Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Appreciating the Marco Scutaro Era

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For the longest time, the shortstop position was a veritable carousel for the Toronto Blue Jays. From 2001 to 2008, the Blue Jays had seven different Opening Day shortstops in eight years. Just let that sink in for a moment ... 7 different shortstops in 8 years.

That doesn't even include the likes of John McDonald who actually picked up the lion's share of starts at short in 2006 and 2007. If you're wondering, the Opening Day shortstops during those seasons were Russ Adams and Royce Clayton.

Scutaro really did help provide some stability to a position that was in turmoil for the better part of close to a decade. Although he may have only helped shore up the position for a few years, shortstop was one position that the Blue Jays didn't have to worry about for a while.

Looking back, it really does make me appreciate Marco Scutaro's time in Toronto, especially considering he had his best two seasons of his career while he was in a Blue Jays uniform. Like most Blue Jays fans, I couldn't be more happy to see him win a World Series with the Giants because he definitely deserves it.

Marco Scutaro actually began the 2008 season at third base, while David Eckstein was the Opening Day shortstop. Scutaro manned the hot corner for the first 31 games of the season until Eckstein went on the DL, and then Marco spent the majority of the remainder of the season at short.

From a defensive standpoint, the combination of John McDonald and Marco Scutaro up the middle was one of the best middle infields I've seen in recent memory. This incredible combination play between Scutaro and Johnny Mac is still one of my favourite defensive play in Blue Jays history.

Or how about that time Scutaro stole second base on a walk?



Whether people want to admit it or not, the Marco Scutaro acquisition was actually one of the crowning jewels of the J.P. Ricciardi era. With his time as director of player personnel with the Oakland A's, Ricciardi definitely must have had some intel on Scutaro when he traded for him in November 2007.

Now that the Marco Scutaro era has come and gone with the Blue Jays, it really makes me wish that there were more players on the roster like him. Scutaro wasn't really a flashy player, but he performed all the fundamentals well.

I mean, what more could you ask out of your starting shortstop and leadoff hitter to get on base at a .379 clip? That's exactly what Marco Scutaro did during his 2009 season, which would turn out to be the best of his career.

In total, Marco Scutaro amassed a total of 6.9 WAR during his two seasons with the Blue Jays. Miraculously, they paid him a grand total of $2.6 million for his two years of service. According to FanGraphs, Scutaro was worth approximately $33.4 million from 2008-2009.

As I alluded to earlier, not only was Scutaro a formidable foe at the plate, but he was also a very astute baserunner as well as a multi-position fielder. Marco played a total of five positions with the Blue Jays, and believe it or not, even a few games in left field.

Marco Scutaro truly was the complete package when he played for the Blue Jays in 2008 and 2009. It's that kind of position flexibility and consistency that's sorely lacking on the roster today.

Obviously, the best way to get a player like Marco Scutaro is to bring in the very player from which the die has been cast. The problem with that though is now everybody is going to want the services of Marco Scutaro, and frankly I don't think the Blue Jays can afford him.

During his brief stint with the Blue Jays, Marco Scutaro may have been a greatly unheralded member of the roster, but from now on, I'll always look back with much respect and admiration for what he did in those two short years.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Should the Blue Jays Sign Shaun Marcum?

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Courtesy of The Sports Bank
Full disclosure; prior to his departure to Milwaukee, Shaun Marcum was one of my favourite players on the Blue Jays roster. I really don't have a great explanation as to why, it's just that Marcum struck me as a quiet and unassuming yet effective starting pitcher.

I think what drew me to Marcum was that although his fastball only topped out around 87 MPH (per FanGraphs), Shaun had some of the best command and location of any of the starters on the Blue Jays pitching staff. He proved to me that you don't necessarily need to be a fireballer to have success in the AL East.

So it was really no surprise to see Shaun Marcum build off his career year in Toronto in 2010 and then pick up where he left off with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his chances in 2012, but Shaun finished the season strong going 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his final three starts.

And so here we are at a crossroads; the Toronto Blue Jays need starting pitching, Shaun Marcum is a free agent ... seems like a perfect fit, right?

One of the hurdles is immediately out of the way right off the block with Marcum, and that's simply getting a free agent to come to Toronto without overpaying them. Shaun is familiar with the environment, some of the coaching staff, and even some of the players.


Obviously, the big concern with Shaun Marcum is his injury history. He missed 19 games in Spring Training camp with right shoulder inflammation and 61 games during the regular season due to right elbow tightness. For those keeping track, that's the very same elbow that Marcum had Tommy John surgery on in 2008.

Again, it's tough to find somebody on the list of prospective starting rotation candidates that hasn't had problems with injuries in the past. Not unlike current Blue Jay Brandon Morrow, when Shaun Marcum has been healthy, he has been a very serviceable arm.

Even if all Marcum does is slot in as a number three starter behind Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero, I'd much rather see him take the hill every five days than say, Henderson Alvarez.

Signing Shaun Marcum obviously comes with some inherent risks, but those are the kinds of risks Alex Anthopoulos is going to need to take this offseason if he doesn't want to overpay for starting pitching or give up the farm for another arm.

From the Blue Jays perspective, the only hurdle I can possibly foresee is that they may be in competition with other clubs to ink Marcum. After all, Shaun Marcum is a free agent for the first time in his career and he now has the liberty of calling his own shots and can sign wherever he wishes.

Marcum said the Blue Jay are on his list of preferred free agent destinations, but he did mention that he'd prefer to come back to a Blue Jays team that still has Bruce Walton as the pitching coach. And now that he's had a taste of October baseball, Shaun wants a shot at the playoffs again.

There was one very interesting tidbit that Jeff Blair revealed on the FAN earlier this week when speaking about the possibility of bringing Shaun Marcum back to the Blue Jays. He said something to the effect that there were "extenuating circumstances with Shaun Marcum" that would prevent the Blue Jays from seeking out his services.

Initially, I thought he may have insinuated that Marcum could have been a part of the widely publicized clubhouse revolt at the end of the 2009 season. But then I remembered that Shaun was curiously optioned to Triple A late in 2008; following three solid starts and just a week prior to the rosters opening up for September call-ups.

At the time, I recall the demotion was rumoured to be linked to Shaun Marcum's off-field behaviour and/or attitude in the clubhouse, and the Blue Jays were sending him down to "send a message". In fact, I even made this horribly bad photoshop to help illustrate why I thought Marcum was sent down.

Even if that was the case, that was four years ago and hopefully it's all water under the bridge. Because it would be a real shame to overlook Shaun Marcum simply because of those issues in the past. At this point, Toronto can't really afford to skip over somebody like Marcum when he fills their need perfectly.

If the Blue Jays could get Shaun Marcum to sign a "former team discount" so to speak at $10 million per year for two years plus and option, I'd be cool with that. On the surface, it seems far better than another option like trading for Tim Lincecum - because not only do you have to give up players to get Lincecum, you still then have to pay his $22 million dollar salary.

With Shaun Marcum, all it takes is cash ... something which we know for certain the Blue Jays will be spending this offseason. And they may as well get the ball rolling and sign Shaun Marcum now, because they don't want to be left fighting over scraps ... like the services of Freddy Garcia or Carlos Zambrano.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Thoughts on the John Farrell Trade

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Finally ... it's over. After almost 12 months of speculation, the John Farrell issue has finally been put to bed. I think I can safely say that that I've ever been so happy about a resolution to a nagging rumour during my span as a Blue Jays fan.

While the result may not have painted the Blue Jays in the best light, I'm just relieved that we can finally move on. And now that it's been 36 hours or so since the initial report of John Farrell going to Boston, I think I can finally form a concrete thought on what transpired.

Even after Alex Anthopoulos had a chance to speak to the media yesterday, I don't think anything he said really diffused the situation at all. If anything, it seemed like the information he revealed with his interactions with John Farrell actually made things worse.

Firstly, was the fact that John Farrell admitted to AA that coaching for the Red Sox was his dream job; that was the biggie. Once Farrell let that cat out of the bag, I can totally understand why Alex would want to let him go.

Yet somehow, I can't help but get the feeling like Farrell just used the Blue Jays as a launching pad for his eventual return to Boston.

At the time of his departure from the Red Sox organization, Terry Francona was fully entrenched as the Boston Red Sox manager. So Farrell headed to Toronto, got his feet wet in the manager's chair, and will now use that experience to better himself with the Red Sox. As AA said, it really was a unique situation that all these events managed to fall into place.

Although the majority of my initial disdain was towards Alex Anthopoulos at the dealing with this entire John Farrell situation, I now realize that AA's hands were pretty much tied the instant Farrell said he wanted to go to Boston.

I mean, what's the point of keeping somebody around that doesn't want to be with the Blue Jays? When you look at it from that standpoint, it's not as much of a PR nightmare as initially thought, but Toronto still comes off as being the weaker sister.

In actuality, are the Blue Jays really that much worse off after the departure of John Farrell? I honestly think the difference might be negligible, and there are a myriad of candidates out there who could step in and do the same job, maybe even better.

The funny thing about all of this is would any of it have happened had the Red Sox not collapsed last year? Let's say hypothetically that Boston wins Game 162 of the regular season and Tampa Bay loses ...  does Terry Francona get the boot?

It seems like it was all a domino effect once Boston missed the playoffs. And to think, had the Red Sox pulled out just one more win during the regular season, maybe this entire battle over John Farrell doesn't even happen.

Perhaps in the alternate universe in which Biff doesn't go back to 1955 and receive Grays Sports Almanac, John Farrell stays on as skipper of the Blue Jays.

By no means am I insinuating that Farrell didn't give his all during his days with the Toronto Blue Jays. He certainly did a capable job with the pieces he had, but in retrospect his managerial era feels a little tainted knowing that his heart remained in Boston the entire time.

That's why when the Blue Jays select on their next manager, it's imperative that they find the perfect candidate who views managing the Blue Jays as their "dream job". Because Toronto shouldn't be a layover in a manager's journey, it should be a destination.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

So Long, John: Farrell Flies the Nest for Boston

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It seems like it wasn't all that long ago when the Blue Jays finally announced their new manager after their exhaustive search; John Farrell was introduced as the 15th skipper in franchise history back on October 25th 2010.

Now just two short years later, Farrell has flown the nest and will take over as the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. For John Farrell, that's effectively going from the frying pan in Toronto to the inferno in Boston.

Knowing what we know right now about this deal, I'm at peace with it. If the truth is that John Farrell wanted to go to Boston, then there was no sense in keeping him around next year and then let him walk at the end of 2013 for nothing.

I feel like John Farrell really didn't get a fair shake during his short tenure in Toronto. Obviously the injury-riddled 2012 season didn't give Farrell very much to work with, and of course now we learned that his hands were tied in even carrying players like Omar Vizquel on the roster.

I don't doubt that John Farrell could have done a great job as manager if he had all the tools and a healthy team. But then again, maybe almost any manager could do an adequate job with the very same squad at his disposal. Depending on whether or not you think a manager's impact on a team is negligible or not, skippers are always replaceable.


This is why I'm not really all that concerned about letting John Farrell go to the Red Sox. Because the Blue Jays still have a slew of resumes on file from their managerial search just a few years ago. And I wouldn't be surprised if the new manager was one of those finalists from last year around.

Yes, it would've been great to get Dustin Pedroia or Clay Buchholz as compensation in return for John Farrell, but frankly the fact that the Blue Jays received anything of value in return should make fans happy.

Dealing managers for players is like trading apples for oranges ... not all parties are created equally. Any time you can get a position player in return for a bench boss is a bonus.

Mike Aviles isn't going to set the world on fire by any means, but he's a serviceable infielder that could either start at short or third, or even ride the pine as a bench bat or backup infielder.

There are really two schools of thought on this whole John Farrell thing; on one hand, having your manager poached by the Boston Red Sox is incredibly disheartening and deflating. On the other hand, getting something in return for a manager who wanted out of town anyway seems like more than a fair compensation.

It's unfortunate that the Blue Jays have to begin their managerial search all over again, but it's not like they have to start at square one. Once the wheels were in motion for this trade to happen, I'm confident they already had somebody in mind to take over the helm as the new manager anyway.

From a PR standpoint, there's almost no way Alex Anthopoulos can spin this news in a positive light. There's no amount of twisting of words and phrases that can make the Blue Jays fans feel any better about suddenly losing their skipper.

Also, the fact that AA reiterated that "John Farrell is our manager" can make it seem like he was pulling the wool over our eyes. In truth, I think he made that incredibly straight-forward statement to avoid addressing the future. He never said "John Farrell is our manager moving forward" ... so it's all about semantics.

From the outside looking in, it appears as though the Toronto Blue Jays are now in shambles. It's not just for the sake of being hyperbolic, but the team posted one of their worst records in franchise history, their roster was decimated by injuries, and their manager just flew the coop. In a nutshell, 2012 has been hell for Blue Jays fans.

However, there is one positive side effect from this entire debacle - it's a fresh start for the Toronto Blue Jays. It's an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, starting with a brand new manager, possibly an entirely new coaching staff, and hopefully some new impact players on the Opening Day roster.

So long, John. Here's to starting new in 2013.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The BBA Ballot: Awarding the AL's Best in Baseball

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Image courtesy of LA Times
Unfortunately, things are pretty quiet in Blue Jays land this time of year. And once the playoffs are over, that's when the real fun begins in speculating which free agents and targets will go after in the offseason.

Until that time though, I guess the next best thing is to speculate how the awards season will shake down. And since those awards won't be announced until mid-November, here is my 2012 BBA (Baseball Bloggers Alliance) ballot for the American League Awards.

Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)

3.) Robin Ventura CHW
2.) Bob Melvin OAK
1.) Buck Showalter BAL

For me personally, this is always a tough award to guage. It seems like it should be renamed the "My Team Sucked Last Year, and this Year ... Not So Much" Award, because often times measuring past performance versus the most recent season is the way to go.

Yes, Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin took their respective clubs to the postseason when virtually nobody expected them to. In his maiden voyage as White Sox manager, Robin Ventura nearly made it to the playoffs as well.

I'll fully admit I don't know much about Showalter or Melvin's managerial strategies; all I know is their body of work as a whole in 2012 ... otherwise known as their respective team's records.

Willie Mayes Award (Top Rookie)

3.) Yoenis Cespedes OAK
2.) Yu Darvish TEX
1.) Mike Trout LAA

Is there really any explanation needed here? Mike Trout was head and shoulders the best the rookie in the American League this season ... so good in fact, that he may even be awarded the Most Valuable Player award as well.

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)

3.) Greg Holland KCR
2.) Jim Johnson BAL
1.) Fernando Rodney TBR

His hat may have been askew all season long, but Fernando Rodney was anything but lopsided as the Rays closer. He blew the door off the competition this season and came out of nowhere to evolve the best reliever in the American League.

As Jeremy at 500 Level Fan noted, Rodney gave up 5 earned runs the entire season. Just 5 earned runs in 74.2 innings pitched during his 2012 campaign. So it was no surprise that Fernando Rodney set the new reliever ERA this year with the Rays.

It really is true to form of the Tampa Bay Rays model when building a bullpen; pick up some scrap heap arms, and transform them into fantastic relievers. Only to rinse and repeat over again next season.

Walter Johnson Award (Top Starting Pitcher)

5.) Chris Sale CHW
4.) Jered Weaver LAA
3.) Felix Hernandez SEA
2.) Justin Verlander DET
1.) David Price TBR


As a Toronto Blue Jays fan, I may have a strong dislike for David Price, but that's only because he manages to carve them up every time he faces them. And this year, he did nearly the exact same thing to every other team around the league.

The most impressive stat that stands out to me about David Price is against teams with better than .500 record, went 13-3 with a 2.27 ERA and held those opponents to a .211 batting average. As a comparison, Justin Verlander's stats against teams above and below .500 were nearly identical.

Stan Musial Award (Top Player)

10.) Prince Fielder DET
9.) Austin Jackson DET
8.) Alex Gordon KCR
7.) Ben Zobrist TBR
6.) Edwin Encarnacion TOR
5.) Josh Hamilton TEX
4.) Robinson Cano NYY
3.) Adrian Beltre TEX
2.) Miguel Cabrera DET
1.) Mike Trout LAA


For me, this was an easy decision; Mike Trout is clearly the Top Player in the American League. What I really like about the BBA Awards is that there's no confusion as to what the award is about.

Since the BBWAA's award is called the "Most Valuable Player", the voting tends to get bogged down with outside factors like the Triple Crown and whether that player's team made the playoffs or not.

Here though, it's very cut and dry. Mike Trout is simply just a better all around player; his rookie campaign was unprecedented and his defense in the outfield is something that saved a lot of runs this season for the Angels.

Statistically speaking, 2012 was actually not even one of Cabrera's best seasons. One could argue that 2011 was actually a slightly better campaign for Miguel Cabrera, but that he garnered much more attention this year due to the Triple Crown chase.

I feel like this award is something much bigger than just Trout vs. Cabrera; it really is drawing a line in the sand between old school of thought and the Sabermetricians. If you vote for Cabrera, you're an old school guy. If you vote for Trout, you're a stats geek.

Michael Smith of ESPN's "Numbers Never Lie" said something very profound on the Blogs with Balls panel about how the MVP vote will likely go down; "people vote for these awards with their heart based on emotion and tradition, not on logic".

The fact that Cabrera accomplished something that hasn't been done in 45 years is truly something special. However, the game has changed so much in the last 45 years. Player values are no longer solely based on batting average, home runs and RBI's.

That's not to say those stats aren't still important, but there is just so much more a "Most Valuable Player" than just those three statistics. Not only should offense be taken into account, but defense and baserunning as well.

Don't get me wrong ... what Miguel Cabrera accomplished in 2012 by capturing the Triple Crown this season was very admirable. But Mike Trout's unprecedented rookie campaign still gets my nod as having the top season in the American League.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Supporting Reds October

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As a Toronto Blue Jays fan, the playoffs can be a pretty tough reminder that the Blue Jays haven't made the playoffs in 19 years. While other teams are basking in the glory of postseason baseball, it just plain sucks to wonder what could have been.

However, there's always a ritualistic practice this team of year for fans of losing teams ... and that's hitching your wagon to a postseason team. But for Blue Jays fans, where should they emotionally invest themselves this October?

To root for the Yankees is like rooting for The Emperor himself ... or cheering for the trust fund kid to bulk up his bank account. And I can't even hop on the Orioles bangwagon because like most people, I'm still waiting for them to come crashing back to earth.

While Baltimore has hit the jackpot this season, I feel like they're one of those people who won the $400 million powerball lottery, and we're just waiting or them to blow their entire winnings on Cap 'N Crunch and diamonds.

There just isn't anything all that tantalizing about the St. Louis Cardinals, and of course there are still some mixed feelings about the Washington Nationals because of the whole Expos thing. While the San Francisco Giants seemed like the sexy pick in the National League, I much prefer to root for the Cincinnati Reds.

For one, there's Joey Votto; the pride of Etobikoke as Jerry Howarth might say. While Votto missed a good chuck of games due to injuries this season, he's still a lynch pin in the Reds lineup and has evolved into a perennial MVP candidate (when healthy).

Secondly, and perhaps most intriguing of all is the starting rotation. It still baffles my mind that aside from only piddly start by Todd Richmond, that five starting pitchers carried the weight of the Reds rotation from Opening Day until Game 162.

In total, the Cincinnati Reds only used six starters the entire 2012 season. The Toronto Blue Jays used 12 ... yes, 12. So if ever there was a model for building a solid starting rotation, simply look at what the Reds did this season.

Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez may not have had all that great of a 2012, but at least they started 30 games. Now only if the Jays starting rotation could've had three, and if we're lucky, maybe even four starting pitchers throw 30+ starts in 2012.

If you want to go back to the last time the Blue Jays had three starting pitchers go at least 30 starts in a season, you'd have to travel back to 2003 when it was Roy Halladay, Cory Lidle and Mark Hendrickson.

So you can definitely see why I harbour some envy of the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation, because that is everything that I hope the Blue Jays can maybe one day recreate. The Reds possibility of duplicating that feat themselves is very slim, but they have proven that a healthy and durable pitching staff at least gives them a chance to win.

Come later today, this may all be a moot point if the San Francisco Giants complete the comeback and become just the fifth team to come back after down 2-0 in LDS history ... but regardless, my rooting interests today and beyond in the postseason will lie with the Cincinatti Reds.

Because if it can't be Blue, then you may as well go Red, right?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Flashback Friday: The Blue Jays Thriller Video

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When scouring the internet for Blue Jays content to feature for Flashback Fridays, occasionally I'll come across videos like this that are too good not to share. For the final Flashback Friday of 2012, we take a look back at the 1984 Blue Jays in Spring Training courtesy of Peter Gross. 

I really don't know what to say, other than thank you to Mr. Gross for posting these old pieces on Youtube. And below are just a few of the frightening faces displayed by Cliff Johnson, Dennis Lamp, Jim Clancy, Buck Martinez and Garth Iorg.

In fact, I even went to the liberty of making a GIF of Cliff Johnson's reaction just because it's so damn hilarious, and actually kind of reminds me of the dramatic hamster for some reason. It seriously might be my favourite Blue Jays GIF ever.

Also, be sure to keep your eyes out for a cameo by Baltimore Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, and some sweet dance moves put on by Alfredo Griffin.

No mere mortal can resist ... the evil of Blue Jays thriller, indeed. Happy early Halloween!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflecting on the 2012 Blue Jays Season

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Image courtesy of Yahoo/AP
Like many, I feel like the end of the 2012 Blue Jays season was bittersweet. On one hand, it was nice to finally be released from what has been a death grip of an emotionally taxing season. On the other hand, it feels like there's a void in my soul after the dust has settled on Game 162.

As the final outs of the Toronto Blue Jays season ticked down last night, I didn't want to leave my seat at the Rogers Centre.Perhaps part of the reason why I didn't want to leave was because walking out the doors would officially put an end to what was an otherwise disappointing Blue Jays season.

After all, it was just six short months ago when the Blue Jays entered Opening Day boasting their best Spring Training record ever. One could argue that the buzz about the Blue Jays was much higher than it had been in many years. Especially after the new uniform reveal and a slew of offseason trades and signings, optimism was abound in the city of Toronto.

While it was fully expected that 2011 was going to be a development year for Toronto, 2012 was supposed  to be a year in which the Blue Jays would take a step forward. Instead, it was a year where the Blue Jays  took a step or two backwards.

There were some pleasant surprises along the way: Edwin Encarnacion, Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver just to name a few. And there were some outright disappointments in Ricky Romero, Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus.

In order to field a successful team, ultimately the good needs to outweigh all the bad. The pleasant surprises and the career years need to compensate for regression and just flat out bad luck. That simply was not the case for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.

Although the Blue Jays managed to get an extended look at guys like Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Adeiny Hechavarria, there are still a lot of questions surrounding them heading into 2013. Despite the fact they all had 40 plus games under their belt this season, I honestly don't know where these guys fit in next season.

In retrospect, the front office was foolish to think they could get away with a starting rotation that included members like Aaron Laffey, Joel Carreno, Jesse Chavez, Brett Cecil, and even to some extent, Henderson Alvarez.

But when a team was decimated with injuries like the Blue Jays were, you're merely looking for somebody ... anybody to stop the bleeding. Who could have foreseen that the Blue Jays would not only need to employ Plan B, C and D with the starting rotation, but that their contingency plan would go as far as Plan E, F and G?

Unless you're as fortunate as the Cincinnati Reds were to have basically the same five starting pitchers all season long, the Blue Jays need to continue to build their pitching depth in the minor league system. Because those guys could get a call at a moment's notice.

That being said, this team is not built for success in 2013 the way it is currently constructed. Not just pitching wise, but offensively as well. The current one through nine and starting five needs to be overhauled in order for the Blue Jays to contend.

Just look at what happened with Jose Bautista; before he went down to injury the Blue Jays were 45-45. Down the stretch without Bautista in the lineup, they were 28-44. Obviously, Toronto depends on Jose Bautista ... but if he were ever to go down again, they need offensive contributions from somebody else.

Not that any team can foresee who will get hurt and the duration of their time on the disabled list, but there always needs to be a backup plan. Had the New York Yankees just pat and not made any trades or free agent signings, they might have been just like the Blue Jays; on the outside looking in.

I echo the sentiments of the young man in the photo above; there is always next year.

If you think about it, that sign is an actually incredibly enlightening and depressing statement at the same time. There will always be next year ... and there will always be another game. But at the same time, tomorrow may never come if you don't play for today.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Has John Farrell Lost Control of the Clubhouse?

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Any time there are rumours about the Blue Jays, the natural instinct is to brush them off. After all, Toronto is linked to dozens of rumours throughout the season. Most of the time it's regarding free agents or trades, but this rumour is a different kind of animal altogether.

Omar Vizquel's comments from last week indicated John Farrell is running a loose ship as the Blue Jays manager. As far as I'm concerned, where's smoke ... there's fire. As George Costanza would say, "this thing is like an onion; the more layers you peel, the more it stinks".

As much as John Farrell and the coaching staff might deny that there's no discourse in the clubhouse, the actions by the players certainly fall in line with the "consequence-free" environment that Gregg Zaun hinted at.

Why has Brett Lawrie committed baserunning blunders on multiple occasions? Why has Moises Sierra repeatedly made fundamental mistakes in the outfield and on the basepaths? Why has Yunel Escobar taken away outs from teammates?

It just doesn't make sense why these things have happened over and over again this season. You'd think these guys would have learned their lesson after 159 games, but perhaps John Farrell isn't addressing these issues after all.

I don't want to accuse Farrell's mind of being elsewhere (thinking about a new position with the Red Sox for example), but maybe John Farrell has checked out. Why else would behaviour like this be continually tolerated?

It all kind of adds up, doesn't it?

This is a young Blue Jays squad and obviously they'll make their share of mistakes on the field as they go through their growing pains. However, there comes a point when repeated offenses indicate there must be something much deeper at hand.

Has John Farrell really had "the talk" with these players? Because it doesn't make sense that Sierra would commit gaffes time and time again. If Farrell did in fact sit them down and address those issues, you'd think that would be one thing they'd never do again.

And the Omar Vizquel situation just adds a new level to the conspiracy theory that the Blue Jays clubhouse has run amok. I find it very disheartening that Vizquel was brought in this season essentially in a mentor role, and even he admits that the Blue Jays run too loose a ship.

Did Vizquel actually instill any wisdom upon the young players? We'll never know for certain if he accomplished what the Blue Jays brought him in to do, but I have a hard time believing that he struck a cord if the players are still making rookie mistakes at season's end.

Not that it's Omar Vizquel's job to oversee the entire Blue Jays team ... that's obviously John Farrell's responsibility. But if Vizquel couldn't get through to these young players and John Farrell couldn't get through to them either, who is going to step up and police this team?

Ken Rostenthal was just one of the many pundits who have suggested the Blue Jays need much more veterans in the clubhouse moving forward. But with long-tenured veterans like 48 year old Omar Vizquel and 41 year old Darren Oliver, how much more veteran presence you have than that?

Combine those guys with long tenured players such as Jose Bautista, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor and even Adam Lind, and there are no shortage of guys who could step up and be leaders in the clubhouse. Aside from Jose Bautista, why has nobody grabbed the reins and tried to steer this team back on course?

From the outside looking in, this is a very dangerous environment that reminds me of a similar situation the Blue Jays were in just a few years ago. There was a widely publicized clubhouse revolt at the end of the 2010 season, one in which Cito Gaston was playing out his final days as the Blue Jays manager.

With Cito heading out the door and a season basically in the books, it sounded like back in 2010 it was a consequence free environment in the Blue Jays clubhouse, not unlike what's happening right now.

If John Farrell is truly intending on going to the Boston Red Sox, why would he rule with an iron fist if he's only heading out the door anyway? And even if Farrell did run a tight ship, if the players got wind that he was leaving the Blue Jays, why would they listen to him?

My gut tells me that John Farrell will not be back as the Blue Jays manager next season. Which is completely fine with me, because there are plenty of other internal candidates who could step in and fill the role.

The only thing I ask the Blue Jays is that when the season comes to a close on Wednesday, they deal with these internal issues in a swift fashion. There's no sense in letting a toxic atmosphere like this marinade over the offseason; they need to either cut bait with John Farrell or extend him.

If John Farrell wants to go to Boston, let him go to Boston. On the other hand, if John Farrell is committed to being the manager of this team, there's no question he needs to reel in the young players on this team.

The more I think about it, the more I believe John Farrell is good as gone at the end of the season. And if the manager has checked out, then frankly I can't blame the players for checking out, either.
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