By Bob Elliott
St. PETERSBURG, Fla. _ This spring a visitor to Dunedin heard griefs, gripes and grumbles from a number of people in the industry about their respective teams some with new leaders at the top.
This man, a man I respect greatly, listened to every last complaint, big and small.
As he turned to return to the field, the wise man looked back at the group and said:
“Times have changed. Change with them or get out of the way.”
In 2016, the 40th season of the Blue Jays their manager, also a man I respect equally, can’t knock umpires after a tough loss and suggest ...
“Maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow, maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”
Manager John Gibbons watched a Logan Forsthye throw sail wide of first as Jose Bautista slid into second breaking up two on Edwin Encarnacion’s grounder allowing the tying and lead run to score in the top of the ninth Tuesday night.
Gibbons saw the umps go to the replay and rule Bautista had violated the new Chase Utley Rule from euphoria in the dugout one moment to park up the gear and warm up the bus.
A year ago the play would have stood as is.
Twenty years ago people would have said Bautista didn’t knock Forsythe into either the outfield or next week.
Like the way Kansas City Royals DH/pulling guard Hal McRae would have.
With the final out recorded -- not at Tropicana Field but on a TV monitor in Manhattan, Gibbons argued with crew chief Mike Everitt after the game, yet was not ejected.
Don’t be surprised if the commissioner office doesn’t evaluate Gibbons’ post-game comments.
A Cambridge woman emailed Wednesday morn: “What an incredible insult to everyone who wears a dress, implying we are somehow inferior. It ranks with throwing like a girl or being called a Nancy. This is 2016 and I am tired of the constant put downs from men. I had hoped my granddaughters could finally be as respected as men.”
I defended Gibbons in a return email, said he said it in post-game angst, 10 minutes after a possible win turned into a loss due to a new rule and predicted he would apologize Wednesday.
Gibbons did not apologize Wednesday morn.
As J.A. Happp pitched six innings and Josh Donaldson did his home run limp after hitting three-run homer, we wandered about Tropicana Field mingling among the crowd of 14,257 fans asking women their opinion of ... dresses.
“What wrong with playing like a girl?” asked Sarah Miller of Calgary, wearing a Blue Jays jersey.
Matt Ticknor and Alison Hindle of Pickering sat behind home plate with future prospect, seven-month old Carter. Matt wore a black Joe Carter Jays top, Alison a Jose Bautista jersey.
“I was not offended,” said Alison, “but I can see why some people were. He should apologize.”
Matt pointed out there were “two sexism issues” Tuesday. New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, he of the long, blond flowing locks, was throwing his warm up pitches at Kauffman Stadium, in the first inning when the speakers blared “American Woman.”
Rays fan Carolyn Wilburn of St. Pete’s had been at Tuesday’s game, but was not aware of Gibbons’ comments until she read Wednesday’s paper with her morning cup of coffee.
“People say things in the heat of the moment, things that they regret, I understand,” said Wilburn after being told Gibbons’ comments had become an issue in Toronto, “I wonder how his players feel about wearing dresses, if Joe Maddon was here, he might have had the Rays do that.”
Ah ... actually not the Blue Jays players are not going to wear dresses, women are upset because of the dress comment, we explained to Wilburn.
“I can see why women would be perturbed, that’s unfortunate it was said in the first place,” said Wilburn, wearing an Evan Longoria Rays jersey.
Sarah Mazoochi, also of St. Pete’s agreed saying “if he said it and it upsets other people, then, he should apologize.”
The staunchest defender Gibbons had -- some women didn’t want to discuss the issue -- was Anne Burn of Burlington.
“People are too over the top nowadays,” Burn said. “Everyone jumps on athletes for the slightest thing and then demand apologies. People don’t understand. The world has changed.”
Burn is right of course.
People are over the top. We make snap judgements quicker than we can snap our fingers.
The world has changed.
And so has the Blue Jays front office.
General manager Ross Atkins said all the right things to our Steve Simmons.
Not that it should be ... but is this strike one against Gibbons, who was not hired by new president Mark Shapiro and Atkins?
Buck Martinez, hired by GM Gord Ash, had a 53-game shelf life under new GM J.P. Ricciardi. Martinez was replaced by bench coach Carlos Tosca.
Shapiro has his former Cleveland Indians skipper Eric Wedge serving as his manager-in-waiting working in the minor leagues.
“It’s been a rough 24 hours,” Gibbons told reporters after the 5-3 loss.
Actually in less than 18 hours the Jays watched Brett Cecil and Arnold Leon give up gave-winning homers with the “dress” comment in between.
“I’ll be glad to get to Toronto,” he said.
The Boston Red Sox will be there for Friday’s home opener ... this we know because the schedule tells us so.
We also know that a 2015 American League East Championship Rally Towel will be handed out.
We do not know if any of the women who make up 34% of the Jays fan base will protest.
Would all this end with an apology?