Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye, Carnivore...

When the Blue Jays called Travis Snider up in 2008 at the age of 20, it seems as though the future had arrived. At least, that's what we all thought. Or hoped.
 
Throughout the six seasons that I've toiled - yes, toiled - over this blog, there is no player who has occupied its focus of more than Snider. And maybe that was the problem. It was easy to spend too much time heaping our hopes and aspirations for the future of the ballclub onto his broad shoulders, because it just seemed like he should be the next great star, and he would be with the Jays when they finally made their way back to the promised land of pennant races and playoffs. Jays fans were never going to accept less than superstardom from him because he came from what was then a barren minor league system into a big league team that floundered somewhere around the level of "vaguely respectable" for way too long.

Travis Snider might never have been that good, and by virtue of that fact, he'd have a hard time ever being good enough.


Prospect analysis is a relatively new phenomenon among the broader swath of baseball fans, and an increasing number approach these young players with a balanced mix of optimism and skepticism. But Snider's ascent predated this world view, and so you see volumes of tweets and comments that label him as a bust and a washout before he's really ever had the opportunity to prove himself everyday in the majors.

And that's always been my personal bone of contention with how he was treated by the Blue Jays, and by successive managers. In a game that is full of failure, Travis Snider was by alternate turns punished for small failures (by Cito) or protected from failure by John Farrell. Snider would go through a rough stretch in the big leagues as a 22 or 23 year-old, and would be rapidly dispatched to some level of baseball that he'd already conquered.

So in 2010, Aaron Hill would be granted 580 plate appearances as a 28 year-old to post a .665 OPS,  but 22 year-old Snider would be dispatched at the first sign of trouble, and permitted to stick for just half of the season despite putting up a .767 OPS.

It just doesn't add up to me. It feels weird. Having spent countless hours and having typed my fingers to the bone to defend the actions of the organization, their treatment of this one player remains such a profound mystery to me that I'm not sure that I'll ever look upon Alex Anthopoulos or John Farrell quite the same way. I mean, come on...Eric Thames is your starting left fielder? Really?

Maybe they'll be eventually be proven right, and the new reliever they've brought in might turn his decent fastball/curveball mix into a back of the bullpen arm. Maybe Snider is just a 15 homer, 15 steal outfielder who'll be marginal throughout the rest of his career. But it is profoundly disappointing to see the way that our favourite team dealt with this player who was a delight to watch.

So it's with profoundly mixed emotions that we see him off to greener pastures. I'm looking forward to watching Snider in the midst of a pennant chase, and rooting doubly hard for the Pirates to pull out a National League Central pennant. I'm also optimistic that he can grow and become the Major League star that many of us thought he would.

And as I hold that thought for a moment, I also think of this: A week before Snider's first game, another player made his Blue Jays debut. Through the rest of the season, Snider posted an .803 OPS in 24 games, while his new teammate put up a .648 OPS in 21 games to close out the season. That teammate was José Bautista.

Whatever the case, and however things play out from here...it was fun. The highs and lows, and all the anticipation and frustration. It was all good. I'll always be a Travis Snider fan. He'll always be the Great Big Giant Pasty White Hope to me. 

16 comments:

Stephen Gower said...

This has nothing to do with the trade, but I enjoy the picture you chose; I recently found a hat at Value Village sporting that very same T-bird logo. It is now my favourite hat to wear while playing softball.

Darren P said...

Appropriately wistful send-off. I don't like this move much. I guess I share your investment in Snider -- in my case it was partly because I am one of those fans who didn't know or care much about the minor leagues until relatively recently.

I had hoped to see him succeed as a Jay

Anonymous said...

My birthday was coming up and my wife said she'd get me a Snider jersey. I told her to hang in there at least until July 31st. Precisely for this reason.

I too had a personal investment in Snider, simply because after watching those two home runs in April 2009 at the Metrodome, I was sold. The laser from left filed on Opening Weekend last season. The game winning double after breaking his bat. Highs and lows you remember because he's your favourite Jay. This was a player I would get behind and see him grow into the talent we all believe he has. I took off work last summer to meet him and get his autograph. Hadn't been that excited to line up for an athlete since I was in elementary school. He was a nice guy.

Still, the organization absolutely short-changed him, and as thrilled as I was when he was called up only two weeks ago, the nagging inner voice said it was just a public showing to build trade value. We all try and guess what AA will do, and this is one time I'm sad I was correct.

May the GBGPWH feast on NL pitching down the stretch.

AvengingJM said...

My condolences.

Anonymous said...

If Snider was that good he would have broken out (see Mike Trout). We keep overrating our own prospects and are fooled into thinking they might be the next Bautista. Jose is a once in a team generation breakout.

The Ack said...

And that's the thing.

It's not even the trade that stings the most - though the finality of it fucking sucks - it's how we got to this point that burns and mystifies.

There are so many hands along the way that fucked this all up that it's impossible to point one finger at one person and say "You! You screwed this up!". But AA was the last to wash his hands of this mess and I don't know that he can honestly say he ever gave Snider a fair shake.

So on to the next one. Hey there, Anthony Gose. In the big leagues at 21, huh?

DW Budd said...

Tao:

I think the part of your comment that irks me the most about this frankly pathetic situation is this:

So in 2010, Aaron Hill would be granted 580 plate appearances as a 28 year-old to post a .665 OPS, but 22 year-old Snider would be dispatched at the first sign of trouble, and permitted to stick for just half of the season despite putting up a .767 OPS.

It just doesn't add up to me. It feels weird. Having spent countless hours and having typed my fingers to the bone to defend the actions of the organization, their treatment of this one player remains such a profound mystery to me that I'm not sure that I'll ever look upon Alex Anthopoulos or John Farrell quite the same way. I mean, come on...Eric Thames is your starting left fielder? Really?


Teams should go with the best option in most cases; here, sending Snider down to LV year after year, where he had put up OPS numbers of around 1.000 for three seasons, seems, well, infantile. Did the team think he could "learn" more down there? That there were additional credentials he could gain?

I'm left to think that what was going on is that the management (whether the GM or the on-field manager) actually thought that Rajai Davis, Mike McCoy, and Eric Thames were better options.

Is Travis Snider going to be a superstar? Probably not.

He doesn't have to be. He has a good chance to be a solid, quality major-league regular. I can easily see him being a .270 hitter, with 20 home runs per year. Every year. His upside is better than that - he may have what, a 10, 20 per cent chance to hit .280 with 30 long balls per year.

EITHER of those scenarios has value, and frankly, a hell of a lot more value than Rajai Davis provides. Davis, after roughly 2000 major league ABs, in which his OPS is .700, and at 31, has proven he has -zero- chance to be a quality regular.

Now, after messing around with Snider for three years, they basically give him away to the Pirates.

It's the sort of stupid move that has made Toronto a mediocre team for nearly 20 years.

brainiac said...

When I head about the trade I was both happy for him and sad for you Tao....

CJohnson said...

My friends all sent me their condolances because I've been harping on the Jays for keeping Snider down and treating him so bad for the last couple years. I think they were all tired of hearing me complain about how shitty Davis and Thames were and how Snider should be with the club full time. I never doubted, and I still don't, that he'll be a fantastic player given the chance to succeed. So sad to see him go :(

Oakville69 said...

I am still very sad about Snider being traded. He could have easily been an everyday LF. The bullpen addition won't compensate for the loss of an everyday player.

The jays didn't know what to do with travis , so they sold Low on him.

It's ironic that AA prides himself on acquiring below market value talent like Escobar & Rasmus yet gives up on Travis so easily.

I will be going to PNC Park next year to see Lunchbox play.

Rory said...

"It's the sort of stupid move that has made Toronto a mediocre team for nearly 20 years."
Honestly, I don't really think that's true. I cannot recall any trades of young players in a similar situation that really backfired. Michael Young? Well, very different, traded a minor leaguer for an established starting pitcher. Jeff Kent? Got a WS ring out of that one.
Can anyone think of a similar move that really backfired?
I do remember I was disheartened when they traded Felipe Lopez and Gabe Gross.

pumpedupjays said...

I too remember Travis first getting the call and thinking to myself "holy shit, we might have a young Albert Pujols on our hands." You know, that kind of ceiling...it's rare though and unlikely.

I don't understand the negativity here: "It's the sort of stupid move that has made Toronto a mediocre team for nearly 20 years." 20 years!! Yeah, they haven't won the WS in 20 years, but it doesn't mean they haven't tried. Gord Ash put in a sincere effort making trades that ultimately didn't work out. We all were on the Ricciardi bandwagon until that fizzled. Now AA has a vision that I think is legit. He obviously sees value in Lincoln so let's hold judgement for now. Plus the Jays are not the Yanks nor are they the Angels. You think they love having Wells on their team now? They made a hasty & emotional decision which AA is going to refrain from.

Anonymous said...

Let's all cry over the fat fuck who did jack-shit every time he played in the majors, while not giving a fuck about the other left-fielder we lost who did MORE THAN JACK-SHIT every time HE played in the majors.
Pure fucking stupidity.

@dwbudd said...

To be clear, the act of basically giving away a young player for a 31-year old middle reliever is not a specific dumb move the team has made. There is a variety, of course. This is just an example OF A stupid move.

And, yes. The Blue Jays have been mediocre for going on 20 years. The problem is not that they have not won the WS since 1994 (this is season 18 since then); it's that they have not made the Series. Or the playoffs. Or been serious contenders.

Not once.

They've not posted the consistent level of ineptitude (like Pittsburgh - 20 straight losing seasons, or KC). But if one honestly evaluates the Blue Jays, 1995-2011, is there a season when they were realistically in contention for a playoff spot, in mid-September, in any single year?

My memory may be flawed, but please do point to the season(s) when Toronto was a real contender.

The closest I personally recall was in 1998, when they entered September 9 games out of the WC (Boston), had an 11-game winning streak to (briefly) close to within 5 games, but did not ever close the gap. They were 9 games behind Boston at the AS break, and finished 30 games behind the Yankees.

THAT is the best they've managed in nearly 20 years.

Since 2000, the Jays have finished out of the WC (note: not the division title) by:

22, 21, 9, 30, 15, 8, 11, 9, 20, 10, and 10 games.

In 11 straight seasons, the closest the team has come to MAKING THE PLAYOFFS is 8 games.

So it's not like the complaint is simply that the Blue Jays have not won the Series since 1994.

Not all of the moves are due to AA (e.g., signing BJ Ryan) and some have been forced (essentially giving Roy Halladay away for what has turned out to be nothing). But even in the case of Halladay, the Toronto GM waited until he had absolutely zero leverage before pulling the trigger.

Is that "smart?"

I am not sure who is behind the genius of giving Rajai Davis 300 ABs this year, but why they would keep Snider in AAA ball, and play a 31-year old guy with a career OPS+ of 88 is really beyond me.

Does Davis add value this year to the team? Will he be better next year at 32 than he is at 31? When he's 33? His value is close to zero right now, and is unlikely to increase as he ages, so keeping him, let alone making him the starting LF, is just dumb.

vilifyingforce said...

Travis Snider wasn't dealt for a 31-year old middle reliever. Brad Lincoln is 27. A guy from the same draft class and Pittsburgh decided this season to move him to the pen, if he can develop a good change up(and the Jays are good for developing change ups) he could become an effective starter.

Roy Halladay wasn't given away, d'Arnaud who was rated the 17th best prospect in baseball before the season and #8 at the mid-season listing. They also got Drabek who looked like they were starting to put things together before he got hurt and Michael Taylor who was flipped for Brett Wallace who was then flipped for Anthony Gose, who was ranked #42 on Baseball America's mid-season top 50.

Anonymous said...

Snider was given his chance, but had some fundamental flaws in his approach at the plate. He did not have command of the strike zone, often swinging (and missing or meekly flying out) on pitches out of the zone.

And, he had a very big challenge with the major league curve ball. He was given his time in the minors to correct those weaknesses, and in my view, did not do enough to encourage AA or JF to keep him.

The determination of good or bad trade for the Jays will probably play out in the not to distant future, when we may see Snider sent down to the Pirates AAA team to work on the aforementioned challenges. If Lincoln can stay healthy, I believe he will be a mainstay of the bullpen for years to come (barring another trade).