Q: Rick Sutcliffe says that the Jays insisted any team that took on Roy Halladay had to take Vernon Wells’ contract as well, going so far as to say two general managers said this to him. J.P. denied this but given his record on telling the truth, do you think Sutcliffe is on to something? I can't see the Phils offering up top quality prospects and taking on Wells’ contract, Usually taking on such an onerous dead weight as Wells would mean lower-tier prospects going the other way.
Kevin Layman, St. John's
A: That is categorically not true. I asked around and I do believe that Ricciardi may have inquired of several GMs, in passing, as they discussed combinations of prospects for Halladay, whether they were interested at all in Wells. It would have been like the Plasma TV that’s thrown in as a bonus when you buy a major appliance – only this TV had no “on” button.
It may be semantics, but it’s the word “insisted” that’s wrong. You are absolutely right that if that were the case, the package of prospects coming back for Halladay would have been necessarily watered down since taking Wells would have been doing the Jays a financial favour. That lessening of talent coming to the Jays would have been counter-productive for the organization as they were specifically testing the waters in July to see what Halladay was worth on the open market. Why muddy that water?
Q: Just read your August 19th mailbag. Do you really believe the Jays can get Chone Figgins, Brandon Wood and Joe Saunders for Roy Halladay? I think you are building in an assumption that the Angels will underachieve in the playoffs as usual and bow out. Thereby their management will look to make a big change and thus give up major league players for a Hall of Fame pitcher like Roy Halladay? Any chance the Jays could get Trevor Bell as well. That would be appropriate since Trevor Bell's grandfather was Bozo the Clown, and we have clowns running this team currently.
Jason Sinnarajah, Sydney, Australia
A: No, that would not be the Halladay deal. Figgins will be a six-year free agent and he would fit in perfectly in Toronto. The Jays did not realize how much they were going to miss Scott Rolen, but a solid everyday third baseman is a must for this Jays’ team moving forward and clearly there are no internal options. Figgins has a great respect for manager Cito Gaston and he would earn slightly less than Rolen, a contract the Jays were willing to live with if he had not asked for relocation. As for Wood and Saunders, that would be the Halladay deal, along with a couple of prospects.
As for the Bozo the Clown take. It’s true. Trevor Bell’s grandfather for 25 years on television in Chicago was Bozo the Clown. When Bell was drafted as the 37th pick overall by the Angels in 2005, as I wrote in the notes section of the paper the day he faced the Jays last weekend, the greatest headline ever ran in the Chicago Tribune: Prospect has Big Shoes to Fill. In the “small world” category, Jordan Bastian of bluejays.com and MLB.com was telling the story in the press box the other day about how his wife Kelly was actually on TV with Bozo back in the day. Clearly that inspired her later on in life when she was settling on a husband. Seriously, Jordan will be off for a couple of weeks for the birth of his and Kelly’s first son. Congratulations and best wishes of good health to all.
While listening to yet another Jays’ loss on Saturday afternoon, Jerry and Alan Ashby had a brief discussion about Wells and his past hamstring problems. They briefly touched on this perhaps being a contributing factor for his decline (also, no Gold Glove for 3 years which might reflect not getting a jump on the ball etc). Watching Wells at the plate this season reminds me of watching my aging father-in-law’s (80 years old) golf swing ... all arms and no body. Not a thing of beauty. Wells swing is very “wristy” and all arms with little lower body power. Hamstring limitations? A guy with square wheels? Might be worth an investigation. Keep up the good reporting and mailbag.
A: I have a tendency to agree with the radio guys on this one. Wells has always had the reputation as a fast healer and sometimes, especially with leg and groin injuries, that’s not always a wise thing. In the 2000 media guide, following Vernon’s rapid rise through the farm system to the majors in ‘99, he was listed at 6-1, 210 lbs. Right now he is listed at 6-1, 230 lbs. I recall the spring, it must have been around 2003-04, that he showed up to camp after a winter of working out at some elite athlete facility, carrying that extra muscle. Now that may be good for a first baseman or DH, but a centre fielder needs more twitch muscles and long muscles, not bunched up muscles.
Wells has clearly tried to back off the weight training in recent years, but the hamstring injury that sidelined him from July 10 to August 8, 2008 may indeed still be lingering. As for the absence of a Gold Glove for three years, I don’t put any credence in relating that to anything else. The Gold Glove Awards are voted on by coaches ands managers on a piece of paper thrust into their faces before a game sometime in early September. There are three outfielders on the ballot – they could all be centre fielders or left fielders or right fielders – and the spectacular catches and booming bats are what make and impression on coaches. Since Vernon’s bat has less “boom, boom, pow” than the Black Eyed Peas and since he makes tough catches look effortless and doesn’t dive, that explains the lack of a Gold Glove.
Q: Hi Richard,
I love your no-nonsense criticism of the way JP has done his job as Jays GM. Here’s to hoping that the team gets a fresh start under a better GM; JP has run out of chances to turn this ship around. I have a question about these two Jays prospects - No. 1 pick Chad Jenkins (RHP) and third round pick Jacob Marisnick (OF). I pour over the Jays farm system each morning, looking at boxscores and rosters and can’t see them mentioned on any rosters. Do you know where they will start their careers?
A: Firstly, I prefer to think of what I do not as criticism, but more as critique. Criticism is inherently negative. Critique usually includes positive suggestions for improvement. That’s how I roll. As for Jenkins and Marisnick, the top two draft picks (out of five) that the Jays managed to sign are both going to report to Instructional League at the Bobby Mattick Training Centre, effectively missing out on their first year as pros. The reason for that is that they, like many of this year’s top draft choices around baseball, did not sign until close to the deadline in mid-August. Since minor league seasons are over at the end of August, there was no time in integrate them with either of the short-season teams. In the old days, there were always dozens of draft picks, including the top ones, that would be signed by the end of June. They would have two months to play in the organization giving the team an opportunity to preview their placement to start the next season. But it’s a whole new ballgame out there.
Q: Hi Richard,
From an avid Blue Jays fan I just wanted to throw a name into the mix for the next GM. How about Dan Shulman? Listening to him talk about baseball and especially about the Blue Jays he really showed a passion for both the game and for the team. He is very knowledgeable both in understanding the economics of the game and the challenges that face the Jays economically and socially. He explained many scenarios on Bob McCown's Fan 590 show and had some very interesting options. Almost sounded as a GM with a vision. Wow, a GM with a vision. Let me know your thoughts.
M. McLeod, Niagara Falls, Ont.
A: Dan Shulman for GM? Hmmm! I love Dan Shulman because at the end of his time in Toronto, the two guys that David Wells would not talk to were me and Dan. But does that mean Buck Martinez would be back as manager? They always did work tremendously well together in the booth. In any case, I think Dan’s making too much money at ESPN and gets to spend tons of time with his family in between making guys like Dave Campbell (baseball) and Dick Vitale (hoops) look good. He loves his current job and is great at it and that counts for a lot with most people.
Q: Hi Richard,
Firstly I really enjoy reading your column. I wanted to ask for your opinion on the absolute disrespect the Blue Jays have shown towards John McDonald this season. Here is possibly one of the best defensive shortstops in the majors. They started out doing the right thing offering McDonald a contract extension prior to the (2008) season, only to now have him watch the game from the dugout, and trot out to the middle as a base runner in the late innings. With the acquisition of a third basemen that apparently we didn't want, couldn't he be playing now?
I do believe Scutaro proved himself to be more than competent at third last season in cover for Scott Rolen. Add to this situation the very public comments in the media suggesting that with Marco Scutaro (who has played well - can't hold anything against him) becoming a free agent, the Jays must now consider shopping for (wait for it) a shortstop for next season.
My thoughts at the trade deadline were that the one position that the Jays had adequate cover for, and an asset to trade, was at shortstop. Am I to believe that the good play of Scutaro didn't attract any interest from other teams? The Jays have treated a couple of players poorly this season, (Joe Inglett, Jeremy Accardo) but I think what they have done with McDonald is disgusting. What are your thoughts?
Kiwi converted to Blue Jays supporter
A: John McDonald is a great defensive shortstop and a good clubhouse presence. As such, like his mentor Omar Vizquel (but without as much offensive talent), Johnny Mac will be playing in the majors as long as he is still enjoying himself. McDonald signed a two-year $3.8 million extension after the ’07 season and has not been a part of the Jays’ shortstop mix since then, playing behind David Eckstein and now Scutaro. McDonald is a family man of simple needs and, even though he believes in his own abilities as a starter, he can be quite comfortable for the next 5-6 years earning what the market will bear for a superior defender off the bench in the middle infield. That amount ranges from $800,000 to $1.5 million per year.
That being said, I agree with you that the Jays have not always treated him with the greatest respect and that he should be playing every day the rest of this season at shortstop with Scutaro shifting over to third. If the goal for the final month of this year is indeed to develop and study their young starting pitching, you can’t do it giving away two or more outs per game on plays that are not made in the field as they have been doing since Rolen left the scene. Give the young starter guys their best defenders and see what they can do for you. As for Inglett and Accardo, Inglett is a minor-leaguer or a 14th position player that can move around the diamond, while Accardo has really been dissed by the organization for reasons only they know.
Q: Hi Richard:
When the Blue Jays were playing and hitting well everybody was praising Cito Gaston. Why don't reporters and fans blame Gaston when the players are hitting poorly? Personally, I never liked Cito as a manager as he uses either no strategy, or strategy that even a novice fan could employ. As for him making Adam Lind a better hitter, I think he just happened to be manager when Lind matured as a hitter. What are your thoughts?
Marv Rose, Toronto
A: Here we go again with Cito bashers coming out of the woodwork as the GM systematically dismantles any semblance of a major-league contender.
On the opening day of spring training looking at the projected Jays’ lineup if someone had said that on August 25 Gaston would – not have Jesse Litsch or David Purcey in the rotation; not have B.J. Ryan and have Scott Downs down and out for much of the summer lose third baseman Scott Rolen replaced by two guys that play the hot corner like backcourt jai-alai players and lose Alex Rios for nothing but a handshake, where would the Jays be projected. Strategy? We don’t need no stinkin’ strategy.
As for Lind, what does “matured as a hitter” mean? What it means is finally going to the plate with a plan, an approach, an educated guess on what a pitcher is trying to do to you as a hitter. That’s what “mature” means to a hitter and Lind will be the first to admit he had no plan before Gaston and Gene Tenace arrived. You don’t just wake up one day and find out you’re “mature as a hitter.” It’s not like growing facial hair.
Q: Hi Richard,
I, like most Jays fans, feel J.P. must go. Please list your top five candidates for general manager in 2010. My choice would be Bruce Manno assistant GM in Atlanta. Previous to that he was in St. Louis for many years, two very successful and consistently competitive franchises.
Brian Young, Kingston
A: I believe the list of the top five candidates for Jays’ GM will be profoundly different in 2011 than it is now. This is not a plum job for a veteran GM right now or an up-and-coming one looking to establish his credentials coming in from the outside. The Jays need to right the ship and turn it around before bringing in the most sublime GM candidate out there.
The only two experienced GMs that I would bring in right - now if either one would take the job - are Terry Ryan (advisor with the Twins) or Pat Gillick (advisor with the Phils), but I don’t believe either one would take the gig under the current Rogers’ financial guidelines. Therefore, I would appoint young Alex Anthopoulos, currently a Ricciardi assistant, to the position and surround him with good advice from reliable senior guys. A.A. is not quite the smooth media operator that J.P. has become but he would have the opportunity to learn. And he is a straight shooter. If he grows into the job, he could have a chance to stay on. Otherwise, in 2011, the Jays could reach out for a GM stud to take them to the next level and back to the post-season.
Q: Richard, this is a toughie!
I am trying to locate the name and status of a pitcher that pitched for TB, Jays and Yankees, in that order. When he was with the Rays, he set or tied a record for the most losses as a starter. It was somewhere around 19 or 20. I believe it was in the mid 2000 era. The following year he worked out of the "pen" for the Jays. And the year after that he was with the Yankees, out of the "pen". If I remember correctly, he was involved in a bench clearing "shoving and yelling match" while with the Yankees. This is driving me crazy.
A: I believe the guy you’re thinking of is Tanyon Sturtze. The right-hander was from Worcester, Mass., the same hometown as Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi. In fact, Ricciardi is the scout listed as having signed Sturtze. He pitched in 2000-02 for the Rays with a 19-30 mark. In 20-02 he was 4-18 and led the majors in losses. Then in 2003, he joined the Jays as a projected starter, but receded into the bullpen, posting a 7-6 record and a 5.94 ERA, allowing 107 hits and 43 walks in 89-1/3 innings. In 2004 with the Yankees he was involved in a July 25 brawl with the Red Sox emerging from the undercard of the A-Rod Varitek bout with a bloodstained jersey. He is 38 and a free agent.
Q: Hi Richard.
In your opinion, what are some of the best books ever written about baseball - fiction and non-fiction?
Chris M., Collingwood
A: There are tons of them. Here’s a sampling: The Heart of the Game by Thomas Boswell; Tuned to Baseball by Ernie Harwell; Damned Yankees by Bill Madden and Moss Klein; Hardball by Bob Elliott; The Northern Game by Elliott; Collission at Home Plate by James Reston, Jr.; Catcher in the Wry by Bob Uecker; The Ticket Out by Michael Sokolove; Feeding the Monster by Seth Mnookin; Beyond the Sixth Game by Peter Gammons; Ball Four by Jim Bouton; Why Time Begins on Opening Day by Thomas Boswell; Shut Out by Howard Bryant; Heat by Mike Lupica; Bums by Peter Golenbock; The Era by Roger Kahn; The Boys of Summer by Kahn; Moneyball by Michael Lewis; The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney. There are so many more.
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