Thursday, June 08, 2006


One Down, Two to Go

With the season a little over one-third completed, the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in a most familiar position---a dog fight with the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The object of the exercise is to finish the season in a position to play in the playoffs---no matter what it is---wild card, first, second---anywhere, but with the right to play.

The enigmatic Yankees are supposed to be spiraling downward, according to many serious American baseball pundits. Their bullpen is in chaos, they have too many players ailing and injured. And yet they stand atop the division, looking down at the rest, gloating in their disarray. They have a way of finding new heroes to replace the old. The current Bronx favourite is Melky Cabrera---and the fans like his style—calling it “the Milky Way”. Yikes! He snatched a home run away from Manny Ramirez recently, to preserve a victory over the Red Hose---creating instant legendary status.

The Jays continue to hover nearby. They will face the Yanks and the Red sox many times before October, and they will all have ample opportunity to beat up on each other. It will be a matter of survival, perhaps not necessarily of the fittest.

Jays’ fans are thrilled with the off-season acquisitions, in particular---Overbay, Glaus, Molina and B. J. Ryan for starters. With the game on the line, Ryan storms in from the bullpen like a bull into the arena. The bull’s chances for survival are not good, whereas Ryan has been superb for the Jays.

He has brought a sense of confidence to the team, a trust that the job will be done. At six feet, six inches, and a little more than two hundred and fifty pounds, peering down from that mound of dirt, he commands attention. There is a spark of enthusiasm every time the bullpen door opens and Manager Gibbons sends him out to work.

There were doubts about the young Jays middle infielders before the season started, and those doubts still linger. The Jays are now employing Edgardo Alfonso at second base, and he recently turned in a gem of a play to save a game against the Orioles in the late innings. Alfonso has a career .978 fielding statistic, most adequate. His current performance at the plate is puzzling, to say the least. For many years he starred with the Mets, and established outstanding batting statistics in New York. His career batting average is .285, very respectable. Unfortunately, he has struggled in the batters’ box with the Jays, hovering around the .100 mark. Many National League pitchers fare much better.

Doc Halladay has again pitched superbly, recovering nicely from the broken leg which shelved him for most of last year’s season. Chacin has six wins, Lilly and Janssen five apiece. But the Jays stand 24th in the overall statistic of Earned Run Average, critical to success. Hopeful fans watch the progress of starter A. J. Burnett, as he attempts to find his way back into the rotation.

The Jays are Number One in hitting in the Major Leagues, led by Alex Rios. He has established himself as one of the premier hitters in the Bigs, a threat every time he steps to the plate. Like a young Griffey, or a Vladimir Guerrero, he hits with power to all fields, and has an arm that is well respected in right field. Johnson, Hillenbrand and the new big boys also contribute significantly to the Jays’ success at the plate.

But it all comes down to pitching, pitching, pitching. The Jays must get quality innings from all of their hurlers to lock up a post-season position. Everyone knows that. It just isn’t quite that easy.

To wrap up. Sincere apologies to all readers for the tardiness of this article. I was hauled off to Pearson in Toronto, shuttled to Fort Lauderdale, and dragged onto a cruise ship. It finally docked in Rome, almost two weeks (and ten extra pounds) later. I kept screaming: “No more lobster, no more Alaskan King Crab!” To no avail.

Thank God for channel changers at this time of year. Stanley Cup finals, NBA finals, The French Open in tennis, always golf, a little Nascar, and the CFL pre season is in full swing! Not a bad thing at all! Tough to get off the couch!

A trip to Rogers Centre is in the works. Jays and New York Mets, and a chance to see Carlos Delgado, who is also having a fine season. Sunday, June 25th. Field Level seats and Franklin Coach for $ 60. Call 399-2278 for details.

James Hurst

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