Friday, December 31, 2010

How will you remember 2010?

Addressing a week's worth of inactivity - sorry friends. Between Christmas and holidays and kids and seasonal illness and mandatory visiting and.... well, you get the picture, I assume. Believe me, I'm with you - hoping Tao returns sooner than later to end this amateur-hour shitshow I've been (sporadically) running.

I mean.... I could have addressed the Octavio Dotel signing, musing (ineffectively) that Dotel is just a low-rent version of Kevin Gregg (is that even possible?) - a one year Type-B hedge until a more worthy, long-term, homegrown solution at the almighty closer position can be found. David Purcey? Josh Roenicke? Zach Stewart? Asher Wojciechowski? Remains to be seen.

Or I could have arrogantly pointed out that this is what happens when you let the market "sort itself out" before jumping into the fray.

But no, it is what it is, and perhaps Dotel will borrow some of that magic pixie saves dust that allowed Gregg to wriggle out of so many nervous ninths. Or maybe he completely implodes and loses the closing job by June. Either way, it's a one-year deal for reasonable money that gives Anthopoulos & Farrell another year (yeah, I know...) to find The Guy.

But enough about that
Let's talk about 2010.

Is there any reasonable argument against calling the calendar year set to expire an unqualified success for the Blue Jays organization? For the fans?

2009 ended with many among us in the depths of despair - Doc was gone and so was much optimism. A new GM, another rebuild - er, "build" - a system whose best prospects had just arrived in trade, and a lame-duck season by a manager not looking to do much of anything new.

But then.....

The rotation, opening the season full of questions, closed the year full of possibility.

Jose Bautista never cooled off and blew shit up for 162 games.

Vernon Wells had a nice season.

Bargain-bin free agents John Buck and Alex Gonzalez both became best-case scenarios: outstanding play for 2010 parlayed into future assets.

The organization as a whole continued to get stronger, to the point of being ranked #4 (from #28 - h/t Bob Elliott) by Baseball America in their upcoming Prospect Handbook.

As a team, the Jays hit more bombs than any other. Sure, a few walks and singles here and there would have been nice....but HOW MUCH FUN WAS THAT?

A new manager with a much-respected pedigree bought into The Plan and came aboard, promising to change the same-old way of thinking from the bench.

.....and as we stand today, not much has changed from the major league roster. Good thing or bad , take your pick. But make no mistake, the organization is well-positioned. The debate as to whether or not the mother corp will allow for the next step (playyyyoffffs) is for another time..... but for now, bring on 2011.

Can't wait.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Who really holds the keys?

I have to admit - even I'm getting sick of my subtle (?) pissing and moaning concerning the lack of improvements made to the big league roster this winter, following up on a season full of promise. It's easy to get caught up in the daily talk and innuendo surrounding each and every player available through free agency - or made available via trade.

With the Jays tied to them all and coming home with none, I fell into a solemn state of acceptance that improvements to the big league squad would likely come later rather than sooner. Surely with this young club, the logic went that every step forward is likely to be countered by a step back.

And while every conversation surrounding the team's potential success in 2011 invariably includes some variation of a throwaway line on the re-emergence of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind... have we ever really - I mean, really - considered the potential impact there?

Aaron Hill 2009: .829 OPS (seems like it should have been higher...)
Aaron Hill 2010 : .665 OPS

Adam Lind 2009: .932 OPS
Adam Lind 2010: .712 OPS

Look at those numbers for a moment. The dropoffs are staggering, and it's hard to believe an 85 win team ran those two statlines out for 600 plate appearances each. Begs the simplest of questions:

What in the fuck happened?

While it's fair to say that Lind's 2009 season was his likely high-water mark, a return to .850 seems entirely reasonable. Aaron Hill will likely never hit 36 home runs again, but neither is an OPS hovering around .800 with great defense a reach.

Think about those numbers again & their contributions to the '10 Jays. Now think about the '10 Jays with numbers approaching "reasonable" from each. Of course, nobody expects Jose Bautista to lead the league in home runs and beard growing again (OK, maybe beard growing), but I don't expect just 14 longballs from Travis Snider either. Shaun Marcum's 13 wins and post-game quips won't be easy to replace, but 2011 should see full seasons from Kyle Drabek and New Brandon Morrow.

I suppose what I'm trying to get at here - as awkwardly as ever - is that we don't need the Big Splashy Move to have hope for another step forward for this Jays club.

Stable does not necessarily equal stagnant.

And since I'm here.....Early Season's Greetings
Sincerely wishing every one of you who takes the time to read this page a very safe and happy holiday season. With the Tao off gallivanting (fun word) across the land down under and this dude unlikely to be back until sometime after the 25th, here's hoping you all enjoy the break with those you love.

Happy Holidays, everybody.

Monday, December 20, 2010

...Or maybe your expectations

I'll say this about the "fuck this offseason" crowd....they have an arguable point. Perhaps not a defensible point per se, and certainly not one I'm ready to concede, but they do have a point.

Now the disclaimer, as always, remains that three months of offseason remain, and you never know (radio silence!) when the other shoe will drop with this cloak & dagger regime. But it does seem faiiiirly safe to assume that we likely won't see the "impact" move many of us (read: me) predicted we'd see in an effort to firm up the roster on the path to contention.

Sure, there was the big trade - Marcum for Lawrie - but that was quite obviously not a move designed to strengthen the team now. It was a deal Anthopoulos felt he had to make for a player long-coveted (just like Ricciardi & Mencherson, natch) towards contention, uh...sometime? And there's no arguing that smartly offering arbitration to free agents Downs, Buck, Olivo, and Gregg will ultimately benefit the organization through the stockpiling of draft picks. But again - when?

When will these moves position the major league roster as contenders? Certainly not with an eye toward 2011...but 2012? 2013? Is there a set timeline - beyond the now-standard "the players will tell us when we're ready" fall-back?

I believe there to be. But as usual, AA ain't tellin'. Except with regards to 2011. It's not setting up to be the year we (yes - we!) bring the Evil EmpireS to their knees. And as per usual - with us - it's hurry up and wait. Be patient.

But that's the rub, isn't it? Was there really ever another way? Could it have possibly gone differently this offseason without pulling an Orioles and throwing money at middling veterans in a vain attempt to not finish last? What other outcomes could we reasonably - reasonably - have expected?

Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth were never going to sign here.

Justin Upton was never going to be traded here (or anywhere).

Zack Greinke - apparently - was never going to be a Blue Jay.

Now now, angry commenters, lest I be accused of having, uh, intimate relationships with Alex Anthopoulos, like many a blogger have been accused of this winter, there are scenarios which make a whole lot of sense to me which very likely will never be considered.

For example, let's talk about Adrian Beltre. He's still out there. He's theoretically been rejected by many of the winter's largest suitors, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California United States of America notwithstanding. He wants a shit-tonne of money and 4 or 5 years to be sure - but what impact free agent - this offseason, or next, or the one after that - won't? And if "the money will be there when we need it", and the club is poised to make a push in the next two (or three, even) seasons..... why not make that free-agent play now? Check off that gaping hole at third base on next season's to-do list this offseason?

And it's not even that I'm pro-Beltre, but it's this certain logic of not spending that I'm trying to unravel.

As usual, we wait. And that's not half bad. This team is fun. It's a good ballclub. The organization, as a whole, is now walking a straight-line path towards respectability, and maybe even envy.

That's the part we have to wait out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It all depends on your perspective...

Offseason blogging can be a tough racket, given the paucity of news surrounding these Toronto Blue Jays of late. Once tied to every player available and many who aren't, the search term Toronto+Blue+Jays won't get you a whole hell of a lot on google (or even MLBTR) these days. And what news there is can leave the most ardent of fans scratching their heads.

Consider.....

Item: Toronto re-signs Edwin Encarnacion to play 1B/DH
The optimists among us will point to Encarnacion's obvious power, and the fact that his worst attribute (his, um, inaccurate arm, to be charitable) is minimized with the stated intention of banning him from the left side of the infield. Plus, he hits lefties well and comes cheap. Plus plus, we get another year of milking this (paying attention, Blue Jays in-game promotion staff?). What's not to like?

Well, for starters....bringing back the artist formerly known as E5 doesn't exactly ring the bell on fresh starts and upside. Given 400 AB, we'll see 25 HR and not much else. And that cheap price tag? Well, it's exactly that. Edwin is a low-cost alternative to a veteran free agent and saves Anthopoulos from dipping into the minor league stocks to acquire a long-term solution at either infield corner.

The jury's out on this one. I like the move, but 6 months from now Edwin could be clearing waivers and here we go again....

Item: Jays lose Downs, Gregg, and sign.....?
Yeah, Frasor is back on an arbitration gamble. And Tallet's innings have been replaced by Villanueva. But word from the front office is the club is happy to let the market "sort itself out", leaving the Jays to leverage the arms not yet invited to the dance.

Cost-effective bullpen management, or frugal decision making?

This scene, I'm not so rosy on. Seems to me that filling the 'pen with picked-over stocks does not a contender make.

And that's the heart of all this, isn't it? Should the fans expect the Jays to be making moves this offseason to transform the club into a 2011 contender? Or is the prudent move to bide (at least) one more year of time and let the club mature?

To the disappointment of many, I'm sure....it's becoming clear that seems to be the way management is leaning. Forget Manny, forget Derrick Lee, forget any veteran FA looking to cash in. That's not the current m.o., and I suppose it never has been.

Does that mean all is lost - another year of flailing away in the middle of the AL East, devoid of enjoyment for fans craving a winner? Pardon me, but fuck no.

I expect the comments to reflect anger & impatience, but this is where the club is. Barring an unforeseen blockbuster, the names making up the Jays of 2011 will be much the same as those of 2010 (bullpen notwithstanding). The worst possible scenario is a step back from the veterans such as Wells, more of the same from Hill & Lind, and a lack of a step forward from the young rotation and Travis Snider.

And maybe this offseason is the hedge. Answer some of those questions and then make the definitive move. And hey - last year was fun, right?

Or maybe Anthopoulos pushes his chips to the middle and pulls off a Greinke/Upton/Rasmus deal before this post is cold.

That might be fun too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cables and mea culpas from Down Under

So, I guess we couldn't have been much more wrong about Cliff Lee's mindset, huh?

Rather than showing Roy Halladay and his bride who's who and what's what, we're presuming that Lee will soon make his way to Doc and Brandy's to fry up a mess o' fish that his new rotation pal has just caught.

Which just goes to show you that the rest of the world isn't nearly as petty and mean spirited as yours truly. And bully for that.

Other stuff from the other side of the world - Oprah!
We're here in Sydney as Oprah has brought her roadshow to town. And while we haven't managed to meet up with "O" yet, we did bump into her gal pal Gayle King in the markets at The Rocks, not far from the Opera House. And had we been more brave, we would have struck up a conversation with her and the burly man walking with her. Instead, we just snapped photos of her for future conversation starters.

(Incidentally, Gayle literally bumped into me, and I've gotta say that she's a bit of a bruiser. Like, we've gotta hope that after all the BeestMode workouts that the Jays are engaged in this offseason, they come back with big burly arms like hers.)

Searching for baseball news in Australia
There's precious little information to be found about our beloved game down here, so the Jays could trade Travis Snider to the Yankees for a pine tar rag, and we wouldn't hear about it until we get back. Which drives us a little crazy.

Also, we have yet to see Graeme Lloyd or Luke Prokopec down here. If we do, we plan on buying Lloyd a tasty beverage, and punching Prokopec in his Aussie balls. (Ok, probably not. But that's okay, because the chances of actually seeing them are pretty remote.)

A consoling word for you all before we slip back off the grid
As we were leaving the country, the news of Carl Crawford's signing hit and we heard Jays fans start to throw up their hands in frustration. Certainly, that signing combined with the Adrian Gonzalez deal and whatever is sure to come from the Yankees is enough to make you fret over the seeming impossibility of ever getting over and succeeding with such insurmountable behemoths there to tamp out every little ember that begins to glow from our side.

If we could offer one word of solace, it's this: We think that Alex and the new administration are demonstrating a commendable patience in the face of these developments, and that this team is being built with a process that will allow them to consistently have a full pipeline and a strong Major League team. And while it's never going to be as easy as winning any of the other divisions, it will be infinitely sweeter when the time comes and this team makes it to the next level.

(Is it just us, or did we just write the marketing line for a pro-abstinence group right there? Yikes.)

One thing that we'll have to recognize, though, as the Jays proceed through 2011 and beyond in trying to compete with the Yanks and Sox (and possibly still the Rays) is that we have to recalibrate our sense of what constitutes a meaningful game. We've been locked into this old notion of "games whilst in contention against other contenders in September" as what we consider full of meaning. But given the dogfight that we're going to see in the next few seasons, we think that meaningful games in the AL East are going to start much earlier in the season, and we have a fair bit of confidence that the Jays will be playing those games this June, July and August against those opponents.

And how fun is that going to be.

(Mind you, this might all just be the heat stroke talking.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If Patience is a Virtue....

.... then Alex Anthopoulos is a saint.

Unwilling to recklessly respond to the Big Splashy Moves of the AL East superpowers (barf), the Jays front office seems content (at least outwardly) to continue the slow & steady accumulation of long-term assets whose ceilings - theoretically - rate far beyond "league average".

The Red Sox trade for one of the steadiest & most prolific sluggers in baseball? "We don't need Manny that badly." Oh, you don't? Well, how about if the Sox then go scoop the Angels by signing Carl Crawford? "We won't give in to daydreamin' Dayton Moore's outrageous ask for Greinke."

And the Greinke decision is the right one. He's one of the most coveted arms in the game, but coughing up future top of the rotation arm Drabek along with middle of the order bat Snider, PLUS more highly rated prospects? Lunacy. And I recognize the potential to be tarred & feathered as a prospect-porn hypocrite here...... but there's a difference between this situation and last winter's Halladay affair. Drabek and Snider are ready right now. They aren't seasons away and they've already flashed success in the major leagues at tender ages.

Would I swap out Drabek in a package for Greinke? Yeah, I probably would. But that's no knock against Young Kyle (h/t - Jamie Campbell), it's an acknowledgement that to trade for an ace, you probably have to give up a (potential) future ace. Plus, the Jays system is now suddenly loaded with high-ceiling arms that could potentially be the next Drabek (Aaron Sanchez), or a reasonable facsimile (Stewart).

Snider's the dealbreaker here, for me. There's nobody else in the system, or even on the major-league roster (prove me wrong, Jo-Bau) like him. Sure, he might never progress further and settle into a career as a .260 hitter with 30 HR power and a strikeout rate closer to 200 than 100. But he also just might develop into a high OBP masher consistently knocking 40 laser shots out of the park per year. Those are the kinds of players you build around.

So wait Moore and the Royals out. See if the price comes down. And if the eventual loser of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes gives in? So be it. Let them pay that price. And if they don't? You know Anthopoulos will be on the phone.

(but until then, can you at least throw us a bone with a Manny signing? C'mon....it'll be fun!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An irrational argument for Cliff Lee

Okay, so seven years is entirely too long for a pitcher (in spite of how free and easy Cliff Lee's delivery seems to be), and on that level, we shouldn't even go where we're about to go.

And moreover, Lee is an Arkansas boy, and we'd presume that moving to Canada until sometime in 2018 isn't high up on his bucket list. For someone who grew up that far from the 49th parallel, we would imagine that Toronto might just as well be Nome.

But if the much coveted hurler were here before us, we'd offer him this reason to consider looking at a deal to come to the Blue Jays:

You remember that guy who got traded from the Jays to the Phillies? Which precipitated you being moved from the Phillies to the West and then to the South, so that they could make room for their new shiny staff ace...you remember him?

You remember how the day that you got shipped off, how that dude's wife was all like: "Cliff Lee wasn't even supposed to be here...we were supposed to be here all along, so he was just keeping the uniform warm for us until we got here." Ring any bells?

You know how many times that guy brought Toronto to the playoffs? None. And how many big games did he pitch in here? None.

And you know what you can do? You can come to Toronto, take a team that's about the emerge into a contender, take them where That Guy never could, and shove it right up his ass.

Now would that (along with seven years and $155 million) be something that interests you?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The dominoes begin to fall

Personally, we blame the Ack.

There we were, totally ready to settle in for a snoozy offseason, with nothing but marginal moves and the odd pickup of a guy on a short deal for little money. It wasn't going to upset nobody's apple cart.

And then our Weekend Editor (who will - to his surprise - be taking the reins around here for much of the holiday season) goes and starts writing about dominoes and splashy moves and goddamnit! Say goodbye to Shaun Marcum. We halfway considered going into the Ack's post from the weekend and switching out any mentions of "Travis Snider" for "Eric Thames" and "Kyle Drabek" for "Brad Mills", just to see if we could avoid any further stress and strain.

(Yes...in our mind, this offseason is like an episode of the Twilight Zone where whatever The Ack thinks comes true. So be prepared to make the trek westward to see the Winnipeg Blue Jays starting next year. On the plus side, they'll be in the Central Division! Playoffs!!!1)

Okay, enough of the tomfoolery. A few quick thoughts:

The Marcum Trade
There are some who figure that the Marcum trade is just the start of the moves, and that the Zack Greinke acquisition is sure to follow. The longer we had to think about it, the more that we figured that someone might have grabbed their Jump to Conclusions mat and started hoping around like a mad man.

So setting aside what comes next: We'll give our blog bro hug to Marcum later this week, and we're sad to see him go, but he seemed like the most obvious piece to move. He'll be 29 this year, and likely has a few good seasons left in that arm. But the Jays were getting close to a point where they would have to commit to him, and it was better to move him early rather than late.

Also: We were totally wrong about Marcum's delivery, which we use to think was easy and effortless. But now we look at that pronation, and it kinda scares us. So we can live with that being another team's problem.

As for who's coming back: We're all probably a little too invested in Bret Lawrie as Canadian baseball fans. Strip the maple leaf off his chest, and tell us that the Jays just acquired a guy who has been moved from position to position, hit eight homers last season and posted an OPS below .800 at Double-A, and refused to report to the Arizona Fall League, and we probably would have spent most of the day scratching our heads over this. It would have made the Anthony Gose deal seem obvious.

Still, Lawrie is well-regarded by at least a few scouts out there. We hope. And he's only 21. So there's time for him to pull his stuff together.

(Also, one report noted that the Jays may have been after Mat Gamel, which made us wonder who we'd prefer. We'd lean towards Gamel at this point, with the notion that he'd be ready to take over at third immediately. But we're open to being proved wrong.)

BREAKING! Pat Gillick in the Hall of Fame!
This is not unexpected, but is still great news nonetheless. A trifecta of Gillick, Robbie Alomar and Tom Cheek would make for a hell of a Canadian contingest at Cooperstown this year. But again, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

One thought on Gillick, which we've stated here before, but which bears repeating: There was a time where he was in the sights of the Canadian sports media, who tore into him for not doing enough to put the Jays over the top. "Stand Pat" they called, and they were pretty much ready to run him out of town in 1988.

So to the GMs of Toronto franchises, we offer this bit of solace: It gets better.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Big Splashy Moves

I usually try to avoid quick-reaction posts when one of the AL East SuperPowers parlays their financial (and organizational) means into transactions designed around crushing the spirit of their "rivals" & those who live and die by them.

But there's just something about the Gonzalez acquisition - and subsequent Blue Jay-Greinke rumblings - that got me to thinkin'.

Should the Jays counter with an organization-changing move of their own? Let's focus on Greinke...

By all accounts, Toronto seems a perfect trade partner for Kansas City. The Royals have an Ace for sale - one who is adverse to the daily grind of the "big" markets - and are looking for a prospect package headlined by front-line pitching in return.

The Jays match up, both in terms of destination and potential return, almost perfectly.

So what's the catch?

Well, from the perspective of this (amateur) "blogger" (I use the quotes because I'm uncomfortable with the label), the rumored ask is exceedingly high. Potential future ace Kyle Drabek, plus stud-in-training Travis Snider, plus prospects? Whoah. Big, big ask.

I realize the personal hypocrisy of it all. For those of you diehards following along on Twitter, I openly admit that dealing a pair of 'potential' all-stars for a bonafide all-star is a no-brainer (financial considerations ignored). But does that really apply to players as close to "making it" as Drabek & Snider? These are players, widely heralded as "can't miss" by scouts who've seen success at the major league level. The probability of success is much increased, I'd think. Do you take that risk if you're Alex Anthopoulos? Should the Red Sox (&Yankees) moves provoke the response?

Short answer - it's complicated.

No doubt, Anthopoulos dictates his franchise building strategy along a timeline. It can't help but be affected by moves of their rivals. Even ignoring such....how often does the opportunity to acquire Grienke come along? Every three seasons? Five? Does such an event, coupled with the rich continuing to get richer, necessitate a response?

Here's what I think. I think that if Anthopulos was intent on acquiring Greinke, the price doesn't change. I think future 1/2 starter Drabek + potential middle of the order bat Snider + prospects (d'Arnaud? Perez? Marisnick? Gose? Hech?) is too steep of a price to pay.

But my opinion doesn't matter. Good thing, because it's largely emotional and uninformed. If the front office determines it needs Greinke, it will have Greinke.

Winter meetings take place December 6th through 9th. Stay tuned, friends....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Remember this team...

... because a week from today (or thereabouts), it might not look the same.

The evolution of the roster has already begun, with the departures of John Buck (he got paiiid), Edwin Encarnacion (released, claimed, non-tendered, in therapy), Freddy Lewis (good luck finding those everyday AB's, Fred), and Brian Tallet (who will be serviceable in 2011 for the Cards). Those certain to find new homes in the days ahead include arb decliners Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg - who apparently didn't appreciate the lack of fan support for his white-knuckle ninths. The nerve of Blue Jay fans!

Who's new? Rajai Davis takes the at-bats Freddy Lewis left behind and Carlos Villanueva will eat up the hipster's innings - both low cost upgrades at their respective positions, but hardly the game-changers we've all been speculating are ahead.

So which is it - the calm before the storm, or a much quieter offseason than previously anticipated?

Anthopoulos has made no secret of the the fact he's more willing than ever to take calculated gambles in assembling a roster poised to contend for seasons to come. That means dealing quality players & top prospects at positions of strength to fill perceived areas of weakness. Hardly proof positive, but the Jays have been "tied" to every high-upside player bandied about the hotstove thus far. So is a big move inevitable?

On the other hand.... is it prudent to shake up a roster of players already seen as "on the rise", especially given a new on-field coaching staff? Would simply adding solid veterans and capable major-leaguers to fill the roster holes during another year of team maturation be a reasonable strategy?

Quite frankly, I waffle back and forth on this. It's a talented team with questions at the core (Hill, Lind, Snider, Arencibia) that need answering. Is now the right time for a Big Splashy Move? I really don't know, but Anthopoulos does. And we're probably pretty close to finding out.

Jason Frasor will be a Blue Jay....
... and I'm OK with that. A complete bullpen overhaul consisting of mostly unproven arms is terrifying. Frasor might not be Duane Ward, but he's no Frank Wills either. And let's not sweat the salary he's sure to land in arbitration, all right? It's a one year commitment that won't break the bank for 7th or 8th inning work. Frasor's decision to accept or decline arb was a win-win. So we win!

.... and AJ Pierzynski will not be
Two words: thank fuck.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Tweet Bag! Your tweeted questions answered blogically

Because we like for you to do the thinking, and because we are auditioning to take over Griff Mail Bag (should we get the call from One Yonge Street), here's some pithy answers to to your questions delivered via Twitter. Tweet Bag!

The Tweet Bag's biggest fan, @PdcD asks: Any predictions or pre-indicators of what a full season of Yunel Escobar as the Jays SS may produce in 2011?

We know that by now, you've all figured out that we're a worrier and that we fret about everything with this team. But Yunel is one of the pieces that concerns us most headed into next year.

While his behind the back glove flips and drag bunts were enough to keep us all excited through the last half of last season, his trend line after arriving in Toronto led gradually downwards. His OPS from July 16th (his first game with the Jays) through August 16th was a respectable .784, with three homers and 10 RBI. The next month (August 17th to September 17th) saw him put up a .748 OPS with one homer and six batted in.

By the time that the last two weeks of the season (September 18th to October 2nd) were finished, Escobar fell off a cliff, posting a .397 OPS, eking out just six singles in his final 54 plate appearances.

The Bill James predictor figures him for a .748 OPS over a full season next year, but with a solid .366 OBP. Which sounds about right to us. We think it's possible for him to be productive out of the number two spot in the lineup, even if he's not crushing the ball. But we have a sneaking suspicion that the more the fans in Toronto see him, the more that they will begin picking away at some of the perceived flaws in their "flashy" shortstop.

NEXT! @a_rebolledo asks: Spose the Jays make minimal changes. Rajai in LF, JBau 3B, JP at C. Say even Lyle comes back at 1B. Are they better next yr?

The way you frame the question, we'd say: "Nope".

We're not convinced that JPA has a Rookie of the Year campaign (though we're open to that eventuality, of course). We don't think that JoBau puts up the outrageous offensive numbers that he did last year (and really, how could he?) Rajai? Well, we like him as a fourth outfielder, and we wouldn't be averse to seeing him get lots of PT. But is he an upgrade? Not really. And Lyle would be welcome back in our mind, because he was sneakily productive (so sneaky, that the advanced metrics don't even notice!), and we love his glove.

Does that mean that we don't think the Jays will improve on last year's showing? Not at all. But you're looking too much towards the offense, and not enough towards the state of the pitching staff. The Jays' offensive numbers could go down next year, and they could still man up and compete based upon their pitching staff (particularly the starters) taking their game to the next level.

Late entry! From our favorite man in Lotus Land, @dlbrows: Is this a make/break year for the plan? No playoffs is fine but can THE plan handle no bounce back from Hill/Lind and...no break out year for Snider? Take the team from the cusp to too much to upgrade?

The short answer is "no". This is not a make or break year for the plan because from what we understand of Alex Antopoulos' direction for the team, the plan isn't about hitting higher peaks, but rather, about raising the level of the plateau.

If this team takes a step backwards this season (80 wins? 76 wins?), and the decline is in part attributable to disappointing years from Hill, Lind and Snider, there is still capacity for the team to make smart acquisitions (like the Yunel trade, in spite of our sour response above), and continue to develop, build and trade from a strong base of prospects.

We've never been a big fan of the "tear it down to build it up" approach, because we actually think that there is a false dichotomy built into that line of thinking. So if 2011 turns out to be something less than stellar, we wouldn't call for the franchise to be stripped down and for the Eternal Building Process to begin anew from a couple of rungs down.

(Plus, we actually don't think that you can tie a team's progress to its win-loss record if you are taking a longer view.)

One more! Punk Rock Icon @DrewGROF asks: Seriously, why would anyone drink a Canadian red wine?

Oh sir. This is an entirely regrettable position you've taken. And while we understand that your South Ontario baco noirs aren't for everyone, to paint all of Canada's vinters with a broad brush of shame is quite unfair.

It's true, however, that those of us in the middle of the country aren't always given the opportunity to get our hands on some of the finest product out of the Okanagan Valley in B.C.. And so maybe Mission Hill's fine products have eluded you in recent times. (And you have yet to come to the realization that John Simes, Mission Hill's winemaker, is a bit of a genius.) But if you have the time and inclination (and a spare $75 to toss around), we'd highly recommend you try a bottle of the 2006 Oculus, a truly outstanding Bordeaux-inspired wine. It's probably the best wine experience that we've ever had.

Also from B.C.: Quails Gate's Pinot Noir, which has a fantastic dark cherry and oak flavour. Also: It gets you drunk.

Finally, a plug for an Ontario wine: Inniskillin can be hit or miss, but their Reserve Series Meritage is great. A nice combination of dark fruit and spiciness. Plus, it's on sale at the Wine Rack this week! (And this post was not paid for in any way. Consider this plug a public service.)

And if none of these recommendations satisfy you, Drew, then I'll keep an eye out for a case of something tasty and suitable for you as I spend the next month in Australia.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What the potential MLSE purchase means for the Jays

When we first heard the story that Rogers was kicking the tires on the Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund's share of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, we probably had the same reaction that an only child would have if they found out their parents were going to have another kid. And adopt another kid on top of that. And bring in a foster child. And buy a dog.

What about us? Does this mean we're less special?

(And you have to appreciate our perspective, which is that we have little or nothing invested in MLSE as a sports fan, so that side of the equation really doesn't matter to us. Is this good for the Leafs/Raptors/Marlies/FC? We don't especially care. Your campaign to fire the GM and coach of all of those franchises can continue unabated.)

There will be plenty of time to hash out the implications on this deal (should it come to pass, which is no sure thing), but here are the two biggest implications that we can identify after having 24 hours to think on it.

What it means for the Jays
The main takeaway for us as a Jays fan is this: Rogers must be happy with the Jays' performance if they are willing to leap in headfirst to a bigger and broader interest in sports properties. If the Rogers board of directors or investors were unhappy with the money being sunk into the Jays or the lack of a true return on their investment, it's hard to imagine that Nadir Mohamed and his executive team would envision a solution that involves going even further into that arena.

There's been much speculation since Ted Rogers left us that the company would be tempted to divest of the baseball team. Frankly, much of the noise that we heard from the chattering classes involved a sale in the other direction, with MLSE buying out the Blue Jays and SkyDome.

And that was the best case scenario. Because the worst case was a Jeffrey Loria carpet-bagger type buying the Jays and stripping it down before haul up stakes for Albuquerque/Portland/Las Vegas/Wherever. (Not that we thought that was likely, but when the seats are increasingly empty at Rogers Centre, you start to hear the beginnings of a defeatist narrative from some of those same members of the chattering class.)

All that we've heard publicly (and privately) would seem to indicate that Rogers is happy with the Jays, and is interested in continuing to enhance every aspect of the product. A competitive and compelling team on the field has already shown to be a winning TV property (even if the turnstiles aren't churning), and can help to provide exclusive content across all of Rogers' platforms.

The Jays matter to Rogers. If they didn't, the company wouldn't be looking to find more siblings with whom they could share all of their sports business love.

What it could mean for Rogers
A man don't walk on the lot unless he wants to buy, so we're assuming that there was more than casual tire-kicking happening here. (And Richard Peddie's impending retirement may speak to the fact that there are changes in the offing.)

Even still, a billion-and-a-half dollar (and then some) purchase is no small deal. So what's in this for Rogers?

The deal would give Rogers control over three of the ten most valuable sports properties in Canada, with an ability to leverage from them an incredible amount of exclusive content (both the games and everything around them). It would also give them a significant leg up on Bell/CTV/TSN and Shaw/CanWest in terms of controlling the output from these essential sports properties. And as an added bonus, there's very little here that would require any regulatory oversight, a sweet blessing in this particular sector.

(On second thought: There is the matter of Leafs TV, Raptors NBA TV and Gol TV which would require a certain degree of CRTC scrutiny. However, we don't think that the Commission would object that greatly to the acquisition of those channels, and if they did, we would imagine that Rogers wouldn't be overly upset at the notion of either divesting of a majority piece of them, or shutting them down. This deal is far bigger than a couple of marginal spots on the dial.)

This deal would in no way be the end of TSN. We're not even sure that it will knock the perennial sports leader off its perch. But in an era where these channels are going to have to increasingly negotiate their carriage fees with other distributors (who just happen to own their programming competitors, just so you see the adder chomping away at its tail) , Rogers' acquisition of significant chunks of Canada's can't-miss live sports content would make a deal like this make sense.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fluffy kitties and other pleasant thoughts

Our image consultant told us that we'll need to back off some of the sexism and nerdity, and offer ourselves out to new audiences as a softer, more inclusive and comforting blog.

And thus: Kitties! Look at how fluffy they are!

And now: The pleasantries.

Adam Dunn: Why Not Us?
Fox's Jean-Paul Morossy (I just Frenchified him! Ah! C'est tellement cute!) makes the case that the Jays might make sense as a landing place for Adam Dunn. In spite of whatever defenses we may have made for J.P. Ricciardi's anti-Dunn screed a few years back, we've loved the giant lug of a slugger ever since the first time we saw him step to the on-deck circle as a Louisville Bat back in the day. (Seriously, we were wondering where the fuck his blue ox was, he was so big.)

We'd love to see Dunn in a Jays uni, so long as he's at least willing to consider some at bats as a DH. (Which is no small caveat, we're led to believe.)

Jesse Crain is the Most Canadian Canadian in All of Canadian History of Canada's Canadians
Actually, he was born here by happenstance, and spent the majority of his life in the U.S.. (He's probably never tasted poutine! Or doesn't own a Tragically Hip CD! He has never seen the Air Farce, and he totally doesn't get any of their jokes!) Still, it's seemingly impossible for folks to talk about him and his potential as a potential acquisition without trotting out the fact that he was born in Toronto. Even the aforementioned Morosi can't help himself.

(To be fair, we could hardly hold ourself back from the "pseudo-Canadian" angle when we mentioned Crain as a potential closer for 2011 back in a mid-September Tweet Bag.)

Beyond any passport implications, Crain would make an intriguing acquisition. He pumped up his strikeout rate last year (to 8.21) and dropped his walks (3.57 per nine.) He might have been a touch lucky (his BABIP dropped 35 points to .270, which might have something to do with the new park...?), and there is a bit of concern that some of the success might be attributed to his fly ball rate increasing in the allegedly cavernous Target Field. One would imagine that a 44% fly ball rate might be a bit more of a problem in the Rogers Centre.

One last thought on Crain: You put his numbers up against Jason Frasor's, and the Sausage King pretty much comes out on top across the board. Which only helps to feed into our notion of a "Return of the Sausage King" campaign. (T-shirts, undoubtedly, to be sold at an online retailer near you soon.)

Get Out the Jumpsuit - It's Fat Elvis Time
So Lance Berkman kinda fell off a cliff last year, and will be 35 this season. (If you'd asked us before we looked it up, we would have sworn he was 31. Time flies.)

And we're certainly not interested in adding a fat man to the roster so that we can admire him for his former glories. Still, his .368 OBP is attractive, and his 2.1 WAR last year was better than all other returning Jays except for Bautista and Wells.

We wouldn't give him anything over $3 million on a one-year contract with options, but we wouldn't mind seeing what a healthy and possibly chastened Berkman could do for a year with his career hanging in the balance.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Another sleepless night over Adam Lind

We tossed and turned last night.

Maybe it was the 1-2-3 combo of Boardwalk Empire/Dexter/The Walking Dead that left us feeling uneasy and frightened. Or maybe it was the rampant snacking throughout our TV marathon (Sour jubes! Pretzels! Giant sugary Rockets treats!) that left us in a state. In all likelihood, it had a lot to do with the missus rolling and poking me to try to get my snoring to a somewhat more tolerable level.

But in the middle of the darkness, we rolled over, opened our eyes and thought: "What if Adam Lind sucks this year?"

It's a question that you could ask of any player, really, but we spent a good part of the season figuring that Lind was on the cusp of breaking out of his funk. And occasionally, he'd fool us with a great at bat in a key situation, and we'd think "Hey! It's all gonna be all right. Pass the sour jubes!"

Maybe we should be more concerned about Aaron Hill, who turned into an old man about 47 seconds into last season. But we figure that the best case with Hill is that he was injured and comes back healthy, and the worst case is that he's ground down and this is now what he is, and you cut ties with him and go find yourself another middle infielder. (For some reason, this seems easy to us right now.)

But taking a quiet moment to think on the absolute lunacy of Adam Lind's splits versus lefties kinda crushes our spirits. It's hard to surmount. And it's hard to imagine it suddenly turning around to anything respectable.

Send in a lefty against Lind, and his walk rate drops in half (3.4% versus 7.1%), his strikeout rate nearly doubles (38% versus 21%). Suddenly he turns into a rookie ball scrub in way over his head. A .159 OBP, and a .182 SLG, which adds up to a .341 OPS, which leads us to only somewhat facetiously wonder why the Jays didn't just let Johnny Mac get the DH reps versus lefties.

(Versus lefties, McDonald posted a .743 OPS, and hit two homers. Which is the same number as Lind managed against lefties. His ISO number was .225, versus Lind's .066. So yeah, the PMoD is pretty much twice the offensive player that Lind is in those situations.)

The easy answer here, we suppose, is to just accept that Lind is a platoon guy who shouldn't see at bats against southpaws. But that sort of usage pattern is not why you extend the contract of a player like Lind, nor do look to make him a part of your long term plan. And you probably don't set forth on a project to integrate Lind and his happy feet into a regular role in your infield defense if the return on that investment is offensive numbers versus lefties that would make Yuniesky Betancourt blanche.

(Betancourt put up a .778 OPS versus LHPs last year. In case you weren't wondering.)

We're generally a pretty optimistic dude, and we don't like to be the harbinger of doom when talking about Toronto athletes, because that territory is very well-covered already. We don't feel the need to add to the cacophony of naysaying. But sometimes, when you really start to look at the negative evidence that you're sloughing off, it can yank the lollypops right out of your mouth and cloud over your sunny skies.

And it can make you wonder if this team can really put themselves over the top over the next few years with that sort of a hole in their roster.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A modest proposal - The Blue Jays in Montreal

The Jays have been positioned by some as "Canada's Team", if only by process of elimination. But watching this weekend's CFL tilt (well, 45 seconds of it) from a packed and loud Olympic Stadium got us thinking: Could the Blue Jays play one series per year Montreal? Could they bring back MLB baseball to La Belle Province? Could they make an event that would resonate, and expand the fan base beyond Toronto?

As the Expos exit from the market slips further back into memory, and the bitterness over the team's demise dissolves into something that is less angry and more wistful, it strikes us that there sits a passionate base of baseball fans in the Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City corridor who would (in our mind) show up for one three-game weekend series per year at the Big O. Maybe it sounds unlikely for all sorts of pragmatic reasons. But before you dismiss the notion out of hand, with the memories of empty seats in the cavernous and antiquated dome dominating your thought process, give us a second here to articulate what we'd envision.

We've heard the gnashing of teeth over the small crowds early on in the season, and it would seem to us that moving one weekend's worth of games to Montreal would create an event around an April series that might otherwise go mostly unnoticed outside the core set of baseball nerds. You'll create lots of anticipation beforehand: A full week of stories around the preparations; bumping an early season series from the dregs of the nightly sportscast into the top because of the novelty. You get to pull in players who had their time as both an Expo and Blue Jay (Al Oliver! Darren Fletcher! Err...David Segui?!), and take a sentimental journey back through the history of both franchises.

Moreover, it gives all Canadian baseball fans the opportunity to celebrate the lore and history of Nos amours. (Youppi!) And let's face it: There really wasn't any sort of rivalry between the Expos and Jays per se. Sure, there were some Pearson Cup games played and a few interleague series (Jeff Juden!), but for the most part, Jays fans would find themselves cheering for the Expos over in that other league without a hint of hesitation.

Most of all, it would bring baseball back to a city that deserves at least a few games to show that they were never as bad as some made them out to be, and that they can fill the park and make some noise. Even in those years where there seemed to be scant interest in the sport, the fans who showed up at the Big O were loud and proud, and we'd love to have that moment again.

And besides: Are you going to tell us that a weekend of baseball, smoked meat and general tomfoolery in Montreal doesn't sound incredibly awesome?

Monday, November 22, 2010

You have to get over John Buck

It's been a bit of a surprise to us how many people we've heard complaining about the Jays' decision to let John Buck take his talents to South Beach. (Of course, we don't generally listen to call in sports talk radio, and this weekend we caught up on a bunch of podcasts of the Jeff Blair Show. Which was a pretty fair immersion into this now foreign territory.)

If there are any of you who are somehow harbouring your crush on John Buck, and having a hard time letting go, let us make three simple points to you.

1. The contract that John Buck got is stupid.
Three years at $6 Million per annum for a catcher who had a pretty good year? There's no way the Jays should have gone anywhere near numbers like that. (We'd have offered two at $3M/year at the most.) If your argument for keeping Buck in any way hinges around the notion of the Jays getting him for less money or fewer years, you have to stop yourself right there and give yourself and "F" in Economics. Also, if the Jays went into next season with John Buck making more money than Hill ($5 M) or Lind ($5.15 M), we'd assume that this was the beginning of a series of sadly-comic self-destructive moves leading to a decade-long demise of the team's fortunes (i.e., The Gord Ash Plan).

2. John Buck is getting old and breaking down.
Buck equaled his career high in games played last year, after a couple of partial seasons due to injuries. But don't forget that the man squats behind the plate, and has spent more than 5600 innings taking foul tips into his body, and getting run over at the plate, and progressively wearing away at his knees. He's a 30 year-old catcher, and while we wish him well, we can't imagine that he gets through three years unscathed, nor does he equal the numbers that he put up last year.

3. John Buck was only kind of an All-Star.
"How do you just let an All-Star just walk?" You let him walk if he was the best of a shallow pool of AL catchers who were available after Victor Martinez became unavailable due to injury. Let's not make it out like he was Mike Piazza in his prime.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It won't be easy

Backed into a corner, I would tell you that I don't foresee Justin Upton, or Colby Rasmus, or Zack Greinke in a Blue Jays uniform next season. Deals involving premium young talent locked up with (mostly) reasonable contracts are the rarest of rare trades. And I say "backed into a corner", because with Anthopoulos & his recent comments concerning being unafraid of taking gambles, you just never know.

But here's the thing - in the unlikely event the Jays do pull off such a deal, I don't foresee myself immediately turning cartwheels in my (yes, my) basement at the acquisition of such game-changing talent. One, because I don't think I've ever actually turned a cartwheel, but two.... there will be game-changing talent going back.

It's fun to salivate over the prospect of Upton or a Rasmus patrolling the outfield for the Jays, but consider that DBacks and Cards fans are dreaming of Snider in the same scenario. Greinke would immediately (arguably?) become the Ace that contending clubs look to acquire, but Royals fans would, in turn, be pinning hopes of better days ahead on the right arm of Kyle Drabek. Because that's what it would take - talent doesn't come cheap. Forget about the prospect of packaging numerous middle of the road prospects for the potential superstar - quantity won't get it done. A potential superstar in return is the only way.

And we get attached to these players, don't we? We all think (hope?) Snider will, sooner rather than later, become the all-fields masher he's shown glimpses of & has always been projected to become. When Drabek became the centrepiece in return for Halladay, we all exclaimed he could never replace Doc, all the while dreaming that one day he would.

By no means am I implying that I hope the Jays stand pat. Anthopoulos undoubtedly has a targeted skill set for his offseason game plan, and will follow his mantra of rolling the dice as the only way to catch the division's big boys.

It just might be a little tough to swallow if he can actually pull it off.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speedy thoughts on Rajai

The Jays acquisition of Rajai Davis is one of the more confounding moves in Alex Anthopoulos' time as GM.

It's confounding not so much because we don't understand the "why" of the move, because the acquisition of Major League calibre outfield depth was likely to occur with the departures of DeWayne Wise and possibly Fred Lewis. Adding a guy who could be a very serviceable starter if the need arose makes sense.

But what we don't quite understand is what we now have in Davis. We know that he can pile up stolen bases. (And, as Drew pointed out to us last night over a tasty beverage at our Jays Tweeters Algonquin Round Table, he can use that speed to go first-to-third or score from second). But is he really a leadoff hitter? With a .320 OBP? And a walk rate of 4.6%?

Is he a very good fielder, as his 2009 UZR/150 of +10 would attest? Or is he as lousy as the -10.2 that he posted in that same metric just one year later?

If everything plays out right, we could definitely see Rajai as an everyday guy who slides into each of the outfield slots, and posting an OPS near .800 and getting driven in often by the heart of the order.

Mind you, much of this could be moot within the next few weeks if Anthopoulos continues to find serviceable stray ballplayers here or there, or one big deal. So ask us what we think of the move after a couple of weeks. We'll have it all figured out by then.

Going the other way
The Jays let Trystan Magnuson (Canadian!) and Danny Farquhar go in exchange, which doesn't seem like that much to give up. Both showed some promise at Double-A, but they are getting long in the tooth (25 and 23) to be considered prospects, and their progression doesn't suggest guys who are ascending to be valuable bullpen arms in the near term. Not that they are a couple of bums, but we don't see this really impacting on any team other than the Fisher Cats next year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

His name is Dan Uggla...Do we want him?

Not to be THAT GUY (or to sound like him for a few moments), but Dan Uggla is a much better fantasy baseball player than a real baseball player.

(And now, we duck.)

There is little disputing that Uggla is a productive, middle of the order bat who puts up big numbers in a huge ballpark. The thought of him getting 81 games at the Rogers SkyDomey Centre makes our butt cheeks twitch. Would 40 homers be out of the question? Would he and José Bautista become modern day Bash Brothers? Would they push Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill and Adam Lind further down the order where they probably belong in the first place? The sunshiney happy daydreams that we're having right now say: "INDUBITABLY!"

But what concerns us about Uggla is that we're not sure that there's a place on the diamond where you can hide him, and given the number of DHs that the Jays are carrying, that's a bit of a problem.

(There's also that minor case of Aubrey Huff Syndrome that Uggla has, where every second season is a bit of a down year...His is not a full-on breakout of the disease, but his OPS has see-sawed a bit over his short career: .818, .805, .874, .813, .877. Are we ready to give up a quality prospect for one season of .820 OPS?)

The notion floated out there already has him moving to third, as though it is a simple shift to move a mediocre second baseman (-22 career UZR, -4.5 career UZR/150) over to the hot corner. (And Uggla, from our remembrances, has problems with hands and feet as opposed to his arm, which would not look any better at third).

It's probably too early to be voting yay or nay on a deal that has yet to get beyond Buster Onley's BlackBerry. Still, we're hopeful that AA won't give up too much of the future for one potentially good season and two picks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Offseason update (already?)

Rather than ramble on with a long-winded introductory paragraph, pontificating deeply about this and that, all meant to fool you into thinking I have it all figured out.....I'm just not going to bother. Not that I'm better than that (I'm not), but I'm short on time and energy, friends. So let's just muse, shall we?.....

Our favorite hipster reliever - gone
We won't have Brian Tallet to kick around anymore, as the 5-year Blue Jay (really?!) refused his assignment to AAA Vegas and becomes a free agent. As sorry as one can feel for a guy paid a million bucks to toss a few innings of baseball every other night, I do feel a twinge for a player kicked around by the fanbase for posting a fairly brutal 2010 campaign.

It's been stated a few times but bears repeating - used properly, Tallet was once and still could have been a quality asset for a major league pitching staff, as his '06-'08 campaigns can attest. But somewhere along the line, certain of the Blue Jays braintrust determined that Tallet's best role was in the rotation as an "innings-eater" (barf), or at the very least, as a multi-inning longman out of the bullpen.

Evidently, it took 2 full seasons of misusing the dude before anyone could figure out that formula does not compute. And now Tallet faces an uphill battle to land a major league job. Didn't have to end this way, but here we are.

E5 - gone
Slightly less surprising (but still surprising nonetheless), Edwin Encarnacion finds himself among the ranks of former Blue Jays, gone to Oakland on a waiver claim.

In reality, being sent to Vegas mid-season was all the evidence he & we really needed as proof that he was never viewed as a long-term fit at 3rd base for the Jays, but his occasional hot streaks and five homer weekends provided a flicker of hope that he might be. In the end, Encarancion - he of the criminally underused marketing ploy - finds himself swinging for the fences in Oakland (good luck), for now.

Oh yeah - DeWayne Wise - also gone
Kind of figured Wise had a shot at sticking around as a 4th/5th outfielder-type, but like Tallet, he was uninterested in a AAA assignment and has elected free agency. Maybe he comes back on a minor league deal. Either way.

Jays are reportedly interested in Greinke, Rasmus, Dunn, Berkman, Huff......
Again, not proclaiming original thought here, but again, bears repeating..... the Jays will likely be tied to most every player on the market - trade or free agent - to varying degrees, as intrepid GM Alex Anthopoulos kicks every tire on the lot on the off chance there could be a "fit". And why wouldn't he?

If Dayton Moore proclaims that he's trading Zack Greinke, why wouldn't Anthopoulos pick up the phone? Maybe Moore has a Brett Cecil and JP Arencibia obsession? Not that such an offer would even result in a callback, but if there's one thing we've learned, it's that AA leaves no stone unturned. And I love that about the guy.

Richard Griffin brings you John Farrell
Let me tell you something about Rich Griffin - when he's not intent on crucifying JP Ricciardi for all sins real and imagined, he's a hell of a baseball writer. This Q&A with the new skip reveals a little more about Farrell and the way he thinks about baseball. The more I see (er, read), the more I like.

I mean....it's mid-November and I already cannot fucking wait for next season. The Winter Meetings just might be the death of me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Bits and Bytes

A handful of zeroes and ones before we call it a weekend.

José Bautista's trophy case is fuller
It shouldn't be a surprise that José Bautista added a Silver Slugger to his Hank Aaron Award for his unbelievable 2010 rakefest. What is a little unbelievable is the way that the announcement was pushed well past afternoon deadlines yesterday. It's as though someone has a grudge against awesome hitting.

Because of the way that Bautista has gleaned these awards here and there over a period of weeks, it would be nice for the organization to bring him back to Toronto to have a little dog and pony show for the fans and media to remind them of how JoBau is being celebrated across the baseball world. (You do this as season-ticket renewals are arriving in people's mailboxes, and bingo bango - you gots yourself some communications and outreach strategery right there. Or at least some tactics. We trust that Jay Stenhouse has the strategy down pat.)

Luis Rivera is moving on up
The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that the Jays have essentially created a new spot on the coaching staff for former Fisher Cats manager Luis Rivera. And considering that our choices for the managerial job a few months back were Rivera and Butterfield, we can certainly sign off on the highly-touted Rivera as the Latin King amongst the coaches.

Greinke stuff
Of course the Jays have asked about Zack Greinke (and dreamy dreamboat Alex Gordon). As will most everyone else. But whenever you hear that a player has a list of teams to whom he cannot be traded, we pretty much assume that the Jays and Expos are on that list. (Yes, the Expos. Even now.)

Greinke's HR rate went up this year (0.43 to 0.74), which spooks us out a little bit when considering him as your ace. Besides, we just assume that Brandon Morrow is going to be better than Greinke this year anyhow.

Oh-Liv-Oh
Sure, you kids are all focused on the potential draft picks. But with the news that the Red Sox are sniffing around John Buck (who'll pull the shit out of shit in that little ballpark), we would be completely amenable to the Jays hanging onto Miguel Olivo for next season. (And yeah, we're kinda obsessed with him, we'll confess. Still, we like to combo of offense and defense that he brings, and at the right price, he could be an excellent complement to JPA.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pushing back on nostalgia, and rounding out the coaching staff

A couple of years ago, the news that one of the Jays' old-timey heroes was coming back into the fold as a coach might have had us dancing on one leg and singing choruses of "goody-goody-gumdrops". But yesterday's announcement of former Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen's return to the fold full time as the Jays' new bullpen coach has elicited much less from us.

Not that we're not happy to see him back, because there are few former Jays on whom we look more kindly than Hentgen. (You wanna think Shaun Marcum is a bulldog? We once saw Pat Hentgen dive headfirst to beat a runner on a play at first. That's nails.) Plus, we've appreciated that Hentgen has shown a willingness in the past to serve in whatever role the Jays' brass asked of him, rather than just allowing himself to be paraded before the press at Spring Training.

Still, we're showing a bit of restraint on the announcement because:

a) We've seen a long list of other celebrated former Jays make their way onto the coaching roster (Lloyd Moseby, Ernie Whitt, Garth Iorg, Buck Martinez), and none of them blew our minds in terms of their contributions; and,

b) We really don't much have much of a sense of what the bullpen coach does, and before Pappy Walton's ascension to the title of pitching coach, we might not have given more than a moment's thought to the role.

Neverthless, we're eager to at least pay a little more mind to Hentgen, and watch his evolution in the coming years. Might he become a future pitching coach? Or will he be the Chief of Tomfoolery in the bullpen, teaching the youngsters how to administer hotfoots and get phone numbers from the ladies in section 136?

The rest of the staff
If you're looking for a theme to just about everything we're writing lately, it's something like "I don't know what I don't know, but I know that I don't know...so...I dunno." So don't expect much in the way of declarations one way or another on the rest of the Jays staff.

But we can say that we're optimistic about the Jays bringing in Don Wakamatsu, given that some folks have told us that he's tactically strong and gets a bum rap because of how lousy his team was last year. Also, we're happy to see Dwayne Murphy return as the Professor of Power/Hitting Coach, given that it is difficult to quibble with last year's results. Add him to Pappy and Butter, and you've got a good core that will provide some continuity for the players.

The new first base coach, Torey Lovullo, is apparently an old pal of Farrell's, and was rumoured to be coming in as the new bench coach. We're actually relieved that Lovullo, a long time minor league manager, and the skip in Pawtucket this past season, didn't get the nod as Farrell's 2-I-C just yet. It's nice to have a familiar face on the staff for Farrell, and someone who he can trust implicitly...but we're not sure how that sort of (sorry) cronyism would have played with the players and a staff full of guys who were somewhat on the outside of The Manager's crew of old chums.

The sad note here is that Omar Malave, the Jays' first base coach this year, is not on the staff at this point. A lifer in the Jays' organization in a way that few others can claim, we're hoping that the Jays find a role for the long-time minor league manager, especially given the strong Latin contingent coming to the fore, and the lack of a Hispanic voice on the coaching staff for next year.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lessons learned from Los Gigantes

It's been a week now, but we're just starting to shake out the cobwebs from our otherwise addled brain and make heads and/or tails of San Francisco's World Series win. Without wanting to suggest that the Giants have blazed the only path to success, we thought that there are a few lessons that can be drawn from how they made their allegedly unlikely run that might be worth remembering as we kvetch and moan about the Jays in the coming years. (All standard caveats about the distinction of playing in the AL East apply.)

It's all about pitching, stupid.
People love to fictitiously trade an arm for a bat. Multiple arms, even, for one big middle of the lineup guy. But if there is one thing that we can learn from the Giants' rather tidy disposal of two of baseball's most potent offenses, it's that good pitching will win out in the end. (So don't go trading Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios, or anything silly like that.1)

Whatever happens to the mish-mosh of other players around them, Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Sanchez look like they can keep this team in contention for years to come. And if we're trying to apply this lesson to our own team, let's just say that we're going to pull back on the Marcum or Drabek deals for some .840 OPSing first baseman. For now, anyways.

Slaughter your sacred cows
The Giants left their highest paid player off the playoff roster; they kept a big late season acquisition of the roster for understandable reasons; they left a guy making $13.6 Million on the bench, as though he were some scrappy super sub; their big offseason acquistion bare sniffed the sea air in the Bay; and they benched a player in the middle of the playoffs who is supposed to be a cornerstone of the franchise's future success.

Maybe a couple of years with The Manager has us subconciously buying into the orthodoxy, but we found the way the Bruce Bochy managed his roster to be pretty ballsy throughout the playoffs. And it reminds us that the notion that the Jays "have to" play Lind or Hill or Wells everyday because they've already commited financially to do so is a bit of a false argument that we trick ourselves into.

You can find a lot of help out there for not much
The Giants got Cody Ross (maybe their best offensive player through the postseason) for nothing. They also pulled Pat Burrell off the reclamation heap, and signed Aubrey Huff for a below market contract. If you need to find pieces to supplement the team's core, you can find guys who are low-risk to come in and fill in.

Deeper depth with take you deep
All those extra bodies that the Giants brought in this year resulted in a bench packed with guys who many would consider everyday players, and a lot of additional arms in the bullpen. We give credit to Bochy for using his resources well, but he also had a lot to work with.

Depth has generally been a strength in recent years for the Jays, but we're just reminding ourselves not to think that we can empty the bench of any remaining talent in order to package up for some dreamboat acquisition, or to make room for the prospect of the week.

Closers are funny, so don't take them so seriously
Take Kevin Gregg: Add one or two miles per hour on the fastball, and trade the goggles for a silly mohawk and a sillier beard, and you've pretty much got postseason hero Brian Wilson. Wilson's modus operandi was pretty much the same as Gregg's throughout the season: Throw down and off the plate, and hope that you gets calls or swings. For Gregg, it resulted in a few walk-a-thons in tight spots, and more than his share of blown saves.

But given that Mariano Rivera isn't walking through that door, the Jays could do much worse than going back to Gregg for another year, right?

***

So that's what we've taken away from this...and you? And feel free to tell us how wrong we are.

***
Notes
1. That was never going to happen. We probably shouldn't even bring it up. It only encourages a completely false line of argument. But if you feel compelled, please, go ahead and tell us why J.P. Ricciardi was deficient for not making this trade happen, even though Brian Sabean was never THAT dumb.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Here we go...

(...and before we begin, can we just agree once and for all that the team should revert back to the old logo above? Who would be against this? Look at that thing! It's freaking majestic!)

If the hiring of John Farrell to be The Manager charged with taking this Blue Jays club to the next level (ahem...playoffs!) signified the start of the offseason, Thursday's "option deadline" provided Hotstove fans with the first transaction of the winter...fall...whatever. And while the trade for & subsequent declining of Miguel Olivo's 2011 option hasn't exactly flown under the radar with praise for the move abundant, it's significance cannot be overstated:

These aren't your father's Blue Jays...er, your older brother's Blue Jays....er, you know what I mean.

In a move stunningly brilliant in it's simplicity, Alex Anthopoulos essentially guaranteed his club another supplemental draft pick in the 2011 amateur draft and created more legitimate options at the catching position. The ramifications of the transaction are wide, considering:

* under the supposition that the Jays really are interested (to whatever degree) in re-signing John Buck, when (not if) he declines arbitration - the team is in a win-win position: he signs elsewhere netting a supp pick, or he remains with the team - presumably on their terms given the added leverage.

* if Buck re-signs, Olivo, who we will logically presume will also decline arb in favour of searching out a multi-year deal (at 32, taking a one-year arb offer presents too much risk for The Player) is sure to sign elsewhere, preserving the supplemental pick "forfeited" in bringing back the incumbent, Buck.

* if Buck walks - which I believe he will - the Jays happily scoop the pick and have his potential (one year) replacement in waiting with Olivo, who might not find a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere as he sets up his free agency year with an offer constructed similar to the one Buck agreed to last winter.

Of course, this is all under the assumption that the Jays aren't comfortable going to spring training with JP Arencibia all but handed the starting job. And to be honest, it just doesn't feel like that's the direction the club wants to go. Perhaps it's the memory of JPA collecting dust on Cito's bench that's influencing my opinion here, but I can't shake the feeling that the club isn't sold. Having said that.... Anthopoulos has very openly stated there's nothing left for Arencibia to prove in the minor leagues, meaning....

* he will get consistent at-bats with the Blue Jays in 2011, or

* he will be traded.

Friends, all of the above pontification comes from one minor move. But that's the beauty of the current Jays regime, isn't it? Everything that's done is transacted with an eye towards the next move, or maybe the one after that. Proactive vs Reactive. It's absolutely the way the club needs to be run and is finally being run.

Moving past the ramifications for the 2011 season, the Olivo transaction is hugely symbolic of the Jays' new value system - investing & building through the draft. And once again - pardon me for repeating - it's absolutely the way the club needs to be run. It's no longer about setting up for a season where the Yankees and Red Sox look poised to fall back - though that will always be a consideration - the organization's new & current philosophy is to build a club that is consistently strong and deep enough to challenge on any given year.

It's being Tampa Bay with enough payroll dollars promised by ownership to maintain. While that component remains to be seen, I choose not to be a complete fucking pessimist about it. Toronto will never compete with the Yanks and Sox on payroll dollars, but every voice that matters - from Nadir Mohamed to Handsome Tony Viner to Paul Beeston to Alex Anthopoulos to John Farrell - has relayed the same message: when it's time, the dollars will be there.

No more waiting for a break. Given the strength of the division (and depth of pocket), the Jays will instead look to make their own breaks. Is there a lot of work to be done? Of course. But there's real hope and optimism for the future of the franchise that extends well beyond a few Blue Jay blogs, and that's more than could have been said in many a November past.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rosterbatory ramblings: Bring on the hot stove!

(Recently, we've been apologizing left and right for our prolonged absences, so we won't even bother to bore you with the apologia for our neglect of you, our valued blog readers. Let's just get on with it, and pretend like daddy still lives at home, and doesn't have to drop you off at mom's at 7 PM on Sunday.)

When we last were around to jibber-jabber about the news of the day, it was all about our joy over seeing Los Gigantes tear up the postseason. And now that they have run the table, walked away with the big prize, it's time to start the rosterbation and start digging into the offseason.

YEAH! HOT STOVE! METAL HORNS!

(Truth be told, we probably glom onto the hot stove detritus and ramblings every year as a manner of maintaining some semblance of sanity whilst waiting for the next season to approach. It's a long cold winter, and given that our capacity to make it out to Fall and Winter League games isn't all that great, we'll have to make due with making up make-believe opening day rosters on spare scraps of paper to keep our baseball loving hearts warm and toasty.)

What will the Jays Offseason Look Like?
There's some conventional wisdom that the Jays won't do much this offseason, and that with most of their lineup and rotation in place, the personnel moves will be minimal.

Of course, this all depends on your definition of "much" when it comes to the offseason. In previous years, the Jays were said to have done little (and criticized for it). And yet, they were bringing in the likes of Scott Downs (Lefty ganesh! Compensatory picks!), Marco Scutaro (Big year! Compensatory picks!) and John Buck (holy friggin' compensatory picks!).

Sure, in the short term, that's not going to stop a dumbass like James Deacon from complaining about the lack of major league signings (what...Kevin Millar's not enough for you?), but often times, it's the little moves that are most impactful in the end.

So what do we expect? A couple of smaller moves to fill out the bullpen and replace the departing late inning guys. (We're anticipating that Gregg, Frasor and Downs will all be gone, so your bullpen "ace" is now Shawn Camp. Enjoy.)

Also, we wouldn't be surprised to see one "big-ish" move, where Alex Anthopoulos brings in at bat or a mid-to-top-rotation guy at the expense of a prospect or two. (He's said as much. Sorta. We're probably reading in to that.)

Who's our off-season mancrush?
Aubrey Huff. We can't remember the last time we were that excited to see a bunt. We're not even sure if we agreed with the strategy (we were exceedingly drunk and schmoozingly distracted in the moment that it occurred), but if Aubrey Huff can make us excited by small ball, then we want to see him mash it up as a Blue Jay.

And you cannot talk us out of this.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A two-sentence post on.... mixed emotions

Especially for fans of baseball north, winter is the longest and most desolate of seasons, robbing us of all the pleasures that baseball brings.

So tell me why, then, am I anxiously counting down the days of the post-season - one that I am thoroughly enjoying - with greedy eyes focused on the Hot Stove?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 second posts - The briefest of thoughts

On Monday, we offered the briefest of thoughts (52 words!) on John Farrell, and it got us in trouble because of the lack of contextualizing and sermonizing. (That's our guess.) So we figured we'd let fly with another undercooked post, and let you tear away at it like hungry wolves. Kill!

John Farrell is good because: Monday, we said hiring Farrell was a good thing, and we got hit with a chorus of "WHY?!" So here's why: He seems smart, he seems to be actually thinking his way through his answers as he gives them, and because he has the humility to note that he wasn't prepared to take a managerial job only a year or so ago. The fool thinks he knows all, the sage knows that he knows nothing.

Having your cake and eating it too: We've always said how much we like this coaching staff, minus The Former Manager. Getting Brian Butterfield to stick with this team after he was passed over for the managerial job is just stupid awesome news. Add to that the Jays keeping Pappy Walton around, and the rumours that Luis Rivera will join the big league staff, and you're looking at a happy Tao. (We're also crossing our fingers that Omar Malave and Dwayne Murphy are back, though we'd respect Farrell wanting to bring in some of his own guys.) We can't actually remember the last time that we felt this good about the instructional resources that the Jays have at their disposal.

Tabby and Farrell?: Pat Tabler and John Farrell played together with the Cleveland Clevelanders back in 1987 and 1988. We're sincerely hoping that Tabby can bust out with some old-timey stories next year about how Farrell used to punch dudes in the bag for making errors behind him. Or something like that.

The World Series: We could bitch about how long it took to get this series off the ground, but those are wasted words. Suffice to say, we're looking forward to what we think will be a great series. Giants in seven.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fifty-two words on John Farrell

John Farrell pitched 116 Major League games, led Cleveland’s player development department (including its Latin American operations) to become the best organization in baseball, and oversaw the most eclectic pitching staff in MLB history in Boston. Now, he’s about to be named the Blue Jays’ new manager. This is a good thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In AA we trust, still

I have to confess that in the early stages of the Great 2010 Blue Jays Managerial Search, I didn't even give the name John Farrell a second thought when he was bandied about as one of the 327 candidates on "the list".

A pitching coach? With no managing experience? Anywhere?

Farrell was one of the names that had me raising my eyebrows at the lengths Anthopoulos et al were taking this exhaustive process in replacing Cito (feels good to be able to say it again). I mean, come on guys, I know you're doing your due diligence, but enough is enough. Quit fucking around with these marginal candidates and hire a sexy (in a baseball way) candidate like Timmy Wallach, or Dave Martinez, or hey - Sandy Alomar Jr.!

Then came word that Martinez didn't make the cut. Wallach's daddy didn't event let him interview with those bullies the Blue Jays, apparently. And suddenly, the hot candidate (Alomar Jr) was informed he was out of the running. And Butterfield.....oh, Butter. Was he ever really "in"? Down we were to a pair of Red Sox coaches, the venerable (I have no idea, but sounds right) DeMarlo Hale and the aforementioned Farrell. And then.... we were told that Hale was told he was out.

Welcome to the Toronto Blue Jays, John Farrell.

Say what (the fuck)?

But, y'know, like seemingly everything Anthopoulos has done in the big chair to date - it makes perfect sense. Forget about John Farrell the pitching coach. Embrace John Farrell, the coach tabbed as Francona's heir apparent. Embrace John Farrell, the former Director of Player Development for a Cleveland Indians organization which, under his watch, was tabbed by Baseball America as having the game's top farm system (2003) & made major inroads in Latin America (sound familiar?). Look at where the Blue Jays are in their life cycle - look at the strengths within the system both at the major league level (young starting pitching) and in the recent amateur draft (starting pitching).

A manager with a background as both a pitching coach and in player development? Make more sense now?

But (you knew there was going to be a "but")...... can he manage?

And once again, like everything Anthopoulos has done, it's a move made with an eye to the upside. Perhaps the safe pick would have been a candidate with extensive managing experience (Baylor - ugh). Maybe a long-time bench coach with a history of minor league success (Hale). I don't think anybody would have been outraged had they gone with the internal candidate (Butterfield). But that's not how Anthopoulos works. He's shown that he's willing to gamble on talent with player transactions, and the same holds true with the selection of his manager.

So far, the gambles have paid off, and we've been given no reason to believe the same won't continue to hold true. Sometimes, you've just gotta trust the process.

(....and in the event the Jays can't come to terms with their man Farrell.....he woulda been a lousy pick anyway. Heyo!)