The more alarming results coming out of the Toronto starting sextet is that of right-hander Marco Estrada. His first half was good enough to merit an All-Star nod.
Since his bypass (due to injury) of the Midsummer Classic, it has been a different second half. Including his first post-All Star break start on July 22nd, going into Aug. 29th game against the O's, Estrada had won only two of five decisions while giving up 21 runs (19 earned) in 33 innings pitched.
In that same time period, Estrada had allowed four runs or more in half of those six starting assignments and had not made it past the fifth inning in his last three outings. Estrada also suffered an injury to his back in early July - the same one that kept him out of San Diego - and the lingering effects of that injury may still be affecting his pitching. The new acquisition of catcher Dioner Navarro from the Chicago White Sox may hope to replicate Estrada's success of 2015 since both were a stellar battery when paired last season. One wonders if a DL stint in late July-August would have been useful for Estrada so as to rejuvenate him for the playoff drive come September. The good news for the Jays is Estrada had a dominant outing verses Baltimore tonight and appears to have turned the corner going 7+ innings with 4 hits and only 1 earned run. 4 strikeouts.
As the Blue Jays fly into Charm City to take on the third-place Orioles to end August, it's necessary that both Estrada and Sanchez pitch to the form that made them both All-Star caliber starters. Estrada has done his part tonight. The Blue Jays need both of them if they want to repeat as AL East division champions in 2016.
Sanchez and Estrada - A TALE OF TWO PITCHERS
Toronto Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez was sent to the minors (single-A Dunedin) last Sunday. The move was mildly surprising, as Sanchez will not reportedly pitch in Florida but will use the time off in Florida to rest his arm. His last start versus Cleveland on August 20th was a shaky one, as he allowed five runs in four innings. Those runs allowed the Indians to erase a 4-0 Blue Jays lead, although Toronto eventually rallied to win the game in the late innings.
Sanchez's outings since the six-man starting rotation commenced in early August have been up and down. An August 6th loss in Kansas City snapped his ten-game winning streak along with a record number of quality starts since that loss. One week later versus Houston at home, he gave up two runs in the first inning but settled down to throw six scoreless frames afterward to earn the victory. Then came the thud versus the Tribe in Cleveland.
The "demotion" for Sanchez is not only to give his arm rest, but also to match up against other AL East teams vying for the division title. Most notably, his return date to the parent club will be on August 31st, where a matchup against the third-place Orioles awaits, a team that is in single-digit arrears of the first-place Blue Jays. The 10-day trip to the minors also calcifies his spot in the postseason, as those on the major league roster before the September 1 minor-league call-ups are eligible to be in the playoffs.
A 62 player list of free agents was circulated to all teams and a message was sent to avoid the free agent market.
A View From The Bird's Nest
October 17th 2016
Thanks to the Blue Jays recent playoff successes these past two years, the city of Toronto decided to put up a big-screen television in Nathan Phillips Square with the intent of displaying live playoff Blue Jays games for the public. This attraction has attracted the curious passer-by to ardent fans bringing their own chairs and perching themselves in front of the big screen. This outdoor area, located in front of City Hall and behind the lit Toronto sign & skating rink, has been dubbed The Bird's Nest. Many looking for a sense of community amongst Blue Jays fans or just looking to watch the postsesason games outside of a sports bar or their homes have found their way here.
I hadn't gone myself to The Bird's Nest so far during this year's playoffs and last season's push. I attended most of the home playoff games in 2015 and watched the remainder of the road games either at sports bars or at home. This season marked most of the same in my viewing habits despite not going to a playoff game at Rogers Centre in 2016 (so far). By the time the team reached the American League Championship Series versus Cleveland, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
My good friend Matt went to The Bird's Nest for Game 1 of the American League Division Series versus the Texas Rangers. He liked the setup and the atmosphere, which encouraged me to watch a playoff game while the Blue Jays continued their run to a possible World Series berth. So I found myself on a Friday night on a TTC subway headed for Queen Station with Matt and another friend of mine to watch Game 1 of the ALCS at The Bird's Nest.
I was a bit amazed at the lack of a crowd before first pitch, but Matt assured me when the game started, the numbers would be there. And he was right, folks started coming in once Cleveland's Corey Kluber threw strike one to the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter Ezequiel Carrera. We three stood ourselves to the left of the ample screen, which wasn't as big as I thought but big enough for the crowd that was starting to amble to Nathan Phillips Square. Some people brought lawn chairs, some sat on the concrete ground, while some sat at the picnic tables provided. The three of us rotated an open spot at a picnic table, but standing seemed to be the majority of people's points of view. Some food trucks were nearby selling poutine, desserts and burgers, while a Hero Burger sold their wares at an immobile kiosk that I faintly remember used to house ice skate rentals during the winter. During the subway commute to The Bird's Nest, Matt gave us fair and ample warning about the DJ's interesting mix of songs and jarring cuts. It was interesting to say the least - from top 40 cuts (like Iggy Azalea feat. Charlie XCX), classic Can-Rock (The Tragically Hip), 90s pop hits (No Doubt), 80s rock (Van Halen) and rap (Maestro Fresh-Wes).
On that same subway commute, we discussed the Blue Jays' chances against Cleveland, and came to the conlcusion that Toronto had a great chance to advance to the World Series. Maybe it was the great optimism that we all had in the team, maybe it was the way the team had dispatched the Rangers with ease, maybe it was the way the team had surged past the Orioles with timely home runs, but there was a great sense of anticipation when the game finally started. There was a bit of a chill in the air, but I hardly felt it when the Blue Jays started a scoring rally in their first licks against Cleveland's Kluber. Everyone was yelling the familiar chants that have echoed in the Dome these past two seasons, from third baseman Josh Donaldson's "M-V-P", shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's "2-Lo", the soccer-style "Jose, Jose, Jose" and old faithful, "Let's Go Blue Jays, Let's Go!" Only this time these cries were shouted into the air around City Hall, making #TorontoLoud much more than a hashtag on social media, but a real and tangible thing.
Those cheers subsided a little when Kluber wriggled his way out of that first inning and subsequent innings, throwing a solid 6.1 scoreless innings and looking like the Cy Young Award winner two years previous. Blue Jays starter Estrada matched Kluber zero-for-zero until that fateful sixth inning, where he was touched for a home run by burgeoning superstar shortstop Fransisco Lindor. The two-run shot sapped the thousand-plus strong's spirits in The Bird's Nest, but remained strong until the final out of the game, a Kevin Pillar groundout to (who else?) Lindor.
Matt and myself were a little disappointed but remarked it was only Game 1 and not an elimination game. He also pointed out that Toronto catcher Russell Martin should drop lower in the order due to his struggles at the plate and rise Tulowitzki in the order. We were also concerned about second baseman Devon Travis' recurring injury that made him exit the game, and possibly end his season. Our third party originally wanted to see the game in a nearby sports bar but she didn't seem to mind the outdoor location and its chilly climes. All three of us used hot chocolate or coffee to warm our hands during the game at some point. All in all, not a bad introduction for my first game to The Bird's Nest, but it would have been sweeter with a Blue Jays win. My next time seeing the two teams will be live, come Game 3 of the ALCS in the loud and friendly confines of Rogers Centre.
The BIGGEST SCANDEL in Baseball History
Dec 30th 2016
I’ll never fully trust baseball owners. They’ve just done too much too often. Even as we hear reports of potential Free Agent signings and clubs discussing their interest in improving their clubs, I’m always skeptical. Because they are always aware of the bottom line.
The idea of Major League Baseball attempting to do everything possible to keep salaries down is not a new idea. The first concept salary saving measures came back in 1880 with the introduction of the “Reserve Clause”.
This clause essentially tied a player to one team for life allowing to teams to sign players to perpetual one-year contracts for the duration of their career. Under this rule, players were only allowed to change teams if traded or released by their current clubs. This business model lasted until 1975 when Marvin Miller and the Major League Baseball Players Union had the rule overturned through arbitration. This ushered in a new era of Free Agency.
Free Agency had the desired effect for players. Players were granted new found freedoms and were able to sign with whomever they choose. This option of course drove up salaries due to teams wanting to sign the best players. It lasted in “pure form” until 1985 when things finally came to a head. Enter COLLUSION.
In 1985, baseball execs and owners held a series of meetings where they discussed exercising “fiscal responsibility” in terms of Free Agency and the way money is being spent.
The idea of teams avoiding the free agent market began to take shape at a meeting in St. Louis in October of 1985. Lee MacPhail, the then Director of the Player Relations Committee, asked that teams “exercise more self-discipline,” and “resist the temptation to give in to unreasonable demands of experienced marginal players.”
This scheme went all the way to the top as at the general manager’s meeting the following month.
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth told the GM’s that signing players to long-term contracts was “dumb.”
Then at the Winter Meetings in San Diego that winter, the idea of “fiscal responsibility” was AGAIN preached to ownership. A 62 player list of free agents was circulated to all teams and a message was sent to avoid the free agent market. If all teams participated in the plan, the thinking was, the free agent market would no longer be free, but it would be controlled by the teams.
Not one offer was tendered to a free agent from a rival team.
In 1986, star players, such as Kirk Gibson, Tommy John and Phil Niekro, did not receive offers from other teams. Carlton Fisk received one offer from the Yankees but that was withdrawn after a conversation between Big George and Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox.
In 1987 it was the same story with only 4 free agents signing. The biggest name of which, Andre Dawson took a pay cut to change teams.
Jack Morris (Detroit Tigers), Tim Raines (Montreal Expos), Ron Guidry (New York Yankees), Rich Gedman (Red Sox), Bob Boone (California Angels), and Doyle Alexander (Atlanta Braves) All had to return to their old clubs. No offers. They should have all been BIG MONEY free agents.
In 1988 the owners tried a different tactic where they shared salary offer information with each other to ensure everyone knew who was offering what to whom. This ensured that member clubs continued to not spend on free agents.
The Players Association caught wind of what was happening and filed a grievance outlining their concerns.
After 11 months of trial and investigation the owners were found guilty of colluding against the players and were forced to pay $280 million dollars in damages. Final payouts were completed in 1993.
My question has always been this:
Why is this not considered the biggest scandal in Baseball history?
The owners made a conscious decision to NOT improve their clubs. To not go after that key free agent that could have put them over the top. To essentially fix the pennant race as the good teams stayed good and everyone else could not get better. It violates the rule of competition and it was cheating the fans. The reporters. Everyone.
When discussing the steroid era the first concern discussed is always the integrity of numbers and records. The standings of the mid to late 80’s need to stand under the same scrutiny. Surely the standings and outcomes of games would have been different had Free Agency been allowed to occur. The owners have made this up to the players. But have they really made it up to the fans?
Baseball’s dirty secret from the past.
Baseball has buried this story but it is an important one to tell whenever the topic of players not trusting owners is ever discussed. The players have their reasons.
We talk about the steroid era, the dead-ball era; there is one more era that must be discussed.
The Collusion Era.
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