Archive for the ‘The Americans Are Talking’ Category

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Few things are more Canadian than hand-wringing about teenagers playing hockey looking to our neighbours to the south for approval and reveling in it when they give us attention. It’s an understandable cultural tick, I guess, if a bit curious — I mean, we have only about three million fewer people than California, and I’m pretty sure they’re not ever like, “holy shit! The flyover states are paying attention to us!” — but I figure it’s worth indulging from time to time, especially when the things being said are as uplifting as they were over the weekend. For the most part, at least…

“The Jays are a leading candidate to sign either Santana or Jimenez”

Those words aren’t mine– they actually come from ol’ Kenny Ken Ken, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Mind you, he doesn’t say “the leader,” but that’s still pretty terrific. So too is the heading on his section of his piece about the club; a simple, “Be patient, Jays fans.”

The club, he writes, “still figure to acquire one and possibly two starting pitchers once the logjam caused by Tanaka starts to resolve.”

Well that sure would be fucking nice, eh? And, of course, it makes all the sense in the world, despite what the Chicken Littles, and the folks convinced that because the Jays have yet to make a free agent splash of such magnitude during the Anthopoulos era they’ll never do it, will tell you. They said the same stuff last year, don’t forget, about increasing the payroll, about adding top talent, and about moving away from the prospect-focussed asset acquisition mode the front office had been in since Alex took the job.

How quickly, in a thick fog of anxiety, we forget about the talk of the $150-million payroll figure the club is still well south of, or the $14-million dollars that surely must have been earmarked for the potential of Josh Johnson coming back on a qualifying offer, or Alex Anthopoulos unequivocally stating that the rotation has to get better.

Or… OK, nothing about this off-season has exactly been quick, but money is there, need is there, and the pitchers are still there on a badly stagnant market that’s waiting on Tanaka — himself quite possibly waiting on the New York Yankees and the verdict in the A-Rod case, which could drastically impact the payroll structure of one of his biggest suitors. In other words, Rosenthal is bang on that patience remains key.

Unfortunately, at other times in the piece he’s talking about a whole other level of patience– at least when he talks about any pitcher that the Jays may be looking to add in trade. The club, he says, “remains involved in trade discussions for Samardzija and other starting pitchers,” however, “the Jays need not rush into anything. Samardzija still might be available in spring training or July. And other possibilities could arise; some team is bound to disappoint and trade off veterans, the way the White Sox did with Jake Peavy last season.”

He latter suggest that “the Jays need to weigh the current price for Samardzija against what it will take to acquire other starters in spring training or after the season begins. The longer they wait, the better they can assess their prospects as well.”

He’s entirely right, and I like the idea of actually looking beyond the current logjam, but… uh… let’s actually maybe get someone first.

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Oh, you know us and our inferiority complex here in this country, particularly when it comes to our neighbours to the south. Something instantly becomes extra specially special when it means that Americans are taking notice of us. Swoon!

So, rather than come at you with a crazily-large Afternoon Snack today, let’s split it up and take a moment here to a look at a few interesting Jays-related things coming from publications south of the border.

Over the weekend Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus posted his organizational rankings, and like all other sets of rankings we’ve seen the Jays are way up near the top– but not quite first overall. For BP they’re second, because of “a ridiculous number of high-ceiling teenage arms to go with some elite up-the-middle talent.”

Meanwhile, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times checks in at Jays camp, and in particular, with Brandon Morrow– “the best power pitcher in the league,” whose “career has seemed to take place in a Petri dish, an experiment in the postmodern development of a major league pitcher.”

Buster Olney at ESPN.com (Insider Olney) writes about the Jays, with a focus on new closer Sergio Santos, who he thinks fits with the Jays as part of the collection of outfits and miscasts (see what I just did there?) that Olney said last year made them “baseball’s version of the Oakland Raiders.”

At MLB.com, Anthony Castrovince gives credence to the increasing feeling among the fan base that the Jays can’t be counted out this year in a tough AL East race. “I don’t want to say it’s blind confidence or blind belief in themselves,” John Farrell tells him. “But we have some young, athletic, energetic players who look in the room and get a genuine feel that this is a talented group. They feel like they’re capable of a lot. And that’s a real optimism.”

Lastly, I missed it when it was fresh, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point anyone who hasn’t already seen it in the direction of Jonah Keri’s entry for the Jays in his excellent series of team previews for Grantland. Yes, I know Jonah’s Canadian. But Grantland very much isn’t. So… there’s that.

Oh, you know us and our inferiority complex here in this country, particularly when it comes to our neighbours to the south. Something instantly because extra specially special when it means that Americans are taking notice of us. Swoon!

So I guess it’s fantastically terrific news that over the weekend both Jayson Stark of ESPN.com and Kenny Ken Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports brought us tidings of promise for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Stark tells us that the Jays are perhaps the team most likely to benefit from MLB’s addition of a Wild Card team to their playoff format, pointing out the familiar horror show that is the fact that the Jays have won more games than the Giants and Tigers, for example.

“If you’re looking for a franchise whose hopes of playing in October just took an especially dramatic turn upward, the Blue Jays might be Exhibit A,” he says. “They’ve been building toward this moment in time anyway, constructing a team and a system designed for long-term contention. So they already qualified as the most talented team in baseball that no one south of the border ever seems to mention.”

Displaying an immense amount of sense (despite later stoking the flames of Votto insanity), he explains that “the folks who have focused on what this team didn’t do [this winter] ought to take another look at what it HAS done — not just since the end of last season but over the last calendar year.”

And speaking of sense, Alex Anthopoulos, everybody!

“We weren’t going to continue to stockpile draft picks for five years,” he tells Stark. “That was something we needed to do at the time. We needed to add more prospects. And we needed to solidify our depth as an organization for a short time period. It was always going to be until the big league club was ready [to contend]. … In the position we’re in now, we’re looking ahead to the big league club to get better.”

Rosenthal takes a different tack at Fox, beginning his piece by suggesting that “if there was a spring-training award for best clubhouse vibe, it just might go to the Toronto Blue Jays.”

“Yes, the possibility now exists that the Jays could finish third and qualify for the wild-card play-in,” he writes. “But frankly, their clubhouse was buzzing even before baseball announced that the expansion of the playoffs would start in 2012.”

“I just see a different type of confidence now,” says the magical-eared Jose Bautista. “Not so much from the mouth: ‘Yeah, we’re so good, we’re going to do it.’ I hear less talk and more action.”

THE MAN HEARS ACTION!

“It’s obviously going to be a tough task. Everybody knows it. But it’s definitely not one where you’re like, ‘We’ve got no shot, we’ll be out of it by August,’ ” says Kelly Johnson. “There is none of that — none. Some fans here, even some media, might look at it like, ‘Why do the Jays even play the games?’ It’s not at all that way here. It’s the complete opposite. There is no question anymore about being able to compete.”

Typical spring blather, yes. But it’s good to be noticed, and to see the team written about in such glowing terms.

Shit, they even had Jose Bautista stop by for a chat with Tim Kurkjian and Terry Francona in the ESPN piece. (Note the hearty laugh from Tito on the notion of Jose bunting, which he says he remembers, though I don’t, and I’m having a tough time finding anywhere that says he did.)http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

 

UPDATE: I missed it until Drew pointed it out when my piece went up, but at MLB.com, Peter Gammons also had a number of kind words about the Jays.

“I can’t tell you that I think the Jays will make the playoffs, not with the Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox and Angels in line for what may be four postseason spots. They’re coming off a year in which they were 81-81 — with a -18 run differential — finishing nine games behind Boston and in fourth place. Yet the fact that they appear to be much improved — as opposed to the number of games the Rangers and Angels play against Oakland and Seattle — make it very difficult for more than one Wild Card team to come out of the East,” he writes. “But with Jose Bautista established as a star in right field with his 97 homers and 1.022 OPS over the past two seasons, if Colby Rasmus relaxes and approaches what some in St. Louis saw in him, with Adam Lind at first base, the Jays are going to be a dangerous offensive team.”

Lind? Um… let’s just let that one slide. PLAYOFFS!!!!!1!

UPDATE THE SECOND: Holy shit and the Knobler gets in on the act, too!