I am an inveterate note-taker, someone who still has a pile of 20-year-old notebooks full of quotes and observations. This makes it easy to carry a grudge; it also makes it easy to remember stuff, such as the way hitting coach Mickey Hatcher one described Vladimir Guerrero Sr., having the coordination of a tennis player because he couldn’t find a comparable baseball player in terms of an ability to hit a bad pitch.
Hatcher was Guerrero Sr.’s, hitting coach with the Los Angeles Angels back then and my guess is he probably recognized the homer belted by the Hall of Famer’s son, Vladimir Jr., on Friday:
Tennis was one of the topics Prime Time Sports co-host Richard Deitsch and I covered in a conversation with Dante Bichette, the former Major Leaguer who is the father of the Blue Jays’ other gilt-edged prospect, Bo Bichette. Both men are tennis fans, and Bo to his day talks about the similarity between reading the hop of a tennis ball and baseball.
“I think it’s a great cross-training sport,” Dante Bichette said, when asked how he incorporated his son’s love for tennis and baseball. “You’re constantly having to square the ball up and the swing is almost the same as a baseball swing, you just take the lead arm off.
“It’s almost like taking fielding drills and hitting at the same time. It works on first-step quickness and body control.”
We’ll have to wait and see how conservative the Toronto Blue Jays are this week with Vlad Jr.’s swollen left knee when the team embarks on a marquee road-trip to Dodger Stadium and then Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, where the two rookies get their first taste of the annual invasion of Blue Jays fans from B.C. and Alberta. Television ratings have improved since the team brought up the likes of Guerrero and Bichette and started to build on the rubble of their tear-down. The games seem to be played better (or, at least, the mistakes more easily explained and accepted) and let’s just enjoy this because next spring there will be expectations, and that’s when the worrying begins: the type of worrying that comes with the hint of a track record, fear of sophomore jinx, etc. There will be anticipation of improvement in the field, particularly with Guerrero Jr.
All manner of questions will need to be addressed, including financial ones because if the Blue Jays aren’t willing or can’t strike one of those long-term deals teams give out players after their first year – or, in some cases, during their first year – you just know what will be said about a management team that is already under fire. And we haven’t even dealt with the uncomfortable truth that even if Nate Pearson were to somehow make the team, the team’s lack of starting pitching will at some point need to be dealt with by trading some of those young riches – my guess is Lourdes Gurriel Jr., is eventually the odd man out, since Vlad and Bo aren’t going anywhere and Cavan Biggio’s game has enough shortcomings that few teams will view him as an everyday player. See? There are plenty of bumps just down the road, but in the meantime, what’s not to love?
NOW TWEET THIS
In which we celebrate Ronald Acuna, Jr. … wonder where J.T. Realmuto ends up in NL MVP voting … get all tribal about the Indians’ chances …
• CF Ronald Acuna Jr., needs one more steal to record the fifth 30/30 season in club history and is looking to join Mike Trout as the only players to record such as a feat before turning 22 years old #youthiserved
• There are four teams with 10 players with 10 or more homers. Three are either going to, or vying, for a playoff spot – the Athletics, Twins and Yankees. The fourth? The Blue Jays #powerpotential
• The biggest off-season acquisition by the Phillies? J.T. Realmuto, who is tied for 10th in WAR (Fangraphs) – Chase Utley was the last to finish that high, in 2009 – and has thrown out 27 base-runners: 10 more than any other catcher, and a 45 per cent success rate #brycewho?
• The Dodgers play in a pitchers friendly park yet are on pace to break their single-season home run record for the third consecutive year. They could also for the first time ever have two lefty hitters with 100 RBIs in the same season: Cody Bellinger (93) and Max Muncy (84) #dodgeball
• OK, so it was only the Mariners and Royals, but Edwin Jackson has won his last two starts for the Tigers. Discuss. #blindsquirrelmeetsnut
• Calling it now: the Indians are going to win the Central and are the only team in the AL capable of derailing the Yankees or Astros … and, yes, I am aware that Corey Kluber exited the weekends rehab start with an abdominal injury #tribal
WHAT I LEARNED LAST WEEK
I’ve never had a former sports executive be as open as former Miami Marlins president David Samson was this week on PTS when the topic was the criticism that Blue Jays management is taking for its opaque messaging. OK, so Samson is still vilified in south Florida and Montreal but he does have a World Series ring and he has sat at a table where executive decisions are made. The Marlins, he said, liked to spread the responsibility around. “Any time there was something good to report, we let the owner do it. Any time there was something terrible to report … I did it. Any time a baseball trade or move was made that looked good, the president of baseball operations did it. Any time it was a bad news move, myself and the general manager did it so we could shield the president of baseball operations.” And here you thought some front offices just made stuff up as they go along …
WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
That Blue Jays road trip is going to be a hoot, but the series that has my eye will be the three-game set between the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics opening Tuesday at Oakland Alameda Coliseum. The Athletics took two of three from the Houston Astros this weekend and might be in the process of putting the lie to the notion that only one team will get into the post-season out of the American League West. The Yankees split with the Cleveland Indians – who opened some eyes with a 19-5 beat-down of the Bronx Bombers in the first game of that four-game series – and will go on to play the Los Angeles Dodgers and have become certifiably goofy: picking fights with umpires and suggesting baseball adopt a ‘mercy rule.’ But, man, they just keep rolling …
I’m tired of the debate surrounding the Blue Jays front office and what it needs to do to win back fans or re-connect with them. So I’m going to offer some admittedly unsolicited advice to Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins and then be done with it. First? As J.P. Ricciardi used to say, this city spends more time whining about general managers then just about any other place on earth, as opposed to players, coaches or managers. That’s just the way we roll. Second? Everybody in this city has pretty much made up their mind about your front office because despite the heat thrown at GMs and the fact the clock was running out on him when he pulled off the Troy Tulowitzki/David Price hail Mary, Alex Anthopoulos is a homeboy. That ain’t changing, and it won’t change until this team makes the playoffs – and even then, if Guerrero Jr., leads the way, you’re going to have to put up with the sniveling “yeah, but he was A.A.’s guy” drivel, just as the fact the team actually did make the playoffs in your first year is credited to A.A. It’s a silly argument that overlooks the fact that your folks had a hand in his development, but unfortunately, there are people who still think a guy who drafts or signs a player gets credit for all of his development even if it occurred on someone else’s watch. But there you go. Bo Bichette? He’s all yours, even though the amateur scouting director who took him was eventually let go. To me, the guy who ultimately changes the narrative for you is Nate Pearson. Don’t screw that up, hope that you both get a contract extension – which also becomes a story this off-season – and we’ll all be OK.
Jeff Blair hosts Prime Time Sports from 4-7 p.m. ET on and Baseball Central from Noon-1 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 590/The Fan