What if the Blue Jays, after firing Charlie Montoyo as manager in 2022, hired Bruce Bochy instead of John Schneider?
What might have happened then for the Jays?
President Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins have made two managerial hires since inheriting John Gibbons. Neither has been impressive. The first was Montoyo. The second was Schneider. Both men apparently learning on the job.
Bochy isn’t learning on the job.
He’s the professor doing the teaching on site. He’s managing in the World Series for the fifth time in the past 26 years, with his third different team. In just one year, he calmly guided the often erratic Texas Rangers from a 68-win season to the World Series, with just one more regular-season victory than the Jays.
What would have happened in last year’s Jays-Mariners wild-card round, with Bochy managing and Schneider not misdirecting the Jays? What might have happened this year, with Bochy managing, even with the Jays not hitting much, against the Minnesota Twins, who scored only five runs in two wild-card wins?
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It takes a certain kind of confidence to hire a Bochy, or to a hire a Dusty Baker — the way Washington and Houston did — and allow a manager to manage and watch what the best can do in the biggest moments. Bochy calms the game for the Rangers. The players will tell you he slows the game down. You don’t lose because he took a pitcher out too soon or left him in too long.
Schneider has had two short, unimpressive playoff runs in just over one season managing the Jays. Maybe, one day, he’ll be a fine big-league manager. Bochy wasn’t working when the Jays appointed Schneider. And he wasn’t working when they re-upped him at the end of last season. The goal stated here is for the Jays to win, or at least play, in the World Series.
The choice of managers made by Shapiro and Atkins doesn’t correlate to their stated goals. They want a manager they can control. You couldn’t control Bruce Bochy, winner of three World Series in San Francisco. Winners have their own way of doing things.
THIS AND THAT
What do Cito Gaston, Gibbons, Montoyo, Carlos Tosca, Buck Martinez, Jim Fregosi and Tim Johnson have in common, other than the obvious? After being fired as Blue Jays manager, they never managed another team in the majors … The story of Adolis Garcia reminds me of Edwin Encarnacion’s early days with the Blue Jays. Garcia escaped Cuba and signed in St. Louis. In 2019, the Cards designated Garcia for assignment. Three days later, Texas signed him, but not for long. In February 2021, the Rangers DFA’d Garcia. Two months later, they signed him back. He’s now hit six home runs, including the Game 1 winner, in his past five playoff games. Anyone in baseball could have had him, twice, for nothing … The trade that sent Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to Arizona for Daulton Varsho was a terrible deal if it was just one-for-one, Moreno for Varsho. That’s not a second guess. And don’t get caught up in whether Arizona wins the World Series or not to assess the deal. They’re in the World Series and Moreno, in particular, has been an enormous contributor. It was an illogical deal the day it was made and it’s just as illogical now … How do you get to the World Series? When the Jays won in 1993, Paul Molitor had 20 hits in 12 playoff games and Roberto Alomar had 19 … When they were teenagers, Joseph Woll and Jake Oettinger were the goalies on the Team USA under-17 and -18 development teams. Over two seasons, Oettinger started 45 games. Woll 44. The coaches, including current Marlies boss John Gruden, couldn’t decide which was better. Then Oettinger went to Boston University for three seasons and Woll went across town to Boston College. Oettinger proceeded to become special with the Dallas Stars. And Woll appears to be on his way — albeit it is early — to being special with the Leafs. If he winds up anything like his pal Oettinger, the Leafs will be thrilled.
HEAR AND THERE
There is only one way for professional sports to patrol legal gambling across their many leagues — and that is to have access to have every player’s cellphone, email, and all other forms of communication. In other words, impossible. Gambling talk with players is happening all the time privately. They may not be placing bets, as Shane Pinto apparently wasn’t, but it doesn’t mean there is a lack of involvement. Pinto gets too heavy a penalty now, a 41-game suspension. But there’s a long line of players in North American sport who have probably done worse than him and have not been caught … Amazing how many people reported Pinto was the first NHL player to be suspended for gambling. Not so. In 1946, Babe Pratt was briefly suspended for betting on NHL games. Two years later, Boston players Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor were suspended for life by Clarence Campbell for apparently betting on games. Those suspensions were lifted in 1970. Interestingly, there is a book just released called Gallinger, A Life Suspended by historian Fred Addis. Gallinger, who grew up playing with and against Leafs’ legend Ted Kennedy, joined the Bruins at the age of 18. His career ended amidst controversy when he was 22. Pinto, by the way, is 22 years old … Of the Core Four with the Maple Leafs, William Nylander has always been the third or fourth wheel. Until this season. It is very early, but Nylander has been the Leafs’ best player through seven games. Is that because it’s a contract year or is that because he’s found a level never seen before? Whatever it is, enjoy the show, as long as it lasts … The grand contradiction of the Pinto suspension: Last season he wore a Bet99 decal on his Ottawa Senators helmet. You can promote gambling in the NHL, you just can’t do it.
SCENE AND HEARD
Does the quarterback make the coach or does the coach make the quarterback? Bill Belichick’s record with Tom Brady playing QB with the Patriots was 219 wins, 64 losses. That’s .773 football. His record all-time in Cleveland and New England without Brady starting is 81-93. Belichick is now 28 wins behind all-time coaching leader, Don Shula. Active coaches behind Belichick on the all-time list are Andy Reid at 253, followed by Mike Tomlin at 167 … Belichick is now on an Ovechkin chase of his own. He’ll probably need four more seasons to pass Shula. Wally Buono has the most wins in CFL history at 282 … Not nearly enough noise has been made for the season Canadian running back Brady Oliveira has had with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He’s rushed for 1,524 yards and caught passes for another 482 and scored 13 touchdowns. He should be up for Most Outstanding Player against the Argos’ Chad Kelly and he should run away with top Canadian player, even if Mathieu Betts had an incredible season with the B.C. Lions … Outside of Alberta, where the Flames and Oilers are off to dreadful starts and Connor McDavid is hurt, the Heritage Classic outdoor game really doesn’t matter, does it? … One uncomfortable piece of business in Calgary: This terrible Flames team is primarily the one Leafs GM Brad Treliving left behind … As of Saturday night, Nazem Kadri, Matthew Tkachuk and Evgeny Kuznetsov were tied for last in NHL goal-scoring, with zero … The surprising one-goal scorers include snipers such as Jake Guentzel, Jason Robertson, Evander Kane, Alex Tuch, Mat Barzal, Nik Ehlers and Mark Stone … Fraser Minten has a great training camp with the Maple Leafs, but he didn’t look like an NHL player once the season began. Sending him to junior for more seasoning was the right move by the Leafs.
AND ANOTHER THING
Nick Nurse didn’t leave the Raptors under the best of circumstances, but it can never be forgotten what the then-little-known coach accomplished in his early seasons with the team, especially with the championship run of 2019. That may never be equalled and could one day be looked upon the same way Gaston’s Blue Jays championships are regarded … Nurse was worth a standing ovation or two on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena … There are a record 26 Canadians in the NBA to start the season, but no one quite like Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder opened the season with two wins on the road, with SGA scoring 34 and 31 points in those victories … And there are 27 Canadians playing in the National Football League. What a diverse athletic country we have become … An odd start for this rather odd Raptors team. So far, they’ve won a game they probably should have lost and lost a game they probably should have won … Under the Department of Waste of Talent: Karl-Anthony Towns. So big and so athletic and so skilled with so little understanding of how to play … After the buildup, it was impossible for Victor Wembanyama to meet expectations on his first night in the NBA. But in his second game, you had more understanding of how and why he will so special … Not the kind of beginning Gradey Dick would want for his NBA career. Two games, very little playing time, no points scored. He is what they call a work in progress …This is DeMar DeRozan’s 15th season in the NBA. Missed free throws aside, he looks as elusive as ever with the basketball … Happy birthday to Denis Potvin (70), Juan Guzman (57), Mike Gartner (64), Kevin Dineen (60), Eric Staal (39), Al Leiter (58), Adam (Edge) Copeland (50), Gary Nylund (60), Jack Eichel (27), Julia Roberts (56), Gary Cowan (85) and Terrell Davis (51) … And hey, whatever became of Bucky Dent?
NHL HAD SOMETHING SPECIAL IN DRAFT. NOW IT’S GONE
Leave it to the NHL and its killjoy voting general managers for ruining the grand tradition of celebration that has been the NHL draft.
The NHL draft has been hockey’s great convention for the past several decades. Everyone in the game shows up — owners, presidents, the general managers, the scouts, the coaches, those looking for jobs — in one city for one special weekend. More than 500 hotel rooms are booked over three nights. More than 1,200 restaurant meals are served in the host city over a few days. It’s big business to host an NHL draft.
Just not anymore.
For reasons that can’t be explained or justified, the NHL has decided member teams will now do their drafting from their home offices starting this June. They won’t be on the arena floor. Television cameras won’t capture the general manager walking to another table to talk trade with another general manager. With a hominess the other drafts did not share, the NHL draft offered far better theatre than its counterparts.
The lobby of the main hotel on draft weekend has always been a scene of its own. It’s hockey people and hockey conversation everywhere, with young hopefuls in brand new suits taking it all in. I once wrote a column from Chicago — a day in the life of the lobby — and it captured a scene of GMs and scouts and parents and agents and fans and league executives all in the same place at the same time.
They will lose all of that now — its own ambience, its own feel. And the lifeblood of any sport — the scouts who spend all year looking for talent and get treated once a year as though they are big shots — won’t get that weekend anymore. The reporters won’t get it. The fans won’t get it. The young men being drafted won’t get the same kind of atmosphere.
Just another piece of hockey tradition disappearing for really no reason at all.