Gregg Zaun on all things Blue Jays as the team opens its 40th season
We chat with former Jays catcher, TV analyst and all-around dapper Gregg Zaun about the coming MLB season, where he shops and his appreciation for Don Cherry.
What grade would you give Jays management for their off-season work, losing Edwin Encarnacion and signing Jose Bautista?
Well, that’s a tough grade to give without knowing the intimate details of the negotiation process. I know they wanted to sign Edwin back and keep the whole team intact but were unable to do that. I think a better question is a grade for Paul Kinzer, the agent for Edwin. I know he grossly misread the market and cost his client $20 or $30 million. In my opinion, that’s a fail.
What were your big question marks with the team heading into spring training and the new season?
My question mark is always the bullpen. It’s a funny thing. You look at those guys, and they are largely disposable and interchangeable — a funny thing unless you have guys that are proven closers. All those middle relief and eighth inning guys, you’re essentially looking for lightening in a bottle. That’s why you sign bullpen guys to two-year deals — because they just wear them out, use them and abuse them. My other question mark: will the Jays find more interesting ways to score runs than simply swinging for the fences all the time?
Given the awkward way the team re-signed Jose Bautista, will he still lead the team?
First thing, let’s not assume Jose Bautista is a clubhouse leader by default because he’s a vet with a big name. Certainly, he’s a guy who at one point was an upper echelon player, but it remains to be seen if he’s going to have that kind of season in 2017. But when the lights turn on, it’s all pretty much forgotten, and you revert to the task at hand, and that’s winning ball games. I got a feeling that a guy like Jose is probably playing with a giant chip on his shoulder and a ton to prove.
Can Kendrys Morales fill Edwin’s shoes?
I think he can do a lot in that situation. He put up big numbers in a non-hitter’s ball park. The guy can hit. I played against him when he first came up, and he was hitting balls all over the strike zone. He’s a nice addition, but you can’t replace Edwin. He’s too much of a special talent with a bat in his hand.
Have we seen the best of Aaron Sanchez, or is there still room for this guy to get even better?
Jamie [Campbell] and I don’t throw around “ace” or “number one” very often, but Sanchez is a legit ace, number one starter and potential Cy Young winner perennially. And he’s only going to get better. He’ll get a better feel for his command and better command of his pitches. Last year, he made it look easy. I saw no stress.
You’ve been described as baseball’s Don Cherry. Seems like a compliment. What do you think?
I think it’s a great compliment. I consider Mr. Cherry a good close friend and a mentor. I love that he has opinions and that he doesn’t retreat when his opinions are unpopular, and I love how polarizing he is. To think of me as the go-to guy for baseball in Canada, that is exactly what I wanted when I came back here, to be that go-to guy for the country, not just for a team or a region.
Speaking of go-tos, where is your go-to shop for those swanky duds?
There is only one: Garrison Bespoke. They make all my suits and are great at what they do. They bring a lot of great ideas to the table, and they are not afraid to take chances with fashion, and they are usually bang on.
What is your favourite spot in town to go to after a game?
Barberian’s Steak House is one of my favourite restaurants in the city. It’s probably the one I will go to when I do have a night out on the town.
When are you happiest?
Typically, at home, but professionally I’m most happy to see the game played the right way, with enthusiasm and hustle. Win or lose, it doesn’t really matter to me, but the game should be respected and played properly.
What is your passion outside baseball?
Fitness. I’m big into bodybuilding and boxing, and I like to stay fit. I’m usually at the gym five to six days a week.
What talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be a great musician. Drums.
What’s your treasured possession?
My daughter. She’s two and a half.