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Now that the all-star break is nearly upon us, we can look forward to endless Peter Gammons trade rumours, approximately 1/2 of 1/4 percent of which come true. Though I can see why some fans enjoy rumour season, I confess that I loathe this time of year.
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What better time than the midpoint between series with Boston and New York to take a BB poll on the Jays' opponents we've always loved to hate?

Reggie Jackson once said, "Fans don't boo nobodies." So all of these players have added value to their clubs against the Jays in some way. But I'm not looking for the players that generated respect and fear (Eddie Murray, George Brett, Lenny Dykstra in the '93 Series) with their awesome performances against the Jays. Instead, I'm going for the guys that annoyed Jays fans to a point of inspiring a near-irrational hatred of them. What follows is my personal lineup, in the style of Rob Neyer's book. Please feel free to add your own.
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Good column by Richard Griffin in the Star today about the turnover in the Blue Jays bullpen the last couple of days. For those without a scorecard, Jeff Tam has finally been put down, and the Doug Davis Experiment can now go back to its proper title as a jazz ensemble. Tam was a disaster for Oakland the first part of last year before recovering himself somewhat in the second half; he might have done the same here, but JP evidently didn't feel like waiting, and I don't blame him. A disappointing stay in Toronto for Tam. As for Davis, he gave what was expected of him: journeyman performances. But let's not forget his first two starts against Anaheim, when he ate up the World Series Champions. He'll probably compete with Bruce Chen for fifth-starter spots across baseball for the next few years. It's a living.
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The sooner the worst left fielder in baseball is traded, the better. This little rant would have been completely unprintable last night, as my seatmates at the game will attest. I don't care what his OBP is, or what a "pure hitter" he is -- the man is absolutely incompetent in the outfield. Even the most scientific of analysts admits there are no precise defensive metrics, but guys like me and Yogi really can observe a lot by watching, so trust me -- to make up for the catchable balls he allows to drop for singles and his other boneheaded blunders, Stewart would have to hit like Barry Bonds to have any value.

In the first inning, men on first and third, he stupidly threw to third after a routine sac fly, handing the Red Sox an extra base. That runner, of course, came home to score the second run. In the critical eighth, with Mueller up and two men on, coach John Gibbons was frantically waving Shannon (who didn't bother to look) way over into the left-centre gap. Gibby finally had to get up on the top step of the dugout, at which point Stewart reluctantly shuffled a few steps to his left, then almost immediately, like he was tethered to "his" spot, shifted himself back. The increasingly frustrated coach persisted, getting more animated. Again, Stewart edged over, but it looked like he was drawn back involuntarily to his familiar, worn-out patch of turf. Fortunately, he remained close enough to make the catch when Mueller hit the ball precisely where Gibbons had been trying to position him.

When Stewart, who should have had the decisive Ramirez drive with no trouble, compounded his late jump and erratic route by getting in the way of Wells (like a superhero, Vernon had sprinted about 40 yards to save the day) I was livid. They didn't show a replay at the Dome, but it looked to me as if Wells, who would have easily made the catch, had to pull up to avoid a collision, and the ball actually hit Stewart, who had ducked, which is why it rolled along the warning track instead of bouncing. It was E-7 all the way; the original E-8 scoring was as incredible as the so-called left fielder's folly.
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John Neary suggested this on another thread, so here it is. With the Jays most probably headed for another loss, the Boxers might enjoy a diversion.

Every player under contract to Toronto with fewer than 15 innings pitched or 50 plate appearances in the majors is eligible.

My top 10:

1. Arnold
2. Quiroz
3. Adams
4. Rios
5. Gross
6. Bush
7. League
8. Griffin
9. McGowan
10. Perkins
Mark Hendrickson is going to make two or three starts (at least) in Syracuse. Jeff Tam is also headed to AAA, and Doug Davis has been "designated for assignment," but it's doubtful there will be much interest in him from other teams. Josh Phelps is on the 15-day DL with back spasms. Jayson Werth returns to the Toronto bench as the seldom-used 25th man, until Mike Bordick rejoins the team, but three pitchers have been called up, and they all have a decent chance to stick.

I think they're going to give John Wasdin, one of the best starters in the PCL so far this year, an audition in the rotation beginning tomorrow, while Corey Thurman and Dan Reichert will work out of the bullpen. One of them (or Scott Service) will give way when Pete Walker is reactivated. The Jays will need effective relief tonight, as it's unlikely that Cory Lidle, in his present form, will pitch a complete game. In fact, six decent innings would be a very pleasant surprise.

Ramiro Mendoza isn't going to pitch a shutout, either. He was a shocking winner over his former team in his first start, but still has a 6.02 ERA and questionable stamina. With the roof closed, this one could be a shootout. The Sox are relaxed and confident, with nothing to lose as they go for a huge road sweep. After two heartbreaking losses, we'll see how the Jays bounce back. One minor lineup change -- Tom Wilson's behind the plate; I'm sure Greg Myers was shaken up by last night's collision.
John Sickels of takes a look into the future in his latest column, and sees a couple of Blue Jays among the best in the game five years from now. He names Russ Adams as the best AL second-base prospect, and ranks Gabe Gross second among outfielders:

Adams is an on-base machine, a sparkplug at the top of the order who draws walks, steals bases, and hits for average. If he can develop a bit of power, he will be an all-around player.

...Gross has rebounded from a poor 2002 season to play well in '03. Like (Laynce) Nix, he has tools and skills, though he doesn't quite have Nix's raw power.

Of the nine AL starting pitchers mentioned, three are Blue Jays' prospects: Jason Arnold, Dustin McGowan and Brandon League. Since Wells, Hinske and Phelps will all be 29 or 30 in '08, and Halladay a grizzled 31-year-old, there could be a strong Toronto representation on the All-Star roster, trying to earn themselves home field advantage in that year's World Series.
In the London Free Press, Morris Dalla Costa paints a bleak picture of the Canadian Baseball League, which can no longer afford to have its games broadcast on The Score:

The league isn't releasing attendance figures. While baseball box-scores are supposed to contain attendance figures, most of the CBL box-scores do not. It seems attendance figures only appear when more than 500 people attend a game.

Umpires are complaining they haven't been paid since the start of the season, and the league is making lame excuses. I'm not happy to have been right about this, but it was an ill-advised venture from the start. Whoever thought they would attract 2,500 fans a game was dreaming, though in addition to recycled "names" like Franciso Cabrera, there seems to be a smattering of talent. Calgary's 3B Galindo Gomez is hitting 397/466/681 with 9 HR in 116 AB, and teammate Jesus Matos has struck out 52 while walking just 4 in 56.2 IP.

Meanwhile, down at Christie Pits, the Maple Leafs, led by Rob Butler and Paul Spoljaric, have won 36 straight at home in the Intercounty League and deserve your patronage. With MLB taking the night off next Wednesday, July 16, I'll be at the Leafs' game against second-place Kitchener (a 7:30 start) and invite the local chapter of the ZLC to join me.
Nobody knows, not even The Shadow, but we do know we won't see Nomar Garciappara or Josh Phelps; Bo Sox rookie Freddy Sanchez starts at SS, while Reed Johnson is in right field and batting seventh, as Frank Catalanatto draws the start at DH. After last night's pitching duel, one gets the feeling the two top offenses in the American League may bust out the lumber tonight.

Supposedly the contest is on ESPN2, so I may be able to catch it. Enjoy the game and the summer evening.
So, it all boils down to whether Kelvim Escobar can come through in the clutch. I guess this qualifies as "ironic".
Thanks to Gerry, who helped bring this to light in the Minor-League Update thread, here's a simply terrific article from the National Post about the Blue Jays' three star outfield prospects at New Haven: John-Ford Griffin, Alexis Rios and Gabe Gross. It is no stretch to envision those three at first base, left field and right field for the 2005 Blue Jays. It's great to see that for each one, their character and approach to the game rivals their natural talent. This story will put a smile on your face.
Geoff Baker cites "rumours" of a Shannon Stewart-for-Kenny Rogers trade in today's Star:

That deal would not only save the Jays $2.1 million (U.S.), it would allow them to strengthen their starting rotation and legitimately argue that this was an upgrade move and not a selloff.

Uh, Geoff? I don't think J.P. cares as much about public perception as you apparently do; he's just building the best team seen around here in a decade. Elsewhere in the paper that's more obsessed with racial profiling than accurate spelling, "Baseball Buzz" says the deal could include Twins outfielder Dustin Moore (sic). There's no byline, but it's the work of either "Star Wires" or Mark Zwolinski, free of proofreading by anyone who knows baseball. Rogers and Moore would be great -- Mohr would be even better -- so I hope there's some fire near this smoke.
The last time Roy Halladay squared off against the Red Sox at SkyDome was unforgettable. Doc was cuffed around for six runs in three innings, surrendering five doubles in the third. Thank goodness, the opposing pitcher was Tim Wakefield. The Jays rallied for two in the bottom of the third, and knocked out the knuckleballer with four in the fourth to tie the game. It was the Sunday afternoon that Manny Ramirez put on a clinic, with several fine examples of how not to play left field. The Jays rolled to an 11-7 lead, only to have Cliff Politte flirt with disaster in the ninth. The final was 11-8, in the most exciting game I've seen all year.

Halladay had two earlier no-decisions against the Red Sox, and sports an unflattering 6.75 ERA facing that awesome lineup this season. The slumping (overdue?) Nomar and the red-hot Trot Nixon have given him the most trouble over the years. Wakefield did beat the Jays at home in April, so he has a 6.55 ERA against them this year. Catalanotto, Delgado and Myers have hit him particularly well. Don't expect a pitcher's duel, but even if it's another high-scoring affair, you have to give the edge to the guy who's 12-0 in his last 15 starts and hasn't lost since April 15.
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A couple of ninth-inning heartbreakers last night, as the minor-league heirs to the Blue Jays closer job showed they're just as fallible as the guys in Toronto. And the New Haven Ravens' triple-triple didn't get them a win. But what a pitching line down in the New York-Penn League for Jamie Vermilyea.
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"SPLITTING MAD," blared the Boston Globe this morning. As is their wont, Red Sox Nation and their carnivorous media are dwelling on the just-passed Yankee series and ignoring the important (if not "equally important") three-gamer at the Dome that gets underway tonight.

Don't bet on the players making the same mistake. Although there are some cold spots in the otherwise amazing Boston lineup, one of them is Nom-ah, and we all know that won't last. Otherwise, the Red Sox are essentially the same club that we've seen before: inconsistent starting pitching and defence, a rotten bullpen, and bats that boom so loudly as to overcome these problems on a frighteningly regular basis.

The Doctor is in tonight, but the Jays are apparently sticking with the ill-advised decision not to skip Doug Davis tomorrow. Let's go for two wins in what should be great entertainment.

On to the Advance Scout!
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