Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Three Point Game

Talking about the Maple Leafs right now is kind of tough because they are awful and smelly and big fat meanie liars who promised change and commitment to defense and just an overall improvement but are playing the same listless let-someone-else-do-the-scoring- and-backchecking-tonight game they've been playing since the lockout ended, so I'm not going to give them any time tonight.

Let's talk about three point games instead. The Leafs are pretty familiar with three point games because these guys lose in overtime more than any one else in NHL and it's those eight points from those eight OT loses that are the only thing keeping the Leafs point total near respectable levels, but I'm not talking about them tonight.

The way it stands right now, the NHL awards two points to any team capable of finishing a hockey game in sixty minutes with more goals than their opponent. If both teams have scored the same number of goals, that is, if the score is tied and stalemated and not conclusive after three full periods of skating back and forth over a frozen surface comprised mostly of very cold water and sometimes spare change, if this happens the game goes into overtime and then possibly a shootout if five more minutes of skating back and forth still fail to resolve anything. The team that emerges with the win will receive the same two points they would have anyway, but the losing team, the team that failed, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs for demonstration purposes, will receive one point, which, the astute reader and sporting enthusiast will note, is entirely one full point more than they would have received had they not blown the lead in the dying seconds of the game to a team the Toronto Maple Leafs should beat every single time but instead choke like they were dining on tiny chicken bones before every game.

This results in the three point a game, a game in which three points are doled out between the two teams and a game that has a tendency to skew standings and make bad teams look better and make mediocre teams feel like they still have a shot at something meaningful which is why the NHL likes three point games because this way everybody is a winner and nobody gets their feelings hurt unless you are the LA Kings in which case you are just awful no matter what you do. The three point game is frustrating for me and others too because of just that: it makes bad teams look like they are not bad teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs, that team I am not talking about today, can send out their General Manager and have him, without lying, describe the team he built that has won 15 of it's first 38 games as having a winning percentage of .500 because eight of those losses were in OT and therefore don't count at all for anything.

The Leafs are clearly not a .500 team but the standings don't lie. I am not against three point games though. I do not think the league should stop rewarding points for OT losses.

What the NHL should do is make every game a three point game. Three points for doing your job and giving the fans a resolution at the final buzzer, and then two points for an OT win and the same one point for losing in OT. This would separate out the contenders from the pretenders. Thinking about it, it won't do anything for the cluttered standings column in your newspaper but it's already pretty cluttered as is so this is not my biggest concern.

The NHL is not going to do this because they want parity and they want their fans to think that even though their GM might be inept or just brain dead or maybe their highest paid players are stiffs dreaming of summers somewhere other than this godawful city where all it ever does is snow or rain, that their teams still have a chance because in today's NHL anyone can grow up to be President as long as you try your best and lose in overtime enough.


Edit - I'm going to try start updating more often for better or for worse whether or not I have anything to say or not. Should be fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

David Ech-Stein

So J.P Ricciardi is obviously feeling as uneasy as I am about the prospects of starting next season with the same line up as the previous year so he signed David Eckstein to a one year, 4.5 million dollar deal. I think he missed the mark. Looking positive, J.P deserves credit for going out and getting guys who are proven winners, after all it was diminutive Eckstein out there collecting the World Series MVP award back with St. Louis and if there's one word every one uses to describe the 5'7" lead-off man, it's scrappy.

But there's another word a lot of people use to describe the lil guy, and that's "over rated". The Jays already have a regular shortstop, John MacDonald, yeah, the guy they call the Human Highlight Reel, and if you are going to go out and sign somebody to take that position from him, why do you go out and sign an aging small man with all the range and mobility of a rotting tree stump? Eckstein is a defensive liability to such a degree that any advantage gained by having him lead-off the order will be lost in ground balls through his feet. The Jays' rotation have come to rely on having the solid wall between second and third that Johnny Mac represents and then we go 180 degrees around and suddenly next season giving up ground balls will be a liability.

Essentially now the Jays have pitched out 4.5 million dollars for a utility infielder because even if Eckstein starts the season at short you have to imagine that by September that somebody will have become frustrated enough to put MacDonald back where he belongs. MacDonald can't hit, yeah, we know that, but he makes up for it by catching everything hit his way. Eckstein can't reliably catch anything but while he does hit better Macdonald (that's not saying much, most of the Jays' bat boys probably hit better than the Mac Attack) he does not do it well enough to justify putting him on the field every night. If Troy Glaus wasn't comfortably entrenched at third (hey remember that time they had him play short stop? Pretty sure Glaus is better there than Eckstein) they could conceivably shift Eckstein over to where his defensive misadventures would not be such a problem but the point is moot. This was a bad deal, I think and I can only be glad that it only runs one year because I can't see the Jays finding themselves needing to renew this contract.

What's with this team and committing to under appreciated fan favourites like MacDonald and Greg Zaun and then going out and desperately trying to replace them? Poor Zaun. Remember when J.P said hey you're our number one guy congrats you really finally earned it, and then he signed Bengie Molina? And then just a week ago J.P was after Paul Lo Duca and you have to wonder how any player could ever develop any loyalty to this club. And if we're talking loyalty and Blue Jays I can't leave out the way the Jays ran Carlos Delgado out of town.

I am so ready for another General Manager not named J.P Ricciardi to have a crack at this team. I just want to look at my baseball team and feel reassured that there is a plan in place, a plan to improve and get better and compete and, hey now whatever happened to Russ Adams? Remember it was going to be Adam Hill at short and Russ Adams at second and now Hill is at second and there is huge road jam at short and this is exactly what I'm talking about. There is no plan around this team, just a series of ad hoc moves designed to make it look like we are keeping up with the Joneses in New York and Boston. Frank Thomas and Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano and Matt Stairs and where does it all lead?

Right back at third in the American League East


Exhibit F in the David Eckstein is overrated case:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Rios Factor

So Blue Jays GM J.P Ricciardi has made it pretty clear that the Jays' roster for next year is going to look remarkably similar to the Jays' roster from last year. Ricciardi is stubbornly insistent to prove that the team he built for '07 was a winner and he's going to do that by making no significant changes to the team for the upcoming season. This is about as childish as it gets for general managers.

Ok, so the Jays had a some ugly injuries last year, B.J Ryan was out all year and Vernon Wells might as well have been and so J.P wants to prove to all the naysayers who slagged the Jays that what he put together was actually capable of winning if only we hadn't had all those injuries. Whatever. This is how you know the Jays are not an elite team. Look at New York and Boston. They had good teams last year, not theoretically good teams like Toronto, but objective, observably good teams and you don't see them standing around telling their fans hey, we're such good teams that we don't need to improve. Hell, the Red Sox won the World Series and they're the ones at the head of the pack for Johan Santana. Good teams don't tell people they are good teams, they go out and act like good teams. If J.P was serious he would call last year a wash, recognize that shit happens and move on and act accordingly and acknowledge that the teams around him are quickly moving ahead while he pretends that this is still 2007.

There is some small glimmer of a trade in the works for Ricciardi and the Jays after the sunny Winter Meetings. It's hard for GMs to resist the temptation of tinkering once you gather them all together and J.P is nothing if not a GM. The only problem as it stands is that with this trade J.P might just be clipping these Jays' wings.

The proposed trade is Alex Rios, the most consistent thing in black and silver for Toronto last season, and Tim Lincecum, a young hot shot stud pitcher out of San Fransisco. The Giants are sitting on their hands here, and I'm glad they are because I'm not sure the Jays can afford to give up Rios' power or glove heading into next year. Who do they have to replace him? Do you play Matt Stairs? Is Alex Lind capable of really replacing Rios? The conventional wisdom is you don't give up a player like Rios for a pitcher, even a pitcher nicknamed "Franchise", who is only going to play once every five days.

I don't like how this smells. I can't see how Ricciardi could possibly give up Alex Rios without anything to immediately replace him. I mean, remember the last two months of the previous season? The Jays were receiving pitching, they were getting really, really good pitching in fact, but the bats were completely missing, and you aim to fix this by giving up the only guy who was hitting worth a damn? I don't know.

The only way this trade works, Rios for Lincecum, is if Ricciardi wheels around and makes another trade, say, I don't know, McGown for Jason Bay, or whatever. I say Jason Bay because wouldn't that be amazing having the second best Canadian bat in the majors playing for Toronto? Yes it would. And then Ricciardi could whip around again and trade for Eric Bedard and all of a sudden I would never ever say a bad thing about JP again for as long as he was GM no matter what he did. Is JP capable of moves like that? I mean, it just doesn't make any sense to leave such a hole as Rios would create in the outfield without anything to fill it right? And JP has said he would like to up the Canadian content on this team and while Matt Stairs is nice (did he really need two years?), he's no Bay or Bedard. Nobody is safe on Baltimore, we know that, and it's not like Pittsburgh has anything going on and I don't see why this isn't possible, save for the fact that Jays might not have the depth in the farm system to pull this off. I don't know.

So here's what I want: if Rios must go, and I really don't think he does have to, Ricciardi you darn well better have some kind of master stroke genius trade in your other sleeve to replace him. What can I say JP, I've lost faith in you. I no longer believe you can do what's best for this club. So just don't screw this up please. If you are going to make a trade, think big. Think really huge blockbuster big, blow the roof off the top giant. You know? Make us care. Detroit went big by trading with Florida. You can top that Ricciardi.


Stop Winning Plz

Hey guys what happened to getting John Ferguson Jr. fired? Remember that? We were so close! Fergie was days away from losing his job and then you guys go 5-1-1 and all of a sudden everything is fine and wonderful and Yonge St has been reserved for a future parade.

That's the way hockey works around here though. All it takes to erase two and a half years of poor, listless hockey is a four game win streak and everything is good again. How long can the winning go on? It would have been nice if the Leafs could have held off their rediscovery of their resolve and commitment to team defence until after Fergie was gone but now it's too late and all the fire Ferguson momentum has dissipated and good luck ever getting anything done in MLSE's front office.

We missed our chance is what I'm saying. You just know somebody somewhere is working on a contract extension to reward Ferguson for pulling the Leafs up to ninth in the East.