Jays mailbag: How about sending the Triple-A 51s to Montreal instead?
Note to Paul Beeston regarding the staging of a Jays' exhibition game in Montreal. Keep that bone in your pocket Mr. Beeston, right next to your Cubans.
Montrealers don't need your charity if all it involves is playing a one or two-game exhibition series at the Big O coming out of spring training. That's a no-win situation for that city's knowledgeable ball fans.
Montreal deserves professional baseball but it has to be more substantial than that. Those striving-to-impress exhibition games in any sport are horrible for a city, especially one trying to re-assert itself as a baseball town. Think of the Bills in Toronto. People were using that opportunity as an indicator of the city's NFL interest. But the whole Bills experiment has been counter-productive with the NFL.
As for Montreal and pro baseball again, Jays' no-name pitchers in games with minor-league players as the real major-leaguers rest up for opening day. No, keep it. Montreal is already a baseball town. The Montreal Royals played in that city from 1897-1917 and from 1928-1960. Then the Expos came on board as Canada's first major-league team and played with pride from 1969-2004.
As an ex-Montrealer, we don't need your table scraps.
Hey, instead, how about the Jays working with established corporate money in Montreal and coordinating an ownership group to bring Jays' Triple-A baseball back to Montreal as a top farm club in a new 12,000 seat stadium built somewhere near the downtown core.
Now that would be a worthwhile project.
The Jays will be trying to get out of Las Vegas after 2012 and GM Alex Anthopoulos ( a native Montrealer) while still an assistant GM three years ago talked about the hypocrisy of major-league baseball taking all its affiliate minor-league teams out of Canada and how that should change.
A man of his word, A.A. as GM has already put a short-season A team in Vancouver.
Forget the exhibition concept for Montreal. Olympic Stadium was not a good playing surface at the best of times, bordering on the dangerous. Any potential baseball configuration of that stadium has already been put in the rear-view mirror by the Quebec government with the letters reading “Warning. Objections may be closer than they appear.”
What Montreal needs is a new 12,000 seat minor-league ballpark funded privately with the potential to be expanded to 40,000, built in the style of that ballpark in Buffalo you drive by on the way to a Sabres game. Yes, that would be the first step to re-establishing Montreal as a baseball town after the Expos were purposely sabotaged by major-leaguer baseball with the complicity of the Jays who wanted Canada for themselves. They took franchises out of Milwaukee, Seattle and Kansas City and they all have franchises again. Why not Montreal, but first they need success at Triple-A.
Q. Griff - What a start! I have a humdinger of a question for you which concerns Juan Rivera. It is clear that he has become the odd man in the lineup and his demotion from the field is proof of this. Would they consider simply releasing him or sending him to the minors via waivers? The roster spot could be used by any number of guys knocking on the door (if not Lawrie, then perhaps Thames). At this point, who is going to take him - even if we eat his salary? My feeling is that it is time to cut our losses and accept an addition by subtraction situation. Help me out with this one.
Mauro Cavazzon, Markham
A. The moment of truth for Juan Rivera and his future with the Jays will come maybe as early as when Corey Patterson is ready to return from what looked very much like a concussion when hit in the head by Daniel Bard.
However in the meantime there always remains the likelihood that another injury will affect the roster makeup and postpone his departure, something like maybe Wednesday's knee to the head of Yunel Escobar.
At the end of the spring, there was room for both Rivera and Patterson when Jose Bautista was a third baseman but now that the MLB home run king is back in right, they don't need five outfielders. As for teams willing to take Rivera, if the Jays would be willing to pay the lion's share of his $5.25 million in a trade, which they would, there are teams out there that would easily take him as a fourth outfielder.
He's not an awful player, he just stands out as a bad fit on this Jays' team moving forward. They would have to designate him for assignment before they released him, if it came down to that, and there is very little likelihood, since the contract is guaranteed anyway, that Rivera would accept assignment to AAA-Las Vegas.
Besides, the outfield in Vegas of Eric Thames, Adam Loewen and Darin Mastroianni needs to play every day. At some point in the not too distant future, Rivera will no longer be a Jay and the salary the club is forced to eat won't be a factor. It balances nicely against the $23 million they saved when Vernon Wells took his services to the Angels.
Q. Hi Richard, I'm just wondering what the Jays' thinking is behind assigning Zack Stewart to New Hampshire instead of Vegas. They can't be that apprehensive of sending young prospects to the desert can they? There's also the weather factor, cold start early in the year versus warm climate. Now, far be it for me to make these judgements but I just can't come up with a logical reason that Stewart (and Jon Diaz for that matter) are back at AA to start the year. Also, why hasn't Brett Lawrie been assigned to any team yet? Maybe you can shed some light.
A. The Vegas schedule starts on the road on Thursday and they open by playing four in Fresno and four more in Sacramento before the home opener on April 15. The brightest-light prospects of the Jays' organization's advanced minor league starting pitchers include Stewart (at AA), Henderson Alvarez (DL), Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire, all at A-Dunedin. None of the fab four is pitching in the bright lights of Vegas. On purpose? Well, yeah. Guys like Brad Mills, Robert Ray, Luis Perez, Mike MacDonald and Scott Richmond are starters in Vegas. Clearly, the Jays do not want their prime young pitching prospects in Sin City. Kyle Drabek spent the entire season in 2010 at New Hampshire and went right to the majors. It's not an impediment. Double-A is the most important level. The Jays are looking forward to the day they can replace the poor playing conditions of Vegas with another Triple-A city closer to Toronto – like maybe Ottawa. As for Lawrie, the studly native of Langley, B.C. Is indeed opening the season with the 51s at third base. Maybe not for long.
Q. Hi Richard. I read your blog every week and each one of your columns. I'm 31, and I've been a long-time Jays fan, and I'm really excited about this team, and about the work of AA. So I was a bit dismayed to read your characterization of the "mostly younger crowd in the upper deck, the MTV reality, life in the raw generation, to whom drinking in excess, bad language and physical confrontation mean only one thing — Jersey Shore."
While 31 is not all that young, I would still consider myself a 'younger' fan. And I just wanted to make clear that many of us 'younger crowd' considered the behaviour exhibited at Friday's home opener to be disgraceful and ridiculous. I come to watch the games, not to watch drunken idiots punch each other in the stands. I'm not sure when the Jays home opener became the gong show that it now is, but I really wish the Rogers Centre would take a much stronger stance in responding.
From my seat (Section 532, Row 6), I witnessed no less than 4 incidents. Each one was allowed to continue for quite some time before a response, which was usually one lone usher trying to deal with 25-30 drunk and rowdy individuals chanting in his/her face. This is no way to manage a crowd. If the Jays truly cared about the fan experience, they would have a much larger (in numbers) and more effective (in response time) security staff for Opening Night.
While the energy of a full Rogers Centre is great and a fabulous home-field advantage, there is a big difference between being amped up for your team to win (which I really enjoy being a part of), and attending an event where you pay no attention to what is happening on the field because you are too busy hurling insults at the equally-intoxicated idiots around you in anticipation of sparking a fight.
So please don't lump us all into the same category. There are many young fans out there who AREN'T part of the "Jersey Shore generation".
A. I received quite a few e-mails with variations on that theme. President Paul Beeston apologized on Sunday for some of the opening night hooliganism, pointing out that the Jays had extra security on hand realizing it was a Friday night and that thousands might have had an afternoon head start towards their own personal brain-numbing oblivion.
It just seems to me that back in the day there existed more “happy” drunks as opposed to these days when alcohol seems to make more younger people angrier and more combative. From what you and others are saying that supposed extra security was really nowhere to be seen when push came to shove. The majority of fans were all good, full of energy and passion for the exciting opener that was unfolding on the field. All it takes is about 300 fighting fools to make it a bad experience for 47,000 that were there to celebrate the opening of another baseball season.
Q. I read and enjoy many of your articles that you publish in the Star. I have a topic that I would like to cover among Blue Jay fans and team management and maybe you could lead the way on this topic; Blue Jays Logo. I was at the game yesterday with some friends and we were comparing the current logo with the original logo.
The current logo does not look appealing at all and for a sports team to build its brand and foundation a team must keep certain aspects of its organization the same, for example its logo. Teams like the Leafs, Yankees, Red Sox have had the same logo for many decades.
Many teams in professional sports keep the same logo where it eventually becomes a brand and is recognized globally. The Jays had its best years with its original logo and I think, as many other do, that the Blue Jays should bring back their original logo.
Thanks, Jiries N.
A. It's a nice thought, not uncommon among old-school baseball fans, but the Jays won't ever go back to the old logo for exactly the same reason they jettisoned the powder blue unis that they had favoured on Flashback Fridays the past few years.
The feeling at Rogers is the future is now. While Paul Godfrey as ex-club president in the early '00s tried unsuccessfully to boost the team's flagging fortunes by putting all his eggs in the basket of nostalgia, constantly honouring and celebrating the championship Jays of Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick from the '80s and '90s while downplaying the current teams much to that team's annoyance, new/old president Paul Beeston now back for a second tour, wants none of that sappy “the way we were” stuff.
Beeston would rather have fans look to the future as envisioned by his new GM Alex Anthopoulos which means, necessarily, having a new logo, new colours and a ban on Kelly Gruber sightings waving to fans from atop the dugout.
The other thing to consider about the ever-changing Jays' logo is that since the great strike of '94, Jays' swag in all of its incarnations, has been one of the lowest selling properties in baseball. They keep trying to come up with an idea that will change that trend and make the Jays logo a best seller again. Note to Jays. The idea is called winning. It's why the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cardinals never feel the need to experiment.
Q. A few years ago folks watching Jays home games on TV were shown via a roof cam whether or not a pitch was over the plate. Obviously this was not shown in the stadium. This feature has disappeared and I would like to have it back. Can you tell me why and ask if this service could be restored?
Lloyd Sayer, Amherstburg, Ont.
A. I could never understand, still can't understand why baseball is the only major sport that sets its officials up to fail. I don't agree with umpires often, but I'm with them on this one.
The high home overhead cameras to which you refer would always show if a pitch was slightly off the plate or caught the edges, but could not show high or low. If you want to know whether a pitch is a strike, pay attention to the man in street clothes standing directly behind the catcher.
Tip No. 1: If his right hand shoots up in the air and he bellows or grunts, then that is a strike. That's the final word, folks. But in the baseball playoffs, especially, you will see live on-screen, an omni-present strike box. As a pitch is delivered TV will show everyone at home where the pitch crosses the plate.
The MLB umpires are then in a can't win situation. If the pitch is shown as in the zone and the umpire calls it a strike, hey, it's supposed to be a strike, but if it is slightly off the square and a strike is called, woe to the umps.
Fans at home will throw their hands in the air and question the competency of the game officials. And, trust me, that happens a lot. To their dis-credit, baseball allows the judgment of its arbiters to be placed in doubt on every pitch.
Why would major-league baseball continue to allow this? Super slo-mo replays provide enough second-guessing. We don't need the high overhead shots to further second-guess and distract from the game because there is no depth perception and the angle of camera positions can be deceiving.
Q. Hi Richard. Love the mailbag. I've noticed the new "pitchers bench" that was added to the Jays dugout and it had me wondering why they don't have more comfortable seats in baseball like they do in professional soccer? Those wood-looking community benches don't look very comfortable and the new pitchers bench has no back support. This probably isn't good when watching a four-hour baseball game. Soccer has individual comfy seats that are locked together with what looks like great lumbar support, not to mention they're pretty snazzy looking. Thanks for your thoughts.
Cameron Runte, Vancouver
A. The new backless wooden benches bolted to the floor, one at each end of the Rogers Centre dugouts about four human major-league butts wide, were installed along with the new protective nettings that have been placed as a safety measure at the top step on each side the length of the dugouts.
Prior to this, the Rogers Centre dugouts were prone to line drive foul balls being ripped in and scattering players, those that were even paying attention. It was a solid safety addition, but necessarily changed the sightlines for those sitting on the regular benches at the back of the dugout.
Now, with the new benches and the ability to drape your arms over the padded barrier and watch the game, there are fewer players left on the regular back benches as the game goes on. I do not believe that the comfort of the players, as per pro soccer, was of concern to anyone. Face it. The cameras never linger on the benches in soccer because it's not important. In baseball, within Jays' games, there's nothing that would piss off TV viewers more than having the home team down by four runs in the eighth inning and the cameras pan to the dugout to show players lounging back in padded seats with their lumbars all comfy, cozy.
Q. Hi Richard. Your blog on baseball and first loves got me reminiscing. My first love actually taught me how to score a baseball game. She had a part-time job scoring for a men's recreational softball league. Since we were quite young it gave us a legitimate reason to spend time together. My question is that scoring is a lost art. Could you suggest to the Jays that they hand out scoring sheets to the crowd as a means to get more involvement and increase the knowledge level. As for the other scoring as I recall I was being waved home but missed the sign. Thanks.
Bo Buczko, Toronto
A. Scoring with ones girlfriend for four hours is indeed a lost art. I hate to always bring it back to what the Expos did -- I know fans get annoyed sometimes at all the back-in-the-day references -- but I agree with you about the Jays needing to find a way to make scorecards available to more fans.
What the Expos did at Olympic Stadium was, that with every game program sold, they included a four page scorecard insert with both teams’ rosters and a basic printed primer on the art of scoring.
The cardboard scorecard was loose but was included with the official $5 magazine. You could also buy just the scorecard itself for 50 cents, which was the key difference. It changed each series with updated rosters. That way if you were going to attend all three games of a series you didn't need to fork out the money for a new magazine every night just to score the games. If the Jays ever did have a scorecard available for even a dollar, more fans of all ages would learn to score and enjoy and understand baseball better. Being able to re-create a baseball game years later via the scorecard is a huge part of the sport's charm.