Casual Friday recaps the best of the best in the last week of sports. This week’s edition is pretty mainstream – soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. – but through your tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, we can cover everything from the billion-dollar leagues to the obscure ones.
Chelsea FC’s owner, billionaire Roman Abramovich, looked at his team’s slumping record, and pulled the plug on Roberto Di Matteo, who helped guide the falling club to a Champions League title last year. In this year’s English Premier League, Di Matteo and his club started out on a tear, but then lost several games and have seen their Champions League hopes dwindle. So there goes Di Matteo, in favour of former Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez. The quick hiring of Benitez shows that pro sports are quite similar to politics: some people manage to enter that virtuous hiring/service cycle, where they go from one high-level spot to another. It doesn’t matter whether a particular individual is actually cut-out for a job; all that matters is making it. Benitez has made it, so despite his difficult closing at Liverpool, he’s now with Chelsea.
This is old news by now, but Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP award. Meh. Mike Trout was better. Buster Posey claimed the prize for the NL. Keep in mind that Posey suffered a terrible injury two regular seasons ago, when he was nailed at a home-plate collision. The MLB awards aren’t the big news of late, however. That prize goes to the Toronto Jays, who lured all-star Melky Cabrera to Canada for the next two years, in addition to several players in a blockbuster trade with Florida. In 2013, the Jays will have the likes of Cabrera, Adam Lind, Jose Bautista, John Buck, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and others in their batting order. Wow. Add to that Josh Johnson, Ricky Romero, Mark Buehrle and Brett Morrow as pitchers, and the Jays – barring injury – are World Series contenders. The major piece in the puzzle is Jay Gibbons, the second-time Jays manager who has previously guided the team to a 305-305 overall record.
The Los Angeles Lakers did the same as Chelsea: firing their coach after a disconcerting losing streak. Jettisoned was Mike Brown, recruited was Mike D’Antoni. Los Angeles is now above .500 overall, and they join the likes of the LA Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and New York Knicks (THE KNICKS?!) as 2012-2013 NBA contenders.
In Bears and Pandas news, the swim team took second place in the University Challenge Cup, hosted by the University of Toronto. The scorching start to the year bodes well on the team’s CIS chances in the months to come. Changing pace, Cross-Country Nationals is taking place this weekend in Vancouver, where consecutive weeks of rain will make for treacherous running conditions. In Bears basketball, two potential CIS contenders, in Victoria and UBC, are in Edmonton for quite the weekend doubleheader.
What are some of the major sports moments that we missed from this week? Feel free to post them in the comments box below.