5

It’s never too early to enjoy a little schadenfreude

“It caught me off-guard, the explanation that I received didn’t make any sense to me, still doesn’t, telling me that you need a more versatile team. I’m thinking, what’s more versatile than a guy who can play every position on the field? But it comes down to money and things like that, and they wanted to make moves they thought would make the team better.

“They’ve done their thing, I’m moved on and done mine, and I’m here today.”

It’s hard not to sympathize with Ryan Goins.

We’ve all been there before in an awkward conversation with an ex after things ended abruptly. You suggest how great they look, ask how things are going with the new guy—his name’s always Zach— and try to stress how okay you are.  And you know you should just leave things at that, but you can’t stop yourself from making a remark that hints you haven’t quite fully moved past their clichéd excuse for the split.

But while Goins’ comments to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi earlier this week on his break-up with the Blue Jays may have made some Jays fans reminiscence about the good ol’ days with Ryan like these…

his 0-6 performance in the two games he appeared in against his former club might have made most fans remember a whole lot more moments like this during his time with the Jays…

After all, with a record of 13-7, and new backup shortstop, Aledmys Diaz already slugging four home runs into his early Blue Jays career, fans can be forgiven for brimming with enough overconfidence to believe the Jays are winning the breakup.

But any chance encounter with an ex is enough to send even the most self-assured into fits of nostalgia and doubt—dangerously clicking and swiping through social media late at night to compare their own accomplishments and happiness with that of their former flings.

Well, save yourself the embarrassing search history, I’ve done the shameful work for you. Here’s a breakdown of how some of the most recent, and most memorable, Jays are doing early into the 2018 season.

Ryan Goins

Goins’ post-breakup comments reveal a common misconception about versatility—the ability to play multiple defensive positions on a baseball diamond is only versatile to a team if you can perform above replacement level while playing those positions. If you can’t do that, then your “versatility” is pretty much moot because your team would be better off streaming players from the minor leagues or waivers on a daily basis to fill the holes in their lineup than let you play. Goins last provided the Blue Jays with productive versality in 2015, when he was worth 1.3 WAR. Since then, he was worth -.9 WAR in 2016, and -.3 WAR last season.

This season he’s hitting .240/.296/.280 in 27 plate appearances with the Royals. Granted, this isn’t much to draw many conclusions from, but I think it’s safe to say Goins’ chances of ever living up to the promise of his highlight reel defense is retired alongside Jerry Howarth’s endless praise for his “versatility”.

Darwin Barney

It seems insane to compare the hard-hitting OBP machine that is 2018 Yangervis Solarte with the currently unemployed glove-first Barney, but they fulfill almost the same positional needs of the Blue Jays. Barney started 32 games last year for the Blue Jays at 3rd base as Josh Donaldson’s primary replacement. He also started 58 games at second base, five games at short, and one in the outfield. Of the 20 Blue Jays games this season, Solarte has started 13 games at third as Josh Donaldson’s primary replacement, four at second, and one at short.

Fortunately for the Blue Jays thus far, that’s where the similarity ends. At the plate, Solarte has put up an unsustainable but wildly impressive .283/.413/.583 line with a 170 wRC+. Barney mustered only a .232/.275/.327 line and 58 wRC+ in 129 games last year.

Solarte’s numbers come from a very small sample size compared to Barney’s numbers with the Jays, but the impact of replacing Barney with Solarte becomes evident when you consider that Solarte has already contributed .8 WAR value to the Blue Jays. Barney was worth-.6 WAR last season. Essentially, Solarte has already been worth 1.5 more wins to the team in only 17 games started. But really, how can you even put a value on moments like this:

Or this:

Barney was released by the Texas Rangers on March 19th and remains a free agent. Don’t be surprised if you hear that Barney has joined the Atlanta Braves minor league system soon.

Dominic Leone

Leone’s surprisingly steady performance last year for the Blue Jays, and trade to St. Louis this off-season, currently is best remembered for giving us the privilege to daily test our levels of self-control after each Randall Grichuk at bat by putting our head between our knees and whispering to ourselves, “Statcast darling, top ten in barrels, exit velocity, misunderstood.”

Leone’s early work with the Cardinals, and line of a 4.50 ERA, 5.27 FIP and 1.13 WHIP in 8 innings of work, has been mediocre enough to limit the amount of new fuel for hot take Atkins and Shapiro haters. However, Leone’s mediocre start is distorted by a high .353 BABIP. Much more encouraging for Leone, and those looking to throw Blue Jays management under the bus this summer, are his 11 strikeouts and zero walks.

Personally, I’m going to choose to remember Leone for showing this much enthusiasm against all odds in a late August game last year:

Zeke’s Thunder

Future member of level of excellence Ezekiel Carrera must be a frustrated man. Despite hitting .282/.356/.408 with a very respectful 107 wRC+ last season with the Blue Jays, Zeke finds himself fighting for ABs for the Atlanta Braves’ AAA team, the Gwinnett Stripers (Yes the name of Jose Bautista’s future team), after not making the Atlanta Braves opening day roster. It’s early, but his slash line of .056/.150/.111 is not encouraging.

At least he might get to relive the glory days of 2015 with an old friend sometime soon in Gwinnett.

Edwin Encarnacion

Lost in the fallout after Edwin’s messy breakup with the Jays last off season and disappointing season by Kendrys Morales, was that Edwin’s performance last season with the Cleveland baseball team did show signs of worrisome regression—they just weren’t as painfully obvious as Joey Bats’ signs.

Edwin hit .258/.377/.504 with a 132 wRC+ for Cleveland, which is certainly better than Morales’ .250/.308/.445 line and 97 wRC+ performance with the Blue Jays, but his 2.5 WAR was his lowest total since 2011 (to compare, Kendrys had a -0.6 WAR last season). Edwin’s .504 Slugging Percentage was also his lowest since 2011, and he struck out at a rate of 19.9 per cent—the highest of his career.

Edwin is off to a horrible start this season. He’s hitting .143/.243/.339 with a 57 wRC+ and stuck out during 28.2 per cent of his at bats. But, slow starts have always been a staple of Encarnacion’s seasons before the inevitable parrot shows in May. Let’s just hope whatever happens to Edwin in Cleveland won’t diminish the chances of a statue of this moment greeting the future patrons of a refurbished Rogers Centre.

Brandon Morrow

What a difference a year has made for our former favourite type-1 diabetic. Last year in April, Morrow was languishing into obscurity for the Oklahoma City Dodgers in AAA. Morrow put up a 7.20 ERA, 5.67 FIP, and 1.50 WHIP in 20 innings for Oklahoma City, while walking 2.25 batters per nine innings. But after Alex Wood was placed on Los Angeles’s DL in late May, Morrow was called up to the big leagues and quite simply dominated.

In 43.2 regular season innings Morrow pitched to a 2.06 ERA, an even better 1.55 FIP, lowered his WHIP to 0.92, and produced an insane 5.56 K/BB ratio. Morrow kept up his strong performance in the playoffs, in spite of manager Dave Roberts’s best efforts to tear Morrow’s right arm off its socket.

This year, as the $21 million closer of the Chicago Cubs, Morrow is continuing to dominate. In seven games he has yet to give up a run, has an 100% strand rate, and—perhaps most impressive for those who remember his Blue Jays days—is currently not on the DL.

Oh well, at least we’ll always have our memories of an imagined starting rotation anchored by Morrow and Josh Johnson, and his August 8th, 2010 one-hitter—one of the greatest pitching performances in Blue Jays history.

Brett Lawrie

Lawrie’s Twitter activity confirms that the former first-round pick and former wearer of one of MLB’s top 20 most purchased jerseys is very much alive. But outside of a March interview with Vancouver TSN 1040’s Matt Sekeres and Blake Price about his debilitating but difficult to describe lingering injury it appears there is very little to report in terms of Brett Lawrie’s baseball career.

Oakland Athletic fans may always be haunted by who they gave up to acquire Lawrie and Kendall Graveman in the 2015 offseason, but somehow I think this pales in comparison to the lingering fears of darkness and the undead that Lawrie fueled in an entire generation during his time with the White Sox. 

Colby Rasmus

The former hot-dog stand regular and spokesperson for Bob Bannerman’s legendary Dingers for Dough promotion has had a strange year. After stepping away from baseball last season 37 games into a very encouraging season with the Rays (.281/.318/.579 with a 132 wRC+), Colby decided to give his baseball career another kick at the ol’ can with the Orioles this season.

But a line of .095/.174/.143 in 21 ABs, and a hip-flexor injury that has landed him on the DL, makes one less optimistic that Colby will ever live up to the expectations of his demanding father.

I choose to remember Colby for his deadpan wit, cornrows, and this story of him celebrating his Auburn Tigers victory over Alabama by ripping off his shirt and running to his parents’ house.