Teammates need to stay out of each others’ contract negotiations

Chris Johnston joins The Jeff Blair Show and reflects on William Nylander's contract situation.

It comes from covering Major League Baseball, I guess, but it still seems odd to hear teammates stick their noses in other teammates financial affairs. It still seems odd for guys who will tell you that playing professional sports is a business become turncoats and help management put the squeeze on teammates.

I’m thinking of the way some of the Pittsburgh Steelers have helped ownership in the Le’Veon Bell dispute, providing succor to those who would pay them less if given the chance. And I’m thinking about what could be the one thing that sums up the works when it comes to William Nylander and his contract negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Two words for any Leafs player asked about it? ‘Shut’ and ‘up.’

There is, frankly, the only way this spirals out of control – the only way it becomes anything more than business being business. And that’s if one of Nylander’s teammates drops his guard and suggests he ought to be a good little Leaf and come join the rest of the fellas in getting ready for the regular-season. Reports suggest that Nylander and his agent have over-clubbed in their demands, certainly not following the lead of some of the other Leafs who have taken less for the betterment of the group as a while. Good: that’s what they’re supposed to do, and then let the system run its course. This is a matter of delicacy because Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are next up and my guess is they’re relatively happy that Nylander aimed high instead of low at a time when there’s all this chatter about ‘hometown discounts.’

It’s true that you can’t legislate against somebody taking less to play where and with whom they want to play. It’s equally true that a rising tide of salaries doesn’t necessarily lift all boats in a league where there’s a salary cap. But it’s quite another thing when you help management and by extension ownership depress the amount of money a teammate is making. Hearing Ryan Johansen essentially say two weeks ago that hockey players owed blind loyalty to their team and if that meant cutting management a break, well, so be it, was shocking. That’s also the subtext to a lot of Lou Lamoriello’s digs at John Tavares but, again, he’s management, so fair play to him.

No, it’s these millennial athletes, man… they need some history lessons. I’d suggest they pull their noses out of ‘NHL 19′ and read ‘A Whole Different Ballgame’ by Marvin Miller or ‘Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey.’ Better yet, google Ted Lindsay.

In the meantime, let’s let the Leafs and Nylander work this out. I give it about three more days of absences before we start hearing head coach Mike Babcock muse more and more about how the lost time is costing Nylander a prime position on the team. That’s fair, like Lamoriello, Babcock is management. But know this: if Nylander returns with a five-year contract it’s not going to do anybody any good if there’s an inclination to punish him regardless of the length of absence. It’s business, right?

Each week, Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt tackle the most impactful stories in the world of sports and their intersection with popular culture. Come for the sports; stay for the storytelling and cigars.

NOW TWEET THIS

In which we check to be sure Donald Trump didn’t in fact buy the Bills… name-check Jerry Garvin… attempt to spell Marc Rzepczynski’s name… tell you how the Yankees can sign Bryce Harper and keep the faith with their youth movement… and remind the Rays once again that the concept of using a reliever to start a game is the silliest thing ever and will never, ever work.

• Red Sox’s manager Alex Cora became the fifth manager with 100-plus wins in his first season, joining Ralph Houk (109 with the 61 Yanks); Dusty Baker (103 with the 93 Giants); Sparky Anderson (102 with the 70 Reds) and Mickey Cochrane (101 with the 34 Tigers) #legends

• More on Blue Jays pitcher Sean Reid-Foley later, but his 32 strikeouts are the most ever for a Jay in his first five career starts, ahead of Marc Rzepczynski (30); Jerry Garvin (26); Kyle Drabek (24) and Ryan Borucki (23) #eclectic

• Vontae Davis retires at half-time; head coach Sean McDermott takes over the play-calling from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier at half-time. Still sure the Pegulas and not Donald Trump ended up buying the Bills? #where’ssarah?

• Chelsea and Liverpool are both 5-0 and that’s only third time in 110 years of English top-flight soccer that two clubs have won their first five matches – the first time since 1908-09 #halleyscomet

• The Broncos’ Phillip Lindsay, who went to school at Colorado, had 107 yards in Sunday’s win over the Raiders, making him the first undrafted player in NFL history to rush for over 100 yards in each of his first two games #diamondintherough

• Friend Sweeny Murti of WFAN had an interesting response when asked if the Yankees youth movement mitigated against them pursuing big-name free agents this winter: Bryce Harper is actually six months younger than Aaron Judge #options

• While the Dodgers are in tough for a post-season berth, keep in mind they lead the NL in run differential and the last team to do so and fail to make the playoff was the 1990 Mets #precedence

• The Rays picked up their 40th win in 70 games started by a reliever Sunday, winning their series against the A’s and lowering to their AL-best first-inning ERA to 3.40 since debuting the ‘opener’ concept on May 19 #uncle

THE ENDGAME

Cover the Montreal Expos for 11 years and the Toronto Blue Jays for 18 more and you’ve hitched a ride on more September ‘learning curves’ than a human being should be subjected.

But there are those that resonate, and that was the case Saturday when Blue Jays starter Sean Reid-Foley responded to home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz’s, um, “free form” strike zone and stood on the Yankee Stadium mound for ejection of catcher Luke Maile and manager John Gibbons, yielded a bases-loading infield single six pitches later, then struck out Neil Walker, Luke Voit and Brett Gardner on 10 pitches, getting Gardner on three four-seam fastballs.

Here’s the thing: I still worry that the Blue Jays pitching staff is velocity-shy (I know, 95 m.p.h. isn’t slop especially with movement) and I need more pitches in the upper-90s before I believe this team is ready for the push and pull of the American League East. But as a potential No. 3 or 4, I’m ok with Reid-Foley.

Different moment, but to me Reid-Foley’s effort in Yankee Stadium reminded me a bit of Aaron Sanchez’s moment in Game 5 of the 2015 AL Division Series, when he came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning and stood on the mound as all hell was breaking loose around him following umpire Dale Scott’s ruling on that run-scoring error by Russell Martin, promptly struck out Shin Soo-Choo and got the Blue Jays back into the dugout where You-Know-Who flipped his bat and flipped the script. Sanchez’s career has been a mish-mash of odd stuff in the past two years but he was a beast as a starter in 2016 after growing up right in front of us that night.

Jeff Blair hosts The Jeff Blair Show from 9 a.m.-Noon and Baseball Central from Noon-1 p.m. ET on Sportsnet 590/The Fan. He is also co-host of ‘The Lede’, a podcast with Stephen Brunt.

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