Friday, November 21, 2008

Zen Dayley: A skipper named Schneider will play it 'one day at time'

Who says there are no positive stories emanating from 1 Blue Jays Way these days.

The Jays will have the youngest manager in affilated baseball in 29-year-old John Schneider, who's been hired to manage the GCL Blue Jays. Some will say that latching on to a hire involving a team in a short-season rookie league for first-year pros is pretty thin gruel next to say, signing any free agents of consequence, never mind Manny Ramirez, but hey, when you're a Canadian baseball fan staring at a long winter, you take whatever you can get. If you're going to be cooped up inside until next March, you better figure out how to subliminate your anger.

Hints have been dropped about "what's to come when the Rogers bean-counters shut off the spigot after this season" (a month ago and as far back as June 10.) Ted Rogers, as Baseball Prospectus 2008 cannily anticipated in its chapter at the Jays, is basically wondering, "What am I paying for?"

The M.O. here is to leave J.P. Ricciardi to hang out there as a straw man for all the Blue Jays bashers, probably for one more year, as John Brattain noted in a Hardball Times piece Thursday.

The Jays have some prospects coming through the season, meaning from an optics perspective, the timing will be right to tie the can to J.P. and bring in a new GM and try to sell hope. Ricciardi wouldn't know how to be the triggerman even if he had the authority to pull the trigger.

There is little else to say as a diehard fan who will follow the team through a blue-tinted lens probably no matter what happens (it could be worse -- see Mariners, Seattle or Royals, Kansas City, and those SOBs don't play in the AL East).

The Tao has laid out a list of possible middle-of-the-order meat. The biggest takeaway is that free agent Milton Bradley, of the .999 OPS, has never hit well against the American League East. Knowing Ricciardi's fetishization of modest talent, the Jays' choice of a lefty bat is more likely to run toward someone on par with former Minnesota Twin Jacque Jones, last seen putting up an everyone-saw-that-coming .446 OPS in a cameo with the Tigers last season. (Hey! he's hitting .314/.349/.449 in the Mexican League, his customary good batting average with little power and less plate discipline and is reporting that he is apparently going to have a laser eye surgery, so someone will invite him to spring training.)

That's really the way it looks from here, to a guy who doesn't have to fill a news-hole speculating about an offer for A.J. Burnett or a big bat for the middle of the order. The most glass-half-full thing which can be said about Ricciardi is that is that -- big maybe -- he is just a analog of Ed Wade. The Philadelphia Phillies started putting pieces in places for their championship team on Wade's watch, but he wasn't around for the champagne baths, since he was fired in 2005 and replaced by Pat Gillick. Who knows, if the Jays were not in the AL East playing 57 games against the triple-threat hegemony of the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, you'd say maybe history repeats itself.

(One wishes this John Schneider all the best. He is too young to remember when his acting namesake was at the peak of his fame when The Dukes of Hazzard was the anchor in CBS' prime-time lineup, or when Schneider was getting the canned laughs on One Day At A Time.)

Other business

  • Tim Raines is going to be managing in the Atlantic League with the Newark Bears, where his opponent will include fellow Expos great Gary Carter. Whoever wins the season series can manage the Jays when Cito Gaston retires.
  • It has never been clear why the Jays have never been players for free agents from the Pacific Rim. NPB Tracker is a great source for those of you who are trying to keep up with Japanese free agents, but you knew that already.
  • FanGraphs kicked up a fuss with a provocative post about fielding in centrefield vs. the corner outfield spots. The guys in right and left get a lot of balls hit to them, too. It does matter.

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