National Post (Latest Edition)

Former Jays GM deserved better

New playoff rules enable Toront o to look more successful while accomplish­ing less

- Steve Simmons

Atouch of perspectiv­e on the playoff-bound Toronto Blue Jays in this asterisk shortened big league season: Nineteen times in Jays history, the club has finished in the Top 8 in the American League and not qualified for the playoffs.

Nineteen times. Longer seasons back then. Fewer playoff teams. Six of those teams were run by somewhat despised general manager J.P. Ricciardi. Four were run by Gord Ash. Both GMS were considered semi- failures after 14 seasons of Pat Gillick running the team.

There is some celebratio­n now as this unlikely Blue Jays team, a few games over .500 in a weak American League, heads to the playoffs Tuesday and, really, there should be. But understand this: In any other year, the season would have ended Sunday, with the Jays cleaning out their lockers Monday and talking optimistic­ally about next year.

Looking back, if any of the previous GMS deserve a reconsider­ation of their time in Toronto, it would be Ricciardi. His teams played in an American League East during the hottest era of Yankees- Red Sox madness. Ricciardi was GM for eight years. Six times his team finished Top 8 in the American League, good enough for playoffs this year, but not when he was around.

In his eight seasons, the Yankees averaged a remarkable 98 wins a year, with the Bosox not far behind at 94. Ricciardi’s Jays won 87 games once, 86 twice and more than 80 two other times.

Realistica­lly, you can count at least 12 Blue Jays teams that were more equipped, more talented and more fundamenta­lly sound than this year’s playoff-bound team.

But there are no recounts now for Ricciardi or for Ash. They got little applause for their work. Perhaps, in retrospect, they deserved better.

I’m confused. More than usual. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo insists that star pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu is fine. Not hurt at all. Not even sore. But he won’t commit to him as his Game 1 starter in the playoffs. The Jays won 9 of 12 games Ryu started this season, including the brilliant start Thursday against the Yankees. It’s a best of three. Don’t you need your best pitcher in the first game? Or is there some kind of strategy I’m unfamiliar with here. ... Teoscar Hernandez has Mike Trout offensive numbers this season. Honest. ... Have to like what Derek Jeter did after the Covid-ravaged Miami Marlins qualified for the playoffs after a rather crazy season. He called every member of the organizati­on and congratula­ted them personally. The Jays called people, too.

They called Pat Hentgen and Paul Quantrill and fired them. ... Alex Anthopoulo­s’ last six seasons: First place as GM of the Blue Jays. First place with the Los Angeles Dodgers twice. First place with the Atlanta Braves three years in a row. That may not be comparable to John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox finishing first 11 years in a row in Atlanta, but it’s impressive nonetheles­s.

I can’t stop thinking: If Pascal Siakam had just been average, not terrible, the Toronto Raptors would have beaten the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA playoffs. Not sure they would have been tough enough to handle the Miami Heat and all their options in the next round, but I sure would like to have seen it ... Eleven NBA players, including Siakam, received votes for the MVP award. Canadian Jamal Murray didn’t get a sniff. Twelve guards, including Lowry, received votes for the all-nbateams. Again, Murray didn’t get a mention.

There is nothing more dishearten­ing than what the Edmonton Football Club managed in a season without CFL games. They got rid of longtime equipment man and team conscience Dwayne Mandrusiak. He wasn’t just part of the club. He was part of the furniture, the history, the culture. And by the way, Mandrusiak, hand in your cellphone, too. If the Jeopardy category was Classless, the Mandrusiak parting would be a question.

When you’ ve kicked around the fringes of basketball for most of your adult life, barely making a living, operating cheque to cheque and season to season, it must feel almost surreal for Nick Nurse to finally hit it big at the age of 53.

He’s suddenly getting lifechangi­ng money for him and his family and probably his family’s family. That’s what US$ 8 million a year can buy you, if the reports of Nurse’s annual salary are accurate, and why shouldn’t they be?

The figure, which translates to more than $ 10 million a year in Canadian dollars, makes Nurse the highest paid coach in the history of Canadian sport and his salary is not at all out of line when compared to what the best in the NBA are paid.

The dean of NBA coaches, Gregg Popovich, is paid $ 11 million a year in San Antonio. Doc Rivers, who has the odd combinatio­n title of team president and head coach of the Clippers, comes in at $ 10 million a season and Golden State’s Steve Kerr is just below that at $9.5 million.

Just ahead of Nurse is Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, who has been coaching the Heat for 11 seasons, while just below him is the table setter, Dwane Casey, who is being paid $ 7 million to coach the Pistons, the same money Rick Carlisle apparently makes in Dallas.

Still, it must be mind-boggling in a way to spend so much of your time on the fringes and now succeeding in the mainstream. Mind boggling to be paid significan­tly more for the coming season than he has earned in the previous 30 working years.

If Nick Nurse is $8 million a year, what’s the starting price for Masai Ujiri, if there is a price at all? Fifteen million? Twenty? Whatever he wants, if he still wants to be in basketball.

 ?? Nicholas T. Loverde / Gety Images ?? Vladimir Guerrero hits a home run in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. Toronto faces the
Rays in the playoffs Tuesday.
Nicholas T. Loverde / Gety Images Vladimir Guerrero hits a home run in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. Toronto faces the Rays in the playoffs Tuesday.

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