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I just re-read this thread...might be a record for comments!

One of my best friends has a good friend who worked in the Blue Jays clubhouse starting in the 80s and is still with the organisation today although I won't mention his name. My friend also helped out at a few spring training camps over the years.

While I tended to idolise the players, both of them told me that the majority of them had massive egos, weren't particularly smart and were mostly assholes. Think of the most obnoxious jocks at high school.

This is broadbrushing for sure and times have likely changed a bit, but these guys are the best of the best and have been top dog (or dogs) for quite some time. Of course they have super-charged egos. So when you get someone like Manoah who advances through all levels with big success and is the darling of the All-Star game and then finishes 3rd in Cy Young in his first 1.5 years in the majors....and then shits the bed the next year, well that's got to be a bit of a mind-fuck for him right? I'm not saying his refusal to report to Buffalo is excusable, but I'd say he's having some big time issues grappling with the reality of his situation, which to be fair, is extremely unusual - how you deal with that both internally as a person and externally as a team/organisation, I have no idea - and neither do they apparently.

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Sep 12, 2023Liked by Andrew Stoeten

After having invested a significant portion of my free time expanding my knowledge of the sport of baseball in 2023, I felt like I needed to get something off my chest. The distressing emotions that have been provoked by my Jays fandom, and become entangled with existentialism and absurdism, seem to be shared by Nick Ashbourne in recent podcasts.

My experience as a Jays fan in 2023 has nauseated me, turned me against the fans, and ultimately against the sport altogether. I was very bullish at the beginning of the year because of the unprecedented roster balance that had been obtained by the front office – inept starting pitching development notwithstanding – compared to the previous teams in the Guerrero/Bichette era. I went as far as to opine that this year’s team would exceed the regular season dominance of the 2015 and 2021 teams, with the possibility of being considered the best team – on paper – in the franchise’s history when it was all said and done. At first, I was delighted by the team's new look, high strikeout, pitching staff, but my enjoyment was being overshadowed by the petulant fans complaining about RISP, who insisted that pitching and defense wins championships for years and years and years prior. While the team has been treading water and playing on par with their pre-season roster projections, at a disconcerting level of consistency, through its first 144 games, my disgust for the sport has only grown in proportion with the consternation of the fanbase and the blatantly false platitudes that continue to disseminate without any regard for the truth.

I started questioning every platitude that has been entrenched in the meaning of the sport itself. Since people have been collecting data, no one has found evidence to support the claim that hitters have more control over the outcome of their at-bats when runners are in scoring position. It would seem reasonable for all the data that has ever been collected on the subject, to trump 120 games of a team’s underperformance in this situation, in our evaluation and formulation of expectations of that team’s upcoming performance. However, most people clearly feel differently about the matter and place a special emphasis on an individual season, as if each player on a roster has a different essence for every season they play, and every single season in a franchise’s history is treated like a different chemical compound. I guess the 2023 Blue Jays can’t hit with RISP because there is something demonic about the number 2023 that scares people wearing blue when men are on second and third.

This led to further questioning about whether 162 games is a large enough sample size to distinguish team quality, which it isn’t. The cream doesn’t in fact ‘rise to the top’ after a season consisting of 162 games: The 2016 Rangers, if I remember correctly, were the 1st seed in the American league, but they placed close to 20th in team WRC+ and close to last in team K-BB%. Rather than questioning the validity of a team’s record in an absurd sport like baseball, this probably validated the opinion of fans and pundits that the team possessed a clutch gene. Another one I hear all too often is, “this isn’t a world series team with player x employed on their roster”. “Bo Bichette isn’t a shortstop on a world series team. Jordan Romano isn’t a closer on a world series team. Daulton Varsho isn’t a cleanup hitter on a world series team.” The concept of rewarding a team for playing better in October than in April is absurd, batting order is absurd and the 2015 royals probably had a worse ‘cleanup hitter’ than Daulton Varsho.

If it isn’t becoming obvious, people don’t subscribe to these narratives because they are incapable of applying basic reasoning; They are concocted by necessity because the sport is unwatchable when its absurdity and ugliness becomes exposed in its nakedness. This problem is unique to baseball because there is no such thing as an eye test. The differences in player ability – like being able to throw a ball 95 mph vs. 90 mph from 60 feet away, or hitting the ball 5 mph harder in an average at-bat – are hardly perceptible to the human eye if we’re being honest with ourselves. Since baseball greatness can only be captured on a spreadsheet, devoid of the awe inspiring magic that can be felt from watching Roger Federer glide on a tennis court or Michael Jordan play a finals game with the flu, it lacks aesthetic quality. I still enjoy thinking about the sport in mathematical terms but watching it feels more like watching a communist lottery system – especially because a team’s pre-season projections predict ROS W% with more accuracy than that team’s current record after a long period of time – rather than a display of greatness. Nowadays, I am only enamored with dominant starting pitchers and dominant pitching performances.

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Not sure how much you're taking the piss here man, or if you're serious, but interesting read either way.

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I'm not actually having an existential crisis but the season has left a sour taste in my mouth

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Well that's good! And I think you're not alone on that. But I also think there's beauty on the hitting side of the game, even with that heavy dose of randomness/lack of control. Watching José Bautista or Carlos Delgado hit baseballs was magic. Bo's season has been pretty special too. Or even weird things like Davis Schneider, or Matt Chapman's April. Those kinds of runs have been too far and too few this year for the Jays, but they're happening elsewhere. Not sure that helps! But one fan's frustration is another's elation. The Orioles are playing much better than they "should" be on talent, for example. That would be fun to watch. Would love to turn my brain off and watch a season like that for once!

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Didn’t sound like there’s anything new, but apparently BNS was on Blake Murphy’s morning show last week talking about this. Or at least that’s what Blake said this morning before bringing BNS on again today. Can’t find a clip from last weeks show but also didn’t try that hard.

Today, Ben mentioned there may be some unhappiness among Jays coaches like Pete Walker. Hope none of it gets in the way of a reconciliation cuz it’s fun to watch Alek pitch.

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Interesting. And totally agree, really hope he gets back on track and they can put this all behind them eventually.

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Nothing here with which to disagree. I very much doubt manipulation of service time played a consideration at all here. Manoah was pitching badly, plain and simply, and he clearly isn't handling it well.

I guess I'm one of those "weird busybodies", who has harped on his conditioning a bit, and at the same time, Manoah would certainly enhance his arguments (and likely his corresponding ability to pitch better) if he showed up at camp next year in a well-conditioned state. It's understandable that a young guy who was the toast of MLB last year following the All-Star game would sit on his laurels a bit (Scottie Barnes appeared guilty of the same thing for the Raptors last season). But it also evinces a lack of maturity and professionalism on the part of Manoah.

I sincerely hope he figures it out. I'm sure he will and hopefully he will come to realise that this is ultimately a performance-based business and it would send the wrong kind of message to the entire clubhouse (and the minor league prospects) if Manoah had not been demoted and handled this way. He was a major liability for the club this year. He has to be held accountable.

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Here you are bringing up this subject again! Why? I'm sorry, but you don't know how good or bad anyone's conditioning is, or how much or little it's affecting their performance, so any opinion you have that follows from what you think you know is useless. This adds nothing to the conversation.

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I raised the subject because you mentioned it in the article (hence the quotation marks).

I'm not arrogant enough to think you specifically had me in mind, although we did have an exchange yesterday on X in regard to the topic. But to the substantive point you were making: Andrew, come on, this is common sense, not rocket science. A guy has a gut on him and he's obviously not in peak condition. No athlete performs at his best if he is not in peak shape. Vladdy admitted as much after his poor 2020 season and dedicated his offseason toward improving his diet and conditioning. I think that Kirk needs to do the same, as does Manoah. Look at the results when Vladdy got super fit in 2021. Personally think it's incumbent on Manoah to do the same this offseason. Pouting and sulking that he was sent down is not a good look. It's up to him to change the narrative.

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Go look at a picture of him from 2022, give your head a shake, and please drop the subect.

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260lbs in 2022. He was 285lbs coming into camp in 2023. And I doubt that this was 25lbs of muscle. He got very touchy when MLB's Anthony Recker raised the question of his weight and conditioning. Maybe Recker was on to something.

OK, I'm done with the subject.

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My first reaction was definitely the same as that of others - I even had the dreaded and cliched thought that he is "caring more about the name on the back of the jersey than the name of the front". And certainly, if Alek is just being selfish and petulant, then he definitely needs to get some better advice and start behaving like an adult.

But, I had another thought about what it's like to be a man, in the sports industry, when you have tons of pride and expectations, and just how insanely difficult it can be to deal with that, mentally and emotionally. He may very well be suffering right now, believing he's let everyone down, feeling embarrassed that he pitched as badly as he did, when even just league average would have been enough probably for him to keep his job. If he is telling the team that he is physically ailing, it may be true - mental health issues like depression do have a physical effect. They can also cause anger issues, and affect decision making. Maybe I'm overthinking it, maybe I want to just give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just doesn't know how to struggle, and he is just going in all the wrong directions and unfortunately getting shitty advice. The reality though is that the Jays don't have to trade him this offseason - they control him for at least 4 more years, so lots of time to sort this out. But I believe strongly - just having seen Alek's reactions to his struggles this year - that there is more going on than him just being a dick.

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I think that's totally fair, and yeah, there are certainly layers to it we can't see from here. That kind of stuff might be part of it. It's been a weird season you're right that what we could see didn't make it look like this was just an angry guy. He knew he wasn't performing. So yeah... I'm sure that what we know will continue to evolve. And hopefully this ultimately just becomes a footnote in a long Jays career.

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Hopefully he comes to next years training camp with a new “mantra.” Maybe something like, “just get it done.” If he pitches like the ace that he believes he is, his teammates will forgive him. Make up for not making the super two cutoff by “pitching better,” and the dollars will come.

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That would be idea!

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Wow. What a mess. But remember Stroman’s early days when he was a ray of sunshine and a lovely kid? And then all of a sudden he wasn’t quite that. Not that his performance changed. Perhaps Manoah’s problem is that he’s ‘Obsessed’. You summed it up - it’s all disappointing.

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Very much so! Stroman was still talking about wanting a contract extension here all the way until the end at least! Hopefully this is dealt with and everyone can move on breezily, like nothing happened. Hard to see that at the moment, but lots of time for things to change.

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Great article. I'm glad to see the truth finally come out on this. I think this whole debacle was handled very poorly by the media and team. It never made any sense for Manoah to be injured yet not put on the injured list. Surely there had to be a better way to handle it...phantom IL stint? I don't think anyone would have questioned that. I'm a big BNS fan, but it's a bad look for team reporters to spread the front office message rather than question the legitimacy of it. Again, it doesn't take a genius to question the "tests", "injuries", etc. when the player hasn't been placed on the IL. Yet the only story I saw questioning the front office explanation was Gregor's column a few weeks ago in the Star.

An unfortunate situation, and it is really going to suck to see Manoah get traded this offseason for pennies on the dollar. I can't imagine the team/his teammates want him around anymore when he basically quit on them.

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Thanks! I imagine he'd have to consent to a phantom IL stint, so perhaps it wasn't an option. But something better than this would have been nice, yes. (Also better: Manoah accepting his demotion and reporting to Buffalo). However it goes from here, I'm not sure this necessarily culminates in a trade. The Jays don't have to make a bad deal just to get rid of him, so he might just have to deal with the fallout—and that's even if it's actually as bad as it seems. Would be nice if they work it out!

As for the media stuff, I mean, I honestly don't mind a bit of credulity with the official story here. Getting too loudly conspiratorial about it and demanding answers might have put pressure on Manoah to go public with whatever is going on before he wanted to. If it was—or, I suppose is, though that certainly seems unlikely now—a mental health or a non-work-related medical thing, that would have been pretty uncool and unnecessary. The story just isn't that important. But the lack of an IL stint thing always did stick out. And, in retrospect, when Ross Atkins admitted that the commissioner's office had become involved—which I wrote at the time would have been necessary in the event of a potential grievance—it probably should have been taken as a stronger signal about the nature of what was really going on.

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Sep 12, 2023Liked by Andrew Stoeten

Well, this sucks! I totally get why Alek might be pissed off about not getting more run, but shit man, go to AAA or wherever and force your way back.

This is not going to end well.

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It might still end well. The Jays control his service time for years and I very much doubt they would deal him now for pennies on the dollar. This is on Manoah. Once he matures a bit, I think he might reconsider a lot of the things he is allegedly thinking right now.

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Fingers crossed!

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One hopes! Totally agree that this doesn't necessarily have to be the end.

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Ya think maybe Mary Brown's should be pulling the ads and posters with Alek and George? He's not just pitching badly, he's acting badly.

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If it becomes a bigger story I'm sure they'll have the conversation, if they already haven't. Needs a good Buck rant before it really hits the consciousness of the fan base I think.

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Alek might have to go easy on the Mary Brown's chicken this offseason, but I don't see why the company would want to pull the ads (unless Manoah was traded). I doubt Vladdy and George Springer consume tons of P&J sandwiches, but that likely won't stop Smuckers from running the ads (which are very funny).

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If the perception is that he quit on his team then he might not be the best spokesperson.

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