Tagged: Alex Anthopolous

Taking on the Bull

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.

AA.jpg

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.

Wells

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. 

Conclusion

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?        

The Need For Speed

Rajai.jpg

The departure of Vernon Wells to the Angels, for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, has ushered in a new era for the Blue Jays.  Vernon, along with Roy Halladay, were the face of the Blue Jay franchise for more than a decade, and now they are both gone.  It is saddening to an extent, but exciting to another.  Now, the team looks to move forward in an unfamilar direction.  Previous acquisitions of Rajai Davis, young minor-leaguers CF Anthony Gose, 3B/2B Brett Lawrie and to a lesser extent Corey Patterson show that the Jays are looking to burn teams on the basepaths in the near future. 

The speed element has been lacking from the Jays in recent years.  I am not saying we didn’t have any speed.  Wells, Rios and a few others were moderately good basestealers.  The Jays have just never had an explosive basestealer, and many believe that Rajai Davis can provide that function.

Alex Anthopolous is making the team faster, and changing the team faster than we could have ever imagined.  It is an exciting time in Blue Jay land, it needed to be done and I hope it can work.  I have good feeling about it.   

Just When I Doubted Him …. Doubt him UNCONFIRMED as yet

First of all, I want to apologize to young Jays GM, Alex Anthopolous, for reiterating some of the criticism that has been thrown his way in the offseason.  Anthopolous is making HIS moves.  Put simply, he is doing what he feels needs to done in order to build the Jays from the ground up.  Who am I to say that he is making too many low-risk decisions that resemble the former GM J.P. Ricciardi? 

I really hope Brett Wallace proves the critics wrong. 

A funny thing happened last week.  It was as if I woke up something in Alex Anthopolous by my last post?  AA did something totally beyond what the former management would have done.  He took a risk!  An exciting risk on one of the top international baseball prosects.  The Jays signed supposedly 19-year-old Cuban infield prospect Adeiny Hechevarria to aHechevarria copy.jpg 4-year-deal worth 10 million dollars.  Even though the Yankees aggressively pursued Hechevarria, and reportedly offered him more money, the Jays scooped him up.  The young man expects to move quickly up the ladder in the Jays organization – something that he felt could not be achieved in New York.  

One scout calls Hechevarria the next Alfonso Soriano, another says that he is more of fielder than a hitter, and then one more scout believes that he eventually be an outfielder.  Regardless, Alex Anthopolous is taking a necessary risk in this signing!  I like it!  Acquiring a young infielder fills a void in our organization, and even if it doesn’t work out, you can tell that AA’s mind is in the right place. 

He is slinging the guns!  Risking money on a young player than can potentially pay ‘HUGE 5-catergory’ dividends!  With this move, AA countered the exact thing that I wrote about last week.  Using Baseball Prospectus’ evaluation of the Taylor/Wallace trade to comment on how AA dealt a high-reward prospect, Michael Taylor, for a low-reward, one-dimensional guy in Wallace.  Hechevarria is definitely the ‘high-risk, high-reward’ move that Blue Jays were looking for, and Baseball Prospcetus was expecting.  

Hechevarria will likely start the year in AA New Hampshire – an indication that the Jays will REALLY move the guy along.  This move has the whole Blue Jay nation up in excitement!

Quite frankly, I see it as ‘baseballs out‘ move!  As soon as 2012, the Jays will be ready to throw em?  Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles if you want to throw down in fisticuffs, fine. I’ve got Mr. Jack Johnson and Dr. Tom O’Leary waiting for ya, right here.  < (Anchorman)      

AA Faces Trouble Right Out the Gate

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.

Walrus.jpg    

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
MLB.

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
critisized.

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’?

Deep Thoughts: How Baseball Compares to the World

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On occasion a ‘deep thought’ enters my brain.  These
thoughts, however, are not unlike the ‘Deep Thoughts’ by Jack Handy skit,
that were famously parodied in the early 90’s on Saturday Night Live.   This doesn’t really make them ‘deep
thoughts’ – just silly ones.

Now that off-season blogging has begun, I feel that I can now delve into a
little more creative writing – the initial goal of this blog.  All the off-season
speculation can get a little over done.  For instance, when you have blog
writers like me posting about topics that he nowhere near qualified to post
about.  I will just sum up my opinions on the Jay’s 2010 off-season in
some brief bullet points:

Alex Gonzolez makes the team better defensively at SS.  I
question Scutaro’s ability to play that position in the future.

– I think the Jays will get a hefty sum for Roy Halladay this off-season,
not unlike the offers we were presented at the deadline last year.

– Working Adam Lind in at first base is a very good idea.  Snider
in the outfield might become an issue.  I’m okay with Randy Ruiz
starting at DH this year, but don’t expect ‘the world’ from him.  Would be
a ‘great story’ if he excelled though after spending the majority of his career
in the minors! 

– We need a catcher!  Barajas likely won’t be back.  I hear talk of Yorvit
Torrealba
?  Almost not significant enough a move to talk about.

– Improved scouting and player development under GM Alex Anthopolous
Very good!  Thumbs up to him.  Hopefully, we will be able to freakin
SIGN some of his picks!!! 

How Baseball Compares to World History

Finding loose, comical
parallels in comparing the history of baseball to significant moments in World
History. 

 

Ancient History 

 

The ancient history
of baseball evolves out of a game played in
England called ‘Rounders.’  Rounders was game that took it’s form from
games such as Cricket and Polo.  In fact,
throughout the early history of baseball the game was constantly evolving and
improving to suit time.  This evolution
has not stopped, as today we see the implementation of instant replay, and
dampened baseballs in
Colorado for instance.  The evolution of
baseball compares to the natural process that is Charles Darwin’s ‘natural
selection’ theory.  We adapt, and improve
to conquer our surroundings.  From
bacteria, to
Australopithecus afarensis, to **** Erectus, to Neanderthal and so on. 
Baseball’s origins came from oddly unfamiliar relatives, just as
humans.  The early years of baseball saw
many different forms and improvements in the equipment, the uniforms, the rules
and the organizational structure. 
Baseball went from unorganized groups where games were played in
backyards with loose rules and little knowledge of what they were actually
participating in, to an international game played in billion dollar stadiums
employing millions of people.  Human kind
came from a group bipedal apes sitting around trying to find a way to keep
warm, crack nuts and keep nourished, to nations, cities, politics, commerce,
the internet, Shamwows and the Snuggies. 
             
       

 

Civilization and Religion

 

June 19, 1846
– Baseball became most similar to the way it is played today.  The innovations made on the Elysian Fields in
Hoboken, New Jersey
would set baseball on a path towards the great game that it is today.    There Henry Chadwick went on to become the
game’s preeminent reporter developing baseball’s statistics and scoring system.
He

elysian-fields-baseball-game.jpg

became known as “The Father of Baseball.”  I don’t want to compare Henry Chadwick, to
you know who, but the religion of baseball, still practiced today, lies in the
constant statistical work and reporting of the game. Whether you deny it or
not, this area is the Mecca of
baseball.  The New England, New York area
is/was home to Cooperstown, the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Babe Ruth’s
playing career and Elysian Fields, where many scholars agree is the ‘true’
birthplace of baseball, even though this is a debatable suggestion.  This area has influenced far stretches of the
baseball world, similar to the ‘Holy Roman Empire,’ except
this empire remains in baseball even to this day.  Some compare the United
States to an extension of the Roman
Empire, so I will use that logic for the sake of comparison.  The Roman Empire fell
in a way that compares to the way baseball’s great franchises in New
York lost themselves to expansion.  The Dodgers moved to L.A.
and the Giants moved to San Fran causing a collapse in the mecca of the New
York baseball during the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s.  The destruction of Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn
symbolizes this fall, only to gain strength later in a different form, Pax
Americana.  The in-between time saw
baseball prophets, icons, political leaders, heroines, kings, queens, martyrs
and cultural representations emerge. 

 

Branch Rickey …
Abraham Lincoln (freed baseball … freed
America)

 

Ty Cobb … Ivan the
Terrible

 

John McGraw (little
Napolean) … Napolean (both were truly great strategists)

 

Jackie Robinson …
Nelson Mandela

 

Dottie Hinson (A
League of Their Own character loosely based on Dottie Green of the Rockford
Peaches 1943 to 1947) … Cleopatra

 

Yogi Berra … Winston
Churchill

 

Pete Rose … Harry
Truman (great president … one big mistake. 
Great player … one big mistake)

 

Barry Bonds …
Machiavelli (use whatever means as long as you get the end result:  Steroids)

             

Rafeal Palmerio …
Richard Nixon (just despicable)  

That is all I got right now! 
Anymore?

 

Reform

 

Free agency, no-trade clauses, agents and big money have
made the game what it is today.  These implementations
have also expanded the game further than any thought it would have
internationally.  The gospel of baseball
took a dramatic turn with the advent of these measures.  The Protestant Reformation conducted by
Martin Luther in 1517, coinciding with the creation of the printing press allowed
for religion to be spread and interpreted all over the world on levels that it
had never seen before.  Baseball as an
institution could now be influenced by the players that play the game.  This is similar to the Protestant
Reformation, where people began to influence religion more than they had been
able to before in the era of the ‘Holy Roman Empire.’

 

Today

 

Baseball, along with life on this planet is moving now in
rapid speed.  The internet has created a
world where baseball can be covered, analyzed, broken down into a mirco-science
like never before.  Improvements to
scouting, statistics (with sabermetrics), reporting and promotion have
propelled baseball into the technological age. 
Teams know now to jump on the next best thing coming out of Cuba,
Venezuela, or Timbuktu
that throw 100 MPH.  We live in a smaller
world, and globalization has taken hold of baseball as well.  The World Baseball Classic is in its infancy,
but baseball is also expanding into unimaginable countries now.  Yet, the peace on a baseball field remains
untarnished despite the new world order. 
That is the beauty of it all.    

 

What is next?

 

I envision a game where humans
take on robots that can statically
compute information before every pitch. 
No, no really. 

 

Better yet, baseball games used to decide conflict, or
war?  If only we could get the Taliban to
agree to that??  It would be a whole lot
more fun than the alternative, I’m sure most would agree.