September 26, 2007

An Asterisk It Is

Fashion designer Marc Ecko bought Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball - number 756 - for over $750,000. He then put the fate of the ball in the hands of the public. The results are in...

Finally, some news about Barry Bonds - the big-headed one - I want to hear. It's official - the ball Bonds hit over the fence for home run number 756, to break Hank Aaron's record, will be branded with an asterisk and sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Shoutout to Marc Ecko. The dude's pulled some crazy stunts in the past, but his decision to buy Bonds' home run ball and leave it up to the public to decide what to do with it was pure genius.

Bonds is the all-time home run record holder, and likely a first-ballot hall of famer. There's no doubt he is going to Cooperstown. But he's going to Cooperstown with an asterisk next to his name. Bonds has testified to a grand jury that he took steroids, but claimed he never thought they were steroids. The bottom line is that the steroid allegations that have dogged him over the last few seasons will never, ever go away. Already, thousands of baseball fans have put their own asterisk next to his name. In the end, his legacy will be determined by the fans. Some guys love him and think he is the greatest baseball player of all time. Others believe he is a full-fledged cheater, and hate him and everything he stands for. You can put me in the latter.

After buying the baseball Ecko started a website - - and left it up to the public to decide what to do with the ball. We had three options:

A) Bestow it intact to Cooperstown
2. Permanently brand the ball with an asterisk before sending it to Cooperstown
D) Launch it into outer space

Over 10 million votes were cast, including nine of my own. 47% of voters chose to send the ball to the Hall of Fame branded permanently with an asterisk. It's music to my ears.

On a side note, there was a great post in the Globe on Baseball Blog in regards to option C - let Josh Towers pitch the ball and anyone could knock it into outer space. I couldn't agree more.

I, too, voted to brand the baseball. I truly believe in my baseball heart that the ball is important and belongs in Cooperstown, but it deserves to go in tainted; branded with an asterisk to let the future generations of baseball fans know that Bonds knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.

You can tell me until you're blue in the face that Bonds has never been proven guilty in a court of law, or that hundreds of other baseball players were cheating at the time. It doesn't matter. Bonds testified to a grand jury that he took banned substances - that's the only thing that matters. The book Game of Shadows proves it without a doubt.

Years down the road, if I have a son of my own, I want him to ask me why there's an asterisk on Barry Bonds' record-setting home run ball when I take him to Cooperstown. I want to be able to sit little SportsAndTheCity Jr. down on my lap, and explain to him the asterisked legacy of the big-headed one, Barry Bonds.

Thanks to one Marc Ecko, I'll be able to.

September 19, 2007

Maybe Next Year

For the Toronto Blue Jays, mission make the playoffs has been replaced by, unfortunately, mission play out the stretch. The dream is dead for 2007, but the Jays are embracing the role of spoiler, and giving hope for 2008.

The Blue Jays started September with a sweep of the Seattle Mariners, and visions of the wildcard were dancing around in my head. Premature, I know. It's been all downhill ever since. The Jays haven't been mathematically eliminated just yet, but even a dreamer like me knows it's all over. They've only got their pride to play for now.

Meanwhile, the stumbling Boston Red Sox have come to town and been beaten twice by the Jays. Shout outs to Frank Thomas for his three homerun game on Monday night. Say what you want about The Big Hurt, but he's done his job. He leads the teams in home runs with 25, and runs batted in with 91. Yes, he may just be the slowest man in baseball, but he solidified the DH spot for this team. He's also managed to stay healthy all year. So don't hate. Thomas still has some juice left in the tank, and the Jays will need him to put the Big in "Big Hurt" next year.

Speaking of the Red Sox, is it possible that they could relinquish the AL East crown after owning it since April? Sure is! Don't look now, but the surging New York Yankees are only 2.5 games behind. Red Sox Nation will not be sleeping easy tonight, or for the next week or so. After the Jays finish their set with the Red Sox, they're off to the Bronx for four with the Yankees. I'm torn as to who to cheer for. I want the Jays to finish the season strong, but I would love to see the Red Sox choke on a division lead that was in double-digits only a month and a half ago.

And how bad has Eric Gagne been since he's donned the Red Sox uniform? He's certainly doing his best Josh Towers impersonation. In 13 innings Gagne has a 7.62 earned run average and batters are hitting the lights out off him, at a clip of .356. Frightening numbers. Josh Towers, eat your heart out.

The upcoming off-season is another important one for the Jays, although most of the team is going to come back. It was good to see B.J. Ryan on the field yesterday tossing a baseball. As great as Jeremy Accardo has been, I miss good old B.J. He's a presence out there.

As for Troy Glaus, I am utterly disgusted by the lack of respect the Blue Jays, and Glaus himself, have shown their fans and the game of baseball. It's just typical that after Glaus is implicated in a steroid scandal, his problematic foot is shut down and he's off for surgery, all before he gets an at-bat at home in Toronto. I was looking forward to him stepping up to the plate at the Rogers Centre and listening to the crowd boo him mercilessly. He deserves nothing less.

The Jays, nor Glaus, didn't even make a statement about the steroid allegations. Glaus gave the usual "no comment" and has left the team until next year. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. It's disgusting on the Jays' behalf. The least they can do is issue some sort of statement. In this situation, silence speaks louder than words, and Glaus is already guilty in my books. He's a disgrace.

The J.P. Ricciardi regime doesn't really seem to give a hoot about the fans. They constantly lie about injuries (B.J. Ryan's back problem turned out to be Tommy John elbow surgery) and their silence on the Glaus situation is ludicrous. The whole act is getting tired.

But, being the true homer that I am, I'm going to give J.P. Ricciardi and co. one more shot. Their last shot. 2008, and that's it. It's a trip to the playoffs or, as Donald Trump would put it, "You're fired!"

I'll be honest, watching a performance like the one by A.J. Burnett last night gives me hope. He was incredible - his fastball was clocked at 97 miles per hour in the 9th inning. In 59 and a third innings pitched since coming off the disabled list in mid-August, Burnett has only given up 13 earned runs. His 9-7 win/loss record, after last night, is deceiving. He's really taken Doc Halladay's lead and pitched his butt off for the Blue Jays. He sports a 3.40 earned run average and batters are hitting just a shade over .200 against him. He's been dominant, as advertised. His one and only goal in 2008 should be to pitch a full season - no more trips to the injured list. If he's healthy, and the offence give him enough support, I truly believe in my heart that he can win 20 games. It's in him, man.

It was also good to see Russ Adams stroke a clutch hit for the Jays. He brought home the go-ahead runs with a pinch hit double in the bottom of the 8th off Gagne. It was only the fourth time in 64 games that the Jays have come back when trailing after seven innings (ouch). Adams has become the forgotten man for the Jays - I feel for the guy. This corner wouldn't mind him playing third base for the Jays next year - that right there should tell you just how much I am disgusted with Troy Glaus.

Eleven more games to go before the book is closed on another third-place finish. J.P. Ricciardi has one more year, one more chance, to deliver a playoff berth. This year I'll let it slide, but third place won't be tolerated anymore. It just isn't good enough.

Here's to the Toronto Blue Jays. They are, after all, my team - for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part...

September 12, 2007

Gone til November

Looks like we're going to have wait a while to get a glimpse of new Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell. Until November 6th, to be precise. Bell has been suspended 15 games by the NHL.

Well, folks, it could have been worse.

Last month Bell pleaded guilty to drunken driving and hit-and-run charges in California. He'll be going to the slammer once the 2007/2008 hockey season is over - hopefully in June if the stars align - for six months.

Here's a crazy thought: if the Leafs win the Stanley Cup (crazy indeed), would Bell be allowed take the Cup to prison for a day? That would be pretty neat, especially for all the other inmates.

It's been a tough few weeks for Bell. After pleading no-contest to the charges in court in late August, he was suspended indefinitely by the NHL and placed in Stage 2 of the NHL's substance abuse program.

Word dropped today of the 15 game suspension. Commissioner Gary Bettman, in a statement, said all the regular shit all the commissioner's say when a pro athlete acts like a complete idiot and gets in trouble with the law: playing in the league is a privilege and, yada-yada-yada, don't drink and drive.

This corner is going to show Bell some love, because he's tackled his off-ice problems head-on (directly to the forehead). He's not running away or blaming anybody else. He's publicly said he's been sober ever since the incident last year. He's changing his life and looking towards the future. Everyone makes mistakes, Bell's no different.

For some reason though, the NHLPA doesn't agree. They issued a statement saying the suspension doesn't serve any purpose, considering Bell will be going to prison. Clearly, the NHLPA is smoking something. Bell was drinking driving, he could have killed the man he smashed into, and he left the scene of the accident. The NHL had to discipline Bell, just like society did. Bell could have got 20, 30 or even 40 games and it would have been understandable.

I think Bell's got a lot of potential and will bring a lot to the Leafs. He's big, has scored over 20 goals in the league, and is still pretty young. It would have been nice to see him in the starting lineup on opening night, but he'll be a great addition to the team come November.

In other Maple Leafs news, the team unveiled their new jersey today, with only a few subtle changes. It's just another way for MLSE to exploit their fans and make more money. Some things will never change. I know I'll probably end up getting the new duds - I'm one of the chumps they keep ripping off, and proud of it. I already own three Leafs jerseys, but I guess there's always room for one more.

Only 17 more days until the Leafs open their regular season. Excitement is there.

Johnny Mac's Coming Back

The Toronto Blue Jays just finished up a pathetic 2-5 road trip, and were bent over and spanked by the New York Yankees Tuesday night. The proverbial nail has been hammered into their coffin. There is, however, some good news. Johnny Mac's coming back.

The Blue Jays have been dealt some painful losses over the past few days. The playoff hopes, as minuscule as they were, have officially been dashed. It's all over.

It's been a tough few days. Closer Jeremy Accardo blew a 4-1 lead to those losers down in Tampa Bay known as the Devil Rays in the bottom of the 9th on Saturday, and Casey Janssen couldn't hold down the lead for Roy Halladay on Monday night as the Jays lost again in the bottom of the ninth, this time to the Detroit Tigers.

Those were two tough, tough losses. I've got to admit, watching Roy Halladay sit on the bench in utter disbelief after the Tigers scored the winning run was painful. I just wanted to give the guy a hug. He was just one out from his 15th win and his league leading eighth complete game. Alas, it wasn't to be. My heart goes out to Halladay, because he's really pitched his behind off for the team in the second half. He's been nothing short of sensational. It's been complete game after complete game for Doc. He's gone the distance seven times in his last 10 starts. Definitely feel for Harry.

I've also got to show some love to Accardo and Janssen. They didn't get the job done the last few nights, but I refuse to throw them under the bus. They have pitched their tails off and fatigue is clearly setting in. But those two can walk around with their heads high, and I hope they are.

It's been a difficult season. I've held on to the post-season dream for much longer than any normal, sane person has. I figured the Jays would just turn on that switch, win 10 games in a row, and somehow get that wild card playoff spot. You know, like the New York Yankees always do. They bomb the first couple of months, everyone calls for Joe Torre's head, but they always finish where it counts - on their way to the playoffs - when it's all said and done. But I guess that's why the Yankees are the damn Yankees.

However, in a season full of frustration, disappointment, and darkness for Toronto, John McDonald has been one of the few beacons of bright light. Word leaked today that the Blue Jays have re-signed the would-be free agent to a two-year contract at $3.8 million. Now we all know that Ted Rogers has given J.P. Ricciardi the go ahead to throw all his money around, but McDonald's signing is without a doubt $3.8 million dollars well spent.

Johnny Mac has been tremendous at shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays. Sensational. Amazing. Fantastic. Outstanding. You pick the adjective, it really doesn't matter. He's a magician with the glove and is much deserving of the starting shortstop role. He leads all American League shortstops with a sparkling .985 fielding percentage

And since I don't know how to embed a video on my blog, for your viewing pleasure please visit this link for a glimpse of Johnny Mac's fine work. You won't regret it.


This is big, not only for the Jays, but for Johnny Mac. He's one of the few "good guys" in baseball. The last of a dying breed. An athlete that truly appreciates what he's being allowed to do, and that's play a game for a living. He runs out every ground ball, and dives for everything hit remotely close to him. He's a blue-collar guy, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He's not a very good hitter, and he knows it, but his .250 batting average doesn't matter, because he saves the team so many runs with his D. The man can play some crazy defense, trust me. If you saw the above video, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

For the 32-year-old McDonald, it's the first multi-year contract he's received after six full-time seasons in the big leagues. It's a great achievement for someone who works so hard, and really prides himself on his defense and work ethic. Johnny Mac's become a mainstay on the highlight reels because of his exceptional glove work and this corner definitely thinks he should be the recipient of a 2007 Gold Glove award. He has truly perfected the dive-and-throw-from-your-knees-to-first-base play, and it's beautiful to watch.

For the first time in a long while, the Jays don't have to worry about who's going to be playing shortstop. John McDonald is their guy, and I can't be more happy about it. Now it's time for J.P. Ricciardi to address the other needs of the team - first on the list, kicking Josh Towers as far away as humanly possible from the organization - because it's all about 2008 now.

On that note, welcome back, and congratulations Johnny Mac. You are appreciated.

September 10, 2007

Federer or Woods?

This just in: Roger Federer is good at tennis. Federer won his fourth straight U.S. Open title on Sunday, and so the debate rages on - who's better at what they do? Federer or Tiger Woods?

I'm having a hard time believing that this Roger Federer fellow is human. The man is simply a tennis machine. What he's been doing in tennis is simply incredible. Watching him in action is like watching Michael Jordan on the basketball court, or Wayne Gretzky on the ice. He is the best in tennis today, and is making a strong bid for the title of the best tennis player ever.

Federer is the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920's to win the U.S. Open four times in a row. It was his 12th major tournament title and, at a remarkable 26 years old, he's only two major's away from the record of 14 set by American Pete Sampras.

I watched a lot of Pete Sampras as a youth. He was a phenomenal tennis player, and was my favourite growing up. I'll never forget the classic Sampras-Agassi battles. It is, however, Federer's time. Move over, Pistol Pete. At only 26, there isn't a doubt in my mind Federer will break Sampras' record. All records are made to broken, right?

What makes it easy to cheer for Federer is the fact that it's impossible to hate him. Seriously, I've never met anyone who actually hates Federer. It truly is impossible. He's a man of few words and emotions, and is a humble superstar. He knows he's the best tennis player on the planet, but you wouldn't know it by his actions.

Federer also, it seems, does not feel pressure. None. Nada. Zilch. In the final against Novak Djokovic, he held five set points in the first set, and another two in the second set. It was incredible to watch. It was like he just flipped a switch, took control, and simply refused to lose. A stunned Djokovic could only look to the heavens and wonder how he could possibly let seven set points go to waste.

The exploits of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods cannot be overlooked. We, as sports fans, have the privelege of watching two of the finest athletes of our time dominate their respective sports in ways no men ever have. Both Federer and Woods have a way of making tennis and golf - two rather difficult sports - look ridiculously simple.

After winning the PGA championship in August, Tiger Woods now has 13 career major titles under his belt, and 60 career tournament wins overall. He's only five away from the record of 18 majors, set by none other than the Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus. Woods is only 31 years old. Nicklaus was 35 when he won his 13th. It's only a matter of time before Woods becomes golf's greatest statistical player.

On a side note, I wonder how many gold and green jackets Tiger actually has in his closet. I wonder if he wears the jackets at home. I wonder if he wears them to parties, or when he has company. Hmm...

Tiger Woods was born to play golf. Roger Federer was born to play tennis. It's as simple as that, folks. At the end of the day, however, I've got to go with Roger Federer on this one. Simply because tennis is so much more of a physically demanding sport.

Federer has such immense talent and endurance. He has won five straight Wimbledon titles, and now four straight U.S. open titles. His consistency, both physically and mentally, is nothing short of astounding.

But you tell me, who would you take?

September 07, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Troy

Sports Illustrated is reporting that Troy Glaus received steroids from a Florida pharmacy in 2003 and 2004. I guess it was only a matter of time before a Toronto Blue Jays player got caught up in the steroids storm...

I am not happy. All the talk about steroids was supposed to have been done and gone.
Barry Bonds, and his mammoth head, hit home run number 756. Finally he was gone from the sporting landscape, along with the cloud of steroid allegations that will hang over his head for the rest of his life.

And now this.

First, Rick Ankiel. What an idiot. Everyone fell in love with him over the past month. He was the perfect tonic after seeing Barry Bonds night after night on my television. Ankiel, the pitcher who forgot how to pitch but who went down to the minors and became a home run hitting machine. Today, we have a clearer idea of just how he became a home run hitting machine.

And now Troy Glaus. The Toronto Blue Jays'
own Troy Glaus. My Troy Glaus. Ouch. This one hurts. Earlier this year I said that if Troy Glaus were a hockey player in this town, he'd be a local hero due to his penchant to play through injuries. Hero? I'm not sure I can mention that word and Troy Glaus in the same sentence anymore.

Glaus reportedly received multiple packages of nandrolone and testosterone in September 2003 and May 2004. Not just once, but multiple times.

Although they are right now only allegations, Glaus, the perennial all-star and
World Series MVP in 2002, has lost a lot of respect in my books. He shouldn't even be mentioned in a story that has anything to do with steroids. It's despicable. Those who take steroids are cheaters, and I won't stand for them. I won't respect them and I won't cheer for them. Glaus has embarrassed himself, the Toronto Blue Jays organization, his teammates, and the city of Toronto.

Right now, he gets the benefit of the doubt. I'm looking forward to what he has to say to the media. And a "no comment" simply won't cut it. If the allegations are true, it's of my humble opinion that he does not deserve to wear the Blue Jays uniform ever again.

Look me in the eye, Mighty Troy. Look me in the eye and say it ain't so. Tell me the "Might" in "Mighty Troy" did not come from steroids. Otherwise pack your bags, because it's over.

Awful Orioles

My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.

Ok, she didn't, but as a youth, she did always tell me that no matter how bad things got, they could always be worse. My parents' message was simple - don't take anything for granted, because there is always someone out there less fortunate than you.

Oh, those parents. How right they can be sometimes.

Every morning I wake up and, whether it's sunny or raining outside, I look out my window, and I thank God...

For not making me a Baltimore Orioles fan. The Orioles are one fudged up organization. They make the Toronto Blue Jays seem like, well, the New York Yankees.

The O's have dropped 14 of their last 16 contests, and 10 in a row at home. As a colleague of mine, who unfortunately happens to be an Orioles fan (pray for him, please), put it - the Orioles have checked out.

First there was the 30-3 pounding they took from the Texas Rangers. The box score of the game is almost as long as half a Harry Potter novel; the top of the 8th inning is an excruciatingly long chapter. The Rangers finished that game with 29 hits. That's almost as shocking as the 30 runs.

Last Saturday B-more was no-hit by Boston Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz. The final score in that game was 10-0.

But what really made my heart ache for the Orioles and their fans was their 17-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Wednesday night. Losing to the D-Rays is bad enough, but by a score of 17-2? Oh Mylanta.

Somehow, the Orioles are not in last place in the American League East division. Not yet, at least. They've got the pathetic Devil Rays to thank for that. Their season, however, has been another one to forget. I'm not really sure I can remember the last time the Orioles have been any good at all. The Blue Jays have finished in third place in the AL East for the last God knows how many years, so that means the Orioles have always finished behind them, and that's just sad.

The Jays aren't going to the playoffs, unless Santa Claus gets his chubby buttocks down my chimney and delivers the miracle himself. It's truly disappointing, it really is, but the parental unit, in all their wisdom, were right - it could be worse: I could be an Orioles fan.

It hurts just thinking about it.

September 05, 2007

Everything Man

Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Jamie Campbell hit the nail right on the head with this one: "Where would the Toronto Blue Jays be this season without Matt Stairs?"

His signing was an afterthought. It came in December, the middle of the off-season, to no fanfare and certainly no press conference. In fact, it was only a minor league contract worth $850,000.

Yet here we are in September, with the
Toronto Blue Jays wrapping up another season, and Matt Stairs has hit two fewer home runs than Frank Thomas, the $10 million dollar man and the Jays' big-ticket signing of the off-season.

Stairs has done everything and more for the Jays this season. He's been phenomenal. At 39 years old, he's hitting a career high .311 with 19 home runs and 55 runs batted in. It's his best statistical output since he clubbed 27 home runs and batted .294 with the
Oakland A's back in 1998. It's official, Matt Stairs has found the fountain of youth.

Not bad for a journeyman outfielder who was only supposed to see limited action this season with Toronto. He's actually appeared in over 100 games now, and I'll tell you where the Jays would be without him, Jamie Campbell - in third place in the AL East division. Oh, wait, they are in third place, never mind. In all seriousness, they'd be in a whole lot of trouble without the clutch-hitting Matt Stairs. He and
Alex Rios have been the only two sluggers to hit consistently on a team that was supposed to score a lot of runs.

Reed Johnson had back surgery, Stairs took over in left field. When Lyle Overbay went down with a broken hand, Stairs took over at first base. When Frank Thomas was swinging his bat like a 12-year-old school girl, Stairs gave him the night off. When the Jays needed a pinch hit, Stairs stepped up and delivered.

He's a Canadian boy who always dreamt of playing at home, and he's made the most of his opportunity. He leads the Jays in batting average (.311), on-base percentage (.384), slugging (.611), and OPS (an out of this world .995). I like to think of Stairs as a
Frank Catalanotto type hitter, only with power. A "professional hitter." But he's also got a mean streak - and I love a good mean streak. When the Jays and Yankees cleared benches last month, Stairs looked like he was going to bust a cap in A-Rod's $25 million dollar behind. He's fiery, and I dig that.

With the Jays sitting six and a half games out of the wild card, and dreams of the post-season hanging by the thinnest of threads, it's getting harder to support the JP Ricciardi regime. I keep trying to stay positive, and envision a playoff spot, like in "The Secret." If I think about it long enough, it will happen, or so the logic goes, right?

I'll take the positives out of this season, Matt Stairs being one of them, and I know a lot of teams are going to go hard after him when this season is said and done, but Ricciardi better bring back Stairs next year, otherwise he's going to have a lot of 'splainin to do.

Talib Kweli, the world's greatest rapper, has got a track off his new album Eardrum called "Everything Man." I hope my man Matt Stairs gives it a listen.

Give it up for Matt Stairs - in a season full of struggles, he's one of the few guys who deserves it.