Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blue Jays and Big Names in the Series

The Texas Rangers, who lost the 2010 Series to the Giants, are very much a home-grown team. Among their position players only third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Mike Napoli have played elsewhere.

On their pitching staff, only starter Mike Adams, whom they picked up from San Diego, and relievers Colby Lewis and Darren Oliver have played for other squads. And Lewis and Oliver both started out as Rangers.

The Cardinals are quite a different story. Among their position players four have played elsewhere: right fielder Lance Berkman for several years with the Astros, left fielder Matt Holliday with the Rockies, second baseman Nick Punto with the Twins, and shortstop Rafael Furcal, who started with Atlanta and then moved over to the Dodgers.

The only starting pitcher who has played exclusively with the Cards is Jaimie Garcia. Edwin Jackson has thrown for four different teams and veteran Arthur Rhodes played for six clubs before St. Louis. Kyle Lohse came over from Minnesota four years ago.

And now we come to the Blue Jay connection, the most obvious being starter Chris Carpenter, who pitched in Toronto his first six seasons. Octavia Dotel has been with six different teams, the most recent the Blue Jays, and Mark Rzepczynski played his first two years in Toronto.

Cardinal manager Tony La Russa says the July 27 acquisition of 'spare parts' Dotel, Jackson (via the White Sox), and Rzepczynski for star center fielder Colby Rasmus was a major factor in the Cardinals making the playoffs. At the time the trade seemed tilted in the Cardinals' favour, though Rasmus had not done as well in his sophomore year as he had in his 23-home run rookie year. Now, with Rasmus having managed just three home runs and five RBIs and a paltry .173 batting average in 133 at bats for Toronto, the trade is looking pretty good for St. Louis.

"I'll tell you if that trade had not been made, I believe we probably would have been an under .500 club," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said on Tuesday. "That's how important it was to us. We were just getting so thin, it would have been hard to finish."

Instead it was the Braves who bungled their way to the finish line, in part because of a lack of pitching depth, Meanwhile the Cards clawed their way back from a 10½ -game deficit on Aug. 25 in the wildcard race.

Jackson was a Blue Jay for just a few minutes, picked up from the White Sox for reliever Jason Frasor and pitching prospect Zach Stewart. With St. Louis, Jackson went 5-2 in twelve starts. He got one win in the Division Series but got knocked around by the Brewers in the NLCS.

Rzepczynski, a sophomore lefty may have been the toughest player for the Jays to give up. In 28 games, he posted a 3.97 ERA, logging 22 innings, often facing the opposition's best left-handed bats. He gave up three runs in one inning pitched in the Division Series but just one hit and one run while striking out four in five appearances against the Brew Crew. Initially shocked by the trade, he is apparently delighted now. "It's a lifelong dream for me to be in the World Series," he said. "I didn't think I was going to be where I am today, but I can't ask for anything more."

Rzepczynski was given the option of making the Blue Jays roster out of spring training as a reliever or continuing to start for Triple-A Las Vegas. He chose the bullpen and it's turned out to be a good move for him. "If I was still a starter, who knows what would have happened, and for me right now, relieving works".

The 37-year-old Dotel never really had a role in Toronto - he pitched just 29 innings over the first four months of the season but he's fit in nicely for the Cards, pitching 24 innings in August and September and posting a 3-3 mark with an ERA of 3.28.

On the last day of the season, Jays manager John Farrell said one thing he would have changed from the season was the way he handled the team's closing situation with Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Dotel, something Dotel says affected him negatively.

"It hurt me over there, I'm not going to lie to you," said Dotel, set for his first World Series appearance in 13 seasons and 12 teams. "Farrell, I understand his situation, his first year as a manager, he's kind of learning the game, trying to do his best, but at the same time, when you start managing for the first time, there are a lot of things (on paper) you can see about this guy, about this guy and this guy and it kind of hurt the way he used us."

"I'm glad I came through and do my best for this team, I'm glad where I am right now." So are the Cardinals. The Blue Jays just hope the other end works out for them down the road.

And in conclusion, another feature of the Series is that it features two players who are on the list of players with the hardest names to spell in baseball. Of course I refer to Mark Rzepczynski and Albert Pujols. Here is my team of current players with impossible names to spell.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox
C A. J. Pierzynski of the White Sox
1B Kila Ka'aihue of the Athletics
2B Mark Grudzielanek of the Indians
3B Wilson Betemit of the Tigers
SS Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins
IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Indians
RF Kusuke Fukudome of the Indians
CF Ezequiel Carrera of the Indians
LF Bronson Kiheimahanaomauiakeo Sardinha of the Yankees
DH Albert Pujols of the Cardinals
Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox
Starter Justin Duchscherer of the Orioles
Starter Jair Jurrjens of the Braves
Starter Mark Buehrle of the White Sox
Relief Mark Rzepczynsk of the Cards
Relief Scott Schoeneweis of the Red Sox
Relief Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs

And if I have misspelled any of those names ... don't write in.

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