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There's a storm brewing... over the Yankees postponing Thursday afternoon's game against the Devil Rays due to "expected rain", on an afternoon that turned out to be lovely.
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Perhaps you are aware of the best leadoff prospect in baseball since Wade Boggs. He happens to play third base and is property of the Boston Red Sox. His name is Kevin Youkilis - a minor deity featured in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and coveted by Oakland GM Billy Beane. One wonders how much the presence of Youkilis in the Sox' organisation weighed on Beane's original decision to jump ship. One also wonders whether the negotiated compensation for Oakland (Youkilis) was what pulled Billy back aboard. But I digress...
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We were discussing crappy "All-Stars" in yesterday's Notes thread, and I thought I'd take a shot at compiling a preliminary list of some really pathetic All-Stars from the last thirty-five years. Here they are:
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Well, they're there for the time being, anyway -- maybe even through 2004, according to recent reports. Canadian baseball fans should enjoy these Toronto-Montreal matchups while we can: we're seeing the tail end of history unfolding. Mark Hendrickson, whose performances are being watched closely by a front office with a gradually increasing number of starting options in the minors, pitches for the Jays, while Sun-Woo Kim gets the call for les Expos. If you hear a loud roar of engines, some gunfire and lots of police sirens during the game, that'll be Jose Theodore 's box.
On many clubs, the first-base coach is a former player who remains popular with the fans. It's almost an honourary position, with limited responsibilities. Not so with the Blue Jays, who want every coach to be an experienced teacher. John Gibbons, who has manned the post in Toronto since last summer, has paid his professional dues, and then some. Don't let the laid-back country-boy exterior fool you; a shrewd baseball mind lurks beneath.

As a minor-league manager in the Mets' system, Gibbons won championships in the Appalachian League and Florida State League, then guided AAA Norfolk to a division title in 2001. The 41-year old is also unbeaten as a bench boss in the majors -- when Carlos Tosca attended his daughter's graduation in early May, "Gibby" stepped in as interim skipper for two straight wins. After watching him hit ground balls during batting practice prior to a recent game, Batter's Box caught up with #58 in the Jays' dugout.
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The lower minors are in full swing, which is a good thing in Auburn and a not-so-good thing in Pulaski. Rain in Dunedin and Charleston, but otherwise, some interesting results down on the farm last night.
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Cory Lidle was against the four-man rotation idea. If he believes that he's better pitching every fifth day, that makes it so. Robert examined the signifcance of Lidle's rest prior to his latest start. If the Jays can adjust their rotation to accomodate Cory in a week with an off-day and a rainout, so much the better.

He was cruising along for five innings against the Cubs that afternoon, then about ten minutes after I typed, "How do we like Lidle on normal rest?" in Sunday's game thread, he imploded. I don't know why, but it wasn't the first time. Keep repeating: Cory gets better in the second half. An unknown quantity to the exhausted, depleted Expos, Lidle has sharp control of an assortment of pitches, so I don't see why he shouldn't join Doc as a 10-game winner. Mr Tosca will have lots of pinch-hitting options, including Josh Phelps, so depending on the score and the batting order, we should see the bullpen in action early and the debuts of both new Toronto relievers.

Javier Vazquez, one of the pitchers I would most like to see in a Toronto uniform, has retired countryman Carlos Delgado in eight previous at-bats, but this is a different year. He tired in the seventh against Oakland in his latest at around the 100-pitch mark, so the Jays will again be conscious of their deep-in-the-count philosophy. Should be a good game, the best of the series on paper, and if the Jays win, another sweep is a distinct possibility.
We all know about the "big picture" difficulties baseball's most mistreated franchise continues to face. But this weekend features a variety of intriguing "small picture" issues that will more directly impact the Expos' Pearson Cup series against the Jays. Simply put, the Expos aren't just doomed; they're also tired and injured heading into this weekend.

Will the tremendously-relieved-to-be-home club resume its excellent play at the Big O, charged with adrenaline? Or will they have nothing left in the tank after a 22-game road trip that included three games in their last two days?

Will the Expos get any offensive production whatsoever beyond Brad Wilkerson and their outstanding middle infield? Or will pitching, including their surprising bullpen, carry them through the weekend?

Javier Vazquez, the man on the mound in tonight's opener, presents the toughest match-up for the Jays this weekend -- though he's been susceptible to the longball. The pitches of Sun Woo Kim and Livan Hernandez will probably be more to the liking of the Jays' eager bats.

On a more personal note, I'm checking out for vacation. Look for Coach and/or Gitz to pinch-Scout for me for two of the next three series.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Jays fans have to be excited about the published reports that George Steinbrenner wants to hire Lou Piniella.
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First off, heartiest congratulations to Aaron Gleeman and Aaron's Baseball Blog who passed 100,000 hits yesterday morning. Aaron's got the best true "blog" in baseball and he gives me dozens of ideas for these Notes too; the man's an idea machine. We're hot on your heels for 100,000 hits Aaron; wanna race to 1,000,000?
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A few random thoughts on a slow Thursday.

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A rainy night in America (wasn't that a U2 album?) washed out minor-league games in New Haven, Dunedin, Charleston and even Pulaski, leaving only Syracuse (which would have preferred a rainout to what actually happened -- losing to Pasqual Coco 6-4) and, more happily, the Auburn Doubledays of the NY-Penn League, who won their second game of the season, a 12-2 trouncing of Jamestown (scroll down to the bottom). Some names of note, both from last night and for the future:
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You all know Neil Armstrong. "One small step" and all that. Who remembers that Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon?

So it goes for Larry Doby, the man who broke the American League color barrier in 1947, just several weeks after Jackie Robinson -- rightfully -- carved out his place in history. Doby, a Hall of Fame player who was also the second black manager in the game after Frank Robinson, passed away last night at the age of 79.

Though mentioned briefly in an earlier thread, it seems right to afford this pioneer a place on the front page of Da Box. Read the details from Indians.com and MLB.
I don't know the Baltimore forecast, or the field conditions, but earlier today, there were flash flood warnings in Maryland, and the game in New York has been postponed. If they do get this one in, the Jays are heavy favourites. Last night, the funky lefthanded delivery of Daal kept the Toronto hitters off-balance, and it can be argued that a missed call by umpire Gary Darling was the margin of victory. It made up for Danleygate, for sure. Today, I would advise Rick Helling to wear a helmet; journeyman righty fly ball pitchers are the Jays' favourites.

Kelvim Escobar has been great in his last two starts, and until he got bees in his hand fouling off a Matt Morris fastball, his St. Louis start was just as good. They are already talking about him returning, like Halladay, on three days' rest, so if Kelvim can go six or seven reasonably efficient innings, we may get to see some of the new bullpen guys. OK, we'll "hear" them -- it's radio only.

Apparently there are published schedules that listed this as a home game, and they are turning away walk-up fans at the Dome. On The FAN 590, Eric Smith and Mike Wilner speculated that these people are cleverly trying to get the Jays to compensate them for their "trouble" with free tickets for a future game. Wish I'd thought of that.
An unusual 3:05 start today as the Jays get to feast off Rick Helling. Escobar counters for the Jays, if he can pitch as well as he has recently (or even if he can't), the Jays would be a solid bet at -145. We'll see some home runs; Helling has given up 14 in 74 innings.