Category: 2013 Toronto Blue Jays

MLB To Suspend 20 Players For PED Use

Melky Cabrera Jays

Melky to receive further suspension?

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 see the ESPN report

Does Brett Lawrie Need to Grow Up? – The Dugout Show #17

Brett Lawrie Toronto Blue Jays

Brett Lawrie Throws Helmet in Frustration

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:

Brett Lawrie Gets Chewed Out by Gibby

Brett Lawrie Gets Chewed Out By Gibby

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.

 

2013 Blue Jays – Comeback Team of the Century or Disappointment of the Year?

2013 Toronto Blue Jays

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.

Go figure.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

R A Dickey’s Broken Finger Nail Responsible for his Poor Performance

Toronto Blue Jays R A Dickey

R A Dickey admits to breaking a fingernail, resulting in a loss of pitch control Sunday vs the Red Sox (pic via PopularMechanics.com)

R. A. Dickey pitched a rough outing vs the Boston Red Sox this past Sunday, allowing 10 hits and 7 ER in the 4 2/3 innings he threw.

He displayed an uncharacteristic lack of control. Success in throwing a knuckleball is all about control.

It was revealed today that Dickey suffered a broken nail on his throwing hand during the first inning of the game. Anthopoulos stated that Dickey didn’t mention it, as he didn’t want to make a big deal of it. That is very characteristic of Dickey, not wanting to make excuses. But it is a big deal. And it has nothing to do with pain. It’s all about pitch control (or in this case a lack of). It’s also not the first time this has happened to Dickey.

In R A’s autobiography Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball Dickey describes when he broke the nail on his right index finger during the Mets home opener in 2011: “The pressure of the nail against the horsehide causes the nail to split. This is not a good thing to happen to a knuckleball pitcher. It is, in fact, a horrible thing to happen to a knuckleball pitcher. Everything I do starts with the nails that grip the ball. If the nails aren’t right, I can’t grip the ball right, and bad things ensue.” He goes on to describe that throwing a knuckleball without the nail on his index finger is like “a quarterback trying to throw a pass without his pinkie“. Two days before Dickey’s next scheduled start, he busted the nail again in a bullpen session, spurting blood all over his hand and cracking the nail right down to the nail bed. What followed belonged in a movie. In full uniform, Dickey gets escorted by Theresa (one of the Mets cooks) to a local nail joint (Pink Nails, run by some lovely Korean ladies) to get some acrylic applied to the busted nail. Before you start making jokes about R A not being tough, remember that this man throws a knuckleball over 80 mph without an ucl (a ligament that stabilizes the elbow joint).

While these may sound like excuses to some, remember that baseball truly is a game of inches. Especially for a pitcher. Being able to control pitches to hit the corners of the plate often enough, makes you a success. Do it a high percentage of the time, you’ve got a decent career. Making a mistake and missing by three or four inches results in a ball over the middle of the plate. Make this mistake to the wrong hitter and they’ll take you deep. Make this mistake often enough, and you don’t stay at the big league level for long. Just ask Jeremy Jeffress and David Bush.

R A Dickey isn’t the first Jays pitcher to suffer from issues with the fingers on his throwing hand. Al Leiter spent many years of his Blue Jays career battling a blister issue on the fingers of his throwing hand. He finally solved the problem by soaking his hand in pickle brine to toughen up the skin. Leiter had other injury issues, but was able to overcome them enough to contribute to the Jays 1993 World Series Title (collecting a win in relief in Game 1, and even hit a double in Game 3).

Hopefully Dickey’s broken nail isn’t too serious this time around, and heals before his next start. Perhaps the Jays should make note of the local nail salons in the event it happens again. Or even hire a team aesthetician. But all joking aside, this can’t be more frustrating for anyone than Dickey. Read his book, and you will learn about the countless hours and effort he put into developing his knuckleball, to the point where he keeps a spare baseball in his car so he can practice his grip while he’s driving. His dedication to his craft is unmatchable, which obviously contributed to him winning the NL Cy Young award last year. If the Blue Jays can get through this season with nothing more than a rib-cage strain to Brett Lawrie, a twisted ankle for Jose Bautista, and a broken nail for R A Dickey, then they’ll be miles ahead of where they were last year.

R.A. Dickey Roughed Up: Why There’s No Cause For Concern

Tough Outing for R A Dickey

R A Dickey had a rough day on the mound (pic via blog.silive.com)

Sunday April 7th, 2013 was not a good day to be starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey. Since acquiring the knuckleballer in the off-season, Jays fans have been itching to see what the hype is all about. We’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see, as Dickey got roughed up for 10 hits, 7 earned runs, and 2 HR to Will Middlebrooks (who was red-hot and hit 3 on the day) in 4 2/3 innings.

It however, is not a cause for concern, as fans have to realize that this type of horrible outing can happen to any pitcher, even the Ace of the team.

It in fact happened to several notable starters this very same day!

Other MLB Aces who had rough starts:

  • David Price: gave up 10 hits (2 HR) and 8 earned runs in 5 innings in the Rays 13-0 loss to the Tribe
  • Cole Hamels: gave up 9 hits and 8 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in a 9-4 Phillies loss to the Royals
  • Stephen Strasburg: 9 hits and 6 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, losing 6-3 to the Big Red Machine
  • Matt Cain: only went 3 2/3 innings, giving up 7 hits and 9 earned runs to the Cards
  • Justin Verlander: Not a horrific outing going 7 1/3 innings, but gave up 7 hits and 3 earned runs in a Detroit 7-0 loss to the Yanks

So if you were at the Jays game and were one of the disrespectful “fans” booing Dickey, I hope you can recognize that the one thing that all of these pitchers have in common (aside from all having bad starts on the same day) is that they are also HUMAN. We all have bad days, regardless of the line of work. These men all happened to have bad outings. But they will all bounce back. That’s why they’re “aces”.

Remember:

Sometimes you win.

Sometimes you lose.

Sometimes, it rains.

Toronto Blue Jays 2013 Home Opener

Jose Bautista

2013 Toronto Blue Jays Home Opener (via Globalnews.ca)

So the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays season is finally upon us.

The Jays played their first game of the season last night. And lost.

If you are one of the Blue Jays fans whining today about how disappointed you are, allow me to inform you of something important to recognize –

in a 162-game regular season, they’re going to lose games.

If we’re fortunate enough this year, the Jays will lose about 40% of their games (last year that would have been good enough to win the division).

A lot happened in last night’s game, both good and bad. I was lucky enough to be able to attend last night’s home opener, and I will break down both the positives and negatives.

Negatives:

  • Rasmus looked uncomfortable at the plate. This is a season where he needs to get it together, or we’ll be seeing Gose sooner than expected. And I get it, it’s a long season and it takes some guys longer to get into a groove. But where some guys were making loud outs on hard-hit balls, Rasmus went down on strikes three times.
  • Arencibia set a franchise record within the first two innings of the game. Unfortunately, it was for allowing three passed balls. This was then followed by ground balls that likely would have been double-plays. Arencibia looked good catching Dickey during the World Baseball Classic for team USA, so last night was likely an anomaly. However, don’t be surprised when by the end of the season Arencibia leads the majors in passed balls. If it’s tough to hit, it’s just as tough to catch.
  • Dickey didn’t throw as many strikes as he usually can. His control was a bit off, and he admitted to not feeling as comfortable with his release point. He walked more in last night’s game than he did the entire Spring Training. He threw only 56% strikes, which needs to be higher. Having said that, with the potential fire-power in this Jays line-up, they typically should be able to recover from a 3 or 4 run deficit.
  • Honda gave away a CRV last night to a fan. Then they took it away and gave it to another fan. To be honest, I’m still not sure what happened. The sound system was difficult to hear (at least in the 500 section), so I’m still a bit confused. The contest definitely could have been organized much better.
  • And my final negative, on a more personal note, were the lousy Jays fans we happened to be sitting with in the 500 level. I don’t know why getting so drunk that you don’t even watch the game and throw things over the railing has become a thing, but it is these “fans” (in quotations because they are anything but true fans) that ruin the experience for the others, and make a bad name for Jays fans in general. So to you rotten people, I say please stay home next year. Oh, and this is my reaction to your disrespectful behaviour: (Click here to see what everyone thinks of you).

Ok, enough of the complaining. After all, as fans we have a lot to be excited about this year.

Positives:

  • The Jays hit the ball hard. Really hard. Unfortunately, it was right at guys wearing gloves. Cleveland fields a solid team and made some great plays. But most of the time, when you consistently hit the ball hard, good things happen.
  • After serving up a HR, Dickey struck out the next two batters on straight strikes. It seemed that he was ticked at himself and was taking it out on the batters. I see this as a great channeling of anger. He has great control of his emotions, which is so important as a pitcher.
  • Even though Santos gave up a big hit on his first pitch, he was able to work out of the jam without allowing any runs and looked strong. If he and Janssen can stay consistent throwing strong innings in the 8th and 9th, we may have our Ward-Henke combo we’ve been waiting so long for.
  • Cecil looked terrific on the mound, and was hitting 93-94 mph on the radar gun (where the heck did that come from?!). When Brett Lawrie comes off the DL and it’s between Cecil and Jeffress to go back down, they may have a tougher decision with Cecil now throwing at an increased velocity. These tough decisions are good problems to have!
  • From a design standpoint, the new 200 level concourse looks fantastic! It feels like the stadium has been opened up more, and it’s nice to have that large area functional again, and open to anyone who has a ticket (unless it’s rented out for a private function which it was last night).

Rogers Centre new seating

Finally, I will close with how the evening began. Tom Cheek was honoured for winning the Ford C. Frick award. The largest Canadian flag I’ve ever seen draped the entire outfield for the National anthem, and Geddy Lee of Rush threw out the ceremonial first pitch (oh how Canadian!). Our season is full of hopes and dreams. And in baseball, anything can happen.

Why Ricky Romero Will Be OK

Rick Romero throws in the 2013 Spring Training.

Rick Romero throws in 2013 Spring Training. (courtesy Toronto Sun)

It was a move everyone was dreading, but no one really believed would actually happen.

On Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 the Toronto Blue Jays announced that Rick Romero would be starting the regular season in Class-A Dunedin.

He was supposed to be the #5 Starter this season. He was supposed to recover from a disastrous 2012 season and be the Ricky of 2011 that we all loved to watch. Romero and Josh Johnson publicly joked that they were likely the best 4-5 starting combo in the majors. And they should be. But that will remain to be seen, until Romero can rid whatever demons are in his head and get back on pace to being the CY-Young caliber thrower we all know he has the potential to be.

So how did this happen?

Two main points:

1. With an increase in artillery in the off-season, the Jays suddenly became THE TEAM to be reckoned with. Gone were the days (thank goodness) of sending Romero out on the mound bad start after bad start because every one else was injured. Being thrust into an “ace” position he wasn’t ready for only worsened the entire situation. Anthopoulos  has sent a very clear message this off-season: the Jays are going for it. And there’s no room for error, or “working out the kinks”. One week from today the Jays will field the very best squad they have.

2. J.A. Happ had a heck of a spring. He pitched with attitude. He pitched like he had a chip on his shoulder. Maybe he did. Going from expecting to be in a starting role to suddenly being #6 in a starting rotation of five sure ticked the guy off. So he fought like hell for that last spot, and loudly voiced his opinion over not wanting to start the season in AAA. Happ deserves that final spot. He earned it.

So what now?

Ricky has to peel away all the layers and start over. He’s got to be hurting right now, and there isn’t a Jays fan who doesn’t feel for him. We all want to see him do well. And I think we will. History has a way of repeating itself…

During the 2000 season while pitching for the Jays, Roy Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA in 19 games (13 he started). This was the worst season in history for any pitcher having thrown over 50 innings. At the beginning of 2001 he was sent to Dunedin for the start of the season to work on his delivery. 2002 was Halladay’s break-out season, and, well, if you’ve followed baseball over the years you know what else Halladay has done. Even though Roy has also looked rough this 2013 pre-season, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

So how does this translate to Romero?

Ricky strikes me as the kind of guy who has the same fight Halladay does. Ricky’s a competitor. A fierce one. And no one is tougher on Ricky than Ricky. While this is currently hurting his performance, in the long run it will help. The kind of horrific 2012 season combined with the disappointment of not making the starting rotation this season is enough to break most guys. Most guys wouldn’t recover from this. But Ricky isn’t most guys.

If there’s one term most Jays fans hate, it’s “re-building”. But that’s what Ricky needs to do now. How quickly he bounces back is beyond anyone’s comprehension at this point. We could see him back in a couple months. Or it might take longer until we see the Ricky we all know and miss.

I have my fingers crossed that it will be sooner than later.

But I’m quite certain that Ricky will be ok.