Maybe It’s The Air, Denver Broncos Flying High…

October 21, 2009

by Mark Dewdney… You know, by now, that I’m a DEVOUT San Diego Charger fan.

I don’t bleed on game days - I crackle.

But boy, am I a believer…in this year’s Denver Broncos.

You heard right. It’s NOT a typo.

I cannot believe that;

a) Mike Shanahan got fired (I thought that was greatest of good luck for my Bolts);

b) McDaniels talked his way into the job (I fully expected to see Bill Cowher’s jaw firmly set on the Mile High sideline for another decade or so);

c) He then ticked off his “franchise” quarterback so badly that he forced a trade to Chicago (and got a HAUL of draft picks for him)

d) and THEN ticked “superreceiver” Brandon Marshall (the man is a MOOSE) off - AND THEN forced him to knuckle under…

e) and, finally, all McDaniels did (to put the icing on the cake) was to get a whole collection of…well, not misfits, but not much in the way of star power (from Orton to Elvis Dumervil) to buy into what he was selling - which brought the Broncos to 6-0.

Holy cow.

Just for future reference, and to follow up on my last article; crow DOES taste a lot like chicken - and this time, it’s served with a heaping helping of cow-patty fries on the side.

Take me back five weeks.

Now tell me—or anyone else who knows ANYTHING about NFL football - and tell me that THE DENVER BRONCOS WILL NOT ALLOW A POINT IN THE FOURTH QUARTER THROUGH THEIR FIRST SIX GAMES. You know what my answer would be (and it would have been delivered at top volume).

I would have sent you, with a firm slap on the back of the head, to see your therapist to deal with your delusions, and I would have FIRMLY asserted that not ONE Bronco game would have been worth watching.

(Heck, I would have taken ANY bet that said the ‘Cos would be OH-AND-SIX - not the reverse)

Au contraire, I guess. They’ve ALL been worth watching - GOOD, SOLID, WELL-COACHED TEAM FOOTBALL - and I’d be out a BUNDLE of money.

I am looking forward more to Broncos-Steelers, two weeks hence, than any of the games remaining on the Chargers’ sked.

Don’t get me wrong. I lived through the Rolf Benirschke (who? look him up) years in San Diego - so NOTHING is going to shake me as the northernmost representative of the Bolts’ fan club roster - but I am a believer.

Josh McDaniels seems to be the next installment of the hot young coaches sweeping the nation - kind of reminds me of a quieter Jon Gruden - and anyone who can’t acknowledge that needs a therapist to deal with their denial issues.

Don’t get me wrong - I ain’t seeing John Elway here - but man, will the Broncos be making some noise come the real cold-weather games.

Championship? I still don’t think so - there’s just too much in the way - but the pride is back in Denver, and it’s at the expense of a little of mine.

Ricciardi Gone: Rumblings of Rebellion Mean Gaston’s Next

October 9, 2009

by Mark Dewdney… This is when you make your bones as a writer or prognosticator; when things are solidly up in the air.

Every single one of the juggler’s chainsaws are up in the air right now when it comes to the management situation of the Toronto Blue Jays; with J.P. Ricciardi finally being forced out, manager (for now) Cito Gaston unwilling to accept what the players are saying…and not even a team president, nor a guess at one, in the fold…the next few weeks should prove to be extremely interesting, and finally give Blue Jays fans something to anticipate.

In this article, I’m going to lay out the case as to why Cito Gaston’s already gone.

I’m also going to tell you about a solid pair of candidates the Blue Jays already HAVE to replace the two sorry fellas in the picture you see;

- The General Manager’s position is going to stay with Alex Anthopoulos, a fantatically devoted young CANADIAN GM who, apparently, can and will be Toronto’s answer to Theo Epstein;

- The field boss will be, if the Jays are smart, none other than former catcher (and former Blue Jay) Sal Butera.


Right. That’s what I’m here for. No worries, grasshoppahs - read on, and all will become clear.

It’s a guess at best

Even the expansive Paul Beeston, who never met a microphone he didn’t like, is relatively tight-lipped; you get the impression that even the Beest doesn’t quite know how things are going to shake out during this off-season.

So that means that, no matter what ANYONE writes, they’re guessing - pure and simple. So - deep breath - I’m going to jump right in the deep end and tell you what Blue Jays fans should HOPE for, since there are some great (if unknown) candidates out there for both the GM and manager’s position.

Yes, there you go. I said it. The manager’s position will be vacant.

Gaston’s gone: Manager’s position might as well be vacant

It HAS to be. When one listens to the players, you hear things like;

“There are some things that need to be addressed, yes,” (from second baseman Aaron Hill)

“When you have a younger group in here, it kind of hit us a little harder. It kind of caught us off guard, more than anything.” (first baseman Lyle Overbay)

“This is not about winning and losing. This is about family issues.” (outfielder Vernon Wells)

This ordinarily wouldn’t be that big of a problem. The veterans would lead the rookies through it, and Gaston would get an honest chance in 2010, except for the fact that the manager wasn’t aware there ever WAS a problem.

Gaston was a “fan-friendly” hire; unfortunately, no matter HOW much we love the man, his style is, apparently, just NOT a match for the current clubhouse. The Jays need to pay attention to that going forwards; to quote the play, “Half measures avail us not” at this point, he’s already gone.

Cito’s got his pride, and he’s very “old-school”; he will see any grumbling as an example of the inmates trying to run the asylum.

Unfortunately, on a major-league team, the players MUST be listened to; the manager DOES run the place, but ask John Gibbons what happens when the players turn on him.

A heaping helping of denial

When one listens to Gaston, and team president Paul Beeston, you get a heaping helping of denial;

“If you got two or three or four guys that have a problem, you don’t have to win anything back, do you? You might have to deal with those guys, but you don’t have to win a clubhouse back.” (Gaston)

“I would think I would have known if Cito had lost the clubhouse. I’m close enough to enough of those guys that they can feel free to talk to me. I can’t believe the players would be talking to the press and not directly to me.”

When you compare the two, obviously, management has been SOLIDLY unaware of the brewing problem.

It doesn’t surprise me that Cito doesn’t know; kids don’t tell their parents that “hey, Dad, you’ve been pretty grumpy lately” until they move out of the house, and Cito’s not much of a listener.

He may be soft-spoken, but Cito IS THE BOSS, at least in his own mind, and it’s simply incomprehensible that players would ever even consider not doing What Daddy Says.

It surprises me GREATLY, however, that Paul Beeston didn’t smell the first embers; The Beest can usually read the team leaves with the best of them.

Let’s face it, having the stones to let Pat Gillick fire Williams (and replace him with an extremely untested Gaston, no less!) was no less than psychically predictive, a genius move, as it turned out.

Maybe Beeston misses Gillick, I don’t know…but you’ve missed this one plain, Paul. The players just yanked the rug out from under Cito, and, if he’s still here next year, we’ll all have to suffer Gaston’s embarrassment as he’s forced to walk the plank.

Even the Doctor’s no help

To be fair, players do tend to complain to each other, and only go to the manager if there’s a SERIOUS problem.

Unfortunately for Gaston, the players did it to the media. And it wasn’t a couple of scrubs and a journeyman doing the whining …it was starters.

Even Roy Halladay, Mr. Diplomatic, refused to comment, though he DID say that he had concerns, and that they would have to be expressed to “the right person”.

Whoops. That’s a close to a leak as Doc’s EVER going to get.

The Jays’ clubhouse, while filled with Major-League Type “A” personalities (you HAVE to be one to enjoy ANY success up here), isn’t exactly loaded with Shea Hillenbrands; most of our players are pretty mild-mannered.

Let’s face it; when Aaron Hill is musing, out loud, that there’s a problem, and even Mr. Nice (Lyle Overbay), raised in “nice-people” Washington State, is raising his hands in frustration…YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

I’m most worried about Vernon Wells’ commentary: Vernon seemed pretty combative, citing Cito’s “negativity” and generally alluding to an extremely unsupportive culture within the third-base locker room.

All in all, my three-year-old can see that Cito needs to go to the players, hat in hand, and say, “Sorry, guys. I’ll try to listen better.”

He’s just NOT going to do that; he doesn’t think he has to.

However, there just AIN’T no Dave Winfield to tell players that they’d better sit down, shut up, do what the manager says, and be grateful that they’re here at all.

Clean sweep needed: One down…

Now, I’ve been a solid fan of the Blue Jays since the start; there’s a photo out there somewhere of me at a Blue Jays game in 1977 or 1978 (Dad’s not quite sure) with Uncle Rick, four years old, wearing a Blue Jays bonnet knit for me by a grandmother or aunt.

That means that it wrenches my guts and tears at my heart to EVER say a bad word about the patron saint of Blue Jay championships. Cito, though I’ve only ever met him a handful of times, might as well be a favourite uncle.

However, if he’s still here in October, it’s (gulp) a bad move.

Sorry, Cito, but, barring a miracle, you’ll be following J.P. out the door, if for no other reason than this;


I know it; you don’t want to tell the players that they can get the manager fired any time they want. Right-o, Pollyanna.

They already KNOW that; you CANNOT force a group of entitled major-league athletes into line. This ain’t the army, and that ain’t some 18-year-old kid who can’t wait to get off the farm.

The air must be THOROUGHLY cleared…and that means removing EVERY trace of last year’s management team.

I have NO idea who the new president will be, but I know this: disaster looms if we don’t follow up the Ricciardi firing with a Gaston sendoff close on its heels.

Sorry, Cito - you’re not to blame, but you’re no longer The Man We Need.

So what do we do? Is the ship sunk?

Relax, Blue Jays fans. The club’s not ready to move to Columbus. We’re not going to swap teams with Las Vegas any time soon (even though one leather-lungs remarked, during a recent mausoleum-like game, “HEY, WAKE UP! IT SOUNDS LIKE MONTREAL IN HERE!”)

Alarmist. Defeatist. (Insert choice propaganda slogan here). We’re at least five bad years away from the fate suffered by Les Expos.

The question remains, though: what do we do now?

It’s all in-house; the solutions are already wearing Jay blue.

Here’s the first easy hire; IT’S ALREADY DONE.

Upon firing J.P. Ricciardi, which caused most Jays fans to breathe a long-overdue (by at LEAST one year) sigh of relief, the Blue Jays immediately elevated wunderkind Alex Anthopoulos to the Big Job.

You might be forgiven if you first said, “Who?” then ignored him.

Ignore at your peril. The 32-year-old Anthopoulos has a few things going for him;

The Case for AA; A ready-made GM

1) He’s Canadian. Now, normally I sneer at people like SportsDesk anchors who feel it’s necessary to always tell us that Larry Walker’s from Maple Ridge BC or sprinkle in inferiority-complex Canadian references.

However, having a Canuck GM can only help the Blue Jays; the top dog MUST understand both the economy and the fans, and Anthopoulos, as a former Expo scout, crosschecker and even a volunteer with the erstwhile Montreal club, has been on the inside for long enough to know what he’s doing.

2) He’s young. Most baseball people get nervous at the idea of a kid running the place - but I’ll just drop you two words that’ll cure THAT argument for all time; THEO…EPSTEIN. Done.

Theo arrives? Boston wins…and it ain’t a co-incidence! Theo leaves? Boston slides. Theo comes back? Voila, another championship.

New blood is SORELY needed in baseball, from the Commissioner’s office down to the way clubs treat injuries - and the GMs control most of those strings.

A fresh approach is exactly what this club needs - and, for those who are worried about Antholoulos’ age; AA has some serious backup - MLB veteran Tony LaCava.

LaCava’s presence is a lot like providing a hotshot rookie goalie with a veteran backup: someone there to mentor him, tutor him, catch the occasional mistake before it’s made, and generally teach the kid how to fly on his own.

(It’s worth nothing, though, that the ever-positive LaCava has been mentioned as a serious replacement for the monumentally failed Jim Bowden in Washington, and I think the Nats would have to be borderline retarded to not hand LaCava that job.)


J.P. Ricciardi wanted the Red Sox top job, and wore it on his sleeve. He was, at best, a lame duck for the last two years; and, truthfully, was much more of an albatros around our collective necks.

One might wonder if JP was covertly tasked to try and destroy the Jays - he certainly did his level best to quietly wreck every good thing we had going.

As mentioned above, Anthopoulos VOLUNTEERED for the Expos - that is, worked like a dog FOR FREE - just so he could be around baseball.

He likes to joke that he turned down “a real job” with an investment firm so that he could get handed the job of sorting the players’ fan mail - and he’s not joking - except about the “real job” quote, since he’s EARNED his way into the “real job” here in Toronto.

He will soon earn his way into the hearts of Blue Jays fans - if the Jays have the wit to keep him and listen to him.

OK, so who does Anthopoulos hire as his field boss?

This is another easy one, and again, he’s already here; Special Assistant to the General Manager Sal Butera.

Check out this guy’s credentials; again, he’s a former Jay, having caught for the club (1988); he’s won a World Series (with the Twins in ‘87) and he was named the “top managerial prospect in baseball” while in the Houston Astros’ organization.

Butera’s another one of those “happy” personalities; low-key when he needs to, apparently able to find the words to motivate both veteran and rookie alike.

Now, I have NO idea if anyone’s even discussed the Jays’ job with Butera; I’d say that Anthopoulos, Beeston, et al, will wait until the fallout from the “players-only” meeting with Gaston (due in the next couple of days) settles.

However, I also think it would be smart if Anthopoulos QUIETLY sidled down the hall to his Special Assistant’s office and said something along the lines of, “Hey, Sally - thought about resuming your managerial career?” even if it’s just to plant the seed.

Tying it all together - there’s hope here.

It all makes sense, if you’re able to back off and take a look at the big picture, and Jays fans have a few things to look forward to; a clean sweep, from the logo to the GM to the field boss, is really the only tonic for the mental malaise that’s infected the club for the last decade.

Even the merchandising folks started to show that they knew it was coming; the sale of “old” Jays-logo jerseys, caps, etc., was pretty much a fire sale at the end of the last homestand; the “retro” stuff was NOT on sale at ALL, and all the stylized logos, so emblematic of the Ricciardi era, were practically THROWN out the door.

Does this mean we can look forward to seeing Roy Halladay in the “old” duds? Will the Jays stop paying lip service to the 1990s champs…and get back to actually DOING things that way?

You know, fans, with a different pair ‘o guys in charge…it just might happen.

There’s hope here…for the first time in more than 10 years.

Come back. Buy the tickets. Let’s get ready to charge - we can take these guys.

Traded Away: One Fan’s All-Former manager and Starting Pitchers (Part 1)

September 7, 2009

by Mark Dewdney… I’m just going to limit myself to former Blue Jays, however, no matter how they were acquired. The only criteria is that I wish they had finished their careers in Blue Jays uniforms. Some might not be the most skilled Blue Jays ever at their positions, but sentimental favourites instead…aw, heck with it, let’s just do it!

Manager: Cito Gaston

All right, I know, I know. Cito’s “still” the manager. However, he was canned (oops, “promoted”) and then brought back, and the managers in between were entirely forgettable.

Clarence is a gentleman of the first order, always dignified, and could have been right up there with Bobby Cox in terms of length of service.

Starting Pitcher (Ace): Pat Hentgen

As tempted as I was to put Roy Halladay here, he’s not gone yet, so Cy Young winner Pat (and his mustache) get the ace slot.

Starting Pitcher (2): David Cone

Cone was the epitome of guts. Not particularly big, nor prone to throwing the ball through the barn walls, Dave nevertheless wound up with a perfect game, World Series ring and the admiration of everyone he played with.

Starting Pitcher (3): Roger Clemens

Oh, shut up. He wasn’t on ‘roids his WHOLE career.

Having Clemens here (though for only a couple of seasons) gave us a little (just a needleful) of legitimacy…and boy was it neat to watch Cy Young winners on back-to-back Jays teams!

Starting Pitcher (4): David Wells

Lord knows I can’t STAND the fat f’er, who said that he’d like to “climb into the stands [in Toronto] and start slapping,” (to which my wife coolly replied, “Come on ahead, David. We slap back”.

However, Wells was a darn good pitcher, and I’d have put up with his half-crazy act in order to WIN, dammit.

I also never lose a chance to poke Gord Ash for the WORST trade in Blue Jays history, where he traded Wells to Chicago for 3 guys who never played in the majors, including Mike Sirotka, injured when we got him, injured when he retired. Nice job, Gord!

Starting Pitcher (5): Jimmy Key

Funny how so many former Jays wind up with the Yankees…

Anyway, speaking of class, the soft-spoken lefty will always have a spot in my heart. I tried (and failed) to copy his delivery, winding up looking more like Todd Jones, and didn’t even TRY to imitate his class (just didn’t have it in me).

MLB (never mind my Jays) could use a few more like Key. Besides, someone’s got to balance out Wells.

Selig: Legacy Of a Complete Fraud

September 5, 2009

by Mark Dewdney… OK. I know we’re all quasi-tired of articles trying to dissect what’s wrong with the sport we all love.

However, there hasn’t been enough of a microscope put on the top issue, the bow on the current Pandora’s box we call Major League Baseball.

That top issue is Allan H. “Bud” Selig—the Commissioner.

The office of the Commissioner has seen some legendary figures, from Landis to Giamatti, in its history. The office has needed every inch these men could give.

After all, no sport uses the word “integrity” nearly as often as Major League Baseball, and the Commissioner is supposed to be the living example of that “integrity”.

It’s a crying shame that I have to put quotations around the word “integrity”, but I just can’t form the association—baseball, integrity, integrity, baseball—without the quotes.

The two words just do not go together any more, and while players, management and, you bet, fans, share the burden together, this whole mess ultimately has to get laid at the Commissioner’s doorstep.

A Commissioner’s title is always capitalized—Commissioner—just like the President is supposed to be. It drives me berserk when Wolf Blitzer calls Barack “Mister” Obama—it’s President Obama, you arrogant ass—whether you like the man, agree with his policies, support him or not—and regardless of which side of the aisle you vote.

However, just like Blitzer & Co., I find myself wanting to strip Selig of the title “Commissioner” and start calling him “Mister” Selig - just to make a point.

Let’s face it; (with apologies to Fay Vincent) once Bart Giamatti died, baseball’s thinly-veiled seamy underbelly burst, and all the demons that human nature could create ran rampant.

Owners undercut Vincent until he was a lame duck, without even a feather to wave in surrender, and put their own guy in place, claiming that Vincent was “too soft” on the players.

Meanwhile, Bud “The Dolt” Selig (aided and abetted by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, amid others) was busy colluding against MLB’s free agents. Idiot Bud couldn’t even do that right. He, Reinsdorf and the others got caught with their hands in their own cookie jars, and were forced to repay $280 million—that’s two hundred and eighty million dollars—in penalties to the players.

The funny thing was that even MLB owners didn’t want to give Selig the job full-time—they tagged him “interim” (which gave Mr. Selig a chance to wring his hands and sob that he would just keep the job until someone better could be found).

Can you blame them? The Dolt cost them $280 million—and thoroughly poisoned the well. If you were part of MLB’s Players’ Union, would you ever trust the guy?

That was back in 1992.

Whoops. So much for “interim”.

When it comes to Selig, it’s a toss-up as to whose lip curls more; Selig’s (his natural expression combines stooge-ish moron with a solid helping of chronic colonically irritation) or mine (whenever discussing King Bud, I can’t help it, up goes the lip).

Baseball wants respect, yet it “elects” Shemp to be its leader. He’s not even good enough to be Curly, Larry or Moe, and he certainly doesn’t act like a Commissioner, does he?

It’s a good thing he’s not running for election, because, outside of MLB’s “we want a puppet” boardroom, he’s unelectable.

He’s a former owner. MLB should pass a rule requiring the Commissioner to be free of ownership for life —never has been, is not, or ever will be an owner of a baseball team—PERIOD.

He’s decidedly the worst public speaker possible, stumbling, slurring, and incapable of holding a news conference (or testifying before Congress) without constant prompting and constant consultation—”Eh? What’s that? What should I say now?”

(Well, check the photo above. Think a President not named W is ever going to be caught in that position?)

Selig is the Ron Paul of the baseball world; a kook, filled with stupid ideas that he thinks are radical, full to the hilt with conflict of interest and a bumbler to boot; at least Paul managed to get Bruno to make fun of him.

Bud’s just not worth the time, and that’s the spear at the tip of the problem.

How the HELL can we ever get our sport to be taken seriously with the Head Of The Ignoramuses purporting to lead us?

Selig is just “not Presidential”, a phrase used to condemn candidates from Paul to Rudy Giuliani. What’s that mean? It means that nobody believes them when they talk.

You can’t believe a guy who boasts the resume that Selig does. The man’s history, everything he’s ever done, runs one hundred and eighty degrees to the concept we fans yell about, and value, the most - integrity.

With him “at the helm” (and who are we kidding? we know that the owners pull Selig’s collective strings), Baseball—capital “B”—cannot cure what ails it.

Everything from the All-Star Game tie (in Milwaukee, no less) to the current “steroid leak” (more like a coming flood) can not only be laid at Selig’s door, but directly attributed to the fact that, forced to speak on his own, he’s a bungler at best—and part of an ongoing criminal enterprise at worst, colluding to suppress salaries and keep the small-market teams poor.

It’s not conjecture.

It’s been proven—$280 million worth.

The best thing Mister Selig could do for his “legacy” now is to step down. Unfortunately, either he’s too blind to see that history will view him as the Worst Commissioner Ever, or he’s being led down the garden path by a group of owners snickering at him behind his back, and letting him take the fall for their sins.

I preach, continually, as loud as I can and from the very top of my mountain, that fans are responsible for the game.

Continuing in that vein, we need an organized and documented MLB fans’ union. Membership would be one dollar per year, which would yield enough funding to allow referenda on any and all issues…

…and I bet that one of the first shots fired would be right across the bow of the Office Of The Commissioner Of Baseball.

Rudy G, anyone?

At least he’s believable.