It had always seemed just a matter of time with the Jays before Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter, so when he came up with the perfect game for the Phillies against the Marlins on May 29, it seemed to create less of a buzz than many others in the recent past. Halladay's granny didn't come out and tell A-Rod to stuff it like Dallas Braeden. Nobody had to go fence-climbing to save the gem like DeWayne Wise did for Mark Buehrle. Doc didn't have sweaty blond hair flopping around and throw a perfect game in the twilight of his career like the Big Unit. He wasn't pitching for the Yankees like the two Davids, Cone and Wells. All Halladay did was go out and do his job, then hug his catcher gently and show up at the ballpark for work the next morning at 6:30 a.m. To work out. It was the 18th perfect game since 1900, since Cy Young tossed one in 1904. An interesting sidelight pointed out to me by Jeff Blair of the Globe. A good friend, former Expos and current Marlins broadcaster Dave Van Horne has now done play-by-play for the last three major-league perfect games thrown by right-handed pitchers. He called El Perfecto by Dennis Martinez, July 28, 1991 in Los Angeles. He called David Cone vs. the Expos on July 18, 1999 and then Doc's surgery vs. the Marlins last week. On to the mailbag.
Long time reader of you and the Star and around your age too. I guess the only thing about your articles and position(s) over the years was your constant J.P. Riccardi bashing. I don't think J.P. was the best manager the Jay's have ever had but I do think he was much better than most folks including you give him credit for. Bear in mind the core of young pitchers (Shaun Marcum, Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero, Jesse Litsch et al) and position players (Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Travis Snider) were drafted by J.P. It would be nice if sometimes you gave the guy a bit of credit.
Thanks, Steve Vincent
A: The Ricciardi era between November 2001 and October 2009 did, indeed, produce the majority of the position players and pitchers on the current Jays team, in fact 15 of the 25 players on the June 1 active roster, however if would be hard to see any circumstance where a pro sports GM had a team's reins for that long anywhere and that would not be the situation. The criticism of Ricciardi was not so much about his ability to acquire major-league players but more so about the peripheral stuff, the constant excuses for not being able to compete, the changes of direction in terms of a master plan, the disrespect of the team's fans, the disrespect for the role of manager, the pointing of the finger at ownership for not providing enough payroll and the belief that he was sent to Toronto in a missionary role to teach the game to those that did not know it. There is more to being a GM than just player personnel moves, there is representing your organization and your city in a classy professional manner, especially in a situation where you're starting from an inferior, handicapped position because of geography and economics. There is to consider class in dealing with players, player agents, fans, other employees in your own office and other teams' GMs and leaving the best possible impression of your own organization wherein people would want to come and play here or work with you. Ricciardi claimed that when Gord Ash left the Jays that he left the cupboard bare in terms of the farm system. He apologized later, but the nationally respected trade publication Baseball America in Ricciardi's last five years as GM ranked the farm system an average of 24th out of 30 between 2006-10. That ranking moved up after new GM Alex Anthopoulos obtained three prime prospects for Roy Halladay. There were 25 of 30 teams go to the post season while Ricciardi was in charge. The Jays were not one.
Q: Hi Richard,
A follow up to your article on staying the course. I agree this is the way to go even if the Jays are 'within spitting distance' of a wild-card slot, but what to do if (in some magical dreamland) the Jays ARE the wild-card team at the trade deadline? Does it really change anything?
Brian MacIvor, Delmar, U.S.A.
A: Hey, if the players on hand are the ones that got you to the wild-card spot by the end of July and they are young and improving, then why not stick with the group that got you there and see how far they can take you? Have them believe in themselves and find out about themselves without turning to some pseudo-saviour mercenary free-agent-to-be that you bring in to lead them to the Promised Land that likely will not happen and that spoils the taste that they had of competing hard and being underdogs in a real pennant race. The Jays do have money to spend however. If they are in that spot and a veteran player was available in an area of need and all it cost them was X millions of dollars for the final three months then after that a guy is going free-agent, I have no doubt that the Jays would make that short-term deal. But if they're asked to hand over premium prospects, I believe Anthopoulos would say no, unless the incoming player is controllable for at least three more seasons.
Q: Regarding Kevin Gregg, who is leading the league in saves, if I'm correct. Are you surprised this short-armer has been as effective as he has, minus the odd blown save here and there? Why were the Cubs no longer interested in him? Do you foresee a drop-off in Gregg's ability to close out games? Come the July trading deadline, will Gregg be trade-bait, perhaps allowing Jason Frasor to resume the role once again? And, incidentally, don't you think Gregg looks just a wee bit like Lou Piniella?
Darrell Holtze, Guelph
A: He's starting to throw a little bit like Lou Piniella as well. No, but seriously, I remember when the '06 Rays signed Troy Percival as a free-agent in the off-season before their World Series run. People thought the former Angels closer was washed up and a bad signing, but the Rays used him to give the bullpen a focal point that gave others out behind the fence room to mature and find a role. By the time the post-season came along Percival was nowhere to be seen. It seems like this is a similar situation with the Jays and Gregg. He has filled an early season need and role and who knows what the back-end of the pen will look like in September. He is not a long-term investment and for the cost it is a reasonable signing. Besides, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Q: Hi Richard,
Just watched Kevin Gregg give up four earned runs to the Rays. I also remember Kevin Gregg blowing a save against Seattle in early May under similar circumstances, the inability to find the strike zone. Although it did appear as though the umpire might have hosed him on a couple of calls. These two blown saves, if I have remembered the Seattle game correctly, have occurred on the second night of a back to back appearance for Kevin Gregg. I was wondering if you had the numbers for Gregg's second appearance after working the night before and do you think it might be a good idea to give the closing duties to someone else to avoid the back to back appearances for Gregg in save situations?
A: The last time that Gregg managed to record a save on back-to-back days was July 25-26, 2009 for the Cubs. Since then including the torching on June 1, Gregg has pitched two days in a row a total of 11 times. His record on the second night of those 11 back-to-backs: 1-3; 3 Saves; 4 BlSv; 10.00 ERA; 9IP: 11H; 10R; 10ER; 10BB; 11SO. Note that the three saves just means that on the first night of the back-to-backs it was not a save situation. This season for the Jays in the second game of his six-back-to-back appearances he has a 13.50 ERA with seven hits and 10 walks in 5.1 innings. I believe Cito Gaston should give Gregg the weekend off against the Yankees, going with Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and maybe Casey Janssen with the game on the line.
Q: Do you have any ideas on who will replace Cito, and when the BJs will make the announcement? I would love to see (Butterfield) get the job but I think that recruiting someone outside the organization would make more sense. Ozzie Guillen or even better Alfredo Griffin. A true 'EXPOS' Fan,
Michael Tremblay, Victoria, B.C.
A: I believe that A.A. has a preliminary list of candidates but is nowhere near beginning any interview process. If it's going to be someone from within the organization, look for the month of September when the minor league seasons are done for an invited coach to spend the final month in uniform. I'm sure Butterfield will be interviewed. It depends on where they think they are in terms of seriously competing in 2011. If they think they need another year then they would take a short-term caretaker. If they are going to go for it, then they would do like the Tigers did hiring Jim Leyland when they were ready to win. Good candidates will become available at the end of the season.
I have a question for you in regards to heckling. Some friends and I were at the game against the Orioles on Saturday. We were right behind the visiting bullpen. Of course we were heckling them. We were however tasteful, the usual, you're a bum, you're no good, start throwing boys, phone is about to ring. We were told that we were not allowed the heckle the bullpen. Everyone in our section including those who were not with us were shocked. We took a rest for two innings then continued and got tossed. My question to you is; if we were Red Sox fans at Fenway heckling the visiting bullpen tastefully (there are families around so no profanity) would we have been tossed?
Andrew Marsh, Whitby
A: If you were Red Sox fans at Fenway, or Yankee fans at Yankee Stadium, when you were quiet for those two innings, security might have become worried and poked you with a stick to wake you up. Heckling is an art form in those ballparks and players laugh about it, especially if the barbs are creative which they often are. Bad language is never acceptable in these situations, but I often wonder about the Canadian nature of being too polite and not wanting to insult anyone. In short, you would not have been tossed at Fenway unless there was profanity, beer tossing, spitting or the like. The Jays should be more flexible.
Q: Hey Richard,
Who's the odd man out when Travis Snider returns? Also, any idea when he's due back? He was supposed to be re-evaluated May 31st. Thanks. Keep up the good work.
Francis Lord, Saskatoon
A: Snider was re-evaluated and the prognosis was not good. He has been doing a thing Cito called “dry-swinging” which I assume is an activity done with your clothes on. But he has not actually made contact with a ball (which sounds an awful lot like his month of May '09). When Snider comes back, which could be another month, it would behoove the Jays to send Mike McCoy out for some at-bats. His role is covered by Johnny Mac. McCoy was 0-for-May and if this is all about player development, then McCoy needs to play. His skills have atrophied on the bench.
Q: Hi, Richard,
Avid fan of the mailbag! In a recent article about James Paxton, he reportedly stated he has no ill will toward the Jays with what ultimately saw him going to play with an independent league team in Texas, following his run-in with NCAA rules. I read that ESPN's Keith Law has Paxton ranked at #12 for the draft. Since the Jays pick at #11, do you think they would consider drafting Paxton again if he was still on the board? What about the two other Canadian pitchers they drafted in '09 but failed to sign? Thanks!
Corey Perrin, Fredericton, N.B.
A: The Jays have four picks in the first 38 and I believe that they will not use their first pick to re-select Paxton, but in the next three if he is still on the board, they will take him. The problem is that they do not want to pay him more than they offered him last year. That would make them look bad, wherein a kid had a great year at the University of Kentucky one year and you wouldn't pay to sign him, then he gets suspended from his school team, pitches a few innings in an independent league and now you're willing to give him more money. The two other Canadians – Jake Eliopoulos went to Chipola J.C. and Brandon Kaye went to University of British Columbia and their draft stock has fallen.
Q: I was just thinking about the respective careers of Russ Adams and Aaron Hill. They are both infielders, drafted in the first round a year apart. Is there any way their radically different levels of success could have been predicted? Anything to be learned in talent evaluation for the future? Or is this just another reminder that the difference between being good enough and not quite good enough is the proverbial hair's breadth?
Art Digout, River Bourgeois, N.S.
A: The baseball draft is highly unpredictable. But the caveat was that when Adams was drafted, even the Jays organization projected him as a third baseman or second baseman in the majors. But as you say the difference between success and failure is so small. In the course of the 3-5 years it normally takes to develop a major-league player in the minors, things can happen both physically and mentally to make a No. 1 pick into a bust. Metal bate to wood. So many more games. Creeping self-doubt. It's often a crap-shoot, which is why Alex Anthopoulos has set a goal of two superior prospects out of each draft rather than five or six average talents that top off as major-league bench players.
Q: Hey Rich,
Love your blog. I want to ask u how Scott Richmond is doing right now. He seems to be fallen off the depth chart (which is not a surprise) given the stuff he has is not really at the MLB level. Hope good things happen to him. thanks,
Charles Lo, Santa Clara, Calif.
A: Richmond is the forgotten man of disabled Blue Jays. It seems under cover of darkness (and other prospects that cast a shadow like Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart, Jesse Litsch, Chad Jenkins, Marc Rzepczynski, et al) that Richmond has rehabbed his aching whatever it was (right shoulder) and that he is ready to rehab. On Tuesday he worked 4.2 shutout innings (67 pitches) at extended spring training, with three hits and no walks. Don't write him off yet. His repertoire was once described as a poor man's Roy Halladay. At least he's receiving big-league money and service time while on the DL. He is not officially on any kind of rehab assignment yet.
Q: Dear Richard,
The Blue Jays have a decent core of starting pitching prospects for many years to come. One minor league player who seems to be doing very well and I have heard little about is Chuck Huggins. His stats suggest that he may be able to have a crack in to the big leagues in the next several years. I am curious to hear what is Huggins command is like and the likelihood we may see him in a Jays uniform by 2011 or 2012?
Will Dowkes, Peterborough
A: Chuck Huggins is a low-round draft pick in 2008 that has been a pleasant surprise out of the University of Santa Barbara. He was promoted from A-Lansing to AA-New Hampshire after going 5-0 in nine starts for the Lugnuts. He's a 24-year-old lefty that's way down on the organization's depth chart, but guys like that can surprise – see Jesse Litsch. But consider Litsch is only 14 months older than Huggins, was drafted four years earlier and already has significant MLB time.
Q: You recently mentioned that the Jays now have five of their former first-round draft picks on the 25-man big-league roster: Vernon Wells (1997), Aaron Hill (2003), David Purcey (2004), Ricky Romero (2005) and Brett Cecil (2007). I've set aside first-rounder Brandon Morrow as we didn't draft him, but could add a sixth potentially when Travis Snider (2006) gets off the disabled list. Any idea if this is the all-time high is for Jays' first-round picks on the active roster at one time? We had some clusters of first-rounders in 1999 and 2005 I believe. How about the MLB record? First-round picks are far from the only indication of a team's drafting success, but they're still showpieces that are fun to keep an eye on.
Jeffrey Marcil, Hong Kong
A: On the '99 team, the Jays had seven former Jays' No. 1 picks on the roster at various times during the season, sometimes not all together: Shawn Green ('91); Shannon Stewart ('92); Chris Carpenter ('93); Kevin Witt ('94); Roy Halladay ('95); Billy Koch ('96) and Vernon Wells ('97). That seems to be the gold standard for the team. We don't include supplemental No. 1's in this survey.