Revenge of the Ex: F@#* You Eric Hinske

There are a lot of things that people hate in life, things that might not seem terrible on the surface but have the ability to nag at you, eat at you, annoy you to the core.  Some examples include biting into an apple and finding it to be soft, leaving a game early and missing a miracle comeback by the home team, parking in a no-parking space for less than 60 seconds yet still getting a parking ticket.  But of all of those annoyances, nothing angers a guy more than when he bumps into an ex and finds that she is happier without you, much happier than she ever was with you.  We take it as a personal insult, as a commentary on ourselves.  It is not good.

An extension of the same thing happens in sports, when a player leaves your hometown team and instantly explodes into a successful player (or even a superstar) elsewhere.  Toronto sports fans know this feeling all too well, not just in baseball but in all sports.  Conor Casey played two matches for Toronto FC, was kicked out the door to Colorado, then promptly exploded to score 16 goals in 24 matches to finish second in the goal scoring race behind Jeff Cunningham, another former TFC player.  Ask a Leafs fan about Tuuka Rask, Alyn McCauley, or Brad Boyes and you’ll probably hear a string of curse words directed at upper management.  The Jays have a few that have stung over the years as well, most notably 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter.

But of all the players to leave, there is nobody that angers me more than Eric F-ing Hinske.  You remember Hinske don’t you?  He was the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner for the Blue Jays.  After a season that saw him hit .279 with 24 HR, 84 RBI, and 13 SB Hinske was the toast of the town, expected to team up with Delgado, Wells, Stewart, and Alex Gonzalez to lead the Jays back to the playoffs.  But a funny thing happened to Hinske after he won the ROY.  He got fat.  He got lazy.  He forgot how to play defense.  He no longer could hit, either for average or for power.  He was so badly out of shape that Toronto sports writers wondered aloud whether or not he actually ate his rookie of the year trophy.  The Jays finally tired of him and dumped him on Boston – a division rival no less! – in 2006.

We all know the story from there.  Hinske swallowed a horseshoe and became the luckiest player in baseball, maybe even in the history of sports.  With very little to offer, Eric went to three consecutive World Series, winning two rings.  His luck is chronicled in an article I wrote for TOSports.

This offseason Hinske signed with Atlanta.  The Braves were expected to possibly contend this year, but playing in the same division as Utley, Howard, Rollins, Werth, Halladay and the rest of the Phillies, it looked like the Wild Card might be their only chance to reach the postseason.  There was little chance that Hinkse was going to come back to haunt me yet again.  Until this morning…

Playing in a competitive fantasy baseball league, I found myself slowly but surely falling down the standings, from first to second to third.  Needing an offensive boost, I took a look at the free agents available in the pool and sorted by RBI’s.  To my shock, suprise, and horror, Eric Hinske floated towards the top.  With only 68 AB on the season, Hinske has 20 RBI – a pace that would put him over 145 RBI if projected to a full season.  He also has 4 HR and is hitting .368 with an out-of-this-world 1.127 OPS.  How is this possible?

Toronto is playing excellent baseball but has a serious lack of depth that might become a large issue the deeper the season becomes.  Their current bench (catchers excluded) of John McDonald, Jeremy Reed, and Mike McCoy have COMBINED for 92 AB and produced a .272 avg, 0 HR, and 5 RBI.  In other words three players have combined to a produce a fraction of what Hinske has produced on his own.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is not a plea to Alex Anthopoulos to re-acquire Eric.  There is no way that we want Hinske back in town.  There is no way that we want him playing, or trying to play, 3B or OF for the 2010 Jays.  But he is a living, walking, and breathing vision of everything a Blue Jays fan does want – a productive bench, playoff appearances, and world series rings.

And he doesn’t deserve any of it.

So F you Eric Hinske.  F You. my site whois same sites expired domains . expiration of domains apache web server . link checker .

Three Things From Week Seven

Week Seven (May 17 – May 23) saw the return of interleague play, a time of the season that Toronto hates.  Since the advent of interleague play in 1997, Toronto is 13 games under .500 against the weaker National League, only better than Baltimore, Kansas City, and Tampa.  At a time of the schedule that is supposed to help AL clubs fatten up their record, the Jays have done the opposite.  This year began no different, as they dropped two of three to Arizona.

Though they managed to avoid the sweep on Sunday, the week was not a good one for Toronto.  They finished with a 3-4 record, and saw continued struggles from Dana Eveland and Aaron Hill, along with new struggles from Kevin Gregg.  Hopefully these are only temporary hiccups to an otherwise incredible season.

Here are three things that came out of week seven:

1. The Revenge of Overbay

The 2010 season hit rock bottom for Lyle Overbay on Monday May 17th.  An 0-4 performance and two brutal errors on the same play had fans screaming for blood at the Rogers Centre.  Thunderous boo’s and chants of “you suck”, “Lyle Overpaid”, and “We want Wallace” serenaded the first baseman as he ran off the field each inning.

Well, maybe Lyle was due to explode, or maybe the booing woke him up.  Whatever the case, he has responded in a big way.  In the next six games of week seven, Overbay went 10/25 for a .400 average, with 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, and 4 R, rasiing his season average from .181 to .215.  While the numbers might not seem elite, he is finally contributing and helping the Jays win.  If only he can start to rub off on Aaron Hill…

2. Encarnacion Goes INSANE!!!

Edwin Encarnacion - Image from Daylife.com

Edwin Encarnacion became kind of a forgotten man after his injury in April.  The Jays continued to roll right along without him, and with Jose Bautista moving over to third and tearing up the league, many fans were doubting Edwin’s return.  But man did he ever announce his presence in a big way!

Playing in his first game in a month on Tuesday, Encarnacion launched a two-run homer against the Twins.  He then absolutely destroyed Diamondback pitching over the weekend, crushing three bombs on Friday, and then one each on Saturday and Sunday.  Overall, in the six games since his return Encarnacion is hitting .368 with 6 HR, 11 RBI, and 7 R.  He is also playing exceptional defense, maybe proving that he does deserve a spot on this club after all.

3. Bye Bye Eveland

What started off as a great story for Toronto ended in disappointment on Sunday as Dana Eveland was designated for assignment.  The left-hander was brought on just before camp, and surprised many by pitching well enough to make the team.  He started strong out of the gate, winning his first two starts, and sported a 3-1 record with a 3.82 ERA on May 6th.  But the wheels fell off in his next three starts, as Eveland surrendered 17 ER in only 9.1 IP, losing all three.

With Brian Tallet, Jessie Litsch, and Mark Rzepczynski all coming off the DL it was up to Eveland to prove that he still deserved a rotation spot.  When he didn’t, the Jays had no choice but to release him.  It’s hard not to feel sad for the pitcher, especially when he called Toronto the greatest organization he has had the chance to be a part of.  There’s a chance he still ends up in Vegas and makes a return appearance with the Jays, but whatever happens, best of luck Dana.

Fun With Numbers

Tough game last night as the Jays couldn’t solve Dan Haren.  He dominated Toronto both on the mound and at the plate, pitching 8 IP with 4 ER, 9 H and 8 K, and also going 2-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI.  But it was a very interesting game for the Jays despite the loss.  They smacked six long balls, including three alone for Edwin Encarnacion, extending their MLB  HR lead.  Bautista also went deep for the 13th time this season, continuing his absolutely torrid pace.

All of those home runs inspired me to take a deeper look into some of the numbers early on in the 2010 MLB season:

6  –  Runs scored by the Blue Jays yesterday, all coming on solo home runs.  That is the first time that has happened since 1920.

45.5  –  Percentage of Edwin Encarnacion’s hits that have been home runs.  After launching three yesterday, the 3B now has 11 hits on the season, 5 of them being dingers.

4  –  Home runs out of the five hit by Encarnacion this season that have been solo shots.  Either the Jays can’t get runners on for his at-bats, or he can’t hit with runners on-base.

64  –  Strikeouts this season by Ricky Romero, 2nd most in the AL.  A Blue Jay has won the AL strikeout title three times in team history: AJ Burnett (2008), and Roger Clemens (1997 & 1998)

292  –  Toronto’s single season strikeout record, set by Roger Clemens in 1997.  At his current pace of 9.1 K/9, Romero would need to pitch 282 innings to break the record.  Unlikely.

13  –  Wild pitches by Ricky Romero, most in the major leagues.  A Jay has lead all of baseball in wild pitches twice in club history: Juan Guzman in 1993 (with 26) and 1994 (with 13).

12  –  Saves by Kevin Gregg, tied for the lead in the AL.  The last Jay to lead the AL in saves was Duane Ward in 1993.  The great Tom Henke also won a saves title as a Jay in 1987.

13  –  HR by Jose Bautista, one behind major league leader Paul Konerko.  Only once has a Jay lead baseball in home runs, Jesse Barfield with 40 in 1986.  (Fred McGriff did win an AL HR crown in 1989.)

116  –  Wins that the Tampa Bay Rays are on pace for through 42 games.  The major league record in a season is 116 (Seattle in 2001, Chi Cubs in 1906).  Might be tough to catch them this year…

17  –  Consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  With an 18-24 record so far, and a league worst 144 runs scored, that could very easily become 18, the most in any professional sport.  No matter how bad we think we have it in Toronto, it could always be worse… same sites . expired domains . expiration of domains apache web server website offline link checker

Blast From the Past – Jim Acker

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

Law of Averages 1 – Blue Jays 0

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.

So don’t worry Jays fans.  Toronto shouldn’t be this good and they are.  Seattle shouldn’t be this bad and they are.  Think of this loss as a slight market correction and nothing more.  A game like this was bound to happen eventually.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen any more… expired domains expiration of domains apache web server . website offline link checker

Courtyard Fan of the Game – May 20th, 2010

What a jacket on the Courtyard sleeper!

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.

Either way – great jacket! same sites expired domains . expiration of domains apache web server website offline .

100 Level Fans Really Hate Lyle Overbay!!!

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…

Not all fans in the 100 Level were jerk-offs

(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.)

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500 Level Fan of the Game – May 16th, 2010

No photo available, but the Churchgoer would resemble one of these if older and female

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!

When the final out was achieved by Kevin Gregg, the Churchgoer simply stood up and walked away, gone just like that.  He didn’t make a great impression on anybody around him, but on a slow day in the 500 level, I’ll take what I can get.  Congratulations Churchgoer! same sites . expired domains . expiration of domains . apache web server . website offline .

Three Things From Week Six

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. 

Here are three things that came out of week six: Continue reading Three Things From Week Six

500 Level Fan of the Game – May 14th, 2010

The Moustache Masturbator

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.

MM - 5th, 6th, and 7th Innings

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.

The Chicken Licker

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A View From the Cheap Seats