Toronto Team Woes
Is it just me, or does it really suck to be a Toronto sports fan? Whether you love hockey, baseball, basketball, football, or soccer, it just plain sucks to be in Toronto. Look at all of the major professional sports teams we have. The Leafs, the Raptors, the Jays. What do they all have in common? They all stink! It seems like its been a decade since we’ve had a playoff series, never mind a meaningful one. The last set of playoffs I can remember was when the Raps lost in the first round to the Magic. Was anyone really suprised? None of our teams are built to win it all, and most aren’t even capable of qualifying for the post season.
Most fans are wondering…WHY? Why do our pro sports teams suck so bad, when our teams’ owners like Maple Leafs sports entertainment, have so much MONEY. In my opinion, there are several reasons. First of all, Toronto is the only Canadian team left in both Baseball and Basketball. It just seems as though no high profile American players want to play north of the border. In Basketball, we are made out to be a small market city. People in America think we live in igloos, are under 3 feet of snow for 8 months of the year, and are a very simple breed of folks who only watch hockey, drink our canadian beers and tim hortons coffee, and say abooot and eh all day. They don’t realize that Toronto is a top 5 market for north American sports.
Has anyone monitored whats been going on with the Raptors lately? We’ve lost out on Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw thanks to Michael Jordan, and now because the Magic are up against the cap, Matt Barnes has spurned the Raps (who offered him 4.5 million a year) to sign for around 4 million over TWO YEARS with the Lakers. Atleast in L.A. he’ll compete for a ring. In Toronto he’ll be competing in a line – up for doughnuts and an iced cap in the morning. The only NBAers we can lure here are soft Europeans who like Toronto’s ethnic diversity. Nobody comes to Toronto and says “I like our chances to win the East”. They like our spaghetti from little Italy, and they like our gyros from the Danforth.
In hockey, we don’t have the “north of the border” excuse. The Canucks seem to always be in the playoffs, and the Habs manage to compete year after year despite changing GMs and having a revolving door across the entire roster. I think we are plagued by having intense media scrutiny which deters players from wanting to come to Toronto. Although for arguments sake, the Habs players must feel the media burn too. In my opinion, we’ve simply been cursed by having the worst GMs on the planet. Ferguson buried us in the basement with horrible contracts that included no trade clauses. He put an old team on the ice, and continually traded away our future for mediocre vets who he thought would bring a cup to Toronto immediately. Boy was he wrong.
Brian Burke has definitely been an improvement, and has made some key acquisitions, but it remains to be seen whether his faith in our current mediocre roster is misplaced. Everyone says that the biggest talents and competitors in hockey want to come to Toronto and play in the biggest market in all of hockey. Where are these guys? Not on the Leaf’s roster that’s for sure.
Last but not least we have the mighty Toronto Blue Jays, who have actually won a championship during my lifetime. I don’t think our roster is that bad actually. We would probably qualify for the playoffs if we weren’t in the same division as 3 of the top 5 teams in all of baseball (The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays). The Jays seem to be a farm team for the big time clubs who spend the money it takes to win. We cultivate talented players (Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, etc) who then leave us for big money contracts elsewhere. Baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, and in all honesty, you are not going to win with a 80 million payroll against Boston and New York who have 150+ million dollar payrolls. Baseball needs to implement a salary cap ASAP to maintain competitiveness. Nobody outside of New York likes seeing the Yankees win all the time.
The biggest concern I have with Toronto teams is that we don’t seem to have one competent coach. Ron Wilson, the Leafs coach, went from having arguably the best roster in the league with the San Jose Sharks, to having the worst (our Leafs). He couldn’t win anything with the Sharks. They always had great regular seasons, but flamed out in the playoffs. The season he left the Sharks, they won the presidents trophy for the best regular season record. Doesn’t that say something?
I just don’t think he can get the most out of his players. There have been whispers that he doesn’t have good relationships with his players, and the fact that we were the 29th place team last year speaks volumes. The man is a horrible coach. Sure he took the USA to the Gold Medal game in the Olympics, but his team was underrated, stacked with young talent that was motivated to upset the world. In the end he still couldn’t win it all and settled for a silver.
Jay Triano is a good assistant coach in the NBA. He was fine under Sam Mitchell. He is NOT FINE as a head coach in the NBA. The man is very soft spoken, and very very nice. A little too nice to handle some of the big egos that exist in the NBA. If we actually had a playoff calibre roster, I don’t think anyone would respect him. They’d say “Triano’s a great guy.” Nobody would say he’s a great coach.
He, much like Wilson, cannot get the most out of his players. He does not hold them accountable for poor play. When Jose Calderon gets torched in a game by the opposing point guard for 30+ points, does Triano say “Jose your coming off the bench next game.”? No. He starts him again and gives him MORE MINUTES the next game. The man needs more of a backbone. You don’t win championships by being your players best friends. Just ask Phil Jackson who got his 11th championship ring this past season.
Last but not least we have Cito Gaston, the man who led the Jays to Toronto’s last major sports championship in the early 90s (I don’t count Grey Cups, sorry Argos fans). Cito was brought back into the fold a couple seasons ago to turn the Jays around. The man sits on the bench with a steely look on his face. I wonder if he is as mean as he looks? I have to give Cito credit. He is a fantastic hitter’s coach. He has taken a team of contact hitters, and turned us into the MLB leaders in homeruns. Jose Bautista is the Home Run leader in the entire MLB right now! Move over Ryan Howard, A-Rod, and Miguel Cabrera.
We just can’t hit singles anymore. Our team average is pathetic. Home runs are great, but not if you lose more games than you win regardless of the power surge. Cito’s major deficiency is how he handles pitchers. The man just doesn’t know when to pull a pitcher. He’s left Kevin Gregg in after walking 5 batters in ONE inning and blowing a two run lead. When he decides to pull Gregg in a game months later, he gets into a scrap with the guy. There was talk last season of a clubhouse mutiny. The players did not want to play under Cito anymore. Whether this was true or not, it really doesn’t matter. Even if Cito pulled off a miracle and we finished 15 games over 500 on the season, we still wouldn’t make the playoffs. In baseball money buys rings, and our ownership won’t pay.
I hate to say it Toronto fans, but going into this season, it seems as though our best chance at making the playoffs lies in the hands of the Leafs. The Raps are soft and no longer have a franchise player. The Jays are never contending until they get moved to the National League. Toronto FC may qualify for the playoffs, but how far will they really go? I honestly don’t follow the MLS. If somebody does know, feel free to comment on this or write an article. That leaves our chances to celebrate a playoff win in the hands of Kessel, Phaneuf and co. It really is a longshot seeing as how most of the teams in the Eastern conference have also improved. Brian Burke has a couple more weeks to move Kaberle, get a stud forward back, and really attempt to fast forward our rebuilding process. Only time will tell.
For now, I am going to put on my Yankees hat, my Lakers jersey, and sip an iced cap at the cottage. Its good to be from Toronto.