The year of the pitcher continues in the World Series featuring the Giants and Rangers. The only thing that could change that dominance on the mound is if the Texas bats heat up and take charge of the series early on. They are capable. The Giants aren't.
The Jays in the next week will finalize their coaching staff and start exploring free agency, their own and the open market. The influence of Farrell will be seen in the Jays' bullpen. The Jays have free agents in Jason Frasor and Scott Downs and potential non-tenders. Farrell knows Brian Tallet from his days as the Indians' presonnel director which changes that dynamic. He also surely has ideas on useful pitchers that are six-year minor-league free agents he will suggest be brought in. It will be an interesting winter for the Jays as they decide what to do about Jose Bautista, Travis Snider, Lyle Overbay, John Buck and other decisions with a multitude of arbitration guys that may change with the Farrell influence. On to the Mailbag.
Q: A few questions around the hiring of John Farrell: Will this mean the end of Brian Butterfield? I would think this would be a huge loss given how he developed guys like Aaron Hill and Derek Jeter into solid defensive players. With the Adam Lind first base experiment on-going, would the Jays consider giving Butterfield a huge deal to remain as a bench coach? How do John Farrell's and Bruce Walton's pitching philosophies mesh together? Walton is going to stay, but I can't imagine Farrell not wanting to have heavy input into his pitchers' development.
Jason Sinnarajah, Tokyo, Japan
A: I'm amazed and pleased that Brian Butterfield decided to stay with the Jays despite being passed over as manager. He may in fact have had a shorter path to becoming a manager if he had left the Jays and joined, let's say for argument's sake, Buck Showalter's staff in Baltimore. But Butter is a different character. He has come a long way with this group of players and with the Jays' organization, joining the major-league coaching staff in '02 when Carlos Tosca replaced Buck Martinez. He has stayed with the Jays as either third-base coach or bench coach through the regimes of Tosca, John Gibbons, Cito Gaston and now John Farrell. Clearly Butterfield has never hitched his cart to any one manager, with the largest percentage of his loyalty always going to the Jays. Butter will be a good manager, but this was probably not the best situation to debut as manager for him, going from friend and confidant to boss-man. It's tough to pull that off when your persona for so long has been friend. It's not certain yet which role Butter will fill, third base or bench coach, but his presence will help Farrell's transition. As for the question of Farrell and Walton being able to work together, Farrell said at the press conference that he would give Walton free rein because of his history with most of these young guys, especially in the rotation. It hasn't been an issue in most cases in which the manager was a former pitching coach. The primary job of a pitching coach is to work with 12 different individual and their repertoires, their psyches and their approach. The two men will be able to discuss pitchers much the same way that Cito and Dwayne Murphy discussed hitters. As long as what the pitchers hear is one voice, it doesn't matter if it comes from two minds.
Q: Hey Richard,
Does it make sense for the Jays to pursue Manny Ramirez for next season?
David Sussman, Toronto
A: I love the idea of the Jays' pursuing Manny Ramirez. The guy is a pure student of hitting and works harder at his craft, studying video and learning pitchers, than most in the game and is a positive influence on young hitters. He does not need to play left field. He can DH and he needs to re-establish himself as a future Hall-of-Famer. It would fit in with the Jays' efforts to increase the Latin presence in the clubouse. At the right price and for a short-term deal, with a new Jays' manager in John Farrell that Manny said he wants to play for (even if he doesn't have much choice right now), I think it could work. A good example of a simlar situation was when Frank Thomas was out of work and knocked on doors at the winter meetings, then Oakland signed him at bargain-basement price and he had a great season leading the A's to the post-season. Hurt used that bounceback year to trick the Jays into signing him to a multi-year contract when the year to have got him was the year the A's got him.
As I continue to watch these playoffs, I can't help but think that if the Jays had somehow gotten in that they would have a good chance at beating Texas, Tampa, Yankees, or Twins to make it to the World Series and subsequently lose to whichever team they face since they can't win against the NL. The Playoffs the last 2-3 years is about good starting pitching (which the Jays have) and some small window(s) of opportunity for offense (aka, HRs by the Jays). What do you think?
J. T., Richmond Hill
A: The key phrase is “somehow gotten in”. There is a huge difference between a 162-game marathon and a short seven-game sprint. I know there have been seasons where I beieved the same thing you're saying that if the Jays had been in the playoff field, they would have had a good chance to advance. But there's also a huge difference in playing stressful innings down the stretch in a pennant race than just playing for fun in September, nice and relaxed and fresh. But you'll notice that the final four 2010 teams Yankees, Phillies, Giants and Rangers all had a monster ace at the top of the rotation, while the Jays, despite a solid Top 4, still haven't settled on which one is the stud ace. The Jays were able to rest their starting pitchers down the stretch, even shutting some guys down. No the Jays are not ready to earn their way onto the dance floor, even though once there they woud have as good a shot as anyone.
Q: Hi Richard,
Although Josh Hamilton's career (and life) is finally off to an impressive start, I need some clarification from you as to how he "is becoming the Mickey Mantle of his generation." Really? Mickey (79 years young today) had an 18 year career that was rock solid in its consistency, and as inspired as Hamilton has been, he has yet to put together back to back seasons without suffering debilitating injury. Just a wee bit early, I think, to begin comparisons with a durable all-time great.
D. Zentner, Oakville
A: I was talking more from a fan perception standpoint than from any Hamilton accomplishments that have marked his career thus far. Like Mantle, he runs like the wind, has a great arm, tremendous power and hits for average. Plus he's a good-looking, white star with tremendous charisma. Contrary to being healthy, I think that Mantle's career was also diminished by injuries, especially to his knees and now that the inner story of the wild Yankee clubhouse have come out, the Mick (who was my favourite player growing up) was also a wild child in his prime. Hamilton's pretty damned good.
Q: How disappointed to you think the MLB head offices are that a dream Yankees-Phillies rematch turned out the nightmarish Giants-Rangers?
Greg Picken, Strathroy, Ont.
A: Whenever baseball gets an unattractive matchup on the marquee, they always say that maybe viewers in North America will be interested in seeing two new teams, new storylines in the Series. It never works out that way. I would assume ratings will be way down from last year's Yankees-Philles but that has nothing to do with whether this is going to be a good World Series or not. This will likely be a well-pitched series, but it looks like the Rangers are the stronger team. The Giants need to win the opener with Lincecum facing Lee to get casual fans interested. As for your question about MLB, there's not much the Commissioner's Office can do other than sit back and enjoy.
I really enjoy reading about your insight into this sport, so would you tell me if you think Jose Bautista could become an everyday third baseman, and how does he compare defensively to the likes of Scott Rolen or Evan Longoria?
Jim Anderson, Cambridge, Ont.
A: Bautista has played a lot of third base in his major-league career and even in 2010 we saw some strong plays and a great throwing arm, at the hot-corner. In fact that's where I would play him fulltime next year, finding an offensive option for right field – unless they want to move Hill to third base which I think would be the best way to go. But as far as matching up with Rolen and Longoria, Bautista would have to be ranked a notch below because of the consistency day-in and day-out.
Love the mailbag. Let the offseason banter start. I have a two part question. 1)As you have stated in previous weeks the Jays could be looking at potential trades. Would the Jays look at getting Matt Kemp, Zach Greinke or even dreaming here Joey Votto (1st year arbitration eligible). With a trade for Kemp, Wells would be able to move to RF and Snider in LF, thus enabling the Jays to move Bautista to 3rd base, I know they like his arm in RF but In a single move they have filled holes in positions for years to come. Would the Jays look at a move like this and if not why? 2) Looking at the potential free agents at first base; Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche, Derek Lee, Paul Konerko do you see the Jays pursuing and more importantly being able to sign one of these players?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
A: Trades are the way the Jays will likely go until AA feels poised to win and that the team is one player away from serious contention. As for Votto, why would the Reds even consider that. They made the playoffs and Votto is young, controllable and the likely NL MVP. He's the type of player the Jays covet, but so do the Reds and every other team. With Greinke, if the Jays believe they can win this year, they could consider picking up the $27 million remaining on his contract for 2011-12. The Jays do have the inventory of young minor-league prospects that could satisfy the Royals needs. But like we've said before, they had Halladay through 2010 if they had so desired and could have negotiated with him as a free agent if they truly believed they could compete in 2011. They didn't. As for Kemp, he's a good looking player with all sorts of skill, but he's coming off a 28 homer season, with a .249 average and .310 on-base mark. Sure, that fits in perfectly with the Jays' offence in 2010, but doesn't fit in with what John Farrell is looking for in 2011. Kemp is signed for 2011 at $7 million and then is arb-eligible for one year after that. Plus, he brings the added bonus of Rihanna to the Jays' celebrity fanbase. Nothing wrong with that. The Jays definitely want Snider to end up as the everyday left fielder. If they can't find an outfielder in trade, they may end up installing Bautista in right. On your list of first basemen, you're forgetting about Lyle Overbay. Analyzing your list, who would you rather have than Overbay for the contract numbers that he would demand. I might take Adam Dunn or Derrek Lee, but Dunn's defence would be an issue. Lee is 35-years-old and made $13 million per year. He would lilely take less, but his age is a factor. His defence is not. Konerko is a Type A and you would be giving up a first-round pick. If you're going to sign a free agent first baseman for the long term, it might as well be Overbay. If you're going to try and shift one of your own over to learn the position, then I would not even look at that free-agent list.
I love the game of baseball and have a fondness for many of the players. They've been a happy part of my life for exactly 60 years. There is, however, one thing I've long wondered: Where do they spit in the off season? And in your experience, has there ever been a major leaguer who resolutely did not spit?
Jerry Lawton, President and Secretary-Treasurer of the International Anti Expectoration League
A: One big downside to High Definition TV is the vivid, detailed looks we get at those constant sprays of white, foamy liquids and loogies coming out of players mouths in all those big-screen closeup shots. The next alarming step in sports TV is all the injuries from viewers wearing their 3-D glasses bailing out of their Barca Loungers as they see a huge spinning wad of gob heading right at them. As for getting rid of the disgusting practice, I have no great expectorations that will ever happen. The one player I can truly never recall seeing spit is John McDonald. Honestly. And Jerry, when you get that TV telethon organized for your fine I.A.E.L. organization, count me in for a buck or two. Nasty habit.
Q: In the Q & A part of your last blog, when asked about former Blue Jays you would like to see return to Toronto, you did not seem to consider Orlando Hudson. Would he not be a good, one or two year, addition at the top of the batting order? I realize it would mean shifting Hill to 3B but he said he was willing to play there. Does AA, like JPR, have something against the O-Dog? Do his former Blue Jay teammates?
Fred Pulfer, Indian River
A: I simply forgot about Orlando Hudson as a potential repatriated Jay. I love the guy and I, like you, could see that as a nice one or two-year acquisition. I could also easily see the move of Hill to third base as a necessity to revive his Jays' career moving forward. The Twins as part of their deal will not offer arbitration to the O-Dog. He made $5 million in 2010. His former Jays teammates love him as well. When the Jays were in Minneapolis on that final weekend, in the moments between Twins and Jays batting practice, O was like the Pied Piper collecting a half dozen Jays as they naturally drifted over to banter with the gregarious second baseman. Vernon Wells talked about the fun back-and-forth he had going with Hudson in the series. In the first game, Wells tried to steal second, got a bad jump and the throw had him easily. VW laughed when he talked about hearing O-Dog yapping at him about his speed and telling him he was out even before he started to slide. Later in the series, Wells made a great catch crashing into the centre field fence to end an inning and rob Hudson. I watched Wells as he stared at O-Dog all the way from the outfield as he jogged towards the third base dugout. When Hudson refused to look at Wells as he retrieved his glove and headed to his position, Wells the last six steps to the dugout imitated his friend's slump-shouldered walk, with pigeon-toed gait and the dugout broke into laughter. Hudson would be a great fit until Adeiny Hechavarria is ready to play.
Q: How rare is it for a catcher to be his team's cleanup hitter? San Fran's Posey, Montreal's G Carter and LA/NY Piazza are catchers that are/were cleanup hitters. Was Lance Parrish Detroit's cleanup hitter for a time?
Marcus Heinrichs, Stouffville
A: It's not that rare for catchers to bat fourth. If you think about the Jays' history, it's just that they haven't had that many offensive catchers in their primes. Just a partial list of catchers that started games in the cleanup spot: Ted Simmons (1,228), Mike Piazza (811), Lance Parrish (760), Johnny Bench (713), Gary Carter (696) and Carlton Fisk (290).
Q: How is Dustin McGowan doing? If he is able to come back and be the starter that he used to be I think a top 5 team ERA in the AL is very likely for the Jays. If he's not the same, what are the chances he drops a pitch or two and ends up being the fireball closer we need?
Mike S., Toronto
A: The Dustin McGowan story is a tough one for the young man. I think that any speculation of if and when he can come back is not worth it. It's up to him and his work ethic and his desire and his belief in himself. The second part of that is that I think there is a certain nostalgia to McGowan's career that is unwarranted. His best season was 12-10, 4.08 ERA in 27 starts. His career record is 20-22. He always had tremendous potential, but after missing two full seasons with shoulder issues and other injuries, it is tough to expect him to return and be better than he was. Closing is out of the question because of the requirement of warming up multiple days in a row.
Q: Hi Richard –
Wonderful sports column. I'm thinking about this year's free agents and in paricular Cliff Lee of Texas and Carl Crawford from the Rays. I hate to think that the Yankees might go after both of these guys, What do you think, and is there any way to prevent the Yankees from going after every top player each year.
William Scott, Fenelon Falls
A: Well, we've got Cliff Lee's wife and the fact she does not like New York. That's a start. As for Crawford, the Bombers do have room for him in left field and at the top of the order. Referring to an earlier question, Orlando Hudson and Crawford are good friends from being teammates on a Team USA squad back in the day. If the Jays signed O-Dog could they make it a package with Crawford? How about Crawford in left for the next five years, with Bautista moving to right, Hudson at second, Hill at third and Travis Snider learning how to play first base. I say the Yankees don't get either one.
Q: Three quick questions for you:
a) All the John Farrell to manage the Jays stories came out of Boston, nothing local. It reminded me of the J.P. era and am curious to know your position on this. b) After covering Doc Halladay for so many years, what did it feel like to watch him throw a no-hitter in the playoffs? Do the lines ever get blurred between being a professional journalist and being a fan of a player you watched and covered so closely for many years? c) What about the Jays signing Jason Werth to play RF and to keep Jose Bautista full-time at 3b?
A: The Farrell out of Boston news is interesting. The T-O local media was hoping that Anthopoulos would go 180-degrees away from the Ricciardi methods, but instead he went 360-degress meaning that he kept heading around that circle and ended up back at the same spot, arriving from a different direction. Ricciardi's idea with the local media was that he would say nothing here but would let the National US media know what was going on. The news broke in Boston, New York or on one of the major .com's. When the new GM arrived, he saw what happened, because he is a keen observer of life its ownself. Alex's answer was to not let anyone know anything from anywhere, to conduct his business behind closed doors. However, every negotiation has two sides and the other side, particularly in the Farrell case, involved the same Boston, New York, .com sources as when J.P. was running the show. Paul Beeston laughed the other day at the press conference because the first official confirmation of the Farrell hiring was a statement from Red Sox owner John Henry, not from the Jays. Alex has proved that what goes around comes around resulting in what looks like the same thing. But it's not. It is more civilized and respectful.
Part b is an interesting question regarding Halladay. Usually around the sixth inning of a no-hit bid, the press box is full of writers hoping someone gets a hit, especially in night games where deadlines are a factor. I found myself, after Doc had finished the sixth, not only hoping we would see a no-hitter, but actually believing he was going to do it and being excited when he did. The excitement was more about being a part of history, that it had not been done since Don Larsen in 1956. But as far as being a fan of a certain player you covered for years, I think with Doc it's more a case of being an admirer oif what he's accomplished. There is no cheering in the press box and honestly, when the Phillies lost it was more a case of feeling bad for Doc that he would not reach his goal this year. The other factor was that I knew I was now going to have to fly all the way across the country instead of the one-hour jaunt to Philly. The upside is that San Francisco is a great city.
Part c is another interesting question. I would sign Jayson Werth to play right field in a heartbeat. The guy is a gamer, a professional hitter, a good defender and a clutch player. I also prefer Bautista at third base in terms of value to the Jays – unless they plan on moving Hill to third which I think is his future.
Q: Hi Richard, what will happen to coaches like Butterfield, and Murphy? and in the case of Murphy will the next hitting coach be asked to change the hitting style from that of pure power hitting to one of a little more balance? Finally why shouldn’t the Jays go after Cliff Lee. If we are serious we will have to start fighting the Yankees and Red Sox for some of the big time free agents.
Justin Davies, Toronto
A: Butter is back. Murphy I believe would prefer to go somewhere else even though he is guaranteed a position within the Jays' organization. The way Farrell was talking at his presser, he did not admire the three-run homer as the main source of the offence. I would be surprised if he brought Murphy back although I have been surprised many times before.