Or, put differently, some questions about the first 20 games on the Jays schedule, 19 of which are in the books and the last of which takes place on Patriots Day in Boston tomorrow morning. I suggested back in the spring, when reviewing the schedule and taking into account the fact this team had a steep learning curve ahead of it, that no one should be shocked if the Blue Jays were 6-14 at this point. Should they cough up another loss tomorrow, this team will have hit that sorry prediction square on.
So these are the questions that spring to mind this Easter Sunday:
1. How the hell did this happen?
2. Are these guys really as bad as this?
3. What should be done now?
Matinees today (1:20) and tomorrow (2:05), followed by breakfast baseball at 11:05 Monday morning, as that's Marathon day in Boston. I'll be listening to Tom and Jerry today (and wishing Mike made the road trips) as we're leaving shortly to visit the in-laws, but it's also on Sportsnet and NESN. I expect there will be a hockey game on TV when we arrive, so I won't see or hear much of the later innings; I'll have to get the inside scoop from the ZLC tonight.
Tanyon Sturtze takes the ball for a team that's lost 8 of 9 and needs a lift. The big righty was very tentative in his Yankee Stadium start, walking seven, but he did beat the Red Sox in his previous outing, and as a Massachusetts boy, pitching in Fenway has some extra meaning. The Jays usually hit Derek Lowe well enough, knocking him out in the fifth at SkyDome 11 days ago, so Tanyon won't need to toss a shutout. If he throws strikes -- and his infielders catch the ball -- he could be 3-0, a far cry from the 4-18 debacle of 2002. If Tanyon turns it around, maybe Mr. Halladay will build on that Sunday. If not, there's extra (self-inflicted) pressure on Doc tomorrow.
First-guessing the lineup, I'm hoping Woodward is good to go, as Bordick, 2-for-14 since Chris got hurt, is living up to his good-glove, no-hit rep. I'd like to see Berg (especially his .919 OPS) at 2B, with the excitable, erratic Hudson on the bench. I don't care how many highlight-reel plays Orlando makes -- they do not cancel out the easy ones he muffs. Last night, what was already bad enough (Tam had turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit) was made much, much worse when O-Dog mishandled a ball right at him and failed to make the inning-ending double play. The kid was playing with joy when he first came up last year, and that does make him fun to watch, but now he's pressing, and hurting the team. If a little vacation doesn't help, I have a vision of a longer trip in Hudson's future.
MLEs, translations of minor league stats to a major league context, were pioneered by Bill James. Conceptually, they are the first cousins of park neutral batting stats. Both attempt to adjust for distortions of the statistics created by the various venues in which professional baseball is played.
James found that by applying the appropriate park, league and level of competition factors, a player's performance in AA or AAA, translated to the big leagues, was a surprisingly accurate predictor of what that player would do in the major leagues.
Finally, the Terrible Twenty concludes. The Jays would do well, really well, to come out of Fenway with a split. Boston's hot hitters are staying hot, and their cold hitters are getting warmer. Maybe someone can step up with an Ernie Whitt/Junior Felix/Joe Carter-type big Fenway performance.
I'm still not crazy about the Beantown bullpen, in part because I'm not comfortable with the one-bad-outing-and-you're-demoted strategy, at least from a psychological perspective. Now, if a reliever has several Ramiro Mendoza outings in a row, then by all means I support handing him a mop. Even the bullpen, though, is showing glimmers of hope (read on below), thanks to a couple of unlikely saviours. The Red Sox are looking dangerous...
On to the Advance Scout!
Mark Hendrickson faces a tough assignment tonight, with the Green Monster looming for Boston's righty bats. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield goes for the Sox. According to the Yahoo preview
, Mike Bordick gets his fourth consecutive start at SS, so Chris Woodward's shoulder must still not be 100%. As anticipated, the Jays aren't going with a strict C platoon -- this is one of those nights that Greg Myers gets a rest while Tom Wilson starts vs. the right-hander. It's on Sportsnet and the FAN, but I think I'm going to watch the Boston TV feed on WSBK. Enjoy.
According to a message I received last night from SABR member Bill Hickman, Reed Johnson's MLB debut yesterday afternoon made him the 15,999th player in major league history. The next player to make his debut will be number 16,000. Let's keep an eye out for the next debutant.
Gee, who to root for? The guy who endured multiple surgeries on his arm and legs, persevered into his 30's, finally got a chance last year and was brilliant in his emergency start, or the more talented, but incredibly immature jerk? Even though I own Jeff Weaver in a couple of fantasy leagues, I don't like him; either does Mike Sweeney
. The pitcher, a fan of Jerry Springer, has been a security guard on that thought-provoking TV show, and also showed his class in harrassing a woman who (doing her job) chastised him for smoking dope on the team plane. Jon Heyman of Newsday
commented a couple of months ago on his (entirely expected) reaction to the subsequent lawsuit:Jeff Weaver didn't sound too concerned that the Tigers had to pay $200,000 to the flight attendant who sued them after she was mistreated by Weaver and other Tigers. "Out of sight. Out of mind," Weaver said.
The rude, crude dude is 3-4, 5.68 against the Jays over the last three years, and he has a 5.45 home ERA since donning pinstripes. Delgado (1.431 OPS), Wells (1.333) and Hinske (1.500) have hit him extremely well -- here's hoping all those trends continue this afternoon. No TV, but it's on the FAN 590.
If you're not familiar with WhatIfSports
, please read this cautionary tale
called "I See Dead People" from the great ESPN.com Sports Guy, Bill Simmons.
Now, thanks to WhatIfSports, Da Box is proud to bring you the first-ever What If Jays Series, as the All-Time Jays team faces off with the All-Time Yankees team in a seven-game series. But first, we need some help in finalizing the rosters of the two teams.
Now, to be fair ...
There's my answer to "where's Woody?" -- in today's Sun
, Mike Ganter's notes
explain the absence of the team's starting SS -- Chris strained his left shoulder diving for a ball late in Monday's game. It does not sound too serious.
We also learn that Phelps reminded his manager he still has shin pads, and that Reed Johnson's debut will probably come Sunday against Casey Fossum, a pitcher he's familiar with. I thought we'd see Johnson in RF last night, but after Berg's sixth inning double, Tosca (wisely) kept his bat in the lineup, and despite the inherent defensive risks, Dave got another hit in the eighth and now has a .919 OPS. Why didn't Johnson and his glove come in for the ninth? Well, if the Yanks had
tied it up -- a distinct possibility against El Flako -- Berg would have been the second hitter in the tenth.
If you haven't chimed in yet, Da Box is prepping for a What If? Matchup
between an all-time team of Jays and an all-time team of 1977-2002 Yankees. We're in the process of debating the rosters, so join in.
Earlier today, in a thrilling Exhibition Stadium matchup, the 1998 Yankees knocked off the 1992 Blue Jays, 3-2 as Andy Pettitte outpitched Pat Hentgen, who went the distance but gave up a critical eighth-inning hit to Tino Martinez.
In Game 2 of the pre-series matchups, Bobby Mattick's 54-107 1977 Jays travel to Yankee Stadium to take on Bucky Dent's 64-97 1990 New York squad. Jerry Garvin (10-18) pitches for the expansion Birds, while Andy Hawkins (5-12) takes the mound for the Bronx Bombers.
Four teams, three losses, one rainout, and some truly ugly pitching lines for your Junior Jays yesterday.
Warning: Rant Ahead.
This one might get me thrown right out of the ZLC.
One of the better ideas Canada's new independent pro league had was to sign players to contracts before assigning them to teams. The playing field must be level when your entire regular season is against just three other teams in your division. Yesterday, the CBL announced its rosters
, and all teams are still looking for free agent talent.
I'm a skeptic. I don't think the CBL will play noticeably better ball than the Intercounty League, though we'll miss Rich Butler and Gamin Teague at the Pits this year. The Sunday night TV games (shown on The Score, a poor substitute for Jon and Joe and the ESPN featured game) could help create interest. I'm not rooting for the league to fail; quite the contrary -- I'm happy for the sprinkling of Canadians who get a chance to play, and there's never too much baseball. The first year will be understandably rocky, and the CBL will require more teams to survive, but the talent pool is shallow already, and unless all the local marketing efforts are superb, the investors will need deep pockets.
Before anyone jokes about the Royales outdrawing the local NL club, it ain't gonna happen. The barnstorming Montreal CBL team, like Los Expos, is playing its "home" games all over the place -- Sherbrooke, and a bunch of TBAs. I don't understand why they're not based at Parc Jarry.
Since the inimitable John Gizzi has seen fit to crib his own material by introducing "Notes from Nowhere"
-- long a staple to close his ESPN.com column -- I'll follow suit with this first edition of "Elliptical Information," which used to close my own efforts for the Worldwide Leader.
So read on for an Andujar update, a Jose Cruz Jr. sighting, the wisdom of Mike Hargrove and other random thoughts and jumbled jottings ...
According to Forbes magazine, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the biggest financial losers last season with an operating deficit of $25 million. The Rangers were next at $24.5 million, followed by the Blue Jays ($23.9 million), Diamondbacks ($22.2 million) and Marlins ($14 million). Followup question ...
Alex Salkever looks at the new age of sports technology in a Business Week
special report. Scouts have laptops. Coaches are viewing digital replays on DVD. Some nameless writer from Baseball Prospectus
apparently got a job in the Toronto front office. It's a revolution, no question. But there's surprising resistance -- according to Michael Lewis, whose soon-to-be-published Moneyball
is eagerly anticipated, "in the top ranks of baseball, many old salts continue to chafe at the scientific study of their beloved game."
The teams that really "get it" are still in the minority, though there's a trend among several other front offices toward gradually integrating new ideas with established methods. As someone on the older and saltier side of the ZLC spectrum, I feel compelled to point out that raw data, processing power and high-tech gadgets don't mean a thing, unless they are in the hands of someone who really knows the game. GIGO is the first thing I learned about computers, and it will always apply.