Tag Archives: Baseball

Blockbuster trade in Toronto. Next stop the playoffs?

Sports teams are out to sell hope and provide a nice distraction from our otherwise dull lives. Elite teams move beyond hope and sell expectations to their fan bases. For the Yankees, Patriots and Lakers of the world, anything other than the league title is a wasted year.

For the vast majority of teams, they are in the business of selling hope. Hope that this year is the year they finally win it all. Hope that the team will make the playoffs this year. Hope that in a couple of years, the team could be really good. I tend to cheer for teams in the third category (Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Bills). Sadly that can of hope usually comes with a bitter taste and leaves me hugging the toilet. 

With yesterday’s mammoth pending trade with the Miami Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays have an early start on next year’s message of hope. Perhaps 2013 is the year the team races into the post season for the first time since winning the World Series in 1993.

The Blue Jays added Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerle, a backup catcher and a speedy utility player, They gave away Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez, a backup catcher and three prospects. 

The question is whether or not to buy what the Blue Jays are selling? Is this a team that will contend for the playoffs? In the American League last year, it took 93 wins to make the post season. In the National League it was 87 wins. That translates to an additional 14 to 20 wins over 2012. In 2011, the Jays were 81-81 which leaves the team short 6 to 12 wins from the playoffs.

In losing Escobar and Henderson, the Jays give up 2.6 wins above replacement (“WAR”) from their 2012 roster according to Baseballreference.com. In return they get back 7.7 WAR in Reyes, Johnson and Buerle. My math skills aren’t what they used to be but that is only 5.1 wins added, significantly short of what they need to kick through the door. 

I am feeling generous, so let’s assume the former Marlins each equal their most production season. That would be 5.6 WAR for Reyes back in 2006, 6.8 WAR for Johnson in 2010 and 5.9 WAR for Buerle in 2007. That sums to 18.3 WAR, net 15.7 when I back out Escober and Henderson.

An additional 15 or 16 wins should get the Blue Jays into the post season, but we are probably living in fantasy land here. The likely scenario is that the Jays will be better in the short term with the new additions, but they will stay at best third fiddle to the Yankees and Rays.  

This is ok. All the Blue Jays are trying to sell at the moment is hope. Without expectations, hope is as simple as a big trade on a snowy afternoon.

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I say Poo, you say Holes. Pujols.

Albert Pujols is my favourite baseball player. The St. Louis Cardinals are not my favourite baseball team. I can probably thank fantasy sports for that contradiction. With Pujols, not only are we watching one of the best baseball players who ever lived, we are watching the most consistent fantasy player in the game.  

My favourite memory of Albert is watching him play the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in 2006. We were in New York for our honeymoon and I managed to squeeze in a baseball game with the usual honeymoon activities. The fact that I steered our honeymoon to New York in part to watch him play was not lost on her; fortunately Mrs. SportsJuice doesn’t mind taking in the occasional ball game. I had never seen Pujols play and I came to the game with big expectations. 

In the top of the fourth, Pujols came up to bat for the second time in the game with men on first and third with nobody out. With a 0-1 count, he crushed the ball to right center to make it a 3-1 game. 

Fast forward to the top of the fifth and Pujols came up with the bases loaded and two out. On a 1-1 count, another bomb, this time to left center to make it a 7-1 game. I was dancing in the aisles and Mrs. SportsJuice was into it as well. I think the 7 RBIs has stood as his career best, matched during the recent World Series. 

That night might have been the start of our tradition whenever I see Pujols come up to bat on tv. I interrupt whatever Ms. Juice is up to and say, “When I say poo, you say holes. Poo!” She obliges and says “Holes!”, I then say “Poo”, she follows with “Holes”. We occasionally mix it up and she says poo and I say holes, but it doesn’t work quite as well. 

Anyways, it was a fantastic game that ended with Carlos Beltran hitting a walk off three run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win it for the Mets. We were sitting beside a mother and son, with the mother wearing a Beltran t-shirt. I think the son worked on a crossword puzzle most of the night. Beltran hits that homer and the mom goes absolutely bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. I suspect she then sent her kid home on the train and spent the night trying to hook up with Beltran.

I have often thought about the goals of being a professional athlete. When superstars make decisions to join another team, I try to reconcile that to what I would do in the circumstances. In my mind, I would have noble intentions to play for a single team, win championships and create a real legacy. Late in my career, I could envision pulling a “Ray Bourque” and leaving my team in search of an elusive championship (Bourque left the Boston Bruins very late in his career and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche). Beyond that, I would want to finish my career where I started if I could be so lucky. 

In my mind, I would have great respect for the jersey that I proudly wore. If I was a Yankee I would never play for the Red Sox. If I was an Edmonton Oiler, I would never play for the Calgary Flames. I would never play for the Flames under any circumstances, but that is another story for another day. 

Albert Pujols has never hidden his ultimate goals in baseball. After being drafted in the 13th round in 1999, he has been driven to prove his doubters wrong. He wants to be known as the best player who has ever played the game. In addition to the MVP awards and the .300 average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs each season, he views his salary as an indication of his worth. He just wrapped up a 7 year, $100 million contract that had him outside of the top 25 player salaries last season. This offseason was to be his choice between his legacy with the Cardinals and his legacy with his banker.  

We all know how that turned out.  

Pujols signed a 10 year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim located in California (or whatever they are called). The $254 million eclipses Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million 10 year deal with the Rangers, falling just short of ARod’s $275 million deal with the Yankees. Mission basically accomplished. 

We don’t really need time to tell us how this contract is going to play out. Pujols will be great for awhile yet, but age will eventually catch up to him and he will be a shell of the player he once was. Rather than play through his decline in front of the St. Louis fans that view him as a god, he will grind it out in southern California in front of fans that wish he wasn’t an albatross over the team’s ability to spend money on more productive players. Instead of a statue beside Stan Musial, he will likely sit alone in the clubhouse and wonder if the money was really worth it.

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MLB Expands the Postseason and Waters Down their Product

On the day the Toronto Blue Jays unveiled their snazzy new version of their old logo, I thought I would check in on MLB’s announcement to move the Houston Astros over to the American League and add two additional wild card teams to the already bloated playoffs. With the change, 10 of MLB’s 30 teams will get to hang banners celebrating their trip to the postseason. Even if that trip is only for one day. Continue reading

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The Conversion of Baseball from Religion to Science

For the first 100 years or so of baseball’s history, there was a near widely held belief in the keys to winning baseball games.  On the defensive side, it was the starting pitcher who was central to team success; he was credited with the win or loss.  Over time, the starting pitcher increasingly turned the game over to the bullpen and the last pitcher in the game on the winning team was credited with saving the game for his starter.   As starters began exiting games even earlier, a stat was created to credit other relievers with holds.   Pitching was 90% of defense as the old axiom held. 

Over on the offensive side of the equation, the key to victory was scoring runs.  Stats kept track of who scored the run and who batted in the runner.  Common wisdom was that the critical element to the scoring of the run was the action that immediately preceded the run, which was usually a hit which enabled a runner or runners to cross home plate.  The home run was king to the run scoring action as hitter drove himself in.  It didn’t hurt that chicks dug the long ball.  Continue reading

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Revisiting Dave Stieb’s Chase for Perfection

“If I haven’t gotten a no-hitter after three times,” Dave Stieb said, ”I doubt if I ever will.”

The above quote was taken from an August 5, 1989 New York Times article, the night after Dave Stieb took a perfect game into the 9th inning against the New York Yankees before Roberto Kelly hit a two out double to break up the bid for perfection.  Steve Sax followed with a single, scoring Kelly, and giving Stieb a complete game two-hitter.

Coming into his August 4th start, Stieb has thrown four career one-hitters.  Stieb would go on to throw his fifth career one-hitter three weeks later against Milwaukee.  Finally, in September, 1990, Stieb got his no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.  It was the end of a 12 year quest that began on June 29th, 1979 against the Baltimore Orioles. Continue reading

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Sports Juice: Baseball Greatest Hits

With the baseball season starting later this week, I though I would blow the dust off of my favourite blog posts that relate to baseball.  I have my MLB.tv subscription ready to go and am excited for the return of spring.  If only it would stop snowing in Calgary…

1. Stephen Strasburg will dominate, but for how long? – a post about Strasburg and injury risks just prior to his first major league start last year.  My fantasy team misses him dearly.

2. Jason Bay: I just felt like the Mets would give me a chance to make the most money.  Written just after Bay signed with the Mets in the winter of 2009.

3. Who should be in charge of the MLB Hall of Fame Vote?  From January, 2010, a comparison of MLB voting rules with other professional sports.

4. Shot to the gut, Baltimore Orioles style.  Written after Buck Showalter’s hire last year.  Was shocked to see Ken Rosenthal pick Baltimore to finish 4th ahead of the Jays in his predictions column today.

5. How to win your fantasy baseball pool.

I have some baseball related posts in the hopper and will be working on them over the next few weeks.

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Restoring Meaning to MLB Regular Season and World Series

The past sixteen seasons of Major League Baseball were a farce.  The Yankees victories in 1996 and 2000 should not have happened.  The Red Sox should not have ended their 86 year drought in 2004.  The Marlins should never have played for a World Series title, let alone win two titles.

Forty-four percent of the World Series participants since 1995 should never have been there.   Fifty percent of the World Series Champions did not belong in the postseason.  If baseball had never changed to three divisions and a wild card in 1995, baseball history as we now know it would read much differently. Continue reading

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