September 30, 2008

Luke Schenn is turning me on...

I finally caught some hot, steamy Toronto Maple Leafs pre-season action last night and, let me tell you, did Luke Schenn ever impress. Could it be that the Leafs actually drafted a stud?

It's hard to believe that Schenn is only 18 years old - he'll be able to buy a beer on November 2nd - and still has a year of junior hockey eligibility. He's only a boy, but at 6'2" and 216 pounds, he plays a man's game.

I'm not a big fan of the pre-season, unlike my blogging colleague JaredOfLondon, so I didn't catch much of the Leafs' first four games last week. However, now that the Toronto Blue Jays' season is officially over and I've had a good cry over the fact that we missed the playoffs again and will probably lose A.J. Burnett to free agency, I can give the Leafs my undivided attention. They deserve nothing less.

Anyway, I tuned in last night, and Schenn did not look out of place. Actually, he looked like he belonged. The St. Louis Blues were in town and their best players - Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya, Brad Boyes, and Andy McDonald - were all in the lineup. The game went to a shootout and it was the rookie Schenn who scored the winner for the Leafs on a beauty of a deke.

The goal was sweet, but it was Schenn's defensive play that had me aroused. He looked poised and confident beyond his years back there, and played the man beautifully in the third period against a Blues forward who came in on him one-on-one. It was textbook defensive positioning from Schenn, and a single, solitary tear rolled down my face after he made the play. It was fucking beautiful.

Schenn finished the night with a +3 rating, the game winner in the shootout, and 20 minutes of ice time. Not too shabby for a kid who I thought was certainly headed back to junior.

I'm not so sure anymore. Even with all the depth the Leafs have on the blue line, I'm starting to believe that Schenn is playing himself onto this team. Think about it, Andy fucking Wozniewski made the Leafs out of training camp the past two years so, really, it's no surprise that Schenn is making his case.

In the four games he's played, Schenn has seen 19:37, 19:08, 18:32, and 20:01 minutes of ice time per game respectively. He's got one goal and is +5. He's come as advertised: a shutdown, defensive presence.

I know, it's a small sample size, and he had his best performance against the shitty St. Louis Blues, but it's hard not to be impressed by the man child's performance (I can't call a guy who's 6 foot 2 and weighs 216 pounds a "kid").

So, what do you think - back to junior, or is Schenn ready for prime time?

The regular season starts in just over a week - October 9th in Detroit (cue giddiness). While I'm not sure who's the odd man out if Schenn makes the team (Mike Van Ryn? Anton Stralman? Jonas Frogren? Ian White? Jesus, we have way too many defenceman), I think big Luke has earned himself, at the very least, a 10-game tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

September 26, 2008

Halladay fought the good fight, and won...

Yesterday, I sang the praises of A.J. Burnett and how wonderful he was against the Red Sox and Yankees this season. Now, it's time to lavish praise on his brother in arms in the fight against the evil empires, Roy Halladay.

Really, what can I say about Roy Halladay that I haven't said already? He is the greatest pitcher I've ever known. Doc picked up his 20th win of the season last night and when it was all said and done, I wanted to take him in my arms, much like how A.J. did (pictured, yo).

What a performance from Halladay this season. Simply outstanding. He reached the 20 win plateau for the second time in his career and did it with another complete game gem last night, throwing only 96 pitches. For the good Doctor, anything less than a complete game masterpiece would have been uncivilized. It was his ninth complete game of the season and if that statistic doesn't blow you away, it should. It really should. No, seriously, it should.

Halladay finishes the season with a 20-11 record, 2.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 206 strikeouts, and an opponents batting average of .237. He walked only 39 batters all season. In 246 innings. If that statistic doesn't blow you away, it should. It really should. No, seriously, it should.

To put things in perspective, because that's what I do around here, let's compare Halladay's 2008 season with his 2003 Cy Young Award winning campaign:

22-7 W/L, 36 games started, 266 innings pitched, 96 earned runs, 26 home runs, 32 walks, 204 strikeouts, 3.25 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .247 opponents batting average, nine complete games and two shutouts.

20-11 W/L, 33 games started, 246 innings pitched, 76 earned runs, 18 home runs, 39 walks, 206 strikeouts, 2.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .237 BAA, nine complete games and two shutouts.

You know, it's hard to argue against Cliff Lee winning the Cy Young. He's had a phenomenal season. So, here's what I propose: they split the award. Co-winners, know what I'm saying? If Lee is deserving of the award, and he is, equally so is our Doc. It's been well documented that Halladay has faced stiffer competition and, well, just go back a paragraph and have another look at Doc's 2008 stats. He shaved almost half a run off his ERA from 2003, and threw nine complete games to Lee's four. Nine complete games! Nine! I'm truly starting to believe The Ack over at The Tao of Stieb when he says that Halladay is a pitching machine from the future, sent back in time to save all of humanity.

Speaking of that stiffer competition, check out the layout below to see how Doc fared against the evil empires this season:

Doc vs NYY in 2008 (including last night's bonerific start)

Games started: 6
W/L: 5-1
Innings pitched: 45
ERA: 2.40
WHIP: 0.91
Hits: 34
Runs: 12
Earned Runs: 12
Walks: 7
Strikeouts: 31
Opponents Batting Average: .211

Pretty impressive, eh? Two of those starts were complete games, and one was a two-hit shutout which I had the pleasure of being in the ball park for.

Halladay vs Boston Red Sox in 2008

Games started: 5
W/L: 3-2
Innings pitched: 38.2
ERA: 2.56
WHIP: 0.98
Hits: 32
Runs: 12
Earned runs: 11
Walks: 6
Strikeouts: 24
Opponents Batting Average: .224

Doc threw two complete games against the Sox, both in Fenway Park. One of them was actually a 1-0 loss; damn flaccid offence. Actually, of the nine complete games Doc tossed, three of them were losses. The three losses came during a stretch of four consecutive complete games Halladay threw in April. Yep, you read that right: four consecutive complete games. If that statistic doesn't blow you away, it should. It really should. No, seriously, it should.

I think I began to truly appreciate Doc's greatness this year. He is a superstar in every sense of the word, and I'm a better person for having had the chance to watch him, live and on the tube, every five days. When I grow up, I want to be just like Harry Leroy Halladay III.

Doc, along with his best friend forever A.J. Burnett, fought the good fight against the evil empires. And although we're again on the outside looking in at the post-season, my boys, Doc and A.J., they triumphed over evil. For that, I salute them, especially Doc. A.J. is who he is today because of Roy Halladay.

Thanks Doc, for one hell of a season.

September 25, 2008

Cito Gaston = The Man

It's official: Cito's staying. And I couldn't be happier. We're in for two more years, at least, of The Gastonian one, and I'm saying it now: he will lead us to the promised land  playoffs.

Financial details weren't released, but it doesn't matter. Cito's worth every penny. 

How does one celebrate the re-signing of the greatest coach in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays? By heading down to the Rogers Centre and watching Roy Halladay lay the smack down on the Bronx Bitches for win number 20 on the season, that's how.

Cito is the man. Let's add some more bling to his repertoire.

Saying Goodbye, Just In Case...

If that was A.J. Burnett's final start with the Toronto Blue Jays, he went out in style, throwing another gem against the detested, the hated, the loathed New York Yankees.

His line last night, you ask? Eight innings pitched, seven hits allowed, one earned run, two walks, and 11 strikeouts. Filthy. Yeah, the Jays lost, but you can just go to hell  it doesn't matter. Last night was about A.J., and watching him receive a standing ovation, and then a curtain call, made me feel slightly aroused. He deserved it. 

Speaking of curtain calls, they're special here in Toronto. We don't fuck around, you know, like Yankee fans, who give curtain calls to everyone and their mother.

A.J. appreciated his moment in the spotlight:

"It gave me goose bumps and tears, almost at the same time. It's great, man. They've been awesome all year. When they've booed, whether I wanted to admit it or not, they deserved to. I think they realize I've taken a big step from who I was when I first came here."

That's right, A.J., you're a pitcher now. No longer a misunderstood young man with a 95 mile per hour heater who couldn't put it all together. Nope, not anymore. Trust me, we realize.

If he leaves us, you know what I'll miss most about Allan James? Efforts like last night's, against divisional douchebags the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and (I can't believe I'm saying this) Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Looking at A.J.'s splits, he was money against the Red Sox and Yankees this season. Below is a breakdown, so check out the layout:

A.J. vs NYY in 2008 (including last night's bonerific start)

Games started: 5
W/L: 3-1
Innings pitched: 38.1
ERA: 1.64
WHIP: 0.94
Hits: 30
Runs: 8
Earned runs: 7
Walks: 6
Strikeouts: 43
Opponents Batting Average: .219

Two of those starts came in Yankee Stadium, one was a complete game, and one was on three days rest.

A.J. vs Boston Red Sox in 2008

Games started: 4
W/L: 2-0
Innings pitched: 27.2
ERA: 2.60
WHIP: 1.23
Hits: 21
Runs: 9
Earned runs: 8
Walks: 13
Strikeouts: 24
Opponents Batting Average: .206

Both of Burnett's wins against the Sox came in Fenway Park, not exactly the easiest place for a guy to pitch, and one was on three days rest. In 13.2 innings on the mound in Fenway, Burnett did not allow an earned run. For you math whizzes out there, that's an ERA of 0.00.

Like I said, money.

While Burnett didn't enjoy the same success against the upstart Rays, he still pitched 'em respectably, going 1-2 with 3.15 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and a .263 Rays batting average.

Although injuries fucked up Burnett's 2007 season, he did bitch slap the Red Sox once, and the Yankees twice (small sample size alert):

A.J. vs NYY in 2007

Games started: 2
W/L: 1-0
Innings pitched: 15.0
ERA: 0.60
WHIP: 0.93
Hits: 8
Runs: 1
Earned runs: 1
Walks: 6
Strikeouts: 13
Opponents Batting Average: .160

The way Burnett has pitched the Yankees over the last two years, I won't be surprised if New York goes hard at him with a ton of loot. You know, the Johnny Damon approach. If you can't beat him, piss everyone off by offering him, in this case Burnett, a contract he can't refuse, and that no one in their right fucking mind can match. The true Yankee way.

A.J. vs Boston Red Sox in 2007

Games started: 1
W/L: 1-0
Innings pitched: 8.2
ERA: 3.12
WHIP: 1.38
Hits: 9
Runs: 3
Earned runs: 3
Walks: 3
Strikeouts: 11
Opponents Batting Average: .273

I know, it was only one start, but it was a quality.

As you can see, A.J. brought his best against the best. I'll definitely miss that. 

If he leaves, what I won't miss is his 9.82 ERA in 14.2 innings against the Baltimore Orioles (what the fuck?), his 6.61 ERA in 16.1 innings against Oakland (seriously, what the fuck, the Athletics?), and his 7.30 ERA in 12.1 innings against the Texas Rangers (I have no snide comment, the Rangers are the best hitting team in baseball, and it's a damn shame they have zero pitching).

Ironically, A.J.'s "career year" has seen him put up the highest ERA (4.07) and WHIP (1.34) of any season in which he's made 19 or more starts.

I don't mean to take anything away from A.J. He was great this summer, and a lot of fun to watch. He made it past 220 innings, 221.1 to be exact, good for third in the American League. His 18 wins are good for fourth in the AL, and he'll likely finish first in the AL with 231 strikeouts. Post all-star break, Burnett was dominant, putting up an 8-2 record with a 2.86 ERA (including last night's bonerific start). He was a big reason the Jays were able to make September a little more interesting for us playoff-starved fans.

If last night was the end of the line, a Red Sox and Yankees killer is how I'll remember A.J. The injuries and frustration of 2006 and 2007? Fuck it. A.J. circa 2008 was the guy we thought we were getting when we signed him back in 2005. This is why we gave him the dollar dollar bills, y'all. 

Even if we do only end up getting one good year out of Burnett, man, he was worth it. If he leaves, he takes a piece of my heart along with him.

Raise your glass: cheers, A.J. 

September 23, 2008

I Hate the Boston Red Sox

The Toronto Blue Jays were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday afternoon. Much to my dismay, it was the Boston Red Sox who finally put us down for the ten count.

This post isn't about the struggles of the 2008 Blue Jays. The post-mortem will come later. This post is about the Red Sox. While The Globe and Mail's Jeff Blair has nice things to say about them, I am going to take this opportunity to shit all over the BoSox, whom I absolutely loathe.

It's true, I hate the Boston Red Sox. With all my being. More than the Yankees. Way more. Here's why:

1. The Massholes

These mother fuckers are everywhere. Before 2004, they were few and far between. In fact, before 2004, they were kind of cute. I mean, 86 years between championships. We're talking three generations and change. And us Maple Leafs fans thought we had it bad.

These days, with the Red Sox winning the World Series two out of the last four years, there seems to be a sense of entitlement amongst the Massholes. That they are the chosen ones. It doesn't help that the greater New England area is drowning in professional sports championships but, seriously, get over yourself. It's disgusting.

There's nothing worse than a Masshole sitting at the Rogers Centre, my home ballpark, yelling "Yooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkkkk" at the top of his lungs when Kevin Youkilis steps up to the plate. I don't want to hear that shit.

2. Jason Varitek

Honestly, is there a more overrated catcher in baseball today than "Tek?" 

Look, I'm not an idiot. Perusing his career stats, it's obvious he put together some pretty decent seasons in 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005. That being said, over his career, Varitek is a strikeout machine. This year, he's hitting a pathetic .222 with an OPS of .676. And he's struck out 120 times. That's fucking brutal.

I've always hated Varitek. You want to know the real reason why? The captain's "C" he wears on his jersey. Wait, did I miss the memo? You know, the one where Major League Baseball announced that each team had to have a designated captain? Why is "Tek" the only one in baseball with a bloody "C" on his jersey? Oh, how it makes my blood boil. I want to rip that "C" right off his jersey.

3. Curt Schilling

Why is this guy still making headlines? He's 67 years old, isn't playing, and contributes nothing to society. Curt, listen up: stop blogging and stop doing radio. Please, for the love of all humanity, shut the fuck up. Retire already. You're finished.

And no matter what anyone says, I'm still not convinced that was real blood.

4. Quirky Bastards

I blame Nomar Garciaparra for this one, because he was one of the first Red Sox players I can remember who started all the extra-curricular nonsense at the plate.

Is there a more annoying batting stance in all of baseball than Kevin Youkilisisisis'? The constant gyrations make me want to take that bat out of his bands and pummel him. And what's the point of a batter's box if Youkilis is allowed to have one foot completely behind the line? 

Even David Ortiz. Is it really necessary for him to step out of the box after every pitch, spit into his batting glove, and clap twice? Really? After every pitch? And people wonder why baseball games last three plus hours. Un-fucking-believable.

I could go on. Sean Casey's whack back leg kick, Dice-K's unorthodox delivery...

5. Kevin Youkilisisisis' facial hair

The man has a God damn dirty rat growing off his face. I hate the sight of it. Someone, please, a razor.

6. Dustin Pedroia

Just because he's so damn good. I admit it.

7. Jonathan Papelbon

I hate this cocky, arrogant, river dancing mother fucker the most. "We done won!" Really? Wow. If that doesn't scream "douchebag," nothing does. Just wow.

Like I said, hate isn't strong enough a word. I never thought I'd say this, but let's go Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Kick some Masshole ass.

And, just for the record, no, I'm not bitter because it's been 15 years since the Jays last played a playoff game. Nope, not bitter at all. But I appreciate your concern. Thank you.

September 20, 2008

Tommy. Fucking. John.

Our worst fears have been realized: Shaun Marcum needs Tommy John surgery. He'll miss the entire 2009 season. It goes without saying, so I'm going to say it anyway: this is a huge blow.

The devastating news dropped late yesterday afternoon, and undoubtedly ruined Friday night for Jays fans across the city, country, and the world, myself included.

Dr. James Andrews, the "Ligament Pimp of Birmingham," will perform the surgery. He's the same cat who gave B.J. Ryan his new elbow. I'm quite certain Andrews is now officially on the Blue Jays' payroll.

From here on out, uncertainty abounds. If A.J. Burnett departs, only Roy Halladay and Jesse Litsch from this year's rotation will open spring training 2009. Dustin McGowan is coming off labrum surgery and won't be ready until May at the earliest, and who knows what we'll be getting when he returns. McGowan might also still have rotator cuff issues, but, well, I don't even want to go there right now.

It looks like David Purcey's spot in the rotation is all but assured now, and the pressure's on J.P. Ricciardi to see if he can convince A.J. to stay. As everyone and their mother is reporting, the Jays are willing to top up A.J.'s contract, but only at a reasonable price. What's "reasonable" these days for a starting pitcher of Burnett's ilk? $15 million. All I know is that Halladay is scheduled to make $14.25 million next year, and there's no way Burnett should be taking home more than Doc.

However, when I read stuff like this, I get optimistic that it'll be harder than we think for A.J. to leave us. As much as we've taken to him this season, I think he's taken to us just the same. Love is there, A.J., love is there.

As The Ack over at The Tao of Stieb so astutely points out, we've had our fair share of arm trouble this season. Marcum is the fourth man to drop, behind Casey Janssen, Jeremy Accardo, and McGowan. It's actually pretty remarkable what the Jays have been able to do this year in light of their injury issues. That's right, Ricciardi deserves some serious props. Give it up. 

Janssen, Accardo, and McGowan will be back next season. If Accardo can return to form, he's another dynamite arm in an already fantabulous bullpen. I'm not sure what the plan is regarding Janssen but considering he's coming off a torn labrum, I can't imagine him being thrown into the rotation. These arms are valuable - Janssen is 27 years old, Accardo and McGowan 26 - and we must tread carefully.

Are the kids - Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero - ready for prime time? I'm thinking not. That's why A.J.'s gotta stay, even though it's a dangerous proposition, considering he's never pitched as many innings as he has this season (over 213). Burnett is bound for a trip to the disabled list. He's practically overdue. But, and it's a big "but," we need him. We need him now more than ever. Tough decisions, and they're Ricciardi's to make. That's why he gets paid the big bucks.  

I know it's pre-Marcum's injury, but check out the "State of the rotation" from Twitchy over at The Southpaw. It's good shit.

When speaking to the media yesterday evening about how he won't be in spring training next April, Shauny Marcum was on the verge of tears. The guy's a warrior. He wants nothing more than to help this team. He will be sorely, sorely missed next year. But we'll be waiting for him when he comes back.

Marcum, like many other courageous men before him, proved that it's really the stronger men who show their tears. That's why I'm not ashamed to say that I cried myself to sleep last night.

We shall overcome. At least I hope we shall.

September 19, 2008

Hockey's Back

You see that guy? No, not Dan Cleary, fool. The psycho fan. While I'm not sure it's even possible, I might be more excited than him today. Hockey's back, bitches.

That's right friends. After a long, long off-season, apparently not long enough for some people, training camp opens today. Players won't be hitting the ice as physicals and fitness tests are the order of the day but, well, still. Hockey is back.

A New Era

For the first time since the lockout-shortened 1995 season, Mats Sundin will not break camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won't be there tomorrow, and that's pretty fucked up. While I have made peace with Sundin's summer of indecision and will support any decision he eventually makes, it's going to be strange seeing the Leafs prepare for the new season without their captain, without their voice, and without their leader.

If Mats comes back, great. If he goes elsewhere, I hope he finds happiness and a ring along the way. What I don't want is for Sundin to be the topic of discussion at camp. He shouldn't be. He's not here. The douchebags who cover the Leafs main stream media need to let the Sundin story die, because it's no longer a story. When the man makes up his mind, he'll let us know. The post-Mats Sundin era officially begins today. It's time to look forward, and no longer back.

I'm looking forward to getting a look at some of the new kids on the block. Is Nikolai Kulemin the real deal? Will Jeff Finger absolutely crumble trying to play up to his new contract? Will Mikhail Grabovski prove to be an addition over Kyle Wellwood? God knows it won't take much.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Jason Blake responds after living through a year of hockey player hell in Toronto. I'm looking forward to seeing Niklas Hagman in a Leafs uniform - can he put up another 27 goals? I'm looking forward to finding out whether this is the year Alex Steen becomes a star, and whether Nik Antropov can play another another season relatively injury free (he played 72 games last season, tying his career high).

I'm looking forward to seeing the development of Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty. And looking forward to less - actually, zero - nudey Tlusty pictures. I'm looking forward to seeing hometown boy Jamal Mayers suit up in the blue and white, and seeing Pavel Kubina pick up where he left off last season. I'm looking forward to watching the Poni Express ride again, and another magical season from the greatest defenceman in the league Tomas Kaberle, hopefully the next captain of our beloved team.

Speaking of the captaincy, the next person who brings up Matt Stajan in the discussion is getting a kick to the groin. Stajan is shit. He is not captain material. He never will be. I'm afraid he'll never be anything more than a third-liner (not that there's anything wrong with that). 

I'm looking forward to seeing how Vesa Toskala does between the pipes. He was awful in camp and the pre-season last year, and this team needs him like a crackhead needs a hit: every fucking night. He must be consistently consistent.

I'm also looking forward to seeing Curtis Joseph back in a Leafs uniform. No hard feelings, bud.

Most of all, I'm looking forward to some defence. 

"Everyone in Toronto - from the fans to the media to the players - seems to be concerned with who is going to score. I'm more concerned with preventing goals." 
- Ron Wilson

Damn. Imagine that. 

Unbridled Optimism

I'm excited about the Leafs' chances this season, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. I think they'll be better than a lot of people expect them to be. Just like I have the last three years (and we all know how those season's ended). 

Honestly, though, I'm thinking we can fight for that last playoff spot again, you know, like we normally do. Last season, the Leafs finished with 83 points (Florida had 85, how fucked up is that?) carrying the deadly virus known as Andrew Raycroft, who, lest you have forgotten, won only two games all year. Think about it, Raycrap actually started on opening night last year. Raycrap. On opening night. With Vesa Toskala on the bench. Against Ottawa. I still can't believe it.

With expectations, both internal and external, for this year's Maple Leafs so low they are actually below the ground, I figure I might as well call them to surprise the world and squeak into the playoffs. If I'm right, I'm the smartest mother fucker on the planet. If I'm wrong, my awful reputation credibility as a pathetic homer only improves. It's a win-win situation. To tax the saying from the Toronto Blue Jays blog-o-sphere: PLAYOFFS!

September 16, 2008

The Sundin Haters Keep Hating

The cause celebre of the media and bloggers these days is to question the leadership of former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. Funny, I thought we had buried this topic years ago.

I guess not. New Leafs head coach Ron Wilson didn't mention Sundin by name, but it was clear he had Mats in mind, among others, when he said the Leafs have lacked leadership the last three years.

Bloggers like Down Goes Brown (quel surprise!) and TorontoSportsMedia's Weblog have picked up on the issue of Sundin's apparent lack of leadership. 

Of course, Sundin's tenure in Toronto is now only defined by the last three shitty years, and everything else has been thrown out the window. That's how it works here in Toronto. When things were going well and the team was making the playoffs, Sundin's leadership was never in question. He proved his worth and he always had the unequivocal support of his teammates.

But, post-lockout, the Leafs have been a mess. And it's Mats' fault. Because he ain't no leader.

Oh, so that's why the Leafs have missed the playoffs the last three years. It was Mats. He was just enjoying himself and letting the dressing room become a "country club." It had nothing to do with the fact that the Leafs, post-lockout, have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league, at or near the bottom in goals against average, save percentage, and penalty killing. Gotcha.

Let's take a look at some sobering statistics from the last three years, starting with last season and moving backwards, with the teams NHL ranking in parenthesis. All stats are courtesy of ESPN, the worldwide leader in mother fuckin' sports.


GAA: 3.12 (27th)
Save %age:  89.3 (29th)
PK %age: 78.2 (29th)


GAA: 3.20 (25th)
Save %age: 88.8 (27th)
PK %age: 78.5 (27th)


GAA: 3.21 (20th)
Save %age: 89.5 (18th)
PK %age: 80% (23rd)

Those numbers should keep you up at night. I'm a huge Vesa Toskala fan, but it's pretty fucked up to see a higher save percentage in 05/06 when Ed Belfour, Mikael Tellqvist and J.S. Aubin split the goaltending duties. In retrospect, Raycrap's 87.6 save percentage is largely to blame. Seriously, Colorado, good luck with that shit.

I'll be the first to admit that Toskala's 90.4 save percentage last season was good, but by no means great. He's got to be better. But so does the team in front of him. On way too many nights, he had no help, and was left out to dry. But that was Sundin's fault, of course. 

Looking at those numbers from the last three years, it's clear that the Leafs' struggles began and ended in the dressing room, and because Sundin wore the "C" on his shoulder, the onus falls on him. The team's struggles had nothing to do with the fact that the Leafs, under Paul Maurice, couldn't keep the puck out of their net, had no idea how to kill a God damn penalty, and received AHL-calibre goaltending from their starting goalies in 05/06 and 06/07, and beer league calibre goaltending from their backup in 07/08.

It wasn't enough that Mats was producing at better than a point-per-game rate post lockout - 78 points in 70 games in 05/06, 76 points in 75 games in 06/07, and 78 points in 74 games last season. I guess he should have been out there killing every penalty, and should have been on the ice for the entire third period, when the Leafs loved to blow their leads. You know that +17 rating he sported last year? Yeah, that one. Fuck it. Just toss it out the window. Or ignore it. You pick.

I guess, in retrospect, at some point over the last three years the coaching staff should have just handed Mats the pads and put him between the pipes. Maybe that would have been enough for people in this city to finally put the bloody leadership questions to rest.

The statistics above tell you all you need to know about your Toronto Maple Leafs. Fuck leadership. Fuck questioning Mats Sundin. Enough already. Until this team learns how to play some defence, learns how to kill penalties, or stops taking them altogether, and begins to support their goaltender, they will not make the playoffs. When the team is able to play with confidence in its own end, and is not afraid to take a penalty in a hockey game, leadership, regardless of who is wearing the "C," - even if it is, aghast, a Swedish fellow - will take care of its God damn self.

September 15, 2008

Until 2009

First of all, fuck you, Dustin Pedroia.

Look at that smug little grin on his face. What an asshole. I'm off Pedroia. Huge.

My apologies, but I had to get that out of the way.

Well, it's all over for the 2008 edition of

our Toronto Blue Jays. We went into Boston needing to take at least three of four, and we got only one. My dream of a Jays' playoff berth has been stored away in its regular place - the depths of my soul - for another winter.

It was a most disappointing weekend, but I'm not going to shit on my team. I'm not going to shit on the offence, or the bullpen - especially my man crush Scott Downs. I'm not going to complain that the Jays, as a team, weren't able to get it done when it mattered most. Instead, I'm going to focus on the positives, and the fact that this team, left for dead so long ago, had me on the edge of my seat watching meaningful baseball in mid September.

I will, however, shit all over the umpires, and Bartolo Colon.

Shitting All Over the Umpires, and Bartolo Colon

I don't know about you, but I thought David Ortiz's slide in the 7th inning of Saturday night's game - a crushing and demoralizing defeat in which the Jays blew a 5-2 lead and lost 7-5 - was bush league. He went cleats up dangerously into Marco Scutaro's leg on what was easily a double play ball. Scoot, obviously, wasn't able to make the play and the Red Sox scored a huge run in the process. Where was the interference call? Where was Ortiz's ejection for his reckless slide? Where was the mother fucking umpire? If that wasn't interference, I'm not sure what is. Oh, and fuck you, Big Papi.

In yesterday's game, Lyle Overbay was robbed of a double in the 9th inning when he was called out by the douchebag second base umpire, whose name I'm too lazy to look up. As you can see in the picture above by the vein ready to explode in Overbay's neck, and the incredibly homosexual smile on Pedroia's face, Overbay was safely in there, and replays proved it. Overbay would have been on third base with only one out in the inning had the correct call been made. Of course, we ended up losing the game by just a run. Fuck you, douchebag second base umpire.

And, seriously, how much of a fatty is Bartolo Colon? His neck has its own zip postal code. Motha sucka clearly has never heard of a stationary bike, or a treadmill.

The Positives

The starting pitching was pretty dope all weekend. David Purcey battled on Friday night, without his best stuff. Jesse Litsch started on three days rest and gave it his all on Saturday night, giving up three earned runs in five and a third innings. The kids were alright, man, and I'm proud of 'em.

If A.J. Burnett does walk as a free agent this summer, and he most surely will, Saturday afternoon is how I want to remember him. Pitching on three days rest the night after the Jays lost the series opener, Burnett was filthy. As The Ack so aptly put it with only a picture, "Nails."

Travis. Mother. Fuckin. Snider. He homered and doubled on Saturday afternoon, driving in five runs, and added another RBI in the nightcap. He gave notice to the Red Sox and their fans that he has, at only 20 years old, arrived, and is for real. As I like to say, Travis Snider is the truth. For guys like Adam Lind and Sniderman (hat tip to the The Ack, who coined that awesome nickname), the future is tremendously bright.

Some jackass in the comments section over at The Tao of Stieb, who doesn't even have the balls to leave his name, made the utterly foolish assertion that because Roy Halladay lost to the White Sox on Wednesday and to the Red Sox yesterday, "he is not a big game pitcher." It gets better: "Right now, Lester is the better pitcher and beat Halladay."

Doc gave up six hits and two earned runs in seven innings against the defending World Series champions, in Fenway Park. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter. But he's not a big game pitcher. And Jon Lester is better than him. You see, this is the type of nonsensical bullshit we have to put up with here in Toronto. I hate to use the word retarded, you know, for politically correct reasons, but that anonymous commenter over at The Tao of Stieb is, well, retarded.

In Defense of Downs

Watching Scott Downs fall flat on his face while the Red Sox scored the winning run on Saturday night, and essentially silenced our faint playoff hopes in the process, was gut-wrenching. He was tagged for three runs, and the loss, in the type of game he's been money in all year long.

The bullpen has been so strong all year, with Downs leading the charge. Saturday night was one lead they couldn't hold on to, and I can't find it in me to be down on the guys. No way. The pen is one of the main reasons why the Jays were able to make something of this season, and they deserve better than a public flogging from me.

As for Downs, it turns out he didn't heed the advice of trainers and doctors when he rolled his ankle a month ago on August 13th. Since his return from a week off after the injury, Downs has struggled, and it was the same ankle that led to his most inopportune, and embarrassing, fielding mishap. But I'm going to give props to Downs for playing hurt. He wanted to be out there for his team, and I can't be mad at him for that. I still have mad man love for Scotty Downs.

Looking Forward

With only 12 games left on the schedule, and an 80-70 record, the Jays need to finish strong and look to 2009. Selfishly, I want 90 wins. Ten out of twelve. It's a tall order, but I've got faith in these guys. They've proved over the last two months that they can play with anybody in the American League. 90 wins won't be enough to quiet the J.P. Ricciardi haters out there but, really, how do you fire the general manager of a team with 90 wins in the AL East? I don't think you do. Stay tuned, a Ricciardi inspired post entitled "One More Year" is coming down the pipe.

With twelve games left to play, both Burnett and Halladay will get at least two more starts. They've both got 18 wins, and it would be quite a way for A.J. to go out if both he and Doc can get to 20 wins. They've been the best one-two punch in the American League this year and I'll always be left to wonder just how scary their combination would have looked in a playoff series. For shame.

I'll be watching the final twelve games of the season with interest because this is a good baseball team. A playoff team. I truly believe that. As Mike Wilner was so kind enough to point out, the Jays' fate was determined not this weekend, but in April and June, when they went a combined 21-33. For the rest of the season, the Blue Jays sport an impressive record of 59-37. So when you hear or read someone say that Doc isn't a big-game pitcher, or that the Jays choked, take it for what it is: bullshit. This season was not lost when we couldn't close the gap in the wild card race to 7.5 games with 12 games left to play. It was lost early on in the year, when we couldn't beat the Royals, Mariners, Indians and Athletics of the baseball world.

In the end, the hole the Jays dug themselves was simply too deep to climb out of. But it was exciting as fuck to watch them do everything they could to try.

See you in 2009, with bells on, Massholes.


To vote for Tom Cheek. Please and thanks.

September 13, 2008

On The Ropes, And Still Delusional

Last night didn't go so well. Eighty-five year old shitballer Tim Wakefield had his knuckleball dancing; dancing right around the Jays' bats. We're on the ropes, my friends.

It's one thing to get spanked at Fenway Park in one of the biggest games of the year. But to get three-hit over eight innings by knuckleballing douchebag Tim Wakefield? Wow. That's got to be the best way to kill the "we're in a pennant race" buzz I was enjoying.

I don't really want to talk much about last night's affair. I hate Wakefield. I thought David Purcey pitched well considering the circumstances and the fact that he didn't have great command all night. He's making a strong case to be a permanent fixture in next year's rotation.

I would, however, like to have a word with Jason Frasor, that useless piece of shit. Giving up a three-run home run to Kevin Cash? Kevin mother fucking Cash? He of the career .184 batting average? Brutal. Frasor, you should be deeply ashamed of yourself. 

Being on the ropes is a lot different than being on the mat. We're still alive, albeit barely, and we'll see what the Jays are made of in today's doubleheader. A.J. Burnett takes the ball in game one, and Jesse Litsch will be on the mound tonight. I'm hoping Burnett makes one of his final appearances in a Jays uniform one of his best yet. Make me proud, talented bonehead.

On Cy

Cliff Lee won his 22nd game yesterday, beating the always awesome Kansas City Royals FOR THE FIFTH TIME THIS SEASON. On behalf of Roy Halladay, fuck you Kansas City Royals.

I have a hard time believing that Lee, with a 22-2 record, will not win the Cy Young award. He's got it sewn up. He's faced shitty opposition all year and, to his credit, he's done his part.

While I think there's still a case to be made for Doc's Cy Young candidacy, Lee is going to win the award, and that's fine. He can have it. He deserves it, you know, for beating the Royals five times, Oakland twice, Seattle twice, and Detroit twice. 

At the end of the day, we all know who the better pitcher is.

DJF - Delusional Jays Fans

In the comments section of my last post, visitor Pseudonym busted out the "You are delusional" comment. It's not the first time I've heard it, and it certainly won't be the last.

Oddly enough, my brother in arms The Ack over at The Tao of Stieb wrote a post about delusionality last night. He's on point, as usual, so go and check out what he had to say. 

Of course we're delusional. The Ack is right. It's why we're still fans of our Blue Jays, 15 years removed from their last playoff game. It's why we hope, why we cheer, and why we follow this team. Because the Toronto Blue Jays are our team. Some call it being delusional, I call it being a fan.

I'm sure Colorado Rockies fans were called delusional last year, when their team won 15 of their final 16 games to force a one-game playoff, which they won, and went all the way to the mother fucking World Series.

I'm sure Philadelphia Phillies fans were called delusional for believing their team could overcome a seven game deficit in the standings in September. And their team did just that.

Rockies fans and Phillies fans, those delusional mother fuckers, laughed last. And loudest.

I can only hope to do the same. It may not happen this year. But I know it will, eventually.

Go Jays.

September 12, 2008

Meaningful Games In September

That's right folks, we're playing 'em.

I decided last night that the cut off line to determine whether a team is still in the race on September 12th is 7.5 games. If you're trailing by more than 7.5, say goodnight. The Jays are 6.5 games back, and in Boston for four. In other words, it's a race, bitches.

This is what we asked for at the start of the season. This is why me and the boys bought a 20-game flex pack six games into the campaign. This is why we back-ended the flex pack. Because we believed. And the Toronto Blue Jays have rewarded our faith.

Proof that the Gastonian one and company believe this series is, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of the playoffs for the Jays can be found in the fact that Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Jesse Litsch will all be pitching on three days rest this weekend.

You know what else that means? That Burnett and Halladay will face the Red Sox when they're in town next week. You're damned right it's crunch time.

The Jays have 16 games left on their schedule, seven against the BoSox. To reach 95 wins, the Jays need to win all their remaining 16 games. Like The Ack said in the comments section over at The Tao of Stieb, the Jays have nothing to lose. We were written off months ago. The pressure is on the Red Sox.

Is it possible that the Jays will clear the table the rest of the way? Sure, but the odds are heavily stacked against them. But if I'd have told you that the Jays would win 10 in a row, and 11 out of 12, against the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago White Sox in late August and early September, you wouldn't have believed me. That's baseball, baby. You never know what you're going to get.

In an hour and a half David Purcey will take the mound against knuckleballing douchebag Tim Wakefield in the biggest series the Blue Jays have played in recent memory. I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself.

I've been a believer since April 1. Ain't no point in stopping now. Go Jays. Let's do the impossible.

September 10, 2008

Don't pinch me...

Because I must be dreaming. It's 10 in a row for the Jays after yesterday's douple dip.

I've got to thank Ghostrunner on First's Lloyd the Barber for his fine live-bloggage of yesterday's matinee. His service to humanity was definitely appreciated over here.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Jays are on their finest win steak this century, and are one win away from tying the franchise best 11-game run the 1998 Jays pulled off.

You're no doubt hearing the haters chime in with the "who cares, it's too late" garbage, but, no, it's not too late. Remember the 2007 Mets? Yeah, those guys. Pretty good team they had down in Queens.

The Jays are seven games behind the Red Sox in the wild card race and, lo and behold, have seven more dates with said Red Sox. Quite convenient. Quite.

Doc Halladay will be on the mound tonight vs. Mark Buehrle. The game will likely be over in an hour and a half with those two on the mound. Doc's going for win number 19, and looking to extend the streak. In Doc I trust. There's no better pitcher in baseball. Nope, not even Cliff Lee.

Here's another solid breakdown showing why Doc is more deserving of the Cy Young award, courtesy of the thullards at DJF.

But, really, fuck the Cy Young. We all know the only thing Doc wants is a playoff birth. If he wins tonight, look for him to start on three days rest over the weekend. It's crunch time, mes amis.

Say what you want about the Jays and their late season run, there's no way you can argue that they aren't making the final month of the season more interesting and more exciting. They're doing they're damndest to give us meaningful baseball in September and for that, I salute them. In fact, I'm actually kind of proud of them.

And if you're looking for more ammunition against the haters, and especially the J.P. Ricciardi haters, here: the Jays sport a 30-26 against opponents in the AL East, the best division in baseball, and are undefeated against the two best teams in the AL Central, the White Sox and Twins.

Believe, damn it. Believe.

And don't forget to please vote for Tom Cheek.

September 08, 2008

Free Lunch

Thanks for owning the Tampa Bay DEVIL Rays (again), and for the free pizza, David Purcey. You are a rudey.

That's eight victories in a row for our Blue Jays, my friends. We're in Chicago for four, beginning tonight. A.J. Burnett will be on the mound for the good guys.

Toronto is now 10 games over the .500 mark. Since the Gastonian one took over behind the wheel, the Jays are 41-27. That's .600 baseball, mes amis.

Speaking of Cito, he deserves some props for leaving Purcey in the game in yesterday's 8th inning. Purcey made his own mess, loading the bases up with two outs, and Gaston let him clean it up. Just another reason why Cito is the man. It's pitching in situations like that that will go a long way in Purcey becoming a full-time major leaguer.

Fun Facts:

During the Jays' super excellent 6-0 homestand last week, they hit 11 home runs. Eleven home runs. By the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays. In six games. Crazy.

When John McDonald, the Prime Minister of Defence, plays, the Blue Jays win. The Jays are 27-18 when Johnny Mac gets the start at shortstop.

You know that Jesse Carlson guy? He's good. In 60 appearances he's sporting a 6-1 record, 1.90 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and an opponents batting average of .197. He's struck out 51 batters in 52 innings, and he picked up his second save of the season yesterday. And he's a 27-year-old rookie. Another rudey on a roster full of 'em.

Tom Cheek:

Don't forget to vote for Tom Cheek. Daily.

September 07, 2008

Tom Cheek, The Voice Of Your Toronto Blue Jays

It's that time of year again, where we must all aspire to do our part to get the legendary voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, Tom Cheek, awarded the Ford C. Frick Award, for "major contributions to baseball." The award is basically the equivalent of a broadcaster being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, and there is no broadcaster more deserving than the late, great, Tom Cheek.

Cheek was the radio voice of the Blue Jays from 1977 to 2004, and he called a remarkable 4,306 straight games. Cheek's ridiculous streak of consecutive games ended on June 3rd, 2004, when he took two games off after the death of his father. Basically, Cal Ripken ain't got nothing on our man Cheek.

It's hard to believe that Tom left this world almost three years ago, on October 14th, 2005. It's our duty, as Jays fans, to make sure he gets this award. We owe him that much, wouldn't you agree? For more "About Tom," and what he meant to The Tao of Stieb's weekend editor The Ack, click here.

Where you really need to click, though, for the rest of the month, is here, to vote for Tom Cheek for the 2009 Ford C. Frick Award. It takes a couple of minutes to enter in your personal information once you've picked Tom as your selection but, honestly, take the time. If you're reading this blog, you've obviously got nothing better to do. Tom Cheek, the Blue Jays organization, your fellow Blue Jays fans, and especially Cheek's family, would appreciate it.

Voting for the Frick award will take place throughout the rest of September. You can vote once a day, so I'm encouraging you to please do so. Toronto Blue Jays blogs all across Al Gore's internet are spreading the word and if we all do our part, Tom will surely win. Tell your friends. Let's make it happen, folks. For Tom. He will forever be remembered as the voice of the Blue Jays. After a call like the one below, there's no doubt as to why.

Big Ups, Zaun

What a ball game. Exactly how the Jays drew it up. Four hours and 15 minutes long, a blown 3-0 lead in the top of the ninth, a 4-3 deficit in the bottom of the 13th inning, and a walf-off grand slam by "0-for-in-August" Gregg Zaun.

Yep, exactly how they drew it up.

I don't know about you, but as Zaun's ball headed toward, and eventually over, the fence, I was going about as crazy as Kramer at the off-track betting joint. It was epic.

Was there anyone more deserving on the Toronto roster than Zaunie to stroke the game winning hit? And a grand slam, no less. In the moment, I really felt happy for Zaun. True, unadulterated, joy. You couldn't have bitch-slapped the smile off my face. Zaunie's had such a tough season playing second fiddle to Rod Barajas, and you could see the by the look on his face that he was so happy to contribute; to make a difference.

Zaun's seen his playing time diminish greatly under the Gastonian regime and, unlike a guy like David Eckstein, he let it be known that he wasn't happy about it. I was a little peeved at Zaun's public airing of grievances until a week ago, when a friend of mine made a good point about Zaun: he's a fighter. He's always been a fighter. He's been fighting for a spot, for a chance to play, his whole career. It's all he really knows.

I can't blame Zaun. He's an athlete, and a man. He wants to play. Throughout his entire career, he's heard that he'd never make it, or that he'd never be more than a back-up. But he's battled. He's overcome alcoholism. Eventually, he finally made it.

At the end of the day, Zaunie's good people. Above all else, he wants to win. And I respect that. It was a great moment - one of the highlights of the season, actually - to see him get mobbed by his teammates at home plate in celebration of his most clutch grand slammage. It's been a rough, rough season for Zaun and, as his career with the Blue Jays is likely winding down, it was great to see him stretch the Jays win steak to seven games courtesy of some high drama.

A little lost amongst the drama was the fact that B.J. Ryan blew his fourth save on the season, and his ERA has now crept up over three runs, to 3.12. It's never been a walk in the park in the ninth inning when The Beej has been on the mound this season, and I don't think J.P. Ricciardi would be doing his job if he doesn't consider trade offers for B.J. this coming off-season. There's been some interesting talk about the Jays' bullpen around the blogosphere of late - it is, after all, the deepest and best 'pen in the league - and you can check out a sample courtesy of The Tao of Stieb here.

As for the Tampa Bay DEVIL Rays, I don't know about you, but when I saw them in the dugout during the 13th inning sporting the rally caps, all I could think was: these guys are kids. For some reason, the rally caps cried out inexperience and youthful exuberance. The Boston Red Sox wouldn't have been rocking the rally caps. Nor would have the New York Yankees. I think the golden rule is, or at least it should be, that you don't bust out the rally caps until the playoffs.

The DEVIL Rays have lost five of six, and are heading to Boston and then New York after Toronto. I would not be the surprised at all if they suffer a September collapse and end up missing the playoffs. It's time to see what they're made of.

The Jays are eight games behind the Red Sox in race for the wild card. Just saying. And we're undefeated in September. Just saying.

September 05, 2008

Who Said Playing Spoiler Isn't Fun?

The Blue Jays are relishing the role of spoiler. They completed a sweep of the Minnesota Twins last night, giving the Twinkies' playoff aspirations a big "fuck you" in the process.

It was a most entertaining series. On Tuesday, the Jays rallied from behind, erased a 5-1 deficit and won the game 7-5. And you know how they did it? By hitting home runs. Three of them. In the same game. Back-to-back jacks from Alex Rios and Jose Bautista (his was a two-run shot), and a two-run bomb from Lyle Overbay. As the cherry on top of my home run sundae, B.J. Ryan pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning for the save. Unbelievable, I know. When I woke up on Wednesday, I kid you not, it felt like Christmas morning. It just felt great to be alive.

On Wednesday night, A.J. Burnett pitched well enough to win, but the bullpen couldn't hold the 3-0 lead. In a 3-3 game in the 9th inning, The Beej allowed the Twins to plate their fourth run. Once again, however, the Jays refused to go quietly into the night. And they were led by the young phenom - the savior, the franchise - Travis Snider. Snider tied up the game in the bottom of the 9th with a clutch base hit, his third of the game, off uber closer Joe Nathan, who entered the game with a nasty 1.11 ERA and 36 saves. It was an inspiring plate appearance from the 20-year-old, especially considering he fell behind in the count.

In the 11th inning, John McDonald provided the dramatics, walk-off style, and the Jays were once again victorious. The Tao of Stieb put it best: "Oh, and don't forget Johnny McDonald driving in the winning run. That's always good for the soul." You're damn right it is, Tao.

Last night, Jesse Litsch was unhittable, going the distance on a four-hitter. Whatever Litsch worked on when he was sent down to the 'Cuse, it's working. In 28 and 2/3 innings since his recall, he's allowed only 3 earned runs. That's pretty damn impressive. Hopefully my boy Shaun Marcum can parlay his demotion into similar results.

I mentioned Travis Snider's performance on Wednesday, but he was even better yesterday. He clocked his first career big league home run, to deep centre field no less, and finished 3-for-3 on the night with 2 RsBI and a walk. I know, it's only been four games, but the kid is batting .467. If he's not causing your cock to stir a little bit in your pants, you might need one of those blue pills.

Some housekeeping:

Vernon Wells hit home run number 16 last night, in game number 86. He hit 16 home runs in 149 games in 2007. I think it's safe to say that his shoulder really was fucked up last season, hence the dramatic drop in power. It's looking more and more likely that he will reach the 20 home run mark this season, and that's impressive because of all the time he's missed. It will also help me to sleep better at night, knowing that at least one Blue Jay finished with 20 or more jacks.

Over the long weekend, David Eckstein played his final game for the Toronto Blue Jays, as he was traded to the land of the rising sun. I never got to say goodbye, so I thought I'd take a moment. I don't think Eck got a fair shake in Toronto once The Gastonian one arrived. Not that I blame Cito, who is, like the rest of us, clearly a Johnny Mac fan. But Eckstein never complained about his diminished playing time or his role on the team. As Mike Wilner was kind enough to point out, Eck put up numbers almost idential to his career stats. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. So there's no hard feelings. He was a gamer and, by all accounts, one of the classier guys around. Cheers, Eck. Stay scrappy.

September 02, 2008

An Ode to Tomas Kaberle

As I was lying on the beach this past weekend, basking in the glory of some incredible Labour Day long weekend weather, all I could think about was the hot and scantily clad women all around me Tomas Kaberle.

I found the following big tune while wasting time on Facebook. It is simply phenomenal. Enjoy:

Catchy, eh? I know. I've been singing it for days, while I walk to work, and while in the laundry room in my building. Yep, people have definitely been looking at me funny, but I don't care, "because he's Tomas Kaberleeeee, defenceman for the Maple Leafs."

Kaberle for life.

Training camp is only 16 days away, my friends...