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jokergreen Jul 17
If you go back over the past five seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays have been one of the top home run slugging teams in the American League. Justin Mapp Kansas City Jersey . Part of that is due to talent and part is due to the ballpark they play in. Yet, despite being right up there with home run leaders every season over that span, they havent been able to end their post-season drought that extends back to their last appearance in 1993. Since 2009, the Blue Jays have finished in the top five in home runs every season. 2009 was the peak year for round-trippers over the last five seasons in the junior circuit with 2,560. The Yankees led the league with 244 homers, well above the league average of 183 per team. The Blue Jays finished with 209. 2009 was the only season in the last five that the team with the most homers in the American League won the Fall Classic, as the Yankees beat the Phillies for their fifth title in 14 seasons. The Yankees also led in 2011 with 222 homers and 2012 with 245. They also hit over 200 homers every season in the last five except 2013, when they were devastated by injuries. Over the last five years, the Blue Jays have hit 209 homers in 2009 (4th), 257 in 2010 (1st) , 186 in 2011 (5th), 198 in 2012 (5th) and 185 in 2013 (4th). One team that has benefitted a little bit from a power surge has been Oakland. In 2011, the As only hit 114 homers. In 2012, they jumped to 195 (6th) in the A.L. and followed that by climbing to third in the league last season with 186. Of course, they won the American League West each of the last two campaigns. I guess what Im trying to say is that the Blue Jays could and should sacrifice some of their power to boost the starting rotation. Under new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, the Jays are going to attempt to use the whole field and just drive the ball into the gaps as opposed to just trying to pull the ball for home runs. Trying a different approach and attempting to cut down the strikeouts cant hurt. There has been a lot of talk about home runs diminishing over the past few years. As I mentioned off the top, in 2009 there were 2,560 home runs hit. The next year, the total dropped off to 2,209 - a decrease of 351. From that point on, though, over the past three seasons, home runs are on the rise again. In 2013, the total was 2,504 in the American League - just 54 off the 2009 total. There is another pitcher out there on the rumour mill that the Blue Jays might take a run at. The Chicago Cubs are reportedly trying to get right hander Jeff Samardzijas name on an extension but if he balks, they could consider dealing him over the winter since he could become a free agent after 2015. Samardzija is a bit of a late bloomer at 28 years old. In just his second year as a full-time Cubs starter in 2013, he went 8-13 on a bad ball club with a 4.34 ERA. But hes got what everyone is looking for; durability - 213.2 innings last season - and ability to strike guys out with 214 against just 78 walks. The trouble for the Jays is that Arizona, Washington and the Pittsburgh are also rumoured to be after him, and all three appear to have deeper farm systems flush with the kind of talent the Cubs would want in return. Ever Alvarado Jersey . The England international raised his middle finger toward Manchester City supporters during Saturdays game at Etihad Stadium, which Arsenal lost 6-3. The incident was not seen by match officials at the time but the FA charged Wilshere retrospectively after a study of video footage. Blank Jersey . Nick Young scored 17 points for Los Angeles, which lost five of its last seven before trouncing the Pelicans, who beat them handily last week in New Orleans. Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry scored 15 points apiece for the Lakers, who led by 20 points in the first half before coasting to their 12th win in their last 13 regular-season meetings with New Orleans.CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Danica Patrick traditionally winds down each season with a series of interviews designed to reflect on the past year and look ahead at whats next for one of the most recognizable figures in sports. She deliberately left something out of her 2012 exit interviews, waiting until two days after the season ended to announce she was divorcing her husband after seven years of marriage. So as she relaxed earlier this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a motorhome parked near the bus boyfriend and fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., it was imperative to get the important stuff out of the way first: Was she planning any bombshell announcements in the next week? Pregnant? Engaged? "Pregnant? No. I can promise you not," Patrick laughed. "The other one? I dont know. Im the girl. It could be never, it could be tomorrow." Patrick, who disclosed two months after announcing her divorce that she and Stenhouse were dating, is open to getting married again. "I would, absolutely. I love love," she told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview. "But if Im getting married is not a question I know the answer to. Should we go get Ricky and you can ask him yourself?" This is the new Danica Patrick, who for most of her career has been viewed as guarded, even cold. She was light and playful as the sometimes scantily clad "GoDaddy Girl" in all those Super Bowl commercials, but she was strictly business at the race track, where she has struggled to put together results to match the hype. Patrick was, in all regards, an enigma. She spent five seasons driving for Michael Andretti in the IndyCar Series, and the team owner saw a seismic shift in Patrick as her superstar status exploded far beyond the small world of open-wheel racing. She began dabbling in NASCAR in 2010, and left Andretti behind when she made the full-time jump to stock cars in 2012. He has followed her from afar since, and thought he recognized Danica from simpler times when he saw her become the first woman in history to win the pole at the Daytona 500 earlier this year. "Now that her husbands out of there -- he was not a good influence on her, I can tell you that," Andretti said in March, two months after Patricks historic run at Daytona. "Thats when things went south with us when he started getting involved. He was very controlling. Had her think in funny ways. She was getting out of control. Her head was getting so big. You just couldnt talk to her. Im hoping shes coming back down to Earth a little bit." If Patrick needed to become more grounded, her two years in NASCAR have given her that, cowboy boots and all. Stenhouse, a Mississippi native whod never visited New York City before he began dating Patrick, has had a total transformation on the one-time diva in the designer heels. Asked how Stenhouse has changed her, she flips rapidly through her phone showing pictures of the couple at various country music concerts. Her taste in music has changed so much that Patrick will join Trace Adkins as co-host of the American Country Awards on Dec. 10. She watches dirt track racing, goes to Professional Bull Riding events and has taken up golf, improving from an inability to hit the ball to trash-talking with Stenhouse and confidently wagering with him there will come a day she will beat him on the links. "Id say I have a lot more fun doing a lot of different things," Patrick said. "Theres a lot more things that Ive tried for the first time this year and Im open to doing, whether its going skeet shooting or learning how to play golf. The fun weve had having our families here on the weekend, just having everybody stay on the buses and be with us. Its just been a great year." And that goes for the track, too, regardless of what the statistics show. Patrick finished 27th in the final Sprint Cup standings and lost the rookie battle to Stenhouse, who finished 19th. Although she completed 94.2 per cent of the laps, she finished on the lead lap in only 12 of 36 races. It wasnt the season anyone hoped for, particularly after Patrick became the first woman to lead laps in the Daytona 500. She wwound up eighth when she failed to anticipate Jimmie Johnsons race-winning move and couldnt stop Dale Earnhardt Jr. Brad Davis Jersey. s late-race jockeying for position. It was her only top-10 finish of the year. Although she is brutally hard on herself, team co-owner Tony Stewart believes Patrick did just fine this season. A broken right leg in August kept Stewart out of the car the final four months of the season and the three-time champion was able to evaluate Patrick firsthand. "I see room for improvement, but I see a lot of potential," he said, praising her attention to details, preparation, focus and communication with her crew. "I think she realizes to a certain degree she took a big bite doing this as early as she did, and I think everybodys judging of her, grading of her, I think you have to look at how much time shes really had in a stock car. The time shes been in a stock car, shes done a pretty good job. I value it for what it is, not necessarily the result at the end of the day." Patrick had just 10 Sprint Cup starts before this season, and 58 starts in the Nationwide Series, where the cars are heavier but have less horsepower. Stewart has seen that Patrick lacks confidence at the start of each race, and often needs to wait for her GoDaddy team to make the needed adjustments to her No. 10 Chevrolet to get comfortable. "Im not sure if shes so used to IndyCar and how it is, I think she struggles finding and knowing what to do to work around the problem," Stewart said. "As soon as they get it close for her, the pace comes up. But at the beginning, when everybodys cars arent driving well, we have to figure out how to get her more comfortable wrestling the car." Patrick knows exactly where and when she struggles, and blames inexperience. "When you need to get to the very limit of the car, especially when things are challenging, is when it shows up. Like first laps of practice, or qualifying, restarts, start of a green flag run -- all the things when you are testing the limit and having to be confident and know the limits. I dont know them yet, and Im not confident," she said. "When the car is right, its all good, I will gain spots. There is a big contrast in those moments." She is judged harshly by fans who look at her numbers, or see her running at the back of the field, and scoff at her presence in the Sprint Cup Series. They argue shes only with Stewart-Haas Racing because sponsor GoDaddy pays her tab, and she hasnt earned the right to race alongside 2014 teammates Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. "She doesnt read the comments at all," Stenhouse said. "Shes pretty hard on herself, she doesnt need to read it from anyone else." Stenhouse, the protective boyfriend and on-track competitor, has learned to tune out the critics and not focus on Patricks race. He said he will sometimes notice another driver racing her harder than necessary, but its not his problem and he does nothing but discuss it after with her. "Ill talk to her, but as far as confront them? No," he said. "Lets create an army," Patrick goaded. "Come on. Tony is on board. Kevin is on board. Kurt is on board. Its an army of awesome." "Huh?" Stenhouse said, wrinkling his forehead. "I mean, Ive got my own things to do out there." "Its fine," she replied. "Ill learn to fight my own fights out there. Ill learn how to take people out." Happier than shes ever been, personally and professionally, Patrick sees a bright 2014 ahead. As SHR expands to four cars and adds Harvick and Busch, she knows expectations will be even higher for her to perform. But with a year of experience, she hopes to meet new goals Stewart sets for her progress. In the meantime, shell travel to Las Vegas next week for the season-ending awards banquet, where shell play a supporting role as Stenhouse collects his Rookie of the Year title. The competitor in her isnt thrilled, and Patrick feigned a halfhearted cheer. "Im just kidding, babe," she smiled at Stenhouse, "Im extremely happy for you. You had to beat me." 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