This will be my only blog post of 2013 (sorry for discontinuing last season). This piece of PhotoArt is my representation of the hope I have for this team going into 2013.
So much is riding on this season for the Blue Jays. Fans have been longing for playoff baseball in Toronto for a long, long time now. The team the Jays have assembled has be well documented, but to reitterate (notably we got Reyes, Dickey, Buehrle, Melky, Bonifacio, Josh Johnson!!!!!!!!).
I will burn this image (a Photoshop burnt image technique) if the Jays season falls off the ‘playoff map,’ so to speak. Hopefully, that does not happen and I can add a playoff pennet to the image – or dare I say – a World Series trophy or ring!!! So, in a way, the Jays season is contained metaphorically in this image.
Go Jays 2013! Enjoy the season Southern Ontario!
Taking the bull and putting him in his place! Or bulling the man and taking him with horns of fury?! Or taking horns and throwing bulls all over the place. However that expression goes? Alex Anthopolous is doing it with the Blue Jays right now.
Presented with the monumental tasks of dealing Vernon Wells‘ long and expensive contract, acquiring some team speed, revamping the Blue Jays minor-league prospects and solidifing a team manger, Anthopolous has taken the challenge head-on.
Alex Anthopolous (or the Silent Assassin as many call him) dealt Wells to the Angels in return for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli (who was later traded to the Texas Rangers for former closer Frank Francisco). In process he has freed up the Jays from a large financial obligation that was not paying off. Rivera and Francisco are decent players that will help the Jays in the 2011, and some will argue that Rivera could provide similar offensive production, even if we see him in a plattoon role. The Jays will undoubtably be able to a lot of things financially in the near future, so many Jay fan are excited at those possibilties even if they did come at the expense of losing a good player.
The Need for Speed
I did a prior post on this subject and I believe that it cannot be overstated. The Jays are going to be a more athletic team. The recent acquisitions of Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose, Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar (to lesser extent) and Corey Patterson has given the Jays a new dimension defensively and on the basepaths. AA said that he was going to pursue more athletic players to give the team another threat. He was true to his word. I believe that this is an element of the game that the Jays have lacked in the past. In my opinion speed isn’t vital to the success of a club, but it is important.
A New Coach
A Jays team without both Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells will seem unusual coming into the 2011 season. Things will be different, but hopefully they will get better with changes on the managing front. AA brought in a well-respected pitching coach from the Boston Red Sox, John Farrell. A core of very good young pitchers consisting of Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow will have Farrell’s hands full. Not to mention the young pitchers that are liking coming up in the near future Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart. Farrell will likely be able to provide some valuable mentoring for these players along the way.
The task of winning in what is usually the toughest (or among the toughest) divisions in baseball every year, is extremely challenging. Blue Jay fans have experienced it. Right now, I see AA developing a well-thoughtout strategy to make the Jays successful. Notably, the Jays are improving their minor-league system and player development, they are focusing on the draft, improving scouting and they acquiring players with high-ceiling and loads of athletic ability. Or in other words:
AA has branded a Blue Jay bull with the Blue Jay logo, and he is going to eat a succulent medium-well cooked New York (Yankee) strip steak with it!
Make sense? ha ha. So, the Blue Jay bull is a Yankee?
All right! Time to get serious about this season, and Jays in the future. Reading ‘Baseball Prospectus‘ I see that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous is already facing critics. Here is a little background on Anthoupolous, and the situation he faces for the upcoming season.
At the end of 2009 the Toronto Blue Jays went
the route of choosing a young, and up-and-coming General Manager, Alex
Anthopolous. Among Blue Jay faithful, Anthopolous is beginning to
become known as ‘AA’ out of conveinence for his large name.
AA took over the job in October of 2009 after working as an Assistant
GM apprentice to the J.P. Ricciardi for four years. Before that, AA had
been with the Montreal Expos and the Blue Jays as a scouting
coordinator since 2000.
AA is great young sucess story graduating from my Alma-matar,
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, with an Economics Degree. At
23, he decided to pursue a career in the game. He became proactive,
calling organizations and looking for any way to get a foot in the
door. Finally, after getting a direct line to Expo GM Jim Beattie’s
office in Florida, he got his chance. Starstuck, AA says that he hung
up on Beattie the first time he called.
In his short time as GM, AA has inherited a team with many problems
seeking an innate desire to rebuild. Right from the beginning, it was
clear that AA had a new agenda than the previous GM that was said to
have ‘reign’ over all Front Office decisions. J.P. Ricciardi cut Blue
Jay scouting, and AA’s first instinct was to expand it, possibly
looking to go after ‘gem’ high-school prep players that the previous GM
was reluctant to take the risk on. Over Ricciardi’s tenure, he drafted
low-risk, low-reward college prospects that didn’t completely fail
(finding guys like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Ricky Romero) but they
were enough to deplete the depth in the Blue Jay’s farm system to where
they were rated #28 system in baseball.
The appease the public, and address this need, AA showed a committment
changing this by expanding the scouting staff and trading the Jay’s
most valuable commodity, Roy Halladay, for three top-level prospects
that instantly boosted the rating of the Jays system.
The rebuilding that every Jays fan is looking for has seemingly been
initiated with these moves. However, reading the recent issue of Baseball Prospectus
they consider the trading of top prospect Michael Taylor to the Oakland
Athletics for A’s top prospect Brett Wallace a fatal mistake by AA.
Baseball Prospectus evaluated Taylor as a player with much more
naturally gift skill, and having a higher-ceiling.
Wallace, a low-risk college phenonom at Arizona State, was ripped by
Baseball Prospectus for his athletic ability and they made fun of the
way scouts mocking called him ‘Walrus Boy.’ The Jays have notoriously
been critisized for showing a tendancy to disregard building their team
around speed and defense. Trading Taylor for Wallace only fuelled this
debate among Blue Jay faithful.
The current do not have a legitimate leadoff hitter, they have two slow
outfielders that have trouble making plays in the gap (Travis Snider
and Adam Lind) and third baseman with notorious defensive problems
(Edwin Encarnacion). Taylor, with speed and outfield range, would have
been able solve two of those problems. Instead, the Jays saw fit to get
a player that REALLY needs to ‘mash’ in order to play first base in
Altogether, AA has been critisized and commended for his initial
dealings with the Jays rebuilding plan. He continues build from within
while cutting payroll and improving his chance to reap the benefits
young players. It is the way in which he is doing it, which has been
Personally, I tend to agree with Baseball Prospectus. Taylor would have
been the option with more potential. However, looking at the Jays
current first base situation, they could use help in the area. Teiexia,
Youkilus, Pena and Atkins are what the Jays are up against at first
base. They haven’t had that ‘jumpstart’ in the middle of the order from
that position. I see both sides here, but I’m also skepitcal about how
Wallace with be able to hit, or field even considering his frame. I
believe, this deal could definitely backfire HUGE in AA face!
Do you agree Billy Beane swindled the Jays by acquiring Taylor for Wallace?
Does AA deserve to be ‘ripped on’ for the ‘Taylor/Wallace deal?
How important is it to have athletes on your team, as opposed to players that can ‘mash’?