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I admit to parting with half a buck most days for the Toronto Star, despite Richard Griffin. And I like the Saturday Globe for the features. I refuse to buy the paper that claims to be "National" (and is, if the nation is Bay Street and Alberta) or the annoying tabloid, but sometimes people leave them on the subway, and I'll look anywhere on the Web for baseball news.

This link to Bob Elliott's latest Sun column is provided for a couple of reasons. Elliott, although his prose is mundane and his facts are occasionally wrong, seems to have good connections. He rarely resorts to commenting on rumours started by other reporters (the tactic that feeds baseball coverage in the Big Apple) and has often scooped his local rivals.

Although today's trade-gossip piece completely ignores the Jays, the stuff about the Giants, if true, throws cold water on some of the previous speculation in this rectangle.
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I notice with some amusement that our "own" Gideon Clarke sent his comments on the latest Peter Gammons column to Clutch Hits. I'm guessing that's because Jordan's point, about P.G. being one of the few "mainstream" journalists who even acknowledges sabrmetrics, will stimulate more discussion there than here. (And my feelings aren't hurt; it's true.)

I agree with Gideon's aside that the Gammons list of free-agents-to-be is "wildly premature," and it's no doubt less than 100% accurate, but since it's the first concise list I've seen of the impending talent glut, I include it here for BB readers. Some of us regularly indulge in premature speculation, even if our wives don't appreciate it.

One of the truly fun things about being a baseball fan is trades: proposing hypothetical ones, anticipating rumoured ones, reading about the real ones (Who did they get? Who did they give up?), and debating for weeks afterwards about whether they were smart ones or dumb ones. Good times.

For the players, though, it's a different story. I don't think I'd enjoy being called into my boss's office and told I'd been dealt to a trucking magazine based outside Louisville in exchange for an art director and an advertorial to be named later. But that's life for major-league baseball players, and has always been so, well before they were making six figures a year, let alone seven. I don't care how much money you make: some things suck, and being made to change employers against your will is one of them.

This article, from the Blue Jays' MLB page, goes into interesting detail about the effect of the Cory Lidle deal on his family. I liked it because it's a pretty fresh angle on the same old "How are you dealing with the trade?" story. It's not much fun for the player, but it can be brutal on his wife, who likely has made friends, put down roots and established the family in the community while hubby is on the road six to eight months of the year. And speaking as someone who hates, hates moving, I have a lot of sympathy for Melanie Lidle. I also think a little more highly of Cory after hearing how he talks about his family. A nice little piece.

I don't quite as much care for the writer's cheap shots at Toronto weather. You know, Oakland isn't exactly Maui either, fella. When Dorothy Parker and Jason Giambi both diss your city, you shouldn't be casting stones.
Much of the attraction of fantasy baseball (for me, at least) is testing my talent evaluation skills against fellow baseball fans. Many people sincerely believe they could do a better job than the GM of "their" local major-league team, and if they live in Denver or Kansas City, they might be right.

Toronto Star columnist Richard Griffin hates all general managers, it seems. Rich has a short memory, though. He led the mudslinging against former Blue Jay honcho Gord Ash, but now that his cross-hairs are trained on J.P. Ricciardi, has begun to praise the previous administration. In today's asinine column attacking the Red Sox for hiring 28-year-old Theo Epstein, Griffin actually suggests Dave Stewart would have been a better choice.

In another BB thread, Craig B posted his thoughts on Griffin's dubious "logic," and here's my response. I've resisted the obvious temptation to make "Epstein's Mother" jokes, but Griffin isn't kidding. Whatever credibility the man once had, he is systematically destroying with his transparent jealousy and irresponsible vendettas. Count me as one "rotisserie dweeb" who has had enough.
Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun devoted his weekend column to the "feel good" story of a 22-year-old pitcher from Mississauga who became the first Ontario college player, and just the second from a Canadian university, to be signed by a pro team.

Angus Roy played in the NCAA but went undrafted, and returned home to attend teacher's college at U of T. Of interest to me is that he was "discovered" by the Red Sox, and even more curiously, by a scout who was hired after a chance meeting at a college game in Florida. (Note to self: start chatting up strangers more often.)

Batter's Box contributors could be self-appointed "bird dogs" for the Blue Jays, whose Canadian scouts, according to Elliott, are significantly outnumbered by several other organizations. I suggest RHP John Lockwood of the Toronto Maple Leafs as a potential pro, but while he was dominating the Intercounty League this year with a 92 MPH fastball and nasty slider, it was the Braves holding the radar gun. Kids like Roy and Lockwood will be CBL stars if they stall at A or AA, but they deserve at least a chance in an MLB system.
Just to further the off-season trade talk that fills the restless days until the GM meetings -- here's a piece from Ken Rosenthal's latest column:

Blue Jays CF Jose Cruz Jr. is drawing trade interest from the Giants, Astros, Rangers and Diamondbacks. Cruz hit 83 homers the past three seasons but likely will earn below $5 million in 2003.

The Giants possess the young pitching the Blue Jays crave. The Astros aren't sure it would be a good idea to pair Cruz with his father, Jose Cruz Sr., the team's first base coach. The Rangers and Diamondbacks could turn to Cruz if they fail to sign free-agent CF Steve Finley.

First, the usual provisos about any trade rumour circulated by a sportswriter, even if his initials aren't PG. Until verified by at least one more source, this is 100% speculative. That stated, here's a few thoughts arising from this item:
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A few years ago, I had a high school SS and leadoff hitter who quietly did a lot of things right. On the same team was a younger kid who hit for a higher average, with more power, and was gifted with a laser-beam arm, but was prone to emotional outbursts and selfish play. I asked the latter which "team" would win if we cloned nine of him and nine of the other guy, and he responded, with the confident swagger I expected, that it would be no contest.

"Wrong," I told the budding superstar, "nine of you would collide on every fly ball, have fistfights with each other in the dugout, and infuriate umpires; nine of him would cooperate, make each other better, and kick your butt." I'm happy to say the young man got the message; he's added the previously-missing intangibles to his impressive skills, and become the best player I've ever coached.

Applying this fantasy yardstick to big-leaguers has been an enjoyable pastime for me for decades. Nine Babe Ruths would be awesome because of the pitching thing, if they all showed up at the park and were willing to share the spotlight. Nine Randy Johnsons would lose a lot of low-scoring games; nine of Pete Rose would be very tough to beat if they bet their money, and so on.
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Arizona, already mortgaged to the brink of bankruptcy, is "stuck" with Matt Williams, a once-great player who has every right to put what's left of his career in perspective with his disingegrating personal life.

Colorado is "stuck" with one of the greatest right-fielders of all time, but they have many other problems to address (like Denny Neagle) and may have lost their best chance to dump Larry Walker and his enormous contract. If that doesn't happen, the Rockies have a very unhappy camper, now that Larry's feelings are hurt.

He's made statements already about feeling unwanted in Denver, and he resents the implicit suggestion that his lack of "leadership" is to blame for the Rockies' woes. Most of us have another culprit in mind: the bozo in the front office.
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Here's how the Star covered the CBL launch, and here's the Clutch Hits discussion that (not surprisingly, given the timing of the undiplomatic "Bush is a moron" slur) kind of wandered away from baseball in Canada to a political debate that nearly went nuke-you-ler.

I did a little market research last night. One of my best friends is a musician, who doesn't "get" sports. When he attends a Jays game or two with me every year, he likes the JumboTron and the dancers and the vibe of a decent crowd, and he roots for the home team, but doesn't know, or care, whether a player is a star or a bum. He likes fun; the baseball is irrelevant. This guy, if he lived in the Niagara Region or London, is the customer the CBL needs to survive. When I promoted tiny Orangeville Raceway in the giant shadow of Woodbine, I knew my "regulars" by name and didn't need special events to get them in the door. So I did wacky things to attract -- and entertain -- newcomers. My suggestion to the new league and each of its teams is to follow the Veeck blueprint and sell the sizzle; the steak figures to be a bit tough.
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If the newspaper editor's adage is true (one letter's a crackpot, two a trend, and three an avalanche of opinion) then my Inbox was snowed under today with queries about a possible Orlando Hudson trade. Despite the sources (including Peter Gammons in a slow news week) this one is fun to contemplate.

2B, with the exception of the Alomar years, has been a revolving door of mediocrities in Toronto. We actually remember the hackmeister Damaso Garcia as a good one, because we've suffered through Danny Ainge and Joey Lawrence and so many others best forgotten. So why, just as the O-Dog seems ready to make an impact, would J.P. trade him?

Two reasons: Russ Adams and Dominic Rich. Adams, not your typical draft-and-hope selection, was a first team All-American at North Carolina, and was voted #1 prospect (those are Mark Mulder's footprints) in the Cape Cod League, which has also produced decent players like Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton. The SS, who is expected to end up at second, tore up the NY-Penn League in his pro debut (.464 OBP!) and will see plenty of time in AA New Haven this year.
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The always readable Jayson Stark, columnist at, has joined in the off-season pastime of matching free agents to possible destinations.

Seems to me that in the new era of bottom-line awareness, there will be no rush to throw fortunes at the feet of aging or injury-prone superstars, and teams are waiting to see what Thome, Maddux and Glavine get before making scaled-down bids for the "second tier." There may be quite a few players -- and their agents -- who wish they hadn't turned down previous offers, and (shades of Andre Dawson, back in the day of collusion) sign one-year contracts for a lot less dough at the last minute. The Blue Jays, who are still trying to retain Chris Carpenter with an incentive-laden deal, may also bring Steve Parris back (at a more reasonable cost) or pick up another bargain from the pitching leftovers.

Here's the no-frills complete list and another ESPN summary of the Top 50 free agents.
With the dust still settling from all the Jays' moves, the team purchased the contracts of six of its top prospects, and now has 36 players on its latest 40-man roster, reports the Globe and Mail. (If you don't want to read David Leeder's story, I've copied the list -- click the Full Article link.)
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The Blue Jays today announced their 2003 minor-league coaching staffs. You'll find a mix of new and familiar names on these lists. I'll be interested to see what Malave and Landreaux can do with what should be a far more talented Syracuse squad next year; some good results might get them a little major-league managerial buzz. Doubtless all you Expos fans remember Randy St. Claire, the team's Canuck protege of the early '80s. I'm sure he's a much better coach than he was a pitcher. :-)

In the lower minors, Von Joshua was a well-known name before joining the organization last year. Former Jays pitching coach Rick Langford has gone all the way down to Dunedin, where he'll have custody of some of the organization's most valuable young arms. And does anyone know how ex-Toronto trainer Tommy Craig wound up down in Auburn?

This item also serves as a reminder that two of the Jays' minor-league teams switched affiliates. The former AA Knoxville Smokies have moved north to New Haven to become the Ravens, while the Medicine Hat Blue Jays made a similar trip south to become the Appalachian League's Pulaski Jays.
This site was launched after the regular season, but we've had plenty to discuss, and so far, have neglected the topic of fantasy baseball. My gig as the Blue Jays fantasy correspondent on ESPN led to the creation of my Web site as a column archive, which spawned the Batter's Box, which seems to be taking on a life of its own. This entry returns to Square One.

Being an avid fan of real baseball can present minor conflicts for a fantasy owner. Some players have more Roto value than actual value (newest Marlin Juan Pierre, for example) while others I admire on the diamond (David Bell, Doug Mientkiewicz) are liabilities on most fantasy teams. There are an almost infinite number of possible variations on the original Rotisserie format, but they are nearly all based on comparing the stats "your" players accumulate in actual games to the numbers the other owners' rosters produce. If you're interested, or just curious, read on...
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Perfectly timed, as usual. Fiscally responsible, as always. J.P. Ricciardi played hardball with Billy Beane and acquired an experienced starter, for nothing more than a couple of iffy prospects.

Newest Blue Jay Cory Lidle was toiling in obscurity (a "swing man" in Tampa Bay) when Beane and his then-assistant Ricciardi put him in the Oakland rotation. Eyebrows were raised so high that foreheads were sprained, but the former journeyman responded to his new surroundings with a 13-6, 3.59 season. Something went wrong at the beginning of 2002; contributing to a team-wide slump, when Mulder was hurt, Hudson couldn't win and both the present and absent Giambis affected clubhouse chemistry, Lidle was 2-7 with a 5.30 ERA at the all-star break, and in danger of losing his job.

But that second half! A 6-3 record, 2.69 ERA, and a .201 opponents' average -- in August, during the A's amazing win streak, how about 5-0, 0.20 (not a typo) and .143? He spun a 7-inning 1-hitter against the Tigers, blanked the Yankees through 8 in the Bronx, shut out the White Sox for 7, then dominated the Indians with a complete game one-hit shutout, walking one and fanning 8. In his final two starts of a Cy Young month, the Royals and Twins each managed a lone run. Under the microscope of a pennant race in September, Lidle picked up several no-decisions, but kept his team in critical games.
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