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Count on professional crank Richard Griffin to make the worst of the Blue Jays' weekend in Tennessee. After yet another tiresome diatribe about how the "young guys" (read: inexperienced computer geeks) are taking over the game, and after interviewing one of his aging wannabe-GM cronies from the Expos' front office, Griff ends with this snarly collection of thoughts:
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Hot on the heels of the Winter Meetings, The Rule 5 Draft takes place today, wherein teams can raid their competitors' systems of unprotected players and hope their competitors don't do the same to them. Last year, Toronto took advantage of the Allard Baird regime in Kansas City and swiped Corey Thurman. This year? We'll know by this afternoon what JP's talent hounds can do for an encore. On the minus side, the Blue Jays might lose at least a couple of lower-minors pitchers with impressive 2002 numbers, Matt Ford and Neomar Flores. Cross your fingers and we'll see how it all shakes out.
The Braves have traded 1B Wes Helms and RP John Foster to the Brewers for RP Ray King.

Details here.

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Cue BTO: "Takin' Care of Business." (Or the mondegreen version, "Bakin' Carrot Biscuits.")

The Toronto Sun reports the Blue Jays have signed Dave Berg to a two year deal. Whether he's the Opening Day 2B or continues in the super-sub role, the length is a reward for a job well done in 2002; financial terms have not yet been disclosed. Not as significant as Edgardo Alfonzo to the Giants or even Mike Stanton to the Mets, but we tend to look at other teams through binoculars here, and the Jays via microscope.

From the same annoying little tabloid, best viewed on-line because it gets ink on your hands, here's Bob Elliott on the Lopez deal, with "eventually" and "John-Ford Griffin" in the same sentence. Oh, and the "official" Jays site reports that Arnold is in fact the PTBNL. Does anyone else dislike navigating mlb.com?
The Blue Jays, Reds, A's and Diamondbacks have completed the first big deal of the winter meetings. Oakland got the guy they wanted -- Erubiel Durazo, who Billy Beane called his "Holy Grail" -- and Toronto will receive at least one terrific prospect, an excellent return for Felipe Lopez, who didn't fit into the Jays' plans anyway. The identity of the Oakland prospect(s) can't be officially revealed until after tomorrow's Rule 5 draft, but it's no secret. There have been several conflicting reports; ESPN first made it sound like the Jays were getting three youngsters, and it's still unclear whether it's one or two.

In BB #59 I already stated my enthusiastic endoresement of Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin, as reasonable value for Orlando Hudson, who was then rumoured to be going to Colorado. When the big Matt Williams-for-Larry Walker deal collapsed, so did that three-way plan. Give J.P. Ricciardi and Billy Beane credit for keeping this one alive, and selling it to their gullible counterparts in Arizona and Ohio.

In fact, this is better news for Toronto fans than the previous idea. The Jays still have Hudson, instead of the undisciplined (on and off the field) Lopez.
For the second time in a week, I'm surprised to find myself agreeing with Richard Griffin, who argues there is plenty of room in Cooperstown for flawed superstars, like Dimaggio, Ruth, Cobb and Pete Rose. While the Star columnist is usually way off base (blinded by jealousy?) when he "analyzes" the Blue Jays, he presents a rational case for the Hit King's reinstatement.

After 20 years in an industry that calls itself "sports and entertainment" while 100% dependent on gambling, I have some relevant experience and a couple of thousand words to say on the subject, but am not sure Batter's Box is the proper forum for Rose discussion, or if anyone cares what one old coach thinks about the topic, which polarizes otherwise reasonable people.

I laughed out loud at Jim Caple's column imagining the next Pete/Bud summit meeting. That's precisely how contrite and sincere Rose would be, and why he should never be permitted to hold a position that might affect a game. He shouldn't be a manager, coach or umpire, but he'd be a lot more interesting on Sportsnet than Faulds and Cerutti.
Monday, we'll see if Scott Wiggins or any other Blue Jays get claimed in the annual Rule 5 draft. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo explains the rule in detail, but here's the nitty-gritty:

"A player who is 18 when he's signed can spend four seasons in an organization before he has to be protected. Anyone who is 19 or older must be protected after three years. Once past that time of service, a prospect must be put on the 40-man roster if his organization wants to keep him from being eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
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Exactly a third of MLB clubs changed field bosses in the recent, unprecedented game of musical managers. Imagine the new guys, squaring off in 162-game prize fights…
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Chris Carpenter decided this afternoon to reject the Jays' contract offer.
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Greg Myers has signed a one-year deal with the Jays. Details from the team's official website are here.

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The Toronto Sun had a full 2 1/2 pages devoted to baseball today, most of it Bob Elliott's preview of the Winter Meetings. Nothing much of substance, but it sure is long. Erubiel Durazo's name keeps popping up, and popping up...

Mike Rutsey also reported that Chris Carpenter got an extension until 3:00 tomorrow to accept or decline the offer from the Blue Jays. I've felt all along that Carp would leave if he got a better deal, but maybe he's not in demand. The most optimistic projection is that he could be pitching in July, but I doubt that would be at 100% effectiveness, or in the rotation, so don't expect a major contribution from him next year.
"The players' worst fears are unfolding. The owners are in the driver's seat back to self-control."

So sez Richard Griffin today in the Star. I am quick to criticize Griffin for inconsistencies and biases, but when he isn't slinging mud at the local team, Rich often has some provocative thoughts, and he builds a strong argument around the Rangers letting Pudge walk, then hits a bullseye:

"The most talented free agents in this crop must feel bushwhacked by the sudden availability of a talented Expos core group of players offered by cost-cutting MLB ownership. Conflict of interest? No doubt."

Yesterday on the Transaction Oracle thread about Steve Finley, someone posted "Call the 1-800-COLLUSION complaint line. Oh wait, that number's not in service yet." I suggested calls to that number should be forwarded to Scott Boras' office. This "correction" in the baseball economy is a response by the teams to the new CBA that has gone further, sooner, than many of us expected, but it will take one greedy owner to start a stampede in the opposite direction. Until then, though I'm not implying management is doing anything illegal, we're almost back to the days of the great Andre Dawson signing a blank contract. The smart and flexible teams will get the "right" bargains, so the Jays are well positioned to improve.
Baseball-Reference.com, the authoritative online location for comprehensive baseball stats, has posted the final 2002 statistics, including those of your Toronto Blue Jays. Here's a few observations:
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Huh? Wasn't it just a couple weeks ago that Randy St. Claire was spirited away from my hometown Ottawa Lynx to become Syracuse's pitching coach? Now comes word that Tom Filer has been brought in to replace St. Claire. I've never heard of a guy being hired and fired in the same off-season before. Maybe someone can shed some light on the situation? BTW, yes, that's the same Tom Filer who went 7-0 with the '85 Blue Jays. Maybe he and Doug Linton can reminisce about the good times.

Also, Merv Rettenmund was hired as the Skychiefs' hitting instructor. Rettenmund, formerly the batting coach for a number of big-league teams, most recently the Tigers, Braves and Padres, is an interesting hire, to say the least. He's said to emphasize plate discipline, but the teams he's been advising haven't walked a great deal and haven't scored a lot of runs: last year's Tigers posted an incredible .300 OBP and .679 team OPS, while the previous year's Braves produced .324 and .736 lines. He was supposed to help Andruw Jones make the next step up in Atlanta, but after some early success, he regressed (though there's always been some question about Jones' coachability). You can find a number of sabrmetric people who don't think much of Merv Rettenmund, so this hiring surprises me a little. I'm looking forward to finding out more about it.
From Roch Kubatko of the Baltimore Sun: "an Orioles official denied that the club was trying to send pitcher Sidney Ponson to the Toronto Blue Jays for Felipe Lopez. But the switch-hitting shortstop could be obtained in the right deal. Lopez, who just completed his second season in the majors, batted .227 in 85 games and lost his starting job to Chris Woodward."

The O's make this sound like Toronto's idea. The Orioles also want Rey Ordonez; how funny is that? Here's the full column.