Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grapefruit League Action Begins! What To Look for In Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training

Sure, it has been a week or so since most of the Blue Jays players first arrived for workouts in Florida, but today is the first day of their Grapefruit League schedule.
Can Jesse Litsch re-find the success he enjoyed in 2008?

The Jays are busy taking on the Detroit Tigers in Dunedin (started at 1:05 pm), and there are certainly tons of storylines to look out for. I believe most of the games are only available on the Fan590, so break out and tune your radios (games not available streamed online, but there are various ways to get around that).

Here are five things to look out for in Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke Is Done Selling, Looking for Defense?

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
According to an article yesterday by Globe columnist James Mirtle, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is done selling, but that doesn't mean he's done dealing.

The Leafs GM is looking for help on the blue line.

Just days after dealing long-time Leaf defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins for their first-round pick in this year's draft, a prospect and a conditional second rounder, Brian Burke has stated publicly that he is looking for a defenseman.


Monday, February 21, 2011

NBA All Star Weekend: DeMar DeRozan Robbed Once Again of Dunk Contest Title

DeMar DeRozan tweeted "No more dunk contests for me unless it's in Toronto!" after last nights affairs and rightfully so. If I were DeMar and they asked me to dunk next year, I would hastily tell them off.
The dunk contest has become a popularity contest, and it served no justice for the raw talent of dunks that DeRozan performed at the Staples Center.
Blake Griffin and Javale McGee edged Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan in the first round, and Griffin ended up beating McGee in the finals as you could have guessed.

Now, there are a few things I would like to address. For starters, there was no way Griffin deserved to be in that final. Now hey, I'm not jumping to any conclusions that the judges were bias or anything, but the fact that Griffin edged DeRozan by a mere one point puzzles me.
Now I won't lie, Griffin's first dunk was impressive and got the score that it deserved.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BTTN 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy Guide

If you have the #1 pick you're taking Albert Pujols.
But in an auction draft spending $40 on a guy that plays
an obscenely deep position isn't good use of your cash. 
Yes baseball fans, it's that time of year again. Spring Training workouts have already begun and later this month both Cactus and Grapefruit League action will commence. Similarly, baseball fanatics spend Spring Training (some traditionalists even draft a week after Opening Day) studying up for the fantasy season.

To guide you through your fantasy draft, we at BTTN have assembled our 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy Guide. On Wednesday, our Top 200 player rankings were released, which can be found here.

Type of Draft
Does your league just draft players out of a pre-determined order, or is it an auction? I'd recommend the auction-format, it's way more fun and frankly, more just. Every owner has a chance at every player. It's basic supply & demand fundamentals. That said, most of these strategies/things to look out apply for any type of draft.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nikolai Kulemin: The Complete Leaf

Nikolai Kulemin has flown under-the-radar in becoming
a key player for Toronto this season

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Nikolai Kulemin may in fact be one of the most complete players currently slapping a stick across any NHL ice surface.
There are a number of other players in the NHL who play a complete game. Players who score, set up their team mates, don't take mindless penalties and are responsible for the most part defensively.
Players like Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Ray Whitney just to name a few, have all earned the respect of their peers and the adoration of their fans as being great all around type players.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Breaking News: Bautista, Blue Jays, Close to 5-Year, $65MM Extension

Enrique Rojas (ESPN Deportes baseball newsbreaker extraordinaire) has reported that Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays are closing in on a 5-year, $65 million extension that will keep the MLB home run champ in Toronto through 2015.

It's more than worth it.

As I posted almost a month ago, even if Bautista undergoes a Brady Anderson-like decline, he'd still be worth $13MM a season.

People know Jose Bautista broke out big-time in 2010, but the full-extent of his gargantuan season sometimes gets lost: he was a 6.9 WAR player. That's worth $27.8MM according to Fangraphs. It wasn't just a historic season as far as breakouts go, it was a historic batting season period and Bautista's .357 Isolated Power can attest to that. 

A 167 wRC+ and .422 wOBA... incredible statistics for any player in era.

Even if Bautista continues his world-beating, home run-smashing ways for just three season and then falls off the face of the Earth, this contract will be more than justified. 

Weigh-In Wednesday: Podsednik, Versteeg, Bautista, Armstrong

Every Wednesday from today onward, BTTN will publish 'Weigh-In Wednesday', which will feature links to other interesting sports articles from across the blogosphere.

- Getting Blanked and Bluebird Banter both break down the Jays recent signing of  Scott Podsednik and wonder if he's even an upgrade over Corey Patterson.

- I was happy after the recent Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia trade that the Maple Leafs made recently, but Bitter Leaf Fan argues that it heavily favoured the Flyers.

- Paul Swydan proves on Fangraphs that it's impossible to find comparables to Jose Bautista, which adds to the intrigue of his looming arbitration case/extension announcement.

- The Slapshot wonders if Colby Amstrong will be the next Maple Leaf traded and provides fantastic insight while doing so.

2011 BTTN Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings – Top 200

These rankings are based on a scoring system of either 4x4, 5x5, or an H2H scoring system that uses roto categories. On Friday (Feb. 18, '11), BTTN will release our fantasy strategy and draft guide, which in tandem with these rankings make up the 2011 BTTN Fantasy Baseball Preview.

Players in italics are our super-sleepers for 2011 (meaning they have big breakout potential), while underlined names are players we feel have a big enough bust factor that we discourage you from drafting them.

1.     Albert Pujols, 1B (St. Louis Cardinals)
Yes, First base is incredibly deep, but it’s hard to argue for anyone else at No. 1. Expect him to have a huge year in an attempt to land his proposed $300MM contract.
2.     Hanley Ramirez, SS (Florida Marlins)
Had a down year in 2010, but is still the best shortstop in the game and position scarcity at the position warrants him this ranking.
3.     Miguel Cabrera, 1B (Detroit Tigers)
Four category superstar, there’s no reason to expect him not to continue raking in 2011.
4.     Evan Longoria, 3B (Tampa Bay Rays)
Longoria’s regression in 2010 has been largely overlooked, but I sense a rebound… who wouldn’t when that kind of talent is on the table?
5.     Troy Tulowitzki, SS (Colorado Rockies)
Yes, there’s the injury-risk, but if Tulowitzki plays 150 games, watch out for a .310/30/100 season, with 100 runs and 20 stolen base potential. Scary.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Raptors Report Week 15: Biggest Game of Season Coming Up For Raps

He's coming back to Toronto...
The Raptors had another losing week and the trend just seems to continue. Though there are many bright spots on the team, the Raps just don't play well enough when it counts.
Their inablilty to close out games is biting them, and if they want to compete, this is something that needs work.
On another note, Chris Bosh makes his return to Toronto this Wednesday after leaving for the Heat in the offseason, and the Raptors have had three days to prepare for this big game. This will definitely be a sell-out and is the most anticipated game of the Raptors' season.
Onto the report:
Record: 1-3
Performance on a scale of 1-10: 5
Here is a recap of the four games:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Morning Musings With Me The Big E; Rounding Up Maple Leafs Trade Rumors

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

Could Tomas Kaberle finally be
With exactly two weeks left to go until trade deadline day, it would make sense that the rumor mill would be churning at a fever pitch.
Everyone from the sports desk personalities on the evening news cast to the arm chair GM's who stumble sleepy eyed into work every day have a theory on who the Leafs should trade, who they should try to get, and why.
While yours truly is certainly not above throwing out an opinion here and there, the purpose of toady's exercise will be to be to try and round up all the current Toronto Maple Leaf trade rumors and put them into one nice neat little package for your viewing pleasure.
If you have heard of a rumor, that isn't posted here , please post it in the comment section along with a link to the site that you read it on.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Week's Schedule

This week BTTN will be coming out with some exciting features, including...

Monday: Hockey Musings; Raptors Report

Wednesday: Debut of 'Blogging Wednesday', which will include links to other great Toronto sports articles from across the blogosphere.

Thursday or Friday: 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, which will include strategy and rankings to win your league before it even starts.

The draft guide will be given its unique page. Recently, we also released some original Madden 11 Cover Art, which we created by our staff, and gave our Top 20 Blue Jays Prospects Rankings its own page as well.

Get excited!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Should the Toronto Blue Jays Go After Carlos Delgado or Michael Young?

Carlos Delgado and Michael Young are both former Dunedin Blue Jays. Should Toronto ensure a reunion in 2011?

Yes and No. 
No offense to Vernon Wells (or anyone from the 90's championship teams)... but Carlos Delgado is the best position player in Toronto Blue Jays history by a long shot. And maybe the best player as well.

Delgado's 2000 season is drop-dead off the charts, and may be the best non-steroids-enhanced campaign ever by a batter (or at least among players not named in the Mitchell Report, I don't want to be called naive or anything). That summer he hit .344/470/.664 while launching 41 homers, walking 19 times more than he struck out. He played all 162 games and would do so again in 2001.

There's no question that his skills have dropped off the table significantly since then, but he can still put up a .500 SLG and I believe would be a great bench player who occasionally could fill in at first base against lefties for Adam Lind. But it's about more just his still-present tools. 2011 is likely his last season, and the Blue Jays should induct the Hall of Fame-hopeful into their Level of Excellence. He's more deserved than most of the players currently on it, despite never winning a World Series or even playing in the post-season for Toronto.

Delgado wouldn't really cost anything to start with either, it's very likely that Minor League contracts will be all he'll be choosing from in the first place. Alex Anthopolous has said that he still has some work to do regarding the Blue Jays bench, a Carlos Delgado signing would be a great place to start.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs; Suddenly in the Hunt With Four Wins in Five Games


This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributor to Bleacher Report.
Don't look now but the Toronto Maple Leafs are suddenly in the hunt with four wins in their last five games.

Seven points behind the current eighth place Carolina Hurricanes is definitely not something most prognosticators would have been talking about midway through November on the heels of a stretch that saw the Leafs earn only one win in eleven tries.

But, there it is in black and white. On the heels of yet another back to back set of games, (the fifth set they have played since January 6), the Leafs have in fact won four of their last five and have a record of 7-3 in back to back games in the new year.

Since the turn of the new year, the Leafs have gone 11-7 and goaltender James Reimer continues to be much of the story.

After going through a drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, Reimer rebounded with a solid 31 save performance versus the New York Islanders.

With Reimer's bounce back and the issue of Kessel vs Wilson settled - at least for the time being - all looks rosy for Leafs Nation right now.

Darryl Boyce is having a very good stint with the big club as well. Since being called up he's scored three goals and added six assists for a total of nine points in 19 games.

Boyce has also shown a great deal of character. After suffering a broken nose last Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, he returned to play a mere two nights later vs the Buffalo Sabres wearing a full face shield.

He tweeted a picture of the injury and it was not pretty. The photo is definitely not for weak stomachs.

Coach Ron Wilson did some digging after the whole Phil Kessel debacle and discovered that most of the goals Kessel had scored in Boston had occured with two left handed players as line mates. Wilson consequently put Kessel on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin and the move has paid immediate dividends.

Kessel has played with Grabo and Kulli for five periods and though he hasn't found the back of the net so far, he is a plus three in that time and scored an assist against the Islanders.

After seeing his play of late, including against the Islanders, it would be a genuine shame to see Tomas Kaberle in another jersey. If there is any justice at all he will remain a Leaf, though it would likely mean he will have to resign for the same type of money.

Time will tell whether the Toronto Maple Leafs can hold it together long enough this season to make a genuine push for the playoffs. But being only seven points out with 29 games to go is certainly a step in the right direction.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Raptors Report Week 14: Is Amir Johnson The Raptors Top Player?

The streak is over, and in this case, it's a good thing.
The Raps finally snapped their losing streak, which lasted a season long 13 games. Raptors fans everywhere struggled through this time period.
At least it's finally over.
I would like to take this time to bring up a case for Amir Johnson being the Raptors most complete player, offensively and defensively.
Over the past five games he's averaged roughly 18 points and 10 rebounds, which is more than solid stats for a guy who's not even close to 100% healthy.
He's easily the Raps most efficient player, and he shoots the 5th highest field-goal percentage in the league (for players who've played more than 40 games). Not bad for a guy who's been labeled with one of the worst contracts in the league.
While being an efficiency king, Amir has also been one of the Raptors best defenders and rebounders, and he's earning every penny of that contract.
On another note, the Raps gave the D-league's leading scorer Trey Johnson another ten-day contract.
Onto the report:
Record: 1-2
Performance on a scale of 1-10: 5.5
Here's a recap of the four games:
Raptors @ Pacers, L 93-104
For a team that was on an eight-man rotation, the effort wasn't bad. The Raps were down by a huge margin and battled back to make it a contest again, though it wasn't enough to secure the victory on the road. Amir Johnson was solid.
For a team that was on a huge losing streak, the Raps sure didn't play like they wanted to snap it. They were down early and down big. That's not a recipe to win games, especially on the road. The Raps will have to do a better job on the road to win those games.
Raptors @ Hawks, L 87 - 100
The Raps hung around, but they never really had the Hawks worried. Amir Johnson was great.
The Raps just didn't play good enough to win and it hurts. Joe Johnson exploded for a season high 37 points and this was just another bad road game. DeRozan and Bargnani continued to struggle.
Raptors vs T'Wolves, W 111-100
Whoo-hoo! The streak is over! The Raps finally won a game and got on track after a depressing stretch. DeRozan and Bargnani finally woke up, and Amir Johnson was great once again.
The T'Wolves hung around for far too long, and that just can't happen.
Ask Sachin
Why do you think Sonny and DeMar cannot play together? Is it that there is competition between the two? - Kevin Ji
I don't know if it's a competition, or if their styles of play don't fit, but something is definitely up. DeRozan's numbers have taken a huge hit since Weems' return, and he's still been getting his minutes. Is he not getting the ball enough? Could be.
Regardless, if they can't play together, Weems needs to go.
Follow me on twitter for more exclusive Raptors articles and updates @Thesachman

Monday Morning Musings With Me The Big E; Phil Kessel Vs Ron Wilson?

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
Phil Kessel hasn't had much to celebrate lately.
Upi/John Angelillo
According to an article published yesterday on, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel and his head coach Ron Wilson don't communicate much.
The headline might as well have said something like "Ron Wilson and Phil Kessel found throwing Knives and Live Hand Grenades at Each other Following Yet Another Loss to the Freakin Buffalo Sabres"
Have you ever noticed how sometimes you read an article that you suddenly realize was specifically designed to incite a riot?
There was nothing really wrong with the comments on either side. Wilson said basically that Kessel had become a defensive liability and wanted to put him on a line that was defensively stronger until he regained the scoring touch that out weighed it.
Sounds like smart coaching to me but the way a lot of Leafs fans have received that message if you look at a lot of comments is ' goes Ron Wilson calling out yet another player and making him feel like crap, he is such a bad coach'.
Blah blah blah.
We've all heard that tune before, if your stomach gets weak because of strong language...move to San Francisco.
The other side of that coin will of course be Kessels comments. Things like "...maybe things aren't working out here" and of course the ever popular ", Ron and I don't really talk". (Or was it Ron and me?)
Yep, everyone has got their panties in a bunch over that one.
It's almost like we're all shocked because we suddenly discovered that they don't cuddle.
The comments from Kessel sound like he feels lost and is frustrated at his in ability to play better, nothing more.
Phil Kessel will never, and I do mean NEVER be a true star in this league, on this team or any other if he doesn't learn to play a more complete game.
I don't care if you say "well he hasn't had anyone to play with"...blah blah blah. That's BS and you're just tired of looking for an original excuse to explain his ineptitude.
Phil Kessel has got great hands, but it is becoming more and more obvious that he has neither the head nor the heart to guide them.
Don't mistake that last statement to mean that I think Ron Wilson is a super star coach, we've been down that road too. I don't like him, I think he makes way too many errors in judgment, but, I don't buy the argument that he's too hard on his players.
They're professional athletes, not four year olds!
PS Stay tuned for a special edition of Monday Morning Musings on the February 28th NHL trade deadline day! Last year was a very successful 'Live Article' type of format and there was a lot of movement and things to talk about.
This year promises to be just as much fun with big names still churning the rumor mill and the format will be a little different as well! I will be hosting a 'Live Blog' right here on Bleacher report