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It's a busy baseball morning in the local press; Richard Griffin, not surprisingly, is down on the 2003 Jays: "there's no reason to expect their record to swing upwards dramatically, or at all."

He cites Cito Gaston as the authority for his opinion that hitting is less important in today's AL than pitching and fielding. You will note that I'm neither ranting nor raving, and the headline refers to the column topic; any similarity to the author's talent is coincidental.

Elsewhere in the Star, Carlos Tosca predicts 85 wins. In the Sun, Bob Elliott also talks with the Little General. Even the Globe and Mail has a baseball story, as Jeff Blair takes a look at the Shannon Stewart arbitration case, with an interesting quote:

"I like Shannon, and I think he really grew as a person last season under Carlos," said general manager J. P. Ricciardi, who is just slightly more optimistic than last week about the sides finding common ground without going to a hearing.

Griffin: Expect Mediocrity | 23 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Craig B - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:03 AM EST (#96918) #
Does anyone at all still care what this guy thinks? Really?

Anyway, I like the interviews with Tosca, who has shocked me by actually showing both sense and honesty. It blows me away! The Jays have clearly found themselves a manager who understands the building process.

I find it encouraging that he sees this year as a bridge to 2004. I am a little discouraged about the possibility of three catchers, especially if it's on top of twelve pitchers. Actually, with both Dave Berg and Mike Bordick guaranteed a spot, you can't carry twelve pitchers and three catchers and still have someone to back up Vernon Wells. So if it's three catchers, at least we'll have a position player instead of a twelfth pitcher.

The seven starters behind the battery are set. We know the team will carry at least eleven pitchers. If you add three catchers, plus the two backup infielders, to get to 23. Josh Phelps makes 24... and you have one guy left, who has to be the fourth outfielder. The fourth outfielder in that situation can't be Werth (if Werth makes it, he'll be the "third catcher" but I doubt he'll catch much). So the choice for the 25th spot is the third catcher or a twelfth pitcher.

If one of those catchers is Kevin Cash, it won't be so bad.

I hope, though, that the team won't do too much to compromise their chances of contending. The funny thing is that the best team the Jays can put out there is (IMO) the best team for the purposes of developing the players (with Werth and Cash beginning the year playing every day at AAA along with Thurman and Hendrickson starting, and Hudson and Phelps playing every day in the majors with Miller and Walker in the rotation).
Pistol - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:04 AM EST (#96919) #
I guess it depends on your opinion of dramatically. I don't think a 7 win improvement would be a dramatic improvement, and that's what the manager is predicting.

The Jays would really have to overachieve and the Sox or Yankees would have to really fall apart for the Jays not to be in 3rd place at the end of the season.
Coach - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:17 AM EST (#96920) #
It's hard to justify a prediction of anything but third in the division; a lot of unexpected stuff would have to happen in Boston and Toronto. Pistol, I think Tosca picked that number for his public statement because in his heart and his head, he sees no way it can be less than 80 and believes 90 is attainable. He's too smart to expose his most optimistic hopes for the critics to attack, but the players will know what he's really expecting.
_Jordan - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:18 AM EST (#96921) #
Griffin doesn't even bother to spell Cory Lidle's name correctly.

Interesting observation from Butterfield:

Some (rookies) are just happy to be in the big leagues. Not Hudson. I was impressed with Orlando's attitude. You can always count on him to come to the ballpark and be ready to strap it on. As for Woodward, he was playing such a key position, I expect him to be more consistent in his thought process. He made some errors on routine plays. You won't see that."

The first comment should quash any lingering beliefs that Orlando is unprofessional or a disruptive influence on the club. The second comment, about Woodward, basically says, "Pay 100% attention out there on every pitch -- you're a starting major-league shortstop now." I'm not expecting Woodward to do much more than .260-15-75 at the plate, but he will need to be a defensive anchor for a young infield, and it's pretty clear that's what Butterfield is demanding of him. Woodward's going to be a very interesting player to watch this spring.
_Jordan - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:44 AM EST (#96922) #
Reading Tosca's comments in all these stories ... you can't tell a person's real management style from newspaper quotes, of course. But I still have a feeling that I'd love to work for Carlos Tosca. He's straight-up with what he wants from you and from your colleagues, no-nonsense focused on specified goals, dedicated to having his people learn and improve as they go, and adept at being simultaneously upbeat and intense. That may not work for some people, but that would be close to my ideal boss.

I love that line, "I didn't bench Mondesi, Mondesi benched himself." This could be a fun year.
Coach - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:47 AM EST (#96923) #
Woodward's going to be a very interesting player to watch this spring.

Especially if you traded Bartolo Colon to Craig in order to get him on your fantasy team. Woody had a few brain cramps, but nowhere near as many as Felipe Lopez, and he did look up once or twice and botch routine bouncers, but it's not his consistency I'm worried about, as much as his durability. That's one area where I like Tosca's devotion to his bench players -- Bordick and Berg can be very useful in keeping the "regulars" sharp and healthy.

If J.P. and Jeff Moorad agree on the $6.5 MM midpoint for Stewart, that's it for adding another free agent within budget. If the Jays win a hearing, as "armchair arbitrator" Nate Silver predicts on Prospectus, there would be a million for a fourth OF in J.P.'s pocket.

I still think the 25th man is more likely to be a 12th pitcher than a third C, unless Rule 5 steal Aquilino Lopez disappoints in Dunedin. Couldn't Phelps strap on the shin guards in an emergency?
_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 09:53 AM EST (#96924) #
"Couldn't Phelps strap on the shin guards in an emergency?"

If it's an in-game emergency, Phelps will probably already be DHing, so if he straps on the shin guards, we could have Cliff Politte hitting for himself.
Dave Till - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 10:03 AM EST (#96925) #
The Jays' infield defense actually isn't that weak, from what I've seen. Woodward doesn't have as much range as Gonzo, but he gets to what he's supposed to get to. Hudson looks to have good range, and has good footwork around the bag: he's mastered the sideways flip to second on the DP, which gives the Jays the chance to turn more deuces.

Had Griffo pointed to the pitching as the Jays' potential Achilles heel, I would have bought into his column a bit more.

I see the Jays taking a step forward this year, but there will be setbacks. Some of the players will take a step back, or not develop as hoped. (For example, I'm a little worried about Sturtze: if he already has a tendency to give up home runs, moving to the SkyDome might be like moving to a shooting gallery. He could become the next Steve Parris.) And it's going to be hard to overhaul the Yanks and Sox, both of which can go to their wallets in case of emergency. (People sometimes forget that the 2000 Jays were actually the AL East leaders for a while, before Steinbrenner went out and bought Justice, Neagle and Hill.)
_Chuck Van Den C - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 10:04 AM EST (#96926) #
Craig B: Does anyone at all still care what this guy thinks? Really?

I'm with Craig on this one.

Deconstructing a Griffin essay gives it more credence than it deserves. Is there any point any longer to shooting that particular fish in that particular barrel, or, to employ another metaphor, that
hamster on that wheel
_Jordan - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 10:16 AM EST (#96927) #
Let's think about the likeliest 25 men to leave Dunedin in April. Barring injury or Rule 5 meltdowns, the first 20 spots, I think, are probably set:

1 Stewart LF
2 Catalanotto RF
3 Hinske 3B
4 Delgado 1B
5 Phelps DH
6 Wells CF
7 Woodward SS
8 Hudson 2B
9 Myers C
10 Wilson C
11 Bordick SS
12 Berg 2B

13 Halladay SP
14 Lidle SP
15 Sturtze SP
16 Escobar RP
17 Politte RP
18 Creek RP
19 Tam RP
20 Lopez RP

That leaves five spots for three pitchers and two hitters. On the pitching side, the leading candidates are probably:

Miller SP
Hendrickson SP
Walker SP
Linton SP
Thomas SP
Smith SP
Kershner RP
Miller RP
Wiggins RP
Young RP

And on the hitters' side:

Werth OF/C
Cash C
Huckaby C
Aven OF
Ryan OF
Colangelo OF
Clark 2B/OF
Moriarty IF

This assumes that Rule 5s Majewski and Dubois are either returned to their respective clubs or acquired via trade and sent down.

You can do your own handicapping from there. For my money, Hendrickson makes the rotation as #4, and Linton surprises in the spring and goes north as #5, while Miller stays in Syracuse; there's your two starters. The last pitcher is either a swingman like Walker or a second lefty like Kershner, depending on what the club needs more. On the hitters' side, I think it'll be Aven and Clark, as Phelps can indeed be the emergency catcher, Werth goes down to play full-time for half a season and Huckaby tutors Cash. If JP can manage to sign a veteran outfielder in the spring at bargain prices, then it's multi-positional Clark in Toronto and Aven in AAA.

No matter how it works out, I would not enjoy playing the Syracuse Skychiefs in 2003.
Gerry - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 11:33 AM EST (#96928) #
I think Huckaby, Wilson and the catching situation is one of the big uncertainties going into spring training. Tosca has said he might carry three catchers, that means Wilson and Huckaby both make the team, with either Aven or Clark as backup. The one who can cover centre filed better will be picked.

If the Jays only take two of the catchers I am not so sure Wilson will be it. Last year Huckaby caught more than Wilson. Wilson DH'ed and played first because he has the better bat. But the manager appeared to favour Huckaby for catcher.

It will be an interesting battle.
_Jordan - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 11:45 AM EST (#96929) #
Matthew, you're right that the peculiar nature of the DH system means that if Phelps moves to catcher, the pitcher has to come to bat. But I think they can probably finesse such a situation; they could always pinch-hit for the pitcher whose spot Phelps vacated, if they don't mind sacrificing a reliever late in the game. And if the pitcher comes up with runners on, he could always try laying down a bunt. It probably wouldn't happen more than a few times a year, anyway, so they may decide to risk it in the interests of having more roster flexibility.
Coach - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 12:37 PM EST (#96930) #
Gerry, the pitchers liked Huck as much as the manager did, but that anemic bat is a liability, and the front-office philosophy is to outscore opponents. Ken might be waived if Wilson and Myers are healthy and productive in Florida, but I hope he's not claimed, as mentoring Cash is a fine idea.

Jordan, because the rules are so complicated, it's not entirely clear whether Miller has a AAA option left, but if he does, I'm with you. If he can't be sent down, he'll either be #5 or the long man, so Linton could be the victim of the numbers game. I think with only two off-days in April, they'll go north with 12 pitchers, one of them a second lefty reliever. So that's a real battle; one spot for a hitter among eight candidates -- nine if you count Wise.

Yesterday, I overlooked the main reason Rosario is going to the ML camp; he's on the 40-man roster. He may be a DL exemption, as he's out for the year, but all these rules just confuse me. Chuck, thanks for the link -- they're actually talking more about R.G. on Primer than we are here!
_Jurgen Maas - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 01:13 PM EST (#96931) #
I agree that it's the rotation more than the offence or defense that worries me, and I think assures yet another year of Yanks-Bosox-Jays-O's-Rays. (Although Boston's might be able to overcome the Yanks.)

Is anybody else concerned that Halladay lead the league in innings pitched? And that they kept pushing him into September? I'm not accusing Tosca and Co. of Torborg-type insanity, but... are there any numbers to back it up? Was Halladay overworked in 2002, and is he risking a downfall in '03?

And what can we realistically expect from Sturtze and Lidle? Those Parris comments aren't exactly reassuring.
_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 01:34 PM EST (#96932) #
I'm a little worried about Halladay's arm. The Jays didn't overwork him when it came to pitch counts, and they did give him a couple of extra days in between starts toward the end of the year, so they are being careful with him, which is good.

On the other hand, it's still more innings than he's ever thrown before, and I recall reading on Prospectus or somewhere that the thing to do to give a starting pitcher a break is not to give him an extra day of rest but to give him a start where he only throws like fifty pitches or something, on his regular schedule. So I don't know.
Coach - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 01:55 PM EST (#96933) #
Jurgen, Doc's IP were extremely efficient; in fact, the only people who averaged fewer pitches per inning are very crafty: Greg Maddux, Odalis Perez, Derek Lowe, Paul Byrd, Curt Schilling, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Halladay was third in MLB in IP, but 12th in pitches thrown. They kept a close eye on his counts; he went over 114 just twice all year, not at all after May. If anything, his fantasy owners (like me) felt he got a few quick hooks, and he was definitely not abused. He's just that good.

The best reporting of Tosca's mini-press conference is on the Official Site. Last spring, lame-duck Buck was in charge; Tosca was just the new third-base coach, and Butterfield was with the Yankees. This is the first camp the new regime will run, and the entire team, especially the pitching staff, will be better prepared than they were in '02 for the tough 20-game grind that begins the season.
_Jack Cooney - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 02:15 PM EST (#96934) #
It would be nice if the Jays could avoid wasting a roster spot on someone who's only job is to backup CF.

Have the Jays considered letting Shannon Stewart take on that role? He played 40 games at CF in 98 and 99, and played ok. I know his arm limits him, but it's not he would be rolling the ball back in underhanded. If they did that, then there would probably be roster space for Dubois.

When Vernon is off: Dubois/Berg + Stewart + Cat
When Stewart is off: Dubois/Berg + Wells + Cat
When Cat is off (or playing 2B): Stewart + Wells + Dubois/Berg

They could ease the strain on Dubois by letting him start mostly against lefties, and avoiding starts against tougher righties.

Would this work?

_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 02:56 PM EST (#96935) #
Can we please stop talking about Berg playing the outfield? My nightmares had just begun to fade.
_R Billie - Friday, February 07 2003 @ 03:35 PM EST (#96936) #
I honestly don't think Dubois makes the team. I believe the plan is to evaluate whether he's good enough to make a trade. But I guy out of A-ball probably isn't ready to make the jump and at Dubois' age (23) he needs all the development time he can get. He won't get that as an extra OF in the majors.
_jason - Saturday, February 08 2003 @ 03:39 AM EST (#96937) #
Certainly the Jays have improved their pitching this off-season, how much we'll have to wait and see. But the Indians, Rangers, and White Sox have also looked to improve during this off-season as well. I would say these four teams all have a good chance of being at or over the .500 mark. (Well maybe not Texas, but they will be better.) With NY, Boston, Minnessota, Oakland, Aneheim, Seattle all remaining competitive, I think wins will be much more scarce to come by and its unlikely you'll see a 100 game winner in the AL this season.

Furthermore, I think the doormats of the division, Tampa, Detroit, KC, will really really get their butts kicked this year.
_Greg - Saturday, February 08 2003 @ 08:10 AM EST (#96938) #
>> Furthermore, I think the doormats of the division, Tampa, Detroit, KC, will really really get their butts kicked this year. <<

Don't forget Baltimore! The new tag-team GMs are trying hard to put together a 100-game loser. I think they've got a legit chance!
_dp - Saturday, February 08 2003 @ 08:59 AM EST (#96939) #
I don't see the Yankees being great this year, esp. if they play Mondesi and the old SP continue to decline. Ventura can't really be counted on at 3B, and if he goes down, then Todd Zeile is the only alternative, which would give them the league's worst infield defense, given Jeter's lack of range and Soriano's persistant mental problems at 2B. With Bernie and Mondesi in RF and CF, the OF defense is a bit suspect as well. Of course, it may not matter with that offense, but the holes this year seem pretty significant.
_Steve Z - Saturday, February 08 2003 @ 01:55 PM EST (#96940) #
Griffin's article looks like a masterpiece in comparison to Bob Elliott's latest column, surely deserving of a thread of its own!
Griffin: Expect Mediocrity | 23 comments | Create New Account
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