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Quick word on Dickey & the Herd

Out here in cyber vacation land, my e-mail box and Twitter feed are getting flooded by inquiries about the R.A. Dickey trade and how the Blue Jays have chipped away again at the Bisons' potential roster for their first season as a Toronto affiliate. Sorry if you don't get the responses you normally get but it will be the same to everyone, so follow along here for the Cliff Notes analysis.

Blue Jays: They're going for it in 2013. The World Series. They haven't made the playoffs since 1993 but with the Yankees and Red Sox either aged or broken down and the Orioles largely considered a one-year fluke, it would seem Toronto and Tampa Bay are the teams to beat in the AL East. The Blue Jays now have the best rotation in baseball with Dickey, Brandon Morrow, John Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Romero and a lineup with standouts in their prime (Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion) and young players on the rise (think Brett Lawrie).

Bisons: Catcher Travis d'Arnaud was the top prospect in the Toronto system and the Blue Jays mortgaged him for a multi-year run at the postseason with Dickey atop the rotation. He was going to be Buffalo's Opening Day catcher but he wasn't going to be in Triple-A long, perhaps only as long as April to make sure his injured knee was OK -- and to delay his free agency by a year (think Bryce Harper in Syracuse last April). Noah Syndergaard, the pitcher traded, was a star last year at Class A Lansing and figured to not hit Buffalo until 2014. The Blue Jays have already signed nearly 20 minor-league free agents for Buffalo and top outfield prospects Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra remain. Mike Nickeas will return to Buffalo via the Dickey trade. Overall, this is a much deeper farm system than the Mets.

Mets: It's pretty incredible that a New York City team won't re-sign a Cy Young winner and instead sells high, dumping him for prospects. Now, the Mets likely got some great ones but why are they acting like the Kansas City Royals? They're obviously throwing 2013 away but they've got great young arms (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and Collin McHugh are all familiar to Bisons fans) so that bodes well for the future. But big-market teams normally just reload. Another sign of an ownership in financial chaos. The Bisons needed to break away. 

Back to vacation. Happy Holidays to all and looking forward to a wild 2013 of coverage of the Bisons, Blue Jays and the rest of the baseball world. Thanks for all your support in 2012!

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Free agent shocker: Hamilton to Angels for 5 years, $125 million

Josh
Josh Hamilton has 125 million reasons to smile (Associated Press).

So I know folks in places like San Francisco, Detroit, St. Louis, Washington and maybe even Toronto might argue but should I just book my hotel right now for 10 days next October for a Freeway World Series in sunny Southern California?

The Dodgers have gone completely off the deep end salary wise this offseason and now comes Thursday afternoon's shocker: Multiple outlets are reporting that the Los Angeles Angels are luring Josh Hamilton from Texas for a five-year, $125 million contract. Hamilton and Albert Pujols in the same lineup? Yikes. They'll have plenty of stories to tell from the 2011 Fall Classic! And don't forget Mike Trout in the same outfield. Crazy.

Trout's reaction on Twitter was one word: "Wow." It got more than 4,700 retweets in less than 55 minutes after posting! 

Former Angel Torii Hunter wasn't happy. He signed with Detroit and has tweeted that Angels owner Arte Moreno told him "money was tight." Of course, Hunter is 37 and that might have something to do with it too

The Hamilton deal is another huge loss for the Rangers, who didn't sign Zach Greinke either this winter or make a trade for Justin Upton. Maybe now they go back to the New York Mets for R.A. Dickey. Texas didn't want to go past three years for Hamilton and was pretty much daring him to go out and find a team that would take on the risk of his checkered past. Hamilton did and the Rangers got burned. 

And the move thus completely changes the balance of power in the AL West. Think the A's will be favored to repeat in the division next spring? Think not.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

 

Jays' FA haul for Herd includes PCL All-Star slugger Jimenez

Jimenez
Jimenez takes a rip during the Triple-A Home Run Derby here in July. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

In the wake of their big deal with the Miami Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays have some free-agent needs in Buffalo. And there may be more deals too that will create holes (still wonder if potential Herd CF Anthony Gose is going to the Mets as part of an R.A. Dickey trade)

The Blue Jays have already made a few signings for Buffalo (notably IL All-Star starting pitcher Justin Germano) and announced eight more on Tuesday -- including ex-Pacific Coast League slugger Luis Jimenez.

Jimenez, 30, represented Tacoma of the Seattle chain in both the Triple-A All-Star Game and Triple-A Home Run Derby last July in Coca-Cola Field. And the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder blasted a couple prodigious shots over the party deck in right field during the Derby.

In 125 games at Tacoma, Jimenez hit .310 with 32 doubles, 20 home runs and 81RBI. He went 1 for 17 in September in Seattle in his first big-league at-bats. 

Joining Jimenez in signing minor-league contracts with invitiations to Toronto's big-league spring camp are infielder Eugenio Velez, right-handers Claudio Vargas and Richard Thompson and left-hander Juan Perez. Three more pitchers (righties Buddy Carlyle and Chorye Spoone and lefty Greg Smith) inked minor-league deals.

Velez, 30, is another interesting addition. He had 37 stolen bases last year for Memphis (St. Louis), finishing one shy of the PCL lead. He batted .280 with 34 doubles, five triples, 11 homers and 58 RBIs in 136 games. 

Vargas, 34, has made 217 appearances in the big leagues for six teams. He had a big year last season for Nashville (Milwaukee), going 7-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 20 starts. The other known name in the list is Caryle, who has pitched 112 MLB games for four teams. He was 5-4, 3.43 with 73 strikeouts in 76 innings last season at Gwinnett. 

Among the other signees:

---Smith, 28, was 9-10, 3.97 in 22 games (21 starts) for Salt Lake City in the Los Angeles Angels chain. He had 83 strikeouts in 138 1/3 innings. His ERA was sixth in the PCL and his .257 batting average against was fifth. 

---Thompson, 28, was 4-2, 3.34 with three saves in 46 relief appearances for Sacramento (Oakland). He limited right-handed hitters to just a .198 average and had a 1.67 ERA in 21 outings after the all-star break. He pitched 44 games for the Angels in 2011 (1-3, 3.00).

---Perez, 34, split time between Milwaukee (0-1, 5.14 in 10 games) and Nashville (4-2, 3.60 in 38 games).

---Spoone, 27, was 0-2, 3.18 in 16 games with Toronto's Double-A New Hampshire team. He opened the year in Pawtucket, going 1-1, 2.79 in 14 games.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

New HOFer White played for Bisons in 1800s

Here's one that slipped by ye olde blog this week but has just been passed on by the Bisons: New Hall of Fame electee James "Deacon" White played six seasons for the Herd in the 1800s!

(Here is a case where we all really miss Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Joe Overfield, the longtime Bisons historian who passed away in 2000. My phone would have been ringing a few minutes after Monday's announcement).

HallAccording to the Herd, White (1847-1939) batted .293 while playing 595 games in parts of six seasons with the team. From 1881-1885, he played with Buffalo as part of the National League and then again in 1890 when the Bisons were members of the players-run "Players League."

His full stats are here, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. White played for eight teams from 1871-1890 and his time in Buffalo was actually his longest stint.

White was chosen by the Pre-Integration Committee (the old Veterans Committee) along with former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and ex-umpire Hank O'Day. They will be inducted July 28 in Cooperstown along with winners of the BBWAA election to be announced Jan. 9.

White makes 20 former Bisons in Cooperstown. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see the list, which includes modern-era names like Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Bunning and Johnny Bench.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 
(White photo from Baseballhall.org) 

Voice of Jays' Cheek will live forever in Cooperstown

YouTube of Tom Cheek's most famous call: Joe Carter, Game Six, 1993 (The CBS call by Sean McDonough is in the final 20 seconds).


Tom Cheek will get to touch 'em all again this summer in Cooperstown.

Cheek, the voice of summer in Canada at the microphone for Toronto Blue Jays games from 1977-2005, was named the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence today at the Winter Meetings in Nashville and will be honored by the Hall of Fame in July.

New cheek4306Cheek called every Blue Jays games -- 4,306 of them in the regular season -- for the franchise's first 27 1/2 seasons before missing a 2004 game in Oakland due to the death of his father. That's why 4,306 is the "uniform number" posted for Cheek on the Jays' Level of Excellence in Rogers Centre (left). He died in 2005 at 66 after battling a brain tumor.

Tom_Cheek-2Cheek, who was actually groomed as a broadcaster in Vermont, called some Expos games with 2011 Frick recipient Dave Van Horne before getting the mic from day one in Toronto with Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn in '77. In 1981, Jerry Howarth came on board and the Tom and Jerry Show ruled Canada for more than two decades.

"Touch 'em all, Joe. You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life" was how Cheek called Joe Carter's World Series winner in 1993 in the video above. An unmatched classic.

Howarth remains on the air as the main voice of the Jays now. Mike Wilner of flagship station FAN 590, who does great work as a reporter and on the postgame shows while adding some in-game commentary, spearheaded a grassroots lobbying effort the last couple of years to get Cheek high in fan balloting and at the forefront of Frick committee members. And it has paid off.

I met Cheek several times, both in the Rogers Centre press box and at Blue Jays caravan trips in the late 80s and early 90s to places like the Marriott in Amherst and in Niagara Falls, Ont. He was a huge man (I'm guessing 6-5, 6-6) with big hands and always asked, "how are things in Buffalo?" During the Bisons/Indians heyday of the late 90s, Cheek would see me at the press box soda fountain and joke, "How many more stars does the Tribe have down there anyway?"

And when you grew up in Buffalo in the 70s and 80s, the Yankees and Mets were on cable and the Blue Jays were the only thing that came in clear on the radio (h/t to CJRN AM 710). 

The FAN 590 has a full page up on Cheek, including some great audio I've culled here.


Here are some of Cheek's classic calls


Here is Cheek's emotional Level of Excellence Speech he gave in Toronto in 2005.

You want a really neat find? Someone -- thank you, whoever you are -- has posted the audio of the entire bottom of the ninth from Game Six in 1993. Great stuff.

And here's another full page of Cheek calls that has popped up, including the first home run in Jays' history by Doug Ault in the Toronto snow on April 7, 1977.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

The HOF debate: Your reading material for the day

In today's Inside Baseball column, I tackled the dilemma that is the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot. And as some of you have already pointed out via email and my Twitter page, I have actually mentioned the name "Barry Bonds" and even done a complete 180 and said I would vote for him for Cooperstown.

(Yep, I'm stunned too).

I would vote down the line for Clemens and Bonds, as well as Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. I would think only Biggio is pretty well set to get in this year, with maybe Morris finally pushing through as well. It will certainly be an interesting vote.

(You can still vote on my post from earlier in the week).

In my column, I mentioned these two items that I found particularly interesting this week and here's links to them.

Pete Abraham's blog in the Boston Globe, where he says he's gone from a no-steroid guy to being totally wide open.

Ray Ratto's column at CSNBayarea.com, where he makes his points at times LOUDLY! (Ratto is a longtime San Francisco writer who covered Barry Bonds)

Ian O'Connor has a similar view at ESPNNY.com. Basically, he's willing to vote in bad guys if they're really, really good. That's pretty much where I am right now. 

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

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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 | mharrington@buffnews.com


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 | amoritz@buffnews.com

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