About three weeks ago, I knew that between work, family, home and all that other non-blog life that I allegedly have, I was about to head into a dark tunnel. "But thank goodness the Jays aren't really going to do much until after the Winter Meetings" I thought to myself. Hey-o!
But enough of my excuses and explanations. Your questions and queries have piled up. Let's get to it.
@taoofstieb Even with the risks of the Marlins trade, Cabrera signing and Gibbons return, hasn't this been fun? #TaoTweetBagOh, for sure, and if my immediate reaction to the Marlins trade was somewhat tempered, the subsequent signings and announcement of John Gibbons' hiring have certainly left me feeling light-headed with excitement. Which isn't to say that this team is guaranteed of anything next year, but it certainly piques your curiosity going into 2013.
— Tavis Nickerson (@TavisNickerson) November 22, 2012
My greatest concern heading into the free agent signing period was that the Jays would shell out and overpay on a couple of big contracts to players who might not be worthy aside from the mere fact that they were available. And so the thought of six year deals for Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson had me feeling dread at the possibility of this "big splash" merely for the sake of filling the transactional void.
But what the Jays have managed to do is bring in an elite player at a premium position for the long term and a potential ace for the 2013 season, then supplemented those moves with a reasonable deal for a player who is younger than you think and could be an all-star. There's much to like about that.
@taoofstieb For real though, do you like Gibbons? Who would you have hired? #TaoTweetBagI think John Gibbons was an inspired choice. I couldn't be happier to see him back. And that's coming from someone who beat up on Gibby in the early days of this blog's existence.
— Michael W Bradburn (@MWBII) November 22, 2012
I took some time in recent days to look back on my gripes or complaints about Gibbons, and it seems as though my greatest hangup was his constant rejigging of the lineup. Which is odd, because my biggest complaint about the last two managers was their unwillingness to change the lineup or reconsider "roles". Towards the end of his run, though, I think I had come around to appreciate Gibbons. I liked how he handled the pitching staff, and thought that he was tactically sound.
One thing that I think was under-appreciated in his first stint with the Jays was the fact that Gibbons didn't indulge in "small ball". He didn't send runners or bunt or make calls just for the sake of injecting his decisions into the offensive game. After two years of Farrellball, I think we'll welcome the change.
As for who I might have hired: I was beginning to lean towards Sandy Alomar Jr. as my personal preference, and the influx of Latin players certainly helped to sway that thinking. But truth be told, I think the Jays made the better choice.
@taoofstieb #TaoTweetBag If the season started today, who would start the opener, and what would the rest of the rotation look like. Why?Although Josh Johnson might end up being the ace of the staff, I'd give the ball to Brandon Morrow on Opening Day. The role of "Opening Day Starter" is largely ceremonial, but I think that Morrow has earned that recognition for what he's done over the past two years. Also, I'd rather not hand it to the New Guy. But that's just me.
— Joshu (@J_Smitty90) November 22, 2012
Moreover, I think that it is the sort of recognition that he would appreciate, and that would motivate him. It's easy to slip too far into the rational analysis sometimes and neglect to recognize that these players are people. and sometimes, they need a pat on the back. Or a hug. Or a $10 LCBO gift card. Something to warm their hearts and make them feel special.
(I'm not even joking. Not really. Maybe a bit.)
@taoofstieb what's the plan for D'arnaud? Train him at 1st in AAA & wait for Lind's contract to expire after this year? #TaoTweetBagI'd tweeted at some point that I thought the Jays should consider rotating Travis d'Arnaud into the 1B/DH mix along with Lind - presuming he's still here - and Encarnacion. I know the Jays had begun to get him reps at first in Las Vegas before he hurt his knee and ended his season last year, so I don't think that I am far off.
— Eric Dupuis (@Dupe1980) November 22, 2012
However, it's worth remembering how valuable d'Arnaud could be as a catcher if he is able to progress and become an above average offensive player while manning that position. There are only so many really good offensive catchers - Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, maybe Yadier Molina, and it drops off quickly from there - whereas you can find first basemen or designated hitters.
I think that the best course of action for this season is to allow J.P. Arencibia to remain as the starter, with John Buck backing up and d'Arnaud getting a month or two in Buffalo to prove he's healthy. But I think they should continue to give him a start or two per week at first if his bat merits it, so that if the Jays have a DH/1B opening, he can come up and get regular at bats.
@taoofstieb hey Mr. Tao if that is your real name. Thoughts on a possible trade for justin smoak at 1B?
— Mike Wilson (@mikejrock11) November 22, 2012
Over the last two seasons, Smoak has posted a .685 OPS (.290 OBP) in 1024 plate appearances. Adam Lind has a .732 OPS (.303 OBP) in 895 PAs. Both have a 96 OPS+ in that time.
I don't see how there's any improvement to be found, unless you really put a lot of stock into the idea that Smoak still has his best years ahead of him. I would consider him if I didn't have to give up anything in return, but nothing more than that.
@taoofstieb If the bench right now has Davis, Buck, and Izturis or Mr Good Face… what sort of player is the ideal for the 4th spot?
— Jonathan Morton (@MortonJonathan) November 22, 2012
What's great about that list is now much positional and lineup flexibility the Jays will have next year. There are a lot of options that get covered off even with just those four players.
If either of Izturis or Bonifacio take the everyday second base job - and that's my suspicion - then I think that you need to find someone who can cover off the infield in a pinch. The Rockies' Jonathan Herrera might be an option if he were non-tendered, though I use him more as an example.
You probably need one more outfielder as well in that list. Moises Sierra might be an option as the 25th man, though I wouldn't want to ever put him in centerfield, and Davis can't play there for any extended period of time. I've also seen Ryan Roberts' name on lists of players who may be non-tendered, and as a player who can slip from the outfield to the infield when needed, he could be a decent option. Though clearly, I'm not overly enamoured with any of these options.
But since the Jays have brought back John Gibbons, might I suggest that the Jays repatriate John McDonald as well? Sure, they have better offensive options on the bench, but as a versatile and beloved former Jay, I wouldn't mind him as the 25th man.
@taoofstieb French reporter at AA presser. Good news for broadening fan base? Some Twitterites took exception to AA speaking French. Why?
— Catherine S. (@ScottCath) November 23, 2012
I have no idea why people would get upset by AA answering a question in French. If that was a complaint, it is beyond stupid.
As to the question of broadening the fan base: I have found that the Quebecois have been very reticent to warm up to the Jays, so I don't think that you'll see much of a movement of former Expos fans embracing the Toronto team. But it is worth noting that there are a half-million people in Ontario for whom French is their first language.
I don't think that you'll see bilingual announcements at the Rogers Centre any time soon, but it certainly doesn't hurt anyone to have a GM who can field a question in French once in a blue moon.
@taoofstieb Not trying to get any hopes up, but how do you compare this current team to the 92/93 Jays in terms of talent? #taotweetbagOn the one hand, I'm tempted to dismiss your question by suggesting that you're getting way too excited too early about this team. Let's see them lead their division in June before we start comparing them to the greatest teams in franchise history.
— Sana! (@superstarsana) November 22, 2012
I don't think the Jays will have three players with OBPs above .400 (as they did in 1993 with Olerud, Alomar and Molitor), and I don't think that they have the depth of pitching that the 1992 Jays did. But this is a pretty good team on paper, and they might have a lineup that runs five or six deep and enough pitching to get them to 90 wins. If all goes well (and it so seldom does, right?)
@taoofstieb Fast forward one year from now. What will be the state of #JaysNation?#taotweetbag"Complainy." Just a stab in the dark, there. Though with lots of precedent.
— Gordie Canuck (@GTSpenny) November 23, 2012
@taoofstieb roster as it is today... gimme your opening day lineup... #tweetbag #notaquestionReyes SS
— Luke DeWitt (@whatadewitt) November 23, 2012
@taoofstieb Realistic dream first baseman for the '12 Über Jays. Go. #TaoTweetBagEdwin Encarnacion. He's dreamy.
— Chad Wassing (@chadvector) November 22, 2012
@taoofstieb Mark Reynolds is a NT candidate. Do you see him as a possible RH DH possibility to platoon with Lind?Might be a decent buy-low option in that role, though his strikeouts would make people wistful for Kelly Johnson. I also thought that he had hit well at Rogers Centre, but the numbers aren't that impressive. Also, I think he wants a full time gig.
— GhostRunnrOn3rd (@GhostRunnrOn3rd) November 23, 2012
@taoofstieb #TaoTweetBag With winter coming up, how does Tao tackle the snow? Shovel or snow plow?Shovel. My walk is smaller than a batters box.
— Back In Blue (@BIBNetwork) November 22, 2012
@taoofstieb over/under on Reyes 2013 games played - 130I take the over. Even with his injury-hampered seasons, he's averaged 136 games per year since his first full season.
— 0jaysfan0 (@tlheard12) November 23, 2012
And one last one before we call it a day:
@taoofstieb what is the most important area the Jays and Rogers needs to improve in terms of improving fan experience? #TaoTweetBagThis is one that's hard for me to nail down, in part because I actually enjoy myself when I am able to make it to the game. I hear a lot of belly-aching that there aren't better food choices, and that the beer is too expensive and it's not from a craft brewery nearby and the grass too fake and the scoreboard is too busy and there are too many ads and the PA is too loud and the stadium isn't pretty enough. I dunno. Like I say: I enjoy myself at the ballgame, because I'M AT THE BALLGAME. But that's me. I'm pretty easygoing that way.
— Moises Mad-R-ang (@MMadarang) November 23, 2012
I will say that I think there has been a lot done over the past five years to help enhance the fan experience, from the vast expansion of the Jays Shop to many new food options on the 100-level concourse. The new options aren't mind-blowing, but I find that most of my non-baseball friends who come to a game with me are more interested in typical ballpark fare: hot dogs and the like.
One thing that might be nice is to see some WiFi installed, at least in certain nerd sections. (Might I suggest section 231?) The wireless coverage in the stadium can be dodgy at times, oddly enough, so to have a spot for those who like to have a phone or tablet fired up through the game might make sense.
Ultimately, the team shouldn't rest on its laurels. If there are some of the "improvements" that didn't necessarily resonate with fans - the chicken wing concession comes to mind - then they should always look to improve on those.
One hopes that the spirit of adventurous improvement extends beyond the field, though to be frank, I'd be thrilled to scarf back a hot dog and fries at a playoff game this year.