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627-game-thread-they-still-play-baseball-in-canada | June | 2008 Articles

2008 Archives

6/27 Game Thread: They Still Play Baseball in Canada?

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So apparently the Blue Jays have had a few down years since beating the pants off us in the 1992 World Series, but at least one thing will be the same: Cito Gaston. Gaston roomed with Hank Aaron and was hired by Bobby Cox, so he actually has more connection to us than you'd think. And tonight's pitcher, Savannah native Dustin McGowan, is one of the few Georgia prep stars we didn't draft. Actually, they have possibly the best pitching staff in the majors, top to bottom, with Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Jesse Litsch. Their bullpen has been phenomenal too: closer B.J. Ryan is of course a star when he's healthy, and Scott Downs, Jesse Carlson, and Brian Tallet each have an ERA+ of 199 or better, and that ain't easy to do. Fortunately for us, their offense isn't great, and that's a big reason that ex-manager John Gibbons got the boot in favor of Cito. The team never had a realistic shot at the division with the Yankees and Red Sox to contend with, and even their wild card hopes were slim at best entering the season, but Gibbons took the fall for the GM who was responsible for the raised expectations, former Billy Beane lieutenant J.P. Ricciardi. Ricciardi has handed out a lot of questionable contracts over the last few years, from Vernon Wells (who's been doing his decline-phase Andruw Jones impression) to underperforming prima donna Alex Rios to the rarely-healthy Burnett to the atrociously overrated David Eckstein to a Frank Thomas extension followed by an asinine DFA this spring. And their farm system's pretty bare. In my opinion, J.P. has earned a layoff of his own; we'll see if Gibbons's firing is a harbinger of future pink slips to come. In any case, their biggest problem is a lack of power. The team has a total of 57 homers, which is good for 12th out of 14 AL teams. (The Braves have 78, 10th in the NL.) Their team slugging percentage is .385, 12th in the AL; ours is .420, 5th in the NL. They're not terrible at getting on base, as they're 4th in the AL with a .340 OBP, while we're 3rd in the NL with a .347 OBP. They're averaging 4.18 runs a game while we're averaging 4.56 runs a game. They're in a tougher division than we are, so it's quite possible they're a better team than we are. But hopefully Bobby will be able to remember some things about Cito he didn't remember in 1992, and we'll be able to exploit a weakness or something, or maybe just homer them to death. It should be a good series. We'll be pitching the Scrabble champion tonight, Jair Jurrjens. (As long as you can use one of someone else's letters in the bottom row, you can put the first "J" in his name on a double-letter square in the bottom row, then spell U,R,R, put a blank for the second J on the triple-word score square, then E,N,S, and you score 66 points, plus an extra 50 if you used all 7 letters in your tray.) Let's go get 'em.
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