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Okay, so I had something ready to post today, a nice little non-Jays-related puff piece -- I rarely write anything "in-depth" that requires "research" or "hard work" -- only to find that today also marked the posting of the two most engaging articles in BB's brief history: JMG's cruel march through spring training and Gideon's management seminar.

So I punted my puff piece until later, but still wanted to add some postmodern theory to the ranking of Ye Olde Toronto Managers Guild. And regular readers of this blog may recall that I believe everything about a person is contained in their "personal anagram." So without further ado (and before we bid adieu), read on for evidence of Jimy Williams' self-deprecation, Buck Martinez' overreliance on Jose Jr. and a truly prescient give-peace-a-chance statement by Tim Johnson.
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How's that for a self-serving headline? I'm not going to rant about European ballplayers, it's just my way of calling attention to my latest Blue Jays fantasy advice column. In the interest of equal time to two AL rivals, here's Mick's latest Yankees piece, and John's column about the A's. ESPN correspondents are paid approximately $0.0004 (Can.) per hit, and we earn it.

Maybe because I started Batter's Box as a personal baseball diary, I'm going to keep linking to stuff I write elsewhere, and like any other item, you may choose to ignore it. Craig and Robert have the juicy assignment of the Blue Jays 2003 Preview for Primer, and even if we didn't "know" the authors, someone here would be linking to that piece as soon as it's published. No need to be overly modest, guys -- one of you should feel free to introduce it to BB readers.

I'm as surprised (and delighted) as anyone when something unexpected (like a Seussical) pops up here, so I encourage all my co-bloggers to post anything they want to share.
A good piece about spring training by the BP folks, provided as a reminder to the optimistic Blue Jay fans to be less sanguine about the results of March Madness.
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And so ends the streak. Cleveland 15, Toronto 6. The string of scoreless innings by Blue Jay starters reached 11, through five games, before Cory Lidle got rocked for a 4-spot by the Indians. Doug Linton is not sharp, and seems ticketed for Syracuse. Doug Creek gave up a HR to feared slugger Coco Crisp. Lidle was philosophical (hey, it's early):

"I had four pitches that could have been called strikes and weren't, but no excuses," the right-hander said. "I fell behind and had to come in with pitches to guys that I don't even know who they are and are swinging hot bats right now."

Dave Berg started at 3B and had a big day, homering off C.C. Sabathia and scoring three runs. It was a B-team for the Jays, as Stewart, Hinske, Wells, Delgado and Hudson sat one out. Still no sign of Woodward; maybe tomorrow.
Over at Baseball Prospectus, Will Carroll is running a series of Team Health Reports for each major-league club. It's supposed to be an inventory of aches and pains currently afflicting various regulars and/or their propensity to break down over the course of the year. But since the Blue Jays are a relatively healthy bunch this spring (middle infielders notwithstanding), the Jays report is mostly a summary of organizational developments, and it's a very positive one.

Carroll talks about the organization's vision in numerous areas, starting with their courage to take three promising catching prospects out from behind the plate (and in Joe Lawrence's case, out of the organization). Frank Catalanotto's historical gimpiness is parsed, the club's careful handling of Roy Halladay is praised. and a Kelvim Escobar-Brandon Duckworth trade is proposed (great idea, but I don't think even Ed Wade would go for that).

The only odd thing for me was comparing Josh Phelps's likely career trajectory to Harold Baines. Granted that Phelps adjusts terrifically well and will likely be a better hitter for average than we think, he also has way more power in his tank than Baines ever did. To my mind, Phelps projects to a .275/.350 average/on-base line with anywhere from 35-45 HRs annually, depending on whether (as I suspect) the great baseball pendulum starts to swing back to the pitchers in this decade.
Okay, no gratuitous insults or personal attacks -- I'll take issue with a Richard Griffin column on its merits alone.

Griff's column today is about the Blue Jays' virtual abandonment of the stolen base as an offensive weapon, and he's not especially in favour of it. He points to successful Jays teams of the past (Tim Johnson's Runnin' Jays of 1998) and current speedsters like the Yankees, Angels and Mariners as examples of what lots of baserunning can accomplish.

Admittedly, he's not advocating for a '98 redux -- that year, virtually the whole team had the green light, which can be murder on the guy at the plate. But his strong implication is that since the Jays have the wheels to run much more than they do, they could steal scores of bases if Carlos Tosca were a little looser with the reins.
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Jason asked a very interesting question on another entry ("Lowering the Boom") and it spurred me to think a bit (always dangerous)... he asked:

"Why hasn't anybody signed Ricky Henderson yet? He'll play for the minimum, still puts up a solid OBP, can still swipe a base, and his defense is still more than passable. Surely, there are a bunch of teams that could use him to help fortify their bench or to use in a platoon situation. Even if it doesnt work out, its very low risk."
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While the snow piles up in Toronto, some people, like Mike Hansen, are in Florida. There's an eyewitness account of Monday's Jays-Yanks game in the latest installment of his baseball blog. Mike's also made a generous offer to buy a t-shirt at the game Friday -- and try to get an autograph or two on it -- to donate as the grand prize in the BBFL. On behalf of every other owner in the league, we all owe you a beer at a game someday. Thanks!

The recap is great:

Anyway, this insight is that pitchers are "ahead" of the batters in spring, as it takes time for the hitters to get their timing back. Or something like that. It did look like that theory proved itself for the most part, with hitters generally fouling balls off to the opposite field and generally hitting the ball weakly. So I think that despite only allowing one hit to what will probably be the Yanks Opening Day lineup, Hendrickson probably won't be All-Star material just yet. He was putting pitches where he needed them.

Some pitchers need three or four outings to get where Halladay and Lidle already seem to be, but if they're in a decent groove, they have an advantage. Very few hitters can take a few months off, then hit a pitcher's best stuff right away. However, my enthusiasm for Mark Hendrickson is uncurbed. Mike, we all look forward to your next report, and have fun at the Red Sox game.
Alright, y'all take a deep breath now and don't get too excited. Five-and-oh in the spring and $2.25 will get you a latte with legs and not much more. The Cincinnatti Reds lineup that Toronto bombed 10-3 today was missing names like Griffey, Kearns, Dunn, Larkin and Casey, while the Jays trotted out most of their regulars and Roy Halladay to boot. All that said, this is still awfully nice to see, so long as it doesn't get our expectations too high.

A few highlights: Josh Phelps made his spring training debut by mashing a pitch from Calgary's Chris Reitsma 400 feet; Rule 5 pickup Jason Dubois contributed a three-run bomb against Carlos Almanzar (a shiny new no-prize for the first person to name the player the Jays once traded Almanzar to get, and with whom); Dewayne Wise and Shannon Stewart chipped in with a couple of hits each; Halladay went three scoreless with 3 Ks; and Pete Walker allowed just one HR is three solid innings of his own.

Other musings: Eric Hinske is off to a very slow start; Rob Ryan continues to make a solid bid for playing time as an extra outfielder; Felipe Lopez went 0-for-3 against his former mates; Kelvim Escobar was rusty in his first outing (3 H, 2 R in 1 IP); and stop the presses, Dave Berg swiped a base.

Bring on the Tribe!
Speaking of former Jays rotation stalwarts, there's a nice piece at about Toronto's first Cy Young Award winner, Pat Hentgen. Pat is coming back from Tommy John surgery (as is half the Orioles' rotation, apparently), but as usual, he's taking a positive attitude and he's helping younger teammates who are also facing TJ surgery to cope with the challenge.

Pat always seemed to be one of the good guys, a great representative of the organization on and off the field. It's a shame his career was so much shorter than it might otherwise have been. He has very little chance of making it all the way back, but I wish him every good fortune in the effort.

By the way, am I the only person who thought Pat was separated at birth from this person?
I hate to link to material on Baseball Primer, mostly because I write for Primer and don't want to abuse the opportunity Kent has given me through cheap self-promotion; but also because I imagine most readers already check the site out semi-regularly.

I'm making an exception this time, because this is the Best Thing Ever.

How entertaining can a Kansas City Royals preview be? You'll see.
David Wells on Toronto sportswriters:

"No beat writers in any town I've ever played in are as ignorant, muckraking, or relentlessly negative as the guys in Toronto. In a region where baseball is just slightly less popular than hockey, football, basketball, curling, tobogganing, ice fishing and snowshoe racing, the local sports-hosers have absolutely no idea what they're talking about."

Boomer on Canadian baseball fans:

"Baseball fans in Canada simply do not understand what they're watching. Honest to God, there were nights where I just wanted to climb up in the seats at the SkyDome and start slapping."

Trouble is, there's just enough truth in both of those hyperbolic statements to make the Canadian reader a little uncomfortable. We're getting better at understanding and appreciating baseball here -- as prospects like Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis are making clear -- but still, 90% of the conversations I have with my countrymen and women about baseball rarely rise above "grown men in their pajamas getting paid millions to hit a ball with a stick." I can almost feel your pain, Boomer -- though I'm actually giving up all-night benders for Lent.

Gotta give credit to Richard Griffin for this line, too: "[Wells's] book might be the first unauthorized autobiography in publishing history."
Wouldn't it be a great idea for Batter's Box to run a contest where readers predict the final 2003 order of finish for MLB teams? Actually, it would be redundant; there are many opportunities on the Internet to test the accuracy of your statistical model or ouija board, and here are two I'm planning to enter.

Aaron's Baseball Blog has the more complicated rules and the smaller prize, so I can't resist. Just kidding; Aaron Gleeman is on my must-read list, and his great blog was instrumental in pointing me to the other contest, run by Lee Sinins. Bragging rights, and a book from A.G.'s personal library, would mean a great deal to me. My copy of Ball Four is getting dog-eared...

Sinins' grand prize is a free copy of the next edition of his sabermetric baseball encyclopedia, with the runnerup prize a free entry in the Legends of Baseball League, and monthly prizes provided by Baseball Prospectus. Here are his rules:
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Putting his curmudgeon hat back on, Richard Griffin takes his best shot at the Jays' marketing campaign. It's inoffensive and mildly amusing -- the piece, that is. The campaign is clever and funny; the best baseball ads ever seen in these parts.

Rich still seems annoyed that J.P. prefers the "A's Way" to the mediocrity of the Belgian years in Toronto, but has yet to explain why emulating a winner is a bad thing. I know I promised to stop wasting 1's and 0's on correcting Griffin's lies and distortions, so I'll let this line speak for itself:

This column has always tried to be constructive rather than destructive.

The unbeaten Toronto Blue Jays allowed Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui to go 3-3 and hit his second HR of the young Grapefruit League season, but prevailed 9-8 over the New York Yankees this afternoon in Tampa. Here's the AP game report, and the box score from ESPN.

Vernon Wells was the hitting hero for the good guys; 2-for-3 with a bases-loaded triple and 4 RBI. Mike Colangelo got another hit; he's playing like a guy who knows he has an opportunity. The Jays left several regulars at home, but the Yanks started what looked like an opening day lineup. Starter Mark Hendrickson made it three Toronto hurlers in a row to hold the opposition scoreless through two innings, allowing just one hit. Several of the bullpen candidates got in some work today, and longshot Pasqual Coco, possibly in the trade showcase role, has two spring saves already. Tomorrow at 1:00, March Madness continues, as the Pirates visit Dunedin.