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No trade news from Skydome yet, though I'm sure JP & Co. are burning the phone lines in these last hours before the trading deadline. July 31 may not be the drop-dead date it has been in the past; teams have usually tried to complete deals before now because in order to trade someone after July 31, the player has to pass through waivers. But with teams increasingly worried about payroll, it's becoming less likely they'll take a chance on claiming a player on waivers. Randy Myers and Jose Canseco are Exhibits A & B.

Anyway, the week's not over yet, and in the meantime there's been plenty of action already. Here's the latest; feel free to add more trade news here as the deadline approaches.
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It took a full year for the Yankees to accept what J.P. Ricciardi knew almost immediately. What's surprising is, they found another sucker. Raul Mondesi was banished to the desert yesterday. According to Anthony McCarron in the NY Daily News, it wasn't just that he publicly ripped his manager last week, or bolted on his team during a game:

The Yanks were concerned about the influence Mondesi was having on their other Latin players, particularly Alfonso Soriano, who has struggled recently.

Gee, what a surprise. He taught Felipe Lopez so much in Toronto. This isn't as obvious or significant an improvement as adding Scott Williamson was for the Red Sox, but the Yankees are much better off without Mondesi. Raul, as he always does, will try to make a good first impression, but his behaviour will infect the Arizona clubhouse before long.
If, as a matter of policy, you always read the minor league updates -- or, conversely, you never read them -- then read ahead or don't, as the case may be. If, however, you only read them when it seems that something interesting happened in the minor leagues, then this is a good one to skip, 'cause there just wasn't a whole lot going down last night. I have tried to compensate for the relative absence of news with a surfeit of bad puns, which may only compound the problem.
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Of all the teams to have your number. The D-Rays would be playoff bound if they only played the Jays. As Robert said in last night's game thread:

It occured to me that the D-Rays are well-suited to turf. Fast guys who put the ball in play (and seem to get hits on grounders with maddening regularity), speedy outfield and good basestealers.

Yeah, and they have stolen a couple of wins this year with bloops and bleeders off hard-luck starters. Tonight, Lou sticks with RH Victor Zambrano, who was awful in April, better in May, 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA and .165 opponent's average in June, and has been mediocre in July. He was the winner in that horrible April game when a brilliant Hendrickson had a 2-0 lead through seven; the roof didn't cave in, it kinda crumbled. Vic's given up 17 earned runs in his last three starts, which prompted me to thank him for June and release him in the BBFL when Cliff Politte came off the DL.
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Lots of hits, lots of runs, and a few sterling pitching performances in the minors last night, but the pitcher the Jays really hoped to see some improvement from took another step backwards in Syracuse.
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Either Richard Griffin submitted his April Fool's column four months late, or he has completely wigged out this time. In today's screed, he calls for baseball to adopt a football-style two-platoon system - ironically, because the offenses are boring, producing "grinding, three-hour games".
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The D-Rays aren't the biggest gate attraction, so the scouts may outnumber the spectators tonight. They will be looking closely at two Venezuelan righty starters for the price of one, as Kelvim Escobar faces Jeremi Gonzalez. Kelvim has been widely discussed in Da Box, but Gonzalez, quietly enjoying a fine comeback season, is an unknown to the Jays and most fans.

Since his callup in mid-May, the 28-year-old has made 13 starts, only one of which was really bad. He's 4-4 with a 3.73 ERA, but three of his losses were by scores of 2-0, 2-1 and 3-2, and he's been very good in a couple of no-decisions. Jeremi beat the Yankees in June on six innings of one-hitter, held the Red Sox to three runs last time out, and blanked the Rangers, scattering five hits in eight innings, in his previous start. The walks (40) to strikeouts (63) aren't great, and 11 HR in 79.2 IP is a concern, but he's allowed opponents just a .209 average. It's no sure thing that the Jays will hit Gonzalez; this could be an interesting duel. Escobar is 4-6, 6.37 against Tampa in his career, and 2-5, 6.39 at home this year. The speculation about his future could also be a distraction, so it would hardly be shocking if he's less than awesome.

Carlos Tosca has made it official, according to Mike Wilner on The FAN 590 -- Mike Bordick is now the starting shortstop, and Chris Woodward will play "one or two days a week" until further notice. Howie Clark was sent to Syracuse to make room for Dave Berg, leaving Tosca without a lefty stick on the bench. Frank Catalanotto is playing first base tonight, so Delgado can DH. Cat is batting seventh, with Hinske remaining in the 2-hole.

By the time a professional baseball player has played a few seasons of minor league ball, we're usually able to get a sense of how good a prospect he is. But to determine what kind of player he's likely to end up takes more than a cursory look at the numbers he's posted at each minor league stop. For more precise and fruitful analysis, we need to contextualize and aggregate the data. Once we do that, trends emerge.

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Damian Rolls! Mark Malaska! Matt Diaz! D-Rays fever...Catch It!

Seriously, the Rays have some hope for the future. Ownership has promised LaMar and Piniella a payroll increase for next season, although they have refused to commit to a figure. Still, that ought to allow Tampa Bay to substantially improve their team, since the salaries of Ben Grieve, Rey Ordonez and Greg Vaughn -- finally -- come off the books. Piniella's happy with his young nucleus, which he recently described as Rocco Baldelli, Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, Antonio Perez and Toby Hall. Going forward, there is at least the makings of respectability here.

Back to the present, the Jays face a team this week that's been hitting well, but pitching poorly. It won't be easy, but the Jays have an opportunity to add three more W's this week. (And they duck their inexplicable nemesis, Joe Kennedy.)

On to the Advance Scout!
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Our pal Aaron Gleeman has a great Blue Jays essay on his blog today. I'm not just saying that because he made Batter's Box his "Link of the Day" and had nice things to say about Craig (and, to a lesser extent, me). It's a mutual admiration society, and we're grateful for the enthusiastic plug.

The piece is called "Eating Innings 101" and after a preamble about why the Jays are becoming Aaron's favourite non-Twins team, it's a fine analysis of the Toronto ace and his workload:

Roy Halladay is on pace to pitch nearly 20% of his team's innings this year, he's done some of his pitching in a 4-man rotation and he's very likely going to end the year with one of the highest innings-totals of the last 15 years. And yet, the way he is being worked - or not being worked - would make me feel more confident about him pitching 400 innings than most guys on other teams tossing 200 innings.

So far, it seems that Doc is even more economical with his pitches on three days' rest, leading me to wonder if there shouldn't be a 4-man rotation next year, or more precisely, 4.5 men, counting a spot starter. Getting 300 quality innings from your best arm, without abusing it, makes perfect sense.
Late last night, I tuned in to ESPN's Baseball Tonight on my new cable, as provided by my friendly neighbourhood monopolist, Time Warner Manhattan. Following the Jays' highlights, Harold Reynolds and Bobby Valentine riffed on the club.

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The Cincinnati Reds have fired General Manager Jim Bowden and Manager Bob Boone. The Reds, dead last in pitching and with one of the worst defences in baseball, for some reason also fired their hitting coach Tom Robson and third-base coach Tim Foli. Triple-A Louisville manager Dave Miley will take over the team on at least an interim basis.
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It was a special day for two of the Jays' minor leaguers yesterday, and I'm not referring to the good starts by Evan Thomas and Neomar Flores.
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We may be nearing the "dog days" in real baseball, but in the Batter's Box Fantasy League, there are just five weeks remaining in the regular season, so this is crunch time. An amazing twelve teams are within two games of finishing sixth or better to qualify for a spot in the championship playoff round, and no less than 17 of 20 are still in the postseason picture.

The runaway leader Gashouse Gorillas remain on cruise control, having whipped Mebion Glyndwr 8-3 last week to open up a 16.5 game lead. There's a dead-heat for second between my Toronto Walrus (8-4 winners over masssuckage) and Baird Brain (7-5 winners over Springfield Isotopes) but Billie's Bashers are very much in the hunt for the other first-round bye after trouncing Jicks Rays 9-2. Red Mosquitos jumped from seventh into fifth place with a 7-3 defeat of K-Town Mashers. Then it gets really close.
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My nominee for Sports Headline of the Year, from the Montreal Gazette. It's a short item about Gary Carter, the first player to be inducted to the Hall of Fame in an Expos cap (despite his fervent wishes otherwise). If you're a Canadian baseball fan of a certain age, it's impossible to be neutral about Carter: he was either a charismatic superstar or an overexposed blowhard. In reality, he was kinda both. But what can't be argued is that he belongs in the same breath as Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench when it comes to talking Best Catchers of 1950-2000. Ivan Rodriguez and Ted Simmons are the only other two guys who can get into that discussion.

A bittersweet day for Les Expos -- Carter perfectly symbolized the highly publicized yet always heartbreakingly under-achieving Spos of the 1980s, and it seems only too appropriate that he tried to sneak into the Hall as a Met. Gary, I admired you greatly when I was a kid, and I still think you were a hell of a ballplayer. But I'd rather not have to hear from you again for the foreseeable future.