Friday, December 12, 2014

Baseball's Winter Wonderland

Although still early, the Winter Meetings wrapping up in San Diego, there has already been some big Domino’s that have fallen. The Oakland A’s have been one of the busiest teams in terms of  trades. They have already made a blockbuster move with Toronto involving their 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson and another with The White sox involving starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.. They have also made some Free Agent moves in picking up Billy Butler formerly of the KC Royals.

The Atlanta Braves have been fairly active as well in their pursuit to revamp a roster that is need of a face-lift and also in need of some added depth both at the major league and minor league level. The Braves have already done one Blockbuster deal when they Jason Heyward and Jordan the Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. They also moved Tommy La Stella for Arodys Vizcaino and International Free Agent money. The Braves also dipped into the free agent market already with the signing of relief pitcher Jim Johnson and right fielder Nick Markakis.

It looks like new GM John Hart is not done his transformation of the Braves just yet. There is the looming issue of both Uptons (B.J. and Justin) and Evan Gattis. Justin and Evan are the most likely to be dealt but if Hart can mange somehow to ‘mind trick’ another GM into taking BJ and his contract off his hands (like JP did for the Jays with Vernon Wells and Alex Rios) he would probably be praised by Braves nation. It will be interesting to see what Hart is able to do regarding these players. Justin Upton would likely fetch the best package in return, it is just a matter of what Hart is looking for and what other GM’s are willing to part with. It is no secret that the Braves are looking for young controllable arms as well as shore up a currently depleted farm system starved for high end talent.

The Braves were looking at a possible power replacing outfielder in Cuban, Yasmani Tomas but he chose to sign with Arizona so the Braves elected to take a look at Dian Toscano, a lesser known Cuban that sounds like more of a contact hitter then a big power threat like the most recent Cubans who have come over of late. It is looking like one of John Hart’s objectives is to move the identity of the team to a more contact oriented lineup. Power is a great thing and can prove to be imposing but if you are striking out more often then not it can’t help but hurt the teams ability to manufacture runs. Good pitching can stifle big power and when that is not there you need to be able to put the ball in play and that is something the Braves struggled with down the stretch last season The team has also obtained the services of former A’s infielder Alberto Callaspo as a 2nd base option.

The Braves are still thin on a starting rotation that has only 4 members thus far. Depending on what other trades or other moves are made, pitching will be a major point of focus for the team. When you think of The Braves, people still tend to remember the good ol’ days of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz being the backbone of the team. With the quality of arms that are in the NL East already the Braves will need to bolster their arms and offence if they hope to compete.

All eyes will still be on Atlanta and GM John Hart as there are still a number of moving pieces that need to be resolved, either via Free Agency or by trade. And the waiting game continues... 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hot Stove in Hot-lanta

The Atlanta Braves have seemingly become one of the first teams to get things heated up during the Hot Stove season.

The first big blockbuster trade went down last week with the Bravo’s trading Right Fielder and Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals with relief pitcher Jordan Waldon. In exchange the Braves get Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. In addition to that the team also will save a little bit of money, get players that they can control for a few years as well as gain some added payroll flexibility. The Braves are in need of rebuilding a young, unproven starting rotation that is also filled with uncertainty  as they await finding the availability and ability of Kris Medlan and Brandon Beachy. 

The loss of Heyward is an interesting one to try to make sense of. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? How are we supposed to look at this? Are they throwing in the towel for 2015 and looking to rebuild and try to be ready for 2017 when they move into the new stadium? Is this just the first step in simply retooling? It seems that it will all depend of what shoes fall next.

John Hart and  Co. still have some big decisions to make and potentially some big deals that may or may not happen. It does seem clear that the team is looking to gain players that they are able to control for a few years that offer a little more cost certainty. What happens with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and maybe even BJ Upton will be interesting to see. It would be interesting to see if the Braves don’t try to completely re-make their entire outfield. J-Up is set to be a free Agent and the Braves would likely be inclined to move him for a strong return. If he goes does Gattis move to left? Maybe Gattis gets moved to somewhere like KC to be a DH to take the spot that Billy Butler held. What then happens to BJ, do they hope that new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer can do something to get he to be even just a little bit productive or can he be flipped for someone else’s bad contract?

It seems that money, as much or more then anything is the motivation to do a lot of these moves. The Braves want pitching and controllable years. They have a questionable offense as it is constructed now and a thin minor league pipeline coming up. This is evident with the move that sent 2nd baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs for Arodys Vizcaino and $830K in international free agent money. 

Until the next shoe drops it will be hard to judge what the Heyward deal means and also what the Braves plans are for next season and what the look of the team will be heading into Spring Training.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is Montreal on the radar?

It is interesting to think that there might yet be a day that there will be a Major League Baseball team in Montreal again. There is little chance that an expansion team would be granted to the city but re-location is a real possibility. There have been whispers that Tampa could be a prime candidate to be such a team. That would be the perfect deal for the fans in the city and still work for MLB. Montreal, is an eastern city. Tampa, an American League East team. Toronto a natural geographic and cultural rival and would fit nice and snug with other teams that are already in the area (NY, BOS, BAL, TOR).

Why did the team leave in the first place? Bad ownership, a lack of interest or inability to help from the corporate community given the economic reality at the time. There was and is also the issue that there needs to be a new stadium built, preferably downtown. Sure, there is always some talk about the 'what if' but the reality was the temperature from the Bud Seilig regime was never positive. Maybe some new blood and new set of eyes may help. As far as ownership goes, up until now there have been no real potential owners with the wherewithal to own a team. Recently, however the name Bronfman, the son of the Expos former owner has been linked with interest as well as The head of Dollaramma and Media Giant Bell.

The name Bell is an interesting one and the reason there seems to be a little more traction when you figure them as possibly in on the fold. It is well know and reported that they took a HUGE hit when they were froze out of the National NHL Broadcasting rights that Rogers bought for 12yrs and $5.2 Billion. They also look across the dial and see a chief rival with the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, add to that the fact that Bell owned TSN launched 3 additional stations and have a total of 5 channels that require programming content. Sports is the one, for lack of a better term 'PVR' Proof. People want to watch events live. With up to the second updates to tablets and phones , long are the days of  being able to go any amount of time to avoid seeing or hearing a score update of a live sporting event.
Owning a team ensures 162 games a year that you control, and any alternate programming that can be associated with it. Pre and post game. Team specials. There are all sorts of options. Then on a more basic primal level there is the satisfaction of taking away some of  the market share that your rival currently holds. The Blue Jays are regarded as Canada's team, maybe if Montreal can get in they can take advantage of some fans that just don't like Toronto because it is Toronto are just hungry for a team they can root for and support as their own.

The passion for baseball at the Major league level by fans would likely still be there. It was not a lack of fan support that drove the team out of town it was a combination of bad ownership, lack of local corporate sponsorship/ownership and most importantly the lack of a new downtown stadium. It is common knowledge that Olympic Stadium was in great need of being replaced but for whatever combination of reasons that the team, and governments could not come to terms to get something done. Maybe the ownership at the time really never had any interest or motivation in keeping the team in Montreal anyway so the effort may not have been there. MLB did nothing to help  keep the team in Montreal either. Sure, they 'owned' the team the last few years before they moved to Washington and tried having some games played in Mexico but by that time the writing was on the wall. How serious could they be about baseball in Montreal as owners when just prior taking ownership of the team from then owner Jeffrey Loria had  them up for possible contraction with the Minnesota Twins. Interestingly enough, the Twins are still in Minnesota and have a beautiful new stadium, Target Field.

Sure it is probably a long ways away from happening if it can happen at all. but maybe, just maybe we are a little closer for this impossibility to become possible.

Thursday, October 02, 2014


Big Decisions to be made in Atlanta this offseason, and it begins at the top.

The Atlanta Braves are heading into some unprecedented territory this off-season. After the recent termination of GM Frank Wren and the appointment of Interim General Manager John Hart it will be very interesting to see what direction he and the team have in mind.

It is believed that the fate of manager Freddi Gonzalez will be determined by whomever eventually gets the job but likely he will get at least 1 more shot next season, albeit with likely a much different looking regular lineup.

What will prove to be most interesting is what deals will be done under the supervision of John Hart and what will be “saved” for the incoming GM as it relates to player movement.

The Braves endured a season where they managed to finish near the bottom of most offensive categories and managed to be near the top of the team strike out list. For a team that relied on the home run to score, when the power goes out and the runs dry out, then combine that issue with no run production via the long ball no amount of pitching will be able to bail you out.  

So, where do the Braves look to select only their 3rd GM since 1990? Do they go internal an promote assistant GM John Coppolella, 35? Perhaps use past relationships to lure KC GM Dayton Moore back to the ATL. Also, Former Houston GM Gerry Hunsicker’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

John Hart himself has been known to be the architect of some pretty potent offences in his times as a GM but has not always had pitching staffs to complement it. The Braves seemingly are at least ok by the looks of things on the mound (although the common sentiment is if you have 5 good starters you need 4 more). Will the Braves have to move a younger arm with some bad salaries to make some off-season moves?

It would be nice to either get some cash relief by moving a BJ Upton or Chris Johnson, which would also immediately cut down on the amount of strikeouts the team managed to have. If one or both could be moved, some other teams bad salary would likely have to come Atlanta’s way and possibly a young prospects may have to be included to sweeten the deal. There are probably few untouchables on the roster and whoever takes over as GM could really put their stamp on the team if they decided to get creative and make ‘The Big Deal’. Both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are free agents after 2015, decisions will have to be made on their long term future as well, could they be dangled to bring back a decent return. What will happen with Evan Gattis is also a question mark. If the team thinks they can get service and production from a Christian Bethencout/Gerald Laird combo maybe Gattis’ power could backbone a trade to fill another void.

We will hopefully soon see who is calling the shots. It is likely they would like things in place soon after the World Series concludes and the GM Meetings in early November.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Value of a Win

I have had a long, misguided, and over-appreciated view of what a win really means in baseball. At least in terms of what a win is as it relates to a pitcher.

There was a time when I thought you could look at a pitchers record and ell if he was having a good season or not. Was this pitcher worthy of winning a Cy Young or even be considered an ace without 18+ wins? At one time I probably would have said no. I felt like consistency and good pitching go hand in hand and the results would usually, over the course of a 182 game season work itself out. I no longer believe this.

Even bad teams will win a lot of games, so one could conclude that even a good pitcher on a bad team is going to get positive results. The failure rate in most categories in baseball is so great that one would figure that even the bad will beat a good on any given night.
What I am learning about good pitching and good numbers are that strictly looking at win totals does no good at all. Sure, I will submit that there is something to be said for some guys that just manage to 'get it done', 'rise to the occasion', or simply 'just win, baby'. But in the big picture you can't just look at that.

After watching the Braves this season seemingly give up at least the first run on just about every night, but it seems like it is multiple runs early in the game. it makes it a lot more difficult to play from behind all the time and  not getting early runs is not helping anyone. When the Braves do score it seems like it is just one or 2 runs and then the bats go quiet again. This is leaving the Braves pitchers out on an island to fend for themselves. Sure there have been some stinkers thrown by the rotation, but on the whole, as a complete rotation they have been sensational. Considering at the beginning of the season it looked like the 5 man group had be decimated and that that was going to be the Braves downfall right from the get go.

On a season that looked so promising with a rotation that look like it could be Julio Tehran, Kris Medlan, Brandon Beachy, Gavin Floyd, and Mike Minor and or the possibility of Freddy Garcia, There was talk that maybe a 6 man rotation would be the way to go for the first month and see how that went. The team looked deep in that position, looked like a solid playoff calibre team that was ready to play any National League team.

That nice depth of quality arms looked to put the Braves in a position of strength and offered high optimism heading into April. Then the wheels went off the track and things began to go sideways. Medlan - Tommy John (again), Beachy Tommy John (again), Gavin Floyd looked good on his rehab then boom - Tommy John (again). Suddenly things down in Peachtree nation wasn't looking quite so peachy.

It was easy to be greatly concerned that this was going to devastate the team and just crush the team coming out of the gates a bury them early. Freddy Garcia was let go in what at the time seemed a strange decision and Aaron Harang was brought in off the scrap heap from Cleveland. Ervin Santana was swept away from at least 1 other team, at least one AL East team with a 14.1M 1 year contract. It looked like the season was going to be cut down at the knees because of the pitching. That was far from true. They were almost all the shining stars on a team that was just not able to sustain a consistent offence that, by the end of the season, was all but dried up. This is why the win for pitchers mean so little. You can pitch your ass off and get rewarded with either no support, blown leads from the bullpen or no help until it is too late. Even as a Braves fan I feel for Cole Hammels a bit as he seems to get the same amount of support that the entire Braves staff was given the majority of the season.

How Craig Kimbrell managed to rack up 46 saves is almost mind blowing. I guess with that said the Braves could not or would not score much of any runs until the 7-8 or 9th innings. The way a game is played out is directly influenced but the team that can jump out and score even a few early just takes the pressure off that you just can't plate guys.

With all the teams in the NL East poised to be better next season through nothing more than just getting healthy the Braves need to bolster a roster/lineup that can manufacture some runs. If they could not do it this year with the diminished staffs from other NL East teams then they are going to need some much different faces and approaches next year and maybe then some of these well tossed games and efforts by the pitching staff will not go to waste as often.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup 2014 Brazil - Wake me when it is over

The World Cup of Footie begins in just a few days in Brazil. Get your tv ready for this by blocking any channel that may show anything related to this monstrosity so you don't accidentally stumble upon a game and have the batteries die on your remote and you are subjected to any part of a match.

Right off the top lets ask the question of why is it known as The Beautiful Game? What is beautiful about this game? Aside from some of the fans and/or cheerleaders I can't say as I see it.

Thursday, June 12 the home team opens the tournament in a match versus Croatia. Lets not kid ourselves, there are a lot of people in North America and abroad that are jacked up for this tournament. I have no idea why but for whatever reason, reasonably smart people lose their mind and start to invest an interest in this event. This is without a doubt one of the most corrupt sports in the world, next to cycling and the Superbowl of that sport the Tour de France.
I don't know what would be worse, having to endure watching this tournament or having to listen to the Vuvuzela's that became quasi famous in South Africa last World Cup and thankfully banned at the tournament this year.

Please people, do not become that person who thinks this is the be all and end all and start to adopt footie language over the next month. Do everyone a favour and don't start breaking out the soccer speak like you are a British announcer. Nobody wants to hear that a team is getting ready to enter 'the pitch' for 'a match' and they need 'a result'. The game ends zero-zero, not nil-nil. Extra time vs injury time. Earning a Cap, Holding it (for stoppage time) are other terms that can be added to this list as well. The whole thing is just redickulous, don't become soccer guy or gal. Also don't give into the desire to indulge in orange slices as a snack at half time. Above all else remember it is Soccer not Fùtbol.

Just because you happened to fly over Italy or Spain or went to France one time does not make it OK to run out and get car flags of those country's car flags and adopt them as 'your team'. Just be thankful that the Canadian Men's National team is so bad that they did not qualify and that you don't have to be conflicted about having to support them just because they are representing Canada at this event.

The next biggest issue is that we are getting close to summer and that is when a lot of movie blockbusters are set to hit theaters and yet they will all pale in comparison to the acting that will be going on during this event known as the World Cup. Players, will be hitting the turf, flopping to the ground like they have been assaulted with violent blows like a scene from Saving Private Ryan or 300. Flipping and doing somersaults in the air to sell the fact that an opponent has come withing 2 feet of them and they have been violently assaulted should not be an accepted part of this game. The art of the fake soccer injury is as important  to learn as that of any other skill, trick or move involved in the sport. The game has tried to clean up the image of it being know as that of a game of fakers and embellishers, lets see just how successful they have been.

The only good that can come from this World Cup of Soccer thing is the chance to get some nice new beer glasses. Kelsey's will hook you up with a nice Budweiser glass with the purchase of a pint. The only problem is you have to sell your soul to get one as they are only available during soccer games. So likely you will be subjected to some footie to cash in on this. It is of personal discretion on if you can stand that or willing to subject yourself to that kind of cruel and unusual punishment.

For a better perspective on this what better resource is there then The Simpsons.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Making sure the deal today doesn't bite you tomorrow

The balancing act when trading for now but not getting burned in the future

There is always a risk when making a trade in any sport, especially baseball. It is usually less risky when making a player for player deal as, for the most part, with established players you have a pretty good idea what you are giving and what you are getting. Also there is less of a financial penalty because there is no salary cap. A deal may hurt your budget but not necessarily cripple the team. Of course injuries that may crop up are out of anyone's control. The Ian Kinsler/ Prince Fielder trade between the Texas Ranger and the Detroit Tigers is evidence of that. Tigers look to come out way ahead of that one so far with Fielder possibly out for the season with neck surgery.
Where deals are a little more cloudy is when you start throwing prospects into the mix. This happens a lot near the trade deadline for teams that look to get an established arm or bat to help in a push for the post season or for a World Series run. Eliminated teams will often deal top end players that will not help them in the short term and get top end prospects to help them get better in the long term. It is a tough balancing act on how much teams are willing to give up in terms of the future for players that can be dropped into the line-up right away.

Every team has stories about winning and losing deals with this practice. As a Braves fan I know all to well that one can hit a huge home run when the prospect that you trade for becomes a soon to be Hall of Fame member. It started with the Braves trading Duane Ward to Toronto for Doyal Alexander. Then Alexander was traded to the Tigers for Prospect John Smoltz. Not a bad deal, Alexander went 9-0 and helped the Tigers win the AL East, Smoltz went on the be part of one of the best rotations ever assembled in the last 50 years. There is also trades that looking back involving prospects that look less then favorable as a Braves fan. 1 Career year for JD Drew and Eli Mararo to the Braves for competent reliever Ray King, Jason Marquis (who was still decent at the time) and, this is where it hurts - prospect Adam Wainwright (he turned out pretty good). The other prospect trade that looks bad now was the deal that brought Mark Texteria and Ron Mahay to Hot-Lanta for  Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus (Starting SS-close to 30sb per yr), Neftali Feliz (40 saves in 2010), Matt Harrison (won 18 in 2012) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The best trade of late that was not made was the deal that would have sent Randall Delgado to the Cubs in a deadline deal that would have seen Ryan Dempster sent to the Braves. Thankfully Dempster vito'd the trade and the Braves retained the rights to Delgado. Delgado was then used as a key piece that brought Justin Upton to The ATL with 3B Chris Johnson for  Nick Ahmed (minors), Brandon Drury (minors), Randall Delgado, Martin Prado and Zeke Spruill. Had Delgado been traded to the Cubs for 1yr of Dempster the Braves may have had to include Julio Teheran as part of the Upton deal. Not something the Braves I imagine would have either wanted to or would have been willing to do.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Power Outage in the ATL

Braves struggling to find a consistent offensive stride.

Well as nice as it is to see a tick in the win column for the first time in over a week for the Atlanta Braves, it is still a major concern. The Braves managed to eak out a 2-1 win over the St Louis Cardinals in game 2 of a three game set. This win is coming on the heals of a 7 game losing streak and in so being sweapt by both the Marlins and the Giants and dropping game 1 vs the Cards. They managed only 13 runs in those 7 games and managed to only push one run across in each Giants game and was shut out in game 1 vs the Marlins.

After such a hot start by the Braves to begin the season they are in the midst of just a huge slide and had even lost top spot to Washington for a bit. Going into the season there was a huge concern that the Braves starting rotation was going to be a big issue. After Kris Medlan and Brandon Beachy went down to their second Tommy John surgery there was real worry that they would be in trouble. Then GM frank Wren did some fancy footwork and snuck into the Ervin Santana negotiations and stole him from the Blue Jays and Orioles and then made the surprising move in cutting Fredy Garcia and picking up Aaron Herang. So far both have shown to be solid moves thus far.

For whatever reason they have had a beginning to the season with near historic numbers put up by the starters, and that has kept things together.

It was thought that the offence would need to be the ones to keep things on the rails and carry the team. Of late that is far from the case and the only reason any of the games have been close of late is the pitching. Even last night in the win they only managed 2 runs scored. Granted they have run into some real good pitchers from the other teams they are still in just a huge drought. For starters they are averaging 9 strikeouts a game. To put that into perspective that is 3 full innings of NO CONTACT. Hard to score a run when you can't execute a bunt or make contact and get a sacrifice fly. They are hitting near .225 with runners in scoring position right now and even though currently in a slump it is only Freddie Freeman who has even respectable numbers in this category.

It was nice to see BJ Upton come out a few games ago with glasses on. If that was an issue maybe it will help him turn his dreadful time in Atlanta around. After last seasons Lasik procedure Dan Uggla is still struggling and needs to snap out of it soon or his starting job may fall on the shoulders to Ramero Pena.

There may be something a little more drastic that needs to be done and that would be more then just Freddie Gonzalez putting the pitcher into the 8 spot to try to get more runners in front of Freddie Freeman. Maybe they need to explore blowing it all up and rebuild the lineup.
The first thing I would like to see done is Jason Heyward moved from the lead off position. That worked last year, so far, this season, not so much. I would like to see something more like this and see how that works:

Simmons, Chris Johnson, Freeman, J Upton, Heyward ,Gattis, Bj Upton, Uggla/Pena, *Pitcher

Simmons does not strike out a lot and has decent speed, Chris Johnson can handle a bat and uses all fields, Freeman is your RBI Guy, J- Upton your power clean up hitter. Dropping Heyward down may take some pressure off and he can get more pitches to drive and get some of his power back. Gattis behind Heyward to protect him and then BJ Upton and Uggla/Pena to finish out the lineup. When Pena is in the game I have no problem with him batting 9th and putting the pitcher in the 8 hole. It just seems that something major needs to be done to get the players attention and maybe find a spark and change the fortunes of this team that is struggling so mightily.

It would be nice not to waste all the good pitching that they have been afforded thus far.There will be a point where they too will struggle and not a lot of games can be won where they can only muster a handful of runs and the pitching staff is giving up 3 or more. That should not be too much to ask for. There is just too much offensive talent on this team to not be able to score any runs.

Maybe if they can put up a crooked number early and not wait until the 7th inning or later to score some runs it will not only help out the team during the game but also the mind set. Get some runs early and it will take that some pressure off and that could make a world of difference. A couple of runs early may help the pitchers too not have to throw so many high pressure innings and put extra strain on their arms.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Brew Crew or BOO Crew?

The Brewers of Milwaukee now one of the most disliked team in baseball

I have decided that I now have a least favorite baseball team, taking over from the Yankees. Back when the Boss was in charge they were the Evil Empire. Sure they spent a tonne of money this past off season but because there are other teams and more TV money available to them the gap between NYY and everyone else is much closer than ever. Now the new King of the Castle in terms of dislike are the Milwaukee Brewers. They are a smaller market team and have no reason to top my list but they now do. Sadly it is not even the whole team, it is just 2 players that has cast a dark shadow over this squad. Ryan Braun is the first. This is a guy who is what is wrong with both sports and society. After he managed to avoid an initial suspension for PED's (performance enhancing drugs) via a technicality and destroying the collector of his sample. in the media.He then repeatedly pleaded that it was all a mistake and he never did anything wrong, the test was flawed and/or tampered with. He implored friends, family, other athletes, fans and teammates to believe it was all a conspiracy, that he was set up and he was a good guy. He held a press conference to claim his innocence. That presser made him look sleazy and greasy, like a used car salesman who was trying to spin the story to make him look like the victim. He just looked so smug with his finely quaffed hair and double pocket shirt. When he stated that if he had 'done this intentionally or unintentionally I'd be the first one to step up and say, I did it' and followed that up with saying if he had ever made a mistake he'd taken responsibility for his actions. He stated that his name was dragged through the mud and that he was the one who was wronged.

So after all that he was eventually found to have been involved with exactly what he was accused of initially before getting it overturned. After being suspended for the remainder of last season he was proven to be a fraud, a liar and in the minds of a lot of people outside of Milwaukee a dirt bag

and all that was wrong with PED's in baseball. What is one of the worst things was that he was never stripped of his MVP award the year he got his suspension overturned. Matt Kemp by all accounts should be the rightful MVP.

That brings me to the second player on the Brewers that has solidified that teams position as the worst. Carlos Gomez. This is a very talented player with all the tools, just apparently does not have the tool box yet. Maybe it is a matter of maturity or maybe it is just cockyness but when he keeps showing up opposition teams. After hitting a home run and standing and admiring it like he did last year versus Atlanta is one example. He was chirped all around the bases as he eventually hit his home run trot until of course he approached home plate and ran into a very large and very upset Brian McCann who stood at the cu-out and did not let Gomez pass to touch the plate. A small melee ensued and many angry words were exchanged by McCann and Gomez.

This year he hit a homer vs the Braves and tries to go anti-show-off and sprints around the bases in another form of cockiness but nearly as disrespectful. Clearly it was a bit of gamesmanship on his part but still not cool.

Now once again this year Gomez decides he is going to be a primadonna again and big-time his opponents. This time he hit a ball that he thought was going to leave the ballpark. So after standing and slowly leaving the box he finally realized that it was going to stay in play. He then began to run and managed to wind up at third....where he was less than well received. Pirates pitcher  Gerrit Cole did not seem too take Gomez's hot dogging well and began to "chat" with him. Basically told him that maybe make sure If you are going to big-time your opponent make sure the ball goes out of the park. If you are going to act like a child and a douche you deserve to be treated like a child. He is a talented ballplayer  but needs to grow up, fast or someone is going to go headhunting on him and buzz the tower a few times. Maybe it will be a Pirates pitcher or maybe it will be someone from another club that decides that he needs to learn a lesson. Carlos, make sure not to wink at any pitchers and watch out for in your ear. Thankfully he was suspended for 3 games for his role in the benches clearing. Too bad he did not get more to smarten him up but 3 is better then nothing.

And that my friends is how 2 mere ballplayers can cast such a disparaging light upon an entire franchise. It is too bad too because talent wise they have a pretty good team and now their teammates have to deal with all that comes with having two bad apples.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Six Flags Over Atlanta

It has been a Roller Coaster week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the middle of Walt Disney World® Resort.

It all started when #1 starter Kris Medlan hopped off the mound, holding and flexing his elbow and forearm. This was a sight that has been seen before and that resulted in him taking an unwanted trip to Alabama. Lets make this clear, not good happens on trips to Alabama unless you are a QB, WR, RB or a 300lbs Lineman. This trip was to the clinic of the number one, but most hated name by fans in all sports, Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews is the foremost authority and surgeon for Tommy John reconstructive surgery.
For the second time Medlan left a game and it is not only feared but is generally believed that  he will have to undergo a second Tommy John procedure and will likely miss the entire season and probably the first bit of the beginning of next season. A lot of people are not aware of Medlan as he is not as well known and is regarded as one of the most under appreciated and under the radar pitcher in all of baseball. Since his return he is second to only Clayton Kershaw in ERA (2.47). Needless to say a big loss the the Braves rotation and team.
Just when you think things are starting to look bleak in terms of the rotation, the next man up, another Tommy John client took the mound in a Spring outing. Brandon Beachy still working his way back after being shut down last season after his return from the procedure. Since then he has had another smaller procedure to clean things up. Beachy started the game and was pitching well but then he too had to shut it down early mid game. In terms of Beachy, at least it seems like he just needs of rest and strengthen his arm but in any event he will not be ready to start the season when the teams breaks camp.
A once relatively deep and good looking young staff has been decimated in a very short period of time. The Braves wasted little time in addressing this gaping hole in their team that has been built to try to win now. 2-9 in the lineup are a pretty solid team on paper. If BJ Upton and Dan Uggla can bounce back and be just average the lineup has the potential to be a strong one. After brutal seasons by both those guys anything above average should bolster an already solid offensive line up.
Then right out of the blue Braves GM Frank Wren jump at the lone big name free agent out there Ervin Santana.  Santana is liked by many and questioned by maybe more. Wherever you sit on this guy it was a gutsy move that had to be done. Was it the right move?  Maybe, maybe not, but it was a gamble that had to be made. The Braves had to show their fans that they are willing to spend to make the team better and more importantly show the team that management is backing you and believe they are a good club and are expecting to win.
The deal is for 1 year for $14.1M. Like they say there is no bad one year deal. The one knock is that they had to give up the ever valuable 1st rd pick to the Royals who qualified Santana. That is the bad news. Here is the good news.The Braves have stated they are here to win not rebuild so losing the pick is the cost of doing business. Santana's $14 million salary wasn't in the budget, and the Braves do stick to budgets. Teams that do that have to be prepared to make difficult decisions. If that means walking away from a player they love -- Tim Hudson, for instance -- they do it. You have to give to get.
The Braves do have a silver lining for this too that help take the sting out of losing that pick. They are getting one from the Yankees for the Brian McCann signing and also they may be able to recoup that pick next year if they qualify Santana and he declines and tries his luck again in free agency for a long term deal.
Santana is coming to the National League for the first time. It is known as more pitcher friendly league and the stadiums lend themselves to being a little more forgiving as well. An added benefit for Santana to boost his stock this year is that the Braves on paper are a decent team but also have one of the best defenses in the NL. The outfield has speed and good gloves, the infield has the best defensive SS in all of baseball in Andralton Simmons and Freddie Freeman can pick it as well as any first baseman in the game. I know it sounds weird that a guy that sports a sideways straight brimmed hat can create this buzz but it is true. here is a quote from Richard Justice’s piece on the issue ”...Santana has pitched 200-plus innings in three of the past four seasons, and only James Shields, Max Scherzer and C.J. Wilson had more quality starts among American League pitchers in 2013. Santana is a low-key, professional guy who will fit well in the Atlanta culture.”
Hopefully the team can break from spring training without any more injuries and get off to a decent start. It looks like it will start with Julio Tehran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale.
Hopefully they can then get some help with Minor, Beachy and Santana coming back hopefully in the first month and then Gavin Floyd sometime in mid May.
It will be an interesting beginning to the season and if they can stay afloat until they get some reinforcements back they should be in a good position to keep up with or close to the Washington Nationals.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Home Plate Collision Rule

Not unlike the 'Brady Rule' In football, not being able to hit the
catcher can be called the 'Buster Posey' rule. 
Major League Baseball has come out with the trial version of a rule that prohibits catchers from blocking the plate and prevents runner's from blind siding catchers who are in the base paths. This world will be adopted for the 2014 season on a trial basis and most likely will be tweaked on a case by case basis. The way the ruling is currently worded leaves for it a lot of gray area and interpretation by all parties involved. Depending on the circumstances catchers may or may not block home plate, that runners may or may not be allowed to make contact with the catcher depending on if he has the ball are not, it is up to the umpires personal discretion on how he wants to interpret the rule and if a player is safe but makes questionable contact with a catcher is now out and visa verse.

Home plate is the only base where contact is allowed to be made. A second baseman and shortstop or third baseman cannot block the bag with their leg or body. Why isn't so different at home plate?  Is it because it's a scoring play? Is it because that's the way it's always been?  If the latter is the case that is a pretty weak argument. If a third baseman can put his glove down in front of the base to tag an oncoming runner, one would think that a catcher would be able to have that same skill set to catch a ball and put his glove on the ground. If baseball in so concerned about players being injured on collisions of home plate why not just completely eliminate that option?

Not unlike hockey and the touch vs. no touch icing rule, if it is a matter of player safety then there should be little debate. To a eliminate a play that has little impact on the game itself and protects players from being injured should be a no brainier.

Other than blood lust from archaic fans, runner-catcher collisions serve no real purpose. Not unlike hockey fights there's no real reason. Why have this in the game at all?  Especially in a game that where there is no physical contact having just one particular play that allows for a player to blow up, not an unsuspecting player, but a player in a vulnerable position. Sure catchers wear all sorts of protective equipment, but wearing shin pads will not prevent you from having your leg broken like Buster Posey or Buck Martinez.

Umpires have a hard enough job calling the game properly with the rules they already have in place. Making a new rule with this much room for interpretation and ambiguity, adds personal judgment and the possibility of human error is nothing short of silliness. Based on that you know this must be one of Bud Selig's brainstorms, Putting yet another rule in place that has that much gray area will put even more unnecessary scrutiny on these umpires. The one saving grace is that this season they will have the ability to use instant replay to aid in their calls. That part is very important, too aid in the call.  We have all seen other sports, and even last year on home run calls where the replay will blatantly show something happening and the official will still either refuse to reverse a call more choose not to change a call (sometimes this could be under protest of the system other times it could be out of arrogance or stubbornness). The less guesswork we give these umpires the better.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Atlanta Braves: Locking Up The Core

In a few short years the Atlanta Braves will be leaving their home lovingly known as 'The Ted' aka Turner Field. Turner Field and was built for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, it was then transformed into the new home for the Braves the move there from Atlanta Fulton County Stadium aka 'the launching pad'.  Turner Field, named after former owner and a media mogul Ted Turner is owned by the city of Atlanta and is now starting to show its age. By the time the braves moved to their new location it will be roughly 20 years old. Not that old by building standards but the fact that it is not owned by the ball club limits and what they can do in terms of upgrades and what revenue they can generate for themselves. For instance parking and concessions.

It is widely regarded that teams than build their own stadiums will receive and immediate bumping in revenue streams, that higher ticket sales and more people to the park. It stands to reason that if you're making more money you have more money available that can be put toward payroll. With the Braves owning the building in being the primary tenant has seemingly allowed the Braves to open up their wallets this off-season. GM Frank Wren has been given the authority and financial flexibility to identify the young core of the Braves moving forward.  Not only is moving into a new stadium helping their financial commitments, national television money as well as regional TV rights are allowing the braves to up their payroll. It has been a few years, probably not since Ted Turner sold the team to AOL Time Warner that the Braves have been in a position to spend a little more money.

GM Frank Wren and upper management have clearly made in a mandate to lock up their young core of players and haven't already begun that process this off-season. The Braves had three major young arbitration eligible players that they needed to take care of this off-season. In the beginning it and looked like they were going to be a file and a trial team. This basically means the player gave them a number they thought they deserved and the team did the same. A hearing would be held to decide which dumber would be used for the upcoming season. It appear the braves were going to take their chances on one ever the ruling was in each case for a one year deal.

It was then that the report came in that first baseman Freddie Freeman had signed an 8yr $135M contract. Freeman was in the running for NL MVP this past season and is currently only 24 and has now received the richest contract in teams history.  Right now it looks like he used to be tented as the new face of the franchise, ironically enough, taking that title from his good buddy Chipper Jones. After that deal was made and probably realizing that the free agent crop this year was not that deep the Braves came to terms on another in young potential star Jason Heyward on a 2 yr $13M deal.  Heyward is coming off a tough injury plagued season where he was sidelined after an emergency appendectomy for a few weeks, than came back and was inserted at the top the lineup where he and the team thrived during a double digit winning streak. Then an untimely (not that there is ever a good time) pitch to the face that fractured his orbital bone sent him to the DL again.  Because of all the missed time it was hard for the two sides to come up with a good mutual number on a long-term deal. If Heyward is able to stay healthy and produce to the level in which he and the team expects then they can begin to look at a multi-year extension.

At this point the braves surprised many people by turning their focus to one of their young key starters. Braves announced they had signed Julio Teheran to a six-year $32.4 million extension that includes an option for the 2020 season. If the option is exercised, the 23-year-old pitcher will earn $44.4 million over the next seven seasons.  Given the price of any of the top free agent pitchers each year, locking up Teheran now and buying out his arbitration years could potentially be a team friendly contract.  Even though he is young there's still a risk that the team is taking.  One can never predict injuries or drop off in skill when it comes to pitchers.  They're the biggest gamble of all.  Pick correctly and you set yourself up to be a contender for years to come, pick wrong and you have a very expensive player pitching at your AAA affiliate....  Blue Jays and Ricky Romero I am looking in your direction.

It looked like at that point the Braves would be done and have a whole off-season biz is taking care of, except of course the arbitration hearing for young closer Craig Kimbrel. It was thought that Kimbrel would go through the process get a one year deal and then the braves would have to decide how much they were willing to invest in a player who will only pitches one the inning, the ninth.  Sure it is a very important inning, when teams have to decide how important and how much money to allocate to that position.  It is a risky proposition to sign a closer to a big money multi-year deal.  The Braves have decided to take that risk and sign Kimbrel to a four year $42M deal.  Kimbrel has only been in the league for three seasons but has already proven himself to be one of the premier closer's in baseball and has had his name mentioned the last couple of years in both the CY Young and MVP categories.  The Braves are clearly taking your risk on him be able to sustain the level he is currently at.  If he is able to do so he will almost definitely and live up to his once on a  generation player type contract that he signed.  Hopefully for the Braves sake he can do that and not end up like a guy and within an anchor contract that has been given in the past to closer's like Randy Myers, Jonathan Paplebon and perhaps worst of all BJ Ryan.

I like with the Braves have done and have identified their core group and lock them up for the foreseeable future.  Sure they have are taking a risk but based on the age of the productivity and grooves that the players have shown thus far in their development, hopefully the moves will pay off in the long run and keep these guys together as perennial contenders.

To help the Braves keep the same winning message, they have just extended 2 more pieces of their core...on the management side. GM Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have both come to terms with the team. This is a good sign, stability in a good franchise with a winning culture is key. Confidence breeds confidence and winning breeds winning.

Just as I was about to post this blog word came down that the The Braves have just signed Andrelton Simmons to a 7 yr 58M contract extension. Simmons now joins fellow teammates Freeman, Kimbrel, Teheran being locked up in the Atlanta system and putting them in a position to be in the organization when they make the move to their new stadium in 2017. Simmons is widely regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the Majors. He also has showed that he has the  ability to impact games with his bat as well. He has very good offensive numbers and can  provide a little bit of pop as well. If he continues to improve as he gains more time this could be a great set up for the Braves over the next 5 years. It is an interesting plan that the Braves have to ensure that this group of guys will get to play and grow together.

The Braves have always been a consistent team but seemingly have constant turn over. With the
majority of their core being so young gives them the unique chance to set their line up as well as give the franchise a good idea of what there payroll will be and what they are able to do with other home grown talent as well as what they can and can not due in terms of  free agency. Sometimes making a big splash with a free agent signing is not nearly as important as the deals you can get done with guys you have drafted and/or developed.

It is interesting to note that former Cleveland Indians executive John Hart, who is now in the front office with the braves was one of the first GM's to utilize the strategy of identifying and wrapping up a core of young players.  Back in the early nineties Hart watched the Pirates lose key players like Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonillia because once they reach to free agency they were too expensive for the small market Pirates to afford. Hart rolled the dice by signing Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga to long-term deals before they were eligible for arbitration. This set the stage for long-term deals that likely kept Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez in Cleveland longer than if all of these players had been allowed to go through the arbitration process.

The Braves hitter knee identified this strategy as one that they would attempt to do even before hart joined the club but his knowledge and insight clearly help get all parties on the same page.

It will be interesting to see how these players perform going forward but if these players pan out and can form the core that the Braves hope they can they should be able to be in a position to contend each year for a division title and it hopefully also a playoff spot.
Welcome to Braves Country!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Canada Needs Forward Scoring

Defense Wins Championships, but a lack of of Offense can be easily and lose them.

Most people are familiar with clichés in sports.  Giving 100%, one day a time, it is a process and all the rest.Then there is this one that we hear in just about every major team sport, defense wins championships and/or pitching wins championships.  For the most part I will agree with that, however, there is one important piece that it is usually neglected with this statement.  What about offense???

We heard it going into the Super Bowl about the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  In this particular case defense did win Seattle a championship.  But one could also argue that it was good offense as the score ended up 43 to eight.  It is nice to say the defense wins championships, but there is also a strong case to be made that a lack of offense can lose a championship.

As a Braves fan over the years I have particularly learned this lesson.  Back in the nineties the Braves had consistently one of the best rotations in all baseball. Hall of Famers like Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz (soon to be).  Of the 14 straight division titles the Braves managed to win but one World Series.  I have no problem with that, they won one ....still more than the Cubs have won.  With that said they had a chance and deserve to win more.  They had the pitching, they did not get the offense when they needed it. It is nice to be able to shut teams down but a 1-0 loss is still a loss.

Even in the women's Canadian Olympic Hockey team, when they wind up playing the U.S. for the gold medal the key will be who can score and maybe more importantly who can score early.  The longer the game against the U.S. goes without a goal the more it favors the U.S. club.  They're young, fast, skilled and have a lot of offensive game breakers who have quick strike ability.  Canada too has the ability to put the puck in the net but the longer they take to do so the more difficult it will be to beat goaltender Jesse Vetter, who seems to always get better and more comfortable as the game goes on. Again shutting down offence is great but the taunt 'SCOREBOARD' still rings loud and clear

Big ice does not necessarily make for big offence
This is what worries me about the Men`s Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics. They have arguably the best defense in the tournament.  Their blue-line can shut down a lot of good teams speedy high end talent.  They're also the ones generating the majority of the offense right now. All except for one game vs. Latvia the forwards have not look good and have failed to produce offensively. Jeff Carter scored a hat trick, that was nice but it was only one game. The biggest worry is, right now is if Doughty, Weber, Keith,and Pietrangelo are not scoring, will any of the forwards step up and pick up the slack.  We have seen it before in international play where Canada will face a team with a hot goalie or suffocating defense that shuts them down and gives them trouble.  If Canada hopes to even get a chance to play for gold let alone win a gold they're gonna have to get production from their forwards. They will still need to play a strong team defense, get quality goal tending but most importantly they need their top and forwards to play like top end players and produce. 

And hey, let's bring all this back to around to yet another cliche. Your best players have to show up and it be your best players. Five of the top 10 scoring leaders in the NHL this year reside on team Canada.  You would like to think that if least one of them will be able to put the puck in the net when it matters.

All we can do now is watch and wait and cheer Go Canada Go!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Baseball's Hall of Fame

Voting is a privilege not a right. 
A few voters in baseball need to remember or be reminded of that.

When the Hall of Fame ballots are finally all counted up and announced on Wednesday we should hear the names of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine announced.  Both of these former Braves pitchers should be locks to make it on their first go around.  In the case of Maddux he should be a unanimous choice... He should be the first unanimous choice ever... however he won't be.  It has already been reported that at least one writer has left him off their ballot. 

Voting for awards, and not unlike speculating who will make a certain country's national hockey team can and will be very subjective.  One's person's list likely differs from the next, but only moderately. Can you imagine a Team Canada roster that does not include Sidney Crosby on it?  Probably not. Why? Common sense, he's the best player in the world how could he not be included? The same thing applies to Maddux? The greatest pitcher in his generation, over 300 wins, no suggestions of steroid abuse, just a great pitcher with great numbers, gold gloves, All-Star selections a World Series title and a professor like mentality every time he takes the ball on the mound. Sounds pretty much like Hall of Fame credentials doesn't it?  And yet he would not be unanimous decision because some fool decided he wanted to be the story he wanted the limelight.  In actuality he has brought shame and disrespect to the Hall of Fame the American Baseball Writers Association and himself.  For that he should have his vote taken away and anyone else who decide to use their position to make a silly statement and clearly not take this more seriously should lose their vote too.

This is not an open vote, this is a particular honor given because of his job title. You would like to see a media member, a journalist show some integrity when given an opportunity such as this. When they teach sports journalism one would think that the first lessons would be let the story be the story, don't you be the story. Be objective, be critical if it is warranted but be fair, be honest do not show a bias. 

Now as it relates to the Hall of Fame voting, if this is going to continue to happen reform needs to be made to either the voting process or the members who vote or the criteria required.  If some idiot who covers the Dodgers can make a mockery of the system he should lose his vote, Vin Scully does not even get a vote and I think most will admit he has probably forgot more about baseball that a lot of people know. Dan Shulman, the leading broadcaster on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, does not have a vote. You're giving guys way too much power who probably do not deserve it.  Ever seen or been in a newsroom before? There are usually a lot of people who are severely under qualified to be given this much responsibility. 

Each ballot should be reviewed upon completion by some sort of 'quality control' group or committee and any questionable ballots should be set aside and those who sent it in should be called in and ask to rationalize and defend their decisions, explain why they made the choice they made and if they can't do so that either revoke their right to vote and have the vote completely discounted and then lose their right to vote in the future or perhaps give them the opportunity, a second chance, as it were to make it right going forward.

The other issue in the Hall of Fame voting as to whether or not to allow players from the steroid era to be inducted.  This is an interesting dilemma because it also takes in not just numbers or even perception but also more only issues.  Does Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmero deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?  Based on what they do on the field the answer's yes. What they did off the field to make themselves better, that is a different question. There were no rules of the time or testing that prevented them from taking any questionable substances nor did they test positive.  It is naive to think that they were clean, but whose responsibility was it to ensure that they were.  Major League Baseball clearly turned a blind eye to the rampant drug use among their players.  The players association fought tooth and nail to keep drug testing it out of the game.  The baseball writers, the same ones that have the final vote of who is hall worthy did not do anything about it either.  If they are so ethical now and they suspected there was wrong doing at the time either should have done some investigatory journalism and exposed the players or the culture at that time.  They were writers during the steroid era, so by extension shouldn't be subjected to the same standards that they're holding the players to.  Because they were writers during the steroid era all their Hall of Fame votes should be discarded under the same cloud of suspicion and speculation, maybe 87% of the writers were `juicing too`.
Clearly a new system used to be put in place where there is a committee made up of baseball professionals former players and managers and executives something needs to be done.  It is sad when politics and greed and indeed for attention enter into sports and corrupts it. Leave politics to the politicians.

As a side note it is probably about time to open up the doors for Pete Rose.  Sure he is probably not a great guy but the hall is filled with probably not great guys.  But what he was able to do between the white lines is clearly Hall of Fame worthy.  You want him out of baseball, not be able to work in baseball that's fine keep him banned from the game, but a Hall of Fame without the all time hits leader just does not make sense. Not from a game that holds numbers in such high regards. You can have it both ways. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

Projected Team Canada Olympic Roster

On Tuesday, Steve Yzerman is set to announce the roster for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  Hopefully there will be no blow back like USA Hockey had after the ESPN article by Scott Burnside, when comments made by Brian Burke about U SA forward Bobby Ryan were made public. I'm sure that the executives from Hockey Canada will be a lot more respectful of the players that were not selected, at least to the public . USA hockey and Team Canada both had very difficult decisions to make in regards to their final roster.  No matter what, good players will be left off.  In fact great players could be left off. The fact of the matter is Canada could probably field at least two full rosters capable of winning a gold medal.  The depth in Canada cannot be matched by any other country in the world. This makes it very difficult to limit the Olympic team roster and a mere 25 players.  Just by the numbers alone, great players are going to be left off.

One important factor is to remember that this is not a list of the top 25 players in Canada.  This has to be our roster made up of players who can come together in a short term setting and put their egos aside and do what's best for the team.  Not all hockey players are able to do that and it is the special ones that are at the elite level.  Another factor is you need a variety of role players.  It is very improbable that you're going to be able to use a top six forward as your fourth line winger.  That's what makes the debate for the roster so varied from person to person.  Depending on each individual's criteria the roster can take on the variety of looks.  Sure there are some locks of the team but there are just as many other players who would be good selections that may not get the chance.

On February 7th 2013 I made a post with V1 of my pre-Olympic team. Looking back I am a little surprised at how little has changed between then and now but there have been a few additions and a few subtractions.

Here's the roster that not only what I like to see but believe has a pretty good chance of being close to what we see unveiled on Tuesday morning at the Hockey Canada press conference.

Forwards (14)

Steven Stamkos: Provided that he is able to come back from his broken leg in timin time he is a lock on the top line.
Sydney Crosby: Also a lock and will likely be the captain for Team Canada.
Patrick Sharp: He has had a great season, skates well it can finish with the best of them.
Ryan Getzlaf: Probably the most dominant center playing in the league today
Corey Perry: I am not a big Perry fan but you can't overlook the number city puts up and the chemistry he has with Getzlaf.
John Tavares: He is one of the bright young stars in the NHL a natural goal scorer and should be able to make the transition to play the wing.
Jonathan Towes: A two time Stanley Cup winner, captain of the Blackhawks and a guy who just knows how to win.
Eric Staal: The ability to move to the wing and be productive and has proven in various international competitions that he is more than capable of accepting any role given to him by the coach.
Joe Thornton: What was said about Staal also applies to Joe.  He is a tremendous play-maker with the ability of playing whatever role is required of him.
Patrice Bergeron: Could be the X-factor to this entire team.  A lot of people will overlook him because of his numbers (which are not that bad offensively) but there is no one on the team you would want more to take a critical face-off or kill a penalty then him.
Jamie Benn: Has had a good season and so far, can be both the play-maker or a scorer and is a decent skater capable of playing on the big international Ice.
Mike Richards: What was said about Bergeron and Towes applies to Richards's as well.  He is not a sniper but is a good two way player, a leader, can kill a penalty, will play any role.  He just  wins.

Healthy Scratches:
Claude Giroux: Started off the season slow recovering from an off-season injury but has heated up of late and has the ability to play a variety of roles.
Matt Duchane: has great offensive upside, is a good skater, and could be a good special teams asset.
Brent Seabrook: Played it well in Vancouver and seems to work well with Keith in Chicago.  A solid defenseman who can play both the physical game and also as an offensive upside.

Defense: (8)

Duncan Keith: Leads the NHL and points for defenseman, can quarterback the first power play unit.
Drew Doughty: Proved his worth four years ago in Vancouver as a youngster.  So all defensemen top to bottom  
Alex Pietrangelo: Smooth skating, has a big shot, solid defensively and has good hockey sense.
Jay Bowmeester: Plays with Pietrangelo in St. Louis, an exceptional skater and is an efficient puck moving defenseman
P.K. Subban: Defending Norris Trophy winner as top NHL defensemen.  He may not be the most defensively responsible player but in a short tournament where goals could be at a premium having someone with his skating ability and creativity may outweigh any defense of liabilities.  Even if he is only a power play specialist.
Shea Weber: A solid all around defenseman.  He has a booming shot, is a physical player, and also strong skater.
Marc -Edward Vlasic: I've not seen him play hardly at all this year and to be honest the only reason I have him on this list is because he appears on just about everybody else's projection list.  I know that he is a good player that did not realize that he should be considered good enough for team Canada.

Goal: (3)

Roberto Luongo: Will likely going into the Olympics as the number one goalie.  It is very possible that he will not and the Olympics in that role.
Carey Price: Will see action at some point and could very well end up being the goaltender of record at the end of the tournament.
Mike Smith: It is unlikely as the third goalie that he will see any time on the ice barring an injury.  He seems like the type of player who can handle this will roll.  Smith also has the ability to be a great puck handler and can act as and other defensemen to start offensive rushes.

Like I said before can it could easily field two teams and good players will be left off such as a case for my list.  The guys I have on the bubble include.  Martin St. Louis, Chris Kunitz (only because everybody else has him on their list), Logan Couture, and Jeff Carter and Kris Letang.

One name that keeps coming up on a variety of people's lists is Rick Nash.  I am not a Nash fan and never have been.  He seems to be a decent player that I've never trusted him and do not understand why he gets the height that he does from so many people in the hockey world.  I did not think he was that great in Columbus, nor has he proved much in New York since being traded.  I certainly do not believe he is getting anything close to warrant a spot on Team Canada and was never on my radar.  With that said he probably will make the team when did is announced on Tuesday and being one that I will debate against.

All in all it is fun to speculate who will don the Maple Leaf on their chest at the Olympics and represent our country.  Where can doubt will finish is anyone's guess. The Americans will have a strong team, the it hometown Russians will have a lot of pressure to win a gold medal in front of their home crowd.  Sweden always seems to get overlooked but may possess one of the most dangerous rosters top to bottom and has to be considered a gold medal favorite.  There will be a lot of land mines along the way for every team.  There will be no clear path in gold this year.

As a side note, the team that gets named likely will not be the team you see as there are a lot of games between now and then and the way players are falling due to injuries...expect at least a few tweaks.

Let The Debate Begin!