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  • Josh Groban Hitting Toronto Stage For Two Nights Behind Stages

    Josh Groban plays 2 shows at the Sony Centre in Toronto, September 21st and 22nd.

    For somebody with such a powerful, at times operatic voice, singer Josh Groban certainly doesn't take himself too seriously. After making a memorable collaboration with Jimmy Kimmel whereby Groban sang Kanye West tweets a few years back, the duo returned in late August to revisit the idea. Only this time with Donald Trump tweets.

    “It's all me,” Groban told British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013 about his music/comedy dichotomy. “I'm very serious about my music, but I really don't take myself seriously at all. When it's time for me to sing a song, I'm in the song. But when it's time for me to joke around, I don't even know who that guy was.”

    But Groban will spend the next few months focused on music, namely touring behind his latest album Stages. The tour will hit Toronto's Sony Centre For The Performing Arts for a two-night stand Sept. 21-22. The album made news prior to its release when Groban released “All I Ask Of You,” a song from the iconic musical Phantom Of The Opera which had Kelly Clarkson adding vocals.

    “Everybody knows she can sing stratospherically in the pop world, but I wanted people to be blown away hearing her sing something that was totally different than what they're used to,” Groban said in a Huffington Post interview in late April. “She took on this song and hit notes I've never heard her sing before.”

    He told in May now seemed to be the right time for Stages. “I could have made this album at 18 and sung my ass off, and in many ways it would have made sense, and that might be the reason I didn't do it – it made a little too much sense,” he said.

    Groban, who appeared on the big screen in the 2014 film Muppets Most Wanted featuring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais, said he considered this album of signature stage songs for years. “You need to know your fans are there for you for a record like this.”

    It seems fans know him far better compared to other stars and their fan bases. In an age when access to celebrities can be scarce at best or severely one-sided, Groban has shown himself to be a very open person to go superstar musical chops.

    “I don't have a circus around me, and that's a choice,” he told Vulture. “I like to be on planet Earth as much as possible. I've been offered private planes and I'm like, no!”

    The singer, who has been compared to Andrea Bocelli among others, is perhaps best known for the song “You Raise Me Up.” What is perhaps most surprising though is having been in the music business for approximately 15 years and still hasn't hit 35 years of age!

    So between his brilliant voice and his witty banter between songs, Josh Groban will guarantee you a fine night out when he stops at Toronto's Sony Centre For The Performing Arts Sept. 21-22. Get your tickets here!

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  • Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari Bringing Oddball Comedy Tour To Toronto

    Aziz Ansari and Amy Schumer headline the Oddball Comedy Tour, which comes to Toronto on September 6th.

    After she and Judd Apatow did a test run at Toronto's Massey Hall earlier this year comedians Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari and others are hitting the road again as part of the Oddball Comedy Tour. The trek, which hits Toronto's Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on Sept. 6, is an ambitious jaunt of larger venues but one Schumer, Ansari and others on the bill (Jim Norton, Jay Pharoah, Michael Che) seem quite capable of tackling.

    Schumer's popularity reached new heights thanks to this summer's comedy blockbuster Trainwreck. It was anything but a trainwreck critically and commercially with $112.5 million in sales internationally. That, in addition to her Comedy Central hit Inside Amy Schumer, has almost guaranteed the star a place on the small and big screen for years to come. Yet she's not living high off the hog. “I'm like the richest person I know and I have a one-bedroom and a walk-up,” she told the BBC in a recent interview about her New York City abode. “My bed folds up into the wall and I iron there.”

    But Schumer isn't resting. She's confirmed to be the Oct. 10 host for Saturday Night Live and is reportedly setting things in motion for another comedy motion picture although it's too early to tell what it's about. As Jerry Seinfeld quipped in a recent Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee episode, “this chick has some horsepower, she does standup, tv, movies. When you can do all that you belong in a Ferrari.”

    Just as popular as Schumer is Aziz Ansari, one of the cornerstones of the comedy Parks And Recreation who has done quite well in recent years. He also released his debut book this past June with Eric Klinenberg entitled Modern Romance: An Investigation which the blog Cultured Vultures deemed a “trailblazing piece of research and humor.” Meanwhile Netflix released a Live At Madison Square Garden headlining special featuring Ansari earlier this year.

    “Creatively, I like to keep moving and work on the next thing that I'm excited about,” Ansari told in June. “So right now my head's all up in the TV show, which has some of that stuff but it's really about a bunch of other things as well.” The “TV show” in question is an as-yet untitled comedy series for Netflix he's co-producing with Alan Yang, David Miner and Michael Schur, all three who worked on Parks And Recreation.

    It also sounds like Ansari is eager to get the Oddball Comedy Tour underway. “There's a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to properly do an arena,” Ansari told Deadline. “Any time stand-ups get to that level, it's pretty insane.”

    Also on the Oddball Comedy Tour Toronto lineup are SNL alumni and current members including Jay Pharoah and Michael Che, the latter having anchored SNL's Weekend Update this past season to at times mixed reviews.

    So with two of the hottest names in comedy together with a stellar supporting cast, the Oddball Comedy Tour is definitely a grand slam. Be sure to get tickets for Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari when they hit Toronto's Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on Sept. 6. Get your tickets here now!

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  • Toronto Blue Jays En Route To First Playoff Appearance In 22 Years

    David Price and the Blue Jays celebrate during their recent 11 game win streak.

    It's the middle of August and the Toronto Blue Jays are in the hunt for a playoff spot. No, really. With a 66-55 record, the team is two games back of the New York Yankees for the American League East lead, but more importantly they're 2.5 games up on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the first Wild Card berth.

    The Blue Jays currently have the longest drought in Major League Baseball, going 22 years without making the playoffs. As a result, the city is dying for a playoff berth and after the additions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, the city has been electric. With average crowds of over 40,000 people at the Rogers Centre, the building has been reminiscent of the early 1990s.

    There are a few important series that will make or break the Blue Jays making the playoffs, however if they continue to stay around .500, they'll have a real chance at breaking that drought. Although every game is meaningful until the season ends on October 3, here are a few series that are more significant than others.

    August 21-23 @ Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim

    Projected Starters: 

    Aug. 21 - David Price (11-4) vs. Hector Santiago (7-6)

    Aug. 22 - Marco Estrada (10-7) vs.  Andrew Heaney (5-1)

    Aug 23 - R.A Dickey (7-10) vs. Garrett Richards (12-9)

    In terms of statistics, the Blue Jays have a disadvantage facing the Angels on the road. Whenever David Price is on the mound that should be a guaranteed win, but after that, the team may struggle. Marco Estrada has been decent on the road, but Andrew Heaney has been lights out at home with a 3-0 record, 2.63 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. The Blue Jays' bats will have to be working extra hard that night in order to get a win off the 6'2" left-hander.

    During game three of the series, the Blue Jays will be in trouble with R.A. Dickey on the mound. The former Cy Young winner has a 1-7 road record, that includes a 5.11 ERA and an opposing .305 batting average. The Angels are scheduled to have the hard-throwing Garrett Richards pitching that night, which screams trouble for the Blue Jays. Even though Toronto has the best offence in baseball, Richards' 8-3 record, 2.53 ERA, 73 strikeouts in 83.0 innings and .195 opposing batting average will make it tough to secure a win.

    September 4-6 vs. Baltimore Orioles (click for tickets)

    Projected Starters: 

    Sept. 4 - Drew Hutchinson (12-2) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (9-7)

    Sept. 5 - Mark Buehrle (13-5) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (9-8)

    Sept.6 - David Price (11-4) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (7-6)

    As the Wild Card Standings sit right now, the Baltimore Orioles are 0.5 games back of the second place spot, and 4 games behind the Blue Jays. As a result, this series will be very important in a few weeks. If the standings were to stay the same, the Orioles could end up tying the Blue Jays or potentially moving ahead of them.

    Fortunately for the Blue Jays, they'll have their two best pitchers in Price and Mark Buehrle scheduled to pitch. In addition, Drew Hutchinson has been unstoppable at home this season with a 10-1 record, 2.57 ERA and one complete game, so he should primed for a win against Jimenez who's 3-5 on the road with a 4.51 ERA. Baltimore is sixth in baseball in runs scored, and fourth in home runs, which means they have the ability to overpower Toronto, but they'll be in tough with Buehrle and Price on the mound. Also, with a 9-3 home record in August, Toronto has been hot as of late, so expect them to keep that rolling against Baltimore.

    September 10-13 @ New York Yankees

    Projected Starters: 

    Sept. 10 - Mark Buehrle (13-5) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (12-2)

    Sept. 11 - David Price (11-4) vs.  Ivan Nova (5-4)

    Sept. 12 - Marco Estrada (10-7)  vs. Masahiro Tanaka (9-5)

    Sept. 13 - R.A Dickey (7-10) vs. Luis Severino (0-2)

    The last time the Blue Jays went to Yankee Stadium they swept them three games straight. It was a huge moment in the season and pushed them within games of the AL East lead. Since Toronto and New York have continued to stay even as of late, this series will be huge towards determining who wins the division title. If Toronto or New York is able to win three or four games in this series, it could be the boost they need to secure the AL East.

    Since the series is still roughly three weeks away, those starters are scheduled to be changed. A lot can happen in that timeframe, so it's very likely that one of those pitchers won't be pitching on that day as listed. However, let's just pretend they are and break it down accordingly.

    Starting with September 10, Toronto's most consistent pitcher is projected to face 'Nasty Nate' Eovaldi. Buehrle has pitched better at home this season, but his 6-4 record and 3.48 ERA has been pretty impressive away from the Rogers Centre. Nathan Eovaldi has a 12-2 record, but that record doesn't reflect his season. He's receiving roughly 8 runs of support per game, and has been racking up the wins because of it. With a 4.26 ERA, the Yankees have been able to score in bunches when he's been on the mound, so although he's pitched decent, he's been more lucky than anything this season.

    As previously mentioned, the next game in the series should be a win for the Blue Jays. Whenever David Price steps on the mound—especially against the AL East—it usually means a victory for his team. On the other hand, Ivan Nova is coming off Tommy John Surgery and although he's had a decent season, he's no David Price.

    The last two games of the series in terms of pitching match-ups are a wash. Tanaka torched the Blue Jays when they last played at the Rogers Centre and there's nothing to think that he won't do it again. R.A. Dickey has had a rough season on the road, but he's played pretty well against the Yankees all season. In three games thus far, he's posted a 1-0 record and 1.27 ERA, so the knuckleball has been working against the Yankees. The veteran is scheduled to go up against the rookie Luis Severino, which could make it an easy win for the Blue Jays. Severino has had a good start to his rookie season, but he hasn't been able to get any run support. If Dickey can continue to keep Yankees hitters swinging and missing, then it could turn into another loss for Severino.

    The Blue Jays will also play the Yankees at home from September 21-23, which will be just as important as their series in the Bronx. Depending on where they are in the playoff standings, the series at home could end up being the most important of the season, but they'll have to at least split the series at Yankee Stadium to keep themselves in the hunt.

    September 18-20 vs. Boston Red Sox (click for tickets)

    Projected Starters: TBA

    By the middle of September, the Boston Red Sox lineup may be filled with many Triple A call-ups because they'll be waiting for the season to end. Currently holding a 53-66 record, the Red Sox can only afford to lose a few games in their remaining 43 in order to make a playoff spot and that seems incredibly unlikely. The Red Sox should be officially out of the playoff run by middle of September which means the only reason they'll be playing is to try to keep Toronto from gaining any ground in the AL East.

    It's unsure who will be pitching for either the Blue Jays or Red Sox because it's so far in advance, but no matter who it is for Boston, Toronto should be able to match them. The Red Sox have batted well all season, but their pitching has been near the bottom in every category in the major leagues. Take that into consideration, along with Toronto having the best offence in the league, and Toronto should be vying for a sweep.

    September 21-23 vs. New York Yankees

    Projected Starters: TBA

    Like the Red Sox series before it, it is too early to speculate on who the starting pitchers will be, except to say that you can be sure David Price will get the ball for one of the 3 games.  Part of the reason they acquired him was to maximize him in the pennant race, and no other games matter as much as those versus the Yankees.

    September 25-27 vs. Tampa Bay Rays

    Projected Starters: TBA

    If Toronto isn't able to secure a home playoff game, these will be the last home games of the season. Toronto has had a tough time against Tampa Bay this year, but that was before they made the blockbuster trades for Tulowitzki and Price. Since making those trades, Toronto has been a totally different team and they'll be sure to do better against the Rays this time.

    Tampa Bay has been a consistent team in terms of pitching this year and that's what could cost Toronto. Although they're one of the best offensive teams in baseball, they'll be in tough if they have to face Tampa Bay's ace Chris Archer. Compiling a 10-9 record and 2.93 ERA, Archer has been a strikeout machine this year with 194 strikeouts in 160.0 innings pitched. Other than Archer, the Jays shouldn't have any trouble with the 59-60 Rays.

    There is plenty of baseball left to play and anything could happen by this point. The Blue Jays could go on another 11-game winning streak and guarantee themselves a playoff spot by then, or they could go on a losing streak and make this series feel as important as the World Series. Either way, with roughly 40 games remaining there isn't a game that isn't important. Although there could be some trouble along the way, the Blue Jays are well on their way to securing their first playoff spot in 22 years.

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  • The Addition of Ben Revere and Mark Lowe Should Guarantee Blue Jays a Playoff Spot

    Blue Jays new left fielder Ben Revere The deadline day additions of speedy left-fielder Ben Revere (pictured) and reliever Mark Lowe should be enough to propel the Blue Jays into the playoffs. Credit: Peter Llewellyn, USA Today

    After acquiring the best shortstop and the best available starting pitcher in baseball, there wasn't much more that Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos needed to do in order to make his team better.

    However, during the last hours prior to the Trade Deadline, Anthopoulos addressed the two weaknesses that the team still had by trading for a relief pitcher and left fielder. The Blue Jays very well could have been content with the talent that they had already secured, but it wasn't good enough for Anthopoulos. Therefore, the Blue Jays went out and acquired Ben Revere from the Philadelphia Phillies and Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners.

    Anthopoulos is known for making deals. Ever since he became General Manager on October 4, 2009, he's been doing everything he can to make the Blue Jays better for both now and down the road. The famous 2012 Miami Marlins deal was the biggest blockbuster trade that Anthopoulos had ever made until he added four important pieces this week. David Price and Troy Tulowitzki were previously discussed, and although they are bigger names, the additions of Ben Revere and Mark Lowe may play a bigger part in the Blue Jays making the playoffs.

    Revere is a steady outfielder who will fill in better than Chris Colabello. Revere is not going to hit for power like Colabello would, but that's fine. The Blue Jays have enough bats that can hit the ball out of the park and need someone like Revere who can get on base and use his speed to create runs. As a career .291 hitter, Revere is going to fit perfectly as a lead-off hitter or at the number-nine spot. It's been a few seasons since Revere has played in the American League, but in his last season with the Minnesota Twins he was able to hit .294, so he shouldn't have any trouble adjusting to new pitchers.

    The one downside to Revere's game is his arm strength. He has good speed that allows him to make some plays that maybe some other players normally wouldn't, but he doesn't have a very strong arm. Jeff Sullivan from FanGraphs broke down all 19 of Revere's career outfield assists, prior to the start of the season. Although 19 outfield assists since 2011 was actually an impressive number, it became clear that the number may not have been reflective to his actual skills.

    Of those 19 outfield assists, only six of them were directly created by Revere's arm. Also, of those six plays, there was really only one throw that an outfielder could have been proud of. Revere does not have a bullet of an arm like his new teammate Jose Bautista, so fans shouldn't be upset if opponents are scoring on sacrifice flies hit to him. Fortunately, Revere is incredibly speedy and might even be able to cut off some balls in the gap to prevent runs to counteract his weak arm. He's not going to throw anybody out but he'll be an important piece no matter what.

    By trading for Revere, the Blue Jays' lineup that looked perfect with the Troy Tulowitzki addition became so much more versatile. With Tulo now playing the role of Jose Reyes at the top of the order, Revere has slotted into the #9 spot in place of the injured Devon Travis. With 24 stolen bases already this season, the Blue Jays should continue to allow him to steal at will. His speed makes this team so much better because the players behind him are such offensive weapons that he even has the chance to score from first whenever someone like Josh Donaldson, Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion are hitting.

    Although the Revere deal seems like a small one compared to a David Price or Tulowitzki acquisition, it's sometimes the little trades that make the biggest difference. Revere could be the guy who gets that big hit to secure the Blue Jays a playoff spot, or someone who uses their speed to get that game-winning run. Revere is a tremendous addition to the Blue Jays and should be a great contributor for the team as they are now in the stretch-run for the playoffs.

    Last but not least, the Blue Jays made another deal to acquire relief pitcher Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners last Friday. Lowe is a 32-year-old right-hander from Houston, Texas and should bring some much needed experience to the Blue Jays bullpen. Although Lowe will not be looked upon to be the Blue Jays closer, Toronto is still the worst team in baseball with 18 team saves. Lowe will be used as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings to make Roberto Osuna's job easier in the ninth.

    With 10 years of major league experience, Lowe is a perfect fit for Toronto's bullpen. The Blue Jays addressed their pitching needs by acquiring a proven relief pitcher who has some World Series experience, just like Tulowitzki and Price. Big-time pitching experience is something that this Toronto team is unfamiliar with. Therefore, the addition of Lowe will be huge for Toronto moving forwards. The games are going to get harder and more important as the season progresses, so it was important for the Blue Jays to get a player who they can rely on in crucial late inning situations.

    In 34 appearances in Seattle this season, Lowe has a 1.00 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. If he can continue those numbers in Toronto, the Blue Jays may have lucked out in getting one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. It doesn't get much better than those numbers for a set-up man, so the Blue Jays hit the jackpot by acquiring such a proven veteran.

    Compared to last season's Trade Deadline, it's completely night and day for the Blue Jays. The team didn't address any of their needs and missed the playoffs for the 21st consecutive year. By acquiring two huge names in Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, Jays fan everywhere would have been quite content. However, by adding two proven players in Ben Revere and Mark Lowe, Alex Anthopoulos and the rest of the Blue Jays management has proved that they're ready for a playoff run.

    The last two months of the baseball season should be a fun one for Blue Jays fans. Currently sitting in a Wild Card berth, the Jays made the perfect amount of moves that should guide them to a playoff spot: Okay, Blue Jays, let's play ball.

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  • The Price Is Right For The Toronto Blue Jays

    David Price New Blue Jays Ace David Price

    The Toronto Blue Jays are spending money like the New York Yankees this week, and the city couldn't be happier.

    After Troy Tulowitzki joined the Blue Jays earlier in the week, the question was still, "Where is the pitching?" That was solved Thursday morning when the Blue Jays acquired David Price from the Detroit Tigers for Daniel Norris, Jario Labourt and Matt Boyd. Norris was one of the Jays best pitching prospects and was the closest of the three to being a regular in the big leagues. Regardless, trading for a former Cy Young winner doesn't come easily and it's more than a fair deal to acquire Price.

    Currently holding a 9-4 record, 2.53 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, the 6'6" lefty immediately turns into the number-one pitcher in the Blue Jays rotation. This also means that the team currently has both Cy Young winners from 2012, as R.A Dickey won the award for the National League the same year as Price. The addition of the former Cy Young winner shocked the baseball world—for the second time this week—and as a result, the team should now be a favourite to win one of the two American League Wild Card spots.

    As of July 30, the Blue Jays sit 2.0 games out of the Wild Card race and 7.0 games back of the A.L East division leading New York Yankees. Anything can happen in a baseball season and although the Yankees hold a solid lead, that could change very quickly. The Yankees were already lacking starting pitching and just lost Michael Pineda to the 15-day Disabled List, so this could be a chance for the Jays to jump ahead of them.

    Via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was ecstatic about the move to acquire Price.

    “It feels like you’re almost playing fantasy baseball, you know what I mean? But that being said you’ve still got to go out there and win games and the goal is to score more runs than the other team and we need to continue to figure out a way to do that.”

    Whenever fellow teammates are overjoyed about bringing in a new player it's always a good sign. The buzz in Toronto is that the 21-year drought without a playoff appearance is nearing the end and Price could be the team's saviour.

    General Manager Alex Anthopoulos was also quoted in Nicholson-Smith's Sportsnet piece and talked about how much he liked the current team he's putting together.

    "I like the way the team is coming together...I like the group. I like the mix, from character and makeup to talent, athleticism, defence, all those type of things, I like the mix that we have right now. Adding David Price? Who wouldn’t be pleased with that?”

    Currently in his eighth career season, Price has a 95-55 record, which translates to a .633 winning percentage. Price is a workhorse and no matter where he pitches, he's going to win. Spending seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L East, Price is incredibly familiar with the division and should be a key contributor to shutting down the Baltimore Orioles, Rays and Yankees during this stretch-run towards the playoffs.

    The biggest question within this trade is not if David Price will perform well with the Blue Jays. There's nothing within his eight years in the big leagues that suggests he won't be an Ace. Price is set to become a Free Agent at season's end, so acquiring him for three prospects is a big price for someone who could end up walking away in two months. Or is it?

    The Toronto Blue Jays are not a team that's known for making blockbuster trades in the middle of the season. With that being said, going after someone with Price's resume shows how much different this team is than year's past. Being able to acquire arguably the best shortstop in baseball in Troy Tulowitzki and then follow it up with the best pitcher on the market in David Price shows every fan that the team is trying to be a contender.

    The Blue Jays are now a team that everybody looks at to have an amazing last 60 games and take a run at the playoffs. If the team is able to make the playoffs, the addition of Price and Tulowitzki becomes even more valuable. Within Toronto's lineup, prior to acquiring these two players, there were only a few players with playoff experience. Price and "Tulo" not only bring playoff experience, but they bring World Series experience. Although both players were on the losing side when they reached the World Series, they gained valuable knowledge and can teach the rest of the clubhouse what it means to play in those big-time moments.

    Knowledge and experience is something that can't be bought, so Anthopoulos did a tremendous job on not only acquiring marquee talents this week, but also gaining players who will be amazing teammates and should translate a winning attitude.

    If Price ends up leaving the Blue Jays organization this year and signs a deal somewhere else, it won't be due to the lack of trying. Price is suspected to sign a deal somewhere around seven years and $230 million. Toronto is not known for mustering out that kind of money and those long-term years for a player, so if he walks it will most likely be based on the dollar amount.

    The Blue Jays are a team that is striving for greatness and their offensive lineup is a pitcher's dream. With an ERA under 3.00 and a knack for pitching deep into games, a Price start usually translates to a win. The Blue Jays average roughly 5.2 runs per game, which is more than enough support for Price when he steps on the mound. Price is suspected to start roughly 12 times for the Jays in their last 60 games, which means the team should have guaranteed themselves at least 10 wins.

    If you thought Tulowitzki is a fun player to watch after he hit a home run in his first game with the Blue Jays, wait until Price's first start. Price is a special player to watch and the Rogers Centre should be packed for every starts he makes this season.

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  • Toronto Blue Jays Add Best Shortstop In Baseball With Troy Tulowitzki Deal

    New Jays' shortstop Troy Tulowitzki New Jays' shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will add to an already potent offence.

    The Toronto Blue Jays shocked the baseball world by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies on July 28.

    The Blue Jays are desperate for a pitching upgrade, but the addition of "Tulo" will be a beneficial move for the the team moving forward. Toronto had to trade away four-time all-star Jose Reyes in order to acquire Tulowitzki, but it was definitely worth the price. Health is a major concern for Reyes and his inadequate defence recently has been a burden, despite his continued ability to perform in the batter's box.

    Tulowitzki has injury concerns for himself, but the 30-year-old is still one of the best players in baseball when healthy. In only 91 games played last season, "Tulo" hit 21 HR, drove in 52 RBI and battled .340. He's been able to hit .300 or better in five of his 10 seasons, whereas Reyes has only hit .300 or better in three of his 13 years in Major League Baseball (MLB).

    The addition of Tulowitzki has made the number one offensive team in baseball even better. Toronto is first in the MLB in OPS, Runs, RBI and second in HR. By adding "Tulo's" bat, those numbers are going to rise and Toronto will continue to be a pitcher's nightmare. However, there is one problem with Toronto continuing to add depth towards their offence, instead of addressing their pitching needs.

    They can continue to put up great numbers, but unless their pitcher's show up on the same night, they're probably going to lose. As one of the best offensive teams in baseball, they still hold a 50-50 record. This basically means that although the offense is more likely going to produce every night, they aren't getting enough pitching support to secure a victory.

    The Blue Jays rank 23rd in the MLB with a 4.07 ERA and have allowed the eighth most runs in baseball. The team is also dead last in saves, as they've only registered 16 this season. The only positive within the pitching staff is that the Jays have been able to record six complete games, which leads the major leagues. Although this is a positive, it's also a deficit because it means that manager John Gibbons has to rely on his starting pitchers to go deep into the game. If the team had a dominant closer and set-up man, it would make the jobs of each starting pitcher incredibly easier because they would know that six or seven innings would be all they need that night, instead of thinking they have to pitch lights out all night to secure a win.

    The person who isn't being talked about within this trade that may end up making the biggest impact this season for the clubhouse is veteran pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. At 42 years old, Hawkins started playing baseball in 1995, so he's been in the major league's almost as long as some of the bullpen has been alive. Therefore, he should be able to provide some guidance and maturity that the team needs in order to be a playoff contender. Hawkins has posted a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings over 17 games since returning from a biceps injury, so there shouldn't be a concern, despite his age.

    There is some obvious risk by trading for Tulowitzki. He's under contract until 2020 and is scheduled to make roughly $20 million each year. Toronto's artificial grass has been a concern for many when it comes to injuries, so there's a possibility that he'll get hurt by playing on the Rogers Centre field. Regardless of the turf, Reyes' contract is very similar to "Tulo's" so it shouldn't be as big of a concern to acquire the two-time Gold Glove winner for the next five seasons.

    Whenever a team can add a position player who is better than the one who's currently there, it shouldn't be questioned. However, the only reason why this trade is being looked at under a microscope is because of timing. The trade deadline takes place on Friday and as previously mentioned, the Blue Jays need pitching. If the Blue Jays don't get a starting pitcher, the media and fanbase could turn on Alex Anthopoulos because he didn't acquire the team's number one priority.

    It would be fair for any fan to get mad at Anthopoulos if he isn't able to pull a move for a starting pitcher, but this trade needs to be looked at separately. If this deal was made in the offseason, the fanbase would have been overjoyed about bringing in arguably the best shortstop in baseball. However, since the team already has an amazing lineup filled with incredible power, everybody is just hoping for that next move instead of embracing the current one.

    Health is the biggest concern, but it's a risk worth taking. If "Tulo" gets injured and ends up playing as many games as Reyes would have, this deal probably still doesn't end up being a bust. Reyes' best days are probably behind him and the team has already dealt with enough health problems from him. Tulowitzki has had injury concerns in the past, but it's only been a few times where it's caused him to miss serious time off the field. For all we know, "Tulo" could never get injured again and continue to hit .330 and be one of the best players in the big leagues. There is no such thing as a perfect trade in professional sports immediately. Trades take many years to analyze and at the end, there's a possibility that nobody ends up winning.

    The Toronto Blue Jays now have a 1-5 that features Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin. Jose Reyes may have been good within that top five, but "Tulo" is even better and Jays fans should at least be excited for that. It may not be a fancy new starting pitcher, but Tulowitzki will be an instant fan favourite. He's one of the most fun and exciting player's to watch in baseball and his defence beside Josh Donaldson will turn the left side of Toronto's infield into a vacuum.

    Even if the Jays don't end up adding to their pitching woes, watching that lineup hit home runs every night will be worth the price of admission.

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  • Lou Lamoriello Brings Wealth Of Experience To Maple Leafs' Front Office

    New Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello brings a wealth of experience to the young front office.

    There isn't a Toronto Maple Leafs fan that woke up on the morning on June 23 that would have expected the news that was about to unfold. Around 10:30 a.m., that morning, out of nowhere Lou Lamoriello was now the newest General Manager of the Maple Leafs.

    At 72 years old—he'll turn 73 in October—Lamoriello has spent roughly 30 years in a management position with the New Jersey Devils. He's a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, has won five Eastern Conference Championships, three Stanley Cups and is now the 16th General Manager in Toronto Maple Leafs history. The Leafs went from having a management staff with little experience to somebody with one of the best resume's in hockey.

    After drafting Brendan Shanahan in 1987, it is now Shanahan who will be Lamoriello's boss. Similar to the situation with Mike Babcock, where Shanahan had played for him, he will now be in control of these sought after hockey geniuses. The addition of Lamoriello can be looked at as an astounding addition to a pleaded management system.

    His age is something that could be a problem,  but it shouldn't be looked at that way. His hockey-mind is so great that his influence within the organization for only a few years will be so beneficial moving forwards. The Leafs could have hired someone with little experience and continued to rebuild through analytics. However, they decided to go with a proven veteran. Hiring Lamoriello feels like it's a way to help mould someone like Kyle Dubas or Mark Hunter to eventually take over his position when he feels fit to retire.

    In a recent article written by The Hockey NewsLos Angeles Kings General Manager, Dean Lombardi was interviewed about his relationship with Lamoriello, and here's a short passage from what he said:

    "He spent the whole time talking about and stressing the importance of infrastructure. He got up and was drawing on a board with arrows and dotted lines. His whole thing was that you can’t have a team unless you can run an organization. He was a big admirer of (football coaching legend) Vince Lombardi, and he pulled out a file from his drawer that had all Lombardi’s sayings. He said to me, 'When you’re struggling, read this,' and handed me something Lombardi said. He gave me a copy of that file, and I still have it."

    From this quote alone, it seems like Lamoriello is an incredibly open person and is somebody who one could talk to for hours about the philosophy behind running a professional hockey team. The Toronto Maple Leafs are basically an expansion team by the way they've been hiring and rebuilding, so there doesn't seem like a better perfect to learn from other than Lou. His philosophy, as quoted by Dean Lombardi, is that Lamoriello is hockey's Vince Lombardi. He carries a similar professionalism and smartness that the leader of a team needs in order to make everyone else successful.

    In a one-on-one interview with the Hockey Hall of Fame, Lou talked about what he takes to make a franchise successful and these words will be preached throughout the Air Canada Centre.

    "There has to be a philosophy which you believe in yourself and not only preach, but practice. We have tried to put together a foundation and stay on track with it. Competency has to be there, loyalty, and I believe you have to have a work ethic to go along with those three things...And then you must get people who want to do the things that are necessary to have success unselfishly."

    There wasn't a single person within the media or fanbase that saw Lamoriello leaving the New Jersey Devils and immediately jumping ship to Toronto. Despite the shock, Lou's continuance to win is what drove him to the biggest hockey market in the world. Everybody understands how amazing it would be to finally win in Toronto, and it seems like Shanahan is finally building that structure.

    Via Lance Hornby of The Toronto Sun, Lou talked about his willingness to strive in Toronto's market and to win in a city that hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

    “Nothing’s different here than what’s driven me all my life — and that’s winning...The commitment that the Leafs and the (MLSE) board made when they brought Brendan in, brought Mike [Babcock] in ... to me, the only thing that can happen is having success. I hope to do as many things as we possibly can from my experience and allow the end result to take care of itself. Winning doesn’t happen because you say it, it happens because of everything you do that leads to it.”

    Within that same article, the biggest piece that should be taken away is Shanahan's willingness to learn from Lou. As previously mentioned, the mentorship that Lamoriello can bring to Toronto is endless and it's good to see that Shanahan feels the same way.

    “Having Lou in the organization is a chance to mentor us all. There are a lot of GMs in the league who will point to Lou as someone who helped them along in their careers. People have asked me who influenced me in my playing career, my career in the NHL (head office) and the Leafs. That was Lou.”

    At 72 years old, Lou's title may be the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he should realize that he is there as someone who can teach and help grow the rest of the organization for years to come. It may take another five years until the team plays an important playoff game and by then, it may be time for Lou to retire for good. Therefore, he should use this opportunity to help Toronto's current management staff understand his philosophies and cultures and continue to embrace them to see if they can work within this market.

    By bringing in Lou, it's not going to speed up the rebuilding process. However, it now brings an even better sense of direction for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They're incredibly serious about turning this team into a quality product and if they are able get half the talent on the ice as they do off the ice, they may finally win another Stanley Cup. 

    Bay Street Tickets sells both Quarter Season ticket packages and single game tickets to all Toronto Maple Leafs home games.  Get yours now!

  • A Motley Crew Hits Toronto On Its Final Tour

    Posted by Jason MacNeil on July 17th, 2015

    Motley Crue Toronto Tickets Motley Crue is out on their Final Tour. It rolls into the ACC in Toronto on August 22nd.

    This year sees the proverbial curtain call for hard rock legends Motley Crue. No, seriously, I mean it and they certainly do. This is it! Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee are going out with a bang on The Final Tour, the aptly named world trek they announced in 2014 and one that descends on Toronto one last time at Air Canada Centre Aug. 22 with Alice Cooper.

    The icons with signatures such as “Shout At The Devil,” “Looks That Kill,” “Dr. Feelgood” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” will finish the tour in December in Los Angeles. And unlike other groups who lure fans with a handful of “farewell” tours, Motley Crue signed an innovative Cessation of Touring Agreement in early 2014, essentially (and contractually) calling it a career as Motley Crue after this last whirlwind.

    “We've done it all,” Lee told Reuters in a June, 2015 interview. “Everything we've set out to do we've accomplished. For us it's like, let's just go out like this and leave everything intact...and go out on a super high note so there are no regrets.”

    With most of the band in their early 50s and their last studio album being 2008's Saints Of Los Angeles, Motley Crue will still deliver a hellishly loud, pyro-obsessed set as they have the last few times they've stopped in Toronto. Having seen them a handful of times on recent tours that hit Toronto with Poison, KISS and New York Dolls along for the ride, this writer can definitely say they are not economical when it comes to creating a spectacle.

    “We leave a trail of something bad,” Sixx said during a 2009 teleconference interview this writer participated in. “I can't tell you what that bad would be but I could imagine the night is filled with lots of remnants of Caligula. We come and we go and we return in a few years to try and make amends and then make it worse.”

    And regardless of the obvious critics they have, Motley Crue are survivors in every sense of the word. From arrests and drug addiction to Neil being charged in 1984 with vehicular manslaughter and Mars' physical ailments, the band have managed to forge ahead. This despite members having disputes with each other over the years.

    Opening for Motley Crue will be Alice Cooper, another elder rock statesman who shows few signs of retiring. Cooper – best known for “School's Out” and “I'm Eighteen” among many others -- told me in a 2008 interview that regardless of all the stage antics, props and visual displays he uses on stage, it all comes back to something very basic.

    “If you don't have the songs, you're dead,” Cooper said at the time. “If David Bowie didn't have the songs, he would be that orange-haired guy who was in space. If Elton didn't have the hits, he would be that funny little guy with the glasses.”

    One thing is certain: both Motley Crue and Alice Cooper have “the songs.” Be sure to catch Motley Crue at Air Canada Centre on Aug. 22. You won't get a second chance! Get your tickets now!

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  • Toronto Raptors Continue To Fix Their Mistakes With Offseason Acquisitions

    Posted by Stephen Nixon on July 23rd 2015

    Newest Raptor Demarre Carroll Newly signed Raptors DeMarre Carroll, right, was officially introduced at the ACC on Thursday July 9th by Toronto GM Masai Ujiri. (Brian B. Bettencourt / Toronto Star)

    The Toronto Raptors have had a busy offseason and General Manager Masai Ujiri has done a tremendous job at addressing the team's needs.

    After getting swept by the Washington Wizards in the First Round of last y ear's playoffs, it became clear that changes needed to happen. The Raptors' defence was always the problem last season. The team had trouble at defending the other team best players and rebounding off the glass. This became very apparent when John Wall and the rest of the Wizards' ball movement made the Raptors look silly, scoring 105-plus points in three of their four wins in the playoffs.

    The Raptors never had a problem scoring points, being led by DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams. Although those players can be offensive juggernauts, they did not possess the important defensive skills that would help them win in the playoffs. The Raptors averaged 104.0 points per game (4th in the NBA), but allowed 100.9 points per game (19th in the NBA), so they had no chance at beating a team in a tight battle. The Raptors desperately needed to score 100 points per game in order to win, and if they didn't do that, they had a hard time staying competitive.

    Head Coach Dwayne Casey has a defence-first mentality, so unfortunately the players around him were not defensive-first players. Therefore, it wasn't totally his fault that the team couldn't succeed to their highest expectations. As a result, Ujiri recognized the strengths and weaknesses in his team and addressed them accordingly, starting with the draft.

    Delon Wright: With the 20th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Raptors decided to draft the 23-year-old point guard Delon Wright. In 68 career games, Wright averaged 15.0 points and 5.2 assists per game in two seasons at Utah and began his collegiate career with two junior college seasons at City College of San Francisco. Earlier in draft night, the Raptors had traded their back-up point guard Grevis Vasquez, so it made sense to go with Wright. Vasquez was a weak defensive player during his time with the Raptors, and Wright was the best defensive point guard in the draft, so it's a huge upgrade.

    DeMarre Carroll: The Toronto Raptors biggest impact signing has to be the addition of DeMarre Carroll. Playing now for his sixth team in his career, the Birmingham, Alabama native now upgrades the Raptors at the small forward/power forward position moving forward. Carroll is more known in the NBA for his defensive skills. He's a player that's going to give everything he has every night and will work tremendously hard on defence to help his team win. Despite his great defensive skills, Carroll is actually an underrated offensive player. Last playing with the Atlanta Hawks, who play one of the best 'team systems' in the NBA, there was never one player that was the alpha-dog each night, and Carroll was somebody who could be "that guy" on any given evening. Via, Carroll's former coach Mike Budenholzer had wonderful things to say about him and Raptors fans should be overjoyed by his remarks.

    "The first thing about DeMarre that we all see, before he was here and now that he's here, is just that he's a great competitor...He's one of the ultimate competitors in our league. He plays so hard on every possession. That's probably more important than anything, as basic and fundamental as it may seem."

    Being known as one of the most hard working players in the NBA is a huge blessing. The Raptors were brutal last season when it came to work-ethic in the playoffs. There were many possessions that they seemed to 'take off' and by the end of Game 2 against the Washington Wizards, the series felt over. Carroll will bring a new dynamic to the team and his work ethic should help the rest of the team. If he's continuing to work this hard and contribute night-after-night, then the rest of the team will follow suit. Carroll is not the team's best player, but if he's the hardest working player on the team, then players like DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry should look at this and want to outwork him. Every player on a professional sports team should want to outwork their teammates because if everyone puts in that much effort, then the team will succeed. The Raptors did a brilliant job on bringing in such a hard working player who is great defensively, because it should transition through the entire roster.

    Although he's more known for his defence, Carroll can contribute on the offensive side of the ball and should be the team's fourth scoring option, depending on where Dwayne Casey thinks he fits. Carroll will average roughly 13 points and five rebounds a night for the Raptors, but will more importantly be looked to guard the opponents best player and play tight and hard defence against the NBA's best. The Raptors struggled tremendously with hard-work on defence and Carroll's presence legitimizes the Raptors defensive immediately.

    Cory Joseph: Jamaal Magloire may have been the first Canadian to ever play for the Raptors, but Cory Joseph will have the biggest impact as a Canadian in a Raptors' uniform. The 23-year-old from Pickering, Ontario will have the luxury of playing in front of his home crowd 41 times next season and become a key player off the bench. Despite his nationality and how great it is to have a Canadian playing in Toronto, the Raptors needed a player like Joseph. He's a two-way point guard that plays hard defence and can contribute offensively when looked upon. Coming from the San Antonio Spurs, Joseph showed his ability to start when Tony Parker was injured during the 2013 season, but his role is to be a backup. Kyle Lowry is the starting point guard in Toronto and that won't change any time soon, but Joseph will be detrimental in running the second-team offence and pushing Lowry for his starting job.

    Joseph has had the ability to learn from not only Tony Parker, but from the greatest coach in basketball, Gregg Popovich. In only four seasons, Joseph has been to two NBA Finals and has a championship ring, so he's already the most established player in the Raptors dressing room. He'll be able to bring that advice that he learned with the Spurs and it should hopefully bring a winning attitude to the Raptors that they need. For a franchise that only has minimal success in the playoffs in it's history, it's important to find players like Joseph who have winning experience because that will play a very important factor in crunch-time. Dwayne Casey should have no trouble at bringing in a guy like Joseph to play big-time defensive minutes because of his experience. Joseph averaged 13.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes last season and will be able to fill in for Lowry if he ever gets injured, but will be a great backup point guard who can play crucial minutes when needed.

    Other notes: The Raptors have added a few more names over the offseason, but these are the biggest three. They are all players who can play both sides of the ball and will contribute not only offensively, but more importantly, defensively. The Raptors are still not an Eastern Conference championship contender, but they are on the right path. They have a few first round draft picks that they can trade to land another big-time player, but for now the team seems to be fixing their mistakes. The team may be one or two moves away from championship glory, but at least they're continuing to move forward, instead of backwards.

  • Honeymoon Far From Over For Ariana Grande

    Posted by Jason MacNeil on July 17th, 2015

    Ariana Grande Toronto Pop Diva Ariana Grande returns to Toronto for a show at the Air Canada Centre on August 9th 2015

    Pop sensation Ariana Grande might have bitten off a bit more than she can chew off the stage with recent comments but she's still heading to Toronto. Grande – playing Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Aug. 9 – is currently on The Honeymoon Tour which has received generally positive reviews. The tour is behind her latest studio effort My Everything.

    However Grande probably got everything she bargained for and more when she quipped, “I hate America” while recently visiting a California doughnut shop and licking the display doughnuts. She has since sincerely apologized for the incident which ended up costing her a slot as part of Major League Baseball's All Star Game festivities in Cincinnati.

    Like other young pop stars such as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, Grande still is on a learning curve when it comes to her image, something she discussed in a 2014 interview with Clash Music.

    “I don't wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey, what can I do to shock people today?'” she told the publication. “I just think like, 'Okay, let's go make music.' I mean, I like the idea of separating myself from my younger image in a gradual, authentic way – I don't really feel comfortable doing something out of my control to convey my maturity, because it doesn't feel genuine to me.”

    Musically Grande's success has only been matched or eclipsed by a handful of pop artists in 2015. She performed at the National Basketball Association's All Star Game and was also nominated for two Grammy Awards, including one Best Pop Vocal Album for My Everything. She's also teasing her millions of fans with snippets of music from her forthcoming studio album Moonlight. This is in addition to being in the cast of the highly anticipated Fox horror-comedy television series Scream Queens featuring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele.

    But it's the often sold-out tour which has been the biggest thing for Ariana Grande in 2015. The Hollywood Reporter lauded the opening night at New York's Madison Square Garden in March, adding she “impressively hit every single high not without missing a beat.” Grande reportedly opens the show with the following message: “Good music, good choreography and a great time – I want to make sure my fans have the best night of their lives.”

    Grande has been delivering such evenings to her youthful fanbase on the back of hit singles including “Bang Bang” featuring Jessie J and Nicki Minaj and “Problem” featuring Iggy Azalea. “Problem” alone has estimated global sales of 9,000,000!

    “I found my niche with the first album and then with this second one, I just started trying all new things and taking risks while still trying to remain as authentic in myself as I probably could,” Grande told Clash Music regarding My Everything's success. “And it all sort of fell into place very quickly.”

    It's falling into place as quickly as tickets are being bought up. So don't miss Ariana Grande's visit to Toronto's Air Canada Centre Aug. 9. It's one of the summer's hottest tickets!

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