By Rob Ficiur
On the last day of school, children race home to share their marks with their parents (sometimes they race sometimes they might claim there are no report cards any more). If the sporting world got report cards, some would want their parents to see their marks; others would intentionally forget to share their final grade.
A- Marco Estrada is the Toronto Blue Jays “Fifth best starter.” Baseball sets up their pitching rotation and follows quite carefully a five game rotations. Estrada was added to the rotation in late April after rookie Daniel Norris was sent to the minors. Estrada must have forgotten he is “only” a fifth pitcher. He has pitched no hit baseball into the eighth inning in his last two starts. The last time this was done was back in 1988, by Dave Stieb. This is same Dave Stieb threw the Blue Jays only no hitter in 1990.
A – Toronto Blue Jays – Their team record for the month of June is 18 wins and 7 losses. The team went from a .442 winning percentage to a .532. They were five games out of a playoff spot – and right now they are one half game out of a playoff spot. While they got hot in June, so did the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. Had the Jays not been hot in June, the dog days of summer would have been miserable (again) for Jays’ fans.
A – Bob Hartley – Calgary Flames Coach and NHL Coach of the Year – Bob Hartley won the Stanley Cup in 2001 with a talented Colorado Avalanche hockey team. This year Bob’s Calgary Flames did something more remarkable. The 2001 Avalanche had five future Hall of Famers on it, the 2015 Flames were expected to be a bottom feeder. Instead the Flames’ players bought into Hartley’s vision of hard work. When a coach gets modern day athletes to put work ahead of ego – he deserves an A.
B Cleveland Cavaliers – Lebron James was the first player ever to lead the NBA finals in points (35.8 per game), assists (8.8 per game) and rebounds (13.3) per game. Lebron should get an A+ for his effort, but the problem is basketball is a team sport. Injuries left Lebron the lone Cleveland star in the finals. Despite all of Lebron’s records, Gold State won the NBA championship because they were a better team.
B- NHL expansion – I am one of the fans who likes the idea of the NHL expanding to new markets that are ready. This week the NHL announced the process they will use to award expansion franchises. The five prime contenders for a new franchise are: Quebec City, Toronto, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Seattle. Las Vegas and Quebec City have arenas that will be ready for the 2016-2017 season; and owners with deep pockets.
Expansion to these five cities would balance the NHL across all / most regions of North America. Last year Canadians made up 50.3% of NHL players and Americans were second with 24.7%. The rest of the world has enough good hockey players to do more than 25% of NHL rosters.
The NHL has weak teams in Phoenix, Florida and Carolina. Don’t create five expansion teams because in a year or two one of these weak sisters will need to move to a place that will support NHL hockey.
C Three on three overtime is coming to the NHL next year. It will be exciting – so for that they should / will get an A. The reason for the move deserves an F, which is why this all gets a C. The NHL does not want the shoot-out – so to avoid shootouts, officials expect a three on three overtime will find a winner more often than not. First of all get rid of the point you give the losing team. No other pro sports gives the losing team a point.
F – Blue Jays Closer – Without a big league closer the Jays have blown 12 late inning leads this year already. A save is when a pitcher finishes a game the team was leading. This year the Blue Jays have 12 saves in 24 save opportunities. Twelve times they have blown an 8th or 9th inning lead. A 75% save rate would give the team six more wins and first place in their division. A 75% save rate for a big league closer is not very good. The Jays are so close to making the playoffs, they have the best hitting in baseball by far. Get a closer who can save those meaningful close games that they hope will be coming in September and October.