Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Been A Long Time

I have been neglectful. I have failed to update this blog in what seems like forever but life got in the way.

Finally, though, I see some hope on the horizon. Ignoring the thumping at the hands of the Bruins the Leafs have played some stellar (well stellar considering the calibre of players) hockey lately.

Going into the game tonight the Leafs are 7 points behind les dirty munchkins for the final playoff spot. Sure, it may seem like an insurmountable task but then again some thought it would be impossible just for the Leafs to get out of last place.

It may be a a long time coming just as this post was, but a change is gonna come.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mr. Murphy

When Kessel got knocked down by Ohlund during last night's game I covered my face for the next five minutes. I thought the worst.

So far this Leafs' season has been a key demonstration of Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. The fact that Kessel returned to the ice though perhaps is a sign that things are about to turn around.

Not only did he return but he played a great game. There were few signs of the rust that should be expected and it gave me something I had almost lost: hope

Sure, the Leafs lost the game on a debatable goal but that I hope will be the last we hear from Mr. Murphy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Panic. Hysteria. Common Sense

When sitting playing drinking games with various foreigners in Japan one of the Italian backpackers came out with a phrase that I still remember in his accent and is apt for today: Nobody Panic.

Seriously, the Leafs have barely played 10% of their season and there are fans ready to throw themselves, not to mention Burke and the boys, over bridges because of the poor start.

It's not the time. Maybe in a month or so, especially after November, if this trend continues, we could hit the panic alarm but for now we all need to take a deep breath and as Frankie says: Relax. This is a long marathon and it's early on. Last year don't forget les Habitants started their first 4 games at 3-0-1 and their fans were clamouring about Cup hopes. We all know how their season ended.

So don't worry. Be happy and as always: Nobody Panic.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No TV makes me angry

Here I am, sitting in Kingston, having probably had too much to drink and I realize that I can't watch my beloved Maple Leafs. Today it's because the season hasn't started yet but even when the season does start I appartently am considered to be in the Sens zone. The Sens? I'd be surprised if they were even the majority choice of hokey fans in the Ottawa region, let alone Kingston.

As I'm looking for a solution to be able to watch the Leafs games and Leafs TV online isn't giving me any help I'm turning to you for suggestions to watch. I am aware of the streaming sites such as the European one but I need ideas to get the games guaranteed, without any worry. Post your suggestions in the comment box. While you're at it check this out:


11,159 people were on hand to watch the Doc pitch last night. As a Jays fan I am ashamed. 11, 159? You could get more people to watch Nickelback and they suck. If this continues the Jays are in for a world of hurt.

This combined with yet another Halladay loss marks the lowest point of the Jays season thus far. Who would have thought it could get this bad?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Call me the Great Swami

Time to break out that crystal ball and predict what will happen this season to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. By November, when it matters, the love affair I have with every player on this team will start to wane and I will begin to hate certain players (I'm looking at you Jason Blake).

2. No matter how well the Leafs do the mittenstringers will find their way to criticize them. If they are in a playoff position, it will be for rebuilding too fast and not accumulating draft picks. If they are not in a playoff position, then Cox et al will break out the playoff drought articles and the obligatory 1967 references.

3. Grabbo will be the most entertaining player to watch. Maybe he won't score 50 goals but with that hair, that truculent spirit, and his destruction of pineapples he doesn't need to.

4. Luke Schenn will not suffer from the so-called "sophomore jinx" and will be amazing as usual. He will make several ladies pregnant just with a glance.

5. Tomas Kaberle will not end the season as a Leaf but it won't be on the team Hockeybuzz "predicts". In fact Hockeybuzz will be wrong about all things Leafs (e5).

6. Gustavsson/Toskala arguments will dominate the airwaves and it will be a good thing.

7. The Leafs will finish higher than the Senators. This unlike an Alfredsson guarantee, will happen.

8. The Leafs will be accused of having a lack of scoring even if they finish 10th in the League in scoring, again.

9. The Montreal Canadiens will not be able to cross the Leafs blue line due to fear of decapitation. Even I'm not short enough to make that team.

10. PLAYOFFS!!!1

Monday, August 10, 2009


Rios is done in Toronto. I for one couldn't be happier. Rios had all the talent in the world, but like Pogge was completely out of the game mentally, making mistakes like getting caught off second base after being called safe and failing to run home on a tag. JP managed to get rid off him without taking on any of the cost of the remainder of the contract. Sure, the Jays didn't get anyone but more importantly it gives the Jays major salary relief. This, hopefully can be used in the attempts to resign Halladay. It may be possible that JP has a plan or perhaps JP too is adopting the Burkian attitude: Play hard, play proud or get out.

Just In: Pogge's out.

By all indications over the weekend Justin Pogge's done in Toronto. He's heading to Anaheim, California to hopefully hang out with the Governor,sipping mimosas, while relaxing on the beach. It was inevitable. The moment Jonas Gustavsson signed with the Leafs or further the moment the Leafs began the pursuit of The Monster, it was clear that Pogge's days here were done.

The move, while not earth-shattering, crystallizes the rapid departure from the plan of JFJ to the plan of Brian Burke. Most of JFJ's additions to the team are slowly being moved out of town by Burke. Some of the dear departed may be successful elsewhere, but unlike Burke's tenure in Anaheim, where Brian Murray shared much of the credit of the Ducks' success, when the Leafs ultimately achieve glory the credit will fall on Burke's shoulders. This is Brian Burke's truculent Maple Leafs and a mentally insecure goalie did not fit into his plans.

Could Pogge have been the future number one here? Perhaps. He's still young and still has a chance to make it in this League. Pogge, though never impressed me. He was ordained as the saviour (a role now taken over by OLAS) by his performance in the World Juniors leading Canada to gold. This was a great disservice to both him and the Leafs as it resulted in them and JFJ, in particular, overvaluing him. Hell, with this team in front of me, even I could have won a gold medal. By far the star goalie in that tournament was another Leaf prospect Tuukka Rask, but don't get me started on what the Leafs did with him. Rask and Pogge were to be the future of the Leafs for years to come. This pressure may have gone to Pogge's head but that is no excuse as any player who plays in Toronto needs to be able to handle that pressure.

Less than 3 years after that World Junior Championship both Rask and Pogge are gone and the Leafs have absolutely nothing to show for them (except a conditional draft pick). This is still not bad news as they now have a GM, who has made it clear he has a long-term vision for this team to be successful. He is not going to mollycoddle players or force them to play in a city and for a team that players should kill to play for. Instead of focusing on the loss of assets Leafs fans should focus on the new Burkian attitude: Play hard, play proud or get out.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Doc's Final House Call

So this could be the end. I'll be there sitting in section 524A, yelling until I'm hoarse and giving Doc, if it is indeed his sendoff, the adulation he deserves. I hope it isn't the end.

Sure, Halladay will test free agency at the end of next season. But, who gives a fuck? He deserves it. This guy has been a loyal soldier to the Jays for so long and if he wants to see how much he can get in the free market, more power to him.

I think it is clear that now it is not a matter of if, but when. When the move finally happens I hope it is far, far away from Toronto and in the National League. I don't think I could handle seeing him in another uniform on a regular basis. Thank you Doc.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Carlton the Bear

For the first time in years Carlton the Bear will not be the most truculent member of the Maple Leafs franchise.

Carlton first debuted in 1995 and since then has invaded arenas across the league. He's improved his golfing the last couple seasons but that should change with the Leafs heading to the playoffs.

He clearly symbolizes this team the best. Cute and loveable but if he wants to he can tear your head off.

Other teams mascots are terrified. Check out the reactions of Ottawa's Spartacat and Montreal's Youppi when told that Carlton was coming for him.

Pure unadulterated fear.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How Did This Happen?

It's over. Pack it in. The Jays in the AL East are now closer to the last place Orioles than to the third place Rays. They have dropped below .500 for the first time this season and Roy Halladay is starting to look, well, human.

After a torrid start we were talking about playoffs and magic numbers. Now we have to count down the games until the season's over.

Why the pessimism? Well, firstly look at the teams directly ahead of us: the Rays, the defending Al Champs, the Yankees and the Red Sox. None of these teams are going to suddenly free fall, let alone all three of them. At one point this year the Jays were tied for first in the majors with a record of 27-14. Since then they have gone 16-30. Why? Injuries, inexperience, bad luck and of course Vernon. I'll still watch them or listen to them on the radio but all my hopes for playoffs have vanished. Eventually I will cheer up. After all there's always next year.

Bye Bye BJ

Na, na, na, na.
Na, na, na, na.
Hey, hey, hey.

Let's at least enjoy it before we think about the fact that the Jays are paying him $15 million to sit at home. Money, that if JP had figured out a way to trade him, could have gone to Halladay. Sigh.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I love the TRUCULENCE!!!

(sung to the tune of Boom De Ya Da-Discovery Channel)

I love the Burkie,

I love Ron Wilson,

I love Beauchemin,

I love O-L-A-S

I love the Maple Leafs and

BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da

I love to watch hits
I love the dirty plays
I love the body checks
I love Komisarek!

I love the Maple Leafs and

BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da

I love to see pain
I love the blue line
I love the scared looks
I love when our D smashes things

I love the Maple Leafs and

BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da, BOOM-de-ah-da

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Hate Babies

I'm going to do something I would never do and quite possibly will never do again. I'm going to write because I feel sorry for the Ottawa Senators. I don't feel bad because they have the worst fans in the league or the lisping GM but because of the way Dany Heatley has handled this entire trade situation. Dany Heatley is an asshole.

He first demanded a trade because he couldn't handle the fact that Cory Clouston played him less. A more intelligent, respectable player might have actually looked at the fact that the Sens improved under Clouston as a good thing but not selfish Dany Heatley. Now the rumour is that he wants a trade because Clouston might rip the A of his jersey . Well whinypants the alternate captain designation is earned. If you don't show leadership then you deserve to lose it. The entire overreaction in demanding to be dealt shows that he doesn't have the fortitude to handle a commanding role.

Now though Heatley has managed to top himself. He has sunk down to uber assholemania. By not responding to the trade to the Oilers (as I write this the deadline for the Sens $4 million bonus has just passed) he has prevented his GM from getting what he considers to be the best possible deal just because he doesn't want to play for Edmonton. Now though is Murray's turn to act. He needs to demand that Heatley shows up to play for Ottawa come October. Until Heatley decides to remove all the restrictions on his NTC Heatley should be forced to play. In the case that he chooses to sit home and not play, because he can't handle the inevitable booing, then the Sens can do what they did with Yashin and withhold his salary. Take the cap hit if the CBA demands but out of principle refuse to trade him until he agrees to go wherever the team decides to send him.

Now that Heatley has shown his true character it will be very interesting to see which GMs want him on their franchise. Yashin had a similar problem. He was a phenomenal talent, but was awful to deal with off the ice. It makes you wonder if Heatley was the true locker room cancer. At this point I do not see how he could be considered for Team Canada. He has handled himself with a complete lack of class. A guy who killed someone should know better.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Veni, Vidi, Vici: The succesful invasion of Montreal

This was originally posted at Pension Plan Puppets


It was an epic weekend in Montreal.  For those of you who missed it, now you know the rest of the story.

Day 1 - After a long drive with eyebleaf and Archimedies we arrived in Montreal ready to party.  JaredfromLondon was already there and as expected had got into the booze.  Arch and eyebleaf went to pick up wraparoundcurl (all the way from Spokane) and Vancouver blogger, Alix .  We spent the night going to a couple different bars and ended up riling up some Habs fans.  While sitting on a patio an inebriated young man wearing a wife-beater and proudly describing himself as an anglophone in Quebec walked up to us extolling the virtues of the French-Canadian goalies in the NHL: Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Martin Fleury.   As Chemmy later commented Martin Fleury is incrdible.  He's never given up a goal.  The French-Canadian goalie expert didn't seem to know who Roberto Luongo was when asked.

Day 2 - After stumbling out of bed for a greasy breakfast/lunch we headed over to a bar to pick up more tickets for the draft as eyebleaf didn't receive his and I only had 4 for the 6 of us.  While there we met a Habs fan, Tabitha also waiting for tickets whose mom was waiting in line.  Jared and I went and lined up with the mom so we could get in early and save seats for the others including Chemmy and SkinnyFish.  They eventually got in and we all met up except for plantheparade and fantasyrealm who got their tickets later and were in another section. 

As soon as I got to my seats the Habs fans already started the "Leafs suck" chant to which I responded with a "bring it on" gesture and "Go Leafs Go", joined in by Leafs fans sitting on the other side of the Bell Centre.  We then spent the next 3 long hours watching Burkie, who was the first one onto the floor, hoping something miraculous would happen.  As we all know now nothing did, which was sort of disappointing but didn't spoil our fun. 

The bonus  of our location is that we were within shouting distance of PPP who had press passes and was sitting in a suit next to other media hordes.  Chemmy took full advantage.  "Juuullian! Plug the website!",  "Juuulian! You're handsome!", then when Schenn was drafted "Juuulian!  Shit!" and when Ekman-Larsson went to the Coyotes "Julian! Who's stupid now?".  When Bettman was announcing Phoenix was on the clock he did it with his usual (lack of) class and emphasized Phoenix, which incensed the Canadian crowd including people like me who don't support a Hamilton franchise to chant "Hamilton" in response.  When the Leafs picked the Habs went with the ever-creative "1967" chant, which we waited to die down before chanting Kadri's name and "Go Leafs Go!".

Wrap was already dreading it when the Leafs passed on Cowen and her worst fears were realized moments later when Dallas passed on him and Ottawa selecting him became an inevitability.  When the pick was finally announced and he put on his jersey she was near nears.   To make it worse we now all must hate Cowen.  Hope he never plays. 

We later met Wysh and Travis, a Flyers blogger.  After another night of pounding back drinks, listening to an awesome live band and chanting "Go Leafs Go" at the bar we stumbled back to our hotels. On the way Jared almost punched the blood out of some Habs fan who was giving us lip but his buddy wisely guided him away from Jared

Day 3 - Other than PPP none of us woke up to go to the second round.  We did end up going to Schwartz's instead for smoked meat.  We spent most of the afternoon sleeping gearing up for the PPPPPPPPP (Peel Pub Presents: Pension Plan Puppets Pint Partaking Party").  Prior to that though we went to a Mexican restaurant and unveiled what would end up being the theme song of the trip.  After spying a jukebox and seeing the servers dancing and grooving to the music Chemmy's devious mind came up with an idea to play a song over and over again in order to see the reaction.  We settled on "What's New Pussycat" 5 times in a row followed by "It's Not Unusual" three times only to return for an encore of "What's New Pussycat". The jukebox for some mysterious reason anticipated such plans and only allowed us to play each song once.  I of course asked to speak to the manager and told him I paid $3.50 and only got two songs.  After some hemming and hawing he eventually agreed to give me back the $3 which we immediately put back into the machine choosing the most obnoxious songs possible bookended of course by "What's New Pussycat". Halfway through our song list they turned the volume lower and when "What's New Pussycat" came on for the last time they shut the music off completely which led us to singing it ourselves. 

The night ended with the giant pitchers and champagne at the PPPPPPPPP at which Wysh got caught with someone wearing an obvious Jersey Foul and a drunk Isles fan talked about the merits of DiPietro over Luongo and a Fox News influenced political opinion.

Our attempts at getting "What's New Pussycat" played there failed despite promises of tips for the DJ and waitress.

Day 4 - Eyebleaf, arch, Alix, PPP and I all stuffed in a car for the trip to Toronto.

All in all great trip.  Cheers to all who made it out:  PPP, Chemmy, eyebleaf, Archimedies, JaredFromLondon, wraparoundcurl, alix, SkinnyFish, say "plan the parade one more time", and  Let's do it again sometime.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Woohoo! I'm heading to Montreal on Thursday to spend some time with the good people at Pension Plan Puppets and expect to have fun cheering on the Leafs pick in Round 1 and possibly stumbling out of bed with a massive hangover for Day 2. Some people would have some concern over spending a weekend with random people they've never met before who's only known commonality is a love for the Leafs but I feel no such fear. After all I have Wendel watching over me and OLAS on my side.

As for the actual draft I'm holding out hope that Burkie can pull off a miracle and move up into the top 5 by snagging Atlanta or L.A.'s pick. That way he can get Brayden Schenn, aka the brother of God Jr. or Evander Kane, aka the other guy. I'm not hoping for a top 3 pick because I think it would cost far more than what would be acceptable for a rebuilding franchise. I think he will make some sort of big move, because after all that's what he's known for but even if Burke doesn't manage to move up the Leafs could still pick up a great player in Jared Cowen at 7th. If that happens I expect to head to a karaoke bar to sing "I am Cow" by the Arrogant Worms for the remainder of the night. The only player ranked in the top 10 that I do not want the Leafs to draft is Magnus long last name. The Leafs in all honesty need an influx of toughness and MSP is not going to provide that as much as Schenn or even the lower rated Kassian would.

Any way it goes it should be fun and if it doesn't go well we can always burn the city to the ground.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Take the Money and Run

Marian Hossa and Mats Sundin both have one thing in common. Despite both having a lot of skill neither has won a Stanley Cup and both would like to add one to their resume.

Hossa in order to do so left a 5 year multimillion dollar contract on the table and went to the Red Wings for a paycut and a one year deal. Hossa was praised for his decision by the media labelling him as a rare example of an athlete that was not a mercenary. He was following the example of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne who also took major paycuts to leave a one-year removed Stanley Cup Finalist Ducks team to play for the Colorado Avalanche, who they felt were closer to winning a Cup. The experiment badly failed. Kariya still has not won a Cup and Selanne only won one by returning to the team he had spurned.

As for Sundin he hemmed and hawed before signing on to play with a Canucks team, while decent, that wasn't a true Cup contender but paid him more money than any other team. When he signed Sundin was offended by the suggestion that he signed for a team that didn't have a legitimate chance at a Cup.

The end result: both ended up without the Stanley Cup. Sundin though has a lot more money to console him.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Raptors Endangered?

As Chris Bosh has announced his intentions to test the free agent market next off season his days in Toronto are or at least should be numbered. Only the most deluded Raptors fan could think that Bosh would re-sign after becoming a free agent. Bryan Colangelo cannot afford to let Bosh go for nothing and even though it is hard to get a fair trade in the NBA, for a player like Bosh (though he is overrated), something must be done and he will be traded if not in this offseason, at the trade deadline or in a sign-and-trade next offseason.

Bosh joins a list of disgruntled players that left Toronto either because they didn't want to play here or they got sick of playing here.

Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning, Kenny Anderson, and the first pick ever in the expansion draft, BJ Armstrong, all left because they were unhappy to be in Toronto and in the case of Mourning, Anderson and Armstrong refused to even report. McGrady left even though he knew he could, like Bosh, be paid more by the Raptors than any other team.

For a team with a relatively young history that is a worrisome trend. Then there is the inability of the team to draw first tier free agents. Sure they can attract the Garbajosa's and Jason Kapono's of the world but in order to be a successful team they must be able to get the big names to come to Toronto. The only big name they signed was Hakeep Olaujawon but that was when they overpaid for a player that was way past his prime. Does any Raptors fan even hold any hope that they could in the future?

A major reason for this is the misperception of Toronto and Canada that is prevalent in the United States. Toronto is seen as a cold foreboding place and even though many of the players who come here love the city, its culture and its people for new NBA players and those who don't get to visit the city on road trips as often the image remains.

Then there is also the assumption that playing in Canada denies you the ability to sign more lucrative merchandising deals. This is again a misconception as a player like Vince Carter signed huge deals despite being a member of the Raptors.

With Chris Bosh leaving the Raptors have to face the question of how they plan to attract and keep star players. They cannot build a championship team without it even if the European players they sign exceed expectations. They could try the route of building a team of hardworking players without a superstar but to win an NBA title like that, in a league that has so many dominant individuals, would be an unprecedented feat.

Even though the Raptors are very popular within the city of Toronto they have not dented the market outside of the city despite having a national television contract. They are continuously dwarfed by the TV ratings of any hockey or Blue Jays coverage. Non-Raptors NBA coverage gets ratings so low that even end of day static does better.

This poses a serious question for the future of the franchise. If the team continuously loses its good players and wallows amongst the dregs of the NBA how much of a future can they have in the city? How many fans will want to continue being a fan of a team that they know can never win because they cannot entice the players to come or stay? They will also be labelled as a losing team which will make players more reluctant to play here. It is a vicious cycle. Eventually the Raptors fans that do exist will become cynical if they aren't already. If the Raptors sign a great young player through the NBA Draft Toronto fans will shower him with praise and adulation but those who are not deluded will know or at least sense that come free agency chances are high he will go. Toronto has already shown that they will support the Raptors when they are successful but an unsuccessful Raptors team will soon be playing in front of empty houses. The Raptors despite being backed by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment are not the Leafs and Toronto tends to support its winners. The patience of the casual fan will wear thin and they will stop showing up to Raptors games.

The Raptors organization has got to do a better job on selling Toronto to NBA players. Bryan Colangelo was brought in partly to change the perception of this team around the League and at that task he most surely has failed. If things do not change the team may be forced to go the way of so many past players and leave Toronto. Even though this may be a long ways off the discussion on what to do to avoid it must begin.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The _________Brothers

Back in the period of 1987-1992 steroid freaks and Oakland A's stars Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were nicknamed "The Bash Brothers". They were a formidable duo for pitchers to face. Canseco became the first 40-40 man and McGwire hit close to 50 home runs in his rookie season. They enabled the A's to win a World Series, 2 additonal ALCS victories, and a 1992 AL West division title.

In 2009 Toronto has it's own duo, Vernon Wells and Alex Rios. Vernon Wells with the sub .200 batting average with RISP and Alex Rios, who struck out 5 times in 5 AB in Thursday's matinee game. This is the same Rios who wandered off the bag in Baltimore, in the game they infamously blew, costing the Jays an out and a possible rally at a time where they had a big lead but a lead they ultimately surrendered. There are lots of names we can suggest for Rios and Wells. I'm a fan of bad puns so inspired by the defunct bank the Lehman Brothers we can call them "The Lame-an Brothers". There's also "The Choking Brothers", "The Overpaid Brothers", "The Useless Brothers", "The Invisible Brothers", "The Ghost Brothers" etc.

Suggest your own because like it or not we're stuck with them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RIP Zezel

Peter Zezel died on Tuesday after a battle with a blood disease called hemolytic anemia, which is a disorder that causes red blood cells to be killed off faster than the body can replace them.

Zezel was always one of my favourite players on the 1993 and 1994 teams. He was the defensive and faceoff specialist. He scored a goal to win Game 1 of the 1994 Western Conference Finals. He also was great off the ice giving back to his community and leaving hockey to be with his family after the 1999 death of his niece from leukemia.

Down Goes Brown has a great piece paying tribute to someone I'll always remember as a Maple Leaf.

To those who want to pay tribute:

His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Peter Zezel’s name to the James Birrell Fund at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The cheques should be made payable to "The James Fund" and can be mailed to:

The James Fund
625 Whitaker Street #4
Peterborough, ON
K9H 7L5

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Bandwagon

It happens all the time and it seems in this city with more frequency than others. It is the bandwagon jumpers. The so-called fans who cheer the team when they are doing well but are quick to abandon, criticize and forget about them when they are doing poorly.

In hockey it is usually evident in May and June (well not for the past 5 years but normal Mays and Junes). There is a sudden increase in Leafs fans across the city. Many people who have not even watched a game the entire season will suddenly hoot and holler as if they live and die by the team. These same people will be hard pressed to name more than 2 players on the team. When they get eliminated those same "fans" forget about them until the next playoff season.

The same happened for the Blue Jays in the past month and a half. Due to their torrid start there was a sudden increase in the number of Jays hats seen around the city and people were buzzing about the team. After one sweep, however, against the Red Sox people were pushing each other to jump off the bandwagon. The following are paraphrased comments by these bandwagoners. "They can't compete with the AL East": right, the same AL East we had a winning record against last year, the year before, and the year before that? "They can't compete when it matters": Well, considering it's May and there are about 120 games left it is a little bit too early to judge this team's ability to compete when it matters. "They don't have the depth": Considering the Jays are probably pitching with one of their relief pitchers as their number three (or 2a) and are still in first that's deep enough for me. "The season's over": It's baseball, not football. As the axiom goes every team is going to win 50 games and lose 50 games. It's what you do with the other 62 that make the difference. They currently sit .5 games ahead of Boston. If someone had told me preseason that the Jays would rank there at this point I would have laughed at them, so I'll take it. As for you bandwagon jumpers, I hope you don't get hurt your legs on the fall down. After all you're going to want to climb back up come October. Magic Number: 120.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Eck

Nothing went right for the Jays the past 2 games. Tallet's great start was wasted, Cecil showed why he's not quite ready for the big leagues, and the bats disappeared unless it was to hit a useless popup. Worst of all, however, was that they were aired on TSN 2 via simulcast from NESN, which meant we had to listen to Dennis Eckersley, herein the Eck. The Eck, in case you don't remember him, was a dominant closer in the 90s. He was the Mariano Rivera of his generation. Money. The penultimate shut down guy. He was one of the foremost Blue Jay killers, except for one game when it mattered most. It was game 4 of the 1992 ALCS and Oakland, who had defeated Toronto in the ALCS 3 years earlier, was poised to tie the series.

The past two nights the Eck has mostly talked about cheese and how much he hated the Blue Jays. I'm guessing he's still bitter. In the 9th inning the fans in Oakland were going crazy and cocksure that Eck would shut the Jays down. They had a right to be confident. After all the Eck had a record 51 saves that year. They didn't take into consideration though the determination of the Blue Jays. At the end of the 8th the Eck had attempted to taunt and intimidate the Jays dugout by pointing at them. Big mistake. It only served to motivate them. In the 9th Roberto Alomar took his revenge by slamming Eck's offering over the wall to tie the game. When Alomar homered his two arms raised in the air were a direct taunt back at Eckersley. The Jays would go on to win that game and then the ALCS 2 games later. It was probably the biggest home run in Jays history to that point. This was the fourth time they had got to the ALCS (1985, 1989, 1991) but they had lost the previous three. Alomar's homer helped the Jays believe that they could win and exorcised the demons of the previous disappointments. If the Eck had not surrendered the homer the series would have been tied and the Jays perhaps would not have advanced to the World Series.

Last night, when Ortiz homered off Cecil, one of 5 Cecil surrendered, the Eck became absolutely giddy as if it was a huge historical home run. Sorry Eck that wasn't a big home run. Robbie's on the other hand was and you gave it up. I just want the Jays to win now to shut the Eck up and make him relive 1992 all over again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What a Game! What a Team!

On Sunday I got to see the unparalleled Halladay in action once more and once again he did not disappoint. After a shaky first in which I was almost ready to question the good Doctor he came back. It looked like he was angry for that terrible first and decided that he would dominate the Sox the rest of the way. Dominate he did as no Sox player scored again.

Along the way I saw one more thing I was shocked at: Rod Barajas puffing his way around to score in the fifth. I'm surprised he even played the rest of the game.

Lind and Hill hit incredible home runs again. Those two better be in the All-Star game.

The only sour spot in the game was seeing Scutaro writhing in pain after taking a throw into the chest stealing third. It turned out he was fine but it still sent me into panic mode. This team can't be forced to deal with injuries when everything seems so be going so well. Sweep? Again? With Boston losing the magic number is now 121. Pennant!!!1

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who Needs A.J.?

I've never been to a Jays playoff game but now I know what it would be like. The Dome was packed and the crowd was loud. They were on A.J. from his first pitch (a ball) to when he was pulled in the 8th. A fan even threw back an A-Rod foul ball. Doc was his usual dominant self. He was in the zone, perhaps even elevating himself to another level because of the relative importance of the game. He only allowed himself to crack a smile when the game was over and he had his complete game victory. It definitely lived up to its billing and could not have ended with a better result. As for A.J., when he left, the thousands of fans in the crowd wearing hats mockingly tipped them to him.

Richmond and "the youngster" Tallet head to the mound next. The Pennant is getting closer. Magic number:128.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bye Bye Mats

While showing the final minutes of the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks game CBC panned over the Canucks bench and paused at Mats Sundin. The image broke my heart. There was the great former Leaf on the verge of tears knowing that what very well may be his last chance at winning a Stanley Cup disappear. Full disclosure: I didn't want the Canucks to win. This was not because I did not want Sundin to win a Cup, but because if any team should bring a team back to Canada it should be the Leafs. If Sundin was on the Wings, Ducks, Caps, Pens, or even the Hurricanes it would have been a different story. Unfortunately, he was on the Canucks, a team that I could not bring myself to cheer for. Some Leafs fans could make the transition but I couldn't.

Nevertheless, if this is indeed Sundin's last game he has left us with some remarkable memories.

Who could forget the hattrick, OT winner and 500th goal all on one shot?

His goal against Carolina, in the final seconds of Game 6 of the 2002 Conference Finals, sending the game to OT. This was perhaps the loudest I've ever screamed at a goal.

His emotional return to Toronto

Good bye Mats and thank you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Dome

Damien Cox, the eternal blowhard, wrote a piece on his blog today about how the Jays are struggling to draw fans despite their early success. He admits that this is partially due to the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox have not come to town yet but still wonders why their success hasn't led to increased attendance. A major problem that the Jays face is the SkyDome (I refuse to call it the Rogers Centre as does almost everyone else who isn't forced/paid to do so). The SkyDome (or The Dome) at the time of its opening in 1989 was considered a state of the art facility. It replaced Exhibition Stadium and made it so that Jays fans knew that if they had tickets they were guaranteed to see a game. No more rain outs.

Its retractable roof was a wonder of the world in the eyes of Torontonians and it made the Dome the in place to be. 20 years later the Dome has not aged well. It is now a blight on the Toronto sports scene. Of all the sporting events I've seen in Toronto it is the worst place to watch a game, even when the quality of the product is great. It is tragically a victim of its time. It was the last of its kind, the last behemoth multipurpose stadium before the trend shifted to return to retro ball parks. When Camden Yards was built in 1992 the designers returned to designs of steel and iron instead of the concrete facade of SkyDome.

A major problem of the Dome hits you before you even reach your seat. It's ugly and grim. The walk up the ramps that lead to the upper deck of the Dome is a depressing one. It makes you feel you are in some industrial factory instead of heading to watch baseball.
At the time of construction the Jays were a hot ticket as they were in the midst of winning the division title, which they did four of the first 5 years in the Dome. More time should have been spent to consider how they could create an attractive facility to get fans to come in when the team was less popular or less competitive

The field itself too has no individuality or charm.

The walls are symmetrical and the turf is artificial. One of the beautiful things about the game of baseball is that they don't put many restrictions on the dimensions of the field. Despite this no thought was put into making the field in Toronto special. There is no Green Monster, like in Fenway, nor a hill like Minute Maid Park in Houston, no ivy covering the walls like in Wrigley or no fountains like Kaufman stadium. Nothing about the SkyDome field makes it unique or a fun place to play. When a field becomes a fun place to play on it also becomes a great place to watch a game.

The Dome is huge. Despite this fact it has no open air concourses or walking areas from which to watch the game. The newer stadiums have little picnic areas and "mini streets" from which the game can still be seen. Due to its size it does not have the feeling of compactness that older stadiums have and removes the crowd from the game. The back rows of the 500 section feel to be about a kilometre away from the field. Heckles and jeers become pointless when the only people who can hear you are your fellow fans. Then there is the JumboTron.

Dome supporters are quick to brag about the screen without noticing its obvious flaws. They placed the JumboTron over the outfield but unlike other stadiums did not bother to put a smaller screen on the other side so the people sitting in the restaurants, hotel or in the outfield under the Tron can see what's going on. Everyone you can see in the above picture has little to no idea what is being shown on the big screen.

The retractable roof though the much ballyhooed invention of the Dome is my biggest problem with it.

Toronto has an unpredictable climate so the idea of having an open-air stadium is out of the question. On the few good days we do have, however, it is still hit or miss whether or not the Dome is open. The Dome has not been opened thus far this season and instead of the 4 or 5 games I would have gone to with an open roof I've gone to one. Baseball is meant to be played outdoors. Open air should be the default with the roof closed only in the event of rain. For some reason SkyDome thinks it should be the other way around. Watching a game under the roof is not as an enjoyable experience as watching it when the roof is opened. The shifting shadows caused by the sun also cause a challenge to the players who have to make adjustments when batting and fielding. Indoor stadiums lose that aspect of nature that adds to the intrigue of the game.

The SkyDome can be saved if Rogers decides to put the investment in. Otherwise, maybe 20 years is enough and they can decide that the best thing to do is spend the money they would spend on renovations on a new stadium.