October 2007

And So It Begins…

TORONTO – I had just warmed up a plate for of tacos when that dreaded little envelope popped up in the lower right-hand corner of my computer screen last night. So, my food returned to room temperature as I glanced over the e-mail that included the list of 57 free agents who had filed for free agency at the first possible moment.

Sure enough, Matt Stairs and Joe Kennedy were included on the list. The Jays have shown a desire to bring Stairs back, but they didn’t give a real good indication of where Kennedy stood at the end of the year. Kennedy made $2.8 million last year, and my guess is that if the Jays did decided to bring him back as a situational lefty, that could mean Brian Tallet is non-tendered. We’ll see. Tallet would be the cheaper option through arbitration.

As for Stairs, if the Jays can figure out a way to provide him with 300 or so at-bats, he’d probably re-sign. The last thing he probably wants is to have a healthy starting nine — has that happened before? — keep him sitting on the bench all year. Stairs has shown he’s worth more than $850K and that he can still pick it at first, roam the outfield, fill in at DH, come off the bench in a pinch, and at the end of the year he said he could even play third, if needed (Word is that TroY Glaus met with MLB about the ol’ steroid report last month).

I’m sure Stairs would love a two-year offer from Toronto, but can you really give a two-year deal to someone who will be 40 years old? Oh, wait. Frank Thomas will be 40 and he’s going to be around for two more seasons. I guess there’s precedent there. I think a one-year deal would be the wiser move, but Stairs might find other suitors after the season he just turned in.

With Stairs in mind, what do you loyal members of Blue Jays Nation think should be done in left field? Is Reed Johnson worth the risk of signing at $3 million or so after an injury-plagued, subpar season? Should the Jays explore another option via free agency (Shannon Stewart’s out there)? Is it Adam Lind time? Maybe a Johnson/Catalanotto-esque platoon is out there somewhere? Sound off…

And, man, did my fantasty football team ever blow it this weekend. I’m sick of these guys not showing up. I was 4-1 and in first place three weeks ago. Now? I’m 4-4. Peyton Manning can’t do it alone! I’m afraid some guys might be packing up their lockers today.

Winter of Jordan

TORONTO – I have officially entered my offseason. Much like Costanza’s "Summer of George!" on Seinfeld, this is the Winter of Jordan. It’s time to take time off. After the grind of 162 games, I’m going to enjoy hours of lounging around in sweatpants and catching up on the reruns of Law & Order that I’ve missed over the past seven months.

I haven’t blogged on here since I left Boston because, well, to paraphrase the great comedy Officespace, I’ve been doing absolutely nothing, and it’s everything I thought it could be. But, seeing J.D. Drew’s mug on my blog was getting a little old, so I figured I should toss something up here to hold down the fort.

Over the past few days, I’ve purchased the new Radiohead album "In Rainbows" which is pretty sweet. It’s nice to hear them return some to their earlier sound — not that I didn’t enjoy the likes of Amnesiac or Hail to the Thief, because those were killer albums, too. I also went and saw the movie "Into the Wild," which I thought was pretty good. Eddie Vedder did the music, which was enough for me.

I have managed to watch some baseball. It’s actually been nice to sit and take in the World Series from my living room, not having to worry about writing stories for a change. Not that I’m complaining, but you sure to enjoy just sitting back and taking in a game after working so many. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Red Sox’s revamped lineup fares in Colorado. I don’t think the Rox are going to go down easy in Denver. I think the series will head back to Beantown for at least one game. We’ll see.

Also, I know there’s been some talk about the rumor that’s going around about Jays prez and CEO Paul Godfrey stepping down from his position. According to Rogers, the rumor was simply mindless banter by one of the local radio personalities. According to one report, there was no basis to the rumor.

That’s all for now. I’ve got a whole lot of nothing to get back to doing.

ALCS Game 7 pregame

DrewBOSTON – One and done. Someone’s going home after tonight — and I don’t mean just Boston or Cleveland. I’m leaving on a jet plane, heading back to Toronto tomorrow morning.

The only good thing that came out of last night, besides the fact that a couple teams decided to turn one of these matchups into a good series this postseason, was the fact that I finally got some clarity about my schedule. After three straight weeks on the road, I was finally able to figure out when my part in all this was going to come to an end.

First, though, the Red Sox and Indians have to duke it out in this seventh game. I’m interested to see how Dice-K Matsuzaka rebounds after a couple of bad starts. Even if he struggles, I like Boston’s chances with Josh Beckett, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon following in relief. That’s a pretty wicked set up.

And who saw that grand slam coming off the bat of J.D. Bleepin’ Drew? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I sure didn’t I think I was just as stunned as everyone else in Fenway Park. With two outs, Fausto Carmona on the mound, and two outs in the books with Drew at the dish, I thought the inning was over. Talk about an unlikely hero.

Talk about bad timing. A report came out today that Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd used HGH a few years back. Not exactly the most opportune time for news like that to hit the wire. Anyway, first pitch is about to happen and I have to get to work. By the way, I hear it’s snowing in Colorado.

Ws07_alcs_6 ALCS Game 7 Lineups

Cleveland (3-3) at Boston (3-3)
at 8:21 p.m. ET at Fenway Park

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, C
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Jake Westbrook

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka

Go Bears…Man, I should’ve started Brian Griese today.

ALCS Game 6 pregame

Manny2BOSTON – Welp, I’m back in Boston. Had an interesting time getting here yesterday, too. I had to fly from Cleveland to Baltimore and then connect to Boston from there. My first flight was fine, got to Baltimore early even, but the second flight was not so good.

I feel asleep before we took off and woke up about an hour later, flipped open the window shade, only to see that we were still parked on the ground. Finally, a lady comes up the plane and announces that there are too many people on the flight — that the plane was overweight. She asked for volunteers to come off the jet, but no one did.

So, she played her version of Russian roulette with us, literally looking up and down a list of our names and randomly picking two people to kick off the plane. Luckily, I wasn’t one of the chosen ones. Talk about a raw deal, though. But, I got to Boston and now it’s nearly time for Game 6 here at Fenway.

The reason I have a picture of our friend Manny Ramirez up there is I’m just about sick of hearing about his recent comments about "not caring" whether or not the Red Sox won this series. Get over it people. What Manny said was not that big of a deal. Here’s what he said after Boston dropped Game 4:

"It doesn’t matter how things go for you. We’re not going to give up. We’re just going to go and play the game, like I’ve said, and move on. If it doesn’t happen, so who cares? There’s always next year. It’s not like the end of the world or something. Why should we panic?"

All Manny said was it wasn’t the end of the world, life goes on. Can you argue with that? He didn’t say he didn’t care — and his numbers should be ample evidence to the point that the dude does care. Manny’s teammates also didn’t see what the big deal was about what he said. Here’s Mike Lowell on Thursday night:

"We know him. He talks to us more than he talks to you guys. We know Manny the person better than you do. I really don’t have a problem with what he said. When we take it in a baseball sense, that it’s not the end of the world, everyone is up in arms, because it sounds like he doesn’t care about the game. But, the way you see him play, you know he cares about the game. I think he was trying to convey that maybe there’s other things in the world that may be more important than baseball. You can’t fault him for that."

No, you can’t. But, there’s no question that the media will jump all over a quote like Manny’s, especially when it’s coming from such a character. There was another fantastic Manny moment after Boston’s Game 5 win. Manny, once again, was entertaining a pack of media, lounging on a couch and fielding a barrage of questions.

While he talked, David Ortiz pushed through the crowd and asked for a microphone, grabbing one from an NBC reporter. Ramirez, wearing a suit with a bright purple tie, looked up and Ortiz asked: "Hey, everybody wants to know, where’s the funeral?" Everyone busted up and Manny responded with: "Hey, I’m going to try to take this tie to Colorado." Classic.

Anyone watch Joe Torre’s press conference yesterday? I caught some of it after I finally got to my hotel here in Beantown. I’ve got to say that he handled it with class and I was happy to see he didn’t hold back in calling New York’s offer an insult. Once again, good for you, Joe.

Ws07_alcs_5 ALCS Game 6 Lineups

Cleveland (3-2) at Boston (2-3)
at 8:21 p.m. ET at Fenway Park

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, C
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Trot Nixon, RF
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Fausto Carmona

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Curt Schilling

Go Green…

Say it ain't so, Joe

Torre_2CLEVELAND – Good for you, Joe. After having George Steinbrenner issue another ultimatum in yet another trip to the playoffs for the Yankees, Joe Torre decided enough was enough.

New York offered Torre a one-year deal worth $5 million, which had incentives that could’ve boosted it to $8 million, that included a vesting option for ’09 if the Bombers made the World Series. On Thursday, it was announced that Torre said no thank you, ending what’s been a comical stakeout by the media in Tampa.

Part of me was surprised to hear that Torre turned down the offer, but the other part of me can completely understand how he might be fed up with dealing with the stress of New York and The Boss, especially at age 67. Torre’s done way too much to have Steinbrenner threaten to fire him if the Yanks didn’t make it passed the first round.

Shortly after hearing the news, which spread like wildfire here in the Jacobs Field pressbox, I gave a quick call to Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. After jokingly razzing me some for phoning him — "Jordan, don’t you know I’m in hiding this time of year?" — Gibby gave pretty much the same reaction I had to the news.

"That doesn’t really surprise me. It’s hard to say, I’m sure he was frustrated with the whole thing, when it came out where Steinbrenner said ‘Win this game or he’s gone.’ He’s accomplished too much and he’s too distinguished a guy to put up with that.

"He’s not some first-timer rookie out there. Who knows what all went into it. Who knows what he was looking for as opposed to what they offered. He’s accomplished way too much. If he doesn’t feel good about it, then he did the right thing."

Exactly. Good for Joe.

Ws07_alcs_4ALCS Game 5 Lineups

Boston (1-3) at Cleveland (3-1)
at 8:21 p.m. ET at Jacobs Field

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
Bobby Kielty, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Coco Crisp, CF
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Josh Beckett

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, C
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: LHP C.C. Sabathia

Manny holds court

MannyCLEVELAND – Mike Lowell summed it up on Tuesday night. Boston’s third baseman was asked about the three straight home runs the Sox belted in the sixth inning, and a smirk crept across Lowell’s face.

"I’ve got to ask him — the hands up, 7-2 — I don’t really understand that one, but that’s him. I just like that he hit the ball hard and over the wall."

Yeah, it didn’t make much sense. Boston was down by five runs and Manny Ramirez launches a solo homer, throws his hands in the air and stands and admires his work. If this is anyone but Ramirez, he’d get a fastball between his numbers the next time up. But he’s got that whole "Manny being Manny" get-out-of-jail free card.

I remember earlier this season when the Blue Jays were in Boston. In the first inning, Ramirez made a sliding catch at Fenway and ended up laying on his back. To the amusement of everyone, he started moving his arms and legs like he was making a snow angel. Again, anyone else, and he might get plunked next time up. But it’s Manny, and after the game the Jays players were cracking up when they replayed the catch on Sportscenter.

Rare are the moments when Ramirez actually speaks to reporters, too. But here today, he plopped in his chair in front of his locker and fielded questions for nearly 15 minutes — first in Spanish and then in English. Naturally, the question finally came up about his antics after hitting the homer. Ramirez just smiled and shook his head.

"Man, I’m just happy to do something special like that," he said. "I’m not trying to show up anybody out there. I’m just trying to go have fun. If somebody strikes me out and shows me up, that’s part of the game. I love it. I like that. I like to compete and when people strike me out or whatever and they show me up, it’s all good. There’s no hard feelings."

Ramirez was also hit with plenty of questions about how being down 3-1 to the Indians right now is similar to being down to the Yankees in 2004, when Boston staged their famous comeback. It’s a must-win on Thursday for the Sox, but Ramirez — staying with his typical laid back manner — didn’t seem express much care either way about Boston’s fate in the next contest.

"If we go play hard and the thing doesn’t come like it’s supposed to come, we’ll move on. We’ll come next year. Why should we panic? We’ve got a great team. If it doesn’t happen, good. We’ll come next year and try to do it again.

"We’re confident every day. It doesn’t matter how things go for you. We’re not going to give up. We’re just going to go and play the game, like I’ve said, and move on. If it doesn’t happen, so who cares? There’s always next year. It’s not like the end of the world or something."

TecmosuperbowlNo, it’s not the end of the world — that’s for sure.

MOMENT OF THE DAY: Man, talk about a flashback. I walked in the visitor’s clubhouse this afternoon and sitting on the couch were Eric Hinske and Dustin Pedroia. There was a crowd of people blocking the TV, but I heard some familiar music and sound effects.

Sure enough, they were playing Tecmobowl on Nintendo! Classic. I was more of a Blades of Steel guy myself back in the day, or Megaman, but Tecmobowl was definitely a staple of my childhood. Well done, BoSox.

ALCS Game 4 pregame

Helton_1CLEVELAND – It’s officially Rocktober. Congrats to the Rockies, especially for making me look smart for picking them as the National League champ when the playoffs began. Now, if the Tribe can follow suit to make my World Series picks hold up, that’d be quality.

I actually lived in Colorado for two years — about 50 minutes south of Denver in Colorado Springs — during my last two years in high school. Whenever I had some spare time, I’d hop in my Ford Exploder (may it rest in peace) and haul up to Coors Field and take in some Rox games. I saw the one and only Mike Lansing hit for the cylce on one occasion.

I wasn’t a big Rockies fan, but it was the only baseball team around, so I enjoyed heading to Denver to watch some ball. So, part of me is happy to see Colorado advance to the Fall Classic. Besides that, the run they’ve been on has been nothing short of amazing. They were in fourth place in the NL West when their run began, and now they have a pennant. Incredible.

As for the Red Sox here in Boston, they were simply manhandled by Jake Westbrook — 14 groundball outs through six innings. Daisuke Matsuzaka didn’t pitch terribly, but the Tribe forced him to throw a ton of pitches and the few mistakes he made were enough in light of Westbrook’s performance.

After the game, Matsuzaka was not in a good mood. We spent more than an hour standing and waiting to see if Dice-K would talk to the media, which he is usually good about. He sat at his locker staring ahead, let out some sighs, leaned back in his chair, took a minute to eat some dinner, went back to sitting alone at his locker, and finally — for just the second time this year — he only offered a short statement, opting not to take questions.

While Dice-K sat in one corner of the clubhouse, David Ortiz and Josh Beckett were lounging on some couches in the middle of the room, throwing down some cold ones while watching the D-backs/Rockies game. If there was ever a moment that made Ortiz seem like the Dominican Babe Ruth, this was it. He was all smiles, joking with reporters, shaking off a report that said his knee injury might’ve kept him out of the ALCS, and throwing his arm around one TV guy during an interview.

At one point, shortstop Julio Lugo walked over and said, "Papi, what, you don’t have no family? Why don’t you go home?"

To which Ortiz flashed his wide smile and replied, "If I went back to my hotel, I’d be doing the same, but without the beer. So, I stay here and get beer for free."

During a later conversation, Beckett offered this beauty of a line: "You can’t buy love, but you can buy so much affection that you can’t tell the difference."

With that gem, here’s tonight’s lineups:

Ws07_alcs_3Boston (1-2) at Cleveland (2-1)
at 8:21 p.m. ET at Jacobs Field

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Coco Crisp, CF
Doug Mirabelli, C
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Tim Wakefield

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Casey Blake, 3B
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Kelly Shoppach, C

PITCHING: RHP Paul Byrd

ALCS Game 3 pregame

DoorsCLEVELAND – During one of my trips to Cleveland during the regular season, I made a point of heading over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I could’ve spent the whole visit poring over the display case for the Grunge Era. They also had a special exhibit on The Clash at the time, which was pretty sweet.

Right now, the special exhibit on display is on The Doors, which I may go take a look at some time this week — possibly tomorrow. I wrote in this week’s Jays mailbag, track 10 on the Doors’ 1970 album "Morrison Hotel" is the song "Indian summer." Fitting, considering I’m here at the Jake to cover the Indians prolonged summer.

I didn’t blog yesterday due to my utter lack of sleep and energy. Along with most of the other writers, I was at Fenway Park on Saturday night well beyong 3 am and I had an early flight to catch to Cleveland. An hour of sleep and it was off to the airport and then to the ballpark to get right back to work. I nearly didn’t get here either.

My flight was going through Laguardia in New York — all the directs were sold out — and when I got there, they told me I didn’t have a seat. Nice. Shortly before they started boarding, though, I was able to get on. Crisis averted. Both in Boston and in New York, the gates directly next to the one I was at had flights going back to Toronto. God certainly has a sense of humor.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Ws07_alcs_2Boston (1-1) at Cleveland (1-1)
at 7:10 p.m. ET at Jacobs Field

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Coco Crisp, CF
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, C
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Trot Nixon, RF
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Jake Westbrook

BUGS: None in sight, yet.

QUOTE: "Hey, Canada’s here." – Red Sox manager Terry Francona, upon seeing Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star during Monday’s press conference

ALCS Game 2 pregame

SutcliffeBOSTON – I was heading out of the Fenway Park pressbox last night and walking in was broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe. Naturally, I held the door for the man and he responded with a simple, "Thanks." No, Sut. Thank, you. Thank you for helping the Cubs to the 1984 division title. The least I could do was hold the door for the man.

Talk about an offensive explosion in that Game 1, huh? Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz continued to put up their ridiculous postseason numbers. Even if I played as the Red Sox on my gamecube — yeah, I’m the one guy in the world who still is rockin’ the ‘cube — I don’t think I could match the stats their putting up. It’s been flat-out sick. I know C.C. Sabathia struggled somewhat in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yanks, but I didn’t think he’d labor as much as he did last night. Indians need a big game from Fausto tonight. The last thing the Tribe wants to do is head back home down, 2-0.

As things stand right now, we’ll be taking in a Rox-Sox World Series. What a boneheaded play by Stephen Drew last night in the bottom of the ninth. The ump calls him safe at second after Rox SS Troy Tulowitski’s foot came off the bag, and Drew starts jogging back toward the dugout. OK, fine, you didn’t realize you were called safe, but you don’t see the shortstop arguing with the ump? That turned out to be quite costly, considering the D-Backs wound up losing in 11.

Anyway, I just got here to the Fens to prep for Game 2. For all of you dying to know who’s taking the field tonight in Beantown, here are tonight’s lineups:

Ws07_alcs_1Cleveland (0-1) at Boston (1-0)
at 8:21 p.m. ET at Fenway Park

Today’s lineups:

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, C
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Fausto Carmona

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Coco Crisp, CF
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Curt Schilling

ALCS Game 1 lineups

Ws07_alcsCleveland (0-0) at Boston (0-0)
at 7:10 p.m. ET at Fenway Park

Today’s lineups:

INDIANS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Travis Hafner, DH
Victor Martinez, C
Ryan Garko, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Kenny Lofton, LF
Franklin Gutierrez, RF
Casey Blake, 3B

PITCHING: LHP C.C. Sabathia

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
Bobby Kielty, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Coco Crisp, CF
Julio Lugo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Josh Beckett

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