Grand slam: Lynn Novick, Marcos Breton and Ken Burns

BEVERLY HILLS, CA–Ken Burns’ The Tenth Inning—a sequel to his 1994 documentary Baseball, will premiere Sept. 28 and 29 on PBS. The new chapter allows Burns to look at how steroids changed the game, the rise of Latin American players and how Burns’ beloved Boston Red Sox finally broke their jinx and won a World Series title.

Joining Burns on the PBS press tour panel Wednesday was filmmaking partner Lynn Novick and Marcos Breton, an author and baseball beat writer for the Sacramento Bee. When it was suggested that money, not drugs, has wrecked baseball and the disparity between have and have-not teams leaves the Blue Jays and others on the sidelines, Breton stepped up to the plate and took his cuts. “If I were a fan of Toronto,” he said, “I would be more mad at a terrible ownership and terrible management and all the bone-headed decisions they’ve made for the last 10 years.” He singled out former Jays’ manager J.P. Ricciardi as “ridiculous” and someone “who never should have gotten the job in the first place.” The Jays, he went on, are in the same boat as teams from Kansas City and Pittsburgh—“stupid organizations with stupid general managers, stupid owners, you can’t blame it all on money. You really can’t.”
Breton pointed out that the small market Tampa Bay Rays are right there with the Yankees this season and that the Yankees, who failed to make the playoffs the year before, went almost ten years between World Series wins.
So blame local management and ownership, not money, says Breton, “for wrecking baseball in Toronto.”


  1. Sigh. For the last time, the Jays’ struggles go a lot higher than JP Ricciardi, Bill, and anyone who believes otherwise is just settling for an easy answer.

    Breton illustrates a problem: The people commenting on sports presently know very little about it historically.
    If anyone or anything wrecked baseball in Toronto, it’s baseball, and Toronto.

    Major League Baseball, since it gets its history from dilettantes such as Ken Burns, doesn’t realize it’s going down the same path it did in the late 1950s, when the Yankees won so often that it sucked the life out of the American League. The Yankees actually had trouble selling out World Series games in those days!

    The Yankees had so much power in those days that they actually had a say in what other cities got franchises. A team was put in Anaheim so the Yankees co-owner could get the contract to build the stadium.

    Meantime, as for Toronto, it’s a potent combination of a soul-less, ball-less city which is obsessed with being trendy, but is also relatively sophisticated. People get that the Jays have to walk on water to make the playoffs, even if they do not fully get why.

    Most, for instance, don’t realize their glory days (1985-93) happened to come in a very brief period when baseball had something approximating competitive balance. The Red Sox and Yankees were also riddled with ownership issues in those days.

    That gave them their opening; there wasn’t that much difference talent-wise between the Jays then and the Jays know (86 wins in the American League East of 2008 is actually better than the 89 it took in 1989). But no one ever talks about that in Toronto.

  2. Ultimately, what has changed baseball irrevocably is it member teams pursue willy-nilly, without collaboration, without considering common goals.

    Fact: the most valuable NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, is worth about twice that of the lowest-valued team.

    The New York Yankees are worth five times as much as the lowest-valued MLB team. There is no way that cannot affect the results on the field more than any team’s personnel decision and its actual players.

    P.S.: I realize Breton was not in a room full of sports journalists. Did anyone challenge him by pointing out the Jays, playing in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees, manage to win more games than they lose roughly every other season, a feat that has eluded the Pittsburgh Pirates for 17 (going on 18) consecutive seasons and escaped the Kansas City Royals in 14 of the past 16?

    The Jays are not world beaters, but they’re not sad sacks, either. They’re just an average-to-good team in a situation that demands excellence.

  3. For Rogers, the Jays represent nothing more than programming for their sports networks.

    Labatt made the decision in the mid-80s to go for a championship, even at the expense of profits. The current ownership would never consider that.

Write A Comment