Was Brett Lawrie Portrayed as a Bad Apple in Toronto?
Seven months later, and it’s the trade that everybody is still talking about; the deal that sent Brett Lawrie and others from the Blue Jays to Oakland for Josh Donaldson.
Now that the Blue Jays are making their first trip to Oakland since that blockbuster trade, that deal has come under the microscope once again, as have the players involved in the deal; most notably, Brett Lawrie and Josh Donaldson.
While the Blue Jays are very much enjoying the contributions from the “Bringer of Rain”, it’s also a time to reflect on Brett Lawrie’s time in Toronto. His most recent refusal to speak to the Toronto sportswriters apparently brought some festering emotions back to the forefront.
First trip to Oakland since trade and Brett Lawrie communicates thru A’s PR dept not interested in talking to #bluejays writers
— Richard Griffin (@RGriffinStar) July 21, 2015
I don’t think anyone in Toronto harboured any ill will towards Brett Lawrie. It certainly wasn’t a scenario like it was with Colby Rasmus where he was essentially given the “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” treatment.
There was no arguing Brett Lawrie’s effort during his tenure with the Blue Jays. He went after a lot of plays that a lot of other players wouldn’t, and therefore he also made a lot of plays that other third baseman wouldn’t.
It was simply a golden opportunity for the Blue Jays to go out and get a player the calibre of Josh Donaldson, and Alex Anthopoulos knew he would be an upgrade in virtually every facet of the game. That’s no knock on Lawrie directly.
The concern with Brett Lawrie was that he could never stay healthy. He never played an entire season with the Blue Jays (the most in a single season was 125), and I think that was a factor that weighed heavily on this trade.
Josh Donaldson hasn’t missed any time to injury whatsoever since the start of the 2013 season. Meanwhile Brett Lawrie underwent a litany of injuries, including that oblique injury which sidelined him for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Now, Lawrie has been healthy with the Oakland A’s this year, but the Blue Jays didn’t want to take any more chances. Josh Donaldson was about as durable a third baseman as they could find, and also taking him from Oakland and putting him in the Rogers Centre was a very exciting proposition.
In regards to Brett Lawrie not wanting to speak to the Toronto writers, I don’t really see it as being immature or Brett trying to slight the Toronto media. Maybe he felt he was portrayed unfavourably by the media upon his exit from Toronto.
I don’t believe that to be the case, but he may have unfairly been lumped in with a lot of outgoing players who were supposed malcontents with the Blue Jays; Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose, Casey Janssen, Melky Cabrera. Because Lawrie left the organization around the same time period, he was automatically associated with those guys.
Combine Lawrie’s exit with Donaldson’s grand entrance into Toronto as a revered clubhouse leader and a guy with playoff experience, I can see how Brett maybe thought he was painted as this “bad apple” when in fact he wasn’t.
Brett Lawrie was a very intense player, one of the characteristics which made him such a fan favourite in Toronto. But it didn’t seem a like a very controlled energy emitting from Brett, as evidenced by several of his run-ins with the umpires and teammates.
So far, this looks to be a trade that’s worked out for all parties. Everyone has an above-average third baseman, the A’s got a starting pitcher out of it, the Blue Jays now have their durable third baseman, and Oakland possesses the wild card in Franklin Baretto.
In retrospect, the Blue Jays could really use that starting pitching depth now in the form of Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, but that’s the price they had to pay to get a player the calibre of Josh Donaldson.
Was Brett Lawrie really a bad apple? I don’t think so. Keep in mind, at age 25, he’s still a very young guy. He made some mistakes during his time with the Blue Jays; his incident with Bill Miller, along with some confrontations with teammates and his coach.
But those are the kind of growing pains that young players experience. Brett Lawrie just so happened to make a lot of those mistakes at the big league level, and the Oakland A’s are starting to see the results of that now. I think Brett is finally turning into that polished player they hoped he would become.
Looking back, the Blue Jays may have rushed him up the ranks a little too soon; or at the very least, expectations were astronomically high after his MLB debut in 2011.
There were a lot of people who thought he was going to become one of the best young impact players in all of baseball. While Lawrie showed glimpses of those qualities, unfortunately it never really came to fruition during his time with the Blue Jays.
This past offseason, the Jays parted with a lot of players like that; guys like Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose. Players they had under control for several years and were given numerous chances to perform, and they simply didn’t deliver.
With those three guys, the Blue Jays gave them ample chances to perform at the big league level, but for one reason or another, they just didn’t. Does that mean they’re bad players? No, I just think the Blue Jays got tired of waiting.
A lot of people really adored Brett Lawrie for the hockey-style mentality that he brought to his high-energy brand of baseball. On occasion, that got him into some trouble, but at no point did fans really hold Lawrie in contempt for that.
If anything, players are often scrutinized for not showing emotion on the field. The perfect example I can think of is Vernon Wells, who looked completely stoic out on the field – whether he was riding a 15-game hit streak or whether he was 0 for 70.
Then there’s Brett Lawrie, who completely wore his emotions on his sleeve.
Brett Lawrie is a fine third baseman, but the Blue Jays now have the best third baseman in all of baseball. And when a team like the Blue Jays had an opportunity to make an acquisition like that, they simply couldn’t pass it up.
I think a lot of people in Toronto wish Brett Lawrie nothing but the best … that is, unless he’s playing against the Blue Jays.
Image courtesy of AP Photo/LM Otero