Posts Tagged ‘Bart Given’

Bart Given recently posted an article on Inside The Majors about his involvement with a program called KidSport.  While professional sports get all the glory, it is important to recognize that sports are much more important at the grassroots level.  Little League, Minor Hockey and Soccer, Pop Warner Football.  We must also realize that not all children are fortunate enough to have the resources to play organized sports, so it is important to support organizations like KidSport.  Get out there to volunteer, coach or donate, and make a difference.



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With the return of closer Scott Downs, former Blue Jays closer BJ Ryan found himself expendable today.  Ryan was part of a big off-season for the Blue Jays following the 2005 season, inking a five year, $47 million contract, giving the Jays the lockdown closer they had been missing.  Ryan was coming off a 36 save season as a the closer of the Orioles, and it was at the time, the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher. 

Ryan rewarded the Jays in 2006 with an all-star appearance, 38 saves and a microscopic 1.37 ERA.  However, injuries derailed him the next season as he pitched only 4.1 innings, and his WHIP was almost double his previous seasons ERA.  He rebounded in 2008 with a 2.95 ERA and 32 saves, but was far from the Blue Jays most effective reliever.  This year, the lights-out Downs, a product of former AGM Bart Given, seized the closer role after Ryan struggled with more injuries and inconsistency.  Limited to mop-up duty and unhappy with his role, Ryan now finds himself without a job.

Ryan is only one of several failed big free-agent deals of the last couple of years.  Jeff Suppan, recently listed on Ebay for the bargain price of $0.01, signed a four year, $42 million deal with the Brewers following his 2006 World Series season with St. Louis.  He has rewarded the Crew with a 27-28 record over two and a half seasons, and has yet to post a better than league average ERA.  I could go on and on with the likes of Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt, Jose Guillen, Matt Morris, and Barry Zito, but you get the picture.

These crippling contracts are a big reason for a dynamic shift in the way baseball teams are doing business.  Most teams are realizing that free agents should simply be compliments to a young, inexpensive core, not franchise saviours.  Teams are putting a vice grip on their top prospects as they understand that the bank for the buck they will get from these players is much greater than what they would find on the open market.  This really became seen by the public when both the Red Sox and Yankees refused to part with their top prospects in order to obtain Johan Santana prior to the 2008 season. 

It also has cooled the free agent market, as teams have realized that many Type A free agents are not worth the high draft picks that they would be giving up.  This led to solid players like Orlando Cabrera and Juan Cruz searching for jobs for the majority of this past off-season.  Five years ago, these guys would have been lavished with multi-year contracts. 

This topic is particularly interesting as Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi has made it known that he will be listening to offers for Roy Halladay, who is signed through 2010 at a very reasonable $15.75 million.  It will be interesting to see what type of prospects the Blue Jays will be offered in return for the perennial Cy Young candidate.  It is my opinion that the Blue Jays will get an excellent package from a GM in win-now mode, but I do not think the offers will be as numerous or bountiful as in years past.

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A couple of weeks ago, Bart Given wrote an article for Sportsnet defending Blue Jays pitching coach Brad  Arnsberg and the number of arm injuries the Jays have incurred in recent years.  Going back to 2005, he found that the Blue Jays were in the middle of the pack when it came to DL placements and DL duration.  While I do not dispute his findings, I think people still have the right to be upset with the number of young pitchers have undergone serious procedures like Tommy John.

The first culprit is Dustin McGowan, a former first-round pick who underwent Tommy John in 2004 at age 23.  The next two years following the surgery, McGowan threw 101 and 111 innings respectively between the minors and majors.  In 2007, his workload jumped to 191 innings.  Unsurprisingly, he was shutdown in early July in 2008, and has not pitched since.  Both GM JP Ricciardi and AGM Alex Anthopolous are on record as saying they are not sure if he will ever pitch again.  Obviously McGowan suffered from arm troubles from an early age, but the Jays were asking for trouble when they nearly doubled his workload in 2007.

Next up is Gustavo Chacin, a personal favourite during his short-time in Toronto.  In 2004, Chacin enjoyed great success in the minors, going 18-2, and pitching 153.2 innings, a career high.  The next year he was promoted to the Majors and enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, with a 3.72 ERA.  He also threw 203 innings, which placed him in the top 50 in the league.  Since then, he has only thrown 114.2 innings in the major leagues.  Here are the other two players on that list who experienced huge jumps in their workloads that year:

Chris Capuano – 101.2 to 219, has not pitched since 2007

Josh Towers – 152 to 208.2, has not pitched in the majors since 2007

The Jays were two for three that year.

More recently, the Jays have two more Tommy John victims: Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch.  I am not sure the Blue Jays have learned their lesson.  They brought Marcum along slowly, limiting him to roughly a 25 IP per year increase from 2005-07.  Tough to blame them for that one.  However, Litsch was pretty much abused.  After throwing 75.2 innings in 2005 between rookie and short season A, he was increased to 158 and 187.2 the next two years.  Once again, unsurprisingly, he managed only one more full season before going under the knife.

While you cannot always predict the future, and even guys that are brought along slowly can experience problems, the Blue Jays are not without blame.  It is well documented that guys who experience huge jumps in workloads either see their performance decrease or experience serious injury.  Justin Verlander, Noah Lowry, Fausto Carmona, Zach Duke (who has rebounded nicely this year), Ian Snell, etc..  The only team that I could spot with a history of straining young arms more than the Jays is the Pittsburgh Pirates, and we can all see how successful that franchise has been.

While the Jays have an incredible talent for finding a surplus of skilled young arms, they are also burning through them at an astounding rate.  Here is to hoping that the Blue Jays do not repeat same mistake with their young arms like Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero.

As a final note, I remember reading somewhere, but do not quote me on this, that the only pitcher in recent years to throw over 200 innings in his rookie season and go on to have an even semi-successful career is Freddy Garcia.

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