Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Arsenal: this week and the future

Five defeats in the league, an unhinged William Gallas, angry fans and a hopeless team of soft youngsters. Beautiful football and nothing else. That's how things stood as of this morning.

By this evening, the young players in question proved that they can provide backbone to an extent. Led out by the new club captain, 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas, the young guns gained a hard-fought but tactically dominant win over a decent Dynamo Kyiv. This was just the midweek tonic Arsenal needed and the statistics from this game will make good reading for the manager as well.

The selection of Cesc Fabregas as captain is monumental. This is someone who skippered every Barcelona side he ever played in from the age of 11, as did a certain Carlos Puyol. To call Fabregas a boy is to misjudge his maturity. He is a man, hardened by the experience, training, tackles, injuries and psychological battles of football.

The patience of Arsenal fans has been tested this week to arguably its greatest extent since the Wenger era began over a decade ago. The youth-first policy, still unfulfilled in terms of silverware, has riled many including myself. As things stand today, Arsenal are not title winning material. A first Champions League trophy is within reach, but the gruelling Premier League is not. There remains the need to invest in toughness in defence and midfield as well as a classy addition up front. Arsenal should also regain the tactical Plan B (winning without playing well) that was evident early last season when the promise of silverware was at its greatest for three years.

The Arsenal machine is moving in the right direction but the team needs fighters (as the now-deposed William Gallas insisted) and the squad has to be improved to fight for honours. Under new refreshing leadership the fight continues at Chelsea on Saturday, where the prospects certainly look better now than they did this morning.

I've seen xenophobia, but this is ridiculous...

All this talk about outsourcing of baseball jobs has me thinking: does this guy know what outsourcing is? To hear it from him, any job of any sort going to any foreigner is outsourcing. I beg to differ. This guy is an idiot. Non-American players have been playing at a high level for a long, long time. Recently, there has been an up-turn in exposure given to foreign players (I blame Hideo Nomo). I've known who Yu Darvish is for a while now, just like I had heard of Junichi Tazawa, Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki, Kaz Matsui and so on and so on. Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel are just 2 more names to keep an eye out for. For each of these highly touted prospects,* I could name 10 American-born players who have had as much exposure before playing in the majors.

"Outsourcing," as I think of it, involves a job going overseas to someone whose productivity costs less (the marginal cost of a good produced is lower). Is that what is happening with these two pitchers? Not really, no. A true outsourcing would be to field a minor league team in a foreign country, with players from that country, who are playing at the same level, but for less money.

These guys are being brought to America, with the hopes that they can perform at the highest level. That's what the MLB is all about, not just finding the best American players, but finding the best players in the world. The Jays owe more than a small share of their success in the late 80s and early 90s to their ability to recruit Latin-American players.

India has the chance to be the next great hotbed of baseball talent, based on the success of these two individuals. Because of cricket, there is a good chance that they have acquired the most simple of skills necessary for baseball: they can field and they can throw. Yes, the bowlers have far different mechanics than a pitcher, but bowlers might also have a better understanding of a full body throwing rotation, where the arm is just along for the ride (think Tim Lincecum, the NL Cy Young winner). There are 1 billion people there, putting a baseball camp somewhere has to turn out something useful.** The marketing opportunities for MLB alone should drive one team to take that chance.

To sum up, this ain't outsourcing, this is competition. Being in the Pirates organization, there is not much competition, but these guys still have a lot to learn.

Speaking of uncommon baseball markets,*** the Jays are hopefully going to be debuting the first New Zealander ever, Scott Campbell, either this year or next year. Basically, this year is gonna be fun to watch because of the kids (Romero, Romero (D and R), Cecil, Mills, Purcey, Snider, Lind, Campbell, Thigpen, Arencibia, Jeroloman, Dopirak, Jackson, Fuenmayor, Cooper, Collins, Emaus, Ahrens et. al) and because of the inevitable Roy Halladay vengeance tour for the Al Cy Young vote. It's not that he didn't win (Lee was a perfectly suitable choice, although I would have chosen Doc), it's that so many voters put him 3rd, and even getting dropped altogether from one ballot!
*Singh and Patel are not highly touted, they are just test cases and reality TV show winners. Like Pros vs. Joes, except the Pros are still actually in their prime
**The Devil's Advocate would point out that China has produced just 1 Major League Player: Harry Kingman, playing in 4 games in 1914, amassing a batting record of 0-3, with a walk. Yep, that's a .000/.250/.000 line.
***Off-topic, but the coolest place of birth ever: Ed Porray. Birthplace: A Ship on Atlantic Ocean.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Let me say right off that I have nothing personal against Indians in general"

The headline gives you an idea where this one's going.

Let me say right off, I'm not a freakishly nationalistic person, by any stretch of the imagination. But this article is unbelievable.

Here's my basic problem; essentially Slate is saying that the introduction of two Indian pitchers* (who, according to Milway, were signed by the Pirates), will spark the Apocalypse for the sport of baseball. That's a shocking allegation, and a wonderful piece of xenophobia.

There have been Japanese players in Major League Baseball since 1964, and they have their own , very successful, league now. Last time I checked, though, the MLB still exists, and still hauls it in.

So explain how an Indian player is going to cause the "Outsourcing" of baseball. Moron. It's an unbelievable spiel of drivel, and I'm shocked idiocy like this gets published. Even if it is only in the Warren Reporter.

If anything, Indian players in Major League Baseball sparking (an unlikely) popularity of baseball in India will serve nothing but good for the sport. It will create another country who can compete in the Olympics and Little League World Series competitions, thus strengthening the legitimacy of the sport on the international level.

Glove tap to Sager at Out of Left Field for the tip.

* The pitchers' blog can be found here.

Dear Santa, I've been good this year...

... so if you'd be so kind as to let me find this book under the tree on the morning of December 25, I would be much obliged.


PS - Thanks to Sherry at Scarlett Ice for the heads up

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Scholar? I barely knew her...

Myron Rolle is the current starting Strong Safety for Florida State University. Coming out of high school, he was one of the top defensive recruits. He has a very strong chance at being drafted, and drafted highly, into the NFL this year or next year.

He may turn it all down.

Why? Because he is now a Rhodes Scholar. He was excused from FSU's game yesterday, which had playoff implications, to interview for the position, with only 32 scholarships being handed out nationally. The NCAA allowed him to take a chartered flight from his interview in Alabama to his game in Maryland, arriving on the field in the 2nd quarter. He found out he had been selected about 3 hours before game-time.

This just a shock that such a good athlete can have the time to focus on his studies. He finished his degree from FSU in 2.5 years, majoring in Exercise Science with a focus on Pre-Med and is currently working on his Master's Degree.

But beyond that, if you had to choose any school that this story would come out of, Free Shoes University* would be far, far down that list. Last year, around 24 players were suspended before the Music City Bowl for being given the answers to a music history exam.**

In their game against Maryland yesterday, 5 wide receivers were suspended because of a fight they got into with a fraternity over a girl. Details about that fight are sketchy at best, but let's just say it was not for the feint of heart.

This is probably the most positive story to come out of FSU since Chris Weinke. He was drafted by the Jays out of high school, spent 6 years trying to make it in baseball, couldn't cut it, enrolled at FSU and won the Heisman as a senior at age 28. He went on to the NFL, where he has compiled a career record as a starter of 2-18. So, yeah, FSU really needs Myron Rolle to succeed. Hopefully he can convince other players that they should focus on their studies, and not take classes like Ballroom Dancing. Every football player is always one play away from having to make a career change.
*Dubbed thusly because of a 1993 scandal where some players had a shopping spree at a local Foot Locker. University of Florida head coach Steve Spurrier accused FSU of using free shoes as a way to win over recruits. FSU went on to win the 1993 National Championship
**Is it ironic that it was music history that kept them from visiting the Music City? No? Okay, just me then.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Michael Carrick: the crucial piece of the jigsaw

Sir Alex Ferguson has been known to spend large amounts of money on midfielders of, according to short-sighted media and fans, questionable utility. Owen Hargreaves and Juan Sebastian Veron alone come to mind. Yet both of these players are the embodiment of the unlikely mix of skill, strength and tactical intelligence. As is Michael Carrick, another midfielder supposedly struggling to justify his price tag.

Regardless of price, one thing Fergie does not do is misjudge talent or the needs of his team. Hargreaves' and Veron's impacts at United were limited, but Carrick's is massive. The shocking fact is that his impact remains unseen - such is the nature of his role. His former club, Tottenham Hotspur, owe their recent instability entirely to the continued vacancy of his position in their midfield. As they failed to see the importance of his position, Spurs have spent £13million out of the £18million they received for Carrick's sale on paying compensation and severance packages for three different managers and their former clubs.

Carrick's importance can be situated in a broader movement - history has favoured him to an extent. The tactical evolution of modern football has meant more and more lone strikers and goals from midfield. The 4-3-3 of old is dead, replaced by a 4-5-1 with fluidity in attack, goalscoring wingers and a strong base in midfield. Often teams play with no strikers at all. Manchester United owe their recent success to the mastery of this evolution. The fluidity in attack, the goals from a certain Portuguese winger, and the solid midfield base Michael Carrick provides tick all the boxes of modern football.

Carrick assures solidity without overreliance on tackling or physicality. His deep position does not imply a defensive mindset but an astute tactical awareness. His passes are the expressions of his close reading of the game, his feet dictating the tempo and his passes moving the game forward or back as required.

In light of England's 2-1 win in Berlin last night, Carrick's importance has never been greater. England played a neat and tidy game, yet fans calling in to football chat shows could not quite describe this new feeling, using the word "solidity" in most cases as the best approximation. The fact that England fans could only feel, rather than see, the source of this newfound solidity perhaps explains why Carrick will remain the invisible man.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obituary - Queen's Homecoming

Please read Neate Sager's post from Out of Left Field, explaining to a tee my feelings on Queen's administration canceling changing the date of Homecoming to late May.

And shed a tear for the moving of this school's greatest tradition, and no I don't mean Aberdeen.

The thing about the Aberdeen party is this:
Queen's students go to the street, mull about for a while, then leave.
Non-Queen's students spend hours on the street 'waiting for something to happen'.

Here's the letter I sent to the Carleton Charletan* last month explaining my feelings on this in response to an article on their journalists had written on our Homecoming (why the fuck did they have a reporter at Queen's Homecoming. Carleton is unassociated....).

Thanks McGill, Carleton, Ottawa, Western, U of T, Ryerson, York, Laurier, Waterloo, et al, you fucked it up for us.
* I don't know why they called me "Amrit A.", I gave them my entire name. High-quality newspaper eh?

The Guillotine Game

Ouch. I really don't know what else to say after that one. Well, I can think of a few things.

Mike Tirico has now made The List after blatantly jinxing Rian Lindell by mentioning "Wide Right."

I mean, how dare you. That's almost as bad as mentioning the Music City Miracle right before a kick off with little time remaining. And I guarantee had Tirico not jinxed Lindell, the announcers would have mentioned the Music City Miracle.

The Bills didn't really have any business winning that game, considering the lackluster game Trent Edwards had tonight. By the end of the 1st quarter, I would not have been surprised to see JP Losman under center (as painful as that sounds). Leodis McKelvin had a chance to end it with an interception that was in his hands, and then Reggie Corner had a chance to grab it after it popped up off of McKelvin's body. Corner also missed a big chance to blindside Brady Quinn on a corner blitz (yes, Reggie Corner plays corner back, as is dutifully pointed out and made fun of every time his name is mentioned by the announcers), but he slipped coming around the corner, I think, and allowed Quinn to get the ball off. The rookies (McKelvin, Corner and Steve Johnson) all had some great contributions tonight. I hope Xavier Omon (Div. II record holder for TDs) and Demetrius Bell (Karl Malone's illegitimate son) get into the action this season as well.

McKelvin did have a great kickoff return or a TD and completely changed the atmosphere of the game. Marshawn Lynch rediscovered his Beast Mode with a great TD reception where he bounced off 7 or 8 guys, and then a great run in the 4th quarter where he bounced off 4 or 5 and then dragged 2 more down to the goal line to set up Edwards' rushing TD.

But it all comes back to the Guillotine. Once Tirico mentioned "Wide Right," every Bills fan immediately had the memory of Scott Norwood come back, and those ghosts haunted the normally automatic Rian Lindell.

This game is up there with the Nick Folk Game, the Sage Rosenfels Game, the Kevin Everett Game, and the 2004 season finale.

These of course rank below Wide Right and the Music City Miracle, but these loses hurt. Bad.

The only thing that could have made this better is if Gus Johnson could have been commentating instead of Mike Tirico. Gus gets it. Just look at some of his clips on Youtube. You will not be disappointed.

As for the rest of the Bills season, I really do not see how they can come back from this hole. They have to win out and finish 11-5 and hope every other team in the division falters.

Wow. I need a drink after that game.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happiness is Ottawa in your rearview mirror...

Hey there, Amrit! How's 2nd last in the league treating you? Not great, eh? Well at least your guys released some nice new 3rd jerseys...

Yes, I know the Leafs are in 10th in the East and 20th in the NHL, but that is 8-10 spots better than expected. It is also 9 spots higher than Ottawa.

On top of that, this team has been genuinely fun to watch on a night to night basis. You never know who is going to be playing together, and you never know who is going to see the most ice. If you had told me that 18 games into the season, Matt Stajan would be the leading point-getter, I would have thought this team was screwed. Thus far, they have done it with hard work and Ron Wilson has really gotten a lot more from guys like Stajan or Steen than was expected. Although at this point, his attempts to coerce Jason Blake to play Wilson's way is like trying to draw blood from a stone, except this stone is due $20MM.

Mikhail Grabovski has been a complete revealation, and has thus far been 100% worth the 2nd and 5th round picks traded for him. It's a testament to how good Montreal is, that they could afford to trade this guy to a division rival. Him and the other 4 rookies (Nikolai Kulemin, Luke Schenn, John Mitchell and Jonas Frogren) have shown some flashes, but have also been prone to rookie mistakes.

I would have liked to have seen what Kyle Wellfed would have done with Ron Wilson as his coach. Wellwood lacked motivation, but getting released from Toronto and then waived again by Vancouver might give him the proper motivation.

Vesa Toskala has also not been on top form this season, having yet to really steal a game. The Leafs of playoff runs of the Pat Quinn-era were built on Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour bailing out a subpar defense. The defense has been pretty solid, but Toskala has taken a step back from last season.

The single worst thing that could happen would be for the Leafs to hire Brian Burke in the next few weeks. I'd be afraid that he could talk himself into believing that this team is one piece away from a deep playoff run this year, and all they would have to trade is draft picks or top prospect(s).* Please, no more of that. No more Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, Brad Boyes, Alyn McCauley and a pick for Owen Nolan. This team is not one piece away, it needs time to develop. I would be less upset if Burke was brought in at season's end, but I still believe Burke is an overrated GM. He did a very good job in Vancouver, but could never find a goalie better than Dan Cloutier. It was a glaring hole for years, and he just could not fill it. In Anaheim, he essentially took Brian Murray's team and then lucked into Chris Pronger. Since then, he has destroyed his cap room to the point where he was on the verge of trading Bobby Ryan to the Leafs with Mathieu Schneider just to get rid of Schneider's terrible contract. Also, trading Andy McDonald for Doug Weight was a payroll move.

All-in-all, this season has been fun and interesting to watch. From the re-emergence of Matt Stajan to the spazzing of Jason Blake, I hope this can continue for another 60 games.

* I say "prospect(s)" because the only real prospect with any type of value would be Justin Pogge

A day later, but still good

So, Kill McGill didn't quite go to plan. Long story short: 3-0, one 'fight', outshot by a little more than double, and learning that the best way to climb out of a 3-0 deficit in the third does not involve spending half the period on the penalty kill.

That's about all I have to say about that, on the blog anyway. I should have a web article about the game going up soon enough, and Andrew live-blogged the hell out of that badboy over on Sporting Madness.

Also, I've decided that the press box at the Memorial Centre is easily the scariest thing I've ever set foot in, and odds are I won't do it again. Even Eric (the civil engineer) said that he couldn't work out how the balls it stays in the air. Needless to say, odds are I won't be watching a game in or under the bloody thing. Unfortunately I can't seem to find a picture of it, but that's all the more incentive to go out to a Gaels home game and see it for yourself!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Sens jersey

Well, looks like I'm the first Sens blog that I know of to show this one off.

A shitty season, a shittier third jersey, it seems.

Nothing as bad as we all thought, mind you, at least it's not as bad as the SNES jersey we thought we'd be getting

I'm pretty tipsy at the moment, so I'm not going to keep going, but here's the link from the jersey.

Milway sent me the link*, ever thankful!

* To Icethetics....helpful nevertheless!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eventful week for those guys who make me embarrassed to wear my jersey

I used to wear my Sens jersey with pride. Of late, I've been wearing it for appearances.

This week has been abysmal for the Sens, absolutely abysmal*. A 4-0 drumming in Montreal, followed by a game against a team they were "more evenly matched with", at home no less, and they were on the receiving end of a 3-1 whoopin'.

Also - Daniel Alfredsson, our unflappable captain, finally flapped. After the Montreal game, apparently emotions were running high at practice as the team couldn't get it right... and he put his stick through the glass at The Bank. Again - he put his stick. Through the glass. This is bearing in mind that rink-glass can usually bear the weight of Derek Boogaard skating full-speed into another big dude without breaking**. It's good to finally see the boys showing a little emotion, but it's unfortunate that it didn't carry over into the next outing.

At any rate, I'm thinking the tension in that dressing room would require a chainsaw (or an electric poultry-cutter) to cut through. Jarkko Ruutu, God love him, is a fucking idiot for the hit on Laperriere, and he bloody deserves it. There's a line between trying to draw penalties and showing off physical dominance, and putting someone's life in danger. You learn that stuff when you get taught hitting. Jarkko: keep them elbows down and my love for you shall grow - but don't make us look bad.

So tonight provides the opportunity for redemption: the second half of the home-and-home with the Islanders, the Sens will be visiting Long Island. I have but one word of advice for you, oh mighty men in red: don't fuck it up.

Lastly - for Queen's hockey fans, I'll have something up on tonight's Kill McGill game up tomorrow. For students - puck drops at 7:30 pm, be there, it's free with your student card. There's really no excuse. Unless, of course, you're going to Dylan. But still.

* Abysmal is a great damn word
** Boogaard putting himself through the glass in a rookie game between the Blues and Wild a few years back. After they replaced the glass, they put a masking tape man on the glass, I guess so he'd see the glass? Who the hell knows. Point is - Derek Boogaard only breaks glass when he makes contact with nobody. I'd love to see a fight between him, Chuck Norris and Vin Diesel. That would be awesome.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keano takes the pundits over his knee

The other Keano, the one who's not playing anymore.

Roy Keane was invited onto ITV a little while ago to act as the colour guy for Celtic v Man U, but he responded by saying he'd rather be at the dentist*.

The angriest of the angry Irishmen has a poor history with television. It was an appearance on MUTV's (Manchested United's special channel, much like Leafs TV or one of those) which ended his 12 year stay at United. He has often vocally criticized the way matches are called, and has more than once admitted to turning the TV to mute when watching football.

All this reminds me of one of my biggest gripes when watching matches - commentators who can't decide who they're broadcasting to. I understand it's difficult to toe the line between good analysis and teaching analysis, but they need to figure it out.

It's especially bad in Canada, where we're subjected to some of the worst football analysis in the world. Honestly, I've heard more insightful comments watching football in India than the crap on Fox Sports World Canada, The Score, TSN or Sportsnet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy that I can finally watch football on TV rather than counting on internet streaming, but I'm finding myself switching the channel at halftime and watching the games on mute with music playing so that I'm not subjected to the stream of shite pouring from the speakers.

The halftime analysis from supposed experts is probably my biggest problem. I respect Craig Forrest as much as the next guy, but he's out there without a raft at halftime. Except for that English fella (apologies, his name escapes me at the moment) who did EURO, Gerry Dobson and his crew are the most useless providers of analysis and football news ever. It's painful to listen to them try to break down a half and set us up for the second half. The story is the same on the Score, when I'm watching the Footy Show or when they have live broadcasts.

Again, I'm more than happy that we're finally getting matches here, and it's absolutely a step in the right direction. But football is easily, along with hockey, the most popular sport among youth in this country. Kids understand what's going on and, for the most part, their parents do too. We can start to step into the next level of match analysis, people typically aren't learning the game anymore. People know it, people know good football, and the halftime analysis has no business explaining the offside rule or what constitutes a penalty. Discussing and arguing whether something is a penalty is fine, explaining the rule is dumb and unnecessary.

If anything, the poor quality of football analysis in this country is turning people off watching it, it's irritating to know the game and have to listen to that drivel. Craig Forrest and the other guy who's name I can't remember seem to actively try to up the level**, but they're constantly kicked down by their co-hosts, and the Footy Show is dominated by people who shouldn't be analyzing football. Honestly, that fella who looks like a fridge has never, in any of the episodes I've watched, said a helpful or analytical comment. He has a habit of summing up what happened, and pretending that he's analyzing.

Any road, let this article act as a public service announcement for channels who broadcast football: we understand what's happening, you seem to understand as well, please bring your programs up to our standards. Thank you.

* I know dentists, I am friends with dentists, but in the chair you guys are bastards.
** Although, Craig, really, we understand you played in the Premier league. Your anecdotes are nice, but you don't have to remind us every week that you played.

Lest we forget

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Premier League predictions

I am pressed for time, so these will be brief this week. Here's how I think things will turn out over this round of games.

Arsenal v Manchester United

This will be a key game in Arsenal history, and will be a reflection of the realignment of footballing forces in England. The Wenger era is quickly becoming contested.
Manchester United to win 3-1

Wigan v Stoke
Wigan have quality, just not in defence. A goal from Amr Zaki and a header from a Rory Delap throw-in would be typical.
A 1-1 draw.

Hull v Bolton
Bolton aren't so bad, but Hull are simply refusing to give up. They're riding a wave of confidence. Watch out for Geovanni!
Hull to win 2-1.

Sunderland v Portsmouth
Portsmouth will try and frustrate Sunderland, the best they can expect is a draw. Then again, Jermain Defoe has that little bit of luck and quality thesedays.
Portsmouth to win 2-1.

West Ham v Everton

West Ham have to win at some point, but Everton's midfield are starting to click again.
Everton to win 2-1.

Liverpool v West Brom

Liverpool seem to many to be title contenders, but I don't think so. They have quality, and Fernando Torres is bound to play a role. A striker who thrives on space playing against the team that allows the most space is a recipe for humiliation.
Liverpool to win 4-0.

Blackburn v Chelsea
Chelsea will resume normal service in a frustrating Northern encounter.
Chelsea to win 1-0.

Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Villa usually fire on all cylinders against this type of opposition, but Boro also have a bit of firepower of late.
A 2-1 draw.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
This will probably be a game packed with goals. Expect the strikers to grab all the headlines - Heurelho Gomes will not be a subject of praise after this one.
Looks like a 3-2 win for City to me.

Fulham v Newcastle

A truly awful match to be avoided at all costs.
Newcastle to win 2-1.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Offseason?!? There ain't no offseason!

Well, that was a fun couple of days off for Major League Baseball. The Fall General Manager meetings are in full swing, but these meetings will not be nearly as busy as the Winter Meetings. Already, more than 190 players have filed for Free Agency.

Tim Dierkes of mlbtraderumors.com has released his list of the Top 50 FA and where he thinks they will end up. Notable for Toronto Blue Jays purposes, he sees CC Sabathia and Derek (B)Lowe coming to the New York Yankees, with Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi leaving for other destinations. He also sees AJ Burnett going to the Baltimore Orioles. Not that surprising, considering AJ is from around there. His 2 picks for Jay pick-ups are Milton Bradley and Brad Penny. I definitely do not agree with Bradley, but could see Penny coming here, if he accepts an incentive laden, short-term deal, but he might get offered guaranteed money, despite his injury problems.

Others have pointed out Bradley was the best hitter in the AL last year. This would make him a great fit for the Jays! Well, players don't normally have career years at age 30, and they don't follow those up with even better age 31 seasons. Bradley had the benefit of playing in the Ballpark at Arlington, which is friendly to hitters, and got to play against the Mariners and A's (not the stiffest of competition). He was also unbelievably lucky. How lucky? He had a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .388. His career BABIP is .323, with the league average around .290. Let's just say, I don't think he will be repeating his stats next year.

The rumor mill has started to churn and some have the Blue Jays in the mix to trade for San Diego Padres' SS Khalil Greene (Reggie Cleveland All-Star (if you get that reference, you are my friend)). Colour me unimpressed. He was a better hitter at home than on the road last year, which is saying something, considering PETCO Park is where power hitters go to die. He hit a career-low 10 HRs last season, and can probably be counted on for around 15. He also does not get on base that well, and strikes out way too much. He also does not have the defensive capabilities to overcome his offensive shortcomings. Hanley Ramirez he is not. I'd rather have Marco Scutaro and John McDonald, warts and all.

2009 is going to be a year where the Jays figure out who can contribute in 2010. Behind the plate, Rod Barajas will be brought back, but his back-up could be Curtis Thigpen, Brian Jeroloman or JP Arencibia, by years end. Arencibia has the inside track to be the starter in 2010, but walk-machine Jeroloman is also in the mix. Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Marco Scutaro and Scott Rolen should be around the infield, with John McDonald and Joe Inglett backing them up. The outfield will be Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, and a possible LF/DH combo of Adam Lind and Travis Snider. I'd rather see the Jays sign Jason Giambi and trade Lind for pitching, plus put Rios in CF and Wells in RF, but thats just me. The Starting Rotation will be Halladay-Litsch at the top. Dustin McGowan should be back in July and Shaun Marcum will be back for Spring Training...of 2010. So the other 3 spots will be manned by Scott Downs, John Parrish, Scott Richmond, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Brad Mills, Kyle Ginley, Mark Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-Chin-Ski), any free agent or any trade candidate, with the best 2 sticking around when McG gets healthy again. Plus the best of these players will be the most likely candidate to slot into the no. 5 spot in 2010. The bullpen might see some changes, mostly due to a surplus of arms. BJ Ryan is a trade candidate, but the rest of the 'pen should be back.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Team Canada must swap logos

February 26, 2009: UPDATE - Team Canada released its new sweater, I approve.
August 19, 2009: UPDATE - Team Canada's Vancouver 2010 jerseys are here

The IOC has finally cracked down on Canada's national hockey jerseys.

This summer I noticed something odd - the American footie side at the Olympics played their first few matches with masking tape over the logo on their kit. I found out later it was because no jersey, in the Olympics, is allowed to have that national sport's federation logo on the jersey.

To make it easier to understand what I tried to just say: you're allowed to have your flag, or the words USA, or whatever you want - but they can't have the United States Soccer Federation's logo on the kit during the Olympics.

You may have noticed that, for (at least) the past 10 years, Team Canada hockey has had Hockey Canada's logo on the front of their jerseys.

Well, the IOC has finally decided this practice must end, apparently us Canadians have been defying the Olympic Committee for a long damn time.

So, for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics - the Canadian men's and women's hockey teams will be sporting new jerseys - certainly for the first time in my memory. I'm excited to see what they come up with, but sad to have witnessed the end of an era.

Winners and losers

This week's winners

Hull City
My prediction of four Manchester United goals was right - but I didn't foresee the three goal clawback from the Potters. The eventual implosion of Hull City that most of us expect is refusing to happen. Why? They are well-managed, refreshing in their positive approach, yet pragmatic and modest. They could well steal a spot from Blackburn or Manchester City in 7th or 8th when May comes along.

Amr Zaki
Wigan's Egyptian striker remains the league's top scorer and looks a quality find, though anyone who watched the Africa Cup of Nations last January will have been impressed by his blend of physicality and lethal finishing. More importantly, he has the mentality of Alan Shearer - fearless and determined. Modern football (2002 on) may have killed off the 30-goal-a-season striker, but Zaki is one of a new generation who have been a symptom (and cause?) of the 4-5-1 system.

FC Barcelona
Pep Guardiola can afford to be happy. The Barca manager's team sit top of La Liga after beating Malaga 4-1. Samuel Eto'o (who Barca tried so hard to get rid of over the summer) is back on form, Lionel Messi is the most mesmerising player on earth yet again and Thierry Henry is quietly contributing a great deal. The maturing of the promoted youth team players is astonishing, and Sergi Busquets looks like he may be a key player much sooner than expected.

This week's losers

My red card prediction was spot on, yet it was simply a question of knowing the Arsenal mentality. The fury of injustice is just fine, but morality is not one of the columns in the Premier League table. Arsenal need to get tough - perhaps this will never happen under Arsene Wenger. In terms of the more spiritual side of football, Arsenal still gets A+, but the team can only succeed once these sides are reconciled. Tony Adams entering management again is very good news for us...it may be a look into the future.

Manchester City
They may have Robinho, but as I said last week "Man City are simply too easy to press with their 4-1-4-1 formation". And that's exactly what happened at Bolton. They should have read this blog. That is all.

Carlos Tevez
It looks like his time at United may be up since Dimitar Berbatov's arrival - I believe that from January he will not be attached to any club and will simply be owned by Kia Joorabchian's MSI company, who want about 30million for him after his two-year loan in Manchester. It's a shame because he's one of the hardest working players in that team, but perhaps Fergie will look to Manucho to fill the void. Don't bet against Sir Alex spending the money, though, as he wouldn't want "the boy" Tevez to fall into the wrong hands.

That's all for now. I will be back tonight or tomorrow morning with a preview of this week's Champions League action. And perhaps a US election prediction, as sport and politics are almost exactly the same thing.

Ovular domination ends so soon, but continues so strong

So, Queen's dominating ovular-ball-game-teams went 1 for 2 this weekend. (For non-Queen's sports stuff, scroll down).

Our football team had a pretty shitty performance at Richardson in the semifinal, falling to the University of Ottawa GeeGees 23-13, ending Yates and Vanier dreams.

This brings up my major problem with this first-round bye business. Yes, it's nice to not have to play a game when everyone is, but it makes for some serious focus issues. Games allow teams to center and focus in a way that practice can't. Queen's hadn't played a game for two weeks before the game against Ottawa, and they came out absolutely flat. A play-by-play rundown of the game can be found here. I was hoping that the punt-block safety at the end of the game would be the momentum turner our boys in gold needed, but unfortunately they just never got it going and fell into shambles. Dream season turns into nightmare I suppose.

Our rugby team, on the other hand, continued it's kickassery with a convincing smashing of the Western Mustangs, in a repeat of the game I traveled down to London to cover (see game report here and here). Western played the exact same game it did during the regular season, but Queen's didn't react. This gave Western no opportunity to exploit Queen's being a man-down, and the Gaels pushed forward for a 19-8 win, setting up a second final featuring the Gaels. They'll be playing in Markham against the McMaster Mauraders next weekened - I encourage all Queen's sport fans to travel down on the fan bus to watch what must be Queen's best varsity squad.

In pro-sport news:

Spurs are rolling! 'Arry is fucking fantastic, we took a 2-1 win over Keano's new side Liverpool at the lane over the weekend. Mind, it was on a late goal by Pavlyuchenko, and the other Spurs goal was a Carragher (sp?) own goal, but whatever, I'll take it! 7 points on 3 matches is a definite improvement from the start of the season, where the Lilywhites couldn't be counted on to get 3 points from 7 matches. On a related topic - how on-target were Phil's predictions?? Jesus!

The Leafs (I hate to, but I have to put it in*) had an amazing comeback against the Rangers on Saturday, one that actually got me out of my seat. I like the Rangers (see below), don't get me wrong, but that was one hell of an exciting performance. The Leafers have been putting on a pretty decent show this year, and I couldn't be more pissed.

The Sens took one point out of the weekend after a shootout loss to Tampa, leading to an incredibly interesting article on the Sens Army blog regarding the game and our shootout lineup which, frankly, is retarded. Also, I've come to like Ruutu. The world might be imploding.

Finally - my dominance in NHL 09 has been qualified by a tournament win. The Rangers (Yours truly), Sabres (Apps), Capitals (Eric) and Flames (Conal) went head-to-head in a round robin/knockout tournament over the weekend. The Rangers were weak on defense, but the offense was their saving grace, allowing 10 goals but scoring 13 in the round robin, this compared to most games ending 1-0 or 2-1 over 3 games. The final was fought out between the Rangers and Sabres and, in a dramatic overtime plagued by ill discipline by the Sabres, the Rangers put the game home to take the first ever NHL 09 gold. Another tournament should follow, here's hoping the result is the same!**

* That's what she said
** This entire paragraph was unneccesary

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Premier League predictions

As another week draws to a close, the excitement of football begins again. Friday, to a football fan, is only exciting because it’s the day before Saturday. This weekend is also exciting for me beyond sporting matters – I am basking in my newfound credibility as a formal contributor to this blog, having emerged from the shadows of the comments sections.

You can expect some half-decent analysis on English and Spanish football and occasionally other less civilised leagues, mixed with a smattering of features on broader football issues that are either controversial or under-researched. It won’t be boring, I promise!

But for today, let me keep it straightforward. Football is a business as much as it is a sport – and as with any business there is a need to predict as well as a bizarre pride taken in correctly predicting things. So, I’ll get straight to giving you my predictions for this weekend’s round of Premier League matches:

Chelsea v Sunderland

Chelsea simply have too much depth in defence, so expect a clean sheet. Sunderland have been playing quite naively of late while for Chelsea Deco is back and Lampard in his best ever form.

Chelsea to win 3-0.

Everton v Fulham

Everton have shifted up a gear, not to a particularly high one, but last month they didn’t even remember how the gearshift worked. They can’t keep a clean sheet, but Fulham are atrocious away from home. Don’t watch this game.

Everton to win 2-1.

Manchester United v Hull City

All the underperforming teams are shifting gears upwards, and United are really heading towards top speed. Sometimes at Old Trafford it’s almost too easy – this could get embarrassing for Hull City if they aren’t careful. United will slack off and probably concede one brilliant goal – a Geovanni free kick maybe? This will be the game of the weekend.

Manchester United to win 4-1.

Middlesbrough v West Ham

What a truly awful game this will be.

A boring 1-1 draw.

Portsmouth v Wigan

Portsmouth are solid at home, but Tony Adams is likely to persist with a defensive mentality even if both Defoe and Crouch play. Amr Zaki may be the league’s top scorer, but Wigan are not yet playing that well. Still, they are well organised and may win this. Also, football is a funny old game.

Wigan to win 2-1.

Stoke v Arsenal

My dear Arsenal will probably play football to make Johan Cruyff proud: flowing, passing, contemplating, playing, passing, conceding, scoring, conceding and scoring again. The great Dutchman preferred 6-5 to 1-0, and with our below-par centre backs we really have no choice in the matter. Arsenal will probably get really mad at an early goal Stoke score from a set piece – and there will probably be a red card somewhere in this game.

Arsenal to win 4-2.

Tottenham v Liverpool

Ah yes, ‘Arry’s To’enham ‘Otspur. Liverpool are a shocking team to me – they will not win the title, let that be very clear. Watch out for Luka Modric, he will keep Mascherano busy. As much as I hate to say it, Darren Bent may just score. This is a game to watch.

Tottenham to win 2-1.

West Brom v Blackburn

I admire WBA’s principles, but Blackburn are tough, so Paul Robinson may not get a chance to concede. Where are the goals going to come from you ask? To use Adidas language, it’s going to be Santa Cruz + 10.

Blackburn to win 2-0.

Bolton v Manchester City

Bolton are phillistines and deserve to lose, yet Man City are simply too easy to press with their 4-1-4-1 formation. Wright-Phillips doesn't get much credit, Steven Ireland is hitting new heights and Robinho is living up to his name. Maybe they can win, but don't look for a clean sheet.

Manchester City to win 2-1.

Newcastle v Aston Villa

Villa are my second team, so I have an affection for them. I am also a third generation Villa "supporter" so they have a special place somewhere near my heart. Anyone who looks at the firepower on offer there and compares it to Newcastle's defence would probably give you an exaggerated scoreline. Villa beat the teams they should beat but often struggle against anomalies like Newcastle. Plus Joe Kinnear isn't such a bad manager.

A 2-2 draw.