Two of the newest members of the Toronto Blue Jays, starter Josh Johnson and catcher John Buck, recently took separately to the radio airwaves to react to the trade, with both of them providing a wealth of interesting, uplifting information on the trade, and their reactions to it– as well as their teammates’.
Despite some irritating phone troubles, Johnson joined Miami’s Dan Le Batard Show on Tuesday (audio here - starts around 2:02:00), extremely diplomatically explaining that his initial reaction to the trade was shock, confusion, and ultimately agreeing with the suggestion that he was “pissed off”– though not because of the destination he was heading to. “I definitely wanted to stay there,” he explained. “I wanted to be there and give it one more run at it to make something happen there, because I’ve always felt that we were pretty close, and I think we had the players in place for the most part.”
Apparently like everybody else, Johnson– or “L Cool JJ” as the hosts called him– follows MLB Trade Rumors, explaining that he “was actually upstairs with my kids playing” as the trade was blowing up the internet. “I went downstairs to check my phone and I had a bunch of messages and calls from my agent. So I called him and he was like, ‘Have you heard?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And as soon as it happened I heard a bling on my phone– it was MLB Trade Rumors, and it says ‘Blue Jays close to acquiring Josh Johnson.’ I was like, ‘um… I just did right now actually.’ ”
“I was hoping I’d go at least until about the All-Star break, and then the trade rumours would start going,” he said. “I was hoping for one more shot at making something happen down there in Miami, but that’s just how the business goes, and now I’m really excited to move on and start a new chapter in my career.”
His wife is excited, too– though it took some reassuring from a somewhat surprising source.
“She was like, ‘No no no no no,’ because we’ve never known anything else besides the Marlins, so you kind of have a routine going– you get from Jupiter to Miami, and all that stuff. We actually had a place setup in Miami for next year already, so it was kind of tough,” he explained. “She wasn’t too excited at first, but then she talked to a couple of wives– actually Frank Thomas’s wife– talked to her and she said that she loved Toronto, the kids will love it and everything, so now she’s on board and she’s excited as well.”
“We were both in shock for a good thirty minutes,” he added.
Asked if fans should still trust this management group, all he could muster was a very diplomatic “that’s tough to say,” followed by an expression of gratitude to Beinfest, Samson and Loria for giving him his start, as he was on the other side of a Marlins fire sale early in his career.
Asked if he felt betrayed, he answered with a clear no.
“I could see trading me, and Buck, maybe even Boni,” he explained, referring to Emilio Bonifacio. “I was really confused by the Reyes and Buehrle trades. I’m glad they’re coming with me, we’ll have a really good team up there, but that was kind of confusing, especially after them saying that they were going to be the for the long-term.”
“My guess is yes,” he admits, when asked if Mark Buehrle feels lied to– something we found to be most definitely the truth earlier Wednesday, with the release of Buehrle’s statement on the trade.
As for the supposed tax issue, Johnson told Le Batard, ”My brother’s actually sent me the link to the Wall Street Journal thing, and I don’t even want to read it. I just know it’s going to be more. A lot more.”
Later he explained that “Everybody tells me it’s a great city, great people, and great fans, so that’ll be worth it. Maybe I can make it up in playoff share, that’ll be cool.”
Damn straight, Josh. But you really should read the Wall Street Journal piece. It figures that you’ll lose only about $700K this year, which is obviously a shit-tonne, but certainly not that much– or nearly as much as tax obsessed Americans would have you believe– when your net pay for the season still sits at $7.7-million.
As for on the field stuff, Johnson felt encouraged by how he ended a sub-par 2012, but made no excuses for the first four months.
“I was fully healthy, yes,” he told them. “I had a lot of mechanical issues going on. I felt like, I’d go to my bullpen and I’d feel great in the bullpen and I’d try to take it to my start and everything would just kind of go haywire. I’d go back to all those bad mistakes that I was making with my delivery and timing and tempo. Everything was off until about the last two months. I don’t ever pay attention to velocity, I don’t know if it was any better, but I felt a lot better. the ball was coming out better, slider was a lot sharper– I was more aggressive in the zone– the curveball was sharper. Just those things about getting back to that right tempo, the right rhythm and everything like that is key for me this off-season.”
Buck, who appeared, never short of answers and sounding much like a future manager, on the Fan 590′s Jeff Blair Show Wednesday (audio here – starts around 29:50), shared Johnson’s optimism about the upcoming season for the Jays’ new flamethrower.
“He’s a power pitcher who is able to finesse, because he knows where it’s going. He can locate four different pitches, inside and out. Not afraid to throw one up into your chin, and he throws a real heavy ball,” Buck explained. “He’s so big, he’s kinda cheating– he’s three feet closer to the plate than everybody else. He takes a big long stride, releases the ball out front, and it’s heavy.
“In the last year or two, I think because he had the injuries and stuff with the shoulder, where his velocity just wasn’t up– except for the last year it was– he was bothered through that. So it was like he learned how to pitch through that, because he’s the type of guy where, even if he’s a little sore or whatever, he’ll still go out. But last year he was kind of able to put it together where he learned how to pitch, because of the two previous years, because he had to– learned how to sink the ball, cut the ball and stuff, because he just wasn’t blowing 95 past everybody. It’s like he kind of put that all together last year and was able to get to use both– to go up high to your chin at 95 and then throw a sinker 91 or 92 at the back door, and kind of use that change of speed, and also the movement on his ball for more effective outs, which lowered his pitch count, which ultimately results in him throwing more innings.”
Johnson wasn’t the only teammate Buck was ready and willing to rave about, though he did admit that, after the Marlins flamed out last year, “Every single one of us feel like we’re all to blame, and we all underachieved.”
“On paper you can be the best,” he explained, “but if you don’t go out there and jel as a team, you ain’t worth nothing.”
Because of the struggles last year, he says he wasn’t surprised by the trade. “You kind of got a hint of what Miami was doing, and kind of heard rumours of it. It all goes into the air, with them getting rid of Hanley. As a player you kind of get a sense.”
But “that big of a deal? Blowing up the whole team in that fashion, and all going to one team– and heck, it’s a strong team now– I don’t think I expected that, or anybody expected that. So that makes it pretty exciting.”
Part of what makes it exciting for him, he says, isn’t just the great teammates, but the fact that he’s played in Toronto for and knows not just what to expect, but what makes it a special place to play, and not nearly the kind of experience that fills some players– and occasionally their wives– with dread.
“I talked to Alex, like I said, that day,” he explained, after noting he’d been on a hunting trip when the trade broke “and was out of cell range after that. I, of course, had like three messages from each guy. I actually talked to Jose while he was in there doing his physical and stuff, and they’re all asking me, ‘What’s it like? This and that, going across the border, and travelling. Because, as a player– I kind of laugh and chuckle because that was basically me when I first came over in my first year with the Blue Jays– it was the same type of stuff, and it feels like it’s a lot more than it really is, because you’re all of a sudden going to a different country. But I reassured them, ‘Look, you’re going to be amazed how easy it is, how awesome it is to play there. It’s like, you don’t just have a city going for you, you’ve got a whole country.’
“I told them how you go to Seattle and it’s like a home game, you go to Detroit, of all places, and it’s like a home game. And that really, telling Mark and Josh and them, they were like, ‘Really?’ And I’m like– I said, it’s something. To play for the Blue Jays– I wouldn’t have said this beforehand, but now that I got to experience and live it– it’s a cool experience. I said, ‘You know how you’ve got the aura of the Yankees here in the States? Put that with the Blue Jays and times it by a whole country. I’m telling you, it’s pretty cool to have the fan base that the Blue Jays have,’ and kind of told them that.
“That definitely made Mark a lot more excited, and Josh, because you’ve kind of got that aura of, ‘Oh, I don’t know’– the fear of the unknown, if you will– and I kind of reassured them that it’s going to be a cool experience. Jose was– he wouldn’t break a smile anyways, if you ask him he’s excited to just be alive, so of course he loved it. And I think what makes it even more exciting is, heck, you look at the team that Alex put together. It’s hard not to be excited about that, probably as a fan and obviously as a player, because you realize the potential we have.”
Yes, Jose Reyes, as Jeff Blair made sure to point out, might be even more awesome that we realize– and Buck concurred.
“We had probably one of the toughest years, and he was kind of our guy last year, so a lot of that fell on him, and I don’t think there was a day where he wasn’t uplifting, or not enjoyable to be around,” Buck explained. “And there’s no doubt in my mind, by the end of this year, the city of Toronto, and like I said, the whole country, is going to love him.
“He’s fun to watch, he plays hard, and kind of to his fault, the injuries he’s had in the past, he can’t pull back the throttle. He’s on the field and he’ll give you everything. Last year he was healthy and they tried to give him some rest when we were out of it and selling the farm and he was like, ‘No, you paid me to play, I want to play.’ Heck, he was still stealing bases all the way up to that last day, even when they were kind of like, ‘Hey, take it easy,’ he was like, ‘No, I play one way.’ That’s what you want for a team in a leader, and as far as in the clubhouse and teammates, I don’t know if I’ve had anybody better. And the one person who might be better is Emilio Bonifacio.
“A lot of people don’t talk about him in this trade,” he continued, “but he brings so much value to the lineup, so much speed, so much versatility in his defence. He is an extremely athletic individual. He plays a high level outfield and a high level second base– he could literally be a starter at each of those positions on any team in the Major Leagues. And he switch hits, he knows how to bunt. I’ve seen him hit base hits by doing that run-and-slap bunt– a hard ball to third base, and safe. Chipper Jones, he’d come up, and if he was hitting left handed, Chipper would kind of look at him and just say, ‘Go ahead, go to first,’ because he knew he could manoeuvre and manipulate the ball so well.
“He’s just one of those guys in this trade that, he gets overshadowed by the Jose and Buehrle and Josh, but his name is going to come up a lot more, because he is a very valuable piece of offensive power, and defensively because of his versatility.”
Um… yeah. I’ll take that. Every last damn word of it.