Monday, December 17, 2012
"Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."
Did I just start the first post in nearly two months on this shitty little blog by ripping a line from Shawshank, one of the hackiest moves in the Book of Blogging? I guess I just did. No, I am not better than that.
I'm all about being honest, be it here, be it on twitter, whatever. So I am going to be honest with all of you who take the time to read this...
For a very long time, let's call it a few years after the glory seasons of '92-'93, I've been comfortable in my existence as a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, perennial also-rans. I would bitch and moan like the rest, sure, but it was pretty easy, this no-pressure existence. My heart was rarely broken because seldom were expectations anything beyond a comfortable 3rd place finish (4th A.D. (after Devil Rays) ).
"Well, what are you gonna do? The damn Yankees and the Red Sox, with their smug pitching coach, will just spend spend spend. Can't compete with that."
"Well of course the Rays are great, they were bound to be eventually, what with their plethora of first overall picks and so on and so forth."
The ascension of Alex Anthopoulos and his willingness to engage us all in the prospect smut game added a new dimension to this hopeless hope. Now we had a GM who wasn't willing to simply roll out a D-level copy of the AL East superpowers' gameplan (see eras of Ryan, BJ and Burnett, AJ), we had a man with a plan, and damnit, this just might work. Some day. But let's not get worked up just yet... we're talking years away, friends. Elite farm systems weren't built overnight.
And wouldn't you know it... through clever trades and arb offers, through risky drafting and international spending... the farm system did indeed become elite.
But let's face it, cheap-ass Rogers will never allow Anthopoulos to supplement the minor league talent with costly impact veterans through free agency. And Anthopoulos will never deal the crown jewels of the system for "win-now" players.
Well, I'll be damned.
It all happened. It really happened.
It's everything Blue Jay fans have long dreamed would occur - a minor league system developed to supplement the major league club, and the plan has been executed beyond any fan's reasonable expectation. Trading for and extending RA Dickey - along with acquiring Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Melky Cabrera - !!!!! - at a time when the Yanks and Sox appear vulnerable appears to be the ultimate domino trail, and with it comes a whole new set of expectations.
And that's the beauty and terror of this winter. Trading the likes of Marisnick, Nicolino, Hechavarria, d'Arnaud, and Syndergaard represents trading that comfortable "someday" hope for the future in exchange for the high pressure and expectation of winning now. 3rd place has moved from moral victory to abject failure in the span of a few winter weeks.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I've seen a lot of words written from a lot of different folks saying they don't understand the sentiment, don't understand all the anger, can't figure out why so many of us are so twisted up about an underperforming manager who talked his way out of one job and into another.
I can't say that I'm one of those folks capable of pulling off such a nonchalant attitude about John Farrell begging his way out of Toronto and into his "dream job". I'm not saying that I'm right and they're wrong, far from it. In fact, I wish that I could be so dispassionate about a move that won't affect the club's future fortunes anywhere near as much the transactions that need to take place over the course of the upcoming winter will.
And taking it a step further - being logical and rational - why should I feel such bitter disappointment towards the departure of a man who, in hindsight, didn't appear to be a great fit with this team, in this time. Shouldn't I feel sympathetic to his plight? - the job he truly wanted was right there for his taking. A chance to "come home" and shine under the bright lights of one of baseball's biggest media markets, with only a year left on an unextended contract owed to a team he didn't really feel up to managing anymore - reporting to a front office who was probably just as happy to see him go - standing in his way?
So why the hard feelings?
Because fuck John Farrell, that's why.
Maybe it's because his hiring but two short (actually, brutally long) seasons ago represented more than just bringing on another field boss, pulling the same old strings, sitting in the same old corner of the dugout. Farrell wasn't supposed to be just another manager; he represented a new way of doing baseball business - a thinking man's manager, with a background in player development and a career of on-field experience to boot. And he left Boston for us! As the story goes, ol' Johnny boy turned down plenty of opportunities to pursue managerial positions, waiting for "the right one". And the "right one", said John, was the Blue Jays.
We were thrilled. Proud, even.
What a bunch of damn suckers he played us all for.
It was Boston all along for Farrell, and it feels like we should have known it. Two seasons spent cutting his teeth and learning on the job to prepare him for what he has always felt was his destiny. Hell, read the presser notes. He said almost exactly as much.
Or maybe it's because it feels like just another example of the big boys of the AL East pushing those little joke Blue Jays aside and taking what they wanted. That's the popular sentiment, isn't it? I don't know if that's the primary factor driving my slow burn, but it doesn't help. No tampering, huh Ben Cherington? I suppose the prolific amount of virtual ink spilled last offseason pre-Valentine and this month pre-trade were a mere coincidence. Yes, a coincidence, that must be all that was.
Or maybe - and this is the tough one, friends - maybe it's because this forces us to look yet again at the direction of the franchise and whether this really is or ever will come together. John Farrell was to be a big part of where this team was going. John Farrell is no longer a Blue Jay. The stable of young arms - Alvarez, Drabek, Hutchison, et al were supposed to compliment a terrific one-two in Romero-Morrow... and those young arms have either regressed or shredded. Young bats led by Lawrie, Rasmus and Arencibia were supposed to solidify the lineup... and not only has that yet to happen, but the team has to hope that the 2012 regression across the board was but a blip on the radar.
Maybe it's one of the above reasons. Maybe it's a little of column A, a little of column B. Perhaps it's all of it thrown into a blender. Very likely it's at least in part an overreaction by fans (like this one) with an emotional over-investment in the Toronto Blue Jays.
One thing is certain: the fanbase is rattled - a good chunk of it, anyway. Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos are left with the unenviable task of rebuilding that confidence over the course of the winter ahead, which will necessarily have to be a full reversal of course from the offseason past.
And it will have to be without John Farrell.
Fuck him, anyway.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I'm not even going to bother mailing in a post on the Yunel fiasco. I've started and deleted and started over and deleted again, and.... I just don't want to. I don't have it in me. I have opinions on this, you bet I do. But this topic is so polarizing and brings out the absolute worst in folks on both sides of this ugly fence, and quite frankly, I don't have the stomach for it.
Does that make me a coward? I don't know. Maybe some will say that it does. I'd like to think it makes me nothing more than a guy with a blog (he neglects... more later) who doesn't believe he has anything to add that hasn't already been written much better elsewhere. To add to the virtual ink, at this point, would feel like nothing more than your friend the Ack standing on his soapbox for no other reason than to align with one side or the other.
The implication of the above, I suppose, is that... just what in the fuck am I doing here, anyway? If that's the prevailing attitude of your dude, then why bother carrying on with this little page?
I don't know the answer to that one, friends. I do know that I started this blog with the grandest (& humblest... what?) of intentions. That is, pick up where I left off with my old pal the Tao of Stieb, bang out a post per week or whenever the mood strikes or or or...
And yet the mood rarely strikes. I don't know if it's this heartbreaking disaster of a season or adjusting to a busier life chasing my two very mobile kids around or if I've just lost whatever it was I had, or the massive amounts of Blue Jays coverage and opinion already out there... or what.
What I do know is that I feel a vague sense of disappointment that I haven't gotten around to making this page any more than it is. Not in a sense of "bigger and better", but more along the lines of reasonable quality and quantity of discussion. No question I've been somewhat of a failure at this game.
So where to from here? Not sure yet. I've considered giving up the "character" altogether, deleting the page, my twitter profile, the whole bit. While I've never actually "met" anyone - save for Tao and Parkes - I think I'd miss a lot of you and my twitter bros something awful.
Flip the switch and go full disclosure? Well, that would be weird at this point, since I've been at it for a number of years now and quite literally nobody in my "real life" knows that I do this (except the wife, who only has the vaguest of interest and/or understanding. And maybe the odd drunken confessional with my Blue Jay buds, conversations long forgotten and quite likely never remembered).
So I don't know. I suppose I'll ask you to bear with me while I figure this existential blogging crisis out. Maybe I'll get prolific again one day. Maybe I will actually succeed in achieving my initial internal goal of making this a destination page.
I'll keep you posted and hopefully, um, post again soon - this time on a topic of relevance surrounding this club.
Until then, see you on twitter, friends.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
This is, first and foremost, a Blue Jays baseball blog. I'd like to think that most of you who stop by to have a read enjoy the perspective (or, you know, vehemently disagree) and feel comfortable enough to leave your thoughts, maybe engage in a little banter, whatever.
This post is not really about baseball. Nor is it all that comfortable.
If you're a Blue Jay fan, you might not necessarily know Omar Malave, but surely you know of him. A loyal soldier to the organization for 30+ years, and by all accounts a good & humble man, his stamp is all over the franchise.
But like all of these players & coaches, when the games are done they slip into their street clothes and carry on with their "real" lives away from the park. And life away from the park has not been easy these past few years for Omar Malave and his family.
Maybe it's because Bob Elliott had me holding back the tears at my desk this morning (damn you, Elliott!).
Maybe it's because I remember reading about Omar and marveling at his loyalty & years of service to this franchise we all love & follow.
Maybe it's because I'm a dad too.
In any event, Omar Malave and his family are dealing with the toughest of times right now, while not yet recovered from grieving the absolute worst imaginable. Not that you would ever "recover", such a silly word to use in these circumstances.
The Malaves need help, and I'm just sentimental enough to believe that dropping a "#Malave" on twitter or just sending your thoughts means something, even if it seems insignificant. Or, if you're so inclined, a little hand-up can be given here.
If nothing else, spare a thought tonight for Omar and baby Elisse.
Hug your kids.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
At various points during my blogging "career" (cue laugh track...), I've been accused of being an Anthopoulos fanboy, lapping up his every move and refusing to criticize even the smallest of missteps.
And you know, there's perhaps an ugly element of truth to that in the sense that I've believed for quite some time that he's earned the benefit of the doubt from past transactions of brilliance (the Vernon Wells contract, the Rasmus trade, gaming the system with the Olivo deal, etc) in the sense that even if some moves didn't quite work out (Francisco vs Napoli), you could understand the logic going into the deals.
I have, however, always maintained that when I saw moves or trends I didn't like, surely I wouldn't hesitate to say so. As if that means anything. I'm just a fan like any of you reading this. But friends, I can't shake the feeling that I might be staring dead into that moment even if I'm afraid to acknowledge it.
And it's not even about the Snider trade, or more specifically, the handling of Snider throughout his career with AA being the one dealt the unfortunate duty of finally putting ol' Lunchbox out of his Blue Jay misery. It's not necessarily about trades he didn't make at the deadline either, because how the hell do I know what was out there, you know? Maybe Theo said "I need all of the Lansing 3 for Garza or no deal." I'd walk away from that conversation too. And I know that's where this entire line of thought I'm confessing probably breaks down, probably maybe.
But I'm starting to question just what exactly is the plan or philosophy - or maybe timeline - in putting together the playoff team that we've all craved since 1993. And that's big for me, because it's never even crossed my mind that there wasn't a grand vision in place to pull this thing together.
Build the system into one of the game's best, lock up the talent, then supplement the roster to championship calibre through trades (using said system) and free agency to add the final "over the top" pieces. From where I sit, it kinda sorta maybe seems like that plan - which is perfect in it's obvious simplicity - is starting to break down.
The seeds were planted last winter, when mismanaged messages from the entire Blue Jays organization allowed the rabid fanbase to believe that there was money to spend and spend they would. Perhaps not necessarily through fault of their own - though the "money will be there" line of talk from Beeston rang in our ears - the mainstream media jumped all over it and the Jays did nothing to quell that false hope until it was too late.
But that's OK, there was still the trade route, stated as the preferred method of building this roster. Free agency was the last step in adding the final piece anyway. Aaaand the winter meetings came and went with nary a splash (save for Santos). But that's OK, the team preferred to make moves in-season, with teams being ready to deal at the trade deadline, a time more conducive to pushing around pieces of the puzzle.
And here we are. Where exactly are we again?
Seemingly not yet willing to spend and not willing to pay the premiums in prospect currency through trade. Neither nearer nor further from contention, in my humble estimation. A rotation full of holes, a few big bats missing in left field and first base/DH, and a question mark at second base. The bullpen has been worked and reworked again, and we can count on cornerstone everyday players like Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion (who knew?)... and Jose Bautista. Of course, the great 32 year old Jose Bautista. The same age as Roy Halladay when he begged his way out of town, deeming the team too far from contention.
Make no mistake, I'm still in the can for Alex Anthopoulos. He's among the brightest of lights in league exec offices and I wouldn't trade his chair for any other in the league. There are still a whole lot of positives in the organization, at the big league level and down on the farm. Surely there's enough already to build the base of the next Toronto Blue Jays playoff team... at some point down the road.
But 32 year old superstars typically don't have that many superstar years left in them, and what a shame that would be to waste another prime like this one.
Friday, July 20, 2012
I mean, it's been a month, so I truly & honestly have no clue whether there are still folks who will bother to click the link here... but if nothing else, it's online therapy for this guy to talk it out, right?...
Words on the Trade
The first tweet that emerged (after a tense evening awaiting news on the fate of Travis Snider (more below)) was along the lines of "Blue Jays announce 10-player trade..." aaaaand there goes my work day. At least it was on a Friday.
I suppose I don't get the opposition to the deal. I don't care for the "junk for junk" label so conveniently attached, even if we can all agree it's probably not a trade of tremendous future consequence. The Jays received some pitching help now in J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon (and maaaaybe a useful arm for later in David Carpenter), a fact and need too easily dismissed by many, in my estimation.
Those aren't sexy parts (in a baseball sense, guys.. c'mon) but they are roster requirements. They aren't likely to be the players to push the Jays nearer playoff contention, but an unpopular truth is the club has to compete it's way through the remainder of the schedule. Treading water it may very well be, but nobody wants to see the club drown in waves of Robert Coellos and Jesse Chavezs.
And hey - not many clubs have rotations consisting solely of ones and twos, and Happ's multiple years of control mean that maybe the team has a player who can slot into the back of the rotation for multiple seasons. Time will tell if the new fella can cut it in the big boy division, but competent arms are needed more than ever in Blue Jay land with effective seasons lost from the likes of Drabek, Hutchison et al. We (ok, ok..."they") could probably do worse.
The flip side of any trade coin - what did the team give up? At the major league level, it's addition by subtraction in saying goodbye to Francisco Cordero and Benny Francisco, whether by ineffectiveness or a largely unused roster spot. Benny Fresh, we hardly knew you. No, literally. What did he get, like 30 at-bats? And Coco, well.... let's just pretend this half-season didn't happen.
But it's the prospect talent loss that seems to have drawn the most gnashing of teeth. But what exactly is lost here? A-ball arms deemed by management to be back-end starters at best, with middle relief a more realistic outcome, and no assurance at all of ever seeing the bigs. Sure, there's value in upside and control, but loss of control of a probable marginal outcome isn't a loss worth losing sleep over. There's also value in the sure thing, and both Happ and Lyon are major leaguers right now, even if they aren't going to set the baseball world on fire.
In this day and age of internet-promoted prospect porn (hey - we're all guilty), it's a natural reaction to hold our breath and gasp as the future Blue Jays of our dreams are dealt for kinda sorta blah guys today. But neither Asher Woj nor Joe Musgrove were anywhere near the top of the Jays prospect rankings, sure to be leapfrogged in the years ahead by the Sanchezes, Syndegaards, Nicolinos, Norrises, et al (I could go on) of the system. Carlos Perez is an interesting young player, but in a system stacked with catchers, an average defending backstop with limited power was always likely to be squeezed out. And neither Asher Woj nor Joe Musgrove would be seen as bright enough prospects to headline deals bringing back impact talent.
So if they were neither likely to emerge as future star-level Blue Jays nor bring back the same in trade, what's a proper use of the asset?
Trades like these. And here we are.
Words on Travis Snider
There's nothing wrong with having an unusually strong attachment to the once and future savior of the middle of the order. Safe to say you can count me among the hordes. Snider did his time in Vegas with nary a peep of discontent uttered from his meat-loving lips, and did about all a player could do to prove he was "fixed" in the offensively inflated PCL.
And now he's back and past grievances can be forgotten.
Just make it work, Lunchbox. For all of us.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Unless your club is a damn juggernaut, there is going to come a point in every baseball team's season where a decision has to be made by all parties involved... are you in, or are you out?
After losing two-fifths of the starting rotation and getting swept by the Washington Nationals (ed note: this is a bro/clown joke free zone) - on home field, no less - it looks like now is that time of the season for fans and management of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Yo fans - are you in or are you out?
Do you have what it takes to endure a lengthy slide and accept that this might not be the breakthrough season we all pined for? Did the burden of expectation placed on the Jays as the uber trendy super sexy preseason "sleeper" pick ruin anything less than a wildcard playoff spot for you?
Are we going to start calling for John Farrell's head? Walton's? Murph's? Oh wait, that call has already been placed. What about Alex Anthopoulos - honeymoon over yet? "WHAT HAS HE DONE?" Oh nothing, besides turn over the roster and build a foundation of young talent set to feed the big club for years. But don't ask me, I'm not a damn scout. I'll leave that confirmation for the pros (not bros).
How long before the "Trade Bautista! Trade Romero!" calls come out? When does the countdown to "I'm done with this shitty team!" start? How many more losses, guys?
But what if the club turns it around and puts together a serious second half charge. Statement not a question. Will you be back then? Claim you never left? Because fuck it, friends. I'm in. It sucks to lose but I'm in regardless. What other choice do I have? Abandon the belief I have in the club? Disregard the potential coming up through the ranks? And even if there was none, pretend I haven't been a Jays nerd for the last 30 years? No, I'm in. Streaks and frustrating play and bouts of bad baseball and all.
But that's only half the issue...
Yo front office - are you in or are you out?
This club you're fielding every day - is this the core? Are the only roster shuffles in the foreseeable future going to come from within? Will the collection of highly coveted prospects be hoarded and developed, with the best of the best forming the next wave? Or will the old Anthopoulos adage of "they aren't all gonna play up here" hold true with some of those tantalizing youngsters packaged off for proven major league talent?
Time will tell. I've long maintained that I think AA still has that signature deal in him (if we haven't seen it already) - that Fernandez-McGriff for Alomar-Carter trade - and maybe this is the season Anthopoulos pulls the trigger. But maybe he sees a roster with more holes than plugs, more potential than results, and lets the soup simmer for another season. It's tough to argue against either direction, quite frankly.
Either way... it feels like we're at that point of the season where the twitter talk and call-in shows are about to turn nasty.
So I guess we all have to make that decision... and I know what mine is.