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.


NSexport said...

Great blog, I am not sure where some fans saw this season going but they have sure turned on Farrell in a hurry. You have it right, sit back relax and let the process take place. Looking at who the Jays have in the minors the future seems bright, whether with those players or the players their trade(s) will bring in.

Nathan said...

Thank God some reason finally!! I am getting tired at all of the other bloggers complaining about every decision Farrel makes and how it's the wrong one. Have some perspective. We all knew we weren't going to do anything this year (except on the outside chance that all the question marks produce.) If we are still running into loads of outs in bad situations and Dotel is pitching to lefties in a wild card race then let the speculation begin. Until then cool it, let Farrel experiment and teach his team how and when to run properly and just enjoy watching the young guys play.

The Ack said...

I hate to cross the boss and risk dismissal, but a few counterpoints:

When we were all teeming with optimism in the winter and preseason, it was under the presumption that this was a bridge year towards contention, breaking in younger players and rookies and giving them the AB's to see if they, hopefully, had what it took and what they still needed to learn.

When players like Patterson and Podsednick were signed to minor league deals, we all laughed at the cynics who bemoaned those signings and said "they won't even see the shitty Rogers Centre turf, it's a depth move!". Now I'm expecting the next call-ups to be Pods and Ryan Shealy.

When Edwin was brought back as 1B/DH, we all applauded and said "perfect, we get the offensive upside deployed in favorable situations on the fairly cheap!". And now he's taking the field and playing shittacular defence at 3B, same as last year (without the offensive upside, yet).

It's not that I'm craving a Lawrie recall, because why rush him a la Snider (and those ugly K/BB ratios you astutely pointed out).... but I just wasn't prepared for a season of retreads and placeholders... again.

I don't fucking know anymore. I just want to see forward progress and the young players showing they are, indeed, the core of the next great Blue Jays team. Not this shitshow.

And if it's the second half we're waiting for, then it can't come soon enough.

Indyman said...

I don't think Snider or Thames or Lawrie being called up will make us win now, but it will put us in a better position in the near future. Like I said on Twitter, I saw this as a gap year to hopefully contend next year. I'd define gap year as letting the young guys cut their teeth on the MLB level, with MLB instruction. The experience will pay off in the long run. Some of the young guys are ready, and wasting time with the like of EE, Rivera and Patterson is the equivalent of giving Buck AB's over JPA last year. If we did that, we could lose 100 games, but we'd be in a better positions to win sooner...just my thoughts..

MJK said...

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

outside of callers to the Jeff Blair show, is this a viewpoint with any traction? i can't help but feel like this is a strawman. Lawrie is not going to fix things, and his absence is not making anything worse. Most reasonable fans and media recognize this.

Tao of Stieb said...

Mike: Someone tweeted to me yesterday that the Jays would sell a ton of t-shirts once Lawrie came to town.

The "Sell the Canadians a Canadian" meme has been going on for some time (people LOVED the Corey Koskie signing...until he sucked).

I'm not saying that everyone thinks that way, but there is a fairly significant constituency that does (including members of the media, who love the "hometown" boy angle.)

Tao of Stieb said...

Ack: You're suspended without pay for this weekend. /Empty threats

The Ack said...

Well I'll show you! Just see if this blog survives the weekend without me!

Timmy D said...

I'm totally starting a band so I can call it "The Imperial Blogging We".

Anonymous said...

The Blue Jays suck, are in the toughest division in baseball and just began a long term rebuild. Anyone complaining about the on-field decisions or product, this year or next year, needs to take some Yoga classes or convert to Buddhism. Pro players take several years to reach even the tip of their potential. To expect a chance at being a contender before 2014 would be setting yourself up for disappointment.

MJK said...

Someone tweeted to me yesterday that the Jays would sell a ton of t-shirts once Lawrie came to town.

a part of me just died.

Tony Viner said...


My strategy is sound. The spy Farrell, and the young assassin Alex, will help me bring you, my loyal followers, the glory you have been waiting for, and so deserve.

I've spent years tirelessly constructing a team with minimal payroll commitments, which will allow for me to acquire additional assets, to aid the Home Run King Jose in his heroic quest for world domination.

Unfortunately, opposing GMs and owners are now completely intimidated by my sexy business style, and my assassin's by proxy.

After I dumped that albatross Wells and his $85MM contract, and persuaded the Home Run King Jose to accept unfair terms, I revised my plan that will shock the world. In layman's terms, the gloves have come completely off.

Rest assured that I have gone to great lengths to circumvent and manipulate MLB rules, and U.S. and Canadian tax and anti-trust laws, to ensure that my company, and my fans in turn, are blessed with unfair advantages over lesser organizations.

I am currently initiating a new phase of my operational plan, which aims to deceive and confuse other MLB organizations into taking the likes of Juan Rivera, Octavio Dotel and Jo-Jo Reyes off of my hands, and offering deeply-scouted young players in return.

I told you long ago that this operation would take time, and that I would require your support and loyalty. Handsome Tony has a few tricks left up his brilliant, sexy sleeves yet. Believe me, there is a reason the Mandarins call me the "Grey Wolf" of Hong Kong.

In order to destroy the opposition, I will have to continue in my dishonest, deceitful and frankly illegal business practices, and I pledge to you that these underhanded dealings will pay off in the long run. In other words, help is on the way, and the streets of the future will be paved with gold.

Trust me.

Handsome Tony Viner

sporkless said...

Great post.

I shouldn't try to speak for all of us that are currently pulling our hair out... but... I think the lousy losses are just the putrid frosting on the festering cake.

I would be more than satisfied with a 90-loss season as long as the kids were coming along. The fact that Cecil and Snider have been a D-; Drabek has been a C; and Arencibia has been a B has just let all the air out of my early season balloon. You might be able to gloss over these challenges if the team was somehow picking up unexpected wins like they did last year.

Anyway, take a breath; it's a long season, and all that. It's a long, multi-year process. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

This blog was giving Farrell a blow job before he even filled out his first lineup card and the cocksucking just keeps getting worse. If Cito had made any of these decisions, you guys would have been all over him but now it's somehow "growing pains" when this manager makes even worst decisions.

It's one thing to be good little soldiers, but this is blog is almost becoming Wilner 2.0

Anonymous said...

Finally, an awesome, "cheer for the Jays to win,"- win. Just as I was grumbling that this team hits too many solo hrs. Davis puts on a running show and Cooper delivers- again. To make the fans cheer. Yet, another win to open a series!!

Yves said...

A potentially alternative take on Barndon Morrow's removal and injury concerns by management: it is all about diabetes.

Blood sugar has nothing to do with your arm, but it affects health so generally that medical people tend to be excessively cautious.

I was diagnosed with diabetes 3 years ago. I have none of the classic risk factors: I am not overweight, I have low blood pressure and cholesterol... Despite this fact, doctors now treat me like an elderly patient (I am 35...)

CASE: I take my wife and girls to the doctor's because they all have an apparent ear infection (nasty...). My wife and the girls get quick checks in the ear and a prescription for antibiotics. After my wife helpfully points out to the doctor that I am diabetic, I (the only one without symptoms) get the "please remove your shirt and lie down" treatment and get a full-blown inspection... go figure.

I if Morrow is treated with extreme caution by the medical staff and whether this general attitude might not have an exaggerated impact on the thinking of the coaching staff, given Morrow's importance to the longer term planning of the team.