It was really nice to see someone on another team go down on Tuesday night in the Bronx, with Jesse Carlson lurching off to the first base side of the mound and throwing a warning shot across his body, all the way behind the right-handed hitting Jorge Posada. Carlson is 160 lbs. soaking wet and did not back down. When Posada stepped in front of the plate and preened his peacock feathers, Carlson stepped towards him and gave it back. When Posada crossed home plate and threw an elbow, Carlson turned and called him out while walking towards a dugout full of angry millionaires. Mayhem ensued. The Jays were hit by a pitch six times in four games back in Toronto including Randy Ruiz in the face by Josh Towers, albeit with the bases loaded, making it unlikely that it was intentional. Nevertheless the Yankees swagger says nobody should be able to send a message to us. Here are some quotes from the Jays’ clubhouse last night.
“I was kind of just trying to do what I had to do,” Carlson said of his uncomfortable time at the bottom of the pile. “Things were kind of going so fast. I’ve never been involved in anything like that. It was a fastball in and I yanked it. It was a bad pitch. We’ve been hit a lot, but what are you going to do? What happened, happened. Hopefully it doesn’t carry on and one of our guys gets hurt. I don’t even know if I got tossed. I’m not sure. I’m probably one of the smallest guys in MLB and we were right near their dugout and I was hoping I got out of there all right. Somebody got in a shot and I didn’t get hurt. In the minor-leaguers I was involved in just a few bench-clearers, but nothing serious like that.”
“Hell no,” said John McDonald who was one of the first Jays on the scene, when asked if he was the one that landed the telling blow on Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. “It’s important to go out there and separate everybody. The guys that are involved, if they have a problem then they solve it but you just get out there and separate it as quick as you can so nobody gets hurt. That’s the last thing you want to have happen. Emotions ran high and obviously they weren’t happy with the way it played out. (Girardi’s) been in the game a lot longer than I have. Unless you’re the one that’s actually mad, you have to go out there and try and separate the guys. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt and a guy gets lost for the season. I just got a hold of Mark (Teixeira) and pulled him back and tried to make sure nobody else got on the bottom. On the ground is where all the injuries happen.”
“I missed it,” Roy Halladay said when asked whether he made it out of the clubhouse for the main event. “I was scrambling to get ready. It’s a shame but I think those are the types of things that could be avoided.”
On a personal note, I disagree with Halladay. I think if he had a bit if a mean streak it would complete him as the best pitcher in baseball.
“I was not paying attention, that was the last thing I expected,” Travis Snider said of his participation in the fracas. “I knew Posada was on base but I didn’t think anything was going to happen. I was a little late getting there and was able to kind of separate some things. It’s part of baseball.”
“There was intent,” catcher Rod Barajas. “It wasn’t like Jesse was in the way and Jorge was trying to avoid him. Jesse saw where he was and on the way by he threw an elbow. That’s what triggered the whole situation.
“He said ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that,’ ” Barajas explained of Posada’s reaction to the brush-back. “That’s all I heard. I’m standing in front of him to protect my pitcher.
“I’m not going over there to throw punches, be an instigator,” Barajas said of his approach to the fight. “By the time I reached there, you’ve got 15-20 guys on their team right in front of me. Once we got there, I just kind of lost track. I was just trying to get to my pitcher. I had no idea what was going on beside be, behind me. I heard Edwar Ramirez was dragging my chest protector trying to get me out. Basically, I’m trying to keep the peace. He’s my teammate. I’m protecting him. From what I’ve heard there were a few guys over there throwing punches. If two people have a problem you let them deal with it themselves. Everybody else is just there to get people away from each other. You don’t go into an altercation like that thinking you have to do something to hurt somebody. From what I heard there were a couple of (Yankees) that didn’t do that. It’s disappointing.”
However the best line of the post-game came from Brandon League. Coach Brian Butterfield used to be a Yankees minor-league instructor and has constantly regaled anyone that will listen regarding his positive influence on the development of at least one Yankee captain superstar middle infielder future Hall-of-Famer. Butter was asked jokingly if he was the guy that punched Joe Girardi. Before he could answer, League walked by and said, “No, Butter was busy hugging Jeter.” then walked out of the room.
On to the mailbag:
Is it just me or has JP disappeared off the face of the earth (not a bad thing)? I notice in the past three weeks that Cito is more the spokesperson for the team. Is this an organizational decision and a sign that JP is not going be around much longer? What are you hearing? Keep up the good work on the blog.
Brian M., Barrie
A: It’s not so much that Ricciardi has disappeared off the face of the earth, but he’s become less quotable in the U.S. media. For example when the Jays were on the field for batting practice at new Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Ricciardi sat in the dugout – as he usually does in N.Y. and Boston – and was approached by one, count them, one Japanese journalist. Usually the way it works, J.P. emerges from the tunnel and is swarmed by his U.S. high-profile East Coast media friends. However since most of these same friends have buried J.P. in the press in the last three weeks, they may feel a little chagrined in coming up and backslapping him now and quoting him about the unfairness of the T-O media and the impossibility of competing against the big boys of the AL East. The organizational dependence on J.P. as its face peaked back in the winter of 2003-04 after the Jays unexpectedly won 86 games. It has now reached its nadir.
Q: So Cito wants fans to come out and support his ball club? Where does this guy live? He puts Jose Bautista out day after day, pencils in Kevin Millar against lefties when his offence and defence is worse than Lyle Overbay’s, waits until pitchers are up to their eyeballs in trouble before getting the bullpen up, rarely moves runners over with a bunt, rarely uses the hit-and-run, etc. If he wants people at the Centre why doesn’t he put out the best he has, play some of the call-ups to see what they have, maybe give Vernon a break (from the boos), maybe show that he cares. Is he to blame for this awful team? No. But doesn’t he share some of the responsibility?
Bill Canale, Brockville, Ont.
A: Cito’s mistake is the same one I hear from many, many players and too many front office people all the time. The erroneous belief that fans somehow “owe” their support to their home team because the players are trying and playing for them and so they should buy tickets and come out to support them. That may be the way it works in some places (e.g. Leaf Nation) but it is not the way it should be. People have a limited amount of money to spend on entertainment, including movies, pro sports, participation sports, etc.
I’m not so sure I agree with you that Gaston should be playing some of the call-ups. At positions, post September 1, that would include only catcher Kyle Phillips and infielder Joe Inglett. The scrappy Inglett has been hurt, but otherwise was playing a lot of right field – which is clearly not his best position. Phillips behind the plate is not a part of the Jays’ future. Instead, I believe that the Jays should be playing their best defenders around the diamond which includes Overbay every day at first base, John McDonald somewhere in the infield, Lind at DH, Travis Snider in left and Bautista in right. But, yes, Gaston does share some of the responsibility. When the team was doing well at the end of 2008 he was given a lot of the credit. When they’re not doing well, he takes some responsibility. But he’s not the guy responsible for what happened to B.J. Ryan, or dumping Scott Rolen and Alex Rios.
Q: As an overseas Jays fan I perhaps a different perspective but I have to say I was slightly bemused by Cito’s call to arms to Jays fans in the face of pitiful attendances as the season comes to a close. Now, no ball club is entitled to success and another season of rank mediocrity does not necessarily justify fans voting with their feet. But how, in all seriousness, can Cito and the Jays management not expect this to happen? The Jays transfer policy this season has been simple. Offload players to lower the salary burden. There is no other aspect to this policy. There is no planned rebuilding, no planned marquee signings, just a steady exodus of talent to generate net profits. In short, there is no intention at all to turn this ball club into a World Series contender. How can they even say to Roy Halladay with a straight face that they intend to be a contender when they ship out guys like Scott Rolen and Alex Rios and replace them with journeymen (or no one)?
The sad reality is that the Jays are now nothing but a triple AAA feeder club for proper ball clubs. An attendance of 11,000 is pretty decent for a triple AAA side so surely management should be pleased. Forgive my very British sarcasm but am I alone in thinking this way?
Arnie Siva, London, UK
A: I honestly feel that Jays management entered the 2009 season with two conflicting, often conflicted trains of thought. One was the desperate call of the GM to give him more money to help him compete with the Yankees and Red Sox that was refused by ownership that had finally come to realize that the plan was not working and that throwing good money after bad in 2009 was not a solution. While J.P. Ricciardi was on his Quixotic mission, tilting at AL East windmills, ownership under Paul Beeston’s guidance just wanted to quietly plod through ’09 surviving as best as possible, finding out which young pitchers would be part of the future while cutting bait with anyone that wasn’t. There are two reasons for doing what Jays’ ownership has done this year. One is to prepare the franchise to be sold. Two is to reach rock-bottom on the field and start building for a run at a World Series. It’s 50-50 as to which one is the truth but I think all fans are hoping it’s option two.
It’s why they can afford to stay with Gaston one more year until he chooses to retire. It’s why they don’t need to go out immediately and sign up a Terry Ryan/Pat Gillick type of GM with an established track record for 2010. Depending on the trade package they get for Halladay, they will be better in 2010 and will start building attendance back up.
Q: Hi Richard. I have been hearing a lot of frustrated fans who are concerned that the Blue Jays could be moved? I know that Jays haven't been doing good over the past 16 seasons, but there are teams that are in worse shape. Do you think they will stay in Toronto for good? I've been a fan for many years. I hated to see the Expos go. Are fans just nervous because of what happened in Montreal?
Chris McGarry, Charlottetown
A: Sold yes. Moved no. I believe that with the size of the Toronto market and with the history of the franchise and its fan base there is no way that the Jays will be moved out of the country. The Jays ownership has no doubt been streamlining the operation over the past 11 months. That may be to sell it internally as viable to Rogers’ shareholders as much as to sell it to any other outside group. But don’t discount the possibility of new Canadian ownership in the next few years. Interim club president for life Paul Beeston is a member of the Order of Canada and as such feels a real responsibility in keeping the Jays in Canada. It was the same patriotic feeling that Charles Bronfman had in Montreal and is why he took a ridiculously cheap offer from the Claude Brochu consortium rather than more lucrative American ones at the time back in the early ‘90s and why there was a clause that the Jays could not be sold and moved for a decade after he left.
Q: Hi Richard,
Well it looks like the only Jays story right now is the dismal attendance at the Dome. How do you feel Toronto fans compare to those in other cities, in terms of team support (attendance, crowd spirit, etc), and team knowledge (knowing something about the game strategy, and the organization besides the starting lineup)? Do you think that this is a bandwagon town that will only support a winner (unless its the Leafs)?
Dave Glen, Toronto
A: I know there are some readers that hate it every time I make an Expos reference, but the fact is I spent 22 years of my major-league baseball life with that organization and am finishing my 15th at The Star. In that light I think I do pretty well in keeping ancient history out of my mailbag answers. But in this case, I digress (again). I always remember the explanation regarding sports fans that the eccentric, obstreperous, cantankerous Expos’ reliever Mike Marshall told writers back in 1973 when he was asked about fans not being supportive enough at Jarry Park.
He said that cheering and booing at sports events are the result of something missing in your own life. The louder the stadium, according to Marshall, the worse the quality of life in the city. Sports fanaticism is the result of a void in your own personal life. Marshall preferred quiet fans because, according to his theories (he was a Michigan St. University graduate in kinesiology) Canadian sports fans were more quiet because they were more well-adjusted…well those that aren’t drunk, anyway.
As for my opinion on Jays fans compared to those in other ballparks, I believe that in terms of percentage, given a similar crowd of 30,000, I would say that there is a higher percentage of “home-team fans” as compared to “baseball fans” than in other parks. There is a core baseball fanbase in Toronto with an intense knowledge of the entire major league scene but there are more fans like that given a similar attendance in other parks. Toronto is not necessarily a “bandwagon” town but it is a “big-event” town.
Q: Please help me understand. Why does it seem likely Marc Rzepczynski will not be in the rotation next year? He has really impressed me, not in the Halladay staff ace way, but in the fact that every time he goes out there, you almost always get 6-7 innings, and three or less ER. I think he more than deserves the fifth spot, no offence to Richmond, but I feel Rzepczynski has been way more consistent. With a 3.67 ERA, 60 Ks and on 30 BBs, and only 51 hits in 61.1 innings, am I missing something? Because I think you can get way more potential out of the 23 year old rookie outperforming the 30-year-old second year player. Again, no offence to Richmond, but realistically…
Alex Lawson, Brampton
A: I believe it’s too early to make any speculation on Rzepczynski’s chances for next year. He and Brett Cecil are spending a month working one-on-one with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg in their own personal Instructional League while travelling with the Jays and not having to worry about pitching. It’s a brilliant concept. Why hand these two guys off to a minor-league instructor that has not seen any of their major-league travails and successes? Instead, Arnie gets to work with them on what they need to correct.
In any case, they have not said a lot about any of their starting pitching guys other than Richmond and Romero because those two guys are being allowed to finish the year in the rotation. Taking Halladay out of the rotation in an off-season trade, I would rate the Jays’ starting candidates for next year as follows: 1-Shaun Marcum; 2-Romero; 3-Guy they get for Halladay; 4-Dustin McGowan; 5-Rzepcyzynski; 6-Richmond; 7-Brian Tallet; 8-David Purcey; 9-Cecil; 10-Zach Stewart. That doesn’t count Jesse Litsch who likely won’t be ready for next Opening Day. McGowan is questionable because of all his setbacks but has started to throw again.
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