Sunday, July 31, 2011

If we aren't close then we can't be far

I've always resisted the notion that the Blue Jays should be looking to trade off prospects in exchange for potentially costly veterans for the sake of "appearances" and adding a few wins here and there.... but let's be honest. Since about 1993, it would have been mostly for appearances.

The Jays have not been contenders, and those are moves that only contenders should really make. Going one step further, the Jays system, quite frankly, has never really been strong enough to make the strategy legitimate.

Here in the 2011 season, at least one of those points has changed. The minor league system might never have been stronger than it is today, with names like Lawrie, d'Arnaud, Gose, McGuire, etc "cluttering" up many a top prospect list no matter the publication. Alex Anthopoulos' healthy obsession with stockpiling talent and spending (yes, spending) on amateur talent, whether via draft or international signings, has quite clearly begun to pay off handsomely with the Blue Jays prospect list the envy of every franchise, save for perhaps one or two.

And it hasn't been by chance that the organization has found it's way here. If the much maligned Ricciardian Years can be stereotyped with big splashy free agent signings, the AA Era is stamped with smart internal investment and building from the ground up. With more than a few ninja trades mixed in, of course. But this stockpiling of talent ain't for nothin', as the GM himself is quite fond of saying that not all the prospects will wear Blue Jay uniforms; the clear implication being that some will be used as trade chips to fill holes and complete the roster on the slow march towards contention.

Which begs the question..... are we there yet? Are the Toronto Blue Jays close enough to being a championship calibre ballclub that now is the time to start cashing in some of those prospect chips?

If you've been following me on The Twitter (and if you haven't.... you probably aren't missing much - how's that for self-promotion?), you'll notice I've been openly musing about the possibility of the Jays dangling Travis d'Arnaud. It's not that I want to see TdA moved; far from it. But..... IF the Jays decide that Arencibia is their guy for the forseeable future, and IF the club is indeed close enough to contention that it makes sense to add the beef now... then, you know, isn't that the right call?

And I'm only using d'Arnaud as an example. What about Kyle Drabek? Deck McGuire? Henderson Alvarez? A year ago, we'd all shudder at the thought of dealing any piece of our precious collection of prospect porn.... but now? The franchise has depth. Losing d'Arnaud would hurt, but a good enough JP Arencibia with a charging AJ Jimenez (or Carlos Perez, or whomever) means you're dealing from a position of strength. And if that's the cost for acquiring (insert impact major league player at a position of need here), then that's the right call.

Do you know who trades coveted "name" prospects for star major leaguers? The Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox do. Do you know who the Blue Jays are trying to emulate in terms of success at the major league level? Obvious is obvious.

Are the Jays close enough to start making those kinds of trades? I can't say that for sure, but we'll know what Alex Anthopoulos thinks the answer to that question is soon enough.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Little Touch of Terrific

We've made a point through most of this year of toning down some of the outlandish fanboy praise for Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, if only to pull back the reins on some of the expectations that have been built up by his initial moves over his first two years in the post. Anthopoulos is not wizard, secret agent, ninja, evil genius or whatever other stock movie character to which he has been compared.

And yet, it's hard not to let the plaudits fly after another extraordinary player personnel move yesterday.

Within the past week, we had told people that we thought it highly unlikely that the Jays would have any capacity to acquire a player such as Colby Rasmus. The notion that a player would be available when he is controllable, plays a premium position, possesses all five tools and has seemingly yet to reach his ceiling seemed to be remote at best. Add to that the fact that a number of other suitors were certain to step forward if he were to become available, and the notion that the Jays would empty out their newly restocked system for him just didn't compute.

Of course, we hadn't really factored in Anthopoulos' ability to make possible the impossible. Trading Vernon Wells' contract? Impossible! An unmovable contract! Getting value for Roy Halladay when he's shrunk the pool of possible destinations to one? How could anyone do such a thing? Acquiring another team's number one prospect in their system? That just doesn't happen! Don't be ridiculous!

What we especially love about this deal - and much of the Anthopoulos oeuvre - is how it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The Jays are a team that, if the baseball scriptures are to be heeded, should be selling. They should be emptying out their system of talent sending pieces to buyers. Because that's how this works.

But this trade is yet another example of Anthopoulos both flouting the conventions, and using the momentum and ambition of other "contenders" in order to extract what he needs to build a solid core of a team that will be in Toronto for at least four-to-five affordable years. And he does it without leaving the other teams feeling as though they were fleeced. That's no small accomplishment when you consider the magnitude of this equation: The bodies, contracts, cash, futures and picks getting balanced out somehow in such a manner that three teams could walk away satisfied.

Moreover, the Rasmus trade is positively brilliant in as much as it makes the team's lineup better now and in the future while essentially costing the team a left-handed reliever and a pitching prospect. (There's a lot of clutter and contracts that were swapped, but in essence, this deal comes down to Stewart and Rzepczynski for Rasmus. And were you to tell us that the cost of acquiring Colby Freaking Rasmus would be two young pitchers drawn from a growing crop of hurlers, we would have told you to stop dreaming.

In baseball, as in most other pursuits, there are no sure things. It's entirely possible the Colby Rasmus ends up being a decent centrefielder who hovers below an .800 OPS and occasionally rubs his teammates the wrong way. But there's evidence to suggest that, at 24, he can grow into a transcendent player who is the sort of star that we as Jays fans covet when they are given outlandish contracts by the Yankees or Red Sox.

The true brilliance of this trade is that it's as if sometime, eight-to-ten years down the road, Alex Anthopoulos decided to forgo the free agent sweepstakes, hop into his modified DeLorean and zip back to a time where he could acquire the $100 million player for pennies on the dollar and enjoy the years which built him up to that value before someone else paid through the nose for that past performance.

And there we go...getting all supernatural again. Alex Anthopoulos brings that out in us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Breaking News! Players Are Moving!

This is your intrepid non-reporting blogger, nowhere near the scene. We have word of trades emerging from the swamp of rumourdom, standing on their hind legs and breathing air. Join us as the story evolves!

11:07 am: First off, we were in a breakfast meeting. And not a lot was accomplished, aside from possibly giving ourself food poisoning. That much animal product on a plate in a crappy part of town is no one's idea of smart.

All of this to say, we flip on the Blackberry, and there's a flurry in a hurry of tweets about the Kenny-Ken-Ken Rosenthal tweet claiming the Jays are about to trade some relief pitcher for Somewhat-Canadian Mark Teahen! Well, pour some maple syrup on my Gladys, and cover me in cheese curds! (Also involved: Edwin Jackson. Some pitcher we guess.)

The presumption is that Edwin Jackson will be spun off elsewhere, but we think you all know what happens when you presume. You make a "pre" out of...hmm...this was funnier when Benny Hill said it.

Rapid analysis: We said in the offseason that we couldn't imagine Jason Frasor staying with the team for long, and though he has been effective, getting any asset that has MLB-potential and is younger than the Sausage King is a move towards where the team wants to go.

E-Jax is one of those classic "We Can Fix Him" pitchers, whose stuff is electric and who still seems as though he has yet to reach his ceiling. Jackson's also posting a 3.43 xFIP this year, which is actually better than Ricky Romero's. You could look it up.

Also: Mark Teahen is pretend-Canadian.

11:24 am - The Rasmus Thing: Kenny's colleague Jon Paul Morosi floats the notion that the Jays would be looking at flipping Edwin Jackson for Colby Rasmus. SOMEONE GETZ ME TEH SMELLIN' SALTZ!!

11:46 am - Rosenthal tweets: " surely sending more than EJax, potential FA, to for Rasmus, who is under control for 3 more yrs.

Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!! Rasmus!!!

12:04 pm - ESPN's Buster Onley reports that Zach Stewart was part of the E-Jax/SecretCanuck trade, along with Jason Frasor. So one of the Jays' top ten prospects is now gone. (There's an argument as to whether if Stewart would have been a top ten prospect next year, we supposed. Still. You gotta give something to get something.)

12:46 pm - At this point, a multitude of outlets have the Rasmus deal happening, with Marc Rzepczynski headed to St. Louis along with Jackson. Possibly Dotel as well.

Colby! Colby! Colby! OOOOH!

3:51 PM - We'll compose ourselves over the next few hours and pull together something a little more coherent and a little less fanboy-ish.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Inscrutable Mr. Anthopoulos

That word keeps coming to mind lately when we think of Alex Anthopoulos: "Inscrutable". The more that we think that we have started to figure out the Jays GM, the more that we realize that we truly don't understand him at all.

There's something vaguely infuriating about trying to pin down AA, in part because we feel as though he's offered up a sufficient evidence as to his thought process and mindset. When the man speaks in interviews, he speaks in long sentences, with multiple tangents, all fully contextualized. And while some speak multitudes to obscure their true intentions, we still get the sense that Anthopoulos wants to be as open with the media and the public as possible without putting himself at a competitive disadvantage.

But even with all of that context, we find it hard to use any sort of shorthand to assess what sort of moves might be on the Jays agenda for the rest of this week, through the rest of the season and into next year. On the surface of it, the notion that the Jays may be scouting Heath Bell or Ubaldo Jimenez seems odd, as our instinct is to think of the team as "sellers". And yet, when we look at the signings and trades that the team has executed over the past two seasons, it's hard for us to say: "That's not the sort of deal that this team would make."

To torture an analogy, AA doesn't leave a trail of breadcrumbs. He leaves a massive pile of them, and you're left staring at them thinking: "Well this is just no help at all."

(Both the Miguel Olivo and Anthony Gose trades keep coming to mind as we parse through all of the trade rumours, as neither was anticipated beforehand and neither fit into any sort of mould as a "type" of deal.)

The upside of this is that the Jays don't seem to be locked into a philosophy that would preclude them from doing anything at this point. (Okay: They won't trade for Carlos Beltran. We can pretty much guarantee that.) We don't see the sense of trading prospects for a veteran at this point in the season, but by the same token, it wouldn't surprise us to see the Jays take a stab at someone who a team was looking to unload.

We often get asked to put on our Carnac soothsayer hat and predict what the Jays are going to do with trades and acquisitions, and we can honestly say that we really don't have any idea what they're going to do between now and either of the trade deadlines. We're basically just closing our eyes and expecting the unexpected.

And in a way, isn't that a good thing?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Robbie Alomar post

So Roberto Alomar has officially been enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame, taking his place amongst the immortals in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

(how's that for poetic?)

As thrilled as I was to watch the ceremony, perhaps the biggest benefit to watching the spectacle was the realization that dawned on me:

I really didn't need Alomar to be inducted to tell me he was a great baseball player.

I was 15, 16 years old during that first World Series year, and as little (or as much?) as I knew about baseball, I knew that Roberto Alomar was the best player I had ever seen. Was I thinking to myself, during that magical 1992 season, that I was watching a Hall of Famer? Probably, maybe, I'm not sure.

But I know I was thinking that players like Alomar had the rarest of talents. There was literally nothing he couldn't do on a baseball field. Defensive wizardry (watch all those replays where he dives out of range to snag impossible ground balls - what gets me every time is just how fast he pops up and gets the ball off), that quick line drive bat, the ability to drive the ball seemingly exactly when the team needed it, and speed on the basepaths.

And much like Joe Carter, memories of Alomar invariably come back to that iconic home run, that "fuck you Dennis Eckersley" shot in the '92 ALCS. On the broadcast the other night, Buck and Tabler were bantering about how that shot - not Joe's - was the biggest home run in Blue Jays history..... and I'd be hard pressed to argue. "Touch 'em all, Joe" was unforgettable, but Robbie's was the springboard to the first and sweetest.

If I was interested in being objective, I could go on about how the tail end of Alomar's Blue Jay career was, um, less than graceful... but I've pretty much whitewashed that from memory and whitewashed it shall stay.

All that remains in my mind's eye are visions of Alomar's on-field brilliance and what he meant to the club. Without his contributions, the Blue Jay franchise might still be flailing away in search of their first trip to the top of the baseball mountain. I know what he meant to the team and I know what he meant to me as a baseball fan.

Seeing him "officially" take his place among the games all-time greats was nothing more than icing on the cake.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Miscellaneous on a Saturday Night

But first, an apology of sorts
Let's just get this out of the way. I've been a bad blogger for the better part of the season. I know it, you know it, let's not pretend otherwise. One post weekends have become the norm rather than the exception.

It's not from a lack of interest from me - far from it. This team seems to be so close (yet so far) from contending that it's exhilarating watching the pieces slowly fall into place, following along in the game of AA Ninja.

It's just about time, man. Busy work schedule, occasional travel, two kids, summer holidays..... so cliche yet so unavoidable. So there you go. It's not you, it's me.

Trade deadline - chips?
Old Dutch plain ripple and a tub of dill pickle dip FTW.

No but seriously.... with lots of periphery chatter about how hard Anthopoulos is working the phones (big surprise), could something actually be, y'know, up?

Generally with AA, where there's smoke there isn't fire, and the big moves come out of the blue. Thing is, with all the reports of the Jays working the phones.... they aren't actually tied to anything big. So are they?

Yes, of course I'm just stirring the pot and playing the proverbial devil's advocate here. But it's fun so what the fuck, right? If the Jays were to do something "big", who's in play?

How about Travis d'Arnaud? I know, I know, and I know. But hear me out first....

I'm just as protective of future studliness as the next guy.... but if the team plans on contending within the next few seasons, and it's generally accepted that even the studliest of catching studs playing AA ball won't be impact players at the major league level for a few seasons beyond that, isn't he then a prime chip?

And does anyone really believe that JP Arencibia is really a .217 hitter? Isn't it reasonable to assume he can at least be a .250 player (yes, I know. Batting average hahahaha) with 25-HR power & passable defence? And isn't that pretty close to all-star production at the position?

I'm just saying, a top-20 prospect at a premium position could bring back a pretty big return at a position of weakness. Whatever that may be....

The end of summer (of Jo-Jo)
Kind of says it all that the news is buried this far down in the post. And doesn't warrant more than two sentences.

So what are the missing pieces?
The d'Arnaud bit above got me thinking.... just what exactly are the holes in the Blue Jay roster that need to be filled for this team to take a legitimate run in the next few seasons?

We can reasonably assume that AA's phone calls do not revolve around acquiring a catcher, first baseman, shortstop, third baseman (the job is Lawrie's), or right fielder.

Center fielder can't be seen as a priority given what's on the roster and coming up (Gose)... unless Colby Rasmus is indeed "in play". And you would think that left field is kinda sorta maybe reserved for one of Snider or Thames, at least in the near-term.

So what does that leave? Another big arm in the rotation? Are Aaron Hill's days numbered? A stealth upgrade at a position covered above? More "future pieces"?

In reality, this is all an exercise in futility. Trying to get in the head of Alex Anthopoulos? Forget it.

On Kevin Slowey and Heath Bell
Is Slowey really much more than a refined Jesse Litsch? And are we really still pursuing relievers for comp pick purposes?

On Brett Lawrie
8 for his last 15 Vegas at-bats. Bring him up before he gets hit again.

On Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick
They are Hall of Famers. And I will be watching tomorrow and remembering '92 and '93.

Holy shit, those were good times.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Various and Sundry Bits for a Steamy Friday

No Friday Tweet Bag this week. Y'all are on vacation and/or melting anyhow, and no one even commented on last week's edition. The Tweet Bag will return when enough people beg me to do one. Instead, a few random bits of chaff gathered from hither and yon.

Falling Slowly for Kevin Slowey: According to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, the Jays have scouted the rehab starts of Twins' starter Kevin Slowey. This isn't the first time we've heard of such a thing, as there were previous rumblings in the Spring (and maybe even into last year.) But we'll admit to being a bit underwhelmed by the prospect of a fifth starter with decent control, but who has a hard time breaking 89 MPH with his fastball.

Slowey's career xFIP is 4.17, which isn't exactly sterling. He is essentially the Anglo version of Carlos Villaneuva (4.04 career xFIP), although it is an open questions as to whether if Villaneuva sticks around much longer.

A Casual Meander Through the Heath: It seems absurd to think that the Jays would give anything up for a brief rental on Padres closer Heath Bell, but as we tweeted last night, the Miguel Olivo deal to get additional draft picks provides some hint as to the method behind such Anthopoulosean madness.

Should the Jays somehow find a manner of extracting Bell from the Padres for something less than the value they'd receive for two early 2012 draft picks, don't go getting attached. Bell may still be an All-Star by reputation, but his strikeout rate has plummeted this year (from 11.06 per nine innings in 2010 to 6.69 this year.) His xFIP has jumped almost a full point (2.98 to 3.84), and hitters' contact rates are soaring against him this year (from 57.1% to 66.2% for balls out of the zone, and from 84.0% to 91.2% for balls in the zone.)

Take a soon-to-be 34 year-old Heath Bell with those sorts of declining numbers, take him out of the spacious confines of PetCo Park and drop him into the AL East, and you've got yourself next year's bullpen migraine.

Saving It for the Second Half : Rajai Davis' career OPS splits are both pretty stark, and very much in keeping with what we've seen so far this year. Davis has posted a .637 OPS (.288 OBP/.349 SLG) throughout his career in the first half, while cooking up a .757 OPS (.349/.407) in the second half.

Rajai's first half OPS this year clocked in at an ugly .621 (.264/.357), but here's hoping that the Seattle series (4-for-7, two doubles, four stolen bases) augurs well for the remainder of the year. It wouldn't change our view that Rajai should serve essentially as a fourth outfielder and pinch runner next year, but a productive Davis would add a different dimension to the Jays' offense over the balance of the schedule.

A Great Weekend for Canadian Baseball: We're not sure how someone could overlook it at this point, given all of the attention is has received, but make sure to tune into the Hall of Fame ceremonies this weekend. (1 PM this Sunday on all of Sportsnet's regions). It should be an extraordinary afternoon for Canadian baseball fans. With two essential pieces of the Jays' glory years in Robbie Alomar and Pat Gillick being inducted, it will give fans the chance to ponder those tremendous seasons, and reflect on how they came to be.

(And for more Roberto reminiscences, be sure to check out Chris Jaffe's piece over on the Hardball Times, which lists some of Alomar's greatest achievements with the Jays and elsewhere. A very fun piece.)

But we're also equally excited for the induction of former Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne. Van Horne is a great raconteur, and we look forward to the chance to revisit the proud history of baseball in Montreal. Van Horne's was the play-by-play voice in my head in my very first days of playing baseball in whatever patch of mowed grass we could find in my neighbourhood.

Thinking of the Expos is a bittersweet task these days, but hearing Van Horne's assured baritone will certainly bring to mind those great teams from the early 1980's.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wither the Level of Excellence...and What Next?

As the ever-vigilant Brad Fullmer Fan is fond of pointing out, we have a knack around here for sucking the fun out of things. We'd like to think that it has something to do with being too analytical, and unable to enjoy something without sniffing around it and observing it from every angle.


So, when we heard that the Jays were going to retire Robbie Alomar's number 12 on July 31st, we'll confess that "happiness" may have been a little late to our party of emotions. (Whike surprise and confusion were right there at the door, waiting to come in.) Mostly, we were left wondering: If we're going to start retiring numbers, then what's the deal with the Level of Excellence?

Truth is (and we're pretty sure we've said this elsewhere), we liked the idea that the Jays honoured some of their historical greats, but kept their former uniform digits in circulation. Every time Scott Downs came into a game in recent years, wearing number 37, we thought of our patron saint. And it made us happy.

Now, with this announcement, the Jays essentially have two levels of honourable recognition, and some players are more honoured than others. Which is just a bit confusing to us.

This isn't to say that we don't like the idea of retiring Robbie's number. If that's the new tradition, then we're cool with that. But what about Stieb or Tony Fernandez? And eventually, Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay? Do we have to get into a discussion of who belongs on which level of recognition. Will there be Members of the Order of Blue Jays? And maybe you ascend into becoming a Companion of the Order of Blue Jays at some point?

(We just totally confused our American readers with that last bit.)

And if you do begin to stratify the Blue Jays legends, who belongs in which strata? We're sure that part of the argument for having Alomar be first amongst legends is the fact that he's the first Blue Jay to be recognized by the Hall of Fame, though we'd also argue that just five of his 17 seasons were spent in Toronto (magnificent as they were), and that the recognition is as much for his excellence as a member of the Orioles and Indians as it is for his exceptional contributions to the Blue Jays.

Sure, Alomar was probably the best player to ever play for the Blue Jays (aside from Scott Rolen, of course...GBOAT!) But did he make the most substantial contribution to the franchise over his career?

Don't get us wrong here. We're not trying to diminish Alomar at all, and we're definitely not saying that the Jays need to maintain the status quo in these matters. Traditions are great, but it's also fun to be there at the dawn of a new tradition. What we're probably saying is that if the Jays are going to begin retiring numbers, then 37, 1, 25 and 32 should also probably be placed on a shelf for the time being.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Meaning of Jason Frasor

Rather than post what we'd planned and redundantly add to the already excellent pieces written on Frasor's tenure with the Jays by the NatPost's John Lott and the Score's Dustin Parkes, we will offer three brief bits for you.

(Also, we don't feel like passing judgment on players for a while, because we hate the comments that we get in return. "OOOOH! Joey Caaaahter was grrrrrreat! Two of them World Series, awll becawse of him and his big batting bat bats. You cain't aaaahrgue wiff dat wiff your wrong stats!")

1) Jason Frasor never wore the T-Bird cap. You could look it up, or we could just give you this link that proves it. What this means is that the crappy black caps have been around for a long, long, long time. Long live the T-Bird!

2) In Jason Frasor's first game as a Jay, the team's lineup included Dave Berg, Chris Gomez, Josh Phelps and Chad frickin' Hermansen. (Hands up if you remembered that Chad Hermansen played for the Jays. Or played pro baseball anywhere...If you raised your hand, YOU LIE!!! LIAR FACE!) There were some cruddy teams over the past decade and a half, and that was definitely one of them.

3) Actually, there is no three. We just want to mash our hands into the keyboard and see if you'll notice. l;dkj fniqweee ncnahfvslkjsfedvuio4589q3489opqc23bu ioppppppqwerfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffaw8o790tqwfeo qweiopqwepoi8qw4reiopiopiopiopiop qw 9qwe2r3iprdrdtgyhjklrtdfg6yh7juk tfryhuji tgyyyykl 4r5 uy8nm4t5r gbynujh7.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A two-sentence post on.... Joe Carter love

Statistically speaking, it's pretty hard to argue that Joe Carter was probably less than an ideal middle of the order hitter, and using those same statistical measures, it's also difficult to make the case that Joe was among the best players on the teams he played for.

But he was also a middle of the order hitter for two World Series winning teams and delivered what will likely be the greatest baseball memory for a generation of Blue Jay fans, so really..... what more could you ask of him?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tweet Bag - Your Tweeted Questions Answered...Definitively!

So, we were considering taking a pass on the Tweet Bag this week, mostly because we figured it would be a waste of energy to write up this here blog entry if you all were headed out to the tamed wilderness to sit drink and bask in the glow of sunsets over the lake, whilst we remain stuck to our couch, icing our allegedly repaired knee back to health.

But we're not that petty. (Also, we may have just watched She's Out of My League for the third time, which probably indicates that we could stand to be more productive. Still, that Alice Eve is a looker.)

Let's roll.

First up, asks: Does David Cooper have any trade value whatsoever? Did we just become best friends? Do you wanna do karate in the garage?

Sadly, we had to look up that pop culture reference, only to realize that we knew it from the trailers. Still...have you seen how pretty Alice Eve is?

In spite of some pretty glorious PCL stats, we can't think of a team that really has a need for a player like Cooper. First base just seems like a spot where anyone with a bat can get plugged in, and so most teams would likely have some kid who was drafted as a shortstop who they'll need to move there. It's not to say that we don't think Coop is devoid of value, because his Las Vegas numbers were/are better Brett Wallace's. But he'll need to post another good half year in AAA before he really starts to push his way into any team's plans.

Go go go! asks: With Janssen about to come back, who gets sent down? Perez? Or is a trade going to free up a spot?

Good question, and one that we hadn't really pondered until just now. There's some time, we presume, between Casey's call up from the treehouse, so it could be that there is someone on the roster who'll move to the DL (gulp) in the interim. Still, all things being equal, we'd concur with your assessment as to the most likely candidate to go. We like Luis Perez quite a bit, but his last handful of performances have been less than exemplary. Also, the Jays might want to send him down to get stretch him out a bit so that if he returns to starting next year, they're not faced with cutting his innings at 150 or fewer.

And another thing! (who is a dude named Wayne from Edmonton) asks: Do you see Loewen in the jays line up this year. Or is he a long term project?

Loewen has already been a bit of a long-term project for the Jays, having spent three years in their system, turning himself into a pretty credible hitter. The catch is that if the Jays recall him, they have to be somewhat certain that they are going to stick with him, because he is out of options due to his dark days in the OriLOLes system. Still, we'd figure that the Jays likely give him a shot this season if a roster spot is available due to someone hitting the DL. (Double gulp.)

After this season, we'd figure that the Jays will let Loewen explore his options on the market in case there is another team who might be able to use him. It's the honourable thing to do.

Next! Someone flatter us...! Hey you sexy son of a bitch. How much better of a ballplayer would Eric Thames be if he would learn to take more walks?

Sexy? You don't know the half of it. We've got a week and a half of beard going right now, so we kinda look like that werewolf Alcide from True Blood. Without all the muscles, mind you. Sookeh!

As for Thames, yeah, we've developed a bit of dread over the past week or so about his free swinging ways. Yes, all is peachy keen right now, but even a former Silver Slugger winning 2B who puts up big counting stats can see his career crumble beneath his feet if he doesn't work to curb his free swinging ways, so Thames isn't immune to such things.

(Mind you, Thames drew 23 walks in 241 PAs at Las Vegas this year, and for his minor league career drew a walk about once every 11 PAs. So while we wouldn't call that one of his "tools", he's shown that he can be patient enough. Given some time, we're optimistic that this will come.)

Did someone refer obliquely to Aaron Hill? asks: If Aaron Hill is not here next year, who will be his replacement? Maybe If Aaron Hill was not here, who would be? Tenses...

Hey man, keep fighting the fight for good grammar. Respect. As for Hill, it's really hard to say if he will be back, or who might replace him. There's no obvious candidates in the minors who are pushing their way onto the MLB roster, so the replacement would likely come from outside the franchise. As we've noted before, we're not a soothsayer, so we'd prefer not to float out random trade scenarios.

Speaking of which... asks: Morrow for Rasmus - your fair and balanced thoughts please.

We love Rasmus, but good starting pitching is really hard to find, and the ceiling that Morrow has is just too high to ship him out for a bat. And sure, CF is a "premium position", as Alex Anthopoulos is fond of saying, but the San Francisco Giants won the the World Series last season with journeyman Andres Torres in the middle of the outfield. Meanwhile, their expensive free agent acquistion Aaron Rowand languished on the bench. (Our point being, you can shell out resources of personnel or money to get a premium player at a premium position, and then win with a guy who's not that much better than Rajai Davis.)

More? Why not? asks: with Reyes stumbling and healthy pitchers working to get back what are our options in Aug and Sept?

We think the Jays are likely to just ride this Jo-Jo thing right through until the end of the year. They've come this far already, why cast him out now? But if there are vacancies, we can see the Jays looking to Zach Stewart again, as well as to Brad Mills, and Jesse Litsch will eventually be allowed back. And one more name to remember: We keep hearing AA mention Joel Carreno, who is on the 40-man roster and is outperforming Zach Stewart at New Hampshire. (3.32 ERA, 115Ks / 49 BBs in 97.2 IPs.) He could get a call in a pinch.

Encore! asks: Did think "If Jays lose a few, MVP chance good, if Jays win I'll come back and 'grit it out' thus MVP chance good"?

Okay, we know 140 characters is a squeeze, but we're not entirely sure what you're getting at here. But we've had a few questions around the MVP and Bautista, and we're just going to say: Let go of that thought. Let it go. It's just going to hurt to damn much when the last two months of the season play out, and it all points to someone else.

Bautista will get votes, to be sure. But when a writer who we consider vaguely enlightened (that's you, Mr. Jeff Blair) hoarsely sputters out that he would pick Adrian Gonzalez over Bautista because his team is in contention, you know that there are a great many writers who remain locked into that mindset. (It's partly why we hate the "valuable" aspect of the award...we wish they would just refer to it as the "Player of the Year", and be done with it. Alas, that's just one of many impossible battles that we fight in our imagination.)

And as for what the One Man Gang is thinking? We wouldn't imagine that he's got his eyes on the MVP at this point. But if he did, there is no better way to make your case than to be in the lineup and performing at your best.

Last one! asks: What does your ideal Trade Deadline look like for the Jays? (What moves do you want to see?)

It's hard to believe that the Trade Deadline is just a couple of weeks away at this point, but there it is. We wouldn't expect the Jays to be overly busy on the day of the deadline, as Anthopoulos doesn't seem to be wired in that way. He made the Yunel deal in the days after the All Star break last year, so if there is a deal to be done, we can see him letting rip in the next week or waiting until August to work deals through waivers.

We've heard some speculate on Carlos Villaneuva as potential trade bait, and he is probably the most attractive piece that the Jays have to dangle at this point. However, the Jays still have one more year of arbitration rights on him, so there isn't a great urgency to ship him out. Not to exemplify our perpetual fence-sittingness, but we figure it's a 50/50 chance that Villaneuva gets moved.

As for what we'd like to see: We'd prefer that the Jays only be active if it is worth being active. There's no urgency for them to move a player at the deadline, as they can improve the team now or in the offseason. What can we say...we're not big on the trade speculation.

And with that, we bid you the finest of weekends, my ambulatory friends. We're likely to be tweeting often from our couch, facing out our rear window, so stop by and say hi if you're still in range.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kill Your Idols - The Joe Carter Takedown

If there's one thing we tell people about what this blog has meant to us since we started it so many years ago, it's that writing this much about the Jays and baseball in general has fundamentally changed the way we look at the game. We'd like to think for the better. Sometimes, we're sure you'd disagree.

This isn't to say that the changes in our outlook have been a steady march up the hills to get a greater perspective on the valley below (though it would be nice to think of it in that manner.) Instead, we've meandered through the woods somewhat, discarding certain points of reference (batting average, for instance), only to come back to it later, albeit in a different manner.

(To wit: This year, we've started to gain a renewed appreciation for batting average as a certain kind of indicator, though one which still remains far beneath OBP or even wOBA.)

We've always understood that with this new sense of the game, our views on our past heroes would be open for examination given a second look through their numbers. And in general, we've hesitated to even really begin this parsing process, in part so that we could leave our nostalgic view of the Jays' glory years intact.

(Though if there is an argument for going back through those memories, it is that in recent months, we've found that the sepia-toned memories of the World Series winners has clouded the judgment of the fanbase as they continue to cultivate an impatient anger towards the lack of progress in the development of Alex Antopoulos' plan.)

Still, if we're going to do this, we'd probably choose Joe Carter as a jumping off point because of the extent to which he helped to tarnish his legacy in his later years with the club. So it hurts us a lot less than, say, a look at Tony Fernandez. (Also, when we jokingly floated this topic on Twitter, we were surprised at just how outsized the love for Carter remains to this day.)

So lets pile up on some high quality glucosomine tablets and work our finger joints until they hurt. So here's why Joe Carter was not the player you may have thought.

1) Joe Carter was never the best player on his team: Carter's best season with the Jays was likely 1991, when he posted at 4.1 WAR (using Baseball Reference's version of the stat.) That's the 39th best season in the history of the franchise, tied with Marco Scutaro's 2008 campaign. (Which isn't terrible, of course. But we're not exactly looking to get Scoots on the Level of Excellence either.)

His career rWAR as a Jay is a 5.7, dragged down by negative numbers posted in his final three seasons with the club. All-time, Carter ranks tied for 35th amongst Jays in the category, tied with Tony Batista and Manny Lee. Let that roll around your head for a moment. Then add in that Pretty Alex Gonzalez, Frank Catalanotto, Eric Hinske, Orlando Hudson and Otto Velez all rank ahead of Carter.

And even if you want to strip out the defensive metrics and look just at offensive WAR, Carter still only manages to land 22nd on the All-Time list, behind Hinske, Alex Rios, Kelly Gruber, and José Cruz.

In Carter's 1992 season (in which he chafed at not winning the AL MVP), he posted a 2.4 rWAR, which was the sixth best amongst Blue Jays position players (behind Manny Lee! Just .1 higher than Candy Maldonado!) Yes, Carter hit a bunch of homers and drove in a lot of runs in the middle of a go-go offense, but he posted an .808 OPS for the season, including a .309 OBP. His third place finish in the MVP voting that year was a gift from the writers, still too focused on the RBI as the measure of a productive hitter.

2) Joe Carter made a lot of outs: In his seven years with Toronto, Joe Carter made 3205 outs in 4494 plate appearances. His OBP over that period? .308, a number which would engender much scorn these days. Carter never posted an OBP higher than .330 with the Jays, which he managed in 1991. Beyond that, he scraped barely above .300 until 1997, when he managed to snag his requisite 100 RBI season with an OBP of .283 and a SLG of .399.

3) Joe Carter was The Manager's type of guy: If there is one thing that buoyed Carter's status in Toronto for many of the years that he played here, it was the insistence of The Manager that he hit cleanup, and that he hit like a cleanup hitter. Go up there and drive in runs. Swing the bat, hard and often. And you'll be rewarded by keeping the fourth spot in the lineup for as long as you keep hacking away.

Once the bottom fell out, and good players started to leave Toronto, The Manager stubbornly left Carter where he wished to stay while better hitters were shunted out of the lineup or out of town. Keep piling up those counting stats, and we'll keep giving you the opportunity to do so.

(And if you don't remember how ugly Carter looked in desperately trying to attain the 100 RBI plateau in 1997, trust us when we tell you that it was awful to see.)

Cito loved Carter, and couldn't wait to mould John Olerud into a hack and slash hitter like Joe. And when Olerud couldn't suck like that, they shipped him out of town.

4) Joe Carter couldn't carry Fred McGriff's jock: Sure, Carter got to hit the big home run, and we suppose that makes him a winner. But you know what sort of numbers Fred McGriff posted in the seven years that Carter was in Toronto? A .376 OPS, .517 SLG, for an OPS of .893 while Carter managed the aforementioned .308 to go with a .473 SLG, for an OPS of .781. The mythology states that the Jays couldn't win until Carter came to town, but we'd hazard a guess that the change had more to do with Roberto Alomar's inclusion in that deal.

None of this is to say that Carter was a terrible player. In fact, if you were to swap out his name for another, one might be able to make the case that he was kind of a greatish Jay. But strip away some of the importance placed upon counting stats like homers and RBI, and Joe Carter's place in the pantheon of Jays greats looks considerably shakier.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thoughts at the Halfway-Not-Really-Halfway Break

Hey! Did you miss us last week? We were laid up after a bit of reconstructive surgery (no, really), and doped up like Mark Renton when he sank into the carpet listening to Lou Reed's Perfect Day. At one point in our recovery, we swear we saw Jesse Litsch crawling across our ceiling. So while we were able to take in a lot of baseball, our ability to actually sit up and blog about it was fairly limited. Nevertheless, here we are. Back again.

(Or did you not even notice that we were gone? We're cool with that, we's not as though we crave your approval or anything. ROAWR MOAR LUV PLEEZ!)

There are a few contextual pieces that we'll be working on in the next week or so, and we'll likely get caught up in the All Star shenanigans over the next few days, so there will be plenty to update this week. Stay tuned.

Briefly, though, we had a few superficial whims that we thought we'd share to help us warm up the blogging muscle again. We'd hate to pull something.

Eric Thames Is More Than a Facefull of Hair: We were inclined not to get overly excited about the Jays' rookie outfielder, given that prospect experts were lukewarm on him and the ballpark in New Hampshire was held up as a power-inflator. Well, colour us pleasantly surprised.

That swing still seems longer than Tarkovsky Trilogy, but Thames gets his bat through the hitting zone so quickly that it hardly seems to matter. Sure, he's only suited up for 28 games, but the numbers thus far (.382 wOBA, .212 ISO, .876 OPS) are all positively dreamy. (Enough so that we're willing to overlook some of the defensive weaknesses that he's shown, in part because he's also a max effort guy defensively, and we can see his routes to balls improving with time.)

We're loving Thames' presence in two-hole, and we can actually see him staying with the big club from here on out, and for many years to come. The future, as they say, is now.

It's Getting Better All the Time: Mired in an offensive funk (and not the awesome George Clinton sort of funk that you gotta have) for months, it's great to see that a couple of additions to (and notable subtractions from) the lineup have created a much more fearsome scoring machine in the past week or so. This is especially true now that Travis Snider is hitting the ball in actuality in the same manner that he slugs it in our fondest dreams. (Drew/Tao Same Guy Alert: We were pretty much writing this post until we noticed that Drew ghostran with it before we got there.)

Add to that Thames' mighty uppercut, the ongoing awesomnity of Yunel Escobar and a reinvigorated Rajai Davis (who still tries to bunt with runners on second and two outs, but eventually swings the bat and drives in said runners), and the Jays' lineup starts to look imposing around the One Man Gang and Adam Lind.

We're not sure that the pitching of the Clevelanders was necessarily the right test to tell us whether if this offense has started to crank it up and turn it around, but what we saw over the last four games (and since the series against the Phillies, frankly) gives us plenty of hope for the second portion of the schedule.

Bullpen Solutions: So it seems as though the Jays bullpen, constructed over the offseason with cheap-ish deposed former closers, has eventually played out the way we should have figured in the first place: With a bunch of pitchers hurling their way out of the closer role.

So what's the solution? Does the team continue to send Frank Francisco out in the ninth because he throws hard, misses bats (allegedly) and because "he's the guy". Do they give Jon Rauch opportunities here or there, or even let Jason Frasor get his licks in?

Our solution? Well, at the moment, our solution is on the DL. But when he comes back and gets a few innings in, we'd be tempted to let Casey Janssen have a shot at the ninth inning spots. He's posted a 3.12 xFIP thus far this year, and is actually missing bats much more than he used to (8.13 K/9, which is more than Frasor, Rauch or Rzep.)

At this point, we're not sure the Jays would have much to lose in giving him a try out in the role. (Other than Type A status for Francisco, though he seems eager to lose that all for himself.)

Final Thoughts: It's great to be back, kids. See you on the Twitter today, and tonight during the José Home Run Soiree.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A One-Sentence Post on...New Snider

When he left early in the season, Travis Snider (always the Great Big Giant Pasty White Rosy-Cheeked Hope to us) looked like a bad impression of Dave Kingman's worst seasons, but now he's returned looking like Wally Joyner in his good seasons, which - for those of you who are too young to really recall either of these 1980's - is actually a pretty solid trade off.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Quickly on a Sunday: end of Juan

If "Who is Juan Rivera?" was the question on Jeopardy, then the category had to be "Obvious Blue Jay DFA's" (with apologies to Jayson Nix, natch).

And so it ends, the Juan Rivera era. Through minimal (ok, some....) fault of his own, he just never seemed like he was long for the organization; a placeholder until management deemed the younger bats were ready, or more likely, until there were no further excuses readily available for not handing all those at-bats to players who could be the future. Travis Snider handling his demotion to AAA with grace and implementing all the changes asked of him, plus Eric Thames producing huge in his limited major league life had to be the final nails in the coffin.

For the record, I never find joy in a player losing his job. It's part of the reason I sometimes contemplate quitting The Twitter - it's just soooo easy to say shitty things about people - people! - you know nothing about other than a glimpse into what you want to believe that person is like viewed through a three hour window of baseball nightly. I'm sure Juan Rivera isn't a loafing loner who cares nothin' about nothin' "in real life", even if I've backhandedly expressed as much in 140 characters or less. That makes me the asshole, not him.

But Juan is gone, and gawdammit... I'm pretty excited about it.

Not (so much) because I wanted him off the team, but rather, because we're getting closer to the team we (if I may be so bold) all wanted to see coming out of spring. But is it false hope?

Do we risk having our collective dreams shattered if these baby Jays - with everyday at-bats given to the likes of Snider, Thames, Arencibia, and eventually Lawrie - go out and massively disappoint in the second half? Then what?

That's part of religiously following a baseball franchise, maybe (probably?) moreso than any other sport. The best team always seems to be the next crop coming up.

Let's just hope this version of the club is the one that keeps our attention on Toronto and not Las Vegas.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yes, it is a Halladay post

So Roy is coming home this weekend.

Couple things about that sentence. First draft had "Roy Halladay" in place of just "Roy".... but it didn't feel right. Still. Had to go with Roy. The second thing I'm not so sure about. "Home".

If you're a long-ish time reader of this blog, you'll know by now that I've written a lot about the Doc. Well, "a lot" being used subjectively here, because prolific I ain't. Let's just say I've posted more about Halladay than probably any other singular figure, Blue Jay past or present. And maybe you're sick of it by now. I'll give you that. I kinda sorta maybe thought I would be too.

But I don't think I'm quite there yet.

Maybe because since the trade, nu-Roy has yet to emerge. It's not for lack of effort by the team, or by this guy in trying to find one. Jose Bautista is probably as close as it gets, and maybe by mid-contract he is that guy. Hey man, maybe he already is, you know?

And if Roy v2.0 has to be a pitcher, then pretty clearly it's going to be Ricky Romero. I love Ricky. He's a battler, he's fun to watch pitch, and he's pretty much everything you're looking for in your staff leader. You'll note I didn't say "ace". Do you think he's there yet? To these eyes, the fact we have to ask the question probably tells you the answer. That's no slight against Romero. Not in the least. But there was never a question with Roy.....

I PVR quite a few Blue Jay games every year. If I'm going to be out of the house or have to run off or put the kids to bed or whateverthefuck, I hit record and catch up later. Then I delete the game. Always. Except for once. One time I couldn't hit delete, and I still haven't. September 30, 2009. You'll remember that game as Roy's last start. You might remember it was a complete game shutout - his 2nd straight to close the season.... and his career as a Blue Jay.

I also remember it as the game where he drilled Big Papi as retaliation for Papelbon's ratfuck douche move in drilling Adam Lind the night before as he stood in looking for his fourth home run of the game. We knew he had to do it. Roy knew he had to do it. And he did it. Then he shut the door on the god damned Red Sox the rest of the way. Unforgettable.

Now is when I bring this full circle:

Do we really need another Roy Halladay? I mean, objectively - do we need to have that one guy to hang our hat on? Let's look at team success - I'd say 2 years post-Halladay we are no further ahead or behind, from a win-loss perspective anyway. It's pretty clear that in baseball, one player does not a team make. Not even a player like Doc. Sure, he took the Phillies to the NLCS (edited: thanks anon).... but you might want to ask Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Chase Utley, and the rest of that stacked team if they had anything to do with it.

So do we need another Halladay? For selfish reasons, sure... it's fun to have one. And if understatement's not your thing, then let's say it's fucking awesome to have a guy who routinely leaves opponents shaking their heads and has the unquestioned respect of the league.

Point being.... when I'm watching Halladay take on the Blue Jays this weekend, I'll no doubt reminisce fondly on his time with our - yes, our - team. But Halladay's moved on, and so have we.

Now go kick Roy Halladay's ass, Ricky.

(postscript: so Halladay doesn't start until Sunday, negating the Ricky-Roy showdown. Kind of takes the bite out of the whole "kick his ass, Ricky" thing.)