On Bills not-so-super Sunday, apparently Manny Ramirez was in town entertaining fans at that swanky new sportsbar near the ACC that starts filling up in the third period of Leafs games and the fourth quarter of Raps games, by fans that really, really need a drink. Why was he here? Clearly Man-Ram is not a Bills fan or even a Chicago Bears fan, so the only thing possible is he must have been in town to talk to the Jays about a job in 2011. He said he would like to play for John Farrell. Even the manager scratches his head and wonders why. They both played for the Indians in '95, but Manny was a starting outfielder and Farrell was a September callup at the tail end of his career. Then Manny went to the Red Sox after the 2000 season and Farrell rejoined the Indians front office in 2001. No overlap there. Farrell took over as pitching coach of the Red Sox in 2007 and Manny was dealt to the Dodgers midway through 2008. Perhaps Manny is grasping at straws at this stage of his career. But the point is not that. The point is that if I was the Jays (and they thank God every day that I am not), then I would sign Manny to a short term deal as DH (one year plus an option), move Adam Lind to first base, sign Orlando Hudson to play second, move Aaron Hill to third base, leave Yunel Escobar at short with Johnny Mac backing him up, play Travis Snider in left field every day with Jose Bautista in right and Vernon in centre. Ramirez is a student of hitting and nobody works harder at his craft. Of course, left field is another story. On to the mailbag.
Q-Hey Richard. I'm a huge fan of the Mailbag and love reading your insightful comments on anything baseball. Here's my question: AA keeps insisting that this team won't contend next year and therefore it makes no sense to pursue big-tier free agents.While I understand it won't be easy to win 90+ Games next year, will it really hurt to sign someone on the caliber of Carl Crawford to lead off for the club even if they do it just to provide some buzz and excitement in Toronto? My argument is that there probably won't be a player on his level to lead off on the free agent market next year so would it really hurt the jays to roll the dice?
Joey Perl, Israel
A-I was with you until the "buzz and excitement" argument. Somehow with baseball in Toronto, buzz and excitement doesn't directly translate to asses in seats and that's the bottom line. AA has attempted in all things GM to be the anti-Ricciardi and that means not winter-hyping or even buying into the clearly existing fan hype. The fact is, yes, the Jays may be a lot closer to contending than the management team lets on, but they would rather prove it on the field first for a half-season and then add players later just to make sure they weren't hyping a mirage. However, there's the flip side of the Jays' shroud of secrecy when it comes to the sophomore GM's trade talks and negotiations. Anthopoulos may indeed be currently talking to agents for some of the big position players on the open market and may indeed come out as a surprise winner just like he did with the Cuban shortstop. But as far as the specific case of Crawford is concerned, I believe that his value only increased with the mix-'n-match, old-school offence shown in the Giants' victory in the World Series and that the Jays entering the CC fray would only serve to bump his asking price up to one of the free-spending big boys. Hmm, that might not be all bad, but just by the Jays bidding for a guy like Crawford, fan expectations would ratchet up and that's not what the front office wants. They want the play on the field to force their hand.
Going back to the World Series for a moment, it seems that the MVP is always a person who makes a definitive play in the final. For example, this year it was Edgar Renteria, who hit the game-winning homer. Granted Edgar's story had a nice underdog quality to it, but I personally thought Cody Ross had more dazzling, turning point moments. Or you could even make an argument for Tim Lincecum. My question: Who decided who gets the MVP Award, and is it usually a case of "what have you done for me lately?" Thanks,
Nick Krewen, Toronto
A-You have a point in that "what have you done for me lately" thing. The ballots for World Series MVP are handed out in about the fifth inning of a potential clinching game. The voting panel consists of the rightsholders TV booth, the radio booth, the AP and several veteran BBWAA members. As soon as the clinch looks certain and that final out is made, the ballots are in and counted. Clearly what happens in Win No. 4 will hold more sway in the minds of voters than anything in the earlier games. Personally, I would have had to vote for Lincecum because the reason the Rangers were favoured was because experts gave two wins to the invincible Cliff Lee, meaning the Giants would have to win four of the other five games to capture the series. Lincecum turned that around by starting two of the games the Giants won over Lee. Renteria basically had two key swings of the bat and that was it. But one of them won Game 5. As for Cody Ross, it's not like NHL hockey with the Conn Smythe Trophy which is for the three-month (or maybe it only seems that way) run of the playoffs. If it was for the entire month of October, Ross would have been a great choice. But the World Series? Lincecum me. Renteria voters.
Q-What a great column! I'm surprised at how little love Adam Lind seems to be getting... Is he not the obvious choice at 1B? I thought his overall stats jumped every time he played the field but were mediocre when DH'ing. Any thoughts?
Mike Likey, Ottawa
A-I'm a little disappointed in Adam Lind. If that was me, I would have gone to the Jays in September and said, "Look, I know I'm getting married this off-season, but how about if after my honeymoon I go to Dunedin and if Instructional League is still going on I want to play first base every day in a game. If it's over I want to have a coach hit me ground balls at first base until his hands are bleeding. I want to be given the opportunity to win the job at first base. I know in my first start at first base in August after working with Butter for a month, I lobbed a lazy overhand feed that made David Purcey leap up in the air and come down on the side of the bag and go on the DL costing him 20 days of his season and I'm sorry. But let me try and improve. This DH thing when you're not hitting can eat at you because you have so much time to think about your hitting. I want to be a player, not a DH." That's what I would have said, but it's not me and it didn't happen. As for Adam's splits in 2010, he hit .245 as a DH and under .200 as a starter in the field. He hit .275 vs. righthanded pitching and .117 vs. lefties. Ouch. The good news is Lind did hit .267 with an 807 OPS after the All-Star break. His career numbers as a leftfielder or DH are virtually identical. But he should want to play a position.
Great feature. I am positively giddy at the announcement of Pat Hentgen joining the coaching staff as bullpen coach. What took so long? Your thoughts? Kudos...
Dave Ewing, Brampton
A-What took so long for Hentgen is getting over the "comfort level" of retirement and reaching the "I miss the game" stage. Recall that Hentgen's sweet final deal that he signed in '95 with the Jays involved an annuity that paid him $500,000 every year after he retired in lieu of taking the money up front as a player. That will surely add to your comfort level, no doubt. But he is a career baseball man and as such there was always going to arrive the moment when he had to get back into the everyday aspect. It's not like you don't love your family, it's just that baseball is in the fabric of your being.
I recall vividly a similar crisis situation of what to do post-career with a similarly personalitied player that I liked and admired. It was 1990 in Chicago on an Expos' off-day sitting in a downtown, off-track betting parlour, tres relaxed and watching the ponies with Tim Wallach, Hal McRae, Don Zimmer and others. I paid attention to the convo. I have always been fascinated and amused when career baseball men get together, but especially when it's cross-generational. Anyway, Wallach, secure with a nice comfortable deal from the Expos at the time, was talking about his retirement and how when he quits playing he's done. He's going to watch his boys grow up, play a lot of golf and go to the track near his L.A. area home. He smiled confidently, quite certain that was his future. McRae, who within a year would leave the Expos for a managing gig with the Royals, immediately sat up in his chair and scoffed at Wallach. "Eli, you're gonna go home and play golf for a few years then at some point you're going to be on the phone begging some team to give you a job coaching or managing in the minors." Wallach played out the final four years of his career (1993-96) for the Dodgers and Angels, living in his own house. He retired as a gentleman of leisure, and after a few years, as McRae predicted, of playing golf and watching his sons grow up, he all of a sudden turned up as a coach in the minors. I laughed. McRae was right. I believe the same thing may have happened with Hentgen, although Pat never said never. The thing about the Jays' first Cy Young winner is that he always nurtured the coaching connection by showing up at spring training and putting on the uniform as a guest instructor for a week. These Jays pitchers already know him and the fans already love him. Good move by the Jays on many fronts. They need all the goodwill they can muster and he brings it as well as knowledge.
Q-Today we learned that Sparky Anderson had passed away. Did you cross paths with him in your career? His down to earth way of talking about the game was always a treat. My earliest baseball memory is of him, as a Toronto Maple Leaf, diving to his left to field a ground ball. He broke his collar bone on the play and the sound was audible in the stadium. It might have been his last game as a player. He was also a huge fan favourite, especially with little kids. A small, gritty guy who would sign autographs with unfailing politeness and good humour. We loved the guy.
Timothy Daniels, Toronto
A-After Sparky's passing, I purposely stayed away from any tribute columns or blogs because others within our sports community were more qualified to weigh in than I was. Working in the NL with the Expos from '73 to '95 with no interleague play to cross over, I met Sparky and spoke with him just at spring training when the teams met, in social winter meetings settings and during the '84 World Series which I worked at as part of MLB's PR workforce. Wonderful man, wonderful raconteur, loyal to his players and his organizations, he was a great ambassador for baseball to the end. If you're interested in reading a heartfelt tribute piece, find John Lowe's feature in the Detroit Free Press.
I now live in Winnipeg but was born and raised in T.O. As a lad my mom and dad would often take me to watch Maple Leafs baseball at the old stadium by the waterfront.
One of my favourite moments was going onto the field for fan day when kids like me got our pictures taken with the ball players. I remember Sparky Anderson was a player and coach of that team ...but I only went looking when I heard he was in hospice...
It turns out his managing career actually began when the legendary owner of the Leafs, Jack Kent Cooke, encouraged him to take that path ...at least according to Wikipedia...
He played the next four seasons with the Triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League, where Leafs owner Jack Kent Cooke spotted Anderson's leadership qualities and encouraged him to pursue a career in managing. Finally, in 1964, at the age of 30, Anderson accepted Cooke's offer to manage the Leafs. He would later handle minor league clubs at the Class A and Double-A levels, including a season (1968) in the Reds' minor league system.
I thought you might like to tie his Toronto years with his storied career.
A-Sparky was always a big fan of coming to Toronto as a manager with the Tigers. Would that others in baseball would take the time to get to know the city.
Q-Do you think David Purcey can become a closer next year? I can see him, Casey Janssen, and potentially Jeremy Accardo being the anchors of the bullpen? However does Accardo never want to play for the Jays ever again given their poor treatment of him? Also would the Jays consider putting Kyle Drabek in the pen like the Yanks did with Phil Hughes?
Jason Sinnarajah, Tokyo, Japan
A-I can see a completely revamped 2011 bullpen with David Purcey being an important part of it, but I don't see him being the closer any time next year. As for Jeremy Accardo, I don't see him ever wearing a Jays' uniform again. Of course recall I said the same thing about Edwin Encernacion when he was designated for assignment and waived and sent to Vegas early in the year, but Edwin's anointed successor, Jarrett Hoffpauir was a Jays' miscalculation and their only option was to bring EE back to the majors. But this time, in Accardo's case, my prediction is based on sources back at the time in September that said he was so pissed off at Anthopoulos and the Jays that he had his agent tell the club not to bother promoting him for the final month if he was just going to sit in the bullpen and not pitch. When AA took over as GM he called Accardo, who had felt similarly abused in 2009, and told Jeremy that he would be given a fair opportunity to make the team at spring training. AA is not in the dugout so this time he lent encouragement and added the human touch, but was not the ultimate decider. Accardo felt let down by AA at the eventual outcome of his season back in Vegas. Look at it this way. The rift must be serious if Accardo can't catch a break despite the fact that his wife Carly's uncle is Phil Lind, one of the Rogers' grand poobahs that owns the Jays.
It's clear that AA is going to work with John Farrell at re-populating the Jays' pen this off-season with known veterans but if I was the king of this jungle and had to make a decision now going into spring training in February, this would be the makeup of my pen:
Closer – Zach Stewart; 8th inning – David Purcey and Shawn Camp; Long Men – Janssen, Jesse Carlson and Marc Rzepczynski; Swingman – Josh Roenicke. The Jays' win total might not match the surprising 2010 total, but they will be heading in the proper direction and you would find out a lot about these guys moving forward, knowing what you have to add in 2012. As for Drabek, he's my fifth starter.
Q-So I understand the idea of parting with the majority of veterans (John Buck, Lyle Overbay), I also understand parting with someone like Gregg (who just always made one feel uncertain), but there is one veteran I don't understand why the Jays are not going to pursue - Scott Downs. He isn't exceptionally old but he is so steady and reliable and as I heard so often last year, young pitching benefits so much from a stable bullpen why are the Jays not going to pursue him?
Mikale Zeymann, Vancouver
A-I agree with you about Downs being steady and reliable and valuable to a young bullpen, but there are legitimate philosophical reasons why the Jays may choose not to pursue the lefty setup man. Consider that to keep the 35-year-old would cost about $6 million per year for two or three years. To let him go, the Jays have $6 million to spend elsewhere plus two draft picks among the first 60 overall if he signs elsewhere like maybe the Yankees or Red Sox. The Jays will offer him arbitration to make sure they get the picks. If the Jays were intent on winning in 2011, they would pursue him. But the Jays' building expertise dating back to former GM J.P. Ricciardi has been in finding discarded pitchers that can end up doing the job. That, after all, is how Downs ended up where he is. Farrell is good in this area as well and the Jays need to find out things about their own younger relievers.
Q-RE New playoff format. I have a different spin on the 12 team playoff format. I'd like to see the divisions re-aligned back to the East/West format. In each league, the 1st and 2nd place divisional leaders would get playoff berths, along with two wild cards. The wild cards would faceoff against the second place teams, while the first place teams would get a bye. The wildcard series (call it the AL/NLWS), would be a three-gamer, all played in the second place teams park. Two off days then proceed with the current playoff format. (AL/NLDS, AL/NLCS, WS). This would help preserve the regular season's integrity (by heavily favoring the 1st and 2nd place teams) and further promote importance of divisional games. From a selfish/Jay's standpoint; we'd still get to face the Yankees and Red Sox - just not as much with divisional realignment. Plus the Jays could re-develop rivalries with their closest geographic opponents in Cleveland and Detroit. It's not so much about the Jays having to play the Yankees and Red Sox less; it's about other teams having to play them more.
What do you think?
Matt Ferraro, Guelph
A-Sounds pretty close to my proposal, but yours is with two division winners, two seconds and two wild-cards, instead of three division winners and three wild-cards. I could live with that. What is important to me is that there should be a clear and distinct advantage for division winners over wildcards in setting up rotations and resting year-end injuries and both your proposal and mine acknowledge that. As for the regular season, there is so much crap thrown out about extra travel and TV starting times. In this day and age, people are used to watching their sports at different times of the day or night and the longest flights are not that long. And dump interleague play except for maybe one really traditional series each.
I take strong exception to your statement that "It didn't take long for the world to forget the Browns ever existed." Here we are 57 years after the Browns left St. Louis that over 300 fans are members of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. In fact we had 156 at our luncheon this past July which included 6 former players of the Browns. They are not forgotten. We even had Tommy Lasorda and Bob Costas show up. Lasorda was traded by the Dodger to the Browns in early '53 but was sent back to the Dodgers since the Browns didn't have the cash to complete the deal. Lasorda was almost a Brownie and we have the photos to prove it. http://thestlbrowns.blogspot.com/2010/06/tommy-lasorda-to-speak-at-stl-browns.html Bob Costas and his people analyzed baseball from top to bottom last year looking for the most interesting story in major league baseball and came up with it involving the St. Louis Browns. Again here we are, 57 years later talking about a historical event in baseball when Eddie Gaedel stepped up to the plate. He turned out to be the best damn midget in the history of major league baseball. Fans love the Browns. Sure they were a losing team, but the Browns players were not losers. They played every game to the hilt and had some of the most interesting and colorful players in the game. Who else where almost Brownies? We've documented Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and even entertainer, Roy Clark.
Bill Rogers, Editor
St. Louis Browns Historical Society
A-I only say that people have forgotten that the Browns ever became the Orioles in 1954 because back in 1973 when I started in baseball with the Expos, GM Jim Fanning's assistant general manager was a former Brown, the late Danny Menendez. Danny was a scout and executive in St. Louis and even 37 years ago in the mid-'70s, was already lamenting that people had forgotten the St. Louis Browns. But I must say that in light of your new information, clearly the Browns move to Baltimore was not a case of mismanagement. If they recognized and were smart enough in 1953 to send Tommy Lasorda back to the Dodgers after just several days, they were clearly smart enough to run a franchise. If Tommy had stayed with the Browns back in '53, poor Charlie Gitto and his fabulous restaurant in downtown St. Louis could not possibly still be in business. Charlie would have been bankrupted by all the free meals he would have had to give to Tommy.