Another week, another mail bag, and… holy shit, is it already August 6th? Well then, I’d better get Griff Baggin’ [note: huh?] by hijacking up the latest edition of Richard Griffin’s mail bag 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!
Q. Hi Richard,
I for one am tired of hearing this nonsense already. I think John Gibbons is doing a fine job. Is he giving up five runs before the game is two innings old? Is he leading the league in strikeouts with runners in scoring position? Is he batting around .200? Plus he passes my “Sam Mitchell” test. I thought the former Raptor coach was an arrogant, condescending, first class you-know-what. When Gibbons is interviewed by the media, he is always gracious, honest and truthful. He is doing the best he can with the load he has been given.
If change needs to be made I, for one, say Jose Bautista, goodbye and good riddance. A true team player/leader plays for the name on the front of the jersey not back. Jose is all about Jose, his constant battles with the umps, his exclusion from the home run derby, his place in the lineup and I could go on. This team currently “belongs” to Edwin Encarnacion and if he can ever get his head screwed on right it will be Brett Lawrie’s team. He is the logical choice and Canadians are just dying for him to be the star. Unfortunately he is frustratingly screwed up right now.
Wow. This letter is positively fucking Romero-like in the way it totally looked like it had it, then completely lost any semblance of the plot.
Yes, John Gibbons– any manager, really– takes way more shit he deserves. He didn’t blow up the rotation, and doesn’t have nearly the impact on on-field results that certain people, as they grope around for something to focus their pissy negativity on, want to ascribe to him.
All you have do to to grasp what a manager is worth is have a look at what they get paid, relative to payroll– it ain’t much. All you have to do to understand why is to ask yourself, did John Farrell suddenly become a genius when he got to Boston, or is his success this year and his lack thereof in the previous two maybe down to… I dunno… the players?
On that subject we’re golden, S. Rain. But holy shit, the other stuff. It’s an incoherent mess based on such invented nonsense that I barely know where to start taking a giant dump on it.
Like… you’ve decided you have enough evidence that Bautista isn’t enough of a team player to want to get rid of him?
And, knowing dick all about anything that’s actually relevant to the question of his leadership (which, for the record, is a pretty dumb question in the first place), like how he interacts with his teammates behind closed doors, you’ve decide to base that on the fact you think he’s arguing with umpires out of selfishness (even though he’s done it repeatedly after key at-bats for the team), that he opted out of the Home Run Derby (at the team’s request– or maybe because he bristled slightly about it while accepting their directive?), and something about his place in the lineup.
This shit that fans sometimes invent like this– about their teams needing to “belong” to someone– is just staggering to me. Like… think for two seconds about how a group of 25 disparate, millionaire athlete personalities might work and why anyone should ever bother thinking in such quaint, ass-backwards ways. It makes for a real Grantland-esque narrative, I guess, to think of the one leader as a focal point in the room, rallying his fellow troops to a common goal and imbuing in the all they need to know about playing the right way, but… uh… maybe get real?
Bautista is a great player, your characterization of him is based on absolutely nothing, and even if it weren’t completely ridiculous and he were some kind of selfish jackass (a label that, FYI, the Canadian whose balls you’re so ready to fluff might do a better job of qualifying at, if you really want to make ridiculous claims based on scant evidence), so what?
It’s not difficult comprehend all the various and sundry characters who’ve had success in this game before inventing horseshit about one having some unique personality flaw that makes it so that not only can he not, but he’ll drag down everyone else in his path. If his personality rubs you the wrong way, why the hell not just say that and decline slipping away into this warm bathtub of greasy dung?
P.S. Smitch forever.
I see tonight that Johnson has again had a horrible outing, giving up four runs in the first inning and putting the Jays behind the 8-ball yet again. With only one win so far this year, I find it hard to believe John Gibbons’ recent comment that they plan to keep running Johnson out every five days until the end of the season. I also find it unbelievable that the team is talking about making a qualifying offer of $13 million so that they would get an extra pick in next year’s draft . . . with Johnson’s record and struggles it would be highly unlikely that any team would make a higher offer, with the likely result that the Jays would be stuck with Johnson for another year and have to overpay him based on his performance this year. What do you think?
What’s not to understand? Other teams are keen enough to look at his whole résumé and the way that he pitches, rather than only the recent results. And they sure as fuck aren’t looking at something as pointless as his record. However, you’re right that, mostly because of the compensation pick that will be anchored around his neck, if the Jays make the qualifying offer, Johnson is pretty certain to come back.
But that’s OK. As is his continued presence in the rotation. The Jays are out of it and they owe it to themselves to see if they can’t get him right– which, if they do, will help the club immensely going forward. That said, Alex Anthopoulos has now said admitted Johnson is “start to start,” which is reasonable enough, given that they can’t just keep blowing up their bullpen and putting their offence in the demoralizing position of having to mount giant comebacks, but we’ll see how much rope he really gets.
He’s been dealing with a knee issue this year, they’ve admitted, which maybe will give the club the excuse they need to put him on the DL if that’s the decision that has to be made, but… look, making the qualifying offer was pretty clearly a no-brainer until about four starts ago. Even though his season before that had been bad, he’s a 6’7 righty in his prime who sits in the low-to-mid 90s with decent secondary stuff that he struggles to command, and has a pair of 6-7 win seasons on his résumé. He was a three win pitcher last year, in what was thought to be a shaky year, as he was coming off an injury and learning to pitch without the dominant stuff he once had. A run of absolutely awful starts here, in the middle of a bad season to begin with, has certainly tarnished all that considerably, but this is still a pitcher with a tonne of upside, who people were talking about as a Cy Young candidate and a possible $100-million contract guy just a few short months ago. If you’re going to let him walk for nothing, you’d better be damn sure he’s finished and not worth it, especially when the qualifying offer is only for one year, and your rotation could sure use him if he’s himself.
I understand that fans haven’t seen enough of what made him great to maybe grasp why he needs to have been given more rope than Sean Nolin or Chien-Ming Wang, but it’s important that they get this right. Fortunately they don’t have to extend the qualifying offer until after the playoffs end, so they have time to figure it out.
Q. Hey Richard,
Love the mailbag!! Your thoughts on catching. If the Jays are unable to upgrade at catcher over the winter, do you think they will ever get tough with J.P. Arencibia and insist he adopt a reasonable two-strike approach and improve defensively OR get sent back to AAA to work things out. I mean, Ricky Romero, Adam Lind and Brett Cecil all got sent back to AAA when they struggled. Why not Arencibia (or Brett Lawrie for that matter)? J.P. is clearly struggling at the major league level offensively and defensively. Would love to know your thoughts on this. I do believe Arencibia can get much better if he puts his mind to it. Some tough love may be warranted. Thanks Richard.
Howard, North York
You think the Jays have been content with his glaring deficiencies and not trying to work with him to improve them to this point??? I know that J.P. likes to talk like he’s a-OK, because he’s a “run producer,” or some such bullshit, and that the team has avoided throwing him under the bus in public, for some reason, but he’s clearly not, and they must know that a change is in order back there. The fact that they haven’t done anything as yet, I suspect, is mostly because there really isn’t anything that they can do.
Now, I know we’ve seen some pretty impressive turnarounds on this team before but… really? You think he can get better enough to not be terrible? The learning curve behind the plate is a bit of a longer one than at other positions, but this guy has coasted along on a Vegas-inflated repeat year at Triple-A that he’ll be four years removed from when 2014 comes around for far, far too long.
I’m not sure if I’ll be more shocked or dismayed if he returns next year (OK, probably the latter), but my reaction will include metric fuck-tonnes of both. Because seriously… just awful.
Q. Hi Richard:
It’s become increasingly clear that JPA’s poor defence combined with little or no offence other than the long ball is really hurting the Blue Jays. That and his moronic and childish tirades against (Gregg Zaun) and Dirk Hayhurst for speaking the truth would suggest to me that its time he was sent packing. Brian McCann is a free agent this year I believe and he would look fabulous in a Jays uniform and bring great leadership behind the plate as well. What kind of numbers do you think it would take to sign him and what odds would you give that the Jays go after him?
As easy as it is to rag on Arencibia (like I totally just did!), let’s be clear: on a list of problems with the 2013 Jays, Arencibia’s name is far from the top.
Or, at least, it’s not at the top.
But yes, the Jays need to do something at the position. McCann, though, unfortunately, isn’t a terribly realistic target. He’ll be clearly the top backstop on the market– likely the top power hitting option on the market, too– so he’ll be expensive, he’ll be looking at a number of years on a deal, and he’ll be able to write his own ticket. Aaaand there are a number of teams, the Yankees included, who are getting almost as little from their catchers as the Jays have.
There are red flags, too. He’ll be 30 at the start of 2014, and entering his ninth season since becoming a full-timer in 2006, and coming off the third straight year of his number of games played being in decline. That’s a lot of squatting.
He’s a tremendous hitter, though, and some team is going to pay him, I just don’t think it will be the Jays. Even if they’re willing to meet his requirements, he’ll certainly have better opportunities, at least likely in his own mind, given the way the season here has gone.
Frankly, though, to get a considerable improvement at second base and behind the plate, the Jays don’t need to shoot for the moon, they just need to find guys who can be plainly average. Per FanGraphs those two positions have combined to be 3.2 wins below replacement level for the Jays this year, ranking them worst in the Majors in terms of value provided at both spots. Ugh. But on the bright side, hard not to get a whole lot better!
Q. Doesn’t this game (in Oakland) show a fatal flaw in the management “theory” of Gibbons? Esmil Rogers got hit hard and threw a lot of pitches early. Bringing him back out for the fifth inning was the big mistake. At best, he would have had only one inning left in him, at worst, we saw what happened. It’s a great idea to try and save the bullpen another inning’s work, but when the bullpen is the strongest part of the staff, they need to be used. Too many times, too many games, Gibbons tries to stretch a starter and it leads to these kinds of situations. Just so tired of this mess of a team.
Q. Hi Richard,
Given that the Jays are now out of the race this old Blue Jay fan has once again started reminiscing about baseball glory past. This brought me back to a May(?) night in the Seattle Kingdome during the 1992 season. Details are sketchy but the Jays were down by a LOT then a late comeback starts. Finally in the ninth inning Winfield hits a grand slam to put the Jays ahead by one and they hold on to win the game. This to me is the home run that turned the franchise into World Champions.
Sure Alomar’s home run off Eckersley was huge, as was Carter’s off Williams (understatements I know). However, I believe that neither of those hits would have had the opportunity to happen had the Winfield HR not proven that this TEAM could come back from any deficit, at any time. That home run, in my opinion, changed the team from ‘talented’ to ‘winners.’ I know you did not work in Toronto at the time, but I would appreciate your comments and opinion.
Jason MacDonald, MCIP LPP
Town of Amherst
I don’t really buy that stuff, but sure, OK.
Q. Hi Richard,
I just finished your Blue Jays mailbag from July 26th and it seems like the majority of your readers aren’t willing to place any blame for this season on AA. He took the risk and made two big deals that gutted the prospect depth and he assembled the rest of this team. He’s like the Teflon GM — nothing bad sticks to him. In your opinion shouldn’t AA be held accountable if this team continues to struggle this year? I’m not saying he should be fired but his seat should start heating up.
Michael Roberts, Toronto
Maybe people just don’t want to come off like pissy whiners. I mean, of course what’s happened has to be laid at the feet of Anthpoulos, but you say that like you think something needs to be done about it. Well… except for the part where you say you don’t.
Anthopoulos will get a chance to fix things and try again in 2014. As he should. And I totally can’t begrudge fans for actually being level-headed about the fact that he swung for the fences once and missed. In fact, I appreciate it, because are far too many folks out there willing to egg fans into taking the low-hanging fruit of pointless shitting pissing negativity. You don’t need to like what’s happened this year to be reasonable and realistic about it.
Q. Hi Richard,
A few questions regarding pitching.
What’s with the Blue Jays ability to break starting pitchers? Not only have they been sending them to the DL at an alarming rate over the past few years, even when healthy they can’t pitch (Ricky Romero, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson). I don’t buy ‘the injuries will happen and we are just unlucky’ excuse. That can only apply to J.A. Happ. In my mind it’s poor mechanics, poor strength and conditioning and poor preparation that send so many pitchers under the knife or to the DL.
If that’s the case, are we likely to see sweeping changes to the backroom staff in the offseason? The rotation clearly wasn’t ready to go physically when the season started. It’s taken 100+ games for the team to accept Johnson’s mechanics are a mess. Surely the pitching coach needs to take some blame for all this. I can’t believe it’s coincidence that so many good pitchers (Dickey, Johnson, Romero) regress so remarkably. The bullpen has been great, are we likely to see Pete Walker replaced by Pat Hentgen? Who would you bring in if you were GM?
Keep up the great mailbag — it’s always interesting to read your opinion on things.
So… let me get this straight, you’re blaming the Jays for what you think are the poor mechanics and bad conditioning of a pair of guys who’ve been in the organization for all of two thirds of a season? As though they come into camp as blank slated waiting to be moulded by the coaching and training staff?
And you don’t buy that pitching injuries happen or pitchers can have bad luck unless they’re having screaming liners ricochet off their head into right field?
I mean… there are real questions that deserve answers (even unsatisfying ones like “shit happens?”) about the attrition rate of Jays’ pitchers in recent years and the club’s inability to pull certain struggling guys back from the brink. But to frame it with such nonsense, I mean… really???
If I was the GM I’d have some sense of how the pitching coach works with his players and how well they take to his instruction– knowledge I don’t have, and no fan has, thus making us far too thoroughly unqualified to even bother.
Q. We in Vancouver are very fortunate that the Canadians, Northwest League affiliate of the Blue Jays, have a very committed local ownership group that continues to incrementally improve the fan experience at Nat Bailey stadium; resulting in frequent sellouts.
Recently our community paper, Vancouver Courier, ran a comprehensive article on the Canadians in which the Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava was quoted as saying “the lifeblood of any major league team is the players that are signed and developed internally.”
My personal experience of 40 years in management and company ownership is that more often than not when a company hires a star, the star’s performance plunges and correspondingly there is a sharp decline in the functioning of the team. Respected research supports this theory, suggesting that you are better off growing stars than buying them. The foregoing is based on the premise that the broad principles of effective team building are universal whether for a construction site, hospital operating room or baseball arena.
Can you foresee a future in which the Blue Jays ownership has the fortitude to support Mr. LaCava’s solid strategy to build a sustainable winning team?
Maybe let’s research some recent World Series participants, shall we?
The 2012 Tigers brought in Prince Fielder and Anibal Sanchez, while the Giants were helped greatly by Melky Cabrera. In 2011 the Cardinals added Lance Berkman and Edwin Jackson. In 2010 the Rangers added Vladimir Guererro and dealt for Cliff Lee mid-season, while the Giants got big production from Pat Burrell (no, really). CC Sabathia’s first year in New York was 2009, when they won it all– and the same goes for Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and A.J. Burnett– while their opponents, the Phillies, had brought in Cliff Lee.
Need I go on? I hope not, because in 2008 both pennant winners were largely homegrown, but the point stands!
Q. Hi Griff.
I really enjoy your responses on here. My questions: Josh Johnson is obviously struggling. Watching it on TV, it looks like the ball is coming in right down the middle with no movement and hitters are picking up on that. So, why do they keep putting him in? Is there no one else in the bullpen who is itching to be a starter? It’s frustrating for fans and probably for the team and Johnson. He needs to take a step back and figure out what’s gone wrong. In other sports he would be given a couple of chances to play better and then he’d be benched. Why not in baseball?
Since when does Adam Lind chase the breaking ball low and outside? He looks like Vernon Wells from a few years ago. Finally, with more and more use of pitchtrax, you can see that a lot of pitches that are out of the strike zone are called as strikes. I can see high/low being a judgment call based on the batter’s height and stance. But some of this stuff looks like it’s six inches outside. (And the farther the Jays fall in the standings the less often they seem to get the call.) My question is, do you think the umpiring crews or supervisors follow up on this stuff and show the guy behind the plate how off his calls were? Or does the umping fraternity just discount pitchtrax as hocus pocus. Hitters seem to be shaking their heads about the calls but 9 times out of 10 it looks like they are right and the ump is not.
See above for the Johnson stuff– he’s too potentially valuable an asset to not give him every opportunity to get it right.
As for Lind and flailing at low and away pitches, uh… isn’t that just about anybody? Like, big league calibre pitchers making good pitches are tough to pick up, aren’t they? That’s not to give hitters carte blanche to always swing away hopelessly, but I just don’t see what you’re seeing there. No, Lind isn’t lately looking like the .950 OPS league-leading batting average guy we saw a number of weeks ago, but we didn’t really believe that’s what he was, did we?
And the umpiring? I wouldn’t put that much faith in the precision of Pitch Trax off the TV, though it is true that the strike zone that umpires call doesn’t lineup with what the rulebook says. It varies based on the count, too.
The Questec system is supposed to aid in bringing umps in line with the rulebook, but you’re right in a way that calls don’t always come down the way you’d expect, though saying it’s nine of ten calls that hitters argue is a bit rich. It is what it is.
Q. Hey Richard,
Your mailbag is like “manna in the desert.” Keep ’em comin’!! Just thought I’d throw a silver lining into the dark cloud that is the Jays starting rotation. I think next year’s starting rotation is going to be lights out — from an AAA perspective that is.
Looks like the Bisons starting rotation in 2014 will be: Romero/Nolin/Stroman/Drabek/Huchison. Pretty good I think. Two questions. Firstly, which of these five guys do you think is most likely to help the Jays starting rotation in 2014 and secondly, is Coca-Cola field a nice place to watch a ball game? I’m thinking of taking a trip next year to see one of these guys (not Romero though).
Oh, and my prediction for the Jays starting rotation on opening day next year is: Dickey/Morrow/ Buehrle/Happ/McGowan. I’d prefer they overpay Buehrle and at least get a decent performance than overpay Johnson and be disappointed yet again (no way Johnson turns down the qualifying offer and $14M is too much to risk just to protect a draft pick whose last name isn’t Strasburg or Harper).
Howard – North York
I highly doubt McGowan is going to find himself in the rotation, and I wouldn’t bet on the status quo being kept so in place, but… you’re actually probably closer to right than a lot of folks who are dreaming on anything close to a repeat of last year’s big splashes, so… OK, sure. Whatever.
Q. Hi Richard -
I’m pretty sure that this email will get lost in the shuffle of emails you get but I thought I’d offer a small one for Tom Cheek. I’m deaf and I was a student of Pineland Public School in Burlington, Ont. Since I’m deaf, I was excused from two classes — French and Music so during those periods, I would go to my study hall which was overseen by George Fox. George would work with me on various subjects and helped me stay up with the class.
It was a tough environment for me to be in — a deaf kid in a hearing school but I thrived. One day, Mr. Fox had a guest with him and he introduced him as Tom Cheek. I shook his hand and I said it was very nice to meet you. I didn’t understand the importance of having Mr. Cheek in the classroom with Mr. Fox. So Mr. Fox explained that Mr. Cheek worked as a radio broadcaster for the Toronto Blue Jays. The concept of radio broadcasting was alien to a deaf kid like me back then but nonetheless, Mr. Cheek had a big smile on his face. He sat down with me and worked over some of my math problems with me. He was warm and friendly but I did not grasp the importance of his visit with me or the importance of his voice across Canada.
The phrase “touch them all Joe” did not really resonate with me until much later. After he passed away, the accolades and tributes poured in for Tom Cheek. It wasn’t until I saw his picture that this was the same man I met at Pineland Public school when I was 14 years old. I was in shock. Tom Cheek helped me with my homework?!
Today I live in Anthem, AZ. i have two cochlear implants and my hearing has been surgically restored. I can pick up a few things on the radio. Once I was able to follow a McDonald’s jingle all the way through that lasted 30 seconds. I didn’t realize fully that radios do have commercials. And when I think about what I hear on the radio, I always look back to that quiet, shy, but friendly man Tom Cheek who helped me with my homework.
Fantastic story, Glenn. Thanks for that.