Andrew Stoeten

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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.

chart (6)

Welp. Of all the games of baseball I’ve ever watched, that was definitely one of them.

Now let’s all go take cheap shots at silly Derek Jeter myth nonsense on Twitter!

dailyduce3-595

Daily?

Outstanding stuff here from Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet, as he looks at the remarkable rise of Dalton Pompey — who I still say is a better option to start on Opening Day 2015 than anything else the Jays have got, crazy as that sounds, and unseasoned as he might be. And with jobs even more on the line than they were this year, and a full spring training to prove it (not to mention the rest of this end-of-season cameo, and a trip to the Arizona Fall League — assuming he still goes), I really think it’s possible the club ends up agreeing. They like him enough, or at least ol’ Gibbers does, that he was leading off this afternoon against the Mariners. What do you think the odds are that Gose or Pillar ever get that kind of an assignment?

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, “Gibbons loves what Pompey offers,” says the headline of a piece from Ben Nicholson-Smith. See?

Meanwhile, you probably heard about this, but earlier in the week Shi Davidi wrote about the possible end of the road as Blue Jays for Casey Janssen and Adam Lind, both of whom have been here a very long time, and one of whom (Janssen) is heading towards free agency, while the other (uh… Lind?) goes once again to club option limbo. Or, at least, he theoretically does, though the Jays picking up the $7.5-million option for a player who, against right-handed pitching, has the same wRC+ over the last two seasons as Yasiel Puig and Andrew McCutchen (who themselves are just one and two points behind Robinson Cano, Freddie Freeman, and David Ortiz, with only Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout being better) is as giant a fucking no-brainer as it gets. But Lind said some nonsense about expecting to be told one way or the other — even though it’s not remotely in the team’s interest to tell him –and it became a bit of a thing. Except… it’s not. Lind can dumbly gripe all he wants, the Jays are going to do what they’re going to do. And what they’re going to do is, they’re going to pick up that option. Obviously.

Over at the Toronto Star, Richard Griffin makes the case that last night should have been Mark Buehrle’s final appearance as a member of the Blue Jays. Yeah, they should probably trade him.

Amazing stuff on the end of the Mariners season from Matt Ellis of Lookout Landing, many of which will ring absolutely true for Blue Jays fans, as well.

Scott MacArthur of TSN continues his series of excellent season-ending chats with members of the Jays, as he speaks to Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle about their seasons and their futures — and does so on a pretty spiffy looking new TSN.ca, I might add.

Speaking of the club’s starters, at Blue Jays Plus, Gideon Turk looks at J.A. Happ and the importance of pitching depth.

Sticking with the season retrospective theme, Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail talks to R.A. Dickey, as the pitcher reflects on a season that was actually pretty decent for him, individually, once you get past all the high expectations.

The Tao Of Stieb gives his always-interesting reflections on the season.

In the Toronto Sun, Bob Elliott asks whether each of Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and John Gibbons will be back — answering in the affirmative for all of them, at least according to his educated guesses. But there isn’t full certainty yet. “Some of Beeston’s friends say he isn’t coming back,” Elliott writes. “Others say he is.”

In the National Post, Scott Stinson has an interesting, thoughtful look at how the Jays ended up the about-to-be holders of MLB’s longest playoff futility streak, which he almost upends entirely with one silly, splashy attempt at provocation: suggesting that they’re becoming baseball’s version of the Buffalo Bills.

An update on something I was writing about in this week’s Griff Bag — Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, broadcaster for the Lansing Lugnuts, clarified something for me having to do with my response about Kendall Graveman. I wrote that Graveman’s velocity was considered fringy (though “fringe-average” is more like the term I’d read), and suggested that the fact he’s been sitting at 93 in the majors is “surely” based on the fact that he’s pitching out of the bullpen. Not so fast! Jesse tweets that “a fatigued Graveman threw 85-88 in 2013; he has thrown consistently 93 mph in 2014.” Well that’s kind of awesome — and probably has had a hand in his looking better than almost everybody expected, too.

I’m always quick to point out when folks from places like Baseball Prospectus are high on Jays prospects, so I guess I’d better do it when they’re not. With that in mind, in this week’s Dynasty Dynamics piece, Ben Carsley and Craig Goldstein look at several players they feel it’s time for dynasty league players to get away from, including the Jays’ own D.J. Davis. “Davis has spent three years in the Blue Jays system and finally spent his first year in full-season ball, posting an OPS of .583. While power was never a part of his game, Davis was/is supposed to profile atop the lineup, and a .268 OBP isn’t going to cut it,” they explain. “His best asset is his game-changing speed; unfortunately, he changed things for the worse for Lansing this year, getting caught 20 times en route to swiping 19 bags.” Yeesh.

Elsewhere at BP, and on that same sort of note, this week’s Monday Morning Ten Pack looked at ten of the most disappointing prospects of 2014, and two more Jays made the list: Alberto Tirado and Aaron Sanchez. Yes, Aaron Sanchez. “I knew what I was getting into when I saw Aaron Sanchez on the Double-A New Hampshire roster to start the 2014 season. I had seen him plenty in the Midwest League in 2012, and I had heard about all the wonderful strides he made throughout 2013 in High-A. Maybe that was part of the problem; my expectations for Sanchez may have been too high. I expected to bear witness to a budding front-of-the-rotation horse who would spend the majority of the season dominating the competition. Instead, I spent the summer watching seven games from one of the most enigmatic starters I have seen at Double-A in the last few years. Sanchez battled his delivery from game to game, inning to inning, and even pitch to pitch. As he struggled with consistency in advance of release, his results were all over the map,” Mark Anderson explains. “It is obvious Sanchez can get big-league hitters out, and he will be able to accomplish that over the long haul, but after scouting nearly 50 innings from him this summer, I remain far from convinced that the former first-round pick can be an impact starting pitcher, a conclusion I could not envision when the season began.” You can’t exactly say it’s unfair.

Interesting stuff, as always, from Nick Ashbourne of Bluebird Banter, as he tells us that the Blue Jays’ pitching isn’t all that different from what it was in 2013. Sounds crazy until you realize, the good parts and the bad parts of the staff have simply flipped — the starters have been better, but the staff as a whole was evened out by the fact that the relievers were so much worse.

Elsewhere at Bluebird Banter, Tom Dakers begins a “should he stay or should he go” series by looking at hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.

Back to prospect stuff, as John Sickels of Minor League Ball reviews his pre-season top Jays prospects list (which includes his pre-season grades, not current ones, just so we’re clear), giving us tidbits and his thoughts on the seasons put in by the best guys in the system.

At BlueJays.com, Gregor Chisholm tells us about the winners of this year’s Howard R. Webster Awards, which go to the team MVPs at each level of the Jays’ system, which include Kevin Pillar, Mitch Nay, Dwight Smith Jr., and Franklin Barreto. Had they stayed at one level, of course, you might see names like Dan Norris, Dalton Pompey, Kendall Graveman, and Aaron Sanchez here.

Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s takes a look at the Canadians’ season in review, while Brian Crawford of Jays Prospects looks at Jimmy Cordero, who has been exploding radar guns at Lansing, with a fastball that’s touched 101.

MLBTR passes along a report that says Josh Willingham is going to retire after this season, which is maybe a blessing in disguise. I thought he might be a guy the Jays would consider turning to this winter if they were unable to keep Melky Cabrera, but… that probably wouldn’t have been a great idea if they did.

Great stuff at Grantland, as Ben Lindbergh writes about Sabermetrics and the Pirates, while this week’s Jonah Keri Podcast features legendary Jays scout Mel Didier.

Speaking of podcasts, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star chatted with Buster Olney on today’s edition of the Baseball Tonight podcast at ESPN.com.

Elsewhere at ESPN, Keith Law lists a number of players who have exceeded his expectations this year, and naturally one of them is Yan Gomes. Good for Gomes! And as much as it hurts that he’s doing it in Cleveland, KLaw reminds that when he was traded, “Gomes was a fringy bat without a clear position. He had very little minor league experience overall, with just 172 games behind the plate before the trade. He was only a part-time catcher with some arm strength, but none of the refined skills that would point to him excelling at the position.” Now, it’s not great that the Jays missed so badly all the potential that was sitting in their organization, but it’s a little more understandable that they got so little for him. And, of course, he was playing at the same level as Travis d’Arnaud during each of his three years in full season ball in the Jays organization — and he was still behind d’Arnaud and Arencibia on the depth chart when he left. Doesn’t make it feel much better, does it?

At FanGraphs this week, Dave Cameron handed in his hypothetical AL MVP ballot, and Jose Bautista ended up fifth. I can live with that! And though “Michael Brantley without the baserunning” may sound like a back-handed compliment, he has Brantley way up at number two.

Tom Scocca’s Derek Jeter Was OK piece at Deadspin is pretty damn delicious.

Lastly, something heartbreaking. I’m not sure how much time anyone here spends at Batter’s Box, but over there this week, Gerry McDonald informed their readers that their contributor, John Northey, has recently lost his wife due to complications from childbirth. “We don’t know if any of you have had to go through something like this,” Gerry writes. “We don’t know if any of you are single parents. But John is looking for any advice you might have. The old saying is a problem shared is a problem halved so we hope some of you might be able to help.”

Tabler Buck July 19

Congratulations to Jays broadcasters Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler for having their contracts extended for five more years, which is totally an I-shit-you-not real thing coming from the offices of Sportsnet this afternoon.

To the rest of us? UGHHHHHHH.

“I’m just glad the ‘five year policy’ finally worked in our favour,” tweets @Doron_B, evoking the grim spectre of even more Buck and Pat than just this, and offering a brief moment of levity here, but… ugh.

I guess I might as well just learn to appreciate them, which is funny because if they actually took the time to try to learn and appreciate certain things they may not necessarily like — not thinking like total fucking dinosaurs comes to mind — maybe it would be easier. Though easier still is to just try to get a kick of how weird they are, what fucking things they prattle on about, and how Buck says things like “air” (error), “tinth” (tenth), “mayzure” (measure) and, of course, Encarnyasheeownn.

And I know… I know… Buck and Pat aren’t there for my benefit or the benefit of people like us. They’re not there to introduce big new concepts to people who just want to plunk themselves on the couch after a hard day of work and relax for a few moments before the bumbling Blue Jays start to make their blood absolutely boil. They’re also, if we’re being totally honest, not nearly as bad as a lot of other team’s broadcasters. Relatively speaking we may even have it pretty good, insane as that is to contemplate. But that hardly feels like an excuse for continuing the mind-bending banality of these myth-regurgitating personifications of beige and utterly tone deaf prisms through which Jays fans are forced to consume the game.

 - … that’s the first MLB hit for Dalton Pompey and OH MY GOODNESS DEREK JETER IS THERE! DID YOU SEE WHAT DEREK JETER JUST DID? ISN’T DEREK JETER INCREDIBLE? WHAT A MOMENT FOR… UH… THIS YOUNGSTER, TO HAVE DEREK JETER BE ON THE FIELD AT THE SAME TIME AS DEREK JETER. WHAT DO YOU THINK, PAT? [Donkey noise] – 

Thing is, Buck and Pat are there to be the soft, comfortable faces and voices of a company and a broadcast that would prefer to not alienate its core audience, rather than attempt to spark interest in the game for anybody else, which… is probably a fairly savvy idea, from a business perspective. Anyone here on this site is already finding other ways to satiate his or her appetite for the game, and many of us are already cutting our cable and watching on MLB.tv, which gives us actual choices as to the broadcast we hear. Maybe I’m projecting the way I do things too much onto everyone else around here, but complain as we might — and we sure do — Buck and Pat are sort of just an incidental part of our baseball experience.

That said, I don’t particularly like this any more that you do. In fact, I had a conversation the other day with someone where I agreed that, despite all the griping we did at the time, I’d even be very OK with giving Jamie Campbell another chance at the mic, which at the earliest now won’t come until the totally made-up sounding year of 2021! But if you’re a company like Sportsnet and you’re thinking about your core demographic and what they want to hear and valuing stability and fearing the unknown, to simply re-hire a tried-and-true couple of recognizable oldies like Buck and Pat? Shit, you have to.

pompeylineup

Dan Norris on the hill, and Dalton Pompey gets another start, leading off this afternoon for the Jays, and… gah, what a cluserfuck of an hour this has been. I almost had a Daily Duce post up when the news broke that Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler have had their contracts extended for five more years (!), so I stopped what I was doing, started writing that, completely blew my time to do a proper Game Threat, and failed to spit out everything I wanted to say about it in time. So now, as this afternoon’s game is getting underway… I got nothing.

Two mid-game posts a-coming, at least! But for now… this is your Game Threat.