Archive for the ‘Articles’ category

Ironically, I share a similar opinion as Cathall Kelly. But I choose to be more respectful and less fatalistic.

March 29, 2018

Rest assured, this is not a critique of Mr. Kelly’s recent torpedo at the Blue Jays. These are just my thoughts for Opening Day. They’re pleasant, but not glowing.

Anyway……Hello regular season.

Whenever someone asks me how the Blue Jays will fare, I always like to give two opinions. 2018 is no exception:

Subjectively, they’ll finish 162-0 and capture the World Series title.

Objectively, if a number of factors work out on the positive side and they’re not heavily effected by injuries, they could compete for the second wild card spot. Otherwise, don’t make any plans for postseason baseball.

We can crunch numbers and analyze everything to death. But nothing is 100% certain, especially for on-field performance. So like everyone else – whether they like to admit it or not – I prefer to go with my gut.

And my gut says….there’s likely going to be a dip.

I sense a transition process between the current 25-man roster and the sexy, young minor league talent everyone is excited about. It won’t be a linear transition, but one that’s u-shaped instead. Couldn’t tell you how long it will last. Maybe a few seasons, maybe more than that. But it’s going to likely happen.

Ideally, I’d prefer if the transition began now. However, Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins feel they can put it off for the year.

It’s not a terrible decision. Teams could pay more at the non-waiver trade deadline. And if the Jays are clearly not a contender by the end of July, my hope is that they would get a nice return for Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and a king’s ransom for Josh Donaldson.

Therein lies one of the major storylines of 2018: What’s going to happen with the Bringer of Rain?

I love Donaldson and very grateful for what he’s done on the field. However, I would be SHOCKED if he signs a long-term deal with the Jays.

If there’s actually a dip or any form of rebuilding, it wouldn’t make sense to keep him. It also wouldn’t make sense for Donaldson wanting to stay if the next few seasons are going to be lean, with a lot of unknowns thrown in as well. Donaldson will be a free agent at the end of 2018 and he’s earned the right to field offers and seek out the best deal. It pains me to type this, but I just don’t see that happening with him and the Jays.

In fact, the only players on the current roster that should remain with the club through any kind of transition is Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna and Devon Travis. That’s not a gurantee either.

So let the Yankees and Red Sox have their fun, if it turns out that way. The Blue Jays are cultivating for the future and if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette actually live up to their hype, combined with consistent production from Alford, Urena, Hernandez, Borucki, etc., then we are in for a treat. Heck, look at what rebuilding has done for the Astros.

Of course, I could be completely off the mark. If the Jays actually make the playoffs in 2018, I will happily admit that I jumped to conclusion.

It could happen. Part of me hopes it does.

ER

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Why stop at pitchers? Let’s put everything on a pace-of-play clock! 

February 7, 2018

Oh, that Commissioner Manfred and his persistent pursuit of the pace-of-play paradigm.

It seems he’s intending to have a pitch clock, as well as limits on mound visits. Rest assured, Manfred isn’t going to stop until he get what he wants. Players are on board? Doesn’t matter to him. Implemented in 2018 or pushed to 2019 or beyond? Doesn’t matter.

Debating the merits of such a change is pointless. The traditionalists/purists will lock in and say pitch clocks will ruin the integrity of the game. The contemporaries will argue that it will speed up the game, benefiting casual fans and TV audiences.

So if this does actually happen, why is Manfred just focusing on pitchers? Why not go all in and institute a pace-of-play clock on EVERYTHING?

Think about it:

  • The anthem must be finished in two minutes (four for both anthems). If it goes longer, the home side loses three ABs.
  • All pre-game ceremonies must be completed in five minutes or less. Anything longer will result in the cancellation of any hot dog/peanut/ex-President/condiment race occurring that day.
  • All concession sales must be completed within 90 seconds or it’s free.
  • Third base coaches can only flash one signal to the hitter. If they try to sneak a second signal, the hitter is assessed a strike.
  • Seventh inning stretch must be completed in three minutes or fans leaving the match get free peanuts or crackerjacks.

Ridiculous? Absolutely. But so is debating about changes to the game. Baseball has evolved over decades and it shouldn’t be be surprising if some fans accept changes under protest. You can be for or against evolution; but make no mistake: evolution occurs whether we like it not. It’s kind of out of our control.

Damn. This post took a dark turn.

ER

Roy Halladay: The Professional’s Professional

November 13, 2017

A wife lost her husband, two boys lost their father and we all lost an incredible role model and pitcher.

Obviously, this is a difficult article to write. Like you, I am still numb and devastated. Forget for a moment that he was a major league pitcher. We are grieving for a man who was only 40 years old; taken away so suddenly and horrifically. Painfully, we are reminded that life is not fair.

Roy Halladay was a Toronto Blue Jay. During a period of futility, he was one of the few bright spots. The Jays struggled in the standings, attendance fell and they had become an afterthought to some. It was a tough time, but at least we had Roy Halladay.

A lot of wonderful articles have been written about Doc’s impact. For me, I am reminded of an interview former U.S. President George W. Bush gave to Politico.com in 2008.

Bush – the one-time owner of the Texas Rangers – was asked about putting together a team if he were to hypothetically return to the sport and every player was available. The President’s number one choice for a pitcher: Roy Halladay.

The most powerful person on the planet (at the time) and the leader of the free world wanted our guy to be his ace hurler. That said something.

Halladay was a professional’s professional, with an inspiring rise to greatness. He started his big league career with a bang, fell apart and was sent down to A-ball. But he overcame the glaring setback with a hard work ethic and a flawless mentality.

As someone who chronically overthinks, I am envious of that “next pitch” mindset. The ability to block out the past, ignore any worry about the future and just focus on the moment at hand is hard to achieve. Roy Halladay achieved it and that’s why he was one of the best and will one day (hopefully) have a plaque in Cooperstown.

We must take as much time as we need to grieve. One day, the sadness we are all feeling right now will be replaced with happy memories. Until then, I join those on social media and call on the Blue Jays to retire Doc’s uniform number and add his name to the Level of Excellence.

More importantly, let’s remember that he was a son, a husband, a father, a teammate and a fan favourite. From all accounts, he was also an incredible human being. It was an honour to watch him apply his craft every five days.

May his memory be a blessing.

ER

I took all my thoughts and feelings about Jose Bautista, put them in a slow cooker and this was the result.

November 3, 2017

For as much as we criticize JP Ricciardi – and it is warranted – the former Blue Jay General Manager does deserve high praise for acquiring two of the biggest impact players in team history: Edwin Encarnacion and the subject of this article, Jose Bautista.

I was there on Sunday, September 24 and said goodbye to Joey Bats. No surprise, it was incredibly hard to hold back tears as he walked off the field, hugging his teammates and saluting the crowd. It was a beautiful send-off.

A lot has been written about his tenure. Lists have been compiled and opinions have been shared. It’s hard to add something to an already large pile. But Bautista had affected many and here’s what his impact meant to me:

One of my earliest memories of him is from June 2009. The Blue Jays were playing the Phillies and Bautista teamed up with Aaron Hill to hit back-to-back homeruns. As I watched him round the bases from my seat in the 500s, I observed the unique occurrence.

“Look at that,” I thought to myself. “Bautista, the backup utility player, hit a homerun. That’s something you don’t see everyday.”

Shortly a year later, Bautista bombs were going off regularly.

To understand the importance of Bautista’s 54-homer campaign in 2010, one needs to remember the mood around Skydome at the time.

Things were looking bleak; very bleak. The team had practically hit rock bottom. Actually, if there was a level below “rock bottom,” the Jays were there.

A frustrating 2009 season ended with three straight losses to Baltimore and reports of a mutiny against Cito Gaston. AA took over general managing duties and in his first offseason, traded franchise icon Roy Halladay to Philadelphia.

The calendar changed to 2010 and “Hustle+Heart” was used to soften the blow of uncertainty. The playoff drought was going to continue with no end in sight. Making matters worse, the team was averaging around 10,000 fans early in the season. The sight of a stadium only 20% full was hollow and made some wonder if this was the beginning of the end.

But then Bautista started to hit homeruns and we all took notice. Suddenly, amongst the scorched ruin, a small, glowing spark emerged. Jose was that small, glowing spark.

Suddenly, the fate of the team wasn’t a concern anymore. There was hope. There was promise; all thanks to that glowing spark. Sure, the Jays were far from a playoff contender; but at least we could turn on the television or go to a game and say, “I can’t wait to see what Jose is going to do tonight.” He brought excitement when things were looking bleak.

2010 was also weird year for me. I guess one could call it a quarter life crisis. Certain doors closed and others opened. Through out it all was the stinging feeling of life not going the way I expected it go. In my head, I was failing at life.

So when I saw that former back-up utility player – whose arrival to the team in 2008 brought an unenthusiastic “meh” from the fan base – become a superstar slugger, I invested every ounce of passion and emotion. I was at the ground floor of something special and unlike other important moments and players of Blue Jay lore, I was not going to take it for granted.

One Friday evening, I was at Skydome for a match between the Jays and Cleveland. The weather was perfect that night. My friend and I sat in the 500s, behind home plate – one of my favourite sports to watch a game.

Midway through the match, the Jays loaded the bases and Jose – already in the midst of his incredible season – came to the plate. There were about 19,000 fans in attendance and excitement began to grow.

“I hope he hits a grand slam,” I thought to myself. “Please, I need this.”

Then he connected for – I believe – his 36th homerun of the season. The crowd erupted! 19,000 fans sounding like 50,000 fans and I was one of them. I wasn’t thinking about my struggles and failures. I was smiling and feeling lucky that I was there and part of the experience. No anger or fear for the rest of the night. Maybe things will be okay.

I am grateful for Joey Bats because he gave me an escape.

From there, it all came together: Edwin’s rise to stardom, the big trades, the arrival of Stroman, Sanchez and Osuna, Donaldson’s MVP season. Yes, there were setbacks; but the prize of two exciting playoff runs was worth the pain.

The batflip will always maintain it’s iconic status in Canadian sports mythology. The image of Bautista sending his bat to another galaxy will sit in the same category as Paul Henderson’s Summit Series goal in 1972, Sydney Crosby’s golden goal and of course, Joe Carter’s World Series winning blast.

This chapter of Blue Jays history began when AA became the General Manager. However, the epicentre of the story revolves around Jose Bautista.

Without Joey Bats, every moment and feeling never occurs. Just imagine what things would look like. All it took was a minor league catcher, an adjustment to his swing and some good fortune.

Evolution caught up to Bautista the past two seasons. So since it’s likely the end, I thank him for everything he did for the team and the city.

If the Blue Jays ultimately win the World Series in the next ten years, Jose Bautista would obviously not get a ring. However, he will have played an integral role in the journey.

All the best, Mr. Bats.

ER

Short, scribbled final thoughts about the 2017 World Series

November 2, 2017

Mazel Tov to the Houston Astros! Finally – after 56 seaons – a World Series parade will be held in their city.

Granted, it doesn’t even compare to when the Chicago Cubs ended their 108-year-old drought. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less significant. This championship not only belongs to the 2017 team, but also to the countless players who wore an Astros uniform in the past. Today, I’m thinking about Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman (my childhood/era) and many others . My hope is that they are enjoying this moment as much as Verlander, Altuve, Springer, Keuchel and the rest of the current roster.

Not too long ago, things were bleak for the Astros. They were one of the worst teams and very beatable; unless – it seemed – they hosted the Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. But all that misery and pain allowed them to draft and cultivate young talent with tons of potential. As luck would have it, all that young talent achieved its potential and developed into the best team in baseball. The Astros redefined the meaning of a blue print and have reset the example of building a winning ball team.

At the end of every World Series, I always like to search the winning team’s roster for former Blue Jay players and coaches. This year, an extra congrats goes to Francisco Liriano; traded to Houston back in July for Teoscar Hernandez and Nori Aoki. Liriano started the season getting blown out by Tampa Bay, but ended things on a much more positive note.

Despite playing for the losing side, a tip of cap also goes to Brandon Morrow. It was wonderful seeing him healthy again and making a significant impact for the Dodgers. Here’s hoping he continues to build from a mostly successful 2017 performance.

ER

World Series Prediction/Guess

October 24, 2017

My desire for a Cubs-Astros World Series unravelled last week. Wasn’t surprised Los Angeles won the National League Pennant. What was shocking was how the Dodgers captured the title: Victory by technical knockout. 

Houston showed us the true meaning of home field advantage. The Yankees didn’t stand a chance playing three games with the magical pinstripes and four with their dull, grey road uniforms. 

So we have an old-school NL West matchup for the World Series. Good fortune will fall upon the Houston Astros and it will occur in six games. 

I’m sure you have seen the 2014 Sports Illustrated cover that declared Houston would be victorious in 2017. Back in 2012, I wrote a piece about the Astros for TheGoodPoint.com. At the time, fans of the team were furious. On top of poor performances on the field, there was a significant contingent of fans unhappy that Houston was moving to the American League. It was also the Astros’ 50th anniversary. 

Amazing how things can change 😉

Enjoy the World Series!

ER


ALDS/NLDS Guesses

October 5, 2017

So I was right about Arizona, but wrong about Minnesota. The two matches definitely put the WILD in WILD Card. Thrilling for hitters; cruel to starting pitchers.

Anyway…

Boston over Houston in 5
Cleveland over New York in 5
Chicago over Washington in 4
Los Angeles over Arizona in 5

ER



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