Blue Jays Need Players… Ones That Don’t Get Hurt Easily

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Brett LawrieAnother year, another season without a playoff appearance. Welcome to the sports city known as Toronto.

We all know the situation with the Maple Leafs. So let’s focus on the other team going through playoff futility, the Blue Jays. After going 12-14, 3 games back of the New York Yankees to begin the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Blue Jays went 21- 10 in May and had a 3 1/2 game lead on the Yanks. On July 7th, the Blue Jays were on top of the baseball world sitting in first place in the American League East with a 38-24 record and a 6 1/2 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles. Then the wheels started coming off.

How do you account for such a collapse? I can sum it up with one word: injuries. It was the same situation in 2013 when the Blue Jays had all 9 regulars in a game only 5 times the entire season. Sure, there are other reasons: bad managerial decisions, lack of depth, playing against big market teams, etc.. But I have said it time and time again that the Blue Jays can only get in the post-season if they all stay healthy!

I can give you the exact date of the start of the downward spiral: June 22nd. That was the day Brett Lawrie broke his left hand on a pitch by the Reds’ Johnny Cueto. Jose Bautista was also hurt in the game. That was also the final game of a 10-game road trip that saw the team go 3-7 against the Orioles, Yankees, and Reds. But when Lawrie went down with that broken hand I knew that spelled the end of any playoff hopes for the Blue Jays, even though they were still in first place with a game-and-a-half lead.

The dominos began to fall soon after that: Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Melky Cabrera. The big bats in the line up were on the DL. Couple that with the struggles in the starting rotation and what you get in the end is a record of 83-79, 13 games back of Baltimore. A good number of them did manage to get back into the line up for the final stretch but they did not play at the same level like they did in the first half of the season. Sure, other teams have gone through injuries, namely the Orioles. But I will argue that the loss of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado proves their contribution to the team is more of a complimentary nature, not one who is relied upon to get on base and drive in runs like say Adam Jones or Nick Markakis.

I suspect there will be some changes in the off-season, not just those on the field but off the field as well. But if we continue to have guys who can get hurt easily we will never see the Blue Jays in the post-season. A new GM or a new manager won’t matter if most of our guys spend a good part of next season on the disabled list.

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Is it Always Good to Go Out on Top?

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Derek JeterThis week marks the final week of the illustrious baseball career of Derek Sanderson Jeter. Over 3,400 hits, .309 career batting average, 5 World Series championships, 14 all-star appearances, a shoe-in first-ballot Hall of Famer, all while playing shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter won’t retire as one of the greatest Yankee players of all time. He will retire as THE greatest Yankee of all time. But even at age of 40, he has shown that he can continue to play at a high level and maybe play another season and go after one more World Series ring.

There is a constant argument in sport as to whether an athlete may have played a little longer than he or she should have. Many have not played up to the level in the latter part of their career compared to when they began playing. Steve Carlton had a great baseball career, much of it spent with the Philadelphia Phillies. But during his last three years, he bounced around from team to team eventually finishing up with the Minnesota Twins in 1988. Brett Favre is another name that comes to mind. Was his reluctance to hand over the quarterbacking reigns of the Green Bay Packers to Aaron Rodgers and walk off into the sunset put a dent in his career? Both Favre and Carlton would have wished it had ended much differently but the futility they experienced in the last few years shouldn’t overshadow their accomplishments.

Two players come to mind when I think about athletes leaving the game at perhaps the right time: Ray Bourque and John Elway. Bourque capped off a 22-year career by winning his first and only Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. Elway did the same by winning Super Bowl 33 in 1999 for the Denver Broncos after 16 seasons in the NFL. Must being something in that Colorado air (prior to that state legalizing marijuana!)

It is difficult to determine what time is the right time to leave. Ultimately, it is up to the player to decide whether to hang it up for good. It is also rare that anyone can write their own farewell journey. Jeter, like Mariano Rivera before him, was able to that. Thanks for the memories Mr. November. We’ll see you in Cooperstown in 2019.

UPDATE September 22nd:

One of the great things about writing sports is the kind of arguments and debates it leads to, even if it is not related to the topic. Here’s one example below. Feel free to add yours:

(ED: Please respect people’s Facebook wall. If you want to get into a debate with another person on a post, do it on their wall.)

Why You Won’t See Me Piling On Ray Rice

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Ray Rice

I guess I could add my voice about how mad I am about the video of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice beating up his then fiancé earlier this year. But what purpose does it really serve? I don’t do things because everyone else is doing it. People continue to express their anger because they don’t think a suspension is enough and that criminal charges should have been laid. I would agree to both with one exception, the time to do it was right after it happened, not several months later prior to the start of the NFL season.

No one gains anything from a shouting match and this is what it has turned out to be. For some, debates are only won by how loud you can scream and how hot your blood is. That to me sounds like Ray Rice. It is ironic that the very people concerned about domestic violence often exhibit the same characteristics: angry, violent, no respect for human life. Not the peaceful citizens that they claim to be. Terrorist is a more accurate description. They don’t give a damn if Rice beat up a woman, they want an excuse to get mad and they got it. To me, that’s as cheap as the shot Rice delivered. Don’t believe me? You obviously were not paying attention to what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri.

This situation is a peculiar one for many reasons. Rice is black but he is also rich. The latter, in the eyes of the tree-huggers, makes him ineligible to be considered a victim of racial discrimination. The civil rights crowd, like the NAACP, would beg to differ. They too like to been seen as poor, struggling, not well-off, but that takes a backseat to the colour of one’s skin. Having another African-American incarcerated is not a sight they want to see. For women’s groups, like the National Organization for Women, they like to be mad as hell but they also risk being compared to the Ku Klux Klan if they even utter one word against Rice.

Another question I want to raise is how much did TMZ pay to get their hands on that video? The tape apparently was made available to the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. But I think the hotel believes it was too good to simply just hand it over. In the past, Harvey Levin claimed they never buy videos, only taking voluntary submissions. I’m guessing they broke the rules to get a scoop.

But back to the original point of this article, I believe actions speak louder than words. Had Rice been convicted in a court of law none of this would occur. Going on blogs or Twitter to tell everyone how mad you are is not going to change a thing. You are only kidding yourself if you do. If you ever catch me joining the chorus on anything, you are more than welcome to grab a hockey stick and give me a two-hander to the back of the head (a la Marty McSorely on Donald Brashear). As for Rice, if Michael Vick can play in the NFL again…

Life Lessons You Can Learn From Playing Poker

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Poker Hand

I’ve always been enamoured by the game of poker. I’m a pretty good player. Maybe not good enough to go deep in the World Series of Poker but among friends and colleagues, I can hold my own.

Money is often the motivating factor for people to take up poker as a profession. But there are other things that you can take from playing the game and apply it to everyday life. There ought to be a university course on poker (call it Poker 101).

Here are just a few that I have encountered:

PATIENCE:

You may have to wait 5 or 6 turns to get a good hand even if you do have a big blind. People tend to get anxious or even frustrated when waiting in lines or being on hold. Having the mind set that your hand will eventually come will make the wait worthwhile when you do finally get to the front of the line.

MANAGING YOUR MONEY:

Part of your rationale on whether to lay down a bet depends on how many chips you have. Poker makes you assess how much money you have and how much you can afford to lose. This can help you decide whether to go on that trip to Hawaii or buy that Ford Mustang.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION:

So you get a pair of Aces right off the bat. Great! Chances are you will be able to secure that pot. However, we see people often get these kinds of opportunities but never take advantage of it. When I mean by advantage, I mean being able to parlay that into something beneficial. Opportunities don’t just flourish by itself. It takes some effort. Even those who start with a 4 and a 7 end up with a full house because of their ability to utilize with what they have.

DEALING WITH FAILURE:

You play against hundreds of poker players but there is only one winner. More often than not, you will lose. Learn from your experience and make sure it never happens again.

HANDLING PRESSURE:

There will be times when you are put on the spot. People often buckle under pressure, those who can handle it usually come out of it well even if they lose big. Don’t worry about what’s going to happen if you lose. Sometimes, being able to walk away with your head up high is the best move one can make.

Please feel free to add your input below.

My Question to Toronto Mayoral Candidates

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Toronto Mayoral CandidatesNow that we are into the unofficial start of the municipal election campaign, I want to bring this up with the 4 main candidates for Mayor of Toronto.

Toronto sports fans are often criticized for being too polite, a bunch of bandwagon jumpers. That is what being portrayed in the media. I think sports fans in Toronto are getting a bad rap. I’ve been around the Big Smoke long enough to know the kind of sports fans Torontonians really are. We are passionate and get behind our teams. Yet, we continue to get pushed around by these mindless idiots who would rather hate us than support the team they claim to cheer for.

So my question to the mayoral candidates: If some political figure, whether its municipal, provincial, or federal, comes out swinging against the best sports city in the world, how will you go about defending Toronto’s turf?

I will be awaiting your response.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 12TH:

There has been a shuffling of names on the ballot for Mayor of Toronto.

With the discovery of a tumour in the abdomen, Rob Ford will not be running for the Mayor’s seat. Instead he will run for his old Council seat in Ward 2. His brother Doug Ford has now entered the race for Mayor joining John Tory and Olivia Chow. A week earlier, a healthy David Solnacki announced that he is dropping out of the race. Nominations are now closed.