The Sunday Notebook; The Leadership BS Again?

dickey

Oh look the media in Toronto are at it again with the leadership issues within the Blue Jays clubhouse. Mike Wilner was on the Fan 590 on Sunday talking with Ben Ennis (audio here) when he said that the Blue Jays clubhouse was awful last year and according to some it was “The most dysfunctional clubhouse they’ve ever been around” Well, isn’t that swell? Seems to me the media in Toronto sure likes to beat on the leadership drum, if it’s not the Blue Jays and lack of leadership, it’s the Leafs and their lack of leadership over a stupid salute. Yes, a salute. And people wonder why a lot of athletes don’t want to come to Toronto. Maybe if the media in Toronto weren’t beyond insufferable, well, the ones that seem to cover hockey and try to impose their views on baseball maybe just maybe we could quit talking about leadership. As Wilner says if the Blue Jays had won one more game a month they would have been in the Wild Card play in game and no one is bringing up the leadership or the lack there of.

Speaking of the Toronto Media, Ian Hunter at The Blue Jay Hunter went into detail of Jerry Howarth’s appearance on the Jeff Blair show on Wednesday. Hunter writes how Blair says that R.A Dickey and John Gibbons got into it a few times this past season. Then later in the interview Howarth drops these little tidbits about Dickey;

“R.A. is kind of a man unto himself on an island, and you don’t want that in your clubhouse. He gives you 200 innings, he goes out there and starts 30 games, that’s great; but you need more than that.

You need someone who is right there with his team, communicates with his team, listens, gets involved with his team; I don’t see R.A. doing that. For me, I can already see the team moving in a different direction.

You have to have people who are part of a 25 man roster, not a separate entity.”

Can’t say I disagree with Howarth about the island analogy, but I also don’t see the Blue Jays moving Dickey who still has two years left on his contract at a relatively team friendly deal.

My biggest issue with Dickey has been his perceived instance on having Josh Thole as his personal catcher. He’s never come out and actually admitted that and even said he was never asked in Spring Training when the decision on what catchers to carry on the roster, the Blue Jays kept three catchers on the roster but I digress.

Thole in his two season in Toronto has shown no other ability other than to catch the knuckleball. If not for Dickey on the roster than Thole would become nothing more than a waste of a roster spot. What is even more laughable is people like Wilner, who when asked about newly acquired Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin catching Dickey, mentioned that Thole could be better if he got more playing time. It’s not an argument that I would ever come close to agreeing with. Josh Thole is nothing more than a guy that can catch a knuckleball, nothing more, nothing less.

Getting back to Howarth’s beef with Dickey, it seems like every year the media picks on a player and then shits all over their leadership. Last year it was Jose Bautista and his so called negative influence and now Dickey. Lets also not forget that I never heard Howarth trying to run Roy Halladay out of town or Dave Stieb for that matter because they had prickly personalities at times.

Maybe Howarth and Wilner should focus on calling the games and leave the opinion and analysing to people like Shi Davidi and baseball analysts that know what they are talking about.

Welcome To The Russell Martin Era

getty images

getty images

The Blue Jays finally went out and spent money in the Free Agency Market and signing catcher Russell Martin to a 5 year 82 million dollar deal. The Martin signing is the longest Free Agent deal that Alex Anthopoulos has made during his tenure as Blue Jays General Manager. The Martin deal surpasses A.J Burnett’s five-year 55 million contract he signed in during the J.P Richardi regime as the biggest Free Agent signing in club history.

Sure the deal may be a bit of an overpay but it addresses an upgrade to the catching position that the Blue Jays could definitely use. Martin comes advertised as one of the best pitch framers in the game where he was third amongst catchers at generating strike calls, something that couldn’t be said for Dioner Navarro, Martin is also great at shutting down the opponents base stealers as he threw out 37 percent of would be base stealers in 2014. Martin is also considered one of the better catchers at calling a game, although I didn’t think that Navarro was all that bad of a game caller. Martin is also considered a great clubhouse leader, so there is that if you’re into the whole leadership thing that is often overblown in the Toronto media.

Then you have Martin’s offensive abilities to throw into the mix as well. Martin hit .290/.402/.430 last season with Pittsburgh. Martin hit 11 home runs and had an OPS plus of 136. Martin had a WAR of 5.5 as well. For Martin’s career he has a career line of .259/.354/.399 over a span of nine seasons.

With Martin on board it gives the Blue Jays three catchers on their roster again. It could mean that Josh Thole’s days as a Blue Jay would be numbered, a scenario many Blue Jays fans are hoping for as Thole’s lack of offensive production and who’s only role is being R.A Dickey’s personal caddy hasn’t justified him holding a roster spot in many fans opinions. Navarro who proved he was durable to last a full season in 2014 could be an admiral back-up catcher who could fill in if Martin were to go down with an injury. Navarro could also spend some time at DH or come off the bench as a late inning pinch hitter.

The other good news about this signing is that Rogers is finally showing that they are willing to spend money in the free agent market and with the Blue Jays being linked to other rumours on Free Agents it’s also showing that maybe they are ready to be active players in Free Agency. According to Jose Bautista in an interview with MLB radio last week claimed that the Blue Jays had 20-30 million to spend this winter. If that is indeed the truth then the Blue Jays still have between four and fifteen million left to spend.

The next step for AA is to fill holes at Second base, Left field, Center Field and in the Bullpen. I am quietly optimistic that the Blue Jays will fill those mentioned holes after this unexpected start to Free Agency.

Could Emilio Bonifacio Be Returning To Toronto?

Getty Images

Getty Images

So there was this little tidbit that came across Twitter yesterday and it’s actually rather surprising to see Emilio Bonifacio drawing interest from the Blue Jays. Has Alex Anthopoulos remembered how well Bonifacio’s first stint went with the team in 2013, which in case AA has forgotten, it did not end well.

Bonifacio proved pretty quickly that he couldn’t hit or play second place very well, in fact it came out last winter that he was spooked by playing on the turf. Which isn’t overly surprising to hear I suppose, players do have the Blue Jays listed on their no trade clauses because of the turf, or so we’re led to believe.

I Don’t know, maybe it might not be the worst thing in the world if AA was to bring Bonifacio back. I would think he could be had for a reasonable price I would also think that he would be considered more of the 24th or 25th man on the roster and would probably have a smaller role than his first go around. With his speed he would make a good pinch running option off the bench and with this weeks departure of Anthony Gose the Blue Jays could use some speed on the basepaths.

Bonifacio can also play all three outfield positions and in a pinch could fill in at short or second, the new turf may not be nearly as bad as the old turf. And speaking of Second Base the defensive metrics show that he’s at least passable there in a pinch. But most of all Bonifacio would be a good fit for a Blue Jays outfield that potentially is replacing Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus.

It may not be the craziest idea ever but if he comes cheap and isn’t expected to play more than a few days a week than I would be ok with Emilio Bonifacio coming back to Toronto.

Yep. I said that.

The Thursday Notebook

Getty Images

Getty Images

The Anthony Gose Era ended Wednesday night as he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for second base prospect Devon Travis, who according to the Blue Jays website is their ninth ranked prospect. Gose came to Toronto in 2010 when he was acquired for Brett Wallace. Gose came as a speedy outfielder that was a good defender but wasn’t much with the bat. At one point he was considered the heir apparent for the center field job but as this past season went along it became apparent that he had fallen below Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey on the depth chart. As for Travis he is expected to be given a chance in Spring Training to compete for the second base job but probably starts the year in Buffalo. Ideally in a perfect world the Blue Jays could sign a veteran second baseman through free agency or acquire one through trade. The Blue Jays have shown interest in Howie Kendrick in recent days according to rumours, however, the Jays are listed on his no trade list so there is that. Another name that the Jays could be interested in could be the Angels’ Gordon Beckham who could be non tendered and be available. Alex Anthopoulos has been rumoured to be interested in Beckham in the past so it could be possible that it could happen. Bob Elliott tweeted out last night that the Blue Jays are in talks with former Reds hitting coach Brook Jacoby about the hitting coach vacancy on their staff. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi also tweeted out last night that Jacoby is described as a solid instructor and has a similar approach as Kevin Seitzer has. Who ever gets hired on as the Blue Jays hitting coach let’s hope they can last longer than one season as the Jays are going to have their fourth hitting coach in four years in 2015. It also came out Tuesday that Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t expect Melky Cabrera to return in 2015. In reality if they really wanted Cabrera back they should have got something done in the summer and not waited for it to get to the point where the highest bidder wins out. Bob Elliot also had some info on the Cabrera talks:

The Blue Jays obviously know what free-agent left fielder Melky Cabrera is looking for as both sides have talked. Cabrera had told friends that the Jays made a three-year $39 million offer. The outfielder’s agent is believed to be looking for a $50 million package. “We have a sense right of the likelihood is of signing him,” said Anthopoulos who says he is sensitive to not talk about someone else’s free agency or divulge negotiations. “When a player reaches free agency, you have to start preparing for contingencies because the likelihood is when players become free agents an overwhelming percentage don’t return.”

That offer seems a bit low if it is true, I said earlier in the summer that 3 years at 45 might be enough to get it done in the end but at this point it seems like the Jays won’t get Melky back unless the offer goes up. The Blue Jays released their Spring Training Schedule on Wednesday. They start their Spring Schedule in Dunedin against Pittsburgh and close out their Spring Schedule with a pair of games against Cincinnati at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on April 3rd and 4th. The Blue Jays have 33 games scheduled as well as three split squad games. For those of you that will making the March Break trek to Florida in March the Blue Jays only have a pair of games scheduled for Dunedin that week, March 18th and 19th against Tampa and Boston. And lastly on this Thursday afternoon, Bluebird Banter has put together a handy little guide on what Blue Jays on the 40 man roster have options and it also includes their outright statuses as well, it’s a must for any Blue Jays fan to bookmark so they can keep tabs on the Jays roster movement as this winter progresses.

Kevin Seitzer Leaving The Blue Jays For Job With The Braves

seitzer

Add another opening to the Toronto Blue Jays coaching staff as Atlanta Braves beat writer Mark Bowman is reporting that Kevin Seitzer has joined the Braves coaching staff as their new hitting coach. This news comes after the news a few weeks ago that the Blue Jays were reassigning Bullpen coach Bob Stanley.

Seitzer came with much fanfare when he was hired last winter as the Blue Jays new hitting coach and when the Blue Jays were on that hot streak in May Seitzer seemed to get a ton of praise for the work he had done as the hitting coach.

As the season went along and things went south the lack of success of hitters such as Colby Rasmus and Ryan Goins made some wonder if maybe all the praise that was heaped on Seitzer in May was just a bit much.

It does raise the question of just how much does a hitting coach affect a team. I don’t think it really does the Blue Jays offence hasn’t been the issue the last few years despite now looking for their fourth hitting coach in as many seasons. In reality much of it has to do with the players willingness to succeed as a hitter. A hitting coach no matter how good can’t turn every hitter into a great hitter, and this year it showed with Goins and Rasmus although some of Rasmus’ struggles were do to teams shifting on him.

When Seitzer signed he did so on a one year deal and Alex Anthopoulos confirmed to John Lott that the reason Seitzer is leaving is that they couldn’t work out a deal for next year.

Not exactly the best omen for the start of the off-season.

What The Postseason Has Taught Us

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

For starters my preseason picks did not have either the Kansas City Royals or the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. For the record I had Tampa Bay defeating Washington for the World Series, I did however have both the Royals and the Giants making the playoffs, the Giants as a wildcard team and the Royals winning the AL Central.

What I think has really stuck out to me the last couple of postseasons is how teams can overcome bad in-game management to win. Last year it was John Farrell who made some, well, lets just say interesting managerial moves along the way to winning the World Series. How many of us had Kansas City managed Ned Yost tarred and feathered in the sixth inning of the Wild Card game after Yost lifted James Shields in favour of Yordano Ventura?, who hadn’t pitched out of the pen all season and had thrown 74 pitches only two days earlier. Ventura blew the lead when he gave up a three run homer to Oakland’s Brendan Moss. Funny thing happened though, the Royals came back to win the game in extra innings and have run the table to get to the World Series. The other thing in Yost’s favour is that he does have a shutdown bullpen and if they are winning after six innings victory seems almost automatic.

This postseason has also taught us that winning your division, which is a great accomplishment, doesn’t mean squat in October. The Royals swept both the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles who both were division winners. San Francisco path has been somewhat similar although they had to win the Wild Card game on the road, and then would go on to defeat Washington and St.Louis and take advantage of some managerial gaffs along the way.

This season has also shown that if you can just make it in that anything can happen. The Royals sat two games under 500 in late July and then with some thanks to the Tigers collapsing down the stretch actually led the AL Central in mid September before finally losing the division on the final day of the regular season. It has also shown that you can’t predict how the postseason will play out. The Royals hit the least amount of home runs in the AL this season but used the long ball in a big way to win the division series and the first two games of the LCS.

The old saying goes that pitching and defence win’s in October but after this season I think it’s also safe to say that just make it in and anything can happen.

The Royals are proof of that.

The Friday Notebook

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays’ have found their fall guy for yet another disappointing season by letting go of Bullpen coach Bob Stanley. I’m not quite sure how Stanley could be faulted for the bullpen’s struggles. It was Sergio Santos, Steve Delabar, Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen after the All-Star break, out on the mound pitching poorly. The pen in 2013 was pretty damn impressive but it had to be expected that they would have a little regression, but not quite to the point it did get. In reality it is Pete Walker that does most of the work with these guys, Stanley main job is answering the bullpen phone and opening the bullpen door. But it seems someone must take the fall for under-performance and like Chad Mattola getting let go after Bob Stanley getting the axe just seems like an over reaction.

As for Stanley’s replacement, it could very well be Pat Hentgen who held the job in 2013 and took a leave of absence in 2014 however Mike Wilner tweeted that he doesn’t believe that Hentgen is quite ready to come back. In a perfect world I think Hentgen would make a wonderful pitching coach but that’s just me. Another candidate could be Duane Ward who has spent the last few years working as an instructor for the Blue Jays Instructional Camps and is a guy I could really see striving in a role like that. Although Shi Davidi is reporting that the leading candidates are pitching co-ordinator Dane Johnson, pitching rehab and roving instructor Rick Langford and current Bisons pitching coach Randy St.Claire.

MLB Trade Rumours had an interesting piece on the Blue Jays and their situation as it pertains to payroll and who is under contract, arbitration eligible and players that have options. After reading the piece maybe Paul Beeston wasn’t lying about payroll going up although he may not have been completely truthful on how it goes up.
The Blue Jays have eight guaranteed contracts going into next season, including Ricky Romero who is scheduled to make 7.5 million to most likely pitch in Buffalo next season. They project that the arbitration eligible players would add roughly 11.6 million to the 96.2 million already committed to the eight guaranteed contracts, although they could save an estimated 2.2 million if they non tender Juan Francisco. Non tendering Francisco does seem likely.

That’s not even getting into the player options of which Adam Lind, J.A Happ and Josh Thole’s are likely to get picked up and Dustin McGowan could be back for a cheaper price if his option is declined, nor does it include any free agent signings or resigning Melky which isn’t going to come cheap. So it very well could be that the payroll goes up but don’t expect a huge list of new faces come Spring other than the ones in-house.

Shi Davidi also is reporting that Demarlo Hale interviewed for the Minnesota Twins open managerial spot, so perhaps there could be two openings on the coaching staff. Hale last year interviewed for the Nationals managerial opening which eventually went to Matt Williams.

Calling All Baseball Coaches

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The Toronto Blue Jays and Baseball Canada are hosting their third annual coaching clinic at the Rogers Centre January 9-11 2015.

The clinic is open to coaches all across Canada including beginners looking to get there foot in the door. Coaches that attend this clinic will get three PD points towards their national certification. Baseball Canada will also be hosting a clinic on Friday January 9th, Coaches that partake in the afternoon session will receive 5 points for each module they are a part of the modules will include Baserunning, hitting, outfield or infield. They`re also offering the NCCP Baseball initiation workshop for beginner coaches.

Instructors that have signed on for the weekend include, Blue Jays first base coach Tim Leiper, Jays third base coach Luis Perez, Sandy Alomar, Pat Tabler, Homer Bush, Lloyd Moseby, Stubby Clapp, Clayton McCullough, New Hampshire Fishercats pitching coach Jim Czajkowski, current Blue Jay hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, Duane Ward, Brian McRae and Devon White.

The clinic includes a coaches social on the Friday night where coaches will have a chance to mingle with former Blue Jay players also included is a tour of the Blue Jays clubhouse which is interesting and it also includes a chance to take part in batting practice and shagging flyballs on the field.

I took part in last years clinic and it was an incredible experience to learn from the greats and a chance to talk baseball. You can read about my experience here

The cost of the weekend is $160, which after taxes works out to 180. For more info on the clinic visit http://www.bluejays.com and click on Baseball Academy.

Here is a video from the Blue Jays website on the clinic held in January.

Davidi’s Point On Team Chemistry Is Just Overkill

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Shi Davidi wrote an interesting piece on what happened to the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays yesterday and while he mentioned the lack of trust between ownership and the players played a big part of the issue he also brought up the whole chemistry issue which in the last few years has been overdone and isn’t necessarily completely legit in my opinion.

Sure chemistry is like that low hanging fruit to go after when things go downhill but it’s quite interesting that no one brought it up when things where going well in May and early June. It’s been said that winning cures a lot of issues and chemistry can be lumped into that as well as far as I’m concerned. How many winning teams do you hear about having issues with chemistry? The answer is none. It’s a crutch reserved for teams trying to explain why a season didn’t go well and the baseball media in Toronto have done a fine job the last few years of dragging the point to death.

Where Davidi hit’s the nail on the head however is with the distrust that formed between ownership, management and the players. In fact to me the most damning piece in the article might have been where Davidi talks of a meeting in which Beeston hosted a pre season dinner and as one person tells Davidi the message was if they got to June and were in it the money would be there.

Whether or not the money was there or not is something only ownership knows but the fact that nothing was done at the deadline didn’t help the trust factor with the team. It also didn’t help within the clubhouse that Alex Anthopoulos waited until Aug 5th to talk to the team instead of talking to the team on July 31st.

Davidi also brings up how the Jays could have made a move for Martin Prado at the deadline and it wouldn’t have cost the Jays much to get it done. Here is a thing to think about though with Prado who is owed 27 million over the next two seasons. Perhaps AA looked at what Prado is owed the next two years and then looked at his payroll budget and the uncertainties surrounding that considering that the Blue Jays want to make a serious pitch to re-sign Melky Cabrera and figures that financially it just didn’t make sense.

Having said all that, the biggest thing that it shows is that Rogers dropped the ball by tying AA’s hands last winter when it came to payroll. If your serious about winning you don’t increase the payroll as much as they did in 2012 and then not give any room to add in 2014 and then you add the Ervin Santana deferral into the mix and it just looks awful. As it’s been mentioned elsewhere if ownership had been on the ball then Santana is most likely signed before the Braves ever lose Kris Medlan and giving Santana a reason to go elsewhere.

Like I said in the beginning Davidi did bring up the chemistry issue but to me the failure of 2014 is on ownership who watched the injuries happen this year and sat idly by while AA picked players off the scrap heap and was forced to put below replacement level players in the line-up and if the Blue Jays want to contend in 2015 they need more depth on the bench than what they had in 2014.

The Monday Night Notebook

Courtesy Marcus Stroman/twitter

Courtesy Marcus Stroman/twitter

You know it’s a slow news day in Blue Jay land when Marcus Stroman switching numbers becomes the biggest news of the day, well, only news of the day. Stroman announced on twitter that in honour of his grandmother’s birthday his number would change to 6 for next season. It’s a good thing I held off on buying a Stroman jersey this season because it would suck to have bought one and see him change the number after the fact. The last Blue Jay to wear the number 6 was Jeff Mathis when he was here in 2012. The most famous Blue Jay to wear the number 6 is Carlos Delgado who wore it from 1993 till 95 before wearing 21 in 1996 and then settling on 25 from 1997 till he left after the 2004 season. Stroman would also become only the third Blue Jay pitcher to ever wear a single digit number. Josh Towers was the first as he wore number 7 when he was a Blue Jay and Kyle Drabek who has spent parts of four season’s with the Blue Jays wears number 4.

BLUE JAYS LOOKING FOR INTERNS
The Blue Jays are looking to add two interns to their front office.
The first position is a Baseball Operations Analytics Intern and as posted on Rogers’ site the responsibilities and requirements are as such.

RESPONSIBILITIES (may include, but not limited to):

Assist the Baseball Operations department with projects as directed.
Staying current on publically available baseball research.
Maintain critical scouting/statistical databases and monitoring the import of data feeds.
Assist with the preparation for the Rule 4 Draft.
Provide support for Baseball Operations meetings and player transaction decisions.
Support Minor League Operations/Player Development with their daily operations.
Contribute to analysis of Major and Minor League Players.
Assist with the testing of Baseball Operations software systems.
QUALIFICATIONS:

Strong baseball knowledge.
Proficient in Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word).
Experience using SQL or statistical software.
Familiar with current baseball research and analytics.
Professional attitude and work ethic with strong interpersonal skills.
Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is a plus.
Demonstrated analytic skills and knowledge of a scripting language are a plus
Baseball playing or scouting experience are a plus.
Previous work with professional or local sports organization is a plus.

The second posting on Rogers’ website is for a Baseball Operations Scouting Intern they list the qualifications and responsibilities as such.

RESPONSIBILITIES (may include, but not limited to):

Assist the Baseball Operations department with projects as directed.
Maintain critical baseball operations ranking boards and scouting/statistical databases.
Assist with the preparation for the Rule 4 Draft.
Provide support for Baseball Operations meetings and player transaction decisions.
Support Minor League Operations/Player Development with their daily operations.
Contribute to analysis of Major and Minor League Players.
Assist with the testing of Baseball Operations software systems.
QUALIFICATIONS:

Strong baseball knowledge.
Proficient in Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word).
Professional attitude and work ethic with strong interpersonal skills.
Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field a plus.
Baseball playing or scouting experience a plus.
Experience with baseball specific systems (BATS, eBIS, PIA, etc) a plus.
Experience using SQL or statistical software a plus.
Previous work with professional or local sports organization a plus.

Both positions are listed as a 10 month contract position, they do not post the pay or the amount of hours but some digging around on various site it’s rumoured to be 35 hours a week with a salary of 12.75 an hour. If you want your start in a Baseball front office here is your chance. All the info you need to apply for these positions can be found here:

Analytics Intern

Scouting Intern

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