Ricky Romero: The New Pedro Martinez?

from daylife.com

Pedro Martinez, September 24, 2004:

“What can I say? I tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”

A tongue-in-cheek moment? Maybe.

A sarcastic comment meant to deflect attention away from the team? Possibly.

A comment born out of extreme frustration due an amazing pitcher’s constant and chronic struggles against one rival team? Likely.

When Pedro Martinez uttered that now famous line back in ’04 it instantly set off a firestorm against him by Yankees fans. Every appearance Pedro made in Yankee Stadium from that day forward was greeted with raucous “who’s your daddy?!” chants.

Well, change the year to 2011, change the rival team from New York to Boston, and change the pitcher from Pedro to Ricky Romero. That quote still applies.

Ricky is too much of an intense competitor to ever say something like that, but judging by his extreme inability to pitch against the Red Sox, it has to be in the back of his mind.

The Red Sox just might be his daddy.

After another rocky performance against Boston last night, Romero’s career numbers against the Sox went from really bad to atrocious.

Romero vs. MLB (without Boston)

32 – 20, 3.30 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.30 K/9, 2.16 K/BB

Romero vs. Boston

2 – 6, 8.08 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 8.10 K/9, 1.34 K/BB

The Red Sox own him. They have hit .357 against him (his worst opponents average). They have a 1.030 OPS against him (his worst by far).

They beat him in Boston. They beat him in Toronto. They beat him at night. They

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beat him in the day.

It’s hard to say why he struggles so much, especially when he looks like a Cy Young candidate against every other team.

Have the Red Sox found something in his delivery that they can exploit?

Is Boston simply stacked with better hitters?

Or are they just in his head?

My money is on number three.

But Ricky can take heart in three things:

1. He’s young.

2. He plays in the same division as the Red Sox – so there are plenty of chances to figure it out.

And most importantly…

3. Pedro Martinez couldn’t beat the Yankees….and he turned out to be a pretty damn good pitcher.

Back From The Dead! (x 4!)

Monday’s 9-7 win over the Red Sox was the perfect start to a big series for the Jays.  After a weekend that proved (at least to me) that Toronto isn’t as far away as it might seem, it was imperative that they get off to a good start at Fenway.

Let’s be honest – Philadelphia was the best team in baseball coming into the weekend, and had lined up perhaps two of the best five pitchers to face the Jays.  Roy Halladay is a beast, we all know that, and Cliff Lee was riding a 31-inning scoreless streak. 

But the Jays were in every game, and very likely should have swept the series.  Those were the kind of games that contenders win, the kind of games that Toronto WILL win in the next year or two.

That said, they very easily could have thrown it all away by once again getting thumped by the BoSox.  Instead, they came out strong, potentially serving notice that maybe, just maybe, this team is turning things around.

Yesterday’s win was even more impressive considering who was responsible for the win: four players previously thought to be deceased.  Instead, these four showed a stunning ability to emerge from their coffins, rise from the dead, and contribute.  The four are:

Travis Snider

Making his debut after being recalled from AAA Vegas, Snider had a huge game: 3 for 5 with 3 doubles, 1 run, and 2 RBI.  The three hits pushed his season average above the Mendoza line.  Though to many it didn’t look like his swing was greatly altered, at least for one game the results of his tinkering session in the minors paid great dividends.

Rajai Davis

After a 26-game stretch where Davis posted an .092 AVG in 76 AB with an unbelievably low .104 OBP and .262 OPS, he finally half emerged from the dead on Sunday with 3 hits against the Phillies.  Placed back in the lead-off spot by John Farrell on Monday, Davis kept his short hot streak up with two more hits (both doubles), a run scored, and a stolen base – his fourth in two games.

Aaron Hill

Just when Aaron Hill looks like he is turning the page on his rotten year and a half, he falls back into a funk.  On June 8th his average reached the .250 mark, only to fall back to .238 four days later.  On June 17th, a four game hitting streak moved him back into the .250’s, but he followed that up with another slump.  Yesterday Hill, batting in the #6 slot, again took a step forward – 3 for 5, 2 R, 2 RBI, and his 4th HR.

Frank Francisco

The beleaguered Jays closer was starting to turn things around before he spectacularly blew the Canada Day game against Philly.  When he wasn’t given the opportunity to close Sunday’s game (in a save situation) eyebrows were raised.  But Farrell brought in Frankie with a 2-run in the lead in the 9th yesterday, showing renewed faith.  After a leadoff single brought the tying run to the plate, Francisco instantly went 3-0 on Pedroia.  The Phillies nightmare was repeating itself!  But no – FF reached back and struck out three straight hitters, including AL RBI leader Adrian Gonzalez, to seal the win, in perhaps his best inning of work as a Jay.

Of course one game doesn’t mean any of these four are truly, fully back, but when your Opening Day leadoff hitter, young power hitter, second baseman, and closer all shake off slumps at the same time?

That’s worth noticing.

Three Things From Week Fourteen

The New 1-2 Punch - Thames and Bautista (from Daylife.com)

 

Looking back on it when 2011 is complete, it could very well be seen as a season saving inning. 

Going into the bottom of the eighth on Sunday, trailing 4-3 to Cliff Lee and the Phillies, the Jays were on the verge of finishing their six-game homestand against the Keystone State a dismal 1-5.

Losing two of three to the Pirates is never a good thing, no matter the fact that Pittsburgh is a much improved squad this year.  Then to follow that disappointment up by blowing a 6-5 lead in the 9th to lose the “most winnable” game against the Phillies?  Devastating.

After Halladay shut down the Jays on Saturday and Cliff Lee effectively shut them down through 7 innings on Sunday, the Jays looked to be in shambles.  This was the kind of homestand that brings teams down, contender or non-contender.

But then something magical happened.  The great Cliff Lee blinked first, not the young Blue Jays.  Thames, Bautista, and EE bombs swung the score from a one-run deficit to a three-run lead, and breathed life into a team that was heading backwards.

Season saver or not, it was definitely a good end to a tough week.

Here are three things from week 14:

Week 14: June 27 – July 3

 Record: 2 – 4

1. Happy Return, and Happy Trails

Jays fans had circled the Canada Day weekend on the calendar as soon as the schedule was released.  And as soon as the Phillies rotation was made official, Saturday July 2nd became Doc Day – the return of Roy Halladay.

Jays fans turned up in droves on Friday for the Canada Day game, and were treated to a nice gesture – former hero Roy Halladay out to hand the lineup cards to the home plate umpire.  The enormous standing ovation he received lead to another rare treat – a Halladay smile.

But it was all business on Saturday afternoon.  After fans gave the pitcher another nice ovation in the first, they became loud and hungry for a win.  For a while it looked good – a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning after a mammoth Jose Bautista HR off Windows restaurant in CF.  But Luis Perez gave up a 2-run HR to Chase Utley in the 7th, before Philly tacked on an insurance run in a crazy 9th inning.  That inning saw Jon Rauch go all Hulkamania on home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez after the big reliever was seriously squeezed out of a few strikes.

At the end of the day, the game will go down in the record books as a simple, plain loss.  And though it was nice to see him, I’m sure we can all agree on one thing: Happy Trails Roy.  Get out of town and take your complete game throwing right arm with you.

2. New 1-2 Punch

For most of this season Toronto’s offense has relied on a 1-2 punch of Bautista and Lind in the three and four slots.  Well…the time’s they may be a changin’…

A new 1-2 punch emerged last week: Eric Thames in the two hole, Bau in the three.  The numbers for the week were outstanding, a great sight for a team stuggling for secondary offense.

Bautista: 7 for 19, .368 average, 1.605 OPS, 4 HR, 7 RBI

Thames: 10 for 25, .400 average, 1.240 OPS, 3 HR, 5 RBI

But the super two saved their best for the weekend, combining to go 11 for 23 with 5 HR.  The pair went back-to-back in the afformentioned 8th inning off of Cliff Lee to steal one from the Phillies, and Bautista homered in all three games on the weekend.

The weekend performance wrapped up a big week for J-Bau, as the Toronto RF now 3B set a major league record for votes received by the fans for the All-Star game – over 7.4 million.  He became the first Jay to lead the league in All-Star voting since Carlos Delgado in 2003, and is set to take a spot in the HR Derby as well.

If last weekend was any indication, might it be in the realm of possibility that one day Thames will join him there?  Dream big my friends…

3. The End of An (riv)-Era

When Toronto unloaded Vernon Wells in the offseason, Jays fans practically danced in the streets, excited to be out from under his enormous contract.  Juan Rivera, one of the players coming back to Toronto, was an afterthought – a high priced, underperforming veteran thrown in as a straight salary dump by the Angels.  He would be gone before April.

It took until July, but finally Juan is gone.  For a guy who wasn’t originally wanted and who played so poorly at the beginning of the season that many (well, me for sure) questioned his status as a living person, the fact that he made it this long was kind of a surprise.  His season numbers are below average (.243 average, 6 HR, 28 RBI, and a mark of the beast .666 OPS) and his attitude was often in question.  If not for a solid stretch where he replaced Lind at 1B and swung the bat pretty well, his DFA might have occurred long ago.

In his place comes the future face of the franchise, the man who was supposed to take a huge step forward this year before falling sharply back.  Travis Snider was sent to Vegas to remake his approach at the plate in order to become better equipped and prepared to hit big league pitching.  He looked lost in his first go ’round this year (.184 AVG, .540 OPS) that his demotion really was mandatory.

His .333 AVG and .890 OPS in AAA shows that progress was definitely made, but will that transfer to the big leagues?

Stay tuned Monday – that’s when Travis era 2.0 begins anew.

500 Level Fan of the Game – July 2nd, 2011

It was “Welcome Back Doc” day at the dome on Saturday afternoon, and as expected a HUGE crowd turned out to see our former hero. Nearly 45,000 people crammed into the Rogers Centre, giving us ample opportunity to spot a top notch fan of the game.

But a very surprising thing happened – the fans in the upper deck (at least way out in section 510 where we were sitting) were incredibly well behaved. Most were hardcore into the game. Very few people near us were drinking heavily. In fact, there were a lot of families in the seats surrounding us.

For a change, there were a lot of drunken idiots in the lower level. There was the fool who ran onto the field in the 9th. There were the clowns who littered the field with garbage and water bottles after the ejections of Jon Rauch and John Farrell. But people stayed relatively cool, calm, and collected up top. Refreshing.

The winner of the fan of the game for Saturday wasn’t really in contention until I finally got a good look at his face. He was there with a friend, who from the sounds of the conversation had been a friend for a long, long, long time.

The conversation itself was pretty entertaining, including such great lines as:

– “How are you enjoying life as a retiree?”…”I like it. I can’t ever remember what day it is.”

– “I wonder how they calculate the stat Earned Run Average..”…”I think it has something to do with pitches and innings.”…”Oh, OK. Maybe I’ll ask Google later.”

– “Who’s pitching?”…”I don’t know, they don’t post the pitchers name.”…”Oh wait, I see it. Vilvanoovayawwwaa.”

– “I don’t understand the fuss about flat screen TV’s.”…”I know, I’ve been watching my same TV since the 1970’s.”…”I’m surprised the cathode TV tube died out so quickly. That was a great piece of technology.”

So…entertaining? Yes. Fan of the game worthy? Not really. But when I finally turned around to look at him, I was floored.

Sitting behind us, in Section 510, Row 3, Seat 101 was none other than Mr. Sam Crenshaw!

You all remember Sam Crenshaw don’t you? The night security guard from epic children’s TV show Today’s Special? He had a talking computer, and was friends with Muffy Mouse who only spoke in rhyme. He was a classic character. Sure he was a puppet, but what does that matter?

By far the most noticeable feature of Crenshaw was his moustache.

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It was glorious. It looked almost looked like worms hanging out on his lower lip, settling in underneath is gigantic nose. It was a face you would recognize anywhere.

So when I looked behind me and saw his real life twin, I was shocked. Take a closer look at the comparison. It’s truly amazing!

So congratulations to Real Life Sam Crenshaw, 500 Level Fan’s Fan of the Game!