Friday, June 30, 2006

Of A.J's, Draft Days and Blue Jays

The NHL and NBA recently held their rookie drafts, and because the Toronto Raptors had the first overall pick (!!!!), we'll start with them.

Now, leave it to the Raptors to land the first pick in a year when there was no consensus number one. But this was a happy day, so none of that.

Three or four players could have gone first, and the Raptors went with an Italian kid, Andrea Bargnani, dubbed Il Mago and Nowitzki Jr. We can only hope, after watching the Italians flop and dive their way into the semi-finals of the World Cup, that this guy can stay on his two feet long enough to put the ball in the basket.

The Raps' pick was overshadowed by a raft of draft day trades. Portland ended the day with (give or take) eleven of the top ten picks. Seriously, everybody and their grandmother got in a trade with the Blazers. They were like the drunk chick at a frosh party, except that Portland probably came out on top by the end of it...and without the syphilis.

Moving to hockey, the Leafs, believe it or not, actually did something right.

Yeah, we needed a moment too. They shipped a Finnish goaltending prospect (Tuuka Rask) to the Boston Bruins for former Calder Trophy (that's the one for top rookies) winner Andrew Raycroft. And just today, the Leafs made it official that they will not be employing Eddie Belfour next year. So the Leafs have, in a word, solved their goaltending problems, for cheap too. And quickly. The usual antithesis of the Leafs, quick and cheap.

They also signed defenseman Bryan McCabe to the kind of contract that will ensure his family never goes hungry. Ever.

So the Leafs have decided that that their top two defense men for the next five years will be McCabe and Tomas Kaberle. We hope the big brass knows what they're doing here.

Other minor stuff: Vancouver now has a legitimate numero uno goalie in Roberto Luongo, and Roberto Luongo now has a legitimate numero uno team in Vancouver, so both parties have now officially run out of excuses for their failure.

Vancouver missed the playoffs last year despite being overstuffed with talent. They blamed their goaltending, or lack there of for their shortcomings.

In Luongo's five years in Florida, despite putting up solid numbers for a crappy team, he never once made the playoffs.

So now the two are together, for better or for worse. No more excuses.

For the Blue Jays, A.J. Burnett is (finally!) back, giving the Blue Birds an almost legitimate starting rotation. With Roy Halladay, Ted Lilly and now Burnett, the Jays can start making some noise. The other two pitchers who were projected as starters all those months ago, Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers aren't going to be doing anything soon. Chacin is still two months away from playability, and Towers is in the minors, trying to forget about his 1-9 record.

The Jays have also (finally!) started to take advantage of their interleague games, sweeping both the Nationals (Note to MLB: The Nats no longer play in Montreal) and the Braves.

The recent sweep of the Nats is important, because it saw Burnett, Lilly and Halladay all pitch in succession, letting the Jays flex some of their pitching muscle. Burnett won 6-0, followed by Lilly's 6-1 smadackering and capped off by Halladay's 8-4 piece. For those scoring at home, that's an aggregate score of 20-5 over three days.

It hasn't meant diddly in their quest for top spot in the AL East though, due to Boston's twelve game win streak, largely greased by crappy NL teams.

The Jays are going to have to win the division if they want any post-season pie; the wild card is most assuredly going to either the Tigers or White Sox.

That's all for now,


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