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Stray Thoughts... - Bring on the Trop
Wait, sorry, that should read "Bring DOWN the Trop"
Gerrit Cole was incredibly good for the Yankees on Thursday night, meaning that really just one mistake from José Berríos was all it took to put the game out of reach for a Jays lineup without its best hitter (Brandon Belt's 134 wRC+ is well beyond second place Bo Bichette's 121 mark among Jays with at least 200 PA, though it must be noted that 91% of his plate appearances have come against right-handed pitchers) and without its theoretical best hitter (that would be Vlad).
It was an unhappy watch, seeing as Berríos' mistake took place in the bottom of the first inning, yet could hardly take the shine off of a wonderful and unexpected week that has somehow vaulted the Jays back into a strong position in the playoff race despite their season hitting rock bottom last week, following a four-game home sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers.
Something that could very easily take the shine off things, however, is this weekend’s visit to Tropicana Field. Literally! The venue once known as the ThunderDome not only gets no natural light underneath its dingy catwalk-laden roof, it has forever felt like a house of horrors for the Blue Jays (even though they were actually only 3-4 there in the 2020 regular season, 4-5 in 2021, and 4-5 there again in 2022).
It also, thankfully, appears to be nearing the end of its lifespan.
The Rays are finalizing plans for a new stadium in downtown St. Pete, on the same tract of land as the current one and its adjacent parking lots, and unlike other schemes we’ve heard from this ownership outfit—the most effective of the league’s many packs of cheapjack scumbags—there are some significant reasons to believe that, for once, they’re probably not bluffing. One, Pinellas County—who also gifted the Blue Jays their shiny new Player Development Complex in Dunedin—and the City of St. Petersburg will each contribute $300 million toward the $1.3 billion construction cost. And two, the Rays are going to follow the Atlanta model, only in an urban setting, meaning that this is really a real estate play with a ballpark at the centre of it, and space for all kinds of high-end, high-rent shops and restaurants being part of the construction as well.
Lucrative stuff! Hey, and now that the stadium issues in Tampa and Oakland appear to have been settled, MLB can finally move on to disappointing fans in Montreal by freezing them out of the expansion process that’s likely upcoming. Fun!
Anyway! The Jays will have to face Tyler Glasnow in the opener at the Trop here on Friday, which is not necessarily as frightening as it may seem…
…but is still, you know, a problem. (Even if he also has a 6.88 ERA in eight career starts against the Jays!)
Saturday's starter Zack Littell—a reliever until midway through this season who is now in his seventh MLB organization and his third this year—would seem to be a better bet for Blue Jays success, though he's Rays’d his way to a 3.53 ERA in the second half so far. And on Sunday they get Taj Bradley, who is still viewed as a future star, but sports a 5.36 ERA for the season and was tagged for four runs on nine hits over four innings in the Jays' only win at the Trop this season so far, back in May.
Hold on to your asses, folks. It’s ass-holding time.
Here are today’s stray thoughts…
I’ll be honest here, friends. This site keeps the lights on for me, but it isn’t a cash cow. And I could live a lot more comfortably than I do right now if I was willing to put some of my work behind a paywall and push a bunch readers who are on the fence into becoming paid subscribers. But, the thing is, I know that times are tough for a lot of people and I really don’t want to become inaccessible to anyone. So, if you can afford it, and you value what I do and aren’t already a paid subscriber, I’d ask that you consider upgrading your free membership to a paid one. Thanks. — Stoeten
One of the bright spots for the Blue Jays on Thursday was centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who led off the ninth inning with a single off of Clay Holmes that gave his club a glimmer of hope, and also made an outstanding catch to rob Ben Rortvedt in the seventh.
As Buck says in the clip, Kiermaier hit the ground pretty hard there. However, unfortunately for those who have grown fond of Kevin and his dreamy eyes this season, he would probably remind you that Yankee Stadium’s natural grass surface is at least more forgiving than the artificial turf he typically plays on.
In a deceptively-titled piece here on Friday from Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post, Kiermaier is quoted as lamenting having always played home games on artificial surfaces.
“Being on the turf my entire career, I enjoy being on the grass. My body feels so much better being on grass,” he told the Post. (I hear Kevin Gausman agrees.)
He also said, presumably only because he was prompted to comment on it, that he likes the AL East, and likes playing in the Bronx and at Fenway Park in Boston.
Does this mean that, as the article says, he “sure sounds open to trading jerseys this offseason and donning pinstripes”? I mean… maybe, I guess. But flimsy stuff, that.
However, with Daulton Varsho a more than capable everyday centre fielder already in the fold for next season, and left field an ideal place for the Blue Jays to seek a much-needed offensive upgrade, I don’t think a reunion with the Jays seems any more likely. And, adding that to the turf comments, it’s probably even less so.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
We’ve got a couple bits of news regarding top Blue Jays prospect Ricky Tiedemann, the first being that he'll be making his Triple-A debut this evening in Buffalo, and that the game—a 6:05 PM ET start—is MiLB.tv's Free Game of the Day.
That should provide a nice little warm-up before tonight's big show at the Trop. Uh… provided it goes a bit better than his final outing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, which saw him give up three runs on three hits and three walks in just two innings of work a week ago.
The other bit of news is that it was made official today that Tiedemann will headline a pretty interesting crop of Jays prospects who will be heading to the Arizona Fall League in a couple weeks’ time.
Tiedemann, of course, has phenomenal stuff and upside but due to injury has managed just 40 competitive innings so far this season. He’ll get a chance to add to that total in the desert, and will likely continue to produce huge strikeout numbers (he had 76 in those 40 IP), while hopefully working on limiting walks (20 issued in 32 Double-A innings).
Other notable names include: RHP Trent Palmer (2020 third-rounder who has yet to reach 10 innings this season), RHP CJ Van Eyk (2020 second-rounder in his post-Tommy John season, shot straight to Double-A after a great early run in A-ball but wasn't getting Ks at that level), OF Dasan Brown (raw Canadian third-rounder from 2019 looked like he took a step forward last season but has had a rough 2023), and INF Damiano Palmegiani (built on a breakout 2022 with an even better 2023, smashing 22 homers across two levels and reaching Triple-A, where he's slashed .274/.420/.548 in 81 PA so far—though the strikeout rates against advanced pitching have been high).
Joining them will be RHP Trent Palmer, RHP Fitz Stadler, and OF Will Robertson.
Frosh or Prosp
The Blue Jays have been hosting the biggest amateur baseball tournament in Canada this week, the 9th annual Canadian Futures Showcase, and some of the players taking the field got quite a thrill here on Friday thanks to a visit from the newest member of the Blue Jays' Level of Excellence.
Or, at least, I know that this young man was thrilled…
However, since it’s a showcase for high school age players, some of these guys were only, like, seven years old in 2015. Maybe only some of them were thrilled, maybe some just confused. Who know? But, more to the point, HOW ON EARTH DID WE ALL GET SO OLD???
And one other prospect thing, which is that the Rays have called up their top one. He’s not in the starting lineup here on Friday, but you’d best be prepared to have this stuck in your head all weekend regardless.
• Vlad’s back, baby. The slugger—or “slugger,” if you will—is feeling good enough to get back into the Jays’ lineup and will be starting at DH here on Friday. Good! Also good, I hope: All the stuff I wrote about Vlad and his knee (and the Alek Manoah mess, and whatever else) in yesterday’s Stray Thoughts. Check it out, ICYMI.
• We’re rooting for the Rangers on the out of town scoreboard here this weekend, right? Seattle hosts the Astros as their mid-week series, while Texas visits the Angels, and at the risk of downplaying home field advantage, I think that means the Mariners are more easily buried—especially with the Astros still very much playing to keep themselves in the race. A sweep either way would be nice, I suppose.
• To be fair, what I said right there was pretty much exactly what Nick said on this week’s episode of Blue Jays Happy Hour. Give it a listen. And also be sure to check out Nick’s latest for Sportsnet, in which he looks at how absolutely clutch the Jays’ pitching has been this season—quite the opposite of their hitting, but no less an important part of the story.
• Speaking of things to listen to, while there wasn’t a ton of note about the 2023 season to come from Ross Atkins’ recent appearance on the podcast of TSN’s Scott Mitchell, there was a whole bunch of interesting background on the Jays’ GM—including the some stories about playing for Wake Forest at the same time as Tim Duncan was there (!).
• The Jays have announced that Mason McCoy has cleared waivers and been assigned to Buffalo. And speaking of minor transactions, former Blue Jay Jordan Luplow—who was claimed by the Twins in early August when the Jays made their genius acquisition of Paul DeJong—was designated for assignment this week, only he… wasn’t? Or something?
• With the Blue Jays pushing ticket sales hard this week, I thought it might not be a bad idea just to put it out into the ether how other fans and teams do things in that regard—and, more to the point, demand that it be done.
• I said this yesterday, but for those who missed it: It seems like everyone’s moving over to Bluesky this week, so this feels like a good time to mention once again that I’m over there as well. I’m not saying a ton just yet, but always posting links when anything goes up on the site.
Follow me: stoeten.bsky.social
• Lastly, WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWINNNN. Please, for the love of our sanity, just win a couple games at that dumb ballpark this weekend, Jays. PLEASE.
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