Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Co-Editor Bill Morphy and contributions from Jordan Moss, Bill & Glen Myles, Howard Steiss, Carl Bauer and Peter Hucul. This week, the Blue Jays fall short, World Cup soccer hopes rise while the Seahawks season is in peril.
What Could Have Been – Nothing bugs me more than when fans, disappointed at missing the playoffs, say, Oh well, we’ll get ‘em next year! If you’ve been around sports for any length of time, you know there’s no next year. Any number of factors can prevent a team from contending. I heard the same garbage after the Canucks missed out on the Cup in 2011. Well, it’s been ten years and the Canucks haven’t had a sniff since then. As soon as the Blue Jays were eliminated from the playoffs last Sunday, out came the optimistic prognostications to cover up everyone’s bitter disappointment. The glass half-full cry is the Jays are a young team with a bright future and they will be right back in contention next year. Maybe. The glass half-empty view is it was a wasted opportunity in a year when they had an MVP candidate, a potential Cy Young award winner, seven players hit 20 or more home runs, four with more than 100 RBI’s and a middle infielder club 45 home runs, an MLB record for second basemen. The reality is there are no guarantees. Grab the ring when you can. The hard truth is…the Jays were playing as good as any team in baseball at season’s end. Had they reached the post-season, there’s no telling how far they could have gone. That’s the bitter part. We will never know.
To think the Jays posted 91 wins and still finished fourth in the American League East is hard to fathom. With that record, they would have finished first in the National League East and in second place in three other divisions. Can you imagine their record if they played in the American League Central? How different things would have been had the Jays played in Toronto all season? The Jays went 25-11 (.694) at Rogers Centre. They were 12-11 (.522) in Buffalo and 10-11 (.476) in Dunedin. If you want answers why they fell short by only one game, there’s reason number one.
It certainly didn’t help that centerfielder George Springer played in only 78 games, less than half the season. Early on, when Springer was out of the lineup, at-bats went to Rowdy Tellez, Josh Palacios, Jonathan Davis, Joe Panik and Cavan Biggio and the results were underwhelming. Losing Kirby Yates and David Phelps to season-ending injuries left the bullpen short-staffed right off the hop. The Jays used 38 different pitchers this season. There was a long succession of arms who failed to produce – Tyler Chatwood, Joel Payamps, Rafael Dolis, Trent Thornton, Anthony Castro, Jacob Barnes, Jeremey Beasley, Carl Edwards Jr., T.J. Zeuch and Tanner Roark. May they RIP!
The Jays completely annihilated the Baltimore Orioles in the final two series between the two teams. In the last six meetings, the Jays outscored Baltimore 72-28. The Baltimore pitching staff looked like they were throwing softballs up to the plate. The Washington Nationals relief corps in the season-ending series against the Red Sox was similarly laughable. A lot of these pitchers have no right being in the major leagues. They come out of the bullpen and can’t throw a strike. It’s painful to watch.
More Bitter Than Sweet – Sorry, but the way things came down on the final day of the MLB season just didn’t sit right. Can someone please explain what the Tampa Rays were thinking in the season finale in New York against the Yankees? Here’s the situation. Game tied 0-0. Bottom of the ninth. The Yanks with runners on second and third with one out. First base is open with the Yankees best hitter, Aaron Judge, at the plate. This is Baseball 101. The obvious move it to put him on, set up the double play and the force play at home plate. What do the Rays do? They elect to pitch to Judge. He drills a base hit and delivers the winning run. Curious non-move to say the least. The Jays-Orioles game had concluded so the Rays knew the outcome. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist but did the analytics-driven Rays suddenly figure it would be better to face the Yankees in the ALDS than the Blue Jays? It would not surprise me! No one wanted to face the Blue Jays in the post-season, not with that lineup and three high quality starting pitchers.
MLB Notebook – For the life of me, I cannot understand why batters stand at home plate and admire would-be home runs. It took the Yankees Giancarlo Stanton 14 seconds to get to first base when he hit what he thought was a home run in the wild-card game against the Red Sox. The ball hit off the Green Monster and Stanton was held to a single on what was easily a stand-up double. You simply can’t make bonehead plays like that in the post-season. The Yankees have not beaten the Red Sox in a playoff game since 1978. The Yanks flew Bucky Dent in from Florida for the game as some kind of good luck charm. Gave him great seats. Bucky didn’t put a Dent in the outcome.
Only one pitcher in the majors won 20 games this season. Julio Urias of the Dodgers went 20-3. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals won 17 games. Only five pitchers in MLB won 15 games or more. That’s how bad the pitching has become. Not a single player in the majors had 200 hits.
It’s hard to believe but the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers are meeting for the first time ever in a playoff series.
The Dodgers trade for Mookie Betts is looking more and more suspect. Marcus Semien of the Blue Jays had 22 more home runs this season than Betts. He also had 44 more RBI’s and scored 22 more runs. Semien earned $18 million. Betts pocketed $32 mil.
Canucks This Week – The Canucks season kicks off Wednesday in Edmonton. It’s the first of six straight on the road to open the 2021-2022 season. Having lost five times during the exhibition schedule, it certainly looks like the Canucks are preparing for another slow start. You know where that got them last season. It’s not a great way to generate hope and optimism.
When you look over the new contract for Elias Pettersson, the timing of the deal should work in the Canucks favour. When Pettersson’s deal expires in three years, that’s when the NHL salary cap is expected to take a big leap upward. His qualifying number in the final year of the contract will be over $9 million dollars. That will set the bar when Pettersson will be one year away from unrestricted free agency.
It looks like the Canucks will start the season with J. T. Miller playing centre. He’s been there throughout training camp and the exhibition games. It certainly gives the team tremendous depth down the middle. A third line with Jason Dickinson and Vasily Podkolzin would be formidable.
You are never going to bat 1.000 at the draft table but it’s clear now the Canucks swung and missed in the second round of the 2017 NHL draft. After landing Pettersson in the opening round, the Canucks selected forward Kole Lind with one of two picks in the second round, 33rd overall. They grabbed winger Jonah Gadjovich later in the round, 55th overall. Lind was placed on waivers this week by Seattle. The Canucks waived Gadjovich who was promptly picked up by San Jose. Can’t understand how the Canucks would let Gadjovich get away! Several teams reportedly showed interest. You couldn’t get a late round draft pick for him? The kid is 6-2, 200 pounds and will drop the gloves. He’s improved his skating and had scored 27 goals in his last 56 AHL games. You let him go and keep Alex Chaisson who was in camp on a PTO? Dumb! In selecting Lind, the Canucks missed out on several other forwards including Jason Robertson of Dallas, the Senators Alex Formenton, Alex Texier of Columbus, Jack Studnicka of Boston and Anaheim’s Maxime Comtois.
NHL Notebook – The Jack Eichel situation in Buffalo is horse-bleep. Eichel is looking at another season on the sidelines with the Sabres refusing to allow him to have disc replacement surgery in his neck. It’s turned out to be one of the ugliest break-ups in NHL history. No wonder former teammate Robin Lehner came to Eichel’s defense on Twitter. The Sabres are letting Eichel twist in the wind. It’s a complete stalemate. They‘ve removed him as captain. In a positive step forward, the Sabres are now letting other teams review Eichel’s medical records. Considering his murky status, you can be sure any deal will include conditional draft picks.
The Calgary Flames should get into the Eichel sweepstakes. When you have to face the Edmonton Oilers two-headed monster at centre eight times a season, you need a big presence in the middle to combat the one-two punch.
When you are making close to $11 million a season, you need to deliver. Mitch Marner plays on the Leafs first power-play yet he failed to score a single goal with the man advantage last season. Think about that for a minute! He’s got to be the most overpaid player in the NHL. He’s certainly not a shoo-in for my Olympic team.
L.A. Kings center Quinton Byfield is out indefinitely with an ankle fracture. Last year’s number two overall pick has yet to make any impact. It’s looking more and more like Tim Stutzle, chosen third by Ottawa, was the better pick.
The COVID File – San Jose Sharks bubblehead Evander Kane is under investigation again. This time for allegedly using a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. Reports say the NHL is looking into whether Kane submitted a fake card. Under U.S. federal law, any person that purchases, sells or produces a fake vaccination card can face up to five years in jail. It’s just one more mark on Kane’s star-crossed career. He’s had quite the summer. Kane was accused of betting on games by his estranged wife as well as allegations of sexual abuse.
Edmonton Oilers forward Josh Archibald, a vocal anti-vaxer, has been diagnosed with myocarditis. Archibald contracted COVID over the summer and was the only unvaccinated player on the team. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and it’s been linked to health issues in COVID long-haulers.
Brooklyn Nets Rhodes Scholar Kyrie Irving is refusing to get vaccinated. Under current health protocols in New York State, Irving will not be allowed to play home games in Brooklyn. It will cost him $380,000 per game. This is what he had to say remotely at the team’s media day. “I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court.” When I think of leaders, I always think of Kyrie. We suspect he got his degree from the University of Facebook Medical School. He’s clearly a medical expert.
Of course, we can’t forget our native son Andrew Wiggins. He has now received a COVID-19 vaccination but says “he was forced to” in order to play this season with the Golden State Warriors. Health officials in San Francisco will require proof of vaccination for large indoor events starting on October 13 which meant Wiggins would not be allowed into Chase Center for home games. Meantime, the NBA has announced unvaccinated players will be docked salary for missing any games due to local vaccine regulations. Wiggins is set to earn $31 million this season. He would have forfeited nearly half of that if he missed the team’s 41 home games. Regarding the mandate, Wiggins had this to say. “I guess you don’t own your own body. That’s what it comes down to. If you want to work in society today, then I guess they made the rules of what goes into your body and what you do. Hopefully, there’s a lot of people out there that are stronger than me and keep fighting, stand for what they believe, and hopefully, it works out for them.” Whatever you say Andrew!
Visiting NBA players who are unvaccinated will be allowed to play in Toronto this season under a National Interest Exemption. However, they will be restricted to Scotiabank Arena and the team hotel. They will have to pass a COVID test when they arrive in Canada. The Raptors say their entire team has now been vaccinated.
Seahawks This Week – The Seahawks season is hanging in the balance following the injury to Russell Wilson against the L.A. Rams. Wilson flew down to Los Angeles to have surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Doctors repaired a ruptured tendon and a fracture-dislocation. Wilson will miss the up to eight weeks including the first game of his remarkably durable NFL career. It remains to be seen if Geno Smith can hold things together until Russ is back. Seattle is entering a manageable stretch of the schedule. The Seahawks play at Pittsburgh next weekend, followed by home games against New Orleans and Jacksonville before the bye week.
The Rams simply own the Seahawks, winning 10 of their last 13 meetings. The Rams are on a Super Bowl-or-bust mission this season. The Super Bowl will be played in SoFi Stadium, their new grand palace, so you know they want to be there. The script for the Seahawks is getting pretty tired. They can’t put together a solid 60-minute effort. The Hawks are dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and dead last in time of possession. That’s a pretty serious indictment. Last Sunday in San Francisco, the 49’ers outgained Seattle 457-234 with 23 first downs. The Seahawks had only 14.
In case you are wondering, the Seahawks still owe the New York Jets another first round pick as a result of the Jamal Adams deal. The way the season is developing, it could be a top-15 selection. The Seahawks can’t seem to figure out how to use Adams best. He has no sacks after setting an NFL record last season for defensive backs with 9.5 sacks. Adams has not been blitzing as often this season and he’s been burned repeatedly in the passing game.
Have you noticed that Seattle’s top draft picks can never stay healthy? This year’s top selection, second rounder Dee Eskridge, appeared in only one game before going on IR with lingering concussion issues. Last year’s second round pick, defensive end Darrell Taylor, never played a down because of a leg injury. 2019 first round pick L.J. Collier played in only 11 games as a rookie and had no sacks. Second rounder Marquise Blair played in 14 games but saw little action other than special teams. Blair then missed all of 2020 with a torn ACL. 2018 first round pick Rashaad Penny has been plagued by injuries every year since entering the league. The 2017 top pick, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, was waived before playing a single game for the Seahawks following a serious ATV accident. McDowell now starts for Cleveland. Sorry, but we are no longer defending John Schneider’s draft record.
NFL Notebook – The Arizona Cardinals are the last remaining unbeaten team in the NFL at 4-0. The Cardinals shredded the L.A. Rams defense for 465 yards in their upset win last weekend. Kyler Murray is the early MVP favourite. It was the Cards first win vs. Sean McVay in nine tries. Arizona hosts the 49’ers on Sunday which should see them remain unbeaten. Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo is out with a calf injury.
If you are a young quarterback struggling to make your mark in the NFL, do you think it matters to have a great head coach to work with? Jared Goff, who was run out of Los Angeles, only to land with the Lions in Detroit, is 0-11 in starts where Sean McVay is not his head coach.
The Seahawks should be happy that Josh Gordon signed with Kansas City. The Chiefs can deal with the problem-child because, chances are it won’t end well. Since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2012, Gordon has been suspended by the NFL six times. He’s had two team suspensions and on two other occasions, Gordon bolted his team for personal reasons. He’s played a total of 63 games. He’s been suspended for 63 games. We’re all for second chances, but at what point do you cut the cord on this guy altogether?
After watching the Monday night game between the Raiders and the Chargers, I now understand why the Seahawks cut veteran linebacker K.J. Wright. His coverage skills are gone. Wright was victimized on a screen play to running back Austin Ekeler that went for a touchdown.
Golf Roundup – Canadians are in contention this weekend on the various tours. Brooke Henderson is T11 heading into the final round of the Cognizant Founders Cup in West Caldwell, New Jersey. Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin sits T7 at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas. Veteran Mike Weir is playing in the Constellation Furyk & Friends Champions Tour event in Jacksonville, Florida. Weir is T8.
Ka’Ching, Ka’Ching – If you play on the PGA Tour, it would be a good idea to avoid missing too many cuts. The cost of doing business for a star player is astronomical. According to industry insiders, a top-30-ranked Tour player can spend well into seven figures on annual costs. Here’s the breakdown according to GOLF Magazine:
On average, Tour players dig into their wallet for about $200 per week for tips for, among others, locker-room attendants, baggage handlers, bellhops and housekeepers.
Private Chef: $25,000
Hey, you gotta eat! Few elite players have full-time private chefs — but they often hire them, and those services go for $3,000 to $5,000 a week.
No pain, no gain. You don’t need to be a pumpster like Bryson but you do need to be in top shape. It’s one expense you can’t scrimp on.
Physio/Massage Therapy: $150,000
At the game’s highest level, staying limber is priceless. Also, pricey.
Top players have a swing coach, a short game coach and of course, a mental coach. Contract structures vary but you are looking at some serious cash for your team of coaches.
Whether it’s a rental home and or a high-end hotel suite, the annual tab for accommodations is not cheap. Top players are not staying at the local Motel 6.
Top-ranked players are not flying coach. You are looking at first-class tickets or private jets and don’t forget, the golfing elite are winging around the globe to a couple dozen tournaments annually. The tab adds up quick.
Top caddies earn a base fee of $2,500 a week, plus 10 percent of prize money on a win, 8 percent on a top-10 finish and 6 percent on everything else. Do the math! If a top player is doing well, the caddie is going to cash in too.
Total: $1.88-$2.08 million
Leftovers – How can you not get excited about Canada’s men’s soccer team as they continue down the road to qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar? Four games into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying and Canada remains unbeaten. They rallied to earn an unlikely 1-1 tie at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Thursday. It was Canada’s first goal at Azteca Stadium in 41 years. Canada (1-0-3) sits in third spot heading into Sunday’s game in Jamaica. They return home to face Panama at BMO Field in Toronto on Wednesday. Two victories would go a long way to punching their ticket to Qatar with the top three teams earning berths. Thursday’s game in Mexico was again delayed as a result of homeopathic slurs from the crowd of 85,000. This is the second such incident and soccer bodies have done little in response. Mexican fans have been known to throw balloons filled with urine at opposing players or better yet, soiled baby’s diapers. Classy bunch!
What’s happened to the CFL’s once-proud Edmonton Eskimos franchise? They bow to pressure and change the name to the Elks and it’s been downhill ever since. On Friday night, Trevor Harris had 87 yards passing as Edmonton got waxed by Winnipeg. The mighty Elks are now 2-6.
The Toronto Raptors are always ahead of the curve. They are experimenting with lineups where every player is at least 6-5 or 6-6. Long arms on defense. Great transition offense. The Raptors second unit this season could look like this most nights. Once again, Masai Ujiri is an innovator and watch the imitators follow. When scouting players, the Toronto front office has a mould and target players with certain qualities and attributes. Two of this year’s projects are Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie. Banton was taken in the second round, 46th overall, in this year’s draft. He’s the first Canadian ever selected by the Raptors. Banton grew up in Rexdale and at 6-9, he’s got the length to be very disruptive. The fact he can play guard is sure to create match-up problems. Champagnie is the Raptors latest undrafted gem. At 6-6, the rookie from Pitt looks like a defensive stopper with a knack for rebounding. Both may see time with the Raptors G League team this season but the early returns are very positive. No other organization can match the Raptors when it comes to identifying diamonds in the rough.
A group of 18 former NBA players have been charged with defrauding the league’s health benefit plan. The scam involved claiming fictitious medical and dental expenses. All told, the players pocketed about $2.5 million. Investigators found that players, in many cases, were nowhere near the location where they were supposedly being treated. One player was playing in Taiwan when he claimed to have received $48,000 worth of root canals and crowns at a Beverley Hills dental office.
The conspiracy was led by Terrence Williams, a former NBA first round pick. He reportedly recruited former players to defraud the plan and provided fraudulent invoices from a chiropractor and dentist in Southern California and a wellness center in Washington State. At least ten former players paid Williams kickbacks totaling $230,000. Among those charged are former Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen. The Grizzlies were planning to retire Allen’s number at a ceremony on January 28. Safe to say, that won’t be happening.
Spotify Songs of the Week – Here’s a few recommendations among songs we have added to our Spotify playlists recently. The soundtrack from the Jakob Dylan documentary Echo in the Canyon is worth checking out. A couple of tracks we like are “Questions,” “Goin’ Back” and “It Won’t Be Wrong.” If you like Jakob Dylan’s voice better than his old man’s, check out his solo album Seeing Things and the track “All Day and All Night.”
We somehow stumbled onto an album called bwb Groovin. Check out a track entitled “Let’s Do It Again” featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater. Very cool!
And finally, from the St Germain release Tourist, check out “Sure Thing.” They took John Lee Hooker’s voice and turned it into a hit.
YouTube Artist of the Week – From out of the archives, we have Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker, from 1992, performing “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”
I’ve always been a big fan of Shelby Lynne. Here she is Live at Daryl’s House performing “Leaving.”
We hope you are enjoying Under Further Review. If you have friends or family members who enjoy sports, please take a moment and direct them to the website at https://underfurtherreview.ca/ and encourage them to subscribe.