Friday, October 19, 2012

The Long-Delayed Exit Interview - Tao and Org Guy Nurse Their Wounds

Tao: So, Org Guy. Come in, sit down, relax. And you might want to close the door behind you. Welcome to the season exit interview. 

(Moves a box of tissues to the front of the desk.)

Shall I pour you a beer? Scotch? Skinny Girl brand Margarita Mixer Spritzer? I've got a little bourbon going myself. I've lost count of how many I've had too. So this might get ugly.

But listen, we're not here to talk about your performance this year. You were great, and carried the blog when you could find it in yourself to ignore work and family responsibilities long enough to post something. But I appreciate that you don't post more often, because some people don't realize that you're the one writing all the good stuff around here these days. I'm happy to take credit for you.

But really, man. This season...

(Takes sip of bourbon. Gazes into the distance. Eyes well up, ever-so-slighty.)

It wasn't what we were expecting, was it?

Org Guy: Um... I suppose I could have a drink. (Looks at watch. It's before 10 in the morning.) You've been watching Mad Men again, haven't you?

Look, I appreciate that you're able to look past the irregularity in my posting.  Frankly, it was sometimes hard to get the motivation up to even think about what was going on with the Jays for large chunks of the summer, let alone to write about them.  But now that the smouldering remains of the season can be safely seen through the rear view mirror, just watch me get prolific.

It's not as though there weren't SOME positives, though, right?  I mean, Edwin Encarnacion? 
 Brandon Morrow, when he wasn't hurt? (Looks around the room trying to think of another positive.)  And... uh... hey, is that a new desk lamp?  Nice.

Tao: Oh, the desk lamp...lemme tell you, the lamps took a beating this year. Every time the Jays lost a player to some goofball injury or the other, I hurled one of these babies at the wall. It got so that I just went ahead and ordered in bulk, though I'm nearly out at this point.

But that's really the thing of it, isn't it? Picking up broken pieces all year long. I mean, I can't even tell you if I like this lamp, because I won't let myself get attached to it. It's too fragile.

But after everything, can we glean much of anything from the past 162 games? With all of the gaps in the lineup and rotation through the second half of the season, is there anything of meaning that we can hang our jocks on, aside from: "You can never have too much pitching"?

Org Guy: Considering how far down the depth chart the organization had to dip in order to simply put a passable arm on the mound on some nights, "You can never have too much pitching" is a bit of an understatement.  It remains absurd to think that the team should need (or could possibly accommodate) four or five major-league quality starting pitchers at the AAA level, but that's what would have been required to get through the injury plague that beset them in 2012.  Now, that's admitting that there was a gamble made on at least two younger pitchers -- Drew Hutchison and Henderson Alvarez -- staying healthy and performing at a near average level all year.  Which, you know, they didn't.  It seems pretty clear to me that Alex Anthopoulos intends to address this in the off-season.  I read and listen to what he says pretty closely, and through his entire tenure as GM, I don't think he's ever verbally left himself less wiggle room than he has with regard to adding starting pitching before 2013.

But were other questions answered as definitively? Beyond pitching, when you look right up the middle of the diamond, does the team know what it has at catcher, middle infield, centerfield?  And if they do know, do they like it at all for the medium or longer term?

Tao: Here's the thing about some of those other questions: I think we knew from the outset of the season that they were questions that we were kicking down the road by a year. If you thought that Kelly Johnson or Rajai Davis or Omar Vizquel were much more than seat fillers, you were probably hoping for more than they could deliver.

And that's not a bad thing. It doesn't hurt to go into a season with three or four guys on your active roster who are just there to fill in for the season, but who add depth and avoid the necessity of going into your farm system too early. Sure, this blog has had its fun with the "Menchersons" of the past few years, but even good teams - playoff teams! - have their share of scrubs to fill in on the margins. 

I suppose, though, that we’re all a bit disappointed with Yunel Escobar’s performance – wardrobe malfunctions, notwithstanding – and that a lot of us held out hope that Colby Rasmus was something more than slightly above average. And if those guys remain with the team through the winter, they probably end up at the top of the heap of questions that we’ll be posing through next season.

As for the pitching, I hear all the rational arguments and the well-founded excuses. Guys being pushed into the deep end and such. But then I think of the Jays signing Dustin McGowan to a multi-year deal, and I just can't get away from the sense that they were either off course or off their rocker this spring.

You know I’m not a spend to contend guy, but there better be some sort of arm that shows up in Dunedin this February, ready to throw 200 innings while not crushing my will to live. 

Org Guy: It's hard to separate the "here and now" with the "what's to come", though, which might be one of the reasons why fans of this team find themselves in such a funk.  Our freshest memories of 2012 are two months without Jose Bautista and a mason jar full of replaced elbow ligaments.  It's easy to lose sight of the fact that the roster that exists now is not the one that's going to open the 2013 season.  Just how different it will be remains to be seen, but some things will change.

If there's something about which to be optimistic, I'd like to think it's the fact that the AL East looks a bit more beatable than it used to.  I flat-out refuse to believe Baltimore is actually any good, because it would be damaging to my soul to do otherwise.  The Yankees will win a lot of games next year because Yankees gonna Yankee.  Tampa Bay had a strong finish to the year, and should continue to make noise. Who knows what path Boston will take, as a team that actively made itself worse this year?  The point is, even this stain of a season hasn't necessarily put them so far behind the pack that they can't catch up.  Maybe I'm being unrealistic, but that's what the off-season is for.

Tao: Let's wrap it up, because we all have a bus to catch, and these banker's boxes aren't going to fill themselves. 

It would be nice to think that the AL East was softening. Maybe 2013 is a year where 92 wins gets you the pennant, although the Yankees can stink and seemingly still manage more than 90 wins each season. I think the Rays will continue to play above their heads, because I can't imagine them not doing so at this point. The Orioles will be good, but I don't see them replicating that insane run of good luck. And the Red Sox? I honestly think there's a scenario where they win the division next year. And one where they finish last as well.

All that said, let's go out on the positives: Last year was a mess, but there were moments, and they augur well for next year. There was a beautiful, sparkling year from Edwin Encarnacion. José Bautista and Brandon Morrow were great when they were healthy. Casey Janssen was twitchy and really good at the back of the bullpen. Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup were kinda cool stories. The bullpen version of Brett Cecil is an intriguing animal, and there's just enough promise in Adeiny Hechavarria to make me think that he could be a valuable number nine hitter.

I see reasons for optimism. I think there are plenty of them. But then I'm the optimistic type.

(Swivels around in chair, realizing that Org Guy left the room.)

Hello? Hellllooo?


sporkless said...

I've been stuck on a terrifying thought for the last couple of weeks. It's so scary I've been unable to even verbalize it until now. It's this:

If you had to name just one team, who is most likely to finish last in the AL East in 2013?

Now think about that really hard and tell me it's not the Jays.

Anonymous said...

Awesome arttivle boys

Anonymous said...

"I think the Rays will continue to play above their heads, because I can't imagine them not doing so at this point."

The Rays finished 2012 6 games below their Pythagorean expected record.

Anonymous said...

I think the Rays comment was more directed at the perception that they are always cobbling together some spare parts to field a strong team. Who was expecting Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Pena and Jose Molina were going to be good enough to keep the lineup balanced?

@dwbudd said...

I'm intrigued by the statement that "a lot of us held out hope that Colby Rasmus was something more than slightly above average"

Is this sarcasm? An assessment of Rasmus's performance? The hope that he would be above average in 2012 but wasn't?

He was not slightly above average. Rasmus was not average, or even slightly below average.

As a CF, he was just awful. If this is his real level of play, he is not a regular in the major leagues, and needs to be replaced. Immediately.

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