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Thanks to BB reader Richard for alerting me to a fine four-parter in the National Post by Allen Abel. Celebrating the centennial of the World Series, it began last Tuesday with The Age Of Magic, a look at the early days, including the employment of "good luck" mascots in big-league dugouts. Part Two, entitled A World Apart, is my favourite -- a beautifully written account of one pitch, and its impact on a man's life. In the third segment, A Classic Youth, Abel, just old enough to recall Don Larsen's perfect game, explains how important the World Series was to him growing up. The finale, Joy For The Few, features conversations with Luis Gonzalez, who knows the thrill of delivering a Series-winning hit, and other champions.

I'm about three years younger than Abel, who covered the Jays and other sports for the Globe and Mail in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My own baseball obsession began at a similar age, with Bill Mazeroski's homer the first indelible moment. Abel thinks his passion is in his DNA, the way hockey is for most Canadians, but I'm living proof that the baseball gene knows no borders. This series is a wonderful diversion for anyone who can't wait for tonight's first pitch. Enjoy.
Geoff Baker, previewing "a so-so way to kill three hours of tube time until Saturday Night Live kicks in," correctly says that MLB, Fox and most fans are disappointed with the Series matchup. I'd link to the piece, but again, I can't find it on, only in my Saturday Star. Baker also calls the Fish in five, which I think is preposterous. His reasoning is that David Wells will be tired after his inning of relief the other night, Andy Pettitte "got smoked in Game 6," and Mariano Rivera is "fried." He also likes the Marlins' "younger, fresher-looking bats." Sorry, Geoff. The older, gnarled bats in the hands of experienced champions will prevail.

I think Boomer, to borrow an advertising slogan, lives for this. The chances that he'll be outpitched by Brad Penny tonight are extremely remote; I'd say "slim and none," but it doesn't sound right, talking about David. It looks like McKeon is going with Redman (who just got "smoked" himself) tomorrow, and saving Beckett for Tuesday. Maybe that's just a "lefty at the Stadium" decision, but to me, it also hints that young Josh didn't bounce back well from his strenuous "side session" against live, desperate hitters. Even if Beckett is 100%, has as much success against the potent Yanks as he did against the anemic Cubs, and wins Game 3, that leaves the D-Train (at this point, it stands for "derailed") against the Rocket's final farewell performance in Game 4. A Yankees sweep wouldn't surprise me in the least, but I'll say it goes five.
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I called them the New Haven Juggernauts earlier this year, when they were tearing up the Eastern League with standout batting performances. They cooled off slightly in the second half (see, Simon Pond really was the glue that held that team together) and exited the playoffs early, but the 2003 Ravens are a team that Jays fans may be talking about years from now because of the talent it contained. No fewer than five first-round draft picks were on the squad at one time or another, as were all five of the Jays’ consensus top prospects (Rios, Quiroz, McGowan, Gross, Bush). The Ravens were so stacked that this review, which runs more than 4,500 words and features 13 players, still doesn’t cover everyone of interest on the roster. I say again, if there are players about whom I haven’t written in these reports, please let me know and I’ll include them in a minor-league wrap-up article next week.
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The 2003 Syracuse SkyChiefs will be the last team of their type during JP's tenure in Toronto. Very few of Syracuse's position players this year were young prospects who had been drafted by the Blue Jays and advanced through the system. Most of the promising players that Gord Ash drafted or signed in the latter years of his tenure have either moved up to Toronto (Phelps, Wells, Hudson, Johnson, Woodward) or been traded (F-Lop). Gabe Gross and Kevin Cash were the only Ash draftees, undrafted free agents, or international signings to make a significant impact with the bat in Syracuse this summer; they'll be followed by Alexis Rios, Guillermo Quiroz, and Dominic Rich next year, who pretty much represent the end of that cohort. Russ Adams, Aaron Hill, Jason Waugh, Vito C, and other Ricciardi draftees will reach Syracuse in the next year or two, but the only three of Ricciardi's men to swing the bat in the Almost-Show this year were the immortal Scott Dragicevich, Brian Patrick, and Michael Galloway, who compiled 76 plate appearances in late-season call-ups.
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Come on. Admit it. You’ve done it. You’ve watched a player and smiled at his failures, either in the post-season or in the regular season—and not because he’s facing your favorite team. You’ve cheered at this player’s utter ineptitude to hit a breaking ball. At his astonishing lack of ability to field a ground ball. At his preposterous propensity to hang a slider or to deliver a non-sinking sinker during a close game. At his underachieving ways. Maybe you’ve even delighted in a player getting injured (as long as it’s not life-threatening). And if you claim to have never experienced this? Quit lying and fess up.
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It’s the first stop on the Reality Check Tour for Blue Jays prospects: Dunedin in the Florida State League, the highest A-Ball league in the system and one of the toughest hitters’ circuits around (.250/.327/.350, according to Michel Wolverton’s minor-league equivalencies, second-lowest in organized baseball, by a single percentage point, to the New York-Penn League). This is the first stage at which the wheat and the chaff say their goodbyes and promise to write each other often. Once a prospect graduates from Dunedin with good results, then you can start taking him a little more seriously going forward.

It was a good year for Dunedin: they won the FSL’s second-half pennant and defeated the Fort Myers Miracle in the first round of the league playoffs before falling to the St. Lucie Mets in the finals. It was also a year of remarkably high turnover: in addition to the players listed below, 2003 D-Jays included Dustin McGowan, David Bush, Russ Adams, Tyrell Godwin and Adam Peterson; those players will be profiled in tomorrow’s New Haven edition. Those are the guys who’ve already graduated; among the current class, there are two or three honours students sure to move up quickly, and a larger group of maybes and hopefuls that could yet break through and become serious prospects for the organization. Here we go:
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Boston Red Sox (Pedro Martinez) at New York Yankees (Roger Clemens)

Aaron Gleeman is one of the most talented young baseball writers you'll ever come across. In the tradition of early Rob Neyer, Aaron combines a solid grasp of sabermetric principles with passionate writing. He's been following the playoffs on his BLOG just as we have here, and I'm going to quote him in lieu of a proper preview to this game:

"Tonight's game is what baseball is all about. History and emotion and disappointment and euphoria, all wrapped up into one game, on one night, in Yankee Stadium. The House that Ruth Built, the house that Gehrig and Mantle and DiMaggio starred in. The place that has been home to such an incredible amount of winning, to so much excitement and drama.

And now it is the place where the Boston Red Sox will try to overcome their past, to overcome that ridiculous curse, to beat the team that has knocked them down so many times."

Tonight at 7:00 on The FAN 590, Mike Wilner's guest on the "Blue Jay A Day Pre-Pre-Game Show" will be Mark Hendrickson. They will be taking listener phone calls, so here's your chance to ask Lurch about his first full season, the differences and similarities between the majors and the NBA, the silent treatment he got in the dugout after his home run, or even his affectionate Batter's Box nickname. As always, it's 416-870-0590 or 1-888-666-0590, and after getting the OK from the producer, you can listen on the phone while you're waiting.

I don't think anything is confirmed yet, so I can't provide exact days and times, but you can expect Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells to be among Wilner's guests before World Series games.
Today, as part of the BBLVPAs, Batter's Box salutes its 2003 Mis-Managers of the Year.

This year, there was absolutely no contest as to who the voters would pick. In two near-unanimous landslides, Jerry Manuel and Larry Bowa were selected as Mis-Managers of the year. Manuel received seven of nine first-place votes, Bowa eight of nine.
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In an interesting little article at SABR-L, researcher Michael Mavrogiannis has shared his research into the leaders in wins in each major league ballpark (since 1920). It turns out that the current leader in wins at SkyDome is Pat Hentgen, with 47.
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If we think of the Blue Jays’ farm system in 2003 as a family, then maybe we can assign personalities to each of them. Syracuse is the underachieving eldest child, with some strong individual talents but otherwise saddled with a lot of recycled ideas and habits past their prime. New Haven is the dutiful, keener second child, eager to oust the big brother in the parents’ affections with spectacular results (also, he’s moving out at the end of the year). Dunedin is the quiet, studious one, not producing a lot of fireworks and passing on most of what she develops to New Haven. Auburn, the second-youngest, is the prodigy who burst onto the family scene and got the attention of the entire neighbourhood with her pyrotechnics. And Pulaski, the newest arrival, started quietly but really livened up towards the end of the year, making her parents think there’s another Auburn there just about to develop.

And then there’s Charleston. Poor, black-sheep Charleston, least-favourite third son who got stuck with most of the family’s least attractive talents.
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John Sickels's new column is about Blue Jays farmhand Alexis Rios. Enjoy!

Florida Marlins (Mark Redman) at Chicago Cubs (Kerry Wood)

The Cubs have had an edge in play during most of the series, and the numbers bear that out. Chicago has outscored the Marlins 36 to 31 (a Base Runs edge of 34.4 to 31.1). They have the edge in extra-base hits (23 to 20) and sacrifice hits (7 to 3). In most other areas, the teams are even. But the Marlins have struck out 15 fewer times, and this ought to go in the "surprising" category.

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The reaction of fans at the Stadium should be interesting. I'm expecting a lot of hostility, especially if Burkett throws a few high and inside.

Since I've been so bad at making outcome predictions in the Cubs-Marlins series, I thought I would try my hand at it for this series. Pettitte will have a solid outing, lasting 7 and giving up 2; Burkett will be gone by the 6th. The Yankees will have a 3-run lead after 7 and Torre will bring in Contreras to pitch the 8th. He'll save Mariano for the 9th and the Yankees will progress to the World Series with a 5-2 win.

With any luck, I'll be completely wrong and we will see a great game 7 showdown tomorrow.