“They should fire the bum!” bawls Martini.
Something’s up. Martini the Bartender is not wearing his trademark Blue Jays’ cap. He is wearing a scowl.
“Fire who?” I ask.
“John Gibbons, that’s who, Jays need a shakeup,” spouts Martini, furiously shaking a Victoria Gin martini with Toronto’s season finally on ice.
I’m going to bat for the skipper Gibby. Someone has to after this season.
“Didn’t you see Joe Biagini after the last game? He was hugging the skipper. These guys love him. Besides they only finished 17 games behind the first-place Red Sox.”
Martini’s face flushes with rage: “Yeah, I’d love to go fishing with Gibbons. But it’s high time the Blue Jays had a manager that does more than fill out the lineup card and tell ’em the wind’s blowing out. We need a fiery manager with a pulse and some guys that can run. Too bad we let Torey Lovullo (ex-first base coach) get away. I see he’s managing Arizona in the post-season.”
“Wait a minute!” I interject. “I’m sure I saw Gibby flashing a sign today with Smoak at the plate.”
“That’s the only sign he flashes,” says Martini, frothing. “That’s no hit-and-run sign. That’s the hit-and-trot sign. Home run sign. That’s all this team can do – hit home runs. And strike out. This team needs a new lease on life, a new manager with a new game plan. There’s no shame in hitting a single or stretching a single into a double. That’s baseball.”
“Don’t forget,” I say in defense of the grizzled Toronto manager. “The Jays didn’t just hit 220 home runs. They also had five triples.”
“That’s my point,” says Martini, flipping a bucket of ice for emphasis. “Five triples. Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies had 14 all by himself. Five! That’s ’cause they they don’t start running until they’re sure the ball’s not going over the fence. Then they jog into second base for crying out loud. Whatever became of rounding the bag at second. Five stinkin’ triples!”
“It’s a new game, Martini. Haven’t you noticed. Ty Cobb and Pete Rose are retired. It’s all about conserving energy. Striking out takes a lot out of a guy. Did you see Josh Donaldson the other day? He almost punctured a lung striking out on a slider. Bat almost decapitated a Yankee fielder.”
“The Jays struck out 1,309 times this season,” points out a Googling Martini. “Jose Bautista struck out 170 times. Our pitching staff’s fine but you can’t win chasing breaking balls a foot off the plate. Whiffing! It’s become the new national pastime!”
“Gibby didn’t strike out once all year,” I say, backing up the much maligned strategist. “Never mind those strikeout stats. As for Bautista, it wasn’t his fault. The umpires are to blame. But that’s beside the point. Striking out is sexy. Everybody’s doing it. Giancarlo didn’t get his 60th home run in the final game. But at least he went out in style – with a mighty cut on a third strike in his final at-bat. It was poetry in motion.”
“There was a time,” says a hand-wringing Martini behind the bar, “when a guy took pride in making contact. Joe DiMaggio struck out 13 times in 541 at-bats in ’41! That was the year he hit safely in the record 56 consecutive games. And he still hit 30 homers. Joltin’ Joe! Now that guy had his eye on the ball – at least until he met Marilyn Monroe. Thirteen strikeouts! That’s a weekend for some guys now.”
“It is what it is,” I say, stealing Gibby’s quote. “Okay, Martini, please tell me, who would you like to see at the helm next year?”
“Gregg Zaun is my man!” Martini says, brightening. “The ‘Manalyst’ (the fiery analyst on Jays’ broadcasts) will give this team a wakeup call. Shoot, you might even see a bunt sign now and then.”
And now he is sporting his trademark Blue Jays cap.
“Will that be two olives or three?”
As for Josh Donaldson, I’m with Gregg Zaun, analyst on the Jays’ pre-game show.