Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zen Dayley: The '09 Blue Jays; this is what you wanted

Fist-bump to The Ack at The Tao of Stieb for this pick-up, from a spring training feature on the Jay's youngins. They might actually go over slot for top-end prospects:
"The Blue Jays, under interim CEO Paul Beeston, intend to become even more aggressive in that regard by employing a new willingness to pay signing bonuses above Major League Baseball recommendations. That was a big no-no under old president Paul Godfrey and the shift in philosophy may help (GM J.P.) Ricciardi secure more high-end talent.

" 'That's definitely going to be an area we look at differently," said Ricciardi. "The gloves are off." — Shi Davidi
It would be welcome news and it would represent a welcome break from what has prevailed during Rogers' uninterested ownership. This scrap of news is in keeping with a feeling toward the Jays' '09 season and the accompanying cynicism, which boils down to five words: "This is what you wanted."

(Digression: Jeff Blair's latest, in a sentence: Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen out, Orlando Cabrera in, maybe.)

The vox populi of Toronto sports fans can be a huge bunch of knee-jerkers who expect everything and make no effort to understand anything, which means they have no functioning memory. Perhaps it's like that in other places too; one big problem is Toronto tries to act like it's New York when it comes to sports, when it's really a snowy Atlanta, a regional hub which by sheer size and affluence, rates a team in every major sports league (except the NFL).

The common refrain with the Rogers Jays over the past few winters was that they were throwing too much at free agents (A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan in '05-06, Frank Thomas in '06-07, David Eckstein in '07-08). At least two of those four were spot-on. This winter, everyone whined when, alone among the 30 MLB teams, they didn't sign a Type A free agent. It is human nature to carp, but at least be consistent in your kvetching, eh. A middle-class team such as the Jays has to focus on bringing guys up through their minor-league system, instead of going for the quick fix:
"Over slot is Seamhead-speak for paying a high draft choice more than MLB's suggested signing boni, which tend to fall on the low side. More teams are realizing that lavishing a big bonus on a top-end prospect is cheap at twice the price, since there are ceilings on young players' salaries.

... Rogers' corporate cynicism dictates that you raise the major league club's payroll just high enough to defeat any charges of not wanting to win. 'But the payroll is $100-million!' Add anyone who was pretty good back in 2003 and whom casual fans know from years of sports highlights and their fantasy league, and stir." — June 7, 2008
It does stand to be a long baseball season in Toronto. No one wants to hear that if the Jays end up losing 90 games (which they probably won't thanks to pitching and defence) it would be only their third 90-loss in 25 years (counting 88 losses in a 144-game season in '95). They probably are a near-mortal lock to lose 90, but at least they're not the frickin' Kansas City Royals or something.

However, shifting to bringing along homegrown talent, although it will take years and a complete overhaul of the scouting system which Rogers gutted in the early 2000s, is what people might have wanted, deep-down. They might not be willing to admit it just yet, but hey, sometimes it takes time to come around.

The draft in June (where the Jays pick 20th overall) will be more proof of whether there has been a change of heart in the Jays' headquarters. It is always an easy out to say you're rebuilding and or shifting your focus to player development when you have little else going for you this season, but it's one of the first bits of good news to come out of Dunedin, failing a switch to another division.

1 comment:

eyebleaf said...

The Jays are winning the pennant.