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The Jays really throttled the Mariners last night, exploding for three home runs off beleaguered Mariner starter Ryan Franklin (5.2 IP, 8 R, 5 SO, 0 BB). But that's not what everybody cares about. We want to know whether the Jays will sweep Seattle, whether the Jays will make any moves before the waiver deadline, whether the Jays have a chance at the post-season this go-round, and whether Eric Hinske really has it figured out, magically turning back into the beautiful carriage we all thought we were getting in to in 2002.

Well, I've consulted my Magic 8 ball, and I'm afraid the answer to all those questions is the same: Outlook not so good.

My questions began in the top of the 9th. Gaudin was given the bottom of the 8th to slide precipitously close to the bulldozer sending him back to Syracuse, then push himself all the way back up to "probably won't be sent down" territory. Then, with a 5-run lead, Gibbons went to Speier, his most untrusted yet recently excellent reliever. Yeah, those 5-run leads are really tenuous.

Of course, up 5 runs even after giving a recent call-up an inning to work out his stuff seems like an opportune time to use somebody who might not have seen much use recently. So when, exactly, are the Jays planning on using Brandon League? For someone rated as their #1 prospect by several different organizations (and #3 by Batter's Box' own Jordan), League sure does seem to rot at the end of the bench a lot. Speier has pitched in the past 5 games, too, while League hasn't seen action since the 9th of June in Texas.

Luckily, it seems that there is a method to the Blue Jays' madness. Arnsberg's been tinkering with League's delivery — something he did before Brandon was sent to Syracuse to get some innings — and he's been given a lot of out-of-game work to get it all together. Spencer Fordin's article, linked previously, goes into more detail, but I have to say that I'm relieved to learn the Jays really seem to know what they're doing with League — or, at least, what they're doing makes sense. He's not going to get the sort of instruction he needs at the minor-league level, and, as one of the organization's prize arms, he needs good instruction. The Jays know how to rebuild an arm (well, Mel Queen certain does) — hopefully, his delivery's all that needs rebuilding.

Zaun Jays MVP?

I can understand that people would be able to make cases for other players — Shea Hillenbrand, Doc... well, that's about it — but in my mind there's no more valuable player to the team than Gregg Zaun. He handles the pitchers well, and, although he'll never be one of the league leaders in CS% (currently .239), he puts his body on the line for the team whenever it's needed, and blocks the plate as well as anybody I've seen.

Zaun is the perfect example of what drinking (and, more to the point, not drinking) can do to you. Once he's done playing — probably not for a few years yet, as he only seems to be getting better as he ages — I expect he'll make the inspirational speaker circuit, telling kids and adults just how much he'd ravaged his body and soul with the drug, and how much better he became once he got off it. Just like Roy Halladay's reinvention in 2000, Zaun has become a new man, and his previous achievements can't really be compared to his current ones. If he keeps his level of performance up for a year or two more, he may start to be seen as one of the best catchers in the game league-wide. For reference, his current OPS of .824 ranks him second to Jason Varitek in MLB catchers with a minimum of 200 plate appearances. His GPA (.283) is second to Varitek, too. His OBP (.388) is first. (All MLB-wide, remember.)

He might not be able to keep it up, especially over a long season (and over a few more years), but Zaun definitely ranks as one of J.P. Ricciardi's all-time best finds. For a player from the scrap heap to succeed so dramatically — what a great story!

Shea Hillenbrand, good defender?

For somebody who everyone seemed to think was below-average defensively at both 3B and 1B, Shea sure seems to have made a lot of great plays. At 3B, his fielding percentage (.952) isn't great, and neither is his zone rating (.732) and range factor (2.41) — all would put him near the bottom in the league. At first, though, his fielding percent (.996), range factor (10.85) and zone rating (.842) all put him near the top. I've been impressed, especially for someone known basically as a butcher. Before having looked at the statistics, I would not hesitate to throw him out there at third or first every day; after looking at them, I'd still put him at first every day, being only slightly more hesitant at third. I can't remember him ever really botching a play at either corner, and for that I'm grateful.

Toronto 9, Seattle 4: Franklin Hit By Lightning | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Named For Hank - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 10:21 AM EDT (#123387) #
I agree heartily on Zaun. I think that if the Jays rise to any kind of playoff success (or even get really close), The Gregg Zaun Story could make a hell of a movie.

...and the tagline would have to be "Going, going, Zaun".
Nick - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#123389) #
I think you have to include Vernon in the Jays' MVP discussion if you are going to include Hillenbrand. He has broken from the pack in the team RBI lead with 57, 9 more than Hillenbrand. His being right around Adams and Hinske was just an anamoly. He will lead the team by a wide margin by the end of the year. Not that I put a lot of stock in RBI, but people were complaining that Vernon was not "clutch." He is also the team's main power source with 18 HR, 7 more than the next Jay, also HIllenbrand with 11. Of course, he is only 7th in OBP (min 200 PA). But I think that after all that criticism after the Tejada hustle double, it should be recognized that Wells has been very good after April and awesome in June and July.
Nick - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 10:52 AM EDT (#123390) #
But just to be clear, Doc is the unquestioned team MVP in my mind. Although in terms of value per dollar, Zaun might actually be the team MVP. Doc is great, but is he 10 times more valuable than Zaun?
Paul D - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 11:54 AM EDT (#123393) #
Could a team full of Zauns win?

I don't think baseball quality is linear, so Doc only has to be 3 times as good to be worth 10 times as much.

Hm. That probably doens't make any sense. I'm thinking of the pyramid of talent. YOu need to pay the top guys way way more than the middle guys, and they're worth it.

Anyways, here's a Richard Griffin article on last night's game taht includes a quote from Gibbons saying that O-Dog should be the AL MVP.
JaysNJets - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 01:56 PM EDT (#123403) #
After reading the discussion in an earlier Game Report thread regarding the atmosphere at US Cellular Field in Chicago, I hoped that I could gets some advice from those of you who have attended games in that area.

I am going down to visit my older brother in Grand Rapids, Michigan during the first week of September, and we want to catch a ball game. Unfortunately the Jays do not play in the area, so we're going somewhere else.

Anyways, Grand Rapids is about 3 hours from both Chicago and Detroit, and as I have never been to either city I would like to take some time at one location. The Cubs are on an extended road trip, and I probably couldn't have secured tickets anyways, but both the White Sox and the Tigers are at home.

I guess what I was interested in was the relative merits of Chicago and Detroit, and especially US Cellular Field and Comerica Park. For those of you who have attended games, was one park or city significantly better than the other for a short vacation? Any and all advice is welcome.

Sorry if this isn't where this question should be posted, I realize it's a little off topic.
Jim - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#123405) #
Detroit is the worst city in the US and Comerica is the worst of the new parks. Take the trip to Cleveland instead.
Gerry - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#123407) #
I haven't been to US Cellular field but I think what you will find is that Tiger Stadium is the better park, but Chicago is the better city. I know there is lots to do in Chicago, I am not sure what there is to do in Detroit.
Mick Doherty - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 02:29 PM EDT (#123410) #
Detroit is the worst city in the US

Jim's apparently never been to Lubbock.

Jim - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 02:43 PM EDT (#123411) #
I don't consider Texas to be part of the US. I haven't been to Lubbock but I've been to Dallas a few times, and as much as I dislike Texas, Detroit is unspeakably bad.

Gitz - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 05:03 PM EDT (#123432) #
I would wager that either Fresno or Bakersfield would be right up there as worst decent-sized U.S. cities. (But I have heard horrible things about Lubbock.)

As for the big cities, where major-league teams are located, the worst I've been to is Phoenix. It's not bad, per se, but there is no apparent reason for a city to be there, it's insanely hot, and it's the very definition of urban sprawl.

In order, where I've been:

1) San Francisco
2) Seattle
3) Chicago
4) Los Angeles
5) Tampa Bay
6) Phoenix

I need to see more of the U.S., me thinks.

Rob - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 06:07 PM EDT (#123443) #
I've never been to Texas and don't plan on going.

I'll join the city-ranking party. Boston's a cool city if you don't mind walking, Washington would be higher if not for its refusal to have shady locations thoughtfully provided during long walking tours, Phoenix is easy to get around in but there's nowhere to go, Detroit is a joke and St. Petersburg is beyond awful.

MLB Cities Rob Has Visited, Not Counting Toronto:
1) Boston
2) Baltimore
3) Washington
4) Phoenix
5) Detroit
6) St. Petersburg

And it only has a AAA team, but Buffalo disgusts me.
Nigel - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 06:07 PM EDT (#123444) #
I have seen a good chunk of the US and Fresno is definitely in the running for one of the worst cities. However, there are a few beauties in the Southeast that would be in that race (Baton Rouge; Birmingham) and no list like this can be complete without talking about Little Rock. Those three places all have terrible urban slums along with trailer park hells that stretch for miles.
VBF - Thursday, July 21 2005 @ 11:58 PM EDT (#123481) #
I don't know if it would qualify as a 'city', but the worst town, city, or 'place with buildings' in the U.S. has to be Flint. A tale of two cities.
10 Buck Bet - Friday, July 22 2005 @ 12:27 PM EDT (#123518) #
May I throw East St. Louis into the mix? The following quote notwithstanding:

"I'd like a ticket to St. Louis."
"East St. Louis?"
"Is there any other St. Louis?"

#2JBrumfield - Friday, July 22 2005 @ 02:28 PM EDT (#123543) #
The missus and I were in Chicago Monday to see the White Sox and Tigers. U.S. Cellular Field is pretty nice. Despite all that I've heard and read, the upper deck seats aren't that bad. Just make sure you get infield tickets on the upper deck because from where we were sitting, on the left field side, there were too many people going up and down the aisles. Despite that, it was a fantastic atmosphere. The fans really get into it. It was a sell-out and it was Magglio Ordonez's first game back as a Tiger. The White Sox also use the same pre-game music the Jays do (with the blue jay flying around the dome - does anyone know where that music is from anyway?). During the music, the White Sox used a highlight reel from past years, especially the division winning teams from 1983 and 2000. Then they used AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" to introduce the Sox players when they took to the infield. Man, I was pumped and I'm not a White Sox fan. It was a good game too, as the White Sox rallied for a 7-5 win. Former Jay Cliff Politte got the save but Sean Douglass really stifled the Sox before the Tigers pen blew it. I don't remember Douglass pitching that well for the Jays when he was here last year. Figures, another former Jay hurler does better elsewhere.

Anyways, the park is a nice one to check out. A couple of negatives about the "Cell", you can't go down to the lower deck from the upper deck and whether you park or take the "L" train, you're in for a long wait to leave after the game. We took the train after discovering it was $17 to park the car. Still, it think it took us at least 30-40 minutes to board the "L" train after the game.

Still, it's a nice park. The murals inside the stadium of all the players in their franchise history were really nice, despite one of Mike Sirotka that almost made me violently ill. They sure have worn some funky uniforms over the years. I hope the Jays will do something like this eventually at the Dome.
Toronto 9, Seattle 4: Franklin Hit By Lightning | 15 comments | Create New Account
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