The Baltimore Orioles aren’t the first team to ask for Jeff Hoffman this winter, folks with the Toronto Blue Jays will tell you.
Despite the fact he won’t be ready to pitch in games until May — and despite the fact that as a 2014 draftee, he couldn’t join his new team until after this June’s draft — the Atlanta Braves asked the Blue Jays if they would make Hoffman the focal point of a deal for outfielder Justin Upton, who is a year away from free agency. Hoffman would have been a player to be named later. The answer was an emphatic “no.”
Hoffman went ninth overall in the June draft despite undergoing Tommy John surgery a month before the proceedings, and the Blue Jays thought enough of the young pitcher to give him a $3.08-million signing bonus.
Hoffman’s name has been out there as the compensation the Orioles were seeking to spring Dan Duquette out of his four-year contract and allow him to become the Blue Jays next president and CEO.
In the meantime, according to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, Hoffman had through Sunday thrown three bullpens already (fastballs only) and was impressive.
"He should be in games in April, getting stretched out to start, and he should be activated to be with a team in early May," Anthopoulos said. "He has looked great."
A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
It’s a known fact that an angel gets it wings any time something harms the IOC, which is why the NHL’s decision to move forward with a World Cup makes the world a better place.
Truth is, the IOC’s status as keeper of the game’s jewel international event was in jeopardy the second that Donald Fehr became executive director of the NHL Players Association. God bless the patriotism of NHL players, but they and ownership have spent years squandering the opportunity to cash in on international hockey while lining the pockets of the IOC (think FIFA, but with lesser morals.) This is a big hammer, and here’s hoping they swing away.
Fehr helped institute the World Baseball Classic and, as is the case with the new World Cup of Hockey, it was a formal business partnership with ownership. The WBC is OK … but the commitment of major league players has been tepid. The World Cup of Hockey promises to be a much better event -- and my guess right now is that we have just seen the beginning of the end of full-scale NHL involvement.
Going further, this event will help smooth over future labour negotiations between the NHLPA and ownership -- the WBC has been a boon to player/owner relations in Major League Baseball.
It’s also a reminder to those in the game about how wrong they were regarding Fehr’s intentions and abilities. Far from being the devil, Fehr is one of the best things to happen to the NHL. Kudos to Gary Bettman for figuring it out.
WHAT I LEARNED
The things you learn hosting a sports talk show:
"(Rob Manfred) will continue to have Bud (Selig) as a sounding board, as an advisor, as someone with experience, but at the end of the day the industry will do what Rob directs us to do, not what Commissioner Selig directs us to do. And that’s OK, because it’s a new day and Rob isn’t going to try to be Bud. His (Selig’s) total M.O. can’t be emulated, and if Rob tries to do it he will fail."
-- Miami Marlins president David Samson discusses how new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred will put his imprimatur on the game and office with his predecessor, Bud Selig, still holding the title of commissioner emeritus.
"People are the dumbest they can be when they’re actually on a roster, but as soon as they’re off a roster they are so opinionated and so smart about any topic, that it’s pretty ironic."
-- Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter, discusses the lambasting Tom Brady took from former players turned commentators after his “Deflate-gate” news conference.
"I don’t think anything changes. If you did everything backwards, you would find things changed. I never came out of a bullpen until 2.5 months of last season … but I’m in good enough shape to do it."
-- Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez said he will use the same pre-spring training and between outings routine he’s always used even if he finds out that plans to have him start have been shelved in favor of making him a closer.
QUIBBLES AND BITS
(*) That was more like it: the starting five of the Toronto Raptors combined for 86 points in Sunday’s 114-110 win over the Detroit Pistons, and it was the first time since Jan. 12 – a span of six games -- in which Toronto’s five starters all managed double digits. The Raptors had at least one starter contribute three or less points in their previous six games and were averaging 57.4 points from their starting lineup in 11 January games, compared to a 70.4 average in November.
(*) Jose Bautista could have told Kyle Lowry not to worry, that playing in Toronto doesn’t preclude an athlete from being voted on to an all-star team, unless you play for the Maple Leafs. Bautista, the Blue Jays right fielder, has been voted on to the American League All-Star team by fans in each of the last five years. In fact, his vote total of 5,859,012 last season was the most of any player -- the second time Bautista has led all players in fan balloting.
Look: fan balloting is flawed, but it’s also a measure of engagement. And while both the Blue Jays and Raptors face one hurdle in luring free agents -- geography -- the fact that two guys who have resurrected their careers in this market and this country can be voted into an all-star game ought to give everyone hope.
(*) In an unsolicited observation, incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN in an interview Sunday morning that he is open to the idea of restricting or an out-right ban on defensive shifts as a means of increasing offence in a game that many executives rightly believe has become tilted towards defence and pitching. Almost makes you long for the days of steroids at times.
(*) How bad are the New York Knicks? So bad that they have now had their seventh ESPN/ABC appearance of the season taken off the schedule. In a decision the network said was made before Kobe Bryant’s season-ending shoulder injury, the New York Post reported the Knicks game on Super Bowl Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers will be replaced by a celebrity bowling event, hosted by NBA star Chris Paul.
THE END GAME
I hate to tell you this, but the whole Paul Beeston/Dan Duquette exit waltz is not over yet. Duquette still wants out of Baltimore and that’s going to create some uncomfortable moments -- like, oh, Saturday when Duquette makes an appearance at the Orioles Fan Fest.
Blue Jays ownership still wants to have a new president and CEO lined up before the end of the season, and the chance remains the new person will have considerable baseball powers next season if the team doesn’t make the playoffs.
No wonder two baseball people whose opinions I value both tell me the chances of Duquette being in Baltimore in November are less than his chances of being in Toronto in November.