Thursday, 31 July 2008

Recapping Absolutely Nothing

Do you give JP points for trying? He proposed more wacky trades this afternoon than some of my fantasy poolies at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning after a deep and meaningful session with a delicious bottle of Wiser's De Luxe, but it all ended up being for naught. Well, there's fodder for conversation at least.

Backing it up now... why was the GM of a club that, while still .500, has been decimated by injuries and has no realistic hope of even getting a sniff of the playoffs attempting to buy at the deadline? Now, I've sort of phrased this question to make it seem like he was insane and/or three sheets to the wind for asking on the two players he did, but I don't necessarily see it that way.

Under the right circumstances, Jason Bay would be a terrific addition to this team now and in 2009 for a bunch of obvious reasons. He can actually hit like a man unlike all of the current Jays, fair weather fans would probably take interest in the team again with a bona fide Canadian star on the roster, etc. But this was a bidding war JP really had no chance of winning and I don't understand why he'd even bother making the call if he wasn't going to entertain an offer of something like Shaun Marcum and Adam Lind; Bay is a legitimate 130 OPS+ hitter signed reasonably for next year whereas outlanders probably see Marcum as a talented young starter albeit with major durability issues and Lind as a good young hitter who probably falls short of the level of production Bay's putting up now.

The offer Tampa Bay put on the table for Bay of Reid Brignac and Jeff Niemannwas competitive; the former still has something to prove with the bat in the high minors, but the latter is ready to join a major league rotation and have some success now. Still, Lind/Marcum would have been a far superior package and it was probably unreasonable of Buccos GM Neal Huntington to ask for both. Would you be surprised if he just wanted to blow JP off with an exorbitant offer so he could keep the line free for Theo Epstein?

Apparently there was no follow-up conversation between the Jays and Pirates, so we'll never know if JP couldn't have talked them down into a package based around other players, or perhaps convinced Huntington to add a starter like, say, Ian Snell.

The package the Pirates ultimately settled on--Andy LaRoche (legit blue chipper), Brandon Moss (probably a 4th OF), Craig Hansen (undistinguished bullpen fodder), Bryan Morris (young starter in A ball, they all show promise then)--was a fairly decent haul for one player to a club that's going to be rebuilding for some time to come. There's no way we could/should have offered this many players in trade for Bay. If we still want him, he'll be a free agent 15 months from now.

The Raul Ibanez flirtation (reportedly, from no credible source, for Purcey and League) has wider and more disturbing implications.

Now, it's possible that JP had some genius mojo working and offered up Lyle Overbay for Ibanez straight up. Now, before you ask why the M's would have interest in a 31-year-old glove man with declining power who plays at a what's supposed to be an offensive position, keep in mind that they've been trotting Miguel Cairo out at the position since Richie Sexson got run out of town. We get Overbay out the way, move Lind to first and give Travis Snider an opportunity to punch his way up to the bigs next year.

Overbay is from the Pacific Northwest (not that I give a shit what's best for him) and the $6 million he's owed this year and next really isn't going to break the bank. The M's would get a local boy who can provide at least league average offense and lose two months of an aging vet who probably shouldn't be playing the field (baseball-wise at least) beyond this year. Ibanez walks, then JP gets the two compensation picks and begins the search for a new DH (Manny Ramirez) smelling like a rose. Prospects for 2009 are bright.

The more likely scenario? JP's probably thinking, what cheap bat can I slot into the DH hole for 2009? Raul Ibanez? Why the fuck not? He'd cost less than Frank Thomas did. I offer him arbitration at the end of the year, if he accepts he's our man, if he doesn't I get the picks. Done and dusted.

There's a problem here.

Ibanez will be 37 next year and while he's been putting up some nice counting stats over the past 7 seasons, he's probably nothing better than a 110 OPS+ hitter in 2009 with some minor age-related decline factored in. That's just not good enough for an offense chalk full of players whose offensive ceiling is just that: about 10% above average at best. Not to beat this point to death, but if you bring a guy like Ibanez on board knowing this you're counting on Rolen and Overbay to rebound, for Rios to get his head out of his ass, for Vernon Wells to hit like he's paid to. You bring in a bigger bat and there's more wiggle room for a bit of disappointment from the current crop of... disappointments.

If I'm assuming right, JP "still believes in his core" and needs a third consecutive dose of failure before he's convinced that more significant upgrades are necessary. He just hasn't accepted that he needs to add a major bat like Manram or Pat Burrell if his club is to entertain the notion of being competitive. JP just can't seem to sink this short putt.

I leaving today feeling disappointed, convinced that if JP stays on the job after the end of the season he's going to try to paper over the handful of fatal flaws in his club rather than make the bold strokes that could really, truly fix it for 2009. Nevermind the flotsam and jetsam that didn't get moved, I'm more concerned that he tipped his cards for a highly disappointing free agent season to come.

-- Johnny Was

Good News! Good News!!

To quote the inimitable Roscoe P. Coltrane "Good news, Boss! Good news!"

No, I'm not talking about any sort of trade completed, I'm talking about what's buried in one of Jordan Bastian's updates:

Also, good news for Jays starter Dustin McGowan. He had successful surgery on his right shoulder, but did not need work on his rotator cuff. He can begin a throwing program in roughly four months.

That's better than Raul Ibanez from where I sit!

BTW, for those of you disappointed that the Jays apparently made no moves, please keep in mind that all of the chips the Jays might want to move will pass through waivers easily enough. And if, perchance, someone did claim - for instance - David Eckstien, we can always just let them have him to clear the payroll.

We still have a month to make moves.


The problem with Richmond

I didn't weigh in on the fact that Richmond was taken off the Olympic roster to be a Jay, because to be quite honest I don't really care the Canadian team lost their "ace". But from a Blue Jays perspective, the call-up makes less and less sense by the day.

The Jays want Parrish in the bullpen - apparently they want to keep four lefties in the pen. Fine - wouldn't it have made more sense then to keep Parrish in the rotation, and bring up Davis Romero as the lefty reliever? I'd rather Romero gets an extended look, because he'd be a terrific, cheap option for the bullpen next year (as I've suggested before that Frasor, Tallet, and Camp should all be traded to allow Janssen, Wolfe & Romero to get a spot in next years bullpen).

That would have made more sense, and Richmond could still play in the Olympics. Yay, everybody's happy.

OR, Brian Wolfe could have been brought up - he's been having a terrific season when they've allowed him to pitch in the majors. Parrish could have stayed in the rotation, Wolfe could have been pitching in semi-meaningful innings in the pen, the Olympic team would have their ace, and everybody's happy.

Hell, they could have called up Jesse Litsch to pitch in the majors, and put Parrish in the pen.

But instead, they bring up some random guy who isn't even major league ready? They would have had a better shot of winning games by calling up any of Wolfe, Litsch, or Davis Romero. It just doesn't make sense to call up some no name like they did.

I'm probably late on this issue, but I thought it was worth pointing out there were better options available than Richmond.


Deadline Drama

Nothing to report Blue Jays-wise so far in the final hours before the deadline, so it's going to be a long, lonely 4000-calorie breakfast for Mr Gregg Zaun this a.m. as he sweats out what might be his last day in Toronto.

The Oracle aptly pointed out in his blog yesterday that those two consecutive losses to the Rays that but the Jays squarely back at .500 might be enough to induce JP to reconsider the untouchable label he's put on AJ Burnett. But, as you're no doubt aware, JP has yet to pull off a single major deadline in his entire time in the captain's chair, though he's an expert at doing the minor ones that clear off superfluous veterans to cut costs. I'm figuring nothing big gets done, though Eckstein should get moved--because there's more cash saved there than by dumping Zaun and Eck is most clearly redundant--if anyone is willing to take him.

The Yankees pulled off the big deal of the day yesterday afternoon by acquiring Pudge Rodriguez from the Tigers to fill the hole vacated by Jorge Posada, who's off for season-ending surgery, for nothing more than the extremely-tight-pants-wearing reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth is a shit-baller plain and simple whatever his recent numbers might tell you, so the Yankees really gave up nothing of long-term value.

Pudge hates walking more than the terrorists hate our freedom, but he's still a better than average hitting catcher and brings a reputation as a strong (if no longer elite) defender. And a bonus did-you-know: should he stay healthy and average about 140 hits over each of the next 3 seasons, Pudge will be the first catcher to record 3000 hits. He's a slam dunk Hall of Famer, fellas.

I'm highly skeptical that this last-minute three-way deal that would send Jason Bay to the Bosox, Manny Ramirez to the Marlins and a bunch of prospects to the Pirates gets done. It's been left too late in the day and all parties are astute bargainers with no real need to get something wrapped up quickly/sloppily or suffer the consequences. It would be a real gut shot seeing one of my favourite players in the game patrolling left field at Fenway, but should something happen here at least we know that Manny is assuredly a free agent at the end of the year as that $20 million club option gets ripped up by the cheapo Marlins. Lemons into lemonade...

One of the more curious acquisitions was the Chisox trade for Ken Griffey Jr. that's being finalized as we speak. Paul Konerko has been hurt or playing hurt and bringing Griffey on board means Nick Swisher can play first with Jr. taking over in centre, but the Chisox have the 4th best offense in the AL and probably could've made due with a cheaper glove man who can play proper defense. And it's not like Griffey's been much with stick this year either despite playing in one of the best hitter's park in the game. Go figure.

Jeff Blair is a bit grumpy about the timing of the Jays call-up of Canucker Scott Richmond, which presumably dashes Canada's hopes of baseball gold (ok, more likely a long shot run at bronze) at the Olympics.

Olympic baseball? I can't recall ever having found a game on television in past years; do Asian baseball countries like Japan and South Korea even release their best players for the tournament? While it would be thrilling to pitch in front of a few hundred confused Chinamen in Beijing later next month, baseball has never had a proper international "best on best" tournament that pretty much every other sport on earth does. The World Baseball Classic has attempted to fill that void, but has made too many compromises to really satisfy the hunger of fans who know how a World Cup is really supposed to work. That's not JP's fault and it's got nothing to do with Scott Richmond, so there's no need to get your panties in a bunch.

And seriously, if you're so myopic that you think anything to do with the Canadian contingent is one of the more intriguing story lines of an Olympics set in the heart of a heinous communist dictatorship engaged in cultural genocide against its long-suffering Tibetan and Uigher populations, then I really don't know what to say to you. No, I'd say something really biting and witty, like donate your loonie to RBC to support Canada's Olympic athletes and feel good about your contribution to international goodwill and harmony, you're part of the solution!

Sorry to get a bit off topic there... check back in later this afternoon for a recap of the day's (in)action.

-- Johnny Was

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Cue the Eeyore Chorus

As reported by Jordan Bastian among many others, Scott Rolen confesses he's having issues with his surgically repaired shoulder. This, of course, provokes the doom and gloom crowd to come to the for with proclamations about how they knew he was washed up all along and that this is what we get for making an ill-advised trade and so on and so forth... in other words the folks who had remarkably little to say about the Rolen trade a month ago when Rolen was among the best hitters on the team.

Rolen assures us the shoulder has been checked out and there is no lack of strength, no pending surgery, no damage...just that "something mechanical isn't right". But because of one horrible month (of the sort most all players routinely have on occasion) many of the nihilistic Jays fans are back on the ledge again.

Now, is it POSSIBLE that we are looking at a guy who's career has been short-circuited and he'll never be productive over a full season again?


Do we KNOW that?

Hell no.

So why are so many professed fans so very very anxious to ASSUME the worst possible case?

It's just as possible that a little rest and rehab will put him right back where he was in June. As I have observed elsewhere, the folks who were certain that Rolen would suck had nothing at all to say on June 1 when Glaus had all of 2 HR in St. Louis (including Bob MacLeod who was only too quick to cite Glaus' stats for no apparent reason in his report on Rolen's issues) and still nothing to say when Rolen was outperforming Glaus through June 30. . . now they are out in full voice.

And they wonder why I have so much trouble taking them seriously.


Point of Order

I should include this as a comment on Johnny's excellent post below but I want to drag it out into the daylight (like I did a couple weeks back with the idea that AJ could still be dealt in August if need be) so I get credit for saying it ;)

Something I haven't seen anyone else mention but is, I think, highly relevant as we look towards next years is that 2008 is the final year of the $210 million budget arc announced before the 2006 season. That fact, combined with the way the current payroll obligations spike in 2010 leads me to believe that there's something afoot the Jays are not saying yet, to wit - there's a big payroll boost coming. And given the fact that people tend to invoke certain "milestones" in such announcements, I'm going to take a blind shot in the dark and say something like $400 million over the next three years.

You heard it here first.

Other thoughts on Johnny's piece (since I'm already stroking my ego with a seperate post):

a. If we have to sign a starter in the offseason (that's not AJ) I'm all about Derek Lowe.
He's projectable, probably won't hold out for five years, and is second tier in terms of contract.

b. If I'm wrong about the payroll boost, then I think taking your run at Manny as Job One. Whatever we do or don't do about the rotation (save locking up Burnett) is secondary. If Ramirez is our DH and Doc/Marcum/Purcey/Litsch/Richmond, Parrish, Cecil, whoever is our rotation we are better equipped than if we add (gad no) someone like Jon Garland and then a good-but-not-great DH for 6 or 7 million.

c. I may be totally off base here but the synergy between the example Doc sets, the comfort zone with Arny, and general flakiness gives me the hunch that AJ will defy all logic and expectations and accept a buy-out of his option....maybe we have to add an option year to the end but I just have a strong feeling that he'll try to emulate Doc and lay aside maximizing his earning opportunity to stay with the Jays.


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Enough is enough

Is it just me, or has nobody else noticed that since July started, Barajas has been AWFUL. He's hit 172/182/266 (447 OPS) so far in July. During that time, he's mostly hit 5th. While hitting in the 5th spot this year, he's hit 140/167/193 (360 OPS).

Try to wrap your head around that fact. While batting in one of the most critical batting spots in the lineup, a spot that's expected to drive in runs - Barajas has posted a 360 OPS. He has driven in 3 runs. Three. Lousy. Runs, in 57 at bats.

On the season Barajas is now "hitting" 251/297/417 (714 OPS). Now, Zaun hasn't been much better based on OPS (719) or OPS+ (94 to 90 in favour of Zaun). But this is getting ridiculous. Barajas is hitting 5th, and posting a 360 OPS while doing so. And there's not even a thought about giving Zaun a chance to regain his starting status?

Which is why I don't feel bad when Zaun said that he'd like to be traded. He's been the better player, and he's getting less playing time.

So Cito, if you're reading this, please give Zaun a chance to start in the lineup. He can't be worse than Barajas at this point.


Thoughts on the Near Future

With the 2008 season heading around the bend, it's perfectly natural that talk of what's to be done for next year has dominated the chit chat at internet water coolers where guys like you and me gather. (Or you may be one of the eternal optimists who hasn't given up on this season, in which case I reiterate my promise not to shit on your hopes and dreams). In recent days there's been reason for hope for 2009 (Manram, I'm seriously believing there is a real possibility he could end up playing here next year) and reason for despair (McGowan, the heir apparent to AJ Burnett is out until...?), leaving us collectively wondering what we're supposed to think going forward.

Just what needs to be added to the current collection of players to get better without taking away from the club's existing strengths? At the very least, it's going to take one average to average+ arm for the rotation and one Big Scary Bat. On the former there is, of course, the prospect of throwing in a few more million dollars per year in the hopes of inducing AJ Burnett not to opt out of his contract, but that's not going to work unless you're also (unwisely) willing to add years. The most likely scenario is that JP makes enough of an effort that he can say, "well, we tried our best" without actually offering enough to induce AJ to stay. I'm fine with that. Those dollars can be spent elsewhere and hopefully the compensation pick(s?) for AJ will bring in some young talent.

I wouldn't have bet on this at all, but The Oracle says that "If J.P. is still here, the Jays will go hard after [Ben] Sheets" in the off season. Sheets is definitely one of the few A-list FA starters available after this year (CC Sabbathia being the biggest name out there and entirely unattainable) along with Burnett and it's definitely going to take coin to reel him in. It must be noted that he too comes with a spotty injury track record; this is his first healthy season since 2004. I'd expect the bidding to be fierce, but then again there was competition for AJ too back in the 2005 offseason and we won the day there.

If JP does roll hard for Sheets, would there still be enough left over for that desperately needed Big Scary Bat? The figure Wilner's been throwing out for FA cash at the end of the year is $20 million (Thomas/Burnett/Eckstein/etc. off the books offset by raises to retained players), but I find it highly unlikely that Sheets comes for anything less than 5 years, $75 million, or around $15 mil per. That pretty much eats up most of the cash JP has to play with and precludes making a run at Manny for an additional $15 million-ish per unless Rogers agrees to boost payroll by $10 million or JP can get rid of $10 million worth of current contracts.

It pains me to say it, but BJ Ryan makes precisely $10 million each in 2009 and 2010. He was money in 2006, but now he's "just" a good lefty closer whose job could probably be filled internally by Jeremy Accardo or even Scott Downs. I don't think he's untradeable in the off season, especially not with only two years remaining on this contract and the one bona fide FA closer, Francisco Rodriguez, likely to demand the moon and the stars. The Brewers paid the same money for this loser after all...

But all this is predicated on actually bringing Sheets to town and we should all know that that's no sure thing after having danced with Gil Meche and Ted Lilly in the past. The question I've been grappling with is whether or not it really worth trying to plug the hole in the rotation created by the McGowan injury with any of the lesser FA starters.

How do these B-listers strike you?

* Ryan Dempster/Jon Garland: cool if you want to pay $10 million and give too many years to an average starter; does anyone think Dempster is for real?

* Brad Penny: The injury track record of AJ Burnett without as much past success and he's only a year younger anyway. I'd much rather just extend AJ.

* Oliver Perez: totally unpredictable after 3 train-wreck seasons, one stellar one, one good one, and currently having an average one; buyer beware.

* Derek Lowe: he's probably worth a sniff and despite being 35, doesn't have too much mileage on that arm. He's also been a model of consistency since he signed with the Dodgers four years ago. However, I'm guessing that he's staying put after shacking up with former FSN West "Dodger Dugout" anchor Carolyn Hughes in a well-publicized infidelity...

I wouldn't feel comfortable putting serious money on the table for any of these guys and I can't imagine JP would either. The C-listers aren't even worth talking about because there's nary a one of them better than Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Davis Romero or probably even tomorrow's starter, North Vancouver longshoreman Scott Richmond.

As for the Big Scary Bat to DH or upgrade on Overbay at first, I'm assuming that Mark Teixeira, like Sabbathia, is simply unattainable and not worth discussing. Otherwise, the situation is roughly similar to that of adding to the rotation: there's Manny and then there are a bunch of guys who aren't Manny. These guys are:

* Carlos Delgado/Jim Thome: the obituaries on both might have been premature this spring, but do we really want an aging slugger likely to hit terminal velocity any day now after the Frank Thomas debacle? Delgado of course does have sentimental appeal, which is almost a sure indication that it's the wrong idea to consider bringing him back

* Jason Giambi: JP will not have a player named in the Mitchell Report on his team. There are lots of other reasons why this is a bad idea, too.

* Ken Griffey Jr.: just an average hitter now and might hang up the spikes after this year or go for a final lap in Seattle.

* Pat Burrell: I like him, but he'd cost you. And I figure the Bosox, who've been linked to him as a trade suitor in past years, will sign him as a replacement for Manram.

* Adam Dunn: That bridge has been burnt so thoroughly that I doubt he'd even take a phone call from JP's successor, which is a shame because he already knew what loonies are.

So, while the latter two names are desirable it'd be an extreme long shot to bring one of them here. And I certainly would not throw significant money at any of the geriatrics in the top half of the list either.

Basically what I'm saying here is that if the two primary free agent targets in the off-season are Ben Sheets and Manny Ramirez, go get Ben Sheets and Manny Ramirez. If that's not possible, batten down the hatches, go with what we've got to round out the rotation (Purcey, the Romeros, Richmond, maybe Casey Janssen and hopefully a half season from McGowan) for next year and prepare to be really, seriously competitive* with rest of the AL East in 2010. At that point we just might well be younger, cheaper, and better with a serious infusion of talent (all drafted on JP's watch) from Snider, Arencibia, Jeroloman, Cecil and Campbell.

Just please, pretty please, don't try to spacle over a couple of serious holes in this team with second rate talent and try to convince us that 2009 is the year...

-- Johnny Was

* actually able to win as many games or more than divisional rivals without resorting to counterfactuals, "would have" scenarios, or lamentations about injuries

Keep Hope Alive!!

Ok, well, yeah. I admit, it will take a miracle...or maybe not a miracle but a highly unlikely set of circumstances. Still, I can't divorce myself from the willingness to believe in magic. I mean, when does it get better than Scott Richmond's story, right? Sure, he might get pounded a few times and become a footnote in history, but maybe - just maybe - the Hollywood screenplay is only in Act II.

How Disney would it be if Richmond steps into the rotation and takes up the mantle of the injured Golden Boy and helps shoulder this team through a resurgent stretch run that puts the hated Yankees and the upstart Rays in the rear view?

So, the question niggles at the edges of your mind..."buyers or sellers?" Why not take a page from Billy Beane and do both? I present here, for your consideration, three deals which, were they to be completed, would both shuffle off some excess and add key components. They are based on two different reports from MLBTR and I take no responsibility if the rumors are false.

#1 Trade David Eckstein. I'm not really so much worried about where, but I have to wonder if maybe the Cardinals would be that adverse to having him back, the Dodgers took a look, Baltimore is reportedly still asking about shortstops in return for Sherrill, the Mets had the idea of playing him at 2B before signing Castillo. The point is...the man ought to have a chance to start somewhere if he can. He's been a good soldier here and did what was asked of him professionally. If Cito isn't going to play him, then get something in return. I presume you get a B list prospect for him.

#2 the Marlins were reported to be willing to discuss Cody Ross for an upgrade. The Marlins desperately need a good catcher and are interested in bullpen help. so I propose this:

Gregg Zaun or Rod Barajas and Jason Frasor and Cuban prospect Kenny Rodriguez (or someone of similar value) for Colby Ross. Ross mashes lefties (and 1.008 OPS over the previous three years in 176 ABs) and is competent (better than Wilkerson et al) against righties. As a platoon mate for Stairs, he could be a great addition for a low cost. I make this suggestion with the acknowledgment that if you could make the same deal for McPherson you'd have to do that too, but I'm holding back on assuming he's available.

#3 This is the trickiest one. There have been some reports that the White Sox and Orlando Cabrera are not getting along. Now, OC isn't the hitter he was a few years ago, in fact his OPS this year is little different than Scutaro's. But he's a much better defender, and he's considerably faster on the bases. Reportedly the White Sox have kicked around the idea of acquiring a 2B and moving Alexi Ramirez to SS. Now, assuming that they do not find a deal for Brian Roberts or someone, how about trading Scutaro (or Eckstein if they are willing to try him at 2B or even SS) and a throw in someone like Thigpen for Cabrera?

This depends, of course, on how much the Sox are really interested in getting OC out of town, but if they recognize that his value is relatively low and don't get stupid and ask for Cecil or somebody, we might be able to do some good here.

Marginal upgrades, to be sure, but with the return of Wells, the emergence of Lind, the reawakening of Rios, and the coming reawakening of Rolen, it just might be enough.

IF the rotation can come through.


Fun With Numbers!

If you listened to JaysTalk tonight, you know where I'm going with this but for the rest of you, let's play a little game with numbers.

Let's compare two teams and see how they are alike and how they are different.

Team A has a Batting Average of .261
Team B has a Batting Average of .261

Team A has an OBP of .337
Team B has an OBP of .322

Team A has a slugging % of .387
Team B has a slugging % of .398

That's an OPS of .724 for A and .720 for B.

Team A has 282 XBH, while Team B has 275
(Team A has played one more game)

Despite all this, Team A has averaged 4.29 runs per game, while Team B has averaged 4.51.

Turning to pitching, Team A has a team ERA of 3.68, while Team B has a 3.88 mark. Hitters are hitting .247 (.699 OPS) against Team A and .256 (.721 OPS) against Team B. WHIP? 1.27 v. 1.30
K/BB? 2.44 v. 2.24
K/9? 7.27 v. 6.62

Pretty fascinating, eh? Almost identical offense, and A has better, not remarkably better but better, pitching stats. Amazing.


WAIT! I forgot the most important stat!!!

Team A is 54-52
Team B is 65-40

Ain't that strange?


Monday, 28 July 2008


Lotsa stuff looming. The Rays are looming at the RC tonight and it'd be nice to finally solve that puzzle. McGowan's surgery is looming which directly impacts....

The looming trade deadline.

Call me crazy (many do!) but I think that even if JP were deceiving us about the possibility of AJ being traded, he dares not move him (short of a gross overpayment) until he finds out what they see Thursday inside McG's shoulder. IF it's a minor clean-up and he's certifiably good to go next spring it's one thing, IF they decide to repair his rotator cuff that's a 50/50 shot at not just a missed 2009 put a permanent trashing of a seemingly promising career. In the latter case, it is in the Jays best interest to cut a check for $4 or $5 million to AJ to buy that pesky option and ink him into next year's rotation.

I know, cue the tragic Greek chorus.

But the reality is that AJ at 12 per is as good or better buy than anyone else who is even remotely comparable to hm on the FA market, and none of those will sign for a mere 2 years either. CC Sabathia, Oliver Perez, John Garland, Kyle Loshe, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets....all will get as much or more money and/or more years this winter than AJ (and that's not to say that AJ on the free market would be any cheaper than what we are paying him - he wouldn't).

That said, I echo today's sentiment from the Inebriated - get the yard sale started. If you know you are going to pick up Barajas' option for next year and let Zaun walk, then deal him (one report said the Marlins would deal Cody Ross and that their injured catcher suffered a setback...let's get talking about that situation); Tallet has kicked away his chance to go to a contender but Frasor is a guy who, given our depth, is a non-tender candidate this winter....get something out of him, he's not doing anything Wolfe can't do. Stairs? It's only one million next year but if you are going to have to spend for pitching (i.e. AJ or a replacement) then clear the deals you can; Eckstein? Obviously. I have nothing against these guys - like all four actually. But if Gaston isn't going to use Zaunie or Eck, then he's not...move them. At least those two.

BTW, some are saying the Olympic deadline is Friday so if Richmond is sent down after his star Wednesday, he's cool on that score. Still, I must remake a point I have made before. The Jays organization knew that Parrish was on a short leash when they called him up, if they had bothered to reconcile Purcey's turn in AAA with the major league schedule (which was easy enough to do since it was his first start out of the break) then Purcey could have started last Friday and Parrish's turn would have fallen on the off day Thursday. It's always mistified me how there doesn't seem to be anyone in any front office that crunches the upcoming schedule to try to maximize pitcher usage.

One further note on pitching - and I know Twitchy disagrees with this - if Listch get's 3 or 4 starts in AAA and isn't showing progress, then I'm in favor of getting Cecil up here for a half dozen starts or so. Yes, the Jays have been limiting his innings in AAA, but by the standard rule of thumb (don't increase a young pitcher's innings more than 40 over his previous high) he should be good for 10 more starts or so. That's exactly how many he'd have if he pitched until the end of the major league season.


Breaking down the second half success

Since the second half started, the Jays are batting 265/345/416, good enough for 16th in the majors in OPS (761). This is a big improvement on their 720 OPS in the first half, which had them ranked 22nd in the majors. Obviously it's a ridiculously small sample size, but there's reason to believe they can continue to hit this well.

The obvious reason is Adam Lind. No, he won't continue hitting 395/415/632 (1.046 OPS) like he has in the second half. No, he won't keep hitting 389, as he had since he's been recalled. But he'll be an upgrade over the offensive black hole the Jays have kept throwing out there in left field.

The second reason is that Scott Rolen will hit again. He's "hit" 224/323/282 over his past 85 at bats, but he's going to turn it around at some point. Or at least he better. Otherwise I'm going to have to erase that post where I mentioned that Rolen was having a better season than Glaus....

The final reason why the Jays are hitting better, is because they're finally starting to hit for power as a team. Since the all star break they've slugged 416, which is 32 points higher than they slugged during the first half (384). Not surprisingly, it's a lot easier to drive in runs by hitting doubles and home runs than it is to hit a weak little single or draw a walk. Not that walking is bad by any means - I love clogging the bases. You need guys on base to score runs - but that's never been the problem for this Jays team.

While the hitting has improved, it's still the biggest problem on the team. But at least so far, it's shown signs of life. Now, I'm going to take a look at the pitching.

The Jays were one of the best pitching teams in the first half. Despite AJ Burnett and Jesse Litsch doing everything they could to derail their ERA's, the Jays finished third in the majors with a 3.63 ERA, second in WHIP (1.26), and third in OOPS (695). While the ERA of a pitcher can sometimes be misleading, as is the case with Burnett, WHIP and OOPS are usually good indicators of whether a pitcher is getting lucky or not. The WHIP tells us the Jays didn't allow many runners to get on base, and the OOPS tells us that even the hitters were struggling to hit for significant power. Opposing hitters "slugged" 383 against Jays pitching, good enough for 5th in the majors.

As a Jays fan you don't need me to tell you the pitching was awesome. You saw it day in and out that the pitching staff did the impossible - make the opposing team hit almost as bad as the Jays. But it's always nice to see where the team ranks compared to their major league peers.

In the second half though, the pitching staff started to show a chink in the armor. They fell from 3rd best ERA in the majors to 10th (4.19 ERA), from third in OOPS to 15th (765), and from second in WHIP to 13th (1.34). This is to be expected, with McGowan on the d/l, Litsch in AAA, and Marcum slowly recovering from an injury. Parrish can't replace McGowan in the rotation (and in my opinion Parrish is the same pitcher he's always been), and Purcey is not going to be counted on to produce a sub 4 ERA like Litsch did in his first year. But as long as Purcey and Parrish can give 5 or so innings where they keep the team in the game, they'll be doing their job.

Why 5? A quality start may be 6 innings, but with the strength of this team being the bullpen, and a guaranteed day off for the pen every fifth day thanks to the Doc, I don't see a problem in the bullpen bailing out Purcey & Parrish if need be. It might give Cito a reason to use Frasor and Tallet in situations other than mop-up!

But where was I...

Right. The pitching staff. Obviously it's a small sample size, but there's a chance that as the season goes on the numbers will improve. Purcey had a solid start, but he'll have his ups and downs. The more experience he gets now, the better he's going to be in the long run. So it's likely that towards the end of the year he'll start showing more flashes of what he's capable of doing.

The only way the numbers get worse is if AJ does get traded (and I stand by my belief that he won't). Litsch will be brought back up to the majors, but there's no way he can replace AJ.

I'll admit everything I've looked at is based off a small sample size. I acknowledge that, but at the same time, it looks like the Jays are better than the sub-500 team they were back in the first half. I can't see them making the playoffs, but for what it's worth, this team should be fun to watch heading into the second half. And that does have some meaning, because this team was bordering on unwatchable for a good part of the first half.


Saturday, 26 July 2008

Done and done.

Well, that sucks.

The word is out that Dusty McGowan WILL go under the knife to repair his [EDIT] FRAYED labrum - NOT torn (per Mike Wilner [end edit]. That means he is done for the year, obviously, but we don't know until the operation is over how 2009 will be affected.

Apparently the surgeon will examine him to see if anything needs to be done to the rotor cuff which, if so, would lengthen the recovery time.

During the operation, the tear in his right rotator cuff that forced him to the disabled list July 9 will also be examined to see if a further procedure is necessary to correct that problem.

The hope is that the rotator cuff can be left alone and that McGowan will be ready to go next spring.

To review, this is a tear the team already knew about coming into the season, the sort pitchers often go many years with. While it's not in the story one may surmise that the Jays decided that the potential of having future seasons interrupted by soreness in the shoulder, and/or the potential that there's something going on with the rotor cuff, was compelling enough reason to go ahead and repair it.

Jon, over at the Mockingbird, quotes Will Carroll's admission that his previous article about the severity of this sort of injury no longer applies:

The reason the article is “essentially obsolete” is that techniques in both surgery and rehab have changed so significantly. Whether it’s newly constructed bone anchors, changes in surgical methodology, or having far too many pitchers to practice on, it’s not a death sentence for pitchers any more. It’s not good by any stretch, but it’s not as bad as it was just a few years back.

I hate to crib directly from Jon with no new information but that seemed significant enough that it needed the widest possible audience. Hat tipped.


Can't post this without commenting on today's impressive game. The Jays today played exactly like the team that most of us (a few malcontents notwithstanding) thought we were going to get back on April 1. Rios homers twice, Mighty Joe 3/4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and a BB (since June 1 he's hitting .308 - .371 - .450 - .821 in 120 AB....what I wouldn't give if the man could play a decent SS), Matt Stairs had his second consecutive productive game and David Purcey cruised through the first 5 innings before making one mistake in the sixth.

The Jays are now 18-10 since June 22 and I feel the need to point out again how significant it is that the really horrible results this year are confined to two, two-week, stretches. Not to say they have been without issues in the other games to be sure, but in all other games (outside those two slumps) they are 47-29 (.618). As much as some don't want to hear it, overall this is not a bad team. Which is why it's been such an astoundingly frustrating season.


Saturday Morningness

Despite a run of good play of late from our Jays, I can't help but admit that they're failing to hold my attention--fully, at least. Nevertheless, I will do my utmost not to allow my unbridled enthusiasm for the Russian Women's Volleyball team and its quest for sexy, sexy Olympic Gold in Beijing next month distract me unduly from the sport of baseball. And shit, man, wasn't that some walk off win last night? Always appreciate good baseball (dingers, comebacks, nervous tension) when you see it.

* For some reason the above photo was not the first hit I got on a google image search of "hot Russian women." I cannot be the only one to appreciate the combination of grace, agility, long legs, blonde hair, sultry come-hither lips and power-spiking, can I?

I don't want to shit on people for getting up for the Jays (again) and don't even need to run a probability check on how likely it is those hopes get dashed against the rocks. It is, however, highly interesting to watch as Jays fandom coalesces into two rival camps, let's call them the stay-the-coursers and the demolition artists. I reckon (with confidence) that there are very few avid fans left who haven't made up their mind as to which faction they belong to. Cue Billy Bragg's "Which Side Are You On?" on the hi-fi.

Stay-the-coursers go along with the company line that injury and inexplicable underperformance explain the disappointing 2007 season and first 100 games of 2008, but hope for some minor tweaks along with better luck in 2009. While many are realistic enough to accept that this season is almost certainly lost, they feel that all this team needs to be competitive next year is a solid SS (there are FA options out there) and a full time DH (again, one of the easier puzzle pieces to obtain).

They take solace knowing that the staff, even after the probable loss of AJ Burnett, is a source of great strength and likely will be for the foreseeable future. They laud the team's defense. They remember that Aaron Hill will hopefully probably be back (2B has been an offensive black hole; collectively Hill and his replacements have put up a .689 OPS). Vernon Wells can't suffer these fluke injuries again. Adam Lind will be up for the whole season. And help in the form of Travis Snider/Brett Cecil/Brian Jeroloman/JP Arrencibia/Scott Campbell is indeed on the way.

Demolition Artists see a .500 team with a $100 million payroll and, more importantly, little hope of leap-frogging the Bosox, Rays and a Yankee club that is likely to be restocked with a ludicris number of big ticket FA signings this offseason. They think that the disappointing 2007 season and first 100 games of 2008 can be pinned on a GM who overestimated the talent level of many of his players. JP has locked in average to slightly-above average bats at pretty much every position, giving the bean counters "cost certainty", but handcuffing his successor's efforts to make significant upgrades.

The Marlins and A's (both in playoff races on miniscule budgets) provide the blueprint. They've rebuilt without bottoming out, astutely trading away players as they grew more expensive without performing any better. They see Roy Halladay as one of the most valuable trading chips in the game, an elite talent that could bring back a collection of young studs that sets the team up for a massive run of future success. He might be under contract for two more years, but is it advisable--or even affordable--to lock him up for a $100 million extension at age 33? The Doc is irreplaceable, but money is money, and we don't have an unlimited supply of it.

I would guess that Jays fans are split about 80-20 in favour of the stay-the-course approach, reflecting optimism as much as a fear of the unknown. Now, I'm totally willing to give everyone in this camp a huge high five if JP/JP's successor pulls in Manny Ramirez to DH for us next year and trades for a hidden talent like Khalil Greene to play short. But realistically, I figure it's more likely that if JP's still on the job you'll see something underwhelming like Cardinals castoff Chris Duncan in the DH spot and an overpriced, weak hitting glove man like Orlando Cabrera playing short.

If that's the way it's going to be, then yes, I think we'd be better off blowing this fucker up. JP has built a decent core of players, but I have little faith in his ability to see which ones need to upgraded and which can be kept on for the future. Colour me highly skeptical of all things Blue Jay until we see a regime change.

A few names I've wanted to check up on for some time now:

* Cody Haerther: a left-handed hitting outfielder JP claimed off waivers back in November, the subsequently left off the 40-man roster and lost back to the Cardinals all in the span of a week. Haerther showed some promise in the past (decent OBP skills and SLG%) before being derailed by injuries and it seemed like he might become a decent 4th OF option for the Jays this year. Mind you, the initial transaction took place with Reed Johnson's future very much up in the air and well before Shannon Stewart came into the picture. It seemed puzzling that JP would zero on a guy then just allow his old organization to snatch him back right way, but it would appear that there was no harm done: Haerther has come totally unglued Russ Adams-style in his age 24 season, "hitting" an abysmal .243/.311/.328 in the slugging Pacific Coast League. Buck Coats would heave a sigh of relief if he knew or cared.

* Kristian Bell and Graham Godfrey: these two arms went to the A's in exchange for Marco Scutaro last offseason. At the time, they were considered more or less disposable low-level relievers and Beane took them for Scutaro (who was likely going to be released for cost-cutting reasons) as a courtesy to his old protege then scouring the American League, the National League, and the Negro Leagues for a utility man. Neither has exactly lit the world on fire in the minors this year, but both have been promoted, Bell to AA and Godfrey to AAA. Nothing really to report here just yet, but try to contain your shock when Godfrey becomes a contributing member of the A's bullpen in late 2009.

* Shannon Stewart: Yeah, him, not the sexy Playboy dame. Instead of using his recent injury to quietly retire from the game with some dignity intact, he's back on a rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Jays according to Batter's Box. Look out Kevin Mench!

-- Johnny Was

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Heads Up

Nice Article on The Franchise over at Baseball America. Thankfully, it's not one of those behind the pay wall.

An excerpt:

"But he's tremendously competitive. I've seen him stand up to a couple of his teammates for doing some stuff that you would expect a veteran guy to do. He understands what's right and what's wrong in this game even though he's only in his second full season. So he does have a lot of leadership qualities and the guys really feed off of him, the way he does his business. He's a clown in the afternoon when we're out stretching, taking BP and all that—he has a good time—but when it's time to play the game, when those lights go on, you're talking about a really competitive kid."

It's a good read and will make you more excited, if that were possible, about seeing him in T.O.

In regards to last night's news on Brian Jeroloman getting bumped to AAA, my guess about journeyman Erik Kratz going to AA in his place is correct. Also, Robinson Diaz got the call back to Syracuse as well so apparently Jeroloman is still looking at splitting time, though we don't know yet if Diaz will be catching or playing DH on a regular basis. Also worth noting is that Chip Cannon is headed for the DL. Does that mean Curtis Thigpen will play regularly at 1B? It's too bad the way Thigpen has collapsed this year.


Hackery, New Jersey Style

Some of us are born lazy, others just have deadlines to meet and need to crank out some copy for a demanding editor who's blowing steam out of his ears. Dan Graziano of The Star-Ledger (via MLBTR) may be a little from column A and a little from column B, but make no mistake that he is indeed a very lazy man for writing the following:

ROY HALLADAY, Blue Jays RHP The whispers just won't go away. Halladay is apparently unhappy in Toronto and has let management know it, and management has apparently responded by doing some quiet surveying of teams (such as St. Louis and the Dodgers) that are far, far away from the AL East in an effort to see what it could get for the 2003 Cy Young Award winner. Apparently, the returns other teams are getting for top-talent pitchers such as C.C. Sabathia, Rich Harden and Erik Bedard has inspired the Blue Jays to at least find out what it could get for one of the best pitchers in the American League. It remains unlikely that they'd deal him, but you never know.

Yeah, actually the whispers did go away when Halladay spoke to the Toronto sports media the day after his "Ground Hog Day" comments were misinterpreted by a few of the sloppier local hacks. He doesn't want to leave, we don't want him to leave, and JP said last night that he'll be sitting down with all parties at the end of the season to try and hammer out an extension.

But hey, Graziano, run with that week-old, factually incorrect story and spread some false rumours.

-- Johnny Was

Baby steps

Adam Lind has been on fire since he's made his return to the bigs. He's now hitting 350 since his recall, and has solidified his role as the left fielder of the future.

Lind has done a terrific job so far hitting for both average and power. Right now he's hit 5 home runs in those 80 at bats - nobody can keep that up, but he's got an outside shot of leading the club in HR's by the end of the year. What's even more impressive is that he's hitting lefties, and to this point doesn't look like he needs to be platooned.

If there's one thing to worry about with Lind, it's that he hasn't been walking lately. He's really taken Cito's aggressive approach to heart. Since his recall he's struck out 8 times (which is pretty impressive considering it's been 80 at bats), but he's only walked 3 times. Lind's hit 384 since the all star break - so right now it's not a big deal if he walks that much. But since the all star break his OBP is 364. It's a small sample size (6 games), but it's never a good sign when the OBP is lower than the batting average.

Going forwards, the next big challenge for Lind is going to be drawing more walks. He was a career 318 hitter in the minors, so it's possible he could hit around 300 in the majors, and not need to walk as much while showing some power. But for him to be that dominant, middle of the order hitter that we all know he can be, he's going to have to show that he can get on base without getting a hit.


On the Road again...

Be thankful that's not a pic of Willie Nelson.

A couple of player movement issues of which to make note. The Ginger Flash takes his slumping abilities to Syracuse to see if he can work out the bugs that have led him to give up 15 runs in his last 12 2/3 IP and a 6.12 ERA since the first of June.

Promoted into his slot is the much anticipated David Purcey, who JP says they are going to take an "extended look at." It's a move that system watchers have been longing for and excitement 'round these parts is high.

Some may ask "Why not Parrish?"

Several reasons - First: to send down Parrish now is to put him through waivers, which is unwise until we know the status of McGowan and Burnett; Second, Litsch gets a pressure free environment to work out the kinks (maybe with the help of Mel Queen?) and third, we need to know if Parrish can pitch at this level too. Looking at the schedule, I hope that the Jays bump Parrish from Friday to Saturday, in so doing they can assure that he, not Purcey, falls on the off-day July 31.

In another bit of happy news, the Manchester correspondent over at Batters' Box reports that after tonight's game Brian Jeroloman got the word to pack his gear for a promotion to the "Trips". No word yet on the corresponding demotion, but my guess is that it's Eric Kratz. This is exceedingly good news because it lets JPA catch every day (which a guy with a middling defensive game needs) and it lets Jeroloman test his hot bat and marvelous batting eye against AAA pitching.

This effectively signals the end of the Thigpen era as a Jays catching prospect, he'll be traded, moved to another position, or become an organizational soldier until he's a six year minor league FA. It also is a clue that Robinson Diaz is probably not ready to go back behind the plate regularly and won't be for a while. Alternately, maybe JP knows he's got a deal cooking for a major league catcher and Diaz is going to come straight to the bigs when that happens.

In either case, Robby better recognize he's on the clock. His window of opportunity to establish himself before Jeroloman and Arencibia are ready for the majors grows increasingly more narrow.

Finally, not a player movement note but still of interest - Ricky Romero put his seventh consecutive good start and now has a sub 4 ERA in that span. Could it be he's turned the corner? We can certainly hope.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

I've Got Nothing

Really, nothing at all.

Saw snippets of the game (including Lind's homer; he's now hitting .346 with 22 RBI in his last 22 games) before heading out to the pictures. The Dark Knight was, predictably, sold out, so we ended up at the late late showing of Wanted. Now, I have a pretty eclectic taste in film and was familiar with Timur Bekmambetov's work (a pair of visually impressive Russian vampire flicks with really weak story lines), so I knew what we were getting into. I admit to being entertained; generally speaking anything that exposes the tortured Russian psyche usually draws me in.

On a totally unrelated note, it would seem as though most JaysTalk callers are deliberately out to enrage Mr Mike Wilner, who we refer to as "The Oracle" around these parts. This is the list of sore spots, repeated as naseum:

* asking "how are you?"
* ____ is a .500 pitcher
* clutch hitting
* Scott Rollins
* attacks on JP's draft record
* attacks on AJ Burnett
* demanding more bunting
* " " small ball
* " that we blow 'this thing' up

If you are indeed one of our regular readers it's likely that you are a level-headed, handsome individual capable of expressing yourself rationally and logically without touching on any of the aforementioned Winer sore spots. If you happen to be one of the chuckleheads who does call in to harp on the same tired and wrong-headed arguments, then... I salute your tenacity? Really, we need these guys, the show wouldn't be half as entertaining without them.

-- Johnny Was

It occurs to me....

...that the trade rumors keep saying a lot of teams are worried about AJ's contract. I suggest this thought:

If this is true, JP will be able to get AJ through waivers in August so he doesn't HAVE to deal him by July 31. Other teams get to wait that much longer to see if he will stay healthy and if they will stay in the race. St. Louis in particular gets to see of Carp and Wainwright come back solid.

Food for thought.

BTW, a lot of chatter is coming up about the White Sox wanting pitching and discussing trading Josh Fields. Could we be lucky enough to land Fields for Burnett?


Monday, 21 July 2008

Trade Winds

Rotoworld passes along some misfortunate news for the pin-stripers today (Jorge Posada may be in for season-ending surgery), while MLBTR notes their interest in our very own AJ Burnett, who locked it down against them in his final start of the first half the weekend before last. The Posada news should create some interest for Gregg Zaun seeing as how Brian Cashman tried to sign him as a backup catcher/part time first baseman back in the 2006 offseason. All of these swirling tidbits of information lead us to wonder if JP isn't being set up for a panty raid of the Yankees farm system for the ages at some point over the next ten days.

As much as they dislike looking up in the standings, the Yankees shouldn't really be in full panic mode. They're only 3 back in the Wild Card as of this writing, but the Posada news is a major blow and this is, as we've been reminded 50 jillion times, the final season for Yankee Stadium so blah blah blah...

With Posada mostly limited to firstbasemaning and DH-ing, Yankees catchers have put up a rather limp .243/.308/.352/.655 line so far this year that gets even less pretty when you look up Jose Molina (48 OPS+) and Chad Moeller (88 OPS+ in limited ABs, 66 OPS+ for his career) individually. A steady vet like Zaun--who's pretty reliable for a 100-ish OPS+, hits both ways, gets on base and has fewer defensive shortcomings than many like to admit--could help save the Yankees from hitting the stretch with a black hole in their lineup. For a team accustomed to post-season action every year, that means something.

The logic of bringing AJ Burnett on board is self-evident during a season when you've auditioned judge-punching Sidney Ponson, colossally overpriced AAA roster filler like Kei Igawa, and a Josh Towers clone in Darrell Rasner. I need not say more. No, I refuse to say more!

So what's a reasonable return should JP be willing to package Zaun and Burnett to the hated Yanquis?

At first thought I'd suggest Phil Hughes, so recently part of the much hyped "Generation Trey" (hrm, seems like only Joba Chamberlain panned out according to plan...) but who started the year poorly and is now unlikely to pitch before September. He's on the 60-day DL, but it's not for anything arm-related (a stress fracture in his rib cage) that would raise serious red flags. Hughes is still only 22 and probably ML-ready for 2009, providing us with a replacement for the departed AJ.

Would Cashman pull the trigger on a deal of this nature? Probably not of his own accord, but when an insane reprobate like Hank Steinbrenner has his boot to your throat it might be impossible to resist a "win now" approach.

Baseball America says the Yankees don't have a shortstop amongst their top 10 prospects--John Sickels can't even find one in their top 20 even, so I guess Jeter is just going to play forever--which is a shame because that's ideally one component we'd like to bring back in any prospective trade.

The rest of the BA list (aside from the obviously unattainable Joba Chamberlain and Hughes, who I've indentified as the most desirable prospect from our our perspective) features a few familiar names that have failed to impress at the big league level (Ian Kennedy, RHSP; Ross Ohlendorf, RHRP; Brett Gardner, OF) a few young OFs who've yet to master AA (Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata), a bunch of unimpressive righty starters (Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, Andrew Brackman) and C Jesus Montero, who's a long way off. None of these guys pull my hair back, Hughes kind of maybe does.

The Drunks propose sending Burnett, J-Mac and Uncle Matt (Stairs) to the Dodgers "for a shitload of prospects", which isn't a bad idea either because a shitload is a whole lot of young players and some of them would probably be good. Unless someone braver than I wants to probe JP on this during the call-in on Wednesday we'll just have to wait in suspense for another week and a half (at which point nothing will happen and there'll be nothing to talk about Jays-wise until September call-ups get announced).

Elsewhere, MLBTR reports that Japanese SS Tomo Nioka will indeed be a free agent this offseason. He's a guy, we need a guy. In a world of unpleasant options, injecting a little bit of bushido into the lineup might not be the worst one.

Mattius: it's the second inning and I haven't seen you in the stands yet, didn't bring a sign? Stay safe in B-More, chief.

-- Johnny Was

J-Jack is back! (And the rest of the Farm Report)

The minor league season being now roughly 2/3 over (and me being too impatient to wait until the end of the month to brag about it) I figured I'd give you a quick review of my current top 12 prospects. These are my own personal rankings of course.

1. Travis Snider (OF) - The Jays consensus best prospect has, as many of you know, been struggling in July after having been very good in May and June. The power stroke is still there, but the average and on-base precentage have waned considerably. There's no reason at all to worry about him, but maybe it's a good thing as it should dampen any enthusiasm for the idea among some broadcasters and fans for bringing him to the majors. For a 20 year old in AA, he's still one of the best prospects in the game. Even so, don't look for him to be a regular in the majors before 2010 unless there's a major injury next season.

2. Brett Cecil (LHP) - The 22 year old LHP is also in AA already in his second season in the Jays' system. Going back to the end of May, Cecil has an ERA of 1.80 in his last 10 starts. He has a 4.17 K/BB ratio and more than a K per inning. I rank him ahead of Purcey only because of their relative ages. It seems likely to me that if Purcey gets the call to the majors for an extended stay, that Cecil will get a chance at AAA in his place. One caution - He's still averaging less than 5 innings a game and if he is going to be a starter for the Jays (as opposed to the successor to BJ Ryan) then he's going to have to have some endurance built up. As a reliever, he might make the majors in the middle of 2009, as a starter, not before 2010 unless there's an emergency.

3. David Purcey (LHP) - Purcey has - as you know if you are a loyal reader of this blog - done about all he can do at AAA and, like Adam Lind before him, merely awaits an extended opportunity to prove he belongs in the majors. His control issues are a thing of the past, his ERA this year is a sterling 2.76 - take away one bad game and it's 2.38 - and his K rate is just what you want from a top prospect. It's true he is 26 now but it's not unusual for a lefty to take longer (something to remember if you are writing off Rickey Romero as a bust). If AJ is traded, or McGowan is shelved for the year (which I doubt either of those happening) then Purcey gets an extended look this season. If not, he's the presumptive candidate to replace AJ next year.

4. JP Arencebia (C) - No hitter in the Jays' system has done more to improve his standing this season than JPA. His defense, seen as sub-par coming into the season has gotten good reviews but it's his bat that has really opened some eyes. He's hammered 21 homers this year, 8 of those in 111 AA at bats. Some have pointed to his lack of walks as a concern, and logically that does point to a potential weakness against higher level pitchers, the counter argument is that as long as AA pitchers are not striking him out long as they are not making him be selective...he has little incentive to. When you are raking - you rake. Best case? JPA begins to nudge Barajas or Diaz aside somewhere after the break next season...but I'm going to guess 2010 is more realistic.

5. Justin Jackson (SS) - J-Jack (yes I'm going to harp on that nickname until it sticks) has had a season that defies easy analysis but being the optimist that I am, I'm going to cast it in a positive light. Jackson burned through April with a .941 OPS, then, late in the month, he got hurt. Now, the nature of the minors being what it is, I don't know what was wrong with him but he missed something around 7-10 games. When he returned, his hot bat didn't. He was bad in May, disastrous in June, and in danger of wasting the promising start. Then came July. Don't ask me why these things happen, it makes no sense, but after posting an OPS of .453 in June, Jackson is currently sitting on 1.002 for July. Not only is he hitting for average (.356) but he has more homers in 17 July games than in the rest of his season before July.

I've been making the Tony Fernandez comparison because of the obvious physical similarities and the age and defensive ability being similar but, the big difference here, Tony had a wonderful BB/K ration at this level. J-Jack has one more typical of a raw young hitter. It will be a skill he needs to develop as he progresses. That said, it's hard to see the Jays rushing Jackson through the minors the way Fernandez was - I'll cautiously suggest that you are looking at 2012 before you see a lot of J-Jack at the RC.

6. David Cooper (1B) - The Jays may not have gotten their first or second choice in this June's draft, but so far the man they got is acquitting himself very very well. First baseman David Cooper, while not an intimidating physical presence, has done nothing but punish pitching since beginning pro ball. Any questions about his ability to hit with a wood bat are long in the past. Cooper is crushing Lo-A pitching and barring a big slump will jump to Dunedin, I predict, sometime in the first week of August.

Mike Wilner rightly cautions enthusiastic prospect watchers (i.e. me) to remember the cautionary tale of Vito Chiaravalloti who annihilated rookie level pitching at 22 but never could solve AA pitching and is a big star in the Indy leagues now. That taken under advisement, it's hard not to like the path Coop is on. If this keeps up a 2011 arrival (on the heels of the departing Lyle Overbay) would not be an outrageous projection.

7. Kevin Aherns (3B) - The first pick in the 2007 draft, Ahrens is another man who seems to enjoy playing baseball in July. Over his first 70 games, Aherns was having a pretty pedestrian year (a .706 OPS) and, were it not for the 3B prospect taken in this years draft, might have been in real danger of repeating Lo-A ball. So far in July he's hitting much better, posting an .870 OPS for the month. Hopefully the 19 year old has turned a corner and this is not just a blip (it is only 17 games after all). Still, he may well need as much as four more minor league seasons before he contends for a job in the majors (which is why I contend that no later than the winter of 2009 the Jays ought to get Scott Rolen's name on a two year extension).

8. Scott Campbell (2B) - Perhaps the best story in the Jays' minor league system, Campbell is trying to be the first native of New Zealand to make the majors - and doing a damned fine job of it too. By all rights Campbell has earned a promotion to AAA but the Jays - apparently in a move to let him work more on his work-in-progress defensive abilities, are content to leave his prodigious bat in AA probably for the rest of this season. Campbell doesn't strike out much, knows how to take a walk, and has been a model of consistency at the plate.

But due to his lack of on-field experience in his native land, some of the mechanics of the position (notably turning the deuce) are still not where the Jays want them. That being the case, his progression will be deliberate. In the majors, unless he makes great strides on defense, he looks very much like the next Frank Catalanotto - and that's not at all a bad thing to be. A good manager will find plenty of at-bats for a hitter like the Kiwi.

9. Eric Eiland (CF) - Speaking of a work in progress, take a look at EE. This guy, so the scouts say, has as many tools as anyone drafted in his class but due to an injury in his senior year he fell into the lap of the Blue Jays. But tools or not, Eiland is having some difficulty at Lansing. Each month has been worse than the one before, and in his last 10 he's hitting .100 with only his perfect record in stolen bases (15 for 15) as a saving grace. But based on talent, keep an eye on him. If he takes a long time coming that's fine because Vernon Wells is not going anywhere for at least three years and maybe six. If Eiland pans out, he'll be ready before the Jays have a place for him to play.

10. Brian Jeroloman (C) - Jeroloman is a different sort of guy, he's a guy who has perhaps the best defensive skills in all of the minor leagues but who had always had questions about his offense. But last season Jeroloman served notice that he's not necessarily the next Brad Ausmus by drawing 85 walks. This year he's kept that batting eye and added some power. He's already matched his total of doubles from last year and doubled his HR total. He's hitting an incredible 1.237 (OPS) in his last 10 games and his season OPS is .807 so far.

Jeroloman faces the difficulty of having Arencebia passing him by (through no fault of his own) and the potential that a much deserved promotion might be delayed. I, for one, think that if/when the Jays trade Zaun, that they either take Diaz straight to the majors and promote Jeroloman to AAA, or, if they feel Diaz isn't right yet, they bypass AAA and bring Jeroloman to the majors. For all the pleas for Snider or Arencibia to be called up, this kid is the one that is most likely to not embarrass himself if he's recalled.

11. Marc Rzepczynski (LHP) - Here's another guy in need of a promotion. He's got 14 starts at Lo-A as a 22 year old, a college pitcher can move rapidly (see Cecil) and hopefully the Jays will find a way to get him half a dozen starts or so at Dunedin. The Jays can afford to let him take as many as three more years in the minors (as far as we know now!) but he may not need that long.

12. John Tolisino (2B) - H was having a good little productive year on July 1 and has gone into a slump that's the opposite number to Ahren's surge. He has a .514 OPS so far this month and it's driven down his season OPS to .711 which is nothing to be pleased with. He needs to pick it up soon or he's going to fall down this list.

Others to watch:

Robert Sobolewski (3B) - Widely regarded as a first round talent stolen in the fourth round by the Jays this year, Sobo's college year was extended into the College World Series and he may be exhausted. In the pros he's struggling to get going, hitting only .176 so far.

Robinzon Diaz (C) - A severely sprained ankle has washed out the bulk of Diaz's year and maybe fundamentally altered his career as he now hears the deafening footfalls of APA and Jeroloman.

Brad Mills (LHP) - The only differences in Mills and Zep is that Mills is about half a year older, and Zep started the season injured. Mills followed 15 great starts in Lansing with four even better ones in Dunedin.

Rickey Romero (LHP) - Everyone's favorite whipping boy, not without reason. But as I mentioned above, one should tread lightly before writing off a 23 year old LHP. With only one really bad start in his last eight (going back to his first in June), Rickey-Ro is attempting to pull this season, and his prospect status, out of the ditch. Over that period, his ERA is 4.03 and in his last six, it's 3.18 - is that a blip, or has he really figured out what his issue was? Time will tell.


Jon Jaspe (C) - Hot hitting Venezaulean catcher at Lansing isn't slowing down; Luis Sanchez (SS) - under the radar, this AA shortstop has been quite good since May 1; Brian Dorpiak (1B) - former highly regarded Cub prospect, brought in as organizational filler - the Vito rule applies but he needs a promotion; Adam Amar (1B) - undrafted out of college, the man is destroying rookie ball. Again, you gotta invoke the Vito Rule but....just the same, Dorpiak to NH, Cooper to Dunedin, and Amar to Lansing wouldn't hurt anything.

The strength of the system is clearly catchers, and left handed pitchers. Those two things have a lot of value around the league. Maybe we haven't as bad a system as some experts claim.


Friday, 18 July 2008

So what now?

In all of the trade rumour articles, AJ is consistently mentioned as "the top starting pitcher" available in trades. If that was the case, you'd have to believe the Phils would have been willing to offer Cardenas in a package for Burnett.

Obviously the big difference between AJ and Blanton comes down to two things - club control and money. Blanton costs 3.7 million this year, of which the Phils will pay a prorated 1.5-1.8 million. They also control him for another two years, which is a huge plus. AJ would cost them a prorated 6 or so million dollars, while having the ability to opt out at the end of the year.

But for a team that currently tied for first place, you'd think acquiring the superior talent would be more valuable to the Phils. If they were to sign AJ to a long-term deal, in order to avoid the opt out, they'd have Pat Burrell's 12 million coming off the books in 2009. Not that it's a good move to let Burrell go, but I get the feeling they just don't appreciate his value and won't pay him what he's worth. While Will & Johnny have recently suggested Manny as a DH for next year, I'd like to suggest Pat Burrell. He's usually got an OBP near 400 and a slugging above 500 - he's the bat this team needs.

But back to AJ and the Phils - if they wanted to win, it'd make more sense to go with the guy who has a 108 career ERA+, and is capable of putting up a 115-119 ERA+ in a home park that is known to be good to hitters. They wouldn't have to worry too much about home and away splits like they do with Blanton, who's been a career 4.78 ERA pitcher away from the pitchers park in Oakland (compared to the 3.79 in Oakland for his career).

Blanton has a 100 career ERA+ - he's an average starting pitcher. He's not a strong GB pitcher, so he'd be bound to give up more HR's in Philly. He'll be an upgrade over Adam Eaton, which I guess makes them a better team, but upgrading from horrible to merely shitty is nothing to be happy about. Blanton's still going to cost them games because of his inability to strike out hitters, and his reliance on defense (for which the Phils aren't that good).

What does this mean for the Jays? Despite all of AJ's talents, it's very likely he won't be traded before the deadline. JP has never made that big trade at the deadline, and he's had several candidates which could have been traded (Wells in 2006 before he signed the contract extension would have been creative). If the Phils were willing to give up a solid 2B prospect for Blanton, and not for AJ, it paints a pretty clear picture on how high clubs are on Burnett.

If the Jays really want to trade Burnett, I think it might help if they give a 72 hour window to give the team a chance to amend the opt out by adding extra $$ for AJ. No, they shouldn't have to do it, but that opt out is going to be the biggest reason why AJ has a better chance of opting out when the seasons over than he does of being traded. You do that (the 72 hour window), and you get the right to ask for superior prospects. And if you can get the extra prospects, than it's worth it to let the team talk to him before hand.


Trade Talk

Colour me somewhat surprised by the Phillies trade for portly righty Joe Blanton yesterday if for no reason other than the fact that it was done on the down low without any word filtering through to the rumour mongers. Billy Beane could have sold higher on him in the offseason, but keeps with the plan of moving arms before they get too pricey.

The 27-year-old Kentuckyian is a proven eater of innings (and coconut creme donuts? No?), but he's not really the sort you'd really want to take into the playoffs as your number two starter. He's controllable for a couple of more years and didn't cost the farm, so I suppose Pat Gillick is abiding by the campsite rule in his final year as Phillies GM. Personally, had I been in his shoes I think I would've gone for the higher upside that is AJ Burnett and gambled all on a deeper playoff run this year, but what are you gonna do?

Turning homeward, Mark Zwolinski at The Star is reporting that Burnett most definitely does not want to be traded. The Cubs comments, the sarcastic hat tip? I guess we all read too much into that.

"It seems like there's only bad things get written. ... I'm always saying that I'm a Blue Jay and my loyalty is to this team and you still see some people writing stuff like my heart's not in it," Burnett said.

"I think I had a quote in the paper last weekend about I still had a Blue Jay on my chest and on my hat. Then a writer wrote, `Yeah, but not in his heart.' And when you got a guy pitching on three days' rest, you got a guy that came in the day after his bullpen to pitch an extra-inning game, take the ball and throw, I don't want people to question that (heart). You know I'm here.

"Just because my name's out there and all this stuff, and I made one mistake talking to a Chicago writer ... I enjoy being a Blue Jay and that's where I'm at. That's where I plan on being."

But hold the phone, "I'm a Blue Jay and I plan on being here for the rest of the season"? I don't mean to over-analyze these words, but nowhere in this profession of loyalty to his current club does he address the opt out issue and his status for next year. He's still got one foot out the door.

lists the Mets, Cardinals and Chisox as teams that could still be interested in AJ, but JP won't be actively shopping the enigmatic righty because it will supposedly drive down his value. And I guess there's nothing wrong with waiting until the very end of the month when there's absolute empirical evidence as to whether the 2008 Jays have any Hail Mary shot at doing anything significant this year before making a move.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that an Burnett trade:

* would provide $4 million of salary relief
* open a slot in the rotation to audition a younger arm that will actually be with the team next year
* and most importantly, probably net the club something better than a very late 1st round pick in the 2009 amateur draft that you'd get as FA compensation after an opt out

It still makes sense, people.

-- Johnny Was

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Not just yeah but Hell Yeah!

Not one of my tome's this time, just a heads up to notice this post at DJF.

This, my friends, is a capital concept and deserves all our full support. the single best thing the Jays can do to win a World Series in 2009 would be to have that man DHing for us next season. And the beauty of it is that he has already said in the past this is the place he most wants to play (if I am recalling it correctly) to say nothing of the motivation of sticking it to his former employer.

I am riding shotgun on this here bandwagon, pardners!


Farm Report: All-Star Game Edition

As we wait for real baseball to resume once again, some good news from the system:

* Dave Purcey, the sole Chiefs rep at the AAA All-Star Game last night, got the start for the International League and responded by chucking 2 perfect innings against the best of the Pacific Coast League. (Mark Saccomanno? Any relation to Bob from NYC?) The IL lost, though I doubt that anyone really cares.

Big Dave didn't allow a hit, K'd 3, walked none, and demonstrated major league command of his arsenal. I'd figure he'll be starting on Tuesday against the O's at Camden Yards in a nice, low pressure return to the bigs. We at The Southpaw have sole bragging rights if he does make something of himself (and alternatively, would quietly drop the matter entirely if he doesn't).

* The Fisher Cats are in the midst of a crappy season collectively as a team, but that matters less to us here than the fact that they do have some fast-rising (star?) talent in the making. The hosts of the 2008 Northeast Delta Dental Eastern League All-Star Game (no shit, that's what it's actually called; no word if players wear ads for "Fly Emirates" on their jerseys) had 4 of their own men see action in the AA showcase: Travis Snider, Kiwi Scott Campbell, Brian Jeroloman, and closer Zach Dials. Jeroloman had a hit and scored a run in his lone AB, Campbell went 1 for 2 leading off, Snider went 0 for 2, and Dials picked up a hold despite allowing a run in his only inning of work. The Eastern League won 5-3.

Best of all though, Snider channelled the spirit of Josh Hamilton to wow the fans during the homerun derby (though he actually won the thing). Plagarizing liberally from theUnion Leader:

Snider flicked a switch that began an electric night. The kid bashed homers onto the train tracks beyond right field and pulled a Roy Hobbs with a shot into the bulbs atop the light tower.

As a heavy favorite in his home park, Snider barely advanced out of the first round as six sluggers took their hacks. In later rounds, including a couple tie-breakers, he sent vapor trails over the right-field wall. The 5-foot-11, 245-pounder had the benefit of his own batting practice pitcher, Ken Joyce, who fed The Franchise a diet of waist-high fastballs.

"I was finally able to relax and let it fly. Good things happens when you don't think and just hit," Snider said. "I've got give a lot of credit to Kenny. We've been working on this together for a couple weeks..."

Snider, Toronto's No. 1 prospect, homered four straight times in the second round and finished with 10 dingers. In the finals, which took place in the middle of the second inning "a terrific format for fans"-- Snider toppled the league's leading home run hitter, 7-6.

"The young legend keeps growing," Fisher Cats manager Gary Cathcart said. "He understood that whole scenario, how it was going to unfold being the hometown guy. It took him a couple rounds to get going, but it was almost like he started doing it because he knew he was going to do it. He's just one of those guys. Think about it. Three years from now, he'll have five years of pro ball, and he'll be in the big leagues at 23."

Yes, indeed.

The Jays resume action tomorrow night, when they try to piss in the Rays Corn Flakes down at the Trop. I have gone on record saying that I'm not against the Rays for the rest of this year when they're playing everyone else; after all, if they do win a playoff berth that means one of the Yankees or Bosox doesn't get to see any October ball this year. I'm just saying is all.

-- Johnny Was

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The mo-fo has been thrown down!

It's ON now!

It seems our peers over at Bugs & Cranks have a, shall we say, divergent, viewpoint from some others about some things. A recent post reacting to the misleading and overblown reaction to Doc's comments concluded thusly:

As a side note, I can’t wait to hear the response from guys like Mike Wilner and the Drunk Jays Fans now that he best player on the team is saying the same things the fans have been saying all year.

We were dickheads who didn’t know anything about baseball when we said changes were needed and we’re sick of this .500 bullshit. Now it’s Doc that’s piping up and echoing our sentiments.

Whatcha gotta say about that boys?

Now, I fully realize that I'm not the one being called out here but, damnit, I could no more resist a challenge like that A-Rod could resist a hot stripper. I LIVE for this sort of thing. So, I will proceed to indulge myself in a point by point refutation of the aforementioned post! Join me if you wish.

To begin with, let's repeat and clarify that Doc is NOT interested in leaving, whatever his level of frustration. From his own mouth:

"There's no chance if I have anything to say about it that I'm going anywhere. I can understand maybe disappointment with the way we're going. But as long as it's up to me, I'm staying."
~Roy Halladay

That done, here begins the rebuttal - italics indicate their original column
* * * * *

he “them” in the title refers to the Powers That Be at 1 Blue Jay Way.

The “this” is the numerous reports currently circulating that Blue Jays Ace and Best Pitcher in Baseball Roy Halladay has likened pitching for Toronto to Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.

This comment, much like the movie, isn’t good.

So Ted, Paul, JP and whoever else is calling the shots from those pretty little offices, how’s about we get off our asses and do something to make this guy happy?

Like doubling the payroll since JP finished shedding Gord's bad contracts? Like signing one of the best closers in the game, and the one of the most covered guy in his FA class? Like adding the best defensive 3B maybe ever (to say nothing of being a top 10 offensive 3B in every healthy season so far) for a guy who had ask out of town?

More to the point than all that, Doc IS - by his own words - happy with the players here and happy with the work of JP in putting this team together. If you read EVERY thing he's said in the past few days their is not the faintest hint that Doc is unhappy with the talent assembled or the players on the roster - he's frustrated, as any rational fan is, with the on-field performance.

Here is what we know about Halladay:
  • He wants to be in Toronto. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have signed the extensions he has penned over the years to remain the face of the franchise and ace of the staff.
  • There aren’t many better pitchers in the game than him.
  • Constantly failing to live up to expectations is starting to get to him, much like it has the fan base over the last, say, five years.

The Blue Jays brass actually doesn’t have a valid response to this. Not that they won’t issue one or play off the comments as “the same frustrations everyone is feeling” or something along those lines, but there really isn’t anything they can say.

He’s 100% correct.

This team has been relying on potential and wishing for a best case scenario for the last half of the Ricciardi Era when the reality of baseball is that you’re very seldom going to get maximum performance and optimum health up and down your lineup at the same time.

Damn right. That's why there is only one champion and only 8 playoff teams in any given year. You think those were the only teams that tried or had high expectations? Hell no. Those were the exceptions to the rule - the teams for whom enough things came together to get them that far. EVERY team knows that if you have full health and maximum performance you will win a lot more ball games, and every team understands that most years you won't. But what shall we do about that, go sign Mark Texeria and make Overbay a $7 million backup? Hell, let's have a backup at every position that would normally be a starter. Please. Even the Yankees don't have that.

What you generally get is what Toronto has gotten over the last three years - some really great years from guys, a whole whack of injuries and a need to make due with the guys who’re taking the field on a nightly basis.

Unfortunately, Toronto can’t ever make due and falls back on the “if we were healthy” excuse. The problem, aside from Toronto’s inability to remain healthy, is that when the injuries do come, there aren’t enough true quality players and leaders on this squad to carry the extra weight. Look at the Boston Red Sox.

When was the last time Big Papi swung a bat?

No Schilling, injuries throughout the pitching staff, Julio Lugo remaining Julio Lugo and what do they do?

Wait...we are citing the Boston Red Sox as a good example and we are going to in any way cite Julio Lugo's failures as a POSITIVE example? One can only imagine the howls of anguish which would emanate from all corners if the Jays were the ones paying that gawd-awful contract.

Plug in Justin Masterson...

Which is better than plugging in Jessie Listch last year HOW?

...get an outstanding season thus far from Jon Lester...

Which is different or better than getting a far MORE outstanding season from Shawn Marcum HOW?

... JD Drew discovers he doesn’t in fact suck balls...

Which justifies them acquiring a guy who you apparently though DID suck balls and waiting for him to contribute in his second season HOW exactly? Again, here you are pointing to what was clearly understood to be a BAD move as a sign of the Red Sox brilliance just because said bad move inexplicably did a 180 in the man's second season?

How does that make any kind of sense? What are you saying? That the Jays should go out and get Andruw Jones (for instance) and HOPE the hell that a couple of years into his deal he does something productive?

and they’re right where they always are as of late - first place.

Toronto? They bring in rejects like Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson...

Oh? So we are overlooking the fact that the Red Sox are getting a .904 OPS out of Sean Casey when he hadn't put up one higher than .800 since 2004? Somehow it's smart that the Red Sox hired Casey and unconscionable that the Jays hired Mench of whom the exact same thing is true?

Shall we note that the Jays hired Rod Barajas while the Red Sox hired Kevin Cash? How's that comparison gonna work out?

...wait too long to promote Adam Lind and hope that Marco Scutaro getting regular at-bats is going to be the key to the season.

Scutero has the same OPS in slightly more AB than Lugo does...shall we compare salaries?

Not surprisingly, Toronto too is right where they always are as of late - right around the .500 mark...

But not because Scutero is getting too may at bats, and not because they Jays are not a talented team. they are where they are because no less than six offensive players are under-preforming all reasonable expectations for this season. it is true that you expect to have losses, and down years - but you don't expect EVERY offensive player you counted on to tank?

Tell me, oh wise critic - did you predict and expect Alex Rios to be on a pace for 7 HR this year? Did you expect and predict Aaron Hill would give you less offense than Eckstien? Did you expect and predict that Scott Rolen would be perfectly healthy and still put up an OPS over 100 points lower than he has in any other healthy year? Did you expect and predict that all that would happen AND a healthy Wells and Overbay would also underpreform? Maybe...maybe you expected Stairs to decline this much with (apparently) age.

But you take your vaunted Red Sox and let Mike Lowell see his OPS drop 100 points, and Manny Ramirez be on pace for single-digit homers now, and Ortiz be on the DL, and Drew hit to his lowest expectations and Casey be the player he was the last 4 years and Youklis drop 60 points off his career norms for no good reason and Pedoria hit like Eckstien or worse...and tell me they would be much over .500

All you are doing by comparing the Jays to the Red Sox is comparing a team for whom most players are doing what could have been expected OR spiked upward, to a team on which the reverse is true. Who's fault is it, my friends, that JD Drew suddenly, after all these years, became the star he was once supposed to be and at the exact same time Alex Rios forgot everything he knew about power hitting? Is that JP's fault? Godfrey's? In the same year Youk steps into the 900's Hill steps into the 600's...who do you blame for that?

...just close enough for fans to have a faint hope of contention but far enough out that we all know we’re just diluting ourselves, something traditionally reserved for Leafs fans in Toronto.

But now it’s not just the fans who are complaining.

Doc is.

Yes, he is. but not about JP. In point of fact, doc specifically endorsed JP and the current management's efforts. He laid the blame, as Rolen did, directly on the players on the field. That's a fascinating concept, you guys might want to look into it if indeed you respect Doc's views so much.

Maybe it’s a good time to make some changes and keep that man happy, don’t you think?

Or, maybe it's time to impotently point fingers and lay blame because shit happens. The bottom line is, no one in baseball looked at this team on April 1 and said "there's a team that will struggle to score runs, there's a team with a huge offensive hole in RF, and at 2B and DH." And, BTW, none of them looked at JD Drew and said "there's a guy who's gonna have a .990 OPS and carry the Red Sox on his back" either.

No one. Not even you.

Shit happens. None of us like it, but it does. Man up and deal with it.