It's not official, but it's darn near close. Fred Lewis is going to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash. I speculated the deal was going to happen soon in a post yesterday, so I am not surprised. It is an unfortunate end for a under-appreciated player.
What can I say about Lewis now that he is a (pending) Blue Jay? I hope he breaks out. And I not only hope he breaks out, I hope he breaks out as a leadoff man (as some Blue Jays fans are envisioning). I hope he continues to post solid defensive numbers in the outfield despite drunk bleacher bums, and 50-plus year-old men who just found out about blogs two weeks ago, thinking otherwise. I hope he continues to keep the Jays as contenders in the AL East, and performs well with relief pitcher Merkin Valdez, another Giants castoff (I'm not holding out any hope for Brian Bocock though; Bocock is terrible).
I want Lewis to prove his doubters wrong. In all honesty, I was once a doubter, but I looked more into his profile and I realized he was better than I thought. More Giants fans could have done the same and made this departure easier for Lewis, but they didn't because a.) they are too lazy to look at advanced defensive statistics (e.g. UZR) or b.) they valued other players at his position too highly for stupid reasons (Aaron Rowand because he's a "gamer"; Eugenio Velez because "Jon Miller liked him in 2008 Spring Training"; Andres Torres because he's "got mental fortitude"; Nate Schierholtz because "He is crazy good defensively, and just needs more at-bats").
(In regard to those reasons: Rowand is just as bad as Lewis when it comes to jumps and reads, he just dives to make up for it; Velez is overrated and doesn't do anything particularly well; Torres was a fluke in 2009 and all his advanced numbers show that he actually was WORSE than Lewis offensively in many ways, especially when it came to striking out; and while Schierholtz is good defensively, he hacks at too much scrap and doesn't hit with enough power to make up for it.)
I hate that it had to turn out this way for Lewis. He deserved better than this. He deserved a little slack in 2009 after a great 2008 season (.282 average, .351 OBP, .348 wOBA, 8.4 wRAA, 21 SB), but unfortunately Schierholtz's hot stretch in June and Velez's hot July seemed to put him in the doghouse quickly, not only with Giants management, but with Giants fans and newspaper writers (especially Henry Schulman, who writes as if he had an agenda against Lewis and sabermetrics in general...though OBP is not technically a sabermetrics stat at the core, for it's pretty basic to calculate).
So, what does Toronto get? They get a good outfielder who will be a great answer to their leadoff problems (Seriously, Jose Bautista batting leadoff isn't getting you to the playoffs). Lewis is an upgrade at the moment over Travis Snider and Bautista in my mind, and I feel with the new environment, and also less pressure, Lewis can contribute immediately to this Blue Jays team.
Yet Toronto does not just get a good player today.
They should also get the support of Giants nation.
Yes, I am saying it right here: I am adopting the Toronto Blue Jays as a team to root for in 2010, and other Giants fans should do the same.
Now, as you know (if you have been following this blog), I don't say that with ease. I am stern in my commitment to teams in sports. For the most part, I only consider myself to be a fan of one team in each major sport (the 49ers in the NFL; Golden State Warriors in the NBA; San Jose "We Can't Win A Playoff Series" Sharks in the NHL; California Golden Bears in college football; Gonzaga Bulldogs in college basketball) and while I may "like" other teams, I won't ever consider myself to be a "fan" of them.
This is an exception, though it is only temporary for this season (it is subject to renewal).
Why do I think Giants fans should be fans of the Blue Jays? First off, the Lewis trade. Lewis deserves to be a Giant, but Brian Sabean and Schulman screwed it all up and he isn't. So, since he isn't in the black and orange, Giants fans should cheer for the team he currently plays for. What is that team? The Blue Jays. (Easy enough, right?)
Second, the Blue Jays are a classic of example of what should have happened as an organization if Sabean was not brought back. Alex Anthopolous really is a general manager with a ton of potential. He's young, he believes in his young talent, and when he makes deals, he usually has made smart, deals for younger, "still have something left in them and playing with a chip on their shoulder" players (i.e. Lewis and Valdez have good potential still and they came practically free; Aubrey Huff and Mark Derosa cost nine million dollars this year and who knows how much upside they have). Anthopolous is the kind of general manager the Giants should have pursued this off-season. Instead, they settled for the same old, same old for at least another couple of years.
Third, the Jays are a fun team to watch surprisingly (not easy to say because they are "Canada's Team"). Since getting rid of Alexis Rios (who apparently should have been traded to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum), the Jays seem to have a different energy. They have a lot of good arms in their rotation (Ricky Romero is a cross between Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez) and they have a lot of those "under-the-radar, but quality" players who broke out last year like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. To make matters better, they have a lot of good talent coming up, like Brett Wallace (who tore it up in Sacramento last year) and Kyle Drabek (who was acquired from Philly in the Roy Halladay deal).
Lastly, the Jays have four former Giants in their organization (Lewis, Valdez, Bocock, and Jeremy Accardo, who was traded to Toronto for one, short-lived "A.J. Pierzynski-esque" season of Shea Hillenbrand). They're practically the SF Giants-Canada!
My only problem with the Jays? I don't really like manager Cito Gaston. He seems to be the "old-school to a fault" kind of manager that Bruce Bochy is. Granted, he is an upgrade over previous manager John Gibbons (who couldn't stop fighting with his players), but from what I read in the Jays blogosphere, the Jays might be better off hiring somebody new in the off-season. Considering the new organizational philosophy under Anthopolous, Gaston just doesn't seem to be a fit.
Weigh the positives against the negatives and the answer is pretty simple: Giants fans should also be Jays fans in 2010, but shouldn't cheer for the Jays more than the Giants. Sound simple? No? It will get more simple in time once you continue to pay attention to Lewis and the Jays this season.