Showing posts with label The Manager. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Manager. Show all posts

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lineup Melancholy and the Infinite Lindness

Photo from the Blue Jays' official Twitter account, @BlueJays
In the five years since we picked up our quill and whinged away about the Jays, we've had the pleasure of second-guessing three managers. And in so doing, there is nothing that brings out the angst in us as much as their nightly lineup cards.

It seems funny to look back now and find that our big complaint with John Gibbons was how erratic he was with his lineups. It seemed like every day featured a new concoction in the order, and while such a thing sounds fun in retrospect, this was something that drove us crazy at the time. On May 17, 2007, we actually wrote the following sentence:

"It's this sort of willy-nilly jerking around with the lineup that makes us wish that someone would bring back Cito."

Oh my. How foolish were we? You know what they say about being careful what you wish for. By the time that The Manager returned to assume his responsibilities anew, we were stunned at the manner in which Gaston seemed to chisel his lineups into granite and steadfastly hold to them, no matter what the outcome.

And as a quick aside: We still believe that lineups matter. We realize that we probably spend entirely too much time worrying about them, but the notion floated by some that you could pick names out of a hat and that it would mean little in terms of a team's offensive outcome is overly simplistic as well. (Also, we suspect that in those studies, the statistical models that were created to prove this were tailored to reach a specific conclusion.) Ultimately, we think that there is value in hitter sequencing, which is why this sort of thing still gets our goat.

In many ways, we should be thankful that John Farrell splits the difference between the two approaches, adapting to the pitcher and his own personnel without making radical changes each day. We don't even mind Farrell's penchant for being somewhat strict about maintaining a righty-lefty balance. And we would be happy for such a set of circumstances were it not for that one glaring weakness that gives us a daily dose of misery: Adam Lind, batting fourth.

We probably should stop harping on this, because at a certain point, it starts to feel as though we're piling on. But Lind is a lefty who cannot hit lefties, managing three singles and a walk in 22 plate appearances so far this year, and posting a .604 OPS (.263 OBP/.341 SLG) over his career against southpaws. By keeping him smack in the middle of the order, the Jays continue to leave themselves vulnerable to teams with a half-good left-handed relievers. It would be somewhat akin to having John McDonald (career OPS: .605) come in and hit for your cleanup hitter late in close games.

This isn't to say that we think the Jays should send Lind packing, which is a conclusion to which we know many will jump without delay. But let's not go to that extreme quite yet. We think that Lind can be a halfway decent contributor - and far less of a pariah - in a lineup in which he slides further down. The Blue Jays might think that he still has a 30-homer bat, but we'd prefer if they let him hit those dingers out of the sixth or seventh spot in the order.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Into the Sunset

Look, we don't want to be the turd in the punchbowl, so we're not going to get into a whole big dealy-o here over The Manager's last hurrah at home.

We had figured that we'd be a lot more sanguine at this point about the departure, and ready to turn the page on our own antipathy. But it doesn't feel that way right now, and we're not going to fake it for show or to make nice. (The last time we did that, we recommended a book, and we have yet to hear the end of it.)

Give it a few days, and maybe we'll be able to process it all, and come away with some nice thing to say that feels authentic to us and that you can fill your pillows with. Or not. We suspect that you're not waiting with baited breath.

In the interim, enjoy what you want to.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Won't somebody think of the coaches?

As the season has progressed, and we've gotten ever closer to bidding a final, satisfying farewell to The Manager, we'd say it is fair to assess that there is a certain degree of excitement about the possibility of a new skipper for the Jays in 2011.

The quiet process of whittling down the list of possible candidates has chugged along, with young Mr. Anthopoulos narrowing his gaze from from 200 persons to 40 to 9 (allegedly, if an off-handed remark from Beeston on PTS is to be believed). There have been many names tossed around by those of us on the outside, generally with our own particular take on what the team needs (Fredi! Bobby V! LaRussa! A big name! A development guy! Canadian Guy! Joe Maddon!)

And while we're rather enthusiastic about a new face at the helm of the on-field management, we've been really quite happy with the state of the coaching staff, to the point where we've made comments along the lines that the entire group should be retained. Which seemed in our own head to be eminently reasonable.

Of course, we're not one of those coaches.

Full credit to CP's Shi Davidi (who is in a neck-and-neck race with NatPost's John Lott for Beat Writer of the Year, so far as we are concerned) for shaking us out of our comfy doldrums, and pointing out in an excellent piece yesterday the degree to which there is uncertainty amongst that group of esteemed gentlemen.

It might have crossed our mind that Brian Butterfield might walk if he weren't given the opportunity to do more than coach Adam Lind's happy feet and fist bump players as they conclude their home run trots. But what we really hadn't played through in our mind was what might happen with Dwayne Murphy or Bruce Walton, who've both contributed significantly to the team's relative success this year.

(And really: Given the relationship that Pappy Walton seems to have developed with his crew of pitchers, does anyone want to see a brand new face come in next year to try moulding those throwers in his own image? That seems like a disaster waiting to happen.)

What we might want to happen to this team might seem like the most reasonable scenario: Keep all the good guys, get rid of the dead wood and bring in someone to lead the rest of them. But given that pride and personality tend to intercede in these times, we're not sure that such a simple solution is likely.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This will all be over soon enough

It's hard for us to even remember that moment last year when we were so enamored with Brian Tallet. "The Summer of Tallet!" we exclaimed endlessly, or at least until we tired of the notion ourselves.

But now, when we see The Manager insert him into a tie game in the ninth inning, and continue to run him out to the mound until he coughed up that motherfucker up, we irrationally find ourselves thinking kindly on the sweet solace of the season's end. It's going to be a long winter without baseball, but at the very least, we'll be able to warm ourselves with the thought that The Manager will never again have the opportunity to call on the Hipster Oaf with the 6.28 ERA and the 1.58 WHIP to enter the game in a high leverage (or medium leverage, or low leverage, or no leverage) situation and toss a brand of brutally useless junk up there that would make Frank Tanana blush.

And it's not as though the Jays are completely bereft of arms at this point of the season. It's September, for goodness sake, and they call haul whoever the hell they want from their system tomorrow if they need an extra arm. You're trying to tell me that Zach Jackson can't be at least as effective as Tallet? Or that they couldn't have called up Jeremy Accardo to give them some extra latitude at this point in the year?

(Speaking of which: Whatever sin Accardo committed and is now being punished for must be a doozy for the Jays to pay him a million dollars to go cool his heels in Vegas and not darken this side of the border with his presence. Feel free to fill in the blanks for yourself to decide what it was that Accardo did to deserve this exile.)

There are only 17 games left in the season, and we're probably going to cry like a baby when it's done. But we won't shed a single tear for this version of The Manager, nor for his pet lanky lefty.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A One-Sentence Post on...Bobbling the future

It struck us as we watched Travis Snider approach a ball timidly only to have it shank off his glove and squib away into centrefield (unearned runs!) that if he didn't always feel a Sword of TheManagercles hanging over him, he could probably breathe, relax and go play baseball rather than sweating how long of a ride on the pine every misstep was going to cost him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tweet Bag! Tweeted questions, blogged answered

Occasionally, we lose our train of thought, and we rely on your questions to provide us with the direction and focus necessary to pull together some entertaining blog tomfoolery. Once again, thanks for the help in bailing us out, because our addled brain had no way of conceiving of an entertaining and educational post today.

Now, onto your questions...EN GARDE!

@jonahkeri (yes, the actual guy, author of the forthcoming The Extra 2%, or at least someone with access to his Twitter account) poses the question: "Dave Stieb, best pitcher of the 80s? Discuss."

Timeframes are arbitrary things, even when they span ten full years. Some great pitchers (Tom Seaver, for instance) had their best decade of work in timespans that crossed over decades. Some got started late in the 80's (Orel Hersheiser), and some petered out by the end of the decade (Steve Carlton).

Nevertheless, if you want to be all arbitrary about things (and why wouldn't you, really?), you can start by looking at Stieb's WAR for the seasons 1980 through 1989. And you'll find that is a big, bright shiny 45.2. (45.2!!!1)

You know who put up a better WAR amongst pitchers in that timeframe? As Mel Lastman would say: Noooooooooooobody! Not "the most feared/winningest/opening day startingest pitcher of the 1980's, Jack Morris (27.9). Not Bert Blyleven (34.0, which is still an impressive number for a guy who most of his best seasons in the 70's and ABSOLUTELY belongs in the Hall of Fame). Not late starters Orel Hersheiser (32.8 for 1983-89) or Roger Clemens (32.3 for 84-89).

Hall of Famer Steve Carlton limped into his final years with a 25.6 WAR. Goose Gossage, the last pitcher inducted into the Hall, put up an 18.7 WAR for the decade, while fellow enshrinee Bruce Sutter managed a 10.8 in the 80's (which doesn't include his best season in 1979, if you want to abandon arbitrariness at this point). HoFer Dennis Eckersley, who split that decade between the starting role and the pen coughed up 23.9 WAR.

The last pitcher to be inducted into the Hall of Fame for their work as a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues? Nolan Ryan, who expressed a 30.8 WAR over the neon decade.

Our point? Using the best stat that we can think of to compare pitchers' performances for the decade, we find it hard to find anyone who touches our patron saint's incredible output. And if that's not clear enough: Dave Stieb is the Greatest Pitcher of the Eighties. (GPOTE!!!1)

Second point: For all of the High Moral Dudgeon (Bruntism!) that we hear about the steroid era, we also would note that the BBWAA seemingly has some hang up against starting pitchers, given their overwhelming aversion to voting them into the Hall of Fame. Stieb barely got any notice, while Blyleven has twisted in the wind for longer than we can remember, and Jack Morris (a flawed candidate, to be sure) remains unlikely to get to Cooperstown.

We'd suggest that the catchphrase should have been: Hacks Dig The Long Ball.

Next question!

@dpriest asks: Do you think the Jays could land Joe Maddon and Carl Crawford in the off-season?

Yes. But no. But then again, I might start a torrid affair with Zooey Deschanel by next year, even if we could never eat together given her vegan tendencies and aversion to gluten. Which is to say: Let's not put too much energy into such things, mmmkay?

@GValentino enquires (or is that inquires? What does CP Style say?) How would you feel about Bautista being moved to cleanup, Wells moved down? Why do you think this hasn't happened, other than THE MANAGER s.o.p?

We would absolutely advocate moving Bautista to the cleanup spot, but really only if there was an absolutely obvious three-hole hitter. But we're not sure that they have that now. (And our concept of that is a high-contact line-drive hitter with power, like Aaron Hill in 2009.)

If you were being totally orthodox about roles, the Jays have a whole bunch of number hitters on this team that they have to squeeze into other parts of the batting order, so we're not going to give The Manager more guff than he deserves over this particular choice.

More Manager questions have gotta be in this bag somewhere, right?

@timmyd_ asks: Is keeping Butterfield in the org worth giving him a shot as manager?

Interesting question, because we were asking ourselves something similar recently. If Butterfield is only going to stay with the team in a managerial role, do you hold onto him, even if he likely won't spend the same amount of time with the on-field instruction that seems to be his strength? Or do you let him go, losing all of that knowledge and insight, as well as a guy who seemingly gets along with many of the players.

It's a tough call, though we'd still prefer to keep him with the team if at all possible. We're thinking that a demonstrated excellence as an on-field instructor may be the sort of skill set that could be passed along to the next generation of Blue Jays coaches, making him an excellent choice to help build the future of the franchise.

All this talk about managers...my Manager sense is tingling...

@FakeCitoGaston pounces! Dear Stieb: Any advice on how I should run the front office without upseting this kid Alex too much? Beest says I have full veto

(First off, for those of you shocked to see that name in the blog, let us make clear that it was cut and pasted into this post. We did not type that name out, nor will we ever. That is our promise, and that is our pledge.)

Our advice to The Fake Manager is this: Be so subtle as to be indiscernible. Maybe even let AA do all of the stuff that he wants, and toss him a few bones so that he gets really comfortable making all the decisions himself. Then go out for some drinks with the Beest, play a few rounds of golf and let the little details take care of themselves. And when someone comes around asking for input on bobbleheads, you can look after that sort of thing without raising much of a fuss.

Take it easy...this front office gig is supposed to be a snap. Just don't put too much energy into. You've earned your golden parachute.

We're running short on time (left in your attention span...heyo!), so let's wrap it up with this:

@the_real_THF asks: I had a dream last night that the Jays finished the season with 88 wins. Feasible?

The Jays would have to rattle off a 17-8 run to the end of the season, which is certainly not impossible. Feasible? Well, considering that Brandon Morrow won't throw another pitch in anger, and that Marcum and Cecil might be watched in the next few weeks to make certain that every body is in good working order for when it really counts (i.e. 2011), we're not sure that the 88 win mark is going to work out.

Our guess? The Jays go 13-12 down the stretch and end the season with 84 wins. Though we're perfectly amenable with anything above that.

Sorry we couldn't get to all of your questions (discussions of Constituency Offices vs. Staffers on the Hill vs. Insane Voters vs. Noble Lobbyists will have to wait for another day, @s_findlay), but many thanks to all of you who stepped up to give us something to write about today. Keep those cards and letters coming.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on the weekend in a flash

Honouring our patron saint: It was great to see and hear so much about Dave Stieb this weekend, as everyone seemed to trip over themselves to find enough superlatives for the former ace. (If you missed it, there's a nice bit of ceremonial huzzahs available on the Jays site.)

It was especially interesting to hear Stieb in conversation with Jerry and Alan on the radiocast mentioning how Buck Martinez used to have to remind him to lay off on the slider and throw some fastballs here or there. Stieb also bemoaned his own approach on the pitches he threw that saw previous no-hitters get broken up. More than 20 years later, you can still hear him kicking himself for throwing a curve with perfection on the line.

And you'll excuse this cliché, but he does look as though he could go out and toss six solid innings tomorrow if he had to.

Less than perfect, Part 1: As was brought to our attention last week by email, the coveted Stieb bobble had a few flaws in it. Firstly, the cap was the wrong one (Jays wore solid blue caps on the road that season) and the jersey has the wrong lettering (road jerseys read "Toronto", not "Blue Jays".) So if you are superstitious enough not to talk about no-hitters and such in the middle of the game, maybe you'd agree with us that such flaws in the promotional swag were certain to doom yesterday's game for the Jays.

Less than perfect, Part 2: If you're more literal-minded, perhaps you're looking at the actual pitching in yesterday's game when assessing what went wrong. Last year's callup surprise, Marc Rzepczynski's output this year has been bad enough to make us forget how to spell his name. His mechanics, which were very tight last season, look completely messed up now. Last year, he threw a lot of strikes down in the zone to keep things under control. This year, he's having a hard time getting anything where it should be.

Especially telling was the pitch Rzep threw after a mound visit from José Molina with two balls and the bases loaded. After all of the shoulder rubs and "just chill and throw strikes" that his catcher could offer, Rzep still let his lead shoulder fly out and threw a mid-80's fastball a foot outside. Not good.

Who's next? With the announcement that Brandon Morrow is going to get an early end to his season (a very good call, in our estimation), and the possibility that Shaun Marcum might also see his innings limited in his first post-TJ season, the Jays will be looking for additional starting arms to pick up the slack.

And if that additional arm is Brian Tallet, we'll die a little extra on those days.

The smart money would seem to be on Bobby Ray, who pitched well last year in a brief time with the Jays, and whose innings aren't up particularly high because of some minor league DL stints. Brad Mills, who looks like a mess of messes on the mound lately, could also get some starts down the stretch. Canadian Shawn Hill might have also been an option, but he tossed just one inning in his last start and is coming off a long road back from injury, so he's a long shot.

But don't get your hopes up for appearances from Kyle Drabek: The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are headed towards the playoffs(!!!1), and he'll eat up his remaining innings at that level.

Jeremy Accardo would like to be heard: If you read the original Las Vegas Review-Journal piece (as opposed to some of the overheated clips from it that were tossed around on this side of the border), Jeremy Accardo doesn't sound so much aggrieved as he does frustrated and resigned with his lot in the Blue Jays' organization.

This might be forgotten at this point, but Accardo broke camp with the Jays, and promptly sat for two weeks in the pen. And though Accardo has put up respectable numbers in Las Vegas (especially considering the inflation inherent in pitching in that division of the PCL), he'll be hard pressed to get a sniff of the pitching rubber in the Bigs so long as The Manager is still wearing the windbreaker and crossing his arms in the dugout.

To be honest, we'd almost prefer to see Accardo go somewhere in the National League and get the opportunity to work in the back end of a team's bullpen next year. He's been painted as a bit of a jerk for his outspokeness, but we're inclined to think that he has the very same "hustle" and "heart" that the team likes to proclaim as primary values in its marketing campaigns.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Skills Travis Snider is developing by riding the pine

It's a little bit funny that a week or two ago, we were actually defending The Manager's decision to sit Travis Snider here or there as he tried to get at bats for all of his LF/DH types.

"Patience, my brothers! Cast away your thoughts of the future, and savour this moment! Leave tomorrow for tomorrow! The Stocky-Yet-Swift Pasty White Rosy-Cheeked Hope shall have his time! A day off won't kill him!"

In the moment, those sorts of thoughts seemed to make sense to us. To our way of thinking, a day off here or there wasn't going to impede his development that much. But for much of the last week, we've watched Snider cool his heels on the bench, waiting for his chance to go out and get his reps and at bats to help him learn and develop.

(Remember how well part-time employment worked for José Bautista through his development years with the Pirates? Probably not.)

Mind you, we're not a two-time World Series Champion Manager and we never had the opportunity to put the lineup card in the Gestetner machine and run off carbon copies night after night in that era, so we're probably no match for The Manager's baseball acumen. But if we tilt our head in just the right way, we can start to think like him, and see what value this time on the bench might offer to the franchise's single most important young player. Here's what we came up with in terms of mad skills that Travis is developing while sitting:

1. Rocking a hoodie: Shaun Marcum is obviously a leader on this team, and his intense hoodie-wearing must be some sort of key to the rotation's success. If Snider can apply himself, he might be able to spur the offense by chewing intensely on his hood's drawstrings.

2. High-fives: An important part of becoming a part of the team. If you see a guy who just got jammed on the first pitch and squibbed a weak grounder to second, but advanced the runner by one base, you'd best know how to get up to the top step and give a sincere fist bump to your returning hero.

3. Sunflower seed spitting: What happens if you're in the outfield, and you get a shell caught in your throat? You think you're gonna know how to hack up that carapace based on instinct and gag reflex?

4. Preparing for your close-up: You know the TV cameras are going to find you on the bench, and you need to prepare that steely, cold, detached-yet-emotionally complicated look that lets the fans know the depth of your soul, and the burning fire within. (Side benefit: This totally works on chicks too. Stare off intently beyond the bottle service table, and some lady is going to look upon you a wounded soul that needs solace. Mrroawr.)

5. Putting weight back on: You think you're going to keep hitting one-handed homers if you drop 20 pounds through the physical exertion of playing the field and running the bases? Forget that. Park your ass on the bench, dig into an O-Dog Combo and think about the days when Cecil Fielder was the most feared hitter in baseball.

6. Funneling your rage more productively: Because that needle-point isn't going to finish itself.

That's the best that we can figure. Feel free to add your own notions on the skills that Snider can develop from the dugout in the comments section below.

(Yes, as established yesterday, I am a comment whore.)

Friday Rock Out - The Jam, "In the City"
Consider this our Long Distance Dedication to The Manager: We wanna tell you about the young ideas.

The Ack is off on assignment this weekend, but we should be around to fill in as necessary. Have fun, and stay cool my babies.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Tao's Contrarian Corner

In which your generally agreeable blogging pal suddenly gets all up in yo' grill over hot topics amongst the Blue Jays fan base.

You say: Rogers is a bunch of evil bastriches for moving more than half of the Jays remaining games to their just launched Sportsnet One service, denying the team's fans the opportunity to watch them at precisely the moment when interest in the team is blowing up. Money-grubbing iceholes!

We say: Save some of your consternation for your local TV service provider. By dropping all of your rage into Rogers' lap, you make it easier for them to bide their time and delay carrying the channel. And think about it this way: If your cable provider were to day "Fuck it. We're gonna drop A & E, so you'll have to find other ways to watch Intervention and Tanya Memme's spectacular rack on Sell This House", you wouldn't blame A & E for not getting carried, would you?

This is all part of a dance, and Bell and Shaw (who also own or are about to own CTV/TSN and Global respectively) would very much like to see the kids on Jarvis and Bloor twist in the wind for a while as payback for some prior tomfoolery.

Bottom line: Quietly seethe at Rogers for their timing, but call your cable provider like an angry Springer guest until they carry Sportsnet One if you want to see your Jays games anytime soon. Because the idea that the cableco's aren't going to move on this until hockey season is so depressing.

You say: Where the hell is J.P. Arencibia? And why isn't he playing everyday? He should just be playing in AAA as opposed to sitting on the bench!

We say: There's more to a catcher's development than getting reps and at bats. Spending time with the coaches, the pitching staff and the other catchers is an important aspect of JPA's initial stint in Toronto.

Yeah, his first game was pretty spectacular, and he's looked great throwing guys out on the basepaths. But we'd like to see him learn to put up as better target (which, as Drew pointed out, might not be his strongest suit.)

(Secondary thought here: Would it kill JPA to have a glove and chest protector that are different colours? Sometimes on screen, his black glove seems to get lost in his black chest protector. We're sure that the pitchers have a better view of it that we do, but still...would it kill him to grab a Lance Parrish signature mitt to give his boys a bright, unmissable target?)

Also, JPA's first magical game featured him swatting lots of first pitches into the heliosphere, but his subsequent games have seen him get jammed on those early pitches. Wouldn't hurt the kid to take a couple of pitches and work a count here or there.

And all of this is a lot more convincing after watching José Molina go 4-for-4 last night. Oh, you didn't see that? Oops. Sorry.

You say: It's a TRAVESTY and a DISGRACE that Travis Snider isn't playing every day. Future of the franchise! Pasty White Hope! Rosy-Cheeked Phenom! Let him play! Let him play! Let him play! Let him play! Let him play!

We say: The Manager actually has a wealth of productive bats from which he can construct his lineup, which means that Snider and FredDotLew are going to end up sitting maybe more than you feel is necessary. But we actually think that The Manager has done a good job of making sure that everyone gets ABs, and we'd tend to agree with his move to keep JoBau in right field rather than switching him to third and getting Edwin Encarnacion out of the lineup.

Oh, and BTW y'all: Since Snider's return on July 30, he's put up a .736 OPS in 48 plate appearances. EE? .809 OPS in 55 PAs. Just so you're not mistaken.

You say: The format of this blog post makes you think of Lisa Loeb, and that's not a good thing.

We say: Lisa Loeb is kinda hot. We're still not over her. She's so cute, prancing around coquettishly in that little dress. *Sigh*.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Is The Manager the Manager of the Year?

Okay, we'll give you a second to gather yourself after reading the title of this post.

You okay? Alright? Do you want a glass of water? Do you need some air? Here: Why don't you sit down for a moment.

Tweeter Kyle Darbyson (@starbyson, y'all!) suggested earlier that we make the case for The Manager to take home the hardware at the season's end as the league's best bench boss. And as we read it, we're not sure if he was being funny, or if he was completely earnestly looking for us to make the case.

And here's the weird thing: We think we might even be able to make that case.

Let's back up a second, and get something out there before we indulge in this excercise: We're actually not a big fan of this sort of award. Throughout all professional sports, the Coach/Manager of the Year award is generally given to someone who has a team that everyone presumes will kinda suck but that doesn't quite suck all that much. In some ways, it's barely even a reflection on the job that the person has done at all...It's mostly just an attempt to account for the difference between what was expected based on the team's perceived talent and what was delivered.

The answer to that particular bit of arithmetic is almost always assumed to be the non-player personnel who is closest to the game. In fact, you almost always hear this conversation start around two-thirds of the way through the season, with pundits saying: "I tell you what: You look at the job that Lindy Ruff/Eric Wedge/Sam Mitchell/Dave Tippett/Felipe Alou has done with this team, and I think you've gotta give him serious consideration for the Manager of the Year/Jack Adams Trophy."

(Seriously: At some point this February, Darren Dreger is going to look away from the dozen members of the NHL on TSN panel and stare gravely into the camera and say something almost precisely like the statement above, and act as though he doesn't make the same rote argument year after year. And then he'll light up a stogie with a five dollar bill and head out into the Agincourt night, doing donuts in the parking lot while checking his Blackberry. Prick.)

Sorry, we kinda lost track of ourselves there for a second.

If you wanted to take this from that typical point of view, then yeah, we think there is probably a good argument for The Manager to get...(clearing throat)..."serious consideration for the AL Manager of the Year." In the Junior Circuit, the Jays are probably the team with the greatest discrepancy between what was expected of them and what they've actually delivered. However, since the Jays are too far out of contention at this time, it seems unlikely that the Jays' skipper would get much more than a passing thought. Especially not when you have a ready-made triumph over coked-out adversity story that is probably already written for you if Ron Washington gets the nod.

Does the Manager deserve consideration? Well, here's what we can say about him...and believe us when we tell you that we've softened considerably on him the closer he gets to leaving the dugout for good: We think that The Manager has surrounded himself/been surrounded with an excellent staff, and that he deserves credit for empowering Brian Butterfield, Dwayne Murphy, Pappy Walton, Rick Langford and Omar Malave over the past year. We want to see the Jays bring each and every member of the field coaching staff back next year, and we hope that whoever they name as The Manager's successor will not feel the need to shake up the staff to suit his own needs.

Moreover, we're actually kinda impressed with the degree to which The Manager has shown some flexibility on the lineups, and that we haven't found his bullpen management to be over atrocious. (It took him a while to come around on David Purcey, but he got there in his own time.) Plus, seeing The Manager give as good as he got to Kevin Gregg, making the thin-skinned jar-headed closer's eyes well up and throat tighten in the post-game interviews was something of a highlight, and likely necessary to beat the delusion out of his pitcher's overgrown noggin.

So when you add up all of that faint praise, does the sum equal a Manager of the Year trophy? Probably not. Maybe. Really, who cares?

Friday Rock Out - LCD Soundsystem
Woop woop. Hands in the air. The weekend's here.


Monday, July 12, 2010

SWOT Analysis! The first half in rebuke!

(Sorry to Harry Shearer for stealing his joke, although I don't believe that "The Year in Rebuke" is a copyrighted segment of the broadcast. Yet.)

There are few things that we enjoy more than getting together over the board table, pulling out the flip charts and going through a SWOT Analysis. (So long as there are crullers!)

For those of you not familiar, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and it is the sort of tool pulled out by unimaginative management types to simply and easily compartmentalize all of the shit that is dragging their organizations into the crap heap. It also allows them to scrape some of the dung off of a situation, and spray it down with the perfume of optimism, and make it sound as if all is going to be just fine, and that they are the victims of circumstances beyond their control. Mostly, it's a tool for people to stop any sort of change or progress from making its way into an organization...but never mind all that. It's Monday, and you are all probably bummed out enough already by being at work.

So please join us as we critically examine the first half of 2010 for the Toronto Blue Jays, with a view towards constructive analysis, building towards a specific, defined and measurable outcome on a going forward basis.

Strengths
No one in baseball has clouted more homers than the Jays, who have 136 for the season thus far. Eight Jays have ten or more homers, and Travis Snider has six through just 33 games. José Bautista leads the collective circuits with 24 homers, while Vernon Wells leads centerfielders and Alex "Defensive Specialist" Gonzalez leads all shortstops in round-trippers (19 and 17 respectively.)

They are also second in the Majors in doubles, so the overarching takeaway here is that these guys hit the ball hard.

In terms of pitching, the Jays sit sixth amongst the 30 teams in strikeouts, and are just above league average in WHIP and Ks/BB.

Defensively, the Jays sit tenth in defensive runs saved above average, which sounds okay to us.

The team is getting a good performance from Wells, their most costly asset, which only enhances the opportunities to possibly move the back end of that deal in the next two years.

Finally, they've gone into the international free agent with the gusto that they promised before the season, helping to perhaps level the playing field with their AL East rivals.

Weaknesses
There must be a lot of solo homers this season, because the Jays' .306 OBP is third worst in MLB. They've also knocked out the fourth-fewest hits in baseball, and if you care about such things, their batting average is also fourth worst.

And if you're going to say that batting average doesn't matter (as we are always tempted to), then you should know that there is not much solace from the base-on-balls category, as the Jays rank in the bottom third (21st) in terms of drawing walks.

Perhaps most worrisome, they have two Silver Slugger winners who OPSing 40 or more points lower than Johnny Mac.

The Jays are consistently strong but rarely overwhelming at any spot in the lineup. JoBau and Vernon and Gonzalez and Buck have all had great seasons, but this team and those players make a lot of outs. The Jays have struck out the sixth-most in the Majors, and in close games, this team is too easy to shut down if your pitchers can get off-speed pitches over for strikes.

Opportunities
For all of the talk before the season about "100 loss seasons" (and you know who you are), the Jays have hung tough and actually have a chance to play games with small shreds of meaning through the second half.

We note this because of what we perceive to being a detrimental effect of playing out the string. If Alex Anthopoulos decides to empty the cupboard before the trade deadline, then so be it. But having a team play ball above the .500 level and attempting to compete is going to help in the development of a winning atmosphere in the clubhouse. Intangibles!!!1

Moreover, the reemergence of J.P. Arencibia and the strong performance of Kyle Drabek provides hope that he and a few other prospects (Brett Wallace?) should be able to step into the lineup in a meaningful way within the next 12 months.

Also, strong performances from potential free agents could mean the Jays will be dealing with possible Type A free agents, who will provide more value in trades or will return draft picks should they choose to go elsewhere in the next couple of year.

The starting staff is young, under control, cheap and shows signs that they can be effective one through five in the next few years. Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow all look like they could be strong number two starters in the coming two years, and a staff with that many top-of-rotation options could carry the team over the hump, or could be raided to solve other problems.

Threats
Much as we wanted to see their perfomance last year as the tip of the iceberg, the steep declines by both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill portend something much more concerning: That they've already had their career years, and that anything from this point on will pale in comparison.

We've watched Hill with some concern lately as the ball seems not to be coming off his bat with nearly the same velocity this year. (We're trying to track down He's seeing far fewer fastballs, and his swing looks longer and more convoluted than ever. It could be that he's still hurting from his early season boo-boos, but there's plenty wrong with the way he looks, and the results certainly aren't lying.

Brian Tallet. That is all.

The pitching staff is young, and so there are always injury concerns. Shaun Marcum already heading back to the DL once, and we worry almost daily about Ricky Romero, who has yet to have any significant arm trouble. The AAA and AA arms have also been a bit of a mess of injuries this season, detracting from the team's rotational depth.

Speaking of the minors, running the top level arms out to the mound in the arid, altitudinous Pacific Coast League has proved to be problematic over the past two seasons. Watching prospective pitchers' ERAs skyrocket makes us worry about their psyche, and whether if a team can really chance having youngsters make adjustments to pitch in those conditions. Trying to pitch around players and setting aside breaking pitches that don't break could mess up a really vital pitching prospect. Here's hoping there's a spot in the International League next year.

Finally, the on-field leadership of the team going for is in question for the players, the members of that staff and the fans alike. The ridiculous decision to maintain The Manager for one final victory lap this year means that players who are emerging now through the team and its current philosophy will have to adjust to a new manager and possibly a whole new staff next year. Wither Butter? Wither Pappy? Will the players be able to get onside with a new manager and new coaching staff immediately?

(And if any of you want to complain that I didn't separate this appropriately between internal and external factors, you can kiss my ass. I didn't ask you to facilitate this process, did I?)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Draft Analysis: We want you as a new recruit

Hey man, cut us some slack here, will ya?

Sure, we could put on our most authoritative voice, and write a lengthy post on relative merits of this year's draft. We could fake it to the best of our abilities, and then point to the aspects of our guesswork that came true as proof of our insight. But given that we're still smarting from the spanking that we took from those who questioned our literary bona fides this weekend, we're going to avoid any puffery and play along like the happy fool that we are.

(And no, Meredith, we're not going to let this go. You hurt our feelings. Harrumph.)

So join us as we look at the draft, shake our head like a Magic 8 Ball, and see what floats to the top.

First Round, pick 11 - Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech: It was funny after the fact to hear Keith Law proclaim on last night's Prime Time Sports that the Jays probably wouldn't pick him, given his supposed low ceiling. Not that we're harshing on the KLaw or anything...Just that we figured that his thought process would be similar to that of just about every Jays fan that we heard from or saw on Twitter: A lower-ceiling college dude? No way! The Ghost of J.P. live on!

They say ("they" being the draftologists and experts that allegedly really know this shit) that Deck profiles as a number three starter with a shorter (two-year) trip to the Bigs. Given the guys who we have under control for the next three to four years, having a good third starter shouldn't be looked upon as a bad thing, especially when he might serve as your number five.

Plus, he's tall. And you can't teach tall.

(And as a side note: Our inner Chris Berman has gone nutty cuckoo coming up with bad nicknames for Mr. McGuire: "Upper" Deck? "Back" Deck? "Poop" Deck? "Captain's" Deck? "Flight" Deck? "Gun" Deck?)

Compensatory Round Picks - RHPs Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Asher Wojciechowski: Our initial thought was that Alex Anthopoulos felt that since the Jays blogosphere has managed to master the spelling of his name and that of Marc Rzepczynski, we need a new challenge. Well, we say bring it on.

Also, we shall refer to the latter two picks a Syndy and Wojo from here on out.

Someone asked us on Twitter why the Jays were going so heavy on pitching in the draft, and our response was that you need 12 arms on your roster at any given time (even if The Manager uses just nine), and it never hurts to add some additional depth to the pitching in your system. And while we might just be making this up, it seems to us that you can trade for a bat later on to fill out your lineup more easily than you can a pitcher.

The Rest of the Draft So Far: Some more pitchers, one of whom we'd guess surprises us all and becomes the real jewel of this draft. (Our guess is Sam Dyson. Just because.)

The first Canadian picked by the Jays came with the 113th pick overall, which we're certain is way too late for Bob Elliot's liking. Speaking of which: At the time that we type this, James Paxton and James Eliopoulos remain undrafted. We're sure that is some sort of crime against Canadian baseball or something.

Nevertheless, outfielder Marcus Knecht looks like at least a reasonable gamble. Also, the music in his MLB.com video is fonkalicious.

Also, the Jays have just picked Dickie Thon Jr., and for those of us who remember Dickie Thon, that's kinda awesome. Kinda makes us feel old too.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Accentuating the positive

We're nothing if not a beacon towards positivity, right?

(And those of you who know really me are probably trying to figure out if that's a laugh line or not...Although we'd point out that in the cynical, angry world of sports blogdom, we're pretty happy, sunshiney and positive. Or at least we look that way in comparison to others.)

So, if we were to be something less than positive, we'd point out that in two key series this week, the Jays walked away having not made up any ground, and find themselves tied with the resurgent Red Sox. So there's the missed opportunities.

But since we're eliminating the negative and latching onto the affirmative here, let us point out that our boys hung tough in every game against the two best teams in the league, and were in a position to win each and every one of them. And with some bullpen work that was a little more assertive or better orchestrated, they may well have done it.

All of which augurs well for the last three games of this nine-game stretch, which was supposed to tell us something of something about this team. Maybe it's telling us that they're worth watching, and that they're not that far from actually carrying this sort of performance through the entire season.

And now, a few quick hits...

Wilner's unplanned vacation
We were as shocked as anyone when we heard that the Fan 590 bounced Mike Wilner out of his seat for the weekend, ostensibly to remind him to play nicer with The Manager. We have no doubt that Wilner can abrasive to some, and his confidence in his arguments can be read as arrogance by some. But the "suspension" or spanking and or whatever this is makes us wonder what they are thinking at the Fan.

They should probably understand what they have in Wilner, and why his stubborn dedication to reason and his unwillingness to buy into mawkish cliché is precisely his appeal. Tamping that fire down in order to keep The Manager happy is a recipe for boring, awkward radio.

(Which supposes that this was a Fan 590 call, and not from somewhere above. We'd love to hear Handsome Tony explain this as all a part of his master plan.)

(Also, check Neate Sager's take over on Out of Left Field, which is a nicely nuanced analysis of the situation.)

On book reviews
If you are planning on buying any particular books that we're perhaps reviewed around here, and you'd like to hold us to account for our overly generous estimations of a particular tome, we'd suggest that you perhaps take a read through this post. We pretty much put all of our cards on the table, and fessed up to being an entirely unreliable critic. So don't come looking for an explanation for our bad taste in athlete memoirs.

On the rotation (which is awesome) and the bullpen (which is less so, we think)
Before the season, some folks wanted to tear down the Jays' post-Doc rotation as a bunch of no name chuck-and-duckers, which might have been more of a reaction to the lack of a certifiable ace than the actual talent available to the Jays.

But after watching the Jays' top four hurlers shine against two of the best offenses in the game, we'll have to admit to getting way ahead of ourselves in considering the possibilities in the coming years. Marcum, Romero, Cecil and Morrow are all young, and may well have their best years ahead of them. And when we rattle the names off in our head, and consider the possibility of adding another quality arm to that list (Drabek? Rzep? Mills?), we'll confess to getting ahead of ourselves, and envisioning their names being pored over across the continent as a playoff team's probable pitchers.

(And really, Shaun Marcum was born to pitch in the playoffs, wasn't he?)

It's really to bad that we end up crashing back to earth when considering the performance of the bullpen. It's not that they've been awful: Kevin Gregg's actually been pretty good, notwithstanding his game of footsie with the strike zone against Tampa the other night, and we've officially come around on Shawn Camp. But Scott Downs continues to look as though his best days are behind him, and Jason Frasor hasn't yet shown the velocity or movement that made him a success last season.

Meanwhile, The Manager continues to mismanage his assets, and treats his seven man relief corps as though he has only four arms out there. Rommie Lewis, David Purcey and Casey Janssen are given as much rest as most of the starters while the other four relievers are run into the ground.

Even with the economical performances put on by the starters, that sort of wear and tear on the pen is going to catch up with this team, if it hasn't already.

The Draft
We'd totally forgotten that the MLB draft kicks off tonight. In previous years, we may have spent the whole afternoon poring over names and the possibilities for the Jays' four early picks. But given that player development is a gruesomely tiresome and long process, we'll just sit back and let the names of the prospects wash over us this evening, while we consider the progress of Kevin Ahrens.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Manager will use his magic powers to help you hit dingers

This is how The Manager has built his reputation.

A barely-above-replacement level scrub goes out for extra batting practice in the midst of a slump which has only served to drag down an already lousy year. And then The Manager steps forth, with his knowledge of the grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy, and touches the player with his wisdom and insight.

And then, after but one session with The Manager, the player goes out and hammers the ball around the yard like he was Hank. Unbelievable.

We could go into a whole repudiation of the myth and the legend, and suggest that maybe anyone could have provided a healthy refresher for John Buck to help him pull his head out of his ass. And we could also point out how a couple of the swings that resulted in those dingers weren't exactly what you would call "pretty" or "textbook".

But really, who's to argue with those results? When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

A tribute to Windows Restaurant
We're not even sure that anyone would or could call it Windows anymore, given that it has sat as empty as Steve Simmons' head for much of the past three years. But seeing John Buck's third homer of the night rattle off the panes - now covered in advertising - reminded us of what a thrill it used to be when a Fred McGriff or Carlos Delgado moonshot would touch the glass, deep in centre field.

While we've advocated pulling the glass and creating some sort of douchebag party patio out there, seeing that homer bounce of it last night might have just convinced us that they ought to keep the structure out there. For oldtimey's sake.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coffee is for closers

You can insert your own standard caveat about how early it is in the season to even consider having these sorts of conversations. But what is the point of having the role of a closer and the save stat if you can't piss and moan about it every time the man in the role hacks it up.

Thus, piss and moan we shall.

It could be that the members of Tank Nation could give a fuck about how the Jays seal the deal to win games because, somehow, being the worst team in the league is going to guarantee that we draft first and get our shot at the next Dale Hawerchuk. But we're convinced that winning breeds winning, and young players who play on teams who find ways to win develop a culture and a mindset that promotes winning in the future. And if learning how to win a seemingly meaningless game in April 2010 means that The Rosy-Cheeked Phenom is in the proper headspace to hit a walkoff dinger in October of 2013, then let's learn to win now. Shall we? Mmmmkay?

So far this season, every Jays game has had a save situation, and given the razor-thin margin for error that the team will have, they will be in plenty of close games. And if we're going to try to win games every night, let's at least have a look at what is going on with the closer now so that we're not handing back wins in April that might make this team look respectable in September.

So let's get down to brass tacks: The Jason Frasor that has taken the mound five times this year is not The Sausage King. Frasor's velocity is down (91.2 MPH vs 93.8 on average last year), and our guess is that he knows it. He's trying to finesse his way around at bats.

Where The Sausage King of 2009 went after hitters, stepping on their throats with fastballs for strikes to get ahead in the count, then kicked them in the teeth with his reprehensibly nasty off-speed foshiness. But Jason Frasor 2010 is attempting to tickle-fight hitters into submission, tossing pitches on the margins of the zone, falling behind and having get-me-over pitches sent back the other way at alarming rates. In his first 4.1 innings pitched, he's given up eight hits, including three doubles and a homer to go along with three walks. And were it not for his ability to squirm his way out of some of these predicaments with his six strikeouts, we're sure that he would have given up more than just three runs and two wins.

Okay, let's snap back to reality: Just one week of the season is down, and there are 25 more to get through, so it is probably too early to start making rash decisions on bullpen roles. It's been a crappy week for Frasor, and a good week for big giant manly-man closer-type dude Kevin Gregg. (Although surprisingly, Gregg's fastball velocity is clocking in at just 91.9 MPH, which is shocking to us considering the way we've swooned every time he shot puts a heater past someone.)

Frasor's progress over the next few weeks bears monitoring. If the velocity comes back or balls start finding gloves or Frasor starts getting calls, then we can all chill. But a few more walks and a few more extra base hits, and just maybe The Manager should put loyalties aside and look to find the most effective arm in the bullpen to shut things down.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our gift to the readers: Cheap shots at The Manager

You know, it kinda bums us out when we post something, and no one cares. Then again, the last post in our endless and ultimately meaningless pimping of someone else's book barely kept us interested while we were writing it. (We even dropped the "we"! That's how much we were checked out on that one! Sorry!)

Yet, at the same time, we noticed yesterday that this month is officially the most successful month (in terms of visits and pageviews) in the history of the blog. And if we made a dime off this thing, we might actually break out the champagne and O.J. this morning to celebrate. Instead, we just took an extra pull off the aftershave this morning to mark the equation. (Ah, the old Kenneth Cole New York...tasty, but not too burny.)

Anyways, we feel like we have to make amends. You, the faithful readers, come here every day and help make my life feel just a little bit less meaningless through your patronage. And if there is one thing that we know that you enjoy, it is the endless cheap shots that we take at grumpy lump in the dugout. And so, as a peace offering for a less than stellar post yesterday, we offer a fine list of slightly borrowed insults directed towards The Manager. Enjoy.

-You know, calling The Manager an idiot is really an insult to all of the stupid people out there.

-I heard The Manager was looking at a change this year. I guess that means his diaper is really full.

-The Manager will have a lot of well wishers this year. As in, we'd all like to throw him down a well for good luck.

-The Manager is a habit that Toronto baseball fans need to kick. With both feet.

-This season would be an excellent time for The Manager to become a missing person.

-I believe The Manager when he says he has an open mind, because good ideas seem to pass right through it.

-Sometimes, when he's slumped in the dugout, it appears as though The Manager has a terribly empty feeling...in his head.

Okay, that's about what we can muster. Feel free to toss in your own in the comments for good measure.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why is this man smiling?

Maybe because a certain slow-of-foot tweeter says that The Manager says that he's going to get full-time duty at first base this year.

If you've followed along for awhile, you likely know that we love us some Randy Ruiz and we loathe The Manager's managerialism. So what we're about to say might surprise you:

We kinda like this move. Sorta. Even if we don't actually believe it will come to pass.

Overbay, much like his fellow Washingtonian/sweet-swinging/first-sacker/doubles-machine John Olerud, will always disappoint those who are expecting a 300 lb gorilla at first base. But if you can get over the notion that a corner infielder's offensive production needs to be measured in home runs and runs batted in, you'll see that Overbay can still provide above average production. In 2009, his 122 OPS+ ranked behind only Adam Lind (144) and Scott Rolen's 1/2 season (124) amongst Jays hitters, and put him ahead of everybody's favorite poster-boy Aaron Hill (117).

The caveat, of course, is that Overbay was held back from facing too many lefties, and kinda sucked against them, posting a 53 OPS+. He only started eight games all year against lefties, and stood in the batters box against them just 86 times. And even in his best season (2006) with the Jays, Overbay didn't get a ton of looks at lefties (167 plate appearances), and he managed just a .305 OBP against them.

Even so, here's where we think it might make sense: There's a line that Overbay threw out at one point last season about how he found it difficult to get into a groove when his playing time was so irregular. Even if that is a load of horseshit, it's the load of horseshit that is in Overbay's head, and if getting him a few extra AB's against lefties to prove himself helps him keep his hitting stroke in order, then so be it.

But ultimately, we doubt that The Manager will be able to resist the urge to platoon Overbay and Ruiz. And frankly, that might be for the best. (Agreeing with The Manager? We must be feverish.)

Ruiz needs some sort of a role on the Jays if he is going to be on the roster, and he certainly wouldn't fit into the Johnny Mac pinch running role. Parking him on the bench to serve as an occasional pinch hitter won't really give the Jays a sense of who he could be as a major leaguer. If he were to get a turn a few times per week in the early going, and show himself to be unable to hang at this level, then that's one thing. But if he's languishing with a .750 OPS in less than 50 ABs somewhere in the middle of June, then the Jays would probably be better off letting Ruiz go elsewhere and bringing in a player with some positional flexibility.

Even if that would be a cryin' shame.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The last time The Manager saw the end of the road

(You see that picture above? That's what you get when you can't bring yourself to type the actual name of The Manager into a Google Image Search.)

Ideally, this year will mark the end of The Manager's second tenure in Toronto. (Or at the very least, the end of his tenure in a uniform and in the dugout. He'll never really leave the Jays.) With that in mind, we started to cast our thoughts back to The Manager's final season of his initial managerial stint.

With so much time having passed since that 1997 season, it's almost hard to recall just what a mess that season was. So we took a stroll through Baseball-Reference's archives for the team, and found some fuel to our irrational distaste for the man we once championed as an under-appreciated genius.

A team that was built to win. Sort of.
For anyone who wants to be the contrarian, and posit that the 1997 squad was a bad team that no manager could fix, think again. That year, the team underwent significant change, bringing in big time free agents Roger Clemens and Benito Santiago (fresh off a 30 homer season).

The team jettisoned John Olerud - never one of The Manager's favorites - in that offseason, sending he and his team-leading .854 OPS to the Mets for starter-closer-starter-closer-starter Robert Person. (And before you make the claim that this was to clear room for Carlos Delgado, you should know that Joe Carter was first baseman to start the season. Because The Manager loved Joe, even after he fell off the cliff. So there.)

Moreover, they also sent a number of prospects (who turned out to be nothing much) to Pittsburgh for Orlando Merced, Carlos Garcia and Dan Pleasac (who, aside from Pleasac, turned out to be nothing much). With the acquisition of the 30 year-old veteran Merced, The Manager could push the young Shawn Green back to the bench, in spite of his two respectable seasons as a 22 and 23 year-old (.835 OPS in '05, .790 OPS in '06).

This was truly a team built for The Manager. He could rely on a group of aging, rickety old sods whose reputations far outshone their performance. He could field a lineup with a 38 year-old Otis Nixon and his rapidly declining defense. He could continue to pencil the 37 year-old-and-declining Carter into the cleanup spot for most of the season (and the three-spot when he really struggled). He could push Delgado and Green into the sixth and eight spots in the lineup, or park them on the bench in favour of Juan Samuel or Rueben Sierra.

(And let's not forget what a massive clusterfuck that whole incident was. The Manager felt that two years worth of decent production wasn't enough proof of Green's worth, and he felt that Green still had to play his way into the lineup, even as veterans scuffled their way into playing time. Somehow, the rotted-out hull of Rivera, who had just been tossed to the scrap heap by the Reds, merited at bats while the future of the franchise languished...Nobody recount this story to Travis Snider, okay?)

As the year went on, and the Sierra experiment blew up, the Jays slipped to the back of the AL East. It took until June 23rd, when the team was already 14 1/2 games out of first, before The Manager would slide Delgado, by far the team's best hitter, into the cleanup role. King Carlos would eventually hit fourth in 40 games, which is exactly one more than the number of games that busted-out mediocrity Mariano Duncan (and his sub-McDonaldian .531 OPS) hit second.

Duncan had taken over the two-hole and second base duties from Carlos Garcia, who spent most of the season revealing himself to be Carlos Garcia: A below-average slap hitter with terrible plate discipline (.253 OBP, .309 SLG).

That 1997 season was a long arduous slog, made all the more so by the high expectations coming into the year. The light at the end of the tunnel came only after it was clear that the season was finished, and the team began moving towards its next generation. Shannon Stewart would step in for Nixon, Green would get a regular turn, and newly-acquired José Cruz Jr. would take Merced's spot in the lineup. The team that would go on to win 88 games the next season under Tim Johnson was beginning to finally take shape, while The Manager was setting the scene for an acrimonious and unapologetic exit.

In the midst of a late season slide that saw them lose 11 of 13 games, the team finally gave The Manager his walking papers on September 23rd. Joe Carter would switch his jersey number to 43 in memoriam. Pitching coach Mel Queen took over for the final five games of the season, and promptly moved Green into the two-hole, while relegating Duncan and Garcia to the bench.

The team went 4-1.

(And in case you are wondering: Yeah, there is totally a way that we could look at this and point the finger of blame at Gord Ash. Except that The Manager had a lot of sway in those days over the young GM through his close relationship with team President Paul Beeston. Umm...oh. Ruh roh.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Manager's not messin' around

We've already said that we're going to stop investing what little patience we have left - what with the entirety of the lunacy that the world throws at us on a daily basis - on The Manager's goofy player personnel machinations. It's just not worth it. We can tough it out. We can soar above this. We can be strong and wait until The Manager shuffles off to his post-managerial career as a greeter at Gate 5 and know that someone is going to come in at some point and make some goddamed sense of this team.

But then you see this tweet from Bastian with the Jays' first lineup of the Spring, and you start looking for something against which you can bash the rational thoughts out of your frontal cortex.

We get that these are the Fake Games. That they are meaningless. That they don't count for shit. But when you look at that lineup, and you see Travis Snider hitting ninth behind John Buck, Jeremy (.669 OPS) Reed and Alex Gonzalez, it kinda makes you lose your faith in humanity.

Putting Snider in ninth, especially behind Reed and Gonzalez, is a clear and undeniable message from The Manager to Travis and to all other Jays players: Don't fuck with Clarence. You might complain about how he's doing things, or how negative he gets when he grunts out some incomprehensible rationalization. But don't take The Manager or his boys to task for the way they do business, or you'll find yourself at the ass end of things.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Manager is going to be the death of us (if not the team)

For the sake of our future children, and our sanity, and our heart health, and the safety of others, we really should not read anything that The Manager has to say.

The fact that he even has a job with the team headed into this year, and that he's decided that it is best for him and the team if he hangs out and lets all of the newcomers to the team have the opportunity to sniff his glorious carcass for the next nine months drives us insane. The notion that every time we tune into a game this year, we'll get to see The Manager propped up in the dugout like the corpse of a once-great man is enough to make us want to take a year and really get into the CFL.

We know better than to try to parse The Manager's thoughts on the best way to run the team, because madness is sure to follow. And yet, we just can't help it. We can't keep ourselves from reading the crazy-ass things that he throws out there, almost willy-nilly: Hill and Lind need to stay where they are in the lineup; Vernon's confidence will get tore down if he loses the cleanup spot; it's going to be easier to manager the rotation now that Doc's not here; Brett Cecil might be on the outside looking in. It's all such crazy-ass shit.

We could get into a whole deeper discussion as to what this means, and whether if our current frustration with The Manager makes us feel stupid for ever having revered him. But since GROF already went there splendidly and eloquently, and we prefer not to pick those scabs in our psyche just yet, we'll let it slide for now.

For the time being, we're just going to try to find the positive. We're going to put our trust in AA and Bruce Walton (who we're convinced is going to be awesome) and Brian Butterfield (who is and always was awesome). We're going to look for solace in the quiet turmoil.

Because we might not last the year if we really started to put any energy into The Manager's last stand.