Friday, November 11, 2011

How North American Sports can rebuild itself...

We are now at Day 130 (or so) of the NBA lockout and despite recent optimism I would bet on the lockout ending on or near December 15th; very similar to the last one. With the NHL starring down the exact same pipe in 2012, I would like to offer my solution. It is not a new concept but to North American sports fans it would be foreign.

Use a likeness to the English soccer system by creating three tiers based on relative competitiveness and financial success.

Now lets be honest; the three tiers would not be equal BUT the opportunity for promotion and demotion is there. Lucrative TV contracts and sold out arenas await teams in the "Premier" league BUT opportunity to win for "have-not" teams awaits in say a second or third. If you still want to have the top eight advance from each league to a playoff format then so be it but the overlaying point is to allow teams of all economic systems the chance to succeed.

Another huge plus to this system would be creating 15 brand new teams in the third division; this allows small financial investment for locales where the NHL would like to be but population, corporations, large enough arena etc do not exist.

This is true parity. You give all teams the opportunity to win a championship that matches the level of commitment by their ownership group. Do the rich get richer...yes. But that is sports; you win.

Here is a sample of the League with the corresponding divisions based on each teams value by 2010 Forbes.

Premier League

Anaheim Ducks
Boston Bruins
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
Minnesota Wild
Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vancouver Canucks

Second League

Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets
Buffalo Sabers
Calgary Flames
Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
Edmonton Oilers
Florida Panthers
Nashville Predators
New York Islanders
Ottawa Senators
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

Third Division (speculative)

Kansas City
Las Vegas
New Orleans
Oklahoma City
Portland (Ma.)
Portland (Ore.)
Quebec City
San Francisco

The way you ensure parity is you promote the top three promoters in the second and third divisions and demote the bottom three in the premier and second divisions.

It is a different system but one that perhaps could benefit North American sport.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Competitive American league MVP Race?...not really.

The 2011 AL MVP race is shaping up to be one of the most exciting votes in years. That being said when you look at the numbers it really isn't a race at all; Jose Batista stands out statistics wise and off the field he has displayed the characteristics required of an MVP.

Lets break down each player...

1B Boston Adrian Gonzalez
His move to the American league has been nothing short of exceptional, facing a difficult learning curve in baseball's toughest division Adrian has excelled where many players careers have gone to die. The home run power has dwindled since the all-star break and this can and should be attributed to the skill of AL pitchers. Adrian had 40 home run power in Petco Park...a graveyard for power hitters; so the fact that he likely won't hit 30 home runs in hitter friendly Boston (ESPECIALLY as a lefty) is evidence that while he is still clubbing the ball with his .345 average he doesn't posses the multi-tool game needed to prove oneself as an MVP in the uber competitive AL East. His average defensive skills and cement foot speed makes his offensive value two dimensional. This blogger likes his chances for the AL batting crown and possibly a silver slugger award.

SP Detroit Justin Verlander
It's hard to imagine an American league pitcher EVER having a year like Verlander is having; he has a better than average shot of getting to 24 wins and keeping his WHIP under 1. The basis of the MVP award is "The Most Valuable Player to his team..." without Verlander would Detroit be cruising toward the playoffs? This is where I paddle upstream and say yes, they would be this good. Granted Verlander's 20-5 record before September is amazing lets have a closer look at the teams he has beaten. First of all being in the same division as two of the three worst teams in the AL (KC and Minny) is a luxury many pitchers would take advantage of and secondly of his 20 wins only 4 have come against legitimate contenders (Bos, LA, TB, and Arizona) and 11 have come against sub .500 teams. Not all that impressive, it's hard to argue that another pitcher on the staff could achieve similar success with that lucky schedule. Finally, it takes a remarkable pitcher to win the MVP since the CY Young is readily available. In the meantime Verlander should have an easy time winning the AL Cy Young and potentially the first AL pitcher since 2006 (Johan Santana) to win pitching's triple crown.

OF NY Curtis Granderson
You know the saying "Everything is bigger is Texas"? Well in baseball circles it will always be "Everything is bigger in New York". When players have career years they are legends and when players have down years they are "bums". This couldn't be more apparent than this year where Curtis Granderson is having a career year but definitely not an MVP year. First lets look at his stats; with 38 home runs and 107 RBI's he is slugging the ball but wait a minute...he plays at lefty friendly "new" Yankee Stadium. Lets have him play all his home games in Oakland and see if he can match his production, his .278 average and 140 K's tells me not so much. I don't want to diminish his value to the team though; as dominant as the Yankees have been there has been a serious power outage in the outfield for the last ten years so Granderson's career year is more than welcome given A-Rod's injury plagued season. Look for Granderson to garner the New York votes but his chances of winning are dashed by the natural vote splitting that happens when you have a Yankee and a Red Sox both up for the award. Curtis will have to live with his Silver Slugger Award as well in 2011.

OF Blue Jays Jose Bautista
Nobody has been more dominant at the plate than Jose Bautista in 2011. His 38 home runs and 85 RBI's are nice but the really impressive numbers are his average .312 and his walks 107 (20 more than the next closest player). All of this has been accomplished with very little to no protection in the line-up. His 89 K's are well below the average ( 96) for power hitters in the American league. Outside of hitting he has owned the outfield for the Blue Jays and has garnered 11 assists which earns him 5th spot in the league not to mention the fact that 27 games were played at 3B. His above average speed and reputation for being one of the most intelligent players in baseball is almost a clincher. Outside of the world that is New York and Boston writers continent-wide have taken notice and many feel it would take a titanic collapse for his chances to go the way of the ship with the same name. Given that his career trend is to have a strong September he once again has a better than average chance of getting to 50 home runs. Mark my words if he gets to 50 he will win the MVP if doesn't I still would give him 2:1 odds.

So to summarize...

Who should win? Jose Bautista
Who shouldn't win? Curtis Granderson
Who will win? Adrian Gonzalez

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Halladay no longer a Jay? Not today and for the future I say nay.

Perhaps I rhymed too much there but I felt it was necessary since I am proud to say I was right. Everyone and their dog told me that by this time Halladay would no longer be a blue bird, I from the beginning, said no.

What two things do we know about JP Riccardi's somewhat unproductive reign as Toronto's GM?

1) He never trades. Up until now the biggest trade in his tenure is likely the Overbay trade which while it stands up as a decent trade is not resume worthy when you are saying how good of a dealing GM you are.

2) He signs mediocre athletes to ridiculous contracts and ridiculously good athletes to mediocre contracts. See Vernon Wells for the former and Roy Halladay for the latter.

Upon review of these points it should come as no surprise that JP stood pat come his self-imposed trade deadline for Halladay. Look at it from JP's point of view he had four options;

1) Try and trade Halladay to a poor team who could come back with quality picks and young players. While it seems easy Halladay would only waive his no trade clause to a contending team removing all but say a dozen teams from the mix, few of which had the shopping list JP was desiring to pick from.

2) Try and trade Halladay to a team that is a contender. Again now you come accross the opposite problem, many suitors but no dowry. Except for Philadelphia, the Dodgers, and to a lesser extent the Angels any competitive team likely does not have the blue chip prospects warranting JP's attention. Throw salary restrictions into the mix and only Philadelphia could reasonably swing a trade, and trust me the folks in Philly know this and have likely been low-balling JP with JP high-balling creating no middle ground since both teams feel they have the advantage in the supply vs demand model.

3) Trade Halladay to either of the LA teams or to Philly for two crap shot draft picks and a proven major leaguer. Too me this is the option that has the least logic, why would you eat the salary of an everyday player who would have to be good enough to warrant a 10 million plus salary when you had the best pitcher in baseball to start off with. Except for Josh Hamilton in Texas I don't think there is a player in baseball that could provide a positive upside high enough to warrant such a move.

4) Don't trade Halladay. Let him play out the season and likely win the CY Young or come agonizingly close and still have a 20 win or close to it season. You then have the option to trade him in the off-season with his value just as, if not higher. Once you can assess the free-agent market and locate a suitable replacement for less money therefore justifying trading him for a bag of balls come next year's deadline. Also, this gives him the chance to see how things play out when you have the most experinced rotation and quite possibly the most talented in baseball under 32 come the 2010 season.

To me it's simple. Inaction is the norm for JP and this situation is no exception. There was no need to push the panic button as the best deal that came accross JP's desk likely had a high failure probability and would have been just another excuse to pin another bad trade on JP. I say the fans who were pushing for a Halladay trade aren't really Jays fans at all, just people who wanted to see JP fail yet again and were willing to negotiate the hostage that is the Blue Jays future.

I am glad cooler heads prevailed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dear Baseball: Please change your outdated and boring playoff system.--Alex

I have never understood something...why does baseball center itself around three-game series' throughout the year then come playoff time bust out the seven game variety. Very puzzling.

Furthermore why the heck do you have a thirty team league only to have eight make the playoffs? Especially when there is hardly any change in the teams participating each year save for the one or two who interchange.

The argument for the current system is parody. To the casual fan this is a good sell. Except for the Red Sox, no team has won the World Series more than once this decade. However, after some number crunching this stat trumps the former. Save for the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Athletics, Cardinals, and Angels, chances are your team did not make the playoffs more than twice in the last decade. In fact seven teams haven't made the playoffs in the last decade and as a Blue Jay fan this research only deepened my depression.

Upon my further research I noticed something even more interesting...what if MLB expanded it's current playoff format to eight teams in each league...similar to the NHL and NBA? Would the imbalance be as extraordinary? No. In a proposed eight-team per league playoff system which we will affectionately call "The Blue Jay System"... (you'll see why...), only two teams: Baltimore and Pittsburgh would not have been playing October baseball somewhere in the last decade, in fact we find that imbalance of teams even qualifying for the playoffs is absolved. In this scenario no less than two thirds of all teams would have seen post-season play fifty percent of the time in the last decade.

This system rewards consistency. "The Blue Jay System" refers to the fact that in this system the Blue Jays go from a mediocre team over the last decade to one of the most consistent playoff qualifiers making the post-season all but one year, and in baseball having a .500 team is nothing to sneeze it over a 162-game schedule. Injuries, road-trips, and the natural streaky nature of baseball take their toll; you should be rewarded and your fans should be rewarded if you are able to win one for every one you loose.

So, now that we have the reason for the playoff format out of the way...lets look at the make-up of the series' themselves.

All season long you have three game series'. Granted doubling your playoff qualifiers would in theory take up and extra week or two BUT what if you made the first series a "Wild Card Weekend" best of three series? Here is the easy format...

You have your basic playoff format typical in the NBA and NHL;


However, in the "Blue Jay System" the home team hosts all three games typical of a three game series. First team to take two of three wins. If an 8 seed can go into a 1 seeds' stadium and take two of three, that is all the proof needed to convince me that they are playoff ready. The baseball season is a marathon and the playoffs a sprint, give teams who are outside the traditional bubble a chance and invigorate new energy in sleeper markets such as Toronto, Kansas City, and Texas.

In a three game weekend tilt; attendance would be high, the excitement of upsets would be March Madness equivalent, and each team gets to load best three pitchers versus your best three pitchers. The results would be true parody and the cream would rise to the top.

After "Wild Card Weekend", revert back to the best of five divisionals and the best of seven LCS and WS. The fans would be happy, the owners would be happy, and every player would relish the chance to be part of a magical weekend, since the MLBPA's dissolving of regular double-hitters baseball has not had one.

Time to give something back to the fans.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 is a three year plan.

So...the once promising Raptors are now quickly becoming a joke.

Second last in the East. Their best two players are injured...again. Against teams like the Hornets, they look silly. Their basketball is not mistake riddled and quite often they shoot well enough to win...they just get outclassed.

The management is adequate. Bryan Colangelo and Jay Triano are both very capable individuals, they have a strong pedigree, it just looks like they are junior in every aspect of the game right now.

Here is my plan for the next three looks like at this pace the Raps will finish around 28-54. Before the deadline though O'Neal and Bargnagni need to be moved. The O'Neal trade with Miami looks like it will happen deadline add Marion to the raps at the three spot and look for the Raps to sign him to a four year deal come the offseason...why would he do that you ask? You shall find your answer in the next paragraph or so....look for Barney to go to Miluakee who just lost Bogut. That nets the Raps a mid-range second round pick. Not bad results on these two and the cap room it will free up.

After the lottery that should be good for a top-5 draft pick.

More than ever now the Raps need to draft a big man. So fill your five spot with someone from the Big know 6-11 240...a pure rebounder.

So now you have the makings of a decent team...Jamario Moon is a future sixth man of the year...Ukic is a decent back up to Calderon who will move to the no.2 guard spot in 2010-2011 because Steve Nash will occupy the 1 spot. Yeah that's right...Nash I think will finish his carrer in Toronto. He has eluded that he is interested in coming to TO...publically and for all the right reasons. Imagine the would save Colangelo's job who is up for re-negotiation in you guessed it 2010-2011.

It may not mean a championship but it will be a great team to watch.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A-Rod is still one of the best...ever.

So guess what? Another scapegoat...I mean player has been caught with his hand in the cookiejar. This time it is Alex Rodriguez. Is anyone surprised? How long was it going to take before MLB threw a current player to the wolves? Their way of saying, yes we are testing.

Rodriguez is likely going to break every batting record and most of the longevity records in baseball. He is ridiclously consistant and in my opinion overly scrutinized. Baseball has never seen a perpetual 40-40 threat...ever. He has never lashed out at the media, although he never gets a break or finds favour in the papers. He never complains, even though as soon as he has a .280-25 HR season the cries to ship him or bench him are deafening.

I don't think I need to say it but baseball's witch hunt to prove thier innocence is bullshit. I consider myself a true baseball fan and frankly I don't care about all these "tainted" records. I love the game. Records were made to be broken, there are arguments on both sides about the ease of competetition and difficulty of schedules...why should steroids be any different? The quality of product is amazing, whether they take steroids is of no consequence in my mind. Look at the last few teams to win the World Series...Phillies, Red Sox, Cardinals, White Sox. All these teams have had the generic make-up of a baseball lineup...three power hitters sandwiched by speed at both ends of the line-up and an unbelievable pitching staff.

Until a team wins the championship with nine 25 HR guy sin the lineup and three guys in the rotation who can hit 98 mph well into the will have a hard time convincing me that the product is unbalances or of inferior quality.

Who knows...if Mickey had laid off the sauce, had Babe not eaten himself to a premature retirement, and if Maris had not smoked three packs a day...all three might have done so much more with their carrers. These are the tragedy's...not guys who can play 22 year carrers with record breaking numbers.

And, don't give me that nonesense about the lost it's inncense witht he '94 strike. Anyone who decides to offer themselves up for any professional sport is knowingly sacrificing their bodies, and frankly as a paying fan I would expect as much for a better product.

Friday, February 6, 2009

This is Hockey's Time to Shine

It's February 6th. NCAAB has three more weeks before it gets interesting. Golf is well...boring right now, and a bit of a tease at that. Baseball is just getting underway, football is beginning it's hibernation, and NBA is in it's horrible February where teams are either tired or resting their bigs...which results in terrible basketball games.

So we are left with hockey, oh hockey...our overrated underperforming "national" sport. Personally, I think Canadians invest too much time and effort thinking this "our"sport. Here are the facts/recipe for a hockey player:

part lumberjack
part gatherer
part fisherman
part prairie boy
part lacrosse player
and part irish/thug

If that is not the generic/quintessential make-up for any Candian then I don't know what is...and just by co-incidence it is also the make-up for any hockey player. We Canadians are soemwhat of a passive group...we hesitate to take credit and constantly want to give it so I think this is a situation where we get our asses kicked in every other sport on the international stage....except for curling and lacrosse so we have decided to make a claim on the sport that requires the least amount of preparation/skill by our people.

Again, hockey is great but we are doing our nation a great dis-service in crowning this game of physical violence which cornerstones itself (proudly may I add) on bullying and fighting as something warranting immortalization on our currency.

Many...many things have been done prior to hackey that I feel warrant much more consideration for such immortalization especially when almost half the country cannot correctly name all the provincial/territorial capitals...(p.s. there are 13, in the states who have at the age of 10 can name them in alphabetical order)...this country has no passion for it's roots and would rather rally behind the cry of a game that epitimizes every sterotype about canadians out there...especially the playing of it on ice...picture a backyard with a pond..pretty iconic.

Maybe I am just bitter cause I never played or because any hockey player I ever went to school with was a moron but at the end of the day hockey culture represents something I don't want to be a part of.

But I will continue to be part of the problem...go Rangers.