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Yu Never Know…

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Baseball’s big Christmas announcement is supposed to come this afternoon; finally, after what feels like a decade of waiting (it’s actually close to that, time in the twitter age is measured differently, like dog years…), Nippon Ham Sandwiches are going to announce who posted the high bid for the latest Japanese pitching sensation, Yu Darvish.

Late last week, word spread – I want to say like wildfire, but the internet’s more like wildfire mixed with napalm – that the Jays had posted the high bid for Darvish, which would make him my fourth favourite Japanese import after: sushi, everything David Chang learned about Ramen, and Mr Miyagi.  It also, frankly, makes me a little squeamish, as the history of Japanese pitchers (Nomo, Irabu, Dice-K) isn’t exactly the Kobe beef of baseball.

But, the interweb being what it is, over the weekend the tide started slowly ebbing away from the Jays.  Rumors, innuendo, and whispers of executives assistant’s dog walkers have permeated the national consciousness and made conclusive evidence as eavasive as a puddle in the desert.

What we are left with, are tweets like the following ones from Buster Olney:

Something else being seen as possible clue that TEX is winning bidder (again, this is speculation): TOR stayed in Latos conversation late.

And then this re-tweet:

@Buster_ESPN saw bobby v at his restaurant on Saturday. He said its not toronto. Gm told him they weren’t big bid. Also thinks tex.

Retweeted by Buster Olney

Now, I’m not picking on Olney, he’s a legend in the field and does tireless work compiling information for baseball lovers.  It’s just that his tweets came in this morning and were so emblamatic of how rediculous (and awesome) awaiting breaking news on Twitter can be.

Starting with the first tweet, the idea that Toronto staying in the Latos conversation is a sign of anything is patently absurd. Do you what it’s a sign of?  That Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos loves acquiring high upside players who still have service time remaining.  Latos is four years away from free agency, which makes him a perfect addition for a team on the cusp of making a three or four year run of contention.  There’s no real reason that should be affected by placing a bid on Darvish.

And then there’s the second quote: now, I have no idea who @howrhee, so I have no reason to doubt his honesty, but… There has been no leak about which team placed the winning bid. None. So, howrhee is telling us that the Boston GM Ben Cherington knows who won the bid and has told his skipper? Seems plausible that a GM would tell his skipper, except that if Cherington knows, then other people within the Boston franchise know (Larry Lucchino and Tom Henry at the very least) and, well, this isn’t an organization with a recent track record of keeping secrets.

Or maybe it’s not that Cherington knows who the high bid was, but merely that the Jays didn’t bid that much? And how would he know that?  AA’s reign as Jays GM has sort of been the antithesis of Boston’s peach schnapps induced blabfest.  Nobody knows what AA’s doing until it’s done.  But @howrhee’s tweet would have us believe that the Jays’ GM is telling secrets out of bed to one of his division rivals?  Hhmmm…

Besides, if the Sox brass know, then other teams know and with any secret, the more ears that hear, the mouths that wag.  Which again, isn’t suggesting that it’s Toronto, not Texas, just that, perhaps, as Jim Bowden tweeted,

Blue Jays GM, Rangers GM, Agent for Darvish have all told me that NO ONE KNOWS except Commish Office, Japaneese League & Nippon who won bid.

As hard as it seems to believe in this day and age, we have to accept that we just simply don’t know.  And, frankly, I don’t know why that’s such a surprise, I mean MLB’s commissioner’s office is awesome at keeping secrets, well, unless they’re about dubious failed drug tests…

Jose Bautista, really? Him?

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Last month, when word started to leak out that the Jays had managed to move Vernon Wells to Anaheim, I leapt in the air, fist pumping madly, as though I’d thrown the final pitch in a no-hitter.  Then, a week or two later, ESPN’s Keith Law released his organization prospect rankings and placed the Jays fourth.  That fourth place finish is all on Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos.  When he took over, tasked with the onerous responsibility of trading the best pitcher in baseball, AA inherited a system that was ranked in the bottom third of baseball (KLaw has said that prior to the Halladay trade, he would have ranked the Jays last in 2010).  In his first few months, AA moved Doc for a package that seems as though it will start paying meaningful dividends this season.  He also significantly boosted the Jays scouting operations, and made small signings (John Buck, Miguel Olivo) that paid off with extra picks in this year’s draft.  In short, what I’m saying is that AA was making me weak in the knees and I was thinking about moving to Toronto and holding up one of those signs that read “Marry Me.”

The Jays were a solid team on the field last year, which is nice, but with each of his moves, Anthopoulos has clearly had an eye and a half on the greater prize of building a sustainable organization capable of making a Rays-like ascension to the top of the AL East.  His moves have been nuanced, they’ve been thoguhtful, and they’ve had a clear purpose.  Culminating with the exceptional Wells trade, AA has yet to take a wrong step…

… Until this week that is.  I admit that it’s a tricky situation, Jose Bautista did smack 54 home runs last year.  And yes, he did finish fourth in the MVP voting and Fangraphs did estimate his value last year at 27 million, but before last year he had never had an OBP above .350.  He’d never had a slugging percentage above .420.  He’d never posted a WAR of 2.0.  He’s also 30 years old, so it’s not exactly like he’s a kid just breaking out.

Sure, much has been made about the change he made to his swing, but was the change really a 65 million dollar change?  Because right now, that’s what it amounts to.  Bautista was a fringe player, destined to bounce around once his arbitration years expired.  Instead on Thursday he put his John Hancock on the dotted line of a 13 million per year deal.  On its face, this just seems to be another contract that two years from now the Jays are going to be trying to offload on the White Sox or Angels.  It has Alex Rios written all over it and the initial blow back from pundits has not been kind.

Of course, it’s possible, that given AA’s track record, I’m wrong.  And no less than Dave Cameron is sitting counsel for Alex arguing his case,

While Bautista hit .260/.378/.617 last year, he did it while posting a .233 batting average on balls in play, the third worst mark in the Major Leagues. Now, BABIP for hitters is not like BABIP for pitchers, where the outside factors swamp the player’s ability to control whether his balls in play go for hits or not, and as an extreme fly ball hitter, we’d expect Bautista to post a lower than average BABIP. But even accounting for the fact that most of his hard hit balls went over the wall – and thus were not deemed to be “in play” – a .233 BABIP still seems really low.

Could Bautista have been unlucky last year?

Looking through history, the evidence is pretty clear that Bautista should be expected to take a big step back in home runs next year, but there’s also some evidence that improvement in his non-HR results could serve to cancel out some of the coming regression.

There’s of course more.  Cameron compares Jose to other players, some of them hopeful (Gary Sheffield), some of them not (Andruw Jones), but the point is that Cameron is arguing that despite an inevitable power outage, Bautista should more than justify this deal, even if it isn’t the way we all expect him to do so.  I hope so.  I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong and I hope that in five years I look back on my reaction to Bautista’s signing and say, “damn, I was wrong AA knocked that one out of the park.”

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