July 31, 2009
July 30, 2009
What happened to the Vernon Wells that inspired Buck Canyon to rewrite and record the big tune above?
I miss that Vernon Wells.
As hope continues to fade, I continue to believe that in August and September Vernon Wells will rise up and deliver.
And, in honour of the return of All Your Base Are Belong To Rios, some Zero Wing. Enjoy ...
July 29, 2009
All things being equal, if both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees made the best, and essentially the same (solid young pitcher and prospects), offer for Roy Halladay, where would you prefer J.P. Ricciardi trade him?
It's a no-brainer over here: New York. Start spreading the news.
I'd rather see Doc don pinstripes, and be reunited with his soulmate A.J. Burnett, than be embraced by Red Sox Nation as one of their own. That's how much I hate Boston.
What about you?
The BoSox have, though, upped their offer for Halladay: Clay Buchholz, one of Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson, and a third minor leaguer of lesser value.
The offer still isn't good enough. No offer will ever be good enough in return for Harry Leroy III.
Buchholz circa 2008 frightens me; 93 hits in 76 innings, 57 earned runs, 1.76 WHIP, 6.75 ERA, .299 opponents batting average, and, worst of all, an ERA+ of only 68. Sure, he's young, but, to put it succinctly, fuck that.
And Theo Epstein can keep both Masterson and Bowden. It's Daniel Bard, who this year has struck out 64 batters in 49.2 innings in AA-ball, 29 batters in 16 innings in Triple-A Pawtucket, and 36 batters in 28.2 innings with Boston, who has to be Toronto bound for this deal to even be considered. (Bard's 212 ERA+ this season is filthy, and he's yet to allow a home run.) Bowden's numbers are decent - his WHIP down on the farm is impressive - but Bard is the better prospect.
As for Lars Anderson, while he's said to have All-Star upside, his .735 OPS in AA-Portland doesn't knock my socks off.
It's simple: if Epstein won't even talk top prospects Bard, Ryan Westmoreland, and Casey Kelly, well, good luck the rest of the way with Brad Penny and John Smoltz.
Don't you dare settle, J.P.
Speaking of Doc, I'll be live blogging today's 4:30PM series finale between Seattle and Toronto over at The Score. If Halladay's still a Blue Jay come game time, it will be his last "last start" as a member of the team, so be sure to join me. (I'm fully anticipating Doc being removed from the lineup a half hour before game time, his Jays career over, and a trade imminent. That's when shit is going to get real.)
Hopefully Doc will indeed be on the mound, and help his mates rebound from yet another heartbreaking loss. Building on the theme that was most prevalent last night amongst The Monkey Army over at Drunk Jays Fans, it's hard to fathom just how unlucky the 2009 Blue Jays have been; 19 one-run losses and 10 extra innings losses. Both, unfortunately, tops in the league.
The last time the Jays were victorious in extra innings was way the fuck back on May 2, when they were in first place in the AL East. Since then, they've dropped nine in a row in extras. The DJF crew - the normal ones, not the angry, psychotic douchebags - are right: this team would be a lot easier to deal with if it just flat out stunk.
Once again, all we're left with is "what if ..."
July 28, 2009
The fine folks at Cycle like the Sedins have taken it upon themselves to organize a bloggers' NHL fantasy draft. I'm representing your Toronto Maple Leafs.
What, who'd you think I'd be drafting for, the Vancouver Canucks? (Fuck off. It was a one time thing.)
With the 22nd pick in draft - hey, you should be glad I didn't trade the first rounder - the fantasy Leafs were proud to select centre Marc Savard.
Sure, guys like Henrik Zetterberg, Joe Thornton and Rick Nash were available, but I couldn't pass up 88 points at a cap hit of only $5 million.
I'm of Indian descent. If Russel Peters has taught you anything, it's that being frugal is deep in our veins.
As for the picture, yes, Fantasy is my favourite Mariah Carey album.
So Long Stralman
You know what the trading of the young, Swedish, puck-moving defenceman to Calgary means, right? More Tomas Kaberle in your life. And that's always a good thing.
Last season Anton couldn't crack, for good, a Maple Leafs defence core that allowed 293 goals. That's frightening. He was a 7th round selection, 216th overall, back in 2005, and in return for his services Brian Burke secured a 2nd round pick. I'll take Toronto's chances in the draft.
A hearty Toronto welcome to Scarborough's own Wayne Primeau, and his $1.4 million dollar expiring contract. Enjoy your stay on the fourth line.
July 27, 2009
I stumbled upon the beauty above last week on Twitter, and procrastinated the fuck out of posting it.
I wonder who's got the bunk on top - Chris Bosh or Jarrett Jack?
And is there room at the top of the photo, there, for "RASHO"? Welcome back, big fella.
There certainly exists a stark contrast between what's going on at the Air Canada Centre these days, and down the street at the Rogers Centre.
Buy the Toronto Blue Jays already, MLSE. Monopolize that shit.
Right off the top: I don't read Steve Simmons' work. In this case, it just happened. And while I hate to do this, Simmons leaves me no choice. This one's for you, CoxBloc ...
"The normal July selloffs in baseball are of players with expiring contracts, which makes the Roy Halladay situation all the more confounding. Why the need to trade him now? Why is it necessary, with another season left on his contract, not knowing what next year will bring, who the new president or general manager will be, or how this Blue Jays team will be comprised? Why not try to build around him for what could be his final season in Toronto rather than make this his final weekend with the Jays?"
A) Doc isn't a lock to be traded.
2) J.P. Ricciardi knows his asset is going to test free agency. He wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't put Halladay on the market, as he's done.
D) We all know the Jays can't afford to let Halladay walk for only two compulsory draft picks. Well, everyone except Mr. Simmons, clearly.
And now, some fun with numbers: if a team, say, I don't know, the Philadelphia Phillies, acquires Doc today, they have him guaranteed, apart from injury, as part of their rotation for eight months. If the Phillies acquire Halladay next July, in 2010, they've got him for two months. You tell me, is eight greater than two? Very good. If the competition wants Halladay for eight months, along with his exclusive negotiating rights, the price goes up. Bottom line: Doc's value will never be higher. Math; it's some crazy shit.
"Clearly J.P. Ricciardi lacks the vision and the creativity to build a winner. That much we know. So we reiterate the question we asked last week: Why, if Ricciardi is certain to be gone, is he the one handling the Halladay trade talks? And why, if he will have nothing to do with the future of the Jays is he involved in the transaction that supposedly will set this team up for the future?"
Amazing. Simmons goes out his way to point out that Doc is under contract through 2010, but fails to mention that same fact about Ricciardi. Nicely done. And let's file the "Ricciardi is certain to be gone" statement alongside "Mats Sundin needs immediate hip surgery, and may be forced to retire." (No, Simmons will never live that one down.)
As for the potential trade, even my mom, upstairs, knows that the Halladay decision is not being made by Ricciardi alone; J.P.'s not hiding in a closet at the Rogers Centre, making the deal on his cell phone. Assistant GMs Alex Anthopoulos and Tony LaCava are heavily involved, as is Paul Beeston, and ownership. To suggest that Ricciardi is making the decision all by his lonesome is, well, Toronto Sun reporting.
"A Ricciardi question: Has there ever been a more unpopular GM in Toronto history? And that's including Gerry McNamara and John Ferguson Jr."
A Simmons question: Has there ever been a more unpopular sports reporter in Toronto history? And that's including Howard Berger and Damien Cox.
"Used to think Scott Rolen was a real pro until he turned down a simple television request for an interview the other day. Hey Scott, this ain't St. Louis, pal. Part of the millions you make is to try to sell the product ..."
The fact that Simmons no longer likes Rolen makes me like the hulking third baseman even more. GBJOAT - Greatest Blue Jay of All Time.
"When Mark Buehrle threw his perfect game this week, he became the 17th White Sox pitcher to throw a no-hitter. That's 16 more than the Jays can boast."
When the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005, it was their first title in 88 years, since 1917. That's one fewer than the Jays can boast. But, yeah, keep working on those no-hitters and perfect games, Jays pitchers. Just one? Pathetic.
Never. Reading. Simmons. Again.
July 26, 2009
Roy Halladay was brilliant, again, on Friday night. The more I picture him wearing Philadelphia red, or Dodger blue, the more angry I become as to why the Blue Jays are in their current predicament. I blame Rogers; not J.P. Ricciardi. I'm in too deep, defending J.P., for that to change. (Sorry, Joanna. Even though I'm not.)
Much like my favourite GM in the whole wide world, I'm done talking about the trading of the Doctor. If it happens, it happens. August 1, and the end of all this drama, cannot come soon enough.
If we have reached the end of the road, this one's for you, Doc ...
If you don't like Boyz II Men, stop lying to your damn self.
What's that? Yesterday's ballgame? Why the fuck would you want to talk about that? Look, it's simple. It was raining. It's now pouring. There's no other way to explain the blowage of a 9-1 lead, at home. (We're in the midst of a torrential downpour; even Toronto FC lost in dramatic, heartbreaking fashion.)
At times like these, always remember that it could be worse. We could be Baltimore Orioles fans.
I found it rather fitting that it was the Tampa Bay fucking DEVIL Rays who handed the Jays what had to be their toughest loss of 2009, all things considered. Those same DEVIL Rays everyone likes to bring up when shitting all over Ricciardi. Once again: the Rays are no model for success in the AL East; they've just been a helluva lot luckier than Toronto.
As for Scott Downs, he doesn't talk much to the media. So it was great to see him face the bright lights after yesterday's clusterfuck of a game and call his performance, and his team's, exactly what it was: "embarrassing." I don't know about you, but I've still got utmost faith in SnakeFace.
Sure, it was a brutal loss, but I'm more interested in seeing how the Blue Jays respond. Are they going to roll over and die, and allow Tampa the sweep? Or are they going to play with some fucking pride?
In the comments section of my last post, after Saturday's debacle, Bruno Von Rottweiler said: "...a lot of these players are soft, they are losers."
I don't believe that. Go Jays.
July 24, 2009
A "P.R. Campaign Against [Roy] Halladay"? Painting Doc as the "bad guy"? Fuck off. Look, J.P.'s got bigger issues to deal with. Like, I don't know, securing the best possible package in return for Roy Halladay. By next week.
Think about it for a second; everyone but me hates Ricciardi. He knows that. Why would he bother trying to sully the reputation of one of the finest men to ever wear a Toronto Blue Jays uniform, in a city where not many - not enough - give a shit about the Blue Jays to begin with? He wouldn't. He's got more important shit to do, like field calls about Jason Frasor, Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas, and Scott Rolen.
Ricciardi and the Blue Jays aren't worried about the casual fan, because the casual fan isn't worried about them; the casual fan's been apathetic for years. It's the nature of this city's relationship with baseball. When the Blue Jays, eventually, become a winning team again (one day), the casual fans will be at the Rogers Centre, filling the seats. Not at home, sulking about how the Jays supposedly wronged Halladay during his final days with the team.
Nothing's changed. We've known for some time now that Doc was going to test the market. Here's what Ricciardi was quoted as saying on July 8, in the New York Post:
"We have kept him from free agency twice and I don't think we have the resources to keep him from free agency a third time, so I have to investigate what is out there ..."- J.P. Ricciardi
There's more. In the same blog post, Joel Sherman wrote that the organization and Doc had talked teams:
"Ricciardi said that Halladay has provided a long list of places he would not be willing to play, but the Toronto GM would not say if either New York club was on that list."- Joel Sherman
So when Ricciardi tells the scribes that Doc's going to test the market, can we all try to not lose our shit? Please? Don't fall into the media's trap; we all know, without a doubt, that Doc isn't the bad guy.
We also know that public relations isn't Ricciardi's forte. The world would be a better place if he'd just keep his mouth shut for one God damn day. But stop and think about the situation before you want to tear Ricciardi a new one. You don't think Ricciardi wanted Burnett to stay in his rotation? You don't think he wanted to add a bat like Bobby Abreu's to the lineup? He simply didn't have the cash. And now we're here, at the potential end of an era for the franchise, because Doc is going to become a free agent after the 2010 season. And that means he must be moved. Now, in the winter, or next July. He must be traded. Deal with it.
Fortunately, there are some people out there who do get it.
Here's Mike Wilner; he and I are on the exact same page:
"The other big piece of news was the revelation that Roy Halladay has told the Jays that he won’t sign an extension with the team before testing the free agent market after next season. ... Good for Roy Halladay. Were I him, no matter how much I loved it here, I wouldn’t re-sign without at least dipping a toe in the free agent waters. ... As I’ve said many times, there are 27 teams that have a better chance of making the playoffs than the Blue Jays do - every year. Halladay wants to win, and he’d prefer to win in Toronto, but he knows what he’s up against in the A.L. East until the Jays commit to competing financially with the big boys."- Wilnerology (reference h/t: Ghostrunner on First)
Odds and Ends:
Yes, the Jays did lose yesterday afternoon, for those of you that still care. Kevin Millar, batting cleanup, was of course the Jays' top performer on the day. The Tribe ended up taking two of three from Toronto, on the road. Yeah, that's about right ... After Jo-Bau's 0-for-4 performance, in which he left four runners on base, and costly error at third base, The Bautista Appreciation Society is looking for new members ... Goodbye David Dellucci. You left us, well, not too soon. You should have never been here in the first place ... I'll be live blogging Friday's Chicago White Sox vs Detroit Tigers 1:07 PM matchup over at The Score. I have a feeling it will be a touch less climactic than Thursday's White Sox game. What a mind-blasting catch. It's officially impossible to not like Mark Buehrle ... Doc's on the mound tonight, so I'll be at the game. If you're not there, I trust you have a good excuse. I'll tell Doc you said thanks ...
UPDATE: Go and read The Tao of Stieb's takedown of Griffin's bullshit blog post. It's spot fucking on. And it's no longer a one-man Ricciardi defence team. I'm The Tao's assistant; secondary legel counsel, yo.
July 23, 2009
I've got you covered for today's rubber match, a matinee affair, between the Blue Jays and Indians over at The Score, as Toronto continues its quest to reach the .500 mark. Mediocrity; it's unparalleled.
I know what you're thinking: lucky me, I get to type "Mark Rzepczynski" all afternoon. You're right, and you better believe he'll be referred to as RZep.
Click through - Indians vs. Jays live blog - and come join me. You know there's nothing quite like afternoon baseball to absolutely destroy your productivity levels at work. We'll be getting under way at 12:30 PM.
July 22, 2009
The Blue Jays are nine and a half games out of a playoff spot. So why the fuck did last night's loss sting so bad? Forget "Playoffs!!1", the new rallying cry should be ".500!!1"
Lyle Overbay's my boy. I've been a staunch supporter of the man who swatted 46 doubles, and put up a career high .880 OPS, in his first season with Toronto, back in 2006. But the pride of Centralia, Washington messed up last night. Look at that picture; he knows it. When it comes to Loverbay, his defense is usually reliable, and I'm rather enamored by his impressive .375 OBP; he's one patient cat. But the fact that he hasn't driven in a single God damn run in the month of July - 14 games - really irks me. Hitting wise, I'm beginning to think that 2006 was an anomaly. I don't see Overbay ever coming close to 92 RsBI again. (This is where I start drinking.)
Honestly, I'm tired of wondering, and bitching and moaning about, why Vernon Wells is hitting third, or fourth, in this lineup. Southpaw on the mound be damned. His .685 OPS in the three-hole is the lowest of any spot he's been placed in the batting order. His .287 OBP from the same spot is downright laughable. (Wells' .309 OBP, overall, and .523 OPS at the SkyDome, makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Repeatedly.) While V-Dub's scored 53 runs, good for second on the team, the earliest he should be batting is sixth. Hell, put him eighth. Definitely not third. I don't know what the fuck Cito Gaston is thinking sometimes. I love the guy, but his lineup antics have him well on his way to overstaying his welcome. (You know I'm frustrated when I'm sitting in the basement taking shots at The Cito.)
Can someone pretty please explain why Kevin Millar is still playing, let alone on this team at all? He's clearly cut from the same cloth as Brevonn Mencherstewart. Here are his monthly OPS numbers: April: .909; May: .647; June: .598; July: .526. I'm not the brightest mother fucker around, but does anyone else notice a trend? This team is two games below .500, with rookie after rookie throwing on the mound every night, and still employing Millar? Fuck off. Fuck a "clubhouse guy." Release his ass, Ricciardi. Free Travis Snider. For the love of God, free AAA All-Star Randy Ruiz, he of these statistics down in Vegas: 95 games played, 21 home runs, 85 RsBI, 227 total bases, .394 OBP, and .985 OPS.
I miss Gregg Zuan. Yeah, I said it. Rod Barajas is OK, it's just that I don't believe any Major League Baseball player should have an on-base percentage below .300. It's unacceptable. Rod's coming in at .283, with an OPS of .685. Quite pathetic. Quite. Back in 2004, 2005, and 2007, when Zaunie played over 100 games for our Blue Jays, he put up OPS numbers of .761 (.367 OBP), .729 (.355 OBP), and .752 (.341 OBP) respectively. Respectable, at the very least. To put it in perspective, in those three years mentioned (2004, 2005, and 2007), Zaun walked 171 times. In his entire MLB career, spanning 763 games, Barajas has walked 135 times. These will be, I hope, your last couple of months of watching The Captain behind the plate. Enjoy them.
Back on July 1st, 2008, Dustin "Fuck Off" Parkes, of Drunk Jays Fans fame, put together a Blue Jays YouTube montage to the tune This Year, by The Mountain Goats. The 2008 Jays were floundering near the .500 mark, unable to hit, and about to fire their manager. Needless to say, it was a brilliant montage, and the song was most apt. You know me; I love a good montage. (Who doesn't?) Thanks to MLB's batshit insane copyright standards, Parkes' work no longer exists. Now, I don't have the wherewithal to create my own montage, so I'm just going to post the song. The 2009 Blue Jays are flirting with .500, can't hit, employ one stubborn manager, and are on the verge of trading Roy Halladay. The more things change, the more they stay the same ...
"I am going to make it through this year if it kills me."
And a reminder: I'll be live blogging Thursday's Jays/Indians matinee over at The Score. Join me. We can be depressed together. 12:37 PM first pitch.
July 20, 2009
It was, as always, a pleasure to watch Roy Halladay, this time from my perch in section 521, at the SkyDome yesterday afternoon. No, I don't believe it was the last time I'll see Doc in a Blue Jays uniform. And, yes, let's conveniently ignore the fact that, like my hero George Costanza, every instinct I have is usually wrong.
If it was, in fact, goodbye, Doc went out in typical Halladay fashion: a complete game six-hitter against the Boston Red Sox, in which he retired 20 of the final 21 batters he faced; seven strikeouts, nary a walk, and 78 of 105 (74%!!1) pitches thrown for a strike. Vintage fucking Harry Leroy Halladay III.
For a moment, early on in the game, I doubted Halladay. Ridiculous, I know. (I'm an idiot.) After giving up five hits and a run over the first three frames, I wondered if Doc's post-D/L stint struggles would continue. The answer, after innings four through nine, was an unequivocal "no." Halladay was sublime; save for a David Ortiz single to centre field, he was unhittable the rest of the way. It was quite the performance, one I've honestly grown accustomed to witnessing. Doc has spoiled us; he's definitely spoiled me.
There were some ominous signs: Brandy Halladay's comments, and Doc's tip of his hat to the crowd. It may really have been goodbye. A goodbye I'm not ready for. One thing's for certain: we, as baseball fans, have been tremendously lucky to have been able to watch Doc do what he does in Toronto for the past 10 years. Thanks Roy. It's been a pleasure.
If you haven't read my post on the forever popular J.P. Ricciardi - A Tale of Three GMs; Part II: J.P. Ricciardi - please do so. I'd love to know your thoughts. If Rogers was willing to spend money enough to compete in the AL East, none of this shit would be going down, plain and simple. If the plan is to continue to tighten the purse strings, Ricciardi's got no choice but to make a deal.
Interesting times, to say the very least.
See you on Friday, Doc. Maybe. Hopefully.
UPDATE: The Tao of Stieb has us covered on this most depressing Monday. And he's right:
"Oh, Roy. We're not sure what we're going to do without you. But no one - not Philly fans, or Dodger fans, or whoever - is ever going to love you like Blue Jays fans do."
True that. I need a drink.
Also, I'll be live blogging Thursday afternoon's matinee between the Indians and Blue Jays for The Score. Stay tuned for some links.
July 18, 2009
You know that whole "maintain an even keel during the incredibly long baseball season" thing? Yeah, it didn't really work out for me. I kind of, very slightly, got caught up in the Blue Jays' 27-14 start. I seem to recall throwing around words like "pennant!1" and "playoffs!1" with frighteningly regularity. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Well, the wheels have fallen off. Three games under .500, and counting. Even the Baltimore Orioles are within striking distance. According to Beyond the Boxscore's July 16th Playoff Odds, J.P. Ricciardi's Jays now have a 0% chance of winning the AL East, or capturing the Wild Card. Now, I'm no math whiz, but 0% isn't very good odds. A 2-17 record over two road trips from hell will do that to your chances.
Reality. She's a whore. And with her comes everyone's favourite pastime: blame J.P. Ricciardi.
I won't do it. I'm taking the high road. I'm blaming ownership.
In late 2005, there appeared to be a plan in place. (No, it wasn't a five-year plan, asshole.) Ricciardi was signed to an extension through 2010, and landed free agents B.J Ryan and A.J. Burnett. In the winter of 2006, the team tried to re-sign Ted Lilly, and went hard after Gil Meche. Instead, Ricciardi ended up with Frank Thomas, and Vernon Wells' signature on a contract extension. (I'll have a post up about Wells' contract in the coming days, so let's just ignore that elephant in the room.)
Now, I'll be the first to admit that Ricciardi's free agent acquisitions didn't work out. But free agency's a gamble. Especially in Toronto, where players have to be lured to town with ludicrous contracts and preposterous option-year contingencies. It's the nature of the beast. When trying to bring big-name, impact free agents to Toronto, the franchise will always begin the process at a disadvantage.
Yet it seemed Rogers was willing to pay the price. It seemed as though ownership was willing to spend the money to surround Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay, while Doc is, most importantly, under contract through 2010, with talent enough to get the Jays back to the playoffs.
Until mid-2008. That's when it was decided that Rogers wouldn't provide the funds for Ricciardi to re-sign A.J. Burnett, who now finally seems to "get it," or to dip back into the free agent pool. You don't think Ricciardi would have liked to take a flier on and throw some money at a guy like Bobby Abreu, or Adam Dunn?
Instead of increasing payroll while Halladay is still under contract, Rogers has done the opposite. And with only $80.5 million to work with, J.P. and the Blue Jays haven't got a prayer.
I'm not saying Ricciardi's a fantastic general manager. I'm saying he's not the monster he's made out to be. Ricciardi put this team together saying it could hit, and it can: the Jays have scored 438 runs this season. That number is good for second in either the AL Central, or the AL West. In the AL East, it's good for fourth. Ricciardi's Jays can hit, just not well enough to compete in their division. J.P.'s hands are tied; there's only so much he can do with so little money. Even the close to $100 million 2008 payroll wasn't enough.
I must admit, I find tremendous irony in all the vitriol being slung Ricciardi's way of late. He tried his best to temper expectations coming into this season, and what did Cito's boys do, but fly out the gates. I know we piss on J.P. for lying a fuck ton, but this is exactly where he said he expected the team to be: fighting for its life to stay above water. Yet it's the GM's fault. J.P. just can't win. Ever. Not in this town. (It's why he lives in Boston.)
I can't imagine it was an easy decision to send B.J. Ryan packing with a cheque for $15 million dollars. But he was dead weight. He was, unfathomably, bitching and whining dead weight. I liked the move to give Ryan his walking papers; in a way, it was Ricciardi admitting his mistake. It was J.P. learning from last year's mistakes - Brevin Mencherson, with a side of Shannon Stewart, anyone? My man Drew - LTB from Ghostrunner on First said it best:
"Is it a shame and a sin to wash their hands of all that money? Of course. At least he's no longer a detriment to the ball club. Yet people are mad at the GM again. So last year he held on to underperforming players and we got mad. This year he cuts his losses with an underperforming player and we get mad again? I don't get it. A player without trade value as well as on-field value is worthless; no matter how much it costs."
What's next for Mr. Ricciardi? Oh yeah, the business of trading Roy Halladay. If you haven't yet read "On Roy Halladay and the persistence of change" from The Tao of Stieb, I urge you to take the time to do so. While I have tremendous man-love for Doc, I'm not sure when he became the beginning and the end of Toronto Blue Jays fandom for so many followers of the team. Here's the one sentence that has truly remained with me from that immaculate piece from The Tao:
"The possibility exists that the foundation of the next great Blue Jays team - the one we've waited for since 1993 - is waiting for us, just the other side of this potential Halladay trade."
Amen. Halladay's unbelievable; a machine. But he's not bigger than the Blue Jays.
One part of me is okay with Doc being traded for the selfish return he may deliver. Another is because, after 10 glorious years in Toronto, the best pitcher in baseball - the best pitcher I've ever watched on a regular basis - deserves to have the opportunity to pitch in October, when baseball's lights shine brightest. This beautiful game of baseball, it's a different beast. There's no sneaking into the post-season as the eighth seed, and going on a magical, Cinderalla-type run. OK, fine, the 2007 Colorado Rockies are the one exception. But you know what I mean: Doc deserves to pitch in the playoffs, at least once, during his illustrious career. Whether in Toronto or, sadly, someplace else.
A case could be made that Ricciardi should never, ever sign another unrestricted free agent. But when looking at J.P.'s trade history, I've got no qualms about him being the guy to trade Roy Halladay. It surely won't be his decision alone, and I'm positive the organization is asking for the moon. If someone's willing to pay the price, do it, pull the trigger. I just can't shake the feeling that no matter what the Jays might offer Halladay if he's still a Blue Jay come winter, he's not passing up on free agency for a third time. And who can blame him?
Finally, a few days ago, someone came at me with the good old Ricciardi "five-year plan" quip. Apparently, it never fails. Or gets old. Well, I've had just about enough of that shit. I emailed Jeff Blair about it - whether the "five-year plan" ever truly existed, what happened to it, and why some writers in this town (see Griffin, Richard) still bring it up. Hey, he's got a lot more access than you or I do. Blair, rudey that he is, replied in straight-to-the-point Jeff Blair-like fashion:
"[Paul] Godfrey killed it."
There you have it. Come at me with something else, yo.
At the end of the day, you know what would be nice? If Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment owned the Toronto Blue Jays. Ricciardi could certainly use their deep pockets.
July 16, 2009
Well, I finally did it. After years of saying I would, and after years of putting it off, yesterday, at last, it happened.
It's true: I'm the proud new papa of my very own Tomas Kaberle jersey. Ain't she a beauty?
It was a tough call, Kaberle over Luke Schenn. But, at the end of the day, it had to be done. Not enough people in this town pay homage to the man who was drafted 204th overall back in '96, and who has played 738 games on the blue line for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
What's that? No, asshole, Kabby's not being traded. And even if he is dealt, it doesn't change a thing. Kaberle is, and shall remain, one of the best defenceman to ever play for the Leafs. I will represent #15 with pride.
Whether you love the Leafs or hate them, you have to admit, there's something about that sweater. It's classic; the perfect jersey.
Anyway, you know this momentous occasion wouldn't be complete without the world famous ode to Tomas Kaberle, the lyrics to which I may or may not have completely memorized ...
The best $129.99 I've ever spent. Kabby for life, yo.
July 14, 2009
Reason number 3,543 why you should despise Bob Costas, and everything he stands for in life:
"The starting pitcher, obviously, for the American League, representing, at least for the moment, the Toronto Blue Jays ... Roy Halladay."
Oh, well done, Robert. Bravo.
Fuck Costas. This is about Doc, and Joe Maddon rightfully selecting him to start tonight's All-Star game in the house that Albert Pujols built.
Look, I'm hella proud of Aaron Hill; a couple of years ago I predicted he'd be an all-star second baseman. But no one represents Toronto like Doc.
For those of you who might be new to the blog, I made it my mission this summer to be in attendance for every Halladay start at the
Rogers Centre SkyDome. I wanted to make sure I never took Doc for granted. It's ironic, because the thought of him being traded never even crossed my mind.
So far, I'm seven-for-nine. I missed Doc's start on May 17th, while a good friend tied the knot, and his effort on June 29th, while my Grandmother lay waiting for what comes after this crazy, earthly experience.
I know Doc will only be out there for two or three innings, but if there's one road start I could attend this season, it would be tonight's.
I trust that the esteemed Bob Costas won't be doing on-field introductions so, whether you're watching at home, or at a bar, take a minute to appreciate the hat Doc will surely tip to the crowd. It's the same hat he'll be wearing in the Baseball Hall of Fame one day.
"Roy Halladay, TORONTO BLUE JAYS."
For now and, hopefully, forevermore.
July 11, 2009
In honour of Scott Rolen, whose 25-game hitting streak came to an end last night ...
Scott Rolen; his .325 average and sublime defence are good for your soul.
Rumour has it J.P. Ricciardi is shopping Rolen, and his 2010 $11.625 million dollar salary. If that's the case, fuck, it's been a pleasure. All mine.
Greatest Blue Jay of all time.
July 09, 2009
First things first, I've got to thank Banu Turkoglu. If it wasn't for her, Hedo Turkoglu would likely be blazing trails out in Portland, and I probably wouldn't be writing this post. The Turkoglu family's decision to pick Toronto as their free agency destination of choice set off a chain of events last week, culminating yesterday in a new and improved Toronto Raptors roster. Gone are Anthony Parker, Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, Nathan Jawai, and a 2016 second round draft pick. Bryan Colangelo got the man he wanted, a star in Turkoglo, and filled out his bench by acquiring Devean George, and Antoine Wright, whose contracts both expire after the 2009/2010 season.
The best part? Toronto comes out of the deal with money to burn; money nobody expected them to have. While I have no idea how he did it, or even what it really means, Colangelo's still got the mid-level cap exception of about $5.9 million, and the biannual exception of about $1.9 million, to spend. And the team is $12 million and change below the salary cap, with some of that loot reportedly headed former Raptors Carlos Delfino and Rasho Nesterovic's way.
Clearly Bryan Colangelo can have his cake, and eat it too. And he's not done yet.
All this only one day after locking up the future of the franchise, Andrea Bargnani. As we head into year four of Bargnani's five-year-plan, the Italian seems poised and ready to break out.
And here we all were, in the days after the Turkoglu signing was rumoured to only be a formality, wondering about the state of the Raptors' bench. Turns out, as Colangelo himself wrote over at RaptorBlog.com, we never had anything to worry about.
These certainly aren't Rob Babcock's Toronto Raptors. The conclusion, agreed upon by most: Colangelo's a genius. He gets what he wants. He wanted some Big Turk when he was running the show in Phoenix, and wasn't going to let him get away twice. Turkoglu's agent credited Colangelo's persistence, above all else (yes, above even our most wonderfully cosmopolitan and multicultural city), in getting the deal done.
I love the Turkoglu signing, if only for the fact that it raises the self-confidence of a city that isn't used to attracting big-name free agents on the basketball (and baseball) side of the coin. Too many Toronto Raptors have weaseled their way out of playing here. Fuck Vince Carter, I'm still upset about Antonio Davis and his quip about "O Canada" and the metric system. It's heartening to land Turkoglu; it feels like a coup. (Suck it, Portland.)
Is a five-year deal too long? Perhaps. The contract reminds me of the one the Leafs gave Jason Blake two summers ago; you either love it, or you hate it. This much is true: the 6'10 Turkoglu gives the Raptors another bona fide scoring option, especially late in games. Chris Bosh isn't exactly what the kids call "clutch," and I've got no problem with Turkoglu taking the rock with the game on the line. In fact, I'm all for it. And for a guy who played with a rebounding vacuum in Dwight Howard, 5.3 boards per game impresses me in a way it probably shouldn't.
Has there ever been a stronger starting five - Bargnani, Bosh, Turkoglu, DeMar DeRozan, and Jose Calderon - in Raptors history? A bench of George, Wright, Delfino, Nesterovic, Reggie Evans and Roko Ukic doesn't sound too bad, either. Playoffs!1
Just when it seemed like the lustre had worn off of Bryan Colangelo, he reminds us why he's one of the most creative minds in basketball. His work sends a message not only to Raptors fans, but also to Chris Bosh: a 33-win season will not be tolerated. Stick around, Mr. 20/10, the future is bright.
The Summer of Brian Burke? Not so fast. The Maple Leafs' general manager may have just been outdone by his MLSE counterpart. And if it's a competition, I'm all for it.
Bryan Colangelo's office: where amazing happens.
Coming up, part two: the plight of J.P. Ricciardi ...
July 08, 2009
Wow, B.J. Ryan really is finished. Released, unconditionally, with a cheque for $15 million.
So long, Beej. Your fist pumps won't soon be forgotten.
OK, they might be. In all honesty, there isn't much time to reflect. The money budgeted towards Ryan in 2010 will go towards Roy Halladay, right? Right?!?!
UPDATE: Listening to Prime Time Sports on TheFan right now, Jeff Blair's hosting, and following reactions on Twitter. J.P. Ricciardi is being roasted on the radio (by calllers), and online. Nope, none of this - the Doc trade talks, the releasing of B.J. Ryan - has anything to do with Rogers tightening the purse strings.
The haters just don't get it. They simply continue to hate.
And neither does The Ack. But, really, we're left with no choice.
It's not news that J.P. Ricciardi will listen to offers for Roy Halladay; that's his job, fools.
What is news, and worthy of a drink or seven, is the fact that Ricciardi has "spoken with [Doc] and prepared him for the possibility that he will bring trade possibilities to the pitcher in the weeks or months ahead."
Now that, that is fucked up.
I love Doc. With all my Blue Jays fandom being. In all my years, I've never seen anyone do it better. But if he won't sign a contract extension, and I completely understand him potentially not wanting to, Ricciardi's got to trade him. Period.
I found it ironic that on the night Halladay speculation hit the fan, Marc Rzepczynski, fresh from the minors (he's never had an ERA higher than 2.93, at any level), went out and threw a gem against a very tough, all-star riddled lineup. Can we keep him?
Look, all I know is that I can't deal with another superstar - especially Doc, THE superstar - leaving town and the Blue Jays receiving nothing in return, a la Carlos Delgado. I just can't. He's in the middle of the Sports And The City banner, for fuck's sake.
The chances of a trade are slim. But the lure of 2010 may not be enough to get Doc's signature on the dotted line. Basically, we're fucked. The team, the fans, the banner; everyone.
If Doc leaves, I trust in Ricciardi that the package coming north will be formidable. If Doc leaves, he'll also take a part of me with him. His new team will become my new team; team 1A, if you will. (First Mats, now Doc. This is some bullshit.)
There's nothing I want more than for Halladay to win the World Series. Because I know there's nothing Halladay wants more. In a perfect world, it happens in Toronto. But if I've learned anything over the years, it's that dreams of this nature don't come true.
It's not about the money for Doc. Never has been. He's the anti-A.J. Burnett. It's about giving himself the best odds to win, as the window closes, ever so slowly, year after year. And I can't be mad at him for that.
I will always root for Harry Leroy Halladay III. Whether in a Blue Jays uniform, or another.
In grief-stricken times such as these, I'm looking for positives. Any positives. Here's one, I think, from Blair Facts, which should be high atop your Monday morning reading list:
"After watching Roy Halladay's face following Johnny Damon's cheap homerun at the new Yankee Stadium on Saturday, I guess it's safe to scratch the Bronx as a possible future destination for Doc."
- Jeff Blair, GlobeSports
Thank God. Anywhere but New York, or Boston. Please.
Looks like I picked the right year to embark on Mission: Doc, a quest to watch every Halladay start at the Rog Mahal. It might be his last.
(I promised myself I wouldn't cry.)
(I promised myself I wouldn't cry.)
UPDATE: If Rogers gives the green light, and that's a HUGE if, put a four-year $80 million extension in front of Doc. If he signs, and Rogers allows the payroll to balloon (I'm thinking $120 million) so the Jays can surround Doc with the necessary parts, end of story.
If Rogers doesn't give Ricciardi the green light to show Doc the money, or surround him with adequate talent, well, then he must be traded.
It's really up to Rogers, not Ricciardi.
Way too many ifs.
UPDATE #2: "Ricciardi acted on Doc's orders." The fuck? If that's the case, just keep it in mind, Ricciardi haters.
UPDATE #3: From Joel Sherman, of the New York Post: "This is not a decision initiated by Halladay. In other words, Halladay did not come to Toronto and say, 'get me out of here, my baseball biological clock is ticking and I want to go some place I can win and get paid.'"
Not that I believed Doc was behind this, but it's still a relief.
However, as The Ack pointed out, the money quote, from J.P.:
"We have kept him from free agency twice and I don't think we ahve the resources to keep him from free agency a third time, so I have to investigate what is out there. But my gut feeling is no trade gets done because we value him as one of the five best players in the game, and I don't think people will meet the price tag for that kind of talent."
For now, that's the final word.
Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs are, as the kids say, the talk of the town.
The following is from Boob Gainey, a loyal and regular commenter over at the filthiest, and at the same time greatest, Montreal Canadiens blog of them all: Four Habs Fans ...
"We will definitely need [Gregory] Stewart and BGL [Big Georges Laraque] when we go into Toronto or Boston."
Yes. Yes you will. Actually, you'll probably need more than that.
Here's to truculence, yo, and it scaring the bejeezus out of the opposition.
Cheers; welcome to your Brian Burke years.
July 07, 2009
Brian Burke is spoiling us. Seriously.
After using the force to lure Mike Komisarek from the dark side, and acquiring cruncher Garnet Exelby, I figured the Francois Beauchemin ship had sailed past these parts.
Wrong. Wonderfully wrong.
Beauchemin has arrived. An already truculent defense core is now even more so. After valiantly enduring the John Ferguson Jr. era, Leafs fans are finally getting what they deserve from management: competence.
With 47 NHL-calibre defenseman now in tow, the rumour mill is a churning. Listen up: Tomas Kaberle isn't leaving town. Stop talking about him being traded, stop writing about him being traded, and stop tweeting about him being traded. It isn't happening. If it was, a deal would have been made by now. And don't bother bringing up Phil Kessel. That trade was based upon draft picks not yet selected; that dream, while certainly not mine, is dead.
Who, then, are the odd men out, you ask? Simple: Mike Van Ryn, and Jeff Finger.
Van Ryn, the ghost of Carlo Colaiacovo, obviously has a much easier contract to move; he'll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Why keep him over Kaberle, who has two years left on his deal? Clearly the market for Tomas isn't what Burke thinks it should be, or he'd have dealt him by now. At this point, with the defense Burke's put together, I don't believe a top-six forward is a priority. Remember, it's not about scoring goals; it's about lowering the 293 goals the Leafs allowed last season. And I have no doubt that number is going to plummet.
Here's my six man rotation on defense, assuming the brittle Van Ryn will be traded:
Tomas Kaberle & Mike Komisarek
Luke Schenn & Francois Beauchemin
Garnet Exelby & Ian White
Finger and his $3.5 million dollar contract, along with Jonas Frogren and Anton Stralman, are the spare parts.
With four defensive defenseman making up the six, Kaberle would come in handy, especially on the power play. He could conceivably quarterback both units, for the entire two minutes.
There's also been some chatter as to having White play the wing, and Finger take a regular shift on defense. While I know it's ridiculous to sit a guy making $3.5 million, I think White's got a bright future on the Leafs, but only as a defenseman. He earned the trust of Wilson and co. last season with his solid play, and the admiration of us fans with his moustache.
According to Behind The Net, while playing five-on-five, White trailed only Luke Schenn in ice time per game (17:26 to 17:37). His 0.92 five-on-five Behind The Net rating was tops on the team by a healthy margin among regulars. And of all the regulars who played "defense" last season for Toronto, White's 2.74 GAON/60 (Goals Against On Ice, per 60 minutes) five-on-five rating was the lowest.
And this is the guy we should remove off the blue line? Fuhgeddaboudit!1
White's also young, and cheap. He takes priority over the Fingers, Van Ryns, Frogrens and Stralmans of the world.
Remember, last season, San Jose took Kyle McLaren and his $2.5 million cap hit and stuck him in the minors until they were able to trade him to Philadelphia. This is the reality of the new salary capped NHL. A reality Finger might have to accept.
A while back, I asked the ever-prescient Down Goes Brown for his thoughts on Jeff Finger, and, as usual, he hit the nail on the head:
"It's not that Finger is awful (he's not) or that he's overpaid (he is.) He's just not what the Leafs need. The focus in Toronto should be on finding young players and putting them in position to succeed. Signing a veteran minor-leaguer to a rich long-term contract to anchor the third defensive pairing isn't on that list."Finger isn't the disaster he's made out to be by some. He's just a bad fit - one that the Leafs will likely be stuck with for three more years."
I'm with DGB; just because we're stuck with Finger doesn't mean he should take precedence over Ian White, who was a more productive, versatile and useful defenseman for the Maple Leafs in 2008/2009.
Back to Beauchemin (this post is all over the fucking place); he's got people excited. Even Pension Plan Puppets' Chemmy, an advocate of "tank nation," is daring to dream:
"I'm going to say it just once, and probably deny it if you bring it up: PLAYOFFS!!!1"
Yes indeed, Jammies.
And Jonas Gustavsson is
on the way officially a Maple Leaf.
It just keeps getting better.
July 06, 2009
The baseball Gods were most definitely in the house that dirty Yankee money built on Monday afternoon. How else to explain John McDonald's home run? And three missed calls by the umpires in favour of the Blue Jays?
It was the baseball Gods' way of making up for some their recent douchebaggery, in respect to Toronto's injured arms. Try as the healthy arms might to blow a 7-1 lead, and Brandon League, Jeremy Accardo, and Jason "The Sausage King" Frasor really gave it their all, the Jays weren't leaving New York without a win.
While it certainly doesn't even the score, the efforts from above were certainly appreciated. With Marc Rzepczynski taking the ball tomorrow (who?), hopefully there's more where that came from.
Keeping with the appreciation vibe, I'm very thankful for Scott Rolen. Now at 23 games, I hope his hitting streak can outlast Shawn Green's team record of 28. After only a year and a half in Toronto, Rolen is already well-deserving of having some Jays history attached to his name. He's that fucking good. (GBOAT!!1)
Also: Ricky Romero. Sweet, sweet Ricky Romero. Believe that he could win Rookie of the Year.
UPDATE: It's rare, but sometimes the "Monkey Army" at Drunk Jays Fans is actually good for something. Case in point: one of them pointed out that Shaun Marcum took the hill for the Dunedin Blue Jays Monday night. Three innings pitched, two hits allowed, and one strikeout. In typical fashion, he retired six via groundout, and two via flyout. North of fucking Steeles! I can definitely drink to that.
Back in 1999, the Toronto Blue Jays canned B.J. Birdie. (Is it "Birdie," or "Birdy"?) Ten years later, it seems the same fate awaits another flightless bird, B.J. Ryan.
Seriously, I can't imagine it's worth it for J.P. Ricciardi to use valuable Rogers daytime minutes to call another team about The Beej. He'd be laughed off the phone, time and time again.
As general manager of the Blue Jays, I think Ricciardi has done more good than bad over the years. But in hindsight, which is easy for me to use, pantless from my mother's basement, Ryan's signing might go down as J.P.'s worst.
It was tough to watch Ryan, the $12 million dollar once-dominant closer, come into yesterday's game in the fourth inning, the first man out of the bullpen to try and hold an 8-to-7 lead against New York. He failed. Miserably. Of the five relievers who tossed four-and-a-third innings of relief on Sunday, Ryan was the only one to allow any runs. The fact he walked two Yankees, his eleventh and twelfth walks in only nine innings pitched on the road (a 2.89 WHIP away from the SkyDome, egads!), was the tipping point.
The Beej is finished, yo.
I don't envy the person who had to give B.J. Birdie his walking papers back in the day. It couldn't have been easy. Ryan's remaining salary be damned, someone's eventually going to have to make the tough call on him, too. Delegate to your heart's content, Ricciardi.
The Yankees have had their way with the Jays, and Toronto's now seven games back. Worse yet, Cito's boys are only one game above .500. A game above water. Hard to believe, really. I thought all that .500 talk left town with John Gibbons.
After starting the season 27-and-14, the Jays have gone 15-and-27. From the highest high, to the lowest low, to right back where they started.
Half a season remains, and there's no reason to believe the Jays can't win 27 of their next 41 games. (Actually, that's not the case; there are a bevy of reasons, but fuck discussing them.) Sure, they'll have to do it against better quality opposition, using less experienced pitchers, and with a completely useless David Dellucci in left field, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
UPDATE: Oh yeah, the All-Star game. Doc and Aaron Hill are on their way. That's not news. We knew they were all-stars a month and a half ago. Scott Rolen and Marco Scutaro, while not officially, are all-stars in my books. Same with Scott Downs. And vote for Adam Lind. He'd vote for you.
July 05, 2009
Well, fuck. If those standings don't have you reaching for a drink, your affinity with sobriety is a lot stronger than mine.
Roy Halladay went into Saturday's ball game in the Bronx having allowed seven home runs in 109 innings. In seven innings of work yesterday afternoon, he surrendered three long balls; one a fly ball to Johnny Damon. Nope, nothing strange about new Yankee Stadium. Nothing at all. (Fuck the Yankees, and their new ballpark.)
If I haven't yet developed a full-blown complex from supporting the Blue Jays while they play in the AL East, it can't be far off. I'm not sure how much more I can take - the Yankees and Red Sox and their deep pockets, and the Tampa Bay Rays finally doing what it took the Pittsburgh Penguins only a few years to do: tank their way to success. It's frustrating. Like you wouldn't believe.
Don't look now, but it's those devilish Rays with the division's best run differential (+78). The Jays led in that respect during the salad days of April and early May. All of a sudden, the Jays are seven games behind Boston, and six behind the Yankees for the Wild Card. If I could take solace in the fact that Toronto is better than Baltimore, I would. But that's like being proud of yourself for finishing the race ahead of the one-legged kid. Where's the God damn pride in that?
Now that divisional play has begun in earnest, I can't help but look back to June. Twelve wins and 14 losses; simply not good enough. To compound matters, Scott Richmond just hit the disabled list. It's unbelievable, really, the luck, or lack thereof, when it comes to Toronto's pitching staff. As if playing in the AL East wasn't hard enough. Fuck off, baseball Gods.
Oh yeah, Vernon Wells. As you know by now, The Cito finally - no, mercifully - moved him down in the lineup to the six-hole, and he's responded. Well, kind of. Three-for-eight, with two doubles, two runs scored, a walk, a home run, and one RBI. We remain at SEVERE on the Hatred Advisory System. Until Wells starts helping this team win some games, it's where we shall remain. Hard to believe that on July 5th, Wells and Alex Rios are batting sixth and seventh in the Blue Jays lineup. Overpaid idiots, the both of them. I can only hope they're taking notes when
Scott Hoss Rolen, he of the 21-game hitting streak, steps up to the plate.
All that being said, there's still half a season to play. After the Jays took the loss in extras on Saturday, I immersed myself in Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. I'm coming down the home stretch of the massive 748-page book, and came across a most apt quote on page 686:
"There is always hope - hope enough to balance our despair. Or we would be lost."
There is much baseball to be played. Fuck the AL East; when Toronto does make the playoffs, having overcome the odds will make it that much sweeter. Believe.
If not, there's always 2010. Am I rite?
July 03, 2009
This one's a tad disturbing, but too good not to share. Enjoy ...
I'm not sure what's more pathetic: the fact that this clown is swearing at a t-shirt, the fact that he couldn't find a Komisarek jersey to burn, or the fact that Francais Ray Finkle actually videotaped his little exorcism.
Stay classy, Habs fans.
July 02, 2009
Shut up. Just, shut up. You had me at "athletic wingman."
*H/T to the fellas at The Tao of Stieb, the best Toronto Blue Jays blog out there, for inspiring, and perfecting the art of, the one sentence post.
Brian Burke, if nothing else, is a man of his word. Saith Burke, back on November 29, 2008, when he became the man to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs:
"The first thing and probably the easiest thing to change on your team is the amount of the snarl, the amount of the bite. That's an important part of how my teams play."
July 1st has come and gone, and the Leafs have increased their snarl and bite quotient tenfold, thanks to the acquisitions of Colton Orr, Mike Komisarek, and Garnet Exelby. It's safe to say the winds of change have arrived. Burke is making this "his" team.
I'm rather pleased with the additions. Mostly because I hate all three of those guys.
Here's what I've written about Komisarek in the past:
"...Komisarek is a douche. If there's one guy on the Habs I want to kick square in the groin, it's Komisarek."Mike Komisarek's an All-Star? Fuck off, Montreal."
There's even a tag on the blog in honour of Toronto's newest defenceman: "Mike Komisarek = douchebag." Obviously, it will never be used again. He's our All-Star defenceman now, yo.
Yesterday, I loathed Komisarek. Today, I look forward to seeing him don the blue and white, along with the alternate captain's "A." Welcome to the good side, Mike.
The "A" on Komisarek's jersey will come from the sweater of the departed Pavel Kubina. He will be sorely missed. I enjoyed Kubina's time in Toronto, especially his booming shot from the point, and am lamenting the fact that one half of the Czech connection on defence has been traded away. Such is life. Players, they come and go.
In return, in Exelby, the Leafs get another stay-at-home defenceman I've never particularly liked. Mostly because the bastard tried - rather well, I might add - to decapitate Mats Sundin.
Well, Exelby's a Leaf now, and here's why his tenure in Toronto might be slightly arousing:
Komisarek and Exelby bring zero offence to the table. Instead they bring a penchant for open-ice bodychecks, something lacking around here since the days of Russian warriors Dmitri Yushkevich and Danny Markov. And that scratches me right where I itch.
The two also can't possibly not help improve the Leafs' absolutely fucking pathetic 74.7% penalty killing percentage.
Speaking of bringing nothing to the table offensively, that brings us to Colton Orr. He fights. That's it, that's all. He is what he is. And at $1 million a season over the next four campaigns, I'll take him over Brad May, Andre Deveaux, Ben Ondrus and, especially, Ryan Hollweg any day of the week.
Of course many Leafs fans, never satisfied and always bitching, are wondering when and who Burke is going to land up front. (Rick Nash, 2010!) Sure, I've got questions as well, and was hoping Burke might land Mike Cammalleri or Brian Gionta, who both ended up in Montreal, land of the midgets. But I'm with Burke: the back-end was rightfully the Leafs' first and foremost priority.
On a quick aside, the best news of the day was the free agent forward signing that didn't happen in Toronto: Chris Neil, along with his ugly mug, remains an Ottawa Senator. While I rooted for Bryan Marchment in a Leafs uniform, even I have my limits. Crisis averted. And, still on Ottawa, I love Dany Heatley. Anyone who fucks the Senators so gloriously gets a pass in my books.
Back to business: the Leafs allowed an embarrassing 293 goals last season; worst in the league. They scored a respectable 250 goals. Sure, Nik Antropov's 21 goals, Dominic Moore's 12 goals, and Pavel Kubina's 14 goals are gone, but I'm not worried about it. I fully expect Nikolai Kulemin to improve on his 15-goal rookie campaign, and John Mitchell to pot more than his rookie total of 12. Nik Hagman's a 30-goal man if healthy, there's no way Lee Stempniak scores only 11 goals in 60 games again, and I believe Jiri Tlusty is ready to make the full-time jump to the NHL after becoming a point-per-game player in the AHL.
The goals will come. I haven't even mentioned the collegiate cats Burke was able to sign a few months ago. But it's time to focus on what's wrong with this team, and not worry about what might or might not happen up front. The priority, as it rightfully God damn should have been, and as Burke clearly signalled it was with his moves, is getting that 293 goals against number down to 230. And I'm confident our new defensive core - a shut-down threesome of Luke Schenn, Komisarek and Exelby - along with a healthy Vesa Toskala and soon-to-be-signed Jonas Gustavsson (there's no way Burke's NOT getting him), can make that happen.
Don't get me wrong; if in the coming days Burke can add a forward, preferably a centre, I certainly wouldn't mind. It would be the icing on our truculent, stay-at-home defencemen cake. Mats Sundin, anyone?
July 01, 2009
We're doing it up live at The Score.
Follow through on the link: FREE AGENT FRENZY LIVEBLOG
The Sedins are off the market, but Mike Cammalleri, Manny Malhotra and Francois Beauchemin will be Maple Leafs in no time.
And happy Canada Day!