The Jays are struggling seriously on this road trip after leaving home with a 10-10 record and because of that there seems to be a common thread of fan frustration running through this week's mailbag. Going into the season, it didn’t seem that the lame-duck status of manager John Gibbons would be that much of an issue, but after just one failed month, the fact that Gibby is not contracted beyond ’08 seems to make his dismissal inevitable. The question is when, where and if it happens, will, or should, the GM be far behind? On to your questions.
Q: Dear Richard,
Have you seen the clip of Reed Johnson's catch in Chicago this past Friday? Can you please remind me why we let this guy go for Shannon Stewart? As well, I see that Frank Thomas just knocked in a pair of RBIs in his first game back with (the A’s). What was the urgent circumstance that led to his alienation and dismissal? I look at how the Jays have treated Thomas/Johnson and I can't help but associate those moves with the marginalizing of John McDonald and the departures of Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand. When is the other shoe going to drop on management? Will it fall in the clubhouse first? I'm watching this team and it looks as though they have completely tuned out Gibbons and by extension, J.P. Am I overreacting?
Mike Paris, Halifax
A: The Jays have made two major personnel decisions since the start of spring training, both based on salary rather than talent. Results never seem to turn out well when that happens. Johnson was making too much money because of an arbitration system that dictated where eligible guys slot in with years of service and performance. Thomas was making too much money because the Jays threw it at him.
The problem was compounded by the fact that the general manager has never been the most socially graceful and gracious when it comes to dealing with exes. Usually, before the door has hit the departing player in the ass, the Jays are bobbing and weaving in the attempt to control the team’s image. That never works either, because the remaining teammates can see what’s happening.
Reed Johnson could see the writing on the wall as soon as Shannon Stewart was signed. Frank Thomas may be well past his prime, but the Jays removed him from the lineup partly to make sure that he didn’t get the required at-bats to reach his vesting option of $10 million for ’09. As for John McDonald, he was praised to the skies when he signed his two-year deal, but is now buried at the end of the bench even though his skills could have been useful in an injury-plagued first three weeks. Shea Hillenbrand was just looking for a little love after becoming a father. Ted Lilly…well Ted Lilly was a bit of a strange cat and in the long run, having him sign elsewhere was a good thing for the Jays' rotation. The Jays are very heavy-handed as employers of young millionaires with issues.