New year (uh… eleven days ago), new Griff Bag, as Richard Griffin helps tide us over through a slow-ish January by diving into some (read: a metric fuck-tonne of) questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star– which means that it’s time for me to crack it open and feast on the goo inside.

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!

Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

Back when all the Dickey trade rumours were flying around, I was wondering about what the Winter Tour meant from a player personnel standpoint. A couple of players that came up in trade rumours (Anthony Gose, J.P. Arencibia) are taking part in the Winter Tour and I was curious if a player being included in the Winter Tour meant that they were “safe” from a trade standpoint. I know it’s a bit far fetched — why would AA turn down a trade just because the player had agreed to do some publicity? — but is there some link between the Winter Tour and a player’s value to the club?


Mike W, Toronto

Yeah… no. It means sweet fuck all.

Vernon Wells hit stops on the 2011 Winter Tour less than two weeks before he was dealt. Do you think Alex Anthopoulos hesitated for a nanosecond when Tony Reagins and his offer to eat that ridiculous contract came a-callin’?



Q. Am I the only one not happy with the NHL coming back? I am very concerned the playoffs will cut into my Blue Jays coverage this spring. Anyways Mr. Griffin, enjoy your articles as always.

My question is while everyone is talking about the Blue Jays starting rotation and rightfully so, am I a fool to think the offence is going to be that much better as well. Reyes and even a non-juiced Cabrera seem to huge upgrades over Escobar and Snider/Thames/Davis . . . Do you think we have a World Series calibre offence . . .

Chris McMillan, Marsville

I guess I understand the disappointment over the NHL, but I can’t begrudge hockey fans– myself being one, frankly– for being happy that the game is back, and caring about the playoffs in the spring like they always do. The sport still has a long way to go until rink and equipment costs consign it to polo-like oblivion, so the Jays had better just get used to it.

As for the offence, it’s not Trout-Hamilton-Pujols, but yeah, I think as part of a really well-rounded club, it’s going to be just fine. Not necessarily just for those upgrades, but because you’d also figure that Lawrie, Rasmus and Arencibia could hardly be worse, too. And platooning someone with Adam Lind certainly won’t hurt either.

Now, the stuff Anthopoulos always says, about how good they were up until the point that Bautista went down, is maybe a bit much– they went into the All-Star break, after which Bautista only had 21 plate appearances, with the third most runs scored in the AL, but were fifth in wOBA and tied for sixth in wRC+– but I don’t think it’s going to be a concern. And they’re going to be damn fun to watch.



Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

Enjoyed the article on R.A. Dickey and totally agree he is going to be fun to watch and to listen to. At the other end of the rotation, given Romero’s struggles is he definitely going to take the fifth spot? For sure J.A. Happ isn’t a future Cy Young candidate but he certainly looked better than Ricky in the home stretch.

Frank Taker, Prescott

You’re not wrong that Happ looked better down the stretch– before he broke his foot, that is– but placing him ahead of Romero at this point doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and not just because of the weird, uncomfortable optics and politics of it– though I’m sure there’s an element of that involved as well. Obviously whatever stature Romero has with the club becomes irrelevant when the performance isn’t there, but this is a little more complicated: we’ve seen that Romero can be much more successful than he showed in 2012, and I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to feel that the minor shoulder surgery he had following the season may help him towards getting back on track.

Without a doubt there’s a chance he’s still not the same guy he once was, and I think it’s entirely defensible for the Jays to believe that that is where Happ comes in. Taking the opposite path– making Romero force his way past a lesser pitcher or else leaving him and the $23.85-million remaining on his contract in the minors– just seems less optimal, doesn’t it? I get what you’re talking about with last year’s performance, but let’s not be too hasty in assuming Romero’s completely lost the plot for good.



Q. Richard Stoeten,

After reading your Ryan Freel column, I am wondering if you have re-considered your opinion on home plate collisions. It seems to me that allowing players to launch themselves at full speed into catchers at home plate is a recipe for disaster. Isn’t it time to change the rules so that only a regular slide is permitted on a play at home (or any other base, for that matter)?

On an unrelated matter, now that Jays fans are talking World Series again, we need to establish the list of the most significant hits in Jays history: So, isn’t Ed Sprague’s Game 2 homer against the Braves in 1992 more significant than Roberto Alomar’s Game 4 homer against Dennis Eckersley? Sprague’s homer comes in the 9th inning, with the Jays down 1 in the game, down 1 in the series, with one out while pinch-hitting on the road against Jeff Reardon in only his third AB of that post season.

Alan G, Toronto

I’m not sure that Freel’s concussion issues were generally the result of home plate collisions, but I think your point stands. I mean, I get as much of a kick out of a full-on collision as anyone else– save maybe Ray Fosse, Buck Martinez and Buster Posey– but just how necessary is it, really? Let’s not be hockey about this, amiright?

As for Sprague’s homer, indeed, it was massive, and deserves to be in the conversation about which was the most significant in club history. Mind you, that’s not a conversation I particularly give two shits about, but sure… have at it.



Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

Why is the acronym for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America written as BBWAA? I’m pretty sure “baseball” is one word. The second ‘B’ in ‘BBWAA’ is a bit dumb, no?

S. Postma, Waterdown

Not as dumb as some of its members’ Hall of Fame ballots, but OK… sure.



Q. Richard Stoeten,

How serious are the consequences if Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos don’t return to top form? Is there an internal reliever who you project could step up to be a reliable closer? Signing a player like Rafael Soriano would make the Santos deal seem misguided, but I think AA’s taking a very big risk.

Chris McKee, Toronto

Uh… yeah, this is all way too closer myth-ish for my taste. And, honestly, you’d think that people in a town that saw Jeremy Accardo once step up to be a reliable closer, for fuck sakes, would be a lot closer to getting it.

The Jays have a number of impressive arms in their bullpen– certainly more than just two who can reliably hold a lead for one inning after entering with no one on base and none out.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think the Jays wouldn’t do well to add another quality arm, but it’s definitely not because of the fear that Janssen and Santos are the only ones who could possibly pitch in the ninth inning without soiling themselves. And if there are negative points to potentially signing Rafael Soriano, they sure as shit don’t have anything to do with what it might make the Santos trade look like. The cost in terms of money, the draft pick, and the loss of draft bonus pool money are probably enough to keep the Jays from having much interest there, but in the unlikely event they can negotiate Soriano (and Boras) down to a number that makes it worth their while, why not? Having three arms like that at the back of the bullpen would be kinda spectacular.



Q. Hello Mr. Griffin Stoeten,

I just finished reading that know one go inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, and while the backlash for Barry Bonds et al., was expected, what really irked me is that there was FIVE blank ballots. Do you agree with handing in a blank ballot? I think when the voters themselves try to make a statement, they tend to make a mockery of the process as a whole. If you don’t want to vote, then get off the list of voters and let someone else have a chance. Is this kind of behaviour accepted behind the scenes? Also, why does it matter if a guy was a so-called jerk to the media, what does that have to do with anything? Barry Bonds not getting in on the first ballot is a joke, and dare I say, race motivated. I see Clemens got more votes and he was actually caught doing something wrong, but alas, he is white. Do you think writers should even be the one’s who vote? Seems to me like that is a giant conflict of interest that I’m sure, no writer will ever bring up.

Shawn Linton, Bowmanville, Ont.

Holy fuck. That’s a lot to get to in just one question, but let me try…

The more I think of what happened with Hall voting this year, the more I keep coming back to Jeff Bagwell as most emblematic of what’s so warped about it.

It’s plausible that certain “small hall” voters just don’t feel as though guys like Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker and Alan Trammell quite make the grade. I don’t agree, but thinking so is a voter’s right, and doesn’t indicate to me the fact that anybody isn’t taking his or her participation in the process seriously.

I can’t also say that it’s not the right of voters to choose to retroactively take the moral high ground when it comes to the era of PEDs that they fully understood was going on all along– yet did absolutely nothing to stop– even though I think that voting as such is a pretty dismal, disingenuous attempt to whitewash history. But if someone honestly can’t vote for admitted steroid users, or ones on whom we have actual evidence of use– like McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Bonds and Clemens– I can’t entirely say they’re being unserious in their ridiculousness, though I vehemently disagree with that choice.

Others still, who I may disagree with even more strongly, have created a false tier in their heads and refuse to vote for anybody in his first year of eligibility, or are at least extremely selective about who they bestow such a non-existent honour on, citing nonsense like the fact that, back when positional standards weren’t yet defined, and the process was still clearing the backlog of greats from the first half of the century, Joe DiMaggio was on the ballot twice before he was elected. That would rule out Biggio, Piazza, Schilling, and Lofton, too.

But with no “first ballot” nonsense to contend with, nothing resembling genuine evidence as far as PEDs are concerned, and a very obviously Hall-worthy resume, how the hell does anyone– let alone 40% of the damn electorate– justify not voting for Bagwell?

Yes, he played in an offence-heavy era, and at a premium offensive position, so the bar has to be high, but he produced more WAR both in total, and in his peak seven years, than Frank Thomas, Hank Greenberg, Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray, Mark McGwire, and many, many others. He stole 202 bases, hit 449 home runs and 488 doubles. He won an MVP award. His career slash line is a ridiculous .297/.408/.540.

I suppose someone could try to make the bogus “didn’t feel like a Hall Of Famer” argument, or point to his relative lack of All-Star appearances (due to some fantastic other NL first basemen during his career: McGriff, McGwire, Helton. Galarraga), but clearly there is something deeper going on with Bagwell’s candidacy, and we know exactly what it is: the horseshit suspicion that he was on something.

Mike Piazza, easily one of the best catchers in the history of the game (most home runs, by far the best OPS+, a seven year WAR peak better than anybody not named Bench and Carter, and the same total WAR as Yogi Berra), suffers similarly.

This stuff, above anything else– even the phony moralizing tripe we’re fed about guys with genuine PED concerns– is why submitting a blank ballot, and the voting in general this year, was a joke and a disgrace to anyone who thinks the process ought to be taken somewhat seriously. (Well, that plus the votes that went to Aaron Sele, Sandy Alomar Jr., and the like).

To combat it, first and foremost, I think the votes and the voters should all be made public, as the BBWAA already does for seasonal awards. Even if doesn’t become a formal part of the process, that way the people responsible for the irregularities– things like votes for Sele or votes for Clemens but not Bonds– will ultimately have to justify their selections. It might not change much, but it would be a start.

I’m not terribly concerned about the personality issues, and I’m not sure there’s a better solution than to have the writers vote– though I’d be willing to guess that front office people, who’ve had no choice but to adapt to the advances in how the game is evaluated, would probably do a better job. But some damn accountability would be nice. Some process to suspend the votes of those abusing them would be nice. And so would fans not letting them keep getting away with hiding behind spurious garbage like “he had bacne,” or “the other Hall of Famers don’t want these guys in” (fucking obviously), or wilfully ignorant nonsense like acting as though they have anything close to an idea of how much PEDs helped certain guys, when they can’t even explain something as simple as why they didn’t help the countless competitors that faced Bonds and Clemens and still wound up being Jason Grimsely and FP Santangelo.

The pseudo-science and wonder drug theories, the historical revisionism, and the guilt-by-innuendo is so especially loathsome when it’s coming from a body that’s now got so many members posturing like they’re the guardians of the game’s integrity when they all– as ten-year BBWAA members– were covering the game before MLB started drug testing in 2004, and many of them through the era in which nobody was saying shit-all about it.



Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

Not to beat the trades in the offseason to death, but I still can’t believe that they occurred and at times I wake up thinking, “wait, am I in Toronto where this type of thing NEVER happens?”

My question is this. It seems that the Jays gave up a lot more talent to get one player (Dickey), than they did to get three stars from the Marlins. Is this mainly because the Marlins were desperate to offload all the contracts, while the Mets knew they had a solid market from where to draw from? Thanks,

Zake Ameen, Milton

I think you’re on the right track by pointing to the contracts, Zake, but the disparity you see is more because you have to consider the contracts as components of the deal. It’s true that the Jays were getting much more immediate on-field talent than the Marlins in the blockbuster between the two teams, but that value was evened out by the fact that the Jays were taking the massively backloaded deals to Buehrle and Reyes of Miami’s hands. If those players had been on friendlier contracts– ones the like the one it was understood R.A. Dickey was going to sign– the Jays would have had to give up a lot more in order to get them.

Miami’s desperation to shed money quickly was certainly part of why the Jays don’t appear to have given up as much, but it was mostly the way that the dollars factored into the overall exchange of assets, I’d say.



Q. Do you know which hotels the Blue Jays stay at during spring training?


Larry Steed, Toronto

I don’t, though even if I did, um… what for?

Maybe I’ll find out in February– I’m going to check out Dunedin for the first time this year, but only for long enough to take in a little action, maybe ask some questions, take a couple pictures so I don’t have to steal John Lott’s awesome ones all spring, and get enough notes together for a DJF guide. And not for a damn minute longer than that.



Q. Richard Stoeten,

What’s the word on Dustin McGowan? He fell out of the news early last season and updates were slim. Does he stand a chance of pitching in any capacity with the Jays next year or beyond?

Cory Abraham, Elliott Lake, Ont.


Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

I’ve been a frequent reader of your mailbags in the Star but never gotten up and written in — maybe all the offseason excitement is getting to me! One of your letter writers asked if R.A. Dickey would be willing to spread the mysterious wisdom of the knuckleball and you replied that it was impractical and highly unlikely because players, in general, would not want to disappear for the 2-3 years it takes to shift gears and become competent at throwing it. Well, the Jays seem to have a player whose career has (involuntarily) done just that: Dustin McGowan. Seeing as remaining a power pitcher keeps not working out for him, and the Jays keep investing in his potential return, is it possible that he might take advantage of the necessary rehab process — and the presence of an established expert — to reinvent himself with a pitch that would put less strain on his body and hopefully result in fewer and less severe injuries down the road?

Thanks for your time and keep up the great work!

Adam Schneider, Oakville

The problem with that, Adam– at least one of them– is the fact that McGowan is out of options. And since reinventing himself would mean heading off to the minors for a very long time, it would would mean that the Jays would have to expose him to waivers, and potentially lose him in the process.

Of course, his contract and injury history may render that concern moot, but that wouldn’t be the end of the problems with such a plan.

Dickey transitioned to the knuckleball not so much due to injury, but due to the fact that he had otherwise ordinary stuff, so his story is quite different from McGowan’s, as is his profile as a pitcher. Plus, he’d been throwing some version of a hard knuckler all along, calling it a forkball, or “The Thing.” I just don’t think it’s quite as plausible that McGowan could do it, especially since command isn’t exactly his calling card, and the fact that Dickey would be teaching him a harder knuckler that may not limit strain on the arm as much as you’d suspect.

It couldn’t hurt to try at some point, as an absolute last resort, but I’m not terribly optimistic about the outcome, especially since it plays so far away from McGowan’s strengths. And I think this notion that any pitcher might be able to take up the knuckleball truly diminishes what a special, special talent Dickey is. I mean, for every R.A. Dickey there is some kind of staggering number of guys with big potential who flamed out.

And speaking of not being optimistic, as to Corey’s question… yeah… I’m not, unfortunately.



Q. I understand your feelings about not going with a grass field this year, but what about having a regular dirt infield instead of having sand at home/first/second/third bases? Do you know if the players prefer one over the other?

JJ Redington, Winooski, VT

Obviously any change, when it comes to the field, will be one for the better. I can’t imagine anyone, outside of the Argos organization, and the people who bring in monster truck rallies, who isn’t damn ready to get the meth addled ghoul’s front lawn that passes for turf replaced with natural grass– and, shit, surely even the Argos probably know it’s in their best interests to get the fuck out of Rogers Centre and into a more appropriately sized venue.

They can’t possibly do this fast enough. I’m sure the players agree.



Q. Hi Richard Stoeten:

I don’t understand why the Jays let Jason Frasor go, why, in his words, they “closed the door on him.” He’s our career appearances guy, he’s been super reliable, and has a deceptively strong arm, maybe only a km or two shy of the kind of power arms AA’s been assembling in the bullpen. If nothing else, he strikes me as the kind of guy we’d like to have setting up the fireballers. Plus he was no doubt happy to stay in TO; he wasn’t making us sit around and wait or asking for more money like good-old Oliver. Can you help me to understand this one?

Matthew McKean, Ottawa

Frasor has been a good soldier for the Jays, sure, but he hasn’t been the same guy over the last two seasons as he was in 2009 and 2010, and they’ve now collected younger, cheaper arms, many of whom can be optioned to the minors without having to pass waivers, and who’ll give the Jays more flexibility– both in payroll and in the way they put the ‘pen together. I must admit, I thought he might be in line for a bigger contract than the one he signed with Texas, but still, I don’t have a problem with the Jays closing the door and not paying even that much for a guy who they figured would be no better than the fourth option out of the ‘pen– and probably not even that– with so many other big arms back there.

And I have to wonder if it maybe didn’t help that at the end of the season he told reporters that his best two months in the Majors came when he was dealt to the White Sox for two months at the end of 2011.



Q. Richard Stoeten,

Thank you for sharing your insight with all of us. It is appreciated. What would you think of Brandon Morrow being the next Jays closer? My reasoning is I think he may be a little too injury prone to be a starter. He only pitched 21 games last year, has only topped 30 games once, hasn’t really come close to 200 innings in a season yet and while he’s great when he’s out there, it’s frustrating when you think of that talent sitting on the bench for 2.5 months. But with his outstanding stuff he would be great at closing. Seattle tried him in relief with mixed results, but I think he would be more successful this time as he has had a lot more innings to work out his pitches.

Norm B, Cambridge

For fucking serious???

Uh… Morrow flipped between the bullpen and the rotation when he was with the Mariners, and the bullpen stints kept his innings down, so when he first came to Toronto, and moved permanently into the rotation, they placed him on an innings limit, shutting him down in early September of 2010. He’d have otherwise made 30 starts that year, and he couldn’t have done it during his Seattle years when he was coming out of the ‘pen. So… what’s the issue, exactly?

Yeah, he’s been a little injury prone, but his actual arm and shoulder stayed healthy last year, unlike the previous two, which makes me think it’s not at all implausible to think he can manage to put in a full, healthy season. And if he does? Look the fuck out. He was twelfth in ERA among pitchers with more than 120 innings pitched last year, and 35th in FIP. The other peripherals don’t stack up quite as well, but still… let’s fucking see where this goes and not be goddamned insane about it, shall we?



Q. Hey Griff Stoet,

Two minor complaints about the Jays/Rogers. First, I was surprised to learn the Jays ticket office closed early for the holidays (closed Friday Dec. 21 through Jan 1). I guess they figured no one was gonna buy last minute gift of tickets this year?!?!? I understand closing through New Years Day but not on the 21st — I wanted to talk to someone and buy tickets that day!

Second, I’d love to rent the documentary “Knuckleball” . . . but guess which cable provider does not have that available currently via On-Demand? Any other potential off-field screw-ups on the horizon this year for the Jays/Rogers?

Bryan T, Waterloo, ON

Shitty buzz.

As for other off-field screw-ups… ahh, who knows? I don’t think this quite counts– they’ve been a steal of a deal for years, and I can understand what the Jays are doing– but I’m sure people aren’t going to like the fact that the club’s Fan Pass program seems like it’s going to be seriously limited this year; several people have been telling me that they’ll be limited to only those who had them last year, and only two per account.

But… yeah, whatever.



Q. Hey Richard Stoeten,

Like many Blue Jays fans, I am already looking ahead to Spring Training, and I follow the training camp news, scores and stories from the first day that pitchers and catchers report. But I have never understood why most (if not all) of these games are not televised. Especially considering the alternate programming that is offered during these Spring Training games. It baffles me that Sportsnet (as an example) would show darts, spelling bees, or log cutting when Jays baseball is in demand and is available, even if it is just exhibition. As someone in the media, can you explain why the games aren’t televised? Will someone in the Jays organization PLEASE make this happen?

Emma Kelly, Waterloo, Ont.

I’d imagine it’s a cost issue, but I’m with you– even though Spring Training gets more thunderously fucking dull by the end than I think you realize, especially with the expectations on the team this year, you’d think it would be in Rogers’ interest to televise a whole lot more games. I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of them adding some more to the schedule before all is said and done, for whatever that’s worth.



Q. Hi Richard Stoeten,

I have a question regarding David Cooper. It appears to me that he has become a forgotten piece of the current Blue Jays make up. Prior to his season-ending injury he was beginning to really develop into a reliable contact hitter. I like his approach at the plate. He can also hit left-handed pitching like Adam Lind used to three years ago. You are right when you said that Lind is not a “stiff.” He is not, but he will never, ever be the hitter he was a few years ago. I wish he would be, but I just don’t see it happening for him, at least not in Toronto. I realize that Cooper will not be a 30 HR guy, but he can hit .300, I believe, and be a very productive hitter. Why do you think the Jays brass have seemingly little faith in his potential? John Olerud didn’t hit a ton of home runs either. I certainly don’t want to compare the two, but I do see some similarities.

Scott Hudson, Brampton

Oh please. Why must every white, low-power first baseman to don a Jays uniform be compared to borderline Hall-of-Fame talent John Olerud? Even the “I don’t want to compare the two, but…” thing can’t help you past the ridiculousness here. I mean, Cooper just finished his age-25 season– Olerud, by then, had amassed ten times as many big league plate appearances as Cooper has, and had put up an .883 OPS in doing so, on his way to the kind of career any member of not just the current Jays, but anyone anywhere in the league should be thrilled to have.

In addition to being a far superior hitter (save for when Cooper was in the launching pad that is Vegas, facing not only Triple-A pitching, but Triple-A pitching that clubs didn’t hold in enough esteem to figure out a way to keep them from the damn PCL), Olerud was athletic and sure-handed enough to be a very good defender at first base– two things Cooper is not. And Cooper, for some reason, couldn’t walk to save his life during his 2012 stint in Toronto, something Olerud excelled at.

That said, if Adam Lind finally, finally runs out of rope this year, sure, give Cooper a try. He’s done everything you can possibly ask of him at Vegas, and while he may not be a perfect hitter by any stretch of the imagination, and while I may not quite be as on board as you are, Scott, with the “productive hitter” stuff, they absolutely ought to give him an opportunity to show what he can do… if they have no other options. And shit, if he can bring the walks up closer to in line with what he was doing in Vegas, and keep the ISO closer to the heights it reached during his second tour there, maybe he really can be a decent little hitter for the Jays. I’ve seen enough Lind that I’m just about ready for anyfuckingbodyelse.

Just don’t expect John Olerud.



Q. Hey Griff Stoet,

Love the commitment to your blog. Don’t always agree with you but still its great to have coverage. Question that has bothered me over the past couple of years. Why do the Blue Jays continue to have the names of their players on the back of their home jerseys? I love the look of the Sox, Yankees & Giants home jerseys. I don’t buy into the BS that the name on the back isn’t bigger than the name on the front or whatever reason for it. So I know this won’t benefit the on-field product, does it have to do with sales at the Jays branded stores? I would be willing to bet that the home whites sell worse than the blue jerseys. When at the Rogers Centre shouldn’t we know who plays for us? Maybe we could invest the savings in say, um I dunno ,grass at the Centre, or a shuttle bus for the Argos to play somewhere else? I kid, I kid (not really).

Johan Vincent, Burlington, Ont.

I damn near snapped my superior recti I eye-rolled so fast reading this one, so… that’s something, right?



Q. Richard Stoeten,

I know the idea of ‘protection’ has come into disrepute for some reason — but isn’t it at least plausible that part of the reason for Rasmus’s late season decline the fact that Bautista was no longer batting directly behind him?

Tony Baer, Madison

Yeah… the “some reason” protection has come into disrepute is because people study those kinds of things and have found that the whole notion is largely a myth, and because, frankly, the premise of it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in the first place. Dave Cameron explained the latter about as well as possible in a piece at (Insider Only) this May, when he examined why Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun had been defying the concept:

The protection theory sounds true enough, but it begins to break down once you look at the evidence and think through the conclusions it forces you to draw. After all, the basic premise of the theory is that pitchers are going to change their approach in such a way that it benefits the hitter being protected, making it more likely he gets a pitch to hit. However, that is the result the pitcher is supposedly trying to prevent, so the protection theory forces us to believe that pitchers choose to throw pitches that make it more likely that they have to face the scary on-deck hitter with a man on.

And we can’t just cherry pick the places where we want to believe protection is having an impact. Did Edwin Encarnacion suffer from the abysmal protection he was afforded all season? Did Jose Bautista in 2011, when Jays cleanup hitters shat out a staggeringly pukeworthy .702 OPS?

No. So I can’t possibly believe Rasmus fell apart because Bautista was no longer in the lineup. I’d say the timing just happened to coincide with the league adjusting back to him after the brief, wonderful period where he’d started having success by moving his stance in closer to the plate– and that Colby never could make the requisite counter-adjustment.

I mean, it’s not like hitting in front of Encarnacion should have been so bad.



Q. Richard Stoeten,

With the rumours that (Miami’s Giancarlo) Stanton is available, why wouldn’t the Jays be interested? He would fit the mould of competeting the next 3-5 years, 1st base and DH with Stanton/Bautista in RF, and whoever isn’t in RF at 1st, and DH with EE, and having the ability to rotate all 3 through positions. Would a deal built around Gose or Rasmus, Sanchez and throwing in Lind to lower salary have a chance to get it done? If the Jays are looking at the next 3-5 years wouldn’t they want Stanton batting 4th behind Bautista and in front of EE? As always, a pleasure reading the mail bag. GO JAYS GO!

Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Are you in single season or career mode?



Q. I just read that Aaron Laffey signed with the Mets. Why would the Blue Jays let this youngster get away? He was dynamite on left-handed hitters.

David White, Perth Road Village

Uh… let’s not go nuts. Aaron Laffey had a nice-enough season as a fill-in for the Jays, but the lefties he was “dynamite” on still hit him to the tune of a .320 wOBA, and he certainly isn’t someone they, or anyone else, would have given a big league contract to. He elected free agency after the Jays tried to outright him down to Triple-A following the season, and the Mets signed him to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training in late December. The Jays could have re-signed him, I guess, and maybe they even tried, but he saw greater opportunity in signing on with the Mets. Or maybe he just likes Vegas.



Q. Hello Richard Stoeten and Happy Holidays.

Do you think the Jays will take a look at Jim Thome for that final bench spot? Wouldn’t he be great as a late inning pinch hitter/spot DH and additional clubhouse presence? Long considered one of the nicest and most professional guys in all of baseball, wouldn’t this be an ideal situation for both parties?


Andrew Gould, Toronto

Fans really do buy all the “clubhouse presence” nonsense that they’re sold about guys whose personalities and temperaments they have absolutely zero clue about, huh? I don’t say this to suggest that Thome isn’t as awesome as we all want to believe he is, but… it’s pretty weird that, very obviously, none of us has any idea, and yet so many people are really, really certain that they do.

Something that we do know about Thome, however, and something that makes it clear that he isn’t really a fit, is the fact that, like Adam Lind, he is a left-handed hitter. They posted similar numbers against right-handed pitching in 2012, though Lind’s sample is 100 PA bigger, and Thome’s numbers are driven by a .392 BABIP. Change that to a  two- and three-year sample and Thome starts looking considerably better– and better still when you stop looking at him as a platoon guy– Thome has a 132 wRC+ against lefties over the last two seasons, while Lind’s is just 63– but, ageist as it may be, it’s hard to envision even getting age-39 level production out of Thome, at this point. Plus, Lind is owed too much money to simply be dropped for a guy who didn’t outproduce him in 2012.

That said, if you can somehow find a taker for Lind, snapping up Thome, while maintaining a David Cooper/Rajai Davis platoon as a fallback? Where do I sign???



Q. Hi Rich Stoet:

Though it’s been a couple of years since I’ve written in, read the blog faithfully and continue to enjoy. Like many Jays fans, am excited about AA’s moves and have been reading quite a variety of blog sites. I’ve been astounded by the attitude of the sabermetric types who, in evaluation of players, dismiss character, community involvement, traditional stats, leadership and pretty much anything else that is not an “advanced metric.” What I’d like to know is what weight do the GMs, particularly AA, put on traditional stats vs. advanced metrics vs. character/leadership components.


Sandy Webster, St. Thomas

Look Sandy, no one says that character, community involvement and “leadership” don’t have value or that they shouldn’t be components of how a player is evaluated, it’s just… they’re just so incredibly poorly quantified– especially by media pontificators and those who swallow whatever they’re fed from them– and so largely irrelevant to on-field baseball success, that we can pretty much ignore them.

Yeah, things like work ethic and the ability to keep oneself out of trouble are things that teams certainly need to have a grasp of, but it’s just so beyond awful when people sitting in the stands or watching on TV try to draw grand conclusions about a person from their body language or their actions during the very brief time we can see them on the field or hear them in interviews. Ascribing traits to people based on such little data is bad enough, but then people assign immense value to these made up traits, which is beyond worse.

Lots of jerks, bad teammates and genuinely bad people, as incredibly subjective terms as even they are, have had immense success in baseball. Maybe having a bunch of bad character guys makes an already difficult season more difficult on teammates, and maybe those guys themselves sulk and check out, and maybe there’s some tangible impact it has on that sort of club’s entirely meaningless overall. But it doesn’t make a good team bad to have a shitty person on the field– it doesn’t make guys field the ball differently because they don’t like someone sitting in the dugout, just like the leader-y-est of leaders doesn’t imbue his teammates with any kind of talent they don’t already possess.

Maybe there’s a little wiggle room on this stuff, but if it were quantifiable, surely the difference it all makes would be pretty marginal in comparison to, y’know, actual baseball ability. And when it comes to measuring that– sorry again– a lot of the traditional stats just don’t cut it.

Sure, home run and strikeouts and walks and all kinds of things all have value in evaluating players, and all get used as components of other metrics, but the things that really get railed against– pitcher wins and RBIs (and, to a lesser extent, fielding percentage, assuming anyone out there is wacky enough to still use it)– simply have way too much noise in them to be remotely useful. RBIs matter so much on context, on teammates being on base, on opportunity, that there is simply nothing of value in looking at them alone and trying to say something meaningful about an individual’s ability. Same with pitcher wins– too much depends on the defence, on the offence, on the opposing pitcher, and on the bullpen for them to be any kind of individual indicator at all.

Again, I’m sure the leadership and character stuff has a place on the scouting side, but statistically speaking, the advanced metrics– usually proprietary ones more than the publicly available ones, I understand– have made their way into front offices.



Q. Given that the strain on a knuckleballer’s arm is not as significant as that for other types of pitchers, would it be feasible, in addition to a Cy Young knuckleballer’s regular start, to have him pitch 1-3 innings at the start of one or two other games during the rotation? I’m sure he pitches once or twice between starts, so why not make these pitches count?

I understand that trying to hit a knuckler can mess with the timing of the hitters, even for a day or two after facing the knuckler, so having one of the Jay’s various aces step in say the 4th inning of a game after some Dickey pitches have “dis-calibrated” the nervous systems of the opposition’s batting order, could be an unorthodox recipe for success. Dickey would become the soft throwing “opener” and the regular starter’s, ideally, would throw six or so innings to finish the game.

I would set up the order so that whichever regular starter(s) would benefit most from reduced innings expectation and the contrast in styles would have his start two or three days after Dickey’s.

You would, of course need buy-in from the pitchers, but John Gibbons seems to be the kind of manager who could sell this sort of thing to his staff.

Another option would be to throw him for 2-3 innings if one of the starter’s only goes 4-6 innings to make the jobs of the hard throwing relievers that follow easier.

Joseph Lubin, Toronto

I would never want to stifle out-of-the-box thinking, but… uh… no.

Comments (76)

  1. Holy hell Stoeten are you a morning blogger now?

  2. I’ve often thought it’d be interesting to have your “closer” be whichever starter was scheduled to throw his side session. Gives you more flexibility with your bullpen and you’d be more comfortable throwing your top relievers in a crucial spot in the 6th or 7th. Maybe not your 4th or 5th starters, but you gotta figure the top three in your rotation could pitch a clean ninth more often than not.

    And what the fuck is Johan Vincent talking about? Does he want names or not?

  3. The thing about Thome is this.. .the Jays seem to need a left handed better, or else their batting order is really right handed. I don’t know how much they care about this, since ROOGYs aren’t the thing that LOOGYs are, but instead of platooning, if the Jays could replace Lind with a good LHB, they’d be in good shape.

    Now, that’s not going to happen, so maybe we should just hope that they find a way to get a Canzer type to put in a platoon.

    • Reyes is a switch hitter, Bonifacio is a a switch hitter, Melky is a switch hitter, Izturis is a switch hitter, Rasmus is a lefthanded bat.

      I wouldn’t say their batting order is heavily right handed anymore.

      • It’s more that, depending on the order, your 3,4,5 hitters are all going to be right handed, leaving you vunerable to the ROOGY.

        • Except that Bautista crushes righties and Eddy-Chickenwing’s numbers against righties are still waaay above average.

  4. Do we get to count Josh Johnson as a Canadian? If his dad was born in Canada he should just be able to pick up his Canadian passport. I wonder if he even knows that.

  5. Stoeten, do you read Griff’s responses after doing your own? He seems to be increasingly cantankerous and I’m wondering if you agree. I also wonder if maybe he isn’t trying to emulate you just a little…

  6. “But it doesn’t make a good team bad to have a shitty person on the field– it doesn’t make guys field the ball differently because they don’t like someone sitting in the dugout, just like the leader-y-est of leaders doesn’t imbue his teammates with any kind of talent they don’t already possess.”

    In the heart of hearts of players, coaches, etc., it does make a difference. Pulling together as a team comes from a genuine brotherhood & comraderie that can best be understood by experience. If someone has your back, believe me, you’ll go an extra mile, even sacrifcing your own safety, for that person/people/team. Like culture, style, fashion, & art, even though you can’t necessarily touch it in physicality with our current general perceptive ability, it is real.

    • Yeah… no.

      • @ someone, you have to take stoetens baseball opinions with a grain of salt, he’s never played, so he has no way of knowing. taking his opinion on baseball would be like hiring a personal trainer who’s read every workout magazine int he world, but has never hit a gym.

        • I’ve never played baseball? Like, not once, ever?

          Someone would need to in order to call a very obvious ghost a ghost?

          Yeah… no. Ten points for being the first self-satisfied clown to go down this road, though, Gregg Zaun. You gonna fire half the GMs in the league, and most of the best ones, because they so clearly must be out of their depth?

        • Really? Because he never played the game?

          You know who never played the game?

          Alex Anthopoulos.

          You know who did play the game?

          Greg Zaun, known PED purchaser, and a complete idiot in the mold of Don Cherry.

          MLB players are professional athletes. It’s not about going the extra mile for a teammate, but going the extra mile because that’s what they have to do to stay in the league and make millions of dollars.

          That said, in a sport that’s filled with individual match-ups, I can’t even imagine what “going the extra mile” for one’s teammates would even look like.

          A winning culture comes from a team that wins. That will always beat out “good chemistry” because this is a sport and winning is important. The point of the game is to win, not to have a team of likable losers.

        • There’s a difference between feeling like “coming together as a team” helps you when you are actually on that team and quantifying it in real-life terms, i.e. wins. I come from more of a theatre background than a sports background, but I have been in productions with people who were the worst or where lots of people didn’t really get along, but everything comes out fine because you don’t have to like each other as long as you’re committed to and capable of doing a good job. All Stoeten is saying is that there’s no secret magic wherein a team of not very talented players suddenly becomes a great team because they’re all great clubhouse presences. While there are surely benefits to having a good team chemistry, it’s more important to have good players.

        • That’s why I only listen to vets like Zauner, the Buckster and ol’ Tabby.

          Nuts to Stoeten!

      • Well said someone. In my many experiences working on different crews as well as all the team sports I’ve played there is no denying that the better the people you work with the better the end result. Being a difficult thing to quantify doesn’t mean it isn’t true, as anyone who’s had to depend on a team or a teamate knows very well.

        • Yeah… no.

          I certainly wouldn’t argue that it’s quite the same when we’re talking about regular jobs, but… we’re supposed to believe that “the better the people you work with the better the end result” is true just because it sounds nice? It’s very obviously not.

          Sometimes the end result will be better, sometimes not.

          In different fields, and different sports, I get that the marginal value of being surrounded by “good people” (whatever narrow, superficial definition of that we want to use) may verge on being significant, but in such a compartmentalized, oddly individual “team” sport as baseball, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

          The incentives to do well an individual are massive, and I’d suggest that the rarity of genuine elite baseball talent makes it quite a bigger chunk of the success equation than whatever other talent you’re trying to make analogous.

          • Where I could see the benefits of a good working environment being realized is in the off-field training and conditioning. Just because they’re very very good at what they do – better than I will ever be at anything I do – it doesn’t mean they aren’t affected by their colleagues in a similar way that we are.

            If you work in an environment with good working habits, there’s a good chance you’ll be influenced to do the same.

            Now, I’m sure the impact isn’t anything near what Don Cherry’s of the world would have you believe but I don’t think the impact can be dismissed just because it’s an individual sport.

          • The incentives to do well as an individual are indeed massive, at any time, on any pay scale. The people who don’t understand this are most often the ones that are a detriment to the team. I don’t believe this changes just because the financial stakes are higher. However, just because every experience I’ve had shows me that the company, crew or team has more success when everyone is pulling in the same direction, doesn’t mean those have been your experiences. Simply that to the majority of the people I work with it is a fact of life and in no way something that can be dismissed out of hand because it is a difficult thing to quantify.

        • rob norton, but depending on a team or a teammate is different than liking them. I’ve worked with people that I like a lot outside of work, but hate working with because they’re unreliable or lazy or whatever. In terms of baseball, doesn’t depending on a teammate just mean relying on them to be good at their job? Halladay, for instance, has a reputation as being standoffish, do you think people don’t love having him on their team?

          • (Although I’m not really suggesting anyone says that Halladay is a bad clubhouse presence or anything. Although I know Griffin used to say a lot that he wasn’t a good leader for all the young Jays pitchers)

          • I appreciate what your saying Maggie but in my experiences when there are “cancers” in a group or a team it doesn’t matter how well they perform their individual job, their inability to properly interact with their fellow employees is a detriment to our bottom line, in the majority of occasions. Thats why as a company we decided to hire on personality over experience, to great results. Suddenly less people are getting the job done better. But this is just one example, and certainly not of an MLB team, but the point is chemistry is not something that can be so cavalierly dismissed because it doesn’t neatly fit into an equation

          • Rob Norton, I think I agree with you now, and I especially see your point in areas where less extremely specialized skills are involved. I still think that in terms of baseball, talent has to be the most important thing. I also believe that team chemistry gets mythologized in a crazy sort of way where if a team is winning broadcasters go nuts saying it’s because the team pulled together and found a way to win. Yes, they found a way, it’s called being good at baseball. But I do agree that there is such a thing as team chemistry and that it can’t just be dismissed completely.

        • You’re probably mixing cause and effect here.

          Producing well usually/often (almost always?) makes working with people more enjoyable. It dampens the negative feelings you have for the people you don’t like and amplifies the positive feelings you have for the people you like.

          Whom you like depends on factors much more complicated than their performance levels. We’ve all experienced this.

          If you think you know how to make people more productive by merely putting specific groups of them together, then you’d better write that shit in a book and sell it to Harvard Business Press. You’d be a billionaire in five years.

    • Sure, camaraderie has an affect in football or hockey where there is more of an “all-out” mentality, but baseball doesn’t usually require you to play through physical exhaustion or to push yourself on the field. It’s a game of brief moments of exertion followed by long moments of thought and planning. It’s a game about individuals and individual confrontations, with the only real coordination coming between infielders and between the pitcher and catcher.

  7. I remember meeting Vernon at the Winter Tour stop in Waterloo. He was very morose – almost as if he knew what was going down. He was traded the next day. It was interesting to know that I could possibly have the last Vernon Wells autograph as a Blue Jay – not that that means very much. My buddy also had no idea who JPA was and made a fool of himself. It was a great night.

    • That’s interesting. I remember reading that AA and the Angels GM had the trade pretty much agreed to, and AA came to Wells and asked if he’d waive his NTC, and Vernon slept on it and gave the okay the next day…so he very well could have known at that time.

    • He probably knew and felt bad about having to put the charade on. Vernon’s a good dude, even if he’s a useless ballplayer at this point.

  8. Is Lind actually better than thome I have my doubts

  9. This might have been the best/craziest bag ever.

    Honestly, re McGowan, I just feel awful for him at this point. In his very brief healthy moments he’s shown that he’s capable. Just a perfect shit-storm of injuries.

  10. I’m surprised you answered the “Bonds didn’t go to hall b/c of racism” question seriously.
    Griff told the guy to grow up. lol

  11. Stoeten, humour me:

    There are two hypothetically identical teams talent wise, they play in the same ballpark, same opponets, same conditions (i did say humour me) the only difference is Team A has Milton Bradley, Carl Everett, and every asshole that’s laced up a pair of cleats in the last decade. Team B has the Thomes, the Sean Caseys, the Barry Larkins. Assuming I could make all else magiclly equal, are you saying that these teams will perform the same?

    I’ll take team B and slaughter your band of misfits over a 162 game season. Chemistry and Character DO make a difference. And that is something that the statheads will never understand.

    • But it takes your “hypothetical” (read: impossible) situation for it to matter.

      Yes, if ALL other things are magically equal, then sure a bunch of guys who like each other might be able to become more than the sum of their parts and play a little better than a bunch of dicks who can’t make friends with a youtube kitten.

      But that isn’t the situation. You put talent on a team and they do their jobs.

      Are there dickish people at your work? Do you still do your job, because it’s in your best interests to work hard and be productive? Yes. Baseball players have a job: they play baseball, even if their shortstop is a bit of a douche and their fourth outfielder thinks he’s Willy Mays. Out they go and they play hard. And when douchey SS makes a great play, they’ll still high five and enjoy the win.

    • I’ll have a better time understanding it if you can actually explain why, rather than just putting whatever this is out there, then crossing your arms satisfied with a job well done.

      Part of another answer that you’d do well to have read, by the way, is the fact that it’s pretty ridiculous that we know anything close to enough about these people to ascribe such traits to them.

      • Winning creates good clubhouses, not the other way around.

      • It was probably an unfair example to throw out there, I agree. I just find it difficult to understand that people can’t grasp that players perform better if they are in a positive environment. Obviously I can’t link to any proof on the subject because Bill James hasn’t built a stat to measure a players level of satisfaction.

        I didn’t bring it up to pick any fights with fans on one side or other of the sabermetrics fence. I enjoy the extra information available to fans. But I’m also happy that baseball is pure and some of the things that make it great can never be measured.

        I also found it very telling that Anthopolous said in his interview with Mansbridge that whenever possible he’ll take “strong character guys, happy guys, good teammates” when choosing players. Anthopolous is not the ultimate adjudicator on the subject but I value his opinion.

        • If you didn’t bring it up to pick fights, stop with the snide Bill James comments as though all sabermetric folks fit in that narrow little box you’ve constructed.

        • The biggest issue with saying crap like this is that we know nothing about the athletes you’re talking about. We hear tabloidy snippets about their personality that’s been filtered through so many different news outlets before it reaches us.

          I agree that the effect may be non-negligible but to pretend that we have any idea how each player behaves off the field is laughable.

          • Google Milton Bradley.

          • Yes, there are some with exceptional and public fuck ups.

            The majority of the time we’re discussing players who we know very little about (i.e. Buehrle, Rasmus, Reyes, Lawrie etc.). However, I don’t doubt for a second that every single person on the TSN comment section can tell you if each player is a good clubhouse guy or not.

        • one reason you (smasher) may not be able to link to any such proof is because IT DOESN’T EXIST. only in the realm of ‘truthiness’ does it have any meaning. holy shit.

          you might also want to stop ignoring little qualifying statements like ‘whenever possible.’ those aren’t just words used to fill in the space, they actually mean something.

    • 1972-1974 Oakland A’s.

  12. Anyone remember when Steve in Toronto put Mike Wilner on hold? Still the funniest thing I’ve ever heard on the radio.

  13. Dunedin is great Stoeten, enjoy it.

    Tip for your guide: Do NOT buy a seat close to the field.

    The only seats that are shaded are in the ‘grandstands’ which are fantastically close to the field anyways and your Canadian, obnoxiously white, legs will not look like Cooked Atlantic Lobster by the 4th inning.

  14. Unrelated, but when do home opener seats go on sale? They sold out in like an hour last year right?

  15. What do we know about Denis Villatoro? 5 year contract. No value reported yet (that I can find).

  16. Anybody got info on Denis Villatoro? Is this some guy I should know about?

  17. Is a metric fuck-tonne larger or smaller than an imperial fuck-ton? I’m guessing something like 2.35 fuck-tonnes to the fuck-ton, but our American brothers will need clarification.

  18. Remember the ’02 Giants? They had Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. Two of the biggest assholes on the planet and they managed to come within 1 game of winning the world series. They literally got in dugout fights with each other and other players. Barry Bonds had a locker in a separate room, for Christ’s sake.

    The idea that “brotherhood” and camaraderie are so important is even more ridiculous in Baseball, a sport that is comprised mostly of individual match-ups. Players can’t freeze other players out by not passing to them like in basketball, hockey, soccer or football. There’s no opportunity for an asshole like Jeff Kent to get back at one of his teammates on the field. If the asshole wanted to fuck things up for his teammates, he would only be making himself look bad – things like overthrowing a cut-off man or botching a double play on purpose would be the only things that some asshole could really do to fuck with his teammates on the field.

    If he’s an asshole in the clubhouse then so be it. The other 24 guys are professionals and as @Wiper Blades said, there are assholes in all professions and despite their annoyance, should not have any bearing on the performance of everyone else.
    May I quote Mike Piazza, from “Barry Bonds: Baseball’s Superman”:

    “Barry Bonds may be different, but he’s getting results, I don’t care. The locker room stuff, I think that’s so overrated. You don’t have to be the best of friends with everyone in the locker room. You don’t have to take guys out to dinner. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s good when you have good guys on a team, but it’s sort of a bonus. There’s nothing Barry Bonds can’t do on a baseball field, so as far as I’m concerned, I want him on my team. I don’t have to be his best buddy.”

  19. Moral, chemistry and having a positive clubhouse are not meaningless.
    But because it can’t be measured or put in a pie chart some think it doesn’t exist.

    • Moral, chemistry and having a positive clubhouse are not meaningless.
      But because it can’t be measured some, correctly, believe that baseless speculation on each players contributions shouldn’t exist.

      • So you acknowledge that they are beneficial but your argument is that we shouldn’t speculate on how beneficial?

        • I’m just playin.
          Agree to disagree.

        • Yup. That’s essentially where I stand on it. I just get so tired of people suggesting a player aquistion was good or bad based on the fact that he’s a ‘good clubhouse guy’ or whatever Zaunism is popular at the time.

          I’d hazard a guess that they don’t contribute *that* much one way or the other but that’s just a guess.

        • I think Griffin nailed it best in his answer when he said that the problem with so-called advanced statistics isn’t them but that the problem with the sabremetrics crowd is they are so often arrogantly dismissive of anyone and anything that questions them or supports them. (Not saying that’s the case here per se, but it’s one reason I don’t hang out at BlueBirdBanter anymore.)

          So now Stoeten is saying these other “intangeables” aren’t totally irrelevant (close to it though?), but as they are impossible for fans to properly assess, we just shouldn’t discuss them?

          Now that’s a fair point. I know I’ve sometimes bought a line about a player based on something I heard only to find out that might not have been the case. So it’s right, we can only speculate when it comes to these things and take any conclusion with a grain of salt.

          But I don’t think that means we shouldn’t discuss them or have others jump on us for it. Especially in this day and age with the internet, there so many different stories that come out that can be discussed, even it’s within the context of a big caveat of no first-hand knowledge.

          What gets me even more though is people that jump on those that are close to the players having these discussions. The guys in the media spend a hell of a lot of time with the players up close and personal, they see how they interract, how they carry themselves away from the cameras, who’s friendly with who, players make candid remarks to them, they speak to the clubbies, etc.

          So unlike say the fans, the media guys have a hell of a lot to base their discussions of intangeables on and to my mind are well worthy of consideration. And when those media guys are former players that gives them that much more of an ability to filter all that they’re seeing.

  20. Re: Spring Training games on TV…
    I have heard from some reliable sources that Sportsnet will be streaming all ST games online….announcement to come soon.

  21. Stoeton is a hockey fan?!?! I had no idea! Way to go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *