Category Archives: Toronto Blue Jays

The stubborn resilience of Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz is still dealing, intermittently.

Clay Buchholz is still dealing, intermittently.

By all other accounting of my likes and dislikes in baseball, I shouldn’t enjoy Clay Buchholz as much as I do.

He has been famously inconsistent in his career, showing the ability to be among the very best pitchers in the league at times, unable to get to the mound at others, totally lost on said mound in between. He takes a long time to deliver the ball to the plate, he occasionally gets obsessed with runners at first and sometimes he’s finicky with his catchers.

He’s reliably unreliable, walking that line between ace and bottom-of-the-rotation fodder like it was a tightrope, occasionally spilling off and falling onto a trampoline below, only to spring back up.

But when he springs up, he can be a force, and that was the case again last night as he shut down the loaded Toronto Blue Jays lineup in one of the many games the Red Sox can’t afford to lose if they want to stay relevant in the 2015 pennant chase. Continue reading

Turning enemies into allies with Mike Napoli

I have to imagine this was a grand slam against Tim Wakefield.

I have to imagine this was a grand slam against Tim Wakefield.

In the early and mid-2000s, there existed a career reserve outfielder who worked mostly in Canada and, it seemed, specialized in making the lives of the Boston Red Sox miserable every time he stepped to the plate.

Game after game, in one of their 19 annual matchups, the Blue Jays’ Frank Catalanotto hit everything in sight whenever the Sox were the opposition. One night in the newsroom, I blurted out that “Catalanotto must be hitting .700 against the Red Sox.”

“.700?!,” my editor asked incredulously. “When have you ever seen him make an out?”

Probably once, I thought, but damned if I could actually think of one. Point made.

Catalanotto, in 106 career games against the Red Sox, hit .314 with an .891 OPS, 11 home runs and 52 RBI, made a habit of tormenting Boston, first with Toronto and later in a return trip to the Texas Rangers. Those 11 home runs accounted for more than 13 percent of his career total (84), while the 52 RBI fits in at 11 percent of 457. It was only when he travelled to the National League in 2009 that I finally began to feel safe.

It was Catalanotto who popped in my head when I saw a stray clip of Mike Napoli in camp with the Red Sox in Fort Myers, free of his catcher’s gear with the likelihood that he’ll be penciled in at first base for most of this season.

Continue reading

With Dickey trade, the Mets remain amazin’


Only the Mets would let R.A. Dickey leave this way.

There is little as gleefully satisfying as waking up in the morning and realizing that the Mets are still the Mets.

It looked a little hairy there for a bit. New York’s senior circuit club looked to be on a track that could yield an 80- or 90-win season in the next year or two, with their big-money, bad-idea investments on the way out. After the season, they locked up their third-baseman David Wright, a homegrown talent who seems to be a good guy and is happy to be the face of this team, of all teams. They even switched back to their classic uniforms of blue hats and pinstriped jerseys without the trendy black accents that were all the rage in 1997.

Finally, their travelling knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey, decided to win 20 games and a Cy Young Award while he wasn’t climbing Mount Kilemanjaro, writing a painful, confessional memoir or working tirelessly for charity. These are all things that real baseball teams get to have, if they’re brilliant and lucky at once.

Thankfully, though, the Mets are never brilliant or lucky. And to prove the point, they’re shipping their good-will earning, award-winning pitcher off to Canada after he had the gall to ask for the kind of money that Josh Beckett will probably earn in 2015 as an aging hurler looking at the back end of a career. Continue reading

The brutal art of blocking the plate

Jason Varitek, ready and waiting.

This is the look of a determined catcher.

One knee down, the other leg planted, waiting for a throw to cut down the would-be run screaming down the third base line. And if it’s in time, that runner is dead.

For a catcher with pop but no consistent stroke, with a computerized brain data bank of every hitter and pitcher tendency in the majors, but without the durability to catch 140 games a season, being able to block the plate like no other becomes a valuable skill. So valuable, in fact, that it can bring to light all of the reasons a team still carries a player to begin with.

Jason Varitek, captain of the Boston Red Sox, has been splitting time behind the plate with the young Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He’s found his swing of late, tallying five home runs and bringing his average up to .250 in 124 at bats, and he’s been as instrumental in handling the pitching staff as ever. Josh Beckett’s great season, for example, can’t be mentioned without noting a small bit of credit belongs to his longtime battery mate.

And on Tuesday night, one of Varitek’s other skills, blocking the plate, was highlighted in dramatic fashion. Continue reading