Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fresh Starts


There’s really not much to add to what ended up being the biggest Blue Jays-related story of this past week – the new branding scheme and uniforms. I like the new stuff. A lot. The next couple of years of Org Family gift-giving will be predictable indeed.

As is my wont, however, I’m going to use the re-brand as a source for hackneyed symbolism, however tangential you may find it. You all should be getting used to this from me by now.

One of the things that struck me most about the Friday unveiling of the snappy jerseys, caps and associated goods was the level of enthusiasm there was, not just among the fans, but among the players themselves. Twitter was full of the players’ own pictures, with lots of exclamation marks and #BeastMode / #TeamUnit sloganeering. These guys were geeked up about having a new look.

The uniform launch felt like… well, it felt like a launch. The start of something. Especially in an off-season where a whole lot of not much has really happened so far with the Blue Jays, it seemed to put a spring in the step of the faithful.

It got me thinking about how important a fresh start can be. When the Org Kids get up on the wrong side of the bed and catch hell from the Org Wife and me first thing in the morning for misbehaving, we’ll often send them back to their room and have them try it again. Usually works like a charm.

It’s tempting to try to excuse a baseball player’s underwhelming performance by throwing around the old “he needs change of scenery” argument. We can never really get in a player’s head to know whether that’s remotely true. But at the very least, the “fresh start” can be like a bowl of hot chicken soup when you have a head cold: might help; couldn’t hurt.

When they start stretching, sprinting and spitting tobacco juice in Dunedin in a few months, some potentially key pieces of this Blue Jays team are going to be hoping that a fresh start cures what ailed them in 2011, or even before. From where I sit, how those fresh starts turn out is going to be a significant part of the 2012 Jays storyline.

Here are a few of who I mean:

Colby Rasmus

This is fairly obvious, but the very reason the multi-tool talent who will be patrolling centerfield for the Blue Jays is no longer doing it for the St. Louis Cardinals is because someone – Tony LaRussa, John Mozeliak, Alex Anthopoulos, or all of them – thought he needed a fresh start. The start he got as a Jay in 2011 was abbreviated (although long enough to allow Barry from Oakville to bellow his disapproval on the Jays Talk and yearn for the middle relievers he cost to acquire). A full season of the 2010 vintage Colby Rasmus would be a significant piece of an improved 2012 Jays team (again, this is obvious). I hope that starting the season knowing he’s not going to have a manager breathing down his neck with threats to start Jon Jay in his place might make Rasmus a bit more comfortable and a bit more effective.

Travis Snider

Travis Snider is going to turn 24 in February, yet he’s already spent parts of four different seasons with the Major League team. You can argue either side of the more-time-in-the-majors vs. more-time-in-the-minors argument, but one thing the kid hasn’t had at any point in his Jays career is some certainty. A fresh start for Snider can come in Toronto or in Vegas but he should know going in that it’s gong to be a full time job, with an abundantly clear description at the start of 2012 of what is demanded and expected of him, regardless of where he’s plying his trade. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Supernanny, it’s that kids need structure. I’m sure this sounds incredibly condescending. I don’t really mean it to be. These players are all grown-up, professional athletes. But sometimes the most precocious talent is the kind in most need of discipline.

Kyle Drabek

A variation on the Snider theme is applicable to Kyle Drabek. Like Snider, he’s shown flashes of meeting the high expectations so many have had for him ever since entering the organization. Despite his youth, he’s not thought of as a prospect, as much as a promise of All-Star performance unfulfilled. As with Snider, I’m not going to lose much sleep if he goes to Vegas or Toronto out of Spring Training, as long as he gets to tackle whatever has been plaguing him with a knowledge that he’s going to get time to do it.

Spring is a fresh start for everyone, really. There are plenty of others on the roster (for the time being) who could similarly benefit: Frank Francisco, for a chance to start 2012 like he finished 2011; Adam Lind, to start a season healthy, strong, free of expectations that he needs to carry the team offensively and with some confidence at the plate that would come with that.

We’ve seen fresh starts work before. Yunel Escobar is one example of a guy for whom his first day in a Blue Jay uniform was the first day of the rest of his life. I’m really, really hopeful that April 1 will be the same kind of rebirth for some of the Jays who need to capture, or recapture, the kind of performance that we know is in them.

7 comments:

JaysGirl5 said...

Isn't it nice to feel that kind of excitement from the players again? True, we never really saw the personal side of players before Twitter, but it's really refreshing to feel they're on-board. I can't think of any team revealing a new logo/jersey in the last few years that involved players from development to launch. I think that says something about where this team is going.

Jim Acker's Cock Cheese said...

Colby Rasmus "multi-tool talent," or "multi-talent tool"?

MK Piatkowski said...

Thank you for the Freshie pic. Ah, the memories...

Mylegacy said...

On Rasmus I think JACC jocular retort is close to the truth. Personally, I think our dear Colby is a bit thick - not necessarily at the waist. Hopefully, he can find something in the deep recesses of his mind (or what passes for his mind) that will motivate him to want to get that 2010 feeling back. If not - well Gose or Marisnick will soon see him to the exit stage left.

Snider - I can't see the guy having a serious shot with the Jays. He so needs a fresh start! Let the poor bugger go. If he goes mano to mano against Thames this spring I believe he'll lose so trade the guy and give him a chance at his own personal Arab Spring.

Drabek has obviously watched too many AJ Burnett movies, pity he didn't watch Roy's games more often. At this point Kyle is a great arm. Neither the body nor head have any idea what the arm is doing. I'd just forget the guy stick him in Hi A to start over and if he gets his mojo back (did he really ever actually have any) then consider it gravy and slurp it up before it dries up. With wunderkins Hutchison and Molina, not to mention McGuirem ALL being prospects AND being able to chew bubble gum and throw well - I'm afreard Kyle has a long walk back from the brink - at least on the Jays.

Ron said...

Snider has had many chances already, I think one last chance is all he gets. As for Drabek, his 2011 was one of the worst years I've ever seen a starting pitcher have here (I go back to 1977). Maybe he should ditch the silly #4 first, stop pretending that he's a pitching stud when he's done zilch at the major league level.

Rose said...

Partially because we still have to see how the GMs of the teams will handle it. And yes, the Sox manipulated the system as well, but there was only so much they could do on the domestic side of things, just like every other team. I can't recall the Sox going berserk in spending over slot and taking big name, high upside guys quite like the Nationals did this past draft year.
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Bam_86 said...

@mylegacy

For what it's worth, Drabek did throw a no-hitter in the Jays minor league system on his way up to the Majors. He has talent, it's just hidden right now.