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June 27, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Rethinking a Premise

by Joe Sheehan

Yesterday's Daily Prospectus was about two-thirds written when I realized I was going to have to throw it out. It was a rant about the Blue Jays and their handling of Tony Batista, and included a comparison to their 1999 decision to demote Jose Cruz Jr. in the middle of a pennant race.

Unfortunately, that comparison is invalid, because the real mistake here wasn't the Jays choosing lousy players with no upside ahead of a potentially good one. It's pretty clear that the Jays intended to send Batista to Syracuse for three weeks, then bring him back after the All-Star bpeak as their starting third baseman.

Dave Pease, BP's Webmaster, pointed out the real problem when I told him I was killing the column:

If the Jays think Cruz (then) and Batista (now) need to play out their problems in less of a spotlight in the minors, I don't have nearly as much of a problem with that as thinking a 27-year-old middle-infielder-playing-third-base who has slugged above .500 since 1998 would slide right through waivers when there are teams out there that not only need third basemen, but need second basemen or shortstops, too. Most teams in the majors could use Batista in one of those places.

It is a different issue; on the one hand, it might be dumb to demote Cruz, but at least you can bring him back in 10 days, making it just a misallocation of resources. Instead, Toronto underestimated Batista's value to Baltimore and who knows how many other teams (Seattle at third base or shortstop? Houston at third? San Diego at short? Los Angeles at short?) and now they have $25K and a darned good shot at picking up Delino DeShields for league minimum.

As Dave points out, mistaking a player with Batista's resume for someone who would slip easily through waivers was a mistake, and one that now forces the Jays into a Jeff Frye/Chris Woodward situation a third base:


                   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG
Jeff Frye         103  .184  .276  .243
Chris Woodward     50  .180  .180  .400

Yick. Orioles fans hoping against hope for a third-place finish have every reason to be optimistic.

A better reason to take the Blue Jays to task is the decision to sign a cornerback to a minor-league deal. Deion Sanders is now in the fold and on his way to Syracuse, where he'll probably hit an empty .320, enabling us to read more stories next month about how the computerees just can't possibly underqtand what he brings to a team.

About the only way Sanders could be useful to the Blue Jays is if having him at Syracuse makes them more likely to call up Chris Latham to be their fourth oufielder. Latham, the ex-Twins prospect, is hitting .277/.384/.527 while playing every day for the SkyChiefs. If Sanders takes playing time from Latham, or from Vernon Wells or Ryan Freel or any of the full-time baseball players employed by Syracuse, it's a negative for the team and the organization.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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