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LONGLEY: Post-season collapse sets up off-season of change for Blue Jays

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Much as he did a year earlier when his team agonizingly missed the playoffs by one game, Vlad Guerrero Jr. was front and centre at the baseball funeral that unfolded Saturday evening at the Rogers Centre.

Slumped over the railing of the Blue Jays dugout, Guerrero watched the Seattle Mariners’ celebration right there on his team’s home field, no doubt in equal parts shock and frustration.

And as the Jays first baseman ponders the stunningly swift exit more deeply, surely the 24-year-old will be wondering what the team must do to avoid an inglorious ending for a third consecutive year.

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“I always focus on what I can do, trying to help my teammates on everything,” Guerrero said through translator Hector Lebron in the quiet of the Jays clubhouse on Saturday. “The other things, I just let the front office take care of that.”

Subtle dig from a frustrated superstar? Perhaps. Frustration in the moment of disappointment and a screeching end to a season with such high expectations? More likely.

But Guerrero’s passing reference to the work of the front office certainly reflected the dissatisfaction of a fan base that may have had its hopes fuelled by a late-season surge but wasn’t duped into believing the team was going to be a serious contender deep into this October.

And with that dissatisfaction comes dissection.

Of general manager Ross Atkins’ work at the trade deadline, that ended up not being enough to greatly enhance the team’s chances. 

Of manager John Schneider for some of the in-game decisions, though we’re of the mind that with an 8-1 lead there was no move from the dugout that truly cost the Jays a game that was that well in hand. Put it more explicitly on that point: A team that had a seven-run lead with just 10 outs to get there should have been able to take care of business.

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The Jays’ 10-9 loss to the Mariners on Saturday at the Rogers Centre certainly was the trigger point for an off-season of scrutiny, not merely for what happened over the four hours and 13 minutes it took to complete one of the greatest post-season disasters for a Toronto pro sports team.

And Schneider acknowledged that it will be difficult not to look at multiple moments of Saturday’s drama from the fifth inning and beyond.

“I thought it sequenced out pretty well,” Schneider said when asked to explain his bullpen use after removing Kevin Gausman from a game after 5.2 innings of brilliant starter’s work. “Tiimmy Mayza is a tough guy to get underneath and hit the ball out of the ball

‘Yeah, there’s always going to be times where I could sit here for about six months and second-guess myself, but right now I don’t.”

That Schneider even mentioned the thought of second-guessing means you know that it’s already begun. He’ll shake off the lingering effects of the devastating loss eventually, but not over the first few days of an off-season that arrived too early.

Running through some of them, here are our thoughts on the in-game moves of consequence:

  • Lifting Gausman after 5.2 innings was a matchup-based decision and one made easier by the fact that the starter had loaded the bases. Did Gausman pitch well enough to get a shot at finishing the inning? Perhaps. Was Mayza the right call in the situation. Probably. The southpaw’s worst mistake was the wild pitch that scored a run. The one in which he allowed a three-run homer to Carlos Santana was a good hitter winning the battle against a good pitcher.
  • Anthony Bass was the biggest liability in the bullpen on the day and things truly began to unravel under his watch. But Bass had been mostly money since he came over at the trade deadline and, as Schneider suggested, fit in the sequence. His struggles forced the early call for Romano and things truly unravelled as a result.
  • Perhaps the biggest decision of consequence was one that wasn’t made at all. Moving Jackie Bradley Jr., into centre field in the late innings and shuffling George Springer over to left would have had, in the precision of hindsight, immense benefits.
In any event, in the 125 days or so until the group returns to Dunedin for spring training, there will be business to take care of — from the front office to the players themselves. A team that has lost five playoff games in a row and eight of its past nine has work to do.

“We talked about getting incrementally better,” Schneider said. “And it starts in spring training.”

As is always the case with a young team, the off-season will be important, especially as another year with a high-end core in place disappeared so meekly.

“We need to make the best of these opportunities,” Guerrero said. ‘We’ll work very hard, come back stronger next year and then we’ll see what happens.”

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Pesce’s first goal of the season lifts Hurricanes past Flames – Sportsnet.ca

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Croatian coach feels disrespected by Canadian coach's comment at FIFA World Cup – Toronto Sun

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Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.

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DOHA, Qatar — Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said he felt disrespected by Canada head coach John Herdman for his comment in a group huddle following a loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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After the emotional 1-0 loss at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Herdman gathered his troops on the field and gave an impassioned speech.

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When asked following the game what he told his team, Herdman admitted he told his group to ‘F’ Croatia, in reference to Canada’s second game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On the eve of the game Sunday (11 a.m. ET) at the Khalifa International Stadium, Croatian coach Zlatko Zlatko Dalic was again asked about the comment at the pre-match press conference here on Saturday.

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“Canadians must have respect for us and this way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” Dalic said through an interpreter. “We are the runners up (2018 World Cup), it wasn’t Brazil or Spain or any other country. We are the runners up, we were second in the world, we are worth of respect the way we played, the way we behave, the way we respect all others, is the reason we are worthy or respect.

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“I shall not focus or comment on other people’s comment. We will be prepared, be fit and we will demonstrate respect from Canada and from everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view.”

Croatia was a surprising World Cup finalist four years ago in Russia, beating England in the semifinal before losing to France. Along the way, Croatia also beat Argentina in the group stage.

Croatia was held to a scoreless draw in its opening match by Morocco on Wednesday. Croatia concluded the group stage against Belgium on Thursday.

“The Croatia team deserves respect from everyone; we have proven that by the way we’ve played with our conduct at the World Cup; since the very beginning we’ve deserved respect and dignity,” Dalic said. “We have two (World Cup) medals in the last 30 years and we’re up there with Germany and France and countries like that have such an achievement. We respect everyone equally so we expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worth of their respect.”

Croatia striker Ivan Perisic was also asked for his thoughts on Herdman’s comments.

“I second the head coach,” he said. “And I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

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Canada coach Herdman jokes about Croatian tabloid – CTV News

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DOHA, Qatar –

Canada had just lost its first World Cup match in 36 years, outplaying Belgium for much of a 1-0 defeat, and an emotional John Herdman revealed in the on-field interview what he had just told his players during a postgame huddle.

“I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia,” the coach said with a smile, using a single letter to avoid a televised profanity. “That’s as simple as it gets.”

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His words reveberated all the way to Zagreb as Sunday’s Croatia-Canada game approached.

Croatia’s 24 Sata (24 Hours) tabloid ran a fullpage photo of a naked Herdman with Maple Leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated to: “You have the mouth, but do you have the (guts) as well?”

Commenting Saturday on Herdman’s words, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic used the word “respect” 13 times in a 90-second span.

“This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” he said through a translator. “The way we play, the way we behave and the way we respect all others are the reasons we are worthy of respect.”

Sitting next to Dalic, winger Ivan Perisic said simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Speaking before Dalic, Herdman used humour in an attempt to defuse tensions.

“When you get a text from your wife telling me you need to start working out before you get home, yeah, you think you know something’s going on,” Herdman said, noting the newspaper image was of a trimmer midsection than his own.

“My wife’s coming after you guys,” he told a reporter from that Croatian paper, laughing. “She wishes she got that guy. I’ve got a bit more of a belly than that. I’ve been eating too much.”

On Thursday, Herdman had explained what his intent was.

“You say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle, and when you’re asked the question what you said in that huddle, yeah, it was what I said,” he said.

“It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where they’re at on the world stage. But in that moment, you’ve taken your men to that next place,” he added.

Playing Croatia for the first time, Canada could be eliminated with another defeat.

Croatia, which lost the 2018 final to France, is the world’s 12th-ranked team and opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco. Star Luka Modric, playing what is likely his last World Cup at age 37, put a first-half shot over the crossbar.

Canada has played just four World Cup games in its history and still is searching for its first goal. The Canadians outshot the Belgians 21-9 but gave up a 44th-minute goal to Michy Batshuayi from a long pass. Alphonso Davies had a chance to put Canada ahead in the 11th minute but his penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“We know exactly what our slingshot is and we’ve got to be ready to attack that across different games now because, as I say, the cover’s off from Canada,” Herdman said. “I think people come into this game, the next games respecting us a little bit more.”

Captain Atiba Hutchinson, at 39 the only member of the current roster alive when Canada went 0-3 at the 1986 World Cup, can make his 100th international appearance Sunday — Julian de Guzman is second with 89.

Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is looking forward to facing the last World Cup’s runner-up.

“We like to play the best,” he said after the Belgium match. “We’re excited for the challenge.”

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