Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The One Man Gang's Acting Chops

You know, we shouldn't encourage José Bautista to continue promoting the "Joey Bats" nickname, especially when he already has a perfectly awesome nickname: One Man Gang!

Still, we had to admit that we chuckled when he said "whacked". He could definitely play the heavy in a revival of the Littlest Hobo.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blue Jays Twitter Power Rankings!

It's not that we're bereft of actual baseball stuff to discuss. We've just wanted to do this for months now, and we'd prefer not to discuss Hawk Harrelson or John Danks, or whether if the One Man Gang could stand to chill in the middle of a blow out. (Though others might wish to go there.)

We'll note that unlike some others we know, we do not have a proprietary system which helps to analyze the influence and reach of each of these accounts. We're pretty much shooting from the hip. (Though we'd guess that we're smarter than your algorithm anyhow.)

Let's rank 'em up!

1. J.P. Arencibia ( - Followers: 24,481 ; Following: 69

The Lowdown: Crown Prince of Blue Jays tweeters. Originator of the #beastmode hashtag. Instigator of Twitter tomfoolery. Not above commenting on the issues of the day (such as they are.) Uses the tool as it was supposed to be used. Seems like a genuinely fun guy. Asks followers for helpful advice on living in Toronto, Canada.

Will he follow you? Are you a hot chick?

Will he RT me? Maybe. Helps if you are a hot chick. Or if it involves children loving baseball.

Worth a follow? Absolutely. Above all others.

2. Brandon Morrow () - Followers: 12,681 ; Following: 35

The Lowdown: Literate, and legitimately witty. Creates anagrams just for fun. Doesn't tweet often, but is often re-tweetable. Ongoing dialogue between he and his wife (@lilymorrow21) is amusing, like the best episodes of Mad About You. (Okay, probably better than that. And there is a dog involved.)

Will he follow you? Probably not. Unless you are a teammate, baseball writer or a purveyor of hilarious comedy music video madness.

Will he RT me? Are you his teammate?

Worth a follow? Yes. But expect quality as opposed to quantity.

3. Travis Snider () Followers: 20,273 ; Following: 74

The Lowdown: Early season Twitter MVP. Trip to Las Vegas slowed down tweeting output. Still has significant Twitter upside. Fully embraced #MeatsDontClash meme, and made it his own. Seems like a genuinely cool guy.

Will he follow you? Not likely. Sticks to circle of Jays, friends of Jays and other big leaguers.

Will he RT me? Yes, for a good cause.

Worth a follow? Yes, though his absence from the twitosphere may give you some sadness.

4. Ricky Romero () - Followers: 25,144 ; Following: 51

The Lowdown: That "Los Fearless" Nike ad he did? That's pretty much what you can expect from RickRo's tweets: Intensely inspirational. Pumps up teammates with #beastmode or #HustleandHeart hashtags.

Will he follow you? Are you the reigning Miss USA?

Will he RT me? Yes. Just ask for an RT for whatever reason, and he's happy to oblige.

Worth a follow? Sure. Just prepare yourself for the sad spectacle of people dumber than you begging for RTs.

5. José Bautista () - Followers: 30,295 ; Following: 48

The Lowdown: Enthusiastic!! Enjoys the use of exclamation!!

Will he follow you? You should know better by now.

Will he RT me? No. And he's a better man for it.

Worth a follow? Who are we kidding. Of course you are following him already.

6. Brett Cecil () - Followers: 13,298 ; Following: 71

The Lowdown: Happy (though homesick) dad. Enthusiastic Washington Capitals fan. Provides honest self-criticism following games. Occasionally takes on idiot trolls.

Will he follow you? Perhaps if you don't mind letting him beat you at NHL 11.

Will he RT me? Nope. Go beg for RTs from those prats from Glee.

Worth a follow? Sure.

7. Brett Lawrie (@blawrie13) - Followers: 8,392 ; Following: 14

The Lowdown: Dude. Party time. Excellent. Less interesting than his sister's tweets, though fewer emo moments as well.

Will he follow you? We're not sure he knows how.

Will he RT me? What's an RT?

Worth a follow? You can probably wait until he gets his promotion.

8. Jesse Litsch (@JesseLitsch) - Followers: 13,745 ; Following: 81

The Lowdown: Happy to be hear sometimes he uses words funny and run on sentences and stuff alright.

Will he follow you? As likely as anyone to do so. Helps if you're a chick. (Hotness not as much a concern.)

Will he RT me? Are you the MLBPA?

Worth a follow? He's agile like a kitty! How could you not?


We suppose we could have added a few other minor leaguers to this list (@jakemarisnick for instance), but we're reasonably certain that you've already stopped reading by now. And if you have stuck it through to the finish: Hey there! Happy Monday, y'all!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What's the timeline?

When you're supposed to be blogging about the Toronto Blue Jays and you have what serious writers (ie: folks who are, uh, good with words, and, uh, get paid to do it) refer to as writers' block, there's always one easy fallback option.

So how fuckin' good is that Jose Bautista? Am I right? Nails or what?

OK, but seriously, this post is about Bautista and his greatness. The premise is this:

How long do we think his current level of greatness will last until he becomes "just another slugger"? 2 more seasons? Maybe 3? And does it then not stand to reason that Alex Anthopoulos would target the next few seasons as the time during which the Jays must finally climb that mountain?

Of course, it's not so easy as snapping your fingers and announcing "We're competing now, boys!", but one would have to assume this timeframe was already within the scope of The Plan (right?). But let's say things were to go south with certain pieces of the future plan (no inferences allowed)..... does the Era of Bautista then dictate a quick and dirty (ie: expensive) plan-B as opposed to waiting for the next internal option?

You know what brings this to mind? The Jose Reyes nonsense brings this to mind. Not that I was buying into any serious interest the Jays might have in the player (miss that), but the concept of this team actually taking a run at big shiny pieces along those lines.

And I can't decide if I love or hate the idea.

Because as fantastic as it would be if AA's Jays suddenly became players for the Reyes and Fielders and (gasp!) Pujols of the baseball world.... I seem to kinda remember the outcome the last time the Jays were amongst the biggest players in the free agent world. It didn't end so well and resulted in a public craving for an internal rebuild and "doing things the right way".

And here we are.

Great players are great players, whether they're homegrown or bought & paid for on the open market. So what am I thinking? I guess I'm thinking a Big Splashy Move is always fun, but this team is more than one piece away from a championship calibre club.... until proven otherwise.

Luckily, we're likely on the verge of finding out whether a few of those pieces are ready to assert themselves as future cornerstones in the days, maybe weeks at most, ahead.

And if they are?

Big Splashy Moves!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Triumphant Return of the Friday Tweet Bag

You've got questions? We've got the smarmy, self-congratulatory repartee that may or may not answer you, but is certain to amuse and entertain. (Okay, "certain" might be a little strong.)

Let the tweetbaggery...BEGIN!

Our blogging pals present the following quandry: Dilemma: Canada Day in Ottawa or a trip to TO to watch the Jays and Halladay's return?

Indeed, Canada Day in the Nation's Capital is a throwdown of a hoedown, filled with face-painting, bands you've never heard of (in both official languages!) and patios filled with tomfoolery and iniquity.

But let's be serious: You've lived in Ottawa, and you've done this Canada Day thing before. If you stay in Ottawa, you'll spend a lot of time watching nimrods piss on monuments and puke in bushes that were well-manicured by federal government agencies. It's the same routine as last year, pretty much.

If you don't have family coming to town who want to experience this bacchanal of polite patriotism (as some of us apparently do), then get down to Toronto and see the Jays-Phillies series. Even if Halladay doesn't pitch, his presence in the building is sure to make everyone weepy.

Speaking of fun times, (party in back y'all!) asks: should the Jays try the Frasor as closer experiment one more time?

How frustrating is it to watch your closer hack up a game? So frustrating that some of us got nostalgic for B.J. Ryan the other night. (Not naming names...) Still: We like Franky Frank's ability to miss bats, and while Frasor can fosh his way through some hitters, Francisco's K-rate is still pretty stellar (10.38 per nine innings versus Frasor's 8.85.)

We like Frasor as a back of the bullpen arm (in spite of his infuriatingly deliberate approach to pitching), but we'd prefer to be able to use him as needed in the seventh or eighth or what have you.

More more more! (who is too slovenly to replace his default egg profile pic in Twitter) asks: Is this really a team that can contend in 2012, even with the addition of he who shall not be named?

Wait a second...who shan't be named? We realize that we've turned into a scolding aunt recently, and we've cast aspersions on people who pine for many players. (Sorry about that...Scolding comes so easily to us.)

To the core of your question: This team CAN contend in 2012. We hope. But the 2012 team is going to have to look a lot different from the ramshackle collection of dubious, marginal veterans that are lurching around this team right now. IF Gordie Dougie Lawrie and Travis Snider are fairly productive (let's say 1.5-2.0 WARs) in 2012, and IF there is a bit more of a solid back end to the rotation, they could build around what exists and at least push 90 wins.

Yikes. Did we just get carried away with the optimism again?

On a related note, asks: is Travis a "change of scenery" guy now?

No, not nearly. Though that is our worst fear, we've actually managed to reel it back and remember just how young Snider still is. Even with some of the struggles we've seen this year, we figure that it'll be a few years before he even approaches his peak, and we've got to be a bit more patient with his development.

We've heard that the Jays are fixing his swing, which had become encumbered with hitches and weight shifts designed to help him hit mistake pitches 7000 feet, but left him unbalanced and unable to adjust to good fastballs or breaking pitches. It seems as though he's hitting well enough at Las Vegas, but we're willing to let him figure out how to hit again down there if it takes all year.

Side thought: Seeing Hunter Pence (who we like a lot) this week, we were curious to know what his progression looked like. Pence was a 21 year-old with college ball experience in a big-time program before he even took his first cuts in low-A ball, whereas Snider was called up as a 20 year-old who'd flown through three minor league levels in one season.

At 24, Pence rounded into shape and became a solid (.899 OPS) contributor, and has acquitted himself pretty well (.816 career OPS) over the past few years. We think Snider can be a better hitter than Pence, so let's see where Snider is next year before we cast him off.

From the man with the plan, If you were the GM, what would you do right now? Assume you have 8 million, but all other real world limits apply.

You can't buy your way out of problems. You can keep your $8 million. Having said that, we'd look to start moving non-performers off the 25-man roster (EE, f'r'instance), and start easing in some of the future roster into big league roles. (Which they've already kinda done.) We'd also be looking at guys like the Reds' Chris Heisey, who might not have a big role with their current team, but who could contribute to the Jays.

Okay, we're a touch loquacious, so we're gonna tighten up the answers from here on out. Quickly!

asks: Is Josh Roenicke still considered a prospect/valuable? 15 BB in 20IP, 6.30 ERA, coming up to 29th birthday.

Nope. Roenicke's an old righty with control problems. He's fallen way back in the Jays' bullpen plans.

asks: Can we get some commentary on the facial hair with legs that goes by the name of Eric Thames?

Seriously, we had to read this question five times before we realized that you weren't asking about Thames' leg hair. As for what we think of him: We think he'll have decent doubles power in the majors, and we wonder why he's DHing and not getting a regular turn in the outfield. Is he that bad? Or does the org really love Corey Patterson that much? As for his facial hair: Pretty fly. Though we saw a hipster on the street with a similar look yesterday, and we thought he looked like a douche. Conflicted!

(Hi Ar-Kee!) requests: Draw up a scenario in which David Wright ends up in Toronto. Thanks. Rosterbation!

We love David Wright, and we think he'd be a stellar addition to the Jays. But even with the Mets' lunacy in recent months, they are not giving him away without getting a king's ransom back. Who would they want? Snider? Stewart? Gose? All of the above? Quite possibly. Would they take a collection of second-level prospects? Aaron Sanchez and Travis d'Arnaud and Deck McGuire and Asjer Wojciechowski? We'd do that...though mostly because those guys are purely theoretical beings to us. Still: David Wright!

Hurry hard! asks: What lineup do you want to see tonight?

Versus lefty Mark Buehrle, we'd set it up like so: Escobar SS, Nix 3B, JPA DH, One Man Gang RF, Rivera 1B, Rajai CF, Molina C, Hill 2B, Thames LF. Ask us why in the comments!

One more! asks: Are we OK? or am I looking at a potential June 1 DFA?

No, we're okay. This blog is firmly committed to a weekend editor, and The Ack is that weekend editor at this time. (Vague vote of confidence!) Now get ready to spin some gold over the weekend!

Speaking of which: Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks again for the questions. The Tweet Bag is now closed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things Could Be Worse

It's easy in the middle of the season to get lost in the mire of your team's most recent events.

Talk to most of us (Jays fans, bloggers, tweeters, commenters, what-have-you) in over the Winter months, and we were all pretty sanguine about the prospects for the 2011 team, and the degree to which we would bear with some temporary pain for longer-term gain. It should have been obvious that such a stance would be much harder to maintain once we were looking at Corey Patterson in the two-hole everyday.

Oh sure, back in the months of offseason rosterbation and speculation, no one was picturing such an eventuality. But then again, we weren't figuring on a lot of the downside that has come to fruition in this first third of the year.

Because if you'd told us about the cavalcade of calamities that have befallen this team before the season started, there's no way that we could have pictured much more than a 100-loss season, and maybe worse. It's entirely possible we would have folded the blog and found another hobby...like javelin catching.

Seriously, look at the misery thus far...marvel at it! What would you have expected if we'd told you back then that as the Jays were about to play their 50th game:

That Brett Cecil and Travis Snider were justifiably demoted.

That Adam Lind came back, only to get hurt.

That Jo-Jo Reyes pitched worse than expected? (And really, not much was expected to begin with, aside from a few kind words from yours truly.)

That Aaron Hill has gone from turning into a pumpkin in 2010 to becoming a rotting carcass of dilapitated two-weeks-past-Halloween pumpkin in 2011.

That Mike McCoy will get 45 at bats, will be deservedly demoted several times, and still put up better numbers than Aaron Hill.

That Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hill and Rajai Davis combined to have as many home runs as Chris Woodward (or us, or you for that matter!)

That Corey Patterson and his .737 OPS would seem like an offensive asset when compared to Juan Rivera (.662), Rajai Davis (.649), Aaron Hill (.616), Edwin Encarnacion (.586) and Travis Snider (.540).

And then if we were to tell you that the Jays managed to stay within three and a half games of the AL East lead, and sat just a game below .500...Would you be relieved?

Thus far, the season has played out worse than we could ever have expected. Well, with the notable exceptions of the One Man Gang, José Bautista (4.5 fWAR!) and a very respectable rookie campaign from J.P. Arencibia. But still...you see what we're saying. For all that's gone wrong so far, there's an upside to this season, and our heroes aren't even all that far off the mark.

Unless, of course, things get really bad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Here's the Tale of Gordie Dougie Baseball Canada Stud

It's funny to think that is this day and age, legends can be built on little more than boxscores, unrestrained optimism, patriotic fervour and an overwhelming disdain for the status quo. But then, the fact that most of us have very little visual evidence to assess the progress of Brett Lawrie probably helps to add inches and feet to his legend.

It's been at once the most tiring and most tiresome meme of this year's Blue Jays season that the remedy for virtually any deficiency at the plate or in the field is the recall of the "hometown boy" (from 4300 KM away). Edwin Encarnacion bobbled a ball in the first game of the season, and people in our section (231, in case you're wondering if this was you) were calling for the immediate release of "E5" and the ascension of Gordie Dougie, the most scrappinest, Canadianest baseballer ever. Juan Rivera's woes? Release him for Gordie Dougie! Travis Snider's swing is effed up? Summon forth Gordie Dougie!

"I bet you he likes Don Cherry! Knows hockey! Orders double-doubles! Hates Quebec! Drinks strong beer! Says sorry a lot! Plays through injuries! Fights to defend the honour of his teammates! Has a pocketful of loonies at ALL TIMES! Plays euchre! And is really really polite!"

We're not entirely sure why it bugs us so much that there is a thick layer of sickly sweet maple syrupy exuberance for Lawrie. It could be that there is a certain provincial attitude around it that we find off-putting. We're reasonably certain, for instance, that were he from Venezuela, there wouldn't be the fans with marginal other interest in Jays prospects calling for his immediate recall every time Edwin Encarnacion tosses a ball up the line. (As evidence, we'd mention the ongoing discussions around Canadian Adam Loewen, or the popularity of the Jays' move to keep Scott Richmond on the 40-man roster.)

(And none of this is to say that there isn't a compelling reason for considering Lawrie's call up and getting excited about it, because he's hitting the snot out of the ball...albeit in the PCL, where the air is waifishly thin and where breaking balls don't break. Still, as he piles up stats, it's only been recently that he's closed the gap between strikeouts and walks, and we suspect that his willingness to get the bat off his shoulder will be greeted with great enthusiasm by opposing pitchers.)

We don't want to come off as anti-Canadian here, because we're just a pleased as punch to live in this country. But as a baseball fan, we're mostly agnostic to a player's provenance, if only because we've seen time and again how Canadian players get built into something their not when they arrive in Toronto, then slip away in the end, unwept. (Sorry, Corey Koskie.)

But here's the point of the post (and didn't it take us long enough to get here?): We're just about at the point where we're ready to concede that it might be time to give Gordie Dougie a shot.

Edwin Encarnacion has (as we've repeated a few times) regressed in almost every facet of his game this season. His defense is worse (which is hard to fathom), his power is non-existent, and in recent weeks, he's stopped even hitting the ball hard for outs. His plate discipline is in the tank, and he's hacking out of his cleats at just about everything with seams thrown near him. The 30 homer player that we imagined in the offseason? That's not who Edwin is anymore.

And while we're loathe to start the clock on him, it just strikes us at this point that Gordie Dougie could provide the Jays with more production and a decent glove at third over the final four months of the season. We'd peg him to post a .320ish OBP, .430ish SLG, about a dozen errors and maybe 10 homers over the remainder of the season.

Given the rather grim alternatives, we're not going to fight the Lawrie love too much longer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sometimes, hustle and heart matter

We do this weird thing in the blogosphere.

We greet schmucky slogans like "Hustle & Heart" with derision, probably more than is deserved (even if some gentle mocking is probably in order).

We like to claim that we don't care about clubhouse unity; it matters little to us if the roster is comprised of grade-A pricks, so long as they perform.

Well, you know? Fuck that. Can't we have both?

I'm an admitted softy to these kind of stories, probably moreso since my own baby son went through a life-threatening stretch of illness of his own. So if you're a heartless robot (and not in an awesome Halladay-esque way) who would gladly trade solid citizenry for thirty points of OPS, feel free to spend the next few minutes spending your time elsewhere. It's OK. I won't judge. Hey, some (most?) days I would too. But not today.

Not after watching Thursday's game and reading this story.

It's when reflecting on stories like these that the easy thing to say, the defacto attitude to have, is that baseball doesn't matter. And in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really. It's not life or death. It's entertainment.

That's what ties all this together. These Blue Jays - Romero and Arencibia in particular - seem to get it. They really do. Maybe we're all just so jaded into believing that pro athletes are naturally arrogant and selfish in nature that when the players we cheer for seem to actually care, we're taken aback.

But tears and emotion don't lie. Romero and JPA could have given the standard quotes - "well, hearing that kind of story puts it all in perspective, y'know, so we just went out there and gave it 110% for the kid." But their actions on the field and reactions beyond it showed so much more otherwise.

I'm sure for many the biggest story was the Jays won the game and split the mini-set with the Rays. And that was all well and good, too. But part of the entertainment factor, for me anyway, is cheering for a group of players you can respect.

No matter the boxscores for the balance of the season, it doesn't look like that's going to be much of a problem at all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

That of Which We Shall Not Speak

We're nothing if not superstitious, and at times, we find that we'll bite our tongue on certain players or subjects so as not to somehow affect their outcomes.

(Okay, that's probably less a matter of "superstition" and more a matter of "outsized sense of one's own cosmological importance"...but why quibble?)

The point here (if there really is one) is that we've probably stopped thinking certain thoughts, or at the very least we've not repeated them when they popped into our head this season.

(This is not so much a matter of self-censorship or playing coy with the readership as much as it is a matter of self-control...like the same instinct that keeps you from steering into oncoming traffic when your brain starts to wonder what that might be like and if it would be a good idea.)

As a result, we'll confess to having dished out our share of happy thoughts and glass-half-fullisms this year, trying to buoy our own spirits as well as yours. But given the better part of a week away from the team, with only some random tweets and a few highlight packages to inform our Blue Jays related thoughts, our mind started to wander. And there were a bunch of uncomfortable thoughts that we started to have about this team. So rather than try to stifle them any more and have them fester, we're going to just let fly with them, then walk away. And hope for the best.

Because deep down, we really worry that...

...Edwin Encarnacion has gotten worse in almost every facet of his game.

...Travis Snider is messed up, and that he might not be salvageable by this organization.

...Jo-Jo Reyes is really not very good, and that as much as we like him and root for him, the Jays don't have the roster space to continue to drag along his extended try out.

...Aaron Hill's best years are already behind him.

...this team isn't just a couple of clever tweaks and moves away from serious contention, and that it is more likely that several more years of good-not-great teams in the middle of the AL East will beget several more years of good-not-great teams in the middle of the AL East.

There. We've spat it all out. Let the cosmos do what they will.

Tomorrow, we'll be all sunshine and happiness again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A One-Sentence Post on...Productivity

Let this roll around your noggin for a few moments, and consider it for all it's worth, and from every angle: Noted slugger John McDonald (pictured above) now has more home runs this season than Travis Snider, Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion...combined.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tiny Morsels of Happiness

Watching the Jays play the Sox is an arduous affair, given the four hours out of your day that you need to carve out for such an endeavour, plus the psychic energy that it takes to keep yourself from wanting to punch things hard and repeatedly (like Dustin Pedroia's little prickish rat-face).

And yet, given the general malaise in these parts, last night's walkoff win was a sweet little pastry to cap off what was a ridiculously punishing, up and down and back and forth affair.

(For god's sake: Look at this win probability chart!)

The sweetest part was obviously the would-be game winning homer and the eventual actual game winning sac fly by rookie David Cooper. Cooper hasn't totally looked comfortable, and came into last night's game with a .111/.194/.148 slash line, and his couple of games at first haven't been bad, but he has had some hesitation in making plays.

But that swing! It has a certain relaxed elegance to it, not unlike that of Lyle Overbay's. (And you can decide for yourself whether if that constitutes praise or faint praise.) His inaugural round-tripper against Boston's behemoth reliever Daniel Bard wasn't so much a mighty hack as it was a confident parry of the bat.

Not to devolve into pollyannaish "Book of Awesome"-style aphorism, but sometimes, as a fan who is pushing back on the jadedness and the cynicism, it's nice to see something new happen.

(And we'll complete shroud over the fact that Cooper entered the game as a replacement for an injured Yunel Escobar, and that he may well get a lot more at bats in the coming weeks if the Jays somehow figure that a one-man bench comprised exclusively of José Molina might not be enough to get them through the next week.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Panic and Reason, and Their Proper Use

Remember how sanguine we (Jays fans, not the imperial blogging "we") all were this Winter and Spring, when we looked forward to a season where the Jays could fall to ten games under .500, but we'd all be okay with that, because we trusted the direction and the measured approach of
the new leadership team.

Well, now. Didn't that get blown all to shit in five weeks.

The past week has been significantly less than stellar. Okay, fine: It's been something of a disaster, which only serves to magnify the questions that leap out over every managerial decision and roster move. Last night's decision to pull Brandon Morrow was certainly open to criticism (we're sure he could have cleared the bases and given up five runs all on his own), and it is just one of a whole series of questions that have arisen from John Farrell's on-field management style.

And yet, we keep coming back to this: Do we really want this team to change its approach because of one bad week (out of 26 weeks in the season)? Do we really need to hit the panic button now? Why?

Two things (which are actually one thing) strike us about the reaction to the current state of affairs for the Jays, and how it relates to our pre-season expectations.

1) We Expect A Patient, Longer View from the General Manager...Except When We Don't, Like Right NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!

In the offseason, we all cheered the moves that sacrificed some of the short-term, on-field strengths (Vernon Wells' 3.8 fWAR, for instance) in favour of a slow build, bringing in higher-ceiling prospects and building through the system. But string together a week and a half of crappy outcomes, and suddenly, it's all GORDIE DOUGIE BASEBALL CANADA STUD NOW OR WE SHOOT THE DOG!!!

Is the Jays' lineup very thin right now? Indeed, it is. But does that mean that the immediate callup of Gordie Dougie or Eric Thames or the return Snider is going to suddenly turn this team around? Is letting Jo-Jo Reyes walk and DFAing Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion really going to make this a stronger lineup? And if your answer is: "Well, it couldn't hurt", you should probably rethink that proposition. Because yes, it could hurt. It could make this team weaker. It could turn this team into a 100 loss proposition if it gets stripped down to José Bautista and Adam Lind and lots of prayers.

(And if you haven't been paying close attention to Gordie Dougie's Strikeout-to-Walk ratio down on the farm, it looks like this: 27 Ks, 8 BBs. Now remove the maple leaf from your lapel for a moment, set aside your arguments about how many t-shirts Gordie Dougie is going to sell, and tell us that you really think that AL pitchers wouldn't have a field day exploiting his profound desire to swing the bat.)

The Jays shouldn't change their approach to player development or roster construction just because they've had some crappy outcomes in your most recent memories. Take a deep breath, step back, and look ahead at the 20 weeks remaining in the season. Even if the whole thing turns into an unmitigated disaster, it doesn't make sense for them to run around frantically switching things up, losing players on waivers and starting arb clocks early.

We're fans, and we're passionate about our team. But we should expect the management team to take a cold, rational approach to constructing the roster.

2) We Expect the On-Field Management to Be Deliberately Boring, and the Manager Should Adhere to the New Orthodoxy at All Times.

So we established that we expect the roster moves to come fast furious to satiate our needs to rid ourselves of players who are less than compelling for a bunch of guys that most of us have barely seen and none of us have ever seen in the big leagues.

But God forbid that John Farrell tries anything with his lineup.

"Corey Patterson is playing the wrong position! He's hitting in the wrong place in the order! Edwin as cleanup? Absurd! Why does Juan Rivera still get a turn? Why are we running? Why is he pulling this guy now, and why is that guy getting the call from the pen, when THE NEW BOOK CLEARLY STATES THAT HE SHOULD BE DOING ALL OF THIS DIFFERENTLY!"

John Farrell's had this team for six weeks. Maybe we don't necessarily agree with each and every move, and just how much he seems intent on doing all the time. (Trust us when we say that defending the incessant running game is a stretch for a guy like us.) But we just came off of several years where our throwback Manager chiselled his lineups and strategy into granite, and only deferred from the initial strategy when absolutely compelled to do so. (Which, we'd note, most of you hated. And before the season, you applauded the notion of a manager who was willing to improvise to get the most out of the lineup he had.)

So here's what we understand from you all: The GM should be running around furiously swapping out pieces randomly to see what fits, and to just DO SOMETHING. But the field manager should set his lineup, sit back and DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.

We know it's tough to think in these terms now, because losing sucks and because losing ugly (as the Jays undeniably have) sucks even worse. But when you're feeling frantic as the team's faithful, roll back your thought process to where you where when this was all theoretical. And don't confuse the outcome with the decisions. Because we're still playing a much longer game than last night's nine innings.

One last thing...on Morrow
Part of playing the longer game is keeping some of your powder dry for when you really need it. While we'd concur with much of what Dustin Parkes draws out on his Getting Blanked article on the removal of Brandon Morrow from last night's game, we'll offer up this counterpoint: Brandon Morrow is a very important piece to this team's future, and he's also a concern healthwise. If Farrell saw something that made him think even for a moment that there was something physically amiss with Morrow, then he had to be willing to get him out of the game and let him sort it out between starts.

And here's the difference between the call that Farrell had to make, and the one that many of us (yours truly included) were making last night and this morning: Farrell's call has consequence. If he, in the moment, sticks with Morrow and pushes the heretofore fragile pitcher's physical limits and then helps to push him beyond his breaking point, we're bemoaning for the next decade how he ruins arms and how our shot at glory was blown up by careless use of the precious commodity of that transcendent arm.

And as John Lott's National Post game story notes, Farrell claimed that injury wasn't a concern right before dropping in a mention of Morrow's elbow. If he was concerned, we're not going to second guess him.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Difference Maker

Serious question leading things off here - has there been too much or too little said about Jose Bautista?

Here's what prompted me to muse aloud about the Blue Jays difference maker: Justin Verlander mowing through the lineup with absolute ease. Of course, 101 mph fastballs assist considerably and this post is BY NO MEANS meant to take away from the performance (masterful & absolutely dominant).... but with every failure of an at-bat, I couldn't help but think at the approach Bautista would have taken in each.

And isn't that what gives you comfort that Bautista's success is sustainable, even if not at his current Pujolsian (not a word, but should be) levels? That patient, no panic, fuck you 0-2, "why swing if you don't want to hit the ball as hard as you can" approach? Because it is for me.

Now go back to today's game, then imagine this Blue Jays club with no Bautista to pencil in.... ever. I'm still seeing arguments that the contract might work out, but the logic and process in doling it out was flawed. And there may be validity to that argument, I guess. But I have to be frank with you here.

I really don't give much of a shit how the decision was made to hand Bautista a market-value five-year deal. This is the easiest statement a Blue Jay fan can make - it's like a kid approving a Mars bar 'fer the love of God. And in years four and five, maybe we will all be groaning about the dead-weight/big dollar black hole that is 2014 JoBau (blasphemy!). But can you imagine the team sans JoBau today? Can you?

Jose Bautista is about as clear-cut an MVP candidate - if such judgements are even allowed to be made in May - as you will find. He's all of George Bell and Carlos Delgado, regardless of team success. His at-bats should not be missed and they bring me great joy.

Can he keep it up? Holy shit, I hope so. Because the alternative for this season, with today providing a glimmer of evidence, would not be quite so appealing.

JP Arencibia has a message for the Catching prospects up & down the system
Take your time, fellas.

A quick note on young John Paul: he's exceeding expectations (if even only my own) and looks every bit the part of a young catcher growing into the role of everyday backstop.

His power has never been in question; his patience and control of the strike zone has. And while he'll never be Jose Bautista (see gushing above), his 8th-inning walk - the lone blemish on Verlander's potential perfecto - was, as respected analysts would say, a professional at-bat.

Moreover, it looks like John Farrell is feeling it too, turning over the keys to Kyle Drabek's car with post-game praise despite Young Kyle's melt. Perhaps complaints of JPA getting just 3/5ths of the catching at-bats can go by the wayside, and all the whiny whinertons can shut up about it already.

Oh wait, that was me.

Hey, you know what sucks? Corey Patterson getting every-day at-bats.....


Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Tweet Bag - You Have Questions, We Have Snarky Replies

(Shit. That's a TWEED bag. This isn't off to a rousing start.)

Let's get to it, without delay. The dandiest man in rural Nova Scotia (four years running!) asks: The Jays are now where SI predicted they would finish the season: last in the AL East. Do you think they'll stay there?

First off, DP: It's "i before e". You're lucky we happened to notice this. And second: No, dude. The Jays' April was a rough trip, literally. In the last 28 days, they've played four games at home, and have gone on two 10 game road trips through the west coast and the teeth of the AL East. Not to say that it get's easy from here, but some home games and a lighter schedule, and they should soar to the heights of fourth place in the AL East. O! Lofty goals!

Next! From a man who has never said no to the producer of a political roundtable: offers gifts of praise and a question: Your blog is as enlightening as 1000 suns (fawning - check). True/false question: by trade deadline, Aaron Hill is an ex-Jay.

Only 1000 suns? Well then. As for the question: Our first instinct is to say "false", as we don't think the Jays get full value for him this year. And there isn't necessarily someone waiting in the wings to step into the 2B role (though we're watching Adeiny Hechevarria's progress closely). Still, it strikes us that some team (the Phillies?) might get into the rough part of a pennant race or be looking ahead towards the playoffs without a better, healthy option, and might be willing to hand over something of value. And if Anthopoulos were to get something close to his asking price, we think he'd move him. All of which is to say: True.

On a related note, goes light on the fawning and praise, but asks: Aaron Hill in 2011: .242/.265/.290. SSS aside, how much leash does he get if those numbers don't improve?

It took us a moment to recognize that "SSS" stood for "Small Sample Size"...but considering the hissssssing tone with which many tosssssss out the sample size argument, thisssss issss completely reasonable.

As for how much leash Hill gets: He is the starter. He doesn't sit, no matter how much he struggles at the plate. He's their man until he's not, but he'll be moved to another team before he's moved to the bench.

And another! From our Man in Caribou, Maine, : You are the greatest, man. Fawning enough? Adam Lind has been amazing of late. Hot streak or is he going to have a big year?

Yeah, we are the greatest, aren't we? Though a little more fawning would have been nice. As for Lind: This is real deal, Holyfield. He's not chasing bad pitches, and he's shortened up his swing nicely. He's also hitting lefties in a somewhat respectable fashion, which means that the overall numbers won't look quite as bad.

With the Jays' offense being pretty thin right now, Lind is going to be an essential part of the team's success...maybe THE essential piece to the team's offensive well-being. José Bautista is going to have a lonely, frustrating existence if there is no one hitting around him, but being buddied up with Lind will help him see more pitches, and will help to produce the big innings innings that they'll need to stay afloat.

Do we sense more praise coming? This from : Your handsomeness should be bottled and sold for $19.99. Will we ever see the 08/09 version of Yunel?

We are nothing if not handsome. Though $19.99 seems a little cheap...that's Brut 33 territory. We like to think we'd be more in the Burberry London, $79 territory. (By the way, that's a not so subtle hint, in case anyone was thinking of buying us a gift set of fragrances this June, for whatever reason.)

As for Yunel: Let's not focus on what he was. Let's think of what he can be. (Right? We're trying to convince ourself of this...are you buying in?) For instance: Have you seen how solid he's looked in the field this year? He's getting to a lot of balls, and his throws are strong and accurate and devoid of unnecessary flourish. This is all good.

Unfortunately, since braining himself on the knee of Adam LaRoche at the beginning of last month, Escobar has been one of the Jays weakest hitters, posting a .207/.275/.261 slash line, with three extra base hits in 102 plate appearances. So does this mean that the 3.0ish WAR that we envisioned for June-Yell is out of the question? No. But he's going to need to start producing soon if he's going to get there. He should be a concern to Jays fans right now.

More compliments? offers this: O, wise and powerful Tao, do you have any suggestions on mid-late summer games to head out to?

You know what? It's always a good day for baseball. Don't get too worked up about which matchup you're going to see, or who is pitching, or what have you. The great thing is that every team has their something going on. At the end of the 2009 season, we went to a Jays-Mariners game and sat by our lonesome in the outfield with about a dozen Japanese Ichiro fans. That was fun. But if we're being a sport and playing along, here's a few series that intrigue us.

In May, this weekend's series against the Tigers will be interesting, as it will give us a bit of a sense of how the Jays measure up against the best of the AL Central.

In June, the mid-week series at the end of the month (June 28-29-30) against the Pirates sounds fun, as we really like some of the Bucs' young talent. And their awesome uniforms.

In July, there's obviously the Canada Day weekend series against the Phillies, though we counted off Roy Halladay's likely starts, and it seems as though he'll miss the Jays this time around. Will be worth tracking.

In late August, there is a homestand from the 23rd to the 28th versus the Royals (who by then should have more of their future stars playing at the big league level) and the Rays (who remain a good team, and with whom the Jays will hopefully be battling for third place in the AL East.)

In September: The Orioles series (9-10-11) might be interesting to gauge where the Jays sit with their fellow AL East also ran cousins. And get this: Last home game of the season is September 22! Versus Vernon and the Angels. Don't put off your trip to the ball park!

One more tweeted question, and then we tie up the old TweetBag for another week. asks: What's your favourite planet?? Mine's the sun

Well, the sun is pretty awesome. But it's a star.Then again, planet or star when that thing burns out we're all going to be dead.

We don't want to leave you on a sad note so just one more before bed time (who is noticably light in the area of fawning ) asks: whats going to be the future of Snider...and Hill? Do you think Snider will ever reach his potential?

If we didn't know better, we'd think people were pretty hung up on Aaron Hill right about now. The responses above probably suffice for that part of your question, but as for Snider: We get that there are concerns for him, and he really didn't look very good at all in April. Still, we keep hearing people writing him off, even though he's just 23 years old. (The Father-in-Law, for instance, tossed out a comment about "what a disappointment" Snider is last week. We're guessing that for the average fan who watches the game and listens to Bob McCown, that's pretty much where their head is at.)

We're not sure what Snider's potential is, though we probably trotted out 30 HR/100 RBI/.850 OPS numbers in the past. Can he still reach that? For sure. But probably not this year. Not until he quiets down that swing.

Okay, for reals! That's it! Let's call it a weekend. May you all have a good one, and may the roof be open and the sun shine down upon you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Point/Counterpoint: Ack and Tao's End of Month Digital Chinwag

TAO: Before this season started, I thought that I was going to be washed under in a syrupy sweet wave of positivity amongst Jays fans. And yet, here we are: Each of Alex Anthopoulos' callups/demotions gets crapped on, Farrell's getting little latitude on lineup/strategy decisions, and generally, there's misery and anger throughout the land. What the fuck is wrong with everyone?

ACK: Guilty as charged boss, and I don't feel great about it. Let me start with Farrell's in-game managing and the resulting furor..... I blame twitter. No, seriously. Every caught stealing or botched sacrifice draws instant negative response, and it's like fire consuming oxygen. Or however that works. Me? My blood pressure raises when Dotel gets called in to face left-handed bats, but I'm surprisingly OK with the baserunning. Except for the real obvious blunders. But I'm attributing that mostly to players adjusting to the "aggressive" style on the paths. That should get ironed out.

Now with regards to AA's moves..... I don't want to re-hash my last post, but let me just say that I'm mildly concerned at some of the double-speak we're starting to see. "We're bringing Edwin back to be the 1B/DH. No wait, he lost weight so he's OK at 3B now".... "We're going to let Travis work through his issues.... until he sucks"..... " etc. Just saying, I know someone else (coughRICCIARDIcough) who would and did get killed for that in the past. But yeah, plans change and he's earned the benefit of the doubt, so I'm not interested in killing him for it yet.

TAO: Seriously, though: The fact that we all need to pass immediate judgment on every decision, starting with the afternoon posting of the lineups each day right through to each reliever to enter a game...It just starts to seem like there's so little patience out there. And lord love a duck, if there's one attribute a baseball fan needs to have, it's patience.

Do people actually expect that Octavio Dotel was NOT GOING TO FACE A SINGLE LEFTY ALL SEASON LONG? Come on.

And another thing! Didn't we all castigate The Manager for his unwillingness to switch up the lineup...and now every lineup change that Farrell tries gets written off before the first pitch is thrown. Can't we all just relax and enjoy the games a little?

ACK:.... and on the flipside, The Twitter (as I like to call it) makes heroes out of marginal players playing above their heads. Sam Fuld anyone?

Now that we've established that people losing their shit is making you lose your shit... what legitimate concerns do you have from the on-field product? I'm just going to freestyle this one and wonder aloud why there's no uproar over Edwin's total lack of power. I suppose he does have 8 doubles, but for real - no longballs?

So how about you, Lash LaRue... what's got your spurs jinglin & janglin?

TAO: Funny you mention Edwin, because yeah, we noticed that glaring "0" under the "HR" in his stat line chyron all weekend long. He's not playing terribly...okay, maybe he is. But three or four dingers would do a lot to help us make the case for his defense. Or in his defense. Whichever.

And we're more than a little nervous about what we've seen out of Travis Snider to this point. As much as people want to discount the early poor performance, it's not as though he hit a few balls right at fielders over a few weeks. He was a mess. And though we're very optimistic about the prospects of him coming back stronger than ever, for some reason...lately...we've started thinking a lot about Jeremy Hermida. Perish the thought!

(And as for Jo-Jo, we won't mention it if you won't.)

And yes, you are right to point out that I'm losing it. Just a little bit. But the sunny days are coming, and after a crapload of injuries and some disappointments early on, the Jays are still in the mix in the AL East. And the sunny days are coming soon. Right?

So, blog brother: Sum it up for me. Where we at, and where we going?

ACK: Where we at, and where we going? Well boyo, I wish I knew. A month ago, it felt like we were on the precipice - a rotation filled with young stars already here and more soon on the way. Locked-up impact bats scattered throughout the lineup with the balance to come and soon.
Are we there now? I'd say no, we aren't. Does that mean we've taken a step back? I'll say no again.... but can we call it a step delayed? Some of that is injury related, some is what we hope to be a "temporary regression".... and some is curious decision making. Through these eyes anyway.

One thing I do know is that I'd rather not just watch this team kick around the "mix" until mid season, pressuring management to put up a false front of competing with big at-bats coming from the likes of Patterson, Podsesnick, Rivera, Nix, and Molina.... because I think we all know that's a design fail. Fans should never cheer to lose but if I can steal a line from The Manager, I'd rather lose one know to win two later in seasoning the guys who will eventually do it.
In short..... May might suck but August won't. At least that's the hope from this end.

TAO: And so say all of us!

Wishing May flowers to all y'all.