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Original Issue

3 Toronto Blue Jays If the mercurial Mondesi is set to explode, the Blue Jays hope it's only at the plate

It's not easy being Gord Ash. The Blue Jays' general manager is a
hefty man with a bald pate. (At a Halloween party last year he
dressed as Austin Powers's nemesis, Dr. Evil, and was a spitting
image.) When he gets too much sun and wears the tropical shorts
he's been known to favor, his resemblance to the "Hey, Kool-Aid!"
guy is uncanny. Furthermore, Ash is something of an outsider in
the cliquish G.M. game. He is a businessman, not a former
ballplayer. So when the Jim Beatties and Kevin Towerses and Brian
Cashmans get together to knock back a couple of Slurpees, Ash is
left alone to fidget with his calculator.

In November 1998 five-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens
reiterated his desire to play for a contender or a team closer to
his Texas home. Three months later Ash sent his ace to the Bronx
for starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and
second baseman Homer Bush. Skeptics questioned the value that the
Blue Jays received in return. Wells was a very good pitcher, not
great. Lloyd was effective, not great. And Homer Bush?

This off-season it was star rightfielder Shawn Green's turn to
torture Ash. The All-Star and first 30-30 player in franchise
history said he wanted to play in a U.S. city with a large Jewish
population. Again, Ash was handcuffed, as Green could either be
traded or would walk at season's end as a free agent. So Ash sent
his rightfielder to the Dodgers for talented but moody
rightfielder Raul Mondesi and lefthanded reliever Pedro Borbon

Today, having watched the Mariners receive a bundle of mediocrity
from the Reds for Ken Griffey Jr. (who, like Green, could've left
after the season with his old club getting only draft picks in
return), Ash suddenly looks like a man who just might know a
thing or two. Bush went from an unknown utility man to an
adequate every-day second baseman. Wells had three more victories
than Clemens. Borbon deepens a much-improved bullpen and Mondesi,
if the stars are correctly aligned, could be the 40-home-run,
120-RBI outfielder the Jays haven't had since, uh, Green. All are
essential to Toronto's success. All were acquired by Ash.

Now playing: Revenge of the Nerd V: The Businessman Strikes Back.

Ash knows Mondesi will most likely never be as beloved as Green,
one of the organization's most popular players ever. There is,
however, a feeling that the 29-year-old outfielder could be just
as productive, not to mention nearly $40 million cheaper. Mondesi
and Green have strong arms (both are regularly among the league
leaders in outfield assists). They run well (both have stolen 30
bases in a season). They are comparable run producers (both have
averaged at least 90 RBIs over the last three years). Mondesi
will also be surrounded by better hitters than he was in Los
Angeles. The Blue Jays hit 212 homers last season. With DH Carlos
Delgado, third baseman Tony Batista and reenergized centerfielder
Jose Cruz Jr. (fresh off a strong showing in the Dominican winter
league), there is good reason to think they can reach that figure
again. "I feel like I am a rookie, starting my career fresh and
new," says Mondesi, who feuded with management for much of his
seven years on the West Coast.

Toronto's biggest improvement will be on the mound. The bullpen,
led by closer Billy Koch, is deep, and the rotation is
potentially one of the AL's best. While Wells's '99 ERA was
alarmingly high, he is a lock for 14 to 18 wins. Righthanders Roy
Halladay, 22, and Kelvim Escobar, 23, are hard throwers who
should improve with another year of experience under their belts.
Joey Hamilton was terrible last year (lefties batted .348 against
him), but he had successful off-season rotator cuff surgery, and
when he fully recovers, he could give Toronto some quality
starts, if not the 200-plus innings he regularly provided San
Diego from 1995 to '98.

But the man who will be the staff ace, according to his
teammates, is Chris Carpenter, who had a bone spur removed from
his elbow in September. The 24-year-old righty is Toronto's most
talented starter, the owner of a fastball that tops out in the
low 90s, a deadly slider and changeup, and a curve, says Bush,
"that drops from 12 to six." Yet, in his three seasons in the
bigs, he has battled various injuries, and questions about his
health have lingered into this spring. "Chris is a 20-game
winner," says shortstop Alex Gonzalez. "His stuff is as
unhittable as anyone's out there. He just needs a full season to
show it."

Last year Toronto was in the wild-card hunt until a late-August
swoon. Every pitcher seemed to break down, Green stopped hitting,
and since-departed third baseman Tony Fernandez turned dozens of
harmless grounders into a hot new miniseries, The Dizzy Matador.
The 2000 Blue Jays, with many thanks to Ash, are improved. Come
October the businessman might wreak his sweetest revenge

--Jeff Pearlman

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO TAKING OFFENSE Mondesi is determined to prove his many critics wrong, saying there's no way he won't drive in 100 runs in Toronto's stacked lineup.


around the Horn

[3 1/2 stars]
[3 1/2 stars]
[3 1/2 stars]
[3 stars]
4 stars]

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics 1999 record: 84-78 (third in AL East)
(AL rank)

Batting average .280 (5) Opponents' batting average .280 (8)
Runs scored 883 (5) ERA 4.92 (8)
Home runs 212 (T4) Fielding percentage .983 (5)

next up...

He has been called "a strikeout pitcher" for as long as he can
remember. That's what happens when you're a high school mound
legend with a nifty nickname (Doc), as Roy Halladay was while
growing up outside Denver. "People label you one thing," says the
22-year-old Halladay, "and it sticks. But it's not always true."
The Blue Jays' No. 3 starter does, in fact, throw a fastball in
the low 90s. But what most impresses manager Jim Fregosi is not
his ability to strike batters out but his ability to induce them
into hitting harmless ground balls. "He's a young kid," says
Fregosi, "but he's mature enough to know a groundout is just as
good--better even--than a strikeout." Last season Halladay fanned
only 82 batters in 149 1/3 innings, but he was the only Toronto
starter with an ERA under 4.00. "It's not too sexy," says
Halladay. "but who cares?"

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Jim Fregosi (second season with Toronto)


LF Shannon Stewart R 53 .304 11 67 37
2B Homer Bush R 91 .320 5 55 32
RF Raul Mondesi[1] R 29 .253 33 99 36
1B Carlos Delgado L-R 22 .272 44 134 1
DH Brad Fullmer[1] L-R 203 .277 9 47 2
3B Tony Batista* R 79 .277 31 100 4
C Darrin Fletcher L-R 156 .291 18 80 0
CF Jose Cruz Jr. S-R 191 .241 14 45 14
SS Alex S. Gonzalez R 252 .292 2 12 4


C Alberto Castillo[1] R 305 .263 4 31 0
IF Chris Woodward[2] R 323 .292 1 20 4
OF Jacob Brumfield* R 351 .241 2 20 1
IF Craig Grebeck R 387 .363 0 10 0


LH David Wells 38 17 10 6.8 1.33 4.82
RH Chris Carpenter 84 9 8 6.3 1.50 4.38
RH Roy Halladay 98 8 7 5.8 1.57 3.92
RH Kelvim Escobar 139 14 11 5.6 1.63 5.69
RH Joey Hamilton 151 7 8 5.3 1.60 6.52


RH Billy Koch 20 0 5 31 1.34 3.86
RH Paul Quantrill 169 3 2 0 1.44 3.33
RH John Frascatore*[1] 212 8 5 1 1.34 3.73
LH Pedro Borbon Jr.[1] 231 4 3 1 1.34 4.09
RH Peter Munro 253 0 2 0 1.68 6.02
RH Lance Painter[1] 276 4 5 1 1.39 4.83

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Combined AL and NL stats
[2]Triple A stats

the book
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Blue Jays

"This team is ready to contend for the wild card again, though
it can't win the division. It's not in the class of the
Yankees.... I like Toronto's young pitching and they have one of
the game's best managers. Jim Fregosi is worth an extra 10 wins
a year. He gets the most out of players and knows how to work
the umpires.... Centerfield is a toss-up between Jose Cruz and
Vernon Wells. Cruz may have the edge only because of Wells's
inexperience, but long term, Wells clearly is the better
player.... I'm not sold on Homer Bush at second base. I have
doubts about his bat and don't think he can repeat what he did
last year.... I like Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay behind
David Wells. Carpenter has good velocity and one of the best
curveballs in the league. Halladay has a great arm but gets in
trouble with his command.... I don't think anyone's got better
stuff than the closer, Billy Koch. He's got plus-plus velocity
and a real nasty curveball.... The continued development of
their young pitching--Carpenter, Halladay and Kelvim
Escobar--will determine how far they go."