The Blue Jays season began and ended with both bitter disappointment, as a 1-9 start turned into a 76-86 finish and the team was all but eliminated from the postseason well before September. It was wire to wire futility. That sentence wasn’t a coincidence, of course, as this very closely resembles the overarching message of HBO’s hit series, “The Wire.” While that show is on the surface about the Baltimore drug world, in general it is about the futility of trying to change things that are clearly trending downwards. The newspapers, the docks, the city. Each has someone attempting a creative fix that ends up leaving things just as bad as they started. The Blue Jays are similar. They tried Biagini in the rotation more than once, Russell Martin at 3B, Jose Bautista at 3B, and used a franchise record 60 players in 2017.
So in that spirit, I have decided to gather the quotes from the famous show that best fit each player from the 2017 roster, so let’s start by putting a DNR on some pitchers’ phones:
“A man gotta live what he know.” – Omar Little
Coming off a season that saw Stroman post a career worst 4.37 ERA in 2016, many (including me) were trying to figure out what he should do to improve his performance this season. Stroman instead doubled down, throwing even more of his world-class sinker. The end result was almost exactly the same number of baserunners, but a much more reasonable strand rate that allowed Stroman to once again top 200 innings pitched while posting a sparkling 3.09 ERA. He went with what he knows and it worked.
“A wise man does not burn his bridges until he first knows he can part the waters.” – Norman Wilson
As the club headed towards the trade deadline well out of a playoff spot, much of the focus was on what the club should do with pending free agent Marco Estrada. The club held onto the righthander, and he responded by putting up much better numbers in August and September than he had during his June-July swoon. Still, Estrada didn’t know what the free agent waters would provide, so he decided to re-sign with the Jays for one year, keeping that bridge intact for another season.
“This game is rigged, man” – Preston “Bodie” Broadus
Limited to just 36 innings on the season across three separate disabled list stints, Aaron Sanchez was subject to MLB’s ever-increasing blister problem. The baseball is getting the blame, from Marcus Stroman as well, as the lowered seams appear to be causing extra pressure to get the same spin, leading to blister issues. MLB has no incentive to fix this problem, however, as the smaller seams are leading to more home runs. Sanchez has plenty of reason to be the angry as he was never able to make it back from these issues and enters 2018 as a serious question mark, despite his incredible talent.
“It was business as usual with the same old ideas producing the same old results” – Tommy Carcetti
While Happ missed some time with an elbow injury, he continued doing what he has done since mid-way through the 2015 season: use his two fastballs liberally, then mix and match with the offspeed stuff to carve up hitters. He actually lowered his DRA to levels below his incredible Pirates run, showing that he’s still a crazy bargain at three years and $36 millon.
“I asked for the controlled buy.” – Ervin Burrell
When the Blue Jays picked up Liriano at the 2016 deadline, they were basing it on an outlier in Liriano’s walk rates that stabilized upon his arrival in Toronto. His control evaporated once more in 2017, but the Jays managed to still use Liriano (and Nori Aoki’s contract) to essentially buy solid prospect Teoscar Hernandez from the Astros.
“The bigger the lie, the more they believe.” – William “Bunk” Moreland
There’s no lie more dangerous than the injury-prone player who stays healthy during a stint with a new club. Teams often feel they have found the magic elixir to keep the pitcher healthy, then give them real money to come back the following season. We have actually already seen it once before with Brett Anderson. He received (and accepted) a qualifying offer from the Dodgers following a 31 start season in 2015, only to last for a mere three starts in 2016. That’s not to say that Anderson isn’t worth the gamble. He’s still very talented. The team should just make the bet assuming they won’t get 20 starts out of the 29 year old lefty.
“Look the part, be the part” – Joseph “Proposition Joe” Stewart
Joe Biagini didn’t really have a regular role in 2017. He started in the bullpen, then spent some time in the rotation, the minors, the bullpen, the minors again, and finally back in the rotation again to end the year. In the end, it was all about trying his best to look the part and perform in whatever role he was given.
“But you tell Roberto he got to make it a serious smoker!” – Avon Barksdale
It may be a bit cheating to use a quote with Osuna’s first name, but it’s very fitting. The biggest issue plaguing the young relief ace was a diminished fastball and the unwillingness to use it. Likely due to overuse, Osuna’s fastball fell from an average of 96.6 mph to 95.0 in 2017. That’s still plenty hard however, which made his extreme over-reliance on the cutter, and the subsequent struggles, somewhat baffling.
“He was called. He served. He is counted.” – Sgt. Jay Landsman
The man with the most generic, unmemorable name deserves the least memorable-sounding comment. That said, we can’t forget what Smith brought to the table. He did serve and he certainly counted, posting a career-best 35.4 percent strikeout rate with the Blue Jays and then netting them a couple of potentially useful prospects when he was dealt to Cleveland.
“You wanted to be in the game, right? Now you’re in the game.” – Maury Levy
After shuffling up and down between Toronto and Buffalo over the last two years, Tepera finally got the chance to earn a regular role for the Blue Jays in 2017. The righty ran with the opportunity, seizing the full-time setup role after Joe Smith was traded to Cleveland. This increased reliability was something of a double-edged sword however, as Tepera became one of the only trusted relievers at the back of John Gibbons’ bullpen. As a result, he ended up with the twelfth-highest workload in the major leaguers, according to Dr. Mike Sonne’s Fatigue Units. Hopefully this doesn’t affect him going forward.
“Yeah, now, well, the thing about the old days: they the old days.” – Slim Charles
Nobody can take away what Jason Grilli contributed to the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays; there really is no logical argument that they would’ve made the postseason without him. That said, 2017 was a whole new season and Grilli was absolutely terrible. He’ll be 41 years old in November, so the old days may very well be a long time passed for Mr. Grilli.
“Deserve got nothing to do with it. It’s his time, that’s all.” – Felicia “Snoop” Pearson
Despite being one of the most effective relievers for the Blue Jays this year with a 29 percent strikeout rate, a 2.56 ERA, and a 59.9 DRA-, Leone often drew the short end of the stick when it came to option decisions merely due to coincidental timing of when he had last pitched and when the Blue Jays needed a fresh arm. As a result, he managed four different stints with the Buffalo Bisons. 2018 should provide much more stability for Mr. Leone as he has earned a more important role in the late innings.
“This here game is more than the rep you carry.” – Russell “Stringer” Bell
Very few people have proven that baseball is about more than reputation than Danny Barnes. The 27 year-old reliever was an unheralded 35th round pick with a fastball that routinely sits in the low 90s and a mediocre breaking ball. He had a good changeup, but never seemed to be a future standout player. Even after dominating the minor leagues at every level, not much was expected of Barnes in the big leagues. He only even made the roster because of injuries. But all Barnes has done since is pitch effectively as a key member of a Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. He may not have much of a rep, but Barnes has plenty of game.
“That’s like a forty degree day. Ain’t nobody got nothin’ to say about a forty degree day.” – Russell “Stringer” Bell
Just like a forty degree day (but really, Stringer? That’s pretty cold -or very hot if you’re in Canada.), ain’t nobody got nothin’ to say about Aaron Loup. He wasn’t a great lefty specialist, but he wasn’t awful either. He was just fine. Thankfully, the position doesn’t really demand more than that so he’s secure in his MLB employment.
“A year will do in a pinch” – Tommy Carcetti
Despite not being on anybody’s radar for a September callup, converted outfielder Ramirez put his name on the map by keeping opponents off the scoreboard for an incredible 14 straight months dating back to 2016. He gave up no runs in New Hampshire, none in Buffalo, then put up zeroes for his first seven big league outings before finally being scored upon. That’s more than enough to earn a chance at a 2018 bullpen spot.
“Yo, we always in the market for a good soldier.” – Chris Partlow
Most people are probably familiar with Rowley’s story by now, but in short, the Blue Jays only got him in the first place because they were willing to gamble on a talented pitcher who happened to have a required two year commitment to the United States Army. The Jays seem to have won that bet, as Rowley looks like he could capably handle a spot at the back of a rotation very soon.
“You can’t lose if you don’t play” – Marla Daniels
“I always heard it that you can’t win if you don’t play.” – Cedric Daniels
Poor Bo. Already in a serious fight for one of the final spots on the roster in spring training, Schultz went down for the year with Tommy John surgery. Of course, both sides of the (at the time) Daniels marriage were right on this one. Schultz definitely didn’t win by being out for the entire year, but given that he was a very likely waiver candidate, he also didn’t really lose. Receiving an MLB salary and service time while you sit out certainly isn’t a loss.
Mike Bolsinger, Matt Dermody, Cesar Valdez, Tim Mayza, Tom Koehler, Luis Santos, Jeff Beliveau, Mat Latos, Nick Tepesch, Leonel Campos, Casey Lawrence, J.P. Howell, Lucas Harrell, Chris Smith, T.J. House, Glenn Sparkman, Taylor Cole
“All the pieces matter.” – Lester Freamon
Boy do they ever. The group above combined to make 17 starts and 139 relief appearances on the season and throw 231 1/3 innings of 6.11 ERA ball. Those extreme struggles (though not all the pitchers in that list were bad) are a very good example of how much a lack of pitching depth hurt this team in 2017 and how much it could matter again in 2018. While some (like Dermody and Mayza) showed that they could be useful pieces going forward, the Jays need to have better plans B, C, D, and E next year.
Just like one of Bodie’s underlings, you may be thinking I “didn’t say nothing about no bats.” That’s true! But check back soon for the hitters, prospects, and non-player personnel.
And of course, if you have some other quotes you think would work I’d love to read them in the comments.
Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports