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If you're looking for a San Diego baseball connection on a football Sunday, here's a fine piece by ESPN's Jim Caple on a Hall of Famer who is teaching baseball to young men before they become jaded, spoiled professionals. Eight-time batting champ Tony Gwynn could have stepped into the broadcast booth, and doesn't need any job, but he is a terrific guy, who loves the game. I agree with Caple:

With the passing of Ted Williams, there is no one on the planet who knows more about hitting than Gwynn. He knows how to teach it (and the rest of the game as well) to others.

A .338 lifetime average and 3,141 hits are amazing accomplishments, but Tony isn't done yet. He'll be a great influence on the San Diego State Aztecs, as players and as people. A tip of this old coach's cap to a class act.
BB isn't a hot spot on any weekend, though that may change during the season, and tomorrow is the second U.S. national holiday this week -- the Super Bowl. So don't expect a lot of new Blue Jays content, unless there's breaking news.

I'm probably the exception among sports fans these days; my passion for baseball is presumably evident, and even though I gripe about the length of the regular NHL season and the number of playoff teams, I love hockey. Basketball has become my third choice in recent years, and I've gradually lost interest in football. I don't know why; it could have something to do with mellowing as I get older.

There was a time (see Curtain, Steel) when I was a rabid armchair quarterback, but now I tend to ignore the NFL season except for TV highlights -- I can still appreciate great plays -- and the only games I watch start to finish are the conference finals and the Big One. This seems to be a great matchup this year, like the '74 Pittsburgh offence (Raiders) against their own defence (Bucs). I'll hit the mute button for Celine Dion, take Tampa as my rooting interest, enjoy a cool Sleeman's or two, and hear the immortal words of George Carlin in my head:
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Though most baseball fans will be certainly be shocked to learn of a front-office shakeup in the Yankees organization, today George's pinstriped playthings announced a high-level move.

Senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman resigned -- the phrase used was "asked to be relieved of the role" -- and was replaced by Gordon Blakeley, the vice president of international and professional scouting responsible for last month's signing of Cuban defector Jose Contreras.

Rumors on the internet -- starting right here, right now -- indicate that Steinbrenner has cast a longing eye north toward an as-yet-unnamed Canadian, identified so far only as "The Coach," to fill the international scouting role.
The 2003 Toronto Blue Jays are many times deeper, at the big-league level, in AAA and throughout the organization, than they were a year ago. The everyday lineup against RH starters is just about carved in stone, with only the batting order uncertain, and many attractive options there for Carlos Tosca (and us) to ponder.

In 2002, the pitching plan was Carpenter, Halladay and three rainy days. That's also improved. Doc, Cory Lidle and Tanyon Sturtze are set, and there will be a battle royal among many qualified candidates for the other two rotation spots.

I've set my crystal ball a few weeks ahead, but I can't quite make out who that is on the end of the bench in the dugout or the bullpen. Perhaps you can help.
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Over the past couple of days, I've noticed a bunch of Blue Jays ads on streetcars and in subways. The slogan for this year's team is "Baseball North."
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The newest Prospectus Cover Boy is the best power hitting prospect in the game today.

Most of us have seen Josh in action. Craig Burley and I attended a Yankees-Blue Jays tilt last year in which Roger Clemens started for the visitors. Phelps blasted two monstrous homeruns in that game, and after one of them I turned to Craig and mentioned the name that surely was on the mind of many Jays fans at that moment – Mark McGwire.

Is Josh Phelps going to be the new Mac? It would be wildly premature to speculate on that to be sure, but when did that ever stop any of us before? Phelps is the young hitter most likely to put up Mac-like power numbers.
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The fine people at BP have come up with yet another new statistical gauge, which they call PECOTA. This, as everyone should know, is short for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, and it is a way for measuring a player's breakout -- and collapse -- potential. Preaching to the choir here, I know, but BP is hands down the most creative baseball engine around, which is all the more remarkable when you consider how stat-heavy they are. Here's the article.
One of the most careful students of the game who I have the pleasure of knowing personally is Robert Dudek, a Jays fan who learned the finer points of the game from the bleachers of Exhibition Stadium.

Not only is he a student of the game, he is very handy with a spreadsheet and a real tough opponent in a Diamond Mind league, believe me. Like myself, Robert writes for Baseball Primer. To my considerable pleasure, Robert has agreed to join us as a regular writer for Batter's Box. He is going to lead off with a great article, that will give all of us Jays fans a warm glow of hope for the future.

Now, batting ninth, the catcher... Robert Dudek.
From today's Washington Times comes this report that Jose Cruz Jr. is close to accepting reality and signing with the Orioles. His value in the new, frugal baseball economy was evident to the Blue Jays last year, when they tried to swap him for Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin, both still in the Yankees system at the time. Another source (MLB.com, if you must know) speculates that Cruz will settle for one year, at $1.5 to $2 MM, with incentives, a far cry from the $5 MM or so he would have cost the Jays after arbitration. The decision to non-tender him is another of Toronto management's practical, ahead-of-the-competition moves, and they spent the money saved wisely, on an offensive upgrade in RF, a starter, and useful veterans at C and SS.

It also seems that Baltimore is haggling on the details of a one year pact with Ivan Rodriguez. The team wants an option for a second year; Pudge understandably feels that if he settles for just $7 MM, he should be free to get a better offer in 2004 if he proves he's still great. Considering the complete lack of interest from any other teams, which side do you think has the leverage? Beatagan will get their man, on their terms. Both signings are part of a short-sighted attempt to patch together an organization that needs an overhaul from the owner's box to Rookie league, but the 2003 O's should be slightly more competitive than expected.
In a freakishly bizarre move, the Florida Marlins have signed Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez to a one-year, $10 million dollar contract.
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As noted on an earlier thread and as book devotees already know, the 2003 Baseball Prospectus features Blue Jays DH Josh Phelps on the cover. This is quite an honour -- unlike fantasy magazines and mainstream baseball preview editions, which choose the cover subject most likely to attract newsstand attention (e.g., Sammy Sosa graces the Sporting News fantasy issue cover) -- BP has traditionally chosen young sabrmetric heroes, players who deliver verifiable offensive value to their teams. Whether this is good for the players themselves might be a different story.
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I'm passing along an excellent suggestion here. Matthew Elmslie, columnist for the Blue Jay Way site and regular BB visitor, has sent an e-mail to Nelson Millman, manager of The FAN 590, Toronto's sports radio station. Here's an excerpt:

Baseball Prospectus, the organization that comes out with the annual book of the same name and runs a popular baseball analysis website, is starting a radio show in February. I've been a fan of Baseball Prospectus for a while and I'd like to be able to hear their show on the FAN. Blue Jays advisor Keith Law is a former writer for Prospectus, and their ideas are very relevant to what's going on these days with the Blue Jays.

For more information about this radio show, including how to get in touch with them, you can e-mail wcarroll@baseballprospectus.com or call 800 TALK 2 90 and ask for details from their affiliate relations manager. I got this information at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20030117radio.shtml.

I'm looking forward to listening to another season of baseball on the FAN.


I've met Mr. Millman; he's a fellow baseball coach and a great guy, but he won't be persuaded by one letter to make a programming decision. If you want BP Radio on the air in Toronto, add your voice to Matthew's and mine.
From their own blurb on ESPN: "The Ultimate Standings is the first attempt ever to measure which teams do right by their fans and which put the hurt on their loyal followers." A poll of 34,000 fans led to this unscientific, but fascinating study that rates the Blue Jays as 12th best among MLB teams, according to the following criteria:

BNG (Bang for the Buck): Revenues directly from fans divided by wins in the past three years
FRL (Fan Relations): Ease of access to players, coaches & management
OWN (Ownership): Honesty; loyalty to players and city
AFF (Affordability): Price of tickets, parking and concessions
STD (Stadium Experience): Friendliness of environment; quality of game-day promotions
PLA (Players): Effort on the field; likability off it
CCH (Coach/Manager): Strong on-field leadership
CHA (Championships): Titles already won or expected -- soon

Assigning weights to each category to calculate the final ranking was Dr. I. M. Arbitrary. Actually, they let the fans who responded decide, so the formula is = (BNG x .192) + (FRL x .182) + (OWN x .159) + (AFF x .125) + (STD x .125) + (PLA x .120) + (CCH x .053) + (CHA x .044)
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If I ever had my own space in a "real" publication, it might be called "$PORT$" because it's so hard to ignore the financial aspects of our fun and games. Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard calls Alex Rodriguez an "undeserving symbol of greed" in his latest commentary. It's an interesting piece, asking among other things, "...doesn't it matter that Rodríguez not only earns his salary, unlike so many others stealing bloated paychecks, but also gives a lot of it away?"

If you're looking for a Blue Jays connection, start at 1B. Carlos Delgado didn't extort the contract he signed, it was offered to him. Unlike the other expensive players who are no longer around because they could be easily replaced, he's actually produced. Sure, he's getting 33% (more or less) of the team payroll, and therefore "isn't worth it." Sure, we tend to be even more impatient with his inconsistent defensive play and too-frequent baserunning blunders, because he makes more in a day than we do in a year. But like A-Rod, he's very generous in helping the less fortunate, and his massive salary isn't his fault. (Send your complaints to Milwaukee, attention "Assistant GM.") I resolve to cut the big fella some slack this year, and hope that when he is a free agent after 2004, he'll consider taking what is then fair value to stick around for the dynasty.
The newest Jay, John-Ford Griffin, was interviewed by Spencer Fordin on MLB's official site.