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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.

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.