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The unorthodox Jack McKeon has done everything right so far in 2003, turning around the Marlins and guiding them to the brink of a championship. Tonight, he risks it all by sending his ace, Josh Beckett, to the mound on three days' rest.

The 23-year-old missed most of May and all of June with elbow problems, and has never started on short rest in his big league career. Though Beckett’s four-inning relief appearance against the Cubs was courageous, it was hardly awesome. The first four batters he faced hit the ball very hard; three to the warning track and one right at an outfielder. In his third inning of work, he got two more long outs and surrendered a home run to Troy O’Leary. There's no telling how effective he'll be tonight, or how long he'll last.

If this hunch works out, McKeon will be hailed as a genius. If it doesn't, he's painted himself into an uncomfortable Game 7 corner, with Carl Pavano, also on short rest, facing Mike Mussina. To me, it's like a boxer ahead on points in the late rounds trying to land a haymaker but leaving himself wide open for a knockout counter-punch. In other words, unnecessary and ill-advised.
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This is probably the first personal interview with Shannon Stewart I can remember seeing; Geoff Baker from the Star does a very nice job of visiting Stewart in his Florida home and chatting about the season just completed. Shannon comes off much as he always seemed: quiet, thoughtful, nice guy. I was surprised to learn he's still single; he shares a huge house with his sister and his parents live nearby. I've never known anything bad to say about Stewart, and this article confirms that. As to the matter of the MVP, well ... if Shannon really does take home that award, beating out A-Rod, Boone, Delgado et al, then there needs to be an emergency meeting of the BBWAA to (a) administer some severe thrashings and (b) decide once and for all what an "MVP" actually is.

Here's a question: where do people think Shannon will end up next year? Or put differently, who's in the market for a LF/DH who'll hit .300, OBP .365, score about 90 runs, steal maybe 15-20 bases at most, and lead off every day for about $6 million a season? Sounds like the Giants to me.
Thanks to Steve Z, the Blue Jays' biggest fan in Israel, for this link to a great interview with much-lamented former Jays broadcaster Dan Shulman in the National Post (and this related story in the New York Post). Dan, who now works for ESPN, seems ready to step into Jon Miller's shoes the day the latter wraps up his legendary career; as it is, Dan is already widely considered one of the best play-by-play men in the business. Jays fans will of course recall Shulman's time in the TSN booth with Buck Martinez, making the Jim Fregosi Blue Jays almost watchable. We'd love to have him back -- dear Lord, would we -- but I'm sure all Toronto fans wish Dan the very best as he rockets up the baseball announcers' ladder .
The real 2003 individual awards - the ones voted on by all the fans, not some small group of ancient writers - have been announced. These are the 2003 Internet Baseball Awards.
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And then there were two. After next season, the Ottawa Lynx (AAA International League) and Vancouver Canadians (Class-A Northwest League) will be the last remaining Canadian-based minor-league baseball teams. That with the news that the Edmonton Trappers have been sold to Nolan Ryan, of all people, and will be moved to Round Rock, Texas after the 2004 season. The team will become the AAA Pacific Coast League franchise of the Houston Astros, replacing the New Orleans Zephyrs; the Double-A Astros franchise currently in Round Rock will move to Corpus Christi. And what will become of the Expos' AAA farm team that currently occupies Edmonton? Start drawing your own dark conclusions about that.

It's a shame that yet another Canadian baseball team has gone to the US (Alberta lost both Calgary and Medicine Hat last year), but you can't really blame the PCL for wanting to abandon a city that's thousands of expensive air miles away from the bulk of its clubs' locations; even within their own Northern Division, the Trappers were grouped with Tacoma, Portland and Salt Lake City(?). And it could get worse. From first-hand experience, I wonder how much longer the Lynx will hang on here in Ottawa; they're way below the local sports-scene radar. It's quite possible that in five years' time, Toronto will be the only major- or minor-league baseball team in the country, and that would be terrible for the game in Canada.
Congratulations to Roy Halladay, named the American League's best pitcher in the annual Internet Baseball Awards, announced today by Baseball Prospectus. Doc earned almost half the first place votes from more than 1,500 astute fans to earn a decisive victory over Pedro Martinez. Let's hope the writers follow suit and he takes home his first Cy Young.

Carlos Delgado finished second in the IBA balloting for MVP, with A-Rod leading the way; Halladay was 10th in that race, with Vernon Wells 13th. Two Jays rookies made the top ten, as Reed Johnson was ninth and Aquilino Lopez tenth behind runaway winner Angel Berroa. Click the link for complete results. Thanks to Mike Moffatt for alerting us in the Shannon Stewart thread.

Teams can't make any "major" announcements until the World Series is over, so in the meantime, there's plenty of speculation about the Mets' GM position and a couple of managerial jobs.

In the Boston Globe today, Gordon Edes talks with Grady Little, who says, "I'm not sure that I want to manage that team," and not only believes there are ghosts haunting the Red Sox, he threatens to become one of them.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports that Cito Gaston is the front-runner for the Chicago gig, and says that Wally Backman, who was managing their AA club, ruined his chances to be promoted by the White Sox when he rooted for the Twins to beat them down the stretch.

Where will Omar Minaya end up? Who will replace Pat Gillick? How will the A's respond if pitching coach Rick Peterson leaves? Will Billy Beane join the Dodgers? Without even guessing about who will get non-tendered and where free agents will sign, there are plenty of topics; the Hot Stove season officially opens on Monday, but it's never too soon to warm up.
In a shocking move, Alfonso Soriano is out of the New York lineup. Enrique Wilson is at second base, batting second behind Derek Jeter. Jason Giambi had been dropped back down to sixth in the original order, but at the last minute, was scratched in favour of Nick Johnson. Joe Torre again shows complete fearlessness, opening himself up to second-guessing galore, and the changes are the main story line of this pivotal game.

The pitching matchup is a Game 1 rematch. Brad Penny was the unlikely winner over David Wells that night, and tries to repeat a performance that seemed lucky to me. The big righty was effectively wild, scattering seven hits and three walks in his 5.1 innings; every time the Yankees threatened, he seemed to wiggle out of trouble.

Boomer did an adequate job, allowing three runs in his seven innings, though he lacked the support I anticipated. He did walk two batters, which is unusual, but most of the damage was created by Juan Pierre, who scored after a leadoff bunt single and hit a flare to left to drive in the winning runs.

This is more of a "must win" for the Marlins, who will be scrambling for a Game 6 starter if they lose, and might have to use Beckett on short rest. If the Fish win, they can afford to go with Willis and a bunch of relievers, saving their ace for Game 7. The Yankees still have Pettitte and Mussina lined up for the home games, so they could survive a loss tonight.
Kudos to Mike Wilner, who has arranged for an All-Star guest on the "Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show" this evening on The FAN 590. Vernon Wells will be joining Mike right after the 7:00 update, and will be answering listener questions until about 7:35. You can listen live on the Internet feed; the phone numbers are 416-870-0590 in the GTA and 1-888-666-0590 everywhere else. I'm hoping to get through to ask Vernon how he and the rest of the Jays would prepare for a pitcher they hadn't seen before, like Josh Beckett.

There will be at least one more BJADPPGS on Saturday, but Roy Halladay will not be available as a guest. Doc is enjoying some well-deserved R & R on a cruise ship in parts unknown. Never fear, Wilner will come up with someone interesting.
"My final start -- this is it," said Roger Clemens last night. In today's Boston Herald, Tony Massarotti offers a New England perspective on the historic event.

"My emotions will be happy and sad -- happy that I know it's over and I'm healthy," Clemens said. "I pretty much touched on every aspect of the game that I could. I did it right. I put the time in to be successful at this level, (but) I'll be sad because it's my last game and to go out there and compete, I won't have that (anymore). I won't be able to do that."

Not everyone is convinced that this is the Rocket's swan song. In a recent Toronto Star column, Richard Griffin insists that after he pitches in the 2004 Olympics, Roger will become an Astro. Rich wants everyone to clip and save that prediction, but I'd just lose it, so I'm making a note of it right here.

In the New York Daily News, Anthony McCarron makes Clemens' retirement sound like a definite maybe. I never liked the guy, even when he was a methodical and efficient pitching machine for the Blue Jays, but I've always been in awe of his talent. If he gets another ring, then wraps himself in the flag and a gold medal next summer, I think he'll consider that a fitting conclusion to his legend.
No one really knows if The Sporting News is to the BBWAA as the Golden Globes are to the Oscars, precursors of things to come. But if they are, then Roy Halladay had better start making room on his trophy shelf, because he's been named TSN's AL Pitcher of the Year.

I'm of two minds about Roy possibly winning the Cy. On the one hand, of course you want the ace of your favourite team to have his excellence recognized and rewarded across North America. On the other, though, there's two considerations: (1) a Cy Young Award could drive up Halladay's long-term contract price even higher than it already figures to be, and (2) for the same reason I didn't want Roy to get that no-hitter against Detroit back in 1999: when you start your career on that kind of high, where is there to go but down? Maybe it's superstition, but I almost prefer that the dreaded E.L. take home the award: let him suffer the Cy Curse. But I can't really root against Doc in my heart.
So said Dave Van Horne, longtime voice for the Montreal Expos, on his many CBC-TV broadcasts with Duke Snider, and he was so right. Dave stuck with the Expos through almost 30 years of ups and downs, from Coco Laboy to Warren Cromartie to Marquis Grissom to Jose Vidro, before following all those Canadian snowbirds to Florida and taking a job with the Marlins. As a result, he finally has something the Expos could never give him: a World Series gig. If you're looking for someone to cheer for in this World Series, root for the Man with the Golden Dome to finally share in a championship.
A desperate Marlins team -- that's when they've been at their best -- takes on a legend, as Roger Clemens makes his final big league start.
Thanks to Mike Moffatt for catching this article about how Mexico City is looking to poach the Blue Jays from Toronto. Mayor Obrador may simply have mixed up Montreal and Toronto when talking about ballclubs for sale -- I wouldn't know Monterrey from Merida myself, so I'll not cast the first stone. But it's an interesting thought. Try to imagine what Carlos Delgado's final stats would be like if he played 81 games at a higher and warmer place than Coors Field.

More seriously, if Mexico could get its political, and to a lesser extent economic, problems straightened out, I'd be very interested in seeing a lower-elevation Mexican city get a crack at a major-league team. But Puerto Rico might be first in line, and I think Mexicans are mad primarily for fútbol rather than béisbol. And the currency problems in either jurisdiction could make Canadian teams look Steinbrennerian by comparison. But everything else being equal, I will be very happy the day baseball expands into Latin America.
Major-league baseball has had the misfortune (self-imposed and otherwise) to suffer eruptions of bad publicity during or immediately after the World Series. This year appears to be no exception, as the likely NL MVP and the starting first baseman for the AL pennant winners have both been subpoenaed to appear before a US grand jury. The investigation in question relates to a California company called Balco Laboratories and a product it makes called tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), an apparently "invisible steroid" that the US Anti-Doping Agency didn't even know existed until a syringeful of it showed up at their headquarters. The rumblings are that by the time this thing is over, it's going to make the Ben Johnson scandal and the Dubin Inquiry look like a day at the beach.
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