Alex Anthopoulos joined Bob McCown and Damien Cox yesterday evening on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 (audio here), to speak about the state of his club, the firing of his hitting coach, and– apparently– to spread the gospel of OPS, pitcher wins, batting average, and All-Star appearances.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a team or players excelling at those things, it’s just… elevate the conversation, Alex. Or, at the very least, if you have a bunch of proprietary analytics that you’re using, go ahead and mention that! Please! We’re starting to worry!
Anywho… obviously the topic du jour was the topic of the day, and on Tuesday that was the changes to the coaching staff, with Dwayne Murphy retiring and Chad Mottola being shown the door– or at least the door to the big league club’s dressing room.
Anthopoulos didn’t shy away from answering questions about it, though he was typically short on specifics:
Once Gibby and I talked about it, we just said, ‘You know what? We viewed them as a tandem, and this is a chance to change it up and go in some other direction.’ And Gibby has some guys that he’s worked with in the past, that he has good and strong relationships with. So, it was as much that. But, you know, I’ve talked to Chad, and I’ve told him that the door’s open to stay in the organization, and we can talk, and for him to take a few days and decide what he wants to do. I expect him to get a lot of phone calls; a lot of job offers. He’s well regarded– there’s not going to be an issue with him finding a job– and whether one of another 29 clubs has a big league opportunity, that remains to be seen. But there’s still a scenario that he’ll be back with us, and we’ll just give him as much time as he needs to work it out.
Mottola, of course, was an internal candidate who may have moved up to the big league seat last winter, in part, because the Jays were so late in selecting a coaching staff after it took them so long to name a manager. Yes, he had a glowing reputation for his work in Las Vegas, but, as Drew wrote here at the time, that, “if we’re being frank, is akin to being named ‘Miss Fort McMurray’ three years running.”
But it does sound like, if Anthopoulos is being honest, they would return him to some minor league post, if he was amenable to it. Speaking of demotions, Murphy agreed to take what appeared to be one when elected to return to the staff last winter.
The fact of the matter may have simply been that these two guys weren’t exactly ideal fits in the first place– or simply not Gibbers’ guys who got the job because the guys Gibbons did want had already been hired elsewhere.
Then again, to hear Anthopoulos speak about it, there may have been something philosophical to the dismissals, as well.
We were eighth in runs scored in the American League, which is about the middle of the pack, and ninth in OPS, which is about the same things. And some guys had some nice years– some nice turnaround years. Obviously we had a bunch a guys who missed time, which didn’t help– whether it was Reyes or Lawrie– overall, but there’s no question we can certainly improve. We can improve our at-bats, we can try to be more selective, do some of those things. Some of it falls on me, obviously, to change some of the players and get some more production there. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame Murph, or Chad, or anybody like that. I think it’s a combination of the players, and all of us as a staff.
Asked if he felt the players maybe weren’t respecting or listening to Mottola, the GM continued:
I never got the sense that they didn’t– I… I’ll say this: I think the players had the respect of both Murph and Chad. I don’t think there was ever a problem. There are players that do things a certain way– we’ve been a home run team for the last few years, we’ve got a lot of power bats, and there are times where, you know, it can call for maybe getting a guy over, doing some of those things. But I don’t think there was ever an issue of players– you know sometimes players are trying to do things and they can’t do it, and they’re trying to give themselves up to do some of those things. But I think this was as much an opportunity, with Murph stepping down, to change the dynamic a little bit for us.
. . .
I think a good hitting coach will take a player’s strengths– you have a new hitting coach coming in, and I don’t know that you’re going to make a whole lot of changes, or try to, with a guy like Reyes or a guy like Bautista or a guy like Encarnacion. I think they’ve been very productive offensive players and you just want to try to maintain them and find out what works. But with a guy like Brett Lawrie, which we all believe has more in him and can take a step forward, maybe there’s some work that he can do there. There’s a guy like Colby Rasmus, who had a nice year, hit for average and power, played a very good centre field, and if he can step it up a notch more, and become an All-Star, there could be some work done there.
. . .
As an organization and as a team, can we use the whole field a little bit more? Sure. I think you do have to be careful, because one of our strengths is to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and if you overweigh using the whole field, things like that, it certainly can take away from some of your strengths. But I would say, we’ve always talked about, if we can, to try to cut down on some of those strikeouts– and that’s where, in tight games, man on third, less than two outs, we can put the ball in play and things can happen– we can get that run in.
Man. He sure doesn’t sound like the sabermetrician some people like to paint him as, does he?
And he didn’t really answer the burning question either: the vague talk about philosophy is nice, but all we’re really hearing that’s concrete, in terms of why the decision was made, is that they wanted to change the dynamic. It’s certainly not scapegoating– not with Anthopoulos acknowledging that guys were sometimes being asked to do things that they simply weren’t capable of.
What it might tell us– and I’m just spitballin’ here– is that, with Gibbons in a precarious spot, in terms of his job security, Anthopoulos is allowing him a little more autonomy to go down on the guys he wants to. Er… to go down with the guys he wants to.
But I don’t know.
Elsewhere, we got updates on a couple of pitchers. The one on Josh Johnson is simple: Anthopoulos says that the club hasn’t yet made the determination as to whether they’ll bring him back next season. Obviously you’re not going to hear them commit to doing a thing like that until the ink dries on the contract, so that’s wholly unsuprising. He continues to say that they want to see him pitching off a mound, see how he feels after that, and then they’ll go from there.
More interestingly, he spoke about Brandon Morrow. Or… actually, he responded to a question about the possibility of moving Morrow to the bullpen, which was raised by Gregg Zaun in an earlier segment of the show, when McCown asked the Sportsnet analyst what sorts of questions he‘d like to hear Anthopoulos answer. [Note: Ugh.]
The GM wasn’t feeling the suggestion:
We have not, and I think the reason is– that we had– in 2011 he pitched 180 innings, and we watched him, and watched his innings overall, and he pretty much pitched the whole year for us, and ended the year very strong. He came into 2012 with a tremendous start, looked like he was on his way to the All-Star game, then pulled a rib– which obviously is not arm related– and even when he came back at the end of the year, continued to pitch with an ERA below three. So, he showed us the ability to go at least 180 innings, he showed us the ability to strikout 200 guys in 180 innings. Even in 2012, with 120 innings pitched, he won ten games for us. So, what happened to him this past year, he started throwing a cutter in Spring Training, flared up his forearm, tried to pitch through it, and probably didn’t have enough down time, and it’s just taken a lot of time to get him back going, but he’s just started playing catch. There has been no issues so far, but obviously we’ll know more probably the first or second week of November– we’ll get him off a mound and that will be the first big test for him. But so far it’s moving in the right direction– he’s been playing catch the next few days and has had no problems.
So… there’s that. He said they talked about making Brett Cecil a starter at some point during the season, too. Changing on a whim, you guys!