Bob Elliott's Top 10 story lines in Major League Baseball for 2014

*Exclusive to the Canadian Baseball Network Newsletter, Bob Elliott shares his top 10 story lines for the 2014 Major League Baseball Season. 
By Bob Elliott

It’s not Mike Sirotka but it’s close.

Blue Jays fans saw one of the most entertaining players in franchise history at his best ... healthy, wealthy and speedy for all of 10 games last year.

And none this year.

Jose Reyes slid head first into second base in April of 2013 shredding his ankle and missing almost three months. That slide on that sunny Sunday in Kansas City a year ago April was a fluke. When he returned he wasn’t at 100%. He stole 15 bases, 10 after the injury in 83 games.

And now?

He injured his left hamstring during spring training, played both exhibition games in Montreal and re-injured it again leading off the season opener at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.


The Jays and general manager Gord Ash traded David Wells and minor leaguer Matt DeWitt to the Chicago White Sox for outfielders Brian Simmons, minor leaguers Mike Williams and Kevin Beirne plus Sirotka on Jan. 14, 2001,

Sirotka was coming off three productive seasons on the South Side in which he had combined to win 40 games, made 97 starts and pitched 617 2/3 innings for the Jays.

Sirotka never pitched an inning for the Jays, amidst cries of damaged goods.

Reyes is a man who wears Under Armour body suit with Super Man logo on it and is now felled again by a sinewy muscle.

Reyes has played more than 134 games once in the past five seasons.

He broke in at age 19 and averaged over 158 games a season from 2005-to-2008.

Three times he led the National League in stolen bases (2005-2007).

And he won the batting title in 2011, all with the New York Mets.

Maybe it’s all in the hair.

Reyes wore dreadlocks for four years, then auctioned off for charity before signing with the Florida Marlins in 2012. No one was put off by the length of his locks, though Jason Bay was shocked at Reyes’ shampoo schedule with the long locks. Reyes washed his hair once a month. Bay got the news in 2010, his first week with the Mets. At the time his locker was next to the one occupied by Reyes. The next day Bay moved to the other end of the clubhouse. We told Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates of Reyes old schedule last year at Wrigley Field. He’d heard of it, but the NL MVP is on a faster pace: every two weeks.

Some of other top 10 story lines in major league baseball besides Reyes include


1. Replay.

So far replays has slowed down the pace of the game. Managers slowly walk to the mound, slowly turn to angle the umpire so his back is to the dugout and the manager can look over his shoulder into the dugout he just vacated. All the while a coach is on the phone to the video room trying to get an answer from the man in the video room.

We saw it when the Blue Jays played the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete’s.

We saw it on highlights.

Manager John Gibbons of the Jays said he told one umpire “OK we have to kill some time, what do you want to talk about?

And Gibbons said the umpire replied “whatever you want to talk about.”

Now, after the stall continues, finally the bench coach gives the “forgetaboutit” signal and the manager leaves.

Eventually this will have to stop.

Besides we miss the nose-to-jaw arguing.


2. Derek Jeter’s final year.

Jeter will play his 20th and final season with the New York Yankees.

Will it be like Jeter-like of mediocre?

Only The Shadow knows,

For a great player like Jeter it would be a shame to see it end poorly. As the late John McHale told us once in the mid-1980s “there are only two players who went out on top Al Kaline and Ted Williams.”

Will Jeter’s final tour be as classy as Mariano Rivera’s was?

Since it’s the Yankees and the way the Yankees do things we are guessing yes.


3. Bud’s last ride.

This is also the final season for commissioner Bud Selig. He will make stops at all 30 stadia. He’ll even visit the Rays.

He missed their first game and has only seen the franchise at home a couple of times.

The last earnings chart we saw Selig made more money than all but a handful of players.

Will Rob Manfred, chief operating officer, replace Selig?


4. The first manager to be banged.

Bodog Sports has Blue Jays manager John Gibbons as the odds-on fave to be the first manager fired, favored at 2-1 odds, ahead of Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks at 5-2.

“Ah, it’s something about the same ... Gibbons, Gibson, they both sound alike,” said Gibbons who didn’t seem at all flustered by the odds.

Those are the same odds makers that made the Jays faves to win the 2013 World Series after adding R.A. Dickey, signing Melky Cabrera and making a 12-player deal with the Florida Marlins.


5. Jays rotation.

The Jays started the season with R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan.

Total starts at the big-league level in 2013: 87.

Dickey: (34) Buehrle (33), Morrow (10).


7. Mike Trout.

Will the best player in the game finally win a Most Valuable Player award.

Given a new six-year, $144.5 million US deal before the Angels’ final exhibition game he’s due.

The 22-year-old center fielder has finished second to Detroit Tigers’ first baseman Miguel Cabrera the previous two seasons. Trout has been the best player but his Angels finished six games under .500 in 2013 and were third with 89 wins in 2012, behind the Oakland Athletics (94-68) and the Texas Rangers (93-69).

While the Angels finished out of the playoff, the Tigers reached post-season play both Octobers.


8. Will the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers be runaway winners this season?

The Philadelphia Phillies are old, the Atlanta Braves have lost too many starters, plus catcher Brian McCann, the New York Mets remain the other team in New York and the Miami Marlins are, ahem, re-building the Jeffrey Loria way.

It should be a walk on the beach in a sunny Sunday afternoon with nary a cloud in the sky for the Nationals. They went 98-64 in 2012 to win the NL East.

The Tigers were eliminated in the 2011 ALCS, lost the 2012 World Series and were knocked out in the 2013 ALCS. GM Dave Dombrowski didn’t sit still adding Ian Kinsler and Joe Nathan and saying goodbye to Prince Fielder, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta and Doug Fister. But the biggest move was hiring Brad Ausmus to replace Jim Leyland.


9. Can Masahiro Tanaka adjust to life in North America? 

Tanaka has to get used to the different mounds, cross-country travel, different balls and pitching every five days. In Japan the ace pitches once a week.

The Yankees signed Tanaka for $155 million and the first team to beat him will be the first to do so in over a year.


10. Will Robinson Cano be sorry he left Broadway?

Cano showed little interest in running out ground balls when the Yankees were in first place.

He is a truly great player, but how will his act play in the Great North West if the Mariners are out of the race on July 1 after he and his agent Jay-Z (pronounced Jay-Zed in Canada) signed 10-year, $240 million free-agent deal to join the M’s. The Yankees’ final offer was $170 million over seven years.