Toronto Baseball Guys
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.
 
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