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Blue Jays: Dustin McGowan gets another chance

Josh Wilson's Photo

Editors note – Let’s give a warm welcome to William, the latest addition to the Blue Toro team. He’s a lifelong Leafs fan, hence, in his own words, he’s depressed most of the time. William also follows the Jays, so I’ve already given up hope of ever cheering him up.

At the end of last season, Dustin McGowan made his plans for the future known: he wanted to (re)claim a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation.

You would be excused for laughing at this statement. McGowan, after all, hasn’t started a game since 2011 and he was confined to the bullpen last season after returning from the brink of obscurity. (McGowan’s career had almost hit rock bottom – the point where he’d make an excellent trivia question for the casual fan.)

It cannot be denied that McGowan was very effective coming out of the bullpen last season, but it’s one thing to pitch limited innings in spot situations. To join the rotation, McGowan would have to pitch every five days and toss a minimum of five innings – requirements that his legendary poor health seemed to deny.

However, after a successful showing in spring training, McGowan has earned a spot in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation (albeit one at the very back).

A back injury to would-be starter J. A. Happ likely helped McGowan’s cause, but he also pitched well enough to move ahead of Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond on the team’s depth chart (heading into the new season anyway).

Of course, health will be an ongoing concern for McGowan – at this point, it might be the only thing that can keep him out of the starting rotation given the Blue Jays’ lack of depth in this area. That shouldn’t be read as a knock against McGowan – he earned his spot in the rotation – but it does underscore the relative weakness of the team’s current crop of starters.

It’s hard to imagine McGowan cracking the starting rotation of any other team in the American League East regardless of how effectively he pitched in spring training.

The bottom line: this is great news for McGowan, the organization and the fans! There’s a chance that McGowan might even get to start in the home opener! If this happens, you can just imagine the standing ovation he’ll receive.

How could this possibly be topped? Let’s see a (mentally) healthy Ricky Romero return to the big club!

Photo credit: @RealJoshWilson

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Blue Jays: Ricky Romero reaches a new low

Wow!  Just when I thought it wasn’t possible to feel any worse for Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero, he reached a new low during last night’s 10-4 loss to the Rays.  The poor guy couldn’t even make it out of the first inning, giving up three runs and four hits while only retiring one batter.

Speaking of which, if things don’t start improving soon for the former sixth overall draft pick, he may have to consider retiring himself. Literally.  Mind you, it doesn’t help when you’re apparently drinking on the job:

Ricky Romero

If it’s any consolation Ricky, we’ve all been there.  Just not in front of 11,000 people.  (Actually, he should be grateful his meltdown didn’t happen in front of a fanbase that actually gives a damn about their team.)

Photo credit: @PlayItBogart

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Blue Jays lose again: Jose Bautista responds to fan criticism

Jose Bautista celebrating a home run

Oh dear.  Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the Blue Jays at the moment.  Ricky Romero’s return was meant to lift spirits and while it did, ironically it was the opposition who benefited from his return.

In all honestly, we shouldn’t have been too surprised by the Mariners 4-0 victory last night.  When Felix Hernandez is on his game, he’s virtually impossible to beat.

As you’d expect with a 10-20 record for the vastly underachieving Blue Jays, the fans are very emotional right now.  And what better place to vent your frustration than on Twitter:

While you can debate whether or not Jose Bautista should have risen to the bait, I would have likely responded with something similar to what he wrote in both cases.

As you can imagine, this exchange brought a varied response from other people, both in support of and against Bautista and the Blue Jays:









While I agree that you don’t just give up on a team because they’re going through a bad patch, we’re fast approaching the point where Sportnet’s analysts saying it’s still early in the season just won’t cut it anymore.

When you’re 10.5 games back in the AL East, 7.5 games back of a wild card spot and have the third-worst record in the league just one month into the season, results have to improve soon.  If they don’t, we can expect to see anger towards the team continue to grow, which would be a shame after the hope and excitement heading into this season.

Photo credit: @JoeyBats19

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Blue Jays: Ricky Romero makes first start of the season

Ricky Romero

When it became clear last season that Ricky Romero’s struggles were more than just a slight dip in form, a lot of media speculated that he needed to get off  Twitter and concentrate all of his efforts into his pitching.

To be fair, Romero took note this spring, with March 12th representing the last time he tweeted anything.  Until yesterday.

To be fair, it was with good reason, as the former sixth overall draft pick makes his first start of the season tonight against the Seattle Mariners:

Ricky Romero tweet

Ricky Romero message for first start of the season

I’m not sure how much the big guy upstairs had to do with Romero getting another chance, especially when you’re up against Felix Hernandez.  Regardless, it’ll be good to see the 28-year old back on the mound.

According to reports, Romero has shown significant progress in his pitching mechanics and overall body language.  However, I’m sure he’ll welcome all the help he can get, so let’s send some positive vibes and good karma his way and hope for a return to his pre-2012 form:

In fact, a performance similar to his first outing in 2011 would do just nicely:

Photo credit: @RickyRo24

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Top 10 Toronto Sports pictures & stories of the week

It’s a good time to be a Toronto sports fan: the Blue Jays come into spring training with an anticipation unmatched in 20 years, the Raptors enter the All-Star Weekend on a four-game winning streak and the Leafs, despite last night’s loss in Carolina, are in a playoff position with ‘only’ 34 games to go!

All I can say is it’s about bloody time Toronto had some joy on the sports front.  Let’s get to Blue Toro’s top pictures and stories of the week

1) It’s fair to say the Leafs Colton Orr isn’t known for scoring goals in the NHL (11 in nine years heading into this season.)  As such, most people were wondering how the hell he managed to get on the score sheet against the Flyers on Monday night:

Leafs Colton Orr scores against Philadelphia Flyers

I think it helps when the person who was meant to cover him doesn’t appear to know where he is, or indeed what he’s holding.

2) Excitement started to build for the Blue Jays season as pitchers and catchers officially reported for spring training in Dunedin.  Jose Bautista decided to turn up early but was embarrassed to find it was ‘dress down’ day:

Jose Bautista at spring training in Dunedin

That’s what you get for turning up unannounced I guess.

3) Ricky Romero is hoping to have a bounce-back campaign after a disastrous 2012.  Here, he takes a break from warming up to contemplate if it’s better to be one of the league’s worst number one’s or best number five’s:

Ricky Romero at spring training in Dunedin

Accordingy to reports, Romero has allegedly remained in the same stance since Tuesday.

4) Meanwhile, over in Clearwater, Florida…………….

Roy Halladay at Philadelphia spring training

5) Alan Anderson had been in a slump of late, before turning his fortunes around, highlighted by a team-leading 26 points in the Raptors hard-fought midweek win over the Knicks.

Apparently Anderon was prepared to do anything to regain his scoring touch.  I repeat, ‘anything’:

Raptors Alan Anderson gets a lift from Nuggets Anthony Randolph

6) Toronto’s eligible bachelors let out a collective sigh of disappointment after hearing that the Raptors Landry Fields had done the smart thing and proposed to his model girlfriend, Elaine Alden:

Elaine Alden proposed to by Raptors Landry Fields

The way Fields did it has been described as creative by some.  Not that I’m bitter or anything, but I prefer to call it premeditated.

I’ll give this to the Stanford grad, planning their celebratory break in Miami for All-Star Weekend was a stroke of genius, knowing there was absolutely no chance he would be participating.

7) Talking of the All-Star Weekend, another player definitely not going is Hedo Turkoglu, who has been suspended 20 games for steroid use.  This sounds about right for a player who was once was spotted in a nightclub on the same night he missed a game due to ‘illness’.

The former Raptor had this to say about testing positive for anabloic steroid use:

Hedo Turkoglu suspended for 20 games

The suspension couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  Sorry, I mean a more overrated, money grabbing, hard done-by, waste of space.

8 ) New evidence coming out from Toronto FC to help explain why they had problems winning games last year.  It appears for all intents and purposes that they were scared of the football, thinking it was going to bite them or something:

Toronto FC players scared of the ball

Hopefully new coach Ryan Nelsen can explain that you’re meant to attack the ball rather than wait for it to attack you.

9) Things haven’t quite gone as planned for Andrea Bargnani since he returned from injury, from being booed by home fans to scoring a measly two points and doing little else in 12 minutes against the Knicks.

Here, the Italian consoles himself by tucking into some Primo pasta:

Toronto Raptors Andrea Bargnani enjoying his primo pasta

Primo happen to also sponsor Bargnani, which is just as well, because he isn’t getting much support from anyone else right now.

10) Ok, let’s get rid of the bad taste of that last segment (and Primo’s pasta) by ending on a high with the Raptors, who finally have something that’s been missing since the days of Vince Carter:

Rudy Gay clutch for the Toronto Raptors

And yes, that includes you Chris Bosh!

Enjoy your weekend,

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Blue Jays: More pictures from Spring Training

John Gibbons at Blue Jays spring training

Unlike the weather in Toronto, things are finally starting to warm up at spring training for the Blue Jays.  What I’d give to be one of those reporters in Dunedin who enjoy the first few days and then start complaining about how bored they are.

First up, here’s new pitcher Mark Buehrle warming up with a game of catch:

Mark Buehrle at Blue Jays spring training

And here he is having to go and fetch the ball himself after remembering he doesn’t have his dogs with him. (What, too soon?)

Mark Buehrle at Blue Jays spring training

Jose Bautista was a bit miffed after arriving for camp and realising he never got the memo informing him it was ‘dress down’ day.

Jose Bautista at Blue Jays spring training

Brett Lawrie on the other hand, not only got the memo, but took full advantage of it by bringing in a toy to play with.

Here he is on the play mat trying to figure out how to put together his D.I.Y. baseball kit. (Complete with a spare helmet in case you lose your first one after throwing it at the umpire.)

Brett Lawrie at Blue Jays spring training

Ricky Romero is hoping to have a bounce back campaign after struggling in 2012.  Here he contemplates whether it’s best to be the league’s worst number one or best number five in a starting rotation.

Ricky Romero at blue jays spring training

And finally, J.P. Arencibia is all pumped and ready to go, eager to learn how to deal with R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball:

J.P. Arencibia at Blue Jays spring training

Unfortunately, he’s been in that position for fifteen minutes waiting for Dickey, who is spending far too much time with his new girlfriend, ala Manti Te’o.

R.A. Dickey at blue jays spring training

Imaginary or not, I guess when your special lady’s that big it takes time to give her a proper goodbye. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist using that photo again.)

Photo credits: @ShiDavidi, @SNBarryDavis & @SheriTSN

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Blue Jays Jose Bautista and Ricky Romero report early for spring training

Don’t you just hate those people who have jobs that they actually seem to enjoy going to?  If you’re sitting there angrily nodding your head in agreement, you may want to look away now after a certain home run slugger decided to turn up early for spring training:


Jose Bautista reports early for spring training

Roughly translated, Bautista is saying ‘ready for battle’, which might be an understatement considering not even Blue Jays catchers and pitchers are due to report until February 13th.

And it looks like Bautista isn’t the only one looking to get a head start on the new season, with  Ricky Romero also arriving early in Dunedin:


Ricky Romero reports early for Blue Jays spring training

Certainly, it’s a big year for both players, who are looking to bounce back for different reasons.  However, the attitude being shown by two of the more popular Blue Jays amongst teammates can only be perceived as a good sign for the coming season.

Photo credits: @JoeyBats19 @RickyRo24

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The Blue Toro midweek Mailbag: Who will win a Toronto sports championship next?

100th grey cup toronto

Yes, Yes, I know it’s been a while.  As such, I now present an impromptu midweek edition of the Blue Toro mailbag.

Q. In light of the Argonauts Grey Cup run, which Toronto team will win a championship next?  And don’t say the Rock because we all know that doesn’t count.

Danielle – Brampton

A.  Wow, that’s a bit harsh isn’t it?  You do realise that in the history of the NLL, the Rock are joint top-all time with six championships, something Torontonians should be proud of.

However, while I personally am not prepared to downgrade the Rock’s achievements I appreciate there are lot of Toronto sports fans like Danielle out there, i.e. snobby, wannabe Americans.  As such, I will attempt to appease the masses.

I guess the easiest answer would be to pick the Blue Jays, especially with the moves they’ve made since the season ended.  However, we’ve seen the Jays splash the cash before (A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, Vernon Wells, etc) and we all know how that turned out.

Also, despite upgrading the team, let’s not forget the new players helped contribute to the Marlins disastrous 2012 campaign.  Add to this various uncertainties such as Ricky Romero’s return to form and Jose Bautista’s full recovery from his wrist injury and suddenly a run at the World Series seems like a tougher proposition.  Not that the Jays don’t have a chance, but fans may need to show considerably more patience that Mike Wilner during ‘Jays Talk.’

The Leafs? I do actually think whenever the NHL starts playing again, the Leafs will finally end their league-leading playoff drought and make the post-season.  Why?  Well, first of all look at this chart:

brian burke toronto

If we accept that 90 points is normally enough to make the playoffs, the Leafs need to find another ten points from somewhere, which isn’t that many more.  Well, not if you can look at it in a positive light anyway.

With a relatively young roster and several prospects nearly ready to make the step up to the next level, I truly believe the Leafs aren’t that far away from being competitive on a regular basis.  This is where an experienced goaltender could help.

If the rumours of Roberto Luongo’s imminent signing are true, the Leafs will have that goaltender.  Whatever his limitations may be come playoff time, Luongo is a proven commodity during the regular season.  Just don’t expect a 14th Stanley Cup anytime soon.

It won’t be Toronto FC (I discuss them in slightly more detail later on in this column) and while the Raptors are verrrryyyy slooooowwwwly making progress, at this rate there will be an NBA franchise back in Vancouver before DeMar DeRozan and company are in position to challenge for a championship.

The Argonauts will be in the running for another Grey Cup as long as they have Ricky Ray under centre, but they won’t be able to use the element of surprise next year.

Plus, don’t downplay the effect on the franchise if the rumours of Eric Tillman replacing Jim Barker turn out to be true.  We all know what a great job Tillman did in Edmonton, destroying what was once seen as one of the model franchises in all of sports.  Besides, Barker is well liked by the players and it’s a dangerous game to mess around with a formula that worked so well this past season.

Soooooo, in answer to your question Danielle, I think the next Toronto team to win a championship will be…..(drum roll)…..the Rock.

Q. Steve Simmons commented at the weekend about how MLSE continues to make the same mistakes; in this case hiring Kevin Payne as President & GM of Toronto FC after the previous high-profile acquisitions of Bryan Colangelo and Brian Burke didn’t work out.  Is he right?

Steve – Halifax

A. I don’t want to live in a world where Steve Simmons is right.  (Although if the Mayan calendar turns out to be true, we might not have to.)

In any event, I don’t happen to agree that the appointment of Payne is a mistake.  This is a guy who helped D.C. United win an MLS record six championships.  And while the Colangelo and Burke acquisitions were quite rightly lauded at the time by the media and fans alike, the cold reality is they have only won one championship between them.

At this point, Toronto FC had to do something to restore the faith of their fanbase.  Last season marked the first time average attendances at BMO Field slipped below the 20,000 mark. Paul Mariner’s run-in with supporters pretty much epitomised the season and morale was at its absolute lowest.

Now?  I expect a major rebound in the team’s fortunes.  (Although can it technically be called a rebound if the team was never that good in the first place?)  With Payne’s undoubted abilities, new training facilities and academy, the return of key players from injury and invaluable experienced gained by some of the youngsters last season, things can only get better.

And not just because TFC set a franchise-low mark of 23 points in 2012.

Blue Jays Ricky Romero meets former maple leaf Darryl Sittler

ricky romero

I know we ‘occasionally’ make fun of Toronto’s sporting athletes on these pages, but we tend to (for the most part) not mean anything malicious by it.

For example, we may have taken the odd shot at Ricky Romero’s disastrous 2012 campaign, but in reality we know that he’s a classy guy who will hopefully return to his form of previous seasons in 2013.*

Another aspect that makes Romero one of the more likeable professional athletes in Southern Ontario is the fact he seems to actually enjoy spending time in Toronto!

He also seems to be quite a respectfull young man, as evidenced from this tweet he posted earlier:


Hopefully Romero managed to get some useful tips from the Hall of Famer to help him have a bounce back year in 2013.  (Yes, I’m aware they play different sports, but still!)

* As a typical sports media entity, we reserve the right to change our opinion of Romero without any notice, conveniently forget anything positive we ever said about him and basically be irrational in our analysis.

Photo credit: @RickyRo24

Blue Toro’s top pictures and stories of the week

Well, with the Argonauts winning the 100th Grey Cup, TFC hiring Kevin Payne as their President & GM and the Leafs becoming the first NHL team to be valued at $1 billion, it’s been another eventful seven days on the Toronto sports scene.  Here’s our top pictures and stories of the week:

1) Showing that even a lockout can’t stop them thriving off the ice, reported that the Maple Leafs were the first NHL team to be valued at $1 billion (US):

maple leafs toronto

Ironically, a lot of the fans that question how this is possible, contribute by continuing to pay outrageous prices for tickets and merchandise.

In fact, Maple Leaf fans remind me of a needy boyfriend trying desperately to cling onto his flashy girlfriend by plying her with money.  And yet, like the Leafs, if you take away the bleach-blonde hair, fake tan and false breasts, there’s actually not really anything that special about them.

2) I was going to tell you all how sorry I felt for Justin Bieber after he was booed during the half-time show at the Grey Cup.  I mean he is just a kid at the end of the day.  However, then I saw this photo, taken while he was in Toronto:

juston bieber

Let’s just say I will now also be booing Bieber if I ever see him.  The guy really doesn’t help himself does he.

3) In fact, here’s Amir Johnson and Drake trying their darndest not to physically assault him:

amir johnson drake & justin bieber toronto

4) The Raptors have been on a tear of late, losing six straight games.  Baring the brunt of the fans frustration is Andrea Bargnani, largely centring on his 2-19 shooting performance in the double-overtime defeat to the Spurs.

However, you try shooting the ball when some inconsiderate git has his hand right in front of your face:

andrea bargnani toronto

5) I think it’s safe to say Steve Nash is getting frustrated with being stuck on the sidelines watching his Lakers teammates flounder along.  He’s even beginning to annoy and insult other people:

Steve Nash Los Angeles

I don’t know who Nash is giving grief to, but I’m guessing it’s not Shaquille O’Neal.  (Think about it………..)

6) Sticking with the Lakers, Ricky Romero did what any good brother would do and took his sisters to watch the Lakers in action on Tuesday night:

ricky romero & sisters los angeles

The Lakers even went as far as to make Romero feel right at home, losing 79-77 to the Indian Pacers.  (Okay, fine. That was a bit of a cheap shot.  Romero’s a good guy.  I genuinely hope he can revert back to his form of previous seasons in 2013.)

7) Everyone has been dealing with the NHL lockout in different ways.  For example, P K Subban is using the time to be a hockey analyst for Sportsnet, while Joffrey Lupul is plying his trade in Russia.

However, I’m concerned that not everyone is coping as well.  Take Phil Kessel for example, who appears to be morphing into a combination of a train spotter and slightly overweight version of ‘Where’s Waldo’?:

phil kessel & fans toronto

8 ) This week provided a dream ending to the 100th Grey Cup festivities as the Argonauts emerged triumphant and took to the streets on Tuesday for a victory parade.  About the only downside to the proceedings was the appearance of Rob Ford:

rob ford toronto

I think the look on the dude’s face to the right sums it up perfectly.  Even Ford’s declaration that November 27th was to be known as ‘Argonauts day’ has to be treated with suspicion.  I’m guessing he’s just attempting to drum up support from the general public in light of his current legal issues.

9) Still on the Argonauts, and the CFL in general, it grinds my gears about how critical people are of the league. Yes, it’s not as big or as successful as the likes of the NFL, NBA and MLB, but keep in mind that it’s never likely to be, given that it is purely a Canadian game.

However, the CFL is doing just fine.  In fact, I’ll leave it to some Calgary Stampeders fans who attended the game at the Rogers Centre to sum the situation up:

calgary stampeders fans toronto

10) And finally, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with sports, I feel compelled to add my nickel’s worth to the Toronto Sun’s reader’s choice awards.

What stood out most was how many awards Citytv won.  For the most part, I have no problem with this as I regularly half-watch the show while writing.  For example, Dina Pugliese, who was voted sexiest woman, is definitely on my ‘to do’ list.

However, Kevin Frankish as sexiest man? Really?!?!  Is this the best Toronto has to offer?  Even as a bloke, I can see that he’s nothing special.  Actually, if Frankish is capable of winning this award, I’m putting forward my early candidacy for next year’s ‘Sexiest Male’ award.

I just hope you’re able to ignore the fact that:

a) My entry picture is blurred

b) I’m drinking an Oreo cookie cocktail

c) I’m not even on television (with good reason) and it’s debateable that I even have a personality

d) I might, just might, have had to post the picture as part of a bet that I lost

Paul Taylor Toronto

Enjoy your weekend!