Rush Singer Geddy Lee Expecting Big Year For Blue Jays

By Ted Berg, USA Today, February 26, 2013

NEW YORK -- The annals of rock music's history are filled with legendary stories of bands' backstage antics. But Rush bassist and singer Geddy Lee, who'll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April alongside his band-mates, has a habit that seems particularly unusual for a rock star - if all-too-familiar to baseball fans.

"We do an intermission between sets," he said Tuesday while visiting's studios in Manhattan, "and the first thing I do is check box scores."

Lee grew up watching the Detroit Tigers in Toronto before the Blue Jays existed, but said "all sports sort of fell by the wayside" when he first got into music. But once Rush became established and started touring, Lee found that the Cubs' televised day games synched up well with his schedule.

"It was a great distraction for me from the touring world and all the nonsense that goes along with it," he said. "First of all, I was bored in my hotel room. And it's an intriguing game, and it's a game that requires attention.

"I like the fact that there's no clock, and there's lots of time to critique what's going on while it's going on. I think the spaces in between the plays actually complement your ability to appreciate what you just saw. So when a great play happens, even though when it's live you don't have instant replay, the conversation about what just happened is a form of instant replay."

Lee's growing interest in the sport led him to the work of sabermetric guru Bill James and, ultimately, the fantasy-baseball addiction that has him checking box scores between sets.

"I started reading Bill James quite early on - not when he was first doing his pamphlets, but when he first started doing the Baseball Abstracts, I was right there buying them. I still have all the old baseball abstracts. So that got the wheels turning, and my friends and I used to talk about those stats."

Lee's dynasty keeper league assigns point values to nearly every event that happens on a baseball field, and employs a system he jokingly compared to socialism wherein the worst teams are allowed to keep more players for the next season than the highest finishers. The league even includes defense, assigning point values to double plays, outfield assists, errors and passed balls, and features - in Lee's words - "an ongoing conversation about how the league should be run" that "can be very heated at times."

"I would be embarrassed to admit how much time I spend on it," he said. "I scour the box scores and I scour websites looking for players."

Normally, Lee first checks how his fantasy players did before checking in on the Blue Jays, the hometown team he adopted upon their expansion into the Major Leagues in 1977. But in 2013, after the Blue Jays garnered offseason headlines with a slew of big-name acquisitions, Lee suspects he might change the order.

"This year might be a different story," he said. "I think my fantasy fanaticism may have to take a back seat to my home team.

"Jose Reyes is going to be very exciting to see in a Blue Jay uniform. I think he may be the most intriguing player that they acquired in the offseason - not to take anything away from Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and even R.A. Dickey. Jose Reyes, because he's coming off what I guess was viewed as a bit of a soft year, and because he's had such dominant years in the past, I think it'll be very interesting to see how he adapts to the American League.

"I think [Reyes'] season could dictate the kind of season the Blue Jays have this year," Lee said. "But even if he's average, the team has now acquired so much depth that I think they can withstand a softer year from him than many people expect, particularly because of the depth in the starting rotation. You're talking about a team whose ace last year is now their fifth starter. That is a total rebuild. That is a shocking rebuild, with Dickey, Johnson, Buehrle and Brandon Morrow - who I'm a big believer in."

Lee also expects a resurgent season from Toronto's young third baseman, Brett Lawrie.

"Lawrie came off a tremendous triple-A season in Las Vegas when they called him up, and that carried over into the Major Leagues," he said. "Last year, I guess some people were disappointed that it didn't continue. But that's typical growing pains. There are very few kids who can just come up from the minors and take off - very few Miggy Cabreras out there. They're few and far between. Most of them have to work at it, and they need a couple of years. Certainly in that lineup now, he's going to have a chance to do some damage."

Rush will perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Los Angeles on April 18th. Sometime shortly thereafter, Lee will check the box scores.