Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Was Shaun Marcum the Smoking Gun?


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What happened in the clubhouse used to stay in the clubhouse. If baseball players ever displayed bad habits, people very rarely heard about it. Problems were typically swept under the rug and very little bad press usually saw the light of day.

Occasionally, things leak to the press and it couldn't be the furthest thing from the truth. Other times, information leaks and it's traced back to a smoking gun. Thus was the case with the Toronto Blue Jays and a mysterious former player who may have worn out his welcome.

I realize I'm a little late to the party here, but there was a very curious article the CBC posted a few weeks ago about an exchange between recently departed Leafs GM Brian Burke and current Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.

In this article, we learned of an exchange in which Brian Burke offered these words of encouragement to Alex Anthopoulos in regards to dealing with some "off-field matters with one if his talented players":
“My advice to him (Alex) was if a guy is a headache for your manager and a bad guy, his talent shouldn’t save him in the dressing room … get rid of him.”
To me, all signs point to the player in question being none other than Shaun Marcum.

For a long time there were rumours about Marcum's off-field activities, and perhaps his sudden demotion to minors in 2008 is evidence of that alleged unruly behaviour. According to reports, Shaun was notified of his demotion just an hour prior to game time on August 23rd, 2008 ... an unusual practice.

It was a very perplexing demotion because Shaun was called back up just nine days later following a single start in Triple A. J.P. Ricciardi tried to bill it as sending Marcum down to "work on his mechanics", but it signaled towards the motivation being an "attitude adjustment".

Shaun Marcum was also reportedly part of the Blue Jays clubhouse revolt against Cito Gaston in late 2009. All this information lines up with Jeff Blair remaining adamant the Blue Jays would definitely not sign Marcum this offseason.

The Blue Jays could certainly afford the $4 million base salary the Mets just shelled out for Shaun, so there had to be a good reason why they didn't choose to sign Marcum to a contract. It sounded like Shaun Marcum was open to coming back, so the biggest hurdle of convincing a player to come to Toronto was already out of the way. 

If we are to believe this transaction happened approximately 18 months ago, it lines up with the Aaron Hill/John McDonald trade for Kelly Johnson in August 2011. However, I'm very suspicious of this 18 month timeline as it just seems like a red herring to me.

Not to mention, Aaron Hill doesn't fit the typical "troublemaker" profile. Not once during his seven years with the Blue Jays was there ever a report of Hill being anything but the consummate teammate.

Also, I wouldn't exactly call one month of Kelly Johnson a "pretty good transaction". The Aaron Hill for Kelly Johnson trade essentially cancelled itself out as both players weren't under contract for the following season anyway.

Some may be fixated on that "18 months ago" timeline, but keep in mind the phone call was made that long ago according to Brian Burke, not Alex Anthopoulos. That 18 month timeline might just be an arbitrary number Burke threw out there.

The other line that jumped out to me was this one:
Concerned with some off-field matters with one of his talented players, Anthopoulos picked Burke’s brain. Satisfied with his friend’s advice, Anthopoulos soon made what he still calls a “pretty good transaction.”
Once again, this information lines up with the Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie trade in December 2010. A starting pitcher with one year of control for a highly-touted prospect who turns out to be your everyday third baseman ... sounds like a "pretty good transaction" in my books.

Is that just Alex Anthopoulos being modest about the deal, or was he being facetious? It's difficult to tell without hearing the tone of his voice in the context of the entire conversation, but from what I can tell, it just sounds like Alex is being humble.

We'll never know for sure whether it was in fact Shaun Marcum, but what it does indicate on a grander scale is a shift in philosophy in the Blue Jays front office in regards to player personnel. It looks like Alex Anthopoulos will not hesitate to sacrifice quantity for quality.

Meaning, he'd rather have someone with good character and average stats on the roster than someone with bad character and good stats. If that's the case, frankly I can't blame Alex Anthopoulos for taking Brian Burke's advice.

15 comments:

  1. Very interesting.

    You're probably right that Marcum is the guy he's referring to, but I'm not sure if he had anything to do with the Cito thing. Was Marcum even with the team then? I thought he didn't return from Tommy John until 2010.

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    1. Good point - I can't recall if Marcum was traveling with the team at the time or not, but it's a possibility. More than likely he was sitting at home recuperating, though.

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  2. i always thought marcum was a good clubhouse guy and the 'leader' of the rotation, slapping backs and telling guys to 'pitch like a man'.

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    1. He could very well have been that as well, maybe he just got a little carried away outside the clubhouse.

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  3. I have a friend who was always very involved with the fan events. They told me Marcum used to get really, really drunk at events, even on nights before he had starts. Not saying that definitively that was it, but it could be.

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    1. Joanna, it takes me sometimes 2 days to get over a hangover now, so if somebody can have a night out on the town and pitch like a man the next day ... all the power to them.

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    2. It's not really the opinion shared by some of the important decision makers (which has been hinted at by various people I talked to when Marcum as FA option was discussed last summer.) It's also about example setting, team image. Getting really loaded at a work function, particularly one where your customers are interacting with you isn't usually a great idea.

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    3. Definitely not a good idea to do it at fan functions, either. I mean, back in the day it seemed commonplace to suffer from "flu-like symptoms" and still go out there and play, but that kind of stuff just isn't tolerated these days.

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    4. Sorry Joanna, let me rephrase my answer - I don't approve when players go have a night out on the town and then saunter into work the next day, I'm just amazed how people can manage to function the day after going out ... because I certainly can't.

      It's one thing if Joe Blow does it, it's another when a public figure like an athlete does it because they are much more visible in public.

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  4. The term "smoking gun" refers to irrefutable evidence of some kind, not baseless speculation dependent on a hunch. There isn't really even a good circumstantial case that the player in question was Marcum. Other than that, it's a slam dunk!

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  5. An off-hand remark Brett Cecil made at that point about at least not having to watch his back all the time any more...I've been wondering ever since whether he was referring to practical jokes or something more serious.

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    1. Was it from that sitdown in 2010 that Jamie Campbell had with the starting rotation? After Halladay was traded, it seemed like those guys loosened up a bit.

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  6. ummm....am I the only one who knows about the whole scandal involving Marcum hammering Ricciardi's wife? I thought this was common knowledge.

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