There were blackjack tables, Vegas-type showgirls strolling around, plenty of quality food, an open bar (I was working, so, no, I did not partake), and an impressive assortment of prizes for those in attendance to take home (cars, trips to Cuba, memorabilia).
Those in attendance also had an opportunity to mingle with Vernon Wells, Dustin McGowan and Jeremy Accardo. Highlights from their chats with the media were that Wells is feeling 100 percent, McGowan has been throwing off a mound and had been training in Florida for two weeks already, and Accardo has been throwing for months, moving beyond his more laid back winter program of years past.
I squeezed in some of the highlights in an article on bluejays.com, but obviously not everything made the cut. One topic that McGowan and Wells weighed in on was the Mitchell Report, which included Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun’s named. McGowan said he had dinner the other night with Zaun and said talking with the catcher hasn’t been awkward at all. Wells admitted that he was actually looking forward to hearing who was named when the report came out.
Here’s their comments on the Mitchell Report:
"It’s something they had to deal with eventually. Hopefully they can just get it all in order and get the testing set up where it helps in the future. … I just had dinner with Zaun down in Florida. It’s not awkward. He’s my teammate and he’s like family to us. He needs support and we’re here to give it to him."
"I was kind of looking forward to it coming out. I wanted to see what it was all about and see who was going to be in it. You have your thoughts and your suspicions on who’s done it and who hasn’t. It’s part of life and unfortunately it was a part of the game for a while. That’s why we made a concerted effort to rid our sport of things like this and try to get to steroid use and hopefully there will be a test we can come up with for HGH and this wont be a conversation anymore.
"I know in our clubhouse that we’ll probably make a joke out of it and make fun of [Zaun] about it. You make decisions, whether it’s true or false what came out in the report, you can defend yourself and prove your innocence. Unfortunately, in this situation, you’re guilty until proven innocent. You speak out and tell the truth and if people believe you, they do. If not, whatever you did in your personal life, hopefully you made the right decisions.
"It’s unfortunate for the guys who did make good choices and decided not to do things like that. If anybody wants to challenge me on it, I’ll take a lie detector test — it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll be the first one to do it. I’ve got nothing to hide. For me, I know personally this doesn’t bother me one bit."
Wells said he finished his rehab last week and began hitting against a pitching week last week as well. He also worked with new hitting coach Gary Denbo in early January. Wells said Denbo had been studying film and the two bounced ideas off each other for the coming season.
Wells had this to say:
"It’s an open relationship. We’re just talking and trying to make me the best hitter that I can be and he’s very passionate about what he does. He was the first to tell me, ‘I don’t care what you’ve done in the past — you can do better.’ I fully believe that."
Wells also weighed in on John McDonald going from the projected starter at short to the bench after the Jays signed David Eckstein:
"You talk to Johnny Mac and he’ll be the first to tell you that he just wants to win and that’s the kind of attitude we need from people on this team. Obviously, I think he played well enough to earn a spot, but when you have an opportunity to go out and get somebody who’s always been an everyday player and has won championships, which is the biggest thing, he knows how what to do to win ballgames and we need more guys like that."
NEW LOOK: You probably noticed that the blog looks a little different. I figured now’s as good a time as any to usher in a new look for 2008. I’ve also been lazy with the links on the left side of the blog until now. I linked to other good Jays news sites, other MLB writer blogs, and the Web sites that I frequent. I didn’t link to other Jays blogs, but a few of my favorites include Drunk Jays Fans, the Tao of Stieb, the Mockingbird and All Your Base Are Belong to Rios. Also, you can now see my ugly mug, along with the beautiful Mrs. Bastian in the updated photo there on the left.