keep the Jays in the game more frequently.

Here are some bullpen numbers through game 26:
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Two weeks ago I was driving from Las Vegas to San Francisco: an eight-hour trek through desert high and low, past lonely towns barely removed from the 19th century. Regrettably, I did not have a CD player, so I was forced to choose between war talk, sports talk, or the ramblings of my mind. The former was nauseating, the latter boring and depressing. Sports talk it was.
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