Quite understandably, lots of folks were pretty excited by some of the words that came out of the mouths of new Jays Josh Johnson and, especially, John Buck, after they heard them on the radio, or read the transcriptions I provided yesterday.
Buck, in particular, earned a lot of new fans thanks to a glowing review of his previous stint with the Jays, and what he described as a full-on, straight-out-of-the-marketing-literature selling of the club to perhaps-reluctant teammates Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
“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,” he told Jeff Blair of the Fan 590. “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.”
As fans who fear too many players take the opposite view, it’s a tremendously refreshing thing to hear. And I don’t doubt that he’s entirely sincere, either– though, as a cynic, I can’t not point out that he’s certainly keen enough to know who his audience was.
Unfortunately for the right-thinking among us (or at least those who read the comments here), certain fuckfaces have gotten hold of these comments, and are attempting to hold them up as some kind of validation of Cito Gaston’s insistence on letting Buck play out the string as he headed for free agency in 2010, supposedly hoping to get him to 20 home runs and a better contract in the process.
The Jays made a concerted effort to build up capital with players, they bellowed, and now it’s paying off in spades, as Buck has become a tremendous ambassador for the club! Give Cito some damn credit already!
I’m sure the thought makes a nice, warm blanket for the types who think Cito can do no wrong to wrap themselves in as they rock back and forth clutching their knees in a padded room, but let’s maybe think about this for a fucking second, shall we? Because there are a bunch of presumptions being made here that are awfully convenient to the narrative these people want to construct.
For one, apparently we are to suppose that an extra month of full-time duty behind the plate made some kind of difference in Buck’s perception of the experience as a whole– not of just the manager or the front office. Without those games it would have fundamentally changed the nature of what he experienced with the fans, we’re to believe.
And sure, Buck may have more fondness for his dealings with the people in the organization because Cito really did enable him to get a better contract as a free agent at the expense of playing time for JP Arencibia– and as much as I’m sure he’s a professional and an intelligent enough man to understand why the organization may have done that, ballplayers aren’t generally wired to have such an easy attitude about money potentially being taken out of their pockets, so I get how that may have been a thing. But that really wasn’t at all what he was talking about with Blair, was it?
Secondly, there’s a perception that any of this matters, which is completely ludicrous. Buck’s opinion, one way or the other, did not change or help the trade. Nobody acquired has five-and-ten rights, none of these players could have queered the deal, so an endorsement of the experience from Buck, nice as it is, doesn’t really have any bearing on it.
I mean, some of these are guys who voluntarily signed with the Marlins, for fuck sakes! And the Johnson clan, as he said in his own interview, were largely convinced after a conversation about the virtues of Toronto between his wife and Mrs. Frank Thomas. Frank Thomas, people!
Not only does this suggest to us that ballplayers all talk to each other, meaning there are innumerable people these guys could have spoken to– diminishing the necessity then to forge a king hell Jays ambassador out of Buck just in case– but it says pretty compellingly that players quite able to separate the qualities of a city and the qualities of particular people, or a management group. Maybe Mrs. Thomas wouldn’t have been so glowing had JP Ricciardi still been in charge, but I doubt it very much matters.
Third, it takes some pretty impressive mental gymnastics, as far as I’m concerned, to laud the organization for their commitment to doing right by players when you’re talking about a deal where Jeff Mathis was moved three months after signing an extension with the Jays.
Which isn’t to say that the Jays shouldn’t have done it, or conversely, that they should always treat players like mere chattel. It’s just… I’m sorry, the foundations of this notion that Buck’s comments somehow entirely validate Cito’s actions are pretty obviously quite flawed.
So please, let’s understand what happened in September 2010 for what it really was: a nice gesture from Cito towards a player he felt was an important veteran on the club, which may have been massaged from upstairs, as it helped maintain Buck’s status as a Type-B free agent in the Elias Rankings (though I’m being a bit generous acknowledging that, seeing as Buck, per MLBTR on 09/08/10, was somewhat comfortably above the cutoff), but took valuable playing time away from the catcher who was likely to go into the next season as the club’s starter, and very conveniently for Cito’s legacy, helped pad the club’s record in what had long been know to be his victory lap as manager.
And let’s especially stop this nonsense about to credit Cito for anything that happened last week.