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…
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken talk with Matt Stairs on Baseball, Hockey, and his Coaching Career.
Matt Stairs joins Brock Picken on The Dugout to discuss his baseball career, love of hockey, and community involvement in Fredericton.
Stairs played for 12 franchises (13 teams – Expos & Nationals being the same franchise) which is a MLB record for a position player. Stairs also holds the record for the most MLB pinch-hit HR’s with 23. Stairs is in good company with Larry Walker, Justin Morneau and Jason Bay being the only Canadian professional ball players with 200+ HR’s (Stairs with 265).
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?
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.
Click here to listen to: The Dugout Show #7 – Sportsnet Broadcaster Jamie Campbell talks Blue Jays Baseball
Brock Picken talks with Sportsnet Broadcaster Jamie Campbell from Dunedin Florida, where he is covering the Toronto Blue Jays spring training. They discuss R.A. Dickey and who will be catching him, as well as Emilio Bonifacio’s throwing issues, and Jose Bautista‘s early display of home runs and if the wrist is at all a concern. They also discuss the possible return of Dustin McGowan to pitch out of the bullpen, whether or not to expect to see Adam Loewen get any playing time, and what could become of Adam Lind if he doesn’t have as good a season as he is having this spring. Finally, they discuss the manner in which John Farrell left for Boston, and what Farrell should expect upon his return to Toronto for the Blue Jays vs Red Sox series starting April 5, 2013.
Click Here to Listen to: The Dugout Show #3 – Speed, Power, & a Rivalry
Host of the Dugout Brock Picken, & Guest Scott Mullen talk Toronto Blue Jays baseball. The speed of Jose Reyes, the question marks being Adam Lind & Colby Rasmus, and the rivalry between the Jays and Boston Red Sox as a result of the manner in which John Farrell left Toronto for his “dream job” in Boston.