Category Archives: Beefs, Blunders, and Boneheads

Jeff Blair: I live under a bridge; I charge a toll

If you like reading a GM’s words sliced and diced to fit one man’s feather-ruffling narrative, then I highly suggest reading Globe columnist Jeff Blair’s exercise in troll-o-nomics, “Jays left to wheel and deal their way through offseason“. Blair begins his article by reporting that revenue increased across the board in 2012 and as a direct result the Blue Jays’ payroll will increase for 2013.

Isn’t that good news then? No, says Blair, because the window for spending their way to success closed last season when “bold, budget stretching moves” were a sure bet. Forget that last offseason there were far more question marks than now including a bullpen which was in shambles, uncertainty about the expected performance of potential key cogs in Lawrie, Rasmus, and EE, and/or the presence of low-cost prospects/freshly healthy veterans that could perform at or near any free agent acquisition’s level. Forget that apart from Bautista, the core of the team prior to 2012 was not yet at their peak (much less their decline) phases and the team could have used another year of experience and development to best determine its long-term needs.

This off-season, “bold, budget stretching moves” are not fashionable with Blair because there are “at best, two front-of-the-rotation pitchers on the free agent market.” The one he names, Zack Greinke, he identifies as a pitcher who previously blocked a trade to Toronto. Even if he were convinced to come to Toronto, Blair believes, it would take a leap of faith of AJ Burnett-ian proportions to acquire him. True, the Jays took a rather big leap of faith in awarding Burnett a 5-year, $55 M deal in 2006, but Blair is actually understating the risk the Jays would take on to lure Greinke north of the border. Greinke will likely become the highest-paid pitcher in history this offseason for at least the 6 years and $144 M that pending free agent Cole Hamels signed for with the Phillies. AJ Burnett got paid like a top No. 2 in his prime when the Jays inked him, not an elite No. 1 in his prime.

An AJ Burnett-ian leaps of faith during the upcoming offseason will likely get the Jays what they got in 2006… a No. 2-3 starter at a price below what legitimate No. 1’s made/make. A Burnett-ian leap would likely get the Jays an Anibal Sanchez, a Dan Haren, an Edwin Jackson or maybe even a Jake Peavy. It gets the Jays a front-of-the-rotation starter with a few question marks and it gets them for a term that bridges the gap until the Lansing 3 will conceivably be ready to contribute. Not sure what Blair’s got against that.

However, Blair believes for some reason that this year’s crop of free agent starters is different and are incapable of transforming the Jays into a playoff team as opposed to CJ Wilson (5 years, $77.5 M), Yu Darvish (6 years, $60 M + ~$50 M), or Mark Buehrle (4 years, $48 M) who were available in 2012. Even with the acquisition of last year’s top free agent starter CJ Wilson and the midseason acquisition of Greinke failed to bring the Angels to the playoffs. Wilson was a massive disappointment for the Angels in his first year by producing just 0.4 bWAR. He should be expected to bounce back to have productive seasons but the Angels will likely have a hard time getting value out of Wilson considering his age.

Yu Darvish wound up rated as the best pitcher of the litter by bWAR in 2012, but considering the fact that he had yet to even throw a pitch in the Majors, to say his signing didn’t take a leap of faith far beyond AJ Burnett-ian proportions would be simply dishonest. Mark Buehrle was good for his typical 200+ innings after his move to the NL but will be 37 when his deal expires and despite his success it still seems unlikely he’d have maintained his form for the life of the deal in the AL East. ICYMI, Miami did not make the playoffs though another team, the Washington Nationals and good luck charm and free-agent acquisition Edwin Jackson did.

Not every team can have a legitimate No. 1 on their roster, there’s not enough to go around. Nor do they need them. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series without a legitimate No. 1. They did have a wealth of quality No. 2-3 pitchers which provided the pitching necessary to not only get to the playoffs (pre-second Wild Card) but to win it all. Sometimes, it’s enough to have a potent offense (which the Jays possess already when healthy), a strong bullpen (which the Jays have done well to put in place this year) and a well-balanced quality rotation.

But hey, when guided by troll-o-nomics, it’s not about honesty but page views. Disagree with the Jays’ front office if you will Blair, but at least attack them with some basis in the way the world works.  The Jays’ season was a complete disappointment that has the fan base, especially the more irritable/irrational crowd, feeling a bit edgy and quite impressionable. It’s a perfect time to be a dick and rile them up some more. But leave that for the bloggers in their parent’s basements. If you’re writing for a big outfit, you have a greater responsibility to properly inform the people of Toronto and the rest of the country.

Note of Honesty: I no longer have the privilege of reading @GloBlair’s tidbits of realness on twitter for I have been blocked by the Globe columnist for having the audacity to question how Phil Kessel could not be considered a bright spot of the 2011-12 NHL season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had career highs in several semi-important categories… like goals, assists, and points.

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Tolerance and Your Toronto Blue Jays

Though a far cry from writing a gay slur on your face, Marcus Stroman’s joy at receiving a Chick-Fil-A gift card for his birthday seems like the last thing the Jays want an already suspended player expressing his political views about at this time. Toronto is likely one of the most progressive city in the league and alienating the supporters of the LGBT community is likely not the marketing strategy that the brass had in mind in 2012. It isn’t quite on the level of Ozzie Guillen starting the Castro Bros. Fan Club in Miami either, but perhaps the Jays should be providing sensitivity/media training starting at the time contracts are signed.

Ken Rosenthal: Jays need veterans

Though I think there is something to the need for more veterans in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse to which Rosenthal speaks, I can’t get behind the notion that intangibles should be given great consideration in the offseason’s free agent and trade acquisitions.

The presence of Omar Vizquel, the most distinguished MLB veteran since Jamie Moyer was 47, didn’t prevent fellow Latin shortstop Yunel Escobar from hitting the field with a message in his eye black that would become a black mark on the team. I’m not sure what would have prevented Yunel Escobar from taking the field with a homophobic slur on his face but stacking your clubhouse with veterans at the expense of talent in order to do so would not be an efficient use of the Blue Jays’ limited resources.

The old boys’ veteran club that is/was the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t seem to help Colby Rasmus with his confidence before being credited as the root cause of his flight to Toronto. Colby seems like a solitary character that wouldn’t respond well to a veteran barking in his ear about the right way to be confident in himself. Though he’s shown flashes of greatness in his time with both the Cardinals and Jays, Rasmus may not ever become a consistently above-average Major Leaguer and acquiring veterans for the purpose of guiding a loner seems counter-intuitive. Either Colby will put it all together on his own or Anthony Gose will force the Jays to move him. Considering the price the Jays paid, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to part with him when he hits free agency in a few years or take what they can before then.

In Arencibia’s case, if he didn’t solve his problems with intangibles under the tutelage of perennial leaders on the intangibles leaderboards, Jose Molina and Jeff Mathis, then who might the Jays try next? Bring Pudge out of retirement? Ask Yogi Berra to spurn the Yankees after the short time they’ve been together to become a mentor to JP? If the team were so concerned with JP’s makeup problems then perhaps it’d be easier to just trade him and replace him with the organization’s top prospect who is by all reports already Major League-ready.

Finally, Brett Lawrie is Brett Lawrie. I doubt there are many baseball players on the planet that could shake his (over)confidence in himself and show him the ‘right’ way. The good news is that Brett obviously loves winning and as he gets older, he should mature as he sees his mental errors costing the team important wins. He’s not stupid; he’s just had his tires pumped up a little too much. Having someone as passionate as him in the lineup will cost us when he runs into an out or forces a throw but despite his outward denials of responsibility in post-game interviews, I truly believe he’s going home at night knowing he let the team down.

How should the Jays address the lack of maturity from their youthful core? Acquire players with the talent to win meaningful games. Players will mature with the pressure of meaningful baseball beyond May and those who are unable aren’t irreplaceable. Their replacements are already ready and waiting.