A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Dissecting the Blue Jays

This Blue Jays team as of late has shown the MLB what it can really do once it gets rolling. It was necessary for GM J.P. Ricciardi to fire then manager John Gibbons. He had shown the Jays’ potential but could never really activate the potential when need be. So it was time for a change. Former Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston replaced him and had a goal of a .500 record before the All-Star break. Toronto came close but did not achieve the .500 mark, but the message had been sent. The Blue Jays could come back into the AL Wild Card Race.

The Blue Jays lead the MLB in ERA with 3.55 and complete games (13). Ace Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett have been carrying the work load combining to pitch 437.1 innings and a combined 412 strikeouts. Unfortunately, their records have not really shown that with Halladay being 18-11 and Burnett 18-10. Still, the long innings these two pitch have helped to craft a very young bullpen still getting the hang of things. The only big name in the ‘pen is B.J. Ryan and has converted 30/34 save opportunities with 57 K – a solid season coming off Tommy John surgery. So, if you have pitching, you should be able to win games, right?

Well, let’s look at fielding, which was a problem for the Jays last year. After bringing in a slew of NL players in the offseason, the Jays are 6th in fielding percentage at .986. The defense is good, the pitching is fantastic. And the have a great offense already don’t they? With Rios and Wells? Not exactly…

Here is the struggle for Toronto: Offense. You can’t win games if you can’t get runs. Halladay doesn’t get you 5 runs for throwing a complete game, so the offense has needed to step up. Unfortunately, it has a little too late. Toronto is batting .265 on the season, good for 14th in the majors. A big problem has been missing ad that is a big bat in the lineup. Without Frank Thomas to protect young Rios and Wells, there have only been 117 homers hit out by Jays players: 25th in MLB.

Let’s focus a little bit more specifically on the offense. Believe it or not, there is not one Blue Jay that has 20 HR. The closest is Alex Rios with 17. Pitiful. Unacceptable in this day and age of the long ball. GM Ricciardi MUST address this in the offseason. If it means giving up a young pitcher or two, do it. You have got to manufacture runs. Keep in mind though, the Blue Jays have been bitte by the injury bug a lot this year, which they have the last two years. Only 3 players have played over 106 games (Overbay, Rios, Scutaro). Rios has been the money man for the Jays though, leaving me wondering if the Rios for Lincecum deal would have went through in the offseason if the Jays could do anything offensively. Rios has hit the most home runs, hits, doubles, and stolen bases. He can’t do everything though. He has got to have help. OF Vernon Wells just has never been the same since that huge deal a couple years ago.

There has been hope though! The last 30 days, the Jays are 4th in batting average, 4th in hits and the top 10 for most hitting categories in the MLB. They can do it. As much as I hate saying wait until next year, Jays fans, we are going to have to. Ricciardi will lose the big Burnett salary and hopefully can bring in some serious hitters, while keeping the main core of pitching together (Halladay, Marcum, McGowan, Litsch). Perhaps maybe bringing in a good arm or two for the bullpen. Maybe the slogan next year will be “Not the Rays, it’s the Jays!” Boston continues to get old, and the Yankees are a complete mess. It could very well be the Rays and Jays becoming the new Boston and New York. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

-Ray

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September 18, 2008 Posted by | Baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Will Never Forget… (A 9/11 Remembrance)

At 8:42 a.m., September 11th, 2001, time stopped.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the unbelievable news, seven years ago today.

The United States government, the sporting world, the stock market, and everything else that occurs on a normal day in America, came to a screeching halt. There was a lack of knowledge about exactly what had happened or how it had happened, but there a few things that every American knew:

We were NOT going to lay down in the face of fear.

We would find the culprits and capture everyone who was involved.

We would stand up next to each other, because we are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Just like everyone else in the world, the sporting world was just as affected by the terrorist attacks. Any games that were supposed to be played were postponed, while the world sat in horror not knowing what was going to happen next. The Major League Baseball season was halted for a week – not because the players couldn’t play – but because no one knew what was safe. So while safety rules were implemented, players went home to be with their families and friends. A week later, the players came back rested, and ready to represent America in only ways athletes could.

The sporting world represents America year around and all over the the world. 6 days after the attacks, American’s knew they had to get back to a state of normalcy and the way they did that was by watching the sports and entertainment world. God Bless America and the United States National Anthem played throughout America at all sporting events after that horrific day. Firefighters and police officers helped spread out American flags across baseball diamonds and other sporting venues. The New York Mets and Yankees, or Yankees and Mets if you are a Yankees fan, along with some other athletes from across the United States, showed faith and gratitude to those who lost their lives, emergency personnel that showed up at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and the landing field of United 93, by sponsoring apparel that were given to the players. The most popular 4 letter acronym following the attacks, without a doubt, had to be NYPD. We, as Americans, owe the NYPD and NYFD for all their courage, because without them, who knows how many more lives could have been lost.

The late Jack Buck addressed the fans in St. Louis before the first game started after the attacks. Standing in front of a capacity crowd of Red, White, and Blue, he pulled out a piece of paper and began to read:

“Since this nation was founded … under God

More than 200 years ago

We have been the bastion of freedom

The light that keeps the free world aglow

We do not covet the possessions of others

We are blessed with the bounty we share.

We have rushed to help other nations

… anything … anytime … anywhere.

War is just not our nature

We won’t start … but we will end the fight

If we are involved we shall be resolved

To protect what we know is right.

We have been challenged by a cowardly foe

Who strikes and then hides from our view.

With one voice we say, “There is no choice today,

There is only one thing to do.

Everyone is saying — the same thing — and praying

That we end these senseless moments we are living.

As our fathers did before … we shall win this unwanted war

And our children … will enjoy the future … we’ll be giving.”

Mr. Buck did not make it through the entire poem without shedding tears, but from the view of the MLB, that was the defining moment. It was the first time since the events that someone, other than the government, had come out and made a speech about the events. Mr. Buck had made the speech that had convinced Americans worldwide who had tuned into the game, that we would be OK and that we would never forget.

Lee Greenwood puts it best in his song “God Bless the USA” when he says:

“And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me, And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.”

We as American’s need not to forget those who gave up their lives to save others, and to save us on that horrific day, seven years ago.

And to all those firefighters and police officers who continue to protect us everyday, thank you.

-Nathan


September 11, 2008 Posted by | Baseball, Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment