As a sports fan in Toronto, if you are familiar with listening to Matt Devlin it’s likely from Toronto Raptors games. But recently Devlin had the opportunity to fill in for Buck Martinez, doing play-by-play for the Toronto Blue Jays, which we discussed. No stranger to baseball, Devlin grew up in New York and gained a great deal of broadcasting experience calling high school and minor league baseball games. In this episode of The Dugout, Matt shared some fun stories about working closely with the New York Yankees. We discussed the dominance of NY reliever Mariano Rivera, as well as the entire Yankee team through the 90’s. We discussed the current situation of the Jays pitching staff, and what the chances are for Toronto making the playoffs this year. Devlin also shared a special story about a lesson the late and great broadcaster, Tom Cheek shared with him earlier in his career.
Devlin will be back broadcasting some Jays games again in July!
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.
Click here to listen to: The Dugout Show #16: Bleacher Report’s Tim Mackay
Tim Mackay, two-time #2 Blue Jays Top Writer (April, May 2012) for the Bleacher Report joins Brock Picken on The Dugout, to talk about what the statistical make-up of a World Championship team looks like, based on 8 key criteria, as written about by Zachary Rymer. They also discussed the current situation of the AL East, touching on key points of focus for the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rays.
In mid-April, Tim took an in-depth look at the criteria for the World Championship statistical requirements as laid out by Rymer, and applied the Blue Jays current squad to see if they have “what it takes”.
While some criteria are as simple as having starters who can log high innings or rack up the K’s, there are also more in-depth requirements taking a look at some of the lesser known stats to the average baseball fan, such as a pitcher’s WPA and a fielder’s WAR.
Take a listen, as Tim discusses what criteria the Jays will likely meet, what they’re going to struggle to hit, and what’s a toss-up.
Follow Tim on Twitter.
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?
Click here to listen to: The Dugout Show #15: Jeff Sammut on The Dugout: Ricky Romero, John Gibbons, R A Dickey
Jeff Sammut from The Fan 590 joins Brock Picken on The Dugout for a second time to talk about the Jays continuing struggles. They discuss the strong starting pitching from Brandon Morrow, and series of hits in the most recent game vs Seattle. They discuss Ricky Romero’s return to the big leagues, R A Dickey’s rough outing, and the controversy surrounding John Gibbons managerial decisions.
I am excited and honoured to have TheBlueJaysDugout.com make the Top 50 MLB Blogs Latest Leaders List for the second month straight (#36 March, #26 April 2013).
This past April has been a memorable one, as I have been so fortunate to have done some terrific podcasts:
- Dan Shulman, ESPN: http://bit.ly/18kJYCd
- Arash Madani, Sportsnet Author: http://bit.ly/ZKvmXP
- Jeff Sammut, Sportsnet Host: http://bit.ly/JeffSammut590
- April Whitzman, MLB Fan Cave Jays Rep: http://bit.ly/ZW5lvL
Thank you for your support in listening, liking, sharing, and spreading the word!
Click here to listen to: Arash Madani of Sportsnet on The Dugout with Brock Picken
Brock Picken speaks with Sportsnet Author Arash Madani about the Toronto Blue Jays current performance. They discuss the return of Brett Lawrie, the strikeout woes of Colby Rasmus & JP Arencibia, and pitching performances of numerous starters and relievers. Arash gives an insight into what to expect for the upcoming series’ against the Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox.
I am super-excited and honoured to have TheBlueJaysDugout.com listed amongst so many great blogs in the Top 50 MLB Blogs List for March 2013 (#36 Top Fan Blogs).