August 2006

The Black Hole

Dsc03218_3I’m sure when a lot of people read a newspaper, they put little to no thought into what the writers went through to get a particular story in print.  For you Toronto Star readers out there, just take a look at the photo to the right to gain some added appreciation to what columnist Richard Griffin had to deal with on Tuesday night.

You see, life on the road as a baseball beat writer isn’t as glamorous as you might think at times. We aren’t always fitted with the most glorious equipment and if something happens to said equipment, well, it’s sort of a fend-for-yourself situation.

Griff stuck to his story that "the maid must have broke it" while he was out of his hotel room. The screen was cracked and the spiderweb of blackness grew larger throughout Toronto’s game against Cleveland. I’m sure it’ll be even worse when he shows up to the park for Wednesday’s game.

The funny part was that his computer — as far as functionability — was just fine. Griff could write his column without any problems. Well, except for the fact that most of the text was hidden behind the black hole and he’d have to scroll the page up and down to see any of the copy. I’m sure the Jays wouldn’t have minded if a few of his columns were ****** into the black hole never to return. I only kid.

OTHER NOTES:

–Gustavo Chacin left Tuesday night’s game with another injury. I’m sure his finger hurt and I’m not knocking him from leaving the game, but after all the elbow issues and serious problems he’s been through this season, it was hard not to chuckle when it was announced that he suffered an "index finger cramp." After the game, Chacin said it was feeling better and Jays manager John Gibbons didn’t think he’d have to miss a start. I’m sure I’ll follow up on that tonight.

–Justin Speier threw off the mound in the bullpen at Jacobs Field. It was his first time off a mound since landing on the DL with the forearm injury three weeks ago. He threw 30 fastballs and everything seemed to go fine. He’ll throw another bullpen session on Friday in Boston — this time adding in some sliders. Then after one or two sim games, he said he should be able to return. That puts him on pace to rejoin the bullpen in Anaheim for the Sept. 8-10 series.

–Alex Rios could probably use a day off, considering the slump he’s in. If Gibbons decides to give him one, though, it probably won’t come until Friday — the next time Toronto faces a right-handed starter. Gibbons said he might’ve sat Rios on Monday, but the Jays are down to three outfielders at the moment because Frank Catalanotto is back in New York with his family. Cat, whose wife gave birth to a daughter on Monday, should be back with the club on Thursay in Boston.

–Lyle Overbay’s seventh-inning error proved to be very costly on Tuesday night. With runners on first and second, he fielded a sac bunt off the bat of Joe Inglett and then he looked to third base instead of firing to first. The slight hesitation caused Overbay to bobble the ball, allowing Inglett to reach safely to load the  bases. Overbay said he should’ve just thrown to first base to get the sure out, or let the ball roll to see if it’d go into foul territory. Gibbons said he felt the ball was fair enough that Overbay made the right play by fielding it. Making matters worse, Inglett was an old college teammate of Overbay’s at Nevada-Reno. I wonder how their conversation went at first base afterwards — probably not a whole lot of reminiscing.

Well, I’m off to grab some Chinese food for lunch before I get ready for my last workday of the year in Cleveland. I was going to head to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today, but sleep became more of a priority. Ah well, that’ll leave me something to do here next season.

Soaked in Cleveland

I gotta tell you, when my plane landed in Cleveland and I saw what the weather looked like, I thought for sure a rain delay was imminent. When I got to my hotel and relaxed for a few hours while the rain poured down outside, I thought a rain out might be on deck. But when I got to Jacobs Field, and the rain let up ever so slightly, they decided to play on. I guess it’s late August in Cleveland — rain happens. You just have to deal with it.

I was still surprised, though, that the game’s nine innings played through without a single delay. When the Indians took the lead in the fifth — making the game official — I had flashbacks to the April game in Chicago when the White Sox "won" the game after it was called after five frames. A repeat didn’t happen, though.

The game might as well have been called. Toronto didn’t produce much offense after the fifth — not enough to overcome the six runs the Indians got anyway. A.J. Burnett didn’t look sharp, but after the game, he wouldn’t blame the rain at all. He said he wanted to look at film of his start to see what went wrong. Personally, I think he might look at the film and just realize the rain did play a role in his control issues. Cleveland starter Paul Byrd didn’t look very sharp when the rain was coming down its hardest, either.

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND NOTES:

– If any of you read Jeff Blair’s blog on the Globe and Mail Web site (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/baseball), you will have read that Ted Lilly was claimed off waiver by Boston, but Toronto couldnt work out a trade and eventually pulled him back. A team can pull a player back once during the waiver period — that’s called revocable waivers. My opinion on the whole thing? I don’t think it’s that big of news. Sure, if I found it out, I would’ve reported it, too, but teams place all kinds of players on waivers during a season. I’m sure many of those players have claims put on them, only to have a trade not happen and the team then pulls the player back. This happens a lot — it’s just not something that you’ll read  alot about because teams don’t announce who they’ve placed on waivers.

–Alex Rios is in a terrible slump right now. Earlier in the season, you’d have the feeling he was going to do something big every time he stepped up to the plate. Now, it just doesn’t have that same feeling. His timing is off, his mechanics are out of whack, and there haven’t been a whole lot of signs of improvement. He’s hit .192 since coming off the DL in late July and his season average has dropped to .293 from .330 in the process. He homered recently, but hitting coach Mickey Brantley said that only furthered Rios’ skid. Brantley said it seems like Rios has tried to jump right back to where he left off before getting a staph infection in his left leg, but the right fielder lacks the strength and the timing to do so. During his swing, Brantley noted that Rios is leaning back — a problem he ran into at times last season.

–Toronto could’ve considered giving Rios a game or two off, but right now the club is playing with 24 guys. Outfielder Frank Catalanotto went home to be with his wife, who gave birth to a daughter on Monday, and will miss the entire Cleveland series. The baby girl is the Catalanotto’s third child and they named her Karson Riley. Congrats to the Cats. Jays manager John Gibbons noted that being without Catalanotto — though he is a great hitter — might not be a huge deal, considering the Indians will start lefties on Tuesday and Wednesday. Cat is supposed to rejoin the Jays in Boston on Thursday.

–If Ryan Roberts never gets another shot in the Majors, he would have a good Cup of Coffee story. His only hit in the big leagues up to this point is a homer that landed in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure he’ll get another call at some point — just not likely this season.

–With Roberts back at Triple-A, Toronto recalled infielder Russ Adams. He was with the team on Monday and started and played second base, giving Aaron Hill a night off. This is Adams third stint in the Majors this year after beginning this year as the projected starting shortstop. With a month left, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares. I think it’s important for him to finish on a strong note. I doubt John McDonald will be the starting shortstop when Spring Training breaks next season and that means the double-play combo could be Hill at SS and Adams at 2B if Toronto doesn’t acquire another middle infielder in the offseason. Personally, I have been very impressed with Hill at second and think that’s where he belongs.

–Reliever Justin Speier still says he’s on pace to come off the DL by Sept.6-8 or somewhere around there. He plans on throwing in a bullpen session either in Cleveland or in Boston. It’ll be his first since injuring his forearm.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It’s not our fastest lineup, but it’s a good one." –Gibbons, on having catchers Bengie Molina, Gregg Zaun and Jason Phillips all in the starting lineup on Sunday

When Molina heard that Gibbons said that, he burst out laughing and could only reply with, "It’s true. It’s true."

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Why would Carl Pavano not tell the Yankees he hurt two of his ribs in a car accident? Not a good move.

Well, sorry I haven’t posted in a few days. Now that I’m on the road — and in lovely Cleveland for that matter — I’m sure I’ll be posting almost daily. It’s when I’m home in Toronto, balancing life at work with the Jays and life at home with my wife, that I tend to slack some on the blog. My apologies. I hope this ties you all over until tomorrow. Until then, stay tuned for more…

Chacin Struggles

I didn’t expect Gustavo Chacin to come out and dominate a team like Oakland after sitting out for more than two months, but I also didn’t expect him to implode as quickly as he did on Wednesday. Here is his line:

Chacin — 1.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 2 HR, 61-35

I don’t think the left elbow injury was a factor. I believe this was more rust than anything else. It’s still the third inning here at the Rogers Centre, so I won’t know anything for sure until we speak with Gus after the game.

Chacin’s style is such that he’ll throw a lot of pitches, he’ll walk guys, he’ll give up some runs, but he can also minimize the damage enough to give the offense a chance to win. That’s been his style since last year. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on Wednesday. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back to form from here on out. It’s the first time this year (I believe) that Toronto has had it’s top four pitchers all in the rotation (not counting Josh Towers) and it’ll be interesting to see what might have been for the rest of the year.

OTHER NOTES:

–Justin Speier said yesterday that he believes he could be back by Sept. 6-7. The day before, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi estimated the pitcher might be able to return before September. I guess we’ll have to wait and see whose prediction was more in line. Speier said he has two bullpen sessions and a simulated game on the schedule before he can come back.

–Manager John Gibbons indicated today that rookie righty Dustin McGowan, who was optioned to Triple-A last night, is out of options after this season. That means he has to make the big league roster out of Spring Training next year or he’ll be exposed to waivers and up for grabs. This will be an interesting situation to keep an eye on for next year, considering that Toronto still hasn’t figured out exactly if they like McGowan better as a starter or as a reliever.

–On Tuesday night, the Blue Jays began using a loud horn — like one you’d hear from a large ship — after a home run and after the team’s win. I guess this is a new idea that the club is testing out. Mark Polishuk, a part-time writer for MLB.com, said to me today: "Maybe it’s to signal that the ship isn’t sinking."

–Troy Glaus entered Wednesday with 999 hits for his career. As of right now, he’s 0-for-2 through four innings. Speaking of Glaus, his 34 homers this year are the most by a Blue Jay since Carlos Delgado hit 42 in ’03.

Black and Blue Jays

What else could possibly happen?

Toronto’s season has been marred by the Shea Hillenbrand saga, Bengie Molina’s vent session about playing time, J.P. Ricciardi’s published rant that criticized the team’s effort, the recent report that claimed Vernon Wells said he did not want to come back to Toronto after next year, and now a heated confrontation between manager John Gibbons and Ted Lilly.

Isn’t this kind of stuff supposed to be limited to the Bronx?

Not a whole lot is being said (liked we’d expect otherwise) about what exactly took place between Gibbons and Lilly in the tunnel behind the dugout. All I know is seeing one lone Blue Jay sitting on the bench, while the others scurried to see what all the fuss was about in the tunnel, was a classic camera shot.

Some photographers near the dugout said they saw Gibbons shove Lilly, grab at his shirt, or something to that effect, and then the pitcher appeared to take a swing at the manager. Both Gibbons and Lilly said no punches were thrown.

There was a TV shot that showed Gibbons wiping his mouth with a towel, while team trainer George Poulis stood by him and looked on. Gibbons said having Poulis talking to him in the dugout was no big deal and team officials said the towel wipe looked like it had more to do with the tobacco in Gibbons mouth than anything else.

There’s one thing that’s certain: Gibbons is gaining national attention for all the wrong reasons. Before this year, he’s kind of flown under the radar as far as big league managers go. Now, it’s been written in papers across Canada and in the States and reported on TV all over that he, A) Challenged Hillenbrand to a fight on July 19 and, B) Got into a fight — whether it was a physical one or not — with Lilly on Monday night.

I don’t think that’s the kind of reputation Gibbons should be gaining. From talking to some of Toronto’s players last night, though, they don’t seem to feel his anger is an issue. Vernon Wells said it shows that he is just a fierce competitor he has a strong desire to win. Jays President and CEO Paul Godfrey said he didn’t see similarities between the Hillenbrand and Lilly incidents.

Many people will probably say this latest episode could cost Gibbons his job, but honestly, I don’t think it will. After the Hillenbrand confrontation, Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi (who wasn’t available for comment on Monday) said Gibby’s job was more secure than ever. If the Lilly incident was merely two guys whose emotions were firing on all cylinders and the fight was a mutual one, which Lilly said he believed it was, then I don’t see Gibbons’ job security slipping much. Besides, Lilly isn’t considered to be part of the plans for 2007.

Anyway, that’s my brief take on the whole situation, which will probably continue to unfold over the next couple days. I’m curious to see what some of you fans think about Gibbons’ outbursts. Keep the comments flowing…

Taking A Break

Yes, I do get days off every now and then. This weekend is one of those cases. One of my good friends from college is getting married and asked me to stand up in the ceremony. So I guess that means showing up would be a good idea. So I will not be in Baltimore for the next series. I will be back in Toronto on Sunday night.

Just because I won’t be around doesn’t mean you can’t keep the comments flowing on the blog. I see the Jays discussion boards getting all kinds of play. Let’s keep carrying that over onto this site, too. I’ve enjoyed reading the conversations in these posts.

Just a few notes from tonight:

The Blue Jays were absolutely thrilled that Scott Kazmir only lasted five innings. He was absolutely shutting Toronto down. The first seven outs he recorded were strikeouts and it didn’t look like the Jays were going to get much going against him. They didn’t, either — not until he was pulled from the game.

It was good to see Gregg Zaun finally get a nice, solid hit. His two-run homer added some nice insurance and it marked his first RBIs since July 14. Lately, he’s described his performance at the plate as a "drought." He says a drought is when a player is feeling good mechanically, is making good swings, but still isn’t finding the hits. A "slump" is when things are all out of whack. Tonight Zaun hit the homer on a breaking ball, which he said he doesn’t normally do. Hopefully for him and the Jays, that’s a sign that he’s busting out of this "drought."

Watching Bengie Molina run around the bags, legging out a triple was quite a sight. It was even more enjoyable to see him enjoy the moment. Molina knows he ain’t the fastest guy in the world — I’m going easy on him there — but he also doesn’t need anyone pointing it out to him. When he slid safely into third base, the Jays were all laughing in the dugout and Molina pointed to all of them and smiled when he picked up the three-bagger. Too bad he fell a double short of the cycle.

Things to look out for in Baltimore:

Well, as I predicted a couple posts ago, Toronto optioned RHP Francisco Rosario to Triple-A on Thursday. The club didn’t announce who would fill the other half of that move, which meant Toronto was playing with 24 guys against the Devil Rays. I guess that’s one team you can risk doing that against. On Friday, the Jays will reveal the added player. Could Russ Adams be back again? Jason Phillips? Perhaps an outfielder now that Eric Hinske is gone.

Earlier this week, manager John Gibbons said Justin Speier was likely going to be joining the team on the road. He’s been back in Toronto receiving treatment on his forearm. He might be back with the club in Baltimore and might be close to throwing again soon.

John Hattig — Guam’s first Major Leaguer — might have some tired fans at Camden Yards. Tired because he has four uncles and his dad planning on possibly making the 20-odd hour trip from the island nation to Baltimore. Hattig had some great quotes about becoming the first player from the U.S. territory to make it to the big leagues. "Shoot, they might rename the island," for example. Classic.

Don’t forget: Gustavo Chacin’s all-important fifth rehab assignment happens Saturday with Triple-A Syracuse. It seems unlikely that a sixth rehab is in the plans. Then again, the original plan called for just three.

That should be enough tidbits to tie all you Jays fans over. Until I post again, have a good weekend and keep watching those Jays.

Hinske To Beantown

I’m sure all of you have heard and read about the Eric Hinske rumors/reports. I’ve heard them, too. What I have yet to hear, though, is the official word that the Jays have indeed sent Hinske packing to the Red Sox. No release has been issued and Toronto is keeping quiet about the matter for the moment. This deal seems pretty much done, though.

Last night, Jays manager John Gibbons pretty much confimed the trade was on by saying, "Maybe something is in the works, but nothing has been completed." Hinske was still around after the game and he seemed to be as clueless about the situation as we all were. "Clueless," in this sense, meaning that we were all void of any information from Toronto’s side. Sure, there are lots of "sources" out there who are saying the deal is done, but no one from either Boston or Toronto has come out and said that yet.

What was funny about the whole situation was before the game. Hinske was starting at third and Troy Glaus at DH. This was nothing strange — Glaus has been battling a pair of beat up legs. The day before, though, we all asked Glaus if he’d be willing to DH more to help protect himself from injury and he didn’t like the idea. He likes playing in the field. So when Hinske was a late scratch, we all just figured Glaus said he was fine to play third base.

"Maybe Hinske has been traded," one Toronto reporter said. We all laughed — but it was a slightly nervous laugh because whenever somebody is a late scratch at this time of the year, a trade is definitely a possibility.

Plus, you have to take into account Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi’s pregame comments — made after the Schoeneweis trade was announced:

"We’ve got a couple irons in the fire right now, but no one that we think is going to stop us from keeping going forward here. If we make a move, it’s probably going to be a move that gives us some payroll flexibility going forward, but not at the expense of losing performance."

Well, it turns out that he was referring to Hinske (if and when this trade is made completely official, anyway). Hinske had quickly gone from 2002 AL Rookie of the Year winner to bench player for the Blue Jays. Just because he was riding the bench, though, didn’t mean Toronto didn’t have to keep paying him for that five-year, $14.75 million contract he inked before the ’03 season.

That’s been a contract that the Blue Jays have been looking to move for a while. The reality is — despite the kind of offseason spending you all witnessed before this year — that Toronto doesn’t have a lot of money to work with before next year. The payroll will remain around $75 million and a lot of that money is tied into contracts for Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, Troy Glaus, and Vernon Wells. Any extra cash for next year helps, so any money that Boston will willingly take off Toronto’s hands in regards to Hinske’s contract is a plus for next year.

"We spent our money on the players who we thought would be here for a while," Ricciardi before Wednesday’s game " Signing B.J. and AJ — that’s where our money went. It’s not like we’re going to have that kind of money to do that again this year. So any money we can save this year enables us to put it towards next year’s payroll."

I think that’s the main thinking behind dealing Schoeneweis and Hinske. Some of you fans will take it as waving the white flag — especially since Hinske was moved to a division rival — and it’s hard to say that thinking is unjustified. But keep these questions in mind: Would Hinske and Schoeneweis have been the difference-makers in making a late run at the postseason this year? And think of how much a difference that extra cash can make for next year. Hard to argue with the moves.

NOTE: Instead of editing the whole dang post, I’m just tossing this item here. I wrote this entry a few hours before the deal went through. Hinske has been traded to Boston for a player to be named or cash considertations and Toronto recalled third baseman John Hattig from Triple-A. Hattig will become the first player ever from Guam to appear in MLB.

I’m wondering what all you fans think of Toronto trading Hinske to a division rival, when the Jays are just 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for second place in the division.

News Doesn't Stop For Lunch

So I was sitting out on the patio of a restaurant in Tampa this afternoon, finishing up my lunch, when none other than Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi walks by. His greeting was a little more than the usual "Hello."

"Hey Jordan, we traded Schoeneweis to the Reds," he says to me.

Well, at least he waited until I was DONE eating to fill me in on the news. Lord knows it would’ve made for a quick lunch otherwise. So it was back to my hotel to write up short news story and then off to the ballpark to follow it up.

I’ve got to tell you that I have mixed feelings about the deal. Not from a baseball standpoint so much, though. Schoeneweis was one of those good guys to talk to in the clubhouse and — no matter how rough an outing he might’ve had that night — he was always willing to talk. As a reporter, you couldn’t ask for anything more. He’s a guy that’ll definitely be missed in that respect.

As far as his production this year, well, it’s not hard to see that Schoeneweis was having a down year. He was the first to admit that and no one was more frustrated with that than he was. As if his numbers weren’t getting him down enough, then he suffered that fluke running injury in Oakland — an issue that I don’t think he’s entirely over, yet.

You can’t fault Toronto for dealing him, though. They weren’t going to re-sign him next season and there are a number of young pitchers in the bullpen who have done a good job this year against left-handed batters — Schoeneweis’ specialty. Jeremy Accardo has been especially tough on lefties this year.

The Blue Jays haven’t officially announced who will get called up to replace Schoeneweis in the bullpen, but the rumblings have been tabbing Minor League left-hander Davis Romero as a potential call up. He moved up from Double-A to Triple-A this year and has had good numbers at both levels. The Jays will probably announce the move after the game tonight.

So after all my speculation about the 13-pitcher staff getting reduced to 12, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Toronto is giving Gustavo Chacin a fifth rehab start and Scott Downs will start on Friday, with Shaun Marcum going on Saturday. Ricciardi said a pitcher definitely would be added with Schoeneweis out. When I asked him if the Jays would return to a 12-man staff when Chacin returned a week from now, Ricciardi didn’t have an answer, saying only, "I don’t know. I don’t know."

CONGRATS TO: Reed Johnson. He’s finally on the American League batting chart — ranked third behind Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter. Entering Wednesday, Johnson needed 368.9 plate appearances and he finally gathered 370. Now, we’ll see if he can keep up the pace and contend for the batting title.

PROPS TO: All you readers. I was happy to see the discussion board working a little more after my last post. The comment total was only at eight the last time I checked, but it was good to see a lively discussion going. Let’s keep it up. I’ll try to interject comments in the posts from time to time, but that’s more of a place for all you fans to interact. Keep getting the word out that this is the place for Jays fans to chat it up, stir it up, and voice their opinions.

At The Trop

One of the better things about being on the road is the pregame meetings with the manager. At home, the interview sessions are so structured because of the higher volume of home media. On the road, sometimes we only have four or fives guys traveling. What is the benefit of this? Well, with John Gibbons, a lot of times it leads to lengthier meetings in which we don’t just get our day-to-day info for our notebooks, but also a lot of just sitting around and talking, telling stories, jokes — stuff like that.

Gibby had a nice anecdote today about his time at the All-Star Game. He said Tampa Bay was probably going to be running on the basepaths with Halladay on the mound on Tuesday — something a lot of teams have increasingly done against Doc, who doesn’t have a traditional slide step. The approach was something that led to a funny exchange at the ASG in Pittsburgh.

When Halladay was on the mound for the American League, two runners stole bases against him. Gibbons was on the bench when he overheard one of the White Sox players ask manager Ozzie Guillen about the pair of swipes:

"One of the White Sox players said to Ozzie, ‘How come we never try to steal when Halladay pitches?’" Gibbons said on Tuesday. "Guillen says, ‘Because nobody ever gets on.’"

Other notes:

Obviously, there was no post yesterday. For those of you out there with good detective skills, that probably meant I didn’t attend Gustavo Chacin’s rehab outing in Dunedin, after all. That’d be correct. It was raining sideways at my hotel and I didn’t want to be sitting at a potential rainout at Knology Park on my day off — not going to lie to you.

Well, Chacin gave up five runs on six hits with four walks in 4 2/3 innings. Not the best stats, but Gibbons and Brad Arnsberg, the pitching coach, insist that results aren’t what they are looking at in a rehab start. They are looking at the fact that he’s  been able to throw a lot of pitches and not experience any pain in his elbow. So he’s scheduled to start Saturday in Baltimore.

No word yet on who will be removed from the bullpen and added to the roster when Chacin returns. Toronto will most likely return to 13 position players and 12 pitchers. That would mean Chacin is up, two relievers are down, and a position player is added. If I had to venture a guess: Add catcher Jason Phillips and option Francisco Rosario and Jason Frasor or Dustin McGowan. We’ll see what happens.

Gibbons said he expected injured pitcher Justin Speier (forearm) to join the team on the current road trip. He wasn’t sure if that’d be in Tampa or in Baltimore, though. Neither Gibbons nor Arnsberg know when Speier will begin throwing again, but Gibby said today he’d expect him back in September. Speier’s estimation was that he’d begin throwing a week after he got hurt, which would be tomorrow. It’ll probably be more than a week.

RANDOM SIGHTING:

I saw Jose Canseco at the airport in Tampa. Nothing else to report on that — literally just a random sighting.

ONE MORE THING:

Check out the blogs of my colleagues Mark Feinsand at Yankees.com or Ian Browne at RedSox.com. I have links to them on the left side of this site. Check out how many comments they get. All of you Blue Jays fans need to spread the word and use this blog as a discussion board. Let’s get the comments rolling, the discussions churning, and show that the Jays fan base can be just as active their East rivals. Just had to say my part.

Stay tuned for more…

You Can't Always Get…

…what you want. In the Blue Jays’ case, they really would’ve liked to finish out a sweep of the Twins at the Metrodome. That’s a tall task and Toronto fans should be thrilled the club grabbed three wins in Minny. A four-game sweep is great over any club, but on the road inside one of the Majors’ toughest stadiums is quite a challenge. It’s been a great start to the current road trip — much better than their last trip (knock on wood, this trip ain’t over).

One thing I noticed this morning, while watching Sportscenter, was the fact that Toronto wasn’t listed on either the AL East or Wild Card standings when the show was breaking down the races. As of right now, the Jays are eight games out of the Wild Card and seven out of the division. With 44 games left to play, that’s a large gap to overcome. Toronto manager John Gibbons made light of the subject earlier this weekend, saying he knows a lot of people have written the Blue Jays off already. Not that he agrees with the critics.

"When they stop listing your team in the wild-card standings you know," Gibbons said with a laugh.

Do I think they’re out of it? I’ll keep saying what I’ve been saying: I think jumping over two teams in the division — and having those two teams being the Yankees and Red Sox — is going to be VERY difficult. Jumping over three teams in the Wild Card race seems near impossible. Who knows, though. Cleveland nearly pulled off the feat last year.

One interesting site is coolstandings.com, which currently gives Toronto a 0.8 percent chance of winning the East, a 0.3 percent chance of taking the Wild Card, and a 1.1 percent chance of making the playoffs by either route.

It’s 11 p.m. in Minneapolis and I still have some work to do before I hit the sack. I have to leave here at 5 a.m. to catch my flight to Tampa. Why am I leaving so early on an off-day? Good question. I do like traveling earlier than later in the day and it works out this time because I’ll be in Florida plenty early to swing over to Dunedin to catch Gustavo Chacin’s final rehab start. I’ll report on that tomorrow night.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: How many Oakland Raiders can you fit in one elevator?

For the first time in my life, I actually glanced up at the weight capacity of an elevator. While riding up to my floor at my hotel tonight, the elevator made several stops and kept picking up more and more football players — some of whom had to be 300-plus pounds. The Raiders are in town to play the Vikings for Monday Night Football. I swore that cable was going to snap, but I made it to my room safely.

RANDOM THOUGHT: I went and saw "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" for the second time tonight. I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan and if you like his movies and haven’t seen this one, make time for it. Also, be sure to stay all the way until the very end of the credits for one last laugh.

OK, I have to get back work…

Big Mac Attack

You know it’s a slow news day when: The topic of discussion today was John McDonald’s "power surge." I had some fun crunching his home run numbers last night at my hotel (Yes, life on the road consists of late-night number crunching from time to time).

When I informed McDonald today that he was averaging one homer every 27 at-bats since taking over as the full-time shortstop, all he could do was laugh. He was speechless. After all, he was averaging one per 200-something AB’s before he took over at short on July 15.

He said a number of his family members who were watching Friday night’s game kept calling him to joke about his sudden offensive outburst. When he hit his career-best third homer, Toronto PR made sure to have the announcer let everyone in the pressbox know he had reached the personal mark. It was quite funny. Probably one of those things you had to be there for.

Other than that, there’s not a whole lot happening at Blue Jays camp. There will be a little more activity once Chacin is set to come off the DL. Reed Johnson did just hit his ninth homer of the year. How amazing of a year has he had? It’ll be good to see his name pop up on the league leaders for batting average. Entering tonight he was averaging 3.07 PA’s per team games played. He needs 3.1 to qualify. Give it a game or two and he’ll make the cut.

I guess that’s all for right now. It’s the third inning here at the Metrodome and I figured I hadn’t posted in a couple days. I’ll probably blog some more Sunday night before catching a flight to Tampa on Monday morning. Stay tuned…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.