It's felt strange over the past few weeks making the case against Alex the Ant's very rational and deliberate approach to building-not-rebuilding the Toronto Blue Jays. On the face of it, The Eternal Building Process seems like the thoughtful and prudent approach at this time.
You take your time, you build from within, you increase your scouting capacity, you draft well, you make good trades and you avoid crazy free agent contracts. You bide your time and you let your players develop until you've got a core that can compete with anyone, including the Yankees and Red Sox. And when the time comes, you add a veteran via free agency or trade to fill in the last spots to take you over the top.
How can you argue against that? How can you dismiss such a well-conceived plan and side with the braying ninnies in the cheap seats, calling for the team to sign every free agent and trade for every Canadian and spend a gajillion dollars today to compete and an extra gajillion next year to mop up the mess?
But the problem we have with that theory is that it doesn't account for the fact that the performance and health of players are such ephemeral things.
Just take a look at the last forward-looking plan for contention: It was based on a notion that Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, and B.J. Ryan would all be healthy contributors, and that Vernon Wells would be healthy and not play like horseshit through injuries and that Alex Rios would at the very least play something resembling baseball. It might have even considered that you would get some semblance of contribution from Gus Chacin or Jesse Litsch, depending on where you were when you looked ahead.
The point is that AA and the newish brain trust should be cautious about what they assume about the performance of Adam Lind or Aaron Hill or Travis Snider or Marc Rzepczynski or Brett Cecil two or three years down the road. If you are building with the notion that those guys are the foundation of the future, you should be prepared for the fact that some or all of them may give you less than you expect in 2011 or 2012.
Frankly, how the hell can you even know what to expect that far down the road? Anyone wanna place bets on who'll be closing games in Toronto in September of 2011? Or who will be the Opening Day starter in April of 2012?
Players are wildly inconsistent and fragile assets. To plan deliberately as though they will provide you with a dependable level of service well into the future is to set yourself up to be constantly refilling cracks in your foundation that you thought had been patched.