With the Territorials fast approaching, one question seems to be on the mind of YK Fastball League fans everywhere: what has become of the Slades Expos??? Despite Rhino’s disdain for the comparison, the recently posted comments on the Forum comparing the Expos of recent years with the Canucks of recent years are very applicable. Both squads appear formidable in the regular season but neither team strikes fear into the heart of their opponents when all the chips are on the table at tournament time.
This year, the Canucks were knocked out by the 8-seeded LA Kings, while at the Pirates tourney, Slades was knocked out by the lowly Sub Arctic Surveyors (although the similarities between the Kings and the Surveyors stop right there as Sub Arctic did not make a miracle run to the title). How is it possible for a team to continue to be so dominant during the regular season and yet time and again fail to come through when it counts? Is there some inherent flaw with their team make-up? Is there a lack of leadership amongst the veterans? Is it all some sort of mental problem? Or are they just not really that good? This week, Dr. Rug will take a look at the problems plaguing the Expos and provide a little preview of what to expect from this weekend’s Territorial Championships.
The Fall of the Mighty
August 2008. That’s the last time that the once formidable Slades Expos won a title of any sort in Yellowknife fastball circles. They managed to win Territorials and a league title that season, not knowing (or even for a second considering) that it would be the start of a 3 year title drought. Since the Slades boys last won a championship, both the Pirates and HBC have won multiple titles, Inuvik and Hay River have won Territorial titles, and Sub-Arctic got a W on a Sunday. It’s unbelievable but it’s true.
For the Expos, rock bottom arrived last month with the return of the Pirates Invitational tournament. Entering the tournament coming off a solid 2-1 start and one of the favourites to win it all, Slades fell flat on their faces, going 0-3 including a loss to the expansion Slo-Pokes and a loss (on a playoff Sunday morning no less) to beer garden legends Sub Arctic. The reasons for hitting rock bottom are numerous and there is no one player to single out as a scapegoat. For example:
- Nine of the most veteran players on the team combined for a total of ten hits all weekend long. To look at it another way, there were 3 individual players in the tournament who equalled or surpassed these nine guys combined with 10 or more hits during the weekend.
- The team had a total of 11 RBIs. With the team leaders being at a lofty 2 RBIs a piece. To look at that another way, Marcus Watt was in 11th place on the HBC Diamondbacks in RBIs for the weekend (3 total). He would have been alone in first on Slades with that total.
- One time Ace Mitch Madsen gave up 13 runs. That wouldn’t be a big deal if he’d pitched all weekend but he was only on the mound for 9 innings over the course of the three games resulting in a 10.11 ERA.
When teams are routinely putting double digit scores on the boards, ten hits combined over the course of the weekend for 9 of your 12 players and eleven total RBIs just isn’t going to cut it. Especially when your team ‘ace’ has an ERA over 10. There were a couple of bright spots on the Slades roster during the Pirate Invitational including Mike “The Good” Reddy who hit the ball to the tune of a .625 average on the weekend and was a constant nuisance on the basepaths and Mark “Fifty Shades” Whitehead who was close behind, batting .545 and crushing 2 triples to lead the team in slugging percentage. Outside of these two, only Devin Theriault had an average over .300 and his defence and base running takes more off the table than his 4/10 batting could hope to contribute. So all in all it was a complete team effort that led to the embarrassment that was the Pirates Invitational for the boys from Slades. Thankfully for their remaining fans they apparently took it to heart.
Their loss on Sunday was followed by a day-long sulk-fest complete with keg beer, finger-pointing, wild accusations, and a change in leadership. Out was the only captain that this franchise had ever known, Ryan Strain, in were Borko and Matty. Rumours persist that the upheaval was made to cater to the female demographic and given the catcalls in recent games perhaps it is working in that respect. However, questions remain as to whether this change will help Slades return to prominence or whether it was just a PR stunt, made to appease an anxious fan base on the eve of Territorials. Time will tell if this was a smart move but early indications are that the combination of the silver hair and the bald spot are making all the right calls to return Slades to the winner’s circle. However, it will take more than just a change in management if the Expos hope to contend this weekend. The most important thing for Slades to do is to wake up their bats. I don’t care if they have to hurt some feelings by changing up the order of the line-up, spend some afterhours time in the batting cage, or sacrifice a live chicken, something needs to be done to get the Slades bats working on the weekend. When they’re on their game they are capable of outscoring anyone in the league but if the bats are quiet again this weekend, expect another early exit. It’s time for Slades to step up and reassert their dominance or step aside and let the Pirates ascend to the throne. As ex-captain Ryan Strain so eloquently put it, “You can’t be the team to beat if you always get beat”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the ailing Expos, let’s move along to all the contenders for this weekend’s Territorial title and see who has the best shot of celebrating on Sunday…
Pre-Tournament Favourite: FED Tile/Fire Prevention Pirates
We’ve already spent inordinate amounts of time this season discussing the Pirates and their titles. Whether you fall on the side of the haters and think they’ve been lucky recently or you call yourself a believer and think we’re witnessing the beginning of a dynasty, there is one thing we can agree on: They’ve won. The last team standing the past two tournaments has been the Pirates so it would be silly to consider them anything other than the favourites entering the weekend.
The Unknowns: Hay River & Inuvik
After my lofty prediction of a tournament title for the split-squad at the Pirates Invitational, the out-of-towners ended up sending their junior team and not making much noise at all. I expect much better teams and a much better finish this weekend from the two teams that won the ’09 and ’10 Territorial titles but since my last prediction of a Pirate title for these guys made me look foolish, I’m hedging my bets a little and calling them “unknowns”.
The Defending Champs: Home Building Center
The Diamondbacks are in a similar position to where they were at this time last year. Floundering around the middle of the pack in the league, winning some, losing some, not looking like a true threat to win the title. We all know what happened last year; can history repeat itself this weekend? Can Bruce lead HBC to another title?
The Enigma: Slades
Refer to the first half of this article for more information on these guys.
The Arm: Slo-Poke Twins
No team’s chances rely on one player more than the Slo-Pokes. Paul Gard and his right arm will decide how far this team makes it during the weekend (and his bat doesn’t hurt their chances either). Paul has demonstrated his ability to beat any team in the league with victories over Slades, HBC, and the Pirates already under his belt this season. He’s looking like the vintage Paul Gard of old, striking out anyone in his path and crushing the ball at the plate. If he’s in the groove this weekend, the Slo-Pokes could pull a monumental upset.
Putting Gibeau’s Kids through College: Sub-Arctic Surveyors
The Surveyors will probably be talking about how they’re looking to build on their Pirate Invitational play-off victory over Slades and make some noise in the Territorials. The truth is, they’re just excited that there’s another ball tournament beer gardens happening this weekend and will make most of their noise there.
The Long Shot: Nexum/Carl’s Red Sox
For the Red Sox to win this weekend they’re going to have to hope that Bruce is on the mound pitching against them every game. The 17 runs in less than 3 innings that they put on the board last week was very impressive… but unfortunately they managed to give up 21 runs, took the L in the game, and are still searching for their first win of the regular season. Their near-upsets of Hay River/Inuvik and Sub Arctic in the Pirate tourney were impressive but I don’t expect a repeat this weekend.
You’ve met the Contenders, time now for my prediction…
Since I’ve missed so badly with all of my predictions so far this season I’m going to make my official Territorials prediction that the FED Tile/Fire Prevention Pirates complete the Pirate Slam beating Inuvik to win the title. Either I get one of these predictions right, or I just jinxed the Pirates… a no-lose situation.
Quote of the Month
Welcome to the newest section in Dr. Rug’s articles where each month I’ll give you the most memorable sound bite from the past month in the YK fastball league. The first quote belongs to the immortal Jimmy and was made in the beer gardens after the finals of the Pirate tourney. We’re not sure if it was said in jest, or if he was serious, or even if he was referring to his ball skills at all, but regardless of the intent, nobody can stroke an ego like he can…
“Brian Couvrette is a living legend.” – Jimmy
And on that note, thank you all for reading and I’ll see you in the beer gardens this weekend. As always, if you have any questions, I can be reached at email@example.com.
 They are once more atop the standings with a 6-1 record to this point of the season.
 I thought they may have won one in 2009 but my sources are telling me they haven’t found the winners circle since ’08.
 There’s a reason they’re beer garden legends. They don’t play more than once on Sundays.
 Matt Simms (3 hits), Ryan Strain (2 hits), Mike Desjarlais (2 hits), Mitch Madsen (1 hit), Kevin Vallilee (1 hit), Andrew Stewart (1 hit), Dave Colbourne, Greg Skauge, and Joey Borkovic (0 hits for all three).
 Speaking of their remaining fans, rumour has it that several of lovely ladies that have been showing up to Slades games this season are quickly jumping ship to other franchises. Whether it is Nexum, HBC or even Sub-Arctic, the ladies appear to be embarrassed to cheer for Slades and are finding other teams to back.
 And apparently something to do with mangoes but that story may not be appropriate for this time and place.
 See footnote #5 for more information on this issue.
 The recent move of Mike Reddy up to the #2 hole is a good start but given Andy Stewart’s 1 for 10 performance last tournament, maybe they should move Reddy all the way to lead-off.
 For the record, I do think at least one of these two teams will make it to the finals. They both have a track record of playing well in the big games and I expect that to continue.
 Giving up a total of only 5 runs in the three games combined (scores of 4-0 over Slades, 2-1 over HBC, and 8-4 over the Pirates last week).
 Starting with my “Slades to get revenge versus the Pirates” article and continuing with my prediction of a Pirates Invitational final of Slades over Hay River… where they were two of the first three teams eliminated.
 With the Pirate Slam consisting of winning the League title, Pirate Invitational title, and the Territorial Championship in a row.