Griffsmas week (?) continues here at DJF, as we finally have the latest Griff Bag fresh and hot in our hands, which mean that you’re about to get a taste of caustic hijacking, which… actually… sounds kind of disgusting, flavour-wise. But I’m sure it’s all good, as it’s time for me to answer Richard Griffin’s mail bag from over at the Toronto Star!
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Enjoyed your baseball acumen and ‘mailbag’ very much. I wish that is more frequently published. Regarding the first Brett Lawrie incident which ‘earned’ him a four-game suspension, I was more dismayed by the umpire’s action, especially calling the last strike (which was clearly a ball) in order to teach him ‘a lesson’. This call might have a bearing on the Jays’ record, and affect the Jays’ standing and chances of earning a wild card at the end of the season. Why does MLB allow the umpires such behaviour? Is it because of the MLB/Umpire labour agreement? I am also surprised that almost no one in the media questioned the umpire’s ‘right’ to ‘teach’ Brett a lesson. Please help to explain this situation. Thank you.
Nicholas Wong, Markham
Yes, you certainly are “Wong.” Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! [deep breath] ahhhhhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Look… it’s probably an understatement to say that what Miller did was, at the very least, fishy, and I don’t think anybody would disagree with the notion that umpires need more accountability, and sure as shit shouldn’t be making spite calls, but you were more dismayed with the umpire’s action than Lawrie’s? As in… any time a player somewhat justifiably thinks he’s been intentionally wronged it should be OK for him to rage out like a walking penis who just had a drink spilled on his Ed Hardy shirt, bro?
That’s not to say Lawrie can’t disagree or express displeasure, but so many Jays fans– and practically none that I’ve seen who aren’t viewing this incident through mile-thick maple-tinted glasses– appear to have a desperate need to find some way to feel that what Lawrie did was at least a little bit OK.
It wasn’t. Being upset is OK, but losing control of his emotions so aggressively in the direction of an umpire would be indefensible even if the umpire had whipped his dick out and feathered it across Lawrie’s face. He’s a professional. I know everybody wants so badly for him to be the greatest thing ever, but he still can with this blemish, and you still can like him without having to make excruciatingly lame excuses for every stupid thing he does.
Thanks for the mailbag. For all the talent and potential of this year’s team I’m seriously questioning the emotional state of the clubhouse. From Bautista to Escobar to Lawrie (although those strike calls were disgraceful), it seems like the outbursts and negative energy is snowballing. Obviously the arguing will only lead to more calls going against them (begetting yet more frustration) but I also have a hard time believing that they can ever reach their potential in such a weak/negative mental state. This team is in serious need of some zen. What does management need to do, if anything? Do the Jays have a sports psychiatrist on staff? Maybe Phil Jackson is ready to try his hand at baseball (sort of kidding)? Is the front office concerned?
Adam Murl, Toronto
For fucking real? Riddle me this, Carl Jung, over the course of a given week, how much time do you think you actually fucking see Yunel Escobar on your TV screen? Add up every second– do you think it’s more than even a couple fucking hours? Now, tell me, if someone watched a compilation of two disconnected hours of you at work over the course of a week, and then tried to make some grand asshole pronouncement about your mental state, how much value do you think you’d give that kind of “insight”?
Please, leave the armchair psychoanalysis to sports where they still don’t know any better, like hockey.
Is it just me or has the quality of home-plate umpiring taken a serious downturn this year? And I’m not just thinking of the Brett Lawrie incident. Strike zones within and between games seem to me to be a constantly moving target. I don’t remember pitchers in previous years having to “figure out” the strike zone in the early innings as much as they seem to have to do now. Meanwhile, the players are taking the heat for getting frustrated or chasing junk they’d otherwise leave.
Matthew McKean, Ottawa
I don’t get how this Tampa team wins. No Longoria no Jennings, no Niemann and their defence is not nearly as good as last year. Granted their pitching is solid but their hitters and fielders with no names somehow manage to win. To me it seems they’re fielding a team of independent league ball players… Will Rhymes, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriquez. Lot of average players. The Jays have talent, young, veterans, semi-vets and good pitching yet they can’t beat this team. It’s a head scratcher for me. Any thoughts or assumptions Mr. Griffin?
Kam H., Richmond Hill
Excellent pitching, excellent management, pretty decent defense (even while they’re hurting– despite what we saw this week), and a bit of luck will take you far. They’re a good team, and while a lot of the names aren’t sexy, Joe Maddon puts his players in a position to succeed– like the way he used Ricky Romero’s reverse splits against him, sending up a bunch of left-handers to face the Jays’ lefty.
That said, it does seem pretty miraculous that they just keep chugging along, and if anyone could figure out a formula for how to do as much with what Tampa’s got to work with as the Rays do, they probably deserve a job somewhere. It’s a well fucking run organization– and yes, that’s annoying as fuck.
Q-In your write-up about the Lind demotion, you said “Lind, in 34 games with the Jays, has three homers and 11 RBIs, with a .186 average, a .586 OPS and has had visible struggles on the field and in the clubhouse.” What were his issues in the clubhouse? I’d always heard he was a model teammate?
Neil P., Toronto
I’d wager ol’ Griff meant that he was struggling visibly in the clubhouse– as in, he looked lost not only at the plate, but in wandering around, trying to figure out what was keeping him from being successful. I don’t think it’s that he was struggling to be a good teammate or anything.
I have a cross-sport question for you. When Brett Lawrie was suspended for four games, I didn’t see any mention of a change that the Jays made to fill his spot on the 25-man roster. The way I see it, there are three possible explanations. One is that I just missed it, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. The second is that it’s not worth the trouble or the use of an option to bring someone up for four days, and the third is that there something in the rules that says they have to keep him on the active roster but not play him for the duration of the suspension If it’s the last of these, I’d like to see the NHL take the same approach with suspensions. I think it would go a long way to cleaning up a lot of the head shots we’re seeing in hockey lately. Your thoughts?
Kevin D, Toronto
I rib hockey a lot about aiming for fucking meat head demographic because I actually quite like it, and think it’s a fucking joke the way it’s presented and its transgressions are adjudicated– which is, basically, anti-intellectually on both fronts. Not that baseball’s suspensions aren’t a fucking joke too, *COUGH* Cole Hamels *COUGH*, or that we don’t have our own share of useless blathering dinosaurs whose opinions people still, for some reason, give a shit about. But hockey is way behind the curve. Way behind the curve. Like, as in, “Hey! You know who we should get to oversee our multi-million dollar professional sports franchise? That buddy of Gordie’s who used to play defence in the 80s, eh?” And maybe I don’t pay enough attention to know what I’m talking about, but it just seems like it’s going to be so long before the MBAs break down the doors to upper management, and the “passion” “fire” “heart” “grit” “truculence” fucking horseshit gets kicked to the curb, that it’s really frustrating. And until then, these clowns are going to keep justifying players destroying themselves, then patting themselves on the back for being so strident about it, as if they’re not doing a laughable job as the self-imposed guardians of the game– turning off with their appetite for violence an already shrinking number of parents who can even afford to have their kids play the game. Bravo.
Yes, the Jays lost Lawrie’s spot when he was suspended– they had to play with a 24-man roster. It’s a great rule.
I am not convinced that Vlad will prove to be the answer for what the Blue Jays need. If I am right, what are the chances of AA pulling off a midseason trade? One name that occurs to me is Mark Trumbo of the Angels. He fits the AA ideal of controllable players with a high upside as a first baseman but, with the signing of Pujols by LA for the long term, he has no real position to play there.
Bill Reynolds, Toronto
The Angels aren’t really in much of a position to be giving up bats at the moment, and even if they were, do we believe the fantastic Trumbo we’re seeing right now– he’s swinging at far fewer pitches, and his walk rate is almost double what it was last year when, despite what the awards and home runs will tell you, he was kinda shit– is the real deal?
Better question, if the Angels believe he’ll go back to 2011 Trumbo, why would you want him, and if they think this is for real, why would they give him up?
Ain’t happenin’, in other words. Though yes, I’m sure Anthopoulos is on the lookout for another big bat– preferably left-handed. He may have one in Travis Snider, once he gets healthy, but at this point I can’t imagine anybody actually counting on such a thing, so… yeah. I agree that Vlad is the answer. Thing is, you don’t see a whole lot of trades of any kind of significance at this time of year, as a) most teams are still figuring out which things they see are real and which aren’t, and b) they’re putting a lot of focus on the Rule 4 Draft, which takes place in early June.
Just when I thought I had this ‘option’ thing figured out, thanks mostly to your explanations, along comes Adam Lind. He played parts of the ’06, ’07, & ’08 seasons with the Jays, presumably burning up an option each time he was sent back down. How does he get a fourth option now? What am I missing? Love your explanations of M.L.B.’s inner workings!
Bruce Spurrier, Courtenay
Lind was a September call-up in 2006, so no option was burned in that year. Voila!
The Griff The Stoet,
I haven’t run out to get a Brazilian yet (I’m more into trimming) and am very aware that Yan Gomes is at best a replacement level player at the MLB level. That being said does he not provide more value for the Jays than a pinch bunting bench coach (much respect to Omar but seriously) or a light hitting 5th outfielder? (Benny and his jets.) He can play 2, 3, 5 and I reckon he could fist together a few games in left too which would provide more late-game versatility and some stability in terms of short DL (suspension) trips. I’m ready for your barrage of abuse but in a non SABR approach he’s got a way higher ceiling than Ben at this point and even hitting 250/8/30 in limited abs provides a spit ton more production than Omar. Keep it greasy,
Cam Picyk, Victoria
*PUKE* Holy fuck, did you say anything after that first sentence? I stopped reading.
Q-Did Brett still take batting practice etc. or did he totally stay away from the Rogers centre? thankyou
Norma Moore, Misissauga
He was there, watching from a box in the Rogers Centre, having the Sportsnet camera turned his direction just about as nauseatingly often as when he’s on the field.
The fact that Drabek and Hutchinson have pitched so well at the back end of the rotation has made us forget about Brett Cecil. What has happened to him in AA? Has he regained the velocity and command that once made him a 15-game winner? At this point, are the Blue Jays content to keep him buried in the minors until he regains a semblance of his former self? Do you feel he is likely done as a Blue Jay and requires a change of scenery to re-establish himself as a major league player?
Ivan Koh, Mississauga
He combined for a no-hitter with a couple other pitchers at New Hampshire this week, but his velocity isn’t back to where anyone would like it. Velocity, of course, isn’t the be-all, end-all– guys can certainly succeed without it– but… can Cecil be one of those guys? I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s got the command for it.
Right now I’m real comfortable with the starting rotation as is– and I say that fully acknowledging that I’m not real comfortable with Drabek and Hutchison. Cecil just didn’t look good by any report this spring, and no-hitter or not, I haven’t got the sense that he’s in any way knocking at the door. That said, his main minor league competition for any vacated rotation spot– Carreno, Jenkins and McGuire– isn’t exactly blowing the doors off either, so I wouldn’t write Cecil off just yet. It’s just… it probably doesn’t mean good things for the Jays if he does come back– at least, until he can have some more games like those most recent 5.2 no-hit innings, which included eight strikeouts, albeit three walks.
He was, of course, on the DL for some of his time in the minors this season, so that might be why you haven’t heard as much from him.
Q-(I can’t take full credit for this question, posed by Kevin Glew last week, BUT:) Why haven’t we seen Ryota Igarashi get a call-up yet? Considering the performance of the Jays bullpen thus far, combined with Igarashi’s Triple-A numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL, shouldn’t he be given a shot?
Josh Maher, Halifax, NS
He got the call today. Prior to today, I suspect the 72 hits and 46 walks over 69 innings pitching out of the Mets’ bullpen over the last two years kinda looked a little scary. I’m interested to see what he can do, though.
I watched the Expos from the beginning to their sad ending. Now I watch the Blue Jays faithfully, with a little left over for the Orioles. Like many, I saw Lawrie get upset with the ump, maybe a little, maybe a smidge too much, but it was good to see some emotion from a player. He does deserve what he gets, no doubt. It was also good to see Farrell argue vehemently and get thrown also, in my opinion he doesn’t argue enough. The ‘Earl of Baltimore’ was my favourite. Do the umpires ever get disciplined for making obvious bad calls, one maybe, but two to show up a player?
Bob Andrews, Brandon, Man.
Umpires do get suspended occasionally– read: rarely– and those are made public. They also receive fines, though– like with player fines– this isn’t made public. Umpires who screw up too much are also removed from choice assignments– i.e. playoff games– so that’s a level of accountability, too.
Is it enough accountability? Certainly not, but there is a mechanism, and I don’t think it would be right to punish them too much for making the odd bad call, but spite ones? There should be no tolerance for that– it should just, y’know, be dealt with through proper channels, professionally.
Q-As a Jays fan in Australia I was excited to learn the two-game series against the Rays was on ESPN here. As we don’t get too many Jays games this was something to look forward to. Alas it was possibly the most inept performance from the Blue Jays I’ve seen in some time. Hot and cold pitching, a Home Run King sadly out of touch, questionable ability at first and shortstop & mediocre outfielders makes m think this will be yet another .500 season for the Jays. A fourth-place or last-place finish seems inevitable. What do you say Richard?
Ian Maurice, Brisbane, Australia
I think you just caught too-brief a glimpse of the club, Ian. A lot of fans were really down after the losses to the Rays, just as they were way up after the club had success against the Yankees in the previous series. They’re hardly world-beaters, but there’s honestly no reason that they can’t hang around in this race, get some help from the minors, get some help from a trade, and actually make some noise this September. That’s an optimistic view, of course, because there are lots of problems with the team– the back of the rotation is really green and you’re not getting much offense from centre, left, and first, but Escobar will be better, Lawrie will be better, Bautista is heating up, and there’s a chance the rotation holds together. Hang in there!
Richard Stoeten -
Just finished reading the mailbag for May 15. A lot of questions about hitters and their approach at the plate. My question is related – do all the hitters follow a “team approach”, based on Murphy’s coaching, or Farrell’s wishes, or is it individualized for each player, or even just some players? It seems to me that if it was more individualized, players would be more successful. We often hear commentators say hitters should “keep it simple”, “get back to what he does best”, “just put the bat on the ball” and so on. But if that isn’t what he’s being told to do, it might not be so simple!! I do see how this could create conflict for an overall team philosophy, but a bunch of players hitting successfully is better than a bunch of players struggling. Thanks, as always!
Jon Empringham, Woodstock, ON
It’s individualized. Talking too much about the hitting coach is a real hack device and gives, I think, a real warped view of what’s really being worked on. They were getting Adam Lind to try absolutely everything, so… no, I don’t think it’s quite as narrow as that.
Q-Could you give me an answer to why J.P. Arencibia is always trying to throw runners out from his knees? At first I thought it because he wasn’t ready to be on his feet to throw the runner out but this seems to be a regular thing for him. I don’t know if I have seen any MLB catcher attempt to throw runners out on their knees and I was just wondering if there was any reason behind Arencibia’s choice to do this on a consistent basis.
Chris Ross, Vancouver
Because… it’s his thing? I don’t know, I guess because it seems to work for him. Can’t say if there’s a reason beyond that, sorry.