Remember how sanguine we (Jays fans, not the imperial blogging "we") all were this Winter and Spring, when we looked forward to a season where the Jays could fall to ten games under .500, but we'd all be okay with that, because we trusted the direction and the measured approach of
the new leadership team.
Well, now. Didn't that get blown all to shit in five weeks.
The past week has been significantly less than stellar. Okay, fine: It's been something of a disaster, which only serves to magnify the questions that leap out over every managerial decision and roster move. Last night's decision to pull Brandon Morrow was certainly open to criticism (we're sure he could have cleared the bases and given up five runs all on his own), and it is just one of a whole series of questions that have arisen from John Farrell's on-field management style.
And yet, we keep coming back to this: Do we really want this team to change its approach because of one bad week (out of 26 weeks in the season)? Do we really need to hit the panic button now? Why?
Two things (which are actually one thing) strike us about the reaction to the current state of affairs for the Jays, and how it relates to our pre-season expectations.
1) We Expect A Patient, Longer View from the General Manager...Except When We Don't, Like Right NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!
In the offseason, we all cheered the moves that sacrificed some of the short-term, on-field strengths (Vernon Wells' 3.8 fWAR, for instance) in favour of a slow build, bringing in higher-ceiling prospects and building through the system. But string together a week and a half of crappy outcomes, and suddenly, it's all GORDIE DOUGIE BASEBALL CANADA STUD NOW OR WE SHOOT THE DOG!!!
Is the Jays' lineup very thin right now? Indeed, it is. But does that mean that the immediate callup of Gordie Dougie or Eric Thames or the return Snider is going to suddenly turn this team around? Is letting Jo-Jo Reyes walk and DFAing Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion really going to make this a stronger lineup? And if your answer is: "Well, it couldn't hurt", you should probably rethink that proposition. Because yes, it could hurt. It could make this team weaker. It could turn this team into a 100 loss proposition if it gets stripped down to José Bautista and Adam Lind and lots of prayers.
(And if you haven't been paying close attention to Gordie Dougie's Strikeout-to-Walk ratio down on the farm, it looks like this: 27 Ks, 8 BBs. Now remove the maple leaf from your lapel for a moment, set aside your arguments about how many t-shirts Gordie Dougie is going to sell, and tell us that you really think that AL pitchers wouldn't have a field day exploiting his profound desire to swing the bat.)
The Jays shouldn't change their approach to player development or roster construction just because they've had some crappy outcomes in your most recent memories. Take a deep breath, step back, and look ahead at the 20 weeks remaining in the season. Even if the whole thing turns into an unmitigated disaster, it doesn't make sense for them to run around frantically switching things up, losing players on waivers and starting arb clocks early.
We're fans, and we're passionate about our team. But we should expect the management team to take a cold, rational approach to constructing the roster.
2) We Expect the On-Field Management to Be Deliberately Boring, and the Manager Should Adhere to the New Orthodoxy at All Times.
So we established that we expect the roster moves to come fast furious to satiate our needs to rid ourselves of players who are less than compelling for a bunch of guys that most of us have barely seen and none of us have ever seen in the big leagues.
But God forbid that John Farrell tries anything with his lineup.
"Corey Patterson is playing the wrong position! He's hitting in the wrong place in the order! Edwin as cleanup? Absurd! Why does Juan Rivera still get a turn? Why are we running? Why is he pulling this guy now, and why is that guy getting the call from the pen, when THE NEW BOOK CLEARLY STATES THAT HE SHOULD BE DOING ALL OF THIS DIFFERENTLY!"
John Farrell's had this team for six weeks. Maybe we don't necessarily agree with each and every move, and just how much he seems intent on doing all the time. (Trust us when we say that defending the incessant running game is a stretch for a guy like us.) But we just came off of several years where our throwback Manager chiselled his lineups and strategy into granite, and only deferred from the initial strategy when absolutely compelled to do so. (Which, we'd note, most of you hated. And before the season, you applauded the notion of a manager who was willing to improvise to get the most out of the lineup he had.)
So here's what we understand from you all: The GM should be running around furiously swapping out pieces randomly to see what fits, and to just DO SOMETHING. But the field manager should set his lineup, sit back and DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.
We know it's tough to think in these terms now, because losing sucks and because losing ugly (as the Jays undeniably have) sucks even worse. But when you're feeling frantic as the team's faithful, roll back your thought process to where you where when this was all theoretical. And don't confuse the outcome with the decisions. Because we're still playing a much longer game than last night's nine innings.
One last thing...on Morrow
Part of playing the longer game is keeping some of your powder dry for when you really need it. While we'd concur with much of what Dustin Parkes draws out on his Getting Blanked article on the removal of Brandon Morrow from last night's game, we'll offer up this counterpoint: Brandon Morrow is a very important piece to this team's future, and he's also a concern healthwise. If Farrell saw something that made him think even for a moment that there was something physically amiss with Morrow, then he had to be willing to get him out of the game and let him sort it out between starts.
And here's the difference between the call that Farrell had to make, and the one that many of us (yours truly included) were making last night and this morning: Farrell's call has consequence. If he, in the moment, sticks with Morrow and pushes the heretofore fragile pitcher's physical limits and then helps to push him beyond his breaking point, we're bemoaning for the next decade how he ruins arms and how our shot at glory was blown up by careless use of the precious commodity of that transcendent arm.
And as John Lott's National Post game story notes, Farrell claimed that injury wasn't a concern right before dropping in a mention of Morrow's elbow. If he was concerned, we're not going to second guess him.