Archive for July, 2011

Deal for Rasmus a Gamble Worth Taking

Georgia, Georgia

We know a few things about Colby Rasmus – he’s a southern boy, a Republican, and a bit of nitwit (neither of which are connected in any way).

We know that he had some issues with Tony La Russa and that he only wanted to work with his dad instead of hitting coach Mark Mcguire.

We know he’s a talented player who is having a tough year, but by all accounts is a star in the making.

And out of all of that the only thing that matters is the latter.

The Jays went out and got a legitimate talent and only had to give up a bunch of decent relievers and one of many young pitching prospects in Zach Stewart.

Big Attitude, Big Star Potential

Some people might be scared off by Rasmus’s demeanour, attitude, or politics. He is young, immature, and brash. But none of that matters because he can play.

The Jays need to compete and this is the only way to do it – to continue to make calculated risks on young, promising talent and hoping that the culture of the Jays clubhouse and change of scenery will do the player some good.

So everyone should welcome Colby with open arms, take him out on the town and make sure he knows what a kickass city Toronto can be. With a fresh start, a chance to play every day, and a new bunch of guys to impress, Toronto might just be the place that rejuvenates Rasmus. And if that’s the case the Jays and Alex Anthopoulous just committed another highway robbery.

Maybe we should start calling AA Mickey Knox.

Categories: Toronto Blue Jays

Jays get Rasmus in Blockbuster Deal

It's been a hectic day in Jays land and we'll have more tomorrow about what this deal means for the Jays, but let's take a quick look at how it breaks down.

The Jays sent reliever Jason Frasor and prospect Zach Stewart to the White Sox for starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and the grossly overpaid Mark Teahan. Jackson was then traded to the Cardinals along with Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepcynski, and Corey Patterson for Rasmus and pitchers PJ Walters,  Trever Miller and former Jay Brian Tallet.

So, to recap – TOR IN – Rasmus, Walters, Tallet, Teahan, Miller
                     TOR OUT – Frasor, Stewart, Dotel, Rzepcynski, Patterson

The Jays get the most talented player in the deal and basically lose a solid pitching prospect along with a bunch of decent relievers – a surprisingly low value for the talented Rasmus. 

Tomorrow we'll take a closer look at the deal and at Colby Rasmus.

Categories: Uncategorized

The 5 Things That Need to Happen for the Raptors to Win an NBA Championship

Casey's defensive philosophy propelled the Mavs to the NBA title.

The Raptors are a franchise in transition both on and off the court. A year after losing Chris Bosh and mercifully ending a 22-win season, the Raptors are now mired in what could very well become a year-long battle over the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

While Toronto, and Canada, are mostly known for their love of hockey, basketball has attracted a new legion of fans perhaps more rabid and dedicated than any other in the city. While the team has struggled for all but a few years of its existence, there is still a lot of potential for this team to capture the collective hearts of a people that are dying for a winner.

The Raptors simply have to do one thing: win.

So, with that in mind let’s take a look at the 5 things that need to happen for the Raptors to win an NBA Championship.

# 1. The Raptors must find new ownership. 

MLSE’s time in charge of the Raptors, Maple Leafs, and Toronto FC has been nothing short of disastrous. While record profits and ticket prices continue to soar, the product on the court/ice/field has been abysmal. The company has undergone a few changes since its inception, but if we take a look from 1998 (the year MLSE became the official name) to today you’ll see a history of success that is spotty at best.

In that time the Raptors have won one division title and one playoff series. The Maple Leafs have fared slightly better thanks to two Conference Finals appearances in the past 13 years, however, having missed the playoffs every year since the lockout thanks to the short-sightedness of ownership, the Leafs have once again become a running joke amongst fans around the league.

The sooner MLSE sells the team the better for every fan of both the Raptors and the Leafs. However, seeing how successfully MLSE has run a sports conglomerate like a business you’d have to assume the new owners would be purchasing the team with the same record profits in mind.

And when it comes to sport, turning a profit and winning are almost mutually exclusive save for the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Lakers, and Celtics. Clearly, the Raptors are nowhere near that category in terms of attractiveness and history.

# 2. The Raptors need to hit another home run in next year’s draft.

All indications point that Jonas Valanciunas, the much maligned pick at #5, can ball. After he dominated the U-19 FIBA Championships the majority of Raptors fans conceded that they might have jumped to conclusions.

Now, no one is claiming that Jonas is going to become the next Hakeem, but in this day and age finding a competent center that can play both ends of the floor while hitting free throws at a better than 85% clip is a rare find. Though the NBA has quickly become a guard dominated league, having the center position solidified is an absolute necessity, especially in Toronto, which hasn’t had one since perhaps the days of Marcus Camby.

However, the Raptors will need to find another young phenom in next year’s draft, particularly a point guard that can break down the defense and hit the three. The Raptors point guard situation, once its strongest asset, has deteriorated in recent years with the decline of Jose Calderon. Jerryd Bayless was brought in to see if he could turn his career around, but there are no indications that he will ever become the consistent presence that the Raptors need at the point. In fact, once the lockout ends, Bryan Colangelo should be keeping tabs on Bayless and seeing what possible value he could attract.

# 3. The Raptors will need to win a big trade.

Bryan Colangelo has made an art of the small deal where he turns trash into treasure (at least for a brief time). However, Colangelo has failed to win a big deal in his time in Toronto and that will need to change if the Raptors want to win a title. Perhaps in a couple years time with the Raptors hovering around the bottom five of the Eastern Conference, Colangelo will use one or a couple of his young assets to bring a proven veteran presence with some mileage still left in his legs. A Pau Gasol/Kevin Garnett type trade that will have immediate benefits and catapult the Raptors into the top echelon of teams in the East.

#4. Dwane Casey needs to be a resounding success.

Casey will be the 8th coach in the franchise’s 16 years in existence. Casey was brought to Toronto to instill a defensive system and intensity that has been missing since Charles Oakley left town.

The Raptors have been dead last in defense for the past two seasons and that has to change under Casey. If the team still struggles defensively and shows no real progress in the next couple of seasons, we could very well see a 9th coach be brought in to Toronto.

The Raptors need stability, a solid defensive system, and a veteran voice to lead this team for the foreseeable future. If the Raptors hope to win a championship with this core in the next few years then Casey will almost certainly have to be part of that equation.

# 5. A superstar will have to emerge.

Whether through the draft (the young phenom) or already on the roster (Demar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas) the Raptors will need to find their superstar.

Not an all-star – a superstar.

Realistically, the Raptors probably don’t have that player right now. And history tells us that superstars dominate the league and win championships. The exception to the rule was the Detroit Pistons, but they had 3 all-stars and a young, athletic, and solid player in Tayshaun Prince, great bench scoring and a revitalized Antonio McDyess during their heyday.

The Raptors will most likely have to emulate a team like the Pistons if they wish to have future success. A team built on defense, efficient scoring, and timely plays by veteran leaders.

It seems almost ridiculous to compare the Raptors to any type of championship team at this point, but these are 5 things that need to happen in order for them to begin to have delusions of grandeur.

The hard part? The perfect storm of events all colliding at the right time.

Will it happen? The cynic in me says probably not – at least with the current core and management but stranger things in sport have happened.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bryan Colangelo – Game of Thrones

July 15, 2011 3 comments

Colangelo was hired 5 years ago and was seen as the saviour of the Raptors.

Last month, MLSE re-signed Bryan Colangelo to a two-year contract to be the GM of the Toronto Raptors. Fans on both sides (Colangelo haters vs. Colangelo there’s nobody really betters) decided to take a wait and see approach to how he rebuilds the team in the next couple of years before deciding if he had a long-term future with the Raptors. However, Colangelo envisions things going a little bit differently.

Now, we’ve known for a little while that Colangelo was looking to add a GM and retain the President tag, but the story lost a bit of steam as our local beat reporters had been unable to gain any traction on the story. However, Adrian Wojnarowski (really the best in the business for my money) broke the story last night that there are three potential candidates in place.

With the decision to hire a GM, and with the recent firing of Jay Triano, Colangelo has set up a safety net should things go wrong in the next couple of seasons even though all personnel decisions have been made by him. He’ll be the one doing the firing, and ironically, the GM would probably be the first one to go. BC has taken a page straight out of Richard Peddie’s book.

I’ve always been a BC sympathizer because I think the man is extremely intelligent and is in good standing with most of the league. He is quick to realize his mistakes and his work ethic is unparalleled. However, this is where I stop sympathizing. Five years ago this man was brought in to be the new GM of the Raptors. Last month he was re-signed to be the GM of the Raptors. Now, Colangelo has decided he doesn’t want to be the GM anymore and that says everything I need to know about his confidence in running this team – he’s lost it. He’s trying to save his job (like we all would) and he’s fantastic at doing so.

If Colangelo is unwilling to be the GM of this team then he should step away from the organization completely because whether or not he’s GM he will have final say on all basketball decisions without any of the accountability. It’s dishonest, cowardly, and the Toronto faithful deserve a better fate than what is going to befall them in the remainder of Colangelo’s reign.

MLB Realignment Proposal 2013

July 14, 2011 1 comment

Bud can't hear to well, but he's going to try and listen.

Bud Selig did something that raised a few eyebrows and turned a few heads – he talked about progress. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet lays it out nicely, but remains slightly pessimistic about how much change will actually occur.

However, since we’re fans and we’re entering the dog days of summer (especially as Jays fans) I thought it would be a good exercise to try and imagine a new MLB. Last week I discussed the changes to instant replay that I would institute (and at least one of the ideas – replay for balls down the line – is being considered) and this week I will discuss a complete realignment of the divisions, leagues, and schedule.

Without further ado (or regard for many factors as this is an exercise for fans) I present my MLB Realignment proposal for the 2013 season:

The American League



Ok, ok, now before you shout and scream let me try to explain my rationale. First, I’m a Jays fan, and I’d love to get the hell out of the AL East. Second, baseball thrives on regional rivalries more than any other traditional sport (hence the inclusion of the Mets in the AL East along with the Braves, Nationals, and Marlins). Yes, there is a colossal divide between the heavyweight Yankees and minnow Marlins, but doesn’t that already exist with Tampa Bay?  And, of course the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry (the best in American sports) needs to continue on for eternity.

In the Central the biggest factor was geography. The teams are relatively close together (Minnesota is a bit far from Texas but in the same time zone at least) and, well, that’s about it really. If this realignment happened tomorrow this would undoubtedly be one of the weakest, yet certainly interesting, division in baseball (sort of like the AL Central now!).

The National League



As you can see I’m a big proponent of geography friendly divisions. These guys play a lot of games in a short amount of time and anyone who has done any sort of travelling (on private jets or not) knows that it can take a lot out of you and lead to fatigue which leads to injuries.

The NL East keeps everyone close and for once will pit Cubs fans versus White Sox fans forcing Chicagoans to finally choose one. The Brewers and Jays reunite and perhaps an untapped rivalry in Detroit finally begins between the Jays and Tigers. And, Philly and Pittsburgh get to continue their rivalry in another sport (this once probably won’t be as close). Overall, it’s a balanced division both competitively and geographically.

In the NL West I decided to throw all these teams together for the sake of simplicity. These teams are way out west and might as well be in their own league. My east coast bias is clearly prevalent, but I’m not as in tune to the west coast dynamic. I have the feeling it would be a very competitive division that will give teams in the NL East fits and could be a deciding factor in who wins it, but at the same time could boast a World Series finalist year in and year out.

Ok, now it’s time for the schedule. I’m going to be realistic and assume the 162-game schedule doesn’t change. The owners want to make as much money as possible, it’s a business, and this gives them the best opportunity to do so.

So, we need to take a team from each division (8 vs 7 imbalance) in order to show how this would work. Let’s take our beloved Toronto Blue Jays as the example for both the NL East and AL Central.

The Blue Jays would play each division rival a total of 18 times for a total of 108 games. They would then play each team in the NL West 6 times (one series home and away) for a total of 48 games and a grand total of 156 games. Now, the owners want that extra series and here is where I would be flexible. If you wanted to have ONE interleague series to promote whatever the hell you wanted you could go ahead and do so. Or, you could choose one team in the division to play an extra home and away series with. I’ll leave that up to the marketing gurus at MLB.

In the NL West/AL East the calculations are a bit more straightforward (and don’t include interleague play). Let’s take the Boston Red Sox as an example because I really like the city. The Red Sox would play each team in their division 18 times for a total of 126 games. Then, they would play each team in the AL Central six times for a total of 36 games and a grand total of 162 games.

In this proposal interleague play would all but be eliminated and divisional games would take priority. Baseball is a traditional game and the average fan doesn’t really care if the Seattle Mariners are in town if his favourite team is the Boston Red Sox. This strategy sort of backfired on hockey a few years back, but I think would work in baseball.

The next thing we would have to consider is the addition of another two wildcard teams and I have a simple proposal for that as well. The top two teams in each division automatically make the playoffs followed by the two teams with the best record regardless of division for a total of six teams in each league. Then, take a page out of the NFL’s book and give the division winners a bye into the next round. So, you would have four teams (ranked based on record) play in a best of five series to see who moves on to face the respective divisional winners in the AL/NL Championship series.

Some people might think this hurts the divisional winners by giving them close to a week off, but at the end of a long season some injuries could be mended and their starting rotation given a rest and the ability to be reset. The system seems to work in the Korean baseball league which actually gives the divisional winner (there’s only one) a bye straight into the Championship Series.

There are some flaws in this proposal and if you’d like to suss them out then feel free to leave a comment as always.

Categories: Uncategorized

MLB's Lack of Instant Replay Needs to be Top Priority

July 8, 2011 3 comments

Rauch was squeezed on two crucial pitches before releasing his inner Hulk.

Edwin Encarnacion rounded third base and everyone in the stadium and watching at home knew one thing – he’d be thrown out by a mile and the game would be over.

Home plate umpire Brian Knight must have also made that assumption because he emphatically called Encarnacion out at the plate even though replays clearly showed that his right foot beat Jason Varitek’s tag. The Jays lost, the Sox escaped, and the debate about the use of instant replay in baseball started again – only this time the uproar barely lasted a couple of days.

With Jeter’s 3000th hit on the horizon, the All-Star game in a few days, and the recent death of a fan at Rangers stadium, perhaps the continued debate about the use of replay has been lost in the noise. However, after the All-Star game festivities conclude the topic of instant replay needs to be readdressed. There must be a more effective system in place before the start of next season. The technology is available and has been tested thoroughly and successfully in other sports and MLB’s reluctance to join the 21st century has caused nothing but embarrassment for the league.

Opponents of instant replay point to the fact that baseball games are too long and that instant replay would only extend games. But what happens whenever there is a close play at 1st base or a ball called foul that looks fair to the aggrieved manager? He comes out and proceeds to debate the call, and if angry enough, will begin a tirade (while enjoyable to everyone) wastes everyone’s time and is simply meant to alter the influence of future calls. Those two minutes that are normally spent arguing a call could be used to get it right instead of engage in a tiresome ritual.

Opponents will then argue that instant replay is a slippery slope and it won’t be long before robots control the game entirely.

Who cares? Computers control every other aspect of our lives, so why should baseball be any different? In order to fashion a reasonable solution the use of computers to call balls and strikes could be limited to only challenges. Imagine, a 2-2 count 2 out and a runner on 1st base. The 2-2 pitch is agonizingly close but is called a ball – 3-2 count now. The 3-2 pitch again is unbelievably close but is called a ball. The manager, pitcher, and everyone in the crowd can’t believe it wasn’t called a strike and the inning is extended. One pitch later and the next batter drives in the insurance run before the pitcher loses his mind and has to be restrained by the coaching staff. Of course, this described the situation that befell John Rauch and the Jays last weekend against the Phillies.

Now imagine John Farrell has a red flag in his pocket. He can use this flag two times a game. He hasn’t used any yet and this call is crucial to the outcome of the game. He throws his flag and everyone looks up to the Hawkeye system to determine if the pitch was called correctly. It hasn’t been and the computer lets us know that the inning should be over. The meltdown and subsequent suspensions are avoided and the right call is made. The umpire was wrong but he’s human and as long as the right call was made all will be forgiven.

Next, imagine a ball is hit down the first base line and it looks foul. The challenge flag is thrown and immediately we can know if the right call has been made. It takes about 10 seconds and then the game resumes.

Finally, imagine a close play at the plate. The ball beats the runner by a mile, but something doesn’t look right about the tag and the ensuing call. The manager challenges and the call and a special replay team upstairs reviews the call. They have two minutes to decide if the call should be overturned and can only do so if the evidence is conclusive. They get the call right, the runner is safe, and the Jays have completed a stunning comeback against Papelbon and the Red Sox.

These are just a few of the useful ways replay could be instituted in Major League Baseball.

The technology has been in place and has been used successfully by many sports for years. The MLB’s reluctance to join them is baffling and their reluctance to even thoroughly discuss the issue is embarrassing. Here’s hoping the next controversial decision happens to the Yankees on what would have been Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit in his final at-bat in Yankee stadium before the All-Star break.

Categories: Toronto Blue Jays

What does a lockout mean for the Raptors?

July 4, 2011 1 comment

Billy Hunter and David Stern have been through this before.

According to most, the NBA’s 2011-2012 season is in real jeopardy. Hockey fans will remember this well – a broken system with the majority of owners losing money and a real change in the way business is done becoming a necessity. The difference is that hockey has experienced (and desperately needed) a sort of revival – commonly referred to as the post-lockout era – whereas the NBA is coming off perhaps its most hyped and entertaining season in decades. Here at Toronto Sports Fanatic all we want to know is: How will this lockout affect the Raptors?

The Raptors organization is one of the few that makes a nice profit despite their perennial bottom-feeder status, so I’m sure the board at MLSE is none too pleased to see an entire season go to waste – especially if the rumours are true for any impending sale of the teams. However, with the continued financial success of the Leafs and the hundreds of other projects undertaken by MLSE, ownership can afford to fight alongside their brethren until a favourable deal is reached with the Player’s Association.

As for the team and players this is pretty much a lose-lose situation. The Player’s Association – like that of the NHL’s – is going to have to give back a lot. Salary rollbacks, a hard or flex cap, player amnesties, and lower max years and money for contracts all seem like an inevitability. Also, with one of the youngest teams in the league and the inability for players and coaches to interact, an entire season of development would be lost for the likes of Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless, and Demar Derozan. It is up to the players to stay in shape and find ways to work on their games during the lockout – something I’m sure management discussed thoroughly with the players before the lockout began.

The only positive of losing an entire season may sound a bit pessimistic; it’s one less year of pain – one less year of the stress of having to watch this young team throw away leads or get blown out of the gym on the back end of a back to back during another horrendous west coast trip. The contract of Leandro Barbosa would expire and Jose Calderon would become a more tradeable asset with only one year remaining on his contract. Calderon could still function as a veteran leader in a young locker room while helping to groom any young point guard that may be drafted in the 2012 draft before being jettisoned off to a contender for a draft pick. And, Jonas Valanciunas would make his NBA debut after a developmental year overseas and hopefully quiet the wolves who came out after his name was announced on draft day.

Finally, that brings us to the topic of the 2012 NBA Draft. So, what exactly happens if the entire season is locked out? What would the draft order be? Well, according to Larry Coon of ESPN, a system similar to what the NHL adopted after their lockout could be used. Every team would have a chance at the #1 pick, but a weighted system based on playoff appearances over the last three seasons and #1 picks over the last four would determine the division of ping pong bals. That would seem to immediately give the Minnesota Timberwolves the best chance at winning with the Raptors not far behind. And with a talented crop coming through the results of the 2012 NBA Draft could have far greater consequences on the future of the Raptors than this past one did.

The Raptors have been unwilling to go into luxury tax area in recent years, so a hard cap and salary rollback would appease the owners. League management, including perennial overspenders, would have to scramble to alter their philosophies and adapt to any new system. The NBA would then become something similar to that of the NHL – creative and flexible management would determine success rather than simply money and city status. Raptors fans need to ask themselves: Is Bryan Colangelo the man you want in charge in a new system? Are his talents best suited to an NHL type system or could his impatience and seeming short-sightedness (with everyone besides Andrea Bargnani) hurt this franchise for years to come. Lots of questions to be asked, but few answers until pen is put to paper and the future of the NBA’s financial system becomes more clear.