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The Toronto Blue Jays and Scott Boras: A Scorched Earth Policy?

James Paxton is by all accounts a great prospect. So great, in fact, that the Toronto Blue Jays plucked the Canadian lefty with the 37th pick in last year’s Amateur Draft.

Enter Scott Boras.

Boras is a man who provokes extremes in those he brushes up against. For clients he’s literally money. To owners and cheapskates (who are not mutually exclusive), he’s Gordon Gekko with a baseball.

When Boras added himself to the Blue Jays-Paxton equation last year, trouble brewed. As Paxton’s “advisor” of sorts, the Jays failed to meet Paxton’s asking price despite allocating the pitcher $873,000, the MLB’s recommended signing bonus. With his refusal, Paxton aimed to return to campus at the University of Kentucky and play for the baseball team.

Toronto’s president, Paul Beeston, in response, made a few remarks to The Globe and Mail about the NCAA’s no agent rule. Whether or not Paxton violated those rules by hanging around with Boras is uncertain. A series of circumstances and rulings (described in full in the link) eventually lead Paxton to play for the Grand Prairie Air Hogs this year. It is there he awaits this season’s Amateur Draft for another suitor to claim him.

What ensued between Beeston, Boras, and Paxton seems to stem from Beeston’s comment to the media. It was the catalyst that found Paxton barred from Kentucky and NCAA competition. If purposely done, it’s also quite petty.

The relationship between Beeston and Boras goes back 25 years. While executive vice president of the Toronto Blue Jays, Beeston was party to Boras’ first multi-millon dollar contract; for relief pitcher Bill Caudill, a former teammate of Boras .

While he signed for five years, Caudill broke down in two and a half. In 1986, Caudill’s last season with Toronto, he pitched only 36.1 innings with an ERA of 6.19. His salary for that season: $1.5 million, making him the highest-paid Blue Jay. The next closest was Dave Stieb for $1 million.

Boras negotiated a sweet deal for a friend who was on his way out, at the expense of Beeston and the Blue Jays. The Jays released Caudill the following season and let Oakland pick up the tab. Also, in what is clearly a coincidence, Toronto has zero Boras clients on its roster.

Skip forward to 1997. Beeston is now president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. A prospect named J.D. Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, are demanding $10 million to sign with Philadelphia. The team declines and Drew goes to play for the independent St. Paul Saints.

This touches off a debate over Drew’s status, as either a potential draft pick or free agent. As president of MLB, Beeston had to have been involved in such a trying process; which is relatable to Paxton’s current predicament.

Now these are tenuous links between Beeston and Boras, but the Blue Jays’ president has come into contact with the superagent’s voodoo on several occasions.

So, with all things considered, is it possible that Beeston used the dealings with Paxton as a way of delivering a jab at Boras? And, if that’s the case, are the Blue Jays compromising their team by restricting their dealings with someone who has so much sway over premiere players?

The answer to both questions is most likely no. But it is fun to imagine Beeston pursuing a form of vigilante justice with every Amateur Draft.

Paxton will probably become an early draft pick this year and earn the money he’s been pushing for. Scott Boras will take a percentage of it and the world will continue to turn.

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Blue Jays’ Catcher Jose Molina: The Man, the Myth, the Bargain

The Toronto Blue Jays have been down this road before. But, how could anyone resist a Molina brother?

The Molinas are the Bushes of the baseball world.

They’re a little slow, but they get the job done (and, with no insult intended, Bengie is George Sr., Jose is Jed, and Yadier gets the nod for Dubya).

The family catching clan can provide solid defense, and a surprising show of offense, to a team in need.

Bengie caught for Toronto in 2006. The eldest Molina hit .284, with 19 home runs, that season.

Now, the Jays have Jose playing in a more limited capacity. But, he’s producing in his own way.

A quick look at Jose’s stats might leave you underwhelmed, with a slash line of .256/.341/.282.

He’s also managed just three RBI, and no home runs, in his 44 plate appearances.

One shouldn’t get too caught up in his offensive game, though. After all, it is only 44 plate appearances. 

But, in such a small sample, Molina has also increased his line drive percentage nearly 10 points from last season.

He’s making good contact, but John Buck is making better contact. That’s all the Jays need to know for now.

Every start from a Toronto pitcher is potentially the End of Days. The team has cobbled together an unproven staff, giving pitchers the opportunity to sink or swim. 

You sometimes wonder if all that’s holding the rotation together is the collective will of Alex Anthopolous, Cito Gaston, and the smell from Roy Halladay’s old locker.

But, the staff has survived, and thrived.

How much influence do the catchers have over the team’s pitching success? 

A catcher must be both a pitching coach and psychiatrist with a mean arm. It’s up to them to micromanage a game.  

The team signed John Buck in the off-season because they liked the way he handled pitchers.

But, Molina has quietly been outperforming those notions.

Molina’s signing was almost an afterthought. But, he’s piloted Toronto’s pitchers to success.

In 14 games, Molina has caught pitchers to a 3.04 ERA (Buck: 4.64). With Jose behind the plate, Toronto’s starting pitching has never thrown less than five innings.

It’s uncanny how he’s managed to keep pitchers upright and in the game.

Brandon Morrow has definitely connected with Molina. When he’s on, Morrow is lethal.

With a heater that averages around 94 MPH, but can hit 97, Morrow can turn hitters inside out with stuff so filthy it makes dumpsters cry for Mr. Clean.

He also has a propensity to hem and haw around the strike zone, until fans lose their cool and opponents light him up.

When Molina catches him, though, it’s a marked advantage for Morrow. His ERA drops to 2.95 and hitters bat only .197 against him.

Even more noticeable is that Morrow has struck out 25 batters in 18 innings, with Molina calling the shots (with 12 walks).

Morrow is a potential game changer for Toronto. When he’s good, the team plays better.

He and Molina have created either a tremendous coincidence, or the start of something beautiful.

And, as anyone from Tampa Bay will tell you, Molina has also been extremely precise in throwing out runners. Jose has picked off 71 percent of potential thieves this season.

Toronto isn’t asking Molina to win a Silver Slugger, they just want wins. Period.

He’s delivered well beyond expectations the team may have held for Molina.

Molina is (according to FanGraphs) worth 5.4 runs above replacement, so far.

That’s incorporating his offense and defense into the equation. And, while Toronto is only paying him $800,000 this year, his market value has soared to $2.2 million.

The Jays should consider themselves fortunate to have been getting such performance at such a price.

But, with Fred Lewis’s continued success, maybe Toronto is just making the right moves.

It’s a concept that seems so acceptable, and so foreign, that it’s mind-boggling to consider as a Jays fan.

Jose Molina is yet another triumph in the new tradition of Toronto transactions?

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Lyle Overbay Straining for the Toronto Blue Jays

Lyle Overbay is pressing.

If you feel inclined to add a pithy, “Yeah, DE-pressing” to the above, feel free and may the gods of ’90’s sitcoms be with you. But the fact remains: Overbay is looking for love in all the wrong places.

Take a look at what’s going on with the Jays and it might explain his troubles. 

Alex Gonzalez and John Buck, picked up for their defense and handling of pitchers respectively, have torn the cover off the ball. No one could have predicted this without the aid of witchcraft.

Jose Bautista has become a slugging juggernaut (or sluggernaut), Fred Lewis has been raking, and Travis Snider had been heating up before this wrist ailment sent him packing. Vernon Wells has joined in the excitement by slashing base hits and earning every cent of his much-harangued contract.

Some names are noticeably missing from the above: Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Overbay. The first two have been given passes with the bullet-proof, obligatory, “It’s only a matter of time” excuse. And, it probably is only a matter of time.

But Overbay has Blue Jays fans frothing at the mouth. He seems to be the only one who isn’t producing, and the only redemption is that the team is winning. There has to be pressure on Overbay, because if he’s the busted wheel, how long until it must be replaced? And if he’s replaced, where will he go?

Rumors were abound that Toronto would move Overbay this offseason. A possible trade with Arizona for catcher Chris Snyder was broached, but never came to fruition. In the end, the team kept Overbay; creating pressure on Overbay to play his way towards a new contract.

It’s not uncommon to see an athlete slap up outrageous numbers in the name of the contract year. That’s the difference between an invite to Spring Training and permanent financial security. This is what Overbay needed this season, so he came out swinging.

Overbay’s swung at 43.2 percent of all pitches this season, which is pretty much par for the course when it comes to him. In his seminal 2006 campaign he took a crack at 44.5 percent of all pitches, not too far off from this season.

The difference is in the quality of the pitches he’s being offered. In 2006, Overbay looked at strikes 52.2 percent of the time. That’s a number which has steadily declined since ’06; this season it’s at 45.4 percent. Also, the number of first-pitch strikes he’s taken or accrued is at a career low 53.6 percent.

Overbay is taking more swings and reaching for more balls outside the strike zone. In fact he’s swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than in any season he’s ever played in (23.2 percent).

Even worse is that his increasing aggressiveness has been coupled with decreases in his contact rates. Overbay is only making contact with 75.2 percent of all pitches, compared to the 82 percent clip he put up in 2006. His swinging strike percentage is at its highest ever (10.5 percent) and scarier still, he’s only reaching 85.6 percent of all pitches he swings at in the strike zone. That’s the lowest it’s been since 2004. 

It’s a brutal cycle. Overbay needs hits to increase his worth but opposing teams are pitching around him, which is causing Overbay to take cracks at pitches he shouldn’t. It’s like he’s caught in a Chinese finger trap of baseball frustration.

What kind of advice do you give to someone in that position? Cito Gaston is affording Overbay every opportunity to work out of the situation, but every at-bat behooves swinging for the fences in order to set this seasons straight.

His teammates are peppering fans with home runs. His contract expires at season’s end. Every hit that Brett Wallace gets at Triple-A further seals his fate with Toronto. Everything is screaming at Lyle Overbay to hit, NOW.

It’s not an enviable situation. Players like Buck and Gonzalez will probably level out, forfeiting the lack of focus opposing pitchers may have afforded Overbay to this point.

It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place…on the Titanic.

There’s still plenty of season left, and that should be Overbay’s credo. Patience and discipline will win the day, things that past incarnations of Overbay possessed. Perhaps those traits will resurface.

Or maybe I’ll get to come up with more depressing metaphors.

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The Toronto Blue Jays, Monopolized

Once upon a time (Wednesday), I wrote about the Toronto Blue Jays and their scuffle with the global economy.  They broke their rocks in the hot sun (figurative rocks), and I hate to spoil it for you but, the law won.

The Jays’ ownership, Rogers Communications, conceded a change in venue and jettisoned a Toronto Blue Jays-Philadelphia Phillies series to the City of Brotherly Love.

That doesn’t mean corporate will back down on every issue, though. In fact, Rogers is battening down the hatches in preparation of what’s to come.

Doing so has the Jays making their first trade of the season: Swapping TSN for the broadcast rights to 25 of Toronto’s games.  

This move has Rogers Sportsnet taking over all 162 televised games this year. No longer will fans be forced to surf channels, confusing time-wasting things like the news with precious, precious commentator babble. And Rogers, following in the footsteps of the Parker Brothers, now have a near monopoly over all things Blue Jay.

Actions like these could be misconstrued, and rightly so. Rogers now has the ability to package the Jays with subscriptions to specialty channels; forcing viewers to cough up more money for what is now a free privilege.

Personally, I’m not worried about that scenario. Yet. If Rogers tried to leverage fans into paying to watch this team play, how many people would actually do so? The team is winning now, but that still doesn’t dispel the pessimistic fog that surrounds it. Nearly every fan would concede that this season is a crapshoot to some degree; privatizing the team would jeopardize the relationship with the casual fan.

Something else to consider are the economic currents running through Ottawa. Canada’s Minister of Industry, Tony Clement, is giving the impression that Canadian telecommunications will become a freer market.

If that’s the case, then Rogers may just be consolidating its position in the face of incoming competitors. Allocating TSN 25 games means that there’s the possibility that 25 games may someday wind up in the hands of the competition. While Rogers owns the team, other broadcasters could milk revenue from it while ownership stomachs the operating costs.

And with the onus on maximizing value, whether it be with internet services or on the Jays’ roster (Adam Lind’s new contract, anyone?), that’s something that Rogers is definitely not interested in.

Having all 162 games locked up means that when the rich kids show up, all that’s left to haggle over will be reruns of The Littlest Hobo; which are easily worth three years and $30 million. 

It also simplifies things for both Rogers and TSN. The latter is majority-owned by CTVglobemedia, but ESPN also owns a share. TSN is getting ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball as part of the deal; aligning all properties with their owners (with TSN shifting SNB to TSN2).

The entire season up to this point has been broadcast by Rogers Sportsnet, so it’s not as if the change will be earth-shattering. For the time being, the move is just a preemptive one.

But toward what?

Now that Rogers has complete control over the Blue Jays, the opportunity to irritate fans has presented itself (once again). With no competition, Rogers completely controls the quality of the product. Similar situations like this already exist in New York and Boston, with the YES Network and NESN.

Hopefully everything to this point has just been to preserve Canadian content, rather than allowing Rogers to squeeze dollars out of an already taxed (case in point: The Ricciardi years) fanbase.

For now, Jays fans will at least be able to shave seconds off their daily television commute.

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Paranoia Abound: The Toronto Blue Jays and the G-20 Summit

Immediately, I nearly need to recuse myself.

This is a Google-mapped, Wikipedia-searched, and late night-compiled piece. But I believe it’s valid enough to be written and so here it is.

Personally, I have no stake, other than an unpaid phone bill. Chances are I would have stayed home and watched the games remotely. Yet there’s still something that perturbs me. 

The whole state of affairs regarding the upcoming G-20 summit, and its required relocation of a Toronto Blue Jays-Philadelphia Phillies series, begs questions. Screams for them. Dig deep enough and I’m sure that Area 51 is involved.

The unsatisfactory response of the Jays’ ownership, Rogers Communications, has given at a minimum, merit to the fact, that they simply do not care.

About fans. About sentiment. About anything but the bottom line.

It’s a notion that gains steam when you consider that Rogers avoided any re-routing of the games within Canada. The Blue Jays are hardly Canada’s Team, though they fancy themselves it. Having a series anywhere within the country could open up a new market, tap into new interest, solidify a fancied fanbase.

Yet they passed on that. Decided that there were no viable sites, and perhaps there weren’t, and passed on it.

It seems like something to get the whole affair over so they can move on. And maybe that’s what this organization wants, to just move on and make everyone forget about this situation.

Maybe there’s some validity and valid questions left to be asked.

Consider this, there has been more than one G-20 summit. Actually, there’s been several. And, as I pause for dramatic effect, a summit has even been in a baseball town.  

On Sept. 24 and 25, 2009, Pittsburgh played host to two events of equal magnitude: The Pirates played games against the Reds and Dodgers, and the G-20 Summit took place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Shockingly, the Pirates played those games. And they played them (according to Google Maps) five minutes from where the G-20 Summit took place. I’ll hold my outrageous accusations until the end, and I suggest you do as well.

The Bucs and Reds played a 12:37 start on the Sept. 24. Across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, protesters clashed with police outside the G-20 Summit. The police responded to this (illegal) protest with tear gas, stun grenades, and a sound cannon.

Pittsburgh lost the game 4-1, and 20 people were arrested in connection to the protest.

Granted, Canada came out of this global recession looking better than most countries. But, is it inconceivable that some people have a riotable gripe within them still? However long the shot may be, it could still happen.

The attendance for the Pirates’ game was nearly 16,000; not too shy of what a Blue Jays game at June’s end may be. Perhaps the establishment just wants to avoid mixing potential protests with semi-soused Jays enthusiasts.

Then again, Pittsburgh played that game, and one the next day. After a day of actual rioting, the Pirates hosted the Dodgers for a 3-1 victory. Either it was too late, or they just tapped into their inner privateer and manned up.

Then again, hosting baseball and world leaders together could be a geographical issue. PNC Park is separated from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center by the Allegheny River. The Jays-Phils series and the G-20 Summit are almost on top of each other. Unruly mobs of protesters and unruly mobs of repeatedly-burnt Pirates fans at least needed to hustle some to clash with one another.

Reported chants of “Let’s go Steelers” , suggest it could have happened (a reach). But they still had the games; and it’s not like the G-20 showed up overnight demanding convention centers and couches to sleep on. Fair warning was given to all.

Taking their cues, perhaps, a Pittsburgh Penguins’ pre-season game was cancelled during the 2009 summit. Maybe the Blue Jays are taking a similar, proven, path.

Toronto FC is due for a game during the G-20 summit, and the team intends to play it. Geographically, it makes more sense, as BMO Field is further from the summit than the Rogers Centre is. Like the Pirates, FC is going to exploit this distance.

Here’s where we delve into some conspiracy theories.

The main focus of this summit is going to be helping the international market recover. Part of this, according to a statement from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is opening up free markets .

This includes opening up Canada to foreign investment in, say, telecommunications.

In response to this, Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed wants the government to be fair with it and its possible incoming competition.  If Canadian businesses are going to be taxed, so too should these newcomers. And that’s more than fair, but it might also hinder foreign investment.

Eliminate all geographical factors and you have a telecommunications company that needs something from the Canadian government. And, this company actually has some control over the quality and quantity of person that will be near a summit dealing with free markets. A summit which is hosted by a government who, one would assume, would prefer not to have thousands of people streaming past potential protests.

On one hand you have a city that played baseball and had riotous protests near its G-20 summit. On the other, you have a city that will not play baseball in order to avoid riotous protests near its G-20 summit.

There’s enough worry to justify the move Toronto made. For all the disrupted travel plans, there is a very real chance of trouble, trouble that can be avoided by moving the games.

There’s also enough to worry that either the Jays moved their games to avoid a potential loss on ticket returns, or because Rogers needed to go along with the Canadian government’s plans in order to get along with forthcoming policy changes (another reach).

Or maybe Roy Halladay just doesn’t love us anymore. If that’s the case, I would have just preferred a phone call.

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Table-Setters: The Toronto Blue Jays’ Best Leadoff Hitters

The signing of Fred Lewis has been a heist of epic proprotions; it’s actually tightened security at Luftansa airport. Even more unfortunate: They haven’t made an air freshener potent enough to purge the scent of swindle lingering in the San Francisco Giants’ front office.

For the Toronto Blue Jays, having a true leadoff hitter in their ranks once more has been reaffirming. It hearkens back to a simpler time, when OBP was maybe just an acronym for something that was possibly offensive. It’s also a reminder of what a purebreed table setter looks like.

Baseball is a tricky game, get enough alcohol in anyone and they’d try to hit for the cycle in a T.G.I. Fridays parking lot if possible. Sometimes, it’s refreshing (and slightly depressing) to see a player perform feats that make it clear that, no, you can’t do what these professional ball players do. Fred Lewis is that kind of reminder (one of many).

He’s putting the athlete back in, “Professional Athlete” and also at the top of the Jays order. To say that fans are gushing over the acquisition is an insult to everyone’s favorite fruit snack (Gushers). In tribute to Lewis, here’s a few more reminders of the proud tradition of Toronto leadoff hitters.

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The Toronto Blue Jays Are Reveling in the Quantity of Quality Starts

The old adage of quality over quantity is dead.

In Toronto, anyway—for now.

When Roy Halladay left, there was a commotion over who would handle his superhuman workload. The Doc ate innings like an elephant eats peanuts. And he never forgot to snarl while he did so.

Halladay had 22 quality starts last season; the next closest starter was Ricky Romero with 16. That’s coupled with Halladay topping over 200 innings for four years straight. If you heard Halladay’s name in a conversation, it was mandatory that the words “work” and “ethic” were included, according to the bylaws of the Baseball Discussion Bureau of North America.

Surely the Jays would be distraught without their Doctorate in Advanced Outings.


The sky hasn’t fallen, no matter what the reason is as to why they keep closing the roof at Rogers Centre.

Toronto has been pleasantly surprised by their starting pitching thus far. The starting rotation has combined for 18 quality starts (second in MLB), because of some timely contributions.

Leading the way are Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero. The two have cemented a Jays rotation that had valid questions before the start of the season.

Both have five quality starts a piece, and both have tossed nearly seven innings an outing. Neither have thrown a complete game yet, but they’ve been as good as Toronto needs them to be.

Behind them, Brandon Morrow has been quietly shaping himself into form. Today’s game against Cleveland provided him with some difficulty, but he still struck out nine en route to a no-decision.

Morrow has three quality starts already, one less than his entire career total. He’s been erratic at times, but he also has 42 K’s in his six starts. Despite never having thrown more than 69 innings in a season, Morrow’s performance has hinted that he’s capable of exceeding that number.

The bottom of Toronto’s rotation has been in flux, but Dana Eveland has battled, and Brett Cecil channeled Dave Stieb in last night’s work of art. 

Toronto’s starters are giving this team a new lease on the season.

This team was going to get its hits, but there was no way of knowing how the pitching would shake out. The rotation has put the Jays in a position to win, and that’s happened enough for Toronto to sneer at the critics who pegged them for the AL East’s basement.

Quality pitching has been in quantity so far. They’ve done it by striking out 218 batters (second in MLB) and minimizing mistakes (a 1.27 WHIP, seventh in MLB). 

The rotation has also managed to preserve their arms by keeping at-bats short. The Jays are averaging only 3.8 pitches per plate appearance. It’s an indication that this rotation will survive this season more or less intact.

Quality through quantity.

It’s happening.

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