Caught between a Lunchbox and a hard place …Is there a winner in Toronto’s LF battle?

Is there really a winner in this battle?

There really is no winner in the ongoing Travis Snider versus Eric Thames battle to earn Toronto’s job in left field.

To use a real-life analogy, it seems to me like deciding between a long-time girlfriend and a hot new girl who shows interest in you – no matter what you pick it’s a lose-lose scenario.

Either Toronto breaks north with Snider (the old girlfriend), who has endeared himself to  Jays fans me, at least, over the years for if nothing else, his hustle and heart. However, he’s still a guy, in my mind, who is young and has enormous potential. I’m not ready to cast him aside just yet.

On the other hand, there is Thames (the hot new girl in this admittedly foolish analogy), who had a respectable first foray into the big leagues and might not have as much raw upside as Snider, but certainly did nothing last year to NOT make the team. How can you root against this guy either?

But really, what is to be gained by sending Travis Snider to AAA again??? He has nothing left to prove at the minor league level and he has rejigged his swing so often that he might as well take to batting right handed if they send him down there again.

On the other hand is Thames, who hit .262/.313/.456 last year over almost 400 plate appearances, for a .769 OPS and a 104 OPS+.

Sure, that’s respectable, but hardly good enough where it should be assumed he is now a major league starter from here until he decides to call it a career. For what it’s worth, through the good and the bad, Travis Snider’s career major league OPS isn’t much behind Thames’, at .730, although his OPS+ is only 93.

Both of these gentleman also struggle from the simple fact that they aren’t right handed. Ben Francisco will automatically make the team because he’s a righty and will present a better option against left-handed pitching. I know both Snider and Thames have minor league options left and as such it’s easy enough to send them down within the rules of Major League Baseball. Personally though, if such a thing were an option, I’d love to have the Jays carry both Thames and Snider instead of a guy like Francisco.

Snider and Thames could continue their left field battle, each getting a few starts a week, with Thames able to fill in for Edwin Encarnacion at DH once a week or so, and Snider also able to spell Colby Rasmus in centre if needed.

At this point if it comes down to spring training performance, it’s pretty well neck-and-neck, with Thames batting .353 with a .410 OBP, while Snider has a .324 average and a .375 OBP but has flashed more power.

It’s honestly to the point where I legitimately don’t know what the Jays are going to do. Is a trade in the making including one of these men? Do the results of these spring games actually mean anything, and if so, how could you make a justifiable case for either one of them to not make the team? Or, is it simply a foregone conclusion what is going to happen and nothing that happens over the next two weeks (barring injury) can change that?

It should be interesting to find out. As John Lott points out, this is a battle that could last all season.

 Secondly, in quickly perpetuating baseball stereotypes one Sportsnet special at a time, did anyone else catch the Up Close segment with J.P. Arencibia, Travis Snider and Brett Lawrie yesterday?

There’s already enough negative perception out there regarding baseball players being lazy, not true athletes and out of shape, did we really need to see half an hour of these guys gorging themselves, talking about how much they eat and talking about how slack their eating habits are, even right before games?

For those who didn’t see it, J.P. joyously told Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning how they are always eating cheeseburgers before games. The rest of the show centred largely on them stuffing themselves at a buffet spread and eating candy from a vending machine, as well as Gregg Zaun and Jamie Campbell trying to appear “cool” while largely failing miserably – Zaunie with a great shirt design.

I don’t know how much of this was just over exaggeration by the players in front of their professional athlete peers. But, Travis Snider’s great eating accomplishments aside, is anyone else a little dismayed that these athletes paid millions of dollars and counted on to lead our fair franchise were portrayed in such a fashion?

I don’t care what sport you play, being in top physical shape and eating right is important. I also believe that despite what this show depicted, looking at these three guys it’s obvious that they are in great shape and likely eat better than 99% of the population, even if they indulge from time to time. It bugs me even more as a ballplayer myself, who has drastically changed my own eating habits and my overall lifestyle this offseason to try to get in better shape for the season. For me it’s a passion, for these guys it’s a job and one that pays quite lucratively should they remain at the top of their game.

I highly doubt there are cheeseburgers being eaten minutes before a game, but if there are… maybe give it a rest in 2012 and let’s go ahead and focus our minds, bodies and stomachs on making the playoffs, mmkay boys?

Lastly, I found the piece kind of funny when Zaun said so many people were recognizing J.P., Brett and Travis at the Lightning game. While I don’t doubt that there are Canadians who would be in attendance at this game, especially since Tampa was playing Montreal, I would be inclined to believe that these three players could be pretty well anonymous in Tampa Bay if it weren’t for the TV cameras and crew following them around. I don’t know if Zaunie factored that into his estimation but that might have had a little bit to do with how many people were “recognizing” the Toronto players.