Many of my Newsletter readers followed my advice last year: they rolled the dice and “won” … by NOT placing a losing bet on Toronto sports teams. The Las Vegas bookies who lost money have asked me not to give betting advice anymore!
The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club actually were still in a reasonable position to reach the playoffs based on their standings around Christmas 2014. However, as I recommended to those of you who read my review last year and continued watching Leaf hockey, while listening to Don Cherry and Ron McLean, I am certain that you were astounded by the team’s subsequent caliber of play – it was to say the least pathetic, if not tragic, after the New Year. Even firing the coach did not help! The fact that a visible number of seats were empty for games during March until the season ended summed up the feeling of many Leaf hockey follower – even season ticket holders could not give away their tickets.
There were two newsworthy items in the off-season. The first was the $50 million-dollar contract given to the new coach Mike Babcock. Will he be successful in turning the team around? As my barber said they could have hired him to be the coach for only $100,000 and he could have achieved the same result – namely the Leafs are as of mid-December in last place in the standings. The second was the trading of Phil Kessel, who was a prolific goal scorer until last year. Maybe they should have spent some money on obtaining a better goaltender, as well as a player who can score notwithstanding they are taking the long-term approach.
While Toronto Raptors had a good season relatively speaking; it resulted in them participating in the playoffs again. However, they lost in a hurry, being decisively outplayed in their first round series. Maybe they felt their Toronto Maple Leaf stable-mates needed company on the golf course or fishing!
Staying within the family organization (i.e. the Maple Leaf Sports Empire), the Toronto FC finally, for the first time in their history, made it into the playoffs. They also emulated their family cohorts and lost decisively to the Montreal Impact. While this was a step in the right direction, the return on their financial investment in terms of some players left a lot to be desired and a lot of disappointment amongst their fans.
Last but not least, the Toronto Marlies, the Leaf’s farm club had a good season notwithstanding that a number of their better players were called up to play for the Maple Leafs. As a result, the Marlies did not do well in the playoffs.
Finally, the pennant winners of the American League East Division gave us a great ride from the end of July until they lost to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship playoffs. I feel the Blue Jays after the 2014 season should have spent some serious money on obtaining a standout starting pitcher, an excellent relief pitcher and a good-hitting second baseman. They did manage the latter in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately, he was seriously injured and missed most of the season. Hopefully he comes back fully healed. However, the bullpen took until the beginning of August to really start to jell when they acquired several experienced bullpen pitchers at the trade deadline and the rookie pitchers really got settled in their roles as relievers. Ultimately, the acquisition of a top pitcher, namely, David Price, helped put the final piece of the puzzle together. In the end the result was not what we as a city and in fact one that most of Canada longed for – a berth in the World Series and a Series win.
As I commented last year, the Blue Jays organization is not what I consider a class act. They treated their first employee (and most recent President), Paul Beeston, without respect by trying to find a replacement for him by going behind his back after last season. In my opinion they still have not properly recognized nor thanked him for all his contributions, hard work and effort over the years on behalf of the team and its fans!
I still have questions about the former General Manager and his abilities. However, maybe he was hamstrung by the owner of the Blue Jays not giving him the authority to spend the money required to obtain the type of players needed to make the team a winner earlier in his reign or even prior to the 2015 season. I wonder if he traded away too many top prospects to get the players he did obtain at the trade deadline given we did not win the World Series. Time will tell.
What does the future hold with a new President, a new General Manager and the same manager whose abilities I still question? While the team finished in first place, I attribute that to the effort and skills of the players and some of the coaches – not those of the manager. At the time I am writing the newsletter, it does not appear that the Rogers conglomerate will be opening the vault to acquire top-flight players for the season.