Blue Jays mail bag
Talk about variations on a theme this week. I never thought that I would be the most reasonable voice in a welling-up wilderness of flat-out calls for GM J.P. Ricciardi’s head, but it looks like I may very well be. It seems that either people are feeling sorry for manager John Gibbons this week or the realization is that with the injury to Vernon Wells, the Jays’ "chicken-salad offence" has been left out in direct sunlight a little too long and has become something else. Anyway, on to the mailbag.
What are the chances of the Blue Jays being contracted from Major League Baseball? Doing so seems like the only way for me to break my obsession with this pathetic team and organization. This season really has me at the end of my rope. If not, is there some form of sports fan rehab available?
James Riswick, Los Angeles
A: The Jays have never been in better financial shape, which makes Ted Rogers and his ivory-tower team very, very happy. Unfortunately, because of the improved performance of the Canadian dollar, the de-improved performance of the Canadian Blue Jays becomes more acceptable to the powers-that-be. It’s like that feeling you have after over-eating a great meal. All you want to do is loosen your belt, lie down and have a nap and everything seems good.
I know you were being facetious about that contraction thing, but the funny thing is I wouldn’t be surprised if the next negotiation with the players association in 2012 brings calls for two teams being contracted by current ownership. Maybe if a couple of teams are vapourized, the Jays could find another Brad Wilkerson, Kevin Mench or Jorge Velandia in the dispersal draft and spur a playoff run. In your darkest Jays moments, just think of the Maple Leafs. Things could be worse.
Q: Now (David) Eckstein and Johnny Mac (McDonald) are both hurt, how soon you think J.P. Ricciardi will release either of them (or both)? If J.P. does not believe Johnson has recovered from his back injury then why should J.P. believe Eckstein will fully recover from his hip injury or Johnny from his ankle injury (with a new contract!)? Is there a scheduled bobblehead day for either player later on this season? I hope not. If they do, please ask them to get some Zorro masks and put it on the bobblehead. This way it could be anybody bobblehead day. Oh yes, it could be J.P. bobblehead and I can’t wait to land my hand on one of those. And if it sounds like I am calling for his head, yes I am.
Davy P., San Jose
A: I believe that sometimes Ricciardi is actually using the DL to postpone having to make personnel decisions when he has painted himself into a corner by adding guys from outside the organization like Mench and Wilkerson. Okay, one easy decision when one of the walking wounded shortstops return is Velandia. But, when the other guy comes back, then what? I guess Joe (Suitcase) Inglett is next. And what about Vernon Wells? When all three guys are back in mid-July (Eck, Mac and V-Dub) in reality, I think it would come down to a decision between releasing Mench or Shannon Stewart.
The next scheduled bobblehead was supposed to be May 25 with Frank Thomas. The Jays ended up quickly donating the 25,000 Thomas dolls to charity. Gee thanks. Let’s see, the healing waters of Lourdes…or, Thomas bobblehead…hmm! I’ll take door No. 3, Monty.
Q: Hi Richard, I’ve been a loyal supporter of Blue Jays baseball, win or lose, since I was a fetus in the early 80’s. Now, I’m beginning to think the Jays and I need some time apart. The latest instance of poor management that leaves me baffled is the left field position and the use of Shannon Stewart.
The Reed Johnson issue aside, he’s been a hard working, great guy who was brought up through our organization. He’s struggling like everyone on the team, but he’s been a symbol of consistency throughout his career, yearly batting around .300 with a little bit of production. No all-star, but he provides consistency which the Jays lack. However, management’s solution to the offensive drought is to sign two players that haven’t been able to find consistency in a couple of years, and have been released or playing in Triple A.
It seems like they are trying to catch lightning in a bottle at this point, and with their history of doing that (see John Thomson, Victor Zambrano, Toma Ohka), it seems like a ridiculous decision. They want to win now, and they want to attract fans by winning, but they are very close to truly annoying their loyal fans. Ted, if you’re reading this, I really think management has to go. I am curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
Shaun A., Toronto
A: You’ve been a fan that long? Wow. “Fetus don’t fail me now.” That, I believe should be the Jays’ new sales slogan to very, very young -- in fact, yet unborn -- fans of the Jays in the ‘00s. (Of course, they get in free accompanied by their mothers). Unfortunately the Jays continue to fail mid-20s fans like yourself by over-promising and under-performing. Hey Jays management, maybe fans wouldn’t drink so much on toonie Tuesdays if the baseball was better and they were getting their money’s worth. Shaun, if you choose to try a trial separation, I don’t think you would be the lone stranger in that regard.
Yeah, left field is the mystery meat this year. Reed was let go so that Matt Stairs and Stewart could platoon. Now Stairs is the DH and Stewart has company to his misery, with the presence of Wilkerson and Mench and, oh yeah, super-sub Inglett with the occasional outfield start. Stewart is a solid offensive player, but it’s tough to perform when your presence in the lineup is day-to-day and you bounce around the batting order. Stew has no real confidants in the clubhouse and his uncertain status wears on him. He’s in a tough spot, handling it like a pro. Yes, J.P. is always trying to catch lightning in a bottle, but the last guy to do that successfully was a guy named Benjamin Franklin.
Q: Eckstein and Johnny Mac are both on the DL. Call up Joe Inglett, and bring in someone else from outside the club (Brad Wilkerson?) Cool. Great. What happens when both SS are able to come back? Who is the odd man out and gets released? If (Right Handed Type Bat) hits well, then what happens? The other call-ups we can send back to AAA, but what happens in 15 days?
Nicholas Hung, Toronto
A: That issue seems to go unaddressed with Jays management. As I said earlier in the mailbag, for McDonald, who was walking around the clubhouse in Cleveland with just slight swelling in his ankle and with no limp, and for Eckstein, who was not on the trip and may take longer to heal, the decisions are not that difficult with Inglett and Velandia. But if Wells had not been hurt, Ricciardi had already acquired Mench and Wilkerson.
I think the next guy to go is between Mench and Stewart and since Mench was the last one in, then Shannon may be the next one out. What have you done for me yesterday?
Q: Richard, I don't understand J.P.'s plan. He traded Troy Glaus for Orlando Hudson. He chose Shannon Stewart over Reed Johnson. He took David Eckstein over John McDonald. He puts so much emphasis on offence, and it is so funny that Jays are struggling with the offence.
The teams J.P. puts together just do not have a chemistry. I believe the Blue Jays organization was patient enough. It's time to change the direction of team with a new general manager. It is painful to watch Jays losing with such a great starting rotation.
Yosuke Abe, Vancouver, B.C.
A: Plan? Plan? We don’t need no stinkin’ plan! The Jays are struggling with runners in scoring position. They are middle of the pack in the all-important on-base percentage and in bases-on-balls. Yippee! They work the count, work the pitcher and pass the responsibility of driving guys in down to the guy behind them in the batting order. With the way this team hits with RISP, if they had signed Barry Bonds, every time there was a man at second or beyond, unless the bases were loaded, Bonds would have been walked.
The middle of a season is a bad time to name a new general manager. If nothing changes for the good, it will surely happen in the off-season, buying out the final two seasons of Ricciardi’s deal.
Q: Richard, It is becoming apparent that the Jays MUST acquire an impact bat ASAP as they are on the verge of wasting what may be the best starting rotation since 1993 (you could argue it is the best rotation in Jays history). Brad Wilkerson was a guy who was designated for assignment by Seattle. I don't understand what Ricciardi is thinking. Does he actually think a guy who cannot even crack an awful team’s lineup is the answer? Shannon Stewart has been awful, and the Jays have lost a good 4-5 games that they not only should have won but HAD to win. They need to make a drastic trade to acquire an impact bat like Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton or Adam Dunn. The lack of power on this team is alarming.
Joey Wilson, Toronto
A: The thing about making a major deal for a bat is it’s a little early in the season for that. Most teams are still evaluating what they have and giving their slow-starting players a chance to get it all in gear.
I think once it gets to mid-June, clubs that need starting pitching will start calling the Jays. They will ask for Dustin McGowan or Shaun Marcum and they will be offered Burnett. Then they will balk because of the opt-out after this season. Then J.P. will demand too much and offer too little. Then the other team will think about it. Then they will go somewhere else and make a deal for a pitcher. Then Jays fans will say, “Hey, how come we couldn’t get that hitter?” Then J.P. will say, “Hey, we made a better offer.” Then the Jays will continue on in ’08 with great pitching and no offence. Then the Jays will finish third. The song remains the same.
Q: Dear Richard, I just finished hurling some “not fit for print” words at my television in reaction to the Jays inability to win in the bottom of the 10th when they began with Rios on third, no outs. Once my blood pressure came back to earth, it made me question what is going on with our hitting (or lack thereof). I read many calls for Gibbons head on a platter during the early season skid, but I don’t remember (Gary) Denbo’s head being included as part of the desired package. If I recall all the noise last year about (Mickey) Brantley where ultimately his exit signaled to the general public that he was part (or all?) of the problem, what part (or all) of the current lack of hitting and inability to execute when it really matters (i.e. with runners on base) do you think is attributable to the current hitting coach and do you think a change would make a difference? Thanks,
Carrie from Port Credit, Ontario
A: Gary Denbo has not done the job. He is a Ricciardi hire. Brantley was a Gibbons hire. Gibby is loyal to his man. Ricciardi is loyal to his man. To this day, you will not hear Gibby say anything bad about last year’s hitting deficiencies. On the other hand, he will not praise this year’s offence, nor criticize the lack of RISP production to sound as if he’s piling on the new guy. In defence of Denbo, you will only hear J.P. patiently explain that veteran hitters with a track record will always find their level so he has great faith that it will happen here with his veterans.
Recall that when Denbo was hired as the Jays’ hitting coach, the man he beat out was Dwayne Murphy, who was already and still is in the Jays’ organization as minor-league hitting instructor. It would have been easy. Murphy had previous major-league experience with the Diamondbacks. Murphy’s 2001 D-Backs beat Denbo’s 2001 Yankees for the World Series title. I guess winning isn’t everything.
Q: Hi Richard, What happened to Curtis Thigpen? I thought he looked great last year and could actually throw out base stealers - a chronic problem for (Gregg) Zaun. Wouldn't he be better than (Rod) Barajas as a back up catcher?
Mark Weatherley, Stratford, Ont.
A: I talked to Thigpen at the minor-league complex at the end of spring training and his head was in another space. Having had the major-league experience, he was having trouble adjusting to being back in the minors. He thought that he was just going to Syracuse to get some at-bats. He believed that they were just planning on playing him at other positions so they could keep him and Robinson Diaz in the lineup at the same time. He didn’t believe that they wanted him to work his butt off defensively at the other positions so that he could become a major-league utility man. His stock as a catcher had fallen and the only way he could make it back to the majors was as Joe Inglett. He still has time but the epiphany has yet to settle upon his shoulders.
Q: Hey Richard, you really have your finger on the "pulse" of this team! How do you feel about Brad Wilkerson? I feel he is "more of the same", i.e. a guy who strikes out far more often than he walks. We don't need this. The Jays could use a guy who makes fewer outs.
Looks like time to bring up Travis Snider and see what he's made of. I view him more as a first baseman (after Lyle Overbay's tenure) but reports seem to indicate that he would not do a worse job than the current (and anticipated) group of left fielders. Could provide the "spark" the team is looking for.
Charles Bernard, St. Catharines, Ont.
A: Hmm. Attempting to describe the two new outfielders, Mench has a body similar to front man of the Fisher Cats, Travis Snider, while Wilkerson has hands similar to front man of Twisted Sister, Dee Snider. Neither one has skills similar to Dodgers Hall-of-Famer Duke Snider. The funniest line of the weekend past in Cleveland was from Mike Rutsey of the Sun claiming after the first game Wilkerson played right field and booted several ground ball singles that it looked like he was playing “with a garbage can lid instead of a glove.”
Historically, Ricciardi seems to eventually acquire guys he was once infatuated with…but when he gets them, they’re way past their prime. Okay, so back in the ‘70s I had a crush on Bo Derek and would have liked to acquire her, but I got over it. She doesn’t look the same in cornrows now as she did in the movie “10”. Wilkerson doesn’t produce now like he did back in 2002-04 with the Expos when he had 71 homers and 33 steals.
Q: I am going down a path that even I can not believe I am suggesting but here it goes. With the pitching staff looking so good right now, is it time to consider trading Doc (Halladay). Think about what we could get from say the Yankees for him. We need offence, I am sure we could get a lot of offence with Doc as a big chip. With A.J. likely to opt out at 11 million and Doc’s salary off the books at 16 million, the Jays would have 27 million to splash into the free agent market next season while we would get young inexpensive talent back for Doc. It might as well be an eight-year plan for Riccardi anyways. Thoughts?
Brian M., Barrie, Ont.
A: I think that trading Halladay would be a disastrous move for the Jays at this point in time. This is one guy that really wants to be here and that the other pitchers look up to for his ability and his work ethic. Even when Halladay has been injured, he has been a presence in the clubhouse. The guy to offer in trade is Burnett. Any team would have to extend his deal for free agent type off-season money for him to accept a deal, but the Mets, Yankees and others could do it.
Don’t trade Doc.
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