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During the 6-minute segment, J.P. discusses budget constraints, Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells.

Not a lot we don't already know. J.P. hints that he's going to have about 11 million to work with in the off-season (Stewart and Lidle's contracts added together), versus the 5 million he had last off-season. J.P. added that he turned the 5 million into Sturtze, Cat, Myers, Bordick, and "without mentioning names 3 out of the 4 worked out good for us".

I would have liked the hosts to ask about what plans he had to address the bullpen and how many starters from this year were likely to return to the rotation (Escobar, Towers, Hendrickson?).

Go the Official site's front page and click on the audio link to listen.

In spring training, asked what would constitute a great 2003 season, J.P. Ricciardi said "85 wins," so the GM is pleased, but not satisfied. As he told Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun, .500 was a positive target this year.

"It's not a goal that I would accept five years from now. I don't know if I'm gonna be a GM for 20 years or for 10 years but I do know I don't want to be GM of a club that sits at .500 for five years."
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The New York Yankees are furious about their tie this afternoon. The commissioner's office tried to slip in a couple of games ahead of the storm, which George Steinbrenner said showed "terrible judgment and overall stupidity." It wasn't quite as bad in Philadelphia, though the wind helped Jim Thome's game-winner.

It looks like the Jays may play a 159-game season. They shouldn't even be required to go to Baltimore, and those games are meaningless in the standings. Tonight in Detroit, Josh Towers looks to continue his success as a starter (4-1, 2.83) and earn a place in the 2004 rotation. The 26-year-old Californian shut out the Tigers 10 days ago on four hits in seven innings, following that up with sweet revenge on the Orioles, allowing two runs in 7.2 IP while striking out nine. If Towers stays aggressive, I like his chances to complete the sweep. There's a lot of talk about losing in Detroit. Mike Maroth, roughed up badly in Toronto, tries to avoid #21, and the Tigers have #114 in their minds.

Eric Hinske is batting second against a lefty. He's earned it. I thought Chris Woodward might start, but he's a spectator again; Bordick's glove is important with Berg (now part of a platoon) at second.
Blue Jays fans have had been fortunate to follow 3 players having great years in 2003. There's a chance that all three will finish in the top 10 in AL MVP voting, though none of them is likely to win. One of those three, Roy Halladay, has nosed ahead of Esteban Loaiza for the Cy Young because of his chief rival's poor outing in a crucial game against Minnesota last night. My gut feeling is that if the ChiSox don't make the playoffs, and that's looking likely, Loaiza won't win the Cy.

Carlos Delgado has had the 2nd best year of his career, but the lack of good stuff to hit has cut into his power hitting lately. Vernon Wells continues to pound out the hits and is on track to break the club record this season. Vernon has also earned praise in centrefield, while Carlos has drawn respect for his much improved glovework at the first sack.

So who deserves the Jays' MVP this year? I'll leave discussion of Roy Halladay's credentials for another day.

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Maybe next September, and I hope by 2005, there will be pennant fever in Da Box, but interest is waning as the Jays' season winds down. With 12 games remaining -- three of which might be rained out this weekend, as Baltimore boards itself up in preparation for a hurricane -- it's time for Toronto fans to look elsewhere for baseball excitement.

In both leagues, fantastic playoff races are coming down to the wire, and there's much discussion about the individual awards. Aaron Gleeman has already declared his Twins the AL Central winner, and examines Esteban Loaiza's latest rough outing, which came at the perfect time for Roy Halladay's late charge to his first Cy Young.

The Phillies sent a message to the Marlins last night. A Cubs-Red Sox World Series remains a possibility, though the Astros might disagree. Rob Neyer proclaims A-Rod the MVP, calling the choice, in a friendly nod to the scribes who vote, "dummy-proof."

We'll gear up for three more "big" Jays games (namely Halladay starts, tonight and next week) but let's not overlook the fascinating developments outside the GTA.
Do you think a lot of righthanded Tiger batters complained about little aches and pains and volunteered to sit tonight? Nobody in the AL looks forward to hitting against Roy Halladay. Whether you think the ten-inning shutout, the three straight complete games, the 0.78 ERA on short rest or The Streak was the highlight of his season, it's been tremendous. As Carlos Tosca told Mike Klis of the Denver Post, "You get the feeling he could close for us in the games between his starts."

Mike D compared this to an NCAA hoops tournament mismatch, but if Halladay is Kansas, poor Shane Loux is an intramural team at Humber College. Doc is 8-1 with three complete games and a 1.72 ERA against the Tigers. Loux has an 8.22 ERA at home.

Phelps sits in favour of Cash; Myers could catch, but is the DH. Reed Johnson gets a night off, with Cat and Hinske at the top of the order.
Seventh in a 10-part series

Sometimes it's just too easy to focus on the negative, to cat-call and disparage. As the author Henry James -- if you don't know, ask John Gizzi -- once said, "Of course you're always at liberty to judge the critic. Judge people as critics, however, and you'll condemn them all." So rather than further critiquing the critics, today we look at craft.

If it's true that you can judge a writer by what he reads, then Geoff Baker and Richard Griffin keep some pretty select company.
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Pete Walker got shelled in his final AAA rehab start and gave up three runs and four hits in 4.1 innings in his only AL start since April. Since then, he's allowed one run and three hits over 6.2 relief IP, but he hasn't worked in over a week. At the racetrack, we'd say he might be "short" of peak condition.

Nate Cornejo kept the Jays off balance for nine innings ten days ago, and battled gamely against the Yankees in his latest. I don't expect another shutout, but he is the favourite in this pitching matchup. We'll see if the Toronto hitters have made adjustments.

Bobby Kielty and Greg Myers are sitting this one out against a righty in the latest lineup configuration.
One hundred and eleven.

It's hard discussing anything but the ever-increasing loss total when previewing a series involving the 2003 Tigers. It's not like they have one enormous Achilles' heel to describe, either; they don't hit well, they don't pitch well, they don't field well and they don't run well. They don't take losing that well, but they've also lacked the kind of competitive fire needed to go out and compete hard the next day. Beleaguered manager Alan Trammell described Saturday's effort as "bland" and Sunday's showing as "blah." Too bad Lou Piniella's gainfully employed.

Nate Cornejo has a chance to stop the bleeding tonight, as Pete Walker makes a spot start. But tomorrow's Halladay-Loux match-up is reminiscent of one of those Kansas-Prairie View A&M games in the first two days of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Josh Towers hopes to continue his strong pitching of late in the series finale.

On to the Advance Scout!

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Kent and Jordan are going to be scarce around here for the next few days, as Real Life (that cartoon villain that he is) intrudes roughly on the paradisal idyll that is Da Box. I'll try to hold up my (normally silent) end of the Management Triumvirate.

Both gentlemen apologise (unnecessarily) for their absence.

Congratulations to R Billie and Scott Lucas on reaching the BBFL finals, defeating the Coach and Snellville Jones respectively.
Remember spring training? Back then, the Blue Jays' rotation looked like this: Roy Halladay, Cory Lidle, Tanyon Sturtze, Pete Walker and Mark Hendrickson. Had we told you back then that Lurch would have been the second-best starter of the lot -- and that his mid-September line would be 9-9, 5.46, 153 IP, 199 H, 39 BB, 75 K -- then you'd probably have predicted the Jays and Rays would be battling for the basement right about now. Thanks to the big bats and the remarkable in-season transformation of Kelvim Escobar, the Jays might yet hit their 85-win plateau. But it's no thanks to their erstwhile #2 and 3 starters.
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Congratulations to Billie's Bashers and Nation Builders, who will meet in the two-week championship final. In last week's report, I said, "Our big July deal (he got Giambi and Morris; I got Lowell and Schilling) might come back to haunt me, but I have no regrets."

R Billie won the match 7-4 because he won the trade: compare 4-4-0-.375-.516-.667 from Giambi and 7.0-0-0-2.57-0.71-5.00 from Morris to Lowell being on the DL and Schilling unable to start. A complete game win by Curt would have made the difference for the Walrus, but it wasn't meant to be.

In the other semi-final, the Gashouse Gorillas, who led most of the way in the regular season, were eliminated. The 7-5 margin was extremely close -- Scott took ERA 4.09 to 4.15; considering that's the primary tiebreaking category, Snellville lost the match by .06, or less than a run.
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Sixth in a 10-part series

In a recent interview with Batter's Box, Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was characteristically blunt about his relationship with the media.

"I really donít care what the writers say about me," Ricciardi said at the time. "Because in the end, they donít really count."

While it's true that anyone who lives in the public eye -- as Ricciardi does -- has to turn a blind eye to the criticism offered his way or risk being drowned in it, it's also true that the work of those writers he "doesn't care about" is often the first and only line of communication between the team and the fans.

Both Toronto Star Blue Jays beat writer Geoff Baker and columnist Richard Griffin have had plenty to say about "the Ricciardi Regime" since former G.M. Gord Ash left town -- some quite good, and some extremely critical.
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Colby Cosh, Canadian UberBlogger, National Post columnist and Sabermetric devotee, takes up the cause of the Expos. The blocking of Montreal calling up the likes of Terrmel Sludge for the stretch run Cosh calls "the overt, collusive, unapologetic manipulation of a pennant race". Right on! the Expos have been kicked around too much, why not kick back a bit. Cosh suggests a class action suit against Major League Baseball whose plaintiffs would include anyone who bought a ticket to an Expos game, home or away, this year.

I'd join it like a shot. What do the ZLC's legal experts think of the idea ?
In the the New York Times Magazine, Pat Jordan writes about flamethrowers (registration required) like Bobby Jenks, Steve Dalkowski, Kerry Wood and Billy Wagner, beginning with this observation.

The year 2003 may go down as the year the stat geeks won over organized baseball, converting the evaluation of talent from art into science.

The author, a big fan of scouts and "stuff" who apparently hasn't seen as much of Billy Koch as we have, feels compelled to take one more swipe.

The stat geeks are officially neutral on the importance of the 100-m.p.h. pitch -- whether an out is recorded off a blazing fastball or a fluttering knuckler makes no difference to them. And they are leery of old-school scouts who tend to be overly impressed with rudimentary gifts like velocity, while overlooking the other skills that make a major-league pitcher successful.

Leery? I think it's the other way around. Somebody sounds worried about SABR-rattlers.