Here’s the full transcript from Tuesday morning’s conference call with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. There are also a series of articles on this topic currently available on bluejays.com
On the difficult decision to non-tender Arencibia…
“I can’t speak more highly about J.P. in terms of how long he has been in the organization, the type of character and human being he is and everything he has done. You build relationships with these players the longer they are in the organization. I obviously got to know him in the Minor Leagues, saw him come up, and be our starter for a few years. It was not an easy decision at all. I called him on Sunday night to let him know what was going on and definitely not an enjoyable call to make but he handled it as well as he could. He has always been a pro, he has always handled himself the right way and he’s definitely going to look forward to the next phase of his career.
At what point in 2013 did you realize a change was needed…
“I don’t know that there was a point. There was a few things, you step back, guys have good seasons, bad seasons, you try to sit back at the end of the season once the results are in and so on, step away from it a little bit and look at your alternatives and your options. That’s a lot of what it came down to but I don’t know that there was any point in the season where we were making plans for Dioner Navarro to be here in the offseason. That was all talked about and decided in the last few weeks or so.”
But at some point must have decided you couldn’t go any further with J.P…
“As we’ve done the entire offseason, we looked at the trade market, looked at the free agent market, looked to see if there were any fits for us. Navarro was someone, he wasn’t in an everyday last year, has been in an everyday role in the past, but someone that has pretty good contact rate, low strikeouts, pretty good on-base skills, been able to talk a walk and work the count. From a game calling standpoint, the work we did on him, I think everyone really raved about his game calling and how guys loved throwing to him. When we looked at the lineup we had and ways to improve the team, we just felt like he was a better fit for us right now.”
Navarro somewhat like Izturis where you set a bar early and if you can go above it later in the winter you will…
“No, I think with Izturis, we looked at him as a guy that would be in that utility role but had shown enough to get 300-400 at-bats in the past and that he had played all of those positions for so many years but I wouldn’t say it’s similar at all. We think with Navarro it’s similar to what we did years ago whether it was Rod Barajas, Gregg Zaun, John Buck, guys that didn’t necessarily have a chance to be full-time starters and came here and kind of revived themselves, got their careers back on track. What made us attractive was that we offered playing time and a starting role.
“The fact that Dioner has played over 100 games three times in his career, has been an All-Star, and is only 29, that certainly factored into the decision and even guys like Jose Molina that were here, his last year with us at 36 years old, started 44 games for us and then we see him go to Tampa and as a 38 year old start (a lot) of games for those guys. Dioner is very motivated and very hungry to get back to being that everyday guy, he just hasn’t had the opportunity to be the everyday guy since he left the Rays. We do think there’s some upside here, obviously from an offensive standpoint, he hasn’t had the type of year he had last year in his career, especially from a power standpoint, but there’s a lot of work that we did that we feel he may have turned the corner even swinging the bat as well, not to say we’re expecting a mid-.800 OPS but there’s a lot of pretty good indicators whether it’s approach, line drive rate, things like that, we think he may have really started coming into his own especially considering his age.”
On whether there was any thought on tendering J.P. a contract and seeing how the market developed later…
“At some point, when you really don’t think it’s possible to make a trade, you try and do what’s best for the player and for his career. If we really felt there wasn’t going to be a trade out there for him, to sit there and carry him into Spring Training, on a non-guaranteed deal, potentially having to release him or option him, it just wouldn’t make sense for him or for us. We were pretty motivated, if we could get something done by last night we were going to do it, and if not, probably the best way for all parties involved was to make the decision.”
On whether there was any thought in using Arencibia as a back-up catcher…
“I don’t think that was going to work. Especially with Josh (Thole) having caught R.A. Dickey and from J.P.’s standpoint with where the money was going to end up in salary arbitration and things like that, it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense for us to go down that path.”
Any theories on why Arencibia regressed so much in the past year…
“I wish I did. I’ve said this before, I do think he’s going to bounce back. He was a little banged up and the one thing about J.P. is that he’s a very durable guy, very tough, plays through a lot of injuries. There was a time when we almost put him on the DL and he wanted to keep playing. He battled through it, grinded through it, we’ve seen him play with a broken hand and things like that. But I really don’t know. Certainly we didn’t expect it, we didn’t expect him to have that type of year. Maybe it was injury related, maybe things aren’t going your way and the more you press, the more you grind, obviously he’s very proud and has extreme pride in his job
and I think it may have just worn on him. I really don’t have anything specific to point to.”
Concerned about player development? Example of Romero and Arencibia going in the other direction…
“No, because I think you could take the opposite of that and see how guys have developed. You have a guy like Encarnacion, it may have stalled in some other places and emerged here, Bautista, a guy like Adam Lind who went back to the Minor Leagues and came back, or Lawrie who started off slowly and played better, or guys like Janssen who developed into a closer, or Loup who was basically a relief candidate and developed. Cecil was the same way, Brandon Morrow, there are a lot of examples. I just think that’s just the way the game works, very rarely do players careers go in a linear fashion where they just continue to improve each year and we’re certainly not the first team to go through it.”
Navarro deal cash neutral to what J.P. would have cost over next two years. Did the financial element come into play and how it will impact offseason…
I think it’s always some type of factor. You’re always looking to get value. I’ve always said, we like a lot of players but we like a lot of
players at the right price. If every player cost the exact same amount it would have been totally different but you do have to weigh contract term, length, some guys might get five-year deals and say you you’d love to have them at two or three but you don’t want those last two or three years of that deal so that player wouldn’t make sense. I think it’s all part of the equation, all part of the evaluation. Navarro didn’t necessarily have to cost what J.P. may have made in arbitration, it worked out that way, but if Navarro needed a three or four year deal I don’t think we would have made this deal.”
Did the off-field issues factor into the decision at all…
“No, I don’t think there were any issues. I think he was one of our best guys in the community, he was always available, always a great supporter of the ballclub. Any time we had a need in the offseason, Jays Winter Tour, hospitals, there were a lot of things he did behind the scenes that no one saw. To me, he was outstanding and I think that’s a big part of where he’s going to be missed because he was proud to be part of the only club in Canada and went above and beyond, it’s certainly going to be a loss for us.”
Pressure getting to him and as struggles went on and wore him down…
I never said the pressure got to him. I just said I know he wants to do well like any player would. Sometimes the harder you try when things aren’t going your way, you get into a little bit of a funk. But there are tons of players across the league that have gone through it before. When you look at J.P.’s body of work here, the way he carried himself, from Day 1, no one is perfect by any stretch but when you take his time here I think he carried himself exceptionally well and sure there may have been times when you wish he would have changed some things but I can’t speak more highly of how he carried himself here.
Importance of acquiring catcher as first move of offseason…
“I don’t look at it as significant on whether it was the first, the third or the fifth, it’s just something we felt we had a chance to improve the ballclub and we did it. It’s nice to have a switch hitter, nice to have more of a contact bat, some on-base skills. Dioner had a wonderful year in 240 at-bats and we think there’s some upside there especially considering his age. We think it’s a nice fit and obviously we’ll find out, there’s certainly an element of risk like there is in any deal because he’s not coming off a season in which he had played 110-120 games but if he was, with the numbers he put up, I think the market would have been significantly stronger for him. The dollars would have been significantly more and the years would have been significantly more.”
Was there a point where it was decided J.P. wouldn’t be able to change the issues..
I just think he had a down year, he knows he’s certainly capable of more, I believe he’s capable of more. He ran into some bad luck as well. He’s 27 years old, he has a lot more ability than he showed this year but, again, guys have bad years, it happens. It happens to so many players. It was about the alternatives and what was out there. If we felt there was a chance to improve the club we were going to do it but we didn’t go into the offseason with the decision of we were certainly going to make change. If something presented itself that was going to make the team better we were going to go down that path but it certainly wasn’t set in stone.”
When the frustration manifested itself with outburst on Twitter did you talk to him or leave it to Gibbons…
He’s definitely not the first person with Twitter, there are tons of professional athletes that have done the same thing. We always talk to all of our players about Twitter. I understand the importance about connecting with fans, the union feels strongly about it, the league does, and the certainly the ballclub as well. From a general manager’s standpoint, you always prefer your players aren’t on Twitter because then you don’t even have a chance that something is put out there that becomes a story or a distraction. I think we always try to educate our players, our media relations staff does as well, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
Plenty of free agent catchers on the market with more recent 100-game seasons, was the Rays making the postseason with Molina/Lobaton a model for what you’ve done?
“No, we didn’t look at it that way at all. One of the questions we had was in terms of playing time, durability, that was one of the questions that we had, it was part of the unknown. The fact that the player had played in over 100 games three times, the last time he had a chance to do it, obviously he did it, but he had been in a back-up role since then. Because of his age and everything else, and having a guy like Molina here, he was older and hadn’t necessarily been given the opportunity in a long time to catch close to 100 games, the fact that he was able to do it, certainly was part of the analysis.
“But I think Dioner with his age and the fact that he had already done it and we had some success with Gregg Zaun, John Buck, Rod Barajas, those type of guys that have come in here and been given an opportunity to play every day and really took the ball and ran with it, that certainly factored in as well. He hadn’t done it and that’s part of the risk but with all of the work that we did we certainly think he’s capable of doing that. We think that the contract built in some protection, it was priced right, even if he doesn’t perform the way he did last year, which we don’t expect that because the numbers were unbelievable but we still think he’s going to provide pretty good value behind the plate.”
How far away from being a Major League player is A.J. Jimenez…
“We think he’s very close, defensively we think he can come up here right now but his health is the most important thing. We’ll have him in Spring Training, hopefully he’s behind the issues he’s had from a health standpoint but we believe he’s very close. I think he can certainly make his way onto the team at some point this year but we’d still like to develop the bat as well and get him more at-bats.
Before you come to terms with a starting catcher do you reach out to current pitchers…
“We didn’t do that with our current players. J.P. was on the team and I don’t know if we necessarily want to mess things up. But we did do a lot of work with Dioner, talked to coaches, guys he played with, guys he has thrown to, former teammates, front office, we probably made at least 20 calls to various people that have played with him, been around him, just to try and put it all together. When you start to get a common theme and the common theme was everybody likes throwing to him, very good game caller, very bright. He certainly can improve on blocking balls in the dirt and his throwing is probably average … but everyone raves about his bat it made sense for us. We definitely did a lot of work on him and his background.”
Trying to manage risk a bit more, going for Navarro, was that an area where you could have managed more risk by paying more for a different catcher…
“You’re looking at the best value. Every contract has risk. When you look at free agents a lot of times, the medical files of various free agents and all of a sudden who you thought might be a great fit, maybe there’s a medical concern that wasn’t disclosed and the media and the fans don’t know it and that can impact how long you think a player is going to hold up. I think it goes back to, everyone likes players but you like them at a certain price. The price for one team isn’t the same price for another team, especially when you’re looking at free agency.
“Players have kids in schools, wives who want to be close to certain areas, travel and things like that. I remember two years ago, we were trying to sign a free agent closer and we were prepared to offer significantly more money per year but we couldn’t compete with a short flight from his home to the club he ended up signing with. That was very important for him and his family, that’s always part of the equation as well so it’s not as cut and dry as you just pick the free agent, offer him more years and money and they always come. It doesn’t always work out that way.”
Were there a lot of other options besides Navarro…
“I don’t know what you define as pursued. I think we looked into every position because we don’t know what’s going to come up in trade, we want to know the market and have the ability to react. I can say for this position, I think we looked into everybody on the free agent market that we thought could start and this was definitely the best fit for us.”
Does replacing JP with Navarro increase chances of signing any free agents?
“It might. We talked to some guys that were free agents when we were doing our work on Navarro, guys that have thrown to him, his former teammates, some free agents have thrown to him. We tried to get information from them as well. I guess it might be a factor but I don’t know that I would expect it to be. For the most part, some of it is geography, some of it is family, a lot of time it is dollars.”
Thole as essential to catch Dickey?
“Right now, I think R.A. did a nice job with him, especially in the second half of the season R.A. seemed to really get in a groove. I know Josh didn’t swing the bat like he has done in the past and part of it may have been having to adjust to not playing as much and trying to do too much and things like that, we think Josh is a lot better than he has played from an offensive standpoint but I don’t know what I would use that word. I think Josh is a nice fit with R.A., did a nice job with him in the second half, I don’t know that we’re looking to break that up but I wouldn’t rule out if something was to present itself, we wouldn’t ignore it, but I think for now we’re fine with Josh being that guy.”
On the main site, you’ll find today’s article on the hiring of Kevin Seitzer as the club’s new hitting coach. Below, you’ll find the full transcript of his conference call with reporters.
On his philosophy as a hitting coach…
“My philosophy in a nutshell is to stay in the middle of the field, stay gap to gap, and make tweaks along the way with mechanics. Work with the guys with what their strengths are and then try to help them with their weaknesses too. I know that there’s probably a lot of questions about Bautista, Encarnacion, Rasmus, guys like that, that are more pull-type hitters, I also have a philosophy of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. So, let guys continue to do what they’ve had success with, but at the same time be able to help them with adjustments they need to make when times are tough.”
On favouring an opposite field approach with two strikes…
“Depending on the pitcher, too, who you’re going to face and what he features. Guys like a Bruce Chen, or Jamie Moyer type of pitcher, who are more offspeed with their secondary stuff and their primary stuff, you may take a more opposite field approach with them so you can continue to bust it with the majority of what they’re going to throw you. That’s the thing of making adjustments from hitter to hitter and pitcher to pitcher that we go up against, to maintain your strength, if you’re sitting more of a fastball to the opposite field but the majority of pitches you’re going to get are going to be slow, then you’re going to have a chance to pull those pitches.
“For me, the bottom line as far as philosophy, approach, is really making consistent hard contact and that’s why the thinking, the plan, of hitting the ball to the middle of the field, gap to gap, gives you a better chance to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. The better the swing, the bigger the guy, the smaller the park, the more balls that are going to go out. As long as hitters are making solid contact, you have a chance to not only hit home runs but drive gaps and if you have an approach and a plan that you can make adjustments depending on who you’re facing where you can be more consistently with putting the fat part of the bat on the ball you’re going to have more success. That’s really the bottom line in what I teach.”
On philosophy being based on the type of hitter he was in the Major Leagues…
“It’s a conglomeration of all the coaches I had along the way and things that I did along with all the conversations I’ve had with really good hitters and guys that I really respected that I played with or against. Continued as a hitting coach, I feel like my four years in Kansas City working with those guys on a daily basis and the adjustments that we made, I feel like I was able to add a lot more tools to my toolbox to help guys make adjustments quickly.
“The bottom line is you want to keep guys going the way they’re feeling good and shorten the slumps and keep those to a minimum and try to keep the confidence up to where they feel they have a chance every time they step into the box. All of the guys that I’ve talked to, and worked with, people I respected in the game, I started really studying the swing and studying hitting back when I was in college and throughout the course of the Minor Leagues. Then my time in the big leagues, I got to have some very special conversations with very good hitters.
“The things that I did, I hit the ball the other way just because my hands weren’t quick enough to pull the ball. My recognition wasn’t as good as what a lot of hitters are, and I felt like with the limited ability I had as a player I was able to have a lot of success because of my approach and plan. I can’t tell you the countless times I went in and looked to pull something, tried to pull it, and it went to right field. So, I was happy that I had a hit.”
On the special conversations, big influences, name off a couple…
“Obviously when you get to play a long time with guys like George Brett, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, those are just a few right there. Conversations with guys like Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Rod Carew, when he was a hitting coach. I would try to have conversations with anyone that would stand still long enough to talk to me. Wade Boggs was another one and Dave Winfield. I wanted to talk to power guys, I wanted to talk to high average guys, I just wanted to talk to guys who were successful big-league hitters. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Harold Baines, when you could get him to say some words, those were great conversations. You want to continue to build your knowledge and build your program. Things that I saw and things that I heard, I would go into the cage and try them and see if they worked. I can’t really say that I would cater what I teach and my philosophy to one certain person or a book, it really just came through trial and error through 20-some years in the game.”
On conversations with Gibbons and AA about how philosophy can be beneficial to the Jays…
“I think it’s something that is going to help them be better well rounded hitters. With all due respect, they have been very successful for a long time and even though it appears to be all or nothing, they’ve been pretty successful putting up runs. I think I can even take that to a new level just by putting more tools in guys’ tool boxes, adding to their arsenal to where you understand what you need to do to beat shifts.
“If teams are shifting around to where they have the second baseman playing up the middle on the shortstop side for a right-handed hitter, or vice versa for a lefty, to be able to shoot that ball the other way. Guys like David Ortiz, he just came off a pretty good postseason, but I feel like a few years ago was when he finally made up his mind that I’m not going to let them shift on me and get away with it, especially with men in scoring position. Then he had the Fenway wall that he would pepper the other way. He still pulls plenty of his share of balls, but having the ability to go the other way to beat a shift to drive in a run is critical. I think a lot of times it goes with spending a little bit of time and showing guys technique No. 1 and mindset No. 2, of what adjustments they need to make to be able to execute that in a game. I feel like that’s one of the strengths I can bring to my game.”
On relationship with Gibbons…
“We had a tremendous relationship, I have all the respect in the world for him. He’s a very easy going guy but yet has some fire and intensity to him at the same time. If you’re around him, he’s a very good baseball man, I have ultimate respect for him. One of the things, too, our first year, he was our bench coach, we spent some time talking about philosophy and what I teach.
“I have a lot of respect for him because I felt like I had to win him over, I had to prove to him what I was doing and what I was teaching really worked. He saw the proof in the pudding for the three years that I was there. There was some pretty drastic changes in guys careers when we were together and he got to watch it on a daily basis and I think that played a big role in him wanting to bring me in. I came in, I interviewed, I met with Alex and other people in the front office, I had to share what I teach, what I base everything on, share stories and talk about things I’ve done in the past, how I worked with guys and helped them make adjustments.
“Alex Gordon, is probably one player that I feel the best about in accomplishments just because he struggled so bad his first years in the big leagues and it was a major overhaul process to help him make some adjustments he needed to make. He said the biggest thing that helped him was being able to stay in the middle of the field from a mental standpoint, but if you go look at his spray charts from his successful seasons, the majority of his hits were to the pull side. I could care less where the ball goes as long as we’re getting hits and driving in runs and having good at-bats. Just that ability to focus on a consistent approach is a big thing that I’m really concerned with and that’s what I feel like leads to success.”
On what he was dong last year…
“I have an indoor baseball facility here in Kansas City with Mike Macfarlane, it’s called Mac-N-Seitz baseball, we’ve been doing this for 17 years. I was here full time with the business and I have a son who was in Double-A last year with the Rays and I got to go see him for the first time in pro ball so that was really cool, I got to go see him on four different trips and having the summer to do that was a real blessing. I always try to find the good and the bad and as much as I hated getting let go by the Royals, there was a silver lining there. But I also realized how bad I wanted to get back in, I missed it a lot, I love helping guys, I love being in the dugout and being in the cage. It’s a really rewarding job, so I missed it.”
Plan for offseason…
“I’m going to get video sent to me by the club and just be able to get to know these guys from a swing standpoint. Then, I’ll reach out to them and touch base. They’ve had a long grueling season and probably the last thing they want to do is talk about their swing, talk about hitting and talk about their workouts for the winter but I will reach out and touch base with them.
“Try to keep it as brief as possible, introduce myself and let them know I’m excited, looking forward to working with them and holler if you need anything. Once guys start working out, if there’s a way that we can hook up, that would be a great thing but, for me, it’s not life or death. Once I get with guys and start building that relationship, we can make some things happen pretty quick.”
On the expectations of 2013 and moving forward…
“The expectations from last year were definitely, it didn’t work out the way everybody thought and hoped. I’ll be honest, I thought that team was going to pretty much walk away with it. But due to injuries and whatnot, they had a rough year and I think the potential is there to meet people’s expectations of what they were going into this season, for next year.
“Depending on what happens as far as the offseason goes with moves they decide to make, there’s definitely an expectation to win the division and go to the postseason. If anybody is thinking short of they, they probably need to make an adjustment mentally with all due respect.”
In some ways, it’s hard to believe but it was 20 years ago today that Joe Carter hit his infamous home run off Philadelphia closer Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. The latest generation of Blue Jays fans weren’t even born when Carter’s shot went just over the wall in left field at Rogers Centre but it’s a moment that will continue to live on through stories and highlight reels for decades to come.
If Bill Mazeroski’s walkoff homer in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series was the ‘Shot heard ’round the world’ then Carter’s blast was at least the ‘Shot heard ’round Canada.’ There are numerous Canadians currently in the Major Leagues who have pointed to those teams in 1992-93 as being one of the main reasons they originally became interested in the sport. Everyone growing up during that time certainly recreated the scene of Carter’s home run in his/her backyard with the hope of one day being able to achieve such glory.
At the time, I was no different. I was only 10 years old when the Jays won their back-to-back championship but I can remember watching the game in my basement with my parents and the ensuing years I would go on to collect as much memorabilia from that era as possible. There wasn’t a single inch in my bedroom that wasn’t plastered with posters of that team. The official team photos from both 92/93, the Jays of Thunder featuring Alomar and Carter, a Kelly Gruber life size poster that I would measure myself against every month. The commemorative Coca-Cola cans that went out across the country, team-signed baseballs, baseball cards, you name it and I tried to get my hands on it.
I grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, and never even had the privilege of seeing a Major League game in person until a couple of years later. But none of that mattered. It wasn’t just Toronto’s team, it was all of Canada’s. The Expos were still around at that time, and I’m sure Quebec would be an exception to the statement, but from British Columbia to Newfoundland this was a team that became embraced by an entire nation.
I don’t view baseball through the same lens that I did back then. It’s impossible in this type of job. That’s not to say I’m not a fan of the game, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. But instead of being a fan of a team, or a particular player, I’ve become a fan of the big moment, the big story line, the compelling angle, the minutiae and reasoning behind every transaction an organization makes. I know too much about every player to view them with the type of blinders I did back when I was a kid, when those athletes of the early ’90s could do no wrong.
But earlier this week I was able to put those blinders on for at least one more day. I stopped being the impartial reporter for approximately half an hour when I had the chance to do a phone interview with Joe Carter. We reminisced about those memories of 1993 and while he recalled everything that took place in the days leading up to Game 6, the moments before the homer, the celebration afterwards, the fallout — I was able to relive exactly what it meant to grow up as such a big fan of the person, the player and the organization.
Those early teams are one of the main reasons I have the privilege of covering baseball for a living. I realized relatively early on that I could try to replicate Pat Hentgen’s delivery on the mound all I wanted but I could never actually achieve his success against hitters who would go on to any type of success. It worked pretty well against those Little Leaguers but it would only get me so far. Those early years were a big reason why, by the time I reached high school, I was emailing Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun for tips on how to get into the industry. So I at least theoretically traded in those baseball cards and team memorabilia for a recorder and a laptop.
I still had those journalism necessities during this Carter interview but make no mistake about it, when I talked to Carter, I wasn’t talking to him as the Blue Jays reporter from MLB.com as much as I was talking to him as the 10-year-old fan boy who lost his mind when that ball disappeared over the left-field fence. For just one day I was a completely biased fan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview I did with Carter the other day. I hope you enjoy it.
Joe Carter Q+A:
On the 20-year anniversary of the infamous home run…
“It really is hard to believe that 20 years has passed. It’s something that people still always talk about. I was just thinking, as long as there has been World Series and baseball, this only happened twice in the history of the game. That’s the rarest of rare feats. For it to be 20 years, it goes to show you, when you’re young time just goes by slow but when you’re older it goes by incredibly fast.”
On whether the home run gets the respect it deserves…
“I don’t think it gets the notoriety in the States like it does in Canada. I’ve always said, if I played for the Yankees or the Dodgers, one of those big market teams, then it would have been huge. I think at times they give more honor to Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the World Series. That was a great moment, don’t get me wrong, a special moment for a special guy. But something like this I don’t think it gets the notoriety it gets in Canada because in Canada it’s unbelievable the reception that I get up there where people from the East Coast as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia, all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia. People still talk about that home run as if it just happened yesterday and it’s at the forefront of their minds. I’m very elated that they still remember that and it’s indeed a special honor for me.”
On whether he understood at the time the significance that home run had for all of Canada…
“I didn’t have the sense of it then when it happened. It was a long grueling season. The year before when we won the World Series that was a lot of pressure off of our backs because the Blue Jays had been clamouring so close really since 1985 when they got beat by the Royals after being up three games to one. It was a big relief after the ’92 World Series and the ’93 World Series was more of an enjoyment for us. We had a chance to sit back and enjoy that moment.
“So from that standpoint, it’s a special moment and it was a time for us to really enjoy what had transpired and I look back now, I go to Canada all the time and there are a lot of people named Carter, a lot of people around 20 years old named Carter (laughs), they were born around that time and it’s a great moment not only for me but for Canada and for all of baseball. It was a rare feat.
On the difference between closing out at home vs on the road in ’92…
“Believe it or not, from a fan standpoint it was better in Toronto, but from a player standpoint, it was better in Atlanta because after the game we went back to the hotel, we had all of our families there, all the people who travel with the team, there was probably 300-400 people there and we had the entire floor of the hotel, we had a band playing, we had all the food you could eat, everybody was there celebrating.
“If you can imagine guys like Dave Winfield, John Olerud dancing down the soul train line. We had a 5 o’clock wake-up call and I don’t think we went to bed that night. So, from a player standpoint, it was great while we were in Toronto. Winning it in Canada, we couldn’t really go out and have fun with the fans. I kind of missed most of the celebrations because I was doing all of the interviews. I came back two and a half hours later back to the locker room and everyone was done celebrating and I was like wait, I just got here.
“After the game, everyone got dressed and we went upstairs, we had a little sit down quiet dinner with the players, front office, wives, but it was really subdued and quiet. Meanwhile everyone on the streets was going crazy so from the fans point of view, it was great for the fans, but we had a better time in Atlanta when clinched there.”
On what was going through his mind during the start of that rally in the ninth inning…
“I knew the rally we had before in the eighth was very important because we hit around. I think Pat Borders popped up with the bases loaded, made the last out, but the good thing about that was we knew Rickey was leading off the ninth, I think everybody knew Rickey was going to be on first base, there was no way Mitch wasn’t going to walk him. Going into that ninth, I was like, wow, I’m up fourth this inning. Something always in the game happens and that ninth inning revolves around me a lot of the time. That’s what you live for in baseball, when you’re hitting third or fourth on a championship team you’re going to be in the spotlight more often than not.
“I was more nervous sitting in the dugout because I was pacing back and forth, sitting on the top step of the dugout, itching for a chance to get up there because I was waiting for my time. Sure enough, Rickey gets the walk, Devo pops up and then Molitor gets the base hit so I knew it would eventually come down to what I did, or I was going to be very instrumental with what happened. Having those two guys on base, Rickey and Pauly on first and second, I knew at the time, if I hit a ball into the gap Molitor is going to score from first base. That made my job a little bit easier with those two guys on first base.”
On whether he thought it was gone off the bat…
“Never saw it. I didn’t. The thing is, when Mitch threw me the 2-1 pitch, a breaking ball, I was looking breaking ball because I looked so bad on it. When he shook off the first pitch, I knew Dalton had to put down breaking ball again, so if he shook it off he’s going to the fastball but I thought I still have to think he’s going to throw the breaking ball again. Because I was thinking breaking ball and I had lost the last breaking ball, the 2-1 breaking ball, I said, okay you need to slow down a little bit and I need to see the ball all the way in. I need to follow it as if it was a 3-0 pitch and I was following it back to the catcher’s glove and so I followed the ball all the way in.
“He jerked a fastball down and in, more like a cut fastball and because I was thinking breaking ball, I kind of stayed back on the ball. Normally if I’m looking fastball, I’d either swing and miss at that ball and nine times out of 10 times I hook it into the third base dugout and scatter my teammates. But in that particular moment, because was looking breaking ball, I kept my head down and when I made contact, and even when I watched the replay I can’t see the ball because the angle of the bat and the ball, it was all simultaneously in the same motion, down and in, when I looked up, I never saw the ball.
“All I saw was the bank of lights. I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t know if I hit it high enough to get over the fence. As I jumped three or four jumps down the first-base line, I saw Pete kind of slow down to a trot and when the ball went over the fence, the thoughts that go through your mind, the first thought that goes through your mind this is just unbelievable I can’t believe that happened. My second thought was make sure you touch all of the bases Joe.”
On being forever linked with Mitch Williams…
“Mitch didn’t go through a tough time, it’s the way people perceived him, all of the death threats and everything. But Mitch never let that bother him and that’s what I loved about the guy. Here’s a guy that gave it his all, I gave it my all, it just so happens that that one time I happened to come out on top. But I’ve always said, if it wasn’t for Mitch they wouldn’t have been there. He had 43 saves, he saved Game 2 of the World Series and he saved the last game in the NLCS against the Braves to get them to the World Series.
“The things that he went through, the Philadelphia fans, they can be some unruly fans as we’ve all come to know. But Mitch I think he handled it very well, he stayed in the area up there, and we are going to be forever linked but I think it’s a pretty good thing. I don’t know if he thinks it’s a good thing, at times he says come October his name will always be kind of out there because of what happened in the World Series. Unfortunately there are going to be great times and bad times because in this game someone has to win and someone has to lose and a moment like that is going to be always remembered.
“We get along great, we got along great before then, I never had a problem with anybody I played with or against. I’ve always been that type of person. I think the one thing he should be embarrassed about, in 1998, my last year, they kind of did a where are they at now and Mitch had challenged me to a bowling match. He had his own bowling alley just outside of Philadelphia and so when Baltimore came to town to Philadelphia it was a big event. They had a limosine take me down there, Mitch carries a 200 average. He gets me into a bowling alley, ESPN is there, the lights and cameras on, they were announcing it and everything and it was funny because when I walked in, one of Mitch’s good friends, he yelled at me, you cost me $1000. I said, well you bet on the wrong team.
“They made me up a bowling ball, I went down to the alley and I rolled the first ball between my legs and it was a strike. Mitch’s eyes, his mouth dropped, his eyes are huge and he goes “noooooo.” His buddy goes, I’ve got $100 on Joe. I beat Mitch three straight games and he carries a 200 average but he did now know, I grew up bowling. My father, who just passed away in September, he was 82 years old, he bowled up until he was 80 years old. So, I was a very accomplished bowler. I beat him the first game, I bowled like a 235, 240 and just blew him out of the water. He couldn’t believe it was happening. Now, that’s where he should be embarrassed, baseball that was two guys giving it their best, but bowling, on his home field, that’s where he should be embarrassed.”
On being a ringer and Mitch not seeing it coming…
“No he didn’t. I even bowled in college, Wichita State, had a very good college bowling team, in the dormitory I lived in, I bowled for three years on our dormitory bowling team so I was a very good bowler.”
On getting back to Toronto on a regular basis for his annual charity golf tournament and various events with the Blue Jays…
“It’s very important but it’s not just for the Blue Jays, it’s for all of Canada. That, to me, is my second home. With my golf tournament, we’ve raised more than $1.2 million for the Children’s Aid Foundation in just four years of having my golf tournament there. Mitch, last year, he came down, he was so gracious to come down and play in that. We had a great time with that. Going from Vancouver all the way to Halifax, it is phenomenal the reception that I get. I know that, too much is given, much is expected. I know that my greatest times in baseball were in Canada and for me to go back there and show them the love and favor that they’ve shown me, I love it tremendously that I can go back there and make an impact. Help a lot of kids and a lot of people and that’s what I try to do. It’s good to still be associated with the Blue Jays but it’s even better that I’m associated with all of Canada, not just the East Coast but the West Coast also. “
The following is partial — but mostly complete — transcript of Alex Anthopoulos’ media scrum regarding the job safety of John Gibbons and a slew of other topics:
Have you been following the recent comments about how the Blue Jays should fire John Gibbons? Have you thought about firing him?
“No. I haven’t been reading them but I was told about it. Today I was doing an interview and I was told by the interviewee that seems to be the big talk. I’ve been staying away from reading a lot of things but there are no changes, John is our manager and we expect him to be.
“But I understand what the response is, when you’re not playing well as a team, these are things that happen. You talk about the GM, the manager, you talk about the players … people want a reason and changes usually come when players aren’t playing well and teams aren’t performing. I think that comes with the territory so I’m not surprised from that respect. I’m not saying that just in respect to Gibby, when you’re not playing well, you’re not going to have nice things to say and good stories to write.
So you don’t plan on making a managerial move…
“No, not at all. I don’t think our issues, I think we can all get better, myself included. When we are where we are in the standings and the results are what they are there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement and clearly we’re going to need some sort of change. I’m not prepared to say what those are, I think we need to play out the season, either way we’ve looked it, we’ve talked about it. We can look at so many areas because when you have the results that we have, there are plenty of areas, I do think and I believe that, if you look at this historically, second last in starters’ ERA, I’ve yet to see some teams have success doing that and ultimately we can examine why that is, and that’s not to say we can’t improve in other areas, offensively, defensively, but I think that’s where it starts … I don’t know how much the manager can influence that part of the game alone.”
So, unequivocally, Gibbons will be back next year?
“Yes, there has never been any thought on that respect at all.”
Looking back, did you whiff on some of your offseason trades?
“I think there are certain trades that haven’t worked out in terms of the performance of the players, I think that goes without saying. There were players we expected to play better, be more healthy, all of those things. I think with any thing, some trades take a little more time to develop, especially if you have a player that’s under contract …
“You have to just go back to your process. I look back all of the time, I review, and there are times things don’t work out and there are times ultimately that we can improve our process and change it. We’ve reviewed it a ton obviously, we review everything when you’re not playing the way we expected to play and everyone expected us to play. I do believe our process was sound, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve, we always look to improve but I do believe our process was sound. Certain things haven’t worked out and sometimes it’s hard to explain why some players don’t play as well then they go somewhere else and play better.”
You’re talking about reviewing the organization, does that mean the review of the manager is complete? Gibbons will be back?
“Yes, I’ve already said that. But the review, I think you review the team all of the time, top to bottom, including yourself, that goes without saying. I don’t know that there’s a team with a perfect anything. Manager, GM, players, everyone can get better in this game, I think everyone would acknowledge that. I don’t think there has been a person in this game that has said, I’ve got all the answers and it’s all there. Our focus is on how do we make this team better and it starts obviously with players.
“There are other areas that we can look to improve upon, but I do think it all starts with the players and the talent we have on the field. Some of it has been health, we need to look at some of those things as well, we had a lot of injuries again, twice in a row now. Last year it was one time, now… there are so many things and we still have four or five weeks, who knows what else comes? Good and bad. I think you take the full season to review.”
Why are you so loyal to Gibbons?
“I actually think, the in-game managing, I think he has done a great job. I think it’s so easy to pin results on one person. I think it’s
convenient. I could say that for myself, I could say that for certain players, for the manager. I just don’t think blame falls on one person. I
think when we’re playing the way we have, I just don’t think it falls on one person, it’s collectively. There’s blame to share, that’s probably
the best way to put it. I just don’t believe it’s one thing and that’s the issue. I think Gibby, in game, has done a great job. We’ve had
three-fifths of our rotation in flux, whether it’s through injury or performance.
“We’ve only had two mainstays in the rotation the entire year, that’s no an excuse, that’s just a fact. That comes to my chair, it
comes down to the players, the staff, the training staff, we’re all accountable to an extent why things have gone the way they have. But to
sit there and say it’s one person, that doesn’t make any sense. I think it’s an easy out to be honest with you.”
When you look back, what are words you use to describe this season?
“Obviously we haven’t played to expectations the way we thought we would. I know that’s about 20 words there. I haven’t sat and thought about it. You’re obviously going day to day with it and dealing with things as they come up. But there’s no question, no one’s enjoying watching the results and the play and all that type of stuff.
“Our focus has to be on how do we get better. To focus on blame and things like that, that’s part of the process and the evaluation but I
just don’t think, it’s collectively when we’ve had the results we’ve had, it’s a lot of areas.”
Do you still believe the core can win?
“I do. But again, where we are where we are with the rotation, you guys can pull it up, I’ve yet to see teams with the performance we’ve had in the rotation that you can win that way. That’s not to say that our position players are perfect by any stretch or we can’t improve the
offence in certain areas or we can’t improve defensively and all those things but ultimately I do think it starts on the mound. I think there’s
an impact to the bullpen, there’s an impact to the offence, you’re down four or five runs in the first inning or the second inning and you start to press. I think there’s just a carry over effect in so many ways. Health is part of it too.”
“We felt we were going to have a very strong starting rotation coming into the year. That obviously hasn’t been the case so that has to
strongly be reevaluated. In terms of cores, things change from year to year, player evaluations change from year to year so for the most part I think we all can see the players that have performed and have been good players for us, I think that goes without saying. Players that haven’t performed as well, haven’t had as good a season, we evaluate them, contractually as well.”
After Buehrle, Dickey, Happ, how do you envision rest of rotation shaping up next couple of weeks?
“The remaining two spots, we’ll see how things go. I think a guy like Todd, obviously, starting tomorrow, we’ll see how he does. Hopefully he gets back on track, he’s had some good starts, he had a rough one against the Astros. I think it’s important for him. It’s really start to start for some of those guys as well. We’ve talked about calling up some of the young guys but, again, we’re letting them make all their starts as well. We haven’t made any determinations. We’re really using these last few starts to finish the evaluation.”
Johnson’s future and whether club would make qualifying offer at end of the season…
“I think you wait because you see how he recovers, he responds. Dr. Andrews said two weeks of no throwing, then get up again. They want to get him up off a mound by the end of the season. That will tell us a lot as well. The fact we don’t have to make a decision today, why not take the time to get more information? Who knows, along the way maybe he does great, maybe, obviously we hope not, there’s some type of setback. We’ll take the time.”
How can their not be a culture of losing if you’re losing in the clubhouse?
“I guess it depends on what you define it as. When you’re losing, you’re losing. But I don’t define it that way. If you choose to do that, that’s
your right. But to me, it comes down to none of those players want to under perform or not do well in games. You guys are in there, I don’t
think anyone is happy about it or likes coming to the ballpark like that, everyone would prefer to win I think that goes without saying.”
Difference between wanting to win and knowing how to win?
“Certain people can say that, if our starters’ ERA is last or second last in baseball and our guys are battling back and losing 7-5, is it that? Or
is it, maybe, if we gave up four runs instead of eight. If we do comeback for that day, do we know how to win and the next day we forgot? It’s so subjective. That’s not to say you’re wrong but I think it’s so subjective it’s hard for anyone to pinpoint. There are things statistically you can pinpoint, clearly the rotation needs to be better, we can look back historically I don’t think there are teams that are last or second last (in ERA) that have had success. That’s fact, the other stuff is definitely open for debate, conversation and improvement.
“But if you’re middle of the pack, offensively we can get better we we’re not the worst in the league. The rotation, from a consistency standpoint in the offseason, that’s where we need to get better, we’ll go as far as our rotation gets us. We felt very good about the starters we had and it didn’t work out, health, performance, things like that. We’ve had really two guys be mainstays the other year, three have been up and down.”
See enough progress in young guys like Lawrie, Arencibia, Rasmus?
“In certain areas. I don’t know that you’re ever satisfied, guys can always get better. Even players that are good players, there are areas
they can get better. Everyone’s game can get better so there’s always room for improvement for every player.”
Among theories you’re kicking around, things you can measure, but are there intangibles or subjective issues that you can say you need?
“We’ve talked about that, we just don’t know how far to take it. I don’t want to get into (specifics) because one, it could be a lot of things
where people run back to players. That’s more on the brain storming side and I’ve been here in years past when players get a label of this or that and they go somewhere else and they do well. I think it’s a dangerous, slippery slope and you have to be careful. A lot of it comes down to production.
“It’s amazing how much our opinions of players change when the production changes. We had issues with certain parts of their game, and
then the production is a little better and now we kind of forget about the other issues. I don’t want to single out any of our players but you
guys can go back through it. It’s amazing how quickly our opinions change when the performance is better.”
Changing rotation next year…
“We’ve got four guys contractually right now in Dickey, Morrow, Buehrle and Happ. Then we have some of the young guys internally, Hutchison, Drabek, guys that have made starts this year Redmond, Rogers and so on. We’re always looking to add. I don’t know ultimately that it will be there, I don’t think we’re going to look to force anything but we’re always going to look to add. I think there’s improvement we can get from within as well. Brandon Morrow from 2011, what looked to be a 2012, I don’t think we were shocked with the way he was performing because I think we all knew it was in there.
“If Brandon Morrow comes back next year and pitches somewhat close to what he was in 2012 I don’t think anyone would be surprised because the ability is there. R.A. I think has been significantly better the last month or two … I could see him significantly better. Mark, I think, has been the same guy he has been his entire career.
“Ideally you go outside the organization and then your Hutchisons, Drabeks, Nolins, those guys are your sixth, seventh and eighth starters rather than, with all due respect, some of the Minor League free agents we had like a Ramon Ortiz, you’re not necessarily relying on those guys to come up.”
Do you feel closer to playoffs than this time last year?
“We’re not the same, obviously we weren’t playing well both times. I think there was more distractions last year. That’s not to say we’re enjoyingthe way we’re playing but the focus seems to be baseball related more this year than last year, I don’t need to rehash all of it, we weren’t playing well compounded with so many other stories, whether it was Yunel, so many other things going on. There were more distractions. I don’t know, I guess I don’t look at it that way. I guess I’d say, I still believe we have the makings of a good team that needs work, that needs changes, that needs health and we didn’t play the way we expected to. I think almost everyone across the game expected us to be a good team, to what level, I don’t know. But I think unanimously people thought it was going to be a good competitive team and it didn’t work out.”
So you’re saying you don’t think you need to make major changes?
“Depends on what you classify that as. We need to make changes, that goes without saying. How can we sit here with our win-loss record and say we’re going to maintain the status quo, that’s just not realistic. But what do you define that as, I don’t know. We’re going to need to make changes. What that is, we’ll take until the end of the season and into the offseason to make those determinations. But things change, even the last four-five weeks, we’ll find out more about some of these players, good and bad. We’ll know more about Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera. We’ll know more about the guys starting in the Minors.”
Thinking about bringing Johnson back?
“I haven’t thought about what the roster is going to be with guys that are pending free agents until we have more information. There’s a lean, there’s this, there’s that, we just don’t have enough information.”
One guy you didn’t mention was Romero, has he done anything this year to make you think he could be in the mix again?
“He’s had starts where you definitely believe it’s around the corner. He has spurts where it looks like it’s coming back and then he has had
starts where he didn’t perform as well. With him, you’re evaluating every single start he has and you’re hopeful … Morrow is the example in ’11 that we were waiting, waiting, and then it was the last three or four he was good. With Romero, we just need to see the consistency. He’s still young, he still has stuff, hopefully next Spring Training he comes in but I can’t project at this point what he’s going to do moving forward. We know the ability is there, we’ve all seen it, just consistency wise we haven’t seen it.”
But that’s pretty much exactly what you said in April or May. That has to be frustrating that the outlook hasn’t changed?
“I think everyone is hopeful and we just don’t have the answer on what will it take to get him back to where he was, to be that All-Star. I
don’t have doubts that the ability is there and that he is capable but to try and handicap it, put a timeframe on it, I just have no idea. I never would have predicted this to happen to begin with, even with how he began the season last year, 8-1, ERA was in the low fours, never would have predicted what would happen to him the last few months of the season. To try and do it now, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Will he be a September call-up?
“I don’t know yet. We’ve talked about a lot of September call-ups, obviously he’s a guy we’ve talked about, but we haven’t made any
determinations. We’re going to need a third guy behind the plate, certain guys coming back from injury for sure, Delabar and McGowan will be back. But we’ll see how they recover. The other guys that are down there, start to start and we’ll see how we’re doing and what our needs are. I don’t believe we’re going to call guys up to not play, it doesn’t make sense. If we think there’s innings or at-bats, those are the guys who will get called up.
He abandoned those mechanical changes during the middle of the season. Does that add to the disappointment?
“No, not at all. Like we told him, I think any mechanical changes were made were done in conjunction with him. We weren’t going to do anything he wasn’t comfortable doing,he was part of the process but I don’t think anyone said this is the fix. We know, exactly this, will get you back on track. Take three weeks, four weeks, let’s try this. That’s a lot of what happens, it’s trial and error. We don’t know why, we have theories and beliefs but we can’t really be convinced why things have happened. If he ultimately believes he has found something that works for him, and he feels good about it, and he believes in it, that’s what you have to go with. So the fact that he had that type of belief, absolutely, we encouraged him, do what you feel is best. You know yourself better than anybody else but at the same time he was struggling, was trying to find some answers, worked with him in 2012 and tried some things, skipped a start, tried a lot of things, just couldn’t get him going.
Any sense of next year’s payroll?
“I don’t know the number, it gets talked about in the offseason. I know we’re not going backwards but what ultimately the number is I don’t know. A lot of it will depend on what players become available. Last offseason it was a certain number, certain players became available and it changed. It’s always fluid.”
With the Blue Jays having lost three consecutive games and 24 of their past 36, general manager Alex Anthopoulos faced the media on Sunday morning to a lengthy chat. He touched on everything from the club’s defensive woes, plans for next season, problems in the rotation, Josh Johnson, etc. He addressed pretty much everything there simply isn’t enough space to fit it all into today’s notebook so here is the full transcript:
On the lack of fundamentals being displayed on defence…
“It’s been sloppy the last little while, to say the least. We’ve talked about it at length. I know we’re going to be working with Colby a little bit more. Bautista, the first night in Oakland, threw away a ball. But with Jose, if you look at the entire year, he’s made some unbelievable throws, some very accurate throws to the plate. Colby has a tendency to yank balls aimed at home plate. It seems mores this year than in the years past. That’s something we’re going to work on a little bit more. Maybe it’s guys trying to do too much but it’s something that’s going to be addressed and it will eventually show itself on the field.”
Update on Delabar…
“He was sore before, just after the break and we gave him two or three days off. He felt fine. The way (the latest discomfort) was related to me was that if this was the playoffs, he could pitch but it’s one of those things that it’s better to get on top of it right now because it’s taking him a little bit longer to get loose and there is inflammation in the shoulder. He was examined by the Angels team doctor here and they don’t think it’s anything significant . He’s heading to Florida and will be re-examined by our doctors. It looks like he just needs to rest, more than anything else. “
How does it get better, without chasing old money with new money?
“We talk about how to address the rotation going forward and we have some young guys who are coming back. We’re hopeful that guys like Drew (Hutchison) and Kyle (Drabek) will get back here in September, though we’re not guaranteeing that. Drew is throwing today and they’re both throwing the ball well and their velocity is good. They are two players that, again before they went down, they were throwing well. We even look back at Kyle and see that towards the end, his command went downhill and you wonder how much of that the injury played in that. His command now is much better and maybe that’s because he’s finally healthy.
“Two guys like that could factor, and obviously a guy like Brandon Morrow who, last year was really emerging into a front of the rotation starter. Then, as well, we’ll be looking outside the organization to see if we can do some things.”
“I think Brandon has already proven he can do it here. Two years ago he threw 180 innings and last year he threw the ball really well. The other two guys had a short look and we’ll have another look once they get back here.”
Reconcile Payroll Issues with club improvement?
“When we made the trades, it’s something we talked about. Going forward, ownership was aware, and ownership understood where the commitments would be going forward and they green-lighted everything. So, from a financial standpoint, the resources will be available for us. It won’t mean we won’t change some things and reallocate money as you do any time.
“It’s not like those contracts are sneaking up on us. We really have two years of commitments after the current year and, other than Reyes, who has been a great player for us, there’s really no long-term (five-six years out) commitments out. Reyes is going to have four years left on his deal and everyone else either has two years with an option, or just two years straight. At the same time, we were well aware of where we were going to be. We did arbitration projections. There will always be decisions to be made but we’re prepared for that.”
How much money will you have next year?
“I don’t have a number right now and I wouldn’t divulge the number but what I would say is that we won’t be going backwards. That’s not in the plan at all. What the number is, is developed at the end of the season. That’s our conversations with Paul. But the understanding is that we will be able to financially handle those contracts so that was why we were able to do the deals. That was a big part of our discussions. 2013 was going to be fine, it was 14 and beyond. Everyone was aware of that. Ownership was aware and that’s not going to be an issue.”
Moving forward, who don’t you have questions about on the roster…
“There’s still two months left, things change so fast. To sit here today, if you ask me at the end of the season I’ll have a lot more of a firm handle on it. If you look at what we’re currently running out there, the guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time and be consistent, R.A. and Buehrle are two guys that have been able to take the ball the entire time. J.A. Happ we expected coming out of Spring Training, we’ll see how he does when he comes back, he’ll make the start on Wednesday. Brandon Morrow, too, we’ll see how he does with his recovery. Guys like Rogers, we’ll continue to watch and continue to evaluate those guys but it could change. We still have a third of the year left and evaluations can change fast.”
Look at Stroman/Nolin this year?
“We could. We’ve talked about it and that’s definitely something that could happen. We could take a look at one of those guys or both of those guys. Same with Kyle and Drew, we’re not committed that they’re going to be up but they are guys that could be up as well and have a look at them.”
Keeping Josh Johnson out there or is a change needed?
“Right now he’s scheduled to make his next start but there’s no question it’s been about six starts where he has been getting hit. I know he’s working hard and he’s not making any excuses at all, he continues to battle. But it’s something we continue to talk about. We have to look at alternatives at some point if this continues, it’s really start to start at this point, it’s really the only way to characterize it. Right now, he’s going to make one more start and we’ll see how he does but we’ll continue to evaluate it each time.
Melky what can be done defensively when you have him for another year and it looks like you’re better on the field without him there…
“I would say defensively, Melky looked good early in Spring Training, we noticed later in Spring Training, maybe the last 10 days or so, that’s when his hamstring started to tighten up and he continued to battle through it. Especially now, it looks like there are obviously some issues with his knees. He’s 28-years-old we definitely expect him to come back and be a much better defensive player. We don’t know for certain but I think a lot of the issues he had with his mobility were directly related to being banged up. It happened in the spring, in hindsight, if we had given him a month or two to just rest and get healthy, he wanted to battle through it, he wanted to play through it, we wanted to keep his bat in the lineup and it didn’t work out.”
Are you okay with the performance you’ve been getting from the catcher position?
“I think J.P. would be the first guy to tell you he can improve in a lot of areas. I don’t want to single anybody out but I can point to so many areas on the club that we could stand to get better in so many spots. We can always make evaluations at the All-Star Break or four months in, two months from now things will change fast. I’ve used this example before, you look at Lind and Colby two years ago they had great numbers at the All-Star Break and then fell off towards the end so the evaluation changed.
“So, whereas, some guys really emerged at the end of the year where you got really excited about them. Brandon Morrow was that guy three years ago, he was really good at the end and carried it over into the next year. I just don’t want to get too far ahead with two months left on trying to make final evaluations on players.”
On breakdown in fundamentals and how that can be fixed…
“I think one is continue to work at it. By just going through what can we do, what can we do as a staff? Are guys trying to do too much? For example, Jose Bautista making those throws. He’s made so many great throws this year. You’ re entitled to make some mistakes. Colby had had issues throwing. He’ll throw off and that certainly seems to be occurring more often this year than it has in the past. It seems there’s been a lot more plays and all his throws are sailing to that side. Some of the other things can be a factor of trying to do too much, extra things like that. Again, I don’t know that we have the answer right now. We continue to work at it and hopefully it’s going to improve. The same way as everybody was talking about Brett and how he was struggling to swing the bat. You work with him, work with him, he’s starting to turn it around a little bit and hopefully it continues.”
Does the general approach in Spring Training need to change?
“I think it’s up in the air. We’re talking about everything, really. I’m not sure that I can point out the one specific thing. You look at defensively, one, some players haven’t played well. That goes without saying. Brett’s been in and out of the lineup a lot. Two stints on the disabled list. Reyes has been out for a while. His ankle, I don’t know that he feels 100-percent but he’s certainly good enough to play. That certainly could have an impact as well.
“Even from a defensive standpoint, Colby’s been better defensively, just overall on the season than a year ago. The throwing, obviously, the arm strength’s there, the accuracy needs to improve, hitting the cutoff guy and things like that. Melky we talked about and the issues he’s had with his legs we talked about. I think Jose overall has been good in right. I think it’s a combination of things, really. Stability, hopefully guys stay healthy on the field, things like that can factor and maybe guys trying to do a little too much.”
Physical mistakes are going to happen but it’s August and we’re still talking about mental mistakes…
“I think it’s been talked about. I mean we’re talking about it now because you asked me. It’s something we’ve talked about internally. Guys are trying, guys are working. At some point it falls on the players as well. Maybe that’s something that as we’re evaluating going forward, the same way that you work with someone on their mechanics, working with someone at the plate to hit, if the results aren’t there you continue to work, to be committed to the players. But it’s not for the lack of any effort at all – whether it’s the coaches, the manager or so on. At some point, in terms of making the plays, it falls on the players as well. I don’t think these guys are trying to make mistakes. I think ultimately then it falls on me to get certain players that are going to start to make those plays. “
Did you undervalue defence in the offseason?
“Obviously we haven’t played well defensively, so … I don’t know from that standpoint. I don’t know how much of an impact not having the shortstop and the third baseman there the entire time. You look at last year, Brett played the bulk of the year, did miss a little bit of time at the end. Obviously Yunel was out there for the bulk of the time at short. And, again, I think Colby’s been better in centre. I just think it’s been a combination of things.
“So, I would say this. In light of the year that we’re having, I think we’re going to evaluate (defence) even more than we have. I don’t think we’ve ever undervalued it. It’s always been important. There’s some guys that haven’t played as well defensively as we thought they would. So that’s probably been the most surprising part, that maybe expect certain guys to be better defensively. I don’t know that we ever lost value in it, but I can say that going forward we’re going to have even more value on it.”
At deadline you talked about having trade discussions about SP and 2B. Will those conversations continue in the offseason?
“I think so. I think they’re important. They’re definitely the most important areas. There are other areas that we can improve in. I definitely think those are the most important areas. I think the rotation more than anything else. Some of it might be internal, but again, I haven’t looked in the last few days, but when you’re second to last in starter’s ERA that has to improve. It’s hard to get to .500, to contend if the starting rotation ERA is where it is. You obviously put a strain on the bullpen, it puts a strain on the offence when you’re down that many runs. Everyone trying to do a little bit too much. It starts on the mound for us and even some of the sloppy play against Oakland, we still pitched well and we won the games.”
Tougher to identify starters?
“It does, you always look back and say did we miss anything on a certain player, is there something we didn’t account for, and it’s hard to say. From year to year, things change, guys don’t have a great year and the next year they end up having a good year, but you definitely still evaluate it. Even when you look at the free agent market last year, you don’t know who you’re ultimately going to get, we definitely went after some guys and talked about some players, I don’t know that we ever got so far down the road where we ultimately knew we were going to get the player. In terms of the trade market, there weren’t that many guys that were available, there rarely is when it comes to that spot, so it’s always challenging when you need to improve on the mound. But that’s not going to change goals of going out to do it.
Faith in RA as a front-of-the-rotation starter?
“I do, I know he hasn’t put together that type of year, he’s put together some of those starts, he’s shown us the ability to do that. If you look there are a lot of similarities to last year, velocity is the same, ground ball rate is down some, home runs allowed obviously are higher, and the walks are up a little bit as well. That can correct itself, and we’ve seen some outings, whether it’s Canada Day against Detroit and a great lineup, we’ve seen some outings where he’s been really good, it just hasn’t been consistent the entire time. He is giving us a chance to win each time. I don’t know that these are the reasons but it could be the World Baseball Classic, getting ready to throw five innings a lot earlier, the injury and him battling through that early in the year. I can’t say from a definitive standpoint those are the reasons the performance maybe isn’t what he’s had the last few years, but it would not surprise me if next year he comes in and has a great year.”
Internal goal for rest of the season?
“Just winning as many games as we can and playing well. Everybody in there wants to win games and play better and hopefully see some improvement from some guys you k now are going to be here going forward.
Lawrie still an option at 2B for next season or have you settled on him being at 3B?
“You just don’t know what’s going to present itself. If all of a sudden an all-star, Gold Glove defender at third base is available that’s something you could consider and take a look at. Right now from a flexibility standpoint, he’s athletic enough that he can play anywhere around the field. If you put Brett in centre field and gave him enough time, he’d be good. I remember the first we moved him over to third base, it was rough, and everyone had their doubts. He is such a good athlete and has such a great work ethic, especially when you tell him he can’t do something, that he can make himself into a great defender. I would not have any doubts that Brett, with the right amount of time, would be a plus defender pretty much anywhere out on the field. Right now I don’t see that developing trade-wise, doesn’t look like there’s a lot of guys out there at third base, with some of the things we were pursuing, second base looks like it will be easier to fill, it doesn’t mean we will, right now if I had to project three or four months from now, there will be more second baseman available than third.
Esmil has already thrown more innings than he did all of last year. Will he need to be shutdown at some point or moved to the bullpen?
“He could. We’ve definitely talked about it, during the winter as well he started, he’s been a starter before, thrown a lot of innings as a starter. When he’s not a 21, 22-year-old kid, you almost look at how many innings he’s thrown, what’s their high in their career? With Esmil right now we don’t have a number in mind, we’re going to continue to watch him, but at some point it might be something that we look at. We haven’t decided on anything.”
Workload related to his recent struggles?
“Hard to say, I don’t know, better to ask him. A few games ago I thought his slider looked outstanding, it’s hard to say. … It could, it could. I don’t know for certain if that’s the case.”
Are there any untouchables on this team?
“You have to be open to anything, there are certain players like anything you’re more reluctant to move because they’re very productive players, but you’re always open-minded, I’ll hear what any club has to say. We don’t shop our players, we target guys, and players are going to get asked about. There’s always a deal for anybody, it’s rare the other club will make it because it’s one-sided. There are a lot of players you’re reluctant to move because of how productive they are, and if you take them away, how are you going to improve on the production they’re giving you. But I don’t think you can rule anything out.”
Are you content with the rate of production in your farm system?
“We still have a lot of really good young arms. We have a lot of guys down in Bluefield right now that a year from now will be in Lansing, or they should be, and that’s where they’ll start to get more notice and acclaim, but we have some young arms we’re excited about down there. Right now, we would be scheduled to have two draft picks in the first round unless we were to sign a free agent and lose one, so we still feel pretty good. We still have quite a lot of talent there, just some of them are a little bit further down and aren’t going to get the notice because they’re a year away. A year from now or two years from now, people will start to talk about them as some of the best prospects in the game.”
Which pick do you lose if you sign a FA?
“Don’t lose pick from year before so Bickford pick would stay.”
Do you second guess how you nurture your minor league pitchers? (Syndergaard now in Double-A with the Mets as the main example)
“No because he started in high A and that’s where he would have started for us and even, I mean you’ve seen some guys move up, whether it was Drabek or Hutchison. Hutchison was in Lansing, went to Dunedin and ended the season in New Hampshire all in one season. Or Mark Rzepczynski, the same way he through flew through as well. Obviously we loved all those guys and we really liked all those guys but we know that with young starters, they can get up here, like we’ve had a lot of guys come up here before whether it’s a Drabek or a Drew Hutchison, to get them where they’re throwing 200 innings and they stay healthy and they become mainstays in the rotation going forward it takes a little bit of time.
“The tough part about trading a guy like Noah and things like that is that while you’re getting a guy who’s won a Cy Young, who’s thrown over 200 innings three years in a row and it times better with your current club. You can’t get players for free and you have to trade talent away and I think it’s a credit to the scouts and the development staff that we had guys like that that we could draft and develop them to put them in trades. Ideally you’d like to hang on to all of them and sign free agents and not have to give anybody up. Some of those players, like I said, may end up being multiple All Stars, Hall of Fame, some may not pan out, some may get hurt, I mean that’s just part of it. But again, maybe by the time they become the mainstays, some of the current core will either be at the last year of their contracts or free agents or at the end of their careers. It was as much about us trying to move it forward, timing it with the current team.”
Do you keep being surprised about the waiver hoopla even though your policy has always been to put your entire team through waivers at this time of the year?
“Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s nothing really in August, it’s quiet, I can’t speak for every team but I think every club puts almost all of their players through. Maybe they put 20 of 25. I know it’s a story but when you put a guy through it’s the same as someone calling on the player in July. It’s the same thing. The only time I think you see moves like that is with money. Guys like Alex Rios was moved from us, he was making some money, he got claimed. Years ago Loaiza was claimed by the Dodgers from Oakland but other than that you really don’t see a whole lot.
“We won’t put in claims unless we think there’s a fit, especially claiming players with no service time, zero to three years of service you’re so restricted there’s no need for a club to make a deal in August. They can do it in the offseason. I just don’t think it’s news. If someone gets traded or I think if a big contract gets claimed and that leaks and is out there, that’s a story. If certain All-Stars get claimed, I just think if you didn’t see them get traded by the end of July they’re probably not going to get traded. Guys that are free agents, guys with big contracts, those are the only ones that I think should be big stories.”
The fact that it’s a club policy to put guys through waivers does that help inside the clubhouse when guys see their names leak? You can simply tell them everyone goes through that?
“No one even asks. I think everyone knows we run everybody through. We’ve been doing it for four years now. I’ve never had a player come up to me and ask me about it. The only time I remember it being a distraction is when I was an (assistant general manager) and the report came out about Rios because I think everyone understood with the $67-million left on his contract at the time there was a scenario that he could be gone and that became a story. Rightfully so. It shouldn’t have leaked, you’re not allowed to divulge information by the rules but it was the only time it seemed to be a story in the clubhouse and everyone was wondering what was going to happen.”
Is your clubhouse in need of a “culture” change?
“I don’t know that I’m prepared to say that. I think it’s just player change. Everyone throws the word around, “culture,” and things like that and I think it’s getting players that maybe are better defensive players. Some players and I’ve seen it, and again you guys have been around our team long enough, there’s been players you’ve seen who’ve been plus defenders. I remember there was a player who looked like he was going to win a gold glove one day and then the following year, the year after, the defense isn’t as strong and it’s not for a lack of work ethic. Sometimes guys change defensively and it’s hard to tell why they’re not the defenders they once were. I think it comes down, sometimes, to having the players on the field that are plus defensive players.”
On standing pat…
“Like we do every trade deadline, we had plenty of dialogue leading into it. We had something we were trying to do much before the trade deadline and last week it probably fell apart. I don’t know that we were ever that close but for a day or two we had momentum and it fell apart. There was one other thing we were hopeful to get done that it looked like we had a chance and were moving towards but that didn’t really materialize as of yesterday morning.
“It was pretty quiet overall, at this time you get a lot of ideas that are getting bounced around between GMs, phone calls, emails, texts, but for us we weren’t going to be involved in rentals unless it was a no brainer and anything we were going to do was going to help us not only in the current year but moving forward. I think we had a lot of productive dialogue that could lead to a deal in the offseason. That’s certainly happened before where you start at the trade deadline and it continues on
into the offseason and you get something done.
Still comfortable with current roster?
“There’s no question we need to make improvements, we need to get better and the results in the standings speak for themselves. We certainly are going to need to improve, I think that goes without saying. There are times during the year when you have a chance to do that, when teams are engaged, general managers are engaged and this trade deadline is certainly one. GMs meetings, winter meetings are obviously other areas and then you obviously have free agency as well. I still feel good about a lot of our players but like anything from year to year you evaluate, some evaluations change, and the way that the season plays out you have to adjust accordingly, there’s no question we’re going to have to make some changes and improve the roster in various ways but there weren’t those opportunities for us in terms of deals that made sense right now.
What areas did you focus on at the deadline?
“I don’t even know that I want to say we came close, I’d say maybe we had some traction. I think last year we came a lot closer to a deal that we were working very hard on and I thought we came very close but it ended up falling apart at the last minute. We had some traction on some things but ultimately it wasn’t going to make sense for us.
“We’re always in the market to add a starter especially with the way the rotation has been for us so we definitely explored some things there and we’re still looking to acquire some middle infield help, that’s definitely something we’ve taken a look at as well. Those were probably the two areas we were most active in overall and then there were some other ideas thrown at us that were larger concepts but just didn’t seem like things we needed to rush to do now. There were a lot of concepts that were thrown around where you just agree that maybe it’s something we talk about again in the offseason when we both have more clarity at that time.”
Blue Jays players drawing interest from a lot of other teams?
“We have a lot of players, we had a good number of players that made the All-Star team, each team has players that fit for other clubs. So I’m not saying ours is any more than any others but you always get activity. It’s a good team of the year in the sense that it’s the one time that 29 clubs are really engaged and open to making trades and that’s really their focus especially this past week, the past three or four days, that’s all everybody spent time doing. Deadlines are a good thing in terms of
getting deals done and that’s why you get a lot more dialogue.
“As we have each year, we got asked about a lot of our players. The two things we
tried to do, did not ever once get out there in the media, they were never in the rumour mill, there was a lot of things out there, we follow it, we read it … there was a lot of things out there about us shopping players, being asked about players or being engaged in players that were completely false. The things that we worked the longest and the hardest on were not out there and the things that were out there from a media perspective I’d say almost all of them were completely false.”
On not moving guys who are on expiring contracts…
“You don’t want to make a deal for the sake of making a deal, that’s the biggest thing. You can trade anybody at any time, every GM can make trades at this time of the year but you have to feel good about it and you have to feel like it makes sense. Same way if we made trades today and you had asked me why I made the trades, I’d better have some reasons. Even though there are expiring contracts, if you don’t feel good about the value…
“I know we have expiring contracts and I know a lot of times players get moved on expiring contracts, I haven’t looked at the total with the other 29 clubs but it’s not always the case that guys get moved just because their contracts are expiring. We make deals when we think it makes sense and we think it improves the ballclub. If we don’t think the moves are going to improve the ballclub, there’s no sense in doing them. “
On not moving Oliver…
“In fairness to him specifically I don’t want to comment about trade rumors but I guess what I can say, in general terms, the left-handed relief market overall there were a lot of players out there that were available to other teams. I think you only saw one team in the last two or three days acquire a left-hander and that was the Indians. I don’t think any other team made a deal for a left-handed reliever.
“That’s not to say teams didn’t want to but sometimes things get written that teams are interested in this player, that player, and I don’t know if there was the demand out there … you didn’t see a lot of left-handed relievers traded and I’m pretty aware of what players were available on other teams and there were quite a number of left-handed relievers available through trade, many with expiring contracts, and you just didn’t see them move. In fairness, maybe the demand isn’t there for a certain spot.”
(editor’s note — Anthopoulos did later talk about a left-hander going to the Diamondbacks in the deal for Ian Kennedy as well)
Anticipate August being busier than years past?
“It’s tough to say, I think there’s more money in the game so I don’t know as many contracts will slide through waivers in August, with a lot more players getting blocked and I think that could limit the activity overall. I don’t have a sense one way or the other, it wouldn’t surprise me if it stays consistent to what it has been in the past. I know there has been a lot of talk that this has been a slower trade deadline than it has in the past. I think a lot of that is because of the wild card standings, even last year you saw more teams that were in the running and in the hunt. I think a lot of teams want to be as competitive as they can be. I don’t know, it’s hard to predict, I would expect it to be slow. I don’t know that I expect it to be a very active August one way or the other because I don’t know that that many players are going to clear.”
Tonight’s game story on the incident at second base between Colby Rasmus and Omar Infante can be found on the main site (bluejays.com) but here are some of the leftovers that didn’t make it into the piece with reaction from both sides:
On the play….
“I just treated it like any other time when I’m on first base. Rajai hit a groundball so I was coming in hard trying to break up the double play. Nothing was different.”
Where the point of contact was…
“It happens pretty fast but I think I got him right around in his cleats, probably ankle.”
On Tigers players wanting a suspension….
“That’s their thought on it. There’s nothing different than I ever do, I feel like. I go in hard every time and my intention is never to hurt anybody or anything like that. I was taught that early in this game and that’s how I play. I didn’t mean for anything bad to happen but it’s no different than any time I come in.”
On if anything was said by Tigers players….
“Nobody said anything to me. Obviously they’re going to be upset but that’s just part of the game.”
“I don’t comment on those things publicly. Possibly controversial plays. It’s got to be because you’re asking about it. But that never does anything good. It could inflame some things, so I’d rather not comment on those things.”
“That was very dirty. I didn’t like that at all. He didn’t need to slide into second base like that. That’s something that’s not in this game. That’s something where, if we were to retaliate on him, we’d get suspended, but really he should get suspended for making a slide like that. He slid way too late, when you look at it on replay. I understand playing the game hard, but that’s not a clean play.”
“That’s a big blow, because of how well (Infante’s) done, production defensively and production offensively. He’s put together great at-bats and keeps the lineup, makes it a hard out in the bottom part of the lineup. He’s a critical reason why we’ve been good this year.”
“We’re really mad about that slide. That’s a very dirty play in my book. You watch it on replay, he’s spikes-up, he’s sliding late. Rajai Davis is running there. He’s going to be safe at first. You’re most likely not going to turn two there. There’s no reason to slide in like that. That’s why I said I feel like he should be suspended. Obviously our nature is we want to retaliate, but when we retaliate, we get suspended. It really should be his suspension. If MLB can look at me and judge whether I hit him and I should get a suspended, well, can’t MLB look at him and judge he should get a suspension? … That’s what’s crap about the whole suspension thing. It’s only if you throw at somebody. No, that’s not right. He should have a suspension.”
“You knew it was a bad injury, the way he grabbed. He didn’t even get up. That’s what happens when you play dirty.”
“My eyes were on him, but I was on the whole situation. I was just upset. To come in like that, that’s fine. It’s no big deal. I was just mad. It hurt, first of all, he came up and in, and he took out my second baseman. So I kind of vented.”
“They’re not going to try to hit me right there, not with Miggy behind me and 6-0. That’s not why I was upset, trust me. I’m not upset with anyone there.”
“I thought it was a dirty slide. Simple as that.”
“That’s the only way I can vent. I wanted to vent and I’m sorry. No, I’m not.”
“I’m here to win. You take away somebody like that that’s very important to our ballclub, I’m upset. I’m a veteran guy. I want to win. It ain’t about stats. It ain’t about selfishness. I want to win. And when you take out a guy dirty like that, I’m upset.”
“The lateness of the slide, the spikes were high, it was all wrong. 5-0. Rajai Davis is running. It made no sense to do that at all. I’ve been around the game. Trust me, I’ve broken up a lot of double plays. You’re not going to do it that way. With Rajai running, 5-0? Come on. He knows he messed up. Look in the mirror.”
“That play, I don’t think he needs to slide into me like that. I think that’s dirty. That’s a dirty play. I know you come in to break up a double play, but not like that. That’s too much. I know some players play hard and some players don’t think about another player, but that slide, that’s dirty. I mean, that’s too much.”
“I see the replay. That’s bad.”
“I was surprised, because that’s the first time that’s happened to me.”
Jose Reyes is expected to make his return any day now and when he eventually does, the Blue Jays will find themselves faced with a very tough decision. Someone will have to become the odd-man out and the big question surrounding the team is whether it should keep an eight-man bullpen or go back to a four-man bench.
The ballclub entered play on Saturday afternoon having won nine consecutive games and after weeks of constant shuffling the roster was able to remain in tact for a decent amount of time.
It has long been assumed that infielder Munenori Kawasaki would be optioned to Triple-A Buffalo when Reyes is back but that’s not my pick and it’s very possible that my selection will surprise a lot of you.
Here’s a look at the candidates:
Munenori Kawasaki — He’s still the odds’-on favourite for a demotion despite having become somewhat of a cult figure in the city of Toronto. His skill set doesn’t translate particularly well to a back-up role because he isn’t very fast, has relatively average defence and doesn’t offer enough with the bat to become a strong candidate for pinch hit situations. But even still, if it were up to me I’d keep him around until Brett Lawrie returns from injury. Kawasaki could be used to give Reyes an occasional day off — which might be needed after a relatively short rehab stint — while also seeing some games at second base against right-handed pitching. The only way this could happen is if the Blue Jays go back to carrying just seven relievers. For the record, there’s no doubt in my mind that Kawasaki would have to go when Lawrie’s healthy but for now I think his spot on the team should be safe.
Emilio Bonifacio — Hard to envision a scenario where this ends up happening. Bonifacio has clearly struggled with the bat this season as evidenced by his .204 batting average but he has the ideal type of skill set to be a super utility player that every team likes to have. He has the ability to play the outfield and infield, which gives Gibbons some much-needed versatility off the bench. Perhaps just as important, Bonifacio would combine with Rajai Davis to give the Blue Jays a pair of stolen base threats off the bench that can be used in close games.
Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa — Neither player is going anywhere so there’s not much sense talking about this. Izturis has a three-year deal and picked up his level of play during the past month while DeRosa has proven to be valuable against left-handed pitching.
Neil Wagner — Wagner does have an option remaining on his contract so he could become a candidate to be sent down but it would make very little sense to do so. The sample size is still incredibly small but so far Wagner has proven to be a valuable arm that can be used in middle relief. He has allowed just one run in 11 innings this season and comes with an overpowering arm — even if his fastball is a little bit too straight at times. Wagner also has eight strikeouts compared to just three walks over that span and has pitched well enough to deserve a spot on the team.
Juan Perez — Perez is out of options on his contract and the only way he can be sent down is by being exposed to waivers. There doesn’t appear to be any doubt that another team would take a flyer on Perez if that ended up being the case. Just like Wagner, the sample size is still very small, but Perez has yet to allow an earned run in his 10 innings of work this season. He has struck out 10 while allowing just three walks and five hits over that span. Perhaps most important, though, is his ability to throw multiple innings at a time. In order to be the final reliever in a bullpen, it’s important that pitcher can be stretched out when that type of need arises. All five of Perez’s appearances this season have been for more than one inning.
And finally my pick for who the odd-man out should be…
Dustin McGowan — This wouldn’t be a popular choice for many Blue Jays fans but there are a lot of factors at play here. McGowan has appeared in just three games this season and as yet to earn a defined role in the bullpen — he’s arguably the only reliever that falls into that category if Perez can be considered the long guy. The club has no choice but to monitor his overall workload after shoulder surgeries limited him to just 21 innings from 2009-12. It’s true that McGowan has appeared in back-to-back games this season but it was in an emergency situation and it’s something the club would like to avoid more often than not.
The problem here is that McGowan is out of options on his contract and would have to clear waivers before being assigned to a Minor League team. Personally, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take. McGowan is earning $1.5 million this season and has an additional $1.5 million coming his way in 2014 with a $500,000 buyout on his 2015 $4-million option. It’s certainly possible another team would take a gamble and pick up that remaining salary but even if that were to happen I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world. It would cut a little bit of salary and more importantly open up a valuable roster spot. There’s also at least a decent chance McGowan goes unclaimed.
If the Blue Jays were in a rebuilding mode I’d have no problem at all with keeping McGowan around. It appears his days as a starting pitcher have come to an end but in theory he could still become a valuable reliever. The problem is, in order to find his previous form, McGowan needs more consistent work than he’s getting right now in Toronto. Another assignment to Buffalo would be the perfect scenario to be put on a regular throwing schedule and the organization can take an extended look at his current abilities. It’s just simply not possible to experiment like that at the big-league level when every game is important to getting back into the race. If another team steps in and takes McGowan first, then so be it. McGowan could still be good, but this isn’t Chris Carpenter all over again.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the premise for your program came from tennis and in particular how those type of athletes don’t experience the same type of injuries do. Can you explain the connection between the two sports and how it helped inspire the program?
“Yeah, basically when you look at a tennis serve and a pitcher throwing a baseball, biomechanically the shoulder and body are doing about the same thing and tennis players do a lot more serves than baseball players throw and their injury rate isn’t even close to what baseball players are. From there, looking at it, and basically because the tennis player doesn’t let go of the racket there’s a smooth transition for the arm because the weight remains the same.
“Also, the strength is built on the back side and the front side because it’s the same amount of weight on the acceleration and the deceleration that takes place. As opposed to throwing a baseball, the decelerator muscles don’t get worked because they let go of the ball so in a baseball situation it’s missing five ounces where the acceleration has five ounces.”
When did this program start?
“It started four years ago and obviously in the beginning it was everybody doing the same thing like you would do with any testing procedures. Once we saw a group of people improve and then another group of people not improve, for me, that doesn’t make sense as an instructor and wanting to help people improve.
“So we started looking at the group of kids that improved and then the group that didn’t improve as much when all of them were working just as hard — because I was monitoring it – and there were some trends that started showing up in the testing phase. I started tweaking the program off of the original trend and from there it became very individualized in the testing process so we can get to the specific needs the player has so everybody can see improvements when they’re doing the velocity phase of the program.”
I know you can’t disclose what goes into the exact testing process but generally speaking how is the program individualized for each athlete after that initial work is complete?
“What happens is from the test, the program is designed on which balls they need, how many reps they need to do and how much recovery time they need in the program. All of that goes into the equation, obviously for the youth, age, height, weight all of those things are constituted in there as well because they haven’t matured yet.
“For the pro athlete, some of the ones that are just getting in, they still have some maturation, but the guys at the big-league level there’s not a whole lot of maturation that’s going to take place physically. So we then go into age, how long they’ve been playing professional baseball and taking a look at the amount of workload they’ve had throughout their life and career.”
On his relationship with Steve Delabar…
“Well first, I had never met Steve until after he had been in the big leagues with Seattle, we had never really laid eyes on eachother. The only thing I knew about him was what his bubblegum picture looked like which was kind of cool (editors note — They did all of their initial correspondence over the phone). For me and him, it was one of those, when I was talking with him in the beginning his dream wasn’t to be a Major League pitcher anymore it was to help kids out.
“But when he started going through it, his arm started feeling good and when he got back to his original level I think his head started clicking, ‘Alright my arm is back, I’m okay, the elbow’s not going to break, everything’s good, let’s see if this is actually a velocity program now’ and I think he took it to another gear.
“That’s the one thing about the program, it works, but it takes some effort into it. It’s not like you can take a magic pill and be done with it. There’s some work that has to be put into it this and he got to that point, he said, ‘alright let’s see what happens’ and went at it in a completely different gear and then the numbers started getting to the point where I was blown away, he was blown away.
“There were times that we were talking on the phone as he’s going through the program and even when he was getting on the mound he had me on speaker, we were talking and going through everything. It was invaluable for me because I was able to learn from — at that time — a former professional athlete to get much better feedback than you’d get from a
15- or 16-year-old kid.
“Obviously the program is today where it is with the Blue Jays and the amateurs and the rest because of his story. I couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the program both on and off the field. Whether Stevie likes it or not, me and him are linked. I like it, I hope he does.”
Delabar has said that if it wasn’t for this program there’s no chance he’d be pitching in the Major Leagues right now. I’m assuming there’s an opposite kind of sentiment that you share, that the program wouldn’t be where it is because if not for Delabar and his ability to bring a lot of awareness to the program?
“Correct, there’s no doubt about it. It’s kind of like a marriage. What the program did for him and then what he’s done for me, it’s a give and take. Obviously I definitely wouldn’t be at the level of awareness with what people are doing and talking about the program without him because let’s be honest his story is miraculous. A lot of that can attributed to Stevie himself and the type of person he is but for me to play a role in it and how he got there is phenomenal.”
Are you surprised at how fast this program has grown? I’m sure there must have been a wow factor over the past year and obviously to the point where you were hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant…
“Wow, probably doesn’t even put it into perspective. For me, this is a godsend. It’s one of those things where I don’t think I could have ever imagined how this has taken off. I saw some success at the youth level, college level, with Stevie but then the way it’s taken off and the people that have supported the program, the only way I can explain that is thank god.”
In talking with Delabar, he’s mentioned about not being surprised that Brett Cecil’s velocity has increased after using the program. Is that the same type of reaction you have to these types of stories as well?
“For me, now, that’s the expectation. At the beginning, it was, ‘wow, that’s awesome.’ That’s what we were looking for but now I go into it with the expectation of the player getting that. When I met Brett and realized the work ethic he had, I knew it was going to happen.
“I think the big thing is, whenever you’re doing something new, do you really believe it’s going to work? When you take medicine do you really believe it’s going to work? When guys really buy in, go after it and believe it’s going to help, it works. How hard they work with the program really makes a difference.
“So they get in there and really go at it and you get a good return on time and investment. If you go in and just go through the motions, yeah you’re going to get a little better but you’re not going to get a ton.
“From my perspective I’ve flipped it around, the people who go into the program you have to put in the work and they’ve put in the work so they’re able to perform. It goes back to the situation where there’s a marriage there. The work ethic plus the program equals results. If the work ethic falls short then the program’s going to fall short.”
A lot of the talk regarding this process is about the potential for increased velocity. But it seems to me that the potential for maintenance and improving one’s ability to bounceback after an outing is just as important, if not more.
“To be honest with you, it’s called a velocity program because people will read it because it says velocity. Velocity occurs, it’s a marketing situation, we know velocity’s going to happen but the first thing that the program was founded on was creating strength or equilateral bilateral strength between the front side and the back side so that the shoulder works better and more efficiently.
“When the shoulder’s stronger and healthier and works more efficiently, the recovery rate goes way down because there’s not going to be as much damage done to one side or the other. For a Major League pitcher out of the bullpen it’s huge because they’re able to go out and feel the best every time out. For a professional athlete that’s what you want to feel
so that you can go out at your highest level every time your name’s called.
“I think there’s a psychological element to it as well because if you don’t feel great you sometimes won’t go out and perform great. The bounceback is also huge for starters, I think it gives them an opportunity to feel better between their starts so they can throw a
little better side, they want to work on their breaking ball or something like that during their side session, they’re able to do that, feel better and get more out of it because they don’t have to recover the way they would have prior to doing the program.”
You were brought in to talk to the Blue Jays players last offseason and obviously there’s a lot of players currently in the organization that are taking part in this program. Would you be able to talk about the relationship you now have with the team with everything advancing to the point where you’ve been hired?
“First thing is, the Blue Jays are a first-class organization. I’ve spent time dealing with other clubs as well. Obviously the Blue Jays were the ones who put the gas pedal down on it, but I’ve talked to a number of other clubs and organizations.
“The thing I’ve noticed about the Blue Jays is how passionate they are about the players, which I thought from a business standpoint wouldn’t be the case in pro ball. But they want the players to succeed all the way through. The other thing I noticed was their willingness to ask questions and ultimately embrace the program. They didn’t go into this blindly like ‘we saw this work with Delabar so let’s go out and do it.’
“There were a lot of conversations with the brass from top to bottom. When they decided to go with it I was super excited and they’ve been nothing but great, opened their arms up and
have asked me to help in any way that I can. I’m pretty excited and on top of that, the medical and training staff they have and the pitching coaches, they’re top notch, their information is phenomenal and what they’re doing with the guys is phenomenal.
“The one thing I want to make sure that people understand in all of this, the program is just going to be in addition to all of the great stuff they’re doing, and they’re doing wonderful things. This is just a small little pepperoni, it’s not even a piece, just a small little pepperoni, that’s put on the pizza and they’ve got a great pizza already it’s just one more topping that’s
being put on.”
What type of role will you have as a consultant for the organization?
“Basically I’m here for them to use me however they want to use me. They’ve hired me so I’m working for them in any capacity that they see I can bring value, I’d certainly go in and help in that situation.”
This is probably an understatement, but you must be excited to become associated with a Major League ballclub in an official capacity?
“Absolutely. I was one of those kids at five years old that wanted to put on a Major League Baseball uniform. As I was going through it, the dream stayed alive until I hurt my shoulder and when that happened the dream kind of died. As the program started going, started dealing with some professional athletes, good things started happening and the dream was revived again. I’m truly blessed that I’m able to fulfill a dream, to be a part of a Major League organization.
“The dream’s still fulfilled, in a different capacity, but in this capacity I love it to death. Being able to help guys, that’s been my dream for the 20-plus years to help players and now I’m able to help some of the elite, the best the world has to offer and it’s a dream come true.”
Considering your past injury, was finding a way to help pitchers limit injuries always your mission in regards to creating a program like this?
“Absolutely. Shoulder injuries, arm injuries, in baseball it happens across every organization across baseball, it happens across every level. If there’s anything that I can do in this whole quest to make shoulders healthier, that’s why we were trying out the things we were trying out.
“Is the program going to prevent injuries? Yeah, I’d like to think it’s going to prevent some. Is it going to abolish injuries? No, it’s not. The sport and the way it’s played, I don’t care what sport it is, injuries happen. I guess my quest is to limit the amount and severity and if the injuries do occur trying to get the players back to where they were before or perhaps even a bit better.”
On his reaction to Evans being hired by the Blue Jays as a consultant…
“It’s great, he’s been a big part of the throwing program and it’s good to see that it’s paying off for him.”
What’s your reaction when you hear Evans and other people saying that the program wouldn’t be where it is today if not for your ability to help promote it at the professional level?
“To hear that kind of stuff is just what you hear. We’re here today doing what we do, doing what we love and to see him benefit from it’s really good to hear.”
Where would you be if it wasn’t for this program?
“I wouldn’t be here. I definitely wouldn’t be here. I was 27-years-old at the time when I started the program and guys like that don’t get a shot if the velocity number’s not there. That radar gun is everything that got me here.”
On the number of athletes participating in the program having increased so much over the past year…
“There are more guys getting involved with it because they see other guys doing it and they see okay it’s not just one guy that benefits from it, it actually helps other guys too. So you start to see the program actually start to work with other guys and other guys get the benefits as well.”
On the program being as much about maintenance/bounceback ability compared to just a velocity increase…
“Well the velocity side is the selling point. If you throw that out there people are going to buy into it but it’s a shoulder strengthening program and there’s also arm speed included with it. But the main thing is to balance out the shoulder and get it strong.”
You obviously saw an increase in velocity when you began the program? Where did you hit on the radar gun prior to your injury and going on the program?
“Absolutely. I was probably 89-92, maybe at best. I think one time I hit a 94 and then after the program I’ve been 93-98. I attribute the whole thing to the program.
“For me it was more, I want to do this because I was coaching high school and I wanted to teach the program to the kids. I wanted us to have the best arms in the area and I had heard these crazy numbers so I had to find out for myself to find out how the program works.
“If I’m going to teach a product I want to know how the program works because if I’m teaching a product I want to know how the product works. I started doing it, sure enough the velocity started going up and I gave it another shot.”
Do you feel like the Blue Jays are getting ahead of the curve by having so many players embrace the program?
“With the knowledge that we have coming in with my side and the outlets that I have to go to get the information quickly our organization has definitely taken a step ahead as far as taking another way to get healthier arms and changing things up from the norm. Everybody that goes through it definitely benefits from it somehow based on how the program is tailored to them.”
Have you been surprised at all by Cecil’s increased velocity this season?
“What he’s doing now is not a surprise to me. Some people are going ‘wow’ but to me I expected that and anybody that contributes the time and effort into the program is going to get those results too.”
Do you know enough about the program now that you do everything on your own or is there still a lot of dialogue with Evans?
“I definitely have to refer to him on a lot of things because I don’t know the program through and through. There are some things that I can answer quickly because I’ve been through it. I wanted to teach it, I wanted to learn it. But I have to refer to him on some stuff and some stuff he wouldn’t tell me because it’s his program so I have to definitely go back to him and do the best I can, answer the questions that I need to but at the same time I have to go and then maybe come back to it later.”
What’s your reaction to Evans being hired as a consultant by the Blue Jays?
“It’s great. Obviously I did the program. All of the things that I’ve done, tube work, cuff weights, whatever, nothing has made me feel as good as doing the program. We could start getting more and more guys to do it and getting healthy results from it I think it’s going to be great and I absolutely think that’s going to happen.”
There’s been a stereotype about this program in the past and how it might not actually work. Do you feel like that’s being disproven as more and more pitchers embrace it?
“For sure. I think, like all people growing up around baseball, I was told you don’t ever throw a weighted ball. You just flick the wrist and that’s it. You don’t do anything with the shoulder, elbow or anything like that. Obviously that’s all been disproven and weighted balls aren’t
dangerous as long as you’re doing it right. That’s what Jamie is for, he gives everybody an individualized program based on what their velocities are, he has ways to figure out what kind of workload they can handle.”
Have you been surprised by just how much your velocity increased after doing the program?
“No, that’s kind of where I was expecting to be, right where I am. I think there’s still more in there. Delabar he came to us and he was 93- 95 and I’ve seen him some games he’ll be sitting 95, most games he sits 95, punches 96 and as high as 97. Who knows in the offseason, my program will change, Delabar’s said he has never done anything the same in an offseason that he did the offseason before so hopefully I can get a new program and search for more.”
Velocity aside, it seems like a big benefit to this program is the potential to have an increased ability to bounceback strong after outings?
“It gets my attention everyday on how my arm feels. There hasn’t been a time in whole season when my arm has felt 100%. It might be a little tight but there hasn’t been anything out of the normal and it exceeds everything I’ve felt in all my years of playing baseball. It’s unbelievable how it feels the next day after I pitch.”
How often did you consult with Evans during the offseason while doing the program?
“We met eachother once when I did my testing and that was it. I think at the beginning, it was almost like an every day thing for the first week but once I got the hang of it, it was like once a week, then every two weeks. I think there was one time in the offseason when I told him I was feeling, he told us he wanted us to tell him where we felt the discomfort after doing the full workload, and then that way he could tell us where the weak links are in our arm, I think it was either my tricep or bicep, he said okay, take this down, increase this, take that, take this, whatever, and I never had another problem since.”
Do you feel like the Blue Jays are getting ahead of the curve by having Evans as a consultant for the organization?
“I think it’s a great move by the Blue Jays to do that. You see Dustin, unfortunately he has been scuffling with injuries for so long, and then they put these weighted balls in his hand, does the workout with Jamie personally and he goes to Triple-A, arm feels great. He comes up here and throws back-to-back days, if that’s not a testament to how effective it is I don’t know what is.”
On his relationship with Evans…
“He talked to the team back in Baltimore last season and then I actually had lunch with him in Baltimore this year and kind of talked about the program. Sometimes I use Steve a little bit just with him being the voice of Jamie and then I actually called him in Chicago to keep it
fresh and maybe give me some new ideas as to the way help the shoulder.”
You’re obviously in a different situation than Delabar and Cecil because you started the program once the season began. So, how has the program worked for you so far?
“I think Jamie’s still a little conservative with me because I started it in the season and I think you make your gains in the offseason. I don’t want to misspeak on the program but I think it’s an aggressive offseason program and I think for me being new to it, I think it’s more on the conservative side because I have the potential to pitch every day and that I’m still not necessarily 100%. (Evans) being away, he doesn’t want to re-invent the wheel with me and then have something turn for the worse.”
Have you noticed a difference yet?
“It’s a little hard to tell. I notice it more in my catch, you get a little more backspin, obviously that’s a result of the arm speed. I haven’t necessarily seen a radar reading spike but hopefully that’s on its way. What I’m doing, I don’t know how the full program is, but I
think it’s more of an arm maintenance as opposed to the four miles per hour gain that maybe others are on.”
So you’re planning to stick with the program this offseason I take it?
“Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to the offseason with the program. I want to see what it’s all about, it’s kind of one of those nothing to lose. I don’t think I’m going to lose any velocity, if you get a couple more and you get a shoulder feeling like I assume Delabar’s
and Cecil’s arms are feeling, how could you not want to test it out and try it and hopefully the gains are similar to theirs and the shoulder feels as good as it looks like theirs feels.”
ARLINGTON — Jamie Evans has helped a countless number of pitchers over the years with his Velocity Program and it has now resulted in a job with the Blue Jays.
Toronto officially hired Evans this week as a consultant to the organization. He is one of the originators of the weighted-ball program which has been used by the likes of Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Casey Janssen and most recently Dustin McGowan.
Evans has worked with a lot of athletes from other organizations as well but the Blue Jays appear to be getting ahead of the curve by securing a position for him within the organization.
“I’m excited to join the Blue Jays, they have an unbelievably knowledgeable staff who care about their players and I’m hoping to help in any way that I can,” Evans told MLB.com
The program involves the use of weighted balls to strengthen muscles around the shoulder. As part of the process, pitchers use various holds and also go through their throwing motion without actually releasing the ball.
The workout routine seems to have the ability to increase a pitcher’s velocity while it is believed to help avoid injuries as well. Cecil began using the program during the offseason and went from throwing in the mid-to-high 80s to now consistently reaching 93 mph.
Delabar brought a lot of attention to the program when he credited it with helping him return from a fractured right elbow. Toronto’s right-handed reliever was out of the game and working as a substitute teacher in Kentucky when he began using the program with student athletes he was helping coach.
The strength and velocity returned and the next thing Delabar knew he was being asked to workout for the Mariners. He eventually signed a contract and is now one of the more reliable relievers in the American League as evidenced by his 1.85 ERA in 34 innings this season.
“As far as my professional baseball career, it was basically over,” Delabar said earlier this year. “There wasn’t much I could do at 26, 27 years old. ‘Hey, guys, I’ve never been above high [Class] A. Do you want to give me a Major League job?’ It doesn’t work like that.”
“I did the program because I was going to teach the program. With a broken elbow, I didn’t know if I was going to play again. I just wanted to teach this program and help these kids at our academy, and sure enough, it helped me.”
Evans has tailored his program over the years to each athlete’s individual needs. There is an offseason workout program and a different one that can be used during the season which serves as more of a method for maintenance and recovery.
For a while there was a stigma associated with the program that it might be some sort of fad but that has been begun to change in a hurry. With more success stories continuing to pour in from around the league it opened the eyes of a lot of pitchers, including Janssen.
“The toll of a Major League pitcher compared to high school teenagers is different, but after I saw some results from some friends, I thought, ‘What the heck?” Janssen recently said.
“I wasn’t going to do it initially, and then obviously with the shoulder injury, you’re looking for ways to feel better. From watching some of these guys play catch and how good they feel day in and day out, you’d be crazy if it didn’t interest you.”
The Blue Jays’ personal connection to Evans began in earnest last season when he was brought into the clubhouse to explain his program. That was what originally piqued the interest of Cecil while former Toronto manager John Farrell had his sons begin the work this offseason as well.
Other players who currently use the program include Rangers right-hander Jason Frasor, top college prospect Tyler Beede and countless others.
(Article will be updated early Sunday afternoon with today’s reaction of Blue Jays pitchers on the news)