August 2007 Archives

Jorn's Jottings

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Simmons and Cox have both disappeared, which means no Simmons Says or Friday Incompletions this week. To help lessen the withdrawl sypmtoms for those of you who can only digest information in short half-sentences separated by ellipses, I will attempt to fill the void with my own lame weekend notebook:

Phillies closer Brett Myers almost came to blows with a reporter earlier this week, but since the reporter wasn't his wife, Myers didn't throw a punch...Phillies GM (and BFF of Toronto's baseball writers) Pat Gillick once again refused to suspend Myers, just like last year when Myers brutally beat his wife on a Boston street corner...Speaking of Gillick's unholy army of asskissers, Grimace is off the Jays beat and appears, for some reason, to be covering the Red Sox and Yankees. Murray Chass and Dan Shaughnessy had better watch out...If Gord Stellick and Bill Watters were able to turn their failed stints in the Leafs front-office into high profile media-gigs, can we expect to see JFJ hosting That's Hockey next season?...If I use a question mark, does that count as one of the periods in an ellipses, or should I still have three?...Shit, another question mark...

I'm not too familiar with the work of Mike Zeisberger, but I must say that having read three of his columns this week, I am really looking forward to trashing his output this season...Speaking of Zeisberger, his column today quotes Grapes giving his pick for steal-of-the-offseason: "[Mark Bell] may have been a throw-in in the Vesa Toskala deal, but he's my type of player. He's big, he can score and he can scrap when needed. He has a lot to prove, too"...Just goes to show that almost killing someone means nothing as long as you are a big Canadian boy...Exclaim magazine is to music what Simmons, Cox and the rest of the crew are to Toronto sports...When Mr. Till and I started this site, we had no idea what a prominent role Richard Griffin would have. The Cox Bloc couldn't exist without him...Brian Berard has accepted an offer to tryout with the Islanders, allowing the club to replace one convicted steroid abuser with another...Isles fans must be about as proud as Phillies fans right now...

...and hey, whatever happened to Bill Brydge?

The Toronto Sun says homosexuals are losers

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We almost missed this one from Mike Zeisberger in last Friday's Toronto Sun:

Walk into most NHL dressing rooms after a game these days, and what you often find is a group of millionaire athletes who would rather bite their tongues than offer a juicy sound byte that might ruffle feathers.


That wasn't Iafrate's style, as evidenced by his once famous statement, claiming empty-net goals were for losers.

More than a decade after he uttered those controversial words, people still remember them. And him.

I do indeed still remember Iafrate's controversial words. Once, when questioned about missing an empty net chance, Iafrate explained his gaffe by saying:

"Empty net goals are for homos."

So what is it Zeisberger? Are you whitewashing Iafrate's statement in order to not offend the progressive sensibilities of Sun readers, or are "Homo" and "Loser" synonyms in your book?

Richard 'Bleeping' Griffin

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I was two years old in 1978. I could barely string two words together and I regularly shit my pants. My day usually consisted of sleeping, smearing spaghetti-os on my shirt, stacking wooden blocks, knocking down those blocks, and crying. I drooled a lot, and I couldn't take four steps without falling on my ass. I bit other people and I ate bugs. Maybe I watched Sesame Street. I don't know, because I was two. 

Luckily for me - and especially for my friends and family - my 31 year old self barely resembles that obnoxious little two-year old (except when I am drunk, in which case I completely resemble that obnoxious little two-year old). You see, that was 29 years ago, and so much has changed since then that it would be totally ridiculous to compare my current lot in life with that of the two-year old that I once was. That would be almost as stupid as claiming that the events of a baseball season from nealy 30 years ago has any bearing on the current Major League campaign. Which is where Richard Griffin comes in

Many of us thought 2004 would put an end to those lazy curse-of-the-bambino stories. When the self-proclaimed idiots won their eighth playoff game in a row to finish off the Cardinals (and their fans morphed from long-suffering to insufferable) it should have vanquished all the demons, exorcised all the ghosts, reversed any curses, and all the other boring blah-blah-blah shoved down our throats by those tired sports writers who tried to have us believe that the Babe Ruth trade had somehow put a hex on the Red Sox organization.

No more Babe and no more Bucky. Even Aaron Boone was meaningless. The Red Sox were world champions, and no longer would sports columnists prattle on about the Boston Massacre , the summer of 49, or Grady Little. The ink-stained wretches would need to create new storylines, build new heroes, and focus on something other than the Yankees versus the Red Sox. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Grimace:

Whenever Yankee fans wish to turn the crank of Red Sox fans and get them slobbering uncontrollably, like Pavlov's poor ol' hound dog, all they need do is mention the name Bucky (Bleeping) Dent, and the sudden-death playoff for the AL crown in 1978.

I know some Red Sox fans, and for those of them who remember Bucky Dent, his home run - and the 1978 collapse - still hurts. However, whenever I mention Bucky Dent, they tend to say things like 2004, Dave Roberts, Rivera in Game Four. They don't slobber uncontrollably because I mentioned the name Buck Dent - they slobber uncontrollably because they are Red Sox Fans.

And, yes, times have changed since the advent of the wild-card, making any late-August series less of a life-and-death struggle, but starting tonight, with a three-game series against the Bosox in the House That Ruth Built, the Bombers have a chance to start prodding those Yankee-Red Sox ghosts with a pointy stick.

Ruth...ghosts...woohoo, it's 2003. There is a new episode of Friends on tonight.

Even a Yankee sweep will not completely close the gap in the standings between the talented Sox and the uneven men in pinstripes, but it would seriously stir memories of, and comparisons to, 1978 and what may be the greatest late-season baseball turnaround of all time, the '51 Giants notwithstanding.

Sure. If the Yankees sweep the Sox, it might stir memories of 1978. But as it stands now, the Yankees are 8 games back of the Red Sox, with little more than a month left in the season. If the Yankees sweep the Sox, go on a bit of a run, and then take two of three in Boston next week, we could draw comparisons to 1978. But, in case that doesn't happen, we should probably move on and discuss something else. What has been behind  the Red Sox success this season? Why have the Yankees been so uneven? What are their comparative schedules like for the next few weeks? Can the Yankees succeed with Mussina throwing batting practice every five days? Can Schilling possibly return to form? Or hey, how about a column on the Blue Jays? Isn't J.P. Ricciardi still a terrible GM? Isn't statistical analysis still racist? There is so much fodder for columns out there, there shouldn't be any reason to go into detail about the 1978 baseball season.

Here is the gist of the 1978 horsehide nightmare for New Englanders.

The haughty Red Sox led the AL standings by 14 games on July 17, and still led by 6  1/2 as they prepared to enter September. Although they ended up losing the pennant in a playoff, there were some redeeming factors.

I was wrong.

I will spare you the next four paragraphs, in which Grimace rehashes the almost 30 year old details of the Sox collapse, the one game playoff and Bucky Dent's home run.

This is not a sports column, it is a time capsule. These facts have been recycled a thousand times by a thousand writers, and they still add absolutely nothing to the conversation regarding this or any other baseball season with the exception of 1978. Half the players on both teams were either not born or in diapers when Dent hit his dinger. The fact that the Red Sox once blew a huge lead to the Yankees does not mean that they will do so again, and if it does happen, it will not be because it happened once before.

So, why bother writing this pointless column? Because it is easy. It takes no thought or imagination to bash out a story like this. I bet it was especially easy for Grimace (or Grimey, as he likes to be called), since he probably just had to cut and paste from any number of previous columns written over the years on this topic. Done by noon, off to the pub.

More to the point, why bother writing a pointless blog entry about this pointless column? Because it is a symptom of what ails sports writing in this city: namely, tired cliches and useless trivia passed off as analysis. It is just lazy and unhelpful. Even Red Sox fans and Yankees fans (full disclosure: I am a Yankee fan) are tired of this story, because we have heard it so many times and it means nothing. If you really want to write about the Sox and Yankees, why not give us something new, instead of the same old cursed-Sox tripe. Or, why not write about the home team and spare us all another story about the great rivalry? If Yanks fans and Sox fans don't want to hear it, I imagine Blue Jays fans don't give a shit either, nor do the fans of the 27 other MLB teams who are sick to death of wall-to-wall coverage filled with frivolous stories about the Yanks and Sox.

I will end this rant with a little contest for the readers. The first person who can tell me three things that are wrong with the following sentence from Grimace's column will win a free one-year subscription to the Cox Bloc:

It's clear that Sox manager Terry Francona is not the same lame tactician as Zimmer in terms of warped baseball strategy.

Send your answers to kimjorn@coxbloc.com

A Quick One While He's Lame

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Maybe it's the booze talking, but I sit down to write this Griffin post with a grudging admiration for the man.

It's only my third crack at the mailbag and I'm already tired of skewering his Jason Frasor fixation and the rest of the bitter foibles that make up his weekly sermon. How he manages to hack on JP week after week through another third-place season is actually pretty impressive. So, with the lack of anything new from Grimace, just a couple quick notes on the mailbag.:

But what about J.P.'s own uncertain legacy with deals like Cesar Izturis and Paul Quantrill for Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts, or Felipe Lopez for Jason Arnold. A box of doughnuts might have sweetened those deals.

It is not a disdain for John Gibbons as much as it is an understanding and a feel for his untenable situation working under the micro-management of J.P. Ricciardi.

As for David Cone, he was reaching the end of a contract and the Jays were going to lose him to free agency. Clemens orchestrated his own escape to New York and the Jays were forced to make their best deal possible. The Hentgen deal was uncalled for, even though his best years were behind him. He was a lifer and a loyal soldier. Finally, when Ash obtained Loaiza, the Jays thought they were in a 2000 pennant drive and had a farm system chock full of shortstops ahead of Young in the pecking order.
"


But what about....?" Christ, I bet Griffin blames JP for his speeding tickets. "But officer, I had to rush back to the Star to expose JP's secret plan to trade Roy Halladay for Damion Easley!"

The upshot of these torturous paragraphs is that it's OK to trade four-time All-Star and former AL batting champ Michael Young for nothing, but trading vastly inferior shortstops Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis is a cardinal sin. Gord Ash is Canadian.

Also, Petraeus reminds us you shouldn't trade washed up pitchers that are "lifers" and "loyal soldiers." If, as stated elsewhere here, Steve Simmons would have a team of Josh Towers', it could still whup Griffin's preferred Jays lineup, which appears to be made up of Reed Johnson, Hentgen, Jim Clancy, and Ernie Whitt.

Conveniently, he doesn't mention that one of Ricciardi's worst ever moves was to being back 'loyal soldier' Hentgen in 2004, only to see him put up a 2-9, 6.95 line. Grimace passing up the chance to bash JP, what is the world coming to....
From Jeff Blair's latest noose-tightener:

Deep down, in the little corner of my consciousness that hasn't been plundered of all affection for baseball

Well, then don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Jeff. The ironic thing is that sportswriters say bullshit like this all the time (they never quit, though), but give them an athlete whose demeanour and attitude suggest they might rather be doing something else, and they bust out the crucifixes faster than you can say "Ricky Williams" or "Alexandre Daigle." I wonder how the interns at the Globe sports desk, sweating balls to get a byline, up till 4am updating the West Coast tennis results, must feel about this.
What's that Mean Gene?

That's right, this baby's about to HATCH!

Big thanks to my brother, and our comrade, Randre Aacicot (That's Fred Isher to you -- ed) for facilitating this move to more salubrious surroundings.I've moved all previous entries over, but now it looks like they've all been written by me. That's probably fair. To paraphrase Shawn Michaels, Kim is the biggest piece of luggage in professional blogging - I have to carry him every night.

Actually, readers will know he's done the majority of the content, so I'll have that fixed ASAP. (Uh, nope -- ed.)

Another casualty of the move was our collection of almost 10 comments - some by other people! We may move these over, but for now, I'd like to mention a comment left by tybalt this week:

Guys, while all this stuff is fun in theory, isn't this just shooting fish in a barrel? You guys must have better things to do with your creative energies than mock the local dumbasses.

The only thing as bad or pointless as being a complete dumbass, is being someone who thinks a compete dumbass is worth a great deal of their time or energy.

To paraphrase every corporate jackass ever, great point. This is a new blog, and as such Kim and I are still developing what we want it to do. It started simply as a way to make each other laugh, to move our daily bitching about the knee-jerk mediocrity of the Toronto sportswriting scene to a different forum. If other people happen to laugh, awesome. As it is something we both enjoy, this aspect of the site isn't going anywhere.

However, it is true that the problem of sites like Fire Joe Morgan and others is that their analysis stops pretty much at "LOLZ DUMBAZZZES!!!111" We intend to go further. Steve Simmons making shit up and Cox's negativity about any sport in which you don't wear a collared shirt are mere symptoms a larger problem. The problem is the refusal of the major voices to try and give some real analysis of Canadian sporting culture.

Canada, like many other countries, uses sports as a proxy, a national story, a way to comment on and understand the issues of class, gender, race, and state in this country. But for all the talk about how hockey shapes Canada, the inverse is rarely studied. Few writers, Stephen Brunt a notable exception, go beyond the easy headline or off-the-cuff opinion to ask the more difficult, and more interesting, questions. Kim's excellent piece on the handling of the Mark Bell case in the press is an example of this approach.

Simply put, we plan on putting Canada's sporting culture under the microscope, and ask how our sporting culture reflects our national dreams, failures, mythologies, and pathologies.  Ideally, we'll write some of the sportswriting we want to read, but so rarely do.

So, we got snark if you want it.
But we'll have more than snark too.
Hope you stick around.

Grimace Rides Again

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Originally posted on August 21, 2007

Not to be outdone by Simmons inability to understand how ERA works, Griffin kicks off the week with his take on Reed Johnson:

Every night, Jays fans in attendance recognize and appreciate Reed Johnson's hustle and enthusiasm; his strong, accurate arm, baseball savvy, loyalty and his personal drive to rehab ahead of schedule from back surgery. Unfortunately, the only two men that matter - manager John Gibbons and GM J.P. Ricciardi - don't see those traits as worthy of a two-way street, and have reduced his role to platoon player.

'Reduced?' Reed Johnson has been a platoon player almost his entire career. And those traits aren't worthy of a "two-way street" - the Jays don't owe Reed Johnson any playing time, just his salary, which they are paying him, minus ten per cent agent's fees for Richard Griffin apparently. Production is what gets playing time, nice as the intangibles are. Otherwise, I could be playing in right field, and Johnny MacDonald would be the best SS in the league. Wait a minute...

Last year, Johnson played so well in a platoon left-field role with Frank Catalanotto that the Jays let Cat go as a free agent.

He played well in that role cause he's a good platoon player, something Griffin will completely fail to grasp for this entire column. Also, wasn't Catalanotto allowed to leave because he was too expensive, thus defeating the purpose of the cheap LF production the Jays had garnered? And wasn't Adam Lind supposed to step into that job?

Now that he has returned, needing consistent at-bats and games to re-establish his groove, Gibbons has turned to a platoon with Matt Stairs. Johnson drew last night's start vs. a righty because he was hitting .571 lifetime against Joe Blanton.

Reed Johnson is still injured.

"I wish it was different," Johnson said. "I wish I could be out there helping my team on an everyday basis, because I know I have more to offer as a player. That's been my mentality. That's why I earned the starting job."


Griffin should point out here that Johnson has earned a job as a platoon player, right?

That's the key word: Earned. Johnson is the only Jays starter that possesses true top-of-the-order skills in the art of small ball.

Dr Grimace is in! The Jays problems this year aren't that they're 8th in runs, 11th in OBP, and 8th in home runs - it's that Reed Johnson isn't dropping leadoff bunts down every night. Whew, hopefully Gibbons can give a few more outs away per game and they'll be right back in this thing.

Instead, by not making him an everyday player, the Jays' brass is sucking the energy out of Johnson. They see the regular season as a day-to-day battle for a wild-card spot and don't want to take any chances. They are sacrificing the loyalty and clubhouse presence of one of their only true "gamers" for an occasional Stairs long-ball.


Hold the phone, Mabel - the Blue Jays see the season as a set of games they need to win to make the playoffs? Not Participaction for injured players who are underperforming? See you in court, Ted Rogers!

Also, Reed Johnson is being disloyal? Not showing up for meetings, badmouthing in the clubhouse, not hustling in the field? Oh sorry, you were just making shit up again, weren't you? Silly me.

If Johnson is to be a part of the Jays' plans next year as was touted this past winter, then he should play every day. The players know he has earned that right.


Absolutely. Sticking to plans you made ages ago certainly takes precedence over dealing with the events of the season. BJ Ryan was touted as the closer last winter - he should be out there in the ninth, elbow surgery be damned! Why isn't Gustavo Chacin in the rotation? Fun fact - in his spare time, Richard Griffin writes military strategy under the pen name 'General David Petraeus.'

Also, I have to put this at the end, because Griffin is too busy constructing fictional arguments about what 'the players know' without any quotes from said players. Why is Matt Stairs playing more than Reed?

Matt Stairs - .288/.359/.545
Reed Johnson- .270 /.333/.384

Matt Stairs never should have written Moneyball.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 20, 2007

Damien Cox is on vacation until September 3rd, which means that Simmons will have to carry this site on his back for the next two weeks. Lucky for us, he can't open his mouth or pick up a pen without making at least one asinine assertion with no basis in reality.

Today we bring you Simmons' thumps-down from this week's episode of the Reporters:

My thumb is down to Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers and Roger Clemens of the New York Yankees. Two players who frankly should know better. Fielder, who might be the MVP in the National League this year, gets suspended for three games this year, gets suspended for three games with his team in first place.

He has appealed and will not serve the suspension until the appeal is heard.

Well guess what? They are not in first place anymore because Fielder was arguing balls and strikes.

Jesus. You really have no clue. The fact that the Brewers are no longer in first place has nothing to do with Fielder's suspension, because he has yet to miss a game. Do you even watch baseball? The Brewers are no longer in first place because their pitching rotation has struggled, some key players are injured, they played over their heads for the first half of the season, and the Cubs have played better after a slow start.

Clemens, in the middle of a pennant race, puts the ball in the back of Alex Rios of the Blue Jays. He winds up out for five days, which means missing one start. Well guess what? In that start for the Yankees they were beaten 12-0. These guys need to be in the lineups for their teams for their teams to be in the playoffs.

The Yankees lost 12-0. That means they scored no runs. Unless Clemens was planning on hitting a few dingers, I don't think he could have helped.
Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 19, 2007

This oughtta be fun:

Not hard to figure why the Blue Jays are so middle-of-the- road. The club is 14th in batting, 17th in runs scored, 22nd in earned run average ...

I think Steve Simmons makes an enormous mistake here, which should result in him never being allowed to write about baseball ever again. In order to fully expose the true idiocy of this mistake, I must first acknowledge that Simmons is kind of right about two of the stats he cited.

By my calculations (and by my calculations, I mean their calculations), The Blue Jays are actually 19th in runs scored, but both his numbers and mine are close enough for jazz, so this one gets a pass. I don't know what Simmons means by "batting", but pretty much all of their team offensive numbers are average to just below average, so it would be safe to call the Blue Jays "batting" middle of the road.

Now we get to the good stuff. The Blue Jays team ERA is 4.01, which is good for third in the American League behind Oakland and Boston. It would also be good for third in the NL behind San Diego and the Mets. As a result, the Blue Jays have the fifth best ERA in all of baseball (using the Blue Jays' ERA+, which accounts for differences in ballparks, the Blue Jays actually move up to fourth).

So, Simmons is just about as completely wrong as can be about this one. But how could he ever come to the conclusion that the Blue Jays have the 22nd best ERA in baseball? There is only one - very illogical - explanation: There are three teams within seven percentage points of the Blue Jays (Dodgers, Diamonbacks, Giants), meaning it is possible that those teams had a better ERA than the Blue Jays within the last week. If so, the Blue Jays might have had the 8th best ERA of all 30 Major League Baseball teams when Simmons looked at the stats. Or, if you rather, the 22nd worst ERA.

Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that Steve-O doesn't know that a high ERA is "good" and a low ERA is "bad"?

... J.P. Ricciardi isn't afraid to make the big move, just not necessarily the right move. He didn't care for Kelvim Escobar, but loved A.J. Burnett. Escobar is the better pitcher.

Kelvim Escobar career:
W-L: 96-89
WHIP: 1.368
ERA: 4.09
ERA+: 113
K/season: 144

A.J. Burnett career:
W-L: 66-64
WHIP: 1.280
ERA: 3.79
ERA+: 112
K/Season: 197

Those numbers are pretty equal. I like Burnett's WHIP and strike out rate better, but he compiled a lot of those numbers in the weaker NL. Burnett has spent a lot of time on the DL, and Escobar has been great since he left Toronto. So...Simmons is probably right about this one.

Did I just type that? I'm sure there is a reason why he is wrong...because he is usually wrong...so let me root around here for a second...um...here we go: Escobar signed a three-year deal with the Angels in 2003 for nearly $7 million per season. Even though the Blue Jays were in the second year of J.P's Five Year Plan (Richard Griffin, TM) - which involved cost-cutting, identifying under-valued players, and the forced collectivization of farmland north of Toronto - the team did make a competitive offer for Escobar, but he chose to sign with the Angels. Three years later, Uncle Ted opened up the bank and the Blue Jays were able to sign Burnett, who was the best pitcher available and was/is still young with a tremendous upside. The point being, this wasn't an either/or proposition between Escobar and Burnett, and making it seem like it was is unfair and dishonest.

So Simmons is wrong. And he will be wrong again.

He didn't care much for Orlando Hudson or Miguel Batista and traded them from Troy Glaus. Hudson, a defensive whiz, has more RBIs than Glaus, who has a bad back.

Told you he would be wrong again.

RBIs are probably the most meaningless stat when it comes to judging how good a player is, because they really depend on how good the people hitting in front of you are at getting on base. OPS, on the other hand, tells you how good a player is at hitting for power and getting on base himself, which are really important things in baseball.

Orlando Hudson
Age: 29
Career OPS: .773
2007 OPS: .817 (Career season)

Troy Glaus
Age: 30
Career OPS: .856
2007 OPS: .798 (Hobbled by injury)

Hudson is having a good season, and Glaus is having a poor season by his standards. They are about the same age, and unless Glaus' injuries do lasting damage, I would expect next years numbers to revert back to career norms for both players.

Ignoring stats for a minute, it is worth noting that Simmons does the same thing here that he did in his Escobar v Burnett argument: namely, refusing to provide any context in his criticism of Ricciardi. The Blue Jays needed a slugging third baseman and had a young second baseman (Aaron Hill) who was ready for the big show. As a result, Hudson was expendable. The Hudson and Bautista for Glaus trade is probably the best deal J.P. has made since becoming General Secretary of the Toronto Blue Jays politburo. No only did he add one of the best-hitting third basemen in the major leagues, he managed to dump Miguel Batista, who is not very good.

Batista has 13 wins for a Seattle team fighting for a playofff spot ...

First RBIs, now wins. It looks like Steve-O is angling for Murray Chass's job.

Miguel Batista can throw 863 different pitches, none of them for strikes, and gets paid more than $8 million per season. Batista has won 13 games this year, even though his peripherals suggest he isn't pitching nearly that well (86:51 K:BB, 1.50 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9). Miguel Batista personifies a Seattle team that is inexplicably in the hunt for a playoff position, even though they don't hit well and their starting pitching is terrible (including Bautisita). The Seattle bullpen is lights out, and as a result they have an incredible record in close games. I have been waiting all year for Seattle to fall apart, and it is looking like it isn't going to happen.

Mark my words: If Jeff Weaver wins another World Series this year, I will stop watching baseball forever.

Have to admit I'm cheering for Milwaukee Brewers to hang on in the National League. Canadian Doug Melvin is the general manager, his assistant is the York U grad Gord Ash, and the first baseman, Prince Fielder, was born in Toronto ...

Steve Simmons likes Gord Ash more than he likes J.P. Ricciardi, which is why he is "rooting" for him, rather than pointing out that the Scott Linebrink for Joe Thatcher, Steve Garrison and Will Inman trade is much worse than anything Ricciardi has done since he arrived in Toronto.

Also cheering for the Phillies in the wild-card race. I confess: Still a big Pat Gillick admirer ...

He also likes Pat Gillick more than he likes J.P. Ricciardi, which is why he doesn't mention that Bobby Abreau and Corey Lidle for C.J. Henry and Matt Smith trade from last year.

Just how valuable is Barry Bonds? The Giants are 3-12 in games in which he has hit home runs this season.

With 9 no-decisions, apparently, because Barry has hit home runs in 24 games this year.

For the sake of argument, we'll assume Simmons numbers are correct (which they aren't). The reason why the Giants are 3-12 in those games is because the Giants suck. Twelve times Barry did the best possible thing you can do in baseball, and twelve times his team did not win. Is that Barry's fault? Barry should make sure to only hit home runs in games that the Giants win.

We should also remove all of the home runs that Barry hit in a losing effort from the record books, since they were pretty much meaningless. It would take a long time to calculate the actual number of dingers that Barry hit in a game in which his team lost, so I will just use the 4 out of 5 ratio that Simmons provided for this season (which is incorrect). Let me get my calculator here...and...lets see...a staggering 608 of Barry's home runs came in games when his team lost. That means that he has only hit 152 career home runs, steroids don't work, Hank Aaron is still home run champ, and everyone is happy.

But to answer Simmons question, here is how valuable Barry Bonds is: If I managed a team of players named Barry Bonds, I would probably win 150 games. My team would score around 2500 runs on the season, and the fact that Barry Bonds was pitching wouldn't matter because we could give up 12 or 13 runs a game and still win most of the time. The highlight of my year would be when my team of Barry Bondses played Simmons' team of Josh Towerses and we won 94-0.

Simmons doesn't know anything about baseball. This isn't even fun, and I should probably stop now (but I won't). How can someone have a regular syndicated column and get away with this stuff. Just to recap:

1. He doesn't know that a low ERA is a good thing
2. All trades and signings are made in a vacuum
3. RBIs are the best stat for judging a hitter
4. Wins are the best stat for judging a pitcher
5. Gord Ash and Pat Gillick are good guys, J.P. Ricciardi is not
6. Barry Bonds is not valuable (according to some stat that Simmons pulled out of his ass)

I can't wait for next Sunday.
Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 18, 2007

Turns out Mats Sundin isn't sharing an apartment with Toller Cranston:

While many of his teammates were practising at the Maple Leafs' Lakeshore training facility yesterday, captain Mats Sundin was relaxing with new girlfriend Josephine Johansson on the outdoor patio of a Stockholm cafe.

Sundin, 36, tries to keep his personal life private


Too bad for him, apparently.

but, as captain of Sweden's Olympic hockey team, he's the focus of as much interest in Stockholm as he is in Toronto. When Sundin and Johansson were seen embracing on Swedish TV at a sports event recently, it became front-page news.

In Toronto, where this was the cover story from yesterday

Richard Griffin's Lamebag

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Originally posted on August 17, 2007

What TEH COX is to MLSE, his Starwipe colleague Richard Griffin is to J.P. Ricciardi and the Rogers ownership. Since Ted Rogers did the unforgivable and fired Griffin's drinking buddies in the Ash regime and hired somebody who can use a computer, Dick has launched a full-on war on Billy Beane's non-union Mexican equivalent, highlighted by his involvement in a moment that makes Flowers and I wish we could take this blog back in time, the nadir of Toronto sportswriting this decade, the one, the only, the White Jays cover story.

Like DC Talk with MLSE, there is much to criticize about the job Ricciardi has done with the Jays. Unfortunately, it comes from a place of such visceral prejudice against both JP Ricciardi and any method of judging a player's worth that doesn't involve chewed tobacco, pounded Budweiser, and well-scratched balls that it is entirely worthless as analysis. It serves only as a cautionary tale of the brain damage caused by lengthy exposure to the horseshit of the Toronto media echo chamber, and of course, to make snarky jokes at expense of same - which is where we come in.

Fortunately for us, Dick Grimace gets to the good stuff first, before finishing with several paragraphs of porridge about Matt Stairs, BJ Ryan, and god the Jays are so boring I'm falling asleep typing this.

Q: Hi Richard. Love your column.

Two quick questions: One: both John Gibbons and J.P. Ricciardi are often criticized by both fans and media. On a positive note, though, how would you summarize their respective strengths? What do they, in your view, bring to the organization from a positive perspective?

Secondly, why on earth would the Jays search this off-season for a shortstop when they have the best SS in the AL? Isn't a guy who makes jaw-dropping plays virtually every game and can hit around .260 for a number-nine hitter reason enough to keep this guy as your starter?

Phil Rossel, Barrie


There's your Richard Griffin target market - people who seriously think Johnny MacDonald is the best SS in the American League. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, the Griffin mailbag is people who don't like baseball writing for people who don't understand baseball.

A: Hmm! They're both good family men and J.P. is a snappy dresser. As for positive perspective on the Jays, Gibbons consistently likes to allow his stars to feel like stars starting at spring training by allowing them to prepare for the season at their own pace. Vernon Wells is usually ready by May. This year, Frank Thomas was comfortable by June.

Apparently John Gibbons is a more effective manager than Griffin gives him credit for, because he's ensured that Vernon Wells has been shitty in April his entire career (.779 OPS, his second worst month!). And the Jays must talk to Billy Beane a whole lot - how else do you explain Frank Thomas hitting .190 in April last year before finishing 4th in the MVP race?

Gibbons is positive, yes. Sometimes so positive that when a pitcher can't help him any more, he makes sure he is well rested for the off-season as with Jason Frasor. Meanwhile, others like Scott Downs are asked to warm up almost every game meaning it doesn't take them long to get loose. He's also positive that nothing can be done to stop other teams from stealing bases against his squad. Extremely positive.


Some other fun here - Jason Frasor, who Dick thinks should be pitching everyday (gotta get that 4.43 ERA in there!) has pitched 42 IP through August 16, as opposed to 50 last year. Definitely getting buried. Scott Downs has an ERA of 2.38.

As for Ricciardi, he used to be good as a GM at competing on a budget, but is still working on the "competing with a bucketful of cash" angle. Ricciardi has always been good at signing cast-offs from other teams that turn into solid 24th-25th men on the roster. He's not so good on inking the on-the-fringe free agent pitcher types trying to catch lightning in a bottle. See: Doug Creek, Tanyon Sturtze, Jeff Tam, Juan Acevedo, Vic de los Santos, Kerry Ligtenberg, Terry Adams, John Thomson, Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano.


Ignoring Griffin's hilarious canard about how JP was 'a good GM on a budget' - the exact opposite of what he said at the time - the level of contradiction is gobsmacking here. JP is good at getting castoffs to fill out the roster. He's bad at getting "on the fringe free agent types" - castoffs - to fill out the roster.

There are no words.

A then-cocky, obnoxious Red Sox reader e-mailed and called me an idiot and a lout and said that everything has changed since 2004 when the Sox shattered the Bambino's Curse with a World Series win and Drew Barrymore took over the field in St. Louis for the ending of that schlocky movie with the Happy Gilmore dude. Well, I may be an idiot, but I do believe that that formerly mocking fan and his Red Sox Nation ilk are indeed starting to shift uncomfortably in their seats. Melky Cabrera, meet Bucky Dent.

Yes, yes you are. OR at least you play one on the Internet. Call me crazy, but the AL East race might have something to do with the Yankees now not all being injured and losing every close game, rather than the 30-year-old exploits of a light hitting SS and a shitty Farrelly brothers movie (which starred Jimmy Fallon, by the way, a pretty good acting equivalent to Grimace - they both have only one expression and inexplicable employment). God, they tell us statheads to start watching the games.

As for the Jays and their obvious mid-season decision to continue being mediocre, it's all about pedigree. The Yankees that were underachievers in the first half had track records of success. Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui and the rest all had shown what numbers they could put up over 162 games. The panic took place less than halfway through. But the manager believed and stayed the course. The pitchers returned to health and the rest is history in the making. The Jays, meanwhile, have relied on unexpected sources for their improved pitching and must therefore expect some inconsistency and missteps in the regular season marathon. Roy Halladay has been Halladay and A.J. Burnett has been A.J.


BTW, I didn't link the question because I believe it's part of the Cox Bloc mission to spare you from some of this pain. Suffice to say it wasn't a question and involved sending Troy Glaus to the minors to fire up the team. These are his readers.

The answer lives up to the question. The Jays 'decided to be mediocre?' How exactly?

And the last two sentences make even less sense. The Jays are 3rd in the AL in ERA, 10th in runs. Even DC Talk could grasp this one, even if it took a couple of golf analogies to explain it to him.

Speaking of the Jays talented young pitching, Griff on Dustin MacGowan:

Which means that he would not have had a chance to make an impression as a minor-league starter, and instead would have been buried in Jason Frasor-type middle relief and probably not ending up in the rotation and contributing as he has.

Wow. With this kind of ability to describe a future that didn't happen. Griffin must have been kickass at those Choose Your Own Adventure books. Too bad he didn't pick up any writing tips. Also, unimpeachable logic here - the organization that has put rookies Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch in the rotation this year definitely wouldn't have given their top prospect a chance.

Q: Is there a legitimate reason Mickey Brantley is still the hitting coach for this underachieving offence? Or does a hitting coach really not make much of a difference?

Cuyler Black, Danbury, CT

A: A good hitting coach can make a difference, especially with young players.

It's simple. Mickey Brantley is John Gibbons' man. John Gibbons is J.P. Ricciardi's man. J.P. Ricciardi is Paul Godfrey's man. Paul Godfrey is Ted Rogers' man. It's baseball's commutative theory of holding onto your job. Once the first domino is pushed over, they will all fall.

Griffin has a great handle on this because the same theory applies to Toronto sportswriters. Everybody to the bar!

Kids, Don't Drink And Write

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Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 16, 2007

Mark Bell has been convicted of a hit and run while under the influence of alcohol, joining a long list of current and former NHLers who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law for drinking and driving related incidents.

Dale Hunter, Dave Hunter, Peter Worrell, Chris Pronger, Bobby Hull, Paul Holmgren, Mike Keenan, Jamie Macoun and Bob Probert have all have DUIs on their records. Jay Bouwmeester faces a drunk driving trial in September. Tim Horton died after getting behind the wheel drunk. Steve Chiasson killed himself in a drunk-driving accident outside of Peterborough in 1999. Craig McTavish served a year in jail for a 1984 drunk-driving accident which killed a woman in Massachusetts. Rob Ramage is still awaiting trial on charges stemming from a drunk-driving accident in 2004 which took the life of Keith Magnuson. It goes on and on...

Mark Bell should consider himself lucky. He isn't dead, and neither is the victim of the hit-run, whom Bell left with severe neck, head and back injuries after smashing into his car with so much force that it propelled it 15 metres up a hill and wrapped it around a telephone pole. When the police finally caught up with him - after he fled the scene - Bell blew almost two times over the legal blood-alcohol limit.

For this, he will spend six months is jail, served over the summer months so that he will not miss any of the hockey season. Mark Bell should be on his knees thanking god and blowing his lawyer, and as soon as he is finished he should begin doing whatever he can to make amends, starting with paying restitution to the victim of this crime.

Or, if Damien Cox had his way, Bell would hire Stephen Ames' PR person:

What was interesting was how the Leafs chose to address the news yesterday that Bell will be going to jail at the end of this season on drunk driving charges. Few realized that someone was hurt significantly in this incident - the driver of the truck Bell hit - and that Bell is still up to his eyeballs in legal problems over this incident.

The Leafs seemed slow to react, with GM John Ferguson finally issuing a bland, predictable statement crafted by some public relations guy, and then Bell doing to the same.

Contrast that with another athlete, albeit one in very different, non-legal bind. Stephen Ames failed miserably in his final PGA championship round pairing with Tiger Woods, but by the day after was on the media circut, very available to print, radio and TV reporters interested in discussing that and his exclusion from Presidents Cup team.

Suddenly, instead of being difficult to reach, Ames was everywhere, and suddenly he became a sympathetic character rather than a punchline.

For the Leafs, this Bell story isn't going to go away. But he's surely not the only 20-something to get in trouble with drinking and driving, and they would do well to find a way before training camp to get his story out there in a human way.

People will be much quicker to forget other stuff if he can play.

But right now, most people don't even know what he looks like. They just know he sounds like trouble, not a solution of any kind.


This is what passes for analysis at the Toronto Star? Stephen Ames is a golfer who got his ass handed to him by Tiger Woods on Sunday and then got left off the President's Cup team because he isn't very good. Mark Bell got drunk, drove, and almost killed someone. How does anyone, let alone the star sports columnist at a major Canadian newspaper, get away with writing this crap?

Did Cox bet a friend that he could work golf into every article, column and blog entry that he writes for the next six months?

I can't stress this enough: This is the dumbest shit Damien Cox has ever written. Ever. If it weren't for Jay Mohr, this may be the dumbest thing ever written about sports.

Mark Bell, as Cox points out, surely isn't the only 20-something to get in trouble with drinking and driving. But Mark Bell has problems that go way beyond drinking and driving. You see, Mark Bell is a bad dude. When he was 19, he beat up a cabbie in Ottawa, leaving him with bruised ribs, black eyes, a split lip and a five-stitch hole in his forehead. He was drunk at the time. Is it any wonder that the Leafs are hesitant to get his story out there in a "human way", as Cox suggests? It seems that Bell likes to get drunk and fuck people up - let's get him in front of as many cameras as we can, as soon as possible. Just like Stephen Ames.

Cox did get one thing right: Ferguson's statement, crafted by some public relations guy (aka scourge of the earth) was terrible. I would have preferred to see Fergie mumble some honest words, maybe along the lines of the following:

"As many of you may know, our hockey club desperately required a starting goaltender following last year's shameful debacle. We attempted to trade Andrew Raycroft for a draft pick and a goalie similar to Tuukka Rask, but there was no GM in the league stupid enough to make that trade. As a result, we dealt for Vesa Toskala, but were forced to take that scum-bag Mark Bell as part of the package. I know you don't like it, and believe me, we don't like it either. Honestly, we hoped he would be in the slammer by October..."

But I digress...

Cox's relentless hatred of the Leafs puts him in an awkward position here. What he seems to be suggesting is that the Leafs failed in whitewashing this story, and should be making a better attempt to improve Mark Bell's public image. What I am suggesting is this: the Leafs don't need to do anything because Canadian hockey fans and media types will often look the other way when a "good Canadian boy" gets in trouble. You see, hockey players are different than other athletes (ie, mostly Canadian, mostly white). It is all well and good to condemn basketball and football players for their (often heinous) transgressions, yet hockey players always seem to skate away unchecked.

I know it isn't technically a sport, but look at what is happening with professional wrestling. The WWE is suffering an "epidemic" of steroid related deaths. There will be a congressional investigation into steroids in wrestling, and Nancy Grace fills five hours a week with news from the squared-circle. The funny thing is, this story didn't hit the mainstream until Chris Benoit killed his family. Drunk hockey players have been killing people for years. Where is the outcry about the alcohol culture in hockey?

I must say, it came as quite a shock to see Don Cherry's comments after an alcohol-fulled evening landed the Staal brothers in a Minnesota jail:

"This might seem like small potatoes, but all you kids out there listen up. Too many hockey players have suffered because of alcohol and it is about time we put an end to this. We've lost too many members of the NHL family due to driving fatalities and too many careers have been shortened by alcohol abuse. It is time we took a stand and addressed the fact that we might have a problem here."

Wait. I made that one up. Here is what Canada's most cherished bigot actually said:

I am very disappointed in the Sun because I always thought of it as very fair and not a trash tabloid

aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....pause, catch breath...aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...good one Grapes.

What?

You weren't making a joke?

But what you did to those kids by putting their mug shots on the front of the paper was really low.

All of these other sports have all kinds of crazy things happen -- you have got guys up on rape charges, murder, attempted murder, gambling suspicion and guys taking steroids, and you have some kids on your front page who got a little too loud at a party. Come on!


In the last five years the NHL has had one player convicted of manslaughter, an assistant coach was kicked out of the league for operating a gambling ring with the mob, and Sean Hill took so many steroids that the crappy Islanders managed to make the playoffs. Oh yeah, and a whole bunch of players got busted for drunk driving. But all of these other sports, well they have crazy things happen.

(I do realize that the Staal case is not nearly as serious as other cases mentioned here, but they did get arrested, and one of them was drinking underage, which is illegal. I also think the Sun is not very fair and is also a trash tabloid, but I don't fault them for putting the Staals on the front page. It was a no-brainer.)

Am I totally off base here? I imagine that if I bothered to do some research, I would likely discover that the rate of drunk driving incidents amongst hockey players mirrors that of the general population. So, am I advocating that we hold hockey players to a higher standard as some sort of role models? I don't think so. I came to terms years ago with the fact that I probably wouldn't like most hockey players on a personal level. Rich, mostly white, millionaire jocks are not really my type of crowd. But, frankly, I don't care. As long as Darcy Tucker scores goals for the Leafs, I don't care what he does with his personal life (to a certain extent, obviously). What pisses me off - and results in my bashing out a 2000 word blog entry that three people might read - is the way these incidents are glossed over in this country with this boys-will-be-boys attitude.

This goes all the way down the ranks to - at least - junior hockey. Laura Robinson's excellent book Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport, documents, in horrifying detail, shocking behaviour by some of Canada's junior hockey heroes and the great depths that coaches, teams, and communities will go to to cover-up their actions. I am too drunk to go into too much detail about the book, so I'll just give you the dust-jacket description:

In
Crossing the Line, Laura Robinson takes an unflinching look at abuse in junior hockey, the breeding ground for the NHL. She explains how this great sport has gone so bad, and challenges those who are a part of the world of hockey to rethink the game and consider ways to fix it.

The abuse takes many forms. It may be overtly sexual. It may be an overwhelming pressure on players - removed from the support of their families and often living far from home - to perform and to fit in. It often takes the form of degrading hazing rituals, many of which have violent sexual overtones, designed to take the players beyond their inhibitions and the normal limits of their aggression.

Robinson shows how the institutionalized abuse in hockey turns the players themselves into abusers. Yet when accusations are levelled against the players, team managers and owners rally around to protect them, applying pressure to have the charges dropped or the accuser discredited.

Junior hockey and the NHL are arenas for the display of what we consider to be ideal manhood. In Crossing the Line, Laura Robinson shows how damaging it can be when the participants in this often violent spectacle are unleashed on the real world.


Isn't it strange that this country has hundreds of hockey writers, yet this is the only book I have come across on this subject? The way I see it, too many hockey players in this country have been led to believe they can get away with murder (or at least vehicular manslaughter) and we have a compliant and complacent media that refuse to examine the reasons why. Sure, most of these guys are decent, well adjusted men who don't deserve to be tarred with the same brush as the bad apples...

...but, when someone screws up, and screws up bad (like Mark Bell), wouldn't it be better if our esteemed hockey press recommended that they get counseling, rather than better PR?

Update:
The Globe's James Mirtle gets it:

Mark Bell will remember Sept. 4, 2006, for more than just the horrific, alcohol-fuelled car crash that changed his life.

It was also the day he had his last drink.

The new Maple Leafs winger, the one that trouble used to follow, says he has been living sober for the last 347 days. (Toronto Star)
There's a culture in hockey that is built around the party after the game, and while that in itself isn't a bad thing, there certainly have been more than enough incidents to suggest alcohol abuse is a problem in the NHL.

These are, for the most part, young men with little responsibility (especially in the off-season) and a lot of money, and living a dream often includes overindulgences of all kinds.

"Now, every day I wake up I realize I'm living a dream. It's taken a while for me to understand that. Now that I have, I'm going to grab it. My fun now is at the rink."

Good for him.

It's Like Rain On Your Wedding Day

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Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 15, 2007

Allan Maki goes all post-modern on us in today's Globe and Mail, mocking Leafs fans and the Toronto press for caring about the Leafs summer activities by writing a column about...uh...the Leafs summer activities.

Let's get down to it boppers:

We interrupt this column for a breaking news story:

Leafs skate! Leafs skate! Leafs skate!

Let's go live to our reporter at the suburban arena where the Toronto Maple Leafs are staging an informal practice one month before the official opening of NHL training camps.

Reporter: "I am here at the Lakeshore Lions Arena, where the Toronto Maple Leafs are staging an informal practice."

TV anchor: "Is it true training camps don't open for another month?"

Reporter: "Yes, it's true, but the Maple Leafs are practising so they can get a leg up on their rivals and win the Stanley Cup."

TV anchor: "Go Leafs."


Can I play too?

Globe Sports Editor: Hey Allan, what are you writing about today?

Allan Maki: Check this out, dog. I'm going to write a column about the Leafs skate at Lakeshore, but my angle is going to be how stupid people are for having interest in this stupid story that doesn't deserve coverage at all.

Globe Sports Editor: But...

It's not often that a summer skate gets the big news treatment in any city, let alone a Canadian one. But coverage of the Maple Leafs' informal practices is being cranked up because:(a.) there's precious little else going on;


There is a lot going on: The success of Toronto FC, Michael Vick, Tim Donaghy, baseball pennant races, Rogers Cup, Mike Ricci retires, Jose Offerman, CFL. You could write about these things, but I doubt they generate all kinds of readership and heated e-mails.

(b.) the Leafs are practising, which means they're not losing;


Sure.

(c.) media types know that just scribbling the words Maple and Leafs generates all kinds of readership and heated e-mails.


Allan Maki will indeed receive all kinds of readership and heated e-mails.

This is bizarre on many levels and even more so if you consider how many hundreds of NHL players are skating in arenas throughout North America; NHLers such as Jarome Iginla and Andrew Ference, who have been on the blades for two months now in Kelowna, B.C. They've since added Dany Heatley, Wade Redden and others to their informal practices held before the official opening of training camp.

But do they get any media attention?

Does this column count?

Did Iginla and Ference make the front of Kelowna's Daily Courier yesterday? No, they did not.

Turns out that the Kelowna Daily Courier doesn't print two-month-old news on the front page.

Of course, the Maple Leafs are different because they are a phenomenon unto themselves just like Zsa Zsa Gabor, who is famous for no reason we can think of,

Zsa Zsa Gobor has won a Golden Globe and appeared in 62 films. She won the Miss Hungary beauty contest in 1936, but was disqualified for lying about her age. She has been married 9 times and was arrested in 1989 for slapping a police officer in the face. For those reasons, she is famous.

and Lindsay Lohan, who is extremely popular for being bad.

When did this turn into a Bill Simmons column? (Come on, Lindsay Lohan? Really? And you're not even going to throw in a Mark Bell reference?)

That said, the Maple Leafs could make real news today by doing what they often do best, which is nothing.

It's like Seinfeld on ice.

Unrestricted free-agent centre Mike Peca will continue talks with the New York Rangers and could sign a deal that would give the Rangers another useable forward, this one with strong defensive skills and leadership. Peca broke a leg last season with the Maple Leafs and played in only 35 games. Toronto management wasn't quite sure what to do with Peca so it let him hang for a while until he decided to look elsewhere.

Since Peca isn't signing with Toronto, he is a usable forward with strong defensive skills and leadership. If Toronto had signed Peca again, I guarantee you Allan Maki complains about the Leafs overpaying for an aging, injury-prone third line centre.

The Maple Leafs have taken the same approach with Peter Forsberg, another unrestricted free agent who is collecting his thoughts in Sweden on where he wants to play this season. Already, the Ottawa Senators have let it be known they covet Forsberg. The Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings are equally interested.

I can think of hundreds of reasons to bash the Leafs. This is not one. The Leafs do not have enough cap-room to sign him, and he is going to ask for a lot more money than he is worth. Forsberg is turning into the NHL's very own Roger Clemens, and a half season of Forsberg could help Ottawa and Detroit, or any other team that are making a serious run at the Stanley Cup, but would do little for the Leafs, who will be trying just to make the playoffs. Would I like to see Forsberg playing for the Leafs? Sure. Would I look forward to Allan Maki's column criticizing the Leafs for overpaying for a half season of an aging, injury-prone player? Very much so.

Have the Maple Leafs asked captain Mats Sundin to visit Forsberg and talk him up on the merits of their organization? The word is no. Then again, maybe Mats is too busy skating to even make a phone call.

WTF? Is it Mats Sundin's job to big-up the Leafs to free-agents that the team appears to have no interest in signing?

Maple Leafs management hasn't covered itself in glory, either. General manager John Ferguson Jr. was supposed to get a mentor, someone he could learn from, consult with. John Muckler and Scotty Bowman were interviewed, but neither has come aboard.

I'm guessing neither wanted the job. It is hard to tell, since the Globe and Mail has been inventing the news regarding this subject over the past few weeks.

Recently, Richard Peddie, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, acknowledged there was no adviser headed Ferguson's way. Peddie then added the GM's future would be based on performance. Translation: a poor start by the players means Ferguson could be gone before Christmas.

And there are players who would like to see Ferguson gone. Why? For many reasons, but this one stands out: The GM has made the players sit in assigned seats on flights. He won't let them pick their seatmates, which is shocking and another big news story for August.

Really? I didn't know that.

Really??

That isn't front page news, but it is the most interesting thing in this entire column. Multimillionaire grown men are being forced to use the buddy system on road trips. I wonder who has to sit beside Hal Gill?

Right next to Leafs score in practice; no one injured.

Because they didn't sign Peca or Forsberg.

Even stranger than doing nothing is the fact the Maple Leafs can be so vulnerable to criticism when they actually do something. Mind you, when you sign goalie Vesa Toskala to a two-year contract extension worth $8-million (all currency U.S.), then ink Jason Blake to a five-year, $20-million contract, you deserve to be jabbed. Both players got more than they should have based on what they've accomplished.


The length of Blake's contract is a bit troubling, but it seems like he got what he was worth on the market. In fact, this signing was viewed positively almost everywhere except for certain Toronto newspapers. Toskola's extension is a gamble, but I'm willing to wait and see how he performs before I criticize this deal.

It is worth noting that Maki has now taken the Leafs to task for both doing nothing and for doing something. Poor Allan Maki. He seems to detest the Leafs with every bone in his body, yet he knows that a story about pre-season skates will generate more readership than anything else he writes this summer. It must really eat him up inside. Hopefully he can redeem himself by ending this column with a clever twist, acknowledging that he is in fact a large part of what he is mocking...

Come to think of it, that makes them a fine fit for a team that hasn't accomplished much but still gets all kinds of attention, month in and month out.

... I guess not.

Reporter: "The Maple Leafs are practising and sources close to the team say the Leafs will practise again tomorrow."

An entire nation quivers in anticipation.

Go Leafs. Go out there and skate.


That was exhausting. The season is still two months away, yet Allan Maki has set the bar impossibly high.Can Cox and Simmons possibly top this hatchet job?

Notes From Siberia

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Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 14, 2007

With Steve Simmons in hibernation and Damien Cox writing articles about tennis, we've had to brave the 23 hour darkness and -40 windchills of Canada's barren northern wastelands to find content for today's page. Luckily for us, the Edmonton Sun's Stephen Lautens provided us with this gem:

So when I am totally honest and say that our laneway down to the septic system is a little tricky, the sewage companies have more excuses than a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

Ho Ho Ho. Good one Lautens. I imagine all of the pots and kettles are buried under 40 feet of snow up there in oil country.
Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 13, 2007

Howard Berger confirms what many of us have long suspected in today's edition of his HockeyBuzz blog:

Toronto's sports reporters invent the news.

You might recall the circumstance in which former Toronto president Ken Dryden attempted to lure his ex-Montreal teammate, Bob Gainey, away from the Dallas Stars' front office to become general manager of the Leafs. It later became known that Dryden went so far as to offer defenceman Matthieu Schneider to the Stars as compensation for losing Gainey. The story reached the point where it appeared all but certain that Gainey would take the Toronto job. One morning around that time, I got a call from a "source" telling me that Gainey had apparently been spotted walking into Maple Leaf Gardens. In my haste to "break" the big story, I immediately phoned my radio station (The Fan-590) and breathlessly told our listeners that the Maple Leafs and Gainey were finalizing their arrangement and would soon announce Gainey's appointment as GM. Ooops!

Oops is right. A friend of Berger's told him that Bob Gainey was seen walking into Maple Leaf Gardens, and Berger reported on the air that Gainey was finalizing arrangements with MLSE and would soon be announced as the Leafs new GM. Quite the leap.

It turned out that not only was Gainey nowhere near Toronto, but he had recently phoned Dryden to officially reject the Leafs' overture.


Ooops!

Looking around for a rock to crawl under, I couldn't find so much as a pebble, and I had no other choice but to confess on the air that I had obviously been given erroneous information.The problem isn't that Berger was given erroneous information.

The problem is that Berger took this information (Gainey seen walking into the Gardens) and then aired a fictional story about Gainey finalizing arrangements to be the next Leafs GM. Jayson Blair would be proud.

Which was a cop-out in itself. No one had confirmed to me that Gainey was at Maple Leaf Gardens, or even in Canada, for that matter.

Yet, for some reason, Berger went on the air and announced that Gainey as GM was a done deal. This is nothing short of sloppy, lazy reporting, and I imagine Berger was fired for this one.

It was nothing short of sloppy, lazy reporting, and my sports director at the time -- Scott Metcalfe -- had more than enough justification to fire me.

See.

Thankfully, he took a deep breath and saw a reporter that generally worked hard -- and much more responsibly -- in most situations. And one whose aggressive nature had resulted in the odd triumph. So, I was given a reprieve.

There sure seem to have high-standards over at the FAN 590; as long as Berger doesn't make-shit-up in "most situations", his job seems to be safe. Does Howard Berger have incriminating photos of Ted Rogers locked in a safe-deposit box somewhere?

A Cry For Help?

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Originally posted on August 13, 2007

Ahhh, those lazy summer Sundays. A time when those of us who haven't invested our lives in covering children's games we've grown to actively hate spend time taking the dog for a walk, having a BBQ with friends, or just lounging around the house.

Pity TEH COX, whose singleminded psychosis against all things Toronto does not allow him a moment's respite. Sunday's "blog" entry (silly Web 1.5 me tends to think of blogs as forums for discussion, not echo chambers in which media types edit reader comments) sees TorStar's Ahab once again setting off after his White Whale:

Interesting that MLSE has produced yet another team that successfully draws fans but can't win. What a remarkably inept sports organization, yet the footie faithful haven't hestitated even momentarily to jump aboard.

(Wow - 21-3 in shots. Those are like Leaf-Devil totals).


But now that the soccer screamers should be quieted, you have to believe, for at least a day, time to move on to other more meaningful topics.

Such as, isn't this Tiger Woods vs. Roger Federer as the greatest individual athlete in sports getting interesting?


Since only one of them is an athlete, I'm gonna have to say no. But I digress. The lunacy of this column, in which Cox castigates a first year expansion team, with five starters injured, for its lack of success, boggles.

Imagine if he'd been around way back in '77...

"Yesterday, the visiting Boston Red Sox hammered the Blue Jays 11-4 at Exhibition Stadium. The Jays dropped to 23-48 in front of 25 000 deluded baseballists who must be too stupid to realize how crappy this team is.

"Now to the real sports news - do you like Chi Chi Rodriguez or Rod Laver?"

The logicians in the audience will point out that Cox, for some reason has forgotten two cardinal rules of sports (and sports ownership):

1. All expansion teams suck at first

2. Not all people go to games to see a winner. Lots of people go because they like the sport, or (here's the real brainbuster for DC Talk) to have a good time.

But logic has no place in a discussion of Damien Cox and MLSE. I imagine when it comes to this subject, he just can help himself. Even if it means writing a blog that repeatedly dismisses the largest Toronto sports story of the summer while insulting a significant portion of the Toronto sporting public, the squirming toad that wriggles inside Damien's brain at the mention of words like "Quinn," "Tanenbaum," "Toronto," or "fun" won't let him rest until he scribbles out these meanspirited little entries, and then lies on the couch spent, breathing heavily, staring at the ceiling, unsure of what just happened.

Friends, we've only just begun, but it seems we've started this blog at a critical juncture. On Sunday's evidence, I give about two weeks before he starts signing his entries "Courage."

Courage.
Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 12, 2007

In 1965, well past deadline and struggling to finish an article for Esquire magazine, Tom Wolfe transcribed the contents of his notebook with disregard for style and structure. In the process, he produced a classic of fly-on-the-wall reporting and helped create an entirely new form of literature known as New Journalism.

Every week, Steve Simmons dumps the inane jottings from his diary into microsoft word, and the Sun publishes them in a column called
Simmons Says. I know comparing The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby to Simmons' ramblings is like comparing apples to oranges, but for the record I would like to state that Wolfe's orange is massive, seedless ball of exquisite flavour that wards off colds and cures cancer, while Simmons' apple is so withered and nasty that even worms won't touch it.

Today
, Simmons informs us that:

What Josh Towers lacks in arm strength, he makes up for in stones. If more Blue Jays had his fight, this team wouldn't be languishing in the middle of all of baseball ...

Steve Simmons is correct. If more Blue Jays were like Josh Towers, they wouldn't be languishing in the middle of all baseball. They would have a team ERA of 5.36 and have a winning % of .357. They would be in last place.

Numbers that don't add up: Bonds has had 12 100-RBI seasons. Aaron had 11. The great smiling phony, Joe Carter, had 10

Joe Carter had a decent career and played a large role in bringing two World Series to Toronto. Steve Simmons doesn't like him on a personal level, so he trashes him in a newspaper column. Simmons probably thought that was a quick and biting remark that would make Truman Capote jealous. Everyone else probably thinks Simmons is petty and childish and sounds like the kind of jerk who would start a blog just to trash the sports and media personalities that he doesn't like...

I see where the Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenceman Mike Weaver. Apparently, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle and Tim Witherspoon were unavailable ...

FYI, that is a boxing joke. Except jokes are supposed to be funny...At least we finally got a hockey reference in here, since this blog is supposed to be about Toronto Maple Leafs hockey and the cartel of idiots that write about it, and not some second-rate version of Fire Joe Morgan (which does what this blog attempts to do, only first, funnier, and mostly about baseball)

Little known fact: Joe Torre played the first eight seasons of his big-league career with Aaron in Milwaukee and Atlanta ...

...A lot of people know that Joe Torre started his career in Milwaukee, and everyone knows Aaron played for the Braves. I would wager that most hardcore baseball fans know this, as does everyone in Joe Torre's family, everyone who read his autobiography, Hank Aaron, me, people who heard Joe Torre's comments regarding Bonds' 756th home run, and anyone who read the New York Times on Wednesday. By my calculations, 64.7 million people know of this little-known fact, making it, in fact, a well-known fact... An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain - now that is a little known fact. It is legal to duel in Portugal as long as both duelers are registered blood donors - little known fact. A snail can sleep for three years...

...And hey, whatever became of Turner Ward?

I know I know! Turner Ward retired as a player in 2001, is now a manager in the New York-Penn league, and he still gets asked all the time about that catch he made when he crashed through the wall in 1998. It took me three seconds to find that out on Google. Simmons ends every Sunday column with this "hey, whatever happened to," bit, and I'm not sure if this is a fun game for his readers or if he is just too lazy to do research for himself, but either way, the whole thing strikes me as rude: "My god, that Turner Ward sure disappeared into a lifetime of insignificance because I haven't heard about him in years and now I can stick him in my column with a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge and feel superior because I am Steve Simmons, the most-read sports columnist in Canada."

Dick.

Turner Ward seems like a nice guy, with a family and a job doing what he loves. I'm sure the fact that you don't know what happened to him after his name disappeared from the Blue Jays Media Guide means little to him.

That part about Simmons being the most read sports columnist in Canada is actually true, according to TSN. I'm sure this says more about the number of Sun papers in Canada than it does about the tastes of the Canadian public, but it is still mind-boggling. If there was any justice in this country, Stephen Brunt would have that title. Stephen Brunt writes thoughtful and detailed columns about a wide range of sports events and issues. Simmons writes stuff like this:

Just re-read the bestseller Moneyball, a book that doesn't age very well. The very premise that computers can pick ball players better than scouts becomes almost laughable upon further review ...

That quote comes from a column that Simmons wrote in December 2005. I saved it just in case I ever found a public forum to announce that those two sentences are easily the stupidest lines every written in the history of the English language. According to Simmons, he just re-read Moneyball. That means he read it at least twice. That means he has the reading comprehension of a three year old, because nowhere in that book does it say that computers can pick ball players better than scouts. Nowhere.

And hey, whatever happened to Al Strachan?

In 1965, well past deadline and struggling to finish an article for Esquire magazine, Tom Wolfe transcribed the contents of his notebook with disregard for style and structure. In the process, he produced a classic of fly-on-the-wall reporting and helped create an entirely new form of literature known as New Journalism.

Every week, Steve Simmons dumps the inane jottings from his diary into microsoft word, and the Sun publishes them in a column called
Simmons Says. I know comparing The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby to Simmons' ramblings is like comparing apples to oranges, but for the record I would like to state that Wolfe's orange is massive, seedless ball of exquisite flavour that wards off colds and cures cancer, while Simmons' apple is so withered and nasty that even worms won't touch it.

Today
, Simmons informs us that:

What Josh Towers lacks in arm strength, he makes up for in stones. If more Blue Jays had his fight, this team wouldn't be languishing in the middle of all of baseball ...

Steve Simmons is correct. If more Blue Jays were like Josh Towers, they wouldn't be languishing in the middle of all baseball. They would have a team ERA of 5.36 and have a winning % of .357. They would be in last place.

Numbers that don't add up: Bonds has had 12 100-RBI seasons. Aaron had 11. The great smiling phony, Joe Carter, had 10

Joe Carter had a decent career and played a large role in bringing two World Series to Toronto. Steve Simmons doesn't like him on a personal level, so he trashes him in a newspaper column. Simmons probably thought that was a quick and biting remark that would make Truman Capote jealous. Everyone else probably thinks Simmons is petty and childish and sounds like the kind of jerk who would start a blog just to trash the sports and media personalities that he doesn't like...

I see where the Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenceman Mike Weaver. Apparently, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle and Tim Witherspoon were unavailable ...

FYI, that is a boxing joke. Except jokes are supposed to be funny...At least we finally got a hockey reference in here, since this blog is supposed to be about Toronto Maple Leafs hockey and the cartel of idiots that write about it, and not some second-rate version of Fire Joe Morgan (which does what this blog attempts to do, only first, funnier, and mostly about baseball)

Little known fact: Joe Torre played the first eight seasons of his big-league career with Aaron in Milwaukee and Atlanta ...

...A lot of people know that Joe Torre started his career in Milwaukee, and everyone knows Aaron played for the Braves. I would wager that most hardcore baseball fans know this, as does everyone in Joe Torre's family, everyone who read his autobiography, Hank Aaron, me, people who heard Joe Torre's comments regarding Bonds' 756th home run, and anyone who read the New York Times on Wednesday. By my calculations, 64.7 million people know of this little-known fact, making it, in fact, a well-known fact... An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain - now that is a little known fact. It is legal to duel in Portugal as long as both duelers are registered blood donors - little known fact. A snail can sleep for three years...

...And hey, whatever became of Turner Ward?

I know I know! Turner Ward retired as a player in 2001, is now a manager in the New York-Penn league, and he still gets asked all the time about that catch he made when he crashed through the wall in 1998. It took me three seconds to find that out on Google. Simmons ends every Sunday column with this "hey, whatever happened to," bit, and I'm not sure if this is a fun game for his readers or if he is just too lazy to do research for himself, but either way, the whole thing strikes me as rude: "My god, that Turner Ward sure disappeared into a lifetime of insignificance because I haven't heard about him in years and now I can stick him in my column with a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge and feel superior because I am Steve Simmons, the most-read sports columnist in Canada."

Dick.

Turner Ward seems like a nice guy, with a family and a job doing what he loves. I'm sure the fact that you don't know what happened to him after his name disappeared from the Blue Jays Media Guide means little to him.

That part about Simmons being the most read sports columnist in Canada is actually true, according to TSN. I'm sure this says more about the number of Sun papers in Canada than it does about the tastes of the Canadian public, but it is still mind-boggling. If there was any justice in this country, Stephen Brunt would have that title. Stephen Brunt writes thoughtful and detailed columns about a wide range of sports events and issues. Simmons writes stuff like this:

Just re-read the bestseller Moneyball, a book that doesn't age very well. The very premise that computers can pick ball players better than scouts becomes almost laughable upon further review ...

That quote comes from a column that Simmons wrote in December 2005. I saved it just in case I ever found a public forum to announce that those two sentences are easily the stupidest lines every written in the history of the English language. According to Simmons, he just re-read Moneyball. That means he read it at least twice. That means he has the reading comprehension of a three year old, because nowhere in that book does it say that computers can pick ball players better than scouts. Nowhere.

And hey, whatever happened to Al Strachan?

Originally posted by Kim Jorn on August 12, 2007.

What I learned today on TSN's the Reporters:
  • Barry Bonds has struggled this year (Hodge)
  • Barry Bonds clogs up the base paths (Simmons)
  • Barry Bonds will DH for the Yankees next year because he will fit right in with the Bronx Zoo atmosphere(Cox)
What I learned today by having a minimal knowledge of baseball stats and an internet connection:
  • Barry Bonds' 2007 OPS (On Base Percentage plus slugging, an imperfect but generally relied upon stat for judging a hitter's abilities) is 1.088. That is best in the MLB. In fact, it is just shy of being one of the top 100 seasons of all time.
  • Barry Bonds' 2007 On Base Percentage is .497, which means that he gets on base once out of every two times he comes to bat. Unfortunately, Barry then crawls to second and rolls on his back to third. As a result, being very good at one of the most important parts of baseball means nothing because Bengie Molina keeps getting called out for passing Bonds on the basepaths. Somehow, Barry leads his team in runs scored and is 4th in stolen bases.
  • The last time I looked, the Yankees had four DHs (Damn, Abreau, Giambi, Duncan), with Hideki Matsui also making a strong-case for inclusion. With the exception of Abreau and Duncan (who can't field at any position), all of them are under contract with the Yankees next season. Johnny Damon has already complained about playing time, and Jason Giambi will if he can find time in between fittings for larger hats and public apologies for things-he-did-but-can't-say.
If you asked my mom who Barry Bonds will play for next year, she would probably say the Yankees. That is because my mother knows little about baseball and would assume that a star player with a bad attitude, plenty of baggage, and a hefty salary would fit right in in the Bronx. But then she would realize that the Bronx Zoo hasn't existed for decades, Brian Cashman is trying to build a younger and more affordable team, and Joe Torre would rather manage a team of Gary Sheffields than have Bonds in the clubhouse, and she would change her mind. Because my mom, who knows little about baseball, still knows more about baseball than people employed to write about sports at the Toronto Star, the Sun and TSN.

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