November 17, 2012
NHL labour situation brings numb feeling
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
I don’t really care about the particulars, about what Gary thinks of Don, or Don thinks of Gary, or who isn’t playing nice with whom, or even this apparent two-week negotiating moratorium, which isn’t a moratorium — but I do care desperately, passionately, historically about hockey.
They can kill my love for the NHL — they have already accomplished that — but they can’t kill my love for the game itself, for the people in it, for the sport I’ve grown up around personally and professionally.
This is a lockout with far more anger than the one eight years ago. This is a lockout far more frustrating. This is a lockout absolutely unnecessary and maybe soon a season lost because of it.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less about the structure of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement, who divides the billions which way, which wealthy player and wealthier owner will benefit: I remain steadfastly anti-everyone involved.
Anti-player. Anti-owner. And in some ways, because this has to be covered and I’m just glad to not be doing it, anti-media.
The two-week moratorium would have been a slap across my face, but my cheeks were already numb. The feeling for all involved is long gone.
THIS AND THAT
What do Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Meicer Izturis and Emilio Bonfacio have in common other than they are new Blue Jays of Hispanic descent: All four are switch hitters ... In 1993, John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar finished 1-2-3 in batting in the American League and the Blue Jays went on to win the World Series. In 2013, they will have a lineup with Cabrera and Reyes, the batting champions of the National League the past two years, with a slight Cabrera asterisk ... So where does Cabrera hit? Second or fifth? Both places make sense. A new manager, assuming there will be one soon, will make that call ... After all this noise, will the hiring of a former big league skipper like Jim Tracy or Jim Riggleman be treated like an exhale. Or is this the time you play the Sandy Alomar Jr. card, a Latin manager for a lineup so full of Latins ... Three reasons to wonder about Cabrera: 1) he tested positive last season; 2) he never apologized to his Giants teammates for his 50-game suspension; 3) the Giants didn’t feel the need to bring him back for the post-season ... That was a terrific, compelling front-page story the Toronto Star had on Mark Buerhle’s pit bull problems in Toronto. It was even better when I read it the day before on Yahoo, the No. 1 sports website in America.
HEAR AND THERE
Why you can’t write a Sunday column on Friday: I wrote early Friday about the Blue Jays’ need for another outfielder. I erased it all Saturday ... In this, the week of the big trade, and Hockey Hall of Fame week, I found myself thinking about Cliff Fletcher. He brought Mats Sundin to Toronto in 1994. He brought Doug Gilmour to Toronto in 1992. He acquired the two best Leaf players of the past 20 years to this city and doesn’t seem to get nearly enough credit for it ... Maybe some day someone will look at Alex Anthopoulos and Reyes the same way ... I have worked in this city for 26 years: I can’t remember a trade, in any sport, any team, that resonated the way the Blue Jays mega-deal with the Marlins did all week. Is that because we are so desperate for a winner here? Because it’s been so long? I think so ... The great unknown of the Blue Jays deal is speedster Bonafacio, who may be more than a throw-in. He batted .282 against right-handed pitching and stole 27 bases in that time in less than half a season’s work. Now fast-forward those numbers to artificial turf and the batting average and stolen base numbers should improve: Now all they have to do is figure out where he plays, the outfield or second base ... Winner of the best Hall of Fame speech: Adam Oates ... I would love to know why the owners of the Maple Leafs and Flyers and Rangers and Canadiens and Red Wings — the most relevant of NHL franchises — aren’t putting more pressure on Gary Bettman to get a deal done.
SCENE AND HEARD
Somebody out there, maybe even the Blue Jays, is going to overpay for Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez is a sound major league pitcher but he’s no star. And he’s asking for star money and you know what, he’s going to get it ... The latest minor hockey problem around Toronto: Texting timekeepers. Clocks are being improperly run in local rinks — and probably across the country — while kids with cell phones communicate with friends ... Cameron Wake is lighting it up again with the Miami Dolphins, which begs the question: Where does he rank on the list of those who have moved from CFL to NFL? In the modern era, I’ve got Warren Moon first, Wake right behind him ... Best moment of the week: R.A. Dickey, the 39-year-old knuckleball throwing career afterthought, winning the Cy Young award, something the Niekro brothers, Wilbur Wood or Charlie Hough never accomplished ... Don’t know what’s worse: Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback or the play selection of the Buffalo Bills. How many times were they close to the end zone Thursday night against Miami with the explosive C.J, Spiller on the bench.
AND ANOTHER THING
One of the biggest complaints pro athletes have coming from the United States to Canada is their inability to write off agent’s fees in Canada when filing their income tax. In the case of pitcher Josh Johnson, who is earning $13.75 million for the coming season, his agent may be entitled to $412,500 or thereabouts for the season. And that’s not right ... I have no sympathy for the those apparently traded to the Blue Jays who had verbal assurance they wouldn’t be traded. If they have a problem with this, why not ask their agents why they didn’t get the no-trade deal in the first place? ... If I’m an NHL player about to lose my fourth cheque — that’s four of 13 they get — my question for Donald Fehr remains the same: What is Plan B? ... Marlins’ president David Samson was so excited about acquiring Henderson Alvarez from the Jays he called him Anderson Alvarez in his first reference ... Popular sporting expressions I detest: Patrick Watkins is a game-time decision. Also: Cabrera inked his contract with the Jays. Can we please lose the term ‘inked.’ ... This is how you know baseball is back in Toronto: I got a text message from a family member who doesn’t follow the Blue Jays thrilled that the team had picked up Melky ... The Vancouver Canucks are spending so much time scouting the Toronto Marlies they should get a seat on the team bus: Can you say Roberto Luongo post-lockout? ... So much talk about the end of the line for Twinkies and Ding Dongs, but why no love for my personal favourite, the Hostess Ho Ho ... Happy birthday to Dave Raimey (72), Warren Moon (56), Rocket Ismail (43), Darren Flutie (46), Jamie Moyer (50), J.C. Watts (55) and Peter Pocklington (71) ... And hey, whatever became of Luc Tousignant?
TIME FOR RICKY TO WIN
Ricky Ray took the Edmonton Eskimos to the Grey Cup in three of his first four seasons in the Canadian Football League, winning two titles. Since then, nothing. No championships. No Grey Cup appearances. This is Season 10 for Ray in the CFL, his first with the Argos, and the serious hope coming in to the season was he would give the club the opportunity to play in the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto. Now the opportunity comes Sunday. It’s never easy to win in Montreal, beat Anthony Calvillo at home. But here goes: This is why the Argos paid heavily for Ray. This is why they have invested large in him. The matter, whispered about in Edmonton before he was traded away, was he couldn’t win the big one anymore. He needs to win this big one to get to the real big one to change the way people around the CFL think about him.
THE GREAT DEBATE
Mike Trout won the rookie of the year award but not the American League MVP and those who believe that everything in baseball is measured by newfangled statistics have concluded that he was ripped off in finishing second to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the MVP vote. There is, of course, no shame in a rookie of such substance finishing second to a Triple Crown winner. But the argument between old stats - HR and RBI - and new stats OPS and WAR - goes on rather loudly. Trout probably deserved a closer race for MVP but it should be noted that numerous great seasons in recent times did not result in MVP years: Matt Kemp didn’t win the NL MVP last year, even though he led in HR and RBI. At least twice, Albert Pujols had crazy numbers and didn’t win the MVP. Same thing with Rickey Henderson once upon a time. Baseball was blessed this year to have two marvelous candidates for the AL Award. Instead of turning that in to a finger-pointing argument, maybe the sport would be better off celebrating its own excellence.
The U of T and the Grey Cup
Unless you’re an historian of some type, you probably don’t know that the first Grey Cup was won by the University of Toronto, and the sport wasn’t football as we know it but the more traditional game of rugby. Why is that important now? It’s important because as the 100th Grey Cup approaches next week, we have learned the U of T plans on dropping its men’s and women’s intercollegiate rugby program. Players have already been informed that there will no teams next season. And the reason isn’t the usual one: It’s not money. It’s field availability. You see, one of the U of T fields is being turned in to a field hockey pitch for the Pan-Am Games that nobody wants. One of Canada’s largest universities, with not enough athletic fields to start with, got snookered into housing field hockey for the Pan Ams. And one tradition dies and another - of students and the public being hookwinked — continues on.