Archive for the ‘Weekend Thoughts’ Category


Don’t worry, there’s nothing about this idiot in here. Looks like he’s having thoughts, though!


We’re really getting down to it now, as only seven games remain in this Toronto Blue Jays season. All seven of the remaining games are at home, with four against the Mariners and then three with Baltimore, and two of them — Thursday’s tilt with Seattle and Saturday’s with the O’s — have 4 PM start times. Hopefully people actually show up and maybe encourage the club to reconsider the dearth of such contests on next year’s schedule (because 4 PM games are awesome, FYI).

Of course, the one with Baltimore was moved from it’s original 1:07 PM slot because — I think I’ve got this right, but I can’t for the life of me find a link to confirm — FOX decided not to include it among the national games it was going to carry at that time, but because FOX’s deal give its national games exclusivity (i.e. no other games can be shown at the same time their national games are on), in order to be on local TV in Baltimore it needed to be moved. Which is to say: it’s not as though the Jays are intentionally experimenting with start times to see what the response is. And the 4 PM start against the Mariners is just a getaway day thing — it’s the last day of a brutal three city road trip for Seattle, which went from Anaheim, to Houston, and now here — and obviously for TV purposes, a weekday game starting at 10 AM Seattle time isn’t going to fly, hence the late afternoon start here.

And why am I talking about this, you ask? Because holy piss, have the Jays ever taken to going out with a whimper. Winners of only two of the ten games they’ve played since sweeping the Cubs, the club… well… it’s been bad. And if you’re the Mariners, even being half a continent away from home and at the end of a really long road trip, you’re probably not feeling too intimidated by the notion of the Jays being spoilers, with the second Wild Card spot just a game-and-a-half back for Seattle.

If for no other reason, I want the Jays to be spoilers just to render Jeff Blair’s trolling vis-à-vis James Paxton and unsigned draft picks in his piece from this morning at Sportsnet – in which he at least acknowledges that the compensation pick for missing on Paxton (the Canadian who, sadly, has been outstanding for the Mariners through 90 big league innings over the past two seasons, posting a 1.91 ERA, albeit with a FIP and xFIP more than a full run higher) was Noah Syndergaard, though doesn’t mention that Tyler Beede begat Marcus Stroman, or that there are a whole lot higher hopes for Jeff Hoffman than there would have been on Phil Bickford.


The lighthearted-ish reminder of Paxton’s existence, and success (and passport, and original draft status) isn’t remotely the most frustrating thing about Blair’s piece, though. It’s not through any fault of the author’s, but that comes in the next bit, where he talks about the Jays’ reported plans to have Ryan Goins play in the Dominican Republic this winter.

Blair rightly suggests that Goins showing up in Dunedin next February as a fully formed hitter would be a miracle, but comes a little too close to validating this dog of an idea — even if he kinda doesn’t.

In 1998, after hitting .220 in 83 games, Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou sat down Jose Vidro and told him to play winter ball and come into camp in shape ready to win a job — or else. Alou wouldn’t even guarantee the switch-hitting Vidro a bench job. Point taken: Vidro played all winter in his native Puerto Rico and, in 1999, hit .304 as a regular before going on to a career that saw him earn three all-star selections and finish with a .298 career average over 1,418 games.

Don’t worry, Blair hasn’t gone insane. He continues:

It’s true that at his worst, Vidro was at least three times the hitter of Goins. But he was also about a third of the athlete. All Goins needs to do is become less of an easy out to play a role in 2015 – at the very least, a bench-player capable of spelling off Jose Reyes at shortstop. Playing winter ball is no longer viewed as a cure-all, but in Goins’ case it might be a start.

Knowing the Vidro example, one could say that Goins showing up in Dunedin next February as a fully formed hitter of any sort could be one of those “stranger things have happened” sort of miracles, only… I’m pretty sure Vidro’s “transformation” was a whole lot less strange than the Jays actually getting anything offensively out of Goins would be.

Vidro was two-and-a-half years younger at that point than Goins is — 1998 was his age 23 season; this year for Goins is age 26 — and in Triple-A that year (playing for Ottawa!) he slashed .289/.361/.391, which followed a terrific .323/.370/.523 stint there the year before, as a 22-year-old. Vidro didn’t have great success in Double-A, but on the levels either side of it he consistently put up very good on-base numbers, with slowly developing power, all while being young for the levels he was at.

Goins, on the other hand, has shown a little in terms of on-base skill in the minors, but it has mostly been driven by BABIP and an ability to take walks at an average-ish rate, which he’s come nowhere near duplicating at the big league level. Yes, the big league samples are small, but they’re fugly as fuck – .212/.231/.297 in 296 PA, or a wRC+ of 39 (100 is average, don’t forget — Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and Dioner Navarro are all almost exactly at that mark, while Bautista and Encarnacion are above 150).

And yes, there are some spots — quite a few even — on Goins’ minor league track record that can almost make you think he could be something bordering on passable. He put up a hopelessly hollow .284/.337/.353 line this year in Buffalo, for example, albeit driven by a .342 BABIP. In fact, his career line in over 2500 minor league plate appearances is .275/.331/.373. Shit, with the outstanding defence he brings you almost understand why the club would continue to hope he might show something with the bat, but it’s not actually like that line is particularly good. If he could come close to duplicating it in the majors — a tall order, especially when we’re not talking about a still-developing prospect, but a guy who is going to turn 27 in February — it’s really not far off from what Munenori Kawasaki has done over the last two seasons (.247/.328/.307).

Is that — is Goins’ best case scenario — actually good enough? Maybe barely? But how can they possibly keep waiting for it? How can they possibly go into another season without an obviously better option?

If they’re at all serious, they simply can’t.


- In case you missed my post-game post on Friday, I’m not terribly thrilled with the prospect of Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar manning centre next season either, for obvious reasons.

- Shi Davidi reported at Sportsnet on Sunday that Marcus Stroman’s suspension has been reduced from six games to five — because baseball would prefer to wait until a much uglier incident happens before they actually get serious about head hunting. “A bullpen game, likely started by Todd Redmond, is expected to cover Stroman’s next scheduled turn,” Davidi writes. At least this means Stroman will be able to assume his rightful place at, or near, the top of the Jays’ rotation come next April, rather than taking the fourth game of the season, or something, because he was serving the remainder of his suspension. Meh.

- MLB’s PR team tweets that a committee has been setup to study the pace of the game. That works.

- Lastly, if you can get past the annoying autoplay when you click the link, and the even worse scoffing from Dave Perkins about the root of the Jays’ problems being in their fundamentals and inability to make a proper relay throw (seriously), there was some interesting talk on Prime Time Sports on Friday about whether Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons will return for 2015 — the round table generally agreed that they all would, which I tend to agree with — and, not for the first time, with the notion that Beeston might have eyes for the vacant MLSE presidency. Enjoy that, Leafs fans! (I’d have written more about this, but apparently I needed to spend the majority of this post pointing to the obvious about Ryan Goins).

- Lastly, not Jays-related, but friend of the blog Ben Johnson has written about how Labatt is planning an expensive, intentionally misleading ad campaign for Shock Top. In fact, that’s the title of his post at Ben’s Beer Blog. Read it.



Trying something new again with the Assorted Weekend Thoughts this week: it’ll come at you as a series of smaller posts on a mostly-single topic (i.e. what normally would have gone under one sub-heading), rather than one big slog through it all that I don’t publish until 4:45 PM. Let’s see how this works, shall we? (Yes, we’ll get to the call-ups).

I guess I should have something to say about the whole Derek Jeter farewell tour stuff, eh? It certainly was a central part of the weekend series, and an especially a central part of three rather excellent JaysTalk episodes on the Fan 590, as Mike Wilner tried — not so much by choice, but because every single person, it seemed, wanted to talk about it – to straddle the fine line between “I think Jeter is a clear, inarguable Hall of Famer” and “I don’t think Jeter is as good as everybody else seems to,” with some hilarious results.

Maybe not quite Pre-Taped Call-In Show hilarious, but I still got a kick out of it.

This really isn’t the space to have a lusty debate about Jeter’s legacy, but I’m generally with Wilner on the idea that Jeter’s accomplishments don’t quite stack up to the myth that’s been created around him — and, really, it’s the myth, and not the player that Mike is pushing back against. Everybody acknowledges that Jeter’s career has been really, really good — to not do so would be absurd. Saying, as Wilner did over the weekend, that he’d take Jose Bautista’s last five years over any five year sample of Jeter’s career is less absurd — per FanGraphs, Jose’s last five years have produced 25.9 WAR, while Jeter’s best (1998-2002) come in at 27.0, and by the Baseball Reference version of the metric Jeter leads 28.9 to 26.9 over the same spans — but it’s maybe still a little bit out there, even for those of us who agree with the basic point it’s attempting to serve.

What Mike spent most of his time railing against, though — at least before he had to start defending himself from the confused masses, always looking for space to take a pot shot, acting as if they thought he was running the great hero down — and rightly so, was just how over the top the multiple standing ovations Jeter received this weekend seemed.

Fans pay for tickets, they’re allowed to do what they want, but my first reaction was… um… holy fuck, people.

On reflection, though, maybe I get it. Almost.

The big spectacle of a farewell tour thing is relatively new — or at least relatively rare — so it’s maybe more difficult to gauge what might be an appropriate reaction than those of us up in arms over it tend to believe. Mariano Rivera pitched out of the bullpen, so obviously it’s hard to compare the ovations he received to the ones Jeter did. I don’t remember such fanfare when Cal Ripken Jr. played his final games here, even though he’d announced in June of 2001 that he was retiring, while someone like Paul Molitor — who would have deserved all that Jeter got and more from Jays fans — announced in December of 1998 that he was walking away, so Jays fans never had a chance to give him this sort of send off.

For a guy like Jeter, it doesn’t hurt that there were so many Yankees fans in attendance — as there always are — or that we’re so close to the Yankees stronghold in Western New York. Or that so many pre-1977 fans in this area had been Yankees fans. Shit, for what it’s worth, I said myself at the start of the weekend that it would be nice to see Jeter cheered a bit, rather than being showered with boos by Jays faithful for the sin of being the most recognizable name in the visiting dugout.

I imagine the fact that he is one of baseball’s few active household names has a lot to do with the reaction this weekend as well. It’s easy to bitterly say, “Well, if he wasn’t a Yankee it wouldn’t be like this,” or, “They wouldn’t do this for any other player,” but I think that’s actually the point. He’s a celebrity. He is what he is. And fans here probably wouldn’t do it for anyone else. Ortiz? Pedroia? Pujols? Cabrera? Felix? I doubt it. Not quite, at least.

So I don’t exactly think it’s going to lead to a new era of Jays fans welcoming opposing stars with open arms. It’s an exception. Though it certainly becomes an off-putting one when it seems as though going to the Rogers Centre is like a damn trip to the cottage for Yankees fans — a rustic building by the lake where they can feel comfortable in what should otherwise be a hostile environment — or when Derek Jeter of the New York fucking Yankees gets a better fucking reception on his farewell than Carlos goddamn Delgado got when he returned for the first time after being lowballed out of town. And it’s certainly weird when Rogers, with their awesomely kinda-shitty gift, seemed to really nail the more-appropriate thanks-for-nothing response (I mean… Jeter can buy Banff if he wants to, right?).

But I don’t know… if people want to be a part of something, and they think its appropriate to salute an opposing player as emphatically as they did… uh… maybe whatever?


Trying something new again with the Assorted Weekend Thoughts this week: it’ll come at you as a series of smaller posts on a mostly-single topic (i.e. what normally would have gone under one sub-heading), rather than one big slog through it all that I don’t publish until 4:45 PM. Let’s see how this works, shall we? (Yes, we’ll get to the call-ups).

Talking about the race for a playoff spot, with respect to the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, isn’t entirely absurd just yet, but it sure is close. However, after a disappointing start to the weekend series, the Jays continued to show some fight — or whatever silly thing you want to call it — and find themselves a still-not-technically-impossible 5.5 games back of the second Wild Card.

Depending on how you want to look at it, the schedule either helps or hurts them.

The Jays’ next twelve games are against sub-.500 teams — yay! — but nine of those are against the Rays and Red Sox, including the series that begins tonight in Tampa, where the club hasn’t won a series since around the time Kim Campbell was Prime Minister, I’m pretty sure. Having the Cubs come in for three next week should be favourable, but… it’s baseball. Anything can happen.

Looking at the schedules of the laundry list of teams the Jays are chasing produces a similar effect. Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Seattle, and the Yankees all play each other quite a bit before the season comes to a close. For example: Cleveland has six against Detroit (three home, three away), and three in which they’ll host the Royals (plus they need to finish off a suspended game from Sunday, in which Kansas City is down 4-2 in the top of the 10th). Detroit has those six with Cleveland, plus six more (three home, three away) with the Royals. Kansas City has the aforementioned nine games with their division rivals, plus three this weekend in Yankee Stadium, as well.

In addition to hosting the Royals for three, the Yankees get the Jays for four, plus eight against a tough Orioles club, with the rest of their schedule featuring Rays and Red Sox clubs who will be loath help their rivals’ playoff chances. Among the teams still in the race the Mariners only face the Jays, visiting Rogers Centre later this month, but they have their work cut out for them with twelve games left against very strong Angels and A’s clubs.

There is a lot of opportunity for the Jays’ opponents to tread water a bit as they beat up each other, but you’d kind of have to think that in reality it’s more likely one team or another will separate themselves and only make the Jays’ task harder. And that the club’s best hope is to, first and foremost, worry about themselves.

Here’s what the schedule for this month looks like:

@ Rays x3, @ Red Sox x3, vs. Cubs x3, vs. Rays x3, @ Orioles x3, @ Yankees x4, vs. Mariners x4, vs. Orioles x3.

Not a whole lot of time left. Would love to see where they stand after sweeping the Rays in Tampa, though, eh?


The Garbage Clowns Knew First…

Welp. Here we are. They’re not finished just yet, but they certainly will be if they don’t start winning immediately, and winning a lot. Even if they do, the Jays now find themselves behind Cleveland, in addition to the Tigers, Yankees, and the Mariners, who currently hold the final Wild Card spot in the AL. Stranger things have happened than a team coming from where the Jays are to make the post-season, but the club hasn’t made their task any easier in the last week. As last Tuesday began and the Jays headed into their first game against Milwaukee, in order to just ensure a tie for that second Wild Card spot, over their final 37 games of the year they would have needed to play a half game better than the Yankees, and three-and-a-half better than both the Mariners and Tigers. Tough, but not impossible. As it stands today, to get a share of the Wild Card they’ll need to be a half game better than Cleveland, two games better than the Yankees, four-and-a-half better than Detroit, and five-and-a-half better than Seattle over the course of their 32 remaining games. To give some perspective: the Jays weren’t even 5.5 games better than the Mariners in May, when they went 21-9 and Seattle was 16-14. The BP-powered playoff probabilities listed at currently gives the Jays a 4.0% chance of making the playoffs.

It’s not early anymore.


Jose, Can You See?

As the annual grim ritual march to irrelevance — *COUGH* — gathers steam we seem to be shifting nicely into finger-pointing mode, and Jose Bautista sure put a target on his back and a narrative on Sunday, getting himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes. But it wasn’t, of course, just the manner in which he was ejected that irked fans so much — though, rightly, that was part of it — but it was also the fact that, in a crucial affair, his replacement, Nolan Reimold, ended up making a giant shit-turd of an extra-inning error, and striking out to end the game, and a rally-that-could-have-been that saw the Jays place runners on first and third with none out and — ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME???!!? — failing to score.

At one point this afternoon I contemplated doing an Anatomy Of A JaysTalk post to try to rein in some of the madness, but then Joanna of Hum and Chuck reminded me that I basically responded to all this already. More than a year ago.

“Hey,” I sarcastically intoned, “let’s all try to extinguish the fire in Bautista’s belly by taking giant steaming shits down his throat. At least it allows us to pretend there’s some explanation– some manifestation of karma, some vengeful umpire-led conspiracy, some unseeable force of poor leadership and selfishness–  for the way the season has gone so far. I mean, it’s far easier to point fingers and think we’ve got it all figured out than to actually grapple with the notion that things may really not be as bad as the results make it seem and that the universe sometimes just isn’t fucking fair, eh?”

After showing a GIF of the argument, I went on:

“Have we really never seen that from a good team before? From a leader before? From a presumed leader, even though we don’t really know anything about what goes on behind closed doors, before? Or are we just twisting the meaning to make it fit with whatever negative bullshit our guts are desperately telling us we must think about this frustrating team? Because I think it’s the latter, and I’m not going to let that happen to me. It was an ejection. It happens. No need to insist it’s so imbued with deep meaning.”

Yeah, it was dumb, and the timing of it was terrible — especially with so much conversation still going on about Bautista’s post trade-deadline comments and his commitment to the club. But let’s not lose sight of reality. It was his first ejection of the season, and the first for a Jays player in 2014, after it happened six times last season. Jose now joins fellow non-leaders Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Albert Pujols, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday, Jason Kipnis, David Wright, and Russell Martin in getting tossed from a game this year.


Good Gri(e)ff

Speaking of finger pointing: “Once again a Blue Jays game came down to a lack of execution and fundamentals, both offensively and defensively, further dimming their fading playoff hopes.”

That’s from Richard Griffin’s gamer for the Toronto Star, and while he’s not wrong… I dunno… can we maybe not sound the FUDAMETALS idiot alarm? The commenters on that one are already pretty deep up their own assholes.

But at least one man in Griff’s piece is pointing a finger in the right direction: John Gibbons.

“The bottom line is we needed him in the game. Say your piece and get the hell out of there. We’re trying to get in the playoffs, we need you on the field. He’s a marked man in this game. Bill Welke? I thought he had a pretty good zone today. It was steady, he was calling strikes. He was looking to call strikes. But we need you in the game.”


Bautista, as you’ve probably already seen, wasn’t exactly seeing it the same way as his manager:

“If you want to stick to facts, the facts are that because I did say something, anything at all, I did get tossed,” Bautista said, denying umpires may have it in for him. “I guess you would say yes (I blame myself). But again, I feel like what I said was nowhere near warranting getting ejected. But if you want to get the other side of the story, you’re going to have to talk to Welke.”

An umpire being accountable? Pfft. Good luck.

But you know what? Bautista might even have a point. Too bad his reputation will preclude most people from listening.


Moving On…

Rightly or wrongly, the confluence of all these troubles for the Jays has got a lot of people, myself included, starting to think more and more about what this team ought to look like next year. I’m not sure it’s as difficult a question as a lot of people want to make it out to be. Bautista and Encarnacion locked for up two years at way less than their market value? Hutchison, Stroman, Sanchez, and Norris potentially on the cusp of forming the core of a dirt cheap young rotation you can feel awfully good about? The increasingly real possibility of another failed season under Alex Anthopoulos will increase the volume of those wanting to insist the club do something drastic, but maybe you just play for 2015 and — especially — 2016. Maybe you take a step back and use R.A. Dickey as a chip to get a real second baseman. Maybe J.A. Happ gets it done. Maybe you swallow hard and pay a big portion of Mark Buehrle’s contract in order to get out from an even bigger portion of it and restore some financial flexibility. As scary as it is to keep on humping the diminishing returns of Jose Reyes, and to think of banking so hard on what will, by 2016, be a 35-year-old Bautista and a 33-year-old Edwin Encarnacion, maybe we’d do well to remember just how rare their kind of talent is.

Maybe these are questions better left for… y’know… every day of the off-season. Maybe Anthopoulos can beef up the damn analytics department in the meantime.

Tangent here, but it would be a little bit fucking nice if this winter we can avoid missing details like Dioner Navarro’s poor pitch framing, which was discussed by Jeff Sullivan at Just A Bit Outside last week. Sullivan looks at the total strikes gained or lost by framing — both by a team’s own catchers, and against its hitters — and finds that the Brewers are the top team in baseball (+400 strikes), and the Jays are the bottom one (-280). It’s not all on Navarro — Sullivan notes that Jays hitters have lost out on strikes because there are so many good framers in the AL East that they face with regularity — but still! He explains:

“What does a single strike mean? Calculations in the past have put the value of an extra strike somewhere around 0.14 runs. That’s not very much, but then, you can do the multiplication. These things add up fast. If you use that estimate, then the difference between the Brewers and the Blue Jays, here, comes out to about 95 runs, just from pitch-framing alone. That’s thought to be something like ten wins. That’s just the difference between the two extremes, but that’s an enormous difference.”

I’ll still take him over Arencibia, though.


Trying something new with the Assorted Weekend Thoughts this week: it’ll come at you as a series of smaller posts on a mostly-single topic (i.e. what normally would have gone under one sub-heading), rather than one big slog through it all that I don’t publish until 4:45 PM. Let’s see how this works, shall we?

The Jays found themselves with something of a roster crunch last night, when it was learned that Brett Lawrie had finished his rehab assignment and was ready to return to the club. This, of course, was terrific news both offensively and defensively for the Jays, but it meant that someone currently on the 25-man roster had to go.

That someone, it turns out, was Steve Tolleson, who the club announced this morning had finally been placed on the paternity list, what seems like several months after we first learned his wife was about to give birth.

What won’t take several months, however, is Tolleson’s return. According to the club’s press release on the matter he’ll be away from the club for a minimum of one day and a maximum of three. What the hell happens after that? Well… it’s not entirely clear just yet, and the answer isn’t a particularly easy one — barring someone getting injured in the next couple of days, be it of the real or imagined variety.

Currently the club has seven relievers, and that likely isn’t to change — or, knowing the Jays, if it is, they’re more likely to go to eight — so we’re looking at a position player going down.

Lawrie doesn’t need a platoon partner — he’s actually been better against same-sided pitching both this year and over the course of his career — and because of his range and athleticism is obviously not going to sit for anyone, defensively. Juan Francisco surely gets to stay, at least until Adam Lind returns, as the club’s first baseman or DH against right-handed pitching. Danny Valencia, with his career 139 wRC+ against left-handers will have a spot in the lineup against them, perhaps at DH or first base, with Steve Tolleson (a 132 wRC+ in the split) likely playing second most of the time.

There is some flexibility in how those guys are used, but those four — Lawrie, Francisco, Valencia, Tolleson — would seem to be safe now. That means one of Ryan Goins, Munenori Kawasaki, Nolan Reimold, or Anthony Gose will need to go when Tolleson is back.

Against lefties, Reimold ought to get into the action as DH, with Valencia at first and Tolleson at second. Against right-handed pitching the club would likely be best with Francisco and Jose Bautista at either first or DH, Gose in right, and either Kawasaki or Goins at second base.

Reimold’s platoon splits are pretty even, so he could be in the lineup against right-handers instead of Gose, and Gose does have options, so he could be sent down. But so does Ryan Goins, and Kawasaki can definitely hold down his spot — though not with the same level of defence — until rosters expand in September.

If it’s even his spot, that is.

John Lott tweets a picture of the lineup card for tonight, and Brett Lawrie is indeed in at third base against O’s righty Bud Norris. Colby Rasmus is in the doghouse and in at DH, with Gose in centre, and Kawasaki playing second base. Perhaps an indication of the move to come? Despite chatter about Goins’ improvements since his return from Buffalo, after just two hits in Houston he’s down to a wRC+ of 70, with a .277/.277/.362 slash line over his 13 games back in the bigs.

The defence sure still looks good, but putting up that line and still having options left? I think John Gibbons is tipping the club’s hand with the lineup he’s put out there tonight. I think it’s the right move, too. (Plus, though he offers no power, and his wRC+ and wOBA suffer for it, Kawasaki has a .330 on-base against right-handers this year. I can live with that?)


Trying something new with the Assorted Weekend Thoughts this week: it’ll come at you as a series of smaller posts on a mostly-single topic (i.e. what normally would have gone under one sub-heading), rather than one big slog through it all that I don’t publish until 4:45 PM. Let’s see how this works, shall we?

It would be real tempting to shoehorn what happened over the weekend in Houston into some narrative about the Jays being sloppy, unfocussed, distressed about what didn’t happen at the trade deadline, so some other such thing that avoids the plain fact that the team simply didn’t play well. They too often didn’t make their pitches, too many balls they hit found gloves, all that good stuff.

It’s more complicated than that, of course, but really it’s kinda not, and as much as people love to harangue anyone they perceive to be an optimist with nonsense about good teams not losing to bad ones, that’s as much a pile of garbage today as it was the day the Jays arrived, when the Astros were coming off a series win against the A’s, or when they won a series against the Tigers at the end of June, or the Orioles and Mariners in May, or the Yankees at the start of the year.

That doesn’t make it good that it happened, but it’s baseball. It does happen. We know this. And now it’s onward to bigger and better things, after a day of rest — or, y’know, one of schmoozing in the VIP at OVO Fest *COUGH* — that seemed much needed by the end of the ten-game, three-city road trip the club just concluded.

Gah! Did I just do the narrative shoehorning thing myself??

Anywho, the Orioles come in to Rogers Centre tonight, and let’s effing hope the Jays are refreshed and ready and all those silly things it’s implied they were not when they happened to not win baseball games in Houston over the weekend. It’s already the fifth of August, the Jays still hold a playoff spot — albeit the second Wild Card one, and the right to go to Anaheim (or Oakland?) — and are facing the team they’re chasing for top spot in the A.L. East. So… yeah. It’s big. Maybe not quite yet the “meaningful September baseball” we’ve craved for lo these many years, but by all rights the atmosphere will be thick.

And with the fact that getting swept could send the Jays tumbling all the way to seven games back, um… maybe we shouldn’t take it for granted. I’ve got my tickets!


Image via Instagram. And no, you cannot complain about Jays players being there on an off day.


Scheduled Conflicts

The Jays truly are the masters of their own fate right now, as the schedule-makers have made things very intriguing down the stretch for the club — not that they had too much choice, given the huge number of intra-divisional games each team needs to play. Here, in order of most total games remaining against (with the home/road breakdown in brackets), is what the Jays schedule looks like until the end of the season:

Baltimore (6H/3A), Boston (3H/6A), New York (3H/4A), Seattle (4H/3A), Tampa Bay (3H/3A), Houston (0H/4A), Detroit (3H/0A), Chicago (AL) (0H/3A), Chicago (NL) (3H/0A), Milwaukee (0H/2A).

So a tonne of games against the Yankees, Orioles, and Mariners — the three teams they’re in the biggest fight with — thirteen of which are at home, with ten on the road. Add in four against the Astros, three against the White Sox, and three against the Cubs — not to mention none against the A’s, or Angels — and you start to not feel so bad about the road ahead. That is, as long as they Jays can take care of business against the AL East.

How about their competition? The Yankees’ have their most remaining games against Baltimore (4H/6A), followed by Boston and Tampa (3H/6A each), then the Jays and Tigers (4H/3A each). They have three game sets with Texas (away), as well as Houston, Cleveland, and the White Sox (all home), with four games against the Royals (3H/1A) thanks to a make-up date from a June washout.

As we’ve established, Baltimore has ten against the Yankees (6H/4A) and nine against us (3H/6A). Beyond that it’s seven against Tampa (4H/3A), six with Boston (split evenly), one make-up game at Nationals Park, then a bunch of three-game sets: Anaheim, Cincinnati, Seattle, St. Louis, and Minnesota at home, Cleveland and both Chicago teams on the road.

They control their own fate too, I suppose.

A Win In The Bronx

Not just a single victory, but a series victory! It feels fucking great for fans, and undoubtedly in the room, too. I mean, as much as it ought to be easy to slough those sorts of utterly irrelevant anomalies of futility — for fuck sakes, the Jays’ first three losses in the streak at Yankee Stadium came at the end of 2012, when John Farrell-led club’s most-used starters were Romero, Morrow, Villanueva, Alvarez, Laffey, and Happ, so it’s not like what they were doing means anything about what you’d think the current rotation might do — it surely isn’t, and it surely doesn’t stop the “here we go again” feelings that we’re all too familiar with (there are, after all, still ghosts in Tampa that the Jays would do well to extinguish before this season is through).

Arden Zwelling has an excellent piece up at Sportsnet on yesterday’s roller coaster ride, looking at it — and its win expectancy graph from FanGraphs — as a microcosm for an up-and-down season that once again feels like its moving in the right direction.

Just like Sunday’s game, a baseball season is a back and forth thing, with its intoxicating ups and depressing downs. Take the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that was widely written off in late June when it was staggering on its feet with a 33-49 record. They went on a run (the Rays have lost just five times in July) and are now quietly lurking in the AL East weeds, just 4.5 games out of the playoffs.

So, yes, what the Blue Jays have done since the all-star break — winning seven of ten — is very, very good. And what they did leading up to it — losing eight of ten — was very, very bad. But as tempting as it may be to forecast and predict, neither of those two runs are going to make or break the season.

It’s baseball. You try to win more than you lose because that’s really all you can do (And seven games against the lowly Red Sox and Astros to close the current road trip sure seems like a good opportunity to do that).

But as the Blue Jays celebrated under the sun at Yankee Stadium, it really felt like Sunday’s triumph was meaningful. It felt significant. Even though it was just another mid-summer ballgame.

That’s the rub.


Aaron Sanchez got his first big league win, but also gave up his first run and looked at least somewhat human-ish in his second inning of work. The velocity was still there, and according to his Brooks Baseball page he ditched whatever that 93 mph offering he was using in his first start, though they’ve identified a sinker at 98 in addition to a four-seamer at that speed that he was throwing, along with a curveball he only managed to get one batter to offer at in six tries (though he did also get two strikes from it).

As far as bumps in the road go, it wasn’t the biggest.

Despite the impressive appearances in the big leagues, Sanchez has generally seen his stock continue to sink on the various prospect lists — including the one that was updated over the weekend at He checks in at number 40 on Jim Callis’s latest list, behind Dan Norris (29) in a group of Jays that also includes Dalton Pompey (95) and the just-drafted (and just-surgery’d) Jeff Hoffman (97).

The somewhat low rankings doesn’t mean that Callis doesn’t like what the Jays are doing, though, as he wrote a piece ranking teams based on the talent they acquired in June’s Rule Four draft, and thanks to the Astros’ fuckup with Brady Aiken, it’s the Jays who end up at number one.

Now, the ranking is a little bit warped because it includes the make-up pick the Jays got for not signing Phil Bickford last year, so naturally they’re going to get more of an infusion of talent than most, just like last year they got less. Still, though!

Beyond the big two — Hoffman and number 11 pick Max Pentecost — Callis likes that the Jays “also grabbed a pair of projectable high school pitchers in righty Sean Reid-Foley from Florida ($1,128,800) and lefty Nick Wells from Virginia ($661,800) in the second and third rounds, and they moved enough money around to land athletic Tennessee prep outfielder Lane Thomas for $750,000 in the fifth.”

He didn’t like Wells or Thomas that much, though, as neither shows up on Callis’s updated Jays top 20 list. Reid-Foley does, however, ranking tenth for Callis, behind D.J. Davis and ahead of Sean Nolin, Dawel Lugo, Matt Dean, and others. Hoffman jumps immediately to number four, just ahead of Roberto Osuna and Pentecost, who are themselves just ahead of Mitch Nay and Franklin Barreto.

“Hoffman hasn’t fully grown into his lanky 6-foot-4 frame, yet at times he works in the mid 90s and hits 98 mph with his fastball,” we’re told. “His big-breaking curveball can be equally devastating and his changeup can be a plus pitch at times. He throws a decent amount of strikes but will need to refine his command to become a frontline starter in the big leagues.”

That’ll play. That’ll make it hurt a whole lot fucking less if the Mets manage to get Tulo for a package centred on Noah Syndergaard, too (not that that necessarily has legs, but still… yeesh!).