December 08, 2006

Another Collapse

The Toronto Maple Leafs are officially out of the top 8 in the Eastern Conference, following another third period collapse and another loss to the Boston Bruins. 3-1 final, and the losing streak is now at 6 games, with no end in sight. Nursing a lead has become pretty much all mental right now, as the Leafs just don't have the confidence to pull through and get a win. They played a pretty solid road game and were up 1-0 going into the third. Ripe for the picking, I guess.

I'm frustrated as a fan, so it must be really frustrating for the players themselves. I'm not sure what it is about Boston, but the Leafs just can't generate offense against them. The Leafs have only managed four goals in the last four games against the Bruins, who have now pulled to within one point of the Leafs, with four games in hand.

Aubin did get the call for the Leafs, but it didn't really matter. The Leafs didn't play well in front of him in the third period, and although the second goal - the backbreaker - was Aubin's fault, as he let up a HUGE rebound that Primeau drilled into the back of the net, I can't blame him for his one and only mistake, because the guys in front of him made even more. Props to Aubin for coming in and giving the Leafs a chance to win tonight.

What can I say? The Leafs are in a serious funk and are going the wrong way in the Eastern Conference. The offense has totally come to a standstill - the well has runneth dry. The defense has just been atrocious, especially in the third period. When a team continuously blows leads the way the Leafs are, you know it's all in their heads. There's no confidence left in this team right now, and I'm not sure how they're going to turn it around. They've got just got to come out Saturday night and try to keep things simple, and hope for some bounces to go their way. What else can they do right now? Aubin, had he won, I think would have gotten the start on Saturday, but now I think Maurice will go back to Raycroft in the motor city.

Brutal night for my boys Poni and Sundin. They were on the ice for all three Boston goals in the third period, and both ended up -3 on the night. Unacceptable. Sundin can't be beaten in a battle by a guy like Brad Boyes, and he needs to take this team by the throat right now and get them a win by any means necessary. And you know Poni is struggling when he fans on a shot on a 2 on 1. Brutality is there.

The sun will rise tomorrow. Hopefully the Leafs can figure this out before it seriously gets too late.


Baseball's winter meetings have come to an end, and the Jays left Disneyworld with Matt Stairs. That's it. Just Matt Stairs. No Ted Lilly, no Gil Meche. No pitching at all. I was expecting some major fireworks. I knew it was a stretch for JP to think that we could get both Lilly and Meche, but I truly believed he would come home with at least one of them. Once again, it shows how much I know.

In stark contrast to last year's winter meetings, the Jays went to the meetings this time around as major players. Last year, JP flew under the radar and it was huge news for the Jays to land both BJ Ryan and AJ Burnett. No one was expecting it. This time around, the Jays were just like all the other big boys at the party, ready and willing to overpay for mediocrity.

Baseball truly is an amazing sport, where mediocrity is rewarded and the salaries just keep getting crazier and crazier. After all, baseball is a game in which a batter is considered successful if he fails 7 out of 10 times.

Ted Lilly, with a career record of 59 wins and 58 losses, will now make $10 million a year to pitch for the Chicago Cubs. Poor Lilly? Hardly. Gil Meche, 28 years old with a similar unspectacular career win-loss record, is now a 5 year, $55 million dollar man, after signing a deal with the pathetic Kansas City Royals.

Both Lilly and Meche said there were interested in going to teams that were ready to compete and challenge for the playoffs. Granted, the Cubs have spent about a billion dollars this off-season in attempts to improve, but Meche picking the Royals over the Jays is a joke, and Meche's credibility just hit the floor. Even JP said it might have been a blessing in disguise to lose the Meche sweepstakes, because if this guy wants to pitch in Kansas City, you have to question his attitude and motivation.

Richard Griffin, the great Toronto Star columnist, said earlier in the week that the Jays should forget about both Lilly and Meche, and put the money towards a contract extension for Vernon Wells.

With the winter meetings over, the discussion will undoubtedly shift to Wells. The $100 million dollar question - will Vernon Wells resign a multi-year deal with the Jays? With the way salaries are being handed out this off-season, I don't think it's going to happen. Why would Wells not test the market? That's what free agency is all about. He knows he's about to hit the jackpot, and can have at least 10 teams bidding for his services, so why would he sign long term with Toronto? It just doesn't make sense. The Jays will try to get his name on a contract, it's the right and only thing they can do, but I just don't see it happening.

This means JP has to explore trading Vernon Wells. Now that he missed out on Lilly and Meche, he's got to trade Vernon Wells for some quality pitching. Now I want Wells to stay just as much as anyone else, as I'm sure JP does, but the reality is that he will test the market as a free agent. I would if I were him. You would too. Remember, Carlos Delgado walked away at the end of his contract and the Jays got nothing in return. Delgado had a no-trade clause, so trading him was impossible. Wells has no such clause, so the Jays have to move him if he won't sign long term. JP said he'll know where Wells stands in a week or two. Getting nothing in return for a sensational, 5-tool player like Wells, who is only 28, is simply not an option. Wells will get Soriano-type money on the free agent market, money I don't think Ted Rogers will be willing to pay.

JP said the Jays will now look at Plans B and C for pitching, both via free agency and trades. Guys like Jeff Suppan, Mark Redman and Jeff Weaver are still out there on the market, but JP said he's going to explore the trading front first.

As for in-house possibilities, the Jays still have the disease known as Josh Towers under contract, and it looks like he will get a chance to be the 5th starter in the rotation. Shaun Marcum is another possibility. Dustin McGowan might be a prospect JP thinks about trading, while Casey Janssen, who showed some potential last season, is still on the map as well.

Like I said, it's all about Vernon Wells now, and it should be an interesting couple of weeks ahead, as the Jays look to finalize their 2007 roster. If Wells does get traded, I hope the Jays get some quality pitching, and maybe an outfielder, in return. JP's got to do what he's got to do. If Wells won't sign an extension, it's clear he's pretty much as good as gone, and it has to be done. In a perfect world, the Jays can sign Wells long term and add another starter to fill the third spot in the rotation. But as the winter meetings proved, things hardly ever go as planned.

Remember folks, in JP we trust.

And a big Sports And The City welcome to Matt Stairs, the newest Blue Jay. He's a solid bat off the bench, and you can't go wrong with some home-grown Canadian content.

I'd like to thank Bengie Molina for his one year of service in Toronto, after he signed a 3 year deal with the San Francisco Giants. Molina had a great season with the Jays, and it was fun watching his pudgy ass round the bases.

One of the most exciting moments of the 2006 season for me was watching Molina hit a triple in Tampa Bay. He was chugging like no tomorrow and was going so slow. I stood up and was like Kramer at the racetrack, using the newspaper as a whip and cheering on his horse - "COME ON! COME ON! COME ON!" Bengie slid in safely with a triple, the entire Jays bench went bananas and Bengie had the biggest smile on his face. The Jays bench even asked the umpire for the ball, and it was rolled into the dugout by the umpire! That ball is definitely going onto the mantle, because I don't think Molina will ever hit another triple.

That's it for now. Here's hoping Vernon Wells can somehow stay a Blue Jay.

Blue Jays baseball - You Gotta Believe.

Goodnight, Toronto...