Richard Griffin has brought the ol’ Griff Bag out of hiatus, posting a new one back on Friday at the Toronto Star, and so my caustic hijacking of it returns as well!
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!
Are we finally seeing the Jays team we should have had last year?
It’s pretty much the same group of players, but now we have production from behind the plate and 2B, and call-ups from triple-A like Francisco are useful. All the team needs is the bullpen to return to its normal self and Lawrie to piece it together and a play-off spot could be there for the taking.
If the team is still in contention next month, what about adding Stephen Drew when he loses his draft-pick compensation status, and trading for another starter, like David Cone in 92?
Paul (from the UK)
Holy shit, actual optimism in a Griff Bag question? Is that even allowed?
And while I wouldn’t hold my breath on the Stephen Drew thing — with their first two picks protected, and the 50th pick (and the attached pool money) all they’d have to surrender, it’s far more likely that contract demands, not the pick, is the issue — the other stuff sounds pretty reasonable. A whole lot still has to go right, but the division is there for the taking. We can see that the lineup can hit. We can see that defence isn’t nearly the issue it appeared to be at times last year. We can see how the bullpen is better than it has performed so far, and especially could take off with Casey Janssen back. We can see how the rotation might stabilize, especially once Marcus Stroman supplants J.A. Happ — and how eventually bringing in a starter and moving either Stroman or McGowan to the bullpen would help.
Don’t go scrapping your October vacation plans just yet, but they’re hanging in there, and there is more than enough talent on this club — and there have been more than enough issues with their division rivals — to think that they really can make a good run.
Would it have been better that they separated themselves from the pack while the other teams were spinning their wheels? Sure. But there is lots of reason to think that we haven’t seen the best of this club yet.
Richard Stoeten -
Was reading your article on Brandon Morrow’s possibly coming to the end of the line. Can you highlight the difference between Morrow’s situation and Dustin McGowan, where the Jays have had huge amounts of tolerance?
In a word: money. In four words: money and service time.
McGowan was hurt through the majority of his arbitration years, and made the league minimum, or thereabouts. Even in the final arbitration year that the Jays bought out when they signed him to an extension just ahead of the 2012 season he made a mere $600K, and in each of this year and last he made just $1.5-million. In the baseball economy, it’s a pittance.
Morrow, on the other hand, has a $10-million club option for next year (with a $1-million buyout). If the cost of keeping him around was the same as what it has cost to keep McGowan around for all these years, nobody would think he may have thrown his last pitch in a Jays uniform. The fact that it will cost $10-million, and that even then he’ll likely only have a tenuous grasp on a rotation spot behind Dickey, Buehrle, Hutchison, and Stroman, is where such talk is coming from.
How do you explain the current bullpen woes? We are finally getting some mediocre+ starting pitching to be continuously squandered, what has changed so dramatically from last year?
In a recent piece or in noon chat it was suggested that Buehrle be traded at the deadline. Why wait? His stock must be up right now with the great month he’s had. any chance we can get 1 young arm that can last 7+ innings and prospect? Or am kidding myself in terms of his true value? Even if you get a sold 2B for Buehrle, with or without a pitching prospect, isn’t it time to give Stroman, Sanchez, and Nolin quality big league practice as it is our BP and SP are not doing the job, Morrow is out my guess for good, the future is now, why continue to put out pitching that is at best mediocre (save Buehrle) when it doesn’t seem that the prospects can’t do that much worse…McGowan should be in the pen the feel good story is over seems the Jays need to go “all in” not only in terms of batting lineup but pitching just the same…from what I’ve see it seems the problem is less about Gibbons ability and more so about the quality of the players (particularly pitching and bench) he has to juggle.
To sum it up in one word…frustrating….I think if we had solid pitching we could be on the brink of a surprising season.
Thank you for listening.
The big O
Ahhh, now this is the kind of ass-brained question I’ve come to know and love from Griff readers.
I explain the bullpen woes by saying “that’s baseball,” and reminding that reliever performance can be volatile, and that there’s more than enough talent there to think they’ll be fine.
Why wait on trading Buehrle? Apart from the fact that trading him before the club is out of the race is as fucking dumb as believing they’re out of the race at this stage, look around and tell me how many trades get made this time of year. It just doesn’t happen. And can you get a fantastic young arm ready to step into a rotation and go deep consistently, plus a prospect, for less than two years of Buehrle and the nearly $35-million still owed him at this point? No. No you cannot. Unless by “prospect” you mean “warm body in the minor leagues.” But even so, why would a team that has a piece like that want to trade it for Buehrle? The Jays, if they get to the point of wanting to trade him, will certainly be able to get something beyond sweet delicious salary relief for him — especially if they have multiple suitors, which they won’t if they’re trying to force a trade now just for the sake of it — but let’s not go nuts.
The other stuff you wrote is, somehow, even more insane. No, the future is not now. No, Aaron Sanchez isn’t close to ready. No, Sean Nolin doesn’t need “big league practice”. No, McGowan shouldn’t be in the ‘pen.
What’s with the Bull Pen’s recent performance? The games that they have lost specially the last 3 has taken them from what would have been first place in the American League East to last place. How can so many of them suddenly lose control and command of their pitches almost at the same time? Is it the weather? if so, how are the pitchers and specially the bull pen ones of other teams managing?
Sergio Santos who sat out for his first full year with the Jays or almost all of that year of the trade with Chicago and who has great stuff and is an experienced pitcher – how on earth can he blow two games. The game where Loup and Redmond gave up a total of 6 runs to lose that game also contributed to the down-ward spiral. It is early days but they cannot afford to lose so many games in a short period of time. Injuries don’t help like in the case of Morrow and Janssen. This team has so much potential, if only the powers that be brought in a couple of good starters prior of the start of the season when there were many available, this team would have had the ability to go head to head with the best of teams.
Tony in Toronto.
They can afford to lose more games, obviously, but you’re right that the bullpen blowups of the early going have not been good. You’re also right that finding a way to add even just one starter in the off-season would have been a very, very good thing for the club (and not that you brought it up, but no, trying for months to grind Ervin Santana to dust and then whining when at the last minute he backed out on a handshake agreement doesn’t fly with me — live ruthlessly, die ruthlessly). But you’re asking questions you surely must know there aren’t good answers to. Baseball is hard. Those ones were tough to watch, but if there were easy explanations the problems would never occur, or never be allowed to spiral. The fact is, there are a lot of talented arms in the bullpen, and much more often than not they’re going to be an asset for the club. That’s about as much as we can ask.
I feel the need to ask a whole bunch of questions, but the way this season is progressing has numbed my mind and I am clouded with visions of Joey McLaughlin and Roy Lee Jackson running in from the bullpen. Now, I’ve been a fan since 1977 so I’d like to think I’m not a complete baseball idiot and while options still confuse me, I can’t help wondering things like:
1. Why didn’t we really try and keep Rajai Davis when he seems good enough to be an almost full timer for the Tigers?
2. Why do we always seem to lose a lot with Jose Reyes in the lineup? And who would you rather have right now…Reyes or Hechavarria?
3. Are we the only team that runs a yo-yo service with call ups? I understand there have been injuries…but it just seems ridiculous. Who makes these decisions anyway, Gibbons, AA, both?
4. How can our bench be so awful? How did it come to this?
5. Why don’t we just give Stroman/Nolin/Sanchez some significant experience this year and see how they go. What can it really hurt? JA Happ’s feelings? It seems we excessively babysit our top young players. I remember Travis d’Arnaud was on the verge of getting called up, but we waited so long, he got hurt. How different things might have been.
6. Do the Jays have a plan? Does anyone really know what’s going on anymore or are they making it up as they go along now?
Sorry, my faith this year has taken a beating. We just can’t catch a break, but maybe it’s because the system is broke. Any thoughts appreciated.
1. Money and the fact that he wanted a bigger role than they were willing to offer.
2. They seem to lose a lot with Reyes in the lineup? Utter insanity. Reyes over Hechavarria and it’s laughable how close it is not.
3 and 4. The Jays lead the league in transactions this year, but also: no. Minor injuries to starters have forced the club to change the composition to the bench somewhat frequently, because carrying eight relievers means they aren’t playing with a full complement of reserves — and they’re carrying so many relievers to preserve the kind of rotation depth that they desperately needed, eventually, in the last two seasons. Anthopoulos has the ultimate say on these decisions, but surely Gibbons gets a lot of input. And… um… it’s a bench. Look around at some benches: they’re not full of budding all-stars. Relax.
5. Because that would be dumb? Sure, Stroman is ready — command is there, stuff is there, opportunity is almost there. But Nolin doesn’t deserve a rotation spot over anybody already here, as he profiles as more of a back-end guy anyway, and while the numbers in Buffalo are pretty enough, consider the quality of competition. And Sanchez is walking more than 5 hitters per nine innings in New Hampshire, striking out fewer than 7.5 per nine, so this idea that he’s ready to pitch in the majors is, at this point, total fantasy.
6. I get that there have been moments of frustration so far, but come on. You seem to be pretty thoughtful. No need to regurgitate the laziest of lazy writer red herrings.
Can you tell me who calls the pitches for the Jays? Is it the bench or the catcher? Santos throwing only sliders with runners on base in Minnesota and following queue with 3 (I think) run scoring wild pitches.
It’s the catcher.
Q-A curious question
Big fuss about Pineda trying to get an edge after a long bout with injuries. Stupid none the less. Last year Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris both noted that Clay Buckholz’s forearm looked a little greasy. Which it and he obviously did, you could not help see him whipping his hair and forearm constantly and the incredible break on his stuff. I think he went 5/0 to start the season. Not only was there no recrimination for the allegations, even though there was some video evidence in support, it was firmly denied in Boston. End of story. Is it possible to tie neither Hayhurst nor Morris returning to work for Rogers this year as backlash for their comments?
Dave V, Thomasburg
No, it is not possible.
Do you have any explanation for the poor base running skills we’re seeing this year? Gose’s flubs last night I can somewhat let slide (first game jitters and all), but what about Bautista? The guy is supposedly a leader on this team, but he keeps handing the opposition free outs with his inattention to detail on the paths.
Evan M., Toronto
Yes, Bautista sometimes isn’t the most heads-up base runner. And that, of course, has absolutely fuck all to do with leadership.
Q-Just read the recap of the bullpen. In fairness to McGowan, he was NOT the problem last night. I still think if he were to falter, then move him back to long relief, but the reality is that he’s had 2 good games and 3 lousy ones. Give him a few more starts. The right move, if this team is as bad as I fear, is to trade Buerhle while he’s got maximum value. Sadly, another year of meaningless September baseball awaits the Toronto knights of the keyboard, to invoke the great Ted Williams.
Always enjoy your work and very sorry about your father’s recent passing, although it sounds as if he went a full 9 innings in the metaphoric sense.
What team have you possibly been watching? Or… oh, let me guess: you wrote this after a loss, and you’re one of those fans who is wholly incapable of comprehending just how many times even good teams lose in a season, right? And you haven’t bothered to pay attention to what’s going on in Tampa, or New York, or Boston, or Baltimore, yes?
It could go badly off the rails yet, but I just don’t understand what universe people are coming from when they look at the first 40 games this team has played (or however many were played when this was written) — with the bullpen blow-ups, the shaky first few weeks from three fifths of the rotation, the DL stints for Janssen, Reyes, and Lind, and the implosions of Izturis, Goins and Sierra — and assume that it has to go as badly or worse over the next 122. It might, but it absolutely doesn’t have to. At all.
Shit, I wrote the other week that “from the point of being 13-24 onward last year the Jays went 61-64, and that was while variously missing a month or more from: three fifths of their rotation, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos, plus at least two weeks of Brett Lawrie, Brett Cecil, and Edwin Encarnacion, not to mention the fact that it was then still six weeks before Jose Reyes returned.” It’s a pretty good team, the division is wide open, and as I said in response to an earlier question, there are all kinds of reasons to think that we haven’t seen close to the best of them yet.
In fact, with the way they can hit, just a few solid turns of the rotation could accumulate a bunch of wins pretty quickly, could it not? Do we really not think that Dickey, Buehrle, Hutchison, McGowan, and Stroman (once he takes over) can give the club that? Because I’m pretty sure we should.