by mike in boston (@mikeinboston) / hatemailaccount a.t. gmail d.t com/
Good morning readers. Busy week so I have not had a chance to listen to much radio, but a million thanks to those of you who tweeted at me or commented here to point me to interesting interviews and segments. I really appreciate it. If you hear or read something this week you think we should all be discussing please drop a comment below. On to this week’s sports and media news …
Adieu 2014 Blue Jays
In the 20+ years since the Jays last made the playoffs it would be hard to come up with a pair of seasons that were more disappointing than the last two. The lead up to 2013 brought a flurry of major deals that radically altered the composition of the major and minor league league rosters. Jays fans finally were at the centre of baseball’s consciousness. The 74 win season that ensued — one more than the year before — was a heartbreak to Jays fans, and a real head-scratcher to the bevy of experts who picked the team to go to the World Series.
But many people reasonably asserted that this roster was too good to have performed so poorly, and that in 2014 luck and injuries would have to balance out. This narrative kept fans warm during the lonely losing months of August and September, as well as the cold and harsh winter. The agenda for the 2014 season was clear: improve on a bottom tier starting pitching group, plug the black hole at 2B, and bring in a catcher who can hit his weight while playing good defense. These priorities were repeated by both management and those that covered the team.
Then we waited … and waited. The mostly quiet off-season ended with a bang with the news that Jays players volounteered to defer salary to give management wiggle room to sign a much needed starting pitcher. The cat was now out of the bag: Rogers had imposed a salary freeze on the team, and that all the talk in 2013 of being “all in” on the team and that the salary commitment in 2013 wasn’t a “one-time deal” had not been endorsed by the new Rogers CEO.
Nevertheless, the team’s torrid record in May of 2014 vaulted them into 1st place with a 6 game lead. Then the 2013 Jays re-emerged and proceeded to fall out of the divisional lead and then out of the Wild Card race with a few weeks to go in the season. Media and fans were left to debate whether this counted as meaningful baseball in September. Steve Simmons (who?) has a nice postmortem.
We are now into the off-season and the 2015 machine has kicked into high gear. Lame duck (in the technical sense) President Paul Beeston was on with Jeff Blair to discuss the plan going forward. Bluebirdbanter has a rundown of the highlights.
The main item is that there will be more money from Rogers for 2015. If true, that’s great. But if true, then one has to wonder why that money was not available last off-season or at this year’s trade deadline when the team was still in striking distance.
It is astoundingly bad business to spend a ton of money and prospects to build a core veteran group and then take a year off from filling holes only to continue spending a year later. These are all smart people and presumably Alex made this case to ownership. Something doesn’t make sense. I see two possibilities for the coming months: 1) The Jays will dump their prized veteran assets (perhaps in response to trade demands) and rebuild around the young core, 2) The 1 year salary freeze is over and the Jays will continue to spend to build a winner. If I spent money on season tickets for 2014 then I am going to think very carefully about whether I want to renew right now.
My question for you is this: do you trust AA/Beeston? Both men have been here long enough to have a track record of what they say vs. what actually happens. For example, AA went in to last off-season talking about how they needed to upgrade 2B, then waxed about how amazing Ryan Goins is during spring training only to send him down in the 1st month of the season. We can spend endless hours debating semantics and excuses, but at the end of the day, do you believe that AA and Beeston actually say true things when they speak?
Zaun Cherry goes off
Zaun appeared on PTS this week to talk Jays and delivered one of the most amazing segments from this past week. Go listen … it’s spectacular. Some of the highlights:
- Zaun believes he is part of the last generation of players to play the game the right way
- This team has a culture problem that begins with “the third baseman”
- The young guys are the inmates running the asylum, and Gibbons is too much of a player’s manager to do anything about the country club atmosphere
- Zaun thinks that the team has a bad personality and needs to make cultural changes
- Zaun doesn’t spend much time in the clubhouse but can guarantee that the chemistry is wrong
- It is “inevitable” that Melky will leave
- Part of the reason why Reyes has struggled defensively is that he doesn’t take care of his legs since he has a big fat guaranteed contract
Wow. For a player that thrived in the PED era and was implicated in one of its scandals, some of these claims are hysterical. Bob expertly egged Zaun on, while Brunt mostly clammed up except for a few exasperated corrections to some of Zaun’s assertions. To be honest, I’m glad that Zaun still has the energy to have this fight. I don’t care much for his brand of analysis but I do respect his candour.
The more general trend here is that we are now building a roster of guys who don’t spend much time in the clubhouse who are taking shots at the players. Damian “gotta ask the question” Cox, and Steve “who are you and why are you talking to me” Simmons are both known quantities in this town when it comes to the Jays. Zaun was called out last year by JP Arencibia.
This prompted me to ponder the following: Who gets tougher coverage from the local media – Leafs players or Jays players?
PPP has added the Score’s Katie Flynn to its roster of talented writers. Her first piece on Rogers’ approach to using women on HNIC is really strong. The issue of women in sports media is a topic I have covered extensively in this space, and I’m really glad that Katie is going to be on this beat. I highly recommend reading her piece as well as the comments section for some further points on both sides of the debate. For other reflections, see my interviews with Chris Zelkovich and Nelson Millman.
Here is Damian on the Senators’ Ryan signing:
If you click on the Tweet you’ll see a bunch of responses indicating that Dreger at TSN was actually first. Damian has to know that by knowingly tweeting out false information he is inviting the “TSN DID IT FIRST!” response. What does this tweet accomplish other than making Friedman look bad? With friends like Damian, Friedman doesn’t need enemies.
Chris Zelkovich has a report on some GoPro style cameras that will be added to Rogers’ NHL coverage this year.
Low Hanging Fruit
- Naylor had a really good point a few weeks back about how this Jays team has performed most poorly when the pressure has been the highest.
- In classic “that’s so TSN …” fashion their new website broke podcast compatibility with iTunes. The problem was fixed over a week later, because making sure that people can actually access the radio shows your website is promoting isn’t that important … right?
- Good get for Brady&Walker in having an interview with Vin Scully. I reckon lots of the credit should go to their producer Ryan Fabro. (Sportsnet won’t let me direct link to the interview on their website, but here’s the iTunes link to the full hour)
- Mike Richards has a book coming out next week called 100 Things Everyone Else Is Wrong About. Judging by the book cover one of those things is the view that scotch, poker, and raw meat don’t go well together. Mike sets the record straight.
- Scott MacArthur has an interview with soon to be ex-Jay Casey Janssen in which he says he would give up closing to pitch out of the bullpen on a winning team. Says a lot about Casey’s priorities at this stage in his career. I wish him well with his new team.
have a good weekend everyone,
thanks for reading and commenting.
mike (in boston)