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Okay, no gratuitous insults or personal attacks -- I'll take issue with a Richard Griffin column on its merits alone.

Griff's column today is about the Blue Jays' virtual abandonment of the stolen base as an offensive weapon, and he's not especially in favour of it. He points to successful Jays teams of the past (Tim Johnson's Runnin' Jays of 1998) and current speedsters like the Yankees, Angels and Mariners as examples of what lots of baserunning can accomplish.

Admittedly, he's not advocating for a '98 redux -- that year, virtually the whole team had the green light, which can be murder on the guy at the plate. But his strong implication is that since the Jays have the wheels to run much more than they do, they could steal scores of bases if Carlos Tosca were a little looser with the reins.
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Jason asked a very interesting question on another entry ("Lowering the Boom") and it spurred me to think a bit (always dangerous)... he asked:

"Why hasn't anybody signed Ricky Henderson yet? He'll play for the minimum, still puts up a solid OBP, can still swipe a base, and his defense is still more than passable. Surely, there are a bunch of teams that could use him to help fortify their bench or to use in a platoon situation. Even if it doesnt work out, its very low risk."
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While the snow piles up in Toronto, some people, like Mike Hansen, are in Florida. There's an eyewitness account of Monday's Jays-Yanks game in the latest installment of his baseball blog. Mike's also made a generous offer to buy a t-shirt at the game Friday -- and try to get an autograph or two on it -- to donate as the grand prize in the BBFL. On behalf of every other owner in the league, we all owe you a beer at a game someday. Thanks!

The recap is great:

Anyway, this insight is that pitchers are "ahead" of the batters in spring, as it takes time for the hitters to get their timing back. Or something like that. It did look like that theory proved itself for the most part, with hitters generally fouling balls off to the opposite field and generally hitting the ball weakly. So I think that despite only allowing one hit to what will probably be the Yanks Opening Day lineup, Hendrickson probably won't be All-Star material just yet. He was putting pitches where he needed them.

Some pitchers need three or four outings to get where Halladay and Lidle already seem to be, but if they're in a decent groove, they have an advantage. Very few hitters can take a few months off, then hit a pitcher's best stuff right away. However, my enthusiasm for Mark Hendrickson is uncurbed. Mike, we all look forward to your next report, and have fun at the Red Sox game.
Alright, y'all take a deep breath now and don't get too excited. Five-and-oh in the spring and $2.25 will get you a latte with legs and not much more. The Cincinnatti Reds lineup that Toronto bombed 10-3 today was missing names like Griffey, Kearns, Dunn, Larkin and Casey, while the Jays trotted out most of their regulars and Roy Halladay to boot. All that said, this is still awfully nice to see, so long as it doesn't get our expectations too high.

A few highlights: Josh Phelps made his spring training debut by mashing a pitch from Calgary's Chris Reitsma 400 feet; Rule 5 pickup Jason Dubois contributed a three-run bomb against Carlos Almanzar (a shiny new no-prize for the first person to name the player the Jays once traded Almanzar to get, and with whom); Dewayne Wise and Shannon Stewart chipped in with a couple of hits each; Halladay went three scoreless with 3 Ks; and Pete Walker allowed just one HR is three solid innings of his own.

Other musings: Eric Hinske is off to a very slow start; Rob Ryan continues to make a solid bid for playing time as an extra outfielder; Felipe Lopez went 0-for-3 against his former mates; Kelvim Escobar was rusty in his first outing (3 H, 2 R in 1 IP); and stop the presses, Dave Berg swiped a base.

Bring on the Tribe!
Speaking of former Jays rotation stalwarts, there's a nice piece at about Toronto's first Cy Young Award winner, Pat Hentgen. Pat is coming back from Tommy John surgery (as is half the Orioles' rotation, apparently), but as usual, he's taking a positive attitude and he's helping younger teammates who are also facing TJ surgery to cope with the challenge.

Pat always seemed to be one of the good guys, a great representative of the organization on and off the field. It's a shame his career was so much shorter than it might otherwise have been. He has very little chance of making it all the way back, but I wish him every good fortune in the effort.

By the way, am I the only person who thought Pat was separated at birth from this person?
I hate to link to material on Baseball Primer, mostly because I write for Primer and don't want to abuse the opportunity Kent has given me through cheap self-promotion; but also because I imagine most readers already check the site out semi-regularly.

I'm making an exception this time, because this is the Best Thing Ever.

How entertaining can a Kansas City Royals preview be? You'll see.
David Wells on Toronto sportswriters:

"No beat writers in any town I've ever played in are as ignorant, muckraking, or relentlessly negative as the guys in Toronto. In a region where baseball is just slightly less popular than hockey, football, basketball, curling, tobogganing, ice fishing and snowshoe racing, the local sports-hosers have absolutely no idea what they're talking about."

Boomer on Canadian baseball fans:

"Baseball fans in Canada simply do not understand what they're watching. Honest to God, there were nights where I just wanted to climb up in the seats at the SkyDome and start slapping."

Trouble is, there's just enough truth in both of those hyperbolic statements to make the Canadian reader a little uncomfortable. We're getting better at understanding and appreciating baseball here -- as prospects like Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis are making clear -- but still, 90% of the conversations I have with my countrymen and women about baseball rarely rise above "grown men in their pajamas getting paid millions to hit a ball with a stick." I can almost feel your pain, Boomer -- though I'm actually giving up all-night benders for Lent.

Gotta give credit to Richard Griffin for this line, too: "[Wells's] book might be the first unauthorized autobiography in publishing history."
Wouldn't it be a great idea for Batter's Box to run a contest where readers predict the final 2003 order of finish for MLB teams? Actually, it would be redundant; there are many opportunities on the Internet to test the accuracy of your statistical model or ouija board, and here are two I'm planning to enter.

Aaron's Baseball Blog has the more complicated rules and the smaller prize, so I can't resist. Just kidding; Aaron Gleeman is on my must-read list, and his great blog was instrumental in pointing me to the other contest, run by Lee Sinins. Bragging rights, and a book from A.G.'s personal library, would mean a great deal to me. My copy of Ball Four is getting dog-eared...

Sinins' grand prize is a free copy of the next edition of his sabermetric baseball encyclopedia, with the runnerup prize a free entry in the Legends of Baseball League, and monthly prizes provided by Baseball Prospectus. Here are his rules:
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Putting his curmudgeon hat back on, Richard Griffin takes his best shot at the Jays' marketing campaign. It's inoffensive and mildly amusing -- the piece, that is. The campaign is clever and funny; the best baseball ads ever seen in these parts.

Rich still seems annoyed that J.P. prefers the "A's Way" to the mediocrity of the Belgian years in Toronto, but has yet to explain why emulating a winner is a bad thing. I know I promised to stop wasting 1's and 0's on correcting Griffin's lies and distortions, so I'll let this line speak for itself:

This column has always tried to be constructive rather than destructive.

The unbeaten Toronto Blue Jays allowed Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui to go 3-3 and hit his second HR of the young Grapefruit League season, but prevailed 9-8 over the New York Yankees this afternoon in Tampa. Here's the AP game report, and the box score from ESPN.

Vernon Wells was the hitting hero for the good guys; 2-for-3 with a bases-loaded triple and 4 RBI. Mike Colangelo got another hit; he's playing like a guy who knows he has an opportunity. The Jays left several regulars at home, but the Yanks started what looked like an opening day lineup. Starter Mark Hendrickson made it three Toronto hurlers in a row to hold the opposition scoreless through two innings, allowing just one hit. Several of the bullpen candidates got in some work today, and longshot Pasqual Coco, possibly in the trade showcase role, has two spring saves already. Tomorrow at 1:00, March Madness continues, as the Pirates visit Dunedin.

Baseball America has released its 100 Top Prospects list; it's available at their Website for those with subscriptions, and should also be on newsstands imminently. It's not telling tales out of school, however, to report that the Jays placed three prospects on the list: Dustin McGowan (36), Jayson Werth (94) and Jason Arnold (97). A few notes:

- Three placements is about middle-of-the-pack among major-league teams, though two prospects in the 90s isn't so hot.
- Neither Werth nor Arnold deserve their low ranking. Both Ja(y)sons likely will be solid contributors to the 2004 Jays, and Werth might well be in Toronto all season.
- McGowan is the only homegrown player on the list: the O's (Werth) and Yankees (Arnold) can take credit for the others.
- This shortage of homegrown talent will not last long. This time next year, look for these names on the list: Gabe Gross, Russ Adams, David Bush, Justin Maureau, Jason Perry.
The Toronto Star does it again. "Abrams makes Tosca's day with big plays" -- so sez a headline in the "Baseball Buzz" sidebar this morning. The story, written by someone who knows nothing about the Blue Jays, refers to "first-round pick Russ Abrams" and gets young Mr. Adams' name wrong a third time. It's not like the kid's name is Mientkiewicz and they transposed a vowel; this is inexcusably sloppy writing and pathetic editing. If the Star wants to hire me, I'm available. If not, I suggest they start reading Batter's Box to learn the basics about the team they're supposedly covering. By any name, "Abrams" impressed, and let's not be too hasty to pigeonhole him as a 2B.

Today it's the home opener against the Phillies, at 1:00 pm, available on The FAN 590. Cory Lidle gets the first couple of innings, with Woodward (tender hamstring), Huckaby (bruised right hand) and Wilson (10 stellar innings at 1B yesterday) unlikely to play. In what we sincerely hope is the team's worst injury of the spring, Mike Moriarty was hit in the face by a 95-mph heater, and has fractures to his cheek and orbital bone, so his remote chances of making the 25-man roster have become nil, but he should be back in the Syracuse infield in about a month.

I hope everyone enjoys our new home. Let the games begin.
There's a new Web site devoted to intelligent analysis of the Blue Jays. They're just getting started, but it looks promising. One of the authors, Jim Turner, has linked to Batter's Box as a Jays resource, and I will reciprocate the next time I update the sidebar.

Here's a link to one of their recent roundtable discussions, about a subject that some of us find irresistible and others insignificant -- the Batting Order. Is it just my impression, or do the Toronto Baseball Guys admire Prospectus the way BB pays homage to Primer?

Jim quotes noted baseball authority Montgomery Burns in another fine piece in which he dubs Mark Hendrickson "The Slightly Smaller Unit" and says Aquilino Lopez will soon (unfortunately, IMO) be known as "A-Lo". The Toronto Baseball Guys are invited to comment here any time, and they're worth reading.
ESPN's Jayson Stark asked five GMs to assemble the best possible 25-man roster from the free agents who signed this winter. There was a $2 million limit per player, and here's the catch -- the entire team couldn't cost more than $30 million.

One of the participants (who are all anonymous, but you get the impression one or two may be from the AL East) wanted to spend less than $20 million for 24 players and sign Pudge Rodriguez, but that was against the rules.

"You know what?" said one of our GMs. "I bet you'd have a better shot at .500 doing it this way than Detroit, Kansas City, Milwaukee or Tampa Bay."
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