The pressure was getting too close to Richard Peddie, corporate Teflon man, so he did what all great executives do when the heat gets turned up.
He fired somebody.
The firing of managers is common practice in the business world and we know this much: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. is much more adept at business than it is at sports.
But here in the quaint little sporting world that Peddie seemingly has little comprehension of, the dismissal of Raptors general manager Rob Babcock wasn't business as usual. It was a clear reflection of Peddie's awkwardness of what happens when he ventures away from his own areas of expertise.
Every time he opens his mouth, answers a question, addresses a sporting issue, he exposes himself.
The firing of Babcock makes as little sense today as the hiring of him did a season and a half ago. He never should have got the job. He probably shouldn't have lost it now.
But all that was Peddie's decision.
Yesterday, he said the hiring was a bad decision, the firing a good one.
"I'm the CEO here," he said, somewhat less comfortably than he normally speaks. "I'm held accountable." He is accountable yet still employed. As of yesterday, Babcock was neither.
Peddie is keeping Babcock's long-term plan for the building of the basketball franchise that was endorsed just a month ago by board chairman Larry Tanenbaum. He's keeping the plan, firing the author.
Now, as has been the Raptors' custom, dysfunction and headlines reign. The names change but the story doesn't. "Nothing's ever going to change around here," Kevin O'Neill told me on the day he was fired as Raptors coach. "Not with these people in charge."
And then he said: "Nobody will work for that guy."
That guy was Richard Peddie, who is running out of bad hires and corporate cliches.
Clearly, with the Raptors losing and selling fewer tickets and the Leafs just losing, the heat has been on Peddie lately, both internally and externally. It's not out of the question that both the Leafs and Raptors will miss the playoffs.
But if Peddie seemed genuinely pleased about anything yesterday, it was the fact that he had gone to the MLSEL board last Thursday and presented them with the gutting of Babcock and none of it leaked out.
Some sports executives measure their successes in wins and losses and championships.
Peddie measures them in the ability of his people to keep their mouths shut.
The only thing Babcock ever said of consequence in his season and a half in charge came when he promised this year's team would be worse than its predecessor. That embarrassed himself, and the organization wasn't exactly thrilled by his words. But it was damn honest of him.
And that, not the drafting of Rafael Araujo, not the inept trading of Vince Carter, not the insistence he would make those moves again, was the beginning of the end of Babcock.
Now Peddie goes back to the hiring table, this time looking for a general manager and dangling the carrot of team president as well. Last time, the timing was wrong, the price was wrong, the deer-in-the-headlights GM was wrong.
This isn't new for Peddie. He hired John Ferguson Jr. the year before he hired Babcock: Two unproven midwestern assistants hired as rookies in the largest market in the country.
But put Ferguson and Babcock on the open market today -- Babcock is -- and see how quickly no one hires them to run franchises in the NHL and NBA.
No one except Richard Peddie.
He needed an exhaustive search to find candidates no one else would consider hiring. The next exhaustive search for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. should be the finding of a new chief executive officer.