The Blue Jays’ aggressive style should allow Merrifield, Varsho to thrive

The Blue Jays' new brand of baseball will work well for Whit Merrifield. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
The Blue Jays’ new baseball brand will work well for Whit Merrifield. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Toronto Blue Jays are ready to play fearlessly.

Chaos on the bases was part of the club style a season ago but with a full year of John Schneider at the helm the aggressiveness will only increase.

“[Schneider is] I’m just encouraging guys not to be afraid to go out and have a game,” said Whit Merrifield, who stole 16 bases last season. “The most important thing about operating the bases is not to be afraid of being kicked out. You don’t have to have a reckless mentality, you have to have a confident mentality.”

Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was a good – perhaps extreme – example of what Schneider was looking for. After reaching first base, Merrifield made a calculation. He pulled a throw from Mitch Keller. Perfect. Now he could set a trap.

Merrifield took the lead briefly the next time, then suddenly crossed his feet and took a few hard steps. The pirates’ defense yelled at Keller to dismount, so he disengaged. Merrifield scurried back to the bag, satisfied that his plan had worked.

Due to the new pacing rules, a pitcher may step off the surface twice per at-bat. If he wants a third retreat, he must get the runner out or the opposing team will get a vacant base. That’s exactly what Merrifield played along with – he knew that Keller would hesitate to try another pick-off.

The 34-year-old shuffled and made a great jump, tearing into second place so quickly that the catcher didn’t even bother to throw him off. Not a moment later, Merrifield tried to catch the slacking Pirates by sprinting into third while the pitcher held the ball, but he was caught on a close play.

“I probably won’t be as crazy on the bases as I am now,” Merrifield said of his approach to the regular season. “But that’s what spring training is for. Try things and see what works.”

Blue Jays veterans like Merrifield and Kevin Kiermaier are looking to capitalize on the club’s base-running mentality, but nobody on the roster fits the bill quite like Daulton Varsho. The 26-year-old, who was acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks this offseason, is a wild man on the diamond.

Varsho said he dabbled in many sports growing up, including tennis, basketball and soccer, where he played free safety. Not surprisingly, he chose baseball — Gary Varsho, Daulton’s father, played in the big leagues for eight years. When Gary was the Philadelphia Phillies bench coach from 2002-2006, Daulton got a close-up look at how a hard-nosed baseball team worked.

“People like Kenny Lofton, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins,” Varsho said, “they kind of showed me how to be the player that I am.”

Varsho’s gritty playstyle is reminiscent of Mike Trout. Obviously the star of the Los Angeles Angels elite is what he does, but, like a younger trout, Varsho is compact, powerful, and full-time full-on.

“It’s a lot more fun,” Varsho said of his high-flying playstyle.

Part of that fun comes from wreaking havoc on the bases.

“I try to take all 90 [feet] I can try to be really aggressive,” he said. “But smart-aggressive.”

As the saying goes, speed never dips. Varsho is prone to streakiness – for example he hit for a .904 OPS in May last season, then for a ghastly .488 OPS in June – but he’s back and forth between the white lines, dip or not. However, over the years he’s learned to rein in that intensity, choosing to use it in spurts rather than flaring up or crippling himself from injury. So Varsho makes exceptions.

“You have to be smart too,” he says. “You can’t go flat out in the outfield every day and expect your body to feel good when you come into the postseason.”

Punctuality is key, which means a few rollovers or defensive mishaps don’t always justify the rabid rush. However, the Varshos and Merrifields of the world know where their worth lies. While these two grinders aren’t quite as influential as A-graders like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Bo Bichette, they’re playing insidiously pivotal roles in Toronto this season.

The Blue Jays need that vicious intensity – it will help them win games. Because in October, one game could make the difference. The Blue Jays’ aggressive style should allow Merrifield, Varsho to thrive

Snopx is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button