Alex Anthopoulos – From Hero to Villain???

Upper Deck Insight 25 January 2011 | 6 Comments

Wow, that was fast.

On Friday AA did the unbelievable, the previously unthinkable and impossible.  He traded Vernon Wells.  He got rid of THE CONTRACT from Toronto’s payroll.

He was a genius, the next big thing, headed for super-stardom.  He was a hero, the man who was going to turn around the franchise.  In AA we trust.

Now, four days and another trade later, AA is a villain.

Gone is Mike Napoli a Blue Jay for just under 96 hours.  In is Frank Francisco, former Texas Ranger closer.

Yes I understand that Napoli hit 26 HR last year.  Yes I understand that Toronto now has four former right-handed closers on the team (five if you include Chad Cordero’s minor league contract).

But no – I don’t understand the outrage.  I don’t understand how fans who declared Anthopoulos a “godsend” and that they would “trust him with their lives” on Friday, now openly question if he knows what he’s doing, if he’ll be able to clean up the mess that is his bullpen.

Shocking.

The 180 degree turn is laughable.

For instance: on Friday PVW (Post Vernon Wells), I read the following comments on Twitter (not verbatim, but loosely):

“Thrilled the contract is gone, but a bit disappointed that Napoli will steal AB from Arencibia and Lind.”

Or:

“I thought we had a 1B, C, and DH – why Napoli?”

Yet those are the very same people this evening who are slamming the trade, with comments such as:

“Terrible trade.  Napoli would have been a productive part-time C and 1B.”

And:

“There goes our stopgap to cover JPA.”

You can’t complain that Arencibia will lose at-bats in one breath, then complain that he’ll have too many the next.  That’s just stupid.  Just the same way you can’t complain about the Jays having a weak bullpen full of castoffs (Dotel, Villanueva) at lunch time, then complain they have too many hard throwing righties by dinner.

I engaged in a little friendly Twitter debate with a guy after work today about the trade.  Good man, I met him in the summer.  But we COMPLETELY disagree on the trade, and he made one comment that really got me riled up.  He said this, and I quote:

“The Jays are a way weaker team without Napoli.”

To which I countered:

“Not sure how you can say that considering Napoli had 0 career AB with Jays.”

That’s right.  Mike Napoli’s career statistics with the Toronto Blue Jays are as follows: 0 AB, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, .000 AVG, .000 OBP, .000 SLG, .000 OPS.

But the team will be way weaker without him.

I see the point – Napoli hit 26 bombs with the Angels, so move him to Toronto and he could easily top 35 in the Rogers Centre.

But can you do that?  Can you simply move stats over like that?

Remember Curtis Granderson?  He was coming off a 30 HR season in 2009 in Detroit, then was acquired by the Yankees.  Left handed hitter at Yankee stadium with the short porch in right field?  Look out!  He would hit 35, 40, no 45 homers!

Remember Chone Figgins?  His 2009 season with the Angels was outstanding: .298 average, .398 OBP, 114 R.  With him and Ichiro at the top of the Mariner lineup he might eclipse a .400 OBP!  Might not score as many runs, but 90 was a shoo-in!

How about JD Drew in 2007?  He was coming off a 20 HR / 100 RBI season with the Dodgers before moving to Boston.  His power at Fenway, with Pesky’s Pole?  Potential MVP!

Well, Granderson hit .247 with 24 HR.  Figgins’ OBP dropped to .340 and he scored only 62 runs.  Drew plummeted to 11 HR / 64 RBI.

I can probably find just as many examples going the other way, but you get the point.  Numbers don’t simply translate.  Would Albert Pujols put up monster numbers in the AL East, taking into account that he doesn’t get to pound the Cubs, Brewers, Astros, and Pirates over 75 games a year?  Who knows…

So how can we be sure the Jays are a “way weaker” team without Napoli?  Sure he might have hit 35 HR.  But, maybe, potentially, possibly, the fact that:

a) he was playing for a new team, in a new city, in a new stadium, in a different country AND,

b) he was playing for a rookie manager, instead of an 11-year veteran and two-time AL Manager of the Year winner AND,

c) he was moving divisions to play in the heated AL East against two of the best teams in the game, a third who won’t be as good as last year but better than people think, and the improving (I think) Orioles AND,

d) he was going from natural grass to turf AND,

e) he has only surpassed 100 games in a season twice and will be sharing playing time with Arencibia at C, and Lind / Encarnacion at 1B / DH AND,

f) he was moving from a team full of veteran players with playoff experience that had playoff expectations to a team full of young players learning to win together with little to no playoff expectations

might have had a negative influence on his production?  There is no reason to believe he wasn’t just as likely to pull a 2008 Frank Thomas than a 2003 Carlos Delgado.

So no, the Jays are not a weaker team without him.

And no, Alex Anthopoulos should not be vilified.  If the Jays really want JPA to grow into a starting catcher, and if they really want Adam Lind to develop into a first baseman, the least they can do is let them play.  And what better time to let them play than in 2011, a year when we are not expected to contend?

At the end of the day AA shipped a $6-million backup C and 1B who didn’t really fit in with the long term plans for a former closer with a career 3.75 ERA, 10 K/9, who holds lefty hitters to a .214 average.  Good deal.

Besides, if I’ve learned anything about our GM over the past few months it’s this:

He’s probably made another trade before I finished writing this.

6 Responses on “Alex Anthopoulos – From Hero to Villain???”

  1. Ian M says:

    love this post.

  2. Ian says:

    Interesting you mention the hero to villain progression because I was reading Halos Heaven and they were painting AA like the villain. Apparently they were bitter the Jays flipped Napoli already. AA7 the villain? Never thought I’d see that happen!

  3. 5thStarter says:

    Villifying any one GM over any move, taken in isolation is a quick recipe for ridicule. Shedding $70+ Million in payroll is a good move no matter who comes the other way.
    The 2011 Jays may have trouble scoring runs though. I’m getting a bit concerned.

  4. dsharpdavis says:

    Agreed and agreed. I love AA. Nice to have a guy with Nittany Lions at the helm.

  5. Mat Germain says:

    I entirely agree with you and posted similar arguments over at Jays Journal. I am 100% more comfortable with Frank Francisco as a closing option since he is more effective vs LHB and RHB in comparison to Rauch and Dotel. He’s also young and likely to add 2 more picks to the Jays 2012 draft if he closes all season long. He’s an upgrade over Kevin Gregg in my books, and he’s also a more important piece than Napoli would have been.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Alex Anthopoulos – From Hero to Villain??? – 500 Level Fan Jeremy Gibson over at 500 Level Fan looks at the Mike Napoli/Frank Francisco trade and how some people reacted to it differently than the Vernon Wells trade. [...]

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