Not Your Average, Everyday All-Star Snub Column

Could this man have been an All-Star? (photo from

The MLB All-Star game is set for next Tuesday, July 13th in Anaheim.  Baseball’s All-Star game has many detractors but I for one enjoy it.  I like seeing the best players in each league playing a game for fun with nothing really on the line.  Sure it has problems.  Do I think the winner should get home field advantage in the World Series?  No.  Do I think rosters should have been expanded to an astronomical 34 players?  No.  But even with those corny initiatives, the baseball’s game is far superior to the other major sports.

But I’ll tell you one thing I do hate about the All-Star game: the inevitable snub columns.  As in every other sport, many players having excellent years miss the cut.  That’s the way it goes.  But on every sports website you will find multiple columns outlining who should have made it and why.  I have read that Joey Votto was screwed by eight different sportswriters.  Enough is enough.

So instead of jumping into the fray to tell you that Votto, or Kevin Youkilis, or Miguel Olivo, or Jered Weaver should have made it, I thought I’d switch it up.  Instead of focusing on the obvious, I am focusing on the more obscure.  Below are 13 players that many fans might not have heard of, or who were all but washed up last year.  Each are having excellent years, but none were recognized with an All-Star spot.

*Note: OPS rank is per position – min. 240 plate appearances

C – Geovany Soto, Cubs (.277 avg, 8 HR, 23 RBI, .872 OPS – 2nd)

1B – Aubrey Huff, Giants (.294 avg, 15 HR, 49 RBI, .916 OPS – 9th)

2B – Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks (.265 avg, 13 HR, 38 RBI, .851 OPS – 4th)

3B – Casey McGehee, Brewers (.274 avg, 13 HR, 52 RBI, .806 OPS – 9th)

SS – Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays (.258 avg, 15 HR, 42 RBI, .782 OPS – 4th)

OF – Josh Willingham, Nationals (.281 avg, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .926 OPS – 4th)

OF – Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (.278 avg, 16 HR, 40 RBI, .916 OPS – 6th)

OF – Brennan Boesch, Tigers (.344 avg, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 1.001 OPS – 1st)

You won’t find any superstars on that list.  Huff is a journeyman who has bounced around a lot of bad teams over the years.  Johnson was deemed expendable by the Braves.  Rasmus is a second year player and Boesch is a rookie.  Gonzalez was supposed to be an all-glove no-bat player, and Soto was coming off an abysmal year where he was criticized for being overweight and getting caught with marijuana at the world baseball classic.  If anybody stands up and says they saw excellent seasons coming from this bunch they are both a liar and a coward.

Now for some pitchers.  I named three starters and two relievers, but did not include any closers.  Closers get all the attention – middle relievers get none.

SP – Mat Latos, Padres (9-4, 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.22 K/9)

SP – Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (8-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.35 K/9)

SP – Colby Lewis, Rangers (7-5, 3.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.34 K/9)

RP – Luke Gregerson, Padres (2-3, 2.23 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.38 K/9)

RP – Tyler Clippard, Nationals (8-5, 2.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.06 K/9)

Again, take a look at the names.  Coming into this year Latos had 10 career starts and Garcia had one.  Gregerson is in his second major league season.  Clippard plays for the Nationals.   Colby Lewis spent the last two seasons in Japan.  Enough said.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know some other players I might have missed, or if you think any of these shouldn’t be included.

Three Things From Week Thirteen

Ouch.  What else is there to say really, after a horrendous showing in the thirteenth week of the MLB schedule (June 28 – July 4).  Toronto went 1-6 for the week, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the woeful Cleveland Indians – the first time that has happened since 1995.  Dropping two of three to division leading New York saw the Jays drop below the .500 mark for the first time since they were 12-13 on May 2nd.

As if the losing wasn’t bad enough for Jays fans, we received a double punch in the gut last week.  First, ace Shaun Marcum hit the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation.  Second, Toronto recalled the brutally awful Edwin Encarnacion from triple-A Vegas.  EE promptly endeared himself to fans by failing to run on a sac bunt attempt in the 10th inning on Sunday, resulting in a double play.

So, in order to cheer up the Bluebird faithful, here are three positive things that came out of week 13:

1. All-Stars x 3

The last time Toronto had this many all-stars in the mid-summer classic it was 2006.  John Gibbons was at the helm, Gustavo Chacin was in the starting rotation, and Shea Hillenbrand took the bulk of at-bats at DH.  That season saw Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan, Troy Glaus, Alex Rios, and Vernon Wells suit up at the All-Star game.

Yesterday, three Jays were named to the AL squad: Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista, and John Buck.  Wells will be making his third all-star appearance, while Bautista (MLB’s HR leader) and Buck (AL RBI leader for catchers) will each be making their first.  It’s quite an honour to have three players recognized, and the Jays actually have a case for a fourth.  Alex Gonzalez leads all AL shortstops in HR and RBI – and it isn’t even close.

The only thing left to see is if Bautista takes part in the HR derby.  My hope is no…

Kyle Drabek tossed a no-hitter on Sunday (photo from

2. Halladay 1 – Drabek 1

When Halladay was sent to Philadelphia all Blue Jay fans were disappointed.  When Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in major league history, Blue Jay fans became bitterly disappointed that he wasn’ t wearing our uniform when he did it.  It also put more pressure, fair or not, on the main prospect the Jays received in the deal – Kyle Drabek.

Well, so far so good.  Drabek matched Halladay with a no-hitter of his own on Sunday for the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  The right-hander allowed only two walks, and faced one batter over the minimum in the complete game gem.  Overall this season Drabek is 8-8 with a 3.20 ERA and 80 K’s in double-A, and looks to be on target to potentially reach the big leagues next season.  That would be step one in a world PH (Post Halladay).

3. As Tight As Can Be

One bad inning.  That was all that separated the Jays from a series victory over the Yankees on the weekend.  If not for a franchise record matching 11-run third on Saturday afternoon, the Jays likely would have taken two of three from the Bombers, making the week that was a little bit easier to swallow.  But never-the-less, one thing is certain: Toronto and New York have played each other dead even so far this year – almost as even as you can get.

Through the first six meetings, Toronto is 3-3 against the Yankees.  The Jays have scored 27 runs in the six games; New York has scored 26.  Three of the six were decided by one run.  Three went to extra innings.  Toronto pitchers have also done a great job neutralizing four of the most dangerous hitters in baseball.  Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano are a combined 21 for 101 (.208) off Blue Jay pitching, with only 1 HR between them.

In a season where moral victories may end up being important for a young team, Toronto’s performance against the Yanks is a step in the right direction.

Fun With Numbers – Half Way Home Edition

With the season just passing the official half-way point, let’s look at some numbers for the Blue Jays heading into the second half.  The 15 numbers listed below cover all kinds of statistical categories, and are current as of Sunday’s 7-6 extra inning loss to the Yankees.

41 – Wins by the Jays through July 4th (41-42 record).  Toronto was 42-40 through July 4th last season.

120 – Toronto home runs, still 1st in all of baseball, but now only ahead of the Boston Red Sox by 10.

0 – Wins by the Blue Jays in games that David Purcey makes an appearance.  After Sunday’s loss they are 0-11 when he pitches.

11 – Runs allowed by the Jays in the third inning yesterday, tying a franchise record set August 6, 1979 vs. KC.  (Thanks @MLBastian for the info)

17 – Games in which the Jays scored three runs or fewer in June.  The offense has not returned in July, with Toronto scoring three runs or less in two of the first four games this month.

7 – Blue Jay players who hit under .200 in June (Hill, Lind, Bautista, Encarnacion, Hoffpauir, Wise, McDonald)

82 – Rank of DH Adam Lind in the AL in OPS (out of 85).  His .617 OPS puts him ahead of only Jose Lopez of Seattle, and two White Sox: Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham.  Lind ranks behind such notable sluggers as Yuniesky Betancourt, Jason Kendall, and Chone Figgins.

85 – Rank of 2B Aaron Hill in the AL in batting average.  His .189 average puts him in dead last among hitters with enough AB to qualify for the batting title.

3 – Toronto Blue Jays named to the AL All-Star team: Vernon Wells, John Buck, Jose Bautista

4 – Years since the Jays have had three or more All-Stars.  2006 saw B.J. Ryan, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Troy Glaus named to the AL squad.

2 – Blue Jay catchers to be named to an All-Star team: Ernie Whitt (1985) and John Buck (2010)

.310 – Batting average for Lyle Overbay since dropping below the Mendoza line on May 28th.  From May 29 to July 4 his average has risen from .197 to .241.  Apologies accepted.

4 & 5 – Rank among AL pitchers in ERA for the month of June for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.  Despite the stellar ERAs (Morrow 1.91, Romero 2.12) each pitcher had only one win.

9.27 – K/9 ratio for Brandon Morrow in June, 4th among AL Pitchers.  Only Jered Weaver, Francisco Liriano, and Max Scherzer were higher.

20 – Number of draft picks signed by Alex Anthopoulos since the draft held between June 7-9.  The GM has until August 15 to sign his remaining 36 picks.  Last year JP Ricciardi could only sign 30 of his 52 picks.

You Want Moves? We’ve Got Moves…

Brace yourself - he's back... (photo from

Busy Friday for the Blue Jays.  First, they went out and beat New York in Yankee Stadium, 6-1 in 11 innings.  The victory put an end to a brutal five game losing streak, and also saw them score more than five runs in a game – a rarity since the calendar turned to June.  Second, Cito showed signs of life, with his first ejection since August of 2009 – also at Yankee Stadium.  Third, and most important for this piece, Alex Anthopoulos made several roster moves.  For a more detailed account and analysis, I urge you to read Jays beat writer Jordan Bastian’s account here. But while you’re here, why not read my no-holds barred opinion on what went down yesterday?

First the Marcum injury (15-Day DL – right elbow inflammation).  Looking at it optimistically I can see two good points.  One is the fact that the injury does not appear to be serious.  According to the Jays, the All-Star break should be enough time for him to rest and heal, meaning he should be back at full strength post break.  Considering the All-Star game itself is only a week-and-a-half away that is good news.  Second is the fact that Marcum is injured and simply not struggling.  You never want to see a player go down, but in this case it is a little bit reassuring that we now have an explanation for his drop in performance.  From his start on June 2 through his start on Canada Day, Marcum has struggled to the tune of a 2-3 record, 5.24 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP, while only averaging less than 6 innings per start.  Very un-Marcum like.  Hopefully he’ll come back with a vengeance.

But there are also two negatives about the Marcum injury.  The first is obvious.  SHAUN MARCUM IS INJURED! Our opening day, and most consistent, starter.  Our ace.  Our stopper who dominates after Jays losses.  The other negative is that Toronto now has to replace him.  To do that, AA called up Marc Rzepzcynski from Vegas.  As I pointed out in Monday’s Weekly Things column, Rzep was starting to pitch better at Triple-A (including a win with 2 ER in 5 IP on Monday).  But Jessie Litsch is still wildly inconsistent and could possibly use some more time in the minors – now impossible.  Rzep’s call up was supposed to be out of convenience.  Now it is out of necessity.  Very dangerous.

The second series of moves made by Anthopoulos saw a role reversal.  Edwin Encarnacion was recalled, forcing Jarrett Hoffpauir back to Vegas.  Jeremy Reed was granted free agency to make room for EE’s return to the 40-man roster.  I don’t care about the jettisoning of Reed.  He was at best a spare part, didn’t prove he could hit while he was here, and basically has no purpose on the roster now that DeWayne Wise is back.  It’s the Encarnacion recall that concerns me the most.

Sure Hoffpauir didn’t do a whole lot up here (.214 average, 0 HR, 0 RBI).  But baseball is a game of sample sizes.  Hoff was only given 9 games and 28 at-bats to prove he belonged – clearly not enough to time to become acclimatized to his new surroundings, teammates, and AL pitching.  Similarly, EE destroyed minor league pitching but did so in an extreme hitters league, and with a very small sample size – 7 games, 32 AB.  The numbers were good, don’t get me wrong (.438 average, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1.267 OPS).  But one look at his production in the majors (120 AB, .200 average, .765 OPS) is enough to bring tears to a Jays fans eyes.  He also committed five errors in those seven games in AAA to go along with the seven he made in Toronto.  By comparison Hoff had zero in 27 chances.

I’m not trying to argue against Anthopoulos.  I understand that Encarnacion has a better upside and more potential.  I understand that Toronto’s offense has gone AWOL and they need a spark to get them going.  I just question whether EE is the one who can provide that spark, considering he was one of the main culprits who helped put the fire out in the first place.  Who knows – maybe he can catch fire, do just enough to increase his trade value, and we can get him the hell out of here.  Judging from a Twitter response to an informal poll conducted by Jordan Bastian, Jays fans sure hope so (40-8 in favour of never wanting to see EE in a Jays uniform again).

One final note – while many Jays fans are starting to get louder in support of calling up Vegas catcher JP Arencibia (.313 average, 19 HR, 52 RBI), a move was made elsewhere involving a past Toronto “catcher of the future”.  Boston reacquired Kevin Cash from Houston to replace Jason Varitek on the roster (out with a broken foot).  How Cash, with his lifetime .187 batting average and .539 OPS can still find meaningful employment in the major leagues is beyond me.

Blast From the Past – Rob Ducey

In honour of Canada Day yesterday, 500 Level Fan is going homegrown for this week’s edition of Blast From the Past.  Checking Wikipedia tells me that a total of 15 Canadians have suited up for the Blue Jays.  Though at one point or another in their careers some have been all-stars (Paul Quantrill), some have garnered MVP votes (Corey Koskie, Matt Stairs), and some have won World Series with the Jays (Rob Butler), no Canadian sticks out more than Rob Ducey.

Ducey grew up in Cambridge, and was signed by the Jays as an amateur free agent in 1984.  He hit minor league pitching fairly well from 1984-1987 (.286 with 58 HR) – well enough to make his major league debut on May 1, 1987.  Ducey started the game in LF, went 1/2 with an RBI and a SB, but was replaced by pinch hitter Garth Iorg in the 8th inning.

Unfortunately for Rob, being replaced was something that became common for him.  For the rest of his career he was nothing more than a bit player, a bench warmer, who played sparingly.  He stayed with the Blue Jays until the trade deadline of 1992, but only managed to play in 183 games (just over 30 per season) as he was constantly overlooked by Jimy Williams, and sent back and forth to Syracuse.  Ducey also met the same fate on the other teams he played for in the majors.  His personal high for games played came in 2000 as a member of the Phillies (112).

Rob had quite a tour of the league during his career, playing for a total of six franchises, and even made a two year stop in Japan to play for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995 and 1996.  At least he can say he was well traveled.

But forget the playing time and his statistics.  The greatest thing about Ducey’s time with the Jays was when he was traded.  The first time he was dealt came at the deadline in 1992.  Ducey and Greg Myers were sent to the California Angels as Toronto re-acquired the great Mark Eichhorn.  Eichhorn would star in the bullpen and help the Jays win back-to-back World Series.  Ducey, sadly, missed out.

However, in 2000 Ducey was involved in possibly the strangest trade sequence in history.  On July 26th he was traded from Philadelphia back to Toronto for a player to be named later.  He suited up for five games with the Jays and hit .154.  Then on August 5th Toronto acquired Mickey Morandini from Philadelphia for a player to be named later.  Two days later, August 7th, the player to be named later became Rob Ducey.  He was essentially traded for himself.

But Ducey is loved in this area not so much for his minimal contribution to the Toronto Blue Jays on the field, but for his love of his country.  He became the first Canadian to play for both the Blue Jays and the Expos.  He was a member of the 2004 Canadian Olympic baseball team in Athens that finished fourth.  He was part of Canada’s coaching staff at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a team that finished a disappointing sixth.  He also served on Canada’s coaching staff at the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

So despite whatever struggles he may have had on the field, despite his bouncy and uneven career path, and despite the fact that he was let go by Alex Anthopoulos as a Blue Jay scout in 2009, Rob Ducey is saluted here today for the one thing all Jays fans can be proud of him for: his Canadian-ness.

Happy Canada Day Rob.

Rob Ducey: Career Major League Statistics

13 seasons (1987 – 1994, 1997 – 2001)

6 teams (TOR, CAL, TEX, SEA, PHI, MON)

.242 average, 31 HR, 146 RBI, 190 R, 22 SB, .726 OPS

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

Backyard Lawn Chair of the Game

I have presented several awards for 500 Level Fan of the Game, and even an occassional 100 Level Fan of the Game.  But never did I think I would present a fan of the game award to an inanimate object.

Until now.

Feast your eyes on this:

What a specimen!  What a chair!  The old fashioned Blue Jays logo nearly brought a tear to my eye.  And ladies and gentlemen: what craftsmanship!  The weave of the wool perfect, the colour combination incredible, and the seat cushion sublime.

But friends, not only was I given the great blessing of seeing this chair, I also was given an opportunity to sit in it.  I can tell you that the comfort level was out of this world.  I could have slept I was so at peace.

There was more than just comfort however.  This chair is a piece of history.  I didn’t get a chance to ask the owner how old it was, but judging by the logo it must be weathered.  Sitting in it was like sitting in a time warp.  As soon as I made contact with the cushion my mind was flooded with classic Blue Jay memories, all seeped into the woolly fabric. 

It was 1977 (forget for a second that I wasn’t born yet) and Doug Ault was swatting two home runs in a snowy Exhibition Stadium leading the Jays to victory in the franchise opener.

Then it became 1985, and George Bell caught the AL East division clinching fly out in left field while sinking to his knees.  His cap was falling off his head as he screamed, then embraced Tony Fernandez, while fans flooded the field celebrating Toronto’s first title.

I could feel the energy of the 1989 title, as Henke struck out the Orioles in the ninth to seal the division.  I could feel the power of Dave Stieb’s 1990 no-hitter in Cleveland, and the euphoria of back-to-back World Series wins in ’92 and ’93.

But most of all I felt the joy of winning.  You’re familiar with the phrase “if walls could talk”, well if this chair could talk I’m sure it would have some great stories to tell. 

Upon standing I was full of hope and love for the Jays, which they immediately ruined by losing 9-0 to the Phillies.

But one loss can’t kill the magic of the chair.

If it didn’t belong to very friendly neighbours of my parents I would have considered stealing it.

In fact, I still might…

April Showers Bring May Flowers….May Flowers Bring TERRIBLE JUNE HITTING!

Lind strikes out - a daily occurence in June (from


Poor Ricky Romero.  The Blue Jay left-hander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his record.  At 6-4, on the surface Romero appears to be an above-average starter.  But he has been the victim of horrendous run support all season long – most notably in his last two starts.  Despite going 15 innings and allowing only 2 ER, Romero ended up 0-1 with a no-decision as Toronto provided him with a single run of support.  A 1-0 loss to St. Louis last Wednesday was followed by a 2-1 loss to the Indians last night.

But it isn’t just the past week or so that runs have been at a premium.  Toronto’s offensive production in June has completely fallen off the map.  The MLB home run leaders are looking more toothless by the day.  Just look at some of these statistics for the month of June:

Average: .223, dead last in baseball – 15 points back of Seattle for 29th

OBP: .294, second last in baseball

Slugging: .378, 25th (April – .446, 6th; May – .493, 2nd)

OPS: .673, 26th (April – .749, 15th; May – .810, 4th)

Runs: 75, 29th (April – 110, 11th; May – 164, 3rd)

The runs scored figure is particularly discouraging.  In April and May, Toronto’s average and on-base percentage were both poor, yet they still ranked in the top half of all of baseball in runs scored.  Suddenly, they sit second last in the league for the month of June.  75 runs scored equates to an average of only 3.1 per game, and ranks the Jays ahead of only Seattle.  They have scored nearly 100 fewer runs than Texas . 

To state the obvious – if you don’t score you can’t win.  The Blue Jays are 9-15 in June.  They plated three runs or less in 16 of those 24 games, including a stretch of eight games in a row.  It is asking a lot from your pitching staff to win more games than you lose with hitting like that.

So who are the culprits?  The Jays have eight players with over 50 AB this month, and only one – Lyle Overbay of all people – is hitting higher than .280.

Considering an average level of major league production, only Wells (power), Buck (power), Overbay (on base) and Lewis (on base) are having decent months – and that’s stretching it a bit.

The easiest guys to point fingers at are Hill and Lind.  There are 84 players in the American League with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.  Of those 84, Aaron Hill is 78th in OPS and Adam Lind is 81st.  Compared to this point last season (June 28th) the dropoff is astounding:

Hill (2009): .305 average, .512 slugging, .856 OPS, 19 HR, 56 RBI

Hill (2010): .189 average, .365 slugging, .645 OPS, 11 HR, 28 RBI

Lind (2009): .307 average, .545 slugging, .930 OPS, 15 HR, 52 RBI

Lind (2010): .204 average, .344 slugging, .609 OPS, 9 HR, 34 RBI

But even though they have struggled, nobody is picking up the slack this month.

Go ahead and expand the sample to include the rest of the roster, and the picture is even bleaker.  Edwin Encarnacion was sent down due to his terrible performance (.167 average, .313 slugging).  His replacement Jarrett Hoffpauir is hitting .174.  Little used subs Johnny Mac (.143) and DeWayne Wise (.167) are actually hitting worse.  Jose Molina, at 5/14 .357, has been Toronto’s best hitter, but that sample size is too small to mean anything.

But there is good news.  Baseball is, and always has been, a cyclical sport full of ups and downs.  The Blue Jays are only (hopefully) bottoming out, reaching the bottom of the valley before starting an ascent back upwards.  Slumps don’t last forever.  Hell, even the great Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Joe Mauer are hitting well off their career norms, so we shouldn’t be all that upset that Jose Bautista has hit a dry patch.

The best news of all however concerns who is getting close to making an impact on the Blue Jays roster.  Travis Snider is nearing a return and is supposed to return after the all star break.  Triple-A stats have to be taken with a grain of salt (after all Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .407 with a 1.115 OPS since being sent down) but down on the farm, Brett Wallace (.301 average, .869 OPS), JP Arencibia (.306 average, .969 OPS), Chris Lubanski (.308 average, .964 OPS), and Brad Emaus (.310 average, .888 OPS) are tearing it up.  Any of them could make an appearance in Toronto before the season is out. 

But…if the Jays keep hitting like they have been in June, any (or all) of them could make an appearance before July is out.

Three Things From Week Twelve

It was a tough week for the Jays, no doubt about it.  Not only were they involved in interleague action, which they traditionally dislike (Toronto finished 7-11 this season), but they also played both series against contending National League teams (Philadelphia and St. Louis).  To make things tougher on the Jays, their three game “home” series against the Phillies took place in Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia due to the G20 Summit.

With all of that bad conspiring against them, it isn’t much of a surprise that the Blue Jays completed week 12 (June 21 – 27) with a losing 2-4 record.  To make matters worse, while Tampa Bay is slumping and coming back to the Jays, Boston is on fire and has jumped into second.  In the tough AL East, gaining ground is much easier said than done.

Here are three thing that came out of week 12:

1. Home “Not So” Sweet Home

Halladay destroyed the Jays on Friday (from

Furious.  Angry.  Outraged.  Sad.  Devastated.  Take your pick of those words, but any of them could have described the way Blue Jays fans felt when it was announced the series against the Phillies was being shifted to Philadelphia due to the G20 Summit.  Not only did it deny us a chance to see the two-time defending NL Champions first hand, it also destroyed our chance to see the return of the greatest Blue Jay pitcher of all time Roy Halladay.  But after seeing the way Toronto played over the weekend, it might have been a good thing that they were away from the dome, to save them from the wrath of the Rogers Centre faithful.

Despite winning the middle game of the set, the Jays were thoroughly thumped in Philly.  Yesterday they were befuddled by the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer in an 11-2 rout, a game in which Toronto committed a season high four errors.  Friday was the epic duel against the Doc, and the Jays proved to be no challenge to their former ace.  Halladay dominated Toronto for seven innings in an eventual 9-0 Philly victory.  It would have been interesting to see the fans reaction in Toronto upon Halladay’s departure if the series was still here.  One good thing – the Jays will NOT be going back to Philly anytime soon…unless it’s the World Series.

2. Cito Wakes Up

Any other manager would have reacted long ago, but our big and lovable Cito doesn’t like to rock the ship very often.  Of course I’m referring to the vanishing Blue Jays offense.   After tearing up the league in the early part of the season, Toronto’s power and run scoring have gone AWOL in June.  Aaron Hill is still hitting below the Mendoza line, Adam Lind is hitting nowhere near the pace of last season, and even Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista have dropped off.  After a tough 1-0 loss to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals, Gaston finally reacted.

In hopes of springing the offense back to life, he shuffled Adam Lind and Aaron Hill down, bumped Alex Gonzalez up, and was rewarded with a 5-0 win on Thursday.  The tinkering conitnued on the weekend, with Cito even going so far as to bat Johnny Mac leadoff on Sunday.  Though the results didn’t immediately pay off (only seven runs scored in the three game set in Philly), it’s good to finally see Cito recognizing the problem and trying to fix it instead of letting the boys play through it.

3. Rotation Questions

What a difference a few weeks make.  After going through an unreal stretch where every week a different starting pitcher was dominating and becoming the next ace, Toronto has entered a tumultuous time.  Sure Romero, Marcum, and Morrow are still lights out, but at last check it takes five quality starters to win at the big league level, and with the recent struggles of Brett Cecil and Jessie “Tommy John” Litsch, Alex Anthopoulos might have some tinkering of his own to do.

With Brian Tallet seemingly at the end of his effectiveness, and David Purcey being trusted less than a 3-year old with a rifle, there really isn’t any options at the major league level.  Fortunately for the Jays, there are a few other alternatives.  Marc Rzepczynski finally appears to be coming around at triple-A Vegas.  Though his overall numbers are ugly (3-3 7.01 ERA), he is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA (13.2 IP) over his past two starts.  Brad Mills is starting to settle down after a few atrocious starts, and way down at Dunedin – though he was just placed on the 7-day DL – Canadian Scott Richmond is 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA (15.2 IP) as he makes his return from injury.  Personally I would give Litsch one more start then demote him for Rzep, but that’s why I watch the games from my couch or the 500 Level, and not the executive suites.  It will be interesting to see what AA does in the upcoming week or two.

Blast From the Past – Doug Linton

If you are a fan of the Blue Jays teams from the glory years – the World Series years of ’92 and ’93 – there is a very good chance you remember Doug Linton.  If you didn’t follow the Jays at that time, well you’re likely out of luck.  Linton was one of the rare Blue Jays who had not one, but two separate cup-of-coffee stints with the club – 31 appearances (mainly out of the bullpen) in 1992/1993, and seven more relief appearances in 2003.  Unfortunately for him, he did not fare well.

Doug was selected by the Jays in the 43rd round of the 1986 draft and toiled in Toronto’s minor league system for parts of six seasons before making his major league debut with the Jays on August 3, 1992.  He came in from the bullpen in Boston’s Fenway Park, and had a succesful outing – 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 4 K’s.  In fact, his first three relief appearances were so good (10 IP, 2 ER, 1.80 ERA, 10 K’s), that the Jays actually moved him into the rotation.  He made his first major league start on August 13th against the Baltimore Orioles and dominated – 8 IP, 2 ER, 4 K’s, while picking up his first career major league victory.  Things were looking good for Linton.  The Jays had found another ace!

But just as soon as he appeared, he blew up.  Figuratively of course, though if he literally blew up it might have saved the Jays a few losses.  He made two more abysmal starts before being demoted back to the bullpen, and then was absolutely demolished in relief by the Brewers (6 ER in 0.1 IP).  One more relief appearance was all she wrote for Linton in ’92.  He was promptly demoted back to AAA Syracuse – rotten timing as he missed the World Series victory.  But if you were Pat Gillick what would you do?  In his final four appearances for the Jays Linton stunk.  Badly.  2 starts, 2 relief appearances, 6 IP, 19 ER, 11 BB to 2 K, 3 HR allowed, for an 0-2 record, 28.50 ERA, 5.17 WHIP, and a .571 batting average against.  Think about that: opposing batters hit .571 against him!  Incredible!

Linton popped back up in 1993 with the Jays, making four appearances (0-1, 6.55 ERA) before somehow being claimed on waivers by the Angels.  In 2003 he came back to the Jays and actually was fairly effective for the month of April, but was eventually deemed superfluous and sent back down to Syracuse.  Again.

But as I have said before, I will say again – there is more to a major league player than the numbers he puts up.  This rings true for Linton.  Two things stand out about him.  The first is that Doug Linton is the definition of a journeyman ball player.  He made his professional debut in 1987 at single-A Myrtle Beach, and over the next 17 seasons bounced around a ton.  Linton played for:

– 4 different professional levels (A, AA, AAA, MLB)

– 11 different minor league teams (Myrtle Beach, Knoxville, Dunedin, Syracuse, Norfolk, Omaha, Salt Lake, Rochester, Colorado Springs, Richmond, Wichita)

– 5 different major league teams (Toronto, California, NY Mets, Kansas City, Baltimore)

He was even a member of two teams that released him before spring training even ended – the Yankees in 1998, and the Dodgers in 2001.  Tough luck.

The second thing that stands out about Doug Linton was the very first thing I noticed about him in 1992 when I was 13 years old.  He did not have sideburns.  No stubble, no faint trace of a sideburn – nothing.  His hair was cleanly shaved above his ear.  Not only did it look unnatural, it looked ridiculous.  I was able to find a photo of a sideburn free Linton (looking rather dorky) on  Judge for yourself:

The Doug Linton story is tough to tell due to his many failures, but it does have a happy ending.  Despite his horrendous major league pitching statistics, Linton has found work and remains in baseball as the pitching coach of the AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox, minor league affiliate of the C0lorado Rockies.

There you have it.  Doug Linton – Blue Jay legend.

Doug Linton: Career Major League Statistics

7 seasons (1992 – 1996, 1999, 2003)

5 teams (TOR, CAL, NYM, KC, BAL)

17-20 record, 305.1 IP, 5.78 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 206 K:125 BB

*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better.  If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.

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