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Somebody took his happy pills! Richard Griffin has only nice things to say about Roy Halladay and his latest superb outing:

He threw a dozen curveballs at varying speeds, 11 of them for strikes and a couple of them first-pitch strikes. Even threw a changeup or two. He had movement on both sides of the plate and had hitters off-balance and fouling pitches off their own toes, always a sign a pitcher's good stuff is behaving.

Griffin, in a very good mood, even has a compliment for the Tosca/Ricciardi regime. As some of us prepare for fantasy drafts, and just to test everyone's prognostication skills, how do you think Doc compares to other AL starters? Not long-term, just for the upcoming season. Or, to ask the question another way, who do you think are the leading contenders for this year's Cy Young award?
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In a story that's managed to fly under the radar in the Canadian press so far, the Blue Jays are trying once again to exact a monetary payment from Major League Baseball "to compensate for the weak Canadian dollar." The commissioner's office is reviewing six possible plans that would create a continuing contribution from MLB to the Jays to offset revenue disparities between the US and Canada. One would like to think the Expos would also benefit from this, but one would like to think a lot of things.

Anyway, it's an interesting effort by Toronto, and it might actually work: Paul Godfrey and Ted Rogers certainly talk Selig's language whenever he needs them to (e.g., labour issues), and getting some love from MLB on the currency-exchange front appears to be one of the benefits. Even if it does go through, however, I don't expect to see the team's payroll grow accordingly: at Rogers Inc., as at all big companies, this kind of rebate would go straight to the bottom line.

But this did put me in mind of a fascinating pair of discussions at Primer and FanHome that conclusively showed that this whole situation has very little to do with "currency exchange" or the like. It has to do with the fact that Canada is, in comparison to the United States, a noticeably poorer country.
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Well, we've had a month to nominate, vote, ruminate and compile ... and the list of 10 pre-season nominees for the prestigious first annual Batter's Box Andujar Award -- the ceremony soon to be recognized worldwide as the "YouNeverKnows" -- is now complete.

Here's the click-for-more teaser: A Jay finished second. The 10 nominees play for 10 different teams; six hitters, four pitchers. Eight different players received first-place votes, but nobody received more than one first-place vote. Oh, and you'll find a much-requested rules clarification.


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The latest fine piece by Spencer Fordin on the Official Site is about Chris Woodward. He's a likeable young man with a fantastic attitude; the only "knock on Wood" is his durability -- he hasn't suffered serious injuries, but is often dinged up.

Fortunately, his recent hamstring pull does not appear serious (though I'll be concerned if he doesn't start today) and we can look forward to 500+ AB and 20 taters in his first full season as a regular. Knock on wood.
4-0 Toronto, behind four innings of one-hit ball by Doc Halladay and an Eric Hinske 3-run blast. What I heard of it on MLB Radio sounded like an excellent team effort.

Mike Hansen's posted a recap of his spring training trip, and I want to thank him again for donating the grand prize for the Batter's Box Fantasy League. In addition to bragging rights, the playoff champion will receive a Jays T-shirt, autographed by Mike Smith, Carlos Tosca and J.P. Ricciardi. Way to go, Mike!
It has not been a good spring for the San Diego Padres. First Trevor Hoffman was sidelined for at least half a season with shoulder surgery, and now comes news that Phil Nevin will miss the entire year after separating his shoulder making a diving catch in a spring game. If you believe bad things come in threes, you might want to avoid Ryan Klesko in your roto drafts later this month.

I should feel sorry for the Padres organization, but I'm having difficulty, because I don't see why Nevin was out in left field in the first place. Nevin was a perfectly fine third baseman when the organization decided that Sean Burroughs, who'd never played a game in the major leagues, was important enough to bump Nevin over to first. Burroughs flamed out last season, but he's back for another try, and this time Nevin was moved to the outfield, where he hadn't played since a 12-game sojourn in 1999. I wouldn't blame him if he unleashed some serious venom on the organization in the next few days.

Kevin Towers gained a lot of respect, particularly in sabrmetric circles, for his deft assembly of a promising young team on a shoestring; some of that shine is now fading. You can't blame the GM for injuries, but you can question his shifting of established stars to make room for overhyped rookies; maybe this is a little karmic payback in action.
It was great to see the Jays in action on TV again today, and a pleasure to listen to the excellent UPN 38 broadcasters, Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy. Toronto left a few key players in Dunedin: Stewart, Hinske, Wells, Delgado, Phelps, Catalanotto, Woodward and Hudson -- the "rule" about playing four regulars in spring road games is a farce. Nomar and Manny also took the day off, so the 7,000+ fans in Fort Myers might have been grumbling a little, but it was an entertaining game.

Make of this what you will; Pete Walker started, and did fine. I think it means he's #5 in the rotation, when the time comes. He helped himself in the first with a fine snare of a Todd Walker comebacker, got strikeouts with both a nasty changeup and high heat, and one of the "hits" he gave up was a two-hopper that should have been scored as a rare error by Mike Bordick, who started at 3B. Dave Berg was the offensive star, with two doubles and a single in 5 AB; his spring AVG was .471 prior to an 8th-inning groundout. Tom Wilson, who looks fitter this year, went all the way at 1B and continues to have quality at-bats. He had a walk and a double, and always seems to go deep into the count.

It was my first look at Aquilino Lopez, and again, the box score won't reflect how sharp he was, or the movement on his slider. Just as I was thinking he might not be a great fielder -- he falls off the mound toward first -- he made a fantastic play on a high hopper to his right.
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Well, Boo Radley turned out OK, but what about Jim Thome? Reading this article about some Indian fans booing Thome made me think of some of the more acrimonious departures in recent years, in particular Jason Giambi, a player with a similar age and skills set. While I donít begrudge those players for taking the money, I simply loathe their disingenuousness, as Iíve said before on this board. Just say it was about the money, already.

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If you're on cable anywhere in Canada, you can get a look at the 2003 Blue Jays this afternoon. Sportsnet will be carrying the game vs. the D-Rays at 1:00 EST; Sturtze faces his old mates, while talented young lefty Joe Kennedy goes for Tampa. I remember last year's first televised game very well -- not the result, or even the opponent, but it took one Eric Hinske AB for me to decide he was a terrific hitter. (This year, he's 0-12 so far, but has drawn four walks, so nobody's too concerned.)

Yesterday's 6-0 whitewash by the Red Sox was one of those games -- the Jays managed only two hits, as knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was very sharp, and the Boston bullpen committee did its job. Though Mark Hendrickson didn't have his best outing, he left trailing just 1-0 after two. The damage was done against Brian Bowles, but even he wasn't terrible -- after one strong inning, the roof caved in; four of the five runs he allowed were unearned, with Guillermo Quiroz contributing an error and a passed ball. You can excuse Bowles, whose pitches are so lively they can confuse a green catcher, if he lost his composure a little.
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Not everything in Blue Jay land is perfect; Doug Creek looks shaky, and I'm not impressed with Jason Dubois' bat speed. But there is plenty of reason for optimism.

Shannon Stewart's bat is electric, he's in midseason form. Eric Hinske's no longer 0-for-Florida; he's going to be just fine with the stick, and might win a few games with -- of all things -- his glove. Tanyon Sturtze is a completely different pitcher than he was in his nightmare 2002 season.

It was an excellent afternoon for the Blue Jays, easy 6-2 winners over Tampa Bay, and I can't express how happy I am to be watching baseball again. J.P Ricciardi joined Rob Faulds and John Cerutti in the booth for a couple of innings, and Sturtze, after three terrific innings of work, was an entertaining TV guest. Paul Godfrey also made an appearance, endorsing his GM as a judge of talent, and talking about the club's aggressive new marketing campaign.
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Managing a major-league baseball club is an incredibly difficult job. Keeping millionaires in line, answering the same stupid questions game after game, constantly trying to think of new ways to say ďOur starter sucked tailpipe,Ē always being second-guessed by chowderheads on talk radio, rarely getting the credit for wins, always getting fired for too many losses. Itís a credit to those men who can pull it off, and I could never do what they do.

None of which will stop me from ranking and criticizing the eight full-time managers in Blue Jays history. Because itís fun.

Based on criteria I made up myself and riddled with all my own biases, here are my extensive rankings of these managers. Iíve left out the temporary or purely interim managers Ė Gene Tenace and Mel Queen Ė and Iím leaving aside Carlos Tosca too, because for managers even more than for players, you simply canít judge a career until a year or two after itís over.

As always, comments will be welcomed. Letís get started.
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Another spring profiile from the always-reliable Spencer Fordin at mlb.com focuses on Russ Adams, first-round pick last June out of UNC and middle-infielder for a Blue Jays team of the near future. Adams has received steadier playing time than he expected, thanks to Chris Woodward's ailments, and like other Jays prospects, he's really impressed those in the big-league camp. He comes across as the prototypical good rookie: earnest, eager to learn, willing to pay his dues.

It's been a feel-good spring in Dunedin, no doubt about it, judging from the media reports; even the curmudgeonly Richard Griffin actually went four columns with nary a discouraging word. Partly it's the sunshine, the grass and the fact baseball is back that puts everyone in an upbeat frame of mind. But I'm also getting the impression that this is a good camp: the veterans are enthusiastic and looking forward to April, giving of their time to the rookies and minor-leaguers, and the youngsters are picking that up and running with it. This can be directly attributed to JP assembling the right individuals for this squad, and Tosca and his coaches setting up an excellent Florida program. If there's a better place to be than a happy spring training camp, I'd like to know what it is.
Hereís a neat article, submitted to us by a keen-eyed poster, about one of the Rule 5 picks in the Jaysí camp, Jason Dubois. Plucked from the Cubsí High-A affiliate in Daytona Beach, Jason drew some notice with a three-run jack against the Reds Wednesday. But he was turning heads already with his outstanding work ethic and good plate mechanics, not to mention his 6í5Ē, 225-lb frame.

Will Dubois make the team? Hard to say Ė he put up great numbers in 2002, but the last A-Ball Rule 5er the Jays carried for an entire season was DeWayne Wise, and look how well that turned out. Toronto has three promising Rule 5 picks in camp (Dubois, Aquilino Lopez, and Gary Majewski), and of those three, Lopez would seem to have the inside track on a full season in the majors (heís old enough that the culture and competition shock shouldnít be too much for him).

It would be great if the Jays could find a way to keep all three on the roster, but operating with a virtual 22- or 23-man roster is no way to continue the franchiseís development. And though deals have sometimes been worked out with the originating clubs where Rule 5 picks are concerned (it's how the A's got Eric Hinske from the Cubbies), there's no indication the Cubs and White Sox would even want to talk trade on Dubois and Majewski. It wouldnít surprise me to see Lopez as the only season-long Rule 5 survivor. But JP is a master of the youneverknow.
Okay, so I had something ready to post today, a nice little non-Jays-related puff piece -- I rarely write anything "in-depth" that requires "research" or "hard work" -- only to find that today also marked the posting of the two most engaging articles in BB's brief history: JMG's cruel march through spring training and Gideon's management seminar.

So I punted my puff piece until later, but still wanted to add some postmodern theory to the ranking of Ye Olde Toronto Managers Guild. And regular readers of this blog may recall that I believe everything about a person is contained in their "personal anagram." So without further ado (and before we bid adieu), read on for evidence of Jimy Williams' self-deprecation, Buck Martinez' overreliance on Jose Jr. and a truly prescient give-peace-a-chance statement by Tim Johnson.
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How's that for a self-serving headline? I'm not going to rant about European ballplayers, it's just my way of calling attention to my latest ESPN.com Blue Jays fantasy advice column. In the interest of equal time to two AL rivals, here's Mick's latest Yankees piece, and John's column about the A's. ESPN correspondents are paid approximately $0.0004 (Can.) per hit, and we earn it.

Maybe because I started Batter's Box as a personal baseball diary, I'm going to keep linking to stuff I write elsewhere, and like any other item, you may choose to ignore it. Craig and Robert have the juicy assignment of the Blue Jays 2003 Preview for Primer, and even if we didn't "know" the authors, someone here would be linking to that piece as soon as it's published. No need to be overly modest, guys -- one of you should feel free to introduce it to BB readers.

I'm as surprised (and delighted) as anyone when something unexpected (like a Seussical) pops up here, so I encourage all my co-bloggers to post anything they want to share.