Friday, May 27, 2011

The Waiting Game

It's been eight days since Stephen Brunt declared a deal to return NHL hockey to Winnipeg was "done".

The story itself of course, of bringing the Jets back home, has been rumoured for most of the last two years. But it was the Brunt story last Thursday night that really sent Winnipeggers into a state of euphoria. Fifteen years of hope and patience (and a sky-rocketing Canadian dollar), had finally paid off.

Immediately following the Brunt report it was pure enthusiasm and exuberance. Dancing at Portage and Main, "Go Jets Go" chants at every opportunity, bar stool analysis of the Thrashers roster (Hello #1 draft pick in 2012, welcome to Winnipeg!), and of course the name game. Moose? Falcons? Or would True North throw the fans a bone and bring back the Jets moniker?

The Canadian holiday long weekend saw the initial emotions of the city transition into eager anticipation for the press conference that was to be held this past Tuesday. Old school Hawerchuk jersey packed for work? Check. Celebration plans for the local watering hole? Check. Phone calls and texts to put together a group to go splitsy on a season ticket package? Check.

Then over the last few days a hint of annoyance krept into the overall mindset of the city. Bettman's much-ado-about-nothing quote on Tampa radio Wednesday morning certainly poured water on the fire, and as we head into another weekend still waiting for the official announcement, with nothing more than the painful "negotiations continue" updates, well, panic hasn't set in yet, but it's not far off.

For now, all Winnipeggers can do is continue to hope, be patient, and trust that one of the most well-respected and knowledgeable sports journalists in Canada, who happens to write for a paper that is owned by the person who will also be part of the Winnipeg ownership group, didn't get it wrong.

And we can continue to hate Bettman.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Goodbye Jo Jo?

Now that Jo-Jo Reyes has officially tied the record, this is going to be a bigger story.

At 22, 23, 24 it was a minor nuisance, but now, after a disastrous outing in New York, the all-time winless streak could easily take over the Jays current identity. Today's loss will make the American media smell blood and threatens to overshadow the ridiculousness that is Jose Bautista and the overall spunkiness (yup) of a team that has clawed through a difficult early schedule heavily loaded with road games in tough ballparks to remain in the hunt.

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has made the 26 year-old southpaw a personal project and despite 28 consecutive starts without a victory, Reyes hasn't actually been totally horrible. At least not all the time. Of those 28 starts, only ten have come for the Jays and of those 10, six have been decent to good. Reyes has no minor league options left, so removing him from the major league roster means they risk losing him for nothing.

It's easy to look at the 28 game streak and say get rid of him, and the media pressure will no doubt intensify over Reyes' next couple of starts. But Anthopoulos has a streak of his own, one that grows with each player transaction. The GM phenom believes in the loser lefty, and Jays fans believe in the GM phenom.

That's why getting rid of a pitcher who fails to win a start 28 times in a row is somehow complicated.