The Toronto Blue Jays sure as hell aren’t very fun to watch right now! On the field, that is. Which… uh… I’m sure you’ve noticed — though, just to recap, the Jays scored 96 runs in June, and have managed just 68 so far in July, as compared to 129 and 133 runs allowed. It’s been goddamned ugly.
There still has been much sweet, nourishing drama for Jays fans, though. It’s just all been happening behind the scenes, off the field, in the media, and — in some cases — in other cities.
Let’s have a run through some of this weekend’s greatest hits…
I said this in today’s mailbag, but it bears repeating: John Gibbons is a goddamned treasure.
John Gibbons: "Today was just a horseshit game all the way around — I can't describe it any better than that."
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) July 23, 2017
There are people out there who think that because Gibbons is not yelling at his players all the time or throwing Hal McRae-esque tantrums that he doesn’t care. Those are what we in the business call “incredibly fucking stupid people.”
Show me a person who thinks John Gibbons is a problem with this team and I’ll show you a hopelessly clueless child barely masquerading as an adult. Gibbons isn’t perfect, and I understand why all my defending of him maybe makes people believe I think that he is, but good god, people. Look at that quote and appreciate what you have. The inadequate thing in this conversation ain’t Gibbons’ managing.
Hey so… uh… what the fuck was this?
Stroman on blister: "It's been up and down but it's something I have to deal with. Obviously I'm not going to miss any starts." #BlueJays
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) July 23, 2017
I completely understand how nobody — especially, perhaps, those in the media who have a job to do in the Jays’ clubhouse every day — seems to want to touch the “what the fuck is up between Stroman and Sanchez, didn’t they used to be tight?” thing. It’s not really any of our business anyway, not impacting their performances, and it’s maybe not even a real story that young, competitive guys have maybe turned out to be acting like young, competitive guys.
But… uh… the lack of subtlety in this quote kinda puts it out there, doesn’t it?
I’m sure Stroman could deny that this was any sort of a shot fired at Aaron Sanchez — who, of course, is on the DL with a blister problem of his own, and has been for most of the season — but even if it was merely unintentional, that would mean it was pretty damned insensitive. Not a great look.
Beyond that, though, I don’t know what to make of this… thing. Yes, thanks largely to social media, we all saw the way Stroman and Sanchez appeared to be great friends and constant companions until last off-season, and we’ve noticed how they’re now… not. Part of what sucks about it on our end is that fans are left to infer what they can infer from whatever little bits of information about the “feud” that dribble out, or seem to. Imaginations are left to run wild.
It’s entirely possible — maybe even probable — that something relatively small and benign is being blown out of proportion. What’s the real story? Is there a real story? I don’t think we’ll be getting a Dr. Phil episode any time soon, so… who knows? Better yet, who cares? Not everybody in the room is going to like everybody else. That’s life.
Wouldn’t it be great if they were just playing us, though?
David Price’s Shitty Boston Adventure, Part 634
If there’s one city in the league where all the dirt — if any even exists — on a thing like the Stroman-Sanchez “feud” would come spilling out into the papers within days, it’s definitely fucking Boston. And hey, look! Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe’s paywall has all the sweet trash you need!
On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’
When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’
Many players applauded.
Weird that the guy who has dared to fire back very publicly at the Boston media gets painted as a petty, thin-skinned dickhead, isn’t it?
Which isn’t to say that Price comes off looking good here, it’s just… this is all pretty hilarious apart from the fact that Price is (was?) so likable and it sucks to see him have to deal with the shitlords of the Boston media. Force your way back to Toronto, David! You were so happy here, and our media isn’t in the business of pointlessly airing dirty laundry for shit-clicks!
Eck was always an asshole. Alomar crushing his career was the greatest moment in Jays history.
— Patrick (@PaddyGurks) July 24, 2017
Dennis Eckersley is a lot of things. "Better than David Price" is not one of them.
— Despacito Gaston (@DrewGROF) July 24, 2017
It Is With A Heavy Heart That I Must Announce That Nick Cafardo Is At It Again…
We’ll stick with the Boston Globe for a moment here, because… Nick Cafardo! In his latest Sunday Notes piece, the venerable-ish rumour-monger lays down this odd nugget:
While the Jays’ front office is split on whether the team should be broken up and traded away, Bautista could be in demand at the deadline because of his power and the fact that he’s still a pretty good outfielder with a good arm.
There is a lot that’s pretty amazing about this, but perhaps nothing as much as the fact that Cafardo put it immediately after a note about J.D. Martinez, whose services — to the surprise of Tigers GM Al Avila — didn’t command a big market. “He was clearly the best hitter available, but most teams are looking for pitchers at this time of year.”
Not much of a market for Martinez, but one for Bautista? Who is… a pretty good outfielder? Uh… what?
Over the last two seasons, Martinez has hit like José Bautista used to hit. He’s not a good outfielder, but he’s better than Bautista this year by DRS, though not UZR. He also doesn’t have 10 and 5 rights that allow him to block any trade.
His worst two months of on-base percentage this season have been .365 and .404. Bautista’s? .298 and .294.
If there’s not much of a market for Martinez, in what universe is there one for Bautista?
All this kinda makes me question the bit about the Jays’ front office being split about selling everything off or not. Or, at least, it would have made me question it, if I hadn’t already been questioning it based on the simple fact that it was written by Nick Cafardo.
Cam already wrote about this, but for some reason I figured I should share some thoughts on Rob Refsnyder, who the Jays picked up over the weekend in exchange for Ryan McBroom.
Uh… nice move! Sure!
No, but seriously, I think that’s a fine little depth pickup. Refsnyder’s bat had a bunch of people pretty excited as he made his way through the Yankees system, and while he hasn’t figured it out yet at the big league level — and perhaps never will — I’m sure as hell OK with giving him a shot ahead guys like Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, who have demonstrated pretty clearly that they’re not big league hitters. I’m not sure that’s what this move is about, or if adding Refsnyder is simply about depth, replacing Barney (a free agent) on the roster next year, and providing insurance for a) Devon Travis’s health, b) Lourdes Gurriel needing a little bit more seasoning before ascending to the big leagues next year.
Which is to say: I think he sticks around a little while. And it will be easy for him to do so, because he can still be optioned this year.
He can’t replace Goins on the roster, because he’s not capable of handling shortstop, but as a utility guy who has spent time at second, third, and in both corner outfield spots, that’s pretty good — especially if he can manage to translate even a small bit of his Triple-A success to the majors (which at this point seems a dicey proposition, but what the hell else do we have to cling to, really?).
Starting Pitching Depth
One of the biggest questions looming over the Jays all season — albeit somewhat quietly — has been what the hell they’re going to do for starting pitching, with Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano free-agents-to-be, and J.A. Happ (and, at least theoretically, others) potential trade bait. The… uh… Joe Biagini thing didn’t work so well, and don’t even get me started on Mat Latos. Mike Bolsinger had his magic few innings in Boston, and he could maybe take the reins for the last couple months of the season, if the team reaches its Who Even Gives A Fuck Anymore? stage. But beyond that? All along it’s felt pretty grim.
Perhaps until now!
Chris Rowley has had a pretty unusual path up the minor league ladder — as spelled out in a great feature last spring by Gare Joyce of Sportsnet. If you look at his FanGraphs page, you see that he pitched in rookie ball for the Jays in 2013, then missed all of 2015 and 2016. He wasn’t injured, he was in the US Army.
Rowley was the ace of the staff for Army, going 9-4 with a 2.63 in 2013, his senior year. Rowley was in against a bunch of the heavyweight programs in NCAA. All things equal, his performance and talent would have made him a MLB pick—not a first-rounder, for sure, not in line for a seven- or even six-figure bonus, but a draft pick nonetheless. All things were not equal.
As spelled out in a Sportsnet Magazine story from 2014, there was the far-from-small matter of Rowley’s service commitment. Rowley, or more precisely, 2nd Lt. Rowley, owed Army time, the standard being five years upon graduation.
That completely chilled any organization to spending a pick on Rowley.
After getting his military commitment shortened, he pitched last year in Dunedin, but not with numbers that jumped off the page. His 3.49 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and 86 strikeouts in 123.2 innings didn’t exactly look great for a then-25-year-old playing in High-A. But he made the jump to Double-A this season anyway, and was terrific, working his way from relief into a starting role, striking out 49 in 52 innings and posting a 1.73 ERA. He’s up with Buffalo now, and making more noise there.
I don’t want to start any sort of hype train here — we’ve seen Buffalo success not translate into big league success many times. But he’d be an interesting guy to get a look as a potential back-end starter. As would Bolsinger.
As would someone like Ryan Borucki, who is one of the more interesting pitching prospects in the system, and who debuted at Double-A New Hampshire over the weekend, allowing just two hits over seven scoreless innings. That’ll play!
The gamer at MiLB.com is basically just an interview of Borucki. And though the title of the piece notes that MLB Pipeline calls him just the 16th best prospect in the Jays’ system, I’d wager that number will rise quite a bit in their next update.
Then there’s Sean Reid-Foley, who struck out 12 in 6.2 innings, allowing just four hits, in his weekend start for the Fisher Cats. This prompted Baseball Prospectus to call it a “great start by one of the Blue Jays top prospects; a guy that should help in the big leagues next year.”
There’s also this:
Arbitrary endpoint, BUT, since May 10th, Sean Reid-Foley has a 3.80 ERA over 73.1 IP as a 21-year old in Double-A. 69 K vs 25 BB.
— Kyle (@KodiakRoland) July 24, 2017
Maybe everything’s going to be OK…?