Posted tagged ‘trade’

The 2019 Blue Jays: A tale of two chapters

September 29, 2019

See, that wasn’t so bad!

Right???

Okay…when you look at the standings, it was pretty bad. But we knew this season was going to look like Plan 9 From Outer Space.

I embraced the pain; others chose to complain and bang their drums. Either way, I hope we can sit on a porch one day and laugh about the experience as we sip lemonade.

The 2019 season can be split into two chapters: Before Marcus Stroman was traded and after he was dealt.

As the trade deadline approached, there were storm clouds surrounding the team. There had been a couple of bright spots, but there was sense of dread. Stro – the most popular/polarizing player left from 2015-16 – was going to get traded. We knew it, he knew it, the league and his teammates knew it. Stro was dropping passive-aggressive grenades and the anti-Shapiro mob was sharpening their pitchforks.

Then the trade finally happened, followed by the premature trade of Aaron Sanchez. Jays Twitter was a scene of blinding fire, suffocating smoke and vile screaming.

And then…the smoke cleared, the sun came out and Bo Bichette started making history.

Believe me, I am NOT suggesting Stro was poisoning the clubhouse. I love the guy, his character and his brand! However, things felt and looked different once Marcus was sent to the Mets.

The transition was complete. All remaining band-aids had been ripped off. The roster was officially young and developing. Now, we could say it’s “Vladdy’s team” or “Bo’s team.” If one were to consider the rebuild as u-shaped, then on the evening of July 28, 2019 – when Stro was traded and Bichette was called up – the Blue Jays reached the bottom. The steep, uphill climb had begun.

I saw a team full of youthful energy. It was exciting and fun! Bo took off like a bullet train, Vladdy continued his gradual production, Cavan Biggio made history, Danny Jansen was figuring things out and Lourdes Gurriel and Reese McGuire were pleasant surprises. Sure, they went through a tough stretch in late August-early September. However, as Stephen Brunt pointed out a few weeks ago on Prime Time Sports, we were finally seeing some flickers of light.

The final two months of the season provided all kinds of reasons to watch the Jays, despite their record. My favourite moment was Bichette’s walk off home run, capping a dramatic victory over the Yankees.

As we look towards 2020, it’s important to be cautiously optimistic. There might be flickers of light, but they still have a long way to go before a window of opportunity opens. This season, they won 67 games. In 2020, I would be happy if they pick up 10-15 more victories (77-82).

The outfield corner sports are set, as are the infield positions and behind the plate. They need to figure out centrefield and DH over the offseason and during Spring Training. There are options on the current roster, but said options have been inconsistent. Rowdy Tellez’s struggles are also concerning.

However, the main priority needs to be on PITCHING; starting rotation and bullpen. Right now, Matt Shoemaker and Trent Thronton will likely be in the rotation, while the other three spots are up for grabs. Jacob Waguespack and Ryan Borucki are “question marks,” while Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch need to perform well in Spring Training. Don’t forget about the eventual arrival of Nate Pearson.

Ideally, Ken Giles will anchor the bullpen and I’d like to see Wilmer Font return, along with Ryan Tepera, Sam Gavigilo and Derek Law. After that, who knows?

What really scares me is how Bichette’s concussion will effect him. An injury like that is unpredictable. I’m praying he listens to his body and doesn’t try to overdo it as he prepares for 2020.

Things won’t be outstanding next season, but they (hopefully) won’t be as bad as this year. We’d all love to see a vast improvement. However, we must be patient and let the story play out. This team is still developing and I hope the youngsters build from their positive experiences and teachable moments.

Fingers crossed.

ER

***

Time for some “awards!”

Best Jays Hitter: Vladdy Guerrero Jr.
Best Jays Starter: Marcus Stroman
Best Jays Reliever: Ken Giles

Short, scribbled thoughts about the trades that pissed you all off

August 7, 2019

Yup, last week was nuts. Anyway…

  • Stro’s trade made sense. Would’ve been a waste of his talent to keep him while the Jays are still rebuilding.
  • The deal with Houston is puzzling. Aaron Sanchez was finally starting to build his value back up. If that value continued to rise, he would’ve likely yielded a higher return during the off-season or at next year’s trade deadline. That’s why dealing him now feels premature.
  • The focus should be on pitching. That’s why acquiring Derek Fisher was also puzzling. Russ Atkins really, really, REALLY wanted him and was willing to pay a high price. Poor Fisher is going to be scrutinized to death by this angry fanbase; so here’s hoping he lives up to the potential that Atkins envisions. Reminds me of when AA sent Travis Snider – very popular with fans – to Pittsburgh for Brad Lincoln.
  • I’m glad the small gambles they took on Sogard, Phelps and Hudson yielded/will yeild some younger talent.
  • Of course, it’s very sad to say goodbye to the players that were dealt away. However, I’m thrilled they all get to play for teams making strong playoff pushes, especially Stro, Sanchez and Joe Biagini. They deserve it!
  • Not surprisingly, many fans – aka the anti-Shapiro crowd – were furious with the return the Jays got. Before Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods Richardson and the other acquisitions even reported to their new teams, it seemed like some fans were already labeling them as busts. I understand the anger, but it is absolutely RIDICULOUS to declare these new players as failures before they have a chance to actually fail; if they actually do fail. Honestly, it didn’t matter who the front office got in return. The anti-Shapiro crowd wasn’t going to like it. It was pre-determined.

To be honest, Jays Twitter really pisses me off at times. But that’s for another post….maybe.

ER

Unreal: The Marcus Stroman Era

July 30, 2019

Where to begin?

June 2012: I’m driving home, listening to Jays Talk. It’s the night of the MLB Draft.

Mike Wilner introduces the Jays’ first round pick and proceeds to interview him. This was my introduction to Marcus Stroman; my introduction to Height Doesn’t Measure Heart.

The bravado and confidence instantly hit me. This kid had a chip on his shoulder and a desire to be the greatest pitcher ever. My attention was caught.

I fell in love with his swagger that night. And to this day, I still love it.

There’s certainly a group of fans who loathed that Stro swag. I like to think those individuals represent a segment of Toronto sports fans who expect every single athlete to perform, say little and stay in their lane. Believe me, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you expect everyone to follow that example then a) you’re going to be disappointed more often and b) it dulls things up.

Whether you liked him or not, baseball is much cooler with Marcus Stroman. You need a strong personality like his. It enhances the drama and adds flavour to the narrative. Take that out and while the sport maintains a level of fun and excitement, it looks robotic. Even the not-so-subtle jabs he’s thrown at Mark Shapiro and Russ Atkins on Twitter have been entertaining.

We should talk about all that “commotion.”

Stro’s greatest asset and his greatest flaw is that he cares a lot. What he specifically cares about is for another article. Make no mistake though; he is PASSIONATE. That passion is beneficial in some areas and causes problems in others. That’s why you won’t see him hanging out with Shapiro and Atkins at a New York City nightclub in the next decade or so.

Similar to a lot of Blue Jay fans, perhaps Stro didn’t want to let go of 2015-16. Can’t blame him at all. It’s hard coming down from that mountain. Some accept and embrace fate. Some do it kicking and screaming. Of course, we’ll never know what actually happened or what was said. Our personal biases will simply fill in the blanks.

When it was evident the Jays needed a rebuild, I hoped Stro would be one of the few players from 2015-16 still on the roster when things turned around. But once the rebuild was in full effect, I made peace with the notion that keeping Stro would hinder the team’s growth.

It’s a classic battle of head vs. heart, with my noggin coming out on top.

I would love it if Stro was signed to a long-term deal. However, my biggest fear is that his best years would be while the team was still rebuilding.

Hate to say it, but it would’ve been counter-productive to keep Stro. If his stock is high, it was worth trying to obtain some younger talent in exchange. It’s similar to what happened with Roy Halladay ten years ago.

We all wanted Doc to stay, but while his productivity was at the top, the Jays as a whole were sliding to the bottom and needed to rebuild. It wasn’t fair to Doc who – at that point – had never tasted postseason action and ultimately requested to be traded. Keeping him would’ve slowed the team’s growth.

It’s great how Stro embraced the city, but he should pitch for a winner. And yes, the team he was traded to is hanging on by a very thin thread. Nevertheless, I certainly wish him the best of luck with the Mets and thank the heavens he’s not wearing Yankee pinstripes.

HDMH will always have a significant place in Toronto. From his debut, to the freak injury, coming back from that injury, being part of the magic that was 2015-16 and being one of the few bright spots during seasons of transition and development. Marcus Stroman’s narrative was simply unreal. He fell in love with the city and the city – at least a good portion of it – fell in love with him.

ER

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

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


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