If Your Pool Wasn’t Hosed Already…

…It is now. Colorado Avalanche eliminate Calgary Flames from Stanley Cup playoffs

My memory for hockey trivia isn’t the best, so I thought maybe that was why I was having trouble thinking of another time when the league’s two best teams got massacred so badly that they could only manage a single playoff win between them. It was starting to bug me a little that I couldn’t come up with anything, but apparently I don’t have to worry about my forgetfulness, at least not right now. The reason I don’t remember this happening before is that there’s nothing to remember.

Since 1967-68, when six teams were added to make the NHL a 12-team league, there have been a number of playoff formats: division-based, conference-based, and for two seasons (1979-80, 1980-81) the top 16 teams were seeded by regular-season points.
In none of those instances had the top two teams in each division or conference, or the teams with the two best records, been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay (62-16-4) tied the NHL record for wins in a season, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, and finished 21 points ahead of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference.

Calgary (50-25-7) led the Western Conference by six points over the San Jose Sharks.
The Lightning lost four straight games to the Blue Jackets and were outscored 15-5 in the final three, including 7-3 in Game 4.

The Flames lost four straight games after winning Game 1. The Avalanche won Game 2 and Game 4 in overtime.

I wish I could tell you that Carin picked both Columbus and Colorado, but even she’s not that good. But of the two, picking against the Lightning is probably the weird pick that makes the most impact, so it’s still some pretty solid work.

My God, Guelph And Columbus Actually Won

It’s not every day that a team I root for does something historic that doesn’t involve losing to death, so allow me a moment to gloat. The Guelph Storm complete their remarkable comeback against the London Knights, winning Game 7 by a 6-3 score

It will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Guelph Storm history.
They trailed the series 3-0 and fought back to force a Game 7.
They trailed 3-1 in the second period of that Game 7.
Then they kicked some ass.
The Storm scored five unanswered goals to complete the miraculous comeback and down the regular-season champion London Knights 6-3 in Game 7 Tuesday night at Budweiser Gardens.
They now move on to meet the Saginaw Spirit in the Western Conference final. That series starts Thursday in Saginaw.
“The first thing that came out of my mouth was ‘we did it! We did it!'” said Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe.
“It’s indescribable. The resilience this team has, the character, the skill that we have. You put all those things together and we’re unstoppable,” said Ratcliffe, who scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in the third period.

The first thing I did when the horn sounded was jump up, yell “Wow!”, and then text “lol” to one of my Knights fan friends.

When they were down 3-0 in the series, I texted that same friend and asked “are you ready for the four straight comeback?” I always had some hope, but I sent that mostly as a joke because I thought that even though they might put up a good fight, they were probably toast. But hey, here we are! And we’re only the fifth team in OHL history to sweep a series after nearly being swept. That’s pretty cool. The others are Peterborough, Ottawa, and Windsor twice.

I’m still not sure if they’ll win the league, but it’s getting harder to doubt them after this. So bring on Saginaw and let’s see what happens.

In other hockey playoff news, holy shit, Columbus! Way to screw up everyone’s pool. Ok, everyone but Carin, who now looks like some sort of genius.

And since we’ve been talking history, with the loss, the Lightning have made some by becoming the first team since the NHL expanded beyond the original six in 1967 to have lead the league in points and then not won a single playoff game. Yay?

And back to the subject of screwed up pools, I knew I should have picked the damn Islanders. I was half a second away from doing just that when my stupid inner voice said “pssst, remember this is Pittsburgh.” Thanks, idiot.

But even though winning the pool is unlikely at this point, I’ll still call it a win if I manage to time the inevitable Sharks exit correctly. If all goes to plan, I should be throwing that victory party by Thursday.

Kill The Runner On Second Base In Extra Innings Experiment With Fire And A More Sensible Plan

Baseball’s pace of play people have had some well intentioned ideas (trying to cut down on the deliberate time waste between pitches), some ideas I don’t care for (I still think you need to earn your stupid intentional walk), and a few ideas that are downright terrible, like starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

Imagine overtime in hockey if nobody was allowed to touch or get in the way of anyone else until each team had taken at least two clear shots at the opposing net. That would be silly. Yet somehow, this foolishness got to the experimentation stage in the minors. I hadn’t heard much about how it was going until I found this, which leads me to surmise that it’s going about as well as anyone who thought about it for a minute would have guessed it would go.

The game was between the Phillies affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers, and the Yankees affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League. It was only a scheduled seventh inning game, so the extra frame was the eighth inning.
The details: Tampa starter Deivi Garcia tossed seven perfect innings, but it was tied 0-0 at the end of seven. Clearwater began the top of the eighth with an automatic runner on second. He went to third on an error. Two batters later, he scored when a Thresher batter grounded out to first base. Tampa went down in order in the bottom of the eighth and that was the ballgame.

That’s garbage.

If you’re going to defense yourself out of a perfect game, a no-hitter and a win, that’s fine. Things happen sometimes. But giving the other team a giant head start feels both lame and unfair.

If you really want to do something about extra innings, I have an idea. Maybe somebody has already come up with it, but for now I’ll call it mine.

I mentioned overtime in hockey. Let’s treat extra innings that way. To be clear, I’m talking about overtime before they instituted the shootout, which is also bad. Hockey games should not be won and lost by skills competition. If shootouts were any good, we’d be using them in the playoffs. So no, I’m not suggesting that tie baseball games be settled by home run derby. What I am suggesting is that if extras are required, you play one inning. If nobody can win after that, the game ends in a tie and each team gets half a game in the standings. You know that no game is ever going to go on hours longer than it should and at the end everyone gets something useful for being equally good or bad at their jobs.

Problem solved.

You’re welcome.

Two Good Things About The Jays So Far

I didn’t win the Blue Jays charity 50/50 draw today, but I still feel like a winner. I haven’t been to any of the games this weekend, but I was able to enter the draw because they’ve started selling tickets online. I love buying in when I’m there (no, I’ve never won), so this is pretty cool. I hope they keep it up. If they do, the place to get your tickets is JaysCare5050.com.

No matter what happens today (we’re tied 3-3 in the 11th), I have to say I’m impressed with the team on the field so far. The offense isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders just yet, but my god, the pitching. If we get anything close to what we’ve had out of the starters through the first four games fairly consistently, we might just be alright. I’m especially impressed by Trent Thornton today. Dude struck out eight guys with 75 pitches in five innings. Oh, and it was his major league debut. That’s a record. Not too shabby.

No One From My Century Plays Major League Baseball Anymore

If you’d like to feel very, very old today, have this. MLB opening season with 0 active players from 1900s

MLB is the first of North America’s four major professional sports leagues to not feature at least one player who played in the previous century, per Walker.
Only two players who appeared in games prior to the year 2000 were active last season. One was future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre, who debuted with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998 at the age of 19 and announced his retirement in November.
The other last player from the 20th century was Bartolo Colon, the beloved former Cy Young winner who was the oldest active player last year. He first reached the big leagues in 1997 with the Cleveland Indians.
In an interesting twist, Colon and Beltre were teammates with the Texas Rangers in 2018.

The Texas Rangers: Where dreams go to die.

I didn’t realize this before reading it, but we’re also marking the end of another era here because Bartolo Colon was the last active player to have played for the Montreal Expos. The only person left who can claim any sort of ties to them now is Ian Desmond who they drafted in 2004 but who never got to play there.

Oh, and the Blue Jays are about to make some age-related history of their own. When Elvis Luciano pitches in his first regular season game, he’ll be the first MLB player to have been born in the year 2000. Jesus.

Happy opening day if you don’t count Japan. And a happy death to the Kitchener Rangers day as well, I hope.

I’m looking forward to another season of baseball in spite of my Jays fandom. I have no idea what to expect this year. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I expect nothing. So if they can come out the other side above .500, I’ll call it a win.

I really don’t know what this team is. It got a little younger which is probably good, but it’s going to take a while to figure out exactly what that means. At least there’s some prospect excitement on the horizon once we’re finished exploiting the service time loophole …I mean making sure that the young talent is the best it can be, so we’ve got that to look forward to.

It’s going to be interesting and maybe a little painful at times, but I can’t wait to get started. Me and perhaps a herd of moose will be happily watching this afternoon. The only thing that could make it any better would be actual baseball weather in place of this chilly, rainy shit we’ve got going on now. I want to sit on my porch, dammit!

A Literal Stolen Base

I had somehow forgotten all about this until Deadspin reminded me just now. Don’t ask me how I managed to forget something this funny. Way too much stuff happens way too fast now.

It was June 26, 2001, and the Pirates were bad. They were already 21 games under .500 when in a game against the Brewers, umpire Rick Reed called out Abraham Nunez on a bang-bang play at first, and then, two innings later, Jason Kendall was called out on a similar play. McClendon, who after the game would accuse umpires of “relaxing” when working games involving the going-nowhere Pirates, had seen enough. The rookie manager got into it with Reed, got ejected, and flung his cap out onto the infield dirt. And then he went after the base.

“I told him he wasn’t using it,” McClendon said, “so I thought I’d take it.”

McClendon stomped all the way back up the tunnel and brought the bag to his office; umpires retrieved a new one rather than send someone in to ask for it back. What was McClendon thinking at that moment? Eight years later he recalled, “I didn’t realize I’d ripped the skin off all my knuckles trying to get that damn thing out of the ground. I said, ‘Damn, that hurts.’”

Apparently the Pirates kept it on display in their clubhouse, and even got McClendon to sign it years later when he came back as a coach with the Tigers.

Jerry Howarth Is Coming To Kitchener To Sign Books And Talk About Baseball

I’m plugging this event for two reasons:

  1. It sounds like a fun night and I think I may want to go.
  2. Because whoever is in charge of making these decisions needs to know of my desire for an audio version of this book. One read by Jerry, provided his voice can handle it.

Join us at THEMUSEUM for Hello Friends! An Evening & Book Signing with Jerry Howarth, Voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, in conversation with Mike Farwell on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Jerry will share stories from his life and his time with Blue Jays Baseball!
Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | Doors: 6:00pm | Event: 6:45pm-9:30pm
THEMUSEUM, 10 King St West, Downtown Kitchener
$35 +tax (includes moderated talk with Jerry Howarth and Mike Farwell)
$55 +tax (includes moderated talk with Jerry Howarth and Mike Farwell, and a copy of Hello Friends! Stories from my Life and Blue Jays Baseball by Jerry Howarth, and Jerry will sign at the event)

Limited VIP tickets available for $200 which include dinner with Jerry Howarth before the event, a signed copy of his book, premium seating, and a donation to THEMUSEUM.

Anybody want to spot me that 200 bucks? I’ll be sure to drop your name around Jerry because I’m cool like that. You can get more info and buy tickets here.

Who Actually Watches Trade Deadline Coverage?

Somebody must because all the networks keep doing it, but I’ve never understood it even as a sports fan. I care about what happens, but not once have I ever had even the slightest desire to sit and watch talking heads go on about nothing for hours on end and try to make marginal guy for draft picks 3 years from now deals sound exciting. I especially don’t get it now that we have an internet. Everybody has a deal tracker or an app, so why not just look at that once in a while? I’ve got the Score app going, and every time something actually happens, it lets me know. It’s great because I can look at it for a minute and then move on with my day, assuming somebody hasn’t ruined my team with some dumb deal or other (hey Sens fans, how’s it goin’?). There’s no need to sit through a feature about player X and his family’s dream of one day owning a horse farm just to get to the two minutes of useful recap I’m looking for.

To be clear, I’m not saying don’t put anything on TV. These are sports channels. They should be reporting on sports. But since there are brief, regularly scheduled updates throughout the day anyway, why not just use those? Considering how much major news generally goes down on these deadline days, they should provide more than enough time to get everything in.

A Nice Bob Cole Tribute

Here’s the tribute that the Leafs did for Bob Cole tonight. I can’t believe that this is the last Leafs home game he’ll ever call and that in just a couple short months his entire career will be over. So many great memories.

Let’s Talk Dirty In…Finland?

I don’t remember exactly how the conversation came around to it, but at dinner last night Carin mentioned Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s fantastic name.

“Whenever I hear it,” she said, “all I can think of is Lets Talk Dirty In Hawaiian.”

This made me very angry, because she’s totally right and how did I not think of it first?

So yeah, there’s either hockey or John Prine ruined for all of us forever. Just try not thinking of one when you hear the other from now on. I dare you.