Time for a Blue Jays Rant – Lawrie Up – Snider Down

I’m feeling a bit frustrated with the Blue Jays at the moment.

Today the Blue Jays called up Brett Lawrie from AAA. Ok, YAY a Canadian on the Canadian team. I was looking forward to Lawrie coming up, but the Jays have completely ruined it by who they chose to send down (IMO).

To make room for Lawrie on the roster the Jays chose to option Travis Snider back down to AAA, only a couple of  weeks after his return to the bigs.

Travis Snider first made an appearance with the Jays on August 29th 2008. Travis has seen bits and pieces of 3 seasons. He was drafted as a top prospect and he is one of the youngest players to debut in the majors wearing a Jays uniform. Since drafting Snider, the Jays have said that he is a key piece to building a strong future. They’ve said they see him being a cornerstone of the Jays outfield in the future; that he will lead the team in the future.

For all that the Jays organization says the right things about Snider, they certainly aren’t treating him like a Franchise player, a top prospect, or a key piece of their future.

I get that he is still young and has plenty of time, he is only 23; but it can’t be helping his value any if other teams are seeing Toronto play yo-yo with him. He’s been playing in the majors for parts of each of the last three seasons and in my opinion the team is now at this point jerking him around.

At the beginning of the season I seem to remember several conversations with the media by both the coach and the GM saying that Snider was going to be the Left Fielder, that they were going to support him and be behind him 100%; they were going to do whatever they could to make sure that Snider was a key piece of building this year’s team and this year’s outfield.

And how have they done that? Well Snider  had a bit of a slump so they sent him down. Fine, give him a chance to work out his swing in the minors. He works his butt off, does well and gets back here, only to have another outfield acquired which successfully puts him out of a job when Lawrie gets called up and Bautista returns to Right Field.

The outfield is overloaded right now. Bautista is your Right fielder, he is the best player in baseball right now, you’re not sitting him. You have Davis and with the speed he has, you are not getting rid of him, he can generate runs on the bases. That leaves Thames and Rasmus. I like Thames a lot, I don’t want to see him go anywhere. Rasmus though, seems like a nice kid and he is talented without a doubt, but he is a new acquisition that the Jays are standing behind and in doing so they are sticking a knife in the back of Snider (IMO).

I have nothing against this Rasmus kid, he’s a decent player and will probably grow into a fantastic player. But if I were Snider I’d feel somewhat betrayed by my team. I know “whatever is best for the team; whatever will get the wins” blah blah blah, but still I’d be annoyed, I am annoyed and I am just a fan!

Snider was told that this team believed in him and saw him as part of their future. The future is now and they keep pushing him back in line in favour of others.

I guess it is a good problem to have that many talented options for the outfield, I just feel bad for Snider. The organization says the right things, but then doesn’t have the actions to back it.

I’m sure that you could do a statistical analysis that says this is the right move out of the options that they have, but still I feel bad for the kid. He deserves his chance and a real chance. Someone needs to stick up for this kid. Some may argue that he’s had chance, but I’m sorry there have been a lot of players who’ve been a lot worse, who’ve gotten a lot more time to ‘earn their spot’ or sometimes even keep it.

Maybe this is the right move, honestly I don’t know what the best move would be in this situation, I just feel frustrated on the behalf of Travis Snider. If you’re in a job and you boss is telling you that you’re the future of the company and you keep getting sent to the mailroom, how would you feel? (And yes I know, AAA is not comparable to the mailroom).

I hate to say it but maybe what is best for Travis is a trade. I would hate to see him wearing any jersey that wasn’t a Jays jersey, but I think that being traded may be the only way he is ever going to get the chance that he deserves.

Opened or Closed?

The Toronto Blue Jays play an afternoon game tomorrow and it has been announced that the roof will be closed for the game at Rogers Centre.

The reason that Rogers Centre is keeping the roof closed is due to the weather advisories in effect for tomorrow and the projected temperature of 37 degrees which will feel more like 47 degrees with the humidex.

I got into a bit of a discussion with someone I follow and occasionally speak with on Twitter on the decision to close the roof for the game tomorrow.

He didn’t agree with the decision to close the roof.  Some of his points were:

  • Other teams play in hotter weather on a regular basis
  • The players are highly trained athletes who can/should be able to handle the weather
  • That baseball is meant to be played outside
  • That many games, baseball and other, have been played outside in temperatures worse than what Toronto will experience tomorrow.

I can’t necessarily dispute his points (though I believe I did), because well other teams do play in worse temperatures, these are professional athletes who could probably handle it, baseball historically is an outdoor game and sporting events have taken place in worse conditions.

I can see his point of view, I can understand it and I can respect it, but I don’t necessarily agree with it.

Other teams may play in hotter conditions on a regular basis, but their trainers presumably condition them for the climate and the weather they predominantly play in. That is not to say that the Jays aren’t well conditions (though at times I have questioned it with some of the random injuries) but they may not be conditioned for this heat and humidity. Heat like this is a shock to the body and it can put a strain on the human body. Thames was already pulled from a game recently due to leg cramp presumably due to dehydration caused by the current heat wave that we are experiencing. If players are playing in extreme heat that their bodies aren’t used to, there is a chance the body won’t respond well and injuries could happen. Toronto is doing well right now and no one wants to see Thames, Bautista, Lind or anyone else on that team go down with an injury that could have possibly been prevented. (Note I no professional background in health science, so while I think I know what I am talking about, someone with such a background may not)

These players are highly trained athletes and might very well be able to handle the heat, but why not, when possible, create an environment that limits the chance of injury or harm to players?  Also with this extremely heat players need to be cooled down and the MLB tends to blast AC into the dugouts, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is hard on the body to go from that extreme heat to the cold AC and back and forth for the duration of a game. Have you ever noticed that in the summer when you go from outside heat, to inside AC multiple times throughout a day you start to feel kind of crummy?

Many games have been played outside in worse temperatures, but there have also been many athletes seriously injured due to playing or training in extreme heat as well. Just because people have played in worse temperatures doesn’t mean that they should. What’s more important? I personally think the health of the athletes is more important, more so than tradition or fan expectation.

Take the players out of the equation though, this (IMO) is a phenomenal marketing move.

Before I get to that, this decision to close the roof, I believe, is not just about the players, it is about the safety of the fans as well. I personally don’t want to see some poor schmuck pass out in the 500s due to heat stroke, or even someone in the 200s or 100s. Now granted the attendance won’t be even close to the same, but I was at a concert at Rogers Centre just over a week ago and the roof was open. The temperature that day wasn’t nearly as hot as it will be tomorrow, but that stadium was a sauna (admittedly because of the number of people). I swear I have never sweat so much in my life, I thought I was going to pass out by the time the concert was over. I know very different situations, there were 60,000+ people packed in there, I’m just saying that ballpark can get hot with the roof open.

Back to why I think this is a phenomenal marketing move. This is a mid-week afternoon game (something fans gripe about, but is a necessity between home and away series). Mid-week afternoon games traditionally have pathetic numbers as far as attendance goes, which is pretty expected, people have to work. So Rogers Centre wants more bums in the seats for the mid-week day game and the city (and well beyond) is going through a severe heat wave. I believe the city of Toronto or it’s health unit has probably issued a heat advisory, I know the London & Middlesex Health Unit has, so I presume Toronto is no different.

Anyways, Rogers Centre, or Skydome, has the ability to close the roof and turn on the AC. If you’re a poor schmuck living or working in Toronto and your office and or apartment/house doesn’t have AC and you are a fan of baseball (or maybe not) and you hear that the roof is closed at Rogers Centre and the place is a cool escape from the heat, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I would do. I’d go buy myself a ticket, take in a great ballgame and cool off! Sit in a cool stadium, take in a ball game and have a nice cold beverage and beat the heat and maybe if I’m lucky pick up one of the young single Blue Jays, but I digress.

Now maybe this won’t happen, but I have a funny feeling at least a couple of people who weren’t planning on taking in the game tomorrow will be now! The Jays organization played this right. They made the call early, this afternoon, and they publicized it throughout the broadcast of the game, as well as on twitter and I believe on their website and presumably on the radio. They are making sure people know that the roof will be closed and that taking in the game will be the coolest way to beat the heat tomorrow in Toronto.  So in my mind this has the potential to mean, increased ticket sales, increased beverage sales and maybe even increased merchandise sales for a typically poorly attended mid-week day game. No only does this help the team pocketbook, but it’s a good PR move because from my perspective it is a good deed that is deserving of a write-up in at least one major paper, magazine or blog.

I’m sure that the safety of the players was a huge consideration when deciding to close the roof. I’m also sure that fan safety (and venue liability) was a factor in making this decision. As a marketing person, I hope Marketing & PR had a hand in this at some point, before or after (I know I’d be screaming “Hey our attendance sucks for mid-week day games and it’s hotter than Satan’s living room, let’s close the roof, cool off this place and give Torontonians a break from this heat!”).

So those are my thoughts on the decision to close the roof tomorrow. I get both sides, but I think it is better to err on the side of caution and protect the fans and players when possible. I also think it is a good idea to leverage a situation to increase attendance on a day bound to have low attendance numbers.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Correction on something I’ve written? Comments welcome!

* You don’t have to agree with me, feel free to disagree. I just ask that you be respectful of the opinions expressed by others on this blog, including myself.

** Also I would like to thank the individual that sparked this blog post with the conversation we had on Twitter, if you are reading this, you should know who you are. Thanks for the discussion!

Blue Jays Drafting

So the 2011 MLB Draft has come and gone and the Blue Jays have  drafted a number of new prospects.

Over the years the Jays have traded away draft picks and prospects, who have later popped up in the majors on opposing teams. Fans have cringed and grumbled over the way Blue Jays management have handled prospects and draft picks. With the exception of a couple over the last while (Arencibia, Snider, Romero, Hill), the Blue Jays team hasn’t appeared to be built from the draft but rather a series of (occasionally ill-advised) trades. I know this is common for a lot of teams, but given that the Blue Jays have acquired some less than stellar players, and cannot afford the top players in the league, I as a fan cannot help but hope they draft and cultivate some young talent (like the Tampa Bay Rays did).

Toronto had a number of picks in the 2011 draft, thanks to a number of compensation picks received for players that were lost to other teams during the off-season. I haven’t found a list yet of all of their draft picks, but I would assume there was somewhere around 20 or 30 picks for the Jays.

I have read some stats, tweets and articles on the Blue Jays 2011 draft choices and I can’t help but wonder if they made the best decisions.

Now I know next to nothing of the players that they drafted, but on the surface it appears possible that some of their draft picks could have been made for the wrong reasons.

Toronto Blue Jays, as everyone knows, are the only remaining Canadian MLB team. Due to that fact, the Blue Jays seem to have this unspoken mandate to support and foster baseball and baseball talent across Canada. In the U.S. each team is only responsible for its city, at most its state. The Canadian team though, especially since Canadian prospects are often forgotten about,  is responsible for recognizing an entire nation of prospects (not that there is an alarming number of MLB caliber Canadians, comparatively speaking).

In the 2011 draft 18 different teams drafted at least 1 Canadian prospect. A couple of teams drafted 3, a couple more drafted 2, and a number more drafted only 1. The Blue Jays lead the way though, drafting 8 Canadians.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the Canadian team signing Canadian talent. I am like all the other Canadians who love seeing a Canadian dawn the Jays uniform and wish all the Canadians would gather in Toronto and make a run for the pennant. I can’t help but wonder though if it was the right decision to draft 8 Canadians, or if it was done out of a sense of duty.

It is entirely possible that one or more of those players could become the next Matt Stairs, Erik Bedard (Mariners), Jason Bay (Mets) or a Russell Martin (Damn Yankees), but it is equally (if not more) possible that they will never see life past the minors.

So I wonder, did the Blue Jays draft these players out of a sense of duty and national pride for the country that calls the Jays their own? Or did they draft them because they were the best potential players left to be drafted?  I am all for supporting the Canadian kids, someone needs to take notice of them, but did we miss out on some great talent, because the Toronto team felt required to draft some homegrown players?

This thinking extends to two other draft picks, neither are Canadians, but both are tied to the Jays team. But John Farrell and Don Wakamastu’s sons were drafted by the Blue Jays in the late rounds of the 2011 draft. Again I can’t help but wonder if they were drafted because they were the best players left  who were available, or if they were drafted out of a sense of duty to and respect for the current Jays’ Manager and Bench Coach.  I am sure these kids are talented and deserve to be drafted, but were the Jays just being polite and considerate to their new coaching staff?

Then again this could be a good move. The Canadian kids probably grew up dreaming of playing for the Toronto Blue Jays (or Montreal Expos) and playing for a team in their own country. Maybe these kids will be more determined to stay in the Toronto system and not search for trades should they make it to the big leagues, or even before. They may want to bring a championship back to Canada for the first time in nearly 2 (or by the time they get called up 3) decades. Maybe the same can be said for the sons of the Farrell and Wakamatsu, but then again, who knows how long the current coaching regime will stay in power.

So while it is possible these Canadian kids will be superstars and the American kids who were also drafted will refuse to sign,  I can’t help but wonder if the picks that brought 8 Canadians and 2 coaches sons, were a little less strategic and little more “Canadian” (polite/respectful).

Twitter Jays – Arencibia Under Attack #jays

I just read an interesting/infuriating comment on Facebook regarding the Blue Jays rookie catcher JP Arencibia. There was a post from the Blue Jays organization regarding the auctioning of one of JP Arencibia’s game used broken bats (a bit odd, but hey someone will pay good money). One of the comments (not that different from some others I have seen) said ” … [Arencibia] blocks followers on Twitter whose comments he doesn’t like. The young man is childish and immature.”

I’m sorry, but that comment is ridiculous. I’ve followed a lot of the chatter towards Blue Jays players and the people who have been blocked, aren’t really innocent, so I don’t blame Arencibia for his actions.

One, there’s probably a mandate about that kind of situation in the league’s social media policy. The whole act in the best interest of the team and of the league, do nothing to negatively represent the MLB … so on and so forth.

Two, I think that Arencibia’s actions are completely respectable. Let’s think about this, say you’re on your twitter account and someone follows you only to mention or message you talking trash about you or your family, what exactly are you going to do? Personally I would block the person, wouldn’t most people? I would not bother engaging with them, because honestly that would do me no good. Engaging would only feed the troll and bring me down to its level. Now some people would bite back at someone who is taking pot shots at them or their family, but based on what I’ve seen I think JP Arencibia is a pretty classy guy. Also Arencibia is a professional and a role model. There is a time and place to defend yourself and there is a time to walk away, and Arencibia blocking trash talkers to me is the same as walking away, which I respect. Engaging could do serious damage to his career and his personal brand, not to mention the team, league and charitable brands he’s a part of.

Three, Arencibia is a professional baseball player, with huge expectations on his shoulders. It is his job to come to the ballpark everyday and do his very best. Again lets look at this in a different context. If you got up and went to work everyday and were berated by people (who really have no first hand understanding of your job) telling you that you’re no good at your job and are worthless as a person, how do you think that would make you feel? How do you think those comments would impact your attitude or your ability to do your job? Now you can sit there and say you wouldn’t let it affect you, or argue that JP Arencibia is a public figure and a professional athlete making millions of dollars a year, but the heart of the matter is that he is still just a man not impervious to the sticks and stones people throw at him. I don’t care who you are, if people are telling you day in and day out that you’re a screw up and not worth it, it’s going to start affecting you. As a professional athlete things happen; professional athletes make errors and go through slumps and they beat themselves up about it, more than anyone else possibly could. Athletes have to work hard to keep their confidence, because if they go on the field without it, their opponents will capitalize. The best way for anyone to keep their confidence is to block out all of the negative comments, only leaving room for the positive ones.

So people can sit there and call Arencibia immature for blocking the negative nellies out in the twittersphere, or he can be commended for having the maturity to do his job and have some class while doing it.

As fans we tend to think we have the right to complain when our team or a player screws up and Twitter has made it easy for us to take our complaints directly to the players. Players like Arencibia are CHOOSING to be on twitter, are choosing to give fans access, are choosing to engage. Players don’t have to be on twitter with clearly identifiable verified accounts, but they choose to do that for their fans and for the sport. I applaud players like Arencibia for putting themselves out there in that way and I give them credit for handling the naysayers in a mature and professional manner. Furthermore I thank Arencibia for not letting the actions of a few ruin it for the many. He could have easily said ‘screw it’ and cancelled his twitter account when hundreds of people laid into him over a base running error, but he didn’t.

Fans forget that these professional athletes are still only humans. Humans who make mistakes, humans who have emotions and humans who are making huge sacrifices. These players are hard enough on themselves when they aren’t living up to their potential. Anyone who’s been watching this season has seen how hard this year’s team is on itself. I don’t know that I have seen this much passion in a Jays team in a long time and it is something I can’t help but respect. I feel bad for the players when they are so hard on themselves, but I am so proud of them for caring that much about the game, about the team and about the fans.

I will continue to watch all of the Jays games and support the Blue Jays til the bitter end. Sure I will be frustrated at times over bad plays or missed opportunities, but I will always support my team and believe that they will triumph. I will continue to follow them on twitter, and make them trend nationwide whenever possible. I will continue to hope that people will realize that their idolized players are only human and that words hurt and they make an impact. We are fans and we are here to pick up our team when they are down. We are here to have faith in our boys of summer, when they have lost faith in themselves. We are here to talk trash of the Yankees and Red Sox in honour of our boys in blue.

So with that, LETS GO BLUE JAYS! Time to get the Rays back on their losing streak and give die-hard Jays fans something to really cheer about!

Blue Jays – Francisco and Litsch

This morning the Blue Jays announced that they have activated RHP FRANK FRANCISCO from the 15-day disabled list and optioned RHP JESSE LITSCH to Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

We all knew that when Morrow came back either Litsch or Reyes would be going back to AAA Las Vegas.  I have to say though I am a bit shocked that Litsch went down, he had a rocky start to his starts, but he usually locked things down a couple of innings in, and last game his team picked him up. I suppose though, the Jays don’t want to risk those a couple rough innings as they come up against some teams who aren’t so easy to come back against.  Regardless fans, a bit thrown by this move given that it is a starter for a reliever,  have suggested possibilities that a bullpen arm such as Rzepczynski (a former starter) will be moving to the starting rotation and Reyes will still be going down when Morrow returns.

I do not think this is a case. Francisco is a closer, he will be going into the bullpen. Having sent down Listch, the starting rotation will be down to four. I assume this means that Morrow will be back within the next couple of days and the only reason they made the moves the way that they did was because of where they were in the rotation. They’re only on starter number 2, Drabek. Given the short outings some of their pitchers the Jays are just trying to keep as many rested arms in the bullpen as possible. Morrow will come back up and take the 5th starter slot and when he does he will knock someone out of the already overloaded Jays bullpen.

Many analysts have already commented that the Jays are carrying an uncharacteristically large bullpen and a short bench. They have commented that the team balance has been a bit off, but that it would return to normal once some of the individuals on the disabled list were re-activated.

No matter how the moves play out, I hope the shake-up will provide a spark to the Jays and help them get back to their winning ways on their home stretch.