Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Re-birth

Suddenly and emphatically the Toronto Blue Jays announced they are back on the scene 

It will be easy to say this is a risky move by the Jays, that they took on too much money and too many bad contracts. It is. They did.

Jose Reyes got overpaid as a free agent last year (6 years, $106M) and missed good chunks of the three years before that (playing in 295 of a possible 486 games). Josh Johnson is a total gamble*.

Mark Buehrle is by far the surest thing in this deal for the Jays, but he'll be 34 by the time next season starts and has somewhat improbably made at least 30 starts and pitched 200+ innings every year since moving into the starting rotation to begin his second major league season back in 2001.

Those three, along with John Buck and Emilio Bonifaco will cost Toronto over $160M in salary. If Reyes is trending down, if Johnson gets hurt, and if the mileage catches up to Buehrle, it could easily go all wrong.

But even if that scenario plays out, what does it mean? Another 3rd, 4th or 5th place finish? If it doesn't work, it's just status quo. Jays fans are used to it.

Which is why so many of us are thrilled not so much with the actual components of the trade, but that Anthopoulos ultimately pulled the trigger and ownership actually approved it.

And on the bright side, Reyes fills obvious needs both at the top of the order and in the stolen base department. With only 1 year remaining on his hefty $13.75M contract, the 28 year-old supremely-talented Johnson is a chance worth taking. Buehrle is a workhorse, a dependable veteran presence who has won in the playoffs.
This trade was a bold move. It might not translate into playoff games for the Blue Jays, but at least it finally feels like they're truly trying to get there again.
*After a very good rookie year in 2006, Johnson missed almost all of 2007 and more than half of 2008. Johnson was then dominant in 2009 and 2010 (he was briefly considered the best pitcher on the planet during one stretch) but missed most of 2011 (only 9 starts) and was only okay last year when he stayed healthy and pitched 191 innings. For 2013, you really have no idea what to expect out of him.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Owners or Players?

The question has been constant for each and every hockey fan since a real threat of a lockout became apparent towards the end of the summer.

Who's side are you on: Owners or Players?

I couldn't choose. I assumed all along that a league that cancelled an entire season and players who sacrificed on average 20% of their career earnings only eight years ago wouldn't be so foolish as to miss games again. With "record revenues", a long-term U.S. television network deal, and plenty of buzz from another thrilling Stanley Cup playoff that culminated with a major market being crowned champions, I just didn't believe they could be so stupid. I thought a deal would get done. I thought a deal had to get done.

Did I think the owners initial offer that they unfathomably made public back in July was comically unreasonable? Absolutely. But I also assumed that with an average NHL player's salary sitting at $2.5 million, and the minimum at $550K, the NHLPA would comprehend how ridiculously well-compensated they are and be motivated to keep the gravy train rolling.

Even if the offer was a slap in the face (which again, it definitely was), it set the parameters for where the league wanted to go with the CBA and it was then up to the PA to get the best deal they could within those parameters. That's how these negotiations work, not just in hockey, but in all sports. In all business. The owners take the risk and therefore they have the ultimate say on how they will divide up their business. They set the framework and negotiations (eventually) progress from there.

But instead of common sense prevailing*, here we are days away from what should be the first night of the regular season, and we are somehow already guaranteed to miss games and might be on the verge of losing the whole season. Again.

*I along with 200,000 other hockey fans out there can mediate this stand-off in no time: gradual slide to 50/50 split of HRR; immediate increases to revenue sharing and re-distribution to lower-revenue teams; 8 year maximum length on contracts; same rules for free agency. Boom. Your welcome.

Instead of locking themselves in a room and chipping away at the gap that exists between the two sides, we've watched as months pass in between the swapping of proposals, and now weeks go by without any sort of meetings. The lack of urgency from either side is jarring.

I couldn't choose a side when the question was first asked months ago, and I'm no closer to an answer now. Mostly I'm just extremely frustrated with everyone involved.

I'm frustrated with the owners who have so little regard for the fans money and passion that they readily shut the game down every 8 or 10 years. I'm frustrated with the players who have copped out and gone overseas. I'm particularly frustrated with Mike Cammalleri for saying "you can go over there [to the KHL] and make millions and millions and millions of dollars to play hockey". Ummm, Mike, you do realize we can easily go online and figure out that you've earned about $26 million thus far in your NHL career, and have 2 more years at $7 million per on your contract. Would $40 million count as "millions and millions and millions of dollars to play hockey"? Because in my book it does.

And I'm frustrated with myself for already admitting that whenever this senseless lockout ends, I will be back going to games and watching them on television, just like nothing ever happened.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Vote for Carlos Villanueva

Q: Why does the Canadian baseball/sports media refuse to give any love to Carlos Villanueva?

CSJ: The easy answer is because neither of Alex Anthopoulos nor John Farrell have ever given them reason to, but we won't go there. Starting over then...Beats me. All he's done is pitched his butt off when asked to fill-in on a decimated starting rotation. In eight starts this year covering 47 innings, he's given up 40 hits and 16 earned runs with 50 K's against 14 walks. Read those numbers again*. They're probably unsustainable, but you'd still think they'd be good enough to at least merit consideration for a starting role moving forward. Yet when referencing the work that needs to be done to fix said rotation for next year, you never hear Villanueva's name come up alongside Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. You can argue that he is prone to the long ball (12 HR allowed in 21 starts as a Jay) and that with an average of only 5.2 innings per start, he lacks stamina. But Toronto is 13-8 in those 21 games** and with the options currently very thin both in big-league ready prospects and note worthy free-agents-to-be, why isn't Villanueva being touted as a potential candidate for a permanent role as a starter?

*I wanted to include xFIP, WAR, and K/9, which are all awesome advanced stats but after googling my way to very little and not wanting to spend 2 hours separating the starting numbers from his totals, I can only offer this to my fellow stat nerd brothers: his 2012 WHIP as a starter is 1.15 which would place him 8th among AL Starters.

**Including a passable effort over 13 start last year: 72 IP, 85H, 42 earned runs, 42K, 16BB. Again, sorry for the archaic stats but we should really blame the internet because how can Carlos Villanueva's advanced stats only as a starter this year not be at my fingertips? WHY?