This bit caught my eye from Bob Elliott's recent column: And their only changes to date are behind the plate — adding Dioner Navarro and Erik Kratz — plus feel-good story Roy Halladay, who...
Ottawa City Council has approved an upgrade of the city's baseball season in a key step towards making a Jays AA affiliate a reality in 2013. Great news, but I'm confused about one bit: "plus $3 million to bring the stadium up to current minor league standards by installing artificial turf and a batting tunnel and paying for installation of the scoreboard". With almost every MLB team having ditched artificial turf for real grass, with the Jays openly wishing they could, why is artificial turf a "minor league standard"? Ottawa's baseball stadium currently has a grass field, so why would anyone want to change it to artificial turf? Is artificial turf really the norm in the minor leagues? And if so, with most teams playing in single-purpose baseball parks, why use turf?
I always thought the Blue Jay was an oddly weak choice of an animal for a team mascot - versus the more typically powerful animals like bears, large cats or even eagles. Mind you I always had benignly good feelings towards blue jays, who were colourful and welcome birds in our garden growing up in Ottawa. So I was interested in reading the article below to find out that blue jays are more aggressive and wilier animals than I'd realized, and also ones that have been surprisingly maligned. After 25 years as a Jays fan, this gives me much more respect for their choice as the team mascot. http://www.audubonmagazine.org/articles/birds/slings-and-arrows-why-birders-love-hate-blue-jays
The Toronto Star is running its call to submit ideas for redesigned Jays uniforms, which by and large are unbelievably awful. That said, I like this submission for the caps, which look great. The monochrome treatment of the classic logo - in blue and white - gives it a real classic look.
An interesting bit from Shi Davidi's latest story on Kyle Drabek: "For someone like Drabek, who at times struggles to maintain his composure on the mound, being a force-fed steady diet of adversity may be exactly what he needs. "That's one thing Brad Mills spoke of at length when he came up prior to his first start, is that the adversities that you're faced with there have a tangible benefit," says Blue Jays manager John Farrell. "That comes from having to find a way to fight through to get into the middle and later part of the game. "While we can't replicate the major-league setting, that offensive environment that pitchers pitch in may be the closest thing we could ever replicate to the major-league level. … The ability to keep it together and make a pitch when things aren't going well, there a lot of benefits that can come out of it from a mental standpoint for a young pitcher." "
Before you dismiss this as nonsense, hear me out. After Mike McCoy's perfect inning pitched on Saturday against the Boston Red Sox, this bit in Gregor Chisholm's MLB.com write-up on it caught my...
A nice little Q&A catch-up with former Jay Shawn Green.
The Blue Jays' 45th-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft is John Coy, a 6-foot-8 first baseman! While he's obviously a longshot, this got me wondering about the tallest MLB players. We had some...
I was going to post somewhere to ask if anyone had heard anything these days about Jays coach Luis Rivera. Have only managed to watch maybe a quarter of the games so far this season, though I do...
This is an interesting article about apparently growing interest for the Jays among francophones in Montreal and maybe Quebec more broadly. It may not sound like many, but after "strong ratings" last year, French-language Montreal sports radio station CKAC is doubling its broadcasts of Jays games to 15 this year. And on its website some fans having been calling for the Jays to stage a game in Montreal, which Jays president Paul Beeston sounds very open to doing one day if possible. He notes how the Jays have held exhibition games in the past in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa (while trying in Saint-John, NB, but was snowed out). Beeston recalls Montreal as being a great baseball city and would like to do anything that might help it bring a back minor-league or even major-league baseball team there. With a long history of baseball in Montreal, with the Expos and minor-league ball before that, there's no doubt that there's a reservoir of baseball interest there. I doubt there would have been many Jays fans there while the Expos were around, but with their demise, the Jays ought to try to leverage that interest to grow a fanbase for the team in Quebec, where it sounds like there's an opportunity to raise its profile with the francophone audience. And who knows, if we can build those links, maybe one day Montreal could actually be a good candidate for a Jays farm team.
The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin has some nice things to say as he runs through the Jays coaching staff in his latest mailbag. What stands out is praise for it as a "teaching" staff and how we have all the positions covered, including for the first time in a while dedicated catching and outfield coaches. It always amazes me that with the amount of money invested in these players that there aren't more resources put in to having more coaches, personal trainers, nutritionists, etc. What other business invests $100 million a year in a couple of dozen people yet only surrounds them with half a dozen to a dozen support staff? Anyway, it's nice to see that within the confines of MLB coaching staff parameters, we've managed this year to build out a well-round staff that actually more or less covers all the positions. __________________________________________________ "Q. Hey Richard. Very much enjoy your insights into all things Blue Jays and MLB. Over here in the Middle East it's nothing but football (soccer) and cricket, sigh. My question relates to the Jays' coaching staff. Given the changes and how instrumental they will be to a relatively young team, what are your thoughts thus far in spring taining and how do you think this coaching staff (manager included) matches up against other teams' coaching staffs? And finally, is there a coaching staff over the years in all of MLB that you would pay special tribute to? Thanks. Paul M, Manama, Bahrain A. This Jays' coaching staff is a teaching staff and that's what the Jays needed at this time. The manager John Farrell is a former pitching coach who knows that side of the game but also knows what kind of offensive teams gave his Red Sox pitching staffs trouble in preparing for them. That is why he wants to integrate an aggressive running gameplan into the Jays' offensive mix. The pitching coach Bruce Walton is entering his second year as the main pitching guy after years as the bullpen coach. He knows his pitchers' individual personalities and cares about their health above all. The staff, especially the starters, are very close to each other and to their coach. Hitting coach Dwayne Murphy gets much credit for Jose Bautista's dramatic power surge, but his philosophy of hitting the pitch you are looking for no matter when it comes in the pitch sequence has helped guys like John McDonald as well as the power guys. If it's not a pitch that you were expecting, just take it until you have two strikes. Murphy also has helped guys get ready on time and be in hitting position earlier to get the bat head out front for maximum power. It's been a long time since the Jays have had a catching guy per se, but Don Wakamatsu has spent countless hours in discussion with rookie J.P. Arencibia, helping him with the finer points of the game. He is a former major-league manager with the M's. Luis Rivera is in his first year with the Jays, but has been on a coaching staff at the major-league level with the Indians and has managed himself at AA-New Hampshire where he forged a strong relationship with guys like Kyle Drabek, Eric Thames, Adeiny Hechavarria and others. He is a former major-league shortstop and pays close attention especially to the middle of the infield. Brian Butterfield's ongoing resume includes work with a young Derek Jeter in the Yankee system in the early '90s and continues today for his fourth Jays manager as a valuable instructor on the mental side and the mechanics of playing the infield. As a third-base coach, he's not afraid of challenging the defence by going first to third, second to home, but if his runner is thrown out, there's usually a calculated-risk explanation, depending on game situation, score, runner and defender. The Jays have never really had a hands-on outfield instructor, but this spring Torey Lovullo has been tenacious with the outfielders, constantly hitting them groundballs in the outfield from behind a screen during batting practice, taking Travis Snider through exhausting throwing repetitions as other players shag during b.p. and preaching hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base and proper jumps and routes to flyballs. Lovullo has nine years as a minor-league manager, the last five at Triple-A. Pat Hentgen is a rookie bullpen coach working with a veteran bullpen. He will learn from Farrell and Walton and can contribute from his experiences as a Jays star and Cy Young winner. He knows he's learning but brings a mental preparation expertise to the task. At least four of these coaches could go on to become major-league managers. Not sure about the manager yet, but this is one of the best coaching staffs in baseball right now. It's hard to compare going back in time, but in this day and age, with players rushed through the minors, the need for a teaching staff is as great as it has ever been. That's what the Jays have."
Jeff Wahl over at BleacherReport tries his hand at predicting when our top prospects will arrive in Toronto: Brett Lawrie, 3B: Post All-Star Break 2011 Eric Thames, OF: 2011 September call-up. Fourth outfielder in 2012 Zach Stewart, RHP: 2011 September call-up. Permanent member of Jays staff by 2012. Travis D'Arnaud, C: 2011 September call up Deck McGuire, SP: 2012 injury call-up with rotation spot to start 2013 Adeiny Hechavarria, SS: 2012 September call up Anthony Gose, OF: 2012 September call up Carlos Perez, C: 2013 September call-up Aaron Sanchez, SP: 2014 September call up. Rotation spot out of spring training 2015
A nice video on Nick Leyva from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. I wish the Toronto Star would do some videos like this on the Jays - they do it for other topics. There's also a little blurb on Lyle Overbay, but check out Ken Fidlin's piece on him in the Toronto Sun for something more substantial.
If Eric Thames starts off the season at New Hampshire again, new Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano is going to have a handlebar-mustache protege... (Photo courtesy of the profile on Thames over at Jays Journal)
I'm totally on board with Anthoupoulos' grand plan and really looking forward to this season. That said, with fans often prone to thinking about the pie-in-the-sky possibilities and overrating their team's players, it's good to sometimes play devil's advocate and consider the potential downside. I thought this answer from Richard Griffin in his latest mail bag summarizes very well what could go wrong. He's not saying any or all of this will go wrong, and neither am I, just something to keep in mind. __________________________ Q. Griff - what a trade!! AA is the toast of the town and must be building quite the reputation. While I applaud the move, what is concerning is the potential for a porous defense this year. Is Rajai the answer in CF or is AA going to tinker some more? Mauro Cavazzon, Markham A. I myself was looking to join the AA fan club but when I went online and applied they invited me to a meeting with a bunch of drunks trying to kick the habit. Confusion. So I've pulled back and just become an AA admirer for the moment. As you point out this season has a chance to be a disaster led by the D. Consider: if Arencibia can't do the job and his lack of hitting drags his pitch-calling into the gutter and the young starters take a step backwards; if Adam Lind can't handle the intricacies and footwork at first base and they put Edwin there as the answer; if Lind and Aaron Hill repeat their down seasons; if Yunel Escobar, after his hugely encouraging half-season in Toronto, shows why the Braves got rid of him and sort of stiffs; if Bautista hates third base and his HR total drops into the 20s; if Travis Snider, Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera form the starting outfield and the power alleys become cul-de-sacs; if the sum of the bullpen parts is less than the whole; if John Farrell is only a pitching coach in manager's clothing. Then yikes. AA needs to tinker some more. It could drive me to drink.
This is a sad story about fringe MLB players who played between 1947 and 1979, paid their union dues but have never received a penny in pensions since they retired. Douglas Gladstone has just written a book on this entitled A Bitter Cup of Coffee (Word Association Publishers). This is the kind of thing that really bothers me about professional sport today. I'm glad that players in the 1980s or so finally started to get their share of league revenues, but I hate how while all the stars at top are getting outrageous salaries, too often players at the bottom still get pinched. All the players that are stars today would never get where they are if they didn't have other players to play and develop against in every level of the game. You couldn't have an MLB without all the minor leagues. I don't care if a guy never makes the big leagues, with all the money in the game at the top, all the players who play professionally ought to be treated better while they're in the game and afterwards.
The Seattle Times catches up with former Mariners manager Don Wakamtsu. One tidbit that interested me is how Wakamatsu describes the Jays being after him as a coach as soon as he fell out of contention for the managerial gig. While I know that new 1B coach Torey Lovullo is closest to new manager John Farrell, I kind of had the impression that new bench coach Wakamatsu was another of his picks rather than a Jays management pick. It probably overstates things to say a coach was a pick of either the manager's or the team's, as presumably the choices are made together. Nevertheless, it seems like Lovuloo is the only one of the coaches that we can really say would have been suggested by Farrell. Don't think it's a problem or anything, just observing.
Well it's that time of year when seemingly everyone is reviewing everyone's minor-league systems, and here's one on the Blue Jays from Call of the Pen, a site over in the YardBarker network along...
JaysJournal has a good running update on where the Jays stand with the June draft: "So, to review, the Jays currently hold the following draft positions: 21st, 35th, 39th, 59th, 63rd, and 93rd. (Gregg’s and Olivo’s picks excluded from this list) Once all of the chips fall and the draft order is complete, we can expect the Jays to have the following draft positions: 21st, 38th, 47th, 48th, 54th, 83rd, 87th, and 117th. (Gregg’s and Olivo’s picks included in this list)" And how it compares to this year: "It’s still impressive overall and a lot more than most teams will have, but the 2010 draft was particularly friendly to the Jays. In 2010, the Jays enjoyed the following draft positions within the top 100: 11th, 34th, 38th, 41st, 61st, 69th, 80th and 93rd."
This is a good quote from Bob Elliott's latest column: One general manager asked about what the Jays were doing at these winter meetings answered: "They are talking, and talking, and talking ... "Other than that, they are talking."
A nice article in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Sal Fasano's hiring as the new Fisher Cats manager. (PS: Wouldn't Sal's 'stache and the Fisher Cats be a great name for a blues band...)
Baseball America has a great article on the organizational changes made since Alex Anthopoulos took over, with some good detail on what we've done with scouting and player development. The article's a few weeks old, but don't recall seeing it flagged here. It's well worth a read if you haven't already.
Well here's something interesting in the Ottawa Citizen.Back in this August thread on the Jays AAA affiliate situation, a number of us talked about how it would be great to have the Jays AAA team...
It looks like this year's Jays bench coach Nick Leyva will be next year's Pirates bench coach. Good for him.
Good run down by Griffin on our coaches' responsibilities. "Q-Hi Richard, Love the mail bag. With recent Jays hirings, can you highlight the main tasks of each coach? And how does the pitching coach and bull pen coach work together, or do they just report to the manager? Mia Matthews, Waterloo A-The Jays have a lot of baseball grey matter on the bench to assist first-year manager John Farrell. Don Wakamatsu, the bench coach, will organize spring training and as a former major league manager himself, will be beside Farrell during games, reminding him of upcoming decisions and acting as a sounding board for Farrell before he makes a move. He is also responsible for working with the catchers. First-base coach Torey Lovullo is the one coach with a previous friendship with Farrell. He will be important between games as a confideant, travelling and discussing and rehashing games. Brian Butterfield at third base brings a bridge, a consistency, a history that will be important in making the manager comfortable with his roster from Day 1 of spring training. Butter is the infield instructor and has done a great job in that capacity. This is his fourth Jays' manager which is unheard of for a coach. Bruce Walton and Pat Hentgen will work closely together, establishing season-long roles and comfort levels at spring training where there are always two different venues going on for pitchers, especially once the spring games start. Hentgen will learn in a hurry and with his history as a Cy Young winner and with his annual visits to spring training as guest instructor, will be easily incorporated. Dwayne Murphy is back as hitting coach in the say-so of the Jays' hitters. Gaston was a co-hitting coach. Murphy will have more of a personal touch with Farrell. He has already won a World Series as a hitting coach even without Cito's advice in '01 with the Diamondbacks. He works with outfielders as well. As for Luis Rivera, the Jays wanted to be able to address the needs of all their players and with a growing Latin influence inside the clubhouse and with Adeiny Hechavarria on the way at some point, Rivera will be able to act as a first-language liaison as well as being a solid baseball man with major league experience with the Indians. He replaces Omar Malave in that role."
According to the National Post, Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who has been discussed around here recently, is now free to leave Japan. There is a four-day window for MLB teams to bid on the rights to negotiate with him, but the article doesn't say exactly when that is. The USA Today story linked in this FanShot title has a good rundown on Nishioka, mentioning that he's liable to be a better fit at second base (a position at which he's one one of his three Japanese Gold Gloves). The Jays are listed among the potential suitors.
This is a great Bob Elliott column on Sparky Anderson's final years as a player and first as a manager - in Toronto. And if one Hall of Fame manager getting his start in Toronto wasn't enough, Anderson was replaced by another first-time manager in Dick Williams who also would go on to the Hall. I love the Blue Jays, but it's sad how Toronto's long history of minor league baseball with the Maple Leafs has become lost to most people. I wish that the Jays would have embraced the history of minor-league ball and tried to bridge it into their story. Can't recall the team ever doing any Maple Leafs-themed event (say an anniversary or player reunion or something). They could have even resurrected some Maple Leaf uniforms for the odd flashback game. But it's all too late now. I've been a Toronto baseball fan for almost 25 years, but born in the early 1970s I still know next to nothing about the city's baseball history before the Jays and my time. Gotta read some books.
Blue Jays Dunedin yard re-named Florida Auto Exchange Stadium at Grant Field ... Bring in your clunker, exchange it for a Lexus?— bob elliott (@elliottbaseball) November 8, 2010
Bob Elliott tweets: "Blue Jays Dunedin yard re-named Florida Auto Exchange Stadium at Grant Field ... Bring in your clunker, exchange it for a Lexus?" Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd; Buy me some spark plugs and a roof rack, I don't care if I never get back... I hate corporate stadium (re-)naming. Ugh.
In Peter Gammons' latest MLB column, interesting that one of his 10 thoughts on the off-season was this: "6. Toronto could not have done better than John Farrell, especially while retaining Brian Butterfield, who may be the single best coach in the business." It's always nice to see some of these national baseball commentators talking about the Jays for a change and it seems like Farrell's hiring caught a lot of people's attention. And good for Butterfield too.
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