Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Black and Blue Jays

Just what Toronto needed: Another sideshow.

With the Blue Jays imploding the past few weeks, things really blew up last night, as manager John Gibbons and pitcher Ted Lilly fought in the dugout in the third inning of an ugly 12-10 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

Let's go to Toronto Star veteran Chris Young, who has some solid thoughts, as always:
That must've been some choice epithet for Lilly to throw at Gibbons -- certainly the hardest stuff he's tossed all season, the way Gibbons dove down the tunnel after him. Most appropriate image to come out of it was Roy Halladay, almost alone in the emptied dugout. There's your Toronto pitching staff for you this season: Halladay and B.J. Ryan and four days of lyin'.

But back to Gibbons. What was most pathetic about this display was his postgame mea culpa: it's standard stuff in pro sports to do the "we've handled it, we're moving on" line of crap, to pretend that these things happen and there's no problem ... But to defend this as something that comes out of "athletic competition"? How about standing up and saying something about being responsible for your actions?
The season was essentially over already, and with last night's rumble in the dugout, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Gibbons's time with the Jays is as well. How on earth can you defend two physical confrontations with players in a month (recall the Shea Hillenbrand fiasco)? And does the manager expect general manager J.P. Ricciardi to clean up his mess, yet again?

The main problem with Gibbons's trademark abrasive style is that the Jays are quickly gaining a reputation throughout the league as a team in turmoil — which isn't exactly the branding that will attract free agents in the off-season. On a team desperately in search of a few more solid arms, the Jays manager has essentially alienated one of his decent options and scared off any possible newcomers once this year's over.

Which is why, as I said, it won't be any great shocker if Gibbons gets a pink slip. Lilly's probably on his way out as well, if only to help the team try to save face as they close out another disappointing year.

For the baseball fans in this city, yesterday's fracas is just another kick to the groin from a season which began with so much potential. Sports radio is currently running wild with the story, this being the Dog Days of August, and, for the moment, the Jays are the city's most dysfunctional pro-sports franchise.

Come to think of it, with the Leafs looking ripe for another playoff miss, it could be the NBA's Raptors, with new general manager Bryan Colangelo at the helm, that climb to the head of the pack. (No small feat given this club was 27-55 last season.)

What a difference a year makes.

Financially, this has implications for the team, as Toronto's fickle baseball fans are going to look at a sideshow like this and say 'Why bother?' Why bother going down to Rogers Centre, especially if you're looking for a family environment, when the team's manager is going to spout expletives and skirmish with players?

Even with $9-tickets to sit in the 'Dome's upper bowl and a bulked-up payroll, the Jays are 21st in the league in attendance this season and could fall even further next time around.

Blame the sideshow.


At 3:27 p.m., August 22, 2006, Blogger sager said...

All true, James, all true.

Are you sure this would really have any impact on ticket sales, though?

Then again, in Toronto, it seems a lot of people (present company accepted, of course) always find an excuse not to support the Jays, since it's easier to commit to nothing than risk disappointment. Oh, but if the Leafs win a first-round playoff game, start the parade.

But this too shall pass.

At 3:51 p.m., August 22, 2006, Anonymous pete said...

I'm guessing there was more to it, but my eagle-like viewing of SportsCentre this morning definitively showed that Lilly's last words as he left the mound were "f-ing a-hole"

There has to be more to it than that.

At 8:31 p.m., August 22, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

The display last night was pathetic, no question.

But why are you putting your nose in the air and suggesting the Jays are a "sideshow"? No offense, but did you think before you wrote that?

Go to any Leaf game, any night, and not only are the fights tolerated, they are encouraged. The last Senator-Leafs game featured Chris Neil desperately chasing Tie Domi up and down the ice in the hopes of getting into a fight.

And don't let that CBC mike get too close, because Junior is going to get an earful.

All wholesome family entertainment, I'm sure...

If the Jays' attendance goes into the crapper next season, it will have nothing to do with the antics of John Gibbons.


At 8:38 p.m., August 22, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I trust you can tell the difference between two hockey players fighting and a baseball manager getting into a physical altercation with his own players. I'm not saying "that's not family entertainment" — I'm saying that's how the fickle fans of the Jays will see it. I can't see this city embracing garbage like this.

At 9:21 p.m., August 22, 2006, Blogger Wardo said...

I didn't say Jay fans would embrace their manager acting like a buffoon - I said that if attendance goes into the sewer, it will have nothing to do with what Gibbons did on the field.

And I'll bet any amount of money that a survey of fans would prove it. Are there decisive figures revealing attendance drops in any major league city because the manager decided to push around a mouthy pitcher? What happened wherever Lou Piniella managed, for instance? How about a digusting player - did Atlanta stop selling out with John Rocker on the roster? If you can find the numbers to back all this up, then I'll gladly see it your way.

Fans will stay away if the product stinks, and that's always the only reason. That, and labour stoppages cancelling the World Series. You know, either-or.

Don't get me wrong though. The entire episode was a joke. But this kind of incident doesn't have that kind of staying power, and history proves it.


At 7:02 a.m., August 23, 2006, Blogger alyosha mcbain said...

Gibbons blew this season for the Blue Jays much earlier than August...his overuse of the bullpen was obvious by the end of May, and he has always handled pitchers poorly as the Jays' manager. Plus his tough-guy schtick is a total embarrassment. Picking on Ted Lilly is like starting a fight with Radek Dvorak.

Hillebrand would've kicked his butt.


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