Archive for November, 2010
Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
10:15 PM Eastern
Just found out that reliever Jason Frasor will accept the Jays’ offer of arbitration, which means he’ll be back with the Bluebirds on a one-year contract for next season.
Frasor was a Type A free agent, so the Jays stood to gain a first-round draft pick plus a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds had he left, but that’s all moot now – they’ll try to hammer out a one-year deal prior to the February arbitration dates, or the Jays could still trade him, but they could do a lot worse at the back of the bullpen.
I’ve said many times that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with Frasor because he doesn’t “look like” a closer, that is, he doesn’t project the confidence and strength one is used to seeing from a big-time reliever. He also takes a REALLY long time to deliver his pitches. But he’s a capable late inning reliever who gets the job done far more often than not, no matter what J.P. Ricciardi says.
The Jays are still waiting to hear about the decisions of Scott Downs and Miguel Olivo, both of whom are expected to decline arbitration. Kevin Gregg has already reportedly declined.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
9:51 AM Eastern
Sorry I didn’t put up a post yesterday prior to Etobicoke’s own Joey Votto taking home the hardware in the Senior Circuit, but the day got away from me in a hurry thanks unfortunately to some medical drama that is now all resolved, and in a positive fashion (or at least will be, one hopes, after a stress test later this afternoon).
Anyway, who didn’t know that Votto was going to be the NL MVP? The only shame of it is that his selection wasn’t unanimous. Votto had about as complete a resume for an MVP as one can have – he finished second in batting average, third in home runs and RBIs, led the league in on-base percentage, slugging and, therefore, OPS as part of finishing in the league’s top 5 in 15 different offensive categories, and he played on a division winner. Unfortunately, one voter thought that Albert Pujols’ season was a better one than Votto’s, preventing Joey from the clean sweep. In the end, though, that doesn’t mean anything. No one remembers the vote total, no one remembers whether a guy was a unanimous MVP or just scraped by, people look at the trophy. So congratulations to Joey Votto for a fantastic season in Cincinnati and a well-earned MVP award.
In most years, winning the MVP would vault Votto to the top of the list for all those December awards for Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year, but given what happened in Vancouver and Whistler back in February, I don’t think Votto will make that cut next month. Even though one could pretty easily argue, I think, that doing what he did over six months is a greater accomplishment than what an Alexandre Bilodeau or Jon Montgomery did over a day or two back in February. And yes, I know how hard Olympians train and how much work they put into it, how much they sacrifice and how they only get one shot every four years. I have a ton of respect for Olympic athletes, especially after meeting so many of them earlier this year, but again, topping a field of elite athletes over six months of daily competition really does stand out.
This afternoon, they hand out the American League MVP, and given the year that Jose Bautista had, Blue Jays fans should be very interested in the outcome. I couldn’t be happier that I underestimated the voters in last week’s A.L. Cy Young contest – I’m thrilled that they gave it to Felix Hernandez, who truly deserved it despite going only 13-12 – but I don’t expect a repeat today.
Bautista isn’t going to win the award, because the Blue Jays finished 4th in their division, and despite winding up with 85 wins in what was a terrific season, they weren’t a factor in a playoff race beyond the middle of June.
Bautista, like Votto, won his league’s Hank Aaron Award for 2010, which is voted on by fans (30%) and radio and TV broadcasters (70% – and only those who sit in the two big chairs, so no vote for me), but the Hank Aaron Award is given to the “best overall hitter” in each league. The MVP is given to the “Most Valuable Player” in each league, and it’s the word “valuable” that’s going to wind up knocking down Bautista’s candidacy.
Looking strictly at the numbers, a case could be made for Bautista to win the award. He lapped the field in the American League in home runs, for starters. His Blue Jays’-record total of 54 big flies was 15 better than second-place finisher Paul Konerko. He finished third in the league in RBIs with 124, two fewer than leader Miguel Cabrera, despite playing on a team that basically refused to get on base. He was second in the league in walks, third in slugging percentage and OPS, and became only the seventh player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 50 homers and 30 doubles and walk 100 times in the same season.
[UPDATE: After doing a little more research, I found that Bautista also was only the fourth player in history with a season of at least 50 homers, 35 doubles and 100 walks - the other three being Babe Ruth, Hack Wilson and Luis Gonzalez.]
Also, Bautista this year became only the SECOND player in major-league history with a season of at least 50 homers, 35 doubles, 120 RBIs, 100 runs scored, 100 walks and at least five stolen bases (Bautista had nine). The other guy? Some nobody named George Herman Ruth.
Bautista’s weaknesses in his argument for the hardware are his .260 batting average and the fact that he played on a team that finished well up the track in the playoff race. Even without his contributions, one could easily argue, the Blue Jays would still have finished fourth in the A.L. East. But when you look at the other candidates for the American League MVP, there are holes in the arguments for them, too.
Josh Hamilton, the likely winner, won the batting title hitting .359 and led the league with a 1.044 OPS. He also hit 32 homers, drove in 100 runs, led the league in slugging and was second with a .411 OBP. But Hamilton missed 25 games in September and the Rangers went 15-10 without him, a better winning percentage than when he was in the line-up. Those 25 missed games also helped keep his rate stats, like batting average and OPS, from slipping. Now, you could say that when Hamilton went down with that broken rib, he’d already contributed enough to the Rangers’ division title, since they had an eight-game lead after their loss to the Twins on September 4th, the game Hamilton came out of midway through, not to return until October. And if you said that, you might be right. A lot of voters said that to themselves when they cast their ballots last month.
Miguel Cabrera will likely finish second in the voting. Cabrera hit .328, led the league with a .420 OBP and finished second to Hamilton in OPS. He drove in two more runs than Bautista to lead the league and hit 2/3 as many home runs as the Jays’ slugger to finish third. What’s baffling to me is that Cabrera seems to be the consensus number two in the MVP discussions, despite the fact that his Detroit Tigers finished with four fewer wins than Jose Bautista’s Blue Jays, and were farther back of the first-place Twins in the Central than the Jays were of the first-place Rays in the East. Now, maybe it’s because the Tigers were in the race as late as the all-star break, maybe it’s because Cabrera is the bigger name and “challenged” for the triple crown (I put challenged in quotes because he was referred to as a Triple Crown candidate for most of the season, even though he wound up 16 home runs shy of the league lead), but in my mind, if you like Cabrera for the MVP, you have to like Bautista as well.
Sure Cabrera had 68 points in batting average on Jose, which wound up translating to almost 50 points in OPS, but again, Bautista beat the slugging Cabrera’s home run total by 50%. That has to count for quite a bit. Of course, if you factor defense in as well, Bautista easily trumps Cabrera.
The other big name in MVP chatter seems to be Robinson Cano, who has been put in there by the “We Have To Find A Yankee” faction. The Yanks’ second baseman had a very strong season, hitting .319/.381/.534 with 29 homers and 109 RBIs. His .914 OPS was sixth in the league. He was fifth in hitting, ninth in OBP, seventh in slugging, sixth in runs scored, seventh in RBIs and one of only two American Leaguers to notch 200 hits. And his team made the playoffs.
It’s interesting to see that one of the arguments made by those who suggest Cano should be the MVP is that “he was the one position player the Yanks simply couldn’t do without”. That’s funny because he played 160 games. Obviously their 1-1 record in the games in which Cano didn’t play indicates just how valuable his presence was. Or something.
Cano seems to be a compromise candidate, the guy who did everything well but with nothing really outstanding on his C.V.
Paul Konerko will get some votes, too, as will Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Joe Mauer and even Delmon Young and Alex Rodriguez, but it says here that the voters will wind up choosing Hamilton.
For the Bautista crowd, it’s tough to win the MVP on a non-playoff team unless you have a season that blows away everyone else’s, and though Bautista certainly did destroy all competition in the home run race, that .260 batting average stands out to voters looking for a reason not to put him first on their ballots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cabrera and Cano round out the top three, though I firmly believe Bautista deserves to be in the voters’ top three at the very least. Instead, he’ll have to be satisfied with a Hank Aaron Award, a Silver Slugger and a hefty raise.
Thursday, November 18th, 2010
12:18 AM Eastern
Well, so much for the perfect post-season. It happened for me in 2008, going 8-for-8 with the BBWAA awards predictions, but Ron Gardenhire’s A.L. Manager of the Year Award this afternoon kept me from perfection to this point. I’ll happily take 7 out of 8, but tomorrow’s A.L. Cy Young is going to be a tough one.
I’ll get to that in a second, but first of all, the Blue Jays acquired outfielder Rajai Davis from the Oakland A’s this evening in exchange for minor-league relievers Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson.
Funny how, with all the rumours flying about, the talk of Zack Greinke and Dan Uggla and Colby Rasmus and everyone else, Alex Anthopoulos can just quietly make a deal without a single word of it slipping until it breaks. Frustrating as hell for your intrepid reporter, but still kind of cool.
So, who is Rajai Davis? Well, for starters, he’s athletic. He’s speed and defense. He’s the kind of player Anthopoulos is looking to add, to give the offense more methods of attack. If only he could get on base a bit more.
When word of the deal leaked out, my very baseball-savvy cousin texted me, saying that Davis was “the rich man’s Fred Lewis”. Then I read a comment on today’s earlier post basically saying that Davis wasn’t even as good as FLewis.
Well, Davis isn’t as good as FLewis at getting on base – though he was in 2007 and 2009 – and he certainly doesn’t have the raw power of the Jays’ one-time lead-off man, but he’s better at everything else, most importantly speed and defense.
This isn’t about Davis vs. FLewis, though. What it is about is the Blue Jays getting a legitimate disturber on the basepaths. Davis stole 50 bases this past season despite finding his way on base only 32% of the time. He was only caught 11 times – an outstanding 82% success rate which was slightly higher than his career rate of 79%. He may not get on much (though, again, he did in 2007 and 2009), but when he does, he makes things happen. When’s the last time the Blue Jays had someone like that? And that’s someone who is a legitimate speed-and-defense guy, unlike FLewis, who most just assumed was because of the way he looks.
As for his defense, it’s an interesting thing, with so many people having become such strong disciples of Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) because there’s really no good metric to measure fielding. Davis’ UZR/150 (we’ll use that because UZR is a cumulative stat so you need to normalize it) in the outfield this past season was -10.2. That’s pretty bad. But in 2009, it was +10 and in 2008 it was +9.3. Those numbers are really good.
Eyeballing his defense, it’s really good. Why the numbers vary like that, I can’t tell you. Can you slump defensively? Maybe. Likelier there’s a flaw in the formula somewhere, but who am I to say?
Regardless, while Davis isn’t going to move Vernon Wells out of centrefield, he would certainly make a more-than-adequate replacement on the defensive side if the need arose.
It seems as though Davis is here to play whatever corner Travis Snider isn’t playing and either lead off or hit ninth, but the off-season is still quite young, and as Anthopoulos told me tonight, he’s still got “a million balls in the air”.
Farquhar and Magnuson are both coming off strong seasons in AA and both have a chance to make the majors and maybe even to be pretty good relievers in the majors. But it’s not hard to trade two guys who have a chance to be pretty good relievers in the majors for a 30 year-old with three years of control who has 91 steals the last two seasons and who has had an OBP of .360 or better two of the last four years, and has done so in the majors.
It’s easy to fall in love with young prospects and, in projecting their future stardom, decide that it should take a truckload to get you to part with them, but far more often than not, they don’t make nearly the impact even the medium-case scenario suggests they should. Part of the reason your have a minor-league system is so that those minor leaguers can be used in trade to get major leaguers.
I really like what Davis brings to the Jays, and I’m rooting for him to get the offense going to the point that he earns a spot at the top of the line-up. A club record for stolen bases in a single season is well within his reach.
As for the Test Case, well, that’s Thursday afternoon’s announcement of the American League Cy Young Award. Felix Hernandez led the league in ERA, innings pitched, opponents’ OPS, quality start percentage and total batters faced, was second in strikeouts (by one), WHIP and third in complete games and shutouts. He had a phenomenal year for a terrible baseball team, and that’s the problem. Even with all those great numbers, King Felix finished with a 13-12 record. Blue Jays fans bore witness to the frustrations of Felix in a late-season game in which Hernandez threw a complete-game two-hitter, but lost 1-0 on a first-inning solo shot by Jose Bautista.
In Hernandez’ 12 losses, the Mariners scored a grand total of 14 runs. That’s not a typo. In NINE of those 12 losses, they were shut out or scored only once. Hernandez did all he could do, and it’s to the great detriment of the voters that it appears he’s not going to win the Cy Young because his team couldn’t hit.
That opponents’ OPS, by the way? .585, which is simply disgusting. It’s 30 points better than the second-place Clay Buchholz, and even 16 points better than the N.L. leader, San Diego’s Mat Latos, who got to face a pitcher about 10% of the time. 265 of the 270 major-league hitters with at least 300 plate appearances in 2010 had an OPS above .585. That means Felix Hernandez turned opponents into about the 5th-worst hitter in the big leagues.
If I had a vote, it would be for King Felix, but I believe the voters will choose one of the Yankees’ CC Sabathia (21-7, 3.18, 1.19 WHIP), Tampa Bay’s David Price (19-6, 2.72, 1.19 WHIP) or Boston’s Buchholz (17-7, 2.30, 1.20 WHIP).
Jered Weaver led the league in strikeouts and was third in WHIP and innings pitched, but he was also 13-12, so don’t look for him on too many ballots.
Last year, voters woke up to the relevance of the won-loss record for a starting pitcher and gave Tim Lincecum the Cy Young despite his only getting 15 wins. Felix Hernandez gives the voters an even tougher test this year, but he really does deserve the award. I would love to say that I think he’s going to get it, but I don’t. I think the voters will give it to Sabathia.
Next week – the MVPs!
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
1:38 PM Eastern
This afternoon awards will be handed out to two managers, generally of the team in each league that most exceeded pre-season expectations.
It’s not as though voters take in-depth looks at what a manager actually did over 162 games, like “look, that guy used a pinch-hitter in the 6th in order to get the other guy’s starting pitcher out of the game and make him use up a LOOGY early”, or “man, that guy always used his bench in a manner that gave him the best potential outcome at the plate in every big situation” or even “wow, that guy always went to his best reliever in the highest-leverage spot in the game, no matter what inning it was!”. Just kidding about that last one, by the way, that’ll never happen.
No, what voters tend to do is look for teams that did way better than they thought they would do during the season and say “hmmmm, that manager must have done a hell of a job.”
You would think that would actually put Cito Gaston pretty high on the list of candidates for the A.L. award, since the Blue Jays picked up about 25 more wins than most pundits seemed to believe they would this year. And Gaston would indeed be a front-runner for the hardware if not for two things, the biggest of which is the fact that, despite the 85 wins, the Blue Jays finished fourth and well up the track as far as the playoffs went.
In Joe Girardi’s one season as the Marlins’ manager, his team finished in fourth place with 78 wins and Girardi took home the hardware because the Fish were expected to be hard-pressed to even win 60 games. Sounds a lot like Toronto, huh? Except that the Jays did even better than those Marlins. Thing is, as late as mid-September of that season, the Marlins were only two games out of the wild card. The Blue Jays of 2010 weren’t even on the periphery of a playoff race by Canada Day.
So while Cito will no doubt get some votes, he will once again be denied the prize – the winner? I’m thinking Ron Washington.
You have to imagine that Washington, the Rangers’ manager, and Twins’ skipper Ron Gardenhire are the two leading candidates for the A.L. hardware. But Washington is the one who almost lost his job in the spring over the revelation of his cocaine use – he’d failed an MLB drug test in July of ’09, stemming from his “one-time” use of the recreational drug. The Rangers backed him, gave him a second chance, and then Texas went out and won 90 games, blowing away the competition in the A.L. West and entering September with an 8 1/2 game lead on the second-place A’s.
Gardenhire’s Twins won the A.L. Central despite not having all-star slugger Justin Morneau for the second half of the season thanks to the concussion delivered to him by the knee of John McDonald. The Twinkies also lost their star closer Joe Nathan for the season back in Spring Training.
It says here that the voting comes back Washington first and Gardenhire second. Cito may well be able to sneak into third, though Tampa’s Joe Maddon will surely give him a run for his money.
In the National League, it seems much simpler. The San Diego Padres were supposed to be an absolute doormat. Teams were licking their chops, waiting until they were far enough out of the race so that they could trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Most people figured that would be about mid-May. But the Padres went on a tear, and kept it up. They had the best record in the National League as late as the start of business on August 31st, and despite a 10-game losing streak still managed to rally from a three-games-out-with-three-to-play deficit to stay alive into the final day of the season, when they were shut out by the eventual World Series champions.
Harry Ralston Black, a Blue Jay for about three weeks in 1990, you can forget about being on the losing end of Dave Stieb’s no-hitter – you’re the National League Manager of the Year!
Tomorrow – the A.L. Cy Young. That’s going to be a tough call.
Monday, November 15th, 2010
1:48 PM Eastern
Hope you all didn’t miss me too much, but the vacation is almost over now and I figured I’d throw up a post from here in Miami since the BBWAA awards are starting to come out. Speaking of throwing up, by the way, the seas were pretty rough on the Caribbean cruise the family and I just wound up, but nothing made me want to toss the ol’ cookies more than finding out while we were at sea that Derek Jeter captured his fifth career Gold Glove. I mean seriously, are we not beyond this by now?
Lots of stuff happened while I was gone, from Edwin Encarnacion being lost on waivers to the A’s (saves the Jays the paperwork of non-tendering him, though I can’t imagine that Oakland wants to pay him five million bucks to play third for them next season) to John Farrell rounding out his new coaching staff, bringing back Dwayne Murphy (at the behest of most of the hitters), bringing in Don Wakamatsu and Torey Lovullo and bringing home Patrick George Hentgen.
I’m not surprised at all by the hiring of Lovullo – he and Farrell are great friends and it was anticipated that the now-former Pawtucket skipper would be joining the Jays’ staff pretty much as soon as Farrell was hired. I think I even mentioned it on a previous blog post. My greatest memory of the Jays’ new first-base coach (I thought he’d be the bench coach, actually, but what do I know?) is one of his old baseball cards, though it might have been a PTP/Dynasty League card. I think it was when he played with the Indians, but the card showed his name as “Sal Lovullo”. Torey is short for Salvatore, and I guess the card company just guessed wrong on the name by which he goes. I’ll have to ask him about that.
Plenty has been said about the coaching staff in the last few days, so I’m not going to go over them all. I’ll just say that Wakamatsu seems a pretty good addition, what with his background as both a big-league manager and a big-league catcher (hello, J.P. Arencibia!), though he may still get the Mets’ job. Hentgen is a real surprise, I didn’t know he wanted to get back into full-time work. He’s a fantastic person and knows his pitching, it’s going to be great to have him around all the time.
Luis Rivera is an interesting hire, too. A coach who can be in uniform except during games. He’ll help out quite a bit over the place, especially with the Latin guys, and there’s enough flexibility in his position that he can leave the big club for a few days here and there to go work with Adeiny Hechevarria or some of the other young Spanish-speakers in the system.
As for the departed – Nick Leyva was a foregone conclusion, I think. A Cito guy, once he didn’t get the manager’s job it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to be back. Omar Malave will likely be offered the manager’s job in Las Vegas, and I’m sure the Jays want to retain Rick Langford, maybe even as their minor-league pitching co-ordinator. All of them did good work while they were with the Jays, and all deserve to be back in the big leagues.
It’ll be interesting to spend time getting to know a new manager and new coaches. Since I started covering the Blue Jays full-time for the Fan590 in 2001, Farrell is the fifth manager the club has had.
The cruise was pretty cool – I wasn’t kidding about the rough seas, we had to abandon plans to hit our first port because of 17-foot swells left by Hurricane Tomas, but we did stop in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. I didn’t run into Saul Korman in St. Maarten, though I was really hoping to. We toured the whole island and hung out on the beach getting pounded by the ocean waves, which was a blast. I had been to St. Thomas before, but this time wanted to make sure I got to check out the synagogue on the island. It’s the oldest continuous congregation in U.S. territory, having been established in the 17th Century (1680-something, I think). The sanctuary has a sand floor, and a lot of the building was still flooded from the hurricane rains that had come through the weekend previous. Very cool place, though, and I was surprised to see that there was so much Jewish life on that tiny island. Even now, I was told there are 120 families that belong to that synagogue, which is amazing to me. I met up with the rest of the family afterwards at a beach and found out that two of my wife’s Argentinian cousins had been stung by jellyfish. Grand Turk was also mostly about hanging on the beach – we only had a few hours in port – but on the cab ride we drove by what the driver believed was a replica of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule (go rent The Right Stuff if you haven’t seen it), which had landed on the island back in 1962. It might have been the actual capsule, she wasn’t sure. Very cool either way.
The week on the ship was solid – lots of food, decent entertainment, good weather. There was one stand-up comic who was good, but who started his show by showing the audience a demo reel. It was three minutes or so of just highlights from TV appearances he’d made on shows like Seinfeld, which I found sort of off-putting. It was as though he was saying to us “Look, I’ve done all this cool stuff, so you know I’m legit.” For me, anyway, if you’re funny, we’ll laugh, if you’re not, we won’t. The fact that you worked with Mary Kate and Ashley Olson doesn’t make a difference.
The casino worked in my favour this trip. I won one of the three poker tournaments I entered and turned $45 into $565 on the last day – stunningly enough, on Face Up Blackjack and Three Card Poker - sending me ashore on a very happy note. The best part of the trip, of course, was getting to spend a lot of time getting to know a lot of cousins I don’t get to see a lot. There were 18 of us in the group, seven of whom live in Argentina, and three of whom (including a five-year old) I had only met once.
OK, less of the family sap, more of the baseball. The Rookie of the Year Awards are going to be handed out later this afternoon, and I want to get on the record that my choices would be Neftali Feliz in the American League and Buster Posey in the National League. Feliz put up some incredible numbers closing for the Rangers, and his playoff hiccups don’t count since the voting was done prior to the start of the post-season. I had thought Cleveland’s Carlos Santana might give him a run for his money, and he was off to a great start before that grotesque leg injury ended his season far too prematurely. Austin Jackson of the Tigers should finish second, but Feliz’ numbers blow his away, even though you’re comparing a hitter and a pitcher. Feliz will be the second straight closer to win the award, and here’s hoping his 2011 is better than Andrew Bailey’s 2010 was.
Posey wins a tight race (in my mind) with the much more hyped Jason Heyward, but he had the same number of home runs and only five fewer RBIs in 114 fewer at-bats. Posey hit .305 with an .862 OPS that led all NL rookies, while playing one of the toughest positions on the diamond – working behind the plate.
Tomorrow, a second Cy for Doc!
Friday, November 5th, 2010
11:00 AM Eastern
The baseball season is over, the off-season is upon us, and I’m off on the beginning of a week-and-a-half long family vacation. Yesterday was spent mostly in airports and on planes, flying from Toronto to Atlanta, missing one flight in Atlanta and then having the next one full so finally sneaking onto the one following into Fort Lauderdale. Ah, the joys of flying standby. We got to YYZ at noon and landed at FLL just after 10:00 pm. We have a couple of days to enjoy South Florida while a few members of The Lovely Wife’s family arrive from Argentina, and then we hop on a big boat on the weekend to spend a week cruising about the Caribbean and trying avoid potential hurricanes. Among the stops along the way? St. Maarten – maybe we’ll run into Saul Korman so he can try to sell me something from the Roberto label.
Anyway, when my Delta flight from Atlanta to Lauderdale hit the tarmac and I was allowed to turn my phone back on, it went nuts. Text after text – Gregg declined! Deal for Olivo! Murphy back! Olivo to be declined! That’s some busy Thursday for Alex Anthopoulos, and an unfortunate time for yours truly to be off the grid.
So what does all this mean? Well, it’s no shocker that Gregg’s options were declined. As much lip service as was paid throughout the season by the Jays that Gregg was having a great year and was getting the job done, despite fingernails worn to the nub by most observers, it was pretty apparent that he wasn’t going to be a long-term answer. They tried to use the options as an asset in trade talks, but when they couldn’t find a deal they liked, the solution was to decline the options and later offer arbitration in the hopes that Gregg will decline that, and secure the sandwich pick (a draft choice between the first and second rounds).
Chances are Gregg will decline arbitration, as will Miguel Olivo, who was a Blue Jay for about as long as Chris Chambliss was (major kudos to anyone who gets that reference – you must be old). Olivo had an option with the Rockies that Colorado wasn’t going to pick up, and the Jays stepped in and said “we’ll be happy to pay that $500,000 buyout if you trade him to us”. So, for minimal cash (or a player to be named later, likely cash), the Jays got to be the ones to decline Olivo’s option and pay the buyout. Then, like Gregg, they’ll offer Olivo arbitration in the hopes that he’ll decline, and they’ll secure another sandwich pick when he signs somewhere else.
Half a million dollars for a sandwich pick is a deal that Alex Anthopoulos will make seven days a week, and twice on Sundays (or actually two and a half times on a Thursday, since Gregg got a $750,000 buyout).
It’s a terrific strategy by Anthopoulos, who knows that the easiest way to acquire elite-level high-ceiling talent is through the draft. Gather as many high picks as possible and hope you hit on a couple or three – if you can do that, you’re laughing. This is another reason why John Buck won’t be returning to the Blue Jays next season, either.
So, how do you replace the guys who were lost? Well, you really don’t have to do anything to replace Olivo, because you only had him for about 10 minutes, but Gregg was your closer and, in a vacuum, a pretty effective one (that vacuum being the tunnel vision of looking only at save percentage). Who will be the closer next season? I have a feeling that the answer is a guy who isn’t even with the team right now – kind of like Gregg was at this point last season – but the in-house candidates include guys like Shawn Camp, David Purcey, Josh Roenicke, Taylor Buchholz and even the guy who started last season as the closer. Yep, Jason Frasor. Call it a hunch, but I’m thinking there’s a pretty good chance that Frasor accepts the Jays’ offer of arbitration when it comes to his inbox in the next few weeks.
Oh, and Dwayne Murphy’s return as hitting coach? It’s a good thing, despite OBP not really being all that important – those comments flew in the face of the kind of player he was, I know he understands that patience at the plate is a big thing. Murphy is well-respected and well-liked in the clubhouse, he understands hitting, and I have a feeling that now that Cito Gaston is gone, we’ll hear a lot less about “being on time” and “getting ready early” and maybe some more in-depth discussion of what specifically works for certain hitters.
The next thing you get from me will probably be a quick overview of who I think should and who I think will win the BBWAA Awards that come out later this month, but no promises – I’m on vacation!
- Mike Wilner
Monday, November 1st, 2010
11:11 PM Eastern
If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure wear a flower in your hair, and also to congratulate the citizenry on the city’s first-ever World Series Championship!
Interesting, isn’t it, that the Giants never won a World Series in California until the season after I came by to take a winter tour of AT&T Park. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
Tim Lincecum finished up the playoffs almost as well as he started them, throwing a brilliant eight innings of three-hitter, striking out 10 against only two walks and allowing just one run in winning the Series clincher. Of course, he threw a complete game in the Giants’ playoff opener, pitching a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts. That should have been a sign.
The Giants’ pitching came to the fore this October (and November!), as they came within a Nelson Cruz solo homer of throwing FIVE shutouts in this post-season which, for them, encompassed 16 games. Lincecum was brilliant, Matt Cain was brilliant, Madison Bumgarner was phenomenal more than once and Jonathan Sanchez was phenomenal once.
Their offense did enough to win, exploding for a couple of huge games to open the Fall Classic, but the rest of the time just managing to do enough.
In the clincher, enough was cashing in in the ONE inning in the entire game in which they got a runner past first base. Neither team had managed to get a runner in scoring position through the first six innings, with Cliff Lee carrying a three-hit shutout and Lincecum having given up just the one safety. But NLCS MVP Cody Ross led off that 7th inning with a ground single up the middle and Juan Uribe followed with a base hit up the middle of his own to put runners at first and second.
It was the first inning in which two hitters had reached all game long.
Aubrey Huff was next, and he dropped a bunt down the first-base line to move the runners up – the first successful sacrifice he’d ever laid down in an 11-year major-league career that only this season saw him reach the playoffs.
Pat Burrell followed, looking for sweet redemption. He walked up to the plate in that situation having gone 0-for-the-World Series with 10 strikeouts in 12 at-bats. It would have been perfect had Burrell come up with the big hit that drove in a pair, or even hit a fly ball to score a run, Lee instead sent him back to the dugout to grab some bench. Again. But Lee missed with his next two pitches, and then a cutter that was supposed to be on the black bled back over the middle, and World Series MVP Edgar Renteria didn’t miss it, belting it into the seats in left field for a three-run homer that would stand up as the game-winner.
Yes, you read that right – World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. He hit .412/.444/.765 for the series, homering twice (and he’d only had three home runs during the whole regular season!) and leading all World Series participants with six RBIs. Renteria is only the 4th player in major-league history to have driven in the winning run in the World Series clincher twice – and his were 13 years apart! Renteria had an RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series to bring the Marlins their first World Series title. By the way, that game was played in October.
Brian Wilson closed it out for his first save of the World Series and sixth of these playoffs. As much as he reminded Blue Jays fans of Kevin Gregg all post-season, never really making anything look easy, Wilson threw a perfect 9th inning to clinch it, striking out Josh Hamilton looking (with a high fastball) and Nelson Cruz swinging to end it – in between Vladdy Guerrero grounded out to short. And as much as Wilson reminded us of Gregg with his frequent nervous outings, he didn’t give up a single earned run in 10 playoff appearances totaling 12 2/3 innings.
It was a great post-season, starting with Roy Halladay’s no-no and moving through a sensational first round that saw the Giants win three one-run games and featured a great five-game series between the Rangers and Rays and a fantastic second round that saw the Giants win three one-run games and the Rangers knock off the Yankees, and the World Series was a fitting finale. It might have only gone five games, but they were all a lot of fun, and (except for the opener and the 8th inning of Game 2) well-played and exciting.
Congrats again to the Giants on their first World Series title since moving out of the Polo Grounds and out to the West Coast. The New York Giants were World Series champs in 1954, stunning the 111-win Cleveland Indians, but that was it for them until tonight.
And the Rangers have nothing about which to hang their heads, either. Sure, they were thoroughly stymied by Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner, but on the way to the first World Series in franchise history they knocked off the two best teams in the big leagues. If they can bring back Lee (and don’t think the way Yankee fans treated his wife in the ALCS won’t have an impact on his free-agent decision), then they’ve got a great shot at getting back to the post-season in a weak A.L. West.
It’s tough to imagine that there will be no more baseball this year but, then again, it’s November. On a personal note, this is when everything just stops for a while – after working pretty much every day since the beginning of February (thanks to the Olympics this year, which seems like a lifetime ago). It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m looking forward to taking a breather and getting to spend some time with the family. Make sure you check back in this space throughout the off-season, though. There will be posts whenever the Blue Jays make a move, posts throughout the Winter Meetings and regular posts through the winter, starting when the BBWAA awards start coming out later this month.
A huge thank you to all of you who are regular readers of this space, regular commenters and regular participants in the live blog, as well. You are the reason this thing works so well, and I owe you all a bunch.
I’m going to go hibernate for a while, but I’ll see you soon enough. As all-time great Rogers Hornsby once said: “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Have a great winter!
One final time for this season, here’s the transcript from tonight’s “Miked Up LIVE!”: