Archive for the ‘The Long View’ Category

jayspuzzle

Earlier in the week we took an awfully conservative look at which Jays seem likely to be back in 2015, and who is likely to be gone. In the piece I had the starting catching position set with Navarro and Josh Thole still likely the backup. The rotation, I figured, will surely boast Stroman, Hutchison, and likey Buehrle, Dickey, and one of Norris, Sanchez, or Happ. Jose Bautista is in the outfield, probably along with Kevin Pillar (in some capacity), maybe one of Gose or Pompey, and a big question mark. Brett Lawrie, Jose Reyes, Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, and John Mayberry look set at infield spots and/or DH, and Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar, and Todd Redmond seem likely enough to break camp in the bullpen.

Breaking it down, that’s one of the two catching spots covered, a full rotation plus some minor league depth, at least two of four outfield spots, every infield spot except for second base, four of seven relievers, and John Mayberry and Maicer Izturis off the bench.

The club, then, will a starting second- or third- baseman, a backup shortstop (which may well be Ryan Goins), another infielder (preferably one who can cover long stretches for Lawrie, if need be), ideally another starting outfielder (though the Jays could hold their noses and give centre and left to Pillar, Gose, and Pompey — though, at that point, why bother?), and three relievers (some of whom may surely already be in the organization, one of which may be McGowan, and another potentially in Sanchez, though I read somewhere that I disagree with that course of action).

I know, I know. That team won’t look all that different from the one they’ve been trying and failing to make work for the past two years. However, with the right two starting position players, and with the bullpen righting itself, and with some better-suited backups, it could all come together very nicely. But very obviously doing it that way won’t be easy. They’re not far off, but as the saying goes, getting the ten extra wins to go from 85 to 95 is a lot harder than getting the ten needed to go from 75 to 85. And as much as we want to believe Anthopoulos can still pull a rabbit out of his hat with Melky Cabrera, according to a recap of a Friday morning radio hit from Ben Nicholson-Smith at Sportsnet, the GM says the two camps have exchanged numbers, but “right now can’t seem to get together for various reasons.”

Presumably, those reasons have to do with different hopes on what the qualifying offer will do to the market for the player, which means that there’s still a chance Melky will fall back into their laps, but as the Orioles and J.J. Hardy showed this week, it’s not like it’s impossible to have figured out what the market for a player in that situation ought to be by now. So… I don’t think anyone ought to be terribly optimistic on this front.

Getting back to our scenario, the way I’ve set it up, the Jays will have Happ, Gose, Nolin, Tolleson, and Valencia to deal, along with some minor league pieces not mentioned here. That’s not much to operate with! It also really doesn’t help their infield or outfield depth. However, if you switch Dickey for Happ, or Norris for Nolin, now maybe you’re getting somewhere.

I have them picking up options on Adam Lind and Happ, while declining them on Morrow, McGowan, and Thole. That puts their payroll at $110.2-million before factoring in arbitration raises and adding guys on the league minimum.

Looking through the contract information at Cot’s, and entirely just guessing, I’ll say Cecil and Mayberry each go up to about $2.5-million. Thole likely stays on for about $1.5-million. And Lawrie, Delabar, and Hutchison (assuming he’s a Super Two — though he’s right on the line, ending the season with two years, 128 days of service) will each be looking at about $1-million. That roughly puts the team at $120-million, give or take, for fifteen guys.

Fill out the active roster with guys at the league minimum and you’re still over $125-million, which isn’t great when the budget doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and the payroll for the current season was $137.2-million. Of course, Paul Beeston’s latest payroll claim is that “you know it’s going higher,” which… no. We totally don’t that know at all.

Things can be done, though. Moving Happ would clear his $6.7-million salary (though it would also add back some salary to the books, surely). Moving Mark Buehrle, getting a small but useful piece back, along with some salary relief, may be the completely obvious move here, even if the club really values his mere presence around their young pitchers.

Then again, it’s possible Anthopoulos always had a little wiggle room with the budget last year. I mean, surely the money to pay Ervin Santana wasn’t going to be accounted for entirely through deferrals, right? Meaning there may be more ceiling beyond the $137.2-million, assuming the budget for next year is even going to remain in the same place — a stupendously big assumption, I know.

Even if the assumption of a higher ceiling is false, deferrals may still be an option, too, and a reasonably palatable one, given that the club so far has only $27-million committed for 2016, $22-million on the books for the following year, and nothing beyond that. Thing is, ask the Madoffs about deferrals, re: Bobby Bonilla: it’s not smart business to punt those commitments down the road — and, naturally, kick in some extra for the players in order to get them to sign off. But for the short-term, and given how desperate those who run the Blue Jays will need to be this winter to make 2015 work, it seems like it might be a reasonable trade-off. The fact that they were willing to do it last year makes that all the more clear.

One deferral scheme, in particular, could be a very easy way to free a not-insignificant amount of payroll space: they could rework Ricky Romero’s contract to pay him a larger amount in total than the $7.5-million he’s owed for 2015, but to parcel it out over a longer time period. If he’d go for it, that is — and if the union, the league, and Rogers signed off as well. Pay him $2-million this year, free $5.5-million in payroll space, and then pay him, say, $1-million each of the next eight years? Sure, why not? And in that sort of world there are all kinds of creative things that the club should be able to do — reworking Mark Buehrle’s contract, come on down! — but I think we’re getting a bit fanciful here.

In Conclusion…

As if we didn’t already know, this entire exercise seems to be telling us that the Jays are in tough. Unless he can get the go-ahead to raise payroll and pay market prices for the sorts of pieces he so clearly needs, Alex Anthopoulos will have to walk a very fine line in order to improve his club over the winter. To meet the goals he needs to by way of the sort of conservative plan of attack I’ve mostly laid out here, he will need to pull a truly remarkable trick — turning nothing into something. It’s heartening to think how that trick has consistently been one of his best — moving Vernon Wells’ contract and getting Mike Napoli, trading peripheral pieces for Colby Rasmus and for J.A. Happ, even the Marlins deal could be cast in that light — and maybe that’s why he has been saying in his year-end comments that for the first time he’s truly excited about what’s is about to unfold. Maybe he gets off on the small sorts of “my doubles for your doubles” deals needed to complete his set.

But maybe it’s the other thing. Maybe he knows that this winter may be his one last kick at the can, and that he needs to be bold.

I’m sure he’s learned a lot of lessons from the successes and failures of his most recent forays into the bold, but I can’t help but feel uneasy about the possibility.

It’s exciting, and it will mean change — which sounds like a pretty good idea in the abstract — and there’s a part of me thinking, “Fuck it! Be dramatic! Do something!” and afraid of all these words of mine being much, much too cautious to possibly work, and that all the improvements one can wring out of the dreck at the bottom of this roster and enough payroll dollars to sign only the most lowly and desperate free agents simply and obviously won’t be enough. But there’s another part of me that remembers all too clearly the last time we all went down that road with this franchise, and… well… you know the story…

So… uh… what do you think? In, like, super, super general terms.

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scrubs

As of the weekend before last, the 2014 season is now finally, mercifully, officially over. At least it is for the Toronto Blue Jays. And while there certainly was a whole lot of positive to be taken from it — the emergence of Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison, the minor league development of Dan Norris and Dalton Pompey, the ability to actually throw strikes being consistently exhibited by Aaron Sanchez — and while the club ultimately did better than a whole lot of people expected (no mass firings or mid-season fire sales!), to this frustrating tease of a wet fart of a campaign I say good riddance.

So now we look to the future.

For many that means aching for change among a group of players — even though it hasn’t really been the same group — that hasn’t been good enough each of the last two years. As we learned late in the season, Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t appear to be one of those people. He reportedly has said that there are no plans to move any of the club’s core players this winter.

It seems a little premature to say so — and, as I noted when originally writing about Bruce Arthur’s report, the word “planning” gives the GM something of an escape hatch in case an offer he can’t refuse comes along — but I can be OK with taking Buehrle, Reyes, Dickey, Bautista, and Encarnacion off the table, just as long as Anthopoulos is able to find other ways pull the various tricks he needs to in order to put a better team on the field in 2015.

To do that there are going to have to be some changes — a fact Anthopoulos admits himself. “There’s a good chance there’s going to be some turnover,” he’s quoted as telling Arthur in his Toronto Star piece, “and it could make for a really interesting off-season.”

So… OK. What kind of turnover should we expect? Who did we see in a Blue Jays uniform for the last time two weekends ago?

Let’s think about it, starting with the easy ones…

Locks To Be Gone

These ones are the easiest because they’re entirely about contract status and performance. We all know that Colby Rasmus has played himself out of town and out of a whole lot of money after the season he’s had. Casey Janssen won’t be back, which is a shame — and the end was a particular indignity given what he’s been for the club over the years — but he seems certain to get more money somewhere else than what they Jays will be willing to pay — and sadly, that’s probably a savvy move on their part. Brandon Morrow won’t be back either — his club option is for $10-million and the Jays won’t be picking that up, nor will they be giving him the opportunity to start that he desires, so it seems all but certain he’ll be gone.

Lastly, let’s be honest, as much as it was an interesting piece of asset management — to put it politely — to hang on to post-pumpkin Juan Francisco, and as terrific he was for this club out of the gate, there’s simply no way he can be in the club’s big league plans next season, and at $1.35-million this year, with his being out of options and a raise likely in his second year of arbitration, he’s a non-tender candidate if Anthopoulos can’t find anything to flip him for before that. Ugh.

Locks To Stay?

Obviously there is no such thing as a “lock” when we’re talking about this stuff, or anything ever, really — death and taxes and whatnot — but the thing about an exercise like this is that you’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes. Just maybe not that much of a limb.

There are some easy ones that fall into this category. I’m very comfortable saying that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be on the Opening Day roster for the Blue Jays in 2015. Same goes for Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman based on the same principle: losing either one of them would seem to create as big a hole as they’d possibly be filling. Despite Zaun-ish rumblings about clubhouse nonsense, Brett Lawrie won’t likely go because they’d be selling much too low on him. That’s maybe not the reason why Jose Reyes will be here in April, too, but he almost certainly will — his deal is immovable and replacing the value he brings will be a whole lot more costly than a lot of people would like to believe. Adam Lind might be one-dimensional, but it’s a hell of a fucking dimension and picking up his option is a no-brainer, even if for some reason they were doing it just to trade him (though I’d guess they won’t — and they certainly shouldn’t). Dioner Navarro had a decent year, despite his inability to frame pitches, and Brett Cecil will surely be a solid play at what he’ll make on his second trip through arbitration.

Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey may or may not be on the Opening Day roster, but I can’t envision any of them going anywhere either.

Free Agents With Some Chance Of Returning (Mostly)

We all know the story with Melky Cabrera. It would be terrific for the Jays to do something about that, and it’s not untrue that the club wowed us with big spending two winters ago. But they also wowed us last off-season with the tightness of the vice grip Rogers was using to keep shut the vault door. I don’t know what-the-fuck to think this time around, but with the Canadian dollar where it’s going, attendance slightly down, and the company pissing away money left and right on hockey (even though they already own the rights and could be as cheap and cynical as they wanted — kinda like how they typically run the Jays), I’m gonna err on the side of not expecting anything here. Ugh.

Following that pessimism means that one believes even a small deal, like the $4-million club option the team has on Dustin McGowan (with a $500K buyout, meaning it’s only a net $3.5-million add to payroll), is probably in play, too. He was quite a bit better as a reliever this year (3.35 ERA, 4.13 xFIP, 4.99 FIP, 1.16 WHIP) than he was as a starter (5.08 ERA, 5.42 xFIP, 5.06 FIP, 1.62 WHIP), but still… is that money better spent elsewhere? Aren’t there better, cheaper bullpen pieces you can find? Maybe not. But I don’t think it’s a slam dunk they pick that option up, either. And Alex Anthopoulos has rarely paid as much for a bullpen guy.

Dan Johnson has already been granted free agency, as has Munenori Kawasaki, but the same reasons the Jays brought them in last year — a lack of quality depth from within the organization at those positions — still apply, so I wouldn’t necessarily rule out that these guys end up back in Buffalo. Scoff if you must about Johnson coming back, given how he barely saw the light of day during his September call-up, but don’t think that he didn’t probably appreciate drawing a big league paycheque for as long as he did, either.

I wrote about how those two were granted free agency late last week, and at the same time I spoke of the backup catcher situation, which could theoretically produce some turnover. If R.A. Dickey does get dealt, for example, Josh Thole will likely go with him. But as I said at the time, it would be nice if George Kottaras, who once was Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher, could get a shot to be Dickey’s catcher regardless, given that he’d provide a little more offence from the position than Thole will. Kottaras, unfortunately, was granted free agency anyway, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance he could come back on a minor league deal — for a backup or Triple-A guy who can catch a knuckleball, the Jays’ thin pool of catching depth isn’t the worst spot in the world to land.

More Likely To Return Than Not

There are varying degrees of likelihood that any player will be moved, of course, but I’m having an increasingly hard time believing that Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey are going to go anywhere. If the talk about turnover and the clubhouse atmosphere is true, one wonders — probably unfairly — if it’s the “different” Dickey who could find himself elsewhere, rather than the expensive Buehrle, but Dickey’s contract is just so favourable that they’re probably not going to be too desperate to part with it.

Dan Norris is practically a lock to be back (especially now that he’s had minor elbow surgery), and I would have put him alongside Sanchez and Pompey above, but we’ve got to have some fun with this exercise, and as much as Alex Anthopoulos needs to horde his young, cheap pitching, he also needs to improve this club in the immediate. With Norris currently the seventh arm on the rotation depth chart, as much as it might hurt to part with him, you’ve got to give up something to get something. I wonder if Anthopoulos will actually see the value in that kind of bold move, though. I somehow doubt it.

Forgotten though he may be, Maicer Izturis is a switch-hitting utility infielder who is owed $3-million for next season and spent all but a couple weeks of this year hurt, so he probably isn’t going anywhere. John Mayberry Jr. is heading into his second arbitration year, making about $1.6-million, and a decent enough candidate to spell Adam Lind at DH against left-handers as the best of the club’s lefty-mashers. He’s a guy Alex Anthopoulos has said he had tried to acquire in the past, and that makes me think he’s really in the plans — at least, as long as Lind is.

Relievers Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond have been decent pieces the last two seasons, so unless they’re lubrication for a bigger deal, I’d expect them to be back. Chad Jenkins has options and finished the year hurt, so chances are he’s in Dunedin next spring too, even if another year spent mostly on the QEW is likely in the cards for him. And Steve Delabar will hit arbitration for the first time after having a rough season, but I suspect will still be cheap enough to bring back, and probably worth hoping on.

I sort of don’t love saying it, but part of me thinks that there’s a decent chance that Kevin Pillar is back, too — either as the uninspiring internal replacement for Melky Cabrera, as a straight-up fourth outfielder (with John Mayberry moving more to a 1B/DH spot), or in an ill-advised platoon in centre with Anthony Gose, waiting for Pompey to force the issue. And as much as I might want to list Ryan Goins among the guys more likely to be moved, too, he still has options, and sadly, where is their infield depth without him?

Who’s Left To Move?

It’s entirely possible that the Jays have much, much bigger plans up their sleeve than I’m accounting for here, but the names I’ve yet to highlight from September’s active roster represent — to me, at least — the ones most likely to be a part of the “turnover” Alex Anthopoulos has been talking about since the season began to wind down.

This exercise hasn’t left us with a lot to hypothetically work with on the trade market, so it’s very possible that someone listed in one of the above sections will have to get moved for the greater good. Nobody is going to confuse the remaining names for sexy ones — for the most part they’re guys that are far down the depth chart, redundant, stagnating, or too one-dimensional — but they still have some kind of value. And if Anthopoulos is looking to bolster his club with smaller deals — deals of the Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz, or Kratz and Liam Hendriks for Danny Valencia variety — they are the guys he’s going to look to move first.

J.A. Happ could be the most interesting of the smaller chips Anthopoulos has got. He’s coming off a very strong season — in particular, a strong second half — with his velocity rising, and his ability to throw for strikes looking better and better. At $6.7-million for 2015 he’s cheap — which is why the Jays may look to keep him and deal one of their more expensive hurlers, or one of their younger ones — but that will make him attractive to other clubs who might have a redundancy where the Jays are looking to add.

Anthony Gose was optioned in 2012, but it was for less than 20 days, meaning that he still has one more option year left. If the Jays see Dalton Pompey as the future — and they should — this winter is probably the time for them to go and get something for Gose. How much they can get for him that will actually help, I have no idea, but he’s coming off a season with a decent on-base (especially against right-handers), his tools are still loud, and it maybe doesn’t hurt that offence is down league wide and teams may be more willing to try to hide a bat like his. Someone out there probably thinks they could fix a guy like Gose. At the very least he could provide depth for some club that doesn’t already have Pompey, Pillar, Mayberry, Bautista, and either Melky or whoever will replace him.

If you have to swallow hard and move Kevin Pillar instead of Gose, I’m entirely fine with that. In fact, Pillar may have been nearly moved this summer, as part of the package San Diego asked for in exchange for Chase Headley — a deal that made no sense for the Jays in the first place and was naturally declined. Juan Francisco was also asked for by the Padres, as well as Sean Nolin, who might just be another interesting piece for the Jays to dangle. That is, if they’re inclined to shop pitching depth in order to fill other needs — which they almost have to be, no matter how badly Anthopoulos wants to think otherwise. Problem is, Nolin didn’t have a great season. He made just 20 starts, about three weeks from mid-May through early-June, and another month between mid-June and mid-July. His ERA (3.50) and FIP (3.86) were alright, and his walks were down from his previous stint in Buffalo, but only to 3.61 per nine innings. And his strikeout rate was again down from the 10 per nine or better that he produced in Double-A.

Maybe the way the Jays were using Nolin in September suggests they’ve soured on him — or maybe that’s just what they’d like you to think! He did sit nearly four ticks higher in his one inning of relief work this September than in his lone big league start back in 2013 (though bullpen and days-of-rest caveats apply). Maybe the club likes what it sees still, and so is doing its best to talk up Kendall Graveman — another possibility to be moved this winter, provided anyone actual thinks he’s a real candidate for a big league rotation, which… actually probably not, eh?

That leaves the club’s two right-hitting infielders, Steve Tolleson and Danny Valencia. Neither of these guys has a tonne of value — though we’d do well to remember that the Jays themselves gave up a depth starter and a backup catcher for one of them, so I don’t think a bullpen piece of some order is entirely outlandish here. Valencia made about the league minimum in 2014 and will be going through arbitration for the first time, while Tolleson doesn’t even have that much service time. Both are out of options, meaning you’re probably going to get back someone of the same status, and with the Jays inexplicably running Valencia out against right-handed pitching down the stretch, and needing some sort of cover for Brett Lawrie, maybe I’m selling short his value to the club. But boy… even though neither of these two were particularly bad or didn’t do everything that was asked of them — their main failing being not being very good and getting exposed when pressed into duty too much — this is certainly an area where you’d like to think the Jays could see some turnover, and where you might see someone moved.

Yes, I’ve been very, very conservative when it comes to identifying the players I think the Jays are going to shop. Perhaps I’m making the mistake of remembering too much of the 2014 version of Alex Anthopoulos (the one in practice, at least, not the one that had a deal for Ervin Santana agreed to and a trade for Ian Kinsler nixed by the player’s no-trade clause), and not the one from two winters ago. But whether he’s willing to be much more bold than this or not, he’s got his work cut out for him when it comes to trying to make all the pieces fit.

Tomorrow, we’ll bring you Part II of this two-part series, taking a look at the money, the roster spots, and trying to answer the question of whether Anthopoulos can get away without doing something dramatic to change the nature of his ballclub…

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.

djflongreads

If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably well aware that the term “long read” is sort of a misnomer here on DJF mountain, but I suspect that you know what I mean when I use it. Occasionally we dive just a little bit deeper into a topic than usual, and sometimes, frankly, it seems as though our efforts disappear a little too quickly into the ether.

I get that. It’s a product of the medium we work in, which otherwise has many, many advantages and great aspects– one of which is the fact that I can do things like collecting up all of the most interesting, re-readable pieces we’ve written over the course of a year (or, at least, the ones that either best stoked my narcissism or impressed me from my colleagues), and re-post them after an appropriate time has passed. Say a year, or maybe a year and almost-two-and-a-half-weeks or something. *COUGH*

And, lo and behold, here are a bunch of them for the year that just passed (um, almost-two-and-a-half-weeks back). The year in DJF Longreads for 2012…

Romero’s Late Mechanical Change Signals Concern – 3/20
By the third week of March, the Jays seemed finally to acknowledge what fans had noticed all spring: something still wasn’t right with Ricky Romero. And I… uh… noticed them noticing.

I’m not saying I’d prefer the club to be deceptive– “it’s not a lie if we know the truth” and all that old noise– but if the only good that will come from making it known that these changes are taking place is that it will make it easier to excuse another poor performance, what does it say about the organization’s belief that Romero is going to pitch well? And what does it say about their continued insistence that he’s going north with this club, come hell or high water?

 

Season Opening Prediction Conniptions – 4/1
Probably the post I quoted from more often than any other in 2013… because, in my defence of certain prognostications that insufficiently trumpeted the Jays’ chances, I actually acknowledged that Boston might not suck.

Even the Red Sox– who will hit, especially in their ballpark, with Pedroia, Napoli, Gomes against lefties, and full health from Ellsbury and (eventually) Ortiz– need only for Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to regain their form of two years ago in order to be a club capable of winning the division themselves, really. It’s a tall order, but I suppose the point I’m trying to make is, so is having Dickey pick up where he left off in 2012, keeping Johnson on the path to regaining his dominance, getting a healthy season from Brandon Morrow, and keeping the regression demons at bay when it comes to Mark Buehrle.

 

Dear John… – 4/5
An open letter to John Farrell on the occasion of his return to Toronto.

When the shit really started hitting the fan you could have pointed to the Jays’ openly stated reluctance to talk about a contract extension with you. You could have mentioned Boston’s setting up of your son’s radiation treatment while you were in the Jays’ employ. You could have pointed out that the club had the power to keep you if they really wanted to– as they did the year before. They didn’t want you, either, John. Maybe not as much as you didn’t want them, but enough to have used it to paint yourself in a better light. And you sure as fuck could have not said “dream job,” or “If you recall, I was traded,” John. That kind of delusional, arrogant attempt to brush aside legitimate questions about what appears to have been a duplicitous, long-considered, orchestrated exit just makes you kinda look like a fuckface.

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farrelllook

Thanks to some comments from John Farrell that hit the internet on Wednesday, questions about the Jays’ player development structure– an impossibly easy topic for any fucking idiot to spout a hopelessly uninformed opinion on at this stage of a lost season– have abounded. And I don’t mean Farrell by “any idiot,” since he’s one of the few people with some kind of actual insight into how the Jays’ front office thinks and how the organization operates in the depths of its minor league system. What am referring to, though, is much of what dribbled out of my speakers during what seemed like hours of discussion on the subject yesterday on the Fan 590.

Good lord.

To refresh your memory, here are the comments, via Evan Drelich of MassLive.com:

“We can have a seminar on this question — not just because it’s Toronto and Boston,” Farrell said. “There are very distinct differences and it starts, I think it starts, at the top. And the reason I say that: I found Toronto to be a scouting-based organization, which to me is on one plane, one-dimensional. You’re looking at tools. Here, it’s a player-development based system. It’s the paths of the individuals that are running the organization. And that’s not to be critical.

“We all know that there’s three different veins in this game that people advance (through): baseball operations, scouting, player development. Well, in the player-development vein, you’re going to look at things in three dimensions: mentally, physically, fundamentally to address and develop people, or develop an organization. I think as a scouting base, you go out and you evaluate the physical tools. And that’s kind of where it ends, or that’s the look at that time. That was my experience, that was my opinion.”

What jumps out, of course, is that he mentions fundamentals (we think), and the Jays are bad at those, right??? And just where are all of these developed players anyway!!

Well, guess what? We can actually think about these things– to an extent.

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Reality Check

bautistaencarnacin

As many caveats as may be applicable, ultimately, blame for the 2013 Blue Jays season needs to be laid at the feet of the front office and GM Alex Anthoupoulos. On that point there can be no doubt, dangerous as it may be to admit as much in the company of the hopelessly negative who will dull-headedly insist on the existence of a direct relationship between the club’s record and AA’s fitness for his post. If one is actually interested in being reasonable, however, I’d say that about the worst gripe you can make about the job he did over the winter was the way he ignored red flags, and– in particular– the way he splashed prospects and money around on players with major question marks hanging over them, which have almost uniformly been answered in the negative.

Though… that’s a little unfair, I think, as Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes have been almost exactly as advertised. Without question, though, the GM whiffed on– or perhaps the circumstances simply conspired against– the seasons that were forthcoming from Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, and to a lesser extent, Emilio Bonifacio, and Maicer Izturis.

Even Reyes, freak injury as it was, managed to get hurt– yet another red flag that was ignored and swept up in last winter’s wave of positivity.

“Alex should have known!” the sour fans surely bellow in their minds, oblivious to the fact that their insistence on the matter essentially means they believe baseball’s landscape is populated with a vast number of sure things, and Anthoupoulos gravely chose to take bad risks, believing too much in his own ability to evaluate talent.

Horse apples!

Don’t believe me? Let’s play a game. How would you feel about your chances if your team was in this situation coming into this season year:

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maicerfields

My suggestions here won’t be quite as delicious as the one made the other week by Jon Hale of the Mockingbird, who figures J.P. Arencibia can improve his on-base by simply never swinging when the count is full, but there has been a lot of good debate on Twitter of late about just what the Blue Jays can do to improve themselves next year, especially given the obvious fact that– as I noted among my Assorted Weekend Thoughts yesterday– the Jays have had absolute black holes at four positions on the diamond this year, ranking last in MLB in wins above replacement for catchers and second basemen, 27th of 30 teams when it comes to third basemen, and 25th for left field.

They also ranked 27th in WAR for starting pitchers, though elsewhere things are brighter: 10th for relievers, 3rd at first base, 11th at shortstop, 4th in right field, 6th in centre, and 1st at DH.

Of course, some of these rankings are a little wonky [read: horribly imprecise]– they include all the value provided by the guys who’ve regularly taken turns at each position, rather than just the value provided while they were playing at the position, meaning Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion’s WAR totals are simply combined to create the figure for both 1B and DH– but apart from those two positions (where they should probably be knocked down at least a couple of spots in the rankings for each), they generally pass the smell test, I’d say. Meaning, then, that the Jays mostly really need a whole lot more out of C, 2B, 3B, and LF.

Which… obviously.

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