Monday, October 31, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
This year, I decided to carve a pumpkin with the rumoured to be new logo for the Toronto Blue Jays, but it actually ended up looking more like the old Blue Jays logo. Have a look at the split screen and let me know what you think.
Bautista inspired Jay-O-Lantern as a Halloween treat for his followers.
email@example.com and I'll post them here on the blog.
Have a Happy Halloween everyone!
UPDATE: check out this great Jose Bautista pumpkin carving courtesy of Blue Jays on Fire. It definitely gets top marks for its likeness to Joey Bats ... way better than my version last year.
@_skennedy. This is a great carving as well, and I especially like the hat on top of the pumpkin. Nice touch!
Thursday, October 27, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
Well, Texas and St. Louis have us collectively eating our words as this World Series matchup has suddenly been one of the most exciting to watch in recent memory. On the eve of what could be the end of one very close World Series, I'm reminded of another: the 1992 World Series.
Actually, I was reminded of it by the 1992 World Series Coke can that I have sitting on my desk. I was too young to realize it at the time, but the World Series between the Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves was much closer than I remember.
Talk about a nail-biter of a World Series: all four of the Blue Jays wins were one-run victories, games which could have very easily gone either way. Especially Game 6, which ended in extra innings.
Interestingly enough, the Atlanta Braves actually outscored the Blue Jays 20-17 throughout the 1992 World Series, but Toronto squeaked out just one more hit than the Braves, 45-44.
The interesting parallel relating to this year's World Series is the Cardinals have actually outscored the Rangers 22-19 by and lead by 3 runs and yet trail the series 3-2.
I guess it just goes to show you that World Series matchups which might possibly look like a snoozer on paper may actually turn out to be one of the greatest in recent memory. Just ask the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays.
Monday, October 24, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
|Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures|
I can only imagine that's how the Boston Red Sox front office must feel like right now. With Terry Francona and Theo Epstein effectively jumping ship, it sounds like they're hoping somebody else will try to captain this Titanic of a wreck back to shore somehow.
I can hearken the Boston Red Sox situation back to this analogy; perhaps Terry Francona played the part of the relaxed parent; the one that tried more to be the player's friends rather than the strong parental figure they needed.
And on the other hand, we have John Farrell; since Francona may have lacked the stern presence, Farrell had to be the disciplinary in the clubhouse. He was the one that the players may have been fearful of, but they respected Farrell.
Again, this is all just speculation on my part, but coming from a household with two polar opposite parental figures, I can safely say this scenario is all too familiar. Once John Farrell left Boston, it sounded like the Red Sox lacked that hard-ass parental figure they needed to keep them straight.
So now the Boston Red Sox want John Farrell back as manager to help restore some order to a team whose reputation has been tarnished. It's a very tall order, but one that apparently Boston is hoping Farrell will consider.
First off, the fact that anyone is Boston is thinking they can just poach John Farrell from the Blue Jays just goes to show how desperate the Red Sox are. If they're looking for their former pitching coach to bring semblance to their team, that's very high and mighty of them.
Secondly, can you really imagine the Blue Jays would let him go that easily? Last year, the front office painstakingly sought out a new manager and screened dozens of candidates. Remember the Blue Jays Managerial Candidate Bracket?
And then to let John Farrell walk right back to a division rival is such a turncoat move, I can't ever fathom it even happening. Why would Farrell even want to go back there, let alone why would the Blue Jays let him?
By returning to the Red Sox, John Farrell would be returning to familiar territory and the relatively same coaching staff. John didn't have that luxury when he took the manager's job in Toronto, and might be a selling feature of going back to Boston if he's allowed to select his coaching staff.
Other than that though, it doesn't seem like a very attractive option for John Farrell to vacate a job after one year, only to make a lateral move to a different team. Then he has the uphill battle of trying to wrangle in a seemingly wild clubhouse. Not exactly the ideal situation for a new manager.
John took his bumps in bruises in his first full year as a manager in the Major Leagues, but that's to be expected. I can't speak from experience, but I imagine the best way to learn in that environment is to make mistakes.
By taking the manager's job in Toronto, I think Farrell was at least granted that grace period that he otherwise might not have gotten in Boston. By leaping into a pressure-cooker environment in Beantown, there must be very little wiggle room.
Not that the Blue Jays don't expect to be contenders either, but their timeline for contention is a little longer than the Red Sox. As we saw, Terry Francona's head was immediately on the chopping block immediately following game 162.
Knowing what John Farrell knows after five seasons with the Red Sox and seeing what transpired this season, I can't ever imagine John would want to return to that environment.
The Red Sox can inquire all they want about bringing back John Farrell, but he's ours now. Back off Boston - find your own manager.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
It's more of a testament to what can happen in September, but at the time of the trade, did anyone actually think that the deal involving Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel would be a turning point for the St. Louis Cardinals 2011 season?
If you listened to any of the Cardinals playoff coverage, that's what they made it sound like. Dotel and Rzepczynski not only helped St. Louis get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, but they also helped them stave off the Phillies and Brewers.
I'm not going to dispute the talent of Marc Rzepczynski or even Octavio Dotel. Both guys have a good track record, and to be honest, along with losing Zach Stewart, I think Marc Rzepczynski was the second most valuable player in that trade going to St. Louis.
Earlier in the year, I think everyone can agree that the Los Angeles Angels got fleeced by taking on Vernon Wells contract. The Blue Jays were the undisputed winners in that trade, and no one could fathom why Tony Reagins would agree to that trade.
I think in some corners of the universe, people are thinking the same thing about the Blue Jays and Colby Rasmus. After the Cardinals traded him to Toronto, they rode off into the World Series while Rasmus struggled down the stretch.
To some, the Blue jays appeared to have lost that trade. However, it's shortsighted to declare a winner and a loser with only two months of results to look at. And yet the Cardinals are heralded as the winners because they got rid of a bad seed in Colby Rasmus and subsequent thorn in the side of Tony LaRussa.
I can't say for certain why the St. Louis Cardinals decided to give up on their star centre fielder, but I imagine part of it had to do with Rasmus' strained relationship with the manager. And it's unfortunate because it makes Colby out to look like the bad guy and LaRussa comes out smelling like roses.
If anyone is still convinced the Cardinals clearly won the Colby Rasmus trade, need I remind them this; Colby Rasmus is an everyday player at a premium position in centre field who is under team control for four more seasons.
Edwin Jackson is a free agent at the end of the season and Octavio Dotel only has an option for 2012. Again, the only thing that may come back to bite the Blue Jays is an emergence of Marc Rzepczynski who is under contract for over four more seasons.
In the end though, both teams got what they wanted out of the trade; the Blue Jays have an everyday centre fielder for the foreseeable future, and the Cardinals shored up some bullpen help and a back end starter for their playoff run.
The results paid dividends for the St. Louis Cardinals in the short term, but I have a feeling this trade will weigh heavily in favour of the Blue Jays in the long term.
Besides, we all know the real reason why the Cardinals made the playoffs in the first place. It was all thanks to this celebratory dance by Octavio Dotel at Busch Stadium in St. Louis back in late June.
Friday, October 14, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
|Image courtesy of CTV.ca|
Despite what the New York Yankees might believe, paying top dollar for free agents doesn't necessarily ensure an elite level player will continue to perform at an elite level. Just ask them about A.J. Burnett.
I read a very interesting post over at Some Thoughts on Baseball the other day which got me thinking about this topic. Peter had a great breakdown of finding out how baseball's biggest stars were cultivated by their respective teams.
He calculated how the American League's biggest stars were acquired, whether it was via the draft, a trade, free agency, or otherwise. I was surprised to find out that a minute percentage of the AL's best players were signed as free agents.
Peter figured out that a mere 2 out of 37 position players from the AL that posted a WAR of 3.0 or better in 2011 were free agents, accounting for a mere 5% of the league's best players.
The timing of this information could not have been better as some of the game's biggest names are set to test free agency once the playoffs are over. Outside of CC Sabathia opting out of his contract, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are undoubtedly the two largest names out there.
I'll admit I get a little googly-eyed when I think about the possibility of the Blue Jays signing Prince Fielder. He seems to be that one big piece Toronto really needs to make a run at contention, and it would take is a boatload of cash to sign him.
However, the more and more I think about it, going after Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols or otherwise does not seem like the right move for the Blue Jays. Paying top dollar for a free agent is basically the anti-Alex Anthopoulos move.
Let's just speak hypothetically for a moment; if the Blue Jays did in fact lock up Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, I'm not saying their skills would immediately drop off once the ink was dry on the contract. But history dictates that paying the max amount of money based on past performance is not a wise move.
|Image courtesy of FanGraphs|
It's a necessary evil for some General Managers to delve out big contracts, but it must drive them berserk that they're paying this free agent X amount of dollars in hopes that they'll continue that level of performance, when in fact it's more than likely to come down.
So where does that leave the Blue Jays? They're continuing to develop players the right way in the minor leagues, but as most executives will likely tell you, they're not coming up fast enough. There needs to be another way to supplement talent until those young players are ready.
That's where the trade comes in handy. It's been the Silent Assassin's primary weapon since taking over as GM of the Blue Jays, and it's netted him Brandon Morrow, Yunel Escobar, and Colby Rasmus just to name a few. And one could argue those guys haven't even hit their peak yet.
The Cincinnati Reds may be adamantly denying they're shopping Joey Votto, but that is the exact kind of move that Alex Anthopoulos would make. The only issue is the Blue Jays would need to package elite prospects or a couple of established Major Leaguers to land Votto from the Reds.
Think the kind of haul the Blue Jays received in return for Roy Halladay, except double it because Joey Votto is under contract for two more years, where Halladay only had one remaining year when he was traded to Philadelphia.
The idea is to acquire somebody like Joey Votto in the midway point of the bell curve, so that the Blue Jays get maximum value from the player during their contract years. And then when that player hits free agency and becomes too expensive to retain, let him walk. It's almost a miniature Moneyball model ... sort of.
Of course, the only advantage to signing a big name free agent is all it takes to get them is money. Albeit hundreds of millions of dollars, but it's something that's replenishable. Elite talent however, that can be much more difficult to replace.
That's why it seems like a bit of a counterproductive move to give away a boatload of prospects just to get Joey Votto for only two years. It feels like it might be a one-step forward two-step back scenario, and then after two years the Blue Jays are in the exact same position ... except minus those blue chip prospects.
So if buying high on Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols isn't the answer, and selling the farm to get Joey Votto isn't a viable option for the Blue Jays, then what is the answer?
Considering Alex Anthopoulos' reputation as the Silent Assassin, it's probably something we haven't even thought of yet.
Monday, October 10, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
As a quick aside, why is BBWAA the acronym for the Baseball Writers' Association of America? Shouldn't it just be BWAA? Since when did baseball become two separate words like "base ball"?
Anyway, the winners of these awards won't be announced until mid-November, but in the meantime the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is collecting ballots for their own end of season awards which will be announced in the coming weeks.
The following is my ballot for the BBA's end of season awards:
Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
3.) Jim Leyland
2.) Ron Washington
1.) Joe Maddon
I don't know whether it was his hipster glasses, his quasi-silver fox mullet, or his affinity for having the team dress up on road trips, but there's something about Joe Maddon that's very likable as a manager. And luckily he has a great track record too.
Even if the Rays didn't squeak into the playoffs at the last possible second, I likely would've voted for Joe Maddon anyway just because he managed to squeeze every single ounce of productiveness out of his 25-man roster.
Willie Mayes Award (Top Rookie)
3.) Eric Hosmer
2.) Jeremy Hellickson
1.) Mark Trumbo
It seems like for the past few years, it's been a newly-crowned closer that has taken the Rookie of the Year honours. While closing is a high-pressure environment, it must pale in comparison to the daily grind of playing a position day-in and day-out.
This year's cast of rookies was very impressive, including a couple of late-season additions in Brett Lawrie and Desmond Jennings. But ultimately, I think the best freshman in the American League this season was Mark Trumbo.
With the absence of Kendrys Morales, Trumbo stepped in and became the everyday first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels. He also settled in nicely as the Angels number five hitter and picked up the slack left by Vernon Wells in the lineup.
Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
3.) Jonathan Papelbon
2.) David Robertson
1.) Mariano Rivera
As much as it pains me to write down the names of a couple of Yankees and a member of the Boston Red Sox, I have to tip my cap to Rivera, Robertson and Papelbon. They all pitch on two of the brightest stages in all of baseball, and to put together seasons like they all did is pretty incredible.
Once again though, it's the Sandman that takes the top spot among relievers in the American League. Coupled together with David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and Robertson were among one of the best 1-2 bullpen punches in all of baseball.
Walter Johnson Award (Top Starting Pitcher)
5.) Jered Weaver
4.) Dan Haren
3.) James Shields
2.) CC Sabathia
1.) Justin Verlander
I can't imagine Justin Verlander wouldn't win the American League Cy Young Award by a landside, but for a pitcher being touted as the best in the league (and possibly even MVP as well), he certainly wasn't far and away the best pitcher in the league.
CC Sabathia very quietly put together another CC-esque season with the Yankees, but all the "Verlander for MVP" talk overshadowed Sabathia's equally impressive 2011 campaign. In the end, I'm awarding my first place vote to Justin Verlander ... but not by much.
Stan Musial Award (Top Player)
10.) Ben Zobrist
9.) Alex Gordon
8.) Ian Kinsler
7.) Adrian Gonzalez
6.) Evan Longoria
5.) Dustin Pedroia
4.) Curtis Granderson
3.) Miguel Cabrera
2.) Jacoby Ellsbury
1.) Jose Bautista
If you read my final plea for Jose Bautista as AL MVP (and not Justin Verlander, Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson), then this ballot should come as no surprise. Call me a homer, but I believe Jose Bautista was the MVP.
History has shown these past few years that most voters are hip to Sabermetrics and don't judge a player's season by your traditional triple crown statistics. The past two AL Cy Young Award votes clearly demonstrate a movement away from the conventional measures of a player's worth.
Nobody deserves to benefit more from this movement than Jose Bautista. He led the league in home runs (43), slugging percentage (.608), and finished a mere hair behind Miguel Cabrera for the highest on base percentage (.447).
Forget that prerequisite that some people say the MVP most come from a playoff-bound team, forget momentum from the second half, forget whether certain players come from New York or Boston.
The best player in the league is the best player in the league bar none; there should be no outside factors swaying votes or determining who finishes where in the voting. All those outside factors cast aside, Jose Bautista should be the best player in the American League in 2011.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
Mike Napoli spent a grand total of four days with the organization, but some would argue the ripple effects of his departure are still being felt today.
When the trade went down in January, it seemed like a bit of a head-scratcher as the Blue Jays were giving up a position player for a reliever with a history of injuries. At the time, I was so giddy Alex Anthopoulos was able to dump Vernon Wells' contract that it didn't really matter what happened after that.
Some are saying that this is one of AA's first big missteps as a General Manager. On the surface, Mike Napoli's 5.6 WAR season far outshone the 0.5 WAR season put together by Frank Francisco, but it's not quite that simple.
Of course, it sucks a little to watch Mike Napoli hit 30 home runs and post a .410 on base percentage for the team that the Blue Jays traded to him. I think it stings even more because Mike Napoli had the kind of season we had all hoped Adam Lind would have.
I believe Adam Lind is part of the reason why the Blue Jays traded away Mike Napoli in the first place. Simply put, they didn't really have a spot on the roster for Napoli after Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion had all the first base/designated hitter positions locked up.
Here's the part that stings about Mike Napoli's season in Texas: although he didn't get the minimum 502 at bats due to some injuries, Napoli still put together a career year in just 113 games played.
His .410 on base percentage ranked third in the American League behind only Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista (among batters who had at least 430 plate appearances). Napoli also ranked second in home runs per at bat with a ratio of 12.3 HR per AB (minimum 425 PA's).
Pro-rate those numbers to a 500 AB season and Mike Napoli could have possibly hit upwards of 40 home runs for the Texas Rangers. But who's to say he would've had the exact same season with the Toronto Blue Jays?
Mike Napoli is an extremely versatile utility player and would have no problem fitting into the lineup on most rosters, but the way Toronto's roster looked in January, frankly there was no place for him to get everyday at bats.
Had the Blue Jays not brought back Edwin Encarnacion on that one year contract plus an option, I'm almost certain Mike Napoli would have been slotted in as the full time DH.
Although he never said it outright, Alex Anthopoulos insinuated he gentleman's agreement with Edwin Encarnacion that EE would get the lion's share of at bats at DH. Thus eliminating the need for Mike Napoli on the Blue Jays roster, and instead Alex Anthopoulos flipped him for a commodity they really did need, a relief pitcher.
Player for player, Mike Napoli obviously had the much better season. Regardless of who it is, I'm never really in favour of trading position players for relievers. In my opinion, above average position players offer more value than solid relief pitching. I'd take a team of Mike Napoli's over a team of Craig Kimbrel's any day.
When you really think about, the Napoli/Francisco deal was the antithesis to the typical Alex Anthopoulos trade. Typically he attempts to acquire high ceiling talent, but at the very best the Blue Jays would've gotten a good reliever out of the deal.
On paper, it was a one-for-one trade with Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco, but I don't look at it that way. Essentially that trade was a sub-deal of the Vernon Wells deal. The trades never happened in succession, but I look at it as a three-team trade.
The Mike Napoli trade would not have happened had the Vernon Wells trade not gone down. After Alex Anthopoulos was able to ship Vernon's contract off to Los Angeles, anything that happened after that was a win.
When Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli came back in return from the Angels, the Blue Jays were playing with house money. It was basically a salary dump by the Angels, but Toronto did acquire two players of value in return, as well as getting $86 million off the books.
Viewing the trade in terms of just Mike Napoli and just Frank Francisco, then Alex Anthopoulos may have been a little trigger happy to get rid of Napoli and bring in Francisco. However, if you look at the bigger picture, that $86 million dollars shed in payroll is worth far more in the long run than Napoli's 5.6 WAR season in 2011.
If this trade ends up being one of the biggest "blunders" of the Alex Anthopoulos regime, then the Blue Jays will be in fine shape.
Monday, October 3, 2011 | by Ian Hunter
But last night, I received the mother of all anonymous comments that left me absolutely speechless.
It was left on the "Is the Legacy of Joe Carter Overrated?" post that I wrote back in May, and if you look at the very bottom of the post, you'll find this comment:
"Ian, I guess the 396 HR's I hit didn't matter also.Anonymous comments can come from anywhere and claim to be anybody, but I have a sneaking suspicion this one just might actually be the real Joe Carter (and not just because they say they're the real Joe Carter).
Maybe I just got lucky for 16 years.
You may want to define my career with the WS HR, but it is much more than that. How about in '86 when I was 1 HR, 1 SB, and 1 triple away from doing something that had never been done in the history of the game. ( 300 AVG. 100 RBI's, 100 runs, 200 hits, 9 triples, 29 HR and 29 SB and double digits in doubles).
All these numbers you guys come up with don't mean a thing to me. The bottom line is wins and championships. Everybody has a job to do on a team, mine was to drive in runs and hit HR's.
Do you want stats or championships?? It's a lot of guys that would trade their stats for a championship ring anyday. So don't lose focus on why we play the game!!!! Rings not stats!!!!"
- Joe Carter (Yes the real Joe Carter!!!)
How do I know that? The comment came from near Kansas City, which is Joe Carter's hometown. Again, it could just be somebody from Kansas City pretending to him, but why would they go to the length to type out a comment just to troll a baseball blog?
Rather than assume that this person wasn't Joe Carter, just for a moment let's assume it actually was Joe Carter. If that's him, whoa. Just by the dialogue used in the comment, it sounds very similar to things Joe Carter has said in previous interviews, re: statistics.
If I were Joe Carter, I wouldn't blame him at all for being pissed off for finding that post and being very angry with somebody challenging their entire career. After all, what Major League baseball experience do I have? Zero.
But thanks to advanced Sabermetrics, we have the benefit of looking back and taking a second glance at player's careers from a different perspective. The Sabermetric movement arguably helped Bert Blyleven get into Cooperstown, and I'm sure it will do the same for others down the road.
If this was truly Joe Carter that left this comment on that post, then I am absolutely flabbergasted. My childhood hero now knows who I am, but now he only knows me as some blogger who tried to badmouth his career accomplishments on the internet. Not exactly how I envisioned this happening.
That is not what I intended to do at all, I merely just wanted folks from my generation to challenge their perception of what Joe Carter meant to the Toronto Blue Jays, aside from the historic home run in the 1993 World Series.
The article did not come from a place of malice or hostility at all. I never thought in a million years that the man I looked up to for so many years (and still do) would ever lay eyes on this blog, let alone a blog post that questioned his legacy.
As I'm sure anybody who's ever frequented this site can attest to, Joe Carter was my childhood hero. When I was younger, I prided myself on telling people that "Joe Carter was my favourite player way before he hit that home run!".
During my very first Blue Jays game at the Skydome on October 3rd 1992, I watched the Blue Jays clinch the pennant and Joe Carter hit his 34th home run of the season. At that very instant, I knew Joe Carter would be my favourite player.
There was a streak of about 2-3 times where I tried to catch Joe Carter down at the Rogers Centre during one of his several appearances in 2008 to try to get an autograph. For one reason or another, I just never made it to the ballpark in time.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, if I was that big of a Joe Carter fan, why would I write something with such cruel intentions? Would I really be that vindictive towards Joe Carter if I still have a decorative plate with him on it back from when I was a child?
I'll tell you that the "Is the Legacy of Joe Carter Overrated?" post was the hardest one I've ever written in my life. Not in terms of research or in the time put into it, but just the fact that I was writing something that was criticizing the very man I grew up idolizing.
Nobody knows for certain whether or not that was even Joe Carter who left the comment on the post, but if it was, and if you're reading this Mr. Carter, I apologize if it came across as trying to tarnish your career accomplishments.
It's not something that I'm extremely proud of, but do I stand by my work ... just as you stand behind your body of work of 396 career home runs and 1445 career RBI's. No one can deny that's an amazing feat, and nobody can ever take that away from you.
As I'm sure most people will agree, the vision of Joe Carter rounding the bases is something that will remain ingrained in our minds forever. We'll be telling our grandchildren about the 1992-1993 Blue Jays, and at the centre of that story will be none other than Joe Carter.
As the commenter said, "don't lose focus on why we play the game ... rings, not stats". You can choose to venture further down the rabbit hole and look further at the statistics aspect of Joe Carter's career, but ultimately he was a winner. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.
Or it was just a troll pretending to be Joe Carter after all, and I've been duped. I guess we'll never know for sure.