It’s that time of year again.
It’s the time that I again get on my soapbox and bemoan the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays have their heads stuck in the sand and haven’t done away with the current format of their Winter Tour and moved towards a more fan friendly type of event, like a fan festival.
New President Mark Shapiro hasn’t even been in his current position three months yet so the Winter Tour thing was most likely on the bottom of his list of things to do when he arrived in town. But one would think with the rising popularity of the team the past few years the organizers of the Winter Tour would realize that they must change the current format of the tour.
For example, the Toronto portion of their current Winter Tour had an autograph session in a mall in Newmarket on Wednesday night. The event was slated to start at 6:30, due to the crowd that lined up early the line was cut off at 1:30 pm. There is an autograph session scheduled in Ottawa for Saturday morning and I imagine the same thing will happen there. This isn’t the first time this has happened as there were people turned away from events last year as well.
I’d also like to believe that Shapiro is enough of a forward thinker, he’s already renamed the “State of the Franchise’ to “The Leadoff”, that improving the fan experience is a big part of his job, it’s even a point he has brought up since he took the job. He also has the experience in improving the fan experience at the ballpark, he had a big part in the renovations at Progressive Field making it more fan friendly when he was the President in Cleveland. They even have “Tribe Fest” which they starter in 2013.
So I am proposing, just as I did last year, that the Blue Jays host a fan festival. They can host it during the third weekend in January and have it at the Rogers Centre. They can have autograph sessions, Q and A sessions with current players, heck they can even trot out some of the Alumni and the TV and radio broadcasters like other teams do. They could do what they do in Oakland during their fan fest and host a “garage sale” where they sell off game worn jerseys, broken bats, Spring training jerseys and other game used items. They could even do clubhouse tours. They could charge a fee of 10 to 20 dollars and have the proceeds from the ticket sales go to the Jays Care foundation. It would be a win-win situation for all involved, the fans would have a much better experience than the current Winter Tour provides and the Blue Jays would get some well deserved good will among the fan base.
The time has come, and with new leadership at the top it is my hope that they see the potential that is out there in doing a fan festival and dropping their current Winter Tour.
You can thank me later Mr. Shapiro.
The Blue Jays released their ALCS roster ahead of tonight’s ALCS opener in Kansas City, not surprisingly there are no changes from the roster that defeated the Texas. Aaron Loup is back with the team after dealing with a personal matter that left him away from the team for games four and five of the division series. I honestly didn’t expect any changes to be made to the roster, although there had been rumblings that the Blue Jays could drop Ezequiel Carrera and add Josh Thole so Dioner Navarro could be used more as a pinch hitter than Russell Martin’s back-up. With the current roster set-up it also means that Dalton Pompey is probably only going to be used as a pinch runner during the ALCS.
START TIMES ANNOUNCED
Not surprisingly, with the Mets and Cubs in the NLCS that the days where there are both ALCS and NLCS games scheduled that the Blue Jays-Royals games are getting stuck on the 4:07 pm starts again, If the series does get to games six and seven, those games will have an 8:07 pm first pitch. Just like the ALDS start times, the US Networks would rather have the non Blue Jay games in Prime Time only because only the US TV numbers matter, the numbers that Sportsnet draws for these playoff games, as great as they have been, doesn’t mean anything to Fox/FS1.
RANKING BAUTISTA’S HOME RUN
One of the bigger discussions that have taken place since Jose Bautista’s three run shot in Game Five has been just where does it place when it comes to biggest home runs in Blue Jays history. Nothing will ever top the Joe Carter home run in 1993, but I think that you can argue that the Bautista home run could be ranked as the second biggest home run in Franchise history ahead of Roberto Alomar’s home run in the 1992 ALCS. Bautista’s home run came in a win or go home game, and it was also a game winner. Alomar’s home run in 92 was only in game four and it only tied the game. Some have mentioned the Ed Sprague home run in game two of the 1992 World Series should be even ahead of Joey Bats homer but Sprague’s homerun was only the Blue Jays first win of that series.
The Blue Jays have the better starting pitching and the better offence. The two teams the defensively are about even, and the Royals have the advantage in the bullpen, but don’t discount the Blue Jays pen who, outside of starter David Price, have allowed only 2 runs, both off of LaTroy Hawkins, have been excellent in the playoffs. Not having Brett Cecil hurts but Aaron Loup hasn’t pitched bad when he’s been called upon in the playoffs. The more interesting thing to watch in this series will be if any of the nastiness that happened during the four game series in Toronto just after the trade deadline carries over into the ALCS, I would think it won’t but all it takes is an Edison Volquez inside pitch getting close to Josh Donaldson’s head and all bets are off. I’m picking the Blue Jays in six.
Game two of the Blue Jays American League Division Series had a little bit of everything, a bench clearing disagreement, sloppy defense, flashes of great pitching, a blown replay call and a home plate umpire who’s strike zone changed pitch-by-pitch.
The Blue Jays defense let them down in the first inning as they looked sloppy and if not for a heads up play by Chris Collabello it could have been much worse. The Blue Jays did fight back and took the lead in the fifth inning when Kevin Pillar would score on a Ben Revere single.
The Blue Jays held a 4-3 lead going into the eighth and that’s when things got interesting, Marcus Stroman came out to start the eighth but allowed a a single to Delino Deshields Jr. Brett Cecil came in and after getting two outs allowed a single to Mike Napoli to tie the game. Perhaps John Gibbons should have went with Aaron Sanchez in that spot to face Napoli but Gibby was playing the numbers game as Napoli had been 2 for 17 prior to that at bat. Napoli would run himself out of the inning but it came at a cost for the Blue Jays as Brett Cecil suffered a torn calf muscle after he applied the tag on Napoli.
Then pitching took over as both teams bullpens shut down the offences, it should also be said that there was some awful at bats by hitters who were trying to end the game on one pitch. The Blue Jays best chance to end the game came in the bottom of the 12th as Chris Collabello hit a lead off single, Dalton Pompey came in to pinch run but didn’t leave first base till Ryan Goins at bat two outs later. Pompey would steal second and third before Goins would ground out to end the inning. There seems to be a lot of blame being placed on Gibby for not pinch hitting for Goins in that spot, I’d agree if Pompey was in scoring position, but he was still standing on first at the time so I was okay with leaving Goins in the game.
The Blue Jays came close to walking it off in the 13th as Josh Donaldson just pulled a Keone Kela pitch foul down the left field line. As Donaldson watched the ball going foul, Kela started barking at Donaldson, Jose Bautista was spotted coming alongside Donaldson yelling at Kella to get back on the mound, both benches cleared, but the thing that stuck out to me was it was Mark Buehrle as the first Blue Jay player off the bench. Order was quickly restored and Donaldson would ground out, Bautista would draw a two out walk and Edwin Encarnacion came within a few feet of winning it as he flew out to the fence in dead center field.
Then came the fateful 14th inning as the LaTroy Hawkins came on to pitch for the Blue Jays and after getting two quick outs before allowing a single to Rougned Odor. Chris Gimenez would single to right, Odor would round second base and as he came back into the bag it appeared that his foot did come off the bag as Troy Tulowitzki would hold the tag on Odor. Unbelievably, with the TV replay showing that Odor’s foot was off the bag while being tagged, they upheld the safe call on the play. So instead of it being inning over it was runners on first and second with two outs. At that point Gibby should have went to Liam Hendriks, but he elected to keep Hawkins in the game who allowed a single to Hanser Alberto to score Odor, if Kevin Pillar’s throw didn’t one hop in front of the plate there is a good chance that they get Odor at home. The Rangers would add another run to make it a 6-4 game.
The Blue Jays went down quietly, sans a Russell Martin hit by pitch in the bottom of the 14th inning, but not before Troy Tulowitzki let home plate umpire Vic Carrapazza just how pathetic his strike zone was all game after striking out to begin the inning on a pitch that was obviously inside.
For the Blue Jays it is now do or die heading into game three Sunday night in Texas as they will send Marco Estrada goes to the mound for the Blue Jays as they will face lefty Martin Perez. I really like the matchup for the Blue Jays in these next two games. The Blue Jays just need to take things a game at time here, get a win in game three and all the pressure goes back on the Rangers who don’t want to come back to Toronto for a fifth game.
Remember, It isn’t over until it’s over.
The first playoff game in 22 years didn’t go as planned for the Blue Jays as they dropped their opening game of the Division series 5-3.
The biggest storylines to come out of the game were the injuries. Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre left in the third inning with lower back stiffness, and on the Blue Jays side Josh Donaldson left after taking a knee to the head sliding into second base to break up a double play and then Jose Bautista left in the top of the ninth with a mild cramp in one of his hamstrings. The good news for the Blue Jays is that Donaldson passed a concussion test and should be able to go in game two, Bautista is also expected to go tomorrow as well.
The other storyline that the Toronto media talked to death about was David Price pitching on 11 days of rest. Greg Zaun went on and on about it saying in his mind that was the reason that Price didn’t pitch all that well. Price said afterwards that the 11 day rest didn’t have anything to do with it. Price said he just didn’t pitch good enough. To be totally honest it was the bottom of the line-up that did the damage as Robinson Chirinos had a two run home run in the fifth making it a 4-1 game for Texas, Rougned Odor was also a pain in the side for the Blue Jays as he was hit twice by a pitch and in the seventh hit a frozen rope to right field for a solo shot making it a 5-3 game.
On the positive side of things, Aaron Sanchez pitched a scoreless ninth inning and looked better than he had in the last couple of weeks. Brett Cecil also had a scoreless eighth inning walking a batter and striking out one. Jose Bautista would hit his first ever post season home run in the sixth of Rangers reliever Keone Kela.
For as much as I’ve been annoyed by Buck and Pat during the season I must say the Fox crew doing the game made me almost wish that Buck and Pat were doing the game. I didn’t care for Harold Reynolds go on and on about the turf causing Adrian Beltre’s injury when after a inning or two they realized it was an awkward slide into second base that was most likely the main cause. And if it wasn’t the turf it was the lights after they claimed that Ben Revere lost a ball in the lights when in the end it looked like he just misplayed the ball. The camera angle looked off, and I wasn’t overly impressed with Kenny Albert doing the play by play.
Pete Rose who is doing TV work for Fox made himself looking like a complete ass after criticising both Donaldson and Bautista leaving with injuries. Guess Rose has never heard of concussion protocols that are in place. As for Bautista’s injury if the guy couldn’t run like he should be able to then the smart thing to do is to get him out of the game. It made Rose look foolish.
Major League Baseball surprisingly announced the start times for the first three games of the Division Series Monday. I actually thought that MLB would wait until the outcome of the Wild Card game Tuesday night before any announcements would be made. The start time for Game One on Thursday is dependent on the outcome of the Wild Card game, if the Yankees win then the game’s first pitch is scheduled for 4:07 pm and if the Astros win first pitch will go at 3:37 pm. Game two will go at 12:45pm on Friday and Game three on Sunday night in Texas will go at 8:10 pm.
There seemingly has been an awful lot of complaining about the start times by some fans but if any of them have paid attention in the past they would know that lots of Division Series games get scheduled for early afternoon and late afternoon starts. It’s also no shock that it’s the Networks call on the scheduling leaving the big US markets like New York in Los Angeles in the Prime time slot. Even in the World Series years the Blue Jays had weekday afternoon starts during the ALCS so this really shouldn’t catch people off guard like it has. And if your looking for a good excuse note to get out of work the Blue Jays VP of Business Stephen Brooks had this beauty of a tweet this afternoon to help you out.
Dear [insert boss' name], due to a terrible cold, I must be home by 3:37pm on Thursday and 12:45pm on Friday. Doctor's orders. Thanks
— Stephen R Brooks (@sbrooksbaseball) October 5, 2015
TIME TO FOCUS ON THE PLAYOFFS
Everyone get all their complaining of John Gibbons handling of the line-ups and starting pitchers the last few days out of their system? You would never known the Blue Jays had won the division with the amount of ugliness that became of Blue Jays twitter on Thursday and then again on Sunday as Gibby was vilified by his critics for giving Mark Buehrle the start yesterday. Just imagine the outrage that would have happened if a star player had gotten hurt on Thursday playing in the crappy conditions in Baltimore. Once the Blue Jays clinched it was the right move to make sure that the players were rested and ready to go for the playoffs. As for the decision to start Buehrle, I didn’t have an issue with trying to get him his 200 innings, Buehrle is very well respected in the clubhouse and the it meant a lot to the players in that room that Gibby gave Buerhle the chance to get to 200. It didn’t work out but in the end it was still the right move, and a classy one at that. Just remember, if Buehrle hadn’t got the start it would have went to Drew Hutchison and we all know how he pitched in the month of September.
So lets all calm down and get ready to enjoy the Division Series, the Blue Jays won the East!