Archive for May, 2007

King Carlos

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sure, it may not be breaking news. But, for the first time in three years, utilityman Howie Clark put on a Toronto Blue Jays uniform Wednesday night, suiting up to play in place of injured third baseman Troy Glaus. Clark has always been a favourite of this fan — dating back to his first ever month with the club. He certainly made a positive first impression with the Blue Jay faithful back in 2003, and it all started with a 2-for-3 performance in his Toronto debut on May 28 of that season. Clark went on to hit safely in nine of his first 10 games, posting a .536 (15-for-28) average during that span. Perhaps his best game came on June 10 when he went 4-for-4 with a pair of runs scored during a 13-8 Toronto win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

DelgadoThat game also featured a three-run home run by Carlos Delgado, which marked the Jays first baseman’s 20th of the season. The three runs driven in, meanwhile, gave him 70 on the year up to that point. That contest against the Pirates came in the middle of a stretch that saw Delgado collect at least one RBI in eight straight games (he compiled 17 RBIs overall).

After recording a franchise-record 32 runs batted in during the month of June, Delgado entered July with 89 RBIs and had a legitimate shot at challenging Hank Greenberg’s pre-All-Star game record of 103, which he set back in 1935. Though he fell slightly short (97), the left-handed slugger still became one of just nine players in Major League history to record 90 RBIs before the All-Star game.

At the conclusion of the ’03 campaign, Delgado found himself atop the American League leaderboard with a career-high 145 RBIs, becoming just the second Blue Jay (George Bell) in franchise history to lead the AL in that category. Not so fast, though. Before the Blue Jays closed out their best season (86-76) since 1998, Delgado achieved something that no other Toronto hitter had ever accomplished.

On September 25, 2003, Delgado enjoyed the highlight of his season by slugging four home runs in a 10-8 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at SkyDome. In doing so, he became just the sixth player in Major League history to manage four long balls in a game in consecutive at-bats. Still, he somehow fell short (#2) in voting for the AL MVP honours in ’03. That award, coincidentally, was given to the man who stood at third base at Rogers Centre on Wednesday evening.

No, not Howie Clark.

Right-hander Jesse Litsch lasts just two-thirds of an inning in his start Wednesday night, surrendering five earned runs to put the Blue Jays behind early … Trailing 6-5 in the ninth, Scott Downs gives up three more runs to the Yanks, and Toronto falls 10-6 … Alex Rios, the Jays’ MVP so far this season (with apologies to Aaron Hill), smacks his team-leading 12th homer of the season … Roy Halladay returns to the mound for the Blue Jays tomorrow, as he takes on Mark Buehrle in what could end up being the fastest game in Major League history. For the record, that would be 51 minutes, set during a 6-1 New York win over Philadelphia in a National League contest in 1919. Alright, might be a little far-fetched …

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No-no? No. At least, not yet …

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

They say third time’s the charm. However, that sure wasn’t the case for Dave Stieb in 1989. Though no one was more ‘due’ to record a no-hitter, Stieb was denied for a third straight time on August 4 against the Yankees that season.

Stieb89The year before, 1988, Toronto’s ace right-hander gave new meaning to the term ‘heartbreak’ when he endured two near-misses at recording his first career no-hitter. Unbelievably, the two occurrences came in back-to-back starts (Sept. 24 at CLE & Sept. 30 vs. BAL), and Stieb became just the sixth pitcher in Major League history to record two consecutive one-hitters. Even more remarkable was the fact that he lost both no-no’s with two out (and two strikes!) in the ninth inning.

That set the stage for Stieb’s third attempt at recording the elusive no-hitter. With the New York Yankees in town (August 4) to play in the new SkyDome, Stieb actually took a perfect game into the ninth inning this time, with the Blue Jays holding a 2-0 lead. With 48,789 fans on their feet, Stieb struck out pinch-hitters Hal Morris and Ken Phelps to come within one out of a perfect game. But, it wasn’t to be. With a 2-and-0 count, Yankee center-fielder Roberto Kelly doubled to left to put an end to Stieb’s bid at perfection.

The third time was certainly not the charm for Dave Stieb on that day. As for the fourth time, however …

Whether strategically planned or not, Alex Rios lifts a one-out fly ball to the perfect spot — Johnny Damon’s direction — to drive home the winning run on Tuesday night in a 3-2 Jays’ victory … With the score knotted at one in the seventh inning, Aaron Hill excites the crowd by recording the first straight steal of home by a Blue Jay since Raul Mondesi accomplished the feat back on April 17, 2001 (also against the Yankees) … Jesse Litsch and Tyler Clippard (combined age — 44 years, 6 months, 6 days) square off at Rogers Centre Wednesday night. For the record, their dual age leaves them one month and 20 days younger than that of former Blue Jay Roger Clemens, who will likely make his season debut next Monday …

Winfield wanted

Monday, May 28, 2007

With May quickly coming to a close, it simply makes sense now to reflect on the most infamous moment during the career of “Mr. May”, Dave Winfield. In all fairness, that title, which was bestowed upon him by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, was shed in grand fashion when Winfield helped lead the Toronto Blue Jays to their first World Series title in 1992.

But well before those heroics, Winfield was already aWinfield1 household name in Toronto — even if it was for all the wrong reasons. On August 4, 1983, Winfield — a New York Yankee at the time — struck a seagull with a warmup toss between innings. Unfortunately, the bird was killed in the process, and a short delay occurred while a Blue Jays ball boy wrapped it up in a towel and removed it from the playing field. Though Winfield didn’t know it at the time, that would simply be the start of a debacle that would later be dubbed “Gull-Gate”.

Following the contest, a 3-1 Yankee victory, Winfield was arrested by Toronto police who believed the right-fielder had killed the bird on purpose. The future hall-of-famer claimed this to be untrue. As did his manager, Billy Martin, who made the following statement after the game: “They (police) wouldn’t say that if they’d seen the way he’s been throwing. He hasn’t hit the cutoff man all year.”

Still, Winfield was taken to a Toronto police station on charges of cruelty to animals. Though the charges were dropped the following day, he would be greeted with a chorus of boos during each visit to Toronto over the next several years. Interestingly, he attempted to make amends during the offseason by donating a portrait of a seagull that was auctioned off at the annual Easter Seals dinner in Toronto. The portrait actually raised $32,000.

However, it may not have been until he delivered his famous 11th-inning double in Game 6 of the ’92 World Series that Winfield truly made peace with Toronto fans. One thing is for certain: On that day he helped the birds — the Blue Jays — achieve something the organization had never done before — become world champions.

Dustin McGowan turns in the best start of his career Monday night against one of the stronger lineups in the Major Leagues. The 25-year-old righty holds the Yankees scoreless through seven innings and leaves with a 7-2 lead in the eighth … Lyle Overbay enjoys a 3-for-5 night at the plate, raising his average to .270. In the last five games, the Jays’ first baseman has raised his average 28 points by going a combined 11-for-24 (.458) … As for Frank Thomas? His 0-for-2 night leaves him 9-for-62 (.145) over his last 21 games … Shaun Marcum-Andy Pettitte, Tuesday night at Rogers Centre …

Green streaks

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Heading into Sunday’s series finale against the Twins, right-fielder Alex Rios had hit safely in each of his previous seven games, posting a .536 (15-for-28) average during that span to raise his season mark to .309. The 26-year-old also opened the 2007 season by hitting safely in his first 11 contests. That currently stands as the Jays’ highest mark so far this year.

SgreenIn the team’s 30-year history, 12 different players have managed to compile hitting streaks of 20 games or more. Two of those players — Vernon Wells and Reed Johnson — are still members of the Jays. Both accomplished the feat in 2003, each hitting safely in precisely 20 straight contests. Impressively, teammate Mike Bordick did the same that year, giving Toronto three players with hit streaks of 20 games for the first time in franchise history.

At 26 games, John Olerud and Shannon Stewart jointly hold the second-longest hitting streak by a Toronto Blue Jay. Stewart turned the trick from August 1-29, 1999, during which time he batted .342 (39-for-114). During that stretch, Stewart went nine straight games where he recorded just a single base hit. Olerud, meanwhile, compiled his 26-gamer during the 1993 campaign — the year in which he batted .363 to become the first Blue Jay to win the American League batting title. The streak lasted from May 26 – June 22, and Olerud batted .435 (40-for-92) during that span. On the day before the streak ended, Olerud went 4-for-4 against the New York Yankees to raise his season average to .411 (71 games into the season).

Though he made a valiant effort, Stewart fell two games shy of matching the Jays’ franchise mark in 1999, which, ironically, was set by teammate Shawn Green that same season. Green hit safely in 28 straight from June 29 – July 31, batting .366 (41-for-112) during that stretch. On July 31 against the Detroit Tigers, Green extended the mark to 28 games with a 2-for-4 performance that included his 30th home run of the year. He was officially halfway to Joe Dimaggio’s Major League-record 56-game hitting streak. However, that would be as close as he would get, as the following day Green went hitless in the series finale against the Tigers at SkyDome. Interestingly, that day — August 1 — marked the beginning of Stewart’s streak.

Here are the 12 players with 20-plus game hitting streaks:

1. Shawn Green — 28 games (1999)

T2. John Olerud — 26 games (1993)

T2. Shannon Stewart — 26 games (1999)

T4. George Bell — 22 games (1989)

T4. Carlos Delgado — 22 games (2000)

T6. Damaso Garcia — 21 games (1983)

T6. Lloyd Moseby — 21 games (1983)

T6. Dave Martinez — 21 games (2000)

T9. Damaso Garcia — 20 games (1982)

T9. Vernon Wells — 20 games (2003)

T9. Mike Bordick — 20 games (2003)

T9. Reed Johnson — 20 games (2003)

Near no-no

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Though Dave Stieb became famous — and rightfully so — for his trio of near misses at recording his first no-hitter, he wasn’t the first to endure such heartbreak — just ask Jim Clancy.

Clancy, an original Blue Jay who was selected from the Texas Rangers in the expansion draft in 1976, became the first Toronto pitcher to flirt with a no-hitter, doing so on September 28, 1982. In his second-to-last start of the season, Clancy took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins in the first game of a doubleheader at Exhibition Stadium.

Jim_clancy_autographBefore Randy Bush stepped to the plate to lead off the ninth, Clancy had retired each of the previous 24 batters in order, including Tom Brunansky, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti three times apiece. However, Bush would end the streak by stroking a single to right field to become Minnesota’s first baserunner on the day. Fittingly, Clancy then induced Ron Washington to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play, leaving him just one out away from a complete-game shutout. Despite walking pinch-hitter Randy Johnson (no, not THE Randy Johnson), Clancy got Bobby Mitchell to ground into a force-out to end the game.

Clancy’s counterpart, Frank Viola, managed to record a complete game as well during the Blue Jays’ 3-0 win that day. Remarkably, it took just 1:33 to put Game 1 of the doubleheader in the books, a mark that still stands as the shortest nine-inning home game in Jays’ franchise history.

Unfortunately for Clancy, that would be the closest he would come to recording a no-hitter. Dave Stieb on the other hand …

Home run king

Friday, May 25, 2007

With his 494th career home run on Friday night, Frank Thomas moved past Lou Gehrig and former Blue Jay Fred McGriff for 21st on the all-time list. Thus, though he’s played just 46 games for Toronto, Thomas now has more career homers than anyone who has ever donned a Blue Jay uniform.

Before Friday night, of course, that title was jointly held by McGriff, who collected 125 of his 493 career long balls as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Before being shipped to the San Diego Padres in perhaps the most famous trade in Blue Jay history, McGriff averaged 31 home runs during his four full seasons in Toronto (1987-90), including an American League-leading 36 in 1989.

Dave Winfield, meanwhile, is No. 3 on the list. Though he spent just one year in Toronto, he will never be forgotten by the Blue Jay faithful — not after playing an integral role in bringing Toronto its first World Series title in 1992. Overall, 26 of Winfield’s 465 career home runs came as a Blue Jay.

The ever-controversial Jose Canseco is No. 4. After years ofJosecanseco pummelling Toronto pitching, Canseco joined the Blue Jays as a free agent in 1998, and promptly amassed a career-high 46 home runs. During a homestand in September, Canseco homered in four straight games, including a 451-foot shot into the 500 Level on Sept. 5 against the Boston Red Sox. Of the 13 home runs hit into the 500 Level, three of them have come off the bat of Canseco (two occurred as a Blue Jay opponent).

Of course, Carlos Delgado is the most acclaimed home run hitter to ever wear a Toronto uniform. The left-handed slugger compiled a franchise-record 336 long balls during his 11 seasons as a Blue Jay. But, for the purposes of this list, Delgado sits at No. 5 with 410 career home runs entering play Saturday night. Here’s the Top 10:

1. Frank Thomas*, 494 (7)

2. Fred McGriff, 493 (125)

3. Dave Winfield, 465 (26)

4. Jose Canseco, 462 (46)

5. Carlos Delgado*, 410 (336)

6. Joe Carter, 396 (203)

7. Shawn Green*, 323 (119)

8. Cecil Fielder, 319 (31)

9. Raul Mondesi, 271 (66)

T10. George Bell, 265 (202)

T10. Troy Glaus*, 265 (46)

* – denotes player still active

() – brackets signify # of home runs hit in a Toronto uniform

Scoreless in Seattle … err, Toronto

Thursday, May 24, 2007

In a season filled with unpleasant surprises thus far, reliever Jeremy Accardo has been a ray of light for the Toronto Blue Jays. The right-hander extended his streak to 21.0 scoreless innings to start the season Thursday night, working the final frame to pick up the save — his fifth of the season — against the Orioles. That leaves him just 2.0 innings shy of tying the Blue Jays’ franchise record, which was set by Paul Quantrill in 2001.

Quantrill_1Quantrill’s streak extended across 17 games and lasted from April 3 – May 10. Impressively, the right-hander did not issue a single walk during that stretch, which saw him face 79 batters overall. Of course, all streaks must come to an end, and Quantrill’s expired on May 10 against the Oakland Athletics. With the score knotted at seven in the top of the sixth inning, Quantrill came on in relief of Lance Painter and immediately got John Jaha to fly to center. However, that would be the only out he would record, as the next five Oakland batters reached base, including Miguel Tejada, who smacked a three-run homer to make it 10-7. And just like that, Quantrill was the owner of a 1.54 ERA.

Overall, Roger Clemens hold the Blue Jays’ franchise mark with 33.0 consecutive scoreless frames, which he accomplished between August 20 and September 5 of the 1998 campaign. That stretch included three straight complete games, during which he allowed just eight hits and struck out 31 batters.

Roy Halladay, meanwhile, owns the team record for consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. His mark of 41.0 straight innings was set between September 1 – 22, 2003. Halladay recorded complete-game wins in four of the first five games during that stretch, including a remarkable 1-0, 10-inning affair against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 6. At the end of the month, it became clear that Halladay had put an exclamation point on his first Cy Young season.

Partners in crime

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Including last night’s 6-4 victory over the Orioles, right-hander A.J. Burnett has now picked up the win in each of his last three starts, improving his record to 5-3 on the season. With his injury problems behind him (hopefully), it appears Burnett is now ready to be the true No. 2 man in Toronto’s rotation. Between himself and teammate Roy Halladay, who is healing quickly following his recent appendectomy, the two starters have combined for nine wins so far this year. That ranks fourth (tied with Tigers) in the American League among team’s top two hurlers (entering action Wednesday night). Boston’s Josh Beckett (7) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (6) lead the way with 13 combined victories.

During the team’s 30-year history, the Blue Jays have had several successful 1-2 punches in the win column. The first duo was Dave Stieb (17) and Jim Clancy (16), who combined for 33 wins in 1982. Stieb (16) then matched that feat with Doyle Alexander (17) in ’84. 21 years later, Halladay won a franchise-record 22 games and teamed up with Kelvim Escobar (13) to post 35 wins between the two of them in 2003. That wasn’t enough to match what Roger Clemens (21) and Pat Hentgen (15) accomplished in 1997 though, as the two combined for 36 wins that season. But even that wasn’t good enough to set a team record.

That mark belongs to Jack Morris (21) and Juan Guzman (16), who joined forcesJuan_guzman_autograph to record 37 wins during the Jays’ 1992 World Series-winning campaign. Morris became Toronto’s first 20-game winner that season, while Guzman recorded career-bests in wins and ERA (2.64), and also made his first and only appearance in the All-Star game that year.

For interest’s sake, it should be noted that through May 23 1993, Morris and Guzman had combined for 10 wins up to that point. Morris was 4-2 with a 4.04 ERA, while Guzman was a scorching 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA.

24

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

As much as we’d like to forget about the Jays’ nine-game losing streak at the beginning of the month, I feel it’s necessary to put things into perspective one last time. During the last eight losses in that stretch, which included a pair against the Indians and three games apiece against the Rangers and Red Sox, the Blue Jays managed to score just 23 runs while being outscored 60-23. Twenty-three runs. That’s an average of 2.875 per game. 23 runs! I mean, the Jays managed to score that many in one game before. And hey, with the Orioles in town, I think it’s only fitting that we take a look back at that unforgettable game on June 26, 1978 at Exhibition Stadium.

John_mayberry_autographIronically, the Blue Jays had been in a similar rut, having lost seven of their past eight games before heading back to the Ex. Mike Flanagan, the current Baltimore GM and former Blue Jays pitcher, made the start for the Orioles on that day nearly 29 years ago. It didn’t take long for the right-hander to run into trouble, as he allowed the first six men to reach base in the second inning. By the time the inning was over, the Jays had sent 13 men to the plate and scored nine runs. John Mayberry, who smacked a two-run homer in the inning, finished the night with a pair of long balls and a career-high seven RBIs.

Baltimore hurlers Joe Kerrigan and Tippy Martinez didn’t fare any better than Flanagan, as the duo surrendered seven and six more earned runs, respectively, leaving Toronto with a 19-5 lead after four innings. With the game now out of hand, Oriole manager Earl Weaver brought in outfielder Larry Harlow to pitch in the fifth, which prompted Blue Jay manager Roy Hartsfield to protest the move. But with no rule disallowing it, Harlow toed the rubber and allowed five more Blue Jays to score in the fifth. This, despite retiring the first two batters, including 18-year-old catcher Brian Milner, the youngest Blue Jay player in the team’s 30-year history.

Though Harlow struggled (and retired with a 67.50 ERA), catcher Elrod Hendricks was nearly ‘unhittable’, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings of one-hit ball. In explaining how he chose which position players to use on the mound that day, Weaver said after the game, “I brought them in because they had pitched the best in batting practice.”

When all was said and done, 11 different players recorded a hit for the Blue Jays, including each of the starting nine. Overall, the club batted .511 (24-for-47) with 11 extra-base hits on the day. The 24 runs scored still stands as a franchise record. If you’re interested, Ebay has a ticket stub from the contest that you can view by clicking here. Starting bid: $5.00 US. Hey, you never know when the Jays may suffer another losing skid.

Interleague turns 11

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Alright, there’s no denying that Interleague play has not been kind to the Blue Jays since it was adopted back in 1997. Including today’s loss in Philadelphia, Toronto now owns an 84-94 overall record against the National League. In fact, the only time the Jays finished above .500 in a season was in 2003, when they went 10-8. Meanwhile, last year was perhaps the worst of all, as Toronto suffered two three-game sweeps against the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.

Interleague Still, there have been some memorable Interleague moments in Blue Jay history. And I, for one, am a proponent of playing ‘our’ counterparts in the Senior Circuit. As for those who claim that Toronto has no ‘true’ National League rival, I simply direct you to the following quote from the legendary Tom Cheek on October 23, 1993: “Touch ’em all Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!” Tell me again why Philadelphia isn’t an intriguing matchup today? And, even though Mitch Williams surrendered that unforgettable home run to Carter, the ’93 campaign was the best the Phillies had enjoyed in years. In fact, last time I checked, they hadn’t been back to the Series since.

But enough about that. Let’s get to some highlights of Interleague play over the last 11 years …

  • June 13, 1997: Bud Selig’s ‘crazy’ idea is unveiled, and the Blue Jays drop their first ever Interleague contest to — of course — the Philadelphia Phillies. Though he goes 2-for-4 with a double, there are no late-game heroics from Joe Carter on this day.
  • June 30, 1997: For the first time ever, the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos meet for a regular season contest. The Blue Jays muster just three hits on the day, and starter Pat Hentgen is the hard-luck loser, tossing a complete-game in the 2-1 loss.
  • June 8, 1998: In their first ever meeting, the Blue Jays and Marlins need 5:06 and 17 innings before Florida comes away with a 4-3 victory. Erik Hanson — one of the worst free agent signings in team history — comes on in the 17th and promptly suffers the loss.
  • July 11, 1999: Left-hander David Wells twirls a complete-game, two-hit gem to lead the Jays to a 1-0 win over the Expos at Olympic Stadium.
  • June 29, 2002: Eric Hinske caps off a 3-for-5 day by hitting a walk-off homer in the 10th inning to give Toronto a 5-4 win over Montreal.

By no means is this an extensive list. If you have a favourite Blue Jays Interleague moment, please do share …