Category Archives: Sports

Saturday Morning Rant: “It’s Early”

“It’s early.”

Those words are ringing in my ears over and over again right now. I’m a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan and at the time I’m writing this, their record is 3-12. For a team that us fans anticipated and expected to compete for a playoff spot, this isn’t exactly the start we were looking for. At the same time, it’s even worse in our heads because the offense of the team is extremely lackluster. There are 196 batters currently listed for batting averages and three starters for the Blue Jays are in the bottom ten, in fact they occupy 190th, 191st and 192nd on the list. That is fucking horrendous.

But even worse, after I’m already pissed off about how badly the Blue Jays are playing right now, all I keep hearing in my ears are those two words I mentioned at the start: “It’s early.”, as in there’s 147 games left in the season, calm down, they’ll recover. Here’s the thing, folks, only winning 3 of your last 15 games is never a good thing at any time in the season, so why is it suddenly okay because it’s the start. If this was July and they had a 3-12 run, people would be freaking out, but because it’s April, it’s okay.

Here’s some math for you folks. For the Blue Jays to get back to being a .500 team, they’d have to go 78-69 the rest of the way. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Let’s add onto that. Last year, the Jays and Orioles were the two wildcard teams in the American League and they both had the same record of 89-73. Assuming that’s the bare minimum to make the playoffs again this year, the Jays now have to go 86-61 the rest of the season. That’s a .585 baseball team from now until the end of the season. Basically, the Jays have to win 2 of every 3 games for the rest of the year. I’m not the best at math, but I can see how difficult being a .585 team is going to be. The best team last season were the Chicago Cubs who were a .640 team at 103-58 and in the entire league, only two other teams played above .585 by the end of the season, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals and guess what? They’re only .001 above that at .586!

So with the lack of offense and the several pitching injuries already this season, I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable for the average baseball fan and Blue Jays fan to think that the season may already be over. Could they recover? Of course they could, but what are the odds now?! They basically have to be the best team in baseball the rest of the way through at this point and each loss that brings them further under being a .500 team alone pushes the bar even higher for the team to have to achieve in response.

In fact, right now the projection for the Jays to make the playoffs is at 15% and let’s be honest, the only reason it’s that high is because the AL East is a weaker division right now. The Chicago White Sox are 7-7 but are at 0.3% because everyone knows it’s either the Indians and maybe the Tigers in the wildcard spot. Upon checking another site, they have the Jays at an even worse 10.5% (they’re nicer to the White Sox at 7.7%) and I fully expect that number to drop further as time goes on here.

Sorry folks, but the Jays ain’t making the playoffs this year. Better pick a secondary team to watch this year. I’ll take Cleveland and watch Edwin Encarnacion actually see a World Series and quite possibly win one.

Saturday Morning Rant: An Eye For An Eye-Raising Suspension

01

I don’t often talk about sports on this page. Like wrestling and other topics I sometimes talk about, I try to steer away from it in the hopes of sticking to just two topics: gaming and anime.

But this is an issue I’m not walking away from. For those who haven’t seen the Gustav Nyquist spear that nearly took out Jared Spurgeon in game this week between the Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild, here’s the video. Hopefully it’s still up when you read this article.

Now doesn’t that look ugly as all hell? It really does look like he intended to carve out Jared Spurgeon’s eye, doesn’t it? Thankfully, he missed Spurgeon’s eye and got him in the cheek, which still hurts like hell because these composite hockey sticks ain’t soft! So with a horrifying action like that, you’d expect Gustav Nyquist to be thrown out of the game, right? After all, HE NEARLY TOOK OUT THE MAN’S FREAKING EYE!!! But nope, he just got a 4-minute double-minor penalty for high sticking, the same call you get when you accidentally hit a guy in the face when you raise your stick and make the guy bleed a little bit.

I’m not done though. Now the NHL has released the number of games Nyquist will be suspended for. Now keep in mind the massive suspensions given in NHL history, via a 2012 article by The Canadian Press:

  • Life: Billy Coutu, Boston Bruins, April 1927 for assaulting two referees and starting a Stanley Cup bench-clearing brawl. The ban was dropped after 2½ years, but Mr. Coutu never played in the NHL again.
  • 30 games: Chris Simon, New York Islanders, Dec. 19, 2007, for slamming his skate into the foot of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu.
  • 25 games: Jesse Boulerice, Philadelphia, Oct. 12, 2007, for cross-checking Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler across the face in a game on Oct. 10.
  • 25 games: Chris Simon, New York Islanders, March 11, 2007, for the rest of the regular season (15 games) and playoffs for his two-handed stick attack to the face of New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. Since Islanders played only five playoff games, suspension extended to first five games of 2007-08.
  • 23 games: Marty McSorley, Boston, Feb. 2000, for knocking out Vancouver’s Donald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit. On Nov. 7, 2000, the suspension was extended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to Feb. 20, 2001.
  • 23 games: Gordie Dwyer, Tampa Bay, Sept. 19, 2000, for abusing officials and coming out of the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against Washington.
  • 21 games: Dale Hunter, Washington, May 1993, for a blindside check of Pierre Turgeon of the N.Y. Islanders after a goal in a playoff game.
  • 20 games: Steve Downie, Philadelphia, Sept. 28, 2007, for leaving his feet to deliver a deliberate hit to the head Ottawa forward Dean McAmmond in a pre-season game Sept. 25.
  • 20 games: Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver, March 11, 2004, for his sucker-punch of Colorado forward Steve Moore on March 8. Bertuzzi’s suspension was for 13 regular season games, plus playoffs. Bertuzzi was reinstated 17 months later, after the year-long lockout.
  • 20 games: Tom Lysiak, Chicago, Oct. 1983, for intentionally tripping a linesman.
  • 20 games: Brad May, Phoenix, Nov. 15, 2000, for hitting Columbus’ Steve Heinze on the nose with his stick in a game on Nov. 11.

There’s some real doozies in there, especially Chris Simon’s bullshit. Looking at the list, we’ve got skate stomping, slashing guys in the head with sticks, hits from behind, even basic “head shots” during a game. So for a play like what Nyquist did, a play that if his stick was an inch higher, he could’ve blinded Jared Spurgeon and ended the 27 year-old’s playing career after only six years, what does one get for such a play? 20 games? 25 games? Maybe a little lower around 15 games?

Nope. Six games. Six. Six games. Fucking six games.

01

How in the blue hell does the NHL justify such a low number of games? I don’t care about the usual reasons. He was a first-time offender? So what?! He nearly stabbed a guy in the eye! He didn’t seriously injure Jared Spurgeon? So what?! He nearly stabbed a guy in the eye! He didn’t actually intend to hit Spurgeon in the eye, in fact he was intending to raise his stick up and over him and then cross-check him? SO FUCKING WHAT, HE STILL NEARLY STABBED A GUY IN HIS FUCKING EYEBALL!!!

Even crazier, Antoine Vermette is getting a 10-game suspension for lightly slashing a referee, because the rule book says that’s the minimum suspension. How does the NHL expect anyone to take them seriously when touching a referee gets you a minimum of a 10-game suspension, but nearly blinding a player and ending his career doesn’t have an automatic suspension and can get much lower than that?! I understand you don’t touch the officials, I get that, but explain to me how the Vermette play is a bigger suspension than Nyquist’s play!

The NHL has always been a joke with suspensions, they rely on things like precedence, repeat offenders and things like that. You wouldn’t give a man who kidnapped a child and then brutally raped and murdered them only six years in prison because he was a first-time offender, you’d throw the freaking book at him! If you want to send a message to players in the NHL to take close care of their sticks during a hockey game, this was a fantastic moment to do so and instead of doing what they should have done, which was give Nyquist a minimum of 15 games, they did half that and made this into a joke!

But then again, that is the NHL. They are so lucky us Canadians will watch it no matter what…

Enough With The “Sanctity of the Game” Bullshit!

la-sp-sn-texas-toronto-brawl-bautista-punched--001

I saw the events that lead to the bench-clearing brawl during last night’s Toronto Blue Jays/Texas Rangers game.

Now I’m a Blue Jays fan, so I’ll try my best not to be too biased here. Based on what I saw, I saw a team that has no balls and waited until the last possible moment to get revenge on Jose for his bat flip during Game 5 of their ALDS matchup back in October. If you had any amount of guts and/or balls, why didn’t you nail him in Game 1 of the season in Toronto? But no, you decided to wait until has final at-bat in the final game you’ll face off all season. Cowardly.

After Bush drilled Bautista, I think everything that happened was fine and understandable. Jose was pissed that they waited till the very end to drill him, so he decided he wasn’t letting them leave with the last laugh, hence the super-aggressive slide into second on Odor. Then of course Odor’s pissed off cause he nearly got seriously injured, so he took offense to that and ended up drilling Jose with a punch that normally in MMA would knock a motherfucker out, so give Jose credit for staying up on his feet after that shot.

blue-jays-rangers-brawl

However, after all that I still have a common thought, regardless of what side I’m on with this brawl: I am so sick and tired of professional athletes getting all up in a tizzy over the “sanctity of the game”.

When Jose Bautista did his infamous bat flip in Game 5 of the ALDS, so many players, sports personalities, writers, everyone talked about how unprofessional Jose was and how it’s “ruining” baseball and the sanctity of the game. All I have to say in response to that, is grow the fuck up, especially if you’re a player saying this. You’re making millions of dollars playing a game, grow the fuck up, stop acting like a child by going “I don’t like that!” at something that you deem as unprofessional. And then when someone or an entire team retaliates to that very thing, it doesn’t exactly make you look much better, in fact you’re no longer the “bigger man” in all this. You’re now on Jose’s level, if that’s how you felt about him after the bat flip.

I’m so sick and tired of sports being treated like it’s a wealthy family’s fancy dinner party. You show up in a suit (one thing I despise about hockey, I think it’s a dumb “tradition”), you’re polite, you behave in a professional manner, all that shit. This isn’t a fucking ball like a dance, this is baseball, or maybe football, basketball, hockey, it’s a sport. Do the majority of fans who attend games treat it like a professional, business-class outing? No! They treat it like a fun, rowdy source of entertainment.

I really do hate this...
I really do hate this…

It’s all about the bullshit old man’s tradition that they smack into these players when they’re young and not jaded yet. Honestly, I really don’t understand this idea that you show up like you’re about to attend a business conference with the major stockholders of a company and then change into a jersey, striped socks, tons of armor (aka pads) and in the case of hockey, skates as you get ready to go out and play a game where you shoot a piece of rubber into a net while constantly hitting people and once in a while getting into a fight. I’m sorry Don Cherry, I love ya, but I’m 100% on the other side of the fence on this, I don’t care about the young kids looking good and professional in their suits. I’m a sports fan, not a businessman.

Going back to the baseball brawl, the same is true about the bat flip. Who gives a fuck if Jose did that, it was a great moment of pure emotions. Would have I been pissed if that happened with a Texas player instead? Technically no, I would’ve been pissed that we gave up the lead, not because he flipped the bat. These “professionals” need to fucking get over themselves and realize that there’s nothing all that professional about playing a sport, it’s only professional in name.

As a fan, I want to see those emotional moments. You can say whatever you want about the bat flip and the brawl seven months later, but you can’t deny it was entertaining. I want to see teams hate each other, I want to see players celebrate over-the-top, so long as it doesn’t delay the game. Most of all, I want these players to look like they’re having fun playing the sport they love. They’re getting paid a fuck-ton of money to do it too, they have little to no reason to be pissed off about anything.

So quit it with the professional bullshit in sports. It’s hard to find a reason to take you seriously when your sport also relies on alcohol as a major sponsor. Because being drunk is so professional.

Quickie: I Don’t Even Like Football, but Packers/Cardinals was Awesome!

untitled

I’m not a fan of American football, I cannot stand the NFL. I’m sick and tired of hearing about Tom Brady and the Patriots. I’m sick and tired of hearing about all the idiotic players who either shoot themselves in the leg at a club, beat their wives, or put on a wig, fake mustache and call himself Billy. Okay, that last one is fucking hilarious I’ll give it that.

But throughout my disdain and hatred for the NFL, I have to admit the final moments of the fourth quarter and overtime of the Green Bay Packers/Arizona Cardinals game Saturday night was pretty awesome.

I was at a birthday party for my best buddy Vishal (insert cheap plug for him here. Cheers, buddy!) and there were a bunch of us there, some were watching the game in the background. When Arizona pulled ahead with just under 4 minutes left, that’s when people started half-ass paying attention. When the last play started, there was a $20 bet on the table and to hear the reactions when the catch was made, you couldn’t hear shit for the next 15 seconds, it was incredible. Lucky, but incredible.

And to watch Arizona just win it as fast as they did in overtime, it was hysterical. If I had a horse in that race (which as a non-NFL fan, I don’t), it would’ve been Arizona anyways, since I can’t stand teams who win consistently for a long period of time (see the New England Patriots). You could say I wouldn’t say that if my favourite teams did that and I’d argue otherwise. The chase is always better than the reign and let’s be honest…the Toronto Maple Leafs are never winning consistently. We’ll be lucky if we ever see another Stanley Cup, let along a streak of ’em!

But yeah, for a brief moment Saturday night, I actually had fun watching a football game. Now it’s obviously because there were a ton of people invested as well, I can’t imagine I’d be this enthusiastic if I was watching it alone (which wouldn’t happen anyway) or with one other person.

But regardless, congrats to the Arizona Cardinals, we’ll see if the magic keeps going when they face Carolina. Not that I’ll be paying attention, mind you.

Soon to be a Maple Leaf: Steven Stamkos?!

stamkos-477673255-640x427_2_VowtptK

I want to believe this so bad…so fucking bad! But I just can’t.

Even when there seems to be some sort of part of Stamkos that wants to come and play for his hometown of Toronto, even when it’s looking more and more like there’s some serious friction between Stamkos and the Tampa Lightning organization, even though he liked a tweet suggesting he wants to come home and play for the Leafs.

I can’t believe this will happen simply because it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. We aren’t allowed nice things.

Yes, I am aware we somehow got both Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello (*cough* lots of money, no cap on it *cough cough*) but it is a whole different story when you’re talking players.

You have to take the salary cap into account for example. The Leafs currently only have an estimated $640,000 in cap space. Granted, some of that will likely be off the books next season, Grabner’s $3M, Mathias at $2.3M, Spaling at $2.2M, Polak at $2.75M and who knows what’ll happen in trades over the season. But there’s also a few things that can keep the cap space low. Kadri’s contract is up at the end of the season, he’s an RFA and made $4.1M this season, could he be due for a slightly higher deal? If the Leafs are to have two goalies, they’ll have to at least sign either James Reimer or Garret Sparks and if it’s Reimer, he’ll easily make above $3M next year and Sparks will probably see around $1.5M to $2M. Most importantly, we have to remember Nathan Horton’s contract which is a $5.3M cap hit for another 4 seasons after this and he’s never playing on the team. To find the $9-10M a season to sign that he will most certainly get, finding cap space for him will be extremely difficult, no matter how you look at it.

Regardless of whether Stamkos wants to play in his hometown or not, you still have to look at the circus that is the Toronto media. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re under the largest of microscopes in Toronto, especially when the jersey you wear is that of the Maple Leafs. When playing on a team that isn’t nearly as crazy media-wise as Tampa Bay, would you want to leave that for a market of this magnitude? Especially when you could have other options besides Toronto in free agency that don’t off the media fuckery that Toronto has. Teams with lots of cap space right now include Winnipeg, Arizona, Nashville, Colorado, New Jersey and more. So there’s lots of options.

Would it be a good idea for the Leafs to go out of their way to sign Stamkos, even if it means having a semi-depleted lineup next season? OF COURSE, ARE YOU DUMB?! Stamkos is a generational player, one that could certainly prop the Leafs up, even with a younger lineup and maybe even get the Leafs back into the playoffs the next few years. The Leafs have no #1 center, I don’t care how good Tyler Bozak is playing, you cannot compete with any playoff-bound teams with him as your #1 center. And realistically, would we not expect another year or two of playoff-less hockey if we get to see #91 every game? I think we’d accept that.

I’m not saying complete destroy the team to get him, but if it’s at all possible and if it might hurt the lineup just a tiny bit, I say go for it! This may be the one chance we have to land a huge free agent like this. Cause there sure as shit ain’t much else out there for a while. Here’s a quick list:

  • Anze Kopitar – 2016
  • Eric Staal – 2016

That’s it for the next two years. Good luck, Toronto.

It’s time to cut bait on Jonathan Bernier

untitled

When Leafs fans like myself heard we were getting a great, young goalie in Jonathan Bernier, we were excited. Here we were getting a bonafide starting goalie for the future. He’d been backing up Jonathan Quick, arguably the best goaltender in the NHL at the time and was putting up great numbers. Needless to say, having a legitimate #1 starter for the first time since arguably Ed Belfour was huge for everyone.

And now we’re three years in and I’m already moving on.

This isn’t just coming off last night’s 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers where Bernier let in a soft goal from the red line and the game winning goal off the juiciest rebound from a slow, nothing shot. This is after a full season of god awful hockey coming off his actually pretty good initial season and now an 8-game start to the season that is making him look like he doesn’t even belong in the AHL, let alone the big leagues.

For whatever reason, Bernier’s completely fallen off the map. The stats don’t make it seem as obvious, but in his three seasons so far his goals against average has gone from 2.70, to 2.87, to 3.17 and his save percentage has gone from .920, to .912, to .895! You know how many goalies have a better percentage than him this season? 54! And only 12 others are behind him. Not to mention, he’s the only goalie who’s played more than 3 games and is winless this season. He’s the only starting goaltender without a win still! The next arguable starting goaltender on the list is Jonas Hiller who even having the god awful season he’s having, has 2 wins in 6 starts, following by 3-win starters like Michal Neuvirth, Frederik Andersen, Cam Talbot, Jimmy Howard, Steve Mason and Seymon Varlamov. Even Sergei Bobrovsky on this terrible starting Columbus team has 6 wins!

Now you can try to argue it’s because the Leafs aren’t scoring and in a sense that’s true. But we’ve seen time and time again Bernier letting in the first shot of the game or just horribly soft goals. When you are a team working as hard (regardless that they’re outmatched) like the Toronto Maple Leafs, a soft goal or a goal of the first freaking shot will kill any and all momentum the team has. No wonder they’re having trouble scoring, they’re all positive it’ll mean nothing in the end, Bernier’ll just cough up the lead.

So what gets done with Jonathan Bernier. For starters (pun intended), you need to bench him and have James Reimer as the #1. After their 3-game winning streak, the starting job should be Reimer’s to lose now, not Bernier’s just because we’re paying him $4.15M a year until the end of next season. If it’s at all possible, I’d be thinking about finding a deal to ship him out, even if it’s for a big money contract, as long as it’s for this one season. At this point, unless we can somehow sign a GREAT free agent goalie, our next directive should be drafting one.

Now as far as I’m aware of, there aren’t seemingly any future superstar goalies coming up in the draft, but that’s still something to look into, especially over the next 3 years. If a decent goalie is coming up in the draft, take it, even if he’s projected 10-20 spots lower. We can’t afford to miss one. Now Garret Sparks or Antoine Bibeau might turn out to be pretty good, but that’s a few years from now, the Leafs organization should be taking the initiative and drafting a couple more young goalies. You never know, there might be a great prospect piece to shop around if the Leafs are in a playoff race a few years down the line.

I don’t like jumping off the bandwagon of someone, but Bernier is one of those cases where he’s leaving me almost no choice. He’s letting in Toskala goals almost every month (and Toskala only had that one goal from the blue line!) and in a season where everyone on the roster in working hard and showing signs of improvement under Mike Babcock, Bernier is not. He’s floundering and as much as I’d hate to say it, we need to cut bait on him, hopefully by the end of this season.

I’m a little sick of this non-existent goaltending controversy we’ve had the last 3 years.