I wonder how Jose Bautista ushered out 2016. It couldn’t have been a happy parting, right? At some point a cup of Booster Juice, a right-handed arm and a brick wall had to be involved? Maybe I’m over dramatizing it some, but one thing is for certain, if you google translate ‘Jose Bautista’ into English, it comes out as “holy fuck I just lost a lot of money.”
Spring Training 2016 had Jose riding high. He was just months removed from an exciting playoff run. He produced one of the most iconic moments (and images) in Blue Jays history. He was coming off yet another 100RBI/100RUN/100BB season. And at 35, and still in great shape, he felt another big payday was in order. And why not? So, he told the Blue Jays what he expected. And it was big!
Like $30Mish a season big! For multiple years.
The moment I heard that I threw up in my mouth. Then I took my pants off and shit in my hand. And ate it. Just so I could throw up again. It was a ridiculous gesture on my part. But I felt it fit the situation perfectly. It’s not that I didn’t think someone would pay Jose that kind of money and term. On the contrary, I felt certain someone would. It’s just that I hoped my beloved Blue Jays wouldn’t be so foolish.
But don’t get the wrong impression. I’m no hater. I love Jose. I love how he plays the game. I love the attitude. I love the memories he’s provided Jays fans for the 9 years he’s spent in Toronto. But this is about business. And I would French kiss my mother live on Facebook before I would give that kind of contract to a 36 year old with declining skills.
I’m guessing other GMs would too. Because no one has handed Jose a penny, yet.
But it’s not just Jose. This has been an odd market for other free agent sluggers such as Mark Trumbo, Chris Carter, Pedro Alveraz and even Edwin Encarnacion. The Blue Jays did their due diligence sending Jose a qualifying offer of $17.2M, but as expected, he declined.
So here we sit. It’s January 3rd, 2017. And Jose Bautista waits for an offer.
But Jays fans who want Jose back shouldn’t fret just yet!
Rumors have swirled recently that he’s back in ‘active talks’ with the Jays. I doubt there’s much validity to those rumors – but I really don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. The truth is there’s a scenario where Bautista’s back in a Blue Jays uniform for 2017 on a 1 year deal. It’s just that I don’t believe Shapiro and Atkins want Jose back.
They’ve stated their priority is exploring trades. They’ve shown a history of aiming to get younger. Let’s just hope they stick with that game plan and move on from our iconic hero. It will be sad to see him go. But it’s just business, Jose.
Especially when you’re complaining about problems with a Blue Jays team that’s 16-7 in their last 23 and steadily climbing the AL East standings. The Mike Wilner and Andrew Stoeten’s of the world couldn’t wait to call a guy like me an ‘ill informed’ ‘garbage clown’ for writing such a column.
Thankfully, I’ve been consistent in my pessimism from day one. I’ve never swayed. And I’m on record countless times talking about these issues. Namely the bullpen and the offense. From day one! The one consistency is the wild inconsistency of this ball club. And those type of teams almost never win. So hopefully writing a pessimistic post, after a single loss to a shitty Phillies club, doesn’t have the stench of ‘bandwagon’ drifting off it.
The Blue Jays have holes. These holes are profound enough they will not simply be able to play their way out of it. These holes must be filled through concrete trades. And this concrete must poured until they holes are completely filled and crack free. I figure we need about 4 gallons of concrete to fill the holes in the pen and on offense.
The problem is, we only have about 3.8 gallons of concrete stored on the farm. Come to think of it, we might be able to get by with just the 3.8 gallons on the farm, but that means there won’t be any concrete left for next year, and the year after, when our farm teams have their own foundations to fill.
Do we want to do that to the farm? Do we want to take away the few prospects we have for one more shot? And if it’s more than one more shot, are we building future shots on the backs of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Russ Martin and Troy Tulowitzki?
I sure the hell hope not.
So yes, the Blue Jays lost one game tonight to the Philadelphia Phillies. That in itself is not much of a problem – considering how they’ve been playing. But this is a team built on a sand foundation. This current roster, regardless of their record of late, is far from a championship calibre team. Do I really mean far? I tell you what. Stretch your arms as far apart as they can go. Now look in the mirror. That’s how far I’m talking.
Just ask the Cubs how far they have to go.
This isn’t a team whose only 1-2 pieces away. Their bullpen alone is about 3 pieces away. Well, maybe just two, if Drew Storen gets back to being Drew Storen, Brett Cecil comes back healthy, and Aaron Loup can return to his 2014 former self. Truthfully, I’m not overly pessimistic on Cecil and Storen. For the record, I believe in both these guys.
On the offensive side of the ball we have a 2nd base problem and a left field problem. Oh! And potentially a very large issue at catcher and SS as well.
Wait! What? Michael Saunders is a problem? Yes. Michael Saunders will be a problem. So will Darwin Barney’s bat. Give it time. They’ll expose themselves. Check back with me at game 100. Yeh, but Fangraphs told me their exit velocity is up and…fuck Fangraphs and their exit velocity!
Old school stats still mean something. And when you have enough of these stats, they’ll tell you just as much as any advanced stat will tell you. And my old school stats are telling me this is a team with 4-5 real life holes.It’s also telling me we don’t have enough concrete on the farm to fill them.
And if we do – I don’t believe Mark Shapiro will be silly enough to use it. And honestly, I hope he isn’t silly enough to use it for this last ditch effort.
But seriously, what the hell do I know. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.
I’ve never smiled for 7 straight hours. It happened yesterday at the Blue Jays game.
My smile had little to do with the Jays pounding the Orioles 11-6. Though, it helped! But I’ve been to many Blue Jays games before. Some were wins, some losses, but none were with my family. This is what made this game so special.
We traveled to Toronto (from Nova Scotia) because of my son, Turner. His baseball team, the Nova Scotia Challengers, were invited on the field to play at the Jamboree following the Jays/Orioles game. The Nova Scotia Challengers are a baseball team made up of kids with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Turner is almost 6. He was born with Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome has been a tremendous gift in my life. The first week of Turner’s life has been the only time I spent in fear. I had no idea what Down Syndrome was – all I knew was it seemed scary. Now, I can’t believe how lucky I am. I’m amazed what my son unwittingly teaches me. This trip to Toronto was another gift he wrapped up for our entire family and watched as we ripped it open.
My oldest son (Griffin) is 7 years old. He’s the bigger baseball fan of the two boys. He was going to the game as Turner’s ‘buddy’. Each player is assigned a ‘buddy’ in case they need help getting around the bases. He pestered us to buy him a baseball so he could get Blue Jays players to sign it. I tempered his expectations by letting him know he might walk away without any signatures.
I don’t think he paid me any attention.
This trip was a first for both my boys. Their first plane ride. Their first ball game. Their first time seeing a big city. I was so excited by all they would experience. But as I sit here typing this I’ve realized I also experienced something special for the first time. Our family experienced something special together. It was a mutual shared experience.
We arrived to the game a couple hours early hoping we could watch batting practice. As we entered the stadium – the magic began in earnest. If you’ve never been to the Rogers Centre, or any Major League ball park for that matter, the field that unfolds before you can be a site to behold. It starts out tiny, but than grows larger and larger the closer you get. Griffin and Turner were taken aback by the enormity of the spectacle.
As we gathered ourselves we focused on the players in the outfield preparing for the game. We quickly assessed we must run for that spot. I picked up my youngest knowing he couldn’t keep up with the speed with which my excitement would carry my feet. Honestly, I forgot about my wife as this point. I knew she could take care of herself. I had no time for lollygagging.
But my wife was just as excited as I was and we raced together toward our objective. Gate after gate we passed. Our eyes never leaving our targets. We eventually arrived and pushed our way to the front of a group watching the players near the left field wall. We took it all in. We snapped some pictures. I commented to another gentleman about how the players must feel like zoo animals because we were just gawking at them like puppies in a window.
Griffin was in awe. He knew these players. Or at least – he knew their baseball cards. Turner much less enamored. He was busy munching on his popcorn. This is part of what’s beautiful about him. He reads people well. He cares little about their celebrity or legend.
Then it happened!
Roberto Osuna turned, pointed directly at Griffin, and threw him a ball. Griffin couldn’t flag the medium fly pop up and it ticked off his glove and fell back to the field. It was out of reach. But Roberto kindly made his way over, picked it up, and stuck it in his glove.
Then it was Marco Estrada’s turn. He made his way toward the dugout from the bullpen. People yelled for his attention. He initially shook everyone off but Griffin managed to get his attention. He noticed him and his Turner and surprisingly made a bee line for them. He signed both the ball and Turner’s hat. He even made some nice conversation with both boys. Then he left. Signing nothing else.
It continued from there. Signatures from Aaron Loup, Pat Venditte, Drew Storen, an autograph and conversation from Jason Grilli. Jose Bautista raced by. Marcus Stroman trotted past us. At that point I felt as young and my kids. Baseball has always held a special place in my heart. I didn’t realize it yet, but I’d already been smiling for over an hour. My wife and I would exchange eye contact, subconsciously acknowledging how special this moment was becoming.
Then the game happened. The score was irrelevant, really. But happily the Blue Jays did crush the Orioles. There was lots of cheering. A few home runs. Tonnes of high fives. Singing and chanting throughout. So many good memories were had and we hadn’t yet arrived at the main event yet – playing our own game of baseball!
A little background about me for a moment. I created a viral video recently which received about 50 million views in one month. I did interviews from all over the world. NBC, Today Show, Germany, France, South America, etc. In that video, I mostly describe an encounter I had with a man in a corner store. But I also talked about how I viewed disability.
I don’t see disability the same way I used too before Turner was born. Now I see we all have valuable lessons to teach. Some people have lessons to teach about love. Others have lessons to teach about finance, cooking or sports. All are valuable in their own way. So with this thought in mind, I believe a well educated person does not have more to teach than my son. They only have different things to teach.
So back to OUR ballgame. We arrived on the field shortly after the Jays game. The field was full of kids with a wide range of disabilities. They all appeared happy to be there. Well, except one kid. He seemed upset about not being able to catch as many balls as he wanted. So he had 1…or 6 temper tantrums. I found it kinda’ funny myself. But that’s just me.
They all played hard. The kids played like they cared about doing well but they smiled and laughed even if they didn’t. It’s always a powerful experience for me to be in the company of people who live their life regardless of the hand they’ve been dealt. It’s how I want to live my life. I’m still striving.
At one point Duane Ward showed up! He pitched to some of the players. I took out my camera and got behind the catcher. As the pitch came in I would yell “BALL” or “STRIKE!” Not because I was supposed too. I did it because I wanted to be able to say I umpired a game in which Duane Ward pitched!
That one was for me!
But the entire day was for my family. I was deeply moved by the whole event. Once again, I mostly have my son to thank. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have smiled for 7 hours straight. I wouldn’t have experienced this magical day. It was about the game. It was about the win. But it was mostly about sharing this moment as a family.
I hope you get the chance to smile for 7 straight hours. It’s completely wonderful.
The Blue Jays couldn’t pull off their 6th straight series win against the Detroit Tigers, but they did avoid getting swept out of Comerica with a 7-2 victory. So,it’s something.
If you asked me going into this afternoon game, I would have told you the chances of being swept were quite high. We had the inconsistent R.A. Dickey on the mound against Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman was 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA coming into this game. Though, Dickey has been no slouch himself since the beginning of May, posting a (2.81 ERA).
Neither team was interested in foreplay for this game. They got down to the nitty gritty right away, both blasting 2 run home runs in the 1st. But that was all the scoring the Tigers would get. The Jays would tack on 5 more runs along the way and hold on for the win.
are some of the things you may be hearing, but the Blue Jays, in actuality, have an abundance of tremendous prospects. Most of them on the pitching side and one of them is Conner Greene. He is currently Toronto’s best pitching prospect and their #2 prospect within the organization. The 21 year old from Santa Monica California stands at 6’3″ 185 lbs and commands a blistering 98 mph fastball.
“I don’t know where I got it . . . I’ve had it for about a season-and-a-half,” Greene said.
“We were playing Michigan State, and I’m usually 93-94 so I don’t know if it was the crowd or adrenaline or what, but I got up to 96-97 and I’ve had it ever since.”
And he has not looked back. Starting in Lansing(Low A) he was quickly promoted to Dunedin (Advanced A) and promoted again to New Hampshire (AA) all within the 2015 season, where he started honing his abilities. Success came easy, throughout A ball but, as expected, he struggled a bit in New Hampshire and was sent back down to Dunedin to complete his development.
2015 Lansing 7-3 – 3.88 ERA – 1.396 WhIP
2015 Dunedin 2-3, 2.48 ERA, 1.100 WhIP
2015 New Hampshire 3-1, 4.68 ERA, 1.480 WhIP
2016 Dunedin 2-4 – 3.29 ERA – 1.537 WhIP
Greene is highly regarded within the organization as a ‘very close to ready’ prospect. Considered untradeable by management, he was one of the most sought after pieces at last years trade deadline by opposing teams.
“Good arm,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “He’s one kid they’re talking about in the organization that’s got a chance.”
Toronto’s new management group — among them president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins — appear to believe in allowing prospects to develop at a slower pace, but that may not be the case with Greene.
“It’s tough to say,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Last year, it was out of necessity (bringing up Osuna) . . . we were trying to fill some holes in our bullpen and these kids were a good option. It was a gamble, but it paid off with Osuna.
“A lot of it depends what the philosophy is this year, but Conner is our best (pitching) prospect. If he’s good, I’m sure they’ll bump him.”
Among the things that came around for Greene last year was the effectiveness of his fastball, which allowed him to more deceptive with his developing curveball and changeup. A seventh-round pick in 2013 out of Santa Monica High School, he posted a collective mark of 12-7 with a 3.54 ERA, averaging 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings against 2.7 walks in 2015 at all 3 levels.
“Fastball command was the reason why I was moving up,” said Greene. “I was finally able to hit the inside corner, the outside corner, do what I want with my fastball to set up my secondary pitches.”
A point of emphasis this spring is on trying to add some deception by throwing his curveball out of the same arm slot as his fastball.
“It’s coming along great,” he said. “Hopefully it will break off the same fastball plane so hopefully big leaguers don’t pick it up out of my hand.”
Time will tell whether or not Greene will be making the jump to the big league, but there will be a glaring omission in next years starting rotation with the departure of R.A Dickey, who most certainly will not be a Blue Jay after this season. It is interesting however that the Toronto rotation may have 3 starters under the age of 25 next year….which is incredible. Anchored by veterans Marco Estrada and J.A Happ who are both in Cy Young form this season.
Whoever said the future in Toronto was bleak, better reconsider…and we have not even discussed the other prospects yet.
In episode #7 of the Jays talking podcast, we throw a bunch of shit at the wall to see what sticks. No notes we’re prepared in the making of this podcast, so no trees were hurt. But we had a good time rambling about old Blue Jays uniforms, a fat David Ortiz, and pretending we were broadcasters making the winning call.
The podcast also features an excellent interview with Lansing Lugnuts beat writer, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.