A Christmas Wishlist for the Toronto Sports Fan
A Josh Donaldson Contract Extension
The Bringer of Rain is pretty much all but gone when his contract expires at the end of this season. That is if the Jays don’t trade him first. Considering it is the first time that the 2015 AL MVP will get to test unrestricted free agency, don’t expect Donaldson to come cheap. It has been proven time and time again that signing 30 year-old MVP candidates to mega-contracts just isn’t smart (ex. see Pujols, Albert who is Bad, Very). The Blue Jays just aren’t a team that can afford to eat bad contracts. But, hear me out, give this guy a blank check. On one hand you could potentially have a rapidly declining player that you’re stuck paying $20-30 million annually for seven years, which financially handicaps Toronto’s payroll, sending them into a tailspin of mediocrity. On the other hand Donaldson is the type of stud that can be the best player on a championship team. Banners fly forever baby.
No Blisters in 2018
A healthy Aaron Sanchez would’ve gone a long way in 2017. With Sanchez missing the majority of games last year because of blister problem, the Jays sorely missed their staff ace. Even with Stroman’s breakout campaign, the Jays had to eat up Sahnchez’s lost innings with the nauseating combination of Joe Biagini, Mike Bolsinger, Brett Anderson, and Matt Latos. If Sanchez’s dainty hands can’t hold up this upcoming season then the Jays are probably cooked considering the Yankees and Red Sox already have the division and at least one wild card spot already locked up.
An Eastern Conference Finals Berth
Even though they are one of the NHL’s youngest teams, the clock is starting to tick on this Maple Leafs core. Matthews, Marner and Nylander will see their rookie contracts expire in the next two offseasons and their subsequent raises will take a huge chunk of Toronto’s salary cap. Bozak and JVR are UFAs this summer and it isn’t likely that Toronto can continue to pay Kadri, Komorov and Marleau big money to play secondary roles. Chicago was able to win a Cup in 2010 before having to dump Ladd, Niemi and Byfuglien in their first salary cap purge. In my mind the Leafs have to show some playoff progress this spring with their current roster as good as it is right now. They may have a deep prospect pool but you just can’t pencil in a Kapanen to automatically replace Van Riemsdyk’s production. A 2018 Cup run might feel selfish for a fan so new to playoff hockey but a guy can dream.
Less Roman Polak
Everything bad ever said about Dion Phaneuf (he certainly wasn’t great but I have long been a vocal Dion defender) is actually true about Roman Polak. He is an absolute pylon and liability on the ice. He’s slow, has no offensive inclination to speak of… but boy can he ever move bodies in front of the net! As much as I like the work Babcock has done to turn the team around, his affinity for “the Roman Polak show” is both weird and maddening. I don’t care how they do it, but I need Lou to find a new sixth defenseman.
More Soccer Wins Probably
Not a huge fan of the beautiful game but BMO Field was rocking when TFC stormed their way to the MLS Cup. Who am I to look down on a championship winning team? Especially considering I’m lucky when my teams even make the playoffs. Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco seem like they’d be cool to cheer for. Hopefully they can keep the good times rolling.
An NFL Team
This is a pipe dream seeing as NFL expansion isn’t imminent and there’s no obvious relocation candidates. As one of the CFL’s least attended teams–home games only averaged a capacity of 51.53% with no sellouts–the Grey Cup-champion Argonauts clearly aren’t scratching Toronto’s football itch. The closest NFL team is the Buffalo Bills who haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. Football fans from Southern Ontario either have to latch onto a loser franchise or have to wade into the depths of Bills Mafia at New Era Field to watch the away teams play. Both options are less than ideal. I for one am tired of watching the Bills get pummeled by the Patriots in Week 15 with a potential playoff berth on the line.
Beat Cleveland… Please
Two straight years of losing to the Cavs in the playoffs just won’t cut it anymore. We are now four seasons removed from the “We the North” movement and only have three “Atlantic Division Champions” banners to show for their efforts. I would much rather make the playoffs every year than go back in time and watch Andrea Bargnani disappoint me on a nightly basis. But at a certain point if you aren’t even threatening to win a championship then the whole process seems rather pointless. I love watching the Demar score at will from all over the court (he’s even hitting some threes this year!), Kyle is still a bull dog of a point guard, and it’s fun to watch the seemingly endless amount of young bench contributors step in and play effectively. It would just be cool to at least look like you can hang in with Lebron and the Cavs as opposed to being swatted aside like a bug.
An NBA Christmas Day Game
Regardless of their lack of playoff success, the Raptors have consistently been one of the best teams in the NBA. Yet they get snubbed from the NBA’s prime-time Christmas Day games. Since the end of their breakout 2013-2014 season, here’s how the Raptors regular season win % from 2014 to today matches up with the teams that played on Christmas yesterday:
Golden State Warrior 0.836
Cleveland Cavaliers 0.661
Houston Rockets 0.653
Toronto Raptors 0.646
Boston Celtics 0.594
OKC Thunder 0.593
Washington Wizards 0.554
New Yorks Knicks 0.348
Minnesota Timberwolves 0.346
Los Angeles Lakers 0.270
Philadelphia 76ers 0.254
As of right now Raptors sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 23-8 record with a top 10 offense and defense and one of the NBA’s best benches. They have only ever played one Christmas Day game in franchise history (Vince Carter and co. lost to the Knicks in 2001) due in large part to: a) not playing in a major American media market and b) they don’t have a “marketable” star.
I feel that these two notions are incredibly short-sighted. Toronto is easily the media epicenter of Canada and the inclusion of the Raptors in a Christmas Day game could potentially create a holiday tradition among Canadian hoops fans. I would easily count myself in as someone who would be in the NBA’s target market, but I only ever occasionally tune in to the Christmas Day games if the day hits a lull. If the Raptors are slated for an afternoon game then I am tuning in no questions asked. As for the lack of star-power, I realize that Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry’s names don’t carry the same name as a Porzingas, Westbrook, George, Carmelo, Towns, Embiid, Simmons or Lonzo, but they have been far too good for far too long to be ignored as much as they are South of the border. Toronto needs a Christmas game no later than 2018.