lawriebautista

Yes, we’re going to do a proper DJF podcast today. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to provide more candy for your ear holes, as yesterday I had a lengthy chat about the Jays and the beginning of the season with some fine maritimers for the second edition of their East Coast Bias podcast. Notwithstanding the fact that they invited Drew on their show before me *COUGH* you should probably totally follow them by way @TheBigsNL — Terry David Mulligan does!

TDM!

Have a listen…

maicerruns

Nobody talked about Maicer Izturis this winter as anything but dead weight on the Blue Jays’ roster, after his disastrous 2013 campaign. Even that awful campaign, a disaster-within-a-disaster, was somewhat overlooked thanks to the screaming deficiencies of guys like Emilio Bonifacio and J.P. Arencibia, but rest assured, he was awful.

At the plate, having arrived looking like a bounce-back candidate following an 82 wRC+ season for the Angels, Izturis nosedived further, down to wRC+ of 62 — the worst mark of his career, save for his 32 game cameo as a rookie on the 2004 Expos — behind a slash line of .236/.288/.310.

In the field he was just as bad, both by the eye test, and by the metrics. According to UZR, only ten third basemen cost their teams more runs than he and Pablo Sandoval (-4.7 UZR), yet Izturis played about 850 fewer innings than the Panda, 600-950 innings fewer than six of the ten behind him on the list, and fewer innings that all but one of them (Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar).

At shortstop, where Izturis logged his next-highest number of innings, the story isn’t much better. Only seventeen of 112 players to spend time at shortstop were worse than Maicer, per UZR, and Izturis’s -2.8 UZR in 174.1 innings was worse than the -2.7 that Jimmy Rollins accumulated over 1318.1.

He was awful, in other words. The worst position player in baseball, per FanGraphs’ WAR (-2.1), and tied for 24th-worst (-0.9) according to Baseball Reference, alongside such luminaries as Brent Lillibridge, Omar Quintanilla, and Darin “Pat” Mastroianni.

Tonight, Izturis hits second again, and will play at second base. And, amazingly, it actually makes sense.

No, it’s maybe not the ideal lineup for John Gibbons to trot out there, but Maicer so far has ten hits in 24 plate appearances, with a pair of walks. If he wants to ride the hot hand, especially with a left-hander on the mound, I can live with that.

That sort of hitting from Izturis obviously, obviously won’t continue — nor will the hot streak Bonifacio is on to start the season, which we will never speak of again — but just as important, Maicer has looked comfortable on the turf, as well. Or, at the very least, he appears to have more range than the Ted Rogers statue, which isn’t something I’d have been quite ready to concede last season.

Shit, per FanGraphs he’s already been worth +0.4 WAR this season — a 2.5 win swing over 2013 already! Which… obviously the numbers don’t work that way, but whatever, it’s just nice to see something resembling the guy that the Jays thought they were getting last year — a phrase that, at least for the time being, you could copy-and-paste into posts about Melky Cabrera, Brandon Morrow, their starting catcher, Brett Lawrie, R.A. Dic– shit, the Astros are a hell of an early-season tonic, aren’t they?

Scuttlebutt

Part of me doesn’t want to pick on R.A. Dickey too much, because he’s a fascinating character and can be a tremendous pitcher when he’s on, but he just makes it so fucking easy sometimes. This week, not only is the I must pitch indoors thing a little bit odd, but according to a piece from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, we need not worry about why Dickey was bad on Opening Day way back in that shitty month of March, because Dickey had a dead arm! The fuck??? “Every pitcher goes through a little bit of a dead-arm period at some point. Hopefully it happens in spring when you’re getting ready,” he said. “Unfortunately for me it happened the week of opening day and the week before that when I pitched against the Yankees.” But… but… but he felt healthy all spring! He was just exercising his arm against the Yankees and the results didn’t matter! Just… stop… talking. Please.

Blue Jays Bat Boy nails the Josh Zeid/sunscreen issue in a tweet: “Astros bullpen pitchers spraying on sunscreen indoors because you can never be too careful from the bright blue seats.”

Great stuff from @bluejaysart, who are ready for a sweep — as is Adam Lind’s beard, apparently.

J.A. Happ starts tonight for Buffalo. Ben Wagner tweets that he says he wants to get up to 100 pitches, which totally sounds like great long-term news for the Bisons rotation. *COUGH*

TV: Sportsnet

Next game: Tomorrow, 7:05 PM ET, @ Baltimore

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

LF Melky Cabrera (S)
2B Maicer Izturis (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Edwin Encarnacion (R)
DH Dioner Navarro (S)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
C Josh Thole (L)
SS Jonathan Diaz (R)

RHP R.A. Dickey

Houston Astros

CF Dexter Fowler (S)
RF Alex Pressley (L)
C Jason Castro (L)
2B Jose Altuve (R)
DH Chris Carter (R)
1B Marc Krauss (L)
3B Matt Dominguez (R)
LF Robbie Grossman (S)
SS Jonathan Villar (S)

LHP Dallas Keuchel

dailyduce3

Phil, given your strict forcemeats-and-cheese regimen, the only real surprise is you’re not dead already.

In the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin does a nice job countering my whining yesterday by highlighting the stability that being under Rogers’ thumb brings to the Jays, at least in relation to the mess the Astros are in. Doesn’t mean that the owners couldn’t be far more generous to the club — and to the brand — but at least, he suggests, it’s not all bad.

Elsewhere at the Star, Brendan Kennedy wonders — like the rest of us — why the Jays didn’t use their replay challenge last night when Ryan Goins was picked off in the sixth inning. The basic answer: while MLB confirms that every team has access to all the feeds, the Jays may not have seen quickly enough the particular slo-motion one necessary. Here’s a tip: turn on the fucking TV feed.

Steve Delabar makes light of the knock that sent him out of last night’s game, via tweet.

Per a team release, the Jays have created an award for the organization’s employee of the year, named after Howard Starkman, an employee from day one who officially retires tomorrow and is the first recipient of the honour.

Great stuff from Blue Jays Plus, as they get some public sector scouting on Aaron Sanchez, and come away impressed with the continued improvements from the Jays’ top prospect.

Blue Jays Plus also has a GIF of Astros reliever Josh Zeid spraying something (sunscreen) on his arms last night before entering the ballgame. From Drew today, who is at the park: “Astros pitchers talking about the Zeid sunscreen thing from last night. Happily as you might imagine.”

Something we may or may not follow all year is the progress of Yankees expensive Japanese import, Masahiro Tanaka. Jorge Arangure of the New York Times looks at his latest start — another up-and-down outing, which resulted in a no-decision, but showed a lot of promise.

More Yankee content? Sure — and one I’m pretty sure I linked to already — but I think you’ll enjoy Getting Blanked on Derek Jeter’s problematic defence a second time.

A trio of posts from Sportsnet, as we hear about Dioner Navarro’s puzzlement over the defensive shifts he’s seen, Erik Kratz’s family first ways, and Pete Walker’s opinions on Dustin McGowan. Or, at least, that’s what the titles say. Hey, and here are two more, both from Benny Fresh, who looks at Neil Wagner’s long day, and Brandon Morrow’s dominant start (or at least his dominant start to a start).

A pair from the Toronto Sun, as Bob Elliott looks at the praise being given Dioner Navarro so far, while Mike Rutsey gets quotes from John Gibbons on Brett Lawrie, after the third baseman finally drove a ball last night the way we all know he’s capable.

Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s takes a look at this year’s loaded version of the Lansing Lugnuts.

In case you somehow missed it earlier in the week — and because there’s not a whole lot Jays-related to talk about today — Dan LeBatard on Yasiel Puig is money in the bank. It’s at ESPN.com.

More from around the league, this time by way of the outstanding Baseball Think Factory, as they send us to the Baltimore Sun to read about O’s outfielder Adam Jones and his hilariously awesomely hate-filled feelings for dopes who run onto the field.

Great stuff from Parkes for something called theScore.com, as he looks at how baseball treats children as commodities, and how we’re all along for the ride.

Podcast tomorrow. For reals. Plus I also had a good long Jays chat with the guys at East Coast Bias, which will hopefully be up tomorrow as well!

Lastly, via tweet, Tallboys announces their lineup for Pitch Talks #2, which will feature Dan Shulman — Dan Shulman! — along with Dave Bidini, Mike Wilner, and the internet’s own Meredith Rogers!

morrowstrugglingTB

It’s another beautiful day for baseball… under a roof… with several hundred of your dearest friends.

Hey, it could be worse. The outstanding Alan Ashby is in the building, and Brandon Morrow gets a chance for another minor league tuneup game before rejoining the big leagues whenever the schedule has the Jays playing a team that isn’t Houston (he said in words that he will almost certainly immediately live to regret as Morrow gets torched by the likes of Marc effing Krauss).

Also: baseball!!

Scuttlebutt

Marcus Walden was optioned down by the Jays today, according to a team release, and Neil Wagner — who probably should have been here all along — was recalled. Bluebird Banter recalls the reasons Walden was selected — the club DFA’d Jeremy Jeffress sooner into the season than they were allowed to call up anyone who had been optioned (except in the case of injury) and were forced to add Walden to the 40-man after first announcing Chad Jenkins as the recall — and wonders whether it was more embarrassing to the organization than the whole deferral scheme business of last week. It’s a tough call.

According to a tweet from Brendan Kennedy, John Gibbons said that with Casey Janssen out they needed a right-hander to bring into games when they were trailing and close, hence Wagner’s recall. Not said: you’re out of the job, Esmil. Which, of course, makes total sense.

Speaking of Janssen, a tweet from Shi Davidi informs us that his latest side session went well, and that he’ll probably do one more bullpen before getting a rehab assignment.

More on the injury front, as Brendan Kennedy tweets that Jose Reyes ran on a treadmill yesterday, will run outside today, and will run the bases on the weekend. Barring setbacks, it sounds like he’s at least progressing.

Drew tweets that Jose Bautista got the club to put the Barcelona match on the jumbotron today during batting practice. Nails much?

I’m pretty sure ol’ Griff nails it at the Toronto Star, suggesting that the flipping of R.A. Dickey and Dustin McGowan — though not without its good and bad points — is mostly about Dickey wanting what’s best for Dickey. And that’s OK.

We really will do a podcast this week. For real. Sorry.

Lastly, if you want to get good and depressed (or good and angry at me for being wrongheaded), go back and check out the previous post here, where I touch on media rights value, TV ratings, and the history we’ve endured under Rogers’ stewardship of this club.

TV: Sportsnet

Next game: Tomorrow, 7:07 PM ET, vs. Houston.

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app. And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

LF Melky Cabrera (S)
2B Maicer Izturis (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Edwin Encarnacion (R)
DH Adam Lind (L)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
SS Ryan Goins (L)

RHP Brandon Morrow

Houston Astros

CF Dexter Fowler (S)
RF Alex Pressley (L)
2B Jose Altuve (R)
C Jason Castro (L)
DH Chris Carter (R)
1B Marc Krauss (L)
3B Matt Dominguez (R)
LF Robbie Grossman (S)
SS Jonathan Villar (S)

RHP Lucas Harrell

pelley

Keith Pelley

Fascinating stuff in a piece on Tuesday from Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail, as he follows ongoing CRTC license renewal hearings:

The traditional economics of broadcasting are disappearing, and only TV channels with multiple sources of revenue – from both advertising and subscriber fees – will be able to make money on sports in the future, according to Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media.

The costs of sports rights “have escalated at a gargantuan rate,” Mr. Pelley told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which is weighing the renewals of 17 Rogers-owned TV services, including City network and Sportsnet. In the United States, rights costs “have doubled over the last 10 years. And it’s also happened in Canada.”

Mr. Pelley added that the conventional TV business is collapsing, amid a flood of programming and an exploding array of advertising choices for marketers, and that Canadian broadcasters’ reliance on U.S. programming is an unsustainable long-term strategy. “That’s why I feel so good we’ve acquired hockey. It allows us to reduce our reliance on U.S. programming, because I don’t believe, over the air, that’s where we’re going to make our money long-term,” he said.

The hockey broadcasts will allow City to cut its expenditure on U.S. programming by about 20 per cent, he added.

So, on one hand we’re being told that Rogers Media — the division that also controls the Blue Jays — needs to stem losses from an outdated traditional broadcast network with a too-small reach and, which Pelley later concedes, began trying to expand into a true coast-to-coast network “five to seven years too late.” (And, in that gloomy scenario for the division, it would almost make sense that everyone is being asked to tighten their belt.)

On the other hand, though, without saying so, Pelley is explaining to us just how astronomically valuable their no-bid Jays rights are. The value of those rights to the holders has doubled over ten years, he claims, yet when adjusted for inflation, the Jays were running bigger payrolls — thanks to commitments made at the end of the InBev era — in 2001 and 2002, than they were for all but one (2008) of the next ten seasons.

Much of the reason that the Jays even exceed that level again in 2013 was the fact that new revenue was on the horizon, with MLB’s new national TV deals about to begin pumping an additional $26-million into every team’s cash flow. Take that gift of $26-million away and the 2013 Jays still weren’t running as high an inflation-adjusted payroll as they were in 2002. (According to the Bank of Canada, the Jays 2002 payroll of $76,864,333 was worth $97.34-million in 2013 dollars. That year the club ran a big league payroll of $119.28-million. All figures per Cot’s.)

And yet the value of the TV rights — not subject in this two conglomerate town to actual forces of the market, as they’re kept entirely in house with Rogers — was in the process of doubling. Meanwhile the value of the franchise as a whole — which was purchased by Rogers for $120-million in 2000 — jumped to $950-million, according to a report last fall from Bloomberg.

That same report ranked the Jays as making the 22nd-most money off of TV rights out of the 30 MLB teams, despite the fact that the data from TV Basics ranks Toronto as the fourth-biggest market in the United States and Canada, and that the club’s games are televised nationally, pulling viewers from all over the country — who they gleefully market themselves to as “Canada’s team.”

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buehrlebuehrling

Here’s a recipe for massive attendance: the first beautiful day in this city in forever and the Astros in town playing under a steel dome still not tested and ready to be opened — not that the “legacy fans” (read: ancient season ticket holders) would be up for sitting outside in sweater weather anyway. But it’s still baseball, and it’s going to feel like it on the way to the park, at least. And it’s still a chance for the Jays to really get going, facing the worst team in the game — albeit improving — while their division rivals continue to spin their wheels, with no team in the AL East currently above .500.

That, of course, will change. But the Jays are in a good spot for a little feel-good run, with Mark Buehrle looking to continue his Cy Young campaign against Brett Oberholtzer, who is, in fact, an actual Major League pitcher. Or at least an Astros one.

Baseball!

Scuttlebutt

Yes, Adam Lind is facing a left-handed pitcher, which he should never, ever do. But it’s also a shitty left-handed pitcher who has reverse splits, and he’s only keeping Moises Sierra or Erik Kratz out of the lineup, so… it’s not that bad. See @SMcEwen_eh‘s timeline for the argument that he should be in there — which I actually don’t agree with (I mean, what’s it going to prove?), but… at least there is one! I won’t believe Gibbers has gone all Joe Maddon until I see the switch hitters batting lefty, too.

Shi Davidi was the first of many to tweet that John Gibbons announced today that R.A. Dickey badly wants to pitch indoors he wants to split up hard-throwers Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan, and to give McGowan an extra day of rest. He’ll go in Baltimore on Friday, while R.A. Dickey now gets the Thursday start against Houston. Not sure what happens when hard-throwers McGowan and Hutchison then end up back-to-back, but that was never really the point anyway.

Shi Davidi also tweets that Casey Janssen will throw a side session tomorrow, after which they’ll figure out his next steps — which at one point will include a rehab outing or two. He’ll probably need more than 15 days, Davidi says, but close.

Brendan Kennedy tweets that J.A. Happ will make his second rehab start for Buffalo on Thursday, and that John Gibbons won’t say what will happen once Happ is healthy.

Gregor Chisholm tells us that Jose Reyes will begin running today, and is still taking ground balls, but that there’s no timetable yet for his return to action.

Roy Halladay tweets that Phillies fans are the “best fans on earth!!” Make of that what you will. (What I will make of it is that, at least as far as Jays fans not being the best, he’s probably not wrong).

A hot taco from GROF on Deh-reck… Sand-ah-son… Jee-tah.

Tommy Rancel of ESPN tweets that Rays pitcher Matt Moore is going to see Dr. James Andrews because of an elbow issue. But don’t worry, if it’s bad news for the Rays, another one will surely emerge to take its place.

We’ll do a podcast this week. For real. Sorry.

TV: Sportsnet (Pacific/One/360)

Next game: Tomorrow, 7:07 PM ET, vs. Houston.

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app. And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

LF Melky Cabrera (S)
DH Adam Lind (L)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
1B Edwin Encarnacion (R)
C Dioner Navarro (S)
3B Brett Lawrie (R)
CF Colby Rasmus (L)
2B Maicer Izturis (S)
SS Jonathan Diaz (L)

LHP Mark Buehrle

Houston Astros

LF Robbie Grossman (S)
2B Jose Altuve (R)
1B Jesus Guzman (R)
C Jason Castro (L)
DH Chris Carter (R)
RF L.J. Hoes (R)
3B Matt Dominguez (R)
CF Alex Pressley (L)
SS Jonathan Villar (S)

LHP Brett Oberholtzer

ricciardiface

It’s a hell of a strange thing seeing J.P. Ricciardi as the wise centre of a piece on the state of 2014 Blue Jays and the bizarre off-season this club, and its ownership, has just taken fans through, but that’s how I felt watching the just-released Stephen Brunt narrated video essay from SportsnetAlex Anthopoulos: State of the Franchise, which is the second of their four part series Blue Jays In Focus.

Most likely it simply comes down to presentation and his lack of a vested interest to protect, or maybe that those of us who follow the minutiae have seen all of the other stuff before ad nauseam, but it’s the former GM who, for me, gave off the clearest signal of any of the interview subjects in the piece, standing in stark contrast to the noise emanating out of the typically coy hypertension of his successor, and the doddering of Paul Beeston.

It’s not entirely fair to place so much of my focus in reviewing the piece on Ricciardi, who has comparatively little screen time, and not Anthopoulos himself, who — along with the way Brunt’s interviews are woven together to make a compelling story out of the club’s disaffecting winter — is the star of the show. But it’s awfully telling about how things are going for the Blue Jays right now that a man once so vilified in this market can appear so much the calm, thoughtful veteran sailing through thick seas swirling with Anthopoulos and Beeston’s usual shtick.

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