Hallelujah, It’s Friday, which can only mean one thing: time once again for The Round Bus with Ann Ward. Unfortunately, Ann couldn’t join us this week, but we managed to find a capable substitute in the person of Sean Cranbury. Sean is the regulator of Books on the Radio Projects, curator of the Real Vancouver Writers’ Series, and an organizer of Bookcamp Vancouver. He imagines himself to be a rangey shortstop with sneaky power, a solid OBP and some Gold Glove defensive skills. He lives in East Vancouver, but was good enough to make a hellacious commute east to join us on the bus, where we talked about postseason baseball, the return of “reputable” officiating in the NFL, reckless NHLers, and more. All aboard the Round Bus! All except Spry, that is, who is lost in Vegas, presumably up to his eyeballs in Gonzo-esque excess. Pray for him.
Baseball playoff time. Your picks, please?
Cranbury - I have Detroit coming out of the AL. But WTF on the A’s! They could be a lot of trouble! The Yanks will choke again this year, let down by weak pitching, listless hitting and PED testing. The O’s and the Rangers for a single game wild card playoff? Are you kidding me? That is insane. I’ll take the O’s in that.
I like Cincinnati out of the senior circuit. The NL is much more interesting to me this year. I like what San Francisco has done. Washington is too young, and Atlanta is just too lame.
Also, I’d like to see Dusty Baker bring his Reds team to the Motor City to battle Jim Leyland’s Tigers. Those two managers both deserve another kick at the can and it would be great theatre to watch them battle on the game’s biggest stage.
Tigers win the World Series in 7 games. Verlander gets the WS MVP with 2 wins (games 1 and 4) and a save (game 7).
Ibeas – Anyone but the Rangers. That Yu Darvish/Jays drama made me incredibly tired, and I can’t in good conscience support a team that has ever had anything to do George W. Bush. I know I shouldn’t hold that kind of thing against a mere sports franchise, but what can I say? I’m a big picture kind of guy.
Forbes – Yes, this is good. This is an exciting year. I have the O’s getting by the Rangers, because a one game playoff (or “Wild Card Game” as they’re now apparently known) will expose Ron Washington’s penchant for boneheaded decisions. Oakland and Detroit is a total crapshoot because nobody knows what the A’s are capable of doing. They’ve gone rogue! I think that’s ultimately Detroit’s series, but it’ll take four or the full five. Yanks bow to the O’s in a total grudge series — really, things will get ugly — and the O’s and Tigers meet in the ALCS. How awesome would that be? Tigers are built for the playoffs, though. They’ll advance.
Everything about these NL playoffs has me excited. I love the Reds. I think it breaks down like this: Cards beat the Braves in the WC, take the Nationals deep into a series but lose. Reds over Giants, and then Cincy outmuscles the young Nats in the NLCS, but not before Bryce Harper has done something astonishing that we’re still talking about in 50 years. I don’t know, climbs the scoreboard to take a homer away from Votto? Something like that
So, a Reds-Tigers World Series. In 1940 the Reds beat the Tigers in 7 games. I think this year it’s the other way around, but I’m looking forward to a classic matchup, really one for the ages.
God, I love the baseball playoffs.
Orti – I know everyone’s probably thinking that the four teams on top right now are probably going to be the four teams at the top at the end of the season, but I’m still holding out for Newcastle United. Chelsea is Chelsea but they’re without Drogba and who knows what they’ll be like at the end of the city. ManCity is on the outs with Balotelli – as is ManU with some key midfielders and these rifts could upset the chemistry of both squads and open some doors for Newcastle. The real saga is Demba Ba right now and the transfer window that opens up for him in January, though I wouldn’t be so discontented if that resulted in a trade for Andy Carroll who started his career with the army. The Toon Army that is,
And time to think about personal awards — best guesses for AL and NL MVP and Cy Young awards?
Cranbury – How can Cabrera NOT win the AL MVP? Seriously! Mike Trout has had an amazing year and his presence on my fantasy team has helped me immensely but he hasn’t done enough for me to consider him the MVP. He hasn’t dragged his team into the postseason. A month or so ago everyone had written the Tigers off and handed the AL central title to the White Sox. Cabrera was having none of that. He’s the AL MVP.
AL Cy Young is a tough one. I love watching Jered Weaver pitch. He’s got a lot of heart and a nasty repertoire. David Price is a beast and Verlander is the best pitcher in the game right now. It’s tight but I’m going with Verlander again. He’s the complete package.
NL MVP is Buster Posey. That guy is magic and he earns extra love from me for having to come back from that brutal knee injury that he had last season. The Giants could have folded after Melky got nabbed for PEDs but Posey stepped in and didn’t let that happen. Ryan Braun is a douche and I don’t need to see his face anywhere for any reason. Andrew McCutchen is awesome and I love his style and he was a huge part of that burgeoning Pirates team that ultimately fell short. Posey got his team to the dance, he’s the MVP.
NL Cy Young has to go to RA Dickey. Great story, nasty knuckleball and a HUGE waiver wire acquisition for my fantasy team. Gio Gonzalez looked amazing this year in Washington but he doesn’t have the narrative that Dickey does.
Forbes – Despite my impassioned yet reasonable argument for Mike Trout, I do believe the AL MVP belongs to Cabrera. Verlander gets his second straight Cy Young.
In the NL, I was so primed for McCutchen to keep up his midseason performance and win an MVP for Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t to be. Buster Posey deserves it. Hell of a year. The Cy Young belongs to RA Dickey. Gio Gonzalez was great, but he wasn’t even the most high profile starter on his team. Dickey’s the guy.
(Wow, Sean, great minds, huh? There’s some comfort in knowing that if we’re wrong, we’re wrong together.)
Orti – Right now. Demba Ba. After all, he’s leading the EPL in goals. A lot can change though and he’s having the same start to this season as he did last season. The problem is if Demba Ba ends this season the way he ended last season, which was in a goal drought.
Ibeas – Cabrera for AL MVP. He may be a wife-beating alcoholic, but that won’t negate his Triple Crown season. How weird is it that, of the handful of players to accomplish the feat, he’s not even the most reprehensible Tiger on the list?
As for the rest, I have no opinion. Well, it would be nice to see Jeff Weaver win Cy Young. The guy’s been more or less one of the best pitchers in the league from the moment he was called up, yet he’s so under the radar. I can’t help but root for him, just as I rooted for Halladay.
The Miami Marlins give Adam Greenberg one at bat in response to a petition, seven years after Greenberg was struck in the head by the first Major League pitch he ever saw. Feel-good story of the season, or naked marketing ploy?
Ibeas – Since I’m all happy and stuff right now, I’d like to give the Marlins the benefit of the doubt in this case. For all the flack we give professional sports franchises for being amoral corporate abominations, they are still run by people, and occasionally those people have hearts.
Case in point, the actual feel-good story of the season.
Cranbury – The Marlins are great. Just a good solid organization that makes sensible decisions based on thoughtful evaluations. Heath Bell? Great signing. Adam Greenberg? Blatant attempt to generate some good will after an utterly laughable season.
Forbes – Again, yeah, I agree with Sean here. It’s just such a camera-ready moment, and so carefully orchestrated, that it sets off my cynicism alarm. I’m sure Greenberg is a nice guy, deserving and all that, but the one day contract and late-game insertion are just too gimmicky. It lacked the charm of a truly hucksterish move, like 3’7” Eddie Gaedel’s single at bat for Bill Veeck’s St. Louis Browns in 1951 (he walked). This was a blatant attempt to curry favour with the Marlins fanbase after totally scotching the first season in their new park and selling off the team’s best pieces.
Orti – Forbes is bitter. He’s probably just watched the debates and is politically soured by it all. Gimmicky? Sure. But somewhere in that organization someone made the call and probably had to get the blessing of a few people to do it. I think this was a baseball lovers’ story and I think the guys who signed him know first-hand how hard it is to make it to the bigs and so also understand how tragic his early exit was. So some scrawny ball fan wants to rally the masses to get a guy back in the batter’s box. Go for it, brother. I felt a hell of a lot less squeamish watching this campaign unfold then I did that other scrawny guy trying to rally the world to catch Kony.
Ibeas – LET’S GO RAPTORS.
Forbes – There is no hope. Expect to find me in the stands at the Peterborough Memorial Centre cheering on the Petes several times this season, even though they stink (1-4 as of this writing, with 9 goals for and 22 against).
Cranbury - Screw the lockout. I’m going to watch the Vancouver Giants at the old barn at the PNE and I’ll pirate the KHL feeds until they start showing the games on TSN. I pay to watch the players not the owners. So long as there’s hockey being played I’ll watch it.
Orti – Here’s what I see. A league format in Europe modeled off the football format. Players pick teams to play for – there’s a national league and the top three or four teams from those leagues advance the following year to the Champions League of Hockey and the whole goddamn thing is picked up by Sky Sports. This NHL quandary has little to do with the players and a whole hell of a lot more to do with owners not wanting to share. NFL shares 80% of its revenue. NBA and MLB share 50% and 30% respectively. NHL shares about 15% and it’s only the top ten grossing teams that contribute and if you come from a market where there’s more than 2.5m households you’re disqualified from ever taking from that pot. The league’s grown 50% and revenues are up in the neighbourhood of $3b and the owners and their shitty share-model want the players to take a rollback. My advice to players – enjoy Europe, boys.
Rick Nash hurt playing in Switzerland. Is the practice of playing overseas a good way for NHLers to stay in shape, or a big, stupid gamble?
Orti – On paper it’s a small risk for these guys to take and the owners probably know this and whatever risk it’s worth has been factored into their $20k per MONTH insurance policies but I’ll tell you one thing… if I were a North American guy who’s been playing in Europe and a bunch of my linemates lost their job to these lockouts… I’d keep my elbows high and my knees out.
Ibeas – I used to beast with Rick Nash in NHL 2k9. We won the Cup! It was fantastic. So because of that, and despite his actual career progression, he will always be my dude.
Wait, he’s a Ranger now? Traitor. Unfriended.
Forbes – Players gonna play.
Cranbury - Step to the table and roll the dice – hate the game, not the player. The players AND the teams are taking chances by allowing the lockout to occur. This isn’t just on the players. Players are gonna play. The KHL/European Elite leagues are viable options for an athlete who wants to compete at the highest level available. When the NHL owners take the better option away then what do they expect to occur? No team wins the Stanley Cup with a bunch of wallflowers who won’t do everything that they can to compete. If Slats is upset with Nash’s injury he should just pick up the phone and call Gary to let him know what he thinks about player safety in a lockout situation. Injuries happen, don’t want your players to get hurt playing in Europe, don’t lock them out.
Anybody who doubts how full-on Nash plays the game should go back and watch the first couple of shifts that he played during the 7-3 drubbing Team Canada laid on the Russians at the 2010 Olympics. He was an absolute wrecking ball on a line with Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews. Of course Team Canada was rolling one of the biggest and most aggressive hockey teams in the history of the sport during that competition but I remember watching that game early and thinking, “Holy shit. Rick Nash is going to kill someone out there.” He’s a real competitor.
Check him OWNING the Russian D on his goal in this montage from that game:
Real NFL refs are back. Do they really blow fewer calls than the scabs?
Orti – I’m always with the refs, replacements or not, largely, or rather primarily, because their jerseys look identical to the shirts worn by Newcastle United players and this girl I used to crush on who worked at Foot Locker.
Cranbury - I enjoyed how the refs owned the NFL in this dispute. Whatever takes the focus away from the players on the field is bad for the game. Refs are back = a very good thing.
Ibeas – Reffing is like politics. Or dating. It doesn’t matter how clueless you are as long as you project confidence in your decision.
Forbes – Real refs blow the same number of calls as the scabs but they’re quicker to do it. Less dithering. I’ll admit that, had the Saints managed to beat the Packers last Sunday, Green Bay would have lost two games in a row to the officials, not opposing teams.
The Final Word:
Orti – Not everything that goes up must come down. It all changes in space.
Ibeas – As Forbes will elaborate on in a bit, I am absolutely thrilled the Knicks seem like they’re back to their glory days, when I followed them for pure laughs. Isaiah Thomas, you mad genius, thank you for assembling a roster that brought me so much joy.
Forbes – Two things. First: the New York Knicks just signed Rasheed Wallace, who was, like, fully retired. Since 2010. This is exciting to me, because the more bizarre and volatile the mix of personalities on that team becomes, the more entertaining I know they’ll be. Melo is a megalomaniac who enjoys commissioning portraits of himself, and his wife is full on bonkers (I love Melo). Amar’e designs clothes and has a record label (pretty standard NBA stuff, actually), and he also writes children’s books. Tyson Chandler wears strange clothes and mounts exhibitions of his own art and photography. Plus Jason Kidd? Plus Baron Davis? PLUS RASHEED WALLACE? What an amazing shitshow this is going to be. I can’t wait. I can’t wait for them to squeak into the playoffs as an eight seed and get bombed out of existence by Miami or Chicago.
Second thing: I am very, very primed for these baseball playoffs. The NHL lockout is a blessing, as hockey would only serve as a distraction.
What about you, Sean? Are you excited for the playoffs?
Cranbury – I am SO excited about the MLB playoffs right now. It is going to be an epic month of slow burns, longballs and Jim Leyland tripling his nicorette prescription. The NHL owners really can just eat a bag of dicks. Fehr is not going to lose this battle. Once the major networks start showing the KHL games and the AHL/WHL games while all of Gary’s calls to Fehr go straight to voicemail then I think that we’ll see some action on the NHL front. In the meantime let’s just enjoy the game that Donald Fehr left in better condition than when he found it.
Thanks for the ride!