Friday, April 8, 2011

Whipping Boys: Someone to Despise

We get it: Juan Rivera's body language sucks.

His swing looks as though he's wielding a 20-pound bat, and it looks as though someone has slipped five pounds of sand in each of his cleats. He looks as though he's not necessarily thrilled to have been moved to Toronto, and from the tenor and tone of the tweets and emails we receive, the feeling is mutual.

(All of this is compounded by the fact that John Farrell has used him too high in the batting order at times, making his lifeless corpse smell that much more noxious.)

We also get that Edwin Encarnacion has had a less than stellar start to the season, both in the field and at the plate. (Though he's made a couple of nice plays in the field lately, which don't seem to stand out to the cynical braying hordes.)

But here's the thing: Like all players, these guys are assets, and right now, they have a depressed value. But if you're at all smart at playing a market - or frankly, if you're not completely brain dead - you don't sell off assets at the bottom of their value. And there remains some upside for Rivera and a lot of upside for Encarnacion that needs to be explored before the team casts them off without anything in return so as to speed the arrival of Gordie-Dougie Baseball Canada Man.

(And while we're dropping our oblique reference to the third baseman of the future, let us note that we probably shouldn't be quite so coarse in blaming him for the expectations that people have placed upon him, lest his older sister come kick our ass or strangle us with a hair band. And the truth is that we're as geeked to see him get here and contribute as any of you, but we also know that his development and the team's is best served with him getting some time in at the Triple-A level.)

We're going to repeat this mantra often in the next few weeks, so get used to this: It's a long season. We're six games in, and people are already referring to players as "garbage", which seems like a pretty harsh way to speak of your fellow human beings. (They are people, you know.) Let's just calm down, and observe the first month so that we can get a truer sense of what this team is, and what sort of value these pieces have.

It doesn't make any sense to heap scorn on players and boo your own guys in the first weekend of the season when they've barely had the chance to create an impression for this year.

And by the way: EE had a better season at the plate than Travis Snider last year, and has a higher career OPS than Aaron Hill. So before you send him packing because he got eaten up by two balls on Opening Weekend, you might want to see if he has something to offer in the 25 weeks of baseball that remain.


jerkstore said...

I think EE and Rivera are totally different animals in terms of upside. the only reason to keep rivera on this team is his guaranteed contract and the dream of a draft pick.

EE could potentially be a very useful hitter signed to a cheap contract.

If all things contract and health-wise were equal, i'd rather have podsednik on this team than rivera. That's a bad sign.

davechurch said...

B-b-b-but... Brett Lawrie! Prospect porn! What of our snap judgments? Aren't they going to be right and hold up over a whole season?!

Couldn't agree with you more on E5, and good points on Rivera too- they are in the same boat, once you break it down. It just SEEMS like Rivera's not trying, whereas E5 is hustling out of the box and trying to make plays. Buck and Pat kept talking about how much more in shape Encarnacion seemed, and it showed some early on, though he did have some rough moments at the hot corner.

mike in boston said...

Though he's made a couple of nice plays in the field lately, which don't seem to stand out to the cynical braying hordes.

Listening to the Griffins and Wilners and Perkinses denigrate E5's defense has been particularly annoying. We know what he is: an average or slightly above average fielding 3B with a below average arm in terms of accuracy. that is not going to change during the 2 or 3 months he plays the position this year. One bad catch or one good throw is not relevant to the discussion. It's pedantic and boring to rag on him for each error, and frankly people who cover baseball for a living should be above the small sample size reactions.

Further, as jerkstore points out, he has a team friendly contract and could potentially be a very useful bat to this team or to another. The offensive upside outweighs the defensive downside.

Save the reactionary hate for a more appropriate target ... like Jason Frasor.

GCM1979 said...

every time the Jays lose, I have a co-worker blast the players who "contributed" to the loss.

it's typical Toronto fandom. They micromanage every little result.

Tao of Stieb said...

Sitting in the Dome this weekend, I couldn't believe the stuff people were saying about ONE PLAY in the FIRST TWO GAMES of the season.

Aaron Hill took a bad swing, and the guy next to me IN THE CENTREFIELD BLEACHERS says "Man, it looks like another bad year for Hill." ONE SWING!

What I really want is to have Howard Jones' "Life in One Day" play at Rogers Centre, and I'll dance around the field encouraging people to be patient and open-minded.

Because that would totally work, and not just induce homophobic remarks in my general direction.

NoisyFlowers said...

That background pic of Danielle Lawrie is stupid hot. Love how the uniform and face paint match her hair colour. (I realize this is pathetic but I felt like someone had to say it).

The Ack said...

I've got E5's back, even if I refer to him via derisive nickname.

But Juan.... I need him to give me something. I honestly still don't even think of him as a Blue Jay. Even a little Dougie hustle up the line. Something Juan....SOMETHING!

Beratign the home team is inexcusable, however. Especially on opening week.

Reminds me of that blogger (I forget who) who wanted to start a campaign to jeer Vernon mercilessly to "force" him to opt out of his deal. Like that would (have) work(ed).

Buck16 said...

Although some people just don't 'get' that it's a long season, I think the early season bandwagon jumping has a lot to do with the general excitement of it being a new baseball season.

After the first six weeks or so, when numbers become more logical due to increased sample sizes, it's easier to not overreact to every little thing like it's the end of the world, because you remember those two games on opening weekend when the same thing happened, and the world didn't end then either.

Until September - and holy shit, let's hope every play matters then!

Ian - BJH said...

I defer to Ack on this one - there's some faith in EE, but with Rivera it seems like a lost cause. Now I really understand why they shifted Bautista to RF because Rivera must've been pretty damn awful in the outfield for the Blue Jays to rejig their outfield like that.

Meredith said...

I yelled at Rivera to get out of town during Wednesday’s game and this is me standing up for myself.

I’m allowed to hang my life on every play if I want. My relationship with EE is completely unhealthy and changes on a dime - just the way I like it. And Rivera? His body language speaks volumes. I believe he doesn’t want to be here and I take that personally. Y u no like Toronto? What a dick. Until he changes my mind, I am going to throw side eyes his way simply because it’s fun. Sports are supposed to be fun sometimes.

It’s not just you, Tao. You’ll always be my favourite. But with multiple bloggers (who I greatly admire) telling me how to behave and dress at the ballpark and how to cheer for my favourite team, I’m feeling suffocated by the dos and don’ts of Jays fandom. There’s just so much...judgment. I feel judged.

gerard said...

What's Rivera's upside? A slightly above-average hitter with below-average defence in a corner outfield position? That would make him worth his contract, certainly, but it's just not that valuable. I don't have a lot of confidence in Rivera returning to being a useful hitter. So far this season, he's displayed near-perfect strike zone judgment, only swinging at good pitches, and he still can't do anything vaguely hopeful with them.

EE, on the other hand, could be a significantly above-average hitter with average defence at 3rd base. That's way, way more valuable than what Rivera can do. And he's got a cheap option for next year.

Anonymous said...

Rivera's upside is that he might hit 15-20 HRs by the break and they trade him for some midlevel prospect.

Tao of Stieb said...


You know I'm invariably judging you. Sometimes silently...sometimes less so.

It makes you a better person.

(Are we fighting again?)

Ty said...

I'm a staunch EE supporter and I still fully expect good things from him, whether he's playing 3B or DHing or whatever. I like him a lot.

But I'm with The Ack and others when it comes to Rivera. I just can't find anything to like about the guy. I always thought he was one of the most boring players in baseball even before he was a Blue Jay, and now that I'm reminded of that every game, its hard to shake the feeling that he's only here because nobody else will take him. His body language certainly makes it seem like he agrees.