Friday, July 20, 2012

Travis Snider Gets the Call: or The Last Stand of the Lunchbox Hero

Last Stand of the LunchBoxHero

            In the game Thursday night after leading off the 2nd inning with a home run (his 3rd in his last 4 at bats), Travis Snider was removed from the game when his spot in the order came up later that inning (Go PCL baseball).  This caused the Twitterverse to explode with speculation.  Had Snider fallen to the curse that this Blue Jays team seems to be under this season, and sustained yet another injury?  Or had our long national nightmare finally ended, and was Travis Snider getting the chance that a lot of Blue Jays had been waiting for?

            After hours of speculation via Twiter, which had Snider being traded to any of 10-15 MLB teams, as well as his head popping clear off his body while rounding the bases, there was clarification from one of the few the man it usually does, Sportsnet insider Shi Davidi, who tweeted out…

            “Snider en route to Boston, although his activation no certainty”

            So we know Snider is on his way to join the big club, but not for sure whether a roster move has been made yet.  In all likely hood by the time you’re reading this tomorrow Brett Lawrie will have been placed on the DL, and after almost a full calendar year Travis Snider will be back in the major leagues. 

            This addresses many of the issues the team has had over the past little while.  First off it takes Rajai Davis out of the starting lineup.  After posting perfectly acceptable numbers during May & June (.291/.331/.441), he has completely fallen apart in July, posting an absolutely pitiful .216 OBP, and only getting 3 extra base hits.  When the team had Bautista, Lawrie and the rest of the top of the order carrying the offense, this black hole of nothingness was something the team could win in spite of.  With two of the big bats in their lineup, they badly need more production out of left field if they are going to keep the even slim chance they have to make the playoffs.

            The other major problem this addresses is the lack of left-handed hitting alternatives.  Last week in the first game back from the All-Star break the Jays faced off against Justin Masterson of the Indians, the starting pitcher who’s the toughest on right handed batters in the league.  Since the Jays have been carrying 8 bullpen arms, they had no option but to send Rajai out there to flail hopelessly against Masterson and his submarining delivery. 

            Even though this move could have a serious impact to the team’s chances to win this season, and stay in a pennant race that they are still nominally in (even though that’s looking more and more like a pipe dream), this really is about Snider’s future in a Blue Jays uniform. 

            Snider’s career thus far has been an absolute roller coaster.  He might have been the highest regarded prospect in Jays history, being ranked #5 by Kevin Goldstein, and #6 by Baseball America in 2009, and he has raked at every level of the minor leagues (Career minor league OPS over .900).  However, aside from a September cup of coffee in 2008, this pedigree has never translated to any modicum of major league success.  There are many possible explanations.  Perhaps he was rushed to the majors before he was truly ready.  Maybe his erratic playing time under Cito Gaston screwed up his timing, and confidence.  Lastly, and most concerning, its possible that he’s the type of Quadruple A hitter that just can never adjust to pitching at the highest level (ala Brandon Wood, or Dallas McPherson).

            Really though, it doesn’t matter why he’s failed in the past, because he can’t worry about those things now.  The team has to leave him in the majors and even if he gets off to a slow start, he still needs to play.  With the current state of the team’s medicals, fans and the team itself needs to realize that the playoffs are nothing more than a pipe dream, so the most important aspect down the stretch is to find out what you have in assets like Snider.  Perhaps they can protect him against a tough lefty, and play Davis, but otherwise Snider needs to be starting in left field day in and day out until the seasons end.  The Jays need to know come seasons end whether they have their left field solution in house, or whether its time to cut bait, and look elsewhere.

            The rest of this season is Travis Snider’s Waterloo.  Will he emerge from all the adversity to be the hero we’ll remember til the end of days?  Or will he just go down as another footnote in the big book of failed prospects?

            We’ll know one way or the other come Ocotober.

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