Saturday, August 30, 2008
Ricciardi finally acknowledges what the obvious - the Blue Jays have not been in a pennant race. Teams playing .500 can be in a pennant race if you play in the NL West but the Jays are in the powerful AL East. So Ricciardi ships popular Canadian-born Matt Stairs to the Phillies (reportedly for mediocre minor league pitcher Fabio Castro according to ESPN) and promotes the latest future franchise player Travis Snider. Hey you need something to excite fans enough to fill seats in September.
Sinder is only 20 years old and listed at 5'11" and a whopping 240 lbs. He started the season in A ball and progressed all the way up to AAA where he was hitting .344 when he got the call from the Jays. The Jays hope he is the next Carlos Delgado who was the last power-hitting lefty in their lineup.
Snider did not disappoint in his big league debut in the revered Yankee Stadium in front of over 50,000 Yankee fans. He got one of only 5 hits by the Jays who collectively had another quiet night at the plate and squandered just another strong pitching performance. Snider showed his power potential by reaching out of the strike zone and swatting the ball into centrefield where it bounced out for a ground rule double. Snider picked up his first ML run, the only run for the Jays. He played left field and made two pretty good catches.
But by adding Snider to the 40 man roster, the Blue Jays waste an option year on a month of at bats, which may not be that big of a deal because quite simply, in three years, the hope is that the team wouldn't have a reason to send Snider back down to the minors anyway. It may also mean that he will be arbitration eligible a year earlier than necessary. There are all kinds of risks but where are the benefits for the Jays? They should have kept to plan and had him play out the year in the minors and not risk losing control of a quality player and year earlier for just a month of services for a team out of the playoffs.
Well according to Wikipedia:
In 1984, Palin was second-place in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant after winning the Miss Wasilla contest earlier that year, winning a scholarship to help pay her way through college. In the Wasilla pageant, she played the flute and also won Miss Congeniality.
I expect big things from Ms. Palin too.
Friday, August 29, 2008
It's always interesting watching the U.S. election campaign from the safe distance of Canada. Many may lament the poor choice this year - but that's every election, where ever you may be. The process is more like the TV show Survivor rather than an intellectual contest. So here are my preliminary comments.
- Vice president running mates have always been very strategic selection and this election year is no exception. Joe Biden has the foreign policy experience that Obama lacks. Sarah Palin has the gender and social conservative credentials that McCain needs. I’m just not so sure how many Americans vote based on the running mate.
- Both Biden and Palin underscore the shortcomings of the presidential nominees. My preference would be to select a regional running mate candidate that might help deliver a large state or block of states. Delaware and Alaska wouldn’t cut it for me.
- I found an online post from last year touting Palin as a possible running mate for Guiliani if he won the nomination.
- There are 40 million African-Americans which I understand rival the number of Christian fundamentalists in America. If they can be motivated to vote, they can have an impact on the election results. I see Independents also being a big factor this year.
- I see some similarities this year with the 1976 election which saw Jimmy Carter win with limited experience. At the time the Republicans were still smarting from Watergate and the resignation of an unpopular president. I just hope the results are better this time around.
- Wisely, Obama has chosen “Change” and “Yes We Can” (though not his creation) as election themes. It plays well into the level of discontent in America. He has an ambitious and long platform (tax cuts for 95% of American, weaning Americans off of Middle East oil) which he will never be able to deliver on. He delivers on half that would be an incredible accomplishment.
- He also barely alluded to race. Although the media repeatedly mentioned the significance of yesterday’s date (45th anniversary of King’s “I had a dream” speech), Obama avoided directly speaking about it in his speech. Give McCain credit for publicly congratulating Obama: “How perfect that your nomination would come on this historic day.”
The free ride is over. Last night, the TTC voted to end complimentary parking for Metropass users, at the TTC's 16 commuter lots across the city.
Problems with the existing parking arrangement do exist. The popularity of the Metropass over tickets and tokens has led riders to take advantage of the free parking incentive. Surprisingly, Metropass holders occupy a whopping 80% of the available 14,000 spaces meant for commuters - yet these riders only account for one percent of all TTC's annual ridership. Commuter parking lots simply don't have enough space to accommodate the sheer number of people who choose to park their car and hop on the Red Rocket. So the TTC plans to chase them away by charging for parking.
Currently there are two options for paid parking that are up for debate. The first option is the Metropass-Plus, which would give riders access to parking at an additional cost. The second option is a cash-only system where parking your car would cost $2 - $6 per day (I guess a bargain in comparison to parking in the downtown core).
With car-owners losing the battle at the pumps, the goal for the TTC should be to provide alternatives for commuters that negate the need for cars.
Pedestrians in Toronto have a new way to cross the street at Yonge and Dundas.
The city's new Pedestrian Priority Phase crossing, unveiled this morning, enables people to get across the intersection in all directions, including diagonally. Also known as a Scramble Phase crossing, this method of crossing a busy intersection is already popular in many cities around the world including Tokyo, Japan and Aukland, New Zealand.Noticeably missing in the intersection were lines that indicate crossing is possible in both diagonal directions. It looked like they were going to paint lines right across but stopped about six feet in.
Toronto has plans to implement this type of pedestrian crossing in intersections at Yonge & Bloor, Bay & Bloor and Bay & Dundas.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
When Susan Kuhnhausen returned home from work one day earlier this month, she encountered an intruder wielding a claw hammer. After a struggle, the 51-year-old nurse fended off her attacker by strangling him with her bare hands.
Neighbours praised the woman for her bravery, and investigators said they believed the dead man - Edward Dalton Haffey - was robbing Kuhnhausen's home.
But after an investigation, police now say the intruder Kuhnhausen strangled was apparently a hit man hired by her estranged husband - Michael James Kuhnhausen Sr. - to kill her.
The 58-year-old husband was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
Barry: So Mats you’re sounding well.
Sundin: you too
J.P.Barry: I was hoping we could have a chat about where the summer has taken you.
Sundin: For sure. I had a great vacation in Barcelona. I just love the Spanish beaches. And the fishing is outstanding. Played a lot of golf. We’ve had a really good summer here. Josephine and I have spent a lot of time decorating our home.
Barry: I was thinking more about your hockey career. I got a call from Cliff Fletcher this week.
Sundin: Cliff is such a great guy. We go back a long way. I was so happy to see him come back to Toronto and think the changes he has made will turn around this team in the next 2 year. I hear Cujo is back.
Barry: So does that mean you are thinking about re-signing with the Leafs?
Sundin: I don’t know.
Barry: I also heard from Mike Gillis.
Sundin: I hear Mike is a great guy from teammates that have used him as an agent. They were really sorry to hear he had left the business. I know he doesn’t have management experience but don’t be surprised if Vancouver challenges in the West. Hey they got the best goalie in the world with Luongo. And that offer they made me was mind blowing.
Barry: So does that mean you are thinking about signing with the Canucks?
Sundin: I don’t know.
Barry: Glen Sather has sent me 5 or 6 text messages this month on updates.
Sundin: I am really in awe of that guy. He has done so much for the game. Look at all those Stanley Cups. The great players he has coached over the years. You could learn a lot from a guy like that. And New York is such an exciting city to play and live in. It sort of reminds me of Toronto but bigger.
Barry: So does that mean you are thinking about signing with the Rangers?
Sundin: I don’t know.
Barry: I ran into Bob Gainey last weekend playing golf. He asked if anything was happening.
Sundin: Hey Bob is such a great guy. I had some awesome discussions with him in June. Can you believe the young talent he has put together? I really enjoyed playing Montreal last season. It’s scary to think what they might do this year.Barry: So you have decided to sign with Montreal?
Sundin: I don’t know.
Barry: Well August is over in a few days and training camps are opening next week.
Sundin: Hey I got to run over to Pottery Barn with Josephine. Give me a call some time next month. It was great talking to you.
Barry: Take care. Bye.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I'm sure some people are wonder why the Leafs signed a 41-year-old past his prime in "Cujo"—Curtis Joseph.
Well, it goes a little something like this: 10 Years ago, a 31-year-old goaltender came and swept Leaf Nation off its feet. The hype was true—he was a phenomenal talent that deserved a bit more than the Leafs gave him. While lacking the scoring touch in the playoffs for four consecutive years, Cujo was the last bit of light going into a dark-tunnelled playoff run. He provided the best goaltending Toronto had seen in awhile, managing to compile eight postseason shutouts in his stint with the Leafs.The sad part of this history is the circumstances that lead to his departure from the Leafs. Both Joseph and Leaf coach Pat Quinn were part of the gold medal Canadian hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Quinn started Joseph in the first game that didn't go well. Canada lost to Sweden 5-2. The next game Martin Brodeur started and ended up playing the rest of the games. Joseph expected the two goalies to alternate games and following the Olympics his relationship with Quinn became quite frosty. Joseph became a free agent at the end of the season and signed with Detroit. He stated the reason he left Toronto was to get a shot at winning a Stanley Cup. However, his agent let it slip that he left with very bruised feelings. The sad part of the story is that Joseph's career pretty much went off the rails after he left Toronto. The Toronto fans idolized him and he played some of his best hockey for them. After Detroit his agent tried to get another contract with Toronto but they weren't interested until Cliff Fletcher took over as GM.
You will see a energized Joseph as he will be welcomed home. The spark of the light he once was will not be put out quite yet. He's back and ready for to win back those fans.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
- So Canada wins 18 medals and finishes tied for 14th with Spain on total medals. That is 50% more than 4 years ago in Athens but not anywhere near the big boys. The goal for London is to finish in the top ten which means about 25-30 medals - a big jump.
- Canada is the only host country not to a win a gold medal. During the 1976 Montreal Olympics Canada won just 11 medals but no golds.
- During the 1990s Canadians just didn't care about how our Olympic athletes did which means most athletes went to the Games to achieve personal bests. We took a very egalitarian approach so all athletes were treated the same regardless of their potential.
- The federal government has finally began directing funding to our best athletes but not nearly enough to move up the medal standings. It also takes about 10 years to train a medal winner. So you need to identify elite athletes before they are even in their teens.
- Canadians need to realize that there real tangible benefits to winning Olympic medals beyond national pride. The funding creates a trickle down effect which means for sports facilities for kids. Also interest in specific sports spikes when a Canadian athlete wins a medal. More kids participating in sports means less obesity and lower health care costs.
- We likely will never see an Olympics like Beijing again. There aren't many countries that can come up with $44 billion for what is not much more than a big party. Most governments would be voted out of office if they tried. In China you have the combination of massive resources to pull it off and an authoritarian government with the will do get it done.
- Now that the Beijing Olympics are over I don't need to watch water polo and rhythmic gymnastics for 4 entire years.
The mind-numbing game of political chicken in Parliament may finally come to an end next week. For almost a year the Prime Minister has been trying to get the opposition to "defeat" the government is a vote so he can call an election. But no one on the other side of the House would cooperate.
Stephen Harper has all but announced he'll pull the plug on his minority government next week, laying out the rationale for preempting his fixed-election-date law, scheduled byelections and the resumption of Parliament.
Harper said the law fixing elections every four years – under which the next election was supposed to be Oct. 19, 2009 – only applies to majority governments. It can't apply to a minority in which opposition parties could defeat the government at any time. That is bullshit. It applies to minority governments too except if they lost the confidence of the Parliament. Since Parliament isn't sitting, that can't really happen. The law doesn't contemplate preemptive moves by the government.
Harper just doesn't want to wait until the opposition can make it official with a non-confidence vote because the timing may not be ideal for him. Love the way the Prime Minister respects parliamentary tradition and the law.
Too bad the Conservative party doesn’t invest this much brain-power into actually solving the country’s problems and governing instead of endlessly scheming of ways to hold onto power.
A two-man punctuation patrol went a little too far. Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have been traveling the country correcting punctuation on signs. But they'll be paying a hefty fine ($3.035) after altering a historic 60 year old hand-painted sign at the Grand Canyon back on March 28 — something federal authorities call vandalism. The pair did leave one misspelling on the old Grand Canyon sign: "emense" - they say in order to avoid further defacing the sign.
Monday, August 25, 2008
In October of 1982, Tylenol, the leading pain-killer medicine in the United States at the time, faced a tremendous crisis when seven people in Chicago were reported dead after taking extra-strength Tylenol capsules. It was reported that an unknown suspect/s put 65 milligrams of deadly cyanide into Tylenol capsules, 10,000 more than what is necessary to kill a human.
The tampering occurred once the product reached the shelves. They were removed from the shelves, infected with cyanide and returned to the shelves. In 1982, Tylenol controlled 37 percent of its market with revenue of about $1.2 million. Immediately after the cyanide poisonings, its market share was reduced to seven percent.
The Tylenol crisis may likely pale compared to the Maple Leaf Food crisis. There are now 6 confirmed dead and 6 more suspected deaths from the Listeria bacterium- and the number of possible cases has topped 26, eleven of which are from Ontario. The Maple Leaf plant on Bartor Street in North Toronto has turned out to be more dangerous than the Sunrise Propane plant that blew up another Toronto neighbourhood 2 weeks ago. The company has recalled 220 meat products which will cost the company at least $20 million. Share prices on the TSE dropped 10%. And the first class action law suit has already been filed.
This is going to get even bigger.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
It looks like the media was right all along as it turns out Senator Joe Biden is Obama's pick for running mate. The media starting reporting on it before it was even announced after some reporters cornered Biden on Wednesday and he said, smirkingly, "I'm not the guy." Biden opens his mouth for yet another faux pas, in this case making a lot of people feel stupid for signing up for the text message - all of those Obama enthusiasts who signed up to be "the first to know."
It seems obvious that Obama picked Biden because Biden has more experience in defense and foreign policy than Obama does, and this is to counter the constant harping of John McCain that Obama doesn't have the delicate understanding of foreign relations issues that can only come from the five and a half years of being a prisoner of war.
Some pundits already seem to feel this was a status quo choice; that in picking Biden, Obama is showing the areas where he's weak instead of where he's strong. Biden is a Washington insider, a 65 year-old man who seemingly represents the old guard and not someone in keeping with Obama's image as some kind of new generation agent for change. So if Obama is picking Biden to get down in the muck and attack McCain, thus allowing Obama to stand above the mudslinging, maybe it's a genius choice. I mean, a Washington outsider's not going to be able to do that and have it be credible. And even Obama is reportedly getting sick of the reverance being shown to his message of change and probably wants to make things a little more realistic.
I'm not really a fan of Biden, obviously, and I'm not sure he's the person I would've picked. But maybe this is a strategic pick that will pay off.
I don't think anyone can argue that Cito Gaston has some how got the Blue Jay hitters actually hitting around their potential. As everyone knows for 4 months the Jays were all pitching and no hitting. They were near the bottom of every offensive category while their pitchers kept them around .500. The Jays suggested that their current stretch of games against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees would determine whether they could jump into the pennant race. But let's be realistic they were just too far back.
They have just had 3 series against the Red Sox and Yankees and did great going 5-3. Not a record that will get you the wild card spot but after spinning their wheels for so long, at least there is a silver lining. During that stretch of 8 games the team batted .324, well above their season average of .262. Their star players played like stars and yes there is no pressure on them any longer. But they no longer look lost at the plate. Alex Rios hit .432 with 11 runs scored and 10 RBIs over the past 8 games. Joe Inglett hit .407. Vernon Wells hit .344 with 8 runs and 8 RBIs. Lyle Overbay hit .364 with 6 runs and 8 RBIs. And Adam Lind hit .314 with 9 runs and 7 RBIs.
So does this team have enough to contend in the future? Or will they need to rebuild? Well the pitching is top notch and not very old. With arms like that you are in every game. They will need to replace A.J. Burnett who will sure opt out of his contact and go to the highest bidder. I don't think they should try to re-sign A.J. He is a high maintenance pitcher and very fragile. This the first season in years he has remained healthy. Burnett has two excellent pitches - a fastball and curveball. But those are his only pitches and when he can't throw his curveball for strikes he is in trouble. The Jays don't have an arm of that calibre in their system so if they are serious about contending then they must go outside for another starter.
But they really need to retool that offense. They have some excellent defensive players but they need some power, especially at the corners and at the DH position. Also, Vernon Wells has yet to earn his big salary and if trading him will strengthen the team then by all means move him. And for goodness sake, make John Macdonald your every day shortstop - he has earned it.
But if the Jays need to do some rebuilding then it should be in the front office. J.P. Ricciardi has fumbled around for 7 years and has little to show for it. He has had a few hits but has struck out far more. It's time to hand the ball over to someone else.