October 2008

Doc brings his 'A' game

TORONTO — The Elias Sports Bureau has released its final 2007-08 MLB player rankings, identifying Type A and B players, and Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay ranks first among starting pitchers with a rating of 95.031.

Here is the breakdown of the top rated players at each position:

American League
• Outfield: Magglio Ordonez, Tigers (96.316)
• Designated hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox (94.545)
• Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins (89.401)
• Second base: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (85.714)
• Shortstop: Michael Young, Rangers (88.0)
• Third base: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (95.031)
• Starting pitcher: Roy Halladay, Blue Jays (95.058)

National League
• First base: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (95.385)
• Outfield: Matt Holliday, Rockies (98.125)
• Catcher: Russell Martin, Dodgers (85.328)
• Second base: Chase Utley, Phillies (92.411)
• Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies (85.714)
• Third base: David Wright, Mets (89.560)
• Reliever: Takashi Saito, Dodgers (88.678)

Other Type A and B Blue Jays:

A — A.J. Burnett (89.729): 4th among AL SP
A — Scott Downs (81.513): 11th among AL RP
A — Alex Rios (78.816): 10th among AL OF
A — Jeremy Accardo (70.798): t-25th among AL RP
B — Scott Rolen (70.186): 6th among AL 3B
B — Vernon Wells (67.632): 25th among AL OF
B — Dustin McGowan (63.178): 31st among AL SP
B — Casey Janssen (62.513): 37th among AL RP
B — Aaron Hill (61.491): 10th among AL 2B
B — B.J. Ryan (60.801): 40th among AL RP
B — Gregg Zaun (59.447): 12th among AL C
B — Brian Tallet (57.925): 48th among AL RP
B — Jesse Litsch (56.783): 35th among AL SP


Barajas retained, Parrish on the market

TORONTO — Big news! As completely anticipated and expected, the Blue Jays picked up the $2.5 million club option for catcher Rod Barajas today. It was well known that Toronto planned on doing just that. What isn’t clear is who will be the backup behind the plate.

There’s Gregg Zaun, who is a free agent this winter and has been with the Jays for the past five seasons. He probably wouldn’t rule out a return to the Jays, but it’s not clear if the club wants to bring him back.

Beyond Zaunie, the Jays have Curtis Thigpen, J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman to maybe compete for the backup job. They could give it to Thigpen, allowing Arencibia to play every day in the Minors until he’s deemed ready to hit the big-league stage. Jeroloman probably has a future as a backup, so he could possibily push Thigpen for the job this spring.

There’s also the chance Toronto wants to add a veteran backup through free agency or via rade this offseason. If the club returns with only Barajas, there isn’t much depth at catcher. So it’d make sense to re-sign Zaun or to bring in a similar backup veteran type. Not a big storyline, but one to follow this offseason nonetheless.

Also, John Parrish filed for free agency today.


Burnett decision coming

TORONTO — All right, so I haven’t been blogging as much as you all would probably like. Imagine, I’ve actually just been enjoying some time off for much of the past month. But, today there was actually some Blue Jays news that convinced me to head back to the ol’ keyboard here.

A few things, some of the lesser stuff out of the way first: Brad Wilkerson has filed for free agency and a report out of Puerto Rico confirmed that Alex Rios will indeed be suiting up for P.R. in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. The “big” news of the day involved A.J. Burnett.

A report on ESPN.com indicated that Burnett’s agent, Darek Braunecker, said the pitcher would make a decision about his opt out clause by Monday — prior to the start of the GM Meetings in California. I spoke with Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, who was watching his boys play hockey back home in Mass., and he hadn’t heard about this new “deadline.”

As it turns out, Braunecker told me tonight that he was misunderstood. What he meant was that, in order for him to talk to other clubs about Burnett, the pitcher would need to make a decision before Monday. That didn’t mean that a decision was going to necessarily come this weekend.

We haven’t put a timetable on anything,” Braunecker said. “Obviously, his decision would need to be made in the next few days if indeed we wanted to have the opportunity to talk to people at the general managers’ meetings about him.

“I’m going to the GM meetings and we’ve got multiple free agents this winter. For us to discuss A.J. with anybody, then he would have to exercise the out at that time.”

Braunecker and Ricciardi both indicated that they’ve had general discussions, but neither side would going into specifics, or say that specifics — contract length or money — had been part of the talks. Toronto still has exclusive negotiating rights with Burnett until he decides whether or not to opt out.

So, a decision could be coming soon, maybe even this weekend. But Burnett could just as easily wait until Nov. 13 to make up his mind. Stay tuned…


Back in Toronto

TORONTO — After a nice break from baseball (as much as I love the game and covering it, it’s nice to get away every now and then), I’m back north of the border. Since I’ve been away, Paul Beeston is back as team prez, in an interim capacity, and Gibby got a job as a bench coach with the Royals.

I’ve been back home in Chicago until a couple days ago. Got to see lots of family and I took part in the Chicago Marathon. That was an amazing experience. I didn’t come close to my goal time of three and a half hours, but the temperatures soared to 85 degrees (what is that, almost 30 Celsius?).

I was on pace for a 3:30 finish until about 13 miles in — then the heat wore me down. But, being my first marathon and all, I didn’t get too discouraged about my time and just soaked it all in. I’m starting to look ahead to next year now. I might tackle the New York City marathon next November.

As for baseball, I did manage to watch that amazing Game 5 between the Rays and Red Sox on Thursday night. Mrs. Bastian fell asleep when it was 7-0 Rays, and I kept waking her when Boston insisted on climbing back in the game. What a great comeback. After covering the Rays in the first round, I don’t think that game will be enough to kill their confidence.

I don’t see Tampa Bay losing both of these games in St. Pete. I, for one, will be pulling for the Rays. They’ve been a great story all season long and it’d be nice to see them in the World Series. People might grumble about a Phillies-Rays Series, but I think that would make for a fun Fall Classic. We’ll see.

First things first, though, Michigan State is taking on Ohio State this aternoon. This will be a big test for my Spartans. This is the time of year they usually fall apart — maybe this year will be different.

And, don’t forget, every Monday I put together the Blue Jays mailbag. Send questions to bluejaysmailbag@gmail.com for possible inclusion. Stay tuned for more…



A winged menace

pigeon.jpgCHICAGO —
The White Sox and Rays encountered quite the stubborn pigeon here at The Cell this afternoon. In the top of the second inning, the bird landed on the field down the first-base line and began walking back and forth all along the chalk line.

At one point in the inning, Rays first-base coach George Hendrick tried to shoo the bird away, but it flew a few feet before dropping back down to the dirt. The pigeon kept up the act, much to the amusement of those in the seats and in the pressbox, for the entire inning.

The feisty fowl made its way toward home plate in the middle of the second, but was scared when one of Matt Garza’s warm-up pitches zipped by above his head. So, he treated back down the first-base line, waddled on the infield grass, and made it almost to second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

Finally, when the bird moved back in front of home plate with Ken Griffey Jr. up in the bottom of the second, Rays catcher Dioner Navarro moved from behind the plate and waved his glove at the bird, who hopped toward the mound. Garza walked off and shooed the bird, too, and the fans erupted in a hilarious chorus of boos.

Garza’s attempt to get rid of the bird suceeded temporarily. After Griffey singled to center, the bird flew to near the third-base dugout, but refused to leave the field. Soon, a second pigeon joined him near the mound — though that one flew off when he heard the crack of Alexei Ramirez’s bat.

At the end of the inning, Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria trotted off the field and ran toward the bird and scared him off, with the pigeon finally flying away. Is there anything that rookie can’t do? Man, it was pure entertainment. Oh, and the Rays are up, 1-0, in the third.


Catching some Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — About to hit the sack here to catch a few winks before hopping on an early a.m. flight to Chicago for tomorrow’s workout at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s been a busy week down hear in Florida, taking in the always-entertaining interviews with manager Joe Maddon and watching Tampa Bay make this playoffs thing look easy.

As much as I pull for my home town of Chicago, I’m going to be a tad selfish and hope this ALDS ends on the South Side. As a few of my loyal readers might recall, I’m running the Chicago marathon on Oct. 12, so I’d love nothing more than to chill at home until race day without making a return trip to St. Pete.

So far, so good, with the Rays being up 2-0 and all. It’s been a rough week for Chi-town. Watched as much of the latest Cubs debacle as I could tolerate the other night at dinner and have endured some phone calls from family in light of both team’s problems. Both teams are in a two-game hole. That doesn’t bode well for an October crosstown classic.

For anyone interested in what I’ve been doing this week, here are some of my contributions for the first two games of this American League Division Series:

Oct. 1, Workout:

James Shields Game 1 preview story

Oct. 2, Game 1:

Feature on Rays rookie Evan Longoria

Sidebar on Longoria setting rookie record

Scott Kazmir Game 2 preview story

Oct. 3, Game 2:

Feature on Tampa Bay’s Rocco Baldelli

Sidebar on Rays hoping for a sweep

Matt Garza Game 3 preview story

FYI, the next Blue Jays mailbag will land on bluejays.com come Monday. Get your questions in to bluejaysmailbag@gmail.com for possible inclusion. Feel free to ask whether or not Michigan State’s Javon Ringer should be a Heisman candidate. Because the answer is, “Without a doubt.”

With that, I’m off to bed. Goodnight all.