By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Networks
Gregg Zaun says he has probably the second best job in television behind Hockey Night in Canada and Coach’s Corner star Don Cherry.
Yet, each personal appearance the Sportsnet Blue Jays analyst makes he is asked the same questions by fans:
“Greg ... would you ever be interested in managing or being a general manager some day?”
Of course the number of times he is asked in season is relative to the number of losses the Blue Jays had in the past 10 days.
He was asked the question at the Ontario Blue Jays banquet in Woodbridge last month.
And he was asked again at the Okotoks Dawgs banquet last weekend.
This fall Zaun did some “tire kicking” inquiring about a future as either a manager or a general manager.
He called Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos late in the season.
He phoned Seattle Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto after he was hired.
And eventually he called new Jays president Mark Shapiro.
“I was asking is it all about analytics? Are lineups dictated by GMs? What do you look for when you hire a GM? A manager? Mostly general baseball questions,” said Zaun Saturday afternoon from Weyburn, Sask. where he and Paul Coffey were guest speakers at the annual Red Wing Sportsman Dinner.
“In the fall I was mulling over the idea if a manager’s job or a GM’s job came open. I’d be willing to listen. Not that I am unhappy doing what I’m doing.”
What Zaun does is entertain viewers along with host Jamie Campbell during the Jays pre-game show and throughout broadcasts.
Zaun would not be the first to move from the booth to the dugout. To mention a few:
Bob Brenly came down from upstairs to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series, Buck Martinez was hired by Gord Ash to manage the Jays same year and managed for 215 games, and San Diego Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman managed the Pods in 1980.
“I think a lot of people assume once you are in a position you want to stay there,” Zaun said. “I’m not unhappy like I said, I was doing research into things I had interest in.”
Zaun called Anthopoulos and DiPoto looking for down-the-road guidance but the call to Shapiro was different since Shapiro had a GM vacancy at the time.
“Alex had left, the position was open, it was my feeling Mark was going to be more hands on, so I called,” said Zaun. It was an easy call. Mark Shapiro’s father, Ron Shapiro, was Zaun’s first agent and the former catcher had known Mark since there time in the majors overlapped.
“I told Mark ‘I know you probably have your guy in mind and my best guest is Ross Atkins,’ Mark said he was down to four candidates,’” recalled Zaun.
At the time the Shapiro had interviewed Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava, Amiel Sawdaye, Boston Red Sox scouting director; Rene Francisco, Kansas City Royals assistant GM and Atkins of the Cleveland Indians.
Zaun said he told Shapiro: “if a situation arises where you are dissatisfied with these candidates I would love to learn the business from you. I know you and know you are a smart guy. I’m not adverse to taking instructions from you.”
Shapiro hired Atkins from the Indians.
Zaun, 44, played 16 seasons in the majors five with the Jays. He played with the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers and the Florida Marlins, as part of the 1997 World Series champs.
Before flying to Saskatchewan, Zaun was a busy the previous week in Alberta attending a University of Calgary Dinos coaching clinic, a poker night at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino, a dinner for the Brooks Bombers, a Western Major League expansion team, a fund raiser for the Badlands Badgers in Oyen and Okotoks.
“I love my job but who knows, if the right situation came up I might be interested in moving into the front office,” Zaun said. “I know people would say that I’m nuts to walk away from such a great job.”
MOVE: The Jays signed free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd to a one-year $1 million US deal.
Floyd pitched 20 1/3 innings last year after re-fracturing the olecranon bone in his right elbow during spring training. He worked 4 1/3 innings for the rookie-class Arizona League Indians (8.31 ERA), 2 2/3 innings at double-A Akron (16.88 ERA) and in 13 1/3 innings with the Indians (2.70 ERA) as a September call up. He earned $4 million in 2015 and has not pitched more than 55 innings since 2012.
LOSS: The Jays suffered their first loss -- at salary arbitration. The three-personal panel awarded right-hander Jesse Chavez $4 million. The Jays had offered $3.6 million.
Last year Chavez was 7-15 with a 4.18 ERA and one save in 26 starts receiving two runs of support or fewer in 17 starts.
THEY WAITED UNTIL GIBBONS LEFT TOWN: He told people at the Niagara University First Pitch banquet he was a member of Toronto Blue Jays front office.
He was spotted in Toronto and people have written about his impending arrival since the World Series.
And now, under the cover of Super Bowl weekend, the Jays have chosen to announce another import from the Cleveland Indians. Eric Wedge, 48 is the new player development advisor.
As Indians GM Mark Shipiro fired manager Charlie Manuel and hired Eric Wedge. Wedge managed the Indians seven seasons with a 561-573 record (.495 winning mark) in 1,134 games. His 2007 Indians beat the New York Yankees and lost in the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox.
After a year out of the game he managed the Seattle Mariners for three season 213-273 (.438).