Jays play the name game

October 3, 2010

The ground is shifting under Alex Anthopoulos's feet even as the Blue Jays general manager prepares to get past the due-diligence stage in his search for manager Cito Gaston's replacement.

A list of candidates is impractical at this point, because it would include anybody and everybody who has done some combination of managing or coaching or playing in the major leagues. There will be painfully obvious choices - and in the case of Eric Wedge I mean painfully obvious - and more enlightened yet hard-to-warm-up-to options such as Tim Wallach. Otherwise, pick a bench coach - any bench coach, with names such as the Chicago White Sox' Joey Cora among the front-runners.

The Blue Jays are not the only team looking for a manager. So, too, are the New York Mets, Florida Marlins, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs. The St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates and maybe even the New York Yankees could have openings. Forget former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez joining the Blue Jays: he's Bobby Cox's neighbour and has already been fitted for the Atlanta Braves job. Forget Bobby Valentine; like Buck Showalter he wants to be de facto GM as well as manager.

Initial signs are good because Anthopoulos has already indicated he will avoid a pitfall common to first-year GMs: trying to be too cute by half. He has shelved a plan that would have made each of his short-list candidates available to the media after their interview - in effect, counting that as part of the process. That would be impractical if one candidate is interviewing for multiple jobs, which suggests Anthopoulos isn't going to be afraid to aim high and maybe even spend high to get the right guy. There will be no Carlos Tosca here any more.

LINE CHANGES: Brian Campbell's absence from the Chicago Blackhawks lineup for a minimum of a month with a right knee sprain means that 19-year-old Nick Leddy could be with the team Thursday night when it opens defence of the Stanley Cup against the Colorado Avalanche. Leddy left the University of Minnesota this summer after his freshmen year to sign with the Blackhawks, and for a team with salary-cap issues his ability to hit the ground running could be telling. ... Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria will be good to go in Wednesday's first game of the American League Division Series after sitting out the weekend with a strained quadriceps muscle. ... The most fascinating story of the baseball off-season? Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals now has 10-and-5 status - 10 years service time, five consecutive with the same team - which means full no-trade power in addition to being one year away from free agency. He'll get more than Ryan Howard's $25-million (all currency U.S.) average annual value; the question is, will be get more than Alex Rodriguez's $27.5-million average annual value? ... Is there anything sillier than the Calgary Flames' over-reaction to the suggestion by TSN's Michael Peca that Jay Bouwmeester is soft? Better to follow the tack of Flames defenceman Cory Sarich, who told the Calgary Herald that Peca's suggestion that Wade Redden take a pay cut to return was a little rich coming from a guy who sat out an entire season in a contract impasse. At any rate, nothing's going to change this season: Canadian players will always get a freer pass up here than U.S. or European players.

A look at how baseball's postseason awards should shape up:


Robinson Cano, Yankees - Started all but four games and made three errors with 200 hits; the next great home-grown Yankee.


CC Sabathia, Yankees - Has the numbers and the context: in 11 starts since June 15 with the Yankees either one game up or one game down, he went 10-0.


Austin Jackson, Tigers - The fourth rookie since 1901 to score 100 runs with 180 hits, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 25 stolen bases.


Ron Gardenhire, Twins - Lost a closer and MVP-candidate first baseman and ran away with a division that used to go down to the wire.


Joey Votto, Reds - C'mon.


Roy Halladay, Phillies - Fourteen of Halladay's 21 wins came within the NL East, the most since Greg Maddux's 14 in 1992.


Jason Heyward, Braves - Nice finishing kick: a .333 average in his final 40 games and the fourth-best on-base percentage in the majors since Aug 25.


Bud Black, Padres - His team had no business being in anything but bankruptcy. His effective bullpen management was the key.

(XXX)Jim Barker sent a deft yet clear message to CFL officials ahead of next weekend's second half of home-and-home games against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Toronto Argonauts head coach noted a holding penalty on Cedric Gagné-Marcoux that negated a 23-yard pass completion to Jeremaine Copeland in the third quarter of Saturday's 27-16 loss to the Roughriders. With the Roughriders leading 24-16, the 33-yard swing can be rightly considered a turning point. It was an odd call: the Roughriders and Argonauts were the two least-penalized teams in the CFL coming into the game and until that point there had only been six penalties called - none of them for holding. In fact, Gagné-Marcoux was the only player called for holding - absurd, considering there is holding on the offensive line on every play in every football game. "We had a first down inside the 40 and the holding penalty ... that's the way it goes in this league," Barker said.


"We'll focus on some little nuances, little bad habits that some guys have. A couple of good practices with fresh legs and we can fix a few things I don't like about our game. The defence ... how they take people out along the boards. They have their sticks around people's heads and not stick on puck. Little things I thought we could change by talking about or watching video we have to hammer it home in practice." - Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson

Ahead of Thursday's season-opener against the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach is acutely aware that his supposedly deep defensive corps had a mediocre preseason.

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