Wilner on Blue Jays: Feeling blue

October 4, 2012, 4:14 AM

I’m sad.

The last day of the baseball season has always been a sad day for me, because even though I’ll be hosting our radio coverage of the post-season (including the award-winning Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show) this is the last time I’ll be attending a real live baseball game in person for about five months.

I have a fantastic job, there’s no denying that. It’s so much better than working for a living to be able to watch ballgames and talk and write about them during and after, and as much as it can get to be a grind working basically every day for eight straight months, when you walk into the ballpark on the last day of the season — knowing there’s no chance for any playoffs to follow — you get sad.

Granted, there wasn’t a lot of time to be wistful before the final game, as there was a flurry of activity on the field despite the fact the Blue Jays didn’t even take batting practice.

Mixed in with taping the final installment of In The Zone, the fine video podcast that Ben Ennis and I have been doing on a weekly basis all season (find it soon on this very website), there were end-of-season addresses by John Farrell, Omar Vizquel, Alex Anthopoulos and Jose Bautista.

Farrell talked a lot about leadership in his final pre-game media scrum, mentioning that he would like to see more players grab the team by the throat and say what needs to be said, even if they don’t feel as though it’s their place. Farrell said he believes leadership knows no age, and that he suggested to a few players in their end-of-season exit interviews that they should step up and say what needs to be said, since it means more coming from them than from the manager or coach.

When asked about going into next season as Blue Jays manager on the final year of his contract, how it would feel to be a lame-duck, Farrell said simply, “I’ve never been a duck.”

When Anthopoulos addressed the media, he was asked if there was any doubt in his mind that Farrell would be back managing the team next season. His answer was a simple “no.” Neither he nor Farrell feels the contract issue needs to be addressed now, with Anthopoulos saying his larger priorities are the roster, and bringing in the starting pitching that the team needs.

The Jays’ GM added that there will definitely be more money this winter for the Blue Jays to use to fill their needs, so much so that they’ll be able to get involved with players they haven’t been able to talk to in the past, though he was careful to add that he’s not getting an endless supply of cash to throw around.

Anthopoulos took the blame for the team’s poor performance, saying the results of the season are on him for providing Farrell and the coaching staff with a roster that wasn’t good enough to compete once depth was needed, and added he hopes to add enough pitching over the off-season that guys who are good enough to start in the big leagues but have options (like Henderson Alvarez and J.A. Happ), have to start the year in triple-A Buffalo.

Bautista then took the podium, the first time he’d addressed the media since going back on the disabled list at the end of August, and said that he didn’t think leadership was something that needed to be addressed with the team going forward. He respectfully disagreed with Omar Vizquel’s comments of last week, saying that he saw mistakes being corrected every day.

Having spoken to about 20 people who have either had or performed the surgery that Bautista had in September, the Jays slugger said he’s 99.9 per cent confident that he’ll be able to be the same power hitter that he was before, and that he’s about a month away from being completely game-ready.

Then the game started and Brandon Morrow went out and pitched a beaut, giving the Jays their first 10-game winner of the season, avoiding the ignominy of not having a double-digit winner on the team for the only time since 1979. Morrow didn’t give up a hit to any Minnesota Twin not named Ben Revere, walked three and struck out 11, putting the exclamation point on what was his finest season in the majors, shortened as it was by the oblique strain that kept him out for two and a half months.

Brandon Lyon followed in what might have been his final appearance with the Blue Jays, Casey Janssen having been used three of the past four games, and picked up his first save as a Jay.

There wasn’t much offence, but the Blue Jays got enough with two out in the third when Anthony Gose hit about as easy a stand-up triple as you’ll ever see into the gap in right-centre (I kind of think he might have been able to score, actually), which was followed by RBI singles by Rajai Davis (who then stole second) and Adeiny Hechavarria.

And of course, there was The Omar Vizquel Show. In the final game of his Hall of Fame career, Vizquel played shortstop wearing his familiar number 13, he and Brett Lawrie having switched digits for the season finale. Vizquel gave up a glimpse of the form that made him an 11-time Gold Glover by hauling in a Drew Butera pop-up in shallow left-centre in the seventh inning — making an over-the-head basket catch on the dead run with his back to home plate.

Vizquel asked for a little divine intervention when he came to the plate for his final big-league at-bat, and then ripped a 1-0 pitch from Alex Burnett right back up the middle for a line-drive single, putting him alone in 40th place on the all-time hit list.

There were plenty of standing ovations for Vizquel on the evening, but the biggest came with two out in the ninth inning, when he was pulled from the game in order to get an opportunity to soak it all up from the crowd one last time.

It was a lovely note on which to end a season, but I’m still sad. Leaving this ballpark for the final time in a year always gets to me, because even though the plan and the hope is to be back doing this again next season, one never knows what the future has in store.

The Blue Jays have been due to have a season where a bunch of things go right for them for a long, long time now. Maybe 2013 is the year.

Even though it’s a sad day, I’ll still be around your radios quite a bit over the last month, hosting our playoff coverage along the Blue Jays’ Radio Network starting with Friday night’s wild card games. When the schedule permits, we’ll have The Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show, so make sure to keep your eye on my Twitter feed to find out who our guest will be each day.

There are only two days left in fan voting for the final ballot of the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence. Voting in the second round, which cuts the remaining group of 41 down to just three, closes at 5:00 p.m. ET on Oc. 5 — so please do your best to make sure those who elect the Frick winner are well aware of just how much Tom deserves to be honoured in Cooperstown among other broadcasting legends, how much he continues to mean to Blue Jays fans all across the world, and how important his contributions were to baseball fandom across this country.

Cast your vote by going to www.facebook.com/baseballhall, then click on ’13 Frick Voting and vote for Tom. He’s on the first page now, so it’s even easier! You can vote once every 24 hours, so please make sure to get your two remaining votes in. For more reminders, follow @VoteTomCheek on Twitter and like the “Send Tom Cheek To Cooperstown” page on Facebook. Thank you, you’re doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful man.


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