Friday, September 19, 2008

‘Toronto Syndrome’ is Catching On in Vancouver

Canucks fans have a favourite habit of pitying the Maple Leafs from afar; it’s a happy distraction from the misadventures of the home team. Losing is easier to take so long as someone else is worse.

I’ve argued the position in recent years that the Maple Leafs are trapped in a self-sustaining state of mediocrity created by their need to compete each season. Toronto fans are notoriously demanding, and their high expectations have controlled the way the team is run. Unfortunately, the Leafs sit in an impossible position: they’re just good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but haven’t had the talent to be a serious Stanley Cup contender since they won the division in the 1999-2000 season. Since then, they’ve finished 8th, 4th, 6th, 4th, 9th, 9th and 12th last season.

Consistent middle-of-the-pack finishes have meant that the Leafs have missed out on top drafting positions for several years running, and they’ve also had to trade away several early-round picks to patch together a respectable lineup each year. While some teams (the Red Wings in particular) have managed to collect star talent in the late rounds, most of the NHL’s best players were drafted in the first five picks. Beyond that, it’s a lot of future second- and third-liners. In the salary cap era, stockpiling low-salaried young talent is the most reliable way of building a winner; the current editions of the Penguins and Blackhawks are prime examples of teams built in this way. Besides, the new NHL is a young man’s game. With the revised obstruction rules, speed is king and youth is served. Compare last season’s top ten scorers to the 1999-2000 season leaders:

Powerhouse lineups have their price, though; the Pens and Hawks both spent years in the basement while they collected draft picks. That would never fly in Toronto, hockey’s biggest market. Building a Cup contender through free agency is only possible with an already-present core of young talent.

As much as this Vancouverite likes to ridicule the Leafs, I’m starting to see this phenomenon afflicting my beloved Canucks. The Canucks haven’t picked in the top nine since 1999, the year they picked the Sedin twins. Since then, the team has held up reasonably well thanks to the lopsided trades that brought in legit front-line talent in Naslund, Bertuzzi, Luongo and Morrison. Even with the stars gond, expectations have remained high in Vancouver: fans want to see a team in playoff contention every year and aren’t willing to wait for rebuilding. With a lack of serious offensive talent on the team’s prospect list, the Canucks look like a team that will be putting up a string of mid-table finishes that will keep them squarely out of the Stanley Cup picture. Every year it happens will prolong the cycle; the Canucks have too much money to ever roster a bad team.

With the increasing likelihood that the Canucks will miss out on the Mats Sundin sweepstakes this year while other Western Conference powerhouses like Detroit, Anaheim and San Jose show no signs of slowing, the Canucks look like they’re headed for another season in the league’s also-ran middle class.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Drunk Mets fan is the star of a cup-stacking game

The organ playing throughout really adds to the have to see this.

I don't know how this guy remains still throughout.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Quit Drinking Soda (and why you should)

Watching your diet is hard.

Cut out snacks, and you load up a bigger plate at dinnertime. Skip lunch, and you're snacking on chips and candy by 2 pm. Hunger is a tough foe.

If you're anything like me, overhauling your diet overnight is an unsustainable proposition. I'm not going to be able to convert to the South Beach Diet in a day. To this I say: Rome wasn't built in a day.

So I give you an easy step one. Or perhaps you've already taken step one, which could be starting up a light exercise regimen, or switching to healthier snacks. Here it is:


It's as easy as it sounds. Soda is delicious, refreshing, energizing and really, really unhealthy. It's also habit-forming. Your body becomes dependent on the sugar/caffeine hit and it encourages you to then consume even more soon after. The sugar, of course, means more calories; that's not even counting the other health problems caused by soda (we'll come back to those later).

The simple number to use here is 155. That's how many calories are in a can of Coke.

On a one-off basis, that won't kill you. It's less than basically any menu item at McDonald's, less than a donut, less than a candy bar, less than a lot of things. It's not the worst thing you could eat.

Soda, however, is rarely a one-off proposition. Remember, this is the drink we buy in cases of 12. If you drink soda, you probably drink it every day. There's a good chance you drink it more than once a day.

Here's an example for your reference: until recently, I drank two coffees a day. Let's say our typical Soda fan drinks two Cokes a day - one with a sandwich at lunch and one at 3pm when she's in need of a sugar kick to get her through the rest of the day at work. On weekends, she also drinks two cans out of habit.

You can see where this is going, right? In one week, that's 14 cans of soda, good for 2,170 calories. If she's adhering to a 2,000 calorie diet, she has to NOT EAT ANYTHING for one day a week to compensate for that soda. Can you imagine doing that to yourself once a week? That's the kind of pain it would take (and we don't recommend meal-skipping or crash diets here) to compensate for the calories added by a couple drinks during the day.

Crazy to think about it, eh? Because a soda is a small calorie hit in each can, we let it slip. It's no worse than other snacks, but if we eat 14 donuts a week or two candy bars every day, we'd be disappointed in our self-discipline. Soda gets a pass, and as a result, we're suffering from weight-gain-by-a-thousand-pinpricks.

I wish I could say it stops there, but it doesn't. There's more to soda than calories-it's the damage of a bloodsugar spike to your system. As you may know, all the energy from soda comes from refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. That means it doesn't stay in your system for long- if you're being active, your body will burn it, but more likely than not, your body puts it into storage (your love handles or butt, up to you) in short order. At least a Snickers bar gives you a little protein from those peanuts! For half an hour after your soda, you do have more energy, and some of it will burn off.

What else is going on, though? Let's take a look.

The sudden sugar boost sends a signal to your digestive system: take it easy for now. That means other energy production goes on hold while the sugar pumps through your blood. Half an hour later, the soda sugar is gone, and you're suddenly on a sugar low. Caught unprepared, your digestive system has to start up again, but not before you get really, really tired and lazy. It's bad enough that you're not getting any work done; now, you're craving more sugar!

Solution? A snack, maybe? Dear God, not another soda! In your low-energy state, you might not be able to recognize the peril of this decision- your commitment to a 155-calorie treat has now blown past 300 calories. Even while you've got perfectly good food already in you, your body is calling for more calories in their purest form.

That, my friends, is the greatest evil of Soda. It's more than just a calorie-rich junk food: It's the habit-forming gateway drug of snack foods. Most other snacks, especially the fatty ones, take longer to digest and are more likely to satisfy you until your next meal. Not that I recommend fatty snacks- healthier options high in fiber (veggies) or protein (yogurt, nuts) are more likely to keep you satisfied and can taste just as good. Soda, on the other hand, will almost never satisfy your craving.

So if you're thirsty, drink a glass of water or a cup of tea. I can't recommend water highly enough; your body needs it all the time anyway. I know it might seem boring or not taste that great. You have to get used to it. You're going to get thirsty a lot and if you can't make water your default thirst cure, you're in trouble. Juice and Gatorade are just as full of sugar as Soda (though you should drink real fruit juice from time to time) so they're not good to be drinking all the time. If you don't get to liking water, you're going to fall back into the soda trap

I mentioned earlier about other problems created by drinking too much soda. Besides weight gain and obesity, soft drinks have been found to be a cause of diabetes, tooth decay and loss of sleep. Pick your poison - all of those are tough to deal with. It's so easy to greatly reduce your chance of having to face long as you simply


Have a good one folks.

All-Time Canucks Goon Squad

Posted over at the forums this morning...

Brashear Odjick Williams
Momesso Ruutu Hunter
Walker Sandlak May
Langdon Cowan Antoski

Brookbank Snepsts
McIlhargey Dailey
Murzyn Malkoc


That team would beat the hell out of any of your sissy-boy teams. Pretty sure we've got healthy cap room too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Should the Jays keep a 4-man rotation down the stretch?

Cito's bold decision to start Burnett and Litsch today on 3 day's rest has set the stage for a fascinating day of baseball. After a terrific start, AJ Burnett has just been pulled with two on, none out and an 8-0 lead in the seventh inning.

I was expecting Cito to pull AJ after six innings and 90 pitches. On 3 days' rest, Burnett was expected to have a shorter leash; furthermore, the presence of September callups Scott Richmond and John Parrish gave Cito the option to pull his starter and not eat into his better bullpen arms which he may need for tonight's game.

Instead, Cito sent AJ out to start the seventh, perhaps intending to allow him a chance to get to an apparent 100-pitch target. It doesn't make sense; AJ is in line for the win and has three more starts left this year. It may seem like an inconsequential decision, but consider this:

The Jays have already affirmed plans to send Litsch tonight, Doc tomorrow and after Monday's day off, Marcum Tuesday vs. Baltimore. By that time, the Jays will have a much better picture of where they stand in the Wild Card race. Three games with Boston and one with Baltimore will be over, and Boston will have played two games against the Rays.

If the Jays can win tonight against Bartolo Colon and Doc can outpitch Lester tomorrow, the Jays will be sitting 4.5 games back. If Kazmir can beat the fading-fast Dice-K Monday, they're at 4.0 back.

The Jays have favourable opposition coming up in the Baltimore Orioles next week, with Chris Waters, Zach Jackson, and one of Garrett Olson and Dan Cabrera. After Kazmir, the Red Sox can expect Andy Sonnanstine and possibly David Price. With Beckett and Wakefield following Dice-K, they seem about even odds for the series, while the Jays have a legit shot at a sweep of the Orioles.

So is a 4-man rotation worth trying? Here's the probable starter usage under both 4- and 5-man rotations down the stretch, starting tomorrow:

4-man 5-man opponent

Sun 14 Halladay Halladay Bos
Mon 15 (off) (off)
Tues 16 Marcum Marcum Bal
Weds 17 Burnett Purcey Bal
Thurs 18 Purcey/Litsch Burnett Bal
Fri 19 Halladay Halladay Bos
Sat 20 Marcum Litsch Bos
Sun 21 Burnett Marcum Bos
Mon 22 (off) (off)
Tues 23 Halladay Burnett NYY
Wed 24 Marcum Halladay NYY
Thurs 25 Burnett Purcey NYY
Fri 26 Purcey/Litsch Marcum Bal
Sat 27 Halladay Litsch Bal
Sun 28 Marcum Burnett Bal

You've just traded two Jesse Litsch start for one by Halladay and one by Marcum, and now have Burnett ready for the playoff if needed (Halladay pitches the playoff if you run a 5-man). You also add Litsch to the pen.

I'm not sure that's enough to justify the move. I'd rather have everyone on top form. If needed, you can send Halladay and Burnett on 3 days' rest on the final two days. I'd like to get rid of that Jesse Litsch start next weekend against Boston, though we'll see how he does tonight before I decide how I feel about that one.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tim Wakefield

The Jays looked pretty poor up against Wake tonight.

"Why are Mench and Wilkerson playing tonight?" my brother protested. My response was that the managerial habit is to play veterans against the knuckleballer. Does experience make you any better against him? Who knows.

The fact is, when Wake is on, he's as dominant as the better fastball pitchers, and a red-hot Jays team that has been taking down conventional pitchers like Gavin Floyd is not necessarily going to be any good against Wake.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The very left-handed twins

Lefties like myself tend to notice one another. I can't count the number of times that strangers have remarked 'hey, you're a lefty' while i signed reciepts and such.

I say this because I've often noticed that identical twins are often differently-handed (though not always). Mirror images, indeed.

I bring this up because I'm watching Liriano and the Minnesota Twins face the Royals this morning. At the appearance of left-handed Royals reliever Ron Mahay, Bert Blyleven (circle me, Bert!) bemoaned the Twins' susceptibility to left-handed relievers this season.

Their lineup is asking for it- Mauer, Morneau and Kubel batting 3-4-5 is pretty easy to match up against. It's not a problem of bad planning, though; leadoff hitter Denard Span is also a lefty, while regular #2 Alexi Casilla is a switch-hitter who is better from the left side. After those first five, you finally get Delmon Young from the right side, but then it's usually been left-handed 3b Brian Buscher hitting seventh. True switch-hitter Nick Punto and righty Chris Gomez round out the lineup. To be fair, Joe Mauer is hitting an AL-best .366 against lefties this year.

Aside from Young, none of the righties are good enough to move up in the lineup. There's basically nothing to be done, aside from making a trade this off-season. Kubel, maybe? Young will be better next year-an obvious move would be batting Mauer first or second, and putting Young in the 3-spot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trident Attack

great graphic just posted on TSN...pointing out the hotness of rios/wells/overbay, calling them the 'Trident Atttack'...ahh, Anchorman.

Scott Carson, you've been served notice. Whoever does TSN's graphics is rising to the comedy battle.

And Rios flies out. Buehrle is tough.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ten in a row!

Ten in a row...roll that around in your mouth a bit. I'm not sure I've felt this much confidence in the Jays since 1993. Right now they remind me of some of my better fantasy teams. You know those mornings when your team had hit four homers the night before and looking at their matchups that day, you just KNEW certain guys (usually Vladdy) were going to jack one again? And you KNEW Jose Contreras was going to toss 8 shutout innings for the win?

That's the way I feel about the Jays now. Maybe it's because Rios and Wells are finally pulling their weight on the fantasy team. But it feels nice, especially when you get two wins in a day like we did today. I was worried after yesterday's rainout that they might lose their momentum, but Burnett really came through to keep it rolling. How can this get any better?

Maybe because Doc is pitching tomorrow?

Anyway, it's good.

Another thing that's been feeling more and more right is having Cito on board. Not because of his tactics- in fact, I've found myself constantly second-guessing his decisions (why won't he pinch hit for macdonald more, let alone take him out of the 2-spot?). The reason I like Cito is because he's a winner.

Now it's rarely my habit to give a guy credit for something like that, or to mention 'chemistry'. Maybe Cito's just been lucky with the timing, but the turnaround we've seen from Rios and Overbay since he took charge has been incredible. Since the switch, Rios has hit .324 with 10 homers and 44 rbi (287 AB). My memory of Cito was always as a 'steadying-hand' type. With the WS teams (especially the '93 team), Cito was charged with making sure a rather stacked team stayed on track. Several of the team's stars (Morris, Stewart, Molitor, Rickey) were new to the team and Cito was there to keep the talent ticking.

That's where he seems to be now. Many of the Jays have been painful underachievers (Rios especially, but think of David Purcey, Brandon League, AJ Burnett ,Vernon Wells) who have had trouble maintaining established levels of success. It seems as if everyone is playing up to his ability right now.

Is it chemistry? Maybe. Because everyone is delivering at once, the motivation is there. Pitchers know that the batters, defense and bullpen will come through (either to pick them up or preserve leads), so all the starters have been comfortable and confident on the mound. Batters know that the man behind them will drive them in, so they're focused at the plate.

A lot has also been made of Cito's insistence that hitters attack good pitches early in the count, which seems to be happening. The Jays a year ago were playing like a bunch of TTO hitters, waiting for a walk. The fact is, though, is the batters on this team look more like Angels than A's. They're contact hitters, and do the most damage if they swing the bat. We've seen it for almost all of them - Rios, Wells, Overbay, Lind... just because some teams and players have success waiting out the count and playing for a walk, not every player is going to succeed with it. Rios and Overbay are doubles, not homerun hitters- they're going to get pitches in the zone so waiting to swing is a waste of time. If they swing, they'll get their knocks. I wouldn't be surprised a bit if Rios could hit .320 over a full year batting the way he is now.

Anyway, that's it for today. I can't wait for tomorrow. See you at 8 eastern.