Toronto Baseball Guys
Friday, April 25, 2008
  What do you do with a problem like Alex Rios?
Now maybe I'm just being sensitive, or maybe it's just the ghost of his faux-hawk lingering, but has Alex Rios turned into a big of a dick, post-contract? It started subtly enough -- the whole team started sprinting to first base on singles, ala David Eckstein, save Mr. Rios. I didn't like that, but whatever, eh? Then after being out with 'the flu' a couple days, and looking miserable at the plate, Alex gets himself tossed for throwing his bat. Maybe it's just immaturity, but Rios needs to check himself and start driving this team a little more. It's not like he's playing with the Shawn Green/Alex Gonzalez Blue Jays either -- he is surrounded by gamers now (rich rich gamers, but gamers none the less), and he needs to follow their lead. Or maybe Greg Zaun just needs to take him out behind the woodshed...
Sunday, April 20, 2008
  Sudden End for the Big Hurt
Two weeks ago, the Rogers Centre rang with chants of "Frank! Frank! Frank!" as DH Frank Thomas smashed a series of big hits, including three home runs. Few could have foreseen his release with 10 days still to go in April. But the hits dried up quickly and Thomas' swings got ugly.

Baseball players can get old in a hurry. Many hit a wall in their early 30s, as regulars become part-time players and more marginal players disappear completely. Dale Murphy, a two-time National League MVP, stopped hitting at age 32, while baseball's original Frank Thomas, a slugging outfielder, hit 34 homers as a 33-year-old before dropping to 15 the following year. He was out of baseball two seasons later.

Hall of Fame talents such as the Big Hurt do tend to last longer and age better, but when the end comes, it can come quickly. Even a 40-year-old Babe Ruth could only muster a .181 average just a year after posting a .985 OPS.

Thomas may not be done. He insisted, in his tirade following Saturday's game, that he is a just a good week away from being back on top. While perhaps true, a team aspiring to contend can't just wait around for that week. Especially with a $10 million option set to kick in for 2009 if he plays regularly.

Thomas' release is good for all parties involved. It gives him a chance to sign elsewhere and play, and it puts a very quick end to what would have become a huge distraction in the Blue Jays clubhouse. It also allows the Jays to add another, more versatile player to the roster. Since a .160 hitting DH is remarkably easy to improve upon, it also means an immediate upgrade for the Blue Jays lineup, and should result in some more runs on the scoreboard.

The spectre of Barry Bonds as a Thomas replacement has already been raised in some corners. Were the Blue Jays a computer-based fantasy team, the thought of plugging Bonds and his .900+ OPS into the DH slot would be a no-brainer. For a flesh-and-blood team composed of personalities, it's another matter altogether. Seeing as how the Thomas controversy was resolved within 24 hours of the initial benching, this seems to be a team trying to avoid a circus, not seeking to add one.
Friday, April 11, 2008
  Richard Griffin is a joke
The 1998 Jays were not on steroids, Griffin insisted this week in his brilliantly titled article Jays on the juice? No way, Jose, not a chance.

He states:
Start with yesterday's assertion on the drug habits of the '98 Jays. Let's see, Paul Quantrill, Dan Plesac, Pat Hentgen, Woody Williams, Chris Carpenter ... that's already five guys clearly not on steroids. So, according to Canseco, everyone else was.

Uh, clearly not on steroids? What does that mean? Did Nook Logan look like he was on the 'roids? Or maybe Richie has the XRay vision...

He continues on with this little gem:
Excuse me, Jose. Just because three years ago you told the truth when nobody believed you doesn't mean that you must be believed every time you speak now and for the rest of your life. It's a reverse chronology of the boy that cried wolf. Being truthful the first time the wolf is on the doorstep doesn't give you a lifetime pass for integrity.

Now, please tell me what in the sweet fcuk this is supposed to mean? Just because you told the truth once doesn't mean we have to believe you now. Brilliant, just brilliant!

Anyhow, jump ahead 2 DAYS! in his own paper and we find this:

Ed Sprague, one of the Blue Jays' heroes from the World Series years in 1992-93, admitted this week that he used performance-enhancing substances that were later banned by Major League Baseball, and also hit with a corked bat in a big-league game.

So, from that wonderful '98 team we now have 2 admitted users and Roger Clemens. And on Richie's side we have his XRay powers and a bunch of nothing.

Another rousing article Griffin. Bravo!
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
  But for the Drunken Louts, A Great Weekend
After dropping two of three to the Yankees and the Legend of Melky Cabrera (memo to Rod Black: a pair of catches that someone with real range would have made look easy and a wind-aided, paint-scraping homer do not actually qualify as legendary), the Blue Jays pulled into town for the 2008 Home Opener against the defending World Champs.

Friday began with word that Alex Rios and Aaron Hill had been signed to long-term contracts. $3 million annually for Hill is nothing, especially for what should be his peak years.

Rios' deal is a lot richer, at more than $10 million a year, but is in the same range as the likes of Juan Pierre and J.D. Drew, and could look like a steal in a couple of years. The best part of both deals is that the Jays are investing in players who should get better, rather than paying premiums for players leaving their primes, as is the case with most large free agent contracts.

Once the games began, the news got better. Shawn Marcum looks like the kid from the local skate park, but he baffled the Sox for nearly seven innings. He may top out at 89 MPH on the radar gun, but he changes speeds and throws strikes

Best of all, the Jays didn't collapse after the J.D. Drew's 2-out homer tied the score in the seventh, which was a nice show of resiliency early on.

The powder blue uniforms will be a nice touch on Fridays, and there was enough powder blue in evidence at the Rogers Centre to make one believe that the Jays are turning a tidy profit with this promotion.

It was good to see Roberto Alomar inducted into the terribly named "Level of Excellence" (Why not just call it a Hall of Fame, seriously?), though the video package used to introduce him was underwhelming - as was the street hockey-themed Season Opening video. We get it... Canadians like hockey.

Oddly, it seems that none of the fans who found it fashionable to boo Alomar ever time he returned to the Dome post-Hirschbeck could get a ticket to Friday's game.

50 000+ fans made for an electric atmosphere, but also resulted in concession lines that were too long, especially for beer. Then again, around the 8th inning, it seemed the beer lines hadn't been nearly long enough, as fights started to break out in the 500 level. I know Jays fans are anxious to catch up to Boston and New York in the AL East, but we shouldn't be nearly as anxious to surpass them in idiot fan behaviour.

Things in the stands returned to normal Saturday and Sunday, while on the field, the pitching continued to be absolutely stellar, and the bats delivered timely hits, sweeping the defending champs back to Boston. One could say they powder blue them away... (that's right, I'm not proud).

Now, the usual caveats apply: Statistically, a 4-2 start isn't a whole lot more significant than a 2-4 start, though it feels an awful lot better. The Red Sox have had a hellish travel schedule, and it's not as though David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell will hit like girl scouts all season long. That said, 3 wins in the bank against the division favourites count just as much now as they will in September, and it's encouraging to see the Jays get an opponent down and finish them off. How many times have they failed to finish off a sweep over the past couple of years? Vernon Wells looks healthy, Frank Thomas looks scary, and the way Rios is battling through at-bats and working counts makes you think he might be ready to REALLY break out.

Yes, it's early - just ask the Tigers - but if you're going to play games in April, you may as well win them.
Friday, April 04, 2008
  pay day!

Blue Jays signed outfielder Alex Rios to a six-year, $64 million contract extension through 2012.

No mention was made of the reported option for a seventh year. Rios was probably going to get about $18 million for his final two years of arbitration, so the Jays are buying out his first four years of free agency for about $46 million. It's a big commitment to a player who doesn't qualify as a superstar, but Rios is a well above average regular and he's likely to age well.


Blue Jays signed second baseman Aaron Hill to a four-year, $12 million contract with club options for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

He's practically the new Tim Wakefield. It's odd that Hill would give the team options for each of his first three years of free agency, especially when he's only being guaranteed $12 million. Now he may not control his own destiny until his age-33 season.

I like both deals...especially Hill's. As Rotoworld points out, the option years are odd, but what the hell.
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