Thursday, June 28, 2007

JAYS-TWINS: LISTENING TO FRANK THOMAS CONNECT

Thursday -- Twins 8, Jays 5: When Frank Thomas connected for his 500th home run, Rogers was showing the same Sportsnet Connected that had been in a continuous loop since the pre-dawn hours. Nice work.

None of the Jays three TV partners was there to chronicle it, which is just nuts considering the Jays have hyped Thomas' countdown to 500 for weeks. Regardless, the game was only available to Rogers Digital subscribers, who got the local Minnesota broadcast on a free preview channel. (Nothing against those guys, they gave the feat the proper attention, but I've also seen about a half-dozen Twins regional broadcasts this year and still can't remember the play-by-play guy's name, he's that vanilla.)

True, it's an afternoon getaway day game, unlikely to get as big a rating as a weekend game vs. the Yankees (remember when the Jays used to have those?), but couldn't Rogers adjust the schedule, seeing as it owns the Blue Jays, for pity's sake. To add insult to injury, the game unravelled fast on the Jays. A.J. Burnett went berserk over a few ball-and-strikes calls by home plate ump Mark Wegner, which led to Thomas himself and John Gibbons also getting run in the all-but-the-crying stage of the game.

Talk about brutal; this and Gibbons blowing Tuesday's game, which was much more egregious, left the Jays with a split against a weak-hitting Twins club that didn't throw Cy Young in the four-game series.

At least Rogers' oversight meant, in theory, that more dedicated Jays fans had to tune in on the radio and hear Jerry Howarth call it: "... and listen to that ovation." There's the rub -- a lot of people could only listen to it.

Wednesday -- Jays 5, Twins 3: For one night, it was great to be young and a Jays fan.

Josh Towers goes six-plus innings to earn credit for a win -- he had the "at them" ball working. Meantime, an accredited baseball writer on the Yankees beat whose name shall be withheld here as a public service actually suggested Shea Hillenbrand would be "worth the shot" for the Yankees, given their first base woes.

When someone chronicling the Yankees actually believes SFH and his 600 OPS could help, that run of 12 straight playoff appearances is about good as done. (Oh, and we kind of half-joked back in spring training about what S.F.H. could do for A-Rod if they ever became teammates.)

S.F.H.'s latest departure, being designated for assignment by the L.A. Angels, isn't his own fault, of course, just like it wasn't his fault when the Jays turfed him last summer (and flipped him to the Giants for Jeremy Accardo, who delivered a four-out save Wednesday night). It's a matter of philosophical differences -- namely, the Angels' philosophy is that a .254 average with nearly no power or walks doesn't cut it for a corner infielder making $6 million.

(Last time Hardball Times did an update, S.F.H. had earned minus-2 Win Shares Above Bench. In other words, the Angels could have given his playing time to some random rookie or Triple-A callup, and got more production for about 5-10% the salary.)

Tuesday -- Twins 2, Jays 1: In extra innings, it's the manager's game. The Texan flat-out frittered away a tight game while having his best reliever, Casey Janssen, throw only two pitches and his second-best, Accardo, never pitch at all. This actually happened.

It was shock enough to see Jason Frasor come in for the Twins 10th after C.J. coaxed a double-play ball from his only batter, Michael Cuddyer, to end the ninth inning. Then Gibby The Genius topped that by turning over the 1-1 tie to Brian Tallet in the bottom of the 12th. Perhaps the same thing happens (the Twins worked across the winning run with three singles, the last by consummate professional hitter Jeff Cirillo with two out) vs. Accardo or Frasor, but the logic is baffling. You always put off using your weaker pitchers as long as possible.

How is that the manager could be more worried about having to turn over a lead to Tallet and/or Brian Wolfe than having one of them protect a tie, where there's a slimmer margin for error? Why preserve Accardo for a save opportunity that might never come? The answer is to that is three words long, and two are cover and arse. It was like he was afraid to go against convention.

It's possible that the Jays still lose if Janssen pitches through the 10th and/or Frasor comes in for the 11th. There should be no shame in losing a game that had great pitching and defence on both sides. (True, the Jays had only four hits, but after scoring 50 runs across the previous seven games, they were due for an evenout.) Instead, Gibbons failed to pull out all the stops, it led to the Jays losing, and in the words of Renee from Mallrats, "... and I go to sleep unfulfilled." Arrrrgh.

(Let's see what the good people at Fire Gibbons will have to say.)

Monday, 8:10 -- Jays 7, Twins 5: It's officially a roll when Adam Lind and Matt Stairs are robbing the other team of hits and runs.

Stairs also hit the game-winning homer in the eighth, putting the Jays on their way to being a game above .500 -- and bringing the bandwagoners out of their 2 1/2-month stint in an undisclosed location to start talking about wild card. That's about two weeks premature -- six games out of the wild card on June 26 is like being 12 out in the division, since it involves leapfrogging three or four other teams.

The only problem with Stairs' two-run homer in the eighth was that since Rod Black and Pat Tabler were really rolling along in their nine-inning rhapsody to small ball and how the Twins play like a National League team with all the bunting and basestealing.

True, that's the common belief, but this season American League teams on average have 45 steals, to 42 for those in the Quad-A league. After the Nye Mets, the next four most prolific teams in base thievery are each from the AL. Six of the bottom seven play in Quad-A -- of course, the one there is the Jays. Black and Tabler are smart enough guys, so why don't they say something that reflects some research? Besides, if anyone wants to go back to 1917 so they can live in the Dead Ball Era, that would also mean living in an age before penicillin. Sounds like fun.

Anywho, Roy Halladay fought through and the Jays got the breaks the team with the better pitcher should receive. Twins starter Kevin Slowey would have an easier time throwing his lukewarm fastball through the eye of a needle than busting it past a right-handed hitter on the inside corner.

CBC slow off the mark? The Toronto Star's Chris Zelkovich touches on a good point in his column today, criticizing the CBC for underplaying Dustin McGowan's bid for a no-hitter yesterday. It segues into whether the tradition of baseball announcers being coy when a pitcher has a no-hitter going really jibes with our short attention span society. It likely made sense in 1955, when there was an expectation people would follow the whole game, but these days, people will flip to another channel if there's no evident reason to stay with the game.

At the same time, people should be able to pick up on it themselves. This is the snob argument: Shouldn't people figure out by the reaction of the crowd to each out and the tone of the announcers that something extraordinary is happening?

(According to a comment left at the thread for the Rockies series, Hughson did mention it: "No sooner had he opened his mouth and puked out the jinx, then BOOM! Jeff 'I hit .239 because that's how I roll' Baker breaks it up.")

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to neatesager@yahoo.ca.

6 comments:

Tim said...

Not to harp overly on the same topic, but I emailed Chris Zelkovich today (yesterday, I suppose) after reading that column, and he was kind enough to get back to me. His point was much the same as yours - that while it's all well and good for baseball players and coaches to observe tradition, broadcasters have an obligation to report the story, and obviously a no-hitter in progress is generally the biggest story in any particular game. I don't agree that expecting people to pick up on the no-hitter without it being explicitly mentioned by the broadcast team is snobbish, per se; in the case of Sunday's game, CBC used long (~10 seconds) zooms on the "R H E" portion of the scoreboard that showed Colorado as having no hits, while the announcers talked about McGowan pitching a great game. If a person is not able to put two and two together, given that combination of input, I would hazard to guess that that person might not grasp the significance of a pitcher throwing a no-hitter in the first place. If the announcers want to mention it and risk the wrath of the portion of their audience that subscribes to the "jinx" theory, that's up to them, but it doesn't make sense to criticize them for choosing not to mention that the home pitcher is close to completing a no-hitter. It seems the same as criticizing someone for walking around instead of under a ladder.

sager said...

It's more Chris Z's point.... I'd wondered about it myself but never been able to articulate it.... it just seems like a silly ritual, but silly rituals are part of being a fan.

Anyway, what do I know, I'm just the lonesome loser with the blog.

Tyler King said...

It's not about the audience. Mike Wilner makes a great point about this - baseball players are some of the most superstitious athletes on the planet. If Dustin McGowan's no-hitter is blown in the ninth, and he later finds out you, the play-by-play man, said "no-hitter", he is never going to talk to you again. Odds are, plenty of players on the team will react similarly.

How then are you to give the audience the full picture if one hyphenated phrase put you in disfavour with the team?

Chris said...

I guess I thought they were trying not to use Accardo on Tuesday because he needed the rest, but looking back at the Jays box scores, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I also thought it was going to come back to bite the Twins that they brought in one of their lefty relievers to pitch to a guy in an obvious sac bunt situation, and then brought in their righty reliever for the next batter. I guess there's always the chance for a strikeout, but I would have just let the righty get the sacrifice out instead of wasting a pitcher.

Still a very fun game to watch from a pre-dominantly non-partisan viewpoint though.

Jim Burnett said...

Nate -- I hate Gibbon's managing style, but the losses in Minnesota were not his doing. Brian Tallet has been awesome this year, and if you can save your closer for the BOTTOM of the inning, it makes more sense. Home field advantage gives you the luxury of using your closer in the top of an inning to win the game. The Jays have an awesome bullpen, so there is no point of burning your closer.

sager said...

Well, that's the contradiction.... you have to get the lead to use your closer, but if you don't use your closer, you might not get the lead. And what about giving Janssen only one batter?