Thursday, November 29, 2012

The HOF and the BWAA

It is the time of year for the Baseball Writer’s Association of America, BWAA, to make their selections for the new class of inductees onto the HOF. We knew it was coming and now it has arrived. The STEROID players are now eligible.

Barry Bonds - 762 HR, Sammy Sosa - 60 HR in three different seasons, Roger Clemens - 354 wins, Mike Piazza - 396 of 427 HR as catcher. These are the new candidates on the ballot for the HOF Class of 2013.

Also in the running for the fourteenth time is Jack Morris who was the pitcher of the ’80s and early ’90s. He won 21 in ’92 leading the Jays to WS win number one. If Bert Blyleven is in the HOF, Morris should be, too. Also on the list are Curt Schilling with 216 wins, 11 in the postseason –who can forget the bloody foot and Craig Biggio - 3060 hits.

The mantra “I did not take drugs” is now no-longer applicable. The BWAA is filled with a bunch of self-satisfied and sanctimonious non-pros. They are writers and some are even journalists. They did not confront what a pro-athlete had to confront in  that era. If you, as a pro, did not “juice” up you could not compete at the level necessary to remain at the top of your game. It is now very well understood that most everyone was taking something. What is more important? It was hard to keep your career on track for the HOF or the Silver Slugger or the Cy Young Awards, or to keep your numbers up to even get signed for the next season without taking something at any level of professional baseball. The pressure was great. With the genius of the Monday morning quarterbacking, myself, and fans and the BWAA can say that taking drugs was wrong and should not be allowed in the sport and that is was bad to take them. True as that is, it was not anywhere near the reality for that era.

So, back to my usual rant. Bug Selig was, is and continues to be the problem. Finally he has caught up with the other sports to control and act upon illicit drug use. He did act, but too late. Too late for the hundreds of players in the late eighties through the late ’90s who felt they had no choice but to take drugs, hit home runs and pitch winning games and fill the seats with fans for MLB under Bug’s direction, thus creating a resurgence of popularity and much more income for the complicit owners. More bums in the seats.

Who pays the price? The players, again. Take drugs and you are tagged by the fans and the BWAA as somehow less then the rest. You fill the stands for the MLB and get booed and booted for the rest of your life. Now the BWAA in it’s self-righteousness will have control over your legacy.(BTW, it is long past time for the Bug to reinstate Pete Rose and out him in the HOF based on his career, not his off field antics. Go figure, no drugs here. Do I really have to list all those who are in the HOF and have been suspect outside the lines?)

I think the BWAA should get over itself. I think they should look to an even playing field during that era with no * to diminish these players and the future. Players have not all handled their use well. OK, most did not. But, here they were, strung out by their owners and the MLB itself. Now there are rules, and all must abide. Even Jose Bautista was painted by the steroid brush because the writers thought that he was now too good. So much for being clean! Anybody who now excels in any sport is subject to drug speculation, real or not, and, real or not, the BWAA holds all the cards.

The honour of being in the HOF needs to be for the work, not for their perception of who was using drugs.The likes of Hal Bradley, Richard Justice and Mary Noble are voters. Who are they to “know” who was using and who was not? They have said they would not vote for “users.” It is arrogant and unfair to the players and even sometimes not true. But, are they sure in each case? NO.

Each of the above should be considered on their merits between the lines. Nothing else, a level playing field. I hope this discussion of steroids, etc., is gone and done with for the last time. Let’s here it for Pete Rose. Are you listening Bug?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How changes on the Blue Jays have completely recast the American League East for 2013

Alex Anthopoulos doing his best to look inscrutable.
The Toronto Nine have been the only really active team so far in the off-season, pretty well for all of baseball. I’m not going to count the Marlins here, even though the just received seven players from Toronto because most will not be seen on the big stage by opening day.

What strikes me as odd is that so few changes have happened with the other AL East clubs so far. The Yankees resigned Kuroda which is not unexpected. The Red Sox resigned David Ortiz, something they had to do to avoid rioting on the streets of Beantown. The Rays have pretty well done nothing, not that they have the money to do much. Their strength is in their farm system which either provides talent for the big team (they turn out great pitchers at an alarming rate) or great trade bait. The Orioles made what pretty well amounts to a lateral trade with the Mariners, moving out Robert Andino and getting Trayvon Robinson. That’s about it so far.

It’s certain the other teams will make changes. The Red Sox are in need of probably the same number of new players the Blue Jays just got because there are some glaring holes in their roster, especially in their pitching staff. No one there had an especially good 2012. They need at least two starters and Bard hasn’t exactly set the world on fire as their closer. I don’t know that they have what it takes at first base or shortstop. David Ortiz is getting older and who knows what he’ll do next year. I am not familiar with their farm system, so I don’t know what kind of trade bait they have. Their pockets are deep, though, so I few free agent signings could well be in their future.

The Yankees are getting old. Jeter had a great season, surprisingly good, really, but he’s at that age where things start falling apart. Everyone wishes him well, but that ankle could be a big issue. A-Rod is getting old really fast. His last great season was 2010. He’s now injured more often, doesn’t run as well, and strike out rate is ridiculously high – especially last season. He can’t connect on the high fastball anymore, so of course, that’s all he’s going to see until he proves he can do it. Will Rivera make it all the way back? Hard to say. If he doesn’t, what then? They don’t seem to be making much of an effort to re-sign Soriano. Does Granderson get things back in gear again? What are they going to do behind the plate? Martin’s hitting was really not good last year. Expect the Yankees to make a few big trades. If Petttite doesn’t come back, they need a front of the line starter.

Does Tampa have much room to manoeuvre? As stated above, the team usually improves by trading. Shields could bring in a number of good players (whether MLB ready or prospects for their farm system), but can they improve their offense. That is where they always seem so vulnerable. I don’t expect them to do much of anything, but somehow, they always do. Don’t count them out, but if they are ever going to disappoint, it might well be in 2013. After several great seasons, they could well inhabit the basement next season.

Baltimore was about the luckiest team in all of sports last year. Yes, they have a very good and creative manager in Buck Showalter, but they certainly can’t expect to rattle off another stunning number of 1 run games. Do they go out for a few starting pitchers. The one trade they did make won’t turn out to be earth shattering. Trayvon Robinson is not going to set the world on fire.

By adding the players they did, the Jays are going all in. Gibson as manager for the second time seems to me to be a move to bring in someone Anthopoulos can 100% trust to have his back. It is another calculated risk, though. If the players they’ve brought in have years that should be expected of them based on their pasts, it will prove to be a very good trade. Surely they can’t be expected to have a great number of injuries as they did this year. It’s my feeling they’ve done all that can be expected of them to improve the team and there might be a few more moves made before we even hit January. But basically, it’s now up to the baseball gods.

As far as the AL East goes, Toronto has set themselves up to a place where all the other teams are forced to respond. Once we get past the Thanksgiving weekend, it’s my suspicion that things will go a little nuts as the other four teams in the division jockey for position.

And a month ago I was getting fed up with the Jays!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Finally!

Alex Anthopoulos has done it now. As a friend told me, “He must have listened to you.” AA has filled the holes in the Jays lineup I outlined last post. He has single handedly improved the Jays and nearly doubled the payroll. Wow! As a fan, I have complained about the years it has taken to build this team to a competitive level. A five year plan turns into eight years and then three more years. All that stops now. All the positions have improved. One trade idea leads to another and we now have the biggest trade since 1991. Twelve players, and the Jays came out ahead. AA has beaten the Yanks and other buyers –like the Orioles– to the punch with this fire sale. Good for him.

In making this “Blockbuster” trade –Wayne Huizenga is still there at 5%– AA has given up good future prospects like Justin Nicolini and Anthony DeSclafani.  He also traded good, up and coming players like Adeiny Hechavarria and Henderson Alvarez. You trade good for good, move what you can for what you need. As for Yunel Escobar, good riddance.

The new guys from the fish are better. Both pitchers are All-Stars. Mark Buehrle is 38 with a career ERA of 3.82 and ERA+ of 119. Don’t forget he has post season experience with the White Sox. Josh Johnson, an eight year veteran, has an ERA of 3.15 and ERA+ of 133.  Together they make a good one-two punch to help Romero and Morrow. We still need and want more, but the starting rotation is much improved.

The position players are also much improved. Jose Reyes at SS had a BA of .291 and OPS+ of 107 and 184 hits last year. Emilio Bonifacio, a six year veteran, is slated for second base. This is not his usual position –played only three times last year– but he is again the same player as Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill. Bonifacio’s BA in 2012 was .258 and Johnson's .225. Johnson might wind up with the Orioles. To back up Bonifacio is Maicer Izturis from the Angels. This would make a good platoon situation for Gibbons. John Buck is back as the second catcher, as before –they have four on the 40 man roster now. I hope he has a better year than 2012. I hope he can find the life he once had with the Jays when he hit 20 HR’s, the best year of his career. Good defense, though, and why he is here. Jeff Mathis went to the fish. He did a very good job here. I wish him well.

Next is much maligned outfielder Melky Cabrera. Signed off free agency from the Giants, he will be watched very closely. He will want to be the best he can be to wash away those PEDs. Even with this, I think that AA has made a good pick here. Cabrera has no choice, he must perform without the PEDs and this will be his best and last chance to prove he is capable as a pro. He should be the left fielder of the future for the Jays. He can hit.

John Gibbons is now the manager. I had no idea he was on AA’s radar. As I have put forth before, I think the Jays need someone who can lead the young guys and have the respect of the veterans. I am not convinced that the hiring of John Gibbons is nothing more than a feel good situation for AA. After his huge week of roster changes, AA needs a comfort zone and Gibby is it for him. Gibbons had been very friendly with both Ricciardi and AA in the past.

Gibbons went 305/305 for his tenure and had the last second place finish in 2006. This was also when Roy Halliday was at his peak and by himself elevated the record of the whole team. Gibbons big job is to select his staff. I am not sure that hiring his buddies from the last time here is the way to go. Some of them are free to take a job here. But, is it time for him to “go for it” like Paul Beeston said? I think so.

Gibbons had better know how to handle the high-priced talent and not have the same clubhouse and on field antics as last time, even though it was not all his fault. Ted Lilly went 15/13 in 2006 but did not respect the manager when Gibby took him out a game. With Shea Hildebrand he had fisticuffs in the dugout. We have had enough of cliques and bad blood in the clubhouse already this past season. Hildebrand, retired after the next season, now, has nothing but praise for Gibby.

So that is past. Can John Gibbons command the respect needed to control this diverse and newly formed team? John Farrell apparently could not in 2012. I sure hope so and AA is banking on it. This time Gibby has the tools to produce a competitive team. Hope he has the ideas to make it all happen. I am waiting for the dog-days of August, late in the season, when things get very tense, to find out who is really in control of this team. Hope there is nothing to discuss and that September games are meaningful.

I hear that the players respect Gibbons but..... only time will tell.

For me, I am ready to put my money where their mouth is. The Yanks and Red Sox are question marks. The Orioles need to improve. We never beat the Rays anyway. The Tigers are making noise, and so they should, after the Series they had. We still need more pitching. Will RA Dickey be the next piece? Is AA finished? I don’t think so. Some of these pieces may wind up like Mike Aviles and be shuffled off for other pieces.
AA has sure surprised us, and for the good.

Next season will be tough. Too bad. Go for it. Go for it now.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What a difference a week makes

Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Marlins
I take a week off from Late Innings and look what happens! The Toronto Blue Jays land themselves in not one huge controversy but two.

Huh? Controversy?

Yessir. We may all think that all they’ve done is to completely revamp the team, turning it into a potential World Series juggernaut, but let’s look behind the curtain a bit and see what else is going on.

In mid-season last year, the Red Sox did a classic salary dump, shipping several high-profile, high salary players to the Dodgers. It was very unpopular in Boston as it was viewed the team had thrown in the towel on the season and decided to go for last place in the Eastern Division. Was anything heard from Bug Selig about this? No. The trade went through right away, not a bump in the road.

Commissioner Bud Selig
Twice after winning the World Series, Miami has conducted a fire sale of expensive championship players at the height of their value to potential buyers on other teams. The Miami fans were livid. Did Bug Selig take any extra looks at these trades? No. They went through with nary a peep from the baseball commissioner.

Now this week, Jeffrey Loria has done the same thing again, but this time without the World Series trophy in his office. The huge deal with the Jays was announced on Tuesday and it still hasn’t received official approval from Selig. What’s going on? You really can’t believe that it’s all because Reyes is holidaying in the mideast, can you?

Miami was the recipient of a great deal of taxpayers largesse recently when Loria talked the city into providing most of the finances in the building of a new stadium for his club. How he managed this, we’ll never know. This is the same man who crumbled the Expos franchise in Montreal, greasing the skids for the team to wind up in Washington. He has proven himself to be not trustworthy several times in the past. And they’re surprised he’s proving untrustworthy once again?

Now, after a dreadful season where the Marlins, touted last winter to be World Series bound, wound up in the cellar of the NL East, the team is selling off almost all their high-priced talent. A few were traded during the season, notably Heath Bell, their closer, and now six more have supposedly been traded to the Jays. Yes, Loria has once again reneged on a covenant he made with the City of Miami and his team’s fans: to bring them a winner. Yes, they’ve one played the first year in their new playpen paid for mostly by the taxpayers. And yes, they had a truly disastrous season. But why is Selig putting the brakes on this trade at this time? The Marlins and the Jays just did in one move what Loria was planning to do anyway. What’s different?

Two things: Selig wants to at least appear that he’s concerned and possibly willing to do something about a deal that makes not only the Marlins and Loria look awful to their constituency – and all of the baseball world – but I don’t think he’s too happy about the Jays suddenly giving themselves a very good chance to finally return to the postseason.

It’s no secret that MLB would like to get the Jays franchise out of Canada, in much the same way the Expos move to Washington was engineered. It would make it easier for everyone concerned, south of the border. The American game would once more have all its major league teams in America. Teams wouldn’t need passports to play a weekend tilt north of the border. (For those readers south of the border, this is more for players to get back into the States, rather than entering Canada.)

In the end, what can Selig do but approve the trade? Both teams’ dealers are big boys who understand the business of baseball. Bug can’t approve part of the deal. It’s going to be all or nothing here. Additionally, he really can’t stop it without an awful lot of tough questions being asked about where he was and what he was doing when Boston did the same thing with Los Angeles – in mid-season, no less – to a contending team! So ultimately, I don’t think he’ll want to go there. Loria did nothing different than Red Sox owner John W. Henry, who, interestingly, was the previous owner of the Marlins and presided over their first fire sale.

As for the second controversy, word got out yesterday that the Jays had come to a two-year agreement with infamous “drug addict” Melky Cabrera, suspended by the league for 50 games and then dropped by the Giants at the end of the season because he was caught using testosterone.

Melky Cabrera
Will Cabrera use performance-enhancing drugs again? I doubt it. The risk is too great. I believe the Jays made a good signing here and addressed another of the needs of the club: a quality player in left field. Even though he’ll probably not put up the kind of numbers he was putting up last season, Cabrera should be a definite upgrade to what the Jays’ were looking at. They got him for very little and he could make a big difference to the final results next fall.

An interesting fact with Melky is that his power numbers weren’t that impressive last season when he was on the juice. All the testosterone in the world won’t help you to see the ball better and bump your batting average up to the league-high levels where he had them.

If he can keep hitting the ball with the frequency he did last year, Cabrera will be a huge help to the Jays offense. Unless he totally bombs out as a player, it’s a good signing. Cabrera certainly has something to prove.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Find The Pieces

Alex Anthopoulos is at the General Managers’ meetings this week and has said he will not concentrate on the manager position for the next few days. So, I cannot grumble about his choice until it’s made. I just hope it is soon.

Several changes need to be made to the starting nine this coming season. With plenty of question marks that will still remain, it time to access each position and see what's up.

Pitching is the most important and hardest to get. Ricky Romero this season went the wrong direction completely. In my opinion, Romero's demise was strictly the pressure of leading a team that fell apart by injury/ He felt he had to be perfect and could not be. With a healthy staff and a more realistic approach he will be fine. Tech surgery is not a factor and he will hopefully have his head together. This does not mean the front office can coast. The possibility of Kyle Drabek or Drew Hutchinson returning next year are slim to none. Anthopoulos must get at least one high powered starter for whatever the money is. Maybe a Zack Greinke would fit the bill. So would Shaun Marcum who is on record as being interested in returning. As an aside, I hope that Sergio Santos can last this coming year. Let’s see what he’s got after being out a season. He has really no record to fall back on other than one very good year, two years ago.

First base is pretty well decided. With Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind doing the platoon thing with the DH spot. I think it works very well.

Second base needs change. Kelly Johnson should be gone and Mike Aviles has come and gone already. We traded away Aaron Hill to get Johnson and wound up with the same player. As I see it, I don’t think Adeiny Hechavarria should be put at second. AA needs a good glove with some consistency in the bat.

Short stop is another strange position. Yunel Escobar has done well on defense and less then stellar with the bat. However, his continued attitude with the players and public is now more like he was with the Braves, where they wanted rid of this head case. He is part of the Latino click and is not much of a team guy. He should be gone and that’s where Hechavarria comes in.
Adeiny Hechavarria
He is the only one of the young bunch I think may be ready for the bigs and deserving of the chance. So done, trade Escobar with other pieces and see what you can get.

Third base should have been a lock. Everyone was pulling to have a five tool Brett Lawrie on third. He has shown his arrogance several times this season. He has also made comments about how he plays and that he does not need to change. Well… Maybe he needs taking down a peg or three. I like many things about Lawrie but not his attitude and continued ineffectiveness at the plate. He is not yet a batter but a swatter. His discipline is sorely lacking. He needs to get benched the next time he does not take instruction. He needs to grow up. I hope he does. We need a manager who can manage the talent.

Right field is done.

At centre, there is another head case – the Jays have a few. Colby Rasmus has much talent and little brain apparently. He can fly on his feet and if he is paying attention and not distracted by “whatever”, he can catch a ball. At the plate he is still a mess and is only a lucky hitter who will not last long in the bigs. For now though, with the Jays in such a terrible state, he will remain the centre fielder.

Left, wow. Rajai Davis has gone beyond expectation this year, but he is not the long term solution. He has turned out to be a great piece off the bench and one who can accomplish what he is asked to do. His position play was much better than expected. However, the Jays need a big bat. Davis had a BA of just .257 and OBP of .307. For 2012 he did smack 8 dingers for a career high while totaling only 43 RBI. Not a great bat. He did steal 43 of 59 attempts. Very quick on the base paths. So free agency or trade is the only hope for the Jays. The late season call-ups are still not ready to perform. Rick likes Moises Sierra. Sierra has a good throwing arm but is slow on the run. His batting is a bit raw and needs to work on hitting the breaking ball and MLB pitching, in general. In his 147 at bats, he had 6 HR and 15 RBI. Too soon I think. Anthony Gose had a BA of .223 forty points below his minior league totals. Not yet ready for the prime time. The Jays list him is as the starting left fielder. I don’t think so.

Catcher is a bit of a problem since it seems to be born-out that JP Arencibia is not the bat of the future. He did have 18 HRs and a low BA of .233. How long before Travis d’Arnaud is called up? For now though, I foresee no change.

Will the Jays choose to be able to afford anybody in free agency, either batter or pitcher? Will they bid for Tori Hunter or Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke? Unlikely. With the injury list reduced, it is time for a winner to be put on the field. The fans need a team that can compete. AA has run out of time. Remember JP Riccardi? He had a five year plan for eight years. The Jays have some good pieces. When healthy, they should be able compete. If AA can find the right missing players, we could be in the hunt. Now, only for some direction from the bench.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Odds on a Triple Crown Winner Being MVP

What are the odds on a Triple Crown Winner such as Miguel Cabrera being the league's MVP? Oh, about 50-50. Am I kidding? No.

After a season in which he hit .330, knocked in 129 runs, and belted 43 home runs Cabrera should be a shoe-in for MVP. Right? After all, Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966 and he was the AL MVP. And Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in 1967 and he was the AL MVP.  But before that ... well, it didn't always happen. 

After the creation of the MVP Award in 1931 Jimmy Foxx had the first chance to win it as a Triple Crown winner in 1933, and he did. But that same year Chuck Klein hit.368 and won the Triple Crown in the National League and he lost out to Carl Hubbell. Perhaps it was because Klein led the NL with just 28 home runs, more likely it was because Hubbell was brilliant with an ERA of just 1.66 which was pretty amazing in the 30's.

Surely that wouldn't happen again though. Well, strangely enough there was another Triple Crown winner the next year - in the American League. Lou Gehrig went 49, 165 .363. That was a pretty good year even for Lou. He finished fifth in the voting ! Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, and Schoolboy Rowe of the pennant-winning Tigers got more votes and so did teammate Lefty Gomez.

In 1937 Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Gas House Gang had 31 homers and 154 runs batted in and hit .374. He narrowly beat out Gabby Hartnett, the Chicago Cubs catcher.

Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1942. He hit 36 home runs, scored 141 runs, batted in 137, and hit .356 (albeit fifty points lower than the year before).  That year Yankee second baseman Joe Gordon scored 88 runs, hit 18 home runs, and batted in 103 runs. He hit .322 (54 points below Williams) and was named MVP. Gordon did lead the league in one category, however. He grounded into the most double plays (22).  Note: I'm not making this stuff up.

After serving in WWII for three years Williams came back in 1946 and hit .342 (2 points less than his lifetime average) with 38 homers and was named MVP. In 1947 Ted hit 32 home runs, knocked in 114 and hit .343. He did not win the MVP Award. He tied Yankee first baseman George McQuinn (18, 80, .304) with three first place votes. But Joe Dimaggio won it - with eight first place votes. Dimaggio hit 20 home runs, knocked in 97, and hit .315. He actually had a much better season the next year (39, 155 both league bests and .320) and of course was not the MVP, Lou Boudreau was. 

Of course two things worked against Williams. His team rarely won the pennant, which was a big factor for the voters, and he was not a great fielder. In 1956 another Yankee center fielder, this time Mickey Mantle had a pretty good year (52, 130, .353). He got all 24 first place MVP votes.

What about Cabrera's chances this year? I would say he has a very good chance of winning, especially since his team win the pennant. But there is this kid who is probably going to beat out Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes (23, 82, .292 in 129 games) for Rookie of the Year and he may beat out Cabrera for MVP. 

When Mike Trout joined the Angels on April 28th they were wallowing at 6-14. Albert Pujols had had a brutal first month. From that point on, with Trout, Anaheim went .585, the best record in the AL. Trout became the first player ever to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases, and score 125 runs. He also became the first player ever to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases, and bat .320. That's ever!

And Trout is a human highlight reel in center field, while Miguel Cabrera, a converted first baseman, had the fourth most errors at the hot corner in the AL. Oh, and Trout had a higher On Base Percentage.

Looks like Miguel may suffer the Triple Crown curse.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beginning to lose patience with the Blue Jays

We’re several days into what the old timers used to call “The Hot Stove League”, a time when all good ball fans could sit around and discuss the season just past and look forward to what might happen in the spring. Nowadays, fans get together at bars and pubs – or for fish and chips as John and I did this past Friday. As always, talk quickly got around to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos
I think it’s fair to say that both of us are losing patience with the club. That’s saying a lot, because I’m much more calm and patient that my confrere can be.

The entire 2012 campaign was a disaster as far as we’re both concerned. Yes, the club had very significant injuries, especially to their pitching staff, and I certainly won’t soon forget that horrible week in June when the starting pitching took a hit from which it never recovered. Losing Santos after about 2 seconds of pitching in April could have been a huge blow, but Casey Janssen really stepped up, and boy, that was a huge and pleasant surprise in a season of nearly weekly bad news.

The thing that really sticks in my craw is the whole John Ferrell mess. I thought he was an honorable man, but it turned out that all he was waiting for was a chance to manage for his old club, The Boston Red Sox. The fact that the job came up after only one year (something that couldn’t have been foreseen) was unfortunate for Ferrell, but that didn’t stop him from asking to be allowed to move.

That’s when the Jays put in their rule about lateral movement of their manager. What they should have done was fire Ferrell’s ass right then. No matter what he said about the Jays being his only concern, it wouldn’t take a really smart person (something Ferrell claims to be) to see that Bobby Valentine might not last long. My guess would be that he thought Valentine might last for two seasons before once again imploding, but that wasn’t to be, either.

So the Jays let him go, rightly, before the franchise could take a further hit to its prestige. Right now the Jays look like the poor cousin in the AL East, a farm team for the big time Red Sox. Brother! It really made my blood boil.

Now the team is having to interview managers, and while they say that the process will go much more quickly than it did last time (when they hired Ferrell). It cannot come quickly enough. Stability starts in the manager’s office, and if the Jays are serious about look for free-agent pitching help, any players they want will need to see that the team is stable and well-managed. Why come here if the Jays are a disaster area? Toronto already has an issue of being in a foreign country, something that has kept some players from coming to the team in the past.

GM Alex Anthopoulos now looks really bad for choosing Ferrell, which is a bit unfair. One assumes that a first-time manager would be in for the long haul, not just trying to get a bit of experience before his real job is available. With a new manager, AA just has to get it right. If the next Jays manager is not able to do the job (leading his team into the playoffs) and have success right away, the Jays could be looking for a general manager around this time next year. He may just have to hire next year’s Manager of the Year to regain his lost credibility as a canny and shrewd baseball man.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who’s running the store?

So, John Farrell is gone. So is Torey Lovullo and now Brian Butterfield. Farrell is now where he wants to be and I wish him well. Did he prove to be the manager of the year or even a long term solution for the Jays? Alex Anthopoulos thought so. AA hand picked Farrell. Boston will have to find out if Farrell can lead that team to a better than .500 average. I don’t know what Boston thinks is so special about him, but I guess we all will find out soon enough.

AA’s “keep them happy” approach has left the Jays scrambling again. The off season machinations have begun and the Jays are rudderless. Who is on the list and who should lead the team?

Many talking heads have mentioned that the manager does not do much. Not really worth their salt. In Will’s article on Tuesday he mentioned Bruce Bochy’s approach to the Giants as a team. It seems to be the smarts of the manager and the chemistry of the club that put’s them on top. Go back to the heydays of the Jays. Cito Gaston let the boys of summer have fun and let them play, and they did. He won the World Series twice in a row with essentially different teams.

When the team loses, the manager gets fired. When the team wins, the players get the credit and the bigger pay checks.

So now what should the Jays do? Sandy Alomar Jr., DeMarlo Hale, Tim Wallach, Manny Acta and now Matt Williams, are the main candidates to become the Blue Jays' new manager.

Sandy Alomar has again been passed over by the Indians – and also the Red Sox. He is ready to move on. In the last half of the season he led the Indians to a 3-3 record. That is the extent of his managerial experience.

Manny Acta has lots of managerial experience and has a low-key style that some find professional, but he has not managed a winning record. He has managed 890 games but has only a .418 percentage. Not that that is the end all, as Bruce Bochy did not do so well with the Padres before going to the Giants. Acta sticks to the SABER method and does not go for small ball. He manages by number it seems. So for me, too many baseball options are gone with his approach.

DeMarlo Hale has solid managerial credits. He spent many years in the minors coaching successful teams. His Trenton Thunder –AA for Red Sox– went 92-50. He has now been with the Orioles for 3 years as the third base coach. Buck Showalter has praise for his abilities. Even though he did not play at the MLB level, his team building skill might be good for the Jays. The Farrell club house did not seem a fun place to be.

Tim Wallach is a seventeen-year veteran who played with the Expos and then the Dodgers. He won the Silver Slugger in 1987. He has some minor league coaching experience and is currently the Dodgers third base coach. Would he leave his home stomping grounds of California to manage here? I don’t think so. He is too involved with the Dodgers. If hired by the Jays, would he leave for the Dodgers like Farrell did for the Red Sox?

The Jay’s just got permission to speak to Matt Williams. However, he is past the interview stage for the Rockies job. He was a fine All Star player for the Giants and has coaching experience. He is the only player to hit a home run in the World Series for three different teams. Those with the Diamondbacks think he will not leave them for the Rockies. He and his wife host a pre-game show for the D-backs. He’s pretty entrenched there.  He is ready for an opportunity as manager in the bigs. If not the Rockies –which I think he will get– I think he could be right for the Jays. This one is a toss up as to whether he will take the Rockies job or is really interested in moving on.

Dan Wakamatsu is still on the list. He has a losing record and by all account lost his club house in Seattle – shades of Farrell. Remember, Ken Griffey Jr. retired after being benched by Wakamatsu. I do not know all the details, but handling “talent” is a big part of the job. He was fired in 2009 with a .375 record.

Now, I think the Jays should – as I have said before – take a good look at Ryne Sandberg. Of course, he is an HOF player from the Cubs who has won every award and managed at the minor league level to a winning record. He has been appointed as third base coach for the Phillles. He wants to manage at the MLB level. He can speak with authority to the veteran and the rookie. Maybe that’s what the Jays need.

My top choices are Ryan Sandberg, Tim Wallach and DiMarlo Hale.  As an aside, my top prospects are all third base coaches.

For the Jays, I think a little more hands on might be needed now with what appears to be indecision and weakness in the front office. AA and Paul Beeston seem not to have a clear picture now of the direction of the team. They should have an idea, as they just went through this process two years ago. This is AA’s last chance to show he can produce with players on the field and with staff. I had high hopes for him. He does not have a good record now, three years in. It better change in 2013.