500 Level Fun – Three for Three Game

Sometimes going to the game just isn’t good enough.  Sometimes you need to spice up your in-game experience, especially in those bad times where the Jays are getting bombed.  Some people do this with booze.  Others do it by playing games within the game.

We here at 500 Level Fan do it with both.

Navin Vaswani’s recent column in the Globe and Mail about a game he calls Loonies (my friends and I play a very similar game we call the Hat Game), got me thinking about other ballpark games that add to the excitement of what is happening on the field.  The first one that came to mind this week is a game that we play every single trip into the Dome.  It is a game that we do not know what the prize is for winning.  It is a game that has actually, to this day, never even had a winner.  But it is a game that adds loads of excitement to the ballgame, because the more ridiculous you make it, the more fun it becomes.

It is a game we call “Three for Three”.

The origination of Three for Three (TFT for short) is unclear, lost in the haze and memory loss of upper deck 20 ounce Bud’s and countless St. Louis’ or Firkin or Lone Star pitchers.  But the two simple rules have been the same since the game was born about four or five years ago:

1. Pick three distinct events you think will happen in the game.

2. Get all three right, you win.

The End

Rule #1 is a lot easier said than done however.  Each event must be approved by the entire group to be considered legal.  Some considerations into selecting events are as follows:

– an event can be team or individual based (i.e. a sacrifice fly by the Jays, or a double by Adam Lind)

– it must be fairly specific (i.e. a base hit by Adam Lind is unacceptable, but a double by Lind, or an opposite field single by Lind, or a base hit in the 5th inning by Lind are acceptable)

– events can not be repeated, not within the group, and not by the same person at multiple games (i.e. a Lind double can not be used more than once in a season)

– an event does not necessarily have to involve a player (i.e. a foul ball will land within two rows of our seats)

As I said before, never in the history of TFT has there been a winner.  Due to this fact, we have no idea what to award as a prize in the event a winner ever occurs.  One thing that is obvious though, is that the prize must be significant.  A victory after years and years of failure just can’t be rewarded with a beer or a shot.  No – something majestic must happen.

But over the years there have been several close calls.  In 2007, already with two events secured, one friend needed a multi-homer game for a Blue Jay.  Adam Lind came up in the bottom of the ninth with one home run already, and launched a 1-2 pitch off the top of the wall in centre field.  Double.  No TFT.

Opening Day of 2009 I chose a 4-6-3 double play, a multiple hit game for Lyle Overbay and a ground rule double.  After the double play was completed in the top of the first inning, and Overbay doubled in the bottom of the first, I was an Overbay ground rule double away from the win.  Did not happen  No TFT.

But by far the most agonizing was last season, with a fellow 500 Level Fan.  Joe Inglett came to the plate with my opponent needing a stand-up triple.  After a  shot to the gap that rattled around the wall, Inglett came flying around second.  When the throw was cut-off, it was obvious there would not be a relay to third.  Inglett had the triple!  The first victory in TFT was upon us!  But NO!!!  Inglett inexplicably slid head-first into the base, ruining the stand-up triple, and costing the TFT win.  He has never lived it down.

One final rule to point out is the bonus rule.  The bonus rule in TFT applies to all players: if Johnny Mac ever goes 5 for 5, it is an automatic win for all involved.

Like I said – we have never had a winner…..

The best part about the game by far is when the most creative choices actually come through.  Some classics in TFT history include:

– a foul grounder to first base coach Ernie Whitt, who makes the catch one-handed, turns, and flips underhand into the crowd

– Miguel Tejada of Baltimore to be ejected for arguing balls and strikes

– a broken bat single between the shortstop and the second base bag

– a fly ball off the DQ ad on the right field wall

– a fan in our section to spill his beer while standing to let other fans into/out of his row

So for anyone heading to the dome this weekend, I encourage you to try it out.  Feel free to email your event selections to fivehundredlevelfan@gmail.com and I’ll post the most creative.  Remember, the more creative/wacky/out-there the selections, the sweeter it feels when they come through.

Just don’t ask me what you get for winning… same sites apache web server . website offline link checker .

Why I HATE Interleague Play

Would I still think highly of this fat, jolly man if the Jays played him in the regular season? No f-ing way.

Before I begin my rant on why I can’t stand interleague play let me clarify something: I am a baseball fan.  Though the Blue Jays are my favourite team, this has nothing to do with the fact that Toronto is historically bad at it.  I don’t want to see interleague play removed simply so the Jays will have a better record (though of course that would be nice).  I want it gone because I think baseball would be better (and fairer) without it.

Now, as a baseball fan I understand the rationale behind its introduction.  The players strike of 1994 crippled (and nearly killed) baseball.  The game needed something to bring the fans back.  In 1920, baseball was saved by Babe Ruth after the Black Sox scandal nearly ruined the game.  Interleague play was the Babe Ruth of the ’90’s. 

I admit the intrigue was there at the beginning.  Watching the Jays play the Braves in June was fun.  Having Barry Bonds and Larry Walker and Albert Pujols come to Toronto was neat.  This year, until the G20 summit ruined it, welcoming back Roy Halladay would have been special.  But when a concept is implemented solely to win back fan support at the expense of the league, it is time to right the ship.

Some equate the NHL’s introduction of the shootout as a gimmick to win back fan support.  That is true, but here is the difference between the shootout and interleague play: the shootout impacts all teams equally and fairly, and all fan bases equally and fairly.  Interleague play does not.  Here are a few reasons why:

It only benefits some markets

New York Yankees vs. New York Mets, Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs, LA Dodgers vs. LA Angels.  Those are huge rivalries in huge sports markets that inflate the interleague attendance figures. 

But what about the Atlanta Braves vs. Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays vs. San Diego Padres, or Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks?  Nobody cares about those matchups.  The Blue Jays used to have a great rivalry with the Tigers, but with realignment and the introduction of interleague play, now only see them six times per year, only three more times than they see Arizona, San Diego, and the Giants.  Garbage.

The schedule is unfair

To be frank, the schedule being unfair is only partly the fault of interleague play.  The unbalanced schedule is a terrible idea to begin with, as the Jays have to play three of the best teams in baseball (Boston, New York, and Tampa) 18-19 times each, while teams like Minnesota and Detroit get to play Chicago, KC, and Cleveland. 

But interleague play adds another problem.  There is no way to play each National League team an equal number of times, so baseball rotates each year.  This year Toronto faces Arizona, Colorado, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.  All except Arizona are over .500 and contending for a playoff spot.  Conversely, Detroit – a team that the Jays have to beat to get a Wild Card birth – face the Dodgers, Pittsburgh, Washington, Arizona, NY Mets, and Atlanta.  Half of those games are against last place clubs.  Advantage: Detroit.

It technically benefits NL teams

Though the records don’t always prove it, interleague play should benefit National League teams.  The managers are used to the intricacies of the game, such as the double switch.  The pitchers are used to hitting.  Getting to use a DH is an added bonus.  Our friend the Blue Jay Hunter has commented on this here, so I won’t go too deep into it.

THE BIG ONE – It dilutes the power of the World Series

As I write this, Brazil is facing North Korea in the World Cup.  Though expected by many to be an absolute blowout, this match is also one of the most highly anticipated.  Why?  Because pretty much nobody in the ENTIRE WORLD has a friggin’ clue about North Korea.  They are a mysterious, secretive bunch, which makes the game exciting and intriguing.

That is what used to make the  World Series so much fun – the National League teams were exciting, intriguing, and mysterious.  Sure I could see the highlights on TV, but there was something different about actually watching Deion Sanders face Jack Morris, or John Kruk bat against Juan Guzman.  Interleague play spoils that.  How special would it be if CC Sabathia faces Roy Halladay in the World Series this October seeing how they are facing each other tonight?  I rest my case.

So Bud Selig, if you’re reading this (and I bet a $245 bottle of Johnny Blue that you’re not), do us a favour.  Give us back our normal games and save interleague for the playoffs.  The game will be better off.

And I will be happy.  At the end of the day that is all that matters…on this blog anyways.

Three Things From Week Ten

It was a week to forget for Jays fans.  An awful stretch of six games saw the Jays finish week 10 (June 7 – June 13) a dismal 1-5, including a three game sweep in Colorado.  Gone are the good feelings that Toronto worked up in the first portion of the schedule, replaced by disappointment. 

Despite the struggles, it was’t all bad news for Toronto.  The team welcomed back an injured pitcher, continued to get an all star type performance from another starter, and managed to score more runs against Ubaldo Jimenez than any other team this year.

Here are three things that came out of week 10:

1. Where has the offense gone?

Toronto still leads all of baseball in home runs, but you wouldn’t know it from last week.  In the six games during week ten, the Jays managed to score a measly 10 runs, and were shutout twice.  And it wasn’t like they were just failing to cash in runners on base – they weren’t getting on base at all.

The Jays mustered only 31 hits last week, an average of just over five per game.  Winning on five hits is a very difficult thing to do in major league baseball.  For the week they hit for a .173 average and only reached base at a .256 clip.  They struck out 41 times and took only 20 walks.  Jose Bautista went through an 0-24 stretch.  Adam Lind just looks worse and worse. 

It doesn’t get any easier for the Jays either.  They kick off a three game set in baseball’s friendliest pitchers park tonight – Petco Park in San Diego.  Uh-oh.

2. Welcome back Mr. Litsch

This was supposed to be a good thing for Toronto.  Jessie Litsch, after being sidelined for over a year from Tommy John surgery, made his return to the rotation on Sunday.  The move theoretically should have strengthened the rotation and the bullpen with Litsch replacing Brian Tallet who in turn replaced Rommie Lewis.  Unfortunately, the move did not pay off on Sunday.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but perhaps waiting a bit longer to recall Litsch might have been a better move.  He didn’t exactly dominate in his minor league rehab starts (0-3 with an 8.18 ERA in AAA Las Vegas) so a few more warm-up starts couldn’t have hurt.  Giving up 7 ER in 2.1 IP wasn’t exactly the major league start he was looking for.  With the Jays able to skip the 5th spot over the next few turns, don’t be surprised to see Litsch optioned back down to iron out the kinks.

Brett Cecil been dominant for the Jays (photo from daylife.com)

3. Lights Out Cecil

It seems like almost every week Toronto’s ace of the future is being anointed.  First it was Shaun Marcum, then Ricky Romero, followed by Brandon Morrow.  Now, welcome Brett Cecil to the list.  Through 10 starts in 2010 the young lefty has been brilliant: 7-2, 3.22 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, 47 K to 16 BB.

Even better, since having one of his worst career starts against Texas on May 14th, he has been unbeatable in his last five: 5-0, 1.49 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 21 K’s in 36.1 IP.  And his oppostiion hasn’t been too shabby in that time (other than Seattle and Baltimore) as he shut down the Angels, the Yankees, and the Rays for Toronto’s only win last week.  The emergence of Cecil gives the Jays four excellent starters in the rotation and should lay the groundwork for a successful team in the years ahead. expired domains . web archive website offline link checker

Random Blue Jays Thoughts on a Saturday Afternoon

Jose Bautista can grow a beard faster than any man in the history of Earth (photo from daylife.com)

Despite putting about 80% of my attention on the World Cup (and, of course, betting on the World Cup), I woke up this morning with many different thoughts on my mind about the Jays.  No better place to put them than in a random Saturday column.  Here goes:

– I hate rain shortened games in baseball.  Another professional sport does not exist that allows an unfinished game to go in the record books as a final.  I don’t really have a solution, because the sheer number of games in a baseball season makes postponing/rescheduling/resuming games very, very difficult.  But the Blue Jays deserved a better fate last night.  Ubaldo Jimenez without question has been the best pitcher in the game this year, but the Jays touched him up for three runs last night, the most he has allowed in a game all season.  His ERA jumped from 0.93 to 1.16.  But the biggest disappointment was that through six innings, though the Jays were down 5-3, Jimenez had thrown 106 pitches.  That meant that the Rockies were likely going to go to their bullpen for the final three innings.  Colorado’s pen has a very good ERA (3.25, 6th overall in the MLB), but with a record of 6-12 and 6 blown saves, a win was far from a sure thing.  Unfortunately it goes into the books as a loss.  Very unfair in the humble opinion of this lowly sportswriter.

– I don’t understand the uproar I am hearing from people on the Jays decision to send reliever Rommie Lewis to the minors in order to recall Jessie Litsch.  “Why would he go down when he has pitched so well” was a common complaint.  Well friends, a 4.91 ERA in 18.1 IP is nothing to write home about, especially for a situational lefty type reliever.  With Scott Downs and an effective (albeit slightly used) David Purcey already in the pen, and Brian Tallet (a starter who really is better suited as a long reliever) already on the roster, Lewis no longer had a place.  Watching him struggle against New York and Tampa in his last two appearances (3 IP, 4 ER, 4 BB) did little to help his cause.  If Jessie Litsch is truly ready to go, he is a much better fifth starter than Brian “Billy Talent” Tallet, thus strengthening Toronto’s rotation and bullpen.  Besides, what kind of name is Rommie anyways?

– Jose Bautista is struggling.  In his last 24 plate appearances he has 0 hits and 5 walks for a .000 avg, .208 OBP, and a .208 OPS.  Perhaps pitchers have figured out a way to get him out, neutralizing his blazing start.  But forget all that.  Have you watched Jose grow a beard?  Unbelievable.  I feel like I watch a game on a Monday night and Bautista has a full, lush beard.  Then on Tuesday, he is clean shaven, perhaps trying to break out of a slump.  But without a word of a lie, by Thursday night the beard is right back, full, thick, and dark.  Incredible.

– When Kevin Gregg takes the mound in a save situation, I get afraid.  I literally almost vomited on Thursday night when he gave up a leadoff homer and put two men on.  I think I actually might have wet my pants.  Twice.  We need a reliable closer…

– If anybody had the chance to watch This Week In Baseball last weekend, you will understand what I am about to say.  The Blue Jays bullpen needs to get somebody on the team to serenade them with a song each game day.  Go to each bullpen member’s home in the morning, sit cross-legged on his bed while he is still half sleeping, and sing a song while playing guitar.  It works for Cincinnati Reds rookie Mike Leake when “Charles” Bronson Arroyo does it, so why not for the Jays?  Despite my best efforts I can not locate a clip on the internet to link to, but trust me – it was at once the weirdest, strangest, and most uncomfortable thing I have ever seen. same sites expired domains apache web server website offline link checker .

Blast From the Past – Dave Revering

Before I being another trip down memory road, I have a confession to make.  I thought I was a massive Jays fan.  I thought I could name every player who ever donned the blue bird on their chest.  Though it breaks my heart a little, I’m not ashamed to admit it: I was wrong.  I have never heard of Dave Revering.

Today’s edition of Blast From the Past comes at the request of one of 500 Level Fan’s dedicated followers, and future groom, Professor Sauny.  In his email to fivehundredlevelfan@gmail.com, Sauny asked for a profile on a man he believes is a true baseball coward, Dave Revering.  At first I ignored it, but after a bit of research I determined that Mr. Revering was indeed an actual player for our Toronto Blue Jays.

But not recognizing the name can not be viewed as a huge miss.  Revering was a member of the Jays for only a portion of the 1982 season.  In and out faster than you can spell his last name. 

He was drafted in the 7th round of the 1971 draft by the Cincinnati Reds, and toiled in the minor leagues until 1977.  It was at that time that Revering made his greatest impact on the game. 

The Oakland A’s were a powerhouse in the early to mid-’70’s, winning three straight World Series titles from 1972-1974, and five straight AL West division titles from 1971-1975.  However, the A’s lost star pitcher Catfish Hunter to free agency in 1976, so angering flamboyant owner Charlie Finley that he decided to destroy his own team.  Unfortunately for him, several trades were vetoed by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, using the “best interests in baseball” act.  One such trade would have seen all star pitcher Vida Blue traded to Cincinnati for $1.75 million and Dave Revering.

He eventually was traded to Oakland, and actually had three productive years there (1978-1980).  But then the wheels came off.  In 1981 he was traded to the Yankees, then in ’82 he was sent with Jeff Reynolds and Tom Dodd to the Jays for John Mayberry. 

The ’82 Jays finished 6th in the AL East with a record of 78-84, and they did it with very little assistance from Revering.  Splitting time at DH with such notable Blue Jay legends Wayne Nordhagen, Glenn Adams, and Otto Velez, Revering took part in 55 games.  His stats were quite poor for a designated hitter: .215 average, .691 OPS, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 0 SB and 3 caught stealing. 

Toronto released him mid-season.  He was picked up by Seattle, stunk badly for 29 more games, then was promptly released again, ending his major league career in futility.  Though he made very little impact on the fans, on the team, and on the city of Toronto, Dave Revering still deserves to be recognized for his contribution to Blue Jays history.

For that, 500 Level Fan salutes you Dave Revering. 

Dave Revering: Career Major League Statistics

5 seasons (1978 – 1982)

4 teams (OAK, NYY, TOR, SEA)

.265 average, 62 HR, 234 RBI, 205 R, 2 SB, .748 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.

A Quick Comment on the Draft by Somebody Smarter Than Me

The 2010 MLB Amateur draft began on Monday with the Washington Nationals taking Bryce Harper number one overall.  Of all the drafts held by all the major sports, none is more labour intensive, random, and just plain long than that of baseball.  The 30 MLB teams selected 1,525 players in 50 rounds held over three days.  If the past is any indication, a very large majority of these kids will never sniff the major leagues.  But if the past is an indicator, there also might be just as much of a chance for James Rice (selected 1,525th overall by the Yankees) to make an impact as for Christian Colon (4th overall by KC).

The Blue Jays ended up with 56 draft picks and used the majority of them to select pitchers (32).  Toronto’s first pick (11th overall) was used to select Deck McGuire, a pitcher from Georgia Tech.  A few notable names from the rest of Anthopoulos’ selections include Dickie Thon Jr, son of former major league all star Dickie Thon, and Ricky Romero’s younger brother Gabriel. 

Now I won’t lie to you.  I do not know much about any of the players selected by the Jays.  I have no comment on whether or not they made sound selections.  I have absolutely no idea whether any of the players will be major league stars or if they’ll last as long in the professional ranks as I did (zero days for all of you counting). 

But luckily, 500 Level Fan knows a man who does hold some insight.  Ottawa correspondent Future Star, also known as WCF (for Willie Canate Fan), was kind enough to send a write-up into the site about one player he was particularly pleased the Jays grabbed – Omar Cotto:

One of the under-the-radar names selected by Toronto in the Rule 4 amateur draft was Omar Cotto.  One of the top Puerto Rican prospects in the draft, the Jays were drafted him in the 12th round (366th overall).  In some ways, Cotto is the typical high school aged player with undeveloped power, contact skills and defence. What makes Cotto unique is his speed, which rates as plus-plus.  In the later rounds, it probably makes sense to take athletic players with one major-league tool and leave it to the player development system to try to coax out other skills.  This appears to be the team’s current strategy (22 high school picks in the first 30 rounds) and it marks a major departure from draft day under JP Ricciardi.  Ricciardi preferred to use the middle rounds to draft college seniors, more complete players perhaps, but often players without any real high-end potential.  How fast is Cotto?  Well, another Jays draft pick, Dickie Thon Jr. is known for his blazing speed, and is the reigning 200m track champion in Puerto Rico.  On the diamond, Omar Cotto is faster.  He has sprinter speed on the basepaths. 

Cotto’s hitting skills are raw, especially from the left side of the plate, and it isn’t clear how much power he will develop.  As it stands, Cotto likely has a chance to developing into a solid, speedy CF in the mold of Dave Martinez, flashing 10-15 HR power in a good year.  The Jays will have to take their time with Cotto, he should start next season in extended spring training and make his debut with the Gulf Coast League Jays in summer, 2011.

Thanks to Future Star for his insight (notice how he threw a reference to Dave Martinez in there, another one of his favourites).  I owe you a beer pal.

For insight on other Blue Jays players and prospects check out Jays Prospects.

Sometimes Things Do Go As Expected

Strasburg dominated the Pirates last night (image from daylife.com)

It has been a pretty crazy baseball season so far – and that’s just talking about the Blue Jays.  If a person had missed the first two months of the season and just recently glanced at Toronto’s team stats, many surprises would certainly stick out:

– The Jays are winning?

– Jose Bautista leads baseball in home runs?

– Toronto leads all of baseball as a team in home runs?  They’re on pace to break the MLB single season record?  What?

– Vernon Wells is alive?

– Aaron Hill is hitting .183?  Adam Lind is hitting .212?

But try extrapolating that study to the rest of Major League Baseball and you’ll find that to this point 2010 has been a season full of surprises.  The Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres are peforming nowhere near their projected levels.  Likewise for Ubaldo Jimenez, Alex Rios, Ty Wigginton, Jake Peavy, and Prince Fielder.  While true that a lot of baseball is left to be played, the performances by these players and teams can no longer be chalked up to small sample sizes.  Their struggles and their dominance is for real.

Thankfully last night a feat happened in baseball that brought a bit of normalcy back to the game – Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut for Washington.  As top pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg was possibly the most hyped prospect of all time.  He completely dominated the minor leagues, and was expected by most to continue his success at the major league level.  Well – he did not disappoint.  7 IP, 2 ER, 14 K, and 0 BB for his first victory.  Though you can discount it a bit (it was against the Pirates) the bottom line is that he actually met expectations.  In this backwards season, that seems to be easier said than done.

Here are six more players/teams that are meeting expectations thus far:

1. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were expected to not only rebound from a disappointing ’09 and contend, but to be possibly the best team in baseball.  With a record of 38-20, they are in first overall and on pace for 106 wins.

2. New York Yankees

New York finishing near the top of the league is something that is taken for granted these days.  After winning another championship in ’09, and despite having an aging core, 2010 was expected to maintain the status-quo.  Currently at 36-22, New York is well on the way to another winning season, a feat they have grown accustomed to.  They haven’t finished below .500 since 1992.

3. Cleveland Indians / Kansas City Royals / Pittsburgh Pirates

Nothing screams normal more than a losing season by KC and Pittsburgh. With 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are historically bad.  Take out the surprising 2003 season, and Kansas City has been below .500 every year since ’95.  Neither of those stats are changing this year.  Cleveland came within one game of the World Series in 2007, but since that time have lost CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, and Mark DeRosa.  Seen as a rebuilding year, 2010 was supposed to be bad.  At 21-36, it is.

4. Ichiro

Just as the Yankees and winning go hand-in-hand, so does Ichiro and .300.  Year in, year out, the Mariners leadoff hitter continues hitting and getting on base.  If his current average of .347 holds up (as it should) 2010 would mark the 10th consecutive season Ichiro has eclipsed the .300 level.

5. Miguel Cabrera

2009 couldn’t have ended worse for Miggy, with his Tigers blowing the AL Central crown at the end of year, and with him admitting that he has a drinking problem.  But an offseason spent getting sober and in peak condition brought big expectations for the first baseman.  And he has delivered.  He is currently close to leading all of baseball in the triple crown categories: .344 average, 17 HR, 52 RBI.

6. Roy Halladay

Already considered the most dominant pitcher in the game, the offseason trade to the weaker NL blew expectations for Doc through the roof.  So far he is making a mockery of the league: 8-3 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 77 K’s vs. 13 BB.  He also leads the league with 5 complete games, 3 shutouts, and 93 innings pitched.  Oh – and he threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history.  Not bad.

Three Things From Week Nine

It was called many things.  “The week of doom.”  “The week of truth.”  “Make-it or break-it week.”  Week nine of the MLB season (May 31 – June 6) was huge for the Jays: three games against the best-in-baseball Tampa Bay Rays, and three against the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.  This week was supposed to tell us if Toronto was for real or playing way over their heads.

What can we conclude at the end of the week?  Wel to be honest, not a whole lot.  It was only one week.  There are still 104 games to play this season, meaning that each successive week is just as important, or more so, than the week before it.  But through 58 games, the Jays stand eight games over the .500 mark.  I don’t think anybody thought they’d hear that.

Here are three things that came out of week nine:

1. Mission Accomplished

Last night I heard many things from many people, most of it disappointment.  It’s true – the Jays blew three of the six games against the two top teams in the league.  Ninth inning meltdowns on Tuesday and Wednesday against Tampa stung, but the eighth inning debacle against New York yesterday might have hurt even more.  Fans wanted that sweep, especially since thousands of Yankees fans invaded Toronto to see the games.  But to be upset that Toronto didn’t sweep all SIX games against the Rays and Yanks?  That is absurd.

In March, when looking at the schedule, many would have been fine with winning two games considering how bad the Jays were “supposed” to be.   Last Monday morning I woke up, considered the upcoming schedule, and said I would be happy with a split.  Well, the Jays got the split, and although they will be disappointed in themselves by not winning more, I’m sure they would have taken a split going into both series.  If anything the games against the Yankees showed Toronto’s grit, heart, and character.  Something tells me that if the 2009 Jays blew back-to-back ninth inning leads against Tampa, they would have folded up the tent.  Resiliency is a good sign in a winner.

2. Trouble with Tampa – Blue Jay bullpen woes

After Sunday’s tough loss to the Yankees, many were quick to criticize the bullpen.  But before you react too soon, consider that Toronto actually has (statistically speaking anways) a decent bullpen.  They are tied for 16th in all of baseball with a 4.20 ERA, ahead of teams such as Boston, Anaheim, Oakland, and Cincinnati, and just behind the Yankees (4.19).  Relievers have combined for a 9-10 record and 148 strikeouts, putting them ahead of contending teams like Philadelphia, the Yankees, Minnesota, St. Louis, Boston, and Colorado in that regard.

The problem with Toronto’s bullpen can be summed up in one word – Tampa.  Against the Rays, Toronto’s bullpen has been brutal: 18.00 ERA, 13 walks, 12 strikeouts, and 24 hits allowed in only 11 innings.  Horrendous.  Only Shawn Camp has had any sort of success against Tampa (0.00 ERA in 2 IP).  Kevin Gregg (12.00 ERA), Jason Frasor (31.50 ERA), Scott Downs (27.00 ERA), and Casey Janssen (81.00 ERA) have been downright atrocious.  Take out the record against Tampa and Toronto’s team bullpen ERA drops to 3.19.  And while the pen will still be villified for their collapse against the Yankees yesterday, don’t forget that they didn’t pitch badly in the series against New York – 3 ER in 9 IP, including 6 scoreless innings in Saturday’s marathon.  They might not intimidate, but they have actually been effective.

Adam Lind is off to a rocky start in 2010 (photo from daylife.com)

3. Paging Aaron Hill…Paging Adam Lind…

The Blue Jays sit tied for third in the AL East, 33-25, and only 4.5 games back of division leading Tampa.  And they’re doing virtually all of it without their two best players from 2009.  At this point last season (through the games of June 6th), Adam Lind was smoking the ball to the tune of a .311 average, .908 OPS, 9 HR, and 39 RBI.  This season?  A far different story: .210 average, .649 OPS, 8 HR, and 30 RBI.  Unfortunately, the same thing can be said about 2009 Comeback Player of the Year Aaron Hill.  Through June 6th, 2009: .309 average, .825 OPS, 12 HR, 38 RBI.  Through June 6th, 2010: .186 average, .644 OPS, 8 HR, 19RBI.

Hill appeared to be snapping out of his funk last week, going 8 for 20 in the first five games of the Tampa/NY series’.  But he grounded into a decisive double play with the tying run on first in the eighth inning yesterday to kill any potential rally, a situation he thrived in last season.  Lind looks lost at the plate, especially against left handed pitching where he is hitting a miserable .102 (6 for 59) with 25 strikeouts (he hit .275 vs. lefties last year).  He looked particularly brutal against Tampa lefty Randy Choate in several key situations last week.  While a pessimist will say that last year was a fluke, an optimist will say watch out for the Jays when these two finally get it going. same sites . expired domains . apache web server . link checker .

500 Level Fan of the Game – June 6th, 2010

Shirtless High-Fiver - seen here trying to steal the belongings of a Yankee fan


Despite the Jays blowing a 2-0 lead in the 8th inning and ruining a Brandon Morrow gem, and despite the fact that the dome was closed even though the sun was shining and it was over 20 degrees in Toronto, it was a great day at the ballgame.  Whenever the Yankees are in town there is always a big boost in attendance and this weekend was no exception.  Over 100,000 fans came out for the series, including 33,622 for the Sunday finale.

For the Jays the spike in attendance is good news, but for me it’s great news.  The greater the number of people in the 500 Level, the greater the chance of finding some classic fans.

And there were classic fans aplenty yesterday afternoon, including:

– Four Yankees fans who found great joy in standing up and pointing to their jerseys like arrogant, cocky morons. 

– A group of about 25 drunk women directly behind us who found great joy in standing up and heckling the Yankee fans by yelling things like “Go back to Buffalo,” or “You’re fat and ugly,” or “Sit the f#$% down!” 

– A woman referred to as the “Yankee Whale”, who stayed silent until the Yankees took the lead in the 8th, then proceeded to give a thumbs up to everybody around her, with enormous amounts of back, underarm, and belly blubber rippling.  And she had no teeth.

But there was one fan who was far more entertaining than the rest.  Wearing a pair of jeans and a Jays cap, with his jersey draped over his arm, he wandered up and down the aisle high-fiving everybody in sight.  He yelled – a lot and extremely loud.  And he was drunk.  Blind drunk.  Speech impeding, vision blurring, balance impacting drunk.  Ladies and gentlemen, the 500 Level Fan of the Game goes to the Shirtless High-Fiver.

Upon arrival we sat in our actual assigned seats – section 535 row 2.  However, two innings was enough to show that we needed to move, so up we went…..way up to the 23rd row.  It was there that we met the fan of the game.

He was shirtless and he was absolutely killed by the 3rd inning.  He was trying to drum up some fan support by walking up and down the aisle and high-fiving/talking to random people.  But the response he got back was minimal, likely because nobody could understand what he was saying.  “Cccommmnme oahhon, eveyyrrryoannne!!  Boobooobbbbooo Yankseesse, go Jahajays.” (For my translation of some of his comments please refer to the Quotes from the game.)

He hated Yankee fans, losing his composure mutliple times when they would make noise.  When a poor girl wearing a Yankee’s cap was trying to read a Blue Jays schedule, he ripped it out of her hands, slurring “that’s what you get Yankee” in a drunken-version of English.

Shirtless High-Fiver - note the security guard in the bottom left

What made this guy even more interesting was the fact that starting in the fourth inning he had between one and three security personnel watching him AT ALL TIMES!!!  Every step, every shout, every shirt twirl was instantly greeted with six eyes glaring sharply at him. 

Finally in the 7th inning they pounced.  Three members of the high powered Rogers Centre security team, clad in fluorescent green shirts, marched up to the High-Fiver and demanded he leave with them immediately.  At his feet were about four empty cans of Moosehead, which proved how big of an idiot he actually was.  He somehow managed to get them into the game.  Good start.  He somehow managed to drink four tall-boys without getting caught.  Great.  But then he leaves the empty cans on the ground?  Why not put them back in the bag you brought in?  What a fool.

Anyways, this is where the game got even more exciting.  He refused to leave.  He refused to look at security.  He refused to aknowledge what they said, or the fact that they even existed.  A classic move.  I don’t know what was better – the fact that he did that, or the fact that the security people had no idea what to do about it.  Unfortunately for the High-Fiver, the police officer that came up afterwards wasn’t as stupid or clueless. 

So just like that he was gone, lead down the stairs and into the concourse by four men.  He left to the cheers of many, Yankee and Blue Jay fans alike. 

He might have left a big hole in section 535 for the rest of the game, but he will forever be immortalized here.  Congratulations Shirtless High-Fiver, FLF of the game. same sites expired domains . apache web server website offline link checker .

Classic Quotes from the Upper Deck – June 6th, 2010

Here are a few great comments from the fans in the 500 Level during Toronto’s tough 4-3 loss to the Yankees on Sunday:

  • “It’s all about the sweep.  I’m gettin’ f#$%ed up!” – the Shirtless High-Fiver (see today’s 500 Level Fan of the Game) trying to get people excited.  Note: this is only a paraphrase as the high-fiver was extremely intoxicated – so blind drunk that he was speaking three languages at once.  This is what I thought I heard.
  • “We need more of you here to support our economy.” – Shirtless High-Fiver to a random guy wearing a neon-green Boston Red Sox hat.  I guess he assumed the guy was from Boston.
  • “Hey you!  Hey!  Give me a high five!  Hey!  HEY!  Are you a Yankees fan?” – Shirtless High-Fiver to a dad at the game with his young son, with his hand inches from the dad’s face.  Instead of just accepting the five, or laughing, the dad pretended the high-fiver wasn’t there and ignored him, probably scarring his son for life.  They promptly left the 500 Level.
  • “How can you expect to build a fan base with your shirts on?” – Shirtless High-Fiver to the entire 500 Level at an insanely loud volume.
  • “No.  Uh-uh.” – Shirtless High-Fiver when being asked to leave the premises by two Rogers Centre security guards and a police officer. 
  • “It’s about to get real loud in he-ahhh.” – Annoying Yankees fan wearing a Babe Ruth jersey, in an annoying New York accent, walking into section 535 in the 5th inning.  Him and his three friends then said nothing for two innings.  The only words they spoke came after Vernon Wells put the Jays ahead 2-0.  Then, one of them said:
  • “We have more titles than your whole team!” – annoying Yankees fan in a Joe DiMaggio jersey.  I guess that’s supposed to hurt our feelings.
  • “Sit down DiMaggio you a$%hole!  You’re ugly and the lady beside you is fat!” – drunk girl, one row behind me.
  • “Where’s the referee?” – different drunk girl, one row behind me.
  • “Sara!  Sara!  Get up here you snatch face!” – a third drunk girl trying to get the attention of her friend a few rows ahead of her.  Amazing.

As always, if you have can provide any overheard quotes from the upper deck at a Jays game, feel free to post them in the comment box below or send them to 500 Level Fan. same sites expired domains . apache web server . link checker .

A View From the Cheap Seats