Should Toronto Blue Jays fans feel joy or despair over the departure of Josh Thole?
It appears the Josh Thole era is finally behind us, Jays fans. It’s been something (what, exactly, I can’t say).
Following yesterday’s 9-6 win over the Minnesota Twins, Thole was unceremoniously placed on irrevocable waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. There’s some speculation that the Blue Jays will re-sign Thole before R.A. Dickey‘s next start, but until that happens, it looks like Thole’s four-year stint with Toronto is over.
In fact, with Dickey unlikely to pitch again for the Blue Jays beyond September of this year, it looks like the proverbial die has been cast for both players.
Thole joined the Blue Jays as Dickey’s personal catcher in 2013. Both players came to Toronto from the New York Mets in one of former general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure-defining moves. The one-two(-three) combination of Dickey-Thole (-Mike Nickeas) cost the Blue Jays top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, veteran catcher John Buck, and minor leaguer Wuilmer Becerra – an arguably lop-sided trade favouring the Mets in hindsight, but a trade that was celebrated at the time for solidifying Toronto’s newfound direction back to the Promised Land.
If Dickey’s numbers in Toronto have proven lackluster and a source of frustration, part of that is tied up in Thole’s performance, who only sees regular playing time with the knuckleballer on the mound.
In 469 career plate appearances for the Blue Jays, Thole is hitting .197 with 82 hits (two home runs), 34 runs, and 24 RBI. He should be recognized as a slightly better-than-average defender, however, especially when considering J.P. Arencibia was the alternative to Thole during his first year in Toronto. Thole’s ability (or willingness?) to catch the knuckleball has also spared Dioner Navarro and Russell Martin the inconvenience and discomfort of catching Dickey over the years (unfortunately, they still had to watch him).
With Dickey hitting free agency in the off-season and the Blue Jays’ rotation already set for 2017, Thole’s continued existence at the MLB level likely hinges on Dickey landing a new deal somewhere else; baseball will be starved of its Thole fix if his meal ticket can’t find a new home next season.
Will Thole, and Dickey by extension, be missed by the fans? In short, no. Most Jays fans deride the presence of both players on the roster. With Thole and Dickey gone, these fans will need to find a new focal point for their deepest, darkest frustrations (paging Justin Smoak?). In the casual fan’s this-team-sucks hierarchy of mediocrity, Dickey and Thole hold top honours – they “rule the roost,” in other words, to exploit an excellent bird pun – with the nearest person slotted several spaces below them. That will begin to change over the coming weeks, of course, but it leaves Dickey alone and vulnerable until Smoak eventually joins him at the top (bottom?) of the pecking order.
For what it’s worth, Thole tried to reverse the narrative over his last few starts. He entered yesterday’s game on a one-game hitting streak, but finished 0-4 at the plate. Regardless of his best efforts, however, Thole’s (and Dickey’s) fate was already sealed the day the Blue Jays acquired Francisco Liriano. It was a moot point – the baseball gods, or good corporate asset managers in Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, had already spoken.
What are your thoughts on Thole? Will he be missed? Was he ever really noticed? Now may be your last chance to rip into a guy who tried his best every time he got the start behind home plate, who put up with all the criticisms, and who reached a level of excellence that few of us will ever know or appreciate.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Doug Kerr UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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