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I remember Burley mentioning that he actually made notes during the game when he was writing the Game Report. What a novel idea! Why don't I try that?

I note that Burley remains undefeated, and we're hoping to at least get a pinch hit out of him in the next little while. So here are the notes I made. (See, I already wrote the really cool stuff for my Game Report yesterday - it's the pretty table down below.)

Part One: Tonight's Game

First, I made a few notes before the game. You see, I never, never get tired of repeating Scott Kazmir's high school numbers. They're so outrageous, I just love them. It wasn't all that long ago, either: his senior year was 2002.

11-2 , 0.37 ERA, 75 IP, 175 Ks, 19 BB, 19 hits.

He would have faced about 265 batters - they batted about .078 against him. Almost two out of three hitters struck out. That was his senior year - as a junior he threw four consecutive no-hitters.

Another thing to look for tonight: it's taking a while, but Lou Piniella is now on the brink of passing Earl Weaver and moving into 19th place all time for wins by a manager. Weaver finished with 1480; Piniella is still at 1479. We'd all like to make him wait until the weekend, I'm sure.

As it happens, there are three active managers ahead of Piniella: Joe Torre was 13th when the year began, and he'll be 13th when it ends, unless the Yankees go 77-9 the rest of the way. Bobby Cox moved past Leo Durocher in April, and last week he slipped past Walter Alston take over 7th place, which is about as high as he can climb this year. And Tony LaRussa went by the great Joe McCarthy earlier this year; last week LaRussa went by Bucky Harris and sits all alone in 4th place. And he's not done: he should catch Sparky Anderson this September. After that... well, John McGraw is still six good years away. As for catching Connie Mack... I don't think so. No one will catch Connie. Anyway, On With the Game!

First Ininng

Scott Kazmir announced his presence with authority. The first two batters, Reed Johnson and Alex Rios, both struck out swinging.

In the bottom half, Doc issued his first walk since the June 3 game against Oakland. Naturally, it came around to score, after a stolen base, an infield hit and... a comebacker to the mound? It looked like Doc forgot there was a runner on third.

Second Inning

Kazmir came out and immediately issued a four pitch walk to Aaron Hill. And somewhere in this fabled land, the sun is shining bright. And somewhere a commentator was saying "Those leadoff walks - they always seem to score. Why is that, partner?" Well, I don't know if that's even true, but I'll tell you why anyway. The only way a leadoff hitter can actually produce a run is if he hits the ball into the seats. Consequently, the emphasis is on getting him to put the ball in play and giving your defense a chance to make a play. If they don't, and he reaches - well, no big deal. It's just a base runner. You still have plenty of opportunity to get out of the inning. So let him put his bat on the ball. If you fall behind, just zip a fastball into the zone. Chances are it won't cost you a run. But if a pitcher can't even do that - can't even throw a strike to the leadoff hitter, when there's no one on base, and little to worry about - it's a bad, bad sign. Leadoff walks are significant because of what they tell us about the pitcher, at this particular moment. And what they told us at this moment, was that Kazmir didn't really know where the hell he was throwing the ball. Sure enough, after a Zaun popout, Menechino worked a walk, putting two men on for 8-9 hitters, and then Hudson drew the third walk of the inning to load the bases. But John McDonald (sigh!) grounded into a double play to end the threat, such as it was. Kazmir needed 27 pitches to get through the inning.

In the bottom half, Jonny Gomes hit a one-out triple, but Doc stranded him on third, geting Toby Hall and Nick Green on ground balls to Hill.

Third Inning

Kazmir needed 13 pitches to retire the side in order.

In the bottom half, Phil Cuzzi nailed Gregg Zaun for catcher interference. That happens - what - maybe four or five times a year? In the more than 2000 games that are played? What are the odds that it would be Phil Cuzzi working a Toronto-Tampa Bay game?

Fourth Inning

With one out, Hill singled and Zaun walked. But Menechino flied out and Aaron Hill got caught wandering off second. Kazmir was at 72 pitches through 4 innings.

Doc set them down in order in the bottom half, for his first 1-2-3 inning.

Fifth Inning

So Kazmir responded with a 1-2-3 inning of his own, needing just 8 pitches to get it done. He needed that, after his second inning.

In the bottom half, the Jays got Carl Crawford to hit into a DP. How often does that happen? Third time this year, I think.

Sixth Inning

Wells came up with a one-out single, and moved to second on a wild pitch. Hillenbrand grounded out but the Jays finally came up with a timely hit as Aaron Hill lined a single to right. Hill took second on Gomes' misplay and Gregg Zaun had a chance to put the Jays ahead. Alas, he lined one right back to Kazmir for the third out. The 21 year old had thrown 106 pitches through 6 innings, and I was really expecting to see the bullpen for the next inning. Looking forward to it, too.

In the bottom half, Aubrey Huff led off with a single. But after Cantu flied out, Huff was caught stealing and Lee struck out. Halladay at just 70 pitches through 6 innings.

Seventh Inning

To my surprise, Kazmir stayed in and struck out Menechino. Orlando Hudson then singled and Lou Piniella considered his options. Option 1: a relief pitcher vs (presumably) a pinch-hitter for McDonald. Option 2: Kazmir vs McDonald. Piniella went with Option 2 - I think most of us would - but got burned as McDonald singled, and both runners moved up on another error by a Tampa outfielder. With Kazmir now at 112 pitches, two men in scoring position, and only one out, Uncle Lou didn't really have many choices left and summoned Doug Waechter from the pen. With the score tied, Gibbons left Sparky in to hit. Bad move. Very bad move. I'm sorry to report this, but Reed Johnson's bat died a few weeks ago. He needs some time off to breathe some life back into it. How dead is that stick? Well, since the beginning of June, Sparky is batting .172 and has just 4 singles in his last 36 at bats. Naturally, he struck out swinging for the second time tonight. There were now two out, and the pinch-hitter, Catalanotto, came in to hit for Rios - Rios is not just hitting .35 better than Johnson; he also happens to have the hot hand, what with being 10 for his last 21 and all. I don't get it. Cat grounded out on the first pitch. Dreadful. The Devil Rays tried their best here to cough up the ball game, but the Jays refused to bite. Badly managed and badly executed.

In the bottom half, Toby Hall irritated me by making Doc throw 8 pitches before taking a called third strike. Doc set them down in order again, and through 7 innings was at 84 pitches.

Eighth Inning

Waechter dismissed the 3-4-5 hitters in order. Hey, he's not chopped liver. He pitched a complete game shutout in his first major league start, which makes him just one of eight men in Devil Rays history to pitch a shutout in the major leagues.

Doc got the 1-2-3 hitters in order in the bottom half, although Lugo made him throw seven pitches. He was now up to 101 pitches after eight.

Ninth Inning

Zaun led off with a single and Mouse tried to bunt him into scoring position. The Devil Rays delivered their third defensive miscue of the night and all hands were safe. Adams came in to run for Zaun. Hudson tried to advance the runners with a bunt but couldn't get it down and flied out harmlessly to left. John Gibbons then had a massive brain fart and let John McDonald see if he could duplicate his earlier rally-klling, inning-ending, ground into double play feat. And whaddya know - he could.

I dislike second-guessing the manager. I really do. Usually, I can understand his reasoning even if I don't necessarily agree with it. I can figure out what he's probably thinking. I'm also aware that he knows lots and lots of stuff that I don't know. But this - this was incomprehensible. (In my original notes, while this was happening, I wrote "Unforgiveably stupid" as McDonald came up to the plate and then "Stupid stupid stupid" after he hit into the DP. I've calmed down considerably since then.)

Anyway, in no universe known to man should anyone let John McDonald bat against a RH pitcher with the game on the line, unless you have no other choice whatsoever. Against RH pitchers this year, McDonald is hitting .091 - he's someone you might consider pulling in favour of Ken Huckaby, Pinch Hitter. There were two LH bats available on the bench - one of whom surely had a better chance of delivering at least a fly ball to the outfield - especially as Piniella doesn't have a LH reliever in his pen to counter with. Maybe we have to get the Blue Jays to read Mike's Advance Scout? Once more - no LH reliever in the Tampa bullpen. And his new shortstop was already in the game, dancing off second base - but after leaving McDonald in, Adams was completely wasted, running for the catcher.

All this also meant that we'd be stuck with Huckaby and McDonald for the rest of the game. Gibbons so far is having a dreadful night.

In the bottom of the inning, Cantu and Lee singled with one out. Doc wiggled out of the mess by getting Hollins on a ground out and fanning Gomes for his 7th K of the evening. Through 9, 113 pitches and that, one presumes, is that.

Tenth Inning

This time, Sparky at least put up a fight before resuming his Eric Hinske impersonation, striking out swinging for the third time tonight. Cat flied out. Wells doubled for his third hit of the evening, but Hillenbrand (also having a rough night) flied out to right on the first pitch to end the inning.

Roy Halladay pitched another fine game (what else is new?), but his offense and his manager gave him very little help tonight. His night was over. Miguel Batista came in from the pen. Eric Munson fouled off a couple of pitches and worked a seven pitch leadoff walk. Tampa Bay continued to perform like the last place team they are: Nick Green struck out attempting to bunt. But Carl Crawford singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Gabe Gross finally came into the game in mid-inning, taking his excellent throwing arm out to LF in place of Cat. And it worked! Lugo hit a fly ball to medium left, and Gross nailed the runner at the plate (and very nice work by Huckaby to get his foot in front of the corner of home plate as well.) And as Haddon said in The Chat "Sweet. That makes Gibbons look like a genius." (Gibbons himself afterwards gacefully gave credit to Ernie Whitt and Brian Butterfield for suggesting the move.) I myself will just say that the Jays might not have been in this damn situation to start with if Gross had come in to bat for McDonald in the 9th.

Eleventh Inning

Our old buddy Kevin Cash, (who would look pretty good in Toronto right now, even with his .188 average) came into the game for Tampa. And Doug Waechter came out for his fifth inning of relief, which may not have been the best idea Lou Piniella's ever had. Aaron Hill led off with a single. Huckaby bunted him into scoring position. After a Menechino ground out, the Devil Rays intentionally walked Orlando Hudson just to have another chance to get John McDonald. Well, wouldn't you? But great gosh almighty, McDonald scratched out an infield hit - well, the umpire said he was safe, anyway. That scored the go ahead run. As further proof that Waechter had lost all effectiveness, the Exhausted Husk of Reed Johnson banged out an RBI base hit. John McDonald promptly made the inning's final out at third base. And what was up with that, by the way? They taught me never make the final out at third base in freaking Little League? Matthew E, who is talented, perceptive, and full of wisdom, commented that "I still think McDonald should be legally reclassified as peat and burned for warmth."

In the bottom half, Miguel Batista dismissed the Rays on nine pitches, and the win was in the books. Miguel earns the win, and he certainly did his part: he goes to 4-0. Doc stays at 11-4.

Part Two: This Day In Baseball

A few notes from around the majors: it seems to me that the two top candidates to start the All Star Game for the AL are Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle. You really can't go wrong either way. Buehrle is a great pitcher, better than most of us realize, partially because he pitches in that Launching Pad known as US Cellular. And he's having an outstanding year. He won his ninth in a row tonight against the Tigers, and his record now stands at 10-1, 2.42 while Halladay is 11-4, 2.40 - Doc really could have used the W tonight to help his case. Both men are doing this remarkable work without a lot of help from the rest of the team. While Zack Greinke still sits at 112th place, dead last, in Run Support, Buehrle is 92nd and Halladay is 97th. I hope Doc gets the call in Detroit, but if it's Buehrle, we honestly can not complain. He is indeed worthy.

The Blue Jays started the Orioles off on a six-game losing streak, but they finally snapped that one off tonight. They rallied from three runs down to beat the Yankees in 10 on Brian Roberts' homer off Mike Stanton.

The Jays and the Yankees have been spinning their wheels, the Orioles have been sinking fast, and the Red Sox have moved smartly into the power vaccuum. They blew one tonight, though, as the bullpen coughed up seven runs over the final two innings. Travis Hafner drove in six runs for the Tribe, including a ninth inning grand slam off whoever that is wearing Keith Foulke's uniform this year.

The Angels are pretty comfortable with their big lead in the AL West - they beat Texas tonight on Garrett Anderson's 11th inning grand slam. But here they come, people. Oakland has won 18 of their last 26 games after kicking the crap out of the Mariners tonight. They have a very good shot at being back at .500 by the All Star Break. Something that didn't seem very likely when they were sitting at 17-32. Barry Zito's run support has been even worse than Buehrle's and Halladay's which is why he's still just 4-8; however, since resurrecting his old college slider after his awful April, Zito has pitched quite well indeed (4-4, 3.27), and Beane says he's absolutely not going to be traded.

I'm beginning to think that if you gave Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone this year's Kansas City team, they'd have the Royals fighting for first place within a month. No Chipper? No Hudson? No Hampton? No Thomson? No problem. Three starting pitchers go down, the closer implodes, the two veteran corner outfielders were a disaster, Furcal is having an awful year... it just doesn't matter. Dontrelle Willis? Who's he? The Braves took the D-Train for 11 hits and 5 runs. Meanwhile, Jorge Sosa, liberated from Tampa, and sprinkled liberally with Leo Mazzone's Magic Pixie Dust, is 4-1, 2.78 for the Braves. This is just silly.

This only allowed the Braves to remain 2.5 behind the Nationals, who got another fine game out of Ryan Drese, who's now 2-1, 2.84 since being picked up off the scrap heap of failed Texas pitchers.

San Diego is the only decent team in the NL West, and despite a blizzard of injuries, have a tidy four game lead after beating up the Dodgers tonight. Brian Lawrence, tonight's winner, has had a very nice month of June after a rocky start. His team has needed it. Every month this year, a different guy from the Padres rotation has gone on the DL.

The night's best pitching performance took place in Wrigley Field, as Carlos Zambrano blanked the Brewers on three hits for eight innings. Ryan Dempster finished the 2-0 shutout.

Finally, Roger Clemens made the first start of his career in Coors Field. Obviously, the only pitcher of his generation who is comparable to Clemens is Greg Maddux, and Mad Dog is 5-0, 5.70 is 6 starts at Coors. Well, altitude didn't exactly throw the big fella off his game. He worked 7 IP, fanned 7 and held the Rockies to 4 hits and a single run. His bullpen then coughed up the 5-1 lead. Poor Roger.

And finally....

Part Three: Our Feature Presentation!

In response to a great deal of Box commentary, I wanted to give everybody the following to contemplate. It's a Tale of Two Outfielders. We're going to look at each player's first four seasons as a major league regular. Let us first consider Player A:

25 143 489 64 128 27 0 15 59 24 6 25 74 .262 .298 .409 9 .707
26 162 663 108 200 36 9 29 121 29 7 32 95 .302 .335 .514 8 .849
27 149 588 83 155 27 2 32 106 31 6 27 105 .264 .304 .480 8 .784
28157 621 85 168 36 6 27 98 27 5 35 82 .271 .314 .478 6 .792

And now let us look at Player B:

23 159 608 87 167 34 4 23 100 9 4 27 85 .275 .305 .457 15 .762
24 161 678 118 215 49 5 33 117 4 1 42 80 .317 .359 .550 21 .909
25 134 536 82 146 34 2 23 67 9 2 51 83 .272 .337 .472 17 .809
26 156 598 74 158 27 2 29 78 4 6 46 93 .264 .313 .465 13 .778

These two players clearly have a great deal in common. They're fundamentally similar players. They're both RH hitters, with good but not great power. Neither of them take a lot of walks; neither of them hit for particularly impressive batting averages. Both players had exceptionally strong sophomore seasons, banging out 200 hits and batting above .300, but in time that season would come to seem an exception, as their production settled in at a different level and shape. Both of them, essentially, are what we sometimes think of as RBI guys. Hitters like this drive in a lot of runs because they put the ball in play so much and because they have pretty good power.

It's also quite obvious that Player B is a superior hitter. While both players are quite clearly the same type of hitter, Player B is generally a little bit better - neither player walks a lot, but Player B walks a little more. He strikes out a little less. His batting averages are a little better. Player A's advantages are that he appears to have more speed: he steals more bases, and doesn't hit into as many double plays. However, and this is of immense significance - Player B is also two years younger at each step along the way.

OK, enough of this tomfoolery. I'm sure most of you have identified Player B as Vernon Wells, just by recognizing his Triple Crown numbers. Vernon's 4th year, his age 26 season, is of course 2005. I just pro-rated the current numbers from a season that we are all regarding as a disappointment.

And Player A? Would anyone care to tell us? Would you be happy if Vernon's future resembled his? I can tell you this: although he never had another season anywhere nearly as good as his sophomore year, he did have 5 All Star Games in his future.

"Don't you know how hard all this is?"
-------Ted Williams

One last thought. Professional athletics takes place at the extreme margins of human performance. What these people do, and the level at which they do it, is simply exceptional - exceptional in a way that really surpasses any understanding. Look at it this way - there are many, many many more people who can perform brain surgery than play centre field at the major league level.

The actual difference between a star and a replacement level player is razor thin, by any normal standard. But major league baseball is not part of the normal world. It is, instead, a tiny fraction of the normal world - a tiny fraction from which everyone but an elite few have been completely removed from the playing field. In this world, the tiny unmeasureable differences between a star and a replacement level player suddenly loom large. They appear enormous, but they are no such thing.

Vernon Wells has been off his game much of the year - he started out in a slump, and these last few weeks his head seems to have been somewhere else. It's true, of course, that his wife just had an emergency medical procedure and she's some 3000 miles away. But he's a pro, and he's exceptionally well compensated - he's supposed to suck it up and get on with it. And I think he's trying to suck it up and get on with it, he just isn't always succeeding.

We all give Esteban Loaiza a lot of grief around here. I sure do - it's lots of fun. I know, however, that Loaiza's wife had a tumour on her spinal cord, and her pregnancy (she gave birth in April 2001) left her paralyzed. I remember in late 2002, when all the Jays wives and kids were on the field, watching Loaiza pushing her around in her wheelchair. He had left town before she started walking again. I'm still going to call him Voldemort and The Dark Lord, but I recognize that sometimes you just can't give everything to the game, whether you want to or not. It doesn't matter how much money they're paying you.

Blue Jays 3, Devil Rays 1: A Magpie Epic, in Three Parts | 17 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
BallGuy - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 08:52 AM EDT (#120997) #
Excellent summary Magpie. I love the comparison chart. While he has become everyone's favourite target, Vernon has grown his BA to .262. It is starting to approach respectable. What will happen when he reaches .270 or .280? Will he suddenly be viewed as a valuable asset to the team as opposed to his current status as lazy liability?
Joe - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 09:04 AM EDT (#120998) #
What will happen when he reaches .270 or .280? Will he suddenly be viewed as a valuable asset to the team as opposed to his current status as lazy liability?

Not if his OBP remains at .313. Of course, that won't happen.. right?

Dave Till - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 09:07 AM EDT (#120999) #
Vernon is hitting .322/.362/.517 in June. He's doing just fine.
MatO - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 09:30 AM EDT (#121002) #
"I still think McDonald should be legally reclassified as peat and burned for warmth."

With a name like McDonald I think the peat would have a much better use in the production of some single malt scotch whiskey. Glen Crappyich!

Thomas - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 09:34 AM EDT (#121004) #
Without looking it up I know that Zaun's catcher's interference is the sixth case so far in baseball this year. What does that say about me?
Jim - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 09:45 AM EDT (#121005) #
I think Crawford hit into 2 double plays in one game at Yankee Stadium last week. Think being the key word there.
Geoff North - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 09:55 AM EDT (#121006) #
Joe Carter type offence from an excellent defensive center fielder? I'll take that...
Jim - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 10:14 AM EDT (#121008) #
Touch em all Magpie, you'll never write a longer wrapup.
Mick Doherty - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 10:32 AM EDT (#121009) #
Yes. Yes, he will.
Jim - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 10:58 AM EDT (#121011) #
Oh I know, I just couldn't think of a better way to end the sentence. Of course, I didn't know when I wrote it that I was beat to the punch with the (easy) answer anyway.
Mike Green - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#121012) #
Well said, Magpie.

I realize that Matthew and you were kidding, but I should rise to the defence of John McDonald. He does not write out the lineup cards or make the decisions whether to pinch-hit or not. He's just another in a long line of good field-no hit shortstops- Dal Maxvill, Mark Belanger..., except that he doesn't field or hit quite as well as Belanger. I was unhappy when he was acquired, and his overuse this season has definitely been irritating, if not unexpected, but this is not his responsibility. has a list of comparables for Wells, and really the two closest are Ellis Valentine and Shawn Green. Valentine more or less went into the tank, while Green exploded.
Flex - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 11:24 AM EDT (#121014) #
I bow down to "burn Macdonald-peat for warmth" as the funniest put down of a player I have ever read.
Magpie - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 11:27 AM EDT (#121015) #
Touch em all Magpie, you'll never write a longer wrapup.

Actually, I already have, according to the on-site Word Counter. That would be here and here

But... but.... but...

Both of those pieces consisted largely of rows of numbers, and the Word Counter counts each number as a word. Which is kind of like cheating, no?

So in my mind the honour of composing the longest Post Game Report still belongs to Jordan for his epic response to the Jays 5-1 loss to the Orioles on the 4th of May.

Jim - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 12:33 PM EDT (#121030) #
I just tried to give a creative answer for Carter... :)

My sincere condolences to the Raptor fans here, I've never disliked a Connecticut player as much as Charlie Villanueva in my life. I hope he decides to work, but if he wouldn't work before the guaranteed big contract, it will be quite a challenge after.
Jordan - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 04:50 PM EDT (#121049) #
I won't be topping that one tomorrow, but I will have something in the 4,000-word range for y'all, primarily occupied with the men playing first base and centerfield for Toronto these days.
Matthew E - Wednesday, June 29 2005 @ 10:45 PM EDT (#121076) #
I realize that Matthew and you were kidding, but I should rise to the defence of John McDonald. He does not write out the lineup cards or make the decisions whether to pinch-hit or not. He's just another in a long line of good field-no hit shortstops- Dal Maxvill, Mark Belanger..., except that he doesn't field or hit quite as well as Belanger. I was unhappy when he was acquired, and his overuse this season has definitely been irritating, if not unexpected, but this is not his responsibility.

Fair enough.

If McDonald were being used as an occasional starter (with Hill also on the team, very occasional) and defensive replacement for Adams, my only problem with him would be some minor misgivings about giving up Mastny.

And, to his credit, he's been better with the bat than I thought he was going to be. I figured the guy wouldn't get ten hits all year, but he has come through at times. I just don't believe in his ability to keep doing it, that's all.

Fawaz - Thursday, June 30 2005 @ 12:32 AM EDT (#121084) #
As someone who ripped into Gibbons for his decision, it's only right for me to offer a (partial) mea culpa - Miller had apparently been activated before the game, so there was a lefty in the pen. I still like Gross vs. a guy off the DL better than McDonald, but the decision is a matter of preference as opposed to 'an obvious brain fart'.

Here's Gibby:
Blue Jays 3, Devil Rays 1: A Magpie Epic, in Three Parts | 17 comments | Create New Account
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