Another week, another Griff Bag! Aka Richard Griffin’s latest mail bag from over at the Toronto Star!
And… holy shit, it’s garbage clown central in there this week, what with it being published before the current four-game streak. Which… I know what you’re thinking. Sounds like par for the course, right? Well hold onto your panties, Ron.
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, provided you’re OK with me calling you a garbage clown, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Richard Stoeten -
You had mentioned several times that Alex Anthopoulos has done a good job stocking/restocking talent at the lower levels implying that somehow that can save his job. I question whether this accomplishment alone qualifies him as a major league GM.
In two major trades, he has completely missed on his target – what he calls centerpiece – Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey. He has also handcuffed the organization based on the salaries he took on in Buehrle and Reyes. Yes they are contributing and fun-to-watch players, but their salaries has handicapped the organization in other areas. Perhaps I am one of the few in supporting Rogers for limiting more increase in salary. To me, it’s an issue of accountability. Ownership agreed to significantly increase salary at the time of the Miami/NY trades based on certain deliverables. Not only did AA not deliver, he went to ask for more money (Santana and possibly deals at the non-waiver trade deadline) I think Rogers is simply holding AA to what he promised he’d deliver – Do what you said you were going to do. I see AA as a director of player personnel kind of a talent, not a major league GM; at least not at this stage of his career given that he is still young. Your thoughts?
Uh… well then I suppose it’s fortunate for Anthopoulos that restocking the lower levels of the minors is hardly the only good thing he’s done.
But yes, Anthopoulos blew the Josh Johnson portion of the Marlins trade. I hardly think you can call him the centerpiece of it — he was bringing Buehrle on for three years, after all, and Reyes for five, while Johnson was only here for one — but clearly little about that trade has worked out the way anybody has hoped. The Dickey deal, I think, gets unfairly knocked — and I’m guilty of it too, sometimes — because people forget that built into the high price the Jays paid was the fact that they were getting a very good, manageable contract in the deal, too. He has only shown 2012 form in flashes since, but $30-million for three years of a reigning Cy-Young-winning innings-eater is a pretty tremendous proposition, even for an exorbitant cost (though with Travis d’Arnaud possibly moving out from behind the plate due to repeated concussion problems, perhaps it’s not as big as many think), and even though it has clearly not worked out the way anybody had hoped, either.
Yes, Yan Gomes was a big miss, and Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco was defensible because of compensation picks and Napoli’s impending free agency, but looks awful. However, on the other hand, the contracts for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are master strokes, as was getting out from under the Vernon Wells deal. Some of the drafting has looked quite good so far, even though the club has missed a bunch there too, and has focussed on guys who remain a good distance yet away from the big leagues. Also, had he not had a tumour on his spine in the first year of the deal, I suspect the Melky contract would be looking like a pretty damn savvy move, as well.
There is plenty to like, in other words.
Moving on, your talk about deliverables and payroll is an interesting theory — and yes, one that would be pretty damning for Anthopoulos if it were true. But it requires, I think, too gigantic a leap to take terribly seriously.
The whole organization was aglow in the spring that followed the big acquisitions of November and December 2012, and the atmosphere of coronation certainly makes it seem at least plausible that you’re right, and that Anthopoulos and Beeston understood they’d be screwed — left with absolutely no financial flexibility — if things went south, but simply felt there was no way it could fail. But we have no idea. And for a group that had so prioritized flexibility in everything they had said and done in the years preceding — and an organization that was still awfully thin below the surface and knew the damage a single injury to a key player could do to a club (in 2012, Jose Bautista had just five plate appearances after July 16th; the Jays were 28-44 from that date on) — it’s especially ridiculous to be certain that they took such a big risk knowing full well the ultimate consequences of their actions. Almost as absurd as the idea that anybody would have been crazy enough to promise anything in terms of on-field success. (Though it’s still not in the stratosphere of absurdity that saying “I see AA as a director of player personnel kind of talent, not a major league GM” is).
Yes, maybe that’s how it happened, but I think it could just as easily be the case that the confluence of the terrible year and the change at the top of Rogers’ corporate structure made ownership rethink the benefit of sending more money into the coffers of an enterprise with a proven model of succeeding on the cheap. Not succeeding on the field, mind you, but in terms of providing cheap content for the Sportsnet networks, generating ad money, generating revenue sharing money (which they’re no longer eligible for), getting a big payout from MLB because of deals with US TV networks, and watching franchise equity grow tremendously (last year Bloomberg valued the Jays at almost a billion dollars; Rogers bought the team for $120-million in 2000). The do-just-enough, penny-pinching, $70-million-payroll Jays of most of the last 15 years have done pretty well for the evil empire that controls them, and have done so by risking a whole hell of a lot less capital than they did in each of the last two seasons.
So one at least hopes Anthopoulos and Beeston wouldn’t have been so risky to have not believed this could happened — though one also hopes the front office would use every single possible tool at its disposal (i.e. hefty investment and belief in their analytics department) when it comes to these sorts of crucial questions of player evaluation, and I’m not sure we have a good answer on that one, either — but at this point it’s not like it matters so much how we got here as it does that we are here and need to find a way out. Yet, you’re right: if Anthopoulos and Beeston had more a hand in handcuffing themselves than we can yet reasonably believe — if they were too cavalier about the possibility that ownership would so emphatically stop them from increasing their payroll — then maybe they’re not the right men for the job. If they continue, let’s at least hope they’ve learned the fucking lesson.
Well here we are again Griff—a little later in the season than usual but same result. A side with some talent but not much grit and at times a comical lack of brain power. It will be interesting to see who goes and stays—any pretence that this is a side that should be kept together disappeared weeks ago, (as did the coffee mornings early season optimism). I think that AA and John Gibbons should be the first to exit, responsibility for failure should always start at the top. I’ve always liked Gibby for his honesty but when it was necessary to get players to adjust they either ignored him or the message didn’t get through. Lack of authority is a killer for managers.
AA has made some terrible decisions starting with the big trade. Forgive me for putting on my ‘Sage of Prescott’ hat but I did say at the time that bringing over a bunch of flashy NLers who all starred on perennial losing teams was not going to work. With the exception of Mark Buehrle they turned out to be the gang that couldn’t hit, catch or throw straight. They only thing they lead the Division in was funny handshakes and Mr Muscles demonstrations. Then we have had the constant parade of waiver duds, all touted as assets. The worst thing about this is that the young players (Gose, Goins, Pillar, Jenkins etc) were constantly shuffled back and forward to Buffalo. Given no chance to work their way through mistakes. You can add the failure to add experienced players with pedigree at the All Star and inexplicably trundling out the likes of Reimold, Francisco, Valencia etc to save the day. It all adds up to a GM with poor player perception. Talking a lot doesn’t necessarily mean knowing a lot.
Finally the plusses: Melky Cabrera, EE, Adam Lind, Captain Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Hutchison, Stroman, Happ and Sanchez. That’s your nucleus now lets get some management who can do something with it.
Sorry about the rant
Griff Stoet but it’s been one of those weeks.
Frank Taker, Prescott
Holy shitballs, Frank. I ought to print out your letter and put it on my fridge as a monument to every blisteringly ridiculous thought a Jays fan could possibly squeeze into one single addled mind.
I mean… not only are you pretending that you can see grit, but you’re also pretending it wins baseball games??!? And the stuff about the “comical lack of brain power”? Holy shitting frustrated fucking nonsense, man! Hilarious! Ohhhh, and then get set to torch the whole operation like a child breaking his favourite toy in a fit of pique. Can’t possibly keep this group together! (Dumb.) Fire the GM and manager! (Dumb). Pretend you can divine a lack of authority through your TV set and that there’s some kind of massive communication problem everybody else is utterly blind to. (Dumb!) Act like the “NL guys” thing and the “perennial losing teams” thing is, a) real, and b) not the dumbest fucking thing imaginable. (Dumb!) Say “flashy” with zero concept of how it comes off like a racist dog whistle, and gripe about handshakes like they’re being done by those damn kids stomping all over your precious lawn! (ahhhhhhhhh-Dumb!!!) Pretend playing worse players more would have helped, then ignore the actual help the club got from guys at the bottom of the roster because it doesn’t serve your point! (Dumb! Dumb!)
It’s truly breathtaking. The Lake Louise of late-season-2014 crybaby Jays fan insanity. Bravo.
Q-Hi there, Mr.
A few weeks ago, pitching for the Bisons, Steve Delabar delivered two wild pitches while intentionally walking a batter. I’ve since heard that this happens more than one might think, and that those throws to the catcher around a batter are actually somewhat challenging. Is this true? If so, why? Is it that after focusing so intently on his “stuff” it’s difficult for a pitcher to deliver a generic throw? Or is poor Delabar really breaking down?
Love the mailbag.
Mark Truscott, Toronto
I don’t put a lot of stock in the mental breakdown-type stuff. Even if you do, there’s no way to really know what’s in a person’s head.
Here is yet another Jose Bautista question.
He attributes his umpire problems to his fiery nature, that he’s just being himself when he feels that balls are called strikes. The question: did he have his umpire problems before he was a star, or has his stardom changed his “nature”?
Bill Cooper, Kingston
He’s been like this for as long as I can remember, but I must admit, while the data on ejections is sparse — the great Umpire Ejection Fantasy League only has data on players back to 2012 — Googling around hasn’t landed me a lot of information about him getting himself ejected prior to his superstar turn. Then again, back before that it wasn’t a story. Must’ve been nice.
Although I guess you could argue the Blue Jays still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs I suggest we will see pigs fly before that happens. My question though is about next year. I don’t know what the Blue Jays intentions are to resigning Melky Cabrera or Casey Janssen and I don’t know if Jose Bautista will demand a trade although if he did who could blame him. The question to have AA and or PB answer is why they or any other player would want to play for the Blue Jays next year and beyond given the sorry state of affairs they are now in? Money? They can get that anywhere. They want to win and go on to the playoffs and a shot at the World Series. How can the Blue Jays management offer that with a straight face?
What a load of garbage, Stan.
I enjoy your Q&A with fans. It’s great to get an unbiased view on baseball matters considering Rogers ownership of the team and of Sportsnet/The Fan, etc. My comments and questions are as follows:
The Blue Jays are in the top 10 in MLB salaries. While Rogers did increase the payroll in 2012 it looks like they are very reluctant to increase it further unless it can be coupled with on-field success/increased gate/increased ratings.
When looking at the Blue Jays payroll it looks like they get salary relief in 2016 as the contracts of Buherle, Dickey & Romero are all set to expire. In watching this season, it is very clear that Buherle & Dickey are not front of the rotation pitchers however, both are paid as front of the rotation pitchers. The Blue Jays are near the bottom of the league in team ERA. While the young pitchers look promising for 2015 and beyond it is unlikely the Blue Jays compete in 2015 with current payroll and Buherle & Dickey as 1-2 starters. On balance the offence looks fine provided the core players stay health.
Question – Do you think a market exists for Buherle & Dickey? Both consistently pitch 200 + innings and might be ideal as a 4th or 5TH starter for a serious playoff contender. If the Jays can manage to trade Buherle do you think they would be in a position to go after James Shields and someone like Ervin Santana? Perhaps, the contracts of Shields and Santana could be light in the first year and then higher in 2016 and beyond to coincide with the Blue Jays salary relief 2016 and beyond?
Question – Do you think the Blue Jays have more flexibility this year to acquire free agents given payroll structure and relief in 2016 and beyond?
Question – What do you think AA’s priorities will be this off season? Last year it was pitching but Rogers did not provide dollars to address it. How do you think AA goes about addressing starting pitching this off season?
Don’t get bogged down by what “number” a starter is. Stroman and Hutchison aren’t paid like capable threes, at least one of whom could be a two in short order (no pun intended), which means… what, exactly? Even if it did mean something, Dickey at $12-million isn’t being paid like a number one anyway. In a world where Clayton Kershaw makes over $30-million, and Masahiro Tanaka has six more years at $22-million, you can hardly criticize the Dickey contract, even if he hasn’t pitched like the guy the Jays were hoping they were going to get. Yes, Buehrle is getting paid too handsomely, and all because of past performances given elsewhere, but that alone isn’t killing the team, and the talk about not being able to compete next year is absurd. It’s maybe not an ideal setup, but have a gander at where the Angels are at and what their rotation looks like, for example.
Now, obviously having the best player on the planet kinda helps them, but this thing that fans are so fucking desperate to do where they write off the Jays chances already is ridiculous. I’m not saying blow the farm and go all-in on 2015, but a full year of Stroman? Another year of maturation from Hutchison? An Aaron Sanchez or a Dan Norris taking the bulk of the 17 starts that went to Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, and Liam Hendriks, or possibly just straight-up replacing J.A. Happ? Sure, there will always be bumps in the road with young players, but you’re telling me that isn’t a rotation that, along with Buehrle and Dickey, can’t go out and keep a good offence in a hell of a lot of games? Sorry if you can’t see past your frustration to that very basic fact. And how’s this for another one: as I noted in a recent Daily Duce, 16 playoff games have been started by pitchers aged 23 and under in the last two seasons, and 47 have been made by pitchers age 24 and under in the last four.
That all said, I think you’re absolutely right that the Jays could, and should, look to get creative with deals this off-season, and that finding a taker for the Buehrle contract might be worthwhile, even though they’re going to take a bath on it, just to free up some payroll. But it depends, of course, on what they get back, how much they’ll need to eat, and what they’ll be able to with the money that’s freed. It’s easy to slough off Buehrle given his struggles of late, but he’s been a tremendously dependable pitcher — there’s huge value in all those innings, even if he’s just going to be a league average pitcher — and not a terrible role model to have for the young guys coming up, either, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into thinking. Then again, you’d have probably thought the same of Roy Halladay when he was here, and a lot of good that did anybody. Plus, it’s not like you keep pay him $20-million you don’t have to just for that.
Still, it will certainly not be a crime if they keep him.
They may not have a choice in the matter, either. Let’s not forget that a team with enough money to take on a bunch of Buehrle’s salary might rather use that capital on whatever it is the Jays are eyeing for themselves. So it’s no slam dunk there will be a lot of takers — and you’re right to think the Jays’ bigger asset this winter might be how clear their books are in 2016 and beyond.
We Toronto fans will rarely ever see a winning sports team with Corporate Ownership.
My anger towards ownership this past off season wasn’t that they hadn’t spent enough money but more that they had a bunch of guys in their prime, or close to the end of it, and they needed to do everything necessary to make a playoff push. It seems Rogers decided to put the hand break on winning right when we had a chance, 1st place in the AL East, Possibly breaking 3 million in attendance and TV numbers in August/September of over a million a game wasn’t even enough to have them add some salary! My belief has been, as much as I would hate to see this happen, if you aren’t going to go for it, you might as well maximize your assets and start a fresh. I believe we are at that point, if Rogers refuses to upgrade the roster, which they’ve shown for almost a year that they won’t, shouldn’t the Jays go through a massive firesale this summer and rebuild for 2-3 years from now? Goodbye Bautista, Reyes, EE, Lind, Dickey, Buerhle, Rasmus, Cabrera, Janssen. Even if you have to eat a significant amount of some contracts to get better prospects, it will be worth it down the road. I hate this idea but I am tired of being the Buffalo Bills of Baseball, stuck in the middle again.
You ever have one of those moments when your piece of shit computer seizes up and stops doing exactly what you want when you want it to, and you just want to throw it through the nearest fucking window, and you know it will feel tremendously great for a second, but then you realize that if you do you’re going to spend the next few months having to use your imagination to jerk off, so you don’t do it?
Why do I get the feeling you’re the guy who just goes ahead and smashes the fucking thing anyway?
When can we officially call the Jays season over? Their recent 2 month slump has been a record breaker for them, if there is one thing to learn from their 2 month swoon, they have zero clubhouse leadership. The so called leaders of the club house could have taken a different approach after the trade deadline, and what they should have said is forget the management, let’s go out and win this thing, ie. Major League style. I wrote a question before the deadline stating I hope they stand pat at the deadline so AA could see what he had in this team, I still stand by what I wrote, cause if I was AA, this offseason I would be making a few changes to the clubhouse. After seeing this monumental collapse, I would look at moving one of the 2 of Buehrle/Dickey, let Rasmus walk, re-sign Cabrera, look and see what the return of a Bautista trade would be, acquire a 2nd baseman, sign a 1-3 pitcher, look at acquiring a Prado type of player, resign Lind. Over the past 3 months one thing should have been understood, this current batch of players on the Major League roster cannot compete in the AL East going into 2015.
Scott Cochrane, Niagara on the Lake
The Jays were 15-11 in July, champ. The pissing and moaning about what you pretend you’ve seen about “the so-called leaders of the clubhouse” is the dumbest thing I’ve seen this side of Frank’s mountain of garbage. And, please, get off the ridiculous Prado thing.
That said, while you’re using some awfully negative words about “this current batch of players,” you obviously like most of them. I say that because all you’re really telling me is that you’d “look” at moving one of the veteran pitchers and the market for Bautista, and then you’d let Rasmus walk. That’s not exactly blowing up a team that has a poisonous clubhouse and no hope of competing. And it’s all pretty damn reasonable stuff, too — even if I couldn’t possibly disagree more about moving Bautista. You’re so far ahead of the game with a pair of bats like his and Encarnacion’s in the middle of your lineup, and his contract is so good, that I just don’t see how you possibly expect to get better that way. This roster isn’t working, but it doesn’t need a whole lot to make one think it can still be very good in the near-term, either — pretty much exactly like you said… once we took away the ridiculous posturing.
I promise that this will be the last time this season I will bug you about the Jays and their Annus Horribilus. As I’ve maintained for some time now, despite the inconsistent performance by both the starting pitching and the bullpen, it is really the lack of run support that has caused the team to lose any hope of making the playoffs…..in fact, I have been saying to myself for some time that I believe the Tampa Bay Rays will finish the season in third place in the AL East, with the Jays in fourth.
I guess the nadir of failing to score a run came in the 10th inning of Sunday’s game, with runners on third and first and no one out. Two of the top hitters on the team and Bautista’s replacement couldn’t get a deep fly ball to the outfield and at least tie the game. I find it interesting that, after the early days when the team was scoring plenty of runs and Kevin Seitzer was getting all sorts of plaudits for his input, no one seems to be giving him any grief for the lousy hitting for the past two and one-half months. I’m guessing that there will be significant changes to the on field personnel next season. I doubt that Melky Cabrera, arguably the best player this year, will want to sign at any price. Bautista and Janssen both were outspoken at the lack of activity at the trade deadline and their performance hasn’t been great since, particularly Janssen. Colby Rasmus either hits a homer or strikes out, although his defence has been very good. And, although there seems to be some very good young pitchers either on the team or in the minors, the same cannot be said for position players.
Overall, after a dismal performance this year, I don’t see any huge upside for next year unless the GM is able to pull off some blockbuster trades.
Whoopty fuck to your prediction, Hugh. Pat yourself on the back for being a shitty, negative fan. As for the run scoring, you’re right that they should be better, but that hardly means they don’t have a lot of very good weapons, either. The lack of offence is tough to watch, yes, but try remembering that baseball is hard. Try not inventing horseshit like your doubt that Melky would sign here for any price, or that you’ve seen something in Bautista and Janssen that justifies your ridiculous and utterly transparent belief that they’re not trying. Try understanding that it would have been as dumb to praise Seitzer then as it is to shit on him now.
Oh, and does the garbage clown not see any huge upside for next year? That’s shocking.
The big bats of the Jays have not been performing at all recently and Bautista has been swatting gnats instead of the ball – then he takes his frustration out on the home-plate umpire – not very sportsman-like. With the Jays bats in the deep freeze they are losing far too many games of late and add to that the fielding miscues and it is a recipe for losing.
All this time I was under the impression that AA was the great deal maker – but it looks like the team to admire, at least I certainly do, are the Tampa Bay Rays who with a pay-roll half that of the Blue Jays they have such a great, youthful, promising team. Whereas the Jays have a mixed bag of older players, some young players from the minors and some cast-offs from other teams. If Tampa Bay can find ways and means of bringing in such young, talented, great players why can’t the Blue Jays take a page from their book and do like-wise.
Tony D’Sousa in Toronto
Go watch the Rays then, Tony.
Seeing repeat performances from Stroman and Hutchison shows that they are not ready just yet for prime time and should be sent back to the minors to get some finise to their pitches like keeping the ball low and not throwing one in the hitters happy zone where experienced hitters can take them deep. I see that the Jays are doing a lot of rushing of minor league players like the young fellow who was in A ball and now in AAA because he is pitching very well in the minors. Alas, it all boils down to the owners not wanting to spend on some good proven mature starting pitchers. It is sad to see all of the big bats on the Jays team being silenced by a good pitcher like Smyly last evening, as professionals their job is to hit any pitcher as best possible and not meekly fold their tents.
What’s the story with Brett Lawrie who everyone saw on his first day back doing stretches in front of the fans – not sure if he tweeked something at that time. Is there any time frame for his return before season’s end. He is sorely missed by his team playing the way he does, going all out at 3rd and had just started to become a solid bat as well. Hope to see him play for even a few games before season’s end and I look to see what the tight-wad owners do in the off season to round off this team with the few pieces that it needs to be in contention in 2015 – if not it will be another bust.
Have a great week-end
Tony in Toronto
Sentence one: Utterly insane.
Sentence two: Graveman was too old for the levels he was starting out at, so yes, he moved quickly.
Sentence three: Huh? They’re paying Buehrle and Dickey $32-million next year.
Sentence four: Give me a break with the “meekly fold their tents” garbage.
Brett Lawrie is hurt.
And yes, the financial flexibility to add to this roster in the off-season — to keep Melky, to add a real second baseman (or… um… how about shortstop?), to add a piece to the rotation, to help fix the bullpen — would go a long, long way. These are dismal times, and not a lot of people are ready to look at how much of a chance they could give themselves if they fix it right, but I really do believe there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. It may not be a surer path to the World Series than tearing it all down and collecting as many prospects as possible, but the difference can’t possibly be a lot, and the journey will be a whole lot more palatable than crossing our fingers and turning into the Cubs for three or four years.