Paul Beeston is gradually putting his imprimatur back on the Toronto Blue Jays - new general manager, new turf - but I keep waiting for the pièce de résistance: that moment when Beeston exacts something spectacular out of Bud Selig simply by reminding the baseball commissioner that he knows where the skeletons are buried from his time as chief executive officer for Major League Baseball.
Beeston, who is now the full-time president and CEO of both the Rogers Centre and the Blue Jays, is on Selig's blue-ribbon committee examining the game's future. With divisional realignment already floated, it would be logical to put two and two together and say Beeston ought to say to Selig: "Move us to the AL Central or else… well, you know what."
But baseball sources say realignment depends first and foremost on a resolution to Tampa Bay's ballpark issue.
Fact: The American League Central isn't a cupcake division, and until there's a balanced schedule, there's something to be said for having the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox visit your ballpark a few extra times a year. I would prefer Beeston push for expanded playoffs, which would serve the Blue Jays' purposes better than realignment. In the meantime, an All-Star Game would be nice, too.
Garbage Time: Ron Wilson's going to get a chance to come back as Maple Leafs head coach, but somebody should pay for the team's penalty killing and power play, two coachable elements. … Umpire Joe West, who tore a strip off the Yankees and Red Sox last week for their dawdling during games, worked home plate Saturday night and almost beat Blue Jays catcher Jose Molina to the pitcher's mound for conferences twice. Molina laughed later when he was asked if he felt West was involved in a one-man crusade. "Nah, I've known Joe for a long time and know how he is," Molina said. One reason for West's iron fist: He has long believed baseball hasn't backed up its umpires whenever the issue of slow play has been raised. And he's right. … Former Montreal Expos GM Jim Beattie was at yesterday's game. Beattie scouts the American League and National League East out of his home in Boston. Beattie, who has a sharp yet dry wit, spent the past two years as a financial consultant. "Which means I received 10 years experience in two years," he deadpanned, referring to the economic slowdown. … Speaking of the Expos, somebody has to honour Andre Dawson for his introduction into the Hall of Fame, no? Who better than the one remaining Canadian franchise?
Brian Butterfield is a details guy, which is no surprise since no coaching role puts as much of a premium on nuance as does being the third-base coach and infield instructor. With tonight marking the unveiling of the Rogers Centre's new Astroturf surface, Butterfield spent the past week trying to figure out how the Blue Jays would squeeze in extra practice. "Aaron's already been talking about getting guys out there early, like at 1 o'clock, to get in some extra work," Butterfield said of second baseman Aaron Hill. "This is definitely different. I can't remember not having a chance to get a good workout in before you play an opener."
The Blue Jays had a half-diamond of similar turf installed in their spring-training complex in Dunedin, Fla., on a back field used for infield drills. But it was frequently wet, something that won't be an issue at the Rogers Centre.
Given the abject nature of Toronto FC, it ought to be quite the atmosphere at Thursday night's home opener against the expansion Philadelphia Union. Sure hope that new grass at BMO Field looks good, at least. The Union beat D.C. United 3-2 on Saturday in a match in which Union manager Peter Nowak, a native of Poland, decided to coach from the press box instead of the sideline as a gesture of respect for Polish president Lech Kaczynski and others killed in a plane crash Saturday morning in Russia. Nowak counted crash victim Piotr Nurowski, the head of the Polish Olympic Committee, among his friends. "They have cancelled all activities around Poland," Nowak told reporters on Saturday. "I cannot be with them. This is all I can do."
"You don't want to get rid of him. I was there in St. Louis when they got rid of Brett Hull. They said: 'Brett Hull can't win.' Well, Brett Hull left and he won two Cups."
- With the Calgary Flames unexpectedly booking tee times, Craig Conroy tells reporters the team would be making a mistake if it traded Jarome Iginla as part of an expected comeuppance for missing the playoffs.
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