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Toronto Blue Jays Vernon Wells hits an RBI double against the Cincinnati Reds in Toronto on June 24. (MARK BLINCH)
Toronto Blue Jays Vernon Wells hits an RBI double against the Cincinnati Reds in Toronto on June 24. (MARK BLINCH)

Blair Facts

Jays may finally act on slumping stars Add to ...

Hey Alex Rios and Vernon Wells: Kevin Millar thinks the Toronto media are too easy on you.

"In this market, guys are very fortunate when they go through struggles, because it's not magnified by any means," Millar, who is hitting .185 over his last 21 games, told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick earlier this week. "You throw up a 1-for-10 in Philadelphia, New York or Boston, and it's the end of the world.

"I'm not saying any struggle is easy, because Vernon is definitely trying to cure his thing and get out of it. But you're definitely fortunate that you're in another country and you're playing for the Blue Jays and you've got three beat writers instead of 40." So Millar's the guy who still reads newspapers! I knew somebody did!

Now, it's true that Millar is almost Zaun-esque in his ability to self-promote. But you should know that Millar's feelings are often echoed by people around the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thing is, everybody's pointed out how poorly Rios and Wells have played and how often they slump. It's not like it's just happened this season, you know? But this isn't a baseball city: it's a hockey city. It's also a city without much success in any sport in recent years so, you know, there's an element of 'Yeah, whatever,' at work here. We don't have a gold standard for sports in Toronto; we have a bronze standard.

So, here you go Millar: Rios and Wells frequently suck - although it was everybody's favourite Gritty Guy, John McDonald, who was caught off second base before Wells bounced out for the final out of yesterday's 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies and there was nary a boo for Johnny Mac.

Anyhow, my sense is general manager J.P. Ricciardi's all but at the bag of balls stage; that he's decided any money saved in off-loading Rios or Wells is more important than what's brought back in return, and that it would have been done by now had Travis Snider not been hurt. The Blue Jays are in danger of a serious revenue crunch that will impact their ability to do on-field business next year. Money's not coming in, and Roy Halladay needs to be paid.


Play Along With Brian Burke is the coolest thing to happen to sports writing in Toronto but, I don't know, I'm not certain I'd want to wear a microphone at the NHL draft the way he did this past weekend.

(Although I must admit: Watching Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray slink away when Burke told him the Toronto Maple Leafs were using the seventh overall choice was great theatre. Reminded me of getting blown off at a Grade 8 sock-hop at Morden Collegiate asking She Who Shall Be Nameless if she wanted to do the Stairway To Heaven last dance thing.)

Not that I would ever suggest that Burke, the Maple Leafs GM, would let TSN's eaves-dropping affect a decision. I'm presuming somebody somewhere had a mute button and, besides, Burke isn't exactly the type of person who worries about the impression he leaves on people who don't pay his salary. But the more stories that come out about how a deal with the Boston Bruins involving Tomas Kaberle fizzled, the more I'm reminded about how former Boston Red Sox GM Dan Duquette allowed ESPN to videotape an Outside The Lines thing on the free-agent contract he and then-agent Jeff Moorad negotiated for Manny Ramirez. I mean, I'm all for the behind-the-scenes stuff, but the video did more for Moorad's reputation than for Duquette's.

Anyhow, I do like the fact that Burke did his business Friday night and then got the hell off the stage. The way other teams trotted up a token French-Canadian scout or executive to say "Bonjour" and "Merci" was a little much and only added to an already tedious production. There was so much time wasted congratulating the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup, I'm surprised people aren't ripping into Sidney Crosby for not being beside the stage to shake hands with each GM as he filed off.

Garbage Time Frankly, I think Jim Balsillie's chances of owning the Phoenix Coyotes are just slightly worse than Alex Rios's chance of hitting 50 home runs this season. But I expect his camp will be all agog now that the Arizona conservative watch-dog group The Goldwater Institute is suing the city of Glendale for failure to disclose records of negotiations between Glendale and putative Coyotes owner Jerry Reinsdorf. I hope so: I haven't had the requisite 2,300 daily Make It Seven tweets for a while. … Shh! Hear that? That was a moment's silence for John Tavares's NHL career now that he's with the New York Islanders. … Look, I like to sing Kumbaya as much as anybody but it's a stretch to see anything remotely altruistic behind the Maple Leafs drafting a Muslim player of Lebanese descent. Really. … Hedo Turkoglu is a nice dream for Toronto Raptors fans. Too bad about the salary cap. … This is just a hunch, but based on what happened in Ottawa this year and the dough-headed manner in which Dany Heatley's trade demand was delivered, you don't suspect Heatley was a bigger issue for the Senators than Ray Emery, do you? Not even a bit? … The best part of this weekend's blow-up between Milton Bradley of the Chicago Cubs and manager Lou Piniella was Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild accusing a clubhouse employee - employed by the Chicago White Sox - of leaking details to the press. … What's the mystery about Jacques Lemaire being named to Canada's Olympic staff? Seems like a pretty good guy to coach penalty-killing, no? Frankly, I'll give Hockey Canada credit on this one. Smacks of original thinking. My only question is: Couldn't they find a spare Sutter kicking around?

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