Well “Back to School” changeover has kept me pretty busy at work for the past couple of weeks, so I’ve not been keeping up here. But I’ll try to cover a few items of interest to the Jays nest today.
Speaking of “back to school”, maybe it’s time for Alex Anthopolous to go. Review the course about trades, because the last couple have been stinkers. First there was the compliacated Colby Rasmus trade, already discussed here. A month down the road, Rasmus (added to the growing disabled list this week) had managed to hit a mere .216 (a dip from his below-expected NL numbers) with three home runs. Granted he’s played a seamless centerfield, but given his disposition which seems to indicate someone less than pleased to be here, despite his public airing of beefs with St Louis management while there, and the fact that his presence in the lineup was largely keeping Rajai Davis out, the glove isn’t worth it. Particularly given that we gave up Jason Frasor and Mark Rzepcynski among others, to get him. I don’t buy that a sub-.250 hitting surly young outfielder added to a roster with an excess of “promising” young outfielders is that much of a bargain.
But for all that, last week’s trade with Arizona is worse. True, Aaron Hill has had another disappointing year at the plate, yet he’s still delivered stellar defense. Trading him for Kelly Johnson would be a dubious, debatable deal… essentially swapping underachieving second baggers. However, Hill’s contract status still would favour Arizona … if he cranks it up and plays like the all-star he once was, the snakes can pick up two more years on his contract. If Johnson suddenly excels, he will walk away from Toronto in 5 weeks as a free agent.
The sore point, of course, was adding John McDonald into the equation. Mac is, as anyone involved with Toronto sports knows, extraordinarily popular in town, maybe the most loved utility player in the game. His character has won him many fans, his skilled infield glove many others. And, of late he’d been heating up with the bat. To throw him in, even with the odd press conference addendum that he probably will be brought back next year, is ludicrous. It makes for a bad trade and even worse PR. There were no shortages of outraged fans to be interviewed on the streets or angry signs in the stadium letting management know how they felt on this one. At a time when the Jays need to work on drawing crowds and trying to build fan momentum going into ’12, Anthopolous dropped the ball worse than Edwin Encarnacion ever did at the hot corner this season.
Perhaps it’s a coincidence that since the trade the Jays have played the flattest, hustle-less ball of the season. Perhaps it’s not. All I know is that the fans are fed up , were actively booing every jay on the field save for Brett Lawrie (who actually looked like he was at least trying) for their disinterested approach yesterday as they got trounced 12-0 and Kelly Johnson wore the platinum sombrero, striking out lamely four times. Minutes later Sportsnet switched to the Arizona game where we got to see Aaron Hill smash a homer to the thundering applause of Phoenix fans.
I’ve said before Alex A seems a nice guy. The only reasonable explanation I can envision for this stupid trade (and I say reasonable, I don’t think Anthopolous suddenly losing absolutely all sense he ever had is that) is that he’s trying so hard to be “nice” he’s lost sight of the interests of his team. It’s “nice” to let Johnny Mac have a chance to play in the playoffs instead of in perpetually mediocre Toronto. It’s “nice” to give Arizona what they need on a silver platter and maybe hope somewhere down the road they might just decide to reciprocate. But it’s bad business sense– and not being “nice” to the fanbase.
Don’t mean to blow my own horn, but… oh, hell yes I do! Anyone remember my spring training time predictions? The ones which had Milwaukee winning their division, Justin Verlander winning the AL Cy Young and AJ Burnett harming the Yankees chances of making the post-season let alone winning in it? Just sayin’…
A good stat I came across yesterday- the Bronx Bombers are a mere .444 team in games Burnett pitches this year. They play .647 in all other games.
Wasn’t it great to see Jim Thome hit his 600th home run? Maybe it’s too bad his trade back to Cleveland didn’t happen a few weeks earlier so it would have been in front of their fans, but instead he did so for his hometown which is also special. Thome has always been a classy, reliable performer for as long as I can remember. One thing I remember was last year when the jays honoured outgoing manager Cito Gaston, thome was the one opposition player who went over and shook hands with and chatted with the guy who’d worked so hard for so many years figuring out how to get him out! Likewise, Jim showed up with congrats for Robbie Alomar at the Jays special day for Roberto. I hope some Jays will reciprocate the respect when Thome hangs ’em up one day.
There’s been some question since his big hit as to whether Thome is a Hall of Famer. I say there is no question– 602 homers and counting, eighth best ever and fifth best amongs players untainted by steroids or the accusation of, some 2400 hits, close to 2000 walks and a .550 career slugging percentage. It’s a no-brainer. He should be in on the first ballot.
Which leads to an interesting question: which other active players are sure-fire bets to be in Cooperstown? To me the list is short. Ivan Rodriguez, arguably the best all-round catcher ever, for sure. Derek jeter cemented his place there with his 3000th hit this summer. His teammate, Mariano Rivera, of nearly 600 saves and all that playoff dominance, will join him. I imagine Ichiro will be there, even if Father Time is starting to catch up with him now. His decade of hitting prowess , single-season hit record and so on might win him access to the Hall by itself, but enough voters will also factor in how dominant he was for years in japan in pro ball there too, and that he was the first really successful Asian position player to play in the Bigs and will reward him with a first ballot entrance.
Vlad Guerrero? Maybe. Probably deserving it, but has not drawn that much attention to himself, will be knocked for being mediocre fielder and spending much time at DH through his career. He’s a toss-up.
Alex Rodriguez has the numbers, and continues to add to them. I think he will make it in eventually, unless he screws up big time between now and retirement, but his steroid admission and scandals such as the recent gambling one may mean he might alienate some voters and have to wait for a few years as penance.
And I think that’s as far as the list goes right now.
Don’t get me wrong. Guys like Roy Halladay, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are all off to starts that would indicate they’ll likely one day be enshrined. But they’ll need to put up a few more years decent work before that’s ensured. For now, Thome, Pudge, jeter, Rivera, Ichiro, probably A-rod and perhaps Guerrero. Exclusive company.
The Toronto Star ran an excellent contest this month asking readers to design new Jays uniforms for next year. I was a bit tardy in getting my designs ready, but I’ll present them to you in next blog. In meantime, check out www.thestar.com/sports for some of the interesting designs.