Archive for November, 2012

Congrats Argos, now get out

The Argonauts are arguably North America’s oldest professional sports franchise. I think they argue for the title because the teams that are older than them have changed their names in their history. Thus, the Argos have self-proclaimed the title for their franchise.

In any case, a big Congratulations to them as they hold a Victory Parade today for winning the Grey Cup.

Congrats. Now get out. Get out of the Rogers Centre please so we can install some REAL GRASS.

In my wildest dreams this will be the announcement this week. And although I think it’s really just a slim possibility, let’s talk about the idea that Snoop himself will want to visit our lush, grassy field next year.

Rogers Centre is one of the last two MLB facilities with artificial turf, the other being the non-retractable Tropicana Field. The pros for turf, and I guess there are some, are it’s easy to maintain. And um, it’s always green. And of course, the stadium can be used for many purposes easily including baseball, football, the occasional soccer game (although Beckhmam himself dismissed the surface), and concerts.

The cons are that it’s tough on players joints, adding to the many reasons that players don’t want to come here — others being taxes and the pitbull ban apparently, and well, it’s baseball dammit. It should be played on real grass. I think there were other reasons for his departure, but speculation at the time was that Scott Rolen asked to be traded to get off the career-shortening surface.

Earlier this year, Paul Beeston said that the Jays were looking into converting the playing surface to real grass but he warned that it was just a slim possibility and they were really in the preliminary stage of ‘looking’. At the time, everyone thought Beeston was just blowing his usual puffery cigar smoke. But lately he has made good on a few things that he talked about, hasn’t he… ?

So I wonder if they’re ready to make the announcement this week. Crazy, I know.

Here’s why. And there are two big reasons. First of all, the Argos lease is up. At least I can’t find anything that says otherwise. The Argos had an agreement through 2012 to play in Rogers Centre. And I’ve looked for any press stories/releases to say they’ve extended it. But I can’t find any. And this has been one of the main barriers in doing it. Installing real grass would require that the rotating stands (making it a multi-use facility) be put into fixed position. This would make baseball the only configuration at least until October (let’s say November for optimists sake). Extending the Argos agreement would put off the grass conversion. But no extension yet it seems. Interesting. Where the Argos would play, I don’t know. But I’ll leave that for an Argos fanpage to discuss.

The other reason to do it now is the agreement with ‘our’ other football team. The Bills. They have an agreement with Rogers to play one preseason and one home game here every year. Currently the deal is through this year. And the NFL has approved the agreement to extend through 2017, but as of right now, I can’t find anything to say that Rogers and the Bills have finalized details to make the extension from 2012 onwards official. Also interesting.

The Blue Jays, if you haven’t heard, just made a little trade and signed some players for next year. They’ve committed at least $165 million over the next few years on these players alone. At least one of these players, Jose Reyes, has made it known that he’s not a fan of artificial turf. I mean really, who is? To make the Jays not only more resilient over the next few years for current players but also more attractive to any new players they might want to go after, we need some kentucky bluegrass.

Rogers owns the Rogers Centre, in case you didn’t know. They paid something like $25 million for it when they stole it, I mean ‘bought’ it from the taxpayers, and they can do whatever they want with the place. The Jays are their main tenant with at least 81 dates each year. Concerts could still happen once construction is complete. Assuming there’s enough time to do this before March, football is the main long-term problem here…

Now’s the ideal time. Is there enough time? Glancing at the Rogers Centre calendar of events doesn’t exactly support my argument. Disney on Ice is coming for a run during the holidays and there are some concerts scheduled. How those get juggled/accommodated, I have no idea. Mickey falling into a big hole wouldn’t be good for PR. Doing this would apparently require digging ten feet down into the concrete foundation under the turf for drainage. How long does that take? Well, in this city everything takes a long time when it comes to construction.

As I said, it’s a wild pipe dream. And the chances of it really happening are slim.

But if they were going to consider doing it, this offseason has the best window of opportunity to actually get it done. Strange things are happening with our Blue Jays. You never know.

Go Argos, Go. No really. Get out.

Back to the Future

I joked on the weekend in a tweet that “These days, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a #bluejays press conf where AA, Doc Brown and new Mgr Sparky Anderson got out of the DeLorean.” And maybe I wasn’t far off. The Blue Jays reached into the past and pulled out John Gibbons from the Wayback Machine.

I admit it took me by surprise when the news broke by Bob Elliott, the Hall of Fame writer, with the credentials to trust enough that it was true. But then the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. And the press conference went way beyond my wildest expectations and made me feel even better.

We should’ve seen this coming. But only a couple of people did. But all along Alex Anthopoulos did lay the breadcrumbs for us to follow to at least indicate that Gibby should’ve been part of our speculation. But we missed it. All along he said last time with Farrell (in thinly veiled references) he perhaps made the hire because John Farrell checked off a lot of boxes that he felt he had to have to please the media, fans and the rest of baseball. But maybe the ‘feel’ wasn’t right, in hindsight. He also said that Pat Gillick advised him to always follow his gut and he would this time. He also said that he wanted someone with managerial experience at the ML level. And that “2nd chance guys sometimes work out” or something along those lines. That last statement alone should’ve been the kicker… But we missed it.

And Gibby, showing more charm and humour in a few minutes than Farrell did in two years here says to the media “You guys were way off”. And with that a giant exhale came across Toronto fans and media. Like a collective relaxing after two years of being in the Principal’s Office as Dirk Hayhurst referred to Farrell’s tenure. But it won’t all be fun and games with Gibbons, and I like that. Yes, he had what he called some “dust-ups” with players in the past. And although he was apologetic about it and said it was a black-eye, he pointed out that it didn’t lead to his firing and certainly sometimes players need a kick in the ass. Alex surprisingly echoed his sentiments by saying that he actually didn’t have a big problem with this part of Gibbons game. And with that, I think AA was admitting that Farrell was held accountable more than we thought for the antics in the clubhouse and on the field last year.

However I don’t think that’s the number one reason Gibbons was the choice. There are so many factors. Apparently, the players liked him. He handles a bullpen well. He communicates well. He and Alex get along very well as indicated by a final backslap and big smiles at the end of the presser between the two. These guys are on the same page. And the Jays need that.

And I certainly liked the way he said his job was basically to bring the clubhouse together and just “get out of the way”.

Gibbons looks excited and happy to be here. When Mike Wilner asked “Is this your dream job?”, Gibbons answer was honest, no bullshit and great. He said (and I’m going my memory so maybe not verbatim here) “Well, my dream job I had last year by managing in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, and it didn’t go so well. But I left that job for this one, so that oughtta tell you something right there…”

And at the press conference, Gibby admitted he’s been following the team the last five years. And it reminded me of how John Farrell was doing that behind-the-scenes in following his first love, the Red Sox. This guy loves the Jays organization, AA, and the city and that also makes him the right guy. He’s devoted. And I’m not sure I can name another guy that would’ve had that going for him — not Ozzie, Acta, Wakamatsu, Cox (haha, great mcguffin there), Alomar Jr… Maybe Butterfield but that window closed long before he left for Boston. No, this makes sense.

So overall, a huge win today for the Jays, Rogers and Alex Anthopoulos. They’ve managed to turn the lowest point of Blue Jays fandom only a few weeks ago into the highest point, outside of Joe Carter jumping around uncontrollably twice, of optimism and excitement. Well done. I have to say I didn’t see it coming and I feel bad for doubting. But then again, maybe us crazy fans and our disappointment actually helped in some small way.

John Gibbons is like us, the fans who are crazy enough to devote so much time to this team and keep blogs, and talk baseball in November regardless of the events of the last week. We’re passionate. We want to win. We want to follow this team, in this city. And we get cranky sometimes, enough that we want to strangle the players sometimes too.

He’s perfect for us. Let’s get on board.

Feliz NavidAAd

Okay, that’s a terrible headline. But the trade is now official and so is the Melky Cabrera signing so it certainly feels like Christmas in Jaystown.

We’ll see what AA says tomorrow at the press conference but for now, the night before, there are some interesting developments and speculation going around about what’s next for the Blue Jays.

Tonight on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCowan, Gregg Zaun made some comments about Josh Johnson and his agent making no secret about the fact they don’t want him to be in Toronto. I don’t have the exact verbatim quote, but Zaun didn’t say how he knew this. A lot of people think Zaun is full of it but I wouldn’t say he’s one to make such statements without some belief/source. In any case, I’m not concerned. Josh Johnson is in the final year of his contract and even if he doesn’t want to play here next year or beyond, he’ll do his best to make sure he gets a big payday with a good year in 2012. It’s a great situation for AA to get him in. And for us it’ll be great, assuming he doesn’t get traded before 2013. I’d be surprised, but as you know know, stranger things have happened of course. AA needs a bonafide #1 to take the pressure off of Ricky and even Brandon. That’s what he has in Josh Johnson. To flip him wouldn’t make sense unless it’s for a Josh Johnson type with more years of control.

The other ongoing story of course is the manager. Will the Jays introduce their manager tomorrow? Again, I’d be surprised. It would really steal the thunder from the big trade but you never know… But when it happens, my money is on Manny Acta or I’ll stick by my earlier call of Don Wakamatsu, despite the overhauled roster. Without the trade, I’d say Sandy Alomar or Sal Fasano would’ve been in my mix, but not now. Again, AA could pull any rabbit out of his hat here, but my personal favourite (not the logical, who I think, but who I want) is Ozzie Guillen.

Yes, Ozzie. Zaun made a good point tonight that I kind of agree with. He said when it comes to baseball ‘crazy talk’, Ozzie always stirs things up to take the attention off of his players. It’s like he jumps on the grenade. As for his off-colour comments, well, you can be sure he won’t say things about Castro again, although I think that was overblown. And besides, although you can’t go around saying you ‘love’ Castro necessarily, this is Canada and we certainly are a bit more liberal. Anyhow, the real issue is how he gets the best out of his teams. With this lineup, it’d be interesting. He certainly wouldn’t accept some of the lackadaisical stuff that happened last year. And I think he’d be interesting to motivate the young guys but also give the vets their space. I do like his comments about the Florida 5 that joined the Jays. He liked them. Not sure how they liked him, but some of them did sign there with him at the helm.

In other news, my wildest dream is that Rogers Centre is getting ready to put in grass. They’re probably not but after the Grey Cup game on Sunday, the Argos lease is up. Meaning if they don’t renew the agreement, the Rogers Centre is free to put in some grass. It’d be a long process and not cheap I bet. Rumours are that they’d have to dig into the concrete about 10-15 feet just for a drainage system. The rotating stands would be locked in place so no more soccer or football either. It doesn’t seem likely but hey… these are the days to dream, right?

Looking forward to a great press conference tomorrow. What a difference a few weeks can make. Did all this really happen?

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