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Blue Jays Lawrie hits a single against the Yankees during their MLB baseball game in Toronto (MARK BLINCH/Mark Blinch/Reuters)
Blue Jays Lawrie hits a single against the Yankees during their MLB baseball game in Toronto (MARK BLINCH/Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Jeff Blair

Jays have deeper issues than Lawrie Add to ...

Goodness gracious, people: Brett Lawrie is hardly the first young player with or without a bunch of tattoos to go about his business on the edge and run afoul of a major-league umpire.

Truth is, if he lets it the game will take care of him. The four-game suspension and fine handed down for his run-in with umpire Bill Miller on Tuesday night? A note home, nothing more, and now the appeal process will play out.

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It is good that Lawrie said he would seek out Miller on Wednesday night and apologize. He told teammates he would visit the umpires’ dressing room before the game. Rest assured that Toronto Blue Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield said words, too, during a discussion with Miller at third base while the Blue Jays waited to bat in the first.

Lawrie needs to do a bit of growing up in the context of the game, and for all the fire and energy that characterizes the third baseman’s play, he seems to have enough awareness of the game’s sensibilities to pull it off. He is not, in other words, Milton Bradley.

Wednesday night’s first of two games against the New York Yankees provided a time to reflect on a Blue Jays team that has way deeper issues than Lawrie’s demeanour.

Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia both had home runs among their three-hit games as the Blue Jays (20-18) hammered the 20-17 Yankees 8-1 in front of 28,915 at the Rogers Centre. Kyle Drabek (3-4) scattered three hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking four to end a four-game losing streak. Lawrie was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, while Jose Bautista and Kelly Johnson also homered.

While it is true that much of the pregame chatter with manager John Farrell dealt with the fallout from Lawrie’s meltdown in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, perhaps the most telling revelation was that the manager was going to impart a specific pregame message to the team. The Blue Jays have failed to take advantage of injuries to their American League East peers, and committed 37 errors in their first 36 games, including four in Tuesday’s loss.

“Physical errors are going to take place,” Farrell said. “It’s important to all of us in uniform … we’ll have a chance in a little while to remind them of who we are as a team and individuals, to trust our abilities and the process.”

It is too early for a crisis – let alone in a major-league season in which the Baltimore Orioles start the day tied for first in the division. What Lawrie – and very much by extension the Blue Jays – have received is a timely reminder. They would not be the first team to get ahead of itself.

Lawrie received supplemental discipline for what were called “aggressive actions,” toward Miller, who had home plate on Tuesday. With one out, Lawrie bolted toward first base on a 3-1 offering that was clearly out of the strike zone. But Miller called it a strike, and with Rays closer Fernando Rodney and his teammates staring him down, Lawrie went back to the plate. Predictably, he was rung up on the next pitch – it was high and outside – and Lawrie again broke to first, before turning around and charging Miller, throwing his helmet into the ground. It bounced up and hit Miller on the hip, and Lawrie and Farrell were ejected.

“We’re going to appeal it, and try to get my side of the story out,” Lawrie said. “In a nutshell, I didn’t mean to hit him. Actions kind of took over.”

In case the Blue Jays and their fans needed a reminder that a spring record means jack, in terms of currency within the game, it’s about as useful as those slick television commercials and the ability to get the best table at any restaurant or bar. You have to build up currency before cashing in, and the Jays aren’t there yet. They are local heroes, which doesn’t count for much with veteran umpires. But there will come a time, is the guess here.

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