Welcome to the first edition of Blue Jays Central: Ask the Insiders where fans get to pick the topics. This week the Insiders answer several questions including what they think of Jose Reyes running through the third base coach’s stop sign; John Gibbons’ philosophy regarding stealing and what they think of the designated hitter as it celebrates 40 years in the American League.
Sarah asks: In Thursday night’s win vs. the Indians, Jose Reyes showed some great base running instincts in scoring on Jose Bautista’s ground ball. However, he ran through the stop sign. Would Gibbons sit him down afterwards to talk about it? It looked like to me that he was busy watching the return throw at second and didn’t see Luis Rivera signaling to stop.
Buck Martinez: Sarah, you may have noticed Gibbons talking to Jose in the dugout after he scored from second on the fielder’s choice. I don’t know exactly what he said but it didn’t look like a scolding. He is an exciting base runner with terrific instincts who runs with his head up. As far as running through the stop sign of Luis Rivera at third, Luis is just now getting to know Reyes and Bonifacio as base runners, and for the time being he will watch and learn what they can do and how he can help them. Remember this as you watch the games this season, good base runners like Reyes, Bonifacio, Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion don’t need much help from the third base coach.
Jack Morris: The unwritten rules of baseball are that you never make the first or last out at third. He thought that the throw was going to go to the plate and that’s why he ran.
Pat Tabler: Jose Reyes has some of the best base running instincts on the Blue Jays. John Gibbons loves when base runners take it upon themselves to run the bases aggressively. Reyes did nothing wrong in running through a stop sign. Yes he was looking back at second base but that is what good base runners can do. They have a feel for the game. Robbie Alomar had and so does Jose Reyes. It is going to be exciting!
Shi Davidi: Gibbons said in this case it wasn’t a big deal, and you’re right, Reyes told me he didn’t see Rivera’s stop sign. Rivera put up the red because Reyes broke back to second on the pitch anticipating a pick off, but the hesitation may have led the defence to forget about him and let him score. The risk there is you get caught and take the bat from Encarnacion’s hands.
Mike Wilner: As Gibbons himself said – he was safe, so there’s no problem. The fact that Reyes was watching the play the whole time is a good thing, he knows his speed and has an excellent feel for the game.
Jamie Campbell: Third-base coach Luis Rivera isn’t going to be right all the time. Give credit to Reyes on that play. It was a heads-up, instinctual decision, and it resulted in a huge run for the Blue Jays. I doubt Gibbons had a problem with it.
Cindy asks: What is John Gibbons’ philosophy regarding stealing? They don’t seem to be nearly as aggressive on the base paths as they were last year.
Buck Martinez: Cindy, we are in the first week of the season and I don’t think you should make a judgement on how John Gibbons will use the speed of this team just yet. I know he has given the base stealers the “green light.” With the power in the lineup, there will be times Gibbons puts on the stop light but he trusts the judgement of the baserunners. Sometimes managers take on an aggressive approach to show you they are “managing.” As you saw in the series finale against the Indians the Jays have plenty of speed and I expect them to use it a lot.
Pat Tabler: Gibby loves the running game but just wants to ease into it as the season goes along. He told me he won’t run in front of some of his big bats (Bautista and Encarnacion) because he doesn’t want the pitcher to then just walk his RBI men. I can see 40 steals from both Reyes and Rajai and at least 30 steals from Bonifacio. Throw in Lawrie when he gets back and Rasmus and you have a lot of depth in your lineup to create some runs.
Gregg Zaun: Gibby will green light the good base stealers most of the time but won’t run himself out of innings when he has all that power.
Dirk Hayhurst: I believe that John Gibbons is well aware of how much speed he has on his team. But the thing about speed is, you have to know when you use it. Just because some of the guys are fast, doesn’t mean every situation wherein they find themselves on base is a running situation. For example, when Jose Bautista is up, you don’t want to take the bat out of his hands by having players run themselves out of a possible RBI by getting caught. Also, at the time of your asking, the Jays had only played three games. Last year at this time (three games into the season) they had only stolen one base. This season, after three games, they had only stolen one base. So, despite the feeling that the Jays are being less aggressive on the bases, they are actually par for the course. And by the way, this year Adam Lind has a stolen base after five games, which shatters his total of zero from the entire last year. How’s that for aggressive? ;-)
Shi Davidi: John Gibbons likes using speed but he doesn’t like running into outs, so he’s more selective about when guys go and hitting and running. He says guys like Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio have the green light, but they need to be cautious about taking the bat out of the hands of the sluggers behind them.
Mike Wilner: Gibbons’ philosophy on stealing is very simple – use your speed, pick your spots and try not to get out. His first time around, he didn’t exactly have any burners on the basepaths, but Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Rajai Davis are slightly speedier than Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. Gibbons isn’t interested in stealing for the sake of stealing, or running into outs, but he’s more than smart enough to use the weapons at his disposal.
Rob asks: Hi guys, not sure what you think but I’ve been pretty impressed with the level of defence shown by Emilio Bonifacio early in the season. Considering what he brings to the plate, has he shown enough to keep the second base job when Brett Lawrie returns to third (and sending Maicer Izturis to the bench)?
Buck Martinez: Rob, I think we are a ways from determining who will be the everyday second baseman. That being said Emilio Bonifacio is an exciting player who has made dramatic strides in the field since the start of spring training. He made just 14 starts at second last year for the Marlins but I think you will see him team up with Reyes a lot this summer. Maicer Izturis was signed to play second before the Miami trade and he will get plenty of at-bats but for the time being Boni will be the guy.
Shi Davidi: My sense is that Bonifacio and Izturis still end up sharing duties there, because there are times defence will be paramount and Izturis is the better defender.
Mike Wilner: We’re not quite sure yet what Bonifacio brings to the plate – he’s still in the early stages of his career and hasn’t really ever been a full-time player save for one year. Izturis is the better defender, but Bonifacio did make a game-saving play the night before he made three errors and his upside is so intriguing that he may wind up getting a lot of playing time once Lawrie comes back.
Jamie Campbell: Bonifacio has had his difficulties defensively the first week of the season. He’s also made some brilliant plays. I think Gibbons simply goes to the hot hand when Lawrie returns, although I believe Izturis will be his first option when defence is the priority.
Annie asks: What are your thoughts on Jose Bautista’s umpiring comments? For those who played in MLB, how did you deal with the umpires on a day-to-day basis?
Buck Martinez: Annie, Jose didn’t directly mention the umpires but we all know the direction of his comments. He is a very intense competitor that speaks his mind. I wouldn’t react the same way but I wasn’t nearly the player Bautista has become. I have talked with many umpires about Jose’s reactions to calls during his at-bats and they are aware that he reacts to calls he doesn’t agree with. John Gibbons has talked to Bautista about it, but you certainly don’t want him to change his approach at the plate and lose any of the intensity that contributes to his production. I don’t think it will be as big a deal as it has been in the past.
Jack Morris: It’s a fine line of being able to communicate with them in a way that isn’t detrimental.
Gregg Zaun: I agree with everything he said, but he needs to find a more discreet way to disagree. I had to walk a very fine line between sticking up for myself and going too far. I couldn’t risk jeopardizing the success of my pitchers.
Dirk Hayhurst: Annie, I thought his comments were unprofessional and unnecessary. I think that Jose is right, at least from the standpoint that, yes, it does stink to get screwed by bad calls and, yes, it is very frustrating when your performance is affected negatively by others. But, that’s baseball. It’s a game of human error. As bad as it stinks to catch a bad break, no one is immune to it, not a superstar home run hitter or a wide-eyed rookie. The separator is how you react to it. The professional player realizes he’s part of a team and refrains instigating any type of scenario that may come back to damage his performance, or his teams. I wrote a longer article on this, which you can read on Sportsnet.ca.
Shi Davidi: I didn’t have a problem with them. We always complain when athletes only offer generic clichés, then when somebody speaks the truth, we criticize them. Jose spoke his mind, and if the umpires are going to be that thin-skinned, shame on them. Jose had the courage to say what countless players feel, and if players can take heat for what they do on the field, so can umps.
Mike Wilner: Annie, Bautista didn’t do himself any favours with his comments. Umpires have long memories, and can be very vindictive. Jose was right, but the better move would have been to say nothing.
Jamie Campbell: I didn’t play in the big leagues, but I’ll weigh in anyway. I understand Bautista’s concerns, but I’d still like to see him ease off a bit. I do believe his reference to “someone else’s mediocrity” might come back to haunt him a little.
Ken asks: This week is the 40th anniversary of the designated hitter. It is also the first year of daily interleague play. Are we ever going to get one set of rules or will the AL vs. NL brands of baseball continue?
Buck Martinez: Ken, I am hearing more and more whispers about one set of rules regarding the DH. It sound as though the momentum is building to use the DH in both leagues especially since there is an interleague game every day with 15 teams in each league. I have always been an American League guy that thought the game should be played in the fashion it was invented with the pitchers hitting, but now I have changed my mind and would like to see the DH in both leagues. We all know how valuable and expensive pitching has become so let’s protect them and take the bats out of their hands.
Jack Morris: I don’t think they are going to change the DH rule. That is the only thing that distinguishes the two leagues and I think they want something that does. Interleague play will never go away even though I think it should.
Pat Tabler: I love the DH. It adds so much to offences in the American League. I also like that the rule is different in both leagues. It has worked and as you pointed out, it has been 40 years, so no need to change the rule about the DH. If baseball wants to change something I’d like to see the DH used in NL parks during Interleague play and not used in AL parks during the same play. I think the fans would like seeing the different brands of baseball that are played in their opposing leagues. How can we make that happen?
Shi Davidi: There’s a movement to unify the rules, but I don’t think it has enough traction yet. Personally, I like that there’s two leagues, two styles of game, although I vastly prefer the DH.
Mike Wilner: I think we’ll see the day where pitchers are no longer required to come to bat. The players’ union will never allow the DH to die, and at some point you’d think MLB would want to play under one set of rules.
Jamie Campbell: Not in my life-time. I think baseball is content with allowing the rules of each league to continue during inter-league and World Series play. With Houston’s move to the American League, inter-league is necessary every day, but I still don’t like it. I prefer the way it used to be, when the separation of the two gave more value to the All-Star Game and World Series.