The best and the, uh, not so best
It's the great contrast in Toronto, a comparison between substance and style.
On one side, Roy Halladay.
On the other side, Larry Tanenbaum.
Care to guess which one's substance and which one's style?
Halladay, for going on a decade now, has been the city's Quiet Superstar, a title he reinforced again Thursday night with his second 20-win season, another year in which he has been non-complaining and largely brilliant, and the team has been mediocre.
He has been the best player on any team - baseball, hockey, football, basketball - in this city for a long, long time, and probably should have a greater profile than he does based on his accomplishments, demeanor and contributions to the Blue Jays.
Others have been major stars - Chris Bosh and Mats Sundin come to mind - but Halladay has been better than any of 'em, arguably the best pitcher in baseball for three or four seasons, with one Cy Young Award on his resume so far.
Then there's Tanenbaum, a wealthy developer and, it should be noted, a philanthropist.
But when it comes to sports, it's been all style, all talk, no substance.
Hearing Tanenbaum's comments on Thursday that he and MLSE aren't interested in just winning one Stanley Cup, but want years of "competitive" teams based on slow, intelligent and steady growth was just too funny.
Being stuck with a very weak-looking roster, it would appear, has the Leaf chairman in search of a new public pose, and a cynic would not think that by publicly admitting that a lousy season lies ahead, and maybe more than one, the Leafs have just bought themselves another three years - five? - before anyone can demand the appearance of a quality team.
He can't tell you who the GM of this team will be in June. But trust him, MLSE has a plan in place. A new plan.
With Tanenbaum as chairman, the Leafs have, as has been the case for much of their history, squandered first-round draft picks and prospects in search of the quick fix.
Now, suddenly, it's time to build slowly, carefully?
The man's found his new hockey religion?
Then, to suggest Detroit executive Steve Yzerman couldn't possibly fit the bill for a new GM because he would be a "rookie" was not only insulting to Yzerman, but given that the Leaf organization sought to hire a new GM in the spring and couldn't find a single, qualified and acceptable candidate, nearly laughable.
Tanenbaum, as a sports executive in this town, has never accomplished a damn thing.
But he can dismiss Yzerman with a wave of his imperial hand?
It's all MLSE blather, all talk to continually try to placate the customer while urging him or her to keep paying while always promising good times are just around the corner. We've got it all figured out this time, the company line goes. The Leafs, with Tanenbaum as the corporate face of the franchise, have made a big deal about buying out expensive veterans in recent months, suggesting it's a large sacrifice but one that must be made, while at the same time making sure it's all paid for by icing a team that will spend roughly $10 million less on the maximum allowed on player payrolls this season.
All baloney in a $2,000 suit. All sizzle and slick rhetoric. Sadly, some fools find this chatter reassuring, as though their hockey team is finally on the right track with the right people steering the ship even though it's the same people at the top who have been full of it time and time again.
Halladay, by contrast, is a true sportsman of substance, the Quiet Superstar for a city where winning rarely happens anymore, where the best idea anyone has is to try to steal another city's NFL team.
Oh yeah, Tanenbaum's in on that one, too.
THE MAIL BAG RETURNS!
Damien Cox is back with his weekly Maple Leafs mail bag. He'll answer your questions in his blog every Thursday starting next week. Click here to submit a question.