September 30, 2012
Blue Jays may want to listen to Omar Vizquel
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
On Thursday, Omar Vizquel spoke. On Friday night, Yunel Escobar and Brett Lawrie made amateurish baserunning errors against the New York Yankees.
And therein is the disconnect that exists with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The mistakes of April are the mistakes of September. And while Vizquel, who will get my Hall of Fame vote in five years time, said so rather earnestly in a pre-game interview, the Jays don’t appear to have progressed well through this most painful season.
Vizquel maintained that the Blue Jays ran too laissez faire an operation, allowing mistakes to happen too often without being corrected. Manager John Farrell disagreed, saying the matters were dealt with, but in private, rather than in team settings.
The question for Farrell is: If the matters were dealt with in private and dealt with properly, why do the Jays continue to trip all over themselves on an almost daily basis? And what does that say about their players?
General manager Alex Anthopoulos needs to take Vizquel’s words seriously as the Jays proceed to the most important off-season, possibly, in their entire history.
THIS AND THAT
No matter how or when the NHL lockout comes to an end, both sides should agree that a specific amount of money be set aside to compensate all the team and league employees who have lost salary and work days as innocent bystanders to the hockey wreckage. It wouldn’t be overly expensive to do this and the positive public relations would be well worth it ... Francois Allaire just won’t let his departure from the Maple Leafs go. In an e-mail interview with RDS, Allaire centres out Leafs assistant coaches Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon for interferring with his goaltenders when he wasn’t around and he blames lack of performance in the second half of the season on them ... Here’s hoping the new Leafs goalie coach, Rick St. Croix, has a better record with the young goalies than he did when he played for the Leafs in the early ’80s. On really lousy teams, St. Croix had a record of 11-28-2 in parts of three seasons in Toronto ... The opportunity for Nazem Kadri, body fat aside, is ripe this hockey season: All he has to do is dominate in the AHL and there will be a job waiting for him when the NHL season resumes, assuming it does. There will be no callups, no politics, no distractions to worry about. Just play. You dominate and an NHL job will be yours, no matter what your body fat count is ... Quick question: how does Kadri’s body fat count compare with Phil Kessel’s? Anybody? ... Jason Spezza was a 55-point NHL player before the last lockout. One year in the AHL and he came back to Ottawa as a 90-point player. At the same time, Eric Staal jumped from a 31-point rookie year to a 100-point second season with a lockout forced AHL season in between.
HEAR AND THERE
According to Eric Gagne’s new book, 80% of the players on the Los Angeles Dodgers used human growth hormones to enhance their performance. But he named no names, which leaves everybody under suspicion: His teammates in his Cy Young season included Fred McGriff, Rickey Henderson, Robin Ventura, Paul Quantrill, Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, Kevin Brown, Hideo Nomo, Paul LoDuca and Cesar Izturis. So, using his math, eight of those players were guilty of something. Question is, which eight? ... The Blue Jays played the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series. Since then, the Jays have been to the post-season once, in 1993. The Braves have made it 14 times ... Hell, even the forever cheap Oakland A’s have been to the post-season five times since they lost to the Jays in the ’92 ALCS and if they hold on this year that makes it six times ... Another reason to listen to Vizquel, aside from the 11 gold gloves: The managers he’s played for include Lou Piniella, Felipe Alou, Charlie Manuel, Mike Hargrove, Bruce Bochy, Ron Washington and Ozzie Guillen. So he comes to this with more perspective than anyone else in the Jays’ organization ... Heading to next season, the Jays are set at first base with Edwin Encarnacion, at shortstop with either Adeinny Hechevarria or Escobar, at third with Lawrie and probably at catcher with J.P. Arencibia and those who are close enough to challenge him (somebody’s getting traded here). Obviously Jose Bautista will be in right field, and with Anthony Gose emerging, it may make Colby Rasmus available to deal. And as for the starting pitching staff, well, have you got a few hours?
SCENE AND HEARD
If I ran the Raptors and saw there was an NHL lockout going on, I would cancel training camp in Halifax and hold it in the centre of Toronto, with practices open to the public. What an opportunity that would be to expose a team to those who otherwise ignore it ... The Ontario Athletic Commission is a government agency that operates too often in secrecy. Why, for example, do they not release purses for fighters in this province when that is pretty much standard practice everywhere else? I would have liked to know, for example, what Jon Jones was being paid for last Saturday’s UFC card at the Air Canada Centre? ... The problem with Twitter, among the many: Context. In 140 characters, almost anything can be misinterpreted. Twitter has become the world’s largest game of broken telephone ... You know life doesn’t make any sense when at the end of the day the Arizona Cardinals will be sitting at 4-0 and the New Orleans Saints will be sitting at 0-4. And if I’m wrong, so what: The theme of this NFL season to date: Everybody’s wrong. Even the replacement officials ... This has to frustrate Blue Jays fans: The Jays finished 12 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles a year ago. This year, the Orioles should finish 20 games better than the Jays. That’s a 32-game swing in one season.
AND ANOTHER THING
From a rather long distance, J.C. Sherritt is starting to look like a modern day combination of Danny Bass and Dan Kepley for an Edmonton Eskimos team that doesn’t have a lot else going for it ... Strange that only one CFL team, the B.C Lions, have a winning record on the road this season ... Shi Davidi’s excellent three-part series on Travis Snider on sportsnet.ca
revealed a player too weak — and not in the physical department — to succeed and grasp success at the big league level. It’s reminded me of a sign from a gym I used to visit: “Wasted talent is the oldest story in boxing.” ... An NHL agent on players leaving for Europe or Russia: “Most of them don’t want to play. They just want to get away from their wives and families at this time of year.” ... Condolences to Doug Gilmour on the passing of his father ... Halloween comes at the end of the month and already I know of a few people considering going out in Blue Jays gear with writing beneath their eyes. And the writing won’t be intended to offend ... Happy birthday to Carlos Tosca (59), Mike Pelyk (65), Dave Andreyhuk (49), Martina Hingis (32), O.J Brigance (43) and Warren Cromartie (59) ... I’ve got this far into the column with no mention of Gary Bettman yet so consider him to be an unmentionable for now ... And hey, whatever became of Dixon Ward?
GREAT ONE REALLY SHOULD KNOW BETTER
Wayne Gretzky has made a questionable decision or two since he stopped playing hockey in the year of his number, 1999. But his most recent decision, to accompany Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz and old pals Kevin Lowe and Pat LaForge to a Seattle Seahawks game was just plain foolish. It was clear what Katz and friends were doing — essentially holding Edmonton hostage, again, with Seattle as the backdrop, putting pressure on government to come up with more money so one of Canada’s wealthiest men can make more money. Gretzky said in his own defence he was just going to a football game. Yeah, he was just going to a football game — but he was alongside those using dubious tactics to get the downtown arena built. For the record, in their old building, without a playoff date, the Oilers turned a rather handsome profit last season. In a new building, with a team on the rise, it will be easy money for Katz, who hardly needs it. Bringing Gretzky in was smart on his part — it made sure he was recognized. But Gretzky allowing himself to play the part of pawn in this game of chicken is frankly below him.
SOVIET-STYLE BUREAUCRACY ALIVE IN CANADA
Wasn’t that nice of Hockey Canada to sign the transfer papers to allow a Russian hockey player to play in Russia? This is how weird the world has gotten. When first overall pick Nail Yakupov wanted to play at home in the KHL during the NHL lockout, he thought it would be easy. But the Sarnia Sting junior team fought it and Hockey Canada supported the Sarnia juniors. At no time, until a conclusion was reached, did anyone seem to act in the best interest of Yakupov or his development. In the KHL, not only is he at home, but he’s playing at a higher level, being paid well as opposed to junior hockey, and probably developing quicker. All that is in the best interest of the Oilers. Somehow that seemed to get lost in the bureaucracy of transfer papers.
Just after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, UFC president Dana White called me a number of names, at least one of them a short form for Richard. It was an amusing, if inaccurate, rant on his part. Less than two hours after that, he started following me on Twitter, which means he may not like what I say, but at least he wants to know about it. Here is the thing with Dana White: He like’s a lot of thin-skinned autocrats. He has run the UFC without anyone questioning him from afar. His non-mainstream press corps is mostly made up of online fans and sycophants who follow him and his sport with mouths agape. As boss and chief arbiter of a sport, he has the power to do as he likes, which in the past has meant banning those who write critically of the UFC. And if he wants me to attend press conferences in the future — as I did last Thursday (which he didn’t attend) — I would advise holding them at reasonable times. Us old guys are in bed by 1 a.m. most nights. Even if we were at the Air Canada Centre right to the end of his card.