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).
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.
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!
For many kids, when you fall in love with the game of baseball you have your favourite players, and maybe even a hero. Growing up a Blue Jays fan in the 80’s, you could pretty much take your pick from the roster for great players. My favourite was Jesse Barfield.
Jesse was a gold glove winner (’86 & ’87), an All-Star in 1986, and had a heck of an arm from right field. He was an exciting player to watch, he hit big home runs, and had charisma (today we’d call that swagger).
This past summer (2012) my younger brother Kyle and I had an opportunity to meet Bell, Moseby, and Barfield at an autograph signing at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. I wanted to think of something special to have signed by arguably the best outfield the Jays have ever had, and after much deliberation, decided on a program from 1985:
You see, it had to be something much more special than a baseball card (although I love my autographed Pat Borders card) or a baseball hat (although I love my autographed Joe Carter hat). As I was going through my various Blue Jays collectibles, I came across something unique and special. It was a baseball card in a plastic holder, from a Jays-Yankees game, Sept. 17th, 1990. The case reads “I helped break the Major League attendance record”. I started reminiscing about the game, and remembered it well (surprising since I was only 10 years old when I attended that game). I remembered sitting down the third base line in the 100-level (tickets were only $15 then!). I remember much of my family attending. And I had a distinct memory of Jesse Barfield hitting a home run that game…while wearing a Yankee uniform (he had been traded the season prior). I checked online, and sure enough my memory served correctly. While I still had my mind set on having the program signed, I decided to bring the ticket along anyway (as well as a few baseball cards – more on this later).
Kyle and I lined up on Yonge street, and just made it inside the Jays Shop before they stopped letting people in. Now here’s the important thing to remember about this story: there was a very strict rule about having ONE autograph per player. It totally makes sense, they want to get through as many fans as possible.
The guys were sitting behind tables, George Bell signing first. We made small talk, but George was already talking to the other guys about getting some Chinese food afterwards. My brother followed me, and pulled a clock out of his bag to get signed. Bell seemed impressed with the clock.
The Shaker was next. We talked golf a bit. He was quiet and polite, as you would expect Moseby to be.
Then I got to Barfield. He signed the program and we started chatting. I pulled out the ticket and started talking about the game. His eyes lit up, and he said “I remember that game, I hit a home run off Stottlemyre”. He then commented that he got nothing to hit the rest of the game (I checked online, sure enough he had four walks that game). Jesse said “take that ticket out of the case, let me sign it for you”.
Now, all I had to do was say thank you and walk away. I had already exceeded the autograph quota. Had a great conversation with a Jays All-Star. My favourite player. But obviously I didn’t just walk away. Otherwise there wouldn’t be an embarrassing story here, would there?
Remember those baseball cards I mentioned? At this point I thought it would be a good idea to pull them out. But not to get signed. I had to ask Jesse if he had really said what was quoted on the back of the card. Ok, let me back-track a bit.
When I was in Grade one, I started collecting baseball cards. My mom’s friend’s husband (are you still following?) was a local firefighter. In the mid 1980’s, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs teamed up with the Toronto Star and a couple other organizations to produce Blue Jays cards. And on the back of the cards, were fire safety tips incorporating baseball terms. And they were REALLY CHEESY. For example: FIRE SAFETY TIP – Lloyd Moseby says: “Don’t foul your outlets by using too many extension cords.” George Bell says: “Don’t get caught out in left field. Be sure you plan your escape.” And my favourite, Jesse Barfield says: “Be defensive against fire…And win a gold glove.” What? There’s no way Jesse said that. I wanted to ask him if he actually said that. I mean, it was only 26 years ago. Of course he would remember. Really, I just wanted to tease him a bit. I mean, we were practically best buddies at this point…
Only, as I started to read the quote on the back of the card, three things happened:
1. My brother who had patiently been waiting his turn, put the clock down in front of Jesse, who said “Wow that’s a really cool clock man”. Instantly distracted and now not listening.
2. George Bell started yelling at Jesse, “Dude you’re holding up the line! It’s lunch time. Hurry up Jesse!”
3. A lady with a clip board (yes, a clip board!) stepped in towards me and said, “Sorry sir, it’s a one-autograph maximum. I’m going to have to ask you to move along.”
I immediately looked like the crazy dude who brought his entire baseball collection to get signed. And it doesn’t matter what you say, or what your intentions are. When a woman with a clip board asks you to “move along”, you instantly look like a doofus. I think when I asked Jesse if he had “actually said that?”, his response was “I don’t know man”. He clearly hadn’t even heard what the crazy guy with the baseball cards was muttering about.
My brother’s clock that everyone loved. I must admit, it’s a pretty awesome clock.
I’m not sure what the moral of the story is here. Maybe you can tell me what you think it is. I just hope that one day I get to chat with Jesse again, this time while holding a microphone and doing an interview. Maybe I’ll even ask him for some fire safety tips. Besides, I’ve discovered people pay way more attention to you when you hold a mic…but you’re not even reading this now are you? You’re still busy looking at that damn clock.
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?
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: Dan Shulman of ESPN on The Dugout with Brock Picken
Brock Picken speaks with Dan Shulman from ESPN. Dan talks about his journey in becoming one of the top baseball broadcasters in the industry, and a couple of his favourite calls in his career.
Have you ever wondered what baseball should do with the DH role in the American vs the National League? Dan gives his opinion, and the answer may surprise you!
The Blue Jays have had a horrific start to the season, and Dan talks about what he thinks is working and not, and gives his opinion on their shot at a playoff berth.
Follow Dan Shulman on Twitter.