Say Your Piece and Move On… Plus Thoughts on ALDS

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Incompetence Not Intent

I don’t have to tell you how the umpiring of Vic Carapazza gave the win to the Texas Rangers in Game 2 of the American League Division Series. There was lots of reaction on social media from Blue Jays fans during and after last Friday’s game. A large majority were incensed of Carapazza’s inability to call a baseball game. There were also a number of bleeding hearts who looked the other way and instead criticized the Blue Jays for arguing about the calls. And they accuse people like me of blaming the victim.

Carapazza in that game showed what a complete idiot he was with his calling of balls and strikes. There are others like him in Major League Baseball but when this stuff happens in the playoffs, it gets magnified 10 times. Cardinals fans in 1985 would have loved it if Don Denkenger umpired his last game after his blown call in Game 6 of the World Series that year. If I was in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s shoes, umpires who clearly make mistakes in games (especially during the playoffs) would be sent down to the minors regardless of seniority, just like the players. They would never officiate another game in the Majors until they shape up.

Recently there have been calls for a police investigation into the matter. If you saw the game on TV, you could see that Carapazza called pitches differently when Marcus Stroman was on the mound. While you can accuse Carapazza of being incompetent, intent is entirely different. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, I don’t believe Carapazza’s actions were intentional. This reminds me of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who was convicted in 2007 of fixing NBA games especially during the playoffs. To make the case for intent you have to provide motive like connections to individuals with a history of criminal activity. That maybe difficult to prove. But we’ve seen it before where evidence will come from out of nowhere and implicate people.

The Blue Jays players did what they were suppose to do in that situation. Express their opinion and then go back to the dugout. To Carapazza’s credit, he didn’t eject any Blue Jays players or Manager John Gibbons out of the game. He seemed to have a thick skin, unlike many of his colleagues during the regular season. It will be interesting to see how Blue Jays fans at Rogers Centre react when they see Carapazza patrol 3rd base in Game 5.

Frankly, Carapazza isn’t worth wasting our time. I like to point out other people’s faults. But I’m also one who doesn’t hold a grudge or beat a dead horse. So let me call off the dogs and say move on, people. We have bigger fish to fry. I know Carapazza owes us one but there will be a time and place where he will answer to us. Right now, the Blue Jays have a series to win and our focus should be on that.

SERIES TIED

Before I go, how about those Blue Jays? The American League Division Series is now tied at 2-2 after winning the two games in Arlington. The series goes down to a 5th and deciding game on Wednesday with Stroman starting for the Blue Jays. As I’ve been saying all along, the team must play flawless defense and stay patient when batting if they intend to go far in the playoffs. They didn’t do that during the first two games in Toronto. Everything is going so well for us that I bet the Rangers are calling Taylor Swift’s people to see if they can stage a snap concert at Rogers Centre the night before.

Also see:

A Missed Opportunity for the Blue Jays
Only Losers Look for Someone to Blame
Video Review: The Ultimate Blown Call

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Is This the Year for the Blue Jays?

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Is This the Year for the Blue Jays

I have to admit, I never thought Alex Anthopoulos would pull the trigger on a big trade at the July 31st deadline. Not only did he get one big-name player but two. Landing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from Colorado was a coup in itself but the acquisition of starter David Price from Detroit blew everybody away.

Those two additions have made the Blue Jays better. But what is just as important as the new acquisitions is how the team performed in their series this past weekend against the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays had every part of their game working in taking 3 of 4 from the reigning American League champs. Remove that rough outing on Saturday by Mark Lowe, another late acquisition by Anthopoulos from Seattle, and they could have swept the Royals out of the country.

I saw something during that series that I had never seen from a Blue Jays team in almost two decades. It is the fact that they will not be pushed around, whether it is by opposing teams or umpires. The team was able to handle themselves quite well against the Royals on Sunday especially when it was clear the calls were not going their way. I loved the way everyone in the Blue Jays dugout was ready to fight when the benches cleared in the 8th inning. When you see and hear everyone having each other’s backs you know how good the chemistry is in the Blue Jays clubhouse.

What the Royals did with their headhunting is poke the bear. Combine that with Ned Yost’s butt-kissing (“I thought home plate umpire Jim Wolf did a tremendous job.”) and perpetrator Edinson Volquez playing the victim card (“(Josh Donaldson) was crying like a baby”), the Blue Jays will use that game as motivation to go after not just a wild card spot but the American League East division. And they will catch the Yankees. Because unless New York’s offense can maintain a 10-run-per-game pace the rest of the way, the problems they face with their pitching will make them vulnerable down the stretch.

All this leads me to believe this Blue Jays team has what it takes to go far. They have suddenly become crazy good but like I’ve said before everyone has got to stay healthy if they want to get into the post-season for the first time since 1993. The way things look right now, I expect both the Blue Jays and Royals to meet up in the American League Championship Series. That one will make the Habs-Bruins rivalry look like a picnic.

Also see:

Bad Blood is Good for Sports
Surprised by the Blue Jays’ Success? You Shouldn’t Be
Health will Determine if the Blue Jays Contend

 

Still the Greatest Post-Season Home Run… Ever!

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Joe Carter Celebration

It was 21 years ago this week that Joe Carter touched them all. His home run off Philadelphia’s Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series won the Toronto Blue Jays their 2nd straight title. No one else has done what Carter did on the evening of October 23rd. There has been countless arguments about where Carter’s home run ranks in the history of baseball. There are a number of factors to take into consideration: the number of outs in the inning, the number of strikes in the count, and was the team facing elimination, just to name a few. But Carter’s home run should be the one others look up to.

What make this home run significant is that it came with the Blue Jays trailing 6-5 with Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor (2 future Hall of Famers) on base. Carter went into the at-bat having faced Williams 4 previous times, all resulting in outs. There was only one out at the time but hitting behind him was Alfredo Griffin, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for the reigning American League batting champ John Olerud. Griffin was not exactly a threat at the plate and (another future Hall of Famer) Roberto Alomar’s turn to bat was after Griffin, so Carter’s at-bat was really the game. Had the Blue Jays lost, that would have set up a 7th and deciding game the next night. Pat Hengten was a 19-game winner for the Blue Jays but was known to struggle at home. His mound opponent was veteran left-hander Danny Jackson. The Blue Jays seemed to have trouble against southpaws during the season so the combination of the two did not go in their favour. If you take in those factors as many people believed, the Blue Jays’ hopes for back-to-back championships once again rested on Carter’s 9th inning at-bat in Game 6.

There has been only one other walk-off home run that ended a World Series, Bill Mazeroski in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There has also been only one other walk-off home run in the World Series that overcame a deficit, Kirk Gibson of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. All other game-ending World Series home runs were solo dingers and/or came with the game tied. That not only makes Carter’s home run rare but also makes it even more significant in the history of baseball.

With the recent expansion of the playoffs to 3 rounds plus the play-in wild card game, we have seen more game-ending and series-ending home runs than ever before. With Travis Ishikawa’s feat last Thursday for San Francisco, there are now 6 post-season series that have been decided by a walk-off homerun since 1995, when the playoffs first expanded to 3 rounds. But before then, there were only 3: Carter, Mazeroski, and New York Yankees’ Chris Chambliss (1976 ALCS). Of those 9 home runs, only one came with the winning team trailing at the time. Again, no one has come close to Carter’s.

I’m sure there will be a situation where it is Game 7 of the World Series with the home team trailing by 3, the bases are loaded in the bottom of the 9th, the batter has a two-strike count on him, he has not hit a home run the entire year, and he is going up against a pitcher with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball who has not blown a save in over 80 appearances all season. A home run at that moment would obliterate Carter’s into dust. It would no longer be in the same league.

But until then…

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Here’s an interesting note. Dana Demuth was the home-plate umpire for Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. He had a great view of Carter’s home run, but Demuth also had to see Carter, and Henderson and Molitor ahead of him, touch home plate to make it official. Imagine you are in his position standing at home plate patiently waiting for the runner to round the bases and you are surrounded by dozens of players, coaches, and managers plus thousands of screaming fans all who are in a more celebratory mood, also waiting for the runner’s arrival?

93 Blue Jays World Series

Blue Jays Need Players… Ones That Don’t Get Hurt Easily

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Brett LawrieAnother year, another season without a playoff appearance. Welcome to the sports city known as Toronto.

We all know the situation with the Maple Leafs. So let’s focus on the other team going through playoff futility, the Blue Jays. After going 12-14, 3 games back of the New York Yankees to begin the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Blue Jays went 21- 10 in May and had a 3 1/2 game lead on the Yanks. On July 7th, the Blue Jays were on top of the baseball world sitting in first place in the American League East with a 38-24 record and a 6 1/2 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles. Then the wheels started coming off.

How do you account for such a collapse? I can sum it up with one word: injuries. It was the same situation in 2013 when the Blue Jays had all 9 regulars in a game only 5 times the entire season. Sure, there are other reasons: bad managerial decisions, lack of depth, playing against big market teams, etc.. But I have said it time and time again that the Blue Jays can only get in the post-season if they all stay healthy!

I can give you the exact date of the start of the downward spiral: June 22nd. That was the day Brett Lawrie broke his left hand on a pitch by the Reds’ Johnny Cueto. Jose Bautista was also hurt in the game. That was also the final game of a 10-game road trip that saw the team go 3-7 against the Orioles, Yankees, and Reds. But when Lawrie went down with that broken hand I knew that spelled the end of any playoff hopes for the Blue Jays, even though they were still in first place with a game-and-a-half lead.

The dominos began to fall soon after that: Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Melky Cabrera. The big bats in the line up were on the DL. Couple that with the struggles in the starting rotation and what you get in the end is a record of 83-79, 13 games back of Baltimore. A good number of them did manage to get back into the line up for the final stretch but they did not play at the same level like they did in the first half of the season. Sure, other teams have gone through injuries, namely the Orioles. But I will argue that the loss of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado proves their contribution to the team is more of a complimentary nature, not one who is relied upon to get on base and drive in runs like say Adam Jones or Nick Markakis.

I suspect there will be some changes in the off-season, not just those on the field but off the field as well. But if we continue to have guys who can get hurt easily we will never see the Blue Jays in the post-season. A new GM or a new manager won’t matter if most of our guys spend a good part of next season on the disabled list.