Blue Jays mail bag
Richard Griffin answers your Blue Jays questions.
Q: Hello Richard,
I was wondering if you think Jeremy Accardo can be a successful set-up man or do you think it takes the added pressure of finishing off a game to get the best out of him?
Rob MacKay, Calgary
A: Actually, I think that Accardo’s best role would be as a setup man, so as soon as B.J. Ryan is healthy enough to go back-to-back games, which won’t be in April, then Accardo should become the primary setup man, with Scott Downs. No, Accardo is not one of those classic guys who needs the adrenaline rush of a save situation. He’s not wired that way and is more of a laid back guy where the situation doesn’t matter. But of Ryan can’t go or has a setback, then, at least, Accardo has a one-year track record of doing the job.
Q: Hey Richard,
I'm so glad baseball is around the corner! Is it just me or is the off-season over in the snap of a finger? Anyway, my question to you: With Roy Halladay a pitching stud, do you think the Jays will let Johnny McDonald get the start on days he pitches? I think it would only be fair since his defence would be more necessary than his offence, and with all the groundouts Halladay gets McDonald would be a smart choice with his slick fielding. It could also give Eckstein a day off in the field.
Hank Thomas, Whitby, Ont.
A: That’s a great question. I was sitting down in one of those early-spring sessions with John Gibbons and the rest of the writers and I was going to ask him that very question, because it’s a scenario that played itself out last year with Royce Clayton and McDonald in Halladay starts. Before McDonald took over the shortstop job, full time, it was apparent that Johnny Mac was always in the lineup on days that Doc was starting. Now plenty of pitchers have their personal catchers, but Halladay had his personal shortstop. And, as you point out, Halladay is a pitching stud and doesn’t really need five or six runs behind him. What he needs is one or two special defensive plays in the hole or up the middle. I think spring training will tell the story on this one. I can’t see it as an every start occurrence, but if John Gibbons is going to give David Eckstein a day off it might very well be in Halladay starts.
Q: Hi Richard,
Feel pretty good about my Jays this year and will see some games in Anaheim. What about the crazy unbalanced schedule? Seems the Yankees get to beat up on KC every year (10 games vs. KC as opposed to seven each for Jays and Boston). New York also plays 18 games vs NL teams vs. 15 for us and the BoSox. Six of these are road games vs. the Mets - no travel required. Is the schedule stacked in favour of the Yankees this year?
Ray Stockus, La Quinta, CA
A: My guess is that you’re old school about your baseball and forgot that Milwaukee shifted over to the NL many moons ago. If you include the three that the Bosox and the Jays play vs. the Brewers, then all three AL East teams play 18 inter-league contests in ’08. In addition, the Yankees and Mets play just six times, not nine. They are considered traditional rivals (obviously) and the Jays don’t seem to have one of those now that the Expos have moved on. It's hard to get worked up over a series vs. the Nationals (grrr!).
As for the Yankees and Royals playing 10 times, that’s just luck of the draw. The Jays play the A’s 10 times this year and Oakland will be horrible. By the way, the AL East gets to play the NL Central in inter-league and that’s a chance for some wins for all three East contenders. That’s important for the wild-card race.
Q: Hi Richard.
I have been anxiously awaiting the new baseball season and I am glad to see Spring Training has arrived. I will be taking in some games in Dunedin for the first time ever and I am very excited to see how this year’s edition of the club pans out this spring. Many Jays fans, myself included, were frustrated last year with the inability of the offence to manufacture runs. It often appeared that John Gibbons and his team were banking on a big hit to cash in some runs instead of playing small ball - hit and run, bunting and sacrificing outs to advance runners. My question is this: Do you see a change in style emerging this year with the acquisition of Eckstein as our leadoff guy? Where do Vernon and Rios fit into the batting order? I believe that we need to take better advantage of their speed. Should the Big Hurt be dropped in the order to fifth or sixth as to avoid him clogging up the bases in the early innings? Thanks for your time. I hope to spark up some Blue Jays chat with you in Dunedin.
Kevin Cooke, Toronto
A: That’s a very astute observation about the "inability to manufacture runs." In an interview early this spring, Aaron Hill said very much the same thing, but when I asked Gibbons about it, he claimed that it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t cost the Jays many games. Of course, if he stated the obvious about it being a devastating weakness of the ’07 club, he would have been pointing a finger directly at fired hitting coach Mickey Brantley, a good friend of his. So don’t expect Gibby to go along with that indictment of situational hitting.
But you will, indeed, see a different offence with Eckstein at the top of the order. Most of the hit-and-run action will come at the bottom of the order with Aaron Hill, Gregg Zaun and the others. However, when Reed Johnson is batting second, it will happen at the top.
As for the batting order, I believe that Rios is a better third-place hitter than Wells and that Wells should bat fourth behind Rios. After those two big righthanded bats, the Jays should hit the doubles-machine Lyle Overbay with Thomas hitting sixth ahead of Scott Rolen. Against lefthanders, it would be okay to move Thomas up to fifth.
Q: A few questions about the Blue Jays drafting philosophy. It seems that the last two drafts might produce some good prospects. Does this have more to do with better scouting or increasing the potential pool of players by 50-percent by actually drafting high school prospects? Also, with a shift off their usual college-only stand, will this extend to taking high school pitchers? Some experts would have you believe that high school pitchers break down sooner than college pitchers. Is there any real proof of this? I can name at least 10 top college draft picks in the last three years that have run into injury problems, a few of them being Blue Jays prospects. Thank you and keep up the great work.
Dave Smith, Winnipeg
A: I believe that GM J.P. Ricciardi actually does learn on the job, although he is forever reluctant to admit it. The fact the Jays had so many picks in the first two rounds last year allowed the Jays to mix it up with long-range high school kids and quick-fix (?) college prospects. The success of his Travis Snider selection in ’06 may have encouraged him to tap into the high school reservoir.
As for arm issues, over the years it has always seemed to me that the top college starters in the draft invariably show up with arms that need immediate rest and rehab because their college coaches ride them through the NCAA tournaments like rented mules. It’s the high school kids who are fresher, with many fewer innings under their belts. The reason it seems like high school pitchers break down more is that they have more years of development before reaching the majors and therefore more chances to get hurt. Plus, high school pitchers, with still developing bodies, tend to hit a wall the first time they play an April through August schedule of 20-plus starts.
A question about Jason Arnold. He used to be one of the names we heard about as a highly touted future starting pitcher for the Blue Jays - the type who would develop into a potential ace. Now, he doesn't seem to be anywhere on the club’s radar. Will he ever develop any further than a minor league pitcher?
Jeff Crowell, Burlington
A: Jason Arnold, along with John-Ford Griffin, was one of Ricciardi’s prized acquisitions early in his tenure as GM. He used shortstop Felipe Lopez as the trigger for a three-way deal that landed the two former No. 1 picks. Arnold never really took the next step in the minors, but as long as Lopez was an all-star with the Reds, the Jays continued to tout Arnold and Griffin as primo prospects. Then when Lopez’s star began to fade in Cincinnati, the Jays eased back on the Arnold/Griffin hype. Now that Lopez has been traded and the buzz is gone, faded into the mists of time, Arnold has retired (over a year ago) from the game and Griffin was recently released.
Q: With the starting rotation nearly set, and looking to be composed of five right-handers,
a) Do you think the absence of a lefty in the mix, especially when it will come to 3-4-game series, will be much of a disadvantage, if any? And, if so,
b) Why haven't the Jays entertained the idea of using Scott Downs as their potential fifth starter, over Gustavo Chacin? Downs can go deeper into a game, has had qualifiable experience, is more stable and consistent and, between the two southpaws, is the more practical choice. Let Chacin, who has less stamina, but who has shown he can at least work a couple solid innings, work out of the gate, instead.
Darrell Holtze, Guelph, Ont.
A: The Jays at one time in one off-season considered Downs as a candidate to be their fifth starter, but that was the year Chacin stepped up to fill the lefty role. The Jays considered Downs a guy to give you a solid five or six innings, but with no upside to become a deep-into-the-game type guy. When he first came over to the Jays, Downs was not really considered a classic “situational lefty” because his numbers vs. right and lefthanded hitters were similar. But, since then he has worked hard to become that guy and earned a three-year deal from the Jays because of that skill. His window of opportunity to be a starting pitcher has closed.
As for whether it’s a disadvantage in a four-game series, I don’t think so, if it’s just for the sake of having a lefthander go out. There are some teams that you wish you had five lefthanded starters, but just in general, you go with your best, right or left. Chacin is not in that mix.
Q: Hi Richard,
Looking forward to your mailbag. Just a few questions about work ethic. Have long heard that Doc Halladay is one of the hardest workers in spring and the first one at the clubhouse. Who else in this group do you see putting in the effort above and beyond “standard” amounts, striving to improve? I'd assume Reed Johnson works harder than most and has something to prove this season, but hopefully young guys like Marcum/McGowan/Hill/Downs/Accardo/etc. continue to work even after their success last season. Is Frank Thomas in better shape this year or will he use the first month as his training camp again? Do you see bounce-back seasons coming from guys who are coming off poor years due to injuries like Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells? I'm looking forward to seeing them healthy again.
Matt Smart, Toronto
A: These guys all work hard to condition themselves because of the amount of money at stake. Dustin McGowan admired the Halladay workout regime and learned to adapt the basics to himself. Many of the guys head to the weight room after games and they are always available for extra hitting and studying video during the season. Reed Johnson is particularly diligent when it comes to workout and preparation because of his history of injuries in the minor leagues and the fact that he is not as naturally gifted as some other hitters. A lot of people bet against him ever being here, so he doesn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to send him back.
Q: Given the fact Troy Glaus asked to be traded because he didn't feel his knees would hold up on the turf in Toronto, how would you rate the Scott Rolen/Troy Glaus trade? Best possible deal for a guy we couldn't keep around/keep healthy?
Josh Stuart, Toronto
A: First impressions are that I really like the Glaus for Rolen deal. Having seen Rolen’s clubhouse persona in the post-season with the Cards for a couple of years, he is a refreshing change from the shy, unfriendly, dour Glaus. Young teammates always learn from watching their older teammates and nobody learned anything good about dealing with media from Glaus. Not that that is the most important thing to worry about, but whenever you can cut the tension with a chainsaw in the clubhouse it’s never good. The clubhouse will be better for it and if Rolen is healthy, the pitchers will benefit from his defence.
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