Sunday, 15 March 2015
The Looming Mistake
It's about time this ugly bit of business was dragged out into the daylight. I've never been one to bash ownership but on this point, I'm inclined to drag out a nine pound hammer and start winging. My complaint?
The idiocy that if the Blue Jays don't make the playoffs in 2015 Alex Anthopoulos will be fired.
Now, the disclaimer must be made: i do not KNOW whether or not the chatter is true, but it's discussed as common knowledge in the Toronto media and give the Dan Douquette debacle, it's all too easy to believe - but it is, in my view, an utterly misguided plan if it is indeed true.
First of all, let's consider historical context. Gord Ash was hired to replace national hero Pat Gillick in the fall of 1994 when Gillick retired from the position. Ash oversaw the team through seven season. Four of those were sub-.500 teams and the best result was an 88 win season helmed by a manager who talked himself out of the job. Overall the team was just under .500 on his watch.
He was replaced in the fall of 2001 by JP Ricciardi. For whom I had (full disclosure), at the time, tremendous enthusiasm. JP had the job through eight seasons. In four of those the team finished under .500, the best season was 87 wins in 2006, though they also reached 86 in two others. To be fair, though, JP was operating on very harsh salary restrictions during the first two years. Overall, the Jays were just slightly under .500 during his term. He lost his job, I expect, at least as much because the pressures of the position seemed to magnify some negative aspects of his personality, as because of his record.
For comparison, Alex Anthopoulos is entering his sixth season on the job.The success record is similar to his predecessors.
My major complaint is this: Alex essentially started fresh, boldly attempting to stock the minor leagues with talent to build a long term, sustainable, pipeline of talent to lay a foundation for major league success. He stated on the front end that you first build the foundation and then add selected expensive players when the team was ready, so like JP, one shouldn't put much stock in the results of the first 2-3 years. It's no secret to anyone when Alex decided to "go for it" nor is it a secret that in the first go at contention the engine stalled. I'll leave it to others to analyze 2013. Last year it seemed to be on track until August hit and the team went into a crazy tailspin. Still, a nine win improvement and 3rd place for the first time since 2007.
Now, to be sure, 2015 SHOULD be a year of further improvement, the trajectory clearly points in that direction. But even so, I contend that six years, three of which they were not even trying to contend, is in no way long enough to properly evaluate a GM's ability. When you need 3-4 years to develop even the best of your draft picks, that's a very short time frame.
The draft history alone argues for patience. It's been said that if you get one really good player out of a draft you did well and another contributor or two and you did real well. [following edited to correct a stupid mistake on my part]
If you look at the typical prospect development curve for a guy who's considered an above average pick and a frontline contributor in the majors, though there are very rare exceptions (Stroman for one obvious example) players drafted in 2010 should only just be arriving and making a dent THIS year. Sure enough, 4 players from the jays 2010 draft have already appeared in the major, with two of those set to be key contributors to the 2015 squad, and another - the since traded Noah Syndergaard - is banging down the door for the Mets. (I won't mention the unsigned Kris Bryant, I might cry). Not only that, two more players from the 2011 class are here, and one from the 2012 class (injury aside).
What kind of sense does it make to hire a guy, charge him with rebuilding your system to create a winning tradition and fire him six years into the job when the best fruits of your labor can only be expected to contribute 5 years later? Now, yes, if the team goes completely south and struggles to win 75 games then yeah, you might figure it's time to pull the plug - but that's something you decide AFTER it happens. You don't let the rumor mill run wild, unanswered, describing the big fucking sword that's hanging over your GM's head before the season even starts. You don't set a fairly arbitrary goal before the season and take no consideration of circumstances. What happens if the team wins 92 games (4 more than they have won in a single season since Carter hit the biggest homer of his life) and yet miss the playoffs by one game? Fire the GM? if you did you'd be certifiably insane. if you say no, then why not get out there on Bobcat;'s show and deny emphatically that it's a "do or die" season?
It's time someone put a stop to the madness.