Monday, February 02, 2009

The ATJs report: Determined to win this dork-o-rama

One of us is owner of the the all-time Toronto Blue Jays team — the ATJs — in the Historical Sim League (SHL). Other owners include HDNet's Roy Firestone (Orioles),'s Jonah Keri (Expos), Kansas City Star writer and blogging god Joe Posnanski (Indians), godfather of Sabermetrics, Bill James (Red Sox) and Curt Schilling (Pirates), who has struck out 3,116 more major-league batters than any of us will. So how about those Blue Jays?

The secret handshake with Jays fans is realizing the 1980s generation of players were the team, not the 1992-93 back-to-back World Series teams.

The Jays in those days, Jesse and Lloyd and Rance and Garth and Er-nie, Er-nie! toiled down at the Mistake by the Lake, with its rock-hard artificial turf, cramped clubhouses and the aluminum bleachers which did not face home plate. They wore funny blue-and-white hats and powder blue pyjamas with all the dignity, as was the style at the time, with all the dignity one could muster. It is a good nostalgia wallow to see some of the 1980s players fuelling the ATJs' early-season rise to first place in its division, with a 12-6 record after 18 games. That is only one game off the best record in all sim baseball, held by Schilling's Pirates.

The ATJs manager, to quote Casey Stengel, wants it known he couldna done it without the players. The formula which only gets the real-life Jays so far in the current AL East, pitching, solid fielding and sporadic run production, is working in the Expansion 3 group. They actually have a different leader in each of the six Triple Crown categories, which speaks to their balance.

The division consists of Arizona/Colorado D-Rox, the Marlin/Rays (an amalgam of the two Florida teams) and Toronto's 1977 expansion cousins, the Seattle Mariners (dead last at 5-13). The D-Rox are 10-8, good for second.

Jimmy Key (3-1, 3.19, 1.16 WHIP) has emerged as a solid No. 3 starter after Dumb and Doctor, the 1-2 punch of Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay, . In his most recent start, Key went the route on a seven-hitter, striking out 10, to beat Florida/Tampa Bay and, wait for it, Marlins/Rays starter A.J. Burnett. (The big blow in that one was a three-run homer by leadoff man Lloyd Moseby.)

Fourth starter Dave Stieb, has been slower to come around, but did win his last start. Tom Henke is tied with the league lead with six saves.

Hitting-wise, Moseby is leading the club with a .917 on-base-plus-slugging and team-high 14 runs scored. Tony Fernandez, batting .288/.377/.407 out of the No. 9 spot, has also proven to be a good table-setter.

The seven spots in between them are, uh, problematic. Roberto Alomar has cooled off, which might be the effect of being one of the only players on four different SHL teams (he's also on Firestone's Orioles, Poz's Indians and the Padres, owned by Geoff Young of Ducksnorts.) The ballcubs is is 20th or worse in the SHL in almost every offensive stat, except stolen bases (with 35 base swipes, they're third).

Carlos Delgado
has been a big bat out of the 3-hole, slugging .554, while George Bell is cleaning up with 18 RBI after 18 games despite some execrable rate stats (.225/.230/.422.) At least this group is opportunistic. A good case-in-point came April 19 in Chicago, when Delgado ended in an eight-pitch battle with Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown by hitting a two-out, two-strike, walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win over the all-time Chicago Cubs.

That isn't going to happen every day, so the skipper has find some winning combination in right field and third base, which make up the 5-6 spots in the order. A
n Alex Rios/Joe Carter quasi-platoon has been installed in right while Jesse Barfield gets some swings in down at Triple-A Las Vegas. Over at third, the original professional hitter, Rance Mulliniks, might yet push Troy Glaus into a platoon role.

It has been a lot of fun following this. All of this is couched in the acknowledgement that it is a dork-o-rama, but for a Jays diehard, this been a joy. Thanks for listening.

Schilling's masterstroke

Curt Schilling gets a slow clap for choosing to be owner of the Pirates, even though he never played for the franchise.

It's a downtrodden franchise on account of those 16 consecutive losing seasons, but it dates back to the 19th century and it has employed some all-time great players. Their regular lineup has six Hall of Famers, seven if you count Bill Mazeroski, who's in there somewhat dubiously:
  1. Honus Wagner, shortstop
  2. Paul Waner, rightfield
  3. Barry Bonds, centrefield
  4. Willie Stargell, first base
  5. Ralph Kiner, right field
  6. Jason Kendall, catcher
  7. Pie Traynor, third base
  8. Bill Mazeroski, second base
Some would say that it was disloyal on Schilling's part. The word "shrewd" seems fairer.

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