May 28, 2007

Jinxed Jays

The unhittable Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo are unhittable no more.

Oops, my bad.

I jinxed Janssen and Accardo. The two Blue Jays relievers who have been lights out this year were torched by the Twinkies on Saturday night, a mere 24 hours after I said I was simply waiting for their bubble to burst.

Tomo Ohka pitched a hell of a ball game for the Jays on Saturday night, and it came at an opportune time because his job is on the line. Roy Halladay's going to take the mound on Thursday night, so it's either Ohka or young'un Jesse Litsch who's going to be voted off the island.

Ohka handed the ball off to the dynamic duo of Janssen and Accardo with a 7-2 lead in the 8th inning. Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth and it was a tie game, seven a piece. Janssen gave up two runs, while Accardo gave up three in blowing the save. Accardo's shutout streak lasted a remarkable 21 innings.

The Jays picked up their bullpen though, for once, and managed to win the game in extra innings. God knows it would have been an excruciatingly tough loss to rebound from.

I've got to give props to Janssen, Accardo, and Scott Downs for their work this season. Pitching was obviously a concern coming into this season for Toronto, but these guys have carried the bullpen on their back, especially in the absence of BJ Ryan. It was only a matter of time until they got hit, but they've been a pleasure to watch. They are one of the few bright spots on this team.

The Twins took two out of three from the Jays on the weekend, and now the Yankees are in Toronto for a big three game set. A.J. Burnett put together another quality start Sunday afternoon, going eight innings and only giving up three hits. He took the loss, however, and saw his record go to 5-4. It was the 22nd time this season that the Jays scored three runs or less. That's simply not going to get the job done, fellas.

Two months of the 2007 season are pretty much in the books now, and they've been a rough two months to say the least. Baseball is a shadow of life, as in things don't always go the way they're planned. The Boston Red Sox are running away with the AL East division, and any talk of the playoffs could be over pretty soon. Reality is starting to set in, and it's bleak right now. The Jays need to put together a winning streak, and fast.

The Jays were supposed to have one of the more potent lineups in the American League this season. Yet here we are, 49 games in, and Alex Rios is leading the team in home runs, runs batted in and runs scored. Rios is great and only getting better, but he's not supposed to be the main man offensively on this team just yet. Wells, Glaus, Thomas and Overbay, I'm looking at you guys.

The Jays have a team batting average of .256, good for only 10th in the American League. Toronto was supposed to out slug most of their opponents, to make up for their lack of quality pitching. The Jays offense is comparable with the Kansas City Royals offense right now. That should be a crime.

Pitching wins championships. It's getting more and more evident every season. The Blue Jays own a team ERA of 4.44. The Red Sox, who have an 11.5 game cushion in the AL East, boast a team ERA of 3.64.

Pitching, my friends. The Red Sox have it. The Blue Jays don't.

May 26, 2007

Sundin or Alfredsson?

Now that the Ottawa Senators are on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals - wow, that actually hurts just writing it - an interesting question comes to mind.

Mats Sundin or Daniel Alfredsson. Who would you rather have as your captain?

The Senators, led by Alfredsson, are off to the place no Maple Leafs team has travelled in the modern era of the NHL. Sundin and the Leafs have never made it out of the third round of the grind known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alfredsson has been a man possessed the last few weeks. He's playing, undoubtedly, the best hockey of his career and has been the driving the bus for his team. He's finally playing like a captain, something he'd never really done in the playoffs before. I thought it was fitting that Alffy was the man to score the game winner in overtime of game five to knock out the Sabres. It was Alffy who was burned by Jason Pominville, one year ago, in overtime of game five when Buffalo sent the Senators home. Justin Timberlake was right, the clever entertainer that he is. What goes around, goes around, goes around comes all the way back around.

Alfredsson is the first European captain of a team in the Stanley Cup Finals. Funny, I always believed Mats Sundin would hold that distinction. Alas, it has yet to be for Sundin and Toronto's beloved, but clearly cursed, hockey team. Will Alfredsson become the first European captain to win the Stanley Cup?

Alfredsson has turned it up a notch in the playoffs this time around. He's played solid two-way hockey, while racking up 10 goals and seven assists. Four of those goals have been game winners. The Sens have won 12 games in the second season, so Alffy's won a third of them for his team. That's clutch. He's even added a physical element to his game, something he certainly hasn't been known for before.

Statistically during the regular season over their respective careers, Sundin holds a slight edge over Alfredsson when it comes to points-per-game. Sundin has averaged 1.01 points a game over his career, while Alffy comes in at 0.97. Advantage Sundin.

Sundin is also the better playoff performer, averaging 0.89 points a game in 83 career playoff games. Alfredsson has played 94 career playoff games and averages 0.80 points-per-game. Advantage Sundin, again.

I'm not sure one solid playoff run, on a very talented and deep Ottawa Senators team, vaults Alfredsson past Sundin. Alfredsson is playing on a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza right now, two all-world superstars. Mats Sundin goes to bed at night dreaming of playing with guys of that calibre. Other than the Alexander Mogilny days in Toronto, I'd say Alfredsson has always played with more talented players beside him.

All I know is that this city is full of Mats Sundin haters. The haters are saying Sundin shouldn't be resigned. That he's overpaid, and not worthy of the "C". I'll vouch with the overpaid part, but don't believe for a second that he isn't a superb captain and player. The Leafs need him, straight up.

The fact that Alfredsson is now playing for the most beautiful piece of hardware I have ever seen in my life, the Stanley Cup, is not going to help Sundin's cause, especially when he's on the verge of signing a new two-year contract with the Leafs.

Clearly, I'm no Sundin hater. I love the man. I'm going to give Alfredsson his props on his playoff performance right now, but I'll take Mats Sundin as my captain any day of the week over Alffy.
I'd love to know what you think.


Jesse Litsch, welcome back down to earth.

The Jays lost another close one tonight as youngster Litsch made his third start in the big leagues, against a tough Minnesota Twins lineup.

After his phenomenal start about ten days ago, Litsch has struggled in his last two outings. He's allowed to struggle, though. The kid is up from AA ball, after all, and he's only 22. It's not an easy transition, Casey Janssen can attest to that. Litsch gave up three runs and eight hits in only four and a third innings tonight. He's done a good job filling in, but it's time to get back on the bus and head down to Syracuse. Harry Halladay - I think I'm going to refer to him as Harry for the rest of the season - could return as early as May 31st, and Litsch will benefit from some time in Triple-A. It looks like he's got a bright future.

My main man Scott Downs took the loss tonight. He made a costly error in the bottom of the seventh when he couldn't handle Justin Morneau's nibbler. It was only the sixth run he's given up all year.

I've got to admit that I'm just waiting for the Jays' lights-out bullpen trio's bubble to burst. The trio of Accardo, Janssen and Downs. Downs looks like he's ready to pop, as he's given up three runs in his last two outings. Accardo is still going strong on his scoreless innings streak, and I'm still not sure how Casey Janssen is doing what he's doing.

Janssen hasn't been overpowering. He's given up 21 hits in 24 plus innings, while striking out ten. Yet he's only given up two runs. Those stats show that he's not getting fazed when runners get aboard. That's a great quality for a pitcher to have. Duh. Hard to believe Janssen was also pitching for New Hampshire in Double-A just a year ago.

This way of thinking - waiting for the bubble to burst - is the way I function. All negativity, all the time! Instead of enjoying the success of the Jays bullpen, I'm waiting for it all to come crashing down.

Peculiar decision by John Gibbons to let Scott Downs pitch to Torii Hunter tonight, with two outs and runners on the corners in a tie ball game. Hunter has been eating up left-handed pitching all year, and Jason Frasor was ready in the bullpen. This is what I mean when I say that John Gibbons makes some stupid decisions. Play the numbers. Bring in Frasor. Downs has been great, but you've got to respect Hunter's bat. Downs' first pitch was poked into right field, 4-3 Twins, and it turned out to be the winning run. Good call.

Random thought - it's hard to believe JP Ricciardi has been around for seven seasons, and John Gibbons for four, already. Wow. Time flies when you're finishing in third!

Tomo Ohka takes the mound for the Jays tomorrow. It's almost official, he sucks. If he loses tomorrow, it will be official. I'm off Ohka, huge.


I just saw Maggie the Monkey pick the Senators to win it all on Sportscentre. I'm not sure how Maggie's done with her picks this year, but I hope she's wrong. As much as I want a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, I would much rather it have been Calgary or Edmonton in the last few years. Not Ottawa. I can take them making it to the finals, but winning it is going to be a bit much for me to swallow. The fact that Alfredsson is the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe isn't sitting too well either.

It's true, I wanted the Sens to beat the Sabres. Ottawa's never beaten the Leafs in the playoffs, while Buffalo has. There's my justification. And a part of me likes to laugh at the inability of Buffalo's pro sports teams to get the job done. Buffalo is a city of losers, and I wanted that losing to continue. They did and I'm happy, but that's all now. Come on Ducks. Do the Flying V. Do whatever it takes, but don't let the Senators win it all.

Karma should be on the side of the Ducks. Scott Niedermayer didn't even come within a foot of the Western Conference Championship trophy. Half of the Ducks were already gone to the dressing room during the presentation. That's the way it should be done. Nobody cares about that trophy, nobody wants to touch it, and nobody wants to take a picture with it. That is not the trophy one plays for. Niedermayer did the right thing. If you want to win the Stanley Cup, it's known that you don't touch the Conference Championship trophy. As absurd as this tradition has become, I absolutely love it. There's no other trophy like the Stanley Cup and it's aura results in ridiculous superstitions like this.

Alfredsson, Wade Redden and the Senators, however, were all over the Eastern Conference Championship trophy. Redden even skated around with it! That's a no-no. It will cost the Senators, dearly.

Ducks in seven. Book it.

May 18, 2007


Apologies are in store.

In the midst of the Jays' nine game losing streak, I lost sight of the bigger picture. And in baseball that bigger picture is, well, pretty damn big. 162 games big.

The baseball season is long and arduous. It's important to keep the highs and lows of the six month season in perspective. As fans, we have to maintain an even keel, and I didn't do that. I panicked. Big time.

There I was, calling for heads to roll and for people to get fired. A nine game losing streak in May isn't the end of the world. It certainly may do irrefutable damage to the 2007 Jays season, but by no means is the season over, as was written by me, and by several members of the Toronto media.

After taking some time to reflect on the state of Toronto's beloved Blue Jays, I realized that clearly it's not fair to fire anyone when approximately $29 million in Jays salaries are currently on the disabled list. Injuries are a part of baseball, what the hell can you do? Call it bad luck, or karma, or anything for that matter, it doesn't matter, because the Jays still have 120 odd games left to play. The games must go on. The team doesn't have the option of Jerry Seinfeld - "I choose not to run!"

The losing streak is now in the past. It's forgotten. The Jays have won six of eight and sit seven games out of the Wild Card. Daunting? Yes. Impossible? Certainly not. Crazier stuff has happened before. Two years ago, when the Astros made the final, they were 10 games out of it in July. So to say it can't be done, and that the Jays are done, is wrong, straight up. Sure, the Astros had Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt. That certainly helped their cause, but I'll be damned if I declare the Jays dead before June has even begun.

Before I get into my repentance, I learned, as George Costanza would say, an interesting nugget of information last week, after Doc Halladay went on the disabled list with acute appendicitis. His real name is Leroy Harry Halladay. When word broke that Doc was going under the knife, A.J. Burnett, who was pitching that night, sent his buddy a text message - "This one's for you, Harry."

They actually call him Harry! That's just strange to me, for some reason. He looks like a Roy!

First of all, I'm sorry A.J. Burnett. Burnett has really stepped up in the absence of Halladay. He's taken the job of staff ace to heart and has pitched two magnificent ballgames since Doc, err Harry, went down. In his last two starts Burnett has pitched 15 and 2/3's innings, given up only two earned runs while striking out 20. His last game, Wednesday versus the Orioles, was probably as dominant a performance he's had since donning the Jays uniform. His ERA is now a tidy 3.99 and he's stepped up when this team and organization has needed him the most. He's vocal in the club house, is the team's pie-in-the-face guy along with Vernon Wells, and is fast becoming one of the leader's of this team. A healthy and on-point Burnett is so important to salvaging this season.

I'm sorry Shaun Marcum. I said he didn't deserve to be put into the starting rotation. I even said he was a bit like Josh Towers. Ouch. When you get compared to Josh Towers, you know you've got problems. Marcum, in his two games since joining the rotation, has been lights out. Twelve inning's pitched and only two earned runs. Marcum's going to stay in the rotation, and he deserves to right now.

I'm sorry John Gibbons. You're the Manager, and just because the team is struggling and missing so many regulars doesn't mean you should lose your job. Like I said, I panicked. I like Gibbons, and although he does make questionable decisions at times, he seems to have the respect of his troops. A lot has been made about his public scuffles with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly, but I read an interesting column in the Star which said that if Gibbon's wasn't respected by the players, would Wells have signed his huge contract to stay in Toronto? It made me think. The Jays have for too long used a carousel of coaches. This is Gibbons' team and he's got to be given a chance to run with it.

I'm sorry JP Ricciardi. For the first time in seven years, since JP came aboard, did I ever question him. I hadn't seen the Jays go through such a tailspin in so long, I forgot how to handle it. If I'm frustrated by all the injuries, imagine what JP is going through? The life of a General Manager is a stressful one. Just when I was calling out JP on the lack of depth in the Jays system, up comes youngster Jesse Litsch, 22 years old and tearing up AA ball. He throws eight and two-thirds against the Orioles and gives up only one run, which came in the first inning when the kid was clearly nervous to be on the mound in the big's.

Litsch got his first big league win, and it came on his dad's birthday, who happened to be in the crowd all the way from Florida. Talk about a perfect debut. It was exactly what the Jays needed too. Injuries equals opportunities for other players, and Litsch seized his, that's for sure. What was supposed to be just a one-game call up has turned into a few more starts for the youngster. He's freaking almost three years younger than me. Ridiculous.

I also have to give JP his props on the Shea Hillendbrand for Jeremy Accardo deal last season. It's certainly looking like a steal. Shea was up for unrestricted free agency and was going to leave anyways, before Hillend-gate went down. JP swung him to San Francisco for Accardo, the young, hard-throwing right-hander. Accardo's been money this season. Eighteen innings pitched and nary a run has been scored on him. He's only given up nine hits, while striking out 19. Accardo has picked up three saves in the absence of BJ Ryan, and is the closer for the rest of this season. At this rate, Accardo's a shoe-in for the All-Star game. He's having a phenomenal season and has really stepped up in the absences of Brandon League and BJ Ryan. Another guy seizing an opportunity. Coming into training camp there were a lot of questions surrounding Accardo and his role on this team. Now he's one of the more valuable players on this year's team.

In light of all the struggles with the Jays, it's interesting to note that the Jays have three of the American League's top relievers in their bullpen. Really. I'm not lying. Casey Janssen, Scott Downs, and Jeremy Accardo. The three have pitched a combined 53 innings so far, and have only let up five runs, while striking out 46 batters. Lights out, baby. Justin Speier who?

Marcum, Litsch and Janssen are Ricciardi draft picks. Accardo is the product of a Ricciardi trade. Clearly, the farm is producing Major League talent, and Ricciardi is making good deals. I'm sorry to have doubted you JP. I was way out of line.

I've also got to apologize to Troy Glaus. I'm always complaining about how he's often injured, but the guy has been so clutch when he's been in the lineup that I'm not sure where the Jays would be without him. In the three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, Glaus drove in the winning run every night. Game one - a moon shot of a home run in the 8th inning. Game two - a single to left field that drove in the winning run. Game three - another single that drove in Rios with the winning run.

Glaus is playing with a golf-ball sized bone spur in his right foot. That can't be comfortable. Especially for the hulking Glaus, who is 6-5" and weighs 240 pounds. That's a lot of weight coming down on that bone spur. Glaus has been a warrior and is playing through the pain, and will continue to do so for the rest of the season. You've got to admire his competitiveness. Atta boy, Troy.

I'm sorry Vernon Wells. I'd like to say I was drinking when I questioned whether the Jays should have signed Wells to the long-term deal. I was drunk, but it wasn't the alcohol. I was drunk off all the losing. It took its toll. Vernon Wells represents Toronto Blue Jays baseball. He made a commitment to this team and to this city, and although that commitment came with a few Brinx trucks full of money, I shouldn't be questioning that contract only 40 games into it. Once again, I was out of line. Wells is a fierce competitor and there's no way he's not giving his all out there in centre field, I just refuse to believe it.

V-Dubbs has been a notoriously slow starter in April, and that has been the case again this year. But, like I said earlier, it's a long season and I'm confident Wells will rebound and have a solid season. He's paid like a superstar because he is a superstar.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm sorry Blue Jays marketing department. I bought into what you've been selling the last couple of years, and no nine game losing streak is going to spoil years of hard work.

Seven games, that's it. The Red Sox are bound to go into a slump. I refuse to believe they can play .700 baseball all season long. They will have their injuries as well. Case in point, Josh Beckett has landed on the DL. Josh Beckett, he of the 7-0 record. Baseball season is not 40 games long.

I refuse to believe that the Jays will go quietly into the night. This team has heart. This team will not quit. The 2007 season still can be a special one. I can't throw in the towel. I don't have it in me.

Blue Jays Baseball, I still believe. I urge you to do the same.

May 10, 2007

Rock Bottom, Already?

Do you hear that sound? Listen carefully. It's the sound of bodies hitting the ground, jumping off the Blue Jays bandwagon. And fast.

The Toronto Blue Jays limped out of April with a 13-12 record. Not exactly a blazing start out the gate, but considering all the injuries they had to deal with in the first month of the season, it was a good month. The Jays knew what they had to do - simply tread water, and play .500 baseball until the healthy bodies of Reed Johnson, Troy Glaus, BJ Ryan, Gustavo Chacin, Brandon League and Gregg Zaun returned.

Well, we're 10 days into May, only Troy Glaus is back, and the Jays still have 13 wins. It's been a nightmare-ish couple of weeks. The Jays are mired in an eight game losing streak, which included a franchise record-tying six game winless road trip. Even Doc Halladay, the streak-stopper himself, was lit up by the Texas Rangers.

Going into tonight's finale of three game set with Boston at the Rogers Centre, the Jays are an astounding 9.5 games out of first place, behind those damn Red Sox. Nine and a half games, already, and we're not even half way through May. Oh mylanta. Somebody pass me the Tums.

The pitching staff, which somehow managed to keep it's ERA below 4.00 in April, has imploded. The starting pitching is terrible, and the bullpen is even worse. The loss of BJ Ryan has proved to be a huge one, as we all knew it would be. Josh Towers has been moved to the bullpen and Victor Zambrano has been hit and hit hard in his first two starts.

After last night's 9-3 spankage at the hands of Dice-K, I thought the Jays hit rock bottom. Things couldn't possibly get worse, I told myself.

Oh, but they have. I think it might be time to bring out the salami and cheese, Chuck Swirsky style, because this season might be over, mama.

News broke a couple of hours ago that BJ Ryan has had successful Tommy John surgery. See ya next year, BJ. He's done for the season.

No one can blame BJ. This is the first time he's gone on the DL in his nine year career. That's remarkable for a guy who throws as hard as he does.

I'm not exactly sure what the deal is behind Ryan's elbow injury, and whether the Jays knew it was this serious all along. JP Ricciardi came out and said that Ryan's apparent back injury in spring training was a lie, and that it was his elbow all along. The Jays placed Ryan on the disabled list on April 15th and said a couple of days later that there were no tears in his elbow, and that he didn't need Tommy John surgery. So what's the freakin' deal?

If the Jays didn't hit rock bottom last night, they sure as hell did this afternoon.

This team's in big trouble.

I was optimistic that the Jays would be able to compete this year. I'm not sure what I was smoking when I wrote a post about Tomo Ohka being a more than decent replacement for Ted Lilly. I really believed that Ohka, Victor Zambrano and John Thomson could do the job. This blog was also used to display my confidence in Jason Frasor and his ability to close out games for the injured BJ Ryan. Well, Frasor stinks. He's managed to lose the closer's job in only three weeks. The Jays don't have a closer right now. Manager John Gibbons said so himself.

Ohka's been pretty brutal, Zambrano's been even worse, and Thomson is still injured and pitching in AA ball.

Ted Lilly, on the other hand, has a 2.78 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP over in Chicago with the Cubs. Poor Lilly. Poor Blue Jays. Janet Jackson was right, you really don't know what you've got til it's gone. I miss ya, Ted.

The one thing about Lilly that made him so special was his ability to pitch, and pitch well, against the Evil Empires - the Yankees and Red Sox. Lilly had some of his best games against Boston during his tenure with the Jays. His competitive edge is sorely missed.

Even Gil Meche, the other pitcher the Jays offered a boat load of money to, is ripping it in Kansas City. Meche has a 2.15 ERA and two of his three wins came against the Red Sox and Angels, both first place teams.

JP Ricciardi also announced today that Zambrano is headed to the DL and Shaun Marcum is going to start in his place. Clearly the Jays have run out of patience with Josh Towers. He's going to be coming out of the 'pen for the rest of the season and he's looked just as crappy in the bullpen as he did as a starter. He leaves way too many pitches over the plate and has given up a team-high eight home runs in only 31 innings pitched. This will definitely be Towers' last season in a Jays uniform. At least there's something to look forward to.

Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of JP Ricciardi's nonsense. The fact that he lied about Ryan's injury is just ridiculous. It shows a complete lack of respect to all the fans of the Toronto Blue Jays. Ricciardi clearly thinks he's untouchable and doesn't have any sense of accountability. The only good decision he's made recently was calling up Dustin McGowan, and giving him a spot in the rotation for the rest of the year. It's make or break time for McGowan, and the Jays have nothing to lose now anyways.

Personally, I don't think Marcum should be joining the rotation either. Casey Janssen has been lights out from the bullpen and I think he should be given a shot. Marcum, although he throws hard and racks up the K's, also has a tendency to leave balls out over the plate which lead to home runs. I guess the Jays' rationale is that Janssen has been so good out of the bullpen that they don't want to mess up what he has going right now.

I've always been a staunch JP Ricciardi supporter, but the first six weeks of this season are causing me to question everything I've ever known. This is the seventh year of JP's infamous "Seven Year Plan" and the post-season looks as far away as ever. The only good prospect to come out of the system since JP arrived is Aaron Hill. Russ Adams is struggling in Triple-A, and is clearly no longer in the Jays long term plans. That's a big drop for a guy who was pegged to be Toronto's shortstop of the future.

JP, smarten up man. Make a trade. Fire somebody. Gibbons, I'm looking at you. I know the manager can only be held accountable for so much, but this losing streak needs to stop. The attitude just isn't right in the Jays clubhouse right now, but it's still early. A move by JP could stop the bleeding and save the season. This is a good ball club, with a formidable line-up, but they are clearly not playing to their potential.

The injuries aren't helping. Why? Why does this have to happen to every Toronto sports team? Maybe I was crazy to think the Jays could actually make the playoffs, or maybe the Jays marketing strategy really works, because coming into this season, I really did believe.

Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but I'm starting to wonder if signing Vernon Wells long term was the right decision after all. That money, all $127 million of it, could have brought some solid pitching to the Jays, and that is clearly what's lacking from this team. Alex Rios, at this point of the season, has more home runs and rbi's than Wells. If Wells is making $127 million, and we all know he is, he's got to be the best player on this team, hands down. I could have swore I saw him go easy on a fly ball the other night, and let it drop. It was a ball I've become accustomed to seeing Vernon Wells and his Gold Glove always get to, or at least try to catch. If Wells isn't playing as hard as he should be, the Blue Jays' problems go deeper than even I can imagine.

Here's my to-do list for you, JP, and listen up, because you're really starting to get on my nerves:
1) Make Jeremy Accardo the closer. He's been fantastic this year, and considering greatness is always expected of Roy Halladay, he's probably been the biggest surprise on the team.
2) Make a trade. Fire somebody. Do something. Don't just sit back and watch the season slip away.
3) Slap AJ Burnett for me. $55 million for this crap? Come on.
4) Stop the lying.
5) Screw Marcum and put Janssen in the starting rotation.

The Jays play in the toughest division in baseball, and everyone's got to deal with injuries. On that note though, it's amazing how healthy the Red Sox have been this year, while the Jays and Yankees have seen guys go down at an alarming rate. It looks like the Wildcard winner is going to come from the Central division, so that means the Jays have to beat the Yanks and BoSox, who've already got quite the head start. It's an uphill battle, that's for damn sure. I'm talking uphill like Mount Everest. Lord help us.

I get the feeling however, that patience is quickly starting to wear thin in this city. Nobody wants to hear about how the Jays play in the toughest division in baseball anymore. The Jays now have a payroll that almost equals $100 million. We're playing with the big boys now. When JP came to Toronto in 2000 it was all about moneyball and retooling the farm. Now he's got Ted Rogers' deep pockets at his disposal, the team still stinks, and the farm isn't producing. So what gives? Mediocrity has been the norm for the last 14 years, and we won't stand for it much longer!

Although JP is signed through to the 2010 season, it really might be time for him to go. Lying to the press and the fans is clearly a sign of a guy who's getting a little too comfortable. It looks like JP Ricciardi might have overstayed his welcome here in Toronto.

As I finish this up, the Jays are down 8-0 to Red Sox in the 4th inning. Halladay, rocked again. Unbelievable. The losing streak will most certainly hit nine games, their longest since 2002.

Blue Jays Baseball, You Gotta Believe.

Yeah, right...

May 05, 2007

Thank You, Raptors

What a tough way to go out, eh?

All I wanted out of game six was for it to be just that, a game. The last two games in the swamp were a joke, and I just didn't want the Raptors to go out like, for lack of a better word, bitches. I wanted them to fight and leave it all on the floor.

They did that. They went out fighting. They did not back down. There was no quitting. I'm really proud of these guys. Proud to be a Raptors fan. Especially proud of Calderon, Ford and Bosh. I know Jose messed up on that pass to finish the game, but Calderon, you're still my boy. There's no way he or TJ were 100% yet they came out and played tremendous. Ford was huge off the bench, and I still don't understand why Mitchell took him out early in the fourth.
Bosh by no means had his best shooting game, but he was aggressive and hungry. He wanted it tonight. He was going to do whatever it took. He passed the ball beautifully, picking up nine dimes and still scoring 23 on putrid shooting. The nine assists are what's key. He's got to learn to find the open man when all the focus is on him, and he did that tonight.

On a sad note, it looks like the Toronto Raptors have downloaded their last MP3. In what was probably Mo Pete's last game in a Raptors uniform, he went out playing hard and with a lot of class. He was huge on the boards. Thank you Morris Peterson, for all your years of service. Peterson's been through the good and bad with this franchise, and we all know how bad the bad was, but he's always played hard and been a professional. There's not a lot of his ilk in the NBA. Stay classy, Mo.

I also got to shout out AP. Anthony Parker was such a huge part of this team this year, and no one really expected that. This guy's got a sweet stroke and his jumpers when he comes off screens are beautiful to watch. I think the Raptors have got to make it a point to get Parker more touches next year. This guy can play.

The future is bright for the Toronto Raptors. Bosh, Ford, Calderon, and Bargnani are all so young, and already so talented. I'm not really sure what I expected of these guys in the playoffs, because they already exceeded all my expectations when it came to the regular season.

The playoffs were a bonus, and as much as I wanted them to win, getting New Jersey was a tough, tough match up. Jersey ain't no sixth seed. That's a damn good team over there. Jason Kidd, at his age, man, you've just got to respect what he does on the court. How the hell does a point guard lead his team in rebounding? It blows my mind. He's a tremendous passer and playmaker. Whenever the Raptors made a turnover, it seemed like Kidd made them pay. If Wayne Gretzky had a special vision for the game of hockey, Kidd's got the basketball version of it. It's tough to hate on Jason Kidd.

As for Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, it's easy to hate on those guys. I rather enjoy it. Carter's an embarrassment, mainly to himself. I can take some solace in the fact that Carter did not beat the Raptors in this series. Kidd and Jefferson beat the Raptors. Carter shot less than 44% from the field throughout the series, and was only good when he wanted to be. And the booing definitely gets to him in Toronto. He just doesn't have the mental strength to play through it. A lot of the media was saying that the Vince-booing was getting old, and no longer needed, because the Raptors are a new team, with a new identity, and have turned the page on Carter's tenure in Toronto.

But forget that! Boo him. Incessantly. Every time he's in Toronto and on the floor, boo him with pride and passion. If you're sitting courtside when the Nets are in town, talk smack to him. Tell him he's a bitch. Make fun of his annoying mother. Tell him you slept with his wife. Get in the man's head. It is your moral and civic duty as a Raptors fan.
The "Lets go Raptors, VC SUCKS!" chant is the best in the business. Sheer genius!

As for Jefferson, I hate him too, but he did have a strong series. He's aggressive and doesn't shy away from the rim, unlike his pal VC. I'd still like to slap him, though. Just once. And Mikey Moore too. The only Nets player I respect is Kidd.

Enough about the Nets.

One point. That was the difference. Raptor ball, 8.3 seconds left, our destiny in our own hands. The Raptors, tonight, looked like the Raptors of 2006/2007. It seemed like they were finally figuring out how to play playoff basketball. They looked like the confident squad that wasn't going to get blown out of the water. I thought they were going to grind out a win, because that's the only way it was going to get done. There was no way the Raptors were going to go in and spank New Jersey, we all knew that. It just wasn't meant to be. Game seven in Toronto would have been a hoot. I think deep down, the Nets knew that they had to close out the Raptors in six. I think the Raptors would have won this series had they been able to bring it back to Toronto. The ACC's just too tough a place to play.

A tough and disappointing way to end the season. It was a one posession game, but the Raps didn't even get a shot off. It was another astonishing way to end a playoff run for this franchise, something that's becoming a habit (think back to VC's rim-job against Philly in game seven at the buzzer, and Chris Childs math skills, or lack there of, the last time the Raptors were in the playoffs).

Overall, it was a fantastic season. Forty seven wins. Home advantage in the playoffs. A division title. Thank you, Toronto Raptors. Credibility has been restored to this once pathetic franchise. Basketball has been bleak in these parts the past few years, but the Raptors have officially turned the corner.

Almost to a man, this was the first real taste of the playoffs for most of the squad. It was definitely a learning experience and the Raps will most certainly benefit from this six game loss to the Nets. You can't win in the playoffs until you learn how to lose. Chris Bosh, surely, learned what the playoffs are all about. It's a lot different than the regular season. And just think about how good Bargnani is going to be. It's almost frightening. Almost not fair. He started rounding back into form in games five and six, after his appendectomy, and once he develops a post game, it's over, the Raptors will be impossible to stop. Gotta love Il Mago.

Jorge Garbajosa, you were missed, my man. What a huge loss Garbo's season ending ankle injury turned out to be. The Raps season ended only a couple of hours ago, but I'm already looking forward to Garbo's return and next year.

I hope Bryan Colangelo can keep Sam Mitchell in the mix. I know Mitchell realizes that the Raptors are building something special here, and I hope he wants to stick around and see it through, and see the fruits of his labour. This is his team. I think the boys enjoy playing for Mitchell, a coach just a few seasons removed from being a player, and a guy who knows what the NBA life and grind is all about. Mitchell is also a great character and a refreshing guy in the media. He keeps it real. Stick around Sam, because we're going places.

When the Leafs make the playoffs, and inevitably lose, I'm absolutely crushed by their defeat. That's always because I know the likelihood of them winning is always so small. The window is open only so much, and for only so long. When it comes to the Raptors, yeah, I'm upset that they lost, but I'm optimistic, because I can see what the future holds for this team. This is just the beginning, my friends. The window is just opening.

This team's going to win 50 ball games next year, and the Air Canada Centre is going to be rocking once again come next April. If there's one thing the playoffs proved, it's that the ACC is an electric place to be during the playoffs. The crowd is fantastic, and New Jersey should be ashamed of itself for not being able to sellout their games.

Hold your heads high, Toronto Raptors. You've saved basketball in this city.

Appreciation is there.

Oh, and FU, VC.

Goodnight, Toronto...

May 03, 2007

The Senators Have Changed

I've got a confession to make.

I'm actually enjoying the Ottawa Senators' playoff run. They're an entertaining squad, and man oh man, these aren't the Senators of days gone bye.

The Senators have changed. The Senators are ready. They're on the cusp. As a man who bleeds blue and white, this is about as blasphemous as it gets, but I can't keep this inside any longer. A part of me likes Ottawa Senators hockey these days. A part of me is rooting for the Ottawa Senators. It's sick, I know.

This isn't easy, my friends, believe me.

Never would I have thought it would come to this. The Senators were always the lame chokers that I loved to laugh at. The team that just couldn't get the job done. The team that would dominate the Maple Leafs in the regular season but somehow manage to lose to Toronto in the playoffs. Four straight years. Ah, those were good times.

But times have changed. My worst nightmare has always been the prospect of Ottawa winning the Stanley Cup before the Leafs. If that happens, and it's looking more and more likely now, I've got nothing left. All us Leafs fans have left on Ottawa is those playoff beatings. The ones I'm still clinging on to til this day.

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I'm jealous of the Ottawa Senators. It's true.

The Sens were always the laughing stock. I laughed at the inability of guys like Marian Hossa, Radek Bonk, Alexei Yashin, Andreas Dackell and Zdeno Chara to get it done in the playoffs. But not anymore. Those useless guys have all been shipped out of town.

Today, I'd kill for guys like Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher and Ray Emery to be in the blue and white. I've always had a soft spot for Fisher, and Emery is quickly becoming one of my favourite goalies in the league. It pains me to say that, because he wears the dreaded Senators uniform, but it's the truth, God dammit.

I figured the Senators totally screwed Spezza's development up, what with the constant trips back and forth to the minors, and the benching's and the 4th line duty. But under Bryan Murray he's blossomed into a bonafide star in this league. He's got tremendous vision and is one of the more underrated passers in the league. And the kid can dangle. Ask Sheldon Souray. He's been posterized by Spezza, twice.

When guys like Mike Comrie and Dean McCammond are dropping the gloves, you know the culture has changed over in the nation's capital. These simply aren't the Senators of old, the Senators I constantly ridiculed.

Ottawa's got it right, and they're one win away from another trip to the final four. I think they're the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa has a good chance to win the Stanley Cup.

What the hell has the world come to?

I hope John Ferguson Jr. is taking notes, because Ottawa has put together one helluva team. I'm impressed. I'm a Leafs fan, how can I not be? It doesn't take much, after all.

I still can't believe I'm writing this. At least one thing hasn't changed, and that's my hate for Chris Neil. I want to kick him in his nuts.

I feel sick. I'm jealous of the Ottawa Senators! It's tough to swallow. I want Heatley. And Fisher. And Spezza. And Meszaros. And Volchenkov (this kid was BORN to block shots, he reminds me of Danny Markov, but better). Did anyone else see Alfredsson absolutely flatten a Devils player? Alfredsson! Unbelievable. How come Mats Sundin never lays anybody out like that? Sigh...

You know I've reached a new low when I'm comparing my Mats to Daniel freakin' Alfredsson.

I feel like Ace Ventura after he found out Finkle was Einhorn.

I'm gonna go put on "The Crying Game", burn my clothes, and stand in the shower crying uncontrollably.

I'm sorry Leafs Nation...