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Stray Thoughts... - What's the Scenario?
On playoff permutations, a managerial misstep?, dongs, Vladdy's swing mechanics, the Manoah saga, Brandon Belt, Ricky Tiedemann, the New York Yankees, an extra podcast this week, and more!
It was once again a nearly perfect weekend for the Blue Jays, which is a wild thing to be able to write here at this stage of what has felt like such an up-and-down season. Especially given that the team was spending three days at what feels like the Jays' own personal house of horrors, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Two wins by comfortable margins, very nearly a third, and three losses each for the Mariners and Astros. They hit well, they pitched well, they played good defence, the Rays gave them a bit of a helping hand, and the manager only did one thing that made everybody especially angry. You can't ask for much better than that.
Because of the fact that the AL West teams still face each other, the playoff math from here is still a little complicated, but what needs to be done is quite simple: win.
But we should also be paying close attention to this week's Mariners-Astros series in Seattle. Here’s why:
• With a sweep in Seattle and a sweep against
Anaheim Arizona next weekend, Houston (85-71) could add six more wins to their total by season's end, taking them to 91 for the year. However, doing so would have to hand three more losses to the Mariners (84-71), who could then only get to 88.
• Seattle could sweep and then sweep the Rangers on the weekend, getting them to 91 wins as well, but that would mean handing three losses to the Astros, who then could only reach 88. (It would also mean four losses for Texas, which would only allow them to get to 90).
• If Houston wins two of three this week, they could reach 90 wins, and the most Seattle could get to is 89.
• And if Seattle wins two of the three games, they could only get to 90 wins at most, but the two losses for Houston would mean that they can only reach 89.
• In other words, there is no scenario that will allow both Seattle and Houston to get to 90 wins. The worst possible outcome for the Jays, then, would be this: The Rangers sweep in Anaheim this week, Seattle wins just one of their three three games with Houston, but then wins all four to close out the season against Texas, and the Astros finish their campaign with a three-game sweep of the
Angels Diamondbacks. That would leave the Rangers with 90 wins, the Astros also at 90 wins, and the Mariners at 89 wins, but holding the tiebreaker over the Jays.
As long as that scenario is still possible, the Jays (87-69) need to get to 90 wins to ensure a playoff berth. Any deviation from it and they could get in with even fewer. It's quite an advantageous situation! Now they just have to take care of business starting Tuesday at home against the Yankees. Just win three, baby!
Here are today’s stray thoughts…
I’ll be honest here, friends. This site keeps the lights on for me, but it isn’t a cash cow. And I could live a lot more comfortably than I do right now if I was willing to put some of my work behind a paywall and push a bunch readers who are on the fence into becoming paid subscribers. But, the thing is, I know that times are tough for a lot of people and I really don’t want to become inaccessible to anyone. So, if you can afford it, and you value what I do and aren’t already a paid subscriber, I’d ask that you consider upgrading your free membership to a paid one. Thanks. — Stoeten
I kind of don't want to elide all the good things about this weekend—the big inning Friday powered by the kind of cluster luck this team was desperate for throughout most of the season, Saturday's comeback-that-wasn't, Springer's inside-the-park dinger amid Sunday's bonanza—and focus solely on the most controversial and negative thing that happened. This team has been a whole lot of fun lately, firing on all cylinders in a way that always seemed like a possibility, but never actually felt possible. Yet with playoff baseball around the corner, and John Schneider not exactly having won the hearts and minds of Jays fans with his displays of tactical acumen over his year-plus on the job, the decision to stick with Jordan Romano as things unravelled on Saturday demands some attention.
Thing is, I’m of the mind that managers can only wish that they were 10% as important as fans tend to think they are, that Schneider is pretty much an unremarkable, bog standard, MLB lever-puller, and that once you start peeling back the layers of any managerial decision you'll find a lot more that's rational about the bad ones than you likely saw when first blinded with rage about it.
In this instance, there's something to be said about the trust Romano has earned from his manager though his performances this season. Even if fans don't have that kind of confidence in him—and the folks sitting next to me where I was watching sure didn't!—we're talking about a guy who hadn't blown a save since May 20th. Even if we go by shutdowns and meltdowns, which are based on win probability added, it had been two months since Romano had even registered a meltdown (though the nine he's accumulated this season are high by his lofty standards). There's something to be said for going out with the ball in your best reliever's hand, too. And for not making it so he thinks he has to look over his shoulder here at this critical juncture.
A lot of fans would probably do well to also remember the inning more specifically.
Romano gave up a double to Yandy Díaz that barely stayed inside first base to start the frame, which might have even been just a single had it taken a different carom off the wall by the right field bullpen. It was at this early point that the Jays’ bench noticed how often Romano was looking at his pitching hand—later announced as a crack in his fingernail—and Schneider came out with head trainer Jose Ministral. Romano said he was fine, Ministral didn’t see anything to make him disagree, Romano’s velocity was normal, and the fact that he opened the frame with three straight balls before the Díaz double was not exactly uncommon for him this year.
He was allowed to continue, which I don’t think was especially indefensible.
Harold Ramírez then found a hole between first and second base, and Curtis Mead softly stroked one into left field to tie it up. Romano could have been lifted at this point as well, I suppose. But what happened next illustrates why keeping him in made sense, as he struck out Isaac Parades on five pitches and then induced a bouncer to short off the bat of Junior Caminero that very nearly ended the frame.
Surely he’d get yanked after that play was overturned though, right?
Well, apparently not. And this, I think, was the point at which most fans really started to see red. Tim Mayza had been up and throwing and a left-handed hitter was stepping to the plate. It certainly seemed like it should have been his spot. Lefties have hit Romano to the tune of .228/.317/.402 this season, whereas for Mayza it's .250/.274/.296. Simple stuff, really. Especially when adding in the fact that Romano already seemed to be labouring a bit, was clearly uncomfortable with his finger to some degree, while also pitching on a back-to-back.
Except there’s one thing that keeps me from quite being ready to join the pitchfork-and-torch brigade here, and that is the status of Randy Arozarena. One of the Rays’ best hitters, and a right-handed bat, Arozarena had exited Friday’s game with a quad issue, and was considered day-to-day. But Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters prior to Saturday’s game that there was a chance Arozarena could be available off the bench, and I think the dimension of having to call Cash’s bluff adds to the difficulty of the decision Schneider was faced with here. And, in fact, Arozarena could be seen standing up in the Rays dugout, helmet on, bat in hand, when Sportsnet’s cameras switched to a shot of Cash just before the review of the play at first on Caminero’s chopper.
I don’t think Schneider bringing in Mayza only to watch Arozarena stride to the plate would have been any better received than what actually did happen.
There were certainly other moments at which Romano could have been removed, or other pitchers who could have been warming up to rescue things if Romano faltered, but outside of failing to mention Arozarena as part of the explanation and instead giving the most predictably canned response imaginable, I guess I just don’t see anything all that egregious here. Just an unfortunate loss.
The Saga Continues…
Rosie DiManno’s got a new one on the still-mysterious Alek Manoah thing over at the Toronto Start, and I’ve read it so that you don’t have to. (You’re welcome.)
Not a ton of what's in the piece is new, but it is made clearer here than in any other reporting so far that “Manoah had for quite a while suspected that something was wrong with his pitching arm, which is why he'd sought several specialist medical opinions here, and in the U.S.”
Rosie also tells us that Manoah “was not told that he shouldn't comment” on the situation, though neither he nor his camp have said anything about it on record as yet, and her requests for interviews with both the player and his agent have so far been declined.
At another point she adds that “the Jays knew there was something wrong with Manoah’s delivery since spring training and hoped those issues had been corrected during his Florida sojourn,” but that seems certainly to be in reference to mechanical issues, not anything physically wrong with him.
Do these new crumbs of information change anything? I don’t think so. I don’t know! We’ll just have to continue watching this interminable and weird story as it develops.
I don’t want to clutter these posts with video clips too much, but I need to share at least one more today, because Mark DeRosa of MLB Network took a close look at Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s swing here on Monday, and spotted some mechanical stuff—particularly the positioning of Vlad’s hands—that looks much more like it did in 2021 than where he was at earlier in the season.
Really encouraging stuff here, and not a moment too soon!
• Speaking of Vlad, my Blue Jays Happy Hour cohost, Nick Ashbourne, dug deep into his recent surge for Yahoo here on Monday. Notably, of late Vladdy has been striking out less, swinging less, and pulling the ball more. This, to me, seems good.
• And speaking of Nick, with the Jays in the thick of the playoff race we're going to try to get an extra episode out at some point this week. So keep your eyes peeled!
• Can’t say I disagree with the tweet below, and fortunately—as Shi Davidi reported for Sportsnet from Tampa over the weekend—Brandon Belt does indeed seem to be nearing a return. Belt says he's “ready to get back out there,” and Shi tells us “there was discussion about activating him before Sunday's series finale.”
• Top Jays prospect Ricky Tiedemann had a very nice Triple-A debut in Buffalo back on Friday, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and two walks over four innings, striking out six. One of those strikeout victims was MLB's top overall prospect, the stupid Orioles' Jackson Holliday, who Tiedemann retired both times he saw him. “I think I did well with getting ahead and staying ahead and not letting him get too comfortable. I’m happy with that today, but I know he’s a good hitter and we’ll definitely have many more matchups,” Tiedemann told reporters after the game, including Brian Frank of Herd Chronicles.
• Tiedemann averaged 95 with his fastball, running it up to 98, and while it wasn't particularly effective for generating whiffs or called strikes, his sweeper (four whiffs on six swings, 11 called strikes, 56 CSW%) and changeup (four whiffs on five swings) certainly were. The next stop for Tiedemann, who has only managed 44 competitive innings this season, will be the Arizona Fall League. I wrote about this year's Blue Jays AFL class a little bit back on Friday.
• The Yankees and Diamondbacks were postponed on Saturday, meaning that they’re squeezing in a make-up game as I type this on Monday afternoon before heading north to visit the Blue Jays for three big ones starting tomorrow, unfortunately for them…
• Lastly, I said this a couple times last week, but for anyone who missed it: It seems like everyone’s moving over to Bluesky this week, so this feels like a good time to mention once again that I’m over there as well. I’m not saying a ton just yet, but always posting links when anything goes up on the site.
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