The numbers are close to identical: the statistical breakdown of the hitting seasons of the veteran Nick Castellanos and the younger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Power is pretty much the same. Home runs, pretty much the same. Batting average within eight points of each other. Both finished the year with an OPS of .788, tied for 50th best in all of baseball. Not exactly overwhelming.
Then the post-season began.
And Guerrero hit no home runs for the Blue Jays in two games against the Minnesota Twins, will be known for some time after being lazily picked off second base in Game 2, went 1-for-7 in the series. The question for the future: Who is he and what will he become?
Castellanos just had the playoff series of a lifetime with the Philadelphia Phillies. He hit two home runs in a very tight Game 4 against the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. That came after he hit two home runs in Game 3 against the Braves.
This is how you win in the post-season in baseball. When someone reaches beyond their capabilities, when big men shock and surprise. The way Bryce Harper seems to stand tall almost every year, and carries a club individually. The Phillies had the stunning power of Castellanos and the brilliance of Harper and the remarkable play of the .500 hitting shortstop Trea Turner at shortstop. Between them nine home runs, with Philadelphia winning five of six post-season games — and quite likely on their way to the World Series for the second straight year.
Castellanos did what no player has ever done before in baseball. The two home runs back to back in playoffs. Guerrero is still looking for his first post-season homer.
THIS AND THAT
Mark Shapiro is a numbers guy. So we’ll throw a few numbers his way. He’s been a club president or GM in Major League Baseball for 23 seasons: He has not won a playoff round since 2007 with a team he has played any part in building. He has not won a playoff game since Oct. 16, 2007. He’s missed the playoffs 15 times. He’s lost his last 10 playoff games between Toronto and Cleveland (I don’t count 2016, he inherited that team.) He may be terrific at stadium renovations and budgeting and doing press conferences. But where is there any evidence from hiring a fumbling GM, to hiring two run-of-the-mill managers back to back, that he can lead the Blue Jays to a World Series? Edward Rogers please explain … Is it just a coincidence that the best teams in baseball, Atlanta with 104 wins, Baltimore with 101 wins Los Angeles with 100 wins, all went out quietly in the playoffs, winning one of 10 games, behind outscored by 35 wins combined. All three teams got first-round byes. They waited almost six days to play their first playoff game. Baseball teams are used to playing every day. Has it now become a competitive disadvantage to be a bye team in the playoffs? … The beauty of Philadelphia fans: They are either the best or worst in any sport. Always worth watching … An American League GM told me he was surprised that Minnesota GM Rocco Baldelli didn’t take heat for pitching to Bo Bichette with Guerrero Jr. on second base and George Springer on third in the fifth inning of Game 5. “You walk Bichette in that situation. It’s obvious. He was the only guy hitting. Why would you pitch to him? A base hit ties the game. Who knows what happens after that? Guerrero getting picked off was a series changer for me.” … It would be beyond expensive, and he won’t be pitching next year, but can you imagine the Jays with Shohei Ohtani in a 2-3-4 or 3-4-5 situation with Bichette and Guerrero … Bruce Bochy. Dusty Baker. John Schneider. One of these things is not like the other.
HEAR AND THERE
It is nonsensical and insulting that the NHL will not allow Pride-coloured tape on hockey sticks for warmups during the season. But what’s even less logical, is that almost every hockey player asked about it, wants the coloured tape. And the NHLPA, under new leadership, does nothing to support its membership … If my dad played for the Leafs and wore the No. 28 and then I played for the Leafs, I would want the No. 28. I asked Tie Domi about Max not wearing 28. He joked: “You must have had a better father than he did.” … Thoughts with Barry Melrose, the former Leaf defenceman, the coach of the Los Angeles Kings from the famed 1993 playoff series, and for so many years the voice of hockey on ESPN, which until recently didn’t care a thing about hockey. Melrose has walked away from television, suffering from Parkinson’s. Wishing this cousin of Wendel Clark’s nothing but the best with his challenging battle … Toronto isn’t a hockey crowd. It’s a theatre crowd. The fans applaud when there is something to applaud about. Otherwise, quiet. A city this passionate about the game should be more passionate in its home building … It isn’t the fault of the salary cap that some NHL teams have started the season playing one player short. It’s poor money management. The cap is finite. It’s been finite for years. It’s really inexcusable and way too convenient for teams, media and fans to blame the cap for poor money management … Angela James, already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, International Hockey Hall of Fame, Canada Sports Hall of Fame, gets inducted into the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame this week. The much-decorated James joins former Sun sports writer Steve Buffery in the Etobicoke Hall.
SCENE AND HEARD
The Raptors first coach, Brendan Malone, passed away the other day. He was 81. He was fired after just one season in Toronto, under rather messy circumstances. Malone was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement upon his firing which ensured he would get paid the money the Raptors were going to stiff him for. That day, I got a phone call from his wife. “I didn’t sign any confidentiality agreement,” she told me. She then proceeded to give me an earful of all that Isiah Thomas had pulled on her husband in that first season. The piece written with the help of Mrs. Malone won me an award. RIP Brendan, whose son Mike is the coach of the champion Denver Nuggets … An old NFL coach, Jim Fassel, once told me: “Show me a great coach and I’ll show you a great quarterback.” I was thinking about that watching what is happening this season with Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton, three highly regarded head coaches playing without stars at quarterback … Name association: Tom Landry, Roger Staubach; Don Shula, Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino; Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes; Dan Reeves, John Elway; Payton, Drew Brees … Because of the scheduling of the Olympic Games in Paris, the finals of the Canadian Open tennis will be pushed back a day this coming summer. The final in Toronto will be Monday night, not the usual Sunday afternoon, with the tournament beginning two days after the Olympic closing ceremony …
Maybe it’s my age, but I’m more interested in Andy Taylor and Opie Taylor than I am in Taylor Swift. And I do like Coach Taylor from Saturday Night Lights as well … When Joseph Woll played for the Under-18 USA team, the coaches had trouble deciding which teenage goalie was better. Him or Jake Oettinger. Now the Leafs are hoping that Woll turns out to be anywhere near Oettinger as an NHL goalie … The government of Jamaica is promoting an exhibition bout between 60-year-old Razor Ruddock and 55-year-old James Toney as a fundraiser for Ruddock, Toney and local schools. Why would anyone want to see this? I was ringside for Ruddock’s fights against Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. The Lewis fight was in 1992. The Tyson fights were in 1991.
AND ANOTHER THING
At first glance of Connor Bedard as an NHL player and I came away with this thought: You can’t take your eyes off him. You watch every shift, expecting something special. His quickness through the neutral zone is stirring. But his shot, and the angles with which he shoots, are slightly reminiscent of Auston Matthews. He’s going to surprise a lot of goalies … Watching Michael A. Taylor play centre field for the Minnesota Twins reminded me just a little of watching Devon White. There is no one to compare White to but Taylor has a smoothness to his play that reminds me of the greatest Blue Jays outfielder in history … The Argos do not lead the CFL in passing, receiving or running the football. They just lead in wins. They win by an average of 15 points per game. They average 33 points a game, which is more than the Doug Flutie-Don Matthews team in 1996 but just below the ‘97 Flutie-Matthews Argos … The odd back and forth of this Blue Jays season. Winning 89 games is the ninth most in franchise history. This is the fifth time the Jays have won 89 games. The previous circumstances were considered to be successful seasons. This one didn’t feel at all successful. The Jays finished 12 games out of first place, 10 games out of second, and were swept in the wild card round. The first time the Jays won 89 games was 1983. That felt like a giant jump to relevance. When it happened in 1989, the year Cito Gaston took over from Jimy Williams, that felt enormous. This year, felt more like failure, angering fans in the process. Not all 89-win seasons are alike … The problem with Alex Anthopoulos’ Braves playing Rob Thomson’s Phillies is I want both teams to win. Thomson, from the Sarnia area best known for Hunter brothers, has had a remarkable two years managing Philadelphia … Toronto has not been back to the World Series since beating the Phillies in 1993 on the Joe Carter home run. The Phillies won the Series in 2008, lost in 2009 and lost last year … Shapiro said it’s too early to judge the Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. trade to Arizona for Daulton Varsho. And he’s probably right. It’s a bad trade now that will get more terrible over time. Catcher Moreno is expected to get better with age. He’s hit three home runs this post-season and hitting isn’t what he does best. Jose Bautista hit four home runs in the bat flip year of 2015. Moreno could equal that any day now without similar emotion… Rod Black’s son, Tyler, had quite a year playing AA and AAA baseball in the Milwaukee organization, hitting .942 OPS in Nashville and a .925 OPS in Biloxi (AA). He was one of the players of the year in the Brewers organization … And speaking of sons, Matt Devlin’s boys, Luke and Ian, graduates of the GTHL, are playing hockey and being educated at Cornell and Princeton, respectively, this season … Bochy has won three World Series with San Francisco teams that didn’t make the playoffs the year before. Should Texas somehow win the Series this year, this will be four titles for Bochy with teams that didn’t qualify for playoffs the year before. Rangers won 68 games last season … Chad Kelly has to win the Most Outstanding Player in the CFL this season. Question is, who will oppose him from the West: Zach Collaros or Brady Oliveira from the Blue Bombers or Mathieu Betts from the B.C. Lions … Is Mahomes the best quarterback we’ve ever seen? I’m starting to think so. He’s playing behind a mediocre offensive line in Kansas City, without a running back of note or a wide receiver of any consequence on the team. There’s just Mahomes and the fortunate tight end Travis Kelce. The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs are 5-1 to start the season … Happy birthday to Willie O’Ree (88), Jakob Poeltl (28), Quinn Hughes (24), Dave Schultz (74), Rocky Saganiuk (66) Teoscar Hernandez (31), Jim Palmer (78), Jared Goff (29), Sylvain Lefebvre (56), Joe Girardi (59) and Al Oliver (77) … And hey, whatever became of Casey Printers?