Wednesday, 26 March 2014

New Sheriff In Town

As a huge baseball fan I realize how ridiculous the payrolls are for each and every team. I touched on it before in one of my previous blogs, but today was a bit of a sadly historic day in the MLB.

The New York Yankees, the evil empire, have been the renowned team to go out and throw their money around like monopoly money. This year was no exception.

Today, the Los Angeles Dodgers climbed the top of the shameful mountain of having the highest player payroll in the MLB. This is the first time since 1998 that there has been a team other than the Yankees that have spent more on their team and their players. The Dodgers have been actively attracting players to the Golden State for a few years now. Halfway through the 2012 season the Dodgers made a blockbuster deal to pick up starting pitcher Josh Beckett, 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez, infielder Nick Punto and outfielder Carl Crawford. Picking up these players solidified all areas of their lineup and has made their payroll jump, but also peaked their competitiveness. 

LA is currently spending $235 million dollars on their players for the 2014 season. Take this into perspective; the Houston Astros are paying only $44 million on their team, and the Dodgers are spending $33 million MORE than the second most spending team. Which is no other than the Yankees.

The Dodgers ended up winning their division last year so their spending has paid off. They ended up losing in six games in the National League Championship Series, failing to reach the World Series, the ultimate tip of the cap for an MLB team.

Lately when it comes to the MLB, it has become a spending frenzy. It makes me think of the savages in New York when the stock market is exploding. A large bunch of people begging and pleading for the services of another person or company. In this case, as a General Manager, you're throwing your money at the players you want to perform on the field.

This year the average Major League Baseball team salary is $115,132,013.20.

I heard on the radio today that with the average Canadian salary, it would take thirty-seven years to bring home just one million dollars, yet these men make one million in just about two days work on the field.

I can greatly appreciate the talents that these men portray on the field, and the hard work they put in each and every day to put on a show for the fans and to become the best team in the world. But when it comes to throwing around money like it is nothing, MLB takes the cake.


To start off this blog, I will mention that this one will be short and sweet. It has a been a long, but fun day for myself, but it is late and I have an early start at the day tomorrow

Junior hockey is the route of every single NHL player in the entire league, and the Canadian Hockey League's are no exception. The Vancouver Giants are the local Junior hockey team who play in the Western Hockey League, and are currently playing in the first round series against the heavily favoured Portland Winterhawks. The Giants are filled with some talented players and were barely able to squeeze into the play off picture this season, and were given the task of facing one of the WHL's finest of teams.

The Winterhawks are one of the most special junior hockey team that has hit the ice in recent years. Portland finished as second best team in the league with 113 points. They are two-time Memorial Cup Champions, the highest honour in junior hockey, winning in 1983 and 1998. The team did play in the Memorial tournament last year but failed to convert into a championship, ultimately losing in the championship game against the Halifax Mooseheads 6-4.

The team is lead by 2012  number 7 pick for the Minnesota Wild, Mathew Dumba. Dumba picked up 24 points with Portland in just twenty six games with the team. Then you have Derrick Pouliot, who is a small six feet tall on the ice, but has a relentless presence. He was picked right after Dumba in the 2012 draft at number 8 for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he had 73 points this season. Nicolas Petan who was picked 43rd overall by the WInninpeg Jets, he lead the league in assists during the regular season and has an ice presence like no other.

I was in attendance at game three tonight for the Giants/Winterhawks opening round play off series and the Winterhawks are a team that are rightfully in good hands to try and get back to the Memorial Cup and possibly bring it home this 2014 season.

Any sport that is played competitively at a junior level gives fans an incredible from as to what we will be witnessing in the near future at the highest level of play in whatever league it may be. To watch the Portland Winterhawks is a special view, especially after watching them trample the Giants in a definitive 6-3 win. They are now up 3 games to none, and look for the series sweep coming tomorrow night again the the precious Pacific Coliseum!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Honouring Henrik

Last night the Vancouver Canucks took on the last  place Buffalo Sabres, and was the first game that I have attended in five seasons. As all you Vancouverites know, the Canucks are teetering on play off extinction for the 2014 season, and are currently three points behind the final play off spot holders, the Phoenix Coyotes. Last night the Canucks did come out on top as they were able to score four goals to double the Sabres in a four to two win.

The majority of the Canucks scoring came from the third line, highlighting arguably Zack Kassian's best game in his young career. Living up to his nickname, the "Kassassin" picked up four assists and was throwing the opposing Sabres players around like limp rag dolls. With his career high four points in one game, Kassian now has twenty three points on the season, also an NHL career high in a season for Kassian. To go along with his four helpers on each goal last night, in the first and third period he took the puck to the face, enduring some face time with the doctor and receiving ten stitches. Can you say beast mode anyone?

The third line produced unlike they have been able to for the entire season. First and foremost David Booth deserves a ...minor mention. He finally broke his goal less drought of thirty two games. Booth's goal was an ugly one, and he did not have the greatest game, but the fact that he FINALLY found the back of the net was worth a mention.

Scoring also came from Brad  Richardson, and new comer Shawn Mathias in the first period, Yannick Weber with a tally in the second and the David Booth insurance goal in the third.

You could say this game brought back a little bit of confidence to the team heading into the very late stretch of the season, but of course there are arguments against it; looking at the goalie they faced from Abbotsford, Nathan Lieuwen was starting in only his second NHL game, and  of course facing off NHL's last place Sabres who have only forty-eight points on the season. I'm not one to try and knock a team, and I'm not going to do that here. The Canucks have played some weaker teams as of late, and have not played well against them, take the 7-4 embarrassment to the Islanders for example... For the Canucks to finally win a game so handedly is a nice thing as a fan, and it is a bonus to have been there.

Rewind now to the opening of the game.

Roll out the red carpet, and bring out a Swede.

Henrik Sedin, who was joined by his wife and two sons, played his 1000th game recently, and on Sunday the Canucks presented him with the ceremonial silver stick. He has now become the first Vancouver player to play all one-thousand games in a Canucks uniform.

The silver stick was presented by the steamer, Stan Smyl. It was a pleasure to see such a Canuck icon at the game and presenting Henrik with the honour.

Sedin was also presented an engraved silver puck which his younger son tried to pry off of the plaque. This was followed by the revealing of a beautifully painted portrait of Sedin in which Kevin Bieksa and Daniel Sedin helped to reveal. This was followed by another heart warming moment by Henrik's younger son as Daniel jokingly pointed to the portrait and said that the painting was of their uncle and not their father. The young boy looked up at his father in confusion, in which Henrik then shook his head in laughter.

Throughout the game they also played congratulatory clips from former Canuck players. The choice of players was a little questionable, as they received comments form Trent Klatt, Taylor Pyatt and Kyle Wellwood. Now the Canuck organization also received words from Trevor Linden and "The Crow" Marc Crawford, which meant a lot more in terms of emotional engagement

It was a very exciting and emotional ceremony for the Sedin family, and he deserves all the praise in the world for what he has done for the team. Along with the stick, puck, and painting, Herik had $10,000 placed into a charity of his choice in his name by the team.

As for the game, Henrik only played the first two periods, as he came limping off the bench at the conclusion of the second. Only to find out that he will be out of the line up for two weeks with a "lower-body" injury.

Henrik has proven that he can go toe to toe with the best in the league, and can be considered one of the greatest Canucks captains of all time. He was a part of the Canucks team that was riding the "West Coast Express" with Brendan Morrison, Todd Betuzzi, and Markus Naslund. He has the most all time assists, the most assists in one season, most points in one season, and all time leading scorer in Canucks history. Not to mention his recently ended NHL iron man streak with the Canucks, that ended at 679 games.

Add the accolades like his gold-medal in 2006 with team Sweden at the Turin Olympics. He led the league in points in 2010 winning the Art Ross trophy, winning the Hart Trophy the same year as the league voted him as the most valuable player to his team. Not to mention the President Trophies he helped the Canucks win in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.

Henrik Sedin has built himself an amazing legacy as one of the greatest to wear the Orca and the stick. He has brought smiles to our faces and likely some tears to our eyes, dare I bring up 2011. He still has a few more solid, exciting seasons left in his arsenal, as Canucks fans, you have a lot to thank Henrik Sedin for.

Congratulations on your 1000th game Henrik. Here's to many many more!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Odds Stacked Against You

All I can say to start off this blog, is THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY!

As a BCIT student, teachers seemingly think that their class is the only class going on, yet we are partaking in nine. So needless to say with this semester's end within arms reach, I am a little overwhelmed. But do not fear, Lippin' Off will not disappoint.

The first few days of spring have now dawned upon us, the sun is out, its deep into March, and as sports fans, you know what that means; NCAA March Madness. The college basketball tournament carrying sixty-four teams to bring your college to basketball supremacy. The way this tournament works once you have qualified, when you win you move on, if you lose ONE game, you are eliminated. At the beginning of this tournament the teams are placed into seeds in divisions. What this creates is a betting man's nightmare. It also means that it is a script written for Cinderella stories and upsets for the top touted schools.

The tournament creates a bracket, and fans bet on it, or just fill their bracket out for fun, which sometimes involve incredible prizes in the sum of money.

As you can see, the bracket is a little overwhelming at first, but if you have paid attention all season long to these college teams, the perfect bracket is doable.

Note: Only 6 times in the sixty-four team format has a #1 seed came out of the tournament victorious.

This year though, in the great words of LeBron James, we saw not one, not two, but three, major upsets in the first two days. Usual top competitor schools Duke, Ohio State and Oklahoma University were all taken down in the first round of this years tournament in these upsets.

Whether or not you are a basketball fan, you can appreciate a good ol' upset on the hardwood, gridiron, diamond, or the ice. These games go against the written script, and it is like watching a movie end in a way you never imagined.

For the teams and players that were supposed to win this game it creates a bitter feeling of disbelief. The fans, standing in the crowd, hands on top of their head, jaw on the floor, not knowing what to do with themselves, it no longer becomes just a game of basketball, their world comes tumbling down in their teams loss. It becomes a very difficult scenario for the coach of the team, but Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski "Coach K", was probably well prepared for a scenario such as this due to the fact that he has been head coaching this team since the year 1980. I don't believe that any one is really prepared for an upset, and that also goes for the surprised winning team as well.

As for Mercer University, the team that upset Duke in the first round, it becomes one of the greatest days of the young men's lives. That includes the players, the coaches, the parents, and all the supporting fans who are positively affected. It also becomes the easiest, most exhilarating post-game speech for coach Bob Hoffman. There's nothing else to say to your players and staff other than, for a lack of a better term, holy Toledo we did it! As a lower seeded team, it becomes an opportunity of a lifetime to be in the tournament, and becomes a low risk, high reward situation.

As for the next round, who knows if this Mercer University will do anything afterwards, but beating one of the highest seeded teams in the tournament becomes a decent accomplishment on its own.

I do not have a big upset that sticks out to me, other than this year when Canadian ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue were robbed of the gold medal at the Sochi winter Olympics. I could write till the cows come out about it, but I'll let radio host Sid Sixeiro describe it for you.

I will forever be grateful for my friend Meghan for showing me this video, please take the time to watch it and enjoy one of the best rants you may ever endure.

I would really like to hear you're favourite, or I guess you're least favourite upset in sports history. Post a comment below, or find me on twitter and send me your thoughts.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Dealing with A Blow

Injuries are one of the most fatal parts to contribute to the finishing of careers, and you never want to see it happen. But as everyone knows, they are always a relevant part of the game, in any sport.

Wednesday afternoon in Major League Baseball spring training action, the Kansas City Royals faced off against the Cincinnati Reds at Surprise Stadium in Arizona. One of my previous blogs was dedicated to visiting the importance of spring training baseball and how much it really means to everyone involved. Yesterday saw a more important, albeit scary situation that was much more important than a simple game of baseball.

Heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Aroldis Chapman, the closing pitcher of the Cincinnati Reds had come into the game. Fast forward to many batters later, the bases loaded, and two outs, Chapman was looking to get out of the inning with as little run damage as possible and Salvador Perez, the Royals catcher stepping up to the plate. Little did he know that Perez would send him to the hospital. 

As a closing pitcher you're job is to finish off the game in as little time as possible, and the closing pitchers in the MLB arguably throw the hardest and fastest on the mound. Chapman threw a ninety nine mile-per-hour fastball to Perez who got a hold of it, which then of all places went straight for Chapman's face. The devastating impact dropped Chapman like a pile of bricks. Originally Salvador Perez thought Chapman got his glove on it, but instantly realized this was not the case. 

The training staff of both the Reds and the Royals headed out to treat Chapman for whatever damage had been done. The game had currently been in the 6th inning, and was immediately stopped at that point. Of course fans and players may have been disappointed that they didn't get to see the full nine innings played, but also everyone realizes the seriousness of the issue. Chapman was eventually carted off the field and sent to the hospital. As for Perez, he immediately hopped in a team vehicle and headed to the hospital to visit the injured opponent. Perez admitted that he was sad that the closer would not be able to participate in Opening Day. Chapman was capable of communication and was enthused that the Royals player made the visit to the hospital room. 

The emotions sent to the player that cause the injury cause an intense effect on them as well, and the Royals head coach was quick to contact the batter and his player Perez. He gave Perez the day off on Thursday to try and heal mentally form the trauma, but Perez did eventually show up to camp on his own will. 

In the case of Aroldis Chapman, he underwent surgery on Thursday morning to have a metal plate placed in his head. His recovery time has been estimated at 6-8 weeks, which does not mean he will be able to pitch after that time period.  He was up and well after surgery and is confident in a return in 2014. That quesiton was asked to team doctor, Tim Kremchek, in which he replied "Absolutely".

Cincinnati Reds catcher Brayan Pena also came to visit Chapman in the hospital, and as a catcher you create a special bond with a pitcher. In his visit he joked to Chapman that he should have called for a slider instead of a fastball, in which Chapman responded "maybe I should have thrown it a little slower". 

Witnessing an injury is not an easy thing to do, whether it be a leg injury, a minor fracture in a finger, or in this case, a line drive to the temple. It creates physical pain to the one being injured, and mental pain to others involved in every sense. In the case of Aroldis Chapman, he has a high regard for humour and is hopeful for an early return t the mound. 

On a lighter note, early in Chapman's career when he was placed in the closer role for the Cincinnati Reds, he would celebrate with a somersault. Not an ideal way  to celebrate winning a game, and was ultimately stopped soon after the few opportunities he had in that role. It is athletes like him that keep us watching with his powerful outings on the mound and unexpected entertainment on the field. Here's to a quick recovery Aroldis Chapman, maybe in your return the coach will allow you to do another somersault.

Who ever thought you would see this a the end of a Major League Baseball game?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Home is Where the Heart Is

To those who do not follow sports, you do not need to when it comes to this story. Sports can make you happy on a level that can not be reached on an everyday basis, it can bring you down deeper than a well, and it can warm your heart in a way that even your parents can on your birthday. Sports does very weird things to people and last night saw one of the most magical moments in sports history.

Sam Tageson, a seventeen year old lifelong San Jose Sharks fan, signed a one day NHL contract with his beloved Sharks thanks to Make a Wish Foundation.. Sam suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Which translates to only having two heart chambers, rather than four. Doctors told him he would never ride a bike, or play hockey, but he has played minor hockey, and he rides a skateboard on a daily basis. His story alone drives shivers up my spine, but this moment is not for the weak at heart, even for those who are not sports fans.

He was given the opportunity to practice with the team before the game, he was able to meet the General Manager of the team Doug Wilson, and he made history by becoming the very first non-NHL player to skate through the giant shark head at the SAP Center (Which technically isn't true due to the fact that he signed a one day contract, but I don't want to take away form his story). He then got the chance to stand on the blue line with the Sharks starting lineup as the star spangled banner was belted out to the arena, standing next to "Jumbo" Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and 2014 gold medal winner, Marc-Edouard Vlasic.


Of course he didn't actually get to play a second during the game, although he did get to fully gear up during warm-up, but he did receive a brilliant standing ovation before the game began. This is where the water works come into play. Sam was waving at the crowd and he couldn't hold back the tears, and why would he. As the crowd jeered, and hollered for Sam, he had to wipe away the tears over flowing out from his eyes with the thick non absorbent hockey glove. The emotions that Sam Tageson was feeling are something that not even the best broadcaster could describe, it was his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that nobody could take away form him, and you could only imagine what his parents were feeling as he was standing on the bench looking out to the San Jose Shark crowd. 

The moment is not complete until you watch the video of Sam Tageson enduring most likely the greatest day of his very young life. 

It's moments like these that you can justify reasons for being a sports fan. You're not just sitting on your couch watching grown men fight each other, or shoot a piece of plastic into some netting, you're watching people's dreams come true. I dedicate today's blog to the courteous act of the San Jose Sharks and the Make a Wish Foundation. Kudos, and keep making me believe that there is still hope in civilization.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

It's Just Spring Training

One thing that is sitting at the back of my brain until the time comes, is the want to attend Major League Baseball's spring training. For those of you who know me, I am a die hard Toronto Blue Jays fan; One year I will make my own dream come true, cross one off the bucket list, and spend a week in Dunedin, Florida and watch my favourite sports team play in sunny spring training baseball. But aside from myself, and other fans, it really is all about the boys on the playing ground. That's what the fans are there to see anyway.

One thing I tend to hear when it comes to spring training, and I am guilty of this as well, is that nothing matters at this point in baseball season and it is "Just spring training". This has proven true, as I'll use my team as an example, the Blue Jays have held middle to lead of the pack winning percentages during spring training. In 2012 the Blue Jays finished with a record of 24-7, with a 0.774 winning percentage, which topped the majors by a whopping 6 game win advantage over the next team. That regular season, the Blue Jays went on to finish a disgusting 20 games back of a playoff spot. This did have a lot to do with the loss of star player Jose Bautista who has been unfortunately plagued by injury over the past two seasons... I digress. On a side note, Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has a career batting average of .244%, but in the 2014 spring training season through 15 games, he is batting .468%, almost double his career average. Just goes to show what can be done in these meaningless games.

Now take into considerations the players fighting for their life to make it onto the team, these games mean absolutely everything to these men. To guys like mentioned Jose Bautista spring training is a cake walk, and this year he earned himself a home run on his first at bat of spring. But for Marcus Stroman, a twenty-two year old right handed pitcher for the Blue Jays has a block on his shoulders every time he heads to the mound.

Marcus Stroman spent his minor league career in single A baseball, playing for the affiliated Vancouver Canadians. Approximately half way through the Canadians season, he was promoted to AA New Hampshire to play 15 more games earning  3-0 record and 23 strikeouts.

This is the second year Stroman is hitting the mound for the team in spring, but last year he failed to land a roster spot. He unfortunately ran into some trouble when he got tagged with a 50 game suspension due to substance inhalation. He took a stimulant that was found in an over the counter supplement that was illegal against the Major League's drug program. Unknowingly, but accepting, Stroman took the suspension and looked to use it towards his advantage.

As mentioned, all star players enter spring just trying to tune up their game, including pitchers. Blue Jays starting pitching was bolstered last year in some major off season deals and pick ups, which now fills three out of the five available spots in the rotation. Stroman is just one of five men battling for the two remaining spots so he lays his heart and soul on the line every opportunity he can get. Stroman is still young, and he has a lot to learn as he admitted saying this in an interview with a writer from Minor League Baseball "I've been developing for a few years. Learning how to get hitters out. Becoming more of a pitcher, not just go out there and try and strike people out but learn how to set people up and hit my spots"

This spring he is not proving himself the way he wants to be, but that is all a part of the pressure and how you bounce back from it. He is still in the mix for a final spot as part of the Blue Jays starting rotation, and he does get to dawn the Jay on his chest for the spring, which is an honour amongst itself. Give Marcus Stroman credit, he was a part of a Blue Jay spring training team at the ripe age of twenty-one and he has a very long road ahead of him

2014 is going to be a very interesting year for the Toronto Blie Jays as it will be a transitioning year, which holds true for Stroman as well.

As for the true meaning for spring training, it all comes to the fans coming to enjoy themselves, grab a ten dollar beer, and maybe a sun burn. For the players it is a major tune up, or a chance of a lifetime to earn a spot on a major league team. As for myself I will keep my dreams alive as I will one day spend some time in sunny Floridato take in some spring time Major League Baseball!