Highjacking a Highjacker: I’m a Pirate, AARRR!

Stealing someone else’s mail bag is such a good idea that I’m doing it…to the guy who invented it

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Almost against my will, I’m a fan of Andrew Stoeten. He’s rude, foul-mouthed and—from the sounds of it—at least half in the bag most of the time he’s posting to Twitter, writing one of his many excellent columns, or recording his podcast with Drew Fairservice. But he knows his baseball and he really knows the Blue Jays, both of which can cover for a multitude of sins.

He’s got this thing on his own site where he highjacks other writers’ mailbags by lifting the questions and then answering them himself. So, when I saw that Mr Stoeten now has a mailbag of his own over on Vice.com, I simply couldn’t resist.

And without further ado, but for the important caveat that I have not read any of Stoeten’s replies yet (but I will be sure to do so just as soon as I publish this blog), I give you the Little League Blog take on the following questions, highjacked from the highjacker.

(Oh, but one more note: since the questioners submitted these to Vice.com and not to me, I’ve removed their names since I never obtained permission to publish them.)

The Leafs are going to be competitive for several years to come, as will the Raptors and TFC. The question needs to be asked: How difficult will it be for a rebuilding Jays team to get any attention from Toronto fans and from the Toronto sports media over the next few years? Can the franchise survive if they fall to 4th among the big Toronto sports teams?

Several assumptions here that I’m not sure I agree with: first, that the Leafs, Raptors and TFC are all going to be competitive (I mean, it looks likely but I’m not sure we can just state it as an absolute given) and that the Blue Jays are going to be in a “rebuilding” mode and that this is somehow necessarily synonymous with “bad”.

But, OK, let’s imagine a future in which every pro sports team in Toronto (and you forgot the Argos) is doing well in their respective leagues (and it’s already beginning to sound like a pipe dream) while the Blue Jays do not. OK, I’m imagining it and I don’t see the Jays ever not “surviving” for several reasons:

  1. There are lots of baseball fans (and I’m one of them) who don’t give a fig about hockey, basketball or football; I do like soccer but don’t watch TFC games cause, let’s face it, the quality of play is much better in European leagues.
  2. Baseball is played in the summer when basketball and hockey are not; MLS games are once or twice a week while baseball is played almost every day.
  3. Baseball is now the most successful sport in North America; it’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry and the Blue Jays enjoy sole possession of one of it’s largest local markets.

There’s probably other reasons, but I think that should suffice. There’s a lot of money to be made from baseball in Toronto and that is not going to change any time soon. It took a decade of poor attendance and almost total media neglect for the Expos to finally die out of Montreal, and their market was tiny compared to what the Blue Jays now enjoy.

All of the signs from this Jays offseason and early start to the season seem to point towards a slow descent into mediocrity. Is there any reason this may not happen? And can the front office be blamed, or is this just part of the natural cycle of an MLB team.

There are no such signs of any such thing. Blame the front office for anything you want, though, if it makes you feel better about how the team has played for less than 4% of their season. For context, that’s equivalent to about three games in the NHL and NBA, and one game in the MLS.

This week aside, the Jays offense was pretty bad the last month of 2016 and in the ALCS…Do you think they’ll remain an upper tier offensive team this season or will they fall down to average or below average?

I wish we could leave this week aside, but unless I was watching a different team than you I’ve seen some pretty dismal offense all season. There’s been one game…one!…in which they were actually able to score some runs, and they lost that one because Liriano and Howell both had really bad days.

I have no idea if the Jays will remain, as you say “upper tier” with their offense but I can’t see any reason why not. They still have a lot of players who have been very, very good hitters in their careers (Bautista, Morales, Donaldson, and Tulo) and I would be stunned if any of them simply fell off a cliff this season. They are all getting older so, with the singular exception of Donaldson, it would be natural for them to be slowing down a bit at the plate (I think it’s pretty clear that Tulo and Bautista will never be the hitters they were in their prime, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still really good). Martin, I admit, has looked…not great for quite a while but I think the presence of a healthy Devon Travis and what appears to be a new-look Kevin Pillar should compensate for Martin’s slumping numbers quite well.

With all that, I can see no real possibility of them being below average or even average: so if you classify anything that is above average as “upper tier”, then, sure, they’re going to be upper tier. Are they going to have the best offense in the American League? I guess it could happen, if everyone stays healthy, everything goes right with the gambles (Smoak, Pearce, Pillar) and if Tulo and Bautista regain something of their former glory, but I suspect they will post respectable numbers in a lot of categories (home runs, on base percentage, hits, runs scored) without really blowing anyone away, placing them in the top five or six teams in the American League for offense.

Three questions for you:

(1) Would you say it’s time for Blue Jays fans to crack each others’ heads open and feast on the good inside?

(2) How many times have you been asked that first question this week?

(3) How likely is it that “The Trop” was built on a hot pile of garbage, explaining (a) the Jays’ generally poor performance year after year in Tampa Bay and (b) the fact that the Rays themselves are hot garbage personified?

  1. Not unless you can find someone with brains made of chocolate, no.
  2. This would be a first, for me.
  3. According to Wikipedia, Florida is a limestone plateau sitting atop the Florida Plateau bedrock.

Gregor Chisholm wrote recently that Gibbons’ plan for LF/1B isn’t going to depend on the hitting splits, but who’s on the mound for the Jays – Pearce 1B/Zeke LF with Estrada on the mound and Smoak 1B/Pearce LF with Sanchez and Stroman starting.

Is this real news? If so, I think it kind of makes sense given Ezekiel’s reverse splits, and the starters’ respective ground ball percentages, but more importantly what do you think? I’ll hang up and listen now.

Well Gregor Chisolm is a real journalist (unlike myself and, I suspect, the poser of this question) so I’m going to go with, “Yes. Gibby said that.”

And it does make a lot of sense, really. Estrada is a flyball hitter and so you’d want the better outfielder in left for his starts (although there wasn’t much Zeke could do but watch the balls leave the park yesterday, but I digress…) while Sanchez and Stroman get a lot of ground balls so you’d want the superior defense of Smoak at first, with a slight reduction in the defense in left more than offset by having Pearce’s bat in the lineup instead of Carrera’s.

And, by the way, Gibby’s the best. Really.

I bet he’d make a great pirate.

 

Edit

OK, so I’ve read Stoeten’s replies and have to say: other than taking the brain-eating questions seriously (although I like his ruminations on the Blue Jays’ play at the Trop), it looks like he and I are on the same page, kinda more-or-less for the most part. Except I don’t use bad words. And I’m drinking coffee.

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