Saturday, June 5, 2010

Game 56: Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown

Despite the season being more than a third over, this weekend's series between the Yanks and Jays is only the first of six between the division rivals this year. As far the Yankees' schedule is concerned, the Blue Jays are a bird of a different feather when compared to their fellow division rivals the Orioles. Prior to the start of this weekend's series, the Yanks and O's wrapped their third series of the season, and as soon as this weekend trip to Toronto wraps, the Yanks will head to Baltimore for their fourth series against the O's.

But the Yankees' schedule isn't the only indicator of the stark contrast between the AL East's two avian franchises this year. Entering 2010, Baltimore was the trendy pick as a surprise team. Not necessarily one that could compete with the Yanks, Tampa Bay, and Boston, but one that could ride its good young talent in taking a big step forward this year. Instead, a third of the way through the season, Baltimore has the Major's worst record, a fired manager, and several promising young players who are struggling mightily.

Instead, Toronto has been the surprise club in the AL East, hanging virtually even with Boston and within striking distance of both New York and Tampa Bay. It's doubtful that they can make it hold up over the long haul. As noted above, they have 17 games left against the Yankees, and they just dropped two of three to the Rays. But still, the fifty six games they've played is a significant sample, and both losses to the Rays happened only after blowing commanding leads.

So how have the Jays done it thus far? Well for one thing, despite the loss of Roy Halladay, their pitching still has been pretty good. But the biggest reason is likely that Toronto has been swinging some heavy Canadian lumber. Toronto ended their series with Tampa Bay with 91 home runs on the season, easily the top total in the AL. Boston entered play Thursday with 71, and the twenty homer gap between the first and second place teams is as big as the gap between second place Boston and the AL average.

One third of the way through the season the Jays have three players - the rejuvenated Vernon Wells and the out-of-nowhere Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista - on pace for 30 home runs. They have five more - including 2009 30 HR guys Adam Lind and Aaron Hill - on pace for 20, and Travis Snider is on pace for just under 20. As a team, they also entered play Thursday leading the AL in slugging, total bases, isolated power, home run percentage, home run per flyball ratio - all of them by fairly healthy margins.

In short, Canada's team has been beating the hell out of the ball and living large on the big flies this year. It's unlikely that they'll be able to keep up that pace. But the longer they can, the longer they'll keep from turning around and sliding down the standings. To that end, Fack Youk's favorite Canadian implores his nation's last remaining Major League club to keep taking opposing pitchers downtown.

Come on baby let's go downtown
Let's go, let's go, let's go downtown
Come on baby let me turn you around
I'll turn you, turn you, turn you around
[Song Notes: While we're clearly riffing on Young's Canadian heritage in linking this tune up with the Jays, the star of this song is really Crazy Horse guitarist and Georgia native Danny Whitten. Whitten is credited as the co-writer of this tune, and it's actually him, not Neil heard on lead vocals here. Whitten was an excellent foil to Young, providing critical guitar and vocal parts to some of Young's greatest work: "Cinnamon Girl", "Down By the River", "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", "Cowgirl in the Sand", etc.

Unfortunately, Whitten also fell victim to heroin addiction. Whitten's problems with the drug prompted Young to dismiss the entirety of Crazy Horse midway through the recording of After The Gold Rush and to pen the beautiful tune "The Needle and the Damage Done". Whitten's addiction cost him his life in November 1972.

Young lost his friend Bruce Berry to an overdose less than a year later, and the two deaths were the inspiration behind Young's 1975 album Tonight's the Night. It is on that album that song above appeared, though the actual performance took place at New York's Fillmore East in March 1970.

And just for the hell of it, outfielder "Hard Hittin'" Mark Whiten made his Major League debut for the Blue Jays in 1990 and later played briefly for the 1997 Yankees]


Sorry Fackers, no lineups today. It's another phone-it-in weekend. You know where to find them. It'll be Andy Pettitte and Ricky Romero in an all southpaw pitching match up.