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Jamey Newberg is reporting that RHP Ismael Valdes has agreed to terms on a one-year contract to return to the Rangers. Perhaps the single-season hard-luck pitcher of the decade (so far) in 2002, Valdes will be the #2 starter in Texas behind Chan Ho (That's Outta The) Park and Colorado reject John Thomson.

This news furthers the likelihood that vastly underrated lefty Doug Davis, who is destined to turn into Jamie Moyer, will be available for cheap trade or on waivers before the start of the season.

A couple of short months ago, when we were all alone here at Batter's Box, I posted this praise for my "new" co-blogger's witticism on Baseball Primer. At long last, the nominations are in for the 2002 Primey Awards, presented to the finest baseball writing on the Internet; that hilarious thread is nominated in the "best non-baseball" category, and Gideon's punch line is up for "best humorous post." I would never encourage anyone to vote against their conscience, or stuff the ballot box, but you will enjoy checking out all the nominations, and I'm sure you'll agree that Jordan should get a Primey.

Primer-related congratulations are also in order for "our" own Craig Burley, who has joined their excellent writing staff. That's wonderful, and well deserved. Before I started this exercise in Blue Jays fandom, Craig B and Gideon were my favourite Primer posters, and their contributions here have been a huge factor in making us whatever we are. This isn't a farewell; Craig may be an important baseball pundit now, but he's also a Jays fan, and will continue to honour us with his presence.

The timing of all this great news is interesting -- we've all become friends electronically, but haven't met. Tomorrow, we're having lunch, and I expect we'll be in a celebratory mood. Well done, guys!
From the Official Site: Batting Around with Frank Catalanotto. Spencer Fordin asked the new Jay RF about his position, and F-Cat isn't worried:

"The year when I played exclusively in left field -- 2001 -- I had my best year and I think I was able to focus more at the plate. When you're in the middle infield, your mind is working every second that you're on defense."

The best news is the health report; after some bad luck in 2002, this sounds promising:

"I've been on a pretty aggressive back program the whole year. The doctor said I have to do my exercises every single day and that's what I've been doing. My back feels great. Hopefully, doing these exercises will keep me from re-injuring it. The hand injury, I got hit by a pitch and broke it. There's nothing you can do about that."

Cat's one of the few players who admits a preference for artificial turf; he believes it turns more of his singles into doubles. Coming from an older club with several Hall of Fame candidates to the younger, developing Blue Jays, he's keen on assuming a leadership role.
By request from a concerned Canadian baseball fan named Jurgen Maas, here's an online petition from the Montreal Gazette concerning Gary Carter's wardrobe at his upcoming Hall of Fame induction.

While I was adamant that The Kid belongs in Cooperstown, his behaviour since his election has done nothing to endear him to Montreal and its beleaguered fans. He's been rude, and (no surprise) selfish, caring only about his future marketing opportunities. He doesn't seem to realize there's a certain cachet to being the first, maybe the only, member of his team to be so honoured. The Expos probably won't exist next year, so if you believe he should wear their cap, add your name and optional comments to the list, which will be forwarded to officials at the HoF and to Carter.

I think he should have a special logo made, featuring a big dollar sign superimposed over a grinning picture of himself. That's where Gary's loyalty really is.
Ken Rosenthal, the Sporting News's less arbitrary answer to Peter Gammons, is back with another article reviewing the majors in the depths of baseball-free January. A few points of interest and one very intriguing Blue Jays-related observation.
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A nice little article here on Orlando Hudson from the Florence (S.C.) Morning News. It paints a very different picture of Hudson than the one he drew for himself -- with more than a little help from the Toronto media -- with the "pimp" comment. It's another facet of someone who appears to be a little deeper than first guessed. As usual, the truth about someone lies somewhere in between all the things said and written about him, but it's certainly good to see Hudson demonstrate a maturity and generosity beyond what first impressions might have led us to believe. Nice piece.
Interesting note from Dave Till in a previous thread that seems worthy of breaking out into a separate discussion: "[Roy Halladay] ... stands a chance of becoming the Jays' best pitcher ever [...] Right now, if you're just measuring peak performance level, I'd already rank him about sixth all-time, behind Stieb, Clemens, Hentgen, Guzman and Key."

Without necessarily limiting ourselves to peak performance level -- frankly, that seems kind of unfair to the near decade of Jays pitchers who endured the pre='85 pennantless stretch -- what would be the Jays all-time rotation? Figure a minimum of two righties and two lefties plus a fifth starter who could be either a righty or lefty.

I don't think Jerry Garvin or Dave Lemanczyk are going to be banging on the door of this all-time rotation, but what about ...
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In Canada, and across the baseball universe, most people slight one of the game’s best pitchers every time they say his name. Roy Halladay, the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays, got his nickname -– Doc –- because he’s a Colorado boy, like the famous Old West gunslinger, "Doc" Holliday.

That’s how Roy’s family pronounces their surname: “Holiday.” If you’re reading it, and have never heard it spoken correctly, it’s easy to make the mistake; the first three letters spell HAL, like the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the first four letters are “hall,” and that’s the way Doc says it, so why shouldn’t we?
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Pistol referred to this in another thread, and while there's no earth-shaking news, it's worth a look. Alan Ryan of the Star talks to a "very happy" J.P. Ricciardi about his budget and other financial matters. Paul Godfrey reminds enthusiastic Jays fans (guilty, sorry) that the team is only at the second stage of a four-part rebuilding process, and credits the GM for his patience, while J.P. says this about Roy Halladay:

"Next year, we'll definitely be thinking about doing something long term."

That's a vague commitment to an extension, but there's no hurry: Doc is a Blue Jay for three more years via the arbitration process, which begins in earnest next weekend. Now it's time to play a Batter's Box guessing game -- what do the five arb-eligible Toronto players want, and what will they get?
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Peter Gammons gets some people riled, but I find him harmless and amusing, especially compared to certain local columnists. He's well-connected in several front offices, and can always be counted on to pass along juicy rumours. In his latest, Gammons takes a look ahead at the upcoming season, including some fun lists, based on his personal poll of executives and scouts.

Mark Hendrickson's honourably mentioned as a potential impact rookie, Jason Arnold is named as a freshman to watch in the second half, Vernon Wells "could vault to star level," and Jeff Tam is among the "innocuous acquisitions who could surprise," but somehow the 2003 Blue Jays aren't included as a team that will outperform expectations.

Also on, favourable commentary from Jayson Stark and Jim Caple on the announcement by the Commissioner that home-field advantage in the World Series will be determined by which league wins the All-Star game. What a crock! If an exhibition game is going to matter so much, why not use the spring training standings? (I'm joking.) How about a coin flip? Though I'm against the whole concept of interleague play, doesn't it make more sense to use those results? Actually, nothing's wrong with the status quo of alternating. This is yet another Selig overreaction to yet another mess he created himself. Blue Jays Consultant (Baseball Operations) Keith Law, who marks his first year with the organization today. For a quick trip back in time, take a look back at the lengthy Baseball Primer thread that his announcement precipitated. Law's move from Baseball Prospectus to a major-league club was greeted by Primates roughly the same way as was Richard Dreyfuss's ascension to the alien spaceship by the scientists in Close Encounters -- congratulations on achieving our collective dream, you lucky stiff.
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Better. Richard Griffin should know better. The same wannabe-GM who recommended Moises Alou as the best possible free-agent signing of last winter continues to vent madly in all directions. The Toronto Star columnist's latest begins with "some serious whining" (his words) about the changing baseball economy, but cites the contract of Joey Hamilton as evidence. Earth to Rich -- like you, Hamilton is incredibly lucky to have a job at all.

With nothing else to complain about, the bastion of credibility and fairness trots out the year-old Vernon Wells-as-DH plan as proof of the Jays' "posturing," gets his knickers in a twist over the idea of Little Cat playing RF, and whines on:

In fact, it says here that current second base starter Orlando Hudson, not a Ricciardi favourite (runs too much on the bases and at the mouth), will be dealt before the end of the spring and that Catalanotto will be returned to the infield.

"It says here," is true, and O-Dog is the current starter, but the rest of that sentence is merely the opinion of an increasingly unfunny clown who never lets "facts" get in the way of his agenda.
The team's Official Site has an update on the play of several Blue Jay farmhands in the Domincan, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan winter leagues. Apparently, and unsurprisingly, the Venezuelan season shut down on Dec. 2 due to the unrest there. Hopefully the team is in touch with all its players (nine Toronto minor leaguers were playing in the Venezuelan Witner League) and they can be brought out soon, or at least before the season starts.

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In today's Sun, give Mike Rutsey credit for sticking to the facts in this conversation with J.P. Ricciardi about the Oakland connection common to so many Jays deals, and his friendship with former mentor Billy Beane.

Best things about this piece? It might keep the lead witch-hunters from writing something similar for a while, and the great closing JPR quote:

"It's not easy to deal with 29 people," he said of the other GMs. "It's my job to be as creative, open-minded and aggressive as I can be. But there's just some clubs where even if its a layup for them, they're not going to make the deal.

"The bottom line is it's easier to deal with people who want to make deals. I've had as many discussions with Kansas City and the Mets and people like that as I've had with Billy, but we're just not able to get things done with those teams."
A quick hit from the Jays' MLB page on new right fielder Frank Catalanotto. Nothing earth-shattering here, though a couple of items are slightly noteworthy:
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