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Here's my ESPN column, an early look at possible 2003 Jays draft day busts and bargoons. The fantasy correspondents there are volunteers, not obliged to start posting until spring training, but some of us are hard to shut up. I notice that John Gizzi's checked in on the A's, but Mick Doherty hasn't yet on the Yankees. Can't blame him; with an OF of Godzilla-Rondell-Bernie-Raul (the Boy of Summer sez White will play left-center field) and Juan Rivera as the rover, plus a 7-man rotation, it's hard to give fantasy advice. MED and JMG nominated an old Coach as 2002 Rookie of the Year and MVP among our peers, prompting their invitations here.

There are many fine correspondents; Scott Lucas is a regular visitor to this site, who's posted his view from Texas on Valdes and Thomson. Ed Matz (Mariners) also writes for ESPN: the Magazine, Thor Kolnes (Marlins) provides offbeat stuff and Giz-baiting, and Brad Doolittle handles the unenviable Royals beat gracefully. There will probably be some "help wanted" signs attached to a few teams (that's how I got the gig) and if you convince the staff you are qualified, there are precedents -- Mick sets lots of those -- for covering a team in another city.

Some of you may think fantasy baseball is a childish waste of time, and to you, I respectfully stick out my tongue and say, "so?"
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The middle parts of trilogies can be great hits or uncomfortable misses, so it's with the usual amount of trepidation that I present the second of my three-part look at the Blue Jays' farm system. Part One, posted back in December, reviewed the prospects (such as they were) at AAA Syracuse, while Part Three, due around late February, will look at the Blue Jays’ leading A-Ball prospects (I hope to have it completed before spring training games start March 1).
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As the BB hit counter clicks relentlessly toward 10,000, I'm scared -- this HTML-impaired geezer must modify the code and the mysterious Greymatter templates. If the site acts a bit strange, try to follow this advice, which I saw on TV late one night and adopted as a personal philosophy:

Trouble is temporary. Please stand by.

Of course, I am thrilled at the rapid growth of this forum, and at making so many great new baseball friends. At this rate, we'll need a sixth digit in the counter sometime during the 2004 season! We may also experience a change of address soon, as in our own domain and server. Stay tuned...

You have probably noticed the boring welcome message is gone, replaced by an Authors list in the sidebar. The next step is to create a new Lineup page, so if my co-bloggers would e-mail whatever personal information they want to share, we'll get that going, and add a "search by author" function to the site. On the other hand, it might be more interesting if Mick wrote John's bio, and vice versa.
A sharp-eyed contributor at FanHome noticed that there's some uniform-number switching going on with the Blue Jays. The official site's roster indicates the following changes:

Alexis Rios takes #15 from Tom Wilson, who adopts #9
Mike Bordick takes #16 from DeWayne Wise, who adopts #1
Jason Dubois takes #54 from Jayson Werth, who adopts #13
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Visitor admission to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? Five dollars.

A "baseball bat chair" from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Memorabilia online store? Two hundred twenty-nine dollars.

Inducting Pete Rose, who hit .259 in 95 games for the 78-83 1984 Montreal Expos to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as an obvious PR grab?


Roy Halladay and Cliff Politte have both signed one-year deals.

Once again, the Jays have done the right thing by avoiding arbitration and letting players get on with more baseball-oriented concerns. Halladay will earn $3.825 million and Politte $845,000. Kent's prediction for Politte was almost right on the head - $55,000 off.

This leaves Stewart and Escobar as the outstanding arb-eligibles. These might not settle as easily, but there's hope yet.
So Bartolo Colon has been traded. Finally. The long-anticipated, long-rumored trade has happened, proving once again how senseless trade rumors are, especially the ones generated by professional journalists who know better but who operate under the umbrella of titillation, where hard facts come second. None of these experts had mentioned the White Sox as a possible destination, but voila! El Gordo lands in the windy city, and stocks in companies that make Polish sausages go up five bucks a share. What interests me most about the deal are not the players involved—obviously the White Sox gain the most—but the continued and bewildering tendency of major league teams to help, via trades, the New York Yankees, who, at last, present, and future check, don’t need anyone’s help, even if it is only in the form of an aging, injury-prone RH relief pitcher, the kind available in the minor leagues, the independent leagues, and your local Wal-Mart. Trading the Yankees anything, be it a back-up catcher or an extra baseball, is the equivalent of a country giving the United States a nuclear weapon. Speaking of empires, the recent branding of the Yankees as an “Evil Empire” elicits some questions: Are they really an empire? And, if so, are they an evil one? Or are they simply products of an economic model that increasingly makes less-and-less sense, that being free-market capitalism, alive and well in the baseball world? It is worth a closer look.
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According to the Star's sports media guy Chris Zelkovich, Tom Candiotti will do 30 games on Sportsnet this year as analyst. This is an excellent development; it means we'll only have to suffer through 90 games of John Cerutti, who is one of the main reasons the term "colour man" is rarely used any more.

"John has proved himself as a solid broadcaster and I look for both he and (play-by-play announcer) Rob Faulds to be even better now that they've had a year together," said Scott Moore, Sportsnet's vice-president of production.

You say solid, I say stiff.

One down, four to go. As reported in the Star, Chris Woodward has accepted a well-deserved raise. The Jays' starting SS will make $775,000 in 2003, a slightly more than 300% raise.

Nobody wanted to play Arbitration Price Is Right with me, so I win, but I had budgeted $600 K as a base and suggested bonuses for plate appearance thresholds. This seems like a fair deal, and I hope he plays well enough this season to join the millionaire's club the following year.

This just in: Woody has finished writing his 500 lines of "I will not swing at a 3-0 pitch," and J.P is pleased with his penmanship progress.

Bartolo Colon has been traded to the Chicago White Sox in a three-way deal involving the Yankees. The Expos receive Jeff Liefer, Rocky Biddle, Orlando Hernandez, and cash to pay some of Hernandez's salary.

Details are here.
The Batter's Box summit lunch today is almost as important, but in Arizona, the annual gathering of millionaires and billionaires may have a bit more on their plate. Topping the list is how to milk the most out of "their" team, the Montreal/San Juan Expos, before selling the bare bones of the franchise to a new crony in Washington or Portland. The committee that will ultimately decide their fate consists of Jerry Reinsdorf, Tom Hicks and Bud Selig, with the Commissioner's right-hand man (Bob DuPuy) and his daughter (Wendy Selig-Prieb) added, obviously for balance.

The owners, basking in the glow of victory in last year's labour skirmish, will also discuss the proposed changes to the All-Star game, a minimum age for bat boys, and other relatively insignificant issues. I've often wondered whether there are "off the record" discussions of serious matters -- how tight to wind the baseballs, or what kind of spin to put on allegations of collusion -- but I'm not expecting much real news out of Scottsdale, and I'll swallow what they do feed us with appropriate seasoning.
Here's a Boston Globe report that suggests Kevin Millar will play at Fenway this year, despite denials from his agent. Theo Epstein, no doubt encouraged by his boss, former Marlins owner John Henry, came up with a creative way to get his man, and can't understand the fuss. ''It was not our intention to violate any unwritten rule,'' he said.

Theo's plan is to "allow" Millar to reject the Red Sox waiver claim, as is his right. Then, the Chunichi Dragons will accept compensation (rumoured to be Benny Agbayani, who the Japanese fans will adore, and enough cash to pay the transfer fee they owe the Marlins) and Millar will end up in Boston after all.
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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.