Stoeten Answers Richard Griffin's (Previous) Mail Bag

Ugh. As if Griffin has managed to put up a new mail bag before I could even be arsed to answer the last one– which itself I started late, even though I missed the previous one as well.

Double ugh.

(Here’s the one I’m actually responding to.)

And sure, I could have just scrapped the whole fucking thing– some of the questions are, after all, a little dated by now– and wrote about how the Jays’ World Series odds are in the bottom third at 1/50 (place your bets!), how Shaun Marcum called it a dream come true to be back in the Midwest with Milwaukee, how part of AJ Burnett’s problems last year may have been due to a messy divorce (you don’t say!), how Bluebird Banter nailed it on the Jays’ reported pursuit of Octavio Dotel with the quip, “Because what would we do if our closer didn’t walk everyone?”, how newlywed Adam Lind is going to head to Dunedin for a winter of first base instruction, how Dirk Hayhurst wrote a great blog post about the passing of Bob Feller– as did John Lott of the National Post, remembering getting Feller’s autograph as a kid in the 50s, then interviewing him a half-century later– or how Notgraphs torched some ridiculous Toronto Sun columnist for suggesting Joey Votto winning the Lou Marsh award was “a slap in the face” to Canada’s Olympians– because, you know, being the best in the world at a sport played by 40 people is totally on par with being the best baseball player.

But nah, I’ve already done this much, let’s just post it– minus the question I used in the Encarnacion post below…

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers. Also, if there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q-Richard Stoeten,
Doug Drabek and Travis Snider plus others for Zack Greinke? Come on. AA’s plan was (in theory) to go after young, controllable players with very high ceilings. The idea was to patiently wait so that you would end up with a roster consisting of several bonafide stars who would form the nucleus of a team for many years to come. As a regular starter, Greinke had one outstanding year, one very good year, and two poor years. He’s under contract for 2 more years at $13.5M per year, and then is a free agent. Toronto was, at least, until now, on his no-trade list. Drabek is projected to be a staff ace. Snider is still only 22 and, now that Cito is gone, Travis will presumably be sent out to left field every day. His upside is likewise huge. Based on Greinke’s history, it wouldn’t be surprising if over the next 2 years, he had a great year and a mediocre year. And then he would move on. And then we would be watching Drabek and Snider making headlines from KC. Come on. Richard, make some calls and do something about this.
Patrick Bedard, Ottawa

Actually, Patrick, that deal doesn’t sound half bad. I mean, I’m loathe to give up Snider, but what the fuck has Doug Drabek done since winning the 1990 Cy Young? Sure, he had a couple more nice seasons in Pittsburgh, and one or two more as an Astro, but… honestly, I don’t even think we own his rights. So, if KC’s down with that, I think the Jays should probably jump at the chance.

If you mean his son Kyle, though, I’m totally with you– mostly. I mean, no, I wouldn’t trade Drabek and Snider for Greinke– not now that Marcum is gone, and even then, not without an opportunity to sign him to an extension. However, I don’t quite agree with your assessment of Greinke. Yes, he had an outstanding year in 2009. You’re right, he had a very good year in 2008. But I’m not sure about these poor years you’re talking about– if you mean 2007, he actually only started in 14 of the 52 games he appeared in, and in 2005, the season before he took time off for personal reasons, he was only just 21, so… maybe you’re right, but I think I could give him a break for that.

Now, if you’re referring to 2010 as a poor year, it really depends on the stats you’re looking at. Sure, his ERA looks bloated for a pitcher of his quality, he had a losing record, and his strikeout rate was down a little from the previous two years. But his 5.2 WAR ranked him 11th among pitchers in all of baseball– ahead of Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Oswalt, and many more. And his FIP– Fielding Independent Pitching– was 20th among qualified starters in the big leagues (his xFIP was 23rd).

Since those are stats that try to distill a players individual performance into its purest singular form, filtering out factors that he isn’t specifically responsible for, I’ll take them over whatever you’re looking at any day– so I’ll say that Greinke was very good in 2010.

Good enough that two years of him are worth five or six each of Drabek and Snider? Oh, fuck no. And to what end does that move even make any sense?

Q-Hello, Richard Stoeten,
I’m enjoying the mailbag as always; it’s excellent to have it available in the off-season as well as during the year. Glad to see Pat Gillick elected to the Hall of Fame. Can you please explain the Shawn Marcum-Brett Lawrie trade? The Jays traded this past season’s starting day pitcher for a second baseman. Last time I looked, the Blue Jays had a second baseman named Aaron Hill, and PROVEN starting pitching is a very valuable commodity, especially on a young starting staff, and with the bullpen undergoing significant changes. Is there some intangible that I’m missing?

Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work!
Richard Fine, Toronto

Richard, yes, I think there’s something you’re missing– the fact that Alex Anthopoulos isn’t willing to put all his eggs into the basket labelled “contend in 2011.”

No, he’s not trying to dismantle an 85 win team, because there is a shot they can be decent, and maybe even surprise some people, a la the 2008 Rays. That’s especially so if you add a bat or two that almost-impossibly hit their exact potential– think Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell with the Giants this year– and when you consider how having full seasons of Drabek and the Morrow we saw in the second half, plus continued steps in the right direction from Romero and Cecil could just about offset the loss of Marcum.

I mean, it’s not very realistic, but if they really wanted to, even after the Marcum deal– and especially now that Cliff Lee has spurned the Yankees– the club could feasibly create enough false hope to make even Paul Godfrey blush.

However, Alex is not going “all in”. His aim isn’t to make the club as good as he possibly c
an in 2011 and 2012 and figure out how to move forward from whatever wreckage that will have wrought later– the way the fans who are apoplectic that they’re not out signing monstrous contracts and are they trading a “PROVEN!!!!1!!!1!!!!” guy for a prospect can’t possibly seem to understand.

His endgame appears to be much longer than that, which is why he’s accumulating such great pieces in the farm system– and make no mistake, Lawrie is a great prospect. He appears to want players who will ascend to the big leagues over the next few years, be cheap and under team control for a long time, and will be part of a pipeline of players in the minors pressing major leaguers for their jobs, or available to use as trade chips– much the way Brett Lawrie was, having been blocked on the corners in Milwaukee by Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Prince Fielder and Mat Gamel.

And, oh yeah, on that point, most people don’t think Lawrie sticks at second anyway. Anthopoulos himself said he thinks Lawrie’s skills may even be wasted there. So, even if it wasn’t ridiculous to worry about Lawrie pushing a guy who was awful last year and could be a free agent as soon as next winter out the door, it was still ridiculous.

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten
Love the insight into the world of Major League Baseball. I am curious why teams don’t explore the concept of a “sign and trade” with arbitration eligible free agents like other sports. Specifically with Type A free agents like Jason Frasor. While there appears to be interest in players like this, teams stay away due to his Type A status and the player is basically stuck on a one year deal with a team that could take him or leave him. Granted they could be traded at any time, but that also never seems to occur with these players. Do teams ever discuss this option of the player signing with his original team, only to be flipped to another team for a more reasonable return of prospects?
Jon K, Hamilton

Jon, I had to look this up, so don’t get all impressed with me or anything, but it appears as though it is technically possible, and I’m not sure why it isn’t used more often.

My initial assumption was that it didn’t make much sense for a team to do a “sign and trade” after going through the process of offering arbitration and having a player decline, because that technically makes the player a free agent, and by rules of the CBA, he can’t be traded until June 15th. However, according to an MLB.com article from last year, the player can give written consent to waive the right not to be traded until then.

So then, why don’t GMs use this loophole to get some return on a player who’s not in their plans, but who isn’t likely to decline arbitration? I’m not entirely sure– maybe the union has an issue with it, maybe it’s because they’re happy with the compensation as is and don’t want to create a scenario where every free agent signing is affected by the potential for a sign-and-trade, maybe it would over complicate things as the teams try to work out reasonable compensation, or… I really don’t know. It’s a good question.

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten
It FEELS as though Alex A makes more daring trades than his predecessor. As far as the Lawrie-Marcum trade is concerned, which JP transactions do you view as most comparable? I’m guessing Hinske from Oakland.
Regards
Stu Royal, Erin

I think you’re about as close as you can get, Stu. Hinske was a well-regarded young player in the Oakland system at the time, blocked at third by Eric Chavez, and acquired, along with Justin Miller, for a still-valuable Billy Koch. Neither Hinske nor Koch had the value of Marcum or Lawrie, but the dynamic of the deal is somewhat similar– the major difference being that Hinske was ready to step into the Majors, while Lawrie is still a year off… at least, to the mind of everyone but Brett Lawrie.

And that really was what I view as the major problem with JP. He was extremely reluctant, I believe due to pressure from above, tacit or outright, to do anything that might allow the fan base to think the club wasn’t a potential contender if only everything would just break right. This was especially so in the mid-to-late years of his tenure, much to the detriment of the club, which could have used a GM having the blessing of ownership to accept reality, the way Anthopoulos seemingly has.

By the end Ricciardi got a little better in this regard, flipping Matt Stairs and David Eckstein in mid-season deals– for shit all, but still– and managing to get Zach Stewart as part of a package in return for Scott Rolen. Unfortunately– or, actually, probably not– by then, after so many years of missed opportunities and moves he might have made had ownership been willing to accept a step backwards, it was far too late to save his job.

FYI, you can check out all the transactions of the glorious Ricciardi years here.

Q-Hey Richard Stoeten,
With the non-tender deadline passing by, which non-tender free agents do you think the Jays will go after? In particular, what is your opinion on a one-year incentive-laden contract for Russell Martin? This would not only allow J.P. Arencibia to gradually grow into a major league catcher by serving as a backup but if Martin performs up to his capabilities he could prove quite the asset for the Jays by next year’s trade deadline.
Matthew Lee, Toronto

Bit of a moot point now, as Jussell Martin has signed with the New York Yankees, but I’d guess there are a couple non-tender guys that the Jays would be looking at, particularly relief arms like Bobby Jenks (who, FYI, has now signed with Boston for two years, $12-million) or Hideki Okajima, but there’s not anyone who really blows you away among those non-tendered… uh, obviously.

Also, interesting point on Martin that I hadn’t thought of when we were discussing his viability in earlier posts, which comes from Keith Law during Thursday’s chat at ESPN: “Martin had a .313 OBP when not hitting 8th (ahead of the pitcher, when he’s likely to be pitched around).”

Q-Has anything been announced yet for next year’s TV deal? There were a lot of angry fans at the end of the season.
Joe Glionna, Montreal

I’m not aware of any announcement regarding which games will be on the Sportsnet channel that people actually get and which ones Rogers will be absolute fucking cunts about, and maybe now that longtime TV guy Keith Pelley is heading up Rogers Media– taking over for the retiring Handsome Tony Viner– the situation will be less of a giant fucking clusterfuck of indifference towards their customers like last year was, but… this is Rogers we’re talking about, so how fucking likely do you think that is?

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,
One observation I have made as a baseball fan is the number of teams in the AL West and NL Central. From what I understand, baseball is the only sport out of the big four that has uneven number of teams in two separate divisions. I assume this is the case as baseball requires an even number of teams in each league to ensure proper scheduling and match-ups, although inter-league play has mitigated this somewhat. From what you know and who you have talked to in the baseball world, has there ever been any complaining or official filings done by teams in the NL Central in terms of this apparent issue in competitive advantage (consistently 1/6 chance in winning a division versus 1/4 chances) compared
with the AL West. If not, do you have any suggestions to properly address this in the future – I am sure Bud and team may have come across this topic already.
Sincerely,
Frank Chiu, Toronto

Frank, you’re absolutely right that it’s a scheduling thing to have an uneven number of teams in each league, and while it isn’t exactly ideal as is, there isn’t exactly a no-brainer solution, either. Go back down to two divisions in each league? Just one? I’m fine with any of those solutions, but unless you expand by a couple of teams– or you have an odd number of teams in each league, and constantly have one interleague series (ugh… though… fuck, why not?)– it’s a reality that those teams will have to face.

The Wild Card makes it far less of an issue than it might be otherwise, however, and frankly, I have a hard time mustering much sympathy here, given the giant economic imbalance in the division the Jays play in. That one is the one that really makes it difficult for teams, in my view. Of course, I might be a little biased.

Q-What’s the word on Dirk Hayhurst? Is he an option in the bullpen or is his future now in the media?
Duncan Alexander, Burlington

The word on Dirk Hayhurst comes from the man himself– he’s been blogging over at his official site, and recently answered once and for all the arm question, declaring himself healthy and ready to compete.

That’s awesome news. I’ve met Dirk, albeit briefly, but even if I hadn’t, it’s impossible not to be able to tell through his book (makes a great Christmas gift!), his blog, and his @TheGarfoose Twitter what a genuine, funny, down to earth guy he is– so you can’t not be rooting for him.

He is, however, currently a minor league free agent, and I have no idea whether he remains an option for the Jays, or whether he’ll have to try and catch on with another team. Regardless, he’s not a full-time writer just yet, and it would be extremely cool to see him back here on the mound in Toronto.

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,

I didn’t play pro ball, but I played up to Triple A in the Etobicoke Ranger system and I have to ask you, is playing first base in the majors really that difficult? I’ve been saying the entire time they should put Lind at first. I could play first base defensively in the majors. All you have to do is catch the ball. It shouldn’t be that complicated, especially for a guy like Lind who played the position in college. Where is “range” required? When does a first baseman ever “throw”? It’s the easiest position in the game. Plus, he’s left handed! It’s a no-brainer. Is it me, or is everyone over analyzing this?
David Ritchie, Toronto

Maybe you’re right to a point, Dave, but holy fuck, you’re discounting a whole shitload of value that defence brings. I mean, every dropped throw and every ball that gets past your first baseman down the line… you’re adding tremendously to your opponent’s ability to score runs on you. Maybe you can be so cavalier about that one position, but as an operating philosophy to discount the value of defence that much? Probably a little completely fucking dumb.

Plus, all the value he loses with his glove he has to make up for with his bat or he’s just not worth keeping around. Sure, part of the reason great hitters move to DH as they get older is that keeping them off the field reduces the risk of injury, but another part of it is that it reduces the risk of fucking butchery in the field.

Now, Lind may well be able to handle first a whole lot better than that, but… no, I certainly wouldn’t suggest simply sticking him there and not giving a shit whether or not he’s fucking killing you with his glove, or lack thereof.

Q-Hi Rich Stote,
Read your column about Lawrie this morning, excellent as usual. If the Jays need a backup catcher if JP doesn’t work out, are they going to re-sign Chavez to a minor-league deal? He wasn’t that bad when he was here.
Daniel Cude, North York, ON

My expectations were set pretty fucking incredibly low for him, but I must admit, I kinda liked Raul Chavez when he was here– if only because I could squint and pretend I was watching character actor Luis Guzman. And he’s a decent enough option to play in Las Vegas and come up to fill in if either Aaron Cibia or Jose Molina gets injured– assuming the team doesn’t pick up another catcher– but… wait, why the fuck are we talking about Raul Chavez?

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,
Do you think the Marcum trade sets the Blue Jays back in their ability to contend for a playoff spot in 2011? Is this clear indication from the GM that they are not thinking playoffs until 2012 or 2013?
Mia Matthews, Waterloo

Yes.

Q-Hi Richard Stoeten,
I was getting excited about the next few years of Blue Jays baseball until I saw what the Red Sox did this week. First they brought in Adrian Gonzalez and then Carl Crawford. Their lineup has just been upgraded from very good to ridiculous. Until the Jays begin spending big money I feel as though they will always be competing hard for third place. Do you see it any differently?
Dan Usten, Toronto

I absolutely see it differently, Dan. I mean, look at the run that Tampa has had over the last few years– on less money than the Jays have already been spending. And while it’s absolutely true that the Rays benefitted tremendously from having high draft picks, they also made some terriffic trades– especially in-season after declaring themselves trade deadline “sellers,” something the Jays, under JP Ricciardi, were loathe to do. Anthopoulos doesn’t have the same opportunity to consistently draft in the top ten, but he’s building a similar kind of pipeline, with the bounty from the Roy Halladay trade, now the Shaun Marcum trade, international signings and his calculated hoarding of draf picksl, and new focus on taking high end talent and opening up the vault to get them signed.

Will the Jays eventually have to spend big to keep the team together? Yes. And at that point it seems they’ll be able to do so– not only because of Rogers’ near limitless coiffers, but because as the accumulated prospects and young players turn into quality major leaguers, success on the field should come, and with it, more success at the gate. At least, that’s the idea. You got anything better?

Stoeten Answers Richard Griffin's Mail Bag… Again

Holy shit, has it really been a week since we last posted anything? Has the steady stream of rumours and shit to talk about really slowed to a quiet drip? Am I really going to, for lack of anything better to talk about, answer the questions asked to Richard Griffin in his mail bag for the Toronto Star again?

In a word: fucking totally.

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers. Also, if there’s a question you’d like me to answer, submit it to Griffin here, and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!

Q: Hey Richard Stoeten,

By not placing both (outfielder) Adam Loewen and (infielder) Brad Emaus on the 40-man roster, (making them eligible for the Rule 5 draft) is Anthopoulos basically indicating to both players that they do not fit in with the organization’s future plans? I find the move perplexing especially in Emaus’ case since he is one of the more developed third base prospects in the Jay’s system and leaving him unprotected could potentially make an already weak position from an organizational standpoint even weaker.

Matthew Lee, Toronto

To be honest, Matthew, I really don’t think it’s something worth anyone getting their panties in a bunch about– which I’ve seen some folks doing a touch, presumably for lack of anything better to piss and moan about. But you are right that Loewen and Emaus being left exposed indicates that the team doesn’t necessarily see either player as a long-term option– particularly Emaus– though I’m not sure why that would be in any way surprising.

Yes, Emaus has put up some nice numbers during his minor league career, but he’s just not very highly regarded as a prospect. Most seem to see him as a backup at second or third, who could maybe one day find himself a thoroughly unspectacular starter. So, it’s not that he doesn’t have value, but those aren’t exactly guys that anyone should be crying too hard over the organization potentially losing. It’s not like young-ish, low-upside backup infielders are a terribly difficult commodity to find.

Sure, I suppose you could take issue with some of the guys who were added to the 40-man instead of Emaus, but… what do the Negative Nancys really think here? That the club intentionally added players to the 40-man knowing full well wouldn’t get touched, and left guys unprotected who they think have a future with the club?

Like, for shits and giggles?

No, I think you can feel pretty confident that the front office protected the guys they feared losing and left exposed ones they could live without, or– in Loewen’s case– who they don’t expect will be taken.

Remember how the Rule 5 draft works: if a team selects an exposed player, he needs to stay on their 25-man MLB roster for the entire season, or else they have to offer him back to the team he came from (though he first passes through waivers). Loewen had a nice 2010 in double-A– particularly in the first half– but will anyone be willing to put him in the majors for all of 2011, especially when what’s most important to his development is getting at-bats? After his six years away from the plate as a pitching prospect in the Orioles organization, I have a hard time seeing any club letting him essentially sit out another year, buried on their major league bench. And I have an even harder time believing someone would be willing to give him enough big league at-bats to continue his development. Maybe I’m way off, but I’d wager he’s safe.

Q: Hey Richard Stoeten keep up the great work love Jays talk in the winter! You mentioned in your last mail bag that the Jays should be considering Canadian lefty Jeff Francis (whom I’ve acquired many times in my PS3 franchise modes), and you have also talked about a Shaun Marcum for Zack Greinke trade could make sense for both clubs. Personally I’d rather have Jeff Francis but I don’t know who I’d rather give up, what would be your ideal long term rotation?

Matt Sookram, North Bay

Matt, please keep your fucking maple penis in your pants and away from children, because… holy shit, man. Maybe you mean you’d rather Francis because the price to get Greinke is too high, but your words aren’t so clear. Do you mean to say you’d rather have Francis straight up over Greinke? Because that, of course, is fucking insanity. Not only does Francis have a bitch of a time staying healthy, but Greinke’s last three seasons have all be better than Francis’s best season, so there’s not much question as to who I’d rather have.

As for the rotation in the long-term, I could easily make the argument that the Jays should just stay the course. Marcum, Morrow, Romero, Cecil, Drabek and Stewart are a pretty fantastic group of pitchers that I wouldn’t have any problem sticking with. However– and you’ll forgive this brief drift into old-school-ish twaddle– thinking long-term, you sure would like to have a “true ace”– the kind of guy who with whom you can feel you have a solid chance to win when going head-to-head against another team’s ace (in, like, one of these things I’ve heard of called a playoff series).

As much as there is to like about the Jays’ young pitchers, I’m not sure that guy is there. And I’m not sure what they’re going to do, long term, with all of them. So, there’s merit to the idea of finding a way to peddle some arms if they can find a way to bring an ace back. I’m not sure they’ll find a trading partner, but I don’t know… you’d sure like your chances in an important game against Sabathia, Lee or Price if you’ve got a Zack Grienke going for you instead of anyone currently on the staff.

Q: I really enjoy your baseball columns. I am interested in hearing your opinion as to what the Jays long term plans may be for Adam Lind.

Thanks.

Ian MacDonald, Stouffville

Honestly, it’s hard to know what the Jays plans for Lind might be, but barring anything spectacular, expect to see him at first base or DH for the Jays next season– more likely the former, I suspect. He’s coming off a disastrous 2010, but his contract is incredibly team friendly– $5-million each of the next three seasons, then team options in the $7-million to $8-million range for the 2014-2016 seasons– meaning he stands to provide tremendous value to the Jays should he return to his 2009 levels of production. To me, that’s plenty of reason to stick with him, but it also means that his contract wouldn’t be difficult to move if the Jays were so inclined, either because they were afraid of his defence at first base, or of a repeat of 2010’s disaster.

Thing is, even if they are afraid of those things, I still have a hard time seeing any club offering the Jays enough for Lind– coming off the turd stew of a season he just sharted out– to offset the loss of the huge potential upside of his contract. If anybody did, though, I don’t think the Jays would view Lind as untouchable. His place in their long-term plans, in other words, is somewhat tenuous– a lot will depend on what kind of a 2011 he has, and how well he acquits himself at first base, if that’s what’s asked of him.

Q: Richard Stoeten,

Enjoy reading your mailbag each week. In regards to the rumours of the Blue Jays acquring Justin Upton, can you see any reason why th
e Jays are willing to give up so much for him? Upton is a superstar, but Towers has said he wants to clearly win any trade that happens. To give up Lind/Snider and Drabek/Stewart seems like way to much doesn’t it? Thanks.

Andrew S., Alberta

Alex Anthopoulos addressed this with reporters on Thursday, saying, according to Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press (via the Globe and Mail), that Upton was no longer on their radar, as Arizona was asking for too much. Had this come from some GMs (cough! Ricciardi! cough!) I might think there was a chance it was some form of gamesmanship being played through media. With Anthopoulos? I don’t think he’d even address it if the talks weren’t genuinely dead.

As to why the Jays would want him, and would potentially give up a lot for him, there are plenty of reasons. I agree that Snider and Drabek is too steep a price to pay, but think about some of the stuff the front office has done since Anthopoulos has taken over– particularly the Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose trade.

What Alex made clear with that deal and his comments afterwards was that, more than we might have suspected, he values athleticism, and defence at premium positions.

Travis Snider, while a fantastic hitting prospect who one would be very reluctant to part with, is more a left fielder than a right fielder, and will one day– though its still several years off, I think–wind up at DH.

Upton is only six months older than Snider, has already played 422 games in the majors and has a .824 career OPS. He’s a right fielder, though some feel he could still play centre, and because of his body type seems a safer bet to stay in the outfield for longer. He maybe doesn’t have the raw power of Snider, but he’s already had an .899 OPS season in the majors.

In other words, he’s already a great fucking player (something we all can still only hope Snider will be), and to me seems possibly like more of a fit, given some of the things that were said at the time of the Wallace-Gose trade, as far as how the organization is thinking philosophically.

That said, obviously the Diamondbacks are going to be asking for a lot– though, please, Towers saying that he wants to clearly win the trade is just bullshit posturing– and it seems now that the Jays feel its too much. Not knowing any specifics, it’s hard to judge whether they’re right to be backing off, but if Diamondbacks get realistic and rumours do start to surface again– say, at the winter meetings– I wouldn’t at all be surprised.

Q: Hello Richard Stoeten,

Love the blog. You asked John Farrell all the right questions except this important one: does he spit, chew gum, eat sunflower seeds, or none of the above?

Roland Jodoin, Calgary

You’ve just wasted my time and the time of everybody else who is reading this, Roland. Am I missing a joke? Who could possibly give a fuck?

Q: Hi Richard,

There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple weeks about the Jays trying to acquire Zack Greinke. This would obviously give the Jays a front-line starter to lead them when they expect to contend next year and beyond. My question is, with Greinke’s well-documented history of anxiety issues, is he the guy you want pitching in Yankee Stadium in the last game of the 2012 season with a post-season berth on the line? Is he apt to collapse under the pressure? Can he be the big game pitcher that his salary dictates he should be?

Colin Campbell, Edmonton

People with anxiety aren’t bumbling fucking incompetent morons ready to collapse into the foetal position at any moment of stress, Colin. The guy has been back on the mound, in front of thousands of people, in front of millions in the All-Star game and he’s won a Cy Young and has had three tremendous pitching seasons in the time since he left the club with anxiety issues in the spring of 2006.

Let’s please stop this fucking myth that there’s some monumental difference between the pressure of a pennant race and the pressure of simply trying to keep your job in the big leagues, or to keep your team in games despite a getting run support on the level of the Kansas City fucking Royals. If Greinke can handle the latter, why not the former? Oh, right, because it’s been beaten into our fucking heads since we started watching sports as children that big game pressure is some sort of other crazy foaming at the fucking mouth and unafraid to die animal, as though guys are just kinda fucking around the rest of the time.

Q: Hi Richard,

I love your mailbag and read it every Wednesday. My question for you is about the AL Cy Young Race. To me, Felix Hernandez was the clear favourite. He led the league in ERA and innings pitched, was second in strikeouts and WHIP, and third in complete games and shutouts. Of course, the one thing that would have hurt his chances was his 13-12 record, due mainly to the Mariners scoring only 14 runs in his 12 losses. In the past, you have put great importance on wins and losses as a tool to evaluate a pitcher. So, in your opinion, was King Felix, with his barely-.500 winning percentage, deserving of the Cy Young award?

Mike MacDiarmid, Newmarket

I really fucking like where you’re going with this, Mike, but I think you’ve targeted the wrong writer. Griffin has been pretty amenable to the newfangled stats that took Hernandez to the top of the voting– you know, crazy new concepts like ERA and strikeouts. No, the scorn that’s so clearly bubbling under the surface of your question should be aimed in the direction of Toronto Sun writer Bob Elliott, who was one of three voters who had CC Sabathia at the top of his ballot.

“That’s a tough place to win, and that’s all he did there,” Elliott told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, speaking on Sabathia.

“There were a lot of writers I spoke to late in the season who were talking ‘Felix, Felix, Felix.’ In September, I asked 11 players and coaches from another team what they thought, and 10 of them said Sabathia deserved the award. They said he was the tougher guy to face. That stuck with me.”

Could it be that the players Elliott spoke to found Sabathia harder to face because the margin for error against him was razor thin due to the Yankees’ offence? Could it be that Elliott is such a monumentally stubborn old fucking fuck that he still clings to wins as a measure by which to evaluate pitchers, and anecdotal tales of who was “most feared,” long after these things have been completely fucking destroyed as anything close to serious ways to contemplate the game?

Yes, yes it could.

Yawn. I’d string together a few insults here if I really gave a shit, but honestly, Elliott can be as proud of his own staggering ignorance as he wants, for all I care. I’d rather a writer with his kind of platform, knowledge and experience actually function as an interesting, intelligent conduit through which to understand the game and advance the conversation about the sport, rather than try to dumb it down out of nothing more than a mostly misplaced sense of wounded pride, but… whatever…

Q: Mr. Griffin,

Love your Jays coverage. Oakland picked up Encarnacion off waivers and a few days later the two teams made a trade. Is there any ‘unwritten’ code in baseball that would have a team who got a player off waivers agree to a trade they may not have otherwise made? Or is the timing
just coincidence? Thank you.

Joe Glionna, Montreal

Honestly… I have no fucking idea.

Q: A baseball question, not a Blue Jays one, but here goes. Does Baseball have a sportmanship award like Hockey? If not, it should and I can think of who and why it should be named after him. Remember the pitcher for Detroit (I can’t remember his name) who could have pitched a perfect game but the wrong call was made at first declaring the hitter safe? I think their should be an award and named after him. I think anyone else would have had a fit over the wrong call. Imagine if there was additional incentive for not arguing or abusing the umps, charging the mound if hit by a pitch. A reward for players that kept their cool and composure for much of the year.

Dave McLeod, Scarborough

The pitcher was Armando Galarraga, and… well… to be honest with you, I couldn’t possibly care less whether there was an award for sportsmanship in baseball. And while I guess it maybe seems like a nice idea (even though whichever fuckfaces ended up voting for such a thing would just give it to Derek goddamn Jeter every year anyway), do you really think there’s a single hockey player who winds up to take a slash at an opponent, then stops himself, thinking, “Oh shit! The Lady Byng!

Good sportsmanship is its own reward.

Q: Hey Richard…

Look forward to the mailbag every week. For both hockey (Damien Cox) and baseball. Great way to interact with fans. My question: Is it time for a Mantle award? There is an award for best pitcher (Cy) and an MVP award which goes to the player who basically helps his team to the playoffs. Am I correct that the MVP can be a pitcher? Doesn’t it make sense to have an award for the best hitting/fielding season? Thanks!!

Jeff Iles, Haliburton

Damien Cox? Really?

Ugh. Anyway, the thing is, the MVP award is supposed to be the award that you’re talking about. Somewhere along the line a few geniuses started adding a component that has to do with the success of a player’s team, presumably forgetting that baseball is, in many ways, an individual sport, not one where guys lift their teammates up and make them better– there just aren’t many opportunities to do so. Some years a player on a non-playoff team has a case so overwhelming that the voters get it right anyway– Alex Rodriguez for Texas in 2003, for example– but you’re right, most years it winds up an award for the best player on a playoff team, or a team that was in the race. It’s the same as the complete fucking nonsense about pitching wins: if your aim is rewarding an individual, why the fuck are you penalizing him for having shitty teammates? Isn’t that penalty enough in and of itself?

Stoeten Answers Griffin's Mailbag … 2010!!!

In addition to doing pretty much fuck all around for the last few weeks– or, let’s face it, pretty much the majority of the season– you’ve probably caught the distinct whiff of us developing enormous fucking vaginas when it comes to one of our favourite old habits: skewering the local media.

I don’t say that like it’s news or anything– pretty much ever since they all affably accepted our invitations to speak to us on our podcasts (Remember those? FYI, we seriously do think there’s going to be more one day. Honest.) we’ve been complete fucking pushovers. And while I have no intention to lapse back into the mindset of those halcyon days when everybody was a fucking retard hack or a drunk dinosaur raging against the intrusion of the modern world into his poetic, scrappy, whiskey-stained sport– sorry, but Griff and the boys just don’t write things that strike me as monumentally fucking stupid the way they used to– I am, for lack of anything better to write about (read: because I’m afraid to tackle the three weeks of links and shit I’ve compiled and ignored since the World Series ended) going to reach back into the ol’ gimmick playbook and answer the questions posed to Griffin in his latest mail bag for the Toronto Star… um… y’know, in the same manner that I would if anybody ever thought to ask me questions. Single tear. (Note: please don’t ask me questions).

As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers…

Q-Hey Richard Stoeten. 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

First off, Joey from Israel, can we talk about the Palestinians?

Ho ho ho ho. Holy shitballs, I’m just kidding, guy. I wouldn’t touch that topic with a ten foot humanitarian aid ship in international waters. HEYO!

Anyway, yeah… about that whole “let’s just sign a big name free agent for shits and giggles” thing. First off, after playing his whole career on shitty turf in Tampa, and beating his fucking brains out trying to get past the Yankees and the Red Sox, the notion that Carl Crawford would actually sign up for more of the same– plus the taxes, plus having to go through the pain in the ass that is customs every other week, etc., etc.– is kind of fucking hilarious. I love Crawford as a player, and I recognize that it’s a pretty sound principle to believe that all it really takes to land any free agent is money, but that shit ain’t fucking happening.

But OK, there are other free agents out there– the name Victor Martinez came up in a Boston Globe report this week, for example. It’s just, most of them are going to cost way more than they’re actually worth, and, as I wrote Tuesday, I don’t think for a second that Alex Anthopoulos is going to start blowing the goodwill he’s built up down at Rogers HQ by coming to them, hands outstretched, looking for money to sink into players like that just for the sake of it. I mean, if you’re Anthopoulos do you really want to put yourself in a position where, a couple years down the line, when it really means something, you’re getting rebuffed by Rogers high-ups who are telling you, “Well, we gave you all this money for this other guy a couple years ago, and where has it got us?”

That’s not the plan that Anthopoulos sold to Beeston and Rogers when he was hired, and I don’t believe it’s the kind of plan that leads the club to the kind of sustainable success the two have frequently spoken about.

And sure, it’s sexy to make a big splash on a free agent, but I think the Jays recent history shows pretty clearly how frequently big money contracts can blow up in a team’s fucking face. Yes, Rogers has all the money in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to waste it– keep spending like they have been: on the draft, on scouting, on international players, on deals like the one for the draft pick formerly known as Miguel Olivo, and on putting together possibly the best group of coaches in the majors.

Q Richard Stoeten,

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

I have no idea who decides which player gets the World Series MVP, but shit! Fortunately for us we’re on the internet, and there are a few ways we can actually look up answers to questions like this! Here, let me Google that for you.

As for who should have been the MVP, I honestly don’t really give a shit. But if I did, I’d seriously have to disagree with you about Renteria. Remember, puckface, it’s not the Conn Smythe trophy, it’s the World Series MVP, and both of Renteria’s homers were game-winners– and the one in game two was pretty fucking crucial until Ron Washington fell asleep as his bullpen imploded in the eighth inning– and… shit, he went 7 for 17 with six runs scored, six RBIs, and led the Giants in hits, runs, RBIs, home runs, average, on-base, and slugging during the series. Fuck, even the clowns who voted on the AL Gold Gloves couldn’t get that wrong.

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

Jesus fucking Christ, Mike! Are you serious??!

Let me put it this way: Lind was an absolute fucking abortion against left-handed pitching last year, hitting .117/.159/.182/.341 over 145 plate appearances against them– and that is in no way enough data for us to say with any semblance of certainty that Lind can no longer hit lefties. And yet its still more data than we have on Lind as a position player last year.

So, y’know, I guess what I’m saying is, don’t get too crazy excited about the stellar .600 OPS he put up over nine games at first, or the scintillating ,541 OPS he laid on opponents in 16 games out in left.

Q Richard Stoeten:

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

Um… wow, Dave. I liked Pat Hentgen too, but… wow. Wow…

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 e
arliest 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

Obviously I didn’t ever cross Sparky’s path, but– and I’m being sincere here– that’s a great story, and it’s great to remember that this city has a rich history with the game of baseball– long before the Jays appeared on the scene. By all accounts, Sparky was a great ambassador for the game we can be proud to have had touch our city. Even if he hated hippies.

Joe Posnanski had a remembrance of him that I particularly liked.

Q-Hi,

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.

Regards,
Murray Unger,
Winnipeg

I did. And I’d elaborate, but… see above.

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

Well, first off, to be honest, I don’t really think a team needs a defined “closer” at all. I’d rather a team use their best reliever in the highest leverage situations– and the Jays have actually done this somewhat regularly over the years with Scott Downs. Of course, that was only because they’d decided that lesser relievers, BJ Ryan in ’08 and Kevin Gregg this year, had that “closer mentality” and the ability to handle pressure, both of which concepts are pretty much entirely bullshit.

Seriously. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favour and read Dirk Hayhurst’s book, if for no other reason that to grasp the idea that these guys have pitched and played under pressure their whole lives. It makes for a nice myth, but it would be just about impossible to get to the majors for anyone whose performance was noticeably impacted by an increase in pressure.

And if I can bitch on this point a little more… I mean, Jason Frasor is the name the first jumps to mind when you think of Jays who supposedly just can’t handle the pressure, right? But he had 17 saves to only two blown in his rookie year. Opponents’ OPS off him is .684 over his career in the ninth inning, and .695 in eighth. It’s .683 in high leverage situations, and .646 in low leverage ones. It’s simply not true that the guy completely falls apart whenever the game is on the line– we just kind of feel like he does.

So, yeah… I’m more concerned with the club continuing to acquire cheap, quality arms for the bullpen, rather than worrying about specific roles. Though I must admit, I don’t really see Janssen or Accardo being anchors here anytime soon– Janssen, though he’s shown flashes, just doesn’t miss enough bats, and Accardo, as far as I know, just hasn’t been the same pitcher since 2008. And yeah, maybe he was fucked around a little by the club (OK, definitely), but I can’t say I have much sympathy for him– especially after he started opening his mouth about it last year. Shut up and pitch better, champ.

As for Drabek, I don’t see it– I think he starts, and that he’s already among the Jays’ five best.

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

It’s pretty simple, really: Downs will be expensive, there’s risk to signing a guy who’ll be 37 by the end of his deal, as a free agent Downs will probably want to pick a place where he feels he has a better shot at winning in the near term anyway, and, most importantly, because he’s a Type-A, when a team signs him the Jays get a sandwich round pick, plus a high draft pick from the team that signs him.

For a team not looking to win now, and looking to build through the draft, getting those picks back for players like Downs is huge.

He’s a great pitcher, but worth passing up those picks? Ffffffuck no.

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

Whoa camel! First off, the rumblings about a change in playoff format would have them go to ten teams, not twelve– and it would be a little bit fucking outstanding if they did, keeping teams in races longer, and not really changing the playoffs all that much, as the two Wild Card teams would only be playing off against each other before the “actual” playoffs start.

As for your idea, it’s interesting, and I think you’ve got the right idea by trying to limit how much adding playoff teams will impact the integrity of the regular season, but I must say, I like MLB’s rumoured one better, and there’s no fucking way there should be more than 10 playoff teams.

Hey, Rich Stote.

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.

Best regards
Bill Rogers, Editor
St. Louis Browns Historical Society
St. Louis

Oh, I’m fucking sorry, I guess I should have said “It didn’t take long for the 6,697,254,041 people on the planet– minus 300 fans on some Facebook page– to forget the Browns ever existed.” Correction accepted.