A lot of Rios in this week’s mailbag, but also plenty of other stuff as well. I really still can’t believe that a two-time all-star has been allowed to go to another team on a waiver claim and some people are saying that it is a good deal. In any case, that’s what’s great about sports is that we all don’t have to agree in order to enjoy the same game. On to the mailbag.
Q: Dear Richard, I happened to catch the headline on the Jays website where Riccardi is quoted as saying “he likes where the Jays are headed”. I had to re-read it several times in disbelief. This is the direction we should, as fans, be excited about? All I see is a team that was once at the top of the standings this year and is now in free fall. No longer can we complain that it is because of the big bad American East division as we would be at or near the bottom in all divisions. So, is this the direction JP is referring to? The article again stated that once the Jays got past the impact of the injured pitching staff, he could see the light (I’m paraphrasing). And, he mentioned that Rios and Wells are just having a bad year and that’s it. Therefore, I can only conclude that the direction next year will be as follows, a promising rookie crew of pitchers who may not sustain their success once they have been seen by the visiting teams and a right, centre and left (when Lind isn’t playing) fielder and a couple of first baseman hitting way below what is required and no real clean up hitter. My question to you, if you suddenly found yourself in charge, what is the first and second thing you would do to bring about a new “direction” (assuming you think there needs to be one!).
PS - love the blog, Carrie from Clarkson
A: As Capt. Edward Smith said to the steward during dinner at the captain’s table on April 12, 1912, “I think we’ll be needing more ice.” Coincidentally, the Titanic’s captain also liked the direction he was heading as they steamed across the north Atlantic.
If I was to take over the Jays’ ship heading into the off-season here’s what I would do. I would sit down with Roy Halladay and ask for his help in creating the best deal possible. I would ask for his input in terms of teams that he would like to pitch for. Then I would ask the commissioner’s office for a window of opportunity to allow any of those teams — say from among the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Angels or Red Sox — to negotiate with Halladay a five-year extension giving him the free-agent type money he will surely get after 2010. If that is successful, then he would be worth far more in terms of a trade and I would ask for a current, young, mid-rotation starter and a speedy young outfielder on the cusp of reaching the majors to bat at the top of the order, plus maybe a couple of young Class-A arms. Second, I would move Adam Lind to first base and allow catcher J.P. Arencibia a full shot at the major-league job. If none of that worked, my third option would be to punt.
Q: Hi, Richard.
Question: J.P. Riccardi is quoted as having made the difficult decision of having to let Rios go on waivers to the White Sox because of the change in the economy of sports in the last year and how this allows the Blue Jays to address multiple positions as opposed to just one. He mentions shortstop and catching as two positions that need to be addressed. Correct me if I am wrong, but are these not the same two positions that he has constantly tinkered with since he joined the Blue Jays and now seemingly with no permanent resolve? How is it possible that 8 years have been removed and he still has not figured out how to address what he describes as our weak spots (and I thought it was the 4th and 5th in our rotation in addition to closer)? And how is it that catching prospects in the Jays organization never pan out — Delgado and Sprague being the rare exceptions, maybe Greg Myers — in the last 20 years?
Martin Keogh, Toronto, Ontario
A: Eight years is normally enough to sign and develop your own players at certain positions. You’re right about catching and shortstop in the Ricciardi era. His first move in December 2001 was to dump incumbent shortstop Alex Gonzalez on the Cubs. Russ Adams and Aaron Hill were drafted in consecutive Junes to fill that shortstop need. Now they are waiting for Justin Jackson who is still at least two years away. In the meantime they have had Felipe Lopez, Chris Woodward, Mike Bordick, Adams, Chris Gomez, John McDonald, Royce Clayton, David Eckstein and Marco Scutaro. Behind the plate they sent J.P. Arencibia to Las Vegas so that he would be ready to catch for the Jays on Opening Day 2010. They picked up the option year on Rod Barajas as a bridge to their catching future. Now they feel they need to dump Rios to save money to spend on a catcher. What happened to Arencibia? How about Brian Jeroloman? These questions have nothing to do with the current North American economy.
Q: This club has deteriorated before our eyes this year. I am not talking about the players, but the organization. You are on the inside. Is there an upside or a plan that this organization is going to show their fans? I know that this is probably a rhetorical question and that the answer is no. No vision, no future, but at least we kept J.P.
Bob James, Calgary
A: “At least” is the exact right turn of a phrase because there is no “at most” to be seen anywhere from Jays horizon to horizon. The only ray of hope is that they actually do re-invest the saved money on some solid talent.
Can things possibly get any more asinine than this? Is there no bottom to the asinine barrel in Rogersland? Not even a draft pick for the two-time all star? Bueller? Bueller? Oh right, Bueller's in Chicago.
David McCabe, Ottawa
A: Ricciardi can’t be ripped for not getting at least a draft choice for Rios because baseball is one sport that doesn’t allow the trading of draft picks. That’s to protect bad GMs from becoming worse GMs. So we can say that at least the Jays (perhaps only because of the rules) still have all their draft choices.
I just cannot believe what I just heard. How in all that is holy do you let a two-time all-star who is under 30 go for nothing? I mean at least you could have got a bag of batting practice balls in return. This is the stupidest thing I think I have ever seen. Officially the Jays are now the Florida Marlins. What a complete joke. This is just absolute stupidness.
Will Dickinson, Rycroft
A: The Marlins would never trade an established major-leaguer for nothing. If this is a result of the current economy, then why haven’t more small market teams been forced to do the same thing? Maybe because other MLB regimes are proactive and not reactive.
Q: In the Alex Rios transaction I keep waiting for the rest of the deal to be announced but I guess what you see is what you get. Or in the case of Rios a talented player, relatively young and under contract for an extended period is sold off for nothing in return. I find it appalling that at the time Roy Halladay was being shopped similar feelers weren't out for Rios. There are teams in the midst of the pennant race that would have taken Rios in a trade where the Jays would at least get prospects or players to be named later in return. I can think of Minnesota, San Francisco, Chicago as examples. I did not hear of Rios being shopped but I may have missed it. Was this the case? Is there any chance the White Sox have committed to compensate the Jays after the season ends. A real blunder in my mind on Ricardi's part.
Don Pearson, Richmond
A: There was no planning involved in the Rios dump. Every player every year is placed on this type of recallable waivers by their major-league teams. Nobody ever hears about it because they are supposed to be confidential. I honestly believe that there is a possibility someone allowed the Rios waiver claim to leak out to the media to make an uncomfortable situation for Ricciardi and the Jays in retaliation for the way he handled the Roy Halladay trades talks, making it uncomfortable for the Phillies, Rangers and others with added daily pressure from their fans and media to get a deal done. Because, as you point out, if there was a plan, they would have been discussing a Rios trade with other teams prior to July 31. At least they would have got something back. Even White Sox GM Kenny Williams thought he was going to have to give up a player or two and was surprised when they said, “Just take him and his contract. He’s all yours.”
Q: Greetings Richard. Am I the only one who likes the Rios dump? Yes, in a perfect world, we'd have gotten something tangible in return. But frankly, players should be paid for production, not potential. While I hope to high heaven JP isn't the man for the job, the Jays now have freed about $15 million of 2010 salary obligations (Rolen vs. Encarnacion, Rios) in the last 2 weeks. If, and that's a big if, the Jays can in fact spend this money, and spend it wisely, they can easily find one impact bat, if not two, and then again rely on hope and rainbows and sunshine that everyone stays healthy and performs to "expected levels" and maybe compete. But of course if it's JP spending the money, watch out four years and $60 million for a bought out Pat Burrell. Didn't JP lust after him once before? Good riddance to Alex Rios. Give the remaining 150 RF AB's to Snider, and let's start 2010 now.
Josh Silver, Toronto
A: So now, let’s see. If I go out and buy a Lamborghini convertible that I can’t afford and am making payments of $1,500 per month and then find someone to take over the payments and take the car off my hands that I am now up $1,500 per month?
Players are always paid for potential. It’s up to an organization to have scouts with enough knowledge to know what production veteran players still have left and which young players are going to develop into stars.
There is obviously confusion in the hierarchy of the Jays as well as Rogers in the direction of the team and also, most importantly, rumblings if Rogers will keep the team.
When you hear rumblings like this do you envision potential local owners for the Jays? Despite the inconsistent Canadian dollar, is there someone out there who might be interested? I cannot see how this can be a bad potential deal for an investor with interest, due to the fact the current ownership received such a good deal on the stadium.
Jody Mattie, Toronto
A: The way the Rogers ownership is running the Jays certainly makes it seem like all they care about is the bottom line and are not interested in putting in the effort needed to create new revenue by creating a winner on the field. If that is indeed the case, can selling the team be far behind? And yes there is local ownership out there somewhere. I don’t believe it would ever get to the point of the Expos or Coyotes. There will always be Canadian ownership of the Jays. And yes, the stadium is a bargain and a key asset.
Q: Hi Richard, Love the mailbag, wish more baseball guys would run one weekly — I always find the best under-the-numbers info comes from here! Which comes to my question: Marco Scutaro. JP has long been obsessed with finding a reliable, consistent, and identifiable shortstop for the Jays (haunted by the ghost of Tulowitzki, perhaps?) and it seems to me that he's stumbled across one in utility-man turned SS Marco Scutaro. My question is, with Scutaro heading for free agency, why isn't there more talk of the Jays extending or pursuing his contract? I seem to recall someone even mentioning the Jays had no intention of bringing him back. He's not a defensive liability. He's hitting nearly .300 but perhaps more importantly runs a .387 OBP (as of Sunday) out of the leadoff spot, seemingly solving THAT glaring lineup problem everyone has been worried about since Reed Johnson departed. He'll likely drive in 65-70 runs this season, with enough pop to manage 12 home runs or so (almost Jeter-type power of the last few years).
Granted he's no spring chicken at 34. But it seems to me he has at least a few good years left to fill the role he fills very well, and I just can't understand JP's comments/actions (IE trying to get Aybar out of the Angels and other SS prospects in the Halladay "deal") about not having solved the SS problem.
Matt Mistele, Waterloo, Ont.
A: The question of re-signing Marco Scutaro is a good one. I think the problem lies on both sides of the equation. Since Scutaro has only been a starting shortstop for one season, how much is he worth as a 34-year-old free agent. The Jays don’t know and neither does Marco. There were some bargains available at shortstop last winter on short-term deals. The Jays will need a two-year shortstop (2010-11) at which time, hopefully Justin Jackson will have figured it out and be ready to play in the majors. Scutaro would be the perfect fit, but he may want a three- or four-year deal. The Jays and Scutaro should be able to work something out.
Q: Halladay seems so well adjusted and methodical (despite Ricciardi's attempts to distract him). I've read that Roy has consulted a sports psychiatrist for a long time and closely follows his theories. Does the Doctor have any superstitions or odd rituals? What are some of the strangest things that pitchers do to prepare?
Chris M., Collingwood
A: His long-distance guru is a guy named Dr. Harvey Dorfman. He discovered Dorfman at the time he was trying to put his career back together after being sent back to Class A back in 2001. Dorfman preaches worrying only about the things that you can control. He taught Halladay to take pitching one pitch at a time and to forget about the one that you just threw and think about the one you are about to throw. Original, huh. Anyway it works for Halladay and you can see him before every game in front of his locker reading the same Dorfman book over and over and over.
As for pitchers and their rituals, they all have them, from the same music in the clubhouse before a start, to having the same guy hand them the ball before warming up, the same seat in the dugout, a towel over the head, not watching their own hitters between innings, the same undershirt every start, etc. I believe Doc is a creature of habit and likes everything the same on the day of a start, but that’s not really a superstition.
It looks like things fell apart with Blue Jays this year, but I noticed one part which really improved; the catching. Yes, I am not talking about Rod Barajas, but Raul Chavez. Every time I saw Chavez gunning down the base-stealers, I tried to remember when was the last time we had such a solid back up catcher. He doesn't play every day, but he plays really hard. Although we didn't win the game, I liked his bunt-hit in the bottom of ninth against the Phillies on June 28th. To me, he plays the game as if it's his last. I wish Vernon Wells and Alex Rios would play the game same way. I am not sure about Chavez' contract situation, but hope he will stay.
Yosuke Abe, Vancouver
A: The Jays have done very well with Chavez as a backup catcher. He’s been better for them than Michael Barrett would have been. There are dozens of guys like Chavez on the free-agent market every year. The key is having a starter that can play 125 games.
Q: Three questions for you Richard.
1. Do you feel that Ricciardi has dropped the ball in the past at deadline time? For example, he managed to deal Rolen at his peak value and got two good young arms. However, they've not been in a pennant race the past few years and there were opportunities to trade guys and stockpile the minors with some younger players in the process. Instead the team would find a way to finish strong and you would hear Ricciardi saying in the off-season "Look how we finished, we're capable of being a good club next season" and we go around and around.
2. Who do you see getting the September call up? Other than Snider that is. I'm thinking we'll likely see Fabio Castro. Arencibia is also a possibility. I know that he hasn't had the best offensive season in Vegas, but if he's being touted as catcher of the future shouldn't he get a look at the big league level?
3. Why in the world does Kevin Millar hit clean up when he's in the line up? I mean, it's not as if anyone else would be any good...but Kevin Millar? Yikes!
Pramit Bose, Brampton
A: The Rolen deal was just his fifth in the month of July in eight years and the first he has made on deadline day. He dumped Raul Mondesi in ’02, traded Shannon Stewart for a more Moneyball-type player in Bobby Kielty in ’03, dumped Terry Adams in ’04 and dumped Shea Hillenbrand in ’06, ending up with a decent reliever in Jeremy Accardo.
The reason the Jays finish strong every year is that they are always playing for keeps in September trying to win as many games as they can so they can sell tickets in the off-season instead of using the month to see what they may have down the road.
I don’t think Fabio Castro will get the call because he’s a non-roster player. Arencibia might get called up and allowed to play, but that would go against the philosophy I outlined above. They don’t usually call up more than two or three guys, plus activating some disabled guys. It saves them money not having to pay ML salaries and meal money, plus giving unnecessary days of service that later on might contribute to arbitration eligibility.
I agree with you about Millar. He should just be happy to be here.
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