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A long time ago, I asked myself if the Skydome favours a certain type of hitter. It didn't take me a long time to gather all the necessary data, but I wasn't sure what to do with it.

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I've mentioned this piece before, though I got the source wrong. It's from the New York Times Magazine, not the New Yorker (after names, nouns are the next to go when your memory starts to act up) but it's still one of the best baseball articles I've ever read.

Author Michael Lewis has penned the definitive profile of Billy Beane. It's adapted from Lewis' forthcoming ''Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game'' which is to be published in May. Unlike the "lite" version that appeared in the Star a few days later with Ricciardi and Law substituted for Beane and DePodesta, the article is interesting and accurate. It's 11 Web pages long, perfect for a Sunday afternoon, and you will read it more than once. If you don't want to register, use bselig as both username and password. The entire Zombie-like Cult should be grateful to new BB reader Phil Bedard for passing it on.
The latest tempest in a teapot surrounds the ad that appeared in some papers in town this weekend (since I'm in Hamilton, I only get the Hamilton paper, so I missed it). Apparently the ad encourages fans to boo Hideki Matsui on opening day, and it's got Joe Torre's dander up.
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Well, even with overwhelming response to the Batter's Box Throwing Down The Gauntlet (TM) challenge, there is one set of predictions that stands out. Humbly, I suggest that it was authored by yours truly.

Even though we have a championship club that hardly changed its roster at all, only I predicted the Anaheim Angels to have another Disneyland parade. At the risk of being banished forever from the ZLC, I'll explain why.
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Steve Z. broke this news in another thread yesterday -- the Jays claimed RH reliever Kevin Frederick off waivers from the Twins. This should have an immediate, positive impact on the Syracuse bullpen. Frederick had 22 SV in AAA last year, was called up to the Show three different times, and was nearly unhittable in 2001. Considering there's no timetable for Bob File's return, and some of the organization's relievers will be converted starters -- Vinny Chulk and Mike Smith, last I heard -- it's a great move. No risk, high upside. And as Casey might have said, you can never have enough switch-hitting pitchers.

The Jays also signed RHP Dan Reichert, who has never measured up to expectations. The Royals and D-Rays have both given up on him, but they're not famous for astute personnel decisions or patient player development, so who knows? Together, the additions of Reichert (a reclamation project with terrible stats) and Frederick (who looks great on a spreadsheet) underline the flexibility of Ricciardi's philosophy.
I know, I know. Chemistry doesn't exist in dugouts or clubhouses. It's irrelevant, a figment of old coaches' imaginations, with no influence on the outcome of ball games. Why, it's as meaningless as... let's see... confidence? Just kidding; I don't want to annoy the ZLC.

ESPN's Jim Caple imagines an "All-Snarl" team in his latest. Caple also lists five potential blowups we should watch for in the real world. Master chemists Raul Mondesi and Jeremy Giambi are overlooked in both pieces, and Jim spelled Bizarro wrong, but I enjoyed this. Thanks to Sean.
Many thanks to Steve Z. for alerting me to this terrific piece in the National Post, a paper I seldom read. Dave Feschuk profiles Jays pitching coach Gil Patterson, whose dreams of big-league stardom were cut short by a series of injuries. The former Yankees phenom learned the hard way about being rushed and overworked, so he's become a patient nurturer of talent. Just ask one of his former pupils, Al Leiter:

"He's not abusive on pitchers. He's one of the best pitching coaches anywhere, because he knows how hard pitching is, and he knows what a pitcher goes through to get to the big leagues."

Patterson's hiring is further evidence that J.P. Ricciardi's eye for talent -- on and off the field -- is paying dividends. Years ago, they coached together in A-ball, and J.P. has a long memory. There's nothing in this well-written feature about mechanics, pitch selection or any of the other things we might think of as his main responsibilities, but it left me with great admiration for Patterson, and a feeling that Toronto pitchers are in very capable hands.
That's what Richard Griffin calls the "statistical seamheads" who approve of the J.P. Jays.

In today's column, Griffin proposes that Raul Mondesi's "deterrent" arm is more valuable than Frank Catalanotto's bat. Of course, if and when it suits him, Rich will notice the difference in run production, and praise Cat's positive influence in the clubhouse, compared to the distraction of Mondesi (and his posse). How long do you think it would take Brian Cashman to agree to a Cat-for-Mondesi deal? The scary thing is, the baseball columnist for Canada's largest paper would make that offer. Appalling ignorance.

Second-guessing the decision to carry just three OF (Griffin, taking another swipe, calls Cat an infielder and says it's only two) is appropriate -- it's an unusual strategy that could indeed backfire. However, there will be changes made; the Jays have simply selected the best 25 for the opening series or two, not carved the roster in stone for the entire season. I'm still advising Ken Huckaby and Doug Linton to rent by the week in Toronto.
A picture is worth a thousand curse words -- part of me wishes they'd let Doc mess up Larry Bowa, but I'm glad there will be no suspensions, and that Halladay didn't hurt his pitching hand on the Philly manager's head, which is made entirely of rock. A nice team spirit-building exercise; cross off the only remaining item on the spring training agenda.

Feel free to take your best shot at my stubborn insistence that Ken Huckaby wouldn't survive the final cut, but nobody predicted Berg and Wilson as the extra OF, so the third C isn't such a liability. For now, the stability of the roster depends on Frank Catalanotto's wonky back -- there's no way Berg or Wilson is capable of playing RF in the majors on a regular basis. If the Cat needs any significant time off, the Jays will need to acquire or promote a real OF, and once again, the Huckaby/Linton debate will reverberate between the dugout and front office. I am very happy for Kenny and Doug; they deserve this.

Fantasy impact -- Cat (2B eligible!) will be in there against RH every day, and more often than I thought vs. LH; they must be confident that he's ready. Myers and Wilson still have more value than Huck, but Tom's AB just took a (temporary) hit; he's the main PH and spot starter against lefties. Only when Halladay starts vs. a righty (like the opener) will Huck cut into Myers' time; Greg should still start about half the games.
Shocker of the spring so far: the Houston Astros have waived Shane Reynolds. Recovering from surgery or not, this is a guy who won 14 games in 2001, and has a 19-win and two 16-win seasons to his (relatively) recent credit.

Before any Blue Jay fans get all in a tizzy, though, take this to the Bank of Mortal Locks: Reynolds, who has made his home in Texas since leaving the Longhorns a dozen or so years ago, will sign a contract offered by another UT alum who owns that other Lone Star team ... Tom Hicks' Texas Rangers.

Either that, or Reynolds will go all Emmitt Smith on everyone and sign with Arizona (the Diamondbacks, not the Cardinals ... um, NFL Cardinals, not MLB's St. Louis ... oh, never mind).
We've all agreed in this space that the Blue Jays have not been built with a goal of competing for the 2003 world championship; rather, we've enjoyed watching a new organizational philosophy transform the Jays from a middle-market club saddled with costly, mediocre veterans to a young and promising club that should consistently contend, perhaps by 2005.

But hope springs eternal, and just five days hence your Toronto Blue Jays will wake up on game day, tied with the mighty Yankees and powerful Red Sox for first place in the A.L. East -- and, in all likelihood, a half-game ahead of the Texas Rangers in the wild card chase. So, as we adjust our rose-coloured glasses, how might the 2003 Jays compete for a postseason birth? An assessment of the schedule, series by series, is instructive. The Jays' opportunity lies in Catch(Up)-22.
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OK ... this has been hinted at on Da Box previously, but it's time to make it happen. The first annual (usual disclaimer: nothing can really be "first annual" until after the second year) Batter's Box Predictions Contest.

No complicated "pick the order of finish of every team in the majors plus project the Toledo Mud Hens' team batting average" stuff. It's simple. Name the playoff teams, eventual champs and award winners, earn points for each correct prediction.

Everyone is invited to participate. All nine members of "The Lineup" are especially encouraged to cast their lots, and though not a requirement, those who don't will of course be considered a massive wuss.

And prizes? Oh YES, there are prizes. How would you like to be the proud owner of ...
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An upbeat column from Richard Griffin in today's Star, though nothing terribly new or exciting: the third-catcher debate, a roundup of Opening Day starters, etc. But the column is noteworthy for this hidden gem of a quote from JP:

[W]e were so aggressive in the six-year (minor-league) free agents, the Rule 5 draft, some of the trades we made and the free agent signings, that we felt coming into spring training, we were done. I don't think spring training is a place you make decisions. I think you put your team together and let them come down here and play.

He is, of course, 100% spot on.
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The Blue Jays will open the SkyDome doors this Sunday at 11:30 a.m. for the public to view batting practice. A $2.00 donation to the Jays Care Foundation is suggested. You can watch the Yankees take batting practice at noon, then at 3:00 p.m., the home team gets the field. J.P. Ricciardi will be on hand to answer questions from fans, and there will be autograph and photo opportunities. Sounds like a great deal for families.

Tonight's game has been a masterpiece for Pete Walker so far; he needed about eight pitches to get three groundouts in the first, and retired the side on six pitches in the second. The woeful D-Rays can't even hit a fly ball off Pete, and their latest retread pitcher, Rob Bell, got rocked in the third; it's 6-0 Toronto, with Stewart and Hudson contributing, as usual. Mike Wilner just said "this is starting to get sad." The season won't really begin in Tampa until Lou Piniella throws out the first base.

According to Tom and Jerry, the final 25-man roster, and the rotation, will be announced after tomorrow's game against the Phillies. Mark Hendrickson may pitch the third game of the Yankees series or be reserved for the first one in Minnesota. On Thursday, starting at 1:15 p.m., you can watch the Yanks-Jays game, as there's a free Webcast on -- it's also a chance to see if the new package is worth buying.
I've been thinking a lot about Gord Ash's tenure with the Blue Jays. (It must be the indigestion. Note to self: don't eat the chili for lunch any more.)
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