Monday, September 10, 2012

There Will Be Hard Times: Vague Thoughts on 2012, 1995, Gose and Batting Coaches

Photo courtesy @james_in_to. He's swell, and has lots of awesome Jays pics here.
I won't bore you with a rehashing the past two months of Blue Jays baseball, which has rushed past us in a furious blur of crazy injuries and depleted lineups and...well...you were there. You get it. And if you were here right now, we'd hug it out, with a couple of additional back slaps and an extra squeeze, just to let you know we're there with you.

Then again, we haven't really had much to offer lately on the blog, which is attributable in part to real life getting a lot more hectic than I'd anticipated. With limited stores of strength and intestinal fortitude remaining, the prospect of tossing out a blog post that would certainly result in my being smeared as a puppet, Kool-Aid drinker, apologist or stooge seemed like a waste of my time and energy.

I try to take all of this with a sense of humour, but I don't always succeed. I've found my own mood about the Jays to be somewhat less than generous lately, which leads to some bile spillage on occasion. But I'm always a bit sad when I tweet out something sardonic on the state of the team, and see that my comment gets gleefully magnified by others. I guess some people can take it in good fun, and others just want to smear their anger over the state of the team across everything. Maybe we all just need to chill a bit.

Before getting on with the business of talking baseball, let me add one thing that I intend as a positive, but will likely sound negative on its surface: Things can always get worse. At some point, the Jays' fortunes will undoubtedly be worse than this. One thing you can rely on in life is that if you get through the bad times, there will be more on the way. You suffer, and you persevere. You take care of the things that are under your control and you don't get upset over the things that are beyond you. That's life.

What's Worse Than This?
If you were to construct a full roster of the greatest Blue Jays of all time, you'd likely find Devon White, Robbie Alomar, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter, John Olerud, Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado, Juan Guzman and Pat Hentgen all in the mix for that team. You might even be able to squeeze David Cone or Al Leiter into the mix, based on the high points of their tenure with the Jays.

And yet, a team with ALL of those aforementioned players went 56-88 in 1995, finishing dead last in the AL East and looking miserable doing it.

The majority of those players had just contributed to championship teams, and most of them would go on to be productive members of either the Blue Jays or other teams in the ensuing decade. So the point here, as much as there is one, is to point out that sometimes good teams have terrible seasons. Sometimes, teams play far above the level of their talent - Hello Baltymore! - and some teams play so far below it that it's hard to imagine how things got so bad.

The 1996 Blue Jays had a lesser roster than the year before, with Alomar, White, Molitor, Cone and Leiter out, replaced by Tomas Perez, Otis Nixon, Jacob Brumfield, Erik Hanson and Marty Janzen. And yet, the latter and lesser squad won 18 more games. They say you can't predict baseball, and you certainly can't expect to track progress in straight lines.

In the coming months, there are going to be many in the "spend to contend" camp who assure you that if ownership just got off its wallet and spent on acquiring free agents or expensive veterans to fill in the roster voids, this team would certainly contend. It sounds so easy, really. You plug in the numbers of "known quantities", and bingo-bango: There's your contender. But the truth is that 29 teams every year fail to win the World Series. Two-thirds of teams will fail to make the post-season, for a multitude of reasons. Some of this is foreseeable, but there's a big chunk of it that is dumb luck. And if someone props themselves up beside the flaming pile of a wrecked season and says "I told you so", just remind them that predicting failure in baseball is pretty much the easiest bet there is.

The Jays might "fix" everything this offseason. They might spend vast sums on all of the proven veterans, build a super-Strat-o-Rific monster team, have the benefit of great health and tremendous contributions from their emerging players, and they could still end up on the outside looking in.

If that's a problem for you, you might want to find another pursuit. There is no "Rookie" setting on the real game.

Anything Gose
I don't want to get too far out in front of the "Anthony Gose is back on track" story, but seeing him finally put a few good swings on balls reminded me of another Jays outfielder after his initial call-up.

In his first two seasons with the Jays, Alex Rios posted a .321 on base and a .390 slugging percentage, managing just 11 homers in 979 plate appearances. At the time, it seemed to me as though Rios was focused on just getting his bat on the ball, and not getting embarrassed at the plate. For a player who was 6'5", it seemed as though he was satisfied to just poke at the ball and manage to put it in play.

Gose's approach in the early days has included him trying to drop lots of bunts, a skill at which he is oddly deficient in spite of his apparent affection for it. He's also taken lots of weak and late swings, hacking down on the ball and rarely lifting it with any authority.

Rios was three years older than Gose before he started to really settle in and start swinging with some vigour, swatting 41 homers and posting a .352 OBP/.505 SLG in the 1209 plate appearances that made up his third and fourth seasons. With another year of seasoning at Triple-A next year, Gose might prove yet that he's more than a slash and burn, fourth outfielder.

Two Batting Coaches?
Chad Mottola's reputation continues to grow, as Gose's improvement coincided with some additional time spent with his batting coach in both Las Vegas and after they both received the September callup.

It's always difficult to know how much impact coaches have on players, but if there's something positive that Mottola can contribute at the big league level, I see no reason why the Jays wouldn't add him as an additional hitting coach for next year. So long as there is some agreement between Mottola and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy on the approach they want to take to addressing specific players, an additional set of eyes on the coaching staff is a pretty minor financial investment that could pay dividends at the plate.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well brother, I unlike a lot of others am still looking at the bright spots of the season, few though they may be. Casey Jannsen becoming a dominant back end guy. EE finding his steady stroke. Morrow looking like the ace we hoped he could be.

I also don't believe in the "throw money at it" idea either. Sure i'd like them to spend more, but not like the dodgers taking on bad contracts to get a good one. I'd like to see two top starters, but trade is likely easiest for those. I'd like to see them spend money on depth players so we don't have to do the "all rookie" lineups for extended injury periods.

The one negative i have if you want to call it that, is i refuse to watch Ricky Ro games for the rest of the year. I crushes me to see him get so wiped out. I hope for his sake the offseason brings w/e changes for him to get back on track.

Tao of Stieb said...

There's definitely some pleasant developments from this season. EE is top of that list, though it gets a little dicey from there.

I've liked what I've seen from Morrow, but I still worry about his health.

I think getting Ricky back on track is going to be a big project. It might even happen elsewhere.

Paul McCartney said...

Jet!!!

brainiac said...

Giving up on Ricky? For shame dude...

@dwbudd said...

Gose needs more polish, and he has not been good in his cup of coffee, but he's also not been awful (see: Mike McCoy).

I agree that the team needs to be looking hard and long for upgrades at SS and 2B.

To that, I would add that Colby Rasmus is continuing to demonstrate that he is not a quality regular. I am surprised that Tao has not mentioned anywhere just what a washout this guy has been in his just over 1+ year in Toronto.

Looking at the post-ASG stats, Rasmus has been arguably the worst regular (offensively) in the AL. His OPS among hitters with 200+ ABs is the worst in the league, and by a pretty wide gap (Kelly Johnson, ironically, is the second poorest).

Chris said...

You've got 8 other batters in the lineup, big deal. He's been the most consistent defensively!