Sunday, July 15, 2007

JAYS-SAWX: IT'S MADNESS, SO SHOOT THE MESSENGERS

Sunday -- Jays 2, Sox 1: It's still hard to trust your own eyes after seeing Jesse Litsch (one earned run over six innings) make the Massholes shut up for about five minutes about how they have The Bestest Team Ever.

The shortstaffed Red Sox didn't play Jason Varitek or J.D. Drew. Regardless, Litsch indicated (a) he's smart; (b) he's got some hair on his peaches and (c) he knows how to field his position better than some 10-year major-league veterans. The real pinch for him was in the third, when he pounced on a bunt for a forceout at third, then speared a grounder from the next batter to start an inning-ending DP. He still hasn't shown that he can get through six or seven innings vs. any team which has seen him pitch before.

While we're here, it's time for Toronto fans to come up with something similar to the self-satisfied Fenway faithful's ritual of singing Sweet Caroline during the middle of the eighth inning. Sportsnet went out of its way to show that all weekend -- perhaps as a sop to the sellouts in Canada who all of sudden became Red Sox fans in the late '90s and earlier in this decade. What it says that Toronto collectively can't get off its ass and come up with a ritual, I can't begin to knowin'.

Saturday -- Sox 9, Jays 4: This is one of those scenarios which can only be resolved by lashing out at people who are not to blame. That's in keeping with the general mission to, as a friend once put it, "give Gifteds a bad name." So apologies in advance.

There was plenty to cause teeth-gnashing from the Jays: Two-for-11 with runners on base, Goober Gibbons leaving a sporadic Dustin McGowan in to cough up a two-run go-ahead home run to Jason Varitek after the Jays had tied the game in the sixth inning and a brutal blown call -- by Laz Diaz, how did you know? -- at second base. Oh, and just to rub it in, Eric Hinske homered against his old team to jack his average all the way to .194.

It's night like this that make TV baseball play-by-play as practised in this country all the more grating. This isn't meant to be an ad-hominem attack on Rogers Sportsnet's announcing team of Jamie Campbell and Pat Tabler. They seem like generally good Joes, but on this night their interpretation of bad broadcast practices is just tough to take.

Start with Campbell (who, by the way, has not won a fan at the Canadian-based Red Sox blog The Joy of Sox). It's a given he's a homer since Rogers and the Jays are one and the same. Still, there are people who take his boostering wrapped in bullflop analysis as gospel, which is kind of scary. Tonight, he said, "Dustin McGowan has been terrific so far," in the third inning of a game where David Ortiz had already hit a no-doubt home run.

A little later, it was, "You can see John McDonald has (home plate ump) Wally Bell's strike zone figured out." Next pitch, McDonald takes a called third strike, inning over. In fairness, it's possible Daisuke Matsuzaka just threw him a pitch he wasn't expecting. He's crafty like that.

Tabler outdid the baseball dilettante, though. Kevin Youkilis was at bat for the Sox and Sportsnet displayed a graphic that showed that he's third in the American League in on-base percentage after Ortiz and the Tigers' Magglio Ordóñez. Tabler commented, "Isn't it a surprise to see a couple of power hitters leading the league in that category -- usually it's a couple of leadoff guys."

It took a second for it to sink in: Sweet Caroline, that wasn't a rhetorical question. No, you never see that. Barry Bonds must be closing in on the career record for singles, not home runs, then. There were also two players involved in the game, Manny Ramírez and Frank Thomas, who have each led the AL in on-base percentage a time or two, and neither could outrun a slow turtle.

It's not unreasonable Pat Tabler would think that way. Ex-players always relate to their experience first and figure that facts are for losers. When he played 15-20 years ago leadoff hitters such as Tim Raines, Wade Boggs and Rickey Henderson often led the league in OBP. Tabler's not expected to have encyclopedic knowledge of baseball stats, but how about a little research. His analysis informs someone's understanding of baseball, so it's really irritiating to hear someone get paid, and paid well, to spread such brilliant bits of misinformation.

Oh, and how about Brian Tallet losing track of the runners and allowing an uncontested double steal during Boston's decisive five-run sixth inning Who knows what had him distracted. It couldn't have been an attractive woman sitting behind home plate, since that's not mathematically or scientifically possible in Boston.

Sunday, 2 — Sox righty Josh Beckett (12-2, 3.44, 1.14 WHIP) vs. Jesse Litsch (1-3, 4.74, 1.62 WHIP): Boston's ace vs. an apple-cheeked kid who doesn't even rate a headshot on ESPN.com -- forget this game. There, that should put the ziggy on Beckett, but probably not.

Friday -- Jays 6, Sox 5: It's hard to rejoice too much over beating the dynamic duo of Julian Tavarez and Kyle Snyder. Besides, Shaun Marcum (three earned runs over six) was due to get some run support, finally.

Weird: Julio Lugo stole second off Jeremy Accardo in the ninth, then remained nailed to the bag rather than try to tag up on Ortiz's deep fly ball for the penultimate out. No wonder he drives Boston fans nuts.

Thursday -- Sox 7, Jays 4: Three days of anticipation zapped in about five minutes -- it's like going on a blind date.

Roy Halladay (five runs over five, including a 41-pitch first inning) just ain't right these days, as John Gibbons would have put it back before the Jays kicked in for those elocution lessons. It's way too early to throw in the towel, but these four-game sets back-to-back at Fenway and the Stadium vs. the Evil Empires could be the final unravelling that will have all the know-it-alls and haters rubbing their hands in glee over those Same Old Jays.

Not us, though -- it's all about the finished product over 162 games and it's still going to be decent enough, even if decent isn't enough. Oh, and far be it for anyone to point out right now that it's odd how the Jays have to play a weekend set at Fenway, but the Red Sox won't have to reciprocate once all season. Strange, that.

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

6 comments:

Pete Toms said...

The randomness of sports....now Aaron Hill on the DL, although it is not anticipated that it will be extended ( although Jays mgt lacks credibility on this front ).

I'm gonna be pessimistic, Jays come from this trip with a 2-6 record. Hope I'm wrong.

sager said...

Hill's playing tonight, is he not? MLB GameDay lists him as the second baseman.

Pete Toms said...

Ok, I'm an idiot. Yes Hill is playing, I'm watching the friggin game right now.

I read speculation just before the break ( I think in the Globe ) that Hill's knee was hurting. This AM in the Transactions in The Citizen I am informed that Hill is on the DL. This PM in the Fantasy notes on ESPN I read that Hill is on the DL and that Adams has been called up. Well, don't believe everything you read, particulary if I wrote it!

Sorry, P.

P.S. I reiterate 2-6.

sager said...

Pete... I just found the story in today's Star, so again, it's friggin' weird it was reported that way.

4-1 after one. Doc doesn't have it tonight.

Markus said...

Speaking of Campbell, yesterday he graced us with this gem: "So it's the bottom of the sixth at Fenway, and it'll be Lugo, Crisp, Cora and hopefully no mora for Jesse Litsch." Thanks for aggravating me in the middle of a tense game, you little FancyLad.

Also, Campbell leads the major leagues (possibly all of pro sports) in awkward comments about players' physiques. (Watch for it next game on SN - it'll happen.) "Well, Rance, Daniel Cabrera is quite a specimen of a man isn't he? Boy, I'd like to take a ride on... whoops. Did I say that or just think it?"

sager said...

Rod Black tonight referred to Royce Clayton "riding a hot stick." That just sounds dirty.