Archive for December, 2007
Tuesday, December 25th, 2007
2:15 PM Eastern
Just so you have something else to do on Christmas Day with everything closed except for movie theatres and Chinese restuarants (the traditional Jewish Xmas combo), here’s my first-ever mailbag!
I tried to answer every piece of e-mail that I’ve gotten since this blog started earlier this month, but couldn’t get everyone in here because I didn’t put in repeat questions and didn’t use any of the Rios-Lincecum stuff because that’s all moot now, thanks to the greatness that is Aaron Rowand.
E-mail was edited for space only (it was REALLY hard not to edit some for punctuation and grammar, but I held back), and I took out any compliments to me. I really do appreciate them a lot, but I don’t think you readers want me to publish other people telling me how much they like me. Gotta be pretty insecure to be throwing that stuff up there.
So, without further ado, here you go – actual comments from actual readers, as they say:
My question is if you know how much JP values defence versus runs scored (1 saved run = x scored runs). Also, has JP estimated how many runs the Jays need to score (and give up) this year to hit at least 90 wins?
Thanks in advance,
I don’t think J.P. values defense nearly as much as he values offence. Preferring Eckstein over Johnny Mac shows one example of that. I know for sure that he believes that a great defender is much easier to find than a great hitter.
I’m also not quite sure about estimating how many runs a team needs to score (and give up) in order to reach specific amount of wins. It’s not like you can look at your roster and say, “Wells should drive in 105 runs, Thomas should drive in 100, Rios might have 110 RBIs, etc….” then add it all up and see what you get. It’s more about how many more runs you score than you allow over the entire season, but don’t tell that to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
By the way, you have inspired me to check and see how the experts expect the Blue Jays’ players to do next season. OK, the expert. Bill James projects players’ outputs in his annual Handbook, which I highly recommend picking up. I took it and looked at how many runs he expected the Blue Jays to score, and how many runs he projected the Blue Jays to allow next season (though he didn’t project Sal Fasano, Buck Coats or Randy Wells, unfortunately). I put Curtis Thigpen in as the back-up catcher, for argument’s sake, and found that BILL JAMES SAYS THE BLUE JAYS WILL WIN 97 GAMES NEXT SEASON! He projects 800 runs scored and 655 runs allowed, which leads to a pythagorean winning percentage of .598.
(By the way, that’s accounting for the projected offensive production of Zaun, Thigpen, Overbay, Hill, Eckstein, Glaus, McDonald, Scutaro, Johnson, Stairs, Wells, Rios, Lind and Thomas and the projected pitching performance of Halladay, Burnett, Marcum, McGowan, Litsch, Chacin, Ryan, Accardo, Janssen, League, Downs, Frasor, Tallet and Wolfe. It doesn’t account for unearned runs, though, so throw 50 of those in there and you still come up with 92-93 wins.)
I made a point to vote for Tom Cheek everyday as well as Dave Van Horne and Don Chevrier.
If the Jays get off to a slow start next season will Gibbons get the axe. How much time do you feel JP has to get the Jays going in the right direction before he is let go.
Is it the plan of the organization to have Janssen in the starting rotation next year.
What is their drawing card to tickets this year if they do not have a signing to attract more fans, any chance of trade to shake up the team.
Thanks for taking the time to read my note.
First of all, thanks for casting a daily vote for Tom! And it was nice of you to include Van Horne and Chevy, as well.
I do think the rope is nearing its end for both Gibby and J.P., but I think it’s important to remember that John Gibbons squeezed 83 wins out of his team last season with only three healthy regular everyday players, without his closer, and with only one pitcher making more than 27 starts.
That said, it’s time to win, and if the team stays reasonably healthy and is buried early, I think Gibbons will be let go. Also, if the team stays reasonably healthy and doesn’t play a significant game in September, that will be it for J.P. as well.
I don’t think any of that will happen, though. I believe that healthy, the Jays are more than good enough to take a run at the big boys. And so does Bill James!
As for Janssen, the plan of the organization is definitely to have him as a starter in 2008, but that’s not necessarily the plan of the manager, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. If Ryan and League are healthy out of Spring Training, there’s no debate. If they’re not, Gibby’s going to want Janssen back in the ‘pen. J.P. wants him starting either way.
And the drawing card for ticket sales? Even if there were a major signing, it wouldn’t be that. Heck, Roger Clemens, that ‘roided up freak, didn’t significantly boost attendance when he was winning his back-to-back Cy Youngs here. The fact is, the Blue Jays have been a very entertaining team to watch the past few years, despite their lack of overall success, and they’ll continue to be. Hill, Wells, Overbay, Rios, Reed Johnson and of course, John McDonald (when he plays) are a treat to watch defensively. You have a terrific group of young pitchers in McGowan, Marcum, Janssen and Accardo, and Halladay and Burnett can blow the doors off at any time. And if chicks still dig the longball, there’s Thomas and Glaus to cheer on. Lots of reasons to come to the ballpark. Oh, and Eckstein is a lot of fun to watch – and not just see if his arm stays in its socket while he’s making a throw to first, or while he’s in the on-deck circle.
Look, the fact is, if you enjoy watching baseball, you’ll come out to see the Jays. If you don’t enjoy watching baseball, you’ll come out to see the Jays if they’re in first place in September.
I feel that the Riccardi has to do something about this teams inability to hit right handed pitching. Having 2 regular left handed bats (3 now with Stairs), in the lineup against right handed pitching isn’t enough. Do you see any moves being made in an attempt to balance out the order a little more?
I thought last year that the Jays were too right-handed, but I don’t think that’s what wound up hurting them in the long run. Yes, they had a far better record against left-handed starters, but that’s because Thomas and Glaus are superhuman against lefties, and always have been.
The thing is, most seasons the Jays’ right-handed hitters have been better balanced than they were last year. Glaus, Thomas, Wells, Rios and Hill all had all-star offensive seasons in ’07 if you only look at their numbers against lefties, but Hill, Rios and Thomas were just average against righties and Glaus and Wells were train wrecks. That doesn’t usually happen, though it’s now been two awful years in a row for Glaus against right-handed pitching. Glaus should probably be dropped down to the 7 spot in the order against righties, but that will never happen.
I think that Wells will return to form in ’08, as will Overbay, and the addition of Eckstein will give them a nice offensive boost, though I don’t think it should come from him out of the leadoff spot.
Six righties and three lefties in the everyday line-up (vs. RHP) isn’t the issue, production is. After all, the Tigers might be the scariest team in the AL right now, and they only have two left-handed bats in the everyday line-up.
Hey Mike. I’m Toronto born but moved to Mexico for health reasons.
People “poo pooing” your idea of Santana, McGowan and Rios haven’t grasped the fact that Rios has moved up from lower middle tier to upper middle tier outfielder or even lower upper tier. OK OK no more tiers.
I however while taking the same approach would leave Santana to the Bosox, Yanks and Halos.
Mike Hogan was lamenting the fact that the Jays and Raptors had virtually no appeal outside Toronto and they weren’t marketed much outside Toronto either. To me that’s a shame. Canada needs to identify with a team and it’s unlikely Raps will ever be it.
BUT there has never been such an opportunity as there is now to make the Jays more popular coast to coast. Forget Santana. Go for Bedard who is available and a bit cheaper, younger and Canadian. That’d give you (not you you but the impersonal you) Bedard and Stairs and an outfield spot for Bay. Riccardi wants a reclamation project. Why not Jason Bay?
You’d have to spend some but for the first time you could market nationally with two of the highest profile Canadian ballplayers there are and Stairs is pretty popular nationally too.
It won’t happen. I’m just daydreaming but that’s what I’d try. Canadian content baby!
Dave (in Guadalajara)
I’m glad you stuck the “it won’t happen” in there at the end. Shows that you know that even in Guadalajara, your idea won’t do. Though I did not think the girl could be so cruel.
There’s something to be said for going after great Canadian players, and even something to be said for overpaying for great Canadian players, but a player’s passport can’t be the focus of an organization that is trying to win.
I would love to see Jason Bay in left field for the Jays (though that does add another right-handed bat, which Steve might have a problem with), and I thought in Nashville when I heard that the Indians and Pirates were talking that the Jays could easily have put together a better package than Kelly Shoppach, Franklin Gutierrez and Cliff Lee (Thigpen, Lind and Chacin?). But the fact that that deal hasn’t happened yet means the Pirates want more, which they should. It’s a bad time to deal Bay anyway, coming off a down year. And besides, he’s a Mariners fan.
I would also love to see Erik Bedard on the mound in Toronto, but I have been led to understand that Peter Angelos will not allow him to be traded to an AL East team, so we’ll have to wait a couple of years for that.
Still, I go back to the notion well above that people don’t come out to see one player, they come out to see a winning team. If the Jays had 25 Hungarian players and they were in first place, Jays fans would be just as nuts over them as they would if they were all from Moose Factory. Who is the most beloved Blue Jay ever? My money is probably on Roberto Alomar, as opposed to Rob or Rich Butler, Matt Stairs or Dave McKay.
Just one quick question. I read your blog on Dec. 5th and you set up the possible ’08 rotation. I noticed that Gustavo Chacin wasn’t mentioned. I was just wondering if Ricciardi is planning on working Chacin out of the ‘pen, or possibly a trade?
Hopefully it wasn’t a stupid question, hope to hear back from you.
There are no stupid questions, only stupid people. Or something like that.
I don’t believe that the Jays are all that high on Gustavo Chacin in general. When the best thing you can say about a pitcher is that “all he does is win”, that can be a real indictment of the rest of his skill set. The fact is, Chacin just hasn’t really been all that good, despite his 25-15 career record. Heck, he shouldn’t have even made the team last year – he was their 8th-best starter in Spring Training, and carried over the lack of success into the season, allowing 6 homers in 27 1/3 innings before getting hurt.
In 2006, when he was healthy for only half the season, he allowed 128 baserunners in 87 1/3 innings, including 19 homers.
Basically, I think he fooled people with the wacky delivery and the novelty and such in his first year, but ever since then he hasn’t been able to either stay healthy or keep the ball in the ballpark. And if you’ll remember, the Jays weren’t exactly in a rush to get him back on the field last season.
Right now, Chacin is behind Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum, Litsch, Janssen and probably Wolfe and maybe Purcey on the depth chart among starters. I think he starts the season at AAA, and if he has some success down there, he gets called up when somebody gets hurt. Or maybe he starts in Spring Training and if he pitches well and shows he’s healthy, he gets dealt.
Simple Minds and Psychedelic Furs were both used in Breakfast Club. This
is probably why you, me and many others link the two songs. As for
getting a song stuck in your head for days, try getting the Doodlebops
theme song (or any kids show theme) out of your head (wait a minute, you
probably know ALL about that). It doesn’t help that my daughters watch
the show frequently. Just when I’ve almost purged the song, my mind is
‘re-infected’ upon hearing it again. Ouch.
You make an interesting point or two about Lofton. The Jays do need that
bonafide lead off guy and he or Willits would be great. I truly felt
Reed was our man but last season he showed that he is best in a platoon
roll (even factoring in the injury).
It was great to hear that BJ looks to be back in business at spring
training — what a relief (so to speak). Weren’t the Jays estimating
‘May/June’ for his return? What bumped up his timetable? J.P.’s not
going to rush him back is he? With all the injuries last year it would
be such a buzz-killer to have BJ go down 1.2 IP into the season.
I am saddened by the return of the powder blue, though for purely
selfish reasons. Years ago I managed to find an old poly “Clancy” jersey
that has given me tonnes of olde school street cred over the years (and
isn’t that what we all strive for? Olde school street cred) and now that
jersey will be “just another jersey.”
Good call on the Furs/Simple Minds comparison. I hadn’t made that connection, but that probably has a lot to do with it. The Doodlebops, thankfully, is one of those shows that has yet to invade our home. I’m stuck with at least three showings of Hi-5 every day, which isn’t so terrible. At least they vary the music a bit. Though I still can’t get that damn Antarctica song out of my head………don’t have to be told that it’s icy cold, way down south in Antarctica! And I highly recommend The Backyardigans, by the way.
We can forget about Lofton or Willits now that David Eckstein is in the fold. The Jays really seem to think he’s the answer in the leadoff spot, but I just don’t see it. I mean, his career high in on-base percentage is .363! Every Blue Jay save for Wells and Zaun should be able to get there if healthy – does Eckstein lead off just because he has no power at all to speak of? I think he’s best suited to hit 8th or 9th in an American League line-up, but hey, he’s the leadoff man.
I guess what bumped up BJ’s timetable was just his rate of recovery over the winter. I would love to see him not be pushed until the end of May, until 12 months post-op, but he’s only being called upon for 20 pitches or so per outing, so maybe he can come back sooner than a guy who’s expected to throw 90-110. I have a feeling, though, that it won’t be full speed ahead for Ryan until a couple of months into the season, and Accardo will get his share of saves in April and May.
Don’t get down about the return of the powder blue, it’s definitely cause for celebration! Just be satisfied in the knowledge that you knew it was cool before everybody else did.
1. What do you think of going back to divisionless playoffs, essentially, the top 4 teams of each league, regardless of division, make the playoffs. This prevents 80 win teams like Colorado from making the playoffs.
2. Are teams able to trade players not on the 40 man roster. I’ve never been clear how it works.
3. Do you think the Mitchell report will really impact the use of steroids in baseball long-term?
Ooh, numbers! OK, here we go:
1. I like the idea of the top 4 teams in each league making the playoffs, regardless of division. Of course, that means going back to a balanced schedule, which I also like a lot. However, don’t rag on the Rockies. They won 90 games last season, and were a half-game away from having the best record in the National League. No team with a losing record has ever made the playoffs, though the Padres and Cardinals have made it close recently.
2. Yes, teams can trade any player they have under control anywhere in their system, so long as they’ve had them in the organization for one year.
The Cubs let Mark Prior go, he would probably want a Major League contract since he is only in his late 20s. What you think of the jays signing hom to a 1 yr or 2 yr contract that would probably cost 3-5mill a year. JP tried with Ohka, Zambrano, Tompson last year even though they were alot cheaper. Even though hes injury prone, he still had nasty stuff few years back…
Any possibility to this?
Probably not. Last I heard, the Padres were on the verge of signing Prior, though there were at least 8 or 9 other teams interested. I would be all for the Blue Jays signing him to a two-year deal, kind of like the Yankees did with Jon Lieber a few years back. If healthy, he’s among the best in the game. And his agent says he’ll be ready to pitch in the majors by the end of May, which sounds about right for A.J. Burnett’s annual trip to the D.L.
An interesting result of statistical analysis that I’ve come across
recently is the idea that a player’s fielding performance varies
quite a bit from year to year, just like hitting. Unfortunately,
fielding stats aren’t nearly as well understood as hitting stats, and
that’s why we see the same guys winning gold gloves year after year
(not to say those guys aren’t deserving – but sometimes they have an
off year with the glove, or a lesser fielder has a particularly good
If you look at Eck’s fielding stats from the past few years (I use
revised zone rating (RZR) and out of zone plays (OOZ) – not sure
where to find defensive plus/minus), you’ll notice that last year was
somewhat of a down year for him. Whether this represents an age
related decline or simply an off year is up for debate, but I’m
inclined to believe the latter given that he’s only 31. With that in
mind, if Eck’s defense regresses to the mean next year, I think the
offensive difference will more than make up for the defensive
Some quick numbers:
Eckstein (2007) – .783 RZR, 46 OOZ, 943 innings
McDonald (2007) – .845 RZR, 51 OOZ, 799 innings
Eckstein (2006) – .841 RZR, 43 OOZ, 1029 innings
McDonald (2006) – .837 RZR, 31 OOZ, 661 innings
There’s no question Johnny is the superior defensive player, but I
just think the difference may be smaller than you think.
I appreciate the research, it’s well done and shows nicely the differences between the two players. And Eckstein’s defensive plus/minus wasn’t nearly as awful in 2006 as it was in ’07, either. I do agree with you that defense can slump, just as much as offense, but I’m not with you on the Gold Glove thing – that award is a joke, plain and simple.
Still, even looking at the numbers you present tells something important. In the year where Eckstein was more normal and McDonald was more human, 2006, and their Revised Zone Ratings were nearly the same, McDonald made just EIGHT fewer Out Of Zone plays in 358 fewer innings! The man gets you extra outs, even when he’s not having an extremely spectacular defensive year.
Maybe the difference isn’t as great as I had thought, though I still believe Eckstein is average defensively at best and McDonald is among the best in the business, but I think it’s still great enough to warrant playing Johnny Mac.
Hello Mike W.:
Your new blog has unwittingly given me another forum in which to pester you all off-season with mindless Blue Jayica.
I know there was talk of pursuing Matt Clement in the low-risk, coming-off-injury, nothing-to-lose philosophy (a la John Thomson, Vic Zamb.).
However, I was milling about some L.A. Angels forums and there is a lot of vitriol directed at a guy who similarly over the last two years has been frequently injured, with excremental 2006-07 combined stats of: 155.2 IP, 5.90 ERA, 1.56 WHIP 7-13 W-L and BAA >> .300!!!.
But from 2001-05: 4.04 ERA 1.24 WHIP 74-41 W-L, with one Denton True Young Memorial Trophy.
Besides the injuries and what appears to be lack of attention to his diet and nutrition, can the 34-year old Bartolo Colon bounce back? Would the Jays ever consider taking a flyer on him or is he actually expecting something along the lines of his 2007 salary of $14-M? (to which we would all say, “not a chance”).
Colon has had his issues the last couple of years, as you mention, mostly because he can’t get himself into good enough shape to stay healthy. But I’m with you, he’s the perfect flyer to take, if he’s willing to take a low-risk, high-reward contract like Thomson, Ohka and Zambrano all did last season.
Thing is, I don’t think he’s going to be willing to do that. A few teams are interested in him – the Diamondbacks have kicked the tires for sure, among others, and I think he’s going to be able to pry at least a one-year deal worth over $6 million out of somebody. That kind of risk is too high for the Jays to take, I believe, given their depth in starting pitching.
And if I had to choose between the two, I’d pick Prior over Colon, just because I think Prior is going to wind up having a much better year. Long-term, of course it’s Prior, but that doesn’t matter, since no one would sign either of them beyond 2009 anyway, if that.
Looking back, is the Troy Glaus for Orlando Hudson & Miguel Batista trade one
you would still make?
I know a lot of people disagree with me on this one, by my answer is an unequivocal yes. Like I mentioned earlier in the mailbag, it’s a lot easier to find a great defender than a great hitter, and Troy Glaus’ career rate stats are about the same as Reggie Jackson’s. He was exactly the big, scary bat that the Blue Jays needed at the time, and the Jays had a ready replacement at second base for Hudson in Aaron Hill, who is nearly as good defensively and has the potential to be a much better hitter. Batista, in my mind, is very, very replaceable. He almost doesn’t enter into the discussion. And with the advantage of that great pitchers’ park in Seattle last year, he allowed 294 baserunners in 193 innings.
I would make that trade again in a heartbeat.
There you go, the first mailbag! And as long as the e-mail keeps coming to email@example.com, I will keep answering it. All those of you who are celebrating today, have a wonderful, meaningful Christmas! The rest of you – try to find some place that’s open to go and enjoy your Tuesday.
Friday, December 21st, 2007
12:15 PM Eastern
Back from Cancun and ready to catch up on my blogging. I hope all you readers are still with me, despite the week-long layoff.
I promised you a mailbag, and I’m going to give you a mailbag, but first some thoughts on what’s gone on the past week.
I posted earlier how I felt about David Eckstein before his signing was made official, so I’ll repeat briefly now that he’s on the roster: He’s not as good as John McDonald, in an overall sense. However, he’s a better offensive player, so it’s not the end of the world. Also, Eckstein has shown that he’s capable of playing a full season as a starter, which Johnny Mac hasn’t. Of course, that’s because Mac has never gotten the chance. I was really hoping he would this season, but that’s not going to happen.
Eckstein is, however, one of the nicest people in the world (so is Johnny Mac, so the Jays have a very pleasant combo at shortstop), so I hope that Jays’ fans will treat him well, even though we all know the better option is sitting on the bench. I have a feeling we’ll see lots of Johnny Mac over the course of the season, but the vast majority will be in a late-inning defensive role. If Eckstein stays healthy, I don’t see Mac starting more than 15 games at shortstop, which blows. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to seeing a guy with a single-season career-high obp of .363 in the leadoff spot.
Sal Fasano is back! Huzzahs all around. I’ll admit to a bias towards great people, because they’re a lot easier to deal with, and Salvatore is phenomenal people. He and Johnny Mac, Towers, Frasor, Overbay, Marcum and Reed Johnson were my favourite human beings on the team last season. Fasano can talk classic rock, and he’s as up on the 70s stuff as Gregg Zaun is on the 80s West Coast power stuff (GNR, Ratt, etc.), another reason he’s a real pleasure to be around. One of my most memorable interviews from last season was with Sal on the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s. Also, he’s an extra coach on the bench and has a tremendous throwing arm. Is he going to make the team? At this point, probably, starting against a bunch of lefties (who he has pounded in the past, when given relatively regular time) and keeping a seat warm for Robinzon Diaz, who may arrive by the all-star break.
I saw that the Diamondbacks were pretty busy while I was gone. I spent last Sunday watching football in the hotel room while my beautiful six-year old (henceforth known as The Billie) slept off a Mexican stomach virus and saw on the Deportes crawl that the Snakes had dealt for Danny Haren and sent Jose Valverde to the Astros. That’s a scary team in a weak NL West now. Amazing that they can integrate a bunch of kids like Chris Young, Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds and Steve Drew into the everyday line-up, have the best record in the league and STILL have six prospects good enough to put together in a package for a top-flight starting pitcher. And then turn around and swap the league leader in saves (I know, I know, but 72 baserunners and 78 Ks in 64 1/3 IP – is that better?) for a very good reliever in Chaddrick Qualls, a good starting prospect and a bat looking for a place to play? Nice work, Josh, they’re saying Boooo-yrnes in the desert.
Speaking of watching football in the hotel room, it was kind of fun to see the mess that the Browns and Bills were playing in in Cleveland, knowing that similar stuff was going on at home in Toronto and I was in Cancun. I’m sorry, but you all would have felt the same way. Nice not to have to dig out. The low point of the trip (aside from the rides on the Cancunian city bus) came watching the Dolphins score in overtime. I was really hoping for the 0-16, now I’ll have to be satisfied with the Fins losing by 170 in Foxboro this weekend. I don’t know if it’s living so close to Buffalo or what, but I can’t stand the Dolphins. I find it in amazingly poor taste that members of the 1972 team still pop champagne every year when the last unbeaten team finally goes down. And to add to the disdain, I saw Mercury Morris on ESPN last week rapping (which was surreal in and of itself) about the ’72 Dolphins and he said “if you wanna be unbeaten you have to win every game.” I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to reach through a television screen and slap someone as badly as I did at that moment.
And now that we’re into slapping people, the Mitchell Report fall-out has been going on for a week or so, and it’s been fun to see the players involved change strategy. Roger Clemens is still in deny-deny-deny mode – he’ll do that forever, just like Barry Bonds, but most of the others (who are actually talking) have switched to “I ordered it but couldn’t bring myself to use it” or “I did it, but I only did it once, and only because I thought I needed help to recover from an injury.”
I’d like to take this opportunity to call B.S. on 99.8% of those people right now. I’d say it a little more strongly, but this is a family blog. Let’s remember this very important fact – these are people who have cheated. That is to say, knowingly broken the rules to effect a personal advantage. Why is it that we are expected to now give them the benefit of the doubt? It’s not that much of a stretch to believe that if someone cheated, that they would then lie about it after getting caught. I don’t even believe that the vast majority of these guys even struggled with the decision to take ‘roids or hGH, and I think it’s extremely naive (wish I had an umlaut on the keyboard) to take these guys’ words for it. But that’s the cool part of being a professional athlete. For some reason, people always ascribe high moral character to people who are really good at sports. It’s insane, but whatever gets you through the day, I guess.
I want to be clear here in saying that I don’t believe that players who were dumb enough to take detectable steroids or have hGH ordered to their houses are necessarily bad people. Nor do I think that the players who continue to take undetectable steroids and hGH – and there are plenty of them -are necessarily bad people. They have made a decision to do what they feel they have to in order to operate at their best. It’s not a simple black and white issue. There are plenty of good people who do bad things because they rationalize their reasons for doing so. I still like Gregg Zaun and Howie Clark as people. I still dislike Roger Clemens and Glenallen Hill as people. It has nothing to do with their steroid use.
And can we get Jesus out of this, please? I mean, I’m as Christian as the next Jew (which is to say, not at all), so maybe I’m not the one to comment on this, but the idea of playing the religion card offends me deeply here. You cheated. You got caught. Jesus had nothing to do with it. Why are some of those named in the Report all of a sudden now God-fearing Christians? And if they were God-fearing Christians before, why knowingly break the law for personal gain?
One very notable exception to the above rant is Dan Naulty, and not just because he’s a former Hardware City Rock Cat. He’s someone who admitted using and abusing performance-enhancing drugs for a period of about eight years. He said in a story in USA Today that when he was a tall, skinny 14th-round pick who couldn’t jack it up into the 90s he was told that steriods were a way for him to get better and his response was “Sign me up.” Seven years ago, he was done with baseball, found Jesus and now runs a ministry in Colorado and has founded a Youth Baseball Academy.
Admit your use, admit that it was a long-term thing to make you better at baseball, apologize to the people from whom you stole jobs and give back to the community – then I’ll believe that you’re repentant.
Also, let’s all make a pact right here to stop calling the evidence in the Mitchell Report “hearsay”. It’s not hearsay. It’s first-person participation. It’s uncorroborated, but it’s evidence given by a person who was actually involved and SAW what was going on. Not someone who heard about it from somebody else. It’s admissible in a court of law. Remember as well that everyone who was named in the Report was given an opportunity to explain themselves and declined.
OK, I guess there isn’t going to be a mailbag today. Sorry about that, but I promise one early next week. Maybe on Xmas day, so there’ll be something to do besides go to a movie and eat Chinese food.
Before I go, if there are any accountants out there reading this – is my trip to Mexico tax-deductible, now that I’ve blogged about it?
Feel free to leave your comments, and reach me e-mailically at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do read ‘em all, and there might be some responses coming over the weekend.
Thursday, December 13th, 2007
11:30 PM Eastern
I’m not going to go over what was said in Senator George Mitchell’s report on his 20-month investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, there are plenty of places to find out the nuts and bolts all over the interweb. I’m just going to let you know what I think.
Was today the darkest day in baseball since the 1919 Black Sox Scandal came to light? I don’t think so. I mean, this was pretty rough, seeing a whole boatload of players dragged through the sludge that they themselves created, but really, how many people are truly surprised?
You might not have wanted to think that steroids were so prevalent in baseball over the last 20 or 25 years, and you might have wanted to think that nobody was cheating except for Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Jason Giambi, but if you really looked at what was going on, you had to know.
I’ll tell you, I’m more surprised by the fact that certain names were NOT mentioned in the report then I am by the 97 names that were there. Immediately, I couldn’t believe that people like Juan Gonzalez, who won two MVPs then fell off a cliff, performance-wise, Ivan Rodriguez, who mysteriously deflated by about 25 pounds in one off-season, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa didn’t appear, as well as a few others I would have wagered a whole lot of money on.
But then I realized that, basically, Mitchell only had two sources. Kirk Radomski, the Mets’ clubhouse attendant, and Brian McNamee, the former Blue Jay strength and conditioning coach, neither of whom would have said anything if they didn’t have their butts in a sling, legally speaking. And with just those two sources, and really no other co-operation at all, look at how much information Mitchell managed to get. And take from that just how many other sources there are out there that Mitchell couldn’t get to co-operate with the investigation, and how many other cheaters there are.
Is anyone truly surprised that Roger Clemens’ name was on the list? I have heard so many people over the past few years say that all the evidence they needed to convict Barry Bonds in their minds was a picture of him in 1988 and a picture of him in 2001. Well, take a look at those same pictures of Clemens.
Was Howie Clark’s inclusion in the report a stunner? Sure, until you think about the fact that he’s exactly the kind of guy for whom performance-enhancing drugs would do the most good. He goes from a fringe AAA player who never gets a sniff to a guy who gets a few cups of coffee and a few paychecks at the big-league minimum. He, and Adam Piatt, Phil Hiatt, Tim Laker, Gary Bennett, Larry Bigbie, F.P. Santangelo, Brendan Donnelly, Chad Allen, just to name a few – these are the guys who never would have made it to the bigs without help, and these are the guys who were stealing jobs from the people who might otherwise have been able to eke out a small living as fringe major-leaguers.
What I liked about the report was that Mitchell used the term “detectable” steroid use, and that he said the use of detectable steroids only “appears” to have declined since the more stringent testing was implemented in 2004. He also said that the use of hGH has risen since then. No illusions that the game is now clean and we can move on from the steroids era. He called out the Commissioner’s Office for not acting faster when the issue of steroids began to show up more prominently, and for not acting effectively until, basically, the U.S. Congress put a gun to its head in 2002.
What I didn’t like about the report was that no prominent member of the Boston Red Sox was mentioned. Clemens and Mo Vaughn are in there, but in both cases, the Report states that their wrongdoings began after they left Boston. Mitchell has a conflict of interest here, since he’s on the board of the Red Sox.
But if that’s my biggest complaint, that’s not so bad. Maybe all the Red Sox are clean. But probably not. It’s just that Mitchell only got a Mets guy and a Blue Jay/Yankee guy to roll over.
As for Bud Selig’s response, I really didn’t like the fact that he so completely deflected any responsibility for this mess from himself and his office. The fact is, baseball loved the fact that the home run chase brought them back into prominence after the 1994 strike tore the hearts out of a lot of baseball fans, and they loved seeing attendance and revenues rise up year after year. I might believe that most executives and front-office people had no direct knowledge of any players using steroids or hGH, but I don’t for a second believe anyone who says they weren’t suspicious.
So the question is, what happens now? Does public opinion turn as hard on Clemens as it has on Barry Bonds? Will a movement arise to keep him out of the Hall of Fame? Does public opinion turn back in favour of a guy like McGwire, now that it’s coming to light – on the record - just how widespread the problem is? Or do people just not care? As long as they get their pound of flesh out of Bonds, are fans willing to let almost everyone else slide?
I’m very interested to see what happens over the course of the next few weeks and months, especially with the Bonds/Clemens comparison. If there’s no great uproar about Clemens and his 350 wins and seven Cy Youngs and claim to being perhaps the best pitcher in history, then I might start to believe the people who say racism has a lot to do with the perception of Barry Bonds. I really don’t want to believe that, though. I think it has more to do with Bonds being an ass, but then, Clemens isn’t exactly Mr. Friendly himself.
Finally, can we stop with all the romanticizing and deifying of pro athletes? Fans build them up so much, to standards to which it’s almost impossible to live up. How many times did we hear about Clemens’ unbelievable workout regimen, that he trained harder and longer than people 10 or 15 years younger? There was a story that Rafael Palmeiro went from being a guy who hit 45 doubles and 18 homers a year to a guy who hit 40 homers a year because his father told him one off-season that he needed to hit for more power if he wanted to stay in the big leagues, because first basemen hit home runs, so he DECIDED TO HIT MORE HOME RUNS! And people bought that. Let’s stop the myth-making, and realize that these are just human beings who are simply incredibly good at playing a game. Maybe that will lessen the blow when they’re shown to have human failings.
Oh, and don’t buy for a second any player who uses the word “mistake” if he should shift from deny-deny-deny mode to contrition mode. A mistake is grabbing a Coke out of the fridge when you meant to grab a root beer (though one could say that the simple act of drinking root beer, in and of itself, is a mistake). A mistake is putting the car into second gear instead of fourth. A mistake is thinking you have a pitcher’s move timed, taking off for second base and being picked off by 30 feet. A mistake is NOT making a conscious decision to do something that one knows is wrong.
I don’t think anything changes as a result of the Mitchell Report, except that maybe sports fans get more cynical, which isn’t a good thing for the kids, but probably a good idea for everybody else. I believe that the cheaters will always be ahead of the testers, and that anyone who really wants to get a leg up illegally will be able to do it. And of course, you can’t test for hGH.
It’s sad, but it’s reality.
Comments are welcome, and the e-mail factory is always open at email@example.com. However, the family vacation begins in eight hours, and doesn’t end until Tuesday night, so check back then for the next installment!
Thursday, December 13th, 2007
By: David Alter
After George Mitchell, Bud Selig and Donald Fehr all spoke their piece regarding the Mitchell Report, Blue Jays President and C.E.O. Paul Godfrey addressed the media to give his two cents on the report. Well he did more than that, also addressing his reaction to Troy Glaus and Gregg Zaun being named.
In the case of Troy Glaus; “Troy Glaus has already been cleared by Major League Baseball for his participation”.
In the case of Gregg Zaun; “I think you will find that Gregg Zaun will make some statement within the next day or so with respect to his name being mentioned”.
Godfrey also says that he feels since he’s been with the Jays since 2001, he’s had a positive role on the situation to help in the attempt to clean the game up. No doubt there are still many in the Jays camp that need to be heard from, but the question remains now what effect this will have league wide, as well as here in Toronto with respect to Jays fans. Will attendance, viewer/listenership and revenue go down? Will we really see the game change in a positive fashion? This really isn’t earth-shattering news that there has been substance abuse in baseball. My feeling is not a whole lot will change. We may see some stricter testing and tougehr punishments, but professional leagues can rebound from news like this, especially when we all knew there was something wrong.
Thursday, December 13th, 2007
11:15 AM Eastern
So it seems as though that mailbag I promised is going to have to wait a few days. With this stuff here and the Mitchell report coming up this afternoon, there’s going to be plenty to blog about today, and the family is heading off to Cancun tomorrow for five days, so there’ll be radio silence after today until Tuesday afternoon or so.
By the way, I have been asked to help out with Sportsnet’s coverage of the Mitchell report today, so make sure you tune in at 2:00 Eastern this afternoon. George Mitchell will hold his news conference then and Bud Selig will have his at 4:30, and I’ll be there with Brad Fay to break it all down for you. Don’t expect a ton that we don’t already know from the report, though I’m sure several “heroes” will be shown to have feet of clay. I’m sure there’ll be a few ex-Jays on the list of about 80 names (including – according to reports – Roger Clemens, who I have suspected for years), but I wonder how many still-active players in their prime there will be. And I wonder how many Red Sox, given George Mitchell’s connection with that club.
Regardless, I’m sure the commish will hail the report and will say that baseball has moved on into a drug-free present and future, and with the stringent testing that’s currently in place, fans can be reassured that it’s all clean now. Which is a massive load of crap. But the truth is, unless it involves Barry Bonds, no one seems to care. I’m interested to see what the uproar will be like if the Clemens report is true. Will people turn on him the way they did on Bonds? I doubt it.
Anyway, more on that later this evening.
It’s the end of an era for the Blue Jays, as Tosh Jowers wasn’t tendered a contract by last night’s deadline, making him a free agent. Personally, I’m happy for TJ. I thought he got a pretty raw deal here in Toronto the last two years, and he served the ballclub well the three years prior. Let’s not forget that he was voted BY HIS TEAMMATES the Jays’ Pitcher of the Year for 2005, when we went 13-12, 3.71 – his best year ever. Of course, since then, he’s 7-20, 6.50, having allowed 270 baserunners (incl. 35 HR) in 169 innings.
What stuns me isn’t that the Jays non-tendered Towers, I thought that was a foregone conclusion from about Spring Training last year. What stuns me is that the Jays had the opportunity to trade him in Nashville, and didn’t. I know for a fact that at least two teams made the Blue Jays offers on Towers, but as J.P. Ricciardi told us at the Winter Meetings, there wasn’t anything in those offers to the Blue Jays’ liking. Unless all those trade offers included the Jays picking up a portion of Towers’ 2008 salary, they should have moved him for any minor-league player they could get, seeing how less than a week later they divested themselves of his services while getting nothing in return.
I’m a big fan of Towers, the person, and I think that in the right situation he could once again be a good major-league starter. I’m really hoping he lands in San Diego, San Francisco or Los Angeles – all ballparks that would really suit his style, and all in the National League, where he would get a break at the bottom of the line-up. I know they’re all in the same division as the Rockies, but the humidor should help out, too.
From a Blue Jays perspective, and no offense meant to TJ, it’s no loss. He would have made at least $2.4 million this year, which would have led the Jays to more than likely keep him on the active roster, as the 12th pitcher on a team that only needs 11 (but will carry 12 anyway) , pitching an inning or two every three weeks or so. Good luck, TJ!
The Towers story is the actual news. The rumour mill is churning as well, and it (or, at least, Ken Rosenthal) is saying that the Jays are on the verge of signing David Eckstein to be their shortstop. I have been in contact with a club official who said that he can neither confirm nor deny anything about the story, which tells me that they’re at least talking, and might be close to an agreement, but they’re probably not “on the verge”.
This is the thing – Eckstein is a much better hitter than John McDonald, but he’s still not a very good hitter. McDonald may very well be the best defensive shortstop in the game. According to a relatively new statistic (or fielding metric, if you will) called “Defensive Plus/Minus”, created by John Dewan, who writes The Fielding Bible, McDonald was the second-best defensive SS in baseball last season, at +26, while Eckstein was the fifth-worst, at -14. Derek Jeter was second-worst, by the way.
Just as a quick explanation, the plus/minus rating is devised by looking at every ball put in play all season long. A player gets a “plus” when he makes a play that at least one other player at his position has missed during the season, and a “minus” when he misses a play that at least one other player has made at his position during the season, though it’s not simply +1 or -1 each time.
This is a counting stat, not a rate stat, which makes it even more amazing that Johnny Mac was second this season, seeing as he played the third-fewest innings of any regular shortstop in the bigs, and by quite a bit. Had he gotten more work, he would have had more opportunity for plusses.
So the question is this – would you rather spend the money to bring in a shortstop who will give you an extra 40-60 points in slugging-free on-base percentage, or stick with the guy who you know is not going to hit as well, but will give you outstanding defense?
My answer is: Johnny Mac. After looking at his defensive contributions as an everyday player last year, I think that he makes the answer easy. As difficult as it is to overlook the fact that Eckstein’s career obp (.351) is 72 points higher than McDonald’s, it’s not like Eck adds even a few extra doubles, let alone home runs, and the dropoff in defense is much greater than the improvement in offense. Yes, Eckstein is hustle-y and grittacious, but so is Johnny Mac, he’s just not as short and doesn’t look like he’s putting every last ounce of his body weight into every throw that he makes.
Look, I don’t mean to beat on Eckstein. If you want solid Eck rippage, there are plenty of great blogs that will provide just that on a regular basis. In fact, the Drunks are doing it right now. Truth is, I don’t think he’s as bad as most bloggists seem to. I think a lot of their reaction is kind of the same way I react about Jeter. He’s just so incredibly overrated that you want to make sure you get the point across, and sometimes it’s harsh. Eckstein’s not bad at baseball, he’s just nowhere near as good as most fans and commentators believe he is. And he does get on base 35% of the time. Only four Blue Jays managed to do that last season (Thomas, Stairs, Glaus, Rios).
So, if the Jays do wind up with Eckstein, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s something they don’t need to do, and will cost them a few runs over the course of the season. Overall, I’d much rather have McDonald playing short every day and hitting 9th than Eckstein playing short every day and hitting 1st. What may wind up happening is that Eckstein plays the first six innings and Mac the last three, but Mac won’t come in for defense if the Jays are behind, which would enable the opposition a better chance to add on runs by taking advantage of the MUCH weaker defense at shortstop.
Comments are always welcome, and never censored (unless they’re foul). The thing is, I have to approve them all, so unfortunately, they don’t go up right away. I’m trying to figure out a way around that.
You can also reach me e-mailically at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read ‘em all, but I haven’t responded to any yet. I will, I promise.
Sunday, December 9th, 2007
11:30 PM Eastern
I’ll be along, blogging, you know it, baby…….
Sorry, but once I got that song in my head, there was no getting it out. I’d like someone to take a shot at explaining to me, though, why whenever I think about Simple Minds (it’s not that often, believe me), the Psychedelic Furs also pop into my head. Weird. Another one of several ways in which I am unexplainable.
Anyway, with Nashville far in the rear-view mirror, I just wanted to let you know that I’m not going to disappear from the blogosphere by any means. The posts will be more infrequent, but I’m going to try to get at least a couple up every week even if the Blue Jays don’t do anything, so keep checking back periodically.
Sometime in the next couple of days I’ll put up my first-ever mailbag, which will include responses to a few reader comments, as well. Gerry, this is how the Twins would react to a Rios-Litsch proposal for Johan Santana, by the way……….”BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!! No, seriously – you’re serious? BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!! OK, no, really, Rios and Litsch? Cool. Who are the other three guys we’re getting? McGowan, Lind, and who else?”
OK, it might not be that bad. But it might.
So, if you want to get into the mailbag, shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com over the course of the next couple of days. However, if you have just come into a large amount of money through some sort of bank transfer in Nigeria, I’m really not all that interested.
Thursday, December 6th, 2007
12:45 PM Central
It’s been a very busy morning down here as the Meetings have wrapped up, for me anyway. There was the hour taking calls on Hoagie’s show (lotta fun, as always – great to get back into the byplay with listeners, if only for a little bit), then the Rule 5 draft, and then talking to J.P. and Jon Lalonde and putting all the audio together. That’s my way of saying I’m sorry for not posting something earlier today, but until they make me a full-time bloggist, the audio has to come first.
Also, I gotta pack and check out in the next 45 minutes, so this might not be the longest post. Might be, though, you never know what’s going to happen when the fingers start going.
The Jays started the day off by releasing Ryan Houston to make the room they needed to take Randy Wells in the Rule 5 draft. Houston is a big guy, throws hard, but has had control issues, and it took him four years of A-ball to make the jump to AA. He’ll likely land somewhere, and if he ever finds the plate on a consistent basis, could still make it, but he’s already 28.
Wells is a converted catcher that the Jays think can help in the bullpen this year. His numbers at AAA weren’t great this season, but Lalonde told me that they were skewed by a couple of bad starts, and that he pitched very well out of the bullpen. And hey, a career 1.35 WHIP as a pro when you’ve only been pitching for four years is pretty good. But don’t start planning any parade routes. He won’t be one of the top five pitchers in the Jays’ pen this year, if he even makes the team.
The Jays didn’t lose anyone in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, but Dustin Majewski went to San Diego and Kurt Isenberg to Texas in the second round of the AAA phase. Let there be no rending of garments here – every team in the big leagues passed on both of them in the first round, and again, this is the AAA phase.
At the end of the morning, J.P. Ricciardi summed up the week’s events by saying he was surprised there hadn’t been more action, with a lot of trades people had speculated on failing to materialize. He also said, though, that he felt the Jays had been more active than a lot of us had thought, and he meant more than just Buck Coats. It seems there may have been quite a bit of groundwork laid for future moves, and we should find out what, if anything, is going to happen before the New Year.
Remember, the Troy Glaus trade announcement came on December 26th or 27th, so it’s not like the Jays take much time off for Christmas.
I’ll leave here thinking that Rios for Lincecum is a very real possibility, and that the Jays are likely to sign Paul LoDuca when I’m on vacation next week.
Also, I’ll leave here thinking the L.A. Dodgers are insane. $36.2 million over two years for a guy who has hit .237 over the last season and a half and doesn’t walk? Also, not so much the best defensive CF in the game anymore. Whoever slipped Ned Colletti the happy juice before he signed Juan Pierre last year must have pulled the same trick again. Yeesh.
Now I gotta get back to the room, pack up, check out, hit the mall to pick up some presents for my girlies and expense them to the FAN, and catch the evening flight with all the Jays’ brass (save for J.P. and probably Tony LaCava) and a ton of writers so I can see my family tonight! Maybe I’ll get home in time to light the candles, keep a good thought!
Comments are always welcome, and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
7:45 pm Central
I have the feeling we’re not done for the night quite yet.
It was a pretty quiet day, BlueJayically. We basically spent it waiting to see if the deal with the Giants would go down, and so far, it hasn’t. It’s funny, I’ve talked to a lot of people about the possibility of trading Rios for Cain or Lincecum (I prefer Cain, as mentioned), mostly reporter-types, and it’s been a pretty even split down the middle of people who say the Giants would be crazy to trade one of those pitchers and those who say the Jays would be crazy to trade Rios.
I think that even though Rios is really good, and has a sky-high ceiling, it’s easier to find a corner outfielder than it is to find an arm like Cain’s, or even Lincecum’s, though I wouldn’t do Rios straight up for Lincecum.
Anyway, at least there were scheduled things to do today. There was the managers’ luncheon, where the reporters get to have lunch with the manager of the team they cover (who knew?). It was a lovely chicken pasta, and a good time was had by all.
After spending a couple of hours with John Gibbons, we got to sit down with him again, in the media workroom, for his official managerial availability. Every manager has to do one, except Joe Torre, who didn’t show up the last few years when he managed the Yankees, and isn’t here again this year.
I’ll go over what Gibby discussed, and then the J.P. scrum, though I’m changing the format from what I’ve been doing the last couple of nights.
The Gibby availability:
The most interesting things the skipper had to say, I thought, were:
A) Marco Scutaro was brought in at least partly to serve as Troy Glaus insurance. Gibby said that he believes Glaus is healthy, but in his words, “who knows”, and Scutaro will be a better option than the Jason Smith/Johnny Mac combo of last year if and when Glaus goes down.
2) Gibby doesn’t believe that Casey Janssen is a better fit in the rotation than in the bullpen, which has him in complete disagreement with JP on that score. If moving Janssen takes away from the strength of the ‘pen, the move “doesn’t make any sense” to Gibbons. He also said he really likes Litsch in the 5th spot.
C) With the roster set up the way it is right now, there is no room for Adam Lind on the big club, and
4) Gibby wouldn’t answer the question about how he thinks he’ll put the line-up together, because he wants to wait until things are set. Though he said they could be set. But maybe not.
Gibby also talked about his role in the suite where the front office sits and talks about moves. Basically, he says, he gives his input, and it doesn’t always agree with J.P.’s opinion, but in the end, the GM is the guy who makes the decision.
He mentioned that he’s aware the Jays and Giants have been talking, but not for a couple of days, but he added that sometimes these things take a while to develop.
He also said that there’s no team better than the Tigers right now, and that he has to stop worrying about the Jays being too right-handed because Detroit is just as much so, and “Jim Leyland isn’t bitching about it.” Truth is, if the hitters hit the way they can, it doesn’t matter that there are so many righties.
Gibby also seemed resigned to the fact that there’s not much he can do about the team’s inability to stop the opposition from stealing bases almost at will, and didn’t appear to be too thrilled about his job security. Not that he’s upset with the front office for not extending him, not at all, but when asked about his hold on the job, he gave the stock answer along the managers are hired to be fired line. He also said, though, that he won’t change his style of managing at all – that would be phony.
Lastly, Gibby informed us that he’s been told that B.J. Ryan is expected to be good to go just like everybody else when the bell rings in Dunedin in mid-February.
Highlights of the J.P. scrum:
They picked up Buck Coats to compete for the 25th spot on the roster. J.P. called him a great outfielder with a bat they like, and they’ve had their eye on him for a while. The Jays claimed Coats when the Cubs put him on waivers last season, but the Reds got him because they had a worse record.
No team has called the Blue Jays to ask about trading for A.J. Burnett or Troy Glaus.
J.P. wouldn’t go so far as to say that the ball is in San Fran’s court on the Rios deal, or that they had made a final offer on the matter, but he thinks the Giants are weighing other options. He also said he doesn’t like the idea of trading a good, young everyday position player for a good, young starting pitcher, but thinks that’s the going rate for good pitching in today’s baseball.
He said he’s not worried about Gibbons going into the last year of his contract without an extension. In fact, J.P. said it could work in Gibby’s favour if he has a good year.
And the Jays are in conversation with Paul LoDuca about being a back-up to Gregg Zaun. LoDuca is a year younger than Zaun, almost to the day, he whales on left-handed pitching and is apparently a great clubhouse guy. He threw out 19% of the runners who tried to steal on him last year, in case you were wondering.
I’m wondering how it would sit with LoDuca to be a back-up, and add to that a back-up to a guy he probably perceives as not as good a player as he is. After all, LoDuca has been a starter basically his entire career, his lifetime batting average is 36 points higher than Zaun’s, and his OPS is 20 points better. I’m surprised he’s willing to move to a back-up role without letting the winter play out a little longer.
His signing looks like it’ll come soon, though, probably before the Jays leave Music City.
Finally, the Jays have until 8:00 AM Central tomorrow to clear a spot on their roster if they want to be active in the Rule 5 draft. I’d say it’s about a 50-50 shot that they make a move.
That’s it for tonight, unless Rios gets traded or Dookie signs a one-year deal (Jays won’t go any longer for a back-up C). Now it’s off to P.F. Chang’s! Woo-hoo!!!
E-mailically available at email@example.com
Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
12:00 pm Central
The Blue Jays have made their first trade of the Meetings, and stunningly, Alex Rios is still on the team, and none of Erik Bedard, Matt Cain or Jason Bay are set to suit up in the black, white and gun-metal gray.
The Jays picked up Buck Coats, a 25 year-old utility man, from the Reds for a player to be named or cash.
Coats is a left-handed hitter who hit .308/.366/.439 last year in a season split between AAA Iowa in the Cubs’ organization and AAA Louisville (Reds), setting career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs (11). He stole 20 bases in 22 tries. Despite all those career highs, the Cubs still waived him late in the season and he was picked up by Cincy.
He has had two cups of coffee in the bigs, with the Cubs in ’06 and the Reds last year, and has hit .192/.232/.346 without having attempting a stolen base in 38 games played.
Coats has a chance to play a lot in Spring Training, and help the club out as a utility guy/25th man on the roster at some point in the season.
The move fills the 40-man roster for now, leaving the Jays out of tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft, unless they open up another spot before then.
Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
11:00 AM Central
More big Blue Jays rumours are floating around the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center (excuse the spelling – Americans, what can you do?) this morning, but I can tell you that I had a conversation today with a member of the organization who confirmed to me that the Jays are in discussions with the Giants, and at the moment they’re waiting to hear back from San Fran on a deal that would send Alex Rios to the Bay Area for one of Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum.
Word is that the Jays want Cain but the Giants only want to part with Lincecum. That’s understandable – Cain’s better, and more proven, and bigger and stronger and younger. If the Jays can pull off a deal to get Cain, they have to do it, even if it means adding something to Rios. How often do you get a chance to acquire a 23 year-old Number 1 pitcher? Last year, he threw a career-high 200 innings, and his walk and home run numbers went down from the year before. Yes, he was 7-16, but that was about as indicative of his abilities as Nolan Ryan’s 8-16 in 1987, when he also won the ERA title.
Cain is already very good, with a chance to be great. Lincecum is good, with a chance to be very good. He’d be a solid pick-up, as well, but if the opportunity to acquire Cain exists, the Jays have to go for it. It would give the Jays potentially four number one starters in Halladay, Cain, Burnett and McGowan, with Marcum or Janssen as the number five, which is arguably the best starting rotation in baseball.
Granted, if this deal happens, the Jays will have to find some offence, seeing as they’ll be dealing their most productive bat from this past season, a season in which they got great pitching, but didn’t hit enough to win.
I have to say, though, that a middle of the line-up that features Wells, Glaus, Overbay, Thomas and Stairs hitting 3-7 in whatever order should provide more than enough offense. Of course, it should have last year, too.
You fill out the bottom with Zaun and Johnny Mac, and fill out the top with Aaron Hill hitting second and……….Kenny Lofton!
I know, I’ve been pushing for the Jays to sign Lofton since the season ended, but now I finally have word that the Blue Jays are, in fact, interested in pursuing the 40 year-old to be their leftfielder and lead-off man in 2008. They think he can be had for one year plus a mutual option. I don’t know if they’ve made contact with his agent, Casey Close, but I’ll try to find out. The Jays know Close well – they were all over him last winter about another of his clients, Gil Meche.
If they sign Lofton, it gives them a real table-setter at the top of the line-up. Whether the Jays take advantage of his ability to steal bases or not (77 for 92 over the last three years), at least he’ll be on base (obp vs RH the last 3 years – .386, .379, .394). Yes, they’d need a right-handed bat to platoon with him, but Reed Johnson is perfect for that. Of course, then they’d need a right-handed bat to platoon with Stairs in right, but we can worry about that later. The good news is that they’re talking about Lofton, which they should be.
Unless, of course, they want to talk trade with the Angels for on-base machine Reggie Willits (originally Bastian’s idea, but a great one). He’s a switch-hitter, so he wouldn’t need a platoon-mate. He has a career obp of .393 in just over 550 plate appearances, but his minor-league obps were .448, .377. , .374 and .410. He’s also small and scrappy, so he’s kind of like David Eckstein, except he can actually be a productive offensive player.
Torii Hunter’s arrival in Anaheim could make Willits very available.
Also, there’s a rumour flying around that the Mets are interested in A.J. Burnett. Their best items to trade are young righties Phil Humber and Mike Pelfrey and speedy young outfielder Carlos Gomez. Given what the offers seem to be for top-flight starting pitching, I’m not sure the two of those that the Mets might be willing to give up would be enough. Of course, the Mets also have 19 year-old outfield prospect Fernando Martinez, who everybody wants.
Now, if the Mets were dumb enough to take A.J. and Glaus for David Wright, then let’s get this party started!
Lastly, there’s a rumour that the Pirates are dangling Jason Bay to the Indians, along with back-up catcher Ronny Paulino for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, back-up catcher Kelly Shoppach and lefty Cliff Lee. You can’t tell me that the Jays can’t get in on this. I’d offer Lind, Thigpen and Chacin for Paulino and Bay. Hey, Lee’s coming off a horrible year. Put Bay in right, platoon Stairs and Reed in left if Rios is gone. If not, put Bay in left. Of course, then you have to lead off Hill, but that’s not the worst thing in the world.
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