Godd Till: December 2007 Archives
We tried to be nice. We took a leisurely ten day holiday break (I can't believe they didn't give Kim day release over Christmas), hoping the mittenstringers would ease up on the nonsense during the season of giving. Unfortunately, feet were inserted into mouths at the usual rate. As a result, we've got more holiday leftovers than Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen Twins put together. HEY-O!
While there was more icrap than we can cover, probably more than I even know about (not reading Simmons for a week was my gift to myself this year), a couple items demand we poke our heads out and comment before we wrap up the year it was over the next few days.
First, it's been a while since it was passed my way, but I absolutely have to check in on this piece, by Dave Waddell of the Windsor Star. It appears to be a great example of the double blessing bloggers have provided ink-slingers. While many bash bloggers for lowering the tone, living in their mom's basement (will 2008 be the year this meme dies?), and knowing basic math, more far-sighted sportswriters have looked past petty turf wars and embraced the real potential of blogs. Specifically, they're a great place to swipe content which you can fold, unattributed, into your own column.
In his piece on the Flyers mega-deal with Mike Richards, Waddell cites these cautionary examples of young players who failed to live up to their potential:
Recent league history is littered with examples of players who were early stars, but flamed out prematurely.
The recently retired Eric Lindros and Pavel Bure are examples of superstars who through injury had a huge drop-off in effectiveness by their early 30s. Todd Bertuzzi or Vezina-winning goalies Jim Carey and Jose Theodore are more befuddling examples of players who went from brilliance to bust before their times.
Good points, but unfortunately for Waddell, many readers found them more familiar than a glove-side goal on Andrew Raycroft. For James Mirtle had written this on his blog the previous day:
Where the problem arises, obviously, is if DiPietro or Richards goes in the tank. A career-ending injury is one thing, as it allows a team to essentially replace the contract against the cap, but what if Richards's play falls off considerably, as a result of injury or otherwise? We've seen plenty of players rise quickly and fall off in the NHL -- just imagine if the Habs had signed a 26-year-old Jose Theodore to a 10-year, $50-million deal after he won the Hart Trophy? What sort of a contract would Jim Carey deserve after winning the 1995-96 Vezina Trophy at age 22 under this CBA? Sergei Samsonov won the Calder Trophy and was an all-star in his early years, and would now be only halfway through a Richards-like deal if he'd have signed one during his 30-goal, 70-point years.
And the list goes on and on and on when it comes to players who were stars at a young age whose play fell off or left them completely in their early 30s. Eric Lindros. Bryan Berard. Jason Allison. Zigmund Palffy. Todd Bertuzzi.
Even more fishy is Waddell's list of recent big contracts given to young stars:
Richards, who has 14 goals and 35 points this season, is the latest to join a list that includes: Sidney Crosby, 20, (five years for $43.5-million U.S.), Thomas Vanek, 23, (seven years for $50-million), Ryan Getzlaf, 22, (five years for $26.6-million), Milan Michalek, 23, (six years for $26-million, Dustin Penner, 25, (five years for $21.25-million), Derek Roy, 24, (six years for $24-million), Ryan Whitney, 24, (six years for $24-million), Zach Parise, 23, (four years for $12.5-million) and Stephen Weiss, 24, (six years ($18.6-million).
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh, 20, five years, $43.5-million (8.7/yr)
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo, 23, seven years, $50-million (7.14/yr)
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim, 22, five years, $26.625-million (5.325/yr)
Milan Michalek, San Jose, 23, six years, $26-million (4.33/yr)
Dustin Penner, Edmonton, 25, five years, $21.25-million (4.25/yr)
Derek Roy, Buffalo, 24, six years, $24-million (4.0/yr)
Ryan Whitney, Pittsburgh, 24, six years, $24-million (4.0/yr)
Zach Parise, New Jersey, 23, four years, $12.5-million (3.125/yr)
Stephen Weiss, Florida, 24, six years, $18.6-million (3.1/yr)
Come on Dave, at least move the names around! If this was lifted, it was done with all the subtlety of a hungover first year with a paper on Othello due in two hours. However, the most damning thing is what isn't here. Neither Mirtle's list nor Waddell's includes the recent 7 year, 49 million extension handed to Jason Spezza. I find it hard to believe two hockey observers leave out a contract like that, or others like David Legwand's, independently of each other. Unless an explanation is forthcoming, Mr Waddell, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
And then there's this guy.
I've watched a lot of Coach's Corner over the years, and I have to say, this is the worst. Episode. Ever.
What I learned from this six-minute pile-up of Santa, the Van Doos, and everything holy:
1. Like Ricky Bobby, Don loves the Baby Jesus. You can pray to the teenage Jesus, or the bearded Jesus, but for Don, it's all about the little Baby Jesus.
2. If your brother does something, that means you deserve to get gooned. It's amazing Mark Hunter is still walking. Oh right, he's Canadian.
3. It's OK to do something mindlessly violent as long as "no one gets hurt." By this standard, I guess its OK for me to drive a monster truck over Cherry's noggin, since there's no chance I'll kill any brain cells.
4. WTF is MacLean talking about here? Best I can tell is that Chris Simon will keep gooning guys cause he's native and feels like the league punishes him, which is somehow supposed to be a defence of Simon, not something insanely patronizing and racist.
5. Cherry to natives: "Give your head a shake." Fuck. I don't even have a comment on that except "Our Tax Dollars At Work!"
6. When Don's in the middle of a ten-year-old tantrum, there is no better subject to bring up then Sidney Crosby, who Don has apparently never spoken to, and repeatedly bashed on air, all for the sin of not showing up to a charity hockey game. As that goalie said to Roy last year, who's the teenager?
7. Andrew Ference, like David Suzuki and Michael Coren, is a left-winger.
8. "Let's talk about hockey" means "Let's fellate the troops."
Can he possibly top that clusterfuck tonight? Here's hoping...
Make sure and check back later in the week for our year in review. Who will win Mittenstringer of the Year?
There can only be one.
Thanks for stopping by to read our site. It's already grown beyond what Kim and I first envisioned as a way to ward off embolisms by expunging our spleens onto the Internet five times a week. We're really grateful that so many people take time out of their lives to come by and read. Thanks especially to the small but fierce band of commenters who come by, and the other members of the Leafs blogosphere, especially PPP, Bitter Leaf, and Raking Leafs, who have been so quick to welcome the new kids up from the minors.
We're coming back in a big way after the break, with new content and perhaps some new features, after my triumphant victory in the Mailbag Quest (check Grimace's last mailbag - and kudos, Richard, on the thoughtful response!), so try to stay in the Cox Bloc habit. Hope you enjoy whatever it is you're doing this year, and don't be a stranger....
*I know we usually save our criticism for the high-profile mittenstringers, but guys, come on. They still have "chearing" on the front page, and the #1 reason to fire Brylcreem is a link to a Steve Simmons column. Their idea of solutions is to bring in guys like Lindros (no, I'm not kidding), and Ladislav Nagy (who's already help get one GM canned in Dallas this year). This is like starting ihatedfullhouse.com and complaining that the show lacked fresh, funny characters like Urkel or Dobber. This website is like shooting fish in a barrel - and still blowing off your foot.
And that's when the shit hit the fan.
The excluded writers, Rob Neyer and former JP henchman Keith Law, are two of the more prominent web-based columnists out there (especially Neyer). After their exclusion, there was much speculation that the two were being excluded because of their penchant for sabermetric analysis and their willingness to criticize other writers.
I won't get into all the inside-baseball details (you can follow the links to read them all), but basically Neyer appeared in a Baseball Think Factory thread, and criticized the decision to exclude Law. Law, on his blog, blamed Tracy Ringolsby for blackballing him. A poster called ballfan called Law a liar, and took a shot at Neyer for once criticizing a book on Amazon using a pseudonym. ballfan, was quickly unmasked as... Tracy Ringolsby. Neyer's jubilation was short-lived, however, as Law emerged from the back and shockingly turned on Neyer, putting him in the Regression to the Mean while Ringolsby waved his cowboy hat in joy. All in all, it sets up a hellacious six-man slobberknocker at No Way Out.
Joe Posnanski, probably the best sportswriter in America right now, interviewed BBWAA prez Bob Dutton on his blog. Dutton basically argued that Neyer and Law were rejected because the association's mandate is to advocate for conditions and access at ballparks. Since it was established (through contact with a shadowy, unnamed ESPN higher-up) that Law and Neyer don't attend enough games, they got the kibosh.
No disrespect to Dutton, who seems like a standup guy caught in a tough situation, this has the ring of making up excuses after the fact. Clearly, this advocacy is not the only thing the BBWAA does - and I doubt that including these two is going to hamper it in any way. I can't see a flannel-pajama clad Neyer on his couch, chatting with Bud Selig: "Sure, Bud, cut the press box at Miller Park in half. I only watch games on Extra Innings! MWAHAHAHA!"
And of course, there are lots of other things the Raccoon Lodge does, ie the stuff the public gives a monkey's about, that Law and Neyer would really help improve. Furthermore, the "you have to go to lots of games" canard is really exposed by a look at the Canadian roster, which apparently includes veteran mitten-stringers like Larry Millson, Bob Elliott, Jeff Blair, and.... Aislin?!?!? Yes, the guy who does the cartoons for the Montreal Gazoo has a Hall of Fame vote. I'm sure he's a fan, but I doubt he makes it to a lot of games these days. And the suggestion that he's more qualified than Rob Neyer is insane.
These types of issues will only become more common as the Internet takes more and more eyeballs away from print media; another example is the press box access some NHL clubs have granted to bloggers this season. The BBWAA could have gone some ways towards bridging the divide, but instead have come off as a petty, out-of-touch old-boys club that couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery. Plus ca change...
Early favourite would have to be DC Talk, who unceremoniously ordered the Leafs off his lawn after Tuesday's Belaking of Nashville:
It's all awful and Bryan McCabe is scoring on his own net and Richard Peddie is putting his foot in his mouth, and then it's all fabulous, Wade Belak is scoring a goal and the Maple Leafs get outplayed by a mile and manage 15 shots on the enemy net but win going away.
Analyze that, hockey fans.
Don't we already have to do your job for you?
Had to mention those two Rocket Richard Trophy candidates for they were leading the mocking jeers as the men and women of the media entered the Maple Leaf dressing room after last night's game against Nashville, and that tells you a lot.
It takes so very little, you see, for even the underachieving Leafs to start puffing out their chests.
Three wins and even the fellows who haven't seen a playoff game since the lockout are big men on campus again.
Well, enjoy it while it lasts, uh, gentlemen.
Wow, God forbid the players actually enjoy themselves and engage in a little banter with the media. Don't they know that they're supposed to be caving under the pressure so Damien can engage in more sock-puppetry about how Leafs players blame the media for their struggles? He's so close to getting an actual quote to back that up and everything! And while I enjoy George Costanza's antics as much as anyone, I don't think Damien's George-inspired plans to replace the Buds' standard uniform design with blue and white hair-shirts is going to improve the team's play all that much. BTW, does anyone think Damien actually went into the locker room and experienced said razzing? Quoth McGarnigle, "I don't know Chief, you had a pretty good view from behind your desk."
Also, Grumpy Old Cox still hates the Music City:
It was the strange kind of game that will become more plentiful under a
new scheduling format next season - an inter-conference matchup between
teams that barely know each other at the expense of more interesting
and competitive divisional games.
Because the new format is all about Leafs-Nashville games, not I don't know, the whole league getting to see big draws like Crosby, Ovechkin, or Belak, or all the Canadian teams playing each other. Anyway, what's with the Preds hate? Both games he's kvetched about have been good matchups, far better than watching Boston run out the clock for Whack-A-Mole eight times a goddam year. And how are these games "less competitive?" Did the Eastern Conference get sent down to the AHL when I wasn't looking? It would make Woz's presence a lot more understandable.Yes, it's the Christmas season, when wishes come true (no, not for Leafs fans, unless this is finally the year I wake up to Kerry Fraser's head under the tree) so Kronwall and Jiri NSFW are sent down instead of The Wizard of Woz. At least Jiri will learn a valuable lesson about scandalous photos - it's a lot more useful to have ones of your boss than ones of yourself.
If you have time, enjoy this pwning of Ron Maclean and his dead horse by William Houston. Ron, when will you learn that the Unblinking Watchdog doesn't play?
Finally, head on over to Pension Plan Puppets to preview and chat about the game. I will be recapping it over there tomorrow morning, so make sure and check it out. I'll also have all the news on Berger's no-doubt-forthcoming apology for reporting that Colton Orr asked Chad Kilger if that was his face, or did his neck, in fact, throw up.
Loved your recent column on Raines and Dawson. You pointed out that many voters view Raines overcoming a cocaine problem as a negative. Did you and other voters have the same problem with Paul Molitor's candidacy?
I have absolutely no idea why Grimace didn't tackle this one. Readers, help us out and email him a question today!
Not to pick on these gentlemen in particular (they are right about the lower boil), but these same people, a week ago, were calling for the organization to be gutted: JFJ fired, Maurice fired, Peddie gone, Sundin traded, etc. Now the pressure is off? Any team can win two straight games over an 82-game season at any time (except the Leafs home-and-home with Buffalo). If you thought that the organization needs to be blown up, nothing over the last couple games should have changed your opinion on that. If you really believed the organization was fundamentally broken, it should take a lot more than beating the Thrashers and Penguins to convince you otherwise. That's the difference between thinking hockey through and coming to a reasoned analysis vs going to the game, drinking a big Sprite and yelling along with all the sparkly lights on the Jumbo-Tron. You might expect this out of fans - this kind of irrational rollercoaster is a big part of the experience- but from people who are paid to analyze the team? Say it with me, gents: small sample size. Of course, couple losses in a row will set the mittenstringers frothing again, and we'll be back where we started: thundering denunciations, baseless innuendo, and Make-A-Wish on the penalty kill. We should take advantage of this brief lull and start a pool - who will be the next mittenstringer to bust out the "1967"? You know it won't be long...
UPDATE! Kudos for Cox for pissing in everyone's cornflakes... the pool is still open, however!
So here's Simmons' Sunday brainsqueeze, the short version: Listen to "Live From Wayne Gretzky's" to hear the last breaths of dying men...perhaps knowing that pitcher wins are a discredited stat, Steve big ups Doc Halladay by pointing out that Palmer and Gibson have all had lots more 8-loss seasons than Roy. Hell, Jesse Orosco only lost 10 games once in a 24-year career - the betting here is he's a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer... Speaking of Hall of Fame votes, be glad Steve doesn't have one. There are votes for Jack Morris and Jim Rice, but not the two most qualified guys on the ballot (Raines and Trammell)... he also gives us this: "Todd Stottlemyre is on the 2008 Hall of Fame baseball ballot. No further commentary is necessary." Steve: All players who have played ten major league seasons are eligible. You apparently don't know this. No further commentary necessary... Steve also pauses to wonder whether Sandy Koufax would be voted to the HOF today, with "only" 165 wins. Hell, that's only 44 more than Todd Stottlemyre! Judging Sandy Koufax by his win total is as misleading as judging Andrew Raycroft on his... And buried in the mix is a bit of irony that would do O. Henry proud: "Who am I to doubt my own newspaper, but somebody had to be doing some serious ballot stuffing if Danny Dichio was voted Toronto's most popular athlete by Sun readers, don't you think?" Risky business for "Canada's Most Read Sports Columnist" to start yanking back that particular curtain, don'tcha think?