Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Conspiracy Theories

Maybe it's the 3000 km of emotional distance between me and the former Skydome, or maybe it's the fact that I only have time to watch 3 or 4 games a week - or hell, maybe it's just cynical ego-stoking emerging from some dark psychological place in light of my preseason predictions - but I can't find it in me to get worked up about the Jays' struggles over the past few weeks.

Coming out of last year, if I had one concern it was that Anthopoulos would look at those 85 wins, think that the Jays were a passably competitive team, and take a rash approach towards his restocking of the system, passing on higher-ceiling guys for guys who were closer to the majors. And while it was fun to think that a Marcum-Romero-Morrow trifecta could stand up to anyone in the playoffs, and that with a few significant adds a lineup built around Bautista, Wells and Lind could be potent, it would have been shortsighted. Over the offseason, AA seemingly did everything within his power to separate me from my disillusions, and when the Shaun Marcum trade came down the chute I realized something: I hadn't gone far enough. All the front office's talk about "building" was side-of-the-mouth lip service to the casual fan, and this was a classic rebuild.

Trading a 29 year old ace on a team-friendly contract was simply not a move that a club that feels itself to be close is going to make. The rest of the offseason seemed devoted to scouring the bottom of the barrel for retreads, with a focus on a certain build: the fast, shitty outfielder. Patterson, Davis and Podsednik are all fair-to-mediocre hitters with questionable defense who bring one definable skill to the table: basestealing. Add a Mike McCoy to the mix, and suddenly what was a plodding clump of power hitters becomes one of the fastest teams in baseball. New manager, new philosophy - and maybe, in light of the fact that they didn't see winning the AL East as a possibility and a year after leading the world in home runs, the Jays' marketing team thought that winning an irrelevant statistical category was the best way to the casual fan's heart. If Joe Plumber could say to his friends in 2010, "You know, man, the Jays are leading the world in jacks this year," then maybe Jill Plumber could say to her friends in 2011, "The Jays are the fastest team in baseball!"
Cynical? Sure. But it makes for a damn good advertising montage. My point is, you've got to take this season with a grain of salt. Everything about it - the managing, the general managing, the playing. This team is the Las Vegas and New Hampshire Blue Jays as much as it is the Toronto Blue Jays. As I was scouring my twitter feed for player reactions in the wake of Saturday's no-hitter, I realized I was following more minor league players than major league players. That's the makeup of this roster.

I'll admit that Farrell hasn't done everything to ingratiate himself with the intelligent fans in the crowd, and perhaps his approach does raise some questions about the old adage that pitchers don't make good managers. But it's early enough in his managerial career that it's very difficult to distinguish what his rationale is. We simply don't know what MO he's been provided behind the scenes. So sit back, enjoy Jose Bautista channeling Carlos Delgado circa 2000, and prepare yourself for some pain. Somehow, we're still better than the Orioles.

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