Friday, August 21, 2009

The long, slow, miserable march towards mediocrity

If you can dig way back into your memories, you may remember that on May 19, the Blue Jays sat atop the AL East by three and a half games. At lot has happened in the intervening three months, and not much of it has been all that pleasing to watch.

Since then, the Jays have gone 28-49. That's 21 games below .500. And just for the sake of reference, the hapless Washington Nationals over the same period of time have gone 31-51.

Let that roll around in your head for just a moment: The Jays are one game worse than the Nats over the past three months.

In the early part of the season, the Jays were knocking the seams off the ball, with a team OPS of .821 (.358 OBP, .463 SLG). In those halcyon days of Spring, the pitching staff put up a 3.58 ERA, with a WHIP around 1.25.

But as the season wore on, injuries piled up, and the magic of Cito and his new/retro staff began to wear off, it all went pear-shaped. The pitchers posted an ERA of 4.43 from May 19 on, and the offense sputtered, mustering only a .734 OPS (.316 OBP, .418 SLG).

It's depressing to look at that drop off, and to see that the preponderance of evidence suggests that this team is not close to regaining their footing in the AL East and reawakening dreams of pennant races. Moreover, what all of those numbers can't quite convey is just what a gong show the past few months have been, bookended by two three-game sweeps at the hands of the Red Sox.

(And really, doesn't Bret Cecil's brain cramp last night pretty much encapsulate, in one surreal moment, what the past few months have been like?)

It's important that we not lose sight of the good things that this team has going for it, and the bright spots that we can forsee on next year's roster and beyond. We'll be there throughout the off-season with our pom-poms, leading the cheers.

But it is equally important that we not overlook what an absolute shit-show the majority of this season has been, and that we not allow ourselves to get so comfortable that we give some of those responsible for it a free pass and a second chance to shitty up the next season or two.

Fire Cito. Fire J.P.. Let's move on.

35 comments:

Jeff said...

I don't know what's worse, that Cito decided to make our 3-4-5 hitters last night Wells, Barajas or Millar, or that nobody except around these parts is actually realizing how pathetic it is.

Is he rolling dice for the lineup? This isn't one player doing well but never getting the chance to move up (like Luke Scott in Baltimore), this is purposely putting (arguably) your three worst hitters in your three most important spots in the lineup.

How he is getting a free pass by the mainstream media about this is beyond me. It's not worth my time to watch this team when Cito really has no concept of strategy or a plan or pride in not wanting to get swept by the Red Sox at home, especially with all those massholes.

voicesgreenandpurple said...

Wow.
That was eye opening and depressing.
Congrats Tao

Mattt said...

I'm beginning to agree with the last couple of things that you said. I'm still unsure if Cito is that bad a manager or if his options are so limited that regardless of the line ups and in game decisions, the result would be the same.

I don't know what I think about JP anymore. He has done a great job stocking the farm with tons of pitching. He's built great bullpens with spare parts. He also has not been able to sign an effective free agent DH during his time in Toronto to save his life. Is that really so difficult?

eyebleaf said...

I don't often disagree with you, Mighty Tao, but I sure do right now.

Fire Cito? Fire J.P.? This is exactly where the Blue Jays told us they'd be this season.

A hot start, 27 and mother fucking 14, was the last thing Ricciardi and the boys upstairs wanted. It made us all delusional.

We know, whether we wanted to admit it or not, that this season was going to be a write off. That didn't mean I didn't believe. But that doesn't mean that I'm exactly surprised.

eyebleaf said...

Sorry, I forgot to say: THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!!!1

Tao of Stieb said...

I don't want to say that J.P. has done a terrible job...but he's going eventually and probably soon, so let's get on with it.

I also think there were times when J.P. could have been more aggressive and seized on opportunities to improve the team.

J.P.'s refrain has been "We like our team." And that's fine, but when the opening to move ahead of the Yanks or Sox is so small, and the margin of error is so minute, I think you've got to leap at the opportunities when they are out there.

As for Cito, it's been embarassing to watch. He's been stubborn, obstinate, and far too willing to let the games get away from him.

People always used to hold up the Jays' record in one-run games as an indication that Gibby was a nimrod and over his head. Well, Gibby never put on a display quite as horrendous as Cito.

Millar, Carlson, Inglett, Designated Pinch Runner Johnny Mac...I'm the biggest apologist for this team, and generally one of the more patient bloggers (or so I like to think), but seriously, FUCK THIS.

Enough is enough.

Jeff said...

Eyebleaf, the idea was that we'd be bad cause the kids would go through learning curves. Instead, the kids have been more or less alright and not only are the crappy veterans bad, they're holding roster spots for more kids to come up.

Last night at the game, I remarked to my friends that NL teams with lineups like ours used to come to the Dome in interleague and I used to laugh at them.

I agree to an extent Cito has been pretty limited in options (the bench is awful) but that's no excuse for Millar, Barajas and Wells to not be 7-8-9, not 3-4-5. I can't even look at Millar without getting angry these days.

Steve G. said...

Eyebleaf, what is the tipping point for stalled progress, though? At this point, JP hasn't really shown any ability to 1) get his team a playoff spot and 2) draft pitchers or hire a medical staff that can have a semblance of health.

He has been the GM since November 2001, and I think no playoff appearances in eight seasons is more than enough to warrant his dismissal, even in the Darwinian AL East.

Stedron said...

FIRE THE BLOGGERS!!

;)

eyebleaf said...

@ Jeff: I agree with you about the kids; more or less they've been alright. Rios is one of the veterans I'm sure you're alluding to. Well, he's gone, and we've got his money to spend next season. What do you suggest they do with Wells? Snider is here now, and I'm fine with how they handled him; the longer he's ours, the better. The Rolen deal was a great one, freed up cash and moved a guy who didn't want to be here.

Now, you tell me, which kids are being held up in the minors right now? By all accounts, the Arencibias and Jerolomans are not ready for the show, so what's Ricciardi to do?

As much as it would please me for Millar to be kicked to the curb, and for Buck Coats to be freed, is that really going to make the Jays a much better team? Frankly, it's not. So, what kids are you talking about?

@ Steve: I'm not saying Ricciardi shouldn't be let go. I'm not saying it should be b/c of what's happening right now. This is exactly where the Jays told us they'd be this season. And I disagree with you; J.P. has shown, if anything, that he can draft pitchers. The injuries, blame them on the baseball Gods, not freaking Ricciardi.

eyebleaf said...

What were you expecting, coming in at $80 million?

I wrote a post this morning about the top 10 spending teams in the league. Five of them are leading their divisions, and one (BoSox), will win the Wild Card.

You have to spend money. AL East or not, but AL East especially. Period.

http://www.sportsandthecity.com/2009/08/almighty-dollar.html

Anonymous said...

With numbers like that, it's not a march toward mediocrity, it's a clusterfuck to the basement.

(hat tip to The Daily Show)

The Ack said...

As for Cito, it's been embarassing to watch. He's been stubborn, obstinate, and far too willing to let the games get away from him.

People always used to hold up the Jays' record in one-run games as an indication that Gibby was a nimrod and over his head. Well, Gibby never put on a display quite as horrendous as Cito.


Motherfucking THIS.

Gawd, it's hard to watch right now. Like, so hard to watch that I don't even want to watch, but make myself watch because I'll feel guilty otherwise. And that's wrong, man. That's no way to live.

You know, even when the Jays were rolling, I could not, for the god damned life of me, understand Cito's mail-it-in/rest day lineups. Jesus fucking Christ, when you roll out lineups like last night, you are basically saying "we have no shot". Now, that leads to the argument of limited options, but still.....Millar, Barajas, and yes - Wells should not even be able to see the heart of the order on any horizon.

It is funny, though, how many of us - even the great optimists among us - have finally reached the tipping point.

I pray you don't reach that point, eyebleaf, because then we'll really know we've reached high tide in this shitnami of a season.

QJays said...

I'm a bit more sympathetic than eyebleaf to Tao's ending statements, but at the end of the day, I think I'm in eyeb's corner both. As much as it pains me to say it, I don't think Cito should be fired ... yet. I haven't liked Cito generally, but the thing is, he is working with some pretty depleted resources. While the 3-4-5 hitters last night look horrible, the only players who I would truly expect to have a better night against Lester is probably Ruiz or possibly Lind (though I think it was the probably the right night to give Lind a night off) -- Overbay, Snider, Bautista, Bueller, Bueller, Bueller ... none of these guys are likely to have a significantly better night in those spots.

As for JP, that's a longer discussion, but I think that the good and the bad are still pretty balanced with him. For every good story, there is either a bad interpretation of the same story, or actually a bad story (but a lot of those are made up). I don't love JP, but I think firing him would be based more on symbol than substance. It might still work, but I have a hard time justifying it.

Steve G. said...

Eyebleaf, at a certain point, you have to blame someone for all of the injury woes on the Jays pitching staff. Eith acknowledge that there is an issue with how you're treating players or the medical staff or the rest patterns used by managers, or admit that there is a systematic error in the way that you are evaluating pitcher's potential health.

While I agree that J.P. hasn't done anything ridiculously stupid this year (well, OK, the Halladay stuff is debatable) to desire getting fired, his body of work speaks for itself.

To use a tenuous pop culture reference: When Lindsay has finally had enough of Tobias on "Arrested Development", it's because he makes a snippy comment about her stretching out his leopard print thong. She says, "I don't know why, but that's it. We're done." Well, I think pretty much every Toronto fan (and even an outside observer like myself) thinks they're done with the JP era.

As far as the payroll goes, that seems like a cop-out. The Rays don't have a huge payroll, but they do spend the money intelligently since their new management group came in. Pretty much everyone thought the huge money to Ryan and Burnett was an iffy decision at the time.

eyebleaf said...

@ The Ack: I'll never get there. I'm in too deep to turn back now.

@ Steve: About the injuries, I refuse. They're a part of baseball. Beyond the Box Score has done posts about injuries in baseball, and we're in the middle of the pack. It's not as bad as people such as yourself make it out to be. Every team has to deal with them. We are no different.

And, again, I disagree that payroll is a cop out. Six of the top 10 spending teams are GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS. That shit speaks for itself. And as I wrote in my post, until the Rays do it consistently, fuck them, they are a one-hit wonder.

stonedog said...

While I also share the 'fuck Cito, fuck JP, fuck this team' depressive attitude, what pulls me up short is the next thought in my brain, which is:

If not Cito, then who?
If not JP, then who?

Yeah, yeah, I can't wait for those two guys to exit, stage left, but let's have a comprehensive discussion about who would be excellent replacements. Alex Anthopoulos seems to be the de facto consensus pick as JP's replacement, but should he be? What would he do differently? What's his 'five year plan'? And if anyone brings up the name 'Steve Phillips', they automatically get a punch to the ballsack.

The Leafs and Raptors went out and acquired proven GM talent to legitimize their mediocre clubs. Shouldn't that be the Jays' strategy, too? Shouldn't that also be their strategy for finding a manager? See, this is what really matters, and no doubt it starts with Beeston shitting or getting off the pot. Either find a new President or keep the job, for fuck's sake. Do something, as Jeff Blair has said.

The Ack said...

Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm not giving up on the team. I love the goddamned Blue Jays. Probably too much for my own emotional well-being.

But I guess I'm just admitting the season is gone straight to fuck, and even the bright spots are pretty dim right now. Fuck 2009, I guess.

Am I giving up on the regime entirely? I don't know. Like the Tao said, it's hard to imagine JP coming back, Beeston can't seem to make a decison to save his life, and Cito? Well, how deep is his tank of goodwill?

Because those horseshit lineups, bullpen mismanagement, prickly stances with certain players, and general in-game laissez-faire is starting to kill me. More than a little.

Steve G. said...

And, again, I disagree that payroll is a cop out. Six of the top 10 spending teams are GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS. That shit speaks for itself. And as I wrote in my post, until the Rays do it consistently, fuck them, they are a one-hit wonder.

I think you're mixing up cause-and-effect a little bit. Good players require more money to sign and resign than bad players. If you're the Pirates, who are you going to spend money on?

And also, since when is Toronto a JV team? Having been to your gorgeous city, it's a great place, and I'd say it's a better market than many out there. Economics doesn't pass the smell test for me, not when Detroit has a $115 million payroll. $80 million is plenty anyway for a competitive team, and the available cash would be higher without the BJ Ryan deal and the ownership-decreed signing of Vernon Wells.

eyebleaf said...

$80 million is not enough in the AL East. Only once since the Blue Jays won the World Series has a team with less than $100 million won the AL East. It was the Rays. Last year. And it won't happen again this year.

The Ack said...

That's a dangerous stance you're taking, bro.....just be careful you don't back yourself into a corner if/when word comes down on a $75-$85M number for next year....

Steve G. said...

... except that even the dominance of Boston and New York is due to a mixture of free agent spending and farm development. The Mets and Mariners show that money alone isn't a good excuse, and the competitive advantage of Boston and New York's payroll isn't so overwhelming that it is impossible for other teams to win.

eyebleaf said...

It ain't going down like that, Ack. $100-$110. We're cracking that top 10 list.

eyebleaf said...

@ Steve: I'd say the Blue Jays have the right mix when it comes to their farm development. Now they just need the right free agents (Not BJ Ryan and Frank Thomas.)

In 2009s case, the right free agents would have been Bobby Abreu, and A.J. Burnett.

It would have also helped if Rios and Wells pulled their weight.

I need a drink.

Tao of Stieb said...

@eyebleaf

That's a stellar post today on the almighty dollar. You're right, they have to spend, and in a way, that's what I'm getting at with the "be aggressive" notion.

The Brewers gave up a lot last year to get C.C. for a few months early, but they saw that they had an opportunity, and they went into the trade market way before the deadline to shore up a weakness. End result: Playoffs.

The NL Central isn't the AL East, to be sure. But the Jays should have money set aside for mid-season acquisitions if they see that things are going well.

Imagine if in Mid-May, the Jays said "Fuck it. We're on top, and we're going for it" and went after Cliff Lee. Maybe they fall on their face and then end up giving up one of the prospects that may contribute in 2010 or 2011 or 2012, and it all looks like a disaster after the fact. But wouldn't it be somewhat preferable for them to lay it on the line and go hard after when they see a bit of a chance?

(We'll give you this: Mid-May was probably way too soon, and that nine-game losing streak essentially killed the season. So most of what I'm saying here is moot.)

@Stonedog

In a way, the "who" question is kinda moot. But from Rogers, down to Beeston, then down to the front office and down to the field management, someone has to show some goddamned vision and an ounce of leadership, and start guiding this franchise in some sort of direction.

I never had a problem with the mythical 5-year plan of J.P. (even if I don't think it was as simple as that)...what I've got a problem with is the five different plans that they've had this year.

I think that the Jays will probably bring in a senior advisor and give the GM job to Alex Anthopoulos, which would be fine by me...although I might prefer LaCava.

I know that most of this stuff will get resolved in the off-season, but my worst fear is that they'll give J.P. and Cito one more year each to see this thing through, and that would just about stop my heart dead in my chest.

I think this is the most frustrated that I've been since I started this blog. I'm sure it shows, because I don't even know if I'm making sense anymore.

Ian H. said...

Holy shit, that .354 winning percentage since May 18th is one of the more sobering stats I've seen all season long. FML.

SP said...

I've done my share of JP apologism on other blogs, bordering on obsession, so I'll just say this:

it's not your fault
it's not your fault
it's not your fault JP
it's not your fault


Anyway, latest word from Baseball America is that Paxton wanted $1.35 million and the Jays stood firm at $1 milion! Beeston, who handled the negotiations by himself, even got Boras to come down from his original $1.5M asking price but Beeston still wouldn't budge. So there you have it folks, our over slot playing, glove off taking, 1.3 billion dollar profit making ownership cheaped out over 350k. SEVEN players below Paxton got more than $1.35M, through round 10, including teams like KC and Oakland, and of course Boston and New York.

Eliopoulous wanted $1 million but the Jays stood firm on 500k, which was basically the slot price. Again SEVEN players below Eliopoulous, through round 10, got more than $1M, including Marisnick.

THIS is what some of you people are making excuses for? 850k, close to the 700k KLaw estimated? There are no excuses.

eyebleaf said...

If the Jays give in to Paxton, and Eliopoulos, they have to give in to EVERYBODY else. That's my logic, and I'm sticking to it.

@ Tao: I stopped making sense a long time ago. I have to check my archives just to see if I'm being consistent. I'm fucked.

Mattt said...

Reading all of these comments just now at least points to the fact that we Jays fans are a passionate and loyal bunch. Easily top 5 in the league. Hey it's something...

SP said...

Correction: Eliopoulos was offered more than 500k. 500k-ish was the actual slot price. So they were off by even less. Law's number of 700k for both is probably dead on.

SP said...

If the Jays give in to Paxton, and Eliopoulos, they have to give in to EVERYBODY else. That's my logic, and I'm sticking to it.

See now that's just BS though. Here, take a look at the entire list of bonuses for the first 10 rounds: http://www.pgcrosschecker.com/articles/DisplayArticle.aspx?article=1611

What I see there is teams mixing slot and over slot picks. There is simply no basis for thinking it becomes a slippery slope if they overpay for their top picks.

As I said over at DJF, I think the over slot signings later on were simply a consolation prize. Which is stupid because scouts aren't as sold on Webb and Hobson as they are on Paxton and Eliopoulos. They gave Webb 300k over slot and Hobson 350k over.

More on Eliopoulos from Bob Eliott:

The Jays made a slot money offer of $530,000 to Eliopoulos. The offer was denied and a request was made for $700,000.

FML

eyebleaf said...

If this is all true, it really makes no sense to go over slot on Webb and Hobson and not on Paxton and Eli.

SP is right: FML.

Darren Priest said...

Klaw strikes again...

Yeah, this sucks, but Paint is not that easy to work with, ya know.

Anonymous said...

Hey eyebleaf..what the hell happened to your posts over on Big League Stew yesterday?

Oh well, at least you made your point...eventually.

eyebleaf said...

My computer went all whorish on me. My apologies. 'Duk stopped following me on Twitter, and no longer responds to my emails. He clearly hates me. My heart weeps.