Lind another failed Blue JayPart of long line of disappointments
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
|Amid his declining numbers and lousy start to this season, the Blue Jays demoted Adam Lind to Las Vegas. (REUTERS)
TORONTO - In the large, expansive clubhouse where the Blue Jays roam free, there used to be three lockers almost side-by-side along the wall: One belonging to Vernon Wells, one to Aaron Hill and one to Adam Lind.
It was a friendly corner, so to speak. You wouldn’t meet three nicer people in the major leagues, although both Wells and Lind would be considered shy by most standards. You wouldn’t want to have a better group of talented people to build your team and your future around.
But one by one, they have left. Wells to Anaheim. Hill to Arizona. Now Lind to Las Vegas. Each of them were greeted with enormous contracts after having signature seasons as Blue Jays, the definition of enormous being quite expansive. And, over time, the three men expected to be a big part of the grit and the glue that would take the Jays back to contention — and you could include Alex Rios from the other side of the clubhouse — all came up short for a variety of reasons. The only constant was that each of them left Toronto as huge disappointments, as promises for the future that were never fulfilled.
Maybe Lind will be back. Maybe, as Alex Anthopoulos says, this will be like Edwin Encarnacion last season, or what Cleveland managed with Cliff Lee when it demoted the left-handed starter and he returned as a Cy Young winner. Maybe Las Vegas will be great for his soul or his swing, but the odds are against both Lind and the Blue Jays here. The odds are we’ve seen the last of Lind as a cleanup hitter, as a significant big-league player, as an everyday first baseman, as a continuing piece of an ever-growing Blue Jays puzzle.
And if that’s the case, Thursday wasn’t just a disappointment for Lind and for those who expected more of him. What this demotion represents is the toughest of all sells for the Blue Jays: The pieces of the next contending team continue to break, year after year. This was going to be Wells’ team and Rios’ team. Then it was going to be Lind’s and Hill’s team. There is too much white chalk being erased from blackboards — after a while, it leaves behind some residue.
Thursday could not have been an easy day for Lind or for Anthopoulos, the impressive general manager. When Lind drove back to Indiana after hitting 35 home runs, knocking in 114 runs, getting a new multi-year contract, getting engaged to a Toronto girl, the world and the city was supposed to be his. He was just 26 years old at the end of the 2009 season. He had found his place as a major league star.
And Anthopoulos, who studies and assesses value, rewarded him with a fat, but seemingly fair contract. Pretty much every offensive number dropped in the first year after the deal. It seemed to pick up in the first half of last season, the first year under manager John Farrell, his first year at first base: But in his last 400 or so at bats, he was anemic at the plate, too easy to strike out, too often chasing pitches. In his last five months as a Jay, playing almost every day, Lind hit .140, .213, .203, .196, .210.
In 2009, in his best months, he hit .313, .320, .360, .315. No doubt Anthopoulos’ guts were churning as he and his coaches and his manager searched for a solution. No doubt the meeting between Anthopoulos and Lind was difficult and disappointing. This was his boy, his chosen one. He pushed the move to first base. He was on board with Lind hitting behind Jose Bautista in the Jays lineup. The player and the GM shared such high hopes together.
In July, Lind turns 29, which is neither old nor young for a ballplayer. A week or so in the minors and an advanced opportunity with the Blue Jays changed Encarnacion’s ways, but that was a move as much about defence and no real belief in him.
The Jays were fortunate with Encarnacion. Can they get lucky or fortunate with Lind now? It’s possible, but unlikely. Wells moved on to the Angels and has never found his way. Hill is just another guy with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Rios is less than even that with the White Sox.
We’ve gotten used to the disappointments around here. It’s shocking to say goodbye to Adam Lind, but not shocking that another Blue Jay has left us wanting more.