Archive for December 31, 2016

Jays in ’17? Take It Easy!

1200 for publication January 6, 2017
Ross Brewitt
          By Sunday we’ll be onto a clean sheet, as in the 12 months of 2017.
          The trick is to do something better than you did in the previous year, and that was the belief of my “Grampa Jack” Ross, holding court at the kitchen table in Schreiber, Ontario.
“Yuh always gotta do somethin’ better than you did last year,” he’d say, over breakfast, looking at me with a skeptic’s eyes, “…and if I was you I’d work on my skatin’… backwards.”
           As usual, it turned out he was right, and I became a defenceman.
But most things aren’t as easily decided, and going forward into 2017 one thing dominated what could become the dismantling of a ball team at the highest level. The Toronto Blue Jays.
In late November Edwin Encarnacion rejected the club’s offer of $80-million over four years. The news shocked many in baseball, but not the president and GM of the Jays.
In my opinion the Shapiro/Atkins tandem folded their tent at the first sign of any adversity in re-signing EE. It tells me they already had a plan to implement. Their answer was to immediately grab Kendrys Morales at DH, and journeyman Steve Pearce.
Smoak, was the Jays incumbent first-baseman, the guy they had just extended a new contract with a raise for another couple of years. In addition, it’s to be seen how the permanently disgruntled Jose Bautista fits into the Jays plans or will he be moving too?  
Now I’d like to know how Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins sleep at night. Yes, we know they work quietly, but in negotiations is their acquiescence based on “one and done,” or “take it or leave it?” or “that was my final offer, Buster, we’re done here.”
Seems EE’s camp and the Jays haven’t discussed anything serious since, and now Edwin is with Cleveland, making the Tribe an odds-on favourite to win the World Series.
Yet to date nothing else has evolved with the Jays team even with a surplus of money to spend.
Nothing is changed in two areas I felt were “iffy” last year, the first being a lefty-set-up pitcher. The Jays don’t have one to point at. There was also a need for a catcher who could play the position to the utmost, blocking balls instead of back-handing them, or how about throwing out base-stealers on a regular basis. If you’ve been looking to the farm for help, there’s only A.J. Jimenez, a .240 hitter in Buffalo as back-up.
          There was nothing “iffy” about the Jays mind-set last season in their inability to manufacture runs by stealing bases, or moving runners in 90-foot increments using sneaky means. Such as bunting, a tactic difficult to master at the major league level. At least it certainly appeared to be difficult, and totally foreign or forgotten by Jays batters.
Still, barring injuries of the kind that made Devon Travis in-and-out at second base, the key to any Jays success in ’17 will be their starting pitching, and relievers. In that regard they are as good as anyone in the AL East.
Yet unless, Morales and newly signed utility player Steve Pearce have banner seasons, they could also use upgrades at first, left and right field, and the previously mentioned catching. Whatever they do, leave Donaldson, Tulo, and Pillar to do their “thing.”    
All I’m sayin’ is 2017 will be a year of discontent for the Blue Jays. Unless they can prove otherwise by surprising the hell out of everyone in coming up with a master-plan replacing the numbers of the departed Edwin Encarnacion. Also the 200 innings gap they got out of R.A. Dickey, another former Jay. Otherwise they will likely miss the playoffs, and are headed for a summer of discontent.
Just think, all that goodwill and sellouts could be gone, because this was a team constructed for success. So, this may be a season the fans recall as the year baseball died. Or maybe not, that’s why they play the schedule.
Either way, be happy. It’s just a game.
Happy New Year, folks… chug-a-lug… sports is rarely a serious business.

Merry Christmas Edwin, We’ll Miss You

1199 for publication December 23, 2016

Ross Brewitt

Before Santa pulls the rip-cord and begins delivering cellphones, X-boxes, and $300 hockey sticks to all those 10-11-and-12 year-olds desperate for something to do, I have to tie up some loose ends.

First, for EE the Bird-Walker, aka el-RBI, and the sorry state of affairs befalling our former hero, for those of you who have forgotten Edwin Encarnacion and his travelling soap opera, I have a question after listening to his agent, one Paul Kinzler. He’s the guy who blames everyone with the exception of Donald Trump, for Edwin not returning to the Jays.

Since we don’t have the luxury of dawn firing squads in Canada, I’m calling for the next best thing before asking Mr. Kinzler why he wasn’t summarily fired after turning down the Jays qualifying offer of 4-years for $80-million in October?

For Kinzler, that opening contract from the Jays was little more than an indicator as to how many more millions he could dig out of what he saw as an open pit. In other words, the Toronto offer was great, but that’s all it was, there had to be other clamouring customers lining up. Right? Well. right?

As Edwin and Paul were looking over the rich landscape we heard how much Edwin loved the Jays, his teammates, the city, the fans, the mayor, the country, and the universe. Yet when presented with that original credible offer, rather than touch-up details, sign up, and ensure he was there, happy and content on opening day of 2017, EE and Kinzler took the offer and waved it in the faces of every other team in Major League Baseball.

There were no publicly reported negotiations with the Jays which is the job of an agent.

Instead, a flag flew at half-mast over the Blue Jays headquarters, who took it for what it was, a rebuff, merely an out-of-date starting spot in the battle for EE’s services. The fact it was treated that way was counterproductive, and in the weeks that followed it necessitated the Jays cover their exposed backsides and they made “other arrangements,” started down another dark alley.

It was at this point that the firing of Mr. Kinzler should have occurred.

“Encarnacion loves Boston,” was next, “the Oakland A’s want EE,” followed. There were no shortage of interested parties, but that interest never matched 4 years at $80-million. Mark up another call to impeach Kinzler.

“Nobody is mad at anyone. It’s business,” Kinzler recently stated, “they (the Jays) saw an opportunity and pursued it,” he said, explaining away the newly signed bodies filling EE’s absence. Another chance for a firing blown.

It was in the early days after the original offer was made, that Kinzler conveniently forgot the Jays were pushed into their “opportunity” by Encarnacion and Kinzler taking their own sweet time perusing other offers. Come to think of it, it’s yet another valid reason for firing the agent.

Brushed aside in the wreckage that was the idea of Edwin ever being a Jay again, was a statement Kinzler made during this turmoil. “Edwin always considered Toronto as home.”

In my opinion that’s why the man who will lose the most in this train-wreck is Kinzler. Don’t worry about Encarnacion, or the bottom line. EE will get big bucks somewhere, and baseball will go on as usual.

On a happy note, it’s Christmas and the time for counting our blessings.

And, as a writer, I have much to be grateful for, the new book is out, and being an “indie” publisher I set goals for sales that would lead to the second book in the series. Even with a late October start, and after having a summer health setback, we surpassed those required numbers by mid-November.

For that early success I especially want to thank the Chronicle Journal family who supported me, publisher Clint Black, Managing Editor Greg Giddens, and the Thursday night sports desk who write those great headlines and have turned my column around every week for over two decades.

Thanks to all, and to all Merry Christmas.