If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably well aware that the term “long read” is sort of a misnomer here on DJF mountain, but I suspect that you know what I mean when I use it. Occasionally we dive just a little bit deeper into a topic than usual, and sometimes, frankly, it seems as though our efforts disappear a little too quickly into the ether.
I get that. It’s a product of the medium we work in, which otherwise has many, many advantages and great aspects– one of which is the fact that I can do things like collecting up all of the most interesting, re-readable pieces we’ve written over the course of a year (or, at least, the ones that either best stoked my narcissism or impressed me from my colleagues), and re-post them after an appropriate time has passed. Say a year, or maybe a year and almost-two-and-a-half-weeks or something. *COUGH*
And, lo and behold, here are a bunch of them for the year that just passed (um, almost-two-and-a-half-weeks back). The year in DJF Longreads for 2012…
Romero’s Late Mechanical Change Signals Concern – 3/20
By the third week of March, the Jays seemed finally to acknowledge what fans had noticed all spring: something still wasn’t right with Ricky Romero. And I… uh… noticed them noticing.
I’m not saying I’d prefer the club to be deceptive– “it’s not a lie if we know the truth” and all that old noise– but if the only good that will come from making it known that these changes are taking place is that it will make it easier to excuse another poor performance, what does it say about the organization’s belief that Romero is going to pitch well? And what does it say about their continued insistence that he’s going north with this club, come hell or high water?
Season Opening Prediction Conniptions – 4/1
Probably the post I quoted from more often than any other in 2013… because, in my defence of certain prognostications that insufficiently trumpeted the Jays’ chances, I actually acknowledged that Boston might not suck.
Even the Red Sox– who will hit, especially in their ballpark, with Pedroia, Napoli, Gomes against lefties, and full health from Ellsbury and (eventually) Ortiz– need only for Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to regain their form of two years ago in order to be a club capable of winning the division themselves, really. It’s a tall order, but I suppose the point I’m trying to make is, so is having Dickey pick up where he left off in 2012, keeping Johnson on the path to regaining his dominance, getting a healthy season from Brandon Morrow, and keeping the regression demons at bay when it comes to Mark Buehrle.
Dear John… – 4/5
An open letter to John Farrell on the occasion of his return to Toronto.
When the shit really started hitting the fan you could have pointed to the Jays’ openly stated reluctance to talk about a contract extension with you. You could have mentioned Boston’s setting up of your son’s radiation treatment while you were in the Jays’ employ. You could have pointed out that the club had the power to keep you if they really wanted to– as they did the year before. They didn’t want you, either, John. Maybe not as much as you didn’t want them, but enough to have used it to paint yourself in a better light. And you sure as fuck could have not said “dream job,” or “If you recall, I was traded,” John. That kind of delusional, arrogant attempt to brush aside legitimate questions about what appears to have been a duplicitous, long-considered, orchestrated exit just makes you kinda look like a fuckface.
Anatomy Of A JaysTalk: Deep Dickeying – 4/8
Barely a week into April and things were already spiraling out of control, with numerous fires needing to be put out– and not just from straw men, but from the mouths of actual fans. Seriously: April 8th.
Ken is aghast that the Jays had 42,000 people out, and couldn’t even get a run! They showed no emotion! Dickey should have been taken out in the second inning! He was giving up a run every inning! There wasn’t anybody even standing up in the bullpen! He doesn’t want to shit on Gibbons, but– this team isn’t hitting! You’re not going to win this thing with just home runs, it’s about averages! Encarnacion isn’t hitting .100! THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE TEAM! YOU CAN SEE IT! Gibbons didn’t make some changes to spark the offence in the fifth inning! Hands down Rasmus should have been in there! Do SOMETHING!
Another Loss – 4/23
One of many talkings down from off the ledge that were published here in the early going.
A baseball schedule is grand, like an opera, or a naive first foray into psychotropic drugs. Not everything will reveal itself in the first forty minutes, and for best enjoyment you need to be equipped with the knowledge that things are going to happen that you simply do not understand.
Bringing it back– before I get too far up my own asshole here– to baseball and this year’s version of the Jays, already the insufferably negative line on this club has run through several permutations that speak to the meandering nature of the schedule and events in the game itself. After Monday’s loss in Baltimore it had become something along the lines of, “Good teams don’t lose games like that”– which, of course, they totally do.
Of “Precedents” And “Excuses” – 4/29
Piss and moan all you want about how you didn’t want to hear it, it was still early.
Nobody is going to tell you that the Jays are playing well, or that the mounting losses of a poor April aren’t troubling, or that they haven’t made an already-difficult task all the more difficult. A dispiriting sweep at the hands of the Yankees, coming off a series in Baltimore in which they avoided a sweep by the skin of their teeth is not good. The club, I’d argue, started playing better against the Yankees this weekend, and still it wasn’t good enough to beat the Overbay- and Wells-powered juggernauts– indicative of just how poor their play had been for the bulk of the month– and pointing out that it’s still early, even though it undeniably is, has begun to ring hollow in the minds of fans keen enough to have conceded that point weeks ago, when .500 wasn’t quite so far off in the distance.
Concern is very legitimate– not concern that this team might be awful, mind you, or shit-dumb insane concern that they may have hired a manager who simply doesn’t know how to sufficiently inspire, but concern that the Jays are in the process of digging themselves a hole that may wind up too deep to climb out of; that in mid-September we’ll be wishing they could have a few of these insufferably pissed-away games back.
A Timid Defense Of J.P. Arencibia’s Defense – 5/7 – by Drew Fairservice
Drew tries to find the positive in Aaron Cibia’s defence (since, thanks to an early-season power surge, it was still too soon to start harping on his garbage hitting).
Somewhere north of unpleasant was J.P. Arencibia striking the big blow in last night’s epic comeback against the Rays, smacking the go-ahead home run in the ninth off Fernando Rodney. That was nice and not the first big hit by Aaron Cibia this season. After his heroics in the 9th, it is easy to forget that J.P. Arencibia didn’t start last night’s game, he was on the bench in favor of backup Henry Blanco.
Manager John Gibbons said the move was made in an attempt to “get (Mark) Buehrle going” which is a totally loaded statement for somebody with an agenda (such as myself). It isn’t fair to infer that Gibby believes Blanco is the superior defensive catcher to Arencibia. It is also not crazy and possibly not wrong.
Never Has There Been A Tale Of More Woe/Than That Of The Pitcher Ricky Romero – 5/9 – by Parkes
Parkes offers some perspective on the mess that’s become of Ricky Romero.
Romero was simply unable to throw strikes. I’m not sure what type of coaching program is going to change this, but again, I think it’s naive to believe such a problem is dependent on taking more time at the Minor League level. I despise the idea of relying on an appeal to authority for an argument, but when the alternative viewpoint is held by a fan who wrote the team off two weeks into the season and believed Munenori Kawasaki to be a diamond in the rough that the rest of baseball was foolish to look past, I’ll trust the perspective of a front office who chose to bring up Romero and is committed to paying the pitcher a minimum of $23 million over the next three years.
Will Romero ever recover the ability that he exhibited before his untimely talent collapse? I don’t know, but I am aware that the answer isn’t as easy as a mere Minor League assignment. This isn’t a video game, where suddenly a pitcher goes from unprepared to ready. It’s a bit more nuanced than that.
Defending Arencibia Just Won’t Fly – 6/12
Before the subject became a broken horse of a dead record, I decided it was high time to push back to some of the defending of J.P. Arencibia I’d been hearing– and not Drew’s timid one, but Mike Wilner’s characterization of his play as just a “big, big, big, big slump, and guys go in big, big, big, big slumps.”
Arencibia, in my mind– and many others, for damn good reason– hardly qualifies anymore as someone capable of doing damage. The successes are just too few and too far between. He needs to hit for more power than just about every catcher in the history of the game in order to stay on the right side of barely-passable, and when he doesn’t– like he is now, with nine extra base hits over 38 games, and a .183/.209/.303 line since April fucking twenty-fifth– little things like the fact that he’s posted an on-base above .301 in just threeof the 16 calendar months he’s appeared in as a big leaguer, start to become a little more glaring. Meaning: holy shit, it’s so fucked that this is even a conversation.
Jose vs. The Umps – 6/24 – by Jon Hale
Jon Hale joins us in the midst of yet another fan freakout over Jose Bautista’s attitude, asking the question on everybody’s mind, namely:
Jose Bautista: whiner or victim? Obviously it looks bad when he’s constantly complaining, especially when he gets one wrong and melts down on national TV. But he’s got a pretty good eye and doesn’t seem like a delusional egomaniac, so in the long run is he right more often than not, or has his rise to stardom blinded him to the fact that he gets good and bad calls just like everyone else?
Brett Lawrie Is Better Than Many Remember – 6/25
For some– i.e. those unwilling to see the obvious reasons– it seemed Brett Lawrie’s star had faded considerably by mid-2013.
It’s not that they’re wrong to have noticed that Brett Lawrie has been rather putrid at the plate for quite some time now. It’s just… a funny thing happened on the way to their believing Lawrie has suddenly turned to dog shit. … Well, two funny things, actually. The first one is that somehow the “keep a really good player off this team” brigade forgot how much better Lawrie is defensively than Maicer Izturis, Mark DeRosa, Edwin Encarnacion, or whatever combination of third basemen the team might send out there in his stead. … The second thing is how injuries have coincided with his struggles at the plate.
How Much Is Colby Rasmus Worth? – 7/10
Colby’s gonna get paid.
Alex Anthopoulos has become fond of saying that the Jays are less worried than they used to be about locking up players to long-term deals early in the process, because they insist they’ll have the resources to keep the players they need to, but– especially with Gose perhaps faltering– Rasmus may be about to put that theory to the test in a very serious way. The next three months for him, and for his place on the club, look to me like they’ll be pretty fucking crucial.
The Best Place To Watch A Jays Game: Safeco Field – 8/5 – by Dave Burrows
Vancouverite Dave Burrows makes the case for watching the Jays in Seattle– and it’s a damn good one.
To my East Coast homies, here’s what I want you to take away from this: if you’re from the GTA and you take a vacation to go see the Jays play, it should be to Seattle. If you’re outside of Ontario (what up, Nova Scotia!) and you save your pennies to come to Toronto once a year to watch a Jays game, save up a little more and come to Seattle. This is the mecca for hardcore Blue Jays fans. Avoid the frat boys who come to the games just to get drunk before they go out. Avoid the carpet. Avoid the Go Leafs Go chants. Come enjoy real grass, craft beer, delicious food and your fellow kindred spirits who use their hard-earned vacation time to go watch the Blue Jays.
Reality Check – 8/12
With six weeks still to go in the season, it was already time to take stock of an unmitigated disaster.
All teams enter every season with red flags and question marks, and whether or not those are answered in the affirmative is not necessarily a reflection of a club’s fortitude, a manager’s acumen, or an executive’s plan. If we’re going to have a serious conversation about where the Toronto Blue Jays need to go following a thoroughly disappointing season, the bare minimum should be to understand that truth– to not just rage at results and supposed failures of evaluation, absent any contemplation of not just the Jays’ own process, and not only also the process that teams like the Red Sox have followed, but the necessary imperfections in every roster, given the limitations of the pool of available talent.
Prospect Round-Up With Doug Davis, Minor League Field Coordinator – 8/19 – by Jonah Birenbaum
Doug Davis talks to Jonah Birenbaum about a number of Jays prospects, and is notably high on Marcus Stroman.
I think he’s a strong kid. I think as long as he maintains strength in his lower half, I think a lot of that has to do with durability factor and being able to pitch a lot of innings. I don’t want to point to his height as a restraint. I don’t think that’s fair. Again, I think until we give him the opportunity to build himself up to that 180-200 innings plateau and see what happens, I don’t think we’ll ever know. But I think he’s headed in the right direction — again, this year’s been a great year for him — and I’m still on board. You’re right, you don’t see a ton of small starting pitchers and if you do they’re usually left-handed and they don’t throw very hard, but Marcus isn’t that way, and again, I think it’s a good, young, fresh arm and I still hold out high hopes for him.
Let’s Talk About Player Development – 8/23
In the wake of critical comments from John Farrell, we explored what we really know about the Jays’ and their supposed disinterest in player development.
Which isn’t to say that the Jays shouldn’t have a focus on playing good fundamental baseball as their young players work their way through the system, or that we shouldn’t be wary of a vision in which the club advances and covets guys with monstrous tools with little thought to anything else, but… uh… is that really what’s happening? They’re just letting guys like Anthony Gose or Dan Norris float along on their tools with no guidance in their development? They don’t have roving instructors like Sal Fasano or Tim Raines to precisely guide prospects in fundamentals? They’re not advancing Kevin Pillar– not a big tools prospect at all– just the same as anybody else, on merit?
Should He Stay Or Should He Go? – 8/26
The vultures circle looking to feast on the carcass of John Gibbons, so naturally I call them morons.
The Rays didn’t make the playoffs in 2012 or in 2009: did Joe Maddon suddenly get dumb or lose his magic, or is the world infinitely more fucking complex than this “the manager creates a winning culture and then the players go win” bullshit? Look at the last two NL Managers Of The Year– Davey Johnson and Kirk Gibson– who each watched their teams go tits up in the year following their award wins. How could that be??? How could Jimy Williams have been a manager of the year? How were Joe Torre and Terry Francona bad enough to be fired from their first gigs? How can Ron Gardenhire and Mike Scioscia win Manager Of The Year and in short time watch their teams fall apart? Or Bud Black, or Jim Tracy?
The Blue Jays Injury Troubles Appear Systemic – 8/27 – by Blake Murphy
A look from Blake Murphy at the troubling pattern of injuries suffered by the Jays in the Anthopoulos era.
The Jays have had a major spike in the number of players used while the league average has held steady, and it’s something new since 2011. It’s worth repeating that this might not entirely be due to injuries. A team could conceivably go through a large number of players if its crop of “replacement players” were either very poor or very interchangeable. However, the Jays were sixth in total disabled list days in 2012, and sixth in average days lost from 2010 to 2012. While the data is incomplete for 2013, your memory should serve as a fine ledger for this year’s DL situation. The bulk of this heavy player usage appears to come from injuries.
A Poor FJM-ing Of An Even Poorer Gibbons Column – 8/27
I pluck some low-hanging fruit and smash apart a Damien Cox column. Because it was there.
Crystal clear. You want to fire a manager based on reasoning you admit is impossibly nebulous, just because of some superstition that has to do with the Red Sox playing better with one manager– and a better, healthier roster– than they did under some other guy. Sounds dumb as fuck to me, but please do go on.
Five Reasons To Keep Watching – 9/20 – by Archi Zuber
The Zubes finds some silver linings for the final weeks of a season long declared hopeless.
The average human life is about 657,000 hours. The average baseball game is somewhere around three hours. The 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are offering you the opportunity to take another 30 hours of your time on this planet out from doing things like thinking, acting, or doing. You likely already waste around eight hours of your day not working very hard at a job you probably don’t really like for a boss you probably can’t stand, and when you get home you’re expected to continue pretending to enjoy the company of people you love a little bit less every day? Don’t worry, Buck and Tabby are here to lead you down a well where you’ll wake up at 9:45pm wondering where your night went. Sweet retirement will be here before you know it.
Payroll Parameters: Rogers (Still) Needs To Step Up – 10/17
As close to a forensic look at the Jays’ accounting as we can do around here, and one that came to the conclusion that Rogers still ought to do more for the Jays.
Even with what we saw from ownership last winter, we can only wait and see whether the corporation truly believes that sustained winning genuinely drives revenues, or if owning the club is just a means to procuring cheap content– content that’s got a strong core of consumers and can be kept profitable enough with false hope and infusions of cash every five or six years, while we all watch whoever is the current GM continue down the well worn path of his predecessors, being similarly undone by failing to produce miracles from just enough money to appear adequately lavish. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Cano What I’m Thinking? – 10/23
Pipe dreaming on Robinson Cano, or some kind of major free agent splash that won’t further disrupt the Jays’ prospect pipeline.
In a warped way, as fans of the club who are in it for the long haul, that may even be ideal– the Jays give it another try with a similar roster, do as little damage to the prospect pipeline as possible, then start looking to 2016 and ’17 if things don’t work out. But it’s not very sellable, and it’s in that way that our interests and the interests of Anthopoulos and Beeston– who can’t let things get to that point if they want to keep their jobs– might be starting to diverge, and why we hear rumblings of desperate nonsense like trading Jose Bautista.
Rogers, Hockey, Money, Rumours, Guy Laurence, And The Jays – 11/26
Tackling the fears of Jays fans in the wake of Rogers’ new NHL TV rights deal, and their incoming CEO.
I mean, how likely do we really think it is that a company investing so heavily in sports media is going to hire a new CEO that not only doesn’t share that vision, but is going to swiftly dismantle key pillars of what has already been built? How much investment in the club, the stadium, and other sports properties– including this week’s rumblings of NFL interest that has MLSE fingerprints all over it– does Rogers have to make before we stop getting terrified at every turn that the Jays’ budget is about to disappear? Sure, they’ve probably earned our distrust through years of small market thinking, but regardless of who is in charge, this is very, very clearly a new era.
The Business Of Avoiding Robinson Cano – 12/06
Uh… so much for that pipe dream, eh?
There are huge incentives in ensuring the club maintains a strong brand with strong interest in it, which makes it all the more valuable as cheap content. Part of doing that is by investing in the club, and not to defend them too much, but that commitment can be seen in the jump from a $70-million payroll in 2011 to $150-million in 2015. Even factoring in the extra $26-million each team gets with MLB’s new national TV deals, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Apparently, though, the sorts of mega-deals we’re talking about with Cano just don’t fare well in the cost-benefit analysis. It’s a shitty way to have to look at it when you know that the money just sitting there, and that the deal is not even necessarily terrible, that flags fly forever, and that ownership has just been spending lavishly on hockey, but it’s not like the recent $5.2-billion NHL rights deal, or last summer’s MLSE acquisition, weren’t subject to the exact same kind of considerations.
Elliott: AA Now Referring To A “Five-Year Window,” And More Nonsense On “The Policy” – 12/11
A bit of a jumbled post, but damn if I’m not going to take another chance to point out how ridiculous it is that people actually think the Jays’ phony policy regarding contract length is stopping them from signing any player.
Think about it: if being offered the exact same amount of money, but being given the choice of reaching free agency again in five years or in seven years, or ten years, what player in his right mind isn’t going to take the five and give himself the best chance possible to re-enter the market before his skills erode so he can cash in once again? It makes no sense whatsoever that the Jays would be losing out on these kinds of deals because of term. If they’re losing out, it’s because they’re not willing to offer as much total money. Period.
Post Winter Meetings Angst – 12/16
Pretty much exactly what the title says…
It’s easy to get worked up, I know. Especially when certain media type pour gasoline on the moron fire, with their rushing to paint every acquisition by another team as some kind of major piece that the Jays have let slip away, or their discussions– like the one on Friday on the Fan 590′s Prime Time Sports– that zoom past the legitimate, obvious (read: boring) issues that sunk the 2013 Jays into bullshit about Jose Bautista’s clubhouse attitude– newsflash: highly competitive athlete less fun to be around when losing– and empower the kind of absurd, lazy notions of “analysis” that, when the layers are peeled back, essentially suggest the club is wanting for extra gooey clubhouse magic, and not, y’know, pitching and defence. But how about– I don’t know– we try to remember how excited we were last year for essentially the same team, and think a little more about how obvious it is that the 74 wins isn’t necessarily reflective of what it’s capable of,
The Jays Are Probably Better Off Than You Think – 12/25
A look at projections that hardly portend the kind of doom for the 2014 Blue Jays that’s expected by the fan base, given how their roster currently stands.
Maybe I’m being too hopeful and too quick to construct a narrative that conflicts with some of the things Alex Anthopoulos has openly said this winter– and, as with his stated preference for the trade market, that he has demonstrated time and again in the past that he truly thinks– but I tend to believe that he is actually intentionally holding all of his bullets. He’s holding money to make sure he has room in his budget to fit the free agent he’s aiming to go after, and he’s holding prospects (which could be used to make upgrades elsewhere– most glaringly at second base) to make sure he doesn’t deal away anything that could be used to net a top arm on the trade market, just in case he misses out. The concept works in one sense because it insulates him better against missing on the kind of difference-making pitcher he so badly needs. It works in another, though, because as desperately as it seems like he needs to make an addition, Anthopoulos can take the posture that he can stand pat a lot more confidently than I suspect a lot of fans realize. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he really did believe he could get away with doing nothing.
Image ripped off from Longreads.com. Posts written by yours truly unless otherwise noted, which you’ve surely figured out by now.