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Clemente's 3,000th was 40 years ago today

Today is the 40th anniversary of the 3,000th -- and final -- hit of Roberto Clemente's legendary career. In a 5-0 win over the Mets on Sept. 30, 1972, Clemente doubled to the left-center field gap at Three Rivers Stadium off New York rookie Jon Matlack to become the 11th player to reach 3,000. He died three months later in a plane crash en route to delivering relief aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. 

Clemente didn't bat in the season's final three games so that was the final hit of his career (he went 4 for 17 in the NLCS loss to the Reds but those hits, of course, don't count). Here's his 1972 game log, courtesy of Baseball Almanac.

MLB.com caught up with Matlack for a story about his memories of the game and Clemente's career.

Check out this MLB.com video that includes snippets of Clemente from the 1971 World Series in Baltimore, the opposite-field home run to the upper deck in right field he hit in the '71 All-Star Game at Detroit's Tiger Stadium, and the 3,000th hit. Below that is a random YouTube I found with some terrific vintage footage

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Yankee doodles from Rogers Centre

TORONTO -- The Yankees could clinch a playoff berth today if they beat the Blue Jays in their 1:07 start on YES and the Angels lose their 4:05 game to Texas. But it's pretty obvious the Bombers are going anyway barring something epic. The AL East is still in doubt, however, with New York leading Baltimore by a game and the Orioles at Fenway tonight to meet woeful Boston.

Reporters meeting with Joe Girardi in the dugout this morning joked with the Yankees skipper that he might learn his team is officially in the playoffs when he's out at dinner.

Cracked Girardi: "Maybe I'll have dessert."

The topping to the season, of course, is the division race. Girardi said he won't be resting any of his players until the AL East is wrapped up; no way he wants to slip to the wild-card and end up in next week's inaugural one-game playoffs. He said he hasn't decided if he'll rest guys if the best record in the AL is still in play (the Yankees are one game behind Texas).

As for today's game, Andy Pettitte (5-3, 2.71) makes his third start since returning from his fractured left ankle. He's 2-0 and has pitched 11 scoreless innings in the first two. Said Girardi: "He just knows how to get outs."

Robinson Cano is in the lineup batting cleanup; X-rays on his left hand were negative after he was hit by a pitch last night. Derek Jeter is DHing today with a day game after a night game and the erratic Eduardo Nunez is at shortstop.

"We know that Jete needs a day off on the turf," Girardi said. "We have to be smart here. We can't hurt Jete. [Nunez] has to get it done."

With Jeter at DH, the Yankees are down to one backup infielder today because Girardi revealed Jayson Nix has been sent back to New York for an MRI on a sore hip flexor injured here Thursday.

"For us to send him back to get an MRI, there's a concern," Girardi said. "There's a possibility we may not have him for a while and Nunez becomes more important."

Former ace Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.76) starts today for the Blue Jays. After starting 8-1, he lost 13 straight decisions before posting a 9-5 win Monday in Baltimore. The 13 straight Ls were a Blue Jays record within one season and the most in MLB this year.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

 

On the air in the Blue Jays' booth

TORONTO -- I've covered plenty of Blue Jays games for The News since 1997 but Thursday's 6-0 win over the Yankees was the first time I've been in the SkyDome/Rogers Centre with the Bisons as part of the Toronto organization.

To mark the occasion, longtime Blue Jays announcer Jerry Howarth invited me into the radio booth for an inning to chat about the new arrangement. I joined Howarth and analyst Alan Ashby (the former catcher with the Indians, Jays and Astros) to talk Blue Jays and Bisons, with a little Indians thrown in.

Howarth has been on the air with the Jays since 1981 when he joined the legendary Tom Cheek in the franchise's fifth year of existence. They formed one of the great broadcast teams in any sport in the history of Canada through the World Series years and all the way until 2004, when a terminally ill Cheek left the booth due to a brain tumor (he died in October, 2005).

Howarth is one of the truly nice guys in the game and always asks how things are in Buffalo when I come to the ballpark. So it was a definite honor to share the microphone for an inning with one of the iconic sports voices of an entire nation.

You can hear the inning through the audio clips below.

Top of the fifth:

Bottom of the fifth:

(Download mp3s of the top and the bottom.)

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

R.A. is A-OK in winning No. 20

Newsday frontThe Mets didn't win much here in their four years but there was no shortage of good guys to come through the Bisons' clubhouse in that time. One of the best was knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a journeyman trying to revive his career in his mid-30s with a trick pitch.

He made just nine starts for the Bisons in 2010, with one of them being his famous "Imperfect Perfect Game" on April 29 of that year against Durham where he allowed a single to the first batter and then retired the next 27 in order.

Dickey was gone to New York soon after and has exploded into a potential Cy Young Award winner. Thursday afternoon at Citi Field, he became a 20-game winner in the Mets' 6-5 win over the Pirates -- the first for the Amazins since 1990.

Dickey is the first knuckleballer to win 20 games since Joe Niekro of the Astros in 1980 and the third-oldest pitcher in history to post his first 20-win season (behind only Mike Mussina and Jamie Moyer).

ESPNNY.com has a full collection of links to today's Dickey coverage in the Big Apple.

I really like Filip Bondy's column in the Daily News, where he says of the final out, "The same washed-up pitcher who kept dreaming of comebacks in the minor leagues, who jogged the streets of Buffalo and visualized striking out top major league batters with his new pitch, the knuckler, could barely contain the tears."

In the Post, great friend of the blog Mike Vaccaro wrote of David Wright's home run that gave Dickey a cushion, "Suddenly what you heard at Citi Field wasn’t the blight of another fallen summer; it was the hope of what the joint could really be some October in the future."

Click here to see MLB.com's video recap.

Click here to see SNY's video of postgame remarks by Dickey and manager Terry Collins. 

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Yankees-Jays post-mortems

TORONTO -- The Yankees were flat and the Blue Jays were pumped Thursday night in Rogers Centre in a 6-0 Toronto victory. So there's six games left in the season and the Yankees have a one-game lead over Baltimore.

Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow went seven shutout innings -- the seventh time this season he's gone at least six without giving up an earned run. Morrow has an 0.57 ERA in his nine wins and a 6.11 ERA in his other 11 starts. 

NovaMeanwhile, Ivan Nova (right) didn't last five innings for the second straight start after going that far in all of his previous 26. See you in the postseason bullpen, if you make the roster at all.

The Jays are 4-2 at home against the Yankees this year and this was their 11th shutout of the season overall, 7th at home. It was the sixth time this year the Yankees were blanked. The Yankees have won just seven games this year (7-23) when they don't hit a home run. Yikes. 

Here's Toronto manager John Farrell's post-game presser, courtesy of MLB.com

Here's Joe Girardi's comments, courtesy of YES

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

AP Photo: Nova heads for an early shower.

 

 

Yankee Doodles, Blue Jays banter under the dome

TORONTO -- It's Ivan Nova vs. Brandon Morrow tonight in Rogers Centre as the Yankees open a four-game series against the Blue Jays. The Yanks have a 1 1/2-game lead over idle Baltimore with seven games left (the Orioles have six). 

It's been a busy pregame session as I've been checking in with both sides. Here's what's filled my notebook:

---Alex Rodriguez fouled a pitch off his toe Tuesday in Minnesota and will be serving as DH tonight. A-Rod has 1,949 career RBIs, one shy of tying Stan Musial for fifth on the all-time list.

---Joe Girardi said Derek Jeter will serve as the DH at some point in this series. Meanwhile, injured Mark Teixeira (calf) had seven at-bats and played one inning of defense in a simulated game today in Tampa at the Yankees' complex. Brett Gardner took live batting practice for the first time since injuring his elbow in April; Gardner is active but currently limited to pinch-running and defense.

---Most of the talk on the Toronto side is about shortstop Yunel Escobar, who is making his first home start since the embarrassing incident where he put a homophobic saying in Spanish on his eye black. He sat out three games in a club-imposed suspension. Lots of folks wondering what the reaction will be (Escobar is batting cleanup tonight). 

"There was never an intent to offend. That's not to say ignorance is acceptable but there was never an intent on his part to offend anyone," said manager John Farrell. "We'll see how things unfold. In the conversations when he came back from the three-game suspension, he's remorseful. He knows the mistake he made, that it was an error in judgement."

Escobar met before the game for 45 minutes with openly gay Boston College track athlete Jose Estevez and Patrick Burke (son of Leafs GM Brian Burke) of You Can Play to discuss the slur.

Update: A few scattered boos when Escobar's name was announced in the starting lineup. More polite applause when he was announced to come up to bat. A few boos, a few catcalls. Nothing overwhelming.

---If you're coming this weekend, the pitching matchups are Hiroki Kuroda vs. Chad Jenkins (Friday night), Andy Pettitte vs. Ricky Romero (Saturday afternoon) and Phil Hughes vs. Henderson Alvarez (Sunday afternoon). All games will be televised on YES.

As part of Farrell's pregame chit-chat with reporters in his office, Farrell turned to me and asked, "How are things in Buffalo?" We both had a good laugh because a couple of weeks ago when I was here, Buffalo was a taboo topic. Not now. Farrell, the former Bisons pitcher and Cleveland farm director, loves the move of the Jays' Triple-A team from Las Vegas.

Reminded by a Toronto columnist that Vegas has better nightlife for players and coaches, Farrell cracked, "That's why we came to Buffalo."

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

'One At-Bat' will happen Tuesday for Marlins

Maybe you've heard about the Adam Greenberg story. It's been in the news a lot in the last month and took a dramatic turn Thursday morning on NBC's Today Show.

Greenberg is the former Chicago Cubs outfielder whose only at-bat in the major leagues ended when he was drilled in the head by a pitch while batting in a 2005 game against the Florida Marlins in Sun Life Stadium. Plagued by concussions, he struggled to work his way back into baseball but never got close to the major leagues again. He played some in the minors and independent ball, and was part of Team Israel in last week's World Baseball Classic qualifier.

All the while, Chicago filmaker Matt Liston started a grass roots campaign called "One At Bat" to get Greenberg one more shot in the big leagues, just so he wouldn't end up like Moonlight Graham from "Field of Dreams."

It was a silly longshot at first but momentum grew with thousands of signatures to an online petition signed by many prominent ex-MLBers. But the Cubs said no to Greenberg earlier this month and it looked like the movement was going nowhere real.

Until today.

The Miami Marlins extended an offer to Greenberg today and will sign him to a one-day contract so he can bat Tuesday night against the Mets in Marlins Park.  This time, he said, he assures you'll he'll swing.

Watch today's NBC video below, as well as the outstanding piece earlier this summer from ESPN's Outside the Lines.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Herd through the grapevine

---A public-service announcement: Be sure to read Sunday's Inside Baseball column for thoughts on the Blue Jays' dismal season at the big-league level from CEO Paul Beeston, GM Alex Anthopoulos, Cito Gaston and Roberto Alomar.

---In case you missed our coverage on the Bisons-Blue Jays agreement in today's paper, see the links below:

1). The Bisons hope the Blue Jays will bring back the Cleveland-era magic.

2). The Blue Jays want to win in Triple-A and across the board in the minors.

3). The Bisons will be working on a new logo and uniforms for next season. They're also pondering a Blue Jays exhibition game here on March 31.

4). Click here for several audio segments from the press conference.

5). Amy Moritz and I provide a video wrapup.

---Mike Cormack of Sportsnet says it's up to the Blue Jays to make this relationship work. Absolutely. Need to have a winning team here in 2013. No reprisal of the Mets' 2009 debut disaster.

---In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, great friend of the blog Paul Hoynes plays five questions with Tribe utility man Vinny Rottino, the veteran whose callup to New York really hurt the Bisons clubhouse this year. But good to see him get more chances in the big leagues.

---The New York Times did an interesting feature on Israel's entry in the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament going on in Jupiter, Fla. One of the players quoted is none other than Bisons infielder Josh Satin.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Video: Bisons join Blue Jays chain

They said it at Bisons-Blue Jays presser

Here are some audio files from today's Bisons-Blue Jays press conference at Pettibones Grille.

The first file is about 13 minutes and includes remarks from Bisons president Jon Dandes, owner Bob Rich, Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos. (Beeston received some multi-colored socks as a gift from Rich because he is famous for not wearing socks!)

There are also the remarks at the podium from Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski as well as interviews The News conducted on the field with Beeston and Anthopoulos.


Bisons-Blue Jays press conference


Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski


Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston


Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos


---Mike Harrington

Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Blue Jays CEO on Bisons: 'Hopefully it's the start of a 42-year deal'

The Bisons and Blue Jays certainly were putting on the ritz Friday afternoon in Pettibones Grille, as they made their two-year player development agreement official. Bisons owner Bob Rich Jr. and Blue Jays president/CEO Paul Beeston signed the documents, and Blue Jays ambassadors Roberto Alomar, Pat Hentgen and Cito Gaston presented named Jays jerseys to Bob and Mindy Rich, Buffalo president Jon Dandes, GM Mike Buczkowski and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. 

Bob"We want to become part of this community and make sure the marriage is a great marriage and I'm sure that it will be," Beeston said. "We want to be here for years. This is the start of not a two-year deal. Hopefully it's the start of a 42-year deal."

The Blue Jays, of course, love the fact they no longer have to shuttle their prospects to and from Las Vegas. The Bisons are thrilled with the idea of having a chance at a winning team after four often-rugged years with the Mets. 

"It's huge," said Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. "I don't even know if huge is a strong enough word. This is unbelievable for us."

Beeston and the Riches are longtime friends; Bob, Mindy and then 14-year-old Barney Rich had field seats for the Joe Carter home run that won the 1993 World Series and Bob Rich joked that Beeston stayed friends with him to get good Sabres tickets. The Blue Jays current staff includes the likes of former Bisons players and managers John Farrell, Torey Lovullo and Marty Brown.

"This is rejuvenating because we have so many ties with the Blue Jays," Bob Rich told The News following the formal press conference. "It's like old home week for us with Paul Beeston, Torey Lovullo, Marty Brown and John Farrell. This transcends baseball. The future of Buffalo is inexorably tied with the future of the Niagara Peninsula and we can do things that transcend just the game culturally and economically for the area. That's got me really excited."

In quick news items:

---The Blue Jays have not decided on their field staffs for 2013 and Buczkowski said the Bisons absolutely want Brown, who led them to a title in 2004, to come back.

---The Bisons will unveil Buffalo-centric logos and uniforms, with the logo coming in a couple of months and the uniforms likely unveiled in January.

---The Bisons are having loose discussions with the Blue Jays about an exhibition here on March 31 -- either against the Triple-A club or having Toronto play its final spring training game against another major-league team. Anthopoulos said the Jays could work something out for that date, which is currently open after games the previous two days in Philadelphia.

Audio and video from the press conference to come.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Photo by Charles Lewis/Buffalo News: Rich and Beeston shake after signing the new deal.

It's Blue Jays day in Buffalo: Thoughts on two big questions about the new parent club

The Toronto Blue Jays era officially opens in Buffalo today and it should be quite a shindig at Pettibones Grille with the likes of Robbie Alomar, Cito Gaston and Pat Hentgen on hand. We'll have full coverage at Buffalonews.com and in Saturday's editions of the paper, and we'll be sure to officially answer the two questions I have been repeatedly flooded with over the last week.

Here's my initial thoughts on them:

1. Will the Blue Jays play an exhibition game here against the Bisons?

A local trade publication made this the second question asked of Mets GM Omar Minaya during their introductory press conference here in 2008 and Minaya clearly rolled his eyes because it was an uninformed inquiry. The CBA between players and owners outlawed in-season exhibitions several years ago and they are no longer held (the Bisons last played the Indians in 2002).

What IS allowed is a spring training game against your Triple-A team and several clubs have done it (the Cardinals play in Memphis almost every year). I suppose it's feasible that could happen next season, as the Blue Jays play March 29 and 30 in Philadelphia against the Phillies and have an open date on Sunday, March 31 before their season opener April 2 against Cleveland.

The Bisons, however, would likely be hesitant at such a game because of the risk of weather. They would sell a lot of tickets but potentially have a lot of rain checks to offer if it rained -- or snowed. And if it was very cold, the Jays would likely either want to cancel the game or play none of their regulars anyway. The Bisons went through this in 1987 with an Indians-Blue Jays game at War Memorial Stadium that barely got off due to bad weather and impacted the field conditions for several weeks thereafter.

2. Will the Blue Jays play a regular season game or two in Buffalo?

I am getting this question multiple times every day and I have no idea why. The Blue Jays have no obligation to give regular-season games to Buffalo just because the Bills are playing one game a year in Toronto. Different sport, completely different circumstances. Apple, meet orange.

No way they give up revenue, which has to be more than they would make here even on their smallest crowd of the season. And let's not forget they're averaging 26,178 and Buffalo only holds a tad over 18,000. How much would tickets have to cost here and are you really paying that to see, say, the Royals? 

Then there's the schedule. Everybody says "Well, they can give us a couple games in April or May they won't draw for." First off, they have a roof so there's no risk of weather trouble or the need to makeup games later in the year like there would be here. Secondly, the Jays' home opponents in April go like this: Indians, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Red Sox. In May, it's Red Sox, Mariners, Giants, Rays, Orioles, Braves. They're not moving the Seattle series, because it's on a weekend, and the Bisons are home anyway. And they're certainly not moving any of the others.

How about June? Rangers, Rockies, Orioles. Again, the Bisons are home the three days against the Rockies so that's a no-go if that was a thought. No way they're moving any games in July and August when they really draw and no way MLB would ever let that happen in September, if at all.

And I say MLB wouldn't approve Coca-Cola Field anyway. Lighting is only Triple-A standard and the bullpen mounds would be considered a hazard. Places like Wrigley Field are grandfathered in that regard. When Oakland played a few years ago in Las Vegas, that was because of stadium renovations going on. When Montreal played in Puerto Rico, well, that was because the Expos were drawing flies and MLB was desperate for a solution. 

Doesn't apply here. So let's put that question to rest. It's not happening. Onward.

Can't help but feel the tinge of funny irony on the day the Blue Jays move in that the Mets are coming off a humiliating 16-1 loss to the Phillies last night in mostly-empty Citi Field. The Mets used a club-record 10 pitchers -- and all 16 runs were given up by 2012 Bisons. Jeremy Hefner gave up seven  and didn't get an out in the Phillies' eight-run first, while Jeurys Familia was torched for five of the seven runs in the ninth.

Afterward, a terse Terry Collins kept saying "ask them" when reporters pressed him if he thought his team had quit. The Mets are 20-43 since the all-star break and just 4-24 at home. Last night's game was a makeup of a rainout earlier in the week and there appeared to only be a couple thousand fans in the stands.

Said R.A. Dickey to the New York Post: "If you think we're just a piece away, then you are fooling yourself. We've got to do a lot of things better."

We heard that a few times the last four years from the UnAmazins. Bring on the Blue Jays. Please. 

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Gaston, Alomar, Hentgen to attend Bisons-Blue Jays press conference Friday afternoon

The Bisons have announced a star-studded roster of guests for Friday's press conference in Pettibone's Grille announcing their new affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays. Among the Toronto officials scheduled to be on hand will be Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, former Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen and longtime former manager Cito Gaston, a trio that combined to lead the Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

All are now working as club ambassadors. Hentgen served as a coach in the minor-league chain and as the big-league club's bullpen coach in 2011 before resigning to take a role as a special assistant.

Representing the Bisons at the press conference will be owners Bob and Mindy Rich, president Jon Dandes and VP/General Manager Mike Buczkowski. Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz are also scheduled to attend.

The Blue Jays roster, in addition to Alomar, Gaston and Hentgen looks like this:

President & CEO Paul Beeston
Senior VP/GM Alex Anthopoulos
VP/Baseball Operations, Assistant GM Tony LaCava
Director Minor League Operations Charlie Wilson
Field Coordinator Doug Davis.

Beeston had plenty to say in today's Toronto Sun about the Jays' disappointing season. A great read from Steve Simmons.

Sounds like a great show. Of course, the Mets put on a pretty good one as well in 2008 when they were unveiled, and it even included Governor David Paterson. So it's just a press conference. The proof will come starting next April. And Bisons fans remember how things started for the Mets in April, 2009. The Blue Jays certainly need to make a better first impression.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Reno tops list of minor-league champions

We've spent most of the last three days on ye olde blog talking about the Bisons-Blue Jays connection (press conference coming here Friday), but the action on the field for the minor-league season didn't actually end until nearly 11 p.m. Tuesday night as Reno wrapped up its victory in the Triple-A National Championship Game.

The Aces, top affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, scored eight runs in the first three innings en route to a 10-3 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox.  Reno ended the three-game winning streak of the IL in the game; the Aces batted as the home team even though the game was in an IL park (Durham Bulls Athletic Park) because of the PCL's win in the All-Star Game July 11 in Buffalo.

So with Reno topping the list, here's the 2012 rundown of minor-league champions. Click each team name linked for the MILB.com story on their championship clincher:

Triple-A National Champion: Reno (Arizona)
Pacific Coast League: Reno
International League: Pawtucket (Red Sox)
Eastern League: Akron (Indians)
Southern League: Mobile (Diamondbacks)
Texas League: Springfield (Cardinals)
California League: Lancaster (Astros)
Carolina League: Lynchburg (Braves)
Florida State League: Lakeland (Tigers)
Midwest League: Wisconsin (Mariners)
South Atlantic League: Asheville (Rockies) 
New-York Penn: Hudson Valley (Rays) 
Northwest League: Vancouver (Blue Jays)
Appalachian League: Elizabethtown (Twins)

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

 

Bisons-Blue Jays banter: Escobar, a new deal and a farewell from Valentino to Buffalo fans

The first immediate impact on the field regarding the Bisons' new affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays might play out today in New York, as Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar meets the media to try to explain the apparent homophobic slur he wore on his eye black over the weekend against the Red Sox.

(UPDATE: Escobar has been given a three-game suspension by the Blue Jays in conjunction with MLB and the Players' Association)

Escobar may not make it to 2013 with Toronto (heck, some people wonder if he'll make it to tomorrow unless he's really repentant). Adeiny Hechevarria, the Cuban who played here in the Triple-A All-Star Game, could use a little more seasoning in Buffalo next year according to this story by Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun. But you wonder how much, especially if Escobar is dealt this winter.

Hechevarria played mostly shortstop this year in Vegas, and that's where he was for the all-star game. He's played mostly third base in Toronto when Brett Lawrie was on the DL but Lawrie is entrenched there so the Jays have to think about short or second for the Cuban.

The Bisons and Blue Jays, meanwhile, formalized their two-year agreement today and will hold a press conference here Friday afternoon in Pettibones Grille. Our latest story is at this link with comments from both sides.

Pictures of Coca-Cola Field are appearing all over the Web to accompany Blue Jays stories, like this one at the Toronto Star (a tarp-covered field? really?) and this much nicer one taken late this season by MILB.com from the HSBC Tower.

Meanwhile, Bisons slugger Valentino Pascucci has taken to his Twitter account to thank the fans here for his three seasons. The highlight, of course, was his victory in Triple-A Home Run Derby.

Tweeted Pascucci:  "I so want to send out a special Thank You to all of the Bison fans... Thanks for all the support over the last couple years, you were great."

Pascucci indicated near the end of the season he would be interested in staying with the Mets and also tweeted today he's excited about the chance to him more home runs in the Pacific Coast League, which he tore up in the 90s while playing for Edmonton and Albuquerque.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

On the air on Bisons/Blue Jays deal

Jays logoThe folks in Southern Ontario were abuzz Monday night with chatter on the Bisons' deal with the Blue Jays.

Rod Mawhood, good friend of the Sabres Edge blog, was kind enough to have me as his guest on Game On on CKTB 610 in Niagara Falls in a segment that aired about an hour before the news broke of the done deals between Buffalo and Toronto, and the Mets and Las Vegas.

That's when Sportsnet 590 the FAN in Toronto stepped in, as Jeff Sammut and I talked about the breaking news and what it might mean for the two franchises.

Click the files below to listen.

CKTB

Fan 590 Toronto

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

It's official: Blue Jays coming to Buffalo, Mets head to Vegas

The New York Mets completed the Triple-A affiliation shuffle tonight, announcing during their game against the Phillies in Citi Field that they have signed a new player development contract with the Las Vegas 51s.

In the wake of the Mets' announcement, sources told The News that the Bisons will announce a two-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays tomorrow. Bisons General Manager Mike Buczkowski said tonight the team will announce details of its new PDC tomorrow and declined further comment until that announcement is made.

The Bisons and Blue Jays will hold a gala press conference to announce the affiliation later this week, most likely Friday, in Coca-Cola Field. Bisons operators Bob and Mindy Rich will be on hand, as well as members of the Blue Jays' front office and other ambassadors of the parent club. 

In other news tonight, the Newark Star-Ledger is reporting the Mets will not retain Bisons pitching coach Mark Brewer for their Las Vegas staff next season. Brewer had an up-and-down year directing a Bisons staff that posted a 3.99 ERA and was eighth in the International League. He had clear success stories like Matt Harvey and Josh Edgin but didn't have similar success with prospects such as Jeurys Famila and Jenrry Mejia. 

Still, Brewer has been highly regarded by the Mets and is clearly a victim of philosophical differences with the Mets front office. There's no word on the status of manager Wally Backman, although both Mets and Bisons officials felt he did a good job this season despite the teams' numerous transactions.

Backman is known to be wary of the travel involved in the Pacific Coast League and is likely not interested in going to Vegas. He may pursue another job with the Mets or look to other organizations.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: BNHarrington 

Bisons GM Buczkowski: 'We need a competitive team'

Bisons VP/General Manager Mike Buczkowski acknowleged today the team needs to have a better chance of winning games as one part of rebuilding attendance in Coca-Cola Field. And with that in mind, the Herd has opened talks with the Toronto Blue Jays on a new player development contract.

Buczkowski said both he and team president Jon Dandes have already spoken today to Charlie Wilson, the Jays' director of minor-league operations, and that they expect to talk to Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and President Paul Beeston in short order. That talk could come as soon as later today following the Jays/Red Sox game in Rogers Centre.

Bisons operators Bob and Mindy Rich are also expected to speak to the Blue Jays via conference call. It's likely Bob Rich, who is a longtime friend of Mets owner Fred Wilpon and also close with Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer and New York manager Terry Collins, will make what amounts to a goodbye call to the Mets in the next day or so.

"I would never question the Mets' effort, especially this year," Buczkowski said. "They made a real effort to sign players, to keep our roster full. They did a lot of things to make us successful. It didn't just translate on the field."

Buczkowski said he didn't agree with some of the perceptions, fostered by some Mets-centric blogs, that the Bisons are overly demanding of their parent clubs when it comes to wins and losses.

"People say we have to have a winning team but I say to be competitive," he said. "There were a lot of times the last four years we were not competitive. We get a bad rap that we're demanding a championship team. That's not what we're saying. We need a competitive team. Win more than you lose. Play some games in August that mean something. We haven't done that."

Buczkowski said he did not expect the process of talking to the Jays to drag out but said he didn't think any announcement would come until Tuesday at the earliest. 

"Within the next day or so we'll come to a decision and do the right thing for everybody involved," he said.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Blue Jays GM on Bisons: 'It all comes down to geography'

Veteran Blue Jays reporter John Lott of the National Post tweeted the first news this morning that the Blue Jays are officially talking to the Bisons and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has published the bulk of the comments from Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos to reporters on the subject prior to today's Jays-Red Sox game.

Anthopoulos is being politically correct when he says the Jays are still talking to Las Vegas (technically, they can go back there). But, of course, nobody believes him.

"It all comes down to geography, more than anything else," Anthopoulos said. "Las Vegas has been good for us and we may very well end up being there. At this stage we want to at least take a look. … Vegas has been great. The only challenge is geography."

Anthopulos said Charlie Wilson, the Blue Jays' director of minor-league operations, is in charge of the club's negotiations. The Bisons are likely being represented by team president Jon Dandes and VP/General Manager Mike Buczkowski. I have put in a call for comment to Buczkowski, who has been unable to say anything until today because of the rules of MLB and the minors.

"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said Anthopoulos. "Just in fairness, Charlie is the one doing all this, I know everyone wants to link everything, if ever came to that point I'd have a lot more thoughts on it, but in fairness to everybody, Las Vegas, to everybody else, it's just like free agency right now, everyone just declared free agency."

I heard from multiple folks Friday night in Toronto that the Blue Jays want a four-year deal, but Anthopoulos said today that's not an absolute and could go for two years.

"We're open to either," said Anthopoulos. "Our lean is always to go shorter, no matter what it is, player contracts, things like that, but we're fine with four."

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Bisons, Blue Jays officially talking

It's been hush-hush until now because of the rules of the minor and major leagues, but the window for MLB clubs to talk to potential new minor-league affiliates officially opened today -- and the Bisons and Toronto Blue Jays are now working on the game's worst-kept secret.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed to Toronto reporters this morning that the team is speaking to the Bisons about moving their Triple-A club from Las Vegas to Buffalo.

The only real discussion point, frankly, is whether the deal will be for two or four years. The Bisons have never started a deal with a new parent for anything but two years but the Jays are known to be interested in four. There's no way the Blue Jays stay in Vegas, although Anthopoulos took the PC route this morning and said they could, and there's no way the Bisons stay with the Mets.

In today's Inside Baseball column, I provided a full look at the Blue Jays' system and answered the question so many people have asked me lately: If the Jays' Triple-A team hasn't made the playoffs since 1998, why is this likely to be any better than the Mets?

In the print edition, I compiled a list of Triple-A teams' records the last four years (the period Buffalo was with the Mets). The Bisons, as you might surmise, were 28th out of 30. Take a look below.

---Mike Harrington
(Twitter: @BNHarrington) 

AHEAD OF THE HERD
Records for Triple-A teams since 2009, when the Bisons became an affiliate of the Mets:

Team (parent) W-L Pct.
Sacramento (Athletics) 339-236 .590
Scranton-WB (Yankees) 325-245 .570
Durham (Rays) 317-256 .553
Omaha (Royals) 307-267 .535
Reno (DBacks) 306-268 .533
Indianapolis (Pirates) 306-269 .532
Albuquerque (Dodgers) 302-273 .525
Columbus (Indians) 299-275 .521
Gwinnett (Braves) 293-281 .510
Memphis (Cardinals) 293-282 .510
Syracuse (Nationals) 288-283 .504
Nashville (Brewers) 290-286 .503
Okla. City (Astros) 288-285 .503
Pawtucket (Red Sox) 287-286 .501
Louisville (Reds) 287-286 .501
Las Vegas (Blue Jays) 287-288 .499
Charlotte (White Sox) 286-288 .498
Fresno (Giants) 285-291 .495
Lehigh Valley (Phillies) 284-291 .494
Tacoma (Mariners) 281-294 .489
Salt Lake City (Angels) 280-295 .487
Col. Springs (Rockies) 276-297 .482
Round Rock (Rangers) 276-300 .479
Iowa (Cubs) 273-298 .478
New Orleans (Marlins) 271-298 .476
Toledo (Tigers) 270-304 .470
Norfolk (Orioles) 268-305 .468
Buffalo (Mets) 260-313 .454
Rochester (Twins) 244-332 .424
Portland-Tucson (Padres) 240-336 .417

 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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