Honestly, this is going up now because I couldn’t think about it for a couple of hours. Now, on my way to the game against the Mariners tonight, I remember I wrote it.
A friend of mine calls me the ‘eternal optimist’ when it comes to sports. The teams I cheer for all always in it, they will bounce back and I don’t have the cynicism that seems to pervade a lot of Jays fans (himself included). I say things like, “It’s a long season…” and “Hey, this ins’t hockey.” To me, I’ve rededicated myself to the Blue Jays because of a lot of factors outside of them winning. I enjoy the sounds and smells of the game. I like that I can have a great conversation with friends and family and still enjoy what’s happening on the field. I think the new hats are nice. On a deeply personal level, baseball has been woven into my life. I played it and watched as a kid. I found that’s it’s provided a great way to connect with my brother. Overall, I know that a really good baseball team is going to loose 70 games a season. None of those feel good but they’re inventible.
But last night? Last night, just plain stunk.
It really was the accumulation of things. 16 hits over 3 games. One twelve inning stretch without a run (over two games). Edwin Encarnación having to play third base again was just salt in wound.
I mean hey this is going to happen, and it wasn’t all bad. Mike Wilner pointed out that the Jays #3,4 and 5 staters (a question mark at the beginning of the season) combined for a total of WHIP of 1.22. Eric Thames hit an absolute bomb to right field in game two (and was the teams best hitter over those three games). Even with being swept the Jays went 4-3 on the road trip. Now they get to play the Mariners for three days. (who just swept Detroit, so they’re another reason why a not as good team sweep a better team isn’t a sign of the End Times). All is not lost.
In fact to me, the most optimistic thing I can see is this: Even with this sweep, the Jays are 10-9 and just two games back of first place in the AL East. I know it’s only April but if they’re hitting this poorly (24th in team AVG in MLB) and they’re two games above .500, and Jose, Lawrie and JPA haven’t turned on the jets yet. When they do (and the pitching stays as good as it has) they’re going to be unbelievable fun to watch. Would you rather this tough stuff happens now, or in August? Ask the 2011 Red Soxs. This team has the potential to have a lights out batting order if even 2/3 of it wakes up (especially now that Adam Lind is no longer the de facto cleanup hitter). I’ll take Rasmus, Encarnación, Lawrie, Baustisa, Johnson and Escobar against anyone in the American League.
Maybe I’m an optimist but I think the Jays, even in the midst of this intense poor hitting spell, are going to be a lights out team in the American League very soon.
Every Wednesday, when you’re fevered from three days of work and the weekend seems so far away, we dive deep into speculation (both outlandish and realistic) in a segment we call Rounding Third.
Eric Thames presents an odd scenario for the Toronto Blue Jays. His decent bat, augmented by a little power (12 HR in his 2011 season, with a .262/.313/.456) slash line) makes him an okay option out in left field, with the ability to come on late in the game as a pitch hitter on off-days when he’s platooned with Rajai Davis. This option (which John Farrell has made good use of over the first 17 games of the season) is also why Thames is such an interesting case for me to speculate on his future with the origination. See there’s this guy (don’t know if you’ve heard of him) named Travis Snider. Snider was the Jays first-round pick in 2006. He’s got power, good base running skills and hits for a pretty good average. He has multiple ‘tools’ (such as a spade, rake and maybe even that thing you use to cut off the edges of you lawn). He’s also great in left field. Problem is, every time he’s comes up here, he’s just plained stunk up the joint.
Much ink was metaphorically spilled (I think newspapers use some sort of vegetable product these days) in Spring Training as to which of these two guys would make it out to Cleveland to start the 2012 season as the Blue Jays everyday left-fielder. Posting almost identical springs, the job went to Thames mostly because in his brief time in the Show last year, he didn’t crumble nearly as badly as Snider. He didn’t do well but was a a heck of a lot better then Juan Rivera. Snider came back up a couple of times last year and each time, his .350+ average and power from Las Vegas evaporated in much the same way as water does in said city. Thames was consistent and showed decent glimpses of power when he was up here last year. The problem is, every time Snider goes to AAA, he knocks the leather off the ball and everyone wants him back here.
Now if I was running the front office, I’d probably have brought Snider up this season just to see if an extended stay would help him iron out the wrinkles from his past times in the Majors. Give him 300+ plate appearances to see if he can make adjustments. I also understand the predicament the team found themselves in. Thames played pretty well last year, and much better then their other options that year. He also has a very marketable personality. He’s funny, relaxed and treats his beard like a canvas. If he can put it together, he’s a great asset to have. I doubt he ever will, but I understand why they wanted to give him a shot.
So here my prediction: Travis Snider is this year’s Brett Lawrie. Now I don’t think that Snider when he arrives will rip it up like Capt. Canada did last year. I do think that Anthopoulos learned something with Lawrie last year. Despite a great spring and a great first few months in AAA, Alex Anthopoulos seems to like to let guys cook. Eric Thames has shown nothing in 2012 to make me want him to be my long-term left-fielder. He hasn’t been nearly as bad as Blue Jays Talk callers think he is, but compared to Travis Snider’s potential, I’d rather have Lunchbox out there everyday going into 2013 and beyond. I just think AA is a skeptical guy. He knows that the stats in Las Vegas can be misleading. He wants Snider to force his way up here, and in a way that makes sense for the big league team too. I see by the trade deadline the Jays are a 5 games over 500, in third place, and package for a #2 starter is cooked up that includes Thames. Then we see Snider show up… and he delivers. By allowing him to stay at a single level of ball for the better part of a season, Snider gets something he hasn’t had in a while: constant, daily playing time without wondering if he’s going to get demoted or promoted. I see this taking the burden off his shoulders to either play like crazy or try like crazy. By allowing him to just focus on playing, I see his woes disappearing knowing his competitor for the job has moved on to another city. When he knows is his job now, and now his job to take from Thames’ meaty biceps I see him thriving.
Not that I won’t miss Thames. Despite his average level of performance, he is easily one of the most positive, likeable dudes on the team. If he doesn’t get traded, I like him as a left-handed power bat off the bench and someone who can come out for Snider on a off day so Rajai Davis can stay available for pinch hitting. Maybe once his career is done he comes back as our PA announcer. Or as our mascot.
I could watch the above Kelly Johnson flip every hour of every day.
The psychology of winning is odd in that a win counts the same regardless of who it’s against and yet, it feel different depending on the circumstances for each fan. Last night the Blue Jays swept a four-game set against the Royals of Kansas City (who right now, are Royally awful). Now a sweep is a sweep, and it feels good to run the tables any time of year, against any team. But for me, it just feels less exciting against a team that bunted three times in one inning.
At the end of the season, it’s a teams total wins that determines they’re postseason and not their feel good vibes. Most fans get this, which is why there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Jays who despite being a fairly good team (and better then a lot of American League teams) ended in fourth place the last two years. The reality is, fandom is a frothy blend of logic and passion. To say we love a sport is not because we sat down and weighed it’s pros-and-cons to others. It’s because of a visceral connection to the characteristics that make that game unique. The smells, the history or the style. Fans reacts to games, not just analyze them. To me the logical methodical plunge into the stats helps me understand the game better so that my heart knows where to be genuinely concerned and when to take a breath.
The problem is: I’m not excited the Jays swept the Royals. I just care that they won four games, are up 10-6 to start the year and this is four games the team will need down the road. That they won them all in a row says as much about the lack of production by the Royals then it does how awesome the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays are. Wins are wins and they need to win more games (hopefully more then last year) then they loose in order to do better. It’s that simple. A sweep doesn’t mean anything.
Unless it’s against the Red Sox. Or the Yankees. Or the Rays.
It’s a new day on the old field here at The Well-Worn Cap. We’re relaunching today with a new look and fresh take on the Blue Jays. I’m hoping we can send a new voice out there into the blogosphere with a balanced approach of news, stats and mostly, my poetic self-indulgent op-ed nonsense.
The relaunch was needed for a couple of reasons. One, I wasn’t aware of how much the winter slog of non-stories was going to sap my will to write. Second, I ran out of stuff to write about. The reality is, I can only make up so much stuff on my own. So I went out and got some help. Starting soon, Mr. Josh will be graces us with his statistical brilliance to compliment my informed opinion pieces. Also the old site was hideous and needed to die.
I’m hoping to get a post up on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with Josh filling in here and there as he’s able. Also, once I figure it out, I’d like to do some posts right from Rogers Centre as well as a new feature on the social aspects of the game. Here’s a taste on what to expect:
Regular Foolishness – random op-ed stuff (Whenever, most likely Mondays)
Live from the 500s – live stuff from Rogers Centre (Random)
Out Of Town Scoreboard – links to awesome stuff around the Blue Jays, baseball blog community (Fridays)
Rounding Third – crazy speculation on the future (Wednesdays)
This Week in Misinformation – Josh’s numbers talk (When Josh wakes up and I email him)
But as always, this is a Blue Jays fan site. We’ll be here cheering on the boys in blue as much as we can, questioning our own sanity when Eric Thames swings at another pitch up high, and having fun doing it. Hence our new tag line: Blue Jays Fans Who Just Can’t Shut Up. We’re hoping to deliver that fan perspective, but with a little more content now.
What do you want to see us feature? Leave us a comment.