It's a big day today. Well, okay, it's my birthday - but more importantly, it's Brett Lawrie's debut with the Blue Jays.
A lot of people have gone purple in the face about the decision to demote Snider instead of demoting Thames or DFAing one of the shitty third basemen on the roster and allowing one of the two left-handed swinging outfielders to wallow on the bench. But let's face it: the demotion was deserved. The kid gloves are off baby Snider and the Jays have determined that if he can't learn to hit somewhere in AAAA purgatory then maybe he never will. Obviously, it's much too early for any such conclusions - but there's nothing wrong with fielding a meritocracy. Thames, although in a regression tailspin of his own, has looked better than Snider over a longer period of time, and that's the main reason he's still here.
Like Hill, I tend to think - from here in my armchair - that there are psychological issues hampering Snider somewhat. The more I watch Snider develop, the more I see Travis the high-school football star on the field. I heard it said once about Jeff Francoeur (paraphrasing here) that his biggest problem was trying to grind at bats like a linebacker grinds downs, when baseball can't be won by brute strength and determination because it's primarily a skill game. And every time Snider takes a one-handed rip at a low and away breaking ball I'm reminded of that quote. (Hill's problems are different; I just feel that a prolonged period of suckitude has completely shattered his confidence in his own ability to play baseball, which is starting to reveal itself in his shoddy glovework of late. Of course, it hardly needs to be said that I'm fully projecting here.)
I still think Snider, at his worst, is a big league player. Russ Branyan only hit 30 homers once and has a career BA of .232, but he's actually been a valuable player throughout his career, this season excepted. Admittedly, that's a pretty #lazycomp, but you could make the argument that Snider was a better hitter at a younger age than Branyan for much of his minor league career. And if he can't become the 40-homer masher that Wilner and so many others envisioned three or four years ago, I'd be shocked if we're not at the very least seeing Snider come off the bench to hit late clutch home runs in the pitcher's spot for some National League team in five years. He's got talent, we've just got to figure out whether it's going to be useful to the Jays. That said, I don't think we'll see him shipped out for pennies on the dollar this offseason...that would go entirely against AA's tantric mantra. If he eventually departs in 2013 or 14 without ever earning a starting job, so be it.
People have noted the irony of Lawrie replacing his good friend Snider on the roster, but I would point to another, more troubling one: it was only two years ago that Snider was the 21-year-old tearing up Vegas. The lines are eerily similar (431/663 is 204 PAs vs 415/661 in 329 PAs) and we can only hope that the learning curve is a little flatter for Mr Canada.
Regardless, Snider will be back in a month, so let's simmer down and enjoy our first glimpse of the promised future. Prospect porn!