Monday, April 4, 2011

Take Away Thoughts from the First Weekend

Before we start picking through the minutiae, indulge for this moment: Good gravy it was lovely to see baseball this weekend. Sure, we can spend six months musing on hypotheticals and theory, but there's nothing quite like real games that matter.

(And make no mistake: There are 159 games left, but the margin for error for an American League East team is so small that the "meaningful" games start early on in the season.)

With that said, here are a few thoughts on the weekend.

The Crowds, For Better, For Worse: Mostly, we should be saluting the strong crowds throughout the weekend. Bringing in more than 110,000 spectators for the first three games shows that there is a renewed interest in the team amongst some of the more casual fans. So bully for us.

Now, about the bad shit: When you pack the house on a Friday-Night-Opening-Night, you're certain to attract a some number of hooligans and ne'er-do-wells, as has happened before. Friday night's game was not nearly the complete shit show that the 2008 opener devolved into, with just one (apparently highly-entertaining) girl fight breaking out. Still, the Jays' in-game promotion department should probably settle on the fact that they can't just hand potential projectiles to the Opening Day crowd.

No one was in any particular danger - which only facilitates the thought process for the idiot goons who get their kicks out of throwing shit on the field - but the delays are a pain in the ass, and senseless.

Final thought on the crowds: Blue Jays crowds tend not to be terribly raucous, and that's okay, frankly. Yes, the echoes of silence in the closed Dome can create some uneasiness. But that's just who we are. And if it bothers you enough, then let yourself become the SuperFan that you wish for. (But try to be more interesting than the guys who scream: "You suck!" all game long.)

It's really just a shame that with the extraordinary upside that this team has, the crowds have chosen to reserve their most vocal moments for booing one of their own players. Which brings us to...

Good Edwin, Bad Edwin: Make three errors in two games, and suddenly every thinks you're a terrible player.

(Okay, maybe not so suddenly.)

Yes, we're a bit of an apologist for Edwin Encarnacion, so take this for what you will: We actually liked his game this weekend, especially his newfound speed out of the box. EE twice reached on errors this weekend, but they were errors that he helped to create by getting out of the box and down the line quickly.

As for the errors: The short hop on Friday was a tough play with which he tried to do too much, while the liner on Sunday was another difficult (though makeable) play. But let's not run him out of town like Larry Murphy based on three bad moments. (And by the way: Booing him out of town isn't going to speed the process of getting Brett Lawrie to Toronto. So shut that shit down right here and now.)

Pitching Dopeness, Pitching Wackness: Friday's start by Ricky Romero and Staurday's outing from Kyle Drabek were remarkably fine-tuned performances for the beginning of the season. Both changed speeds and locations well, and kept the Stars-and-Scrubs lineup of the Twins in check for the first two days.

And if it were still the fourth inning on Sunday, we could have roped Bret Cecil into that same group. Except that Cecil began letting the ball sail up in the zone, his tragic flaw.

It seems to us as though there's something askew with Cecil's foot plant, or it could be that when he gets into this trouble, he is too upright and never quite gets his body driving on a downward plane towards home. (Pappy Walton and Pat Hentgen would probably punch us in the face for talking about stuff that we don't really know. But we'll stand by this.)

(And by the way: More interesting, graphically astute analysis of the weekend starts by Drabek and Cecil can be found over at Ghostrunner on First.)

Surprising Mancrushes: Watching two games of Mike McCoy in centre for an ailing Rajai Davis, we were actually pretty impressed with his ability to field the position. (We sat in the centrefield seats on Saturday, and spent a lot of time observing the outfielders' positioning. And while Kyle Drabek's mastery meant that it wasn't a busy day, we appreciated some of the heads up play that we saw.) McCoy may not get more than 100 ABs this year, but as a guy who can cover off the middle of the diamond defensively, there's some value to him as organizational depth.

The Leader Leads through Leading Leadership: It's hard to criticize José Bautista, especially given the quick start to his season. Still, we watched him this weekend, and he seems to have taken his role as a leader on the team very, very seriously. It seemed as though he never stopped talking to teammates (this chatterbox nature might be why Alex Anthopoulos has bonded with him).

Given that there was plenty of complaining about the lack of active leadership in the clubhouse over the past decade, we're willing to go along with JoBau's chatty routine. As long as everyone is happy to listen, then this is great, we suppose. But it is a fine line between talking TO your teammates and talking AT your teammates.

(Why am I complaining about this?)

Other Stuff, Quickly, with Ellipses: The Saturday and Sunday lineups were not necessarily what we'd have used, but at least Farrell is willing to mix it up a bit...Not that we expected much from Juan Rivera, but even at that, he has been pretty lifeless so far...Loved the path to the ground balls that Snider took on Sunday to throw out one runner and hold the other. Saved two runs, and he looks swift tracking down balls as well...We can make the argument as to why Lind was right to jump on the first pitch (presumed to be a fastball strike, except that it was a breaking ball low) from Joe Nathan with the bases painstakingly loaded in the ninth, but it would probably sound like contrariness for sport.

Up Next: The Athletics. And The Summer of Jo-Jo begins in earnest.


robbgel said...

Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but based on this weekend, would the Jays be better off with EE at DH and Nix at 3B? Obviously the Jays are trying to build Rivera's value so they can trade him, but if this lineup would make the team better, why not try it out?
And speaking of Nix, I know it's expected that he'll only be on the team until Patterson is healthy, but doesn't he add more to the team than Patterson? He can play 2B, 3B, and the corner OF spots, and we have a capable CF backup in (the real) McCoy. The only reason I can see to keep Patterson is some speed off the bench, but Nix wasn't exactly running like Frank Thomas, and as much as I love Johnny Mac, it's nice to have a backup IF that can hit the ball with some consistent success.

Ty said...

I'm a steadfast EE apologist (err, supporter) myself and I have to say - it'd be nice if he'd cut us some slack. I had convinced a few people to hop on the bandwagon but by the third error, I was riding solo again. I just hope he doesn't start pressing at the plate to make up for it - Edwin's at his best when he's not trying too hard, I think.

As for Jose's leading leadership: there was one inning, either on Saturday or Sunday, where he and Lind were at 1st and 3rd with two outs. Afterwards, the cameras showed them in the dugout, talking about the situation at length, strategizing for the next time. I don't know if everyone will feel the same way, but I think that's awesome.

On that same subject, apparently the double steal in the first game wasn't called by Farrell, Davis and Escobar did it on their own. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

When EE was brought back here (after he was put on waivers), Alex made it painstakingly clear that he was brought back to DH and platoon (if need be) with Lind at first. Wilner, DJF and all the so called "experts" were applauding the move and basting anyone who dared critisize it. After all, in their minds, there was no way he was playing third. Then, a week before the season, the Jays decide he is the everyday third baseman and all the bloggers were falling all over themselves defending the move.

Bring out any defensive metric you want, this guy is a trainwreck at third. You can't bring Lawrie up because there's some ridiculous written rule that you have to pay your dues in the minors along with starting the service clock horeshit. JBau for some reason has to play right field.

I'm tired of the E5 shitshow and the way they snuck him back to be the everyday third baseman without even a peep from the blogging community. I guess when you think your GM is all that, no criticism is warranted. Oh well...

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Great stuff. As another member of a northern climate, I have a theory that the more clothes you have to wear, the more reserved you're going to be. Hence the quite nature of Toronto fans.

I'm impressed with the Blue Jays thus far. There's a lot to like at this point.

Xave said...

The girl fight was actually a dude fight with a third-party girl relentlessly beating on one of the dudes. It was very entertaining.

Tao of Stieb said...

I don't argue with the decision to put EE back at third because I think it was probably the one when you balance out this year's needs and the future prospects for the team.

It's possible that EE is DHing as soon as they can find an exit for Juan Rivera, and it might even be possible that Lawrie gets a very early call. (Not that I want to encourage such thoughts...but whatever.)

And in truth, Edwin wasn't all that bad last year (not good, but not a shit show), and there was at least some evidence that he was physically able to be better this year.

I just don't get the booing. Why are some Toronto fans so quick to turn on their own players?

Tao of Stieb said...

@ Xave:

I was in the 200s under the "canopy", and wasn't able to see it. My wife was so disappointed...she was there for the shenanigans.

Ty said...

BTW, for all the Nix supporters, he played 56 games at third base last year and made 16 errors. With a .676 OPS.

I know he looked good on Saturday but let's not get carried away.

mike in boston said...

the fight is on youtube. pretty entertaining stuff, but you always hate to see women hitting men who are trying to fight other men.

it will be really interesting to see who goes down when Patterson resurfaces next week. McCoy and Nix both showed something, and i imagine the one who makes the most mistakes in the next 3 series goes down. the other one will get the boot when Lawrie gets called up next month, assuming no further injuries or trades.

i'd rather see McCoy stick with the big club since he has toiled in our system.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah...I probably don't want to get carried away with the love-in for McCoy, because I think that Nix is probably just as useful.

Although Ty's comment is perfectly salient. I'm gonna tweet that out.

And Podsednik will get at least a shot at some point, I'd think.

mike in boston said...

listening to boston sports radio the monday after the red sox get swept on opening weekend is one of life's simplest and most profound pleasures.

gabriel said...

I'd rather take McCoy over Nix as a bench player- McCoy has the ability to play SS and CF if needed. The Jays bench is rather poorly constructed at the moment: McCoy, McDonald and Nix overlap too much. All can play a respectable 2nd and 3rd base, and cannot be expected to be league average with the bat. None are base-stealing threats. McDonald provides better defence at short than McCoy, and Nix will probably be a bit better with the bat, and McCoy has a little more positional flexibility, but overall, there isn't that much variation in talents going on.

Steve said...

I'll take Jose's leadership over Wells' leadership thank you very much. It looks like a complete difference in intensity and communication this year so far. I'd argue we have a different team this year based on one trade and Jose's signing. said...

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