January 15, 2010
by Geoff Zochodne… When you think of Cuba, you often think of the missile crisis, embargoes, and the cigar-smoking, bearded Presidente, Fidel Castro. That may be glossing over the details, but for all intents and purposes it’s an interesting country.
His price tag was far too high for the Toronto Blue Jays, and this was an acceptable pass; but it was fun to be involved with the process. It was like being bumped to first class for a day. Large sums of money were being figuratively thrown around and Jays fans got to feel like a big shot for a day.
Chapman is a (platonically) sexy player. He was the toast of the World Baseball Classic, the Cuban Gumby, who threw serious heat. Chapman is also a defector on the run from his Communist overseers. It’s an interesting story at the very least.
For the Jays to insert themselves into the conversation tickles the interest of any fan. This is a team trying to start anew, and the idea of tossing around serious coin was a serious contradiction to the current path. Images of the Daisuke Matsuzaka bidding war were conjured up (on a smaller scale albeit) and Toronto looked like a player.
It was a confusing, but intriguing, process; and who knows what the point of it all was.
Was it to placate fans who wanted to see that their franchise had a pulse? Was it the front office of Toronto tossing a bone to friendly agents? Was there actually some serious interest in Chapman?
The Reds are a team that would appear to be in the same boat as Toronto. They claim to be cutting payroll but their actions to secure Chapman say different. Maybe the cost cutting was to add a piece like Chapman, but it’s a weird move regardless.
Will Toronto try to lure Randy Johnson out of retirement next? Is Yu Darvish the next item on the auction block? Is it possible to ask one question without immediately firing off two more hastily prepared ones?
Alex Anthopolous is still unclear with his plan for the Jays except that the end point will be winning. Give the man some credit though, he knows how to grab headlines. One thing he’s building is fan interest in a team that is promising a dip from mediocrity.
Another insight that might be gleaned is Toronto’s willingness to pursue any avenue to victory. If it takes the departure of Roy Halladay or a Cuban defector, so be it. The ends will justify the means somehow.
A worse turn would be this signaling Toronto’s penchant for waffling. This has been a team that has been stuck in the middle for a long time and this latest news might renew familiar feelings. The Jays could be a team that is prepared to go only so far before they turn tail and return to their offices to scheme doomed plans.
There is no definitive response to Toronto’s brief affair with Aroldis Chapman. It could (and probably was) a passing fancy that just didn’t mesh with current plans. But for a team that hasn’t tasted success for a while, it would be foolish not to at least look at an interesting prospect like Chapman. Whatever it takes to win.
It piqued fan interest for a day, but it was a failed venture overall.
You have to admit that it was fun, though.
November 3, 2009
(Wait for it.)
(Wait for it.)
(C’mon Geoff keep it togeth-)
BECAUSE THEY SURE DID IT FOR THEIR OPPONENTS!
I’m not above hackiness.
It’s been an up-and-down season thus far. The Raps’ only win came against a tired Cavs squad in a game that Toronto almost squandered in the second half. Then Memphis and Orlando exploited the Raps’ defense like a naive nudist in two consecutive losses.
The defense was certainly a concern coming into the season. And after watching the Grizzlies and Magic pour in buckets, that concern has been justified.
But we already knew that was going to happen.
What’s really worrying is that a terrible defense has developed some bad habits; the Raps have been hacking more than a Geoff Zochodne introduction.
(Did I just reference myself? Yeah, I’m not exactly on fire today.)
In three games Toronto has averaged 29 fouls a game. Last season the Raps were only caught with their hands in the cookie jar 19.3 times a game. Toronto also held their opponents last season to only 21.5 free throw attempts, the third-least in the NBA.
In any case, the ‘09-’10 Raptors have checked their inhibitions at the door. Due to their high volume of whistles, Toronto is paying for it at the charity stripe.
On Sunday the Magic had 41 free throws, which would have been high but acceptable if Dwight Howard and co. didn’t make 36 of them. The Magic, who last year shot 72 percent from the line (30th in the league), gouged the Raps by making 88 percent of their free throws.
Those 36 points gained off fouls eclipsed Toronto’s 26 from the line and—surprise, surprise—the Raps lost by nine.
But like I said above, Orlando from the line is an ugly thing to behold. If anyone could have foretold Howard’s 14-16 performance chances are their last name is McFly. So maybe this game is forgivable…maybe.
In Memphis, Toronto allowed the Grizz 35 FTA’s and they converted on 28 of them; this would have been acceptable if the Raps won the game.
But they didn’t, and instead the Frankenstein of the NBA beat the Raptors. Toronto ended up surrendering a very winnable game, and the abundance of free points contributed to this.
Against the Cavaliers in the season opener, the Raps gave Cleveland 37 FTA’s. And if the Cavs weren’t still high off of Rasheed Wallace’s hairspray they might have made more than the 24 they did. Bless you ‘Sheed, T on buddy.
A leaky defense was expected from Toronto, but letting teams carve you up from the line is like watching a sloth beat you in chess.
But perhaps there is a method to this excruciating madness. After all, the defense does suck, so why not just send teams to the line and put the eyes of thousands on their every move? It should have worked against Dwight Howard if he didn’t sell his soul for the ability to make a free throw.
That makes a sick kind of sense, except the Raptors are inconsistent in the implementation of it (if it’s even a sound plan).
Against Memphis, Zach Randolph was cutting up the Raps. Instead of fouling him (a 70 percent FT shooter last year), they let Z-Bo run rampant through their defense. Randolph had only four shots from the foul line and finished with 30 points.
If I had a concrete point, it would be that if the Raps are going to play shoddy defense they have to stop fouling teams so much.
Conceding a basket every now and then shouldn’t deter a team that is as offensively gifted as the Raptors. Just let it go, reload, and get up the floor to answer. That’s not to say don’t play hard and tough, but it’s just asking Toronto to play smarter on defense, to know when you’re beat.
Maybe this is just another indicator that the Raps definitively lack defensive talent. Not only are they bad, but they’re incompetent too? This just keeps getting better and better.
Of course, this is a small sample to draw conclusions from. But if the Raptors don’t draw some conclusions of their own and decide how they want to play (and win) games, then it’s going to be quite a season.
Jay Triano needs to sort out his team before they gift wrap more games for teams. Maybe if they present a better gameplan they can turn it around.
Okay, I’m finished.
If you can read this, go to The Chirp Show . And if you can’t…well…what are you doing on a site that’s like all text? Oh, I guess you can’t read that either. Sorry.
October 21, 2009
by Geoff Zochodne… What if Shakespeare had only written half of Romeo and Juliet ? It would be a nice story about falling in love with no consequences whatsoever; no one gets poisoned, stabbed, or has a thumb bitten at them. Boooooring.
What if Coppola only made the first half of The Godfather ? We’d all be wondering why the Corleones were softer than a marshmallow in heat. Hm, that’s slightly inappropriate…
But what if the Hokey Pokey was never completed? We’d never know what it’s all about. It would be chaos, pure, PG-Rated, chaos.
So let me tell you what I’m all about (I swear to God it’s not the Hokey Pokey): If the Toronto Raptors need to improve on one thing, it’s finishing games and winning the second half.
We’ve almost closed the book on the NBA preseason (Sonny Weems: A Man For All Preseasons is definitely making the bestseller lists); and the premature season hasn’t treated the Raptors kindly thus far. They’ve compiled a 2-5 record and have had fans everywhere wondering what this means for the upcoming season.
It could all just be preseason hyperbole, or it could be some ominous foreshadowing, at the moment it’s improbable to tell (that improbable was for all you time travelers out there, I got your back Doc and Marty).
One thing that needs to change for the Raptors to win is the fashion in which they play the second halves of games.
Last season the Raptors had the tendency to mail in (or more accurately, blow) the second half. Of their 49 losses, 16 came with Toronto leading, or tied with their opponents at halftime.
If you take half of those leads and convert them to wins, the Raptors are a .500 team and playoff bound. If you convert all 16, the Raps are 49-33 and third in the Eastern Conference. Big ifs, but Toronto had the opportunity to win these games.
This season, if the Raps want to win they have to reassert their killer instinct.
So how do you go about that (and it’s not by killing people, you psychos)?
Too often the Raptors had possessions that featured five guys standing around doing nothing. It was like an episode of Entourage, sans the sunglasses, and casual homophobia.
The easy answer is that the Raptors didn’t have a lot of options. Their trio of Bosh, Bargnani, and Calderon was the driving force behind their offense; and injuries to Bosh and Calderon limited them severely.
Teams could lock on to the threesome and derail the Raps’ offense. Shawn Marion wasn’t much for creating his own shot, and beyond him Toronto had no real tangible threats to keep teams honest. Like how the New Jersey Nets lied about stealing those cookies. I SAW YOU DEVIN HARRIS. THAT WAS MY PEANUT BRITTLE.
That’s why the Raps and Bryan Colangelo swiped Hedo Turkoglu. He’s a guy who can drive and drum up some offense on his own.
Last season the lowest net PER from a Raptors position was the small forward spot (-3.8). Enter Turkoglu, the big man will give the three a much needed shot in the arm, by providing matchup problems on the offensive, and to a lesser extent, the defensive end.
Having Turkoglu (and Jarrett Jack too for that matter) allows the Raptors to have playmakers on the court at all times. The lull periods that came to the Raps last season can be reduced, hopefully.
In this preseason the Raptors have dropped one game (to the Houston Rockets) while leading at the half. Not too shabby, but the fact that they’re still 2-5 doesn’t inspire confidence.
For reference though, the Cleveland Cavaliers went 3-5 last preseason, Minnesota was 6-2, and Sacramento was 1-7. Okay, the last one wasn’t that crazy. But it’s just something to note, that preseason successes and failures don’t always dictate regular season results.
One thing that’s for sure though, is that if the Toronto Raptors don’t learn how to finish games, fans are in for a long seasons. And it’s already like six months, so you might want to buy some canned goods or something.
(And if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that I say there’s one thing for sure a lot. That’s for sure.)
September 24, 2009
Being an optimist is hard, especially when pessimism is easier than me after a few beers. That being said, I’m quite comfortable with the Miami Dolphins’ current predicament.
And it’s a predicament, 0-2 is a predicament. But at the risk of overusing predicament, this is one predicament I can handle.
Miami’s offense executed a near perfect game plan on offense; and if not for some suspect play calling, a leaky secondary, and drops galore, things couldn’t be peachier for the Fins.
So let’s get positive!
Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown rushed for more than 200 yards combined. The Wildcat returned in resplendent fashion. Jake Long survived the Dwight Freeney onslaught (barely). Chad Pennington managed a superb game and even made some deeper throws when the situation called for it.
Look me in the eye and tell me that Pennington had a bad game. You can’t. Mostly because of the computer screen and the thousands of miles between us, but also because Chad played a good game.
Pennington has twice as many interceptions (two) as he does touchdowns this year (one). Not inspiring. He also barely set foot in the red zone all Monday night (four plays). Inside the 20 the Fins went Wild(cat) and it worked. Don’t tag Pennington for that. Tag him for being a noodle-armed choir boy. I kid, I kid (Chad Penne-ington).
Two games, two impressive completion percentage performances (72.4 and 66.7 percent) from the most accurate passer in NFL history (I know, right?) that were wasted.
The Fins offense is a well-oiled machine, but the parts of the machine are just inferior in some places (receiver mostly). It’s like dropping a drum of Pennzoil on a remote controlled car. Which, by the way, is a good way to get kicked out of Jiffy Lube. Just saying.
Under Pennington, the Fins converted 71 percent of their third downs. The “Sheriff” Peyton Manning and his Colts only converted 43 percent. Manning couldn’t police a pioneer village with those numbers. Please refrain from looking at any other of Manning’s stats.
If you’re going to tag anyone (what is this, a manhunt or something?) ask why a couple of Pennington’s longest throws were batted down like a pinata at Al Capone’s house. Ted Ginn had himself a game, a two-headed monster that could be viewed as his coming out (11 catches 108 yards on national television) or the point where the blowback from being a semi-bust of a first-rounder turns him into a pariah (two potential touchdown passes dropped).
This is Ginn’s year, for better or worse. He flashed some greatness, but a consistent effort (his catch rate is only 62 percent) is necessary to win in the NFL. That’s why prunes have been classified as performance enhancing drugs.
Ginn has the tools, and it looks like he and Pennington have begun to develop a rapport. That needs to continue if Miami wants to stretch the field at any point this season.
The facts are that Miami’s offense dominated the Colts front seven. Three quarters of the game were spent watching the Fins grind Indy into a fine dust that was then sold on South Beach ($9.95 a pound). Such ball control hasn’t been seen since Jerome Bettis played Hog with his kids.
Lest we forget that a certain team started 0-2 last year, and then 1-4 after that. Those Miami Dolphins managed to win the AFC East despite early struggles. Miami has a lot of season left to play and if they can control the ball like the did against Indianapolis, while having their No-Name receiving corps step up, they can claw their way back.
I see things like this: Their run game is great, their pass game is adequate. Their run defense is great, their pass defense is ade-not quite (the height of word-smithery).
Part of that may be that Miami has a lack of rocket arms to test their defense in practice. Part of it may be the lethargic pass rush allowing two good quarterbacks pick apart a still leaking secondary. Part of it may be two premier tight ends having their way with Miami’s linebackers. Part of it may be that their rookie cornerbacks are playing like it’s their first year or something. Who knows (I do, I just told you)?.
Fortunately, next week Miami plays a San Diego team that hates to pass. They don’t?
At least the Charger’s loss of Jamal Williams has destabilized San Diego’s run defense, so the time is ripe for Miami to uncork another 45 minute possession gem. I, for one, can’t wait to watch Darren Sproles reading Little Women on the sidelines.
Also, the Fins run defense maintained it’s steadfastness by holding a team to under 70 yards rushing in back-to-back weeks. If they can limit Philip Rivers’ effectiveness while continuing to stop the run they have an excellent chance to win.
I refuse to believe this team isn’t good. It is. Get ready to see it on Sunday against the Chargers.
Stay positive folks.
September 4, 2009
Roy Halladay has been noticeably distant lately. Not from the media or the team (well, maybe a little), but from the old Roy Halladay. He’s maintaining a 4.71 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and opposing batters are hitting .316 against him since the trade deadline. Not exactly Doc-esque.
Have the harsh realities of sport caught up with Doc? Or did all the hub-bub on account of a possible trade throw a monkey-wrench into the meticulous routine of Toronto’s workhorse?
The most frightening thing is of how much this resembles what happened with Vince Carter.
Well, I just threw up in my mouth a little.
For those of you who have forgotten, Vince Carter used to play for the Toronto Raptors wearing the number 666. Carter, or Air Canada as he came to be known, was initially a boon to the young Raptors.
During VC’s reign the Raptors reached the playoffs for the first time; and Carter himself became a one-man highlight reel.
He was a hard-working play-maker who was the heart and soul of the Raptors and their fans. You could have called Carter the Roy Halladay of the 1998-2004 Raptors (and for the purposes of this column YOU WILL); his performance at the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest cemented his status as the toast of the town, and revealed his greatness to the rest of the NBA.
Now for some reason, or several reasons (leaving Julius Erving cooling his heels outside the Air Canada Centre is never a good idea), relations between the Raptors and VC soured. Air Canada requested permission to take off, but the Raptors balked, and then slowly began to lose their control over the situation.
The whole affair ended with Carter being extradited to the New Jersey Nets in return for The Sopranos Season 1 Box Set. And there is no director’s commentary in the world that can justify that trade.
What stung the most was Carter’s admission of not playing his hardest during some games near the end of his Raptors tenure. Here was the face of the franchise, the man who had embodied that Air-merican dream, and the second he wanted out of Toronto he started phoning it in.
This revelation infuriated the fans in Toronto who suspected, but never had the evidence, that Carter was a loafing crybaby. VC is now booed more than a Montgomery Burns film every time he steps foot in the ACC. In the history of messy divorces, this was Henry VIII deciding on subpoenaing his wives with an executioner’s axe.
Now here’s where I slowly condemn myself into the lowest circle of Hell:
The parallels between Vince Carter and Roy Halladay have started to show. Barely, but noticeably.
…wait a second, I’m still alive? That’s lucky.
Around the All-Star break, when the Roy Halladay sweepstakes were really heating up, you could almost sense that Doc had embraced the notion of being traded. For weeks he had been bombarded with questions and drawn out of his shell; he had seemingly got into the spirit of the trade deadline.
Doc was thrust into the spotlight to a point where it seemed like he deserved to be traded; his talents wasted on a team like Toronto.
When Halladay wasn’t traded it was so anti-climactic that all involved must have been numbed by the experience, Doc included.
It’s almost incomprehensible that Halladay could be mailing it in. He could be hurt, his mechanics could be off, or he could just be physically and mentally exhausted by the rigors of this season.
Or maybe it’s something else.
Think about it, the rest of the league knows Halladay. He’s the only guarantee Toronto fans have had besides death, taxes, and the death tax (also known as Jays tickets). He doesn’t need to prove anything to the league.
Halladay could be entering Vince Carter territory, the star player doing just enough to avoid serious criticism but secretly pining to get out of town.
His performance since the All-Star break has given a little bit of a base for these claims. All Halladay has to do is coast and pray that he gets traded before next season.
Even scarier would be if Halladay demanded a trade, Vince Carter-style. This would take all the leverage from the Toronto Blue Jays, just like it did the Toronto Raptors. Teams could try to short the Jays in any proposed deal.
Fortunately, everything we’ve come to know and respect Halladay for can probably dismiss this notion. If anything, this period should serve as a cautionary tale for us all.
Read this article, the parallels between the former Raptor and the current Jay are startling (except the hate). Both were valued for what they did both on and off the field, more than they probably realize.
Vince Carter stopped dunking, Roy Halladay could stop throwing complete games. Carter had jumper’s knee, Halladay could have a tweaked groin. Carter’s production dropped after he made his wish to be traded public, Halladay’s production has dropped after the Jays made their attempts to trade him public. Carter wanted a trade and got it, Halladay just has to say the word.
Maybe the day will come when we find ourselves booing a differently-clad Roy Halladay at Rogers Centre. I hope not, but if Halladay has begun the arduous process of distancing himself from Toronto, things will get out of hand quickly. Especially if that process involves a decline in effort.
Halladay has built himself a considerable legacy in Toronto. Like Vince Carter, Doc has transcended his team and become one of the treasures of his respective league. Here’s hoping nothing ever comes back to taint that legacy. A quick return to form for Roy Halladay could reassure his fans that it remains untarnished.
Wow, did I seriously just write all of this?
I’m a jerk.
August 27, 2009
(A special thanks to www.drunkjaysfans.com. Yes, Geoff Zochodne is my real name, and yes, I may be insane but it’s mostly the Blue Jays’ fault)
We are now entering a Highlander-type quandary (Can I set the record for most times using quandary in an article? Does it really matter?), except -SPOILER ALERT- pretend like Sean Connery didn’t get killed and that there can be two in the end.
This issue has been beaten to death by now, but consider me Dr. Frankenstein of Mary Shelley’s classic Young Frankenstein. I’m digging it up and slapping a new brain inside it, that may or may not be that of a deranged mental patient.
There’s Ol’ Hot Rod, Ol’ Raul “Chevy” Chavez, and Ol’ J.P. Arencibia waiting in the minors; Arencibia holding claim to the most adept J.P. in the organization. Two of them will be around next year, one will be figuratively beheaded by a figurative, centuries-old, Scottish clansman.
So who will stay and who will go?
There’s a lot of pressure to bring up Arencibia as he is one of the crown jewels in Toronto’s prospect scepter. Or prospecepter if you will.
Arencibia is currently hitting .227 with 13 HR and 56 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas. Not spectacular but he’s a lifetime .264 hitter in the minors, having hit over .300 as recently as last year.
And frankly, whether or not fans like it, he’s coming. Arencibia will arrive in Toronto soon, whether it be this season or Opening Day next year. The Blue Jays are a team looking to the future and Arencibia is it.
So that leaves Barajas and Chavez, 34 and 35 respectively, and both free agents next season. Personally, I think the difference between the two is negligible.
Barajas is making $1.2 million this season and Chavez $500,000. Chavez is hitting a shade better than Barajas with his .262 average to Barajas’ .235. But Chavez is a career .230 hitter and at 35 things aren’t likely to improve drastically (Also, baseball-reference.com has Chavez listed 175 pounds, a generous estimate by all accounts).
Who do the Jays re-sign then?
Here’s where you realize the extent of my delirium.
Why do the Jays have to choose between either? Why not bring in someone else? Why not bring back…wait for it…
Wait, come back, I’ll tell you who:
Oh yeah, you heard me.
Bring back the moustachioed Fasano to pair with young Arencibia or Charajas (I don’t really care which).
Now before you lambaste me with whatever tool is necessary for lambasting, listen to my sensibly naive argument.
Fasano is 38 years old and is currently residing in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system. He’s hitting a paltry .230 with 3 HR and 18 RBI in 54 games. He’s splitting time with two other catchers though, but is still a career .221 hitter at the major league level.
Sal is also due for knee surgery in the offseason.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes this is not exactly a compelling argument. I’m like Neville Chamberlain trying to explain why Czechoslovakia would be better off under Nazi leadership.
But there is no better person to teach Arencibia the business of being a major league catcher. He’s the Dalai Lama of catching; if the Lama used to have a drinking problem and ate cheesesteaks.
When he was with Toronto in 2007 the other pitchers raved about how he called games and how he handled them while pitching.
Fasano also has a 31 percent average when throwing out baserunners, and he’s tossing out 34 percent of runners at Triple-A.
Fasano would be exactly the kind of catcher for Toronto’s patchwork rotation to learn from as well. Roy Halladay loved the guy when he was in Toronto, and if there’s one thing Toronto should strive for it’s keeping Roy Halladay happy. Just read this article for an example of the benefits of having Fasano catching your pitchers.
Fasano’s shelf-life is probably another year or two as the end is rapidly approaching. But when it comes to a decision between Chavez and Barajas, I’d prefer a third option. I’d rather see Fasano limping around and being a world-class human being than the alternative.
Both Chavez and Barajas are scrambling for what will probably be their last contract. Fasano just wants another kick at the can and is a team player above all things. I say let the man kick and pray that his leg doesn’t come flying off.
This article by Jeff Pearlman states better than I ever could, the intangibles of Sal Fasano.
Here’s my dream scenario:
Arencibia is promoted, Chavez is contracted for another year, and Fasano is given a minor league deal. This way the Jays can shuffle Fasano and Chavez from Las Vegas at their whim, and the younger Jays are exposed to the greatness of Fasano at some level.
And yes, I am clutching at straws here.
Just check the ’stache people. In ’stache the Jays should trust.
August 18, 2009
by Geoff Zochodne… For the explanation and rationale (part one) for this article, please read this.
We now go to the second part of my two-part Cito Gaston series; or as I like to call it, “A big waste of time”.
In the first part we discussed Cito’s role in the Toronto Blue Jays
offence, so now we go to his job handling pitching and the defence.
It’s going to be a CALLED STRIKE! I mean, ball.
To the untrained eye, Cito has done a bang-up job handling Toronto’s
starting rotation. But to the eye that lives alone and is
self-educated, it’s…well, pretty much the same.
Coming into the season, the starting rotation went: Halladay, Uh-oh,
Dear God, The Pitching Machine, and Jesse Litsch. To be blunt, things
were looking bleaker than Russia according to George Costanza.
Overall, Toronto’s pitchers are sporting a 4.19 ERA. That’s pretty much par for the course, or eleventh among MLB clubs.
Yet, the Jays have crafted a surprisingly good rotation.
They’ve had 62 quality starts (fifth in MLB) from 12 different
starting pitchers. Cito has taken potential disaster and turned it into
something slightly less disastrous. The Jays are still in fourth place,
but with Gaston nurturing the pitching staff, things still look
promising for the future.
Cito has managed to preserve his pitchers when necessary. Only Roy Halladay has thrown more than 120 pitches in a start.
Halladay and Ricky Romero are the only starters to even average more
than 100 pitches per outing. There’s been a clear attempt to avoid the
Dustin McGowan-Shaun Marcum-Jesse Litsch injury fiasco.
Cito may look like he’s watching paint dry in the dugout sometimes,
but he’s doing so with a vested interest in the well being of that
Though when it comes to the bullpen, it looks like Gaston has been
beating the paint with a sack of doorknobs; then telling the paint to
lie to its teachers about where the bruises came from.
There’s been a noticeable drop in the quality of the bullpen this season.
For starters, the Jays have a 56 percent save percentage, 27th in
the majors. Coming from a team that doesn’t get enough save
opportunities this is waaaay too many saves going unconverted.
Scott Downs has been nursing a sore toe since Philadelphia and BJ Ryan is earning $15 million to sneer at his television.
The closer spot has been in constant flux. Jason Frasor has become
the stopgap solution, but he’s a roll of duct tape over the Grand
Canyon-size hole of the bullpen.
Jeremy Accardo, a 30-save man from two seasons ago, has been juked
back and forth from the minors. This is a baffling turn of events for a
ball club screaming for a closer. Although his return to the spot would
be anti-climactic now, Cito definitely misused this asset.
Personally, I don’t feel like delving too far into the mystery of
the bullpen. I think it would end up with my face being melted off like
at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. All I know is that the Jays have lost 23 games in relief and that there’s no Nazi scientist crazy enough to look further.
But I digress…
Defensively, the Jays have the best fielding percentage in the
league at .989 and have only 47 errors, which is the lowest in the
league. For a team that has few Golden Gloves, they definitely deserve
a few more Golden Gloves.
Cito has clearly helped to create a great defensive chemistry that
has survived, despite the departure of Scott Rolen and Alex Rios. Marco
Scutaro and Aaron Hill are turning double plays with frightening
familiarity and there’s no glaring weakness.
Gaston has just given players the opportunities to play and they’ve delivered while in the field.
So why is this team 55-61, and how much of it is Cito’s fault?
Figure it out for yourself, you lazy jerks. I just gave you the evidence, draw your own conclusions.
Now if I had to ask myself, and I am, I’d say that Cito has done
everything short of turn the Jays’ Gatorade into wine. The deck was so
stacked against Toronto coming into the season that the Rogers Centre
is on a slant.
Sure, sometimes Cito can appear to be distant and non-committal
about the team, but that’s how the man operates. He’s so loose that he
can watch Murder, She Wrote in the dugout while phoning the bullpen; AND not even miss who the killer is.
By keeping some emotional distance between himself and the team, it makes hard decisions a little easier.
It also promotes a sense of calm control in the clubhouse that some
players have taken to, and others have struggled with. Cito would
rather have a player hang in there too long then remove them
prematurely. Sometimes, this means seeing a pitcher get knocked around,
but even that is a learning experience for the knocked-around.
One of the big differences between the Jays and playoff bound teams
is the personnel. When Kevin Millar is hitting clean-up and your set-up
man is TBD, hopefully you’ve exercised all other options first; and
Of course, I’ve already proclaimed my fondness for Cito on several occasions, so I don’t qualify as an impartial observer.
Now Cito, I know hanging out with your grandchildren is a priority,
but give them ball boy jobs or something. You’ve already got a bunch of
kids in Toronto that refuse to do the dishes or hit a two-out single.
Biological ties are overrated anyways.
We’ve reached the end of your regularly scheduled rant. If you need
me I’ll be going through the season pitch-by-pitch and finding the
moment where it all went wrong.
It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
(Don’t forget to vote, the ballot is on the right of the page. This is what democracy was created for, people.)
August 14, 2009
by Geoff Zochodne… I am an unabashed Cito Gaston fan; he can do no wrong in my eyes.
Every day I wake up hoping he has finally inked a deal for making books on tape. I would pay an insane amount of money for Cito to guide me through the pages of any literary classic.
Hello, I’m Cito Gaston and welcome to the novelization of Die Hard 2.
Chapter one. John McLane was waiting outside the airport for his wife Holly. John left his car and stepped into the airport, reminiscent to Joe Carter entering the batter’s box in Game 6. Joe sent that ball flying! Yippee Kiyay Mitch Williams!
I’m listening already.
Yet, in a season that’s been subpar, fans must have a nagging suspicion about Gaston’s complicity. Cito’s softspokeness could be mistaken for a lack of interest, and frankly he’s not giving us a whole lot of reassurance.
So, is Cito Gaston the man for the job? Welcome to part one of my two part series on the very topic! It’s going to be edutaining!
And at the end of it all I’ll, throw in a poll to gauge your opinion; because it’s all about you, you selfish bast-er, intelligent, good-looking, fans.
Let’s tackle the offence first.
The Jays are averaging 4.84 runs a game, exactly the AL average. For a sub-.500 team it explains a lot of the losses. How much of that is on Cito?
Toronto is hitting .269, which isn’t exactly jaw-dropping. But the Jays have seen career seasons from Marco Scutaro, Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind. They’ve clearly blossomed under Gaston’s tutelage.
Meanwhile Vernon Wells has struggled and the remaining Blue Jays batters haven’t exactly been inspiring. It’s a mixed blessing that does reflect on Cito Gaston, but the same can also be said for J.P. Ricciardi who stocks Cito’s cupboard.
The average age for the Blue Jays is 30.2. Aside from Hill, Wells, and Lind, all other batters have played for other teams. These outside players are past the developmental stage, they are at the “Produce now or fall forever” stage.
All Cito can do is pass his sage wisdom on to these vets. Whether they respond to it is their prerogative. The only thing Cito can do is try. His success and failure here must be taken with a grain of salt as it is one thing to manage, but a completely different thing for a player to play up to their expectations.
Still, surely Mr. Gaston should be doing more to score more runs. Well, what more would you like him to do?
On the base paths. the Jays have had 1727 (most in the AL) base stealing opportunities with only 58 swipes, which is 22 less than average. Maybe Cito should be putting a little more pressure on opposing pitchers.
What legitimate threat do the Jays actually have on the base paths though? Alex Rios was the only other real threat not named Vernon Wells; Wells and Rios have 33 of the 58 Blue Jays steals.
Also, the Jays have the second-highest fly ball rate in the major leagues at 41.8 percent. Hitting that many fly balls really handcuffs a team trying to run. You could argue that Cito knows his team well enough not to pry.
The Jays haven’t exactly been putting themselves in a position to succeed either. Only 42 percent of the time have they had an advantageous lefty-righty pitcher-hitter matchup, the lowest in the AL.
Of course this could be because of the options available to Gaston. The Jays currently have only three left-handed hitters and no switch-hitters at all. He’s not exactly flushed for choices.
In one run games, the Jays are only 14-21, and 5-11 when in extra innings. Those are the games when a manager really matters.
Is Cito crumbling under pressure?
Offensively, all Gaston can do is sit back and let his hitters bat or pinch hit someone. It’s not exactly Cito’s style to switch things up, and like I said above he doesn’t have a glut of matchup options.
But when Hi-C does make a move it is always in the most necessary situations. The Jays pinch hitters are always put into the highest of pressure moments with a 3.02 average on the pinch hitting leverage index.
When 1.00 is the standard that means these Jays are thrown in there in some very high pressure situations. Either it’s absolutely necessary or it’s far too late.
Toronto’s Pythagorean Win-Loss record (which calculates their runs scored vs. runs allowed) is 60-53. They’ve had their share of bad luck that needs to be accounted for.
This concludes our offensive portion of the tour. Please don’t forget to tip your guide while waiting for part two.
Is Cito Gaston a good manager? Do the Toronto Blue Jays need to keep him around? Will Geoff Zochodne get a life? Is Roy Halladay a cyborg? Does J.P. Ricciardi have a soul?
All these answers and more on the next edition of, “The Cito Gaston Referendum”. Only on Bleacher Report, the champagne of sports punditry!
(All stats, however obscure, provided by baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com)
August 11, 2009
You played right field for the Toronto Blue Jays and though you may have accosted one or two fans more than necessary on the street, we will miss you.
Alex, your contract may have been bloated, your play inconsistent, and you may have been responsible for a record number of Blue Jays fans’ divorces, but you will never be forgotten.
I remember the 2007 Home Run Derby in San Francisco. You sprang up from the depths of anonymity and peppered Bay Area fans with a hail of home runs. We applauded your ascension into Superstardom and chortled with glee that you were ours.
When you stopped hitting home runs with regularity, you started stealing bases and it was good. You became a lead -off hitter that shouldn’t have been, but succeeded in spite of yourself.
Oh Alex, where did we go wrong?
You took the baseball equivalent of a mulligan this season and earned the exasperation of the Greater Toronto Area. But Alex, you were always the One. The One who had the forbidden talent.
Even when Roy Halladay was shopped and Vernon Wells turned into a pariah, we always hoped you would emerge our hero. But it was not to be.
It was supposed to be a marriage that was always chocolate and flowers. Then you started forgetting to call.
Alex, we could have worked it out. We could have gone to counseling, but instead you left dinner forever on the stove.
Our collective pot roast now lays uneaten and embittered with the glaze of chagrin between Alex Rios and his once loyal Toronto fan base.
Hopefully you will find what you are looking for in the southside of Chicago, the land of Polish sausage, Barack Obama, and bad, bad, Leroy Brown.
Chances are you will succeed in the stadium they call the Cell. Your limitless talent is now imprisoned in the other friendly confines, a stadium where a home run is as common as bratwurst.
Maybe Alex, you will reach the Promised Land they call the playoffs. I always wanted that for you.
That the Blue Jays could not provide what these plainest of Sox can is something that will always haunt my dreams.
Though J.P. Ricciardi refuses to call it a salary dump, let’s call it what it is. No sane team would claim Vernon Wells and his affront to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and Roy Halladay will be a Jay until his arm falls off or when the calendar strikes 2010.
Alex Rios became Toronto’s Joan of Arc. He burst onto the scene like the hotshot French Femme-eral and won us many victories over the rest of baseball.
But when there were no more wars to fight, you turned to us and now we have forsaken you. You had to be sacrificed so that our team would be free from poverty. Instead of being burned at the stake you were put on waivers and claimed.
It is a bittersweet compromise.
If Alex Rios realizes his talent in Chicago, Blue Jays fans will sigh and go back to watching a team stuck in a rut.
Ours is a team that didn’t receive a bag of balls for Rios and will leave us yearning for the Rios of 2007. The one that made baseball take notice of the lanky right fielder from north of the border.
In Rios’ stead we will look to Travis Snider and our dreams of winning with him. Alex will become a footnote to a season that will hopefully be a footnote to a championship some day.
This is a salary dump that cannot remove the twinge of guilt I feel. No dumping of anything can ever remove Rios from my mind, unless it is a dump truck of stones to my cranium.
Oh, what could have been.
In the name of Cito Gaston, Joe Carter, and the holy spirit of 1992-93.
PART II (Also known as Evil Geoff)
Do you remember that at one point Rios was rumored to be traded for Tim Lincecum?
YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! WE’RE FREEEEEEEEEE! FREEEEEEEEEEE! HE’S GOOOOONNNNEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!
Let’s get this season over with.
August 7, 2009
Oh, and the fifth? He’s been dipping into the laughing gas a little bit and was unavailable for comments that aren’t toothpaste related.
So now comes the same old song and dance the Jays have orchestrated the past decade. They’re toeing a fine line between teasing and misleading their fanbase, ownership, and players.
How do you properly finish a season out of contention?
There’s no formula for failure, unless somewhere deep within the bowels of Rogers Centre a team of scientists are poring over test tubes and bunsen burners beside sabermetric charts.
The Jays can do two things: Win or lose; there is no try. How they do both is entirely up to them.
If the Jays put together a run sometime between now and the end of the season it could reassure fans that things are looking up for next year. And why wouldn’t they be?
Roy Halladay is still around, and Ricky Romero is putting together a solid Rookie of the Year campaign. Aaron Hill has been tearing the cover off the ball, Adam Lind has become a hitting machine, and blah, blah, blah.
Those are some things to get excited about, especially blah No.3.
Here’s the rub, succeeding late in the season could mask what this year actually was: Disappointing.
It could have been so much more than just a tease and the opportunities for success were present at some points. At this time it’s clear that the Jays just ran out of steam this season.
A timely winning streak would strengthen the nucleus of the team. But to the people running the team, it could provide grounds for staying the course completely.
If the Jays play their way above .500 and start winning with the current squad, the front office won’t be inclined to make changes. There are holes that need to be filled to build a true contender, and inaction due to late successes will insure similar results next season.
Winning now might be reason enough to stay the current course, and that has yet to bear fruit.
But if the Jays start losing, I mean lose more, it could be just as bad.
That could breed action, but the kind of action that could see the basic infrastructure of a good team torn to the ground.
Losing too much could mean some key faces being put out on the market. A front office that sees a losing team will be inclined to start a run on their better players. Payroll would be trimmed lower because no one wants to pay for losers, except if the losers come cheap already.
Roy Halladay could be shuffled out quietly in the offseason by a losing team. There’d be no need in ownership’s eyes to keep a big money player on a terrible team. Unless he has an untradeable contract…the answer rhymes with burnin’ smells.
Marco Scutaro would probably be allowed to walk away this offseason, taking his leadoff skills with him; like a hobo with his bindle, or a dog that helps people before he gets on the road again. Maybe tomorrow, he’ll stop and settle down?
Frankly, the whole situation is tenuous and the team is teetering on the brink of the great unknown; a see-saw on a mountain top if you will.
Win too much and you mislead people into believing things are fine. Lose too much and you mislead people into believing that it’s time to bring in the bulldozers.
The Jays have one of the best No.1 starters in baseball. They have Marco Scutaro, Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind becoming the Three Musketeers to Halladay’s D’Artagnan. And again, they have blah, blah, and blah.
There’s plenty of cause to build around this team. The Jays need to give some without giving too much opportunity for complacency.
But how? I have one suggestion.
The team could get back to .500, stay there, and make people decide from that spot which direction this team should point in.
At .500 you can’t say the team is terrible, but you can’t say they’re perfect. The team could shuffle out the wrong players and bring in some live bodies that can play baseball.
Maybe mediocrity’s the way to go here.
I guess it’s depressing to actually ask for mediocrity, but is it really much of a stretch for Toronto Blue Jays fans given the last 15 years?
Like a kitten on a clothesline you’ve got to hang in there. Or get dry, whatever reason a cat would be on a clothesline in the first place.
Of course this could be the single stupidest conclusion ever reached by a human being. You can’t ask a team to win and lose according to your whims, this isn’t 1919 and I’m not Meyer Wolfsheim.
But I’m at the point where I’ll take answers however they come; whether they be multiple choice, true or false, and especially essay-style.