Mike Trout is the greatest baseball player in the galaxy and recently tied Derek Jeter for career WAR (72.4) in 1,183 less games. I need you to digest this fact very slowly and elegantly, as if you were enjoying a fine chocolate truffle or some kind of cheesecake prepared by a Viennese pastry chef. Because once you come up for air, only then will you truly grasp the magnitude of just how many different baseball records are likely to crumble in his wake. Make no mistake about it; by the time he’s done his career, Trout will become the greatest player who ever lived – and that’s why his profound lack of popularity and brand familiarity inside *and* outside of baseball is particularly disconcerting. Ask any random person who the best NBA player is and they’ll say LeBron James. With the NHL, it’s Connor McDavid. NFL? Tom Brady. But when it comes to the second-most popular sport in North America, MLB ends up as an absolute loser when it comes to promoting and marketing their elite superstar players. And that’s especially disappointing considering Trout’s prowess and age; he’s only 28 years old, makes a paltry $33 million USD (when it should realistically be around $70-80m based on true sabermetric projected value) and is the veritable definition of a five-tool juggernaut. Blowhard commissioner and “man of good intentions” Rob Manfred has been given the golden goose laying endless diamond eggs: a fresh-faced, family-oriented professional athlete gracefully steering clear of public controversy and domestic chicanery while clowns like Yasiel Puig, Manny Machado and Julio Urias get away with (daily) fan reminders of why the seemingly halcyon days of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden was a utopian epoch compared to this brutally mediocre era of baseball. Consider this: his career OPS is 1.001 and he’s finished in the top 5 in MVP voting seven of the nine years he’s been in the league. And yet if he sauntered into a restaurant filled with random strangers, I’m sure you could count the number of those who’d recognize him on one hand before realizing it’s only your middle finger, in which case I suggest you unfurl it and point it in the general direction of Herr Manfred and don’t look back.
Justice should never be a concept we simply take for granted nor sweep under the rug of general apathy, and yet I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Canadian in appreciating the full weight of injustices experienced across this country that have transpired during my lifetime. I suppose you could say I was triggered after hearing the recent news in Toronto that James Forcillo, the police constable convicted of attempted murder in the case of 18-year old Sammy Yatim – shot nine times while armed with a switchblade on an empty bus, surrounded by a phalanx of uniformed police and visibly struggling with his mental health. He received a sentence of six years, was granted early parole (naturally) and is now moving on with his life. Ignoring the fact that he violated his parole at the start of trial and that the Yatim family (inexplicably) failed to receive notice to attend his hearing, I’m once again reminded why Canada remains one of the worst developed countries in the world when it comes to our tolerance of inherently bad people while inexplicably leaving the victims of families to deal with the inevitable devastating fallout. I think of Marco Muzzo who destroyed the Neville-Lake family because using his own personal chauffeur was far too inconvenient to satiate what had become a miserable drunk. I think of Vince Li who viciously decapitated a helpless Tim McLean and was consequently deemed insane, magically rehabilitated in half a decade’s time because a few state-sanctioned psychoanalysts decided to give him a clean bill of health, consequently allowing him to change his name (!) before releasing him back into society as if nothing ever happened. I think of Karla Homolka, who along with Paul Bernardo proceeded to mastermind the horrific murder of three young Ontario girls (that we know of) and now finds herself living comfortably with a new identity, her three children, and a loving husband somewhere in Chateauguay, Quebec – with a subsidized prison education courtesy of the taxpayer and a history of volunteering at Montreal elementary schools AFTER she was released. Meanwhile, the Mahaffy and French families are forced to accept a dark reality where a legal technicality and the lack of political will destroyed the last shreds of dignity left in their hearts for their beloved daughters. It just keeps happening over and over again as I remain permanently ashamed and filled with endless bitterness for how poorly the scales of justice keep failing us with every passing generation.
All remains quiet on the western RFA offer-sheet front as we head into the final month of this glorious NHL off-season that will henceforth be known as “the quiet hockey war.” Mitch Marner’s future with the Maple Leafs remains incongruous at best and the rest of the available list is simply obscene for its massive talent and inevitable intrigue: Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor and Charlie McAvoy all remain sacred hockey cows, untouched by general managers and their supposed thirst to build Stanley Cup contenders. You’d think with this mercurial level of talent availability inside an offer sheet system that was supposed to stir rivalries, we would have seen fireworks by now but alas – this is the NHL in 2019. Instead, it’s been a dreadfully quiet off-season punctuated by a heavily sedated market brought on by a lame duck salary cap system that is manipulated by ruthlessly clever owners. I was torched earlier in the week for daring to compare Auston Matthews with Patrik Laine (gotta love piggy-backed retweets where you end up eviscerated by trolls who deliberately ignore the spirit of your argument and replace it with their own ideological spin that makes it seems as if you exist to inconvenience them); my conclusion was simple: this is the year teams should be clamoring to wrestle free some of their maligned assets (especially in the case of Laine and his dubious off-year), but instead we’re left holding our hats as wildly gesticulating media folk and boondoggled fans watch the market collusion continue unabated. Make no mistakes about it, the NHL is heading towards the same kind of labour-relations quagmire that’s haunting baseball (zero respect for aging players, squeezing the younguns with their best years in tow), and that’s especially disquieting considering the healthy state of the good ole’ hockey game. We know fans come out for the players, and the players perform passionately for the fans; it’s just a shame that economic greed has reached a point of social media normalization that makes one wonder if Gary Bettman’s Hall of Fame entry was secured less for his league accomplishments and more for the fact that in a few years he will easily become the most hated man in hockey. My money’s on the latter.
Imagine saving all your money and signing a pre-sales contract on a residential unit expecting it to be constructed (via a meticulous plan provided by overzealous and unscrupulous condominium developers), only to have the project pulled out from underneath you, thus incurring a massive financial loss on your investment and leaving you out of pocket for everything from interest earned to principal lost? That’s Toronto for you, baby! Nothing screams cosmopolitan urbanite living like a place where suckers are born every minute and two real estate assholes take them for all they’re worth. By now the majority of prospective homeowners have come to understand the basic real estate equation which exists in north-of-the-border swanky cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal: fight for your right to own a horribly over-priced, sardine-can domicile that ends up being whisked away from you because of sad and pathetic excuses ranging from “significant unanticipated construction costs increases” to “lenders who fail to make requisite constructions loans to the developer.” It’s an absolute madhouse of unregulated practices and unsupervised shenanigans that have left countless would-be homebuyers in frequent tears and with invariably empty pockets. The numbers are appalling; Since 2017 there have been 6,350 condo units cancelled across the GTA with dozens of projects all heavily marketed as dream opportunities for potential victims who end up financially exploited. You’d think as a so-called home regulator, Tarion might come to your rescue – but we all know the real hero should be the government, be it municipal or provincial. Unfortunately, the political will to address these types of grievances remains roughly on par with the need to build playgrounds, erect basketball rims and establish biking lanes – which is to say, nowhere near the radar of societal priorities. And that’s beyond sad and pathetic.