Posted tagged ‘trade’

Not all heroes wear capes….but capes were given out at a game once

April 21, 2019

After he was traded to the San Francisco Giants, an old photo of Kevin Pillar popped into my mind:

It’s from July 2013; taken after watching my first-ever Buffalo Bisons game. There was a clean-shaven Pillar chatting with some of the spectators. I didn’t know much about him at the time. I remember noting how his name was similar to Kevin Millar. A few weeks later, he got called up and made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays.

At first, I wasn’t over the moon with Pillar. At best, he was a fourth outfielder. He also didn’t have a sparkling beginning in the big leagues. There was that unfortunate tete-a-tete he publicly had with John Gibbons that got him demoted to AAA in 2014. There was also that infamous injury he sustained during Spring Training in 2015 from sneezing.

But then he made that catch and everything changed.

That catch. Holy shit; that CATCH! What a career-defining moment!

The timing was perfect. The athleticism was incredible! A mere mortal would’ve accepted fate and watched the ball go over the wall. But Kevin Pillar wanted that baseball and summoned powers that went beyond normalcy. It made Josh Donaldson drop to his knees and the crowd explode. I hope Todd Redmond – who was on the mound at the time – bought him a very expensive dinner.

That catch wasn’t just something for a highlight reel. It completely changed the trajectory of Pillar’s career.

Remember, Michael Saunders was suppose to be the starting leftfielder in 2015; Dalton Pompey was suppose to start in centre. But then Saunders stepped on a sprinkler-head and Pompey unfortunately performed poorly. A door opened for Pillar, who took advantage of an opportunity and never looked back.

From there, he became an outfield specialist and a fan favourite. Countless times, we jumped out of our seats and applauded his defensive gems. Countless times, our jaws hit the floor. The man was a human vaccume for baseballs.

His offensive production was average, but he had his moments: Two homers off of Max Scherzer in 2015; the walk-off on Mother’s Day in 2017.

Pillar’s performance at the plate is also what seemed to divide the fanbase.

Like many teams, there are players who polarize fans. R.A. Dickey and Ryan Goins are recent examples. Pillar falls into this camp as well.

It’s another example of the two main differences amongst fans: Those who care only about results and those who recognize the importance of results, but also see things beyond a boxscore and standings. I wrote about this when I summed up RAD’s tenure with the Jays; passionate vs. compassionate.

It’s unnecessary to exhaust both sides; so a simple address instead.

To those who are pleased he’s not with the Jays anymore: Not all contributions come at the plate. Yes, he wasn’t a top-level hitter, but don’t tell me his defence wasn’t a strong contribution; especially in 2015 and 2016. A large chunk of fans love him and we are a sports community that cares about character as much as we care about results.

To those who are furious he’s not with the team anymore: You can’t deny evolution. It was blatantly obvious at the end of 2017 that the window of opportunity had closed. The Jays had to scorch the earth in order to create something that’s (hopefully) more sustainable and successful. I’m grateful for Pillar and Tulo and Martin and Donaldson and Joey Bats and everyone else who were part of 2015-16. But the team would be just as bad as they are now if those players were still on the roster; maybe even worse.

One other thing: When the trade was formally announced, I wondered how many would focus on his spectacular catches and how many would focus on the horrific incident that occurred in Atlanta in 2017; the homophobic slur Pillar shouted at pitcher Jason Motte.

Perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right places, but it seems as though it wasn’t addressed in any articles or tweets. Surprising since we live in a society that does not gloss over celebrity mistakes/errors and goes by the motto of “strike one and you’re out.”

That moment was ugly, disappointing and embarrassing. As much as we have all adored Pillar, we cannot ignore or purposely forget what happened. It is part of his narrative.

Having said that, it’s also important to note that he did take ownership of his error in judgement, apologized, served a suspension and has worked with organizations that promote acceptance. It is my hope that he will continue this work with San Francisco’s LGBT community.

When the Giants visit Skydome, it will only be a few weeks since the trade. However, it feels longer since the transaction occurred. Maybe it’s because we heard so many rumours that we already experienced his departure before it even happened. Nevertheless, I look forward to the video tribute and standing ovation.

I truly feel Kevin Pillar loved our city and many in this city loved him. Regardless of his personal statistics, he made a lasting impression. He’s gone, but will not be forgotten.

ER

PS: Check out my latest short story: The Heavenly Resurrection of the Montreal Expos

Advertisements

Damn! I was selfishly hoping the Blue Jays wouldn’t trade Russell Martin

January 14, 2019

I know that’s ridiculous; possibly idiotic. But part of me was hoping Russell would be kept for the sole purpose of mentoring Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire; similar to the role Curtis Granderson played in 2018.

Of course, that would be a very expensive mentor. Given that Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins are scorching the Earth as part of the rebuilding process, it makes sense to get something in return for Martin. After all, the Jays are paying his salary, despite the trade. I’m sure the front office also doesn’t want a repeat of the Josh Donaldson saga. Martin probably wants to actually play as well.

I have no interest in the numbers. That’s for the insiders, pundits and professional bloggers to crunch. When I think of Russell Martin, the first words that come to mind are confidence and professionalism.

Sitting in the left field seats gave me the opportunity to watch him prepare for a match. I was transfixed by him running from the dugout to the outfield in full catching gear. He’d go through his drills before working with that day’s starter. It’s hard to articulate, but I never had to worry about what was happening behind the plate.

I spent the last few days thinking of my favourite Russell Martin memories. That homerun against the Yankees in late 2015 will probably be his defining moment with the team.

It was Yom Kippur that day. My family and I were breaking our fast at a relative’s house. Normally, we’d sit around the living room chatting. Not this time.

The majority of us gathered in front of the TV. The atmosphere was incredibly tense; but when Russell connected, we all exploded in jubilation! Of course, we weren’t the only ones: “RUSSELL! RUSSELL! RUSSELL! RUSSELL!”

Other moments come to mind:

– The errant throw in game five of the 2015 ALDS that almost flushed a magical season down the toilet; followed by his thanking the heavens for Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip homerun.

– The hot streak he went on in August 2016 when the rest of the team was struggling.

– Game three of the 2016 ALDS; a first inning dinger, followed by the fielder’s choice that ultimately led to the Donaldson Dash.

Now his career has come full circle as he heads back to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He deserves a chance to play for a contender. Hopefully, he’ll help L.A. finally get over that hump. Having a chance to catch Clayton Kershaw is also a nice bonus.

Maybe it was his connection to Ontario and Quebec. Maybe it was because he’s just a few weeks older than me. Maybe it was using “Courage” as one of his walk-up songs. I’m just thrilled Russell Martin spent four seasons with the Jays. Worth every penny; even the ones that will cover his 2019 season.

ER

Josh Donaldson: He brought the rain and it was magical AF

September 3, 2018

Josh Donaldson’s tenure with the Blue Jays was a blessing. The events surrounding his departure really, really, REALLY suck. However, this is not as tragic as some have made it out to be.

Josh Donaldson was not going to finish 2018 in a Jays uniform. I made peace with this notion well before the season started. Unless the team was a legit contender for the second wild card spot, this was it for the Bringer of Rain.

I prayed he would be traded during the off-season. Prayed the Jays would get a king’s ransom in exchange. I get why they waited for the middle of the regular season – contending teams would be increasingly desperate to land Donaldson’s services and therefore, empty their shelevs of young, developing talent.

Of course, that didn’t happen. Josh gingerly walked off the field in May, never to return wearing a Jays uniform; his value drastically fell.

Who’s to blame? Nobody.

Donaldson didn’t intend to miss a significant chunk of the season. Mark Shapiro, Russ Atkins and the rest of front office didn’t anticipate something like this to happen, nor would they want it to happen.

Of course, social media is more than happy to point fingers.

On social media, Shapiro and Atkins have screwed up everything!!!! Some have claimed they have set the team back by decades. Others have filed a non-confidence motion. Heck, if Shapiro and Atkins saved 1000 orphans from a towering inferno, they’d still be villanized.

So let’s take a breath.

The Blue Jays are rebuilding. It has been evident for a while. Whether you like it or not, they are a team in transition. Keeping Josh Donaldson would be counter-productive. A player of his caliber and age – if healthy, obviously – would naturally yield younger, developing talent. It’s not a perfect formula, but it only makes sense to collect several “prospects” in exchange for Donaldson and hope some – if not all – live up to their full potential.

The only mistake Shapiro and Atkins made was not trading Donaldson before the season. An error that defines the concept of hindsight.

Here’s something else to consider: Do you really believe Donaldson wanted to be a Blue Jay after 2018?

Think about it. He’s in his early 30s and about to become a free agent. He wants to win now. He expects to win now. Why would he stay in Toronto and endure a rebuild that doesn’t have a definitive timeline? Donaldson has earned the right to play for whoever he wants; so the Jays might as well get something for him, even if it’s unfortunately not a king’s ransom.

While Donaldson and Atkins have both paid the appropriate amount of lip service post-trade, we may never know what actually happened behind the proverbial closed doors. Maybe there were diagreements. Maybe feelings were hurt.

There will be some who desperately need to know what occurred for their own agendas. But for me….I just don’t give a damn.

When I think about Josh Donaldson, I won’t think about his departure. I’ll think of the man who told the world that this was the “get it done league.”

I’ll think of the man who dove into the first few rows at Tropicana Field to catch a foul ball.

I’ll think of the man who crushed a walk-off home run at the final home game of the 2015 season, sending the crowd into a frenzy; including yours truly from my right field seat in the 200s.

I’ll think of the man who knocked in the tying run in game five of the 2015 ALDS, setting the stage for Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip.

I’ll think of the man – who I witnessed from my perch in section 525 – dive gracefully across home plate, clinching game three and an ALDS series sweep in 2016.

Damn right his name should be added to the level of excellence. He was the American League’s most valuable player in 2015. The only other Blue Jay who won AL MVP is already on the LOE.

Josh Donaldson was the glue, the missing piece, the magic tonic. He brought the rain and it was MAGICAL! His unfortunate departure will never overshadow his impact.

I really hope things work out for him in Cleveland and of course, with the Blue Jays’ long-term plan. Seeing a popular player get traded is never pleasant.

Just remember: It’s going to be okay.

ER

Re. The Roberto Osuna Trade

August 2, 2018

It had to be done.

Roberto Osuna allegedly committed a heinous act, which is still a matter before the courts. We don’t know the facts; but whatever happened justified a 75 game suspension. We haven’t heard from Osuna since charges were laid agaisnt him. All we know is that he’s appears to be remorseful about circumstances and intends to plead not guilty, according to his lawyer.

Guilty or not, his reputation is tarnished.

There was no way the Blue Jays could allow him to pitch for their team. It would’ve been grossly disrespectful to a savvy fan base, victims of abuse and the alleged victim in this case.

It would’ve also been grossly hypocritical for the team’s parental owner, especially after the broadcasting wing fired Gregg Zaun – and rightfully so – for his inappropriate actions.

As many have pointed out, this wasn’t a baseball trade. It was about doing the right thing. The path to get here may have been questionable, but the end result was the right action. In the grand scheme of things, what Houston sent in exchange for Osuna is irrelevant.

It’s a sad ending. It’s a disappointing ending. It’s an awful ending.

ER

Screw you guys! I like R.A. Dickey and I’m glad he wore a Blue Jay uniform

November 15, 2016

There are two types of sports fans: Those who jump to conclusions without considering consequences and those who recognize that while results, standings and stats are important, there’s more to sports than just those three items.

There’s really no right style to go with. The former is passionate, direct and is not afraid to state an opinion. The ladder is compassionate, direct if needed and tries to be more constructive with any criticism.

I personally fall with the ladder. Sure, I might be wearing “rose-coloured glasses.” Sure, I might be talking – or writing – out of my ass. But I’m happy with the way I am.

These clashing styles of fandom could not be more evident than how R.A. Dickey’s tenure in Toronto was viewed.

Before continuing, I want to express a few things: For starters, Dickey is one my favourite athletes. He’s a unique character and I’ve always been personally drawn to athletes with rarities. Let’s not forget the incredible hurdles and horrific trauma he had to overcome to get where he is; nor should we forget the charitable work he does off the field.

With that in mind, I have no problem admitting that the Mets won the trade and Dickey’s overall performance these last four seasons was below the level we had originally hoped for. Limiting his starts down the stretch this season and keeping him off the playoff roster was the right thing to do.

To be honest, a part of me is also relived he’s no longer on the team. Almost every time he started a game, I would get very nervous. It was the same anxiety I felt when Roger Clemens or Roy Halladay – who I admired – stepped on the mound.  Like Clemens (pre-allegations) and Halladay, I badly wanted Dickey to have an amazing performance and play a significant role in a Jays victory. Therefore, I invested a lot more emotion than I would for – as an example – Pat Hentgen, A.J. Burnett or Marcus Stroman. Sometimes, my investment paid off; sometimes, it painfully didn’t.

Upon reflection, it is appropriate to say that while Dickey performed well below our original expectations, he was certainly not a disaster.

As CBN’s Andrew Hendriks recently pointed out…

Perhaps Mike Wilner summed up Dickey’s tenure appropriately with this mid-season tweet.

Speaking for myself, I was naïve when Dickey was acquired. I ignored the fact that pitching in the AL East is different than the NL East; arguably more challenging. I also didn’t appreciate the unpredictable nature of the knuckleball. In time, I learned there would be “Cy Young innings” and “beach ball innings.”

This is where the two styles of fandom clash.

Those who jump to conclusions witnessed Dickey have a poor performance against the Cleveland Indians in his first-ever regular season start for the Jays, followed by a disastrous start five games later against the Boston Red Sox.

From that point on, these fans viewed Dickey as a bust. No matter what he did, he would be given the same treatment earmarked for Larry Murphy, Andrea Bargnani and Eric Hinske, just to name a few. It also didn’t help that Noah Syndergaard actually became a stud with the Mets.

Those who are compassionate – the camp I fall with – recognized that Dickey wasn’t the ace of the staff or a Cy Young-dominant starter. However, we also saw that he properly filled the role of a middle to back-end starter who ate innings and held things together, while the top starters rested and usually lightened the workload for the bullpen. In other words, Dickey couldn’t fulfill a leading role, but he was certainly a strong supporting cast member. We simply adjusted our expectations and were satisfied.

Unfortunately, our satisfaction was constantly challenged by those who decided early on that he was nothing more than a failure

Sadly, some fans insist in having a scapegoat when things go wrong. Dickey was that scapegoat and the treatment he received was harsher than what other Blue Jays who struggled dealt with. It was painfully familiar to the 2013 villianization of J.P. Arencibia.

Yes, Dickey wasn’t perfect. Yes, he deserved criticism. However, some of this criticism was far too excessive.

There were two people in my personal life who I would constantly debate with about Dickey. Unfortunately, it nearly got heated on a couple of occasions. There were countless times I would read something negative about Dickey on Facebook and Twitter that crossed a line and it would put me in a bad mood. Don’t even ask me how many times I thought of telling Sportsnet’s George Rusic – an unapologetic anti-Dickey proponent – to go screw himself.

Rusic and colleague Dean Blundell made my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels at times. If Dickey had a bad game, they would loudly remind us who the Jays gave up for him. If Dickey pitched well, they would focus on other ways to criticize him; making fun of his beard, the way he spoke or his age.

It is worth noting that Blundell would change his tune about Dickey as the season went on, defending the knuckleballer mostly in an effort to provoke Rusic. Blundell also interviewed Dickey this past season, which was civil and pleasant, though I suspect there was some “behind the scenes” stuff I wasn’t privy to.

Regardless, the smallest and nastiest comment would set me off.

I hate how some people still expected him to be an ace. I hate how some people called him a “one-hit wonder.” I hate how some people are still upset about trading Syndergaard; seriously, Noah was an unproven talent and had a 50/50 chance of meeting his forecasted potential. That’s why teams trade “prospects” for proven commodities in an effort to field the best lineup.

I hate how some people put the 14-2 result of game four of the 2015 ALCS entirely on Dickey. Yes, he deserves blame. But it’s infuriating that the bullpen – with the exception of Liam Hendriks – gets off scot-free, despite surrendering nine of the 14 runs.

I hate how some would blame Russell Martin’s 2015 offensive struggles on having to catch Dickey. Many would call BS on that, with Russell being the first to say it.

I also hate how some people vilified Dickey because he needed Josh Thole. In fact, I hate every single rude comment that was made towards Thole. People with no knowledge of baseball would read every single ugly statement and think Thole was suppose to hit 40 homers, collect 100 RBIs and have an OPS over 1.000. There’s no denying that Thole is more suitable for the AAA level, but he wasn’t here for his bat. He was here to catch Dickey because he was the best option. It didn’t work out with JPA, Henry Blanco, Erik Kratz and Martin. So like it or not, Thole was the guy. Cry and moan about Thole taking a roster spot as much as you want. His job was to catch a knuckleball. Get over it.

In the end, I will reflect fondly on Dickey’s great moments and he had his share. Here are a few that come to mind:

2013 – Two phenomenal starts against San Francisco and Tampa Bay. A Gold Glove award as well.

2014 – Three victories over Boston. A tough 1-0 loss on the final day of the season against Baltimore. Dickey had a number of losses due to a lack of run support.

2015 – 2.80 ERA in the second half. Most notably was his start at Yankee Stadium on a Friday night in August. He held New York to one run in a match the Jays would win in extra innings and ultimately sweep the Yankees.

2016 – A phenomenal start against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, the same place his professional career started nearly 20 years ago and where he suffered his most embarrassing performance in 2006. Don’t forget about his final start as a Blue Jay: September 16 against the Angels, where he threw five scoreless innings in a 5-0 Jays victory. At a time when the team needed Dickey the most, he answered the call successfully.

Don’t forget his start in game four of the 2015 ALDS where he held Texas to one earned run over 4.2 innings. His performance that day was better than David Price, who replaced RAD in the fifth inning. Sure, he had a lot of run support in the match. However, if Dickey didn’t hold the fort, there wouldn’t have been a game five and there wouldn’t have a been a legendary bat flip. Dickey’s effort kept the Jays alive.

While I was proud to wear a t-shirt with Dickey’s number 43 on it, I knew he wasn’t coming back in 2017. So it wasn’t a surprise when I found out he signed with the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves are a perfect fit for Dickey. They’re a team in the re-tooling stage and would certainly benefit from a veteran starter that can gobble up innings. Plus he’ll work with Bartolo Colon, forming a very unique tag team.

So I wish R.A. Dickey the wish the very best. He might not have been the superstar we originally hoped for, but he certainly fulfilled an important supporting role. Nevertheless, I’m grateful his narrative came through Toronto.

ER

Short, scribbled thoughts on the non-waiver trade deadline deals 

August 2, 2016

Honestly, I have no time to post an in-depth analysis of the three trades. If you want something thoroughly researched and presented, go somewhere else. Seriously, I won’t hold it against you. 

Anyway…

Hutch: Sorry to see Drew go. The potential is still there, but he has struggled with his consistently. We have seen him at his best and also witnessed him at his worst. Hopefully, a change of scenery and the chance to work with Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage  will set him on the right path. 

Jesse Chavez: Started well, but has struggled of late. It’s funny. There were some who suggested back in April/May that Chavez get a chance to start. Seems those same people were now begging the Blue Jays to get rid of him. 

Scott Feldman: Good numbers this season. According to Baseball-Reference, he has a 2.90 ERA in 26 games thus far. As long as he holds the fort, I’m happy. 

Mike Bolsinger: Good 2015 numbers. From all the hot takes out there, looks like he’s the “sixth starter” if needed. 

Francisco Liriano: I certainly like this acquisition, but also concerned. He has not pitched well this season. Baseball-Reference shows a current ERA of 5.46, as well as a 4.40 ERA in seven American League seasons. But as BP Toronto’s Matt Gwin pointed out, Liriano has put up some productive results when pitching to Russell Martin. Here’s hoping that will continue. Of course, this also means Aaron Sanchez is about to move to the bullpen. Personally, I prefer/want Sanchez in the rotation. However, it feels like the Jays had never intended to change their original plan for Sanchez. 

ER


Short, scribbled thoughts on Melvin Upton Jr. and Joaquin Benoit

July 27, 2016

Originally, this post was solely about Melvin Upton Jr. 

I intended to say that while Upton is certainly helpful, he doesn’t solve their main concerns.

But then, Joaquin Benoit was picked up in exchange for Drew Storen and…well…everything got scrapped.

Anyway…

I understand why Upton was acquired. I realize what his role will likely be this season and next. I have no problem with the trade. 

Benoit’s ERA is concerning, but he’s put up good numbers since 2010. Perhaps a change of scenery will be beneficial. 

These trades are a good start, but they are not magical cures. Rest assured, Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Atkins are (hopefully) not finished. 

ER 


%d bloggers like this: