Kelly Johnson? Yes, please

Oh man. There are a lot of things for Jays fans to be excited about so far this season: Colby Rasmus looks like he’s figuring it out; Edwin Encarnacion has figured it out to the point that he’s been officially handed the cleanup hitter’s role; Brett Lawrie is being Brett Lawrie and that gets people excited even if he’s not yet playing as well as he’s capable of playing; the pitching!

Yes, there’s a lot of to be excited about. But there’s one guy who seems to be flying under the radar. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t seem to have a personality that lights the world on fire. Perhaps it’s because his offensive production isn’t the flashiest. Perhaps it’s because your Toronto Blue Jays had to trade John McDonald and someone other scrub to get him. Continue reading

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Johnny Mac gets a shot at the playoffs

I never thought anything could make me root for an NL West team other than the Giants, but now I know I was wrong.

John McDonald can do that to a guy.

McDonald and Aaron Hill were traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks (who are one game up on the Giants at the time of writing) this afternoon for second baseman Kelly Johnson.

The press conference is going on right now and, from the sounds of it, McDonald and Hill both want to come back to Toronto. McDonald even said he’s already talked to Alex Anthopoulos about that possibility (he’s a free agent after this season).

McDonald’s defence and work ethic are enough to win over fans and coaches anywhere.

Hill’s been great in the past, but has struggled both this season and last. He seems like a perfect “just needs a change of scenery” candidate and there’s a real possibility a move to the NL and it’s AAAA competition could be just the change he needs.

As for who the Jays are getting… Anthopoulos has been after Johnson for a while now. After the 2009 season, the Jays were rumoured to be trying hard to sign Johnson to play leftfield, but Johnson chose the D’backs because he wanted to stay at second. I think it’s safe to say he’ll be taking Hill’s spot in the infield when he arrives in Toronto.

Hill and Johnson are both 29. Hill’s got parts of seven seasons under his belt, has a career slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging) of .265/.318/.413 and has been worth 15.9 wins above replacement, while Johnson’s posted a .260/.342/.442 and 14.2 WAR during his time in the big leagues.

Statistically, it seems like the Jays won this trade by a slim margin. So, while I’m sad to see Johnny Mac leave, this does appear to be a good move for the Jays overall.

 

10 bold predictions

We interrupt your regularly scheduled postings from Chris to bring you a post from me, Cole, formerly a member of the yearly roundtable, now a contributing member of the blog.

Throughout the time that Infield Fly has been around, Chris has periodically asked me if I would write for it. After all, I have been called by many people the biggest Jays’ fan they know, and considering Chris and I met at journalism school, he knows I’m a writer.

I’ve always thought there was nothing I could really add to the blogosphere that isn’t already out there in other Jays blogs I love.

However, at about this same time last year I recall trying to motivate myself to write a blog post and the idea I came up with was to make a prediction/observation that the Jays squad was going to hit a lot of home runs in the 2010 season. Of course we all know that in fact turned out to the truth, but it’s also a fact that the aforementioned blog post never made it out of my brain and into words.

Too bad, I could have been a prognosticating genius (just like seemingly every major media outlet last year that predicted the Jays would be in the cellar and likely lose 100 games, *ahem*)

At any rate, I figured this year, I won’t let my predictions go undocumented. I will put them here and when October rolls around and the Jays are getting ready for their ALDS matchup (Let’s hear it for optimism???) I can look back and see how accurate I was.

I should also note that I’m by nature an optimist when it comes to the Jays, especially in the spring. Not all of my predictions are cheery and rosy, but for the most part you’ll notice I’m not hoping for the train to fall off the tracks here.  Continue reading

Aaron Cibia!!1

When John Buck got hurt, the Tao of Stieb beat me to the punch on Twitter to register his excitement about J.P. Arencibia getting his shot with the big boys. For this, he was called an idiot. Who’s the idiot now?

Without doing any research at all, I’m going to go ahead and call Aaron Cibia’s MLB debut the best of any player ever.

In case you missed it, here’s the video of his amazing day at the plate.

The most impressive thing that Arencibia did, to me anyway, was to make the usually-moribund crowd at the SkyDome come to life. Sure, the 8 home runs the Jays hit in total likely had something to do with it as well, but make no doubt: Arencibia was the star of the show. Aaron Hill also hit two dingers, but didn’t earn a standing ovation for every at bat. The Catcher of the Future Now even earned a bit of a standing O when he flied out to right in his last at bat.

I stuck around for a little while after the game and I saw the nice moment J.P. had with his mom. Their hug was nice, but as I saw Mrs. Arencibia walking up the aisle, she was wiping tears from her eyes. As much as a scene involving two strangers being emotional about something that ultimately doesn’t matter can touch me (and that’s an unreasonable amount) it did. I’m happy as a Jays fan, but I’m even happier for J.P. and his mom.

One more thing

I usually watch the games from the 500 level. The seats are good enough and cheap enough that I’m more than happy to watch from above. Today though, I used my voucher from the relocated Phillies series and got a prime seat behind the Tampa dugout. Other than the Jays offensive masterpiece, the most enjoyable part of the day for me was watching Yunel Escobar play shortstop.

Watching from the 500s, you can see the great plays he makes. Watching close up, you can see how much fun he has doing it.

Great players are impressive, great players who play with a smile on their face are something else entirely. Escobar has fun out there and I love it. Watching him toy with B.J. Upton when Upton was on second was great fun for me and it looked like for both of them as well.

If Arencibia and Escobar are both here for the long haul (and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be), we Jays fans are going to be in for a real treat.

Thoughts on the weekend sweep

Everybody loves Aaron

Everybody loves Aaron

Friday and Saturday past were my first two chances to get out to the Rogers SkyDome Centre this season. Of course I used the opportunity to drink a little too much, but here are some thoughts from those two games that I had at the time and somehow managed to remember:

Friday’s 8-4 win (or The good Doctor cures the Jays of the runs)

• Coming off the dismal series against the Royals, I was a little worried at what was going to transpire in this weekend series. Doc’s first inning on Friday (specifically the Nick Markakis dinger) did nothing to make me feel better. Doc’s next seven innings, and the performance of the offence in general, relieved me of any worries I had.

• Crowd cheering Gregg Zaun in his first at bat of the weekend? Classy. Crowd treating Zaunn like he’s a Yankee after that first at bat? Horseshit. Whatever you think of Zaunn, this is a guy who loved playing Toronto and didn’t want to leave. He doesn’t deserve the hate.

• Details from the rest of the game are a bit hazy, but I do remember Adam Lind hitting a mammoth bomb to straight away centre and I remember that Scott Downs finished out the game.

Saturday’s 5-4 11-inning win (or Aaron Hill toys with Baltimore then crushes it)

• Going in: “I hope Rob Ray gives us enough to win.”

First inning: “Home run to the second deck in left? Rob Ray is not doing so well.”

Innings 2-4: “The Orioles are hitting this Ray kid pretty damn hard. This does not look good.”

Fifth inning: “Ray got through this inning pretty quickly. Hmm.”

Sixth inning: “Hey, he’s striking people out now! Must’ve just been nerves earlier on.”

By the end of his 5-2/3 innings, Ray had gone a long way toward winning me over. Like his ice-bound namesake, he seems pretty scrappy. Fighting through some awful innings in a major league debut to put in an overall good performance (4 hits, 4 walks, 3 ER), I hope this guy gets another shot.

• Hey, Cito, I know you make the team win and I like that, but I’ve got a question for you: Why the hell do you stick with your lineups through thick and thin, never pinch hitting because it might destroy confidence, etc… Why do you employ that philosophy and then, in the bottom of the 8th, with the bases loaded in a tie game, you pinch hit for Overbay?

Seriously, does Millar give you something Overbay doesn’t? What, he does. He gives you a downgrade defensively when he doesn’t come through at the plate and the game goes into extras.

And what is Overbay supposed to take from being pinch hit for? Cito’s apparently got faith in every other hitter on the team, but not him. Or is Lyle just so mentally tough that it won’t get to him at all?

I don’t get it.

• Seriously, why do the Jays fans boo Zaunnie?

• Aaron Hill: On his way to becoming Greatest Blue Jay Ever. I’m convinced he screwed up that play at second just so he would have the chance to tie the game with a dinger in the 10th and then drive in the winning run in the 11th.

Sunday’s 4-3 win (Sweep!)

• I didn’t see this game, but I didn’t have to. With Scott (Captain Canada) Richmond on the mound, you pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get. Opponents score three runs, Jays win. Bingo Bango.

Leftovers

• That may have been Toronto’s first series against the AL East, but Baltimore doesn’t really count, does it?

• Scutaro apparently knows a thing or two about which stats people should be paying attention to.

• Today is May 4. The Toronto Blue Jays are 18-9. The Toronto Blue Jays are leading the AL East by two full games. The Toronto Blue Jays are not going to be jinxed by me saying the P-word. Not today.