Volume 91, Issue 50

Wednesday, November 26, 1997




Ash on Hash

The Toronto Blue Jays may have signed their sixth manager in franchise history but sadly, it seems Gord Ash only got it half right.

On Monday members of the Jays' brass announced that ex-big leaguer Tim Johnson (as opposed to manager of the year Davey Johnson) will take over as team manager next season, a position left vacant two months ago when Cito Gaston was fired.

Johnson, who played 516 games over a seven-year career in the big leagues as a utility man and infielder during the mid and late 70s, was reported to have beat out three other candidates for the top coaching role. The shortlist included TSN analyst and ex-Jay Buck Martinez, Larry Bowa and, what seemed as the most obvious choice since Gaston was dismissed, Davey Johnson, who recently quit as manager in Baltimore.

The decision to hire the younger Johnson seems baffling. After he retired in 1979 with a career .223 batting average playing for both Milwaukee and the Jays, he continued to bounce around as a scout and then as a minor league coach. Johnson got his first coaching job in 1987-88 with Great Falls of the Pioneer league and after a couple more stints as a minor league manager, made the jump to the big leagues. In 1993-94 he was the bench coach in Montreal and then took the same role with Boston during the 1995-96 campaign. Other than these couple of seasons at the big league level, however, Johnson has no other major league coaching experience.

Looking at the other four candidates, the weirdest choice had to be Buck Martinez. Ash must simply have been providing Martinez with a patronage reward for his work with TSN since retirement, which he used to kiss the behind of every member of his ex-team. Although his knowledge of the game may be extensive, his inexperience as a coach and sad-sack career would have made it tough to earn the respect of some of the team's veterans.

Although Larry Bowa might have made a good choice due to his big league experience, Davey Johnson should have been the top choice based on his experience and track record. Johnson boasts a World Series ring after leading the young 1986 New York Mets team to a championship and this past year, he helped lead Baltimore to the best record in the majors.

Tim Johnson was praised by the Jays' front office for his great skills as a motivator and ability to relate to the younger players, yet Davey Johnson's work with the Mets in 1986 is even more impressive considering he handled some of the most troublesome youth in sports with the likes of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.

One of the most promising rumours leading up to the signing of Johnson was hearing Paul Molitor's name through the grape vine. Sadly for Jays fans, Mollie decided he wasn't interested in coaching just yet and still felt he could contribute as a player. Not even the chance of being both a player/coach could sway him to return to Hogtown.

The Jays have had some of the worst finishes in franchise history over the last few years since their early '90s success and although canning Gaston was a positive move, the hiring of the wrong Johnson seems to do little to boost the team's chances next year. This youthful bunch needs a manager with a sound baseball mind and an extensive portfolio of major league experience. Although Tim Johnson has been around the game, he has not in any way proved himself a capable big league manager.

Think that I'm the one on drugs? Email us at gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

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Copyright The Gazette 1997