Volume 91, Issue 72

Thursday, February 5, 1998




Bring back Ernie


Those were the letters that tailors for the Toronto Blue Jays began stitching yesterday onto team jerseys after closing a contract with the injury-prone slugger, who goes by the name of Jose, to bring him to Hogtown.

Sit back and think about this for a second. The Jays were so desperate that they signed a washed-up fielding error waiting to happen, for $2 million. This is proof that the Toronto team, once a storied franchise, has hit rock bottom.

Unfortunately, it seems general manager Gord Ash has yet to show up for work from his four-year sabbatical, leaving his dim-witted twin brother Vinnie to remain running the day-to-day operations of the team.

It was my hope that after years of poor trades and signings, the Ash of old would return to pull the team back to respectability. It appears I was wrong. And now, the team is once again putting their rebuilding process in reverse even before the first pitch of spring training.

The fact remains that someone had to fill the shoes of slugger Carlos Delgado, who must sit out the first two months with injuries. Unfortunately, Canseco was definitely not the answer to the Jays' woes.

If your argument is that there was no one else the team could afford to replace Delgado with, you are sadly wrong. How does 30 home runs with potential for another MVP season sound compiled with the fact that he is already on the Jays' payroll? Still guessing? How about Blue Jay legend George Bell, the Jays' current minor league hitting instructor. Sure, he may be a little rusty around the edges, but he must still have that sweet swing if he's now teaching youngsters to aim for the fences.

However, the Jays still have a chance to fill other positions with quality, low cost athletes. To start with they need a quality catcher. Benito Santiago has always been an unpredictable offensive commodity and although he had a poor season last year, chances were high that he would return this season with better numbers – but that was before he sent himself pin-balling around in his car, crashing it this off-season.

Once again an employee of the Blue Jay organization can return to the fans, who made him a Canadian folk hero in the '80s. Just call him Whitt, Ernie Whitt, the Jay's current roving minor league catching instructor. Let's face it – nobody else in the history of the game has been a better pure pull hitter, with one knee on the ground, than Ernie.

Next on the agenda is finding a cost-effective closer to finish the job in the late innings. Why spend millions on newly acquired Randy Myers when there is a familiar face ready to throw a few more drops of Aqua Velva on those wrinkled cheeks? That's right, for only a few bucks, the Terminator himself, Tom Henke, could be warming up in the bullpen. Even in his last season in 1995, his heater was good enough to earn him one last All-Star Game appearance. Myers is sixth and Henke is seventh on the all-time save list, so what's the difference? How about $4 million.

With Bell, Henke and Whitt on board, the only question that remains is where does Toronto front office stop? Could Jay fans blink one day to find Bell joined by Jesse Barfield and Lloyd Moseby in the outfield? Rance Mulliniks at third? Willie Upshaw at first?

Think the joke has gone too far? With savings of tens of millions of dollars, Toronto management has the opportunity to bring back the large crowds of true blue fans.

Don't think these aging athletes can compete with the youth of the Major Leagues? Just remember, if nothing else, the Jays have sat in the basement of the American League East for four long drawn-out years – they can't do any worse.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998