griffbag

Another week, another Griff Bag! Aka Richard Griffin’s latest mail bag from over at the Toronto Star!

And… holy shit, it’s garbage clown central in there this week, what with it being published before the current four-game streak. Which… I know what you’re thinking. Sounds like par for the course, right? Well hold onto your panties, Ron.

If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, provided you’re OK with me calling you a garbage clown, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q-Richard Stoeten -

You had mentioned several times that Alex Anthopoulos has done a good job stocking/restocking talent at the lower levels implying that somehow that can save his job. I question whether this accomplishment alone qualifies him as a major league GM.

In two major trades, he has completely missed on his target – what he calls centerpiece – Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey. He has also handcuffed the organization based on the salaries he took on in Buehrle and Reyes. Yes they are contributing and fun-to-watch players, but their salaries has handicapped the organization in other areas. Perhaps I am one of the few in supporting Rogers for limiting more increase in salary. To me, it’s an issue of accountability. Ownership agreed to significantly increase salary at the time of the Miami/NY trades based on certain deliverables. Not only did AA not deliver, he went to ask for more money (Santana and possibly deals at the non-waiver trade deadline) I think Rogers is simply holding AA to what he promised he’d deliver – Do what you said you were going to do. I see AA as a director of player personnel kind of a talent, not a major league GM; at least not at this stage of his career given that he is still young. Your thoughts?

John Cheng

Uh… well then I suppose it’s fortunate for Anthopoulos that restocking the lower levels of the minors is hardly the only good thing he’s done.

But yes, Anthopoulos blew the Josh Johnson portion of the Marlins trade. I hardly think you can call him the centerpiece of it — he was bringing Buehrle on for three years, after all, and Reyes for five, while Johnson was only here for one — but clearly little about that trade has worked out the way anybody has hoped. The Dickey deal, I think, gets unfairly knocked — and I’m guilty of it too, sometimes — because people forget that built into the high price the Jays paid was the fact that they were getting a very good, manageable contract in the deal, too. He has only shown 2012 form in flashes since, but $30-million for three years of a reigning Cy-Young-winning innings-eater is a pretty tremendous proposition, even for an exorbitant cost (though with Travis d’Arnaud possibly moving out from behind the plate due to repeated concussion problems, perhaps it’s not as big as many think), and even though it has clearly not worked out the way anybody had hoped, either.

Yes, Yan Gomes was a big miss, and Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco was defensible because of compensation picks and Napoli’s impending free agency, but looks awful. However, on the other hand, the contracts for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are master strokes, as was getting out from under the Vernon Wells deal. Some of the drafting has looked quite good so far, even though the club has missed a bunch there too, and has focussed on guys who remain a good distance yet away from the big leagues. Also, had he not had a tumour on his spine in the first year of the deal, I suspect the Melky contract would be looking like a pretty damn savvy move, as well.

There is plenty to like, in other words.

Moving on, your talk about deliverables and payroll is an interesting theory — and yes, one that would be pretty damning for Anthopoulos if it were true. But it requires, I think, too gigantic a leap to take terribly seriously.

The whole organization was aglow in the spring that followed the big acquisitions of November and December 2012, and the atmosphere of coronation certainly makes it seem at least plausible that you’re right, and that Anthopoulos and Beeston understood they’d be screwed — left with absolutely no financial flexibility — if things went south, but simply felt there was no way it could fail. But we have no idea. And for a group that had so prioritized flexibility in everything they had said and done in the years preceding — and an organization that was still awfully thin below the surface and knew the damage a single injury to a key player could do to a club (in 2012, Jose Bautista had just five plate appearances after July 16th; the Jays were 28-44 from that date on) — it’s especially ridiculous to be certain that they took such a big risk knowing full well the ultimate consequences of their actions. Almost as absurd as the idea that anybody would have been crazy enough to promise anything in terms of on-field success. (Though it’s still not in the stratosphere of absurdity that saying “I see AA as a director of player personnel kind of talent, not a major league GM” is).

Yes, maybe that’s how it happened, but I think it could just as easily be the case that the confluence of the terrible year and the change at the top of Rogers’ corporate structure made ownership rethink the benefit of sending more money into the coffers of an enterprise with a proven model of succeeding on the cheap. Not succeeding on the field, mind you, but in terms of providing cheap content for the Sportsnet networks, generating ad money, generating revenue sharing money (which they’re no longer eligible for), getting a big payout from MLB because of deals with US TV networks, and watching franchise equity grow tremendously (last year Bloomberg valued the Jays at almost a billion dollars; Rogers bought the team for $120-million in 2000). The do-just-enough, penny-pinching, $70-million-payroll Jays of most of the last 15 years have done pretty well for the evil empire that controls them, and have done so by risking a whole hell of a lot less capital than they did in each of the last two seasons.

So one at least hopes Anthopoulos and Beeston wouldn’t have been so risky to have not believed this could happened — though one also hopes the front office would use every single possible tool at its disposal (i.e. hefty investment and belief in their analytics department) when it comes to these sorts of crucial questions of player evaluation, and I’m not sure we have a good answer on that one, either — but at this point it’s not like it matters so much how we got here as it does that we are here and need to find a way out. Yet, you’re right: if Anthopoulos and Beeston had more a hand in handcuffing themselves than we can yet reasonably believe — if they were too cavalier about the possibility that ownership would so emphatically stop them from increasing their payroll — then maybe they’re not the right men for the job. If they continue, let’s at least hope they’ve learned the fucking lesson.

 

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Q-Hi Richard Stoeten

Well here we are again Griff—a little later in the season than usual but same result. A side with some talent but not much grit and at times a comical lack of brain power. It will be interesting to see who goes and stays—any pretence that this is a side that should be kept together disappeared weeks ago, (as did the coffee mornings early season optimism). I think that AA and John Gibbons should be the first to exit, responsibility for failure should always start at the top. I’ve always liked Gibby for his honesty but when it was necessary to get players to adjust they either ignored him or the message didn’t get through. Lack of authority is a killer for managers.

AA has made some terrible decisions starting with the big trade. Forgive me for putting on my ‘Sage of Prescott’ hat but I did say at the time that bringing over a bunch of flashy NLers who all starred on perennial losing teams was not going to work. With the exception of Mark Buehrle they turned out to be the gang that couldn’t hit, catch or throw straight. They only thing they lead the Division in was funny handshakes and Mr Muscles demonstrations. Then we have had the constant parade of waiver duds, all touted as assets. The worst thing about this is that the young players (Gose, Goins, Pillar, Jenkins etc) were constantly shuffled back and forward to Buffalo. Given no chance to work their way through mistakes. You can add the failure to add experienced players with pedigree at the All Star and inexplicably trundling out the likes of Reimold, Francisco, Valencia etc to save the day. It all adds up to a GM with poor player perception. Talking a lot doesn’t necessarily mean knowing a lot.

Finally the plusses: Melky Cabrera, EE, Adam Lind, Captain Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Hutchison, Stroman, Happ and Sanchez. That’s your nucleus now lets get some management who can do something with it.

Sorry about the rant Griff Stoet but it’s been one of those weeks.

Frank Taker, Prescott

Holy shitballs, Frank. I ought to print out your letter and put it on my fridge as a monument to every blisteringly ridiculous thought a Jays fan could possibly squeeze into one single addled mind.

I mean… not only are you pretending that you can see grit, but you’re also pretending it wins baseball games??!? And the stuff about the “comical lack of brain power”? Holy shitting frustrated fucking nonsense, man! Hilarious! Ohhhh, and then get set to torch the whole operation like a child breaking his favourite toy in a fit of pique. Can’t possibly keep this group together! (Dumb.) Fire the GM and manager! (Dumb). Pretend you can divine a lack of authority through your TV set and that there’s some kind of massive communication problem everybody else is utterly blind to. (Dumb!) Act like the “NL guys” thing and the “perennial losing teams” thing is, a) real, and b) not the dumbest fucking thing imaginable. (Dumb!) Say “flashy” with zero concept of how it comes off like a racist dog whistle, and gripe about handshakes like they’re being done by those damn kids stomping all over your precious lawn! (ahhhhhhhhh-Dumb!!!) Pretend playing worse players more would have helped, then ignore the actual help the club got from guys at the bottom of the roster because it doesn’t serve your point! (Dumb! Dumb!)

It’s truly breathtaking. The Lake Louise of late-season-2014 crybaby Jays fan insanity. Bravo.

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dickeydickies

OK, so maybe spectacular is a stretch, but apparently R.A. Dickey would like to sell you some pants, and this ad from the latest ESPN the Magazine — as sent my way by longtime reader @ERZEN — is… well… it’s something else. (Uh… maybe? Or maybe it’s just a damn ad).

Also maybe not quite Dickey in a dickey, but pants that move with you? Dickey pitching in a pair of khakis?

I dunno. Seemed worth mailing in a post for.

Hey, there’s even a video of Dickies sending Dickey to pitch to a — hang on. Holy shit. The company is called Dickies, and his name is Dickey??!!? What a coincidence!

Anyway, they sent him to pitch to rec league team in a video that was posted back in July. Check it out after the jump…

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chart (2)

Sweet merciful crap, it’s over!

No! Not Casey Janssen’s career as the Blue Jays’ closer (although…) — I mean the Jays streak of failure at Tropicana Field in Tampa, where they’ve just ensured a series victory for the first time since — to steal a joke from @veep52 — way back when John fucking Gibbons was managing this club! (And back around when I was laying down foul, misanthropic pearls of wisdom like this).

Yep. Pretty much…

Ugh.

Oh, and one more thing: as he slipped down the prospect rankings and the big trades of late 2012 kind of blew up in our faces and we all looked a little more askew at the way the Jays operated, wondering more than ever whether or not they actually know what the fuck they’re doing, I found myself — like a lot of you, I presume — holding back and trying badly to temper expectations for Aaron Sanchez. It… uh… it sure is kinda nice to feel those start to rise again, huh?

One more one more thing: StromanTheBest.

Couldn’t have asked for a better start to September. And with the Tigers’ loss, the Jays now sit 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot, and a half game back of leapfrogging both the Yankees and Cleveland, who were both winners tonight.

Oh… and I guess I also have to add this. Because this is awesome:

 

Nails much?

strothrows-grey

Could this really be it? Could we actually no longer have the damn Jays-can’t-win-a-series-in-Tampa thing to talk about after tonight?

It really could be! And with what few scraps of playoff hopes remain for this club to cling to, it had probably better be.

A tough opponent in Chris Archer stands in their way, but the Jays counter with Marcus Stroman, so they’ve certainly got a chance.

Let’s do this! Shit, even if you don’t want to believe this is a game of “meaningful September baseball” let’s just do it so we never have to speak of the damn Tropicana Field bugaboo again.

Scuttlebutt

R.A. Dickey was hit in the head by a ball off the bat of Evan Longoria during batting practice today, but he’s fine, tweets everyone (like Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com, for example, who I linked to).

Colby Rasmus says that he’s been benched in favour of “rookies,” according to a piece from John Lott of the National Post. “’I’m not down about it. No hard feelings,’ he insisted, not very convincingly.” Thing is, though, I still really do believe in Colby’s talent, but when you get 362 plate appearances and only have a .287 on-base to show for it, these sorts of things will happen.

Lately Facebook changed its algorithm with respect to sharing, it’s really become a much more powerful social media tool, and so it’s probably in your best interest to just go right ahead and like DJF on Facebook. That way you can get everything that’s posted here injected straight into your feed-veins.

And while we’re at it, you might as well follow me on Twitter, follow @DrunkJaysFans, and follow the dusty ol’ DJF Instagram too!

Next game(s): Tomorrow, 7:10 PM ET @ Tampa

For those of you who’ll be out and about, be sure to follow all the action on your phone with theScore app.

And now, the lineups… 

Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes (S)
LF Melky Cabrera (S)
RF Jose Bautista (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
1B Adam Lind (L)
C Dionner Navarro (S)
3B Danny Valencia (R)
2B Ryan Goins (L)
CF Anthony Gose (L)

RHP Marcus Stroman

Tampa Bay Rays

2B Ben Zobrist (S)
RF Wil Myers (R)
LF Matt Joyce (L)
3B Evan Longoria (R)
1B James Loney (L)
SS Yunel Escobar (R)
DH David DeJesus (L)
C Jose Molina (R)
CF Kevin Kiermaier (L)

RHP Chris Archer

AAscrum

Alex Anthopoulos hit the radio airwaves last night, chatting with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt of Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590, and while he didn’t reveal too much — as is his usual style — he did actually give us quite a bit of food for thought, as he wandered into some territories where he normally wouldn’t go.

Specifically, he said all this:

On the future of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion:

With some of our core players — everybody always points to and asks about Bautista and Encarnacion — you look at a guy like Bautista: he’s 33-years-old right now, he’s someone that if you look his body type and his work ethic and the way he takes care of himself, I expect him to be a productive player until his late thirties or even forty. I certainly know he’s going to have the desire to do that. And you look at whether it’s the Raul Ibanezes, or Edgar Martinezes, or even a guy like Carlos Beltran or a guy like Ortiz — those guys into their mid-to-late thirties are highly productive. And Encarnacion is, I believe, 31, and because they have two years left on their contracts — a year and an option — that certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility that we don’t sit down with those guys at some point and start adding on some years. So it’s not strictly a two-year window with those guys. they have two years currently, but we think they’re going to be productive for a long time and they absolutely can be part of another wave here, another core for four or five years beyond that.

As much as some fans are ready to tear the entire team apart, I think he’s absolutely right here, and the more you think of it, why the hell shouldn’t this be the winter where something gets done — before these guys get too close to free agency. The club only has the $22-million for Jose Reyes on the books for 2017, and nothing beyond that, so deals where you make Edwin and Jose’s club options for 2016 official, and then buy out a couple more free agent years after that? Even if you’re doing so at some pretty hefty prices, the security might absolutely be worth it, and it shouldn’t kill your payroll.

That last bit is especially true because the club has so much young talent coming up, which Anthopoulos also addressed…

 

On 2015 roster construction, and his club’s odd mix of youth and veterans:

Normally I think if you were going completely young next year you’d have to make some decisions there, but we think some of the young guys who’ve come up and started to establish themselves — they’re performing at a high level, so it’s that much more exciting, like you said, with the fact that they are young, that they’re under control for a long time, that they add payroll flexibility going forward. But the fact that Stroman’s got less than a year of service at this point, and we control him for six more years beyond this year, and so on, he fits in great with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Buehrle and Dickey, because he’s performing at a high level right now.

Even a guy like Aaron Sanchez — we haven’t had a chance to see him in the rotation, but we think he can hit the ground running. In a perfect world, you actually have a roster that’s composed of both [youth and experience] and you get to mix it a little bit and you get to integrate some guys.

Now, if you’d told me banking on guys like Dalton Pompey that are just making their way through the minor leagues, and have had a quick[-moving] season, and you have a lot of guys like that that you’re trying to hit — to integrate — it would be totally different. But we think the young players we have are ready to contribute and are ready to be above average players right now. And if anything, we’re just going to look to continue to add to that.

Sitting here, it sure looks like you could do a whole lot worse in 2017 and 2018 than having Bautista, Encarnacion, and (at least for the first year) Reyes as your really big ticket guys, and a rotation built on guy just barely hitting arbitration for the first time. Then again, it wasn’t long ago that we were looking at years of rotations headlined by Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, so maybe we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves, but still, to me that’s a better long-term vision than the silliness I hear sometimes like, “let’s just blow it up, get whatever prospects we can, and hope some of them end up good enough that we don’t end up wasting the best cheap years of guys like Stroman, Sanchez, Norris, and Hutchison.”

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pompeytampa

Ten names. I can’t be arsed to actually look it up, but I’m pretty sure it’s been a long, long time since the Toronto Blue Jays so forcefully took advantage of MLB’s rules allowing for the expansion of rosters on September first. And there are still more players that could theoretically been brought to the majors by the club, who might have had some utility as they hope to make a titanic last-ditch push to get back in the playoff race. Kyle Drabek. Steve Delabar, and Rob Rasmussen won’t be returning to the Jays — barring a change of heart from management, or perhaps an injury situation that forces them into action — nor will A.J. Jimenez, or — as was discussed in a post yesterday — Brett Lawrie.

And yet still the Jays have added a number of intriguing weapons that fans will be looking to get a taste of down the stretch.

Some of the moves are pretty basic: George Kottaras was added as the club’s third catcher, while Dan Johnson returns from injury to add another left-handed bat off the bench, while John Mayberry Jr. does the same from the right side. Sean Nolin, who has been on the 40-man roster since his call-up last year, understandably has finally rejoined the club. Brandon Morrow has been activated, likely to complete his Blue Jays swan song — that’s because, with a $10-million club option for next year that’s undoubtedly going to be declined, he’ll hit the free agent market over the winter, possibly looking exclusively for an opportunity to compete for a rotation spot that simply isn’t going to be available here — and, as expected, Ryan Goins and Anthony Gose have also returned to the club.

You could nitpick the decisions on some of the relievers, I suppose. Delabar, for example, is a power arm who may still have a future with the Jays and has put up some gaudy strikeout numbers with Buffalo. But he has also walked at least one batter in eight of his last eleven appearances, and at least one hit in five of his last six appearances, none of which lasted more than an inning.

The bigger story though, obviously, is the other names — Daniel Norris, Dalton Pompey, and Kendall Graveman — though it’s maybe not quite as big as the knee-jerk cynic would like you to believe.

Hearing the Sportsnet broadcast talk glowingly about the future we’ll be seeing on display this next month certainly raises the ol’ hackles, making it rather easy to feel that the rush to get this trio to the big leagues — and, more crucially, in terms of asset management, onto the 40-man roster — has as much to do with optics as baseball, and with selling hope at the end of a dismal August that has likely been a season-killer.

Not only that, but it might even seem more egregious — perhaps even like a flagrant misuse of some of the club’s key assets, forcing them to burn options too soon, to accrue service time too soon, and potentially creating related issues farther down the line. And I don’t think any of us needs to be reminded what a handcuff it can be to have a roster full of too many out-of-options players.

Yet I don’t think it’s really as big a deal as the negative-minded might want to make it out to be.

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chart (1)

Runs? Pitching? Two shots left to slay the Tropicana Field beast? That’ll play.

And did Mike Wilner just say it was the Jays’ first win in a series opener in nine tries? Jesus fuck.

Now just do that, like, twenty-five more times, and… uh… holy shit, they only have twenty-five games left! [tugs at inside of shirt collar]