Image via Canadian Press
It’s been a couple days since Alex Anthopoulos did the unthinkable and traded fan favourite, Travis Snider, to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
At the time of the trade, I was in the Midwest US, and not consuming the Toronto media as much as I normally would have. As I crossed the border late last night, I turned on the radio to hear JaysTalk after the game to hear 2 of 3 calls get upset over this move.
As baseball fans, we try to humanize the players we like to watch. Today, that is easier than ever to do with the social media channels that exist. Travis Snider, the player and Travis Snider, the personality are two entirely different things. The personality was unmatched for a Blue Jay in my time as a fan. Tweeting photos of meals, interviews about nachos, and a t-shirt line inspired by a catch phrase, was just the tip of the iceberg for him. As has been well documented here, here and here, Snider represented hope for this team through an era where fans were made to watch players of the Kevin Millar, Brad Willkerson and Kevin Mench for full seasons at a time.
As a player, Snider enjoyed several short bursts of success at the MLB level, followed by well-documented struggles to catch up with big league pitching. With a career 27.2% Strikeout rate, and some nagging injuries to his wrist and hand, the decision was made to move him for depth in the bullpen. ESPN’s Keith Law called this a challenge trade on the July 31 episode of Baseball Today and further broke the move down on his blog (via ESPN Insider):
“he’s had exactly one season where he’s reached 500 plate appearances, and that was in 2008…the other issue, and arguably the more concerning one, is that he’s swinging and missing far too often at pitches in the zone. Even after the Blue Jays worked with him on shortening his swing this offseason, they only saw him regress once the season began. Snider’s swing is long enough from load to contact that pitchers, especially southpaws, can beat him out over the plate”
It’s important for Blue Jays fans to remember that as a baseball move, this trade makes sense. It’s alright to be disappointed that someone you really like to follow is no longer on the Blue Jays, but looking long term, this is a deal which gives the team financial flexibility by maintaining a cost-controlled bullpen.
All that said, Snider was a player I too, enjoyed watching. I remember his walkoff hit vs. Mariano Rivera in 2009, and his opposite field bomb at the Metrodome in 2008. I laughed at his fake moustache on Cito Gaston Night, and bought a “Meats Don’t Clash” shirt as a birthday gift for a friend.
All the best in Pittsburgh, Travis. You’ll have a legion of fans in Toronto pulling for you in the NL Pennant race.