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That's where you put baked beans on your ice cream, right?

This is my first series report of the year -- it's odd to think the season has been going for a month and I haven't written anything; at least Photo of the Day is batting .714, wih an OBP of .777, four runs scored, three RBIs and one home run in the early going.

The first of the two in Beantown was lovely, despite a very mortal Roy Halladay. There's nothing like a rousing comeback win in a game with a bunch of lead changes to keep the ol' blood pumping.

Not so much in game two -- The Red Sox took the lead early and never gave it back. Even though Josh Towers had four very solid innings in between giving up five runs and then another two runs, I lost interest in the game by the fifth inning. Usually I'm optimistic enough to keep watching and hoping and rooting, but for some reason I just couldn't pay attention anymore. My mind wandered. I gave up on the game.

Of course, the Jays didn't, and they brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Still, I didn't get excited. Weird, huh? The game lost me and never got me back.

Too bad, too -- I had pulled out an extra-good mojo prop from the closet that hadn't yet made an appearance this year, to hopefully reverse Josh Towers' fortunes. Yes, it was the Al Leiter batting practice jersey that I got on eBay. Now, I have no idea of why someone would have purchased an Al Leiter batting practice jersey in the first place, or why they would sour on it enough to ditch it for five bucks plus postage, but it's mine now, baby. Sadly, the cheap replica did not bring Josh the kind of mojo he so clearly needed, unless you count those middle innings. While things were turning from bad to terrible in the bottom of the first inning, I seriously considered pulling the cursed hat out of it's super-secure hiding place and attempting to invoke its dark power, but I realized it would probably do what it did the last time I brought it out.

(In case you missed the story, I found an unworn 1985 Jays cap at the back of my old closet at my parents' house while I was visiting them -- I thought it would be good luck, since I had never worn it before because my head was too small for it in 1985. I wore it a bunch, and I had it in my bag when Coach was interviewing Kevin Cash, and my bag was sitting on the dugout bench beside Cash. Kevin started to hit up a storm, and the entire rest of the team tanked and led us directly into the Season From Hell. I blame the cursed cap. However, I also credit this 2006 fortune reversal to my figurin' out exactly how to store the cap to negate its evil powers. I couldn't afford a lead box, but what I have it in now is close enough.)

So now the Jays are one and a half games out of first in the AL East, with the Yankees and Red Sox tied in front of them. With finally a stretch coming up in which the three beasts of the east won't spend all their time beating up on each other, there's a chance that one of these three (or even four, if you count Baltimore at just another game and a half back of the Jays) could actually start to build some kind of lead. Yeah, it's early to be watching the standings. I promise not to go on any holidays this year -- in 2003, the Jays stepped into first place and I went on a two week trip to Trinidad and Tobago. When I found an internet cafe in Tobago (and when i say "internet cafe", I mean a shed with a tin roof on the beach with two blueberry iMacs sharing a dialup connection -- they also sold candy and rented dive gear), I was horrified to see that the Jays had been swept by the Tigers, the horrible 2003 Tigers, and I vowed to myself to never go on a vacation when the Jays were in first place ever again.

That little tangent made me think fondly of De Maximum, the internet cafe in Charlotteville, Tobago -- a quick Google search reveals they have a website! Now I want to go back there... but I promise, not while the team is in first place.
A Boston Split | 30 comments | Create New Account
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Jordan - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 09:30 AM EDT (#146391) #

Here's what the Jays should try: whenever Josh Towers' turn comes up in the rotation, let Pete Walker pitch the first inning -- then bring in Towers to start the second. That way, Josh can avoid the routine first-inning bombings he's been receiving and go on to pitch his usual solid innings two through six.  Walker's going to pitch during a Towers start anyway -- might as well shake things up a little.

More seriously, I really have no idea what to do with Towers. After the first inning last night, I was prepared to say put him in long relief for awhile -- he was basically throwing BP out there (although as usual, he received little help from his defence). But then he was solid almost all the rest of the way, up till the Youkilis home run. It's almost like he needs to be way behind before he settles down.

Anyway, in reality the Jays will probably stick with him a while longer -- if Burnett were healthy, they could afford to sit Towers for awhile and put a Downs or Janssen in his spot. But that's not how things have unfolded so far, and in the absence of other options, they might as well hang tough with him.

As usual, the lineup against right-handers did not impress -- neither Kris Benson nor Matt Clement are as good as the Jays have made them look the last few games. Russ Adams is of course struggling badly (.207/.267/.293), but it's worth noting that last April, he also scuffled: .218/.295/.327.

It's also worth remembering, though, that his final 2005 numbers were only .256/.325/.383 -- July was the only month in 2005 in which he hit more than .270. I like Adams, and I've always thought he projected to be a .280/.350 guy in the majors, but that time is not here. Right now, the objective evidence indicates that he's a middling hitter and a middling defender. The #9 spot looks to be a pretty good fit for him for the foreseeable future.

I also like Aaron HIll, and I do think he'll be a fine hitter in time. But again, recent evidence is not deeply reassuring. After his blistering Jeff-Kent-like debut, here are his last four major-league months:

.209/.255/.319 (July 05)

.255/309/.392 (Aug 05)

.235/.330/296 (Sep 05)

.195/.210/.273 (Apr 06)

This slow start shouldn't be a surprise -- Alex Rios needed nearly 1,000 major-league at-bats before he could consistently produce, and like Rios, Hill was rushed to the majors with too little experience against AAA pitching.

Long story short (too late), the Jays should probably expect their middle infielders to be a drag on the offence for a while yet -- with Rios batting leadoff for the foreseeable, this is a lineup that's dangerous 1 through 6 but only mildly threatening 7 through 9. And those 1 through 6 hitters aren't going to stay above a .330 average much longer.

Pistol - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 10:16 AM EDT (#146394) #

Towers' first inning was brutal.  He couldn't throw a strike, and whenever he did it got hammered.  After that he was fine until he ran out of gas in the 6th (and when you get shelled constantly you apparently run out of gas at 80 pitches).

Clement wasn't all that good last night, but the Jays couldn't get anything going off of him prior to Overbay's double (which I'm a little surprised he didn't go for a triple - he could have had it easily).

Mike Green - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#146402) #

In my view, Towers is not performing as he can due to confidence issues.  It is a fine line for him.  He needs to throw strikes, but not lollipops, from the outset, and it seems to me that so far he is missing the confidence necessary to do that.  It might have been better if he had been held back a day to face the Angels rather than the Red Sox. 

I do think that he'd better off in long-relief for now until he regains his confidence.  He is a better pitcher than Downs or Walker, but as with Justin Speier last year, he needs to have the pressure taken off for a while.

Dave Till - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 01:08 PM EDT (#146403) #
Towers wasn't all that good even after the first, as I saw it. He was still leaving his pitches up, but more of them were finding gloves. I seem to recall that Wells caught one third out on the warning track in the deepest part of the park, and Hillenbrand doubled up a runner at first after catching a hard-hit line drive hit right at him.

Somebody on the radio broadcast pointed out that Towers has had a lot of tough assignments this year: three starts against Boston, one against New York, and one against the White Sox. In the past, he's had trouble against good-hitting teams such as the Red Sox, so he might straighten out some when facing some easier teams. He needs to pitch against Baltimore once or twice - he's always owned them.

The main reason he is still in the rotation is that there really isn't anybody better. Downs is best suited to long relief, and Walker gets hurt every time he goes into the rotation. And I don't think any of the Triple-A rotation would be an improvement.

greenfrog - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 02:51 PM EDT (#146408) #
I think the lineup is generally OK versus RHP. It's just that the bats are starting to cool (with a few notable exceptions: Rios, Overbay, Shea), Hinske hasn't for power, and the middle infield has been around the Mendoza line.
I seem to remember Adams and Hill starting slow every year in the minors, then heating up in the summer.
R Billie - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 02:53 PM EDT (#146409) #

Are you sure no-one in AAA can do better than an ERA of 10?  Or that Downs couldn't do better?  I really don't believe that.

Towers ran into some tough luck in the first.  If Rios was in right field maybe that Varitek double is a lineout.  If Adams could have made a simple relay throw to first then Towers then a double play is turned.  Either one of those plays made would have meant getting out of the inning with no runs.  The very first thing the Jays have to do with Towers since he HAS to pitch to contact is put the best possible team in the field.  MacDonald has to be in for Adams, Rios has to be playing, and maybe even Reed Johnson has to be playing.  If a guy is struggling badly out there, at least give him the best opportunity to succeed.

Also, Towers definately should have been flipped with Lilly.  He should have had two starts against Baltimore and his next start against the Angels instead of three against Boston and NY against whom Lilly at least is competitive.

But this goes beyond defence.  Well beyond.  You shouldn't need gold glovers behind you to prevent 10 runs per 9 innings from scoring.  Josh is a veteran who just had a breakout season and he's almost 30.  If he's susceptable to overthrowing and bad mechanics to this extent then the Jays have made an incorrect evaluation of his ability.  It seems I'm not the only one leaning towards trading Towers after his Elmer Dessens like fluke season.

Ill advised contract or no, Towers has earned his way to long relief.  He's not only losing big but he's losing big in very big games to the teams the Jays have to beat.  Instead of having a lead over the division, the Jays are barely keeping their heads above .500 because they've lost every game pitched out of Towers' spot and all of the games have been decided early.  Even going 2-4 would have been acceptable in those games.

David Bush once lost his rotation spot after April because he started the year winless except with an ERA maybe 43% of what Towers' is now.  If Josh doesn't lose his rotation spot, what does this mean?  Has he really earned this much preferential treatment out of one good year?

90ft_turnleft - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 02:56 PM EDT (#146410) #

What to do about Towers seems to be the question of the day.

If you keep marching him out there and he continues along the same negative line what is this doing to his fragile confidence.Surely not helping.Is it more a blow to his emotional state to put him in long relief for a while.That would become a dominoed problem not a solution if he is no better there.Then you have taken away another option in long relief by not wanting to go to Towers in a close game and by having your other L R starting in Towers place, in essence limiting your options even more and wearing down an even thinner bullpen with Towers there only to be used realistically in blowouts.

Talk about conundrums.It's a weighty issue for management to try and solve.On the one hand if he continues starting and fares no better it may have,if it hasn't already,affect the team 'harmony' for lack of a better word.

You may already have some everyday players grumbling to themselves that what applies to them should apply to all.When Shea wasn't hitting he sat a bit and yes we all know when Shea isn't happy.When is he?Or Rios staying in because of his torrid start leaving I'm sure a frustrated Hinske on the sidelines.Molina getting more starts than maybe Zaun thinks he should,Overbay sitting or Dhing while Shea plays 1st.

My point is are these players looking at Towers and seeing 2 very different sets of rules applying.Yes I know maybe apples and oranges when it comes to pitchers and positional players but I can't help wonder the effect this will continue to have on this team if Towers goes 2,3,4 more starts with no improvement.

Saying that Lilly was given the same length of rope last year isn't quite the same as the Towers situation only b/c this year there are a whole new set of expectations of competing that really wasn't there last year.

How much more patient can the coaching staff be when they have exhibited very little with the positional players so far this year. 

Is Towers in the bullpen better at this point for the 'team' 1st and Towers 2nd?

It will be darn interesting to see this mini-drama play itself out over the next wk. or 2.

AWeb - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 03:11 PM EDT (#146413) #
Another disturbing thought came to me about Towers just now, and I thought I'd share it. Jose Lima.

A pitcher who had a career year despite giving up more than one hit per inning by keeping his walks very low. And then, he kept getting thrown out there the next  year, managing 33 starts with a 6.65 ERA.

Towers isn't likely to have a career as long as Lima, becasue he never won 21 games, unless he turns it around quickly. Of course, I hope Towers turns it around. Listening to the radio yesterday though, the announcers kept saying Towers is physically and mechanically fine. That leaves being completely mentally screwed up. Not giving Towers a few starts with Zaun seems like poor managing; if he's having problems with his mental processes, why not put him out there with a catcher he had a lot of success with. Zaun was hurt yesterday of course, but hopefully next time?

chips - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#146415) #
Re: Zaun. He was not available yesterday because of his Calf injury. This is the same injury that put him on the disabled list. Calf pulls don't go away overnight. There may be another DL stint on the horizon. Anybody have further info re: the injury?
Joanna - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 03:52 PM EDT (#146416) #

I still think it's a head thing for Towers.  He doesn't have faith in his stuff and settled down only when he realised the worst (a crappy first inning) had already happened.  It's a confidence thing, and time in the bullpen will will help him get back into it.  I think experimenting with him (starts with Zaun, long relief, starts against "easier" teams) would  help him get his sea legs back. .  The team made a commitment to him (and vice versa) so they kinda have to if they don't want a another big hole in there starting rotation.  The season is long and a good team has to be an adaptable team.

Gerry - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 05:57 PM EDT (#146424) #

McPherv and Halladayfan report that Vinnie Chulk has been demoted and Franciso Rosario recalled.

Vinnie Chulk joins Jason Frasor in AAA as they both try and work out their problems.  Both are working on refining their off-speed pitches, Frasor his curveball and Chulk his slider.

Rosario throws hard, 95mph with a good change and a slider.  It will be interesting to see how he fares in the major leagues.

Rob - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 08:19 PM EDT (#146428) #
Just a note here about Jesse Barfield in the booth tonight. Jamie Campbell brought up the time Barfield threw out a guy at home on a bases-loaded single and I, not having seen his arm in person, couldn't believe it. Knowing that the runner was Matt Sinatro, and that he didn't play too many games against the Yankees, it wasn't too hard for me to find the exact game. (Barfield also said it was an extra-inning game on ESPN; this game went 16 innings on a Sunday night, so it has to be right.)

The relevant section of the Retrosheet play-by-play from May 5, 1991 (M's 5, Yankees 4):
popped to first; Sinatro walked; Vizquel singled [Sinatro to
third]; Briley singled to right [Sinatro out at home (right to
catcher), Vizquel to second];
Okay, so it wasn't based loaded (first and third), but that's still quite something. Perhaps the fact that Sinatro only had three stolen base attempts over 140 games had something to do with it.
John Northey - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 10:25 PM EDT (#146432) #
Barfield was in his own world when it came to his arm.  He only once was under 10 assists when playing 80+ games (he had 9 in 1984 when playing 88 in the outfield).  He had over 20 assists two years in a row.  It was so much fun when there was a runner on third less than two outs and a fly ball goes to right as you knew the runner would be tempted to go and if he did that Jesse would probably throw him out.

Shame that his offense went in the tank after his 40 HR year in '86.  His OBP went from 369/368 to 331/302/256 in Toronto (the 256 over 21 games before being traded for Al Leiter).  He recovered for two years in NY (360 for the rest of '89, 359 in 90) then crashed at age 31 with a 225/312/447 and finished at 32 with a 137/210/221 over just 30 games (very well paid 30 games making over $2 million when $5 million was as high as anyone went).

Mike D - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 10:47 PM EDT (#146434) #

Managed to catch some of the Sportsnet broadcast on MLBTV today.  Two observations:

1.  Jesse Barfield could be a fine television analyst.

2.  gv27 is correct -- Alex Rios could well be an All-Star this season.

In an unrelated note, a good friend of mine who is a huge Cards fan and a very knowledgeable student and historian of the NL told me that this is finally the year that the jig is up for the Atlanta Braves.  I always say "fifteen times bitten, sixteenth time shy," but consider this:

Q.  What do Macay McBride, Kenny Ray, Chuck James and Peter Moylan have in common?

A.  They've all pitched tonight for the Braves, in a 6-6 game against their archrival Mets (currently in the 10th inning). 

I'm always surprised to come across players I've never heard of, and the Braves have used four pitchers tonight that I would've called "Balderdash" on.  McBride pitched 14 innings as a LOOGY last year, so I guess it's on me for not knowing him.  But still, man!  That's a shaky short relief corps.

Magpie - Friday, May 05 2006 @ 11:13 PM EDT (#146435) #
For those of you too young to have seen Jesse Barfield throw... well, you simply have no frame of reference. No one else recently active comes even remotely close to him. Barfield combined Suzuki's laser beam accuracy and  quick release with Guerrero's raw strength and power... except he was quicker and more accurate than Ichiro and more powerful than Vlad.

I hope someday we see someone like him again, just so y'all will have a chance to see what's possible... otherwise you're just going to think I'm an old fogey rambling on about long gone ball players.
John Northey - Saturday, May 06 2006 @ 12:05 AM EDT (#146437) #
Don't know if anyone else has noticed, but Alex Rios is now the last 400 hitter in baseball (among qualifiers).  2nd is Miguel Tejada at 387.

Is this due to the (semi) platoon?  vs LH: 417/432/944 vs RH: 362/364/574 Seems to help him a bit (especially in the Slg department) but his improvement is all around.  Now if he could just take a walk once in awhile he could be a Barry Bonds without the rumours and with a good arm (best since Barfield around these parts I think).

He is also 2nd in Slg% at 736 (Giambi is 1st at 746) 3rd in the majors (Pujols leads at 886)  FYI: Bonds is slumping big time  - he is at 250/512/554 - geez, what a slacker eh? :)

Vernon is #10 in Slg at 692 while Glaus is #29 at 602 (rankings in the majors)

Also of note: Guys we thought might replace Rios...
Brad Wilkerson - 255/321/422 leading the majors in K's
Kevin Mench - 313/337/636 - not bad
Willie Mo Pena - 317/362/540 - not as good as Rios and only over 63 AB's
Frank Thomas (as DH) - 186/282/378 - ugh

ExJay watch
Orlando Hudson - 214/289/291 - ugh but better than Hill's 188/200/260

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