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I'm excited to announce that BB now has its own domain. This weekend, if there are no unexpected technical glitches, we will be moving to, where we hope to stay for a long time. I had indicated to some of you in e-mails that I was thinking about Sunday morning as the best time to "flip the switch", but -- duh! -- since Saturday is March 1, that makes more sense. So...


The existing site won't actually be down, but it will be "read only" -- if you make a comment on March 1 at the current location, it will be lost in the transfer to the new server. (Any author who tries to post a new article will be farmed out to our AAA blog.) Once I'm satisfied with the move, I'll put up a redirection page at this URL, and you'll be automatically transferred, then you can bookmark our new address. We'll also send out another newsletter on Sunday, letting everyone on our mailing list (are you signed up?) know about the change.

Fantasy fare: my new column on ESPN looks at the Jays' bench, the catchers and draft day bargains. Mick Doherty (Yankees) and John Gizzi (A's) have also updated in the last 48 hours, and they're always fun to read. The Batter's Box Fantasy League (BBFL) is up and running at Yahoo; 20 owners are now preparing for the March 20 draft, with those all-important bragging rights at stake. Some of us are also in a free 12-team Roto league that still has one or two spots left, so if you're interested, better hurry -- the draft is this Saturday at 1:00 pm -- and e-mail me for more info.

In his continuing series of profiles of former Blue Jays, Spencer Fordin corralled ex-catcher Ernie Whitt for a chat. The lefty-hitting part of the Jays' 1980s backstop platoon and the last original Blue Jay to leave the franchise may well be one of the most popular Blue Jays ever, which to be honest I've never entirely understood.

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The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced three new inductees, none of them (thank goodness) Pete Rose. I'm glad they excluded him, though I believe he belongs in Cooperstown. His supposed connection to Canadian baseball (he got his 4,000th hit during a half-season as an Expo) was a cheap publicity stunt.

Joe Carter was elected, for his memorable moments as a Blue Jay -- didn't he hit a clutch HR or something? Kirk McCaskill also got the nod, presumably for being born in Kapuskasing, and hanging around the bigs for 12 years as a mediocre pitcher. Quebec administrator Richard Belec is the other new addition to the Hall. Mark June 28 on your calendar if you want to attend the ceremony and give Joe one last round of applause.

That's two Carters in St. Mary's -- Gary was enshrined last year -- and it opens up the door for other great American players who spent significant time with Canadian MLB teams. Dave Stieb and Rusty Staub should be next, but Tommy Lasorda's incredible pitching for the AAA Montreal Royals in the 1950's has been unjustly overlooked. The standards for admission are, to say the least, confusing.

It's been said before, but baseball players are people just like you and me --- albeit with a lot more earning power and maybe a few of the personality quirks that come with great gifts and a lot of attention at an early age. Further in that vein, we have Justin Miller and Orlando Hudson, two young men whom the Jays are counting on to continue their development both on the field and off.

Miller, apparently, is an aficionado of the tattoo, and showed up to spring training adorned with body art applied by a neighbour back home. Justin's still young, so maybe it hasn't quite clicked with him yet that every time he pitches poorly and is driven from a game by the opposing batters, he can expect to hear things like "The Angels really tattooed Justin Miller tonight." I seem to recall a backup catcher for Toronto several years ago who had a Jays logo inked into one of his buttocks, which was fine up until the team released him a few months later.

Then there's Hudson, a man slightly more seasoned in what can happen when youthful exuberance is amplified by mass media. A year after the now-tiresome "pimp" comment, Orlando is making the right call by refusing to discuss it any further. He's had some media and PR training since then, and it shows. He's also planning to organize a bowling tournament for autistic children, a subject he's familiar with, since two of his cousins suffer from the syndrome. Good for him.
Permit me, if you will, to vent a little spleen.

There's a story at the Blue Jays' MLB site about the auditions and final selections for the "J-Cru" and "J-Cru Jr." These are not, as one might reasonably suspect, tryouts to replace the guy now batting in front of Barry Bonds, but for the team's official dance and promotional outfits.

You may be thinking, "What does a baseball team need with a dance troupe?" What, indeed.
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From the Official Site, a Spencer Fordin feature on Mike Bordick, the Blue Jays' million-dollar SS insurance policy.

Bordick set a Major League record for shortstops last season with 110 straight games without an error, but he was inexplicably left on the outside of the Gold Glove balloting. Alex Rodriguez won the award, but Tosca said that Bordick's reputation is intact even without the trophy.

The skipper also said that Bordick and Dave Berg would both see time at third base during the spring, in case Eric Hinske needs a day off. While he's no A-Rod with the stick, Bordick has a .288/.344/.472 split vs. lefties in 326 AB over the last three years, and has more power than people think, hitting 20 HR in 2000, his last full season. Berg and Woodward, though both swing from the right side, haven't been nearly that effective against LH pitching.

Richard Griffin chose the same subject for his latest Star column, and follows up on the Rodney Dangerfield theme -- Mike gets no respect. I agree; Bordick was another smart, cost-effective addition by Team Ricciardi.
A lot of Carlos Delgado stories today, after his arrival in Dunedin. Thanks to Jurgen Maas for pointing out this one, by Larry Millson in the Globe and Mail. Carlos has realistic expectations for the upcoming season:

"I don't think I'm a .344 hitter, but I'm not a .280 hitter, either. And I know that I can consistently drive in over 120 runs."

The prolific Spencer Fordin has a Delgado profile on the Official Site, and a brief CP report in the Sun mentions Carlos' minor offseason knee surgery went well.

Apart from intangibles -- like "veteran leadership" -- what can we expect from the Toronto 1B this season? As I've mentioned more than once, he'll benefit from a cozier spot in the order; seeing more people on base with fewer outs, Delgado might hit .300-42-125, with his usual 100+ walks. After two years of "only" .950-960 production, I'll say his OPS is back over 1.000 this year. Predictions, anyone?
According to Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News, the missing ingredient in the Phillies' expected run at a championship could be Cliff Politte:

Politte, who never found a niche in Philadelphia, blossomed after being traded. Getting a steady diet of setup work, he appeared in 55 games. He had 25 "holds" and his .186 opponents' batting average was second lowest among American League relievers. He gave up just 38 hits in 57 1/3 innings. His earned run average for the last 2 months of the season was 2.10. And, just like that, a pitcher who was a square peg looking for a round hole in Philadelphia has become Toronto's closer in waiting.

Good luck to Dan Plesac in his second annual farewell campaign, and thank you, Ed Wade.

Looks like I made it just under the wire. The day after I post the final segment of my four-part review of the Jays' system, Top Prospect Alert posts the first of its Top Ten Prospects for each organization. The Jays are ranked 21st out of the 30 clubs (you'll have to scroll down a bit to find them), but the author indicates that this farm system is climbing the ladder rapidly, and I entirely agree.

What I don't entirely agree with is with the TPA Blue Jays' Top Ten, in both content and ranking.
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Thanks to Steve for pointing out this story from the Official Site, about Josh Phelps' retirement from catching. Of course, the picture still isn't any clearer behind the plate; Spencer Fordin gives Ken Huckaby as good a chance as Wilson and Myers.

Yesterday, Richard Griffin declared Huck #1:

The ace in the hole for Huckaby... is the still-developing Cy Young candidate, Halladay, who loves to pitch with Huckaby as his catcher.

I think they might come north with three. Use Wilson mostly as a PH and start him vs. lefties, Huck catches Doc every fifth day, and comes in for defensive purposes, while Myers gets whatever workload he can handle. Cash replaces Huckaby when his bat's deemed ready. If they cut one C to keep Aquilino Lopez, it becomes a choice between Huck's glove and Wilson's bat, so it's a fine line between being #1 and being waived. I think Doc will pitch just fine to Myers.
What's the going rate for a good leadoff hitter these days? How about $252 million?

Only one name is associated with that particular contract number, so you've probably already jumped ahead in this little logic game and will be a little less surprised than I was to read that The Dallas Morning News is reporting that The Buck Stops Here Showalter "is toying with the notion of batting Alex Rodriguez [in the leadoff spot]."

This comes on the heels of recent news that, as Unkle Robby Neyer put it this week, "Bob Boone, the Boy Genius himself, is considering using Adam Dunn as a leadoff man."

What in the world of Omar Moreno is the world of traditional baseball thinking coming to? Well, think about it for a minute ...
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This is the end, my friend. Three months and 10,000 words after I started this minor-league review, here we have the final piece of the puzzle, a study of the Jays' most interesting A-Ball pitchers. These 15 -- count 'em -- hurlers all figure into Toronto's plans to a greater or lesser extent, with some of them destined to be rotation and bullpen stalwarts of Jays' pitching staffs of the mid-naughts. Which (if any) of them will make it? Guessing the future of Class-A pitchers is the ultimate mug's game, and I won't bother trying. But these are the names you should keep track of for the next few years, in order to see how the organization's pitching stable is coming along.

As always, comments, criticisms, corrections and compliments would be welcome. Buckle in for the longest ride of these four reviews.
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A new story on the ESPN website (apparently originally from the NY Daily News) gives the sad, twisted details of the presumably-not-actually-final resting place of Ted Williams.

It's unutterably sad to me, to think that even someone as legendarily commanding as Ted Williams can lose control of his own life in his later years.

Batter's Box regular Mike Moffatt edits the Guide to Economics, and has used the Blue Jays offseason as the basis of a feature on that site. Called "Baseball Players and Opportunity Costs", it examines the Toronto club's decision, questioned at the time by some fans, to non-tender a contract offer to Jose Cruz Jr.:

So we see that the Jays did not give up Jose Cruz for "nothing". Instead they gave up Jose Cruz and the opportunity to play 5 minor league players and received the opportunity to play Bordick, Catalanotto, Creek, Myers, Sturtze, and Tam instead. So when a team decides not to retain the services of the player, they always receive two things in return: the money it would have taken to retain the player, and the spot on the 25 man roster that the player would have taken.

There's even a poll, where you can vote on the following question: "Has General Manager J.P. Ricciardi used the concept of opportunity cost effectively when creating his roster of players?" I cast the second ballot, and it's unanimous so far.
Shannon "Not Just An Airport In Ireland" Stewart has signed a one-year deal worth $6.2 million to avoid the arbitration hearing originally scheduled for this Thursday.

The settlement, which was $300,000 under the midway point of the two arbitration sums (the Jays had offered $5.5 million, Stewart $7.5 million), means that the Jays are about $1.3 million under their 2002 salary budget if recent media reports are accurate.

The press release is here.