The Blue Jays Managerial Search and the ESPN Disease

All Star Game, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, Players, Trade Rumors

Jim Riggleman isn’t a bad idea as manager for the Blue Jays, but he hasn’t heard from them. You’d never know that unless you followed the story after what Buster Olney said on Twitter:

The Jays are close to announcing their next manager. Two of the final names they discussed were Jim Tracy and Jim Riggleman.

There’s sufficient ambiguity in this tweet to explain it away after Riggleman’s own agent said there had been no contact between the Blue Jays and Riggleman. He also said that Riggleman would be very interested in the job. It could be said that the name was kicked around by the Blue Jays; that the two sentences are unconnected; that Olney has a source telling him this; or that ESPN told Olney to say something provocative regarding the Blue Jays while they’re a hot topic to accumulate some webhits to ESPN.com.

I like Olney. He’s got a thick skin; he can take a joke without freaking out in a “how dare you question me?!?” tantrum; and he writes his columns and reports without vindictiveness or self-promotion, but the ESPN Disease pops up on occasions in which he and other mostly respectable reporters toss something out there that they know is, at best, a twisted exaggeration. One would assume that they’re enacting an editorial order. Similar to a few years ago when there was a “rumor” from somewhere that the Cardinals and Phillies had discussed a trade of Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard, there was a brief uproar with factions arguing and screaming about the mere concept; with Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. livid at having to answer questions as to the possibility of a story he knew nothing about. Olney was a guest on ESPN News at its height and the host asked him something to the tune of, “How close is this to happening?” as if, barring a zombie apocalypse, it could’ve happened. And I can picture a drooling zombie looking at Pujols and Howard and grunting, “Nooooooo!!!!” in between guttural growls and throaty sputters. Even zombies know better.

The ESPN employees go along with the program, entertain the nonsense, talk about Tim Tebow, and “report” this stuff because it’s their job, but what they miss is how this style of journalism diminishes quality people and their credibility when they’re forced to engage in cheap attention grabs.

As for the Blue Jays managerial search, the two names that Olney dropped—Tracy and Riggleman—would actually be good choices for that situation. The Blue Jays need to hire an experienced manager and, with the collection of talent they now have, it doesn’t have to be someone with the resume of Joe Torre for it to work. It just has to be someone who knows the terrain; who has managed in the big leagues; who won’t tolerate the same terrible fundamentals as former manager John Farrell did; can deal with the press; and will be respected by the veterans.

Riggleman has the baggage from his resignation from the Nationals hovering over him, but he’s always implied that there’s more to the story than we know. If he’s going to be interviewed for a big league managerial job, he’d better have a ready and reasonable explanation why he walked away from the Nationals amid the perception that he was throwing a tantrum because the club refused to exercise his 2012 option.

Tracy, despite his critics, is a good manager who got a bad rap with the poor endings in his prior stops managing the Dodgers, Pirates, and Rockies. He has all the attributes I mentioned above, the players have always liked him and played hard for him, he’s sound strategically, and is good with the press.

If I were making the decision, before anything else, I’d call Tony LaRussa and see if he’s bored with retirement and if he is, would Dave Duncan like to come along as well? They already reportedly inquired with Bobby Cox and Cox said no, so why not LaRussa? It’s a tailor made situation for him with a rabid fanbase and the new challenge back in the American League. He might be competitively recharged after a year away. He surely seemed to enjoy himself at the All-Star Game.

The Blue Jays cannot make the same mistake they did with Farrell. In addition to all the other problems Farrell had in his two seasons, his eyes were cast back toward Boston with a lusty gaze and the players didn’t think he knew what he was doing. They were right. He didn’t. This Blue Jays team can win, but they’re more likely to fail if they hire a cheap, convenient alternative to manage the club rather than someone who’s got the bona fides to maximize their talent.

That could be Riggleman; it could be Tracy; it could be LaRussa; or it could be someone else—it had better be someone who has the known ability to do the job unlike the last manager GM Alex Anthopoulos hired, Farrell. After so many years of expectations and waiting and hoping, 2013 is the Blue Jays chance and they can’t afford to blow it, especially on an unknown field boss.

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Stephen Strasburg As The Formative Brett Favre

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Trade Rumors

Is the media really starting with the Stephen Strasburg-hype again?

It’s the same amount of attention that Brett Favre used to get in the interest of webhits and pageviews, except it’s at the beginning of Strasurg’s career and not a vacillating “will he or won’t he” retire or play again that was (and is) the norm with Favre.

I don’t want to hear it.

The attention doled out to this pitcher is ludicrous. It happened last year as the Nationals had all sorts of on and off-field rules as to his usage and access; designated times when he would speak and when he wouldn’t.

It was as if they had him in a cage like a prize stallion that they never intended to race, but were going to put out to stud.

Now the weather is playing a part in “will he or won’t he?” pitch today. Will Mother Nature be so cruel as to deprive us of seeing Strasburg for the 75 pitches he’s going to be allowed to throw?

I pulled 75 out of my behind; the truth is, we don’t know what the Nats have planned as an arbitrary number chosen to keep him “healthy”— those random limits that worked so well in keeping him healthy before he blew out his elbow a year ago.

If you continually pay attention to this in anything other than an “oh him” kind of way, you’re playing into what the likes of ESPN want; they want people to click onto their site and read the little bits of nothing they (mostly) unskillfully present.

I’ll watch Strasburg pitch (if Mother Nature isn’t cranky and ruins our fun) because he’s a brilliant talent with a bright future once they take him out of the “Joba”—my nickname for the stone sarcophagus in which Joba Chamberlain was placed for his “protection”. The Joba Rules didn’t work on Joba either.

I’m not going to watch because of the endless promotion Strasburg is receiving.

This media circus is working in one respect: it’s got people paying attention to it for reasons other than what success he achieves for himself and his team. That aspect of his career won’t be known for awhile—or at least until they decide to take off the handcuffs and let him pitch.

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The Fielder-Byrdak Incident

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Trade Rumors, Umpires

Prince Fielder has a short fuse. I won’t go so far as to say he has anger issues, but he’s temperamental with teammates, opponents, umpires and himself. The brief confrontation he had with Mets pitcher Tim Byrdak after grounding out last night stemmed from a misunderstanding; Fielder’s aforementioned temper; that the Brewers were being overt in their on-base celebrations while they were building their lead; and that Byrdak took exception to Fielder screaming at himself while running to first base on a ground out.

You can see it here.

Fielder is the type who won’t walk away. I understand that. But the Brewers—steamrolling toward the playoffs and with Fielder their key player—can’t be getting into a fight with the Mets in August over a “misunderstanding”. All the Brewers need to do is get someone hurt or suspended in a brawl with a team playing out the string.

And that’s before getting to the fact that Fielder is about to make $150-180 million in free agency this winter. Does he want to risk tearing a shoulder in a fight over nothing?

The Mets aren’t in a position to say anything about another club celebrating on the basepaths with the idiotic “claw” they’re constantly doing. Teams like the Mets, barely over .500 and in need of the Hubble Telescope to see the division and Wild Card leaders, shouldn’t be acting up on the bases to begin with and then have the audacity to get annoyed when other teams do it.

For his part, Byrdak had no business walking off the field after the whole thing started and the benches were emptying with the bullpens running in.

Naturally, most of these “bench clearing incidents” aren’t incidents at all; usually it’s team solidarity and finding a dance partner to appear as if a player is involved when he’s putting forth a pretense of being involved. But one sacrosanct rule is this: if you started the thing, don’t be the guy crawling out of the pile and heading for the exit when the fight gets going.

On another note, when I first watched the video clip on ESPN.com, I was first greeted with a commercial for Levi’s with Kenny Mayne.

Mayne is about as funny as the late WPIX sportscaster Jerry Girard. If you remember Jerry Girard, you know that he was funny until people started telling him he was funny; then he wasn’t funny. Same thing with Mayne.

Smarmy and funny are two separate entities that have been blurred and must be clarified for the greater good of humanity.

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