To this day, Jim Acker remains my second favourite middle reliever in Blue Jays history. Behind the beautiful and outstanding Mark Eichhorn, Acker holds a small piece of my heart all to himself. Maybe it’s the beard, maybe it’s the ferocious stare, or maybe it’s just because I pity him for the way his career unfolded. Either way, the Ack played an integral part in both the Blue Jay glory era, and my childhood.
Acker actually enjoyed two different tours of duty with Toronto. After being selected in the first round of the draft by Atlanta, the Jays stole him in the Rule 5 draft in 1982. From 1983 – 1986 he was a key member of the Blue Jay bullpen, helping them capture their first ever AL East division title in 1985. He didn’t really have a set role on that club, but contributed in so many ways – 7-2 record, 3.23 ERA, 10 saves, best facial hair, and worst control (43 walks to 42 strikeouts).
But despite all that, Toronto broke a piece of my heart by dealing Acker back to Atlanta midway through ’86. While my heart eventually healed (helped a lot by Mr. Eichhorn), it didn’t come fully back until the trade deadline of 1989 when Acker was re-acquired for Tony Castillo and Francisco Cabrera. He dominated down the stretch (1.59 ERA, 24 K in 28.1 IP), and propelled Toronto to their second playoff appearance. Continue reading Blast From the Past – Jim Acker→
It was bound to happen. There were so many aspects of today’s ninth inning that were screaming out for a market correction. The Jays took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th, had the AL leader in saves on the hill, and were facing the worst offense in baseball. Even more – the worst offense in baseball was riding a five-game losing streak and had done nothing worthwhile all day long. It can even be argued that they embarrassed themselves by having to resort to back-to-back bunts in the third inning to score their lone run of the game. Offense like that is bad on a monumental level.
But it became very evident in the 9th that Toronto was not going to win today’s ballgame. Kevin Gregg couldn’t throw strikes. Seattle started getting hits. For the first time this season baseball reverted back to what was “supposed” to happen. Even Ken “Sleepy” Griffey had a hit, the game winning single of all things.
I don’t chalk this loss up to Kevin Gregg falling apart. I don’t foresee this loss starting Toronto’s second annual May collapse. No – this loss is simply the law of averages striking back, hitting Jays fans directly in the nuts. Take the following into consideration:
– Before this season, Kevin Gregg had a career K:BB ratio of 2.26:1. This season it was 4.4:1. The law of averages dictated that more walks should be on the horizon, and today Gregg walked two and struck out zero.
– Similarly, Gregg’s career ERA was 4.10 pre-2010, compared to 1.89 this season. Today? 3 ER in 0.1 IP – law of averages wins again.
– The Jays had won three games in the ninth inning that they had no business winning this season. For a team that is not expected to contend for a championship, logic dictates that by the end of the season they should wind up with a similar number of losses in games they had no business losing. Today was one.
– Seattle had only six comeback wins through the first 40 games, including only one win in 18 games when they trailed in the ninth. For a team expected to contend for the AL West title, that number is too low. Consider today a market correction.
– Ken Griffey Jr. was having one of the worst seasons on record, not only for him, but for anybody. In 93 AB, he was scuffling along with a .183 avg, .449 OPS, 0 HR, and 6 RBI. When he came to the plate in the ninth with the winning run on second, everybody knew it was over. It was the God of Averages that made sure the future hall-of-famer had at least one more moment of glory.
I know what you’re thinking. How can I give away a fan of the game award when the team isn’t even in Toronto?
The Blue Jays kicked off an eight-game west coast road trip last night with a nail-biting 3-2 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field. I watched the game from the comfort of my couch, sipping a scotch, and listening to the sweet sound of Buck Martinez botching the pronunciation of Encarnacion. But though the comfort level was way up, my couch is approximately 3,300 KM from Seattle, making a fan of the game selection impossible.
Until, that is, I took a coffee break this morning at work. Walking across the courtyard of the TD Centre, I found a man asleep on a bench, clad in a beautiful, old-school Blue Jays jacket. Seeing jackets like this are rare. Seeing jackets like this on a man fast asleep at 11:30 AM outdoors in a public place on a Thursday are even rarer. So ladies and gentleman, let me present the first ever Courtyard Fan of the Game – the Sleeper!
I know that the Sleeper is probably homeless, and it might seem cruel to talk about him. But 500 Level Fan is in the business of spreading joy to people, and finding the best in all situations.
So picture for a second a possible scenario from last night:
The Sleeper is awake, and following his Jays pitch by pitch. He unleashes a loud cheer for the Alex Gonzalez RBI single and the John Buck HBP RBI. He grimaces and can barely watch when Franklin Gutierrez singles off of Kevin Gregg, putting two men on in the bottom of the 9th. But then he goes wild with the final out, cheering, and high-fiving people around him. He celebrates by going out and getting blind drunk, forgetting where he is, losing his friends, wandering the city aimlessly, finding a nice, hard, marble bench, then laying down, passing out, and being oblivious to everything around him. That is a hard-core fan.
I had the “pleasure” last night of sitting right behind the Blue Jays dugout on the third baseline. It is a rare occurence indeed when I move away from the safe haven of the 500 level, but I was given a pair of seats for the Jays/Twins game in section 125, right in the thick of the action. Mrs. 500 Level Fan and I were excited to be down low where we could see the players faces, see the strike zone, and have a chance at a foul ball. But we came away disheartened and disgusted at the fans around us.
The upper deck is full of positive (albeit drunken) energy a majority of the time. People are there to have fun, enjoy the game, have a few brown pops, and maybe get a bit rowdy. Apparently fans in the lower deck are there to heckle and get on our own players. I don’t know if they feel they have a sense of entitlement because they paid more for a seat, or if they just want to try and have their voices heard on TV. Whatever the reason, the treatment of Overbay as he came off the field was uncalled for. People around us were literally screaming at the top of their lungs: “You Suck!”, “Learn to field!”, “Triple A for Overbay!” One guy even went so far as to run down about 20 rows just so his screams could be heard loud and clear.
Because that’s how to get a guy out of his slump – boo him mercilessly until he forever loses whatever shred of confidence he had left.
Look – I get it. There are some cold hard facts that show Lyle is off to a rough start. Two errors on one play last night. A .181 avg, with only 3 HR and 38 K’s so far this season. But here are some other facts: .274 avg, .356 OBP, 63 HR, 143 2B, 269 RBI. That is Overbay’s stat line since joining the Jays in 2006. Throw in a .996 fielding percentage, and you get pretty good production at a fraction of the cost of other first basemen around the league.
And here is one more number to chew on: 23. That is the age of super-prospect Brett Wallace, the guy who the entire lower deck wanted in the game instead of “Lyle Overpaid”. Sure Wallace is tearing up Triple-A. Sure Wallace is the first baseman of the future. Sure Wallace has tremendous upside and might be able to outproduce Overbay right now. But answer these questions you raging, angry, lunatics:
– What do you do with Overbay if Wallace is called up? Release him? Eat his salary? Dump him on another team?
– What happens if Wallace is overmatched by big league pitching, has his confidence shattered and has to go back to the minors for an extended stay?
– If Wallace is the real deal, why start his major league service time early so he can become eligible for arbitration and free agency earlier? Why not take the path that Tampa Bay took with Evan Longoria and David Price, and Washington is taking with Stephen Strasburg, ensuring Wallace will be a Jay for longer?
I know a few bad apples ruin the section, so this is not an indictment of an entire crowd of people at the game, but the majority of the booing fans could not answer those questions. Why? Because they have NO IDEA who those players are!!! The fat kid to my left wanted to boo Overbay badly so he could impress his buddy. The fat guy to my right booed lustily, then left the game early so he could get home in time to watch Law and Order. (True story – I heard him say so to his buddies as they were leaving). They only know that Overbay didn’t hit a home run, didn’t make the diving play he tried for, and threw a ball into left field. I bet somebody would have tried to beat the snot out of him if possible.
Bottom line – give me my 500 Level seats any day. At least up there fans know the game, respect the game, and respect the players. For the most part anyways…
(Closing note: kudos to the security guard in the top of the 9th inning in our section for letting two young boys move down from way back and sit in the first row. At a time when other security guards were stupidly kicking people out who tried to move lower, this guy not only let the young kids stay, but talked, joked, and laughed with them the rest of the game. That is how you get fans back to the ball park.)
The Jays enjoyed the largest crowd of the season since opening day on Sunday, but despite the 25,000+ in attendance, the candidates for FLF of the game were lacking. I don’t know if it was the open roof, the beautiful sunny day, the fact that it was a Sunday, or that the Jays are simply playing too well to attract hecklers, but the crazy fan level was at a low.
That said, there was one fan in particular who caught the eye of my friends and I. It was very hot in the upper deck, with virtually no protection from the sun available anywhere. But in the top of the 4th inning, here came a fan into section 511 wearing heavy red corduroy pants, thick black socks, dress shoes, a dress shirt, and a white blazer. He didn’t say much but he stared at us a lot. Since it was a Sunday, we assumed he had come straight from church to the game, so ladies and gentleman, the 500 Level Fan of the Game for May 16th goes to the Churchgoer!
The Churchgoer was hot. That was obivious both because he was dressed for an autumn day and it was blazing hot, and because he was soaked. Sweat was pouring down the side of his face. It was quite gross actually.
Even funnier was that as the game went on, his outfit became more scandalous. By the 6th the blazer was off and the sleeves rolled up. By the 7th, the cords were rolled up to his ankles and the socks pulled down. By the 8th the cords were up at knee level, exposing an entire ankle and a full calf muscle. His fellow church goers would have been outraged!
Week Six (May 10 – May 16) began on a sour note with the Jays self-destructing in back-to-back losses at Fenway Park, continuing their struggles against baseball’s better teams. But the week ended with a flurry of victories: a sweep-avoiding win on Wednesday over the Red Sox followed by a sweep of the AL West leading Texas Rangers back in Toronto.
The Jays now sit at 23-16, 3rd in the AL East and only two games behind the defending world series champion Yankees for the Wild card. It’s still early, but it’s hard not to be excited by this young team.
A wild game at the Rogers Centre last night. The Jays came back from 3-0 and 9-3 deficits to win 16-10 in a crazy slugfest. Hill, Lind, Snider, Wells, and Overbay all went deep, sending the attendance of 16,020 into a frenzy. Well, most of the crowd of 16,020 into a frenzy. One man in section 519, row 2 was as composed as they get. Nothing in the game seemed to faze him. In fact, he didn’t utter a single word the entire game, no boos, no cheers, no applause. Nothing. But because of his appearance and his actions, for the first time a silent fan will win FLF of the game. Ladies and gentleman, the 500 Level Fan of the Game for Friday May 14th – the Moustache Masturbator!
Right away, at first glance, it was obvious that this was a MAN. Not just a man, but a MAN, an all-caps MAN. I had to pass by him on the way to my seat, and as he stood to let me through (in pure silence of course), his enormously thick, plush, and well manicured moustache stood out, looking me right in the eye. It was all I could do to not flinch and fall from the balcony of the 500’s. I have seen moustaches before. Hell, I’ve even grown moustaches before. But this, this was something special.
It wasn’t until the 4th inning that we noticed the rest of his attire. He was clad in a Canadian Tuxedo, which was unfortunately covered by a heavy winter coat. But if you were able to stay focused, glimpses of the Tuxedo were there. For those of you who don’t know what a Canadian Tuxedo is, let me explain. It is an outfit of full denim, from the shirt to the pants. If the denim is the same wash, fade, and colour, it adds to the mystique. The Moustache Masturbator wore medium blue jeans with a medium blue denim button up, fully tucked. Again, what a MAN!
In addition to his outfit, the Moustache Masturbator was listening to the game on headphones, on what appeared to be one of the first generation Discman’s, one equipped with an AM/FM tuner. So intent was he that nothing interfere with the radio, that he had duct taped the entire CD portion of the Discman, lest it accidentally open and he miss a Jerry Howarth description of a pop out.
But his true greatness was not in his attire, his accessories, or his moustache. His true greatness was the way he played with his moustache. Every time one of us took a look to our left he had his fingers in his ‘stache. He was grooming it, picking it, stroking it, twisting it, rubbing it, and loving it. I’m sure at one point he licked it and sucked on it. I bet he would have made love to it if he could have. And it wasn’t just once or twice during the game. It was once or twice every three minutes. For that kind of performance there was really only one choice for the fan of the game award. Congratulations Moustache Masturbator!
Honourable Mention goes to the extremely angry man beside the masturbator who also spoke nary a word, and surprised all around him by pulling out a snack in the 4th inning. But not chips, popcorn, peanuts, or a sandwich. No, he pulled from his pocket an entire chicken breast wrapped in cellophane, and proceeded to wolf it down, with an occassional lick. Gross.
Here are a few overhead gems from Friday nights Blue Jays 16-10 victory over the Texas Rangers:
“One ticket for the NON-ALCOHOL SECTION” – 55+ year old man, pre-game, while looking angrily at the young drunkards around him
“Does Toronto have any Cubans?” – idiot in Section 519, Row 1
“I don’t really like baseball. I’m not even a fan. I just like to boo. BOO!” – idiot in Section 519, Row 1
“We don’t need the Addams Family! We need a 3-run home run!” – Acien, a very drunk man in Row 1, during a Travis Snider at bat in the bottom of the 3rd while the Addams family theme song was playing between pitches. Next pitch? 3-run home run
“We’ve gotta be back there, where the tattooed broads are!” – Acien, 30 seconds later, basking in the glory of his called Snider home run
Who is Mike Maksudian? Unless you were a die-hard fan in the early ‘90’s you probably have no idea. Maksudian was a very, very, very spare part on the Jays first World Series winning team in 1992.
Selected by the Jays in the 1989 minor league draft, he actually enjoyed a fairly productive minor league career in the Blue Jays system. In three seasons with Knoxville and Syracuse the catcher put together a .282 average with 27 HR, enough to earn a spot as a September call-up to Toronto. With Pat Borders, Randy Knorr, and Greg Myers already on the roster, Maksudian was delegated to bullpen catcher, and made his major league debut at 1B on September 2.
He left the Jays on October 26, 1992, claimed on waivers by the Twins. His career stat line with Toronto was not quite enough to make Toronto’s Level of Excellence: .000 AVG / 0 HR / 0 RBI / 0 R / 0 SB / 3 AB. Yet, despite those numbers, Mike Maksudian earned a World Series ring for his role in 1992. Continue reading Blast From the Past – Mike Maksudian→
Continued from below, here is part two of 2010’s early season surprises – player edition.
Carlos Ruiz – Catcher, Philadelphia Phillies
Ruiz currently sits 4th overall in the major leagues with a .354 average, leading the Phillies to a first place perch in the NL East. Carlos is a career .246 hitter, and with well over 1,000 career AB it seems outrageous to think that he can keep this start going. Enjoy it while it lasts Phillies fans.
Alex Gonzalez – Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays
Signed primarily for his defense, Gonzalez has been lights out power-wise for the Jays in the early part of 2010. His 10 HR are tied for the second-most in baseball and give him two more than he had in all of 2009 (391 AB). While he has shown traces of power in his career before (23 bombs in 2004 with Florida), he is knocking balls over the fence with much more frequency than anybody could have imagined (1 HR per 13.7 AB this year, 1 HR per 38.5 AB the rest of his career).