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?
Follow Joe Siddall on Twitter: @SiddallJoe
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.
Each team starts the season with a clean slate. Each with 162 games ahead, all with the same mission that only one will ultimately achieve. But within the road to a World Championship lies a season full of milestones, personal goals, break-out seasons, broken records, broken bats, and even broken bones. Many players will get their major-league debut. Some will shine, and some may never get the opportunity again. And within that 162-game season, there will still be surprises. There will be events that have never occurred before. That is one, of many reasons, why baseball is such a magical game.
So here I present to you my list of wild and magical predictions for the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays. Even if only a few of the ten actually come to fruition, it will still be a truly incredible year.
10. Jose Reyes will win a Gold Glove & Silver Slugger Award this Year – Reyes is no stranger to winning a Silver Slugger award, although it was last in 2006. He has yet to win a Gold Glove. But if he stays healthy, look for him to win both in 2013.
9. At Least Two Jays Pitchers will each log over 200 Innings – While this might sound like a bold statement, it might be the safest prediction of all ten. Here’s why:
– Mark Buehrle hasn’t thrown under 200 innings since the year 2000! Provided he stays injury-free, he’s practically a lock.
– R.A. Dickey threw over 200 innings in both 2011, and of course last season in his CY Young year.
– Josh Johnson threw over 200 innings in 2009, and fell just short last season.
– Romero threw over 200 innings in 2010 and 2011.
When you do the math, realizing that 4 out of your 5 starting pitchers each have the potential to go 200 innings or more (Buehrle went 245.1 innings in 2004, and 236.2 in 2005!) it makes reaching the 800-1,000 inning range collectively a possibility*, which leaves only 458+ innings (of course there will be extra innings) to be divided amongst the bullpen (which is deeper than it has been in years). The Toronto pitching staff could be the definition of endurance this year. *OK, I realize 1,000 innings is a stretch between 5 guys, but that’s why the title of this post is WILD predictions.
8. A Blue Jay Will Hit for the Cycle – This is a prediction by my buddy Al Coombs (you can listen to us talk about it here), and while only two Jays have ever completed the feat (Jeff Frye in 2001 was the last Jay, and Kelly Gruber the first in 1989), it’s not entirely unlikely. Here’s why: In hitting for the cycle, typically the toughest of the four hits is the triple. With how much speed the Jays have on the bases (Rajai Davis, Brett Lawrie, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mr. Triples himself Jose Reyes), the odds alone are that much better.
7. Alex Anthopoulos will make another big Trade – Oh he’s not done yet. Do you think A.A. went all-in during the off-season, just to sit on his hands during regular season? As the Jays approach the trade deadline, you’re going to see something as a Jays fan you haven’t seen in a long time. Toronto will finally be in a position to be one of the BUYERS, not one of the SELLERS. That is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
6. A MLB HR Champ – In 2010 Bautista was the MLB home run leader, hitting 54 dingers, and led the majors again in 2011, hitting 43. In 2012 Edwin Encarnacion hit 42 HR, which was good enough for 4th in the AL. One of these big swingers (if not both) will take a run at the title again this year. If Edwin gets his usual spot behind Bautista in the line-up and is swinging a hot bat, look for Jose to see some quality pitches to hit.
5. Anthony Gose will emerge as the starting Centre Fielder – I don’t mean to take a stance of hating on Colby. But Gose has such raw talent, and combined with ridiculous speed makes him another deadly weapon in the field, and on the base paths (see #8 above). If Gose can make advancements enough to warrant regular play at the big-league level, look for Colby to take a few more days off than he may want, or possibly become part of something more permanent (see #7 above).
4. Three or more Jays will be named to the All-Star team – On paper, they arguably have a roster littered with All-Stars. Look for at least three to be named to the team.
3. Lawrie will have the break out season we’re all expecting. – His arrival to the majors was highly anticipated, and at the end of the 2011 season he didn’t disappoint, racking up 44 hits, 9 HR, 25 RBI, and a .293 BA in just 43 games. While he was temporarily sidelined by injuries last year, look for more 2011-style numbers consistently through the 2013 season.
2. A World Series Championship Banner Flying North of the Border for a Third Time – That’s a pretty darn bold statement if ever I’ve made one (and I’ve made many). I don’t need a long-winded explanation here as to why I think it’s going to happen (that’s reserved for my #1 prediction). But when you have a gut feeling you go with it. Plus if half of the above predictions actually happen, a World Championship is very realistic.
Allow me to tell you a fun story. Back in 2010 I made a bold prediction (imagine that). On camera in early March, I predicted a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher would throw a no hitter. Let me also preface this by saying that while I don’t believe it to be bad luck to predict a no-hitter well in advance, it’s a definite party foul to use the words “no-hitter” during a game while one is still in tact. In fact, don’t even draw attention to it. If you say something along the lines of “the pitcher hasn’t allowed any hits yet”, or “the other team hasn’t had anyone on base”, it’s basically the same thing. You jinxed it. And you’re liable to get beat up by the true baseball fans in the room.
So, what happened that Blue Jays season?
In 2010, you may recall the following:
– April 13th: While pitching for the Jays, Ricky Romero takes a no-hitter through 7 full innings against the Chicago White Sox. In the Jays dugout, then catcher John Buck (who, fun fact, was acquired again by the Jays this off-season along with Reyes, Johnson, Buehrle, and Bonifacio, only to be traded less than a month later in the R.A. Dickey deal), opened his big mouth while talking to the pitching coach and said “oh my gosh, they don’t have any hits yet”. The following inning, cue former Blue Jay, Alex Rios, who hits a 2-run HR to break up the no-hit bid and wipe out the shut-out.
– May 29th: Roy Halladay throws a perfect game. He then follows that up by throwing a no-hitter in the post-season on October 6th. He of course completes both of these miraculous feats while wearing a Phillies uniform, having pitched his last game as a Blue Jay the season before.
– August 8th: Brandon Morrow takes a no-hitter against Tampa into the 9th inning with two out, only to have Evan Longoria hit a ball up the middle, just finding enough room to squeak through (after popping out of a diving Aaron Hill’s glove). The game almost cost me my marriage before it even started, as I forced my then fiancé to listen to the end of the game in my vehicle, before heading into a funeral reception (You can hear me tell that full story here).
So what pitching magic can we expect this year?
First, let us look at what past pitching magic/almost-magic our three new starting pitching additions bring to the table:
– Mark Buehrle: threw a no-hitter in 2007 (vs Rangers), and then a perfect game in 2009 (vs Tampa)
– Josh Johnson: in 2011 he took a no-hitter into at least the 5th inning, four out of the first five starts of the season. In one of those starts, against the Braves he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, until it was broken up by a broken-bat single.
– R.A. Dickey: June 13th, 2012 Dickey allowed just one hit (that could have been ruled an error against 3rd Baseman David Wright) against Tampa.
In this Blue Jays season of high expectations where anything is possible (and always is in the game of baseball), I feel as though we are going to witness something magical. All five of Toronto’s starters have the potential for greatness. All five have all-star caliber stuff. All five have the ability to be unstoppable, and even better than that. Each of them has the ability to be Perfect. I think you will witness one of them be exactly that this season.
Click Here to Listen To: The Dugout Show #5 – Al Coombs on The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
Brock Picken & Al Coombs from 1290 CJBK London Talk Radio talk Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, American League East expectations for 2013, no-hitters that weren’t, and wild Toronto Blue Jays predictions.
Listen to Al’s London Radio Show: Click Here
Subscribe to The Dugout on iTunes: http://bit.ly/DUGOUTiTunes
Outside my window, it’s cold and dark. There’s two feet of snow on the ground. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to just stay inside.
It’s this time of year when the lack of sunshine and vitamin D can start to get to you. Our cold, Canadian winters can get you down. But I am not down today…
Because baseball starts tomorrow!
And I for one will be watching the Blue Jays take on the reigning AL Champs, Detroit Tigers.
I can’t remember being this amped up so early in the year. I watched a few spring training games last year, but wasn’t as excited as I am now.
Here are the top 10 reasons why I am so excited, and why I am already in love with this 2013 Toronto Blue Jays team.
- Alex Anthopoulos is putting his (Rogers’s) money where his mouth is. We all had our doubts about A.A. (he was/is the youngest GM in Jays franchise history). And prior to A.A. there was the whole getting promised the moon by Ricciardi, who promptly gave Wells and Rios MASSIVE contracts, then kept using the term “building for next year” to the point where hearing that caused every Jays fan to feel sick to their stomach. But then in one (or three or four) foul swoop, A.A. pulled off what is arguably the biggest (and most talked about) off-season in Blue Jays history. No more building for next year. THIS IS next year. Anthopoulos has made it clear the time is now. And quite possibly for the next few years to come. The man has some serious swagger. He OOZES confidence. And I love him for it. It’s about damn time that Jays fans can have confidence in their GM to build a winning team.
- R.A. Dickey – Toronto has a new Hero. So why is an entire city excited about a 38-yr-old pitcher? It could be that we have the reigning CY Young Award winner, who by the way throws devastating knuckleballs, and who also happens to be an articulate and caring human being (what a refreshing combination!). Dickey shared some of his darkest secrets in his book “Wherever I Wind Up”. It’s a must read. I finished it in a few days. He also spent time this past winter in India with a charity that fights child sex trafficking, which is a true testament to the incredible human being that he is.
- Jose Can You See? We have Jose “Mr. Triples” Reyes, and Jose “Mr. HR” Bautista (neither to be confused with Jose “Mr. Steroids” Canseco). Speed and power. Wow.
- Melky “Mr Controversy” Cabrera. The Jays aren’t completely without controversy. Which I like. Isn’t being Canadian supposed to equate to “being nice”? Yes, but even Brett Lawrie is more bad-ass than good-boy, so what do you expect? Plus controversy can be good. It puts butts in seats. And even if Melky produces 3/4 of what he did last year (which was likely chemically enhanced), at $16M over 2 years he’s still a bargain. And the Jays finally have a regular left fielder. A.A. does it again.
- Two Times Lucky? Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance? A.A. believes Gibby does. And really, what’s not to like about the guy? Sure, he’s a bit rough around the edges (just ask Ted Lilly), but most importantly he commands respect from his players. Respect is HUGE. Without it the machine breaks down. You can be certain there’s no LOLLYGAGGING on Gibby’s watch.
- No Holes in that Rotation. The pitching rotation 1 through 5, is arguably the best in the majors. Romero may still be a question mark (hey, who isn’t at this point?), but I think that with some of the pressure off of him to be an “Ace”, he’ll settle into his spot nicely. When you break it down, the rotation is scary good. They can alternate between lefty – righty. One day you’re going to see speed, the next, junk. And CY Young calibre Knuckleballs. Finally, you have two veterans (Dickey & Buehrle) to lead by example for the younger guys. You also have no-hit/perfect game potential (Morrow – almost & Buehrle). All that mixed together into one well-oiled machine is virtually unstoppable.
- Induction of a Blue Jays Legend. Tom Cheek was recently awarded the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. He was the voice of Blue Jays baseball for 4,306 regular season games IN A ROW (+ 41 postseason games). Those numbers don’t even include preseason games, which he also broadcast. The man had a set of iron vocal cords. Sadly, Tom passed away in 2005 from cancer. Cheek will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 29 at St Marys, and will be honoured at the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 27 in Cooperstown.
- Familiar Faces. With so many familiar faces around, every day will feel like a reunion. Dirk Hayhurst is back as the co-host of baseball central, and will fill in occasionally for newest member of the broadcast team, Jack Morris! Paul Quantrill joined the organization as a consultant, and of course Pat Hentgen is returning as the Jays bullpen coach. What’s with all the former pitchers sticking around?
- Two Dark Horses. It might seem unusual to bring on two older players who don’t have great stats. But what numbers don’t show, are mentorship and leadership. That’s exactly what Blanco & DeRosa will bring to the team (and more specifically, to Arencibia & Thole, and Lawrie respectively).
- This City is Ready for a Championship. Toronto has been dying for a championship team for quite some time now. The Leafs haven’t done it since ’67. The Raptors haven’t done it at all and still have a long way to go. Even though the Argos are the current Grey Cup Champs…the city just doesn’t seem to get behind them. The Jays last won in 1993 as the second half of the championship repeat. The city was electric back then. And now suddenly the Jays are on everyone’s radar. Vegas has them on 8-1 odds as World Series Champs for 2013 (they were 100-1 odds at the end of the 2012 season). Do you feel the electricity in the air? Big things are happening. It’s time. Toronto’s ready. And there’s still two feet of snow on the ground.