Monday, October 06, 2008
This is the time of year when it is difficult to chose a sport to watch-either at the park, or the arena, or on television.
The cars are flying around the tracks on the NASCAR circuit, nearing the end of that season. The National Hockey League has begun another season, albeit on the European Front. The Senators split with the Penguins, and the Rangers swept the Tampa Bay Lightning to start the season.
The Canadian Football League is winding down, and there have been some recent unexpected results. The Hamilton Tiger Cats have struggled since early in the season, but managed to knock of the first place Alouettes from Montreal last weekend. That was their third victory of the season, just one shy of the Argos.
The National Football League south of the border is in full gear, and the Bills entered the past weekend without a loss. When quarterback Trent Edwards left the game after the third play of the game, hopes to continue an undefeated season were somewhat dimmed. Losman played effectively, but the Bills suffered their first loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. They have a bye next week to recover, and will face the Dolphins in Miami on the 26th of October. The “Fish” return north to face the Bills at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on December 7th.
But the primary sports focus at this time of year, at the professional level, is baseball. America’s Pastime is now in playoff mode, and a couple of contenders have already packed their golf clubs. There were high expectations for the Cubs from Chicago, to no avail. The West Coast Dodgers overwhelmed Lou Piniella’s squad, with little difficulty.
Russell Martin handles the catching duties for the Dodgers. Born in East York, Ontario, he resides in Chelsea, Quebec in the off-season. Although only 25 years old, he has had a remarkable career thus far with the Dodgers. He has been an All Star the past two seasons, and won the Gold Glove Award as well as the Silver Slugger Award last year. Only two other catchers have accomplished this feat: Gary Carter and Benito Santiago. He also won the Roy Campanella award, voted on by his teammates as the “Most Inspirational Dodger”.
Martin’s father also played for the Dodgers. An accomplished saxophone player, Russell Sr. played the anthem before the Dodgers game against the Pirates in 2006.
The Red Sox boast another All Star Canadian in Jason Bay. The Sox grabbed Bay in their complicated trade which landed Manny Ramirez in Dodgertown West. Bay has been patrolling left field for the Bosox, and instantly endeared himself to the Beantown faithful. He simply does everything well. His powerful stroke has resulted in several critical wins for the Red Sox.
The Rays from Tampa Bay have truly captured the hearts of many baseball fans this year. A remarkable Cinderella story, they have emerged as a very serious contender for the World Series title. They are led by a cast of young and hungry players, managed by the remarkable Joe Maddon.
Maddon took over the Rays two years ago, amassing a record of 127 wins and 197 losses. The team finished fifth both years. They broke camp last spring with high expectations, as have all teams. But the Rays, hit, ran, fielded, and executed better than all the other teams in their division to end the season at the top of the heap.
The Philadelphia Phillies are also ready to take a shot at the crown. Their General Manager knows a thing or two about winning. He has also experienced one or two crisp Canadian winters. Pat Gillick has been a General Manager in the Major Leagues since 1978, when he began with the Toronto Blue Jays. He remained with the Jays until 1994, after they had won the Back to Back World Series Championships in ’92 and ’93.
Gillick spent a little time in Baltimore and Seattle before joining the Phillies in 2006. He has been in baseball for 51 years, starting in 1958 as a left-handed pitcher in the Orioles organization. He pitched at the University of Southern California that year, and won the NCAA College World Series before joining the Edmonton squad of the Western Canada League.
They is still a ray of hope for the White Sox and the Angels, at press time. A faint hope, to be sure.
But until that last out is made, anything can happen. And probably will.
Peanut shells may be placed at your feet, at the ball park. Not in my living room, thank you.
October 6, 2008