After holding a players only meeting earlier in the day, the Blue Jays were up on the Dodgers 8-3 after six innings Tuesday night, only to give up seven runs in the seventh and eighth innings to lose 10-9. It was their sixth straight defeat.
Even the All-Star setup crew is getting into the action now. Steve Delabar gave up four runs in Monday’s 14-5 loss, while Brett Cecil surrendered three runs in two-thirds of an inning tonight. Cecil’s ERA has jumped from 1.43 to 2.61 since July 7.
At 45-54, the Blue Jays aren’t only 14 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East, but they’re 11 games out of the second wild card. Even the fourth place Yankees have 7 1/2 games on them in the AL East.
So while the Blue Jays have been talked about as buyers — they were one of the teams reportedly in the hunt for Matt Garza — they’re really leaving GM Alex Anthopoulos and crew no choice but to sell.
Unfortunately, the pieces the Blue Jays would most want to move have little value at the moment:
- Josh Johnson has lost his last four starts and has a 7.36 ERA over his last six starts.
- Mark Buehrle’s heavily backloaded deal calls for him to make $37 million the next two years.
- Melky Cabrera just returned from an injury and has a .679 OPS.
- Emilio Bonifacio hasn’t contributed as a utilityman, hitting .211/.251/.307.
The Blue Jays can and should deal from the pen, perhaps starting with closer Casey Janssen. Janssen is under control for $4 million next year and there isn’t a contender around that couldn’t use a guy like him, either for the eighth or ninth. The Jays can also part with one of their four lefties, whether it’s Cecil, Juan Perez or Darren Oliver. Aaron Loup is the keeper of the bunch.
One player the Jays probably can’t afford to move — and this would have come as a surprise a few months ago — is center fielder Colby Rasmus. Supposed heir apparent Anthony Gose has been a disaster in Triple-A, hitting just .230/.316/.303 and getting thrown out on 12 of his 24 steal attempts. Rasmus, a free agent after the 2014 season, has been a very good regular in spite of his strikeout problems, batting .267/.333/.480.
I doubt the Jays will part with any of their stars. There’s still plenty of talent here to get right back into the race next year. But it’s time to turn the page on 2013 and hopefully collect a few prospects to replace the ones they used in their deals for Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey over the winter.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.
Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.
Here’s what Mattingly had to say:
Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.
If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.
Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.
There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.
In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.
Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.
I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.
Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.
Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:
These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.
They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.
Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.
[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]