Here are some questions you might hear as the Toronto Blue Jays start spring training starts this week: That’s not a blister on Aaron Sanchez’s finger, is it? Are Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis together on the same field this afternoon? Hmm, is that Randal Grichuk in centre field again?
But what about elsewhere? Keeping in mind there are still over 100 free agents on the market, several of them impact players, here are six faces in new roles not named Derek Jeter:
• Aaron Boone, manager, New York Yankees: He’s still known as Aaron (Bleeping) Boone by Boston Red Sox fans. He has a roster that ought to prevent Yankees fans from turning on him with some choice names of their own.
• Alex Cora, manager, Boston Red Sox: Never mind the pressure of the job. Considering how unfriendly this franchise was considered to be for Latino stars until Dan Duquette traded for Pedro Martinez, seeing a native of Puerto Rico manage this team is a remarkable indication of culture change.
• Jim Hickey, pitching coach, Chicago Cubs: The 2016 World Series champions tied the can to three coaches after 2017, opening the door for what always seemed like an inevitable reunion between Hickey and Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Hickey’s DNA was all over the Tampa Bay Rays staffs, but he’ll be dealing with older pitchers of considerably different pedigree while with the Cubs.
• Gabe Kapler, manager, Philadelphia Phillies: A 42-year-old former 57th-round draft pick, Kapler is the only manager to have written for Baseball Prospectus or have his own lifestyle blog, unless I missed something with Toronto’s John Gibbons. The Los Angeles Dodgers named Kapler director of player development in 2014 despite him having little management experience and almost named him manager in 2015. With a pile of young players and prospects and just $42 million in payroll commitments for 2019, the Phillies are poised to be major free-agent players. Kapler needs to start cultivating the culture to make it happen.
• Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles: OK, OK – same team. Machado’s lineup-altering desire to play shortstop will be a staple of spring training news coverage, as will this: Which of Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Machado – the crown jewels of next year’s free-agent class – is 100 per cent guaranteed to not re-sign with their current franchise?
• Shohei Ohtani, P-OF, Los Angeles Angels: Major League Baseball’s unicorn, the Babe Ruth of Japan is said to have no restrictions despite concerns over the health of his elbow and his desire to play and pitch appears to have forced his team into a six-man rotation. Watching the logistics of this will be fun, and could portend a brave, new future for the sport.
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In which we defend P.K., give props to Norm, and see the biggest upset we’ll get at the 2018 Olympics …
• Brendan Gallagher’s smarmy reaction to P.K. Subban in post-game interviews on Saturday reflects worse on him than Subban. Do something first, then talk #jealousy.
• Even before being pressed into duty Sunday with OG Anunoby’s injury, Norman Powell’s return to form stands for me as the most important post trade-deadline occurrence for the Raptors #differencemaker.
• Yu Darvish’s six-year, $121-million dollar deal with the Cubs is well off the six-year, $160-million, and six-year, $168-million deals projected by MLB Trade Rumors and Dave Cameron of FanGraphs #realitycheque.
• Reports Jason Kipnis is done with the Indians will lead to two-plus-two equalling “Hello, Blue Jays,” but similarities between the front offices would suggest otherwise, no? #notsoquick.
• Brett Honeywell, a.k.a. the next great Rays pitcher, throws a screwball taught by his dad, who learned it from his uncle: Mike Marshall, two-time Expos player of the year #screwit.
• German luger Felix Loch became the “Michael Phelps” of luge as an 18-year-old at Vancouver 2010. Failing to medal, let alone tie Georg Hackl with three consecutive golds, will be Pyeongchang’s biggest upset #unloched.
More fun facts with the Golden State Warriors, this one with a Toronto Raptors twist: with 22 points by Steph Curry against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night he and father Dell Curry will move into third place on the list of all-time father-son pairings in NBA history.
They’ll still be behind Kobe and Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant (38,895, of which Joe accounted for 5,253) and second-place Dolph and Danny Schayes (27,218).
The Currys have a shot to move past Rick and Brent Barry, who racked up 26,883 points in their careers, including 8,188 by Brent. A caveat, however: that total doesn’t include the 6,884 points father Rick scored in the ABA, which is sacrilegious for some of us. Also, if you want to get really picky, the Barry household can also lay claim to 4,715 NBA points by Jon Barry, 134 by Drew Barry … and 751 over two NBA seasons by grandfather Bruce “Slick” Hale. No doubt, then, about the first family of the NBA.
Jeff Blair hosts The Jeff Blair Show from 9 a.m. to noon ET on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.