Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We're Moving!

Hey everyone, is our new home. Make sure you update your bookmarks, and for RSS feeds just click on the banner on the new page to subscribe.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Twit: SIGN PEDRO Edition

Sporting thoughts are rather scattered today, so I will go to the old Twit format on this one:

- Jays lose because of a young arm not finding the plate. These things kinds of games are going to happen. Ottawa Sports Guy Hex in full effect.

- I'm concerned for David Purcey; looked great in Grapefruit action, looked decent for his first couple of starts, can't hit the side of a barn in last two starts. If Brad Arnsberg can't fix this, no one can.

- Sign Pedro.

- The Flames were eliminated by the Blackhawks, and no tears were shed in the OSG household (yes, I did just link to myself - I'm that awesome). Three reasons; the Flames beat the Habs in the '89 final and delivered the first sports tears in the young OSG's life, the Blackhawks are a much more exciting team to watch, and, well, I have trouble accepting any joy for Calgary (yes, electoral results can taint my enthusiasm for a whole swath of the country).

- Ian Mendes has an interesting idea to determine playoff opponents. I'm afraid I don't share Ian's excitement for watching a guy in a suit flip a piece of cardboard (make it Evanka Osmak and now we're talking!), but I get what he's saying. My initial reaction is HELL NO, but the idea does have merit. I'd be concerned about it becoming a circus sideshow, however. My main playoff format gripe is awarding the third seed to a division winner, no matter if their points total is inferior to another team - I'd start there if I were to change the format.

- Not that I spend my days surfing the net for pictures of Evanka Osmak, but in the interest of providing eye candy for the blog, the pic to the right is the best one of the Sportsnet anchor. For shame.

- John Carver quit as Toronto FC's coach on Saturday, and I've yet to read one report that tells us why. Come on Toronto scribes, get to the bottom of this. What's the point of boasting about being chummy with the people you're supposed to cover if you can't get the scoop? (edit: apparently I don't check the Star's soccer coverage often enough)

-The Yankees are going to lose a lot of a games this year. Rejoice.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Rosin Bag: The Streak Is Over

If the Jays don't win another series this year, you can blame it on the Ottawa Sports Guy Hex. On Saturday my record streak of consecutive Blue Jays games watched to start a season came to a close as real life caught up to me and prevented me from tuning in to the 10-2 loss at the hands of the White Sox. It was worth it though: I was at a fantastic event organized by my beloved girlfriend Laura and our friend Lola (hint: it's not too late to donate to this great community cause).

And so if the Jays lose the upcoming series with the Royals, go ahead and blame me: perhaps my streak was somehow connected to the Jays streak of winning their first 6 series of the season. Good thing that in real life I'm the furthest thing from a fatalist as you can find.

I'm a bit concerned about the state of the four-spot in the Jays rotation. As long as Romero is out, I don't see Brian Burres securing many wins. I'll echo what the message boards are clamoring about: SIGN PEDRO. Seriously. That would be some major karma having Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar in the same clubhouse again. Pedro was always destined to win a World Series for a Canadian team. Pedro could eat up innings at the end of the year when the Jays will have to scale back the workload on young arms like Romero, Purcey and whoever else comes up to fill the holes (Fabio Castro anyone? The Big Turk brought this to my attention: Castro had another strong outing today for New Hampshire. 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K. His ERA dropped to 0.83 on the season (21.2 innings, 24/3 strikeout to walk ratio, 0 HR allowed). He already has MLB experience, so I would not be surprised if they promote him straight from AA to the Majors at some point this year). SIGN PEDRO. I love the Man. I love the Legend. SIGN PEDRO. Put me down for a Pedro Jays jersey right now if he signs. Come on JP: DO IT.

Anthems: Wake up! Time To Die!

I'm a little late to the party here, but I'd like to use my corner of the intrawebs to lend my voice to the rising chorus of people who think national anthems should not be played before professional sporting events. I've been saying this amongst friends and family for years now, but only recently have I heard my sentiments echoed by prominent figures. Imagine my shock when uber-nationalist Don Cherry was one of them.

The issue recently saw a spike in attention after some Montreal Canadiens fans booed the American national anthem before a playoff game. This happens every couple of years. I wouldn't go so far as to boo their anthem, but I do sympathize to an extent. After the Iraq war began, my form of protest was to not remove my hat during the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Nonetheless, I don't really get why you would boo an anthem at a pro sports game: there are so many nationalities represented on both teams that it completely obfuscates any objective (which is presumably to piss off the opposing team?).

The issue isn't really the booing of the anthem but rather why the anthem is played in the first place. I'm told the playing of national anthems before professional sports games began after World War II to honour the men who had fought in that conflict. The thought behind this tradition is nice, but the execution is all messed up. We have Remembrance Day to honour our military heroes. On top of that, I doubt many people are thinking of military personnel when they rise for the anthem at a sporting event. Unscientific-off-the-top-of-my-head-thoughts-that-cross people's-minds-during-the-anthems:

1. That girl can't sing worth crap.

2. Is it disrespectful to take a swig of my beer during th - (gulp!).

3. The players look just as bored as me right now.

4. Dude next to me has got to stop brushing up against my arm.

5. ...stand on guard, for thee!!

The meaning behind the gesture has long since passed us by. Besides, we need less military cross-branding with sporting events, not more. We've seen a definite uptick in military tributes at sporting events in the past few years. In my opinion it's nothing more than an infiltration into our pastimes by warhawks and right-wing conservatives. Protest of any kind at these initiatives are met with accusations of unpatriotic sentiment or worse: pansification. Just take Carlos Delgado as an example: he was villified by the New York media for refusing to acknowledge God Bless America during Yankees games.

National anthems do have a place in sport. When matches are played between countries, it is more than appropriate to play the anthems. In fact, it adds to the spirit of the event. These renditions would take on even more significance if we weren't so bombarded by the anthems before every single game we watch. Canada playing the USA in hockey? Hell yes play the anthems! The songs resonate with fans, players, and coaches alike because we are pitting countries against one another. Montreal and Boston facing off has nothing to do with Oh Canada or the Star-Spangled banner, so get rid of them altogether. Anything else is just inviting trouble.

The pre-game anthem ceremonies at the FIFA World Cup are always so beautiful to watch, and are enhanced by the fact that God Save the Queen or La Marseillaise isn't played before every Premiership or French League match. When you line up the England team next to the French team and play those anthems it's difficult to feel indifferent, even if you have no ancestors from those countries (same goes for Brazil, Italy, Japan, etc.).

With all this said, however, I doubt any of the professional sports leagues in North America will have the courage to mandate a change in pre-game ceremonies. Those that would be opposed to the change would howl long and hard about the lack of patriotism such a gesture would symbolize (again, why is Don Cherry on my side on this???). I seem to recall George Steinbrenner publicly voicing his disgust with Blue Jays President Paul Godfrey for not playing God Bless America at Blue Jays home games during the seventh-inning stretch. Can you imagine the reaction from the faux-patriots if Gary Bettman instructed teams to drop the anthems before games?

The status quo will continue, but you have my go-ahead to keep your hat on while the "bombs burst in air".

Zoom Zoom: Bah-rain Boh-ring

The Bahrain GP got off to one of the most exciting starts I can remember. There was passing, jostling, and more passing. Drivers jockeyed for position over the first couple of laps, highlighted by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton trading 3rd place a few times. For a few moments, it looked like were going to witness a race for the ages - then it got as bland as the desert backdrop.

It's still refreshing to see Ferrari struggle and a new team dominate, as Brawn is doing by winning three of the first four races. But please allow me to indulge on getting a little something off my chest. Fuck You Bahrain. Fuck you and your desert track with 50,000 spectators being preferred for its petro-dollars over Montreal's lush scenery and feverish fans. Fuck you for painting cutesy little colours onto the SAND that lines the track. You're not fooling anyone. Buffalo N.Y., Joan Rivers and the Bahrain Grand Prix: three things you cannot "pretty up", no matter how much money you throw at it. Fuck you Bahrain.

I really have nothing against Bahrain and its desert. I'm just bitter about Montreal having its F1 race revoked after 44 of the past 46 years because of unpaid ransom demands by Bernie the Pirate, only to be replaced by locales that have no F1 tradition or even much interest. Sometimes I cannot contain it. As Zach de la Rocha once so eloquently put it: "I'll give you a dose but it could never come close to the rage built up inside of me".

Congrats to Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Jarno Trulli on their podium finishes. Word is that Ferrari will be upgrading their car significantly for the next race, two weeks from now in Barcelona. Can't wait to see if they can pull it off. It will also be a great opportunity to wish Fernando Alonso as little luck as possible on his home track (Lola is going to go apeshit when she reads that last part).

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Rosin Bag: Rogers Sportsnet v. TSN2

Hi again, just wanted to point you towards two excellent posts regarding the war of attrition going on between Rogers Sportsnet and CTV Globemedia (TSN2). In case you're not aware, the first Jays series against the Red Sox was acquired by TSN. They then turned around and announced that it would be shown on TSN2, which Rogers customers don't have access to. Rogers owns the Blue Jays.

The Tao of Stieb lays it out no uncertain terms that the two companies are playing chicken, which could steer fans from both networks.

Out of Left Field points out that it's not the first time this happens, but this time the stakes are much higher because Blue Jays games attract exponentially more fans than Raptors or Eskimos games.

I don't have much to add to their excellent posts except to say that I've already gotten a subscription to, so you have to wonder how much longer I'll remain beholden to the traditional TV networks. They play this game at their own peril: I can stream from my PC to my TV so I'll get those hidden games in HD, which is exactly what Expressvu can offer*, even if I were deemed worthy of receiving it as a Rogers customer.

*Props to Zach for pointing out that TSN is offered in high definition

The Rosin Bag: Attrition

1. Dustin McGowan
2. Shaun Marcum
3. Jesse Litsch
4. Ricky Romero

If you were the GM of an expansion team, wouldn't you be feeling pretty good about your team if those were your first four starters in the rotation? I bet you would be. The Jays would be happy to have them too, if they weren't all on the disabled list. You can also add B.J. Ryan to that list, but we'll notch that one up as addition by subtraction. My blood pressure thanks you, "tight trapezius muscle". I can just see the meeting in JP's office now:

Ricciardi: Robert Victor, are you SURE you're not injured? Like, pretty please?

Ryan: No JP, like I told you, I feel fine. I'm just sucking like a rented mule right now.

The Cito: I don't know B.J., or whatever your real name is. It looks to me like you have a tight trapezius muscle...

Ryan: Come again?

Ricciardi: Yeah B.J., like Cito said. A tight trapezoid is not something you want to mess with.

Ryan: (looking worried) Well, ummm, how would I know I have that?

The Cito: (reassuring nod and reaches out to squeeze B.J.'s forearm) You just leave that up to us, son.

All joking aside, didn't you feel 100x better seeing Scott Downs coming out of the pen for the save last night? No drama, no anxious moments, just 1-2-3 game over. As it should be. Also nice to see Rios start swinging the bat and actually getting on base. Welcome to the party, Alex. My buddy Big Turk and I were discussing his struggles the other night, and it's like being the parent of an underachieving teenager: you want to smack him because he doesn't seem to care that his grades are in the shitter. Of course we have to remind ourselves that Alex has never been one to exhibit much emotion, whether he's hitting .320 or .230.

Five series wins to start the season. They're now 12 wins away from the 14 I called for out of this 20-games-in 20-days stretch. Tonight the Jays begin a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox, who currently occupy first place in the Central with an 8-7 record. Brian Tallet gets his second start, facing off against Gavin Floyd. Could you give us another solid six innings Brian? Thanks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ce n'est qu'un au revoir...

And so ends the Montreal Canadiens centennial season. I have to tread carefully here because so many of my friends and family are die-hard Habs fans. I was reminded of this yesterday when my cousin scolded me on Facebook after I mentioned in my status that I thought fans of the Tricolore take joy from booting people out of town. I should perhaps re-frame what I said.

Habs fans young and old have yet to adjust to the fact that their team are no longer an NHL juggernaut. In Canada we all grew up knowing that the Canadiens were the winningest franchise in hockey history, having won 24 Stanley Cups. And depending on your age, you probably grew up revering/fearing "Les Glorieux". The seven years between Cups in 1986-1993 seemed like a very unusual blip on their march to championships and the Montreal populace retained their arrogance/confidence/cockiness for years afterwards.

Years became a long decade, a decade that is stretching into two and the reaction in Montreal is nothing short of fevered panic. Since that last Cup, the Canadiens have made seven coaching changes. Every one of those coaches had a winning record (except for Alain Vigneault but only because ties count as losses in winning percentage). Yes, even Mario Tremblay was a winner in Montreal. Nonetheless, all these coaches were deemed unfit to continue in their duties as head coach of the team. Two of them were, however, good enough to coach the Canucks and Bruins to first-round sweeps this post-season. Ouch. I know that stung, my beloved friends and family.

And then there's all the captains that have been run out of town (yes, even - especially? - the French-Canadian ones). Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, Mike Keane, Pierre Turgeon and Vincent Damphousse were all traded away and went on to very successful post-Canadiens careers. It's a wonder Saku Koivu lasted as long as he has, but that run is about to end (he will leave as a free agent in a refreshing twist). And let's not even get into the goaltending stigma in Montreal - my lunch is only an hour long.

My argument here is that stability creates a winning atmosphere. I thought the Canadiens had figured that out and I foolishly believed that Bob Gainey (pictured, right) and Guy Carbonneau would anchor the "bleu, blanc, rouge" for years to come. As seen earlier this season, though, patience is thin among the Canadiens fan base and they are hungry for blood. Never mind that their best player, Andrei Markov, missed the last part of the season and playoffs due to injury: someone must to pay for this embarrassing 4-game sweep. That person will almost surely be Bob Gainey. I urge you to look around the landscape and identify possible candidates to replace him, Habs fans. You'll see that a) there aren't very many good general managers available and b) those that are good are not likely to step into such a viper's pit. Gainey had assembled a team that was touted as a Stanley Cup contender by many experts at the beginning of the season (including most Habs fans). Now that it hasn't happened, you'll throw the guy out on the street? Come on now, take a deep breath.

This of course is just an opinion, and please remember that family sticks together through thick and thin...right? I love you too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Rosin Bag: 20 Games In 20 Days

Twenty games in 20 days. That's what's staring the Blue Jays straight in the face right now. The opponents for these games will be; Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles in California of Earth in the Milky Way and the Oakland Athletics. Before the season started, you could have said with confidence that the Jays were better than the Rangers, Royals, Orioles and maybe the A's. The way they've played early on, the Jays could win every series. Surely they won't as the law of averages must catch up to them some time. But as commenter Jeremy at Batter's Box puts it:

A 10-10 split would put them at 20-14, a .588 percentage.  Roughly a 95 win pace.
Then again if they go .500 the rest of the way they'll finish 6 games in the black, but that's no way of looking at the future. No, my rose-tinted glasses will remain firmly in place and I'll predict 14 wins out of the 20, putting them 24-10 for the season on May 11th. 

It all starts tonight with the Jays hosting the 5-7 Texas Rangers. The Good Doctor takes to the mound for the Bluebirds, while Brandon McCarthy gets the nod for the Rangers. Halladay should be careful around Hank Blaylock: the third baseman is 11-for-33 career-wise against him. 

8 hours to game time and I'm already giddy. This has to stop sometime, right? It's the first time in my life that I watch the first 14 games of the season. Can I pull a DiMaggio? Probably not. Real life is sure to interfere at some point. Does it count if I watch condensed games on Nah, I didn't think so either.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Twit: Jays Are Hot Edition

Ah, so this is what fingers to keyboard feel like...I had forgotten! Taking a week and a half off has not been kind to my blogging schedule, but alas here I am with another edition of The Twit.

- I've obviously got to start with the red-hot Blue Jays. While my video game counterpart isn't doing all that well in MLB '09: The Show (current record: 3-9), the real life Jays are tearing up the junior circuit. They're doing it with an incredible display of early season hitting, combined with young arms complementing the old doctor very well. It's very rare for baseball teams to fire on all cylinders at once, though, as evidenced by Alex Rios and B.J. Ryan. But hell, I'm not going to dwell on that. Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Marco Scutaro, Scott Rolen, Lyle Overbay et al. are fanning the flames of love in my heart. Haters will argue that it's a long season and a hot April doesn't mean much, but they're just jealous: when it comes right down to it the team you follow will either start the season well or it won't - no need to wonder what every person prefers.

- The Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway, and I'm casually interested. It's a fun tournament and I am a hockey fan (although as I've stated before I won't be writing about it much because the last thing we need is another Canadian writing a half-assed hockey blog). When your team isn't in the tournament, though, it becomes quite the test of endurance to watch hockey every night for 2 months. I'll watch the Jays instead, thank you very much. From what I have seen, however, the Bruins, Canucks and Blackhawks look real good. I'm still hoping the Capitals will squeeze their way past the Rangers because Alexander Ovechkin is the most exciting entity to watch on skates at the moment.

- When I woke up yesterday morning to watch my PVR'd Chinese Grand Prix and the first shots showed rain, I was excited. An F1 race in the rain is almost always an exciting time. I thought they coddled the drivers a little too much at first by having them start the race behind the safety car for the first 15 minutes. That was all forgotten once they got to racing. Sebastian Vettel was full value for the win, Red Bull Racing's first (Mark Webber finished second, also making this the first Red Bull one-two finish). Felipe Massa once again finished out of the points after his car died while the race was under caution: very embarassing for Ferrari. Brawn Racing was strong once again, finishing third and fourth. As an aside for those of you who follow F1 through this blog, the front defuser utilized by Brawn Racing was found to be legal by the court of arbitatrion last week. They therefore retain all their points and the rest of the grid can scramble to come up with their own variations of the Brawn Diffuser.

That's all I've got for now, but expect more posts soon!