TORONTO - The Boston Red Sox must determine — and quickly - how much they want John Farrell to be their next manager.
And they must be clear about the price they’re willing to pay for the rights to acquire the Blue Jays skipper.
It is a rather simple time for the Jays. Should the Sox offer nothing — or nothing that interests them — then Farrell will return as the Toronto manager.
But if the Sox offer a player the Jays deem worthy, then indications are a deal could be made between two teams in the American League East, strange as that may sound.
It’s all but certain that club presidents Paul Beeston and Larry Luccino have exchanged conversations already and it’s assumed that Farrell’s close friend, GM Ben Cherington and Alex Anthopoulos have been in contact with each other.
Whether all this adds up to the kind of trade that saw manager Lou Piniella move from Seattle to Tampa Bay is unknown. But the Jays are in something of a no-lose position on this. If they keep Farrell, they’re happy and if they upgrade their roster by trading him, they’re still happy.
And after the season just experienced around here, being happy about something isn’t all that bad.
THIS AND THAT
So I see they’ve found work for the NFL replacement referees. They’re now working playoff baseball games in Atlanta. Inventing rules like the outfield fly rule? How does this kind of thing that happen? ... The date was Dec. 4, 2007. The not yet named Miami Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for six prospects of consequence. It’s now 2012, Cabrera won the Triple Crown in the American League, Willis is out of baseball, and not one of the six prospects plays for the Marlins ... Anthopoulos has declared he is willing to overpay in the upcoming free agent market for pitching. Question is: What’s worth overpaying for? They won’t get Zack Grienke, probably not Jake Peavy. Maybe the best pitcher to target is Anibal Sanchez of Detroit, who is dependable and has been close to a 200-inning pitcher and averaging 30-plus starts over the past three seasons. And he’s only 28 ... Strange, this was the worst Blue Jays season in memory, and somehow I still didn’t want it to end.
HEAR AND THERE
Edwin Encarnacion followed Jose Bautista in winning the Blue Jays’ own version of the Triple Crown. But it doesn’t happen often around here that one player leads the Jays in batting, home runs and RBI. Bautista did in 2011. Carlos Delgado did it once in 2000. That’s all for the past 20 years ... Never mind the Melky rule, this was an historical big league season: The first time two batters named Cabrera led the AL and NL in hitting ... Love the people who argue that the Blue Jays can’t compete because they don’t spend enough. The Angels bought Albert Pujols traded for Grienke and were beaten out by the A’s, with the lowest payroll in baseball. The Dodgers took on half the Red Sox payroll and didn’t make the playoffs ... I know all the talk of the great AL MVP race was between Cabrera and Mike Trout, but consider this: The Rays played .635 baseball when Evan Longoria was healthy enough to play — 47-27. When Longoria didn’t play, Tampa was a .488 team. Those are impressive numbers, considering no AL team played better than .600 ball in the season.
SCENE AND HEARD
The minor hockey screamers were out in good form when a local mother threw a hockey stick at her son’s coach the other day. Understood. But understand this: There will be almost 14,000 minor-hockey games played in the GTHL and NYHL locally. You will hear about 15 crazy parent stories. Now do the math and tell me that minor hockey is out of control ... Getting thrown out at third base is not a deterrent to spending: According to MLB, Brett Lawrie jersey’s rank 20th in all of baseball for popularity. The kid without a stop sign is that popular ... Funny how things go. Last lockout, Brian Burke was a regular voice on television, arguing with Glenn Healy. This lockout, in a position where his own franchise is getting screwed, he’s not saying a word ... The last game of the season was my favourite Farrell game. The way he started Omar Vizquel, then removed him from the game at the most appropriate time. The crowd responded accordingly. It was pure class from the Jays manager ... A Jays’ player watching Oakland play its last game of the season on television, looked up at the screen in the clubhouse and said: “When we played them early in the season, I thought they stunk.”
AND ANOTHER THING
This is labour interruption three for Martin Brodeur as an NHL goaltender. But if you do the math and consider the games lost already this season, Brodeur has already relinquished $7.1 million in wages. And how does a player ever get that back? ... The real bonus if there is no season for the Leafs: The contracts of Tim Connelly, Matthew Lombardi, Clarke MacArthur, David Steckel and Tyler Bozak all expire without them having to play a final season. The must-signing might be Joffrey Lupul, whose contract also would expire, assuming contracts work the same way they did in the previous lockout ... So if you’re Tim Thomas, are you locked out, taking the year off, or both? ... Hard to understand all the training camp optimism coming from the Raptors. The NBA is a league all about stars and the Raptors don’t seem to have one. According to ESPN’s ratings of every player in the NBA, there is no Raptor player listed in the top 50. And that might be slighting Andrea Bargnani ... To those who continually say they are missing hockey terribly, I give you this: Really, you’ve missed nothing so far. The NHL season wasn’t supposed to start until this week. By next weekend, you can officially be missing hockey ... What I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend: Great family. Great job. Great country. Great friends. But I do wish one of the Toronto teams, just one of them, would contend for something, sometime soon. Is that too much to hope for? ... Am I allowed to do this? Am I allowed to wish a happy 10th anniversary to The Reporters with Dave Hodge, my favourite TSN program, the one that means I never get to sleep in on Sundays ... Happy birthday to Bruno Sammartino (77), Brian Sutter (56), Andrew Wiggins’ mom, Marita Payne (52), Darren Oliver (42), Oil Can Boyd (53), Charles Woodson (36), Rich Hacker (65) and Ruben Sierra (47) ... And hey, whatever became of Archi Cianfrocco?
Belichick one smart cookie
From the outside, Bill Belichick’s time with the Cleveland Browns is considered to be somewhat disastrous. But a recent NFL Network documentary painted a completely different picture as Belichick as young innovator as the last coach of the Browns team that eventually moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens.
On his staff at the time, almost as kids, were Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli and Mike Tannenbaum, all of whom are current general managers in the NFL in Atlanta, Kansas City and with the New York Jets.
His staff also included Eric Mangini (who coached Cleveland), Ozzie Newsome (current GM in Baltimore), Phil Savage (former Browns GM), Jim Schwartz (Detroit coach) and current college coach, Kirk Ferentz.
Belichick can be an annoying man in his controlling ways but what was clear from this documentary and clear by the people he surrounded himself with was the eye he had for coaching and scouting talent. The branches from his football tree are about as broad as they can be.
Words Bettman can learn from
I started reading Phil Taylor’s column on the back page of Sports Illustrated, and could have sworn he was writing about Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League. He wasn’t. He was writing about the NFL losing its way.
But his sentiment about the NFL captured my NHL sentiment: “You are a drunk, so intoxicated by your own popularity that it impairs your judgment and makes you feel invincible. There are mean drunks and sentimental drunks and happy drunks and slopping drunks, but you (insert NHL for NFL) are a pompous drunk,” Taylor wrote. “...You need to clear your head and realize that fans’ goodwill isn’t guaranteed.
“Maybe you think you shake your addiction to arrogance anytime you want, but it’s not that easy. Don’t wait until you hit rock bottom. Say it: “I’m the (insert NHL for NFL) and I’m drunk on my own success.” Wrote Taylor: “It’s the first step to recovery.”
McLennan book delivers the goods ... and beatings
There was little levity in Francois Allaire’s time or departure from the Maple Leafs. But it isn’t always that way between goaltenders and their coaches.
In his new book, The Best Seat in the House, career backup Jamie McLennan details his first meeting with goaltender coach Billy Smith. McLennan was playing in the minors for the Islanders at the time when the legendary Smith popped in to get a look at him.
At the end of his first game, a rather strong performance, Smith called McLennan said: “I need to talk to you.” McLennan thought he was about to be praised for how well he played. Instead, he was read the riot act for allowing a minor league mascot in St. John’s to stand in his goal crease prior to the game. “I don’t care how many pucks you stop,” Smith said to him. “Don’t you ever let a $%^& mascot stand in your crease. If he’s there the next game, you %^^&$* run him over. Do you understand?” McLennan understood.
He started the next night and just as he was told, skating to his crease at full speed, he sent the mascot flying. He felt horrible about it. And he played horribly that night. But the goalie coach didn’t seem to care. “That’s how you do it, kid. That’s how you get respect in this league.”
The book, like McLennan, is full of these kind of gems from a very funny man.