Padres' Gyorko strikes out in the top of the sixth inning against the Rockies in the National League MLB game home opener in Denver

There is no risk in ripping the San Diego Padres. They’re a franchise bobbing in a vast sea of Dodger blue and Angels red, fighting for their sliver of market share with an underwhelming roster. I wouldn’t say their fanbase is disengaged but ripping the Padres doesn’t make many waves.

That goes double when the topic at hand is a cheap pre-arbitration contract for an unsexy player. There is nothing really to gain. But the deal is worth mentioning, because it says a lot about the future.

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During draft season we have a lot of time to think, a lot of time to talk, and a lot of time to listen as others talk. On the surface those aren’t bad things, because analysis is what we do around here, and thinking mixed with talking is what leads to the learning and evaluating. It’s a cycle, you see.

But sometimes that cycle can more so resemble a spiral of blinding, white nothingness, and the result is both comedy, and anonymous drivel.

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Minnesota (4) vs. Colorado (1)

Prediction: Colorado in 6

Why: My biggest question mark with the Wild is in net. They’re heading into the post-season with a plan to lean on Ilya Bryzgalov, who’s been very good for them since they acquired him from Edmonton. Unfortunately, Bryzgalov is a career .913 goaltender (just below average for a starter), and that’s thanks in no small part to three seasons in Phoenix behind a tight defensive system that saw him post a .921, a .920 and another .921. Since then he’s played 101 games and has been borderline awful on the whole, which I tend to think is probably the goalie he actually is. His .908 save percentage in the post-season (38 games) isn’t all that stellar either.

The Colorado Avalanche are the NHL’s 4th highest-scoring team, scoring an average of three goals a game (okay, 2.99, whatever), which doesn’t bode all that well if your team isn’t super-comfortable with who’s between the pipes.

I do believe that the Avs are a gettable team. Certainly their abysmal possession numbers are concerning, and I’m not a huge fan of their d-corps (quite the opposite actually), but if Varlamov can give them the saves they need, I think they’ve got the grit and talent up front to get through the Wild in the first round. I particularly like that their core is so young. When that puck drops Thursday in Colorado, the Wild are going to need to weather what I think is going to be a pretty overwhelming initial storm.

Chicago (3) vs. St. Louis (2)

Prediction: Chicago in 6

Why: The St. Louis Blues are going to be brutal to play in playoffs. They have one of the NHL’s finest d-corps, legitimately good-to-great goaltending, and enough talent up front to make them tough to deal with.

But, they just happened to draw the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues “collapse” down the stretch really hurt their odds of winning the Cup.

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This week, if the Telegraph is correct, Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain will be handed down a punishment for violating rules meant to prevent clubs from spending in excess of what they earn to compete in Europe. Readers should err on the side of caution, particularly as UEFA will not comment officially on the matter.

The news comes just before the apex of the league season, around that time of year when assembled newspaper transfer hounds pick up faint scents of deals yet to be done and of struggling managers about to meet their sorry fate, the intoxicating odour of more money spent and losses cut in the endless pursuit of a few fleeting moments of footballing glory.

At the heart of all this is a central question: what does it take to win at the football? Particularly at the highest levels of the sport?

Certainly a good dose of luck, demonstrated by a Premier League title race in which the leaders are tightly packed together at the top, separated only by individual goals in single matches.

But what about winning consistently, over years and even decades? The answer, at least over the last 25 years or so, is money and a global supporters base that only history can provide.

What if you have neither?

This is less and less of an academic question every year. Should City or PSG be punished by UEFA in a way that sticks (with or without the legal help of angry third party clubs), UEFA will have made their point. If you want to compete, you cannot spend far in excess of what you earn.

Yet even without FFP, we’re reaching peak spending in European football. There are only so many oil barons interested in buying football clubs, and only so many clubs for them to buy. Spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a Premier League squad won’t give you an edge if your competitors are doing the same.

So if money can no longer buy glory, are there any means left for clubs to get an edge?

Football is a romantic sport. It is marked by passion, by courage, by luck, belief in your team, your supporters, yourself. These are the qualities that make it so compelling for the millions who have made it a part of their lives.

The problem however is when we exclusively turn to these qualities to explain why one club wins Premier League trophies every other year while another club consistently finishes in fourth or fifth place.

Think of your knee jerk, impassioned response to some poor results from your club. Sack the manager. Sell the overpaid donkey up front. Get new owners, the club is inept, run by idiots. They’re all greedy and selfish. They go out and party while the team continues to lose.

Keep in mind, it’s possible the club should do none, one, some or all of these things. If you make the wrong decision however, like sacking a manager suffering from a short-lived poor run of form driven more by variance than skill, it can cost the club even more down the line and put you in an even worse mood when you call for the head of the old manager’s replacement (the author writes this as someone who was glad when Paul Lambert replaced Alex McLeish as manager of Aston Villa).

Critics might claim there was no way anyone could have known beforehand that the problem with the team was a personnel issue or a managerial issue, but in 2014, with so much good, publicly available analysis on team diagnostics (including the impact managers have on good predictive metrics like TSR), this rings hollow (Statsbomb incidentally did a lot of good work this week on evaluating managers).

Nothing any columnist writes will convince skeptics of the value of data analysis in sports, but analytics-boosters might gain from reframing their work along helping clubs make educated decisions based on good evidence. Most of the time this is implied in their work, but here we can put data in a wider context moving from on the pitch to the front office to the board room.

Your team sucks. Okay, do they have a decent TSR but a low PDO? Can you identify affordable options to radically improve the team? Are there ways the club can plan five, or even ten years in the future to build on their current form rather than simply pray to stay up every year? This becomes less about data and more about evidence-based decision-making.

FFP has set the stage for a club to take the lead in this regard. Even if the clubs are skeptical, surely they have nothing to lose in making decisions based on reasonable, tested evidence.

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It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which losing six games in a row could be positive, but with the Toronto Maple Leafs currently stuck in a four-way tie for the two Wild Card playoff entries, the half dozen straight defeats that led the team to this point seem especially horrific.

On Tuesday night, Toronto suffered its most recent failure, losing 5-3 to the St. Louis Blues. Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf struggled mightily throughout the game, not unfairly tagged as a primary accomplice to his team being outshot 49-25.

It was a bad day at the office, and as a result, the defenseman opted out of his obligation to speak to the media following the loss. This, to the many pundits who weighed in following Phaneuf’s no-show, represented an atrocious lack of leadership, and partly explained Toronto’s recent struggles.

Things came to a head on Wednesday when Phaneuf phoned in to a local sports talk radio show to explain himself, after one of the hosts ranted about the player’s notable absence following his poor performance.

To be completely honest with you, I was emotional about the game. I didn’t want to let my emotions get the best of me. I feel bad about not being available. At that point in time, I was disappointed in the way that I played and I was emotional after the game. That’s why I did not talk.

As sports fans, we grow to accept the flawed “conventional wisdom” force fed to us by years of following our favorite players and teams through newspapers, television and radio.

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As some of you may be aware, I recently started a new gig here at theScore that sees me write/talk about the NBA as a whole on a full-time basis, so while I won’t be able to provide RaptorBlog posts and general Raptors commentary with nearly the same regularity, I hope you’ll continue to read/listen along with me this season (You can read my season preview here and my predictions here).

As for the Raptors, what I’m going to try to do is take some time every weekend to post my wide ranging thoughts on the week that was in Raps Land, in a similar fashion to how I usually wrote my “Thoughts On the Game” posts. Again, I’m hoping you’ll stop by on weekends to get the little bit of Raptors ranting I’m still able to do on a regular basis.

Other than, most of my Raptors thoughts and observations can be found through twitter, where I’m prone to my fair share of passionate Raps-related tirades.

As for the coming season, I’m predicting a 40-42 season for Toronto that results in a No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, though if Cathal Kelly’s Toronto Star report proves correct, Masai Ujiri and MLSE may blow things up before such a mediocre finish is allowed to fully take rot.

For what it’s worth, Kelly’s source indicates a 45-day deadline for the Raptors, which would take us to December 13. The Raps play Philadelphia in the 21st game of the season that night, and I’ve got them as a 10-11 (7-14 worst case scenario, 12-9 best case scenario) team at that point, so the question is really what will Ujiri find acceptable to continue with, and what’s his line in the sand of ‘we can’t go on like this’?

I also feel like with the Honeymoon period that exists between Raptors fans and Ujiri, he wouldn’t have lost any support had he decided to blow things up as soon as he got here to put this team in a better position to properly take a strategic step backwards this season, so I don’t quite understand the point of now reportedly setting a hard deadline on whether to tank or not if that’s they’ve wanted all along.

In any event, a Raptors season opener wouldn’t feel quite right without at least a little drama (last year it was DeRozan’s extension), so let’s get this intriguing season of questions under way, shall we?

I know Stripes and Drake are ready…are you?

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For the first time ever in a UFC video game, EA Sports’ upcoming UFC title will feature playable female characters, headlined by UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and top bantamweight contender Miesha Tate.

“This is a great moment for videogames and for Mixed Martial Arts,” said Dean Richards, General Manager, EA SPORTS UFC. “In our commitment to delivering the most realistic fighting experience ever achieved, we wanted to represent the full spectrum of talent and diversity of all the fighters in the sport, including women who have become an undeniable force to be reckoned with.”

Programming note: Fin.

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I’m not one for long goodbyes, but as previously mentioned in our last show, TBJ and theScore are going in separate directions, meaning this post marks the end of our tenure here.

Thank you to theScore for the opportunity to make something that shows just how much fun the NBA can be. And thank you most of all to anyone who’s listened, watched, read, commented, emailed or in any other way been even a small part of TBJ over the past three years. It has been awesome.

Please follow all of our Twitter accounts to see what the future holds. We’re very excited for our next step, you will be too and the season starts soon, so don’t worry too much.

Bye for now.