The big news of the week turned out to be that Brad Pitt’s movie version of Moneyball was cancelled pretty much on the eve of production. What a shock. There is no truth to the rumour that the major issue was in finding someone to play then-A’s vice-president J.P. Ricciardi and that John Turturro and Pinocchio both turned down the role.
Why are we not surprised the project was cancelled? Don’t you need a sympathetic character or two to make a movie work? Who? Billy Beane ripping his scouts and making fun of other MLB team’s drafting tactics? Manager Art Howe being disrespected, bullied then fired by the A’s? The studio indicated that the Moneyball script was re-written several times and nothing seemed to work. Re-written? Isn’t this based on history? Okay, here’s the script:
The small market A’s are forced to compete on a budget, can’t draw flies to a horrible stadium, reach the playoffs year after year and get knocked out early. They then trade some snazzy homegrown starting pitchers for future prospects, come back the next year and do the same thing all over again. The movie’s already been made. It was called Groundhog Day. Finally, other organizations catch on to the philosophy and end up mixing traditional scouting and numbers better than the A’s. Eventually the A’s don’t even make the playoffs because what was once outside the box is now inside the box. Next! On to the mailbag.
Q: Hello Richard,
I have two questions for you. The first is do you ever see BJ (Ryan) back as the closer (or setup man)? Is he getting back to his old form? Also, maybe you could shed some light on the Rogers TV deal here out west? I am a huge Jays’ fan through and through, and since I don't get to any games I love seeing them on TV. I am wondering why Rogers West has more Yankees, Red Sox or Angels games than Jays games? It doesn't seem to make any sense, since the Jays are Canada's only team.
Adam Allison, Banff, AB
A: It’s difficult to see Ryan having even the opportunity to re-establish himself as the Jays’ closer as long as Cito Gaston is the manager. Gaston cares little about the fact that B.J. is earning $10 million for this year and next. He cares about results and what Gaston sees is a left-hander that comes into games and falls behind hitters early in the count. He throws sliders low and out of the zone, then nibbles with an 85 m.p.h. fastball, refusing to challenge hitters, even with his team holding a significant lead. He's only faced as many as three batters in an inning if two of them are left-handed hitters. Then Gaston will stroll out, take the ball and hand it to a right-hander making considerably less money. The conundrum for the Jays is in finding a taker for the final year of his contract even if they have to eat a significant portion because Cito’s not going anywhere in 2010.
As for the TV question, I don’t think the Rogers office tower is crammed with super-patriots. They don’t give a rat’s behind about the Jays being “Canada’s team.” What they see is that if they group different packages of major-league games on different regional networks they can get baseball fans with to subscribe to more than one regional sports network even though most of the other programming is the same. Brilliant marketing, but clearly the maple leaf is tattooed on your ass, not theirs.
Q: Speaking of performance-enhancing drugs - are there any good ones out there that we can suggest to Wells & Rios?
Werner Ott, Thunder Bay, Ont.
A: How about naturally produced adrenaline for Wells with runners in scoring position and some brain food for Rios when he’s running the bases…like fish, maybe flounder. No, wait a second, bad choice.
What has happened to David Purcey? Is he hurt? Why wasn't he called up before (Brad) Mills, (Bobby) Ray, (Brett) Cecil?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake
A: Purcey was never a legitimate No. 3 starter even though the club was hyping him as such all winter. He had not proven himself in any way at the major-league level yet his name was being thrown out there after Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch as a sure thing in the rotation. Purcey was winless in five starts with the Jays, posting a 7.01 ERA and averaging five innings per outing. Since being returned to the minors he has struggled with his control in some games and in others he has struggled with his command. Finding good location within the strike zone with more than one pitch is his biggest problem. He also has confidence issues that won’t be helped by the fact that he now looks around and sees other starting pitchers whizzing by him on the way to the majors while he continues to happen in Vegas and stay in Vegas.
Q: Hey Griff;
With the Jays' recent run of 'luck' in terms of injuries to the pitching staff, at what point do people begin questioning the training staff? It just seems odd that so many pitchers, many of them young, seem to be going down. We've heard stories of how wonderful the training staff for the Phoenix Suns are (older, somewhat injury-prone players like Nash, Shaq & Grant Hill not only avoiding injury, but continuing to produce at a high level); does it not make sense that a less than stellar training staff could be playing a role in what's happening with the Jays' pitchers this spring (and over the last season or two)?
Trev Lloyd, Halifax
A: How would the Jays look with a starting rotation including Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch? All those guys are on the DL, along with Casey Janssen, Scott Downs and Bobby Ray. Starting the year on the DL this year was Ricky Romero. Can you blame it on the training staff? No.
The fact is there is not much to separate training methods of various teams. The financial investments in players from all MLB organizations are so large and the players’ union is so strong that if there were any issues at all in one particular organization’s methods it would already have been noted. Every winter meeting the 30 MLB training staffs get together for a week and compare methods and there is nothing new under the training sun.
More likely is the fact that some organizations that don't have unlimited funds and are in smaller markets or are less appealing destinations (e.g. Toronto) sometimes need to take chances to compete. That includes bringing players on board with a history of arm, elbow and shoulder injuries that may flare up again. When they do, can you blame it on training methods? No.
Q: Could BJ Ryan's problems be related to his Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago? He came back from that quicker than the norm. Could his current problems be some sort of delayed side effect?
Mike Patton, Edmonton
A: The loss of velocity for Ryan has obviously been a perplexing situation for the Jays, but I don’t think that you can blame it on lingering effects of Tommy John surgery or on his returning from his rehab earlier than the norm. If it had been shoulder surgery, I might agree but T.J. surgery to the elbow can sometimes add velocity if a guy had been pitching with a frayed tendon in the elbow.
Ryan’s problems stem from other things. One of them seems to be that he does not seem to be the same physically imposing presence he was than when he was signed. Nobody has a good explanation for what seems like a permanent loss of velocity. At spring training, a thoery it may have been timing but after all this time, the velocity hasn’t come back.
I know that the Jays pitching staff has been hurting; I have been following the (New Hampshire) Fisher Cats this year and Marc Rzepczynski had another great game (June 19), any chance he gets called up soon?
A: The 23-year-old lefty, selected in the fifth round of ’07, Rzepczynski has made 14 starts at New Hampshire with a 7-5 record, 2.93 ERA, 36 walks and 88 strikeouts in 76 innings. Recall that Jesse Litsch made the jump from Double-A to the majors. It’s possible, but his walk ratio is a little high and the one thing Gaston can’t stand with his pitchers is walks.
Q: Hi Richard,
Not a question but a couple of comments. First of all, those who are bemoaning the contract extension of Vernon Wells would be the same people who would be screaming "blue, bloody murder" had the Jays not re-signed him and let him go. Yes, Vernon (offensively) is currently not living up to expectations but I believe he eventually will and he is one of the best defensive centre-fielders in the game.
Secondly, I'd be willing to bet if you did a similar analysis of other MLB team's bad contracts you're findings would be similar. Every team offers contracts they later regret... it's a part of baseball and professional sport for that matter.
Steve Vincent, Toronto
A: I recall the winter before the Jays signed Vernon to a long-term deal, GM J.P. Ricciardi explored every trade possibility out there and did not come up with anything that made sense. Signing Wells long term was a fallback option. Wells was not Ricciardi's favourite player at the time. If he could not trade him then, it might be impossible to trade him now. Unfortunately the Jays timing with signing Wells long-term was not good. That was market value and length at the time just as the salaries were about to be reined in. It’s sort of like building the SkyDome just before Camden Yards signaled a new wave of fan-friendly retro stadiums.
Sure, every team has signed bad contracts, but teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets can overwhelm their mistakes with more cash and more new contracts. The Jays can’t do that so their bad deals are left out in the spotlight for all to marvel at.
Q: Hi Richard,
Jays’ management should have a look at their strength and conditioning program -- forget the stockpile of arm injuries, but what's with going on the DL by spraining a big toe while swinging a bat? No cheap shot intended but it's a little disturbing -- visions of Otto Velez -- didn't he sit out because of a hangnail? Cal Ripken can sleep at night.
A: Scott Downs’ toe injury leaving the batter’s box qualifies as a freak injury. I remember a catching prospect with the Expos named Bobbie Goodman. He was selected ahead of Gary Carter in the same draft. This guy was the king of freak injuries. Two of his better ones?
1. He hit a home run in AA-Quebec and tore up his knee before he even left the box. DL.
2. He was trying to fix the leather in his catcher’s glove using an awl. He pulled on the leather and the awl came loose and stabbed him right in the middle of the chest. DL. No one could ever say Goodman didn’t give his awl. He never played in the majors.
Speaking of the injury to Downs, what is your take on him hitting in that situation anyways? Jays were up five in the 10th inning and it wasn't a save opportunity coming up in the bottom of the inning. Shouldn't Cito be partly blamed for not pinch-hitting in that situation rather than having his closer hit? Cito was quite upset about how inter-league play has the potential for more injuries to pitchers who aren't accustomed to hitting but I think he needs to be accountable in that situation for his decision.
A: Cito shouldn’t be blamed for Downs’ injury. If you’re going to blame someone, blame Downs. He had recorded the last out of the inning before and was the winning pitcher. Having him close out the game with a five-run lead is not a problem; having him swing the bat is the issue. He had stood and watched four pitches and worked the count to 2-2. The Jays did not need any more runs so he should have just stood there and watched strike three. But no, he swung the bat and dribbled a ball to short and hobbled out of the box. Embarrassing.
I emailed you a few weeks back about Alex Rios looking apathetic and like he doesn't really have any passion. You defended him. Just watched Rios not know how many outs there were versus the Phillies on night and get doubled off first on a line drive to center, saw him neglect to tag up at third on a potential sacrifice fly. I won't even mention the incident when he wouldn't sign an autograph. Care to reconsider your position?
A: I defend Rios as an athlete not as a brain surgeon. I think the Rios look that you call apathy is actually befuddlement followed by looking for a hole to crawl into. It might serve him better if he would show some anger at himself whenever he screws up on the bases or in some other baseball fundamental, but instead he looks apathetic by not showing emotion when the TV cameras zero in on a close-up.
One suggestion from a fellow media member is that the birth of one’s first child (for Rios it was less than a year ago) always affects performance on the field because of altered sleep patterns, etc. I don’t necessarily buy that. Another theory is that your baseball instincts are ingrained from a young age and if you had bad coaching growing up you may never change.
Q: Hey Richard!
With (the) news that Sammy Sosa had tested positive for PED's in 2003, it seems as if just about everyone was on the juice during this period of time. We've already seen how the Hall of Fame voters have reacted to such players over the past couple years with players like Mark McGwire getting minimal votes to gain entrance into Cooperstown.
My question is how this impacts players like former Blue Jay Fred McGriff. He was a guy who consistently produced similar numbers season after season and was never suspected of any PED use. While he finished shy of 500 career home runs and was not a high impact player throughout the steroid era, he quietly put together great numbers every year, won home run titles, performed in the playoffs and won a World Series with Atlanta in 1995.
Do continued stories like the ones we have heard about Sammy Sosa, A-Rod, Palmeiro, Manny, etc. help players like McGriff get votes for Cooperstown? A similar case could also be made for another former Blue Jay - Carlos Delgado.
Dan McKinnon, Toronto
A: I honestly believe that the bigger shame should be reserved for players like Manny Ramirez who test positive after 2004 after testing became mandatory and a list of illegal performance enhancers was made known to all players. Yes, the list of 104 failed tests in 2003 likely includes many of the games slugging stars, but I don’t believe that Hall of Fame voters as a group have formed enough of a consensus on how to handle the issue. As such, I think that guys like McGriff will benefit from some votes, but I don’t believe that the difference will be significant enough to get Fred into the Hall of Fame. The same with Delgado.
McGwire is not the best example of how the steroid revelations will affect future Hall voting because to many BBWAA voters, McGwire’s career, especially with the A’s, was fringe-Cooperstown even without the PED issue.
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