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A weekend for Jays fans to wonder what could have been

Shohei Ohtani Los Angeles Dodgers Shohei Ohtani - The Canadian Press

For a few brief moments in January, we were all convinced that Shohei Ohtani and his representatives were on a private charter jet from California to Toronto. There were reports he was on his way to sign the biggest contract in baseball history, ready to commit the next 10 years of his career to the Blue Jays.

The excitement was palpable. We imagined him in the lineup between Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. We imagined all the home runs he would launch in a Jays uniform. We knew that he couldn’t pitch this year, but we didn’t care because his bat would make a huge difference.

I was going to happen. It was happening. Until it didn’t. 

Ohtani wasn’t on the plane, and he wasn’t joining the Blue Jays. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers days later for $700 million over 10 years.

Missing out on Ohtani is one of the most disappointing losses in franchise history. The Jays have had plenty of devastating defeats over the years, but those were just single games. Ohtani is arguably the greatest player ever. He would have added dozens of wins over the years to Toronto’s record. He would have led them to the playoffs and, quite possibly, the World Series.

Instead, Toronto lost out on being part of baseball history and lore. One of the greatest players in the history of the game could have been a Blue Jay but chose the Dodgers. 

Ohtani comes to Toronto this weekend to face the rejected franchise and fan base with his Dodgers teammates. I expect that he will get heartily booed. There will be heckling about the gambling controversy that ensnared his former his interpreter earlier this season. None of that will bother Ohtani, who is leading all of baseball in batting average and OPS. He has extraordinary focus. The fans may be bothered by his presence, but he will be oblivious.

It will be very interesting to see how Jays manager John Schneider decides to pitch to him. Last July, when Ohtani as a member of the Angels, he hit a home run against the Jays in Toronto. Former Toronto third baseman Matt Chapman confronted Schneider shortly after, asking why the Jays would pitch to Ohtani at all since he was the only Angel who could hit.

The Dodgers are not the Angels. Ohtani has a much better lineup around him. He is sandwiched between two former MVPs in shortstop Mookie Betts and first baseman Freddie Freeman. Schneider will have to make tough decisions about who to pitch to all weekend long.

For the Jays and their fans, this will be a series of what could have been. For the Dodgers, it’s just business as usual.


Can Vladdy get going?

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto Blue Jays

One thing Jays fans are certainly hoping for is that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets himself going at the plate.

It’s true that two other offensive leaders, Bo Bichette and George Springer, are also struggling, but Vladdy is the wild card. He needs to play far more like the player who hit .311/.401/.601 in 2021 with 48 homers and 111 RBI if the Jays are going to be the best version of themselves.

Guerrero had one of the worst games of his career on Tuesday night in Kansas City. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and also hit into a double play. Defensively, he dropped a very catchable throw from Isiah Kiner-Falefa that would have ended an inning. Instead, the error led to three unearned runs in 3-2 loss to the Royals. It was ugly. 

Guerrero is hitting .214/.330/.337 this season. His struggles are pretty clear when looking at the numbers behind the numbers. He is hitting .294 versus fastballs, .179 vs. breaking balls and .000 vs. off-speed pitches (0-15). So, what would you throw him? 

It is time for Vladdy to make an adjustment. At some point he needs to looks for breaking balls and off-speed pitches. The only way to get fastballs to hit is to adjust and show he can take and hit the other pitches. 

This would be a good weekend for Guerrero to break out of his slump.


Boone’s bizarre ejection

Hunter Wendelstedt Aaron Boone New York Yankees

We saw one of the most bizarre ejections ever this week when home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt tossed Yankees manager Aaron Boone five pitches into the game on Monday against the Oakland Athletics.

Boone barked at Wendelstedt when he thought A’s outfielder Esteury Ruiz swung at a pitch that ended up hitting his back foot. Wendelstedt snapped back at Boone that he had done the right thing and asked the first base umpire for help on the check swing because, as the home plate umpire, he had to track the ball to see if it hit Ruiz. Wendelstedt then told Boone to be quiet and if he said anything else he would be ejected. Boone accepted that he had had his say and stopped chirping.

But then a man sitting in the second row behind the dugout yelled something at Wendelstedt. The umpire believed it came from the Yankee dugout and decided to eject Boone because he is in charge of his dugout and the buck stops with him. Boone went out and argued to no avail that what Wendelstedt had heard had not come from the Yankees’ dugout, but from a fan. He was gone. 

When asked about the ejection after the game, Wendelstedt said he has never ejected a player or manager due to something a fan said. He made it clear this wasn’t his first ejection, and that he understood why the question were being asked because it was being “portrayed” that the “cheap shot” had come from a fan.

He clearly didn’t believe that it was true. He seemingly believed Boone was lying about it. The cameras caught everything, and it was clear the fan was the heckler. Boone was telling the truth and Wendelstedt was wrong.

Boone reached out to the commissioner’s office and stated that he felt comfortable that he would not face any discipline. But what about Wendelstedt? What is his accountability?

When a manager or player get disciplined there are press releases issued about suspensions and fines. The same should be true about the umpires. Wendelstedt needs to admit he was wrong, and that Boone should not have been ejected. The umpire should be fined as much as a manager would be fined when they are ejected. His mistake took Boone out of the dugout for almost the entire game in a 2-0 loss. What’s fair is fair.