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Perhaps no team needs a day off more than the Blue Jays, unless we're talking about the Detroit Tigers, which, fortunately, we are not. After today's off-day, Toronto will finish the non-mathematical first half of the season with six games against the Red Sox and Yankees. Once the final out has been recorded Sunday -- hopefully for Jays fans with an Alfonso Soriano strikeout in the top of the ninth inning -- we will be that much closer to knowing which end of the buy/sell arrangement Toronto will fall upon.

Meanwhile there is the (equally non-mathematical) mid-summer classic itself, and, no matter what you may think of the new format in which the game now "matters," it has generated renewed interest in an idea -- the supposed best players of both leagues dueling "mid-summer" -- which calls to mind memories of Fred Lynn, of Ted Williams, of Pete Rose, of Fernando Valenzuela, and, more than anything else, of tedious 2-1 games. These latter incidents are a delight when it's Roy Halladay vs. Pedro Martinez in September, not as pleasing in exhibitions in July.
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There's little change at the top of the standings, where Snellville maintains a big lead, and yours truly clings nervously to second place, but twelve teams are now bunched within ten games of third place!

In the feature match among many good ones last week, Baird Brain scored a decisive 9-3 win over the mighty Gashouse gang to regain third spot for owner-GM-skipper Jurgen Maas. Jordan's Sub-Urban Shockers brought Billie's Bashers back to the pack and moved into championship round contention with a 9-2 romp. Despite losing 6-5 to the Eastern Shore Birds, my staggering Walrus gained ground, relative to the leaders. Spicol's Red Mosquitos continued their climb in the standings, taking over fifth place with an 8-3 win over Mebion Glyndwr that dropped Gwyn's team from fourth all the way to ninth place. Jonny German's squad thoroughly mashed Geoff's Grumpy Group; the 12-0 final moved K-Town from tenth into a tie for sixth with AGF. The Chatsworth Halos advanced from 14th to tenth (and over the .500 mark) with a 10-2 defeat of the Moscow Rats. We are headed for some high drama as this playoff race continues.
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When stalwart Toronto Blue Jay righthander Dave Stieb took a four-hit shutout into the seventh inning of Game 7 of the Ultimate Series, an upset of massive proportions seemed tantalizingly within reach for the upstart All-Star Jays.

Flashy teammate Juan Guzman had turned in a workmanlike complete game victory in Game 6, shutting down the mighty Yankee (1977-2002) All-Stars 7-3 and setting the stage for Stieb to erase the demons of the near-no-hitters ... the near-perfect-games ... the near-Cy-Young-Awards ... the nearly-always-agonizing close-but-no-cigar not-quite-milestones of a career that led Stieb to entitle his autobiography Tomorrow I'll Be Perfect.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
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It's been just over 24 years since the Orioles swept a four-game series from the Blue Jays. It happened on Canada Day weekend in 1979, and could again this afternoon.

Mark Hendrickson was shelled by Baltimore hitters for eight hits and eight runs (four earned) in just two innings when this Toronto tailspin was just getting started ten days ago. Lurch got a no-decision that day, as the Jays rallied to make a winner of Tanyon Sturtze. Hendrickson responded with a better effort against the Tigers last time, but got (literally) zero run support and took the loss.

O's starter Rodrigo Lopez was even worse than Hendrickson in their June 26 meeting at SkyDome, but bounced back to beat the Yankees five days later. He'll face another unusual Toronto lineup, as Frank Catalanotto gets a very rare day off against a righty. Reed Johnson's batting second in RF, Tom Wilson's behind the plate and Carlos Delgado's back at first, with Josh Phelps freed to DH for the day. Howie Clark makes his second consecutive start at 2B, as they're being careful with O-Dog, and Bordick again replaces Woodward at short. You can't blame Tosca for juggling until he hits a winning combination.
The Blue Jays snatched another improbable defeat from the jaws of victory last night. As disappointing as it was to watch as a fan, it's even harder to take for the players, especially the bullpen. These funks have a way of continuing -- ask the Yankees, who endured one in May -- and there's no magic formula to turn it around. What the slumping Jays need most tonight is a quality start from Cory Lidle, who has been plagued in a few recent games by one bad inning, and was terrible against these Orioles ten days ago, getting knocked out early in a 9-2 loss.

Sir Sidney Ponson beat the Jays in Toronto that night, tossing a complete game, so it won't be the easiest task for the offence to get untracked. Howie Clark starts at second for the injured O-Dog, whose apparent groin pull may not be as severe as it looked. On the radio pregame, Carlos Tosca called it "a cramp" and suggested Hudson could play tomorrow. The skipper says Aquilino Lopez will now be used earlier in games, and he's looking for Juan Acevedo to assume the late-inning responsibility. Greg Myers (who may have a fractured big toe) returns behind the plate. In a very interesting lineup wrinkle, Carlos Delgado is the DH tonight, with Tom Wilson at first base. Poor Josh Phelps -- it's not just Reed Johnson reducing his AB.
One of the major architects of the Blue Jays' organization over the past decade and a half has moved on. Vice-President Tim Wilken, who was on the job when many of the current club's top players were drafted, is leaving the Blue Jays for reasons that are not being spelled out publicly. "I decided I needed to look for more opportunities and to make more of a contribution to an organization," Wilken told the Toronto Sun, and read into that what you will. There's no mention of his departure on the Jays' MLB Web page, nor (surprisingly, to me at least) has the Star commented on it yet. It's no secret that the Blue Jays' approach to scouting has shifted radically under JP Ricciardi's direction, but there's no indication if that played a role in Wilken's departure. Perhaps we''ll learn more in the coming days.
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We could be seeing a lot of rocket-red-glaring this evening in Baltimore, and not just because our friends south of the 49th are celebrating Independence Day. Kelvim Escobar returns to the mound against Baltimore for the first time since his, shall we say, ill-advised drilling of Jeff Conine set off an Orioles rally and a lot of hard feelings between two clubs that must be getting sick of one another by now. The Jays' current funk seemed to start with that game; hopefully they can turn it around today. It's an unusual 5:05 start to accommodate fireworks and families. Greg Myers and Frank Catalanotto will sit against Rick Helling.
Regular contributor Mike Moffatt steps into The Box today with an exclusive interview with one of the Blue Jays' top pitching prospects, Syracuse right-hander Jason Arnold. It's a landmark article for Batter's Box: our very first interview with a player! Thanks, Mike -- the floor is yours!


Inspired by Kent's interviews with four Blue Jays coaches, I thought I would try to speak with a few AAA players, as I live in Rochester, NY, home of the Twins' affiliate Red Wings. This involved getting media credentials, which proved a little more tricky than I imagined, due to a non-cooperating scanner and a broken fax machine. Less than four hours before a Rochester Red Wings–Syracuse SkyChiefs game, I was able to get a fax to Chuck Hinkel, the media director for the Red Wings. He kindly left me a one-game press pass and gave me a piece of advice: “Next time, try not to leave it to the last minute.” I was very thankful that Mr. Hinkel was kind enough to deal with my rookie errors.
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Here's part two of my June report card. Someday I might even do research before posting one of these things.
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For those of us who aren't educated enough to come up with ballplayers whose names match those of famous philosophers (or whose knowledge of same comes mostly from Monty Python's Australian philosophers drinking song), here's another fun game to occupy or kill off unneeded brain cells: chains of players.

Here's how it works: find a player whose last name is the same as the first name of another player, and build a chain.
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Their four-game "slump" behind them, the Jays begin a four-game set with Baltimore tonight in Baltimore. Doug Davis goes for Toronto, and his opponent is Jason Johnson. Reed Johnson gets a day off, Josh Phelps is at DH, Tom Wilson is behind the plate. All zeros after one, but obviously it's unlikely it will stay that way. Enjoy the game.
Their four-game "slump" behind them, the Jays begin a four-game set with Baltimore tonight in Baltimore. Doug Davis goes for Toronto, and his opponent is Jason Johnson. Reed Johnson gets a day off, Josh Phelps is at DH, Tom Wilson is behind the plate. All zeros after one, but obviously it's unlikely it will stay that way. Enjoy the game.
Fresh off vacation, the Advance Scout is back -- featuring the *sigh* Orioles. The Jays have gotten rather familiar with the O's, with a four-game set last week in Toronto preceded by a rain-shortened two-gamer at Oriole Park the week before. Once again, the singles-hitting Marylanders have the potential to jolt the Jays' playoff bandwagon unless the Jays pitchers stay in the strike zone.

None of the Orioles' starters will necessarily be an easy mark, but all are beatable. With the Red Sox and Yankees set to tangle this weekend, the Jays can gain plenty of ground with a big series.

On to the Advance Scout!
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Like their big-league brethren, many of the Jays' more interesting minor-leaguers cooled off somewhat in June, but not to the extent of taking the shine off their prospect status. If anything, many of the hitters have simply consolidated their gains and showed that they're for real. The pitchers are a step or two behind, but we knew that would be the case already. Here are some snapshots of the Jays farmhands who most bear watching. Comments and compliments are welcome as always; criticisms will be forwarded to the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic Bid Committee.
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That's right ... it's the return of Baseball's Hall of Names: Philosophy 101 Edition. Inspired by a teriffically interesting discussion in the We'd Love To Help, Here's Ten Bucks thread -- hey, any discussion that includes a legitimate comparison of John Stuart Mill to Barry Bonds qualifies as interesting -- I thought we'd try to build an All-Philosophers Team.

No, not the Garry "If I Ain't Startin', I Ain't Departin'" Templeton type of philosopher, but rather a team of players who share names with noted philosophers, theologians, etc.

Here's the thing, though ... it seems that virtually every candidate I can come up with was a pitcher. Which leads to an interesting, ah, philosophical question of sorts in itself. Do philosophers make better pitchers? Or is it the reverse?

Read on for a rotation from Kuhn to Jung and a bullpen stocked with Foucault and Hume. And let's build a real lineup ... if, ah, reality exists, that is ...
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