SIMMONS SAYS: Sweet memories of Blue Jays’ World Series teams

Welcoming back the Blue Jays’ World Series teams of 1992 and 1993 is both a pleasure and a tease.

A giant contrast between what was with the Jays and what is.

The pleasure comes from just being around Roberto Alomar and John Olerud and Joe Carter and Tom Henke and Duane Ward and Devon White, hearing the stories once again of the only Toronto big league championship of the past half century.

The tease comes from what we see now on the field and how almost none of it compares in any way to those clubs managed by Cito Gaston and put together by Pat Gillick and Paul Beeston.

Could any current Blue Jay player have started for those World Series teams?

Comparing eras, a healthy Josh Donaldson could have played at third base ahead of Kelly Gruber or Ed Sprague. A productive Russell Martin might have played ahead of Pat Borders.

Other than that, no one.

Sweet swinging Olerud, with a career OPS of .863 and a career OBP of .398 was at first base. Alomar, the Hall of Famer, was at second. The incomparable Tony Fernandez was at shortstop in 1993. The elegant White played centre field like an artist, like no one else. Carter, with 1,445 career RBIs and the famous home run, was in right field. Rickey Henderson was in left field one year.

The designated hitters were both Hall of Famers — Dave Winfield in ‘92, Paul Molitor in ‘93. The remarkable Molitor, at age 37, hit .500 in the World Series with an OPS of 1.571.

Now we watch Aledmys Diaz instead of Fernandez; Kendry Morales instead of Molitor; Teoscar Hernandez instead of Henderson. Now Ken Giles tries to close, not Henke or Ward.

As times moves on, those Blue Jays were more than special over two championship seasons and an appreciation grows for all they accomplished here.

THIS AND THAT

Edward Rogers tweeted this on Friday: “Very confident with the leadership and vision for the future of the Toronto Blue Jays under Mark Shapiro.” I’m glad he is. Not sure why Rogers felt the need to do this when there is so much focus on John Gibbons’ future and almost none on Shapiro. Not sure where his confidence comes from, frankly. And wonder if he might have been the voice who leaked that Gibbons won’t last this homestand … My bet, either Shapiro or Rogers whispered something to Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair about Gibbons getting fired this week. Where else would it have come from with any validity or credibility? … Russell Martin on the possible firing of Gibbons: “That would be stupid.” … It’s rare to hear a manager say for publication that he isn’t sure if he wants to be back next season, but in some rare circumstances it has happened. Terry Collins said the same thing and the Mets brought him back years ago. But it’s highly unusual to hear any manager speak so openly about his time and his future … Gibbons has been clear about one thing: He’s not ready for retirement. He wants to remain in baseball, even if that baseball isn’t with the Blue Jays. He still wants to manage, if that’s possible, and if not a bench coach job or a roving instructor’s job interests him … What more does Vladimir Guerrero have to do? He’s hitting .433 in Buffalo. He was hitting over .400 in New Hampshire. That’s unprecedented. I favour giving him a seven-week introduction to the big leagues now over worrying about service time in 2025. And I wonder, if the Atlanta Braves miss the playoffs by a game or two, will Alex Anthopoulos be kicking himself for playing the service time card with Ronald Acuna?

HEAR AND THERE

What we don’t know about Kyle Dubas yet and won’t know for a while: What kind of trader will he be? Bold? Conservative? He was a significant voice in the Phil Kessel deal that has worked out nicely for the Leafs. But Lou Lamoriello made the largest move off that trade, taking one of the first-round picks the Leafs had and packaging it to Anaheim in exchange for Frederik Andersen … Cliff Fletcher has one of the great trading histories in hockey — good and bad. He traded away Brett Hull, Wendel Clark and Alex Steen while in Calgary and Toronto. But he acquired Hall of Famers Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin, Joey Mullen, Grant Fuhr, Dave Andreychuk, Larry Murphy among others in his career. No one will match that today in a salary-capped NHL, although Fletcher’s old assistant, David Poile, has made monster deals for Rod Langway, P.K. Subban, Ryan Johansen and two Forsberg’s, Peter and Filip, while on the job … If controlled zone entries are such an important statistic in hockey, how come the NHL leaders who dominated last season — Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane — all missed the playoffs? … So you’re Mike Babcock, and you’ve got Auston Matthews and John Tavares on your team. And both want first power play time. Do you play them together with the man advantage or do you play them apart? … Always look forward to getting Digger Turnbull’s Sports Forecaster in the mail. It’s a pre-season hockey guide that predicts point numbers for all NHL players. It has Matthews with 44 goals and 84 points this season, four points ahead of Tavares. The Forecaster has Mitch Marner leading the Leafs with 85 points. The big surprise here is Turnbull has rookie Andreas Johnsson with 25 goals and 36 assists, which I think is way too high.

SCENE AND HEARD

Stan Mikita was a pleasure to watch, an honour to know, and a giant without any kind of giant features other than the curve on his stick. His NHL career ended in 1980, the year I started covering hockey. But I saw so much of it as a fan. The best centres in hockey history start with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux and progress to Sidney Crosby and Jean Beliveau. Mikita, who passed away at the age of 78, is probably next on that list. A fitting place for the Blackhawks all-timer … The Blue Jays have used 29 different pitchers this season, 33 last season. In their two World Series seasons, they used 16 and 17 pitchers, 33 over two years  … It is entirely possible there will be three 100-win teams in the American League — Boston, Houston and New York — and the last time that happened was never … Lookalikes: Doug Ford and Brock Lesnar … If I covered Queen’s Park, I would turn the cameras on the idiots who clap during Premier Ford’s press conferences and one by one identify each of the moronic trolls … Does King Felix have to give back his nickname now that he’s been banished to the bullpen in Seattle? The Mariners have one year left on his contract and $27 million still to pay on the one-time superstar pitcher after this season … If you didn’t hear the interview with WWE’s Kane on TSN Radio this week, go online and find it. It was a whole lot of fun from the former dentist … Many are still crediting Ben Cherington with some of the success of this year’s Red Sox team. And word around is the Blue Jays exec may be heading to the Mets as GM. Makes you wonder why the Jays don’t find a way to keep him … The discrepancy between East and West in the CFL. The East teams are nine games under .500. The West teams combined are nine games over .500 … Congrats to Tavares and Adam Feldman, the big weddings of last Saturday night. I was invited to one of them … Happy birthday to Pete Sampras (47), Hayley Wickenheiser (40), Cindy Klassen (39), Rafael Araujo (38), Marc Bergevin (53), Ken Linseman (60), Riddick Bowe (51) and Hulk Hogan (65) … And, hey, whatever became of Manny Lee?

JUNIOR TEAM LURES HUNTER BACK

When Kyle Dubas was named general manager of the Maple Leafs, I asked him if this was his dream job. He surprisingly answered that it wasn’t.

His dream job was being hired at age 25 to be GM of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, his hometown junior team, the team his grandfather coached and his father interned with. The Leafs are the biggest job: the dream was getting the first big job.

I started thinking about that Friday when it was announced Mark Hunter would be returning to the London Knights as general manager, where he made his reputation in junior hockey and happens to co-own that goldmine of a junior franchise with his brother, Dale.

He had opportunities to work elsewhere in the NHL after choosing to leave the Maple Leafs after the appointment of Dubas. He listened to job possibilities in Detroit, Montreal, and with the Islanders and probably more teams than that. But at this stage of life and his hockey life, he wants to run his own show.

He wanted to be GM in Toronto and he still has thoughts of being an NHL GM but he wants the terms and the team and situation to meet his liking. He didn’t have to jump at the first offer to come his way because as the owner of the Knights, he had the option to return.

There have been four GM changes in the NHL since the season ended and if there are four again next summer, expect Hunter to be a prominent candidate once again. But only if he chooses to be.

KAWHI LEONARD STILL MIA

This is Day 24 since the big deal was made and Kawhi Leonard remains in the NBA’s odd version of the witness protection program.

He is nowhere to be found. He posed for a photograph with team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster and hasn’t really been seen since in public. He released a statement the other day in San Antonio, no mention of Toronto, no mention of the Raptors in it, just a thanks and so long to the Spurs.

Quite likely the statement was crafted by someone not named Kawhi Leonard.

So far, no press conference in Toronto, no media availability, no club arranged one-on-one interviews with their in-house people, no printed statement to hand out. Nothing. I even checked my milk carton this morning: His face wasn’t on it.

And I admit, this is new and this is strange and frankly I can’t recall a situation or story anything like this one before. Sports is not a complicated place. A player changes teams. A player goes to his new city, tries on his new jersey, poses for the cameras.

Just not now. Not this time.

From now until we hear from Leonard, and not with some spin-doctor statement, assuming we hear from him, we can’t possibly understand what this trade means to him, whether he cares to play here, what he thinks at all about the future. Instead, we just guess and wait for the season of wondering to begin.

BULLPEN PLAYED KEY ROLE FOR JAYS

Lost in the all-time great Blue Jays moments and home runs — the Roberto Alomar homer against Oakland, the Ed Sprague pinch-hit homer against Atlanta, the Joe Carter series winner in 1993, the Jose Bautista bat flip — was an outstanding bullpen performance in the 1992 World Series that has rarely been matched in baseball history.

Cito Gaston had a remarkable array of bullpen choices in his first World Series and he and the Blue Jays certainly took great advantage of that.

The bullpen in that series pitched 17 2/3 innings for the Jays, ending with Mike Timlin on the mound in Game 6, and combined the seven pitchers gave up just one earned run in the Series. Tom Henke closed most games and Duane Ward was his set-up man. But the bullpen included starters such as David Wells, who pitched 4.1 innings, Todd Stottlemyre, who pitched 3.2 innings, and for one game and just over one inning, Jimmy Key.

Timlin wound up as winning pitcher in two of the four Jays wins against Atlanta and seven different relievers, including the sidewinder, Mark Eichhorn, were used by Gaston.

One year later, with Henke gone to Texas, Wells in Detroit, Key pitching for the Yankees and Stottlemyre in the starting rotation, the Jays revamped bullpen relinquished 13 earned runs in a high scoring series with the Philadelphia Phillies. It was amazing they could even win that series with that pen but it made the ‘92 bullpen performance seem all the more amazing.

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies