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Richard Griffin says so in his latest Toronto Star column. It's mostly about Tanyon Sturtze, who's getting a lot of positive ink lately, but I agree with the premise that an arbitration win Thursday over Moorad and Stewart makes such an acquisition possible. Kenny Rogers would be affordable, professional short-term help -- and like Lidle and Sturtze, he'll be auditioning for his next contract and a permanent home.
Sad news from Florida today as Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler has died at the age of 23.

Apparently, the death came as a result of heat exhaustion sustained during a spring training workout, despite the precautions taken by the Orioles.

The AP wire story is here.

In Peter Gammons' recent article on teams that are training in Arizona and have new managers, Dusty Baker mentions Cito Gaston twice.
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Often the back page of the Sun sports section is deliberately provocative, and takes liberties with facts. Continuing the recend trend of reasonable reporting from Bob Elliott, today's column stays positive about the many offseason improvements to the Jays' spring training facility and the roster. I love this quote from J.P.:

"Last year we had 22 wins from Walker (10), Miller (nine) and Hendrickson (three), three guys who made $800,000 US combined," Ricciardi said. "And we had 18 from Loaiza (nine), Parris (five) and Carpenter (four), three guys who made $13.5 million combined."

Even I can do that math. OK, the rotation's better; how important is the remade bullpen? As Elliott points out, Escobar, who takes his share of abuse around here for inconsistency, was 38 for 46 in save opportunities, but the rest of the Jays' relievers converted just three of 24 chances. It's not just Jeff Tam and Doug Creek, who can't do much worse than Scott Cassidy and last year's LOOGY parade; there's plenty of AAA depth available if they disappoint, and Aquilino Lopez could be a big plus.

This one's worth a mouse click just for the photo. They still remember Mark Hendrickson very well in the Pacific northwest, as this Seattle Times piece indicates. Larry Stone takes us through the big guy's illustrious high-school athletic career, his continued hoops success at Washington State and in the NBA, to the present -- poised for success as a member of the Blue Jays' staff.

Hendrickson is a unique rookie; you can't judge him by the usual age guidelines, because of his late commitment to baseball. His maturity and pro sports experience has to count for something in making the emotional adjustments to the big leagues. I think the Jays would be wise to limit him to 6-inning starts -- he pitched 128.2 innings last year, counting Syracuse -- and I repeat, they could do worse than making him the bullpen's long man, pun intended, to turn around batting orders when the RH starters falter.
For two straight days, everyone's favourite Toronto Star baseball writer has devoted a column to a Jays' pitcher. No attacks on management, no predictions of disaster. Refreshing. Yesterday, he talked with Kelvim Escobar, who admits:

"I always work hard. But I can get better. I have to be very consistent. Physically I've always been strong, but I have to work harder mentally."

Today, Griffin chats with Cory Lidle, who (along with Rick Reed) will never be completely forgiven for crossing the union's picket line eight years ago as a confused 22-year-old, pressured by his bosses. Like the news about political turmoil in Escobar's native Venezuela, this is relevant, and it's presented evenly, but I'm more interested in Lidle's explanation for his slow start in 2002:

"Me and a pitching coach started messing around trying to throw a different pitch. It backfired."

Cory's second half -- 6-3, 2.69, opponents' AVG .201 -- proves he can make adjustments. Maybe columnists can, too. Even bloggers; anything's possible.
A nice interview with Jesse Barfield by Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator.
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Joe O'Connor of the National Post gets up close and personal with J.P. Ricciardi. Alternately thoughtful and funny, the GM, among many remarkably candid responses, finally puts the year-old O-Dog nonsense to rest:

"What upset me was that this was a rookie on our club, and we've got veterans around, and they were allowing him to act like this. I have a lot of old-fashioned values, and when he made that comment, at that point, he had stepped over the line. And I didn't take it personal, but as the GM I had to talk to Orlando about conducting himself in spring training."

I'm sure Hudson got the message. J.P. thinks Canadians "get" baseball; we're flattered. He's right about a lot of other things, including Bobby Orr and the Hulk.
Bob Elliott has another good player profile in the Sun, on Doug Linton:

Each time Tosca mentions the four candidates for his final two spots in the rotation he names Mark Hendrickson, Justin Miller, Pete Walker and Linton.

I've been wondering about that, as I've (optimistically) touted Mark Hendrickson as #4 and assumed a three-man battle for fifth. But the more I think about the big lefty getting 120-140 lower-pressure IP in middle relief, the better I like the idea. Jason Kershner and Scott Wiggins both stand by in Syracuse in case Doug Creek doesn't do the LOOGY job. That would make Linton a lock. When you look at his MLB career it's misleading; this guy has been one of the best starters in AAA for years, and just kept improving in his 30s. He led the International League in strikeouts last year, had a 160/26 K/BB ratio in 174.1 IP, then made 11 excellent starts, with similar command, in the Puerto Rican winter league. His ERAs were 2.53 for Richmond and 2.08 for Bayamon.

To me, Walker and Miller are interchangeable as #5/swing man, and Doug's better than both of them. His return to Toronto is another very practical move by Team Ricciardi, with a sweet nostalgic bonus for those of us who were there. is reporting that the Toronto Sun has indicated that Josh Phelps is going to be doing some catching this spring.

If Phelps does continue to spend some time at catcher through the spring, it will enable him to open the season as the team's third catcher, meaning that the Jays will have roster flexibility to add a backup to Vernon Wells in centerfield.

I haven't been able to confirm the Sun report. Anybody have a copy of yesterday's Sun?
An anonymous BB reader, who happens to work for the Toronto Star, made an excellent point (several, actually) in a recent e-mail exchange. He didn't come to the defence of certain columnists, other than pointing out that the longer someone has been around baseball, the fewer new ideas they have. (Ouch! A middle-aged guy could take that personally). He reminded me that there's more to the Star than meets the eye.

Far superior to its newsprint coverage, the paper's website,, was nominated for a Primey award as the Internet's best, and finished a creditable third with about 23% of the vote. Why? Because of its excellent Baseball Watch feature, and the superb Player Index. For example, here's the career stats -- including the minor leagues -- for the subject of an earlier thread, Chris Woodward.

No, Richard Griffin isn't hunched over a calculator doing all this work for you; it's provided to the Star and many other media outlets by a Canadian source -- Fantasy Sports Services.
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Chris Woodward doesn't get much respect. As fantasy owners prepare for their drafts, and check out the ESPN correspondents' pages, my Inbox gets crowded with Jays questions, and Woody's by far the #1 topic on their minds. (Wells and Hudson round out the top three). There's a good overview of the SS, and a refreshing lack of Jay-bashing by Bob Elliott, in the Sun:

"Last year was a combination of Lopez regressing and Woodward improving," Jays manager Carlos Tosca said. "Woodward was far more ready in all aspects. He was better taking signs whether at the plate or in the field. He has a better understanding of the game."

Since I traded Bartolo Colon for Woodward in the TRHL, you already know how I feel. (It's a salary cap league; I also got Randy Winn and saved some dough). I've told a few people to expect 500 AB -- his durability remains suspect -- and .275-22-75, but you guys may have other ideas.
Ba$eball new$: according to the Star, the Blue Jays aren't even willing to meet Shannon Stewart halfway. J.P.'s comments seem to indicate the team has made its "final" offer, and we can only guess what it might be:

"We've said this is as high as we'll go; and all I'll say there is that it's definitely below the 6.5. We're ready to prove (to the arbitration panel) why we feel our number ($5.5 million) is worthwhile."

Had Stewart's advisors asked for $6.75 or even $7 MM, the Jays wouldn't have the same leverage, but at the $7.5 MM figure, it will be a tough case for the player to win. The latest offer, whatever it is, was more generous than the club needed to be, and if Jeff Moorad is half as smart as he thinks he is, he'll accept it.

Also from today's Star: another ex-Oakland employee, Jim Bloom, is working on the next wave of "Baseball North" TV ads. I can't wait for the one where Tosca is swarmed by black flies in the dugout, waves his arms wildly, and the batter starts cross-checking the catcher. Orlando Hudson's in another, but we're not sure if he'll be eating poutine. Perhaps because they don't want to pay Dave Till a royalty for the idea, no word yet on Timbits.
Since George Steinbrenner is back in the news, I thought you might enjoy this, which I wrote in the fall of 2000.

The discerning reader will note that my contributions to this weblog do not involve actual research. :-)
Vernon Wells took a solid step towards a productive major league career in 2002. He played regularly, handled centrefield with flair and hit for more power than might have been expected. But he didn't walk much, so there is the inevitable concern in sabrmetric circles about his development as a hitter. What can we expect from Vernon in the upcoming years?

To address this question, I needed to identify a comparable group of young ballplayers to find clues about what the future has in store for Vernon. I approached it systematically, paring down the players based on (what I think are) reasonable criteria. First, I looked at all major league position players born 1969 though 1978 and noted their career numbers though their age-24 season (for 1969 players, 1993 is their age-24 season; for the 1978 players it is 2002). It's usually not a good idea to go too far back with age-comparisons - in some cases, what results is a comparison to what players did in very different eras. I chose 400 plus PA as my threshold, since that seemed like a reasonable sample, but still allowed a fairly large number of players to be included in the study. There were 130 such players.
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