There may have been one or two editions of the ol’ Griff Bag to have been released already this spring, and I might even take a look at those this week, but on Friday over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin offered us a new batch of dispatches from the lunatic fringe, and I’m thinking it’s best we just dive back in with a caustic little hijacking of his latest. Shall we???
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Huge fan of the column.
I’m down here in Dunedin, and in certain quarters around the stadium today you really could hear the negativity. I know Toronto sports fans are primed to go that way, but as disappointing as this off-season has seen there are always those other narratives in baseball. The thing that comes absolutely out of nowhere. And because it’s either search for some optimism or just go crazy now, my question is this: Are there any Jays that you think have the possibility of turning in a Hail Mary this season? If so, who, why, and what should we be looking for?
Denis McGrath, Toronto
You’re not wrong, Denis. The off-season has been an absolute gut-punch exactly because the Jays are so close and so talented as it is, and because we only allowed ourselves to give this organization so much goodwill and so much excitement a year ago on the condition that they wouldn’t do precisely what they’ve now done. All the prospect talent dealt away was accepted by the fans because we were told it was being done in what was to be a good faith effort to contend for multiple years, which they’ve now slithered away from, leaving nothing behind but shed skins that once spoke about “relentlessly pursuing improving the team in the off-season,” needing to address the rotation, and “If we don’t win this year, we win next year, and if we don’t win next year, we win the year after.”
It leaves a bitter, bitter taste in the mouth of anyone who ever actually — almost assuredly dumbly — believed anything these people said, or defended the trades of last winter on the grounds that they signaled things would actually get better, commitments would actually be honoured, and purse strings wouldn’t be suddenly tightened as they were back at the end of J.P. Ricciardi’s tenure. But yes, there will still be a lot that’s great to watch in 2014, and there are a number of players who could surprise and push this team to higher heights than many of us gutted by the winter may be ready to believe just yet. The offence is already going to be a blast, and I especially think that Melky Cabrera, if healthy, will be a whole lot closer to the guy Jays fans first dreamed on than the one that they actually saw in 2013. I also think Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman have the ability to be extremely good young pitchers for this club, provided expectations haven’t already been twisted out of proportion by the hype from a desperate front office. There was even talk on Monday — from Buck Martinez on Prime Time Sports, apparently — that Aaron Sanchez could genuinely be a strong, contributing part of this team. I think that’s a little insanely presumptuous — Jose Fernandez he is not — but a legitimate, sustained step forward in terms of command could definitely put him on the map, especially if the front office gets frantic to save their own skins, or if there is a massive offloading of expensive big league talent come July.
Hey, and that wretched business should at least be interesting to watch, too, should it come to all that! Ugh.
Q. Lately the MLB return to Montreal topic has been gaining momentum. With the Jays set to play two games at the Big Owe in Montreal to finish off spring training, Jon Morosi suggested that both of these games may have a higher attendance than the home opener in Tampa Bay. Do you see any realistic possibly of Montreal getting a franchise anytime soon?
Uh… pretty sure Morosi can only suggest that because capacity after renovations to Tropicana Field has come down now to just 31,042, while the Stade Olympique holds 44,000 for baseball. Still, though, yes, Tampa is a problem market for MLB, and perhaps when Herr Selig retires at the end of the calendar year some right thinking individual will come along and be more interested in finding a solution that includes Montreal. But it’s going to be very, very tough. The commitment to secure a team and build a stadium will be massive — beyond a billion dollars, for sure — and who’s going to pay it? Bell, maybe? I don’t know, but the list is small and the chance of finding a franchise actually willing to move is remote. Plus, as much as I think baseball could and would work in that city, it’s not like a couple of novelty exhibition games will allay residual fears, rightly or wrongly, about a market that has already lost a team once. I mean, there are going to be a shit-tonne of Blue Jays fans from Ontario taking it as an excuse to go for a party in Montreal — I know that’s why I’m going. So… what does that tell anybody about the appetite for baseball there, really?
Q. Question about 2B spot. With his clutch hitting, energy and average defence, what do you think the odds are of Mune Kawasaki making the club out of camp? Or do you think AA will promote/acquire someone else?
Don’t get me wrong, Kawasaki is fun, but that doesn’t mean we can just invent things about him, or try to shoehorn others into some bizarre winning equation where games get decided on “energy.” He’s a nice little piece of depth who did his job last season about as well as anyone could have ever asked. Shit, he might even be the Jays’ best option at second base, if only because all of the options are so abysmal. Yet it looks like they’re going to start out hoping Ryan Goins’ defence is close enough to elite to make his bat worth carrying, which… at least he’s got one skill that might genuinely prove to really be something close to elite, so… I don’t know… maybe hoping like fuck that the bat will play and he’ll suddenly, at age 26, learn to take a walk, is appropriate enough in this wing-and-a-prayer of a season. Then again, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kawasaki take another run at the job at some point early on, either. Such a shame that someone like Stephen Drew isn’t just fucking sitting there, willing to play second, having put up 8.1 WAR as a shortstop over his last two full, healthy seasons.
I was just wondering if you still believe A.A. has a plan? This boy just might be the worst GM in the history of Major League Baseball. To his credit, he just might be the best conman, in the history of Major League Baseball.
One more thing, Just where in the hell does Paul Beeston figure in this scam ?
Joe Badali, Aurora
Yeah… this is the kind of reductive-as-fuck horseshit that makes me hesitate so much to get negative about this team. Life is complicated. Let’s maybe acknowledge those complexities before we go posturing like we have a clue.
Loved the chat and am a baseball fan as well as a supporter of the Jays. My beef is the way the organization uses the retractable roof down there. The place, as you know, is one of the worst parks in MLB, but at least it is tolerable when the roof is open. Not that anyone cares but I refuse to attend if I know the lid will be shut (don’t like watching an outdoor game in a mausoleum). Why can’t the Jays’ organization set a rule that if the temperature is at or above a certain number (say 14C) and it is not raining that the roof will be open and people should dress accordingly? If it starts to rain, close it. How do Minnesotans cope with their weather in early spring, or Detroit fans?
I’m with you on this one, Rob. I mean, I’d rather have the roof than not, but the building is obviously much, much better when it’s open (unless R.A. Dickey is pitching). Problem is, the ones who are against you are a bunch of season ticket holders who will complain at the slightest hint of cold, as well as the players themselves, who’d rather not be shivering in sub-15 temperatures… which, ridiculous as its sounds, I think is really what they think. With the Jays team built as hitting-heavy as it is, maybe they’d even be better off with a few more games in the mildly home run-suppressing cold air. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for any changes. It is what it is.
The cupboard was bare a long time ago, not to say Ervin Santana could have helped much but the powers that be at Rogers really did not give it a good try to get a couple of much needed starting pitchers — now they have only two starters and will use three from the minors, I guess. This year will be even worse than last year and if the players start getting sick, then it is curtains for another futile year. I have great admiration for the fans not only in Toronto but country-wide who have faithfully stuck by the Leafs who have not won the coveted Stanley cup for a very long time and the Jays are following suite. What a shame.
Take care and have a good day.
Tony D’Souza, Toronto
The cupboard isn’t fucking bare, Tony, but suite hissy fit there when you went off regurgitating a bunch of negative horseshit. That kind of garbage suites you real well, and it must have felt really suite.
Q. Why don’t they just give Dustin McGowan a shot at the starting rotation? Sure, he’s had a ton of injuries, but the team is overloaded with long relief pitchers and if he can’t do it, then what’s lost?
He has health issues, but when he didn’t, he had the stuff of a staff ace. Give him a shot! If his arm blows out, so be it. It’s not as if they need more long relief pitchers. More likely, the team will release McGowan, he’ll be picked up by someone else and do a Chris Carpenter on the team.
There is virtually no downside to making McGowan a starting pitcher. The bullpen is ok without him and if he suffers another injury, it would be unfortunate, but the Blue Jays would not be losing someone they are counting on. The upside is another Chris Carpenter situation, but in Toronto rather than St. Louis.
The Chris Carpenter stuff is amazingly insane, but you know what? Fuck it, why the hell not? McGowan had the flu early in camp and is behind everybody else, so it doesn’t look like he’s going to break with the club in the rotation — he hasn’t pitched more than two innings in one outing yet — but apparently they’re going to keep building him, and… shit, at this point I’d throw him in there come mid-April and see what happens. I know he’s a valuable relief piece and the club doesn’t want to see him get hurt, but it’s his career, and at least he has the stuff to do it if his arm holds up and it all clicks.
You could do worse, I guess, is what I’m saying. And yeah, when you can take a flyer here and know that you’re not really relying on him in the truest sense, but just giving it a crack, … fuck. Sure.
Q-AA’s ego is the problem. He doesn’t set values the market does. Over pay if that’s what you need to do.
Time for a change
If Anthopoulos had the resources to make moves and simply didn’t because he held onto his valuations absurdly rigidly, then I agree with you. I don’t think ego would necessarily be the reason if that were the case, but whatever it is, it wouldn’t be good.
However, we have no fucking idea what went on here and why he didn’t sign anybody despite the glaring, painfully obvious needs that this club has. His little story about sticking to valuations made sense when he was mid-negotiation and didn’t want to lead on that he had more available resources than was telling agents, and now that things have ultimately gone awry it makes for great cover for an ownership group that may have dumbly cut their own product off at the knees. But as to what really happened, we simply don’t know. We know that it’s claimed that the Jays offered money to A.J. Burnett. We know that they certainly acted like at least some amount of money was there for Ervin Santana to take. But we absolutely do not know the background enough to throw Anthopoulos under the bus for the reasons you’re saying.
Can we argue that he’s proven himself unfit for the job by either sticking to his valuations too rigidly or for failing to sufficiently insulate himself against having the rug pulled out from under him by a company he should have known was capable of such slimeball horseshit? Maybe. But it’s hard to say whether some other complicated factors may have been at play here too — and it’s certainly too hard to simply sneer that it must have been his ego.
What are your thoughts on the Sugar Land Skeeters of the ALPB inviting Tracy McGrady to try out as a pitcher? Is this just a publicity stunt to attract attention and fill seats or is there really a chance he could be successful? Despite being ‘coached’ by Roger Clemens, the reality is that he is 34 and has never previously pitched. Pitchers take years to develop — in fact I’ve often heard they require at least 500 innings to properly hone their craft. Why bother?
Purple monkey dishwasher.
The Blue Jays have double the off days this April compared to last April. After the first week of the season, the Jays will have four consecutive Mondays off.
So my question is: Do you think that Gibbons (and AA) are just going to roll with the usual five-man starting rotation for all of April, or is it possible that they might drop some of the fifth starter’s starts when it would keep the top four starters on four days rest? (The Jays only have one off day in May, and so clearly the five-man rotation will have to be in full swing then.)
If the fifth starter is Brandon Morrow, which it sounds like it might be, I’d think they’d be planning for him to make all of his starts. If it’s someone shittier, maybe? I don’t know, man!
With the recent news of Ricky Romero stepping up again — it’s hard not to feel optimistic. If you get the chance can you wish him all the best, and let him know that regardless of whether he pitches again in the MLB or not, we’re all proud of him and the obstacles he’s overcome.
Jesus, he didn’t drag himself out of the jungle with a bag full of the cure for syphilis, he pitched in Buffalo while collecting $7.5-million.
Some time ago the Star was telling us that Roy Halladay would be helping out the Jays. In the Tampa Times they are reporting that Halladay is now in the Phillies camp and he says “I love being here, I definitely want to keep doing it.” So will Halladay still be coming to the Jays camp?
Port Richey, Fl
I could not possibly care less. Well… unless this question somehow also involves the Sugar Land Skeeters.