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ESPN.com has updated its rankings of how teams have improved this offseason. Philadelphia maintains its #1 status followed by Baltimore and Boston, while last place deservedly belongs to Pittsburgh, whose marquee signing is the illustrious Daryle Ward.

Toronto dropped from third to ninth in the new rankings. ESPN.com generally limits its comments to recent activity, offering the tepid observation that there’s “no harm adding a left-hander to the bullpen” in reference to Valerio de los Santos.
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Mike Gullo of The Minors First has released his 4th annual ranking of the Top 100 Minor Leaguers (Thanks to Steve Z, who initially linked to this in the Hijack thread). Mike describes his ranking philosophy as a little more results oriented than some lists and I do give slightly greater weight to the likelihood of players reaching their potential. I don't consider this just a list rating players' ceilings.
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Every so often, I like to pull out my old Abstracts and re-read an essay or two. My very favourite is the Kansas City Royals essay in the 1986 Baseball Abstract, in which Bill James recounts the history of major league baseball in Kansas City. His life has spanned that era, and the essay concludes with the local nine climbing to the pinnacle of the baseball world, beating the Blue Jays and Cardinals in two thrilling playoff series in 1985.

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Our new design, to be unveiled soon, will make Da Box easier to navigate, but we can always use a little help. By popular demand, we will be creating a Features page, listing articles of special interest. You know, those timeless posts that newcomers may have missed, and regulars might want to revisit.

Though many of the more than 1,300 entries in the archives had a limited shelf life, and a few are best forgotten, here's your chance to nominate other deserving threads. We're not issuing any awards, merely trying to compile a convenient directory of the articles you liked best.

For example, Dave Till's "Blue Jays Minor League Register," which records for posterity the Buzz Factor of prospects past and present, appeared in two parts: Hitters, A-K and Hitters, L-Z. Comments at the time included "epic," "awesome," "tremendous," and Dave's own modest description -- "bandwidth-choking." Consider it included.
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In a review of the year's predictions, good and bad, Richard Griffin takes the time to look back on predictions in columns of 2003. While one of these in particular is not as accurate as our resident Nostradamus' version, they stir interest. If there's one thing that we humans wish we could do, it's predict the future accurately.

In that spirit, here is your chance to show off your psychic powers: the Batter's Box Crystal Ball, 2004 edition.
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A few eyebrows were raised when the Jays hired former Marlin pitching coach Brad Arnsberg to be their pitching coach in Syracuse this year. Arnsberg was of course most recently the pitching coach of the Marlins, and he along with Jeff Torborg were blamed for the injuries to many of the Marlin pitchers, most notably AJ Burnett.

Now Arnsberg is going to be in charge of developing the top pitchers in the Jays system. Jason Arnold will likely start the season in Syracuse, but David Bush and Dustin McGowan aren't likely to stay in AA for more than half the season, if that.

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On the Official Site, there's an excellent recap of the 2003 season by Spencer Fordin. It's in chronological order, with dozens of links to the major stories.

This enjoyable look back at a roller-coaster year got me thinking, which is always dangerous. There were so many highlights for Jays fans, it's hard to pick one as the best, or even compile a top ten. So I thought I'd invite everyone to help. How do you compare great plays, such as Kielty's catch, to accomplishments that took four at-bats (Delgado's homers), four days (the sweep in Yankee Stadium) or an entire season, like Doc's Cy Young award?
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The Jays signed their replacement for Trever Miller: Valerio de los Santos, erstwhile Brewer and late-season acquisition by (who else?) Philadelphia. The 31-year-old Dominican was signed to a one-year deal for $850,000.
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Sure, Roy Halladay won some award named after an ex-pitcher. But he didn't win (okay, he wasn't even eligible for) the award named for an ex-pitcher. It's Boxing Day, and the final results of the inaugural Andujar "youneverknow" Award balloting are here.

Thirteen different players received votes; five of those received first-place votes. But the clear winner -- sorry, pre-season favorite John Halama; apologies, runner-up Scott Podsednik -- was Chicago White Sox ace Esteban Loaiza.

Details follow.
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I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone. If you're reading today, you're a die-hard!

Anybody get any cool presents?
John Sickels is one of the best sources of evaluations of minor league players. His evaluations tend to be a little more statistically oriented compared to Baseball America, but they certainly aren't the only basis for his evaluations.
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Okay, seriously ... time to vote. One e-mail address, one vote, just like the MLB Some-Star Game. And this time, it's for Box History ... the premiere award of the first Andujar YouNeverKnow, to be announced right here on Da Box Dec. 26 ... Boxing Day, natch.

It's time to Joaq the Vote. If you're new here, go back and read the original announcement and rules, then pop over to meet the 12 finalists (and one significant write-in suggestion) ... the voting so far is shockingly close.

You just pick your favorites any time before the extended Dec. 24 deadline (that's tomorrow at midnight Eastern time) ... vote for up to 5 ... and wait for the announcement of the winner. It's easier than trading a quarter-billion-dollar shortstop, more interesting than a Brewers/Rays twi-night doubleheader in August, and more important than who Roger Clemens will pitch for next year.

Voting not limited to "regulars" ... lurkers welcome. Vote now or David Wells will return to Toronto!

Just don't drive after.
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What could that title possibly mean? The first part refers to a Diamond Mind 2004 projection disk that Baseball Primer's Dan Szymborski has created, using his own projection system called ZiPS. Dan has produced 5 builds of the disk so far. I have added transactions up to and including the Javy Lopez signing (with Baltimore). The "Dudek" part refers to my own efforts to create Manager Profiles for all the AL teams.

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ESPN.com offers rankings of how teams have fared in their offseason moves. Obviously, they were unswayed by Richard Griffin's "stuck in neutral" propaganda, as the Blue Jays are rated third in all of baseball. No credit is given for improving the bullpen with Ligtenberg and Speier, but we're told that Toronto has "quietly added some solid starters to complement a dangerous offense."

The Phils, who acquired Billy Wagner, Eric Milton and Tim Worrell without losing much, are accorded the top spot. Their divisional rivals in Atlanta, clearly moving in the opposite direction, are ranked 26th. I think the Red Sox, with Schilling and Foulke, have improved more than anyone, and I don't understand the reference to 5th-rated Boston's "overall loss of offense," but I love the comment on the 25th-place Bronx Bombers:

Yankees' players thought '03 was a dysfunctional mess; they ain't seen nothing yet.

These lists aren't scientific, just fun. Whoever compiled this one thinks that the Mariners haven't slipped, which is amusing, and they seem to be giving credit for moves that haven't happened yet, especially in Baltimore, L.A. and San Francisco. When the music stops and another 150+ free agents scramble for jobs, we'll have a better idea of the real winners and losers, but no matter what else happens, the Jays' efforts have put them near the top of the pack.