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.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Feral Dogs Congregate Around Rogers Centre

Remember when the Jays traded away their likable and slick fielding second baseman to make room for a much younger, less likable (let's say less charismatic, to be fair), and most importantly much cheaper second basemen of equal glove slickness? Me too, that was a good deal. They got rid of a player as he became arbitration eligible to make room for a young, every-day contributor. Good work JP, sound as a motherfucking pound.

Fast forward 3 years, it seems that very same player is now a free agent. Guess that means it's time for Toronto sports fans, always in search of a kindly black dude with a recognizable name, to start crowing for Orlando Hudson's return. To which I, predictably, say no fucking way.

Orlando Hudson certainly earned a lot of fans in Toronto, with an easy smile and competent bat, all the while playing the living shit out of second base. JP shipped him off to make room for a younger, cheaper player as Hudson was due a raise. He took well the Senior Circuit, posting what we like to call The Joke League Bump (around 40 points of OPS) when he went to the fertile fields of the NL West. A big part of his JLB is owed to playing half his games at hitter- and old person-friendly Chase Field.

Home/Away Splits - Isolated Power - Orlando Hudson

After his strong 2006, Hudson put up comparable numbers in fewer games in '07 & '08. Defensively though, Hudson shows his age. Hudson's Revised Zone Rating has gone down substantially since his time in Toronto, as have his out of zone plays. After posting +11 and +20 seasons in 2006 & 2007, Hudson was a highly pedestrian -2 in 2008. (Math, people!)

I don't think anyone seriously expects or wants to see Hudson back in Toronto, especially if he plans on bringing his ridiculous double ear flap helmet with him. Ignoring the fact that he's going to sign with the Mets for New York-level cash, and ignoring that fact that Aaron Hill isn't moving to shortstop (hopefully they've got somebody better in mind), and ignoring JP's fear of old and overpriced talent, this move still wouldn't make any sense. Thanks for the memories, Pinball Lite, but I don't need to see you in Baby Blue Pajamas.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Break the Bank

The clock struck horseshit this week, bringing another uneventful series of GM meetings to a close. Nothing noteworthy happened, but nothing noteworthy ever does. This setting is for laying groundwork. Hopefully much was laid, we'll never know. Tim Dierkes has built quite a cottage industry of tracking and aggregating these trade rumours, the bulk of which come to nothing. Take Troy Glaus for example. A whisper about his possible availability, a quick mention from Blair connecting Rolen in the Lincecum sweepstakes last year, but nothing real. Next thing you know, he's gone.

Armed with this convenient and anecdotal evidence I, with a delightful mix of cynicism and hope, believe the dearth of fleshy stories linking J.J. Hardy and the Jays is a good thing. For I believe he to be the ideal get for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Hardy won't be the answer to all the Blue Jays ills, but he is a good place to start. With the nearest shortstop prospect still better than 3 years away, the Jays need a more suitable stopgap than the Scutaros of the world. J.J. Hardy is all that and then some.

Contractually, Hardy is still under team control for 2 more years, meaning he would be a reasonably priced contributor during the pivotal 2010 season (more on that in the coming weeks.) Hardy is young enough to continue improving, he is big and he is good.

He, in stark contrast to the 2008 Blue Jays, kills both finesse pitching and left handed pitching. He's as patient as the most laconic Blue Jay (4.0 p/pa), has a lot of pop (14% home run/fly ball) without hitting a ton of balls in the air. In fact, his 2008 batted ball numbers look suspiciously like the Jays best hitter of 2008, Vernon Wells.

Defensively, he's awesome. Leading all shortstops with 72 out of zone plays, he amassed an excellent +19 defensive +/- in 2008. He was even awarded narrowly voted the runner up for a prestigious Gilded Leather Award recently on a website of high regard.

The Blue Jay he reminds me of most is his would-be double play partner, Aaron Hill. While that Fangraphs link will provide visual evidence of their similarity in age and production, I'll use their slash lines for simplicity's sake:
Aaron Hill, career (475 games) - .284/.339/.409/.748
J.J. Hardy, career (456 games) - .270/.329/.446/.775
Above-average contributors on the whole, well above replacement for their position with bright futures and supple gloves o'plenty. (How does a middle infield with +45 and +33 from 06-08 grab ya?) For the money, you couldn't do much better.

It is my contention that the JPs should pony up here. Short of Brett Cecil, nearly any (one) pitching prospect should be fair game. Three, even four years of Hardy will serve as an excellent bridge to Jackson. His GROFappeal is high, what with the pop and the slick fielding and obvious broad-bangery. I'm now officially in the tank for Hardy, and will be quite disappointed when it doesn't happen. Fire JP!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Understanding GROFappeal

This is a most interesting time of year. The GM meetings and all the rumours they entail nicely coincided with the dawning of a new epoch in North American politics and hopefully life. Watching a man do what he does best, what he does better than anyone else is what Ghostrunner on First is all about.

Yes, I love the Blue Jays and they are the base point and reason this space exists. I love when they win and die a little when they lose. But for me, it is really about the individuals. The players that jump off the screen and perform to the peak of their unique abilities. The convergence of skill and effort, the rare combination of skills that so few can claim as their own. These are the types of players I am often drawn to, the kind I wish I could watch every day.

The glorious bastards at The Southpaw have an excellent eye for talent. They're often proposing and suggesting potential Blue Jays targets that are either players I've considered myself or players that I've long admired. They were stumping for Milton Bradley all the way back in May. They share my great love of Khalil Greene. These players, despite their obvious differences, have one big thing in common: value added. Milton Bradley is more than just a guy with 160 OPS+, he's an enigmatic timebomb that has been misunderstood and maligned his entire career. Khalil Greene's potentially explosive bat and once great defense hit all my key points.

As I said, it is important to me that the Jays win, but perhaps more important is that they're interesting. They don't have to be "characters" to be interesting, they can just be great. Even at just one thing. John MacDonald is (or was) as one-dimensional a ballplayer as you'll find. One thing he is not? Boring. As this Hot Stove season wears on, I'll be hoping the Jays can land a key piece that might improve their fortunes. I'll also be hoping they bring in somebody that make me scratch my head and wonder if I believe my own eyes.


As you might assume, there isn't much baseball happening on the weekends during the offseason, so I won't be doing my regular weekend gig at Walkoff Walk. I'll still be contributing regularly there all winter long, hopefully 3-4 posts during week until the horsehide is tossed in anger once again. So keep checking it out, every day!

Also, the good people at Mop Up Duty have launched a new look and a new, more Jaysy focus. The layout looks much better and the writing's as strong as ever. Head their way to learn what a real man looks like.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Didn't Mean it Adam Lind

I'm sorry Adam Lind, baby I didn't mean it. I know you've heard about me coveting Billy Butler, the first of many young things to shake their OPS at me. I'm only human sugar, but you know how I really feel. Adam Lind, you're the only one for me.

Remember our courtship in the spring, how I longed for you? You were our WORLD Adam Lind, we knew you would come along and make it all right. We watched you from afar, knowing our time would come. And you did Adam Lind, you did.

The honeymoon phase was a long and glorious time, my friend. You kept swinging and you looked like the answer. You were the missing bat in the lineup, performing so far above the slags that filled that spot before you arrived. They meant nothing Adam Lind, nothing! It was only physical, they were just a warm body to hold us over until we could finally consummate our true devotion to you.

It isn't hard to figure out what attracted me in the first place. You came up through the system faster than a Merchant Marine on shore leave, turning all the boys' heads and making believers of us all. You stumbled once, kids makes mistakes, but we knew you'd be back. Everyone goes through that phase right after college. They need to experiment, they need to get out there in the world. Somehow those that matter most get left behind, but you always come back, Adam Lind. We know where your heart lies.

After the honeymoon stage, we cooled. The inevitable hangover set in, and we started looking around. It's only natural. Hell, we started noticing your sister at family functions, growing from her chubby teenage years into a nice little package herself. She really filled out! She looked good, but we wouldn't dare trying to pull off the unprecedented-outside-a-trailer-park Sister Swap?

But that isn't what we want Adam. You're the one for us, despite our looking down your sister's shirt across the Thanksgiving table. We'd NEVER attempt to come between sisters, especially two as close as you.

But this whole Billy Butler thing, we must apologize. We were talking with some guys at the bar, you know how those conversations go. We mentioned, casually, that we'd like to see Billy Butler come to town. We may have said something to the effect of not being married to you any more, and referred to you as a dangle piece. We didn't mean it, we SWEAR! We don't want to replace you with a younger, sleeker model. We hear he's on the wrong side of the crazy/hot scale anyway (at least he's white, guaranteeing not one single team will factor his craziness in any way).

Yes, he's younger. When the seasons start changing like this, everybody looks around, considers their options. We're always on the lookout for the next big thing, thinking it might wrestle us out of our winter doldrums. It's no fun being a known commodity, not with so much scattered ass freely available on the Internet and in our minds.

Yes, he looks a lot like your sister. We don't want to squeeze you out Adam Lind, we want Billy to enhance our relationship. You know your faults Adam, and you're no Rocco in the outfield. But this guy is like a Manny! We see a big future for you, for Travis and Billy in this crazy family. Uncle Lyle? There is still room for him too! I think it's too soon for your sister, maybe she should go back to the kid's table in the kitchen. I know I've been feeding her wine coolers all night, so fucking what? She's entitled to a little fun too, dammit. Stop trying to control me. No, I think YOU'VE had too much to drink. Fuck, your mother hates me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Freedom Isn't Free

If you're ever unsure of the working definition of "jingoism", I encourage you to do a Google Image search of Freedom Isn't Free. Anyway, enough digression.

Real non-news! Rocco Baldelli is one of 50-odd players to file for free agency mere hours after the completion of the World Series. Hooray! He's on the open market!


Though the Rays declined the 2009 option on Rocco's deal, both the team and the Rocc are eager to sign a new deal. Rocco's situation is unlike most free agents because of his questionable health status, as the Rays' guy points out:
Despite Baldelli's ability to play well when he is in the lineup, the fact he must still deal with the effects of his malady makes his a unique situation. The Rays, and other teams who might be considering making a bid at Baldelli, must decide how much value they can give to a player they can't count on to play every day.
Both the team and Rocco himself are saying All the Right Things, with Rocco acknowledging the team made a logical business decision (to decline his option) while still treating him with dignity and supporting him throughout his comeback.

Rays GM Andrew Friedman has admitted publicly to a strong personal relationship with Rocco, something that surely won't cloud his brain when he seeks a hometown discount. There has been some talk of offering Rocco a minor-league deal, giving the chance to win a job and a heavily incentive-based contract. As Adam Loewen showed the good people of Baltimore, sometimes players hear whispers. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo already suggested Rocco as an ideal fourth outfielder for the Red Sox, another type of homecoming for Rocco. The kind that makes skin crawl in both Toronto and St Pete.

I'm on the record (over and over) stating that Rocco the Blue Jay makes sense to more than just my latent homosexuality. If the Jays don't pick up a DH-styled slugger (Hank Blalock? Billy Butler? Please let it be Billy Butler), meaning Snider and Lind are to break camp splitting time between LF and DH, Rocco would be an IDEAL fourth outfielder. Thanks in no small part to Overmanagin Joe Maddon, Rocco's role this season wasn't true platoon but he was certainly more involved than Mencherson late in the season.

Despite Tinkerin' Joe Maddon consistently defensively replacing him late in games, Rocco's an outstanding defensive outfielder with a strong arm that could serve as something of a (gasp) Reed Johnson-type in the Jays outfield. He could mentor both conscientious defensive objector Adam Lind and inexperienced route-taker and noted burlyman Travis Snider. The Dome would keep him from stiffening up in the cold weather of the spring and fall, his reasonably even split stats would allow him to step in against tough lefties and spell Vernon Wells when he gets his inevitable case of the ouchies.

This probably won't happen, for several reasons. Rocco will re-sign in Tampa being the most prominent. The Jays obviously aren't too concerned wit the bench production in their outfield and loading up for 2009 is a very limited possibility. But a guy can dream.