Once again, a national holiday, Labour Day on Monday ended up delaying the mailbag a full day and for that I apologize. Where to start? Let's see Roger Clemens, Lindsay Lohan, Snooki, Josh Hamilton. Which one does not belong in that group? Correct. The Rangers' outfielder is the only one in that group that “gets it.” I was very impressed with the interview I had with Hamilton on Wednesday. He engages in the conversation, locks in going eye-to-eye with the interrogator and he listens to questions, never resorting to cliches and the easy way out with rehearsed emotion. By the way, since Hamilton does not like to mess with temptation by going out to clubs, etc. His rating of road cities is directly related to the proximity of team hotels to ballparks. Toronto rates well. As a result, he sees a lot of movies. Here is a rating of recent movies Josh has seen: 1- Avatar. “I didn't think I was going to like Avatar but I ended up watching it and it got better and better.” 2-Assault. 3-The Expendables. Hamilton thumbs down? The American with George Clooney. “It's terrible.” Speaking of which, on to the mailbag.
Q: Hi Richard...
Every week I keep reading your blog on the Jays waiting till 2012 to make a serious push to win it all. I can't understand why...you have four legitimate quality starters, you're covered at second, short, all outfielders (Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista, Travis Snider), catcher, right field and first (if Adam Lind can handle it) with top notch talent. That leaves one position player to sign or trade for. Why not go get Adrian Beltre pay top dollar and get a gold glove third baseman who can hit fifth. Then take some more of that money we saved from Roy Halladay, Alex Rios, A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan...etc..and spend it on a horse #1 starter. Are you going to seriously tell me with this team we could not compete with the big boys. The bullpen may need a little touching up but nothing major. If we wait another year to make a push that means a significant core of your team is one year older. Why wait when you can have it now.
Scott Seidel, Sudbury
A: If the Jays management believed they could “have it now” they would surely this off-season make similar moves to what you suggest. But true rebuilding doesn't happen in one year. This Jays' front office group has showed that it will stay the course being pro-active rather than re-active. In fact if Alex Anthopoulos, Paul Beeston et al had believed 2011 was indeed a possibility, they would have made a run last winter at keeping Roy Halladay, the ultimate No. 1 horse starter. He was already signed through 2010. But they didn't. Now they would have to go out and overpay for a lesser talent than Doc in order to make a run in 2011. In fact, the 2012 date for the Jays competing hard in the division and the wildcard is being generous. You are underestimating the losses in the bullpen for next season. Next season will be a transition year in the pen going to younger guys that will be there for several more competitive years, but will take their lumps at times. The '11 season for those bullpen guys will feature the same growing process as '09 and '10 was for the young starters.
You go around the diamond pointing to players that are already here and ask why this team cannot be competitive by adding Beltre. They didn't compete for the division this year. Why would the same group, minus Overbay, plus Beltre, compete next year? The lineup is not like the rotation that is clearly young and improving. The Jays are impressing fans with a “plan”. Taking an ill-advised run in 2011 would pinprick the bubble of hope for the fans and prove that this management group is as short-sighted and reactive as the last. Allow the young starters one more year to sort themselves out and earn their spot in the order. Allow Travis Snider another 600 at-bats to find out who he is. Allow Aaron Hill and Adam Lind a chance to find their proper level. Find players that can strengthen the bench so that when there are injuries, they can still compete like the Yankees do when they throw in their B team. Relax and enjoy another year of development. They can still entertain and may even surprise in 2011. Let it flow.
Q: Hey Richard,
Where do you see the Blue Jays getting their closer of the future from? Will they sign a veteran free agent, or convert one of the pitchers in their system? Which pitcher could you see being a closer? I have heard that McGowan, when and if he gets healthy, could be their closer.
Robbie Gelman, Thornhill
A: The Jays could easily re-up Kevin Gregg for one year and transition to the closer of the future, whoever that might be. The Jays' first choice would be to find the future closer from within. Usually the best closers were minor-league starters, so don't look to guys like Danny Farquhar (17 saves at New Hampshire) or Matt Daly (33 saves at Dunedin). Brett Cecil was a closer at the University of Maryland and as a Jays' starter complained in New York after his last start that his body was feeling it. His arm wasn't sore but his fastball was down and he felt a malaise. Maybe he's not built for 180-200 innings. But my choice a couple of years down the road is 2010 draft choice Asher Wojiechowski from The Citadel. At Class-A Auburn, Wojo made three starts allowing one run in 12 innings, on six hits with four walks and 11 Ks. If they can't find the answer from within, there are always established closers out there looking for a team to take them to the post-season if the price is right. McGowan will never be an option.
Q: Hi Richard,
As always, thanks for taking the time to read all of these questions and answer a few for us. Here's an interesting thought - there's an article in a recent Star (online at least) hinting that Joe Torre may be on his way out with the Dodgers. With the Jays needing a new manager, and Torre having a reputation for winning, do you see a fit there? Or are they too far from contending to interest him?
Kevin D., Toronto
A: It's not a matter of being too far from contending, I think with Joe Torre, who is definitely on his way out with the disappointing Dodgers, it's a case of the burning fire within. Torre has reached the summit with the Yankees and camped out in nosebleed territory for years up there. Does he have the stomach to start up that same slope from base camp with a younger Jays team and stay with the task until they plant the AL flag on top of the mountain? Recall that before he joined the Yankees, Torre was a disappointing sub-.500 manager with four other teams. I see a future back in broadcasting for Torre once he leaves the Dodgers. In fact, I don't see Torre interested in the Jays at all or vice-versa. Toronto is not the Big Apple or Hollywood. As Chris Bosh points out, “It's a different country you know.” Besides, the Jays need a younger man with a passion for teaching.
I was wondering why the Blue Jays (or maybe just Cito) seem to dislike Jeremy Accardo so much? When BJ Ryan went down a couple of years ago he was quite good in the closer role and while he had his issues last year it appears that he had a very good year in Vegas.
Jon Altwasser, Regina
A: Oh my, the Jays do not like Accardo all right, but the feeling is now clearly mutual. In fact this time around, Accardo more than likely insisted he not be called up in September as much as the Jays were not interested in having him around to spoil the current upbeat clubhouse chemistry. The weird thing is that Accardo's father-in-law is the brother of Rogers big-shot Phil Lind and even with that relationship Accardo can't catch a break with the organization. Accardo, 28, led the Las Vegas '51s with 24 saves and has major-league experience and success but the Jays reached out for Rommie Lewis and Josh Roenicke instead. Accardo has always felt that his service time has been manipulated to always keep him a year further away from free agency allowing the Jays to control him. He's right. He ended the '09 season two days shy of four years in the majors. Go figure. At the time he was sent down last July 31 to make room for the just acquired Roenicke in the Scott Rolen deal, Accardo stormed out of Cito Gaston's office and threw his Jays' hat in a clubhouse garbage can bolting before the clubhouse opened to media. It was sitting there when we came in. Call me Sherlock. But before Accardo could catch his flight from 'Frisco to Vegas, Scott Downs went down with one of his injuries and Accardo was called back. That was kind of uncomfortable and I don't think Cito has forgotten. In any case, Anthopoulos when he took over assured Accardo things would be different with a new sheriff in town. Things haven't been different and Accardo wants nothing to do with this organization. The feeling is mutual.
Q: I keep hearing about how the Jays are leading the Majors in home runs, which got me to having a look at the 'Sortable Team Stats' on MLB.com. One thing kind of confuses me: how can a team have different totals for 'runs scored' and 'runs batted in'? Does this have anything to do with earned versus unearned runs? Still seems like a pretty significant gap, for all teams. I don't get it.
David B., Victoria
A: It's simple if you think about it. When runs score on wild pitches or passed balls, or if a run scores when a player grounds into a double play, or a double steal, or on some errors, especially when made with two outs, there is no run-batted-in credited to a hitter. Thus the difference.
Great column and comments. Can't help notice that Hill appears to be having some fielding difficulties. I believe he has 10 errors on balls that he seemed to be able to handle earlier in the year and last year. He was even replaced in the ninth Sunday by Mike McCoy for "defensive reasons" . I believe that last year he would have saved the no-hitter. Could the concussion be part of the problem?
Bob Leatham, Ilderton
A: First just to correct the perception on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Hill jammed his right knee hustling down the line to beat out a hit in the top of the ninth. He stayed in as a runner but was unable to take the field going to the clubhouse for ice and treatment.
As for the perception of his season, defensively. You are right. This has not been a typical Hill defensive season. His hands have not seemed as soft, his range has not seemed as good. Is that a sub-conscious result of his obvious woes at the plate? He always denies that one affects the other, but there is no physical reason for Hill's loss of defensive skills other than the subliminal battle he is having with success at the plate. If it is more than that, then maybe the Jays need to consider a move to third base where quickness, reaction, fearlessness and savvy are more important than range. We addressed it a little in the last mailbag, but considering that third base has fewer options down on the farm than does the middle infield, it might be a good move.
Q: Hi Richard,
I feel it's my unhappy duty to ask the uncomfortable question: When it comes to John McDonald, how is it exactly that at the age of 34 he's suddenly become one of the most dangerous power hitters on the Jays? Even with limited playing time, his home runs are almost double his best year ever, his slugging percentage is also almost double his career average, and virtually all of this has happened since the all-star break. Did something happen at the break to make him resort to PEDs? It's sad to see, but perhaps Damien Cox can help us understand the twisted logic underlying McDonald's shift to the dark side.
Bryan Willis, Vancouver
A: Nice referencing! I'll go along with it. You all know Johnny Mac is one of my favourite all-time Jays, yet when I approached him with a glass beaker and asked him in my best investigative reporter sotto voce voice to fill it up for me, he inexplicably refused. What's up with that? With athletes performing above expectations, lack of cooperation clearly means guilt. I didn't even tell him what I needed the sample for, but the strange look he gave me was one of pure fear (or else pity for the clearly insane). Hey, one does not just eclipse one's home run best and go off on a crazy hot longball streak in August/September at the age of 34 without some sort of artificial help. I did a little more detective work and sneaked a surreptitious peak at the contents of his locker. In addition to an autographed picture of Omar Vizquel (somebody should check HIM out) there was an empty wine bottle that was suspiciously MISSING THE CORK. Put it together. No cork, lively bat, refusal to pee in my beaker. Your honour, I rest my case. Just kidding John, but the Vancouver letter made me do it. Thanks Willis.
My question has to do with the Jays bullpen. Why is Brian Tallet still part of it? Why did the Jays not take the opportunity to bring up another arm to work out of the pen in September or a starter or two to insert...one to cover for Mark K. going to the pen and one to cover Brandon Morrow's starts. Tallet for the most part this year has been in to eat up inning in the long role. Unfortunately it turns up short most nights with walks, hits, extra base hits and homers and of course runs. I know AA has had a great 1st year but this is one guy it wouldn't have hurt to put him on Designated Assignment. I don't think he will be coming back as the 2nd coming of Randy Johnson unless he learns to throw a 95 mph heater over the plate consistently......Righthanded.
Roger Steels, Waterdown, Ont.
A: Tallet as a reliever has not been great. No question. As a starter, he kept the Jays in games for his five or six innings on most nights and allowed other starters to stay at Triple-A and Double-A to continue their development. Nobody can possibly blame Tallet for the Jays not pushing for a wild-card or division at this stage of the season. Earlier in the season, Lyle Overbay was the fans target for abuse. Edwin Encarnacion has been a favourite for abuse (even from this quarter) and now it's Tallet. The likeable lefthander remains a positive veteran influence in a clubhouse full of youngsters. The Jays were going to have to pay him the rest of his contract in any case so why not just hang onto him and see what happens in the off-season. The addition of Rommie Lewis, Josh Roenicke, Bobby Ray and Shawn Hill, with the reinstatement of David Purcey sort of makes Tallet's presence academic. There's an 80-20 chance, maybe 95-5, that he won't be back but he's here now and fans should have no problem with that.
Q: Hey, Richard:
I'd like your thoughts on the Jays' catchers of the future, in particular Brian Jeroloman. You've predicted J.P. Arencibia & Jose Molina for next year, & that seems like a good fit, and possibly Travis D'Arnaud down the road (though he's going to have to get better at staying off the D.L.), but after J.P. has had his year with Molina, what about Jeroloman as back-up? As I understand it, he's good defensively, is a left-handed bat, and while not a Joe Mauer at the dish, has made good progress. Is he even on A.A.'s radar anymore?
Thanks, & keep up the Q.& A. I love it!
Bruce Spurrier, Courtenay, B.C.
A: I liked to compare the Jays eventual two-catcher system to the Angels with their two guys Mathis and Napoli with whom for a while they had much success. These days most teams are in the 120-42 or 110-52 balance with their two catchers so you really do need guys you can believe in and maybe that would complement each other – like Arencibia's right-handed offence with Jeroloman's defence and left-handed bat. I don't believe the Jays should or will re-sign John Buck and with Molina's age and mentor status, the club will need two of their own by the year 2012. D'Arnaud is the wild-card in this mix. It depends on how fast he comes on to claim a starting job and it depends on whether they really believe in Arencibia as a catcher. In this final month he's being toasted (not playing) and Butter'd (working with the Jays' respected infield coach). They have been working J.P. out around first base the way they did back in July with Lind. Also note that Cito says he won't be seeing much action behind the dish in September. Bad sign.
Q: Hey Rich;
Thanks as always for the mailbag! With Jayson Werth's impending free agent cash grab, I recall that back in the day, he was traded for Jason Frasor. While Frasor certainly has been a serviceable arm in the bullpen, he's not gonna be making money like Werth. I was just wondering if you know what the organization thought of Werth and any motivations to trade him were?
Thomas Turniawan, Antigonish, N.S.
A: I recall Werth as a good-looking young hitter but in a transition between catcher and the outfield at the time of the trade on March 30, 2004. The Jays had Kevin Cash and Guillermo Quiroz as the hotshot catchers of the future. Werth had come over from the Orioles so he didn't really have anyone in the organization speaking out for him when his name came up in trade talks. In the bullpen, the incumbent closer heading into the season was Aquilino Lopez (yikes!!). They had Kerry Ligtenberg, Terry Adams and Valerio de los Santos (triple yikes!!!). Frasor ended up with what is still a career high 17 saves. After '04, the Jays felt they had made a good trade. In hindsight, not so much. -30-