Friday, January 8, 2010
Sometimes, Always, Never
Getting riled up by or dragged into an argument deep inside the Drunk Jays Fans comment section is never a good idea. Trolls live large and the regulars battle with the hosts on a daily basis. Reading yesterday and last night about the suddenly-polarizing figure of Alex Anthopoulos, I was mildly surprised but mostly annoyed. Praising AA as a prodigy poised to save the world is wishful thinking contrasted by those who seek to slam him and the mysterious Rogers board for the awful power they wield over the Blue Jays doesn't do much for me either. It made me think two, separate-yet-related thoughts.
Firstly, getting fired up over the acquisition of Brian Bocock is insane. Insane but understandable in our internet age. Back in the day, a move like this might register an entry in the transaction record printed towards the back of the sports section. No comment, just BLUE JAYS SIGN BRIAN BOCOCK TO MINOR LEAGUE DEAL. Instead, the good men of DFJ post the news with a flippant comment that boils down to "probably nothing, best case scenario he's the next Johnny Mac." This nothing roster-filling depth move sparks a flurry of debate and righteous anger among people that seem to agonize over the organizational minutia. Let me tell you, none of it is worth the energy.
Secondly, the doom and gloom squad view this as sign of the Jays continuing inability to acquire a major-league ready player at no cost. This leads to either cries of puppet regime, apologists, and Wilner-worship. All of which are wrong. If you really think signing Jason Bay and John Lackey gives the Jays the talent to compete with the Yankees for the division or the Red Sox for the Wild Card in 2010, you're misguided. If you think you can just open your wallet and a contender is sure to follow, you're misinformed and under-educated. Sorry.
To those patiently waiting for Anthopoulos's masterplan to fall into place while bemoaning 7 years of J.P.'s incompetence (they finally have a plan!), take heed. Consider, once again, the 2006 Jays.
J.P. shed some costly and ineffective contracts and sat poised with controllable homegrown talent all over the diamond. Three outfielders from within the system (Ash picks) all making better than 3 WAR contributions with a cheap pickup tossing in consistent 2 wins of his own, a hot young second baseman ready to take over for the arb-eligible vet who was moved to fill a hole at third base. The outfield glut afforded dumping a "can't miss bat" in Gabe Gross for a patient/slugging first base doubles machine. Two cheap young system arms in the rotation (Chacin & Towers) and a stable middle of the bullpen.
So Rogers opened the bank and the team added another top of the rotation starter and name closer to solidify the backend of the pen. They took on substantial salary in acquiring the slugging third baseman and took their shot. The result?
One of the top three offenses in baseball. One of the top three defenses in baseball. A middle of the road pitching staff. 87 wins. Which might have been okay had the Detroit Tigers not added 25 wins to their 2005 total.
The point? Shit happens. The best laid plans go awry. Is Anthopoulos on the right track? I think so, but we've been down this road before. The "sign free agents to flesh out the cheap/excellent core" route is wrought with potholes as well. Sometimes you sign a closer for two years too long, even though he goes off and gives you a 3 win season out of the gate. Sometimes you get swept by the Rockies and Marlins and don't realize how much it hurt your season. No matter how strong you think the foundation is, shit happens.
Images courtesy of Liza Lee Miller and Tireball