With the Jays officially done with any Roy Halladay talks and now pretty much resigned to being out of any wild-card race, look for Travis Snider to soon work his way back into the Jays’ lineup for the rest of the season. He’s a big part of sorting out the puzzle for 2010. Can he be a productive major-league hitter or has he still got huge holes that can be exploited by opposing pitchers? Another interesting follow will be the progress of Shaun Marcum back to the majors post-Tommy John and can he be counted on as a #3 starter in 2010? The Jays’ goal should be to finish at .500, which, given the strength of schedule in the final 50 games, would be a significant accomplishment. On to the mailbag.
Q: Hey Richard,
I have a question about the Cliff Lee trade. Cleveland was willing to accept Philadelphia's second-tier prospects in return for Cliff Lee. Were they on the losing end of this trade or was JP simply asking for too much for Doc? I believe Doc has been a better pitcher over a longer period of time and thus has more value on the trade market, but Cliff Lee is last year’s Cy Young winner and Cleveland didn't receive a single player that was requested in the package for Doc. I would really appreciate some insight on this topic.
Kyle Todt, Waterloo
A: I do believe that the Phillies got the better of the Indians in the trade. I agree that Halladay is the more valuable commodity and that the Jays were holding out for the far better package of Phillies prospects, as they should have. The Halladay contract was already budgeted for and it was not a salary dump for Doc. Meanwhile the Tribe was in a dump mode and were looking for the best offer. The fact the Indians threw in outfielder Ben Francisco stunned me. Of course, it was not chump change the Tribe received in exchange. The Baseball America prospects book rated among Philly farmhands, Carlos Carrasco #2, Lou Marson #3, Jason Donald #4 and Jason Knapp #10. That’s four pretty highly rated prospects. The Jays were reportedly after Dominic Brown #1, Kyle Drabek #5 and J.A. Happ #9. The Indians filled a need with the four young prospects, since they have been in a salary dump mode all summer and need bodies to fill the holes in their system. The Jays aren’t in that same position.
Q: Hi Richard,
Just one question for you: I understand that Randy Ruiz in Las Vegas is 30 yrs old, but he is hitting 324, with 25 HR, 101 RBIs, a 601 SLG%, and a 396 OBP. Given the Jays’ woes with offence, why did they not give him a shot?
Ian Faulkner, Whitby
A: Ruiz, the first-baseman/DH for the 51s in Las Vegas, is an interesting baseball story. The native of the Bronx is 31 and the Blue Jays are his 10th major-league organization since being signed by the Reds as a non-drafted free-agent in July of 1999. In all of that pro time, he has 1,083 minor-league games and just 22 in the majors, all with the Twins as a 30-year-old in 2008. What’s up with that? The fact is it took Ruiz until 2007 to even reach Triple-A at Ottawa. He played in Rochester in 2008 and now with Vegas in ’09. So it’s not just the Jays that have had that opinion of him as simply a good minor-league hitter. Earlier in the season he recorded his 4,000th minor-league at-bat and will soon club his200th minor-league homer. Why does he not get a shot with the Jays as maybe the RH platoon at DH or at first base? Good question. I would rather have his bat right now than that of Kevin Millar. But there are some guys that seem to be perceived just as career minor-league sluggers. Examples in the Jays’ history include Chad Mottola, Howie Clark, Eric Crozier, John Hattig, Patrick Lennon, Brian Lesher, Luis Lopez, Robert Perez, Simon Pond, Dave Revering, Tony Solaita, Pedro Swann, Andy Thompson, Kevin Witt and Greg (Boomer) Wells.
Q: Hi Griff...love your reality checks on the Jays’ pulse. Nuff of Halladay nonsense. What concerns me greatly about this team are those demoralizing one run losses (9 and 20 the last I checked), worst in the majors. Two Q's here. Why weren't we shopping for a closer...seems to me this would be priority No. 1 going forward post-Ryan. Secondly, what is going on in that clubhouse to so cavalierly shrug off these one run setbacks or more often than not giveaways.
Ray Stockus, Bend, Oregon
A: You’re right about having enough of Halladay talk. Let’s move on. As far as the one-run losses, not all of them are built the same and can be considered demoralizing. I know the ones to which you’re referring, the ones with a lead late in games and the other team comes back to tie and win late. If you could walk into the Jays’ clubhouse after those games, you would see the emotions you’re looking for. These guys do take those losses hard. But it’s an every day game and, as it is everywhere and has been through the history of baseball, the club is a reflection of its manager and Cito Gaston’s philosophy is to shrug off last night and move on to tomorrow. Sometimes that’s tougher to do as a fan than as a player. As for the closer-shopping, I believe the Jays were hoping for one more year out of Scott Downs and then hoping for someone from within the organization to step up. For now, it’s Jason Frasor, but I don’t believe he has a long-term future in the organization. They are hoping that Brandon League or, now, Josh Roenicke can become the next bullpen stopper. It’s not always the best idea to go and get someone else’s well-paid closer, because there is a relatively short shelf-life in that specialty and more teams are successful in creating a closer than in trading for one.
Q: I have a question about the Blue Jays’ management's handling of the trade deadline and Halladay situation. Were they too all-consumed with trading Halladay and getting a beneficial package in return to not realize that they have other assets on the roster that could have been moved to bring some younger prospects or current roster players? I'm one to believe that some of the players on our roster would look attractive (I know some contracts are an obstacle) but seriously, I hate standing pat especially if it's become obvious you have nothing left to achieve this season.
Cam Choscinski, Toronto
A: I believe the Jays were consumed on the Halladay trade front, but I also believe that GM J.P. Ricciardi knew which teams had interest in his other assets like Marco Scutaro, Scott Rolen, Rod Barajas and even Jason Frasor. If Halladay had gone, some of those other dominoes would have fallen, but part of keeping Halladay is keeping hope, because long ago Halladay was promised that he would never be part of a rebuilding process, that the Jays, as long as he was in the uniform, would always be striving to contend. As such, with Halladay going out there every fifth day, they will not go younger to the point of looking three years down the road to contend. I also believe that in the off-season, Alex Rios is a very tradeable asset that could bring back a couple of nice pieces elsewhere. Vernon Wells, because of his contract, is a Blue Jay for life.
Q: Richard, I'll skip my questions about trading Halladay since that's been beaten to death. Instead, I'm curious if there was any trade interest in Lyle Overbay at the deadline and how much is left on his contract? Although Rolen was great, it was good that J.P. was able to unload his contract.
Michael Doko, San Francisco
A: There was not much trade interest in Overbay at the deadline, although his is an interesting discussion in the off-season. Overbay is the type of complementary hitter that isn’t going to turn your season around in the final two months after the trade deadline. He’s a 40-doubles, 70-RBIs, 15 homers, .270 type guy that fits in nicely in the 6-7 hole if you have other bangers that are producing. That’s why he looks bad in the Jays’ mix. As for his contract, he’s due for $7 million in the final year of his contract in 2010.
Q: We travelled to Seattle for Wednesday's game just in case it was Roy Halladay's last with the Jays. Little did we know it would be Scott Rolen's final game with Toronto. What a player he is and what a loss for the team. It is really difficult to figure out the Jays' strategy these days, if indeed there is one. Richard, where does the team go from here?
Ernie Armstrong, Vernon, B.C.
A: It was nice to hear the knowledge and respect shown to Halladay by the Vancouver contingent of Jays Nation. With just small pockets of fans even in the ballpark, as soon as Doc emerged from the third-base dugout and started his march across the outfield to the bullpen, the cheering started, acknowledging this could be the final time. Really nice. As for Rolen, “what a player” pretty much sums it up. This guy is the best defensive third baseman I’ve ever seen and plays all aspects of the game the right way, including being one of the smartest slow-guy baserunners I’ve had the pleasure to witness. Even in making an out on the bases, it would always be a calculated gamble that didn’t leave the Jays in a bad position. The one criticism is the “personal wishes” aspect of his wanting out, apparently, to be closer to home. One would think that for $11 million per annum that you are being paid to play wherever they ask you to play and the sacrifice of being away from home for six months is being covered by the cash. I guess not.
Q: Hello Richard, I would like to ask you if you think the Jays will dismiss J.P. at season's end and is there anybody out there that the Jays could hire to be the new GM. Also which other players do you think the Jays will trade this off season? Keep up the great work!
Gino Leone, Toronto
A: Please remember that I have been wrong before, but here is my best guess on what happens with J.P. New president comes in. He calls J.P. in the office. J.P., not wanting to be in a lame-duck position with one-year remaining on his contract, asks for an extension so that he can be dealing on an equal footing with other GMs. The Jays don’t really want to give him 3-5 more years. They agree to part ways. New prez installs either one of the current assistant GMs because it would be very difficult to get someone with success and previous experience to take this job in the current economic, philosophical climate.
Q: Richard, it's "swell" that J.P. was kind to Rolen, but this doesn't look like much more than a salary dump, nicely covered by the "personal issues" comment. You don't see it that way?
Tim Alison, Meteghan
A: The reason I don’t see it that way is because Roy Halladay is still here and Halladay is the man. The relationship between Halladay and the Jays is one of “never give up.” Their situation is like Butch and Sundance in that cabin in Bolivia planning for the future while the whole Bolivian army waits outside to blow them away. Reality is always a little skewed in the Jays’ front office. Halladay needs defence on the field. Rolen was a big part of that. Rolen asked for a deal, preferably to the Reds, and Ricciardi obliged. The fact that he got a couple of really good young arms is a bonus. The fact that he got Edwin Encarnacion and his $4.75 million commitment for ‘10 was a necessary evil and one that will be divested of in trade in the off-season.
Q: What in the Sam Hill does "whip" mean when I see it in the boxscore or on the TV screen? - and what does it signify?
Edward Uhraney, Mississauga
A: That’s what I like. Old-school ball fans like you. WHIP stands for “walks-plus-hits-over-innings-pitched”. The lower your WHIP, the better pitcher you are according to the new age statisticians. If you can hold opponents to a 1.00 WHIP that means your hits and walks add up to the same as your innings. That is good, yes, but give me good old wins and losses or team wins and losses for a starting pitcher.
Why does nobody ever comment on the rampant use of chewing tobacco in the major leagues? Closer J. P. Howell last week appeared to take his cap off to cover up a spit of chewing tobacco on the mound with no comment from the play-by-play announcers?
Alan McLean, Sarnia
A: For the past decade, chewing tobacco has been banned from major-league clubhouses. Equipment managers used to have cans piled up for their dippers, but studies showed the damaging effects of continued chewing so MLB issued an edict officially banning it. All that meant was the product was not laid out in the clubhouse anymore. Yes, fewer young players today chew, just as fewer people are smoking cigarettes, but if you want chewing tobacco you can still get it. If anyone complains about it, commissioner Bud Selig will just point to the fact that it has been banned from all minor and major-league clubhouses. What else can they do? Even some veteran sports writers and columnists still dip.
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