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I'm fiddling with an article to be posted here on -- well, eventually -- which will look at some of the great "under the radar" signings of this past offseason. Here's one that won't make the list:

Lee Sinins of reports this morning, "The Rockies signed P Darren Oliver to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training."

As any roto player can tell you, it is no accident, campers, that Darren Oliver's professional anagram is "I Love Earn'd RR" ("I love earned runs") ... putting him in Coors Field ... I don't know what to say. It may be the worst minor league contract ever signed, from a club's perspective.

So, share: what do you think are the worst (or alternately, the least likely to pay off in any way) moves of the offseason so far? Neifi Perez, yah. Who else?
If you prefer reasonable, intelligent baseball writing in a Toronto newspaper, look to Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail. He does his homework, sticks to facts, and enlightens. Here, from yesterday's paper, is an excellent summary of the nomadic state of Bud Selig's auxiliary backup team, and Blair followed up today with another informative piece.

Unlike another local columnist who just tosses off lines like "those pesky Expos minority owners and their "racketeering" lawsuit", Blair tells us what's going on. If you're interested in this story, here's the view from D.C., where a Washington Times report says: executives remain quite fearful of another botched entry into a new market, resulting in another weak franchise similar to those in Miami and Tampa, Fla.

If they're fearful, imagine how the rest of us feel. Here's an idea that has probably occurred to MLB -- invite a gullible new owner to invest millions into the swooning Marlins, and give the "expansion" Expos back to Selig's pal Jeff Loria. Under his guidance, the homeless team could barnstorm around the hemisphere for a couple more years until wrung completely dry.

To the dismay of most of us, after two weeks of silence on baseball, Richard Griffin has poison-penned a new column. To our surprise, there's only one feeble shot at J.P. & Co. in the latest bird-cage liner:

...the sophomore GM, in learning the job's ABCs, still seems stuck on the A's.

Hey, a clever play on words! Too bad the premise is so flimsy. The appropriate letters for the game's sharpest front office -- yes, including Oakland -- are PhD.

Stay tuned for a day or two; I think he's working up a head of steam. The anticipated attack based on the "Cruz for Nothing" theme is merely postponed; this one mentions the "slick little scheme" of the Expos' impending move, Pete Rose's "embarrassing" qualifications for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Yankees' "nutty" signing of Jon Lieber. (The latter was actually smart, if you have the cash lying around). Rich wants to get his loyal reader caught up on events, but when he's not inventing lies ("rumours", in this case) or distorting facts to advance his anti-Jays agenda, he's just boring.
By Jonny German

I discovered this site about a week ago and I’m liking it a lot... I want to pick up on a thought by Matthew Elmslie from Jan. 20:

... you can fake a bullpen. Any competent GM should be able to take a shoebox of cigarette butts and paper clips and put together a reasonable relief pitching corps. I've read quite a few comments on this or that board from people who are worried about the Toronto bullpen, and I just don't see it. The Jays have a big stack of plausible arms behind Escobar and Politte and that's really all you need....

I’d had the same suspicion as Matt, and I did a little research on it. First, I adopted a very simple definition of a “good” season for a reliever: 30 or more relief appearances and an ERA under 4.00. (This definition of good will serve throughout my discourse). Next, not having any convenient source of spreadsheet-ready stats, I spent a couple hours scouring for pitchers who met this criteria last year. I kept track of Games (in relief), Innings, Saves, Holds, ERA, Age, Seasons as a reliever (30 or more appearances), and number of “Good” seasons.
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Despite their many nominations, Gideon J. Clarke and the Beeah Guy came away empty-handed in the first annual Primey Awards. As expected, BP's Daily Prospectus was named best baseball blog, but Aaron Gleeman, whose (mostly) Twins page helped inspire this one, finished a respectable second in that category.

The prodigy's latest piece on Primer is a very detailed look at his Top 50 Prospects, which include just two Blue Jays -- Kevin Cash (#47) and Jason Arnold (#37). As with any subjective list, it's wide open for criticism, but it's much more thorough than some of the "mainstream" analysis.

Over at The Sporting News, which was once the bible of baseball, a panel of "experts" came up with a more extensive prospect rating that treats the Toronto organization more kindly. No less than seven Toronto farmhands, including Arnold (#44), are rated ahead of Cash (#110) -- Jayson Werth (#37), John-Ford Griffin (#39), Russ Adams (#61), Dustin McGowan (#97), Dominic Rich (#103) and Brandon League (#107) -- and five more Jays hopefuls make the list.
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Well, it can't come as much of a surprise -- Jose Cruz Jr. is back on the west coast, this time in the orange and black of the San Francisco Giants. Cruz signed a one-year major-league deal worth $2.8 million, plus an option.

The salary is roughly 60% of what Jose would have likely gotten had the Jays offered him arbitration, but he has to like the other perks: natural grass, contending ballclub, and hitting anywhere near the Barry Zone -- all of these should be beneficial. He should really solidify their outfield defence too. Nonetheless, he's moving to a pretty extreme pitcher's park, and we shouldn't expect his numbers to be outstanding, especially not against the pitching in the NL West.

Give credit to Brian Sabean -- he wouldn't give the Jays what they wanted, refusing to surrender a pitching prospect at the deadline. As a result, he gets the player he wanted for nothing in exchange, not even a draft pick -- and at a lower price, since had he acquired Cruz last summer, the Giants would have been the ones on the hook for that arbitration payday. He also outwaited the Orioles, who dated Cruz briefly before deciding to pass. Sabean makes his blunders -- step forward, Neifi Perez -- but he acquitted himself well here.
Yes, my latest A's column is up; it is an analysis of Ted Lilly. To justify placing a link here, I've made a reference to the Blue Jays.

If anyone objects to me posting when I've written a new A's rant, please let me know, so I can send you an e-mail in addition to informing you here.
Connecticut-based Blue Jays fans might not want to get too excited about seeing the club's AA prospects for the foreseeable future. The New Haven Ravens have been sold to a fellow named Drew Weber, current owner of Boston's A-League affiliate in Lowell, Mass.

Weber has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow, to which the media and the local Ravens booster club have been specifically invited. Rumours are flying that Weber intends to move the team to Manchester, New Hampshire in time for the 2004 season. According to the article, the Ravens would play 2004 in refurbished temporary digs at Gill Stadium while a permanent ballpark is constructed across town as part of a massive riverfront redevelopment.

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I had a little free time today, so I tried figuring out how the Jays' main bats will do this year. Since forecasting is not an exact science, my approach was to compile the Jays' 2003 totals based on a collective worst-case scenario, and then put on my rose-coloured glasses and produce a 2003 best-case scenario. I only did hitting stats, since I'm lazy.
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If the worst should happen this summer and the Blue Jays were a truly awful team, finishing near the bottom of the major-league standings, take solace in this: they'd be that much closer to being able to draft British Columbia's own Adam Loewen.

It won't happen, of course: the Jays would have to make a special effort to lose as many games as the Tigers or Devil Rays, JP doesn't go anywhere near high school pitchers, and Loewen's signing bonus is likely to be stratospheric. But Loewen could still be one of the most interesting figures in next June's draft, and not just for Canadians.
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I can't remember the last time I approached a Super Bowl Sunday without caring. As a longtime sports fanatic, last year I realized that I had oversaturated my life with sports and needed to cut back. For me, the obvious choice was to give up the NFL, and I've never looked back. As the sport with the sparsest amount of action of any that I know, and the worst broadcasters outside darts, the NFL had become an overblown joke to me.

Clearly, not everyone agrees, as it is phenomenally successful. This piece of overblown puffery from ABC News illustrates the point nicely. But why the messianic tone, asserting that football will crush all those who dare to oppose her? It has everything to do with the fact that ABC is broadcasting the Super Bowl tonight.
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If you're looking for a San Diego baseball connection on a football Sunday, here's a fine piece by ESPN's Jim Caple on a Hall of Famer who is teaching baseball to young men before they become jaded, spoiled professionals. Eight-time batting champ Tony Gwynn could have stepped into the broadcast booth, and doesn't need any job, but he is a terrific guy, who loves the game. I agree with Caple:

With the passing of Ted Williams, there is no one on the planet who knows more about hitting than Gwynn. He knows how to teach it (and the rest of the game as well) to others.

A .338 lifetime average and 3,141 hits are amazing accomplishments, but Tony isn't done yet. He'll be a great influence on the San Diego State Aztecs, as players and as people. A tip of this old coach's cap to a class act.
BB isn't a hot spot on any weekend, though that may change during the season, and tomorrow is the second U.S. national holiday this week -- the Super Bowl. So don't expect a lot of new Blue Jays content, unless there's breaking news.

I'm probably the exception among sports fans these days; my passion for baseball is presumably evident, and even though I gripe about the length of the regular NHL season and the number of playoff teams, I love hockey. Basketball has become my third choice in recent years, and I've gradually lost interest in football. I don't know why; it could have something to do with mellowing as I get older.

There was a time (see Curtain, Steel) when I was a rabid armchair quarterback, but now I tend to ignore the NFL season except for TV highlights -- I can still appreciate great plays -- and the only games I watch start to finish are the conference finals and the Big One. This seems to be a great matchup this year, like the '74 Pittsburgh offence (Raiders) against their own defence (Bucs). I'll hit the mute button for Celine Dion, take Tampa as my rooting interest, enjoy a cool Sleeman's or two, and hear the immortal words of George Carlin in my head:
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Though most baseball fans will be certainly be shocked to learn of a front-office shakeup in the Yankees organization, today George's pinstriped playthings announced a high-level move.

Senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman resigned -- the phrase used was "asked to be relieved of the role" -- and was replaced by Gordon Blakeley, the vice president of international and professional scouting responsible for last month's signing of Cuban defector Jose Contreras.

Rumors on the internet -- starting right here, right now -- indicate that Steinbrenner has cast a longing eye north toward an as-yet-unnamed Canadian, identified so far only as "The Coach," to fill the international scouting role.
The 2003 Toronto Blue Jays are many times deeper, at the big-league level, in AAA and throughout the organization, than they were a year ago. The everyday lineup against RH starters is just about carved in stone, with only the batting order uncertain, and many attractive options there for Carlos Tosca (and us) to ponder.

In 2002, the pitching plan was Carpenter, Halladay and three rainy days. That's also improved. Doc, Cory Lidle and Tanyon Sturtze are set, and there will be a battle royal among many qualified candidates for the other two rotation spots.

I've set my crystal ball a few weeks ahead, but I can't quite make out who that is on the end of the bench in the dugout or the bullpen. Perhaps you can help.
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