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The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

October 12, 2022

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Are you ready?

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Let's go.

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From AMI Central.

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Now circling in the Neutral Zone.

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Here's the pitch on the way, 36 yards for the win.

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This...

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Here comes the big chance. The shot.

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Is...

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Is this the dagger?

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The Neutral Zone.

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This is as good as it gets.

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Now, here's your host, two time Paralympian, Brock Richardson.

Brock Richardson:
What's going on? It's time for another edition of The Neutral Zone. I am indeed your host, Brock Richardson, and we are a day later upon release and recording because, one, Marc Aflalo, who we love dearly, but he prioritized Thanksgiving with his family as opposed to prioritizing his love for the Neutral Zone episode on Monday so that's why we're a bit delayed this week. But we are here now and we are ready to rock and roll for another episode, and let's introduce our co-host for today. Let's start with Claire Buchanan. Claire, how are you?

Claire Buchanan:
I'm doing fantastic. From the show going from Fridays to now recording Mondays and this week recording a different day, it's hard to keep track of the week lately.

Brock Richardson:
I hear you 100%. And even to top it all off, you were only supposed to join us for a portion of the show today and then for other circumstances, Josh Watson was unable to join us so that threw another layer on top of your confusion. Happy you joined us on time and are ready to roll. We love having you on board. Someone else we love having on board is Cam Jenkins. Cameron, how are you?

Cam Jenkins:
Who am I and where am I? I don't know what's going on these days.

Brock Richardson:
Fair enough. Well let me help you with that.

Claire Buchanan:
I was going to say, it was pretty much a record for finding [inaudible 00:02:01] here, that's for sure. So we can put that in the win column.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. Whenever Claire has to fill in or something happens, there's always this playful thought of maybe Dash will join us as a cohost, and it's yet to happen. Maybe one day.

Claire Buchanan:
And you know what? Yeah, it will one day, but again, I am thankful for the people that I do have in my life that are not only able to but very enthusiastic about hanging with Dash, so he'll make it appearance one day, just not...

Brock Richardson:
Absolutely. Well, we look forward to that day. Something else we look forward to every week is our headlines.

Intro:
Neutral Zone headlines. Headline, headline.

Cam Jenkins:
New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season against the Texas Rangers, breaking Roger Maris's American League record that was established in 1961. Chuck Sivertsen has the details.

Chuck Sivertsen:
Second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

Speaker 6:
Here is the one one. Swung on. There it goes. [inaudible 00:03:16]. It is high, it is far, it is gone. Number 62.

Chuck Sivertsen:
On WFAN, Aaron Judge getting his name next to fellow Yankees, Maris and Ruth. One word.

Speaker 7:
Incredible.

Chuck Sivertsen:
Also.

Speaker 7:
It's a big relief. I think everybody can finally sit down on their seats and watch the ball game.

Chuck Sivertsen:
The ball.

Speaker 7:
That's a souvenir for a fan.

Chuck Sivertsen:
On the eve of the last day of the season. Chuck Sivertsen, ABC News.

Brock Richardson:
Toronto Blue Jay's pitcher, Alek Manoah, recently came to the defence of his teammate, Alejandro Kirk, when he was criticized rounding the basis from a member of the media due to his weight when the member of the media said, "There is no place in the game for this. It is a disgrace." Alek Manoah went on to win about a hundred thousand dollars, which he donated to charity. I know this is a little bit of a late headline, however, this is going to spin off a conversation a little later on in the program regarding body shaming and shaming in general in sports, and I for one have a lot more thoughts. Stay tuned.

Claire Buchanan:
After yet another set of hearings, there are more corporations that have lost faith in Hockey Canada. Tellus, Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons are among the most notable. However, Tim Horton's has come out and said that they will still fund the women's hockey programs and the para hockey programs. Provincial hockey associations have also said that they will no longer support Hockey Canada. In addition to all of this, it was recently announced that all of Hockey Canada's board members are stepping down.

Brock Richardson:
Those are your headlines for this week. Let's check in on our Twitter poll questions. Sadly, we have to go back to the question we asked you guys. Which matchup do you think would be better for the Toronto Blue Jays? 75% of you said the Seattle Mariners and 25% of you said the Tampa Bay Rays. And even though the listeners got the matchup correct, the end result was not where we wanted it. This week's question is coming out of some recent news about all the board members stepping aside from Hockey Canada. With this move, are you satisfied with that alone? Yes, no, they need to change their name. You can cast your Twitter votes coming at you right now.

Speaker 8:
And welcome back to the Neutral Zone AMI broadcast booth, and we are set to get this ballgame underway. The first pitch brought to you by Brock Richardson;s Twitter account, @NeutralZoneBR. First pitch, strike, and hey, gang, why not strike up a Twitter chat with Claire Buchanan from The Neutral Zone. Find her @NeutralZoneCB. And there's a swing and a chopper out to second base right at Claire. She picks up the ball, throws it over to first base for a routine out. And fans, there is nothing routine about connecting with Cam and Josh from the Neutral Zone. @NeutralZoneCamJ and @JWatson200. Now, that's a winning combination, and this organ interlude is brought to you by AMI Audio on Twitter. Get in touch with the Neutral Zone type in @AMIaudio.

Brock Richardson:
Well, quite honestly, when we started discussing booking our guest of the day that's joining us, we had hoped for different conversations, and to a point that I left this portion of the script open for as long as I could because I didn't want to write questions that didn't apply to what was happening with the Toronto Blue Jays. Then reluctantly, on Sunday evening after the Jays were eliminated, I put together these sets of questions, and I'm talking about Ari Shapiro, who is a journalist, publisher, and the host of the Whiskey and Cream Podcast, and he joins us to talk all things Blue Jays and other playoffs. And Ari, nice to have you along on our video podcast, and I wish we were talking differently about the Toronto Blue Jays but we're not. So we're going to dive right into it, nice to have you back.

Ari Shapiro:
Nice to be here, and we're going to give ourselves an opportunity to exhale a little bit obviously because the anticipation was I would appear on your show, grace all these lovely journalists here at AMI Audio with my take, my opinion, my 2 cents for whatever it's worth, and I honestly thought I would be the bearer of good news or the validator of good times. I didn't have this many gray hairs before Saturday, and I've literally aged because what a spectacle. I can give you so much hyperbole, I'm not short on words. Anyone who knows me and has followed my work knows that I can talk about this subject until kingdom come, but I think the silence speaks volumes, right? The silence that was felt in the sky dome after witnessing what many are arguing is just like an existential collapse. You don't see a lot of those. It's hard to lose the way the Blue Jays lost on the weekend.

Cam Jenkins:
It was eight to one. Man. Before we get to figure out what the H-E-double baseball bats happened to the Jays, why don't we go to a happier time? And as you began to learn that the Blue Jays would be taking on the Seattle Mariners at the Rogers Center, at first glance, what did you think about this series going into it?

Ari Shapiro:
At first glance, I was thrilled, I was overjoyed. Seeing your expansion cousins from 1976, where they were all but a glimmer in an eye, in an eye in Toronto and Seattle, of course, corporate ownership for both teams isn't exactly ironic. It's kind of poetic that you had these two facing each other. And on paper, if you're a Blue Jays fan, this was the matchup you really wanted because you knew you could beat this team, not nine times out of 10 but significantly more than you'd lose. So you've got all these pundits when they found out that the Blue Jays drew the Mariners thinking, "Hey, this is going to be the favourable matchup," and it was, it really was. I loved the idea of seeing some of the players, especially Castillo come back and have the kind of start he did. That Mariners team is just chock-full of very focused and dedicated players.

Ari Shapiro:
But I figured to myself that with the Blue Jays coming off a great September and having that kind of camaraderie, that sense of camaraderie that was building ever since that little infamous TSN reporter ended up fat shaming Alejandro Kirk, and then Alek Manoah was then featured on Twitter for about a three day span talking about the importance of why perseverance is so key in baseball, a lot of good feelings were going on. Toronto Star started covering them, so all of a sudden, you've got the Blue Jays in the news, you've got the opportunity for them to go up against a team that on paper they should beat, and then you forget about Murphy's Law, and as we know, Murphy's Law is pretty scary, because it's one thing to know that if something bad could happen, inevitably it will. You just don't think it's going to happen when you've got about, what, I think seven outs left and you're still playing with a seven-run lead, or 10 outs left.

Ari Shapiro:
It was absolutely surreal to think that that's how it ended. Because honestly, I wouldn't mind losing to the Seattle Mariners as the expansion cousin on principle of being outplayed. But they were out-coached, they were outplayed. It's really hard to describe what happened. I think as a Blue Jays fan who's followed them since I was a boy and remembered covering them as a journalist as early as the early nineties, late eighties, for this to happen is really unfortunate because I think it represents a significant step back to where this organization should be when you consider the amount of talent and focus that Rogers Media gives them.

Claire Buchanan:
So well put. Like you said, going into this series, the Mariners are who we wanted in favour of anyone else to play against. And the Toronto Blue Jays had a fantastic summer and they got faced with a phenomenal pitcher in Castillo, like you said. Did the Blue Jays make the right decision in starting Alek Manoah, game one of the series?

Ari Shapiro:
It was not only the right decision, Claire, it was the only logical decision. If I were to tell you going into a three-game series that you'll have Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman as your number one and two starters, you're in pretty good shape. All things being equal, even if you come up against similar pitchers, which ultimately they did because Robbie Ray ended up struggling, but in terms of calibre, Castillo and Ray versus Manoah and Gausman, you could make the case depending on which side of the border you're on that that's a wash. And if that is the case, then you've got a Blue Jays team which led the league in hitting, a league that I might add doesn't really hit anymore because modern-day baseball is such a joke when it comes to contact to contact baseball.

Ari Shapiro:
But even in the absence of runs in the first game, to have nine scored from your batting order and still not find a way to win, that's a real problem. And it's really a problem that can be, as a post-mortem, guys, if you'd like to analyze it both micro and macro, it was just a disaster on all fronts. As a matter of fact, a few minutes before I came on your show, I'd gotten a notification on my phone that Ross Atkins, GM Ross Atkins isn't even sold on Schneider yet, a man who had a 628 winning percentage in the second half and pretty much, in the mould of a Cito Gaston, got this team to the postseason.

Ari Shapiro:
But unfortunately, he made one bad decision, which is being fawned over and commiserated about, that unfortunately is the reason why management I think is hesitant. They are shell-shocked. There is no way Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins expected to be not playing baseball right now. And for fans of the franchise to witness how it unfolded and to rationalize in their minds what needs to be done or could have been done, which is another issue unto itself, what could have been done at the trade deadline to further reinforce them was really an opportunity lost.

Ari Shapiro:
I felt good about this team after September and going into the series. I believed after watching them play the way they have, even in a year where Bichette struggled mightily in three-quarters of the season and Guerrero never got his groove, and they had to rely on hitters like Espinal and Kirk to get them through tough times, I thought, wow, this is coalescing at just the right time. And now, just let Manno and Gausman do what they want, use Stripling as a third starter, throw in Barios if you need long-term relief. And instead of that happening, the opposite happened. Pitchers either didn't perform or were pulled too early, the bullpen was completely misused. Talk about a dog's breakfast. You have all these parts that you know if you use properly, you'll get success. But unfortunately, after Schneider pulled Gausman, it was like he took away a magic inning of intangibles that needed to be filled. And suddenly, that organized, well-oiled Schneider bullpen, that Pete Walker bullpen that was ready to zone in and be competitive fell apart, and so here we are.

Cam Jenkins:
Yeah, and I think that's a big part of it where the game obviously changed, where Schneider took Gausman out and in that inning that he took Gausman out, the bases were loaded and nobody out. Gausman ended up getting two outs. Do you think maybe, and obviously 20/20 hindsight's easy at this point in time, but do you think that Schneider should have left him in rather than going with the lefty righty that so many managers do, to have that lefty arm or to the righty arm to go against the lefty or righty hitter?

Ari Shapiro:
Cam, that's a great question, but to me, it comes down to what we didn't see as fans, what we didn't know. I initially assumed that Kevin Gausman just told John Schneider, "I can't keep going, I'm done. Maybe my cut got aggravated." Because let's face it, his last start had an early pull as well because of a cut on his finger. So I thought to myself, okay, he's got his team up eight to one. He figures, "I'm going to rest my starter." There's just three problems. Number one, the numbers were evident that turning around Santana and bringing in Mayza would give an extra a hundred points of batting average to the matchup. So right away, that's my obvious question, and as an armchair critic, it's easy to ask that question after the fact, but you ask yourself the question, if everybody had the numbers and they knew that the matchup favoured a righty rather than lefty, why did he turn him around? Number one.

Ari Shapiro:
Number two, if you could argue that he felt better about bringing Mayza into that situation, you can still make the argument, why Mayza? If you want to create a few innings where you just want to put the ball in play, I don't think you bring him in that early because then if he does implode, which he did, and require you to start blowing your entire bullpen, now you're asking Jordan Romano to do a two-inning save. And I'm sorry but Jordan's not Duane Ward. Duane Ward you could bring in in the eighth and ninth and you just looked up and you said, "Hey, it's just a matter of time. He's going to get everyone out," but Jordan's not a hundred mile an hour hurler. And in a game which is identified by relief pitchers who can throw in triple digits, that ultimately became a problem.

Ari Shapiro:
All the Mariners did was sit back and wait for the count to favour them and then swing as hard as they needed to, and look what happened. So the decision was bad but the fact that it forced the entire complexion of the game to change. I was sitting with Gamecast on, I had the game on just like all of you did and all of you were enjoying it at the same time, and if some of you had the pleasure of being, let's say, on a site that showed the win probability. At the moment that Tim Mayza came in, the Blue Jays were 98.9% favoured to win. So [inaudible 00:17:54] you're thinking as a fan, even if things go horribly wrong over the next three or four innings, they're going to pull it out.

Ari Shapiro:
But boy, did they go horribly wrong, not just because of an ill-fated or poorly made decision to replace your pitcher, but then just some of the things that happened on the field, including Bo Bichette forgetting that in a world where you play shortstop, you've got to listen to your center fielder, and if George Springer wants to make a play, you have no earthly business being there. You know who used to do that as well which aggravated me? Was Troy Tulowitzki. But back in the day, he had an arrangement with the center fielder to just get off my lawn, right? Don't go anywhere near my business. This is my real estate.

Ari Shapiro:
So what I witnessed was a team that from day one still struggled with fundamentals and that's hurt them from start to finish for this season, which should have been 92 wins, really could have been 98, maybe even a hundred if they'd played with more discipline, if they didn't waste the first half of the season putting on home run jackets and letting Charlie Montoya let them run around like small children in kindergarten. This was really embarrassing because they had the talent to do it. What they lacked is the leadership and the chemistry within the clubhouse to be serious baseball players at a serious time. It was the playoffs. There's no second chance. As Josh Donaldson said, this isn't the try league, it's the get it done league, and when you're in the postseason, you've got to get it done. And if you don't, don't give your excuses. You just don't have what it takes. That's the nature of sports

Claire Buchanan:
This season, let's be real, there's a lot of young talent on the team and that's just what it is. You just touched on it that there just is a lack of experience and detail to the fundamentals and I think that shows through the youth of the team, specifically Bo Bichette. Yes, he had a hot bat in September but he also committed 21 errors. Do you see him here long-term or do you see him being traded to get some maybe more seasoned players on the team?

Ari Shapiro:
Claire, it's really hard to argue with a player who led the league in Hits now two years in a row. Of course, the irony is that a former hits leader ended up being traded to the Blue Jays because it was discarded as an unvaccinated reclamation project. I'm talking about Whit Merrifield. So clearly, that statistic is not heralded as it used to be. I personally love it. I think that what is the true mark of a player is one who can get on base, one who can get hits, one who can take walks. Bo Bichette for his age should be a continued project for the Blue Jays to work on because the truth is his talent is there. Unfortunately, the focus, the consistency, maybe too much attention to hair products. I don't know, it could be a lot of things, right? He's a hell of a player but he's a kid, and I still look at him as a kid. And when I see him running around with his hair flopping up and down, all I can think is, "That's a young kid."

Ari Shapiro:
Now, here's the thing. If they're winning and he's performing and he's consistent, I don't care what he does with his hair. At the end of the day, what you want to see as a fan is a good effort and consistency. And I think to your question, Claire, I think maybe there might be some people who might, in the higher up player development side, start saying to themselves, "We're kind of flummoxed here because he's not a good defensive player." And I hate to say it, at 23, 24, he's not magically going to turn into a great defensive player. Tony Fernandez was a great defensive player at the age of 12. When the Blue Jays drafted him at 13 and brought him up so he grew up in the system and became a young adult, they knew what they had, fundamentals. And Bichette doesn't have fundamentals, Vlad Guerrero, Jr. definitely doesn't have fundamentals.

Ari Shapiro:
A lot of these players are just kind of, they're there. They're there to show off their talent and not really give a damn it seems about whether they win or lose, even though you are getting the historionics, you're getting the fanfare, the whole, you've just seen the trailer, now here's the movie. And now the movie's over so get ready for the sequel, but the sequel won't be as good as the original movie. Why? Because it's going to be hard for the Blue Jays to keep this team together. They have a small window that's still there but it's evaporating. And if you keep losing with Vlad and Bo and then you don't end up getting value because let's say they end up leaving, you've got a dilemma. I'd like to see them keep them because I think that they can develop into better players, but am I thrilled that the Jays are pinning their hats on a shortstop who can't play the position well and a first baseman who might become a DH soon because of the fact that he's not the greatest conditioned player?

Ari Shapiro:
Just got to be honest, I like to put my energy and effort into players who are high-impact players regardless of age or build. That's why Alejandro Kirk was so inspirational. That's why I enjoyed watching him play baseball. I always got the impression that he knew what he was doing at the plate. For most of the season, I don't think any of us could say that we knew what Bo and Vlad were really doing at the plate.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, well, I have to say that that was the crappiest end to a movie I've ever seen. Worse than any horror film or anything like that. We're joined by Ari Shapiro who is a publisher, podcaster, and we're talking all things Toronto Blue Jays. Ari, we've got one more for you coming at you from Cameron.

Cam Jenkins:
Yeah Ari, if that was the movie, I would call it Screen 1, and I really hope you don't see Scream 2 as the sequel.

Ari Shapiro:
Well, they all got worse, didn't they? But then they eventually rebooted them and got great again so maybe the whole point of this Blue Jays team is they're going to keep rebooting [inaudible 00:23:34].

Claire Buchanan:
It is my favourite horror series. They are pretty good.

Ari Shapiro:
You know, I grew up on old school Hammer horror, and then later, George Romero horror, and then the eighties horror, and I can tell you, I've seen some pretty scary films but I agree with you Cam, ask me your question because that was an absolute horror show. That was terror personified if you're a sports fan that cares about competitive teams.

Cam Jenkins:
It was. So I guess this seems like the million-dollar question but where do the Blue Jays go from here? Are they going to get the manager, the interim manager and be a full-time manager? What else is going to happen after such a devastating loss?

Ari Shapiro:
I think it's high time for this team to seriously ask themselves where they want to go and what they consider themselves. And if the answer is we're on the way up and we're a competitive playoff calibre team, maybe not a World Series calibre team but a playoff team which they are, then you need to go out and get yourself a bonafide real manager. Enough of this. It was an issue back when John Gibbons came back. Remember that John Gibbons redux when he came back the second time? I'll say this, a lot of people didn't like that move. They felt they could have gotten a Joe Madden's style of calibre experienced coach. But if you think about it, what Gibby did wasn't unlike what Cito Gaston did when he took over for Jimmy Williams in the late eighties, which is to say he'd let the players play, and that's what the Blue Jays need.

Ari Shapiro:
They need a manager who will be a strong silent Cito Gaston type, believe in the players but not put up with any of the shenanigans. I don't want to see another home run jacket next year or I'm going to be nauseous. What good is that little cheap frilly, whatever that is, slice of infantilism that somehow has been pawned off as a great team-building moment of chemistry. It's not. It can be when it's done once in a while, like say when you hit a walk off Grand Slam, you can wear 10 jackets. But if you're wearing a jacket in the middle of a game, in the middle of a series or in an important series throughout the course of the year and you haven't even won anything, you haven't even proven you can get past the first round of the playoffs, I suggest replacing those jackets with maybe just a little gold star that they can put right on their forehead. And then the camera can close in and we'd know that that player hit a home run, and that's it, move on. Big deal.

Ari Shapiro:
We're not in a league anymore that allows players to be full-rounded players. Everyone is swinging for the fences, everyone's hitting 230 it seems like. We're proud of 280 on base percentage averages and it's a joke, it's an absolute joke. So this Blue Jays, what they need is a real manager who values contact station to station baseball, will teach some of these players to be a little more cerebral like a Kirk. If you think about it, it's such a challenging thing they have with these catchers because they have a prospect who's ready to go and fantastic in Gabriel Moreno, they've got Danny Janssen who showed in the months of August and September that he can be a starting catcher, and they've got the team MVP in my opinion, which was Alejandro Kirk.

Ari Shapiro:
So they need to get the type of manager that will allow these players to do what they need to do, but to make sure that they're kept in line. And above all else, don't get involved in a game the way Montoya used to, which led to probably a dozen and a half losses that you can probably count in the last 250 games played under his stewardship. And unfortunately, what Schneider did end up costing him any chance of becoming a big league manager, it was that horrible a move. Because like I said, unless Gausman was legitimately hurting, there was no reason to pull him out with less than a hundred pitches, and certainly not when you're turning around a hitter who hits a hundred points better from the other side.

Ari Shapiro:
It's easy to harp on that. I'm sure you've all heard enough about that but that's what makes really in baseball a truly good manager versus a mediocre manager. Schneider got mediocre, it cost the Blue Jays their chance. They need to do better and they need to get someone with the kind of reputation, attitude and discipline to make these young kids understand what an awesome privilege it is to play the game of baseball during such stressful and difficult times.

Brock Richardson:
Well it was so great to be able to have you on to chat about this and made us all giggle at times, but it's the thing we're all thinking, Ari, that you brought up a few times. Home run jacket, I've never been a fan of it either. I think it's ridiculous. I think all teams do a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think it's Mickey Mouse looking, I don't like it. I think they need to change it and we proved why this year that they need to look more like a team. And funny enough, Joe Girardi is sitting out there and so is Joe Madden as well. Both of those guys are sitting out there waiting. If you don't kick the tires on one or both of those guys, I will be very, very upset. Ari, thank you.

Ari Shapiro:
Well said my friend. You've got to take a flyer. You only live once and for this administration as I see it, they're already half-baked, so Shapiro and Atkins better get their act together because there are a lot of faithful, true blue, Blue Jays fans who are crestfallen, and truth is with the right kind of leadership, this won't happen I don't think again.

Brock Richardson:
No, I hundred percent agree with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. We greatly appreciate it and nice to have you and be able to physically see you on our video podcast.

Ari Shapiro:
Likewise. I don't do these really anymore with other adventures in life, but it's always good to come back with your AMI crowd. You guys are such great people and you do such great work. It's a pleasure to be on your network.

Brock Richardson:
Thank you very much. We appreciate it very much. That was Ari Shapiro who is a podcaster, publisher, and the guy who comes on and talks all things Toronto Blue Jays. If you want to get a hold of us on that last interview we just did or anything else on the program, here's how you can leave us a voicemail.

Intro:
Hey, if you want to leave a message for The Neutral Zone, call now. 1-866-509-4545, and don't forget to give us permission to use your message on the air. Let's get ready to leave a voicemail.

Brock Richardson:
It's almost poetic the background music that we just had, because we just dissected the crap out of the Toronto Blue Jays, and really, it just felt sombre. Not sure if Marc Aflalo did that intentionally, but either way, it worked out perfectly. Loved having Ari on the program. I was hoping for better times, better conversation. I really thought that it was going to work out but it didn't. We are now going to shift gears into a conversation that's going to take on a few different layers to it, and the basis of the story, as I mentioned in our headlines, I know it's old, older, let's say, but it does spin off into a other conversation which we're still looking forward to have, and actually, Claire Buchanan brought it to me a while ago and this is the time we're going to fit it in.

Brock Richardson:
And for those of you that don't remember or weren't tuned in at the beginning of the program, Alejandro Kirk was criticized by at TSN reporter about his weight, basically saying that this is a disgrace and there's no place in baseball for this. Alek Manoah came to the defence of Alejandro Kirk and said he's a really good baseball player and there's no place for that in baseball. Claire, I know that you brought this to us and you wanted to chat about it. Why did you feel it was important to have this conversation on the program?

Claire Buchanan:
I think it's just mind-blowing that it's even a conversation that we're still having. First of all, props to his teammate Alek Manoah for speaking up because regarding whether it's body shaming or any type of negativity or hate in sports or anywhere really, it's really in those moments when people speak up and defend those people, so yeah, props to Alek Manoah. But like I said, it's mind-blowing because an athlete doesn't look one way. If you look at any sports, whether it's para hockey or weight lifting or baseball or swimming, every single body looks different and I can't believe that we're still in a place where we are having our minds in such a small box of seeing what athletes, quote-unquote, should look like. And it really discredits athletes who are working tirelessly hard to be the best athletes that they can. And like our guest just said, Kirk is probably the MVP of the Jay's team this season because he worked his butt off, and to have an athlete run around those bases with an infield hit like that, I don't care what size you are, that's an incredible run.

Brock Richardson:
Agreed. Cameron, what was your first reaction to this? And I should add that also, Alec received about a hundred thousand dollars that he donated to charity, which I have some strong thoughts on and I'll give those in a second. But Cameron, what did you think when you saw this and put this all together?

Cam Jenkins:
A TSN reporter, what does he know about baseball, or has he ever played it before to get to the big leagues? Who is he to say that he's out of shape or he's like anything? At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding and he, being Alejandro Kirk, played really well this year and he plays behind in catcher for the most part, sometimes TH. And throughout the years in baseball, you see some people that aren't necessarily in the best of shape, but it doesn't matter because are they producing? David Wells, he was a pitcher. I don't think he was in the best shape of his life but he was a darn good pitcher, and if Kirk is a really good catcher behind the catching and if he's a really great hitter, which he is, and if he's helping out with his team, then who the heck cares if he's a bit overweight or if his body type isn't like...

Cam Jenkins:
It just frustrates me so much that still in today's society, what a person looks like has a huge bearing on people's opinions, and it's not the type of person that they are as a person, their character, things like that. If you are not good-looking or if you don't have a certain body type, you are seen as less than and it just infuriates me to no end.

Brock Richardson:
For sure. Honestly, for me, this is just so disappointing that we are still in a situation that we are. Listen, I love the fact that Manoah came to the defence of his teammate as you should. You are like a brother, a sisterhood, depending on what sports you play. It is it like nothing anyone will ever experience. But I have to say, the one thing that caught my intention was the monetary value that came with this sportsmanship award. It turned into about a hundred thousand dollars Canadian and Alec donated it to charity, but he did not have to, it was not mandated to do that. He chose to do that, which I think is the right decision. I'm not sure that being a good teammate needs to result in financial compensation. I've won a couple of sportsmanships awards in my career. I can think of one in particular where a new athlete came, started playing Bachi and was really having quite a struggle, and they had what we called the perfect first ball.

Brock Richardson:
And I was winning, I believe the score was eight to one, and Blue Jays. I did not blow that lead. And the person had a perfect ball and it was the last end of the game and I decided to leave the point where it was, where he could get a second point in the game. And after the game, I felt good about myself, but did it mean that therefore, I should receive a monetary value because of it? No, that's not the reason I did it. That would've never been the reason I did it. I didn't even do it to get a sportsmanship award. I did it because I felt in my heart that was the best thing to do. And for me, and obviously we're not talking to Alec right now, but I would bet that that's exactly the reason he did it in this instance, because he knew that that's the best thing to do for his teammate, Cameron.

Cam Jenkins:
It had absolutely nothing to do with the money. As far as I know or don't know, was this just an award to make up and to give it to Alex to just give him a bit of compensation or was it just made up to get some PR basically for whomever gave the hundred thousand dollars? You never know in today's age, especially in sports, what their intentions are at the end of the day, but I really believe Alex Manoa, he just did it out of the goodness of his heart. He's sticking up for a teammate and rightfully he should in that particular case, so kudos to Alex for standing up for him and for Alejandro Kirk, keep doing what you're doing. Don't listen to some TSN reporter that might not be around in a year or two, that's for sure.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. Claire, what do you make of the hundred thousand dollars? And obviously, he did the right thing.

Claire Buchanan:
When you become a teammate like that, it just becomes second nature. They're just not your teammates. They become, like you said, brothers and sisters of yours, and so I think something like that, I don't think it even crossed his mind of, "Oh, I should do this or I should do that." It was just, "Hey, that's my buddy you're attacking. I'm going to say something just because I care about them." But like Cam said, I really believe that, it feels like it just came out of nowhere and just was created randomly for possibly PR, because you've never heard of anything like this before and there's been multiple situations through sports I'm sure where there's been a chance to, like you said, put a monetary value to an act of kindness. But at the end of the day, it just feels weird that they did that. Cool that it got given to a charity and stuff but it feels weird that it happened.

Brock Richardson:
And honestly, if I could point my finger, and I'll just pick a player off the top of my head, if I could point my finger and say Aaron Judge got that five years ago for doing whatever he did for a teammate and did the same thing, fine. If it's a yearly award that's associated with a monetary value, cool, but this came out of left field. Because for a while there, it was like, oh, let's highlight what Manoah did in defence of his teammate, and then a day or two after, it's like, oh yeah, now, there's a monetary value, and by the way, he donated it to charity. And I remember looking and going, "Huh?" He was just being a teammate. He wasn't doing this for a monetary gain, there's no way. And I'm not saying that that's what people think because there is no way that he was doing it that way.

Brock Richardson:
And I remember, this is where I want to take this spin in a little bit of a different direction, is there's shaming in sports in all kinds of different ways, and for me, I got shamed from the day I made the national team till the day I exited the national team, and I'll tell you why. I got shamed because my father was part of the coaching staff for Team Canada, and every year I made it, there were people that would say the only reason I made it was because of my father. And the truth of the matter was no, there were things on paper that you could see, that you could point to about the reasons why I made the national program and it had nothing to do with my father being a member or not. It had everything to do with my skill.

Brock Richardson:
And I remember the hardest time I ever had to deal with it was going to London 2012. I was the only person in my category. Usually, there was two people in each category that went, but my numbers were far and away above anybody else in the category and so I got to be the only one to go and another one of the other athletes got to go, and I got ridiculed. I was getting text messages, emails, and people calling me all kinds of names on social media. It is not a nice feeling at all to be ridiculed in any way, shape, form, by a member of the media or anybody else. It's awful and it's not nice, and I'm curious, from you guys, Cameron, start with you, has there been any situation where you've been shamed for any reason in sports and how have you handled it, and did a teammate come to your defence?

Cam Jenkins:
I don't remember a teammate coming to my defence but I guess the best scenario or thing that I can mention is for high school sports. And whether you're playing softball or dodgeball or whatever sport you're playing, I was always picked last, and that's kind of a shaming because nobody wanted me on the team because of my disability, so that was hard to deal with when you're always getting picked last. Now, the gym teachers, sometimes they would actually have me as the captain or as the head person that got to pick the people so, therefore, I wasn't picked last, so that's sometimes how they dealt with it. But yeah, I was just shamed and it was just a way of being told, and not necessarily with words, that I wasn't good enough because I was picked last.

Cam Jenkins:
So I think that was probably the one thing that I can relate to as far as being shamed in sports that I can remember, because otherwise, I didn't hear it. I used to do baseball or tee-ball growing up and I remember that my coach was very, very good when I was with Force Glen Baseball, I think it was called back in the days. So that was a very good experience and I know that he knew I wanted to pitch so he got me to pitch an inning too. So yeah, I've had some positive experiences as well but I think the most one that I remember the most is high school and always getting picked last.

Brock Richardson:
Claire, same question to you.

Claire Buchanan:
Very similar experiences, especially within the school system being a disabled kid, and at one point, the only disabled kid in my high school. There wasn't a lot of verbal shaming or discrimination of that sort, but like Cam said, just because you are seen as someone with a disability, people already have this preconceived notion that you're not good enough or you're less than. And so you do get picked last for sports teams, and a lot of the time in gym class, I was the scorekeeper because I can't run around a track or I can't do long jump that day. Those aren't the things that my body allows me to do. And one instance, I was doing track at one point during high school so I got the opportunity to compete at OSA and came away with a silver medal, even though I got lapped three times by the current gold medalist that went to, I think it was Athens at that time.

Claire Buchanan:
But I came back with a medal from OSA and had to actually fight for my photo to be put on the wall with all the other athletes that have gone through my high school that have medaled at OSA. And for some reason, because I was playing a disabled sport, that there was an issue. So still boggles my mind to this day, but yeah, the school system specifically is very interesting when it revolves around having disabled kids, not just in your classes but trying to get them involved, make sure that everyone's evolved equally.

Brock Richardson:
It all goes back in my mind to the image, what society perceives as being the image, and that image does not disclude disability as we've outlined. And having gone where I've gone in sports, and don't even get me started on the school system, it's sometimes a situation where you leave yourself shaking your head and wondering, what is happening in this situation? What's going on? But yeah, I thought that we would just have that conversation to let people know out there that shaming comes in all different forms and it's not cool, and I thought when I was looking at this story, as Claire brought it, I thought, you know what? We can put this all together and give the audience a little bit out there of what are the things we've gone through.

Brock Richardson:
Something else that has gone through is Hockey Canada, and that is quite the situation. We outlined some of the sponsors that have said, "We're not going to fund this anymore, we're not going to do this." Andrea Skinner came to the defence of Scott Smith and the board and said he was the right guy for the job, he had good leadership, all this good stuff. And then she finished the last hearing by saying, quote, "I give him an A-plus," which left me completely baffled that you could even do that. And then in recent days, we have heard that the whole board has stepped away from this. And I want to get both of your reactions to this. Are you surprised, one, and two, do you have better faith in the organization as a whole because of the change? Claire, start with you.

Claire Buchanan:
It's about time. This took way too long for everyone to step down. I think we are finally reaching a spot where the people that are involved or that were involved and are trying to get through this and trying to heal from it and become better people can now do that without this gray cloud over them. We thought that they weren't going to resign and that this group of individuals were going to continue in Hockey Canada, and that was an unnerving feeling. One, being a part of the organization and wearing the jersey, it's good to see that they're on a path of hopefully making their front offices look a lot more diverse and a lot more filled with lived experience and that hunger to make hockey, again, one of the best sports to play, where people can feel safe playing the sport in Canada as well.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. Cameron, your reaction?

Cam Jenkins:
Once the sponsors started to drop like flies, the writing was on the wall and you knew that the whole executive of Hockey Canada would probably either be let go or they would resign. So I'm glad it happened. It's a reckoning. They need to burn it down to the ground and they need to start to build it from the ground up and to have that diversity that Claire talked about as well. They certainly need to be able to have that because it is a lot different, the world, than it was 30 years ago when Hockey Canada was a lot different, so I just hope that they get the right people in place. And I know they were talking about December as a goal to get a new board in place.

Cam Jenkins:
And hopefully, this age of a player thinking that they're God, and that's not just in hockey but that's in any sport as well when you're at the top and you're making lots of money, it has to stop. And I do know that you need to have a bit of a chip on your shoulder in order to make it as a pro athlete, but at the same time, there's no excuse for what's been going on. And yeah, hopefully this is a day of reckoning and things are going to change.

Brock Richardson:
Cameron, does it matter to you if now that we've seen these wholesale changes, if there's a name change or not, do you think that's relevant at this point?

Cam Jenkins:
I don't think it's relevant to change the name Hockey Canada, as long as you have the people that were guiding it for so many years not there anymore and having a new people in there. I think that's the most important part is to get rid of the old and get some new. I don't think the name is going to really mean anything if they change it or not.

Brock Richardson:
Claire?

Claire Buchanan:
This country has held a lot of love with not only watching Hockey Canada but being able to say Hockey Canada and be able to talk about it proudly. I think that the steps that have finally been made can restore that pride in a lot of families and the next generation of hockey players as well. They've grown up wanting to put on that jersey and wanting to be a part of Hockey Canada and I don't think a name change is going to make a big difference of that, and I think it's just they need to put the actions behind their values. They say that they value these things, but up to now, they haven't backed it up with actions. So the fact that they are starting to have that process of saying, "Hey, no, we really do care about this and this is what we're going to do about it," that's the thing that matters and that's what's going to have the biggest impact.

Brock Richardson:
I said it before and I'll say it again now to close the show, we needed as a collective to see physical change within Hockey Canada. We needed to see something that we could literally point to and say, "There's the change right over there," and finally we are seeing that change. I do not think a name change means much of anything to be honest with you, but now that this is being done, we are seeing what we all wanted to see and move forward. Hockey Canada, you're doing the right thing. Now, you just need to put the new pieces in place and move forward correctly and in the right way that Canadians want to see you move forward.

Brock Richardson:
With that, that is the end of our program for this week. I'd like to thank Claire Buchanan, Cam Jenkins. I'd also like to thank Marc Aflalo, our technical producer. Our manager of AMI Audio is Andy Frank. Thanks for tuning in. Have a great week. We'll talk to you next week. Be safe. Be well.