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Pardon me for linking to an absolute piece of garbage like this, but on a great weekend for football (the Fiesta Bowl was awesome and so is Michael Vick) and hockey (I'm pumped for Canada-Russia tonight) Bob Elliott was the only local scribe to even mention baseball. Too bad.

It's a column from Saturday's Sun that examines what we don't know about the 2003 Jays, which in Elliott's case is quite a lot. He can't tell Dave Berg from the long-gone Homer Bush, for one thing: "Hudson will play more often than the injury-prone Bush and is better than Bush with the glove." The theme, that J.P. & Co. have done nothing to change the team except weaken the defence, is typically unsubstantiated by anything except the opinion of a hack. With Richard Griffin mercifully quiet for the last couple of weeks, I guess old Bob felt he should pick up the slack.
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Kent - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 10:47 AM EST (#100036) #
I'm still angry. On Clutch Hits I speculated that Elliott used to have a pipeline into the Jays' front office, and now resents having to actually work at his job. He obviously stays in touch with some of the former Toronto scouts, providing readers who couldn't care less with updates on their whereabouts, so you can assume his "inside" information is now coming from disgruntled ex-employees.

What do we know "for sure" about the 2003 Blue Jays? That they will be consistently attacked by two local columnists, whose vitriol will not disguise their ignorance.

Nothing else is certain, but in the category of "pretty damn likely":

- they will score more runs than last year
- they will allow fewer runs than last year

According to Pythagoras and his followers, that means their W-L record will improve. The infield defence isn't as good as Minnesota's, especially at the corners, where Koskie and Mientkiewicz are human highlight reels, but Hinske and Delgado are superior hitters. Toronto is stronger up the middle than the Yankees, where Posada, Jeter, Soriano and Williams are all question marks, but didn't prevent them from winning 100+ games again. If a guy contributes enough with the bat, you can forgive a sub-par glove.

Catalanotto and Stewart might be the worst arms ever to bookend an outfield, but at the top of the order, they will make up for those deficiencies, and then some. Most importantly, the pitching is substantially better, and that's by far the largest component of preventing runs. The difference between Cory Lidle and Mike Smith more than compensates for the extra-base liberties baserunners will be taking on singles to RF and LF.

Elliott, who measures Roy Halladay's contribution by the most meaningless possible stat (wins) and uses the RBI yardstick to determine the value of Josh Phelps and Vernon Wells, doesn't have a clue about defence either, if he thinks Ken Huckaby is "below average." Who is an average catcher in Bob-land? Johnny Bench?
_Jordan - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 01:15 PM EST (#100037) #
I love Bob's insight into how scouts rate players: "below average, average and above average." Hey, thanks, Bob -- it's great to have that sort of inside look at how the game's most sophisticated talent evaluators analyze players' skills. Can you also tell us which hitters are "below average, average and above average"? And do you think you could provide something resembling a yardstick to back up just one of your arbitrary assessments in this regard? Twit.

I'm afraid there'll only be one cure for the Toronto sportswriter malaise, and that's winning. When the team reaches and then breaks .500, which it certainly look capable of doing this year, then it will generate its own buzz and momentum that Griffin and Elliott won't be able to derail, no matter how hard they try. Fans may read Griffin and Elliott this off-season and form negative opinions, but if the Blue Jays are 46-36 halfway through the season and hanging tough with the Sox and Yankees, all this January detritus will melt away like so much dirty snow.

And of course, as we build Batter's Box into the Official Underground Forum of Blue Jays Fandom, these two hacks won't stand a chance. :-)
_EddieZosky - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 02:06 PM EST (#100038) #
What two hacks?
_Justin - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 02:50 PM EST (#100039) #
Obviously this is a brutal column. When I first read the Bush statement though I thought that he was comparing Hudson opening up in 2003 to Bush starting in 2002. If that is indeed the case, then that is shoddy writing from a professional journalist. Living in BC I haven't had much exposure to Toronto's baseball coverage, so I am curious as to how the coverage of the Jays has "evolved" from the early '90s. Has it been this way since Gillick left?
Coach - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 03:39 PM EST (#100040) #
Elliott may have meant to say "Berg" but typed Bush; there's no sobriety test for sportswriters, and Sun editors have been replaced by computer spell-checks. Or, his head is so far up his butt that he hasn't noticed Homer's stint in Florida and recent minor-league deal with San Diego.

Justin, the de-volution of Jays print reporting began with Richard Griffin, who was just as nasty to Gord Ash, often with good reason, as he is to Ricciardi out of spite. The Globe and Mail (Larry Millson forever, and more recently Jeff Blair) provides smart, balanced coverage, but not nearly enough of it to satisfy hardcore fans; as the self-styled national paper with a minimal sports section, it's usually an abbreviated game report plus an occasional column. The Sun has always been clueless and moronic, though Elliott used to get fed the odd scoop, and Star readers miss the days of Neil MacCarl and Alison Gordon. But now, at least, there's the OUFBJF -- hmmm, I expected Jordan to coin a catchier acronym.
_jason - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 04:35 PM EST (#100041) #
Is Woodward considered below average defensively? Watching him play I thought he was at least average.
Coach - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 05:35 PM EST (#100042) #
Jason, I have no stats to back up this opinion, nor do I think numerical measurements of fielding skill exist that are nearly as accurate or useful as those for hitting and pitching. Woodward doesn't have any one attribute at SS that makes you take notice, but he's consistent and reliable. The athletic Felipe Lopez is far more erratic, prone to the inevitable physical errors that plague every SS but Jays backup Mike Bordick, plus more than his share of inexcusable brain cramps. Woody has a strong, accurate arm, but others (like A-Rod) throw even better from deep in the hole. I think the young Tony Fernandez had a step or two more range to his right, and Alex Gonzalez might be a step better to his left. Chris doesn't try to create Ozzie Smith/Omar Vizquel magic around the bag, but he makes the pivot on the 4-6-3 efficiently, and rarely makes a poor feed on the 6-4-3. His defence certainly isn't a liability, so "at least average" is a good call, and his bat is a plus; only the question of durability remains to be answered as Woodward begins his first full season as a regular.
Dave Till - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 09:22 PM EST (#100043) #
Toronto baseball writers have been grouchy and pessimistic since at least the Jimy Williams era. I recall hearing at the time that many of the Jimy-era Jays were, to put it delicately, difficult interviews, and that may have soured many of the writers on their chosen profession.

Believe it or not, the current lot aren't any worse than the beat writers of 10 or 15 years ago. (Disclaimer: I don't read either the Sun or the National Post on general principles, so my sample size is incomplete.) Marty York was actually worse than Richard Griffin, as he was equally sarcastic and far crankier. Griffin seems to at least like his job (this is not a defense of Griffin; he should not be allowed anywhere near a word processor ever again). York and Jim Proudfoot spent a lot of their time bashing George Bell and whining about athletes being spoiled prima donnas.

None of the Toronto baseball writers predicted that the Jays would win in 1992, and most of them spent the entire summer claiming that the club would fold down the stretch.

On a related subject: Alison Gordon once wrote a murder mystery novel, The Dead Pull Hitter, in which the Toronto Titans won the pennant. It's fun to match the fictional characters in Gordon's book with the real-life early 1980's Jays she wrote about.

Jason: Diamond Mind rates Woodward as average in 2002, and I seem to recall reading somebody (can't remember who) listing him as above average. (He may have been below average before then.) I still think he was hitting a bit over his head this year, but I don't think defense will be a problem.

Long live the OUFBJF (the best Jays-related abbreviation since WAMCO)!
_Keith L. - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 11:27 PM EST (#100044) #
(the best Jays-related abbreviation since WAMCO)

I'm a little scared, but I have to ask: What's WAMCO?
_Ryan Adams - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 11:46 PM EST (#100045) #
I now present to you the song of the OUFBJF (which by a strange coincidence resembles one once heard on The Simpsons):

Who counsels J.P. on every trade?
Who makes the Red Sox always fade?
We do! We do!

Who puts cork in Delgado's bat?
Who keeps Clemens' slider flat?
We do! We do!

Who prevents senseless seagull kills?
Who hides Richard Griffin's Viagra pills?
We do! We do!

Who stops Halladay from breaking down?
Who keeps Gord Ash out of town?
We do! We do!
Craig B - Sunday, January 05 2003 @ 11:58 PM EST (#100046) #
I'm a little scared, but I have to ask: What's WAMCO?

An acronym for the feared lineup the Jays fielded from '93 to '95.

It's the first five batters in the order, in order:


Great nickname... it was frequently called the "WAMCO lineup".
Craig B - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 12:17 AM EST (#100047) #
A couple of other points people raised...

Alison Gordon was great. Her book Foul Balls : Five Years in the American League was not only very interesting, but very good, and I like her fiction writing.

Woodward: I really love his style on defense, very no-nonsense. I think he has an good arm for a shortstop, but he makes it even better through good, intelligent footwork. I eventually got sick of Gonzalez throwing big, looping eephus pitches to first and missing the runner by five feet, instead of planting and trying to throw a strike. Why is it that shortstops with cannon arms tend not to actually use them? Fernandez used to do that, it drove me nuts.

Woodward sets himself so that he can throw the ball *hard*, and seems to make up on the throw the time he loses in planting.

I am confused, though, by comments on Homer Bush (whose name, incidentally, I cannot even type without flinching.) I think he meant to say that Berg is below average but Hudson is average, which is better than Bush was. Bad editing, not Elliott's fault.

Finally, the Elliott piece was of course garbage as one would excpect from the Sun... except their sports coverage is usually better. I don't know who the scouts he refers to are, but saying they rank players as "below average, average, or above average" is a tautology up there with "a person might have any of three amounts of shirts... zero, one, or more than one." However, to the typical Sun reader, this would still be far too complex a thought.

The best comment about the article I saw was on Primer, where a reader (responding to the allegation that it was a piece of crap) "defended" it by saying that it was the best coverage of Gary Varsho's uniform number woes that he had seen.

Finally, what does it say about Ellis Dungun's scouting skills that after years in the most (or second-most) productive and talent-rich part of the U.S., the high points of his resume are Mark Whiten, Eric Yelding, and Brent Abernathy? I say "good move" in letting him go.
Craig B - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 12:51 AM EST (#100048) #
One more thing... Kent, you mentioned your excitement over Canad-Russia and I'm sure you were as disappointed as I was by the hockey. Very difficult to play against 50+ interference penalties. When they announced a Swedish referee, I knew we were in trouble - Swedish hockey has become so accustomed to interference and picking it's hardly noticed anymore - and darned if that second Russian goal didn't come on the most brutally obvious pick play, where the Russian forward dove down and took the feet right out from under the Canadian defenceman, almost like a perfect run block in football. No call, 2-2, momentum gone, and there it was.

I'm starting to lose my patience with hockey; if it were called by the rulebook, it would be such an exciting game, but 90% of the time now the game dissolves into shoving matches, where success in the open ice is determined by how much of the other guy's sweater you can grab. I *love* the hitting game, but you can't play a hitting game where interference is condoned.

Sorry. Rant off. It's good to remember how lucky we are with baseball, where the rule book with one or two exceptions is actually followed.
_The Strike Zone - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 01:29 AM EST (#100049) #
It's good to remember how lucky we are with baseball, where the rule book with one or two exceptions is actually followed.

You rang?
_Sean - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 04:27 AM EST (#100050) #
Well, I just have to laugh at the reappearance of a great old acronym, the birth of a new one, and vent a little at the result in the gold-medal game.

Some of the picks were ridiculous, but honestly I wasn't impressed with our play in the third period regardless. I'd have to say, grudgingly, that we didn't deserve to win. Canadian organization and positional play seemed to disappear at crunch time.

Hockey is my favourite sport (Learning to skate at age three is a big reason why) but baseball has its own charm, as we all know.
_Sean - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 04:29 AM EST (#100051) #
Oh, and I shouldn't forget a thank-you to Ryan for the Simpsons link and a funny adaptation of the song. One of my all-time favourite episodes!
_Kent - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 08:24 AM EST (#100052) #
Imagine my surprise at stumbling out of bed to discover we're an all-night blog (about hockey) and we have a theme song! Cool.

If Russia had scored on the Upshall elbowing penalty, which was a clean shoulder hit, I'd be livid, and screaming "we wuz robbed," but I think "they" got stronger as the game progressed, and "we" didn't, so despite my affection for the captain, the goalie and Tootoo, who crossed the line between energetic and undisciplined a couple of times, maybe the better team did win. Not sure which Canadian defenceman lost his stick on the winner, but (unlike the rugby scrums) it was immediately exploited with two perfect passes.

Why is it that shortstops with cannon arms tend not to actually use them? Fernandez used to do that, it drove me nuts.

Me too, Craig. Tony was playing his own little game -- how close can I make this? -- and my current cringes are at 1B, where Delgado takes greater and greater liberties with pulling his foot off the bag early, until someone inevitably will get called safe. It's like the phantom play at 2B; wiithin a yard of the bag, within a second of the throw, and it's an out. And as The Strike Zone laments, nobody calls him anymore, but then again, they never did...
_Kent - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 08:32 AM EST (#100053) #
Re WAMCO: the Jays really need to buy a vowel -- SCHDPWWMH is worse than OUFBJF.
Craig B - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 10:26 AM EST (#100054) #
I didn't mean to imply that the better team didn't win; they did. I just thought that the general quality of the hockey was execrable, comparable to what is seen nightly in NHL arenas, without the extra speed and skill.

Nice to see the two main exceptions (strike zone and "phantom" calls on base touches and some tags) rang in so quickly. I can't really think of any other rules that aren't called except the requirement that the batter attempt to avoid being hit by the pitch, which is my personal bete noire.
_Don Baylor, Ron - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 10:52 AM EST (#100055) #
_R Billie - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 10:58 AM EST (#100056) #
I think they teach first baseman to come off the bag as early as possible after receiving the ball don't they? I guess the thinking is to sell the umpire on the play being over...I'm not sure myself how much value there is in that. My complaint with Delgado at first has more to do with his slow reaction time and for a guy with his height and reach he often doesn't stretch for throws very well.

He could definately stand to work on his flexibility and a little less on muscle bulk...compared to other big guys like Galaragga or McGwire, Delgado is put to shame in that respect. That lack of flexibility may have negatively impacted his ability to hit for contact the last couple of years as well...he's thicker than when he first came into the league.

There were times last year when he would receive throws with his glove near his chest or other words not stretching for the throw at all and giving his young infielders any kind of help. That seemed to get better as the year went on so the coaching staff probably noticed that as well. His knee problems might have played a role.
Coach - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 11:15 AM EST (#100057) #
Craig, I watched Ian White gamely try to take out a forward twice his size, and thought "it's too bad; he's fun to watch and has a great shot, but he's no NHL-er." The clutching and grabbing (on both sides) meant a lot of skill players lacked room and didn't stay open for long, which is like the NHL playoffs. They have succeeded in making their game a little more wide open this regular season.

Baseball could use some tinkering; limiting pickoff throws (Bill James was all over this; I'd be more lenient at two per runner and five per inning) and restricting the number of pitching changes, to minimize the Tony LaRussa effect, are probably better than eliminating hitter time-outs. Anyone who's ever been in a real Batter's Box knows that when your muscles get tight, or a little doubt creeps in, you really need to step out. Same with tics and rituals -- whatever works. Grover was amusing, so is Eck on-deck, and I try to sympathize with Nomar, who can't help it.
Coach - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 11:35 AM EST (#100058) #
come off the bag as early as possible after receiving the ball

R Billie, in high school ball, the key word is "after." In our league, Carlos would be giving away outs, but umps don't seem to care in MLB. We also have to touch second to turn two; their 2B extends vertically to infinity.
Dave Till - Monday, January 06 2003 @ 03:36 PM EST (#100059) #
I always assumed that the main reason to pull your foot off the bag at first is to reduce the chance of getting spiked, or even hit, by the runner charging down the line. It's the same deal with double plays - the fielder is trying to avoid getting lowbridged by the base runner. The advantage gained by only being in the neighbourhood of the bag isn't that great, since the ball moves a lot faster than fielders do. (I read somewhere that the advantage gained by stretching at first to take throws is negligible; the only benefit a good defensive first baseman can offer his team is the ability to scoop throws in the dirt or which have arrived on a bounce.)

From what I've seen, umpires will give the pivoting fielder, or the first baseman, the out if (a) the fielder was in the neighbourhood of the base, and (b) it's obvious that the throw was there in time.

I can see a case for enforcing the rules more closely, but if you do that, you'll see a lot more middle infielders on the DL with knee injuries, and a lot more first basemen getting spiked. I'm not sure where to draw the line here.
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