Holy shit, am I doing this somewhat on time, for once? It sure as hell looks like it, because we’ve got a fresh-ish new Griff Bag in our hands, and I’m pretty sure you’re already about to get a taste of caustic hijacking of it, which, as I may have mentioned before, 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! And if I can be perfectly honest with you, this is probably the best fucking one I’ve ever done– by an evil margin. Don’t believe me? Read it and find out.
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!
With Rasmus starting to look like the keeper we hoped he would be and with the continued development of some of our top prospects in Las Vegas, I started putting the pieces together for 2013. What I realized is that aside from a potentially potent offence, we may have the best defensive team in the majors next year. The Jays could potentially have a starting OF of Rasmus, Gose and Bautista, an infield of Lawrie (3B), Escobar (SS), Hechaverria (2B), D’Arnaud (C) and your pick between Lind, Cooper, Gomes, Arencibia, or Encarnacion at 1B. That’s a lot of youth in a starting side but would I be right in saying this would be the top defensive team in the league if you believe all the reports on Gose, Hech, and D’Arnaud?
All the best,
Aaron Hickey, Sydney, Australia
Sure, that would be a pretty good defensive unit, based on the hearsay we’ve… uh… heard, but who the hell’s to say it’d be the best? And furthermore, who really cares if it is or isn’t quite? Especially because I have a very hard time believing we’ll see anything like it come next year. Shit, I mean, even d’Arnaud isn’t a lock to be in the Opening Day lineup next year, and he’s got by far the best chance of the three guys in Triple-A you name.
Like, I get that people are excited to see some products of the Jays’ vaunted farm system, but I’m just not sure Hechavarria and Gose are the guys– not in 2013, at least. Playing Gose in left is quite a waste of his primary way of providing value, and as good as Rasmus has been over the last month or so, I’m not sure his bat plays in left in an ideal world, let alone Gose’s.
And that’s the thing with Hechavarria, too. Reports have been encouraging this year, but these are still guys who are really going to struggle to hit Major League pitching, in all probability. In the hitter’s wet dream that is Las Vegas the numbers look gaudy, but neither Gose nor Hechavarria can boast an OPS higher than that of David Cooper or Yan Gomes, and Gose is behind Moises Sierra, too– hardly a murderers row at the big league level. In fact, the .817 OPS Gose is sporting is behind the ones put up by d’Arnaud, Travis Snider and Adam Lind by 160, 231 and 298 points respectively.
Desmond Jennings of the Rays, for example (see what I did there?), was twice a higher rated prospect than Gose has ever been, according to Baseball America, and he played parts of three seasons in Triple-A, including the bulk of 2010 and 2011– when he was 23 and 24. Gose, on the other hand, won’t turn 22 until August.
There are plenty of ways in which the two players aren’t comparable, sure, but the point is, there’s no need to rush talent like Rasmus or Travis Snider, out of your organization just to find a place for someone because he might possibly be ready-enough to not completely fail.
Frankly, I’d be very disappointed if the Jays didn’t give Snider the bulk of playing time in left field for the rest of this season, with a view to determining whether he can be their Opening Day starter there in 2013, with Gose slated all the way to be back in Vegas until Snider, or whoever else may be brought in ahead of him this winter, is hurt or needs replacing.
Q-If the Jays continue to have bullpen issues, and can sign Marcus Stroman before the end of the month, do you foresee them bringing him up to the big club in August. Of all the college pitchers in the draft, Stroman supposedly is the most major league-ready.
Vladimir Guerrero seems to have overvalued himself. No other team has wanted his services ever since he decided to just leave and quit on the Jays. Do you think his career is over?
Why don’t the Jays call up Deck McGuire and/or Chad Jenkins? At the very least give Scott Richmond another shot. Jesse Chavez, Carlos Villanueva and Aaron Laffey are all guys who are better suited to coming out of the bullpen and being the long guys. You might as well see what you have with McGuire and Jenkins even though they have struggled in Double A. AA really messed up this offseason by not signing a veteran innings eater like Kevin Millwood or Hiroki Kuroda.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
Stroman’s ability to step into a Major League bullpen is impressive, and nice, but not a whole lot more than that, I don’t think. First and foremost I’d expect the Jays to do right by Stroman’s development. If they decide to set him on a path towards the bullpen, I’d expect him to work his way through the organization at his own pace, and if he gets to the point where he’s capable of pitching in the Majors, and the ‘pen here remains in flux, sure, I’d figure on him coming up to help out. But I don’t for a second think that their aim will be to sign him and rush him here as quickly as possible, in order to give the Major League team a boost– that’s looking a little recklessly far down the road, and not a very smart way to approach a developing player.
Q-Three starters gone in one week. Totally unheard of and two of them won’t be back until the 2014 season. AA is stuck. Getting a good ML starter for prospects isn’t going to happen so do you try and move Escobar and Arencibia for pitching because you have two top prospects waiting in the wings to take over their spots. I would rather see them rush them up than watch young pitchers not ready for prime time get battered about. Guys in the clubhouse will lose their will to win if they have to score more than 6 runs a game. So does AA have any other choices?
Dave Walker, Scarborough
Yes, Dave, Anthopoulos has one other choice that you’re trying hard to admit doesn’t exist: to sit back, wait, and possibly do nothing to help this year’s version of the club.
Look, the Jays were going to be tooth and nail to be competitive with Morrow, Drabek and Hutchison, and while their injuries don’t necessarily doom the entire campaign– crazy things can happen, and there’s still a lot of baseball yet to be played– they make it quite a bit harder to compete. Their losses make it so much harder, in fact, that it has become a far less reasonable action for Alex to try and trade off valuable assets looking for short-term help as his primary goal.
It just doesn’t make sense, at this point, to do a whole lot but look for low-cost options to help the rotation, or guys who will remain with the club for years to come. It shouldn’t be impossible to find a way to acquire guys like that, but it’s not going to be easy, either– especially as they stand to be the most sought after pieces, given the way changes to compensation for rental players in the new CBA will impact the way clubs approach the trade deadline.
We’ve seen enough of how he operates to know that Anthopoulos isn’t going to force anything, which means we may have to be content with him not doing a goddamned thing. It may not do much for the quality of entertainment every fourth and fifth day this season, but I’m capable of trusting that his reasons will be sound, should it play out that way.
I may be in the minority on that one, though.
I am surprised that this question hasn’t been asked yet, but here goes nothing…During the offseason AA and Beeston made mention that Rogers wouldn’t have a problem supporting a larger payroll, when the players and fans show the support. It would seem to a fan that the players are really showing that they are ready to compete even after the loss of three starting pitchers in under a week, they have battled day in and day out for wins, and even when the lose they are right there in battle. So that is one point down, the players have shown they are ready to compete, AA has to stand up and now make his commitment to the team to take it to the next level. The second is the Fans. Aren’t the Jays 5th in the largest attendance rate increase in all of baseball? The Fans are supporting the team at the stadium, and one would think the TV ratings have dramatically increased, oh and by the way, how about Jays merchandise, I read somewhere they are in the top five of merchandise sales now. The Fans and Players have stood up and showed that Baseball in Toronto is ready to compete, when will AA and Beeston show their end of the deal? Let’s Go Blue Jays.
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake
You can’t add much payroll in-season, so… this winter? Maybe next?
Now, that’s not to already start pre-jacking excuses for another frugal winter. Rather, it’s to make clear that if they don’t spend massive dollars between this season and next, there’s still no reason to believe they’ll never make good on their word.
It would certainly add a thick fucking layer of skepticism to the proceedings, but fans need to keep in mind that there are a variety of factors that kept the Jays from flashing more cash than they did last year. For example, we tend to believe that they made the biggest offer to Carlos Beltran, who turned them down to play on grass in front of thousands of fans for the World Series champs. Also, their spending, in ways that aren’t reflected on the big league payroll– the draft, the scouting and operations staff, international free agents– has been up dramatically since the Ricciardi era. And they remain very obviously willing and capable of re-signing their best homegrown players.
Whatever happens, I don’t think you’ll have an easy time finding traction with the notion that because attendance grew this year they owe it to the fans to piss money around. For one, asking them to start spending for the sake of spending, or just to appease the fans, is self-evidently fucking bonkos. Before they’re confident they can start putting shit-tonnes of cash back into the club, I would expect that the club would insist on seeing sustained growth in these areas.
I’m sure that’s not anything anybody wants to hear, but what we’ve seen this year is the start of growth, not the end of it, and I’d expect to see that fact reflected in any payroll increases, not some explosion based on wild expectations that the growth will from herein always be there. I wish it weren’t that way, but I suspect that’s reality of the parameters within which Alex Anthpoulos must operate.
Q-I have a sort of off topic question – Cito Gaston. I have had heard many people wonder why he hasn’t managed another MLB team since his World Series years in Toronto. Even Cito seems to wonder why this is. I remember during his first tenure with the Blue Jays as manager. In interviews and articles, he would always say that he never wanted to be a manager – always downplayed his desire to be a manager. Didn’t seem to care if he was fired or not. Do you think his attitude is what kept him from managing another team? What team would want to hire a guy that did not seem to care if he got the job? I have always viewed Cito as a guy that wanted to manage again – but never showed a strong desire. He never was a great strategic manager, but his handling of players (especially the veterans) was excellent – he would always bring out the best in his players.
Chris Hiuser, Tecumseh
Well… anybody who is a regular reader here knows that I do not belong to the subset of Toronto fans who fucking love Cito for good or ill and get defensive any time his many shortcomings are pointed out– or when it’s pointed out that much of the magical wonderfulness that’s ascribed to him is based on little more than narrative-based horseshit myth-making. I could give you a litany of reasons why I wouldn’t necessarily hire Cito, but it’s certainly worth pondering how many fucking unbelievably shitty managers continued– and continue– to get work, despite not having one fifth the success on their resume that Cito does.
Was it his reputation? His lack of desire? The fact that he eventually insisted that he would only accept a job from a club that hired him directly, without interview? His race?
I hope to fuck it wasn’t anything to do with the last one, but I don’t know enough about the circumstances to put myself into the heads of those who continued looking past him. Whatever it was, though, it was a damn shame. How awesome would it be to have a whole other fanbase to converse with about what it was like when Cito, our managerial icon, ran their club (y’know, shittily).
As a Canadian who moved from Canada between the Blue Jays World Series wins, I really enjoy your column and insight. With divided loyalties, I was fortunate to be at Miller Park last night for one the wildest games I can remember since game 4 of the 93 World Series. I was hoping to see Lawrie face Shaun Marcum, but it was still good to see Garth Iorg coaching first base. Aside from the 5 lead changes, 3 walked in runs, 1 hit batter run, a grand slam, consecutive home runs (3 and then 2), a strike out/passed ball to keep an inning going, there was lots of Canadian content.
Well everyone is familiar with Brett Lawrie (who played in Appleton), John Axford, Gord Ash and Doug Melvin, there were also pinch hit appearances by George Kottaras and Taylor Green. That makes 4 Canadians to play in a major league game. Do you know if that is a record? I am looking forward to the Lansing Lugnuts coming to Appleton next month to showcase the Jays upcoming talent. It’s a nice park and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are a community owned team, similar to the Packers up the road in Green Bay. Let me know if you come to town and I’ll buy you a cold one at the Leinie Lodge.
Scott Fraser , Appleton, Wisconsin
No idea if it’s a record, Scott, but I’m with you in your enthusiasm for seeing those pitchers for Lansing right now. Unfortunately, to do so, I’d have to get myself to places like Lansing, Bowling Green, and Appleton. Pffft.
I want to thank you for including my daughter’s question about Brian Jeroloman and Koby Clemens in Mailbag. She was thrilled. I’ve never been a fan of Paul Beeston, not sure what he brings to the table. It is repugnant to read he is friends with a creep like Clemens, who has laughably escaped prosecution. And what ever happened to the story that Clemens was dallying with the underage girl? Good message to the youth of the country. Barry Bonds, LeBron James, Dany Heatley, etc…..
Selby Martin, Toronto
That’s a clown question, bro. [Note: Sorry.]
Q-What does the recent spate of arm injuries mean for the Jays’ incremental arm development plan? We’ve been so careful not to overwork the arms, yet it doesn’t seem to matter, eh?
Tony Baer, Baraboo
It’s true. But… what are you going to do? Certainly I don’t think that truth ought to suggest clubs abandon attempts at keeping pitchers healthy through innings limits altogether, so… you keep on doing your best, examining which injury-prevention strategies appear to work and which don’t. Simply because of the unnatural, often violent motions that throwing entails, you’ll never devise a system that’s injury-proof– our bodies are just not designed to do the kinds of things things that pitchers do– but we can certainly strive to do better. Again, though, I think it’s important to be clear that that means not scoffing at how modern pitchers are coddled and throwing the baby entirely out with the bathwater.
Two questions from me: 1) In my view, the team pile-on walk-off celebrations are getting out of hand. I thought streaming out of the dugout and jumping on each other was reserved for clinching a playoff spot, but now a Rajai Davis single in June will spark one. Is there an old guard vs new guard feeling about them in the baseball world? 2) The Blue Jays voted to contract the Expos in 2001, and when they moved to Washington I boycotted MLB and the Jays by not buying game tickets. Will the Blue Jays ever apologize to Expos fans for that vote or should I see a therapist about learning how to let go? Thanks!
Seth Bernstein, Toronto
I have no idea whether regular season walk-off celebrations are divisive, but I don’t really have a problem with them, as long as nobody Kendrys Moraleses themselves in the process. It’s true that it’s a little fucked to watch a team dash around like they’ve won the World Series in June, but… I remember back in less optimistic days when folks absolutely fucking hated that the Jays didn’t seem appropriately sombre after a loss, so I’m sure if their behaviour was more restrained after walk-offs, they’d take shit for that too. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
As for Rogers and the Expos, I mean… sure, they could apologize for that vote, but what the hell is the value of an apology when we know it’s a flat out lie? I’m pretty sure all that was strictly business.
After a Jays game I go to their website and scroll through the box score. A batter that is hit by a pitch, or walks, or gets on due to catcher interference does not get credit for a base on the total bases line. But if the bases were full when this happened, he’d get an RBI. Someone like Bautista should be credited with over a hundred bases a year. Isn’t a walk as good as a hit?
No one should feel bad about Vladdy being released. Talk to the Orioles about the rally-killing, inning-ending double plays that he grounded into. This has been a bad year for former stars. Vladdy, Moyer, Ramirez, and Matsui doing little with the Rays. Even Thome is not earning his salary.
Art Hilderman, Winnipeg
Well… no, a walk isn’t as good as a hit. The big thing is, it’s a shitload better than an out. But… they’re so flawed that it’s been so long since I worried about things like total bases or RBIs as stats, so I don’t know how much it really matters.
As for Vlad, um… I get that he was bad last year, but again with the weak stats! Yes, Vlad was in the top ten (sixth) in GIDP last season, but you know who the other nine were? Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, David Ortiz, Matt Holiday, Yadier Molina, Starlin Castro and Victor Martinez.
So… grounding into double plays alone doesn’t say a whole lot about whether a player is good or bad. Now, Vlad’s bang-on replacement-level WAR, his .317 on-base and the ISO below Yuniesky Betancourt’s? Yeah, that’s some damn ridiculously good evidence he was shittacular.
Q-If Chad Mottola is so great at fixing broken Blue Jay swings (e.g. Lind, Snider, Encarnacion), why don’t we just make him the hitting coach? Lind’s recent statement to the Star that, when he gets recalled: “Chad won’t be there and I’ll have to be able to adjust by myself — is kind of sad, no?
Tony Baer, Baraboo
One consistent pattern for the Blue Jay minor league hitters is that, on going from AA to AAA, they almost always hit better, often significantly. This year’s examples include D’Arnaud, Gomes, Gose, Hechavarria and Sierra while in the recent past, others were Arencibia, Lawrie and Thames. While there may be a ‘Las Vegas’ factor at work, I also wonder if the Blue Jays might improve by promoting Mottola to be the major league batting coach. What do you think? Also, in all the discussion of possible promotions, why isn’t Moises Sierra mentioned? He is reported to be an excellent outfielder with good power and is currently batting over .300.
Bill Reynolds, Toronto
People really get hung up on the performance of hitting coaches, which is pretty fucking absurd when you think of how little we understand of just what the hell they’re doing. Yes, we see the results on the field– though, when that field is the one in Las Vegas, no Bill, we can’t just dismiss the effect– but… I mean… it’s not like they’re working with blank canvases.
Another thing is, even if we do twist and turn ourselves into believing that Mottola is definitely a better hitting coach, does that necessarily mean he’s the better guy to be have in the Majors? Or is it maybe better to have one kind of coach working with developing players and another with more established guys.
Wherever the truth lies, there’s just not really enough evidence for anyone merely watching to have a valid opinion one way or the other, I don’t think. Not at this point, at least.
As for Sierra, again, PCL stats don’t tell us a whole lot even with proper context– and almost nothing without. He may be hitting .300, but his OPS in Vegas is still below that of Yan Gomes and David Cooper, and in New Hampshire last year, he was below Gomes and Mike McDade– and, of course, Travis d’Arnaud, whose .914 OPS to second-place McDade’s .785 put him in a class well by himself. He’s about in the same range as the sub-par Eric Thames Vegas has seen this year, except he hasn’t been walking nearly as much. Pass.
I’m already thinking about next year and was wondering if the best route for the Jays to put plus players in every position would be to move Bautista back to third and move Lawrie to second base. I have to think that finding an outfielder with a left handed power bat would be far easier than finding a quality second baseman. I also foresee the possibility of a very flexible line-up with multiple options at OF/1B/DH and catcher however without Lind we are still in need of some left handed bats.
Andrew Blakeney, Toronto
There is approximately zero chance that Lawrie ever moves back to second base, but that’s actually OK, because I don’t think pieces need to move around quite so much as you think anyway.
Granted, I’m possibly falling prey to the allure of the small sample size, but I think the Jays are pretty set heading into next year with the one-through-four hitters they have right now– provided, of course, they re-sign Encarnacion. As for five-through-nine, I think you have two very good core pieces in Escobar and d’Arnaud, and potentially a third in Travis Snider, depending on how he does in the second half, once Rajai Davis is inevitably moved (thanks for giving yourself some trade value, Rajai!). And at second, you’re looking at Adeiny Hechavarria on the absolute low end of the spectrum, which could actually be pretty decent, or at worst will be passable thanks to his supposedly-otherworldly defence.
To me, that means you’re really only looking at getting yourself a DH/1B and, if Snider falls flat again, maybe a left fielder– though I might be OK with going with him next year regardless, with Thames or Gose ready to be called into duty if it doesn’t work, and a trade always possible. That’s not the biggest hole to fill, especially with it being one of the easiest positions to fill on the free agent market– barring extensions, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Lance Berkman, Carlos Quentin, Nick Swisher, BJ Upton, and Melky Cabrera are all slated to hit free agency. And, if they choose to sell before the deadline, Davis, Arencibia, Johnson, Oliver, Cordero and Frasor could help them fill that hole, in addition to– along with a low-minors piece or two– netting the club some rotation help.
Shit, that doesn’t make it sound so bad at all, does it?
Q-When JP Riccardi came in he tried to implement an offence that had players work the count in hopes of getting to the middle relievers early. It failed miserably and Cito had to be brought back to fix things. Now Farrell comes in with the same mantra and look what has happened to the offence.This type of offence may work in Boston, New York or Texas where you have six all-star type players in your line-up but it has been shown that with our collection of castoffs it doesn’t work here.
Don’t you think it’s time to go back to a Cito-type of offensive approach because everyone is sick of constantly watching Jays players take first pitch fastballs down the gut and then striking out on a curve in the dirt. Yes the Jays may get to the bullpen earlier but usually they are losing 4-0 by then and the fans have either left the building or turned off their TVs and radios.
Gus Bolin, Keene, ON
This is pretty much the most ridiculous fucking thing I’ve ever heard.
Love the Keene Arena, though, if that softens the blow. Or… well… love is a strong word. I’ve had some good times there. Or… some times, at least. Um… I’ve been there.