Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all our American friends and please enjoy your second-string turkeys since we in Canada always have made sure we have first shot at the best birds by having our Thanksgiving the second Monday of October.
Before answering this week's questions, just an observation on a disturbing trend that has been evolving and growing in major-league baseball's award-voting over the last few years. It seems more and more that unanimous and near-unanimous votes are becoming the required norm for public acceptance of the official BBWAA Awards and the Hall-of-Fame – even in those years where such consensus seems unlikely. With the high-tech Internet age and all the sources of statistical info, breakdowns and minutiae that are spit out, it seems voters are now mostly trying to guess who is going to win. They are trying not to be wrong instead of going with what they really feel. By the time voters cast their ballots on the final day of the regular season, the online arguments have been made by others and those arguments mostly involve stats, not actually voter opinions based on being at ballparks, in clubhouses and around players. The only evidence of this is the observation that the results in the past seemed to involve more differences of opinion.
As the playoffs unfolded in October, every mention of Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto started with “likely MVP.” When people vote for a prime minister or a president, if someone does not pick the winner, nobody makes fun of their vote and nobody points fingers and says that they were wrong. They simply picked the person they thought would do the best job and they were out-voted. So why do we in baseball feel obliged to criticize someone that sincerely voted for CC Sabathia or David Price over Felix Hernandez in the Cy Young or someone that voted Jose Bautista over Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols for MVP? The Award voting and Hall-of-Fame voting has always been great off-season fodder for open debate, but the computer-generated statistical arguments are taking the open discussion away and making it black and white, right or wrong. Part of the joy of being a sports fan is in difference of opinion and respectful argument. On to the mailbag.
Q: Hey Richard,
By not placing both (outfielder) Adam Loewen and (infielder) Brad Emaus on the 40-man roster, (making them eligible for the Rule 5 draft) is Anthopoulos basically indicating to both players that they do not fit in with the organization's future plans? I find the move perplexing especially in Emaus' case since he is one of the more developed third base prospects in the Jay's system and leaving him unprotected could potentially make an already weak position from an organizational standpoint even weaker.
Matthew Lee, Toronto
A: Sometimes too much is made of the fans' horror at organizations making certain players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The draft takes place at the Winter Meetings and was actually instituted to protect players from very deep farm systems. The idea is to stop teams from hoarding young talent and keeping major-league ready players down on the farm forever. Without getting into the details, basically from the moment a player is signed, he must be added to a 40-man roster after three or four years. If not, then he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft, meaning another team can select him in December, the kicker being that he must then remain on that new club's 25-man roster all of the next season or be offered back to the original team. Loewen and Emaus are both eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Can either man stick with a big-league team for all of 2011?
In the case of Loewen, the 26-year-old Vancouver native was selected fourth overall in the 2002 draft, making him the highest Canadian selected since Canucks were first included in 1985. After suffering three stress fractures of the left elbow (2007-08-09) he gave up pitching and was released by the O's. As an amateur he had also been a hitter and is trying to revive that career as an outfielder. The Jays under Canadian GM Alex Anthopoulos, as they did with Canadian pitcher Shawn Hill, signed Loewen to a 2010 minor-league deal in a no-lose agreement to help him revive his career. Loewen had a great year at AA-New Hampshire and re-upped for 2011, however I admire the Jays for what they are doing with him. Basically, the Jays cannot guarantee him a major-league spot in '11, but if another team is ready to claim him and keep him in the majors then the Jays will shake his hand and wish him good luck and he will fulfill his dream of being back in the majors. Mission accomplished. In the case of Hill, the Jays gave the Mississauga righthander a chance in 2010 to show them and other teams that he can still pitch after surgery. He made it all the way back in September and then since the Jays were so deep in pitching, they released him giving Hill a chance to sign somewhere closer to the majors.
As for the 24-year-old Emaus, he had a solid minor-league season in 2010 but the Jays are counting on the fact that every organization has a “Brad Emaus” of their own. He is not a future starter in the majors as it stands right now. Think Joe Inglett or Jarrett Hoffpauir. He's a good player, but everyone has one. Is another team ready to keep him on the ML roster all year instead of their own version?
Q: Hey Richard keep up the great work love Jays talk in the winter! You mentioned in your last mail bag that the Jays should be considering Canadian lefty Jeff Francis (whom I've acquired many times in my PS3 franchise modes), and you have also talked about a Shaun Marcum for Zack Greinke trade could make sense for both clubs. Personally I'd rather have Jeff Francis but I don't know who I'd rather give up, what would be your ideal long term rotation?
Matt Sookram, North Bay
A: Francis had left shoulder issues that have affected him since 2008. He made 20 appearances in 2010 for the Rockies with a 5.00 ERA and was released after the season. The North Delta, B.C. Native was selected ninth overall in the 2002 June draft, five picks behind Loewen. It was the first time two Canadians were chosen in the same first round. Dustin McGowan had similar shoulder woes as Francis and it has taken him a similarly long time to come back, but there is no down side to signing Francis and allowing him the opportunity to re-establish his career, even if not in 2011. One must believe that Francis, who majored in physics at UBC, will do alright for himself no matter what happens to his baseball comeback. He is, after all, a rocket scientist.
I have had several mailbag letters over the summer re a Greinke trade and the latest was a suggestion that Kansas City native Marcum might be a good start on putting together a package that might interest the Royals. Greinke is a Cy Young winner and Marcum is a year removed from Tommy John surgery, so just the fact of the Jays' righthander being from Kansas City is not likely enough to secure a deal. The Jays should not overpay for him in terms of talent. There would be serious competition from other contending teams and it could be a bidding war. Don't think of overpaying.
My long-term Jays' rotation, say by 2013, would include Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Shaun Marcum and Deck McGuire. Q: Hi Richard,
Q: I really enjoy your baseball columns. I am interested in hearing your opinion as to what the Jays long term plans may be for Adam Lind.
Ian MacDonald, Stouffville
A: This is just a personal opinion, but I think that Lind's breakout season as a 26-year-old DH in 2009 was spurred by the excitement of playing every day for the first time in a full season. In 2010 the young slugger slumped badly and as a DH may have had too much time to ponder his woes. Again, this is just me talking, because Lind would never say anything, but it's tough for a 27-year-old that has never played a full season at a defensive position to keep the adrenaline going when he leaves the dugout just five times per game to hit -- and that's it, that's all. Especially when things aren't going well. Frank Thomas played through his 20s as a first baseman. David Ortiz was a first baseman. Vlad Guerrero was a superb right fielder. Paul Molitor played multiple positions as an all-star before finishing as a DH. Hideki Matsui a left fielder. Johnny Damon had a long career as an outfielder. I have always said and still believe that Lind needs to play a position and the only one available for the Jays right now is first base. He should be working out at that position on his own every day. Lind is signed to a great contract for the Jays through 2013 with three more option years through 2016 with small buyouts each year. It's also a contract that would be easy to trade with value for the acquiring team. If the Jays do not find a position for Lind, I could see him being traded before the contract is over.
Enjoy reading your mailbag each week. In regards to the rumours of the Blue Jays acquring Justin Upton, can you see any reason why the Jays are willing to give up so much for him? Upton is a superstar, but Towers has said he wants to clearly win any trade that happens. To give up Lind/Snider and Drabek/Stewart seems like way to much doesn't it? Thanks.
Andrew S., Alberta
A: Upton has a manageable $49.5 million deal for the next five years, which makes him very appealing for any team to acquire, a young controllable player wth his nice upside. However, since the next two seasons for the D'backs outfielder are just $11 million combined, there is no hurry for Arizona to trade him right now. They are dangling him and waiting to be overwhelmed. They probably believe that financially they cannot keep him through the end of the contract. If they are not overwhelmed now, they can keep him and go through the process again every trade deadline and every winter for the next couple of seasons. As such, it would likely take more than Lind/Snider and Drabek/Stewart to acquire him. In that case I as a GM would not be interested. They have already said they want to win the trade. Someone will bite, if not this off-season, then next.
Q: Hello Richard,
Love the blog. You asked John Farrell all the right questions except this important one: does he spit, chew gum, eat sunflower seeds, or none of the above?
Roland Jodoin, Calgary
A: Sitting across the desk from him in his new office for the interview a couple of weeks ago, there was no sign of a spittoon, no day-old gum stuck up under the desk, no sea gulls hovering in the room looking for discarded seed shells and no yellowed, nicotine Farrell finger tips from cigarettes. I doubt if he has any vices which makes me nervous. By the way, I am disturbed that so many mailbag readers seem so very hung up on spitting.
Q: Hi Richard,
There's been a lot of talk in the last couple weeks about the Jays trying to acquire Zack Greinke. This would obviously give the Jays a front-line starter to lead them when they expect to contend next year and beyond. My question is, with Greinke's well-documented history of anxiety issues, is he the guy you want pitching in Yankee Stadium in the last game of the 2012 season with a post-season berth on the line? Is he apt to collapse under the pressure? Can he be the big game pitcher that his salary dictates he should be?
Colin Campbell, Edmonton
A: I don't think that question is very fair. The anxiety issues are under control. NL MVP Joey Votto had deepression and anxiety issues of his own that he overcame to be NL MVP. Greinke for his part is a Cy winner. Is he the guy you want pitching at Yankee Stadium in the last game of the '12 season with a post-season berth on the line? Well if they Jays have reached that point with him on the staff, then yes. I think his anxiety issues come more from dealing with idiot questions that sometimes we in the media ask more than facing A-Rod and Teix with the season on the line. The mound may be a comfort zone.
Q: Hi Richard,
I love your mailbag and read it every Wednesday. My question for you is about the AL Cy Young Race. To me, Felix Hernandez was the clear favourite. He led the league in ERA and innings pitched, was second in strikeouts and WHIP, and third in complete games and shutouts. Of course, the one thing that would have hurt his chances was his 13-12 record, due mainly to the Mariners scoring only 14 runs in his 12 losses. In the past, you have put great importance on wins and losses as a tool to evaluate a pitcher. So, in your opinion, was King Felix, with his barely-.500 winning percentage, deserving of the Cy Young award?
Mike MacDiarmid, Newmarket
A: Lefty Steve Carlton went 27-10 for a Phillies team that went 59-97 in 1972. Now that's a Cy Young performance for a last-place team. I am not saying that in terms of ranking current pitchers against one another that wins and losses is the most importat stat, but too many people dismiss it completely and go right to WHIP and others. I also believe in innings pitched and I like walks to strikeouts ratio. The fact that Felix won the award means he was indeed deserving of the award. However, if I had a ballot I would have gone with David Price, Felix and then either CC Sabathia or Jon Lester. Consider that because of the low-scoring games that Hernandez was involved in start after start, he clearly had to keep focus, pitching his butt off, batter-to-batter, inning-to-inning, game-to-game, which for a pitcher of his abilities would invariably lead to the best WHIP and ERA that could be mustered because there were no huge leads where you can afford to just challenge hitters and maybe give up a solo homer and not care. Felix is a great pitcher, but for me a 13-12 record for the Cy Young winner just doesn't cut it.
Q: Mr. Griffin,
Love your Jays coverage. Oakland picked up Encarnacion off waivers and a few days later the two teams made a trade. Is there any 'unwritten' code in baseball that would have a team who got a player off waivers agree to a trade they may not have otherwise made? Or is the timing just coincidence? Thank you.
Joe Glionna, Montreal
A: I would have to say yes. The code stems from the trade waiver rules in August when if someone claims a player off waivers the two GMs put their heads together and try and work something out within 72 hours. Many times in a situation like the Encarnacion claim by the A's, the claiming club will need to clear up a roster spot and it allows the two GMs to talk about a roster player for prospects before the claim is even announced. That ensuing deal is not directly linked to the claim, but could be considered as related. If you are a smart GM you also want to keep a good relationship going with all GMs, even if you just claimed someone they were trying to pass through waivers in order to send them to the minors.
Q: A baseball question, not a Blue Jays one, but here goes. Does Baseball have a sportmanship award like Hockey? If not, it should and I can think of who and why it should be named after him. Remember the pitcher for Detroit (I can't remember his name) who could have pitched a perfect game but the wrong call was made at first declaring the hitter safe? I think their should be an award and named after him. I think anyone else would have had a fit over the wrong call. Imagine if there was additional incentive for not arguing or abusing the umps, charging the mound if hit by a pitch. A reward for players that kept their cool and composure for much of the year.
Dave McLeod, Scarborough
A: The Armando Galarraga Award would be nice, but maybe it could at least wait until he has retired. The Tigers' Venezuelan righthander wouldn't want to be considered the Lady Byng of baseball while still playing. As for the impact it might have, I really don't think that any player that has just been drilled by a fastball between the numbers just after a teammate's home run is going to think “If I charge the mound I may not win the Galarraga Award.” A better idea might be the Jim Joyce Award (the ump who blew the call). It could be voted on by MLB umpires at the end of the year using the same criteria. Otherwise there is the Roberto Clemente Award handed out for community service by an individual player in honour of the Hall-of-Fame Pirate who died in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico on a mercy flight to earthquake ravaged Nicaragua on New Year's Eve 1972.
Q: Hey Richard...
Look forward to the mailbag every week. For both hockey (Damien Cox) and baseball. Great way to interact with fans. My question: Is it time for a Mantle award? There is an award for best pitcher (Cy) and an MVP award which goes to the player who basically helps his team to the playoffs. Am I correct that the MVP can be a pitcher? Doesn't it make sense to have an award for the best hitting/fielding season? Thanks!!
Jeff Iles, Haliburton
A: Damien has a mailbag? As for the hitting/fielding awards, right now the only official MLB awards are MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year and Rookie-of-the-Year (Jackie Robinson Award). The BBWAA has a committee studying the feasibility of an additional reward for relief pitchers, a suggestion by Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. In terms of hitting/fielding, Rawlings sponsors the Gold Glove for fielding excellence at each position, ditto for Louisville Slugger sponsoring the Silver Slugger Awards. They are voted on by managers and coaches. The Hank Aaron Award is presented to each league's top offensive player as voted by fans, computers and Hall-of-Famers. This year's winners were Joey Votto of the Reds and Jose Bautista of the Jays.