Sad news on Tuesday with the passing of legendary Tigers' broadcaster Ernie Harwell at the age of 92. Harwell had been sick with cancer for the past year, so the news was not unexpected but nevertheless, no matter how well prepared you are, it's always a shock. I first met Mr. Harwell in 1984 at the World Series between the Tigers and Padres. He has forever been charming, enthusiastic, inclusive and a great ambassador for the game. He lived the game, loved the players and respected the fans, which is a dynamite trifecta. If you wanted to talk baseball, Mr. Harwell was ever-ready, never making you feel like he had more important places to be. The ballpark, any ballpark, was his most important place to be, other than home with his wife Lulu. The Tigers, the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the entire baseball world will miss him badly.
Q-Now that Vernon Wells is playing like he did a few years back, is it safe to say he is back to being tradable? If that is the case, would the Blue Jays consider moving him to a team that can afford his albatross contract?
Farhan Ghori, Oakville
A-That's an interesting concept. The Jays would trade him, but is he tradable? I think he needs more than one good month to undo what has happened to his market value over the last two years. The Jays still owe him $86 million for the next four years, what with the way the contract was backend loaded by former GM J.P. Ricciardi. Even with his improved performance, is he in the same category as other $20 million per year guys like A-Rod, Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and Derek Jeter? How about Albert Pujols? For the most part he is not, but if he had a great year this season and another solid year in 2011, then he may become tradable again. But by that time, what if the Jays themselves find themselves on the cusp of contending, would they be better off keeping him? I think another GM right now would have difficulty selling a trade for Wells to his own ownership.
Love the blog. In your opinion, do the Jays have the potential to have one of the best rotations in the American League in the next couple years? (Kyle) Drabek, (Shaun) Marcum, (Ricky) Romero, (Brett) Cecil and one of McGowan/Purcey/Mills could mature into a great rotation. What will the rotation look like in 2011?
Brian M., Barrie
A-It is too early to really project this young Jays' rotation for a full season much less project them as one of the best rotations in the American League. Certainly, the new Brett Cecil, with his calmness and ability to change speeds effectively looks like he could become a solid ML starter. Romero has already demonstrated the right stuff. Marcum has made five starts after missing a full season. We need to see him over 30 starts to really judge his comeback a success. Drabek is a solid prospect, but there are others down on the Jays' farm that may eclipse him like Zach Stewart and Chad Jenkins. McGowan is iffy to ever get back to his major-league form. It's going on two years now since he has pitched in a meaningful pro game. Purcey's future looks like it's in the bullpen, while Mills is now down on the organization's depth chart of starters. Don't forget Marc Rzepczynski. As for the 2011 rotation, it will likely emerge from among the current group – minus Dana Eveland – plus Drabek, Stewart, Jenkins and Rzep. That's a pool of eight men and they will select five. It has a chance to be a solid major-league rotation into the future.
Q-Geez. These guys sure know how to hit the ball out of the park but where are the hits? As of May 4, Blue Jays have 223 hits and 42 of them are home runs. That means every fifth hit is a home run!
Are they swinging for the fences and striking out too much? Maybe they have Dave Kingman doing some ghost coaching in the back of the dugout? So what is this indicative of? Is it good or what?
Stephen Sagar, Midland
A-It's both entertaining and frustrating for Jays fans. Consider the fact that the Jays lead the AL in both homers and strikeouts and rank sixth in runs scored. The Jays are two games above .500 with a plus-14 run differential. They have a .235 team batting average and .237 with runners in scoring position. With numbers like that, the spectre of Dave Kingman is a good one and with the way Travis Snider and Fred Lewis butchered balls at the corners of the outfield on Tuesday, there are some parallels. What is it indicative of? For guys like Lewis, Bautista, Buck and Gonzalez it's indicative of maybe why they were available to a team like the Jays in a rebuilding mode looking for affordable guys with an up-side and some built in flaws. Nothing has changed with these guys, it's just that they are now all Blue Jays.
Do you think Alex Anthopoulos would be wise to speed up his long-term rebuilding plan, add some impact players and make a bid for the wildcard this year? Is the core good enough to justify free agent signings this year or next?
Chris M., Collingwood
A-No, no, no and no – at least for this year. The time to re-evaluate the Jays' future is in October and November when the actual 2010 progress can be gauged in the sober light of day. Adding expensive players at the deadline, or at least the desire to add impact players and make a mid-season run, was the downfall of the previous regime. They went into each season swearing to build and then were blinded by the light of instant contention at the trade deadline and by a strong finish into the off-season. Instead of going into Year 2 of rebuilding they would take the surprise 85 wins as a sign they were on the cusp of a wild-card and make some sort of ill-advised acquisition with the goal of winning now. It never happened because they were always trying to hasten the process and ended up setting it back.
With the Royals demotion of Alex Gordon and the lack of support for Zack Greinke, why wouldn't the Jays approach the Royals for a possible trade. Getting those two players would fill 2 organizational holes, third base and a innings front of the rotation pitcher. The Jays have the pitching prospects to pull this type of trade off. What are your thoughts on this hypothetical trade scenario?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake
A-That's the sort of pie-in-the-sky trade that fans talk about strictly from the standpoint of their own team's interests. That move would fill the holes for the Jays and open them up for the Royals. The Royals have two blue-chippers in Greinke and Gordon that they spent a lot of money in signing and developing. What organization would put all that effort in and then hand their top prospects off to another organization for an assortment of players (the Jays' starters) that every GM believes he can draft and develop himself? A GM who would soon find himself in the stands, that's who.
Big fan of the mailbag. I was at the game when the Royals were in town and was enjoying the game from the "cheap" seats. There were many close plays throughout the game (at the bases, fair/foul, ball/strike). Each time, I looked up at the Jumbotron to see the replays. Except, the Jumbotron did not show any replays of close plays. What is the policy that prevents close plays from being shown on the Jumbotron. Is this type of censorship consistent with other ballparks or even other major league sports?
Robbie Shapiro, Toronto
A-The Jays have acknowledged that their policy is to not show close or controversial plays on the scoreboard because the umpires would “prefer” it. Most other stadiums will show those plays with the belief that fans that make the effort to attend games in person should have the same access to information and replays as fans sitting at home in their living rooms. I don't agree with the Jays, but if they feel that showing the close plays would annoy the umpires and influence future decisions, that's not giving the integrity of the umpires very much credit. There is no MLB rule about it.
Q-Often fans are taught not to evaluate a player's performance based on a few weeks of playing time, but, as in the case of struggling players in slumps, to give these ones time to work things out. Recall David Ortiz's slow start last year? By the end of the season he had vindicated himself. So what, some Jays' pundits say, if Buck, Snider and Overbay are off to slow starts, when all is said and done, that's when you can properly evaluate them. That said, here you have the All-Star voting already underway, and it's only April, not even a month into the year!
To me this seems senseless and premature. How can fans honestly vote for a player in April or early May when, by the time the All-Star game rolls around mid-season, that same player may have cooled off dramatically to the point of no longer being worthy enough to participate in the event? Is this not a contradiction?
Darrell Holtze, Guelph
A-Baseball is supposedly the most romantic of pro sports, but when it comes to all-star voting, it is as mercenary and numbers oriented as any other. Your argument makes sense. Why would you have voting for baseball's mid-season showcase of its stars commence some 18 games into the season? The reason is that all MLB is looking for is numbers. They want to set a record each year for ballots cast and be able to say it is the biggest non-political election in North America. Whether they pinpoint the right players or not is incidental to the process. Besides, all-star fan voting is largely a popularity contest anyway and whether a player is injured or not performing sometimes makes no difference to his candidacy. They could start at spring training and the results would still be controversial.
Q-Following the April 27 2-1 loss to Boston, I feel compelled to write to ask why Cito insists on taking out the starting pitcher after 7 innings when they are having a good game? I know that he does not want to overwork young or healing arms and that he wants everyone on the roster to get a chance to play but, gee, it is also nice to win some games! I was just about fit to be tied last night when he did that because I then knew they were going to lose the game. Always enjoy your column in the Star.
Linda Rumpf, Brighton, Ont.
A-Gaston believes that 110-120 pitches is enough for any of his young pitchers and 180 innings in a season is enough for his young pitchers. When you have a deep, solid bullpen that's not a bad strategy because you are then using your 25-man roster to win games by asking guys to do what they are paid to do. When the bullpen stumbles, the decisions are called into question, right Jason Frasor? An interesting note for the Jays current five-man rotation is that combined, heading into Wednesday afternoon's game in Cleveland, they have one career complete game. That was by Dana Eveland, May 21 2008 as a member of the A's vs. Tampa Bay. The current Jays' bullpen matches that with one complete game by Scott Downs with the Expos in 2004. You, Linda, trail the entire Jays rotation by just one complete game. Take heart.
Long time reader, first time writer. Is Brett Wallace on the radar for this season? Is he going to be a June 1st call-up, or potentially a Sept. 1st call-up? Thanks for all the great work that you do for this under-appreciated team!
Aaron Arkin, Toronto
A-Wallace is most definitely on the Jays' radar this year. The Jays are treating Lyle Overbay with great respect and I believe are trying to find a landing spot for him so that he can continue to build personal numbers heading into free agency. They may even be willing to pay another team Overbay's remaining salary in order to take him off their hands. If his numbers were better, he'd be easier to trade. But they're not and so he continues to play every day. It seems oxymoronic. I believe that the latest Wallace will join the Jays is August 1 after the trade deadline. If the Jays could trade Overbay tomorrow I'm sure they would and promote Wallace from Vegas right now. The one big reason for keeping the lefthanded hitting prospect in the minors a little longer is to postpone his arbitration-eligible year from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013. That possibility of being a “super-two” arbitration guy in terms of accumulated major-league service would probably expire at the end of May.
Why do the Blue Jays still continue charging a $2.00 "service charge" for tickets purchased at their box office?
I have been to every Major League Baseball stadium and no other team adds on an additional charge. A handful will charge more for tickets bought on the day of the game. I have no problem with this practice as it rewards the true fans that buy tickets in advance. However, those teams that follow this practice incorporate the surcharge in the ticket price. The Blue Jays on the other hand tack on the charge so a ticket that is advertised as $11.00 really costs this fan $13.00.
Perhaps the removal of this "service charge" will help somewhat in the Jays' attendance woes.
John Karr, Toronto
A-It's been a long-time policy of most major-league teams to have a service charge on tickets purchased by phone or online because they were utilizing a professional ticket broker like Ticketron. But I don't understand the policy for tickets purchased in person at the ballpark. Most people just consider it part of the cost of doing business with the Jays but that doesn't make it right. I'll have to check with the Jays and include in a future mailbag because I would like to get the facts straight before ripping the organization for what seems on the surface like a bad policy.
Q-Richard, I have 3 questions;
Question 1: With the contracts of Overbay and Encarnacion running out at the end of the season (approx. 11.75 million) are there any players that are out there that the Jays could trade for to fill the organization's void at 3rd Base, as 1st will be filled by Brett Wallace.
So a potential lineup for late 2010, and the 2011 season would be: F.Lewis LF, A.Hill 2B, A.Lind DH, V.Wells CF, B.Wallace 1B, 3B Open Slot, T. Snider RF, T.D'Arnaud/Arencibia C, A.Gonzalez/A.Hechavarria SS, That seems and looks like a solid line-up with the exception of the hole at 3rd. What will their options be at third base?
Question 2: The Jays have multiple picks in the early rounds, what are some of the potential prospects of who the Jays might draft? How many picks do the Jays have and will they be able to sign them?
Question 3: With A.A. being a young General Manager, how does one get into the Baseball Industry and where would one start in looking to get in with the Blue Jays? As always, a pleasure in reading your mailbag.
A-The type of player the Jays would be looking for to take over at third base is best acquired in the off-season not at the trade deadline. Naming any names would be pure speculation until you see what develops as this season goes on, which organizations will find they have a surplus at third base of young controllable players, the type that Anthopoulos covets. Encarnacion will not be back, while Overbay will likely be gone during this season. As for your projected starting lineup, Lewis will likely not be back (at least as a starter) in 2011, while D'Arnaud, the catcher acquired in the Halladay deal from the Phillies, won't be ready at least until 2012, as with the Cuban defector Hechavarria. But if Hechavarria came on like gangbusters, how about the Jays picking up the 2011 option in Gonzalez and sliding him over to third base where his bat that he has demonstrated this year would not be detrimental. Answer 2: The Jays are working on their Top 100 draft board as we speak. The club has nine picks in the first 113 of the June draft. They choose their own picks at Nos. 11-61-93. They have compensation picks at Nos. 34 (Scutaro); 38 (Paxton); 41 (Barajas); 69 (Eliopoulos); 80 (Scutaro-2) and 113 (3rd round compensation from '09). They insist they will have no trouble signing their selections even if it means going higher than slot recommendation. This is their opportunity to build for the future and they are not inclined to blow it. Answer 3: The best way to get into the game at an entry level is to attend the winter meeting job seekers portion in Anaheim in December and stand out from the rest in terms of personality, presentation and preparation. That means working the lobby while not attending job seekers sessions and sounding professional and ready to start on the ground floor. Either that or have connections to get a foot in the door.