If there’s good news to all the bad, bad news surrounding the Blue Jays, it’s that nobody can argue any longer that this lost season was all simply caused by injuries.
Injuries, of course, played a part. But as has been argued here for a while, injuries have also been used as an all-encompassing excuse by the Blue Jays and some supporters, and recent times have made it crystal clear there are many other areas that require attention.
The Escobar episode both opened questions about the attitude of some of the team’s key young players — Brett Lawrie ended up the focus this past weekend — and made it obvious that the team’s internal leadership system had either failed or was insufficient from the start.
Going into this season, nobody was wondering aloud whether this team plays the game the right way. Now, led by the words of former catcher Greg Zaun, everybody seems to be wondering why they don’t play the game the right way.
The departure of Travis Snider and some fine subsequent work by Sportsnet writer Shi Davidi has made some wonder about the way the Jays are developing their young players. John Farrell’s managing has come under scrutiny, increasingly so as the possibility the Bosox want him has become an issue.
Finally, the struggles of Anthony Gose and Adeiny Hecchevaria at the plate — that’s not at all to write either player off — has illustrated that the youth the Jays are banking on isn’t guaranteed to succeed, or at least not on the timetable they want. With Gose, Hecchevaria and Drew Hutchison having all been used at the major league level and Snider now a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, there now isn’t the next wave of Jays youngsters available to come in next season.
Of course the injuries hurt. But there are other issues Alex Anthopoulos has to deal with aggressively. The open-ended goodwill that greeted the Jays at spring training this year won’t be there next spring.
In other news:
If the NHLPA really wants to open a PR offensive, it should have individual players openly questioning the motives of individual owners. Just slamming Gary Bettman will never work. He’s paid to take the crap. But if Brad Richards starts questioning why James Dolan needs to have a lockout, or if Claude Giroux takes some verbal swings at Ed Snider, or if Zdeno Chara challenges Jeremy Jacobs to explain himself, it might turn public pressure on those owners in the same way it used to do in the pre-cap era when owners were often questioned for not spending enough. Blaming Bettman for a third lockout — like the PA had nothing at all to do with all three — won’t get the union anywhere if it wants to wage a propaganda war . . . Maria Sharapova says she’s 100 per cent behind a move to lower the screeching in women’s tennis. Just as long as it doesn’t affect her, of course. Start with the kids, she agrees. This will take years, if it ever really takes root. . . Right now, the Bills against Seattle at the Rogers Centre is looking like a tough, tough sell . . .The inside suggestion was that when Winnipeg defensive back Brandon Stewart was assessed a taunting penalty in the first quarter of the Argo-Bombers game on Saturday, it may have been because he used the n-word to congratulate a teammate as African-American athletes sometimes will do. An official heard the word, may have thought it was being directed at Argo receiver Dontrelle Inman and threw the flag. Stewart, for the record, claimed he said nothing to Inman. Not sure how to sort that one out, but the penalty cost Winnipeg a touchdown . . . The new Winnipeg football stadium, by the way, looks fabulous. Now they just have to get the damn thing built . . . Still waiting to see what new Hamilton stadium will look like. Tick tock, tick tock. . . If the NHL announced the move of the Phoenix Coyotes to Quebec City tomorrow, it would in one stroke eliminate the NHLPA’s complaint that the league is only willing to address the struggles of have-not teams off the backs of players.
Not feeling Trudeau-mania 2.0 just yet . . . Just last week Mitt Romney wondered aloud about why you can’t roll the windows down on airplanes while his wife said she worried about his mental well-being if he became president. This is one of the great car wreck candidacies of our time. And still he might win . . . The solution for Nazem Kadri is simple; play great, and no one will talk about your body fat or your diet . . . Player after player headed to Europe says “I’ve just gotta play.” Jeff Skinner, meanwhile, seems to say that’s not the case. He won’t report to Carolina’s AHL team, with the team’s permission . . . This Friday, we get to see if baseball’s new wild card format creates excitement. It should. One game playoffs can be a blast . . . There is no better advertisement for the CFL than television shots of fans at Saskatchewan home games. There’s a passion there that rivals anything you’ll see at a hockey game in this country . . . Given the events of the past 18 months, I’m uncomfortable with an NHL enforcer telling the world he’s getting hammered as he tweets about all his physical pain and injuries . . . I’ve always liked watching Buck Pierce play. I just don’t want to see him get hit anymore . . That’s one nasty Twitter war going on between Milt Stegall and Ricky Foley . . .The last embarrassment for the NFL in its replacement referee disaster was having to pay all 112 of ’em for Week 4 for not working . . . Remember the days when Jays fans could at least chortle at the Baltimore Orioles? Those days are gone . . . Eric Tillman, in an interview with Terry Jones of SunMedia, had an interesting take on trading away Rickey Ray. “With Ricky as our starting quarterback this club had only one winning season of the last five years before Kavis (Reed) was hired as our head coach. As good as Ricky was on an individual basis, we were brought in to fix a team problem.” . . . Does this old heart good to see the Irish coming in at No. 9. Tough part of schedule starts now.
Damien Cox is a Toronto Star sports columnist