October 27, 2009
I'm in Amsterdam, on route to New Delhi. I don't have much time. I paid three Euros for 15 valuable minutes on the internet.
I'll be back next week, and my biggest fear was coming home to the still-winless Toronto Maple Leafs. I need not worry anymore.
I'm celebrating the Maple Leafs' victory with the Dutch, and feel just about the same as Tomas Kaberle and Lee Stempniak, above.
Kaberle, five points. That's my boy.
October 26, 2009
Toronto FC, in the biggest game of its young existence, delivered the type of pathetic performance only a Toronto team could in a must-win situation.
The Toronto Maple Leafs? A strong, and much better, effort. But another loss. Another fucking loss. I don't know about you, but when I think about the Leafs, I find it impossible not to shake my head in disgust. There's certainly no pressure on Phil Kessel to live up to that 2010 first-round draft pick, which I pray - to Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna ... you name 'em, I'm praying to 'em - will not be a lottery pick.
And to end the weekend, a champagne shower of one A.J. Burnett. What we all wanted to see. Fucking Yankee$.
October 22, 2009
Even the New York Islanders finally won a game.
What makes those standings hurt all the more is the fact that the Air Canada Centre is once again an easy place to play.
I know this is only Ron Wilson's second season coaching the team, but if he can't get the penalty kill up to at least 80%, he should be fired.
The ominous start to the season has left me detached from the team and thinking: fuck truculence. I'd rather have skill.
I'm with the ever quotable Jim Mora: "I just hope we can win a game."
(And a friendly reminder: please make sure to vote in the poll to your right.)
October 16, 2009
I'm off to the beautiful, sunny, and warm Las Vegas strip. I've got bets to make: $100 each on the Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup, the Raptors to win the NBA Finals, and the Blue Jays to win the World Series.
I'm hoping the stars will align and, in the end, deliver the trifecta. Considering my odds, I might be able to retire. Freedom 27.
When I return, I trust I'll find the Maple Leafs in the win column.
See you next week.
(And let me know what you think of the white background.)
October 13, 2009
Five games into the season, we Leafs fans have a lot to be thankful for: the NHL's only winless team (the New York Islanders don't count), its worst defensive club (24 goals against in five games), a 63% success rate on the penalty kill, and a "starting goalie" with a .812 save percentage and 5.56 GAA.
The roster isn't strong. I get that. But I shouldn't be left weeping every time I tune in to watch a game.
While I've never much believed in the notion that a coach has a hand in how his team starts a game, or a period, I'm beginning to wonder about Ron Wilson. It's much easier to blame him for the fact the Leafs seem to always be trailing by a goal or two five minutes after the puck drops. And I've got to blame someone not named Vesa Toskala.
Granted it's only been a year and change, but horrendous defensive zone play and suspect penalty killing have begun to define Wilson's tenure in Toronto. Hopefully that'll change once Jonas Gustavsson takes up permanent residence between the pipes, but I'm worried. Enough to be thinking about the ex, Paul Maurice. And no Leafs coach should ever leave me pining for Maurice's return. I just can't shake the feeling: if Wilson couldn't get it done in San Jose, there's no way he accomplishes anything of substance (playoffs!!1) with the Maple Leafs.
In all seriousness: I think I might have actually, truly convinced myself that the Leafs would quality for the post-season. That's what makes the 0-4-1 start so difficult. Truculence is great and all, but I'd rather it be served in victory. There's only so many useless, staged fights I can watch.
The Joey MacDonald era kicks off tonight, and I hope it begins with me looking skywards in gratitude, rather than despair. I know; we're really reaching now.
As for Toronto's 77 games left on the schedule, I don't know whether to be thankful for them or not.
UPDATE: Toskala's injured. How convenient. And Tyler Bozak has been freed.
October 08, 2009
Cito Gaston isn't going anywhere. So saith Jeff Blair in yesterday's discussion about the playoffs (and the Blue Jays). And according to Blair's colleague Robert MacLeod, pitching guru and father of the staff Brad Arnsberg is soon to be relieved of his duties.
You tell me: how the hell am I supposed to believe in Alex Anthopoulos if he agrees to keep Cito around, while allowing Arnsberg - in whom I trust - to leave? I'd really rather not get started on the wrong foot with Toronto's new general manager.
It's all happening backwards.
A new president should hire a new GM, and the new GM should bring in the manager of his choice. The interim president shouldn't be appointing a new interim-but-maybe-not-interim GM, even if it is an in-house promotion. Said new GM shouldn't be agreeing to keep the current manager, in whose honour there's recently been a reported clubhouse mutiny.
It all certainly bodes well.
And this, from the Blair discussion ...
eyebleaf: "Jeff, on a scale of 1-10, what are the chances Doc is a Blue Jay on opening day?Blair: "One."
It's going to get worse, before it gets better.
October 06, 2009
I certainly ran with that whole "I Believe In Vernon Wells" shtick. It was a grind; he took a ton of abuse this season. But I like to think I pulled it off. I never stopped believing. And Wells rewarded me: he hit .312 in September, the month that doesn't matter. Vernon's going to ride that average into the off-season, and into 2010. Next summer, he's going to earn all $12.5 million of his salary.
Okay, fine, maybe not all of it. But certainly three quarters of it.
My point is: I don't have the energy to believe in Vesa Toskala. And, frankly, I'd rather believe in Jonas Gustavsson.
At least Wells has a track record. A few successful seasons, Gold Glove awards, and a couple of All-Star selections to hang his very expensive coat on. Even, believe it or not, MVP votes.
Toskala's got nothing. I'm holding on to February 2009 and his .912 save percentage for dear life.
It was up to Toskala to make sure there was no goaltending controversy in Toronto this season. Four periods and an overtime later, he's already failed that test. An .800 save percentage? Sample size be damned, get out of the crease.
With Toskala taking home $4 million this season, and his trade value likely as low as it's ever been, it's hard to believe the Leafs gave up a first-round pick to acquire him. Actually, it's not, but you know what I mean.
San Jose sold high back in June 2007, a concept the Leafs are still trying to grasp. And that's where it gets tough for the current regime. Do you play Toskala, and hope he regains some of his mostly average form, in the hopes of getting something, anything, back in return for him? Or do you unleash The Monster (I've been sitting on that one for a while), and see what he can do?
I'd love for Brian Burke to be able to trade Toskala. Perhaps give Detroit a call. They did take Larry Murphy.
But Gustavsson's here on a one-year contract and, if he's the real deal, he needs the opportunity to showcase his talent. One legendary pre-season save later, I think we all agree that young Jonas can better Toskala's numbers. I mean, that save was out of control. And Jesus knows Vesa hasn't set the bar high enough.
If the Leafs are going to be unbearable to watch, which it seems they might, I'd rather it be Gustavsson being shelled than Toskala. Vesa's worth little to nothing to us now.
I could defend Vernon Wells because of his, and I use the term loosely, "glory days." Toskala has yet to see his own, and it's hard to believe there are any in his future.
UPDATE: Gustavsson has been emancipated. He'll be in goal tonight. It will be his first of many victories against the Ottawa Senators.
October 04, 2009
I've had 40-odd hours to mourn. I'm ready to talk about it. The loud music you heard Saturday night? Yep, party at Richard Griffin's house.
J.P. Ricciardi had to go. It was clear he'd run his course in Toronto. But not without one final public relations nightmare to pave his exit. According to Dave Perkins at The Star, the infamous Paul Beeston, he of "the plan," went to the moguls of the Rogers empire during the middle of last week seeking "the okay to fire Ricciardi." Clearly the interim president wanted to send a message to Jays fans that, you know, he's actually doing something.
Before he could, the Beest had to help put out the fire that was CitoCity (TM Ghostrunner on First) burning. And after an apparent "mutiny" in the clubhouse, I believe Cito Gaston will once again be an ex-Blue Jay manager. Which means he will have to retire from baseball. Because if the past is any indication, he might be out of a job for a while.
It's been a helluva second go-round with Cito. In 2008 he came and saved the day, yet only 14 months later it seems just about everyone - fans, players, fellow coaches - is sick of him. I hope he'll one day pen a memoir, aptly titled "The Cito Effect," so I can learn what Jeremy Accardo did to him, the logic behind playing Kevin Millar, and why he hates Randy Ruiz.
Anyway, J.P. I've said my piece about him. Many times. And people noticed. I've also made peace with his departure. It was inevitable. Ricciardi said it: "... it just wasn't quite enough." And he's right. Under Ricciardi's name, the Blue Jays finished in second spot in the AL East only once. In eight years, the team never finished a season within single digits of the division winner; 10 games was the closest they got, back in 2006. J.P. isn't a robot from the future, sent back in time to destroy the Toronto Blue Jays, as some in this crazy city will have you believe. But it's time for a change. (So, this is what it feels like to be a Republican.)
It hurts because I believe J.P. leaves Toronto a jaded man. A jaded general manager, at least. He believed he could succeed. He believed in what he'd learned in Oakland. He believed in Moneyball. He then believed in money, period. He believed he was the man able to scale Mount AL East. I did too. But he failed.
By all accounts, Ricciardi was as passionate as they come. He wanted badly to win, and he leaves Toronto with Roy Halladay giving him the respect he deserves. I'll miss his love for the game. I'll miss his feud with the media. Even his Boston accent. Most of all, I'll miss him referring to guys as "the player."
Ricciardi's legacy will live on. Unfairly, it is tied to Vernon Wells, and the anchor that is his contract. But on the other side are Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Ricky Romero, Travis Snider, Brett Cecil, Mark Rzepczynski, Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, J.P. Arincibia, Jake Marisnick, and more. J.P. has left his mark on this team. For the better.
That's not to say his replacement, Alex Anthopoulos, doesn't have his work cut out for him. He does. But Anthopoulos doesn't have to tear down the foundation, like Ricciardi did. What he needs is direction from ownership, and long-term vision, something sorely lacking around these parts of late. I'm not worried, though, because Anthopoulos is CANADIAN, which can only mean that he will undoubtedly be the best general manager in the history of all baseball general managers.
In a sick and twisted way, for all the hate leveled at Ricciardi over the past couple of years, I want Anthopoulos to fail. Because it became far too easy in this town for people to point the finger at Ricciardi for all that is wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays. It isn't, and never was, that simple.
In all seriousness, Anthopoulos's story is, straight up, an inspiring one. At 23, an unpaid intern with the Montreal Expos. At 32, general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Here's hoping he can apply some of his life's trajectory onto the Blue Jays.
The winds of change are upon us. We wait for the next domino to fall.
So long, J.P. Ricciardi. It was a pleasure. You did good.
October 01, 2009
One day, I will tell my unborn children about the legend that is Harry Leroy Halladay III. They will learn how Doc dominated baseball's toughest division, throwing complete game after complete game, while forever protecting the honour of his teammates.
Thanks to a ball aimed at the bulbous David Ortiz, with Boston having clinched a playoff spot, and the Toronto Blue Jays once again playing out the stretch, the legend of Doc grew to larger than life proportions on a chilly autumn night in September. No matter the standings, and no matter the score, Roy Halladay will let no one, especially not Jonathan Papelbon, take advantage of his team.
The incredible irony of it all: it went down in what might have been Halladay's final start as a Toronto Blue Jay. Poetic, no? Doc could have been ejected, but it certainly didn't matter to him.
If it was goodbye, Doc ended the Toronto chapter of his career the only way he possibly could have: with a complete game shutout in Fenway Park. And that's how I'll remember him. As the man who brought the Evil Empires to their knees.
We all thought we couldn't possibly respect, adore, and appreciate Roy Halladay any more than we already did. We were wrong.
I’ve said my piece about Mats Sundin. Over and over and over and over again. I also said goodbye, back in February.
So it was with less of a heavy heart than expected that I learned that Sundin had officially hung up his skates for good.
First: relief. There will be no repeat of last year’s “will he or won’t he?” fiasco.
Second: rage. The garbage spewn about on Twitter after Sundin’s announcement is not worth linking to. It only reaffirms the fact that there are a legion of so-called Leafs fans whom I want absolutely nothing to do with. If you chose the day Sundin officially left the game as yet another day to bash him, you’ll never fully grasp what he accomplished as a Toronto Maple Leaf. (Read: You're an idiot.)
Finally: adulation. I felt, and still feel, the urge to scale Toronto’s highest building and yell at the top of my lungs: “Mats Sundin: Greatest Maple Leaf of All-Time!!!!1” I'm thinking my balcony will be suffice.
Many great men – Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour in particular – have worn the “C” in Toronto. Sundin was better than both of them, and he will always be my captain.
Thanks for the memories, Mats.