Granted, among players from the June 2007 draft and later, most don’t have to be protected on the 40-man roster until next year. But it’s not just that J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman, two catchers that were supposed to be in competition for the starting job in 2010, both had mediocre minor-league seasons. It’s the fact that when looking at those guys, you realize the number of hotshot prospects that are struggling down on the farm. And most of the touted position-prospects have not yet even advanced to Double-A making them still a couple of years away.
Next year, the Jays will have to fill with free agents again. Among those with disappointing seasons: AA-New Hampshire – David Cooper (1B); A-Dunedin – Kevin Ahrens (3B), Justin Jackson (SS) and John Tolisano (2B); A-Lansing – Kenny Wilson (CF); A-Auburn – Eric Eiland (OF).
How about the Lansing offence in the Midwest League. They were 54-83 with a .255 team batting average, but the startling stat was 1,176 strikeouts in 4,617 at-bats. That is an average of 153 strikeouts every 600 at-bats (roughly a full major-league season).
Some of the walks-to-strikeouts ratios among Lugnuts were stunning. Third baseman Balbino Fuenmayor had seven walks and 71 Ks. Justin McLanahan (2B) had 25 walks and 11 Ks. The three catchers combined for 45 BB and 174 Ks.
The bottom line here is that for those that are hoping the Jays will get team payroll back up to the $100 million area, don’t count on it until the B.J. Ryan contract is off then books and, more importantly, until some of the team’s top[ prospects are ready to contribute to a winning team. That’s another year away at least. On to the mailbag.
I have stood by this (Jays) team for the last several years with the understanding that even though we haven't made the playoffs, that at least management was doing the best it could to make this team better. But this latest inaction has kind of put an end to that. How on earth do we not call up any prospects to at least see what we have with them for this month of September? Why not bring up Fabio Castro (24) and see if he is the real deal or not. Why not call up a guy in Brian Dopirak (25), who for two seasons in a row has hit over .300 and hit almost 30 hrs with over 100 RBI? What about catcher of the future J.P. Arencibia (23)? Instead, they call up Inglett, Wolfe and Hayhurst? These guys aren't prospects that will help shape our organization in the near and long-term future. I am baffled with these moves.
And what the heck has Jeremy Accardo done that was so bad that he continues to get no appreciation for doing what half our bullpen has failed to do and that is get outs? Any insight? I'm almost done here!
Bontley Pootter, Kingston, Ont.
A: I’m with you on much of what you say. I believe that in this, a season of their discontent, fans, as few as there might be at the Rogers Centre, would prefer to see a lineup of: C-Arencibia; 1B-Randy Ruiz; 2B-Aaron Hill; 3B-John McDonald; SS-Marco Scutaro; LF-Jose Bautista; CF-Vernon (for his glove); RF-Travis Snider; DH-Adam Lind. When Halladay pitches, he can have Barajas behind the plate.
As for the callups, the second wave came in on Tuesday and the human yo-yo, Accardo was among them, with the disappointing David Purcey and the unknown backup catcher Kyle Phillips. What amazes me is that even though they now have the flexibility with Phillips on hand to be able to pinch-run for Barajas or Raul Chavez in late innings, there is nobody on the bench with any speed to do that job – even in September with expanded rosters.
As for the pitching callups, the Jays now list 17 pitchers. With Brett Cecil about to make his final start and Marc Rzepczynski already shut down, it leaves four starters (Halladay, Romero, Richmond and Purcey), one closer (Frasor) and 10 middle relievers (although Tallet will start). Guys like Josh Roenicke, Casey Janssen, Brian Wolfe, Accardo and Dirk Hayhurst are praying for blowouts so they can have a chance to pitch.
At the moment, management is not doing the best it can to make this team better. This will be the toughest off-season selling job to Jays’ fans … ever!
Q: Dear Richard,
Please provide a critique of the Jays' scouting department. This team has lost a number of good people in the last few years; the “major league” roster is chronically plugged with over-aged dreck already dumped by other teams (Jose Bautista the most recent example); over three decades all catching prospects (except Pat Borders ) have faded away before reaching Toronto and now Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman seem to be sinking too. Why? Thank heaven the management of this team isn't trying to develop wine since they always pick and spoil good grapes before they ripen (Mills, Cecil, Ray, etc.).
Selby Martin, Toronto
A: It’s hard to say whether any problems lie in the professional scouting itself or whether it’s the sometimes flawed decision-making after the scouting reports have been absorbed by the GM’s office. How to explain Frank Thomas one year too late or David Eckstein in the AL or Dave Dellucci or Kevin Millar ort Matt Bush or Royce Clayton or Brad Wilkerson or Kevin Mench or Shannon Stewart replacing Reed Johnson or John Ford Griffin or Jason Arnold or Terry Adams or Jeff Tam or John Thomson or Tanyon Sturtze. On the other hand there have been some good decisions on overlooked players to balance some of that – like Scutaro, Barajas, Chavez, Tallet, Shawn Camp and Gregg Zaun when he came on board as a released free agent. The problem with that track record is that if you are the Yankees or Red Sox you can afford to make mistakes and just eat the money, but in a market like the Jays, you need to be almost perfect. J.P. is far from it.
The catching situation has been a mess on the farm forever, but don’t give up on Arencibia and Jeroloman. In a couple of years they may team up on the major-league roster like the Angels’ duo of Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli. But in support of your premise on the woes of catching past, note that the only homegrown catchers to appear for the Jays in the past 10 years are Curtis Thigpen, Guillermo Quiroz, Kevin Cash and Josh Phelps, none of whom were a starter.
As for your suggestion on management’s potential development of bad wine, I beg to differ. The Rogers Estates already features a variety of winter wines, albeit most of them slightly bitter. They ferment all summer and are on display between season. Some of the most prominent of these Rogers Estate wines are issued under a variety of amusing labels: Chateau des Blessures (The Whine - Hey, come on. We did all right considering all the injuries we had. How can you compete when all your stars are always hurt?), Chateau de Malchance (The Whine - Hey, how can we compete when we’re in the AL East. Those guys buy championships. If we were in the Central we would have been in the playoffs several times by now) and finally Chateau de Media Fou (This particular vintage is made largely from sour grapes. The Whine - How can we do our job when the local media does nothing but criticize and poison the minds of our otherwise mindless fans? The public would buy what we were selling without your infernal lies and twisted misrepresentations.) Medias Fous was in fact the favourite wine of Richard Nixon during the Watergate years.
Q: Hi Richard,
I have a question on the responsibilities of the fans in regards to supporting the team. In short, what constitutes a good fan? I consider myself a Jays fan, and try to get to 3-5 games per year, while also watching at least part of pretty much every game on TV, at least while the team is somewhat contending. I've lost interest over the past few weeks as the wheels have fallen off, and have only caught a few innings. We always hear about how Toronto fans don't do enough to support the team, and don't buy enough tickets, so I was wondering, if someone asked you to put a number on the amount of games attended by a "good" fan, what would that number be? I'm getting tired of hearing about how if the attendance was better, the team would be better, how about Rogers improving the product first?
Shaun Q., Oakville
A: I agree with you 100 per cent about improving the product to increase the revenue instead of increasing the revenue then improving the product. Think about if you owned a fancy restaurant. It used to be jammed every night with a great menu and a fine staff of world-class chefs. Then for some reason – competition, the economy, you closed for six months – the clientele started to slip away. Saturdays were half full. Patrons were finding other places to go. What would be your response? It certainly would not be to get rid of your superior kitchen staff, replace them with cheaper chefs still learning the business, then ask all your former customers to come back because you need them. The smart reaction in that restaurant scenario would be to upgrade your menu, hire even better chefs and try and lure back the client base you know is still out there.
As for the definition of a good Jays fan, that’s an interesting question. The first factor, I believe is liking the sport of baseball first and loving the Jays second, that combo allows you to go to games at the Rogers Centre and come away satisfied, even when the Jays lose a well-played game. It gives you a sense that you got your money’s worth even in defeat. Being a good fan involves paying attention to Jays’ televised games and listening to Jerry and Alan on radio when you’re in the car, even if it’s just tuning in and out to check on scores. There is no number of games attended that can make you a good fan. Much of that depends on economic circumstances.
As for your diminished interest of late, I can’t blame you for that. There are too many nights lately where the entertainment value is not there. The offence is flat. The starting pitching gives it up early and there is no fight in the Jays. This has been an unusual Jays second half because usually this is a team that is improving as the season winds down offering hope for the next season. It ain’t happening.
Q: Hey Rich,
Perhaps I've missed a recent mailbag query on the subject, but it is disconcerting to a rotation projection for 2010 without McGowan. I take it the rehab isn't going terribly well?
Ben F., Toronto
A: The McGowan rehab is not going well. But I think that the Jays have learned a valuable lesson from last winter and are trying to downplay the various timeframes for returns from surgery – Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch and McGowan in particular. They oversold the “McGowan being ready for May” factor last winter and it burned them. Just because Dustin is not being mentioned does not mean his career is over.
Q: What are the Jays’ plans for Randy Ruiz next year? I think he would make an excellent option (not to mention affordable) for DH. I like Kevin Millar, but he will most certainly not be on the team next year. Why not see what this guy can do for an extended period of time, instead of sitting him on the bench for both games during a double header.
Drew E., Kirkland Lake, Ont.
A: I admire a guy like Ruiz that can take a fastball in the face, spit blood all over the batter’s box and then say he’s ready to go the next day. That’s the attitude you develop after 11 seasons in the minor leagues. Ruiz at this moment is a factor for next year in place of Millar. Ruiz is enthusiastic about his bench role in a sincere way and plans on working on his corner outfield play to go with first base, as well as his conditioning to shed a few pounds in order to increase speed and endurance. Yes, Ruiz sat out the doubleheader in Texas, but he is certainly getting enough of an opportunity this month to impress his manager and be considered a factor for the 25-man rebuilding roster in 2010.
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