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Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Omar Vizquel watches the path of his hit after taking batting practice before the Blue Jays' spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, Fla., Sunday, March 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Kathy Willens/AP)
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Omar Vizquel watches the path of his hit after taking batting practice before the Blue Jays' spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, Fla., Sunday, March 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Kathy Willens/AP)

The Usual Suspects

Jays' Vizquel wields unusual candour Add to ...

Can we get Omar Vizquel on every Toronto Blue Jays broadcast this season? The veteran infielder is in camp as a possible utility player/unofficial coach/resource for the Blue Jays’ young Latin infielders. He’s also refreshingly frank, eschewing the blarney so many others sow when talking on TV.

Great example during Sunday’s Blue Jays-Phillies game when the 44-year-old Vizquel was a guest with Sportsnet’s Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler during the top of the sixth inning. In a wide-ranging discussion, Tabler asked Vizquel about the Blue Jays’ talented shortstop, Yunel Escobar. Most baseball types would have rhapsodized about Escobar’s talents as if he were the next Ozzie Smith.

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Vizquel cut to the chase. “He has to improve the mental game a bit,” Vizquel said. “The shortstop position, you have to dominate the game in so many different aspects. He has to communicate, has to be a presence out there for the pitchers. I’m going to try to keep him more in the game. He loses his head out there when he’s 0 for 3, 0 for 4. He’s thinking about his [at-bats] and that’s something we cannot do when we play the infield.”

Vizquel also described playing with ex-Jay Roberto Alomar in Cleveland. Vizquel said the pair communicated without even talking on the infield. Vizquel described it “as like a ballet out there.” We don’t think we’ve ever heard any baseball player use the word ballet in a sentence. Not properly, at least. But there haven’t been many like Vizquel. His candour once caused former friend Jose Mesa to vow to hit him with a pitch every time he faced him.

HOOP CONFUSION

FOX TV had the notion that, because most TV announcers don’t know the rules governing the sport they cover, it might be a good idea to keep a rules expert at hand. So FOX employs Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former head of officiating, as a live on-air resource during the football season. Pereira pops up in the broadcasts to set the talking heads straight on the arcane rules governing the NFL. Such as what constitutes a fumble, what is the tuck rule and what down it is. Complicated stuff.

Would that other sports took a similar attitude toward clarifying the rules. This weekend’s March Madness being a perfect example. An amateur basketball referee here in Canada pointed out one classic example with CBS’s No. 1 crew of Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg (a former star player).

Down two points to Xavier, Notre Dame was called for a lane violation on the front end of a one-and-one foul-shot situation with 2.8 seconds to play. It was a controversial call as the Notre Dame player ran into the lane just as the free thrower released the ball. But a confused Kellogg and Nantz asserted the call was on a player in the key, till somebody apparently straightened them out over headphones.

Then Kellogg confidently explained how a player from beyond the arc can’t leave before the shooter releases the ball. “That is the correct call,” he said. Wrong again. The rules say a player from beyond the arc can’t enter the lane until the ball hits the rim.

What made it even more exasperating was there had been an almost identical situation in the Syracuse/-UNC Asheville game earlier in the tournament, precipitating talk of the exact rule. Which Nantz and Kellogg apparently missed. To cap the episode, Charles Barkley said the call was a “disgrace.” He should know.

ASTRAL SALE

The sale of Astral Communications to Bell Canada shook the Canadian communications world last week. In an era where sports properties are considered the platinum standard in broadcasting, this blockbuster had little to do with sports programming. Astral does own TEAM 1260, the Edmonton all-sports station, but that is about the extent of its sports content.

There are a couple of sidelights: TSN Radio 990 in Montreal, which wrested the Montreal Canadiens’ radio rights from CJAD after several years of positioning, now becomes a sister station to its former rival. In Toronto, Bell might have the option of moving its TSN Radio 1050 outlet to the stronger NewsTalk 1010 signal, which has better reception both in and out of the city. But that’s a ways off yet. Bell might decide to launch a competitor in Calgary to Sportsnet Radio Fan 960 using one of the newly acquired signals, but that does not seem a priority.

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