A look back at a long year in baseball

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

As a tribute to the late, great Jim Hunt ...

Some Saturday morning musings on things that amused, confused and amazed us in 2006.

World Baseball Classic

It was not a surprise it was a success nor was it a surprise when manager Team Canada and Ernie Whitt knocked off Team USA 8-6.

It was a surprise that all the Cubans who arrived went back to Cuba.

"You heard of teams playing it safe in the ninth, going for one run to tie?" said one general manager. "The Cubans went with their safest team -- players who wouldn't defect."

Best zinger: Philadelphia Phillies reliever Rheal Cormier, of Moncton, sending a text message to teammate Chase Utley of the U.S. after the game.

Utley hit what he thought was a three-run, game-winner in the eighth, but Adam Stern caught it on the track. Cormier's message: "I've got Canadian maple for U if U need some."

THIS JUST IN

Dave Stieb's no-hitter and his near misses are etched in the memories of Jays fans. One brilliant effort not to be forgotten was Jim Clancy's outing Sept. 28, 1982.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Clancy was deprived of a no-hitter when the Minnesota Twins Randy Bush led off the ninth with a broken-bat single.

An angry Clancy went looking for Bush the next day -- not because of the hit, but because the broken bat arrived in the Jays clubhouse with a note asking Clancy for an autograph. The note was signed "Randy Bush."

Bush, a scout with the Cubs, swore to us earlier this year he didn't send it. Usual suspects to be rounded up? Mickey Hatcher or Kent Hrbek.

THE EX-JAY

Tim Wilken, former Jays scouting director, named scout of the year at the winter meetings had plenty of bouquets and barbs in his speech.

He gave commissioner Bud Selig a shot for his comment about scouts giving large signing bonuses to players "who don't work out" saying "Buck O'Neill should have been elected to Cooperstown while he was alive."

He jabbed former Major League Baseball CEO Sandy Alderson for instituting a slot money policy for draft picks.

And after thanking everyone with the Jays from Paul Beeston and Bobby Mattick, to Pat Gillick and Howard Starkman to Charlie Wilson he summed up his Jays days.

"We won two World Series, five AL East titles, were organization of the year twice. Seven of 12 years we produced the most major-leaguers and had 15 straight first-rounders make it," Wilken told the crowded ball room. "With respect to the Yankees, we handled them better from 1983-94 than anyone.

"We also had six scouts of the year, a batting champ, an MVP, six Gold Glove winners, three Cy Young Award winners. I still don't understand why you wouldn't want to live in a beautiful city like Toronto full time."

The final line is directed to Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

THE CURRENT JAYS

The Jays went to the winter meetings needing two starters. They went 0-for-2 but they returned home saying they only needed to add one? Is that new math?

They missed on Ted Lilly, who signed with the last-place Cubs, and Gil Meche, who signed with the last-place Kansas City Royals. The Meche deal led to Ricciardi questioning why anyone would want to play in Kansas City, a return volley from manager Buddy Bell and an apology.

"I read J.P.'s quote in the paper when I got into K.C. for my physical," Meche told reporters in K.C. "Didn't bother me whatsoever. For me coming here, trying to help an organization win, is to me a pretty big challenge."

The Jays offered Lilly a four-year, $40 million US pact and told Meche's agent they'd match his best offer (he took a five-year, $55 million US deal from K.C.). So how come Jeff Suppan getting $42 million for four years is too much?

THE FUTURE JAY

The ideal arm for the Jays to acquire for outfielder Alex Rios is Brad Penny of the Los Angeles Dodgers who is being shopped.

THE ONE-TIME JAY

With the Yanks ready to ship Randy Johnson, could they be clearing money to open a spot for Roger Clemens to return?


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