Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Report: Jays in as Potential Third Team in Marlins/Red Sox Move

With stories swirling about the Red Sox attempting to reacquire stud shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the Jays have thrown their hat in the ring. No longer content to sit on the sidelines, the Jays realize that they can't afford to fall any further behind the AL East Arms Race.

Which is why the Jays have offered, pending a Ramirez-to-Boston move, to trade places in the NL East with the Marlins. The Marlins, who harbor no false pretense about attempting to compete with their existing division rivals, would get the turnstile boost of 9 annual home games with the Yankees, Red Sox and intrastate rival Rays. The Jays would go from being outclassed by the upper stratosphere payrolls of their existing division rivals to being outclassed by the lower troposphere payrolls of their new division rivals.

The Jays pitching and defense approach would be right at home in the National League, not to mention their complete lack of a viable designated hitter. The Marlins would have a valid excuse to keep Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham and other porous fielders in their lineup because they'd be playing "the American League Way."

Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, in a rare moment of honesty, acknowledged that Ramirez coming to the AL East would pretty much "spell the end" of his clubs chances of ever competing again. "Look, I don't care if Travis Snider turns out to be Ted Williams himself. If the Sox get Hanley less than a month after the Yanks get Tex, CC & AJ, we're beyond fucked."

Repeated calls to the Marlins front office went unanswered, as they employ only two full-time staffers. One to field calls from greedy AL GMs and one guy that works all concession stands and ticket offices at Dolphin Stadium.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Marcel the Projector Can See Inside Your Soul

If you thought the only benefit of the baseball stats revolution was nerdclusters emerging twice a year from their basement lairs to prop up the stripper and ear medicine industries, you'd be wrong. The real fun: projections!

Imagine the Farmer's Almanac if it were, much like the farmer and his children, on crystal meth. Take a wide range of rate stats, age curves, monkey blood stains and voila! Bill James accurately predicts Vernon Wells's slugging percentage to within 20 points! Add all the individual projections up, you can simulate the entire season! Why even bother playing??? These numbers make for good fun and the occasional fistfight, but how much stock should we place in them? More importantly, who should we believe?

The good men and women at Bluebird Banter tackled the Bill James and ZiPS projections earlier in the year. It would seem Bill James is quite the Blue Jays booster. Fangraphs also makes the Marcel projections available, and they got my attention for a number of reasons. Mostly because they differ from the other two so profoundly on two of the most important Jays in 2009: Travis Snider and Adam Lind.

Travis SniderAt BatsHome RunsOPSwOBA
Bill James44819.804.351
Adam LindAt BatsHome RunsOPSwOBA
Bill James59723.843.365

Encouraging signs? They both agree that Travis Snider is a raking machine. Discouraging? Marcel only gives him 213 at bats, and only 374 to Lind! Does this algorithm have secret access to JP's inner sanctum? Does the mythical Marcel and tangotiger's mathematical machinations foresee a high profile DH riding into town, depriving these young studs of plate appearances? Also, why the disparity? Marcel sees Adam Lind producing 2.1 runs below average, while Bill James believes in 10 runs above! What about the 30 point difference between their projected averages on balls into play? Does Marcel believe Adam Lind will suddenly stop hitting line drives all together?

In all seriousness, this is a big year for Adam Lind. Much like Vernon Wells and Alex Rios before him, this spring presents itself as the long hyped phenom's opportunity to prove he belongs. In some respects, they all are similar hitters. Not particularly patient (though Vernon is much better at getting the bat on the ball), similar line drive and home run/fly ball rates. An outfield of the three of them wouldn't lead the league in home runs, but hardly a weak spot among them.

There is another player that comes to mind when I think of Adam Lind, a player that we can all agree would be a nice ceiling for a player like Lind: Garret Anderson. As the linked chart shows, Garret Anderson didn't really take off as a player until his 26 year old season. They're both left handed left fielders without much patience but enough pop to hold down an outfield spot. If Adam Lind can develop Garret Anderson's consistent production, I for one would be content.

So which projection do we put the most stock in? Which is the profit and which is the lunatic screaming on the streetcorner? Perhaps I will just take the optimistic route for each, project them both as 5 win players and camp out for playoff tickets. For argument's sake; Marcel projected Alex Rios as a .354 wOBA player with 18 home runs and 35 doubles. Rios actually put up 15 home runs, a not-talked-about-enough 47 doubles (tying him with Aaron Hill for the fourth highest Blue Jay total ever) and a .350 wOBA. Pretty accurate, more so than Bill James who overestimated Rios' OPS by 40 points. So we're fucked.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Make it a Ghostrunner Xmas

What do you mean that's not Santa? Red hat, white beard. Same fucking guy right? I enjoyed The Life Aquatic more than 1000 Christmases anyway. Why you may ask? Because Christmas can go get fucked. No matter the circumstance, I'm ready and willing to celebrate the blessed event of time away from work. Paid days off are the real Messiah.

I'm not one to turn down free shit, so in the honor of the season of consumerism, I've thrown together a simple wishlist all my own.
  • Yankee Comeuppance. Even though their free spending ways haven't been as bad as I think, my hate has been reborn in surprising and refreshing ways.
  • The World Baseball Classic to not be a trainwreck. I need more baseball in my life.
  • To be on the radio. Seriously, somebody put me on the radio. I will keep the "like" count under 50.
  • Hell, while I'm getting all pie in the sky; season tickets. That would be awesome, hidden wealthy benefactors.
  • A walkoff walk every night for the entire season. That shrimp should look like Usain Bolt by next October.

One last thing:

Have a good few days off people. Make it happen Zissou!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weekend Buncheso'stuff

It's the weekend, it's almost Christmas; my least favorite time of year. At its heart, Christmas is a time to appreciate the under-appreciated, like hotter than you think Sinead O'Conner. An everlasting Irish agitator, she wrote some songs (no joke: nothing compares 2 U is a track. There's a lot there), is/was political defiantly, refused to perform on the same show as Andrew Dice Clay, tore up a picture of the Pope, and pissed people off at every turn. Here's to you Sinead, my pants are the real enemy.

Back to Baseball

The other day I wrote a post at Walkoff Walk about fielding being the new darling of Moneyball - underpriced and undervalued. The Mariners were my example of a team that shored up their defense at low cost. Turns out they're taking this whole run prevention thing seriously and hired the right manager. New boss Don Wakamatsu noticed poor results for groundball machine Roy Corcoran and wants to fix it (via U.S.S Mariner):
I look at Corcoran, and opposing hitters averaged .283 against him," Wakamatsu said. "But he had a four-to-one ratio of ground balls (to fly balls). Did they find every hole?

"The fact is that we have to catch more ground balls. I want to bring these kinds of statistics to the coaches and players. It's a way to get better. Maybe it just means we need to shade the middle more, or maybe we need to focus more on what specific hitters do against each of our specific pitchers.
Impressive talk from a manager, not the kind of thing I'd expect to hear out of Cito's mouth. Could it be that JP realized this years ago, thus assembling one of the best defensive squads in baseball? Nah, we wouldn't want to give him that kind of credit.

Speaking of defense, Raul Ibanez's comments regarding defensive stats are certainly interesting, if a little misguided. He offers the "I'm hitting it RIGHT AT people" rebuttal to his poor showing in each and every defensive metric. Sorry Raul, you come off intelligent and informed here, but slightly defensive. Ar Ar.

Weekend Links to Kill Some Time

Thursday, December 18, 2008

WBC - The Scoundrel's Last Resort

Proper GeezerGM Meetings - Done.

Winter Meetings - Done.

Long Hard Winter of Suffering - Only Just Begun.

The average offseason is nothing but pain and agony, but this winter offers a brief respite in the form of the World Baseball Classic. Cold, calculated corporate exercise designed to separate baseball fans from even more of their money? Of course! But this is a dot com not a dot org, who am I to judge? Besides, watching good players play baseball is good and good for you.

The astonishingly prolific Matt Synder of AOL's Fanhouse presented his dream lineup for Team America today, and did a damn fine job selecting his 30 superstars. This was his ideal team, so guys that aren't likely to play (Beckett & Halladay) were included simply because they're the best around. (I will quibble with his placement of Halladay toward the end of his starters list. Front and center sir!)

I liked a lot of his choices, from "sexy pick" Nick Markakis (well established as the Greek Rocco) to looking past Ryan Howard & Prince Fielder to select Lance Berkman's superior defense & switch hitting versatility as the backup first baseman. I'd take Brian Roberts over Pedroria and Kinsler because, in a word, fuck those two guys. It's also sad to think about J.J. Hardy condo shopping in Yorkville waiting for Spring Training to start thanks to pre-selected US Captain and grand inserter of butts-to-seats Derek Jeter. Again, quibbling.

As with most all star-type teams, the bullpen presents a unique challenge. Choosing between Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, and Jonathon Papelbon is the kind of problem I wish I had, but questions remain about these creatures of habit fitting into unfamiliar roles. To fill out his pen, Snyder rationally and reasonably selected Matt Capps, the very dusty closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Capps is an excellent control guy (7.80 Strikeout to walk ratio in 2008, third in baseball for players with 50 IP.) Excellent numbers for sure, but that leaves the American 'pen without a lefty. Synder addresses this point immediately, suggesting he'll take his chances with random left-handed Japanese bench guy X against Brad Lidge or the Papelboner. That point is as valid as they come, but I'll make a different suggestion: Scott Downs should be on the American WBC team.

Though Scott Downs's numbers came back to earth down the stretch in 2008, he still had a great year. He ranked 2nd among American relievers and second among lefties in terms of WPA/LI, with very little variation in high leverage situations. His K/BB ratio isn't great, but has remained consistently around 2 for his career. While he occasionally puts guys on, people simply don't hit the ball hard off him. His line drive rate was 12% in 2008, and he only allowed home runs on 6% of his fly balls; a number that only looks better when you realize he only surrenders fly balls about 20% of the time.

LOOGYs like Downs don't often get credit, they simply bounce around from team to team during their eternal careers. There's always a market for a situational lefty, and situations will certainly arise in a high-pressure* tournament when every game matters. Despite the fateful pratfall in Boston this season, Downs has been one of the best relievers in baseball for the past few years. It would be nice for him to have the chance to play in front of his "home crowd" in Toronto also.

* - there is no actual pressure. Nobody really cares about the WBC. Except us! The Reverend and I have our tickets, and I plan on periodically checking in as this made for TV event approaches.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Throwaway Quotes

There is a real sense of negativity surrounding the Jays chances in 2009. I wonder what all this negativity stems from? It couldn't be the loss of AJ Burnett, a signing bemoaned by fans of both the team that lost him AND the team that signed him? How does that work anyway? How can Jays fans be pissed he's leaving and Yankees fans be pissed he's on his way? Something is amiss, there must be outside forces contriving to keep Blue Jays fans down...

Forces like the Shi Davidi, using a rousing metaphor to squash the Jays hopes and dreams in December.
So the Blue Jays will now try to slay the AL East beasts with a plastic knife, hoping their kids progress quickly, several players overachieve and they hit on some inexpensive, roll-of-the-dice signings.
No mention of their league-best defense, or the health/full-time status of their most important bats? Surprising. The plastic knife bit is effective though. It really evinces the desperation and futility of 2009.

What about Herr Blair, the finest Blue Jays voice? Though he's moved on from the Blue Jays beat, he still brings the goods and is realistic without being pessimistic. His piece in Monday's Globe advocating the Yankees big spending in the most rational, thoughtful way imaginable. But he threw in a dig at the end that makes me wonder why the song and dance goes all year long.
But Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi had the Yankees picked out as Burnett's destination as far back as the summer.
Really? It's unrealistic to assume JP thought for a second that A.J. was going to stay with the Jays, but when he's nailing the destination in the summer, why can't somebody print that in the summer? The whole song-and-dance of the last two months now seems officially retarded, and the biggest waste of time and column inches in history.

Speaking of wasted column inches, Cathal Kelly's now my favorite Jays beat guy; his modern voice is rare in the MSM. His column about the AJ & Halladay's relationship that never really was generated a lot of feedback, as these columns always do. The "he was trouble in the clubhouse/nobody liked him column" always come out after the fact. I ask why? Why are we not hearing about this until these guys leave? Before Frank Thomas was cut, we heard he was a good teammate, the guys respected his record blah blah blah. As soon as he's cut, Wilner and some others immediately start in on the "nobody's going to miss him around here!" routine. If that is the case, why don't we hear about it in the moment?

I understand reporters aren't too interested in biting the hand that feeds, and athletes can be an unpleasant and unreasonable lot (ie. A.J.'s sudden bloodfued with the Fan and Wilner.) But if they see it, and everybody knows it, why don't we get to hear it? It's true what they say about Griffin; he might not know what he's talking about, but at least he's there to face those he wrongly slams.

The Most Cynical Thing I'll Ever Write and Other Stuff

  • Holy Shit!!! Rocco's been misdiagnosed! He's cured! Just in time for free agency! I hate myself. Hopefully it's true, and Rocco can find himself a full time job. Or he can come here and be the fourth outfielder. At which point I will simply quit my job. Update: A much more in-depth and not entirely capitalized report on Rocco here. via Drunk Jays Fans and my borderline psychotic Google Alert.
  • Longtime supporter, prolific blogger and all-around stud NV aka eyebeleaf of Sports and The City has joined the Score Sports Federation. This man does a yeoman's work covering all the major sports in Toronto, while remaining active all over the blogosphere. Congrats sir, you deserve it.
  • Just in time for its violent shark-jumping, I created a Facebook page for Ghostrunner on First. Become a "fan" and sign up. There will be some Facebook exclusive stuff, as well as discussion among the other degenerates that I befriend and abuse. Click the banner on the side. Tell your mom to as well, god knows she has a facebook page by now. Old people ruin everything.

Monday, December 15, 2008

FIPing Ain't Easy

Oh goodness me, the Yankees have spent so much money this off season, those of us that spend our winters in a Turkish coal mine might as well forgo returning to the AL East to compete with this juggernaut. I mean look at this rotation (or SUPER ROTATION, as Fangraphs describes it.) Who could possibly compete with that? Well for starters, the Yankees -as currently constructed- don't have the defensive team to support their seemingly robust pitching.

In 2008, the Yankees were a bad defensive team. The finished the year with a stellar -30 defensive plus/minus. A.J. Burnett is a lot of things, but a control pitcher is not one of them. He is going to put runners on, and no outfield combination of Johnny Damon (in 2008 he sported a -5.6 UZR in 30 games in center but a respectable 8.6 in left), Hideki Matsui (-15.5 UZR/150 for his career), Xavier Nady (0.5 UZR/150 games for his career in RF), and Melky Cabrera (-6.1 UZR/150 games for his career in the outfield) is going to help matters.

Losing the awful Abreu helps make them less bad, but they really aren't replacing him with much. They will miss his strong arm though, as only Melky Cabrera is above league average in this respect. You might ask; what about Nick Swisher? And I heard they're going to acquire Mike Cameron to shore up the outfield, you might say. Mike Cameron can still go and get it, responding with a fine 2008 after being swallowed whole by Petco Park in 2007. Nick Swisher is a lot of things and competent outfielder isn't really one of them. He can play all over the diamond, but only in right field does he do more good than harm. He'll most likely play first base for this team, heading up a wholly uninspiring collection of infield glovemen.

Piling on Jeter is tired and boring, and he showed a tremendous improvement from 2007 to 2008, according to his UZR. Sadly, he "improved" to a -0.4 UZR, so let's not start etching another Gold Glove quite yet. Robinson Cano's universally terrible 2008 saw him go from a +17 in 2007 to a -16 in 2008. Which is the real Cano? Considering 2007 has been his only season with a positive UZR, I'm going to go ahead and assume that he sucks. Alex Rodriquez offers league-average defense and far below average taste in women.

What does this mean for the Yankee hurlers? Only Chein Ming Wang is a true groundball artist counting on that less than airtight infield. Joba, AJ, and CC are all around 3/2 GB to FB. Last I heard, they aren't making the new Yankee Stadium any smaller, so they will suffer some slights at the hands of their bumbling outfield. While it would be ridiculous to suggest they haven't improved their team and their chances of returning to the post season, the team they've built around their world-beating rotation isn't helping the cause.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fortune's Always Hiding

Story time. Once, there was a young boy that lived in Asia for a few years. This young boy grew up in Canada and was something of a soccer (football) fan, but this sojourn in the Far East helped him to focus his fandom. He read some books and had some relatives from the area, so this young boy developed an affinity for Chelsea Football Club. They had a wee little Italian sparkplug and a few genuine English stars. It was great fun, they were in their ascendancy, which was quickened by a very rich oligarch unafraid to splash the bloodmoney from Russia around on big name players.

The team improved and starting winning trophies. Soon though, the whole vibe around the team changed. They spent recklessly, bringing in instantly hate-able jackasses that made it hard to like the team. Then, the bloodmoney Russian owner started pretending like he could be the coach, firing one of the best football minds in the world and replacing him with an unqualified patsy.

Meanwhile, a famous club made its return to the top flight and was fighting for its survival. They had a lot of history and a proud tradition. The young boy found myself pulled towards this team more and more, especially after the exploits of the goofy Russian owner. An incredible run to survive and he was hooked.

Fast forward to Sunday, December 14th, 2008. These two clubs are playing on national television in Canada. The big money team is still a big money team while the wee Italian sparkplug is now the coach of the plucky "working class" team from East London.

As in any sport where there is a massive inequity between the haves and the have nots, it didn't look like much a matchup. But the plucky kids scored first, the supporters sang and sang, and everyone had a great old time. The game finished as a draw, but that won't detract from the enjoyment. Just like it doesn't matter how much money the other teams spend, it doesn't matter if they contine to sign away our best talent, or how hopeless things seem in the offseason.

Already writing the Jays chances off? Good, fuck you. Go watch UFC. Considering abandoning the Jays because they haven't made the playoffs in 15 years? Awesome, continue fucking off. Feeling sorry for yourself because the baseball men don't win more games? Get a life. I'll still cheer and curse, I'll still rush home on Wednesday nights and I'll still care. It's a lot more fun this way.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Bunchostuff

It seems that I forgot a superduper shitballer the other day. Matt Clement is the latest refuse pile project. His ceiling? Paul Byrd??? His basement? Josh Towers. How much touch will a control guy with meh stuff have two years removed from getting shelled in the AL East? His minor league deal is completely non-threatening, and JP is due to have one of these break his way. Godspeed, chinpubes.

There are plenty rumours kicking around; the Barretts, the Furcals and the other assorted shitballers. The one that really gets my attention is Ty Wigginton. The wrong kind of attention that is. The offseason hand-wringing is getting to be a bit much to take, with fans ready to trade anyone and everyone. Anyone ready to ship out Scott Rolen in favour of a Jose Bautista/Ty Wigginton platoon can kindly fuck right off. A run saved is nearly equal to a run scored, the Hardball times says. I can't see Ty Wigginton continuing his 18.5% Home Run per Flyball rate outside of Enron Field. Add his "never-above-zero" Ultimate Zone Rating/150 games at third and it doesn't sound like he's saving any runs,either. So fuck him, and fuck you for considering him. Leave my Rolen alone.

Good and Quick

  • You may now be familiar with the Ballad of Rinku and Dinesh. The two Indian cricketers won a contest, trained in the US and have been signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kris @ Walkoff Walk has been all over this story since the early days of the Million Dollar Arm blog, and recently got some closure on this now-huge story through an interview with the two phenoms. My boys haven't received enough credit for groundflooring this story, so check the interview out and then sign up to be a commenter at Walkoff Walk. Good times are guaranteed!
  • Someone decided there was too much joy in the world and adapted Cormac McCarthy's The Road for the screen! And they got Viggo Mortensen to star! It looks truly, soul-crushingly depressing! I could not be more excited. Actually, I could be and in fact I am. World War Z - the Movie. Don't fuck this up, guy that fucked up Daniel Craig's James Bond.
  • The Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson fleecing has created possibly the best defensive outfield in baseball. The new-look Mariners outfield will be good too, but anywhere near this good. I remember really liking what I saw from Joyce the few times I saw him this year. If someone in Detroit can turn Edwin Jackson into A.J. Burnett, consider that man a genius.
  • I've been wanting to mention this for nearly a month now, but the Free Darko book is simply incredible. I had high hopes and the Macrophenomenal Guide completely blew me away. If you care AT ALL about basketball you will rush out and grab it. If you like the Raptors, you may not understand what you read because they are simply the ugliest, most boring team on the planet. And they suck, too. Jose Calderon is the best back-up point guard in the NBA. There, I said it.
  • The always underrated Tao has been killing it all month long. The Tao was the first Jays blog I ever came across, and I'm sure glad that I did. There would be no Ghostrunner on First without the Tao, and that would certainly make me quite unhappy. So thanks Tao, you're an inspiration to us all.
My bebcation is nearly over, which sucks terribly. At least going back to work will allow me some more company time to update this dick joke party. C'mon Brad Penny, do what feels right.

The video is of Barrit, who were twice as awesome as Michael Barrett and three times as badass. Screaming so loud that you can hear it over the music without a mic? Where do I sign? RIP Steve Neal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flying Scumbag Innings Eaters

I'm a cheap bastard, and certainly not one to pass up a bargain. I've acknowledged the value of a proven innings eater on an incentive based contract. But mother of god, some of the names being bandied about are making me lose faith.

I stumped for Brad Penny in the past, a proven guy with good stuff and a solid track record (2.17 K/BB, 45.6% GB rate, 9% HR/FB). I recognize these traits come at a cost, one the budget-conscious Blue Jays aren't willing to pay.

Some of the scumbags that are being rumoured as cheapo replacements are making my skin crawl. Carl Pavano I get, his stuff isn't bad. Looking a his numbers a little deeper (45% GB rate for his career, 10% HR/Fly ball, 2.3 K/BB) he doesn't seem to be terrible. One strong year surrounded by a few mediocre ones. For a minor league deal sure, but let's adjust our expectations accordingly.

As reported by Jordan Bastian today, the Jays have had some discussions with Kris Benson. Fuck. That. He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006, and he sucked when he did. Only once in his career did he amass a FIP under 4, he makes Carl Pavano look like Cy Young. Fewer ground balls, more home runs per fly ball, lower K/BB rate. Ugh. Add his sideshow wife to the mix; I'm not happy.

Pavano & Benson K/BB Graphed Against Tomo Ohka for Comedic Impact

In other words, these guys are looking at Jesse Litsch as a ceiling. Mid thirties Jesse Litsches, not 23 year old Litsches with lots to learn and clean injury histories. Don't even get me started on Brian Tallet in the rotation...

Graph courtesy of, you won't believe this, Fangraphs.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A.J. Burnett - Cornering the Boo Market

A.J. Burnett lives for your scorn. His goofy agent recently announced that the Orioles are among the 6 teams A.J. has shortlisted as possible free agent destinations and the Braves jumping out as front runners by reportedly offering a guaranteed fifth year. The shortlist includes all the non-Ray teams of the AL East plus Atlanta and Philadelphia; all teams that regularly show their faces in Toronto. So tan up your leathery lungs, the chance to boo is yours!

A.J. the Oriole is the best and most benign option. The "rivalry" between the Orioles and Jays would have to improve to be nonexistent. Burnett could take the mound on a lazy Sunday afternoon with less than 30 000 in attendance, all of which are ready and willing to unleash a full throated maelstrom of hate. The hate is mostly undeserved, but let me help you focus your anger into a concentrated beam of millionaire-taunting, girlfriend-embarrassing, toy cop-baiting anger.

Opening Salvo

It is important to lay groundwork early in the game, letting A.J.'s sensitive soul know what he's in for. It can be tough to get into the groove before you've determined what kind of section you've stolen seats from and before you've established a good tipping precedent with the kingcan guy. The ever-popular "you suck" is too bland, he's going to get carpet bombed with those from the uninitiated. "You suck" and the like are no different than general booing: a noise used to express disapproval. You've got to be able to cut through the din with some biting commentary.

You could go two ways: ignore the obvious shortcoming of a pitcher's won/loss record as a measure of his value and give Burnett a good "you're just a .500 pitcher" Griffing. You may just win over your section, but you don't want to go out like that. Consider wowing your sectionmates with some FIP, some strand rated goodness or even a little VORP. Discount the fact that A.J. was the only Jays pitcher to have a FIP higher than his ERA. Marvel at A.J. Burnett's incredibly high Value Over Replacement Puma. Don't be afraid to loudly recall the time you caught him in the bullpen, adding to his pitcher abuse points without a batterymate (SUBTLE WINK.) It's considered bad form to get your signals crossed and announce your prediction for his gamescore tonight as fag.

Staying Strong

Remember this is an A.J. Burnett start, so it is going one of two ways. He's either going to utterly dominate and shut down the Jays (with this offense? Easier said than done LOL!) or he's going to defecate all over the sheets in the most spectacular manner possible. Should hammer of doom and live fastball Burnett show up, making the Jays look positively Denboian, you must prepare yourself for doing the right thing: a complete about face. You should show him the proper respect and offer him earnest, standing applause. Three wacky years of occasionally brilliant but never dull entertainment has to be worth that much. Stand and salute a spotty warrior with a success record similar to Sex Panther.

Should A.J. feel slighted by the umpire and hatefuck a few fastballs down broadway, leading to the Jays dinking and dunking their way to crooked number, prepare yourself for a true delight: the derisive ovation. Think Patrick Roy's last game as a Hab or what a savvier ACC crowd would do if the Raptors managed a fast break basket. Nothing beats a smirking standing O, often earning a finger to the crowd.

Value Added Nuance and/or Desperation

As the innings roll by, you may be running out of ammo. After a few beers have lubricated the proceedings, I advise pulling a Josh Beckett and starting in on AJ's wife.

You see how easy it is?

Make something up, run it out there and you've got his attention. You could always dip into the L'Homme Du Sports playbook and drop some Boogie Nights on him. Rollergirl, limo rides; the heavy lifting is already done here. Don't be afraid to go low and encourage AJ to opt out of your balls. It doesn't make any sense, but you'll entertain at least one drunken frat boy within earshot.

It is our duty as Torontonians to both uphold our fierce pride and hilarious inferiority complex. Tell him sucked when he was here while trying to distract from the way he broke your heart by leaving.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buster Onley Tells You What You Already Know about Vernon Wells

ESPN seamhead supreme Buster Olney introduced a new feature yesterday; having three baseball "talent evaluators" offer their scouting reports on a specific player. His first selection is Jays moneyman Vernon Wells.

Thanks to his massive contract; Vernon Wells faces a great deal of a scrutiny from Blue Jays fans and writers everywhere. In the past few weeks ago The Southpaw broke down his big extension by comparing it to other free agent centerfielders and the deals they received. Unsurprisingly, the Wells deal shakes out pretty well. The good men at Mop Up Duty took a look at his frustrating pattern of good year-bad year, a phenomenon that all Jays fans are painfully aware of. I recall L'Homme du Sport mentioning Vernon Wells being completely unsatisfied with his play in 2005 and vowing to get better for 2006. After kick-starting his season at the WBC he did just that. So when Olney kicks off his piece detailing Wells new commitment to fitness, I'm encouraged. But what do the scouts/front office lackeys have to say?

Generally, they say the same stuff you and I say during an average Jays game. He has far too many bad at bats. He seems to lack focus on a consistent basis. He's a highly skilled player but not quite a franchise cornerstone. Sigh. Let's get specific with a few choice quotes:

I can't get over how many at-bats he throws away chasing high fastballs or breaking balls off the plate, even in fastball counts, almost like he occasionally lacks any semblance of patience or ability to slow down the game

That is certainly how it seems, but is it true? As far as patience goes, Vernon Wells was last among Jays regulars with 3.4 pitches per plate appearance, consistent with his career numbers. Wells also has a little bit of Joe Carteritis, falling victim to the slider low and away, but does he really swing at that many bad balls? Yes, yes he does. He swings at approx 27% of balls out of the strike zone. Compare that to other highly paid center fielders like Carlos Beltran (19%), Torii Hunter (28%), Grady Sizemore (19.5%). The most telling part of this quote is the "even in fastball counts" part. Wells is best when he's aggressive, as his 42 career first pitch home runs will attest (most of any count). But when Vernon Wells is ahead 2-0, his career OPS dips to .795. How does that make any damn sense at all?

...when he's not (ed: emphasis mine) playing against some of the tougher teams in the AL. I wonder about his ability to maintain his focus and concentration at the plate

Very interesting. AL teams that hold Vernon Wells to a sub .800 OPS: Anaheim, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Tampa, Texas. Aside from LAA, hardly the elite of the American League the past 10 years.

Wells could conceivably be a classic change-of-scenery guy who really wakes up when he finds himself in a larger, more pressurized market

Would you like to see me cry? I'll break down, right here and now.

In addition to leading the Jays in home runs in 2008, he also leads the Jays in affability. He seems like a genuine goof, and probably the Jay I'd most like to hang out with. Does this Dude-like demeanor keep him from getting up against the shitballs of the AL? The Indians have killed the Jays for years now, so he's certainly not alone. Does Vernon Wells need to work more on his day to day effort rather than his physical performance? He's got all the tools, what will it take to keep him interested? Being in the thick of a pennant race? His strongest months are May, June, and July, but he's a Toronto Blue Jay so that doesn't tell us jack about pennant races or Meaningful Baseball, does it?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Matter of Respect

Out of respect for a rich man that wasn't satisfied with mere comfort and endeavored to be truly wealthy, I don't have too much to say.

Out of respect for the 22 people that lost their sales jobs with the Toronto Blue Jays, I wish I had less to say. I get that fake-offering A.J. Burnett a $15 million dollar contract extension offers more return on investment than 20-odd sales managers does; but that doesn't make it any easier to take 3 weeks before Christmas. Despite my best efforts, baseball is not a abstract entity free of all the corporate trappings of horseshit business. Don't worry pro sports, once the golden goose has drowned in its own excess, we real fans will still be here.

The last word on respect goes to Rotoworld. When announcing the death of the owner, how did they choose to extend this information to their widget-loving public? Which player has the gravitas to to reflect the heft of a team owner and media magnate?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Make Your Own News

As you are well aware, the offseason fucking sucks. My incredible foresight allowed me to knock up Ms. Moseby 9 months ago, knowing there wouldn't be anything to write about anyway aside from the birth of the Barber's assistant on Saturday morning.

Now that I am a dad, my entire world view has changed. My days of mancrushes are over, as I no longer see baseball players as five tool studs or original characters. I see a toxic concoction of Ed Hardy, chlamydia, and road beef. Even you Rocco, stay the hell away from my kid!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Rocco Report

It's been weeks since I last checked in with the patron saint of Ghostrunner on First, Rocco Baldelli. Rocco, like every other available free agent, has opted to massage his ballsack rather than sign a contract. The most persistent rumours have Rocco landing in either Philadelphia or Boston. The Red Sox talk is fueled by two very different things: the Sox are kicking the tires and doing their homework on Rocco, and every single Red Sox fan alive has a blog. Earlier this month the Boston Globe reported the Red Sox were doing a great deal of research about his condition to determine if it will improve or worsen over time. Most Red Sox fans are simply in a lather over the prospect of signing a true New England guinea to be their fourth outfielder. Not unlike the Erik Bedard/Jason Bay/Adam Loewen maple-lather that coats this great land of ours each winter.

Speaking of tragic homegrown paisans, Rocco was recently awarded the Tony Conigliaro Award, given to the Major League ballplayer who's resemblance to Tony Conigliaro in every possible way goes past uncanny all the way to creepy. It's a nice honor for Rocco, especially since the Comeback Player of the Year award goes to any washed up player that holds off on sucking for one full year. In a cruel twist of fate, this was the second time in his career he's been nominated as the player who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination and courage that were trademarks of the late Major Leaguer.

Bonus Rocco Fun Fact! Last time I provided fun Rocco facts, I noted that his first big league home run came at the expense of one Harry Leroy Halladay. I recently learned that Rocco's first career home run ball is part of the Rays exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame! (Follow the link for a photo of the ball in the Rays HoF locker) That is pretty fucking cool. No mention of Halladay, maybe one day he'll get a bust instead.

Photo borrowed and gently used from Suzy Q's flickrstream

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day in the Life Existence of Roy Halladay

It is widely acknowledged that Roy Halladay is equal parts man, animal, and machine. His ravenous appetite for the flesh of opponents is offset by his laser-like execution of a precise, predetermined strategy and his unfailing humility. Basically, he's all things to all men. We here at Ghostrunner on First have taken advantage of our deep pool of resources to gain access to The Doc's inner sanctum. From inside his fortress of solitude, we offer a look at Roy Halladay's daily agenda.

5:41 AM: Wake before sunrise. Another day; another victory. You'll never best me, Earth's yellow sun.

5:45 AM: Begin first set of daily calisthenics. Strap on aerobic truck tire and attach 14 pounds of raw, bloodied steak to said truck tire. Release hounds. Run. Collect and kennel starving, exhausted dogs.

6:30 AM: Breakfast. Observe 100km rule by consuming 6 organic, free-range eggs with 8 pieces of locally grown brown toast. For protein, two locally raised (but not from a mill) puppies.

7:00 AM: Begin daily staredown in the mirror. Turn grimace to stun.

9:00 AM: Realize the only man strong enough to survive the glare of Roy Halladay is Roy Halladay.

9:15 AM: Climb into flex fuel vehicle with wife, make pleasant small talk en route to children's hospital. Improve outlook for dozens of children. Smile despite facial muscles lack of familiarity with positions.

11:00 AM: Leave children's hospital for silent drive home, allowing anger to build that I can't do more for those that truly deserve it.

11:15 AM: Begin daily pitching workout. Channel unspeakable anger at inability to heal the world's ills into endless barrage of cutters on black. Use RISK map as target, decimate Kamchatka once again.

12:00 PM: Lunch on patio with family. Impress upon children the value of satisfaction in life's work, whatever it may be. Casually scan 2008 draft class scouting report, begin developing pitching plan for each hitter.

12:30 PM: Anaerobic workout. Ride unicycle to local Habitat for Humanity build. Deadlift cracked bathtubs and broken patio stones into garbage bins. Volunteer to do all roofing because everyone fucking hates roofing. Pedal unicycle home with hands.

2:30 PM: Shower in re-purposed rainwater using phosphate-free soaps. Buy carbon credits online just to be safe.

3:00 PM: Watch game film of every loss since 2003. Make charitable donation in name of every fielder who commits an error. Leave another message on Arnsberg's machine. Silently brood.

5:00 PM: Evening workout. Fueled by memories missed locations, do 20 seconds of flexed arm hang for every curveball hung in 2006.

6:00 PM: Quiet dinner with agent, manager, accountant and JP. Demand each man eat in silence to reflect the quiet dignity and professionalism of the host.

7:30 PM: Shoo oily skinned sycophants from my home, retire to quiet evening fishing with family in boat powered by suppressed curse words.

9:30 PM: Sleep soundly on Egyptian cotton sheets and pillows stuffed with hope. Dream of a day when I finally get it right.

Top image courtesy of Bastian, who I think borrowed it anyway

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ghostreader on First - An Interview with Andrew Hood

I took a brief break from my usual grab-bag of dick jokes and baseball statistics twisted into dick jokes because I had the privilege of interviewing Canadian author Andrew Hood. Hood received the 2007 Danuta Gleed Literary Award for his first book, the short story collection Pardon Our Monsters.

Pardon Our Monsters's stories are all set in the fictional southwestern Ontario town of Corbet; which isn't on the map but can be found wherever there are lakes to swim in, basement apartments to get high in, and baseball diamonds to kill time on. The collection reads like a veritable roadmap of the maturation-with-great-reluctance process. Various stages and ages are represented, but the interactions and feelings always ring true, even if they aren't the most noble or altruistic. From the pure and unspoiled hatred of the fat obnoxious bully down the street, the all-consuming love of an older brother and the Toronto Blue Jays, or the uneasy feeling of having a semi-serious girlfriend for all the wrong reasons; these stories evoke the full range of stunted and confused adolescent emotions.

Andrew and I exchanged emails about baseball as life, the Canadian zeitgeist represented by the pre-World Series Blue Jays, and our inner monsters. He was awesome enough to include a picture he drew and sent to his favorite player as a kid. You can see the autographed and returned (justification of favorite player status if anything was) below.

Lloyd the Barber: Describe your connection to the game of baseball, and why you think it appears so frequently in Pardon Our Monsters?

Andrew Hood: I played ball until it got too serious, and maybe spent a bit too much time in the watershed between where it’s treated like a game and where it’s treated like a sport. There’s that point where everyone turns either earnest and testy or bored and lackadaisical, where the players that are really good start resenting you for not being as good as they are or for dicking around and the parents of those kids start pulling the coach aside to suggest they encourage the less-good players to quit already so their superstar child can hone their prowess unencumbered. For me, playing baseball was kind of like going to church: it was something my parents wanted me to do for experience’s sake, and when I was old enough (around 12-ish for baseball, I guess—and 9-ish for church) I made the adult decision to stop going. At that time, my thing was drawing, and this hand eye co-ordination made me a fair pitcher, I think—though I could only hurl for two or three innings before my arm gave up—and as a batter I was terrified of being hit by the ball, so I struck out consistently, sticking me in the middle of being an okay-enough sport but a listless player. I never watched baseball on TV much, though I collected the cards. Let’s say that I liked baseball, but didn’t care about it.

I honestly can’t say why baseball kept creeping up in that period of my writing. I guess it affected me more than I’d figured. From how readers have been reacting—especially men about my age—the experience must be fairly shared, so it’s fortunate that that personal experience can be so relatable. I’d say it’s so prevalent because I hated it so much, but that’s not an apt answer, as that level scrutiny has to suggest some amount of affection, some intimacy and fascination.

Ltb: The Blue Jays of the late 80's and early 90's made an indelible imprint on Canadian people of a certain age. Can you envision a team or sport capturing the attention of nation like that again?

AH: There’s something very Canadian about that period of Jays baseball. As a people we have a real problem with effortless success, so the constant darkhorse struggle of those early years seems perfectly suited for our disposition. For me John Olerud was the perfect Blue Jay; he was as kind as he was skilled; he didn’t steal bases and he kept promises to his mother. And the variations of the team in that period were so motley, were that Canadian Mosaic that we’d had explained to us for all these years. I remember my father relishing the Spanish pronunciation of George (Whore-Hey!) whenever Bell would be at bat. And, in thinking back on that time in Canada, I can’t help but braid the Jays with the Barenaked Ladies: it was a great time of effusive success for something Canadian, and we let ourselves celebrate that. We were identifying ourselves finally with not only prowess (because, of course, we love to say how skilled we are) but now with success.

But I’m only stabbing at things here. I really can’t say what it was about that time. We Canadians love nothing more than to go on and on about how much better we are than the Americans, but I’ll give the States this: they care, and they care fucking loudly, and they show up in droves, and they spend money. Look at our voter turn out this past election, and look at the box office for a Canadian film, and look at the sales of a Canadian book, and look at the attendance at a CFL game. There’s something about our warp and woof that just doesn’t seem to allow us to be passionate and supportive of our own (unless, of course, they make it in America—but that pride is conditional on them mentioning their home town on a talk show). We’ve come to think of this disengaged disposition as patience and politeness, when really, I think it’s something that’s much worse: apathy. We are glutted on American politics, American art, and American sport, and we continue to support America while politely letting out own outputs flounder. What happened with the Jays back then feels like an anomaly, and I think the imprint on people of a certain age is that of an anomalous passion, and I don’t know what—sports, or arts, or politics—could ever animate this place like that again. The States would have to fly our flag upside down again, eh?

LtB: Samantha Fox (who appears in the story Giving up the Ghost as Muchmusic-approved jerkoff fodder - ED) is hot and all, but what about Mitsou? The French Queen of Cancon!

AH: I had to Google Mitsou, so that should answer your question, and I still don’t have much of an idea of who she is or was. I was a bit too young (Ed: it should be noted that this award-winning author is a mere 25 years old, which makes me hate myself just a little) to be into Samantha Fox even, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware. My older brother was a fan, even though his musical tastes were better inclined. Did Mitsou ever do Playboy? Because Samantha sure as shit did.

LtB: Would you say that baseball is a monstrous game? Ostensibly it's a team game, but it's all about the individual at it's heart. For example, Fitz (one of the protagonists in the story Chin Music, an unrepentant asshole that hits batters and starts bench-clearing brawls just because he's bored) is an excellent baseball player but likely the worst teammate in history.

AH: Okay: with football and hockey, it’s all about physically stopping a play from happening, but with baseball—yes—it’s about an individual’s performance. A batter hits the ball and a fielder either catches or he doesn’t. In this way it’s an individual sport, sure. The thing about that character Fitz, though, is that he tries to breakdown that individualism which, to me, makes baseball so boring. What are the most exciting incidents possible in a ball game? A runner on third charging a catcher squatting over home plate, ready for him. The collision of runner stealing second and that moment when the dust settles and the umpire hasn’t yet made his call. Remember when Kelly Gruber pulled off that triple play, even though he got hosed on the call? When a fuming pitcher hits a batter to send a message, and that stillness when the batter stares him down, and everyone in attendance is praying for a charge, and maybe even a bench-cleaning brawl on the mound. And these outbursts and flourishes are that much greater when they are swaddled by the tension of individual performance. In that Chin Music story I liken baseball to a conversation, but the role that a player like Fitz plays is turning the conversation into an argument, or screaming match, or even a fist fight—he knows that things are more interesting when they are colliding. I don’t want to say that baseball players are not exceptional athletes—because they are—but I respect their performances like I do the orations of exceptional public speakers.

Baseball is more a performance than it is sport, I think. I’m reluctant to call it monstrous, but okay, it is kind of. Monstrous in as much as I find manners monstrous—manners being little aberrations and betrayals of our natural inclinations; pretensions. Hockey and football and rugby are like a celebration and funneling of what I believe is our inherent violence, but baseball pretty much denies this energy, or at least ignores it. Werner Herzog likes to call civilization a thin layer of ice over an ocean of chaos, and I pretty much agree, and let’s call baseball a light dusting of snow on that ice. Always underneath that sport of polite individuals will be the want of collision, of intercourse, of brutality, and this is the tension that, frankly, can make baseball such a fucking addictive spectacle to watch, I bet.

LtB: What can you tell us about your first novel? Will it usher in a return to the golden age of young adult baseball/drug culture fiction?

AH: Well, don’t tell Literature, but I’m not really working on a novel. The short story is very dear to me, and I’m working towards greater unity within a collection that could maybe be at least advertised as a novel. I don’t know whether baseball will feature much in the stories, but I’m pretty sure that one of the most important scenes will take place on the same day and place that Babe Ruth hit his first homerun: August 3, 1914 on Hanlan’s Point. Correct me if I’m wrong. (Wikipedia says September 5, but who's counting?)

Pardon Our Monsters is available anywhere good books are sold. I can't recommend it highly enough, and I can't thank Andrew Hood enough for taking the time to answer my questions!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poker Lessons with J.P. - Going All In Works Every Time but Once

When playing poker, a well-timed bluff has no downside. If you can move the other guy off his hand, you win! If you get called only to turn over jack shit, everyone thinks you're crazy. On top of the added bonus of pissing off strangers, you'll get paid off down the line when you've holding the nuts and no one believes you. It's all about optics.

On the surface, J.P. Ricciardi is playing fast and loose with the Jays limited-budget future. The Jays hilariously low-ball offers for Burnett pre-opt out seemed like due diligence; keep the season ticket holders happy by making an attempt to stay competitive. But reports of the Jays attempting to make up the lack of per year dollars with an additional year continue to surface. Holy fucking shit, could you imagine a worse scenario?

Darek Braunecker has become the drunk frat boy on an incredible run of cards. He's daring you to call him, assuming the deck will continue to hit him in the face. Early chatter from a myriad of suitors drove up the price and lengthened the terms of the contract, but already teams are balking at a fifth guaranteed year. No shit, a 37 year old power pitcher might not offer too much return on investment.

What if J.P's bluster and posturing, presumably driving up the price for the Sox & Yankees, ends up being the best offer on the table? What if they call his bluff and accept some ridiculous long-term contract? Is he pushing all his chips in with jack-ten suited, hoping he hits the flop hard enough in '09 to save his job for 2010? He can't possibly care that much, he certainly seemed more cavalier about his potential employment options than he has about making desperate moves to save his job.

So please J.P., slow down. Fold a few, go throw some money in a slot machine. I bet they'd comp you at the noodle bar, go decompress for a few minutes. He can sign with other teams, I bet the Cardinals will pay if they have to. The optics in this situation, the real reason for drawing out this charade in the first place, stink. You are getting the wrong type of table image: one of a lunatic that's sending good money after bad.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jays Unable to Sign Key Free Agent

No, not Manny. Not A.J. either. Not Milton Bradley, nor Adam Dunn. There isn't a single free agent, nobody that Tao's wondering eye has found, that could swoop in and throw the Jays over the back of his white horse and lead them to playoffs. The only thing that will get them there: luck.

Not even that much. The Blue Jays, as currently constituted without A.J. Burnett's three wins above replacement, are a good team. Good enough to win 86 games, good enough for a three digit positive run differential, good enough for between 90 and 92 third order/Pythagorean wins. Not good enough to make the playoffs. Why is that?

Simple: luck. The Yankees spent lots of cash, but got unlucky with free agent signings (both sound and ill-advised) and haven't won the World Series in 8 years. The Dodgers payroll was $120 million before they added Manny and he lead them to the promised land. The Tigers spent $140 million bucks and finished behind the Royals.

All 30 teams need some luck to get to the post season. The Rockies got red hot in September 2007 on the backs of young stars like Troy Tulowitzki, Jeff Francis, Manny Corpas and Ubaldo Jimenez only to see 2008 complete fall apart through injuries and generally shitty play from those very same players. The San Diego Padres were one blown call away from knocking said Rockies out of the one game playoff, and they lost 99 games in 2008. These teams are among the 25 Major League teams that don't require the mountain of luck in order to overcome the two biggest payrolls in baseball

Yes, the Rays performed this Herculean feat in 2008, but let's consider their case.
  • They outperformed all their expected records. It was only one run, but the Jays had a greater run differential than the Rays. The difference in the standings? 11 games.
  • They got huge numbers from two non-roster invitees. In successive years, Carlos Pena and Eric Hinkse came to Rays camp looking for jobs and ended up hitting 46 and 20 home runs respectively. Carlos Pena is an obviously talented player that just couldn't get it right previously, but ERIC FUCKING HINSKE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE TO HIT 20 HOME RUNS. That, more than anything in the world, is luck.
  • They got career years out of 80% of their bullpen. In a very similar fashion to the 2005 Chicago White Sox, they built a bullpen out of decent guys, deployed them well and got career numbers out of them. Will any of these guys repeat these numbers? Perhaps, but if the World Series taught us anything, old K/BB rates die hard.
I'm not here to bury the Rays, I praise the excellent core they built through trades, the draft, and a few shrewd free agent signings. A few bad bounces though, and they're still the same old Rays.

The Jays should obviously look to improve their club, both for 2009 and the future. But one guy ain't going to do it on his own. No matter what kind of bat they bring to town, it will take more than one player with a 1.000 OPS for the Jays to play October baseball. And that is alright. That is what makes the ride that much more enjoyable, that is the beauty of a 162 game schedule. Round bat, round ball, George Will, sepia toned whatever.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gumming the Hand that Feeds

As you may have noticed, things look a little different around here today. We GROFmen are lucky enough to be included in the The Score's Sports Federation, a network of blogs from all walks of life. Use the dropdown menu and sample them all. I cannot recommend the Habs blog Lions in Winter enough, because I'm a giant homer.

So yes, there will be an ad or two strewn around, advertising anything from automated kitten drowners to the latest works of Cannibal Corpse. And that's okay, because I never had much credibility in the first place. But we're excited for the opportunity to offend new sets of eyeballs, probably at first glance.

Speaking of offending eyeballs, I just realized how patently ridiculous this site looks when using Internet Explorer. I know! People still use Explorer? Does your Commodore 64 not run Firefox? Heathens. In any event, I'll work to ensure this site looks moderately terrible on whichever platform you choose to allow Google deep inside your psyche.

Blue Jays Stuff

JP says no dice on free agents. It's likely bullshit, but I don't think it's the end of the world. That is a route often frought with disaster, for every Carlos Beltran there's a potential Carlos Beltran waiting around the corner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roy Halladay: Ace, Cornerstone, Player of Little Value

Embrace him Roy, maybe it will all make sense one day
Hey look! The midget with the punchable face won the MVP! Good for him, debatable but not fire-bombable. The MVP is the most nebulous of all the post-season awards; alternately awarded for outstanding performance and contribution to a winning or playoff team. Warts and all, it's a pretty big deal. There are significant performance bonuses attached to the voting, so when it becomes a hilarious farce, I get upset.

Earlier this month, Roy Halladay placed second in the American League Cy Young voting. Disappointing as it may be, Cliff Lee had a great year. The back-and-forth over strength of schedule etc. makes for good reading and discussion, so I'm all for it. Francisco Rodriquez didn't receive a single first place Cy Young vote, I was glad to see. Maybe these writers have figured some stuff out.


As I said, the criteria for MVP is sketchy at best, especially this year where no player hit 40 home runs and no one player is obviously head and shoulders above the common swine that dwell below. The votes were spread pretty evenly, with 5 players getting first place consideration. You could make a case for all of them. Pedroia, Morneau, Mauer, Youkillis, Rodriquez. Wow, even during an off year A-Rod still puts up big numb-I'm sorry? Not that Rodriquez? Do you mean to tell me that Fransisco Rodriquez received a first place vote for AL MPV????? Seriously?? Despite no voters deeming Frankie the best pitcher in the American League, one of these stunned cunts decided he was the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER IN THE VASTLY SUPERIOR AMERICAN LEAGUE.

Worse yet, Roy Halladay did not receive one single MVP vote. Not one. Despite having the second highest WPA/LI in the AL (just behind Lee but well ahead of any batter), despite ranking ahead of mulitple vote getters Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera in Win Shares, despite his VORP of 70.6 (good for second in the AL behind Lee) he did not get one single MVP mention.

Franky Rodriquez amassed 62 wonderful saves and appeared on 23 seperate MVP ballots. His 12 win shares tied him with guy that missed two months Shaun Marcum, utility man Joe Inglett, and fellow Angels bullpen dweller Jose Arredondo. His WPA/LI was a whopping 0.98, behind other relievers that didn't garner MVP attention like Joe Nathan, Mo Rivera, the Mexecutioner, Shutter Downs, and the LOOGY twins Jesse Carlson and J.P. Howell.

Does this mean Roy Halladay should be the MVP? No, it doesn't. But if he can't get one single vote at a time when they're being given away like door prizes, the whole system is obviously flawed. Before anyone does anything else, why not clear up what the award stands for once and for all. If pitchers can't win; fine. Let's just get it out there.

Update: The goof that voted for K-Rod offers his specious at best reasoning here. via Walkoff Walk

Ghostrunner on First Presents: Holiday Gift Ideas

Ah yes, the holiday season is just around the corner. Christmas, the celebration of capitalism raping your soul, is only 36 days away! That means Channaukah is only, um, a fewer number of days away too. 36 days away means I have to start my shopping in a mere 35.75 days! The pressure! My usual practice of buying candles for any uterus I know while offering cheap, half-drunk bottles of scotch to my fellow scrotums just won't cut it this year. I need to give a gift to remind my loved ones of the only thing I truly give a shit about, which also kept me from spending any time with them for the past six months. I think I'll go right to the horse's mouth, and decide what official Blue Jays merchandise is fit for gift giving this holiest of seasons.

A customized jersey! Perfect for...absolutely no one. Seriously, don't put your own name, or anyone else's name on your jersey. It's terrible. You cannot commit a bigger sin at the ballpark. Even the maddening trend of t-shirt jerseys doesn't come close to the lack of self-awareness that goes with wearing a Jays jersey with your name and random number on the back. The number "1" is even worse. If you tuck it in to your pants/jeans/hospital-issued leotard, you should continue seeking professional help. You probably shouldn't wear a jersey at all. It's not real clothing, and you don't have the build to pull it off.
The ideal gift for the obese person with attention deficit disorder on your shopping list. The cooling comfort of a battery operated fan, the magic of simple optics. Allow them to support their favorite team while they cool their sweaty chin(s) before collapsing from cardiac arrest on the ramp leading to their 500 level seat. Includes a handy cord for hanging between their yellowing, misshapen breasts while they engulf their third order of nachos, spilling molten cheese and ruining the fan forever!
Ohhh, exciting! An officially branded Blue Jays poker chip set! Perfect for your Uncle's friendly Friday night home game. The beer is flowing and everyone is raring to go! Mostly, they're just excited to have 2 hours away from the wife and kids so they can use the word "cocksucker" liberally, drink 5 beers in an hour and fall asleep on the coach by 11:30. JUST DEAL THE FUCKING CARDS, WEIRD NEIGHBOUR WHO'S SON IS IN JUVY. Jesus Christ, we've played 7 hands this hour because Uncle Nancy won't sack up and let anyone smoke in the house. This is agony, three of you idiots are wearing sunglasses yet I have to explain how much "each colour" is worth before every other hand. ARGGGHH! This isn't gin rummy and that's a string bet. None of your clowns can even spell implied pot odds and I STILL lost $80 bucks. Fuck.
Has your recent trip to the public health nurse got your thinking about Victoria Day weekend 2005, when you got chlamydia from the front desk clerk at the Chateau Lake Louise? What better way to relive that moment and determine if she's caught anything worse in the interim than a commemorative pin? Not just any commemorative pin, one that brings you back the first meeting of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Washington Nationals. Just because it's on sale for $0.99, doesn't mean it's cheap. The only thing that was cheapened that weekend was 35 years of glorious Montreal Expos tradition and your own self worth. So go ahead, send her a pin this Christmas. Maybe she'll prick her finger and send it back, meaning you can test her blood once and for all. Your sleepless nights could finally be over. Or just beginning!
A must have for any Jays fan, the official Jays Ceramic Vortex Shotglass. Now you can greet the day just like Jays GM J.P. Riccardi. Consider the (perceived) futility of your favorite team's existence while washing away the pain of your fractured relationship with your father and the guilt of the distant relationship with your son. Round and round it goes, just like room, bed, or vehicle you are illegally piloting. The Ceramic Vortex Shotglass: drink two for every inning-ending double play!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lloyd Reads JP's Shopping List

The free agent frenzy has now begun, and the only thing I feel is dread. Dreading a desperation signing, dreading a one year hold-over or perceived quick fix. So here is some valuable information I whispered into JP's ear and/or gleaned by peaking over his shoulder.

For 2009 and beyond, this is JP's To Do list:
  • A young shortstop with a high ceiling, preferably named J.J. Hardy. Khalil Greene will do here too. There is are three years to fill before the in-house option is ready. Fill it properly. Possible cost? Brad Mills, one or both Romeros, even Adam Lind.
  • A.J. Burnett to fall in love with the great city of Atlanta. It's swell there A.J. I've heard a lot of great things about the great Delta hub of the South. All the Coke you can drink! Just go A.J, they'll even let you swing the bat!
  • An established arm who will eat innings on the cheap. This has great potential to end in tears, but Brad Penny will make it much easier to break in some of the kids, without the pressure of asking them to make 15-20 starts. Improbably, Carl Pavano could fit here too. Possible cost? $4-5 million guaranteed + numerous incentives. The more you pay the better it worked.
  • A DH for 2+ seasons. If the Giambi rumours persist, it had better be for a very similar contract to Frank Thomas's. Not too much guaranteed money, but if he performs he'll be around for the ever-important 2010 season. Possible cost? Anything more than $12 a season here cancels out too many other possibilities. My thinking here is highly wishful.
  • Humility. I think the stores in JP's neighbourhood are sold out. I bet he could get some on craigslist.
  • A DH for many, many seasons. Acquire Billy Butler, giving the Blue Jays the lumpiest, rakiest dynamic duo in the league. The Royals seem to have fallen out of love with him, ideally bringing down the price. Very unlikely. Possible Cost? Mills or a Romaro with Brian Tallet for good measure? I'm likely on drugs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fun with Context

New Zealand is a rugged place with a proud history of tradition. Widely known for a devotion to sheep that would make a Welshman cringe; their sporting history is best encapsulated by the Maori war dance performed before every single national sporting event. The "haka" or "douche litmus test" is an age-old tradition in which the loyal Kiwis evoke the fighting spirit of the brave indigenous people they enslaved and slaughtered upon landfall.

Though Canadians prefer their racism quietly insidious, New Zealand and Canada DO have a great deal in common. Both are the red-headed step children of their geographical corner of the world, and both partake in the endearing practice of provincially celebrating the minor accomplishments of their local sons on the world stage.

Blue Jays prospect Scott Campbell is a native of New Zealand, and when he's not enjoying tasteless fruit, he's working towards becoming the first Kiwi to play Major League Baseball. His move from second base to third made the NZ newspapers, minor amounts of comedy ensued:
Toronto's director of player development, Dick Scott, indicated that Campbell had "really surprised us offensively", and the outfit had now decided to test him further with the move to the other side of the infield.
They called a baseball team an outfit! LOL!

Truthfully, the piece comes off credibly, aside from the wacky use of the letter s in the word organization. Reporter Tim Dunbar added a sense of foreboding in the conclusion of the piece, noting that New Zealand's previous baseball hope Travis Wilson, who maxed out at the AAA level, also switched positions early in his pro career. He too switched second and third bases!! Dun, dun, dunnnn.

Doomed! Scott Campbell is doomed to a Jonathon Power-esque level of sporting notoriety in his home country! Oh, the indignity of carrying the deflated hopes and dreams of athletically depressed region on your shoulders.


Longtime friend of the Ghostrunners, former double play partner of the Reverend and baseball utilityman of high acclaim Pete Orr refused a minor league assignment and is now a free agent. Damn you JP, for loading up on so many scrappy middle infielding white guys, you could have had the greatest of them all! According to Ernest Elliott of the Toronto Sun, the native of Newfuckingmarket Ontario has attracted the interest of the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies and the world champion of overweight Spanish guys Detroit Tigers.

The most sincere wishes we can muster go out to an awesome, humble guy as he tries to land another job in big leagues. Continue to prove, in spite of what history has taught us, you can achieve greatness in life after having your shot blocked by Lloyd the Barber.