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Unlike their real-life namesakes, the Texas Rangers are displaying little fortitude (and less sense) as they prepare to fly into The City Of The Damned today. A-Rod, who's normally more sensible than this, plans to stay in his hotel room during his off-hours, and most of his teammates appear to be following suit. Memo to Alex: from all accounts, the Kansas City Royals are not dropping dead on board their charter airplane, unless Tony Pena had a coronary following yesterday's ninth inning. This is going to get more annoying yet.

Weirdest quote of the day, from Buck Showalter: "I take great pride in washing my hands." I'm happy for you, big guy.
Baseball Prospectus has gone to a mostly pay-per-view system (I haven't tried it yet, though I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has). But there are still some excellent items freely available on their site. One of these is the Prospectus Triple Play, a series of quick-hits on three designated teams. This week, the Jays and Expos are both featured in the TP. The Jays authors point out the effectiveness of the Jays' catching tandem and talk up the progress of Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin. The Expos report gives the lowdown on unsung superstar Jose Vidro and a surprisingly strong 'Spos starting staff.
* In a game that Jayson Stark will be dining off for weeks, St. Louis beat Florida 7-6 in 20 innings. The Marlins scored one run in the 3rd, five in the 9th, and zero in the other 18 innings. They also stranded 21 runners. How depressing must it have been to watch Jeff Torborg and Tony St. Russa match wits for 20 innings?

* Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants , issuing just three walks and striking out 10 in a 1-0 victory. This proves that the Braves actually won the controversial Millwood trade, as Johnny Estrada already has four hits for Atlanta this year.

* The Houston Texans drafted none other than Yankees third-base suspect Drew Henson in the 6th round of the NFL draft last weekend. Henson, the former Michigan QB who sports a mighty .171/.256/.343 line at AAA Columbus, has long insisted that he's not going to play football, and has now reiterated that stance. George Steinbrenner signed Henson to a $17 million contract before the latter had ever swung a professional bat. Think about that when you're feeling down, and smile.
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Rogers has bought all unsold tickets for Tuesday's game, and is offering them for sale for $1. They want to show that Toronto is safe for baseball. But we already knew that, didn't we?
Ultimate Series: The Concept
Game 1 Story
Box Scores: Game 1 * Game 2

After failing to muster so much as a scoring threat against the1977-2002 All-Star Yankees in Mondayís opener, the All-Star Jays rallied behind veteran southpaw Jimmy Key for a 6-3 Game 2 victory in a Saturday matinee at Skydome.

In a game where the first six innings featured five solo home runs, Tommy Johnís bionic left arm kept the pinstriped squad ahead until ...
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I was certain yesterday that Cory Lidle would have more success against the K.C hitters than Miguel Asencio would against the Toronto bats. I expected a blowout. It looked that way after one inning, but gradually slipped away into one of the more disappointing losses of a (thus far) frustrating season.

Today, the 17-4 Royals have their ace on the hill, and Elvys' 4-0 record and 1.10 ERA are pretty intimidating. The Jays counter with swing man Pete Walker, whose last start was mediocre. There's no way to expect a complete game from Walker, which means the (shudder) bullpen will have to get results.

It's already a 2-0 deficit for Pete; a single to Relaford and a Randa HR on the first two pitches. Sigh...
Two in a row is a beginning, with a very favourable pitching matchup this afternoon. Cory Lidle (2-1. 3.33 vs. the Royals over the last three years) is the logical choice over 22-year-old Miguel Asencio (15 hits and 5 walks in 10 IP against the Jays in 2002) -- the righty, indirectly responsible for Corey Thurman coming to Toronto, has good stuff, but walks more people than he strikes out. Toronto's patient hitters should have some fun today, and we can expect the everyday lineup. K.C. has just 11 pitchers (no bullpen lefty; perhaps J.P. could give them Creek) and I doubt Wilson or Carrasco is available, so we may see quite a bit of Albie Lopez, who is having a surprisingly good year. Yet-to-be-used Jeremy Hill, called up from Omaha when Affeldt went on the DL, might have to mop up. Fantasy owners, start your Blue Jays.

Half empty? Toronto is in last place in the division, 11th in the league. Half full? Almost everything that can go wrong has, so far, and they're just 6 1/2 games out of the AL wild card spot with 138 to play.
We wouldn't think of passing on Jeff Bagwell, who collected his 2000th career hit today against the Expos in the tenth inning, an uncharacteristic infield dribbler. Bagwell has been one of the best players of our time, a terrific all-around player unfairly ignored playing in Houston. Bagwell can hurt you with his glove, stealing bases, or by hitting for average, or hitting for power, or taking a walk.

Way to go, Jeff. Given what he has meant to Houston over the years, I would have to say that Bagwell-for-Andersen is without a doubt the worst trade of all time.
Or should I say, "The Secret Super-Agents Who Have Abducted, And Are Posing As, The Royals?"

In all seriousness, KC has been feasting on bad and/or slumping teams en route to their wholly unforeseeable 16-3 start. They've been pitching well, fielding well and taking good approaches to at-bats, but they've also been the beneficiaries of errors and startling mental breakdowns by opponent after opponent. (Hello, Blue Jays...) It'll be interesting to see how the brimming-with-confidence Royals fare against the big boys. Having said that, they still have an awful lot of games against Detroit and Cleveland on the schedule..

We all "know" that they're not as good as their record, but consider this: Of all the teams to start 16-3 since 1940, all have made the playoffs except the '87 Brewers, who went on a 12-game losing streak in May. Even those Brewers, however, won 91 games.

Not only would 91 wins be an absolutely superlative achievement for Allard Baird and Tony Pena, but that would mean that the state of Missouri would, at the very least, see meaningful AL baseball for the first time in a long, long time. Remember, no playoffs since Sundberg...But who are we kidding? The '03 Kansas City Royals can't win 90, right? Right???

On to the Advance Scout!
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In the Star today, Dave Perkins writes about the SARS scare:

It is bad news, though. Bad news for small business. Bad news for big businesses. Bad news for the Blue Jays, who need this like they need, uh, a left fielder who doesn't know which base to throw to after six years in the big leagues. This is one time it's even safe to feel sorry for them.

Hear, hear. Even the snide remark about Stewart, who as a LF is a fine hitter. One of my best friends is a Professor of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in the Graduate School of Public Health at a large U.S. university. He's shocked at the decision by WHO and we both suspect it might be politically motivated; someone wanted to pin an Advisory on Beijing and when they looked at the criteria they were using, Toronto fit. It's unfair and unneccessary, but the damage is done. I will be at tonight's game, and unlike the Royals, won't be wearing a filter mask and latex gloves.
The great thing about baseball, of course, is that there's always something new under the sun. The latest exhibit comes from sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, where teenaged Cubs prospect Jae-kuk Ryu is in hot water after nailing an osprey during pregame warmups. Apparently ospreys are a semi-endangered species in Florida, and killing or injuring one gets you a misdemeanour charge. The report makes no indication of whether it was accidental (cf. Dave Winfield, Randy Johnson) or intentional.

Apparently, this kind of incident also gets the xenophobic neighbours on your back. One outraged resident reportedly wants the pitcher "deported" back to South Korea. Charming. You think if it was a strapping white high school kid who brained the bird, they'd be calling for him to be deported back to Texarkana? Ryu's lucky he's not from France. Charlie Lea might have been run out of town on a rail.

Anyway, the Cubs demoted Ryu to their Lansing affiliate in the Midwest League, and I hope that was out of concern for Ryu's safety at Florida State League ballparks, or maybe as a face-saving PR move, rather than actual punishment. Because if Jae-kuk Ryu gets demoted for injuring a bird, why then, Ben Christensen deserves to be cut loose by the organization altogether, wouldn't you think?
Interesting piece in today's Globe from Jeff Blair. The Jays brass, apparently, has been sufficiently impressed with Frank Catalanotto that they're planning to bring him back in 2003 as their everyday left fielder. The Cat himself says that left field is his favoured position going forward, and that he quite likes being in Toronto.
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You have to go all the way down to Charleston before you get a dominant pitching performance from a Jays' minor leaguer, in what was a slugfest-kind of day. But what a performance it was.
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As expected, it's a night off for Carlos Delgado. Josh Phelps is at 1B and Greg Myers bats cleanup; Jayson Werth (hitting seventh) gets the start in RF and Cat's the DH. Jays pitcher Tanyon Sturtze, in the city he calls home, faces his former teammates. He's walked a dozen batters the last two starts, in part because you don't want to be down the middle against those Yankee and Red Sox hitters. Tanyon doesn't have to be perfect; his mates will get him some runs against Jorge Sosa, and there are several fresh arms in the Toronto bullpen, including the reliable one.

I will make no predictions; it would be nice for the Jays players and fans to win big, as everyone's holding their breath these days with even a three-run lead.