Thursday, 19 June 2008

For whom the bell tolls

Over at Batter's Box, the learned elders of the Jays blogosphere have been debating whether JP Gibbons and his cohort John Gibbons should be escorted down to Pearson International and invited to never return to the Great White North. It's been an interesting debate and if you've got time to spare I'd highly recommend giving it a look in full.

If you don't, here are some of the highlights:

* most of the educated set (e.g. not your typical JaysTalk caller) are ready to see them both fired
* does the rot start with Paul Godfrey? Should he be shown the door as well? I've shared the suspicions of those who felt he forced the V-Dub extension on JP and catagorically refused to countenance bringing in Bonds after the Frank Thomas Fiasco, so maybe there's something to this
* 7 years in the same position with the same club is a very long tenure for a ML GM, to maintain one's job that long when one's club hasn't played a single meaningful game after Civic Holliday Monday in early August is pushing the odds. The early years were lean times, yes, but over the past 3 years he's had more money to play with than, say, Mark Shapiro or Kevin Towers, guys who've done more with less
* bringing in gap-fillers, cheap veterans, quality discarded bullpen arms is a very fine skill... for an assistant GM. Someone in JP's position can't always be nibbling around the edges without making the big moves that really make the club better
* if JP is better than average, he's still no better than average + and that's just not good enough in this AL East context
* and so on...

Is it a contradiction to preach patience with the club and simultaneously call for the GM's head? I don't think so, and yeah, that's what I'm doing and have been doing for the past few weeks.

Even The Oracle's legendary even keel-ism is showing signs of crumbling. He began last night's JaysTalk (linked to in his Fan590 blog) by telling JP as such as politely as possible before giving way to the callers who weren't going to be so diplomatic after the Jays dropped their 6th straight series.

Why summarize when you can plagarize? Here's The Oracle recounting their conversation last night in his own words:

He talked about how the lack of offense was completely unexpected, calling out Lyle Overbay (22 homers, 46 doubles, 92 RBI in 2006), Vernon Wells and Alex Rios specifically. He mentioned that some analysts had picked the Jays to be a playoff team and that no one he talked to in baseball in Spring Training told him they thought the bats would be a problem.

He said that everything has fallen apart offensively for the Jays. He can’t believe (nor can I) that his team is hitting 35 points below the league average with runners in scoring position. When asked about the status of his “plan”, he said that we’re supposed to be in the payoff portion right now - that they’d been hopeful of being a playoff team the last few years and that this year was supposed to be the best team they’d had. He did add that he feels the season is salvageable, but that there’s no big move in the offing.

Fair enough. But the fact remains that Wells and Rios are guys JP chose to extend rather than trade or that Overbay was his main trade target in the 2005 offseason. These are your guys, JP, and you're right to shoulder the blame when they don't perform to expectations.

And here's the doozy of the night as JP responds to a caller who asked if he'd bring Adam Dunn in:

Let me ask you something: what do you know about Adam Dunn? ... He's a great hitter? He's a lifetime .230-.240 hitter, who strikes out a ton and hits home runs.... You know the guy doesn't really like baseball that much? ... Do you know the guy doesn't have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There's a reason you're attracted to some players and there's a reason why you're not attracted to some players. I don't think you'd be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here. I think you'd be one of the guys calling me on Wednesday night complaining about all the deficiencies the guy has. .. We've done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there's a reason why we don't want Adam Dunn. And I don't want to get into specifics but we've done our homework on a lot of the guys that you guys keep mentioning to us. We're way ahead of you guys in looking at the things and there's a lot of things and a lot of reasons why we wouldn't go get those guys. I appreciate, you know, the advice to go get these guys but we know more about them than maybe the average fan does.

Now, maybe JP doesn't like the cost of renting Adam Dunn for 2 months. I'm down with that line of thinking (mostly because I'd take Jason Bay over Adam Dunn 9 times out of 10). But do I care if Dunn sucks Satan's greasy cock when he's off the diamond or lack's passion for the game? Fuck no, it's the fact that he's pretty much a lock for 40 HR and a .900+ OPS year in year out that gets us salivating. Is he supposed to skip off the field after playing the first eight years of his career on crappy to mediocre Reds teams? Doesn't losing losing losing weigh on a man? This Brewers series has reminded us that team's are indeed permitted to hit the ball beyond the outfield fence unlike some recreational softball leagues and that power is a game changer. Fucking hell, this little word nugget from JP is more incredulous than the one he dropped a few weeks back about Jason Bay (144 OPS+) "not exactly tearing the cover off the ball."

I loved what JP did heading into the 2006 season (BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett, Lyle Overbay, Troy Glaus) because he'd given the club it's first chance of really contending since 1993. That was the high water mark of the JP era. His pre-2007 moves I wasn't so hot on. Frank Thomas was brought in as middle of the order insurance in case V-Dub didn't resign, but it defied common sense to go overkill and offer him a third (or even second) year. The V-Dub contract is a disaster in the making and I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it. Royce Clayton as your no.1 shortstop? Victor Zambrano/Tomo Ohka/John Thomson? These were all harbingers of the coming apocolypse.

Avoiding issues of character and PR optics, here's what's got JP on my Permanent Shit List this year:

* when JP cooked up the Rios-Lincecum deal last year, Giants GM Brian Sabean took a full week to mull it over before finally shooting it down. Could JP have tipped the scales by adding a player? I most certainly believe so. The name the Giants were rumoured to be interested in (according to MLBTR) at the time was Curtis Thigpen and would any of you shed any tears if he had been shipped off? Rock solid starting pitching is the one commodity we simply cannot afford on the free agent market--whereas corner outfields are easily attainable--and the opportunity to reel in a young, cheap stud passed us by. AJ Burnett was and is leaving after this year and we just can't buy an equivilant arm to replace him. Lincecum probably would've been both an improvement on AJ and his acquisition would've freed up more than enough cash to replace Rios. I cannot believe this one was botched and said as much at the time, even expecting Rios to be as good as he was in '06 and '07.

* recognizing that LF was a weak spot offensively, he abandoned creativity (spazz outcast Milton Bradley is hitting a not unpredictable .330/.452/.628 for $4 million for the Rangers) in favour of a low risk/low reward/low cost signing of Shannon Stewart, whose recent injury has given him a minor reprieve from an inevitable DFA. Will was Bradley's earliest champion and I can only assume he's been shaking his angry fist since January every time his name has come up

* after DFA-ing Frank Thomas for reasons that were largely beyong his control, JP didn't go out and replace him with the 800 lb gorilla who swings a much meaner stick: Barry Bonds. Any GM whose greatest priority is something other than winning, be it assembling good "character" guys or avoiding controversy, just isn't in the right line of work.

* sticking with Shannon Stewart through 200 ABs. Forget the gaudy AAA line; all of the projection models at fangraphs predicted that Adam Lind would hit far better than the sickly .622 line we've got collectively from our LFs this year. (Consensus there was he'd hit for a .770-ish OPS, Bill James figured he'd hit much better than that, about .850).

* a minor argument, but bringing David Purcey up for a second start against the Phillies (nervous young starter with flyball issues to face power-hitting club in sandbox park?) in which he got shelled worse than Warsaw in September of 1939 didn't do much to help his trade value. His sexy minor league line alone might've impressed enough to include him in a deadline package for a bat had that particularly ugly loss been hung on a veteran like John Parrish or Kane Davis instead.

And that's about it. I'm sure I'll think of other complaints to add to the list, but you get what I'm driving at. There's enough here to justify a personnel change, and yes, I can accept waiting until the offseason for that to happen.

It's getaway day in Milly-wah-kay. AJ Burnett takes on former Jay shitballer Dave Bush at 2:05 and let us pray once again that the flaky right-hander manges to stay healthy until the end of July. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there's no way they can lose this game, Dave Bush sucks the black rod that badly. The ESPN supercomputer is telling me to go fuck myself, that we've only got a 47% chance of victory.

Man v. Machine, the ultimate showdown.

-- Johnny Was


Jay K. said...

Dude, Dave Bush was traded instead of Towers in the dealings with Milly-wah-keh for Overbay. I remember at the time I thought that was the wrong shit leopard to trade, and in a way I still believe that Bush is slightly less shit-leopardy than Towers, at least he's in the bigs still while Towers is about 2 bad starts away from turning up on Main and Hastings here in Vancouver.

Plus what the fuck ever happened to Ty Taubenheim from that deal?

Jay K. said...

Whoa, never mind, Taubby was claimed off of waivers after the 2007 and banished to the land of wind and ghosts (aka, the Pittsburgh Pirates). Fuck if the Pittsburgh Pirates of the Caribbean were interested in him we should have kept him to include in a package for Bay's toll across the river Styx and into Toronto.

The Southpaw said...

I like the case you make for blaming JP, even though I'm convinced that no one should reasonably have been expected to think THIS would happen. Still, I am down with an argument based on things like bringing in Clayton or blowing the Rios deal (I'd never really thought about the potential for expanding the deal).

That, in my view, is a much more solid ground to attack him from than bemoaning a draft record or complaining about Gibbons.


sp said...

Hold on, you're shitting on JP for not signing Bonds? Can you at least be original? There's just no way that was gonna happen. And Lincecum? You seriously think even Sabean would've done that? Adding Curtis freakin Thigpen wasn't gonna change anything. Also, Royce Clayton was a shitty move yes, but J-Mac ended up starting 100 games anyway. Ohka and Thomson were very quickly replaced by McGowan and Marcum so that's hardly a fireable offense either. The only thing I agree with is the Lind situation. That is just unacceptable. But this is what it has come to? Even rational people are just grasping at anything to defend firing him, using 20/20 hindsight and expecting him to have done everything 100% right.

His four biggest fuckups IMO are the Wells contract, the 02 and 05 drafts, and the Thomas signing. The Wells and Thomas signings could very well have been decided by Godfrey, who knows. There might be some reason for the Lind thing we don't know about, but I doubt it. I'll also add the Jason Phillip era as a big black mark. Ugh.

People think so narrow-mindedly when it comes to their hometown GM. If you look all the ML GMs, they have all made equally if not worse moves.