Travis treats the return of Cito Gaston as mandatory, whether he agrees or not, but makes sure to spend the majority of his time telling mixed martial arts what to worry about.
· Before I get to what should be a fun edition of The Baseball Report, let’s quickly delve once again into the fairly equal combat sports of boxing and mixed martial arts. I’m still of the belief that one can’t say that MMA is clearly gaining on boxing using only the example of the UFC. Yes, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers do a brilliant job with their product. Boring fighters aren’t brought into the fold, and their guys are motivated on the big stage. They also market it brilliantly on Spike TV, while boxing still fails to get that benefit from anybody, save possibly for HBO. After what I consider to be a disastrous network TV debut for MMA with EliteXC Saturday Night Fights and its undeserved, overly gruesome main event of Kimbo Slice and James Thompson, the sport should be proven to not be invincible. Add to those problems the issues of judging controversies, poor officiating, and fighter injuries pulling guys off of card, and the two sports are more or less facing the same problems now. That’s not even to mention Dana White’s not signing Fedor Emelianenko to a deal, causing heavyweight champ Randy Couture to leave the UFC while still under contract to attempt to get a fight with Fedor elsewhere, which I’m pretty sure has never happened in boxing.
This weekend, if you get a chance and a choice, take a look at either of Showtime’s (and the Canadian Fight Network’s) Arthur Abraham-Edison Miranda rematch of a crazy brawl from 2006 or HBO’s doubleheader two meaningful fights between four top prospects (Andre Berto vs. Miki Rodriguez and Chris Arreola vs. Chazz Witherspoon) over the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter 7 finale. Sure, this season of The Ultimate Fighter’s been fantastic (one of only two on TV airing original episodes right now that I’d recommend), and if it were configured anything like last season’s finale (which featured two Fight of the Year candidates in Jon Koppenhaver/Jared Rollins and Roger Huerta/Clay Guida), I’d fully say without a doubt that it would be worth tuning in for. This time around, however, that’s not the case. With the exception of the tournament finals between Amir Sadollah and CB Dollaway (who only earned his spot in the finals after the hilarious Jesse “JT Money” Taylor got booted from the finals), and the Tim Credeur/Cale Yarbrough, Matt Riddle/Dante Rivera, and Matt Arroyo/Matt Brown fights, all of the remaining matches feature not only no castmembers from this season, but uncompetitive showcase fights that will not move or shake the UFC’s upper echelon (unlike the Huerta/Guida fight). Though castmember fights wouldn’t do that either, at least it’s a fitting finish to the season, giving the majority of the case a live fight on the big stage. MMA’s honeymoon’s already wrapping up, so the sport better get its act together if it doesn’t want boxing to stay firm on its throne.
· That went on a bit longer than I thought, but onto The Report.
35-39 Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 8-6, 3.09) @ 34-39 Pirates (Zach Duke, 4-4, 4.24)
· The plan tonight was to watch the Reds/Yankees matchup with Edinson Volquez facing Mike Mussina, but then I found out that not only were John Gibbons, Gary Denbo, Ernie Whitt, and Marty Pevey fired, but they were replaced by Cito Gaston, Gene Tenace, and Nick Leyva (as well as Dwayne Murphy, the one appointment that wasn’t an early 90s throwback)! Though I can’t say that I necessarily agree with it, the news was too shocking to not watch the first game of the beginning of the new Gaston era. I wasn’t planning to watch the Jays again for another couple of series, hoping that they’d make a return to at least mediocrity by then, but if this game’s against Pittsburgh, then it’s against Pittsburgh. Hey, at least I get to knock the Pirates off the list.
· The result? Much like the end of the Gibbons era. Halladay throws another gem, striking out seven in seven shutout innings, but is equaled by Zach Duke, who, though a pretty good pitcher is his own right, is not the Halladay-like hurler he seemed to be tonight. Halladay left after seven in an eerily familiar moment as he is hit in the head by a Nyjer Morgan comebacker (which was then conveniently caught by Scott Rolen). No scoring happens long after that, with Pittsburgh fans booing their team just as Toronto fans would have done to theirs (though, in the Pirates’ case, it might just have been their red sleeveless uniforms, perhaps the ugliest in baseball), until Blue Jays defensive mastermind John McDonald boots a grounder in the 12 th, giving Pittsburgh a 1-0 win in what I wouldn’t describe as a masterful matchup after the starters left.
· Pirates verdict: I think it’s impossible to value whether or not anybody whose been beating the Blue Jays lately is a good team, so I can’t go trying to find a spot for them in the big picture. They certainly could’ve been worse, though.
· Blue Jays verdict: Trust me, I’m not expecting Cito Gaston to come in and rejuvenate the Jays, but there are certainly worries to be had. All of a sudden, Toronto’s focus is on improving the hitting. I just hope there’s an end to that quest. The team’s got a number of guys who can hit. Wells, Rios, and Rolen especially have clearly done so for their whole careers. Maybe it just is new coaching that can bring this talent out. What happens, however, if it doesn’t work? What happens if we decide that we need to trade for a bat? Is it worth giving up McGowan, Marcum, or Litsch for that bat? I don’t think so. I hope this coaching change works, but I’d rather have to rely on bats waking up as opposed to pitchers getting into grooves. Hitters will find their way back. Pitchers? Not so much. Let’s not break up that rotation, though, because this team’s gonna be a contender if we can keep Halladay and the three young guns together.
June teams left to watch
Chicago White Sox
All of Travis MacKenzie’s work can be found on his site, Travis Time. He also covers sports for the Brock Press. Any questions or comments directed towards Travis can be placed in comments on Travis Time, on any of his Armchair GM posts, or e-mailed to TravisTime@gmail.com