Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’

The Toronto Blue Jays Are Seizing the Moment

The Tuesday trade between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins could be considered a surprise but not altogether shocking.  Anyone who has followed the Marlins’ franchise knows that this isn’t the first time owner Jeffery Loria has orchestrated salary dump maneuvers.  It is particularly galling because taxpayers forked over almost $500 million dollars to build the new stadium.  I would rather focus on the other end of the deal specifically what the move could be saying about the newly energized Blue Jays.

Jose Bautista and friends will be geting more help in 2013. Image: hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

Now it could turn out that each of the players Toronto acquired does not live to the advanced billing.  Josh Johnson, as wonderfully talented as he is on the mound, always seems to be hurt.  Who knows if Jose Reyes is actually happy with this deal and if that unhappiness carries over into the season.  Can Mark Buehrle turn in another season of at least 13 wins?  Actually, this could be less about the performance on the field than what it says about ownership’s commitment to win.  The organization signed both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion their two best players, to deals through at least 2015.  Suddenly, a team that has wallowed around .500 for the last 15 years or so can now be considered serious playoff contenders.

As for the timing of the deal, it couldn’t be better for the franchise.  Although hockey will forever be king in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have been bad the last five seasons, missing the playoffs in all of them.  Now that the NHL is on the sidelines, the Blue Jays can maybe finally get back at least some of the many fans that were lost due the 1994 work stoppage.  The strike came at the worst time for the franchise as they were in the process of defending back-to-back World Series titles and drawing four million fans per year.  When play stopped, those fans never came back.  This trade can put the Blue Jays back on the map instead of being reduced to just highlights of Bautista, Encarnacion and Brett LawrieMore importantly, they can rebuild a jaded fan base.

All through grammar school, high school and college, the Toronto Blue Jays were one of the best teams in baseball with one of the most passionate set of fans.  While this deal is rotten for fans of the Marlins, I hope it is just the opposite for our fans north of the border.  As for the rest of the American League East, you have been put on notice.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Don Mattingly and My Other (Sort Of) Facebook Friends

I am sure all of us have had interactions with players in one form or other.  Most of them have occurred during the process of getting an autograph at a book signing, before a game or some other place that may or may not be out of the ordinary.  The following are three players who that if Facebook were around back in the day, I might have become friends with these guys.

Don Mattingly-What a way to begin this list.  Donnie Baseball is my favorite player of all time.  The only occasion where I have ever had chills at a sporting event was before Game 1 of the 1995 American League Division Series.  As I heard his name announced during the introduction of the starting lineups, I felt goosebumps up and down my body.  The real Yankee Stadium was electric and I remember feeling so good for Mattingly as he sprinted out to the field, running away from all the memories of all those previous horrible Yankee seasons. 

Anyway, the first non-autograph encounter with my baseball hero occurred before a game at the Stadium in 1984.   About 35 minutes before the game, the players were warming up and Donnie was in my and my sister’s line of sight as he was playing a game of catch.   There was  a decent amount of fans hanging around when all of a sudden my sister screamed out, “M-A-A-A-T-T-I-N-G-L-Y-Y-Y-Y!!”.  He turned toward us and as my sister and I were waving frantically at him, he shielded his eyes and waved back.  She was so loud, Bob Sheppard probably heard her.

My other contact with Mattingly took place roughly three years later as we were driving over the George Washington Bridge.   While cruising on the upper deck of the bridge heading back to New York,  my Dad glanced in his rear view mirror and said, “I think Don Mattingly is in the left lane”.  I turned and saw that it indeed was him so I told my father to beep his horn.  He obliged and when I waved at Donnie, he acknowledged me with a salute and kept on driving.  Two waves, two moments I will never f0rget.

Ron Kittle-He was the 1983 American League Rookie of the Year with the White Sox.   In the middle of the 1986 season, was traded by the Chisox to the Yankees and it was the following February at Spring Training where I “met” Kittle for the first time.  After a workout, fans always used to wait for players in the parking lot in the hopes of getting an autograph or to say a quick hello.  Kittle soon emerged and and a bunch of us went to greet him.  He was signing for everyone when he came to me as I handed him his Fleer or Topps 1984 card.  He looked at it and said, “I am sorry but I don’t do business with them, I can’t sign it”.  Confused, I asked him to sign something else which he happily obliged.  I didn’t understand then and I still don’t now as his picture was used on both cards, why couldn’t he sign one of them?

My second story about Kittle doesn’t involve meeting him.  Instead, on June 29, 1987, my fourteenth birthday, Ron Kittle hit the only inside-the-park home run of his career during the first inning.  The Yankees would go on to beat the Blue Jays 15-14 in a wild affair that was decided thanks to a Dave Winfield grand slam in the top of the eighth inning.  Perhaps this was a makeup by Kittle to me for not signing my baseball card.

Dell Alston-He had a short career from 1977-1980 but did come up through the Yankee organization.   I think it was in 1982 when my other sister was still in high school when Alston made an appearance at her school one night for a charity basketball game.  I don’t remember much about him other than getting his autograph and saying hello.   I found out later on that he did attend Concordia College and played ball there.  Concordia was the school my wife graduated from some 25 years after Alston was there.  While it wasn’t direct contact like Kittle and Mattingly, the family connections are enough to make him a “friend”.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Nelson Cruz and Others Who Fired Lasers This Week

According to a famous commercial twenty years ago, chicks dig the long ball.  Too bad they focused only the offensive side of baseball.  The guys who make the spectacular plays in the field are the studs.  Over the past week we have been treated to a fair number of outfield throws that would make those chicks appreciate the defensive part of the game.

 

Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers is known more for his towering home runs.  Just check out his performance in the 2011 AL championship Series against the Tigers.   However, this past Sunday night against Tampa, he showed off his cannon in Right Field and threw out Ben Zobrist by about 10 feet.  Here is the play a national audience was treated to in the 5th inning.

 

Kansas City’s Jeff Francouer has always been known as a superior player in the field.  Even during the lowest of his slumps, Frenchy never let it affect his work with the glove.   On Tuesday evening, Jhonny Peralta found out the hard way that Francouer’s arm is not be messed withHave as much fun viewing this for the first time as it was for me seeing it a second time. 

Rick Ankiel’s  career as a pitcher did not go exactly as planned.  Bouts of wildness ended his mound career prematurely.  So, Ankiel converted himself to an Outfielder.  He has had mixed success with the Nationals but one thing that has defined him is his superb play in the field.  Arizona’s Justin Upton tried stretching a single Tuesday night into a double.  As you can see, he should have stayed at first base.

What list of great throws would be complete without Ichiro?  Our first highlight of the Seattle standout was his throw in 2001 to nail Terrence Long at 3rd Base.  He continues to gun down baserunners at age 38.  On April 27th, JP Arencibia of the Blue Jays tried scoring on this hit but the catcher was no match for the dart that Ichiro fired from Right Field.

You can be sure there will be countless other outstanding throws from the outfield this season. And you can bet I will do my best to share a few of them with you.

 

Follow me on Twitter @litj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

Ricky Henderson and Nolan Ryan: Baseball History on May 1, 1991

  (Image by Sports Video Daily)

1991.  It was the year I graduated High School.  On May 1st of that year I assume my friends and I were putting the finishing touches on our senior prom to be held three weeks later.  It also was probably just another day of Frisbee at lunch followed by more Spring allergies.  Isn’t that more important than what took place in the baseball world on that same day?  I mean, all that happened was we had a new stolen base champion by day and by night we had some fellow throw his seventh career no hitter.  Really, who doesn’t see THAT every season?

(Image by Mangin Photography)

Now that you are done laughing (and hopefully still reading),  May 1st, 1991 may go down as one of the greatest days in baseball history.  Rickey Henderson stole base number 939, topping Lou Brock for most career stolen bases.  Henderson would finish his playing days with an astonishing 1,406 thefts a number that I guarantee will never be reached.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a player who will approach half that number.  Juan Pierre is the current leader with 557.  Even if we somehow we have a revival in that category there is no possible way someone will play the necessary seasons in order to seriously challenge the mark.   Check out the history-making moment one more time.

Rickey thought he had the headlines all to himself.  But then along comes Old Man Ryan to steal his thunder.  Ironically, Henderson was the victim of Ryan’s 5,000 strikeout in 1989.  The Toronto Blue Jays, who later went on to win the AL East that season became team number 7 on the Ryan No-Hit Parade.  He dominated a lineup that featured future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar as well as key members that helped the Jays win consecutive World Series in 1992 and 1993.  Watch highlights of this historical feat.

May 1, 1991.  Two unbreakable records set by two remarkable players.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The Mets Still Can’t Score for Johan Santana

Well, the more things change, the more things stay the same.  So far, the New York Mets have scored a grand total of 0 runs in the 10 innings that Johan Santana has pitched this season.  Ever since he became a Met in 2008, it seems as though they have scored no more than three runs in any of his starts.   How frustrating it must be for the lefty knowing that he has to pitch a shutout every time out in order to pad his win total.

Some other random thoughts regarding the first week in Major League Baseball:

Tim Lincecum:  Yikes.  While it is too early to say if “The Freak” is on the way down (he is only 27) his first two starts of this season coupled with some dismal final 2011 outings should be caused for concern.  He was roughed up again last night in Colorado and now sports an ERA over 15.00 for 2012.  His numbers against the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2011 are ghastly, a big problem considering the Giants will be trying to beat out Arizona for the NL West title.

Reds lock up cornerstones.  Cincinnati gave generous extensions to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, committing over $300 million dollars to the pair.  There will be stability and fan favorites on the right side of the diamond through at least 2017.  This is an important step to show fans in the Queen City that ownership plans  to be competitive for the rest of this decade.

Blue Skies Again.  After winning their first two series of the young season,  perhaps this is the year the Blue Jays finally return to the upper portion of the American League East.  The offense is not the issue and neither is staff ace Ricky Romero.  If  Kyle Drabek  and Brandon Morrow can give the team between 25 and 30 wins, Toronto could find themselves in the playoffs. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.J Burnett is Looking For a New Start in Pittsburgh

After almost two decades of living in the baseball wilderness, the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the verge of becoming a steady contender in Major League Baseball.   In Andrew McCutchen, they have one of the premier Centerfielders in the game.  Neil Walker and Joel Hanrahan are two of the of best players at their respective positions.   While they may not be playoff-bound in 2012, the Bucs should give contending teams plenty of fits.  One of those players who would love to create havoc on opposing hitters is the newly acquired A.J. Burnett.

The story of Burnett, particularly the last three seasons has been scrutinized ad nauseam.   Big arm, great stuff and questionable mental makeup and durability have all been terms used to describe him.  He had his best season in 2008, just in time to exercise an opt-out clause in his Toronto Blue Jays  contract worth 5 years and $55 million dollars when it was signed.  At the  time, he had two years remaining on his deal.  So before the 2009 season, the New York Yankees  gave him a 5 year, $82.5 million dollar contract.  His career stats to that point were 87 wins and 76 losses with an ERA of 3.92.   To award that contract to Burnett even though his stuff at times was electric was crazy.  Besides the less than impressive win-loss record  and average ERA, there was some durability concerns as he pitched more than 200 innings only three times in his ten seasons and the fact his own worst enemy most times was himself.  In short, there was no way his performance was going to match his contract.

I do not like dislike A.J. Burnett.   In fact, I like the guy a lot.   If you include the playoffs, he started over 100 games for the Yankees in his three seasons in New York.   He put to rest any concerns over his dependability.   In the 2009 World Series, with the Yankees down a game, he pitched seven innings of one run ball to right the Bronx Bombers ship on their way to winning the Series.   His final game in the Bronx was an important win in Game Four of the 2011 ALDS.   Sure the overall numbers weren’t great.  But the Yankees should have known better than to throw all of that money at Burnett knowing the pitfalls.  And the so-called knowledgeable New York fans should have known that his contract was grossly out of line with his past performance.  They should have booed the organization for that, not Burnett.

I really hope the A.J. Burnett is happy in Pittsburgh.  I would love to see him duplicate his 2008 season of 18 wins and 10 losses and help the Pirates to their first winning season in 20 years.  Perhaps if you still don’t like him, maybe this story courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will change your mind.  Here is to you, A.J.  The Pittsburgh fans will appreciate you more than New York fans ever did.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and at www.venomstrikes.com

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