Another week, another Griff Bag — aka Richard Griffin’s latest mail bag from over at the Toronto Star — and… I… uh… here it is? Whatever, you know the drill!
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, unless it’s about fucking Ricky Romero and J.P. Arencibia, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Q-Dear 2014 Toronto Blue Jays
Much is said about a team during a season. Certainly the media have a very large microphone and the myriad anonymous tweeters, bloggers, commenters chirp a non-stop deluge of… noise.
This is a letter from a fan. One who would like to believe represents a solid core of the people that are Blue Jay fans in this city. Who are we? We are the fans that grew up with the only baseball team that achieved any success in this city. They taught us the game. They won our hearts. They were beautiful and graceful in victory, and in defeat. They were the ’84-’94 Blue Jay teams.
They taught a generation of fans what good baseball clubs look like, act like, are managed like, shine like, win like. They created an educated fan base. We witnessed baseball excellence – from the playing field to the front office. And the results spoke for themselves. So yes it has been hard to lure us back as fans because we’ve been taught what good teams are made of. And let’s face facts: The last twenty years there’s been something or other missing.
This is a new group. We sense that. It has its own identity.
We know this team has what it needs to stand up and compete. And really, that’s all we want.
Stand and be counted. Represent us. This city. This country. These peoples.
Don’t go to win or lose
Is in each step forward
Of Body, Mind and Soul
With deepest sincerity,
A Blue Jay Fan
Oh please. A nice poetic flourish at the end, I guess, but try as it might to pull it back the other way, this syrupy nonsense pining for a past that never really existed sounds more like it comes from someone who is a fan of some vague spectre of misremembered “excellence,” not baseball. Someone trying to justify why they’re just now poking their head out to see if the club is worth frontrunning for once again, for the first time in a very long time.
OK, maybe it’s not. And even if it were, that’s fine enough — the club needs those kinds of fans to build from and to make the whole experience of Jays fandom a bigger and better thing — but let’s not let the cheap attempt at emotional resonance hide what’s really going on here. Because this is certainly not written by a fan allowing him or herself to remember things like the collapse of ’87, the “chokers” label the club was saddled with through its many playoff defeats in that era, the Cito-bashing, the Jimy Williams firing, the necessity of big name free agent acquisitions and a franchise-altering trade to setup their greatest achievements and forge the sort of identity we’re being asked to pretend can be so clear to see, or just how “educated” the fairweather fan base of his or her dreams really was.
That isn’t to say that things weren’t better then, or that it isn’t nice to read from a fan imploring other fans to get on board and to not simply be in it to win or lose, but you can’t reduce history to a few schmaltzy greeting card lines and expect intelligent people not to know better. I suppose the heart is in the right place, and I can certainly relate to the wish that people would quit it with the destructive noise sometimes, but to me the answer is never, ever about getting farther from reality and deeper into… well… this. There’s absolutely no reason to ever try to con people into liking anything.
I’ve written a few times and neglected to tell you that I appreciate the weekly chat and the mailbag. Keep it going! Given that the Jays are now again showing their true colours and coming back to the pack (soon to be back in 3rd place), shouldn’t AA be looking at moving some pieces for prospects? Specifically Reyes and Dickey? My thinking is that moving $12 million for a .500 pitcher, who does not fare well in the Dome and the AL East, and $15 million for a .260 shortstop with average defense could free up $27 million next year to go after a true #1 starter and a younger lead-off hitter.
At this point I would just accept that the trades of 2012 were busts and move forwards.
Maybe I’m just getting too old for this, because I kinda feel like an asshole for saying it, but holy fucking shit this is exceptionally dumb. Unless you’re just trolling, in which case, well played… dick.
But sadly, I don’t think you are, in which case, the thing is, please understand that we all have negative feelings sometimes, Rob, but what separates most of us from children is the ability to recognize when our impulses are blinding us to the sheer ridiculousness of the utter nonsense we might otherwise try to convince ourselves can pass as logic. The Jays’ true colours are the ones they show when they’re losing, eh? They’re so bad you can already pencil them in, with the all the hilarious and infuriating overconfidence of fourteen of your best shit-eating grins, as the third place team in the division, right? Then to put a tidy bow on this turd you’ll just shit out some hopelessly lost attempts at valuing two of the better players on a team you obviously don’t even like, which plays a sport you clearly can’t be bothered to even attempt to understand.
Do I have that about right?
I’m a big fan of your work and try not to miss a single article. Obviously, it’s still early, but should us Jays fans be concerned at how not dominant Aaron Sanchez has been in AA and so far in AAA?
Also, back when the Jays had all three of the pitching prospects, at the time, Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, if you were asked to only keep one of them, would you – like the Jays – have picked Sanchez?
Obviously you’d like Sanchez to be on dominant more often than not, and you’d like to see his strikeout and walk rates be a little better, but I don’t know that we know enough about what’s going on with him to be worried. There hasn’t been an injury or a drop-off in stuff, as far anything that’s been reported, and while the fact that he’s had trouble harnessing his pitches is not good, it’s fairly natural for command to remain a work in progress for a pitcher of his type and age — or at least for guys with that kind of stuff to be allowed every opportunity to get it right. And, I mean, it seems like he’s been in the prospect pipeline for a really long time, but he’s still not even going to turn 22 for another week — Marcus Stroman turned 22 fourteen months before Sanchez, while the just-drafted Jeff Hoffman will in early January — and is the youngest player to have thrown a pitch in the AAA International League this season, and one of only two age-21 players to suit up in that league. Shit, he was one of only ten age-21 players to pitch in the AA Eastern League this year! So concern is a long way off, but… that doesn’t mean I’m not cognizant of the fact that it simply may not click for him. It may not! And if you’re expecting a saviour, I ought to remind you here that baseball prospects sometimes simply don’t work out. But we’re a long, long way from bust still.
As for favouring one of the former big three over any of the others, this is all hard to talk about having never seen them — or having seen so little of them — but I suppose I was always more of a Sanchez guy. Easy to say now, I guess, though it’s not like Syndergaard has been going great in the PCL, either. Nicolino I don’t think is close, though, and as for the other two, the book on Sanchez (at least the way I read it) was that he had the stuff — the velocity and the repertoire — but not the command, while Syndergaard had even bigger velocity, better command, the big flamethrower’s frame, but less developed breaking stuff. Reports on that changed a bit after he joined the Mets, which has made a lot of Jays fans nervous, but I’m definitely OK with the Jays betting on Sanchez developing command — which often comes late, particularly (as far as I understand) for “projectable” guys who have big velocity, and big velocity jumps (in his pre-draft scouting report at ESPN.com in 2010, Keith Law noted that he then sat at just 91-93) — than Syndergaard developing his secondary pitches. Especially since a lot of that either is or isn’t in the wrist — or so they say — and was something the Jays saw up close more than anyone over the course of his three years in the system. Doesn’t mean they can’t have easily been way wrong, though.
With baseball now enamored by the pitch count, I am wondering why starting pitchers don’t throw less when they warm up before a game or between innings and why relievers don’t just shut it down and tell the manager they are done if they’ve been up for several occasions in the bullpen? I’ve been to the ballpark for years and most recently started counting/recording the number of throws (long toss included) and pitches it takes various Jays pitchers to get warmed up before their start and was interested when I counted a good 60-75 throws/pitches for most guys.
In the bullpen, most guys take about 25-35 throws/pitches to get ready. I remember very vividly on the June 7th game against the Cardinals, Loup came into the game and gave up 4 runs in 0.2 IP. I knew he was going to have a rough outing before he even threw an official pitch because he had gotten up in the pen to warm up on 2 separate occasions and had about 60 throws/pitches (by my count) before coming into the game (he was “ready” for each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings as Buehrle was in and out of trouble and they wanted to try and get him the win). He already looked tired when he threw his last pitch in the bullpen and then threw another 8 warm-up pitches on the mound before starting in the 8th (he threw 23 pitches for the game).
IF ONLY WE HAD REALIZED THIS SOONER!
Like… for real? Uh… they don’t throw all those warm-up pitches just for shits and giggles. The throw that many because they need to warm up. And, I’m sorry, but you didn’t “know” anything about whatever Loup outing you’re referring to.
And, honestly, I say that almost hesitantly, because it’s great when people think about the game in different ways and try to come up with new angles for why things do or don’t work the way that they do, and sometimes “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” but… um… I’m pretty sure that, somewhere along the line, some revolutionary thinker might have noticed the correlation here if there was anything to it. But there isn’t.
A few more q’s for you:
1-I saw Houston put a reliever in L field so they could bring him back for the next batter, playing to the splits. Any way to utilize Santos like this since he played shortstop? maybe 3rd base? I guess you don’t want to take the defensive risk in a high leverage situation, but maybe in a game where they have to take out the starting pitcher early, and hope that 2 relievers can plow through 3-4 innings?
2-Why not train relief pitchers as sprinters, so they can be used as pinch runners. Obviously easier said then done, but if a pitcher had some natural speed, seems like a worthwhile venture.
3-I’m in NY and am watching the NY broadcast, and the broadcasters were openly calling the catchers signs (Tanaka’s 2nd inning). What if the jays had someone tuned in? they would’ve known the pitch. Is there not some way to utilize this? Logic would indicate that sign-stealing is well defended against at the MLB level, but if the team has access to cameras for replays, could they not use these for honing in on signs? Or especially w/- a runner on 2nd.
1) I think it’s great fun when teams utilize their relievers that way, but I don’t think that’s remotely a realistic option for Santos. Health is one major concern for him specifically, and defence, too. I mean… it would be interesting if a team could develop two relievers of different hands who could both field the same position at the big league level, but that’s a tough enough assignment in the first place, and it doesn’t even factor in the need to have them switching back and forth — being up and down throughout innings — and what that might do to their performance. Beyond that sort of a scheme, though, you’d end up choosing between either burning through your bullpen quickly, or sacrificing a lot of defence if you did it for too long.
2) Well… I don’t think you can just “train” someone to be a sprinter. And as with the first part of your question, I don’t think you’d want to take too much time away from your pitchers’ preparations to do their first job — pitching. Nor do I think we should pretend that base running is purely about speed anyway — having sound instincts on the base paths is hugely important, too. Also: you would more want to do this with your starters, otherwise you’re burning a reliever who could still be useful to the game you’re in just to have him pinch run.
Q-Okay, so you wouldn’t give up Sanchez AND Stroman for Jeff Samarazja, but would you do that deal for David Price?
I would be very disinclined to trade any non-reliever, non-utility player, or non-player named “Happ” that’s currently on the Jays’ active roster. Doing so for a big upgrade at that player’s position would be one of the few scenarios in which I’d consider it, but this isn’t such a simply question. Price is obviously outstanding, but think about the two sides of the equation. On one you have Stroman, Sanchez, and the fact that you have each of them under contract for cheap for six full big league seasons after this one. On the other you have a year-and-a-half of Price, the $7-million or so remaining on his 2014 deal, and the $15-20-million (or more) he’ll make next year through arbitration. That’s a lot of money, and those are a lot of years of control you’re trading away, and it’s not just for Price, but it’s for the somewhat small — but hardly insignificant — difference between what he’ll give the club this year and next, and what Stroman and Sanchez otherwise would have.
It wouldn’t be an unreasonable ask by Tampa, to be honest, and if the Jays were a club that could operate without fear that tying so much money up into one player would prevent them from doing the other things they’ll need to do to set themselves up for 2015, it might not be unreasonable to say yes. But they can’t operate that way — or at least they haven’t shown the ability to for decades, save for some brief, optimistic flashes. Other clubs — ones who didn’t trade away so much of their pipeline last year, less need to develop cheap homegrown talent, and who don’t play in the same division as the Rays — can, and I think would be much more realistic trading partners anyway. Even if the Jays would do it, in other words, I’m pretty sure the point is moot.
So can we just stop talking about it maybe?
Mr. G Mr. S,
Hmm. Jays into October. Perhaps. But let’s allow that this possibility is predicated on the rest of the division continuing to underachieve. We’re about to hit the hot weather: top starter is 35 and can’t get better; best hitters are heading for mid-thirties. Adam Lind, platoon hitter, power gone, subject to long productivity blackouts, injury-prone, worst facial hair in the game. Grow up, Adam, you’re 30. How fast would Reyes be if he weren’t weighed down by beads, hockey gloves, etc; Melky’s gone cold, but isn’t a .340 hitter anyway (have we seen enough of his mouth guard?). Will Brett Lawrie ever learn to keep his bat still ?
Too many career minor leaguers (Tolleson, Kawasaki, Gose, yes Gose, Pillar). Look for Kim Il Jung – body Navarro to break down soon. Ol’ man Dickey is about done – talk about buying at the top of the market; as a former investment manager I’d love to see A.A’s stock portfolio.
Nothing in the minors; how long till Aaron Sanchez is brought up too early and ruined?
It’s the era of Sissyball, from the hockey gloves, elbow pads, upper arm pads, girly beads, ankle pads, all of which have done nothing to reduce trips to the DL for today’s softboys; what is it, in the face of modern medicine , that Tommy John is everywhere and a “ horse “ pitches 180 innings a year ?
Selby Martin, Toronto
There is pretty much zero chance that a genuine old person wrote this. I can’t even say “nice try.” Might as well have had a story about tying an onion to his fucking belt for good measure.
On the off chance it is real, though, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: die already, Selby, you’ll be happier.
I believe the Blue Jays require to add a quality starting pitcher for a playoff run. However I do not understand why people talk about trading Stroman to acquire one. Stroman has been quite effective and will only get better. Replacing him in the rotation will not be much of an upgrade. I’d rather trade minor league players (plus Happ who finally has some value) to fill our needs. Samardja has been hot, but I doubt he will be the saviour many think he is. Finally, unless we are acquiring a tried and true stopper, I would hold onto Sanchez. I have waited 21 years and do not want to wait another for the sake of one playoff run. This team, in my mind, is a playoff contender, not yet a World Series contender. I wouldn’t mortgage the future for a one year run. Looking back at the Hall of famer Pat Gillick, the 92-93 teams were World Series contenders prior to him trading for Cone and Henderson. And take note, Cone and Henderson were true difference makers, not fillers.
Jason MacDonald, Amherst
I’m with you on the Stroman stuff. I think most of that talk came from the fact that people are just recycling whatever was out there in the winter and spring, when he wasn’t quite as big a piece of the club. Silly to talk about moving too much off the big league roster at this point, especially given that it’s so thin.
As for Samardzija, I don’t think anybody thinks he’s a saviour. I think he’s probably a lot better than people afraid of the price and conditioned by certain lazy narratives to fear the NL pitcher transitioning to the AL want to believe, but he’s not a panacea. What he is, however, is a big upgrade, and that’s absolutely fine — depending on the price, of course. We talked about Ervin Santana all winter, and it’s the same thing; he’s not going to win you anything single-handedly, but the more pitchers of better quality that you have in your rotation, the better you are in the overall.
And that’s sort of the thing about whatever the hell else you’re getting into here. I would love to see Sanchez succeed here, too, and I’d be very reluctant to part with him, but talking about this club just going out and being able to put themselves in this position again next year, with huge pieces like Rasmus, Cabrera, and Janssen set to become free agents, Morrow and Lind with options, Reyes getting $6-million more expensive, and an already old core getting a year older? Uh… yeah, that’s probably not going to go quite as swimmingly as you think. Being determined to put it on a 21-year to carry the load by offsetting so much of that lost talent doesn’t make a lot of sense either. I’m not saying you have to trade him — ideally you find the kind of upgrades you need for a lesser cost — but I’m just not so sure how well setup this future you’re afraid of mortgaging to win now really is. I mean, it could be very good, if they do it right, but it’s hard to imagine that they could have a better shot in the next couple of years or more than they do right now, unless something drastic changes.
On June 15th you wrote a column with headline “Blue Jays will be playing in October” . On June 19th, your column was titled “Jays will not be playing in October if GM AA stands pat.”
Realize there is no accountability in journalism anymore and the expectation is that the readers have extremely short term memories, but maybe wait a full week before you do a 180.
Someone else usually writes the headline — and these days a good, catchy, click-bait-y headline is awfully important. Try actually reading what’s written.