To the mailbag.
Enjoy your mailbag every week, please keep up the good work! If Jordan Bastian (of MLB.com) is right, our starting rotation will be Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, and Brian Tallet to start the season. I have a lot of concern with this group as we seem to have two No. 3 starters (Marcum and Romero) and two No. 4 starters (Morrow and Zep) without a true ace or even a 2-a starter. To make matters worse, the top 4 starters, except Romero, should have an inning limit this year. In your opinion, what should be the Jays strategy in managing the starting rotation this year?
James Ho, Vancouver
A:I've talked about this with pitching coach Bruce Walton already and he, being an organization man, was far more generous with his assessment of the Jays' potential rotation than you or I are. He labeled it “No. 1 and four No. 2s.” In any case if I was handling this rotation with iffy durability beyond 180 innings each, I would not worry about the off days in April or at any time during the season, because you can throw a blanket over the high and the low of the rotation, so close and so unproven, I would go with a truer 5-man rotation and just keep spinning through, even if it means Marcum and Romero and everyone else could be pitching on 5-6-7 days rest. There are no Halladay-like horses that you are riding, so just let it play itself out.
Q:A starting staff of Marcum, Dustin McGowan, Morrow, Romero and Rzepczynski has the potential to produce roughly 70 wins if Marcum and McGowan win 14-17 games, Morrow and Romero win 12-15 games and Rzepcynski get 10-12 wins. Do you believe this is remotely possible? I'm assuming that leads won't be blown by a suspect bullpen with no real closer and that all these guys stay healthy.
Jason Sinnarajah, Sydney, Australia
A:You are being extremely, nay, insanely optimistic. The career highs for the 5-man rotation as you project it are 12 for Marcum and McGowan, three for Morrow, 13 for Romero and two for Zep – that's a total of 42 victories if they all match career highs. Now granted Morrow and Zep have not had a chance for a full season in the rotation, but to project this group at 28 combined wins above their established career highs is a stretch. At the most optimistic, I would say 60 wins from that group which would allow the Jays to challenge the .500 mark. McGowan likely won't be able to rejoin the rotation until some time in May.
With the knowledge that this is Cito's last year, are (President Paul) Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos and company proactively thinking about who will take over the reins next year; or will they wait to see who gets fired by year's end? Would it not be prudent to be proactive on this front and maybe give the new guy coming in ample time to learn and observe what he will be inheriting? I say this as it is rare that a team has the advantage of knowing this information so far in advance without having to hide their interests from a manager.
Josh Reed, Toronto
A:The Jays may have someone in mind, but MLB mandates that there must be an interview process with multiple candidates, including at least one minority candidate. The affirmative action part of the process was brought in over 20 years ago at the behest of guys like the late Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent, Bud Selig and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. As such, it's hard to go through a true interview process while the current season is still going on. As such, I could see the Jays beginning the interview process in late September starting with the internal candidates like coach Brian Butterfield, others within the system and former managers that are doing TV. Then finish the interview process in October with current major-league coaches that may apply, making the announcement during one of those inevitably long breaks between series. If history repeats itself, the new manager will be someone that Alex Anthopoulos has worked with before or has admired from afar. He will not fear hiring a strong personalitied big name but could hire a first-timer with tremendous upside.
Do you notice a perception change since Beeston took over as fulltime President in regards to Toronto as a "large" market expected to return "large" results? The previous regime would prattle on about the inability of the "small" market Jays to compete with the big boys of the east (regardless of back-to-back World Series only 10 years before). Wasn't it that attitude that led to their small (dismal) results? Dampening your audiences enthusiasm (especially in a "Think Big" town like Toronto) will be felt in the corporate ledgers and then inevitably on the field. No? Shouldn't the suits at Rogers have realized this and muzzled the Worcester Jester?
David Ralph, Toronto
A:Yes. I always perceived embarrassment from club president Paul Godfrey and then Beeston as a couple of proud Torontonians and Canadians whenever the former GM would dis his own city and organization as being "small market” and unable to compete. The new GM Anthopoulos has not used the "small market” defence once in terms of describing the daunting task he faces in the AL East against the Yankees and Red Sox. Part of that new respect for Toronto as a major city is the fact that the GM is a member of the community. The other guy would head home the the Mecca of baseball as often as he could and do interviews in the States from a distance as if he was doing Toronto a favour working there, like he was Beau Geste on leave from the French Foreign Legion.
Q:Hey Richard...love reading all your articles...quick question about Adam Lind and Brett Wallace. I keep hearing that Lind is a liability in the outfield and so he is the DH. There was also talk of him playing first base. Wouldn't grooming him to be the first baseman and leave Wallace on third fill 2 holes and would allow Ruiz to be a DH or have Snider there until they figure out where the want to have him play everyday. If Snider was in the outfield that would even be better. I suppose you would have to find a taker for Overbay but I'm sure someone would take him. He's a good player. Might make for a pretty dangerous offence for opposing pitchers.
Dan Frook, Fergus
A:Even though Lind is a below average outfielder, it's the spectre of Lind in left and Travis Snider in right that made the manager cringe last September. That makes Vernon Wells' territory roughly the size of the Grand Canyon. Combine that with the stats formulas that show Wells losing significant range in centre and you have a problem. The other issue is that Wallace is not yet ready to step into the middle of a major-league batting order and be productive. If Snider makes the Jays, which is not a certainty, he could play left or right with Jose Bautista in right or if Bautista has to play third base due to the Edwin Encarnacion injury, Joey Gathright could play left. Gaston does not want an outfield of Snider, Lind and Wells. If Snider is optioned to Vegas, then that leaves room for Lind to play the outfield.
One final Doc question. I'm very surprised Doc took a trade to a National League team because if I'm not mistaken, I heard he absolutely hates batting. Has anyone ever asked him about this? Has he been at the batting cages in the off season?
Mike M., Toronto
A:Halladay was constantly asked the question about his dislike for swinging the bat every time the Jays would get ready for inter-league play. He always carried his bat out to the cage like a kid carrying a garden snake. It was a reason I thought that AL teams had an advantage in trying to obtain Doc in trade this winter. However when asked about it at his first press conference in uniform this February, his response: "I don't like hitting, but if it's something that can help me win a game it's something I will work hard on.” He had not been to the batting cage in the off-season, but my guess is that because of his determination to succeed he becomes a competent bunter and will hit at least one home run this year. The other thing is he knows if he learns to swing the bat at least half-decently it will keep him in more ballgames late and he hates coming out of games.
Q:It was great to hear the news when it was announced a few months ago that Buck Martinez was hired on by Sportsnet. My question for you is: When you're at the ballpark watching the game, are you tuned in to either one of the Jays' radio/TV broadcasts? The reason I ask, is because I'd like to get your opinion on what you make of Martinez's return to the television booth. It was disappointing that Jaime Campbell had to vacate his spot, what with his being an above-par game-caller and a big fan of the sport himself. Martinez will fill Campbell's shoes and then some, but somehow he doesn't strike me as a play-by-play commentator type. Have you also heard who'll be accompanying Martinez in the less prominent interjecting-side kick role? Personally, I prefer a variety and have always enjoyed the rotation of Pat Tabler, Rance Mulliniks, and Darrin Fletcher.
Darrell Holtze, Guelph
A:I like Jamie Campbell as a man and I respect his love for baseball, but it didn't always translate on air. I was very happy for Jamie when he got his "touch 'em all Joe” moment as a broadcaster at the Olympics, calling Canada's first gold medal win on Canadian soil and other memorable moments. As for Buck Martinez, I've spent a lot of time talking to him this spring, first of all because he's always at the ballpark not because he's working but because he's getting prepared to be working. I laugh because he's been like Forrest Gump in the movie when he's forever on camera in newsreel footage peering over shoulders at famous moments in history. Buck is always listening in on group reporter interviews, soaking in info. On TV the term "play-by-play" is overrated. As Rod Stewart says, Every Picture Tells a Story. Therefore Buck's philosophy is going to start out as just him and Rance or Pat Tabler sitting, watching a game and talking like fans in the stands with the audience at home listening in. Even though in a bizarre decision, Rogers has not broadcast any games this spring, Martinez has invited his booth partner to sit with him during a game and pretend they were on TV, meaning they just chat. Buck has worked with some quality play-by-play men and has been paying attention.
What's the story on David Cooper? With the Jays picking up Brett Wallace in the Halladay deal and talk of moving Wallace to 1st base, where does this leave Cooper in the overall scheme of things? Will he ever be in a Jays uniform or will he be moved?
Cavan Papp, Summerside, P.E.I.
A:You can never have enough good ballplayers in your organization. Yes, Wallace is the future at first base and yes Cooper was drafted first in 2008 to be the first baseman of the future, but things have a tendency to work themselves out. If Cooper has a good year and develops to the periphery of a major-league career, somebody will spot him and he can be used as inventory in obtaining parts in other areas of need. Cooper is not there yet. Wallace is closer to being ready and according to Jays' brass has a higher ceiling. As for Cooper ever being a Jay, it's tough to predict injuries, development spurts, position changes and the wild-card, the DH.
Q:Given the seemingly large numbers of young pitchers who seem to require Tommy John (not just Jays) surgery, is there any thoughts to changing the rules of control over a drafted player? Compared to a drafted position player, who (in theory) stands a better chance of a series of less serious injuries, clubs lose a large chunk of time which a pitcher is controllable for when they undergo this surgery. Can you see rules being adapted during the next CBA to alter this in any manner, or will it forever be a "it is what it is" scenario?
Graham Harvey, Toronto
A:That's an intriguing thought and one that seems to be win-win for teams and players. It could be proposed that in the case of TJ surgery or shoulder surgery for a pitcher that loses a full season of play while on the major-league roster that he receives credit for the ML service time towards his pension but does not receive credit for that missed season towards free agency. So, for instance, Shaun Marcum with three years-plus of service, instead of being eligible for free agency after 2012, the Jays would retain him through 2013 because he missed the entire '09 campaign. It could be for position players as well even though it applies more for pitchers. Makes sense, won't happen.
After reading your thoughts on conference re-alignment, I am wondering if there is any way that MLB could weight the amateur draft to give low end teams an increased edge beyond what now exists and downplay the debate of rich team/poor team chances of success by putting a little more focus on development. I am aware that trades often involve draft choices.
Richard Campbell, Edmonton
A:Baseball is a sport that cannot trade draft choices. Baseball also has no ping-pong balls and lottery picks. The problem with giving more picks to lower ranked small market, financially inferior teams is that the higher draft picks command bigger bonuses. The Nationals could barely afford Stephen Strasburg, much less a second pick in the first round that was another expensive bonus. Some bad teams would draft signable, cheaper players and the big boys would get their good players, just in a lower slot. It's an idea that would not be considered.