Costello: You know the fellows' names?
Me: Ahh, yeah, fuckin' Smoak and Pearce.
Costello: Well, then who's playing first?
Me: Umm, yes, to who? Smoak? Pearce?
Costello: I mean the fellow's name on first base.
Costello: The fellow playin' first base.
Me: Has to be Pearce!
Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first?
Me: I don't know, ask Gibbons.
Blue Jays fans have seen this Abbott and Costello play on words during this ‘reading’ offseason over and over, but we know who, don’t we?
(Can you tell who I want to start at first by looking at this picture?)
Steve Pearce? Justin Smoak? It has to be Pearce, no?
Well, it's no bolt from the ol' 'Blue Bird' land that most people peal in with:
- 'Pearce all day'
- 'I can't stand Smoak'
- 'Smoak is brutal'
And then you get the odd fan who takes a stance against the majority:
- 'I've never seen a fan base hate one of their own players more than you fucks hate Smoak. get a grip.'
(Side note: All of these comments were taken from my Instagram and a little survey that I conducted over in the ol' Blue Bird land of Reddit.)
Now, I think (and we all know), that we have to sit back patiently on the couch this April and watch the day-to-day Pearce/Smoak tryout combo pack storyline play out like an old school Roberto Alomar double play.The old skip, Gibbons, is going to give the nod based on what the analytics may say for each player (or who's swinging the hot bat) depending on what foe (or should I stick with the theme and say 'who') is on the mound from one of the opposing American League chumps. Sooner or later while Gibbons is in his office sipping his wine, he may realize he's tired of 'who's' strikeout percentage and gibber to himself, 'yup, kid just can't make contact. Good kid, too bad. Yup, only if he could just make contact. Damn, yup, gotta go with Pearce.' But at the end of the day, who knows? What? Exactly.
This first base situation could be worse, geez - wait a second, call me crazy folks (I have a thought, a good one? Probably not), but maybe it’s not as bad as some think. A little competition between two players for some at bats and playing time should (hopefully) bring out the best in both players, don’t you think? Listen, this isn't a 'swing and miss' on Smoak piece - actually, dang it ol' Smoak fans, how about this - wouldn't it be great if he could just figure it all out at the plate? It would be awesome if there were more fans out there doing this (instead of starting Justin Smoak sucks forums on the ol' internet):
The Blue Jays first base situation sort of reminds me of a hockey team (I'm gonna go with a good old hockey analogy here Canadian folks) that has two goalies, in which, the team sees potential in both, right? The team rides out the hot goalie until the 'who' wins top spot - or the backup just starts playing, well, like a backup. Oh the woes of Toronto (but not this year Leafs Nation) who know all about this, right? The good ol’ who’s in net? Reimer? Bernier? And that worked out well, didn’t it? Ahh, kind of, hmm, sort of – okay, maybe not. Any who?
Well, who is Justin Smoak anyway?
The 30-year old was a prodigious high school baseball star who was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 16th round of the 2005 MLB June Amateur Draft from Stratford HS (Goose Creek, SC) and the Texas Rangers in the 1st round (11th) of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC) (Info copy and pasted from Baseball-Reference.com). He had so much promise, but like his approach at the plate a lot of scouts may have swung for the fences with him, and, well, struck out.
I’ve also recently noticed that people are internet chiming in on how the 'Big Smoak’ has been hitting in Dunedin - as he has ‘hit 7 for his last 16 at bats’ (which is the typical Facebook Justin Smoak Blue Jays fan post – of late), but what to think of it? Certainly a small sample size, but the real question is - can a 30-year old make the proper adjustments at the plate this late into his big league career? Nothing is impossible, right? I mean Jose Bautista figured something out too, but this is most definitely not going to end up being that ‘rare’ Joey Bats kind of story.
Smoak said in an interview that he is going to take a different mental approach at the plate, so maybe this new ‘Crash Davis’ internal monologue in between each pitch might help. Who knows? Certainly not ‘what’s on second' (see what I did there, fuck it, let's continue - who's counting who's at this point now anyway), but Smoak did say in an interview when discussing his at-bats last year that:
“I’d go days without an (at-bat), three or for at a time. When I got the opportunity, I felt I had to try to make up for it, so I’m swinging at everything. All I should focus on is having a good at-bat, but my focus was on letting me hit the three-run homer and being a hero.”
So maybe Smoak is finally making the proper adjustments to just make good ol’ fashion contact. Apparently it has worked for him in his last 16 plate appearances. Maybe, just maybe, he can flip his 2016 .217 batting average and career-high 32.8% strikeout rate around, who knows?
And when asked about his new perspective, Justin eloquently and poetically said:
“I think for me mentally, it’s just don’t give a crap,”
(He was probably dipping when answering the question)
And if a carefree methodology at the plate is what he thinks can help, well, I say go for it – at this point, he’s got nothing to lose. He later went on to say in the same interview:
"I think in the past, I’ve just cared too much and was harder on myself than anybody. I haven’t taken failure well. I worried about the wrong things. This year, my mindset is to enjoy the game. You’re on a good team. You have an opportunity. Make the best of it.”
I think Smoak may need to sit beside Shimmy Stroman on the plane this season and learn how to #HDMH his way through each day, - or, at the very least, read a Stroman inspirational tweet before each at-bat to help him get in the right mindset at the plate.
Here’s an important thing worth noting about Justin Smoak, I believe, he’s on a short leash (imagine that, eh!), and so if he wants to get everyday work at first base this season, he’s going to have to prove it sooner than later. The reason I say this is because (and it’s no secret) the contract extension that he signed last year has an interesting attachment to it and that is a $6 million option for 2019, which includes escalators that push its value up to $7 million if he makes combined 950 plate appearances over the next two years, $7.5 million at 1,000 takes and $8 million at 1,100. There’s a buyout of $250,000.
So Mark ShapIro is certainly not an idiot, most certainly not, he’s a straight A ‘Ivy League’ kind of guy with an intelligent business sense who will take that buyout if Smoak continues to push close to 4 strikeouts (I know I'm exaggerating a bit, but that's what it felt like last year) for every ten plate appearances. And there is no way they won’t be keeping an eye on his combined plate appearances too in the same way they watched Sanchez's inning count last year (but under much $ different $ circumstances, so he's really gonna have to earn those plate appearances, isn't he?). I'm pretty sure the ol' Goose Creek, South Carolina boy could use some good ol’ 'cash money' (and not the $300 for $20) as a motivator to just make a little 'ball hits bat' sound at the plate. I guess, as they say, only Smoak at-bats and time will tell (who am I kidding - nobody says this).
So my question isn’t who’s on first? Because it’s going to be either Pearce or Smoak until one just gets the daily nod from the skip ( and it will probably be Pearce), but the real question is, what Justin Smoak is going to show up at the plate this season?
The one with the many 'strikeout faces' and sad (unlike Bautista) bat flips:
- Or this one:
Who knows? Certainly not this clown, who? Me, yes. What? Fuck it, I'm done.