Tagged: blue jays

History Repeating Itself?

With each win, the 2015 Blue Jays climb closer to that long-awaited playoff birth.

The Championships of 1992 and 1993 seem SO long ago. They were. I have friends who weren’t even alive for the Jays first World Series title.

But with AA pulling off a sequence of blockbuster trades, and those pieces making an immediate impact, suddenly the connections between the ’92 and ’93 squads and the current team don’t seem so far-fetched. In the off-season, late 1991, the Jays signed free agents Jack Morris and Dave Winfield (on consecutive days). Those who watched the 1992 team will no doubt remember the significance both Morris and Winfield had during the regular season, and during October baseball. In the off-season this past winter, the Jays signed free agent Russell Martin, and 10 days later pulled off a mammoth trade for Josh Donaldson. It’s obvious what an impact those two have made thus far.

It’s the end of August and the Jays are in first place, two games up on the Yankees. Hey, they’ve already started selling post-season tickets!

There are so many moments from both championships that stand out for many fans, but one of the most talked about is the “triple play that wasn’t” during the 1992 World Series.

I reminisced with Kelly Gruber, the Jays third baseman during that memorable play.

Fans may remember that in fact, it was this very day, August 27th, back in 1992, when Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson were traded to the Mets for David Cone. Cone would contribute to the championship with a 1 – 1 record and 3.22 ERA.

David Price has been the masterful pitcher everyone expected he would be, upon his arrival. Toronto has their first true ace since Roy Halladay. It’s exciting to think about what he could accomplish this October.

Over two decades after Carter’s home run disappeared over that left field wall, we find our blue birds that much closer to going back to the playoffs and possibly taking another run at a World Series.

So, is history repeating itself?

 

Is Video Replay Ruining Baseball?

Pic via @MarcSRousseau

Pic via @MarcSRousseau

In the off-season, baseball changed some rules. The changes were meant to improve the game. The collision rule at home plate was meant to prevent serious injuries such as the one that was the beginning of the end of Ray Fosse’s career at the hands (or should I say helmet) of Pete Rose in 1970, and more recently (2011) the collision that ended Buster Posey’s season. While catchers blocking home plate has been a part of the game for so long, I can see the upside to the new rule.

The other change was implementing video replay to help overturn blown calls at pivotal times in the game. Traditionalists might say that you’re taking away a natural part of the game – human error. This very same human error cost Detroit pitcher Galarraga a perfect game in 2010, and also cost the Blue Jays a triple play in the 1992 World Series.

What video replay has done for the time being, is take away an element of the game which if for no other reason provides fans with entertainment value. When an ump blows a call (or appears to) in the past the manager would fly out of the dugout and argue the call. Sometimes, these arguments would turn heated, complete with yelling, swearing (one magic word supposedly gets you tossed instantly), kicking of dirt, tossing of bases (Lou Piniella), and ejections from the game. While I’m not an advocate of abusing the umpires, some might even say that a manager getting tossed can be a ploy to fire up his team.

Sweet Lou's soccer skills (pic via nydailynews.com)

Sweet Lou’s soccer skills (pic via nydailynews.com)

Sweet Lou turns a base into a projectile (pic via 90feetofperfection.com)

Sweet Lou turns a base into a projectile (pic via 90feetofperfection.com)

Sweet Lou performs his patented cap kick (pic via chicago-cubs-fan.com)

Sweet Lou performs his patented cap kick (pic via chicago-cubs-fan.com)

You just spit on me! (pic via bullpenbrian.com)

You just spit on me! (pic via bullpenbrian.com)

Will we ever see these arguments again?

Over the course of the past few games, baseball has seen many calls challenged via video replay. Some calls have been overturned, which means the rule change was a good one, right? Sure, but what we’re seeing now, is a manager taking a slow stroll out to the ump, and talking about anything non baseball-related while waiting for a signal from his dugout (who are waiting for the team in their video-control room to let them know if the call was blown or not).

So...do you like fishing? (pic via sports.nationalpost.com)

So…do you like fishing? (pic via sports.nationalpost.com)

This slows the game down even more, and let’s be honest: it’s a really slow game already.

Here’s what I propose: give the manager a challenge flag, like in football. Give them a time limit in which they are allowed to challenge a call (say, before the next pitch). And if a manager is still looking for a way to get tossed, they can argue balls and strikes. That way we’re not having more conversations about what to get Jimmy for his wedding, because you can only talk about candle sticks for so long before things get awkward.

Why Do Catchers Make Great Managers & Broadcasters?

Joe Siddall & Jerry Howarth (pic via Windsorstar.com)

Joe Siddall & Jerry Howarth (pic via Windsorstar.com)

Click here to listen to my interview with Sportsnet’s Joe Siddall.

Through tragedy comes opportunity.

Joe Siddall is the newest member of the Sportsnet broadcast team, taking the booth alongside longtime play-by-play man Jerry Howarth. Joe recently had lost his young son Kevin to cancer, and when Jerry reached out via email to express his condolences, an opportunity presented itself, almost by accident.

Joe said in an email reply to Jerry, “I look forward to seeing you in Detroit…or maybe I’ll see you in the broadcast booth one day”.

Not even really knowing why he typed those words, suddenly he was looking at a reply from Jerry that read, “How about right now?”.

The rest as they say is history, and now Blue Jays fans have the perspective from a former catcher in the broadcast booth alongside Jerry, replacing former pitcher Jack Morris who has returned to his hometown of Minnesota to broadcast Twins games this season.

So why is it former catchers make the best broadcasters and managers?

I’m sure there are figures that might show my broad statement is exactly that, but I choose not to ignore that Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre had successful playing careers behind the plate before becoming managers. Tim McCarver and Bob Uecker are broadcast favourites of many, who also spent time behind the plate. Heck, even Crash Davis at the end of Bull Durham was considering a managing gig with a minor league team.

I asked Siddall what he thought the reason was. Drawing on experience from his own catching career, he mentioned that his manager Felipe Alou liked having him around because “it was like having another coach on the field”. It either comes naturally, or catchers are trained to make note of opposing hitters strengths and weaknesses, in addition to keeping track of their own pitchers. Essentially, it is a management role in itself.

So what does this former catcher think of the Blue Jays current pitching situation?

Click here to find out.

Follow Joe Siddall on Twitter: @SiddallJoe

A Baseball Dream

Photo Credit halofanforlife.com

Photo Credit halofanforlife.com

Click here to listen to my interview with Malcolm MacMillan. We discuss highlights to visiting various major and minor league ballparks, as well as the current pitching situation with the Toronto Blue Jays.

For many baseball fans it’s a dream. Some never realize it. Some chip away at it, year by year. Some accomplish it all in one big season. I’m talking of course about seeing a baseball game in each of the 30 major league ballparks. There’s something exciting and special about visiting a new (to you) stadium. After all, baseball is one of those rare sports where each venue is somewhat different. Different field dimensions allow teams to make a statement – to be unique. As an example, Yankee Stadium has the short porch in right field, a mere 314 feet away, heavily favourable to left-handed pull-hitters. The same right field in Fenway, “Pesky’s Pole” measures a mere 302 feet from home plate, and hitters in Chicago’s Wrigley Field have to muscle-up to hit a shot in right, a good 353 feet away. If you start examining various centre field designs, each features various quirks, such as Houston’s Minute Maid Park which has Tal’s Hill, a 30 degree incline (which reminds me of some of the local fields I play on) toward the wall, complete with a flag pole in play. Each stadium has various other attractions beyond field dimensions, too many worth noting here.

When one starts researching, possibly planning a road trip, there comes the “ah-ha” moment, realizing that there are way more minor league ball parks, many also worth visiting and each with their own unique attractions (plus tickets are always more affordable). In a recent interview, I caught up with Malcolm MacMillan, the owner of www.theballparkguide.com, who to date has visited 53 major and minor league parks, writing a review on each and making notes for fans on what not to miss. Listen to the interview here.

Back in 2008, I was fortunate to take a road trip to New York, and see one of the last games in old Yankee Stadium. Even more fortunate for me, was that it was a Jays-Yankees game in which the Jays won. It was hard not to feel nostalgic, thinking about how many legends had graced that field over so many years. I wasn’t the only one feeling emotional, I noted, as following the game more than several Yankee fans could be seen with tears streaming down their faces. While I wanted to believe it was due to the tough loss my Jays had just handed their home team, it was more likely as a result of the realization that a stadium where they had formed many wonderful memories over the years was soon to be reduced to dust. Sadly, this is the inevitable fate of most parks. Fenway has been around for over 100 years, and while traditionalists would like to think it will stand for 100 more, that is not likely. All good things must come to an end eventually. So why not plan a road trip this summer, and visit some of these beautiful structures while you still can? The parks may not last forever, but the memories will last a lifetime.

No Such Thing As A Meaningless Baseball Game

Monica Pence Barlow, Orioles PR Director passed away Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

Monica Pence Barlow, Orioles PR Director passed away Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

Spring training games are upon us, and while they mean a lot to the players fighting to make the 25-man roster, one could argue that the outcome of the games are somewhat inconsequential. Statistically speaking, the Blue Jays ‘won’ spring training in 2012, and finished one game under .500 last season, only to end up second-last and in the basement respectively at the end of the regular season. Last year’s World Champion Red Sox only had a .500 record last spring.

But on Saturday, as the Baltimore Orioles faced off against the Blue Jays, they only had one thing in mind – win. An unusual goal for a game that statistically has no meaning. However, this game meant a great deal to many Oriole players, the managers, and the organization.

I accidentally came across the Baltimore broadcast when settling in to watch the game yesterday. During the first inning, while Orioles skipper Buck Showalter was being interviewed, he revealed that the Orioles PR Director, Monica Pence Barlow had passed away the previous morning from cancer. Describing what a big part of the Oriole family Monica had been, Buck finished his interview by saying they were going to try to beat the Jays, and win this one for Monica.

In a statement earlier that day, Showalter had released the following statement:

“We lost a feather from the Oriole today. Monica embodied everything we strive to be about. Her passion, loyalty and tenacity set a great example for everyone in the organization. She was so courageous in continuing to do her job the last few years despite her pain. This is an especially tough day for those of us that worked with her on a daily basis. It was a blessing to have her in my life. She made our jobs so much easier. We won’t be able to replace Monica. We will only try to carry on. I am going to miss her as a colleague and a friend. She was a rock.”

Some of the Oriole players wore arm bands during the game, in memory of Monica. As Baltimore regulars exited the game, they were interviewed and asked about special memories of Monica. Slugger Chris Davis reminisced about pouring champagne over Monica’s head after clinching the 2012 Wild Card.

While the focus in professional baseball is usually on the players, the statistics, and the big-money contracts, it can be easy to forget how many people behind the scenes are instrumental in so many important elements of the game. Monica was one of those many.

In the 8th inning the Blue Jays were up 7-2, yet I had a funny feeling about Baltimore staging a rally. Sure enough, they started chipping away – for Monica. Fast-forward in the inning to two out and the Orioles back within one. A ground ball to second that should have ended the inning but was an error by the infielder Chris Getz, loaded the bases and kept the momentum going. The next batter with the bases loaded, smacked a triple to the gap in right-centre, completing the 7-run rally and putting the O’s up by two. For the first time in my life, this hardcore Jays fan (I bleed blue) was ok with the opposition beating my hometown favourite. I’m certain, after hearing the stories from numerous Oriole players, that Monica had Oriole-orange flowing through her veins.

It’s not uncommon for a player to dedicate a game to the memory of a passed loved one. Many Toronto fans remember the emotional home run by John McDonald on father’s day, following the passing of his father. And then there’s the even more incredible feat of promising a home run for someone during a game. Babe Ruth hit not one, but three HR’s for a sick child during the 1926 World Series. But this was different. This was an entire team playing in memory of someone who was family.

Toronto aims to be playing “meaningful baseball games” this September.

The Orioles, as a team, played what was possibly the club’s first meaningful baseball game in March.

Regardless of the time of year, or how high the stakes are, every game has meaning to someone.

This game had meaning to many.

Rest in peace Monica.

Indiegogo Baseball Book Campaign – Tales From The Batter’s Box

Click here to donate and learn more about the campaign.

For the past few months I’ve been keeping a secret, and I’m finally able to share it with you. I’m writing a book! This is a huge deal for me – I’m pouring my heart and soul into this project, and I’d love for you to be a part of it in some way. Read below for more details.

This book — this campaign, is the next step, and a very important one for me, towards a career in baseball. This is an opportunity for me to realize a dream, and create something special for baseball lovers and story lovers alike. This book will be a compilation of many unique stories based on interviews I conduct with current and former MLB professional players, female professional players from the AAGPBL (1943-1954), and a few special guests, such as Babe Ruth’s Granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti. I have connected with George Castle, a baseball historian and author of 11 baseball books. He has covered baseball for 35 seasons, based in Chicago. George will be my historical reference for the book.
Learn more here: http://igg.me/at/TheDugout

What the funds are for:
I’ve been presented with the rare and incredible opportunity to attend and cover as accredited media personnel, three separate baseball events this season. In Kansas City, The Negro League Baseball Museum will be having their inaugural “Hall of Game Ceremony”, inducting their first ever “Hall of Famers”. In St. Louis, the Cardinals organization with be unveiling their new Hall of Fame Museum in their Ballpark Village, for which I have been invited to the Ribbon-cutting Ceremony. And in Iowa, The Field of Dreams Movie Site (made famous by Kevin Costner) is hosting their Team of Dreams Event, a charity softball tournament that last year had 14 former Major League Baseball stars (including 10 Hall of Famers) participate. I will be conducting interviews at each of these events for my book.

The funds being raised will go to cover the cost of:
– Travel
– Accommodations
– Audio & Video Equipment Purchase/Rental
– Book Cover Layout & Design
– Costs associated with publishing

Donate here: http://igg.me/at/TheDugout

The Rewards:
In addition to tons of digital rewards such as interview clips and an opportunity to be a guest on my show The Dugout, I also have baseball memorabilia rewards such as baseballs autographed by Fergie Jenkins and Matt Stairs. Linda Ruth Tosetti (Babe Ruth’s Granddaughter) has autographed some baseballs and prints, and I’m also including some beautiful limited edition Blue Jays prints from Chris Ripley at BlueJaysArt.ca.

More details here: http://igg.me/at/TheDugout

Blue Jays State of the Franchise Q & A

At the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays State of the Franchise, season ticket holders had emailed in questions ahead of time for Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons.

Full Q & A session in the video above explores topics such as the Blue Jays playing on a grass surface at home, Roy Halladay joining the Level of Excellence, the ownership’s level of financial commitment and concerns surrounding financial obligations towards other sports (Maple Leafs and Toronto FC). Other topics discussed included Gibby’s predictions for players who will have break out seasons (spoiler alert – expect a lot from Melky, Lawrie, and Morrow this season), and Anthopoulos discusses the current position on pitching and if they plan on adding more before the start of the season.

For other videos such as the introductory speeches for this event, click here.