John Sickels of ESPN.com 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.
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.
"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!
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.
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.
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.
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.