North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Posts Tagged ‘Toronto Sports Media

Price, at what Price (or: Why Are You Hate-Reading the Papers?)

Optional soundtrack to this post: “Do you know what I’m telling you? Is there something you don’t understand?”

A couple of days ago, David Price signed one of the biggest contracts in Major League Baseball history. Like, it’s huge: $217 million over seven years. For comparison, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park cost $216 to build. We’re past talking about regular money here, we’re into the world of gobs of liquid capital.

So, was anyone surprised Toronto didn’t re-sign Price? That they didn’t offer him a contract? That, allegedly, ex-General Manager Alex Anthopoulos would’ve offered him a deal? Apparently, yeah, a lot of people were.

I’m not really here to argue the merits of ignoring or non-signing or whatever you’d like to call what Toronto did; personally, I’d call it smart roster management, but that’s just me. After all, Price is 33 years old and will now be on the books until he’s 40. Toronto is a win-now team, sure, but seven years is a long ass time and who know where they’ll be in three or five, let alone seven, years anyway?

Besides, they’re still good. I guess not as good as they were last August, but remember: Toronto didn’t have Price or Stroman last season until the back-end of the year and they were still pretty damn good going into July. They have Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki. They’ve finally added a lefty starter: JA Happ, who was a fun Jay back a couple of years ago. Let’s not start grinding our molars here.

No, what I’m interested in is the media and the doom and gloom attitude around the Greater Toronto Area around this signing. It’s in the media and it’s on Twitter. It’s probably on the radio, too, but I’ve recently transitioned into a person who listens exclusively to 680 News because there’s less bullshit on a 30 Minute News Wheel. And man, the takes just keep on comin’.

Let’s start with Cathal Kelly. He’s best known for purveying steaming hot takes as a way to establish his brand as the new lead voice for the Globe and Mail (see here, here and here) and really topped his usual fare with his Dec. 1 column! To wit:

If (the Blue Jays) were seriously committed to winning now, they would have. They’d have enjoyed those good early years in the deal, and eaten the rest.

Since the Jays are not committed to winning – not in the dictionary-definition sense of the word – they chose not to bother.

Ah yes, Toronto doesn’t care and they’re not committed to winning. He reminds his ideal reader – someone who can’t handle more than one sentence in a paragraph, I assume – never to mix up winning with turning a profit, whatever that means. I’m pretty sure the Jays turned a profit when they sold out every game in September and October, when their ratings were higher up here than in the United States. But Kelly has the inside scoop, sources telling him exactly why Rogers doesn’t want to spend money. Oh wait, no, he’s actually got a lot of subjective opinions. Almost the same thing.

You remember that feeling you had in September? That queasy, unfamiliar tingle? An all-over nervous tension that came on in waves in the evening?

In all likelihood, you won’t be feeling it again any time soon.

Mmm, yes. That tingly feeling. I get that every time I read a Kelly column, too. I think it’s called “anxiety.”

But wait, there’s more! A story broke today suggesting Anthopoulos would have offered Price a deal. This’ll feed right into the baser elements of the Toronto media market, which liked AA because he talked to them (even if he didn’t really say much) and because it gives them a new spin on things: an American guy kicked out a Canadian and decided to let the best player they had ever walk.

It’s all pretty “ugh” and “oh boy” with little revisionism mixed in. For all the cool moves AA made, he also made a lot of clunkers. Sure, he brought RA Dickey to Toronto and gave the rotation a solid 200-inning guy, but the pieces he sent to the Mets were a big part of a team who made the NLCS. Sure, he brought in Tulowitzki and Donaldson, but the deals that brought in the players whom he traded? That big deal with Florida, for example, doesn’t look so good now.

In sum, AA made some good moves, but he made some bad ones too and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he really raided the farm system, particularly this year. At the same time, he saw an opportunity to make a World Series run and he exploited what he had. Flags fly forever, as the stock line goes. But he’s gone and nothin’s going to bring him back.

Which is what makes this current media cycle almost unbearable. Both AA and Price are gone and instead of being happy for what they had, the media is getting people mad over what could’ve been, if things worked out perfectly. It misses the point and almost undermines what Kelly might call that October Feeling: instead of remembering how goddamn fun playoff baseball was, the media wants to do is get mad and read the latest hot take. It’s a cycle, feeding off itself and cycling ever downwards. It reminds me a lot of another media-made scandal from about a year ago, when the columnists riled everyone up because the Leafs wouldn’t raise their sticks after games.

I think what I’m trying to say is be happy for the good times and look forward to what could be, not what you can’t have. Rather than getting mad about losing Price, look forward to a full season of Stroman and Donaldson. Instead of hate-reading Kelly, Simmons or the other outrage-purveyors, go read Andrew Stoeten or Stacey May Fowles. Go follow Ruhee or Chill Kessel on Twitter. Ask yourself: why would I spend my days getting all mad about the Jays when they’re literally as good as they’ve been in over two decades.

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The Doom and Gloomy Leafs on a Sunny Jays Sunday

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It was warm and sunny on Sunday as I drove into Blue Mountain, but it was also a day where the slopes were still open, too: people carrying snowboards, skis and helmets commingled with people in shorts, tank tops and sandals at the bottom of the hill.

Seemed like fitting weather, given the day’s sports news coming out of Toronto. It too was a mix of summer and winter, the Jays and Leafs each with moves that would normally lead the sports section.

On Saturday night the Leafs season finally came to an end against Montreal. Not an exciting game, not even one I bothered watching to completion. It’d been a rough year by anyone’s standards, not even getting into the weird little soap operas that kept bubbling up throughout the year: Kessel snapping at the media, a plague of jerseys thrown on the ice, a media-driven flap over players not saluting fans who were booing them off the ice. Like I said: it was a weird year.

Anyway, less than 24 hours after the Leafs final game, Brendan Shanahan started purging the team. He fired the general manager, the coach and a bunch of assistants. Depending on who you read, their scouting department was gutted as well. He had promised quick changes, but man, this was quick. As a twitter wag noted, there wasn’t even time for the traditional contract extensions first.

There aren’t really any compelling arguments for keeping Dave Nonis on as GM. For one, his position under Shanahan seems ill defined and is maybe powerless. Even last summer, when the Leafs started hiring management, the moves were seen as Shanahan moves, like when the Leafs hired Kyle Dubas away from the OHL’s Sault St Marie Greyhounds.

If that left the player moves to Nonis, it’s worth noting what happened there is problem number two. Over the past few seasons, the Leafs have let much of their talent walk, kept underperforming players around and never really addressed positional needs.

One example: In the spring of 2013, James Reimer backstopped the Leafs deep into the first round of the playoffs, often while facing upwards of 40 shots a night. That summer, the Leafs added another goalie, who also regularly faces upwards of 40 shots a night. They still haven’t really addressed their defensive and puck possession problems.

In a way, it’s frustrating. The Leafs are always in the news and it’s rarely for something interesting. It’s always negative, either because they lost, because the media is throwing someone under the bus or because there’s some kind of controversy being drummed up. First it was people throwing jerseys, then it was salute-gate, finally it was Kessel getting fed up by accusatory questions.

This season, more than any other I can remember, seemed like the media trying to crank out a new scandal every few days to sell papers or push a columnists name ahead. When I get around to the sports section, it feels like the same old doom and gloom from a crop of writers I used to enjoy reading. Maybe that’s why I read it less and less these days.

And indeed, all the moves are leading the sports pages today. The scribes are already writing stuff that throws Kessel under the bus (no, I’m not linking to it) and slamming Nonis on the way out. I’m sure that in days to come, they’ll find hands to wring, people to blame and easy solutions that won’t really solve anything. I’m also sure I won’t bother reading any of it.

It’s too bad: the Jays played their most exciting game of the year on Sunday and frankly, it might be one of their best games of 2015.

 

I caught snatches of the game on the radio and on Twitter: lots of hitting, a big Jays lead and a near-comeback by the Baltimore Orioles. I think my favourite part was the late home run by Bautista: buzzed by an inside pitch, he took the next into the seats and ran around the bases yelling at Darren O’Day. If I remember right, he was even yelling from the dugout afterwards! It was great: his first home run of the year, one that gave the Jays an extended lead in the late innings and a nice display of emotion from a guy who generally seems pretty reserved.

 

But remember: late last year, Bautista went on a tear and more or less kept the Jays in playoff contention almost single-handedly (I even wrote about it here). He hit .299/.430/.540 in September, including a 12-game stretch where he hit eight homers and slugged a 1.205 OPS. He started this season a little slowly, but man, he seemed jacked up after that dinger and I’m hoping it’s a sign he’ll go on a tear.

 

There were other cool moments. There was a great grab by Donaldson late in the game, where he dove and grabbed a sharply-hit ball. There was two good grabs by Kevin Pillar, including one in the ninth where he lost his glove but the ball stayed inside (he hit a dinger, too). And there was Castro, who found himself in a jam in the ninth, with the tying run at the plate and one out, but pitched his way out of it. Not bad for a rookie!

 

For me, the game hit all the right notes: memorable defense, good pitching (by Castro, anyway) and a Bautista dinger. And what’s more, it’s a positive story: there isn’t anyone to throw under the bus, nobody you to assign blame to, not even a stupid controversy to milk. After all, after a week into the new season, the Jays have gone 4-2 and are tied for the AL East lead. It should be an exciting time!

 

It’s too bad it’s buried under a pile of Leafs-autopsy ink.

Further Notes From the Bottom of the Sports World

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I wouldn’t normally ask something like this, but is it just me or does ESPN have it in for Toronto?

ESPN The Magazine, everyone’s favorite sports glossy with an unwieldy name, recently named the Toronto Maple Leafs the worst team, of all teams among the four majors. They ranked behind the Cleveland Browns, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. They even ranked behind the Sacramento Kings, whose owners are doing everything they can to make the city of Sacramento hate them.

One wonders how poorly the Leafs would’ve faired if MLS were included in the list: certainly the Toronto FC are just as awful. And what if other leagues were included? Remember, a Grantland columnist once called Toronto the worst sports city in the world, which means it’s worse than Pyongyang, Tehran or Freetown.

Unlike that ranking, the Leafs one comes with some justification: teams were ranked in categories like Bang For the Buck, Fan Relations, Affordability and Title Track, because RINGS BABY, THAT’S WHAT MATTERS. Read the rest of this entry »

Just asking a question about Damien Cox asking a question

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The weird thing about Toronto’s sports media is just how vicious is it, regardless of the organ.

Take the Star’s Damien Cox, for instance. Here is a man who is probably a nice guy most of the time. He writes for a paper known for a liberal, left-leaning editorial slant. And yet, he’s writes so many reactionary columns, often trying to stir up smoke where there isn’t fire.

His post on Sunday was vintage Cox.

“At least gotta ask the question.”

The question Cox is referring to is one combining Jose Bautista and steroids in some fashion. It’s one about how Bautista, who to this point in his career, had never hit 17 home runs in a season. It’s one inspired by the recent perjury charges leveled against Roger Clemens – himself a former Blue Jay – over his steroid use.

And it’s honestly not that imprudent a question. Bautista is hitting more then twice his usual number of home runs (indeed, he’s hit close to half of his total this season alone). His power numbers have jumped dramatically from last season: his slugging from .408 to .600, his OPS from .757 to .973 and his Total Bases from 137 to 264.

But Cox’s question on Sunday was fairly typical for his column. While most sports fans treat him as kind of a professional troll – somebody who says intentionally outrageous things to get a reaction – those who only occasionally follow sports find him a great columnist. And his post on Bautista is a great example of why.

If you’re somebody who only casually follows the Jays, chances are you feel one of two ways about Bautista’s season. Either you’re impressed and considering going to a cheap matinee game to cheer him on, or you vaguely remember how a bunch of people took steroids and got good… and wonder why Cox is taking so much heat for his line of questioning.

But the difference between them and more hardcore fans is how the steroid era is remembered. Yes, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds probably took steroids and starting mashing monster home runs. But they also began exposing monster muscles and gigantic, Pantagruel-ish physiques.

Bautista’s look has changed too. He’s grown a beard.

Cox’s post completely sidesteps that, as well as anything that could be taken even as circumstantial evidence. Instead if offers up how former Jays like Clemens, Gregg Zaun and Troy Glaus all have been alleged to use PEDs (then again, find me a team that’s completely clean).

All of which point at one thing to me: this is just Cox being Cox, a guy who just kind of comes up with contrarian ideas because it’s more or less his gig. This is a guy, after all, who has a televised segment where plays a renamed version of Devil’s Advocate.

Speaking of TV gigs, Cox appeared on TSN’s The Reporters on Sunday morning. While on the show, near the end of a segment discussion Bautista, he offered the same question he posed in his blog. The show aired at 10:30am; Cox’s post went up just after noon that same day.

Did he write a post on something he came up with on TV that morning? Or is it something he’s been thinking about and used his position on The Reporters to try and promote his column? He does work for a rival news organization, it’d make sense.

Just asking the question. Gotta ask. Don’t blame me.

Written by M.

August 25, 2010 at 10:04 am