Sports And The City

It was 4-1.

The week that was

with 11 comments

We have officially begun week 50 of 52. It’s about the time of year when I curse my immigrant parents for choosing Toronto and not, say, San Diego, and when I try to remember where another 12 months have gone. Time flies when none of Toronto’s pro sports teams make the playoffs.

Goodbye

Scott Downs joined the Toronto Blue Jays almost six years ago to the day as an afterthought. He became so much more than that. Today, he’s an Angel. And he will be sorely missed. Oh, Snakeface. Where do I even begin?

Signed to a minor league contract by J.P. Ricciardi in December 2004, Downs did it all for the Blue Jays. He came out of the bullpen. He mopped up. He made spot starts. He even closed. Through it all, and to very little fanfare, he became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Left-handed or right, it didn’t matter to Downs. He made outs, while seldom walking a batter.

What I enjoyed most about Downs was that he wasn’t a flamethrower. He was a pitcher. Fastball, curveball, slider, and a changeup. Nothing overpowering, yet always effective. That curveball; I’ll never forget it.

Over the years, Downs shared the bullpen with the likes of Miguel Bautista, Vinnie Chulk, Josh Towers, Jeremy Accardo, Brian Tallet, Brandon League, B.J. Ryan, Scott Richmond, David Purcey, Josh Roenicke, Brian Wolfe, Jesse Carlson, Jason Frasor, and Kevin Gregg. Save for B.J. Ryan’s freakish 2006 season, I was never as calm as when Downs was on the mound. Above all else, Downs was reliable, and it’s that reliability I’ll miss most.

By signing with Los Angeles, Downs nets Toronto a supplemental draft pick, and the Angels’ second-rounder. That could change, though, and Parkes has you covered on the details. In the end, Los Angeles isn’t Boston or New York, and you’re damn right I take solace in that.¬†Unless Jose Bautista has something to say about it, and, believe me, I hope he does, I’m quite certain Downs will go down in history as Ricciardi’s best acquisition as general manager of the Blue Jays.

Thanks, Scott Downs. Was a pleasure. Enjoy Orange County, and may you write the initials of your children in the pitcher’s mound’s dirt forever.

Winter Meetings

As much as Brett Lawrie wants to begin his Major League Baseball career, there’s no chance that’s happening in April 2011. Lawrie will start the season with the Las Vegas 51s, which means we’re probably in store for more colourful pictures of his time spent away from the ballpark. I can’t wait. Because Lawrie’s the first 20-year-old to have ever been photographed in a compromising situation. In all seriousness, it’s the right move, especially if he’s taking up a new position …

Chalk one up for sanity: Alex Anthopoulos won’t be trading Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek for Zack Greinke. Personally, I don’t believe Anthopoulos considered it. Not even for a second. If we learned anything last week, it’s that Dayton Moore, the man who targeted Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, should be getting Anthopoulos coffee, not putting together a Major League ball club …

I’m now more intrigued about the prospects of Magglio Ordonez in a Blue Jays uniform than Manny Ramirez.

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

I’ve watched the video countless times. If only Brett Favre was on the field, alone, at the time.

In the aftermath of the Metrodome’s collapse, I couldn’t help but wonder: Imagine Toronto was hit with the mother of all snow storms, and our very own SkyDome caved in on itself. Rogers would be forced to build a ballpark. And if they’re serious about buying MLSE, lord knows they can afford a new stadium. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, would spend a season playing in Montreal. Everybody wins.

Make it happen, Mother Nature. As much as I’m a Rogers Centre apologist, I wouldn’t mind some new digs, and this scenario is the only plausible one I can think of.

Saving Bryan Colangelo

On the evening of December 7th, based on Andrea Bargnani’s and the Toronto Raptors’ stats up until that point, here’s what C_R_Black at T.Jose Caldeford concluded:

In summation: Toronto’s offence is 3 pts better per 100 possessions when Bargnani’s on the bench; Toronto’s defence is 12 pts better per 100 possessions when Bargnani’s on the bench; and Toronto’s rebounding is 3 percent better when Bargnani’s on the bench. …

In another (final) summation:

1st point: Despite being the team’s focal point on offence, Bargnani is not a good passer.
2nd point: Despite being a 7-footer (and having a pretty soft touch inside), Bargnani remains a jump shooter.
3rd point: Toronto is better offensively with him on the bench.
4th point: Toronto is better defensively with him on the bench.
5th point: Toronto is better on the glass with him on the bench.

On December 8th, Andrea Bargnani scored 41 points. In one game.

On December 9th, The Globe And Mail’s Michael Grange wrote:

The extension [Bryan] Colangelo signed [Bargnani] to in the summer of 2009 might have looked rich then, but now? The four years and $42-million Bargnani has remaining on his contract look like spectacular value. … It might even make up for signing Hedo Turkoglu.

Conflicted? I’m not. For all his faults, I love the lanky Italian. Nothing would please me more than for Bargnani to be the best player to come out of the 2006 draft. Bryan Colangelo told us to give it five years, at the very least. While Brandon Roy paid early dividends in Portland, Bargnani might have been the best long-term option. I look forward to finding out …

Back to the timeline: On December 11th, Saturday night, after a 1-for-9 performance the night before, December 10th, Jerryd Bayless couldn’t miss. Making his second start at the point, Bayless scored 31 points to lead the Raptors to their largest ever come-from-behind victory. Stuck 25? No sweat. (The Detroit Pistons are AWFUL.)

Bayless for Jarrett Jack might be Colangelo’s Brandon Morrow for Brandon League. Like it or not, Colangelo’s getting an extension. And for the record, I like it. Colangelo’s entertaining. The roster turnover year-to-year in Toronto is nothing short of amazing. So many years later, and I’m still impressed at how immaculately Colangelo dresses. He still exudes confidence. And if the past seven days were any indication, there’s never a dull week.

Road Trip

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ season could have effectively ended Saturday night, after a stretch of fives games against the Eastern Conference’s five best teams. Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Montreal. I figured they’d win one game, and lose another in a shootout. Three out of a possible 10 points. Instead, they picked up six.¬†Of course they did. The misery must be prolonged. Heading out west, the Leafs find themselves nine points back of Atlanta for the coveted 8th and final playoff spot. Once again, if you’re a fan of the Maple Leafs, the playoffs will take place in mid-December, and early January …

Regular season playoffs!!!1 It’s just not the same …

If the Leafs are serious about making a run towards the promised land, the 8th and final playoff spot, their road record must improve; 3-8-1 just won’t get it done. And we’ll find out just how serious the Leafs are about turning around their season Tuesday night in Edmonton. The Leafs need to take this one. By any means necessary. I’m thinking 8-0. Or 3-2, in the shootout, using double and triple spinoramas. Hell, if the game is decided by penalty shots, I’m all for Phil Kessel skating backwards from centre ice on his attempt. The Oilers need to be embarrassed on home ice the way the Maple Leafs were. Period. And if Ron Wilson’s players don’t come out ready to play, that’s not on Wilson, that’s on each and every Maple Leaf on the ice. I’m so sick of excuses …

Speaking of excuses: Mike Komisarek. He is one. To quote a good friend of mine, Komisarek’s “THE WORST!” …

Mea culpa: I take back every bad thing I ever said about Colby Armstrong. Money well spent …

Waffles: The worst of our many humiliations …

Moving forward, do you go with J.S. Giguere or Jonas Gustavsson? In 15 starts, Giguere’s faced 406 shots, and stopped 363 (.894). Gustavsson, in 14 starts, has faced 407 shots, and stopped 367 (.902). I guess the difference is negligible. And that’s a shame …

Was that Clarke MacArthur/Jaroslav Spacek fight not one of the strangest altercations you’ve ever seen? …

One day, Nazem Kadri will score a goal. There might be a parade in celebration …

Thursday night, in Dion Phaneuf’s triumphant return to Calgary, do you think Flames fans have a “Sloppy Seconds! CLAP-CLAP-CLAPCLAPCLAP” chant in them? Props to them if they do.

Image of our frigid city courtesy Fuck Yeah Toronto.

11 Responses to 'The week that was'

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  1. Re: Bargnani. Counting stats are a bitch.

    Drew

    13 Dec 10 at 2:51 pm

  2. What I don’t understand is what people don’t understand about Bargs. He’s a very unique player that can’t be quantified statistically it seems. Understand?

    Mattt

    13 Dec 10 at 2:58 pm

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Navin Vaswani, Ian H.. Ian H. said: RT @eyebleaf: Saying goodbye to Scott Downs http://t.co/F9ORkJN And more … #sportsandthecity #bluejays #raptors #leafs [...]

  4. Downs was terrific for the Blue Jays. I understand your sadness at his parting. Good for him, though, for ending up in sunny California plus he got a great deal that will set him for life.

    AA: Thanks for not trading Snider.

    Hey! The Buffalo Bills won again. :::THUD:::

    Brett Favre underneath that pile of snow. hehehe…what a mind picture. How is it that this guy is reviled and revered in such equal portions? The guy is a selfish twit.

    William

    13 Dec 10 at 3:39 pm

  5. @ Drew, @ Mattt: I think that’s what drives people batty; they can’t quantify him through the stats. I just think it’s funny how quickly things change. Before the season began I remember reading that Bargnani’s contract was an albatross. Now it’s a bargain. Bargnani’s unique. He’s a treat to watch, both for how he can take over a game, and how he can be so utterly frustrating minutes later.

    @ William: I’m very much at terms with Downs’ departure. Like you said, good for him. He got paid, and he gets to go to SoCal. Not a bad deal. He deserves it after putting up the numbers he did in the AL East. Godspeed. As for the Bills, you’re absolutely right, regardless of the fact they beat the Browns. All I can say: SHOUT!!!1

    Navin Vaswani

    13 Dec 10 at 5:26 pm

  6. I too will miss Downs greatly. But good for him.

    Last time I checked, the Argos made the playoffs (and got their butts kicked by the Grey Cup champs). Doesn’t that count?

    MK

    13 Dec 10 at 6:55 pm

  7. I really hate to parrot anybody, most especially ESPN’s Bill ‘thinskin’ Simmons, but I’m having a hard time getting his alpha dog theory out of my head when I watch the Raptors this season.

    I don’t mean it in the way I assume Simmons does – that a team breaks down into fiefdom or something under a clear leader – but in the idea that somebody has to lead a team. Bosh, when he was here, was that leader (that the Raptors traded for parts not only to complement him on the court, but off it as well – a former college teammate who I’ll not name, for example – reenforces that idea to me.

    But Bosh left and there was a vacancy for leadership and Il Mago has stepped up as leader. And I’m loving it! If you had told me even last year Bargnani would be dropping 40+ points in a game, I’d have laughed. I’m laughing now, too, but for entirely different reasons.

    Mark Milner

    13 Dec 10 at 7:29 pm

  8. @ MK: In all honesty, when I wrote “Time flies when none of Toronto’s sports teams make the playoffs,” I never gave thought to the Argos. And that’s truly a representation of how I operate. I don’t mean to ignore them, or disparage them or the CFL. They’re just not on my radar. And in my defence, I did say “pro sports teams.” The big three in Toronto are the Leafs, Jays and Raptors. I’d probably agree that the CFL and MLS are “minor” leagues, in the grand scheme of things.

    @ Mark: I think you bring up a good point, re: leadership. It’s almost too manufactured, this leadership. While I think we’ve all known 40 points in a game was always possible for Bargnani, it’s nice to finally see it happen. It’s been fun watching him grow. That’s the best part: Andrea’s still developing. I believe it was a week or 10 days ago, but there was a great article both on TSN and in, I believe, The Miami Herald, comparing Bargnani and Nowitzki based on the two of them averaging 35 plus minutes a game. The numbers were comparable. The article also mentioned how Nowitzki came into the league under Don Nelson, and got to play with Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. That’ll help your development. Compare that with Sam Mitchell and the point guards the Raps have employed. Ain’t even close.

    Navin Vaswani

    13 Dec 10 at 11:12 pm

  9. I think after seeing the Raptors getting crushed by the Bulls last night I can see why so many people think they’re ‘better’ without Bargs. Another target is Jose and Toronto certainly has been ‘better’ since he’s been injured. I think the Raps have turned the ball over 514 times in the games Calderon has been missing. Turnovers and lack of a multi faceted scoring threat definitely have made Toronto ‘better’. Here’s hoping those guys come back soon so the games can at least be competitive again.

    Mattt

    16 Dec 10 at 7:25 am

  10. Mattt, last night was FUGLY. It was a good indication that the Raps definitely need Bargnani out there. Without him, an already bad team gets even worse. Much worse. What are your thoughts re: Bayless? I’m not a fan of the shoot-first point guard, which he clearly is, but he’s young, and I like his athleticism and his gusto on defense. I think he should start and Jose should come off the bench when Calderon returns. I understand the booing by the fans last night, but the Raptors were clearly overmatched. And that was apparent before the game started. The Raps are who they are, and they’re nowhere near the caliber of the Bulls.

    Navin Vaswani

    16 Dec 10 at 12:24 pm

  11. I think the Bayless trade was a steal. There’s definite potential there for a future point guard as long as he gets his reps. He’s really young so there’s plenty of time to grow his game.

    I think he’s a shoot first guy out of circumstance a lot of the time. No one is hot and he’s hitting his shots so he goes with that. Great at the draw and kick game but the pick and roll etc needs work. A very trainable point guard if he’s willing and he is. He loves it in Toronto. You need to get yourself back in the DoT as well…

    Have you checked out JB’s blog yet? He needs some help. It’s alright but postings are few and far between.

    Mattt

    16 Dec 10 at 12:35 pm

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