Jays mailbag: Getting ready for the return of Roy
Problems come in all shapes and sizes.
While some in baseball worry about how the Dodgers are going to meet their next payroll because of fallout from the rancorous McCourt divorce, filing for bankruptcy protection, there are others with a much broader vision of life that continue to worry about Gary Carter and his radiation treatment and his future survival after the discovery of Stage 4 brain cancer.
While Jim Riggleman frets about the Nationals' refusal to guarantee his option year in 2012 and resigns after a big win, Carter's younger daughter Kimmy Bloemers continues to report on the family's website, the progress of her father who still has more than three weeks of radiation therapy remaining from an original 6-1/2 weeks.
Carter is halfway done with his radiation treatment, his daughter wrote Monday night on a private family website, as reported by ESPN NewYork.com which has been granted access to the site.
According to Kim, her father will continue with chemotherapy treatment for a full year and will also have an MRI performed in August to gauge the effects of the radiation treatment. Induction weekend at the Hall of Fame for Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick is July 23-25 at Cooperstown and a lot of people will be thinking of and praying for The Kid. On to the mailbag.
I have an etiquette question for you. I'm travelling to Toronto to take in the Canada Day weekend series against the Phillies. Thankfully for us Jays fans, Roy Halladay looks like he will toe the rubber on Saturday, for his first start in Toronto since being traded. The question is, how will (and how should) Blue Jay fans treat Halladay, as well as the game in general? I will definitely stand and applaud him in the first inning. After that, I am confused. Do I want the Jays to win? Do I want Halladay to win? Do I want to see Doc dominate or get lit up? Say that it's the ninth inning, Jays are down 1-0, two runners on base, who should I cheer for, Halladay or the Blue Jays? In the grand scheme of things, it's only one game, but I really want to be there to see Doc. Thanks again for your mailbag. It's a highlight of my week.
Andrew, Dartmouth, NS
A-To my way of thinking and from my experience, there is an easy progression for what should transpire on Saturday afternoon when the iconic ex-Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay faces the Jays for the first time since being traded to the Phillies on December 16, 2009.
First of all, it's very important for fans to be in their seats before the game. There's nothing worse than an empty stands while heartfelt tribute is being paid. There will be warm applause as Doc pops out of the dugout on the first base side and heads out to the right field bullpen to warm up at around 12:50 p.m. There will be a large number of fans above the bullpen in the seats cheering him on as he prepares for the game -- unless of course the Jays' overly officious ushers tell them to go back to their seats or tell them to be quiet.
When Doc's name is mentioned in the starting lineups there will be a loud roar. But the key to the welcome back is that when he emerges from the dugout for the first inning and all the while that he throws his pre-game warm up pitches, there should be a long standing O throughout as he prepares to face his first hitter. But as Escobar steps into the box and digs in it's now game on.
Thanks for the memories Doc, but now we want to kick your butt. That's the way Halladay would want it. Two runners on in the ninth, down 1-0, as a Jays fan you're cheering for the hitter. As a baseball fan you're just happy that you were there.
I like the Blue Jays, but I get the feeling that too many people in the media are busy worshiping at the feet of Mr. A.A. When do we start holding him accountable? It's OK to praise when needed and to give tough opinions when needed, but no one is doing it. I read your mailbag and it sounds like an apology letter for Mr. A.A. please stop trying to explain away his errors. Make him do that. He is not perfect; just look at, well everything not named Bautista or Lind. This season is unravelling and the kid are all back on the farm, not what the vision of this year was supposed to be. Don't get me wrong Mr. A.A. has done some good, but he has also miscalculated on many occasions and that should be pointed out as well. I think that the media is a little too lenient on him and all too willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Your thoughts?
A-Excuse me while I go round up a couple of goats and a chicken and a couple of gold shekels for my trip to the Anthopoulos Centre. You see, he expects his tribute from the media once a homestand. Actually there's a lot about your question that I don't get. You say “It's ok to praise when needed...” I think praise is something that's earned rather than needed. You say “Please stop trying to explain away his errors...” I think it's more a case of trying to explain his errors rather than explain away.
The moral crisis of conscience on this side comes if, as a commentator and critic, I had once agreed with an original move that eventually turned into an egregious error. Like the one that had Kyle Drabek making the opening day roster. I agreed with that at the time. I am not one to leap on the obvious and turn the blade. I always like to first-guess, not second-guess. If I ever disagreed with Cito Gaston, Tim Johnson, Jim Fregosi, Buck Martinez, Carlos Tosca, John Gibbons, Gaston, or John Farrell be sure it had been discussed as a possible mistake before it turned sour, otherwise not likely to be criticized.
As for Anthopoulos's aura of infallibility with the media, even while Ricciardi still held the GM's office and it was obvious the end of his tenure was near, my opinion was that his young assistant Anthopoulos could step up to the job. Given AA's mission to build a contender and re-build the farm system through the draft and international free agency, given the fact that he made the Halladay trade and received a nice bounty even though there was only one team in the running, given the fact that I always backed the signing of Bautista to a long-term deal even if he had only one good season, given the fact that AA has by and large resisted the temptation to speed up the process to which he has committed, it would be dishonest to leap on your tenuous point that he has “miscalculated on many occasions.”
Besides, AA has been criticized in the media for stuff like installing Edwin Encarnacion as third baseman even though he had been signed as a DH, for leaving Brett Lawrie in the minors even though everyone agreed he was ready and then got hurt and for sending the hard-working Travis Snider down to Vegas when he was struggling instead of working with him at the major-league level since this was not the year they projected to compete and for being overly secretive and close-mouthed even with info that the public should know. But to criticize for the sake of criticizing would just make the media, especially the print media, a bunch of a-holes. We're not there yet. Feel free to disagree.
It's no secret that the late, great Expos seemed to have a special rapport with Latin American ballplayers. Was that perception or reality? I've always felt that many Latin players have no special affinity for playing in the USA and that a more multi-cultural environment like Montreal or Toronto would be conducive to allowing these players to relax, enjoy themselves and play well. Are the Jays leveraging that factor?
A-It's true that Latin players always enjoyed playing for the Expos, especially in the years when the iconic Felipe Alou was the manager. It's clear that Latin players were comfortable with the fact that Montreal was a fan base and a general population used to dealing with a second language and unlike young American players that are dubious about playing in a foreign country – see Mark Lemongello who was obtained for Alan Ashby: Do they speak American in Toronto? - players from Latin America are forever playing in a foreign country.
Many of the same things that made Montreal attractive to players from the Caribbean and South America also make Toronto attractive.
Finally, following the J.P. Ricciardi years in which Caribbean scouting meant looking for an attractive vacation destination, the Jays are once again serious about Latin American free agents. They were in heavily on negotiations for Aroldis Chapman and won the battle for Adeiny Hechavarria.
Under director Latin American operations, Marco Paddy, the Jays are at the forefront of Caribbean scouting, staying in contact with young players and their families. Toronto is once again an attractive option. It begins with their star player, Dominican-native Jose Bautista who performed as a Jay, was rewarded and is now the clubhouse leader for all languages and nationalities. Free agents and unsigned young amateur free-agent players can see that opportunity for themselves.
Q-Outfielder Anthony Gose, the player acquired in the Brett Wallace deal, has been tearing it up in AA, with over 30 steals so far. But, his BA has plummeted this month. True, he's only 19. But if can get on base, seems clear he'd be spark plug. Is he a legitimate prospect?
Brian, Los Angeles
A-This kid is a prospect. Gose, who is just 20-years-old, was hitting .249 through Monday, has stolen 35 bases and been caught nine times. At A-ball last year combined with Clearwater and Dunedin, surrounding his trade odyssey from the Phillies to the Astros to the Jays, he stole 45 but was caught an astounding 32 times. He's getting it. His walk total is not that bad, but he has struck out 71 times in 71 games. His pitch recognition needs to improve, a common problem for young players, especially when they're moved up quickly, but he's only 20. He has not made an error in centre field and has a great arm. Give him another year in the minors and think about Opening Day 2013.
What's the plan with Carlos V? He's been pitching very well in what was supposed to be a couple of spot starts in the rotation. I don't want to take anything away from him, but this is awfully familiar to when the Jays called upon Brian Tallet a couple of years ago, by the end he was run out of town after he couldn't find his rhythm in the rotation or the bullpen after having some success in a couple of starts. Do you fear Villanueva might have setbacks if he gets pushed back to the pen when/if Drabek or Cecil make it back up? And if he continues to pitch this well, why move him anyway?
Thanks Griff, great job as always
Matthew, North Bay
A-Carlos Villanueva was acquired from the Brewers just before the winter meetings last December and expected to compete for a spot in the Jays' bullpen. He earned a spot at spring training because of his history of being able to pitch two or three innings in relief and be the long man. When given the opportunity as an interim starter while the Jays looked to solve the Rubik's Cube that was the rotation, Villanueva took the ball and ran with it. It's not fair to Carlos V. to compare him to Brian Tallet.
First of all he doesn't have the funky hat collection Tallet had and secondly, he has a better major-league track record and has a very intelligent baseball mind with an understanding of how to attack hitters with the stuff that he's got. If eventually he goes back to the pen, he can handle it, but for the moment, when a guy goes out there, gives you 5+ every time and you win most of them, why change?
Q-Kyle Drabek got shelled Thursday night in Las Vegas. I don't think he made it out of the first inning. Given the reputation of the PCL as a hitter's league and Drabek's sudden inability to find the strike zone, would it make more sense to send him further down, perhaps all the way to A-ball, to work on the zone? Who is the pitching doctor in the Blue Jays organization? It seems like Drabek needs some serious therapy. I worry that, as you said in the last mailbag, that some pitchers are ruined permanently by pitching in the majors. This is Drabek's first taste of failure, and I worry it will devastate him rather than teach him humility.
A-The Jays do not normally like Las Vegas as a development stop for their hot young pitchers. They explained however in this case that they chose not to send Kyle to Double-A because last season he was already the Eastern League pitcher-of-the-year and had learned everything he could at that level. It's likely they wanted to take the immature Drabek out of any comfort level he may have found in Manchester, New Hampshire and throw him in somewhere that he has to battle hard to regain his major-league spot.
So far in this new battle after two starts, it seems they have cast Drabek as General Custer at Little Big Horn. If they had sent Drabek to A-Ball, he could get by with his stuff, just by throwing strikes without having to command the strike zone.
In Vegas all the cards are stacked against him. The Triple-A level is largely a holding tank for major-league hitters either on the way up or the way down. They know how to hit and how to better approach young pitchers.
The 51's pitching coach is Tom Signore, while the roving doctor in the organization is Dane Johnson. Maybe, like Halladay did back in the day, Drabek has to hit rock bottom before he can build himself back up. His first two starts in Vegas have been awful, but he's the same talented pitcher that earned a major-league spot at training camp. Maturity is not something you're born with. Failure is part of gaining maturity. I believe that the family background with his father, Doug, being a former Cy Young Award winner with the Pirates, that Kyle will rebound to fulfill his potential. However, maybe not this year. Brett Cecil went down in much the same fashion and has earned his way back.
Love the blog. I'm a big Jays fan, but I must admit my favourite team will always be the 1979 Expos. That was the team that made me fall in love with baseball. Ellis Valentine's arm, crazy Bill Lee getting guys out with junk, Chris Speier making the most of what skills he had, Tony Perez, vegetarian Dave Cash. I can name the entire lineup and starting pitchers by memory. Remember when everyone was excited to move into the Big O? Sigh. My question is this: when Jose Bautista, for example, is being intentionally walked, why doesn't he take a swing or two to make the pitcher either throw more intentional balls (to get them off their stride) or make them pitch to him? Is it a matter of etiquette or are there rules against it?
A-Interesting that you bring up the '79 Expos. On the last Jays road trip I talked to Chris Speier, now a coach with the Reds, and with Larry Parrish, now a coach with the Braves, and both of them swear that the best times they had in baseball was with those Expos teams from at the late '70s, start of the '80s and that they didn't realize at the time how good it was. Now they do and both said that whenever they get together with former teammates from that era, that good time in Montreal is what they talk about.
Another point about that specific '79 team that won 95 games, there was just one player on the disabled list all year, that was Speier from July 1-15 surrounding the all-star break. The Expos in 160 games needed just 14 pitchers, despite playing 15 doubleheaders, including seven in September alone.
As for the Bautista part of the question, I have seen hitters swing at pitches during the issuing of an intentional walk when the pitch gets too close to the strike zone and the infield defence is relaxed and not paying attention. Many times the results have been good, but to swing at a pitch far wide of the strike zone to keep a pitcher throwing is not a matter of etiquette as much as intelligence. If someone did that while my pitcher was issuing an intentional walk, the next pitch would hit him in the ass.
With the signing of Escobar are we seeing the beginning of a few moves for A.A. in the coming month? Does this lead to Hill being traded and Hechavarria being promoted to see what they have for the 2012 season? What does this signing mean to the Blue Jays short and long term?
Scott, Niagara on the Lake
A-When Escobar signed a possible four-year extension for a possible $20 million he became the fourth Jays player signed beyond 2013, along with Ricky Romero, Adam Lind and Jose Bautista. They have not said it about Hill because a lot can happen, but if things remain the same then you can look for the Jays to not pick up Hill's two option seasons at the end of the year. If Hill projects as a Type B free agent, you can look for the Jays to hang onto him and take the drat pick compensation. If Hill is not a Type B, then they will at least explore trading him at the deadline at the end of July. He is somewhat attractive to another team because of the “change of scenery” angle, plus the two option years remaining at a reasonable price for a starting second baseman.
As for Hechavarria, since he is on option, they could bring him up and send him back at any time, but his understanding of the strike zone will likely prevent that until rosters expand in September. There is room for Escobar, Hill and Hechavarria on the same roster, even with Lawrie at third base, but they must make their Hill decision and it seems that he will be the odd man out unless he regains what he once had.
You are the Impresario of the Mailbag. Keep up the great work. My question is regarding the designated hitter. Do you think the Jays made a mistake by passing on Johnny Damon? He's having a good season for Tampa Bay, still has some pop, runs well and is a left-handed bat which the Jays sorely need. I think it's a travesty how the Jays DHs have been performing as a group collectively and Alex A. should be held accountable for this. This is the one position in the line up where a batting avg. below .200 is unacceptable. What do you think? Do you think the Jays are looking around for a DH to help them compete? Edwin E. is not the answer.
Howard Adler, Toronto
A-Not signing Johnny Damon is not a mistake by the Jays. He is a big stage, bright spotlight kind of guy and is still in love with the Sox and Yankees. He plays in Tampa because he is a Florida native. If he was in Toronto, he would be looking around for his next team, trying to re-establish himself with the Jays and then be traded. The “trying to re-establish himself” part would be a good thing because he would be focussed on his numbers, but inside the clubhouse things would change. No the Jays are better off without him. What I would do if I was AA is give EE a chance to DH between now and the trade deadline, then if he's not working out I would look for a Type B one-dimensional veteran on the block, then let him play out the year as DH and let him go as a free agent, taking the draft pick.