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News » Cheering for a guy like Ruiz is perfectly acceptable


Cheering for a guy like Ruiz is perfectly acceptable


Cheering for a guy like Ruiz is perfectly acceptablejblair@globeandmail.com

Let's call it what it was: A gimme, a win over a New York Yankees team whose only goal was to get out of town healthy before today's double-header against the Tampa Bay Rays. No Alex Rodriguez or Jorge Posada and, once the game was out of hand, no Derek Jeter or Robinson Cano. Josh Towers - Josh Towers! - coming on in relief, for pete's sake, because the legit big-league arms were being saved for today.

But this is September, and Toronto's Randy Ruiz was of no mind to consider how often an opposing team will gift-wrap a game like yesterday's 14-8 Toronto Blue Jays win. As he fingered the swollen area on his left cheek and joked about how, "It's nothing I haven't experienced," because he was a tough kid from the Bronx, the 31-year-old journeyman contemplated a day in which he:

* Made his first career start in the majors in the field, at first base, after 34 as a designated hitter;

* Found out he won the most-valuable-player award in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, which when you're Ruiz's age is one of those Bull Durham -esque, thanks but no thanks things, like being a career minor league hits leader;

* Was hit in the face by a pitch from Towers, walking off spitting blood and wondering whether his nose was broken.

Somebody asked him if it "got helmet." Ruiz smiled, and said it might have nicked a piece of the flap. "But," he added, "I know it got face.

"It feels great to contribute to a team, any team," Ruiz said when asked about the PCL MVP award. "And it's been a rewarding year, because now I'm up here in the majors."

Now, it's a little much when manager Cito Gaston keeps referring to Ruiz as "the kid" because it feeds the segments of the fan base who dial up call-in shows apparently believing Ruiz is a 20-something prospect. But there are worse things than honouring the way Ruiz kept body and soul together in the minors for his 11th different organization and has homered six times in 20 games since he's come up. Blue Jays fans have glommed on to him, not in a "Johnny Mac can do no wrong" way as much as a "well, at least he isn't completely wasting our time like Kevin Millar" way.

As he ran on to the field, where he would be joined by Blue Jays training staff and Dr. Ron Taylor, Gaston worried that Ruiz ("This guy ... who'd been trying to establish himself in the majors,") had been hit in the eye.

"I feel like a boxer right now," Ruiz said. "But I'm ready."

Good for him. It's September, and given the way 2009 has gone, cheering for the story is perfectly acceptable, even if, like winning a Triple-A MVP when you're 31, it presents a mixed message.

If you had your druthers, you'd rather be doing something else. But you don't, so you find your joy where you can. Boo Vernon Wells if you want ... but save some gusto for Randy Ruiz. It will make the next three weeks a little easier.

Garbage Time

I'd consider watching a women's hockey game were hitting allowed or if the sport was something other than a Canada-U.S. intramural thing with the same old names. ... It was Kristian Jack of The Score who reported on his blog that Julian de Guzman has an agreement to join Toronto FC as a designated player after finding no joy in the European market. TFC needs to ditch some salary before it can become official and while it will be too late to get TFC into the playoffs, in my opinion, it might stop some of the softening of the ticket base that has become noticeable on the blogosphere. ... Good on Winnipeg Blue Bombers play-by-play man and broadcasting icon Bob (Knuckles) Irving for calling out big-mouthed Bombers head coach Mike Kelly after his insipid "we need to tailor the message the way the NFL does," rant during his coach's show last Monday, when Kelly also said he wouldn't take phone calls but only respond to e-mail questions or questions from the live audience. You're never going to be an NFL head coach, Mike. This is as good as it gets, so deal with it. ... Turns out Dick Jauron's Buffalo Bills were too stupid to absorb offensive co-ordinator Turk Schonert's offence, which I thought was going to work swell in the three-game absence of Marshawn Lynch because Schonert always stopped using Lynch when the team came close to the end zone. Schonert said that Jauron wanted a "Pop Warner offence," so now it's Alex Van Pelt filling the role of the Bills' seventh offensive co-ordinator in 10 years. Firing Schonert has robbed Terrell Owens of a potential scapegoat, but I'm sure he'll find another when this thing goes south. ... I'd like to be in commissioner Bud Selig's office when the Blue Jays actually end up generating more revenue from ticket sales than they did last year despite drawing half a million fewer spectators. That's the result of much less discounting under the stewardship of interim president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston. ... While the Blue Bombers wasted their time trying to sign ne'er do wells like Adam (Pacman) Jones to satisfy the inflated ego of Kelly and get reputed personnel guru John Murphy some P.R. south of the border, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Otis Floyd and Kevin Glenn bought 750 tickets to tonight's Labour Day game at Ivor Wynne Stadium for members of United Steelworkers Local 1005, allowing the workers (most of whom just went back to work recently after being laid off for six months) to take part in a 2-for-1 ticket promotion. Nicely done, guys.

Monday 2 Monday

Jeffrey Kessler is a legal heavyweight who has his fingerprints all over some of the biggest decision in the history of sports labour law, but Jim Balsillie's supporters ought to hope his recruitment by Balsillie to help land the Phoenix Coyotes brings about a different result than Kessler's last job on behalf of Canadian businessmen.

In 2002, Kessler represented a group of former minority partners in the Montreal Expos in their attempt to sue majority partner Jeffrey Loria and Major League Baseball, citing improprieties under U.S. federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statutes. That dispute was ordered to arbitration by a federal judge and resulted in a unanimous 3-0 ruling against Kessler's clients by the American Arbitration Association in November of 2004.

And while we're on the topic of lawyers, pucks and money, you'll have to excuse me if that 22-5 vote to kick out Paul Kelly as executive director of the NHL Players' Association suggests something more was afoot than a simple "palace coup."

That's more like a revolution than a coup.

Look, I have no dog in this fight. I've moved well beyond the tut-tutting B.S. of those who think athletes should give thanks every day for playing "a kid's game," like the guys playing shinny down at the rink. It's a business. I believe people who tell me Kelly is above reproach and a terrific lawyer - accent on the word "lawyer" - but I wonder if that isn't part of the problem.

Any players' association like the NHLPA that pays an escrow tax and finds itself totally marginalized in something as important as the debate over the future of the Coyotes needs to stand up to ownership and show some stones. Let's face it: The game is withering in several U.S. markets and at some point serious discussions about contraction are inevitable. I can't blame the players if they'd want to employ some good old-fashioned union tactics instead of relying on backroom lawyers tricks, or if they'd want somebody willing to push back against Gary Bettman instead of just trying to find common ground.

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Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 7, 2009

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