Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Come Back, Kelly Johnson


By
Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Images
Here's a question for you; what stands between Yunel Escobar and Adam Lind and has around 400 assists every season? Currently, no one .... because there is a giant gaping hole at second base on the Blue Jays roster.

When Toronto initially acquired Kelly Johnson back in late August, I think most assumed he was not only going to fill the immediate void left by trading Aaron Hill, but that Johnson would also be the Blue Jays second baseman for the foreseeable future.

I myself thought it would go down like this; the Blue Jays get to "test drive" KJ for a couple months, then offer him a 2-3 year deal with an option, and everyone walks away happy. The Blue Jays lock up another position, and Johnson gets a nice paycheque.

Fast forward to today and all Kelly Johnson has to do is decline Toronto's arbitration offer and the Blue Jays will be back at square one for their second base conundrum.

I know a lot of it has to do with the Type A status and the compensatory pick due to free agency, but the Blue Jays need to ask themselves a serious question: are those picks worth letting Kelly Johnson go for?

With all the changes recently to the CBA, one can completely understand why Alex Anthopoulos would want to amass as many picks as he can before the new rules come into effect next year. But right now, I think a bonafide second baseman is much more important than a draft pick.

Judging by the amount of money guys like Clint Barmes and Jamey Carroll have fetched already this off-season, it's a buyer's market for middle infielders. Kelly Johnson will not have a problem finding a multi-year deal somewhere.

And what's even more enticing is his modified Type A status means the team that signs him does not have to surrender a draft pick. All the more reason for a prospective buyer to target Kelly Johnson.

However, this scenario plays in favour of the Blue Jays as well. Although it would seem like a cardinal sin for AA to give up a draft pick to sign a Type A free agent, the Blue Jays don't have to worry about that because they'd be signing their own player.

The power now lies in the hands of Kelly Johnson and his agent. They have until next Wednesday to either accept the Blue Jays arbitration offer and hopefully work out a multi-year contract, or Johnson becomes a free agent and goes elsewhere.

Although the Blue Jays would undoubtedly have to overpay to keep Kelly, I'd much rather see them shell out the dough to keep Kelly Johnson around. I'm guessing he'd command around $8 million per season, but I feel like that money would be well spent.

Sure, Mike McCoy or Luis Valbuena could fill the void at second base. Virtually anybody could come in and fill those shoes. But neither McCoy nor Valbuena can hit for power or get in base like Johnson can, and that's why he's going to come at a premium.

I'm not saying spend money for the sake of spending money on this one, but at some point the front office is going to have to pony up on certain contracts and pay above market value to lock up certain positions for more than one season.

Even though their collapse was the centre of much attention, I look to the ever-dangerous Boston Red Sox lineup as an example of a great batting order. There are virtually no breaks through the 1-6 hitters in their lineup, meaning nowhere to hide for opposing pitchers.

I think in order for Toronto to get to Boston's level, they really need to mimic how the Red Sox have solid hitters in the top two-thirds of their order. The Blue Jays lineup hasn't quite reached that upper echelon, but they're getting there. Adding Kelly Johnson to the mix would certainly help balance out the lineup.

The tough task for Anthopoulos and company now is they have to make Kelly Johnson an offer he can't refuse if they want him to stay. That's why I'm saying the Blue Jays will have to overpay because KJ can sign anywhere else at fair market value.

Perhaps the Blue Jays have some grandiose plan for second base; maybe it means Adeiny Hechavarria breaking camp, maybe it means giving Luis Valbuena a shot at the starting gig, or maybe the Silent Assassin trolls another team for their starting second baseman.

Whatever ends up happening, I don't think it's a bad idea to at least table a multi-year offer to Kelly Johnson. If he accepts, great ... second base is taken care of for the next little while. If not, then Toronto takes the pick and plugs the hole by some other means.

Personally, I would just feel a whole lot more comfortable having that position locked up rather than use the "throw stuff against a wall and see what sticks" strategy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Best Moustaches in Baseball: Part Four


By
There was a time when they were as commonplace as beer in the clubhouse, and cigars in the dugout. When it was much more common to find a man with one than without one. Heck, even a few ladies had them, too.

No one can explain exactly why, but there's something very special about the relationship between the moustache and the sport of baseball. While the moustache itself is not limited to one specific sport, it's history is most closely tied in with baseball.

Now they are viewed more of as a novelty, but there was a time when growing a moustache was a right of passage for a baseball player. Take a look through a stack of old baseball cards from the 70's or 80's, and you'd be hard pressed to not find some sweet staches.

The deep-rooted heritage between moustaches and baseball grows much longer than the hairs on Rollie Fingers' soup trainer. So we must venture further up the nostrils of baseball moustache history with another installment of the Best Moustaches in Baseball.

Bobby Grich

It's very rare in this age in baseball to find a player who has spent his entire career with just two teams. Grich played 17 seasons in total, split between the Orioles and the Angels.

And through most of his career, he donned a well-coiffed moustache. Bravo Mr. Grich, bravo.


Bob McClure

Representing the fu manchu contingency on this year's list, Bob McClure's moustache is reminiscent of the moustache glory days.

For full effect, McClure combined his cookie duster with the throwback Milwaukee Brewers cap and a head of hair that would even make Ron Burgundy a little jealous.


Gary Gaetti

Gaetti has the distinction of being the only player in baseball history to hit home runs in his first two playoff plate appearances.

That kind of posteason prowess can be attributed in large part to his moustache, since the opposing pitcher Frank Viola likely lost his focus while admiring Gaetti's moustache.

Jim Dwyer

Dwyer played for a total of seven teams throughout his career, but was known as the quintessential pinch hitter. He ranks 16th all time with 103 pinch hits.

Not that any child dreams of growing up to be a professional pinch hitter, but judging by his photo with the Expos, Matt Stairs must have taken after Jim Dwyer as a prolific pinch hitter himself.


Ken Phelps

I know this looks like a photo of a character that Adam Sandler concocted for his next box office flip, but I assure you Ken Phelps and his accompanying moustache are in fact very real.

In my opinion, Phelps not only takes the cake for the top moustache in this edition, but overall hilarious baseball card photo as well.

Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield doesn't necessarily win style points with his traditional moustache, but it's the longevity of his moustache that deserves recognition.

Much like iconic mastachioed men such as Burt Reynolds and Tom Sellick before him, it's hard to imagine Winfield without his moustache.


Robin Yount

As is shown in his picture to the left, Robin Yount mastered the art of business in the front, party in the back, and distinction above his upper lip.

Yount was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but perhaps his distinction as one of the best moustaches in baseball is equally as impressive. Except it doesn't come with a bronze plaque ... yet.


Rick Sweet

Lastly, Rick Sweet caps off this year's crop with another bushy cookie duster. And I have to say, it's a very sweet stache, indeed.

Sweet represents the third Seattle Mariners moustache on this year's list, which leads me to believe the Mariners instituted mandatory moustaches for each player on the roster.


And just in case part four of the Best Moustaches in Baseball just only began to tickle your fancy for lip ticklers, be sure to check out the three previous installments:

The Best Moustaches in Baseball
The Best Moustaches in Baseball: Part Two
The Best Moustaches in Baseball: Part Three

Let's not forget the entire reason for all of this, Movember. I'm sure there's somebody you know; a friend, coworker or family member who is growing a moustache this November to help support Prostate Cancer Research. Please do what you can and support those participating in Movember.

After all, come month's end, most of those moustaches may be gone, but thanks to the internet, the best moustaches in baseball will live on forever.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reactions to the AL MVP Vote


By
Image courtesy of Big League Stew
When it comes to overall amazing specimens in baseball, Jose Bautista is one of the best. There's no question he can hit, field multiple positions, he's an astute baserunner and is a great leader to his team.

Apparently those requirements are not enough for Jose Bautista to win the American League MVP Award, as decided by the BBWAA. I guess Jose will have to add the ability to pitch well and sell hot dogs if he wants to garner more votes.

Just so there is no confusion about what an MVP means, the Baseball Writers' Association of America clearly states the following for voting criteria for their Most Valuable Player Award:
  1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
  2. Number of games played.
  3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.  
All I can say is, really ... Justin Verlander? 13 of 28 voters decided a pitcher was the best player in the entire American League this season, and only 5 thought Jose Bautista was the best. I guess I have to rethink my theory that the writers were hip to new statistics.

It's not the fact that Justin Verlander won the MVP that irks me, because I'm sure we all entertained the possibility that might actually happen. What irks me is how the entire AL MVP results were a complete and utter mess.

In the grand scheme of things and as ludicrous as it was, one stray first place vote for Michael Young did not make or break anyone's candidacy for AL MVP. It was the collective of several votes like a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth place vote for Young that really gave this year's results a black eye.

Keep in mind that I and several members of the blogosphere may be a little biased towards Jose Bautista. But if you went around the league, I'm sure you'd find most would agree he was at least one of the top five players in the league in 2011. The results show that four writers thought he wasn't.

Again, it's these little things that really set me off and question why some writers have a ballot in the first place. What reasoning did those four writers have for leaving Jose Bautista out of the top five?

Was it because he didn't play for a playoff contender? Was it because he played in Canada? Or was it because he only led one of the triple crown offensive categories? As crazy as all these reasons sound, I'm sure some of them influenced how some writers filled out their ballot.

One could've argued that Jacoby Ellsbury was actually Jose Bautista's closest competition in the AL MVP race. Had Ellsbury won, I wouldn't necessarily have been happy about it, but I would've respected that decision because he was a formidable candidate.

So not only did Jose get hosed, so did Jacoby. He was left off one ballot entirely, and received a 10th place vote for one writer. His voting cluster is much more consistent, but again ... despite what happened to the Red Sox, don't you think Jacoby Ellsbury was at least a top five player in the AL?

In the end, we can't really be mad or disappointed by any one writer's opinion on who was the most valuable player to their team in 2011. It's their prerogative on who they deem as the best in the American League.

What we can be upset at however, is the ability to let the narrative take over and cloud people's judgement on who is the AL MVP. I still believe that had not the Verlander bandwagon been started by whomever, he would never have been in the discussion.

I hate to say it, but this year's American League MVP results clearly send a message that tangible things like cold, hard statistics are being overlooked in favour of intangibles.

Jose Bautista once again had another hell of a season. He now has a third place AL MVP finish to go along with last year's fourth place finish, and hopefully one day he will add that elusive MVP trophy to his collection.

One of these years, perhaps the writers will get it right again.

Everyone Has an Opinion on the New Blue Jays Uniforms


By
Image courtesy of CTV.ca
Even though the majority of folks would say the new Blue Jays logo and uniform is a universal success, not everyone is a fan of the brand new design. There's always one in every group, isn't there?

I'm sure by now you've seen the post criticizing the new primary Blue Jays logo. There are some fair points in this post, but then BlogTO went one step further and offered an alternate design.

Image courtesy of BlogTO
Admittedly, most of what I've said on the blog and Twitter this past week has extremely positive (borderlining on homerish), but that's not to say the new logo isn't without its faults.

I think most of the criticisms people have with the new logo are associated with the version wrapped in text and circled with the double lines. To be honest, I'm not too crazy about it either.

The combination of the regular font along with the split-letter font doesn't look consistent, and the maple leaf stem not lining up with the baseball is a minor issue. But luckily, the primary logo being used on the cap and uniform is just the basic bird, sans the font wrap and baseball.

This proposed design change by Rob in the above image frankly looks too similar to the old logo, in my opinion. The thickness of all the lines is much more consistent than what the Blue Jays presented on Friday, but it's just too close to the original for my liking.

Side by side, you can really see the differences between the old and new Blue Jays logo. They are all very subtle, and I've already had trouble convincing some people I know that these two aren't exactly the same logo.

I don't believe the Blue Jays are going to be using the font-wrapped logo with double lines very much anyway, so there isn't really all that much to worry about. I'll be the first to admit it isn't perfect, but isn't that what gives a team logo character?

It's hard to appease every single fan, but if you've seen the polls on the National Post and Toronto Star's website, nearly 8 out of 10 people love the new Blue Jays uniforms. I'd say that qualifies the new uniforms as a resounding success.

Now on to some more positive feedback, reactions from around the blogosphere on the brand new Blue Jays logos and uniforms:

The authoritative opinion on sports logos, none other than Chris Creamer of SportsLogos.net also has a few small qualms with the new set, but other than that he says the uniforms are a home run.

Of all the new uniforms unveiled by teams this past week (Miami, San Diego, Baltimore and Toronto), Uni Watch gives the Blue Jays top marks in what they say was the "perfect week in uniform unveilings". It must've been the equivalent of a uniformed solar eclipse for them.

Rob Neyer of SB Nation is a fan of the new livery (livery?), but he said the previous installment of the Blue Jays uniforms were panned as the worst in baseball. Rob, be careful ... you don't want to make the angry bird any more upset than he already is. The poor angry bird just lost his job!

Infield Fly has fashion writer Emma Yardley weigh in on the new uniforms, and she definitely likes what she sees with the Blue Jays going back to their roots.

500 Level Fan knows what he wants for Christmas this year ... a blue alternate Blue Jays jersey. I hope Santopoulos brings one to each and every good little boy and girl Blue Jays fan this year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Something Old, Something New: the New Blue Jays Uniforms


By
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

The new Toronto Blue Jays uniforms adorn each one of these characteristics; they're an homage to the original logo from 1977, but with a modernized look for the 21st century. In short, the new uniforms look fantastic.

When the logo was first leaked back in September, I have to admit my initial reaction was one of confusion. The new version looked very similar to the old one, and along with my others I wondered why the Blue Jays just didn't revert back to the old logo as most of us were hoping they would do.

Upon further investigation, the subtle differences in the logo became more apparent. The lines and colours were streamlined and overall it made the Blue Jays logo look much cleaner and less dated.

Fast forward to today and after first glimpse of the brand new uniforms, I can safely say the Blue Jays have another winner on their hands. It's a great compromise between the traditional Blue Jays look while also looking very modern at the same time.

The part of the press conference which I enjoyed the most was the video montage below of the players talking about what the Blue Jays logo means to them. It gave me chills when J.P. Arencibia said "this is what I grew up knowing ... this bird ... this uniform".



The Blue Jays brought back a key characteristic that was so pivotal in previous uniform designs, and that's something as simple as the colour blue. After all, it makes up half of their name, so it only makes sense for blue to make a triumphant return to these uniforms.

Noticeably absent in the new uniforms is the lack of a white panel home cap. While I was a huge fan of the original white panel cap, I think the solid blue actually looks much better with these uniforms ... even the home whites.

The solid colour looks less like a novelty or custom-made cap and more like a traditional baseball cap. And it manages to fit in beautifully with the home whites, road greys, and alternate blue uniforms.

Speaking of the alternate blue uniforms, it's been many years since the Blue Jays sported a solid blue uniform, and Ricky Romero displayed why it's so great to have that uniform back in the repertoire. I have a feeling that alternate jersey will be a hot seller, next to the home white jersey.

It's also nice to see the split-lettering font make a return which was very prominent in the Blue Jays uniforms up until 1996. Except this time around it's a completely different font, but still manages to look similar to the old jerseys.

The only thing I'm not so crazy about is the overall design of this logo below. The combination of the regular font with the split lettering font along with the baseball and circle looks a little off, but the rest of the logos look fantastic.

The new font is just another minor tweak to the Blue Jays uniforms, but it actually ends up making a huge difference. And I guess that's the best way to summarize these new uniforms; a bunch of minor changes add up to a brand new look.

Ultimately, these uniforms are a perfect marriage between the past and the present. They pay tribute to the glory days from the 80's and 90's, but at the same time these uniforms present a classic look that hopefully will be around for many years to come.

Some might say that this uniform and logo change is just a cash grab for the Blue Jays, but I would argue that the team was in dire need of a change anyway. The uniforms that came in during the 2004 season now look very dated, even though they've only been around for seven years.

Trying to create a modern-looking sports logo is the same as trying to keep up with the latest cell phone. By the time you've already bought it and brought it home, the phone is obsolete. So instead of trying to be on the cutting edge of design, it's better to go retro.

That's not to say these new uniforms won't ever be tweaked or added to in the coming years, but these versions stand a much better chance at holding up over a longer period of time.

Looking back, there are so many iconic images from the past featuring Blue Jays players in those original uniforms. It conjures up so many great memories of the Blue Jays dynasty era, and today officially marks the beginning of a new era.

Hopefully these Blue Jays uniforms will not only be the uniforms today's fans will come to know and love, but the next generation of Blue Jays fans as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Last Sneak Peek at Possible New Blue Jays Uniforms


By
In just over 24 hours, the Toronto Blue Jays will hopefully reveal their brand new uniforms. For some of us though (myself included), that's just too long to wait. Not surprisingly, we were also those kids that opened their gifts on Christmas Eve.

Tao of Stieb already did an excellent analysis of the teaser video that was posted yesterday, and after a dozen or so replays, I scoured the video of any glimpse of new information or images of these new uniforms which have been shrouded in secrecy.

Fellow Blue Jays fanatic @Rallycap_Andy noted that fans are trying to pick this teaser video apart for any semblance of content, not unlike what happened with Cloverfield a few years ago. And yes, I also got sucked into that "play a game, get a cryptic clue" thing.

I've taken a few stills from the video and enhanced them a little bit to make the features stand out a little more prominently. First up, Yunel Escobar:
It's hard to catch with the naked eye, but right around the seven second mark, you can make out the faint outline of the bottom of the primary Blue Jays logo. It looks to be the leaked logo back from September, and placing it on the cap fits perfectly.

Next up is Jose Bautista in what appears to be the new Blue Jays road grey uniforms. At the nine second mark, there is a brief glimpse of what looks like the "T" in "Toronto".

Judging by the serif on the font, it's the same one used in the invitation sent out to the media last week. But there's one difference; the rumoured split font that was prominent in the throwback Blue Jays font is making a return.

Compared to the raw font below, the "T" above looks to be in line for the proposed road uniform font. Originally, I thought it might be the first "T" in Toronto, but by the curving on the font it looks like the second "T".

Finally, there's a very interesting screengrab of the back of the possible home white uniforms. Adam Lind's name is displayed prominently in the back in a sans serif font:

Here's the issue; the font in this screengrab above is nowhere even close to the one of Jose Bautista. This leads me to believe there will be completely separate fonts for the home and away jerseys.

It's really not all that uncommon, as the latest Blue Jays uniforms also used entirely different fonts for their home white uniforms and alternates as they did their away uniforms.

Update: As Chris noted in the comments section, I am completely over thinking this whole font thing, the throwback jerseys had solid block lettering on the back of the uniforms. Please disregard my note about different fonts.

Even if all these guesses are completely off base, what little we actually did see in the teaser video is very promising. Friday can't get here soon enough!

Sizing Up Jose Bautista's MVP Chances


By
Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
I have to admit, I've been very distracted by Friday's new uniform reveal, but for the time being let's take a moment to depart from the jersey talk and focus on another matter; that of the American League MVP voting.

At season's end, I made one last plea for Jose Bautista as MVP, which was essentially just discrediting the rest of the candidates rather than building up Bautista's case. The same stance remains even now, but I'm still not 100% confident that Jose will get the hardware he deserves.

There are a few promising signs, however. The fine folks at SB Nation selected Jose Bautista as their MVP, and so did the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. In both instances, Bautista just narrowly beat out Jacoby Ellsbury for top spot on the ballot.

These results could very well mirror the BBWAA's results for American League MVP, which will finally be revealed on Monday. However, I'm not positive that the Baseball Writers' Association of America will get it right.

The problem is unlike previous years, there is no clear favourite in the American League. Obviously yours truly is a little biased towards Jose Bautista, but cases could easily be made for Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Verlander, and even Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson.

Had the Red Sox made the playoffs, I believe this year's MVP conversation would hinge on the classic "the MVP needs to come from a winning team" argument. Ellsbury could very well have garnered more first place votes because he "carried his team into the playoffs", but that's one pre-written narrative that had to be crumpled up and thrown in the trash.

I think most voters are probably either writing down Bautista or Ellsbury's name on the top of their ballot. The first place ballots are likely going to be split right down the middle, with perhaps a stray first place ballot for Justin Verlander.

Since there is no obvious front-runner, that's why those those second, third and fourth place votes are going to be as crucial as ever, and could end up deciding the American League MVP.

Here's what makes me a little nervous about Jose Bautista's chances, though; I think this entire award hinges on voter's stances on Justin Verlander's place on the AL MVP ballot. If even one or two voters believe Verlander was the best player in the league this year and Bautista was second best, that will cost Jose four points.

Again, I'm not saying it's completely ludicrous for a pitcher to be considered for the Most Valuable Player Award. The problem is there were a few people that piped up mid-season that Justin Verlander should be considered for AL MVP, and that's when the bandwagoners got wind of it and all hopped on board. Had nobody pined for Verlander, I doubt we'd even be having this conversation.

For those who believe Justin Verlander should place ahead of Jose Bautista, let me give you this food for thought courtesy of the BBWAA website in regards to their instructions for voting for MVP:
There seems to always be a debate about the definition of the MVP. What does the ballot say?

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
Go back and look again at number two on the list, number of games played. Justin Verlander played in 34 games in 2011, Jose Bautista played in 149.

Judging how voters have been hip to sabermetrics these past few years, I'm optimistic that Bautista has a decent shot at MVP. If the same writers that awarded Cy Young Awards to Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke are voting on MVP, then Jose will be one of the top vote getters.

Ultimately, each of the baseball writers are entitled to their own opinion, but as in any voting circle, some voters might have their preconceived notions, and some might have been prey to the narratives when casting their ballot.

Jose Bautista should win the American League MVP, but will he?
That's up to the BBWAA to decide.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Revisiting the B.J. Ryan Contract


By

Any time somebody says the Toronto Blue Jays need to sign a big name closer, there is one name that is brought up time and time again to refute that school of thought; B.J. Ryan.

The 5-year $47 million dollar contract given to Ryan is used as a prime example why closers should not be handed long-term contracts. And yet, closers continue to reel in big deals, as Jonathan Papelbon proved last week. So should anyone be surprised that the asking price for free agent closers are astronomically high?

In order to learn from one's mistakes, sometimes it's best to venture into the past and look back at what went wrong. It's a subject that only a self-admitted masochist might delve into, but considering that the Blue Jays are currently in the market for a closer, I think it's only fitting to revisit the B.J. Ryan contract.

Let me first paint a picture for you to give you an idea of what the landscape looked like for the Blue Jays following the 2005 season. After finishing with an 80-82 record, J.P. Ricciardi had been given the green light to ramp up the payroll, and with some cash to burn, J.P. inked B.J. Ryan to the most lucrative deal in baseball history for a closer.

The crux of the argument I've always stuck by after all these years is that the Blue Jays should not have signed a capital "C" closer who only had one year's experience prior as a closer in the first place. I'm not necessarily saying every closer that signs a contract has to be experienced in that position, but it only bodes well ... especially if they'll be with the team multiple years.

B.J. Ryan may have been the best closer out on the free agent market, but I certainly wouldn't say he was one that warranted being awarded the highest paying contract ever for a closer. But the Blue Jays had money to burn, and so they locked up a closer and continued to assemble their 2006 roster.

Despite the huge price tag, B.J. Ryan immediately made an impact with the Blue Jays that first season of his deal. The honeymoon season in 2006 with Ryan was awesome; he captured the fans with his enthusiastic run from the bullpen and the celebratory fist pumps.

Within that first season, Ryan proved any doubters wrong by having one of the best seasons by a reliever ever in Blue Jays history. If Ryan's 2006 season was any indication of what was to come, then the ninth inning was something they wouldn't have to worry about in a long time.

The announcement that B.J. Ryan would have to undergo Tommy John surgery was a huge shock at the time. Ryan was a pillar of that Blue Jays bullpen, and it felt like things might crumble without him. However, Jeremy Accardo and Casey Janssen stepped in and bolstered the back end of the Blue Jays bullpen quite nicely.

As exciting as it was to watch B.J. Ryan, I think in the back of my mind I pondered "if a relative unknown like Accardo can fill in as closer on a league minimum salary, why do the Blue Jays need to pay B.J. Ryan almost $10 million a season to do the very same thing.

2008 was the inception of what Stoeten coined as "Uncle B.J.'s Wild Ride". Ryan came back from Tommy John surgery but did not have that same poise as his inaugural season with the Blue Jays. Compared to 2006, his K% dropped from 31.9 to 23.3 and his BB% ballooned from 7.4 to 11.2.

And then 2009 was the beginning of the end. Ryan started the year as the closer, but those control problems reared its ugly head once again. B.J. began to find himself inserted in progressively lower and lower leverage situations until he was eventually let go by the Blue Jays on July 9th 2009.

At the time, I suppose J.P. Ricciardi thought that the best course of action was to cut ties with Ryan and eat the remaining $15 million dollars on his contract. And since B.J. couldn't even pitch his way out of the bottom of the fourth inning without getting lit up, the writing was on the wall.

Of the 40 final batters that B.J. Ryan faced in 2009, he only managed to retire 25 of them. At that point, I can't say I blame the Blue Jays for letting go of Ryan. However, they were the ones who got themselves into that mess in the first place.

If we go by FanGraphs dollar value statistic, B.J. Ryan would have had to put up five consecutive 2006 season's worth of value to get anywhere remotely close to the $47 million dollars the Blue Jays paid him. Basically, Ryan needed to string together five career years to justify that price tag.

Unless you're Mariano Rivera, it's damn near impossible to expect a player to consistently perform at that level, let alone a relief pitcher. The closer's position is an ever-revolving door, and locking into one player for that dollar amount and duration is like playing with fire.

The optics of the signing also may have had something to do with it; it may have partially been about the message Toronto wanted to send to the rest of the AL East.

The signing of B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett combined with the acquisitions of Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay signaled that the Blue Jays were willing to up the ante and spend the cash to build a winner.

However, they learned one very expensive lesson with B.J. Ryan - paying top dollar does not equal top talent. If anything, it means paying top dollar could mean you end up with the equivalent of a very expensive paperweight.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Could These Be the New Blue Jays Uniforms?


By
Image courtesy of The Star
The holidays may just be just over 6 short weeks away, but as far as Toronto Blue Jays fans are concerned, Christmas arrives on November 18th.

It's officially the worst kept secret in Blue Jays land, but the team is rumoured to be revealing their brand new uniforms and logo next Friday at 12:00pm with a formal on-field announcement.

Invitations went out to the media earlier this week, and Mike Cormack of Sportsnet hinted that the font used on the invitation may in itself be a clue as to what we can expect from the new uniforms.

Personally, I'm dying to see the new uniform and logos and can't wait to see the unveiling. And since I'm so damn impatient, I decided to do a mock up of what could be the new Blue Jays font along with the leaked logo.

Dark Blue Uniforms

Design A: Home Uniform


Design B: Alternate Uniform


Medium Blue Uniforms

Design C: Home Uniform

 

Design D: Alternate Uniform


Again, this is a total shot in the dark on my part and it was just me Photoshopping what I think the final products could turn out like. I did two different colour schemes, one for each shade of blue in the leaked logo.

Originally, I was leaning more towards the medium blue uniforms, but now I'm starting to warm up to the navy blue coloured versions. It's not the typical "blue" in the traditional sense, but I think the navy blue looks much better than its counterpart.

However, I would give the edge to the medium blue home jerseys because that colour of font tends to stand out more against the white than the dark blue. It could just be that I've been staring at these things for hours, but the navy begins to look like black after a while.

Even if the colours and the designs are nowhere close to what is finally revealed next Friday, I hope the Blue Jays do end up using that font that was on the invitation and on the above illustrations.

Just like the leaked logo itself, there's an old-time feel to it with a modern twist to it, and would compliment that revamped Blue Jays logo extremely well.

My favourite Blue Jays jersey of all time was their 1994-1996 alternate uniforms, and going the dark blue route for the new uniforms (even if it's only for the third alternate jersey) would surely make a lot of Blue Jays fans very happy.

Let me know what you think I'm completely out to lunch with these designs, or if they just might be close to what we'll eventually see next Friday at 12:00pm noon. Feel free to vote on your favourites in the poll below.

Update: Thanks to @LaconicDesign for offering up this much more attractive design of the possible new home uniforms.

Click image to enlarge

Which Design Could Be the Next Blue Jays Uniform?



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Expectations Clash on Travis Snider


By
Meats don't clash; it's the meme so famously connected to the player on the Blue Jays roster who is an admitted meat aficionado, Travis Snider. Over the years, we've come to discover his love for all things beef, pork, chicken, and even giraffe.

While all those delicious and succulent meats don't clash on one single plate, there is one thing that does clash; expectations for Travis Snider. Some view him as a stud outfielder with 30+ home run pop, and others see Snider as a dime a dozen outfielder.

Gregg Zaun reiterated multiple times during the season that it's sink or swim time for Travis Snider, and I couldn't agree more. The Blue Jays are long overdue to find out whether they have a legitimate stud on their hands, or just another outfielder.

And much like Zaun, I really didn't notice anything different with Snider's swing after he was called back up from Las Vegas in early July. If anything, they might have tweaked his swing slightly, but did it warrant a trip to the minors?

Isn't that something that could've been done with work from Dwayne Murphy and a little extra batting practice? I don't doubt there was some part of Snider's swing that needed work, but it's not like he looked like a kid swinging blindly at a pinata.

There was something fishy about Snider's demotion back then, and there's still something suspect about it now. And just in case there wasn't enough doubt planted in everyone's heads, the Blue Jays sent him back down again at the beginning of August.

Even though it feels like Travis Snider has spent a great deal of time with the club over the years, he's actually only accumulated just over one year of service time. If it feels like the Travis Snider Experiment has been a work in progress, it's because it has.

2012 will mark the fifth season that Travis has spent with the team, and yet amazingly he'll only be 24 years old when Spring Training camp kicks off. Just as a comparison, Eric Thames is a player who is at a similar point in his career, and he's soon to be 25 years old.

Despite Snider's young age and low service time, it still feels like we're nowhere closer to finding out where the Blue Jays stand with him.

By all indications, 2011 was going to be the year where we would find out if Travis Snider was going to sink or swim. It seemed like Alex Anthopoulos and John Farrell were ready to back their once highly-touted prospect and were willing to give him a chance to live up to the hype.

Instead, 2011 was another year of confusion and I hate to say it, but regression for Travis Snider. Now there are even more question marks than ever about him, and whether he'll be ready to reclaim a starting position for next season.

The problem now is there is a young crop of players who have elevated their game to Snider's, and even surpassed it. Eric Thames is a perfect example of that, and arguably he has a leg up on the others for the starting left field job.

So to give the reins to Travis Snider for the left field position is almost unfair to Eric Thames. Again, I hate to say it but Thames is way ahead of Snider on the outfield depth chart at this point. Snider may have more upside, but Thames offers more consistency.

But it's hardly all Travis Snider's fault; I think the powers that be were a little guilty of mishandling him this season. It looked like they didn't want to see him fail at the major league level, and instead hid him in the shadows of Las Vegas.

Not that I'm trying to relate developing a baseball player to raising a child, but with both situations I think you have to let them make their own mistakes. Even if that means Snider batting below the Mendoza Line at the All-Star Break, he needs to understand what that feels like in order to make him a better player in the future.

After all, it's not like the Blue Jays were playing for a pennant back in April and May. Better for Snider to work out the kinks now then a few years down the road when they could be in contention and really need to know what they have with Travis Snider.

The funny thing about this whole situation is if Travis Snider were not with the Toronto Blue Jays, he'd be the exact kind of player that Alex Anthopoulos would be gunning for. Snider is a high ceiling player, but a victim of his circumstance. A change of scenery and a change to play every day would no doubt unearth his potential.

And don't think that other GM's aren't thinking the exact same thing about Travis Snider, because I'm sure they'd be willing to trade for him in a heartbeat. Being under team control for just under five more seasons also makes Snider an attractive acquisition.

I think 2012 is the year that the Blue Jays need to decide whether they want to give Travis the reins and let him have an everyday job, or they need to trade him. With so many young talented players in the farm system, the organization has to figure out where Snider is a viable option in the outfield for the immediate future.

And if he doesn't fit into those plans, then it's time to send him to another team and get as much back in return as they can. You can only yo-yo a player around so much before they begin to develop a yearning for a change of scenery.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yu Want the Blue Jays to Sign Darvish?


By
Call me completely oblivious but I had no idea who Yu Darvish was until this year. He may very well be one of the best pitchers available this offseason, and yet the name Yu Darvish never really struck a chord with me.

That was until recently. With the offseason officially here and the fires of the hotstove starting to get stoked, Darvish is the one name out of all the free agents that could very well be the most intriguing case.

The guys at Mop Up Duty and Jays Journal have a great handle on all the Darvish happenings, but now the possibility of him coming to Toronto really starting to come to the forefront.

MLB Trade Rumours went through their Top 50 Free Agents post, as well as their predictions for where they think those free agents will sign. Not surprisingly, MLBTR has the Blue Jays as the frontrunners to get Darvish.

Despite Alex Anthopoulos' tendency to be tight-lipped on possible signings, we know for a fact that he scouted Yu Darvish in Japan at the end of August. For those debating that may have just been a move to drive up the price of Darvish, you don't travel half way across the world on an 18-hour flight unless you're serious about signing somebody.

Surely when asked about the situation, I'm sure Alex would respond with a typical Anthopoulosism: "I'm just doing my due diligence". There's a big difference though between due diligence and flat out gunning for a player. I think the Blue Jays are doing the latter.

It's unfortunate the Blue Jays still don't have Rob Ducey as their Pacific Rim/Asian scout, because this is where that personnel would really come in handy. One of AA's first duties as the Blue Jays GM was actually letting Ducey go, a move I'm sure he might slightly regret now with the prominence of Yu Darvish over in Japan.

Nevertheless, I'm certain the Blue Jays are being extremely thorough in scouting and researching Yu Darvish. I trust the front office will leave no stone left unturned, and if it gets to the point where Toronto puts in an offer, then it will be a very well thought out offer.

There's no questioning that Yu Darvish would be a high risk/high reward signing for the Blue Jays. Simply due to the dollar figure attached, anything less than a stellar stay in Toronto might be viewed as a disappointment.

However, if Darvish carves up the AL East competition as he did the Pacific League in Nippon Professional Baseball, a $100 million dollar contract might begin to start looking like a bargain.

But do the Blue Jays really need to spend close to $100 million or more for another Brandon Morrow? If Toronto really needed another mid to back-end starter, they could just as easily move Jesse Litsch back into the starting rotation.

Litsch might not light up the competition as Darvish would, but at least Jesse would be dependable starter they could rely on to hopefully rack up 125 innings or so as a mid-rotation guy. And he would do so at a fraction of the price.

When folks say they're wary of the Blue Jays signing Yu Darvish, I can completely understand why they're hesitant. Handing over $100 million dollars to somebody who doesn't have a lick of Major League experience is a risky move. But so is signing Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder to a $200 million dollar contract.

One could argue that signing Yu Darvish would actually be less risky than going after one of the top free agents like Pujols or Fielder because Darvish would command far less money, on a much shorter term.

As with any deal, there is a possibility it could end up being a complete bust. However, we've learned first hand from the Vernon Wells trade that there is no such thing as an immovable contract. Anyone can be made available for the right price.

Nearly every team is looking to upgrade starting pitching. If Darvish falters, the Blue Jays could certainly find a way to parlay Yu Darvish into at least something.

It might be the lack of baseball to the brain, but as the offseason continues, I'm falling more and more in favour of the Blue Jays going after Yu Darvish rather than Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, or even C.J. Wilson.

With a very promising young pitching staff coming to fruition, the Blue Jays don't necessarily need to sign Yu Darvish to complete the puzzle. But in the American League East, it's not enough to have everything fall into place ... you need to be the first one to complete that puzzle.

The parts are all there for the Blue Jays to build a contender, it's just a matter of assembling it. And Yu Darvish may be that one piece that helps Toronto get there just a little bit faster.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...