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Under Further Review – This week, we say so long to Bro Jake who signs off the air today for the final time. We check in on why the Canucks offense has been so anemic, plus a closer look at why baseball is not the game it used to be. 

Brother Jake is Gone – A Great One is signing off today for the final time.  Bro Jake Edwards will put the wraps on his distinguished radio career today with a final show on TSN 1040 in Vancouver. He’s entertained listeners from one coast to the other. It’s been a great run for Jake highlighted by his induction this year into the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame. In his honour, we will let the Neville Brothers provide the tribute.

Greasy Goals – I have been harping on the Canucks lack of scoring, particularly in the bottom six.  Well, a deeper dive into the analytics that are available in today’s game tells you the full story about their pop-gun offence.

The Canucks finished 30th in the league last season when it came to average shot distance (their average shot distance was over 39 feet), rebounds, tip shots and tip goals.  All of these stats clearly show the Canucks inability to get to the net and score the so-called ‘greasy’ goals.

The Canucks were also 29th in the league with just 3.9% of their shots taken with a screen in front of the goalie. Rebounds accounted for only 5.7% of their scoring chances. It pretty much tells the story of why they have trouble scoring. It’s a big problem and it will be interesting to see if the additions they made this summer solves the problem. J.T. Miller was 12th among all NHL forwards last season in winning offensive zone puck battles. He certainly fits the mold of the type of player they needed to add.

Canada’s Sweetheart – The performance by Brooke Henderson last Saturday at the Canadian Women’s Open had to be one of the finest by any athlete in Canada this year and perhaps the greatest by any female Canadian golfer in history. Henderson played the last 11 holes in nine under par and posted a 29 on the back nine. She went from 8 strokes behind to just 2 behind at the end of the round.  Unfortunately, she could not close the gap on Sunday but it was an amazing stretch of golf by the 21 year old phenom.

The Winnipeg Debacle – I would love to see Winnipeg football fans launch a class action suit demanding their money back in the wake of the NFL exhibition game played there. The Toronto-based agency who promoted the game completely misread the market and charged $250+ for tickets. We should not have been surprised that they only sold about 20,000. The promotional ads promised fans would see Aaron Rodgers and Antonio Brown and, of course, neither played a down. The whole exercise was a complete debacle. Why we want to bring NFL exhibition games to Canada is a mystery to me.  Diehard season ticket holders in NFL cities are not interested in paying big ticket prices to see their OWN teams play exhibition games.

The State of Baseball – In case you haven’t noticed, major league baseball is in big trouble. Attendance and TV ratings are down and it’s easy to see why. Strikeouts are an epidemic and the game is no longer fun to watch.

In a 10-year period from 2009 to 2018, the number of balls in play dropped by over ten thousand a season. That’s more than four balls in play per game. The current Blue Jays, as an example, strike out 9.11 times per game. A decade ago, that number was 6.35 per game. When they won the World Series in 1993, the Jays struck out 5.3 times per game.  That’s a 71% increase over a 26-year period.

Launch angle is all the rage in baseball today.  Any fool can hit 20 home runs. It’s OK to hit .225 with 180 strikeouts as long as you hit 25 bombs. The bottom line is there are fewer balls in play and fewer base runners but there are a record number of strikeouts and home runs. Not sure that’s the recipe for great baseball.  Anybody off the street could be a major league manager today because all you have to do is sit back and wait for a three-run homer.

Contrast all this with the amazing career of Joe Sewell who played in the majors from 1920 until 1933.  Sewell holds three major league records that will probably never be broken – fewest strikeouts in a single season (3), most consecutive games without a strikeout (115) and the lowest strikeout rate in major league history, striking out an average of only once every 62.5 at-bats which is roughly once every 12 games. Today’s players can only dream of being able to make that kind of consistent contact. I’m told Sewell credited his hand-eye coordination to his childhood when he would walk around with rocks in his pants and a broomstick and periodically throw a rock in the air and hit it with the stick.

Bullet Bob – If I had to pick the greatest pitcher in baseball history, I don’t think I would hesitate to name Bob Gibson.  The big St. Louis right-hander had a 1.12 ERA over the entire 1968 season.  He started nine World Series games and pitched nine complete games, seven of them wins. Gibson played 17 seasons and racked up 251 wins, 3,117 strikeouts, and a 2.91 ERA for his career. Those were the days when pitching and defense actually meant something in baseball. If you happened to get a hit off Gibson, chances are, next time up, you would see one in the ribs.

As a result of Gibson’s incredible 1968 season, major league baseball instituted a rule change the following season, lowering the mound by five inches from 15” to 10” and reduced the height of the strike zone from the batter’s armpits to the jersey letters. Perhaps most significantly, Gibson, along with Bill White and Curt Flood, led a civil rights movement in baseball that ended segregation in the clubhouse and in hotel rooms.

Buzzard Luck – Can you believe the response from Colts fans to the news leak that Andrew Luck was retiring?  Word filtered out via social media during a Colts home exhibition game and fans basically booed Luck off the field even though he was in street clothes. I guess the fans forget that he was sacked 167 times over a three-year period, leaving him battered and bruised and incapable of continuing what would have probably been a Hall of Fame career. The Colts go from a team that was a sure-fire playoff team to a team that will be lucky to win six or seven games.

Chip Shots

  • You should feel sorry for Bill Guerin who was just named the new General Manager of the Minnesota Wild. His first challenge will be to try and make the Wild younger.  Guerin has been retired for nine years, yet he played against five current Wild veterans – Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu and Devan Dubnyk.
  • My good friend Joe in White Rock has the right idea. He pines for the day when an owner stands up and stops letting the inmates run the asylum. In the case of Antonio Brown of the Oakland Raiders and his ridiculous helmet controversy, the owner should just say “get your ass on the field or don’t expect a pay cheque and if you don’t like it, sue me. I have more money than you do.”
  • Goodbye to Marco Estrada who was released by the Oakland A’s this week. Estrada made six post-season starts for the Blue Jays covering a total of 41 and two-third’s innings – almost seven innings per start – and had a 2.16 ERA.  He was money for the Jays in the 2015-2016 post seasons and will be remembered fondly.
  • How about Calgary’s Mike Soroka, who at just 22, is putting together a fantastic rookie season with the Atlanta Braves. He’s 10-and-3 with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 147.2 innings. He would have even more wins if he had more run support. Soroka was chosen 28th overall in the 2015 MLB draft and it hasn’t taken him long to establish himself in the bigs.
  • The BC Lions season is on the skids and the fans are taking notice.  Attendance at their last home game against the Ticats was 16,751.  Ouch!
  • The Seattle Seahawks roster is so deep you are going to see several players of note released when rosters are trimmed from 90 to 53.  Already, there are reports that quarterback Paxton Lynch and defensive back DeShawn Shead have been released. There will be several tough roster decisions to make in the next week. Shaquem Griffin, who was such a nice story last year, is likely to be placed on injured reserve to make room for rookie linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven. Also on the bubble are veteran linebacker Bartevious Mingo, tight end Ed Dickson and running back J.D. McKissic.

Video Vault – This week, we turn back the clock and find a vintage performance from Tom Jones and Janis Joplin doing a raucous rendition of “Raise Your Hand”.  You have to love the people dancing in the background. Very groovy, baby!