Forgetting Vernon Wells

Speed. Grit. Rally starter. Dirty uniforms. High socks. That’s what the Toronto Blue Jays have in centre field this year, and it’s great fun to watch.

But however far in love Toronto fans may have already fallen with Rajai Davis, it does seem odd to hear so late little talk about the previous guy to patrol centre.

Tonight, the Blue Jays are in Anaheim as the Angels play their home opener. The game will be the first meeting between Vernon Wells and the team he had played every game with up until this season. And it makes me feel old to think about it this way, but Wells played his first big league games in 1999.

So how could a guy like Wells be put out of mind so quickly after being here so long? I mean, just look at Toronto’s all-time offensive leaders and Wells is all over the place:

  • 1st in at bats
  • 2nd in runs scored
  • 2nd in hits
  • 2nd in total bases
  • 2nd in doubles
  • 10th in triples
  • 2nd in home runs
  • 2nd in RBI
  • 10th in stolen bases
  • 6th in walks
  • 2nd in extra-base hits
  • 6th in slugging percentage
  • 10th in OPS

Impressive tallies, and those are just the categories listed in this year’s edition of SABR’s Emerald Guide to Baseball. So why were people (including myself) so down on Wells and so happy to see him go? Continue reading

JoBau breaks my brain

Word on the street is that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista are close to a deal — a 5-year, $65-million deal. The word in my head is that this is a bad idea.

I’d been waiting all offseason for this signing to happen. Planned to lead the post with a song. The Pixies. Bone Machine.

“You’re so pretty when you’re faithful to me.”

Would’ve been great, in my head anyway. But, as I’ve already said, this deal, it doesn’t please my head so much.

Why? Because Bautista really just doesn’t have a very good track record. Yeah, his 2010 was off the charts, but everything else he’s done has been, well, less than impressive.

(If you want numbers on this, there are plenty of blogs that will give you that. Might I suggest Getting Blanked or Ghostrunner on First — assuming Drew tackles this subject — as a good starting point?)

So, assuming the report is correct, why would the Jays sign a deal like this one? I’ve got two theories. Maybe one’s correct, maybe there’s a third option that escapes me:

1. Blue Jays brass truly believes Bautista’s the real deal. Locking him up now may be more expensive in the short-term than going to arbitration and letting him mash his way through 2011, pushing his value even higher and potentially losing him to an outrageous bid from the Red Sox or Yankees.

2. Just as the Vernon Wells deal before it, the word came from on high: “I don’t care what you want to do, you’re going to sign this player.” From a marketing standpoint, this makes sense. Alex Anthopoulos has already built up a huge amount of credit with the “knowledgable” fans, but there are a lot of Maple Leafs fans in this city who aren’t happy with prospects and building the right way. Remember when VW was traded and the immediate calls to spend that $25 million elsewhere? This deal should go a long way toward keeping those people happy and, if you’re worried about ticket sales, that’s something you might want to take into consideration.

If the team made its move based on Theory 1 as listed above, and the gamble pays off, this is a great move. But I don’t see it working out quite that way.

That’s not to say I see Bautista completely falling off a cliff. No, I see him regressing to be a good, but not great, player. The kind of player you can likely get for less than $13 million per.

But you know what? Even if this deal is real and even if Bautista completely falls off a cliff, it’s not the worst thing in the world. It does give younger players something to look forward to (play well and be rewarded for it) and it should go a long way toward building up the reputation the team’s working toward (we take care of our own and we’re a great place to be).

So maybe it’s not the best thing, and I definitely don’t like it right now, but it’s not a horrible, stupid thing either.

And who knows, the reports of this deal may be false anyway.

Party time!

Blinding happiness!

Slogging through work on Friday evening, my phone went off. “V-dub is gonzo,” read the text message. And a great happiness filled me.

Along with the happiness was a sort of disbelief.

Vernon Wells is gone? His contract is rivalled only by Barry Zito’s (and maybe Jayson Werth’s) for worst in baseball. I’m pretty sure I heard Jonah Keri refer to Wells as the second most untradeable player in baseball (or something to that effect) just a few days ago on The Jeff Blair Show. Wells can’t be gone, can he?

But gone he is, and I’m glad.

Part of me feels bad for Vernon. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. He’s involved in some great charity work. He knows he’s not worth the huge contract. He seems like the kind of veteran presence you might want to have on a young team.

But that contract, it negates all of it.

That contract is, I’m guessing, responsible* for VW being pencilled into centrefield and the No. 4 spot day in and day out for ever and ever.

That contract definitely is, err… was, a massive impediment to a team on a limited budget to do, uh, anything.

And now it’s gone. Party time!

Analyzing the trade and the addition of Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, that’s for later. Right now, just enjoy the fact the V-Dub is gone and the burden is lifted.

And maybe wish him well in L.A.

* We can’t blame everything on Citocity, can we?

Scapegoating the wrist

Hola amigos. It’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I’ve been kinda overdosing on the Olympics lately. As great as those two weeks were, it’s over now and baseball and warm weather are here to save the day.

I’d been making a small effort to stay on top of any big news from the Jays’ camp, but I obviously missed some things. Some things like this interview that Alex Anthopoulos gave to the Fan 590 last Friday. Speaking about Vernon Wells and his new role as “team leader,” Anthopoulos said the following:

I talked to him about it (VW’s wrist) and he said it’s fine, he feels great. I said how does it compare to last spring and he said ‘oh you know, it’s night and day.’ You know, last spring, it was bothering him and our trainers had to inject him to take the pain away and he had to take anti-inflammatories the entire year and, uh, obviously once he was done playing and he was off the anti-inflammatories, the pain started to come back. Again, he won’t complain about it and he certainly won’t point to it as a reason for him not having as strong as a year as he would have hoped for, but I certainly believe that it certainly did impact the year that he did have and he certainly feels good about it. I expect Vernon to bounce back and have a strong year for us.

I like Anthopoulos, I really do, but I have a problem with what he said there.


Seriously, I thought that had been covered enough and accepted as fact. Why is it still being trotted out as an excuse for his poor performance last year, and trotted out by the general manager no less!

Now I’m not going to accuse VW or the team of lying about a wrist injury — you’d have to be insane to undergo unnecessary wrist surgery — surely there was something wrong there. But, if there’s anyone reading this who believes that the wrist was the cause of the poor stats, could you please explain to me why it only really seemed to bother him in the Dome?

Just take a look at VW’s home and away splits last season. He was, offensively, well above league average on the road.

Did his wrist magically stop bothering him when he left Canada? Is there something about the Dome, perhaps lighting or some sort of colour scheme in the stadium, that makes it hard for him to pick up pitches there? Was he actually affected by all the negativity flowing his way from the team’s “fans”?

Unless Wells himself comes out and explains it, I guess we’ll never know the reason. But we can say this: His poor performances at the Dome were not because of his wrist injury.

I’m excited about Canada’s team

Who says the Jays aren't Canada's team?

I never thought trading Roy Halladay would end like this, but I’m pretty damn excited about what’s going on with the Blue Jays right now.

I’m excited because Shaun Marcum will be pitching again next year.

I’m excited because I believe the Jays will be a much more entertaining team much sooner than people expect them to be.

I’m excited because the Jays are getting three very good prospects in return for the Good Doctor.

I’m excited because, at the press conference confirming The Trade, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said this: “We’re on our road to getting back to where we were back in the World Series years. Really, this is the start of it, folks.” And, crazy as it sounds, I believe him.

I’m excited because at that same press conference, Anthopoulos took the time to answer questions in French. Since I can’t figure out how to link directly to the Radio Canada report (three minutes long!) you’ll either have to take my word or search for it yourself.

I know what happened with the Expos, but you can’t tell me that there aren’t baseball fans in Quebec. There is a market there to be tapped and if the Jays really want to call themselves Canada’s team, it’s a market that must be tapped. A GM from Montreal who speaks French at the press conferences is a damn good start.

What else can be done? How about getting some games on RDS or Radio Canada (presuming they’re not already) and bringing in someone like Jacques Doucet to call them? How about playing a weekend series at Olympic Stadium? I for one would love an excuse to make an annual trip to Montreal.

The Jays are already Canada’s team, but only by virtue of being the country’s only team. And yes, people outside of Toronto do care. Check out if you need proof.

Lastly, I’m excited because even if the Jays do stink it up for a year or two, Doc’s finally got a chance to win. Go Phillies.

I believe in Vernon Wells

Sports and the City is running a little poll. The site’s banner prominently features Doc and the poll is to determine who, if anyone, should replace him up there. Whether you’re like me and you believe Vernon Wells will turn it around and be a productive member of the team again or you’re a realist and you just know that VW is going to be a Blue Jay for the rest of his career, it’s pretty clear that he should be the winner. So go vote for him already!