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Connecticut-based Blue Jays fans might not want to get too excited about seeing the club's AA prospects for the foreseeable future. The New Haven Ravens have been sold to a fellow named Drew Weber, current owner of Boston's A-League affiliate in Lowell, Mass.

Weber has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow, to which the media and the local Ravens booster club have been specifically invited. Rumours are flying that Weber intends to move the team to Manchester, New Hampshire in time for the 2004 season. According to the article, the Ravens would play 2004 in refurbished temporary digs at Gill Stadium while a permanent ballpark is constructed across town as part of a massive riverfront redevelopment.

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I had a little free time today, so I tried figuring out how the Jays' main bats will do this year. Since forecasting is not an exact science, my approach was to compile the Jays' 2003 totals based on a collective worst-case scenario, and then put on my rose-coloured glasses and produce a 2003 best-case scenario. I only did hitting stats, since I'm lazy.
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If the worst should happen this summer and the Blue Jays were a truly awful team, finishing near the bottom of the major-league standings, take solace in this: they'd be that much closer to being able to draft British Columbia's own Adam Loewen.

It won't happen, of course: the Jays would have to make a special effort to lose as many games as the Tigers or Devil Rays, JP doesn't go anywhere near high school pitchers, and Loewen's signing bonus is likely to be stratospheric. But Loewen could still be one of the most interesting figures in next June's draft, and not just for Canadians.
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I can't remember the last time I approached a Super Bowl Sunday without caring. As a longtime sports fanatic, last year I realized that I had oversaturated my life with sports and needed to cut back. For me, the obvious choice was to give up the NFL, and I've never looked back. As the sport with the sparsest amount of action of any that I know, and the worst broadcasters outside darts, the NFL had become an overblown joke to me.

Clearly, not everyone agrees, as it is phenomenally successful. This piece of overblown puffery from ABC News illustrates the point nicely. But why the messianic tone, asserting that football will crush all those who dare to oppose her? It has everything to do with the fact that ABC is broadcasting the Super Bowl tonight.
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If you're looking for a San Diego baseball connection on a football Sunday, here's a fine piece by ESPN's Jim Caple on a Hall of Famer who is teaching baseball to young men before they become jaded, spoiled professionals. Eight-time batting champ Tony Gwynn could have stepped into the broadcast booth, and doesn't need any job, but he is a terrific guy, who loves the game. I agree with Caple:

With the passing of Ted Williams, there is no one on the planet who knows more about hitting than Gwynn. He knows how to teach it (and the rest of the game as well) to others.

A .338 lifetime average and 3,141 hits are amazing accomplishments, but Tony isn't done yet. He'll be a great influence on the San Diego State Aztecs, as players and as people. A tip of this old coach's cap to a class act.
BB isn't a hot spot on any weekend, though that may change during the season, and tomorrow is the second U.S. national holiday this week -- the Super Bowl. So don't expect a lot of new Blue Jays content, unless there's breaking news.

I'm probably the exception among sports fans these days; my passion for baseball is presumably evident, and even though I gripe about the length of the regular NHL season and the number of playoff teams, I love hockey. Basketball has become my third choice in recent years, and I've gradually lost interest in football. I don't know why; it could have something to do with mellowing as I get older.

There was a time (see Curtain, Steel) when I was a rabid armchair quarterback, but now I tend to ignore the NFL season except for TV highlights -- I can still appreciate great plays -- and the only games I watch start to finish are the conference finals and the Big One. This seems to be a great matchup this year, like the '74 Pittsburgh offence (Raiders) against their own defence (Bucs). I'll hit the mute button for Celine Dion, take Tampa as my rooting interest, enjoy a cool Sleeman's or two, and hear the immortal words of George Carlin in my head:
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Though most baseball fans will be certainly be shocked to learn of a front-office shakeup in the Yankees organization, today George's pinstriped playthings announced a high-level move.

Senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman resigned -- the phrase used was "asked to be relieved of the role" -- and was replaced by Gordon Blakeley, the vice president of international and professional scouting responsible for last month's signing of Cuban defector Jose Contreras.

Rumors on the internet -- starting right here, right now -- indicate that Steinbrenner has cast a longing eye north toward an as-yet-unnamed Canadian, identified so far only as "The Coach," to fill the international scouting role.
The 2003 Toronto Blue Jays are many times deeper, at the big-league level, in AAA and throughout the organization, than they were a year ago. The everyday lineup against RH starters is just about carved in stone, with only the batting order uncertain, and many attractive options there for Carlos Tosca (and us) to ponder.

In 2002, the pitching plan was Carpenter, Halladay and three rainy days. That's also improved. Doc, Cory Lidle and Tanyon Sturtze are set, and there will be a battle royal among many qualified candidates for the other two rotation spots.

I've set my crystal ball a few weeks ahead, but I can't quite make out who that is on the end of the bench in the dugout or the bullpen. Perhaps you can help.
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Over the past couple of days, I've noticed a bunch of Blue Jays ads on streetcars and in subways. The slogan for this year's team is "Baseball North."
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The newest Prospectus Cover Boy is the best power hitting prospect in the game today.

Most of us have seen Josh in action. Craig Burley and I attended a Yankees-Blue Jays tilt last year in which Roger Clemens started for the visitors. Phelps blasted two monstrous homeruns in that game, and after one of them I turned to Craig and mentioned the name that surely was on the mind of many Jays fans at that moment – Mark McGwire.

Is Josh Phelps going to be the new Mac? It would be wildly premature to speculate on that to be sure, but when did that ever stop any of us before? Phelps is the young hitter most likely to put up Mac-like power numbers.
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The fine people at BP have come up with yet another new statistical gauge, which they call PECOTA. This, as everyone should know, is short for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, and it is a way for measuring a player's breakout -- and collapse -- potential. Preaching to the choir here, I know, but BP is hands down the most creative baseball engine around, which is all the more remarkable when you consider how stat-heavy they are. Here's the article.
One of the most careful students of the game who I have the pleasure of knowing personally is Robert Dudek, a Jays fan who learned the finer points of the game from the bleachers of Exhibition Stadium.

Not only is he a student of the game, he is very handy with a spreadsheet and a real tough opponent in a Diamond Mind league, believe me. Like myself, Robert writes for Baseball Primer. To my considerable pleasure, Robert has agreed to join us as a regular writer for Batter's Box. He is going to lead off with a great article, that will give all of us Jays fans a warm glow of hope for the future.

Now, batting ninth, the catcher... Robert Dudek.
From today's Washington Times comes this report that Jose Cruz Jr. is close to accepting reality and signing with the Orioles. His value in the new, frugal baseball economy was evident to the Blue Jays last year, when they tried to swap him for Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin, both still in the Yankees system at the time. Another source (, if you must know) speculates that Cruz will settle for one year, at $1.5 to $2 MM, with incentives, a far cry from the $5 MM or so he would have cost the Jays after arbitration. The decision to non-tender him is another of Toronto management's practical, ahead-of-the-competition moves, and they spent the money saved wisely, on an offensive upgrade in RF, a starter, and useful veterans at C and SS.

It also seems that Baltimore is haggling on the details of a one year pact with Ivan Rodriguez. The team wants an option for a second year; Pudge understandably feels that if he settles for just $7 MM, he should be free to get a better offer in 2004 if he proves he's still great. Considering the complete lack of interest from any other teams, which side do you think has the leverage? Beatagan will get their man, on their terms. Both signings are part of a short-sighted attempt to patch together an organization that needs an overhaul from the owner's box to Rookie league, but the 2003 O's should be slightly more competitive than expected.
In a freakishly bizarre move, the Florida Marlins have signed Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez to a one-year, $10 million dollar contract.
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As noted on an earlier thread and as book devotees already know, the 2003 Baseball Prospectus features Blue Jays DH Josh Phelps on the cover. This is quite an honour -- unlike fantasy magazines and mainstream baseball preview editions, which choose the cover subject most likely to attract newsstand attention (e.g., Sammy Sosa graces the Sporting News fantasy issue cover) -- BP has traditionally chosen young sabrmetric heroes, players who deliver verifiable offensive value to their teams. Whether this is good for the players themselves might be a different story.
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