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Peter Gammons
March 28, 1988
By refusing to be a DH, last year's MVP George Bell has made it unclear for whom he toils, himself or the Blue Jays
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March 28, 1988

Bell Chimes A Sour Note

By refusing to be a DH, last year's MVP George Bell has made it unclear for whom he toils, himself or the Blue Jays

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"George is the MVP, and he's got no place to play," says Moseby. "He's hurt. He's confused. I don't know what's going on. We won 96 games. We couldn't be that bad. They could take one of the kids and move us all around—four guys for three positions—and have George, Jesse and me take turns DHing. But, no. It had to be me in left, George with no position. George works as hard as anyone on this team, and he has great pride. Now he's backed into a corner."

But Bell has backed the Blue Jays into a corner as well. "The problem is that George saw management back down to Damaso Garcia two years ago," says one player. When Williams took over as manager after the 1985 season, one of his first moves was to shift Garcia, who had had a low on-base percentage (.302) for a leadoff hitter the previous season, to the ninth spot in the batting order. Garcia pouted and in his first exhibition game refused to swing at a pitch. He continued to sulk until May, when Williams moved him back into the No. 1 spot. This time, however, the Blue Jays are unlikely to be so conciliatory. "We can't give in," says Gillick. "Players don't run the club."

Bell hasn't received much support from his teammates, except for Moseby. "If George doesn't want to do what he's paid $2 million to do, he can go back to the Dominican Republic," says one player. "This stinks. Most of the players are very upset."

Still, when Bell made his remarks about Williams, not one player stood up and disagreed with him. By contrast, when Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics showed up late for spring training because of conflicting appearances at baseball card shows, he was reprimanded by several veterans. In the Athletics clubhouse he was greeted by a poster that read: "Welcome to Jose Canseco Autograph Day. Appearing for the first time: Jose Canseco. Evening lecture: Concepts of team play. Guest speaker: Jose (Card Show) Canseco."

The Blue Jays lack that sort of strong leadership. Upshaw, who has improved his hitting after having off-season knee surgery, is respected by his teammates. But Williams plans to phase the veteran first baseman out of the lineup to make room for Cecil Fielder and Fred McGriff. As a result, Upshaw was in no position to pull his teammates together when Bell decided to challenge management. He does have strong feelings on the subject, though. "We've got a lot of bad stuff simmering underneath the surface here," he says. "If we don't deal with it, it will tear the team apart. This is a bad situation. I've never seen anything like it in my life."

The Blue Jays may well be the team to beat in the American League East. They won the division in 1985, challenged Boston in '86 and led by 3� games going into the last seven games of '87 before falling to the Detroit Tigers. But consider this fact: For the final week of the last three seasons, Toronto's record is 2-20.

And that was before Bell refused to be a DH.

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