Mid-Way Summer Thoughts
One month, almost exactly, has passed since the last post here on the The Spin, and I'd like to tell you that refreshed and rejuvenated, I'm ready to correct all past mistakes (Florida Panthers were a BADDDDD choice to win the '97 Stanley Cup) and take a new, non-cynical and open-minded look at the world of sports.
But none of that is true so let's move on. Can't imagine trying to catch up on all that was missed in July - Jo-Jo Reyes, we hardly knew ye - so we'll start with bits and pieces from the past weekend. We've got three weeks of this before a mid-August Mediterrean cruise, so let's get to it:
--I'm the only one who passes even remotely for a baseball fan in this household, but had the wife and older daughter openly pulling for Colby Rasmus to get his first hit as a Blue Jay after several miserable days. Can't tell yet what the Jays have picked up here - he kinda reminds me of Grady Sizemore - but that sweet swing on a 3-2 count against a very good leftie in C.J. Wilson on Sunday sure suggested there's terrific raw talent here.
--Fair to say Brent Burns had the San Jose Sharks over a barrel. Having dealt Devin Setoguchi, former first rounder Charlie Coyle (watch for this kid) and another first rounder to the Wild to get Burns, the Sharks could hardly risk losing Burns after one season, and his contract was due to expire after this coming season. That is, until he signed a new five-year, $28.5 million pact on the weekend. This was a bold move by GM Doug Wilson, and he needs to be right on this one. Unlike the failed addition of Dany Heatley, the Sharks actually gave up significant pieces to get Burns, and he needs to demonstrate he can be a put-the-team-over-the-top kind of player.
--David Braley's two CFL franchises are a combined 1-9, with no home wins between them. You'd feel bad for the guy except for the fact he owns the rights to the next two Grey Cups, which means two big pay days are a-coming. Still, that's thin gruel for fans of the Argos and Lions. Neither team has an established quarterback, and in the CFL, that means you don't have much. As far as the Argos go, it's been easy to slag Cleo Lemon and Dalton Bell, but this team just doesn't have big-time receivers. Makes it tough on the guy slingin' the ball.
--Seeing the Montreal Alouettes lose two consecutive football games is something remarkable, at least in recent CFL history. Look, no offence to the Als, but watching them mow down all comers in the east year-after-year has become a yawn. The last two weeks suggests that there may be much less behind the brilliance of Anthony Calvillo to this year's squad, but we'll see. Winnipeg looks tough and Hamilton looks entertaining. A change to the usual script would be welcome.
--I get the debate over J.P. Arencibia's defence, and sure you want him to improve. But there's no debate over his qualities as a major league hitter with significant pop and he's done well to shoulder all the physical and mental burdens of being a full-time catcher in the bigs with a pitching staff that is like Behemoth up at Canada's Wonderland, a rollercoaster ride every time through the rotation. He's tough and talented, with a chance over time to be one of the best in the game.
--Gotta tell you, Canadians get much more hyped for the NHL trade deadline than than baseball's non-waiver deadline, but the latter, at least this year, involved more impact players and more significant deals. Unlike hockey, you also see good youngsters moved, and the absence of a salary cap allows teams with an eye on the prize to be even more aggressive.
--So maybe Randy Moss is retired. Maybe. If so, he gets to be in the conversation over who is the second-best receiver in NFL history behind Jerry Rice, which means he will be in Canton one day despite being, on and off, one of the bigger boors in recent NFL history. Never won a Super Bowl, which certainly doesn't sit solely on his shoulders, and there were times during his career when he was unstoppable and could not be covered by even the best defensive backs in the game. But he wasn't reliable like a Hines Ward. He lacked Steve Largent's toughness, Michael Irvin's raw physicality and Cris Carter's smarts. He was a highlight-reel receiver, but anything but a complete player.
--And on the same day Moss "retired", did the career of Canada's Matt Stairs also come to a close at age 43? Washington didn't want him and released him today, with the Nationals being the 13th MLB team for which Stairs swung his efficient bat, a major league record. Two stats stand out for the New Brunswick-born Stairs; 23 career pinch-hit home runs, a MLB record, and 265 career dingers, making him and Larry Walker the only Canadian-born players with more than 250 career home runs.
--Needless to say, Stairs' release isn't the biggest news these days for the Nationals. Former phenom Stephen Strasburg, coming off Tommy John surgery, is expected to make a minor-league start in the next 10 days with an eye to being back in the big leagues in early September.
--Over the summer, have read Neil Peart's fine travelling/grieving book, taken his suggestion to scour some Jack London novels, dipped into Nick Hornby's collection for Juliet, Naked (thumbs up) and am now 30 pages into Roger Kahn's Boys of Summer. Already, I don't want it to end. Summer, too.