Friday, December 16, 2011

Yu The Man!

The Blue Jays reportedly entered a "monster bid" approaching $50 million and won the Yu Darvish sweeps, according to reports. Yu nearly broke Twitter Friday night after George King of the New York Post reported the Jays were the front-runner. If the Nippon Ham Fighters formally accept the offer, Toronto has 30 days to negotiate a major-league contract with Darvish, a 6-foot-5 sensation with a career 1.99 ERA.

"We'd become a 95-game winner overnight," a long-time member of the Blue Jays organization told me today. "We'd be in the playoffs."

It's looking like a sweet day for Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos, who's gone hard after international free agents, winning some (Adeiny Hechavarria) and losing some (Aroldis Chapman). Darvish is considered a more polished pitcher than his Japanese predecessors. My quick scouting report based on these video highlights and discussions from the experts: What stands out is the athletic body and power arm. Throws 93-95-mph with an array of off-speed stuff. Imposing, aggressive. Really mixes the speed of his pitches and sets up hitters with a plan of attack. He's still rather lanky and will add some muscle and sustain velo ... However, let's not mold a plaque for Cooperstown just yet. Remember Dice-K mania and his so-called "gyro-ball" that had everyone so excited? Well, the Red Sox paid $51.1 million on Dice's posting fee and rolled craps. Not sure you could find many Red Sox fans who believe the 100-plus million now spent on Dice-K was financially worth it.

Healing on the hardwood

Brad Rhoades is a scrawny 15-year-old with a sweet jumper, but after spending an afternoon with the Pembroke Academy sophomore, I realized he's one of the toughest basketball players in the state. Two days after his mother, Kristen Rhoades, died in a snowmobile crash, leaving two kids and a husband at age 46, Brad torched Bishop Brady with 46 points. "Momma love," he calls it. Nearly 10 months have passed since the tragedy, and Rhoades is still going strong. "If I didn't have sports, I'd probably be one of those people that never lets it go from your mind," he said. "There are days when it's tough, but I always try to look at the positives. I'm always thinking of ways to make her proud?" Pembroke's season opens tonight against Portsmouth in a matchup of Division II's top teams. More in today's New Hampshire Union Leader.

Pembroke Spartans pictured left to right: Dominic Timbas, Brad Rhoades, Dylan Gage, Rene Maher and Jordan Williams.

"It's amazing how many people have reached out to us from across the country," said Brad's father, Frank. "It made us feel special and realize how everyone deals with tragedy. It's how you deal with it afterwards."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Saskatchewan-bound Swag

Congrats to Joel Merkosky of Welwyn SK, who won this sweet-spot Adam Lind autograph just for reading this blog. My wife had Lindy sign this ball during his 2006 Eastern League MVP season with the Fisher Cats. That year, Lind batted .310 with 19 homers and 71 RBI. Happy to send this prize to a Blue Jays fan in Saskatchewan. 

Kevin Littlefield, No. 1 photography prospect

Here are some random 2011 pics from Kevin Littlefield, official photographer of this site. One of my favorite moments of the season was standing at Tampa Bay's batting cage with Littlefield as we told B.J. Upton it's "all about the swag." J.P. Arencibia is mayor of the K2 Swag District. 
Eastern League MVP Travis d'Arnaud about to go Oppo-Taco.

Mark Sobolewski reppin' New Balance.

Adeiny ready to pounce.

Adeiny would've had it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cy Young winners, anacondas and alligators

Just got off the phone with Chris Carpenter, who returned home from an incredible hunting and fishing trip to Brazil and the Amazon. Carpenter, Roy Halladay and B.J. Ryan were part of a group led by famous angler Skeet Reese, and, boy, do they have stories to tell. BFF’s Carpenter and Halladay, who’ve combined for three World Series titles and 11 All-Star appearances, dueled in the National League Division Series before planning an off-season adventure of a lifetime. Highlights:
  • They slept on a houseboat for seven nights, spending most of the day fishing for peacock bass.
  • They hunted in the rainforest, shooting caiman (alligator-like creatures), and met a native who'd just been attacked by an anaconda.
  •  The snake bit the man in the butt and tore the motor off a 14-foot canoe. Read Skeet's epic tale here.
  • From Skeet: "Me and Doc came across a local, sitting bare naked on a tree by the river. He was fishing in the river for tropical fish to sell for aquariums when he got attacked by an anaconda."
  • They ate alligator and turtle. They showed a Winter X Games dude, Ryan McCullough, how to fish like a champ.
  • More Skeet, LOL: "The snake apparently bit him on the ass but he was able to free himself before the snake wrapped him up."

Picture in the back row are Chris Carpenter, B.J. Ryan and Roy Halladay, who recently embarked on a fishing trip to Brazil. Photo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Red Sox part ways with Varitek

THE CAPTAIN took a kick in the gut when the Red Sox reached a contract agreement with Kelly Shoppach today. Just like that, Jason Varitek's 15-year playing career with the Red Sox was over. It has to hurt. I mean, Shoppach can't hit -- and Varitek can do that. 'Tek played 1,488 games behind the dish, the most in club history, and had the fourth-longest interrupted Red Sox career behind Yaz, Ted Williams and Jim Rice.

Varitek wants to continue playing, but it's not looking promising. The Blue Jays and Tigers needed backups but signed Jeff Mathis and Gerald Laird, respectively. Varitek, who turns 40 in April, really fought the laws of life at the end of  2011. His knee was killing him, and he ended up throwing out just 14 percent of base swipers ... Email me if you want some free swag, That's right, old-school AOL.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weak Monday Notebook

Jambo. Here's a stream of consciousness-like blog, which isn't very good because I have a screaming headache ... Former Blue Jays farmhand Scott Campbell, who played in the MLB Futures Game during a terrific 2008 season, is coaching with New Zealand U-18 baseball ... Dominic Rich had 30 doubles to lead the 2004 Fisher Cats. Last I heard, he was a power lifter ... Fisher Cats lefty Frank Gailey popped the question to the lovely Christina Dougherty -- she said yes! -- and Gailey was soon traded to the Phillies. Congrats on the engagement and trade! That's good news for Gailey, a Philly native ... Carlos Quentin is ready to break down, while Travis Snider and Eric Thames are ready to blossom ... JaxChillinOne reached 1,500 followers for his 23rd birthday ... Kathy Anderson's episode 8 is another gem. "The Mets invest to blow some saves." ... See those sunglasses in the above photo? They were given to me after laser eye surgery and lasted about two weeks ... I applied for my passport. I really want to visit Toronto next summer and have some kind of party with all the Blue Jays fans that have been so kind while following my blog and Twitter account ... Finally, the Monte Carlo scene from Training Day: