In his latest, epic Bullpen post over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin gives us a little bit of a teasing, offering a mini-mail bag in order to tide us all over until he posts a brand-spanking-new full-on one later in the week, and since I’m constantly on the lookout for something to keep me from working more on a majorly depressing year-in-review post that I’ve decided, for some reason, is necessary, let’s get to the hijacking!

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!

Q. Richard Stoeten,

I am reviewing a psychology article called The Perils of Perfection in Sports. I keep thinking of Ricky Romero. He was like Atlas with the world on his shoulders this season. I remember when one of the starters (?) was injured, Romero volunteered to start the next game when he had pitched the day before. Richard, do you think that since he was considered the Jay’s “ace-starter” that he put too much on his own shoulders? Or could he have felt pressure from the coaches or fans? I think the shoes that he had to fill were too big for him to mentally handle this year. Your thoughts?

Susan Roberts, Sarnia

While I think it would be entirely foolish to understate the mental aspects of the game that contributed to Romero’s poor performance this season, there seems to be a tendency to do the opposite and dramatically overstate that element.

I suspect that tendency comes from a bit of an inflated belief in Romero’s true ability, especially after a 2011 in which he wildly out-pitched his advanced, fielding-independent numbers– a 2.92 ERA, but a 4.20 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 4.12 tERA and 3.78 SIERA– and managed to have a top 10 strand rate in all of baseball.

Compared to that guy– compared to a guy people actually thought was better than Brandon Morrow– this season’s Romero looks like a total, unmitigated fucking catastrophe. The reality is probably a little more muted– just a very bad year for a pitcher who perhaps surprisingly appeared to have conquered his problems with the walk, which famously plagued him during his minor league days.

And sure, some of the issues with command are probably mental, but there are unquestionably other factors as well.

In a post I’ve passed along a number of times, earlier this summer Jon Hale suggested at the Mockingbird that “maybe Romero is trying to pick out the corners and/or overthrow because he is completely correct that he gets hit hard when he catches too much of the plate.” Hale noted how badly Romero’s changeup had abandoned him this year– though he pointed out a late season success against the Yankees in a game during which, oddly, the changeup wasn’t quite as sharp as many of his previous outings. This led Hale to quite interestingly theorize that perhaps “Ricky managed to improve his changeup movement to the point where it is very nasty, but not as enticing to swing at, and the league has adjusted to just lay off it at all costs.”

There is also the fact that he’s had a tremendous workload over the last three or four years, and must be hurting. In fact, we know he’s hurting, as Romero said so himself when Drew talked to him, among many others, about the grind of the season in the last regular season episode of the Getting Blanked Show this year (starts around the 16 minute mark).

And, really, can you blame him? Over the last three seasons he’s tenth in the Majors in total batters faced– a ranking that doesn’t drop a whole lot when you go back to include his 178 inning 2009– and he’s thrown the 22nd most pitches over that span, including the tenth most in baseball this year. (Aside: Henderson Alvarez was also in the top ten in pitches thrown in 2012. And you wonder why the Jays were so bad?)

That’s right, his arm didn’t even get a break this year, despite the fact that he logged only 181 innings– 62nd in MLB.

Does any of this bode well for 2013? No, not really, I suppose. But it maybe suggests that, if things do continue to go south for Ricky, it won’t entirely be because of the mental stuff people are so quick to point to.

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Q. Richard Stoeten,

Always enjoy reading your mailbag. I am confused by the reports of the Blue Jays allowing John Farrell to walk over to the Boston Red Sox. If the Jays were to get Clay Buchholz I would say for sure. Reports today say that it would be a fringe major-leaguer. Surely the Blue Jays would depend more than that in return than to allow the Red Sox to get the manager they want for nothing. What concerns me more is if the Sox turn it around with Farrell they will be the main competition blocking the Jays from the post-season. Your thoughts?

Andrew S., Alberta

Sorry, but managers just don’t mean a whole lot, so if the Red Sox get turned around, it certainly won’t be because of their manager.

Now, if Farrell somehow turns into an absolutely optimal tactical manager– something he has shown very little sign of becoming– perhaps the Jays should worry about the Red Sox potentially having him while they employ someone else, but… I can’t possibly imagine that being a legitimate concern, can you?

That said, I entirely agree with you that the Jays– unless they genuinely have major issues with Farrell, or he with them– ought to insist on much more than just a fringe player. And if the Sox don’t want to deal, they can toss right fucking off.

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Q. Last year, Alex Anthopoulos said payroll dollars are available when he can guarantee success. With his credibility and job perhaps on the line, he needs to present a strong case to his bosses. If you’re AA, how do you convince Rogers that the time to spend is now?

Erich von Stroheim, Toronto

It would seem to me, actually, that the time to spend isn’t now, but was last winter, and the player to spend on was Yu Darvish– or, shit, how about Yoenis Cespedes?

Sigh.

Be that as it may, I actually don’t think Anthopoulos will have much convincing to do this winter. He’s said, and I tend to believe him, that extra payroll dollars will be there to be spent– not a crazy amount, but more than we’ve seen lately– and I can entirely view this as a logical progression of what was planned all along when Anthopoulos sold himself to Rogers and Paul Beeston in order to get the gig.

The much bigger concern, for me, is just who the hell they’re going to convince to take those dollars, and whether whoever they do convince are guys who can take them to the next level.

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Q. Hey Richard Stoeten,

I want to ask what your thoughts were on the situation that Omar Vizquel got himself into last week. Disregarding the fact that the man has had a Hall of Fame worthy career, I question his decision to go public with his discontent with the Jays clubhouse with a week to go in the season. It seems as if it’s a whole lot easier to dump on the Jays this season with everything that has gone wrong. As someone who was brought in as a veteran presence to help mentor the younger players on this team, it seems hypocritical for him to then criticize a ‘lack of veteran leadership’ without having to look in the mirror himself. This is also a guy who also said that the phrase that Yunel Escobar had under his eye blacks wasn’t a big deal. While it’s entirely possible or perhaps likely that there are communication issues with the Jays coaching staff, it seems as if his comments should’ve been made behind close doors without throwing the manager under the bus. It seems like Omar is more concerned with positioning himself for a coaching gig next year than setting an example for the young players on the team.

Dan McKinnon, Toronto

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Q. Rich Stoet,

There are three things the Blue Jays need next year. Starting pitching, starting pitching and starting pitching. According to Buck Martinez, the starters for the Jays have 47 wins. Teams that are in the playoffs, average about 70 wins. They won’t get Greinke who has already declined a trade here. They already had Edwin Jackson but moved him. The starters in the minors are just prospects so you had better know that to get what you want you will have to give up positional players. I personally believe that no one is untouchable including Bautista and Encarnacion. I believe the only way to go is the trade route. Any ideas as to who looks good to you???

Dave Mulholland, Scarborough

It’s as hard for me to see Bautista or Encarnacion being dealt in anything but a lateral move for 2013 as it is to imagine how anybody could actually quote Buck Martinez as an expert, or still bother using fucking pitcher wins for anything in two-thousand-and-goddamn-twelve. But yes, the Jays need pitching, and the trade route will certainly be explored.

Possible names? I still think Oakland and St. Louis may have a surplus to acquire from, though Jamie Garcia’s wonky shoulder may change that calculation, and there are still guys on short-term deals like Matt Garza or Josh Johnson who would help. And if you really wanted to go big– and could stomach helping a division rival by sending a monster package of players their way– the Rays may be listening on David Price.

Of course, as Alex Anthopoulos would be quick to point out, there are probably a number of guys who’ll be available that, right now, nobody thinks will move. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford weren’t exactly on anybody’s trade radar– er… tradar?– before they were moved in August, and we know how Alex likes to work silently.

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Q. Dear Richard Stoeten,

I just read your Sept 18 column on homophobia in baseball and I have to say one thing: you really get it! Connecting the homophobic/transphobic nature of rookie hazing to locker room culture is really important. Thank you so much for your voice! I await the day that a representative from GLAAD throws out the first pitch at a Blue Jay game. I also await the day when a woman plays major league baseball!

Ann Travers, Vancouver

Agreed, Ann. Entirely agreed.

Comments (28)

  1. I too eagerly await the day a woman plays in Major League Baseball. Baseball seems like the perfect sport for women to excel – dependent almost entirely on upper body strength.

    I’m also too lazy to look it up but I’m astonished that a rep from a gay community organization HASN’T thrown out the first pitch yet. I’m pretty sure the Jays play at home on pride weekend like, every year. Regardless of this Escobar fiasco, that is probably something they should get on next year.

    • The gay track and field athlete from You Can Play threw out the first pitch the day Patrick Burke met with Escobar, I think.

    • In fact, only the smallest amount of research revealed that openly gay former pro soccer player David Testo threw out the first pitch the day Escobar came back. Not that they shouldn’t have more outreach to the gay community. Just that Ann can probably stop awaiting…

    • I wonder if the Jays have thought of getting more involved with the gay community & consider participating in Pride week?

      Would the jays ever dare to have special events during Pride at the Rogers Centre.?

      I don’t know if other teams have special events for the gay community?

      What do the SF Giants do for Gay Pride?

  2. “Tradar” is a winner.

  3. You took it way too easy on Dave from Scarborough on using something Buck Martinez said as a basis for a question, not realizing that good teams starters get lots of wins rather than good starters get lots of wins for their teams (though they are loosely related), and the suggestion that Edwin Jackson being used in the Rasmus deal in any way indicates their feelings about him on the free agent market.

    I expect more from you Stoeten. I really do.

  4. “He’s said, and I tend to believe him, that extra payroll dollars will be there to be spent– not a crazy amount, but more than we’ve seen lately– and I can entirely view this as a logical progression of what was planned all along when Anthopoulos sold himself to Rogers and Paul Beeston in order to get the gig.”

    Where did you get this idea that AA sold himself to Rogers/Beeston on this basis? You’ve brought it up a number of times this season, and I’m not sure it’s based on anything. Given that there wasn’t a competition for the GM position, and that AA was hired instantly, I’m not sure he had to sell any ideas to get the job. It seems to me he was hired based on merit and his work within the organization. Perhaps there were discussions about philosophy, which you would think would happen between an AGM, a GM and a team President over the course of their relationship, but I’m not sure that was stretched into a sold vision.

    • “I’m not sure he had to sell any ideas to get the job”

      They hired him for his cat like reflexes and ability to melt into the scenery.

      But in all seriousness, seriously? He did not have to sell ideas.

      Beeston: How are you going to run this team?
      AA: Don’t worry about it.
      Beeston: Young man, you are hired!

      • This made me laugh rather heartily.

        But seriously, its crazy to me that some people think things are done in a multi million dollar organziation like a professional baseball team without any advanced thought or planning.

        Beeston hired AA on a whim cuz he’s a snappy dresser?
        AA doesn’t talk to Farrell about this BoSox wanting him thing, he’s left to sit at home and ponder his own thoughts?
        AA makes trades without consulting anybody else on his staff?

        Do anyone really believe this is how this organization is run? If decisions at anyone else’s workplaces were made this way, don’t you think management would be questioned? If that were the case in an organization such as a professional sports team, with so much scrutiny from media, fans, staff – and where management is such a volatile job (see Ricciardi, JP; Francona, Tony) don’t you think there would be some eyebrows raised?

        None of us work for this organization so we don’t know for sure how its run at the highest level of management, but for christ’s sakes, there has to be some reality to it, no?

        • Sadly, there are many organizations that do run that way (and anecdotally I hear some Rogers divisions are amongst them), but not at the levels these guys are playing at (management of close to hundred million in payroll and another couple of dozen in expenses). Maybe there are some guys and girls down the ladder who are idiots, but Beeston is not, and Nadir Mohammed is not either.

          They did not give AA the job on an interim basis. They only hired him quickly because they knew him but 100% he had to present them with some ideas and convince them that he had a plan. And Stoeten’s assertion that the plan was to homegrow the team and then add pieces seems reasonable as that is exactly what he has attempted to do.

        • @ CdnBacon

          I agree.In fact with absolutely nothing to back it up,if you read betwen the lines,I think Beeston’s moves make perfect sense, given his background and POSSIBLY what he knew.
          At lot of decisions made me go,huh?
          But he put the right people in the right place to execute the proper business plan. From Cito to AA to the former GM’s as advisers.
          He was the interim President of the Jays,serching for a permant President, until he was given assurances and took the job himself.
          Then hired a lame duck manager, to do what was neccessary and a rookie GM to carry out the vision.,who wouldn’t balk at the requests and bought into the plan.

    • It’s based on nothing, I fully admit. But I still suspect it’s probably right, just because it makes so much sense based on how he’s operated over the start of his tenure and what we can infer from that (I’d lay it all out here, but… I don’t feel like it at the moment). And I don’t think the fact that he was hired quickly changes that– Beeston spoke at the time of having had lots of conversations with Alex, and it’s not like Ricciardi’s shitcanning was a stunner.

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