Archive for November, 2009
Friday, November 27th, 2009
10:30 PM Pacific
First it was Johnny Mac, and now it’s Alex Gonzalez (not that one) whom the Blue Jays have brought in to play shortstop in the 2010 season.
Gonzalez (not that one) is a reasonable hitter who doesn’t get on-base a lot but has some pop, and a guy who can play defense. The highest OBP he has ever posted was the whopping .325 he put up in 2007 with the Reds, before missing the entire 2008 season with a broken knee (suffered in a collision in a Spring Training game, if I remember correctly).
Gonzalez had a reasonable bounce-back in 2009 after the Reds traded him to Boston in mid-August, hitting .284/.316/.453 the rest of the way with the Red Sox, but I assure you, no one is doing backflips over this signing. Gonzalez was the most reasonable of a poor group of free agent shortstops – he’ll likely provide almost the same offense as Orlando Cabrera at less than half the price, and with better defense. He’s just a guy to plug a hole that the Jays had no one else to fill but for John McDonald and the extraordinarily unproven Mike McCoy.
At best, Gonzalez works himself into being a serviceable 7-8-9 hitter and becomes a potential trade chip at the deadline this season. At worst, he can’t hit his way out of a paper bag, and Johnny Mac moves back into the starting role. It’s not a move to get too excited about – Gonzalez isn’t going to be a part of this thing when the Blue Jays start winning again on a regular basis.
What is there to get excited about? Well – how about these questions: Will he wear number 8? Will he do a milk commercial with Aaron Hill and Adam Lind? Will he hit a home run and then all of a sudden imagine himself a power hitter for the next month and strike out in over half his at-bats over that span? Will women come down to the ballpark specifically to drool over him? I don’t know the answer to any of those, but I’m scared to death that we’ll see this Gonzalez hitting in the two-spot and killing the team on a regular basis, much like we saw his namesake do once upon a time.
This version of Alex Gonzalez has NEVER posted an OPS+ of 100 or more in his big-league career. That means that in 10 seasons in the majors, his offensive output has never been as good as the average major-leaguer. Not once. This is not a guy to whom to hitch wagons should be hitched. Again, he’s the best/most affordable/most likely to earn the money he gets of a bad lot of free agent shortstops.
Don’t think for a second, by the way, that John McDonald didn’t know this was coming when he signed his two-year deal yesterday.
By the way – why is the time-stamp on this post in Pacific time? Why, it’s because I’m writing this from lovely San Francisco, California (actually Burlingame – that’s where the airport hotels are)! One of the benefits of being married to someone who works in the airline industry is that one can occasionally take these short little jaunts. I arrived this evening and will be here until Saturday. Just a quick little visit, but as I write this I’m farther west than I have ever been in my life, and it’s my first time out here in California.
We went to Fisherman’s Wharf this evening, took the cable car up and down Nob Hill from start to finish (very cool – and they use a brakeman in the most literal sense of the word), and took a couple of trips on the BART (stop complaining about $3 TTC fares, by the way – it cost me and the lovely bride $32 for the round-trip from the airport to the wharf – sheesh). Tomorrow, I wander the city on my own for most of the day, since my wife has to work. I’m going to try to avoid the Black Fridayness and at least find my way to AT&T Park – or whatever they’re calling it now – and Haight-Ashbury. I might even head out to Alcatraz, maybe I’ll wind up getting a guide named Vicky.
Another thing, the Blue Jays are going to offer arbitration to both Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro. No biggie, as neither guy will accept. Both have multiple suitors on the free agent market and will wind up signing multi-year deals. The Jays are just making the move to protect their draft pick compensation.
Also, the Jays announced a whole bunch of minor-league coaching appointments, and the great Salvatore Fasano will be managing the Lansing Lugnuts of the A-ball Midwest League. I have nothing but respect and tons of time for Fasano, who is a fantastic human being with a great baseball brain, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him up with the big club as a bullpen coach or something along those lines in the very, very near future.
Rational, reasonable comments and/or suggestions on what to do with my full day in San Francisco are always appreciated! I’d have lunch at Chang’s, but the closest one is in Oakland, so I’ll likely wind up fulfilling the dream of the In-N-Out Burger.
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
1:40 PM Eastern
Reports have been swirling about the baseball-o-sphere that the Blue Jays are close to signing John McDonald to return to Toronto on a one-year deal, and having just spoken to some people close to the situation, I can confirm to you that the reports are true.
Johnny Mac will be back with the Blue Jays in 2010 – hopefully to actually play this time.
McDonald’s signing gives the Blue Jays a shortstop for next season. A starter if Mike McCoy doesn’t win the job in Spring Training or if no one else comes over via signing or trade, and a back-up (and pinch-runner extraordinaire!) if there’s another shortstop in the fold by the end of March.
It’s a no-lose situation for the Jays. McDonald is a fan favourite and can be an absolutely spectacular defender and despite the fact that he doesn’t bring the offense, he still does things on a regular basis that can get the fans to jump out of their seats – which is something that may be dearly missing from the upcoming season’s edition of the club. And his presence does nothing to set back the development plan for the future – it’s not as though stealing at-bats from Angel Sanchez would be a big issue, and Justin Jackson may not even start the season as high as AA.
Having John McDonald playing shortstop and hitting 9th for a team that’s likely to finish 4th in the A.L. East isn’t a terrible thing. And if he’s there to keep the seat warm for whatever hotshot prospect the Jays pick up in a Roy Halladay deal – or to tutor that prospect as Omar Vizquel tutored him – then it’s a very good thing. It’s a million and a half dollars well spent.
And hey, any clubhouse that has John McDonald in it has an automatic leg up on all the others.
Oh, and by the way, I’ll be on The Game Plan with Roger Lajoie this afternoon at 3:25 Eastern on The Fan590 and this very website, and check out The Casino Rama Grill Room tonight, on SunTV at 6:30 PM Eastern. I’ll be on with the Fan’s own Zachariah Cooper and Warren Sawkiw, as well!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
10:15 AM Eastern
Pretty much from the day Albert Pujols came into the major leagues, he has been among the best players in the game, if not the best. He played second fiddle to Barry Bonds for a while there, then after Bonds was Jose Canseco’d into retirement the debate became Pujols or Alex Rodriguez. Pujols is the clear winner there, as he will be the clear winner this afternoon when the National League MVP award is given out.
Pujols was the driving force behind the St. Louis Cardinals’ N.L. Central division title, doing all the offensive heavy lifting until the team picked up Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa in late-season deals. He hit .327 – which actually lowered his career batting average, and led the league with a .443 OBP. He led the major leagues with 47 homers, 124 runs scored, a .658 SLG and a 1.101 OPS, as well as 374 total bases, 93 extra-base hits and 44 intentional walks. He also stole 16 bases in 20 attempts – how about that?
Speaking of how about that – small sample size alert, but Pujols was simply otherwordly this year with the bases loaded. In 21 plate appearances with the sacks drunk, he was hit by a pitch once and had three sacrifice flies, leaving 17 at-bats. In those 17 at-bats, he had 10 hits. Five of them were Grand Slams and three more were doubles. He hit .588/.524/1.647 with the bases loaded, driving in 35 runs. He only struck out once, although he did hit into a double play, too.
Pujols should be a unanimous selection for the award, as should Joe Mauer have been yesterday. There’s really no reason to vote anyone else first. Prince Fielder had a fantastic year for the Brewers, hitting .299/.412/.602 and with 46 homers, and his 141 RBIs tied Ryan Howard for the major-league lead (six better than Pujols) – but did he have a better year than Albert? Nope, and he did it for a team that wasn’t in a pennant race. Howard and Chase Utley will get some votes, for sure, but neither of them were close to Pujols in overall production.
This will be Albert’s second straight MVP, and third in five years. In nine seasons in the majors leagues, it will be the SEVENTH time he’s finished in the top three in MVP balloting and SIXTH time that he’s finished in the top two. He was fourth in his rookie season and ninth in 2007, when he had a great year but the Cardinals finished under .500. Think about that – he’s had a top-9 finish in MVP voting every year of his career. And he doesn’t allegedly turn 30 until January.
We could well be witnessing the greatest hitter in the game’s history, and the rewards will continue to pile up for him over the course of the next decade – starting with some more hardware today.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Monday, November 23rd, 2009
10:10 AM Eastern
The last of baseball’s major post-season awards will be handed out today and tomorrow, with the American League MVP first, followed by the National League, and there are clear, clear favourites (and really only one choice) for each.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer HAS to be the Most Valuable Player in the A.L., and for a while there I was afraid he might not get the nod. After all, the Twinkies went into the second week of September trailing the Tigers by seven games in the Central, and a lot of MVP voters get hung up on where a team finishes in the standings.
Usually, a player has to have a season that’s simply head and shoulders above everybody else in order to win an MVP with a second-division team, but the Twins got themselves back in the race and eventually won the division in a one-game playoff, allowing voters to not have to worry about whether or not Mauer put up his numbers in a race.
Mauer didn’t lead the league in home runs (finishing 11 behind league leaders Mark Teixeira and Carlos Pena), RBIs (26 behind Teixeira) or runs scored (21 behind Dustin Pedroia). The counting stats didn’t suit him all that well because he missed the first month of the season recovering from a back injury.
What did show his value was the fact that he led the league in batting average (.365 – his third batting title in four years), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587). That’s it, right there, plain and simple. You lead the league in those three categories, you’re the MVP, period. Add to that the fact that he’s a catcher and now you’re just being silly. And Mauer’s not a Mike Piazzic catcher, either – the guy can actually play defense. He threw out 26% of runners who attempted to steal on him and only made three errors. He also won a Gold Glove, but then, so did Derek Jeter.
Not only should Mauer be the MVP, he should be the unanimous choice. He probably won’t be, though, because Jeter is in the game.
In early September, before the Twins caught fire and most people woke up to the kind of sensational year that Mauer was having, there was a major groundswell going on to give Jeter the same kind of “lifetime achievement” MVP that Kobe Bryant got in the NBA two seasons ago. The notion was that Jeter was having a really good year and that it was “his time” to win an MVP, since he’d never done so before (though he almost stole one from Justin Morneau three years ago).
The notion certainly was pervasive through the fanbase, who ludicrously voted Jeter the 2009 Hank Aaron Award as the American League’s best hitter. He had a good year, no doubt, hitting .334/.406/.465 with 18 homers and trailing Mauer in every category but hits, runs and stolen bases, but to suggest that he was the league’s best hitter in 2009 is beyond idiotic.
Teixeira should be Mauer’s closest competition for the MVP, having led the league in RBIs and shared the league lead in home runs while hitting .292/.383/.565 to finish third in the league in OPS (only 83 points behind Mauer) but really, the only drama there should be right now is whether or not Mauer gets all the first-place votes.
Tomorrow – Uncle Albert!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Thursday, November 19th, 2009
UPDATE – 2:10 PM Eastern
Lincecum wins! Good for the voters. And how cool is this – Lincecum won in an incredibly tight race in which he got neither the most first-, second- or third-place votes. Wainwright (who was also named on all 32 ballots) had 12 first-place votes to Lincecum’s 11, Carpenter had 14 second-place votes to Lincecum’s 12 and Wainwright had 15 third-place votes to Lincecum’s 9. The difference was that too many voters were split on Wainwright so he only got five second-place votes, and that gave Lincecum his second straight Cy. If only J.P. would have thrown in Dustin McGowan or something. Oh, well….
The weekend off, and then the easy MVPs come out Monday and Tuesday.
1:55 PM Eastern
Damned if I know.
I still haven’t been able to make up my mind, which is why this post is up so late in the game, just minutes before the winner is announced.
Tim Lincecum, last year’s winner, finished tied for 4th in the league with 15 wins. Even though he led the league in strikeouts (261), finished 2nd in ERA (2.48) and WHIP (1.05) and third in innings pitched (225 1/3), the 15 wins may very well work against him. Lincecum also tied for the league lead with four complete games and two shutouts. None of his closest competitors for the award were in those ties.
Adam Wainwright led the league in wins (19) and innings pitched (233), but was 4th in ERA (2.63) and 10th in WHIP (1.21). Chris Carpenter, who won the award in 2005 and has already won this year’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, led the league in ERA (2.24) and finished second in wins (17) and WHIP (1.01) but only 26th in innings pitched because an injury knocked him out for a few weeks early in the season.
The league leader in WHIP (1.00) was Danny Haren of the Diamondbacks, but the 14-10, 3.14 boots him from the running. Same deal with Javier Vazquez, who was third in the league in WHIP at 1.03 but finished the season 15-10, 2.87.
Don’t even get me started on Cliff Lee. His story isn’t close to the same as CC Sabathia’s was in 2008. Lee went 7-4, 3.39 with a 1.13 WHIP in 12 starts after being traded to the Phillies. He’s a non-entity in this race.
I guess we have ourselves a real test case. Does Zack Greinke’s victory on Tuesday show that the voters are willing to look past wins and delve deeper into the other categories? If so, then Lincecum will win. He’s the guy who would get my vote.
Carpenter won the award in 2005 when Dontrelle Willis had more wins and a better ERA, so it would be a bit of poetic justice if he should lose to Lincecum this time around, but I don’t know if I see it happening.
Wainwright’s 19 wins are glittering, for sure, especially since no one else in the league even won as many as 18, but the four losses that are attached to Carpenter’s 17 wins – along with his ERA title – might get him the hardware.
Again, I don’t know who wins this. I would vote for Lincecum, I’m going to say the writers will vote for Carpenter, but not with any confidence on my part at all.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
UPDATE – 2:10 PM Eastern
Who knew shooting fish in a barrel was so problematic? Now Ron Gardenhire has his record-breaking FIFTH second-place finish in A.L. Manager of the Year voting (he’s never won one) and Mike Scioscia has his second trophy. I understand the the Angels overcame the tragedy of Nick Adenhart’s death in the first week of the season to come together and win the division that they were heavily favoured to win anyway. It was a talented group with a history of success that added a guy in Bobby Abreu who had a fantastic season, and they had the expected result – even finishing with three fewer wins than they had the season before.
The Twins had no starting pitching, very little offense beyond The Man Who Will Be MVP, and even less after Morneau went down. It should have been Gardenhire.
Oh, well, two for four so far………
11:00 AM Eastern
These are easy – like shooting fish in a barrel.
Jim Tracy took over for a fired Clint Hurdle in Colorado on May 28th with the team 18-28 and dead last in the N.L. West. After the managerial change, the Rockies went 74-42 to finish with 92 wins and the National League wild card, and in the process Troy Tulowitzki’s career was resurrected.
Tracy is the N.L. Manager of the Year, and may even win the award unanimously.
The Minnesota Twins were a .500 team when they woke up on September 7th, seven games out of first place and about to find out that they’d lost their slugger and MVP candidate, Justin Morneau, for the rest of the season with a back injury. They came to Toronto and took two out of three from the Blue Jays, picking up a game and a half in the division, and used that series as the spark for an 18-8 run to finish the season, forcing a one-game playoff with the Tigers, which they won.
Ron Gardenhire is the American League Manager of the Year. And no, true believers, Cito Gaston won’t be getting any votes.
Tomorrow – the N.L. Cy Young! Does a former Blue Jay take it for a second time? Not if you ask me.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
1:05 PM Eastern
When one follows the team that employs arguably the best starting pitcher in all of baseball, then one generally pays special attention when the Cy Young Award is handed out for that team’s league. That day is today, and Roy Halladay, sadly, isn’t really even in the conversation for the American League Cy Young.
Halladay got off to a fantastic start to the season, going 10-1, 2.53 with a WHIP of 1.04 through his first 14 starts, but that 14th start was cut short by a tweak in the groin that cost him 2 1/2 weeks. He came back and while he wasn’t as fantastic as he had been before, his team stopped hitting for him.
Halladay only picked up one win from June 8 to August 4th despite posting an ERA of 3.16 and a WHIP of 1.18 over eight starts. Over that span, he left down 1-0 in the 4th (injured), left down 2-0 after six, left in a 5-5 tie after seven, left down 3-2 after seven, pitched a complete-game six-hitter and won 3-1, left after nine in a 2-2 tie, left down 3-2 after seven, and threw a complete-game and lost 5-3. Clearly, there was something horribly wrong with him. Or not.
Remember, this was the time when the “trade Doc” circus was happening, with the near-daily updates. Obviously, this was throwing the Jays’ hitters off their game…..or something.
Outside that span of little-to-no run support, Halladay went 16-6, 2.67 with a WHIP of 1.11. If the Jays had been able to support him a little over those eight starts, he’d be the clear Cy Young – or at least be right in the heart of the debate.
Instead, the main contestants for the hardware are the Royals’ Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Detroiter Justin Verlander.
My vote is for Greinke. Hopefully voters will look past the fact that he only managed 16 wins, three fewer than the other three (there were no 20-game winners this year). Greinke led the league in ERA, WHIP, and fewest home runs per nine innings and was second in strikeouts, complete games and shutouts. I’m not sure you could ask for more than that.
Once you make the case for Greinke, who didn’t have an earned run scored against him until his 5th start (Vernon Wells with the RBI single!) and managed to keep his ERA under 1.00 until May 31st, there really isn’t a case to be made for anyone else. As much as he didn’t face the beasts as often as Halladay, you just can’t ignore the numbers.
Seeing how the voters didn’t get sucked in by the traditional stuff when they picked the rookies of the year, let’s hope they can look past the wins (Greinke had SIX no-decisions in which he gave up two runs or fewer) and make the right choice.
Tomorrow – the Managers of the Year!
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!
Monday, November 16th, 2009
2:10 PM Eastern
So it turns out in my haste to get the NL Rookie of the Year post up, I got misconfused, thinking that only the senior circuit hardware was being handed out today and that the A.L. award would be given later in the week.
Well, had I not misremembered the timing of the awards, I would have written a brilliant tome on how great a season Andrew Bailey had and how he would have been my easy choice (if you don’t believe me, see if you can go back and listen to a Rookie-of-the-Year debate Jerry, Alan and I had in mid-September) but how I didn’t think that the voters would give it to him and that either Rick Porcello or Jeff Niemann would likely bring it home. Never would I have thought, though, that Ricky Romero wouldn’t get a single vote.
And now that we know the N.L. winner, I’ll say I’m surprised that Coghlan won it. I’m also surprised that Hanson finished behind Happ, but the writers must have given an edge to those 40 extra innings Happ pitched, which isn’t unfair. My guy got two third-place votes. Oh, well.
If you want to read my thoughts prior to 2:00 PM Eastern, back when I thought the only award of the day would be the N.L. Rookie, please enjoy below!
1:59 PM Eastern
As I wound up my daily five-mile constitutional this afternoon, the thought occurred to me – the BaseBall Writers Association of America begins giving out its major post-season awards today, I should really put up a post about it.
I’ll post prior to each award being handed out (though generally a little priorer than this time) to let you know who I think should win that day’s prize and who I think will win that day’s prize. The two are often not the same.
Some awards are slam-dunks – this year it’s the NL Manager and MVP and it should be the AL MVP too, but it might not. There are always some awfully tough ones and this year we start with one of those – National League Rookie of the Year.
There are a few good candidates for the award – J.A. Happ of the Phillies and Chris Coghlan of the Marlins were constant contributors all season, Tommy Hanson of the Braves came up in June and was fantastic, Garret Jones of the Pirates had an incredible half-season, Randy Wells of the Cubs started fast and fell to Earth, but not that far, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and Dexter Fowler did the on-base plus speed lead-off man thing, with McCutchen providing a little more pop. Any of them could win it.
There seems to be a groundswell for Coghlan, who was chosen by the Marlins in the supplemental round of the 2006 draft as compensation for the Blue Jays’ signing A.J. Burnett. He went eight spots after Daniel Bard and five spots ahead of Joba Chamberlain (the Jays got Travis Snider in the first round that year). Coghlan’s most impressive number for the voters this season was his batting average – .321 put him 6th in the National League. He combined that with a terrific .390 OBP and .460 SLG, but hit only nine home runs and stole only eight bases. Generally, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race doesn’t take home major awards. One usually needs to hit a bunch of bombs or steal a bunch of bases to go with that high batting average in order to bring home hardware.
Jones is an interesting case. The former Minnesota Twin didn’t play his first game of 2009 until July 1st, and in almost exactly half a season (82 games) hit .293/.372/.567 with 21 doubles and 21 homers. Fantastic numbers and a sure winner of the award if he did it over a full season, but can you give the prize to someone who missed almost the entire first half? Rookies have been late call-ups and still won, most recently the Hebrew Hammer, Ryan Braun, but he – and most others of his ilk – came up no later than late May.
It’s tough to separate the two top pitchers, Happ and Hanson, and not just because both their names start with an “H”. Happ was up the whole year, going 12-4, 2.93 with a 1.23 WHIP while moving back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation (23 starts, 12 relief appearances). Hanson came up late, but made almost as many starts as Happ (21) and went 11-4, 2.89 with a 1.18 WHIP. Hanson pitched almost 40 fewer innings, allowing 44 fewer hits, but had only three fewer strikeouts. Happ had three complete games and two shutouts, Hanson didn’t have any of either.
Who would I give it to? Garrett Jones. Half-season be damned, he still had 358 plate appearances, which is a swell sample size and not completely out-of-the-ordinary for a rookie. You can’t argue with a .939 OPS in my books – that’s better than Adam Lind’s.
Who’s going to win? Well, I would hope it would be Jones, because that would mean that the voters are wise, right-thinking folk. I think it’ll come down to Hanson or Coghlan, though, and likely go to Hanson. By the time you read this, you’ll already know.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.
Saturday, November 7th, 2009
6:30 PM Eastern
The girlies have a long weekend off from school, so we packed up the ol’ Vista Cruiser and hit the road to visit some cousins in the lovely metropolis of Detroilet. Here I thought it’d be a relatively baseball-free weekend, but as we headed down the 402 on the way to Sarnia, I got a call from the Jays’ communications guru Jay Stenhouse asking if I got his e-mail about this afternoon’s conference call.
I didn’t – so it’s a good thing Jay is so conscientious about letting us all know when something is up.
Alex Anthopoulos had promised the media and the fans that he’d reveal his plan for the franchise before he left for the GM’s meetings in Chicago, and true to his word, he wanted to follow through. I managed to get on the call (though I missed the second question because I was crossing the border – how inconvenient) and Alex revealed his vision for the franchise which was as I expected.
The Blue Jays will NOT load up for the 2010 season, failing to take advantage of their last year of Roy Halladay and the fact that they won’t have to give up a first-round pick if they sign any free agents. Instead, they will build on what they have in an effort to build a perennial contender down the line.
It’s not a rebuild – they’re not going to break up the team in order to start all over again. Alex said that the Jays have plenty of good, young players, just not enough. He believes that the core of all the young pitchers, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Travis Snider, J.P. Arencibia, etc. is awfully strong, but not ready yet and that talent must be added.
This probably means that we’ve seen the last of Roy Halladay in a Blue Jays’ uniform, which is a real shame, but was probably inevitable. The shame of it all isn’t that the Jays are going to trade arguably the best homegrown player they’ve ever had, and a potential Hall of Famer, but rather that they had him for eight seasons of awesome and couldn’t put a good enough team around him to do any serious damage.
If they’re not going to “go for it” this year, then trading Halladay is the smartest thing they can do. Anthopoulos again said all the right things – the Jays would love to lock him up long-term, but his timetable for winning is likely different from theirs. The truth is, as fantastic as Halladay has been and as much of a horse as he’s been able to be since the forearm strain that cost him almost half a season in 2004, you’re taking a big chance in locking him up for a ton of money for his age 34-37 seasons – especially when you’re probably not going to need him to be the ace of a championship staff until he’s 36.
We also heard that one of Alex’s goals is to put together the best scouting and player development staff that money can buy. A worthy goal, no doubt, but one that he believes will take some time. There are people currently working in baseball who Alex would love to hire, but some of them are beholden to other teams for a while yet. Remember, the Jays had to wait a year to bring in Tony LaCava, and that’s a move that has worked out awfully well.
Alex said he’d be very active on the trade front. That’s not to say that he’s going to make a ton of trades, but that at least he’ll be in on every discussion of every player who is on the market. He talked to the Royals about Mark Teahen and to the Marlins about Jeremy Hermida, but there wasn’t a fit in either case. I’m happy to hear this, because I still remember a conversation I had with Gord Ash back in May of 1998 when word got out that the Marlins picked up Mike Piazza just to flip him for prospects. I asked Ash if the Blue Jays would try to deal for the all-star catcher (that was the Tim Johnson year, and the Jays were floating around the .500 mark at the time). Ash told me that the Jays would have to have interest in Piazza, but that the Marlins were likely going to hang on to him for two or three weeks. He was traded to the Mets three days later.
Free agency isn’t the way to build a team, said the new G.M. He said that the best use of free agents is to bring them in when a team is ready to compete, when they’ll come in as the final pieces to the puzzle to put a team over the top, the way the Jays did it in the early ’90s. The way to build a perennial contender is through player development and through trades. Not necessarily through the draft – Alex noted that generally about 2/3 of players on active rosters didn’t arrive on their team through the draft – but that the draft is a good way to procure assets that can be used in future trades.
I don’t know about you, but I love a G.M. who is very active on the trade market. If Alex is dealing prospects for young, provenish controllable players, then that’s a great thing.
The “build” mode also likely spells the end of Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas as Blue Jays. The Jays will pick up three extra picks before the second round of the draft if those two sign with other teams. John McDonald doesn’t bring back a draft pick if he leaves, so he could very well come back. Having Johnny Mac as the starting shortstop for a building team that doesn’t have a great shortstop prospect would at least make the fans happy, and that’s not a bad thing given yet another non-contending season.
As I’ve said before, this isn’t the plan I would have put forth (and did, actually, put forth back in September). I believe that an infusion of cash could lead to some good trades for established-but-getting-too-expensive players from elsewhere and some strong free agent signings that could turn the Jays into a contender immediately. Alex says he doesn’t want to sacrifice four years down the road in order to try to make a big splash next year. Not only do I not mind sacrificing four years down the road, I don’t think you necessarily have to in order to make that splash.
It doesn’t mean that I’m right and that Alex is wrong. His is, as well, a very cromulent way of thinking. If he can build a sustainable contender, one that will spend with the Anaheims, Bostons and Chicagos of the world, then Blue Jays fans will be very happy in a couple of years.
The one thing that bugged me was that Alex mentioned a few times that the Jays were a 75-win team this past season, and it’s highly unlikely that a 75-win team picks up the 20 wins necessary to become a playoff team in the A.L. East in one off-season. This is true, except for two things. First, the Jays weren’t your traditional 75-win team in 2008. They had a positive run differential (+27), which suggests they were really closer to about an 82 or 83-win team. They have very good young pitching coming back and getting healthy, and they had to deal with an unexpected awful year from their 30 year-old supposed-to-be-marquee player.
Second, a 75-win team that raises its payroll by 50% and brings in five or six high-quality players via trades and free agent signings has a far better shot than most others to raise its win total into the mid-90s neighbourhood.
I’d have gone reload, but the Jays are going build, and I have a lot of faith in Alex that he’ll be able to follow through on his plan and build the Jays into a perennial contender over time. It shouldn’t take that long, and I do agree with Alex that the fans will give him some time. After a lost year, floating in the ether with no direction, the Blue Jays finally have a clear one.
I guess before I go I should say something about the Yankees winning the World Series, since I didn’t post after Game 6. It’s disappointing, of course, but they most certainly deserved it. The Yanks went 11-4 in the post-season and were never really threatened. It’s amazing to see, though, that with by far the highest payroll in the game the Yanks still only had four pitchers they could trust (although that’s three more than the Phillies). It hurts, what can I tell you? I was surprised that Hideki Matsui was named World Series MVP, given that he only started three of the six games and had just 13 at-bats – the lowest total for any non-pitcher winner of the award. I would have given it to Mariano Rivera myself or maybe (gulp) Derek Jeter. Yep, I said it.
Congrats to the Phillies for putting up a reasonable fight. As I said in July, were I Ruben Amaro, Jr., I’d have tried to deal for Roy Halladay even after I got Cliff Lee, since both deals were right there to be made. Had the Phillies been willing to give up those prospects (and they used J.A. Happ for all of 6 1/3 innings in the playoffs), they’d likely have their second straight World Series and be well on their way to a third straight.
We had a fine hour-long WorldSeriesTalk after Game 6 to wrap up the year, and here it is, for your listening pleasure:
It was a frustrating and long year on the Blue Jays beat, but it’s in the rear-view mirror and better times are ahead (to quote the great John Winston Ono Lennon – “it can’t get no worse”). I’ll be posting on the blog periodically throughout the off-season, as always, whenever the Blue Jays do something of note or whenever too much time goes by between posts.
By the way, just a note about the travel genius that I am. Plotting out the map to Detroilet, it turns out it’s only two miles longer to go through Sarnia and cross the border there than it is to go through Windsor. Also just two miles longer to take the QEW/403 through Hamilton/Brantford than it is to go along the 401. And surely we’d make up a ton of time by going through the quicker border crossing and avoiding the 401 through Mississauga and K-W/Cambridge, right? Of course right! But we ran into brutal construction on both the 403 and the 402, costing us at least 45 minutes in total. Argh. I’m going home through Windsor.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome – comments that have been left since Game 5 of the World Series (and those that come in after this post) will be answered and posted by Monday afternoon.
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
1:45 PM Eastern
In a departure from form from the previous administration, the Blue Jays sent out a release today actually volunteering information about player injuries. It’s true – they came out and told us about Edwin Encarnacion and Vernon Wells’ wrist surgeries without having been specifically asked “Are Encarnacion or Wells or both having surgery?” This is cool – glasnost under Alex Anthopoulos. Or is it perestroika? I’m going with glasnost, but either way, I like it.
So here’s the deal: Last Friday, Encarnacion had surgery on his left wrist – a large bone spur was shaved off his hamate bone. Wells will have surgery next week to repair cartilage damage in his left wrist. Both players are expected to be cleared for full activity prior to the start of Spring Training.
We knew that Encarnacion had broken his wrist in April, and that’s the kind of injury from which it can take a good, long while to recover. It seems as though the last thing to come back from such an injury is power, but Encarnacion hit seven homers from September 1st on, which augurs well. In fact, after most Jays fans were looking to ride him out of town on a rail after his first couple weeks, he wound up hitting .274/.364/.547 in Sept./Oct. That’s a .911 OPS that would have ranked second on the team over the full season, 73 points ahead of the third-place Lyle Overbay, behind only Adam Lind.
We knew that Wells needed a cortisone shot in his wrist prior to the season starting, but he wouldn’t admit to anything being wrong over the course what might have been his worst season in the majors (2007 will give it a good argument). Now we find out that the wrist was obviously bothering him, and he’s going to have it fixed. What does this mean? Well, at the very least, it should calm the people who believe that Wells’ 2009 production is the new normal regarding his future level of production.
Still, though, it’s troubling. This is two years in the last three that Wells has tried to play through injury “for the good of the team” while going out every day in a very important spot in the batting order and – for lack of a better word – sucking. Is it his fault? Doubtful. It’s very difficult to blame a player for not wanting to come out of the line-up if he’s physically able to play (never mind play well). It’s exceedingly rare to find a player who will step back and say “Not only am I not helping, but I’m hurting the team and embarrassing myself in the process. I have to ask out.” Don’t blame Wells for wanting his name written into the line-up everyday.
In 2007, the only reason we found out about Wells’ shoulder problems were because then-hitting coach Mickey Brantley spilled the beans in September. (By the way, how crazy is it that Brantley, who was fired two years and one month ago, is the Jays’ FOURTH-last hitting coach?) The Jays knew about Wells’ issues in 2007 – he was totally up-front with the team – so I’m assuming that they knew about his wrist issues this year as well. Yet in 2007 he missed just three games before being shut down for good in mid-September, and only made nine starts outside the top four spots in the batting order (and those were all hitting 5th). This past season, he only missed three games – and those were because of a stomach virus he had right after the all-star break – and all but eight of his starts came with him hitting 3rd, 4th or 5th.
At some point, Cito Gaston (and John Gibbons before him) has to be the grown-up, as it were, and tell Wells that he’s doing more harm than good trying to play in his condition and sit him down – or at least drop him to a far lower-leverage spot in the batting order until he gets healthy.
Gaston’s response to the batting order thing was always “if you’re not going well, you’ll come up in a big situation no matter where you’re hitting.” I guess there’s some anecdotal truth to that, but the real truth is that you can organize your line-up so that there’s a great chance that better hitters will come to the plate with opportunities to drive in runs.
Hopefully the surgery fixes whatever’s been wrong with Wells (though he’ll still have chronic hamstring issues to deal with), but if it doesn’t, here’s hoping we don’t spend another season banging our heads against a wall trying to figure out why Cito won’t drop a struggling Wells in the line-up, or give him the occasional day off or two.
Marc Rzepczynski was our Blue Jay A Day guest on the pre-game show last night, prior to A.J. Burnett’s lovely implosion, and he was terrific. Here’s his appearance, for your listening pleasure:
Also, it was pointed out to me that I owe you a rain-delay show from Saturday night. Here it is:
There won’t be a Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show prior to Game 6 on Wednesday, because locally in Toronto we’ll be joining the game in progress after the Raptors and Pistons, so if there’s a Game 7 (fingers crossed!), we’ll have our last guest for you then. Remember as well, the phone lines are open for the post-post-game every night, about 45-50 minutes after the last pitch.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!