Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Love Letter to Luis Perez

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Dearest Luis, my left hander,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways, it begins with your zero, zero ERA.
When you jog out, its all good, be it Yankee, Oriole or Ray.

Runners in scoring position? Whatever the situation,
It always ends in a celebration.

You get the job done.
And the opposing batters never score a run.

Lots of Love,
A Jay Fan

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Good Old Fashioned Cock-Up

An accidental photo from spring training
In my blog absence a lot has happened. The Blue Jays swept the Royals. They turned a triple play. Colby Rasmus hit two home runs. Bautista hit a homerun. Aren't we all ready, for the home run king to return to the plate? I sure am.

But I want to take it back. To the last series at home against the Rays (April 17, 18, 19), most specifically that painful game on the 18th. Yes that one. You know the one. We've all tried to forget it in the euphoria of sweeping the Royals. But here's the reality folks. The Jays and the Royals play two series. The Jays and the Rays play six.

Buster Olney over at ESPN has recently written a little expose that could have been done by anybody with a calculator. And something we all knew to begin with. The scheduling is unfair. Teams in the AL East have to play the best teams, the most often. And sadly, the Jays are not quite at the point that they are considered the best.

So back to the fateful night. I have recently decided that this is the summer I get my friends to love baseball. One friend at time. So that night, I convinced my best friend to come down to the dome and sit in the 500s with me. I was already sleeping on her couch, so it was an easy sell.
It started off well! We went for batting practice and got schooled by an usher how to bat our eyelashes to Rays trainers in order to get balls. It worked. It worked so well that we got a ball and in the little eight year old beside me DIDNT. Sometimes its fun being a girl.

I saw my former favorite Blue Jay, Jose Molina. (Yes, seriously. Don't laugh) I even got a wave and a big cuddly bear smile. I miss that man. And his strike calling. But I digress.

We hiked up the ramp, took our seats. And my friend started asking questions. Awesome. I answered them in a fun and quirky way, in order to best help her develop some baseball love.
Then came that question,
"Man, why are they always touching themselves?"
"Look at the Jay at third base. He's obsessed! He's going to give himself a rash."

You can probably guess what happened next. I was such a girl that day. I feel sorry for the guy sitting in our row with us. Yup, you guessed it. We watched Lawrie touch his crotch for an hour, which is pretty much the same thing as watching the game.

Let's talk about that ninth inning. I really like Carlos Villeuneva. I really do. I saw him jogging out of that left field bull pen, and I said to my friend, "He's good. He'll shut them down. Jays might be able to score a couple of runs in the bottom of the inning." Maybe not enough to win it, but enough to make it respectable.

But he didn't shut them down. And John Farrell didn't seem to care. A HBP, an error, a force out, a wild pitch, a walk. It was time to take him out. Instead they watch him issue an rbi walk. Watch him allow a bases loaded single. Somewhere between the single and the grand slam they roused young Crawford to get warm, but really what's the point? The damage was done.

I don't know what was going on down there player-wise, management-wise. But this is what it looked like to me from the 500s: Management gave up. They watched Carlos Villeneuva get hung out to dry, because they knew they were going to lose and didn't feel like using another pitcher. The game wasn't over. A good team dosen't give up, and I think the Jays could be a good team, which is what pissed me off. This is baseball. Anything could have happened, the Jays could have scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth. But they didn't get the opportunity, because when a player walks up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, you can bet your ass they don't play their best when they are down by ten runs. 

The Blue Jays play in the AL East. They have to play the best teams all the time. I love this team. And I will support them regardless, but the entire team, players, coaches, manager need to go out every day and play their best. They can't give up, they won't win if they give up.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Eddy's Big Year

Alright, and I may regret this later, but i'm calling it. Edwin Encarnacion is going to have a big year.

He's clearly baffled at his own awesomeness
Edwin Encarnacion has played with Blue Jays fans hearts the past few years. The errors at third base, the sluggishness on the field, the big bat they never seemed to materialize, a body we all assumed was five years old then it actually was.

The boos, the E5 jokes, the general disappointment.  I think we've seen the end of it.

Have you seen what i've seen this year? Edwin dancing in the dugout. Hustling. Stealing bases? Two home runs? Three doubles? In seven games?

Edwin has always played the hot and cold game. But i'm venturing out there and saying he's never going to go north of luke warm. He's going to hot and warm. But he's not going to go tepid this season. Playing DH agrees with him. His skills as a backup first baseman surprised us all (certainly after the many incidents across the diamond). Baring injury and position switching, I think Edwin could bat over .300 this year. I see him batting fourth for the majority of the season.

Here is my line for Encarnacion: .304 AVG, .345 OBP, .550 SLG .895 OPS.
25 doubles, 32 HR, 10 SB.

Maybe i'm out to lunch, but you know what, it never hurts to be optimistic early on. And i've got high hopes.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Home Opener Heartbreak

I love me a full dome
Baseball season is here. The dome was full and excitement was in the air. The home opener series against the Boston Red Sox, a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that this year, really is, the year.

Instead what the fans got was an exercise in how to suck all the air out of a concrete dome with 49,000 people in it in the span of four batters. The first game ended in heartbreak. I think everyone can admit to that. And suddenley there was a lot of hate. Chants of "Santos Sucks" followed me down the ramps from the 500s and all the optimism and hope that had been floating around seemed lost.

But i'm not worried.

Bautista can't seem to hit the ball, Edwin wants to steal bases, and Sergio blew two saves.
I don't have a select memory when it comes to the Blue Jays. Bautista went through several of these stints last year, several game long stints in which he struck out, popped up the ball and got angry. He recovered each and every time. And this year, will be no different. Just you wait.

As for Sergio. Compared to last year, the bullpen is better by leaps and bounds. If the bullpen only blows half the amount of games as last year. The Jays could finish well over the 500 mark. It is early days.

In a wonder of alliterations, Rajai, Rasmus and Romero all did wonderfully and reminded me as to why I love going to ball games. Who wasn't on their feet screaming when Rajai hit that triple? Rasmus hit the triple and made that catch? Romero allowed one run in NINE innings of work? There is a lot to be excited about this year. I'm sticking with it.


Monday, 9 April 2012

Home Opener Bound

Photo: Mike Cassese/Reuters

Tomorrow I'm headed to the home opener (and the rest of the series) and I thought I would celebrate by ruminating on my favorite player, Yunel Escobar. And Yunel Escobar's tattoo.

I'm a fairly observant person, and I like to read (falsely) into ball player's lives. While I was in Florida, I caught the Blue Jay's 30 Clubs in 30 Days and noticed in one shot that Yunel had a big tattoo on his forearm. Hmm, don't remember seeing that one before (then again he usually wears a long sleeved compression shirt, or double arm bands on his forearms). Was he hiding something?

No, he wasn't. This beaut, seen above, is new.

What does it mean Yunel?

Yunel loves Jesus?
Yunel is Jesus?
Yunel wants to be Jesus?

Well Yunel, Jesus doesn't hit bouncing balls to short. You might need to work on that.

Alternatively, Jesus could be the name of a father, friend or lover. Let's not discount anything.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Happy Easter (On the Third Day)

Because nothing says Easter like Brett Lawrie in a gay pride parade and JP Arencebia as the ring bearer. I just about busted a gut when I saw this picture.

Today is the closing game of the series against Cleveland, and tomorrow the Blue Jays head home to play one of their AL East rivals, the ever hated BoSox. (I'll be there! Will you??)

I've been loving these Cleveland games - who dosen't love extra innings, big hits and unlikely heroes? Rajai Davis and Colby Rasmus (and the Orange Man himself) with big hits for the club!

I read an interview with Brendan Morrow around the time his contract got extended and he said that he learned that he pitched better if he thought like an asshole. Yesterday, Morrow was pitching like a drunken man beating his wife. He only relented and gave her flowers (walks) twice, and then he went right back to beating her. They took her away from him and put her in a shelter (home run) but he stalked her, found her and struck her down. I like this asshole mentality of his.

That metaphor probably went over the line. Its true. I'm about be descended upon by a house full of sugar crazed children and I'm TAPING the game this afternoon, just when the real dice are about to be thrown. Joel Carreno with his first big league start. I saw his major league debut back in August 2011, squatting illegally in 100s seats with a 500s ticket and I was impressed. Power, control, velocity. Let's see if he brought the good stuff to Cleveland?
You want a job, Joel? Let's find out.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

And so it begins. Blue Jays vs. Cleveland 5 April '12

Jason Miller/Getty Images
 The season is officially underway, and the Blue Jays and Indians started it off with a bang. A prolonged bang. In what ultimately became a 16 inning, 5 hour game the Blue Jays incorporated everything I love about baseball: home runs, bench clearing, drama, heads up play, shake your head errors, intrigue and Latino men in baseball uniforms.

Around the 8th inning, I remember thinking to myself. "this is going to be a two and a half hour game." Little did I know that the game was only half over. When the Indians replaced the masterful Masterson with their closer Chris Perez in the ninth, things proceeded to get ... interesting.

The Good, the Bad, The Fantastic:

Can you say home run? Jose hit his first bomb of the year, and JP kept up the trend of hitting a home run for the start of his season. Edwin just missed a home run on a bases clearing 2rbi double.

A five man infield? Has anybody ever seen that before? What's perhaps most shocking, is that IT WORKED. When it seemed hopeless, a five man infield with veteran Vizquel, constructed an inning ending double play. Substitutions brought Bautista to play first (for the 8th time in his career) and later for Vizquel to play first (for the second time in his career).

Walks, Strike outs. The pitchers combined dished out 11 walks. The hitters combined struck out 16 times. But it's early in the season, and the Jays likely won't be facing Masterson anytime soon.

Gigantic fumble: Rajai Davis bunted into a double play when he didn't run in the 15th inning. My Mom hysterically asked, "can they charge a batter with an error?" He certainly deserved one.

Ricky Romero lost his shit, but didn't throw shit. Ricky Romero threw 40 odd pitches in the second inning, as well as issuing two walks and allowing two doubles and a home run. I, along, with the TV announcers expected Ricky to issue some expletives while leaving the mound and possibly whipping his glove, jacket and anything in arms reach around the dug out. But he didn't. Buddy kept it together, and took the mound in the 3rd with poise. He pulled it together for his remaining three innings before being replaced in the sixth.

Speaking of shit, Shin-Soo Choo lost his after being hit by a pitch, thrown out at the plate, he somehow perceived a wild pitch in the 15th as intentional. I'm sorry, Choo did you not notice that Perez didn't have complete control up there for, I dunno, the last four innings? A small bench clearing pursued. Nobody got punched.

Player of the game: JP Arencibia (7Ab, 1 h, 1 r, 3rbi, 3 so)
The numbers don't look fantastic. After the game, an interviewer congratulated JP on his game winning HR to which he replied, "Yeah, well my previous six at bats were kind of bad." His HR did win the game, true. But his heads up defensive work at catcher saved the game long before the 16th inning. His defense was fantastic. Blocking balls, tagging out Choo at the plate, throwing out Choo at second, and throwing canons down to first base behind the batter. He also worked with eight different pitchers, put himself between Perez and Choo and caught 13 straight scoreless innings. Well played J.P, well played.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Spring Training

Morrow and Drabek at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium

This year, I made the pilgrimage to Dunedin for some spring training baseball. I went to four games, caught a ball and took 1400 pictures. I went with my Mom, which became slightly problematic as the trip went on.

I love baseball. My love of baseball seems to be slightly contagious. My ex-boyfriend now moderately likes baseball, my Mom enjoys baseball, my brother sometimes passes along Blue Jays tidbits that were discussed on CBC radio. I love all these people, but none of them quite share my obsession.

Which resulted in a number of snarky comments from my Mom regarding when exactly we should get to the games and what we should do once we got there.

My favorite quote was "What's the rush? It's a baseball game not a fire. It's only 11 o'clock."

What I saw and liked:
  • Kyle Drabek: I watched Kyle Drabek throw five scoreless innings against a Yankee line up that had most of its regular players. Twice he got into trouble: multiple men on base with one out. Last year, in these situations he got frustrated on the mound, turned red, started talking to himself. This time, he threw his pitchers and extricated himself from the situation. He got the job done. That gives me great hope for the future and for Drabek as a SP for the Blue Jays in 2012.
Drabek, 27 March 2012.
  •  Jose Bautista interacting with non-Spanish speaking teammates: Jose Bautista is lauded as the leader of this team, and I do like me some Jose Bautista. Yet, last year everytime I went to the Roger's Centre to watch batting practice or the pre-game work out, I saw the same thing. Jose Bautista sitting/standing/stretching/talking with his other Latin teammates. This spring, I saw him (numerous times) with all sorts of teammates. I think the arrival of Jeff Mathis, whom Bautista knows from his days at Chippola college, greatly influenced this new trend.
Bautista speaks with teammates John Tolisano and Jeff Mathis at 31 March game against the Phillies.
  • Eric Thames: This may not be the popular sentiment, but I wanted Thames to win the left field job. I wasn't surprised when he did. He has proved that he can be consistent at the big league level. He has a great bat for power, and I saw some great defensive work from him. His throws from the outfield are on line and quick. Also compared to last year's 88 strikeouts, compared to 23 walks. I noticed he was seeing the ball more effectively and wasn't swinging through pitches that were outside of the zone. We'll see if this continues in the regular season.

  • Extra-base hits: Need I say more? Whether it was Kelly Johnson and Brett Lawrie's triples against the Yankees, or Arencibia, Mathis, Davis, Thames and Bautista doubles. I saw great at bats. Lots of power and smart base running. (there were also home runs, but it feels like that is kind of a given with this squad).
  • J.P Arencibia stepping up: My Mom has always seen tremendous leadership potential in Arencibia. I'll admit it. I never did. I worried about the loss of Molina, who was a great veteran and mentor, and whether Arencebia would really be able to step up and be a great catcher and communicator with the pitchers. Molina often caught for Drabek and Morrow and I wondered if JP would be able to communicate with them effectively. On the 27th, I watched Arencibia work out with Drabek for over an hour. Everyone seemed relaxed and loose. And Drabek pitched well. On the two occasions that he got in trouble, JP came out and talked to him, and he was able to get out of it both times. I know a lot of people don't give catchers much credit, but I do. And I liked what I saw from Arencibia.
    Arencibia works out with Drabek.
  • Yan Gomes: I mentioned on twitter that my spring training confession was that I had a crush on Yan Gomes. While he is certainly a good looking man, I think I was more impressed with his baseball skills. Gomes, who is playing at AAA this year, can play catcher, 1b and 3b. In two out four games I saw he was the DH, and I also saw him at 1b and catcher. He had an amazing spring at the plate. .333 average with 7 doubles and a HR over 39 plate appearances. This is different from what his stats from last year look like, so we`ll see if he can maintain this momentum in the hitter friendly PCL. I also wondered if the Blue Jays were putting him in the line up, to show him off for a possible trade. He`s pretty blocked at AAA with D`Arnaud and Arencibia ahead of him at catcher, and Cooper at 1b. 
More than just a pretty face?
  • Anthony Gose: Full disclosure. I didn't actually see Gose as a certain someone in my traveling party did not want to drive to Fort Meyers. However, I heard all about it. The man has got speed and head's up baserunning. 70 stolen bases last year, and he stole second, third and home, which singlehandedly won the ST game against the Red Sox.
What I saw and didn't like:

  • Yunel Escobar hitting way too many ground balls to short stop: Pretty much says it all. He hit .290 last year, and I would love to see him with similar numbers or even better this year. But I noticed before I went down there, and while I was there that a concerning number of hits were weak bouncing balls to short. But it was spring training, what happens in the regular season is what really counts.
  • What ultimately turned into a bouncing ball to short
  • Adam Lind NOT playing because his back was tight: I didn't see Adam Lind, because he got pulled after complaining of lower back tightness during batting practice of Tuesday's game against the Yankees. Since he made a big deal about strengthening his core in the off season, the fact that this happened so early is concerning.
  • High throws from Lawrie to 1st: My Grandfather, whom I adore, shares my combined excitement and concern regarding Brett Lawrie. His experience at the big league level is limited, but what I see from him I like. Excellent power bat, he loves the game, he's energetic, cocky and not afraid to make a dive at third base. However, unlike Buck Martinez, I don't think he's the baseball Messiah. I went to Spring Training with an open mind, and I saw some excellent at bats by Lawrie. And in two games, I also saw him make the exact same error. Fairly routine ball to third base, which he charged to get and then overthrew the ball allowing the base runner to reach. I'm hoping it was just riled up spring training energy and not an example of other such occurrences that will happen during the regular season. My Grandpa suspects that Lawrie's over the top energy will get him hurt and he will land on the DL for a prolonged period sometime this season.

Popular Reactions

I often get underestimated by guys in the Blue Jays world. Do you know the type? The type that uses sabre metrics to try to confuse you? Who brings up 1980s players?

Who says things like, "You probably just think Jose Bautista is cute" "or "what do you think of Jose Reyes' OBPS this year?"

The type that upon realizing that maybe you know more than him does one of three things:

1. "Oh, you actually like baseball. Like really like baseball. I wasn't expecting that" and promptly heads in the opposite direction.
2. Let's you know that you have offended his manhood, because girls  shouldn't know more than guys when it comes to baseball and usually tries to underhandedly call you a lesbian.
3. Hits on you because you share his passion for the game and isn't that just so hot.

I'm not a particular fan of any of these responses. So I thought I would just write down my thoughts and put them out into the world, in case, anybody wants to join in.