Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SPORTS: The Drive For Sixteenth Best

The Toronto Blue Jays are in a race. That race is for the 16th best record in Major League Baseball at season's end. Seventeenth best would be better, but the Jays need to get a little late June Swoon thing going to cement being in the bottom half of the teams when 2011 comes to a close.

As of today, Toronto holds that coveted sixteenth-best slot, but are in a four-way dogfight with Cincinnati, Cleveland and the White Sox. All but Cleveland have 67 wins, Cleveland being one ahead there by only winning 66. But Toronto's also lost 67, which is only matched by the Reds. This backward race goes to the team with the LEAST number of wins when everything is said and done, assuming all four play 162 games. And the tie goes to the team with the worst record from the year before, something Toronto holds over Cincy, and I believe, the ChiSox.

Do I want MY team to lose, and lose a lot, through September? Yep. It's all about the off-season of signing free agents and the 2012 summer draft. And with any luck, the Blue Jays will benefit from some, as yet unrevealed Alex Anthopoulos move that will help cement their hoped-for losing record. Maybe it's shutting down Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow or Brett Cecil. Or all three. Maybe it's losing Casey Janssen's number while kids from the farm get their feet wet at the end of games. Or how about surgery for any of the regulars, who must all be playing with bumps and bruises by this time.

IF the Jays can finish out of the top half of teams, they will get a better draft slot come next summer. That will go along with the #22 pick they 'earned' by not signing Beede two weeks ago. Two first-round picks in the top 22 seems fair recompense for a team chasing down the Yanks and BoSox (let alone the Rays) in the brutal AL East.

It ALSO means, the Jays can go out and sign a Type-A free agent and ONLY have to hand over a second round draft pick in recompense. And a SECOND Type-A gets a third rounder and so on and so on.

Let's say the Jays break the bank and everybody else's heart and woo Albert Pujols, Jon Papelbon and C.C. Sabathia (Yes, I know it won't happen, but it will be illustrative) to Toronto. Say Pujols for $30M per year, Sabathia for $27M and Papelbon for $14. The Jays then package Travis Snider, Adam Lind and a pitcher from down in the boonies to the Dodgers for Andre Ethier and re-sign Kelly Johnson for, say $7M per annum. There, I just doubled the Jays' payroll. And I still have a bullpen to rebuild between the starters and Papelbon. Oh, and we re-sign Johnny McDonald because without signing him, who cares about Pujols, Sabathia and the lot?

What does all that cost Toronto besides Rogers Corp money? A second round draft pick to St. Louis, a third-rounder to the Yankees and a piddling fourth rounder for a probable Type-A FA to Boston. The same Boston who's been letting fading stars go for first round picks and a sandwich pick for the last few years. This just feels sooooo right.

While I fantasize about a line-up that includes Ethier LF, Rasmus CF, Bautista RF, Pujols 1B, Escobar SS, Encarnacion DH, Lawrie 3B, Johnson 2B and Arrencibia C and a starting pitching staff of Sabathia, Romero, Morrow, Cecil and one of the bunnies, I'm not sure AA would go all in with the loot, if it meant giving up that first round draft pick. Why? I think he sees a big splash as being exactly that. It could leave the Jays wet. And without aid coming down the pipeline five years from now. After all, MOST drafts for MOST teams do well to produce two average plus players. If the Jays are to contend, not for a single season, but regularly, that pipeline has to be re-filled every summer. And the best way to fill it is with first-round talent.

Keeping that pick is going to keep AA up at night. He wants it and he wants the free agents that opening the coffers at Rogers HQ will provide him this off-season. The easiest way to get what he wants is to not have much of a September as the season dies down.

Winning by losing. It's the only way.

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