Retro Blue Jays – So the Prime Minister and President walk into Skydome…

Posted November 30, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Blue Jays, Retro

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Posted by MLB.

This year not only marked the 40th anniversary season of Blue Jays baseball, but also the 25th anniversary of Toronto hosting the MLB All-Star Game.

1991 – What a time to be a Jays fan!

Brand new state-of-the-art stadium, a team on the verge of reaching the highest pinnacle; and to top it off, hosting the event affectionately referred to as the “mid-summmer classic.”

The ’91 all-star game not only brought out baseball’s best players and some legendary hall of famers, but also two of the most powerful political leaders at the time.

The match was attended by then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and then-President George H.W. Bush. Of course, it wasn’t the first time Mulroney and Bush were at a Jays game. Nevertheless, their attendance was always a big deal.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising when the two world leaders appeared together for a mid-game interview. Not the smoothest of coversations and a bit one-sided towards the fomer President, but still very cool to see.

ER

Short, scribbled thoughts about Brett Cecil

Posted November 21, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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I guess my earliest memory of Brett Cecil would have been around 2007-2008. All the bloggers were writing about two specific “prospects” in the Jays’ system: Cecil and Travis Snider.

He debuted in 2009 with a shaved head and wearing fancy sports goggles. There were some teachable moments.

There was a match against the Yankees where he threw a ball out of play, but forgot to call ‘time out.’ New York, being such savy veterans, took advantage.

Another time, he entered the dugout after a bad performance. It prompted Cito Gaston to walk over to the young hurler and have a heart-to-heart. Cito was calm and father-like with his message. It was critical, but also encouraging. It was something Cecil needed to hear.

Surley lost amongst the discussion of Cecil’s departure would be his strong 2010 performance. He started 28 games, posting a 15-7 record, with a 4.22 ERA and 1.326 WHIP. Had it not been for Jose Bautista’s incredible offensive outburst that season, Cecil would’ve been the best part of 2010.

However, things fell apart in 2011-2012. Cecil pitched poorly and it clearly affected him. Countless times he left a poor performance and threw a tantrum. Things were smashed and tossed, with plenty of profanity. I attended one of his starts in 2011 that didn’t go well. I followed him back to the dugout on the jumbotron. As soon as he started venting his frustrations, the screen quickly cut away to a video. It was as if the Skydome control room wasn’t familiar with Cecil’s tantrums, which had unfortunately became his calling card.

Ultimately, he was sent down to AA New Hampshire. It wasn’t as bad of a demotion as one would think. At the time, the Jays’ AAA affiliate was in the offence-friendly Pacific Coast League. It only made sense for Cecil to pitch with the Fishercats, where the results wouldn’t be skewed.

But things turned around in 2013 when Cecil successfully reinvented himself as a reliever. He had a sparkling 2.83 ERA and 1.104 WHIP. It was a performance that earned an appearance at the All-Star game. In a season that was ripe with unfulfilled promise and disappointment, Cecil and fellow reliever Steve Delabar were the lone bright stars.

While Delabar was unable to match his 2013 performance, Cecil has maintained his course. Yes, he had moments of imperfection. However, when things mattered the most, Cecil got the job done. Never forget the strong finishes he posted in 2015 and this past season.

Now he’s off to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m sad and disappointed to see him leave, but I certainly wish him the very best. I’m grateful not only  for what he did wearing a Blue Jay uniform, but to also witness him go from a young man full of emotion and blossom into a mature and professional veteran. His development happened right in front of us.

My lasting memory of Brett Cecil was after game three of the 2016 ALDS. Amongst the incredible euphoria, Cecil was on the field with his three little children and wife, Jennifer. As the celebration went on, Cecil lined up his children for a family photo. It was a wonderful moment and he couldn’t have picked a better setting.

ER


Screw you guys! I like R.A. Dickey and I’m glad he wore a Blue Jay uniform

Posted November 15, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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There are two types of sports fans: Those who jump to conclusions without considering consequences and those who recognize that while results, standings and stats are important, there’s more to sports than just those three items.

There’s really no right style to go with. The former is passionate, direct and is not afraid to state an opinion. The ladder is compassionate, direct if needed and tries to be more constructive with any criticism.

I personally fall with the ladder. Sure, I might be wearing “rose-coloured glasses.” Sure, I might be talking – or writing – out of my ass. But I’m happy with the way I am.

These clashing styles of fandom could not be more evident than how R.A. Dickey’s tenure in Toronto was viewed.

Before continuing, I want to express a few things: For starters, Dickey is one my favourite athletes. He’s a unique character and I’ve always been personally drawn to athletes with rarities. Let’s not forget the incredible hurdles and horrific trauma he had to overcome to get where he is; nor should we forget the charitable work he does off the field.

With that in mind, I have no problem admitting that the Mets won the trade and Dickey’s overall performance these last four seasons was below the level we had originally hoped for. Limiting his starts down the stretch this season and keeping him off the playoff roster was the right thing to do.

To be honest, a part of me is also relived he’s no longer on the team. Almost every time he started a game, I would get very nervous. It was the same anxiety I felt when Roger Clemens or Roy Halladay – who I admired – stepped on the mound.  Like Clemens (pre-allegations) and Halladay, I badly wanted Dickey to have an amazing performance and play a significant role in a Jays victory. Therefore, I invested a lot more emotion than I would for – as an example – Pat Hentgen, A.J. Burnett or Marcus Stroman. Sometimes, my investment paid off; sometimes, it painfully didn’t.

Upon reflection, it is appropriate to say that while Dickey performed well below our original expectations, he was certainly not a disaster.

As CBN’s Andrew Hendriks recently pointed out…

Perhaps Mike Wilner summed up Dickey’s tenure appropriately with this mid-season tweet.

Speaking for myself, I was naïve when Dickey was acquired. I ignored the fact that pitching in the AL East is different than the NL East; arguably more challenging. I also didn’t appreciate the unpredictable nature of the knuckleball. In time, I learned there would be “Cy Young innings” and “beach ball innings.”

This is where the two styles of fandom clash.

Those who jump to conclusions witnessed Dickey have a poor performance against the Cleveland Indians in his first-ever regular season start for the Jays, followed by a disastrous start five games later against the Boston Red Sox.

From that point on, these fans viewed Dickey as a bust. No matter what he did, he would be given the same treatment earmarked for Larry Murphy, Andrea Bargnani and Eric Hinske, just to name a few. It also didn’t help that Noah Syndergaard actually became a stud with the Mets.

Those who are compassionate – the camp I fall with – recognized that Dickey wasn’t the ace of the staff or a Cy Young-dominant starter. However, we also saw that he properly filled the role of a middle to back-end starter who ate innings and held things together, while the top starters rested and usually lightened the workload for the bullpen. In other words, Dickey couldn’t fulfill a leading role, but he was certainly a strong supporting cast member. We simply adjusted our expectations and were satisfied.

Unfortunately, our satisfaction was constantly challenged by those who decided early on that he was nothing more than a failure

Sadly, some fans insist in having a scapegoat when things go wrong. Dickey was that scapegoat and the treatment he received was harsher than what other Blue Jays who struggled dealt with. It was painfully familiar to the 2013 villianization of J.P. Arencibia.

Yes, Dickey wasn’t perfect. Yes, he deserved criticism. However, some of this criticism was far too excessive.

There were two people in my personal life who I would constantly debate with about Dickey. Unfortunately, it nearly got heated on a couple of occasions. There were countless times I would read something negative about Dickey on Facebook and Twitter that crossed a line and it would put me in a bad mood. Don’t even ask me how many times I thought of telling Sportsnet’s George Rusic – an unapologetic anti-Dickey proponent – to go screw himself.

Rusic and colleague Dean Blundell made my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels at times. If Dickey had a bad game, they would loudly remind us who the Jays gave up for him. If Dickey pitched well, they would focus on other ways to criticize him; making fun of his beard, the way he spoke or his age.

It is worth noting that Blundell would change his tune about Dickey as the season went on, defending the knuckleballer mostly in an effort to provoke Rusic. Blundell also interviewed Dickey this past season, which was civil and pleasant, though I suspect there was some “behind the scenes” stuff I wasn’t privy to.

Regardless, the smallest and nastiest comment would set me off.

I hate how some people still expected him to be an ace. I hate how some people called him a “one-hit wonder.” I hate how some people are still upset about trading Syndergaard; seriously, Noah was an unproven talent and had a 50/50 chance of meeting his forecasted potential. That’s why teams trade “prospects” for proven commodities in an effort to field the best lineup.

I hate how some people put the 14-2 result of game four of the 2015 ALCS entirely on Dickey. Yes, he deserves blame. But it’s infuriating that the bullpen – with the exception of Liam Hendriks – gets off scot-free, despite surrendering nine of the 14 runs.

I hate how some would blame Russell Martin’s 2015 offensive struggles on having to catch Dickey. Many would call BS on that, with Russell being the first to say it.

I also hate how some people vilified Dickey because he needed Josh Thole. In fact, I hate every single rude comment that was made towards Thole. People with no knowledge of baseball would read every single ugly statement and think Thole was suppose to hit 40 homers, collect 100 RBIs and have an OPS over 1.000. There’s no denying that Thole is more suitable for the AAA level, but he wasn’t here for his bat. He was here to catch Dickey because he was the best option. It didn’t work out with JPA, Henry Blanco, Erik Kratz and Martin. So like it or not, Thole was the guy. Cry and moan about Thole taking a roster spot as much as you want. His job was to catch a knuckleball. Get over it.

In the end, I will reflect fondly on Dickey’s great moments and he had his share. Here are a few that come to mind:

2013 – Two phenomenal starts against San Francisco and Tampa Bay. A Gold Glove award as well.

2014 – Three victories over Boston. A tough 1-0 loss on the final day of the season against Baltimore. Dickey had a number of losses due to a lack of run support.

2015 – 2.80 ERA in the second half. Most notably was his start at Yankee Stadium on a Friday night in August. He held New York to one run in a match the Jays would win in extra innings and ultimately sweep the Yankees.

2016 – A phenomenal start against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, the same place his professional career started nearly 20 years ago and where he suffered his most embarrassing performance in 2006. Don’t forget about his final start as a Blue Jay: September 16 against the Angels, where he threw five scoreless innings in a 5-0 Jays victory. At a time when the team needed Dickey the most, he answered the call successfully.

Don’t forget his start in game four of the 2015 ALDS where he held Texas to one earned run over 4.2 innings. His performance that day was better than David Price, who replaced RAD in the fifth inning. Sure, he had a lot of run support in the match. However, if Dickey didn’t hold the fort, there wouldn’t have been a game five and there wouldn’t have a been a legendary bat flip. Dickey’s effort kept the Jays alive.

While I was proud to wear a t-shirt with Dickey’s number 43 on it, I knew he wasn’t coming back in 2017. So it wasn’t a surprise when I found out he signed with the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves are a perfect fit for Dickey. They’re a team in the re-tooling stage and would certainly benefit from a veteran starter that can gobble up innings. Plus he’ll work with Bartolo Colon, forming a very unique tag team.

So I wish R.A. Dickey the wish the very best. He might not have been the superstar we originally hoped for, but he certainly fulfilled an important supporting role. Nevertheless, I’m grateful his narrative came through Toronto.

ER

The Chicago Cubs picked one hell of a way to end their 108-year-old World Series drought. 

Posted October 30, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Baseball

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Two years ago, the Cubs visited Toronto for a three-game series and were soundly swept by the Blue Jays. I was at one of those matches and watched Chicago get completely out-played. Drew Hutchison led the way, while the offence came from several sources. As I left the stadium that night, it never occurred to me that the Cubs would be at the top of the mountain in a mere 24 months. 

Since the final out was recorded, I’ve been thinking about Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Harry Caray. I’ve been thinking about all the Cub fans who lived thier entire lives without ever seeing them win the World Series. I’ve been thinking about all the former Cub players who are still with us; players like Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa and Kerry Wood. I’ve been thinking about Steve Bartman and wondering if this championship brought him some closure and inner peace.

I’m fortunate to have watched some of my favourite teams – including the Jays – win championships. It’s impossible to fathom what cheering for a team that has been known as “the loveable losers” feels like. For generations of Cub fans, baseball is clearly more than just stats and standings. 

There are a few things I will recall when looking back at the 2016 World Series. There’s David Ross who couldn’t have picked a better way to retire. In addition, I will never forget the images of people honouring their deceased relatives who were Cub fans. Whether it was writing messages on the walls of Wrigley Field or visiting cemeteries, these acts re-defined passion and what baseball means to people. Never forget the man who sat next to his father’s tombstone and listened to game 7, fulfilling a promise made years ago. 

That’s powerful. 

So congrats to the Cubs and thier fans! I sincerely hope you all continue to savour this great victory. And an extra congrats to these former Blue Jay players on Chicago’s roster and coaching staff: Muninori Kawasaki, Henry Blanco, Eric Hinske and Dave Martinez. 

It has to be nice knowing there’s no longer a need to wait until next year. 

ER


Episode 78 [Season Finale]: Highs, Lows and a Postseason Appearance

Posted October 23, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Blue Jays

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This year marked the 40th anniversary season of Blue Jays baseball, which turned out to be more than just a historic milestone.

Brendan Panikkar of BaseballHotCorner.com looks back at the 2016 Jays and what the off-season could entail.

Episode 78 Direct MP3 Download

…or…

***Thanks for listening to the fifth season of DNJT! Enjoy the World Series and the off-season.***

Short, scribbled postmortem thoughts

Posted October 20, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Articles, Blue Jays

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When AA left, some expected the worst.

When Shapiro and Atkins took over, some expected the worst.

When David Price signed with Boston, some expected the worst.

When JA Happ resigned with the Jays, some expected the worst.

When the season got off to a bad start, some expected the worst.

When the Jays had a bad September, some expected the worst.

All these “issues” were suppose to undermine the Blue Jays’ success, making 2015 a one-hit wonder. Despite all these “issues,” they still managed to have a winning record, make the playoffs and provide another thrilling October.

So…is it April yet?

ER


Playoff Edition 6 (aka Episode 77)

Posted October 16, 2016 by The Hek
Categories: Blue Jays

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After a thrilling ALDS sweep of the Texas Rangers, the Blue Jays find themselves down 2-0 to the Cleveland Indians.

Jenn Smith of BP Toronto and Today’s Knuckleball discusses the first two games of the American League Championship Series.

Episode 77 Direct MP3 Download

…or…


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