Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Transcendental Blues - On Losing Darvish, and Reclaiming Perspective

We can't say that we blame you if you went to bed or woke up disappointed with the news about Yu Darvish. A week full of groundless-yet-enthusiastic speculation had led all of us to the precipice of something that we thought would be great, but turned out to just another opportunity to feel your heart sink.

Still, it's worth remembering that the Darvish posting process was a far from perfect way to acquire a player, and while the Jays may have put forth a very aggressive bid, the shortfall shouldn't be held up as an exemplification of the team's unwillingness to get better. Things happen. It's a competitive marketplace, and the Jays are - as we've just found out - just one player among many trying to improve.

While you're swallowing hard and trying to keep a stiff upper lip today, keep these three things in mind:

1) The 2012 Blue Jays were already an improvement over last year's model. A full year with a focused Colby Rasmus, a bullpen that is a lot more settled than many of you give them credit for (Villaneuva-Perez-Litsch-Carreno-Janssen-Santos, with more to come), a full year with Edwin Encarnacion at DH (where he posted an .855 OPS last year), and a full season of Brett Lawrie is something that we want to see, and that we still contend can win 90 games without any further additions.

2) There are no guarantees. Maybe Darvish could have been the difference between the Jays running away with the East, or another third or fourth place finish. But it's unlikely that one player who had never so much as thrown a pitch in North America would be that difference-maker. Maybe he catches a spike in Dunedin, or maybe he'd only have been great in the Texas heat. We'll never know, and we shouldn't posture as though we do.

3) The offseason isn't over yet. There's still moves to be made, and you have to know based on recent events that Alex Anthopoulos will be working hard to bring another arm and another bat to the Jays before they congregate in Dunedin this February. Maybe there will be something marginal coming, or maybe there's a big deal to be signed or consummated before then. Either way, this is not the end of hope.

And that right there is the thing. Hope. It's as enthralling as it is infuriating. It's the thing that's kept us awake all night, blogging at 2 AM, trying to sort out what comes next. The trouble is that we can't pretend to know, as much as we want and feel like we need to.

But that's also the fun of being a baseball fan. If you need guarantee of meaningful games next year before you'll commit to coming along for the ride, you may well miss something extraordinary. We tweeted late last night that there is a certain amount of suffering that is implicit with being a fan, but that this is one of the great things about the game. As Bob Dylan sang: For those that lose now will be later win.

Transcendence - shedding what you are and becoming a greater version of yourself - is a painful process. It hurts. But the pain is there as a future reminder of what we've gone through, and what makes the greater moments all that they are.

After last night, we've all got one more scar. One day, we'll all compare them, and celebrate them, and recognize them as a signpost on the road in our rearview mirror. And this one will barely register as much of anything at all from that perspective.

This is all prologue.


Joanna said...

This is exactly what I want to say and it's perfect because I am completely awake.

Anonymous said...

The Jays are young and talented. Bautista, Lawrie, Romero, Arencebia, Morrow, Rasmus, Cecil, Alvarez, Lind, KJ, Janssen, etc etc. I think a lot of MLB teams would love to have that kind of talent in the fold (and that's just the major league roster). It's a good time to be a Jays fan.

@jpkaram86 said...

Nice little post, especially for 2 am.

I just really feel like we missed out on a huge opportunity to improve our team (no fault of anyone, blind bids are, after all, blind).

I would have liked to see Yu in T.O., because we would have improved our pitching staff without having to trade any prospects and/or picks. That's the biggest disappointment.

Oh well, we can't win them all. I'm curious as to what our bid might have been. I wonder if AA would ever disclose that.

Btw, I've been following you on twitter and reading your blog for quite some time. You do good work sir, and your message about having hope for this team should be read by all jays fans going to bed upset tonight.

Keep up the good work, and go get some sleep.

-A loyal reader/follower.

Dewey said...

Thanks, Tao.

I'm actually a bit disgusted in myself being a baseball fan and seeing some of the reactions on not getting Darvish, as well as some of these Jays "Insiders" reporting that the Jays got him no less than a few hours after the posting window had closed.

Luckily there are some good fans like you that we can choose to associate ourselves with and not get lumped in with all the ridiculousness brought on by others.

Happy holidays, Tao.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Great word. Great post.

Peter DeMarco said...

I think the thing that bothers me the most was that it looked like if the Jays did win the Darvish bid it would have brought Jays fans back in droves. It's been a very long time since so many Jays fans have rallied together to support something, and for a very brief moment in time we all believed that ownership was willing to do something spectacular to improve this team, something that while it probably didn't make much sense on paper, was worth the risk in their minds because they want to build a winner at any cost.

This didn't happen and now most fans may go back to believing that Rogers are cheap and they have shown nothing to disprove the rumour that they will only spend once fans come back.

At the end of the day I know it will be winning that brings the fans back and not the signing of any one player, however it felt pretty damn good to be a Jays fan these past few days and now we go back to an air of uncertainty.

The Ack said...

I enjoyed this much more than your "pay off your own damn credit cards!" tweet.

There is much more to my disappointment than "just" last night's happenings, but I hear what you are saying and do agree.

Darrell said...

I'm very surprised the winning bid was as low as it was. I would have thought anybody serious about acquiring Darvish would start at Dice-K's 51.1 as the baseline and work up from there. Deserved or not, that had to be the expectation. The fact that Texas won with a bid only 600k over shocks me. It means the Jays likely bid under 51.1 which, if true, I can't believe they thought they had a chance.

The thought of Darvish joining the club was insanely exciting, but losing out on this particular player is not what hurts the most it's the dashed dream of possibly being in the midst of major 'organizational shift' that does.

I'll continue to watch the games of course but I feel a little less good about my team today than I did yesterday.

WilsonC said...

Food for thought:

The only way this could end up looking like a mistake is if the current core works out well enough that Darvish would be enough to make a difference in the team's postseason chances. It's disappointing to miss out, but either the current core will be a contender's core, with puts AA in a great place to take the final step, or it'll end up being a blessing in disguise that we didn't get him.

BigBear said...

Good post Tao,

I think fans more than anything else wanted to win something. I encountered folks that they didn't know what he throws and what are the risks involved with the process, yet they wanted to win this. You can't blame them. Toronto teams haven't won anything since 93. Blame the front office for letting this frenzy to escalate. They knew that they didn't win and that's why they went after Latos.
btw, screw the inside sources or whatever that is.

Paul said...

AA is very good at what he is being paid to do. Dumpster diving and searching flea markets for the best cheap deal.

Unfortunately, that philosophy is starting to wear thin on a number of Jays fans that are tired of the twenty years of futility. Until Rogers allows AA to actually spend some money to bring the team's payroll to at least the league average, in a lot of fans' eyes there is no hope.

Tao of Stieb said...

20 years! No hope! Spend to contend!

WilsonC said...

Spending's the only way to contend! Just ask the Rangers! (errr... 2001 model or 2010 edition?)

Dave said...

BigBear I couldn't agree more. It wasn't really about the player, or Rogers spending more money to show they're committed. It was about hearing that the Blue Jays won.

Paul said...

The fact that there was such a huge reaction from Jays fans shows that people actually give a damn. Another crappy season or two, followed by Romero and/or Bautista being asked to be traded to a contender, and the interest just won't be there at all.

Anonymous said...

Wow we were a finalist yet again for a star player. Getting pretty old dealing with this BS from Rogers. Make a commitment to this team. I for one have no intention of renewing my season tickets, I would be an idiot to dump money into this team after the way we've been treated. 2 playoff appearances in 25 years, what a joke. Then we get this crap about not having the salary to make an effort to be competitive? That Rogers needs more fans to show up before they spend money? How about you show us that you are serious about making this team a winner instead of our goal being .500. That's a joke, I am starting a petition among my friends to get as many season ticket holders to cancel like I am until we get Rogers to sell this team to an owner that actually cares about this team. So sick and tired of this crap. If we aren't ready to win now. TRADE BAUTISTA TOO. If we are going to suck, do it. Don't make us just good enough so that we get crappy draft postion. We will never be good because management is content with being mediocre just to pull the wool over our eyes and tell us that there is a plan. The plan is go be just good enough to make it look like they want to win, but in reality, all they want is to field a team that is as cheap as possible so that they can make as much money as they can. What a JOKE. Goodbye to the Blue Jays season tickets and to my Rogers cable too. Hello Bell and season tickets to the NHL.

Paul said...

Remember, this blog is owned by Rogers too. It's their job to spew the company line and defend the mothership above all logic to the contrary.

George said...

Hope is the message! I can already smell the fresh cut turf, the new glove smell, and sweat!
When we talk about this year's team, we shouldn't count out Adam Lind. He learned a new position last year and put up a +WAR, while hitting 26 homers in a "sub par" season.

Chris said...

How ironic that someone so content with mediocrity uses the name of one of the most competitive players in Jays history for the title of his blog. Tao of Stieb? More like the Tao of Rios.

Tao of Stieb said...

Your mom is ironic.

Chris said...

Thanks for the witty retort.

Jays fandom is ill-served by this current cadre of Rogers apologists posing as bloggers.

The same ones who defended Ricciardi for 8 years of relentless mediocrity.

But, hey, while the games may be meaningless in July and August, at least the team will be a hoot to watch.

Chris said...

"Not that we want to begrudge Tony any success, but we'd feel better if he were around to pick up the pieces and maintain some continuity should the Rogers brass decide to sacrifice Ricciardi as an appeasement to the unwashed stupid masses."

Tao loved JP and his relentless mediocrity to the end.

Tao of Stieb said...

But, but, but...DELICIOUS KOOL-AID!

Honestly, Blue Jays fans can believe what they want. I was among a small minority who defended JP (and who continues to defend some parts of what he did), and I'm perfectly fine with that.

If you want a blog that pisses on Rogers 365 days per year, go write it yourself.

And seriously, I take it as the highest compliment that you think that my blog matters enough to impose a moral imperative to serve the Jays fanbase better. Because really, I'm just a verbose dude yucking it up to myself on most days.

Naomi said...

Tao, I think that that the issue is, which has been covered a bit recently by MLB Radio and recently in an article in the Seattle Times (of all places) is that even the bloggers are very favorable to how Rogers has been running the team for the past few years.

While I understand your desire to blog and be favourable, there are times when some of your readers would like to see a less than favorable analysis, or at least one that didn't seem to "tow the party line".

Let AA and that cadre do the job. The reality is very few Toronto blogs are critical of the ownership, and as such it appears that (despite an ownership group that is easily as cash rich as any other ownership group in all of sports) being "cheap" is enough.

Now as far as Yu is concerned, only someone who really doesn't pay attention to the rest of the league thinks that Toronto has a solid rotation. Romero is a number two starter in the AL East or up against the AL West. That's if you really want this team to contend. Every other pitcher on the Jay's rotation has questions.

Did Yu come with questions? Sure did, but not as many as most people try to pretend he did. The whole "Japanese" player thing is just like saying the same of every pitcher from Texas has the exact same trajectory.

I think, for the sake of the sanity of those Jays fans that are legitimately tired of the company line, that a post that both accepted the reality, without criticizing the player in question might have won a bit more in the way of credibility.

I am pretty close myself to cancelling my season tickets... but you are right about one thing, there is still a long post season to go, with a large 1st basemen available that would provide the best offensive punch since Braun-Fielder

Merry Christmas!

WilsonC said...

A lot of bloggers are favorable about this team's management because of how absurdly well positioned it is in the near future for contention.

The reason why there's as strong of a reaction as there is about Fielder and Darvish is because the team's core talent is close. People sense that they're close and want them to make the plunge. And for the first time in a long time, major signings would be at least a viable option. If they weren't close, then signing one of these guys would be nothing more than a ridiculously expensive way of boosting PR until the team's first losing streak.

However, the same variable that make signing someone like that a viable strategy also make passing on them a viable strategy. It's a core that's close. How close depends on how well some of the question marks (particularly in the rotation) perform this year. The core's also really young, with Bautista being the only core player over 30. Most are under team control for a whil. People are right to wonder when he'll decline, but given the youth and inexperience on the roster, the overall talent level is much more likely to take a step forward than back.

And then there's the farm system which is ranked near the top of virtually every prognosticator's list. While many prospects fail, there's enough depth there that the chances of developing a number of good players from the current crop is excellent.

As nice as all that is, there's a third variable that's a sticking point: financial flexibility. Right now, the Jays have tremendous flexibility in no small part because they've gotten the payroll so low. While refusal to spend isn't a good thing, a 70 million dollar 85 win team is better than a 120 million dollar 85 win team. Much better. Much, much, much better. The former is a team that has lots of room to grow, to cover arbitration raises, to replace departing players that the farm can't cover, and so on. The latter is a team that, while it may have a slim chance of making the postseason, will almost certainly need to shift into cost cutting mode either before it has any kind of run of success.

So, is Rogers cheap ownership, or is it patient ownership? We don't know for sure right now. People point to the payroll under their ownership, but how many seasons have they finished within a half dozen games of the postseason? How many have they finished with above average attendance? They have yet to go through a season where the conditions for it to make tactical sense to spend heavily were there. So they haven't proven their willingness to eventually spend yet, which is a good thing in my book, because in order to prove it they would have had to spend when it was stupid to do so. They did spend, unwisely, on Wells, Burnett, and Ryan, but management had enough sense to abort that attempt before the hole became too deep.

I do expect them to pick up some talent this year - short-term guys, or through trades - because they're close enough to contention that the current talent level could squeeze into contention - but they're also at the point where the temptation to go all-in can have averse effects on their ability to take the final step if they fall short this year.If the value's right, then someone like Fielder would make sense as a core talent, but if he's overpriced now, then there's a good chance that even as soon as 2013 they'd be able to get more wins out of the same money after this year.