It’s been such an impossibly long time since the last one that I was starting to worry that maybe Richard Griffin had given up on our favourite feature, perhaps to focus on his new, infinitely long Bullpen column, but the fears about the Griff Bag’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, as he’s got a brand new one up, 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!
My problem all year long has been the use of the 25-man roster. Why 13 pitchers which seriously depletes your bench strength? Then on Sept. 1, they recall two more pitchers when the rosters expanded! With no bench strength, the playoffs will be a dream only. You can’t just play the same eight (players) game-in and game-out — you’re just looking at someone breaking down.
Dave Mulholland, Toronto
Well, on Friday the Jays called up five players five players, three of whom (Brett Lawrie, JP Arencibia, and Yan Gomes) will strengthen the bench, so maybe that’s precisely what you’re looking for?
But, look, I get that the bench is important, and I haven’t agreed very often with the Jays’ usage of it this year– particularly the 70 man bullpen they’ve generally employed– but “with no bench strength, the playoffs will be a dream only”??? Seriously?
Q-Is there some reason why the Jays aren’t giving Carlos Villanueva the respect he deserves? He’s only done everything they could have asked and more, and has really stepped up this year. He’s a free agent at the end of this season, but if I were he, I certainly wouldn’t give the Jays any home discount. Is there something more to the story that fans don’t know about? Does he have horrible BO or something? Thanks,
Richard Worzel, Toronto
Oh for fuck. The respect he deserves? Please. Yes, there is “some reason” the Jays haven’t extended Villanueva: the fact that, if they do, they’ll be paying for his future performance, not his current performance. And there is plenty of reason to be concerned that he isn’t going to be able to keep this up– from his smoke-and-mirrors stuff, to the fact that he’s never pitched the kind of innings expected of a starter, to the fact that he’s had issues with his arm twice in the past calendar year.
I like Villanueva and think he can be a useful piece, and I’d even be all for re-signing him with a few caveats, but to act like it should be some kind of a slam dunk? That’s absurd.
Q-Hey, Read your column every chance I get. Love to hear your baseball knowledge.
Had an idea on next year. Maybe outside the box a bit, and far from complete but an idea. So. Watching Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose running, wow, love to see both. Like Buck Martinez always says on broadcasts, “look what speed does.” So, Gose in right, Davis in left. Jose Bautista always says he will play where the team needs him. Back at third. Need a second baseman next year? Brett Lawrie works. He played there before. Edwin Encarnacion at first. Yunel Escobar, short. Colby Rasmus, centre. Leaves options for injuries or trade options for pitching? Just an idea. I know Davis isn’t perfect defensively but maybe speed on basepaths makes up for it.
Curious to see what you think.
Dan Frook, Fergus
Christ, I don’t know what’s worse about this question: that you’d actually fucking want to see Rajai Davis play every day, that you assume that two years ago the Jays completely arbitrarily and pointlessly moved Brett Lawrie off a position where his bat would play even better than it does at third and would just switch him back there now to accommodate Davis, or that you actually listen to what it is that dribbles out of Buck Martinez’s mouth for three hours every night.
This might be a dumb question, but you have talked about the idea of having two hitting coaches with the Jays as being a good idea. With the Las Vegas season being over do/could the Jays (or any team), call up coaches, like they call up players to be with the major league team until the end of the year? Thanks,
Chuck Giles, Washago
A lot of teams are going the way of having assistant hitting coaches, and I can’t see how it can possibly be a bad idea, as long as they’re generally all on the same page.
The Jays have brought Las Vegas (perhaps Buffalo!) hitting coach Chad Mottola up to the Majors for this month, as they did last year when the minor league season ended, and we’re hearing rumblings that they’re toying with the idea of making it permanent. So, obviously they’re not worried about having too many voices in the dugout. And as much as I’m reluctant to suggest that hitting coaches have anywhere near the kind of impact that people want to believe they do, I’m with them on that. I just can’t see how adding to the staff could possibly hurt.
I love the mailbag and it’s the highlight of my (baseball reading) week when it happens. With a few Jays farmhands starting to find time with the big club, I’ve started to wonder how good these guys will actually become when they’re ready for the show. I’ve heard (Justin) Nicolino called a Tom Glavine in waiting, (Travis) D’Arnaud the next Brian McCann and Gose the next Kenny Lofton. Are any of these projections reasonable or are they far beyond what we should expect? How good are the Blue Jays’ top prospects? Which players (current or former) would you say provide the best comparison?
Joseph C, Toronto
Those projections are, frankly, insane. Which isn’t to say that those kids aren’t really talented or that there isn’t some remote possibility that somewhere in the Jays system is a Hall of Fame talent who’ll blossom and stay healthy enough to have one of those kinds of careers, but you’ve got to think about just how ridiculously rarely it is for great players to actually come along. I mean, there are over twelve-hundred players drafted every year, and many more who enter pro ball via international free agency.
To me, it just doesn’t serve anybody to over-sell these guys, or to talk them up without making it absolutely clear that the attrition rate for prospects is spectacularly high. Do I really need to go through the litany of next-superstar prospects we’ve seen go down in flames over the years? We’re just going to have to wait and see how things go.
Always enjoy your column! The Blue Jays coaching staff preaches ‘pitch to contact’ with its starters. How common is this among MLB teams? Is this a philosophy based on the talent you have available? Does the philosophy extend down through an organization into the minors? How effective of a strategy do you think it is? It seems the most effective starters for the Jays — Carlos Villenueva, J.A. Happ and Brandon Morrow — seem to get a lot of Ks.
Mitch K, Toronto
Huh? The Jays do not preach a “pitch to contact” philosophy.
Unfortunately it’s that time of the year again to start thinking about next year’s roster and I was wondering what your thoughts would be about having Adam Lind move to LF. That would free up the DH spot for the Jays to test the free agent waters. Also, seeing as the FA crop for 2B is pretty thin and the homegrown talent cupboard seems frightfully bare, would the Jays entertain the thought of re-signing Kelly Johnson? Always appreciate your insight.
George O’Hagan, Guelph
As atrocious as he’s been since about the time his hamstring went wonky, a cheap, short-term contract with Johnson to play second base in 2013 wouldn’t be entirely the worst idea, in my view. No, really. But Lind? Good fucking lord, how much rope can a guy possibly get? And how in the fuck does Lind’s existence prevent them from going after a DH in the winter? Let’s just move on already and prepare ourselves to suck it the fuck up if he finds success elsewhere. They’ve pissed away enough at-bats waiting for 2009 here.
I know that the Blue Jays young pitcher Henderson Alvarez is just that, young. He is a pretty good pitcher but although some commentators said that he has “ice in his veins” i.e. that nothing bothers him, I think that he has not too much going on upstairs as well because in spite of the fact that every one praises him and his pitching, they say that he should keep the ball down, but he repeatedly leaves a few up and those are hit for home runs and those are the runs that causes him to lose games.
In time he will be a great pitcher but it does not take age to learn from one’s repeated mistakes. Any thoughts on this?
Tony D’Souza, Toronto
Oh look, it’s precisely the kind of thinking that needs to be beaten over the head with a fucking shovel. Alvarez is dumb because he’s not keeping the ball down on every single pitch? As though he ought to know better and is purposely doing it anyway?
Ugh. Give him a better breaking ball and he’ll be a much more successful pitcher. Until then, shitting on anything else is rather pointless nitpicking, or– as in this case– worse.
I’ve been enjoying details of your pub crawls on the road via your Bullpen, but couldn’t you combine them with pumping out some more mailbags? Seems to me that might be a good combination. Here’s my question: in this crazy, disappointing, seemingly train wreck of a season, please give us fans five positives to take with us into 2013 based on on-field performance this year.
Rob Brander, Sydney, Australia
Easy. Edwin Encarnacion’s season, and his re-signing, have been tremendous developments for the club. Colby Rasmus, even though he struggled for too much of the second half (and April), I think showed enough to feel good with him in centre going forward for at least one more year. The emergence of Casey Janssen as a legitimate late-inning weapon has been tremendous. Even though the numbers in his last couple of seasons were fantastic, Darren Oliver has been a revelation, and will be back on an extremely reasonable team option, if he chooses to pitch again in 2013. And, lastly, it sounds like the club might actually, finally get their Triple-A affiliate the fuck out of Las Vegas.
If you were told back in Feb. of ’95 when you joined The Star as a baseball columnist that the Blue Jays — coming off a World Series championship two seasons prior — wouldn’t make the playoffs at all until 2013 at the earliest, what would your reaction have been?
Terry Bridge, Waterloo
I don’t envy you having to watch this unfortunate season. My question concerns Monday’s game in NYC. Russell Martin laid down that terrific sac bunt and clearly ran on the inside of the baseline. He was thrown out and no damage was done, but do you think the umpire would have noticed and called him out if the throw had been bad?
Ralph Levenstein, Thornhill
How disappointing to see Brett Lawrie is further desecrating his body with more tattoos; what a symbol of the dull-witted conformist underclass. I am among the few that hasn’t anointed Lawrie for the Hall of Fame. He has room to grow, yes, but so far he looks more like a future utility infielder than a star. Pretty immature for 23.
Thea Varley, Toronto
Are you for real? This is a magnificent troll job or, somehow, the most batshit thing ever written in a Griff Bag, which is truly saying something. Either way: jaw dropping.
Q-Can the Jays offer (Zack) Greinke $100 million for 4-5 years? I don’t think he would sign but if possible it would solve the starter problem. Also, is Hechavarria our new starter at second base next year with Johnson obviously leaving? I also don’t believe an offer could go out to David Ortiz because AA will want the DH spot open for Lind/D’Arnaud and the possible Gose/Sierra platoon. Do you agree?
Martin Aguirre, Owen Sound
One presumes that the Jays could offer Greinke that kind of money, and I’d be very disappointed if they didn’t do whatever they possibly can to sign him, as futile a pursuit as that may be.
Moving on, yes, Hechavarria may be the starter at second next year, but it’s far from a foregone conclusion– much like it’s not entirely a slam dunk that Johnson won’t be back, though I agree that it’s far more likely he’ll be gone.
Where I don’t agree, though, is on the stuff about DH. Yes, Anthopoulos has said that he’d give d’Arnaud at bats at DH, but that’s very likely just posturing. JP Arencibia is likeable and serviceable, but he is what he is– he’ll play OK defence and crush a few mistakes into the bleachers every year, and that’s about it. Long-term, it looks very much like it’s d’Arnaud’s job, and Arencibia probably has more value in trade than he does as a part-time player. But obviously the GM wasn’t going to say a thing like that.
Anthony Gose still needs regular at-bats– Sierra, too– so there’s no way they’re going to find themselves in a platoon situation. And fuck… I don’t want to live in a world where Adam Lind provides any kind of impediment to this club improving at DH. I’d take a hard run at Ortiz, no question, and if he hits the market, with his injury and the limited market for DHs keeping the price from getting too outlandish, I’d expect the Jays totally will.
Q-While watching a London, Ont., team play a team in Michigan during the first half of July, a batter with a full count swung at a vicious curve ball and missed, but the ball hit him in the lower stomach. He was called out. Why was he not awarded first base for a hit by pitch? Incidentally, he was in such agony that he had to be carried off the field by his managers without the benefit of a stretcher! This game was being televised by a London TV station, which I watched on Rogers Cable in my son’s house in London.
James R. McGillawee, Oshawa
He wasn’t awarded first because he swung at the pitch. Yep.
Q-Blue Jays have a history of keeping a “clean shop” regarding illegal matters and their players. In the past it usually is a ticket to be shipped out of Dodge. Do you think this will now happen because their pitching draft pick got caught and suspended 50 games? (These days I can’t believe he did what he did and did not know what he was doing.)
Dave Butler, Toronto
If he was in the Majors, Marcus Stroman would have simply got a warning for having ingested a banned substance in a supplement, which he claims was done unwittingly. So… what possible reason would there be for the Jays to divest themselves of him? He’s not going anywhere, and frankly, this is a non-issue. It was dumb, and it was lazy– to my understanding players are given a large list of supplements that won’t cause a positive test– but that’s about as malicious a term as I can put on it. There should be no difficulty in believing his story or believing that he has a chance to have a good, long career ahead of him.
Enjoyed your Bullpen and especially the Rant this week. It raised a question for me: Presumably, steroids and HGH have been developed for specific medical uses. Certainly some medical procedures have been developed that employ them (see Bartolo Colon). So if there is a legitimate reason to use such recuperative aids, then wouldn’t it make sense to say that using them is appropriate for rehabbing players? They could easily put in a stipulation that they must document with MLB all such uses, and then they would be ineligible to return to the field for a reasonable period of time afterwards.
Bryan Willis, Vancouver
All that stuff is collectively bargained, so it’s not going to change any time soon, but I’d be entirely for anything that brings more sensibility into the league’s drug testing program, or the way that we talk about drugs in sports. It will never stop befuddling me how certain treatments are universally seen as benign, while others are demonized as part of some nefarious cheating culture. We need to stop thinking that we already have all the answers, because the science and medicine is always changing.
The Jays should write off this year and send all of their sickly birds to the Vet. It’s probably the bird flu that they are all suffering from.
Tony D’Souza, Toronto