Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

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

Top 5 Famous Toronto Victories vs Chicago

June 14, 2011 2 comments
View from the famous Chicago Millennium Park

View from the famous Chicago Millennium Park

In honour of my recent visit to the windy city, I decided to compile a list of famous victories that Toronto teams have scored over their brethren to the midwest. These two cities have never really had a rivalry, but there’s been some very interesting moments between them. Let’s take a look.

#5. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Blackhawks – 1983 Regular Season 

This one was a bit of a stretch, but the big game history between Toronto and Chicago is surprisingly thin. However, this game happened to be a record-setter – the five fastest goals scored between two teams (1 minute 24 seconds). Now, imagine the momentum swings in that one. 5 goals in 84 seconds! The scoring started late in the second period when Toronto’s Gaston Gingers scored at the 16:49 mark. Chicago would reply with 3 goals in 30 seconds before the Leafs John Anderson replied 31 seconds later.

That wasn’t the end of the scoring either. The Leafs would go on to win the game 10-8 in one of the most bizarre momentum-changing games in Leafs history. There’s really nothing else to note of that season as the Leafs were mired in a 16 year Stanley Cup drought in the forgettable decade that was the 80s.

Ok, on to the good stuff.

#4. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Blackhawks – 1993-94 Game 6 Conference Quarter Finals

The Leafs had opened the season with 10 straight victories continuing their momentum from a breakout 1992-93 season where they were one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals. However, a tumultuous season was ahead capped by another frenetic playoff run. In the 1992-93 season, the Leafs defeated the Red Wings in the first round in one of the most memorable playoff series in Leafs history (click to get chills – “oh unbelievable”). However, you’ll be hard pressed to find many Leafs fans that remember the first round series in the 1993-94 season.

The Leafs were heavily favoured against the Blackhawks and promptly won the first two games of the series at home. However, the Blackhawks fought back to tie the series in Chicago that included a heart-breaking overtime win in Game 4. The Leafs returned home needing a win in Game 5 if they had any plans on repeating their playoff success from last season. Felix Potvin came up big once again and the Leafs held on to win 1-0 in a hard-fought affair with Mike Eastwood scoring the only goal. The Leafs would go back to Chicago and finish the series in six games backed by the 3rd 1-0 shutout win of the series.

The Leafs playoff push continued on with an incredible seven game series against the young San Jose Sharks. The Leafs completed a heroic comeback in Game 6 in San Jose and returned home to win it in 7. The Leafs were heavily favoured to reach the Stanley Cup Finals and took Game 1 of the Conference Finals against the Canucks. However, they’d drop the next four to continue their Stanley Cup drought.

#3. Toronto Blue Jays vs Chicago White Sox – 1993 ALCS Game 5

The Jays had taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALCS after winning both games in Chicago, but momentum had completely shifted when the White Sox took games 3 and 4 to tie the series 2-2. Game 5 would also take place in Toronto because of the 2-3-2 format making it a must-win for the Blue Jays before heading back to Chicago for Games 6 and 7.

The Jays turned to ace Juan Guzman who like in Game 1 did not disappoint. Guzman went seven strong innings and gave up only one run before turning it over to the bullpen to close it out. On the other side, White Sox ace Jack Mcdowell was pinged for 3 runs and never made it out of the 3rd inning. The White Sox bullpen helped stop the bleeding, but it wasn’t enough to keep Chicago in the game. In the 9th the Jays turned to closer Duane Ward who promptly gave up a 2-run shot to Robin Ventura to make it a 5-3 game. Ward recovered and struck out Bo Jackson to close out a famous Game 5 victory for the Jays.

The Jays regained momentum in the series and headed to Chicago for Game 6 where Dave Stewart threw another solid game and the Jays used a 3-run ninth to add a little breathing room to their slim 1-run lead. The Jays would win Game 6 and the series and eventually their second World Series in as many years.

#2. Chicago Blackhawks vs Toronto Maple Leafs – 1962 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6

It had been 11 years since the Maple Leafs had won a Stanley Cup and the infamous “Bill Barilko” curse was on everyone’s mind. Barilko famously scored the winning goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup against the Montreal Canadians. That would be the last goal he would ever score as later that summer Barilko mysteriously disappeared while on a fishing trip. The curse stated that the Leafs wouldn’t win another cup until the remains of Barilko were found.

In 1962 the Leafs returned to the Stanley Cup final against the defending champion Blackhawks. Led by famous names Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, and Tim Horton the Leafs would win the series in six games after nearly blowing an early 2-0 lead in the series. Tim Horton assisted on the game-winning goal setting up Dick Duff after an incredible end-to-end rush. The Leafs would go on to win 2-1 and lift the Cup for the first time in 11 years. Three weeks later the remains of Bill Barilko and the plane wreckage were found.

Perhaps the curse was transferred to the Blackhawks who wouldn’t win another Stanley Cup until last season – a drought of 48 years.

#1. Toronto Raptors vs Chicago Bulls – March 24, 1996

It was the Raptors inaugural season and the Chicago Bulls were the best team in basketball. The Raptors were mired in the struggles that all rookie franchises encounter finishing the season at 21-61. However, on March 24, 1996 the Raptors would score one of the biggest victories in Toronto sports history.

The Bulls were led by Michael Jordan and would eventually finish the season with an NBA-best 72-10 record. One of those losses would come to the expansion Raptors in a thrilling 109-108 victory where Jordan’s last second shot was waved off as he released it after the buzzer. The video does more justice than my words ever could and the fans at the Skydome that day were fantastic.

It’s somewhat fitting that the most memorable victory came in a Little Giants kind of way. It’s rather poetic don’t ya think?

A Rare Opportunity

A question for Toronto sports fans:

When is the last time this city had a superstar? Not an all-star – a superstar. For argument’s sake let’s define a superstar as so:

“A top 5 player in their sport who generates league-wide admiration not only among the hardcores, but among the casual fans as well. They also have a strong marketing brand that has a global reach.”

Let’s also use an example to draw the line between an all-star and very good player and a superstar.

Lebron James vs Chris Bosh  One is a superstar with a successful brand who also owns part of a storied soccer club and the other is a very good seven-time all-star who is still more well-known for a youtube clip made 4 years ago.

I think you get the idea. Sorry Chris.

So when was the last time this city had a true superstar? Let’s take a look at some candidates.

  • Roy Halladay – The best case could probably be made for Roy who talent-wise was one of the best pitchers in the MLB when he was with the Blue Jays. But, he wasn’t a superstar – something that is difficult for pitchers to be when operating outside one of the traditional baseball markets let alone one that is considered “foreign”. Now that he is in Philadelphia a case could be made to renew his status.
  • Mats Sundin – He was adored in Toronto and often single-handedly carried the offensive load, but for several reasons was never close to superstar status. It was difficult to even put him in the top 10 (mainly because of the lack of talent surrounding him) at any point in his career. A Toronto legend, but a superstar he was not.
  • Vince Carter – This was the first name that came to mind, wasn’t it? This is it. You can’t think of any others. Vince took a Canadian expansion franchise to heights still unknown to it (past the first round) and for a few years was leading the league in all-star voting – an accomplishment that cannot be understated in a global league the likes of the NBA. His dunk over France’s 7’2 Frederic Weis is still perhaps the greatest dunk of all-time and it was done on a stage where the whole world was watching. The excuse that Toronto is foreign and thus cannot get the attention it needs (cough, cough Bosh) was put to rest with Vince Carter’s time in Toronto.

Name another superstar. Really dig deep and try to find one. You’ll probably come up with names like Roberto Alomar (a case could certainly be made for him), Joe Carter, Doug Gilmour, Darryl Sittler (we’re going back more than 30 years for Leafs fans), Carlos Delgado, Curtis Joseph, and I’ll even throw in Roger Clemens because he was pretty spectacular in his short time in Toronto – steroids or not.

It was a big deal when Roger came to Toronto, but his time here will mainly be glossed over. Roberto Alomar is my favourite athlete of all-time and even I’m having a hard time defining him as a superstar. I guess the problem lies in the criteria and the way marketing has become synonymous with the branding of a true superstar in 2011. Baseball players largely get overlooked if they’re not from Boston or New York, and there aren’t enough people that care about hockey to really have more than a couple of superstars.

So, in the past 30 years in Toronto sports history I would argue that this city has seen one true superstar – and he’s mostly despised still. Now, think about Jose Bautista who is arguably the best player in baseball, and who is doing his utmost to connect with fans and show his personality. The problem? He plays for the Jays in the city of Toronto where only winning will garner attention outside of hockey.

We may look back in 5 years and put Bautista in the category of Roy Halladay – the best in the game but will never have a chance to prove it on a critical stage. Perhaps Jose is already defying odds by leading the league in all-star voting, but this city should really wake up and watch Jose and the Jays because having a true superstar is a rare opportunity.

Adam Lind is back and some Raptors/Leafs news

Lind hasn't played since May 7th.

Adam Lind is finally back after missing nearly a month with a sore back (at least we think – you never know with “back” injuries and this franchise). He’ll DH for the first while thanks to the surprisingly solid play of Juan Rivera at first base. That’s bad news for Eric Thames as he was reassigned to AAA Vegas after posting a .286 average with 4 RBIs in 13 games with the Jays.

The Jays preached player development before the season, I just didn’t know they meant developing their aging veterans into compensation picks.

But, rest assured Thames will be back considering injury issues are sure to pop up like an Aaron Hill at-bat, and in a couple of months when the Jays are completely out of the wildcard.

– – –

In Raptors news, Jay Triano was reassigned as the special assistant to the GM a few days ago, and since then a few names have surfaced to be his replacement. Bryan Colangelo hinted towards hiring a veteran coach with a defensive philosophy. How do these names sound?

Lawrence Frank. Dwane Casey. Mike Malone (Brendan’s son). Mike Budenholzer. Mike D’Antoni. Rick Adelman. Jerry Sloan.

Two of those names have been thrown around, but are completely unrealistic. Three have been head coaches in the NBA (one with very little success, and one is currently the head coach of the Knicks) and two are long-time assistants.

Of the realistic candidates on the list (Frank, Casey, Malone, and maybe Budenholzer) the only response I have is a very apathetic “meh”. Frank had some success with a veteran-laden Nets team, Casey had very little success in his stint in Minnesota (who’s really had much?) and how exactly are Malone and Budenholzer any different from Jay Triano? Experienced assistant coaches but have never captained the ship.

– – –

And finally, some Leafs news – very little of that these days. According to Mike Morreale the Leafs are looking to trade draft picks (surprise, surprise), but it’s not what you think…

Categories: Uncategorized

The Weekend Preview

The Jays were swept in Baltimore last September

So, maybe my predictions weren’t that off in hindsight. After cruising through the opening game of the series, the Jays got beat up in the next two versus the Indians. Kyle Drabek has struggled mightily in his last few starts and didn’t make it out of the 1st inning in the Jays 13-9 loss on Wednesday.

With the off day in mind John Farrell made the controversial decision of pulling Drabek after having only faced eight batters. I’m sure Farrell will claim that he wanted to protect Drabek’s confidence, but he also has to give him a chance to work through rough outings. It’s possible Drabek settles down and the Jays slowly chip away at a 4-0 lead. Instead, Shawn Camp comes into the game (as the Jays new long reliever I guess) and promptly gives up 7 more, and after 3 innings the game is out of reach. If not for the lack of depth in the rotation, you’d have to give serious consideration to sending Drabek down to AAA because it’s been evident for awhile now that he’s just not ready.

All the momentum they had from their 4-game winning streak is gone, and they now head to Baltimore – a place that hasn’t been too kind to the Jays in recent memory. Carlos Villanueva gets his third start of the season versus Baltimore’s Zach Britton (5-3, 2.93 ERA). The Jays have fallen 4 games behind the surging Yankees, but are still only two back of the suddenly struggling Boston Red Sox, who were swept by the White Sox in Boston this week. If the Jays want to make up any kind of ground this month it will start with a successful road trip through Baltimore and Kansas City.

Although Baltimore and Kansas City have been bottom-dwellers for the longest time, a trip to Camden Yards and Kauffman Park never seem like a recipe for success for the Jays.

Brett Lawrie should make his debut at some point on this trip, but it’s not clear when that will happen. The Jays are being cautious with his bruised left hand, but expect him to debut most likely during the Kansas City series.

O'Neill helped the Raptors become very good defensively, but also historically inept offensively.

There hasn’t been any more word on who the Raptors are looking to hire, but Bryan Colangelo has strongly hinted that he wants a veteran coach with a defensive-minded philosophy. I think that’s a good thing for this franchise, for the fan base, and for the players. This team has been dead last in defence the past two seasons and it’s been painful to watch at times. Instilling a physical, tough, defensive culture is never a bad thing – unless your name is Kevin O’Neill. I really can’t go back to those days.

One word: wow! That’s all I could say after the Mavs stunning comeback last night. Suddenly, in one surprise twist, this series has legs and should prove to be a long, and difficult series for both teams. Miami will respond to this punch with one of their own in Dallas – that you can be sure of. It’s up to Dallas to take at least 2 of 3 at home and then look to steal one more in Miami to win the title. Game 3 goes Sunday at 8pm ET.

The Canucks used a stunning finish of their own in Game 1 when Raffi Torres scored with under 20 seconds left to break a 0-0 tie. As expected, Tim Thomas stood on his head and he’ll have to continue to do so all series for the Bruins to have any chance at all. However, the Bruins have faced this test of adversity all playoffs long, so don’t be surprised when the Bruins steal Game 2 and take away home ice advantage.

One last tidbit – if it’s a Nadal vs Djokovic final make sure to watch it. As much as we’ve been entertained by Roger and Rafa the last few years, tennis needs a new rivalry and this is it.

Categories: Uncategorized