Tuesday, July 31, 2012
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.