Tag:Blue Jays
Posted on: September 19, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 6:03 pm

3 to watch: The Philly dilemma edition

Three games back of the Phillies in the National League East, the best thing the Braves have going for them is six remaining head-to-head meetings with the Phils, starting with a series that begins Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Two and a half games ahead of the Padres in the NL wild-card race, the biggest thing the Braves have going against them is that they play six of their final 12 games against the league's best team -- the Phillies.

"It is tougher," Chipper Jones said. "But I don't think we'd want it any other way."

One reason, of course, is that the Braves would like to think that they can still win the East. To win the East now, they need for the Phillies to lose. The best way to guarantee that the Phillies lose is to beat them yourself.

The other reason is that the Braves actually have a winning record against the Phillies over the last two years. They went 10-8 last season, and they're 7-5 so far this year.

"The one thing we have done really well the last couple of years is play well against the Phillies," Jones said. "And we're going to have to. They're the best team in the National League, and for some reason, we get sky-high to play them.

"To beat them, we need to play a near-perfect game."

But to make the playoffs, the Braves don't need to finish ahead of the Phillies. They just need to win the wild card -- although that might necessitate beating the Phillies a few times.

"Now we can't split hairs," club president John Schuerholz said. "Now it's about getting to the playoffs."

But still, Schuerholz said he doesn't mind it that half of the Braves' remaining schedule features the Phils (with other six games against the Nationals and Marlins).

"It might be the energy level we need," he said. "They will be energized games."

And they're leading off this week's edition of 3 to watch (which doesn't include the Rangers, Twins or Reds, even though all three could clinch their divisions in the next few days:

1. The Phillies were easily able to adjust their rotation, so that the Braves will face Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, maybe the closest thing we've seen to a true Big Three since the days of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The Braves would have had a harder time making similar adjustments, and thus ace Tim Hudson won't pitch in this series. The Braves planned to start off with Jair Jurrjens, in Braves at Phillies, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park , but Jurrjens hurt his right knee in a bullpen session last Friday in New York. So 24-year-old Brandon Beachy, who was in Florida with the Braves' instructional league team, will get the start and make his major-league debut. Rookie Mike Minor and young Tommy Hanson are the other two Braves starters this week. The Phillies' Big Three would be lined up again to pitch in the final three regular-season games in Atlanta, although if the Phils have wrapped up the division by then, there's a chance they wouldn't all pitch.

2. Elsewhere on this site , I made what I thought was a reasoned but traditional case for Felix Hernandez as the American League's Cy Young leader. Hernandez could help his own case considerably with a big performance in Mariners at Blue Jays, Thursday afternoon (12:37 ET) at the Rogers Centre . The Jays have hit a major-league high 128 home runs in 69 home games (nearly two a game), and they average more than five runs a game at home. Hernandez hasn't faced the Blue Jays yet this year. Neither has CC Sabathia, who never lined up with any of the Yankees' first five series against the Jays (but figures to pitch in Toronto during the Yankees Sept. 27-29 visit).

3. First, Sabathia has a rematch with Tampa Bay's David Price, and if it's anything like their last game, it might be the 1 to watch this week. The first time around, a week ago in Florida, Sabathia and Price combined for 16 scoreless innings (eight apiece), while allowing just five hits (three of them off Price). They hook up again in Rays at Yankees, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium , and by the time it's over, we should have a better idea of who wins the American League East (and who's the AL wild card), and also of who is the leading threat to Hernandez's chance to win the Cy Young.

Posted on: August 22, 2010 5:47 pm

3 to watch: The Home sweet home edition

The American League playoff races are in danger of becoming runaways, with the Rangers far ahead in the West, the Twins opening a gap on the White Sox in the Central and the Yankees and Rays holding good leads over the Red Sox for the East and wild-card leads.

What's a lot harder to determine -- and maybe almost as important -- is how those four teams would match up come October.

Will it be Yankees-Twins and Rays-Rangers? Or Yankees-Rangers and Rays-Twins? And who has home-field advantage?

Heading into play Sunday, the Twins were 2 1/2 games better than the Rangers. The team with the better record at the end of the season will open the playoffs at home, against the wild-card winner (as of Sunday morning, the Yankees led the Rays by one game). The team with the worse record likely opens on the road, against the East winner (since both the Yankees and Rays are likely to finish with better record than the Rangers and Twins).

Here's why it may matter: Counting last October, the Twins are 1-11 in New York since the start of 2008. Over the same span, they're 5-6 at Tropicana Field.

The Rangers, meanwhile, are below .500 on the road this year (including three straight losses in New York, and three straight at Tampa Bay). They're 39-23 at home. The Twins have also been much better at home (39-22, vs. 32-30 on the road).

You've got to believe that the Yankees would prefer to play an opening five-game series against the Twins, who don't have a dominating No. 1 starter, than against the Rangers, with Cliff Lee (who won twice for the Phillies in the 2009 World Series).

Keep all that in mind as the Twins play four games this week in Texas.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Yankees used just three starting pitchers in the postseason last year, and they won in large part because those three (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte) were so good. Now two of those three are question marks, with Pettitte still on the disabled list with a groin injury and Burnett going 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in four starts this month. With Javier Vazquez struggling with a lack of velocity, the Yankee rotation looks a lot less formidable, which is one reason it will be interesting to see how Ivan Nova does, in Yankees at Blue Jays, Monday night (7:07 ET) at the Rogers Centre . Nova, a 23-year-old right-hander who is considered the Yanks' top pitching prospect, was 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Jays aren't an easy opening opponent, especially at home, where they've hit a major-league leading 103 home runs in 55 games.

2. When Zack Greinke won the AL Cy Young Award last year, it was supposedly an indication that voters no longer care about how many wins a pitcher has (Greinke had 16; runner-up Felix Hernandez had 19). But what does that mean for Hernandez, who has a 9-10 record this year but otherwise has credentials to be legit Cy candidate (including a 1.54 ERA in his last 14 starts)? Hernandez gets another good chance to make his case, in Mariners at Red Sox, Wednesday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Fenway Park . His opponent is Jon Lester, whose own Cy chances had to take a big hit when he allowed nine runs to the Blue Jays on Friday night.

3. Lee's Cy chances have taken a hit recently, too, as he's 0-2 with an 8.24 ERA in his last three starts. His next start comes in Twins at Rangers, Thursday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark , and you can bet someone will mention that the Twins also tried to trade for Lee this year. Francisco Liriano starts Thursday for the Twins, which is appropriate, since if there's a Twins pitcher who has a chance to be a true No. 1, he's it.

Posted on: July 14, 2010 1:05 pm

Not an Atlanta Braves type of player

The Braves were sure Yunel Escobar was their shortstop for many years to come. They were so sure of it that even this spring, they were justifying the decision to include Elvis Andrus in the 2007 Mark Teixeira trade by saying that they never thought Andrus would unseat Escobar.

Now, four months later, they've traded Escobar away, for a significantly older, but steady, journeyman.


Hang on, because in another way, this Escobar-Alex Gonzalez trade makes all the sense in the world. And not just because Gonzalez is leading Escobar in 2010 home runs, 17-0.

Sure, that's part of it, and that's what Braves general manager Frank Wren chose to emphasize in his statement announcing the trade.

"We've been looking at ways to strengthen our club offensively, and Alex Gonzalez is a proven veteran player who gives us added power," Wren said.

True enough, and the Red Sox will tell you how much last year's midseason trade for Gonzalez stabilized their infield and was a huge key in carrying them to the playoffs.

But let's be serious. To trade 27-year-old Yunel Escobar for 33-year-old Alex Gonzalez is to acknowledge that Escobar wasn't becoming the player the Braves thought he was.

More than that, it's to acknowledge that Escobar just didn't fit.

As one veteran Braves scout likes to say about some players he sees, "Not an Atlanta Braves type of player."

You know what, Yunel Escobar was not an Atlanta Braves type of player. More and more, that was showing.

There was the time earlier this season in New York, when Escobar inexplicably failed to tag up at third base on a fly ball, in effect costing the Braves a game. There was the time last week in New York, when he lazily tossed a ball to first base, throwing into the runner and nearly getting first baseman Troy Glaus first.

There were the times he was more concerned about his own errors than with whether the team was winning or losing.

He may still develop into the player the Braves thought they had. The talent is there. The Blue Jays, still trying to build for some sort of future, can afford to take that chance.

But in Atlanta, Escobar was developing more and more into a guy who was "not an Atlanta Braves type of player."

Alex Gonzalez isn't the future in Atlanta, but by all accounts he is "an Atlanta Braves type of player."

He fits in, and unlike Escobar you can be sure that he won't be giving manager Bobby Cox fits in Cox's final months in the Braves dugout.

It's strange to say, but a Braves team with Gonzalez at shortstop has a better chance of sending Cox out as a winner than a Braves team with Escobar did.

And what about next year, when Cox is gone?

Well, the Braves will have a new manager, but they don't plan to have a new philosophy. They still plan to build around "Atlanta Braves type of players."

They won't be building around Yunel Escobar.
Posted on: June 21, 2010 12:44 am
Edited on: June 21, 2010 11:22 am

3 to watch: The Good to see you? edition

When Manny Ramirez went back to Boston, we at CBSSports.com went there with him.

This week, Garret Anderson goes back to Anaheim, Chris Carpenter goes back to Toronto and Carlos Silva goes back to Seattle.

Sorry, we can't be everywhere.

For all the problems with interleague play, it does provide us with homecomings and get-togethers that we might never see otherwise. Like Joe Torre and the Yankees, who will meet up this weekend at Dodger Stadium but will no doubt talk about it all week.

"Those kids, they made me famous," Torre said, while overseeing the Manny-in-Boston circus over the past weekend. "It'll be a little tough. I've never pulled against them before. I've always pulled for them, even when I was watching the World Series [last fall]."

The Torre vs. Yankees story would have been more compelling if the games were at Yankee Stadium, because the people Torre clashed with in his final days in New York (and most of the people he complained about in his book) likely won't be at Dodger Stadium.

But it will still be Joe Torre, and it will still be the Yankees, and it will still make us tolerate interleague play, at least for a few more days.

With that, here's the next-to-last interleague edition of 3 to watch:

1. Stephen Strasburg's fourth start isn't a coming-home story, but we promised to highlight every Strasburg start, and the way he's going, we're not going to stop now. Besides, Herb Score struck out 16 in his fourth career start, so Strasburg has something to shoot for, in Royals at Nationals, Wednesday (4:35 EDT) at Nationals Park . Already, he has two double-digit strikeout games in his first three starts. But according to research through the baseball-reference.com play index , there are two other guys who had two double-digit strikeout games in their first three starts (Karl Spooner and Daisuke Matsuzaka). There's no one that baseball reference shows as having three double-digit strikeout games in their first four starts.

2. Carpenter was 49-50 in his six years with the Blue Jays. He's 76-25 in his six-plus years with the Cardinals. So maybe the fans in Toronto, where he'll pitch in Cardinals at Blue Jays, Wednesday night (7:07 EDT) at Rogers Centre , don't remember him as fondly as they remember his good friend Roy Halladay. Halladay will also face the Jays this week, but the G20 summit that forced this weekend's series to be moved from Toronto to Philadelphia denied the Doc his homecoming.

3. At least the Toronto fans don't dislike Carpenter. Not sure you can say the same about the Mariner fans and Silva, who they'll see again, in Cubs at Mariners, Thursday afternoon (3:40 EDT) at Safeco Field . Silva went 5-18 in his two seasons with the M's, after signing a ridiculous four-year, $48 million contract. He's 8-2 in two-plus months with the Cubs, which would make the contract look a lot less ridiculous, even if he hadn't helped the Cubs dispose of Milton Bradley (who will also face his old mates this week).

Posted on: May 30, 2010 5:48 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2010 8:57 am

3 to watch: The Are you serious? edition

After 52 games a year ago, the Blue Jays were 29-23, and just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East. Their early schedule had been favorable, the upcoming schedule looked tougher, and by year's end the Jays had a 75-87 record that helped get general manager J.P. Ricciardi fired and helped get Roy Halladay traded to Philadelphia.

So if you want to get excited about the Jays' current 30-22 record, go right ahead. We'll look at a favorable early schedule, and an upcoming schedule that looks much tougher, and we'll say that until proven otherwise, the Jays of 2010 aren't noticeably better than the Jays of 2009.

The Jays are 2-7 against the Big 3 in the American League East, and that's bad news in two ways. One, it says they're probably not nearly as good as their overall record. Two, it means that 45 of their remaining 110 games (41 percent) are against the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox.

In fact, of Toronto's remaining 37 games before the All-Star break, only four will be against a team currently under .500. They start that stretch this week, with three against the Rays, then their first three of the season with the Yankees.

And that's why the Blue Jays have a spot in this week's 3 to watch:

1. The Braves were basically in first place for 15 straight years, from 1991-2005 (yes, we know they were in second when the strike hit in 1994). The Braves basically haven't been in first place since 2005 (yes, we know that they were in first as late as May 15 in 2007). The Braves were in last place, 6 1/2 games out of first, just two weeks ago. Now they could take over first, in a series that includes Phillies at Braves, Tuesday night (7:10 EDT) at Turner Field . The Braves (15-4 since May 10) could actually take over first place on Monday, but Tuesday's pitching matchup is Tim Hudson (4-0, 1.59 this month) against Cole Hamels (3-1, 2.45 this month).

2. The Blue Jays have scored more runs than any American League team but the Yankees. That didn't help them the first time they faced David Price; he threw a four-hitter for his first career shutout. The Jays get another chance at Price, in Rays at Blue Jays, Wednesday night (7:07 EDT) at Rogers Centre . Price's opponent: Shaun Marcum, who hasn't faced the Rays since 2008 but is 2-0 against them in his career, with an 0.75 ERA.

3. Could the Braves pass the Phillies? Could the Blue Jays threaten the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox? Here's one more: Are the Reds a serious threat to the Cardinals in the National League Central. Cincinnati leads the division by one game heading into this week's series, which concludes with Reds at Cardinals, Wednesday night (8:15 EDT) at Busch Stadium . The Cardinals have three rookies in their rotation, but Chris Carpenter is their Wednesday starter. The Reds have two rookies in their rotation, and one of them is Wednesday starter Sam LeCure, who took Homer Bailey's spot when Bailey went on the disabled list.

And one more to watch: No, we didn't overlook Monday's Rockies-Giants game, which features a matchup of the guy who won the last two National League Cy Young Awards (Tim Lincecum) and the guy who has made himself a front-runner for the 2010 Cy Young (Ubaldo Jimenez). We left it out, only because first pitch is 4:05 EDT on Memorial Day Monday, and we worried that by the time you read this, you may already have missed it.

Posted on: April 5, 2010 4:48 pm

And the blown save goes to ...

Remember when people were suggesting Toronto's Jason Frasor as a possible addition to the Twins' bullpen, after the Joe Nathan injury?

Well, guess which closer just coughed up the first ninth-inning blown save of the major-league season?

Yes. Jason Frasor.

Frasor retired just one of the five Rangers batters he faced, allowing Nelson Cruz to tie the game on a double and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to win it with what would have been a double (but only counted as a walk-off single).

If you missed this game, too bad, because it has to be the best of the day so far. First 6 2/3 no-hit innings from Shaun Marcum, coming back after elbow surgery that cost him the entire 2009 season. Then a game-tying home run from Cruz. Then Vernon Wells giving the Jays the lead again in the eighth.

And then the Rangers' comeback off Frasor in the ninth.
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 5, 2010 3:43 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2010 3:53 pm

'He's a good pitcher'

As Scott Miller pointed out earlier , Toronto's Shaun Marcum could be a contender for comeback player of the year, starting on opening day for the Blue Jays after missing all of 2009 after elbow surgery.

And to be clear, Scott wrote that before Marcum carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning today in Texas.

(And also before Marcum lost not only the no-hitter, but also the lead, giving up first a Vladimir Guerrero single and then a three-run Nelson Cruz home run tied the game at 3-3).

Marcum's success isn't a surprise to scouts who watched him pitch for the Blue Jays this spring. In fact, even as scouts in the Tampa Bay area were predicting a terrible year for the Toronto team overall, they were predicting good things for Marcum.

"I've always thought he was good," one scout who saw Marcum this spring said today. "He's back to being who he is, a four-pitch guy who knows how to pitch. He's just 87-89, but he adds and subtracts. He just pitches. He's a good pitcher."

And through the first six innings today, he didn't allow a hit.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 8, 2010 5:45 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2010 5:46 pm

Thinking about Selig -- and Gillick

Whatever you think of Bud Selig the commissioner, it's hard to fault the Brewers for paying tribute to Selig the owner. He did bring baseball back to Milwaukee and eventually got Miller Park built. And even if for many of those years the Brewers were awful -- they finally made it back to the postseason a few years after the Selig family sold the team to Mark Attanasio -- without Selig, there are no Brewers and likely no Milwaukee baseball.

But while Selig and his statue-to-be are in the news today , I'm more fascinated by another longtime baseball executive.

It's not that there's any real news on Pat Gillick today. But in a column over the weekend in the Toronto Sun, Bob Elliott pointed out something about Gillick that is truly amazing.

We already know that Gillick was perhaps the best general manager of our generation, building playoff teams in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, winning back-to-back World Series with the Blue Jays and then winning it all again with the 2008 Phillies.

But here's the real kicker: Not one of the three teams Gillick left has made it to the playoffs even once since he's been gone. That's 15 years and counting since he stepped down as Jays GM after the 1994 season, 11 years and counting since he left the Orioles after 1998 and six years and counting with the Mariners.

Yes, the Phillies did make it back to the World Series under Ruben Amaro in 2009, but Gillick was still with the team as an influential advisor. And, as Elliott also pointed out, Gillick has committed to stay with the Phillies.

They want to keep him because of all that he adds.

I'm thinking they need to keep him because of what happens to teams when he leaves.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com