The latest news on the Jays' managerial search is that the process has almost played itself out and as soon as the Jays believe they have found their man, they won't necessarily wait until the week after the World Series. The Jays, despite the number of interviews and the unprecedented due diligence on dozens of candidates, have narrowed the list of managers to about a half dozen, led by Sandy Alomar, Jr. of the Indians and DeMarlo Hale of the Red Sox, plus the fallback of Jays' coach Brian Butterfield, although it's difficult to see the club going in his direction. There is still likely a candidate on one of the four remaining playoff teams, but before the World Series begins, if that candidate becomes available because his team lost in the LCS, the Jays will not wait and will go ahead whenever the time is right. On to the mailbag.
Q: Hi Richard,
Hope you enjoy this postseason as much as a lot of us do. I don't remember when was the last time I was so attached to the game because of the starting pitcher matchup. Looking at the last four teams left in the playoff, all of them have CY winners. Doc sure is very special, Cliff Lee is amazing, the evil empire is always loaded and the Freak could have been ours. So it looks like in this post-juice era, pitching once again becomes the dominating force in the game. So my questions are with all the expiring contracts, how much room do the Jays have this off-season? And do you think it make sense for the Jays to sign a front-line starting pitcher this off season? I sure hope so and it is better then trading the prospects away.
Davy P., San Jose
A: This is my 33rd consecutive major-league baseball post-season in some form or the other and I continue to enjoy the heck out of it. To me the move away from home runs and back to real baseball is one of the most exciting aspects of the 2010 season and the playoffs. That your most important players include Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Roy Oswalt, Matt Cain, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, C.J. Wilson and Andy Pettitte is refreshing, which does not preclude the offensive MVP candidates like Cody Ross, Josh Hamilton and the rest. But it's all about execution and balance.
As for the Jays, since they work without a strict payroll budget and since they are saving the salaries of B.J. Ryan ($10 million) and Doc ($6 million) and losing some significant salaries in free agency, they will have enough money to add a front-line pitcher. However, I disagree with you on the advantages of adding a free-agent rather than making a solid baseball trade. In this day and age, when it comes to available free agent pitchers, I think the old caveat emptor should prevail. Most teams have figured out that their good young pitchers if they are a part of the future, need to be wrapped up and signed to a multi-year deal before they ever reach free agency. If a team these days allows a pitcher to reach his free agency, it's either because he's going to command a huge salary as a compensation Type A free agent – which the Jays don't like to give up their draft picks – or elese there are issues of durability and/or character. The Jays have collected a nice inventory of prospects and not all of them can ever make the 25-man major-league club. Therefore, some may be more valuable in trade and an area of strength for the Jays is in young, minor-league starting pitching. If Alex Anthopoulos can pinpoint a stud starter who fits between or with Ricky Romero and Shaun Marcum and has 2-3 years of service, then put a package together and go for it. There are about a dozen pitchers out there but it depends on the post-season direction those front offices are heading. It's too early to speculate. But trade is the word.
Q: With all the money we've shed in the last few years (Alex Rios, A.J. Burnett, Roy Halladay, Scott Rolen et. al) don't the Jays brass owe it to the fans to pony up this off-season? I know spending for the sake of spending isn't a winning formula...but we gotta make a splash though free agency or the trade market. I know Zack Greinke is disgruntled in KC...who we going after? I think we need a true ace.
Tyler Belcher, Mississauga
A: The way teams get themselves in trouble is when they feel they “owe it to their fans” to spend money on free agents. That is not the proper way to think about it. They owe it to the players in the clubhouse. They owe it to ownership. They owe it to their staff in player development and scouting. But feeling you are spending money to show the fans something is what got the previous regime in trouble. I like your thinking on Zack Greinke. He had a disapopointing season with the Royals and that is a team that may be looking to move Greinke and the $27 million remaining for 2011-12 for prospects.
Q: Why is A.A. interviewing so many candidates for the Jays' manager? He's talking to so many he won't be able to keep track of all of them. How can he possibly manage and judge and compare all their attributes with so many people? Does he really know what he's doing?
Bruce Hutchison, Winnipeg
A: It does seem like Anthopoulos is spending an inordinate amount of time and effort in discussing and investigating his candidates internally. He has likely talked to more people either informally on the phone or in person in interviews than any GM in Jays history. Hell, it's not that tough. The opposite of what A.A. is doing came when they hired John Gibbons. After a loss, in the old Yankee Stadium visitors clubhouse, GM J.P. Ricciardi walked through the room and quietly said to coach Gibbons, “Don't go anywhere.” Then he walked into Carlos Tosca's office, fired him, came out and said, “Gibby, you're the manager.” Now that's a process.
The truth is that there are side benefits to what the Jays' second-year GM is doing. Now if any of his rejected interviewees ends up somewhere else as manager, he knows his opponent's inner thoughts, his managerial philosophy, his personality and maybe even his tendencies. He has got to personally know a broad cross-section of baseball people that he didn't know before and if this first hire for Jays manager doesn't work out, he's got a file drawer full (or the computer equivalent) of future candidates that he can call upon and with whom he is already familiar. There is no downside to being thorough, unless, of course, he had planned on hiring Eric Wedge and waited too long.
Q: Hi Richard:
Evidently the L.A. Dodgers refused permission to the Blue Jays to speak to Tim Wallach about the Jays managerial position while at the same time allowing another team permission to speak with him about their managerial position. Unless the Dodgers have a grudge against the Jays why on earth would they do that? Does not Wallach deserve the opportunity to at least interview for the job?
Stan Grossman, Toronto
A: Wallach was one of the first guys that Anthopoulos asked permission to speak to back on the final weekend of the regular season. Wallach is a west coast guy with three sons, two of whom are in pro ball and one of whom is at university. He is a family man and there is a possibility that his refusal to interview was a courtesy to Anthopoulos and that when the Dodgers found out how popular their Triple-A manager was they offered him a major-league coaching role with new manager Don Mattingly as a fallback, as leverage in his negotiations, and then let him interview wherever he felt he wanted to. Wallach played the best years of his career in Montreal from 1982 on, so he's not scared of working in Canada. Even though Mattingly was named Dodgers' manager, Wallach wanted to stay on the west coast near home, unless he was blown away by an offer to manage. It says here that it was not just the Dodgers refusing to allow Wallach to interview. There was more input by the man himself than that. Sometimes, “No thank you,” are the hardest words to say.
Q: Hi Richard.
I have a two-part ex-Jays question for you. Are there any ex-Jays out there whom you would like to see back with the team in the next year or two? Obviously Halladay isn't possible but would Rolen be interested, now that we are heading in the right direction? His defense and leadership could be invaluable? Any others? The second question is whether you think a team of active ex-Jays would beat our current Jays? I ask because I wonder how much better off we are now than we were over the past 5+ years.
Thanks for all the insight...
Todd Malfus, Markham
A: Halladay is never coming back unless it's at the tail end of his career a la Pat Hentgen. Rolen asked Paul Beeston if he could get a trade to the midwest to be closer to home and so his parents wouldn't have to travel so much and he landed in a perfect spot for him. He's not coming back. Alphabetically, following is a list of former Jays I wouldn't mind seeing returning to play in Toronto: Casey Blake (bench), Miguel Cairo (bench), Scott Downs (pen), Eric Hinske (bench), Alex Rios (rf), Justin Speier (pen), Matt Stairs (bench), Jayson Werth (rf) and Chris Woodward (bench).
As for an all-former-Jays opponent team?
Rotation: Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, Ted Lilly, A.J. Burnett and Randy Wells.
Bullpen: Brandon Lyon, Brandon League, Miguel Batista, Sergio Santos, Scott Schoenewis and Chad Gaudin.
Catcher: Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas.
1B: Troy Glaus and Brett Walace. 2B: Orlando Hudson and David Eckstein. 3B: Michael Young and Casey Blake. SS: Alex Gonzalez and Cesar Izturis. OF: Jayson Werth, Reed Johnson, Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross and Joe Inglett.
Rotation is pretty good, but I think the current Jays could handle these guys in a seven-game series. Outfield is a real weakness, reflecting the Jays' farm system.
I know Ernie Whitt was canned when Cito made his comeback to managing. I'm wondering if the Jays would consider bringing him back (at least for an interview) to manage or coach at some point in the future. I always thought he had what it takes to manage.
Rich Hill, Hamilton
A: Whitt applied for the job when Buck Martinez was named manager and was very disappointed not to get it. He has done a great job with Team Canada over the past 12 years and should go into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys just for that contribution alone. But as far as coming back to the Jays I think that moment in time has passed and that window has closed. Ernie was not happy with the way he was dismissed as a coach and has moved on. His Team Canada just qualified for next year's Pan-Am Games and World Cup in a tough tournament in Puerto Rico.
What do you think the chances are of the Jays making a big splash or signing of a free agent like a Carl Crawford? It solves their leadoff hitter situation plus gives them a decent defender in LF so that Snider can settle in RF. Or do you think the Jays will simply try to add via trades?
J.T., Richmond Hill
A: I think Crawford is a wonderful player, but will be asking for Vernon Wells type money and I don't think the Jays can afford another Vernon Wells type contract. Therefore, with Jose Bautista as the wild-card, they will look in trade for another bat the old-fashioned way using inventory on the farm as bargaining chips.