Outside the Erin Mills Town Centre, the effects of the polar vortex were evident – endless mounds of snow and blistering, frigid winds made for an uncomfortable walk from the car. But inside the mall, on this Saturday, Jan 18th, 2014, over 1,000 excited baseball fans gathered with warmer thoughts on their minds. They anxiously awaited the arrival of some of their favourite Blue Jays players, for their last stop on the Winter Tour.
Some fans arrived as early as 9:00 am for the 2:00 pm event. Over 700 fans were able to meet and get autographs from Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, and fan favourite, Colby Rasmus. Hundreds more were turned away, as the line of fans endlessly snaked through the crowded mall.
Having just avoided salary arbitration the day prior by inking a one-year, $7 million deal, Rasmus seemed relaxed as we chatted. But the topic of conversation wasn’t about money. I was more interested in re-hashing the past, where during the 2013 season, Colby found himself in a major league match-up more rare than a perfect game, batting against his younger brother Cory, who in the game at Toronto on May 27th took the mound in the 7th inning for the Atlanta Braves. The Blue Jays centre fielder got the better of his brother in the at-bat, taking him opposite-field for a double.
Colby mentioned that Cory had given him some hitting tips – suggestions for his swing a couple of days prior to their possible match-up. While inevitably with brothers there will always be competition, the modest Rasmus simply stated that “it was a crazy time”, but when I asked about the dialogue with Cory after the game, he said there really wasn’t any since he’s not the kind to rub it in. Cory has since been moved to the Angels organization, and there is a possibility of a re-match this season, as the Jays will face LA for a 4-game home set in May, and again for a 3-game set on the road in July. Colby remarked,“a few guys have been talking about it. John Gibbons joked about it saying we might get another brother-brother match-up”.
The Mississauga location marked the end of the Jays Winter Tour, which stayed within Ontario this year, having gone cross-country the previous year. Mal Romanin, Manager of Baseball Information and Stephen Brooks, Senior VP, Business Operations for the Jays were both on site, overseeing the successful event. Toronto pitchers and catchers have their first spring training workout in just under three weeks. Even though the snow seems like it may never melt, baseball is in the air.
Blue Jays Trades & Off-Season Moves. Brock & Kyle discuss that, the 2013 World Series recap, and more.
It took some serious consideration before I clicked publish, re-reading and re-naming the title of this post several times. Boston was the one team I didn’t want to see win. After all, John Farrell who had left the Jays for his “dream job” was now hoisting the World Series trophy above his head. Yes, Toronto had a miserably disappointing season. But as a baseball fan, this was one of the more exciting World Series I can remember in years. A good friend of mine said he wished the series would go 14 games. I wondered, would Papi’s injuries have gotten the better of him by then, or would he have been hitting 26-for-32?
The Red Sox showed us several things this year. They showed us how powerful a team can be when they function together. They showed us what the proper leadership can foster (I’m talking about Big Papi, not Farrell…ok, maybe Farrell as well). They showed us how an entire city can rally together to overcome adversity (Boston Strong). And they showed us that they can grow some kick-ass beards. Seriously, how can you not be impressed by this?
How about us Toronto fans take away a few positives from this Boston Championship win? Who in Toronto didn’t want to see John MacDonald and Brian Butterfield get a World Series ring? I know, they’re wearing the wrong uniforms…I digress.
At the end of a LONG 162-game season, a select and fortunate group of players get to play baseball in October. Likely already nursing injuries, some of the ones who can grit their teeth and bare the pain for one more month can be elevated to baseball hero status (even if only for one game). Few become legend. Papi took it to a whole new level. Call him an icon. Call him a beast. He was in a zone even he had never experienced (though he joked that he did it all season long). Papi was the definition of do what I say, and lead by example (it’s rare that both of those happen together). He was a leader through words, and actions. Think it was coincidental that moments after Papi’s game-4 pep-talk in the dugout, that Johnny Gomes hit a home-run which would prove to be the game-winner (and likely the turning point in the series)? Perhaps, but I think if you ask any of the Boston players what impact Papi had on the team morale, energy, and composure, I’m sure you would receive a unanimous answer.
Putting things in perspective, Boston had the season Toronto expected/dreamed of having. The storybook, worst-to-first, against all odds, in the face of adversity kind of season. And as much as you can envy or hate them for it, I have to give credit where credit is due. Thank you Boston for giving us baseball fans a World Series to remember. Never have we experienced one like it (possibly the only thing it was missing was a hidden-ball trick, although the Cards had already been burned by it earlier in the season). Thank you for being gracious winners (and not peeing in the opposing teams pool). And thank you for showing Toronto that worst-to-first is possible. After all, spring training is only 115 days away…
It’s no secret that the Blue Jays have had horrible pitching problems this season. And that may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made. It’s been painful to watch, especially since there were so many expectations for this team in 2013. While they still aren’t out of a playoff spot mathematically, it’s highly unlikely the jays will be playing October baseball. Again, a huge understatement. I just don’t see the point of being so negative…although you wouldn’t think so if you listen to today’s show. But there is a silver lining…I did find something positive to talk about. Click above to take a listen for 20 minutes.
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken interview Carlos Delgado, Roberto Alomar, Cito Gaston, Duane Ward, and many more.
Carlos Delgado was named to the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence on Sunday, September 21st, 2013. So how did he celebrate? By hosting a training camp the following day at the Rogers Centre, in support of his Extra Bases Foundation, which strives to “improve the quality of life of people in need”. Joining Carlos, was a well-recognizable group of former Blue Jays greats.
Listen to the interviews that Brock Picken conducted with:
- Carlos Delgado
- Roberto Alomar
- Cito Gaston
- Shawn Green
- Duane Ward
- George Bell
- Juan Guzman
- Alex Gonzalez
- Candy Maldonado
- Lloyd Moseby
- Tony Fernandez
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken talk about the All Star Game with The Fan 590’s Jeff Sammut
Brock Picken discusses the 2013 HR Derby and All Star game with Sportsnet FAN 590’s Jeff Sammut.
They discuss the significance of the game in determining the home field advantage for the World Series, Mariano Rivera’s 13th (and last) All-Star appearance, and the four Jays appearing in the mid-summer classic, including the story-book selection of Steve Delabar.
Follow Jeff Sammut on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeffsammut590
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken discuss the Blue Jays 11-game win streak
The Toronto Blue Jays are finally playing like the team everyone was hoping for at the beginning of the season. 11 straight wins ties a franchise record. Can the Jays keep the streak going? Do they now have more of a realistic shot at the playoffs? Will they be a buyer at the trade deadline? Is Bautista the leader they need him to be? Brock discusses this and more in this episode.
ESPN has reported that the MLB will likely be suspending 20 players for PED use, in connection with the Biogenesis of America Clinic.
Yes, it would appear as though the proverbial crap is about to hit the fan. For some players, perhaps a second time?
That’s a lot of excrement coming into contact with numerous electrical oscillating air-distribution devices.
It would appear as though baseball is a very dirty sport. Half of those guys should be putting on rain gear and running for cover. But this is kind of old news.
After all, Jose Canseco started throwing giant poop-bombs into airplane propeller-sized fans about eight years ago when he came clean (see what I did there?) by publishing a book for the entire world, claiming to be the “Steroid King”. In great detail he explained how he first became a much better ball player by using PED’s, then started introducing and in some cases administering steroids (see “injecting players in the buttocks”) to his teammates.
Fast-forward to 2013, and we could potentially be looking at the largest drug-related suspension not just in baseball, but in all of North American professional sports.
The notable names on the list are: New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Cervelli, Cesar Puello, Jesus Montero, Jhonny Peralta, Fernando Martinez, Everth Cabrera, Fautini de los Santos and Jordan Norberto.
Braun and A-Rod could be facing a 100-game suspension for a second offence (for connection with the Miami-based clinic’s owner Tony Bosch, and for denying the use of PED’s). A-Rod hasn’t played yet this season, having had hip surgery in the off season. His estimated return date would have been around the all-star break. No word yet on what Melky Cabrera could be facing, as his arrival to Toronto this Spring Training was surrounded with the controversy of having come off a 50-game suspension last August for PED use.
Click Here to Listen To: Brock Picken Discuss Brett Lawrie’s Temper, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, & LA Dodgers.
On this episode of The Dugout, I discussed the expressions (temper explosions) of Brett Lawrie and whether or not they are justified. I think we can all agree that Lawrie’s “Helmet Incident” with the umpire last year was unacceptable and inexcusable. This past Friday (May 24, 2013), Lawrie was called out on a third strike and tossed his helmet and batting gloves aside in frustration, resulting in another game ejection. I personally feel as though it was a bit more of a personal attack against Lawrie, as he has remained a “target” of sorts for the umps ever since last year’s incident. I don’t feel as though his actions justified an ejection. Now, having said that, I was disappointed to learn of his gesture towards Lind and third base coach Luis Rivera in Sunday afternoon’s game. Lawrie, having hit a fly ball to right field, thought Adam Lind should have tagged and scored on the play. He gave several “dirty looks” towards Lind and Rivera as he jogged back to the dugout. Gibby and Bautista put an end to Lawrie’s shenanigans right away:
The whole Lawrie incident became a mute point just minutes later when Kawasaki hit a walk-off double. His speech after the game was epic:
If the Jays can keep up with the other AL East teams through June and July and pick up ground on lesser teams like the Padres, Rockies, and Twins, they might be able to shift gears and make a move towards “playoff contention” following the All-Star break.
This of course would be easier to accomplish if Lawrie could make it through a full game without being ejected or injured.
In today’s podcast, I also mentioned my interview with Jays Assistant GM, Andrew Tinnish, where we discussed Jays pitching prospects, as well as my show with Alan Coombs of CJBK London Radio, where he predicted the Cleveland Indians to be a hot team right out of the gate.
In the winter this off-season, Anthopoulos gave Jays fans something to get excited about. A lot to get excited about. Having made substantial moves that “won the off-season”, the Jays were picked by many to not only make the playoffs, but also win the 2013 World Series. That’s no small feat, considering only three teams in history have won the World Series having not made the playoffs the previous season (’88 Dodgers, ’87 & ’91 Twins, ’02 Angels). (EDIT: a couple fans on Reddit notified me I had forgotten the ’10 & ’12 Giants. My bad!) In fact, such a buzz was created by the media and Jays marketing campaign, that pre-season ticket sales “increased dramatically” according to team president Paul Beeston.
Besides, teams like Boston seemed to be in trouble with their managerial situation a question mark. And when they ended up taking Farrell, the Toronto attitude was “if he doesn’t want to be here then take him, we don’t want him”. The Yankees picked up old Blue Jays castaways Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay to compensate for their injury-ridden line-up (Jays fans quietly chuckled, knowing all to well what a string of injuries can do to a ball club).
Fast forward a few months and a near worst April on team record, and the Jays find themselves in the last place everyone expected – last place.
Boston, New York, and Baltimore all currently have .600 or better records.
Boston and New York.
The Miami Marlins, who gave up most of their veteran talent to the Jays in the most talked about trade this off-season, currently have a 10-25 record (compared to the Jays 13-23). Even the Houston Astros (the joke of the majors this season), have a 10-25 record.
To say Toronto is grossly under-performing is a massive understatement.
Which poses the question, “How the heck did this all happen?”
It’s a complex answer. But to put it simply; a series of injuries and slumps:
- Jose Reyes Ankle Injury – A total spark plug. The energy and life force of the squad was leading the team in avg (.395) and stolen bases (5) early in the season until the severe ankle sprain put him out of commission until the All-star break.
- Quiet Jays Bats – I don’t need to go into great detail here. Simply put, they didn’t produce runs. Period. If you want to depress yourself further, you can check out JaysJournal.com to see how many “league worsts” the Jays set in April.
- Mediocre Pitching – This came as a surprise to many, as the Jays went out and “traded the farm” for some veteran arms. Then the only pitcher who proved to be reliable was the guy who wasn’t even supposed to make the starting rotation in the first place (JA Happ).
- The Inability to Win Consistently – This might seem obvious, but the ability to string together a series of wins, or win a large percentage of games in chunks somewhat consistently will build confidence amongst players and assist the team in building momentum to generate winning streaks. Just recently, the Jays won their third game in a row this season – for the first time.
- More Devastating Injuries – We don’t need to re-hash the horrible onslaught of injuries the Jays had last year. But it would appear as though that nasty injury bug has reared its ugly head again. Suddenly Josh Johnson is out with what was reported as “mild bicep/tricep” tightness. He won’t be back until June. Romero was brought up to take his place (likely too soon) and now his mental toughness is being questioned, having pitched the shortest outing of his career recently (1/3 inning). JA Happ got hit by the most devastating line drive I’ve ever seen: Happ miraculously only suffered a fractured skull (really, it could have been far worse) and twisted knee, and will be out 4-6 weeks. RA Dickey has been battling upper back tightness which has been limiting his outing duration. Morrow’s Friday night start was pushed back due to back spasms. The lack of health in the starting rotation could be the major blow to any playoff hopes that are still alive.
So, is it time to panic if you’re a Jays fan? Or did that already happen a while ago and you’ve already given up?
Some don’t think that it was even fair in the first place that the Jays were put up on such a high pedestal. ESPN’s Dan Shulman was a guest on The Dugout recently, and told me who he thought would be playoff favourites: Dan Shulman on The Dugout
Even though the odds are heavily stacked against them, they might not be counted out entirely. In spring training there were many comparisons made to the 1993 World Champion Jays, but April Whitzman from the MLB Fan Cave made a comparison to the 1989 Blue Jays, who at this point in their season (May 10th) had a nearly identical record (12-21). They went on to win their division that season.
Surely Boston and New York can’t keep up the pace they’re going at. Baltimore may in fact be the team to be reckoned with. At least they seem to be the healthiest.
So what do you think?
Were the Jays over-hyped from the beginning?
Are they going to disappoint the (larger) fan base again?
Or will they manage to get everything functioning together and become THE comeback story of the century?