Alright, time to get back to the business of the floundering team and… whatever the hell is going on with it. It’s this week’s edition of the Griff Bag– our weekly-ish hijacking of Richard Griffin’s latest mailbag from over at the Toronto Star.
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!
I’m starting to think that all of these injuries to Jays pitchers over the last couple years are more than just bad luck and coincidence. It seems like every day there is a new health problem with a Jays hurler. And the way they have handled their young arms (Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and now Sean Nolin and Ricky Romero) is clearly not working. Do you think we should start blaming coaching and the training staff? Or is this just a long string of bad luck?
It’s especially upsetting as the offence finally looks like it’s turned the corner. Anyways, keep up the good work. Even though I’m on the West Coast, I read your column regularly and am a big fan.
All the best.
David Puterman, Vancouver
Well… you can’t just say, “No, everything is fine,” because the injuries the Jays have suffered over the last two seasons are certainly alarming and should be investigated– as the team says they already have, following last year– but who can you conceivably think the coaching or training staff has contributed to the troubles of this year?
The team currently has nine pitchers on either the 15- or 60-day DL, with Josh Johnson and Ramon Ortiz having flipped places today: Drabek, Hutchison and Luis Perez were hurt last year, Johnson, Dustin McGowan and Sergio Santos have long-standing arm problems (two of whom brought them from other organizations, while the other has been here since the Gord effing Ash era), Ortiz and Darren Oliver are ancient, Brandon Morrow frustrates us every year with injuries, and J.A. Happ was the victim of a freak accident. Yeah, the situation is upsetting, and it would feel much better to know where to point fingers or to identify clearly what needs to be changed, but I just don’t see it. I honestly think it is just a pretty good run of shit luck.
Always appreciate your insights and commentary on this great game. With that said, I feel your assessment of the Brett Lawrie ninth inning outburst is off. I don’t see it as him being upset about a missed RBI or wasted AB but rather a guy feeling like the team missed a chance to get closer to tying up the ball game. The game ended with a win but just as easily could have ended in a loss. In my view, when you’re down and in the bottom of the ninth, you try and score runs anytime you can. Perhaps I’m just not enough of a baseball guy, but leaving a runner on third when you’re down to two outs can’t be the best the strategy, by the numbers.
My question goes to Roy Halladay. The Jays will undoubtedly have some turn over in the rotation going into next year and Halladay will be coming back from surgery. Is there any life in that old arm of his and do you think the Jays and Halladay would be interested in a short term reunion?
Rich Colton from Kingston, Ont.
I think you’re wrong about leaving a runner on third, because obviously when down two that run doesn’t matter nearly enough to risk it on a play like the one Lawrie wanted to see happen– which precisely was the issue. But I don’t disagree that the whole thing has been pretty severely overblown in some corners, which… might come up again a time or fifteen before the end of this mail bag.
As for Halladay, I understand the appeal to fans, but if he hadn’t played here before, would anyone be so damn keen on a pitcher heading into his age 36 season and coming off a shoulder injury? Even if he wanted to leave Philadelphia– which he’s given no indication that he does, for whatever little that’s worth– he’d be an interesting guy to maybe take a flyer on, but that’s about it. Hoping he comes back to Toronto and regains his old form seems, at this point, like an exercise in blinding oneself to some seriously long odds.
So now that Reyes is due to make his return relatively soon, what do the Jays do with Mune Kawasaki? He’s done all they could have asked of him and while not a star player, is he really a minor-leaguer? Could they get something for him on the trade market, do they send him to Buffalo, what?
Kawasaki most likely goes to Buffalo, unfortunately, simply because he can be optioned down without needing to clear waivers and Emilio Bonifacio can’t, while Maicer Izturis is signed to a three-year deal. Yes, Kawasaki has been the most competent with the bat of the three, or has at least shown the best plate discipline, but the other two are each having the worst year of their careers, and still should be able to produce more than what we’ve seen so far. I say: should.
On the other hand, if the Jays are being honest with themselves they should perhaps recognize that none of the three is a viable long-term piece as anything but a bench guy. If they were to be willing to ditch one, and to reward the most deserving of the bunch for the fine-enough season that he’s had, fans would certainly be for it. I just honestly don’t think that’s what’s going to happen.
Thanks for the link to the SI article on Kawasaki. Loved it, yet I couldn’t pass up asking you about this comment by Brett Smiley, who wrote the piece for SI’s extra Mustard feature: “to judge him based on his baseball skills — particularly in Toronto, where there’s such little emphasis on baseball skills — would be to miss the point entirely.”
Do the American baseball writers think there is little emphasis on baseball skills in Toronto? Are they right? I have been wondering about this myself, particularly in the area of pitching, and the way the general managers have made their decisions, particularly this year. Is there really little emphasis on baseball skills in Toronto?
Bruce Hutchison, Winnipeg MB
Uh… pretty sure he was just taking a dig at the club’s record, not offering insight into some secret reputation.
1. With the Jays seemingly in a continuous spin cycle, the pitching staff can’t get into a rhythm, the bullpen same thing, and now the lineup seemingly on the edge of finding it, why wouldn’t management call up Jim Negrych to play second when Lawrie went down to give them more options at third base?
2. With the Jays still eight games below .500 and nearing the end of May, will A.A. be making roster changes worth writing about? Will he make a trade to build what he has here already to compete for the next three years, as most of the roster is signed for that length? I really hope he doesn’t pull the plug and trade away key pieces, it would be nice to see Johnson increase his trade value with health. If that comes to fruition, what would a healthy Johnson net on the trade market that could help the Jays during their competitive time frame of the next three seasons?
3. Was at the game on Saturday vs. Baltimore, and couldn’t believe the lack of replay utilized on the Jumbotron, there were numerous instances where it could have been utilized, especially on the Rasmus line drive called a foul ball. Why don’t they utilize it more for video vs. silly games that mean and add nothing to the game experience? They could always show a replay after a period of time vs. right after, if they don’t want to embarrass the umpires.
Always a pleasure,
Scott Cochrane, Niagara on the Lake
1. Because Negrych is hurting, and just not the player his numbers at Buffalo make him seem. When a player doesn’t get out of Double-A for good until his age-27 season, there’s a reason. We’re not talking about Jose Bautista here, who was talented enough to be in the Majors at 23 as a Rule 5 pick, and was out of the minors for good during his age-25 season, even though he was four years away from being elite. The Jays are Negrych’s fourth organization, and any team could have had him at numerous points, if anybody’d ever seen anything there. I hate to piss on what could be a nice story, but you can’t just look at the this year’s numbers and throw away everything everybody’s ever thought about the guy. It would be nice if he got a chance, but it wouldn’t bode well for the club and he probably wouldn’t provide the value, going forward, of the established big leaguers fans want him to replace.
2. There has been the odd rumbling that other teams might be considering trying to pry away guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but to me that’s absolute insanity, given– as you say– the way that the roster is constructed. It’s just… it’s insanity. There is zero chance the Jays embark on a prospect-centred rebuild with Bautista, Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ and Mark Buehrle here for two more seasons at least, Melky Cabrera and Casey Janssen around for at least one more each, plus a number of interesting young players.
It would seem far, far more likely to me that they’d be looking to move guys like Josh Johnson, Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia, Rajai Davis or Darren Oliver. None of those names could bring back close to as much value as the core guys (save for Buehrle, who has very little value thanks to his contract), but who could still help net some useful-enough pieces as the club looks to retool for 2014.
As for Johnson, in the hypothetical is he healthy but only pitching like his 2012 self, or something better? Not knowing that makes his value very difficult to gauge.
3. The lack of replay is absolutely atrocious, I agree, and I think you’re bang on about the reason for it– the umpires– it’s just… I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about it at the moment. I don’t know if the in-stadium replay stuff has actually been collectively bargained out by the umpires’ union and MLB, but that’s what it looks like, and it’s ridiculous and a detriment to the fans’ enjoyment of the game.
I would appreciate your opinion on a thought I have with respect to the upcoming Blue Jays inter-league road trip. I am surprised that I have not heard anyone else suggest it. With Brett Lawrie not available for the games in NL cities, why not play Encarnacion at 3B and Lind at 1B. Without a DH, it keeps two of your hottest hitters in the lineup — and potentially removes one who is struggling. And if you need to defend a lead, you have some good defensive people to come off the bench so that you can move Encarnacion back to first.
Well this one has already been answered in the affirmative by John Gibbons, who has been playing Encarnacion at third. And frankly, I think it’s great. I know people maybe want to get all fucking superstitious about his powers with the bat disappearing when he has to put on that third baseman’s glove, the way it did when he played his way off the position two years ago, but things have changed– notably his swing, and his stature on the team. He knows his job isn’t in jeopardy if he makes a couple of bad plays, so I entirely get why the club went this way.
The Rogers Centre has become a launching pad. Richard, wouldn’t it make sense to move the bullpen from behind the fences, and the secondary wall becomes the first out of play? (I’ll admit Adam Jones didn’t have much trouble reaching at either) This might give pitchers a fighting chance.
Uh… only thing is, where the hell do you then put the bullpens? It would be a little cramped to have them in foul territory, and… besides, why not just decide to not hate fun and construct a team that takes advantage of the building’s properties?
Q. It was encouraging yet discouraging watching the game (Sunday). Best team win by the Jays this season but the display of petulance and selfishness by Lawrie was simply unacceptable. I see other younger players around the league mired in slumps, yet they sincerely subscribe to the “team first” mentality . . . if we’re winning but I’m in a slump, who cares, it will work itself out.
Brett Lawrie showed me at that moment in time he cared more about a slight dip to his batting average than he cared about the team’s win. Of course he was leading the charge to mob Kawasaki a little later, but we all saw what transpired just before. It’s a joke.
I thought Gibby handled it well, and Jose Bautista stepped up. I know Jose is more of a quiet leader, but it was nice to see him directly intervene.
Griff, I know you probably won’t have time to read/respond to this but if you do I have a quick question: What is it with Lawrie? I hear the intensity/immaturity excuse but just like with children, after a while it gets old. You expect the person to grow up at some point instead of continuing to indulge and enable them.
So finally the question(s): Are the Jays bereft of veteran leadership, of guys who can sit Lawrie down and explain the importance of channelling and directing his “intensity?” Or do we have a case of a child who wouldn’t listen, regardless?
Defensive liabilities aside, I see J.P. Arencibia becoming a younger leader in the way he conducts himself. With Lawrie I see a guy running around like a chicken with its head cut off. He doesn’t get in trouble outside of the game, but his mounting issues in the game are becoming a distraction.
Thanks for your time, I’ve loved your coverage for many years now. Please keep up the great work.
RE: Yesterday’s game, and adding to my email from yesterday, stealing a base with a 5 run lead. Way to pad your stats, Brett! I hope the ankle sprain was worth it.
First off, for fuck sakes, James, it was a botched hit-and-run, not an attempt to pad his stats. And that’s kind of entirely the fucking thing. Shouldn’t your shit attempt to glean enough information from your interpretation of one small incident in the course of a single game, then extrapolating from it reams of horseshit, tell you that maybe you’ve done a shit job with your interpretation of the other shit? I mean, I get that it’s probably real fucking cathartic for someone frustrated by this team to invent reasons to be wholly negative based on tiny kernels of information blasted without sound or proper context through a fucking TV screen, but… fuck the fuck off with that, y’know?
Rich Stoet, there are many negative things to point out with the Jays so far this year, but I’d like to give a tip of the cap to one of the few pleasant surprises this year: Adam Lind.
Before the season started, Lind was one of the biggest question marks outside of second base. He was certainly playing for his job after not living up to expectations the last couple of years. This year, he has applied a noticeably different approach at the plate and it is paying off for him. His improved patience is getting him on base much more often and it has also helped him now raise his batting average over .300. The power is not quite where it used to be but on a team deep with home run hitters, he has been a quietly effective player all season long. Here’s hoping he keeps it up, and maybe rubs off on a couple of his teammates as well.
I’ve been as frustrated as anyone about the staggering amount of rope that’s been given to Adam Lind throughout his post-2009 career, and yet… you’re absolutely right that he deserves a lot of credit for remaking himself into what seems– albeit still not in a terribly large sample, even if you go back to his return from the minors last year– to be a rather useful player. I think credit has to go to the Jays a bit, too, though, for how he’s been so shielded from left-handed pitchers so far, but shit, I might even be interested in seeing what he can do in an extended number of at-bats against lefties at some point. No, really!
Richard Stoeten, I have a question about baseball etiquette. If a pitcher has a no-hitter or perfect game going in the ninth inning, is it appropriate for an opposing hitter to attempt to reach base by bunting? Has a no-hitter or perfect game ever been broken up this way?
Thanks for the (almost) weekly mailbag.
What am I, Google? It’s kinda not cool to do that, Luke.
LAWRIE’S CORNER – PRO AND CON
The team dealt with this behind closed doors and is ready to move on. The fact that there has been no public flogging of Lawrie with the sole purpose of providing a sense of satisfaction to people like you is totally irrelevant.
Your characterization of the incident itself is an overreaction. Yes, I agree it was stupid and should not have happened. But I’m more inclined to believe Lawrie was upset because his TEAM did not score a run, not because he was personally denied the RBI.
You need to be careful. You’re one of the top, if not the best, baseball columnists in the country, but this ongoing problem you have with Lawrie seems personal. Unless you tone down the excessive and unwarranted criticism these columns will ultimately harm your reputation more than his.
Well, I agree to a point. I do think the whole thing has been quite overblown. But on the other hand, for one, we have no idea how– or whether– they handled the incident behind closed doors, except that we’ve heard Lawrie apologized for it. So, let’s not go too hard in the direction away from those who want to go ape goof about the lack of discipline. For two, Lawrie and his behaviour, on the field and off, is a story– especially given the over-the-top marketing of him by the Jays, particularly during the first season with the club. The media didn’t place the spotlight on him by themselves, and the player doesn’t do himself a lot of favours in terms of what gets talked about.
A 23-year-old “kid” batting $1.99? has the gall to show up his teammate AND coach!! This pompous “Charlie Hustle” wannabe should have been BENCHED for last night’s game and perhaps a few more. Trust me Brett, you’re NO Pete Rose!
Tks and keep up the good work.
It’s fucking priceless to me when people seem to think that what Lawrie did is worse because he hasn’t been playing well, and then double down on it with this fucking laughable self-righteous act. Like… who honestly possibly cares about him showing up his teammate and coach, beyond the teammates and coaches themselves??? Seriously, yeah, it was bad, but what the fuck does it possibly matter?
Thank you for your recent candid assessment of the “spirited” behaviour of Baby Lawrie. For a guy with a .199 BA & 14 RBI,who has (1) year MLB experience, he certainly has a lot to say. I thought that was the manager’s job? His “hotdog” antics are wearing very thin on this longtime baseball fan.
Mr. Lawrie should perhaps have a long look in the mirror, take his evil-eye sideshow to the batting cage where it may be of some value. There is a real “Charlie Hustle” and he produced! The Jays’ version is merely “Charlie Tuna.”
Apparently, he has been spoken to regarding his outbursts of misguided enthusiasm. I see no sign that his is listening. Travis Snider wasn’t much interested in listening either to sage, experienced advice. Is this organization going to waste six years on a third baseman with “mere potential?” His “rah-rah” demos from the dugout are terrific at the college level. At the pro level, duct tape may be a short-term solution. It should also be noted that the “good locker room leaders” are “Caspers!”
Donald E. Desmond
Good lord, a Cito fan.
I agree with you 100 per cent. Very well laid out.
On the field, it is not Lawrie’s call to make, for Lind to tag. It is totally the third base coach’s call, which I believe was the right one, for Lind not to go, given the fly ball was shallow, Lind is slow and Nick Markakis has a strong arm. And good for Gibbons for acting quickly and showing a bit of emotion in the situation in the dugout. I hope Gibbons called him into his office after the game to discuss it further in private.
Off the field, Lawrie is becoming a cancer in the clubhouse. A nuisance our team can deal without. I do not believe he will mature with age. A leopard does not change his spots. He is who he is. And he is not learning. The game is not slowing down for him. Alternatively, look at 3B Manny Machado. Calm, graceful, quiet — goes about his game, his business like a pro. And he is only 20.
Lawrie needs to be benched, although our options are limited. Lawrie’s defence is very good. Maybe DeRosa plays full time. If we are out of it come July, I would consider dealing him, for what I don’t know. But he is clearly not on the same page as everyone else on the team. The Brewers probably saw this coming. I can’t imagine AA is pleased.
I don’t want to cheer for him anymore when he comes up to bat. Need I say more?
“Off the field, Lawrie is becoming a cancer in the clubhouse,” you say. Like… how am I supposed to possibly reason with someone up his own asshole far enough to actually believe he has cause to think that???
I enjoy your Jays coverage very much.
Do you think Brett Lawrie’s fiery (some would say selfish) personality is disruptive to the team and its chemistry? And do you think Gibbons is the right manager to harness Lawrie’s fire and use it for the purposes of good rather than evil?
Pierre Lachaine, Toronto
Despite the non-sac-fly incident, I think we’ve already seen some positive strides when it comes to Lawrie. He’s been much tamer on the basepaths, and he seems to be much more aware of the fact that he needs to keep himself on the field– he was quick to concede that he needed rest after injuring his oblique during Spring Training, for example. I can’t credit Gibbons for any of that, but he sure seems to not take shit the way other managers might have *COUGH*, and I thought he handled the incident well when Lawrie returned to the dugout in that game against Baltimore. I dunno.
I respect the years you have been around the game but you have not spent any on the field like many of us have at a high level. You are making way too much out of a little. This is part of team sports and sometimes some young over-exuberant guys say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sounds like DeRosa explained it well. Seems like you are trying to start some controversy where there isn’t any.
Sure, Lawrie has lots to learn about MLB decorum and he will. Jays have way bigger problems to discuss.
Whether anyone has been on the field at a high level– or even the Canadian university level– or not means dick all here, but otherwise, yeah, I think you’re totally right.
Q. Your latest rant on Lawrie reminds me of someone writing a bull**** paper (essay) and knows they don’t have anything important or significant to write about so they ramble and ramble.
Get the hell over it. Is Lawrie’s personality and character (pure intensity) new to you???
Is this the first game you’ve ever watched??? Or better still — have you ever played the game?
I’ll get back to you about whether I’ve played the game just as soon as I’m done searching Baseball Reference for all the big leaguers named Cathie.
Q. Oh I guess it is a “controversy” because you say so. Um we haven’t written a Rob Ford story in the last 12 minutes . . . so let’s fabricate something else. Look at me Mom, I am the Toronto Star . . . over here . . . look, look.
Go away! Freaking paparazzi.
Holy shit, it’s “dumb as dog shit” personified! HOW DO YOU TYPE???
By your count of the six key Jays who must step up, they could be half-way there. Until (Monday’s) game, I wasn’t sure. I was glad to see Gibby step up again, this time to put “Sideshow” Brett (Lawrie) in his place. I didn’t like the fact that Brett was trying to show up his coach and a teammate. Oh sure, Brett is young and competitive if not combative, and yearns to win. The same description could be held for J.P. Arencibia, another one of the six key clogs of this current Jays’ edition we are counting on.
I have sometimes asked myself since opening day if this were the same competiveness that drove J.P. to ask for the opening day assignment and got it but unfortunately let three pitched balls get passed him. It was ugly and disheartening. I wondered at times whether it was competitiveness, self-interest or ego that drove him. I wasn’t sure until there was an article in your paper recently after J.P. hit a game winning home run and it was suggested, whether by him or the writer I don’t recall, that all he (J.P.) needed for wider (all-star) recognition was an opportunity to get some post-season exposure. This made me chuckle a bit given J.P.’s preference for the long ball and an unworthy 55:2 K:BB ratio.
My questions about J.P.: Given the uncertainty of J.P. working with a new pitching staff earlier on, is he starting to call and catching a better game? Is he earning the confidence of the Jay’s pitching staff? How is our “field general” doing? What grade are you going to give him in your mid-term report?
Gibby and Joey Bats have turned it around. Gibby is no longer concerned about trying different things and appeared to have taken a firm control in the dugout, as witnessed during yesterday’s incidence. Infield defence has improved and started to settle in until Jose Reyes is back in the lineup. That leaves pitching and a question whether the No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers on the staff can come all the way back and the Jays can start to string some wins together again before soon. Again, my question is about J.P.: can he help his pitchers and team to win low scoring games if necessary?
My last question is about Brett and J.P.? What can the coaching staff do to get better performances from this dynamic duo? What they have been doing is evidently not working well so far. Given their talent and passion for the game, it would be a shame if the Jays are unable to benefit from their potential soon and finally perhaps starting to fire on all cylinders.
Bing in Whitby
I could write pages of dithering about this, most likely, but I’ll be blunt: Lawrie gets a pass from me because his spring was derailed and because– like Colby Rasmus– he at least plays great defence and can take some walks (albeit not enough). Arencibia, on the other hand, I’m not hopeful for. It’s extremely difficult– if not impossible– to quantify the impact he has on the pitchers throwing to him, at least in terms of their comfort and mindset on the mound and whether it could be better or worse with him back there, but he’s simply not great defensively– not with blocking the ball, and not, I don’t believe, with framing. And he doesn’t walk. He strikes out a tonne. And he has no speed.
His entire game is based on power, and he’s just not good enough to pull off that trick. If he remains the club’s starting catcher into next season, it’s a major, major knock against this front office.