SBD/Issue 90/Franchises

Raptors Fire GM Rob Babcock; MLSE Draws Criticism

The Raptors announced Thursday that GM Rob Babcock has been relieved of his duties. Raptors Special Advisor to the President Wayne Embry was named interim GM. MLSE President & CEO Richard Peddie said that the team’s search for a GM may focus on a candidate who could also serve as team president (Raptors).

COLUMNIST REAX: In Toronto, Dave Perkins writes, “Bad sports teams start with clueless ownership and that’s what is in place here. [Peddie] once again mentioned ‘accountability’ and ‘stability’ and it’s crystal clear that the only stable element of the [Raptors] these past seven or eight years has been King Richard’s presence. ... Peddie and the [BOD] have done a marvelous job bleeding taxpayers and creating wealth where no more wealth is required by milking the logo, but are hopelessly falling behind on the main tasks. The Raptors are lousy and [the Maple] Leafs aren’t even a playoff team this morning” (TORONTO STAR, 1/27). Also in Toronto, Steve Simmons writes Babock’s tenure “was a clear reflection of Peddie’s awkwardness of what happens when he ventures away from his own areas of expertise” (TORONTO SUN, 1/27). Also in Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes Peddie is “not afraid to throw an underling or two overboard if the casualties will keep his unsinkable battleship of a career on course” (TORONTO STAR, 1/27).

BOTTOM-LINE BUSINESS: In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes MLSE’s mandate, “pure and simple, is to maximize return on investment. To do otherwise would be to fly in the face of the interests of the principle backers, most notably the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. By that measure, Peddie must be doing just fine.” Brunt notes the Maple Leafs, who were “wildly profitable before the lockout,” have been forced to “pocket tens of millions of dollars that they otherwise would have wasted on player salaries” due to the NHL’s new salary cap. However, with the Raptors, “it’s been all downhill the past five years, and finally this season, the remarkably patient paying customers are beginning to abandon ship. But the club has avoided luxury tax territory, and gate revenue probably still looks decent next to those of a whole lot of other [NBA] franchises” (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/27).

PLAYING FAVORITES? Also in Toronto, Damien Cox writes the “difference in operational standards” between how MLSE handles the Raptors and Maple Leafs “is striking.” The Raptors coach “might get a year” and the GM 18 months “to make chicken soup out of ... chicken bleep.” Former Raptors G Vince Carter “is denigrated and hustled out of town when his personal stats sag. The awkward first-round pick [F Rafael Araujo] is declared a bust in less than a season and sits nailed to the bench.” But the Maple Leafs “have the luxury of never having to win anything of substance, and more to the point, even a terrible losing string has absolutely no consequences for executives, coaches or players” (TORONTO STAR, 1/27).

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