It’s great to have baseball back in town again in a city where the pro sports teams seem to be doing their bit for the environment by not having to stage any of those pesky playoff games that use up that oh-so valuable energy to heat and light their buildings. The Leafs, Argos, Raps, FC and Jays all seem to believe in taking a carbon footprint to the keister for the team. Al Gore would be proud.
On the positive side, baseball seems to finally have figured out that if you have some domes and other warm weather teams, why not take advantage and open the season in those cities. But the fact of the matter is the Jays need to get off to a quick start in ’09 to maintain the attention of Toronto’s sports community with NHL playoffs opening next week. So far so good for the local nine as far as scoring runs, with many of the missing pieces from last year, like Aaron Hill and Scott Rolen, combining with the newer kids on the block, Adam Lind and Travis Snider, to make it fun to be at the ballpark again. On to the mailbag.
Q: Hi Richard,
Last season I went to two Jays games at Rogers Centre. Both of them surprisingly were 1-0 wins for the Jays. The first against the Atlanta Braves, as A.J. Burnett had 11 strikeouts in July. The second was against the Tampa Bay Rays with David Purcey pitching his best game of his career last September. He went eight innings, seven strikeouts, three walks, no runs. Do you see Purcey being a legitimate No. 2 starter and coming up with several performances similar to this during the 2009 season, replacing Burnett?
Jon Yaneff, Newmarket
A: I’m like you. I would much rather see a great pitching battle than a loosely played slugfest. But first of all, it should be noted, Purcey is really only in the No. 2 slot in the rotation to start the year in order to separate Roy Halladay from Jesse Litsch in the rotation, so that you don’t get two right-handers in a row with (vaguely) similar features.
As far as Purcey being even a true No. 3 guy for a major-league team, Tuesday’s start vs. the Tigers shows that he has the potential for it, but the fact is it was only his 13th start in the majors and it takes more of a track record than that to prove that you can be a reliable mid-rotation guy. Thus the jury is still out on Purcey. He pitched great for the most part in his season debut with no decision.
A winning team really needs three of five starters working on all cylinders. The Jays need Litsch and Purcey to step up and join Halladay. It’s possible by the end of the year, but hasn’t happened yet.
Assuming the development of Brett Cecil, Brad Mills, Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond goes along as planned and they all become quality major league pitchers, what happens to them in 2010 when McGowan and Marcum are back in the rotation? Also, Is it just me or could Scott Richmond be Ernie's (from Ernie and Burt) long lost twin?
Colin Rabyniuk, Newmarket
A: It never ever happens that any organization will go four-for-four in developing young starters into major-league rotation pieces all in the same year. I would venture, instead, that the best chance for a significant five-man rotation next year, assuming everyone returns healthy and assuming Halladay is still on board would include: Doc, Marcum, McGowan, Litsch and one of the four left-handers, either Purcey, Cecil, Romero or Mills. And don’t forget Casey Janssen.
As we’ve pointed out previously, you have to look at more than five starters for a winning organization. The Jays last season used eight different starting pitchers and the year before, in ’07, used 11. But it’s realistic to believe that even if the full allotment of starters were ready by 2010, whomever the Jays GM is by then would package at least one, maybe two of them in a trade for help in other areas. By next season, the Jays may need a first-baseman, and definitely a shortstop until Justin Jackson is ready to take over by the 2011 or 2012 season.
Q: Hi Richard,
Love the column! We have all heard that J.P. is likely near the end of his time here in Toronto. My question is what happens next? When a new GM is brought in (any idea who?), do you see him clearing house and changing over the roster? I draw the comparison to the Leafs. When Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke came aboard, it was immediately clear that the new regime would buy-out/trade as much of the old roster as possible so that the team could be rebuilt from the ground up for long term success. I'm concerned that the Jays are not bad enough to completely rebuild but at the same time not good enough to really be competitive in the AL East.
Marcus Gordon, Stouffville
A: The Jays’ next GM most certainly still is working at another major-league job for another team right now. Besides, his identity will all depend on who the next president is that eventually enters stage right to replace interim-president-for-life Paul Beeston. It will be the new guy’s candidate.
Luckily for the Jays’ they have a couple of men already on board that could easily serve as interim GM while the search for a Ricciardi replacement goes on – Tony LaCava or Alex Anthopoulos. Both will likely become candidates for the full-time position. But don’t look for anything similar to the Leafs situation of buyouts and extensive roster turnover. First of all, unlike what the sartorially resplendent Dutchie suggested on TSN last week when discussing Ricky Romero over Troy Tulowitzki in 2005, in baseball there is no trading of, or for draft choices. That’s important to consider when trying to deal unwanted major-league talent. In addition, in baseball there are no partial buyouts of contracts. For example, if you wanted to buy Vernon Wells out, you would have to pay him the entire value of his guaranteed contract. That would not work in terms of being a rebuilding tool.
Your final statement is also very wise and very true. The Jays are not bad enough to completely rebuild and not good enough to really be competitive in the AL East. The Jays like to point to the Rays in ’08 as the role model, but the fact is the Rays didn’t just drop from the ceiling with draft choices developing all at once. They made sage moves obtaining Matt Garza and their shortstop in trades and signing a veteran clubhouse leader in Cliff Floyd as a DH.
Q: Hi Richard,
Like one of your readers in the last mailbag, I am also a transplanted Jays fan living in Sydney, Australia. While still a huge baseball fan, after 17 years here I am also a big fan of cricket. In fact, I have come to the opinion that it is a far more skillful game than baseball. The batsmen may have a larger, wider bat surface, but they have to play the ball on a bounce at speeds that rival MLB pitching speeds. Their eye-hand co-ordination is phenomenal as they can bat the ball in a 360 degree direction. Some of them have extraordinary power.
So my question is why aren't any of the star cricket batsmen trialed as potential DH's? Do you know if this has been tried before? I can't really find anyone down here to answer that question. As you and JP are good friends, perhaps you could suggest this idea to him?
Rob Brander, Sydney Australia
A: I asked my friend JP and my interpretation of his decidedly quick response is he was suggesting I take that “cricketer-to-baseball” idea up to the Yukon in late December – something about sticking it where the sun don’t shine. Besides, I didn’t even know they played baseball in the Yukon.
In any case, one of the other parts of your question in which you describe the phenomenal hand-eye coordination of cricketers, batting the ball in a 360-degree direction. In baseball we call that a “foul ball”. Besides, there is no tea break in baseball. It’s called the seventh-inning stretch. And as for an ability to hit balls that bounce first before reaching the plate, that might only be useful against guys like former Jays starter Victor Zambrano, which I believe makes you too much of a specialist to be carried on any 25-man roster.
Don’t take this as disrespect for cricket. I grew up in Jamaica a fan of the West Indies with my heroes being guys like Sir Garfield Sobers and Wesley Hall. It does take tremendous skills – but unfortunately they don’t translate.
Q: I was kind of shocked that Jeremy Accardo was optioned to AAA. Jeremy had 30 saves two years ago and was probably top three in their bullpen. Was this a temporary move to make sure Accardo has recovered 100% from his injury or is the Jays' bullpen that superior? What happens to Accardo's future now that he isn't able to make the Jays pen?
Harpaul S., Waterloo, Ont.
A: Shocked? So was he. Accardo’s surprising ’07 performance with 30 saves for the Jays was followed up by injuries and a disappointing sequel season. He got himself into the Jays’ doghouse in 2008 and is still digging his way out. The reason Accardo was shipped out at the end of this spring was that only he and Jason Frasor had any options left and Frasor at this point has the ability to pitch multiple innings in middle relief, while Accardo is still regarded as a one-inning guy. He will be back and at 27 years old still has a chance to make an impact.
Q: Hi Richard,
I have three questions. First who do you see as the frontrunner for the job as president of the Jays? My Second question is do you see the Jays possibly moving Vernon Wells for a starter and prospects? And is it possible they are thinking of moving Roy?
Sean Heffernan, Sunderland
A: Personally, my choice, unless he otherwise chooses to become president of the Pac-10 in the NCAA or some other significant offer in sports, I believe Sandy Alderson could have the Jays’ job if he wanted it. He has extensive experience in baseball including as former GM of the A’s credited with hiring Billy Beane and as an early proponent of what came to be known as Moneyball. Alderson was previously hired by Paul Beeston when he was MLB president and worked with him for five years in New York. He is just coming off a gig as president of the Padres, an organization with similar issues to the Jays. He would be able to step in and already be familiar with the inner workings of ownership meetings and would be comfortable being responsible for running the stadium at the Rogers Centre.
As for Vernon Wells, his contract is becoming virtually radioactive. There is no team in baseball that would give you a starter and prospects for Wells, who now ranks middle of the pack as a major-league centre fielder and near the top of the class in financial compensation. That’s a bad combo in this economy.
And yes they would be willing to trade Halladay but don’t need to even think about it until the season has unfolded to the point where they can project that they have no post-season hopes in ’09 and they can see enough development from some of their young starting pitching that they would not be scared to enter 2010 without their ace. Doc, with another season left on his contract, would fetch a nice package of players at the deadline.
Q: Hi Richard. I haven't asked you anything in a long while because my questions stopped appearing on the blog. So here they are in point forms. 1. Ryan's situation (can't trade him now), 2. Development year...League (I see him as a future K-Rod) for closer. 3. Stick with Snider till the end of the season no matter what he does. 4. Halladay not to have five days rest (skip a starter when an off day occurs). Your comments please and thank you Richard!
p.s My Wins# for Jays this season, 85!
Kam Hooshmand, Richmond Hill
A: I have an editor who’s a hardass when it comes to screening my mailbag. I apologize. As for B.J. Ryan, the window of trading opportunity for J.P. slammed shut after this winter when Ryan’s velocity dropped in the spring even though he was healthy. He was back up to 87-88 m.p.h. on Tuesday night vs. the Tigers, but left a pitch up and out over the plate for Brandon Inge who tied the game with a homer.
As for League becoming another K-Rod, time is running out on that dream. He does not have that one devastating pitch like Francisco Rodriguez and has not had the glimmer of success on a closing stage to suggest that at 26-years-old, it’s even around the next corner.
I’m not sure that if Snider starts to really struggle that the best thing for him is to stay the course in the majors, no matter what. I think you have to be flexible, but so far, especially against right-handers, Snider remains very confident for a young hitter of 21.
I agree with you about Halladay. I don’t think that it’s necessary to pitch him on short rest, but if I was Cito I would look at my schedule and pitch Doc every fifth day caring not whose feathers I ruffle in the rest of the rotation. That would give him 36 or 37 starts. As for your predicted win total, perhaps a bit optimistic. I would say 75.
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