Another week, another Griff Bag, as Richard Griffin tackles a new series of questions from his readers over at the Toronto Star, and… holy shit, I just re-read them. Ugh.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
So considering that Ricky Romero seems to still be struggling (I base this purely on Star coverage), why not send him down to Buffalo for the start of the season and keep Happ as the 5th starter?
Thanks, keep up the good work!
Nicholas Dodd, Montreal
Well, despite the insistence so far from the club that they won’t send Romero to Buffalo, there’s no reason to actually believe they’ll follow through on it if he continues to look absolutely 2012 atrocious. If they did, it would be worth giving a shit about, but– remembering what happened with Brett Cecil last year, when they similarly insisted he’d be part of the rotation, until they realized he couldn’t– until they actually do something stupid, I’m going to go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Frankly, even if they do take a struggling Romero north, it’s not like they’re forced to keep him there, and it’s not like there aren’t plausible reasons to believe he’s the better player to let prove he can’t do the job. He certainly was much better than J.A. Happ until some point midway through last year, and the fact that Happ has been clear in his preference, and has pitched a shade better than Dave Bush this spring, are hardly compelling reasons to make a change. It all comes down to Romero, and the Jays are entirely right to keep on assuming that he’s going to put it all together– whether they, or we, believe he really will or not.
He’s earned that respect, in my view, and as for the “what have you done for me lately?” arguments, it’s not like anyone actually disagrees on the key point in all this: if Romero sucks he shouldn’t be in the Majors. The only disagreement anyone has here is on the timing of the possible switch, and I think the Jays are right in showing faith in Romero and recognizing that it will be a whole lot more uncomfortable a thing to send him down than it would Happ– or to bring him back up if he gets his act together while Happ is keeping his head above water as the club’s fifth starter. And that’s assuming that they aren’t just saying the safe thing publicly while having much more heated discussion internally.
Ultimately, whichever path they choose, the result will be pretty much the same– the better of the two will find his way to the rotation with minimal damage done to the club’s long-term outlook. So… what the hell are we even talking about this for? Can we please just put the issue to bed? Please? Seriously???
No, eh? Well, OK then…
I have been watching the spring training activity when I can and I cannot say that Romero is doing all that much better compared to last year, albeit it is only early in spring training. His control has been off and when he walks someone or they get a hit, you just see how the wheels fall off when the next guy steps into the box. That said, Happ seems to be doing that much better with his control and game management up until now. All things being equal, what are the chances that Romero goes to Buffalo for a spell to see if he can find his control and mojo with Happ starting in the number five slot?
Dean Germano, Redding, CA.
I don’t think the chances are particularly high. Maybe if Romero comes out in his final spring starts and keeps on falling behind every hitter that he faces that will change, but there’s still no reason to believe he’s going to start the year in Buffalo just yet– much like there’s no reason to actually believe the “wheels fall off” narrative.
I get that he hasn’t been good, but there’s no need to make up things to make him sound worse. I mean, none of this happened behind closed doors or without game data being made available online, and if you remember, or take a cursory look at the play-by-play, that particular narrative crumbles pretty quickly. He followed both first inning walks on Friday with strikeouts. In the second inning he retired the two batters immediately following Jhonny Peralta’s home run. He had a rough third, but struck out Miguel Cabrera in the process and induced a Victor Martinez double play as well. So, it’s certainly not like he gave up a couple of hits and completely lost the plot. Like… at all. It was ugly, but it wasn’t that.
Is the media making more, for the sake of a good story, of the J.A. Happ “I’m a major league starter” situation than it is? Or is Happ not the team player we hoped he was? I know he’s bummed that he’s not in the rotation. But it’s inevitable that he’ll get his chances this year.
And I’d have to imagine that a strong performance and a great attitude, in whatever role he’s placed, on a team of this calibre will only pay off for him next year and beyond. Worse case scenario this year is that he has to take one for a potential championship team.
Matthew McKean, Ottawa
Loved you in Spinal Tap, but… yeah, we’re not quite on the same page when it comes to this stuff. The media is certainly not making a story out of the things Happ says. They’re newsworthy, and reporters wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t print what he said. I do, however, wonder about how his statements have sometimes been shaded– or left unshaded, allowing fans to fill in certain gaps for themselves, which has led to much of the negativity and consternation.
I’m of the belief that you can read Happ’s comments a couple of ways, and lately I’ve tended to give him the benefit of the doubt more than when it first came up. I can’t fault him for being honest about his disappointment, and frankly, I’m not sure his situation with the media would be any more comfortable if he flat out lied about it– wouldn’t they just keep prodding around for cracks in the facade if that were the case? And it’s not like he’s been unprofessional. He hasn’t called out Romero’s performance, he hasn’t shit on the organization for breaking promises, he hasn’t insisted publicly that he won’t report to Buffalo or that he’s demanding a trade. All he’s really said is that he thinks he’s a Major League starter, that he’s doing his best to accept his lot, but that he’s going to meet with the GM about the situation, and whatever comes of that conversation will be kept behind closed doors.
You can act like saying those things is a horrible affront to the club, and fill yourself with righteous indignation about this punk who can’t keep his mouth shut, but they also can come off like pretty honest answers from a guy with a lot of self belief, a lot of money riding on his last crack at arbitration next winter, and a track record that includes only 55 minor league innings since September of 2008.
He could speak differently, I suppose– certainly in a way that wouldn’t rub fans and their quaint beliefs about being a “team player” the wrong way– but I don’t think there’s an attitude issue there. Not in the way that I’ve read it.
Long time reader, first time e-mail. I’ll keep it short. As I’ve been watching the start to spring training and following some of the players and how they are coming along (trying not to read too much into spring play), I’ve been asking myself just how much leash will they give Romero this year if his pitching struggles of last year fall over into his starts this year? J.A. Happ seems to be pitching pretty well in spring and has been commanding the ball pretty well. If Romero struggles early in the year, how many starts do you think he gets before they consider bringing up Happ to replace him in the starting 5 should he not make the team as the long reliever?
I don’t think there’s a point in giving a number right now. It all depends on how good Happ looks and how bad Romero looks. But it’s not going to be a terribly long leash– the Jays aren’t stupid, or that beholden to Romero if he’s atrocious.
Long time reader, long time Blue Jays fan. Been bleeding blue ever since I was 3 years old, when it was baseball fever in Toronto with the 1985 division championship. Probably watched “Sky High” (The Story of the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays) over 3,000 times as a kid. Anyway, hope you can get around to this one (it would be my first to make it on the mailbag).
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I feel like there’s a lot of coverage this spring about Happ and his “uncertain” situation. From the tone of a lot of the articles, I get the sense that he’s very unhappy about being in Toronto and not starting. How much of this is J.A. being truly unhappy, or is there an element of a media spin that’s making a story out of it, perhaps one that’s bigger than it actually is?
Secondly, what percentage of a pitcher’s performance is impacted by a catcher’s ability to call a game?
Back in the day, I remember the team cheer being: “Let’s Go Blue Jays, Let’s Go” clap, clap..
Now it’s the New York style: (faster cadence) “Let’s Go Blue Jays Clap, clap. . . . Clap, clap, clap.”
During which year did the fans switch over?
How and why did it happen?
However much one despises Yankee fans, you have to respect their enthusiasm and I wish our crowds had a tenth of their gusto.
But do we really need to copy them?
New York owns that style of chant? We’re copying them? Somebody actually gives a shit about this???
I enjoy your mailbag columns. Please keep ’em coming.
My question for you is this: What are the chances that Anthony Gose will stick with the Jays? The numbers suggest he’s having a good spring, but is he doomed to start the year in Triple-A?
Ken in Kingston
p.s. Reyes and Cano are playing together in the WBC. . . . Wouldn’t they be a nice DP combo next season in Toronto?
Yeah… there is pretty much zero reason to bring Anthony Gose north with the Jays in April. His approach at the plate is still a work in progress, and as much as he’s impressed with the bat this spring– because we already know he can do everything else– we need to remember what Spring Training is, how the pitchers approach it, and how little the results matter. Early in the spring, most guys are trying to just get the feel for their fastball, establishing their command of it, and building off of that. Even at this stage, about two weeks from Opening Day, we had Brandon Morrow saying over the weekend that his slider wasn’t working too well, so he kept on throwing it in the hope of getting a better feel. A guy like Gose– or anybody, really– is more likely to have success against pitchers throwing flat sliders or working exclusively with fastballs and changeups, as many will do early in camp. The gameplans change when the games start to mean more, and the validity of his spring results go up in smoke.
Now, that isn’t to say that he’s not a fine player, that the results this month and in September of last year may not be “real,” that he doesn’t have a future here, or that Colby Rasmus won’t have a relatively short leash– Gose certainly doesn’t need to hit as much as Rasmus, given the way the rest of their tools play– but he’ll benefit from more time in Triple-A, especially in a city and a league that’s much closer to sea level than Vegas and PCL, and the Jays will benefit from getting a long look at what they can get out of Colby before making the switch. And even then, it might be Bonifacio who takes over.
Can you envision a realistic situation where the Blue Jays acquire Roy Halladay, either by this year’s trade deadline, or as a free agent in the off-season? And just how much will the Astros and their fans have to suffer this year? Are we talking a historic number of losses?
Richard Stoeten! Take care.
Nothing’s impossible, but no, and… maybe. The Astros are bad and in a far tougher division than last year, but… it’s baseball. Look at the WBC, and Italy’s run this year in particular, for examples of how the more talented roster doesn’t automatically win every game. They’ll fall ass backwards into more wins than the 42 needed to keep them from surpassing the modern day record, I suspect. Barely. Maybe.
As for Halladay, please just… no. There might be a point at which it makes sense for the club, and for him, and it would be a nice thing, even, but until then… no. Please no. Just… stop. We’ve got a great team to watch, so let’s damn well enjoy it and stop pining for the ghosts of the previous shitty decade and a half. If it happens it happens.
Assuming the AL plays out during the season as it looks on paper and the Jays are contenders and the Twins are looking at 90+ losses, what does it take to get Justin Morneau into a Jays uniform? The prospect cupboard looks pretty bare and I’m assuming the Twins would want ready-for-MLB quality talent in return.