A Postmortem on the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays

Monday, September 29, 2014  |  by 

"2014 ... it was quite a ride."

If I had to summarize how this season transpired for the Toronto Blue Jays, that statement would encapsulate it. It had its highs, it had its lows, but ultimately the season ended the same way the last 21 have, and that's without playoffs for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The whole playoff drought itself is something I'll devote more time to down the road; but it's kind of funny that if you polled most people at the start of the season, an eventual 83-79 record would have far exceeded their expectations.

Frankly, the bar was set fairly low for this team right out of the gate. After the entire "failing to sign Ervin Santana" debacle, it was apparent the Blue Jays were going to grind out the 2014 campaign with the roster they had.

When the Blue Jays jumped out to a 38-24 record and a 6 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles in early June, there wasn't a sense of this being a precursor to success down the road. After all, it was early June and there was still the entire second half of the season left to play.

Perhaps there was some underlying cynicism caused by 20 years without a sniff of the postseason, maybe it was just the plight of the typical Toronto sports fan, but there was this "wait and see" approach rather than the "plan the parade route" mentality.

Looking back at this past Blue Jays season, I think the most frustrating part of it all was the division (and a playoff spot) was there for the taking. They had a stranglehold on the division into late June; and even then, Toronto occupied a Wild Card spot on August 1st.

2014 was unlike any other Blue Jays season that I've experienced in recent memory. The peaks and valleys alternated on a bi-weekly basis, with a stretches of either supreme success, incredible luck, bad bounces, or just overall poor play mixed in.

2013 was a season where expectations were astronomical and the team just crashed and burned. Conversely in 2014, expectations initially began so low, but due to their success in May and early June, the forecast drastically changed.

There was a strong sentiment from the fan base that the Blue Jays missed a golden opportunity this year and failed to capitalize on the weakness of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. All indications pointed towards 2014 being the window of contention for the Blue Jays.

Those opposing teams all uncharacteristically bad this season, which undoubtedly means they'll all go out and bolster their respective rosters this offseason. The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will get better this offseason, and I'm not sure I can say the same about the Blue Jays.

In retrospect, considering how mightily they struggled in August (against poor teams, mind you) and at points in September, I don't know if there were a number of trades that could have prevented the Blue Jays from losing their playoff spot.

If anything, I hope that this season served as a lesson to the front office that depth is paramount; bench players might plug holes temporarily, but guys like Juan Francisco, Munenori Kawasaki and Danny Valencia cannot match the production of an average everyday player.

Drew put it quite simply in his latest at Ghostrunner on First; the other teams in contention were just better.

In many ways, the early to mid-season success of the Blue Jays was viewed as the organization just playing with house money; not much was expected of this team in the first place, so as they rose to the top of the standings, they were just going to ride it out and see what happened.

From an organizational standpoint, there was never really any sense of urgency to bring in reinforcements or make any moves. Alex Anthopoulos did more of the same as previous years; attempt to cobble together small trades or minor league signings and hope they strike gold.

And like previous years, many of those deals did not pan out; or at least, those deals worked for a short period, and then failed miserably afterwards (ex: Juan Francisco).

Speaking of said man, Juan Francisco kind of became the unofficial whipping boy for the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays, and in many ways he symbolized what went right and what went wrong for the team this season.

Much like the team itself, Francisco played above his head in May and much of June. But shortly thereafter, the weaknesses in his game became exposed, and it was all downhill from there.

While it was an up and down ride and ultimately a season that ended in disappointment, oddly enough I actually feel more confident about the 2015 Blue Jays than I did the 2014 Blue Jays going into Opening Day.

The progression of Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris gives Blue Jays fans a lot to look forward to in the way of young pitching next season.

Melky Cabrera may be wooed by the bright lights of free agency, but for the most part, the best parts of this Blue Jays lineup will stay intact next season. The combination of a healthy Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are enough to make any fan salivate.

As this season came to a close, there are several reasons to be weary about what might be for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, but there are also many (if not more) reasons to be hopeful. And after 21 years, it's all that Blue Jays fans can continue to do ... is hope.

Image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Flashback Friday: The Blue Jays Drive of '85

Friday, September 26, 2014  |  by 

When most think back with fond memories of the Toronto Blue Jays, it's a recollection of the 1992-1993 World Series Champion teams. Although the Blue Jays were the best team in baseball those years, it was the culmination of years of hard work that got them there.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the famous "Drive of '85", also known as the Toronto Blue Jays first AL East division title and first taste of the postseason.

As an expansion team that came to fruition in the late 70's, expectations were extremely low for the Blue Jays in the early years. They lost 107, 102 and 109 games respectively during their first three years in the league, but things began to gradually improve in the early 80's.

1985 was the first year in which the Toronto Blue Jays truly assembled a winning team as they captured a franchise-high 99 wins; a mark that still stands to this day. Under manager Bobby Cox, the Blue Jays spent a total of 135 days in first place in the AL East in 1985.

The 1985 Toronto Blue Jays were perhaps the most-well rounded squad in Blue Jays history. They could hit (as they owned a .269 batting average which was good for second in MLB), they could pitch (with a staff ERA of 3.31), and had a number of exceptional defenders.

Rather than one standout star, the Blue Jays possessed a number of talented players; four All-Stars in the form of Damaso Garcia, Ernie Whitt, Dave Stieb and Jimmy Key, as well as Silver Slugger honours for George Bell.

In lieu of going through the entire season game by game, here are a few standout points from the Drive of '85 and the Toronto Blue Jays 1985 season.

Bell, Moseby, Barfield: The Holy Outfield Trinity

The combination of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield still stands to this day as arguably the best outfield alignment in Toronto Blue Jays history.

In George Bell, the Blue Jays had a future AL MVP under their belt and a phenomenal hitter. With Lloyd Moseby, his ability to steal bases and patrol centre field was incredible. And with Jesse Barfield, there was one of the best outfield arms in baseball and a future home run king.

What's better than having one MVP candidate in the outfield? How about two? On the backs of strong seasons from opposing sides of the outfield, Jesse Barfield and George Bell finished 7th and 8th in American League MVP voting.

Bell, Moseby and Barfield were truly the holy trinity of Toronto Blue Jays outfielders, and their contributions during the 1985 season played a huge part in the Blue Jays success. The funny thing is, neither of the three outfielders had their best seasons statistically in 1985.

Platoons Aplenty

Give the man credit ... there was nobody who utilized platoons better than Bobby Cox.

Cox employed several platoons on the roster; a combination of Ernie Whitt and Buck Martinez at catcher, Rance Mulliniks and Garth Iorg at third base, and a four-headed platoon at DH with Jeff Burroughs, Len Matuszek, and later on Al Oliver and Cliff Johnson.

Mulliniks and Iorg combined to be a quite formidable third baseman team against lefties and righties as they hit a combined .303/.373/.460 during the 1985 season.

Whitt and Martinez traded duties behind the plate depending on the starting pitcher, and the DH role saw many incarnations during the 1985 season. During the latter stages of the season, the acquisition of Al Oliver and Cliff Johnson supplanted Jeff Burroughs and Len Matuszek.

At the time, it may have seemed like a bit of a waste of a roster spot or two, but if he wasn't able to find a position player that could hit both left and right-handed pitching, Bobby Cox cobbled a platoon system that maximized his efforts.

The Terminator Takes Over

The back end of the Blue Jays bullpen was an issue during the 1984 season; the team basically used a closer by committee, with 6 different players amassing saves. So Pat Gillick went out and acquired Bill Caudill to solidify the closer position.

Prior to arbitration, Caudill signed the richest contract in Toronto history; a three year/$4.55 million dollar contract, with the potential to reach a total of $6 million with bonuses. Should it be any surprise the deal was brokered by Scott Boras?

With the closer title bestowed upon him, Bill Caudill proceeded to struggle out of the gate, but lowered his ERA to 3.10 by August. However, consecutive bad outings from Caudill convinced Bobby Cox to turn to Tom Henke as his new closer; and thus, "The Terminator" was born.

Henke was called up by the Blue Jays in late July and was quickly throw into the fray as Toronto's new closer after just two appearances. Even though he only appeared in 28 games, Henke somehow managed to garner some Rookie of the Year and even MVP votes.

Tom Henke supplanted the high-priced Bill Caudill as the Blue Jays new closer; a position he would not relinquish until the end of 1992 when he left as a free agent. The Blue Jays eventually released Caudill during the third year of his contract.

AL East Champions

Finally, they had done it. On October 5th 1985, the Toronto Blue Jays secured the AL East division title and punched their ticket to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. After eight years of disappointment, they were the beasts of the American League East.

One of the lasting images that many will remember from the Drive of '85 is George Bell and Tony Fernandez embracing in the outfield as Bell secured the final out of that game. The look on their faces was happiness personified.

What followed was the beginning of what can only be described as a tragic run by the Blue Jays; they would proceed to lose the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals after having a commanding 3-1 lead over KC going into Game Five.

While it would have been tremendous to see the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series in 1985, they proved a lot of the doubters wrong by winning the pennant that year. A core of talented young position players steadied by a solid rotation would get several more chances.

The 1985 AL East title was just the first of many more historic moments to come for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Images courtesy of Toronto Star and "The Drive of 85" Booklet

GIFS: Mark Buehrle Celebrates His 200 Inning Milestone

Thursday, September 25, 2014  |  by 

Although baseball may be a traditional sport, very few things are actually constant from year to year. For 14 consecutive years, Mark Buehrle has been a constant; 14 straight seasons of 200 plus innings.

And not to mention, in an era where Tommy John surgeries are as common as hangnails, Buehrle has done what very few pitchers have done, and that's avoid the disabled list his entire career.

A milestone like 200 innings deserves to be celebrated, so after the jump, check out the GIFS of Mark Buehrle basking in his latest benchmark.

GIFS: Jose Bautista Toys with Yankees Fans in Right Field

Saturday, September 20, 2014  |  by 

By all indications, Yankee Stadium can be a tough place to play for visiting players. The "Bleacher Creatures" which reside in right field are notorious for being relentless on players from out of town.

However, Jose Bautista decided to abide by the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and toyed with some Yankee fans in right field.

Since a Derek Jeter ball seems to be a hot commodity in New York, almost every fan wants to get their hands on any potential memorabilia from "The Captain". After Jeter hit a ball to right field, Bautista faked out some fans with a souvenir ball.

Check out the GIFS after the jump.

Flashback Friday: Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball" (The Blue Jays Version)

Friday, September 19, 2014  |  by 

A short but sweet feature for this week's Flashback Friday comes via the Blue Jays Subreddit - it's an adaptation of Terry Cashman's classic "Talkin' Baseball" which was adapted for the 1986 Toronto Blue Jays.

It seems like Cashman got around to doing a version for most MLB teams, and the Blue Jays version does not disappoint. Have a listen/watch and keep an ear out for all the Blue Jays cameos.

Although personally, the version Terry Cashman did for The Simpsons "Homer At Bat" is still a superior version, but I digress. Here are the lyrics below if you care to sing along.

Talkin' Baseball - 10 Years with the Jays

77 was the Jays first year, Toronto fans could finally cheer,
As Ault hit two home runs in our first game.
Bob Bailor was number one, Jerry Garvin's pickoff gun,
Wins were few and the team was new, but the fans still came.

Talkin' Baseball, Rick Cerrone and Luis Gomez,
Blue Jays baseball, Ron Fairly, Hector Torree.
Big John and Griff and Otto all could play,
Roy Howell, Rico Carty Dave McKay.
Talkin' Baseball, 10 years with the Jays.

Bosetti had a flare; a style, Danny Ainge just stayed a while,
Clancy, Garth and Ernie were the core, Bobby Cox he took the reins,
And the Jays made instant gains, in 85 a winner arrived,
It's what we've waited for.

Talkin' Baseball, Bell and Moseby do the sluggin',
Blue Jays Baseball, Stieb and Lamp they do some chuckin',
Garcia and Fernandez made the plays,
Upshaw, Barfield and Tom Henke save the day,
Talkin' Baseball, 10 years with the Jays.

When you're talkin' Toronto Baseball, Sam Ewing, Tom Underwood,
Hartsfield and Mattick both had class, the princes' gate through which we pass,
Alexander's game to win the AL East, expansion blues have ceased.

Each year's a new beginning, and the Blue Jays plan on winning,
Jimy Williams has a team he knows can play,
Acker, Key and Mulliniks, Caudill's got a back of tricks,
With Cliff and Buck and a little luck we're going all the way.

Talkin' Baseball, Bell and Moseby do the sluggin',
Blue Jays baseball, Stieb and Lamp they do some chuckin',
Garcia and Fernandez made the plays,
Upshaw, Barfield and Tom Henke save the day.

Talkin' Baseball, 10 years with the Jays.

Image courtesy of 45 Cat

Seinfeld Jays: The Blue Jays as Seinfeld Characters

Tuesday, September 16, 2014  |  by 

A few weeks ago, I proclaimed on Twitter that if the Blue Jays won a series at Tropicana Field, I would write a 1,000 word article on a topic of choice. To my surprise, the Blue Jays won their first series in Tampa Bay since 2007. Here is my penance for that bet.

A baseball team is a cast of characters; a mash-up of many different personalities all united for one common goal ... and that's to win.

A television show also is a cast of characters, but in the case of the classic comedy Seinfeld, the goal for its main characters was to cause as much pain and torment as possible.

It's a given that most of the characters on Seinfeld displayed neurotic tendencies, so I'm not connotating that any of the Blue Jays players are disturbed individuals by any means.

However, but for the purposes of this post, some of the Blue Jays may be linked to people they otherwise have no business being compared to. Evidently, this exercise turned out to be much more difficult than I imagined, so there are a limited number of comparisons.

Jose Bautista as Jerry

Jerry Seinfeld is of course the star of the show "Seinfeld", and for all intents and purposes, Jose Bautista is the star of the show when it comes to the Toronto Blue Jays. They are both the face of their respective franchises.

Jerry is a comedian by trade, and on occasion, Bautista has also shown that he too has a sense of humour. Despite being kind of self-obsessed, Jerry overall comes off as a likeable guy. Bautista doesn't come without his faults either, but the fans still love him.

The bottom line is both guys are very good at what they do; Jerry tells jokes, Jose hits home runs. And of course, both can seemingly grow a beard and/or moustache within a matter of mere hours.

Everyone knows that every time you shave, it comes in thicker, fuller and darker.

Brett Lawrie as Kramer

Erratic, overly energetic, unpredictable, at times perhaps a little too "amped up" ... sound familiar? I wouldn't expect Brett Lawrie to come up with any harebrained schemes any time soon, but he and Cosmo Kramer display many of the same personality traits.

At any given moment, Brett Lawrie may have 2-3 Red Bulls coursing through his system, and judging by the way he barges through Jerry's apartment door, you'd have to assume that Kramer knocks back more than a few Red Bulls himself.

I also considered Jimmy as a potential comparison for Brett Lawrie, as I'm sure he'd likely be the only member on the Blue Jays roster to refer to himself in the third person.

John Gibbons as Mr. Kruger

Aside from the fact that they kind of look the same (and have nearly identical facial expressions above), John Gibbons and Mr. Kruger (the president of Kruger Industrial Smoothing) sort of have identical laxed attitudes when it comes to running a team.

I envision Gibby as a very laid back kind of man, but every so often there's just something that sets him off like a Roman Candle (see the Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand incidents).

To be honest, I'm not really sure what Kruger Industrial Smoothing does, and in the same sense, the exact duties of a Major League manager aren't entirely clear either. But when it doubt, just make a sizable donation to the "Human Fund".

Colby Rasmus as David Puddy

During his time in Toronto, Colby Rasmus has become one of the most beloved Blue Jays players. God love Colby, but he seems like a simple man. Enter David Puddy.

Puddy quickly made his way up the ranks at the dealership as a former grease monkey and found himself high atop the hill as a car salesman. Rasmus also quickly made his way up the ranks as one of the most talented centre fielders in baseball.

We kind also kind of hearken David Puddy's on-again/off-again relationship with Elaine Benes to Colby Rasmus' relationship with the Blue Jays. However unlike Puddy and Elaine, I don't get the sense that Colby and the Blue Jays will eventually be together forever.

Also, through thick and thin, Puddy is a devout New Jersey Devils fan. And though his ride with the Blue Jays has been a bit of a tumultuous one, Colby has remained a "fan" of the Blue Jays (or at least his teammates).

One last thing; Colby Rasmus has an apparent fondness for chicken hot dogs and David Puddy loves himself some Arby's. Which proves there's no greater common bond than an affinity for processed meats.

R.A. Dickey as Tim Whatley

R.A. Dickey has a beard. The early incarnations of everybody's favourite dentist had a beard ... that's about all I've got. Except that Whatley has a doctorate in dentistry and Dickey received an honourary degree from the University of Toronto.

Edwin Encarnacion as Keith Hernandez

What a stretch, right? Comparing a baseball player to a baseball player. With Edwin Encarnacion and Keith Hernandez, it isn't as simple as apples to apples.

Aside from them both being incredible baseball specimens, they actually have much more in common than one would think. Much like Hernandez, Edwin quietly goes about his business in an orderly fashion.

Keith Hernandez might possibly be the most unselfish character in Seinfeld history, and the same redeeming quality goes for Edwin Encarnacion and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jose Reyes as Bob Cobb AKA "The Maestro"

Admittedly, this is where it starts to be a stretch to find similarities between the Blue Jays and Seinfeld. The Maestro is of course a talented conductor and beyond being an All-Star shortstop, Jose Reyes has a budding music career.

Although his real name is Bob Cobb, everyone is supposed to address him as "The Maestro". One wonders if that's the same case with Jose Reyes and his musical persona, "La Melaza".

Mark Buehrle as Mr. Ross

Not much is really known about the very secretive Henry Ross, but gives the impression that all he really wants is to be left with his thoughts and retreat to his cabin in the woods. The same goes for Mark Buehrle, except he'd bring along his pitbulls.

Munenori Kawasaki as Kenny Bania

Kawasaki as Bania? Hear me out on this one; both clearly aren't the most talented guys at what they do, but boy do they ever try hard as anybody. Kenny Bania looks up to Jerry as his mentor, and Munenori Kawasaki looks up to ... well ... everybody.

Sure, they have their faults, but for all that they do, both Bania and Kawasaki are actually pretty likeable people. Their acts may not kill with traditional audiences, but they're not totally horrible either. Kind of like Ovaltine ... or should I say ... Roundtine?

J.A. Happ as Milos

The crux of Milos' character is of course that he's convinced people he's very good at something, when he in fact he isn't. And J.A. Happ? Well ...

Flashback Friday: Kathie Becomes a Blue Jays Booster on "Kids in the Hall"

Friday, September 12, 2014  |  by 

Sometimes it's easy to forget exactly how big the Toronto Blue Jays were in the early 90's. The team basically transcended all boundaries and showed up everywhere; on cassettes and CD's, magazines, every sort of paraphernalia imaginable, and even television.

And while many of us grew up cheering for those World Series Champion teams, so too did one particular character from a Canadian cult classic TV show. For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the "Becoming a Booster" sketch from Kids in the Hall.

In it, the quirky and yet loyal office dweller Kathie describes how she became a fan of the boys of summer, the Toronto Blue Jays. Admittedly, one of the things she likes most about the team is their "big bats".

Kathie also shares her particular attraction to then Blue Jays third baseman, Kelly Gruber. So much so, that she has a picture of him on her desk. In many subsequent Kathie sketches, you can spot numerous pieces of Blue Jays strewn around the office.

Kathie reminds us that although home runs may be flashy, there's nothing wrong with aspiring to be a solid single.

A Game in GIFs: Blue Jays 8, Cubs 0

Monday, September 8, 2014  |  by 

This may or may not be a one-off feature, but it just so happens this evening's game had plenty of GIFable moments. The game was memorable for a slew of reasons, Marcus Stroman being the main one.

But the game nearly had a disastrious start as the Blue Jays young star narrowly avoided being struck in the head by a line drive.

And then after he dodged that bullet, he decided to put on a fielding clinic. A very Brett Lawrie/Derek Jeter-esque jump throw.

Marcus Stroman wasn't the only one who had a banner evening, as Jose Bautista collected his 200th home run in a Blue Jays uniform. And he hit it in a rather convincing fashion into the 200 level of the Rogers Centre.

Bautista joins the illustrious company of George Bell, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells as the only others to have more than 200 home runs as a Blue Jay.

And since he's been spending an awful lot of time on the bench lately, Colby Rasmus kept himself occupied during the game by doing the entire OK Blue Jays dance routine.

Marcus Stroman's two-seam fastball is one of his best pitches, but the bottom just absolutely drops out of his spike curveball.

And then Ryan Goins punctuated the end of the game by finishing off the Cubs with this incredible barehanded leaping throw.

Image courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

3 Up 3 Down: Melky's Injury, Colby the Pinch Hitter and Bautista's On Fire

It wasn't enough that the Blue Jays blew the game in dramatic fashion on Friday evening against the Red Sox; they also happened to lose one of their best hitters for the rest of the season. Basically, the equivalent of a punch to the gut and a kick to the groin.

And although they dropped two of three at Fenway Park, the Blue Jays ultimately had a fairly successful road trip through Tampa Bay and Boston, compiling a 4-2 record.

Any team would be more than happy with those results, but the sad reality is the Blue Jays need to play much better than .666 baseball the rest of the way to even have a sniff at the playoffs.

The Melk Man Goes Down

Going into Friday night, miraculously Melky Cabrera had managed to go the entire season as one of the Blue Jays most durable and consistent hitters in the starting lineup. And after an innocent slide back into first base, just like that, he's done for the year.

I'm not exactly sure how this injury will impact whether or not he'll re-sign with Toronto (another topic for another day), but it just muddies what is already a very murky situation for Melky and Blue Jays this offseason.

Many would say that the loss of Melky effectively ends the Blue Jays season; I wouldn't go quite that far, but for a team that already had very little margin for error, losing one of the pillars in their starting lineup doesn't bode very well for them down the stretch.

Colby Rasmus: Professional Pinch Hitter

Even with the injury to Melky Cabrera, one thing became very evident over the weekend; Colby Rasmus will ride out the rest of the season on the bench. But like any good artist faced with adversity, Colby has managed to reinvent himself as a clutch pinch hitter.

It's probably not the way he envisioned his time with the Blue Jays coming to an end, but Rasmus is certainly making the most of the rare opportunities he's been getting the past few games.

Colby was the hero on Thursday night as he hit a game-winning pinch hit home run against the Rays, and he connected again and went deep for his second home run in three at bats off the bench.

If this was somehow the Blue Jays' diabolical plan to somehow get Colby Rasmus to hit, it's definitely working. Colby Rasmus has now tied the Blue Jays club record for pinch hit home runs in a single season with 3, a title he shares with Willie Greene.

In fact, Colby is just one off the franchise record for total pinch hit home runs, a title owned by Jesse Barfield and Ernie Whitt with 4 apiece.

Joey Bats is On Fire

Perhaps this has been overshadowed amidst the Colby Rasmus controversy, the bullpen implosion on Friday and Melky Cabrera out for the season, but is there a hotter hitter in baseball right now than Jose Bautista?

Not only did he hit home runs in five consecutive games last week, but he picked up two more over the weekend at Fenway Park; bringing his last 11 game total to 7 home runs, 16 hits and 12 RBI's. Not to mention, Bautista slugged .826 over that stretch.

He may not be having a 2010 or even 2011-like season, but Jose Bautista is quietly putting forth one of the strongest seasons of his career.

We have this stat courtesy of Ben Nicholson-Smith from Sportsnet that Jose Bautista is on pace for his best season since 2012:

And now with Melky gone for the season, the contributions from Jose Bautista suddenly become even more crucial to the Blue Jays lineup. It's also become more and more imperative that the Blue Jays need Bautista to stick around beyond 2016.

Whether that's feasible or not all depends on payroll, but if the cash is there, then the Blue Jays would be best served to set aside a good chunk for a Jose Bautista contract extension in the future.

Images courtesy of Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport

Flashback Friday: J.P. Ricciardi's Feud with Adam Dunn

Friday, September 5, 2014  |  by 

"Do you know the guy (Adam Dunn) doesn't even like baseball all that much?"

Aside from maybe "it's not a lie if we know the truth", that's probably the most famous quotes from former Toronto Blue Jays General Manager, J.P. Ricciardi. And it had absolutely nothing to do with one of his players, and it completely came out of nowhere.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we'll take a trip back to said incident which fueled the short-lived feud between Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi and then Washington Nationals slugger, Adam Dunn.

Compared to Alex Anthopoulos, J.P. Ricciardi was pretty transparent when it came to answering questions from the media and being forthcoming about information. As the figurehead of the organization, he certainly wasn't shy about answering questions.

J.P. Ricciardi was quite famous for joining Mike Wilner following every Wednesday home game for "Wednesdays with J.P." on the Fan 590 in which the Blue Jays GM fielded calls from everyday Blue Jays fans. The event in question took place during June of 2008.

I can't recall exactly where this rant stemmed from, but perhaps J.P. Ricciardi was finally fed up with being inundated with suggestions that the Blue Jays should trade for Adam Dunn.

At the time, the Blue Jays were having particular difficulty hitting home runs, and as one of the most consistent home run hitters in baseball at the time, Dunn seemed like an ideal fit to fix that problem. Ricciardi didn't see it that way.

When asked by a caller, Ricciardi released this unexpected tirade on the Nationals slugger (with quotes courtesy of Big League Stew).
"He’s a lifetime .230, .240 hitter that strikes out a ton and hits home runs. Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player?

There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players. I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here.

We’ve done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there’s a reason why we don’t want Adam Dunn. I don’t want to get into specifics."
Perhaps this was an attempt (albeit a very strange one) by Ricciardi to quell the trade rumours by revealing that Adam Dunn was a player they were not interested in. Not sure if "doesn't really like baseball" showed up on his scouting report or if J.P. added that himself.

Naturally, the fallout from his comments came very swiftly from the other side as Adam Dunn was not very pleased about the Blue Jays GM tarnishing his reputation.
"I don’t know the clown. I don’t know, and you can use the word ‘clown’ if you like. I’ve seen it, I haven’t heard it. I really don’t care what one guy thinks, to be honest with you.

If I’m a G.M., I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to discredit a player — if I’m a player. He’s obviously won more than me, I guess. Or hasn’t. I know nothing about him.

I don’t care about the perception people have of me, if anything happens, it looks like I ain’t going to Toronto."
Following Adam Dunn's comments, J.P. Ricciardi went into damage control and reportedly called him to apologize for his rant on the radio. Ricciardi assured reporters he spoke with Dunn and said he was sorry, but Dunn claims he never received a call.

Then when asked if he could prove which number he called, J.P. Ricciardi told reporters he deleted the contact number and erased the call log from his phone.

We'll never know for sure whether the alleged apology took place, but to take a quote from J.P. Ricciardi himself ... it's not a lie, if he knows the truth.

The Inevitable End of the Road for Colby Ramsus

Thursday, September 4, 2014  |  by 

When Colby Rasmus' time with the Toronto Blue Jays inevitably comes to an end, this will likely be his footnote; "he had a world of potential, but for one reason or another ... Colby just couldn't put it all together."

It may sound as though Rasmus is already out the door, but essentially he is. John Lott of the National Post discovered that Colby Rasmus will likely ride the bench for the remainder of the season, and will give way to playing time for Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar.

It's just the final chapter in what has been a tumultuous plight for Colby Rasmus as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Colby is set to walk as a free agent at season's end, and judging by the comments that were made to him from manager John Gibbons, the instructions come from the front office to leave him out of the starting lineup the past few games.

To me, that's the most puzzling part of all; that this is not John Gibbons' decision, but it came all the way from the top - Alex Anthopoulos.

In the past, this organization was fairly courteous (albeit unnecessarily) to would-be free agents, and would allow them to play out the stretch and potentially build some value for their next contract. Remember John Buck's chase for 20 home runs?

However, the new compensation system for free agents combined with the Blue Jays still having a remote chance at the playoffs, that means letting Colby play out the season is apparently not an option this time around.

I still have a tough time believing that the combination of Kevin Pillar and Anthony Gose in centre field give the Blue Jays give a better chance to win than Colby Rasmus, but it gives the team just another reason not to play Rasmus.

Jeff Blair has mentioned this a few times in his show earlier this week, but he believes that Colby Rasmus is not just tired of the Blue Jays, but that Rasmus has checked out of baseball entirely. I'm not sure if I'd go quite that far, but it's apparent this season has taken a toll on him.

The thing is, Colby Rasmus has never been an "in your face" kind of baseball player; his personality is extremely laid back, and his demeanor is the exact same whether he's hit a home run or whether he's struck out.

That's a stark contrast from guys like Jose Reyes or Brett Lawrie who are clearly excited and amped up about playing baseball. Not surprisingly, many would say that Reyes and Lawrie display more effort or "hustle" on the field compared to Rasmus.

When baseball players (and even athletes in general) tend to display the laissez-faire attitude, often times they're labelled as being lazy or simply not caring about their job. With some athletes, it's clearly evident how much effort they put forth on the field. With others, it just comes naturally.

I think Colby Rasmus falls into the latter camp ... not unlike former Blue Jay, Alex Rios.

He was also accused of displaying many of the same traits as Rasmus; having all the skills to become a five-tool superstar, and yet failing to display hustle and suffering from the occasional mental lapse on the field.

Since the decision came from up top, I'm inclined to think there's more going on behind the scenes. Colby showing up late to batting practice a few months back and the subsequent punishment may not have been the first incident.

To me, it seems like Colby Rasmus' up-and-down- tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays has been quite similar to Brandon Morrow's; both were acquired via trade and came in with lofty hopes, but have overall failed to deliver on those expectations.

At one point, both players were viewed as building blocks for this franchise moving forward, and now both Rasmus and Morrow will likely walk out the door at the end of the season.

Again, there's no denying the talent of Colby Rasmus. At times, his home run swing appears absolutely effortless. Tracking down fly balls in second field seems second nature to Colby, as he barely even breaks a sweat.

And although his batting stance has undergone many iterations over the years, he's still managed to hit around league average. And perhaps that's part of it, too; that Colby has had umpteen voices telling him to do different things.

Over the course of his six year career, Colby Rasmus has played for four different managers and has had five different hitting coaches. Talk about receiving mixed messages.

Had it not been for an errant throw by Anthony Gose which landed squarely in Colby Rasmus' face late last season, perhaps the Blue Jays tabled Colby a contract extension last offseason and we're not even having this discussion.

After all, Colby Rasmus was on track to have the best year of his career; statistically speaking, Rasmus was a Top 5 centre fielder in the American League last season. That would've set him up quite nicely as he entered his final year of arbitration.

But now ... it's anybody's guess where Colby will ultimately land.

I don't doubt that Colby Rasmus will be a star centre fielder once again ... unfortunately, it just won't be with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Image courtesy of Abelimages Getty Images Sport

The September Influx of Blue Jays Prospects

Tuesday, September 2, 2014  |  by 

It's quite fitting that on the very day on which kids begin their first day of school, the Toronto Blue Jays are set to promote some of their most promising young players to the show. Now the "kids" are all here.

In a somewhat surprising move, as part of their September call-ups the Blue Jays have called up highly-touted prospects Daniel Norris, Dalton Pompey and Kendall Graveman among a few others.

It's been a good year overall for the Blue Jays farm system, as many of their players have skyrocketed up the ranks to the Major Leagues. Four of their Top 10 prospects (according to Baseball America's list last winter) have cracked the Blue Jays roster.

For example, Daniel Norris began the season in Single A, and he's been promoted through three levels of the minors this season. This is a guy who was pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts last year, and even then his results in Low A ball weren't all that great.

The same goes for Dalton Pompey who also started the season in Dunedin and will now suit up for the Blue Jays. Pompey spent the entire year in Single A in 2013, and after a stellar year capped off with an invitation to the MLB Futures game, he's set to join the club.

It's a stark contrast from previous years when the Blue Jays seemed extremely wary about starting the service time clock on their prospects. However, with the promotion of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez earlier this season, clearly they aren't as concerned with service time.

Norris and Pompey are likely the two players most fans will be excited to see, but there are a bevy of other young reinforcements coming the Blue Jays way: Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, Anthony Gose and Ryan Goins.

Now that the rosters have opened up, one can't be sure how much playing time these guys will get as the final month of the season gets underway. I can't imagine any of the pitchers would get innings out of the bullpen, and Pompey may only get the odd start here or there.

I suppose the one advantage of the Blue Jays nearly being out of the playoff picture is these call-ups might see more playing time where they otherwise would not. The manager and front office might be more inclined to give starts and innings these guys down the stretch.

Had the season been on the line, you might not see Dalton Pompey get a start in the outfield or Daniel Norris pitch out of the bullpen. But now ... you might.

While it's great to see all these young players make it to the bigs so quickly, one has to wonder if there's an ulterior motive by Alex Anthopoulos here. Never have we seen so many prospects promoted in September ... so why is that?

This might be two-fold; one, to simply see if these players can hack it at the Major League level (albeit it's in September). And secondly, perhaps Alex is trying to protect his job by fast-tracking the prospects that were drafted under his watch as General Manager.

Don't get me wrong; many of these young men rightfully earned their call-up to the Blue Jays. Daniel Norris has excelled at every level he's played at this season. Dalton Pompey lit it up in every level he's competed at this season: Single A, Double A and Triple A.

But I can't recall the Blue Jays organization ever being so swift to promote their prospects, which to some might scream as a panic move by Anthopoulos. But also, these prospects are cost-controllable assets; which are the best kinds of players to have for a General Manager's standpoint.

Is this all too much too soon? I say ... go for it.

We've all seen what can happen when an organization slowly and methodically progresses some of their players through the farm system. Many of them get injured (which delays their arrival anyway) and some don't even make it up to the Major Leagues.

Start the service clock early and see if these guys can compete at the Major League level. Showcase some of these young players and find out if they can potentially become mainstays on the roster next season or beyond.

Now is the time to get an extended look at these guys. It sounds like these are the players which will be the building blocks for this team once Bautista, Encarnacion and Dickey are gone. They're also the players which will supplement the aforementioned stars over the next few years.

Who knows if they'll all contribute to the big league roster next year, but if even one of these prospects turns into the likes of another Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez, it will all be worth it.

Image courtesy of Toronto Star

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