Andrew Stoeten

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melky-jose

The season is over, and as sad as this is, for Jays fans that kind of means that the fun is really about to begin. Except… well… fun isn’t maybe always the word for it. To wit: the latest from Shi Davidi at Sportsnet, in which he speaks to Jose Bautista about what the future holds for the Blue Jays — and how, at least according to some of Jose’s casual phrasing, that future likely doesn’t include Melky Cabrera.

And by “likely doesn’t” I mean… well…

The talent is still here. Luckily for us the core of this team will be intact next year except for Melky and Colby and Casey.

. . .

With some salary being gone with Melky, Janssen and Colby, that frees up $20-something million in free agency that can translate into some good additions if he chooses to go that way. If not, there are always trades.

Those do not sound like the words of a man who believes that Melky Cabrera is going to be a part of this team next season. And that is… really dispiriting. Not that we shouldn’t have known, by virtue of the fact that the Jays weren’t able to come to a mid-season extension with Cabrera, that he’s probably not as likely to be back as we want to believe, it’s just… boy, does it ever make the off-season more difficult if the Jays have to go searching for a new left fielder. And does it ever make 2015 seem less exciting to think of them not even doing that, and Kevin Pillar getting the gig by virtue of 81 September plate appearances — even if they’re actually somewhat impressive, nearly replicating Melky’s 125 wRC+ on the season, by virtue of a BABIP-y .289/.333/.447 line that’s led to Pillar putting up a wRC+ of 119 since his recall.

The improved defence could help offset the difference, I suppose, it’s just… gambling on a guy like Pillar sustaining the level of his best ever month in MLB seems a little preposterous for a team that at least wants to pretend it’s serious about winning.

And if it’s not Pillar, then who?

For his part, Alex Anthpoulos isn’t saying anything particularly interesting about the matter. He spoke about the season on the Fan 590′s Brady and Walker this morning, and had this to say about the Melky situation:

I’ve never come out and been specific about contract offers. Janssen, I think, came out a few days ago and mentioned that we had brief discussions at the All-Star break — we made them a proposal, they rejected it and gave us back a counter and we were really far apart. So we just said, look, let’s go back to the off-season. I never would have divulged that, but that’s fine, he felt comfortable doing it. With respect to Melky, just based on past years and some deals that have gotten done — I wouldn’t say what we’ve done, but I it’s safe to say that anyone who’s a good player who we want to retain at some point we have the conversation, and some times both sides agree that they need to see what’s out there. We can’t come to a number, and sometimes you need to have that third party to tell you what someone’s worth. But I think the important part is he wants to be back, we’d like to have him back, and we expect to get started — to have talks some point in the month of October and certainly November.

Certainly November.

So… there’s that.

And now there’s more!

Update

John Lott of the National Post has a piece up on Bautista’s end-of-season comments, and what he’s quoted as saying about Melky in that one sounds even worse. To me, at least.

“I have to assume that,” he said when asked if he assumed Cabrera wouldn’t be coming back. “When you have the chance to re-sign one of the top free agents and you don’t take advantage of that opportunity, the chances of him coming back to you are pretty slim.”

He’s probably not wrong — in fact, most of the piece makes clear that Bautista is pretty on the ball when it comes to where this team is at — but that quote doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is pleased about it.

And why would he be?

J.A. Happster For The Win!

happsterbackground

Hilarious stuff from the Blue Jays’ official Twitter account this afternoon (since deleted), as they mistakenly — and awesomely — tagged @JAHappster in their game recap tweet.

We can see the unfortunately deleted tweet in this screen shot from @BaseballHer:

happstertweet

This is “hilarious” and “unfortunate,” of course, because @JAHappster is “Hipster J.A. Happ,” the note perfect, laugh out loud parody account that poses the question: what if J.A. Happ was stereotypical a Queen West hipster?

And, of course…

I fucking love it.

eebautistasunset

That’s right. I’m not going to let the fact that these are the final two games of the season change my pattern of lazily mailing in a weekend Game Threat. We’ll get all wistful on Monday or something.

PompeyTriple

Holy shit, Dalton Pompey.

I know, I know, it’s easy to get carried away with seeing a prospect having a great little run in a brief September call-up, especially, perhaps, when it’s a hometown kid flashing big tools that might not quite yet be ready for prime time at the big league level. But… uh… about that Anthony Gose/Kevin Pillar platoon idea next year…

No, seriously. I know it’s just one game, and I know we all remember how great J.P. Arencibia once looked for a brief moment, too. I know we’re not supposed to care about what happens in September. But what argument is there at this point that Pompey shouldn’t be in centre for the Blue Jays on Opening Day 2015?

Seniority?

I mean… yeah, he’s crazy inexperienced at the upper levels of the minors, but all he has to do to justify taking the position is to hit better than two guys who can’t hit (or one who can’t hit and another who can hit a little bit, but can’t take a walk to save his life) — and even then you could give him some leeway because of the fact that he frees up a roster spot by virtue of the fact that he’s a switch hitter, whereas Gose and Pillar will need to be a platoon.

Maybe I’m selling the Gose/Pillar thing a little bit short — Pillar has a 117 wRC+ vs. RHP in the majors, and a .919 OPS against them in total, between the majors and minors this year, while Gose… um… is a great defender — and I’m not quite ready to say they should simply hand Pompey the job right now. But if a trade offer comes along over the winter that includes either of the other two young outfielders, maybe the Jays shouldn’t worry so much about taking it. I mean, right now Pompey has at least earned the chance to battle for the spot in Spring Training, and from there I suspect things will take care of themselves.

Yes, it’s very easy to get ahead of oneself on a night like this. But seriously… look at this!

After the jump we’ve got Pompey laying out for a catch in foul ground. Clips of his double, triple, run scored on an infield chopper, and his second triple as soon as MLB puts them online…

Read the rest of this entry »

BS-SP-SKYBOX0418-CAL

Ninety-five and sixty-four! Jesus. Good on ya, Balmer.

Now haven’t I done e-fucking-nough today? I know we’ll miss all this over the long, cold winter months ahead, but I just want to relax and watch some meaningless baseball right now, alright?

Consider this your Game Threat…

07-BigAnthopoulos

The Blue Jays aren’t planning on moving their core players this winter.

Those aren’t exactly the words of Alex Anthopoulos, and I’d feel better seeing a direct quote — though I probably wouldn’t look any less crooked at the word “planning” if it were — but that’s what it says, clearly and unambiguously, in Bruce Arthur’s piece from Friday morning’s Toronto Star.

People can throw up trial balloons about trading Jose Bautista while he’s still dominant or trading Mark Buehrle or Jose Reyes to shed the salaries, but that’s not the plan. The Blue Jays aren’t planning to disassemble this group, failures and all. Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are under contract for two more seasons, for a preposterous combined cost of $24 million. The consensus is Anthopoulos is safe for now, so he thinks the window stretches that long, at least.

It’s at that point in the piece that we pick up Anthopoulos, speaking — as we’ve heard before — about wanting to continue to build around his superstar, middle-of-the-order bats, and doing so beyond the end of their contracts.

That’s all well and good, but for me what doesn’t quite compute is what happens next: Arthur talks about the money, and how there essentially is nowhere to go.

We all know that story, of course, though the piece does introduce a couple interesting side notes — there’s the one about Bob Elliott’s mid-summer reporting of eight players who said Edward Rogers himself told the team money would be there if the club was in contention at the trade deadline, which of course didn’t happen, and the somewhat terrifying thought that “Rogers allowed the Marlins trade two years ago because team president Paul Beeston [noted math whiz, presumably wearing a green eyeshade] ran the numbers and told them the team wouldn’t lose money on it.” But what’s gets me is how Anthopoulos intends now to pull the magic trick he was unable to last winter or at this year’s deadline. Because he certainly is itching to do something.

“Do I think we’re close? Yes. Am I excited about this off-season, which is maybe the first time that I’ve said that? Yes I am. I’m excited,” he tells Bruce. “And maybe I’m excited about it because . . . there’s a good chance there’s going to be some turnover, and I’m excited about the core we have, and we have a blend of young and older players, and it could make for a really interesting off-season. Exciting.”

Yes, exciting. And it’s great to hear that at least the public intention is there to have some much-needed turnover at the back end of the roster. But can it be enough? Can several Kratz-and-Hendriks-for-Valencia-type deals end up consolidating a lot of this club’s dreck into the one or two (or three or four) quality pieces they’ll need?

It would be great if it could work, and I can completely envision a person like Anthopoulos champing at the bit to do his best impression of a kid baseball card collector trading doubles to try and complete his set. He might even have a couple of nice chips to be moved — J.A. Happ springs immediately to mind. But is that really a more effective strategy than, say, eating enough of Mark Buehrle’s salary to move him for a small piece and enough financial relief to ensure the team can pay Melky what they have to and still have enough to fill holes in other areas?

Maybe that’s where the word “planning” comes in. Well, we weren’t planning on doing this, but someone came along and blew our doors off, as they say.

But maybe not. Arthur points out the preposterously low amount being paid to Bautista and Encarnacion over the final two years of their contracts. By extension, their bargain basement salaries (relatively speaking) mean that, as a group, the Jays’ veteran core of Bautista, Encarnacion, Reyes, Buehrle, and Dickey will each average just $15.6-million in 2015 — not great, but hardly terrible for the 3.75 fWAR per player output the group averaged this season. And there’s also the fact that, with just $27-million committed for 2016, $22-million for 2017, and none beyond that, the Jays may be able to be players for Melky regardless of this year’s likely financial crunch by offering him a backloaded deal.

And, as should always be noted when discussing these matters, we also need to remember that Anthopoulos may have something of an agenda here, too — or at the very least a keen awareness of the power of his words. He’s certainly not going to tell the fans and tell his fellow general managers that he’s going to try to trade away his key guys. He’s not going to run down his players’ value by admitting certain guys aren’t worth being in the plans at their salaries.

But my sense is he really is just being honest — at least on the stuff that doesn’t reflect one way or the other on his bosses — and that’s Bruce’s too. “Maybe Anthopoulos has no choice but to be upbeat, but he’s never been a liar,” he writes.

If that means Bautista and Encarnacion are coming back, terrific. But beyond that… well… cling tight to your righteous indignation, children, because we may be in “for an interesting off-season. Exciting.”

jetercheque

Don’t worry, don’t worry. I have no intention of writing too much here about last night’s big story — Derek Jeter’s storybook walk-off single to win his final game at Yankee Stadium, and the subsequent Twittergasm from a baseball universe replete with a particularly virulent strain of Stockholm Syndrome. It was a cool way for a great career to end, and hard as it is to resist my better instincts (almost), nobody who got a warm fuzzy from it needs me wagging my finger about the absurdities of how we got to that point.

Instead, I’d like to write about a pair of articles that take the long view on Jays’ troubles, one of which, at least in one way, completely misses the mark, and another that speaks a little to those absurdities, but is mostly just bizarre for its existence.

We’ll start with the second one first, and take a look at Michael Grange’s latest from Sportsnet, where he attempts to answer the question, “Why can’t the Blue Jays have a Derek Jeter of their own?”

My answer — and, essentially, Grange’s? In short, they just can’t. Jeter is Jeter because of New York.

On one hand there is the media spotlight, which undeniably shines bigger and brighter there, especially where the city’s marquee franchises are concerned. His outsized myth has surely been perpetuated by of it — and because of his tremendously savvy negotiating of those tricky waters. But on the other there’s the fact that he landed with a franchise that’s not only deep into the myth-making business, but one that’s capable of keeping any player it wants for as long as it wants. A franchise that’s capable of surrounding him with great teammates, year in, year out.

Capable and willing.

People talk about Jeter’s championships and his having played every season on a team with a winning record a little too much as though those things were a function of him and not of the massive advantages of resources possessed by the organization that he happened to play for. He was undoubtedly a greatly contributing factor, but to become what he has become required the good fortune of landing where he did.

In New York, Carlos Delgado doesn’t stand head and shoulders for years above sub-par teammates on bad teams, only to find himself lowballed out the door by a front office tasked with cutting costs for a billionaire telecom giant owner cynically operating the club to squeeze out dollars and cheap content and equity to its shareholders’ greatest benefit.

In New York, Roy Halladay doesn’t grow tired of losing year after year as the fairly-paid face of a perpetually bereft franchise, forcing the hand — by making clear his intention not to extend his contract — of a front office living constantly on the margins and dying for an influx of minor league talent to a system bankrupted by years of trying in vain to succeed on the cheap long after their secrets had left the barn.

We’re still paying for the short-sighted choices that led to those mistakes, and we’re still seeing a franchise operated — albeit with different methods — in a grotesquely cynical way. We need only look to this season’s payroll quandary to see how unresponsive, tone deaf, and counterproductive ownership’s slavish pursuit of the quickest route to the best-looking short-term bottom line is, and to know how little has changed from the days of Rogers’ deepest “we make as much with a $70-million payroll as we would $120-million, so why risk investing?” cost-cutting.

The amazing thing is, Grange sees this and he says it. Though maybe not in so many words.

Twitterer Emily Dawn sums it up best“Why the Blue Jays can’t have anything good,” by The Company That Owns The Blue Jays and Won’t Give Them Any Money to Pay Good Players.

Pretty much. And while some will surely be quick to point to the fact that the Jays’ payroll is among the top ten in baseball (albeit not among the top two in their own division), that alone really isn’t enough to give them a pass on sitting on their hands this season with a team that was so close.

That isn’t, however, to give Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston a free pass, either. By the end, J.P. Ricciardi would have eaten his own babies (while at his home in Boston, of course) to have a top ten payroll, and here Anthopoulos has it and we get this??!?

It’s understandable that in the abstract some fans can look past ownership and point the finger at management, but the thing is, having a payroll that high for a brief one- or two-year bump isn’t really the same as being a high payroll team. The margins for error are much thinner.

Ricciardi was undone in many ways by the failures of his big ticket players, as Anthopoulos may inevitably be as well. That’s because the way Rogers does it leaves its GMs no room to paper over their inevitable missteps. Ask Derek Jeter how many horrifically bad contracts have been on his team’s books during the years he’s been there — how many mistakes that would be far more egregious than anything Ricciardi and Anthopoulos have done put together, were it not for the fact that in New York poorly allocated money isn’t reason for ownership to fold their arms and pout while secretly hoping for a new excuse to drastically scale back payroll. It’s reason to fix it by whatever means necessary.

That’s not the reality of our situation here — and that leads us precisely into the second article I wanted to look at, which comes from Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun.

Predictably, he’s much more overt than Grange in hammering away at the corporate facade. But in my view he goes too far.

“It’s been pretty convenient during all these years of missed playoff action for the Jays’ fan base to lay the blame on the organization’s failures on the feet of the manager and GM,” he writes. “And you have to figure that Rogers loves the fact that when things go south with their ball team, everyone automatically blames John Gibbons and Alex Anthopoulos. Nobody at Rogers is ever held accountable. And frankly, who do you even blame at Rogers? When it comes to the Jays, it’s a faceless entity. Who speaks for Rogers when it comes to the Jays? I guess it’s Paul Beeston, who keeps telling us that Rogers will kick in whatever money’s needed when the time is right.”

Interesting points, undoubtedly. Important ones. But ones that too badly miss some of the complexities of being a Blue Jays fan in a way that’s easier to make plain by looking at another, earlier paragraph, where he’s really got things hopelessly wrong.

Rogers continues to play the game that Toronto is some sort of small or medium market and therefore can’t spend the money that the Yanks and Red Sox — two teams that are constantly in the post-season — always do. And the amazing thing about that big con job is, Rogers has actually succeeded in brainwashing a large portion of the Jays fan base, who believe it’s important for this multi-billion dollar corporation to watch their nickels and dimes. If this was New York or Boston, fans would be howling if those teams didn’t go for at least one of Lester, Scherzer or Shields … and in a serious way, not just paying lip-service.

Fans aren’t “brainwashed” into believing “it’s important for this multi-billion dollar corporation to watch their nickels and dimes.” Fans understand that Rogers is going to act small market whether we like it or not, and as such, the team needs to be mindful of dollars. That’s the prism through which the moves are assessed by the armchair GMs out here — we all know that it’s ridiculous they operate this way, but a great many sports fans are smarter and more curious in 2014 than to limit the thought they put into how the teams they love operate to HURR DURR THEY SHOULDA SPEND MORE. That just scratches the surface of the problem, and repeatedly bleating that futile whine gets old real quick — except maybe for Toronto Sun readers.

And in what way would us fans be serious about our howling, and not just paying lip service? Would it be by not showing up? Not buying tickets at all? Not watching? Because plenty of fans and would-be interested parties do exactly that, and Rogers doesn’t really care — not as long as the equation balances when it comes to what they put in and what they get out of the club. Every once in a while they give payroll a bump, whip up some excitement, sign some advertising contracts, and then wait for equilibrium, letting yearly payrolls rise and fall as a function of how much they feel needs to be given in order to maintain it.

Yes, fans signed off on A.A.’s asset-accumulation phase, and many of us understood and defended the club’s refusals to get involved in the markets for big ticket free agents. But it was never about the idea that Rogers would be sunk by too many rich baseball players — which is, of course, preposterous — but that the Blue Jays would be sunk when ownership decided to turn off the financial taps (as essentially was the case in 2014). And that was understood because we’d seen them do it before, and because so many of us know from our dealings with Rogers as a cable company, a phone company, and an internet service provider that, when it comes right down to it, they do not give a fuck what we think.

That’s why we can’t have nice things.