Some time around the eighth inning, someone told us: “Paul Beeston won’t be back with the Blue Jays in 2015.”
It was too late to make any calls, but the next day, we made a bunch. After all, Beeston’s future was more important than Game 7. Our Ken Fidlin can write a gamer 10 times better than me anyway.
If Beeston left, who would replace him? What was the future of general manager Alex Anthopoulos? Ditto for manager John Gibbons.
All the phone calls resulted in zero franchise-shaking news in the executive suite. It was status quo.
Beeston, whose contract expired at the end of October, would return for 2015 … or so we were told.
Little did we know that Edward Rogers, deputy chairman of Rogers Communications, had been making phone calls on his own.
Phone calls to Baltimore … to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos inquiring about hiring general manager Dan Duquette. And calls to Chicago … to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to ask about hiring Kenny Williams, the White Sox executive vice-president, to become the Jays’ next president. He even made calls to Williams himself.
Both Reinsdorf and Williams confirmed receiving calls at the winter meetings the first week of December in San Diego, two days after ESPN broke the story. Calls to Chicago were made either on Nov. 5 or 6.
So, with that handful of phone calls, seeking a new president while the current president was still in office, Edward Rogers has achieved something his father, the late Ted Rogers, never accomplished.
Edward is our choice as the most influential Canadian in baseball in 2014 on our eighth annual top 101 list of movers and shakers.
Ted Rogers was fourth in 2007 and No. 5 the following year.
The calls to Baltimore and Chicago were either made during the World Series or the first week of November, Buster Olney reported in an ESPN story on Dec. 7. Rogers Communications still has not issued a denial, a comment or a rate increase.
So what is the future of president Beeston, who has been with the Jays for 32 of the franchise’s 38 years? And the rest of the Jays’ brass?
Planning for next season begins the day after the last game of the season, in the Jays’ case, on Sept. 29. If Edward Rogers, 45, wanted to make a change, he should have had a one-on-one with Beeston, 69, long before the Series began.
And he certainly was not wise in making a call to Reinsdorf asking for someone to replace Beeston … since Reinsdorf and Beeston are best friends.
This is a team Anthopoulos put together, to this point. He should be allowed to take another run at the American League East. Same for Gibbons.
Duquette was hired after Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava turned down the job when the O’s would not let him bring an assistant with him in 2011. Duquette had been out of big-league offices since 2002 when he was fired by the Boston Red Sox. He has four years remaining on his Orioles contract.
So where did Rogers get the names of Duquette and Williams? Those close to the situation say it was Roger Rai, a consultant with Rogers Communications, who suggested the names to Edward Rogers. Rai often has a box at Yankee Stadium when the Jays visit and is an acquaintance of Yankees president Randy Levine.
Rai is a director of Pinetree Capital Ltd., a vice-president with Keek Inc., is an advisor to Chobani, Inc., a food services company, and was the founder of ONEXONE foundation, a charitable organization focused on global child welfare.
He was “responsible for the acquisition of the Toronto Blue Jays and was part of the ownership group attempting to acquire and move the Buffalo Bills to Toronto,” according to a Pinetree release in July.
Before we ask how that Bills move worked out, an Associated Press story in August quoted Rai as saying references connecting him to the proposed Bills purchase were “a mistake on my behalf,” a result of a misinterpretation made by a co-worker who wrote the bio. Rogers seems to think that the story is over.
Besides Duquette and Williams, the names of Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan have surfaced as possible successors to Beeston. And the names won’t stop until Rogers Un-Communications communicates.
This would not have happened under a front office manned by George Steinbrenner with the Yankees. Everyone would have been afraid of The Boss.
This didn’t even happen in the bad old days of the absentee owners, those whacky Belgian brewers Interbrew SA.
On with the top 101:
1. Edward Rogers
If a man who basically owns the team wants to make a change, full steam ahead. It’s his team. If he wants to bring a new corporate type over from the campus to run the business side of the Blue Jays (tickets, revenue) and hire a new president of baseball operations — someone with a baseball background — fine.
But this has been bungled.
What’s next? Phoning Giancarlo Stanton and asking if he wants to play right field?
2. Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies (41)
Find us a better feel-good story if you can. Morneau won an MVP with the Twins in 2006 after averaging .292 with 29 homers and 117 RBI from 2006-09. Then he took a knee to the head from Blue Jays infielder John McDonald in 2010. Concussion symptoms followed — fatigue, headaches, frustration — and so did more injuries in 2011. He had four surgeries on a pinched nerve in his neck, a tendon in his left wrist, a cyst from his left knee and a bone spur from his right foot.
He wanted to stay with the Twins, his only organization, but was dealt at the trade deadline to the Pirates, where he had five doubles and zero homers in 117 plate appearances. Morneau signed a two-year, $12.5-million US free-agent deal with the Rockies in 2014 and, in true Canadian fashion, came back hit to hit .319, winning the batting title and beating Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison by four points. He hit .327 at home and .309 on the road, using his BWP birch model bat, the first year he used birch instead of maple.
3. Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays (20)
Martin makes a jump for a number of reasons: Helping the Pirates to a second straight post-season after not reaching October since 1992 and handling young arms Gerrit Cole, 23, Jeff Locke, 26, and Vance Worley, 26, plus reclamation projects Edinson Volquez, 30, and Francisco Liriano, 30. They combined for a 3.47 team ERA (fifth-best in the NL).
The Jays expect him to help the likes of Drew Hutchison, 24, Marcus Stroman, 23, and Aaron Sanchez, 22.
While a fifth year and the largest free-agent contract the Jays have ever handed out certainly helped, so did the Beeston and Anthopoulos sales pitch, which consisted of “Steve Nash was the best Canadian NBA player ever, but what if he’d played for the Raptors, what kind of an impact would he have had? All these great Canadian kids in the NBA say their inspiration was Vince Carter. How many kids stayed up to watch the Phoenix Suns?”
Martin played for storied franchises — the Dodgers and Yankees — but how many Canadians saw him play? They told Martin if he signed with the Jays, Canadian kids could watch a great player who is Canadian. All 162 games are televised in Canada, half on French-language TVA.
4. Alex Anthopoulos, Jays GM (5)
How good was Anthopoulos’ season? Well, his Jays spent 61 days in first place. As a means of comparison from 1994 to 2013, the club spent 128 days in first (an average of 6.4 days per season). And all but 46 of those days were in the past 20 Aprils. This year’s Jays spent 54 days in first after May 1.
People knocked the GM for not adding talent at the deadline — would Martin Prado have helped at second? Chase Headley at third? The only addition was Danny Valencia, who was earning $532,500 (the major-league minimum is $500,000). So, Rogers took on 1/3 of $32,500 ($10,833). The only significant off-season move prior to the 2014 campaign was adding Dioner Navarro, who signed a two-year, back-loaded deal, earning $3 million in 2014 — exactly what was budgeted for J.P. Arencibia. Did he have the monies? Rogers and Beeston told players at the spring diner “funds will be available if you guys are in it on July 15.” The Jays were 1 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot on July 20.
Anthopoulos’ current off-season has been even better, trading for Josh Donaldson, whose offensive numbers were second only to the Angels’ Mike Trout in 2014, trading for left-fielder Michael Saunders and signing Martin.
But the bullpen? Unsolved.
5. Paul Beeston, Jays president (2).
Beeston has been the loyal solider defending Rogers during each and every hit the Jays took for not adding payroll. The only different rationale we heard was that Beeston was given an option heading into 2013: Have some of the budget now and the rest in 2014 or take it all in 2013. The Jays chose to upgrade with the 12-player Miami Marlins deal, acquiring R.A. Dickey and signing Melky Cabrera.
There was a big-time clue at the start of 2014 season that it was going to be a difficulty to add salaries when in spring training five Jays — at the behest of management — were asked to chip in (defer salaries) so that the Jays could sign free-agent Ervin Santana for $14.1 million. Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle, Dickey, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes agreed to re-structure their deals, but the Atlanta Braves had lost starters on back-to-back days and Santana headed to Georgia instead. Under Beeston for the coming season, the Jays will field a lineup with three Canucks on opening day: Montreal’s Martin catching, Saunders of Victoria in left and Mississauga’s Dalton Pompey in centre.
6. Joel Wolfe, agent, Wasserman Group (25)
Wolfe secured a record-setting, 13-year, $325-million deal with the Marlins for his client, Giancarlo Stanton. The outfielder can opt out after the 2020 World Series, around his 31st birthday. Stanton will earn $6.5 million in 2015,, $9 million in 2016, $14.5 million in 2017 and $25 million in 2018. He gets $26 million in each of the next two seasons, then can decide whether to cut the deal short and go back on the market.
The deal includes a $25-million club option for 2028 with a $10-million buyout. If he stays with the Marlins he gets $29 million in 2021-22, and $32 million each of the following three seasons. His salary drops to $29 million in 2026 and $25 million in 2027. And Wolfe secured the first no-trade clause ever granted by owner Jeffrey Loria.
The parents of the Bishop’s University grad grew up in Montreal, he has a summer home in Ayer’s Cliff, Que., and he maintains his Canadian citizenship. Wolfe also represents 2014 all-stars Chase Utley and Tyson Ross, while Brandon Crawford won another World Series with the Giants. Brandon Morrow signed a one-year deal with the San Diego Padres. He just signed Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo.
7. Farhan Zaidi, Los Angeles Dodgers GM (10).
Zaidi was born in Sudbury and was 3 when his father took a job in the Philippines with the Asian Development Bank. Yet, when he left the Oakland A’s to join the Dodgers, Canadian fans had already adopted Zaidi as their own. Wrote one fan after the five-player deal which saw Donaldson come to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie: “Already the lack of a Canadian influence is showing in Oakland. No way Billy Beane makes that trade with Farhan there.”
In the multi-levelled L.A. front office, Stan Kasten hired Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays. Friedman hired Zaidi and gave him the GM title with his emphasis on the 40-man roster. Josh Byrnes was hired as Friedman’s No. 2 in charge of rebuilding the farm system. Zaidi signed free agents Brandon McCarthy (four-year $48-million deal) and Brett Anderson (one-year $10 million). Moving Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz and cash to the San Diego Padres for Zach Eflin, Yasmani Grandal and Joe Wieland, along with purchasing Mike Bolsinger’s contract from the Arizona Diamondbacks were Byrnes deals.
8. Pat Gillick, Philadelphia Phillies interim president (12).
It was a regular year for the hall of famer … until August. He scouted west coast prospects leading into to the draft, served as an adviser to club president Dave Montgomery and GM Ruben Amaro. Montgomery, 68, underwent jaw cancer surgery in May, yet continued his own duties with the Phillies and served on the commissioner search committee to replace commissioner Bud Selig.
Gillick took over for Montgomery on an interim basis on Aug. 28, headed on to the road to evaluate the Phillies and is expected to stay on until late into 2015. Gillick has admitted that the Phillies will not contend next season. Jimmy Rollins was been dealt to the Dodgers and Antonio Bastardo went to the Pirates. The hall of famer’s autograph is worth money and he sends his appearances fees to Dennis Gilbert’s Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. He has raised $60,000 in card show appearances and signings since his induction.
9. Doug Melvin, Milwaukee Brewers GM (9).
The Brewers started the season 20-7 and sat atop the NL Central for five months only to finish with 22 losses in their final 31 games.
Owner Mark Attanasio was so disappointed with the ending that he didn’t address the team the final weekend, as he usually does.
The Brewers signed Matt Garza as a free agent to join Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta, while Francisco Rodriguez had 44 saves.
The problem was the offence, so the Chatham, Ont., native added Adam Lind from the Jays. Melvin kept his job despite the late-season collapse. Attanasio showed confidence in him and he is still the right man for the job. In turn, Melvin kept manger Ron Roenicke. Now, there’s a name to be the Jays next president … down the road.
10. Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada (7).
Canada ranks seventh in IBAF world rankings, which lists 122 countries, and Hamilton is the main reason. He puts together the senior team (which he will for the 2015 Pan-Am Games in Ajax this summer) and the junior program, which makes four travelling tours to Florida and the Dominican each year. Canada ranks behind Japan, Team USA, Cuba, Chinese Taipei, The Netherlands and the Dominican Republic. Canada ranks ahead of Korea, Puerto Rico and Venezuela in the top 10.
A total of 12 Canadian junior national team members or grads were drafted in June. And some say that Tournament 12 was the brain child of the Peterborough native, who lives and works in Ottawa where his son Ty Hamilton, 13, is working on his back door slider.
11. Larry Walker, Hall of Fame candidate (10).
Walker hit .381 at Coors Field, which according to some Baseball
Writers of America Association voters was a crime. He also hit .300 or better at 11 other stadia: Safeco Field (.600), Jacobs Field (.500), Bank One Ballpark (.350), Fenway Park (.333), The Kingdome (.333), Tropicana Field (.333), Wrigley Field (.333), Fulton-County Stadium(.326), PNC Park (.313), County Stadium (.313) and Kauffman Stadium (.300).
Walker was named on 20.3% of the ballots in 2011, his first year of eligibility. The next year he had 22.9% and in 2013 he was at 21.6%.
But last January he fell to 10.2% as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas appeared for the first time. The 2015 election won’t be any easier with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz making their first appearances.
12. Dan Shulman, broadcaster, ESPN, TSN (6).
Shulman is the most listened to play-by-play man in North America. He’s the voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball with analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk, along with reporter Buster Olney. Shulman calls NCAA men’s college hoops games alongside analyst Dick Vitale. No doubt working alongside the late Jim Hunt at The Fan helped prepare him for walking the high wire.
This was ESPN’s 25th season of baseball and in August the network agreed to an eight-year, $5.6 billion contract extension, the largest broadcasting deal in baseball history. It gives ESPN 90 regular-season games, one of the two wild card games and rights to all regular-season tie-breaker games. Regular-season telecasts averaged 1.13 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2, up 4% from 2013 (1.09M) and up 9% from 2012 (1.04M).
13. Bob McCown, host, Prime Time Sports (4).
Not that McCown had a bad year but when you have your own documentary — as McCown did, a high ranking on this list isn’t that important.
Especially when you have your own winery. Not that he’s popular, but I’ve had people come up and say “Hello Robert” doing a McCown imitation from San Francisco’s AT&T Park all the way to Morrell Siding, N.B.
Seriously “Pantload: 25 Years of Prime Time Sports,” a documentary of McCown’s radio show, produced by McCown’s Fadoo Productions, details his evolution into “TV Bob” and rise to supremacy as the wisest, hippest, sports radio voice in Canada. Highlights were an in-depth look at his dispute with Jays manager Cito Gaston, his early Jays announcing at Exhibition Stadium, and grasp of the current management.
14. Stephen Brooks, CFO, Blue Jays (8).
The Jays were good corporate citizens again this September, running the second annual Tournament 12. Brooks was a key man behind this project, as was Robbie Alomar, who made a pitch to the board to help get involved raising funds for the Jays Care Foundation. The board, under Melinda Rogers’ leadership, agreed to contribute $100,000 to help subsidize travel and hotel costs for players selected. Players from outside Ontario paid $330, down from about $1,000-$1,500 in 2013. In the 1980s and 1990s when high schoolers played inside the SkyDome, opposing scouts were not allowed inside. Now, it’s come one, come all.
A Prince George, B.C. native, Brooks is a bright young mind, fresh from attending the Harvard School of Buisness in 2013, which overlapped with the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent lockdown.
Last time in Cambridge to cover the Jays-Red Sox series, I looked for his statue — unsuccessfully.
15. Jeff Mallett, part owner, San Francisco Giants (18).
Mallett will have more World Series rings next April when the Giants get their next set of every other year jewelry (three) than the number of soccer teams he owns (two: Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Derby County Football), along with business partner Steve Nash.
Besides being a principal owner and executive committee member of the Giants and AT&T Park he owns 30% ownership of the Bay Area’s cable TV network Comcast SportsNet. The North Vancouver native joined the Giants in 2002.
16. Jerry Howarth, broadcaster, Jays (11).
When Dick Enberg was voted the winner of the 2015 Ford C. Frick at the winter meetings we wrote how Howarth didn’t win. Right but wrong. He was not eligible. Broadcasters changed the format into three distinct voting areas: the “Living Room Era” (Mid-1950s to early 1980s) in 2015, “Broadcasting Dawn Era” (origin of broadcasting-early 1950s) in 2016 and the “High Tide Era” (Mid-1980s to present) in 2017 … which is when Howarth will be eligible again.
The late Tom Cheek worked 4,306 consecutive games with professionalism. His partner, the bouncy, hard-working guy with the corny jokes, surpassed Cheek’s total. The Etobicoke resident became a Canadian citizen in April of 1994 and by our count, has worked more than 4,882 regular-season games since he began filling in for Hall of Famer Early Wynn in 1981.
17. Walt Burrows, Canadian director MLB Scouting Bureau (15).
A year ago a GM said “To sum it up he’s the best bureau scout in the game, and he has the largest area, the whole country.” And this summer another GM called him the most respected man with a stop watch. Burrows’ opinion will be relied upon a lot next June. While only 17 Canadians were drafted last June, next June Canadian junior national team members Josh Naylor, Demi Orimoloye and Mike Soroka, plus Arizona State’s Ryan Kellogg are expected to go in the first five rounds.
The Brentwood Bay, B.C. resident instructs annually at the MLB scout school in Phoenix and was a student at the same school in 1992 along with White Sox’s Kenny Williams and Reds scout Bill Byckowski, then with the Blue Jays.
18. Fergie Jenkins, Hall of Famer (19).
Jenkins was one of eight Hall of Famers on the 16-man Golden Era committee which met in San Diego the day before the winter meetings began. The committee, which also included former Jays GM Pat Gillick, didn’t elect anyone as Dick Allen and Tony Oliva fell one vote short of the required 12 and Jim Kaat was two votes back. It was either a shutout or four votes away from electing three players.
Growing up in Chatham, Jenkins pitched 19 seasons and won 284 games. He pitched for four teams but is best known for his 10 years and 167 wins with the Cubs. The national treasure is a regular at Cooperstown and St. Marys each year for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
19. Maury Gostfrand, agent. (-).
Based in New York, Gostfrand grew up in the Chomedey area of Montreal before his family moved to North Miami Beach at age eight. He was a die-hard Expos fan and wore Tim Raines’ No. 30 travelling to see the Expos in spring training and Olympic Stadium on trips home during the summer. He obtained a degree from University of Michigan and a law degree from Miami.
After nine years at RLR Associates, he started his Vision Sports Group in 2005 and has represented former Yankees manager Joe Torre when it came to marketing since 1996. He did Torre’s deal with Dodgers and represented Kirk Gibson when he managed the Diamondbacks. His stable consists of the best from the booth — 59 in all from every sport — John Kruk, Ken Rosenthal, of FOX Sports, the league leader in information, Hall of Famer Don Sutton, Ryan Dempster, Kevin Millar, Tom Verducci, Dave Campbell and Jon (Boog) Sciambi, who cut his teeth sharing the same booth as Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Van Horne with the Florida Marlins.
20. Arlene Anderson, Sambat (16).
Miguel Cabrera had a bad year swinging the lumber by his MVP standards. But it wasn’t due to his choice of weapon. During the World Series, Cabrera underwent right ankle surgery to remove bone spurs and repair a stress fracture in a bone at the top of his foot. He still hit .313 with 25 homers and 109 RBIs using his customary 34-inch, 32-ounce, MC-1 Sambat model.
Anderson and husband Jim Anderson, bought Maple Bat Corporation six years ago from founder Sam Holman. The Carleton Place factory makes bats for roughly 470 pro players from all 30 teams. Besides Cabrera, their roster of 136 big leaguers includes Bryce Harper, Robinson Cano, Chris Carter, Andre Ethier, Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Melky Cabrera, Alfonso Soriano, Rajai Davis, Aramis Ramirez, Avisail Garcia, Alexi Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alcidies Escobar, Omar Infante, David Freese, Jesus Montero and Rickie Weeks. Alfred Maione, director of pro sales, has been a busy man over the years.
21. Jeffrey Royer, general partner, Arizona Diamondbacks (22).
The Toronto resident committed $160 million US over a 10-year span as Diamondbacks owner, along with Mike Chipman, while Ken Kendrick is the managing general partner where Hall of Famer Tony La Russa and former Blue Jays ace Dave Stewart now run the shop.
Royer is one of 13 directors on the executive board of the Calgary-based, Shaw Communications cable company and is chairman of the board and a director of Baylin Technologies Inc. He grew up in Wisconsin a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s not the only cable magnate in town who owns part of a major-league team.
22. John Ircandia, managing director, Okotoks Dawgs (23).
The Dawgs drew an average of 2,827 in their 2,100-seat Seaman Stadium which includes a grass berm (room for 1,000). They go over capacity thanks to standing room on open concourses and two patios, including 4,769 on Canada Day. The Dawgs drew 77,000 on the season. BallparkBiz.com ranked the Dawgs fourth amongst summer collegiate leagues in North America. Ircandia’s team was behind the Madison Mallards (6,139 average), LaCrosse Loggers (3,150) and the Elmira Pioneers (3,020). The Dawgs sold out their last six home games, and three of four playoff contests. On the season, the Dawgs boasted 14 sellouts in 27 total games.
The $8-million Seaman Stadium is the anchor of the Western Major Baseball League. Their Dawgs academy players work out at the Duvernay Fieldhouse and Tourmaline Field — the best facilities in Canada — and have become provincial powerhouses at the bantam and midget levels.
23. George Cope, CEO, Bell Canada (-)
When the Blue Jays were born it was to sell beer and compete with the Expos. Now, if baseball in Montreal is to find its white knight — someone with deep pockets to build a new stadium and buy a franchise — Bell Canada has the means and welfare to battle Rogers Communications.
Stephen Bronfman, son of Charles Bronfman, Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Acquisition, and Dollarama CEO Larry Rossy are reported as the Montreal businessmen studying for more than a year to bring major league ball to Montreal. BCE (Bell), owns 18% of the Montreal Canadiens, Bell Centre and Evenko, the club’s marketing arm. Garber owns the rights to the World Series of Poker and six casinos in the U.S. currently worth $1.38 billion. Canadian Business magazine estimated the Rossy family fortune at $1.4 billion, 54th on the richest Canadians list.
24. Brett Lawrie, Oakland A’s (17).
No need to throw away all those No. 13 Lawrie jerseys. He will be back Aug 11-13. And his B.C. fans can catch him in Seattle three trips a year, playing nine times.
Lawrie will maintain his popularity throughout his career. Hopefully, he can tone down playing like a guy on CFL special teams who gets a no-yards penalty every other punt. Had he stayed healthy and had he had a marketing guy who knew the Canadian market, he would have more ads than only those for Sunflower seeds. He was loved across the country.
25. Fred Wray, agent (28).
The former Canadian national team right-hander works for Mark Pieper’s Relativity Sports. Pieper represents Justin Morneau and secured a $2-million US bonus for Gareth Morgan selected 73rd over-all. The Morgan deal should make it very difficult for another agent to out-recruit Relativity heading into what is supposed to be a banner draft year for Canucks.
Wray represents the likes of Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker of the Angels, Logan Morrison and Charlie Furbush of the Mariners, plus Houston’s Jason Castro. Relativity also represents the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Madison Bumgarner, Justin Verlander, Andrelton Simmons, Paul Goldschmidt and Mariano Rivera.
26. Gord Ash, assistant GM, Milwaukee Brewers (27).
Ash signed bullpen arms Zach Duke and Jeremy Jeffress to minor league deals and they became important parts of the bullpen. Duke was 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 74 games, while ex-Jay Jeffress was 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 29 games. Duke signed a three-year $15 million free-agent deal with the White Sox this off-season. Ash dealt lefty Brad Mills to Oakland for international slot money allowing the Brewers to sign shortstop Gilbert Lara, 16, for $3.1 million. The Dominican Republic resident was No. 5 on Baseball America’s list of international prospects.
The Brewers medical team (overseen by Ash) won the Martin Monaghan award for medical staff of the year for the second time the last few years. The Toronto native, who has been in the game since 1978, often helps young Canadians (scouts, front office staff, announcers) at the winter meetings as they try to get into the game and was the sixth highest-paid assistant GM in 2014.
27. Andrew Tinnish, assistant GM, Jays (30).
A year ago Tinnish was responsible for bulking up Buffalo adding Neil Wagner, Munenori Kawasaki and Juan Perez, who all contributed. This year he added Steven Tolleson and Kawasaki and they helped out at 1 Blue Jays Way.
Yet, the reason for the high ranking was seeing Tinnish drafts from his scouting director days contribute: Aaron Sanchez (first round, 2010), centre fielder Dalton Pompey (16th, 2010), lefty Daniel Norris (second round, 2011), outfielder Kevin Pillar (32nd, 2011) and right-hander Marcus Stroman (first round, 2012) were all his.
28. Dr. Jason Smith, Blue Jays physician (31).
With the retirement of Dr. Ron Taylor, Dr. Smith is The Man, or rather The Doc ball players seek with their injuries — major or minor. Besides the millionaires at the Rogers Centre, Smith has time for anyone from the Grade 11 student or the junior in college heading into his draft year with the injury.
The lanky Calgary native, who attended Princeton, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Flames in 1993 and played the 1996-97 at Saint John in the AHL before concussions shortened his career. Smith trained with Dr. James Andrews for seven years and has performed Tommy John elbow surgery for six years. He’s part of the medical staff around the Jays along with Drs. John Theodoropoulos, Irv Feferman, Noah Forman, Allan Gross, Steven Mirabello, Glenn Copeland, James Fischer, Pat Graham, Mark Scappaticci and Mike Prebeg.
29. Rob Thomson, third base coach, Yankees (32).
In his 26th season with the Yankees, he has six World Series rings, one more than George (Twinketoes) Selkirk, who won from 1936-39 and 1941.
Thomson won his first four as minor-league field co-ordinator when he ran spring training for Joe Torre. Who would have thought that the Corunna, Ont., native — like Derek Jeter, signed by scout Dick (The Legend) Groch — would be in a Yankee uniform longer than the shortstop? An off-season resident of Stratford he waved home 633 runs — including 147 Frankie Crosetti-style hand shakes after homers. He’s looking to be busier this year as the Yanks try to improve on their 84-win total of 2013.
30. Shiraz Rehman, assistant GM, Cubs (-).
The Montreal-born Rehman provides financial and statistical information to support trade and player evaluation, oversees the salary arbitration program, manages research and technology functions within baseball ops and evaluated the value of an opt-out clause. Born on the West Island, raised in New York, Rehman returned to the McGill Redbirds and was a starting infielder for four years and captain for two.
He worked as a commodities trader for five years before gaining an MBA from Columbia gained an internship with the Red Sox in 2005 under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Later he followed Josh Byrnes to Arizona and sent McGill coach Ernie D’Alessandro 12 bats when he heard the program was in financial trouble. He left the Diamondbacks for the Cubs in 2011 and was named assistant GM the next year.
31. Geoff Molson, owner, Montreal Canadiens (55).
Molson and Evenko came up with the idea of bringing the New York Mets and the Jays to town last March. Simon Arsenault, event manager at Evenko, and Evenko chief Jacques Aubé made it a success as no less than 96,000 fans showed for the two games.
Would a second stint between the Cincinnati Reds and the Jays go as well? It was doubtful. But then the Jays signed Montreal native son Russell Martin.
32. Wayne Norton, scout, Seattle Mariners (33).
Norton drafted Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) as the top high schooler in June (74th overall in North America) and GM Jack Zduriencik and scout Tom McNamara gave the Ontario Blue Jays outfielder a $2-million signing bonus, which equalled slot money for the 20th overall pick. The past two seasons, Norton has drafted Tyler O’Neill of Maple Ridge, B.C., the top high school hitter in the third round last year, North Vancouver’s Lachlan Fontaine in the 12th and Morgan.
Norton was the 2014 winner of Jim Ridley award, the annual scout of the year presented by the Canadian Baseball Network. This is the 21st annual winner, re-named in honour of Ridley. Besides Ridley, Norton is only scout to win the award more than once, winning in 1998 working for the Baltimore Orioles. Norton drafted Ntema Ndungidi (Montreal) from the ABC 36th over-all in 1998, took Michael Saunders (Victoria, BC) in the 11th round and and chose Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) 11th overall in 2007.
33. Joey Votto, first baseman, Reds (2).
Votto’s lack of game action had a direct influence on the Reds’ 76-win season. Votto made only 61 starts due to a strained left distal quadriceps. He was on the disabled list from July 8 until the end of the season, the second time he was on the DL in 2014. The injury is near the knee that Votto twice had surgery on in 2012.
Canada’s highest-paid athlete, who spent the off0season in Toronto found out what Ken Griffey and Eric Davis learned years ago. The quickest way to get Reds fans to turn: sign a big contract and get hurt. He was inducted into the Etobicoke Hall of Fame in November.
34. Jake Kerr, co-owner Vancouver Canadians (13).
The C’s streak ended at three when they lost to the Hillsboro Hops in the Northwest League championship final 4-3. The Canadians had held the Bob Frietas championship trophy for 1,091 days, the second longest tenure in Northwest League history.
Attendance was up slightly on average — 184,042 in 38 home dates last year for an average of 4,873 in 2013. This compares to 190,187 in 37 home games for an average of 4,870 in 2014. The Spokane Indians led the way (5,240 fans per game). The Vancouver-born Kerr co-owns the team with Jeff Mooney from Regina of A&W Canada.
35. Jim Stevenson, area scout, Astros (75).
The former Leaside coach has some kind of year: he drafted 10 players in June, signed two free agents for the Astros, picked up a nickname — the Epy (as in Guerrero) of Oklahoma — … and oh yes at the big-league level his lefty Dallas Keuchel emerged as a stud leading the AL in complete games (five).
Keuchel, a Stevenson pick as a seventh rounder in 2009 from the Arkansas Razorbacks ($150,000 bonus) has drawn comparisons to a young Mark Buehrle or Kenny Rogers. He made 29 starts going 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA.
Stevenson drafts began in the 11th round with Dean Deetz of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M ($100,000) and ended in the 39th when with Deetz’s teammate infielder Brad Abtchak of Langley (unsigned). In between, were studs like Hawaiian Robert
Kahana, a Kansas Jayhawk, and 6-foot-7 Justin Ferrell with a plus arm from the Connors State Cowboys.
36. Mike McRae, coach, Canisius (35).
Now in his 11th year, McRae will open 2015 as the defending Metro Atlantic champs. Canisius is one of 14 teams to win 40 or more games prior to the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons. The Griffs have 257 victories since 2008, the most in the Northeast, and a .635 winning mark in that time, which ranks 24th nationally and fifth among schools from non-power conferences.
A three-time MAAC coach of the year and assistant coach Paul Panik, brother of San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik, do not get beaten often in Canada recruiting. In his lineup next spring are Toronto’s Connor Panas, Langley’s Michael Krische, Windsor’s Brett Siddall, Iannick Remmillard of Valleyfield, Que., Devon Stewart of Maple Ridge, B.C, Calgary’s Tyler Vavra, Windsor’s Jake Lumley, Brampton’s Zachary Sloan, Cyrus Senior of Kirkland, Que., J.P. Stevenson of Hunter River, PEI and Oakville’s Blake Weston.
37. Jamie Lehman, scout, Jays (50).
The 2010 draft was in the 16th round and the Jays pick was getting close. Lehman was asked: “Evan Rutckyj or Dalton Pompey?” He answered Pompey. Lehman was asked again “Rutckyj or Pompey?” Again he answered Pompey. Again someone higher than him in war room asked “Rutckyj or Pompey?” Again Lehman answered Pompey.
Both Rutckyj and Pompey began 2014 in the class-A Florida State League. Pompey zoomed through the Jays system from Dunedin to New Hampshire to Buffalo and the Rogers Centre. Rutckyj was a combined 5-3 with a 3.81 ERA in 34 games at class-A Charleston and class-A Tampa.
And now Pompey is set to be the Jays’ opening day centre fielder. Lehman will be inducted into the Ontario Blue Jays hall of fame this month.
38. Keith Pelley, president, Rogers Media (23).
The Jays are under the Rogers media umbrella, which would lead one to think he makes decisions on who is the president or the next president. Not the case.
Pelley oversees Sportsnet properties, deserves credit for hiring baseball guys Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith, plus cracker jacks like Stephen Brunt, Michael Grange and Mike Cormack. He looks after Rogers properties such as Sportsnet Magazine and CITY-TV as well.
39. Ron Tostenson, national crosschecker, Chicago Cubs (39).
The former Blue Jays scout from Kelowna, B.C. had fun watching post-season play. Working for the Seattle Mariners he had a lot to do with landing the talent the M’s exchanged for lefty Erik Bedard in 2008. A former outfielder in the Montreal Expos system, he was crosschecking Californian amateurs when the M’s gave outfielder Adam Jones a $925,000 bonus as the 37th overall pick in 2003 and he was in on Chris Tillman when he was selected in the second round from Fountain Valley High. Seattle sent George Sherrill, Tony Butler, Kam Mickolio, Jones and Tillman for Bedard which laid the foundation for this October’s success.
Leading into this June’s draft Tostenson oversaw the Cubs’ first seven picks — all ranked in Baseball America’s first 121. The No. 4 overall pick Kyle Schwarber had the best pro debut of anyone, with 18 homers after signing in June and receiving a $3.125 million bonus. The other six picks ($5.39 million) were Maryland right-hander Jake Stinnett, Virginia Teach catcher Mark Zagunis, Tallahassee high lefty Carson Sands, lefty Justin Steele of Lucedale, Miss., Dylan Cease from Milton Ga. and right-hander James Norwood from Saint Louis.
40. Murray Cook, scout, Tigers (51).
There were a couple of reasons there were more scouts in the crowd than usual on induction day at St. Marys last year. First the late Jim Ridley was being inducted and secondly so was Cook, a scout with the Tigers. The Sackville, N.B., native began his scouting career in 1972 after his playing days in the Pittsburgh system ended. He went on to be general manager of the Yankees, Expos and Reds.
Cook routinely scouts the Canadian junior national Team in Florida. He’s a two-time scout of the year. This year he had three Tiger drafts, first baseman Corey Baptist from St. Petersburg College, a 17th rounder, Gage Smith from Florida State in the 25th and Magglio Ordonez, a high schooler from Plantation, Fla., a 38th.
41. Ray Carter, president, Baseball Canada (38).
Few people in this country have as much passion for the Maple Leaf as this Vancouver engineer. Greg Hamilton accelerated the junior national team in 1999, Jim Baba fielded hot-potato political issues from sandlots to the international stage, Andre Lachance runs baseball operations and the women’s team, Kelsey McIntosh co-ordinates coaching programs and Adam Morissette gets the word out from coast-to-coast on those wearing the red and white.
Carter hired them all. Not that he’s big on the west coast, but there is a highway named after him … or was he one of the engineers who designed it for RKTG Associates?
42. Jonah Keri, writer, Grantland.com (48).
The Montrealer’s latest book — “Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos” — hit the shelves last spring. It was the 10th anniversary of the Expos moving to Washingston, D.C. and marked 20 years since the 1994 World Series was cancelled. Up, Up and Away was the No. 1 best-selling non-fiction book in Canada and a New York Times sports best seller. How good is the book? Four of my friends gave it to me for my 65th birthday … and I’m sure two of them were not re-gifted.
Keri was the editor and co-author of Baseball Between the Numbers. Also, “Tampa Bay Rays, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First,” was a best seller. He is prolific.
43. Allan Simpson, Perfect Game Scouting Service (40).
Simpson had a busy career: he was GM of rookie-class Lethbridge Expos, spent three summers with the Alaska Goldpanners summer college league, founded Baseball America, writes for Perfect Game Scouting Service, has been elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame … and now he’s writing a book on the history of the draft: the successes, the failures and the near misses of the first round.
For Perfect Game he rates prospects for the 2013 draft from all 53 draft areas (50 US states, plus Canada, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.).
The Kelowna, B.C. native took over for the late, great Randy Echlin heading the Hall of Fame selection committee.
44. Jacques Doucet, broadcaster (44).
Is it possible, Doucet, Montreal Expos French-language broadcaster from 1972-2004, will gain even greater popularity this summer with TVA carrying 81 Jays games with their new Montreal-raised catcher Russell Martin? Doucet has been finalist in Ford C. Frick voting 10 times.
He’ll be on the 2017 ballot no doubt when the Frick committtee votes on the “High Tide Era” (Mid-1980s to present).
He helped his home province fall in love with one team, his beloved Expos, worked Quebec Capitales games and since 2012 has done Jays games. He was inducted to the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame in May 2002 and won the Jack Graney award from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, as his partner Roger Brulotte did in 2013.
45. Tom Tippett, information services, Boston Red Sox (48).
Tippett is GM Ben Cherington’s right arm when it comes to numbers. He oversees the development of the team’s information system and provides analytical support for player evaluation and other decisions. Before joining the Sox in 2008, he founded Diamond Mind, Inc., simulation products until he sold the company in 2006.
The Toronto native graduated from the University of Waterloo and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked in software development and marketing positions for IBM in Toronto and Index Technology in Cambridge, Mass., from 1982 to 1992.
46. Joe Siddall, Jays broadcaster (-).
An e-mail from Jerry Howarth last winter signed off “see you next season,” which prompted a return email. Siddall signed off a return e-mail “or maybe we’ll see you in the booth” and it led to The Fan pursuing Siddall to replace Jack Morris, whom Siddall wasn’t even aware had left the Jays. When Ron Coomer departed the Minnesota Twins to take a job with the Chicago Cubs, Morris headed home and the Jays had an opening.
Siddall worked the first game of the Grapefruit season at Clearwater and nine innings later was hired full time. He grew up a Detroit Tigers fan, threw batting practice for the Tigers and he worked with Howarth the way Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker smoothly and skillfully turned double plays. As one listener wrote after a Jays-Tigers series:
Siddall played it right down the fairway. A high compliment. After one year at Central Michigan as a quarterback he changed courses when signed by the Expos.
47. Adnan Virk, ESPN (x).
Virk was a presence as Baseball Tonight host this season working 150 shows. He took over after Steve Berthiaume left to join the Diamondbacks. Virk shares duties with Karl Ravech and Jon Sciambi.
Virk is knowledgeable and asks insightful questions to former managers, players and guests. And he is quick. How quick? Well, The Worldwide Leader In Sports (except in Canada where the network is unavailable) has him fill in as host of Keith Olbermann late-night show.
How into baseball is Virk? He took Jayson Stark’s book The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History with him on his honeymoon … along with his wife Eamon. Virk played hoops at Ernestown Secondary School, outside of Kingston — Canada’s first capital, attended Ryerson, worked for The Score, was a producer at TSN, a host and reporter for Raptors and Leafs TV before heading to Bristol, Conn.
on the espn