Monday, February 11, 2013

Thank You Chipper

Today, pitchers and catchers report to spring training along with some position players that are eager to get a jump on the season and put them in a position to come out of the gate as strong as possible. For the first time since the mid 90's there will be no Chipper Jones in the dugout. It is clearly the end of an era. The Braves have done a good job at re-tooling the roster in the absence of their recently departed future Hall of Fame third baseman. In honor of Spring Training opening it seems appropriate to thank Chipper for what he has done for the Braves and all the fans of the Braves over his career. Three Cheers! 

In five years time there will be a ceremony held for Major League Baseball and that of course is the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. At that time, baring something outlandish and crazy, will be when the great Chipper Jones' road to greatness should be complete. Chipper should be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and there should be no question about that. At least there will not be any controversy on what hat he is going to be wearing when he is enshrined in Cooperstown  As a player who was drafted by Atlanta, moved up through the organization, World Series Champion in 1995, won an MVP in 1999, 8 times All-Star, 2008 batting champion and stayed there right to the end- 19 consecutive seasons, 14 of which resulted in consecutive division titles.

The Braves have seemingly known when to cut bait with players just as they have peaked and then parted ways to get younger or restructure...that didn't happen with Chipper. The Braves knew he was the face of the franchise and his production never warranted them to think otherwise. The only reason for any decline in production was from injury and no one could disagree that when Chipper was on the field that he was going to make the team better, more feared and had a leader out there with them.

Maybe at some point Chipper will make his way back into the game. Maybe in the Braves front office or maybe in some sort of player development role like a hitting coach (sorry Greg Walker). Imagine having Chipper Jones as a batting coach, it would be like talking hitting with Ted Williams. How could a player not get better?

The stats clearly support that honour. A .303 batting average, 468 Home Runs, 1623 RBI, and 2726 a switch hitter. If that isn't impressive enough he did it all with one team. It pains one to think what kind of numbers he would have had he been able to stay healthy towards the end of his career. Had he been able to play in 1994 as well would have added to his overall stats. The Braves were the team that drafted him, the team he played his entire career with, he is and was the face of the franchise. Jones was an unselfish player in a time that was and is know for players being selfish. He never came that close to becoming a free agent and test the market, remarkable in this day and age. After being an All-Star 3rd baseman whom had already won a World Series a batting title and an MVP made the move to left field so the Braves could add Vinny Castilla. He also unselfishly re-did his contract so that the Braves could free up some $15 million to be able to go after and sign other players that would be able to help the Braves win. Again, not something that you will see from very many athletes is just about any sport.

Many people will compare him to other great switch hitters throughout history, Eddie Murray and Micky Mantle. That is a little unfair as he truly is his own man. He holds his own and can stand alone. He has earned that.

On June 13, 2008 Chipper was hitting .419 
and there was talk that maybe he could be 
the first player since Ted Williams to 
end the season over .400
From 1995 on there was a consistency Braves fans from the US and Canada could expect and enjoy. The Braves continuing to tack on division titles, Chipper Jones evolving to become the face of "America's Team" everyday, and on TBS (except during rain delays when we could be re-acquainted with The Andy Griffith Show). In addition, to get the feeling of a family and friendly atmosphere with the announcing team, led by Skip Carry, with Pete Van Wiren, Joe Simpson and Don Sutton. That was the perfect storm and a great time to be not only a Braves fan but also a baseball fan.

Not since Cal Ripken Jr. has a player announced his final year of play and enjoyed a farewell tour to the extent that Chipper enjoyed. Just about every team he visited, his last time into town, honored him and his career and more often then not passed along a nice thoughtful gift on behalf of the opposing franchise. Teams would not do that for a ballplayer that was just a good player, or a great player...but they sure would, and did, for a Hall of Fame player.

There will be a lot missed by Braves fans with a loss of the magnitude that is the loss of the face of your franchise both on the field and off. From a strictly on field view, the loss of a corner infielder. One who, for the majority of his 19 year MLB career, put up good solid defense and contributed offensively as not only the 3rd bat in the lineup but the backbone to the lineup but also the spark plug. Off the field, I am sure that he will still be the community minded guy who is involved in various charities. From a more indirect view, not getting to see Chipper and follow him and being inspired by him and his play will be a loss for the young kids. The average fan can see what impact Chipper has had on the growth of baseball in Georgia and the players that are being produced from those youth systems. Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann are just 2 examples already.
Fans will remember seeing that switch hitter with his Blond Bat from the left side and the Black Bat from the right side, that smooth swing that reminds you of Ted Williams and the bull dog look on the field and in the dugout.

It is an old joke but as many Braves fans have said and will continue to say: Thank You Todd Van Poppel! Van Poppel appeared as a tough player to sign and made it a no brainer for the Braves to take Chipper as the first overall pick in the Free Agent Draft. The rest is history!

There are probably rules that need to be adhered to, but would it not be fitting after whom-ever is selected to provide the introduction speach at the Hall of Fame (maybe his father, maybe Bobby Cox) in 5 years time to announce: "Please welcome this years inductee, Larry Wayne 'Chipper' Jones" and then hear it---

`All aboard! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaa! ( dum-dum...dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum)
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay` -  Crazy Train by Ozzie Osbourn
Would that not just be amazing? Just imagine the goose bumps and chills!!

Thank you Chipper for all that you have meant to The Braves, The Fans, and to Baseball. 
All the best in retirement and a hope to see you back in the game in one way or another.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

2014 Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey Roster - V1

The National Hockey League in the National Hockey League Players Association are going to be talking to the International Olympic Committee in regards to their participation in the upcoming Olympics.  Right now they're looking to get a better deal from the IOC. They're looking for them better access to the players and the rights to display images from the games.  In essence they're looking to get the same access as if they were one of the official sponsors.  If the NHL and the NHLPA decide to go it will be a commitment for only the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.  Because of the time difference it will be like a test drive to see if it will work and then decide later about the logistics for the games in South Korea.  If the NHL does go over to Russia it will likely shut the league down for at least two weeks and most likely up to 18 days.

Now the news only a year away the two major networks are going to be giving their preliminary rosters and lease for the Canadian team. TSN posted thier list last night from Ray Ferraro and Sportsnet's Mark Spector has his . As it is undecided how many players they plan on taking or have available to be named on the team right now I am including an extra " taxi squad" of players to take a long because of the extensive travel andhide different.  The NHL is looking to have rosters expand 25 cent depending on the final decision will dictate how many extra forwards and defencemen they take with them.

I'm going to presume the team Canada will opt to go with a much younger roster of them they have in the past.  So with that in mind here is my first draft of their roster and pulls a line combinations for the

Canadian National Team
LW-Steven Stamkos         C- Sidney Crosby          RW-Jeff Skinner
LW-Eric Staal                     C- Jonathan Toews        RW-Rick Nash
LW-Jamie Benn                 C- Claude Giroux           RW-Jordan Eberle 
LW-Patrice Bergeron        C- John Tavares             RW- Mike Richards

Shea Weber        Alex Pietrangelo
Drew Doughty      Kris Letang
Marc Staal           Duncan Keith

Carey Price
Roberto Luongo
Marc-Andre Fleury

Taxi Squad:
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jason Spezza
Jordan Staal
Taylor Hall
Brent Seabrook
Tyler Seguin
Justin Schultz

It could be Crosby-Staal's and Nash again. There is a chance all 3 Staal's could make the team.

Because they will be playing on leave or dry surface they will be needed team moves fast and mobile.  If this were being played in North America on NHL size rinks there would likely be more "grit" in the player selected.  The Olympic team can not necessarily be an All-Star team and must also have a role players. Players that are willing to buy into a specific system or player ruled that they're not accustomed to is key to success.  Players like Mike Richards and Jordan Staal may not be your prototypical scorers but could provide a defensive conscience that is needed on a third or fourth line.  That is why is so difficult to come up with the team that has such high and talent available to them.  Excellent players will be left off, sometimes is just a numbers game.  As far as the goalies are concerned it will probably depend on who is playing the best during the first part of next season to determining who will be the starter and who'll be backups.  There are probably five goalies from Canada that are worthy of one of the three available spots their play of the beginning of the season may be the determining factor of who makes the team.

A lot can happen within a year and this is just the first draft some time will tell what additions or subtractions will be made that I am interested in seeing how my list will stack up against those of the list put forth by TSN and Sportsnet respectively.

Feel free to include your roster in the comments section to compare to my list and the other lists put out by the networks.

Monday, January 07, 2013

NHL Is Back, But My Passion Is Not

It is a sad state of affairs when one realizes that the NHL is back and I am actually a little upset about it. In the beginning it was all about when are they coming back to drop the puck. Now, it is more 'I wish they would have scrapped the season'. The damage has been done to a whole lot of life long NHL fans. I was hoping that the season would be lost to punish both the owners and the players. The only plus that is coming from this is that the fringe and peripheral people are able to get their jobs back and start working games. The workers at the arena's, the concessions the parking people and all of the local establishments that have taken a hit on game days where fans become patrons and come in for the games. The last lockout I understand, there were things that needed to be fixed...i just wish they would have fixed it right the first time 6 years ago so we could have avoided all this mess.

I am at the point right now that I am more interested in Woman's Soccer then I am in the NHL. To anyone who knows anything about anything that is an alarming statement!

Maybe when the games actually begin I will slowly come around again. Maybe it will be sooner then even I may think. But then again maybe not. I know for one thing, I will not be rushing out to buy tickets to any games. There has not been any mention to this point that the teams will be offering deals but even so, it seems like it is a hollow gesture.

I am more concerned about baseball at this point then hockey. That does not bode well for any hockey pools. My interest level, knowledge of players and what they have been doing, who is playing where and in general what is going on. Once I think about it a little, I am unsure about a lot the late movement and signings as well there are players with teams that I completely forgot about being moved. A sad thing too is that there are a lot of off ice transactions of players that need to be signed and likely trades to be made and at any other time would be super exciting but it has been tarnished by this lockout.
They have ruined a lot of fun for the fans from not just watching the games to just following the roster moves and hot stove talk that come from the league being up and running. The game might be back but it may be a long road back. I wish that people would make it hard on the teams and league before just forgiving and forgetting.

Sadly, in Canada I suspect that fans will fold like a cheap suit and come back like sheep but it would be nice to have them hurt a bit and show that they have done some real damage to a game that was just starting to gain some traction. With the Kings winning the Stanley Cup last year in a major US market could have been huge but the league has robbed the US and the Kings fans of celebrating that championship.

It should be interesting to see what the reaction is the first few weeks of the season.