Well, it’s back to Dunedin with the Jays this weekend after Team Canada’s disappointing showing at the World Baseball Classic.
If one of the goals of the WBC is to grow the game around the world, then the win by Italy over the Canadians and the Dutch advancing to Round 2 with two wins over the Dominican will certainly grow it in Europe. Is Sint-Oedenrode becoming the San Pedro de Macoris of Holland? And Australia looked pretty good against Mexico the other night.
One bright spot for Canada is that Phillipe Aumont, Dave Davidson, Scott Diamond and Chris Leroux look like a pretty good pitching nucleus for 2013 and Brett Lawrie should be ready to shore up the infield. If Scott Richmond doesn’t make the Jays rotation, he might consider retiring his name from any future Team Canada consideration, having missed both the Olympic and the WBC. On to the mail bag:
Q: Richard, real baseball is almost here, you know it starts after the Brier. Can you explain the Jays off-season? Did J.P. Ricciardi hurry hard after any pitchers with an upside such as Carl Pavano and Pedro Martinez? Were there any other pitchers who slid to other teams who the Jays were after? Also, is there any hope another GM will put the hammer down on a trade involving Lyle Overbay or Scott Rolen as there have been rumours involving both? Lastly, if the young pitchers do really well this year, will that leave a full house next year, and then what happens?
Tim Cook, Millbrook
A: J.P. stopped short of any hogline of desperation that would have come if he had checked with David Wells to see if he wanted to try a comeback. When it came to pitching this winter, J.P. pretty much blanked all his ends.
The most attractive asset the Jays have in terms of trade potential is definitely Lyle Overbay, That might happen at some point once Overbay proves he is healthy again, able to go gap-to-gap with extra-base power. His remaining two years at a reasonable salary can be appealing to mid-level contenders.
As for the potential of an overabundance of starting pitchers next year, Cito Gaston, the skip of this Jays crew, would be thrilled if he had seven or eight guys competing for five spots next spring. That could happen in ’10 if Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan return and if Brett Cecil, Brad Mills and Ricky Romero develop as expected.
Q: Hi Richard,
I think that Toronto fans have at times been unjustly accused of being “boring” and too “polite” when it comes to attending Blue Jay games. I think the WBC was a true indication of the deep passion that baseball fans have in this city. I think the quietness in the fans’ demeanors these past few years are more of a reflection that this team has not sniffed the playoffs in 16 years and counting. I still believe that if the Blue Jays could start building a consistent winner, then the team could gain a completely new generation of fans - those fans that attend Raptor games and who are rabid, loud, boisterous, and most importantly, passionate.
Zaki Ameen, Mississauga
A: Mike Marshall, a former relief pitcher who had a couple of unbelievable years in the early ’70s, had a lot of different theories about a lot of things. He was a bit of a strange dude, earning a degree in kinesiology from Michigan St. that allowed him to be called Dr. Marshall. In any case he had a theory on rabid sports fans and how it showed that there was something lacking in their lives that they could get so passionate about something over which they had no control. He claimed the quieter and more polite the crowd, the more well-adjusted they must be in their own lives. If Marshall was right, that would help explain Canadian baseball crowds compared to many of their American counterparts. If Marshall was wrong, then I guess it’s the 16 years without a playoff team that accounts for the quiet atmosphere at the Rogers Centre.
As for the WBC opener between USA and Canada, that was a great baseball atmosphere, but then what happened on Monday against the Italians? Same tournament, same goal, but the crowd was flat and Team Canada was flatter. How much of the Raptors’ boisterous atmosphere is created by the wall-of-sound that is allowed to continue being piped in even as play goes on? I love going to Raptors games, but baseball crowds don’t need quite the wattage to be good, knowledgeable, enthusiastic crowds.
Q: Could you please update the status of the rotation. Is there reason for optimism? I have read that the 4th and 5th starter's positions are up for grabs. Do you think that David Purcey is a 3rd or might he be out-pitched in spring training?
Marcus Heinrichsm Stouffville
A: Purcey still has a lot to prove, but he would need to be out-pitched by three other starting pitchers in camp, a couple of them with fewer major-league credentials than he has. I can’t see that happening. With Purcey as the No. 3 guy, I can see Scott (Canadian Phantom) Richmond being a fourth starter, with maybe Brett Cecil being the five.
Personally, I would break camp with Matt Clement in the rotation and ride him until he can’t pitch anymore, allowing my young guys to get a few more innings at Triple-A before throwing them into the major-league fire. It’s looking less and less like Dustin McGowan will be back by June, so there will be rotation decisions to be made all year.
Q: Hello Mr. Griffin, after writing to you a few times from Guelph, I have now ended up in Paris. Unfortunately baseball is not one of the big sports here, but I guess considering what the Jays roster looks like this year, I am not missing much, although I would enjoy having shots of Jack Daniels with Kevin Millar before games to get fired up. Anyways, on to the question. I keep hearing Tony Lacava could be a great GM and has been rumoured or in the running for jobs before, the Pirates come to mind. Going through front office and personnel moves, what do you think the Jays should do heading into 2010, which youngsters could make the leap by then and finally do you see Roy Halladay in a Jays uniform come April 1 2010?
Marc Oliver, Paris
A: Tony LaCava was a strong candidate for the Pirates and the Mariners jobs and may be part of the search by the Nationals. He would become the first J.P. Ricciardi assistant in eight years to move on and become a GM elsewhere. Hmm! Matriculating under J.P. seems to be like going after a CEO job of a Fortune 500 company with a degree from the DeVry Institute.
As for Halladay, I really don’t see him in a Jays uniform on April 1, 2010. That’s the final year of his current contract and I think he will be given the opportunity to pick a list of teams and negotiate an extension as part of any trade. That would also allow the Jays to maximize the return that they get in any deal. Consider A.J. Burnett’s Yankee deal as the starting-off point for Doc’s next contract and the Jays can’t afford that and won’t be able to even in 2011. The 2010 rotation would then include whomever they get in a Halladay deal, plus four from among Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, McGowan, Brett Cecil and maybe Brad Mills. Not bad to build on.
Q: Richard, what is your professional opinion on control pitcher and power pitcher. It seems to me power pitchers have a higher ceiling but they always end up injured and they usually have a higher price tag. On the other hand, control pitchers seem to be more consistent and they have longer careers. So do you think it is better to invest on control pitcher rather than power pitchers. And how many Jays' young guns would you consider as control pitchers and how many control pitchers will you put in your starting five.
Davy P., San Jose
A: I don’t think that being a power pitcher necessarily means you can’t also be a control pitcher. I think a better word than “control” for what you are describing is “finesse”.
I think more power pitchers are drafted early out of high school because scouts can recognize a 93 mph fastball from an 18-year-old and believe if he turns pro that the organization can teach him how to pitch. A lot of the finesse guys out of high school have to go to college to refine their finesse and impress scouts.
As for power pitchers being injured, there have been a lot of power pitchers that have pitched into their 40s, like Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton and others.
Personally, I like higher ceiling guys. I’ve seen too many college pitchers with great NCAA statistics get stuck in the high minors or else top out as 4-5 starters. Given my druthers, I’d rather have five power pitchers with good control than a rotation of finesse guys.
Regarding Casey Janssen, you said his best place might be as an inning-eating mop-up guy. If you need somebody to go into the game in the 3rd, your chances of winning are probably very small. Why would the Jays use one of their few decent pitchers in such a role? Isn't that a place to stash your worst major league pitcher, since you probably won't win that game anyways?
Also, classifying Janssen as “always succeeding from the bullpen, seldom succeeding as a starter” is ridiculous. The guy has played 2 years in the majors, one in each role. His successful season as a bullpen arm came in his 2nd year, after he'd gained valuable experience as a starter in his rookie year. If a one-year trend counts as “always,” I guess we can forgo the season as the Phillies will always win from here on out.
Ian Toye, Toronto
A: I don’t believe the term “mop-up guy” was ever used in referring to Janssen’s best role. There is an extremely important role for good middle-men, guys that can enter a game when the starter struggles early and carry a game through the sixth inning. It’s not always in games that you’re being blown out. Recall the game that Ted Lilly and John Gibbons got into their famous dustup. The Jays had built a big lead, but Lilly couldn’t get through enough innings to earn a win, so he was taken out and took exception.
Secondly, Janssen is not one of their few decent pitchers. This is a Jays’ staff that led the league in ERA for both starters and relievers. But there are roles to be filled.
Thirdly, your ability to misquote the printed word is quite stunning. The fact of the matter is that Janssen, according to his pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, is better served at this stage of his career coming out of the bullpen. Until he gets an effective third pitch in his repertoire, once through the lineup may be Janssen’s best role. Just because a guy is making his second marriage work, does that necessarily mean he should go back and try it again with his first wife? Sometimes it takes a while to find something you’re good at and then you move on. Never say never and never say always. Go Phillies.
Q: Ni Hao Richard,
It seems as though the A's are giving up on Bobby Crosby, for the time being at least. I realize that the Jays are short on assets but could they make a reasonable offer for him? We all know how JP loves to make trades with his buddy Billy.
Brad T., Zhongshan, PRC
A: It doesn’t seem as though the A’s are just giving up on Crosby; they have given up on him. He is scheduled to make $5.25 million in the final year of his contract and they would love to have someone take him off their hands. They signed Orlando Cabrera for one year, $4 million and they can’t both play. Crosby has not had an on-base percentage above .300 since 2005. There were plenty of other assets available for $5 million this past winter that didn’t require draft-choice compensation and the Jays didn’t act on any of them, so they won’t on Crosby…and in fact shouldn’t.
Q: Who is going to bat leadoff on this team? Since trading Shannon Stewart in his prime the Jays really haven't had a solid leadoff guy (with one great season from Reed Johnson as an exception). When the David Eckstein experiment failed they were running Rios and even Wells out there in the leadoff spot.
Looking at this lineup I see no good candidates. Aaron Hill might be the best shot, but he's never hit well at the top of the order, and he's coming back from a major injury. One doesn't ponder long before the name Marco Scutaro gets serious consideration (it's that bad!). Does Lind get consideration for this? He didn't hit well at the two spot when he first came up. Is anyone in Dunedin debating this issue? What's Cito likely to do?
Ken S., Toronto
A: Damning with faint praise, Cito will only describe Marco Scutaro as “the best leadoff hitter we have.” He would like to see Aaron Hill bat second against right and left-handers. Then he wants Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, which gives him four right-handed hitters at the top of the order. Very unusual.
Personally, I still like Alex Rios as a leadoff man with 30-30 potential. Then you could bat Lind third and Overbay fifth, protecting Vernon on both sides and making opponents work at managing their bullpen. Do you really want Scutaro getting more at-bats than anyone else on the team?
Rios, Hill, Lind, Wells, Overbay, Rolen, Travis Snider, Rod Barajas and Scutaro.
Q: Hi Richard,
If JP's hands are tied by ownership, at what point does he decide that his future lies elsewhere? As disappointing as his tenure has been in Toronto, I have to believe he has contacts in other organizations or could find some other team willing to buy into the hype.
Scott Shaw, Milton
A: As amazing as it seems, the young GM that arrived eight years ago in Toronto to save the organization on a budget in November of 2001 is no longer considered a young GM in major-league baseball. There are now many more “boy-genius” GMs littering the landscape – some have even won something. As for J.P.’s current situation, there is no doubt that his hands have been tied financially by ownership and, as such, he seems to have thrown them in the air in frustration.
If this is indeed the final season for Ricciardi as GM, it will not be his decision because he is under contract through 2010. It will depend on Paul Beeston’s search for the next president, the leading candidate who I think was spotted playing golf with the real killer in the O.J. case. I would not be surprised if Ricciardi’s next job is not as GM with another team but as a senior advisor to a GM, which would allow him to remain at home in Worcester, Mass. He has always said that he doesn’t see himself as a lifer in terms of being a GM. There was hype surrounding him in ’01. There is no hype now.
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