Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Has The Bubble Burst?

That sound that you heard recently? Could it have been the Toronto Blue Jay bubble bursting?

The season is one hundred and sixty-two games, after all, so it is not time to make rash predictions. It had been a glorious season, up until a week or so ago. Fine young arms, timely hitting, great managerial decisions.

And then? A trip to Fenway was not exactly what the doctor ordered. Throw in a night with a knuckleballer named Wakefield, and you have part of the recipe for disaster.

Baseball in Boston can be intimidating for a young player. For that matter, we saw that it can also have an effect on veterans as well. The Green Monster, that legendary piece of metal that poses as a left field fence in Beantown, is part of the New England mystique. The carefully manicured carpet is suited to the home team.

Even the food that one encounters is different from the haute cuisine served along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Clam chowder, oysters on the half shell, Lobster Newburgh: all part of the Eastern Seabord diet.

Fenway is not terribly different from any other old stadium. It has its nooks and crannies on and off the field. Millions of dollars have been spent to dress the old girl up; however, what matters most is the game between the lines. And that is where the Blue Jays met their match in Massachusetts.

Intimidation. Pure and simple. Quiet smiles, a little arrogance. A couple of breaks. More than a few terrible ball and strike calls. The wheels fell off.

Having been swept, the Jays entered Atlanta somewhat demoralized. The Braves pounced on their prey, and also sent the Jays back on the road, winless. Yikes!

Two weeks ago, Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace were on a gigantic pedestal. I am sure they have recovered from their fall, but there is work to be done. The young arms worked well, but overstayed their welcome. The .300 batting averages have sunk considerably, and the malaise seems infectious.

With seven games gone on the wrong side of victory it is time to dig the tourniquet out of the duffle bag and stop the bleeding. Hopefully, the veteran arms that were down on the farm can supply enough innings to get the Jays over the hump.

Meanwhile, out on the frozen ponds, there is joy in Windsor. The Spitfires came from behind in a rather miraculous fashion to steal the Memorial Cup. Led by a variety of superstars, all hopefully destined for the NHL, another player stepped into a shot from the blue line to help seal the fate of the Kelowna Rockets. Robert Kwiet, a former Wellington Duke, scored the third goal for the Spits. Robert and I communicated throughout the playoffs via Facebook, and he was truly enjoying the experience.

Another former Duke is also having some fun in his area. Matt Cooke has played a significant role for the Pittsburgh Penguins this year, and will likely find himself in a Stanley Cup final in a week or so. “Cookie” continues to play his game against the Hurricanes, infuriating them to no end. When least expected, he also chips in with a goal and an assist here and there. Icing on the cake.

Daniel Cleary is on a very short list as one of the finest players ever to lace up the blades for the Belleville Bulls. He currently leads all players in the playoffs in the category known as “Plus-Minus”. Daniel has been on the ice for fifteen more goals than have been scored against, and he is therefore a + 15. He hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug last year in Newfoundland, the first native of that province ever to win the Cup.

I am certain it is on his agenda again for this June. He and his chums will have to dispose of the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar, and Marc-Andre Fleury before they can touch the hardware.

It should prove to be a great final. A good place to turn when the Jays get caught stealing!

James Hurst

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