Friday, August 30, 2013

Flashback Friday: Earl Weaver and the Orioles Forfeit to the Blue Jays


By
Courtesy of Baltimore Sun
Back in 1977, two things were very apparent in Major League Baseball: the Toronto Blue Jays were a very raw team, and Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver was as surly as ever.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at a game in which the Blue Jays didn't even have to finish to win. It was a rare forfeit by Earl Weaver and the Baltimore Orioles on September 15th, 1977 at Exhibition Stadium.

In fact, it's just one of five forfeits on record in MLB history, and the only if its kind on record where a team has purposely thrown in the towel.

Let's set the stage; the Baltimore Orioles were in the midst of a pennant race, a mere 1.5 games back the New York Yankees for the division title. The Toronto Blue Jays, playing in their inaugural season in the bigs and on their way to losing 107 games, were just happy to be there.

The Blue Jays enjoyed a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning that day when Earl Weaver suddenly informed umpire Marty Springstead he was going to pull his players off the field because he thought they were in "danger".

The apparent issue was there was a tarp on the field covering the bullpen mound in foul ground, and there were bricks on top of the tarp holding it in place. Weaver was concerned one of his players might trip on the bricks or tarp when trying to get a ball in foul territory. 

Springstead refused to take the tarp entirely off the field, and so Weaver took matters into his own hands and told his players to exit the field. The Orioles sat for fifteen minutes, and subsequently the umpires declared the game a forfeit.

Weaver was adamant that pulling his players off the field in the midst of a pennant race was the right call:
"I might have saved someone's career. There's only four feet of space between the foul line and the mound.

I asked him to take the tarp off, that's all I asked. How am I going to feel if one of my players busts his leg on that damn thing? I can't afford to tell my players to not go after a foul ball in that area.

Mora almost broke his leg on the damn thing yesterday. If that had not happened, I might not have thought of it."
As per usual, there's a bit of history between the two involved. Earl Weaver and Marty Springtsead had a long-standing feud which seemed to culminate that fateful day in Toronto. Not surprisingly, Weaver had some choice words for his adversary:
"I suggested that we even make the ball dead in that area, but Springstead wouldn't do it. It's only common sense, but evidently Springstead doesn't have any."
Marty Springstead may have been in the wrong in not allowing the tarp to come off the bullpen mound, but the egregious part was that Earl Weaver handed over a game when his Baltimore Orioles were just 1.5 games back of the division leader in mid-September.
 
It was apparent Earl Weaver was standing up for the solidarity of his team. However, Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield saw it much a different way:
"What has he got to gain? This way he's a loser. Why not protest the game and continue on and take your chances? He had four more shots at us and chose another course. It's a settled issue as far as I'm concerned."
Just remember kids ... no matter how bad a game ever gets, never ever quit. Because just like the Blue Jays that day, if you stick around long enough, somebody else might quit first.

Quotes courtesy of the Toledo Blade and The Spokesman Review.

Thanks to @Minor_Leaguer for this week's Flashback Friday suggestion. If you have anything you'd like to see in a future installment, send an email with your suggestion to bluejayhunter@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who is to Blame for the Blue Jays Demise?


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Sometimes, the best laid plans go awry. For a number of reasons, on paper things should go one particular way, and yet they turn out a completely different way. Case in point: the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays.

If all these injuries and bad bounces took place within a vacuum, people would chalk it up to bad luck and move on. But this is not baseball within a bubble; this is baseball within the fourth largest city in North America.

So when things go wrong, people want answers. Fans want someone to be held accountable when their hometown Toronto Blue Jays completely collapse after being touted the World Series favourites in the offseason.

Moreover, people want a scapegoat; someone they can lay the blame on. Because blaming a faceless corporation isn't nearly as satisfying. For those looking for a scapegoat as to why the 2013 season didn't pan out, here are three options for who to blame it on.

John Gibbons


When a season takes place such as this, the manager is often the sacrificial lamb. As unfair as it may be to peg a team's misfortune on one single person, it's quite often the right move. Sometimes it's the only move.

The problem here is it isn't simply a cut and dry situation where John Gibbons needs to be axed, as there are many outside factors at play here.

Gibbons himself really didn't have all that much say in the players that were brought in during the offseason. For the most part, it was John Gibbons responsibility to supervise this collection of veterans and All-Star players and let them do most of the heavy lifting.

When many managers are first hired, they have at least some input on the type of players that the team brings into the organization. By all indications, John Gibbons did not have that luxury; this roster was already laid out for him. 

Keep in mind that John Gibbons was hand-selected by Alex Anthopoulos to be the successor to John Farrell. So to turn around one year later and essentially admit defeat by firing Gibbons would look very bad on Anthopoulos.

At the same time though, people certainly want a scapegoat for a season gone awry. Letting go of John Gibbons would be the quickest and easiest solution to appeasing those fans. But now that Alex Anthopoulos reiterated John Gibbons is coming back to manage in 2014, that won't be happening anytime soon.

And who's to say under a new manager, the exact same thing wouldn't happen next year as well? This is now two consecutive years with two completely different managers and yet eerily similar results on the field.

Some have commented that this Blue Jays team is not "fundamentally sound". How exactly is John Gibbons supposed to remedy that? After spending several years learning the fundamentals in the minor leagues, shouldn't they be complete players already?

In that particular vein, the fundamentals issue has very little to do with John Gibbons and much more to do with the players themselves and the on-field gaffes they have made.

People can blame John Gibbons all they want, but the fact remains one of the main reasons the Blue Jays are struggling right now is because Triple A players are being asked to fill the void of their Major League players.

Alex Anthopoulos


If John Gibbons is the foreman on the job, Alex Anthopoulos would invariably be the architect. For the most part, he built this team by either acquiring these players via trade or signing free agents.

Anthopoulos was ultimately responsible for putting this team together, therefore he should be responsible for the poor results.

I'm not sure if I completely agree with the sentiment above, but there is some truth to that statement. Alex Anthopoulos is partially responsible for this mess.

Perhaps he was presumptuous to assume that a platoon of Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis at second base was going to work out. Maybe it was a stretch to think R.A. Dickey would transition well into the AL East.

Perhaps it was a pipe dream that Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow would emerge as would-be aces in 2013. Maybe it was too trusting to think Melky Cabrera's weary legs would survive 81 games on turf at the Rogers Centre.

These are all factors that have contributed to the downfall of the 2013 Blue Jays. And as the figurehead of the Blue Jays organization, AA should have at least entertained that these were all possibilities that could have happened.

As much as John Farrell is a despised figure in Toronto, I think he was partially correct with his assessment of the Blue Jays as a scouting-focused farm system rather than a player development farm system.

After all, Alex Anthopoulos' background is in scouting as the former scouting director of the Blue Jays, in addition to some scouting experience in the Montreal Expos system.

This may not really pertain to the Major League level players that were acquired in the offseason, but more so to the players that have been brought up from the minor leagues. Also, the lack of high calibre talent in the minors that can be called up upon at a moment's notice.

I think everyone was hoping the Blue Jays would churn out a bona fide stud pitching prospect, just like the Tampa Bay Rays seemingly do each year. But the Blue Jays unfortunately do not possess the ability to pull a pitcher from the minors and watch him flourish.

Maybe there really is something to be said about baseball's most highly-touted and yet immeasurable statistic: chemistry. Perhaps Alex Anthopoulos underestimated these players' ability to co-exist with each other after being brought in from a slew of other organizations.

Much like in fantasy baseball, I think AA assembled the best team possible on paper going into Opening Day. Numbers-wise, this Blue Jays team was projected to do great things. The 2013 Blue Jays proved they were not greater than the sum of their parts.

The Players Themselves


Here's a crazy thought; maybe the reason why the Blue Jays have failed to live up to the lofty expectations is because they haven't played that well. It's also the most logical explanation ... these 25 guys simply aren't as good as we thought they were.

The inherent difficulty here is management can't single out each player that failed to lay down a bunt or missed the cutoff man. Every single team makes errors and has blunders on the field. The difference is winning often covers up those mistakes.

There isn't one single player that is the complete and utter embodiment of everything that went wrong for the Blue Jays. Although, a strong case could likely be made for Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey and Emilio Bonifacio.

It's difficult at this point in the season when so many players are on the disabled list, but these guys should still be held accountable for their actions on the field. To be honest, I'm tired of hearing R.A. Dickey's excuses, I just want him to pitch better.

Specifically, I think a big portion of the Blue Jays struggles can be linked to the starting rotation and the lack of defense. The combination of those things have been the downfall of the 2013 Blue Jays.

Just point to the Blue Jays team ERA of 4.42 and starter's ERA of 5.05 and you can easily see why they have struggled so much this season. 

As we learned all too well in 2013, merely staying healthy is a skill in itself many of these players have yet to master. And if the starting rotation simply performed to status quo, who knows what their record would be.

A fledgling starting rotation has had its ill effects, as the bullpen has been taxed and overused since it has been asked to pick up a lot of innings. Failing to pitch five or even six innings taxes the bullpen and prevents the relievers from working on ample rest.

I'm not expecting someone like Jose Bautista to outright come out and say "yeah, we sucked this year", but acknowledging this year didn't pan out is the first step in ensuring a season like 2013 doesn't happen again. 

In the meantime, it'll take a series of stiff drinks to forget this mess ever happened.
Make mine a triple, please.

Images courtesy of Yahoo/Reuters/AP

Monday, August 26, 2013

Video: Munenori Kawasaki Loves Life (and Humans)


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After a disastrous road trip in New York and Houston, I think a little bit of levity is in order for a Monday afternoon. So to help us take our minds off the current state in Blue Jays Land, it's Munenori Kawasaki doing all sorts of Munenori Kawasaki things.

Just in case it wasn't clear before, in addition to loving life, Munenori Kawasaki also loves human beings.



In addition, Yahoo! Canada's Beyond the Bases has added two additional bite-sized videos that are definitely worth a viewing; both surrounding one of the Blue Jays newest call-ups, Kevin Pillar. In these, he speaks about his journey to the majors as a late round draft pick.




Friday, August 23, 2013

Flashback Friday: The 1998 Toronto Blue Jays


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In their 36 year franchise history, the Toronto Blue Jays have been privy to some very talented teams over the years.

There's the 1985 squad that clinched the Blue Jays first postseason berth with an impressive 99 season. And the 1989 team that returned to the playoffs once again, only to be defeated by the eventual World Series champions Oakland Athletics.

And of course, how could one forget the 1992 and 1993 World Series winning Blue Jays squads. But there's one team in the franchise history that perhaps has fallen by the wayside over the years.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the often forgotten and often unheralded 1998 Toronto Blue Jays.

After finishing last in the AL East in 1997 and firing their manager Cito Gaston in the offseason, it appeared the Blue Jays were turning over a new leaf in 1998 and wanted to head in a new direction.

GM Gord Ash went out and bolstered the roster by signing the power-hitting Jose Canseco, and brought in a new high-priced closer in Randy Myers, and also brought back a familiar face in Tony Fernandez.

Although they finished 14 games above .500 and posted the best Blue Jays record since 1993, the 1998 Toronto Blue Jays were eclipsed by a powerhouse New York Yankees squad.

That year the Yankees went 114-48 and completely ran away with the American League East, and not surprisingly won the World Series. The Blue Jays finishing a whopping 26 games back of the Yankees and four behind the second place Red Sox.

Rk Tm W L W-L% GB vEast vCent vWest Inter Home Road ExInn 1Run
1 NYY 114 48 .704 --- 33-15 39-15 29-15 13-3 62-19 52-29 9-2 21-10
2 BOS 92 70 .568 22.0 25-23 31-23 27-17 9-7 51-30 41-40 7-4 24-25
3 TOR 88 74 .543 26.0 27-21 28-26 24-20 9-7 51-30 37-44 8-8 28-17
4 BAL 79 83 .488 35.0 19-29 29-25 26-18 5-11 42-39 37-44 5-2 18-24
5 TBD 63 99 .389 51.0 16-32 22-32 20-24 5-11 33-48 30-51 5-10 15-20

Had it not been for the sheer dominance of the Yankees that year, the 1998 Blue Jays may have had a decent shot at the postseason. And if we look back and use the new dual Wild Card format, the 1998 Blue Jays would have squeaked into the playoffs.

The 1998 Blue Jays performed about as well as could be expected on the road, but they were one of the best teams in baseball that year at home. The Blue Jays owned a  51-30 record at the Skydome, which was tied for second best in the American League.

Quite simply, the Blue Jays starting lineup was stacked from top to bottom. The 1998 Blue Jays produced a total of 221 home runs, which was second most in the American League.

Looking at the starting lineup, it's really no surprise as it featured so many heavy hitters; Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, and Jose Canseco just to name a few.

Rk Pos G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 C Darrin Fletcher* 124 446 407 37 115 23 1 9 52 0 25 39 .283 .328 .410 .738
2 1B Carlos Delgado* 142 620 530 94 155 43 1 38 115 3 73 139 .292 .385 .592 .978
3 2B Craig Grebeck 102 344 301 33 77 17 2 2 27 2 29 42 .256 .327 .346 .673
4 SS Alex Gonzalez 158 618 568 70 136 28 1 13 51 21 28 121 .239 .281 .361 .642
5 3B Ed Sprague 105 419 382 49 91 20 0 17 51 0 24 73 .238 .301 .424 .725
6 LF Shannon Stewart 144 605 516 90 144 29 3 12 55 51 67 77 .279 .377 .417 .794
7 CF Jose Cruz# 105 413 352 55 89 14 3 11 42 11 57 99 .253 .354 .403 .757
8 RF Shawn Green* 158 689 630 106 175 33 4 35 100 35 50 142 .278 .334 .510 .844
9 DH Jose Canseco 151 658 583 98 138 26 0 46 107 29 65 159 .237 .318 .518 .836
Rk Pos G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS

Incredibly, that roster did not have a single position player that had  a negative WAR value. Alex Gonzalez was worth 0.3 wins, and that was the lowest total on the roster. As a comparison, Carlos Delgado posted a team-high 5.7 WAR for position players.

The starting rotation was anchored by staff ace Roger Clemens, who would go on to win the Cy Young that year, and included a former Cy winner Pat Hentgen, a future Cy winner Chris Carpenter, as well as Juan Guzman and Woody Williams.

Courtesy of The Star
Whether it was with the aid of performance enhancers or not, Roger Clemens was out-of-worldy for the second consecutive year with the Blue Jays in 1998. He won his second straight Cy Young award, posting a 20-6 record with a 2.65 ERA and 271 strikeouts.

The Blue Jays bullpen comprised of Randy Myers as the closer, the rubber arm setup man Paul Quantrill (who pitched 80 innings out of the bullpen), Bill Risely, Dan Plesac, Robert Person, as well as stints from Kelvim Escobar, Eric Hanson, Dave Stieb, Carlos Almanzar, Steve Sinclair and Ben VanRyn. 

Randy Myers was one of the Blue Jays big offseason free agent signings in the offseason, as they inked him to a three-year $18 million dollar contract, with all intentions of having him as the closer for the foreseeable future.

Surprisingly, the Padres claimed Myers on waivers in August and the Blue Jays subsequently dealt him and his enormous salary to San Diego for catching prospect Brian Loyd.

Jose Canseco enjoyed a renaissance comeback season in 1998, signing a modest one-year deal for only $2.125 million dollars. Despite hitting 46 home runs that year, it was arguably the biggest home run season that very few people in baseball knew about.

Most fans were instead glued to the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase of '98, even though Jose Canseco hit the third most home runs in baseball that year. Although steroids were rampant in baseball at the time, Canseco insists he was clean during his tenure with the Blue Jays.


1998 also marked Tony Fernandez' third tour with the Blue Jays, as he signed a two-year/$4.25 million dollar contract. The slick-fielding Fernandez had a solid season, hitting .321 in the Blue Jays lineup and split time between second and third base.

There were another few notable Blue Jays alumni on that roster; after not having pitched for the five previous years, Dave Stieb put on a Blue Jays uniform once again and made an attempt at a comeback at 40 years old.

Stieb made three spot starts and appeared in 19 games that year, but he hung his cleats up for good following the conclusion of the 1998 season.

Courtesy of The Star
A young rookie that would later become the face of the Blue Jays franchise also made his big league debut in 1998; his name was Harry Leroy Halladay the third, AKA Roy Halladay. Over the years, fans would affectionately refer to him as simply "Doc".

There was a bit of an interesting bond between Dave Stieb and Roy Halladay, as they shared a very eerie moment late in the season; Halladay lost a no-hitter with two out in the top of the ninth inning in just his second big league start, an occurrence Stieb was all too familiar with.

To make matters worse, it was Dave Stieb himself that caught the home run ball in the Blue Jays bullpen off the bat of Bobby Higginson. However, in that moment it was if Dave Stieb passed the torch to Roy Halladay, albeit in a very masochistic way.

Overall, the 1998 Blue Jays put forth one of the better seasons in the past two decades, but yet they still fell just short of the postseason. Despite a late-season 11 game win streak, the Blue Jays were four games back of a playoff berth.

All of this mind you under the leadership of one-time manager, Tim Johnson. As it's been well documented, it would be revealed in the offseason that he lied about wartime experiences in Vietnam in order to motivate his team

It's still incredible to think that three (and possibly four in the future) members of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence were a part of that 1998 Toronto Blue Jays roster; Tony Fernandez, Carlos Delgado, Dave Stieb, and hopefully one day, Roy Halladay.

There were a lot of great players on that team that would go on to do great things. It's just unfortunate they couldn't enjoy a taste of October baseball. 

The 1998 Blue Jays may not have walked away with a World Series title, and they may not have even made the postseason, but damn were they ever close. And these days, that's all you can really ask for; get close, and pray the Baseball Gods 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Open Letter to Alex Anthopoulos


By
Dear Alex,

How's your summer been? Mine's been alright ... a little disappointing, as I'm sure you can understand. That's not entirely your fault, though.

Anyway, the reason I'm writing today is because I'm a little concerned.

There's no question things were a mess after the debacle that was last year; the onslaught of injuries, the Escobar eyeblack scandal, and of course the John Farrell situation. Things were not good, but you quickly remedied the situation.

At the onset of the season this scenario seemed unfathomable, but 2013 is shaping up to be even worse than 2012 was.

If you match them up side by side, both seasons are actually pretty similar in both results and even the overall tone, but with one discernible difference; the Blue Jays were supposed to be contenders this year, and clearly they're not.

Luckily after that trade with the Marlins, most people forgot all about that season from hell. But unfortunately, it was only about 3-4 weeks into the 2013 season when doubt about the Blue Jays crept up once again.

Sure, the team managed to turn things around there in mid-June, but since then it's like the team has fallen off the cliff. Just like last year, injuries piled up, the starting pitching has been subpar, and the defense hasn't been the greatest, either.

Again, I'm not saying this is all your fault. But as the General Manager of this team, it's your job to fix this mess.

You assembled a pretty impressive roster on paper this offseason. Sometimes I still can't believe my eyes that Jose Reyes is in a Blue Jays uniform, so kudos on that one. But most of the other moves haven't really panned out so well.

The roster doesn't need to be completely overhauled, but things need to change. Mostly, the starting rotation. Dickey and Buehrle are essentially the only two who can be penciled into the rotation right now. Needless to say, there's a lot of work to be done in the pitching department.

I don't know what you should do about the Josh Johnson thing. You seem to really like the guy, but maybe it's okay to let him walk at the end of the year.

I guess you have to weigh the options; would you rather have people bellyache over paying Johnson $14.5 million next year, or let him go and watch Josh have a career year with the Yankees?

As we learned the past few years, there is no such thing as having too much starting pitching. But at the same time, don't just assume Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond or even Brandon Morrow will be enough to carry the rest of the starting rotation.

The offense needs to be upgraded as well; namely at second base and catcher.  You've got to make a decision on what to do with J.P. Arencibia. He may be good with the media (or at least he was), but his primary focus should be on his athletic ability, and not his on-camera charisma.

Arencibia could probably make a strong case in arbitration with all those home runs under his belt, so if you're going to stick with him, be prepared to shell out a lot of money for his services over the coming years. And also be prepared to deal with the backlash if J.P. continues on this path.

I feel like this offseason is a time where you really need to draw a line in the sand on where you stand with J.P. Arencibia. Either you're going to unequivocally stand by this guy no matter what and lock him up to a contract, or you need to ship him off this winter. Please end the drama once and for all. 

Second base is going to be a bit trickier; you were probably pretty happy to get Maicer Izturis to that team-friendly contract, but he simply is not going to cut it, either. At the very least, if you can't find an offensive-minded second baseman, please find an elite fielding defender.

I know you have a propensity to go with trades to get said upgrades, but frankly I think the minor league system is a little depleted at this point. If you are going to go the trade route, it's probably better to trade high-upside players on the big league roster (sorry, Colby) rather than deal away prospects.

Don't be afraid to go back to the bigwigs upstairs and ask for more cash to sign some free agents. Heck, it worked for the Red Sox; they opened up the pocketbooks the offseason following their own disastrous season, and look where they are now.

No, it's not really the "Blue Jay Way" and that will likely mean overpaying any prospective free agents, but such is the cost of doing business in the landscape of the American League East today.

Another thing I fear is that Toronto is going to fall back into a less desirable free agent destination once again. Unless you're planning on throwing a boatload of cash at somebody like Robinson Cano, I don't think he's ever coming to Toronto.

So here we are; another year, another unsuccessful season. Make that 20 years since the Blue Jays have tasted the postseason. There were sometimes when it hasn't felt like it's been that long, but this year it's been painfully obvious this team fell well below expectations.

This offseason, more than ever, it's crucial that things are done right. Sure, building a winner takes time, but people's patience is growing thin. It should be made very clear at January's State of the Franchise meeting where this team is headed in the near future.

Please, remedy the situation. Because the best way to help people forget the last two years (and even the last 20) is to make the Toronto Blue Jays a winning team again. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Video: The Blue Jays Batting Superstitions


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A little bit of off-day viewing today ... Yahoo! Canada has launched a new weekly Blue Jays video series entitled "Beyond the Bases". The first two episodes are up, the one above focusing on the Blue Jays batting superstitions.

Though, Chad Mattola and Adam Lind reinforce that baseball isn't about "superstitions" but more so about "routines". Anyway, it's cool to see how they prepare for a day's work.

And there's also a short video below from Blue Jays batting practice as well.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Flashback Friday: Peter Gross Stalks Dave Stieb


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My apologies for phoning in this week's Flashback Friday, but now and again your friendly neighbourhood blogger takes the odd week off on holidays.

For this week's Flashback Friday, it's another gem courtesy of Peter Gross' Youtube channel. This time, Gross caught up with Stieb during Blue Jays Spring Training in 1984. Yes, 1984.

Enjoy, friends!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reaction to the Emilio Bonifacio Trade


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Courtesy of Zimbio
He was once thought to be the dark horse in the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins; and now he's on a plane to Kansas City to suit up with the Royals.

The Emilio Bonifacio era with the Toronto Blue Jays was quite short, albeit a tumultuous one. Although the massive trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins featured many big name players, Bonifacio was one that flew under the radar.

He projected to be a super utility switch-hitting infielder/outfielder; something that fit right in with the Blue Jays brand new versatile lineup. Emilio Bonifacio appeared to have the upper hand coming out of Spring Training as the starting second baseman, but that quickly changed.

Expectations were high that Bonifacio would contribute to the Blue Jays lineup, but instead he ended up being more of a liability than an asset. Although he possessed a great amount of speed, Bonifacio rarely got on base in the first place to even attempt a stolen base.

Emilio suffered from an injury-riddled season in 2012, but still managed to swipe 30 stolen bases in 64 games while posting an on-base percentage of .330. This season, Bonifacio has only stolen 13 bases in 94 games with an OBP of .258.

I'll admit, I was enamoured with the speed potential of Emilio Bonifacio. For some reason, speed is a hell of a drug on a baseball team. But it's nothing if that player can't even get on base.

As a comparison, Munenori Kawasaki drew twice as many walks (26) than Emilio Bonifacio (13) in 24 fewer games. While Bonifacio clearly has the edge over Kawasaki in the offensive department, at least Kawasaki could draw the odd walk.

It's almost as though Bonifacio's plate discipline seemingly flew completely out the window this year. He swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than ever before (35.3%) and swung at more pitches overall (50.4%) and posted a career high 10.4% of swinging strikes in 2013.

Perhaps dealing a swing-happy hitter like Emilio Bonifacio is signaling a shift in the offensive philosophy of the Blue Jays. Especially at the bottom of the order, where there was a logjam of low on-base/high strikeout hitters like Emilio Bonifacio and J.P. Arencibia.

Not to mention, Bonifacio's defense at second base was subpar at best, although maybe he wasn't best suited as a starting second baseman in the first place. Again, maybe Emilio projects better to be a bench player a la Rajai Davis than an everyday starter. 

In a way, Emilio Bonifacio's short tenure with the Blue Jays was a microcosm for the 2013 Blue Jays season itself; it featured plenty of potential, however it fell well short of its lofty expectations.

The fact that the Blue Jays traded Bonifacio for cash or a player to be named later really speaks volumes. They sold extremely low on a player that was very highly-touted in the offseason, and now they'll get next to nothing in return.

That should basically tell you everything you need to know about how the Blue Jays felt about Bonifacio.

While it may have been advantageous for the Blue Jays to possess a utility player like Emilio Bonifacio, the old adage rang very true in this instance. Emilio was a Jack of all trades, but a master of none with the Blue Jays.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Flashback Friday: John Olerud's 1993 Season


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He was the man who always had a plan walking up to the plate. He was the man who always wore his batting helmet on the field. And he was the man with the sweet, sweet swing.

I'm of course talking about none other than John Olerud, who is the focus of this week's Flashback Friday post.

Johnny O had an amazing career with the Blue Jays, but nothing was more magical than watching his incredible 1993 season. Here are some interesting facts about John Olerud's 1993 season.

John Olerud placed 3rd in AL MVP voting, and picked up two American League Player of the Months honours. He was the first player in franchise history to accomplish that feat, and only Jose Bautista has done it since.

He set career highs in home runs (24), doubles (54), RBI's (107), batting average (.363) and on base percentage (.473). 

Of the 158 games he played during the 1993 season, John Olerud batted at .400 or above in 58 of them. That's around one third of his season where he hovered above the .400 mark.

In fact, John Olerud didn't come down from .400 for good until August 2nd of that year. SI reminds us that Olerud was the only player to bat over .400 into August since Ted Williams in 1941.

Olerud's 8.3 win season according to FanGraphs, (yes 8.3 ... win season) ranks first overall in Blue Jays franchise history when it comes to position players. It's incredible to think John Olerud was worth over eight wins in 1993.

In the midst of his incredible 1993 season, John Olerud strung together a 26 game hitting streak from May 26th to June 22nd. It stands as the second longest hit streak in franchise history, bested only by Shawn Green's 28 game hit streak in 1999.

Quite simply, John Olerud was the definition of clutch in the Blue Jays lineup in 1993. He batted .371 with runners in scoring position and .358 overall with men on base. Olerud also proved to be one of the toughest outs in baseball in 1993 as he hit .363 with two out.

Olerud was intentionally walked an unprecedented 33 times in 1993. That still stands as the franchise record for most free passes in a single season.

Those intentional walks no doubt helped out his teammate Tony Fernandez, who batted 6th in the lineup behind John Olerud in 53 games. Fernandez batted .313 with men on base, but only .248 when the bases were clear.

Courtesy of SI
Despite winning the batting title that year, there was a controversy as the Blue Jays entered the Fall Classic. Cito Gaston opted to bench Olerud and instead use Paul Molitor at first base in Game 3 of the 1993 World Series.

Ultimately, it didn't matter much as the Blue Jays won Game 3 anyway, but in retrospect, it's very perplexing how the Blue Jays sat their best hitter in a World Series game.

John Olerud may not have displayed the power of Carlos Delgado or even Jose Bautista, but I'll remember Johnny O as one of the Blue Jays' best pure hitters. He truly was an on-base machine and his plate discipline and pitch recognition was second to none.

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