By: Dan Grant
Alex Anthopoulos is notoriously tight lipped. Even when he talks, he doesn’t say much. With the Blue Jays currently scuffling and patience wearing thin (was it ever thick?), our resident intrepid reporter/tortured Blue Jays fan Dan Grant wanted to get a better feel for how things were going with the hometown Blue Birds. So, he put in a request to interview the Toronto Blue Jays point man.
His request was summarily denied.
This is the interview he made up instead. Again.
Dan: Alex! So great not actually seeing you again.
Alex Anthopoulos: Lovely to not see you again, too!
Dan: If you don’t mind, before we get started, let me just run some topics by you and see if you’re OK not actually talking about them-
AA: (grinning widely) Whatever you need Dave, whatever you need.
Dan: (struggling to smile – they’ve played this name game before) It’s Dan. Like ‘man’ or ‘can’. Sounds nothing like ‘Dave’ really. It doesn’t matter. The reason I want to check things over is because sometimes you get a little off-topic.
AA: Your bird is my demand, Dave!
Dan: What? That’s not how that saying goes…
AA: Really? But everybody loves birds! They can fly, some of them are delicious – it’s win-win!
Dan: You actually got both parts of it wron–you know what? It doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.
Dan: I thought we’d start with the struggles of the pitching staff, move on to the injuries to Bautista and Reyes and finish on a positive note by talking about Devon Travis. Sound OK to you?
AA: Hey Darren, I’m an open nook.
Dan: Ah, I believe this time the saying is an ‘open book’, Alex.
AA: Really? But books are so often closed! A nook is always open, by definition. And that’s me-.
Dan: (shaking his head) Well anyway, we’re about to get started, so please stick to that order if you can. Are you even listening?
AA: – an open nook!
Dan: Dear god. Alright, well here goes nothing.
Hello sports fans and loyal Same Page readers! I’m sitting here with Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, who’s in as candid a mood as you’ve ever heard him! We’ll be discussing the Jays early struggles with both performance and injury, as well as the bright spots he sees moving forward.
AA: Glad to not actually be here!
DG: So Alex, how about that pitching staff? Heading into the season, most people said the starters were thin, the bullpen was thinner and well… that’s kind of being borne out isn’t it? Or is their something we’re missing?
AA: Listen Dylan – can I call you Dylan?
Dan: Well, I mean you can, but whether or not you should–
AA: Thanks Dylan. I’d just like to say, I’m not here to talk about the pitching staff.
Dan: Uh. You’re not?
AA: No sirree bob! I’m here to talk about Devon Travis.
Dan (quickly shuffling his notes): Ah, OK well if you want to start with Travis, we can go there I guess. He’s really been a bright spot so far, eh?
AA: You know it! And I’m the one who traded for him! Me!
Dan: Well yes, I have to say, him throwing together such a fantastic April has been a great surprise. He hit put up a .325/.393/.625 slash line for the month, along with six home runs and four doubles. He also took seven walks and looked like a polished veteran at the plate, hitting the ball all over the field. A really great approach, plus solid defense at second. All of that culminated in him winning Rookie of the Month for the American League. You have to be pleased.
AA: I really am. That’s why I brought it up.
Dan: It’s actually kind of interesting – since you swapped Anthony Gose for Travis straight up and Kyle Drabek was shipped out of town, it looks like Travis might be the best piece obtained (indirectly) from the Roy Halladay trade.
(Aside: Halladay was dealt for Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud (traded to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade) and Michael Taylor. Anthony Gose had been Anthopolous’ target all along, but Philly didn’t want to give him up. Taylor was immediately flipped to Seattle for for Brett Wallace. In the meantime, Philly traded Gose and J.A. Happ to Houston for Roy Oswalt and then Houston flipped Gose to Toronto for Wallace. So in a weird way, the Jays got Travis and half of R.A. Dickey for Halladay. Try and keep up!)
AA: Hey! I hadn’t even thought of that. Score another one for the Greek Freak! Retroactive whammy!
Dan: That’s not your nickname. And it’s taken.
AA: I just miss the days when they used to call me a ninja. I’ve been looking for something new.
Dan: I don’t blame you. Listen, if we could just talk about the pitching for a minute–
AA: Sorry, can’t do it.
Dan: Can I ask why not?
AA: Well you see, the pitching hasn’t been very good, Derek.
Dan: Well, no shit.
AA; You see, we’re dead last in starters ERA – in the entire majors – and the bullpen is 22nd out of 30 teams. I don’t really want to talk about it.
Dan: You’re also 29th in team WHIP, 29th in strikeout to walk ratio, 29th in strikeouts per nine innings…
AA: I knowwwww. It’s terrible, isn’t it? You can’t really spin numbers like that.
Dan: But see, that’s the thing. I think most people are blaming the bullpen, and certainly there were some games where the bullpen blew it. But the starters have actually been worse!
AA: Well I know that and you know that, but I don’t really want it getting around. The same way I don’t want it mentioned that both our old guys – supposedly the rocks of the rotation – have been the worst offenders. That’s why we’re not going to talk about the pitching staff, no sir.
Dan: I can respect that. While we’re not talking about it, how about just a quick rundown of the starting five?
AA: Yeah OK. But make it fast!
Dan: Aaron Sanchez has struggled with control, but at least he’s been hard to hit. I’d be lying if I said Daniel Norris heading back to Triple A was a surprise either, though it did happen really quickly. I think he’ll be completely fine, just needs some more reps. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle both got shelled for all of April, Buehrle especially. And Drew Hutchison has been fairly brutal, pitching into the fifth inning in just two of his six starts so far. His FIP and BABIP suggest he’s getting a bit unlucky, but he’s still been getting blasted.
AA: Was there a question in there somewhere? I miss Marcus Stroman.
Dan: No I guess not. However, Dickey looked great against the division leading Yankees two nights ago. He threw eight strong innings, tied for the longest outing by a Jays starter all year. And Buehrle looked much better in five innings against those same Yankees last night.
AA: Nice! I probably should have caught those. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my rock garden. It soothes me. Being a general manager is stressful! That’s why I won’t talk about the pitching.
Dan: Don’t worry, we won both games. Marco Estrada got hammered in the middle game though, despite people trying to put a pleasant spin on things.
AA: Things are looking up! Well except Estrada. We’ll have to do something about that.
Dan: Yeah. And you needed four hits from Chris Colabello and a triple from Ryan Goins to grab that last one. While those kinds of things are nice when they happen, they’re not exactly things you can count on.
AA: You’re telling me!
Dan: Two things that you can normally count on are the two Jose’s. But they’re pretty banged up, no?
AA: Well what the hell else is new, Doug? They’ve both missed tons of time in their career but other than Josh Donaldson, they’re the two most talented all-around players that we have. We need them back and if we don’t get them back to close to 100%, we’re pretty much screwed. Is that what you want to hear? IS IT?
Dan (taken aback): Well… I mean… is that what you really…?
AA: (burst out laughing) I’m just messing with you man! The look on that chubby Irish face… priceless! Of course, those two sons of mothers will be fine. Bautista is getting games in at DH, which is probably his ultimate destiny anyway, especially if this throwing shoulder thing is serious (it sounds fairly serious) and Reyes just has a broken rib. Takes a bit of time to heal, can’t rush it. No muscle tears, nothing with his legs. He’ll be fine.
Also, Josh Donaldson! Notice how I got a mention of him in there? I traded for that guy, too! DONNIE! Best third baseman in the game, in his prime! THE NINJA LIVES!
Dan: To be honest, the team hasn’t played all that well. The pitching has been abysmal as we noted above. They’ve given games away, which is a cardinal sin in a marathon season where game two means as much as game 162.
But there are things to like.
Despite slow starts from Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, this team leads the majors in runs scored, by a ten run margin. They’re further back (8th) in overall hits and rank 6th in home runs, meaning that they’re not relying completely on the long ball either. Unlike past Jays teams (this may be my personal psychological damage speaking), this team is making the most of its chances and getting production from all portions of the lineup, a huge question mark before the season began. Russell Martin has burst into flames over the past ten days or so, quashing any of that stupid early ‘Russell Clarkson’ bullshit that was floating around. And while the starters haven’t been great so far, Roberto Osuna looks like the real deal in the bullpen and Miguel Castro showed the stuff that makes him a legit long-term prospect in his brief major league stint. I have to say, having a potential starting five of Stroman-Sanchez-Norris-Osuna and recovering flamethrower Jeff Hoffman for years to come, to say nothing of Drew Hutchison, is a testament to excellent drafting by the one and the only Alex Anthopoulos. More help would be great in the bullpen and a move for some back-end rotation help would be nice for this season, but regardless of what happens, I do think AA should be with the club for the forseeable future.
AA: Well thanks for the vote of confidence! I have to say, I didn’t expect that. A lot of people have been throwing garbage in my general direction lately. Not, you know, on me. But around me.
Dan: No problem. The combination of elite hitting, average defense and toilet-bowl pitching has created a kind of ‘Three Stooges Syndrome’ if you will. They basically all cancel each other out and leave us with a slightly above average team. There’s just no way the pitching can continue to be as bad as it has been, and if it gets just a bit better, well, the team still only sits 3.5 games out of first place. The AL East is going to be a tight race all year long. Just keep doing your thing and everything should be fine.
AA: So, Dan, you’re saying… I’m indestructible?
Dan: Oh heavens no, even the slightest downturn of luck and you could totally get fir…hey! You got my name right!
AA (walks away, grinning madly): INDESTRUCTIBLE!
Dan: …but I’m feeling like it was probably more of a ‘monkey-with-a-typewriter-produces-Shakespeare’ kind of thing.