Baseball is in full swing-ish, and apparently so is Richard Griffin when it comes to answering questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star, because once again back on Friday we had ourselves a fresh Griff Bag to hijack. Nails much?
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to email@example.com and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
What would have to happen this year for Canada to win the WBC? If not this year, then when?
Tyler W, Toronto
Uh… I dunno…they’d have to find some half-decent players less willing to embarrassingly proffer the kind of lame excuses Ryan Dempster and Russell Martin have allowed themselves to use? Or maybe they’ll just have to wait for Jameson Taillon to get a bit older (yet not be quite good enough to get asked to play for the States), and guys like James Paxton to figure it out. Wouldn’t hurt to change the timing of the tournament, either. Like, why not do it in October, schedule it in the gaps between playoff series’, and feature only guys on non-playoff teams? Sure, some players would opt out due to fear of overuse, and MLB might not want their big showcase overshadowed, but I think organizations would much less fearful of injury, and it would make for a much, much better tournament.
Truthfully, though, in this kind of short tournament, anything can seriously happen. I mean, a 98-win MLB club still loses four of every ten games, so… shit happens in this sport. Some damn pitching and some participation from the best the country has to offer would help, but there’s always a shot. Just look at how achingly close they were to getting past Team USA, or how they beat them in ’06 and came close in ’09, or how the Mexican team that Canada beat the piss out of (literally and figuratively) also beat the States.
A lot of praise has been lavished on Anthopoulous for the way he navigated this off-season, and most of it is deserved. In the interest of balance, what would you say his worst five moves have been in his tenure as Jays GM? The ridiculous two-year contract he gave to loveable band-aid Dustin McGowan and moving Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco are the first that come to mind. Still, it’s not like the McGowan contract is prohibitive, it’s just dumb, and Napoli’s OPS dropped .243 last year to more Clark Kentian levels. What else springs to mind?
Flipping Napoli for Francisco sure is a whole lot worse than the McGowan contract– which, to be fair, is inoffensive in terms of dollar amount, but especially silly because of the timing of it and the roster spot it ties him to– and is pretty clearly the biggest misstep in AA’s tenure. But it’s certainly not the only one– so much so that I wouldn’t even place McGowan’s deal in my top five.
What I’d say is most remarkable about the bad moves Anthopoulos has made is how he’s been able mitigate the damage from them. For example, the Jays lost Edwin Encarnacion on waivers to Oakland in November of 2010, only to be dropped by Oakland and re-signing here a month later. It’s worked out, but to me that’s still one of his worst ones, and I think the Halladay trade, praised as it was at the time, has to be up there too. He managed to turn Michael Taylor into Brett Wallace into Anthony Gose, and took some of the prospect-y uncertainty out of it by making Travis d’Arnaud a key part of the R.A. Dickey deal, but the deal as first completed, with Kyle Drabek the centrepiece, doesn’t look so hot.
Fourth and fifth on my list are moves that I felt were based on solid enough reasoning to be fully behind at the time– and probably for far too long afterwards. For one, trading away Aaron Hill, and not being able to correct the problems with his swing that they appear to have done rather easily in Arizona, is a big whiff (and not just because it brought back strikeout machine Kelly Johnson). I mean, I get that the smart play for the Jays was to not pick up Hill’s options for 2012, given the two seasons he’d just had, so I thought the deal made total sense– trading that non-entity for either a Type-B draft pick or a year-plus of a second baseman who has averaged two-and-a-half wins over and up and down career– but obviously Alex would want a mulligan on that.
For two, while I honestly do still want to not discount too greatly the reputation that preceded John Farrell, which suggests he’s an intelligent, malleable open-minded baseball man who is capable of thinking through the obvious shortcomings on display early in his managerial career, the Jays demonstrated rather clearly that they made a mistake with his hiring when they dealt him this off-season to Boston. A lot of fans want to blame Farrell for orchestrating his own exit– and he’s certainly not undeserving of some of that– but the fact of the matter is that the Jays knew he wanted out the winter before and stopped it from happening, and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have been capable of doing so a second time. All the stuff about wanting to let him go if his heart was elsewhere sounds nice, but since they were OK with that after closing the door on a move to Boston following the 2011 season, and since they showed zero interest in extending him before his contract expired, they basically acknowledged that he wasn’t the right man for the job.
Honourable mention bad moves: Adam Lind’s “team friendly” contract, the signing of Omar Vizquel, keeping Cito Gaston on to manage one last season, and the multiple prospects given up for J.A. Happ (plus a couple months of Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter).
I’ve read a lot about batting order recently and most in-depth analysis shows that hitting your best batters in the 1 and 2 spots produces more runs in a season than hitting them in the traditional 3 and 4 spots.
This makes sense to me as it gives your best hitters more ABs over the course of a year and makes a positive difference (albeit a small one of maybe 5 to 10 runs over a full year).
My question is – why isn’t any team following this advice? With everyone trying to eke out every last ounce of performance why is everyone ignoring this avenue?
Breaking with tradition just isn’t that easy– I mean, look at how beholden clubs continue to be to the closer myth, which I think is a much more obvious traditionalist bugaboo than lineup optimization. To successfully go a different way, not only do you have to convince whatever old reptiles occupy other parts of your front office and coaching staff that it’s worth it, but the players themselves, who attach prestige– and, more importantly, see money attached– to certain lineup spots and the type of production associated with them. On top of that, you have to be willing to endure the added media scrutiny that will invariably come when reporters and fans can’t wrap their heads around the fact that the changes don’t work like magic.
I’m with you, I’d like to see more thinking like this start to permeate the game at the big league level, but Major League jobs are just so scarce that I understand why most managers or GMs don’t want to risk running afoul of their employers, their players, and their markets by being excessively unorthodox. Give it time, perhaps.
Here’s possibly another angle on the “Who catches Dickey” conversation. Dickey seems happy with any of the three options. Thole seems to be destined for Triple-A. By Opening Day JP could well have caught him about the same number of games as Blanco (and more recently) although they will obviously be Spring Training + WBC vs. “real” games. And catching Dickey seems to be more of a physical issue (chasing knuckleballs to the backstop!) than a mental one (calming the pitcher, pitch selection, etc). Would one of the other pitchers (e.g. Romero) benefit more from Blanco’s veteran-ness than Dickey? Your thoughts?
CB in Toronto
Uh… Blanco was brought in because Dickey himself had spoken to the club about how comfortable he was throwing to him, and because the pitcher had said he was the only catcher to really seem to be a natural at handling him, so I don’t think it’s simply a matter of athleticism and having caught him more recently. And while Dickey has said that he thinks all the catchers in camp can handle him, so he’s fine with whoever he’ll be working with, that may simply be the diplomatic thing to say with microphones in his face. The team certainly seems to be of the mind that he should have a personal catcher, or that it’s maybe too much for an already deficient defender in Arencibia to handle, and I think that makes total sense. So no, I don’t think Blanco would be better off with someone else.
More importantly, let’s not go fucking nuts with ascribing magical powers to a catcher just because he’s old. The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last three World Series with a catcher who won’t turn 26 for another two weeks, so… yeah, no.
The lineup for the Blue Jays seems almost set, and we have a pretty good idea who is likely to fill the few remaining holes. But AA has also promised the Bison owners that he’s going to put a competitive team on the field in Buffalo, and has signed a bunch of guys with that in mind. As well, the Bisons represent our insurance policy, so we want them to be playing well, and winning games. With that in mind, any idea what their lineup looks like, and what their chances are for this season? Moreover, they’ve got a great stadium, and it will be fun to slide down the QEW to catch some games through the season. How are the Bisons shaping up?
If you’ve been watching the Jays in Spring Training so far, you’ve seen yourself a large number of Buffalo Bisons– and your right, it would seem that the Jays have stocked up on minor league veterans in order to both show commitment to their new affiliate and to ensure that they have some warm bodies if they need some depth.
From memory, and a quick glance at some spring stats, I’d say the Bisons will look something like this, more or less:
C Josh Thole
1B Lars Anderson
2B Mike McCoy
SS Ryan Goins
3B Andy LaRoche
LF Ryan Langerhans
CF Anthony Gose
RF Moises Sierra
DH Luis Jimenez
SP J.A. Happ
SP Justin Germano
SP Dave Bush
SP Ramon Ortiz
SP Claudio Vargas
There are some missing names, for sure– Velez and Zawadzki jump out– and certainly some guys might get dealt or won’t want to ride the buses, others might get promoted, but… I dunno… off the top of my head that’s probably something like what it will look like at first.
Enjoy your blog.
The for and against DH is being debated once again and I have, what I think is, a simple solution to the issue. Let the home team manager decide before each game whether to play with or without a DH. The home team manager would base his decision on whether he felt it would be advantageous to his team to play with or without the benefit of a DH. This would allow a new element to managing and create a whole new reason for sports writers and fans to second-guess managers.
Would love to hear what readers of your blog have to say about this suggestion.
It’s interesting, but… no. The National League is one of the few pro leagues left where the DH isn’t used, and while I can’t deny that it think it’s quaint and cute in its own little way, on the other hand, pitchers, as a group, are simply fucking atrocious at hitting. They posted a .327 OPS and .149 wOBA in 2012, while striking out over 37% of the time. It’s just not a thing that should be happening in the Majors anymore, I don’t think.
My wife and I own a home in Dunedin and have been coming down to spring games for years. Two things we’d like to know:
a) In away spring games, the Jays often seem to be in violation of the rule which requires teams to bus a minimum number of starters that were on the prior year’s regular roster. Yet the veterans often play in B games, which the fans are not encouraged to attend. Why doesn’t the media do more to protect the fans’ interests in these issues?
b) Can fans attend B games, and if so, how do we find about them?
Bill and Vi Grimmett
I think you’re absolutely right about the Jays not sending quality players to some of their road games, but what are these star-studded B-games you’re talking about? Pretty sure that’s not really a thing.