Of course Melky Cabrera wants to return to the Toronto Blue Jays. What the hell else did you expect him to say, hours after suffering a season-ending broken pinky finger on Friday night?
Truth is, unless there’s some smoking PED gun to which only the organization is privy, the Blue Jays should have had Cabrera locked up by now. He has been the organization’s most consistent offensive performer, and after surgery to remove a tumour from his spine, Cabrera has played solid defence and has held up well to the pounding of the Rogers Centre turf.
At least one National League team has had one, sometimes two scouts following the Blue Jays for three weeks, focusing on Cabrera. One of those scouts said he thought his team would do a four-year deal for Cabrera — something approximating shortstop Jhonny Peralta’s four-year, $53-million contract signed last winter with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Peralta’s deal may provide something of a way forward for dealing with the detritus of the games steroid scandal. It is loaded at the front end: $15 million this season, $15.5 million next season and $12.5 million and $10 million for the remaining two years, which gives the Cardinals a bit of insurance against Peralta breaking down. That first-year figure, in fact, looks a great deal like the anticipated qualifying offer the Blue Jays will need to make to Cabrera.
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Cabrera is two years removed from his suspension and although he plays a different position, he is two years younger than Peralta and the free-agent outfield market is a whole lot of Colby Rasmus-weak: Nelson Cruz has his own issues, and Josh Willingham is 36 years old, while their current teams hold options on Nick Markakis and Denard Span. Guys sometimes get hurt or lose motivation with a long-term contract, but at some point you need to take a leap of faith – just as the Blue Jays did with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and as they should have done with Melky Cabrera by the All-Star Break. Any extension would have counted against the 2015 payroll, not 2014; this should have been as easy a sell to ownership as it would have been to Blue Jays fans.
A SILVER LINING
It’s over. When it comes to the year-end Who To Watch or sports power-broker lists, there is nobody – on this side of the Atlantic, at least – to match NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
In addition to deftly dealing with Los Angeles Clippers ownership issue and scoring major points with his players – then taking a no-nonsense, yet studied approach to the racist e-mail controversy that resulted in Sunday’s announcement that Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson would be selling majority interest in the team – Silver opened the door last week to a necessary conversation not just for his league but also Major League Baseball: How to extract some revenue or become a partner in the growth of legalized sports gambling.
It is true that the two sports have deep-seated historical reasons for a prudent approach – the 1919 Black Sox scandal and Pete Rose’s gambling issues; the CCNY college point-shaving scandal of the early 1950s – but just as the exit of Silver’s predecessor, David Stern, has changed the tone of that particular debate so, too, will Bud Selig’s retirement and replacement by Rob Manfred expedite baseball’s gradual movement toward some sort of involvement. Whatever your personal feelings about gambling, there are owners in both sports with foresight who view it as a means of increasing partnership with their respective players associations, in addition to merely being a cash grab.
WHAT I LEARNED
The things you learn in a week hosting a radio show:
(*)“I’ve never heard anyone say that (Jermain) Defoe is not professional … in his entire career. So I don’t see him turning things off right now. I do think it was interesting that his name was coming up … and could have moved … given that he was dealing with an injury that his club said could keep him out until mid-September. I do think if he is fit and able to play, he won’t dog it.”
– Grant Wahl, Senior Soccer Writer for Sports Illustrated, discusses Jermain Defoe’s status after heavy overseas interest during the European transfer window.
(*)“Our future is very bright with these young guys … our athleticism improves significantly; we go from being one of the least athletic teams to one of the most athletic teams.”
– Minnesota Timberwolves vice-president of basketball operations Rob Babcock discusses the impact of the off-season additions of Canadians Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.
(*)“We have not seen that combination of team president, baseball operations and manager since Whitey Herzog … Tony (La Russa) has maintained numerous times that he’s done managing. I would be shocked if either (La Russa or Jim Leyland) manage the team in 2015.”
– Fox Sports national baseball writer Jon Paul Morosi discusses whether the firing of Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers and the uncertainty surrounding manager Kirk Gibson might lead to the return to the dugout of La Russa, who holds the title of Chief Baseball Officer for the D-backs or his good friend Jim Leyland.
QUIBBLES AND BITS
(*)The Blue Jays were one of teams to hold a private workout for Jorge Soler when he made his way from Cuba. Soler, now a gilt-edged Chicago Cubs prospect, could be used as a designated hitter when the team starts a three-game series tonight at the Rogers Centre. Soler is the first player since the Philadelphia Athletics Buddy Blair in 1942 to collect at least one RBI and one extra-base hit in each of his first eight career games. Yeah, I know.
(*)Major League Baseball is in the middle of what one source described as a “significant” overhaul of the blocking the plate rule that would be put in place in time for the post-season. Some video replay rules might also be fine-tuned.
(*)What could make this Toronto Maple Leafs off-season worse for a significant segment of Leaf Nation? The apparently optimistic tone of Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock this weekend to the Detroit Free Press – including a mea culpa for letting a glib comment create the sense that he is contemplating an exit – is a sign that the sides will cruise to a new contract this month.
(*) I have no idea what the hell has happened to the CFL, but on far too many nights the quality of football is dire and the lack of playmakers shocking. This season ought to pretty much end any discussion of imminent expansion to the Maritimes. There clearly aren’t enough good players to go around.
I can’t say I approve of the marketing idea behind this group, but I have no problem with the message: Honouring the memory of those who perished three years ago Sunday in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash that claimed the lives of 44 people
Jeff Blair hosts The Jeff Blair Show from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and Baseball Central from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET on the Sportsnet radio and television network.