What you see is what you get. Or so says Alex Anthopolous who is quoted in today’s Toronto Star as telling the increasingly disgruntled fanbase that the “team as it stands now is likely the one fans can expect to see when camp opens in Florida.” Or to put it another way, if you really thought he was going to live upto his declarations of a month or six weeks back, when he was saying the Jays had to beef up their starting rotation and they had the resources to do so, well , tough. On the other hand, if you’re Roy Halladay, it’s looking like you were perceptive when asking to be traded away from the only big league home you’d ever known if they weren’t going to make an effort to compete before you signed into an Old Age Home. What you see is what you get. Or so says Alex Anthopolous who is quoted in today’s Toronto Star as telling the increasingly disgruntled fanbase that the “team as it stands now is likely the one fans can expect to see when camp opens in Florida.” Or to put it another way, if you really thought he was going to live upto his declarations of a month or six weeks back, when he was saying the Jays had to beef up their starting rotation and they had the resources to do so, well , tough. On the other hand, if you’re Roy Halladay, it’s looking like you were perceptive when asking to be traded away from the only big league home you’d ever known if they weren’t going to make an effort to compete before you signed into an Old Age Home. It’s been another astonishingly frustrating off-season for Toronto fans who have been promised the moon only to be , effectively, mooned by the Blue Jays office. Granted, they did listen to me and a myriad of other fans and finally ditch the ugly black unis and hats and bring back something reminiscent of the colours of the winning editions of the team. Unfortunately, they not only ignored the even louder din of the masses asking for some minor upgrades to be made to the roster. And to make matters worse, they allowed the fans (the same ones they scolded for not buying enough season tickets) to be toyed with more than a nymphomaniac in a sex shop. Anthopolous has a well-publicized policy of not commenting on any negotiations involving free agents or other clubs, and the result is that the media has been quick to assure Canadian fans that Toronto was this close to signing Prince Fielder… and Joe Nathan… and to win the rights to Japanese star Yu Darvish, only to be disappointed at every turn. As Richard Griffin, the Star’s senior baseball writer put it recently, the team cone of silence “leads to Jays participation being exaggerated.” he believes the team “would benefit from total transparency” and that “media support is turning to frustration and anger.” Nevermind that he is one of the leading causes of that switch from support to anger, the point still remains that if the team hasn’t talked to Fielder, or put in a Mickey Mouse bit just for the practise, it would behoof them to quickly deny it when Cleveland on-air jocks say that Prince was being fitted for blue caps with feisty bird heads on them. There might not be as much resentment when the inevitable happens and we see him smiling and donning a red Washington cap… or blue cap with a capital “C” on it … or a red cap with white intertwined letters on it, or for that matter just about any cap that isn’t Toronto’s. As it stands, looking forward to 2012, the Blue Jays seem perhaps marginally better than they were at the end of the ’11 campaign (I did say “perhaps”) but probably not as good as they were at last year’s All Star break. They have improved their bullpen marginally since St Louis went on parade with a carload of former Blue Jays. Darren Oliver may be long in the tooth (only Arthur Rhodes and Tim Wakefield among current pitchers are older) but has done a solid job consistently, was respected in the Rangers clubhouse and can be relied upon to deliver 60-odd tidy appearances and get out some tough lefty bats. He more than makes up for Jesse Carlson who walked away to our rivals in Beantown. Likewise, it’s great to see Jason Frasor repatriated. The all-time games pitched leader for Toronto seems happy to be back, noting his wife (a Torontonian) was thrilled and that he “can’t wait to put on those new uniforms.” He gave a strong thumbs up to Sergio Santos too, whom he set up late last year in Chicago. I’m not sold on Santos as a closer, but the numbers suggest he will do at very least as well as the duo of Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch (both now Mets) did in ’11. With Casey Janssen coming into his own, the bullpen looks adequate and poised to not blow 25 saves again. Yet, even that must be tempered with the knowledge that last year’s pen didn’t look too bad, nor was it terrible until it bowed to the weight of trying to pick up a horrible starting staff four nights out of every five. And there perhaps lies the biggest problem with the Jays big talk / little action off-season. The 2011 rotation was atrocious, Ricky Romero excepted. Consider that Jo-Jo Reyes, gone from the roster by mid-summer and the butt of countless jokes due to his lengthy winless streak, was the rotation’s third winningest pitcher with all of five wins. Not exactly the stats to make the Phillies (where Cole Hamels is the third best starter), or LA-Anaheim (where Ervin Santana was, but with the signing of CJ Wilson, is now fourth behind Wilson, Weaver and Haren) quake in their boots. Granted, Brandon Morrow ended the year on a high and is certainly capable of being dominant. The question to be answered is if he has the physical and mental wherewithal to do so; to not try to out-K Nolan Ryan every time he visits the mound and thus get into the sixth inning once in a while. Henderson Alvarez looked promising but to everyone who thinks that a young starter is a guaranteed superstar based on ten games (of which he picked up exactly one “w”, a 13-0 blowout of the Orioles in August), I’d say “Mauro Gozzo”, and then throw in a “Chris Michalak”. The Jays management team also assume that Brett Cecil’s surly fall from 15 wins (with an only so-so 4.22 ERA) to 4 wins and a dour 4.73 ERA, coupled with his loss of velocity on his heater was a mere anachronism rather than the start of a career trend which if graphed might look more like the trajectory of a bobsledder than a ballplayer. And of course they assume that Kyle Drabek can’t miss, despite the fact that he missed the strike zone about half the time he let fly last season. Toronto is lucky that the Yankees seem to be snoozing contentedly and the Red sox have been more interested in creating a public shaming of the management, rather than the players, who let the playoffs slip out of their grasp than in upgrading or even shaking up their roster. The bar for teams to chase hasn’t been lifted for the Jays in 2012. Which makes it all the more frustrating that they haven’t shown a willingness to even try to make the jump. ^^^ ^^^^ Congratulations to Barry Larkin, voted in to the Hall of Fame. While his actual numbers might be marginal for the HofF … 18 years, .295 average, 198 home runs, 2300+ hits etc., nor did he dominate the game even at his peak (though he was 1995 MVP and the first shortstop to hit 30 HR and steal 30 bases in a season), he was a character player, was largely resposnsible for his Reds surprising 1990 World Championship. He was second to only Ozzie Smith among SS during most of his playing time so a strong argument could be made that he is indeed worthy of the honour. However, couldn’t the same be said of Jack Morris? Morris was the winningest and most durable pitcher of the 80s, the ace of the 1984 World Series winning Tigers, the number one pitcher for Toronto’s first World Series and the standout of the 1991 Series, pitching perhaps the best game ever in baseball playoff history to win the deciding game 7. It’s hard to imagine that in a big game, there would be any pitcher back in that era a manager would rather have given the ball to. Although he “only” pitched a little over 17 seasons, compared to the 22 years of Bert Blyleven, his winning percentage was better than the recent Hall honouree and he averaged better than 15 wins a season compared to 13 a year for Blyleven. Unfortunately, Morris seemed a gruff and often unlikeable sort, and that will probably be the factor that keeps him from being honoured in Cooperstown.