January 31, 2010


Dion Phaneuf is a Toronto Maple Leaf. Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala aren't; not anymore.

And I'm still busy basking in the glory of that last sentence. More to come later, once I step back down from cloud nine.

Happy Brian Burke Day.

January 28, 2010

Deep Thoughts

Public transportation. Where there's nothing but time to ponder ...

1. "I want to play for a contender" is all the vogue these days in professional sports. I can understand when Roy Halladay says it. Hell, that makes sense. Jamal Mayers? Not so much. I'm sure Brian Burke's phone is ringing off the hook now that word has leaked that Mayers and Garnet Exelby are officially available, with their agents exploring trade possibilities. Actually, we know that's not the case, otherwise Burke would be trying to make the trades himself. Anyway: good riddance. Whether it's now or via unrestricted free agency come the summer.

2. Can Brian Burke tell Jeff Finger and Jason Blake's agents to explore trade possibilities as well? Please? Pretty please?

3. Whose position would you rather be in: the pathetic Edmonton Oilers, first round pick in tow, and approximately $46 million in salary committed to only 13 players for next season, thanks to a ton of brutal contracts - Shawn Horcoff (20 points, -23) at a cap hit of $5.5 million through 2013/2014, Sheldon Souray at a cap hit of $5.4 million through 2011/2012, Steve Staios at $2.7 million through next season, and the injured, and old, Nik Khabibulin at $3.75 million through 2012/2013. Or the equally pathetic Toronto Maple Leafs, without their next two first round picks, but Phil Kessel, and approximately $34 million committed to 11 players for next season. You tell me.

4. I know; I can't bring up Edmonton's brutal contracts while not bringing up Blake's and Finger's. And at $2.9 million, Mikhail Grabovski might be overpaid as well. Bollocks!!1

5. And I can't ignore the fact the Oilers have Jordan Eberle in their system. Yeah, that guy who doesn't panic, even when destiny does. If Edmonton is blessed enough to draft Taylor Hall, the scales might be tipped, albeit slightly, in the Oil's favour.

6. Staying with Edmonton, they remain winless in 2010. Their best bet to change that might come on March 13th when they visit Toronto. It will be a night to remember.

7. Random thought: Seinfeld remains the greatest comedy sitcom ever written and produced. You may disagree, but you're wrong.

8. I took in the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers game a couple of nights ago on TSN. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Those kids are alright. And back-to-back first round lottery selections. Ha.

9. As a television hockey personality, anyone compared to P.J. Stock is articulate. Even Matthew Barnaby. And "articulate" is the last word I'd ever imagined labeling Barnaby.

10. The Hawks appear to be the real deal. If Chicago loses in the Stanley Cup final, they will only have Marian Hossa to blame. Could you imagine? As for Cristobal Huet, he doesn't strike you as a stand-on-his-head, playoff-type goalie, does he? Me neither. The Hawks need some insurance. It's a good thing the Leafs have a veteran goalie in Vesa Toskala, with an expiring contract whom they can explore trade possibilities for. It's a shame Burke will be laughed on the phone as soon as he mentions Toskala's name.

11. The Blackhawks have allowed an astonishingly low 25 power play goals so far this season. The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres are even better: 23. Ron Wilson's Toronto Maple Leafs check in at 59. I'm sure the Leafs have allowed 23 power play goals in a month this season. I refuse to check; that's a little too depressing.

12. To add salt to the gaping wound this Leafs season has already wrought, the Ottawa Senators seemed to have legitimized themselves as a playoff team. They've won seven in a row, and are dominant on home ice. It pains me to admit it, but Brian Elliott has been more impressive than Jonas Gustavsson this season, and their workload has been about the same.

13. Francois Allaire? The Leafs clearly should have hired Eli Wilson.

14. A quick nugget on the Toronto Raptors: don't those Huskies jerseys look rather dashing?

15. Due to increasing and unrelenting comment spam, which I absolutely love to read on my BlackBerry, the comments section is back to being embedded below each post. If that doesn't get the terrorists to stop, I might be left with no choice but to employ the dreaded "word verification" system. Let's hope it doesn't get to that, folks. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.

Image courtesy, as usual, This Isn't Happiness.

January 26, 2010


"His shortcoming is his long staying."
- Benjamin Disraeli

Because Tomas Kaberle is a relic of difficult days gone bye doesn't mean he can't be part of the solution. He certainly isn't the problem.

Turning 32 in March, and putting up some of the best offensive numbers of his career at a bargain price, Kaberle can't be expected to make up for the franchise's previous mistakes.

There are a ton of marvelous cross-ice passes left on Kaberle's stick. If we're lucky, he'll never make one for anyone but the Toronto Maple Leafs.

January 25, 2010

Toronto's Lost Decade

I'm well aware that Toronto has moved seamlessly into its next decade of sporting futility. But, one last time, we look back ...

We start with the Toronto Maple Leafs:

The playoffs have remained elusive for the Toronto Maple Leafs post lockout. Only the esteemed Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings (thanks commenter Geoff) share the same sad story. Yet the Leafs were still Toronto's best team over the past 10 years. Hard to believe, I know, considering the club played the second half of the decade without NHL-calibre goaltending. It makes me appreciate how impressive the early teams of the decade under Pat Quinn were and, at the same time, long for the next Mats Sundin.

Next, the Toronto Blue Jays:

For those of you unfamiliar with Bill James' Pythagorean Theorem as it relates to baseball, here are you, from Baseball Prospectus:

The Pythagorean theorem, as James called it, was a formula designed to relate how many runs a team scored and allowed to its won-lost record. The most common way to express it is

Winning Pct = WPct = RS^2 / RS^2 + RA^2

where RS = runs scored, RA = runs allowed, and ^ means "raised to the power of", in this case, 2. It was the "raised to the power of 2" parts that reminded James of geometry's Pythagorean theorem (a^2 = b^2 + c^2), hence the bestowment of an unwieldy name.

Have a look at the Blue Jays spreadsheet once again. Eight of the 10 Blue Jays teams had a better Pythagorean record than actual record. I know, it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but, well ... fuck. When your team hasn't made the playoffs in 17 years, this is what you hang your hat on.

The 2005 Blue Jays were much better than an 80-win ball club. The 2008 Blue Jays, according to James' theory, should have won 93 games. Alas, even 93 wins wouldn't have been enough to qualify for the post-season. I'm not sure when, why, or how, but the Blue Jays have clearly angered the baseball Gods. And I'm not sure when they'll stop paying their price.

We have suffered enough. When I think of J.P. Ricciardi's tenure at the helm of the Blue Jays, I'll think of his Pythagorean record. It's easier that way. (Miss you, J.P.)

Finally, the Toronto Raptors:

It was all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows at the turn of the decade. An expansion team was growing up. Until Vince Carter turned out to be a rat. As you can see in the spreadsheet, it all fell apart rather gloriously once Carter's pouting began. The Rob Babcock years, culminated with the Carter trade, were the Raptors' darkest hours.

Carter's departure paved the road for Chris Bosh. I like to think that if Bosh does indeed stick around, and Andrea Bargnani continues to mature, the Raptors can put together a winning decade. Of course, Bosh's future remains the $130 million dollar question. If he leaves, this decade may be a long one.

Oh yeah, Toronto FC:

A full season of Dwayne De Rosario and Julian De Guzman should result in a playoff berth for TFC. But this is Toronto and, according to the spreadsheet, the club will likely miss the playoffs by two bloody points.

The Toronto Argos; how could I forget?

If you were expecting a spreadsheet, you have lost your damn mind. The Boatmen won a Grey Cup. I think it was 2004. I'm sure you remember exactly where you were when it happened.

That's it, that's all. Onward and, for the love of God, upward. Here's the to the next 10 years being a little more, shall we say, prosperous.

Image courtesy This Isn't Happiness

January 21, 2010

Our Great Shame

You're going to have to pardon me for not being overly excited about Merkin Valdez, Alex Anthopoulos's most recent addition to the Toronto Blue Jays. Sure, 98 MPH on the radar gun tickles my fancy, but it's tough looking past the 1.72 WHIP Valdez posted in 49.1 innings last season.

While AA and the Blue Jays have moved on after losing out on Aroldis Chapman, I haven't. In the aftermath of the Cuban flamethrower signing with the Cincinnati Reds for$30.25 million, I found it curious that nobody in the front office would commit to the reported $23 million Toronto had offered. Not a peep from AA, or Paul Beeston. Post J.P. Ricciardi, I guess I'm just not used to that type of silence from upstairs.

So I did what any rational person would do: I emailed Jeff Blair. Was the $23 million offer true? According to Blair, indeed it was.

I continued to pry. Why not, from the top of the highest mountain, announce to the world that the Jays were big players in the Chapman ballgame? Why not let the fanbase know that the new regime went hard after the young, controllable prospect? Allowing the reported offer to remain unconfirmed was, in my humble opinion, a lost public relations opportunity. And, with Ricciardi out of the picture, didn't the Jays want to change their PR strategy? Sure, the Blue Jays had lost the battle, and didn't end up signing Chapman. But they could have let us all know they were doing their best to win the war.

More from Blair:

"Its the way Alex is. He believes being too open cost the Jays a Lincecum for Rios deal. Don't think saying you went after Chapman would score any PR points. It would just confirm you lost to the Reds."

Blair's right. Fuck public relations. Losing Roy Halladay wouldn't have hurt so much if Toronto had acquired Tim Lincecum. Hell, if Lincecum's a Blue Jay, perhaps Halladay remains one. And while there's no shame in losing out on a high-profile prospect to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or even Los Angeles Angels, there certainly is in losing to Cincinnati.

We'll have to settle for Merkin Valdez.

January 19, 2010


"If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us."
- Herman Hesse

That Hesse fellow is right: I hate the fucking terrible, useless goaltender in me, too.

January 18, 2010

To move aimlessly from place to place

Monday. You know how it arrives.

I haven't written in about a week. So effected was I by Mark McGwire's bombshell announcement. Steroids. Who knew? ...

1. Inspired by the fine folks at Silver Seven Sens, who donated $0.05 for every comment in Saturday's game day thread to the Canadian Red Cross's Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, I've donated Sports And The City's January ad revenue (up to the 17th) to the same cause. I'll be topping up the donation at the end of the month. The pictures of dead bodies in the streets of Port-Au-Prince are difficult and downright disturbing to look at. The poor country can't catch a break. The donation isn't much, but it's something. Thanks for reading.

2. On to more distracting things ... The last time the Edmonton Oilers won a game, it was 2009. December 30th, actually, at home against -- you guessed it!!1 -- Toronto. As bad as the Maple Leafs are, the Oilers are worse. Poor Pat Quinn. I'm worried about his physical and mental well being.

3. I'm high on Phil Kessel, but at least Oilers fans have their first round draft pick to look forward to.

4. The immediate years post-Mats Sundin (last season, this season, and probably the next two) will do wonders for #13's legacy. With Phil Kessel the only true offensive threat the Maple Leafs boast, people will eventually marvel at just how consistent, and just how good, Sundin truly was in Toronto. Don't get me wrong, Kessel's good. He's got the potential to be great. But as a sniper, I'm not sure he possesses the acumen to become a guaranteed 30-goal scorer, and point-per-game player, like Sundin was only three seasons into his career.

5. You're Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. Would you trade Toronto's 2010 first round pick, David Krejci, and Blake Wheeler for Ilya Kovalchuk?

6. I recently began reading mc79hockey.com - "Where we're welcoming the local and national media to the news that the Oilers suck" - and it's fantastic. Check it out. Last week, an excellent post was written about Ethan Moreau's propensity to take more penalties than he draws. In conclusion: since 2007/2008, five-on-five, Moreau has "generated 20.5 more power plays for the opposition in the course of a given season than would a forward who takes and draws penalties at average rates." Interesting stuff. There's a chart and everything. Fourteenth on the list: Toronto's Jamal Mayers, at 14.4. Mayers hasn't done much in Toronto. Other than take a lot of penalties, clearly. While he's simply trying to fit in, it's probably safe to say the trade to acquire Mayers is a wash. As I'm sure you remember, Florida's third round pick in the 2008 draft, acquired by Toronto for Chad Kilger, was sent to St. Louis for Mayers. The Blues drafted James Livingston 70th overall with the pick. Livingston's playing out his final year in the OHL and has 14 goals, and 26 points, in 38 games. Knowing nothing about Livingston but his numbers, I'm going to go ahead and conclude he will not be an impact player in the NHL.

7. I try to watch Tyler Bozak's first career NHL goal on YouTube at least twice a day.

8. Since being traded by the Montreal Canadiens, Guillaume Latendresse has become a rather prolific goal scorer. In 24 games with Minnesota, he's lit the lamp 13 times. Latendresse is now only one goal off his career high of 16 and, as a Leafs fan suffering through yet another bullshit season, this pleases me.

9. There was irony in watching Jacques Martin lose to the Ottawa Senators's next young hope in the crease, Mike Brodeur, Saturday night. The carousel of goaltenders in Ottawa also pleases me.

10. In his last three games, Andrea Bargnani has pulled down 35 rebounds - 17, 12, and 6, respectively. With half the season officially in the books, Bargnani has posted seven double-digit rebounding efforts. Last season, he managed the feat six times. In 2007/2008: once. In 2006/2007, Il Mago's rookie year: twice. It's happening, folks. Bargnani is learning how to rebound. The patience is paying off.

11. For good measure, Bargnani is putting up the best shooting numbers of his young career as well: 47.2% from the floor, and 17.2 points a game.

12. I'm not sure what the "That's Vernon Wells type money" vote means in the new poll on whether Chris Bosh is worth $130 million. It's either a shot at Bosh, a shot at Wells, or a shot at both of them. I'm assuming its connotation is negative. But it's good to see the most number of votes, so far, are in the "Yes" category. Bosh and Bargnani, with Bargnani at his peak? I'd like to see that.

13. To be a fly on the wall at -- if it happens -- Jeremy Accardo's arbitration hearing.

14. Jason Frasor made only $1.45 million last year, and is in line for a nice raise. What is The Sausage King of the Bullpen worth to you in 2010 - $2.5 million? $3 million?

15. With only two weeks left to vote, it's all but certain that Aaron Hill will replace Roy Halladay in the Sports And The City banner. Which means he likely won't be a Toronto Blue Jay for much longer.

16. There's nothing -- absolutely nothing -- like a devastating block in football. Kurt Warner surely agrees.

17. My boy 40's a New York Jets fan. I'm happy for him.

January 12, 2010

The Magic Of 1998

"[Mark McGwire's steroids admission] changes nothing for the rest of us. McGwire is no better or worse a Hall of Fame candidate to me, though I believe his potential enshrinement is far less important to him than serving as a hitting coach. His playing record already had been tainted by the allegations and suspicions; this only makes the marks more indelible. If, by now, you still believed in the magic of 1998, you believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician."

I've always wanted to believe in the magic of 1998. Because the magic of 1998 rekindled my love of baseball. Disenchanted by the strike of 1994, a part of me soured on the beautiful game. I was 11. Stupid, and spoiled. The Toronto Blue Jays, back-to-back World Series champions? Good times. I figured they'd win a few more. I figured they'd always have the league's highest payroll. I was young. Innocent. And, by that point, a full fledged member of The Church of Doug Gilmour.

It was the home runs that brought me back. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The magic of 1998. Chasing Maris. It even had a name!1 If it weren't for the grace and beauty of the long ball, I might have lost baseball forever.

I was enthralled by the quest for 62. I was kissing my fingers and pointing them skyward -- like an idiot -- after a big hit, like Sosa. I still don't quite believe this, but I taught my father, who couldn't care less about baseball, the McGwire double fist bump, mock punch to the gut. To this day, he still greets a few of my mates with that move; that's how real Mark McGwire's legacy is. I even own his jersey. I got it on sale. I think.

Going back, I was 15 and a half. Not quite yet fully cynical. The Toronto Maple Leafs were awful, I was settled in at my new church, The Church of Mats Sundin, and the chase was ... fun. Science had evolved to the point where we had figured out why chicks dig the long ball. Because everyone does. And what's more dramatic than to watch sports history being made? McGwire and Sosa were entertainers. And they certainly entertained.

Steroids. Of course. By now, yeah, I'm fully cynical -- I don't care. I don't take professional sports as seriously as I used to. They are what they are: a great escape. The child in me will always want to believe the lady actually gets sawed in half by the magician.

Also: we knew. Even my dad knew. The magic of 1998 was manufactured, but it was magic nonetheless. What's one more asterisk? But forget about the steroids -- all the kids were doing it. Imagine having lived Mark McGwire's life these past few years. A life in which everyone -- everyone -- knew, without a shred of doubt, his secret. (Can it even be called a "secret" when everyone knows it? Semantics.) That had to have been awkward. Especially after the debacle before Congress; Mark McGwire had never looked so small. SI's Tom Verducci, quoted and linked to up top, is right: McGwire's back and shoulders must feel fantastic today.

January 10, 2010

10 Years in Six and a Half Minutes

I came across this one late, courtesy of my man bkblades. It's rather stunning, and confirms the old adage: better late than never ...

Professional sports: the greatest escape.

January 08, 2010

El Pitcher

I told myself not to get my hopes up over Aroldis Chapman, the stud Cuban southpaw looking for a Major League Baseball home. Obviously, I didn’t take my own advice. Getting my hopes up is what I do; it’s how I live my life.

And then, as if on cue, it all comes crashing down.

According to an inside source, word has it, from The Beest himself, that the Jays have offered Chapman $15 million. And that’s as far as they’re willing to go.

Reports across the land have Chapman signing a deal at, or north of, $20 million, effectively ruling out our Toronto Blue Jays. My heart weeps.

Now, I’m praying to the baseball Gods that I’ve gone all Bob Elliott on you here, and that Chapman does indeed head north.

But I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

January 07, 2010

Deep Thoughts

More on the Baseball Hall of Fame vote. Plus: the frustrating Toronto Maple Leafs, and the .500 Raptors:

1. The Tao of Stieb asked, on Twitter: "Impertinent Question: Why the fuck does someone from the Delaware County Times have a HoF quote?" Beats the hell out of me. So I moseyed on over to http://www.delcotimes.com/sports and at 2:00 am Thursday morning, found nothing on the Baseball Hall of Fame vote that became news at, oh, 2:01 pm eastern time Wednesday afternoon. Nothing. Of the four top stories, three were about the Philadelphia Eagles and one about the Philadelphia Flyers.

2. According to trusted source Wikipedia, three Toronto writers are members of the BBWAA: The Globe and Mail's Jeff Blair, Canadian Press and MLB.com writer Larry Milson, and the Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott. The Toronto Star's Richard Griffin isn't on the list, but said he's been a member for 15 years.

4. Jeff Blair wrote two excellent columns, one before the vote, and one after. You should read them both. What I like about Blair is that he flat out tells you who he voted for: Alomar, Tim Raines and Mark McGwire. Blair's colleagues in the city should follow his lead.

5. I trust guys like Tom Verducci and Jeff Blair to make this decision. Ken Rosenthal doesn't inspire the same confidence. And Jay Mariotti clearly cannot be trusted. The revolution will not be televised. It'll happen on the internet.

6. First Doc. Now Alomar. If Tom Cheek doesn't win the Ford C. Frick award, I might be forced to believe that the Toronto Blue Jays have "become the target of a systematic process of intimidation and manipulation the likes of which you have never" seen before.

7. On days like this, in the aftermath of a beating of the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Philadelphia Flyers, it's easier to tell yourself that Vesa Toskala played. The entire game. Even if he didn't.

8. At 8:21 pm yesterday evening, I received a text message from my brother: "Luke Schenn sucks." Good times.

9. It's bad enough that the Leafs lost, and gave up another three power play goals in the process. What makes it worse is that Daniel Carcillo scored. Carcillo needs to be placed on an iceberg, and sent floating off into frigid waters. It can't be possible for even Flyers fans to like Carcillo. Or can it? I mean, if Don Cherry hates him, what hope does he have?

10. When Reggie Evans was diagnosed with a "sprained left foot" on October 20, 2009, did you have any idea he still wouldn't be playing in January of the new year? I totally misjudged that injury. I was thinking a couple of weeks. Three, tops.

11. An office colleague of mine, whom I sit beside and genuinely enjoy working with, isn't as passionate about the Raptors as she used to be. Yesterday, she dropped the bombshell that she's not a fan of Chris Bosh. Aghast, I hopped out of my seat to confront her. This wasn't a through-the-cubicle-wall conversation. This was serious business. I said: "Twenty/ten!!1 Every night." She said it wasn't good enough. She said hurtful things: that Bosh couldn't deliver in the clutch; that he isn't a superstar. I stood my ground; 20/10 is no joke. And Scott Carefoot has pointed out at RaptorBlog that Bosh has been the definition of clutch this season. While my definition of superstar is clearly different from that my colleague's, there's no denying Bosh is a special talent. I maintain: max money. Really, the Raptors have no other choice. And, for everyone's sake, the Bosh hating needs to stop.

Robbing Alomar

Yesterday, Wednesday, January 6, 2010, was all about the Baseball Writers Association of America. Their annual 15 minutes of fame. Their time to shine. And shine they did.

The BBWAA must get off on the attention. They should. They must. It's why the script never changes. We, the fans, and we, the bloggers, know what's coming. Ever year, it's the same story: outrage at the Hall of Fame results, followed by anger and exasperation. It's like clockwork. And Twitter has certainly made it easier to vent.

Roberto Alomar is a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Fame player. You know it. I know it. All of the members of the BBWAA know it. He received more votes - 397 - than any other first-year candidate not to be elected. But thanks to the democratic process, a few men denied Alomar his right. And what the fuck can you do? Democracy's all we've got.

I was disappointed. Angry. Forever the optimist, I figured Alomar was a lock. I was excited to see Robbie become Toronto's first contribution to Cooperstown. Finally, I'd have to make a visit. I openly brooded over the snub. But I've realized there's no point. Alomar will get in. Next year. It's a fact. He won't have to agonizingly wait the way Andre Dawson did, and the way Bert Blyleven continues to. It isn't much, but it's something.

In a sick way, it's been fun. Reading articles such as "Roberto Alomar's omission a travesty" by Boston Herald writer, and BBWAA member, Steve Buckley took me back to a time when Alomar was the best second baseman in all of baseball; when Alomar and the Blue Jays ruled the baseball world. Alomar did it with his bat and, Lord knows, he did it with his glove. In October, Alomar dominated. A .313 postseason batting average. A .347 World Series average. And people noticed.

Buckley said it best: "We botched it. There's no other way to say it. We botched it."

Indeed. A few men wanted to punish Alomar, and they did. That's life. That's democracy. It's why a guy like George W. Bush ruled the free world for eight awesome years.

Next year, the BBWAA will atone for their petty mistake. And at Roberto Alomar's induction ceremony, we will party like it's 2010.

January 05, 2010

"Force Fate"

"With five seconds left, destiny panics."
- Jordan Eberle

You have to admit: that Eberle bit is good. And if you don't like Jarome Iginla, you're probably not a big fan of freedom, either.

There's a lot of terrible television advertising out there. Think Fox 29 Buffalo's "Hurt In A Car? Call William Mattar." Or those insufferable "Grey Power" commercials. So it's official: the above is the finest one minute of advertising ever produced.

Go Canada. Tonight, and forever.

(If you like the track in the commercial, it's "Wolf Like Me" by TV On The Radio.)

January 04, 2010

Deep Thoughts: Monday. Again.

Another fucking Monday, to be exact. And it's back to the grind. Blimey.

1. Congratulations to Chris Bosh, the newly minted all-time leading scorer of our Toronto Raptors. While I've only recently accepted my true feelings for Vince Carter - the greatest Raptor ever - I refuse to label Bosh number two, or second best. Carter's 1A. Bosh, 1B. And if Bosh sticks around and leads the Raptors to playoff glory, he could eventually be 1A.

2. At 17-18, the Raptors are a game below .500. The glorified break-even mark has become the benchmark in this city. These days, anything above .500 is a bonus. For the Raptors, however, .500 may be good enough for the Eastern Conference's 5th seed. Playoffs!!1 In Toronto, we dream big.

3. With Canada leading Switzerland 1-0 after 20 minutes of their World Junior semifinal, I couldn't help shake the feeling that part of me was rooting for the underdog Swiss. Would you really have been upset if Canada lost? We are the number one hockey development nation in the world, regardless of whether we win this year's tournament. And imagine what a story it would have been, and what a boost for their hockey program, if the Swiss had somehow been able to pull it off. Here's hoping they go home with the bronze.

4. That being said, there won't be an inch of me rooting for the U.S. in Tuesday's gold medal game. Their hockey program can go to hell. And Jerry D'Amigo? Yes, please.

5. The Buffalo Bills are undefeated in 2010. Undefeated this decade. Playoffs!!1

6. These days, when a Toronto Maple Leafs forward gets hurt, it's frankly a bit exciting. With Mickey Grabs and Wayne Primeau out, who gets the call from the farm: Tyler Bozak? Christian Hanson? Ryan Hamilton? Andre Deveaux, the Marlies' leading scorer? It appears only one forward will be summoned, as John Mitchell is ready to return. And beacon of positivity, sunshine, rainbows, and lolipops - Damien Cox - tweeted that it won't be Bozak.

7. This is awful, but why can't Rickard Wallin get injured? Why can't Vesa Toskala have heart problems?

8. The Toronto Blue Jays will emerge victorious in the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes. I've got a hunch, rooted in nothing but rampant homerism.

9. Nice to see Edwin Encarnacion in the news. Sure, it was because some fireworks went off in his face, but you know what they say: there's no such thing as bad publicity. From Deadspin:

"Encarnacion was setting off fireworks on New Year's with his family in the Dominican Republic, when his brother lit a rocket. It shot laterally instead of straight up, and Encarnacion's infielder instincts took over. He got in front of it, and knocked it down with his head."

You see, he can play the hot corner. He'll make us forget all about that Scott Rolen guy.

10. Speaking of our beloved Blue Jays, check out the recent entry "New Beginnings" over at Mop Up Duty, by renowned J.P. Ricciardi hater Callum Hughson. The crux of Callum's argument is that he prefers "homegrown" teams, ones full of drafted talent, developed and nurtured into winners, instead of teams put together by the mighty checkbook. Now, I love the homegrown stuff, if you know what I mean, but when it comes to my baseball team, I don't give a flying fadoo Bobcat how the Blue Jays are put together, as long as they win. In 1992 and 1993, when the Blue Jays ruled the baseball world, they, to quote one of my heroes George Costanza, " spent, baby!1" Highest payroll in the league. Luring to town free agents such as Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Dave Winfield, and Paul Molitor. And I had no problems with how Toronto went about their business. None. Because they got the job done. And we'll forever have the pennants to prove it. Why do I hate the New York Yankees? Simple: jealousy. They've got an owner who spends everybody else into the ground. My team doesn't. That's it, that's all. Money doesn't ensure success - the Yankees won two world series in the 10 years we just completed. But in a league devoid of a salary cap, money always gives a number of teams a better shot than the Blue Jays.

11. Another point Callum brought up in the comments was that if I didn't care how the teams are put together, would I throw my support behind the Blue Jays if their roster was full of baseball's notorious douchebags: Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Pierzynski, Joba Chamberlain, Sidney Ponson, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Myers, etc. The answer is: if they win, of course. As soon as a serial douchebag puts on a Toronto jersey, he becomes my douchebag. I hated Darcy Tucker before he became a Toronto Maple Leaf. Shayne Corson, too. Even Gary Roberts, a little bit. Dave Manson. Roger Clemens. Hell, I cheered for Bryan Marchment when he played in Toronto. I justified Tie Domi's douchebaggery in my head, on many occasions. I could go on. The point is: once "the player" represents a Toronto sports team, their past is forgiven and forgotten. It's irrational, but it works. If Chris Neil were a Maple Leaf, I'd probably cheer for him too. That's what being a fan is all about.

12. Brett Myers punched his wife. Joba's been busted for DUI. Make no mistake about it, I don't condone those actions. My fandom is about what they do on the baseball field, and only the baseball field. Athletes, especially people like Myers, Joba and, I don't know, that Tiger Woods guy, are not role models. They're the last people your kids should be looking up to, and it's your responsibility to make sure they don't.

13. I finished Jim Bouton's Ball Four Saturday evening. A wonderful read, and I highly recommend it. It hit me as the book, and Bouton's 1969 season, was winding down: Bouton essentially kept a blog, and made it into a book. In seven chapters, he has written daily entries chronicling his season with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros. Bouton was ahead of his time.

14. Little known fact: Jim Bouton co-invented Big League Chew, the greatest bubble gum ever manufactured. A large portion of my high school years were spent with a ridiculously large wad of Big League Chew in my mouth. Original flavour, of course. Those were good times. To this day, when I step on the diamond in the summertime, I prefer to do it while chewing on some BLC. It makes me feel more like the pro ballplayer I'll never be. Thanks, Jim Bouton.

15. I've celebrated the greatness that is commenter Handsome Tony Viner over at The Tao of Stieb before. No joke, his comments regularly have me laughing out loud. I leave you with his latest, from December 30 of last year. It's a beauty ...

You are ready to accept fifth place behind Baltimore, Darren? Your defeatism is pathetic. In my world you would be involved in a tragic helicopter accident just for speaking as such an absconder.

Look, I have been a little too busy to comment on the posts of this Tao lately, but I feel I must respond to all of this ridiculous negativity.

I have built a team that will win 85+ games in 2010, and stands a great chance of shocking the world with over 90. Sure, Doc is gone, Rolen is a distant memory, and Scutaro walked. But rest assured, I expropriated an agglomeration of assets from the teams that relieved me of their contracts, mainly due to my sexy, underhanded business practices.

Rolen will be a constant injury risk for the Reds, and I defrauded them of their most inimitable pitching prospect and two other, very useful players. Encarnacion will hit 30+ HR and Roenicke will post an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP around 1.30.

Boston will regret handing me their second round pick, especially when Scutaro's true physical condition shows itself. I have seen the relevant medical reports on his heel, and that little louse Theo Epstien has not. I signed Alex Gonzalez for less than half of what that boor paid for Scutaro, and he will outperform him in every category in 2010-2011.

The Halladay trade was a ruse from the beginning. After it was clear that Roy would not re-sign here, due to his personal braggadocio and obvious need for attention from the US sports media, I set a trap for that addlepate Ruben Amaro Jr. It was sprung according to MY plan and on MY terms. I appropriated a future ace, a silver slugger and a future all-star catcher for basically one year of Halladay. Doc was a great pitcher, but he is too expensive, uncontrollable, and his decline is imminent indeed.

I am extremely smart, and uncompromisingly handsome. The true operational art of disingenuous, duplicitous, fallacious business dealing is lost on most of these baseball people, who have never been involved in a hostile takeover in Hong Kong or run an (illegal) mobile communications network monopoly, as I have.

If you want to deprecate, and expostulate about the immediate future of the team you love, you are barking up the wrong tree. This team will be a major force to be reckon with in 2010, nevermind in 2011 and beyond when we have only ~$40MM committed to payroll, and I commit upwards of $120MM on a yearly basis.

The moral of this little talk is this: You are just going to have to show some blind faith in my handsomeness, and smart, sexy business strategies.


Handsome Tony Viner

January 01, 2010


"New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights."
- Hamilton Wright Mabie

Here's to this one being better than the last. I think you know what I mean ...