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.

The Toronto Blue Jays – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention today is Social Media Day.

The MLB has adopted social media probably better than any of the other major sports leagues and today they are leveraging social media to get fans involved with their teams.

One way they are embracing social media today is the caption contest where fans are asked to come up with the best caption for a picture of a player from a specific team.

I found a link this morning that took me to a picture of JoJo Reyes during a post-game interview after he broke his 28 game winless streak. In this picture JoJo Reyes is receiving the standard Blue Jay treatment for any Blue Jay who achieves something great during a game and is awarded the post-game interview; in this case JoJo Reyes is getting a bucket of Gatorade (presumably) dumped over his head by his catcher JP Arencibia.

I thought that this was a great contest and a great way to get fans involved. I added my caption and was ready tweet it when at the bottom of the Caption Contest page was a disclaimer stating “By Filling out this form, I agree to the rules of the MLB.com Twitter Caption Contest.” 

Having entered a lot of contests recently, I always read the rules to make sure that I am eligible. I figured that since I’d found this contest link through the @BlueJays twitter account and it took me to a page on the Blue Jays website that I would be eligible for the contest.

I clicked on the link to view the rules and regulations, while reading the eligibility though, this is what I found:

For anyone who can’t read the print above, it says “The Contest is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. …”

I was on the Toronto Blue Jays page, looking at a picture taken at Rogers Centre (Skydome) in Toronto Ontario, that was featuring a SportsNet Report, and two Toronto Blue Jays players JoJo Reyes and JP Arencibia, yet I was not eligible to participate in the Caption Contest because I do not reside within on of the fifty States or Washington D.C.

My first reaction was: “Wow a major #FAIL by the @MLB with their Caption Contest, Jays have a pic, but look at the rules #jays”, which I tweeted from my @Sadie_Liz twitter account.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a part of the MLB since 1977, a span of 34 years and yet the Blue Jays and their fans are still often treated as second class citizen by the MLB and sports media.

This MLB run contest was only open to Americans, despite there being a Canadian team that is support by million of Canadians from East coast all the way to the West Coast. I am sure this is not the first MLB contest like this, nor will it be the last.

It is not all that surprising though, outside of Canada the Jays and Jays fans get very little respect or recognition. If the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, the Yankees are said to have “Destroyed the Jays”. If the Jays beat the Yankees though the “Jays Get Lucky in Win Over Yankees” or “Yankees stumble in loss to Blue Jays”.

When Toronto loses, the other team is said to dominate, or crush. When the Jays win though the Jays are said to have gotten lucky, or the other team is said to have stumbled. Toronto is rarely said to have ‘destroyed’ or ‘outdone’ their opponents, even if that is precisely the case. They Jays rarely see top billing for new articles on their wins on sites like ESPN or even MLB.com.

Despite 34 years in the MLB and back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993, the Jays are the forgotten and looked down upon team of the MLB (not to say that there aren’t others). The Jays are in the hardest division in the MLB. They currently have arguably the best play in the MLB in Jose Bautista; In years past they arguably had the best pitcher in the MLB in Doc Halladay, but the Blue Jays still don’t see the coverage or praise that other teams do by sports media and even the MLB, (though the MLB had improved greatly thanks to their use of social media this year, there have been a number of video tweets showing plays and hits by Blue Jays).

Canada may only have one team across the entire nation, (after the Expos got moved to Washington and renamed the Nationals). That team though has the support of the entire nation and will not be silenced by the naivety of the MLB and sports media. This is our team, and we are proud of them. We will stand behind them and fight for them as hard as we can and if you won’t talk about them we will. We will blog, we will tweet, we will podcast, we will write, we will sing, we will promote our Jays.  We can and we do make a difference, you need proof, look at who is leading the All-Star Balloting this year. I would hazard to bet a number of those votes came from north of the border. Toronto is a good team, with good players, who fight yearly against the hardest division in the AL. After 34 years I think it is time for a bit more respect for the team and fans from Canada, don’t you?

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.

Twitter Blue Birds are really Blue Jays #jays #mlb

So if anyone reading this is following me on twitter (@Sadie_Liz) you will already know that I am a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. You may also know that I am a communications consultant, who is big into social media.

This season many professional athletes have taken to twitter, creating accounts, interacting with other players and even fans. You can follow a list of professional MLB Players or follow a number of individual players like Toronto Blue Jays JP Arencibia (@jparencibia9), Jose Bautista (@JoeyBats19), Travis Snider (@Lunchboxhero45), Ricky Romero (@RickyRo24), Jesse Litsch (@JesseLitsch), Brett Cecil (@CEC0208) and soon to be reactivated Brandon Morrow (@2Morrow23). Turns out the Twitter Blue Bird is really a Blue Jay.

Last week JP Arencibia and Ricky Romero (I think it was) asked if they should try to get 2nd baseman Aaron Hill and utility man John McDonald on twitter. My answer was “Absolutely, Yes!”

Of course I would love to see veterans Hill and McDonald on twitter just because well, they are Hill and McDonald, what Jays fan doesn’t love those two, especially Johnny Mac, a fan favourite.

I’ve thought about this from a marketing and communications perspective though. I believe twitter can be hugely beneficial to a team like Toronto.

  • Blue Jays are not just a Toronto team, they are a Canadian team. The fan base for the Blue Jays is from coast to coast and twitter helps to overcome the geographical distance for fans
  • The Blue Jays organization is built on ‘imports’. Meaning that with the exception of a few (Stairs, Richmond, Lawrie) all of the players are coming from outside of Canada. Even if there were players from inside Canada, it wouldn’t be like Hockey where the Canadians come up through the CHL and World Juniors and are highly familiar to the Canadian Public. Twitter will give fans access and insight into who the Toronto Blue Jays players really are, it will humanize them beyond their celebrity status. And this is even more important for the guys who are just coming up, or who were acquired through trades. Fans got to know Doc and Vernon Wells and invested years into them and now they’re gone. Fans need to find new favourite players and Twitter will help speed and intensify that process.
  • Over the years a number of fans have disengaged due to the fact that Jays haven’t seen the top of the AL East since their back to back World Series Wins. This has caused a decrease in game attendance and likely merchandising. By having Blue Jays players on twitter engaging with fans or participating in ‘Twitter Parties’ on off days  (not something that has yet happened) Toronto will be cultivating a new group of fans or re-engaging fans who have long since disconnected from the Toronto team.I was a huge Blue Jays fan as a kid, and while I’ve always been a big fan, I’ve been more engaged this year than any other year because of the players who are on Twitter. I’m getting to know the players that make up the teams. I almost feel like they’re guys from down the street, or someone I know from somewhere, instead of celebrity athletes. I’m invested in this team, their wins and their losses, how they handle the wins and losses and in the personal details that they share through their Twitter accounts. I feel connected to these players and I want to see them succeed. I wish I could go to their games and give them the support that people always gave me when I was playing. If I am feeling this way, I can’t imagine others aren’t feeling the same.If people are more connected to the team and engaged by the players they are going to watch more games, buy tickets and go to more games, spend more money at the ball park or online in the Jays store, or contribute more to the Jays Care foundation because it is something their ‘friends’ value  and therefore they value.
  • John McDonald is probably the most popular player on the Blue Jays team, at least I would contend that he is because last season when a little boy could choose any player he wanted to throw the opening pitch to, he chose Johnny Mac and the crowd roared. Johnny Mac has been one of my favourite players since he arrived. I’ve always cheered for him and been thrilled when he gets to see playing time. There is just something about him that is endearing. He is the underdog, the average Joe. Last season some sports analysts said that he didn’t deserve his spot on the roster, but fans disagreed and so thankfully did Cito. Johnny Mac by everything the fans know, is the hardest working person on the Blue Jays team. He doesn’t play every day, but he works hard everyday to be sure that if he is on the field he is ready. When he is on the field it is amazing to watch him work and succeed. To see him excel when he gets a day on the field is like a win for the little guy, even though he is probably the best utility player in the league. Now take that and think of him from a Marketing Perspective. He is the Jerome “JYD” Williams of the Blue Jays. He might not be as outlandish as JYD is, but he is just as, if not more beloved by the Blue Jay fans across the country. John McDonald has more ‘star power’ within the Toronto fan base than probably any other Blue Jay, though JP Arencibia may be taking over the young female demographic, so having a beloved veteran like him on Twitter would be HUGE. He feels like a guy you’ve known forever for some reason. If he got on Twitter, he would have droves of followers in no time. Twitter would connect people that much more to the already most relatable guy on the team. Honestly how many Blue Jays fans wouldn’t want to find a way to make it to a game if Johnny Mac tweeted a plea to fans to come out and support the team. Or if Johnny Mac tweeted about Jays Care, who wouldn’t try to scrounge up some spare change or canned goods to help? Johnny Mac is a fan favourite already, I have a feeling that would translate to Twitter and fans would just be on cloud nine, and if marketing decided to use that to their advantage, well they’d probably end up pretty happy.Even if marketing didn’t jump on that, all of the players are invested in the team and the work the team does. They want the team to succeed, the want the causes they support to succeed. The players are passionate about their team and they want to see fans return to their former glory of the World Series Years, who wouldn’t. I know when I played baseball not only did I want to win, I wanted to have the crowd energized, it makes the game that much more exciting as a player. Every player they get on Twitter, especially the fan favourites like Johnny Mac, Hill and rising stars like JP Arencibia, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, the more fans are going to invest in the team emotionally and probably more importantly invest with bums in the seats, increased ticket sales and merchandise sales.

From my perspective the Jays already on Twitter absolutely need to be getting some of the other Jays on Twitter as well, especially fan favourite veterans like Hill and McDonald. It’s time to get this nation excited about the boys of summer and it has to start somewhere. If the players are pumped and have a never die attitude that is evident to the fans how can the fans not follow suit?

It’s time for the Blue Jays Nation 2.0!  Let’s go! Blue Jays! Let’s Go!