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.
In that spirit, I have decided to gather the quotes from the famous show that best fit each player from the 2017 roster. The pitchers are covered, so now it’s time to place a team on the rooftops to surveil the hitters.
“I want my corners.” – Avon Barksdale
While he has taken a slight step back this year, Russell Martin’s focus has always been about doing what he can for his pitchers. While he definitely takes pride in his game-calling, it’s on the edges of the plate where Martin really shines. As one of the best pitch framers in the game, he wants those corners. And when he isn’t getting those corners, Martin is willing to fight for them. This love of the corners even took on a new meaning for Martin this year as he actually spent parts of 10 games playing at the hot corner while Josh Donaldson was on the shelf with an injury. Martin actually handled himself well at third base, creating all the outs expected and even turning a nice double play at one point.
“D was just f*&$%!@ weak.” – Avon Barksdale
What a year it was for Montero. He hit well in Chicago, but his nearly complete inability to throw out runners with the Cubs (1/32) eventually bubbled over in an interview when he blamed Jake Arrieta for allowing seven (!!) stolen bases in one game against the Washington Nationals. That led to his eventual release, but things didn’t get much better in Toronto. While his caught-stealing percentage did go up, Montero still only threw out 3/30 attempted thieves for the Blue Jays. That D was just f$#!#$@ weak.
“Why’d you let him play?” – Jimmy McNulty
“Got to. This America, man.” – Man On Stoop
When looking at his numbers, some sort of constitutional requirement seems to be the only logical reason that Luke Maile would amass as much playing time as he did. Despite a very good job on the defensive end, Maile’s .407 OPS was the lowest in franchise history for a player who received 120 plate appearances – by a whopping .063. Even with great defense, a bat that bad is hard to carry for long.
“Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit.” – Clay Davis
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has had a pretty solid career. Heck, he may even have another one or two good years in the bigs before he’s done. 2017 wasn’t one of them. Nothing but Senator Davis’ signature “salty” exclamation fits to describe the briefly-tenured backup catcher’s performance this past year. In 26 plate appearances, Saltalamacchia managed to strike out a whopping 16 times while collecting just one walk and one hit (a single). On defense, he threw out none of the nine would-be basestealers and was a slight negative in framing. Oof.
“We ain’t gotta dream no more, man.” – Russell “Stringer” Bell
Thanks to his first round pedigree and promise as a switch-hitter with well-above average power, people have been dreaming for years about what it would look like when Justin Smoak finally figured things out. Now we know. A slump in September doesn’t minimize what Smoak did over the entire year, blasting 38 home runs to go along with a line of .270/.355/.529. And perhaps more importantly, he hit both right and left-handed pitchers, which had been a clear problem for him in the past. Consider it a dream realized.
“You ain’t ready for no full blown thing just yet.” – Dennis “Cutty” Wise
It’s a sad story, but for the third straight year, Devon Travis was unable to make through a full big league season, limited to a mere 50 games. This was particularly disappointing considering how well Travis was playing before his knee flared up again. He had just gone through a torrid May that saw him hit .363/.373/.646 with an unbelievable 16 doubles. Considering only one Blue Jays player (Kevin Pillar) even topped 30 doubles on the season, that was a tremendous month. Sadly, recent reports suggest he may never be ready for no full blown thing, as John Gibbons went on the Fan590 and told listeners that doctors are saying Travis may always have to deal with this.
“Boy you got me confused with a man repeats himself.” – Omar Little
Coming off his first season of 130 games and only missing time the year before because of a fluke injury caused by Kevin Pillar’s chin, there was some actual hope that the hip surgery Tulo had in 2014 was actually going to lead to a little more health. Sadly, he couldn’t repeat that decent run, dealing with a few different injuries during the year, culminating with a season ending ankle tear. Combined with a down season when he was playing, 2018 is an important year for the Jays’ shortstop.
“This is my corner! I ain’t going nowhere!” – Preston “Bodie” Broadus
After a poor first half that saw him hit a mere nine home runs and miss significant time with injury for the first time in his career, the wolves were at the Blue Jays door. Trade rumours began to run rampant that Toronto would either trade their MVP at the deadline or in the upcoming offseason. Donaldson announced that he wasn’t done yet with authority however, blasting 24 home runs in the second half and finishing with an OPS right between his 2015 and 2016 seasons and a TAv of .311, only a few points below last year’s .315. Then to take it a step further, Donaldson pleased Jays fans everywhere with his announcement that he would prefer to remain the Blue Jays’ third baseman despite his pending free agency. Whether or not an extension comes to fruition, it was good to hear JD say it.
“You juke the stats enough and majors become colonels”. – Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski
Ryan Goins is a fine backup. He plays good defense, he’s well-liked, and while he’s a subpar hitter, he’s not Luke Maile at the plate. You don’t mind that guy starting 20-30 games a year or going in late for defense. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays’ fragile starters have habitually forced Goins into full-time starting duty. Despite the fact that his overall offensive numbers are consistently bad, announcers and pundits have always felt the need to treat Goins as a viable MLB regular. This year the juking of the stats reached a fever pitch as people decided to latch onto Goins’ tiny, unsustainable sample size with the bases loaded as some kind of signal that he’s actually a good hitter (FWIW, he was awful with runners on in 2016). He’s not.
“No one wins. One side just loses more slowly.” – Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski
While Goins was a poor hitter, he still outperformed Barney in 2017. The Toronto backup infielder situation was just a constant parade of bad to worse, with Barney standing in for the rest of the crew here for getting the second most playing time. Most teams don’t carry elite backups (if they were elite, they’d be starters), but the Jays absolutely need to improve on this spot given their starters.
“It just Bird to me.” – Omar Little
There’s clearly only one reason to use this one. Look at this bird fly.
“The king stay the king” – D’Angelo “D” Barskdale
For a very obvious reason, I could easily have gone with Omar Little’s memorable words to Wee-Bey: “You come at the king, you best not miss.” While this could probably apply to many players, there’s nobody for whom it is more true than Jose Bautista.
But as this truly seems like the end of Bautista’s tenure in Toronto, it’s important to remember his legacy. Greg did a perfect job of it here so I’m not going to go into detail, but Jose Bautista is arguably the greatest position player (or player period) in Blue Jays history. His overall numbers are good enough, but there’s one moment that clearly put the crown on Bautista’s head.
He may be done, he may not. But one thing is guaranteed: The king stay the king.
“Why you ain’t swinging?” – Ellis “Carv” Carver
After a strong spring and first month of the season that saw Pillar intentionally take a more patient approach, he appeared to ask himself this very question as he went right back to his swing happy ways. In the end, Pillar actually posted higher swing and chase rates than 2016. He seems to have realized what happened, so hopefully he can sustain it longer next year.
“You want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.” – Marlo Stanfield
When the Blue Jays signed Steve Pearce, they knew he likely wouldn’t hold up for a whole season (they were right), but they at least expected him to be a lefty masher for them when healthy; he was specifically brought in to help an offense that really struggled against southpaws in 2016. Sadly, Pearce did not live up to his reputation, struggling against lefties to the tune of .207/.293/.437. He did perform adequately against righties and also hit two epic, walk-off grand slams inside a week, but he didn’t give the Jays what they were pretty sure they were getting.
“Now, hold the measure and spread your arms out to the side.” – Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski
All you need to know. (And for those who didn’t get it the first time this was posted: yes, it is satire.)
“The radio in Philly is different?” – Preston “Bodie” Broadus
Poor Michael Saunders. He gets his dream gig with Toronto, then blows out his knee. He finally gets “healthy” and has a monster, All-Star half season, before falling off hard and eventually being shown the door in free agency. He signed with the Phillies hoping to redeem himself, then had the worst season of his career. With nothing really left to find, he decided to return to that familiar Toronto radio and finished out the season with the Jays. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to him next year.
“I rip and run.” – Omar Little
Hoo boy what a debut for Hernández. He smacked eight home runs and six doubles in just 26 games with the Blue Jays following a trade for Francisco Liriano. This actually fit somewhat with his reputation, as Teoscar was always known as a guy with power. We didn’t get to see much of his other notable skill though. Hernández stole 30+ bases in the minors each year from 2014-2016. If he does get a full-time gig in Toronto next year, look for the basestealing to show up a bit more in the bigs.
““I’ll take anybody’s money if they’re giving it away.” – Namond Brice
Last fall when the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales, there were a lot of confused people. Aside from what it meant for Edwin Encarnacion, three years just seemed excessive given Morales’ age and the alternatives on the market for corner outfield/DH types. This became especially perplexing when that market crashed and most players ended up with one year deals while those who received multi-year deals were signing for low dollar values. As Stringer would say, “that’s market saturation.” The Jays didn’t want to miss out on their no. 2 target (assuming Edwin was no. 1), so they threw extra money and years at the switch-hitting Cuban. Morales agreed quickly, then went out and had one of the worst seasons of career. Oops.
Raffy Lopez, Rob Refsnyder, Nori Aoki, Dwight Smith Jr., Mike Ohlman, Darrell Ceciliani, Ian Parmley
“Y’all down for this? ‘Cause I can find me some m$(#&f$*& to swing bats for me if I have to.” – Preston “Bodie” Broadus
The Blue Jays’ extreme depth players actually provided better value than one would expect from people that were never supposed to see the big leagues this year; the group above put up a combined line of .249/.291/.411 in 2017. That’s pretty close to what the Jays got out of Kevin Pillar and better than they received from Troy Tulowitzki. The depth issue wasn’t actually the performance from the dark corners of the system. It was the terrible play by those who were always supposed to be the backups.
So that’s it for the big leaguers! We’re not done yet though! We have still have the prospects to come. It can be hard to wait on them, but just as it is for Marlo when he’s playing poker, “learning their ways requires some patience.” Coaches/front office types will follow to finish things off.
As usual, if you have any different suggestions for quotes you think fit these players, let me know in the comments!
Lead Photo © Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports