There’s an old adage that says you need to be good to be lucky, or was that you need to be lucky to be good? Either way, it seems that most of the GMs representing the 6ix have had both and that has produced some positive results with hope of more to come.
We can start with the grand master himself Masai Ujiri who has led the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals. They have finished first in the Atlantic Division for the past several years and part of that success is attributed to the shrewd moves that the basketball GM has made. We can even pinpoint his Rudy Gay trade as the exact moment that the Raptors turned this franchise around. Ujiri’s years in Toronto are synonymous with success but we do seem to skip over the fact that he was also very lucky. A short time after trading away Rudy Gay, he had agreed in principle to trading Kyle Lowry to the Knicks. Thankfully, the Knicks were afraid of getting burned again by Ujiri <cough> Bargnani for a 1st round draft pick <cough> so the powers that be in New York actually vetoed the trade. It seems those in Knickerbocker Land can’t get anything right because they continue to be one of the worst teams in the league and Lowry went on to be a two time all-star and the heart of this team.
As we left the playoffs in basketball, baseball entered our mindset and new Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins were both persona non grata. Fans were not happy as they let Ace David Price scooter his way to Boston without even making him an offer. The Red Sox on the other hand, rolled out the green carpet giving him $217M over 7 years. For those mathematically challenged that is $31M per year or just under one million dollars per game pitched. So who did the new duo get as his replacement? Well, they brought back J.A. Happ for a 3 year $36M contract. Whoop de doo. You could certainly understand fans being upset back in April as it looked like this new regime was interested in money over winning. With the Jays in first place as we hit September, regardless of what you thought of Happ in April, no one… NO ONE expected him to be 17-4 and have an outside chance at the Cy Young yet there he is. Price meanwhile is having a pedestrian year at 13-8 and one of the reasons why the BoSox are not in first place.
Not to be outdone, but TFC is enjoying its best season ever. Now sure they have 3 of the highest paid designated players in the MLS, but to be competitive they have to find relatively cheap talent to fill in the remaining spots. GM Tim Bezbatchenko and Coach Greg Vanney took over a franchise that was struggling and have improved this team, year over year. I don’t think being in first place has been that much of a stretch, but doing it with young, unproven talent at times may very well be. Key players like Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and now Sebastian Giovinco (out 4 weeks with strained quadriceps and adductor) have missed time to injury. During that stretch, other players (Marco Delgado, Tsubasa Endoh and Jordan Hamilton) have filled in admirably to see this team be successful. None more surprising, or deserving of attention, than their rookie keeper Alex Bono who replaced Clint Irwin when he got injured. It is sometimes difficult to predict how young goalies will do under the spotlight, but Bono has gone 7-3-3 in Irwin’s absence and that includes 6-1-1 in his last 8 games.
There are many reasons why Toronto teams appear to be doing well of late and personally, I include the Maple Leafs in that group too as management has continued to make good decisions and it didn’t hurt that lady luck was smiling on them too when they got the first overall pick and Austin Matthews. As much as each GM has had a little luck in their success much more of it is due to their skill, talent and hard work. You need a lot more than just luck to be successful and each has proven that by being successful in the short term yet still on a path for long term success as well. I am not sure if we will be fortunate enough to celebrate a North American championship or two within the next few years, but it certainly looks like we will at least be competitive. That means meaningful games, possibly playoff and Championship games too. These are going to be very exciting times indeed… with a little luck of course.
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