1) New Blue Jay CEO Mark Shapiro did the right thing by immediately facing the music with a press conference on his first day on the job. I strongly suspect his Rogers masters laid down the law on the timing, and that they also insisted that manager John Gibbons be retained and Tony LaCava (Anthopoulos’ assistant GM) be appointed interim general manager. Rogers had to do something to save face, and those were probably the only possible moves right now. Shapiro said all the politically correct things about Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos, and Rogers, while avoiding any comments that could come back to seriously haunt him. But you didn’t have to delve very deeply between the lines to know that Shapiro considers his job to be primarily baseball-oriented, not business-oriented, and that there was no way he and Anthopoulos could have co-existed. Of course, the CEO is always in charge of everything, but whereas Beeston concentrated on the business side and delegated the baseball side to his general manager, Shapiro is going to concentrate on baseball and delegate the business. Because Shapiro has a considerable baseball background, I have no problem with that (my problem with the handling of Paul and Alex has always been with Rogers, not with Shapiro). We learned on Monday that Shapiro is articulate, glib, and quick on his feet. He left little doubt that he’s going to micromanage Blue Jays baseball. What remains to be seen is how well he does it.
2) With one major exception, I was pleased and pleasantly surprised by the make-up of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet. I was particularly pleased by the appropriateness of many of his choices, for example Bill Morneau at finance, Jody Wilson-Raybould at justice, and Harjit Sajjan at defense. I also welcomed his inclusion in senior positions of veteran stalwarts such as Ralph Goodale, Dominic Leblanc and Lawrence MacAulay. My one major exception is his appointment of fifteen women to his cabinet in order to live up to his election promise that the Liberal cabinet would be gender-neutral. Less than thirty percent of the Liberal candidates in the election were women, and even fewer than that were elected. I’ve always been a numbers guy and an odds player, and the numbers and odds suggest that about eight women would qualify on merit, which means that about half the female appointees were made simply to fulfill Trudeau’s whimsical campaign promise. Although it’s true that some cabinet appointments are driven more by regional representation than pure merit, there’s a big difference; regional representation is why we have elections. Trudeau can talk all he wants about it being 2015, but the odds are that half of these appointments were simple pandering. And pandering often results in unintended consequences. In this case, it’s that each of these fifteen women has the cloud hanging over her head that much of the population thinks she might be there only because she’s a woman, not because she deserves it, which is patently unfair to the ones who were chosen on merit.
3) I was very disappointed that Rona Ambrose was appointed interim leader of the Conservative party. I was disappointed because, unless the party changes the rules, she can’t become the permanent leader, and I think she would be a great choice. As for the knock that she’s not fluent in French, how about Stephane Dion’s English?
4) We started with sports, so let’s end with sports. NHL hockey is a lot more enjoyable since staged fights have virtually disappeared. It’s interesting that this happened without any rule changes, just changes in attitudes by coaches and GMs. Now if could only get rid of the ridiculous shootout. And spare me the nonsense about fans standing, cheering, and not leaving during a shootout. Fans stood, cheered, and never left during staged fights, but no one would seriously suggest deciding a game with one. It’s human nature. We rubberneck at car accidents, but that doesn’t mean we approve of them. The shootout is not part of the game of hockey; it’s a form of skills competition. Those who say it’s the same as a breakaway are just plain wrong. A player on a breakaway is being chased and doesn’t have the time to showboat and do whatever he likes. If the league wants to make it the same as a breakaway, then put a defending player a few feet behind the shooter and let him chase him. The shootout is similar to a penalty shot, but why should six or more penalty shots be called because two teams are tied? The shootout is another idiotic Gary Bettman contribution to a sport that he’s never really understood.