Archive for November, 2010

So I got to play a couple of mid-November golf rounds recently, which in Canada is a serious bonus.  The weather was gorgeous (nearly 70*) and the conditions were perfect so I decided it was time to give my brand new Taylormade Burner 2.0 irons their first on course testing.  I was absolutely itching to play and looking at these beauties in the basement is torture so I played two rounds in the span of three days and I thought I would share my thoughts on how the clubs performed for me.

To discuss the Burner 2.0s further and/or discuss clubs I have tried or clubs you want to try/review, follow me on TWITTER @tdotsports1 – join the ongoing conversation now!

I played at Tarandowah in Southern Ontario and I while I have played it before I must say it is an absolutely beautiful course – a hidden gem.  It is links style golf with a real rustic appeal, you almost feel like you are teeing it up for the final round of the British Open.  It plays over 7,000 yards from the tips though I decided to play from one tee block inward as it was my first round with the irons and well, my game really hasn’t been sharp.

Look at address:

For a game improvement iron they did not appear “clunky” or huge by any stretch and there wasn’t anything jetting out where it shouldn’t have been (in a distractive sense) so that was the first positive.  They have a beautiful finish and they definitely inspire confidence when about to “unleash the fury”.  They get more streamlined as you go up in loft and the 8-iron through to my attack wedge looked amazing.

The guy I was playing with noticed these were the “new Burners” and was pretty impressed I was already hitting with them.   I almost felt obligated to let him try one out – almost.

Grips:

The grips were ok but they were a bit slick at times even wearing a golf glove.  A lot has been made about the grips by some reviewers and while they weren’t the greatest, they weren’t the worst.  I will give strong consideration to having them re-gripped however, if that tells you anything.

Feel:

The Burners have a nice feel at impact, much better than I had anticipated when I had first tested them.  I hit all sorts of shots on the course, with a tee, from tight fairway lies to being buried in the fescue.  The feel was almost always superb and definitely not an issue or negative factor with the Burners.

Performance:

Considering this was my first couple of rounds with a brand new set of irons I’d say they were a great success.  I was hitting a lot of quality iron shots and the clubs really responded well.  On miss-hits I was still blown away by the lack of punishment on distance and accuracy and when I really hit one flush they were long gone, these sticks are long.

I use a long iron a lot off the tee and now I wish I actually had the 3-iron as well because I was absolutely crushing the 4-iron off the tee.  I played with a couple older gentlemen who were hitting around 240-260 with their drivers and I was not much behind them with my 4-iron.  One of them commented if he could hit a 3-iron like that he wouldn’t use a driver either, when I told him it was actually a 4-iron he got pretty quiet!

My distance control as expected was awful and I did not get dialled in at all and that will be my next challenge to really utilize these amazing clubs.  I was a club, club and a half longer with every iron.  The lofts are strong of course but these are easy to hit and do exactly what they claim – which is going a mile.  I might even look into getting a 2 or 3-iron if one is available in my area and just say goodbye to the driver forever.

I hit a nice 5-iron approach from about 205 yards and put it to the back edge of the green.  With my Mizuno MX25s that would have taken a massive 4-iron so again they are about a club stronger (strong lofts do play a role) overall.  It does something for your confidence when standing over a ball knowing you are taking a full club less and might not even have to hit it flush to get the required distance.

I also felt I was pretty accurate with the shorter irons but again I really was almost shooting blind in terms of distance and feel given this was my first couple of rounds.  But this was my biggest struggle in terms of distance, control and accuracy.  However that is nothing some good old fashioned range sessions can’t help.

Overall:

Considering the substantial distance control issues and overall foreign feel of my new Burner 2.0 irons I would have expected to shoot a lot worse but I was right around my recent scoring average.  My general opinion is that these clubs helped my game based on how I was swinging and will continue to maximize the level of talent I have once I really get dialled in and my swing is where it needs to be.

If you are in the market and you are considering testing out a few irons I would highly recommend adding these to your list.

Check out my review of the brand new Nike Pro VR Combo irons!

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Chris Bosh probably anticipated the occasional bump in the road when he embarked on his new basketball journey with the Miami Heat however I find it highly unlikely he could have foreseen this much negative reaction over his first nine games in South Beach.  I have already discussed and given my opinions on Chris Bosh and how the Miami Heat will soon learn they are inheriting a solid big man but also one who may not compliment the talented wing combination of D.Wade and Lebron James.

Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports recently wrote a scathing review of Chris Bosh so far in a Heat jersey and basically stated if he hasn’t already, Pat Riley should be looking to move Bosh for a “goon” – a player with toughness, rebounding and tenacity.  Basically he worries the Heat won’t be able to compete in the playoffs with a softy like Bosh leading their frontcourt.  He doesn’t think it will work and he goes on to say the “Big Three” should be replaced by the “Big Two” along with a Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman type – or in today’s game a Anderson Varejao or Luis Scola.

Since deciding to leave the Raptors after seven successful individual season he has been called a third wheel, a luggage carrier, a front runner and even a quitter by his former GM Bryan Colangelo.  Carmelo Anthony was just recently quoted as saying “I’m not Chris Bosh” referring to the latter’s hanging out the Toronto Raptors organization to dry during his departure with his immature twitter-filled escapades.

Bosh went from one of the (if not the) best power forwards in the game with a still bright future to an also-ran, a target for all physical big men in the NBA to devour under the glass, a whipping boy.  Bosh averaged an impressive 24 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and attempted 16.5 shots in approximately 36 minutes a night for the Toronto Raptors in 2009/10.

In only 9 games thus far into the new season Bosh is averaging 14.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assist and attempts 11 shots a night for the Heat.  The drop in scoring and rebounding was to be expected but perhaps not to this extent.  Playing under the microscope the new Miami team has created will only intensify as the season progresses and especially if the Heat continue to underachieve.

Chris Bosh was the man in Toronto, he had the limelight and he was beloved in Toronto especially after taking over the franchise player role when the apathetic Vince Carter was shipped out of town.  He could’ve continued his ascension up the ranks of the greatest power forwards of all time on a pure numbers basis with the 24/10 he was putting up night in and night out. 

When Bosh was firmly planted on the Heat bench for basically the entire fourth quarter versus his former mates in Toronto I couldn’t help but wonder if he was feeling a bit of regret for the decision he made and the role he has been given on his new team.  I wonder if the feeling for the Miami Heat is mutual and they are starting to get some buyer’s remorse with their max contract power forward.

Bosh has looked lost when on the court and a bit depressed off the court and in interviews he has given.  He detests the “third wheel” tag and the fact that his game is no longer being well respected across the league by most media outlets.  This is the decision he must live with for the next five or so seasons barring a surprise trade, do you think the Heat would accept an offer of Reggie Evans for Bosh?  Hey, I had to ask! 

Maybe it is still too early to deem Bosh a bust with Miami and chances are he will start to pick his game up but come playoff time when the play down low is more physical and intense if Bosh will whilt under the pressure and be exposed by Kevin Garnett, Shaquille (and Jermaine) O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins if the Heat face the Celtics at some point in crucial playoff games.

One thing I know for sure, I can’t imagine this is the type of start he envisioned.

Alex Anthopoulos is a shrewd baseball man, plain and simple.  The Blue Jays recently added Miguel Olivo for a player to be named later and will immediately buy out Olivo for a cool half million.  Why would the Blue Jays make such a move you might ask?  The reasoning is simple, yet brilliant – to have the potential to acquire a valuable compensation pick in the upcoming MLB amateur draft.

You see in the draconian MLB compensation system a team can offer a player arbitration and gain a draft pick (anywhere from a first round to an early second round pick) if the player rejects the arbitration offer in the hopes of landing a more lucrative (and longer term) contract.  According to Victor Wang’s research from 2009, a 1st round pick is worth about $5.2 million, a supplemental pick around $2.6 million and a second round compensatory pick worth $0.8 million.

The Jays hope that all of their potential arbitration eligible players (Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, John Buck, Kevin Gregg, and Miguel Olivo) will not only turn down the arbitration offer but also net them a draft pick in the process.  A calculated risk, read Jack Moore’s excellent piece at Fangraphs for more on this move and the Blue Jays motives for such a move.  The 2011 draft is supposed to be absolutely loaded with great talent and promises to be (on paper) one of the deeper drafts in recent memory and ideally the Jays (if things go to plan) could end up with eight picks in the top fifty – huge.

I wanted to dive into the Blue Jays winter plans a little deeper and come up with what I thought would be the absolutely ideal offseason for the team.  First, the chances of all of these moves coming to fruition are pretty slim and we aren’t sure what type of budget increase AA intends to try and push to the suits at Rogers Corp or if he even feels the Jays are close enough to contention to make it worth his while. 

But let’s assume the Jays were legit in 2010 and really aren’t all that far from being a true contender in the AL East.  With the New York Yankees suddenly looking older and vulnerable (though still deep pocketed), the Boston Red Sox seemingly stuck in neutral and the Tampa Bay Rays potentially losing Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and (rumoured) Matt Garza – the time for the Jays to strike could be and maybe should be now. 

Coming off an unexpected (for the most part) 85-win campaign the Blue Jays head into 2011 clearly a team on the rise and I contend had they played in any other division in baseball would likely have made the playoffs.  With that, what moves do I feel the team should make if the budget allowed, let’s take a look at one realistic, one hopeful and one long shot potential offseason move.

1)      Re-sign reliever Scott Downs.  Reliable, tough on lefties and a guy who doesn’t break in pressure situations Downs has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past three seasons.  His FIP during the past three seasons have been phenomenal (3.39, 3.33 & 3.03) and he likely could be signed to a fairly team friendly contract if the team strikes early.

2)       Take a run at free agent 3B Adrian Beltre.  Beltre would give us instant improvement in infield defense and make our pitching staff that much more effective while providing a solid power bat in the middle of the order.  He is an intense gamer who plays hard every at-bat and every inning in the field – a throwback.  He will likely see a drop in batting average (.331 BABIP in 2010) and he doesn’t have much patience (6.9% career BB rate) but the combination of his power bat, slick glove while also presumably weakening the rival Red Sox make him a valuable commodity for the Jays.  He could command upwards of 4-5 years on a deal that would pay him 14-16 million annually, maybe more, so he comes with a price tag.

3)      Trade for Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke.  Before you laugh this one off hear me out, Greinke is not a New York/Boston big baseball market kind of guy and rumours circulate the team and player both want a potential trade to happen and I say why not Toronto?

We have a near perfect environment for a guy like Greinke (who battled depression and anxiety issues in the past) with a young, improving group of players and ownership’s supposed commitment to fielding a competitive team, no matter the cost.  More importantly we have the young pieces to get a potential deal done should the opportunity present itself.

An offer centred on Travis Snider with the potential of adding guys like Zach Stewart, Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, Deck McGuire and a host of other intriguing names in the finally viable Blue Jays farm system would at the very least get the Jays “in the mix”.  And though the competition for the services of a young and talented arm like Zack Greinke will be fierce and the price very steep I wouldn’t count out the Blue Jays as a potential suitor like most of the baseball pundits, sites and publications – it could happen.

Well that is my ideal offseason and if coupled with a few other minor moves to solidify the bullpen and our bench could go a very long way in turning the Jays not only into a contender but a potential favourite in one of the harder divisions in sports.  It might be a pipedream but I think reality is the Jays are becoming closer to a team that could be fighting for division titles and have championship aspirations in the not too distant future.

UPDATE: My Maple Leafs content and pieces can now be found at the best Toronto Maple Leaf site on the net, visit it now!  Maple Leafs Hot Stove

Nothing stirs emotion quite like an athlete leaving his home town team for a multitude of different reasons, but when it is a matter of getting more money, it can get downright ugly.  Fans literally see red when this happens and inevitably there will be a comment or two made with a more general take on athletes pay in general.  The consensus or concerns typically raised are “how can these athletes get paid the way they do” and “their salaries are ridiculous especially compared to doctor’s (or lawyers, nurses etc) considering what they actually provide to society”. 

First I have to qualify I am not here to suggest in any shape or form that an athlete is more critical or vital to our society than say a doctor (or nurse etc), it would be ludicrous to even ponder that.  My goal is to simply look at it from a numbers point of view, to look at how rare the professional athlete truly is and to try and rationalize why the athlete is in fact getting paid some of these massive funds.

Again, we need doctors, we probably need more (a lot more) than what we have now and the fact is we don’t need a single baseball/hockey player in the world in a Maslow Hierarchical sense.  So why do athletes get paid significantly higher than almost any doctor, lawyer, nurse or garbage man? 

While I agree the contracts appear to be astronomically out of proportion to what the average Joe makes, here are a few reasons athletes get paid what they do:

a)      There is a market value, and a team has determined that at ‘x’ amount of dollars to the player per season the team will in turn be making ‘x’ amount of dollars on said player, they don’t just make up some figure to appease a player or his agent, there is a science and exactness to the economics side.  The same reasons movie stars get a big payday is the same reason an athlete does, millions of fans are paying to see them.

b)      It is a rare talent, and supply and demand will simply dictate the pay scale.  It is much harder to find a player who can consistently hit a 95-mph fastball at the highest level of competition than it is to find a potential doctor, lawyer, or truck driver.  A sad truth in life for most of us is that we could be replaced tomorrow and likely wouldn’t even be missed, in a production sense.    

c)       While a doctor or lawyer is obviously a very important position in a practical matter, the fact is there aren’t 10-50,000 people lined up to watch this particular person perform every night.  Actually most of us will literally do anything to avoid seeing either!  The pro sports market is huge and the revenues these teams can create on the backs of their athletes are astonishing, and the athletes don’t even see close to the majority of this cash.

d)      Athlete’s risk there well being and livelihood on a daily basis as generally the sports they play are extremely dangerous (hockey, football) or unbelievably tough on the body (think of a baseball pitcher’s shoulder or a linebackers brain), or both.  According to a recent study by UNC University “repeatedly concussed NFL players” had five times the rate of cognitive impairment (pre-Alzheimer’s) than the average population.  The Average life expectancy for all pro football players, including all positions and backgrounds, is 55 years.

e)      The career length of an athlete (depending on sport) can be very short, from 5-7 years in the NFL, or 12-20 in baseball, hockey or basketball.  A lot of careers are ended prematurely and even if they aren’t normally retirement is nothing to brag about.  Due to the punishing effects on the body a players post-career years are usually filled with various aches, pains, arthritis and other debilitating conditions that have developed over the years of play.

Let’s take it a step further and use the sport of baseball as just one example, there are 30 teams, 25 players per roster, we will round up to 40 players per roster to include some prospects that might one day have a chance to make the club (slim as it may be).  That’s a group of 1200 current or would-be players in the major leagues.  Now look at the study, Supply, Migration and Distribution of Canadian Physicians, 2008, shows that between 2004 and 2008, the number of active physicians in Canada grew from 60,612 to 65,440.

If baseball teams could only choose Canadians for their rosters that would mean approximately 1 in 29166 people could potentially be a major league ball player while approximately 1 in 534 are currently doctors.  You are roughly 54 times more likely to become a practicing physician than become a major league ball player again if only Canadians could be chosen by major league baseball teams – bear in mind that is only Canada, a population of roughly 35-million people.   

While theoretically it is possible for nearly anybody to become a doctor (study hard in school, go to a graduate medical school and get there PHD) obviously it is not that simple and not everybody can actually become a doctor.  The competition is pretty fierce to make it in the land of doctor’s and there are tens of thousands graduating from med schools around the world on an annual basis.

Yet the chances of becoming a professional baseball player are astronomically worse.  There are millions of people from all over the world who are trying to make it to the next level of competitive sports and teams have an endless supply to choose from, yet an extremely limited amount of spots and the chances of actually being good enough to make it are very low.  So it is contradictory to my supply and demand theory right?  Well there are millions of potential players but only a handful actually good enough to compete on the highest level. 

The world population is nearly 6.7 billion people, take that 1200 figure (double or triple it for fun) and then do the calculation, yeah, I think it has been shown that the talents of a professional athlete is rare indeed.  With those figures out of the way, let’s get to the salary issue, though I think you can see where this is heading.

The average salary of a Canadian physician ranges roughly between $150,000 and $300,000 (in a publicly funded system) while the average MLB salary in 2010 was recently reported to be $3.34 million dollars – or 22 times greater than the low end of the average physician’s pay scale.  Some physician’s make considerably more than that, and that is not including some ‘luxury’ doctors as well, such as cosmetic plastic surgeons as one example. 

Some doctors are paid considerably more than even some athletes and again while I have to qualify we do not need a single athlete (well, except maybe in New York or Boston!) we do in fact need doctors however people have shown since the beginning of time that they value the entertainment a pro athlete and pro team brings them and are willing to shell out there hard earned money to watch them perform.

Let me reiterate you are roughly 54 times more likely to become a practicing physician (all things equal) than become a major league ball player if teams were only permitted to select Canadians, with those numbers the pay differential is only 22 times higher in most cases.  You can imagine what the overall numbers would look like when you started to factor in the millions of prospective players trying to make it to the pro’s in South America, Caribbean, and Asian nations and of course the United States.

Without question athletes are generally overpaid in the sense of what they bring to society, but from a pure numbers, economics, supply and demand, extremely rare talent logic they are probably closer to underpaid –a sickening thought I know.

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