I’m surprised his readers found anything to talk about this week *COUGH* but apparently they did, because here we’ve got yet another Griff Bag– aka Richard Griffin’s reader mail bag from over at the Toronto Star. Commence hijacking!
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!
As a former PR director, what do you think of the way the Escobar press conference was handled? Why not release Escobar? It sends a message and dumps the contract of a player who just sabotaged his own trade value.
Nigel Tufnel, Toronto
Well, first let’s just say, it’s like, how much more black could this season be? And the answer is none. None more black.
But let’s not go entirely fucking nuts here. Yes, the press conference smelled the glove, and it was like the participants turned the mixed messaging dial up to eleven, which helped nobody, but I think releasing Escobar kind of entirely misses the point. I’ll put this as succinctly as I can, because I think I’ve said more than enough about this issue by now, but almost as appalling as the phrase itself that Escobar wrote is the fact that he saw so little wrong with it. The Jays had to make the choice: do they punish him as a hateful bigot, in which case releasing him would be warranted, or do they punish him as somebody with horrible judgement who needs to be educated as to why such language is so hurtful. It’s easy to insist that ought to have been self-evident, but you don’t have to look far back into our own culture’s past to understand it’s more complicated than that, or to envision a time where too many of us would have also though such words relatively benign.
Yes, it requires some benefit of the doubt to be given to Escobar, but I don’t think that’s unreasonable given what we’ve heard from many Latino players and figures in the game, and ultimately, I think the Jays were right in interpreting this as a moment to forward education and awareness, and that a knee-jerk reaction wouldn’t have served anybody, unless it had been far more evident that Escobar’s words were hate-driven, or there wasn’t such linguistic and cultural ambiguity on the subject.
I have a question about next year’s schedule. Have you looked at it and seen how bad the draws are for the weekend games? I live three hours away and my buddies and I usually go see about three series a year always on weekends since we live out of town. Usually try and see games with good crowds, Yanks, Boston, Tigers or good teams like the Angels or Phillies. Next year the Yanks and Sox only come in April (for a weekend).
The only good draw from May to Auguest is Texas. (Rays are boring to watch as a Jays fan). 23 per cent of all home weekend dates are against the Orioles (no thanks, despite this year’s run). Do the Jays have any say in these matters? I don’t like their chances of getting me to the park much next year due to this sched and my guess is that the team still two years away from contention but that is a whole other area of frustration.
Scott Sauve, North Bay
I don’t think the Jays have a lot of direct say in the matter. They can let their preferences be known, and I think they can be accommodated to a degree, but the schedule is a big and complicated thing, and it’s impossible for it to please everybody. Last year they were able to get Philadelphia in for Canada Day, in order to make up for the games lost to the G20, and this year, when all is said and done, there will have been four weekend home series with the Yankees and Red Sox. Next year it looks like there’s a little more acknowledgement of Canadian holidays than we’re used to, so I guess you’ll just have to take comfort in that.
I understand, though, that it’s a way less enjoyable experience at the Rogers Centre when the crowd is tepid, so I perhaps your best bet is simply to hope the club is actually pretty good, and that attendance follows. It’s not impossible– they’re already more talented than Baltimore (well… OK, maybe Machado and Bundy change that), and the fucking O’s look like they’re headed to the damn playoffs. And there’s no reason to believe the Jays won’t get better still. It could happen.
Is it just me that notices that Miguel Cabrera of Detroit is close to the Triple Crown? He is first in average, RBI and second in HRs. I haven’t seen a word written. This is a major achievement if he does it. I can only think of Carl Yastrzemski of Boston that won it a long time ago. Do you have a list of players who have achieved this milestone?
Dave Mulholland, Scarborough
Seriously Dave? Did you send this message by passenger pigeon or are you not on a damn computer? They have the internet on computers these days, I’ve heard. Look it up.
Yes, Cabrera is in the Triple Crown conversation, and it’s quite the novel achievement, despite the fact that RBIs are pretty meaningless (he wouldn’t be in the conversation without Austin Jackson hitting so well in front of him, and others likely would have been in the conversation in previous years with a player of Jackson’s calibre hitting in front of them, so what that’s supposed to tell us about Cabrera’s worth, I do not know). It’s such a revered thing that some people even think Cabrera is a better MVP choice than Mike Trout. Not so. So, so, so, so not so.
Q-Thank you for your thoughtful article on Escobar’s punishment. I am glad the team is taking this seriously. I find his punishment satisfactory but I would like to see one thing added. Make him walk onto the pitcher’s mound with a microphone and have him state his apology directly to the crowd before he can play again. That would have meaning.
Richard Paris, Cripple Creek, CO
Then put him in stocks! And hand out rotten tomatoes to the first 10,000 fans!
Yeah… I don’t know.
While Brett Lawrie has real talent, and was a breath of fresh air when he first arrived, there seems to be reasons to be concerned. As the season has progressed the 110 per cent enthusiasm he showed earlier is turning more and more to arrogance, bad judgement and in some cases petulance. I know it’s early days but maybe someone should remind him that he is not exactly Scott Rolen yet. Should we be concerned?
Frank Taker, Ottawa
Well… part of it is perception. It’s hard to see warts when a kid puts up MVP-like numbers in his first stint in the Majors, while being sucked off constantly by the TV broadcast team and nearly every single goddamn ad produced by the club’s marketing department, whose boundless cynicism insisted we be reminded at every turn that this 21-year-old should ascend to a extra special secret tier of adulation, off-limits to even the likes of run-of-the-mill superstars like Jose Bautista, because of his birth certificate.
The warts were indeed there, but it’s definitely easier to see them now– so much so that I wonder if the pendulum of public opinion hasn’t swung back a little too hard the other way. Some of the mistakes Lawrie makes are simply part of being a young ballplayer, especially one under so much scrutiny, thanks to his club’s insistence that he be a focal point. Even the mistakes that concern me most– the recklessness he sometimes exhibits on the field and his seeming inability to quite own up to his own poor judgement– can be reasonably chalked up to an immaturity that one would expect to dissipate over time.
Honestly, what I’m more worried about is why the hell his walk rate has fallen by nearly half compared to last year’s spectacular stint. In 2012 he’s walked only nine times more than 2011… in nearly three hundred more plate appearances. The power hasn’t been the same either, but I’m not nearly as concerned about that as I am the approach. Though that too, one might suspect, could be an effect of having all that smoke blown up his ass.
Two part question with a similar theme. It seems that there have been a number of baserunning and fielding gaffes this year that have left John Farrell with a confused or exasperated look. Combined with the recent Lawrie post-game comments that seemed to contradict Farrell’s take on baserunning, it appears that Farrell is not completely in control of this young team – from Sierra’s goofy fielding, Lawrie/Davis/Rasmus running into outs, Escobar still fighting with umpires, Romero’s… well, whatever is wrong with Romero. Here are the questions: Is this a Bosox clubhouse in the making in its lack of discipline? Is this lack of a firm hand the major difference between the young O’s and the young Jays?
Andrew Ponsford, Surrey, BC
Oh good fucking lord. No. And no.
By now I should understand that it’s only natural for people to see a team winning games and to overlook whatever meaningless gaffes they commit, and ascribe to them some kind of a magical “winning” clubhouse culture– and conversely, to blow up every single mistake made by a team not playing to its potential as some kind of damning indictment of a discipline free, rancid clubhouse.
I should understand this, but I sure fucking don’t.
The Orioles are not playing mistake-free baseball, and the Jays get it right a whole lot more often than you perceive.
That certainly doesn’t mean I don’t think we should ask questions about what we’re seeing, or that it isn’t entirely possible that something is wrong with the way that the Jays are being run, but this kind of talk almost inevitably leads to grand proclamations based on the tiniest kernels of visible evidence. I don’t think I need to explain why that’s wildly problematic.
I enjoy your column very much. My question is: What’s your opinion on the Jays’ poor on-base percentage? The current roster features six regular players (LF, CF, SS, 2B, 1B/DH, C) who will finish 2012 with an OBP of around .300 or below, which resembles anything but a championship-calibre offence. Most of these players will return in 2013 as core players and this really worries me. On a separate note, what is your opinion on a trade proposal involving Rasmus and Arencibia for Yankees’ LF Gardner and one of their better 2B/infield prospects?
Henry Ip, Toronto
I really like Brett Gardner, too, but I don’t think that scenario would fly, for a number of different reasons on both sides. Regardless, I think the first part of your question is a lot more interesting, as it’s a subject that, I’m realizing now, I haven’t put nearly as much thought into as I could have. Partly that’s because I’m not convinced it’s entirely a matter of organizational philosophy, though I don’t doubt that’s the first conclusion a lot of people would jump to.
For example, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have excellent walk rates, and despite landing on your list, Kelly Johnson knows how to take a walk, too– his problem has been a lack of contact, which has led to a lot of strikeouts and an ugly batting average that drives down his OBP despite a walk rate over 10%.
I think part of the issue with the players you’ve mentioned comes down simply to talent. On that front I think JP Arencibia gets a pass, because he’s pretty middle-of-the-pack-ish offensively, when it comes to catchers, and has never been a guy who takes a lot of walks– though he’s somehow been even worse at that this year than last. And Adam Lind, while not having a good year, has walked 8% of the time, which is the second highest walk rate he’s posted in his big league career– so that’s not something organizational either.
Rasmus has just been a mess all year, except for one month, so it’s hard to make any kind of judgements, except to say that clearly he can do better. Brett Lawrie, too, has seen a drop in his walk rate, but has maintained a high enough average to stay in your good graces. His problem poses an interesting question, too, but I definitely think it’s also fixable.
Rajai Davis is perhaps the most interesting case of the guys you’ve listed, as he posted an OBP in the .360s once, and twice in the .320 range, despite having a terrible time getting on base since joining the Jays. Is he swinging more in order to try to “make something happen” and keep his job? I don’t know. I mean, I could pour over the numbers and try to figure something out, but Davis is a fourth outfielder, and I just couldn’t possibly worry terribly about it all that much.
The easy thing would be to say that there’s something wrong with the organization or Dwayne Murphy’s coaching style, but I’m just not sure that’s necessarily the case. As with Davis, I think a lot of these Jays hitters may have tried for a little too long to do too much to help an offence, and a club as a whole, that was hurting and needed runs. I’d like to believe that, and that things will go right back to normal when everybody returns to relative health next year, but I couldn’t possibly think it’s quite so simple. I really don’t know.
Q-I’m rather interested in the idea of the Buffalo Bisons being the Triple-A affiliate for Toronto. I’m looking for an affiliate introductory lesson. When Toronto players are there, who pays the players salary and expenses? Financially speaking, are the owners of Triple-A teams in it for the love of baseball (like many Junior Hockey Team owners) or is their opportunity for the owners to make some decent money? Is there a financial benefit for Buffalo to pick team A over team B, or is that regulated by Major League Baseball? Who pays for Triple-A spring training? As you can see, I’m looking for a little schooling about down on the farm.
Kevin Anyan, Bowmanville
I don’t entirely know the specifics of all of this, Kevin, but I do know that there’s definitely financial benefit to owning a club, as the minor league teams get revenue from ticket sales, advertising, etc.– and this is why the Buffalo Bisons have chosen not to re-up with the Mets for next year. I also know that Spring Training is something that MLB clubs will pay for, and I’m pretty sure they cover all the salaries of players in their organization, though I’m not 100% sure if there are exceptions. What am I, Google?
With all of the talk of Boston going after John Farrell in the offseason to manage the Red Sox, I would like your opinion on whether JF is a guy who can take this team to the next level? Without specific early season example, I see JF as a guy who makes decisions like a front office person or GM rather than a manager trying to win. Is that how he is running things or is he being micromanaged by AA?
Matt Meisner, St. Catharines
What are you possibly even talking about? What’s the difference between a front office-like decision and a managerial one? One’s more intelligently-based than the other?
I don’t even know how to answer this.
Q-Hi again -
I wondered if you would take a moment and answer a question of curiosity but of absolutely no importance to the Blue Jays future chances, namely are the bat boys hired by the team? sons/relatives of team personnel? Do they travel with the team or does the home team provide a bat boy for the visiting team? Always wondered, never asked.
Eleanor Pakoz, Port Colborne
No clue. Sorry.
I read the blog religiously and I anxiously await the mailbag every time. Keep up the good work. I was wondering if anywhere in the Jays organization has room for Omar Vizquel? Do any of the farm teams make sense for Omar? Does he have other organizations in mind? His intentions for coaching are clear but I haven’t heard where or how. He does help our young Latin players a lot and a hall of famer in the organization would be great.
Thanks Again ,
Martin Aguirre, Owen Sound
What? How can you possibly say, as a statement of fact, that “he does help our young Latin players a lot”? Who are you, Radar? That’s ridiculous– you have no idea.
And as for his coaching prospects… whatever. I’m sure he’ll find a place to coach, and I’m sure the Jays won’t bend over backwards to give him a job just because of his name. If they think he merits a job and he doesn’t have other opportunities, it’ll happen. If so, if not… meh.
Long time reader, first time writer. A lot of people, especially those in the media, talk about this being a “lost season” for evaluating the 2012 Blue Jays squad given all of their injuries. But I think a lot of people are confusing evaluating talent with evaluating team success.
I have heard a lot of folks say we have no idea what to expect in 2013 based on this year. I would beg to differ. Many of the injuries this summer were to players to whom we know what we can expect. JPA and Bautista to name two. Outside of Perez, the others were mostly to young starting pitchers that were never going to be real difference makers in the near future.
I think what the injuries only proved is that you can never have enough veteran starting pitching, and that in order to compete, this team is going to need to upgrade starting pitching regardless of injuries. We also learned, Kelly Johnson is a not a long-term solution at second, and that Gose and Hech are still a year or two away from being consistent productive hitters in the majors.
All I think we didn’t get to find out this year was if we had been able to stay healthy for most of the season, could we have made a similar type of run for the divison/wild card like Baltimore with the team that broke spring training given Boston falling off this year. What do you think?
Jason Meller, Toronto
Sure… I guess.
Q-In The Star, Alex Anthopoulos, the GM for the Toronto Blue Jays, stated that Carlos (Villanueva), the pitcher that has been helping the Blue Jays out for a few months, will probably not be a starter next year for the Blue Jays as he does not think that he could play all of the innings required and does not know about his endurance. I am very upset. I think Carlos is excellent compared to their opening lineup, especially Ricky Romero who has been dreadful. Is the real reason for the above that Rogers does not want to pay for Carlos so he will probably get rejects like the rest of the Blue Jays?
Linda Chousky, Toronto
For fuck sakes, Linda, why don’t you actually– I don’t know– examine what’s being said, and why, before jumping to whatever conclusion your Rogers-hating, insufferably impatient, negative suckhole of a gut is telling you.
First off, it was more that Anthopoulos said he wasn’t sure Villanueva could pitch 200 innings over 34 starts, not that he was certain that he couldn’t. Second, given the fact that Villanueva has never come close to that kind of workload, the fact that he had an arm issue late last summer and again in spring training, and that his stuff is just not nearly as impressive as his results, the GM is absolutely in-bounds to wonder whether it’s the right move to sign him. And he said as much to the media because it would have been ridiculous of him not to.
That all said, I’d rather the Jays than anybody else be the team to figure out that he can, it’s just… whether or not they should lock themselves into a rotation that’s two-fifths Romero and Villanueva really depends on what the hell else is out there and viable. You’d like to think they could do better.
I read AA’s interview in The Star, and his wish list sounds depressingly like last year’s: starting pitching, a reliable mid-lineup bat, and a quality left fielder. He apparently didn’t pay attention to his own pronouncements last off-season. Oh, and by the way, are we so pitching-rich that he can afford to waffle on Villanueva and how many innings he can pitch?
How about all the young, up-coming pitchers whose innings are so carefully guarded and counted? Try not to blow hot and cold at the same time, eh. To that we now add a second baseman (KJ will be gone — is Hechavarria the answer? TBD).
Beyond that, though, I have a wish list about which I’d be interested in your thoughts: First, re-sign Omar Vizquel, either as a utility infielder again, or, even better, as an assistant coach in the organization. He’s a class act, and would be a valuable addition. If we don’t re-sign Omar as a player, find an upgrade to Mike McCoy. No knock on McCoy — he’s been a really great utility defender, but he doesn’t hit well enough for a contender.
Send Ricky Romero to some kind of pitching specialist in the off-season. He still has the arm of an ace, but I think his problem is simply that he’s lost his confidence, reminiscent of when he struggled in the minors. We need him badly, so let’s get him some help somewhere.
Give Alvarez an ultimatum: either learn how to throw a quality off-speed pitch in the off-season (which may not be a slider) or we’ll move you to the bullpen. He could prosper there with what he has, but has proven he can’t make it as a starter.
Tell Lind he’s on the bubble in Spring Training, so be fit and ready. He can be so good – and so maddening when he’s not on. We need him to produce consistently, or else we need to find someone to fill his place.
Beyond that, tell all the young studs that making the team is no longer enough. they’ve got to prove that they can be more than just pretty good players. Here I’m particularly thinking about Rasmus, Escobar, Lawrie, and Arencibia. Send them home with the thought that they need to get even better in the off-season if they want to help the team get to the post-season. No coasting! Finally, and this is a big one, AA needs to do a Halladay with John Farrell. Ask point blank if he wants to go to Boston. If not, negotiate a contract extension now so the players (and the fans!) know he’s going to be around. If he wants to leave, trade him now and get something good in exchange rather than lose him a year from now. Then promote Brian Butterfield on a one-year contract rather than go through all the upset of doing a complete manager search. Butter is (probably) good enough (you never know until you try), and certainly deserves the opportunity if JF is not the man.
Richard Worzel, Toronto
And you even have some suggestions with actual merit!
First, though, here’s what can fuck off: the notion that telling players not to coast is the magic ingredient the Jays have been missing; giving a shit about Farrell or believing a contract extension solves anything; actually giving Adam Lind another chance; the piece of shit implication that stupid Alvarez must just not be trying to add another pitch his repertoire; the armchair psychology on Romero; the belief that Omar Vizquel has brought anything resembling value to this team; the suggestion that Mike McCoy doesn’t hit well enough– but Omar does?– and the failure to recognize that it’s not only very difficult to find starter-calibre bench hitters, but that it’s a waste of resources to try when the team needs so much work elsewhere; the belief that it’s “waffling” or otherwise illegitimate to look at the facts of Carlos Villanueva’s career and wonder whether he’s up to the task of starting 34 games effectively; and what appears to be scoffing at setting innings limits for young prospects, or some kind of nonsense Schadenfreude over the fact that the young starters whose opportunities the Jays chose not to block with mid-tier veterans unbelievably all happened to blow up.
Yes, they have a question mark at second base, need pitching help, and a big bat wouldn’t hurt.