Winter Wonderland

January 30, 2009

by Desmond D’Souza…

Is it cold enough for you yet? Here we are in just another chilling winter in Toronto. And while it may be easy for most of us to just stay inside our warm, cozy houses/apartments, there are a ton of sports that you have to take advantage of while you still can.

With the amount of snow this country has been getting, it’s been a god-sent for Ski and Snowboarding companies. Skiing or Snowboarding are two exhilarating ways of exercising this winter season.

If you haven’t tried either before, you’re not alone. Many ski/snowboard resorts are located north of the city. But if you’re willing to make the trip it’s an experience you won’t forget.

The first thing you want to do is make sure you’re dressed properly. Going down the slopes in the cold weather will make your eyes tear up so bringing sunglasses or goggles help increase visibility. Try to stay away from jeans unless you want to feel soaked afterward.

Whether you choose to ski or snowboard, both require some form of training. Before hitting the slopes take a quick lesson to learn the basics. From my experience, skiing is the easier of the two as the individual is positioned straight ahead rather than on the side. Once the training session is over, start on the bunny hills (beginner hills).

Turns are extremely important in both sports. I used to think the best way to ski was to just ride down a hill straight ahead. Not only is this unsafe, but it is almost impossible to do depending on the steepness of the hill. The key to safe skiing and snowboarding is to effectively turn from side to side in order to maintain a constant speed. A great way to practice turns when you’re not on the slopes is to practice turns on a skating rink. The fundamentals are similar even though the downhill aspect isn’t there.

For the tamer individual, cross-country skiing can be an excellent source of exercise as well. Of course, the process is a lot more arduous as the sport is one of the most difficult in the world. If you want to really take on a challenge, skiing cross-country exercises almost all the muscles in the body. The use of both hands and legs are extremely important because the muscles in those body parts are where all your momentum comes from.

Don’t let the cold keep you from getting out there and doing something new. For more information on skiing and snowboarding, check out www.skicanada.org. Or just check our Sports Directory for a slope near you.

The streak is over

September 14, 2008

by Desmond D… The Jays have finally lost while this is my first post in a long time. A lot has changed in the past 2 months. For one, the Jays actually played exciting/meaningful games in the month of September. The Canadian National Soccer team also played a meaningful game and promptly disappointed many with a loss to Mexico. What looked like a promising year for Canadian soccer took a turn for the worst as Canada’s World Cup chances are looking bleak.

Back to the Jays though, who have had an up and down year. On the bright side, fans can have an optimistic view at 2009 seeing the kind of streak this ball-club is capable of. The pessimistic side to this point is that the Jays can only play solid baseball once the pressure is off. I tend to agree with that point to a certain extent. I don’t think the whole Jays team is like this, just a few players. Alex Rios for one is one of the most “unclutch” players the Jays have. But it is nice to see him hitting for power again. His SLG% is relatively high this year because he’s still hitting extra base-hits. But if he starts off next year the same way he did in 2008, JP is going to hear it every Wednesday.

Speaking of Ricciardi, where does he stand for next year? Some fans support him and some do not. At the beginning of the year, I was extremely against every move he made. Not signing Barry Bonds was at the top of that list. I still believe that if the Jays had Bonds they’d have 7-9 more wins this year. Just look at all the one run games the Jays have been in. But as much as I disagreed with his stance on a lot of things, I think JP should be back in 09. If he is let go, this team will go into semi-rebuilding mode. No one else wants this team to be a success more than Ricciardi. He started to make Toronto a contending team back in late 2005 and has only made improvements since then. Simply put, I do not think there is any other guy who could do a better job then him with the group of guys he has now. Besides, this team will be known as “JP’s team” until around 2010, maybe longer with Hill, Rios and Wells signed longterm.

The one thing JP won’t do is chase after AJ this off-season. Not including Doc, Burnett is my favourite pitcher on the Jays. His stuff is probably top 3 in the Majors, yes even better than Halladay’s. And now in a contract year he finally puts it to good use. The Yankees have flat out said they’re interested in Burnett and seeing how things have gone this year, there’s no doubt they’ll shell out Bronx Bombers money for him. Another top team I see in the Burnett sweepstakes is St. Louis who lost out on Burnett in 2005 because the Jays offered him the opt out clause, something the Cards would not do. If Burnett chooses to stay, the Jays will be EXTREMELY deep with their rotation. JP has said about a million times, “we’re prepared either way,” in terms of AJ staying/going.

If he leaves, the Jays have an abundance of starting pitching to look at in 09. In addition to Doc, Marcum, McGowan and Litsch, the Jays have to give David Purcey a spot right? Well its not that easy. Remember the guy who was taken right ahead of Troy Tulowitzki? He’s pitching fairly well in Syracuse and may get a look in Spring Training. Then there’s Brett Cecil. He is easily one of the top prospects pitching wise in all of baseball right now. Being a left-hander, the Jays will definitely give him a shot to take a rotation spot. Casey Janssen will also be returning to the team in Spring of 09 but its likely he’ll start out in the bullpen. Because McGowan will start 09 on the DL, it is highly possible one of their top prospects will get a look.

Now that the pitching scene is out of the way, what about the Jays achilles heel? The offense has shown signs of life in September but is this just an illusion? Probably not. Lyle Overbay seems to have finally recovered from a John Danks fastball while V-Dub is hitting the ball like it’s 2006. The aforementioned Alex Rios is slowly getting his power back and Aaron Hill may be ready for the start of next season. Rod Barajas is doing as well as you could have hoped for a catcher while Scott Rolen hopefully gets surgery in the offseason. That leaves 3 positions. Left-Field, DH and Shortstop. Currently, Adam Lind, Travis Snider and John McDonald occupy the roles. If JP is smart, he’ll leave Lind and Snider alone. These guys are pure hitters and can rack up some big numbers if giving the chance. The Shortstop position is really the only weakness from an offensive standpoint. Defensively Johnny Mac is a wizard. But if AJ does opt out, the Jays will have some money to go after some free agent shortstops.

At the top of the list has to be Rafael Furcal (who also serves as the proto-typical lead off man they have been looking for since JP got here) and Orlando Cabrera (who beat out Johnny Mac for the gold glove last year). Both are extremely capable with the bat and may come cheaper than expected. Furcal has been injured for a huge chunk of the season but was on a tear before he went down. The Dodgers have also said they are very interested in retaining him. As for Cabrera, he’s had a somewhat off year in terms of average. A .300 plus hitter for the Angels in 2007, hes been sitting around the .270 mark for most of the year. Cabrera will be cheaper than Furcal because he is 3 years older (Cabrera is 33 while Furcal is 30). Also on the radar will be Edgar Renteria who has a team option with the Tigers for 12 million. If the Tigers let him walk, it’ll only cost them 3 million. Renteria is probably hoping for the buy-out so he can get out of the American League. His two years of non-National League baseball have been atrocious. He’d have to get a lot of money from an AL team to stay. From a fan’s perspective, you would hope the Jays go after Furcal because of the speed and offense he brings to the position. Just think about him and Hill at the top of the order followed by Rios, Wells and Lind.

So with this all in mind, what do I think the Jays will do? JP has a tendency to trust veteran players over the youth so as much as I hate to say it I think Snider will spend most of 2009 in Triple A honing his skills and developing better strike-zone awareness (that is the only part of his game that needs some polishing). Look for a guy like Raul Ibanez to sign on. Hopefully for only 1 year though. The Jays were offering what was believed to be Brandon League and David Purcey for him at the trade deadline but Seattle declined. At the shortstop position, Furcal may be wishful thinking but I think a platoon similar to earlier this year will work with Scutaro/McDonald taking the reigns. Lind should stay in left-field but would likely split time with Ibanez. On the pitching front, I think JP will sign a pitcher. I’ve always seen Derek Lowe in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform for some reason and think he might get the money Burnett leaves. Something like a 4 year 45 million dollar deal could be reasonable.

Here’s my lineup card for your 2009 Toronto Blue Jays:

SS Scutaro (can see Cabrera here but I see Lowe more likely for JP)
2B Hill
CF Wells
LF Lind
RF Rios
DH Ibanez
C Barajas
1B Overbay
3B Rolen

I tried to stay as “right, left, right” as possible but it probably wont. Say it aint so Joe… I feel really bad for Inglett because he has proven he can start.

1 - Roy Halladay
2 - Derek Lowe
3 - Shaun Marcum
4 - David Purcey
5 - Jesse Litsch

McGowan, Cecil and Romero are going to start in 2009. Knowing the Jays, someone in the starting 5 will get injured and one of these guys will take their place. McGowan will come back in May while I see Cecil and Romero starting in September at the latest.

CL - Ryan
SU - Downs
SU - League
RP - Accardo
RP - Janssen
RP - Carlson
LRP- Tallet

Ah the bullpen. The one thing that can be counted on for next year. As much as I’d like to see BJ traded, it probably wont happen. Maybe he’ll turn back into “Bazooka BJ” (credit to Jamie Campbell) of 2006.

Prediction: 1st in AL East, 95-67

Yes, you read that right… as long as everyone can stay healthy *knock on wood*.

check out Toronto Sports Fan

Hero’s Wecome and Euro Predictions

June 15, 2008

by Desmond_D…

When the Toronto Blue Jays released Reed Johnson back in Spring Training, there was sure to be backlash from the fans. A lot of people thought that it wasn’t fair that he was released. There’s some justification for that statement as most of his 2007 campaign was injury plagued. Let’s remember, the guy his over .300 in 2006.

But JP Ricciardi didn’t have enough faith in him and went after a less injury-prone player in Shannon Stewart.

So when Reed returned to Toronto on Friday, sure enough he was the one healthy while Stewart was injured. Now I’ve criticized the Jays here before (probably unfairly at times) but I really believe they made the wrong move by cutting Reed. Yes, hindsight is 20/20. In a game where it is an unwritten rule that “you don’t lose your job due to injury”, the Blue Jays went directly against it. And it has cost them.

Coming into Friday’s game, Reed had more RBI than anyone on the Blue Jays! Of course he has a lineup full of perennial all-stars but that fact just jumped out at me when he came up to pinch hit in the 9th. He grounded out but was still cheered unceremoniously nonetheless.

Enter Saturday. The Reed-off man (as I like to call him) was in the starting lineup against a pitcher he has known for more than 6 years. Wouldn’t it be something if he could burn the team that let him go? It didn’t start off too well as he grounded out to 3rd his first time up.

Standing in the on-deck circle with 2 outs in the 2nd inning, trying to scout a guy he’s seen for years with a perfect seat in left-field, Johnson got another chance to burn the Jays. David Eckstein booted a sure 3rd out at short and up trotted Reed. The next thing you know… BANG. A line drive out to left-field and…. OVER THE WALL for a 3 run HR! The camera panned to JP and his face was priceless. I think every Reed Johnson fan savoured that moment. Even though I love Doc, you had to be rooting for Reed this weekend. While optimistic commentators and Blue Jays executives will tell you the season isn’t over, it really is. Don’t buy into that “long season” bulls*** or the fact that the Jays are still at .500. If the Jays were still in the race, the Reed HR would have been bittersweet. But it was great to see him jog around the bases and still get an ovation from the smart fans at Rogers Centre. If I was there, I would have definitely gave him a standing-O.

Euro 2008 Predictions

3 out of 6 is pretty bad. At least I called 33% of the games dead on (a nice way of looking at things). Italy and France looked sluggish while the Germany/Croatia match is probably the upset of the tournament so far.

Lets try this again then shall we? It’s gonna be a lot tougher because its much more difficult to predict the last leg of round robin matches. Teams rest their players and in one matchup, a team may actually want to lose.

3rd leg of matches:

Portugal vs Switzerland - Tough one to call. The Swiss are playing for pride in this one and don’t want to go… stay home empty handed. If weather conditions are bad, Portugal may just let its substitutes play. All they need is a tie to clinch first. Im going to say Switzerland goes away with a point at 1-1. Nuno Gomes and Barnetta the goal scorers.

Czech Republic vs Turkey - Cant see Turkey advancing in this group. They just barely beat the Swiss in their previous match. Turkey may also still have key-injuries in their lineup. 1-0 Czech with Baros the goal scorer.

Germany vs Austria - A must win type of scenario for Germany. Podolski is questionable to play and Schweinsteiger is suspended. Those are two key players that Germany may miss but they still have the talent to overcome a weak Austrian team. Germany did look sluggish last time and maybe some of it continues in this match. 1-0 with Klose the goal scorer.

Croatia vs Poland - Poland will need a lot of help to finish 2nd in this group and may get it from Croatia. Poland needs a win but it will be hard to compete with a team that just beat the favourites. The dark horses of the tourney may rest their players in the 2nd half but don’t expect a Poland win. Riding the momentum of the Germany game, Croatia wins 2-0 with goals from Olic and Modric.

France vs Italy - These two countries have been the clowns of the tourney thus far. Both teams have screwed up twice with neither team collecting a win. I’m going to say they both screw up again and tie 2-2 giving neither a chance to advance. Goals from Ribery and Henry for France while Toni scores both for Italy (he’s gotta break out at some point).

Netherlands vs Romania - Quite possibly could be the greatest conspiracy in soccer EVER. If Netherlands loses this game, both France and Italy will be out regardless of what either team does in their match. Romania can still advance in this group with a tie here if Italy and France tie their game. But if you are Holland, the smart thing to do is to rest your players almost completely. Maybe 20-25 minutes for the starters and thats it. Of course, there is a sense of pride here as well. If Holland could escape the group of death with the maximum amount of points, they’ll have a huge chip on their shoulder going into a quarter-final matchup with Russia/Sweden. I’m going to say Romania takes this one 2-1 with Mutu scoring both for Romania and Robben scoring early for Holland. No one would be happier than me if Italy and France were both out of this tourney… they’ve lost me too much money over the past couple of weeks.

Spain vs Greece - The defending champs are out after 2 matches. Kind of sad for Greek fans but even their coach called 2004 a miracle. Having not scored a goal through 2 matches, it shows how lucky they were 4 years ago. Their defense is their strength but if you can’t score, you can’t win. Spain can score. I don’t think they’ll have a strong sense of urgency but I think they’d like to advance with the 9 points. 1-0 Spain on a goal by David Villa (this guy will win the golden boot).


Russia vs Sweden - The most competitive of the 3rd leg of matches in my opinion. The winner of this match gets Holland so I don’t know how much celebrating will be done afterwards. I liked Sweden to finish 2nd in the group all along so I’m going to stick with it. They may be old, but they’ve played well in the first two games. 1-0 with a goal from Larsson.